Sunday, February 03, 2008

Caution! Hard Hat Area for Assignment Builders!

I've always loved creating assignments with Discovery Education's Assignment Builder, but only recently realized how much richer they have become. As a classroom teacher, I used unitedstreaming and assignment builders to give my students access to the clips that supported my instruction. I'd teach a subject, the students would engage in an investigation and typically they would view a video to build background knowledge in preparation for something new the next day. For those students who did not have access to the Internet at home, when they arrived in the morning, they were able to use the computers right away. I usually stopped at the local Einstein's Bagel shop and picked up a dozen bagels to entice a few students to come in extra early to do their homework. By the way, I never had to pay for those bagels once I told the manager why I was coming in every morning for them. Anyway, rarely did I ever have a student who did not complete his/her homework.

Back to my better builders... soon I was including not only full videos, but video segments and writing prompts and quizzes! Once the students realized that my online quizzes weren't STANDARDIZED tests, and they weren't about "getting them" but were truly for them to see what they knew so they could judge what they needed to learn (hey, go figure!) they relaxed and started to view assessments a little differently. Fast forward a few years and now, as someone who travels to various schools and trains teachers to use these tools, I'm so excited to learn even more about these builders. I'm a little embarrassed to say they may have had these features for quite awhile but I'm just now starting to see their expanded potential. It's great to be able to share all these ways teachers have to integrate these tools and make their lessons more meaningful for their students.

So, what's new with these builders? You can include HTML and students can explore all content.

I didn't realize the General Information part allows for HTML. So that means I can embed a graphic, a YouTube video, or anything else that I can put in there with HTML. And if I can't code with HTML (and I can't), I can use this nifty online HTML editor that lets me look smarter than I am. Here's an example of an assignment I built. It is an assignment about Bees, Flowers and The Food Chain. In the instructions, I not only placed an image, but the image is taken at FETC and is of me and Moby from BrainPOP. The reason I used Moby, is because I also included a weblink in the assignment to a movie in BrainPOP... get it?

You can also, as a student, click on the logo and begin to explore the contents of the DE Streaming assets on your own, as opposed to being limited to strictly what your teacher assigns you. This is a great way to give your students access to all of the content, allow them to find their resources, download, edit, do voice overs, crop, split, cut, delete and create their own videos and other digital content.

This is not new, but something that a lot of our teachers don't realize is that once you have your student-center link, you can place that link in an area where parents and students can find it easily, for example on our home/school communication portal, EDLINE. Parents who have Internet access typically check this site weekly to check their children's grades and what a great way to reach out to them than with a link to an "assignment" that may not be an assignment at all, but an entertaining, yet educational video that may be interesting for them to share with their child. Certainly it is an efficient way to get the link out to students, knowing if they can get to Edline, they can get your assignment.

Check it out. When you get to the assignment, just sign in with any first and last name. I would love to hear from others who are also using DE Assignment Builder in similar or other ways.

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