Last year, I posted about a “Dream Team” project, inspired by Angela Maiers, that my 5th graders did using the Puppet Pals app. If pressed to name my own Dream Team (which would have a larger roster than all of the teams in the NBA combined!), Angela Maiers would definitely be part of it. Two other members would be Laura Moore, an Instructional Technologist in our district who blogs at Learn Moore Stuff, and Kacie Germadnik, a fellow GT teacher.
I was recently browsing Laura’s blog, and she did a post with some great shout-outs to teachers who have been integrating technology in amazing ways. She included Kacie’s Dream Team project, which completely blew me away. Each student created a Smore, and they have biographies and pictures of their Dream Team members. Also included on the Smore pages are various technology products created by the students in which they explained mandalas that they made as well as “This I Believe” videos. Kacie then collected each student’s project into a Blendspace portfolio. To see more examples, take a look at this link.
I’ll be honest. I think a lot of my “pioneering spirit” has something to do with my complete lack of foresight. If you ask me to do something and outline all of the obstacles, there is a large chance I am going to find something else to do. But, if I jump into something without any thought about the potential problems, I just force myself to wade through them to get to the other side. It’s not bravery; it’s intentional ignorance.
That’s what happened with the “You Matter” augmented reality project I dove into a couple of weeks ago.
To summarize briefly, I thought it would be a meaningful way for my students to start their school year with me by scanning a photo of their parents with the iPad (using the Aurasma app), that would trigger a video message from their parents telling the students how much they mean to them. The students would keep the photo all year in their class folder, and be able to scan it any time or even just look at the picture to remind them of this message.
You can see the first two posts that I did on this project here and here. (But if you are like me, and find the knowledge of a bunch of hurdles at the outset too daunting, then you might not want to click on the 2nd link…)
As an elementary GT teacher, I currently have 40 students (2nd-5th), with more to come in November when I add 1st. Of course, I didn’t decide to try this with just one grade level. Instead, I asked all of the parents to contribute.
But I’m not going to spend this post complaining about my own lack of vision.
In the end, I got videos for every student from at least one parent. In some cases I got two videos. In some cases, family pets got in on the action. In one case, a beaver costume was used.
They were funny, touching, loving, and creative.
Just like my students.
I have never done anything so completely exhausting and so completely rewarding in my life.
Through this project, I learned a lot about my students that I never knew, and I learned a lot about their parents. Many of these parents I have never seen or spoken to, even though this may be the second year I have their child. But now I have had contact with each and every one. And they know that I would do anything to make their child feel special, even if it means I have to call every number on their contact list or text message them at 9:00 at night on a Saturday.
And then I added one more piece to the project.
I videotaped the reactions of the students to the videos. (Each student watched his or her video with me privately.) The kid who thought his parents were speaking to him live through FaceTime and started talking back to them? I got it. The big smiles, the tears in the corners of the eyes, the guffaws of laughter? I got it. And I sent it to the parents (after getting their permission).
Because I wanted them to see how much they mattered, too.
I have a daughter. I tell her, “I love you” every day, and I chauffeur her to all of her extracurricular activities. I spend time with her playing games and doing fun projects – and all of those things are vitally important.
But I’m going to make a video for her, too. Because there is something about someone saying those words, taking the time to immortalize them, verbally acknowledging the important part that a person plays in your life, that makes an impact.
No, I wouldn’t recommend this project to anyone. It’s time-consuming, nail-biting, throw-your-computer-at-the-wall-because-it’s-too-slow frustrating.
Here are some obstacles I’ve encountered so far, along with possible solutions:
Videos sent in different file formats – I don’t know what other video formats work on the Aurasma app when using the iPad, but .mov is the one I’ve used for everything so far. Solution: If you get a file in a different format, which I have, and your computer does not have software to convert it, then Zamzar is a great online file converter.
Rotated videos – The weird thing is that several of the videos have played fine when I checked them on my school computer, but they rotated once I uploaded them in Aurasma Studio. Some are sideways; some are upside-down. I could not find a way to rotate the overlay (video) once it was in Aurasma. Solution: Go back and rotate the Trigger image outside of Aurasma, then re-upload it. To avoid this happening, I would upload all of your overlays (videos) first, so you know which Trigger images you need to fix before you waste time uploading them. (UPDATE: Here is another possible solution to rotated videos.)
Speaking of Trigger images…
Trigger images are not ideal – To get the Trigger images, I took screen shots from the videos the parents sent. The picture quality is not great, so when I upload them to Aurasma, I get a warning. So far, I’ve dismissed all of the warnings, and the Trigger images have worked fine. So, you don’t need a solution to this one – hopefully.(The reason I used screen shots instead of pictures sent by the parents is that it looks more “Harry Potter-ish” if you use an actual image from the video instead of a photo taken out of context for your trigger image.)
Difficulty reaching parents which is causing me to hyperventilate – I finally got my last e-mail address today for a parent, and sent out the request. So far, I have 7 videos (2 are from divorced parents for the same student) out of 47 students – and the deadline is Friday. Solution: Put it on the class blog, e-mail everyone again, and start getting out the phone numbers. If I were to start my year over again: Give the parents more time and/or invite them to an early parent meeting with the room set up next door and a volunteer to videotape them on the spot. (That would actually have solved all of the above problems, too – wrong file format, rotated videos and bad trigger images. Now I really wish I would have thought of that!)
Every video makes you cry – No solution for this except to stop being such a softy. Seriously. And, while we’re discussing that, stop bawling at that new Cheerios commercial, too…
One surprise that I’ve gotten so far – one parent, instead of just talking to the camera, did a short skit involving a stuffed animal with a whiteboard, and concluded the video in a costume. It was very creative!
This weekend I was trying to think of some other uses for Augmented Reality, and had a sudden inspiration that I immediately put into action. (It’s possible I read about this idea on someone else’s blog, and my brain is claiming it as its own – so let me know if you have already posted about this.)
“What if, instead of the kids videotaping themselves for the parents, I have the parents videotape themselves for the kids?”
“What if I ask the parents to videotape themselves (secretly) telling their kids they matter, and ask them to send the videos to me? Then, I will print out a screen shot from each video, and hook them together in Aurasma. I will put the photos on each child’s desk when he or she comes to class, and let them scan the photos to see the parent’s special message. We will put the photos in their folders, and they will always have that inspiration to look at, or even play, to motivate them in class for the rest of the school year.”
I immediately ran to the computer to compose a message to the parents for this special request. (I was so excited that I did not realize there were a couple of typos in my e-mail. NEVER send an e-mail to parents on a Saturday immediately after you’ve had a sudden burst of inspiration!)
I sent the request Saturday. No one responded. (FYI – I have about 45 parents on my e-mail list since I teach elementary GT.)
Monday morning, I fired up my laptop, and disconsolately checked my e-mail. And there was the first parent video a father had created for his son, telling him how much he cares about him, and what he hopes his son will achieve this year.
I almost cried while I watched it. And he isn’t even my dad!
This is not going to be easy. At least 2 students have parents who don’t have e-mail, and possibly even more may not have the technology to videotape themselves. Some may forget, or choose not to do it. I don’t want any students to be left out, so I have offered to meet with any parent who wants me to create the videotape, and my backup (if e-mails and phone calls don’t get them all) is to ask a teacher to create the message.
But I really think it’s going to be worth it.
Update: See how the project is going so far by clicking here– and learn some logistical problems you can avoid if you try this, too!
Update2: See my conclusions about this project here.
Considering the title of my blog, you would think that I might have thought of this. However, “26 Keys to Student Engagement” comes from the wonderful speaker, writer, and motivator, Angela Maiers – and it was written long before I even imagined this blog into being.
I took my students to visit our local Toyota plant last year, so I was happy to see “Kaizen”, the Japanese term for “continuous improvement” was included on the list. I refer to this a lot in my classroom – and it is something that I also seek in my own efforts as a teacher.
I was curious to see what Angela listed for “Z.” As soon as I saw “Zeal”, I knew it was the perfect conclusion to this alphabet of engagement. Zeal, I agree, is essential in the classroom. When the students see that we are passionate about the topic, then they become interested, as well.
One item in the alphabet that I always struggle with is to give the students a feeling of “Self-Efficacy.” According to Angela, “Self efficacy is commonly defined as the belief in one’s capabilities to achieve a goal or an outcome.” This is the precipice I teeter on every day with my gifted students – to challenge them enough to feel that self-efficacy when they complete their assignment, but not so much that they become discouraged and give up. At the same time, I am challenging myself so I can also achieve that sense of self-efficacy. If you are a teacher, you understand how rare it can be to ever feel like you have achieved a goal!
Which key is essential to you? Is there one that presents a difficulty for you?
I loved this idea, and mentioned it to my 5th graders, who also seemed excited about the concept. Then I thought of a way they could present their Dream Teams to the class using their current favorite technology tool – the iPad.
The students chose 4 character traits that they believe to be the most important, and then 4 people from history who exhibited those traits. After researching some specifics, they developed “Dream Team Talk Show Scripts” to use with the full version of Puppet Pals. The full version has a cast of talk show characters, and also allows you to create your own puppets from photos. (Puppet Pals 2 is even better – but we haven’t been able to upgrade yet!)
“We were created for significance and one of the most dangerous things that can happen to us as individuals, as organizations and as communities – is to get the feeling that we don’t matter.” ~ Angela Maiers
Angela Maiers, who is an author, speaker, writer, and teacher, gave an inspiring speech at TEDxDesMoines in 2011 called “You Matter”. It is about the power of noticing the positive impact of people, and of letting them know that you have noticed them. It is also about recognizing ourselves as people who matter.
For teachers, these are both powerful messages. We matter. We make a difference in people’s lives every day. And one way that we can make a positive difference is to communicate to our students how much they matter.
Her post on “The 12 Most Important Ways to Let People Know They Matter” is a wonderful reminder to all of us, not just those of us in the education profession. It also includes a great video of some teenagers who were motivated by her TEDx speech to investigate the ways that they matter, and their Skype interview with Angela about their project.
This would make a great project for a Student Council or other after-school club. I plan to see how my gifted students will respond to the question, “Why do I matter?” I think that they will have some interesting answers!