One of these tasks has been setting up class templates in our VLE, setting up themes and installing widgets to be edited by colleagues. This begun I hope it will be less daunting to begin using the space in earnest as we move into the new year. A major barrier to date as I see it has been beginning, since the spaces we buy into, whether commercial or open source must first be populated with content, and this in turn must be planned and prepared before publication. For some of us I guess this can be seen as "doing everything twice," this bolt on image of the VLE is far from my own view and vision. If we are to embed these tool sets successfully, an alternative perspective that weaves the various components offered by a VLE or Learning Platform as an integral part of the learning experience must be taken. Rather than a repository for resources we make, if we see and make an expectation that the VLE be an extension or integral part of the classroom, then the tools and resources we make available here should reflect our view of learning and pedagogy by adaptation to meet the needs. social and academic, of the tasks we set.
This doesn't however negate the need to begin somewhere, so in this post I want to share a few online spaces offering embedable tools, one where interactivities are readily available for immediate use, and one recieved today through feed that requires some user input inorder to generate it.
The Ultimate Wordsearch Maker
Thanks to Joe Dale and Jane Croft for pointing me to the Ultimate Wordsearch Maker. This online tool generates "interactive" wordsearches. Below is a quick example, and I apologise in advance for the seeming lack of imagination in its content, however as a demo it was incredibly quick to create and publish here.
Creating the wordsearch itself was straightforward,
- visit the site,
- input each word
- press the add button in between each new word.
Once complete, your wordsearch can be added to your space in one of two ways, either
- copy the embed code,
- view your own web page as html
- click where you would like the activity to appear
- paste the code
or link to the page
- select the link code
- copy it,
- open a hyperlink dialog box
- paste the code
- press ok
Playing the game is straightforward, once found, click on the first and last letters of the word to highlight it, and if correct the widget crosses it off the list. What I was unsure about was the idea that in this version the word in the grid itself is not highighted, but this does leave the grid uncluttered, and easier to read. As a start the day task, for introducing new or extending vocabulary, engaging students with spellings, a discussion based warm up session, or simply as a motivator for the more reluctant to visit the class home page once a week this is a really nice tool.
Embedding this in our VLE (Netmedia) was a bit more drawn out since it "didn't seem to initially like what I was trying to do," and required the making of an html page first that could be uploaded to a "file viewer" widget. To do this I used the Microsoft Notepad text editor. Creating my wordsearch as above, and copying the embed code, then pressing start/programs/accessories to find and open Notepad (NOT WordPad). From here
- Click in the Notepad window,
- right click and paste
- press file/save as
- give your file a name eg wordsearch1
- delete the extension .txt and type .html
- select all files from the save as file types,
- press save
BBC Bitesize Activities
BBC Bitesize interactivities are ready made tasks created to support revision tasks. You may already use the space with students in school, directing them here by URL, but what you may not have noticed is that these activities can be placed directly into your own online learning content. If you are looking for examples of ready made embedable content to share with colleagues and use with students as you set up and establish your VLE, these are a useful starting point. There are a range of tasks to support English, Mathematics and Science, though in choosing which to use you will obviously need review them in relation to your intended learning outcomes. These can be added to a blog or web page using the copy and paste processes outlined above, and looked good embedded in a page widget in our VLE after following the final process outlined above .
Other Online tasks and Interactivities
In addiditon to Bite Size embedables, there are a host of other online tasks, and games on the BBC Schools Website that I have found really useful when setting up home learning activities for students. These sites have formed a focus for class based sessions too, where spaces created in the VLE have been used to direct students to specific content I want them to use and engage with. To enable this I have provided hyperlinks to the page, and simple instructions about how and why I would like the students to engage with them.
Finding resources such as these can be onerous, this is one of the reasons I began using del.icio.us to collect my bookmarks in one place it was also one way I chose to share these with friends and colleagues. I also began to sort and group some of these as a resource bank here. Some of these are getting on a bit now, and the space is looking a little neglected but perhaps you will find a few nuggets here as starting points. In setting up a link list of this sort for the students it is always a good idea to visit the space, first of all to check that the site is still there but also to ensure that it meets the exact needs you are trying to fulfill.
I posted about Bitesize interactivities a while back and despite being able to embed them sucessfully into my blogger blog, and getting them to run in our VLE today, I have to admit I still haven't managed to get them to work with our Wordpress blogs. If anyone can offer any help or advice with this I would be really grateful, thanks.