Category Archives: 3-12

Storybooth

Storybooth is a website that gives students voice in a unique way.  Students who are registered can record stories and submit them.  The Storybooth team chooses submissions to animate and produce as videos with the original narration on the site.  It reminds me a bit of the StoryCorps animated videos – just designed for a younger audience.

As an elementary teacher, I would probably not assign my class to record personal narratives on Storybooth.  Instead, I see myself using some of the videos as a resource for inspirational stories to show my students.  I would urge you to choose carefully, as there is a wide range of topics from cyberbullying to dealing with getting your period for the first time.  If you are a secondary teacher, or a parent or educator who knows a particular student who has a story to tell, however, you might consider encouraging that child to make a submission.  Having your story chosen to be animated is surely a very validating experience!

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Advice from Storybooth on story submission possibilities

Below is an example of one Storybooth video that I think would be valuable to show students of any age.  If you are doing a lesson on Growth Mindset, friendship, or empathy, “I Wish I Was Invisible” would fit right in.

For more videos, visit the Storybooth website, or you can also check my Pinterest Board of Inspirational Videos for Students.

The 6 P’s of Genius Hour

Last week I mentioned that one of the best parts of attending ISTE is meeting up with people who share our desire to make school amazing for our students.  One of those people is Andi McNairan (@mcnairan3).

Until recently, Andi taught gifted students (she now works for a regional service center), and also integrated Genius Hour into her classroom.  We would touch base with each other to share ideas, read each other’s blogs, and try to meet up at TCEA whenever we could.

Andi recently published a book, called, Genius Hour: Passion Projects that Ignite Innovation and Student Inquiry.  In the book, and in her ISTE presentation, Andi talks about the “6 P’s of Genius Hour”: Passion, Presentation, Pitch, Product, Project, and Plan.  At ISTE, Andi went over some of the tech tools that have helped her students in each of these areas.  For example, she provides the students with QR codes for each of the phases.  They can scan these and instantly be on a web page that gives instructions and resources for that phase.  Because Andi also thinks that reflection is vital, she gives the students a QR code that leads to Tony Vincent’s reflection generator – which offers a randomly selected reflection question each time you visit the page.

Do you have students who have difficulty coming up with topics for Genius Hour?  Andi suggests using A.J. Juliani’s “Passion Bracket” to help them brainstorm. On one side, students brainstorm things that they love, and on the other they think about things that bother them.  By the time they reach the middle, narrowing down favorites, they have potential topics for research.

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A favorite tool of Andi’s that I keep meaning to try is Trello.  Trello can be used by the individual students to keep track of their own progress, but it can also be used by the instructor to determine what phase each student is currently working on.  The name blocks under each category can be easily dragged to a new column.

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Andi and I are both keen on students interviewing outside experts for their projects.  To find those experts, she suggests using Nepris, which matches classroom teachers with industry experts for video conferences.  Like many edtech companies these days, Nepris has limited free options and a subscription option.  One great tip that I learned from Andi is to have the students record their interviews, so they don’t have to take notes. This frees them up to look at the person they are conferencing with, and to pay attention to the topics.  She also mentioned that she has the students prioritize their questions before the interview in case not everything can be covered during their 30 minute time period.

You can find out more about Andi’s extremely helpful tips by visiting her website – appropriately titled, A Meaningful Mess – or purchasing her book.

For more Genius Hour resources, here is my page that includes helpful links, my own personal journey with Genius Hour, and some downloadable activities.

How About Them Apples?

Monday at ISTE began with me frantically trying to find my first session in the San Antonio Convention Center (not an easy place to navigate – especially for those of us who are spatially challenged), only to discover that I needed a ticket to enter.  Fortunately, it was the one Apple morning session that wasn’t full, so I boomeranged between the usher at the entrance and the ticket stand with admirable speed and found myself one of the last people to be welcomed into a hands-on session centered on Apple’s Swift Playgrounds app.

You may recall that I wrote about the iOS Swift  playgrounds app when it first entered the scene, and I wasn’t all that impressed.  It has had four or five updates since then, and there are definitely some areas of great improvement.

I still stand by my original assertion that students need to be pretty adept readers to take advantage of the app, and I wouldn’t use it with students with lower than a 4th grade reading level.  However, the new “Accessories” tab that allows it to be used to control multiple hardware devices may be a game-changer.  For example, my students could now control Lego EV3, Dash Robots, and Sphero, among other robots, using Swift Playgrounds.  The advantage of this over other apps, such as Tickle, is that students will be switching from introductory block programming to more widely used line/text programming.  There are plenty of tutorials within the app to ease this transition.

Another feature that I like about Swift Playgrounds is that it offers a recording function, so students can work on a tutorial and submit recordings of their solutions to the teacher as a reflection. You can also take pictures of your screen within the app, and export the code to PDF. There are hints within the tutorials, but later levels require that you put a little effort into solving the coding puzzles before you can receive any help.  The app is definitely worth looking into if you are an educator working with students who already have some programming experience and are looking for the next step.  Curriculum resources are available here.

My second session also happened to be sponsored by Apple (no ticket required for this one).  In this session, we learned about Apple Clips, which is a video editing app that may eventually replace iMovie.  This app is optimized for mobile use, as well as social media, and it is clear there was a lot of thought put into its development.   Just like iMovie, Clips allows you to take video, edit it, and add music.  But Clips has taken a lot of the manual labor out of video creation.  Music is automatically edited with intros and outros to fit your clips.  Cropping and “Ken Burns-ing” easily become seamless portions of your video, and you can add layers, effects, and titles with taps of the finger.  One of my favorite features is the “live titles.”  This basically allows you to create a closed-captions for your video – adding text to the video as you record in real time.  The text is aligned to the actual timing of your speech, so if you pause, so does the text.  You can also easily edit the text if your words aren’t interpreted the way you intended.

Clips looks great.  Designed for this generation of “on-the-fly” videographers, it could be the ideal tool.  However, I have heard from a few people and read in some reviews that it can be glitchy.  I have not experienced any issues myself, but I was disappointed when my somewhat older classroom iPad was deemed too ancient to be “compatible with this app.”  Like many new products, Clips may need to age a bit (but maybe not as much as my unfortunate iPad) before it takes off, but I’m ready to give it a try.

For some examples of ways that Clips has been used in schools, check out #classroomclips on Twitter.

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Terry Stickels

Do you crave brainteasers?  Do your students delight in them?  (Many of my students do!) Terry Stickels is a world-renowned puzzlemaster who has published several diabolical books of challenges and authored weekly puzzle columns in many newspapers.  You can find out more about him here.  One type of “stickler” that has made him famous is called, “Frame Games,” which are like rebus puzzles, but placement and size of the text give clues as well.  For example, the picture below would translate as, “I understand.”

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On the Terry Stickels website you can find many free brainteasers, including a series of “Frame Games.”  There are coin puzzles, variations on sudoku, and several other types of challenges.  Some can be downloaded in tremendous zip files, and others are meant to played online.  Whenever you are looking for a way to pass the time, (such as during the summer break) and still exercise your brain, this is a resource you should definitely consider!

 

Be Internet Awesome

Google has just released a new, free curriculum designed to teach digital citizenship and online safety.  The program, called, “Be Internet Awesome,” consists of 5 parts:

  • Share with Care – Be internet smart
  • Don’t fall for Fake – Be internet alert
  • Secure Your Secrets – Be internet strong
  • It’s Cool to Be Kind – Be internet kind
  • When in Doubt, Talk it Out – Be internet brave

The curriculum is downloadable, and is aligned with ISTE standards.  There is also a video game for kids to play that supports the lessons.

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image from paul.klintworth on Flickr

I haven’t had the chance to explore all of the resources, but it is becoming more and more urgent that our students receive education in this area at an early age.  The internet and social media are parts of our culture that are not going to go away, and it is our job to prepare our students to use these tools safely and effectively.

Free Online Summer Courses 2017

First of all, I should tell you that I firmly believe that children should have “unstructured” time to play.  This is when creativity bursts onto the scene, right at the brink of boredom.  However, I also think children should get the opportunity to learn more about things that interest them, and camps can fulfill this need. Camps of all kinds are often offered during school breaks, from horseback riding to surfing.  But some can be expensive or inconveniently far.  So, here are some free, online camps designed for kids that you may want to try instead.

Camp Wonderopolis 2017 – Wonderopolis, the fabulous resource that provides kid-friendly answers to all kinds of questions, offers an annual online summer camp.  This year’s theme is, “Build Your Own Wonderocity!” and it begins on June 12, 2017.  You can register for the camp here.

Camp GoNoodle – When you create a free account with GoNoodle, you can access their free camp during the month of July, which will offer 5 new adventures every Monday of that month.  Get more information here.

Summer Math Challenge – Register for this free service to get weekly e-mails from 6/19/17 – 7/28/17 that will give parents ideas for math activities to maintain or improve skills over the summer based on grade level standards.  Find out more here

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image from Pixabay

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Newsela Summer Reading Club

I don’t take as much advantage of Newsela as I should.  This service, which provides articles about current events that can be adjusted to reading levels, just keeps getting better and better.  As with many edtech tools these days, there are different features for different price points.  I currently have the free version, which allows me to add students to a dashboard and to assign particular articles to read.  Students can also take quizzes after they read.

Newsela offers free summer reading clubs.  Students can choose which set of articles they would like to receive for the summer from a menu of 12 different topics that range from Animals to the Strange but True News Club.  Once they sign up (instructions are given at this link), they will receive 10 articles on that subject that they can read and take quizzes on throughout the summer.

We are always trying to get our students to read more non-fiction, and this seems to be a great way to keep them interested and informed over the break!

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image from The Blue Diamond Gallery