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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.li 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.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Sorry! I'm In #digitaldetox

I had originally blogged about my first experience with #digitaldetox a couple of years ago when my family went on vacation to Florida. It was a refreshing experience and I am finding that this holiday season offers another wonderful opportunity to power down, look up and be present to enjoy every moment with my family.

Today, @JenBadura and I are celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary.  I find myself reminiscing about how drastically things have changed in the last twenty years in regards to technology.   I must admit that when I think back to my first cell phone, I kind of chuckle.  It was an effort to even text on that device!  Now look at our devices.  Wow!  How things have changed.  It is so easy to share about anything with the click on one button.

Yes, I share a lot with the technology that we have today. Like I said in my previous post, I love to Tweet, share my story using Instagram, pin recipes and other things I deem "cool" on my Pinterest page, and I find myself blogging more and more.   Being connected is one of the best things that has happened to me as an educator.  I am surrounded by educators from all over the world and I learn something new every single day.

Being connected can also be a hindrance.  It's so easy to constantly check the apps that allow us that connectedness.  It becomes a habit.  It can be a distraction.  This video on The Harbor tells that story perfectly:

THE HARBOR - DISTRACTIONS from THE HARBOR on Vimeo.

Earlier this school year I wanted to eliminate one of those distractions.  I deleted my school email from my phone.   Yep, I survived.  I just check it when I get to school and I will check it via my computer on Sunday evening to see if I have anything that needs my attention right away Monday morning.

What about deleting all those other apps that we use like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Vine, Voxer and Instagram that we find ourselves checking several time throughout our day?

Check out this post titled "Why I Took Facebook and Twitter Off My Phone" by Chris Wejr. It's pretty powerful, and I can totally relate.

So, it's time to disconnect...

You probably won't "see" me around much until the first of the year.  I'm going to try another round of digital detoxification.  It felt so good the first time!

Instead,  I'm gonna dig out my old camera and take pics the "old fashioned" way.  I'm gonna go hit some golf balls with my kids.  I'm going go to the gym to shoot some baskets with my family.  I'm gonna do some more cooking with new recipes that I have found.  I'm going to read a lot over break.

Most importantly, I'm going to focus on being present.  

I think we all could do a better job of this...


Happy Holidays to each and every one of you!  Enjoy this precious time with your families.




Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Great Apps to Complement Your iMovie App

The iMovie app could possibly be my favorite app on my iPad.  It's a versatile app that can lead to a whole lot of creation in your classroom  Yes, I know that iMovie on my MacBook Pro has all the bells and whistles, but I believe that the app has all the ingredients to make some pretty powerful products in your classroom.

I love the fact that the app allows our students (and us) to make thinking visible.   There are so many ways that you can use iMove in the classroom.  From knowledge to comprehension, every level of Bloom's taxonomy is easily addressed using the iMovie app.  I plan on teaching our K-5 students how to use the iMovie app in the coming weeks and I can't wait to see the creativity that is generated!

The best thing about iMovie is that you can use it with a lot of other apps! App Smashing?  Try using iMovie as the final app to display your app smash.  Just drop your products in from the photo library, do a voice over and you have created a product that allows you to showcase the learning happening in your classroom!

I have created a folder on my iPad of apps that I use to supplement some of the videos that I produce. Here are some of my favorites:


Prompterous ($1.99) Planning on doing a newscast or something that would be nice to have a script that was written ahead of time? Purchase this great teleprompter app that has all the goodies (and then some) that you will need.  I like the fact this app will allow me to import scripts that I have created in Google Docs! 

Teleprompter Pro Lite (Free) Very basic teleprompter.  This will suffice for most of your student created projects. 

IntroMate ($2.99)  Awesome app!  You can easily create professional quality intros and end credits for your movies.  They have several templates for you to choose from.  Just tap the template you like, edit it as you see fit, save it to your photo library them add to your movie within iMovie. 

Extras4iMovie ($1.99) I don't use this app enough.  You can add scrolling text to your movies, search within the app for HD backgrounds, photos and clip art to use in your movies. 

Movie Drops ($2.99) I find that the app is a bit pricey for what little it offers, but you get to choose from 24 different HD clips that you can save to your photo library.  Simply tap the record button within the app of the scene that you like, record for the amount of time that you want and when you tap the button to stop, the clip automatically drops into your photo library.

Intro Designer ($2.99) This app has an awesome collection of beautiful intro movies and credits that you can easily edit for your project.  I use this app a lot when creating movies on my iPad. One of my absolute favorites.  You can get the Lite version, but there are a lot more options in the paid version.

ImageChef (Free) Your creativity explodes when using this app!  Take your photos and do all sorts of things with them.  When you are done creating, save it to your photo library and add into your project in iMovie.

Canva (Free)  I love Canva!  When it first came out it was only available on the web, but it's now an app and you will LOVE creating all sorts of things with this app.   With Canva, you can choose from over a million layouts, stock photographs and illustrations to create some pretty professional looking products. Customize your creations and add your completed products to your iMovies!



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I Coded. I'm Hooked. Here Are My Favorite Coding Apps.

So I tried this coding thing.  I saw it all over the Twitters last year,  "Parcipate in the #hourofcode!" "Your students will love it!" "Every student in my classroom was engaged."

But I didn't get it.

When I saw the word "coding" my mind flashed back to seeing images of computer programs from the late 80's and early 90's.

After a friendly suggestion by Heather Callihan to "just try it with one class and see what you think," I downloaded the Kodable app onto a classroom set of iPads in Holly Hudson's Kindergarten.  

Now I keep asking myself, "What were you thinking?" when it came to not choosing to show the basics of coding with our students any sooner!

What an amazing experience I had last week having our students participate in the #hourofcode.

If we as educators want students to challenge our students to think deeper and more critically, they need to be coding.   If we want students to be better problem solvers, then we need to be coding with them.   What I witnessed last week was a way of thinking that doesn't happen enough in our classrooms.  We need to make it happen more and coding can serve as the catalyst.

So I challenge you to download the apps listed below. Yes, I know some of them are pretty basic when it comes to coding, but I think it builds a firm foundation in getting kids to "see" the bigger picture and maybe even pique some interest into a possible career in computer engineering.

Try to find a way to integrate them into a lesson.  I sure am glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone!






Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Website for Every Classroom

Every once in awhile you stumble upon a website wondering, "Where in the world has that been? What a great find for my classroom!" You bookmark it, Tweet it, Pin it or add it to your Diigo page.   Well, I ran across one of those websites.  Actually, I did some research to find the website after the owner of the site came to speak at our school last Fall.  The owner of the website is Mike Smith and his website is Mike Smith Live, but the area of his website that has me so inspired is called "The Harbor."

Mike Smith is a professional speaker, but like it says on his website, "while other speakers talk about their past, Mike talks about his present."  And what a great message he has for all of us to hear.

This is my 15th year in the field of education and I have listened to a lot of professional/motivational speakers during that time.   I'm always a little leery of speakers coming into schools, getting paid a bunch of money and then leaving, never to be hear from again.  When I walked out of the gym after listening to Mike speak last Fall I was speechless.  Yes, that's hard to comprehend for those of you that know me.  But I truly was at a loss for words to describe what I had just witnessed.

I found myself wondering, "What was so different about Mike's message?"

After thinking about it for a couple of days I finally realized that Mike Smith's message is authentic. Students (staff and parents) can relate to his story.  Our students and staff were talking about it for weeks after had had been here.  The positive power of Mike's message continued to permeate our middle school and high school buildings.

A couple of months after Mike spoke at our school The Harbor was added to his website.  There is a new episode that comes out each Monday tied to things that need to be talked about in schools. Judging others, digital distractions and success are just a few of the topics discussed.  It's not always Mike doing the talking either.  We get to see a variety of different people from every walk of life in which one can easily relate.  Be sure to check out the "Critical Thinking" PDF for each episode as well.  There are some great questions that will lead to some powerful conversations in your classrooms.

I would highly encourage you to incorporate the weekly lesson someway, somehow into your classrooms on Monday mornings.