Beth Holland

Food for thought…


Book Creator + Tellagami = eBooks with UDL Supports!

Strange things keep me awake sometimes, and last night it was Tellagami. Some of my EdTechTeacher colleagues love Tellagami. Sure, I can create a talking avatar. It can speak with my own voice if I record audio or via text-to-speech. However, I just found it sort of flat. I get that I could use it for App Smashing and have a mini-virtual me travel in and out of screencasts. In fact, Greg Kulowiec (@GregKulowiec) wrote an amazing post this week about Green Screen App Smashing with it.  But honestly, until about 4am, I just didn’t get it.

I get it!

When teaching, one of my favorite web tools was the CAST Book Builder. Teachers could create their own custom content and then employ animated coaches to ask thought provoking questions, support prediction making, and scaffold concepts. What if I could do the same thing by combining Tellagami and Book Creator?!

Imagine writing a story and then using Tellagami to ask thought provoking questions to guide students through comprehension, or creating an interactive math book that includes characters to remind students of steps and processes. What if social studies teachers included characters with digital artifacts to read excerpts of speeches or documents that may be above reading level. Science teachers could have Tellagami coaches ask questions about the content to encourage students to make hypotheses. Foreign Language teachers may provide translation support or additional information about cultural references.

While voice-over narration is possible – and could be another way to provide differentiated content – incorporating these talking avatars could be more for learning support as well as enrichment.

Ok, I get it now…..

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KISS Take #2 – iSolveIt Apps

A few weeks ago, I wrote about having a “no duh” moment. On Thursday, at the MassCUE conference, I had another one…..

Though I had previously glanced at the FREE iSolveIt apps for iPad – MathSquared and MathCubed – I did not fully appreciate the beauty of them until I attended the session presented by  Mindy JohnsonBoo Murray, and Garron Hillaire.

Keeping It Shockingly Simple – why these apps are amazing

Mindy, Boo, and Garron explained the thinking behind these two apps. Since algebraic reasoning is one of the best indicators of future success in college, and since Algebra is often a defining moment in a student’s math career, they decided to create two apps to address the processes of the reasoning with built in Universal Design for Learning (UDL) supports. Given that “5% of the goal of math instruction is content, and 95% is reasoning,” CAST created two apps to encourage problem solving and persistence.

MathSquared is a game that combines KenKen and Sudoko. Students solve increasingly complex, numeric puzzles. “MathSquared puzzles are grid-based puzzles that use the basic math operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division and require logic and problem-solving skills.” Initially, I questioned what I would have students DO beyond play a game. However, what if….

  • Students took a screen capture of a blank board at the culmination of a level, imported it into a screencasting app such as ExplainEverything or Educreations, and then recorded their problem solving process to demonstrate their thinking.
  • One student took a picture of another working on a problem, and then used Fotobabble to record a “play by play” of their classmate’s problem solving to then offer recommendations later.
  • Students collaborated on an ExplainEverything project where they compared and contrasted problem solving strategies and then determined who used the most effective approach.

MathScaled offers a different set of challenges. Students solve balanced equation challenges without numbers. The CAST researchers recognized that some students’ aversion to math is rooted in their “fear of numbers.” With MathScaled, shapes have relative weights and students work through puzzles in order to create balance. Chris Harrow (@Chris_Harrow) and Paul Salomon (@lostinrecursion) recently blogged about shifting students thinking about balance. Not only does this app support that challenge, but it could also…

  • Provide a visual representation for complex equation balancing in both Algebra and Chemistry (imagine teaching the concept of atomic weight with shapes)
  • Provide a visual representation for history/social studies teachers to illustrate the complexity of “the balance of power.” What if students created a series of math equations to tell a story about historical or political events!

Again, the beauty of these apps is also in how they can be incorporated into other apps through screen captures. In fact, a student could develop a series of math stories that include screen captures brought into Book Creator. Students could include typed narrations as well as audio recording of their problem solving.

I don’t often get this excited about content-specific apps. However, these two are definitely worth mentioning – particularly because of the simplicity! I definitely had a “no duh” moment as it is now feels so obvious about how these simple tools could lead to amazingly complex thinking.