Monday, August 29, 2016

Cool Things in Schools

I love my job...I get to go to a bunch of different schools and I always like checking out what other teachers have posted or have done in their classroom. Here are some of my back-to-school finds.

1. The "You Decide" poster. It was located outside a nurses office and when I saw it, I stopped to look at it (which is always a mark of a good display). I loved its simplicity and message.


2. The "stage". I delivered a class set of iPads in this classroom and and literally said, "Shut the front door! You have a STAGE?!?! With a RUNWAY?!?! Can I walk it?!?!?". It was ridiculously cool (#everyoneshouldhaveastage). The teacher made it over the summer after visiting the Ron Clark Academy last year and he did an awesome job (side note: visiting the Ron Clark Academy is on my bucket list). There were other Ron Clark touches that I need to take pictures of but it is the stage that I really loved (the kids loved it as well and laughed when made a big deal of walking it). I told the teacher that I need to come back and model a lesson JUST to be on the stage :)



3. The "Cafe Room". I was doing iPad rollouts at this school when someone told me about their Cafe Room. The media assistant, who had gotten the grant and did the bulk of the decorating, was happy to show it off. It was seriously cool. It was in their old drama room that had been painted black (walls and ceilings). The media assistant hung empty frames around, had brick wall decals, the room had painted iron tables and chairs, cool curtains around the Promethean board with paintings behind it, and a faux chandelier in the center. The room is available for teachers to book with their students. I would definitely find excuses to use it as much as possible!  





Sunday, August 14, 2016

Back-to-School Activity - Twist on a Pair/Share




I was recently in a training class where the trainer used a “divide and slide” activity to get us up, moving, and sharing. It was a lot of fun. I thought it could be used for a back-to-school activity along with another strategy I’ve used with students before called a “Six Word Story” (this strategy is part of the Discovery Education Spotlight on Strategies series).

In this activity students would come up with a six words sentence to highlight something they did over the summer. They would then share with their classmates during the “divide and slide”.

As a teacher, you might need to model writing a six-word sentence (this type of writing is also referred to as micro-writing). So on the board I might model writing a six-word story:

- I worked to rescue sea turtles.
- I geocached in five different states.
- My mother-in-law fell breaking her hip.

Give students a reasonable amount of time to write their story (I would cut up paper in fourths and give each child a sheet to write on. Once they were done have them get in the “divide and slide” lines to share. They have to introduce themselves to the person across from them before starting (i.e. “Hi, my name is Eve”…then they share. When it is the next person’s turn they will say “Hi, my name is Jason”…then they share. This way they start to get to know each other’s names.) If a child says they did “nothing” over the summer…challenge them to come up with a six-word story that indicates they did nothing.

You can even grade it as an easy ELA/Writing grade. To get a perfect score the story has to have six words (no more/no less). It would be fun for the kids to go home and say they got an “A” in a writing assignment the first day of school.

If you have time, have students share the most interesting/attention grabbing six-word story they heard (it can’t be their own!).


I use to keep short stories (similar to this) in the student’s writing folder because it can be used later as a jumping off point for longer writing pieces. 

If you try it...let me know how it goes!

Educational Ambassador Programs



I recently applied and was selected to be a ClassFlow ambassador for the coming school year. I heard about the position when I attended ISTE and volunteered to be a part of their focus group (see blog post HERE). I have done numerous training within our district on how to use ClassFlow (we went 1:1 with devices in all grade levels last year) and for the most part I was self taught (they have a lot of great getting started videos). I applied hoping to get more detailed training with all their new changes (which I will) and first dibs on any new product launches (and I also have secret fantasy that I will get to visit the Ron Clark academy since they are a large sponsor...no word on that happening but my fingers are crossed).

Apparently there are a lot of Ambassador programs with various educational companies...because I heard of two others while I was at ISTE. I'm actually shocked this was the first year I heard of these types of programs. ClassFlow is free (you can sign up here) and is a place you can build interactive lesssons that can be pushed out to student devices. So instead of you being at the front of the room teaching from your board, calling one student up at a time, to interact with the lesson...you can send out your lesson to the students and they can interact with it. It is pretty cool and I have done a lot of modeling in our district using the software. (See my first ClassFlow blog post HERE from 2014). 

ClassFlow was an easy company to decide to apply for...mainly because of our districts use (and it helps that it is a product I love and promote in our district all the time).

I actually didn't know what becoming an ambassador meant so I applied blindly. I was thinking I would get a free t-shirt, maybe some free stuff to hand out during training, a field trip to schools using the product well, co-teach at a conference...those sort of things.

While I haven't got any free t-shirt (yet) I did get a list of things you are asked to do as an ambassador which does include attending training and webinars, respond to posts within the community, help promote the product on social media, etc. It helps that I have no obligations this year for me so I am free to jump into being an Ambassador (last year I was in an intense Master Naturalist class for the full school year). I actually signed a contract (scary!) that said I would do all these things and a spreadsheet each month where I attach and send in proof. The person in charge is really nice and used to be a classroom teacher so she understands "life" happens. I think the contract is in place to help remind you to do all the things you are supposed to do. There is an "escape" clause in the contract for both the ClassFlow folks or you...if you need an out.

FYI - Another random Ambassador fact (at least for ClassFlow not sure of other companies)...I have to have a background check and a drug screening.

If you really love and use an educational company I would definitely check to see if there is an Ambassador program that you can apply for. I have a friend who runs a lego lab in one of our schools and I told her she should check with the "Legos for Education" folks to see. She knows I would make a HORRIBLE Lego Ambassador since I am terrible at building things and cleaning and sorting legos is my idea of torture. 

If you are interested in becoming an ambassador, but not this year, think instead about starting a blog or being active on social media as your goal for the school year. I think having both (a blog and being activity on social media) is what pushed me into the "accepted" category when I applied. 






Friday, July 22, 2016

Making Snap Chat Filters





Recently at a conference the sponsoring company (Discovery Education) posted some fun snap chat filters. This lead to the "How did you do that?" question from many of the teachers in attendance. Lindsey Hopkins, the DE employee who created the filters on the above pictures, lead an unconference class on how she created them. It was very good!

The discussion in the session also focused on how to use them in schools and there were a lot of good ideas -  Spirit Week - Homecoming - Prom - Back to School Nights - Professional Development Training or Seminars. People also make them for events like weddings and parties.

NOTE - These aren't the crazy filters with rainbows coming out of your mouth and giant eyes these are more like branding and location filters.

I went ahead and made a test filter for a meeting with my supervisor to discuss possibly using it at one of our summer institutes (and to see how easy or hard it was to set up). It takes about 2 days to be approved. They have two types of geofilters - one for "community" (free for cities, universities, a local landmark, or another public location but no brand logos allowed) and then one that is labeled "on demand". That is a paid one but it is inexpensive. For my meeting I chose the "on demand" filter and I made it live in the location I wanted for 2 hours for $5. You can schedule them out in advance for a specific time, specific hours, and of course a specific location.

Lindsey had some trial and errors and shared with us some things she learned -

- Do a set time period. You don't want to have to pay for a filter when no one is in a school at night.
- Only select the area that people are going to be using the filter (cost is also based on the size of the area you select).
- Using light colors for the lettering works better then the dark colors

I asked about programs for setting up the filters and she used Photoshop (Snapchat has some templates you can download that are compatible with Photoshop). I am used to PicMonkey (and it is FREE) so I followed this great YouTube tutorial for how to set up a snapchat filter in PicMonkey.



The process was easy (I completed it in under a half hour). I think it would help if you had an art student or teacher design the filter. I have no graphic experience and it shows in my rather lame filter attempt (I will post it once it goes live). 

The steps are as follows:

1. Make the filter on some editing software (complete guidelines are on their website)
2. Go to their website and select the type of filter (free or paid)
3. Upload your filter
4. Choose the date and time for your filter
5. Select the area you want your filter to appear (I just typed in the address and used their tool to highlight the building - Lindsey suggested do it slightly outside the boarders).
6. Pay or submit based on what filter you selected

Once done you will get an email confirmation that they received and are reviewing it. A teacher in the session was concerned that a "creative" student might try and post a nasty filter but we felt it would get vetted during this review process. I got my response that it was approved and will go live within 24 hours of submitting. 

I definitely think it is a fun way to promote your schools and take advantage of students and parents using Snap Chat.  

UPDATE: 

These were the filters I made for the meeting with my supervisor. While she liked the idea we see where using a white background for the wording wasn't necessary the best color (see pictures above). We also had a problem getting the filters to come up on her personal phone. It worked fine on my work phone, her work phone, and another persons work phone (all had location services on and were connected to the buildings wifi). We tried her personal phone and another person's personal phone, both had location services turned on (in general and for the app) but they were connected to their data plan (Verizon in both cases). In theory, the filter should have showed up for them. I am not sure why it didn't. I have an email into the Snapchat folks to find out. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Chrome Extension - CraftyText

I am currently at a conference specific to users of the Discovery Education website and I have been going to a number of classes. In yesterday's class, how to use green screen with DE resources, the instructor Dave. T. showed us this fun chrome extension. The extension basically lets you display text (in this case his website address) in a huge banner like format across your screen (see last picture). This is a great tool for directing students to websites that they normally couldn't see on your screen (in the past I just copied and pasted web addresses to a Word document and blew it up - this is much better!). 

Below are screen shots on how to get the extension and how to use it. 









Monday, July 11, 2016

ISTE 2016 - Honorable Mentions or for Further Research

As always there is way too much information at tech conferences to the point of shutting down (that happened to me in Atlanta at my first ISTE conference). Focusing on trying to get a specific number of ideas/tools has really helped keep me grounded (make no mistake though... I am still overwhelmed but at least I come back with things to focus on).

I have to prioritize my notes but there are always items that are left over that deserve an honorable mention...or at least a  blog note so I don't forget them.

These are:



www.brainrush.comA FREE web tool for teachers to create games to be used in the classroom
You can create your own games or use premade ones. The site allows the teacher to associate their own voice with correct answers.



https://www.edu.buncee.com/home - I heard Buncee mentioned enough times that I made a star next to it in my notes to explore when I have time. It looks like it is a place to make and store lessons to share.



https://awesome-table.com/ - Awesome Table came up a few times as well. Apparently it is a web application that displays data from a Google Spreadsheet into various types of nice views. It looks a bit complicated (thank goodness for YouTube videos) but it had some potential in my world. 


How To Festival - I ran past a poster session and stopped to listen to the presenter talk about a "How To" festival her high school puts on showcasing student talent (from harmonica playing to cracking a whip).The point is to pretty much showcase the awesomeness of the student body (which I thought was a fun idea). I am "bookmarking" it because I think it has potential as an alternative to a technology night. I was thinking rooms where students show parents "How To" do various things on the computer.

  
Ergotron Sit/Stand Classroom Desk (click to see the desks in action in a classroom) - I saw this on the vendor floor and actually spent two days trying to win one (I didn't). It is an adjustable desk that allows students to adjust the height very easily. It has a deep pocket for a water bottle and a pencil and tablet holder. A hook on the back can hold a backpack and there is an optional bin system that can be purchased to hold books. They are pricey - $350 when bulk ordering ($550 for just one) so it may not be financially feasible to outfit an entire school (or even classroom). Our district has several schools making over their media centers into "maker spaces"  which is where I thought these cool desks might fit in.  
 



ISTE Top 10 - #1 - Seesaw




There were several hot topics at ISTE this year (gamifying PD...global collaboration...coding...micro-credentialing ) but one tool that kept coming up (even before I got to ISTE) was Seesaw. So in all fairness it was on my radar prior to going to ISTE but it just seemed to pop up EVERYWHERE during the conference (which I'm hoping is the universes way of screaming TRY IT).

Seesaw is a student driven digital portfolio website where students can upload pictures of their work, videos, add links, etc. To see an overview of the product CLICK HERE for a short YouTube video.

It reminds me a lot of Easy Blogger Jr. which I had explored a couple of years ago, which at the time was free in the app store. I just checked today and it is now $5.99. Seesaw is FREE (there are some pricing options for more functionality) but I think the basic version is enough for simple classroom use.

I like that it works over multiple platforms (we have tablets in our 6-12 classrooms with the possibility of mini-laptops in grades 3-5 next year...currently they have iPad Airs). I'm not sure I can sell our middle/high school teachers into using Seesaw but I feel like I can get some of our elementary school teachers on board.

I tried with Easy Blogger Jr. years ago but it fizzled a bit...I think primarily because at the time our devices were fairly new and teachers were just trying to get a handle on using them in the classroom. I'm hoping to generate more buzz this year with some teachers who will be willing to try it for the entire year.

I have to say the Seesaw people were super helpful at their booth and their website has a ton of help topic areas with videos. I'm hoping to post updates throughout the year as I slowly recruit users.