Apps, Augmented Reality, Education

Can You Keep a Secret?

I debated about whether or not to post this, yet, and finally decided to take the plunge.  The con of doing this is that I am planning a surprise for my co-workers, and I don’t want them to find out.  The pro of posting today is that some of my readers might want to try a similar project, and would like some time to actually plan it (rather than barreling into it blind as I, sigh, seem to have the tendency to do).  So, I decided to remind everyone of the time you snuck a peek at a gift when you were little, and how totally not fun it was to have to act surprised when you got the gift.  I will leave the choice up to you.

Now that you have received your Spoiler Alert, those of you who would like to continue may click on the link below to take you to my real post for today.  As long as you are not someone who works on my campus, I promise you won’t suffer from any residual guilt – at least not for this particular action.  Of course, now that I’ve built it up, I hope no one is disappointed, either…

Click here.

Oh, here’s the password 😉


Education, K-12, Motivation

I Think Louisa May Alcott Might Have Dreamed Up the First Genius Hour

Angela Maiers is one of my real-life heroes, with her advocacy for passion-driven education, the You Matter Manifestoand the Choose 2 Matter campaign.  (Don’t forget to check out her recent interview with Brad Waid and Drew Minock on the #2GuysShow.  It is fabulous and motivational!)   But long before I encountered the works of Angela Maiers, I ran across the works of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Lucy Maud Montgomery, and Louisa May Alcott – all of which included main characters who became teachers.  Each fictional teacher contributed to the teacher I am today, for they all shared one characteristic – they cared deeply about their students.

I have been re-reading Alcott’s Little Men (the sequel to Little Women) with my daughter.  In this novel, Jo, the vibrant tomboy of the first novel, opens up a boarding school for young boys, most of whom are homeless.  Now that I am reading this book as an adult, I am struck by the teaching methods that Jo and her husband use – a mixture of traditional and uncommon techniques that surely would have been considered highly unusual during Alcott’s life-time.  The compassion that Jo feels toward her charges is evident in every decision she makes.

In one chapter, a prodigal has returned to the school, and his fierce devotion to everything outdoors spurs Jo, her husband, and “Uncle Teddy” to give all of the young men a space to display their collections of rocks, bugs, and all things “important.”  (I still remember one of my own teachers who offered us each our own space on the classroom bulletin board to exhibit whatever we desired.  It remains one of my educational highlights to this day!)

Once they open their “museum”, the boys are urged to not only show off their collections, but to learn about them as well.  You can see below where I started getting goosebumps as I made the connection to our class Genius Hour.

From: Little Men, by Louisa May Alcott
From: Little Men, by Louisa May Alcott

I could be wrong, but I think, just a couple of pages later, Alcott might have also proposed the original version of TED Talks and the precursor to e-portfolios…

From: Little Men, by Louisa May Alcott
From: Little Men, by Louisa May Alcott

The point is, I think we all know, deep in our hearts, that one of our jobs as educators is to help our students to pursue their passions.  Even fictional teachers from the 1800’s understood the importance of letting people know how much they, and their interests, matter.

(To see some more of my real-life education heroes, please visit my page of “Engaging Educators.”  And, for more about Genius Hour, you might want to take a look at the Genius Hour Resources page.)

Apps, Augmented Reality, Education, K-12, Motivation, Parenting

The Benefits of Intentional Ignorance

I would not recommend undertaking this project.

But you should totally do it.

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.

But you should really do it.

(If you would like to learn about “You Matter,” Angela Maiers is the amazing speaker and writer who inspired me to incorporate this into my classroom.  She will be the guest on the Two Guys Show next Tuesday, October 1st, at 9 PM EST.)

Apps, Augmented Reality, Education, K-12, Motivation, Teaching Tools, Videos

You Matter – with a bit of Aurasmatazz (Part 2)

Never Forget that You Matter!

After getting a bit of a “Two Guys Bump” on their AR 101 video Tuesday, I thought I should give a progress update on the “You Matter – with a bit of Aurasmatazz” project (inspired by the work of Angela Maiers – who will be on the “Two Guys Show” in 2 weeks!).

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!

If I haven’t scared you off from trying this, here is a link to a PDF file or an MS Word file that I created for printing the screen shots/Trigger images (I used a Pages poster template to make this.)

Update:  See my conclusions about this project here.

Apps, Augmented Reality, Education, K-12, Motivation, Parenting, Teaching Tools

You Matter – with a bit of Aurasmatazz

from Angela Maiers' "You Matter Manifesto"
from Angela Maiers’ “You Matter Manifesto”

This is a continuation to yesterday’s post about using Augmented Reality in the classroom.  (Don’t forget to watch the AR 101 Show tonight at 9 PM EST tonight!)  As some of you know, one of the uses of AR in education is to use it to explain something or share work.  For example, this music teacher posted about how she videotaped students performing, then hung up papers in the hallway that people could scan to see the actual performances.  Or, there are many examples that show students sitting in the classroom or taking work home, and scanning the paper for videos that explain the instructions.

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?”

I am constantly inspired by Angela Maiers’ “You Matter Manifesto.”  I think that showing people they matter to you, especially your students, greatly increases understanding and motivation.

“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!)

Here is the corrected version of the e-mail I sent.

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.