Monday, September 10, 2018

So Much Soft Chalk

Interactive Tools In Soft Chalk

I've been making lots of interactive tools in SoftChalk for my online and hybrid classes during the last few weeks. It's both great fun and, apparently, never-ending. I'm both exhausted and excited by the project (um, yeah...projects). I was going to say I'm making lots of progress in getting the classes, ready, but that doesn't feel quite accurate right now.
a screenshot of the HotSpot Activity in the SoftChalk lesson

But I am enjoying what I am creating. One of the neatest features, in my opinion, in SoftChalk, is the "Hot Spot" Activity. This tool allows you to bring in an image, then identify areas in the image that are interactive in some way. In one version of the activity, one can roll over the areas of the picture and text explanations will pop-up. In a scored version of the activity, the text will show up below the image and the student needs to click on the location in the map that matches the text prompt.

a screenshot of my graphic syllabus activity being developed in SoftChalk

So far I've used this activity three times in the stuff I've made for Art History and for my clay classes. For Art History, I used the roll over activity to create an interactive graphic syllabus. In this activity, the students roll over the different sections of the graphic syllabus and a text bubble pops up with more information about what that unit entails and when, during the quarter, it will happen.

Clay Studio Safety Manual

I've also been developing a safety manual for the clay studio. I created a text document that is 14 pages long, but somehow I don't think students are likely to read the whole thing. Since I was already playing with SoftChalk, I thought I'd turn an slimmed down version of the manual into an interactive lesson that could be used in all of my clay classes and by the work study employees in the studio.

graphics in the interactive version of the safety manual

Unlike the Art History lessons I've been developing, the goal here is not just successful completion of the class, but physical safety for students and the studio. In most of the pages I've emphasized the major concerns: silica dust from clay, chemical and fire hazards, and general safety. I've also interspersed interactive "Knowledge Checks" throughout the lesson so that I can check that students are actually reading the lesson and to reinforce the most important issues. In the current draft form of the lesson, there are brief interactive "test" elements on five separate pages and information and pictures on the other 11 pages. 

highlighted areas indicate the clickable spots in the clay studio safety interactive map (this is the edit view)

Of course my favorite SoftChalk feature is the hot spot activity. In this clay safety lesson I've used a map of the clay studio (all 4 rooms) and turned it into a test. Students see an image without the color that shows up in the edit view. At the bottom of the image is a text prompt, skip button, score, and reset.

student view of the interactive map
Students have to click on the area of the map that matches the text prompt. They'll get a reward sound when they correctly identify areas like hot kilns and fire extinguishers. The tool also makes a disappointed "bonk" sound when they do it incorrectly. It can be set to offer retakes or not.

Class Character

I'm hopeful that all this fun stuff I'm developing will be fun for the students, too. The new tools really do offer some flexibility I'm happy to have. The other day I finished off a lesson with a feedback question. This is a multiple choice quiz question, but none of the answers are incorrect. All of the answer offer feedback and the students can explore the different options like a choose your own adventure test.

The spacing and image options in SoftChalk made it fairly easy to add this textbook next to a picture of a person, making the lesson page feel a bit like a comic book panel (I hope).
Today I went back into Canvas to edit some pages and assignments in there and felt a bit frustrated that I couldn't adjust the arrangement of elements or use "tooltips" in Canvas. SoftChalk is spoiling me. However, I absolutely can't move the whole class (or classes) over to SoftChalk before the quarter starts. I estimate I could make over the whole class if I worked on it for about 30 hours a week for 10 weeks.


I was wrong when I said that my favorite feature is the hot spot activity. My absolute favorite feature in SoftChalk is the tooltip. If I could import one feature into regular Canvas this would be it. (Also I really want the hot spot and sorting activities in Canvas quizzes, please.)

The picture of the kilns is not on this page--it's in the tooltip: when you hover over the word "electric"  the picture pops up

Tooltips are just hot text with a pop up feature. I love this! As regular readers may have noticed, I frequently use links in my blog writing to link to previous posts where I've discussed a topic, or to link to pictures, definitions of terms, or artist's websites. A simple link does less to interrupt the flow of the text while also offering the kind of parenthetical additions I enjoy. 

The little brown box is the tooltip pop up box for "preparatory work."

Tooltips are like these blog links but without having to open a new page. Students simply hover their cursors over the text and a little box pops up with more information, a definition, and even a picture. This allows me to define stuff for folks who need it, add images and information that might help them understand, but leave the main text relatively concise.

This is a screenshot of the same page with the cursor moved away from the tooltip text.

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