Wizer.Me Review: Virtual & Interactive Worksheet Creator

Wizer.me is really a beautiful tool. Teachers can create wonderfully colorful and customizable virtual worksheets that students can complete using just about any device.

Why I Love Wizer.Me

I love Wizer.me because of the question options. There are 15 different task (question) options, including videos, user-friendly pictures, fill in the blank, and even the option to add the ability for students to choose an alternate question (differentiation-PAID version). I have a wide range of student ability in my classes and having the ability to allow my more advanced students to simply read and freely respond or giving my kids who need extra support the option to answer the same question with four answer choices is GOLD. And that is just one way to use the differentiation aspect. Do you have kids who need oral admin? There is the ability to record the questions right on the worksheet!

User-Friendliness

Overall, Wizer.me is incredibly user-friendly. The interface is really beautiful and is really a drag-and-drop, or simply click-to-add creator. There is also a pretty big library of already-made worksheets to choose from. The platform can be a bit finicky sometimes, but it has not been enough to deter me.

Integrations

Teachers can either create a classroom for their worksheets or simply give students the worksheet’s code. Students will need to create an account OR log in using Google, Edmodo, or Microsoft. Luckily, they don’t HAVE to have an email address to join and they can simply use their first name with last initial as their username.

Student Support

The student support possibilities is one of my favorite reasons to use Wizer.me. With the paid version, you are able to create groups and create and apply differentiation rules for students. It’s quite an amazing feature and aside from using a super robust LMS, like Moodle, this kind of differentiation is rare. Even on the free plan, a way to record questions is available within each task type. I use this feature for students who receive oral administration. Students can even record their answers to questions, rather than type.

Cost

Originally, Wizer.me started out only with a free version. In August 2017, they came out with the teacher version for $69 a year. I was fortunate enough to get in as an “Early Bird” and paid $29 for my first year. At this point, the premium version is called the “Awesome Plan” and is $89 per year. With the Awesome Plan, you can have unlimited classes, differentiation options, Google Classroom integration, and learner groups/insights.

Drawbacks

I’ll be honest, I have yet to have the Google Classroom integration work correctly for me. Unfortunately, that was one of the main reasons I tried the premium plan. I like the learner insights and the unlimited classes ( I have 14 classes, having just one class on Wizer.me would kind of be a grading/tracking nightmare).

Another drawback that I have found is that your worksheet is always just one page. If you’re creating a longer assignment, it can be a bit daunting for the students. I have actually contacted the creators with this suggestion, as I feel that the worksheets would so much better with the option to add pages and sections. They responded with a “thank you” for my suggestions, but it is still not an option 🙁

Bottom Line

I really, really like Wizer.me and love the concept. I will continue to use the beautiful worksheets in my classes, but I am not sure I will purchase the premium version again. I may have to find a workaround for the one class situation on the lite version.

As always, please ask questions below! I can’t possibly fit everything in this review! Please also take the time to share creative ways that you have used Wizer.me in your classroom!

Nearpod Review

Overview:

  • Interactive for students
  • COPPA
  • User Friendly
  • Interactive Lesson Creator, Web Tool, Device/Tablet App

I love Nearpod because of the control I have as the teacher, while still engaging the students.

Nearpod is a great way to integrate technology into direct teaching. Nearpod works best in a classroom that is one-to-one, or at least a device for every 2-4 kids. Nearpod is not a ‘sit & get’ lesson for students, or at least it has the tools so that it doesn’t have to be.

The interactive features, like polls, questions, Draw it, and collaborative boards allows (and requires) all students to participate in the lessons. As the teacher, you can see who has submitted answers/questions, while the students remain anonymous to their peers.

Simple to Use

Creating lessons is as easy as creating a Google Slides or PowerPoint presentation. Actually, you can simply import an entire Slide Show presentation into a Nearpod lesson. The slides will upload as individual slides. Then, you can go in and add interactive elements to engage students in the lesson.

Teacher Control

To deliver a live lesson, the teacher simply starts a live session from the Web tool or the app and provides students with the join code. Students do not have to sign in to participate, they can type in whatever name their teacher specifies. I have had teams enter team names, students use their ID numbers, or simply their first name and last initial. Either way, teachers can set up the lesson so that ONLY the teacher sees the students’ names.

Once students enter the join code and fill in their names, they are taken to the first slide of the lesson. And, here is the best part: the students can’t progress through the slides on their own. The teacher controls the slides. When you are ready to move to the next slide, simply swipe or click the arrow. The presentation on the students’ screens will move when you move!

With the PAID version: teachers can assign a Nearpod presentation with all the fun interactive tools as homework. Students can control the progression of the presentation on their own and complete the lesson at their own pace.

Student Voice/Interactive (synchronous)

Nearpod’s free version has the option to add quizzes, polls, a collaboration board (similar to Padlet, but confined within Nearpod), and the Draw It feature. From the teacher screen, you can watch as student responses come in live and set it so that student responses are anonymous to their peers or not. You can choose to hide names from yourself or always know who is contributing! Students feel safe to contribute and teachers can hold all students accountable for participation!

Cost

Overall, the free version of Nearpod is pretty awesome for the teacher who wants to use it for direct teaching. With the free version, you have all the basic functions that I have talked about above and you can have up to 30 students in a live session at one time.

When I first started using Nearpod, there was a month-to-month option that was incredibly doable and made upgrading to gold easily and mostly pain free. It was worth the minor monthly cost, especially knowing that I could cancel at any time.

Now, the monthly cost of Nearpod is still very reasonable, but you have to pay for an entire year upfront ($120). For me, spending $120 upfront isn’t ideal. In comparison to other Edtech tools, the yearly cost is about average. I’d suggest trying out the free version for a while first. The free version may just fit your needs.

Verdict: Try It!

I simply can’t fit all the information I’ve learned about Nearpod in this one review, so please feel free to ask any questions you might have below! I have been using Nearpod for a few years and have had both the silver and gold versions, had successes and pitfalls. Feel free to learn from my mistakes and discoveries first!

Try Nearpod Now!

I’d also love to know you have used Nearpod creatively in your classroom! Please share below!

Self-Paced eLearning in a Middle School Classroom

Our classes are filled to the brim nowadays and they have never been more diverse. In one class period, I have students from different cultures, with different learning styles, educational experiences, reading abilities, problem-solving abilities, life experiences…the list truly goes on and on. So, direct teaching just doesn’t fit well all the time anymore. Teachers are savvy beings and most have figured this out already! In this post, I am going to share how I structure my technology class (and how the techniques can be generalized to core content areas) to create an engaging and individualized self-paced learning environment.

Why Self-Paced?

I will definitely not side step the fact that building self-paced activities, lessons, and units is a considerable amount of work upfront. You have to build the ENTIRE activity, start to finish, introduction to reflection, before the students ever begin. This means that you have to think ahead to potential challenges and questions your students might have. You have to word and structure directions so that it is manageable and easy to follow for your students.

I generally can’t fully integrate self-paced learning into my classes until about 6 weeks into the school year. In that time, I do a considerable about of direct teaching, data collection, and informal observations as I get to know my students (all 300). Armed with that knowledge, I am able to build lessons that are flexible enough to meet all of my students’ needs and build upon my students’ strengths.

This is a ton of work and careful planning. Trial and error as I learn about my students. Meticulously planned out instructions, covering as many challenges as I can.

So, why do this to myself?

Because, by creating a self-paced learning environment in my classroom, I get to work more closely with my students. I know this sounds counter intuitive. Stay with me here. Hear me out.

While students are working on their own, I am able to work one-on-one and with small groups who need extra support. I am also able to have incredible conversations with more of my students more often. I have gotten to share and explore my interest in coding with kids who have finished lessons early. Often, a student will call me over to share a connection with what they are learning or ask a deeply thoughtful question that likely would not have even come to mind for them if they had not had some time to mull over the information.

Self-paced learning gives me so many more opportunities to learn about and FROM my students!

My Set Up: 1-to-1

I teach 6th grade Technology Applications. My curriculum breakdown is about:

  • 25% Digital Citizenship
  • 10% Typing
  • 25% Google Apps
  • 25% Computer Science Principles
  • 15% College and Career Readiness

My classroom is a computer lab with 28 computers, so each student has their own computer every day in my class. This definitely makes implementing the self-paced eLearning that is the foundation of my class, but being a 1-to-1 class is definitely not required to make this work. Along the way, I’ll add ways to implement this system in different situations.

Technology & eLearning

Obviously, I teach a technology class, so I use technology every single day in my class. However, when I taught English and Reading, I was a tech-nerd even then and integrated technology any time it enhanced or supported what I was teaching.

Technology REALLY makes the self-paced learning easier to implement. The automation and infinitive resources alone are amazing, but the possibilities when it comes to data collection and analysis are fantastic. With 300 students, data collection and analysis can be very time-consuming and miles deep. Many of the tools that I use collect the data for me and offer robust data analysis that influences how I build learning opportunities.

Regularly, I use Google Classroom, Moodle, Google Apps, and EdPuzzle. I also use a variety of “add-on” tools like Wizer.me, Peergrade.io, and Class-Tools.net, to name a few. I like using EdPuzzle for “direct” teaching with videos and Google Slides for step-by-step instructions. Google Classroom and Moodle are my favorite ways to have students turn in work. I could talk at length about how exactly I use each of these tools, but those require their own post entirely!

Almost all of my lessons include, at the very least:

  • Video(s) using EdPuzzle-you can prevent skipping ahead and automatically stop the video to ask questions/boost engagement.
  • Google Slides for Instructions-using slides “chunks” instructions nicely and doesn’t look quite as daunting as a huge document with a ton of steps. It is also really simple to add and edit screenshots and diagrams with Google Slides.
  • A self-assessment/reflection turn-in form for the student to fill out.

Problem Solving and Triage: Tech Support

In the first six weeks of school, I build a classroom culture of independence, problem solving, and help each other. Once we start our self-paced learning, I assign a small group of students to be our “Tech Support.” The Tech Support team helps me get to all the smaller questions students have so that I can focus on the bigger questions/work with students individually.

There are guidelines for being and requesting help from Tech Support. Here is what I tell my students:

I have found that MOST questions students ask while working are about the directions, and the answer to their question is generally written in the instructions and they just need it to be pointed out. Tech Support is GREAT for these problems.

The kids love coming to class and finding out that they are Tech Support. With all the different experiences and interests, every kid has a chance and the potential to be tech support!

What About Classroom Management and Due Dates?

How the heck do I manage a classroom of kids working at different paces, some getting up to help others, and stick to traditional 6-week grading periods? It is easier than it sounds and, on the classroom management front, it’s mostly about psychology.

As I mentioned, the first six weeks is about setting the tone and culture of our classroom. I tell them about the self-paced learning they will do and how mature they have to be to do it! Coming from elementary, 6th graders are so ready to prove they are big kids. Six weeks of pumping them up and talking about maturity, honesty, integrity, and being a “real middle schooler,” mostly does the trick. There are, of course, a few who simply don’t buy it, but once I get them going on the self-paced work, I can focus more closely with those guys and find a connection to get them on board.

The chance of becoming Tech Support also really appeals to them; so when they are chosen, they really WANT to do a great job and keep our class in line.

Now. Due Dates. I have to work within our 6-week grading periods. In order to allow my students the freedom of being able to learn at their own pace, hold them accountable for their work, AND meet my deadlines, I have flexible due dates.

Each assignment has two due dates: a “priority” due date and a “final” due date.

The priority due date is the date/time I’d like them to finish and turn in the assignment, but it is not considered “late” if not turned in by that day/time. I also offer them an incentive for turning in work by the priority due date (think treasure chest, class economy money, raffle tickets).

The final due date is set 2-4 class days after the priority due date and is the “traditional” deadline. After the final due date, the assignment is considered late and falls within our late work policy.

For a typical lesson/assignment, I provide class time for the activity. The priority due date is the end of class on the last class day dedicated to the assignment. And the final due date is set a few days later so that anyone who didn’t finish in class can complete the work for homework or come see me in tutorials.

It is not a perfect system, but it really works well for me. The kids who consistently turn in work by the priority due date are rewarded for their efforts and all kids feel a little less pressure of having the one, set-in-stone, due date to work with.

Learn More

Self-paced learning allows me to spend more time and work individually with my students. Technology is a huge part of my class and helps me create this self-paced environment. I simply couldn’t go into as much detail as I would have liked to in one post. Think of this as an overview. I and working on detailed posts about each element of my self-paced eLearning classroom to share with you, so keep an eye out for them!

The Ever-Growing List of EdTech Tools & Resources

Integrating technology into our curriculum is more important than ever.

Our sweet kiddos have grown up with technology and this is their language. Technology offers outlets for creativity, collaboration, extension, support, critical thinking, and so much more! Here’s the thing about a lot of web tools: there is generally a reasonable basic version, but the features and possibilities offered in upgraded plans are incredible and could really help our students. Unfortunately, upgraded plans cost money and I completely understand, they’re running a business!

A good portion of teachers using the basic versions will likely move on when the basic features don’t meet their students’ needs any longer and they simply can’t justify spending the money from their own wallets to upgrade. But, what about district/school budgets? The fact is, most school districts require any school funds used only be used with approved vendors. The process of getting a vendor approved is just more paperwork. Teachers’ time is valuable and many of us will simply move on rather than pursue the upgraded version.

Ready to access the Ever-Growing EdTech Library?

 

Using Voki in the Classroom: Engage, Enrich, Support!

Using Voki in the Classroom: Engage, Enrich, Support!

This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.

The Talking Moose

I stumbled upon Voki a few years ago, while trying to find a fun way to teach a grammar lesson. I knew that students weren’t super excited about learning the difference between a possessive noun and a plural noun, and listening to me talk about it the whole time would just add insult to injury. No, I needed something to spice up my lesson!

This is where Voki came in! I created a moose who would “video chat” with my students and I about possessive and plural nouns. I prepped my kids by telling them that I had a very special friend calling in to help me teach and they were HOOKED. They loved the moose (who had a lovely British accent) and they were convinced that we were actually interacting with him.

Possibilities

Voki brought life to my lesson and the kids were incredibly engaged. Needless to say, by the end of the lesson, we (mostly) understood the difference between possessive and plural nouns!

 

The way in which I used Voki with my kids is only one possibility. I see so much potential with this web-tool! Aside from helping teach a lesson, your Voki character can read directions to students who need oral administration. He can act as sign posts or pit-stops in a lesson or activity to check for understanding. Or, she can introduce a topic and drum up some excitement!

 

A big selling point in my book is the fact that Voki is language intuitive  and supports quite a variety of languages. The possibilities in language classes and for English Language Learners are endless! To support an ELL in your class, you could create a Voki to translate directions or information for students. In language classes, have students show what they know by having them verbally record a short sentence or paragraph for their character.

Another way I plan to use Voki in the future, is to have a Voki character be a scavenger hunt narrator! Creating a QR code that links to a Voki is super simple–just use the link sharing option! Students can use a device to scan the QR code at each clue and listen, rather than read! What an engaging way tosupport all students and make learning fun!

Bottom Line

Voki is incredibly easy to use and customizable to fit your needs. The creator is user friendly! You can customize your character, the background, accessories, voice, accent, and even language. Adding audio is super simple, no matter your set up. Having the option to type out the script, record using a microphone, record using the call-in feature, or simply upload an existing audio file makes adding a Voki to a lesson or activity quick and simple.

Vokis are fun and simple to create, and really do add a little something extra to lessons activities, and projects. Students love Vokis, because they are different, funny, and they have a lot of fun customizing their own! I am excited to continue discovering how I can use Voki in my class to engage, enrich, and support all students!

 

 

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Enter Drawing!