Friday, October 18, 2019

Get Students Talking With Digital Tools - Looking At The Tools

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to conduct a webinar with Simple K12. The topic was on I have discussed before, students talking with digital tools.

Students have A LOT to say.. just ask any K-12 teacher.  However, with some guidance and the right tools, students can share their thoughts, knowledge, and passions to a global audience.

When you think of students talking, you immediately go to the Speaking and Listening standards under ELA. The idea of using your voice doesn't have to stay in the ELA classroom though. Students can flex their voice in math, science, and social studies too.

Let's look at three tools students can start using today.

The first is Vocaroo.  I have shared about Vocaroo for several years. (previous post on Vocaroo) Vocaroo is a simply, web based program that allows students to record and share their recording.  Students in K-12 can use this tool!  The sharing options are great .. link, MP3, WAV, and even a QR Code. Side note, the recordings do not last forever, so if it is something you want to keep for years, download and save it.


Voice Memos is one that most of us have at our fingertips, but don't realize it.  Voice Memos is an iPhone / iPad app that appears simple but is pretty powerful. Like Vocaroo, just about anyone can use Voice Memos to create a recording. Once recorded, you can edit the recording and simply save and share. Depending on what accounts you have connected to your iPhone / iPad, you could share via Google Drive or iCloud.


The third tool is a Chrome extension, Screencastify. This extension allows you to not only record your voice, but your screen and webcam as well.  There is a free and paid version.  The free version provides 50 videos per month and a limit of 10 minutes per video. You can share the videos to your Google Drive with the free version, which is a great plus!


As always, if you teach students 13 years old and under, have a conversation with your technology department prior to using any tool with your students. You want to make sure the tools you select have been vetted by the department and are appropriate for use.

Some other tools worth mentioning include Audacity, Explain Everything, and Twisted Wave.

In the next post, we will talk about different activities students and teachers can use in the area of speaking and listen in all subject areas.

Do you have a tool you love using? Share that with us!

Friday, June 28, 2019

8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge - Week 2

This post is week 2 of 8 in the 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge for educators.  This week's prompt is "Ponder Your Professional Past: What has contributed to the educator you are today?".

I'm the educator I am today because of my mentors and the friendships I have made in career. Each one provides me guidance, advice, and knowledge that helps me be a better educator every day.

Some of my mentors I have never met in person, but because of Twitter.  Some of my Twitter mentors I have had the privilege to meet because of conferences. I have access to them and their wisdom because of Twitter. Can you tell I like Twitter??

Some of my mentors have been my friends and in my life for many years. We have been their for each other during higher education degrees, changes in jobs, and life's moments.

Some of my mentors are previous bosses and co-workers. Their knowledge and valued experiences have helped me grow. In some cases, I have also learned what not to do, because of their experiences.

I'm the educators I am today because of the people I have been able to surround myself with. I want to continue to surround myself with great mentors and friendships so I can keep growing and keep becoming a better educator.

Want to check out week 1? You can find it here.


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge - Week 1

This post is week 1 of 8 in the 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge for educators. I am so excited that I found this challenge on Penny Christensen's LinkedIn. I am a few weeks behind, but won't stop me.

This week's prompt is "Planned Professional Growth: What are your professional learning goals for this summer".

The month of June is normally a slow month for my department, unless we have a big project on the calendar. July is when everyone starts getting ready for the start of school.  For us, the first day of school is normally the 2nd week of August.  You can easily let June and July come and go without even realizing it.

Since June is just about done, I am setting one professional learning goals for the remainder of my summer.

I don't read nearly enough.  I listen to podcasts, but I don't read.  I buy the books and find the blogs, but I don't take the time to read them.  I would like to carve out some time each day to get some professional reading done.  Maybe I can carve out less time on social media scrolling!

My current professional books include Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Leaders Eat Last, and a soon to have advanced copy of Boss Up!.

So why just one goal? Well, I am looking at my July calendar and know better! Also, I know I won't be able to read these three books in one month. This will allow me to continue to goal into August. I can also add another goal once school starts as well.

What are you reading this summer? What should I add to my list?


Thursday, December 20, 2018

Bringing AR and VR into the Classroom; Part 2

In Part 1, we looked at why virtual reality is a good fit in today's classroom. We also talked about different types of VR set ups you could check out.  In this post, we are going to look at all the resources!  I am all about free and secure, so unless stated, these are free resources you can use in the classroom.

The first resource I want to talk about is the one most popular in my district - Google Expeditions.

Google Expeditions allows the students to explore a huge variety of VR locations all while the teacher is guiding them.  For this resource, the teacher will need a device along with the students.  The teacher selects the expedition or field trip, the students join, and then the learning and exploring begins. I have seen students from elementary to high school using Google Expeditions.  The best part is watching a student or class explore for the first time!

New expeditions are added regularly!  Teachers have also created lessons to go allow with several expeditions.  You can see the full list here. You can also learn more about Google Expeditions here.

While we are talking Google, we need to also mention Tour Creator. This allows you to create your own virtual tours using Google Maps.  I mean, how awesome is that!!

For example, after reading Patricia Polacco's book John Philip Duck, the students can explore the Peabody Hotel and other sites around Memphis using the Tour Creator that you created. You could also create a tour of your state capital, your hometown, the US capital, and so many other places!

Discovery VR brings their shows to "life" through VR.  Users can explore Shark Week, Deadliest Catch, and so much more.  This is not teacher guided, so you will want to explore before hand and have clear directions and/or expectations for students.

Discovery VR can be used on a variety of VR devices. They also add content regularly.

Do you use Nearpod in the classroom?  If so, have you checked out Nearpod's VR lessons? What is great about Nearpod VR is you don't need a headset to experience them. There are 36 free VR lessons available you can check out if you don't have a paid subscription with Nearpod.

Two other notable VR resources are NYT VR, New York Times VR and 360cities.  NYT VR would be a good resources for secondary schools.  This app brings the New York Times headlines to life. This is one where the teacher will want to explore first and select the best resource to meet the lesson or discussion in the classroom.

360cities is not an app at all, it is a website. You can explore Mars, New Years celebrations around the world, and so much more!  This is not a resource you want students to explore, but rather for you the teacher to use to enhance a lesson.

These are just a view VR resources you can use in the classroom.  If you are looking for more, these are few places to check out:

Richard Bryne's Free Tech for Teachers website

Cybrary Man's Educational Websites - Virtual Reality

Do you have a favorite VR resource? Share with us!

In the next post, we will explore AR (augmented reality).

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Bringing AR and VR into the Classroom; Part 1

When I was in school, I had to use a photo in a book to help bring to life a foreign place or time in history. Today, students can use virtual reality! Virtual reality (VR) is a computer generated environment that feels real to the user.

In the February 2017 edition of Eurasia Journal of Math, Science, and Technology Education, virtual reality was discussed in the article, Virtual Technologies Trends in Education. In the article, they discuss four advantages of using virtual technologies in the classroom. These included:

(1) increased student motivation and engagement
(2) a constructivist approach to learning
(3) more interaction than conventional learning materials
(4) accessibility and affordability

These advantages are on point!  Student engagement and the constructivist approach both help the students learn and feel more apart of the lesson.  Think Chinese proverb!

Tell me, I’ll forget
Show me, I’ll remember
Involve me, I’ll understand

In a world of devices and immediate information, interaction within a lesson is a great plus. Now don't get me wrong, there is a time and place to sit and focus as well.  My job has a lot of that! However, VR (and AR) really hit on some advantages that can benefit student learning.

On the 2017 Speak Up Survey, participants were asked which tools or strategies they felt held the greatest potential for increasing student achievement and success. Twenty-eight percent of teachers surveyed stated VR.

So, knowing that VR is affordable and a good resource to increase engagement and achievement, lets look at where to begin!

You need to decide on the hardware.  As a technology director, I encourage you to include your technology department in this decision!  When looking into a system, you want to consider your price range, network connections, if you want to have a teacher guided option, and storage/charging. You can have hardware that includes a headset and device or an all-on-one system.  For example, you can purchase Google Cardboard for roughly $15 and an iPod or Android device. You could look on the upper end of the price range and check out the Oculus Go.

Note, there are several types of head sets on the market!  Again, this is when your technology department comes in handy - ask for assistance! You don't want to purchase something that isn't compatible with your current infrastructure or AUP.

This is the VR carts we use in my district.

One cart includes 25 student use iPods, 1 teacher use iPad, 25 VR goggles, a Tech Tub cart for storage/charging, and a tub from Lowe's to store the goggles.

We went with the head set/device system because we wanted to be able to guide the students using Google Expeditions, but more about that app (and others) in another post.

We also have started making mini VR kits for our schools. These kits include iPods, Merge Cubes, and Merge AR/VR goggles. (Find out more about Merge here) These kits were designed for a small group setting. 

It really depends on what will best meet your needs and your budget!  Speaking of budget, if you are not taking advantage of Donors Choose, they make sure you check it out after reading this post!  We have teachers who receive classroom sets of books, Chromebooks, and everything in between. If you have questions about Donors Choose, ask my friend Angela Sievers! She is a Donors Choose Ambassador.

In the next post, we will look at some great VR apps you can use in the classroom.

Do you use VR already? Share your ideas and experiences with us!

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Digital Citizenship Week and Cyber Security Awareness Month

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Digital Citizenship Week is also in October, October 15-19.

These are some resources that can be used by students, employees, and parents to help promote and gain a better understanding of cyber security and digital citizenship.

Digital Citizenship Week - October 15-19
The first place to start for digital citizenship is Common Sense Media. CSM provides a free K-12 digital citizenship curriculum that can be integrated in the classroom or computer lab.

Check out the "4 Ways to Get Started Teaching Digital Citizenship" resource. You will need to create a CSM account in order to access the suggested resources.

You can encourage parents to take part in Digital Citizenship Week by taking the #DeviceFreeDinner challenge and/or sharing family engagement resources from Common Sense Media.

For elementary students, include one of these books during read aloud time to help discuss digital citizenship.

For secondary students, you can discuss ways to check facts online. Use this article from ISTE to help you get started.

For teachers on Twitter, search for #DigCit and connect with other educators discussing digital citizenship.

Cyber Security Awareness Month
2018 is the 15th year for Cyber Security Awareness Month. This month's overarching theme is "Cybersecurity is our shared responsibility and we all must work together to improve our Nation’s cybersecurity.".

Department of Homeland Security provides Cyber Security resources for K-12 classrooms. Check out Be Cyber Smart.

For parents and employees, check out the good online safety habits from STOP, THINK, CONNECT. These habits include:

- keep a clean machine
- protect your personal information
- connect with care
- be web wise
- be a good online citizen
- own your online presence

How are you promoting and/or teaching about cyber security and digital citizenship this month? Share your ideas with us!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Making a necessary evil fun and engaging!

Student assessment. It happens in schools all around the US .. all the time! Student assessment can make your extremely nervous. It can also make you wish the class period would never end.

I had the chance to share some online assessment resources with a group of teachers in February. They could name all of the icons below... except one!

They couldn't figure out the top, left icon. That is the icon for The Answer Pad.

The Answer Pad, like the other programs, allows your to assess students in an interactive format.

One thing I like about The Answer Pad is the fact you don't have to have a certain device. You can access it from the website, iOS app, or Android app. This means BYOD classes can use The Answer Pad as well as a one-to-one environment.

Once you create your account, you can start using The Answer Pad without having to enter the first student or question. This is a plus for me!  This means one less login/password for students (and me) to remember. I can also ask questions on the fly, which means I am prepared for those teachable moments.

When you select the Quick Connect feature, students enter the session with a Connect Code.  Once they are in the session, you can ask a variety of questions. I personally love the drawing question. This may be a little difficult with a mouse, but it forces the students do to more than mark a letter.

The Likert Scale question is also a good question for self assessment.  Ask the students who well they feel they understand the material.

You will see the student answers on your screen, which allows you to quickly check who does and does not understand the concept being assessed.

This is an example of a student, Eva, selecting thumbs up for the Up/Down question.

The Answer Pad also allows you to create student accounts and make assessments ahead of time.  You can also pay a yearly fee for more features. 

For me, however, I like the options available to me in Quick Connect. I can assess my students on the fly using multiple question formats. It doesn't matter the device type and I can see the student responses immediately and adjust the lesson accordingly.

Have you ever tried The Answer Pad?  If so, tell us about your experience!