Wednesday, July 13, 2011

noresumeIt's no question that the notion of literacy has transcended beyond the written word to include the combination of visuals and words. Writing skills has also evolved into the art of combining the written word with visuals such as images and videos. Our students themselves are disengaged from the writing and are more tuned in to the “Visual Word”.
For the past two years, I have turned the common CV assignments, part of the writing sessions with my grade 11 students, into Visual CV assignments. The results were remarkable, and I am writing this post to share it with you.
I was first fascinated by the visual CVs when I came across some. Professionals using PowerPoint + images + words to produce stunning visual CVs and resumes that stand out. I first did my own visual resume and decided that my students should also do it, besides their traditional paper CVs.

Students first wrote their traditional paper CVs which would serve as the basis for their Visual CVs. As high school students, they didn’t have enough experience or skills to make their CVs. So, I encouraged them to pretend they are now working in the profession they envision themselves doing and write down the experiences, education and skills that they would have gained along the way.
After they were done with the first part of their assignment, the paper CVs, I modeled some great visual Resumes. This gave the class enough material to discuss. They had to deconstruct those visual resumes, and we discussed what made them so communicative. By the end of the discussion, students came to realize that images mean more than words and that’s what they did.
Guided by their paper CVs each student chose keywords and turned them into images on their CVs. Each students started a Google presentation and shared it with me. This enabled me to give each one of them timely comments and suggestions. After they were done, each presented before the class and each shared his Visual CV on the internet. Below are some example of visual CV’s produced by my students.

Students were completely engaged. Their attitude towards writing has shifted to pleasure writing. Their motivation was heightened. But what was really remarkable is how low-achievers have improved in their writings. This is due to strengthening their willingness to communicate through not only text but also images using PowerPoint as a tool and the Google platform as a medium for communication and collaboration.

Posted on Wednesday, July 13, 2011 by Ammar Merhbi


Monday, July 11, 2011

Innovative educators are trying to engage students in their literature classes in books and literature works by using multimedia to address the students needs in the 21 century. One innovative technique is using the power of Google Earth and multimedia to take students in a 3D animated tour of one or more characters in the book that they are currently reading. Students would navigate the guided tour, already designed by the teacher and interact with the spatial environment of the characters.  This post will give a glimpse of what Google Lit Trips is, why is it useful, and some useful links if you want to delve deeper Smile Please refer to the list of links at the end of the post for everything you need to learn about Google Earth and doing Guided tours.


Students are reading “Johnny Appleseed”. They are engaged in some kind of literature circles to discuss chapters, characters, and analysis of salient elements in the book. Teacher realizes that the plot includes many places where events occur. This, the teacher believes, gives some geographical aspect of the book that students need to explore to make more sense out of the book. So, the teacher decides to combine the power of technology , pedagogy, and content to engage students in a Google Lit Trips.

1- The teacher first makes a story Board to locate the places where the character has been, the information about the events that occur in that place, an image that might convey more on that place, some links perhaps, and reference to the pages or chapter in the book where these occur. To know more on how to make a story board for a Google Lit Trip please watch the video below.

How to Make a Storyboard for Google Lit Trip

2- The teacher goes to Google Earth and searches for the first location from the storyboard. The teacher places a place mark and adds more information on this place including page reference and selections from the book, image, and perhaps some links for the students to explore the place where the event has happened.
Watch the two tutorial videos below on how to design a Google Lit Trip and record a tour.

How to Create Google Lit Trip–Part I

How to Creat Google Lit trip- Part 2

3- The teacher then saves the KML file and shares it with the students to view the tour. Students would view the tour, referring to the book too, and explore the geographical locations. They would be engaged with the associated vocabulary for each place, the questions in query, etc.… and discuss with their peers.
Students from grade 2 till higher education can be engaged in Google Lit Trips based on the books they read. Take a look at an overview of “Grape of Wrath” Google Lit Trip.

Google Lit Trips are especially useful in exploring books that contain many geographical settings. Students would explore places in the book that were previously foreign to them. They would align the verbal and visual channels to be engaged in a memorable exploration of a literary work.

Tips and Links

Ah, and don’t forget that Google Earth is not confined to the surface of our planet. You can make a tour guide on other planets of even on the sea surface !!!

Last Comment

I believe that educators should take it to the next step and make students themselves produce Google Lit Trips based on their explorations of the book. This, of course, depends of the students' prerequisites, age, and the aim of the lesson/course. If students collaboratively construct their own interpretation of the literary work with the aid of technology then I believe that this is the highest layer of interactivity and engagement, let alone the high order of thinking and collaborative skills that are honed by this approach.


Posted on Monday, July 11, 2011 by Ammar Merhbi


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

I’ve lately come across SNAPP (Social Networks Adapting Pedagogical Practice). SNAPP 

is a software tool that allows users to visualize the network of interactions resulting from discussion forum posts and replies. The network visualisations of forum interactions provide an opportunity for teachers to rapidly identify patterns of user behaviour – at any stage of course progression. SNAPP has been developed to extract all user interactions from various commercial and open source learning management systems (LMS) such as BlackBoard (including the former WebCT), and Moodle. SNAPP is compatible for both Mac and PC users and operates in Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari.

Developed by the University of Wollongong, this sociogram can

visualize the discussion forum in an LMS (Blackboard, WEBCT, MOODLE, SAKAI..) and displays the student-student, teacher-student interaction in mind map. Names of students/teacher can be displayed. Also, each node size and link thickness refer to the frequency of the posts.

I gave it a try on one of discussion forum on one of  my Moodle Websites with my students. I chose a a discussion forum at the beginning of the year where students had to post their first Hellos using Voki as their voice avatar, and they had to comment on each other’s post.

1.  First, I Downloaded SNAPP

snapp downloadYou have to fill in the required information before your submit for download. Then you need to choose the LMS type you work on from the drop down menu.


2.  This took me to a new page where I dragged a bookmarklet onto my browser’s bookmark tool. I followed the steps depending on my internet browser(Firefox in this case). And yes, SNAPP resides on your internet browser and not a stand alone desktop application Smile 

snapp bookmarklet

3. Then, I went to the discussion forum of my Moodle Website. I made sure that the discussion forum is in the nested view so that SNAPP can read the posts.  


discussion forum


4. I clicked the Bookmarklet bookmarklet

5. I scrolled down till the end of the nested discussion forum. I waited for a while. This might take longer time depending on internet connection and pc speed. Also, make sure that Java is installed on your browser. The visualization of the discussion forum will soon appear with contributor names, the connection of posts, the size of nodes and link connection depending on post frequency , and a menu of filtering options on the right.

SNAPP visualization

You can also view the statistics and export it as GraphML format or VNA File format.

As you can see in the above discussion forum visualization, I, the teacher is in the middle of the web with the most posts and most interactions are between students and me, with some posts among students themselves.

This is a typical view of a discussion forum at the beginning of a course where students get to know each other and are reluctant to comment on each others’ post. This stage is where the teacher posts a lot. However, as the course goes along this discussion forum should change to reflect a different type of student behavior with a more student-student behavior, unless it is teacher-centered.

What this software can do is to reflect the student-student teacher-student interaction behavior in terms of links and frequency.

However, the software does not ensure that the discussion forum is engaging and fulfills the course requirements. A content analysis is needed for this.

SNAPP can be used as an insight into interaction behavior. For example, if one wants to explore teacher presence and social presence this might be useful. The teacher would for instance base some informed decision on how the behavior of interaction is shaping, is it teacher-centered? Is there a student who lurks and does not participate? Is there a pattern of discussion in particular stages in the course that should have been patterned otherwise?

What do you think? What other insights can we get from SNAPP?

Posted on Wednesday, July 06, 2011 by Ammar Merhbi

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