Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Fiverr Experience (and Review)

Many years ago I hear of a site called Fiverr which offers services from around the world such as creating logos to website design and voice over talent. I thought it was a very cool concept but had no use for it...until recently.

A co-worker and I decided to create an EdTech podcast this school year as another form of communication with teachers at our schools. Currently we have a monthly newsletter and a closed EdTech Facebook group. I jumped on the idea. I have been wanting to podcast and record with students and I was hoping this would give me some hands-on trial and error experience with it.

I took a stab a designing a few logos for our show, which we are calling PodCATS (Portable on Demand Curriculum and Technology Show).

Here were my first attempts:

I sent it to a friend of mine, who also took a stab at it and she came up with this:

We really liked her version but we wanted to add headphones on the cat and I drew the concept:

She had used clipart to design the logo but we needed someone to draw headphones onto the cat and that is when we turned to Fiverr. 

The site has so many people who can design logos that we had to apply filters. The site prices start at $5 (hence the name) and goes up.So we set the filters to $5 to $25. From there we started to look at designs and what we would get. We needed a JPEG and PNG file because we were going to have it put on shirts and use it in various digital formats. We went with inovation_gfx1 a graphic designer from Pakistan. We liked his whimsical designs and he offered everything we needed, including unlimited revisions and a fast turnaround time, for $12. We sent him the original concept and our revised one and within 24 hours we had his first draft.

We sent back some minor revisions and in less than 24 hours we had our final design. 

Once I finalized the design within Fiverr and rated the seller I was sent all the source files (JPEG and PNG).

The only thing I wasn't prepared for, but it makes sense, was message during the finalize stage that it is customary to tip your provider if you are happy with their service and gives you several dollar amounts to choose from (there is a service fee for the tipping...I want to say $2).

Since I was very happy with his design, speed, and communication I tipped him the max amount. Since we were willing to pay up to $25 I was fine with doubling his initial rate of $12. 

If you are looking to use Fiverr here are some of my recommendations:

- Make sure you have a sketch of what you want to send to the designer. Pictures work better than words. 
- Filter by the amount of money you are willing to spend when looking for a designer (factor in tipping at the end).
- Pick someone within the first five designers that you look at, otherwise you could be looking at portfolios for weeks (we stopped at three because we saw what a slippery slope browsing was going to be).
- Most designers are using English as a second language so try to be as specific as possible in your writing. 
- If your end goal is to have your design on a shirt or hat you need to keep your lines and colors simple. I had a friend make a shirt and coozie and our design was simple enough for her complete with her Circuit. We had pink cheeks on our cat and she had to cut those out separate from the main design and do some layering.

- Look for turnaround time, type of source files you are getting, and number of revisions included in the price. Keep in mind even though we go an unlimited amount of revisions we kept them minimal intentionally in order to get the design back in a timely manner and to not bog down the designer in the minutiae of tweaking a design to the point of irritation on the designers end. 

Overall I was super pleased with my first experience with Fiverr and would definitely try it again. 

Monday, August 19, 2019

Password Protect iPhone Notes

I use my iPhone's Notes app to save everything from book and music recommendations to a password list. Obviously I have my phone password protected but if you need an extra layer of protection with your notes consider adding an additional lock to specific notes.

This is great particularly, if you are like me, and hand your phone to your children...who don't need to see that information.

It is super easy to do. See the step-by-step flyer I made above.

A few items to note:

1. Whatever you set as your password for one note applies to all notes you attach a lock to.
2. Once you unlock one note, you unlock all of them.
3. You have to close out the app or put the phone to sleep before the lock resets.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Paperless Extension - Kami

A couple of years ago our district purchased Kami as part of our push to go paperless. It has quickly grown to one of my most recommended extensions.

We are a one-to-one district and we use Google Apps for Education. We hadn't found anything that students could use with PDF's outside of DocHub add on through Google (free limited version). We started playing with the Kami add-on through Google and loved it (also free limited version). We used the 30 day free trial and got the company to extend it so we could do a more in-depth analysis for potential purchase.

I was part of the analysis team and it was just what teachers were looking for. Teachers could push Word or PDF documents to students and have them complete and return them on the computer without having to print ANYTHING.

The tool bar has:
- A dictionary so students can look up unfamiliar words
- Text to speech so students can highlight passages and have them read out loud
- Speech to text so students can dictate their answers (they still need to check for punctuation and accuracy)
- Video, text, and audio commenting features.
- Drawing tools
- Insert images and stamps
- and so much more!

It integrates with Google Classroom so you can mark up student work from the Google Classroom grading window as well.

Grading Option Explained

I think our district negotiated a certain number of licenses purchased in our trial year with the option to increase the number of licenses as we got it off the ground.

Probably my favorite feature, as a teacher, is the Split and Merge option, You can take a PDF and remove, reorder, and combine pages with other PDF's. As someone who purchases a lot from TpT this feature has been a god send when pushing particular PDF pages to students through Google Classroom.

They are running a back-to-school FREE 30 day trial if you are interested in trying it out.  

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Father's Day End of Year Craft

We are almost finished the school year here in South Carolina and I have been sharing some of my favorite end of year class crafts with teachers.

The Accordion Foldable is one of my favorite for academic content (see my blog post using it in science) but for the end of the year I like to have students make a Father's Day version. Usually dad's get short changed on classroom crafts since Father's Day falls in June (June 16th this year) so this is my way of making it up to them 😉.

The supplies you will need:
- Eight 3 x 5 index cards (blank on both sides*)
- Two 4 x 6 index cards (blank on both sides*)
- Scotch Tape
- Glue (white glue or a hot glue gun)
- Pencil
- Think black sharpie
- Colored pencils/markers
- Optional: Envelopes (Staples carries photo envelopes that are 4 3/4 x 6 1/2)

*If you can't find the index cards you can cut down card stock paper to the sizes needed. These are typical index card sizes you just don't want the ones with the lines on one side.

The directions for putting it all together are outlined in the photo below 👇.

Below are close ups of my acrostic. I'm a terrible artist so I opened up The Noun Project website and searched for icons that matched what I was looking for and found ones I could duplicate freehand. I actually bought a $20/year Noun Project subscription because I make a lot of school flyers and it is nice to have the ability to use their icons without having to worry about copyright issues but I often use it for freehand drawing situations like this (I also direct students to the site for similar reasons).  

If you make any with your students I would love to see them! Please post them on Twitter and tag me @atechcoachlife. 

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Podcast for Students

I ran across this tweet from Tony Vincent this morning about a podcast he has been listening to with his 5th graders called Six Minutes.

The website overview: "Who is Holiday? Where did she come from and how did she end up floating in the icy waters off the coast of Alaska with no memory? Are her mom and dad really who they say they are? Why is she developing those incredible abilities? The mystery unfolds in six minute episodes."

I love the fact that each episode is only 6 minutes (and they have 136 published six minute segments). It would be easy to integrate into the classroom (at six minutes).

I would use it as a settling activity that exposes children to more words, ideas, and language (I work with a lot of Title 1 students who need that language exposure). It could also be used as a writing prompt (i.e listen to this episode and then write the next episode).

Podcasting with students is high on my "to try" list and this Podcast has given me some ideas.

Since school's almost out for students it would be a great to get them hooked and have them continue listening on their own during the summer.

In the Twitter post someone asked about the appropriate age and Tony noted that his six year old likes the podcast but that there are "child catchers" who chase after the children that younger students might find upsetting. The main characters in the podcast are 10 years old.

Another podcast mentioned in the comments was The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel. That seems more geared toward middle school students and episodes seem to run 20 minutes or less. The website describes the show as "a scripted podcast for middle grade kids, performed by middle grade kids. It is a fun, high-quality, serial mystery that can be described as Goonies meets Spy Kids, meets Stranger Things for 8-12 year olds." I like this one because you can get the scripts for the show (unfortunately there is a cost but if someone finds it with no cost, please let me know) so students can read along while they are listening.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Test Prep - TDA Writing with Writable

We are within a three week window of our state testing here in South Carolina and the test most teachers are worried about is the writing portion of the ELA test. The ELA test is divided into two days with the writing test on the first day and the reading test on the second day. The writing test has a text dependent analysis question (TDA) which requires a lot of higher order thinking/writing for our students (many of whom are taking it for the first time...on a computer).

I am super sympathetic, having taught writing. That is why I got SUPER EXCITED when I ran across the Writable site at conference in February. The site has a lot of TDA type questions and passages already put together in a format that mimics what students will see in May. It is not an exact match (the site corrects spelling and has a read-to-me option...which they won't see on the state test) but for the most part it is a way to give students the opportunity to see a writing passage on one side and a TDA on the other side for practice purposes.

The site offers a 60 day free trial (which activates as soon as the first student joins your class so you can make an account and look around for a bit to see if it is something you might use). You can use their prompts or (and this is what made me excited) you can make your own. I made several, which I will link below. I love that you can make prompts and then share them with anyone with a link.

Another exciting feature is that you can see revisions. Things that are removed from the first version are highlighted in red and things that are add are highlighted in green.

I have barely scratched the surface of this site...but for test prep practice I am loving it! I made a short overview video (again focusing on test prep ONLY). If you want more detailed training their YouTube channel is a good place to start. 

Here are links to the TDA's I put together on the Writable site:

Mo, Bow Tie Designer - https://app.getwritable.com/p/c4af12bc-7085-4658-bdc4-771aff72cdcc (this has a link to the YouTube video and the text is the transcripts)
Competitive Double Dutch - https://app.getwritable.com/p/cea95d4d-b7b9-4aef-9514-e27aa980f97b (this has a link to the YouTube video and the text is the transcripts) 

Friday, March 22, 2019

Test Prep - TDA Writing and YouTube

It is that time of year where classroom teachers are in full test prep mode. We are about six weeks out here in South Carolina and a big concern in a lot of our schools is the TDA part of the test (Text Dependent Analysis).

The TDA part of the test requires students to analyze a piece of text and respond to a prompt that where they have to pull evidence from the text to support their writing. Great idea, and certainly brings in those higher order thinking skills, but it is also a lot for students to process particularly if this is the first time taking the test or they are struggling readers and writers. I definitely feel their pain but sadly that doesn't make the test go away. This leaves me trying to think of ways to get these struggling students writing and reading as often as possible.

Luckily the test uses shorter reading passages so I try to pull high interest articles off the internet, ReadWorks, Newela, Writable, Teachers Pay Teachers, etc - pretty much any place I can find that is "free'ish....I am counting "free trials" as "free'ish. It really helps if I can make a connection to the article, or connect the article to the class in some way, because WANTING to read it is pretty much half the battle. If I can hook them in then they are intrigued enough to find out what the short article or story is about.

This leaves me sometimes struggling to find "hookable" text for kids. This got me thinking to what students REALLY want to do...which led me to YouTube (a lot of our students just want to watch videos and be entertained). This led me to thinking how I could get transcripts of videos off of YouTube to use as "hookable" text....which led me to discover YouTube has transcripts! To be clear not all videos have transcripts but it was good enough for me. Now I have a lot more "text" to draw from and I can "hook" them with the video part of it.

I made a flyer (see picture above) that shows you how to get transcripts off YouTube. You do have to do some editing. I basically copy and paste the text into a Word or any Word-like processor (Google Docs) and then clean it up. I also watch the video on one side of the screen to make sure the transcription is correct. Sometimes people in the video don't speak clearly enough and whatever program makes the transcripts has to guess at their words. I recently found the program guessed a curse word while a woman was speaking and I'm glad I proofed and rewatched the video so I caught it!

Below are the steps I take when using transcripts. To be CLEAR this may not be something you want to use every day because there is some front end work on the teacher's part. You may just want to give it a try once a week (Fun Writing Friday) until you start building up a library of YouTube transcripts to draw from.

1. First, I find the video. I love the Great Big Story channel on YouTube. They produce short high interest pieces that often feature children. There is an internal search area within their channel and if I type in "kids" I can usually draw from that (they also have a Kids playlist on their website channel that has closed captioning but all the videos can be found on YouTube where you can print out the transcripts). I try to find stories that focus on minority children if possible and then rotate looking between male and female lead characters. I also like Disney's Citizen Kid series. I use their "Mo - Bow Tie Designer" video a lot with students.

2. Then I open the video transcripts and turn off the timestamp feature.

3. Next I copy and paste the text into a editable document.

4. I edit the text to use the complete field on the screen. I tried to find a way to automate this step but was unable to find anything that worked for me so I go line by line and bring up the text. I look for videos no longer than 3 minutes in length to use since this is a tedious process. 

5. Then I re-watch the video with the screen split so I can follow the video on one side and pause and correct the text as needed on the other.

6. I edit in paragraph breaks as it makes sense to me. I do this so students can tell me which paragraph they found their evidence. 

7. Finally, I save and print (although saving it first would help in the event your computer accidentally closes on you!). 

Sometimes I add the TDA question to the page but other times I just to like to make up one on the fly. With the Double Dutch video example I might ask: "Write an essay explaining why you think Khnaue thought of her team like a home? Use examples from the text to support your answer." or I could have asked "Write an essay that describes Khnaue's character in relation to the story. Use examples from the text to support your answer." 

I usually let students watch the first time for fun, the second time to catch things they might have missed on the first viewing, and then I turn off my screen projector and have them listen (instead of watch) the video and use a pencil to track the words on the paper. I tell them if they find any mistakes to let me know...so it gives them a "task" while reading along with the video. 

For the most part, students seem to like this activity and it provides a nice change from looking at just text all the time. 

Here are links to my transcripts for:

If you give it a try, let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter @atechcoachlife.