Tech-ED

Enhancing Education with a Touch of Technology

Archive for the tag “edu”

App Review: DuoLingo

So I recently have invested a good portion of my time into the somewhat recent app DuoLingo.  I saw the website during the introduction phase and my how the service has flourished. Since las November they recently published the iPhone app which as increased my time learning Spanish tremendously.  It also helps that there is a little reminder everyday. This app is a true help to learning Spanish and Italian as I come to find out personally.

The structure of the software is somewhat of gamification where you have to complete several tasks before you can move on to the next round.  The layout reminds me of Mario Brothers 3 fo Nintendo. You can select a couple of things to learn first and move down the track from there.  It is also nice that every lesson you get 3 extra “lives”.  This allows you as the learner to have a safety net of failure and focus on the learning taking place. It is also nice because there is a limit to your tries before you have to start over again.  This is where I have a split decision and yes it does force me as a learner to go back through the exercise again, but now is the app training me for test taking? I will leave that up to you to decide. Regardless, the app has actually helped me learn spanish not just memorize it.  I was having an email conversation with a native Spanish speaker and I mentioned I was learning Spanish because I actually thought in Spanish instead of strictly English. He was elated, because to truly learn you must spend time and that time is also out of the “learning time” thinking about the language.

If you are looking for a free online learning tool this has to be one of the best I have come across and I say watch out Rosetta Stone! If DuoLingo can keep expanding and getting fans like myself and actually teach us new languages that we don’t just learn partially or key phrases I think they could easily have a new share in the market.  Thanks DuoLingo for helping me achieve one of my goals in life, and I will continue playing/learning until I reach the end of my map!

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Day 4: Zombies, Run

Yes, I took a hiatus from writing about Zombies,Run! for a while now and there is no good reason for that other than mental health.  Zombies,Run on the 4th day ended my mission, and now I am convinced that it is a good app for exercise. I know I said I would give it 5 days for a trial, but the creators that came up with the story re incredibly clever. That is the main draw, is that I can escape my run into this world that is laid out to me in my ears.  Not many people can describe something so well that you forget about what you are doing and lose yourself in the story.

The game has become a book and I am the main character. Yes I am running, and yes it is a little cliché since it is about zombies and that phase might have passed onto something new; however, the game is fun and well funny. The story line continues and I still find myself slipping into the jungle surrounded by a city wall that protects me from the zombies. After 4 days I give this fitness app my approval for beginners.  It is fun and fantastic to take you through your run into another world where Zombies dictate your every move.  The game play is really nice since well you exercise the whole time.

The game continues after your runs too. You can use items you collect to upgrade your city.  I am not sure how much this does for you running, but it will help you and the people you meet survive the zombie assault! Get ready, run, and build you city to defeat the Zombies (if you can) and survive as long as you can! Good luck and boost your life and your miles with Zombies,Run!

Gaming: Bridging to a Better Education

For a long time games have been this separate piece of our lives, that we don’t recognize as being apart of our lives. Many people see them as something they don’t understand, but all along they have bridged into reality. As soon as we talk about them in our daily lives they become a part of our day by definition they are not compartmentalized. The play is compartmentalized, but the actuality is they have been bridged to reality since shortly after their conception.

Games are fantastic, there is a plot for players to follow or a brief introduction if the plot doesn’t matter. Most games are actually measured by gamers in hours it takes to complete the game. Much like a college course you are wanting to take and conquer.  As we all know you gain skills/experience/weapons as you face harder challenges/enemies, and there are twists and turns throughout the game that can alter your path. Many times we all try and find all of the secrets of the game that players must spend time study maps and pay attention to every detail of the game experience.

This is a great time to see education slowly embrace the concept of gaming. It is incredible that the idea behind gaming makes sense, but how can we leverage that in education.  Students are uninterested, yes they are gaining knowledge, but are they truly thinking about the concepts and not just passing tests. With the embrace of design thinking, roundtable discussions, gamification, technology integration, and everything else education is embracing students are more engaged than before. This has intrigued me to watch this happen since it makes sense thinking back to my education.

The only thing that some schools have done is taken this to the online realm, and why shouldn’t we? Students today need to learn how to parse through information that in their life will be continuously thrown at them. Here are some ideas to set your class up as a game more so than it already is:

  1. Plan you curriculum out that you acknowledge a completed unit/level of the class. Many times we do complete them, but then we move right on to the next thing. Take a class and signify this with something fun that is not a test.
  2. If you are online or have a blog/wiki for your course use badges as students get skills. Class Badges is a great starting point.
  3. Teach them the ability to find false information. Use social media to teach students what is important information, show them hash tags, talk to you librarians about internet searching.
  4. Use the things they are interested in to teach them life skills. Do you know about everything Google can do? I surely don’t (more to come on this) but there is plenty to keep us all busy for a while 🙂
  5. If you really want to go 100% gamer turn your class into a LARP. Once students enter your room they are different characters on different missions but all have to work together for a common goal.

A great quote that has resonated with me brought back from a conference. Teachers are like cavemen coming out of the cave, its scary but a necessity for survival. Our students are already using the tools of today and tomorrow, why would we shut that off to teach them about today and tomorrow?

Learning Languages

Recently I have been testing out the website and app Duolingo. There are claims from TechCrunch that the software is actually better and more engaging than RosettaStone and those other guys in this business.  There is much to be said about the newer soft ware, and I really like the fact that as you progress through the levels you are translating words online for others to read. The idea that as I learn I am helping others read these translations is amazing.  When all is said and done, does it really help?

I have used RosettaStone many years ago, but I have seen it in action recently, and it still remains the same. However, there is now some more speaking and you don’t just click on pictures to match words.  There have been many improvements since the early years. The program has been proven time and time again; however, when you think about it how many other language software programs can you think of quickly. If you are like me you can think of absolutely nothing else like this software.  Sure there are online courses for languages, but has RosettaStone been so good because it works or due to the lack of competitors in the market?

Move out-of-the-way Rosetta, you are getting some seriously strong competition! Duolingo has actually worked quite well over the past 3 weeks I have been using it.  The gamification of levels and lives make Duolingo somewhat addicting.  It is incredibly hard to put down once I start on a level I really want to move on to unlock the next level.  The interface is simple and reminds me of Mario Bros. 3 moving from level to level. However the graphics are better even on my cell phone.  Duolingo has me hooked and I am learning Spanish and Italian, but it is because I want to learn.

MarioBros3

Both softwares have the one major fatal flaw, the user.  No matter how many times we look at statistics of people using the software, we need to take into account the learners wanting to learn.  I know that if I was still in school I would prefer to take a course that had levels, and a gaming side to it if it was structured properly. What about those students and people “using the software” but not actually wanting to learn.  This is where I think Duolingo has the leg up in the competition because the software actually keeps the user in the software.

Have you used language software? If so what was your experience like?

+1 Google Plus in Education

google+Today there is a buzz in the air with education and social media. I don’t blame educational systems for looking into the fastest growing ways that people are connecting and consuming data. However, with the social aspect there are more factors at play such as a lifespan (how big can it get without being too big), users interest, and the intrinsic “cool” factor. After all it would just be media with out the social aspect.  If you are like me, you are wondering how can we predict how people will move, and honestly we really can’t 100% predict that movement, but we can be prepared.

One of the options now is Google+.  I played around and found I can consume, produce, and publish information all from one place. This may sound familiar with Facebook, but I don’t have to sort through near as much useless information in the process. I can messaging, hanging out, and still being up-to-date on current news in all from the same place, and I am learning from all of the information.  Yesterday I was able to connect with people, see their face, share screens and learn from them as much as we were able to, and had an incredibly easy time doing all of the above. It all hit me…Why aren’ we using this to teach students in the classroom?  Well start on February 22, you and your students, friends, kids, whoever can actually see a live feed from space from NASA and 10 people will be able to interact with astronauts. AWESOME! I just became a kid again and I can see into space!

All of this sounds great, but what about social media, and it impacting education. Well, as an educator, it seems like Google+ has so many ways for you to connect with other classrooms, other cultures, astronauts, and anyone else who has signed up. It seems to replace Skype for video conferencing, for classroom to classroom connections, and classroom to guest speakers.  Imagine have 9 classes interact with a speaker all at once for free!

Here are 10 ways to leverage Google+ in EDU:

1. Communities, can be classes and you can have a live discussion over topics and ideas

2. You can create a small virtual classroom for free, record the lecture and play it back later from YouTube

3. Video conference with people all over the world (mystery hangout, share google documents live, document a project as a class)

4. Have your students teach other students. Divide a class in 1/2 and have 10 students teach part of your lesson. Record, publish repeat. You will have students teaching student before next year!

5. Record a play on a hangout if you are not all in the same physical location

6. Use it for teacher to teacher professional development. Hold 10 meeting throughout the year and have an ongoing discussion or 10 topics to talk about.

7. Hold mini demos/conferences of new ideas for a board of directors and record it for others to use.

8. Create your own Khan academy to fit your classes needs.

9. Use it for cultural, geographical, trending topics, or share your classroom with another class anywhere in the world!

10. Have students learn more than what your schedule might allow asynchronously, and create an individualized learning experience.

Share information! Educate our youth, and don’t look back. They are our future!

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