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Of Sites, Notes and word clouds

Posted on: August 23, 2020

I have spent much of August transforming (not just converting) modules that I normally facilitate for an evening class. I am redesigning them to be asynchronous and synchronous online experiences.

Some in-person activities do not transfer easily online. For example, it is easy to create homogeneous and heterogenous groups in a classroom. After determining what the similarities and interests of my learners are, I can group them, move them to different parts of the room, and scaffold the learning tasks.

Current video conferencing tools like Zoom can only create small random groups automatically. Creating stratified or strategic groups is tedious and manual work. This is why I dreamt up a concept video conferencing app for education.

Around and About: Strategic grouping mode, e.g., heterogenous groups.

That wishful thinking aside, I have returned to three reliable tools to transform the modules. (Note: This is not a sponsored post. I have not been compensated in any way to share how I use the following tools.)

Notes app.

I spent about three weeks reviewing new resources and planning the changes I wanted to make. As I did so, I took notes in (surprise!) the Apple Notes app. This app is basic in that I only have text formatting, simple lists and tables, and imported images. But these accordances served me well in externalising my thoughts and outlining the lessons.

I also like the fact that the app works seamlessly by synchronising between my iMac, MacBook Pro, iPhone, and iPad. This allowed me to start on one device at home and continue on another someplace else, e.g., a train or bus.

Google Sites.

My modus operandi is to house resources in a Google Site. As some of my previous in-person activities are already blended by design, I am copying those to my new Site. I am doing this by duplicating the old Site and removing the old pages that are not relevant.

AnswerGarden.

I plan on reusing a word cloud tool — AnswerGarden (AG) — that has not seen action for several semesters. It is free and does not require signups from teachers or students.

I will use the word cloud tool as a bridge between two modules. At the end of the first module, my learners will share what seems like divergent experiences. As they conceptualise these in AG, they should see common ideas emerge. These ideas will inevitably overlap with and feed the next module where we explore conceptual frameworks.

My reflection on the process so far: It takes relatively simple tools to create complex resources. What matters is a combination of imagination and experience.

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