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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pinterest Redux

Time for an admission: I am VERY late to the Pinterest party.  I created an account a few years back for some PD workshops, but as a part of my teacher life, the account pretty much sat there inert.  I'm a Tweeter, not a Pinner.  Or so I thought.

However, Shelby County's Lora Shields convinced me to take another look at Pinterest as a different way of curating edtech resources for others. And when I did....I had to admit it was unique. The nature of a Pin being a pictorial representation of the article, tool, etc. helps create an easier-to-browse setting for sharing.  Pinterest, I acknowledge your power.  I'm back in the game.

To kick off my new fidelity, I revamped my Pinterest account and created some Boards that I hope will be useful to educators in our district (and outside of it).   Please visit the Boards at my Pinterest account page.  I also embedded a few of my Boards in an updated version of "My Favorite Edtech" located on my district page.  As time goes on and I discuss, blog and tweet about certain articles, apps, sites, etc. I will attempt to also add them as Pins to my Boards.  And if you would like to share Pinning to any of the boards, send me an email from the same account you have with your Pinterest account and I would be happy to add you.  Of course, I'd be tickled if you followed me on Pinterest.

Do you use Pinterest in your classroom or with your students?  Comment below and tell us about it.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

SMART Board Training Wrapup

Last week, Julie Webb, Karen Falkenstine and I attended two days of SMART Board training at Creative Image Technologies (or C-IT for short).  And you definitely have to C-IT to believe it (groan all you want, how could I resist?).  Visit Creative Image Technologies in Shelbyville when you can.  For now, you can get a preview tour below from a Story I posted via Storify:

Without going too far of a tangent, let me plug Storify for a moment as one of my favorite edtech tools.  Basically, this free service allows you to easily curate and bring together various places from the Internet in a rearrangeable order, thereby creating a "Story" told by multimedia.  (Places on the Web include Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, any Internet link, and several other web tools.)  Teachers could use this as a way of bringing together resources in one page and place; students could use it as on the fly research, exploring a current event, or creating a narrative (non-fictional or fictional). Your finished Story is easy to share with a URL, or embedded as I did above.

And since we are tangenting anyway, let me also say it was a pleasure and a privilege to train with two of Shelby County's finest.  I look forward to seeing Julie and Karen in my upcoming embedded tour.

But back to SMART Boards.  We learned tons about the devices.  I could write an entry just about maintenance alone (although I think I will handle that in a near-future video).  But let me share five of the favorite things I learned about the Notebook Software.

  1. I always thought Notebook activities could only be accessed by a SMART Board in the classroom, which means parents or absent students would be unable to see them.  Not so!  Put the Notebook online and have the parents or students visit SMART Notebook Express to open it up for free.  (Sometimes the service may be temporarily down for maintenance or capacity problems, so be patient.)
  2. Under the Object Menu, you can make an object an Infinite Cloner.  This is great for making manipulatives in an interactive game with students.
  3. Under the Drawing Tools, you can hit the double arrow at the top right to move the toolbar down at the bottom of the screen; perfect for elementary students who may not be able to reach.
  4. "Order to Reveal" under the Object Menu is a particularly helpful tool.  If you have several objects that initially are pulled apart but are supposed to be brought back together in a certain way (for example, bones, veins and skin), determining order can help.  In addition, if you make white text on white background but make the order of an object one layer underneath it, you can magically reveal the words when moving the object over the text!
  5. You can easily embed a browser onto a Notebook page, and even pin a certain URL.  Not only does this mean you can surf the web without leaving the Notebook, but you can quickly go to a certain URL automatically in real time.  (Imagine setting up a saved Twitter hashtag search, which will obviously reveal new info every time you fire up the page.)

How do you feel about your SMART Board? Have a favorite strategy, Notebook, or tip you want to share?  Please Comment below.

Friday, September 19, 2014

TUIT: Julie Stacy, Ashley Fishback, and Kahoot!

Today, I have to give my first Collins High School #ShelbyTUITshoutout to TWO teachers, Julie Stacy (English) and Ashley Fishback (@MsFishback, science), for their use of Kahoot!

First, let's break down this highly engaging and helpful edtech tool.

How does it work?  Kahoot is a student response system, but looks and feels like a game, especially when participating in a quiz.  After you make a Kahoot, you can launch it by projecting it on your screen while students use their devices to enter a game pin and a nickname. Two clever things about this tool from the start.  First, no app is necessary; if a device can get to the Internet, they can Kahoot. Second, names can be moderated.  If you don't like the name, the teacher can click on it and "kick them out."  The offending device changes from a green to a red screen for all to see, but Kahoot will allow the student to try again, although the red screen background remains as a reminder that you might want a chat with the cheeky monkey at the end of class.

Students win Kahoots (points) by answering both accurately and as quickly as possible.  The countdown music (faster and more dramatic when the clock time is shorter; you can set the timer uniquely and differently for each question) adds to the excitement, and after each question a leaderboard is shown that displays the top participants ranked by their Kahoot points.  In the end, Kahoot declares a winner, and feedback can be elicited by the teacher in a simple interface (score the Kahoot on a scale of 1 to 5 stars, did you learn anything with thumbs up or down, etc.).  One of its powerful features is that teachers can download the results of the Kahoot in a surprisingly thorough Excel spreadsheet either immediately or later under your account settings.  Oh, did I mention Kahoot is free, and other public Kahoots can be searched and saved for your own use?

Below is a short video by Roland Rios that shows how to make a Kahoot quiz and what gameplay looks like.

As the video says, you can add images to go along with your questions, and adding videos are in beta testing.  (Some quirks show up when using videos; for example, you can embed a video to play in the "lobby" while students are signing in, but in Internet Explorer, the sound of the video continues to play even as you begin your quiz.)  There is a character editor in both the question and answer fields that give you additional freedoms, such as a math teacher wanting to input formulas and algebraic equations.

I should also mention you can create a Kahoot Discussion (ask a question that can get an initial response, then use that to spin into a classroom talk) or a Survey (ask several poll questions and see and discuss the results).   Neither of these allow open responses, and because there are no right or wrong answers, the gaming elements are not present.

How could you use it?  The quizzes can be formative assessments, and the data collected is rich and manipulatable for later mining in Excel.  The Discussion and Survey Kahoots may not be as game-like as the quizzes, but just like the quizzes, creates data that is stored permanently and can be analyzed at your convenience.

Downsides?  It's hard to find one.  Other tools like Socrative can also do prepared quizzes or polls, and would be better for quieter, self-paced student work.  However, Kahoot is a free and user-friendly tool that creates one of the highest engagement levels I've seen, coupled with a robust data collection that is easy to analyze.  (And don't think the gaming appearance would only appeal to younger students, as the Collins anecdotes will attest.) I highly recommend it.

I've had a great positive response when chatting up Kahoot, starting with the PD I gave in Oldham County in August. I shared it with the Collins staff for the first time on Tuesday.  By the next day, I was stopped several times by MLC teachers who raved about using it in their classes.  (And what a great staff, to be willing to try a new tool less than 24 hours after hearing about it for the first time!)

One of those first-timers was Julie Stacy, who I happened to observe the Wednesday morning after the PD.  Not only did she have the class take a Kahoot quiz on Great Expectations, but by the end of the period she had them in groups making their own Kahoots.  Bravo for giving the students opportunity for leadership!

Ms. Fishback is one of several other Collins teachers who used Kahoot, but I have to also give her a shoutout for the great photo she took of her students Kahooting, preserved in a tweet here:

You'll definitely hear me do more tech shoutouts from Collins before my embedded time is up.  Until then, help me celebrate Ms. Stacy and Ms. Fishback for taking an edtech risk!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Outlook Tips: signature, shared calendars

Last Friday at Collins, while walking toward their pep rally, a few teachers stopped me and asked about how to create signatures to their emails in Outlook.  That wasn't the first time a teacher had asked me that, so I decided to do two how-to videos on my Youtube channel.  The first discusses signatures on the MacBook Air's Outlook program, and the second discusses signatures for Outlook on the web (Live365).  Note that you would have to create/set signatures for both of these and ALL your other devices one at a time; unfortunately, no set signature pushes via a "cloud" across all of your Outlook access points.

Lastly, I was having trouble figuring out how to see my shared Calendars on the MacBook Air's Outlook program.  If you're stuck as well, this last video will help.

Be sure to email, tweet, or Comment any questions below!

Monday, September 15, 2014

TUIT: Maddie Meyer, SSE

Today's #ShelbyTUITshoutout is a throwback to my previous embedded school, Southside Elementary.   After last Thursday night's open house, kudos must be given to fifth grade teacher Maddie Meyer.

Before we get to what Maddie did at open house, a little background. When it comes to technology, she is not afraid to jump in with both feet.  For example, she learned about Kahoot from PD I presented before school began, and set up a quiz with students within the first few weeks of class.  (They were excited and definitely engaged!) At another PD of mine, she heard of Educanon, and when I observed her classroom, she tried it out. She hit a bit of a technical snag getting the video to stream, and here is where she won my admiration; without missing a beat, she switched to an "analog" version of the lesson (she read a book aloud and stopped periodically to question students).  By the end of the literacy timeframe, Educanon was up and running and she continued with the planned edtech.  It's a marvelous example of dealing with the reality of our 21st century classrooms.  We will occasionally hit a tech snag (a computer glitch, a network hiccup), but we don't have to let that rattle us -- give us four walls and a voice, and we can teach! -- and we cannot ignore the power of edtech by giving up either.  We just have to develop our "tech grit," push through, and try, try again.

Back to Maddie's open house. I discussed Flipgrid in a previous PD (and a post), and she wanted to use it in a unique way with her students.  Ms. Meyer created a Flipgrid for her students to record video responses: "Our 'class technology supervisor' [used an iPad and] handled the taping of all of our video responses, and the students got to see their responses live the next day." (Another student taking a leadership tech role!)  In the videos, students spoke about what they had learned in social studies so far this year. For open house, parents were given access to the Flipgrid so they could watch their child (and others) speak about their learning with their own voices.  According to Ms. Meyer, parents were impressed. "Parents were excited to see Southside’s new technology go to good use - student use!"

I briefly interviewed Maddie about Flipgrid and her plans for edtech.

Using Flipgrid for open house was pretty inventive!  How do you see using Flipgrid in the future?

I will be using FlipGrid in the future as a study tool -- my students can record responses as to what they’ve learned in class, and have access to the grids so they can watch and re-watch their videos!

What other edtech tools would you like to try with your students?

I can't wait to try BuildWithChrome.  I can already tell you that my students will be building Jamestown with this software as soon as we begin our unit on colonization.  I’m really counting on my Minecraft junkies to step up and teach everyone the ropes! We'll also be using Aurasma  during our first science unit.

Maddie Meyer, a well-deserved #ShelbyTUITshoutout for you!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Edtech PD for the district 9/22 and 9/29!

Major PD announcements, minor edtech teaching tangents! As you know, as the school year continues, I will eventually be embedded at each Shelby County School for 3 to 4 weeks. However, you can quickly do the math and see that it will be 2015 before I get to half of the schools, and some school will inevitably be last. What can we do to make this more fair? Easy solution! We are offering TWO edtech PDs open to the whole district, and of course, FREE to Shelby County Public School employees. Both PDs will occur in the Auditorium of Collins High School.

Tangent #1:  Not only am I thankful for Mr. Leeper playing host, but I also want to give him kudos for re-introducing Smore to me.   Mr. Leeper uses Smore to produce a weekly email newsletter for his faculty, but it's also a clever, easy and and free way for students to create an engaging visual presentation / instant website. It's very user-friendly and there are several ways to share the link with others.  Think of it as an easier alternative to Glogster.

Tangent #2: I first heard of Eventbrite when registering for EdCamp Kentucky.  Eventbrite allows you to organize events, create a website presence to promote it, and  tracks registration by "selling" tickets online.  If your event is actually free, you can do all this at no charge; if you do charge, Eventbrite keeps a cut of the sales.  Tickets can be printed out or saved virtually on your mobile device in their app.  Either way, organizers can check their online "dashboard" to see who has registered, and can scan the tickets on event day to easily track attendees, again with an app.

Back to the topic at hand.  After creating these PD events in Eventbrite, Smore allowed me (after I gave the site permission) to import my Eventbrite event information to populate the flyers. Talk about a two for one!  The results are below.  Be sure to get your tickets to both days via the embedded links.  (If you have any problem with the registration, please still come on down!)

So, here's the first Smore flyer for the 9/22 PD "Teacher Tech Tools."  (If you are having trouble viewing the flyer, go straight to the Eventbrite page.)

And here's the second Smore flyer for the 9/29 PD "Become a 21st Century Super-Teacher!" (Again, if you have trouble, go to the Eventbrite page.)

Please register ASAP.  Looking forward to seeing you there! If you have any questions, email, tweet, or Comment below.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

From a Tiger to a Titan

A few days into my stay at Collins High School, and getting used to my new home.  This building is only four years old, so once again I'm spoiled by the surroundings.

PD begins in earnest tomorrow and observations and consultations next week, so looking forward to sharing edtech and making some new TUIT shoutouts!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Last day at Southside

My embedded tenure at Southside ends with a library tiger stealing my MacBook Air.

Thank you to all the wonderful faculty and staff at SSE who opened their classroom doors to me, made me feel right at home these past weeks, and was patient as I did my first runs of presentations and observations.  Special shoutout to Ms. Burkhardt, who was not only a kind colleague but a great sounding board and partner in configuring how a coach embedded for a limited time at a school might work.

And my journey continues.  Next stop on Tuesday: Collins!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

TUIT: Makenzi Hunter, SSE

When I asked several Southside staff members for a SSE teacher that comes to mind when you think edtech, the name Makenzi Hunter (@makenzihunter) came up repeatedly.  That perfectly corresponds to her peers recognizing her as the 2013-2014 Southside Teacher of the Year.  I interviewed Makenzi about her use of edtech.

Welcome to Edtech Elixirs!  Please introduce yourself to our blog readers.  
My name is Makenzi Hunter and I teach visual art to K-5 students at Southside. I am beginning my 4th year of teaching. I first learned of integrating education and technology in graduate classes at UofL. I was introduced to Prezi as a graduate class assignment and continued my own exploration after that.

How have you used your document camera to create a blended learning environment in your classroom?
In my classroom, the document camera is essential in preparing for instruction. Most of our projects are divided into 3 or 4 class periods. I use the document camera to record myself creating the artwork required for each class period. I play the video while introducing the lesson and it remains on while students are working to serve as a continuous model.

I heard you have used Aurasma, which is an Augmented Reality (AR) iOS/Android app.  Tell us about it.
The SSE related arts team was looking for an engaging way to present one of the Seven Habits of Leader in Me to the staff. The music teacher, Erin Jump, read about the app Aurasma and brought it to the group. Each of us created an Aurasma profile, recorded a video discussing part of the habit and uploaded it. We asked the staff members to bring their device to the meeting and download the app. Staff members were then able to walk around the halls, point their device at the prepared document [which triggers the video to play], and learn about the habit at their own pace.

What other edtech tools are some of your favorites?
I use Socrative as an assessment tool, SafeShare.TV for showing videos from YouTube and Evernote as an organization tool.

How important is it for an art teacher to integrate technology?
I feel that being an art teacher requires the use of technology. My students will only learn so much from the limited knowledge and experiences I have to offer, so I feel that it is my obligation to expose them to far more than that. I want to offer students the opportunity to visit a museum online,  converse with an artist through Skype, leave feedback for one another on a digital platform and document their experience through the use of technology.

What tools have you heard about recently that you are wanting to try out for the first time?
I am interested in trying Flipgrid as a tool to gather student feedback and Nearpod as a way to have more interactive instruction.

Any advice you would like to share with other teachers wanting to integrate edtech?
My advice to teachers wanting to integrate technology would be to only try one thing at a time. Full integration lends itself to trial and error which can be frustrating. Choose one tool that blends well with your current style of teaching and give it a try.

I want to thank Ms. Hunter for graciously giving her time.  She definitely deserves a #ShelbyTUITshoutout!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Odds and Ends: TUIT, TodaysMeet, Outlook Popups, Bulb Life, AppleTV Snoozing

I'm nearly at the end of my embedded initial stay here at Southside Elementary.  As the time whittles down at this wonderful school, here are some odds and ends.

Let's start out today with a #ShelbyTUITshoutout to Southside's Sarah Gregory!  During a drop-in yesterday, Ms. Gregory had her third graders posting questions via iPads in a TodaysMeet room.   Great way to integrate discussion strategies with technology!

TodaysMeet is a popular and free "backchanneling" tool. Teachers can create a chat room for just an hour or have it open up to a year.  Students enter the room, give their name, and can begin replying to each other and the teacher.  Once finished, you can print out a transcript of the entire session.  It can be a useful way of making discussion more equitable and getting participation from all members, particularly if paired with a rubric and stated expectations of quantity and quality.  I particularly loved using it while watching videos; students were much more engaged, practiced their visual literacy skills in a way I could observe and assess, and I could quickly answer questions and probe students to think deeper without ever hitting pause.  Over the summer, TodaysMeet did a major upgrade.  Now teachers can create an account where their created rooms are "saved" under their profile.  Among other new features are moderation tools, such as the ability to delete specific posts. I highly recommend TodaysMeet, and for some different ways you could use it in a classroom, read this article.

Moving on!  I have three quick edtech tips today:
  • By default in Outlook, new emails and alerts will pop up on your screen.  However, when using a computer that is projecting to a screen, you are unintentionally sharing that parent's email,  child's medical information, IEP meeting requests, etc. with other students.  For MacBook Airs, turn off the popups by opening Outlook program, go to Outlook (next to Apple icon at top left of screen), Preferences, Notifications & Sounds, and uncheck mark the box for "Display an Alert on my Desktop."
  • Nothing taxes a projector bulb more than leaving it on a blue screen for hours, or worse, overnight.  Bulb replacement is a major expense for a technology budget. If you are going to not be projecting for a long period of time, please turn the projectors off.  At Southside Elementary, we have two projectors in each room (SMARTBoard and secondary ceiling) that unfortunately work by the same remote.  If both come on but you only want to use one, use your body as a shield: turn your back to the projector you want to keep on, point the clicker to the projector you want off (I hold the remote clutched to my chest, like I have T-Rex arms), and turn it off.
  • Some teachers have reported problems with their AppleTV, but it's just asleep.  Look for a small white light that indicates it's awake, if you can see it (sometimes the SCPS sticker is over it). If not (or you're not sure), press any button on the AppleTV remote to wake it up.  If your AppleTV is on but you don't see your room number come up for AirPlay, try resetting the device: go to Settings, General, Restart.

I'll be posting an interview with SSE's Teacher of the Year by the end of the week!