Ed Tech Tools and the Social Media Classroom

CLASSROOM 21 | by Greg Limperis

Ever wanted a way to expand learning outside of your four walls of your classroom without having to pay big bucks for great tools and resources? Well, along comes CourseSites, a free, hosted online course creation and facilitation service from Blackboard where educators get use of many tools for free.

This service allows teachers to add a web–based component to their courses, or even host an entire course on the Internet. Looking for a safe way to create a blended learning classroom or even host a whole class online in a free environment? This tool allows you to host up to 5 courses online, and all for free.

To begin with, when you create your own course in their platform, you get to choose your own URL making it easy for your students to find your course even when you are not around.

Now, schooling does not have to end when the school bell ends. With this tool, teachers are able to post and update course material, interact with students, promote collaboration anytime, anywhere, 24/7. Not only can you create the material and promote the learning, educators can assess the learning and use that data to guide their teaching in order to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of every student.

The best thing is you can depend on this product. It’s powered by Blackboard, including Blackboard Learn™, Release 9.1, and Blackboard Collaborate™. Not like most startup companies, it doesn’t leave you wondering if you’ll still be able to rely on them a year or two down the road. It’s an established company, one of the leaders in online learning, and now they’re offering some of their product for free.

Here’s how it works: As an instructor, you simply create your own webpage, with a personalized public URL, so students and guests can quickly access your courses, links, and blog posts by logging in as an instructor. While building your courses, the site provides you with excellent tools to make your teaching come alive. Engage learners like never before through the use of multi-media! It allows you to easily integrate Web 2.0 resources from youtube.com, slideshare.com and flickr.com. The YouTube player has built in accessible controls. The site offers you the ability to integrated McGraw Hill’s Connect and Create services into your course allowing you to pull content, assignments and assessments from McGraw-Hill’s proven learning object repositories—including e-texts, video, and interactive exercises. Through the use of some html text editor boxes, educators can quickly and easily embed content created on other sites such as Glogster, GoAnimate, Storybird and more by simply copying the embedded code and including it into that assignment. Students will stay actively engaged with the media-rich, high quality content found in this seamlessly integrated, total course solution.

Want to take your lessons to the next level? Easily promote collaboration amongst your learners around course content and or group projects all while supporting social learning through the integrated wiki feature built into the platform.

Looking to assess your student knowledge gained? Try out the built in assessment feature where you can quickly and easily create questions and update them. Educators can efficiently manage grading from one location while using in-line grading forms and rubrics, as well as smart filters allowing you to view and grade only those things that need your attention.

Be home at night and schedule a time when you can be online for a few minutes to answer your student’s questions on the day’s assignments. By adding the instant message feature, collaboration amongst peers and teacher to student allow educators to promote some of the vital 21st century skills so needed by young adults entering the workforce today. Not only can students and teachers chat, but the site offers a way for educators to collaborate with students in a live, online classroom featuring text chat, two-way audio, video, interactive whiteboard, application and desktop sharing and breakout rooms all through a free use of the user-friendly Blackboard Collaborate software.

Have you ever needed a way to help keep your students on task? With this site, you can send notifications to students via email, or publish to central notification dashboard to keep them on task and accountable. Let them know you are there as help but also let them know when there is something that they need to be mindful of.

The best part of this service is that not only is it an interactive, engaging way to reach your students any time but now you can reach them in any place Using Blackboard Mobile Learn, you can now reach your students where they live, on their mobile devices giving students and teachers instant access to their CourseSites—wherever, whenever. Imagine if you will a classroom with no walls and no time barriers, a place where true learning exists outside of the standard classroom setting.

Are you being asked to align your teaching to your state standards? This service makes it easy to build your lesson plans and align them to the K-12 state standards. Through the use of K-12 State Standards Alignment and coverage reports, you can now easily deliver standards-based instruction in just a few clicks.

Ever worry (like I have) whether or not what you were creating online met the needs of all students? This service is accessible to all students with a platform that has been Gold Level certified by the National Federation of the Blind for Non-Visual Accessibility. Here is a way to truly differentiate your instruction to meet the needs for all members of your classroom.

They now provide you and your students access to over 10,000 current and historical news clips and documentaries produced by NBC. Through this integration, you can weave regularly updated video clips into your courses on your course home page or in lesson areas. Students also can search for and embed videos to support their discussion, journal, blog, and wiki entries or other activities.

All of this can be accomplished through something like Moodle, but here is an opportunity to have it exist on a server that you do not have to maintain and one that is hosted and provided to you for free. I know, I sound like a salesman for CoureSites from Blackboard, but I am not. I truly believe in the opportunity provided here and can’t help but imagine what learning could look like.

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Greg Limperis, now Supervisor of Instructional Technology for his district, was recently the Middle School Technology Facilitator in Lawrence, Mass., and founded the very popular Technology Integration in Education professional learning network, reaching thousands of educators worldwide. He has shared with others what he knows and they have joined him in sharing their insights as well. Join them in bringing about change using your 21st century skills.

Visit: http://www.technologyintegrationineducation.com

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