Thursday, December 17, 2015

Snowflake Matter Activity (and Video)

Click on THIS LINK to view the student video

Yesterday I worked with two groups of third graders at the end of their matter unit. The teacher and I are working together to try and incorporate a tech project at the end of each of her science units. 

I would like to claim this snowflake idea...but I got it from a friend of mine who is a science lab teacher at another school. She was showing me how she had her third graders make dipped wax snowflakes as part of their study of matter. She awesomely lent me all her supplies so I could do it with the students I had. The tech component was they had to make an iMovie (new skill for them) explaining what they did (in the iMovie they had to have one definition, they had to use at least two unit vocabulary words, and have a safety tip...we kept it pretty basic because we had to finish it that day but the requirements could certainly be increased based on grade and available time). 

The teacher very nicely gave up a large chunk of time for this. She teaches math and science and we used both blocks. She was giving a math test and said it could wait until the next day (we are on our last few days before the holiday break).

In my demonstration to students we talked about the characteristics of a solid and a liquid and how matter is effected by temperature (in this case heat and cold). They knew this from their unit so this was a review and a hands on demonstration of these concepts. 

This is what you need:

Crayons - We went with blue. The science lab teacher had asked the art teacher for all the broken unwanted crayons since she didn't care what state they were in. The students had to find one blue crayon...size didn't matter.. from the container and strip any paper off of it.

Snowflake Templates - You can find free printable templates HERE. 

Hot Plate - Please warn your neighboring teachers and the front office that you will be melting crayons so if anyone reports a weird or burning smell that it is just your class. You will get wax on it so you might just designate it your "science hot plate" for future projects. 

Pie Pans - You need two and you can get them from the dollar store. They are acting as a double boiler on top of the hot plate (so water goes in one that is going to be on the direct heat and the other will be on top of that to melt the crayon). Get some started before class so you aren't waiting forever to have a base of melted crayons.

Coffee Stir Sticks - Just to mix the crayons and pop the wax around the snowflake openings. They will be thrown away when you are done.

Wax Paper - We used a large piece next to the hot plate for dripping when the kids blew on their snowflake to cool the wax down.Warning!!!! - You will get wax on your clothes so wear an apron or clothes you don't mind having wax on it (I didn't and had to google "how to get wax off clothes")

Plastic Tweezers - The science lab teacher got them out of one of her you might check your kits to see if you have them. That is what you are using to put the snowflake in and out of the wax. 

Fishing Line - Only if you are hanging them up or want the kids to hang them up at home.

Extra Hands - This would be a great activity to get parents involved or if you have floating friends around the building (I have been known to ask the assistant principal for help...guidance staff...literacy social worker...etc.). In this activity there were three adults in the room..which was super helpful. There was the teacher, a push in interventionist, and myself (at one point we even had the math coach in the room). 

From a classroom management point of view we did everything step by step. (1) I gave a little review of the activity and the learning points. (2) We all cut out the snowflakes and did the folding and cutting together (3) We called table groups up to get their snowflake dipped. All this could have been done in her  35 min science block. Tables who were done could opt to do another snowflake (to keep them occupied...or you need to find something else for them to do).

We added the element of making an iMovie so students took pictures along the way and this is what made the activity longer. We directed them when to take pictures. I had the first group take too many pictures (basically of all the stages of cutting and folding the snowflake) I reduced it for the second group (one shot of the template and then one shot of the finished snowflake). I then had to walk them through how to make an iMovie since they had never used that app before. The first group I did a whole group walk through and let them go on their own but I had a lot of whining and needing help. The second group we did everything together step-by-step and it went a lot better. 

The teacher and the students seemed to enjoy the activity and it was the perfect time to do it with the class (the week before Christmas break where the students needed something engaging and the teacher needed something to keep them engaged :)  

Monday, December 14, 2015

Touchcast (Green Screen) Video Entry

I worked with a class of 5th graders last week making green screen videos with their TouchCast app related to Westward Expansion. The one featured above was the "best of the best" and was entered into a video contest put on by TouchCast (fingers crossed they win). The teacher will win a Studio in a Box to use with future classes.

It was the largest project I have done with students with the app. I have played around with it on my own but organizing and executing a script based project definitely was more time consuming then I originally thought. I now have a better idea of how I would go about planning it next time. I am hoping to get the app added to all 3-5 iPads in the district next year (I wish they had a web version as well for our middle/high students who use Dell tablets). The only problem is that the app is rated for ages 12 and up so principals have to agree/sign a waiver to have it added to iPads. I'm hoping that if I have more student samples that it will be an easy "sell" (so watch this space for more video ideas).

Modeling "Call Back" Chant

I was in a classroom the other day helping with something TOTALLY unrelated to the teachers lesson. As I was working I was listening to the teacher teach math to her 1st graders. She did such an awesome job (I mean I stopped what I was doing to see what she was doing...teaching 1st graders is a rough subgroup for me...control wise). Anyway, we had to test out what I was helping her with (signing 1st graders into our science tech book) and I asked her to repeat this "call back" she used with her students as she modeled how to use the shortcut we set up. I video taped it because it was too cute not to.

I tried it today in a 3rd grade classroom and they picked it up pretty quickly. I would like to say I was as successful as the teacher in the video but alas I failed to model what "watching" looked like first (my mistake).

So, if you are going to use this call back make sure students know and practice what "watching" looks like before introducing it.

Christmas Music Composition Recommendation

Last night I attended a Christmas concert put on by the Marine Corps Band and it always..outstanding. My favorite piece was the one above called Minor Alterations - Christmas Through the Looking Glass composed by David Lovrien. It made me think of a Christmas themed circus (dark and light) as I was listening to it. The unusual remake or remix of all these iconic Christmas songs made it on my December music list for the classroom (for sale on iTunes for .99).

I thought I would share...since I had never heard of it until last night.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Technology Newsletter - November and December 2015

Each month I work on our department's monthly tech newsletter. It gets compiled from a variety of sources...resources/ideas from other tech coaches, upcoming technology support activities, blogs I follow, etc.

Just recently I added a project corner where I highlight three or so tech projects that either I have done with students, seen teachers do with students, or other coaches have done with students. It is definitely worth a look if you need any ideas for incorporating technology within the curriculum.

A lot of items are relevant to our district only but you should be able to skim and scan quickly to find items that might appeal to a wider audience.

Click on the following following newsletter links to view -

November 2015 Elementary Tech Newsletter
December 2015 Elementary Tech Newletter

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Student Peer Feedback

I was in a training class today where we were talking about how to teach students to give feedback. The instructor showed this video which features the evolution of a butterfly drawing a student completed after receiving peer feedback at various stages. The difference from start to finish was impressive! I loved the video and thought it would be something I would share with students (when teaching them the importance of feedback).

The instructor then had us go around the room and provide feedback on group projects. She had us use sticky notes BUT we had to write on the sticky side so that when we left the note it was face down as opposed to face that way people walking around couldn't copy each other's responses and the feedback was private. That was pretty awesome (yet another idea I would copy).

The feedback we left was "Praise, Question, Polish" - something you liked, a question you had, and a suggestion for improvement or something to think about. I made the suggestion to change it to "Praise, Pause, and Polish" - I like alliteration. The pause would mean  "pause and share a question you had".

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Keynote - Magic Move Lesson

I was working with fourth graders teaching them how to use their Keynote app prior to a big project they are going to be working on. I was looking up different ways to use Keynote and I came across the magic move feature on this YouTube video.  It was a feature I hadn't used before so I applied it to a mini lesson on pluralizing words that end in -f and -fe to -ves. The video above is one of the student's finished product. The only problem is sharing it loses the motion (darn!). We had to grade it by having students come up to us and showing us that they got the words correct and the motions to work. 

Persuasive/Argumentative Writing - 5th Grade

The other day I taught a persuasive/argumentative writing lesson...using three fifth grade classes. I was modeling how to integrate technology into a writing lesson. For the technology piece I used the new Promethean Classflow to deliver the lesson, I used to hook and engage the students, and I had students take a picture of the anchor charts I made (see pictures above) and taught them how to create an anchor chart album in their photos.

The lesson I taught was modified from a middle school lesson I found in the Classflow community on the topic that I thought was really good. The lesson can be found on Promethean Planet if you CLICK HERE.  The anchor charts were basically a play on four square writing (which the students were familiar with). I could have created the anchor charts on Classflow and had the students take pictures from that but I wanted to enter the Zaner-Bloser writing anchor chart contest I saw on We are Teachers on Facebook hence the above paper anchor charts :). 

I used a "Would you Rather" Kahoot to get students taking a side on a topic and arguing against the opposing side (the two I pulled from the Kahoot are would you rather attend Hogwarts or have a pet Sasquatch? and would you rather fly or read minds? was pretty fun to see how students argued the topics). Once the lesson was complete (approximately 20 minutes) students had 30 minutes to write to the following prompt - Would you rather be the smartest kid in the school or the best player on a sports team? They had 30 minutes because that is the time limit they will have on their end of year writing test. Most students did not finish in the time limit but they got some experience writing with a time limit and we got enough student samples to see who "got it" and those who need some extra help. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

My First Green Screen Video

I finally figured out how to do a Touchcast video...after lots of practice...and attending a webinar put on by the company. I used my Studio in a Box green screen to film it. After watching it learned I definitely won't be a YouTube star, and I need some lipstick, but it was pretty easy...once I had storyboarded the whole thing out (I used the remote app on my phone to control the camera...filming it by myself...I really like that feature!). Students would really have to plan out any video they made (not a strong suit for a lot of students but this would be good practice).

Now that I have an academic sample and worked through how to put it together I think I can train students. I would like to try something "bigger" like a morning show and I have one school that wants to try it.

Right now my only two questions I have (that I need to email the company) are: (1) Why isn't the poll at the end interactive? I tried clicking it and voting but nothing happened and (2) The teleprompter feature only works when it is facing the person. What do students do about reading a script if the camera isn't facing them?

Best "You're Late" Sign

I saw this at a school and thought it was a great way to keep children from walking in late by themselves.

The school blocks off the driveway forcing parents to pull into the parking lot and bring their child in.

Halloween Costume - Ms. Frizzle

We have a new local children's librarian who came as a guest judge for a Book-o-Ween costume party at one of our schools. I loved her Ms. Frizzle costume! I asked her how she made it and she said she found a blue dress at a Goodwill shop and then cut up a ocean themed shower curtain and used fabric glue to adhere it to the dress (she bought the lizard on Amazon...I forgot to ask her how she attached it). It was so cute I decided that this is my next craft project!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Space Camp for Teachers

In 2009, when I was teaching fourth grade math and science, I applied for, and got, a scholarship to attend Space Camp in Alabama. I had a great time (read my post in 2009 here) and used a lot of resources in my classroom. I even planned a potluck space night for parents (click here to read my post on a separate blog I kept up during my years as a classroom teacher) and got a grant for "build it yourself" telescopes. I love studying space and being able to go to Space Camp...for free...was a unbelievable PD opportunity. I made a video of all my pictures to share with folks who were in the program with me (click on the link above...or here if you want to see what it was like).

I'm writing a post about it because it is that time...time to apply for a scholarship! Each scholarship covers the following: tuition for the 5-day program at U.S. Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama; round trip airfare; meals and double occupancy accommodations; program materials; and...wait for it...a flight suit :)

To be considered to receive a scholarship you must be a current or practicing educator that is teaching science or math to students ages 10-14 years old and will continue to teach these subject areas through 2017.

Here are some things I remember....I was the lowest grade level represented...there were a lot of middle and high school teacher (so I felt a little overwhelmed on the intelligence level...but I was able to hang...barely :). The dorms we stayed in were COLD...I mean freezing. A teacher from Michigan (super skinny) had to put on her flight suit to keep warm during the night. I didn't even think of that. I shivered through my first night. I could have used a space blanket :). Those were the only two negatives everything else was fun and we were kept going from sunup to literally sundown (I remember the insane schedule!).

Anyway...if you are interested in applying the window open in November and here is the LINK if you want to apply (they try to pick teachers from every state...the year I applied I was one of two teachers in the state of SC to get the scholarship).

Friday, October 23, 2015

Studio in a Box

I am super excited...I finally got my Studio in a Box by TouchCast. I ordered it this past summer when I went to the ISTE conference in Philadelphia and attended a TouchCast session (read my rave review of that session HERE).

The session attendees were offered "Early Bird" pricing for this product with the understanding that they weren't finished in production yet (hence why it took awhile to get). The "Early Bird" price was $59 (fabulous price). I was hoping that my department would reimburse me for the purchase but apparently it is easier to get permission to buy something then it is to get reimbursed for something. I purchased it at the time knowing that I might have to absorb the cost and I was fine with that.

I bought it to evaluate it for school/teacher purchasing purposes. A lot of our schools and classrooms want to set up green screen rooms for projects and morning new programs and this looked like an inexpensive way to make that happen (in conjunction with the free and totally cool TouchCast app).

I am in the processes of setting it up and playing with it (look for annoying test video posts coming soon!) but I love it. I recently attended a webinar put on by TouchCast and I feel more confident using their software (we have one school using it to do their morning program and they love is a link to one of the morning programs that aired this week...they are working on the sound issue but you get the general gist).

During that webinar someone asked about the price and apparently they are still introducing it at the Early Bird price of $59. Please note that they do tack on $15 for shipping and handling but I still think it is a good deal at $75. I think the price is certainly reasonable for a school to set up a green screen studio. It isn't too bad for a single classroom to purchase either. I would definitely use grade level money (if that is an option), get a grant, or split the cost with another teacher if money is an issue.

To see a video of unboxing everything - CLICK HERE (I found it helpful when setting up my home studio). I am on the TouchCast email list and they sent a link to this video about how not to make a TouchCast video which I thought contained some really good advice - CLICK HERE.

I am hoping to start posting sample student projects soon so stay tuned!

Art Project/Report Presentation Idea

I saw these outside an art room in one of the schools I visit. I thought they were super adorable. The art teacher, Mrs. Thomas, incorporated large notecards into a project where students expressed their goals for the new school year. I loved the faces, the notecards, and the drawn hands on the side making them appear like they are being held.

I was thinking anything could go on those cards (they are much larger then the standard 4x6 notecards). Maybe a short report or book review? I was also wondering if the cards could be switched out throughout the year (the fingers on the cards were throwing me off when I started thinking along those lines). I thought I would pass the idea on in case some enterprising teacher wanted to try it out!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Green Screen App and Science

Today I worked with a Lego Lab teacher introducing the Green Screen App by Doink ($2.99) to students in grades 3-5. All of the iPads in this particular school have the app and are testing it for possible purchase on all our 3-5 iPads in the district.

Since today was an intro day we didn't get a lot of finished projects but the Lego Lab teacher and I created a sample project using content covered in the 4th grade (Solar System). To view the project CLICK HERE. One fourth grader did finish one project about going to Egypt that turned out pretty cute. To view that project CLICK HERE. I got silly with my sample project and became a reporter viewing the destruction of the Eiffel Tower. To view that project CLICK HERE.

The project idea came from the school's media specialist who saw it presented at ISTE this summer. She forwarded the Wiki site to us and we ran with it. The teacher got pizza boxes donated that we covered with green contact paper...until we ran out of it and then switched to green plastic party table cloths. We looked high and low for the green gloves she mentioned in her Wiki site but no dollar store - and we have a lot in our neck of the woods - carried those mythical green moisturizing gloves (I even checked their websites). I did find these stretchy green gloves at Walmart and purchased five pairs (see last picture).

Since we were working with small lego pieces it turns out that the green plastic straws she got at Publix worked best. Students taped the pieces to the straws using green painters tape and put the green gloves on just in case while manipulating their characters on the screen (we thought that paint stir sticks painted green might work as well).  

Students created a series of small videos...each a part of a larger movie...and saved them to the camera roll. Once all their mini scenes were finished we imported them into iMovie so we could add background music and sound effects.

Now that students have experience with the app the teacher is going to have them create content based green screen movies as their final project.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Science Center Rotations

Each summer our district puts on a three day Summer Institute for teachers. Those who attend get a $100/day stipend and re-certification credits. We have trainers across the district, the state, and consultants come in for those three days who run various classes. As tech coaches we are required to present at least two out of the three days. This year our training focus was to target technology integration into specific curriculum areas. Surprise, surprise...I choose science as my curriculum area.

I decided to train on Science Centers in the Classroom. I used the S.T.E.A.M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) as the model for my rotations (with each letter being the focus of a rotation).

For a complete copy of the presentation click HERE.  For a copy of the science center rotation instructions for each center click HERE.

If you are interested in adding science centers to your classroom you might want to consider a rotation focus (like the STEAM model). It really helps with planning and focus. A big question I got was how often do you do the rotations? You can do it however works for your class. When I did them in the class each station was a day (so it took the entire week to cycle through each station...but I had limited time with the students). I only did one week like that a unit because it took so much planning (it just depends on the teacher, the time, the resources, and the curriculum).

I had a teacher email me after the start of the year writing:

I was in your summer institute training for steam and utilized what I learned this past week. I wanted to share with you because my students and I both LOVED it!! My team is now doing them too and we are trying to integrate it into our social studies as well! So thanks!! I attached some pictures :)

FYI - It meant a lot that she emailed. A lot of times we never hear back from teachers and that email just about made my day!

Here were her pictures. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Glue in the Notebooks

This idea came across my news feed on Facebook and I loved the literacy connection to notebooking. Gluing is always an issue in the notebooks and this is a great way to introduce the problem of "too much glue". See the entire blog post about it HERE.

I am passing it along in the hopes someone finds it as helpful as I did.

Friday, July 10, 2015

ISTE Idea #1 - TouchCast

This was my "WOW" moment at ISTE and to think I might have missed it! 

When you sign up for an ISTE conference you register for three ticketed sessions. I didn't get any of the three I wanted (or any at all). Not sure why considering the rest of the people I was with got theirs. If you don't get a ticket to a session you can stand in a "wait list" line outside of the room and they open it up five minutes prior to people without tickets (if there is room - learned that lesson the hard way at ISTE in Atlanta last year). Anyway I lucked out on this trip and a random person gave me one of her tickets to a session that she couldn't go to and then my friend Beth gave me hers to this one - "TouchCast How to Make Interactive Touchable Videos"...she had opted for a different session offered at the same time...BIG MISTAKE (which being the good friend that I am texted that to her :).

Touchcast is a FREE app. It allows the user to:

Create an interactive presentation that mixes video with web content. The app lets you record a video and overlay elements such as web pages, maps,  photos, Twitter streams, polls, quizzes and more. Users watching the video can click on these multimedia elements and interact with them while the video continues to play .

This was such a cool app that I am dedicating a large portion of, what is left, of my summer vacation to playing with it. Imagine being able to make interactive videos where you can click on popups on the screen! I'm story boarding a book review video right now that I want to try out as my sample. 

At the session (which was sadly only an hour long) they broke us up in groups in the corners of the presentation room and had us work with TouchCast ambassadors (people who really knew what they were doing with the app). See picture below (I'm in the middle of the green screen shot on the screen).

I was also excited to see The Padcaster being used in the session (see this early post on The Padcaster). If you have a green screen the app has chroma key software built in. The break out session had my head spinning because there are a lot of features within this app...from chroma key to teleprompters to vapps to titles, etc...The ambassador assured us that if she, and her students, could do it that we could. She warned there would be a learning curve but I'm ready to take that on for such a cool product. 

I've already started reviewing their huge library of "how to" videos and can't wait to get started.

So that is it Top Ten ISTE Ideas for 2015. I am hoping that our budget will allow me to go to ISTE 2016, which will be held in Denver next summer. If ISTE is something you want to attend but you don't have the money you might want to consider THIS GRANT - which I wrote about last year. Sadly I am ineligible for the grant due to the nature of my job but any classroom teacher who works with students 70% of the time can apply. If you manage to go (and I manage to go) look for me on the first day of the conference (the opening keynote day) rocking this t-shirt and say hi!

ISTE Idea #2 - Random Poster Session Ideas

Before I get to the #1 ISTE Idea I was looking at my notes and ran across a few random ideas I got from the Poster Sessions (which is basically a walk around showcase environment where you can see a lot of projects in a short amount of time). None of them were giant IDEAS more like small ideas and thoughts about other people's projects that I wanted to look into and see how it could work in our schools (modifying as necessary).


One poster session hosted by Connecting Creativity had an "Out My Window" project that I really liked. Essentially students took a picture out their window...put it in some design app...they used PicMonkey...and wrote a poem based on the five themes of geography (they had to explain what those were to me...having never taught geography). I'm not sure I could sell that exact project to the teachers I work with but I definitely felt like it had modification potential. Several of our schools are allowing students to take home their iPads at the end of the day and teachers are going to need homework ideas. I thought I could modify the "Out My Window" project as a potential monthly homework assignment.


In another poster session I saw a student book review blog being showcased.  The middle school students wrote book reviews using a google form that got sent and published on a WordPress blog. I liked that they had the process thoroughly explained on their blog so a teacher could walk through the steps. Here were my thoughts that I wrote down...there is no way to publish a picture of the book (I would need to look into that because I think pictures are powerful and a book cover is more likely to generate interest in the review then just the text itself). If a teacher didn't want to blog her students reviews they could set the form to go straight to them (the teacher) - which is basically taking a book report and digitizing it (but I liked that it used less paper then a traditional book report and you can customize the questions in the book report form to get some high order answers). I asked about plagiarizing. Honestly we have a ton of students who would go to Good Reads or Amazon and copy and paste reviews. One of the presenters said...and I hadn't thought of this...if you suspect plagiarism you can copy and paste the review in a google search and see what comes up - once students know that can happen they might be less likely to copy and paste. Then I asked about certainly don't want a cruddy book review posted! The presenter suggested that all submissions go to the blog moderator before allowing for publication as a means of controlling quality and he also suggested...which I liked...that students have to "earn a blogging badge" before they are allowed to post to the blog. They would earn their badge but submitting samples of quality work.


Legos...I'm not a huge fan of them but they are quite popular in our schools from Lego Labs to Lego Robotics. So when I ran across this poster session I had to stop. These two presenters were from Australia and Mr. Gallagher was showcasing an extensive 16 week stop motion lego movie with his students (get this...ages 6 and 7!). He had picture books documenting the process on the table and he put together an iBook Case Study of the project that can be download for free. This was what impressed me (other then working with legos, stop motion animation, with students in K/1 grades ;) the end of the project the 25 minute movie was screened at a local theater that was booked out for the event (what a cool idea!). He put out a challenge school wide for classes to do a short lego stop motion movie and his kids voted on which one was the best and that became a "short" which was screened before their big movie. I downloaded the book...and forwarded the link to our Lego lovers and am thinking of ways to rent out a theater to showcase a massive student project.  

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

ISTE Idea #3 - Google Translate

I attend a Google Apps for the iPad at ISTE (click for full presentation) mainly because my boss asked me to. This year I have had a love/hate relationship with Google apps on the iPad (up until was hate) and I think she was trying to turn my thinking around mainly because we are a GAFE (Google Apps For Education) school district. However last year it seemed everything I wanted to do using Google with the iPads has been troublesome. For example, the Google Slides app wouldn't allow you to put in pictures. WHAT?!?!...You can imagine the four letter words I was thinking when I discovered THAT!. I couldn't get Google Classroom to play with the other apps (like Notability...which we use a lot with students). I pretty much gave up and have been promoting Edomodo as our classroom management platform, at least in our iPad classrooms (grades 3-5).

Thankfully I ran into several teachers/presenters at ISTE that assured me that these problems have been addressed and fixed (when the presenter mentioned the picture problem had been fixed there was an eruption of clapping in the apparently I wasn't the only one frustrated :). I haven't tried the PDF to Notability linkup yet but a teacher swears it works now. 

The presentation was a little overwhelming..she went through a lot of things - some of which I already knew (which is why I bookmarked her presentation because I started to zone out at the things I knew). I'm not going to lie though once she showed the Google Translate app I perked up and got distracted :). In my defense the two people I was with got distracted by something they thought was cool in the presentation (For my friend Beth it was the PhotoSphere App - where you can take 360 degree photos - and she proceeded to play with the app annoyingly while we were walking around Philadelphia. My friend Rebecca got distracted by Google Cardboard and was trying to figure out ways to use it with old iPod touches they have at their can't...which made her sad).

Back to Google Translate...

Several years ago I took a trip to Japan and it would have been the most useful app particularly when looking at signs and menus (although a reporter posted this YouTube video on her use of the app in that country). My favorite hole-in-the-wall Mexican place for lunch is Spanish only (I went the other day to try out the app only to find the only day they are closed!). 

It got me thinking of ways to use it in the classroom. We have a very high Spanish speaking population in several of our schools and I was wondering if students could point it to text and instructions and have them translate (I'm playing with that now with passages from ReadWorks). I also liked the voice translate and need to play with it with one of our Spanish speaking tech coaches to see how accurate it is - can we conduct a full conversation using the app? This BBC video on YouTube testing the app makes me think that it would only be useful in the most basic of conversations but that might be enough in the classroom. 

Once I have investigated it more I'll make a recommendation to have it added to to our app list in our schools and showcase how it is being used.   

Monday, July 6, 2015

ISTE Idea #4 - Text to Table (and Wordle)

This idea was presented at a Poster session titled "Unleash Cool Unknown Tools with Microsoft Word and OneNote." It wasn't on my list of Poster sessions to check out but I stopped in my tracks when I passed by her table and saw the presenter go over this Word feature I never knew existed and then she showed how it can be used in the classroom.

It is a feature in Word which is called Text-to-Table and it allows students, after typing their draft copy of a writing piece, to look at their document (for revision purposes) in a different way - by changing their paragraphs into single rows of text in a table.

Anyone who has taught children know that they HATE to review and revise their writing. They always think it is good on the first go round. I thought this was a unique way to teach students how to look at their writing line by line (in a table format), make their changes, and then revert it back to the paragraph form. 

The presenter (Gwynn Moore - click for her ISTE presentation) put together the instructional video above on how it works. To see the video on YouTube - CLICK HERE

This would be an idea for our middle and high school students (who have 1:1 Dell Tablets). I plan to pass it on to our literacy coaches in those areas to highlight its use in the classroom.

Where does Wordle come in? I was sharing this idea with another teacher in a session and she said she has had students copy and paste paragraphs of their writing in Wordle. The premise of Wordle is that the more you use a word the bigger it becomes in the Word Cloud. She has students look at those words that are large and asks them to look at overused words to see if they can make any changes to improve their writing. I thought that was a pretty original way to use Wordle in the classroom, and it went along with this post, so I included it. 

ISTE Idea - #5 - 100 Word Challenge

I saw this at a poster session and am very excited about getting some classrooms to try this 100 Word Challenge this coming year.

In a nutshell The 100 Word Challenge is for children under the age of 16. They are given a prompt and are allowed to use 100 words to produce a creative piece of writing (there is a 5 sentence challenge for younger writers). Prompts are given which can be anything from an image to a series of individual words. Students receive encouraging comments from their dedicated 100 Word Challenge Team and Peers.

It looks like in the past you had to have a blog and link back to the 100 Word Challenge but they posted this on their site:

"The new 100WC will launch in September 2015.  It will still be free to enter but you won’t have to have a blog to take part and for those of you who comment, all the posts will be in one place! So much easier! "

Not having to have a blog is definitely a big help in selling it to teachers...we don't have many dedicated classroom bloggers in our district. The sign up is free and it starts September 2015. I just signed up so I can get their emails.

I like the idea of using it for homework (middle schoolers take their tablets home and some schools are allowing the iPads to go home at the elementary level). At this point my only questions are will the site be available on the iPad and has the district blocked the website? I won't get those questions until we head back to school so I will keep you posted.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

ISTE Idea - #6 - Shutterfly Photo Story in the Classroom

This idea came from a Poster Session led by folks at Shutterfly. They have a Photo Story in the Classroom app for iPad and had several student sample book projects on hand to look through. 

I liked this much better then the Book Creator app we currently use. I've found the Book Creator app very difficult when it comes to sharing. You can upload it to Google Drive but it becomes a PDF with no fun book features (like flipping pages) and in order to share or purchase a book using Book Creator you have to download a secondary app (iBooks).

The Shutterfly app is much easier to use. Students can insert pictures, text, audio and easily share with an email address. If a parent or teacher wants to print out a project it is easy to order one through their program as low as $10 (the books pictured above were the 8x8 softcover books) or they can simply share for free with email.

The students will need an email address to signup but it can be a made up one because there is no email verification (I asked). We are a Google for Education school district so our students do have an email account. There are several how to use the app webinars on YouTube so you can check it out before you decide to download the app and use it in the classroom.  

Friday, July 3, 2015

ISTE Idea - #7 - Padcaster

This was by far the coolest "tech tool" on the Expo Hall. The tool is called The Padcaster and it turns your iPad into a video recording studio. My friend Beth (in the first picture) and I were fascinated by it because we both are interested in starting up/improving student morning shows and find ways that students can record "out in the field" with their iPads more professionally. Basically you get the frame and the hardware to mount accessories - like an external mike, lights, etc. There are lots of video on YouTube that review the Padcaster (although they really need one demonstrating its use in a school). The cost was doable - $399 with the understanding that you have to buy the auxiliary equipment (i.e. the tripod).

Beth got her principal to purchase two of them and they bought The Newscaster Bundle. They got a discount so I believe the total for the two was in the $800 range. They are going to need to get two tripods to get started.

The folks that were there conducting interviews were a separate company called BeTerrific and they were demonstrating the production end of opposed to the hardware end of things. Since we were interested in the production end of things we had a ton of questions for them which they gamely answered.

In a later session I attended the folks in that session used The Padcaster to demonstrate the use of their app - so I got to see it on the expo hall and in an independent session not tied to The Padcaster (see second picture).

I am excited that we have one school willing to try it out. If successful I should be able to convince other school's to invest.

ISTE Idea - #8 - Quizizz

Kahoot! was the most popular and used tool this year for classroom assessment. Students and teachers loved it. When I was at ISTE one of the sessions (Gifted Resources - @MrsMHenning) featured a similar product called Quizizz.

I liked that it didn't emphasize answering questions quickly like Kahoot but also gave you a FULL leader board - not just the top few students. It also allowed for a self-paced option for those children who need more time to look at their answer choices.

In an effort to "sell" it to my tech team I looked up the differences between Kahoot and Quizizz and came across this great blog post on the topic. Since we also have Pear Deck in our district it was a nice comparison.

I think teachers will still like to use to Kahoot! but it is nice that we have other options to share.

ISTE Idea - #9 - Mystery Skype

Last year I did my first Mystery Skype in the Classroom. I did a Mystery Number Skype with two first grade classrooms in my district (second picture). I first saw the idea on THIS BLOG and managed to talk two first grade teacher into trying it in their classrooms as part of their tech requirements for the district (our district requires 30 hours of tech training over a five year recertification cycle and documented proof of tech integration in the classroom). Since it was a first for everyone involved - both first grade teachers and myself - we thought this was the perfect starter project.

Everyone involved loved it...the teachers, the students, and us (the two tech coaches involved). The success of the experience made me want to try other Mystery Skyping sessions in the coming year so I was excited to attended a session on the topic at ISTE. 

The session was led by Katrina Keene (@teachintechgal and The presentation was outstanding (Here is a LINK to the presentation for anyone interested)! 

The first thing that impressed me was this video of kindergarten students doing a Mystery Skype session...all of the sessions were geographically in, "Guess where we are skyping you from?" The level of mapping skills the students used in this four minute video were impressive and had me HOOKED! (the video is also embedded into her presentation).

During the session itself we did two Mystery Skyping sessions. We did it with a group of 9th graders somewhere in the states on an summer exchange program (Florida) and we did it with a person who ended up being in Sweden. 

With the 9th graders questions were asked like, "Are you north or south of the Mason Dixon Line?" (they had to look that up). "Are you part of the original 13 colonies?", etc...We all had our maps up on our phones and other mobile devices trying to figure out where the other group was located based on all the questions. It was a lot of fun and was helpful going through an actual session.

This is definitely something I will be sharing with teachers this year and helping to set up.

ISTE Idea - #10 - BrainPop Concept Mapping

I used to use BrainPop a lot when I was in the classroom. Mainly I used it whole group as part of a lesson. I would show a video and then students would answer the questions on an erasable white board (and then later with our ActivExpressions). We had a classroom subscription at our grade level (we had three 4th grade teachers at the time). In our district BrainPop is not a district "given". If a school wants to purchase BrainPop they have to do it on their own. In my case we (our grade level) was given a certain amount of money to spend and this was one of the ways we chose to spend it (classroom subscription is $220).

At this time we were not 1:1 with our devices so a classroom subscription was sufficient.

The BrainPop workshop I attended was definitely eye opening because it is no longer the "old" BrainPop I was used to using. There is a lot more student interactivity, high order questioning, and tools built into the program that allow students to engage and use the material.

My favorite was their new Concept Mapping Tool. I was sitting next to a teacher and we talked about how in the past for web/map making we used "Kidspiration" and/or Word's "SmartArt" feature. This new feature took concept mapping skills to the next level in both content and design. It is hard to explain so to see it in action there is a video on their SITE.

We got to play around in the tool (see my first picture). I did mine on plants. I pulled up the BrainPop plants video...which then gave me a corresponding vocabulary and picture database (see the left of the screen on the first picture). I could drag and drop vocabulary (or add my own), include pictures, create linking arrows. The drag and drop vocabulary would automatically link to the portion of the video that explained the vocabulary term. You could watch the video - pause at a certain point - and then take a snapshot of that part of the video to include in your web. Once your web was done you can turn it into your teacher or save it to work on another day. It was quite impressive.

Here were some of my notes during the session -

- Does it work on iPads? We are 1:1 ipads in grades 3-5...I used my Dell Tablet in the session...which is what we have 1:1 in grades 6-12. I was told it is not supported on mobile devices at the moment. This wasn't too troublesome as most of our schools have computer labs that can be booked out. It could be used in the middle schools but not being supported on mobile devices it would make it a tough selling point at the elementary level. We currently use the Popplet App for mapping/web purposes but not to the level available through the BrainPop Mapping Tool.

- You would have to have a "school" subscription vs. a "classroom" subscription to use the tool. The school subscription would allow students to have their own accounts and turn in work (which is nice since we are going to a model where students can take their devices home). That is a huge cost jump though (from $220 to $1,695). Not sure how many school's would pay for that (and the tool is only for regular BrainPop not BrainPop, Jr. - although they had focus groups looking at mapping for younger children).

- Would our middle school's (who have Dell tablets...which aren't considered mobile devices) think it was too "baby'ish"? I didn't think the students would but the teachers that might be a tough sell at that level.

- You can't use any outside resources (i.e. pictures or links to other websites). You must use only BrainPop resources (which are pretty it wouldn't be that limiting).

All-in-all it was a pretty neat tool that I am keeping an eye on. If you already have a school subscription to BrainPop you definitely want to check it out. At a minimum BrainPop does provide their Concept Mapping video free so if you are teaching your students how to concept map you might want to book it for an introduction (I've done mind mapping with students in notebooks before and wrote about it HERE so I would definitely show the video before attempting again with students).

UPDATE: The BrainPop folks responded to this post (go BrainPop!) and they wrote that mobile Make-a-Map will be ready in the Fall. And, that if you don't have a subscription you can always make concept maps with our free movies! The Make-a-Map button is on every movie page. - Yay!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

ISTE - Tech Conference - The Rule of 10

I am very fortunate that I got to to attend the ISTE conference in Philadelphia this summer (International Society of Technology Educators). Whenever I go to a conference, depending on the size and length, I try to find at least ten usable ideas that I can bring back. A lot of times I "forget" the ideas once school/life gets going. In an attempt to remember I am going to write a series of posts 1 through this is my warning post :)