Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Show what you know: iPad apps for expression

I love giving students the opportunity to share what they know. I believe that students have something to say and share. When given the opportunity to share their knowledge, they will do so and can be very creative. Too many times teachers restrict them with certain requirements for the presentation. I believe that this limits the students too much.

Earlier this month Rebeca Lundberg, a fellow DLC, and myself were asked to present at a district librarians' conference. The librarians began their sessions learning about WISE Inguiry Learning. Our session focused on the Express part of the process, focusing on iPad apps that can be used by students to show what they know.

Our main focus was on iMovie and Keynote and at the end we threw in some demos of other apps that are our favorites for student presentations.

iMovie - Apple's consumer grade video editing app is very powerful, yet super easy to use. Even younger students are able to put together simple videos. Just look at the explosion of YouTube videos  to see how powerful video can be. iMovie makes it easy to capture and edit video, edit audio, and add titles and transitions. Checkout our video tutorial and print tutorial.

Keynote - This is Apple's version of PowerPoint. I think it's much nicer and easier to use than PowerPoint. Adding images, videos, and text are easy to do and you're not distracted by all the extra dancing letters and ridiculous animations that make PowerPoints such a chore to watch. Checkout our video tutorial and print tutorial.

ThingLink - This is one of my favorite apps for students to use to share their knowledge. A lot of times information isn't linear. With ThingLink you start with a "base image" and add "hot spots". Hot spots are place you can touch or click to display additional information in the form of text, images, video, or audio. Because of it's non-linear format, it's easy to explore a given topic and absorb the information in your own way. While there is a web version, I did a write up on the iPad app that you can read here.

Haiku Deck - Haiku Deck is perhaps one of my all time favorite presentation apps. I love it because it is very visually oriented. Each slide has to have a picture and the amount of text allowed on each slide is limited. This forces students to really know their material since they can't use the text on the screen as a crutch. Not only that, but the image library is very high quality, making any presentation enjoyable to watch and listen to. You can read my review of Haiku Deck here.

Adobe Voice - I only recently got in to Adobe Voice, but have come to enjoy it as well. I now recommend it to all schools that are looking for quality iPad apps. Adobe Voice lets you quickly throw together simple videos using icons and your own voice. The app then adds transitions and music to seamlessly make a quality presentation. You can read my simple tutorial here.

Google Slides -  Google Slides is another PowerPoint alternative. The advantage it has over PowerPoint or Keynote is the collaboration, which is true for any Google product. This app is perfect for small group presentations. Check out this tutorial for beginners.

What apps do you like to have students use to show what they know?

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Monday, November 23, 2015

The best student blog privacy settings

I recently helped a teacher set up blogging with her students. I needed to check out the posts and comments from the students so I could offer feedback and help her improve the process. However, all the blogs written by the students were set as private and I could not see a single one. When I asked her to change them to public for me, she answered that the admins were concerned about it being open to all. The blog was made public long enough for me to check it out and then locked up again.

I disagree with this for several reasons.


One of the reasons blogging is so engaging to students is that it gives them a wider audience for their writing. Picture the typical writing assignment in class. The teacher gives the topic to the students and tells them how many paragraphs or sentences it has to have. Students complete the assignment and turn it in to the teacher, who is the only one to read it. If they are lucky the teacher will hang them on a bulletin board in the classroom where other students may or may not be able to read it. If they are really lucky, it might be a bulletin board in the hallway where students from around the school may or may not be able to read it.

How motivating is that? Not at all.

Now picture blogging, where this can be their potential audience:

With open blogs, students can make connections other classrooms around the state and country. They can read posts by other students, who can also read theirs. They can comment back and forth and share experiences. Closed blogs don't allow them to make those connections.

By sharing their writing in public blog posts, students take pride in what they write. When they realize others are reading it (through comments or hit counters) they want to write more and write better.

By locking down the privacy settings of blogs, teachers are essentially shutting students out of their audience. Now the audience is once again the classroom and it might as well be a paper/pencil assignment.

Teach Digital Citizenship

At some point students need to be taught how to create and manage their digital footprint. Over and over we tell them to be careful online, that you can't take anything back, or that what you post can't be truly erased.

Blogging is a safe way to let them put those digital citizenship skills into practice. They learn proper netiquette skills, what an online presence means, how to communicate with others, and how to define their online presence, rather than letting someone else define it for them. You know, those 21st Century skills.

Kathleen Morris shared similar thoughts in her blog post, Why I think Blogs Should be Public. My favorite part of what she said is:
It my opinion, it is more harmful to “protect” students through a closed blog than it is to open their eyes to the real world of online technologies through open blogs.

To me, having a closed blog feels like “pretending to use technology” and the full benefits of blogging cannot experienced.
By protecting them too much, we also deprive them of the essential opportunities to actually develop their digital citizenship.


I get the concern about safety online. We do need to teach students to be careful what they say, don't use their full name or other personally identifying information. We shouldn't post pictures online with full names underneath. We should monitor who is commenting on student blogs and who they are making connections with. These are the same skills adults need to be practicing.

Most blog platforms have these safety features built in. For example, Kidblog lets teachers define the display name for students, as show in this blog.

Kidblog also gives the teacher the option to only display student avatars and completely ignore the name.

Moderating posts is one way teachers can monitor what is happening on class and student blgos. This high school teacher uses Blogger. She added students to the class blog as contributors. That gave her the option to approve the posts before they appear.


Kidblog has similar functionality, giving teachers the opportunity to see and approve both posts and comments before they appear. This lets teachers check posts for personally identifying information.

Don't lock blogs!

Blogging can be one of the most rewarding experiences teachers and students can have. You can read about the experiences a few teachers had here. The learning and experiences students can have through global connections in blogging are worth the effort. Those same experiences cannot be achieved in a locked down blog.

To answer the question posed in the post title, the best student blog privacy setting are the ones that unlock the blog so it is public, but still protect their identity.

What do you think about the issue of private vs public blog posts?

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Static pages on your blog

Static pages on a blog are a useful element. They establish a place for us to share resources or content that does not need to be updated on a daily basis. For example, at the top of my blog I have several tabs, including an About Me and Schedule Me tab. These pages are static - I don't need to change or update the information on a regular basis. I've also created pages on Edmodo, Mystery Skype, and Blogging - topics I am passionate about and want teachers to have quick access to the resources. The main page of the blog is updated constantly with new posts, but the static pages don't change as frequently.

Blogging platforms such as Blogger let you easily create static pages. Kidblog doesn't have this same feature, but there is an easy work around.


Log in to your Blogger account and navigate to your blog. In the navigation menu on the left, click on Pages. Click New page and add text, images, HTML codes or whatever else you would like. The interface is almost identical to the one where you write your posts.

In the Page Settings on the right click Options. If you don't want your readers to leave comments on static pages, then change that option.

Once everything is done, click the Publish button. You then need to add a navigation bar to your blog to display those pages.

Add Navigation Bar

On the left side of the page, click Layout. Click the Add a Gadget link. In the box that pops up, find the Pages gadget and click the plus button.

Check the boxes next to the pages you want to appear in the navigation.

You can drag and drop to rearrange the order.

In some cases you want your static page to be a little more dynamic. For example, this art teacher has pages on his Thomas Elementary Art blog that updates as he adds posts for certain grade levels. I have done something similar with the Edmodo, Mystery Skype, and Blogging pages at the top of this blog. To add tabs that go out to another website or contain a collection of posts, click  Add external link, paste in the URL, and save it. This tab can also be arranged along with the others.

Save the widget and drag it to your desired location on the layout. Click Save Arrangment and check out your cool blog!


Kidblog doesn't allow you to add static features, but using Categories you can create a similar effect. In this example, an elementary art teacher uses categories to group her blogs for easy reference by grade level.

Log in to your Kidblog account and click Settings.

Click Categories. You can edit the name of the default Blog category and add additional ones.

These categories appear in one of the right side widgets. As you create posts be sure to assign the post to a category.

Static pages are a really good way to add functionality to your blog, making it easy for your readers to find information. What are some other ways you can use static pages?

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

#MysterySkype Dealing with Time Zones

A middle school social studies teacher I was working with expressed interest in doing a Mystery Skype with another class in Europe. I was all for it until I remembered the time zone difference. Not to be deterred, I looked around for resources to help me figure out what time zone countries in Europe are in. Here are two that I like to use.

World Time Zone

World Time Zone is an interactive map that shows the current time in each time zone across the world. The map shows the current time in each time zone at the time I land on the page. I can then quickly see if it's feasible to do a Mystery Skype.

Time Zone Converter

Time Zone Converter is a resource I use frequently to convert my time to my connecting class's time. I simply plug in the day and time we want to do our Mystery Skype, search for the city of the other class, and click Convert Time. It then shows me the time in both time zones.


Being flexible is also key. Sometimes teachers have a class period that is better behaved or more likely to succeed at playing Mystery Skype. However, with managing the times of two different classes in two different time zones, that class might not be the best fit. Teachers need to be flexible and use whatever class is available at a time that works.

Time zones is an important aspect of Mystery Skypes. Messing that up that little detail can make or break a successful connection!

How do you figure out time zone compatibility? More importantly, how do you Skype with classrooms that are half way around the world? I have a teacher that wants to Skype with a class in Europe!

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Friday, November 13, 2015

The story of a girl who became a reader

image from Etsy

My wife and I are avid readers. As a young child I would devour book after book, checking out a dozen at a time from the local library and finishing them within a week or two. My wife has many books at her bedside, ready for her to enjoy. She also tears through audio books on her daily jog and I listen to audio books in the car on the way to work. We have always tried to instill a love of reading in our kids.

My oldest daughter has also turned in to a book fiend. While in high school she would stay up until one or two in the morning on school nights because she could not put a book down. Our way of disciplining her would be to take her books away. My second son is also a voracious reader, easily consuming books in a matter of days. I don't have to worry about late fines from the library because he reads his books too quickly.

But this isn't a story about us. It's a story about my 3rd grade daughter, who struggled to even complete a book. She wanted to be a reader. She checked out books from the school library each week and would come with me to the public library every time I went. Sometimes she would check out picture books, but mostly she would get chapter books with unicorns on the front or fairies or young school girls. She would get started on the first few pages and we would dutifully record her progress on the weekly reading log. But if I wasn't beside her forcing her to read, she wouldn't bother to pick up the book and never finished a single chapter book.

I tried suggesting books that I though were on her reading level. At the library I would show her a shelf she could choose from. At home I would go through our personal library of children's books and select piles of them that I felt she could get through. She never liked my selections, instead getting ones from school, that she would never finish.

As a reader myself, I struggled with helping her read, but didn't know how. I thought if I found the right level and made it easy enough, she would be able to get all the way through. I had her read out loud to me, but that slowed her down and the books she was selecting seemed too hard in terms of vocabulary. Nothing seemed to motivate her to actually finish a chapter book.

Pernille Ripp has suggested that one way to let students become readers is to let them self select their books, regardless of the format (picture, graphic novel, chapter book) or level. It sounded like sound advice to me and I gave my daughter that freedom. However, she still chose books that she wouldn't finish.

Last week we were at the library picking up books I had on hold and finding books for my youngest daughter. As usual I let me third grader choose one for herself. She chose Dr. Nicholas is Ridiculous by Dan Gutman. I had never heard of this series, but, whatever, she could try it out.

That night when she was upstairs in our loft reading the book I heard a few giggles and she came down to me and shared what was so funny. I laughed along with her and praised her for reading and enjoying the book. Over the next day or so she kept reading the book, sharing moments that she found hilarious. She even took the book to bed, turned on the nightlight, and read a bit more before going to sleep. And then the miracle happened - she finished the book! She was so proud of herself! Her mom and I were so proud of her! She danced around the house and sang, "I finished my first chapter book!" and at that moment she decided she wanted another book from that series.

The next day we went to the library to return the first book. She wanted only one, afraid that she wouldn't be able to finish it. But I convinced her to take at least two "just in case she finished the first". The experience repeated itself, with her reading out loud to her younger sister each night before they went to bed. In the morning I found the book and this note:

And now she's on the third book she checked out from the series! She has finally succeeded in completing not just one, but two chapter books! I haven't had to coerce or cajole her into reading any of them. The confidence and excitement she achieved through this little accomplishment is amazing!

I know this doesn't mean she's suddenly ready for Where the Fern Grows or any other awesome books, but I can see how proud she is for her accomplishment. I believe that enthusiasm will encourage her to try more and more books. And I am completely content in letting her read through the entire series if that's all she wants.

In addition to Pernille's article above, here are a few other articles that have helped inspire me to not give up on struggling readers. There are many more out there.

Why Reading Sucks
20 Ideas for Creating Passionate Reading Environments Engaging Reluctant Readers

Read More »

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Google Workflow on the iPad

image courtesy of Flickr
At the Google Mini-Conference on Saturday, video production teacher Shira Park and I presented on Google Workflow for the iPad. With our district jumping on the GAFE bandwagon, many teachers are now knee deep in using Google apps with their students. There are many ways of handling the workflow of passing out assignments and collecting work from the students. We presented a few options that might make this process easier. Teachers can pick what works best in their unique situation.

Our inspiration came from a great post by Catlin Tucker from 2014 called Which Workflow Works for You? I love her ideas. They are straightforward ways for students to share Google documents with the teacher. They help with the organizational setup that can also be used while students are working on iPads. Just a note that gClassFolders that she mentions is no longer supported by the developer.

She mentions using Google Forms and an add on called Doctopus that are not available for iPads. So the initial teacher work would have to be done on a computer, but the students can still utilize those strategies on the iPads. Here is a tutorial I developed for Doctopus.

Since Shira and I were focusing mostly on the workflow on iPads, I'd like to add a few more ideas.

Edmodo and Google Classroom

These are both digital platforms that help with the distribution and collection of student work. Teacher can assign work to students, distributing templates or documents if they want, and students can turn them back in with the click of a button.  They are great methods for gathering the assignments in one location. Teachers can us a built in gradebook to quickly go through the assignments from one screen.

Set a Passcode

In most classrooms iPads are shared between students. Once a student is logged in to their account in Drive, Docs, Sheets, or Slides other students can access their docs. Students can log out when they are done, but that becomes a hassle every time they come to class.

An easier way is to have them log in to the app and then set a passcode. When they do that in one app it applies to all the other apps where they've logged in. Then when the student quits the app and opens it the next time, they have to enter their passcode. Passcodes are easier to remember and enter than an entire username/password. If another student is currently logged in, the student can switch to their own account and enter the passcode. Directions for setting the passcode can be found in Google's Help files.


All of the solutions so far have been specifically for sharing of Google docs. But a lot of the work students do on iPads might be within other apps, such as iMovie, Pic Collage, or other creative apps. These apps save or export files that can be sent directly to the teacher's iPad or Mac using AirDrop. AirDrop is a feature that lets you send files wirelessly to another device.

To use AirDrop follow Apple's steps in this document. Once the files are on the teacher's device, the teacher can open them, move them, or do anything else.

Open in App

Files saved on a device can usually be opened in another app. To use this feature the iPad will need to be updated with the latest OS and that particular app will need to support it. For example, a picture in the camera roll can be saved directly to a folder in Google Drive or uploaded as an assignment in Google Classroom.

Tap the share icon (the icon that looks like a box with an arrow coming out of it). In the list of apps tap either Google Drive or Google Classroom. If you don't see them listed, swipe all the way to the right, tap More, and flip the switch for that app.

If you try to open in Google Drive it will let you navigate to the folder you want. If you try to open in Google Classroom, it will pull up a list of assignments for that user. Choose the correct assignment and it will upload that file as if the student were in Google Classroom.

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Saturday, October 24, 2015

Let YouTube rock your classroom

Today I joined Karl Gustafson (@lvmachead) to present at the CCSD Google mini-conference at Roy Martin MS. Our topic was using YouTube in the Classroom. Our goal was to share practical ways to use videos to engage students. We also shared ways to find videos and collect them in playlists for easy access

I've embedded the presentation below. The presentation is mostly for resources to use back in the classroom. The workshop itself was a hands on workshop, working through many of the techniques described here.

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

7 ways to use YouTube in the classroom

YouTube currently has over one billion users, with those users watching over six billion hours of video each month. 300 hours worth of new video is uploaded every minute. It's estimated that the average time spent on a session by mobile YouTube users is 40 minutes. (source) That's a lot of video time! Clearly video is a big thing and isn't going away soon. 

How can teachers harness the power of video? James Sanders has created a presentation 10 Ways to Use YouTube, that has given me a lot of ideas. I've shared some of them here and added a few of my own.

1. Hooks and discussion starters

Start a lesson or discussion with a video that grabs your students' attention. YouTube videos are great for engaging your students, bringing in different perspectives, and encouraging students to consider new viewpoints. This Hot Wheels video could be used to introduce a lesson on the laws of motion or a physics lesson.

2. Critical Thinking

Visual imagery produced by videos is a great way to get students thinking critically. This commercial was produced by Honda to advertise their cars. After viewing it let them play with critical thinking. What's the bigger idea here? What's Honda trying to express about its company? What can the student infer?

3. Exam Review

Use videos to help students review material or study for a test. Create a video with "flash cards" to help students practice vocabulary the night before a big test. Here is one example of using YouTube to review for exams.

4. Flip your classroom

Use video to flip your classroom. Have the students watch a video as homework to understand the basics of a concepts. When they come in to class, expand on their learning experience by applying the information they learned. After watching this video on tectonic plates at home, students could create a model to show movement.

5. Bring the world to your classroom

Bring the world to your students. Many will never have the opportunity to see far away places, experience unique environments or see experiments in action. Use videos during a lesson or unit so students can see what something is actually like, rather than just reading about it.

6. Link videos

Within a video's settings you can add links to other YouTube videos that allow you to create engaging interactive experiences. Here's one that was professionally created.

Here's another one teacher James Sanders put together to help his students learn about chemical reactions. James shows how to do this here.

7. Create interactive videos

Use a service like Edpuzzle or Zaption to create interactive videos. With these services you can embed your voice, add questions, keep students from "skipping" through the video, and gather student viewing data. This is an easy way to hold students accountable for the videos you share with them.

Jim Sill leads many workshops on harnessing the power of video in the classroom. He has compiled a list of creative ways teachers have used videos - everything from cultural bias to risk taking to metaphors. Browse through the list for some very creative ideas. https://sites.google.com/site/mistersillytintheclassroom/footprint/hook-em-playlist

Do you use video in your classroom? What are some ways you can engage students through this medium?
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Search YouTube like a boss!

With over 300 hours of video uploaded every minute, YouTube is a rich source of video any teacher can use in their classroom. Subtract all the cat videos and you've still got a sizeable chunk of video to sift through to find the perfect one for your class. Luckily, YouTube provides some search filters to help you narrow down those search results.

Playlists and channels are great ways to curate videos and put them in manageable lists. These lists can be shared with students so they aren't overwhelmed by all the choices either. But you still have to populate those playlists and find those channels. Here's an easy way to find the perfect high quality video for your lessons.

After entering your search term in the YouTube search bar, click on the Filter drop down menu. It's located right underneath the search bar. You can choose to see only HD quality videos or those shot in 3D. Searching by Short will help you find videos of the perfect length for your students. Searching by the date will help you find the most current ones.

You can even save yourself a few clicks by including any of those filters in your search terms. For example, add a ", HD" to find only HD videos.

YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. Using these little tricks, you'll soon be finding your perfect video like a boss!

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Blogging with Blogger

Blogger is Google’s free blogging platform. It is included with any Google account. Blogs are created at blogger.com and hosted at blogspot.com. Students can use blogs to share thoughts, opinions, keep a digital portfolio, and participate in a variety of writing activities. There are many benefits to having students blog, as I've discussed here and here.

Kidblog is my all time favorite platform for blogging with students. It's easy to set up and offers classroom management features teachers want. As my district has transitioned to Google Apps for Education, teachers are becoming aware of Blogger as a viable blogging platform. This post is to give basic directions for setting up a Blogger blog. You can also download a printable with all of these directions.

Setting It Up

Log in to blogger.com using your Google account and click the New Blog button. Enter a title for your blog, the URL you want to use and select a template. The URL must be unique. The template can be changed later.

From the menu on the left hand side of the window select Template. You can select a different template, see how your blog looks on the web and mobile devices, customize the HTML, and make other visual changes to the look of your blog such as the font, colors, etc.

From the menu on the left select Layout. You can arrange the elements in your template the way you want them displayed. Simply click on the element you'd like to move and drag and drop it where you want it to be. You can move your page elements to the bottom of the page, anywhere in your sidebar, or below or above your blog posts.

Gadgets can add additional functionality to your page. To add a gadget click the Add a Gadget link. In the new window you can select a gadget and customize it. Once you’ve added a gadget you can drag it to where you want it in your layout. Some suggested gadgets are:
  • Labels - if you tag your individual posts with labels
  • Pages - if you add static pages to our blog
  • Link List - Display a collection of your favorite sites, blogs, or web pages for your visitors.
  • Blog List - Show off what you read with a blogroll of your favorite blogs.


Privacy Settings

Privacy and restrictions are handled in two areas, depending on what you want to do. From the menu on the left side select Basic Settings. In the Permissions area you can restrict who has access to see the blog. Add the emails of any students you want to give read rights to.

Click on the Posts and Comments tab. You can allow anonymous comments or force blog readers to login to leave a comment. When you select Comment Moderation you’ll see comments before they are published. A link will appear on your blog dashboard when there are comments to review.

Writing a Post

Click the New Post button. Enter a title for your post (this becomes a link to access the post on your blog). The composer is a WYSIWYG editor, meaning that your blog will appear just as you type and format it. Use the toolbar to format text, insert images and videos, and create hyperlinks.

Click the Preview button to see a full-body preview of the post. Save will save your post as a draft to continue later. Publish will publish it on your blog immediately.

The Post Settings on the right side let you schedule a post, add labels (tags), and a post description.

Managing Student Blogs

Student blogs are independent of each other and Blogger does not provide central classroom management to monitor student blogs and comments. There are ways to gather all the blogs into one location to make it easy for the teacher to see them all at once.


Go to the Layout tab, click Add a Gadget, and add Blog List. Enter the URL for each student blog. This will create a list of blogs in the sidebar of the teacher’s blog. Detailed instructions at here.

RSS Reader

Use an RSS Reader such as Feedly to gather all blog URLs on one page. Posts, but not comments, can be read from this one page. Detailed instructions here.

Blog Authors

Add students as author’s on the teacher’s blog on the Settings>Basic page. Student posts would then be added to only the teacher’s blog. Detailed instructions here.

Read More »

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Engage your students with a YouTube playlist

image courtesy of Literary Fusions
YouTube has a ton of great videos that can be used in the classroom. Videos can be used to spark discussion, model a concept, hook students, provide real world context, or make lessons more engaging for visual learners. Finding and bookmarking all those great individual videos can be time consuming. Luckily, YouTube has an easy way of curating all those videos into one location.

Playlists are groups of videos curated by you. They provide a convenient way to create groups of videos that you want to refer to during a lesson. You can even share those playlists with students as a resource for them as well.

In order to create playlists you must first be logged in to your YouTube account, which is the same as your Google account.

Playlists can be created two ways. The first way is right from your YouTube home screen. Click on the Playlists tab and then click the New Playlist button. Enter a name for your playlist and set it to Public.

When you find a video that you want to keep, click the + button and add it to a playlist. You can also create a new playlist right from this screen.

Finding playlists

Other teachers may have already created playlists full of great content. You can find public playlists searching right in YouTube. In the search bar enter in any topic you are looking for. In the search results click the Filter drop down menu and select Playlists. This will show you only playlists with that search term in the name.

Instead of clicking the drop down and selecting a filter, you can include that filter right in your search by typing a comma and the filter, as shown here. The results also show you how many videos are in that playlist.

You can view individual videos and add them to your own playlists. You may even like the entire playlist and trust the author to curate quality videos. When viewing the playlist just click the +Save button and that playlist will be added to your Playlists in your guide on the left hand side. Every time the author adds another video, you'll automatically see it in your saved playlists.

Videos are a great tool to engage students in content. What are some ways you use video in your classroom?

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Why you should subscribe to YouTube channels

image courtesy Hypebot
YouTube lets you watch a variety of videos on practically any topic imaginable. Many users produce a whole series of videos on a particular topic. This series of of videos is called a channel. A channel on YouTube is the home page for an account. It shows the public videos that person has uploaded.

Personally I have become interested in woodworking and successfully taught myself how to build a dresser for my daughter. Every time I had a problem I turned to YouTube to see possible solutions and work arounds. In those searches I came across a YouTube channel called The Wood Whisperer that had a lot of great tips. I quickly subscribed to his channel so I could see when he created new videos and catch up on older videos.

As a teacher you might discover channels that interest you and your subject area. Maybe you find someone who produces awesome math videos that are entertaining and explain math concepts in an easy to understand way. Or you teach a foreign language and find a channel that helps students understand basic vocabulary. Subscribing is a great way to save those channels in one place and never miss an new video.

Subscribing to a channel is easy. In order to subscribe, you have to first be logged in to your YouTube account. Then simply click the button anywhere you see it. It's generally found under the video and to the left, near the video's author. The subscribe button also shows you how many people have also subscribed to that channel. The higher the number, the more popular that channel is. When you subscribe to a channel, it's added to your subscriptions list in your guide on the left hand side of your YouTube page.


Finding channels to subscribe to

 On your home page you'll find channels recommended to you based on your YouTube browsing history. Since I was looking up woodworking videos, I was recommended a few channels that might interest me. If I like the channel, I can click the button  right there or check out a video first.

Another way to find channels is to search for them. In the YouTube search bar enter in any topic you are looking for. In the search results click the Filter drop down menu and select Channels. This will show you only channels with that search term in the name.

Instead of clicking the drop down and selecting a filter, you can include that filter right in your search by typing a comma and the filter, as shown here.

Keep in mind that these filters only include channels with that search term in their title - not individual videos with that word in the title.

After searching for a channel you can click the  button to subscribe right from the search results.

Subscribing to channels is a great way to follow YouTube authors that you really like. What are some of your favorite channels?

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Saturday, October 3, 2015

Maker Movement: Bring it on!

image from Mrs. Wideen's blog
The Maker Movement seems to be all the rage in education. I've read about it in my Twitter feed and seen many articles about it in Feedly. I've always been drawn to the philosophy of "learning by doing". It drives my teaching and presenting. I feel that hands on lessons and workshops are far more beneficial than "sit and get". I get the Maker Movement and I'm glad to see it happening!

For the past 4 months I've been on my own little maker movement quest. It all started with my daughter's dresser. The drawers kept falling out of the dresser. I tried repairing it, but it's a cheap particle board, so what really can be done? Being a man I figured I could build one for her with my own hands in a couple of weeks. After all, my dad was a wood worker so it must be in the blood somehow, right?

During the months of February and March I researched and planned. I found a design she liked, but didn't like the assembly method, so I decided to build it using a more "fine furniture" type method. Summer break was coming up and I knew I could dedicate hours on end each day to build the dresser and would have it done in no time. Well, 2 weeks turned in to a month, then two months, then a summer time project, then "It'll be done by next week", and finally "I am determined to finish this by her birthday!"  

I am proud to say that I put in the last screw 15 minutes prior to leaving the house to celebrate her birthday on September 30. My 2 week project was finally done after four months.

Along the way I learned quite a bit. I had no experience designing and building anything more complex than a toolbox for some Cub Scouts - and I had to look that up in the book first! Here's an incomplete list of things I had to learn about as I went through the process.

  • SketchUp software to design the dresser
  • what wood was best for a dresser (I settled on poplar)
  • what joints to use
  • how to assemble the entire thing together
  • all about routers, which I had never used before
  • how to join two boards together to make one wide one
  • the different grits of sandpaper and when to use them
  • how to paint (types of paint, brushes, sanding between layers)
  • how to apply polyurethane

I learned so much during this process. By coincidence I even used some of the math my daughter was learning about in her high school geometry class - and I pointed that out to her.

When the process was finally done, when I put the last bolt in to hold the mirror in place, the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction was worth it! I had made something! I had spent time and effort and time on something that now stood before me. I had used my brain to solve puzzles, fix problems, analyze, synthesize, and learn how to do from scratch. It was functional, it looked good, and I had made it!

What does this have to do with educational technology? Plenty. This is an example of what I feel technology in education should be used for - for students to create, demonstrate and showing learning. Wouldn't it be great if students could show the same enthusiasm for learning? Have the same feeling of accomplishment? The same experiences of critical thinking and problem solving?

I've seen a disturbing trend in the last few years that has really bothered me. It seems that more and more schools are acquiring technology in order to put students in front of it in the hopes of "closing the achievement gap". Schools purchase programs such as ST Math, Ascend Math, Read 180, Compass Learning, etc and put kids in front of a computer and expect the program to teach them. More and more those students seem to be the ones who are achieving poorly in school and have to suffer through this. We are expecting the computer to do the teaching instead of the teacher.

Most schools I work with have iPads, anywhere from a 1:1 environment to multiple carts to share among classrooms. I've consulted at several schools to help determine apps to use on the iPads. Usually when I look at what's already on the iPads I see a lot of apps with questionable educational value. I don't feel iPads should be used to "entertain" a student with games. I've written about my app selection criteria before and my recommendations boil down to any app that students can use to create with or show their learning.

I welcome the MakerEd movement in education. I hope it gains some serious traction and doesn't become the latest fade that's cast to the side. This is exactly what technology is for. It is to be used as a tool by students where they can create, explore, and show their learning.

I don't want to be asked What can my students play on the iPad?, What are some educational websites where I can send my students?, or Can you teach my students how to make a PowerPoint? Instead, I want to be asked:
  • How can I get my students to write more?
  • How can my students demonstrate <this concept> to me?
  • How can my students explain the process they went through to do X?
  • How can my students share what they've learned?
Bring on the Maker Movement! I'm ready for it! I'm not a master wood worker by any stretch of the imagination. But my daughter can now store her clothes in a dresser that works!

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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Student Presentation Apps

Today was my district's annual iDevice Mini-Conference. I always love these conferences because of all the learning and sharing. There are so many good ideas that come from them! I facilitated two sessions on student presentations. Because of the focus on iDevices, I shared several apps that I love to use for helping students share their learning.

Rather than just focus on tools, I like to discuss ways to help students be better presenters. My inspiration comes from a blog post by Lisa Nielsen called Stop Letting Good Students Do Bad Presentations.  She outlines 6 tips teachers can use to help students be better presenters. I think these tips are more important than learning the apps. It doesn't matter how well students use the app or how easy the app is, if they present their content poorly all the hard work is lost.

My beginners session focused on 3 basic apps that are simple enough for students and teachers to transition from the idea of PowerPoint to doing the same style presentations on an iPad. The session handout can be downloaded here and the presentation is below.

Student Presentation Basics - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

The three apps I focused on for this session are

In the advanced session I also added information about a new presenting method I absolutely love called PechaKucha. PechaKucha 20x20 is a simple presentation format where students show 20 images, each for 20 seconds. The images advance automatically and students talk along to the images. This helps them be concise and stay on topic. It forces them to let pictures tell their story.

The session handout can be downloaded here and the presentation is embedded below.

Engaging Student Presentations - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

The three apps I focused on for this session were specifically chosen because they don't follow the traditional slideshow format typically used in PowerPoint.
These are some simply, yet powerful apps that can really help students be creative and show their learning.

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Friday, September 25, 2015

Awesome iPad App: Adobe Voice

Storytelling is a powerful way to inspire students and give them a voice. They inspire us, catch our attention, and solidify concepts in our mind. The way stories are created and shared can be just as powerful. Students don't need a tool to be so complicated that it gets in the way of the telling of the story. 

Adobe Voice is an iPad app that follows this philosophy. Check out this two minute video from Adobe Voice that shows this philosophy.

Voice is so easy to use that students at virtually any grade level could use it. When you launch Adobe Voice the first time, it includes an on screen tutorial to walk you through the process of creating your story. Once you know what you're doing you can skip that and go straight to the creation!

The app starts by asking you to enter a topic for your story. Swiping up from the bottom reveals suggestions for different types of stories.

Voice then offers a story structure for various kinds of stories. The structure includes a certain number of slides with suggestions for what story element to include on that slide. You can also start from scratch. Make your choice and tap Pick This One.

Choose a Layout for the slide you are on.

Choose a Theme for the entire story.

Choose Music for the entire story.

On each slide you tap the + to add an icon, photo, or text. There are thousands of iconic images to choose from.

If you select photo you can import from the camera, camera roll, or Dropbox.

Tap the microphone and record what you want to say. It's best to add only one or two sentences on a slide. Let the pictures help you tell the story.

When your whole story is done tap the Share icon and save the video to your camera roll.

Adobe Voice maintains a YouTube channel with some really good videos that offer some more advanced tips and tricks.

Integration Ideas

  • Create an All About Me story
  • Summarize a chapter
  • Recount a story
  • Share a biography
  • Create a how-to video
  • Present a position on a topic
  • Cultural explanations
  • Journal of field trip
  • Book trailer
  • Descriptive language practice
  • Create a dictionary

Download the Tech Integration Challenge for Adobe Voice and see if you are up to the challenge!

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