Volunteer to Share

SIGOL is gearing up to present its 2012-13 series of bi-monthly online webinars for its members and the educational world at large. Well aware that our time is precious and that online abound, we’re offering Priceless ProfDev in Less than an Hour! Do you want to be a presenter? Visit http://sigol.iste.wikispaces.net/Webinars and fill out the online form to volunteer to share! We will poste the schedule at the very same webpage as it fleshes out. Yay!

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Voki Creates Ad Free Site For Education… Plus 20 Ways To Use Talking Avatars

You may know about Voki and its ability to help you make some pretty cool talking avatars, but did you know there is now a Voki Education Site? This post explores this new site emphasizing talking avatars in the educational setting. Now, let’s get talking about avatars, or better yet, get the avatars talking! Have a great week! – SIGOL

It definitely is time to get some real talking going on  in your school and classroom. Voki just may be the way to make it happen. For those wondering about the name, Vox is Latin for voice while Loki is a prankster character in Norse mythology. For those not familiar,Voki is a free service that allows you to create personalized speaking avatars and use them in  lessons, newsletters, blogs, wikis,  emails, and even  Power Points. Voki lets teachers and students express themselves on the Web in their own voice using a talking character. Anyone can create a customized avatar that actually resembles them or that looks like numerous types of characters such as people, animals, historical figures, and many more. A Voki can speak using the creator’s own voice, an uploaded file, or by reading a typed in message (called text-to-speech). Getting started is very easy. You don’t need any advanced technological knowledge to use Voki. Creating a Voki is a simple step-by-step process that any teacher or student with Internet access, a computer, and a mouse can easily complete.

The new Voki Educational Web Site includes ideas, networking, and explanations that bring talking avatars to the educational stage.  At first glance it appears to be void of advertising, quite a feat since Voki For Education is still free. Next, the educational page has resources that will get everyone in education talking. One resource to check out is the important facts for education. As in all Web 2.0 sites used in education, this is an important read. Next, you may wish to view a collection of lesson plans that include thoughts for using Voki in the classroom. Ideas include all subjects and levels from primary school to the university classroom. Another valuable area is the Teacher Corner. Here you will discover various forums addressing Questions and AnswersIdeas & Feature RequestsNewbie’s CornerVoki in the ClassroomVoki Partner Sites, and Voki Promos & Contests. In these areas you can get ideas, pose questions, learn from others, and get answers to your questions.

20 Ways To Use Voki In Education -gathered from various people, resources, and personal reflection. Please enjoy, share, and add to the list so that others may benefit!

1. Classroom Newsletter – Provide information for students and parents using a unique style. Remember you can put a talking avatar in a classroom or school wiki, blog, or email.

2. Student Book Talk – Students persuade others to read a book. Along with title and author, students could either review, summarize, or encourage others to read.

3. Persuasive Speech – Assign a speech and have the Voki avatar give the introduction, three supporting details  to defend or rebut a given topic, and the conclusion.

4. Course Annoucements - Use Voki to create and embed online course announcements for students. It can be a fun and engaging way to present otherwise routine information.

5. Testing – Give a test with the Voki avatar asking questions or integrate it with a written test to assist students with reading difficulties, second languages, or to clarify questions for all. Merge it with a current online test in order to provide another modality for students.

6. Create a Dialog – As a lesson, the teacher can interact with an avatar, or have students write a script to interact with an avatar. Could be used in any subject and could involve interviews with famous people, subjects, or objects. Could also be used to present a topic or explain a concept.

7. Vocabulary – Use Voki to present a vocabulary list of words. Using real speech allows students to hear correct pronunciation. Students can stop, pause, rewind at any time.

8. Foreign Language – Great way to help students learn words through teacher prepared lessons. It also allow students to practice their new language by creating short stories, poems, or content informational pieces..

10. Media Reports – Students can write and produce a news story. This could include current happenings or historical events.  Other options include an on the scene report, a public service announcement, or an interview with a well know figure.

11. Poetry and Music Composition – Students create poems or lyrics that can be spoken or sung by their favorite avatar. This can include text-to-speech and real voice. They may even want to include musical instruments.

12. Voki Your PowerPoint - In PowerPoint 2010 you can insert Voki embed codes to place avatars on your slides. From “Insert”, click on the arrow under the “Video” on the right hand side of the tool bar. Here you can insert “Video from Web Site”. Click, then copy and paste the embed code. It will be inserted into your PowerPoint slide.

13. Story Writing and Telling – Students can read their stories and have others listen, including other classmates, parents, or distant relatives. Teachers could create story starters and have students finish the stories either through writing or with an avatar.

14. Avatar Conversation And A Flip Camera – Have students in a collaborative group write a dialog script. Use two computers and have the two avatars talk to one another. This would work for any subject or idea. With a flip camera use just one computer and edit the two conversations together. For added fun, include even more avatars.

15. Put A Voki In Your Glogster – Students love to use Glogster. Wouldn’t it be great to find a way to put a Voki inside of a glog?  You can learn how to do it by watching this video.

16. Scavenger Hunts – Teachers can develop a set of directions telling students where to find different objects in the classroom, school, or on the web. Think how this could be used  in an environment with portable devices. Some possible GPS opportunities?

17. Exchange Voki Avatars With Others – If a class is collaborating with another class or communicating with e-pals across the state, nation, or world,  why not send Voki messages? It can be fun and engaging.

18. Developing Characters In Stories And Books – This could include a favorite character from a book or a story the student wrote. Make great use of avatar composition and then have the avatar talk. Use text-to-speech, or real voice. It could be a speech by the character, a quote from the book, thoughts from the character related to the story or a description or biography of the character done in first person.

19. English As A Second Language – An awesome way to help students feel more comfortable with a new language.  Students may use the computerized voice first. Next, they record their own voice when feeling more comfortable. The skills of writing, reading and pronunciation are all included when using Voki.

20. Test review – How about creating a test review, a chapter walk through, a highlight of content?Students can playback, pause, and listen as many times as needed.

Note that you can embed  a Voki in numerous social platforms. Some have even used educational platforms such as Edmodo, Blackboard, and Moodle. The graphic below helps illustrate the wide number of websites that play well with Voki.

Realize that Voki speech can include text-to-speech, real voice recording with microphone, audio files, and telephone calls (including cell phones). Students and teachers can even download a Voki message to their phone. At the time of this publication, the maximum recording time was sixty seconds. At the present time Voki does require a log in and email address. In the near future it is hoped that Voki will set up a classroom environment for teachers. In  the meantime check your school AUP and Voki Privacy Policy. Be aware that students should be instructed regarding proper Web 2.0 usage procedures, including never giving any private information as part of their Voki presentation. Teachers may wish to set up their own classroom account for usage under the guidance of their school AUP. Last, remember that Voki has many outstanding uses, even if the teacher is the only creator of avatars. Take a moment and soon you will have a chance to hear voices of learning in your school and classroom!

Thanks for joining us on another journey opening the doors of 21st century learning. Enjoy a conversation with an avatar… and have a great week! – SIGOL

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Twelve Reasons To Teach Searching Techniques With Google Advanced Search… Even Before Using The Basic Search

by Michael Gorman – Welcome to another post, one that SIGOL hopes you will find valuable and will pass on to othersplease take a moment to subscribe by RSS or email . Your subscriptions mean a lot to us!  We will have additional exciting resources and information in future posts coming your way.  Now, enjoy a visit designed to help you reflect on how students are being taught… or not taught to research on-line! Have a great week – Mike Gorman  (SIGOL PD Co-chair) Twitter -  (mjgormans)

I often present on the importance of Digital Immigrants (most teachers) facilitating Digital Natives (most k12 students)  in the use of digital technology. You see, I believe that while today’s digital natives have a affinity for using digital tools… they often do not have the life experiences to utilize these tools to their greatest potential. One example I would like to present to you today is the use of Google as a search engine. Since I am still in the classroom I am able to watch students perform various searches with Google. I have the opportunity to see what I claim is inefficient input resulting in a multitude of needless results from Google. Assisting our digital natives in the process of searching is something that all of us as digital immigrants can help with. We have the life experiences and educational background to help our students fine tune their digital skills and become more productive in research.

I would suggest that educators direct students towards the Google Advanced Search Engine even before using the Google Basic Search. In fact, I would further suggest that an Advanced Search be used until students understand how to use these advanced techniques in a Basic Search.  Why? First, I do not see  these skills as advanced techniques. I see them as a skill set necessary in finding information in a productive manner.  When  educators ask students to search and find information on the internet… it is not to just get the answer. It is to learn an important process that will serve them through future schooling and eventual careers. Let’s take a look at the Google Advanced Search Engine and see why it really should be a basic prerequisite!

Twelve Reasons To Teach Searching With Google Advanced Search

1. The Advanced Search teaches important syntax such as STRINGS, AND, NOT, and OR. In the first part of the Advanced Search as shown below students will learn the following:

All these words (above picture) allows the AND statement (AND is actually not needed in Google since it is inferred when multiple words are put in. This is an important concept since I have seen students many times needlessly type in the AND command. (Note that small words such as articles are omitted - a, the, of, an, as… etc).

This exact wording or phrase (above picture) allows words to be put together in a STRING. In this case Google will look for a string of words that must be together in a website. This is great when looking up an author, movie, quote, or for words that must be kept together (nuclear fission).

One or more of these words (above picture) allows the use of the ORcommand. This is valuable when a researcher wants to look for more than one word… but does not want to eliminate a page because all the words cannot be found in a specific page.

But don’t allow pages that have any of these unwanted words (above picture) allows for the NOT statement to be used.  This is very useful in eliminating unwanted words and results. Often called the NOT command and uses the (-) sign in a Google Basic search. An example would be looking for the country Turkey while eliminating results for the bird turkey.

2. The Advanced Search teaches about a search through its tip links. In the picture above I have selected the tip for using the (-) or NOT command. The tip explains how to use it in the basic search. This may be one of the best reasons to include the Advanced Search as a teaching tool.

3.  The Advanced Search teaches syntax by taking input and displaying how the search would look in a Basic Search (below picture). This is displayed at the top of the Advanced Search Page as the search words are typed in. Once again, students learn how the Basic Search should be structured. This reinforces the concept that proper input of search terms will increase efficiency and until students knows how to use the Basic Search effectively, they may be more productive in Advanced.

Note in the picture above that a search is being made for the phrase “one small step for man” outside of the  reference to Neil Armstrong. Notice that the top of the page allows the student to see how this would be built in a Google Basic search. This will apply to all of the techniques available in Google Advanced search.

4. The Advanced Search teaches how to search for pages in any language (below picture). What an awesome way for students to explore a foreign language they are studying or get primary resources on an event from the source country. This is actually an easier way to search than in the Basic. Even more importantly, students can then enter the website for translation. Translation is usually found at the top of the website, or one can use http://www.google.com/language_tools?hl=en to translate. This is not integrated in the Basic Search Box.

5. The Advanced Search teaches how to do the search for alternate resources in an easy manner (below picture). Of course, the syntax is available at the top of the page for those wanting to try it next time in a Google Basic Search. Educators and students can find powerpoints, Google Earth files, spreadsheets, PDF files, Flash files, Word files, and even Autodesk files. Great for research and even better for teachers wishing to find some lesson plan material.

6. The Advanced Search teaches how to search inside of a website or domain (below picture). This can be useful for limiting a search to a  .gov or.edu, or possibly to a specific website such as nasa.govyoutube.com, orcensus.gov. You will note that the Google Search at the top shows you how to put this in the Basic Search

To investigate four more reasons to teach with Google Advanced Search, click on the Date, usage rights, numeric range, and morelink on your Google Advanced Search Page.

Please note that only three of the filters below translate into a Google Basic Search. They include Where your keywords show up, Numeric range,and Important  links. The others are valuable and prove how important an Advanced Search can be because they provide great information and are easy to use in the Advanced Search.

7. Advanced Search teaches how to specify to return results according to date (below picture). This is very valuable for finding timely information. Students looking up a current event or breaking news story may want to use this feature. Remember, the default is (anytime). It is also a great way to emphasize whether currency of information is relevant to the research topic. This does not translate into the Google Basic Search Box.

8. Advanced search teaches how to specify a search related to a website’s usage rights (below picture). This is a gold mine for those wishing to use, share, modify, or remix information.  Also, it is  a great way to teach students about copyright and creative commons rights. It is important to observe the rules governing how an item may be shared, and to make students aware of this. This is especially helpful when searching for pictures in the Advanced Image Search


9. Advanced Search teaches how to specify to search for keywords in a specific place on a website (below picture). This is a tool that can be really useful in narrowing down results. First, the default is (Anywhere In Page).  This includes all the possibilities, but may actually be too broad in scope. When getting a large number of returns, one could narrow down returns by requesting that keywords be listed in title. This will narrow the search and possibly lead users to a more specific subject, since keywords in a title tend to emphasize content in an article. In the same way, URL and Links to a pagemay lead the researcher to more specific and relevant information This does display in the Google Basic Tool Box above so that one can see what it would look like in a Basic Search.

10.  Advanced Search teaches how to specify to find websites from various regions of the world (below picture). This is a great way to teach students about bias and regional differences. This part of the search engine allows the student to look up web pages published in a specific region or country. This technique is great for current evenst, allowing the searcher to get information from the country of origin. A teacher should encourage students to compare and contrast the same news story coming from two different areas or regions. Students can study a subject, such as the American Revolution, from a British, French, Russian, or United States perspective. What is Russia’s take on the Space Race,  Cuba’s thoughts on the Bay of Pigs, or China’s research on Global Warming?  This tool does not show up in the Basic Search Tool Box and is another reason to use the Advanced tools.

11. Advanced Search teaches one how to look up information in a numeric range (below picture). Perhaps a researcher wishes to search between a set number of years, such as 1800-1900. Specifying a dollar amount such as $250 – $500 or searching for a distance range 10 miles – 100 milescould be valuable in finding needed information. A student may even wish to look  up a range of page numbers. This will translate above in the Google Basic Search Box.

12. Advanced Search teaches how to find important  links and websites similar to one that was useful (below picture). This includes two useful tools. A user who really finds a particular site useful may want to enter that page’s URL into the Find Pages Similar To The Page line. This may lead to other sites that provide needed research information.Using the Find Pages That Link To The Page may also lead the user to other useful sites. This Link To The Page tool can also be used to evaluate a website by determining the number, and type of pages linking to it. In fact, I teach people to use Find Pages That Link To The Page when evaluating Web Pages using what I call  Good Links.  (Starting with a space before entering the address in the Find Pages That Link To The Page form  will yield different and sometimes better results). This will show up in the Google Basic Search Box.

Also be sure to check out both the safe search feature and the readability feature as both can be valuable for classroom use. As you can see the Google Advanced Search, used correctly, will  facilitate today’s digital natives to expand their digital abilities while promoting productivity and learning in the classroom. It’s you and I, the digital immigrants, who can make it happen! Thanks, and until next time… start thinking of ways you can advance your students with Google.  Have a great week! – Mike Gorman (SIGOL PD Co-chair) Twitter  (mjgormans)


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Welcome to SIGOL!

SIGOL: Online Learning Special Interest Group

SIGOL supports educators involved with computer-based communications and distance learning models through various venues for sharing research, international connections, and training opportunities. A special interest group of ISTE, SIGOL is a network of educators involved with computer-based communications—either stand-alone stations or combined with other media. Members are able to share experiences and learn from each other through various professional development and networking activities that include webinars, online resource databases and ISTE conference events.

SIGOL also recognizes teachers for their pioneering use of online learning networks with the SIGOL Online Learning Award

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