Learnist: Pinterest for Educators?

» 20 November 2013 » In Ed Tech, History / DBQ's, Visualizations, Web 2.0 » 2 Comments

The Hirano family, left to right, George, Hisa, and Yasbei. Colorado River Relocation Center, Poston, Arizona., 1942 - 1945
Illustration from Learnist board: Incarceration of Japanese Americans During WWII

I was looking for an online content creation tool to use with my pre-service history teachers at the University of Portland. Our course blog. It had to be an education-friendly, social network that would allow them to post a variety of content, annotate it and provide tools to comment on each other’s work.

They were tasked with designing document based questions (DBQs) that included a variety of source material - text, letters, posters, video, audio. Each DBQ needed an engaging generative / essential question worth answering. It would utilize a series of documents with scaffolding questions designed to help the reader to answer the DBQ’s generative question. See full lesson here.

I considered a variety of social networking curation tools - Pinterest, ScoopIt, etc and posted the question to one of my Google groups. Features I was looking for included: ease of use, space for annotation, user comment, sharing and embedding options. Eventually I settled on Learnist. After reviewing the feedback and trying a few tools our, I settled on Learnist. From my perspective, it’s useful tool with a short learning curve. It lacks many formatting options, but that’s something I like. I’d rather have students focus on content than style.

Learnist proved to be a valuable tool for the students. They were able to post their work and gather feedback from their peers. Since Learnist can be embedded in a blog, they were able to use them as the foundation for guest posts on my blog. See student Learnists here.

Eventually students used the content as the foundation for our class publication of an iBook

Here’s a sample lesson that I created using Learnist Incarceration of Japanese Americans During WWII. I’ll be posting samples of student work soon.

Here’s some comments by my students on Learnist:

  • I enjoyed using Learnist. If anything, it’s a helpful cache of lessons to fall back on in the future. I know that I would like to teach a lesson on the Irish War of Independence, and Learnist provides a useful tool to use in the future. However, the format of Learnist does not lend itself easily to a stand-alone lesson. Rather, it provides the backdrop for a more in-depth and exhaustive lesson, a backdrop student can visualize and access from home. The aesthetics could be improved on the site, such as the use of a full screen document viewer, and more interactive visual presentations. ~ Peter
  • I’m with you, Peter. Learnist is a good idea, but they have a ways to go in terms of developing a user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing experience. Developing our lessons was fun though, and I could see myself using this in some capacity down the road ~ Damian
  • As for Learnist, I think it was a very cool idea, and I really enjoyed reading through some of the lessons that the other students created. ~ Cory
  • As for Learnist, I liked seeing others’ boards. I liked seeing how others were forming their follow-up questions and receiving help from my classmates. I think it is a cool site that I will use once I am a teacher, especially if my school is technologically savvy (fingers crossed!). ~ Christina
  • It was also interesting to see the different ways that other students used Learnist to get different outcomes. I’ll admit, however, that I don’t think I’ll be using this in my classroom anytime soon. It’s just a little bit too clunky for me, and I think that there are other ways that students can create DBQs that are a whole lot easier. ~ Heather
  • It was very interesting to see how everyone used Learnist for their DBQs. After browsing several of the projects, it became clear that people viewed the website in different ways. Now that I have finished my project with Learnist, it is hard to imagine using it in the classroom. Personally, there are just not enough formatting or board layout options to make the site useful for me. Whenever I use technology, the more that I can personalize my project the better. ~ Collin 

Image Credit: Their son was serving in the US Army fighting in Italy, while the Hirano family was incarcerated in the Colorado River Relocation Center, Poston, Arizona.
The Hirano family, left to right, George, Hisa, and Yasbei. Colorado River Relocation Center, Poston, Arizona. 1942 - 1945
Records of the War Relocation Authority
National Archives Identifier: 535989

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Teaching Big History

» 22 August 2013 » In Ed Tech, History / DBQ's, Projects, Strategies, Web 2.0 » 2 Comments

Big history

Just launched – The Big History project is a free online course that weaves evidence and insights from many scientific and historical disciplines across 13.7 billion years into a single, cohesive story. Here’s info on how you can join this project as a teacher or student. The course highlights common themes and patterns that can help us better understand people, civilizations, and the world we live in.

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DBQ Lesson Plan: Shopping with Historic Documents

» 31 July 2013 » In Ed Tech, Guest post, History / DBQ's, How To, Strategies, Students, Web 2.0 » No Comments


Here’s how to engage students in historic research and critical thinking in an innovative lesson that combines biography, historic photographs, the 1900 federal census, the 1897 Sears Catalogue, and Google Voice.

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Digital History Workshop – Tech Meets Critical Thinking

» 24 March 2013 » In Ed Tech, History / DBQ's, How To, PD, Presentations, Publishing, Web 2.0 » No Comments

Digital historian-featured

Our goal was a practical hands-on workshop that fused technology, critical thinking, and strategies for students to be the “historian in the classroom.” We were focused on ways to use iPads for content creation, feedback and reflection. Plus we showcased a variety of other critical thinking digital tools for the classroom – iBooks Author, Haiku Deck, Evernote, nGram Viewer and GapMinder.

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How to Create A PLC with Google+ Hangout

» 19 February 2013 » In Ed Tech, How To, PD, Social Web, Teachers, Web 2.0 » No Comments


A step-by-step description of how a team of teachers used a G+ Hangout to manage their PLC sessions. It includes details about managing the Hangout, using it to analyze student work, and building meaningful collegial relationships. It’s a very helpful post for anyone looking for practical information on using G+ Hangouts.

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How to Search and Share 350,000 TV News Broadcasts

» 21 September 2012 » In Visualizations, Web 2.0 » No Comments

archive search featured

Internet Archive just launched “TV News Search & Borrow,” a searchable collection now contains 350,000 news programs collected over 3 years from national U.S. networks and stations in San Francisco and Washington D.C. User’s can specify search term, network and TV show.
Users can generate word clouds from broadcast transcripts and share video clips. Here’s some tips on how to use this great research tool for teachers and students.

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Students Create Augmented Reality History Tour

» 28 August 2012 » In Ed Tech, Guest post, History / DBQ's, How To, Students, Web 2.0 » No Comments


This guest post from Greg Wimmer – Social Studies Department Chair at Central York (PA) High School – describes an innovative student project. Students, working in collaboration with the York County Heritage Trust, wrote and produced movies for historic walking tours that can be accessed via Aurasma – a location-based, augmented reality, smartphone app. Greg shares how to integrate technology and community involvement into the history classroom. Includes videos and lessons learned.

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The Flipped Classroom: Getting Started

» 07 June 2012 » In Ed Tech, How To, PD, Presentations, Strategies, Students, Teachers, Web 2.0 » 2 Comments

quickstart featured

I recently gave a webinar on getting started with the flipped classroom. Lots of good questions – seems like many teachers see the value in using “flipping” to redefine their classrooms. They recognize that the traditional classroom was filled with a lot of lower-order, information transmission that can be off loaded to “homework” via content-rich websites and videos. That frees up more classroom time as a center for student interaction, production and reflection.

Download my slide deck.

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The Student as Historian: A Teaching American History Webinar

» 04 June 2012 » In Ed Tech, How To, PD, Presentations, Strategies, Teachers, Web 2.0 » No Comments

The life and age of woman - featured

I just wrapped up two webinars with teachers participating in a Teaching American History (TAH) Grant workshop focusing on strategies for using documents to let your students be the historian in your classroom. I was in Portland Oregon – they were in Salt Lake City, but through the wonders of technology (I used WebEx videoconferencing along with a web-based LearningCatalytics response system) we were able to interact. I don’t think people learn much by telling them things, so I put participants “in their students’ shoes” to experience the power of document-based instruction and four key components to making it work:
1.The right documents.
2. Knowing how to look at them.
3. Letting students discover their own patterns, then ask students to describe, compare and defend what they found.
4. Basing the task on enduring questions, the kind that students might actually want to answer.

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Flip Any YouTube Video into a Lesson with TED-Ed Tools

» 29 April 2012 » In Ed Tech, How To, Web 2.0 » 1 Comment

TED-Ed flip featured

In addition to developing a library of instructional videos, TED-Ed has just launched a free set of tools that allow teachers to create a customized lessons from existing videos on TED, YouTube or YouTube for Schools.

Once you have selected a video, it will publish to it’s own unique URL. You can share the lesson with students and others via e-mail, Facebook, or Twitter. It will exist on its own unique page on TED-Ed, and you can decide who gets to see that page.

In addition to framing a video for your intended audience, you can create multiple choice and open-ended questions, and add additional readings or activities to each lesson you create. After you have shared your lesson, you can log in at any time to see who viewed your lesson, the number of questions they attempted, the answers they provided, and, in the case of multiple choice questions, the number of questions they got right (with their permission, of course).

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