Friday, January 22, 2016

The best $160 I never spent

One of my most dreaded fears happened again is week. The check engine light came on in my car. I always dread that little light because it costs $100 just to get it read at the autoshop. Repairs are usually several hundred dollars more.

This time I got smart. I took the car to Autozone and had them check it for free. The diagnosis was a little better than what I expected. The Mass Air Flow Sensor was faulty. The bad news was that it was still pricey at $160 and of course I had no idea what that part was, let alone whether or not I had the skill to replace it.

image from

I got smart again and decided to see what I could find on YouTube. I was lucky enough to find a video showing how to replace that part on my exact year, make, and model. Super easy at less than 10 minutes. So at least I wouldn't had to pay labor at the shop since I could do it myself, but still dreaded the $160 price tag.

Searching a little more and I found a video that described how to clean the sensor to where it works just like new. For the price of a can of cleaner and a new air filter ($22) the check engine light is off and my car is running smoother than it has in a long time.

I love learning! I gained the knowledge necessary to replace that part, plus learned a lesson of how important it is to maintain a clean air filter. I also learned a little more of how a car engine works. Saving money was just a side benefit. The ability to actually see how to replace the part in a video just made the whole process easier.

I had a similar experience a few years ago when I learned how to replace a part on our washing machine, saving myself the cost of a service call. This past fall I posted about my summer time experience building a dresser for my daughter, learning many things about woodworking along the way. I love learning!

I'm excited about our new teacher's contract with the district, because it encourages teachers to learn more in order to advance on the pay scale. Teachers can move up on the pay scale every few years by designing their own professional development and completing a certain number of hours learning.

As educators, it's important for us to model learning for our students. If we want our students to develop a love of learning, we need to model what a life long learner looks like. We need to show them that learning happens all the time and for a variety of reasons. I'm disappointed when I see teachers that are not involved in professional development in some format, or that attend classes for the sake of getting the credit and don't care about the content of the class. I always pray that attitude doesn't carry over into their classes.

Besides modeling learning to students, we need to be learners for the sake of the knowledge. I don't know everything and never will. But new knowledge is powerful, whether I'm learning a new skill, delving deeper into a concept, or expanding my horizons. There are so many things I want to learn about that I'm actually disappointed sometimes that I have to go to work instead of being able to use that time to complete a course or training.

How are you a life long learner? Where do you go to increase your knowledge?

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

#Mysteryskype without a Skype account

I think that finding classrooms to play Mystery Skype with is an easy task. I usually find mine on Twitter. After making that initial connection and scheduling a time, we still have to connect via Skype. That requires sharing Skype usernames, which then litters my Skype contacts with users that I don't regularly communicate with.

Jonathan Wylie posted a great tip for connecting via Skype without both teachers having an account or even installing the software. Check out his blog post How to Skype Anyone With Just a Link.
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#MysterySkype resources

The more #mysteryskypes I've done, the more I realize that there are certain resources I need to use in order to make it successful. There is only so much organization that can be done, because in the heat of the moment students get excited and of course the activity changes depending on the location of the other class. Despite the sometimes chaotic nature of it, there are still several resources that can be used to help it flow smoothly.

With the help of other awesome teachers in my PLN I've gathered a few resources that I think should be in every teacher's #mysteryskype toolbox. All of those resources can be found here. They were freely given to me to modify and I freely pass them on to anyone else to use. I'm sorry I can't give credit to everyone that shared with me - I neglected to make note at the time.

Maps - includes maps of all the continents showing country borders. Since most of my Mystery Skypes are in the U.S., there's also a U.S. states map. If you use a better map than the one I have, please post a link for it in the comments.

Debriefing and Reflecting - this has forms students can use to self evaluate and reflect on their performance as a team member during the Mystery Skype.

Mystery Skype Jobs - since each student should have a job to do during the Skype session here are forms with suggested jobs, plus an application students can use to suggest what job they'd like to do.

Miscellaneous - there are also some miscellaneous forms to help you plan your first Mystery Skype, such as a checklist, sample questions, and signs to hold up.
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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Cool and useful website: EDPuzzle

I've been working with a few high school science teachers that use video in their classroom to help students understand some complex science topics. Video is a great way to do this - after all we live in a video generation. YouTube reports 300 hours of new video are uploaded every minute. Leveraging video lets you bring in multimedia and simulations to your lessons as well as take your students to places they may never get to otherwise.

While working with these teachers we explored one of my new favorite tools: EDpuzzle. EDpuzzle is a really cool tool that lets you take existing video and embed your own voice, comments, and even quizzes. Plus it's entirely FREE! Here's a one minute overview.
Creating an account is super simple. Click on the Teacher button and login with your existing Google or Edmodo account or create an EDpuzzle account from scratch. Using your Google or Edmodo account gives you the advantage of being able to access class rosters and other resources directly from those accounts.

My Classes

Your first task after signing in is to create your classes. If you signed in using Google or Edmodo you can import your existing classes. Otherwise click the Add Class button and follow the prompts.

Find Videos

The next step is to find the video you want to use. Click the Search tab and choose your favorite source for videos. You can also use the Upload button to upload your own video or video you've downloaded from another source.

After you find a video, hover over the thumbnail and either click Use it to start adding your content, or click Copy to add it to your My Content tab and edit it later.

Create your video-lesson

Once you are in your video its super easy to create your lesson. Once you are in edit mode you'll see four buttons across the top of the window.

Crop - lets you use only a section of you need. No need to force your students to sit through an entire 15 minute clip, just crop to the relevant section. To crop, just drag to start and end points.
Audio Track - is used if you want to use your own voice on the video instead of the embedded audio. If you use this option you have to record audio for the entire video clip. Click the microphone button and the video plays at the same time you are speaking.
Audio Notes - lets you record your own commentary at a certain point of the video. Drag the playhead to the point in the video and click the microphone button. You can have multiple audio notes throughout your video.
Quizzes - this is probably the best feature of EDpuzzle. Click on the point in the video where you want to embed a quiz and click the question mark. You can add an open-ended or multiple choice question, or embed your own written comment. The question editing box gives you basic formatting tools as well as the ability to embed links and images into the questions. When students are watching the video, it automatically stops at the quiz and students are forced to answer it before continuing on.


Click the Finish button in the upper right-hand corner. You'll be prompted to select a class to assign the video to as well as a few other awesome features: You can disable skipping so that students can't skip important content. You can also assign due dates to videos.

When you click the Send button it assigns the video to your EDpuzzle class. If you linked your Google Classroom or Edmodo accounts, you need to take the additional step of clicking the Post button and it will appear in the class stream.

EDpuzzle is a must-have tool for any teacher that uses video in their classroom. I love the ability to embed quizzes to hold students accountable for the video content, as well as the ability to disable skipping.

What are some ways you can think of to use video in your classroom? Let me know in the comments below.

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