Digital Advent Calendars

Have y’all noticed the really cool digital advent calendars on Twitter lately? This is a great idea to use with students or even with your faculty. Each day is a challenge to learn something new that you can implement in the new year. Here are a few that I have found. Cheers!

Ryan O’Donnell’s (@creativeedtech) Holiday Advent Calendar. Posting began Dec. 1st. Check back daily for new ideas and resources. 

Eric Curts (@ericcurts) 12 Days of Tech-mas. Eric will publish one blog post daily for 12 days. Each blog post will provide a list of useful resources corresponding to the number of that entry, from 1 through 12. Grow your PLN with Eric’s suggestions.

Mariana Garcia-Serrato (@MarianaGSerrato) Hour of Code Advent Calendar  Mariana created a Thinglink interactive image for students to explore a different coding activity every day (top). The one under it is for teachers to explore possible tech tools to use with students.


Shelly Terrell (@ShellTerrell) Digital Click and Learn December Calendar.  Students can count the days till the break or count the days towards class starting again in 2018. Shelly also provides resources on how to make your own Click and Learn Calendar.

Hour of Code 2017

The 2017 Hour of Code begins next Monday, December 4th and continues throughout the week. I’ve updated the HOC page on Rock the Lab to include the most recent courses and activities from which students can choose. I’ve also made a quick video to help you navigate the page and point students to the most appropriate activities for their experience level. Remember, Hour of Code doesn’t have to be just one week out of the year. Have students revisit this page often to help them become digitally literate.

Create FUN Adventures Using IF FUNctions

My obsession with Alice Keeler is still going strong. I took several of her Go Slow Workshops over the summer and I’m finally ready to share my favorite thing I learned with you. My first introduction to IF functions came in the form of poo. Yes, poo. Alice created an assignment that blew my mind. In this activity, your task is to discover how equations make operations of a farm in Tanzania more efficient. As you progress, personalized directions facilitate the various tasks embedded within the lesson. It makes you feel like the teacher is sitting right next to you, guiding and cheering you on as you learn. Click here to make a copy.

A Google Sheets IF function allows you to use decision making in a worksheet. The IF function tests to see if a certain condition in a cell is true or false. You then use cell referencing to pull data from one sheet to the next. The result is pretty amazing. After we learned the basics, we were tasked with creating an IF function adventure of our own. I chose place value for 2nd grade to be my learning objective. I recorded a video that walks you through the student experience. (Sorry about the dog in the background attacking the UPS guy. She does it out of love.) Click here to make a copy of the lesson.

I highly recommend Alice Keeler’s Go Slow Workshops to learn more about using G Suite with students. Find Teacher Tech blog posts and tips at alicekeeler.com. Follow @alicekeeler on Twitter.

If you plan it…

The following post is from guest blogger Erika Neuman, 5th grade teacher at Bulverde Creek Elementary, San Antonio, TX. Follow her on Twitter @TeamNeuman

First and foremost, I must thank the owner of this very blog for all of her enthusiasm, organization, planning, and inspiration for our first STEM Day. She truly took the event above and beyond what I envisioned.  So – Thank you, Laura Moore.

So STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) Day was amazing, and I am not just saying that because it was my brain-child.  Students and teachers were all working around the entire day with a pep in their steps and an energy that was palpable.  

The idea sprang from the misconception, which I had for a long time, that STEM had to include the latest and greatest Technology available and all the other letters played a supporting role.  This one misnomer deterred a lot of teachers from ever attempting STEM in their classrooms.  I don’t believe that any teacher is opposed to technology, it is constantly changing and growing and this can be intimidating considering that our standards, students, parents, and environments are constantly changing as well, and this is all a lot to juggle. Finding time to learn and integrate something that isn’t a necessity is tough. Enter, my epiphany.  If teachers realize that STEM doesn’t have to be all about technology, maybe they will be more inclined to try it, which will help them understand it, which will make it easier to integrate that new technology that they’ve been avoiding.  

The plan for STEM day started with two activities, one led by 5th grade students, and one with a literacy connection and a lesson plan that the teachers would be able to teach themselves.  This is where Laura comes in.  I asked her for some suggestions and next thing I know, she has a whole crew of Instructional Technology Specialists hopping aboard.  In my attempt to show teachers how friendly STEM can be, I didn’t think that the ITSs would be able to do the same with that spooky technology.  The plan snowballed from there. I got confirmation from FIRST Robotics and Mad Science.  Mathnasium offered stations as well.  My principal sent out a digital flyer inviting parents to volunteer and we got some support there.  Our librarian used funds to purchase a book for each teacher for the literacy connection, PTA donated funds for Dash Cleverbots and Snap Circuit boards, and we created a Sign-Up Genius for each grade level to get donations of toothpicks, marbles, dixie cups, and other consumable items.  

The toughest part, was scheduling.  We literally had so much to do and so little time.  We were squeezing presentations into our schedule up until the day before.  I created an individual schedule for each teacher working around their lunch and specials and also around other presenters.  It was like a giant puzzle, but once it was complete, all was well in my world…mostly.

Then we had materials to disperse, 5th grade students to train, and presenters to confirm.  Then the long awaited day arrived, and of course, there had to be some hiccups.  One of the presenters showed up an hour-and-a-half late, iPads weren’t bringing up apps, and classes were going every which way at any given time.  All in all though, we couldn’t have asked for a better day.  The students were so ecstatic to be learning from the 5th graders and learning in ways that they usually get to learn.  The teachers enjoyed having STEM brought to them and experiencing it for themselves.  And as for the planners, the buzz of excitement from everyone involved was more that we could have asked for.

Thank you to Erika, Bulverde Creek 5th grade students, guest presenters and NEISD Instructional Technology Specialists for making this great day happen. Read more about the Bulverde Creek STEM Day here. Enjoy the slideshow below:

Slideshow created with DriveSlides Chrome Extension by Matt Miller and Alice Keeler.

Wouldn’t it be Cool if…

… you could design a lesson any way you wanted without platform limitations?

The term App Smash was coined by Greg Kulowiec (@gregkulowiec), who shares much of his work and thinking on his website, The History 2.0 Classroom. After working with iPads for some time, he quickly realized the following, 

“Most processes couldn’t be completed with just one app.  While many apps slightly overlap in terms of functionality, there tends to be a few black holes in each app that require the use of another app to complete the process.”   

The same can be said for web based tools such as G Suite. In a perfect world, I would have the ability to embed content within a Google Doc. There are a few hacks you can use to embed a YouTube video, but it’s really not the same. When platforms allow you to work in conjunction with other platforms, then your “what if?” can become a reality.

Recently, Sutori announced a game changing addition to their product. You can now embed content created on other sites. Over the past few weeks NEISD Social Studies Specialist, Carly Dodd, and I have been collaborating on a project for 4th grade students using Sutori and my other favorite web based app, Thinglink. Many times when a platform has functional limitations, you have to reshape the learning objectives to fit the nature of the tool. What we noticed when designing this lesson was how the learning objectives came to the forefront because the tools had so many functionality options. Carly and I were able to frantically brainstorm ideas and we never once said, “This tool won’t allow us to do that.” We wanted to create a lesson where students could travel back in time to the year 1836 to see the Alamo before the infamous battle. Because we live in San Antonio, many students have visited with family or on school field trips. What most people from outside the state of Texas don’t realize is that only a very small portion of the Alamo still stands today. It’s located in the heart of downtown surrounded by tall buildings. Our learning objective was for students to be able to tell us why the Alamo is an important landmark in Texas and the significance the battle had on the road to Texas Independence. This is where you meet our 3rd collaborator, the amazing James Boddie.

James has been working on an incredible project called Alamo 2.o. He’s using CGI technology to build a 3D model of the Alamo in 1836. This was the perfect background image to use with the Thinglink 360 video editor. I was able to upload his 360 image and annotate it with additional 3D content created by James. The end result is a totally authentic, immersive experience that makes you feel like you’ve traveled back in time.

Having the ability to embed this Thinglink resource allows content to be brought to the students. Everything they need to master these learning objectives can be found, for the most part, on one landing page, thus making Sutori the perfect vehicle to facilitate engaging experiences for students. Click here to view the lesson on the Sutori website. I’d like to thank Carly and James for collaborating with me on this project.

The Edtech Alphabet for Today’s Learners: 2017

It never fails. I make a video of how to navigate an interface or take screenshots of how to do something, and the developers immediately push out a new update. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the world of Edtech over the years, it’s to be adaptable. Change is inevitable, so let’s teach students and teachers how to embrace it. My recent bout of insomnia made me think about all of the current tools, ideas, pedagogy and leaders in the field of Educational Technology that teachers should know about. I put together an interactive Thinglink image that will probably need to be updated every year. Some of the resources I tagged are here to stay, such as robotics, virtual reality and the 4Cs. I must admit, I’m looking forward to seeing how this image will change in 2018. Let me know what you think should be added or removed.

Using Google Fonts

I don’t know about your district, but our Technology Department won’t let us install anything on a district issued computer. I totally understand why and agree with it…with the exception of fonts. Fonts are the most important thing to an elementary school teacher, except for their students, of course. I recently discovered the Google Fonts page and figured out how we can use them in our district. Below are 2 videos. The first explains how to add and use a Google font add-on called Extensis Fonts, and the second will show you how to download and install Google Fonts to use in a Word Document. I hope this brings you peace and joy.

 

Google Jedi Training Academy

I’m usually not a fan of teaching technology skills in isolation, but lately I’ve noticed students struggling when trying to use Google Apps in the computer lab. When a project takes twice as long to complete because students don’t know how to manipulate objects on a slide or share a document for peer feedback and collaboration, then technology no longer enhances the learning. It actually gets in the way. Every single lesson you design should have at least 1 of the 4Cs (Read more about Using G Suite to Foster the 4Cs here). The flow of your lesson can come to a dead stop if students aren’t proficient in even the basic skills of navigating G Suite. I’ve been working on a new section of Rock the Lab where students can earn Jedi Lightsaber badges to demonstrate mastery of Google Docs, Slides, Drawings and Sheets. 

 

When students click on one of the badges, it will take them to a page where they can choose the K-2 or the 3-5 Lesson. Upon completion, students will share the documents with their teacher. Each page has a link to a Google Form where the teacher of record then fills in the information so students can be sent their badges. For logistics purposes, the badges are only available for NEISD students, however, anyone with the links can access the activities. Feel free to use and modify to fit your needs. 


Wicked Star Wars Gifs. (2017). Abduzeedo.com. Retrieved 22 October 2017, from http://abduzeedo.com/node/82097

To access the Google Jedi Training Academy, click on the Technology button located on the homepage of Rock the LabI highly recommend you preview each activity before you allow students to begin. Directions and gif tutorials are embedded throughout, but be prepared to provide additional support if needed. Taking the time now to teach these skills will allow for more content creation and use of the 4Cs throughout the year. A student’s future teacher will thank you!

Google Classroom Vs. SeeSaw

The question most often asked by teachers is, “What’s the difference between Google Classroom and SeeSaw?” It’s then usually followed by, “Which one should I be using?” The tech nerd in me always says BOTH, however, I do see how maintaining 2 different digital spaces can be time consuming. I recently created a professional development for teachers to learn about the similarities and differences between the two platforms. We start off as a whole group by discussing the purpose and functionality of each, then the rest of the time is spent independently exploring the teacher’s preferred platform. Feel free to use and modify if you wish. Click here to make a copy.

Learn Smore Stuff

Smore was one of the first online tools I discovered that allowed me to create engaging resources for students, and served as a tool for student content creation. The Smore blog recently featured one of my lessons, which made me revisit the flyers I created a few years ago. I thought I would dust them off and share some with you. 

Made with Padlet

Tips for Making Engaging Flyers

Begin by focusing on the learning objective then find multimedia resources that support the learning objectives. Include them in your flyer using a scaffolded approach. Use videos to engage the student followed by interactive websites that allow the student to practice skills that reinforce the concept discussed in the videos. Finally, provide them with opportunities to independently demonstrate mastery of content.

Students work best when given multiple ways to learn concepts. Provide various types of multimedia content such as text, videos and interactive games that help students master learning objectives. Also provide them with a way to record their learning and be accountable for their time on the computer. They can make a screencast, write strategies in a math journal, or take screenshots of online quiz results that will help you determine their level of understanding.

Make sure that the interactive content you are linking to works on all devices and in multiple browsers. Test your links prior to publishing your flyer and include any directions that will help the end user have a positive experience. For example, “This site works best on Chrome.”

10 Wordless Videos That Teach Problem Solving

A couple of weeks ago, I read a blog post about using short Pixar animated videos to teach problem solving written by Speech Pathologist, Sarah Wu. The idea intrigued me because this type of activity forces students to use their own language in order to answer questions and retell events. Summarization is a skill needed in all content areas, not just Language Arts. I think that by not providing a word bank or piece of text that they can refer back to increases the level of critical thinking on the part of the student. You can also take this opportunity to teach them about utilizing online tools such as a thesaurus. KidThesaurus.com is kid friendly and doesn’t fill the screen with a whole bunch of adds.

Click here if you would like to make a copy of the lesson.

Web Apps + Sutori = Pure Joy

Yes, I recognize that I obsess over certain web based tools, but there’s a reason. We are in the middle of an educational transformation. Think about how we taught students just 10 years ago. There were no iPads (those came in 2010).  Web 2.0 was still new to most educators who didn’t even know the difference between consumption vs. creation. We had dry erase boards instead of SMART Boards, and books had to be held up to students at the front of the room because there were no document cameras. 

Technology didn’t just change the physical classroom. It also changed the way we interact with students and the way in which students interact with the world. So when all of my favorite tools jump into the giant technology pool together, I get giddy. 

Sutori (formerly known as HSTRY) recently announced that you can now embed content from other web based platforms. The ability to utilize multiple tools to engage students in the learning process increases attention, motivates them to practice higher-level critical thinking skills and promotes meaningful learning experiences. You can read more about their embeddable content on this blog post.

Click here for the NEISD Sutori Training

Using G Suite to Foster the 4Cs

One of my summer projects was to take about a billion Go Slow Workshops facilitated by Alice Keeler. I can honestly say I have learned more over the past few months than I have in my 12 years of being an Instructional Technology Specialist. Some of my classes included Google Classroom, Google Scripts, Google Sheets, DOK and Working Collaboratively with Google Apps. It’s perfect timing because one of our district initiatives this year is to provide students with more opportunities to incorporate the 4Cs within curriculum objectives. I’ve taken the knowledge I’ve learned from Alice and applied it to, what I think, is the best PD I’ve ever offered. It can probably be completed in a 3 hour face to face training, however, it’s really meant to be an asynchronous and self-paced exploration. The curated resources allow for differentiation, so if you are comfortable using G Suite then you can skip over the parts that deal with functionality and navigation. The “meat” of the training is embedded within a Google Classroom so teachers can see the workflow and digital discussions that are such a huge part of a student-centered environment. Unfortunately, our district does not allow people from outside of the NEISD domain to join our classrooms. I decided to wrap it all up in a HyperDoc so you can get a basic idea of how the class works. Many of the resources in the Google Classroom come from Alice Keeler, Eric Curts, Christine Pinto, and Nadine Gilkinson. I’ve been Twitter stalking these 4 for quite some time. Click here if you would like a copy of the HyperDoc.


ClassroomScreen is a Teacher’s BFF

ClassroomScreen.com is a simple webpage full of digital widgets that help your students stay on task as they work. Think of it as “Command Central” for your classroom activities. Here are just a few things you can project on your screen:

  • Choose from 21 different languages
  • Add a background from their library or upload your own
  • Copy/Paste a list of student names for a random pick
  • Display an interactive calculator
  • Paste a URL to generate a QR code
  • Display a full screen or widget size drawing pad
  • Open a text editor to display instructions or agenda for the day
  • Display work symbols to identify individual or group work
  • Display a traffic light to control voice level
  • Show a timer or a clock

 

It is not possible to save your screen, but you can quickly customize within seconds. Check out the video walkthrough.