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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Revolutionary online thinking tools for kids from 3rd grade to adults! (Free too!)



This morning as I lifted weights I listended to another podcast that I found on Podzinger. (See yesterday's post.) On the Tech Teacher Podcast, this episode from 4/11 covers three incredible tools from the Intel teach to the future program.

Some of you may have been trained through this program, but I've never heard of it. I suggest that you listen to the program and also go the Intel Teaching tools site (http://www.intel.com/education/tools/) as you listen. You will be trained as you listen to some very knowledgeable educators of elementary aged students and older.

Here is what I learned.

The three tools are:

Technical Requirements


Cool features:
  • Great for smartboard use - The teacher can view summary information for the class and discuss on the board.
  • The Seeing Reason and Showing Evidence tool allow you to drag graphics in from Inspiration and Kidspiration.
  • Students are able to save their projects at several points so the teacher can follow their train of thought.
  • There are a lot of places they can enter notes and when you put your mouse over the markers you can view their reasoning. (Double click to put a comment.)
  • They can compare their information with the class average or other teams. This helps them justify and rethink. It coaches them to form an opinion and be prepared to justify what they think! Critical thinking!
Get set up to use the tools.

1. Go to the Teacher Setup Page
2. Enter your e-mail, name, and basic information and sign up. (Write down your teacher ID, the students will need it to log in, I set mine to be coolcatteacher@gmail.com).
3. Login
4. Set up your teams -- I did this first. You can assign them to whichever projects you like. Once you set the team usernames and passwords as well as who is on the team, just print out the page and copy it.
5. Select the type of project you'd like to set up. (Start with Ranking, its easy). If you aren't sure click the Try the Tool button for demos.
6. Set up the project by typing in the information. For ranking enter the items you want them to rank (one on each line, up to 86 characters.)
7. After you enter the information and click update, then the program takes you to the screen to assign the teams. Just check the teams and assign them.
8. I gave the copied sheet to the teams with username and passwords. If you are concerned about them knowing each other's passwords you can do it on Index cards, etc.

Here's what's funny -- it is easy enough for adults to use! Having taught over 1,000 adults in my days in college teaching I know they are more difficult to please.

One person on the podcast even reported using the ranking tools to let the teachers have input into the budget cuts they were having to make. The five or six items they were considering cutting were listed. The teachers were given login information and several days to fill it out! I'm going to use it on our technology plan also!

My first project: the Ranking Tool

In Computer Science we are learning effective web design. We have six principles that I've taught them about effective design. I have three websites for the teams to evaluate.

The program is very easy. They:
  • Log in,
  • Click on the project (I numbered them),
  • Read the instructions,
  • Discuss
  • Drag the rank order, and then
  • Insert comments.
  • After this, they saved. Then they compared to other teams and added comments. Sometimes they reranked at this point.

I do require that each student double click on each rank after they have dragged it to the place they want and put their comments in. (Otherwise some may just randomly drag things around and say they are done.)

The program will allow them to compare their team's rankings with that of other teams. I've told them that when they see discrepancies I expect them to explain WHY They think that. I also told them to make sure they don't ALL have the same answers.

This has created incredible discussions and I've really enjoyed how it brought the principles into the classroom.

See how it works:

If you want to go into my project, I've created a DEMO team for you to log into and see the setup of the project.
1) Go to http://tinyurl.com/rzlj7
2) Teacher ID: coolcatteacher@gmail.com
3) Student ID: Demo
4) Password: Demo

The front page of Intel Teaching Tools:

Better learning will not come from finding better ways for the teacher to instruct but from giving the learner better opportunities to construct.

-Seymour Papert, Professor Emeritus, MIT Media Lab
Visual Ranking Seeing Reason Showing Evidence Tool

In Conclusion
Remember, always be willing to try something new. If you want your students to be willing to change, you must model that behavior yourself.

If you want students to be thinkers, you must employ tools that make them think.

I'm not too sure that much thinking is involved in rote memorization and regurgitation. That was fine for the industrial age but now that we are in the electronic age, we need critical thinkers.

I love the Intel Tools! They have done a great job!

One interesting sidenote. When the Intel rep was asked when some new tools are coming out, she said that they will be spending at least the next two years on cross platform compatibility and in taking the use of these tools to impoverished countries. It sounds like the Apple / Intel relationship as well as the $100 laptop per child scenario have Intel refocusing a little.
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