03 March 2013

Thinking About Syncing? Technology tools for World Language Educators: Sharing digital lessons with students with Edcanvas

Thinking About Syncing? 
Technology tools for World Language Educators: 
Sharing digital lessons with students with Edcanvas

I learned about Edcanvas from my PLN on Twitter. If you have not joined Twitter yet, you are missing out on the best (and free) professional development available to teachers. Please consider joining and follow me to learn from World Language teachers from across the globe. 

Beginning a digital connection with learners through online tools may seem a bit overwhelming at first glance. The first choice is a platform: Web site, blog, Edmodo, Weebly, etc. There are many options for teachers to use and each has its own positives and negatives. However, without Professional Development or free-time to explore on one’s own, choosing a reliable and easy-to-use platform may prevent teachers from taking the first steps. Templates are an excellent option for beginners as they offer the ability to produce quality lessons without major time commitments or technical knowledge. I have experimented with and written about sites such as Symbaloo and others that allow users to click, copy, paste, and share their resources with students. These tools do not require any technical knowledge beyond a list of valuable and well-designed online resources. Sharing one’s own resources (PowerPoints, PDFs, Web sites, Photo arrays, YouTube videos, etc.) has not been as easy. Most templates have required using embed codes to connect resources into one linear production. Edcanvas has taken the resource sharing concept to a new level that is attainable for all technical levels. Edcanvas allows users to choose resources from across the Web and build a unified canvas to share with students. 

Use resources such as YouTube, DropBox, Google Drive, Flicker, and your own files (Word, PDF, PowerPoint, etc.) to create an easy-to-explore digital notebook/canvas for your students. 

Setting up your Edcanvas account: 
As a personal preference, I tend to register on a site with my e-mail as opposed to interfacing through Facebook or Twitter. I have used my Twitter account for Pinterest, but that was only after discussing it with longtime users of the site. If you do have a Google/gmail account, it is a good idea to use it for registration. You will be able to use documents in your Google Drive or videos that you have organized on your YouTube channel. 

Building an Edcanvas: 

The theme that I am sharing with first year French students is animals. We start our exploration with farm animals as they are well-known by most students. I have collected and bookmarked resources over the years: YouTube videos, authentic (native language) sites with animals in context, language learning sites that provide picture vocabulary and sounds, and my own documents. To build a coherent site for the students, I will assemble these resources in a logical introduction. For this blog example, I took a few resources (not all of them) and built a basic canvas for demonstration purposes.  

To pull in a resource, I can either search for the site on Google (under the Google tab), find a video on YouTube under its tab, search for basic pictures through Flickr, or upload a file that I have previously created or saved from another site. You may also enter text on a slide instead of dragging a resource. Once you have found the element (Web site, YT video, picture), simply pull/drag the element to the canvas. In my first block, I have written the title of the canvas. In the second, I have added a YT video with a song about farm animals. For the third box, I uploaded a PDF with animal vocabulary that I found online. In box number four, I included an authentic Web site that demonstrates animals. In the last two boxes, I included another Web site and a textbox with a description of pigs. 

When adding a resource (YT video, Web site), please preview it to ensure that it is appropriate for all levels. 

Adding a Google Drive / Dropbox document: 
If you have documents already saved to your Google Drive or Dropbox, allow Edcanvas to connect to your accounts in order to search for documents. You may also upload documents directly from your computer. 

Sharing the Edcanvas with others: 

Edcanvas provides several ways to share the finished product. If you wish to keep the canvas private, choose the correct sharing option from the list. This does not ensure that others will not access it, but it keeps the canvas from turning up on a site search.  

1. Edmodo: If you are an Edmodo user, you may add it to your library and share it with your connections.

2. Share through Twitter and Facebook: This will be useful if you collaborate with other language teachers or if you wish to promote your work with new users.

3. E-mail or link, yes this “antiquated” option still exists!

4. QR code: Copy or save the provided QR code and add it to your handouts, blog, or social media. Users will be able to scan it and access it directly.
5. Embed code: If you do use a Web site, blog, Tumblr, etc., you may copy the code and add it directly to your site. 

Recommendations and conclusion: 
If you have had reservations in the past about building a blog, an Edmodo site, or any other form digital tool to connect with your students outside of class, Edcanvas is an excellent option. It is a quintessential tool for true beginners. 

Researching the resources takes an initial investment of time, but if you have already bookmarked and organized your personal files, the time involved to build a basic canvas will impress you. Building online resources for your students also projects an interest to engage learners through multiple media. 

Share the project with your building supervisor and the district superintendent, especially if your language classes are in danger. It is important to show administrators that World Language teachers are innovative and dedicated to expanding student resources. 

If you have built an Edcanvas for French learners, please consider sharing it with the AATF Commission on Technology by adding the address in the comments.

It is my intention to add more posts each week. It has been a busy year, but if you have been following me on Twitter through the AATFrench or catherineKU72 accounts, you will have seen my other posts on technology ideas. Additionally, the AATF Delicious site has many useful links for authentic resources and Web tool sites. Lastly, I have updated my personal “Thinking About Syncing ?” technology site for WL teachers. If it is not on this blog, it is on of these resources!

Please share your favorite sites or ideas with us in the comments.

Bon surf!
Catherine Ousselin