Tuesday, December 4, 2012

An EdTech Professional Development Pyramid

What is the most effective way to encourage/deliver/integrate edtech professional development? The layout of this infographic should come as no surprise to anyone. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

UNfortunately, gig sticks are still necessary. Fortunately, they can help transform your classroom!

Gig stick: aka, mini-USB drive, thumb drive, geek stick, flash drive, memory stick, jump drive, pen drive, I'm sure there are many more synonyms out there for this ubiquitous little device, which is not platform dependent.

First, let me say, I can't think of anything more uninspiring to be doing right now than writing a post about gig sticks. 

What I'm Reading Lately (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Mobile Learning Series: Overgram for great title slides...and poetry!

Overgram is a free app that I've been using for awhile on my iPhone because it can quickly add info or even humor to some of the pictures that I share through Twitter, Flickr, or even that I just text to friends. As an added bonus (for the Instagram crowd) they can also be shared through Instragram.  I recently loaded Overgram onto my students' iPads.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Logo Programming with Scratch - Let your students construct!

Let me start off with this caveat - Scratch is not a "sec" thing - it's more like a half an hour thing in terms of the initial prep.  With that said, I'll start singing the praises of this little program: it's fun, it will help your students construct and think in ways that make you want to sing, it's engaging, students become immersed in it, you will look at them in whole new ways!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Blooms Wheel and Blooms words - plan your activities thoughtfully

Blooms taxonomy has been around for a long time, and educators have found many creative ways to use it.  One way that I find it to be the most useful is in writing learning objectives.  In my mind, I have an idea of what I'd like students to know at the end of a lesson or activity, but using Blooms words helps me to really be specific about what kind of learning I'd like to happen, and then I can start planning for how to make that happen.

Monday, November 26, 2012

GoAnimate - a quick way to teach (and re-teach) quick ideas

GoAnimate is another one of those great free web tools that have the potential to bring your lessons to life.  It's one of those tools I really love because it creates immediate engagement, is useful for all kinds of topics, all kinds of lessons, and all age levels, and it's very very fast and easy!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Mobile Learning Series: Educreations - creating instructional resources on the fly!

Educreations is an app that makes doing a SmartBoard style lesson easy enough to do on the fly and also keeps it easy by allowing you to capture and share any portion of your lesson.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

What I've Been Using Lately - ProPrompter

Awhile back, I wrote about a very handy web tool called CuePrompter that allowed you to type or paste text into a screen, and it would work just like a teleprompter on your computer screen, allowing the user to adjust the color, size, and speed of the text as it scrolled.  This handy tool transformed our classroom-produced videos and took us to a whole new level of "polished".

Last year, when we switched our 1:1 program to iPads, we would still use CuePrompter on the one spare laptop I had.  Students filmed with their iPads, but could still copy, paste, and read script from the laptop.  However, our laptops are getting pretty thin around these parts - the few spares we have are often in use elsewhere, and the fleet is not working too well.  But what we have coming out of our ears is iPads!  I have written before about how the iPads are posing new and interesting challenges to us to be able to find work-arounds to be able to do the same things we used to do on laptops.

The newest workaround is a great app we purchased called ProPrompter.  It works a lot like CuePrompter, but is NOT free.  ProPrompter is one of the more expensive apps we have purchased, but if you are at all like us, and create videos and multimedia frequently with your iPads, it is worth it! ProPrompter was developed by Bodelin Technologies, which is a professional teleprompter manufacturer.

ProPrompter is really simple to use.  In the Scripts menu, just push the plus button and paste in your script (one you wrote on the iPad, or one you emailed to yourself).  The settings button offers easy options for setting countdown, orientation, type of script, speed, colors, etc. It also has a handy remote feature - if someone nearby has a script in their ProPrompter app on their iPad, you can share scripts remotely.  This is handy if two students are working on a project together.

ProPrompter marks yet another successful workaround for our iPads - this time in the form of an app!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Running Low on Excuses - Discovering the Technology Integration Matrix

It's hard to believe, but at this late date in the year 2012, many of our schools still have a long way to go in terms of integrating technologies into our classrooms.  However, with the advent of new devices and web tools, along with a host of new research and publishing of best practices, the path is getting more obvious and accessible all the time.  Schools are running low on excuses for not taking the tech leap.

A new tool that really lays out a clear path is one I discovered last year, that I believe can become a really valuable resource to teachers, schools, and districts. It's called the Technology Integration Matrix. It was developed by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology, and the purpose of the matrix is to help teachers and schools of students in k-12 learn the stages of technology integration that seem to be most effective with student learning. I think that for teachers who struggle with technology - those who are tentative or fearful, a tool like this can be a real game changer.  In a sense, it is a tool that holds your hand through the process, and calms reservations and fears like, "am I doing this right?"

Even better is the interactive format in which the matrix is constructed.  Each cell in the matrix has at least one or more videos which illustrate the integration of technology in classrooms where only a few computers are available and/or classrooms where every student has access to a laptop computer. For schools or teachers who hesitate because of lack of access, this is a fantastic feature!

Besides just suggesting ideas, the matrix has built in models for teachers to explore specific ways technology can be integrated meaningfully into the classroom.

To date, this is one of the best resources I have found on the web for technology integration in education.  Please help get the word out to teachers and schools about this great resource! 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

What I've Been Using Lately - Screen Casts

I know I know, screen casts are nothing new.  I've been teaching middle school students how to use them for several years now.

Usually at some point during the year, almost every student in one of my tech classes wants to share with me about a new tool they have found that they are very excited about.  Enter - screen casting! This is really an ideal time to show them how to screen cast, and then have them create a screen cast showing off their new tool, and describe how they are using it.  They share these with their class mates, post them on their blogs - fun all around.

I don't know why it's taken me so long, but last year it finally occurred to me that I was spending way too much time searching around YouTube and Vimeo for the perfect short instructional videos to post on my course sites.  One day that bell went off in my head and I said, "Duh, make your own!" I have been a screen casting fool ever since. Here's an example of one of my Hollywood-worthy screen casts about adding a gadget in Blogger.

Why is screen casting better than making a regular instructional video?

One word - time.

I've made plenty of regular instructional videos over the years using my camera and iMovie, and I love them and reuse them at every opportunity.  However, the main downside is, they are more time consuming to make.

It takes very little planning to make a good screen cast. Here are the stages for making a basic screen cast:
1. have a general outline of talking points - if you don't, a lot of your screen cast will be sounds of you going, "aaaaand, uuuummmmm, sooooo," and so forth.
2. Have the pages and tabs you are going to use already open. No sense wasting screen cast time waiting for your lethargic browser to load a page.
3. Keep it short - focus your screen cast on ONE thing.  This is infinitely more useful for students, and far more flexible for you in terms of being able to use the screen cast over again.

What to use?
Nowadays I primarily use Screencast-o-Matic, because it's easy and free.  However, there are other good tools out there. Two others I have used quite a bit are Jing and Screenr - both very easy to use.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Want to increase reading comprehension and engagement? Try making a Book Trailer

Let's face it - book reports are a thing of the past. They are boring to write and boring to read. It's one of those activities that sucks the life out of a a great book for the student, and doesn't give a teacher any more information than what a short discussion or a few quick comprehension questions could address.

However, just because a student has read a book doesn't guarantee a depth of understanding - that's why we do lots of comprehension activities and formative assessments as we go along. But when they are all done, how do we know what they got out of that?

One way to help teachers understand, and to help students engage more deeply with the reading and understand the importance of the elements of literature, is to have them create Book Trailers. 

Book Trailers for Readers is actually a site I found awhile back that contains pre-made book trailers for kids to watch - they are like watching a movie trailer to get you excited about watching a movie.  I used to show them in class once in awhile to build anticipation for a new novel we were about to read.

Book Trailers for Readers also features trailers created and submitted by students. They even have a slideshow (Prezi) that helps show kids how to do it.
Last year, my junior high students started making their own - here's what we did:

1. We reviewed many of the book trailers on the Book Trailers for Readers site, as well as their "How To" page and documentation. We looked for elements they had in common (narrator taking on the 1st person voice of the main character, asking leading questions or making leading statements, setting the scene, building anticipation to the "conflict" point in the story and not going beyond that, use of images, sound, etc.). We used these to develop a checklist of elements crucial to a good book trailer.
2. We built a book trailer as a class using a novel we had recently read.  We used a story board to plan the video and plugged in some of the elements we wanted to use.  Students took on the jobs of script writing, gathering images, narration, filming, finding sounds, etc.We put it all together in iMovie and that was it. As a class we were able to complete this in about 2 class periods.
3. Students selected a favorite book from class from the past year (it's ok if some selected the same), and went through the same process to build their own book trailers - they had to peer review at points along the way.
4. Once everyone had the idea, they looked forward to making book trailers about much of the literature we were studying in class. 

Book trailers are a great way to encourage students' creativity and enthusiasm for reading, and also help them to spread the word about great reads!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What I've Been Using Lately - BibMe

In an attempt to try to be more regular with my postings, I'm going to initiate a series called "What I've Been Using Lately".  This will mainly feature tools that I find myself using often and transparently either with my own prep work or with students.  I have many of these kinds of tools in my arsenal, and over the past few years I've written about many of them in this blog.  It struck me as I looked through my archives recently that many of the tools and techniques I've featured here are ones I still use - I would call those kinds of tools "worth it".

So today, I'm going to highlight a great little tool that English teachers probably hate but that I LOVE!  It's called BibMe and the sole purpose of the site is to help users create bibliographies in MLA or APA format.  Now I learned how to do all of this stuff the hard way back in high school, but after college, my need for such skills kind went way down.  However, now that I am once again taking courses, as well as publishing once in awhile, I do have a need.  Granted, once you learn the system, citing your sources is not all that difficult, but it is time consuming. Besides the usual - books, magazines, newspapers, websites, journals and films - BibMe makes it easy to cite weird sources like interviews, lectures, radio and tv shows, encyclopedia entries, and even photographs.

BibMe searches lots of internet databases so you have to do very little, if any, entry yourself.  Citing a website? Just copy and paste in the URL. Citing a book or journal? Type in the ISBN. Citing an article or something where you don't know the ISBN? Just type in the title and author.  BibMe is fairly accurate at coming up with what you're looking for.

Best of all, if you sign up for a free account with BibMe, it keeps a list of all of the sources you've listed in your account, so you can go back to them any time.  Even if you don't sign up for an account, it still keeps a listing of your works cited for quite awhile.  BibMe allows you the option to download your lists to Word as well. 

With the click of a button, BibMe will change formatting between APA and MLA - simple!

Citing sources can be a time consuming process. I would say that if your high school students have a good handle on how these formats are supposed to look, let them use BibMe!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Beginning to use QR Codes - some quick ideas

I'll admit QR codes were a bit of a mystery to me until recently.  I've seen the funny little codes in magazines and advertisements, and I understood that if you had an app on your phone you could scan them and get...somewhere.  Beyond that I didn't give them much thought. However, it seems I've been reading about them everywhere recently and they really can have some practical uses - even in the classroom.

The first thing I did was get a free QR reader app for my iPhone - I got one called Qrafter.

This app is pretty basic - touch it, hold your phone over a code and it automatically scans and takes you to the site.  Handy. I read an article that talked about how easy it was to generate your own QR codes for a website - another free app called QR Code Maker (for iPad on iTunes).  It's a little glitchy, but when you put in a URL it will generate a nice code every single time.  You don't need an app or a mobile device to generate codes - you can make them for free online at many sites. I made a code for my class blog page, which is my central site for all of my courses.  I printed it out on a big page and hung it on my classroom door.

Then I decided that since those apps were free (and easy), I'd put them on my middle school students' iPads - also easy.  The kids had seen the codes before.  The first thing they did was use the reader on my code I'd put by the door. That was the extent of that learning curve.

A few weeks ago the kids had done some art projects - in the process they documented their work with pictures and video, and later narrated their process and edited these to make personal art documentaries.  They had posted these short films on their blogs.  The finished artwork is hanging up in my classroom.  The students went to the blog posts they'd made of their documentaries and used the URL's to make QR codes on their new iPad app, QR Code Maker.  They printed out small codes, and tacked them to the side of their artwork.  Now the students with their iPads, and visitors with phone scanners, can scan the code next to their artwork and connect immediately to a video the students created which documents the process they went through in creating that piece of art.

WHY SHOULD YOU TRY THIS? This can be a great way to "go deeper" into student work - especially when they are working on projects that may involve skills, performance and various creations.  QR codes are a simple link that can help a student put physical and virtual elements together.  They can bring the depth of a project to a virtual and a physical audience.

My middle school students are currently working on a research project in which they are using some old photos displayed in the school and creating web pages about those photos that expand the information with their research.  They will create QR's for those pages that we can attach to the photos in the hall.  Visitors to our school will then have a way of learning more about the old photographs and our local history.

In the meantime, the kids are really getting into generating codes for their blogs - maybe a little overboard...

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Disrupt their thinking - teaching students about propaganda

Digital media may be the single largest divider that defines the gap in generations today.  Kids grow up now consuming far more digital media in the forms of online videos, games, and even television, than my generation ever did.  A reading skill I developed as I matured was the ability to be able to be a discriminating consumer of what I read - but it was so much easier back then!  We could neatly categorize advertisements, opinion pieces, political rhetoric, etc. The techniques weren't that tricky to spot.  One only need to read the back cover of a book and a little "about the author" to be able to figure out what might be the underlying point of view or message of a novel.  What kids "consume" today looks radically different, and can no longer be neatly categorized.  YouTube brings them videos for entertainment and information, but the "about the author", if it even exists, is not as helpful, and often they know nothing about the messenger.  Videos go viral - if everyone is watching them that means they're good, right?  The messages are many, and mixed.

In my middle school technology course, I spend a lot of time teaching kids how to create impactful messages using video.  There is a lot of noise out there, and if they want their message to be heard, there are techniques they need to be able to use skillfully to give it a chance.  In much the same way it is also equally important that they are able to be good, discerning, and critical consumers of what they see.

A new UK website, Digital Disruption, is beginning to be a great resource for helping to teach this important way of thinking and awareness to kids.

Digital Disruption is a website aimed specifically at teens, and focuses on 7 commonly used propaganda techniques in video.  Students are then given a series of simple but thought provoking polling questions - asking them things like if they would share the video they just saw.  The site accepts contributions of actual YouTube videos to use in its lessons, which is very useful for teaching this at a realistic level.

The lessons first introduce students to common propaganda techniques, then move on to a series of thoughtful lessons using actual videos.  Discussion suggestions, activities, and polls are given - all of which help to create an awareness and a savviness among the students.  It may not make them experts on propaganda, but the Digital Disruption headline question, "Who Owns Truth", surely gets them thinking more critically about what they view.

It's important that we teach kids that they need to learn how to use the internet, and not let the internet use them.  Tools like Digital Disruption are going to become a necessity for teachers and parents to have in their toolbox. Kids need our guidance - and this particular skill, or awareness, is something we have to mindfully teach -we simply cannot expect our students to figure this one out on their own.  When it comes to the digital media our kids consume on a regular basis, it's crucial that they understand "No One Owns Truth".