Friday, 24 April 2015

Brainstorming using web tools.

Brainstormers and Ice-breakers

We often open our lesson with a brainstorming question.

The advantages of brainstorming, according to the website ehow, are:
1. Creative Thinking Is Encouraged - students can think "out of the box" and hear new ideas from their peers. 
2. Most ideas are accepted - when students see their ideas on the board, they are empowered. 
3. Everyone is part of the team - brainstorming isn't about who knows best, who studied at home or who understands the material. There is a chance for everyone
4. It's exciting and easy - from my experience, students love the chance of parcipating, having an influence over the lesson and comment on what their peers are saying. 

Even with these advantages, there are many students who don't participate in brainstorming activities, who like to be quiet and listen and don't contribute. On the other hand, there are students who use this activity to say whatever comes to their mind without thinking first. 

There are several digital tools that help make brainstorming more engaging for all students, well constructed and very visual. I bring a few examples here.  
The students can participate in the activity with mobile devices, computers or tablets, but it is advised to use a projector connected to the teacher's device. 

Answer Garden - plant a question, grow answers.

A very easy to use tool, no need to sign up! 
1. Prior or during a lesson, enter the site
2. Click the + button at the upper right section of the page. 
 3. At the "topic", write a question that the students will answer in one or two words (see example).

a. Choose "brainstorm" mode if you want to allow identical answers to be submitted.
b. Choose "classroom" mode if you want to allow only individual new questions. 
c. Choose "moderator" mode if you want to approve each entry before it is published. 
d. Choose "lock" mode if you want to lock the garden to any new submissions. 
5. Answer length - you can choose 20 or 40 characters. It is usually best to instruct one or two word answer at the most. 
6. Admin password and reminder email - only if you register, which isn't a must. 
7. Broadcast - The garden can "last" from one hour to a week. 
8. Create - When you Click 'create', you are transferred to the primary page, which your students also view. This is the page you want to share with them, to have them answer the question. 


In order to share your garden with the students, copy the URL from the URL bar and paste it in your forum/email/any messaging tool you use. 

Lino-it - a virtual canvas for sticky notes and web content. 
Lino-it is a sticky notes' virtual canvas that can help us do collaborative brainstorming and thoughts sharing in the classroom. The teacher creates the canvas and sends the link to the students. She adds a question on the canvas or asks the question in class. The children enter the website and post their thoughts, pictures and videos. all according to what the teacher asked. 
Bare in mind that it is essential to give some ground rules before any cooperative activity: the use of clean language and staying on-task are essential. This is a part of the important educational value that comes with such assignments. Our students must learn how to behave in virtual environments. 
- During the teaching the subject of "Natural Disasters", I invited my students to find volcano eruption videos on youtube and share them on the canvas. They had to write the place, date and 2 more details about the eruption, so they also used the dictionary and had to dig dip in youtube in order to find a suitable video (some videos were without any details so they couldn't use them). When all was ready, we watched the videos and the children were enthusiastic to share what they learned. 
- When teaching nouns, adjectives or any other grammatical subject, you can ask the students to share a picture of a noun and it's name. they can also add a sentence with this noun.
How to create a Lino-it canvas for your students:

1. Go to the website linoit
2. Click on "Sign Up" - you may use your gmail/facebook account so that you won't have to remember a new password. There is an option to do this without signing up, but as a teacher you need control over the canvas. 

3. After the registration, you arrive to a page with all your previous canvases and the option to create a new one. Click on "create a new Canvas"

4. Name your new canvas (see picture below).
5. Choose a background - use the ones offered or upload your own in the option "upload an image".
6. Tick the option "everyone may post stickies" so that your students will be able to use it - you can change it later, after the assignment is done. 
7. Tick the option - allow guests to post stickies, from the reason. 
8. Click "create canvas". 

9. Your new canvas is ready! Look at the right bottom side of the page. there is a picture of a tablet. It shows you that the size of the canvas is larger than the size of the screen - students can simply post stickies on all the canvas and you can reach it with the mouse. 

10. On the right upper corner is the option to share stickies and web content. Click on a sticky note, write inside and click "post". 
11. If you want to share a video, music or picture, click on their symbol and upload them from your computer. 

Important - only the teacher can change stickies locations, so you shoud refresh your page and move stickies so that the students won't put stickies on top of one another. This problem does not exist in the next tool, padlet. 

Sharing the canvas with your students
In order to share the canvas, copy the url from the url bar and paste it in a message to your students. 

Padlet - another canvas with great features. 

Padlet is very similar to Linoit, but it requires less work from the teacher - you don't have to move stickies from one place to another, they can be automatically arranged. 
How to create a Padlet canvas:
1. Go into Padlet.comClick on "sign up". Sign up with your google or facebook account, or create an account with a new username and password. 

3. Click on: "yes, I'm a techer". 

4. On the dashboard, you will see your previous padlets and the option to create a new one. Click it. 

5. On the right side of your canvas, click on "settings". 
costumize the wallpaper, layout and privacy (see pictures with prefferable choices below). 

6. Now, choose "share", copy the link from the bottom (where it sayse Mobilize) and share it with your students.