I started to write this post in my last blog, but I realized that I was putting the cart before the horse. My last blog started off as five tools to present content in an alternative way, but it soon turned into strategies rather than tools. The funny part of it is that it helped give me the reminder that we always need: technology is used to amplify instruction and the tools should always come second!
The tools below all give you great options to get started in producing and using content in different ways. If you have not read my blog on alternative strategies to deliver content, I highly encourage it. I think the best way to use these tools is to find some structure that puts you in between the traditional lecture-based classroom and the flipped classroom approach. All these tools can be used to get you there!
1. Touchcast (touchcast.com)
Touchcast one of my favorite tools. It is also one of the only Ed Tech tools I still use personally. I also think it is one of those things that keeps the conversation going about Ipads in schools because as of now it's Ipad only.
Touchcast is an excellent video creation app for Ipad that includes EVERYTHING. Part of that everything is an amazing tool to put news style graphics called Vapps in your video that can be websites, videos, photos, cloud documents, and more. These graphics than can be used directly with a tap straight from your video. You can use these to make your video interactive in a variety of ways, and students can find all of that interactive content in one place. Cutting down and organizing scope of clicks always helps kids get where they are!
The interweaving are what makes Touchcast stand out, but it has other amazing tools to make your alternative content solutions stand out. It has some basic things like titles and effects, but it's the whiteboard, green screen, and teleprompter that make it stand out. As you record videos you can annotate on the screen, and there are several backgrounds that you can annotate over. The green screen effect is amazing as all you do is pick the picture or video you want and stand in front of a green screen. You can also add a teleprompter that lets you copy and paste notes then it scrolls up the side.
When you are done creating, you also have some options in how you get it to the kids. You can always post to Touchcast's site and get the interactive videos. You can then embed that video on a website or link out to it. If you want to make your videos easier to find you can also have a one button touch to upload it to Youtube. Best of all, it also lets you download the video to the camera roll. Not only does it mean that you can download the video to put everywhere, but it also means students can use it as a video creation/green screen app. If you have young kids, just don't log into the app.
2. Nearpod (nearpod.com)
If you have old power points, there is an easy way to move them into that alternative content sphere. It's a PowerPoint on Steroids. It's something that can be interactive. It's something that can be switched into a student-driven mode. It's Nearpod!
The idea behind Nearpod is just to make content delivery better. It has two significant differences from a standard presentation. The first is that it takes the presentation from the front of the room, and it puts it on the device in front of the student. You can still have it in the front of the room, but by putting it in front of the kids, it inherently makes it more personal.
The 2nd main difference is that Nearpod adds all kinds of interactives. The interactives started as mostly just assessment activities such as open-ended questions, polls, multiple choice, and my personal favorite draw it. Draw it is awesome because you can use it as a whiteboard or you can put a picture/pdf in the background to annotate. They are beginning to add amazing new interactives like 3D objects, Sways, and best of all virtual field trips.
The biggest reason to use Nearpod though is its ease of entry for teachers. Teachers can take old PowerPoints and just bring them into a Nearpod. Many of their interactive pieces can be put in just by search. That search capability is one of the biggest reasons that Nearpod is one of the easiest entries into the VR space.
On top of everything else, you have options when it comes to how you deliver content to students. Nearpod has both a teacher-paced and student-paced mode that allows you to either lead the lesson or let students lead themselves through the lesson. The student-paced allows you to personalize content by allowing students to work on different content at different times. You can basically build your digital content instead of depending on that curriculum in box solutions.
3. Screen-Cast-O-Matic (screen-cast-o-matic.com)
While Nearpod is a good entry, Touchcast can be a difficult entry into the video space for some and others just don't have an Ipad. We also live in a space where Youtube tutorials are the way people learn things. This all means an easy screen capture software is super important to have. That's where Screen--Cast-O-Matic comes in.
Screen-Cast-O-Matic is simple screen capture. The idea is you pull a box out across your computer screen, and then you hit record to record and narrate everything you do on screen. You can also turn on your webcam to put your picture at the bottom of the screen. The screencast becomes an easy way for teachers to show students how to do something on a computer or record a presentation to use in an alternative way while also giving
After you finish recording your video, you can either download it or post it to Youtube. This makes it a super easy to record and share in places that students can see. The free version only gives you 15 minutes of record time, but for most teachers, that's all they will need to get their content across.
4. Buncee (edu.buncee.com)
Buncee is a new one for me, but I like what I see, and I have friends who are all over it. Where it becomes a fantastic alternative solution to content is all the things that you can do with it. It reminds a little of a cross between a digital poster and a presentation. What makes it interesting as an alternative content solution is all the things you can add and all the ways you can share.
To make a Buncee, you manipulate the platform in much the same way you do PowerPoint. The idea is you create a slide, choose a background, and add stuff. What takes the process past PowerPoint is that they have hundreds of backgrounds to choose from, and you can add tons of stuff to make that Buncee interactive. Some of the things you can add are stickers, animation, lists, 360 videos, QR codes, and much, much more. All of this means that you can create amazing interactive content presentations with all kinds of content.
The other part that makes Buncee an awesome way to present content is the ability to share them in tons of ways. You can download them and add them to other things like Nearpod. You can also embed, use a link, or email to get it out to students. Sometimes that ease of use is the answer!
5. Breakout Edu (breakoutedu.com)
Escape Rooms have become a cultural gaming phenomenon, and of course, there had to be a way to adapt it to education. The problem is no one wants to lock kids in a room, so someone had to come up with a solution. James Saunders did, and it's called Breakout Edu.
The idea behind Breakout Edu is that you take 6 or so pieces of content and you write clues for them that open up 6 or so different locks. The locks are then placed on a tool box with a hasp, and the goal becomes students need to open the box. If written well, the game can provide an immersive story that gets students to the point of student driven content discovery, and if we get to the students to that point, it can be amazing!
When you talk about setup, that's where Breakout can get a little complicated. There are games on their site, but it can be hard to find one that actually fits what you want to do. I have concluded that the way to start is to figure out what 6 or so pieces of content you want students to know. You then figure out how to connect them to the locks that you have. The last step is then to have an inter-weaving story.
Breakout takes creativity, but it is well worth it. The best way to get started is to write your game, and then have someone test it. You then can know if it will be a success!