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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Camera App in Kindergarten

I have to give all the credit for this great idea to Kelly Smith, Instructional Technology Facilitator in Greenville, South Carolina!  Thanks, Kelly!

It all started when I saw this tweet from Kelly:

I was immediately intrigued by this activity as I love working with our Kindergarteners and their teachers on ways to use the iPad in their classrooms.  Yes, we cover some basic "parts of the iPad" and talk about what certain buttons do, how to four finger swipe, five finger pinch, close open apps, etc., but I never thought about building the foundation on the basics of the camera app. 

Man, I love the ideas shared on Twitter! I asked Kelly for some details about this activity and she shared what she does when introducing the camera app to her students. 

We use the camera app for a lot of different activities in Kindergarten.  I've never taught Kindergarteners how to utilize all of the tools within the camera app.  Until now!  Thanks to Kelly, we have spent some time showing our Kindergarteners how to do some of the following tasks, to better prepare them for some of the tasks we will be doing with the iPads throughout the year. 
  • Using the cropping tool.  The students loved using their math manipulatives along with a simple numbered card to take a picture, then cropping the image.   So simple, but the students loved it!
  • How to rotate photos.
  • How to use the zoom feature.
All this sounds pretty basic, but I actually created an App Task Challenge for the camera app to better educate my teachers on the various features within the app. Check it out here.  

I think we take the camera app for granted sometimes.  There are a lot of great features in this app that has so many uses in our classroom! 

Give this activity a try with your students.  I plan on building on it this week as we introduce the Pic Collage app.  Students will take a photo, edit it, then insert their edited image into a collage we will be creating. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Top 36 Educators To Follow That Have Less Than 1000 Followers

***This blog post is co-written by Craig Badura & Brent Catlett***

As connected educators Brent and I strongly believe in ALL educators being connected.  We believe that building and developing a PLN (Personal/Professional Learning Network) is an important task for ALL educators to be doing, not just a few.  We also believe that ALL educators bring great value to the table as someone who can SHARE the great things happening in their classrooms, schools, and districts via Social Media like Twitter!  
As educators we sometimes become idea hoarders and are afraid to share some of the successes in our classrooms because we feel like we are bragging.  I am convinced that there is a plethora of great educators out there who  have started a Twitter account, used it consistently, but haven’t gained a large number followers, for some reason or other.
Perhaps our list of 36 educators are typically not listed in articles talking about the "Top 25 Educators to Follow" on Twitter by popular educational companies like Edutopia or Education Week, or another person on Twitter with a massive amount of followers, but it doesn’t mean they are any less of a potential contributor to one’s PLN.  They are simply great teachers.
To Brent and me, the number of followers we have on Twitter doesn’t matter!  Yes, it’s easy to get caught up in that when you first get started on Twitter. Heck, I even wrote this blog post back in 2012 about my Twitter numbers.  What was I thinking?!
In one of our many discussions about Twitter we discussed how awesome it is to FOLLOW educators back that follow us!  Not ever limiting ourselves to certain numbers or acting as if we are too good for them because they may only have 24 followers.   Every member of your PLN is important. Follow them. Never limit your numbers. We also discussed the fact that we try to respond to ANYONE who tweets us with a question or thought.  I know I was frustrated several times when I started on Twitter because someone wouldn't respond to a tweet I had directed at them.
We feel like anyone who wants to join our PLN is more than welcome!  You follow either of us, and you are an educator, we are probably going to follow you back!  Just make sure you have a great bio explaining who you are and what you do in education!  And be sure to add a profile picture of yourself!
This amazing group of 36 educators that have less than 1000 followers are a group that anyone could easily learn from, collaborate with, and break down classroom walls!

So, GO FOLLOW THEM because they are fabulous educators!  

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Digital Citizenship Resources for the Primary Classroom

I know it may sound a bit odd, but I love Monday mornings.


I get to start every Monday morning during the first semester talking Digital Citizenship with our 94 Kindergartners.

 If you are a Kindergarten teacher and you're reading this, thanks for being AWESOME!  I admire you more than you will ever know.  I have a hard enough time keeping these students engaged for 25 minutes, I can't imagine what it's like for 8 hours!  Honestly...thank you for what you do!

As we get settled into our new school years, I thought I would share some of my favorite resources that I use with our primary students here at Aurora Elementary School. I hope you find a thing or two that you can use in your classroom!

Goodnight iPad: A Parody for the next generation
Yep, it's a Parody of Goodnight Moon, the classic by Margaret Wise Brown.  I read Goodnight Moon first, then head right into Goodnight iPad having students take note of all of the technology that is in the book.  We then have a great conversation about if there ever is a time when we can have too much technology in our lives.

If You Give a Mouse an iPhone: A Cautionary Tail
The follow up to Goodnight iPad is yet another great message for our students to hear.  We are all guilty of being distracted by our devices.  This tale drives home that point.

Arthur's Computer Disaster
Our conversation after reading this book is about how we should always keep our parents in the loop when it comes to technology.  Students should never be afraid to talk to their parents about something that happened online.

The Berenstain Bears and Too Much TV
My mom used to harp on me all the time about watching too much TV.  I don't think our kids watch too much TV today, they spend too much time with their devices!  After reading, we talk about the importance of taking "tech timeouts" and getting outside and playing and just being a kid.

hello! hello!
Great book with a great message! Similar to The Berenstain Bears and Too Much TV, the emphasis of this book is to unplug and enjoy the world around us!

My Online Neighborhood via Common Sense Media (who, in my opinion, have created some of the best resources to use in your classroom in regards to teaching digital citizenship)

Pause & Think Online via Common Sense Media

Hector's World via Thinkuknow
Join Hector and his friends as they embark on a trip to the local carnival and learn some valuable lessons along the way.

NetSmartzKids Videos
Your students will love learning with Clicky, the main character for NetSmartzKids.  I absolutely love everything that is created by the gang at NetSmartz

Friday, June 12, 2015

Quit Being an Idea Hoarder!

The following quote by George Couros really made me think...

"What if every teacher tweeted one thing a day that they did in their classroom to a school hashtag, and they took five minutes out of their day to read each other's tweets?  What impact would that have on leaning and school culture? 

I am lucky and blessed to work with some amazing educators.  The ideas for activities and lessons that they come up with is inspiring.  Parents in our school district should rest well knowing that their children are being taught by some very passionate, enthusiastic educators.  


I often compliment a teacher for an activity or lesson that they taught while I was in their classroom. I encourage them to blog about it or tweet about it. Just share it!  Too many times, I hear the response, "Oh, who would care about that anyway?" or "It's nothing fancy" maybe even a "It's really not that great of a lesson."  

My response?  "That was amazing!  Imagine if another teacher saw your tweet or blog post about that lesson or activity and did that same lesson with the children in their classroom!"

I think that we can sometimes look at the lessons/activities/ideas that we are using in our classrooms as just your average, run of the mill lesson.  Yet in the eyes of another teacher they are MAGNIFICENT!

Quit being an idea hoarder! 

Some of you are doing great things in your classrooms! We need to hear or read about it!  Get your blog set up if you haven't done so.  Don't know how to use Twitter?  Find someone to teach you how to harness the power of this amazing tool!

The world of Education needs your contribution!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

"I'm Just Not Very Good With Technology" Is No Longer an Acceptable Excuse.

We've all heard someone use the phrase.  Perhaps you've even used it at one time or another.  I've heard the phrase countless times during the five years that I have been an Integration Specialist.   

I'm tired of the excuse. It's 2015.  Now, if it were 1989, it might be an acceptable excuse, but not any longer.  There are some great ways to use the various technologies that we currently have available to us as educators to make our classrooms an even better place to work, play, collaborate and learn.  

When thinking of this whole issue, it makes me think of a teacher that just retired this year from our school district.   Her name is Ms. Breese.  She was an outstanding Family and Consumer Science teacher at Aurora Public Schools for 40 years.  Yes, 40 years!  That is simply amazing!  I was really bummed the day that she came into my room to personally tell me that she was planning on retiring at the end of the school year.    

You see, Ms. Breese was what I would consider a "pioneer teacher" in our district in regards to the use of educational technology.  She was a "pioneer" in the fact that she was a prominent teacher leader during our 1:1 iPad initiative.  Ms. Breese used the iPad in so many creative, practical and engaging ways in her FCS classroom.  She was always looking for ways to use the iPad and we had some great brainstorming and planning sessions together. Other teachers in our district could always count on Ms. Breese to have a great new idea on how to successfully use the iPad in the classroom.  She was truly an asset to me as an integration specialist.  I could count on her to share all of her great ideas with our other teachers!  I loved her creative spirit and willingness to change things up in her classroom.

Ms. Breese had 37 years of experience when I started.  When our school decided to proceed with our 1:1 iPad initiative three years ago, it would have been very easy for Ms. Breese to use the excuse, "I'm Just Not Very Good With Technology," yet she jumped on board the "tech train" from day one and was always looking for new and unique ways to better her classroom using educational technology. I vividly recall the day a couple of years ago that Ms. Breese came into my classroom and told me how using the iPad and other technologies in her classroom really had revitalized her passion for teaching.  “It’s so much more fun,and there are so many opportunities” she recalled.  I hated to see her retire, but really enjoy the fact that I was able to work with Ms. Breese for three years.

Thank you, Ms. Breese for being a "pioneer!" And, THANK YOU to all of the other "pioneer" teachers that are out there reading this!

Monday, June 8, 2015

A Couple of Summer Learning Opportunities

Summer break brings a great opportunity for us as educators to recharge and refresh our batteries.  It also offers us TIME to learn and explore some new technology tools, apps, ideas that we can apply in our classrooms for the upcoming school year.

I have created a couple of summer learning activities for our teachers here at Aurora Public Schools. Check them out below.  Feel free to take any of the ideas that you see here and modify them to fit the needs of your teachers and administrators!

The Breakfast Club
I started The Breakfast Club three summers ago. It's tough to introduce new tech tools, concepts and ideas mid year, as teachers don't have a lot of time to dig in to what I show them.  The Breakfast Clubs generally run an hour (I am offering some two hour sessions this summer) and are all about having time to explore and play.  Generally, I will do a quick run down of the tool, then let teachers have time to play.  You can check out my Breakfast Club offerings for this summer here, 2014 here or 2013 here.

Summer Fun Book
The idea for my Summer Fun Book came about after noticing that our elementary teachers send home Summer Fun Books with all sorts of activities for their students to work on during the summer.  I thought that it would be a great idea to compile an activity book that my teachers could work on during the summer, at their own pace!  My Summer Fun Book is composed of eight challenges.  Four that I created specifically for the Summer Fun Book and four App Task Challenges that I had previously created.  If a teacher successfully completes all eight challenges, they get invited to a pizza party that our elementary Principal has graciously agreed to fund!  Check out my Summer Fun Book here.  Feel free to make a copy and use with your staff!

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.