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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Let's Talk with Students, Not at Them When It Comes to Digital Citizenship

One of my favorite duties as the Integration Specialist for Aurora Public Schools is getting the opportunity to talk about Digital Citizenship with our K-12 students.  It's a task I enjoy doing and I thought I was teaching it the right way...

Boy, was I wrong!

I have organized various presentations to use during our digital citizenship time that are full of great information and resources from websites like Common Sense Media, CEOP and Netsmartz. I showed up in the classroom or auditorium and shared what I had created with our students.  The students listened and watched to what I thought was some pretty interesting material that I had pieced together for my presentations.

Then I started evaluating how I was going about this process and how I was addressing this very important issue with our students.  I realized that I shouldn't have been talking AT our students.  I should have been talking WITH them about digital citizenship. Wouldn't it be more effective if the students had a voice in the matter? After all, they are the ones using the devices, websites and tools we are talking about.

This major change in my mindset of how I talk to students about digital citizenship can be directly attributed to Danah Boyd's book "It's Complicated."  I'm not going to go into details about the book. Download it and read it. You will see how it's totally changed my perspective of how we should be addressing digital citizenship with our students.

After reading this book, I realized that I need to listen more and engage in conversations with our students.  So I changed the way I was teaching and talking about digital citizenship with our students.

I created a "Things That Rock" slide presentation based on some topics that students could relate to when it comes to digital citizenship.  It's based on the "Things that Suck" EdCamp session made famous by Dan Callahan.  I borrowed the title "Things That Rock" from Dean Shareski because the "S" word is pretty powerful and I didn't want to use it around students.

Below are the  presentations that I created for grades 3-5 and 6-12 respectively. Feel free to steal the idea and add some of your own topics.  As of this blog post, I have completed this session with all of or students in grades 3-12 and I can honestly tell you that we have had some fascinating conversations during our time together. Our students have so many great perspectives.  We really need to listen to their voice more in our schools!

This whole process has reaffirmed my belief that we need to engage in conversations with our students when it comes to the topic of digital citizenship instead of talking at them about it.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Rejuvinate with an EdCamp

It's hard to believe that today is the first day of Spring.  With Spring comes MAPs testing, NSEA testing, musicals, awards banquets, track meets, golf meets...there is so much going on this time of year.  And to think that there are only 40 days left in the 2014-2015 school year!

Where did the school year go?

I'll admit that it's really easy to lose focus in the Spring.  Admit it.  You've done the same.  As educators it's tempting to begin counting down until summer vacation.  The time that we will have.  The family vacation we have planned.  As a result, it's easy to lose focus in our classrooms.  That's not really fair to our students.  Is it?

I have found the solution to this problem.  Attend an EdCamp.

Tomorrow, I am attending EdCamp Omaha.  It is going to be a much needed "kick in the pants" for my psyche.  It's going to help me focus.  It will recharge my batteries.  It will remind me of why I have become an educator in the first place.

I am looking forward to being surrounded by passionate, driven and determined educators that are ready and willing to give up a Saturday to make themselves better.

I can't wait.

Monday, February 23, 2015

App Smashing and Rhyming Words

It's an easy app smash that you can do with your students to reinforce those rhyming words.  This whole app smash came about after a conversation with one of my awesome colleagues, Mrs. Hansen.  She had been having her students use the iPads in her classroom to scan a QR code that would display a word.  Her students would then think of and recite a word or two that rhymed with the scanned word.

We did a little talking and planning, and before you knew it, we had created a little app smash to reinforce this simple lesson.   Here is the app smash recipe:

Here is how you can use this app smash in your classroom with your students:

1.  Create a whole bunch of QR Codes that link back to rhyming words (can, car, bat, etc.). Laminate them or store in a 3-ring binder in protective covers.   I like to use when needing to create a bunch of QR Codes at one time. It's an awesome tool for this. 

2.  Have students scan the QR Code.  Let's say that the word that it's linked to is "bat."  Now have your students open the Pic Collage app.

3.  Let students customize their background as they really like doing this.  Have your students add the word "bat" to their Pic Collage.  Have them make this word fairly large by two finger pulling.  

4.  Now have the students add three words to their Pic Collage that rhyme with their original word.  For example, I would add "cat," "hat," and "brat" to mine.  Have students two finger pinch to make these words smaller and drag them to where they want them in their collage.

5.  Now, let's have the students add an image from within the Pic Collage app.  Have students add an image of their original word by tapping on "web images" in Pic Collage. Drag and place the photo that they choose. 

6.  Five finger pinch to close Pic Collage. (It's a simple move I teach all our students.  If you have multitasking gestures enabled, simply take your hand with all five fingers spread apart and pinch them together quickly. This will close the current app, allowing you to work in another).

7.  We are almost done.  Why not let them create a drawing of one of the the words that is on their collage?  Have them illustrate one of the words using the Doodlebuddy app.  When they are done with their drawing have them save it to their photo album.

8.  Double tap your home button to reveal apps that are open.  Choose the Pic Collage that we have been working in.  Tap to make it full screen.  Add your Doodlebuddy illustration by tapping on "photos" and adding it to your Pic Collage. 

9.  Have students add their names.  Now, you could save this artifact to your library so that we could embed it into a future blog post using KidBlog or you could simply have your students email it to you so that you could do whatever you like with it!  

Happy Smashing! 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Who's Telling Your Story?

Ask your child what they did in school today.  What's the typical response?  "I don't know" or  "Nothin', really."  As a teacher, I beg to differ!

What's going on in your classroom this week? Who knows about it?  A majority of teachers that I ask that question answer with the following:

"My administrator, students and some of my parents."

Really?  That's it?  Shouldn't the whole world know what's taking place in your awesome learning environment?  Now, some might say that "nobody really cares" or "who would want to know anyway?"

I truly think that YOU need to be sharing the awesome events that are happening each and everyday in your classroom.  An activity or project that you might think is meaningless, could be magnificent in the eyes of another educator!

I was one of those teachers that didn't share much during my first eight years of teaching.

I went about my business. I did my thing.

Then one day, I joined Twitter.  To be honest with you, I was a little hesitant when I first joined.    I didn't see the value of me sharing and telling the story that was playing out each day in my classroom.  I lurked on Twitter.  Eventually, I started seeing what other social studies teachers were doing in their classrooms.  I started lurking and learning.  I started taking their ideas and modifying them to use with my students. My classroom was no longer a static learning space.  It felt like it was constantly evolving.  I was learning and it felt great!

Eventually I started to realize that by tuning in to other educators I was become a more well rounded educator.  

Eventually I started joining in conversations on Twitter.  I no longer lurked.  I started conversing.  I shared and produced.  I collaborated with other teachers from all over the world.

I quit being an Idea Hoarder.

How can you start telling your story?

One of the easiest ways is to start using Twitter as your broadcasting platform.  Creating a hashtag for your classroom is an easy start.  We have several teachers in my school district that are utilizing hashtags in their classrooms to tell their stories.   Check out #auroraspanish #ahsbio #hudsonkinders or #ahs109 to see how these teachers are harnessing the power of the hashtag.

Using a hashtag for your classroom creates a digital window so that others can tune in to see all of the great activities/events/learning that is taking place.

So, who's telling your story?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Coming Soon: "Learn It in 3 with Me"

This is an accountability post.  I figure that if I blog about the crazy idea that has been floating around in my head since August,  I'm gonna have to make it happen.  So, here is that post.

As the lone Integration Specialist in a district of 1,200+ students and 120 teachers, there are days that I feel as though I am not meeting the needs of all of those people.  No, I'm not looking for sympathy. I'm looking for a better way to meet the EdTech needs of these people.  A valuable resource.  A venue where my students and teachers can come to (quickly) learn something on their own time.  

I tend to talk too fast.  For those of you that know me or have seen me present, you will agree.  So I came up with the idea of creating some tutorials.  Needing a catchy title, I came up with "Learn It in 3 with Me." 

I'm planning on creating "how to" screencasts (using Screencast-O-Matic) that are three minutes or less on all sorts of "techie" related topics.  How to use Kahoot.  How to upload pictures to Google Drive.  How to create a paper.  There will be a myriad of topics.  

I will probably create a page on this blog where I will store what I create.  I want these tutorials to be easily accessible for my students, teachers and patrons in my district. 

Well, I guess I just put a lot of pressure on myself!  Stay tuned.  First "Learn it in 3 with Me" will be published later this week. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Most Important Question an Administrator Ever Asked Me

Let's flash back to the Spring of 2000.  I was just finishing up my first year of teaching and was on top of the world.  I made it.  I survived!  I was looking forward to spending the summer with my wife @JenBadura and our first born child Caleb just enjoying life.

The only thing holding me back was my end of the year "check out" meeting with my Principal, the late Gary Monter.  I didn't think much about it.  I had done fairly well on my formal evaluation, and received some very positive feedback from the walk-throughs that took place in my classroom throughout the school year.

The time had come. It was my turn to check out.  I entered the office, sat down and after some small talk on how I thought the year went, Principal Monter asked me the following question:

"What are you planning on changing next year?"

I was dumbfounded.  I didn't expect that question.

I didn't know what to say.  After all, I received had received nothing but great feedback on my evaluation.  Why would I have to change anything that I had done?  I thought my first year was great.

I stammered to come up with an answer.  I can't remember what I actually said, it's not really that important, but that question has had a profound impact on me throughout my 15 years in education.

I now know the answer.

As educators, we must be willing to continually change to best fit the needs of our students.  As Mr. Monter said, "that's where the good stuff happens."

Even today I find myself continually trying to change what I do from year to year in the classroom. Not getting stuck in the rut.  Not taking the easy road.

Yes, it's easy to do the same thing year in and year out. Is that what's really best for our students?

So, with the new year, let me ask you....

"What are you planning on changing next year?"

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Stop Motion Animation in the Classroom from a Student Perspective

I received an email from Mr. Dubas informing me that I needed to see what a student had created for a project in his seventh grade social studies class.  Being a former social studies teacher, I was immediately interested.  I headed over to our middle school wondering what this could be all about.  This particular students name is Ben, and he created a stop motion animated film with Legos using his iPad for a particular topic they chose in their social studies class. 

I watched it and was amazed at the creativity and mindset of this young man!  I loved the higher order thinking and planning that went into this project.  Take a couple minutes to watch Ben's finished product below. I think that you will be as amazed as I was the first time I watched it. 

Who says you can't CREATE on the iPad?  

This is a great example of what can happen if we empower students and allow them to create in our classrooms.  I wanted to take this blog post a step further, so I invited Ben to do a guest blog post summarizing how he created this awesome stop animation film.  

Below the video is Ben's guest post. I hope you enjoy reading his blog post about how he created this wonderful stop motion animation for a social studies project. 

To achieve the ending result of the Lego Animation you can see today, I used the iMotion app for iPad and iPhone. This app allows you to easily create stop-motion videos for any media, but there are a few things I had to keep in mind.

For those of you that might not be entirely familiar with Lego stop-motion or just stop-motion, it's the simple process of taking a picture for every frame of a video to form one, long video. The thing that makes it different from just animation is that whatever is being shot is being moved between each frame, therefore achieving flawless motion for an object that could usually not function movement on its own.

Now, you might also want to keep in mind that this wasn't my first stop-motion animation, for when I was younger I used to use the family's old camera to make animations with Legos at home. But when I was given the opportunity to do a project with my school iPad, I instantly jumped to Lego stop-motion. I had spent a few weeks before-hand looking for a good animation app, but it wasn't until a while later when I found iMotion, a free (full version is $2.99 and all it does is allow you to export in 1080p or to YouTube) stop motion application that I could use for my school project.

The app has three 'modes' of animation: time-lapse, manual, remote, and mic[rophone]. Time-lapse just takes a picture after every duration of time that you set before the animation (for example, it would take a picture every four seconds if you set it to four). Manual just has a button on the screen that you tap and it takes a picture. Remote, which is what I usually use for iPad animations, is where you connect the app to another device that has the app "iMotion Remote" which is literally just a button that you tap to take the picture for the other device (I used my iPod for the remote). This is extremely helpful for scenes with precarious lighting, which forces me to be out of the way of the camera when taking pictures, or in scenes where the iPad and its camera is in an awkward position and if touched, might move too much, which will furthermore ruin the flawless motion effect. The last is mic, which takes a picture every time it hears a noise of a certain set threshold (for example, I could tell it to take a picture only when it hears a noise as loud as my whistle, so whenever I whistled nearby, it would take a picture). The problem with this is background noise can mess up the animation or makes you end up sounding like a gorilla, hooting and hollering at what you hope is the right sound volume.

The final part of the animation, which happens after all the pictures are taken and you hit the 'stop' button on iMotion, is the most crucial. FPS. Frames Per Second. This could mean the difference between a racing animation and a choppy scenery driving animation. What it means is before you export the animation, it asks you how long you want to give each picture screen time. 30Fps, or thirty frames per second, would show thirty pictures per every second of video. It should also be noted that iMotion can only handle about 210 pictures at a time, so scenes that are about 7 seconds can only have a maximum of about 30fps. I like to move the camera around a lot and film lots of different scenes, so one shot usually doesn't last more than 12 seconds and I usually record at an average of 8fps, which by most standards is pretty slow, but as fast as I transition to different shots, it's hard to tell if it is choppy or not.

Either way, those are the ins-and-outs of iMotion for the iPad and basic (Lego) animation in general, but when it comes down to it, it's all about practice and patience. Thank you for reading, and I hope you learned something.