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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

From East to West, and a Mid-Year Journey Checkup

It does not seem possible that I've reached the middle of my first school year with Shelby, but here we are.  On my first day back from winter break, I will officially leave East Middle to start my embedded visit at West Middle.  To Mrs. Martin and the rest of the staff and teachers of East Middle, thank you for your hospitality and your willingness to attend so many PD sessions.  As for West, I'm already intrigued to see your library's Genius Bar in person!

A photo posted by The WMS Library (@thewmslibrary) on
As part of my mid-year reflection of considering my impact since starting at Shelby, I've examined some numbers and I'm surprised and invigorated.  Numbers alone can't tell an entire story, of course -- the personal emails I've received and the hearty in-person handshakes and head nods of thanks and shares of your personal stories of edtech success go a long way, too.  However, since I sorta-kinda gave myself a goal of reaching 2500 views on my blog by the end of the year, I thought now would be a good opportunity to look at several metrics.  At the genuine risk and probable likelihood of achieving a #humblebrag, here we go!

  • As of today, I have cleared over 4000 total views to Edtech Elixers.  It took me from August to  October to hit my first 1000, but since then I have averaged over 1500 a month. Considering only about 700 of those views came from my mom, I'll consider that a success!  I hope at least a few dozen of you have stuck around as regular readers.
  • As I approach my 3 year Twitterversary, I realize I am definitely more active on Twitter.  As of several days ago, I passed the 2000 tweet milestone.  (To put that in perspective, it took me 26 months to reach 1000 tweets.  My next 1000 took nine months.)
  • On August 9 of this year, I got my 300th Follower on Twitter.  Since then, I've acquired many more at a rapid rate (in no small part thanks to Shelby educators!) and got Follower 500 on December 13.  My first 300 Followers took 2 1/2 years, but I'm well on track to doubling that amount in six months.
  • I've just begun utilizing Google Plus, and my numbers there (11 followers) reveal I have a long way to go to rival my other social media areas.  However, I'm already grateful for learning from Google Circle communities such as GEG Kentucky, and thanks to Renee Boss, I recently had my first Google Hangout video chat.  (Quick plug for Renee: check out The Fund Kentucky, the subject of our Hangout.  It has interesting outreach opportunities for both individual teachers and districts -- including grants!)
There is a lot of work ahead in 2015.  Besides completing my embedded tour with Shelby schools, we must plan for the beginning of our student 1:1 initiative rollout.  I also have some professional development opportunities on the horizon, including a few presentations I will lead at KySTE in March.  And of course, I hope that Edtech Elixirs continues to be a valuable and entertaining source of information.   I am definitely in a mindset of growth as I will do my best to absorb all outside wisdom, advice, and knowledge to enrich myself and others.

But that is all to come.  As the last hours of 2014 tick down, I wish you and yours a happy and safe New Year 2015!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

SCHS Media Arts Showcase

As our Shelby County winter break begins, I wanted to highlight a special occasion that occurred last Thursday night, and in the process give Jacinta Newsome a #ShelbyTUITshoutout.  Her two Shelby County High School multimedia classes,  along with a few other Shelby County students, presented their multimedia work for the public.  I was flattered and excited to be a judge to help score student presentations, along with some other Shelby County colleagues: Ryan Allan (our district PR person and voice behind its social media), Julie Webb (LMS of SCHS), and Lee Louden (our network guru).  Kathie Wrightson, a SCHS teacher who got her own shoutout recently, also helped Jacinta in orchestrating the showcase.

Here would be a good point to give a hurrah to Matt Simons.  Resulting from a request from Jacinta for help, I reached out through a Kentucky tech leader listserv looking for tips and assistance on running a digital showcase.  Matt contacted me and generously offered his workplace facility Creative-Image Technologies as a host location for the showcase.  (C-IT is responsible for installing much of Shelby County's intelligent classroom edtech, as well as offering training sessions to our district personnel, as I wrote about in a previous post.)   It is a beautiful and modern environment to highlight student work, and we were very fortunate for the opportunity.

Each judge met with about ten students, who presented their work one at a time in a different room in C-IT. When they finished, judges and the audience were encouraged to ask questions; each judge was to assess the product and presentation using a rubric provided by Jacinta.  Her instructions were clear: hold the students and their work to a high standard, so the feedback would help them grow.

And the work was impressive.  Students presented everything from video games to digital magazines to music (in appropriately designed CD cases) to short films.  Here are some pictures of the evening taken by Gerald Tegarden, a Yearbook staff member at SCHS.

A screenshot of a video game created by Jaime Rosales (junior, SCHS).

Brenna Gargan (senior, SCHS) presents her digital literary magazine.
Morgan Allen (senior, SCHS; pictured on screen) filmed a documentary about "true beauty."
A certain judge/blog writer looks at a logo from Barby Womack (sophomore, SCHS). Her project was a film about love, cleverly interviewing and editing together the responses of four couples.
Of the work I judged, one of my favorites was a short film by Cole Ivey.  Not only did he compose the music, but Cole shot and edited the video.




Congratulations to all the students who presented work, demonstrating the passion, ambition, leadership, and creativity of Shelby County youth. Thanks again to Matt Simons and C-IT. And a tip of the hat to Jacinta Newsome for providing her students with an authentic learning experience!

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Hour of Code in Shelby County

As many of you know, we are at the end of Computer Science Education Week, when students worldwide have been challenged to complete an #HourOfCode.   Programming is not only for future computer science majors.  As the Steve Jobs quote at the beginning of this video reminds us, "Everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer...because it teaches you how to think."



President Obama made history by being the first President to participate:

Of course, coding is a gender-neutral endeavor, not just "for the boys."  As a father of two daughters, I am heartened to see the efforts of others (and websites like this) that give young female programmers a starting nudge.  After all, as this tweet reminds us:

 Computer programming may seem daunting at first, but from small beginnings big things come.  Websites  like Code.org offer fantastic resources -- for free! -- that teach coding in modular small steps that even our youngest students can learn from.

While at East Middle, I knew that Amber Hall taught a technology class to 6th and 7th graders, so I asked if I could slide on by.  Sure enough, she was having her students use Code.org to independently practice code.  The website allows the teacher to create accounts for the students and monitor their progress as they complete modules.  The students were incredibly engaged and dedicated to making their programs work.  For many of the lessons, it involves moving your game-like avatar around the screen in a prescribed way.  The code algorithms are "drag and drop" elements that can easily be rearranged, although the actual code can be seen with a click, much in the same way that the "compose" in Blogger shows "what you see is what you get," but you can click on the HTML button to see the underlying code.

An example from a student's Code.org screen. (from Heather McCall's class, SCHS)


Here is a tweet from Amber showing her students in action:

Amber is enthusiastic to receive some new Windows laptops in January so that she can have students assemble and program robots, using the same basic code algorithms they are practicing now.  Awesome stuff.

Earlier in the week, I emailed and tweeted out to Shelby County teachers to share their Hour of Code stories and pictures.  Here are some of their responses!

Valerie Ricchio at the Shelby County Area Technical Center had her students do an Hour of Code.

Laura Smith at West Middle is having her 6th and 7th graders in Robotics program their robots to move around.

Lest you think programming is only for middle and high school students, here's a Clear Creek Elementary student programming with the Smartboard, shared by LMS Vicki Stoltz:


Vicki also created a Symbaloo webmix of coding sites.

Heather McCall, an Engineering teacher at Shelby County High School, has her freshmen through senior students do programming all year long.  "We use ROBOTC to program motors and use input sensors to create robots and machines to accomplish different tasks. In Computer Integrated Manufacturing we program a CNC machine to mill parts out of wood or polycarbonate materials using G&M codes and AutoCAD for 3D modeling."   Here are some of Heather's tweets:


Let us come full circle back to East Middle. Using a class set of iPads, the students of Tina Eden (7th Grade Science) and Terry Walther have written over 6000 lines of code this week in an "Flappy Bird" coding program:





As a final tribute, here's' a Magisto video to Shelby County Hour of Code 2014!

The week may be ending, but that's no reason to stop teaching computer science and programming.  The free curriculum is out there, so keep using it!  Don't stress out if students know more than you do; learn beside them and let them teach you.  Take a breath and remember:

From http://sd.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/i/keep-calm-and-carry-on-coding-100.png
A very special #ShelbyTUITshoutout to all of the above educators, and thank you for sharing your stories!






Thursday, December 11, 2014

Flipping Your Classroom: A Reflective Checklist

Flipping the classroom has been on my mind for a few reasons.  Firstly, I am leading a PD on flipping and blending at East Middle School next week.  Secondly, Heather Bell from Collins High School emailed me today looking for some resources and guidance in flipping her classroom.  As I pondered and put together my response, I realized that sharing some of that information on Edtech Elixirs might be helpful to others.  So thank you Heather for inspiring this entry!

From the perspective of edtech tools, here is a Prezi I made on that very subject.  Along with some general pointers and resources, I discuss how Khan Academy, EDpuzzle, ShowMe, Flipgrid and Youtube can be your technological allies for flipping.

But as I've often said, tools are just that -- tools.  They are only a means to an end.  What you want to be careful about is how and why you are flipping your classroom.  Why change the paradigm?  How will it meet your learning objectives more effectively, especially if following a workshop model?  Additionally, be careful of replicating ineffective teaching practice in new emperor's clothing.  If you lecture in class for 45 minutes in a 102 slide PowerPoint without discussion or interaction or a break, and you decide to flip your classroom by recording and uploading a 45 minute video of yourself just staring into a web camera and talking and talking and talking.....well, it's likely the same students that tune out at school will not stay focused for the experience at home.  (At the very least, go shorter and include visuals!)   The trick as always is to find ways that technology in general and "flipping edtech" specifically can transform your teaching into something different and more impactful on learning.

Tools aside, if you are considering flipping your classroom, here is a reflective checklist for you to use. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • "What's the best use of your face-to-face class time?" The quote comes from Jon Bergmann (see note and links below), a pioneer in flipped classroom instruction.  The heart of this question is the "why" of flipping.  Before you worry about edtech tools or the logistics of recording, make a list of what you would hope to do more of between the bells, so you can determine what you might be able to reschedule for outside the brick and mortar of a school.
  • What will be the learning content you will flip for home?  For many, this will be some kind of video, either one you make or one already made (Khan Academy, TED, etc.).   There are other options, however.  For example, have students watch a Prezi of yours, perhaps with embedded audio made by you that narrates each movement of the “slides.”  Or the students experience an online science simulation game. The key is some kind of content delivery and/or hook to get them interested in the learning to come. Note: as a rule of thumb, don’t make a video/presentation any longer than what you would expect them to handle in one sitting as a lecture in your class.  (In fact, Bergmann and his partner Aaron Sams recommend the length to be 1 to 1 1/2 minutes per grade level; therefore an average 12th grader video would be about 15 minutes long.)   Without you as an in-person guide, having students watch long videos will probably make them stray and lose focus. Obviously, anything flipped for home that can be made interactive will keep them more involved.
  • Be honest to yourself about the time commitment.   When preparing flipped material, it will take longer to plan and prepare instruction -- especially at first.  But there's good news.  Flipped material will be reused in the semesters and school years to come, and you are saving class time delivering content in order to spend more time workshopping with students as they apply and refine their knowledge.
  • Where will you put the flipped material?  If you don't have a site that pairs with your finished product (for example, Prezi and ShowMe), you could put it on your own website or LMS (Learning Management System, like Edmodo or Canvas by Instructure).  Just make it easy to access. I should point out that putting your videos on your own YouTube channel (like this) not only makes it easy for students to find and play them (it's in the same place all year long), but gives you other teaching tools, such as making playlists and Liking videos you might share with students.
  • How will you make them accountable?  Don’t make it overwhelming, but have them commit to some kind of meaningful action before coming to class. Note the "meaningful" part; as in class, if it feels simply like a compliance tool or a lower order thinking worksheet that can be easily Googled and cheated on, consider other options.  It could be a short reflection tool, as 6th grade math teacher Mary Lohr from Oldham County uses (also see links in the Prezi above).   Or it could be to answer higher order embedded questions while they watch the video, which you can do with a tool like EDpuzzle.  Be firm in this as you would any other "legitimate" homework (it is assessed, it is collected, it is required, it gets feedback and returned).  If they have issues with Internet access at home, see below.
  • How will you address tech equity?   Do all students have some kind of device and Internet access at home?  If they do not, see what arrangements they can make to use the library’s computers before or after school, or stop by your classroom during lunch to use a class iPad while eating.   (For some districts, this is a widespread, pressing and valid issue.  Be aware of your community's reality and adjust your flip plan accordingly.)
  • What if they don’t do it?  The whole point of flipping is to save time by doing content delivery for homework and spending classtime DOING and APPLYING.  Have clearly communicated consequences and remedies for those that don’t do your flipped (home)work, while honoring those that did what they were supposed to do.  For example, If you simply end up playing the video for the whole class at the beginning, you will teach students to not waste time doing it at home….and cut into precious workshop time.  Perhaps the handful of students watch the video on personal devices and headphones while the rest of the class workshops; later, you drop a polite note to home, asking if there's anything you can do to help the student successfully complete their important homework.  Point out that by not watching the video, it takes away from one-on-one time in class with you, where you can make the most difference in their learning.

If you have advice on flipping or blending your classroom, or integrate edtech tools that are helpful, please tell us about it in the Comments below.

Note on revisions to entry:
12/17/14: After publishing this article, I found a very enlightening series of flipping/blending articles on Edutopia by Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams.  One of these discusses how to get ALL participants -- teachers, students, parents, administrators -- on board with flipping and blending.  It's a great read and a wonderful start to their related articles.  You should also check out their website here.

4/27/15:  I inserted a recommended length of flipped videos, a link to Sams and Bergmann's website above, and added Bergmann's quote about the best use of classtime as the first bulleted question.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

TUIT: Mindi Keiner-Rummel, EMS

Mindi Keiner-Rummel is a veteran educator.  In her 23 year career she has been a teacher, counselor, and administrator. Mrs. Keiner-Rummel has been at East Middle School since 2005, mainly in the role of ECE teacher, but also recently as a Math Intervention specialist.

Mindi is also proof that even after more than two decades in education, you should never stop learning and growing . . . particularly in edtech, which is why she is getting a #ShelbyTUITshoutout.  To help her team of teachers gather data on students, she created a Google Form for the first time.  Now they can easily submit observation data on the fly, and the information goes to the Form's Google Sheet for later analysis by Mindi.  Additionally, she is using Symbaloo.  Mrs. Keiner-Rummel first saw it in a differentiated instruction/ELL PD that I had at EMS, and realized its potential for organizing and sharing resources with others in a graphical interface.

Symbaloo is a free and easy tool to use.  You create a "webmix" of resources by making tiles that are directly linked to URLs.  (No long web addresses to type -- just click and go!) The tiles can be customizable in different colors and icons.  Once ready, you can publish the webmix and share the URL for others to visit.  You can edit it as often as you like.  Symbaloo can help with DI. Imagine color-coding tiles red for one group of students, blue for another, and so on; when students visit the webmix, they know what resources/content/activities they are to click on by what color grouping the teacher has assigned.   Of course, you can make many different webmixes: one for each period, for each grade level, etc.  It should be noted that Symbaloo is not limited to webmixes created by teachers. Here is a popular video made by a 7th grader where she discusses using Symbaloo to organize her "personal learning environment" (PLE):



Mindi has been working on a Symbaloo with math sites her colleagues can use. Click and check it out!  Again, it is a work in progress, but already has several useful sites for middle school math.

Mrs. Keiner-Rummel inspired me to finally make my own Symbaloo.  So here's a "Greatest Hits" of my favorite edtech from my various presentations and blog entries so far.  Note the deliberate arrangement of the tiles.  On the left side is student productivity tools, top center is apps, bottom center is data collection/formative assessment tools that create reports and allow tracking of performance, and the right side is tools that help a teacher better organize or manage their classroom environment. (When you are the creator of the webmix, Symbaloo gives you an embed code to plug it directly into your website, as I've done below.)


Congrats to Mindi for her well deserved #ShelbyTUITshoutout!





Monday, December 8, 2014

ACE Test

In the previous entry, I mentioned my ACE Test in passing.  But since I hadn't yet explained the ACE Test in more detail on my blog, I thought I would take today's entry to do so.

As a Technology Integration Coach, I peruse a good amount of edtech tools.  The struggle, however, is to find tools that are pragmatic enough for actual "in the field" teachers.  To me, there are three main areas of consideration:

  • Is the tool device agnostic?  In other words, will it work on any device that has Internet access, regardless of the device's OS?  Or is it limited? (For example, an app only available on iPads.)
  • How much does it cost?  Free is obviously best for schools and/or individual teachers.
  • How easy is it to learn?  Time is precious for a classroom teacher, and a tool that requires a large investment of operational practice may be a concern.
Taking the first letter of a key word from each area -- Agnostic, Cost, Easy -- I came up with ACE.  By rating the tool on a scale of 1 to 4 in each area (4 being best), we can determine an overall pragmatic score.



I have used the word "pragmatic" twice so far in this entry, and the emphasis is important.  The ACE Test is only meant to judge how easy or burdensome it may be to incorporate that tool into a classroom.  It is NOT meant to assess how the tool meets specific learning objectives, which of course should be the primary consideration of any edtech tool; no standardized test could determine such a unique need.  (Only the teacher can judge if a tool would help meet the objective of her third lesson in Unit Two of her 7th grade math class.)  Also, if the teacher feels an edtech tool would have a unique and significant impact on learning, it may still be worth it despite a low ACE score.  I think of Shakespeare in Bits as an example. I loved integrating SIB when we read a Shakespeare text in my classroom; it allowed for personalized learning and self-directed pacing, tons of explanatory resources, and most students highly enjoyed it.   However, even though it met my learning objectives well, it would have scored low in the ACE test.  I needed to check out an iPad class cart for a few weeks to use SIB, and the app costs $14.99 per device. (It should be noted that SIB now has a Windows and Mac desktop solution, but the cost could still be considered prohibitive for some.)

Let's take Evernote as an ACE Test example.
  • Is it device agnostic?  Yes! You can access Evernote from any browser with an Internet connection, as well as iOS, Android, and even Windows mobile apps.  It definitely earns a 4.
  • How much does it cost?  Technically it's free, but if you are someone that plans to use it often, you will probably want a premium account that allows you 1 GB of uploads a month (versus 100 MB) and many other useful features, such as allowing Skitch to annotate PDFs.  Cost for premium is $45 annually, which would rate it a 3.
  • Is it easy to use?  Evernote's basic features -- making Notes or Notebooks, attaching files -- take little to no time to figure out, though you would benefit watching or reading a tutorial or two to understand other functions.  Let's rate it a 3.
Adding up the individual scores and dividing by 3 gets us a 3.33 overall score.  That puts Evernote as a 3 ACES: Strongly Recommended.  (If you scored the cost as "free" it would be even better, a "Highly Recommended" tool.)  This makes Evernote very pragmatic, but can it help your students meet their learning objectives?  If you have a lesson like this one, yes!  But again, the teacher should always view the objective first before determining what tools to integrate.

As an example on the other side of the scale, let's take a typical "clickers" system.
  • Is it device agnostic?  It is the very opposite.  Clickers can only do one thing, and they only work inside of its own branded system (in other words, Brand X clickers won't work with Brand Y's system).  (1)
  • How much does it cost?  Prices vary, but most run well over $120 for a class set. (1)
  • Is it easy to use?  I tried to use clickers once in my classroom -- just once.  Even with the LMS's help, it still took most of the period to just register the devices, and there were still clickers that didn't work.  It was overly complicated and a pain to set up. (1)
Not only do we have a 1 ACE "Not Recommended" overall score, but common sense tells you that with any set of Internet-capable devices, there are plenty of free and much more powerful alternatives to clickers, such as Poll Everywhere, Socrative, and Kahoot.

I hope the ACE Test gives you a way of objectively quantifying the utility of edtech tools.   Teaching can be hard enough -- don't burden teachers with tools that are difficult or expensive if you can avoid it or find a better alternative.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Kaizena

As a classroom English teacher, I always fretted about feedback.  I worried I didn't give enough of it, I worried that it was not effective enough, and I worried that it just took too long.  If there was a digital way to enhance my methods, I was ready to try.  The trick with tech is always the pragmatic issues.  An excellent piece of edtech will ace Adam's ACE test.  Is it device Agnostic?  (Yes.) How much does it Cost? (Free!) How Easy is it to use?  (Very.)

As a notation tool that allows audio as well as text feedback, I played around with Notability my last few years of classroom teaching. There is much I can positively say about the product, but there are a few barriers worth noting: it takes a bit of a learning curve to figure out, it was only an iOS app until very recently, and it usually costs $9.99.  (In fairness, I should mention that it recently became available as a Mac app [MacBook users, take note!], handwritten notations are allowable, and it's currently on a holiday sale of $4.99.)

Which brings us to Kaizena.  It's free to use, the learning curve is not steep, and it can be accessed anywhere you have Internet access, so long as you integrate it with your Google Drive.

How does it work?  You have to first install Kaizena as an Add-On.  Open up your Google Drive, click the "New" button, find the "More" at the bottom, and choose "Connect More Apps."  You can search for Kaizena and okay any permissions.  From the teacher "dashboard" side, you can also do some management by going to Kaizena's website and logging in with your Google credentials.

Once installations are done, you can now annotate many documents inside of, or shared with, your Google Drive.  This includes Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, but not Forms.  There are some workarounds for other types; for example, if you are willing to open a Word .doc as a Google Doc, you can annotate them as well.

Annotations are tied to highlighted text; the highlighter color can be changed if you and the students have a color-coded system.  Once highlighted, you are first asked if you want to tag it as a rubric criteria, as well as assess how well they did it; for example, a good opener could be annotated as a "hook" and given a 3 out of 4.  (You can also skip this step, and these criteria are saved as "Tags" under your management page/profile.)  After text has been highlighted, you have three types of annotations:

1)  You can leave an audio comment by recording directly in Kaizena.
2)  You can add a resource. A resource is a link to a website or video that further clarifies a concept the student may be missing.  These resources are stored under your account so you can reuse them, and can be managed and edited when you log directly into Kaizena.
3)  You can type a comment.

Keep in mind that you could do just one of the above items, or conceivably all four.  Your feedback is shared automatically and in real time;  students can get your commentary when they open their document and click on "Comments" in the upper right. Students can even give feedback to your feedback, creating an ongoing loop of communication.  (Kaizena will notify you of any feedback left from students to you.)

Here are three videos that will be helpful.  The first is a montage edited by Kaizena that gives a great overview demo of the tool (3:01):



This second video, also from Kaizena, has a narrator that could speak a bit quicker, but it's a good step by step for setting it up (5:02):



This last video is the longest and demos a slightly older version of Kaizena, but Stacy Behmer is thorough in excellently walking through installing and using Kaizena (11:20):



How could you use it?  You can see the advantage of communicating feedback through Kaizena; it's paperless, it's quick, and can be done in a mobile manner.  No stacks of papers at a desk -- you could assess work with a laptop anywhere there is an Internet connection.   Kaizena makes differentiating feedback very easy. Think of how using audio commentary combined with a few resource links could really change the paradigm of how students process feedback, reflect on teacher commentary, and effectively revise their work.  Remember, it's not only essays, but presentations and spreadsheets as well.  Students that install the app could also do peer evaluations of each other, and not only share their feedback with the writer, but with the teacher to keep you in the loop.

Downsides?  The only major hangup I can see is the issue of Google Drive; both the teacher and the student need it for this to work.  However, by having Google Drive (and a Google account in general), there are many other collaborative and creative work tools available, so it may be worth the time to set up.

Do you already use Kaizena, Notability or another annotation/feedback tool?   Please share in the Comments below.

Correction 12/3/14: I edited under "Downsides" about Kaizena not editing PDFs; as the comment below points out, it will work if you publish the PDF to Google Drive first.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Goodbye Rockets, Hello Missiles, Happy Thanksgiving

Another three weeks have rocketed past, and another embedded tour ends.  (Ha!  See what I did there?)  Thanks to all of Shelby County High School, from Mr. Oakley on down, for making me feel at home.  Special thanks to Julie Webb, who was kind enough to open up her library's Kentucky Room to a Cardinal fan such as myself (*cough* 8-3 and coming your way *cough*).

East will be my first embedded Shelby middle school, and I'm looking forward to the experience and meeting the staff.

I am not disciplined enough to stop tweeting for the next six days, but I will likely not blog until after the first of December, my first day at EMS.  Until then, have a safe, happy, and wonderful Thanksgiving long weekend!


Monday, November 24, 2014

TUIT: Lindsay Ricke, MLC HS

Lindsay Ricke is a science teacher at Martha Layne Collins High School.  Integrating technology in her students' learning is nothing new -- in fact, Ms. Ricke was recently part of instructional coaches live tweeting from her classroom using the hashtag #theyet -- but her recent use of Smore caught my attention and I had to give her a #ShelbyTUITshoutout.

I have talked about and even embedded Smores previously in Edtech Elixirs, but I haven't really taken a moment to explain what they are.  Basically, they are online flyers, but that simplifies what they are capable of showing.  Yes, Smores can publicize events, but they can also be used as student productivity tools. Think of them as interactive posters. You start with a template and can choose from several categories. Pictures, YouTube videos, hyperlinks and text can easily be added.  You can print the finished Smore or save it as a PDF, and since it's published to a URL, the flyer can be shared online or through email.  For teachers or students, Smores could also be a viable alternative to other visual digital presentation tools, like PowerPoints or Prezis.

Yet Ms. Ricke came up with another idea. Instead of just doing lab reports on a pencil and paper worksheet, she had her AP Chemistry students use Smore.  Not only does the use of multimedia enhance the finished product (students took pictures and even video of the stages of their experiments), but since their reports are published, their work now has more validity than the typical "teacher as audience" and can be returned to later for reflection or to help study content.  Two student examples are below.  (Note that in the first example, students shot their own video, uploaded to Vimeo, then embedded it in their Smore; in the second, they found an appropriate video on YouTube showing aluminum reacting to copper.)  Very impressive!




Ms. Ricke, thank you for integrating technology as often and as well as you do!

Friday, November 21, 2014

TUIT: Kathie Wrightson, SCHS

Kathie Wrightson, an English teacher at Shelby County High School, would have several reasons to deserve a #ShelbyTUITshoutout. She's an eager integrator of tech, starting with the Blackboard LMS she uses with her dual-credit classes.  However, this particular shoutout is because of an app Ms. Wrightson brought to my attention for the first time: Magisto.


Magisto is a free app for Android, iOS and Amazon devices.  (Assuming you have already shot the photos and videos and put them on your hard drive, you could also do it from your desktop, which even allows you to directly connect to your Google Drive; a Windows PC app is coming soon.)  You can either take photos and videos within the mobile app or access media already on the device.  Choose a theme and some royalty-free music (or your own), OR you can choose "Clean" to continue without template effects and use your original audio.  Once you OK it, Magisto takes a few minutes to magically edit it together.  You can preview the "draft" and make final tweaks.  Once you are happy, the video is uploaded to the Magisto website.  You or others can comment on the videos, and share them across social media in various ways.  Videos can also be organized in public or private albums.  You can also make a "group" album open to other members to add their own videos; I can see this handy in a classroom setting.  I have to say, the final product is very professional looking, and the app is extremely easy and fun to use. Here's a sample video I made of SCHS, as well as a link to my public Shelby County album.

As I said, the app is free, but there are some limitations; for example, you are limited to a certain number of media clips, a fixed number of downloads, and the final video cannot be longer than 15 minutes.   If you are willing to spend $4.99 a month for Premium, you can use more multimedia, make longer videos, and get unlimited downloads.  For $9.99 a month at the Pro level, you can get all of what Premium offers plus HD quality videos.



Back to Ms. Wrightson!  Magisto started with leadership from students: they were the ones who brought it to Kathie's attention.  Her English 101 classes were challenged to come up with a social science experiment that involved a cause/effect relationship that applies to real life.  One pair of students came up with a "Free Hugs" theory: a student who is more well-dressed will get more hugs from strangers than a more casually dressed student.  They went to a mall and captured the experience with Magisto.

You can see how Magisto could be used as an engaging and high-order summation and synthesis of learning: documentary of an experiment in a science lab, the working out of a math problem on a whiteboard, historic photos of a world-changing event, a "movie trailer" of a book.

Thanks to Kathie for letting me know about Magisto!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Jumpy Lenovo Cursor and Driver Updates

Several SCHS teachers have complained about their Lenovo Yoga ThinkPad cursors moving by themselves as if possessed, or a sensation of almost chasing the cursor with your trackpad.  This has happened to me a few times as well. Our intrepid CIO Tommy Hurt got ahold of our Lenovo area reps, and got some advice.  (No, it's not to get a priest for an exorcism.)

Two things to consider first.

One: I know that when I type, I sometimes have to get used to a trackpad being near the underside of my thumbs and palms.  I have inadvertently scooted my cursor by accidentally brushing against the trackpad in this way.  So if your cursor suddenly moves and stops, it may be operator error.

Two:  Do NOT install driver updates to your Lenovo unless you have an issue you're trying to resolve.  If you are NOT having an issue with your trackpad, don't worry about installing new drivers. While it likely won't hurt your computer, you may use up precious time.

With the caveats out of the way, let's get down to business.

1. There is a specific site for Lenovo Yoga driver downloads.  Go to the site.

2.  From the drop down menu of "Components" on the middle left side, choose "Mouse and Keyboard."

3.  You want to just install the second and third drivers, as indicated below.  Completely download and install one driver before installing the next.  Be ready to restart the computer each time.


I installed these drivers myself earlier today, and so far, so good.  However, if you install these drivers and still have a jumpy cursor, put in a work order and let us know.  (Please explain that you did install these drivers but it didn't help.)  Good luck!


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

ActivePrompt

5/15/17:  The original version of ActivePrompt is no longer active, so I have removed the original URL link from this entry.  However, a "revised" version is now available online.  Please see the edited note at the bottom of this entry.  

A few months ago, I discovered a free and very engaging formative assessment tool called ActivePrompt.  If you prefer video, I talk about it here; but if you prefer text, I discuss this tool below the video.



How does it work?  After going to the site, you are first asked to upload an image to interact with. (The image I created for the video is available here.)  Next, you are to write a prompt that begins with, "Drag the red dot to..."  



By going to the site, you automatically will generate two URLs, as seen in the bottom half of the image above: one for students, and one "teacher" or display site.   On the student view, the student will see a small red dot in the upper left hand corner.  The student moves the red dot in response to the prompt given.  Note that the student only sees their own red dot, not everyone else's.


From the teacher or "display" view, the teacher can see the red dots from multiple students move in real time.  (Teacher tip: although seeing 30 dots move around definitely has a "wow" factor, you might want students to respond first before showing the display site, so their answer is not a victim of peer pressure.)   While students have their browser's tab open, they can keep moving the red dot over and over again.




On the display site, you can click the tools icon in the bottom right to clear all the dots (possible if all students have closed their browser tabs), change the prompt question, or even shortcut to the student view.  Note that anyone with the display URL can make these changes, so be careful in sharing the address.



The great thing is, the created student and display sites can be revisited over and over, even if you close your browser and go to the URL on another day.  (Since there is no registration at any point for student or teacher, take care to save created prompt URLs in an accessible place, since when you visit the main ActivePrompt website again, you will start from scratch.)

How could you use it?  Anytime you would like to assess the class on the fly, you could use a generic response image like the one above and reuse it over and over again.  Or, you could assess specific needs that involve images.  For example, you could upload an image of the periodic table and ask students which element is commonly known as gold; see in real time how quickly it takes students to move to "Au"!  Another example would be to show a picture of various numbers and have students identify the prime number.  Because of its visual nature, ActivePrompt would come in very handy for classrooms with students who are ELL, struggling reader/writers, or pre-literate (kindergarten or first grade students).

Downsides?  Sometimes the red dot can be a bit tricky to "grab," although on a multiplicity of devices (Android smartphone, iPad Air, MacBook Air, Lenovo Yoga ThinkPad) I have gotten it to work.  The URLs might be a bit long for some, but you can make it easier for students to get to them by putting links in a TodaysMeet, a tweet, or a teacher website; you could also shorten the URL with various sites (Goo.gl, TinyURL, Bit.ly, etc.).

All in all, a great formative assessment tool, especially at no charge!

Have you used ActivePrompt?  Have a clever idea on how to integrate it into your lesson?  Comment below.

Editor's note 5/15/17:  The original version as described and shown in the screenshots and video above is no longer active.  However, a new version is available here.   And it's still free!  The interface is more streamlined but there are some significant differences:

  • The "polling" side for students (with a much shorter and easier URL to share) allows the student to move the red dot, but once they stop moving and take their finger off the trackpad/mouse/touch screen, their response is locked in.  They cannot move the dot again.  If they made a mistake, they have to start over with a new response.
  • When viewing the "response" (teacher) side, you no longer see the red dots move in real time, but only see where they land.  You have to manually refresh the response side to see the newest/latest changes; it will not update automatically.
  • Polls can be easily reset from your account.
  • A public gallery is now provided where you can easily clone favorites to your own account.  While somewhat large and currently not searchable or organized in any way, it's worth browsing; there are lots of generic ones worth using.
  • You can still upload your own images, but they are currently limited to 2 MB or less.  Keep in mind that all images uploaded become part of the public gallery; you currently cannot make private uploads or prompts.  (The responses, however, are private to your account.)

Friday, November 14, 2014

Star Wars, Shakespeare, and Rebels

Let's travel back in time, shall we?  No, not to 16th century England.  About a year ago, while at a bookstore with my oldest daughter, I stumbled upon Ian Doescher's William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope.  Shakespeare and Star Wars?  The English teacher in me nearly swooned.  I bought it, loved it, and began thinking how I could use it in a classroom.  Six months and a grant later, my freshmen English students were reading and analyzing the text while comparing it to other media, such as the original film and a radio drama adaptation. At the end of the unit, Ian himself generously agreed to Skype with our classroom.  (He insisted I call him Ian, and I don't like to make New York Times best-selling authors mad.)

Tangent #1: I wrote a reflection on our Skype experience here, along with 7 tips on how to successfully run a Skype chat, in case you want to read more about it.

The WSSW educational experience ended up being a whole Core Content-aligned unit that lead into reading Romeo and Juliet, and I had created a significant amount of material.  Shame to let it go to waste and not be shared, I said to myself.  So I began thinking, and I Googled.  But soft!  What website broke through yonder Windows screen?   Star Wars in the Classroom.   Educators that love Star Wars?  Be still my heart!

I emailed Thomas Riddle and Wes Dodgens, the co-webmasters of the site, with my conundrum: a bunch of lesson plans, resources and handouts and nowhere to put them.  Turns out they were about to start a Rogue Initiative to gather just that sort of thing from educators.  And that's how my entire unit ended up online, and how I became the first Rogue.

Tangent #2: Throughout the process, the social media manager Eric Smith from Quirk Books (the publisher of WSSW) was extremely helpful and generous, so a tip of my hat to him.  He was also responsible for putting my academic materials on Quirk's site, as well as getting Random House to publicize my unit at librarian conventions and even Pinterest.

And now we come to present day.  Thanks to Star Wars in the Classroom, I have become connected to many like-minded educators.  One of them, Dan Zehr, is not only a teacher but a blog contributor to the official Star Wars website.  This week, Dan and his co-host Cory Clubb invited me as a guest on their Coffee With Kenobi podcast.



It was a thrill to talk about the impact of Star Wars on my life both personally and professionally, as well as do a literary analysis on a recent episode of Star Wars Rebels.  A link to the podcast's page is here.

Ian, Thomas, Wes, Eric, Dan, Cory: thanks to all of you for helping me merge multiple passions!

And for all of you educator readers out there...May the Edtech Be With You!




Thursday, November 13, 2014

Taking the Murky Out of the Microphone (Lenovo Yoga ThinkPad)

In our district, Shelby County High School is the first school to get Lenovo Yoga ThinkPads (a laptop/tablet hybrid).  One of the teachers came across an issue with the default microphone quality. SCHS's library media specialist Julie Webb (@RocketLibrary) poked around the Internet and found a Lenovo Forum, and on the Forum, found a solution.  Thank you, Julie!

Basically, it comes down to adjusting your microphone settings.   Follow the directions in my YouTube video below and you will no longer sound like a murky lagoon creature underwater.


Monday, November 10, 2014

TUIT: Jennifer Cox, Tracy Huelsman, Jessica Ruddy (MLC HS)

Jennifer Cox and Tracy Huelsman are instructional coaches. Jessica Ruddy is a social studies teacher.  All three are from Martha Layne Collins High School.  It is their use of Twitter (and in the case of the instructional coaches, the use of a website) that earns all three a #ShelbyTUITshoutout.

First, let's talk Twitter.  Ms. Cox and Ms. Huelsman tried a novel approach to observing a classroom.  They decided to share their observations (and pictures) in real time using the hashtag #theyet.  (They also continue using the hashtag when writing tweets relevant to educators involved in the "becoming" of being an ongoing learner and practitioner.)  To me, this opens up a lot of intriguing possibilities about PD of the future, especially involving lab classrooms.  You could follow a hashtag as the class happened, even tweeting along questions or comments -- or you could look at the archive of the event later, through the thread of the hashtag.  Combine that with a reflective piece at the end, and you have an effective way of achieving professional growth.  Of course, a live tweet cannot replace what you can experience with your own eyes and ears.  However, if it gives the time-harried educator another avenue of "observing," then it is worth considering.

Following the idea of "live tweeting" is a recent occurrence in Ms. Ruddy's AP European History.  Using the hashtag #apeurosalon14, Jessica periodically tweeted out key ideas from the class as they were discussed.  What a useful tool for students!  If incorporated all year long, they could look up the thread to study for the AP test in the spring . . . ask questions of the teacher (and each other) . . . and have a backchannel during a Socratic discussion or while watching a video.

Last but not least, a plug should be given for Tracy and Jennifer's website, Coaching Corner Collaborative.  Only a month old, it is quickly growing into a reference point of relevant links, blog entries, and other resources for instructional coaches or anyone involved in fostering a growth mindset.  In additional, the site looks slick and professional, thanks to the template driven power of Weebly.

Congrats to all three, and I can't wait to see where their tweeting takes us!

 


Saturday, November 8, 2014

The First Steps of 3D Printing

When I ran into Loretta Shake, the LMS of North Oldham Middle School, at EdcampKY a few weeks ago, I was happy to catch up with a former colleague.  But when she revealed that her library recently acquired a 3D printer, I was all ears.

Loretta is an educator with 27 years of experience.   She has been at NOMS for the last 16 years, 15 of those as their library media specialist.  Ms. Shake was kind enough to take a picture for this entry, shoot a video of the 3D printer in action, and last but not least participate in the interview below.  If you are considering getting one of these in the near future, her information and advice will be extremely helpful!

Hello!  Let's start with telling us the process of getting the 3D printer in the first place.

I had knowledge of the MakerBot 3D printer; however, while attending ISTE this summer I found out about Afinia. In talking with their reps I learned they sell refurbished models for $500 which I felt was a great price since I wasn’t sure how I was going to integrate it into instruction. I think most of the small models like I have generally start at $1,299.  I used technology funds that we had from fundraisers. I had to get approval from our DTC [District Technology Coordinator] prior to purchasing.

Once you get past the initial price, what is the maintenance of the printer like?  How much does the filament cost?

So far maintenance has been easy. The filament does come on a spool. Each spool averages about $40. I have been allowing students to sign up to have things printed. Afinia suggests the cost be figured by the weight of the object times .06 per gram.   However, I upped the price to .15 per gram. I have received great support from Afinia when I couldn’t figure out something.

How long does it take to print an object?  Is it loud while it prints?

Several factors determine the amount of time it takes to print. The size of the object and how you “fill” it. You can fill it solid, hollow, or loose. [A large solid object could take a few hours or longer.] It is not loud while printing until the end when it beeps to let you know the print job is complete.

Here is a video, taken by Loretta, of her printer in action:



How have students and teachers reacted to it? 

Most have been amazed. It has become a focal point for the library. Students will stand and watch it print, others ask how they can print something. Most think it’s cool our school has a 3D printer.  

 I imagine you are getting a lot of "whoa!"

It has been a “whoa” factor for the most part. I have had students print things for a project. I have asked 7th grade and art teachers to collaborate with me when they do their geometry unit. There is a free program called TurtleArt that allows students to create geometric shapes. We would then print them 3D so they can take them to art class to press in clay and paint.

What websites or online resources for the 3D printer would you recommend?

We use www.thingiverse.com to search for most of our models. MakerBot offers some great tutorial type videos. www.tinkercad.com has a free online program to create your own 3D objects.

Any advice for other LMS's wanting to get a 3D printer for their own library?

I would suggest you spring for a refurbished model like I did to gain support and once you can find ways to integrate into instruction then you can invest in a larger model. I plan on creating a MakerSpace in my library and teaching students how to print all on their own.

The finished product.


Ms. Shake, I can't thank you enough for your time!

Questions about 3D printers?  Do you have expertise or experiences with 3D printing you want to share?  Comment below!




Thursday, November 6, 2014

TUIT: Christina Mishio, SCHS

Christina Mishio has taught for three years as a social studies high school teacher.  She admits she's not afraid to take an edtech plunge, even if it's a bit of a scary tightrope walk.  As part of her Criminal Justice class, students have always done an annual group project involving taking notes and analyzing evidence of crime scenes. (In the past, this may have only consisted of finding packets in various places in the school with pertinent information inside.)  However, especially with the help of technology, she wanted to take it to the next level.  So Ms. Mishio reached out to me.  How could she integrate technology and do the project paperless?  If she created actual crime scenes (with police tape, "blood," footprints, etc.) how could students take, annotate, and share pictures?

Enter Evernote and Skitch, two great partners in crime.  (Heh.  Sorry, I can never resist a bad pun.) Both of these edtech tools are high on the list of my all-time faves.  Before we get to the plan I created for her class, a quick intro to each tool is in order.

Evernote has completely transformed my personal and professional life; it is absolutely my favorite organizational, planning, and archiving tool.  You can create Notes arranged in Notebooks, which are saved in the cloud and therefore accessible in real-time syncing across a multiplicity of devices, with desktop programs, smartphone/tablet apps, and even within a web browser.  Notes can consist of text, pictures, audio, and attachments like PDFs.   Notes and Notebooks can also be shared with others, which will be important later.   While Evernote is free, for $5 a month or $45 a year, a Premium account gives you several upgrades including going from a 100 MB monthly upload cap to 1 GB a month.

Skitch is definitely my go-to picture annotation tool.  It is a free app, as well as a free desktop program.  Upload a photo, and add arrows, stamps, text, freestyle pens, shapes, even a pixelation tool.  (It can also annotate PDFs, if you have a Premium Evernote account.)  Although Evernote owns Skitch, you can use either product independently.   However, for Ms. Mishio's project, the power of their partnership becomes evident.

First, Christina created her own Evernote account.  With 8 groups to set up, Ms. Mishio then created a unique gmail account for each group.  (This can pay off later if she wants to incorporate some Google Drive tools into her classroom.)  With each email, she created an Evernote account.  Inside of each Evernote account she created a "Crime Scenes Group __" Notebook.  Inside the Notebook, she attached her directions and set up a few Notes with tables so student analysis would be ready to be gathered in a consistent format. Before exiting each Evernote account, she made sure to Share this Notebook with her teacher account, so that in real-time she could view the student work as it was completed, and eventually assess their results.

Next, Ms. Mishio made sure each iPad had Evernote and Skitch apps installed, and went ahead and logged into each appropriate group's Evernote account. (Keeping track that iPad #1 is logged into Group #1's Evernote account is key here.)   And with that, they were ready for the Crime Scene project.

In short, the students were highly engaged, and the impact in their learning was evident in the amount and complexity of their various text and picture Notes.  It helped that there was almost a game-like feel to the project; students actually walked through the school to designated areas, taking and annotating pictures, discussing and analyzing evidence.  By using Evernote, Skitch, and technology, they felt like 21st century detectives.

An example of a student group's Crime Scene Notebook


One recommendation from Christina was to go ahead and trust the students with the user names and passwords to the Evernote accounts.  Not only did that cut down on her having to log students back in if they accidentally logged out, but several students (unprompted by the teacher!) went ahead and downloaded the Evernote app to their smartphones and logged into their group accounts.  In this way, instead of being limited to one device per group, the ability to capture and analyze information doubled or tripled.  This could also allow students who were absent for part of the week-long project to contribute from home or during after-school hours.

Of course, using Evernote and Skitch in such a way could be easily tweaked for a variety of different content areas and projects.  Indeed, in a 1:1 environment, it could completely transform the way student work is created, saved, archived, and accessed.

Congrats to Christina Mishio for taking her integrated edtech leap and getting a well deserved #ShelbyTUITshoutout!








Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Hello Rockets!

It started with an Instagram picture last week.

A photo posted by Adam Watson (@watsonedtech) on
And now, I'm at school #4 on my year-long embedded tour: Shelby County High School.  In addition to that, it's the first school I've worked with in the district that has Lenovo Yoga Thinkpad laptop/tablet hybrid device, so that meant a new addition to the tech family.

(For those that don't know, it's a Windows 8 touchscreen computer with a "digitizer pen" that can "pose" in four different ways: laptop, stand, tent, and tablet.)

I'm looking forward to working with Mr. Oakley and the rest of the SCHS staff.  Although I might rename the Kentucky Room the Cardinal Room, if County's LMS Julie Webb will allow it.

In closing, I must say thanks to Mrs. Willhoite and the staff at Clear Creak for all of their hospitality and eagerness to learn edtech.  The journey continues!

Monday, November 3, 2014

EdCampKY, a Postscript

Whoa! Wow! (And afterwards: Whew!)  Just over one week after the first EdcampKY in Bardstown, Kentucky, I am still trying to decompress the good ideas from the "unconference," and can't wait for it to continue on a regular basis throughout the state.

I'll get to a list of my takeaways from EdcampKY in a moment, but first things first.  As powerful as Twitter and other social media platforms are, it's always a treat to see colleagues face to face again  (Donnie Piercey, James Allen, Loretta Shake, Matt Arledge), or for the first time (Mike Paul).

Before I forget, I should also mention that it was a pleasure to meet the principal (Wes Bradley) and assistant principal (Heather Warrell) of the host site, Thomas Nelson High School.  Only three years old, it is built for innovation and collaboration.  Several times I wandered into a classroom and couldn't tell if I was in a high school, or a college campus, or a corporate retreat.  The culture of learning is palpable.  (I took several Twitter pics of the facility, so scroll back through my tweets if interested.)

So, narrowed down, here are six things I learned from Edcamp.

1. The "unconference" approach to PD:  As an organizer of professional development myself, it is extremely hard to see how you could leave it to chance and teacher initiative what the topics of sessions might be until the very morning of your conference, much less who might moderate or facilitate them.  But that's what an unconference does.  Although session assignments are sometimes done with index cards taped to a wall, Google Sheets filled out by the Edcamp organizers provided a digital way to keep the latest session information on track. Also, a true session in such an environment is more of a "give and take" discussion than a "sit and get" presentation.  I think there was a bit of a struggle sometimes to accept this, both for moderators wanting to share their expertise and for the attendees.  However, some of the best sessions were ones where educators popcorned their thoughts around the room.   In the end, an unconference model may just be a cure for the summertime PD blues -- creating opportunity for teacher leadership, time for discussion, and immediacy for feeding educators the exact learning they need, when they need it.

2.  KET Board Builder: Amy Grant shared several of the resources available through the various KET digital resources of EncycloMedia (PBS LearningMedia, Discovery Education, and KET ED On Demand).  While I knew there was plenty there, I usually don't have time to explore it, so that was appreciated info. One of the bigger finds was the Board Builder, a way of creating a electronic "poster" by only adding multimedia from within KET's own resources, making it filtered and vetted.  These Boards require a login and can only be shared with other users within the site, but it might especially be a welcome multimedia tool for those wanting a safe project tool for younger students.

3.  Google Form Add-Ons:  Recently I have experimented with running scripts with Google Forms, giving you ways to unlock even more powerful tools. (If you are interested in the same, here's a page about them.)  Scripts are not easy, and have to be installed every time you want to run them.  However, Google Forms finally have Add-Ons (as a menu choice at the top of an opened Form), some of which recreate functions previously available only in complicated scripts.  Better than that, once installed they can be used over and over and in an easy to use way.  My favorites so far are Choice Eliminator (which takes a multiple choice option away as someone choose one and submits the form -- perfect for scheduling meetings or "first come first serve" project choices) and Form Values (which allows you to save recurring lists of answer choices for questions, like all the schools in the district, to easily insert them repeatedly into Forms).

4.  Shelfies.  A librarian shared this term in one of the session discussions, and I love the idea.  Take a picture of your bookshelf and share it with others.  That lead me to brainstorm a little app-smashing: annotate the picture with Thinglink, adding URLS to author websites, book trailer videos of students chatting up the book, or text-based information.  Stick an iPad near the shelf with the Thinglink on view, and your "shelfie" will now come to life for students, becoming an interactive kiosk. (As it turns out, I'm not the first to brainstorm this idea.  For example, here's one in German.)

5.  NewsELA.   This site takes actual up-to-date news articles and provides an incredible service for teachers and students needing differentiation and more non-fiction, as required by Core Content: you can scale the reading by adjusting the complexity of the text at one of five different levels.  Most have comprehension quizzes as well.  You are limited to five articles without registering, but once you do, you have unlimited access.

6.  Photomath.  This free app is currently available for iOS and Windows (Android coming in 2015); with it, Mike Paul easily won the Edcamp Tech Slam.  It's not hard to see why.  Magic seems the only plausible way that it can work. Using a bit of augmented reality technology, scan a math worksheet that is printed (NOT handwritten) and Photomath will not only solve the equation, but show you the steps on how to get there.  Scary?  A bit. It's technology like this that reminds us that students can get the answers without us, so it is up to teachers to change the questions and make sure students can do the thinking.  Here's a video of it in action:


PhotoMath from MicroBLINK on Vimeo.

Looking forward to returning to another Edcamp soon.   Until then, I'll occasionally check in on the hashtag #edcampky and continue following their Twitter account.

Have you used any of the tools above?  Do you have questions about an "unconference"?  If you went to the 10/25 EdcampKY, what did you think?  Please Comment below.