Sunday, December 6, 2015

Why Teachers like Caine's Arcade (and it's not because of STEM)

     Caine's Arcade is a phenomenon in the innovative educational circles.  The video, about a young boy in Los Angeles who creates an "arcade" at his father's auto shop using only cardboard boxes and other items he finds, has captured teachers' imaginations at the prospect of passion-based learning for students.  The story is heartwarming; Caine pours his creative passion into making something he loves, shows it to a complete stranger, and soon an entire community rallies around the boy.  The echoes of this story include educational movements in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), Genius Hour projects, Project/ Problem-based learning, and Passion-based learning.

     Teachers are scrambling to provide similar learning experiences for students by allowing them to choose their passion and learn everything they possibly can about a topic.  After all, teachers are a passionate bunch themselves and pour everything they have into bringing powerful learning experiences for their students. We seem to be on to something, too, with all the emphasis on non-traditional subjects like STEM and coding being funded and made a priority at the state level.  Grants and resources are popping up everywhere for teachers to create makerspace-type environments in their classrooms.  And the research says it's a good thing for kids.
     While all that is good and worthwhile, I'd like to to believe that the reason teachers love Caine's Arcade so much has nothing to do with STEM, Genius hour, or anything like that.  I want to believe teachers love Caine's Arcade because of this guy:

Nirvan Mullick, Filmmaker of Caine's Arcade
That's right.  He's the stranger that visits Caine and plays his arcade for the first time, inspiring the film and the desire to tell Caine's story.  He's the real reason there's a maker movement spreading like wildfire throughout American education.  He's also the inspiration for teachers in the movie.

You see, Nirvan brings an element to Caine's life that may have been missing- a chance to affirm his passions publicly and to inspire Caine to continue down this passion path.  Honestly, that's how I envision to role of our teachers- the people that recognize, affirm, and inspire kids to do great things.  The people that go the extra mile to publicly lift up a child in their passion and learning.  Don't we all want to be that person, or at least have a person like that rooting for us?

   Maybe that's the real story here- who do you have rooting for you, lifting you up, affirming what you are doing as valuable, important, and worthwhile?  Who reveals your purpose in every child's life?

Sunday, November 29, 2015

"The Moment" i.e. Using a snapshot for writing

photo CC Courtesy of Ed Yourdon via Flickr
   I read an article today from the Grantland Sports Blog website (associated with ESPN) by Shea Serrano looking at his rankings of characters from an early '90's baseball movie. While the article was an interesting distraction from my normal educational duties, I couldn't help but like how Mr. Serrano introduced his article by showing a small clip from The Sandlot to emphasize a powerful memory from his younger years.  The introduction brought two ideas to the front of my mind:

1) Isn't it amazing how something so seemingly insignificant can leave such a powerful and lasting impression on children?  As an educator, this is something I need to reflect on and wrestle with more...

2) What a fantastic idea for a writing activity, which I think can span multiple grade levels!  Here's the idea: Have a student write about a powerful moment from a film that inspires, promotes, or speaks into their life in a significant way.  I see students researching the clip on Youtube, introducing "the moment," and blogging about it.  Students then can comment on each other's "moments" and build relationships throughout the building.

These types of writing and thinking prompts challenge our students to be reflective, thoughtful, and evaluative, especially if we put in the time to model and teach those skills.  What writing prompts have you used to get students thinking in powerful and dynamic ways?

What movie moments have spoken to you over the years?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Elementary News using TouchCast and iMovie

       I can't believe it's November already!  All my good intentions to continue writing this blog went out the window as soon as school started- I hope to renew this resource starting today.  With that said, I wanted share what the elementary students and staff are doing at BCLUW- using the Touchcast App and iMovie App for iPad, students are filming and reading a weekly newscast that gets shared to classrooms, parents, and the community.  Here's last week's news:

Using Touchcast, a free green-screen iPad app, we pick a background from a Creative Commons source.  The students receive their scripts from the principal a few days before, and rehearse.  On filming day, a student runs the camera and the app while the news reporters recite the news.
Touchcast is great for adding backgrounds using a green screen- it's a very user-friendly program that allows for some basic editing of film.  The really cool part is that you can add interactive elements to the broadcast- pictures, websites, music, video, etc.  If you upload the Touchcast by logging in, the elements in your video become interactive- that is, users watching your video can "touch" the elements and go to a different site.  You may also upload your video to the iPad's camera roll, which is what we do.

After uploading to the camera roll, we import the video into iMovie and add Creative Commons or fair-use copyrighted music, create title sequences, and export.  Everything is loaded into Google Drive and shared with parents.
Students using green screen with iPad

Students apply to be a part of the broadcast, and a new group of students are "hired" each month.  The entire process takes about 30 minutes to film, and about an hour to edit.  Allowing students to participate in the process can meet all sorts of Iowa Core standards, including Reading, Speaking and Listening Domains, and 21st Century Skills.  The Common Core doors fly open when students are allowed to write their own non-fiction school news!  Feel free to comment below any other ideas you might have to make this process more fun-

Friday, October 16, 2015

5 Free ELA and Literacy Digital Resources for Classrooms or Interventions

A number of groups are creating free resources for teachers to use for learning with literature, non-fiction, and current events in a digital format.  Many of these resources include lesson plans, assessment guides, and links to other resources for all subjects in K-12.  I want to highlight five of those resources below:

Choosing articles by skill in
1) is a free reading and literature resource for teachers to use in grades K through 6th.  Linked to Common Core standards, offers a free sign in where teachers can filter through printable or digital texts based on grade, lexile, guided reading levels, topics, or by skill. makes it very easy to find an appropriate mentor text based on grade level and skill need.
   Many of's texts will come with a formative comprehension quiz that uses multiple choice and short answer test items to provide teachers with some quick comprehension data.  The passages could easily be used in interventions over specific skills, or as a form of diagnostic assessment. also provides unit lessons and ideas for longer novels and has quite a database for 5th and 6th grade organized by genre.  If you have access to the books, becomes a valuable teaching tool for small group work.
NewsELA leveled article

2) NewsELA is a free, non-fiction current event news site organized by grade level, reading standard, or topic.  Signing up for NewsELA is easy (a few clicks if you have Gmail).  A pro account is required for some of the advanced features of NewsELA, like assigning articles and quizzes to students.
    However, one of the things I like is that the articles can be adjusted to accommodate multiple lexile levels (see picture at right).  Do you want a few small reading groups to read and discuss the same article? No problem!  Have the groups customize the lexile by clicking on the appropriate lexile button next to the article.
   There is also an option to take a multiple choice comprehension quiz or a short answer, open-ended writing prompt for students.

www.textproject.org3) is a non-profit website created especially for teachers to use with reading.  There are lesson plans, a variety of texts, read-alouds, vocabulary, and all sorts of great materials for teaching reading.  Best of all, everything on the site is provided at no cost.  The site claims to be specifically designed to be used with struggling readers.
  For those looking for research into best practices, has a database for you, as well!

Zing texts are filtered by reading skill
4) Zing! is a literacy classroom management tool.  Teachers can sign up, create a classroom, and add students.  Students can log into the classroom with a classroom code.  Once a classroom is set up, teachers can choose from a large list of free, digital texts organized by subject, topic, genre, lexile, guided reading levels, ATOS, and grade level.  There are a large selection of books to choose from and a nice interface for both student and teacher.  Zing! is also compatible on the iPad, and does offer some premium (paid) features, like assigning books to specific students.

   A nice feature in Zing! is the ability for students to "turn" digital pages and take open-ended and multiple choice quizzes after reading a book.  Students and teachers can also write reviews for books that anyone can reference prior to reading the book.  With such a large and varied selection of books, Zing! looks to be a great resource for reading and writing interventions.  I would warn that the navigation of the site would require some direction from the teacher, especially for younger students.

5) MackinVia is a tool similar to Zing!, in that you can assign books from a digital library based on numerous factors.  Thanks to the AEA here in Iowa, MackinVia is free to Iowa school districts.  This means that teachers have access to many of the advanced features for assigning books, creating classes, and tracking assessments.  I see this as a great resource for independent reading or guided reading small groups.

If you'd like some assistance planning and using any of these resources, and you are a teacher in a district I serve, please don't hesitate to email!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Summer Learning Opportunities for Teachers

Photo Credit: Wes Fryer at Flickr
I'm not going to lie to you: one of my favorite things about working in education, along with getting to interact with fantastic students, staff, and parents, is the ability to take a break in the summer.  And like many teachers, I use my summer months reflecting on my practices and looking for opportunities to learn.
   With that said, here are a few summer learning opportunities I wanted to share.  Some are local, some require a little travel, and many are online.  Hope there is something here that sparks your attention and challenges you!

Webinars/ Online learning:

1) AEA PD Online system lists dozens of summer learning opportunities educators can take online.  Many of these classes offer renewal and graduate credit.  With topics ranging from Iowa Core K-5 Writing Standards training to What Great Teachers Do Differently based on Todd Whitaker's book, there's bound to be something for you.

2) The ASCD has an online repository of past webinars which are free for anyone and usually include all the materials used in the webinar: handouts, powerpoints, assignments, etc.  Presenters are professionals from all walks of education around the world.  The archive has webinars from the past five years from education greats like Grant Wiggins, Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey.

3) Education Week has posted a list of summer webinar classes that deal with many issues in education, including educational technology topics from Microsoft or Google for Education, the "Opt-out" movement from the Walton Foundation, and building school communities from the Ford Foundation.  Many of these webinars only last an hour during a single day, require a registration, and allow for a question and answer period.

4) Google for Education hosted a two-day online Education on Air Summit in early May featuring people from all walks of life talking about how to make an incredible impact with students.  Speakers included First Lady Michelle Obama, LeVar Burton (of Reading Rainbow fame), Michael Fullan (Professor Emeritus University of Toronto), and Laszlo Block (Google Senior VP).  The entire conference was done using Google on Air, and has been archived.  The best part- the entire archive is free to watch!

Local (NE Iowa) Summer Learning Opportunities:

1) Again, AEA267 (Cedar Falls) offers a number of classes for graduate or renewal credit.  You must have an AEA account to register for classes.  Just a quick look at their summer learning catalog showed a class over working with students on the autism spectrum and a class on building literacy in a Social Studies curriculum.  Quite a few of these classes have multiple sections meeting in places like Clear Lake and Marshalltown, and meet throughout the summer.

2) Grant Wood AEA is hosting iPadU, a conference looking at innovative uses of an iPad in education.  The conference takes place July 8, 9, and 10 in Cedar Rapids (at Grant Wood).  The registration costs $110, and includes lunch for all 3 days.  Keynote speakers include Brent Catlett and Craig Badura.

3) The Technology Integration Conference (TIC) is happening June 16-17 in Dubuque and features some incredible keynote speakers, including one of my favorites, Jennie Mageria from the Chicago area.  Registering for the conference will cost $130.

4) The Technology Integration for the 21st Century Learner (TICL) conference is June 15-17 at Buena Vista University in Clear Lake, Iowa.  The conference will focus on using technology to engage students differently.  Sessions during the conference include student portfolios in the elementary, using technology with autism, STEM based learning, Makerspaces, Digital Citizenship, and online tools for students.

Midwest Travel Conferences:

1) Brian McLane, a teacher in Dubuque, has compiled a nice list (via Google Spreadsheets) of Midwest Ed Tech learning opportunities in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois.  The conferences listed in the sheets are links to the websites.  Some (if not all) of these conferences will require a registration and cost.

2) What Great Educators do Differently is a power conference in Chicago dealing with how to go from being a good educator to becoming a great educator.  The conference is at Trinity International University on October 16th and 17th.  I know that it technically isn't during the summer, but I know if I want to go, I'll need to start saving now.  Conference speakers include Todd Whitaker, and Iowa legends Shannon Mclintock Miller, Jimmy Casas, and Angela Maiers.  It's a little pricey at $399 (early bird, before July 1), but the two day conference looks to be an incredible chance to hear from and connect with the best teachers in the midwest.

More Travel Conferences:

If you're looking to possibly get a little further away for the summer, or you want to turn your travel vacation into a learning vacation, check out the Google Summit page to see if there is a summit taking place somewhere you want to go.  Google summits take place all over the world and all throughout the year.  I've been to a few summits, and they always deal with incorporating Google Apps for Education in innovative ways in the classroom.  Google Summits feature Google Certified Teachers and Google for Education Certified Trainers in leading sessions.  Most summits will have a registration cost.

If you're looking for a creative way to find funds for a few of these conferences, take a look at GoFundMe, IndieGoGo, or DonorsChoose.

Finally, feel free to comment other conferences or webinars below that you've attended.  Include a link if possible! Have a fantastic summer-

Friday, May 1, 2015

Youtube and Copyright

Photo Courtesy of Jurgen Appelo via
   I had a great question from a teacher the other day about what is ok to post into Youtube and what isn't, in terms of copyright.  Youtube will block content you post if they determine there is a copyright infringement.  This particular teacher had purchased a song from iTunes and wanted to use it in a video she created to model a research project for her students.  She was under the impression that because she purchased the song on iTunes, she now had the rights to include it in a Youtube video.
   Thankfully, Youtube has created a number of helpful, student and education-friendly videos explaining copyright in Youtube.  The videos are helpful and fun, although mostly geared towards an adult audience.  I've embedded their video on Copyright Basics below.
   Youtube also developed a series of incredible (again, geared towards adults) videos dealing with starting a Youtube channel, creating "watchable" videos, and generating subscribers.  These videos, on the Youtube Creator Academy Channel, utilize current Youtube stars and people that understand the meme and viral video industry.
   Finally, the teacher and I determined that just because you purchase a song from iTunes, it doesn't grant you the copyright to the song.  However, copyright does allow you to use a song in special circumstances, and you can check those circumstances here.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Organizing Google Drive Part 2

  Teachers at GMG elementary had an opportunity to learn about ways of organizing their Google Drive this week (the NEW Google Drive, that is.  Word has it that Google will switch everyone over to the new Drive sometime this month), and I wanted to take this opportunity to post their problem-based learning reflection tasks.  Below are screencasts and videos the crew made to help them remember important features in Google Drive and how they could use those with colleagues, parents, and students.
   A major frustration for teachers using Google Drive is how to organize files that are "Shared with Me" into a folder on the drive; after all, it is NOT fun to try and search through the "Shared with Me" files for a doc that you can't remember the name of or who sent it to you.  So we learned about three really easy features: search modifiersDrag-and-drop, and Shift + Z.  Check it out!

Just a final reminder about Google Drive: you can access the keyboard shortcut screen by using Shift + ?.  

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

3 Quick Tips for Organizing Google Drive

Use "NEW" and select "Folder" to
create a new Folder in Drive
    Between created files, shared files, student work, uploads, photos, and all the other stuff that seems to find its way into our Google Drive, it sure is easy to let things get out of control.  Keeping track of your files in Google Drive is a fairly simple, but incredibly valuable skill for teachers and students.  Here's the three top tools I use in Google Drive to keep things where I can find them.

1) Create Folders
    Use the "New" button in Google Drive and select "Folder."  Name the folder, then drag and drop files you'd like organized into that folder.  Want to separate files even further?  Then use the "New" button again to create a folder within a folder.  For example, if I have a "Math" folder, I might create more folders for 1st hour, 2nd hour, etc.

2) Color code your Folders
   I'm a visual guy, and color-coding my Google Drive folders makes it easy for me to notice my folders.  Find the folder you want to color, right-click, then choose "Change Color."  There are 24 different colors to choose from- have fun!

Right-click a folder to change its color

3) Starred
   There are a few files I access consistently, or need my attention for a short time.  In those cases, I will "Star" the files by right-clicking the file and choosing "Star."  Those files are then automatically stored in the "Starred" menu on the left side of the screen, ready to be accessed.
You can add a STAR by right-clicking a file, or open the file and click
the star next to the title.  The folder icon next to the star will allow you
to move the file to a folder in Drive.

    No longer need them in the Starred?  Simply right-click the file again, the choose "Remove Star."  The file will be removed from the Starred menu.

     Creating folders, color-coding them, and using Stars has really cleaned up my Drive and kept things easy to find.   Just a few minutes of organizing has saved me countless hours of looking for files. And remember, if you still need help finding a file, Google has a search bar at the top of Drive which will only search for files using the search terms you type in.

Friday, March 6, 2015

2 Ways to Show Youtube Videos without Youtube

    I'm sure you're like me, and whenever I wanted to show a Youtube video in class, I always made sure to watch the entire video before showing it to students.  You never know, after all, what might pop up in a Youtube video.
    The past few years, however, I've also had to watch out for all the "other" stuff- you know, suggested videos that Youtube embeds after your video, the videos and descriptions on the right side of the screen, and the comments at the bottom of the screen.  Some of that stuff can be downright offensive and inappropriate in a school setting.  As an educator, here's two websites that allow you to show (or download) Youtube videos in class without all the other "stuff."

1) is a website that will strip away all the comments and suggested videos and leave you with a nice, clean website with only your video playing.  It will even eliminate the end-of-video suggestions!  All you need to do is find your video in Youtube, copy the Youtube URL, and paste it into  It will generate a new link with your stripped down video. also allows you to download the video as an MP3 or MP4 file!  Here's an example of how it works:
Copy URL from Youtube
Paste URL, then click "Take me to safe view"
This is what the "Safe View" looks like!  No extra "stuff!"  Plus, you have the ability to download the video.

   View Pure is similar to copy and paste the Youtube link into View Pure, then click, "Purify."  Although you cannot download a video once it has been purified, I do like that gives you a button to add to your bookmark bar.  This button allows you to skip the step of visiting the website- simply go to the Youtube video that you want purified, then click the ViewPure button in your bookmark bar and it will take you to a purified version of the video!
Copy URL from Youtube
Paste URL and click "Purify."  Or, click and drag the small, orange "Purify"
button to your bookmark bar and purify videos directly on Youtube!

This is what a "Purified" video looks like.  No download capabilities, but no other "stuff," either.
There are a some Chrome Extensions that you can add from the Chrome Store that will do similar things to Youtube videos.  Make sure to check out some of them here.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Using Google's 3rd Party Sign In

    Many sites now have the capability of using third party sign-in, that is, if you're signed in to  Gmail, Google+, or Facebook, you can use the same credentials to sign into a different app or website (like Thinglink, Symbaloo, or Bright Bytes).  Using this feature allows you to sign into many different websites without creating a brand new username and password for each new service.  I don't know about you, but the fewer usernames and passwords I have out there, the less opportunities exist for me to lose those credentials.

Here are a few pointers when using "Sign in with Google:"

1) Look for the third party sign-in button on log in pages (like the one above).

Use Google+ Sign-in with
2) Google will confirm that you want to give permission to the app/website to use your Gmail credentials to sign in.

3) Sometimes, the app will request other permissions, like posting to your Facebook or Google+ page on your behalf.  You can even grant the app permission to post to specific Google Circles, if you'd like. This can be adjusted by clicking the pencil to the right of the permission.  I always set my permissions to "Only You."

4) Once you have your permissions set, click the blue "Accept" button.

5) The next time you visit the app/website, if you are signed into your Gmail, you can simply lick the red "Sign in with Google" button and have access to your account.

6) In many cases, Google will integrate and "talk" with the other website, allowing you to save and share using Google Drive.  You can also add those apps through the Google Chrome Store and directly into your Google Drive.  A couple examples of this would include the WeVideo app (which saves user-created movies on Drive) and Powtoon (which saves user-made cartoons on Drive).

Some words of advice when using this:

  • Many login pages will include a place to enter your username and password; you DO NOT need to do so if you are using the "Sign in with Google" button.  
  • Using the third party sign-in DOES NOT give the website or app permission to read your emails or send you junk mail; however, it is wise to read what it is you are agreeing to.
  • I typically will only sign into educational websites with my school assigned gmail address- never personal websites (like banking, bills, games, etc.).  I've made it a priority to keep personal and professional accounts completely separate- it just seems to make sense in this digital age.
  •  I will rarely ask students to use this feature unless I've read the website's End User License Agreement and confirm that privacy is ensured.  I also double check our school district's Computer Use Agreement (sample agreement from Wilmette Public Schools, to verify that I am not asking students to do something in violation of those agreements.
  •  If something doesn't feel right about the app/ website, I will NOT use the third party sign-in button, especially if I am not sure the website will keep my information private. If I still want to use the website, though, I'll typically register with another email address and password.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

5 Google Drawing Ideas to Unleash Student Creativity

    If you're looking for ways to allow students to be more creative with technology (think our Bright Bytes goals and Iowa Core Curriculum Universal Constructs), here are some easy, foundational skill building ways using Google Drawing.  First, to create a Google Drawing, go to your Drive, click the red "New" or "Create" button, and find Google Drawing.

Here are some quick ideas:

1. Create an Avatar- students can import a picture (even their own) and modify it for cyber safety's sake.  Feel free to tie in art topics, and have students create a blog avatar using themes and ideas from cubism, impressionism, or another artistic concept.  The picture could then be used as an avatar for student blogs.  My humble attempt took about 5 minutes.

2. Create a logo- To increase the relevance, have students create logos.  I see teachers having students create logos for historical themes like American Revolutionaries did with concepts of liberty, freedom, and later with manifest destiny.  Students could also use design concepts to create logos for local businesses or school websites.  I created the Curriculum and Innovation header using Google Drawings, and this Favicon for the website:

3. Demonstrate your learning graphically- Google drawings can create mind maps, graphic organizers, and with some extension and scaffolding, infographics.  Alice Keeler, author of the blog Teacher Tech, has some excellent ideas here.

4. Build badges to Gamify your content- why not have students design the badges for your gamified curriculum?  Badges could also be shared among content areas.  Badges can be imported into spreadsheets and displayed on web pages.  Check our Google Apps Ninja website to see an example of this HERE.

5. App smash your original art with other apps to create powerful learning opportunities-  Students can create an original image, then import it into YouTube or Thinglink and annotate the image.  A secondary result from doing images this way is you eliminate (mostly) the worry about students using copyrighted images.  I created this Thinglink image from Google Drawings and used the embed code to add it to my blog:

Of course, there are a number of drawing apps and programs that have different features which may be better suited for your needs.  However, with so many schools using Google Apps for Education, the features of sharing, collaborating, commenting and importing, Google Drawings adds another level of ease for teachers, parents, and students.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Building a Student Tech Team

     One of the goals (from Bright Bytes survey data) for our districts this year was to build a student-driven technology team within our buildings.  Student tech teams lend themselves to some incredible learning and leadership opportunities for students of all ages.  As I've been working specifically with middle and high school students on this task, here are five pillars we wanted to put into place:

  1.  A purposeful Mission statement which attends to relevant needs and is built by the group.
  2. A chance for students to develop leadership skills through mini-lessons and conversations.
  3. Opportunities for students to belong to an "intervention" like group where they could extend their learning, but also get social support from a diverse group (insert "Cheers" theme song here).
  4. A Genius Hour/ Passion Project like environment where success is variable but "failing forward" and learning are constants.
  5. A chance to reflect, grow, and evolve ourselves and the tech team.

As I built this group, I also wanted to avoid these things:
  1. Making the group "just another thing" that students have to worry about.
  2. Grading things.
  3. An excuse to miss in-class learning; either because students are out of class or because students are neglecting their class duties while working on tech team things.
  4. A short term group dependent on one person for success.

    I built a Google Apps Ninja training site based on Jeff Utecht's Google Apps Ninja student training resources (he has graciously made those resources free for anyone under a Creative Commons license).  The Google Ninja Training site is a self-directed, quizzed website that allows students to learn about Google apps and begin applying their knowledge in class.  There are formative assessments built from a Google form that self-grades and lets me know when a quiz has been passed. Students also had to apply to be a part of the group, and a basic criteria was used to filter the applicants.  Teachers also had input into the makeup of the group.

    From there, I am also challenging students to address issues that are happening in our communities through technology and activism (like iPad school policies, student morning news webcasts, student depression, combating hunger, assistance with Chromebooks, etc.).  My groups so far are really excited to learn coding (from, and build apps.

    For a group of high school students, we created the STEAM team looking at STEAM initiatives and teaching lessons to elementary students.  I'm still trying to figure out the direction for this group, but they seem really motivated to work with our younger students on cool things like Lego League, Makey-Makey, Squishy Circuits, robots, raspberry pi, and

    Our Google Apps Ninja team has met a handful of times, and already they are excited and motivated to create with technology and help their school in many different ways.  I'll continue to post here the progress and projects we are working on.

    In the meantime, feel free to swing over to the Google Apps Ninja Training Dojo and try your hand at a few of the quizzes and training materials.  I'd be more than happy to send you a ninja badge when you complete a test!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

What about Blogging?

Blogging is an incredibly powerful tool for student learning, and I find it is easily overlooked by teachers as an effective means to teach reading, writing, and critical thinking skills to students.  Plus, blogging opens the doors for conversations about digital citizenship and cyber safety. Recently, I gave a presentation about the power of using blogs (Kidblog, in particular) with students of all ages.  Below are the presentation slides.

If you're interested in engaging your students in writing and reading, improving their abilities as reflective, evaluative, and critical thinkers, and wanting to connect your classroom to other classrooms around the world, then give blogging a look.  I'd be glad to come in and work with you on a framework for student blogging that is both powerful and effective.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Mic Note Chrome App: Endless Learning Possiblities!

6th graders at North Tama elementary had a problem.  They wanted to get word out about their class store, but couldn't get the right information to the announcements at the right time, and to the right people.  Enter Mic Note: the Chrome app with endless possibilities.

Mic Note is a free Chrome app that combines a text editor with a audio recorder and editor.  Simply type up your script, including adding pictures, highlights, powerpoints, or PDF's, then hit record.  The app will record anything it hears.

After recording, you can add timestamps into your script to log the progress of the recording.  With Mic Note Pro, you have an added ability to edit your recording by flagging, deleting, and trimming selected sections.

When you have a final product, export it to Google Drive, Dropbox, or your local disk, then share as needed.  Shared versions show up as both an MP3 file and a PDF of the script.  The free version limits users to 10 minutes of total recording time.  The Pro version ($4.99) gives unlimited recording time and the ability to edit recordings.
Mic Note allows you to write out your script before, or after,
you record.  You can also "flag" parts of the recording.

 The 6th graders used Mic Note to write, record and share announcements, which were then played for the student body. Really, the possibilities here are endless-  I can see coupling this tool with QR codes to make some incredible learning or reflection logs, teachers can give directions both in written and audible form, or students can post recordings and scripts to a blog.  Students that need differentiation can record their voice first, then type up what they said later- very handy for those students who tend to think faster than they can type.

You can find the Mic Note app in the Google Chrome Store.