Sunday, July 14, 2013

Discovering Something New

This week, to discover some new online tools, I went to Kathy Schrock's Guide to Everything.  Having taken a previous Wilkes class with Ms. Schrock, I knew that I would be able to find some very interesting sites through her page.  I chose three different sites to evaluate, and I enjoyed using these sites and learning more about them.

The first site I looked at was Pixlr, a photo editing website.  I have an interest in photography, so this site appealed to me.  I have Adobe Photoshop Elements installed on my computer, and use it regularly.  Pixlr is quite comparable to Elements, at least when it comes to the basic tools (which are all I have learned up to this point).  As Pixlr is a free site, I was very impressed with the capabilities.  In order to explore and learn about the site, I decided to edit a picture.  I started with a picture I had taken at a 4th of July party.  I used Pixlr's text option to add the date to the picture.  Then I started editing.  I used the spot healing tool to get rid of a distracting mark on the pier, and then I adjusted the brightness and contrast.  Then, I applied a slight blur filter to just the outside edges.  I tried other filters and adjustments, but found that I didn't need to add them.  The end result of the editing I did on Pixlr is this picture:
For my classroom purposes, I don't think that Pixlr would be very useful.  However I can certainly see how appealing it may be to other subject areas.  My friend/colleague teaching a class called Project Runway, and part of her curriculum includes using Photoshop.  She was lucky enough to receive enough copies of Photoshop for the computer lab, but I know other teachers in the county are not as lucky.  Pixlr would be a great, cost-saving alternative.

The next site I explored was Gliffy.  I had come across this site before, but never had a chance to explore it.  In my school district, there is a huge push to use thinking maps.  We are expected to use thinking maps at least once a week, and administrators look to see if our students are creating thinking maps regularly.  Our students are very familiar with the different types of thinking maps, however I find that they get bored with them quickly.  They use thinking maps so often that the students are not engaged by them anymore.  Before exploring Gliffy, I was hopeful that it would be a tool I could use with students to re-motivate them to use thinking maps.  I set to creating a flow map for a story that my French II students read each year.  Here is a screen shot:
Gliffy is extremely user friendly and intuitive.  The tools work in a way that makes sense, so I didn't have to spend any time trying to figure out how to work them.  
The downfall of Gliffy is that it is not entirely free to use.  With a free account, you can only create five diagrams per month.  Unless I had each student create an account (which I am not allowed to do), I would not be able to have students work on this program.  We could use it to make thinking maps as a class, but that eliminates a lot of the purpose behind thinking maps.  Gliffy does offer discounted prices for academic institutions, however with today's financial concerns, it still may not be feasible to use.

The last site I chose to explore was Flisti, which is a poll creator.  I was recently introduced to the wonderful world of Google Forms, so I was curious to see how other poll creating sites stacked up.  While Flisti does not come close to the features of Google Forms, it was easy to make a poll with it.  With Flisti, you can only make a one question poll with multiple choice answers (as opposed to Google Forms with its unlimited questions and various types of questions).  I do like Flisti's option to embed your form into a website, which I have done here:

Could you see yourself using Flisti with your students?

I think that Flisti would be much more useful if you could include more than one question.  If you have a blog you use with your students, Flisti would be an easy way to include questions in a blog post.  However, I would not want to allow students to go to the Flisti site and create their own questions.  Once you create a poll, the site shows ads.  One of the ads that I saw showed a glass of beer, and another showed a scantily dressed woman.  I would not want to expose my students to questionable ads this way. Luckily, when you click "View Results", no ads are shown.  This is why I think that for educational purposes, Flisti would be limited to the teacher creating polls and embedding them.  Flisti does not have a way to contact them listed on the site, but I was able to reach out to them via Twitter.  I have messaged Flisti with the suggestions of being able to add more questions, and to remove questionable ads, and I will be sure to update this post if/when they respond!

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