Below is a document that I created and distributed to my coworkers during a School Improvement workshop on using Google Docs. This is an updated version from my previously posted tutorial; aside from the updated term "Google Drive," it also includes an introduction to the other types of files offered by Google Drive. Please feel free to print and distribute to others. Also, if you would like a copy of it in a different format (for editing purposes) send me and email. I am glad to help.
My talented colleague, Jane (left) and me.
This week, I had the privilege of attending a two-day conference in Springfield, IL, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel: the Illinois Education & Technology Conference (IETC). I was lucky enough to be accepted as a presenter, along with my super-technology partner-in-crime, Jane Zappia, who teaches sixth grade in the same district as me. We had both attended this conference two years ago, but then were not able to go last year due to budget cuts--if you teach in Illinois, you probably know exactly what I'm talking about--so we decided to attend this year as presenters* (pronounced "free").
Our presentation was on using Screenr in the classroom, a free and simple web-based screencasting program with several classroom applications. You can view our presentation notes HERE, if interested:
Jane poses for a green screen photo.
My Favorite Session at IETC
One of our favorite session at the IETC conference was a presentation put on by some teachers from Centralia, IL. The session was on using green screen software. The software wasn't free, but definitely reasonable (approximately $100 per package). The two software packages come from the same company, but one is used for still photographs, Green Screen Wizard, and the other one is used for video footage, Green Screen Zipper. With these programs, you can change the background of your video and create the effect of students being in any setting--the moon, the White House, under the sea. If you can find a picture of it, you can put your students there. Jane and I were both excited about the classroom potential for engaging students, and have put these items on our Christmas lists!
NOTE: As my brain continues to process all of the things that I learned while at IETC, expect for more blog posts...
Were you at ICTE also? If so, what was your favorite part of the day? Answer in the comment section below.
As a teacher, I know that it's important for my students to be reading nonfiction as well as fiction. One great way to incorporate nonfiction is by having students read online news articles. I like to use The Week, The Huffington Post, and the NY Times. I'm also a frequent visitor of Kelly Gallagher's Article of the Week archives. While all of these websites offer great news articles, printing nice "clean" ad-free copies for student use can be a bit of a hassle. That's why I recommend the following web tools:
Next Vista for Learning is a growing website that offers access to hundreds of FREE videos created by and for teachers and students. The videos are acquired through ongoing contests held by Next Vista, so it is constantly expanding and promises to grow with time.
One thing that I really like about this site is that it promotes students are creators, and not just consumers, of digital media, which can be very empowering. If students already possess the knowledge that needs to be taught, then let them design videos based on how they would want to learn. Kids know how other kids want their information delivered, so it makes sense to put them in the driver's seat. Video production could be easily modified depending on students' comfort level with technology. Beginners could use Web 2.0 tools, such as Animoto, or could record their videos with a camcorder; more advanced students could edit with programs such as iMovie or Windows Movie Maker to create transitions, animations, and themes.
I could see myself having students create videos for Next Vista for Learning, and then embedding these videos or linking to them on my classroom website. Creating these videos would be a great way to review content for exams, and these videos would become great anticipatory activities for following school years.
Note: Contests are held in the category of teacher-created, student-created, and collaboration videos.
So, this is long overdue. But now you can follow my on Facebook and get regular updates on my blog through everyone's favorite social network!
Just click here: http://www.facebook.com/MeAndMyLaptop
"Lifeless Face #045" by nottsexminer
Do you see a face? Look again at the picture on the left. Look very closely. Now do you see a face?
Recently, while perusing the gift shop in my local art museum, I discovered a create collection of photography in a book called Found Faces. Immediately, I thought "This is the result of very careful noticings and creativity! This is what I want my students to do!" Of course, the book came with a $15 price tag, which I did not have in my budget that day, so I was more than a little disappointed that I'd have to go home empty handed. My next thought (which quickly followed by my initial excitement and the subsequent sadness due to lack of funds) was to purchase the book used on Amazon. (The current price starts at only $4.86 as I'm posting this.) I was really happy to find out it was cheaper online, but my happiness did not stop there...
A quick Google search revealed that there is an entire collection of these "found faces" on Flickr containing literally thousands of images similar to the photo above. Now, before you go copying photos and pasting them into Power Point presentations--or photocopying them by the thousands--do be aware that each photo in the collection has its own license terms; some have "all rights reserved," while others have only ask that you give credit to the photographer or that you do not use the photo for commercial purposes. Before you "borrow" a photograph, be familiar with its license terms and know what those terms mean.
So, how can "found faces" be used in the classroom? First, I love the idea that these photos are great examples of finding the extraordinary in ordinary places, and of really approaching the everyday with a careful, watchful eye. How many times a day do we walk past a hidden face without ever seeing it? It would be a great exercise in observation to have students locate their own found faces in their schools, homes, or communities. Additionally, I see huge potential in terms of narrative writing and descriptive writing in response to these faces. I think students would enjoy viewing some of these faces and writing their background stories. This would also be a great anchor activity, or a springboard for even richer narrative and descriptive writing experiences.
Click image to enlarge
To the left, you will see a simplified version of Bloom's Taxonomy, one that I intend to use with my students during the upcoming school year. I wanted a visual that had an inverted-pyramid shape because the standard pyramid shape (with higher order thinking skills on top) seems to suggest that "creating" gets the least amount of attention, with more time given to more basic skills, such as remembering and understanding. I wanted to make sure that my visual aid did not suggest this; if anything, this chart might suggest that lower order thinking skills deserve less class time. I wanted something that grouped higher order thinking skills (the top level, shown in warm tones) and lower order thinking skills (the lower levels, shown in cool tones). I also wanted a chart that clearly explains what each level means. For example, what does it mean to "analyze" something? Finally, I wanted a visual that took out the bulk of the verbs that my freshmen won't be familiar with. It's not that I don't think my students should learn what it means to "scrutinize" or "assess." But, I've noticed that, in several of variations on the Bloom's pyramid, many of the verbs are simply synonyms for each other. Additionally, providing a chart stuffed full of terminology can be very off-putting for some of my students, particularly my struggling learners. Instead, I plan to hand out this visual to my students, with the intention of adding new verbs to the chart as students encounter them in their reading.
Click on the above image for a larger view. And, if you like my chart, please feel free to copy, print, tweet, or distribute it. Heck, put it on T-shirts if it makes you happy.
To see my earlier post on Bloom's Taxonomy, click HERE.
Recently, I discovered a vocabulary website called Membean. The site offers personalized vocabulary lessons to help with preparation for the SAT, the GRE, or general vocabulary improvement for both individuals and schools. The vocabulary lessons are visually stunning and very interactive; however, they are not free. Personally, I know that my school simply cannot afford to pay for tailored vocabulary development for each student, but Membean's format has given me the idea of setting up a vocabulary wiki and having my students create their own interactive vocabulary pages, including definitions, pictures, videos, sentences with context clues, etc. If your school has money to spend, by all means, it appears to be well worth the money, but I know for some of us, spending even a penny more isn't an option.
With that said, let me tell you what Membean has for free. (Doesn't the word "free" have a beautiful ring to it?) Membean has a wonderful collection of podcasts featuring different root words. (Thanks, Membean!) I plan to use a study in roots, prefixes, and suffixes as an integral part of my vocabulary curriculum this upcoming school year. In fact, I plan to use Membean's podcasts as a bellringer activity in my classroom by having students make note cards to record the meaning of each root word. I'll have students record the root, its meaning, and definitions of multiple words based on that root; they will also draw an illustration to accompany the root word. Students will be given an online pretest to assess prior knowledge, and will be retested throughout the school year to measure to assess growth. Below, I am sharing the template that my students will use to create the note cards. As always, feel free to copy/print/distribute.
A few weeks ago, I saw a post on an educational blog (probably Free Tech 4 Teachers) about StoryBricks, an online program that allows users to create their own MMOs. If you are a gamer--or, in my case, married to one--then you already know what an MMO is. If not, then allow me to explain: an MMO is a Massive Multiplayer Online game. Basically, it is a game played online by multiple players at once; the players' characters are able to interact with one another to make the story really come to life. Think World of Warcraft or Guild Wars. Now, I might not be the die-hard gamer that several of my friends and family members are (yes, even my mom is a gamer) but this definitely caught my attention!
With the buzz around gaming in education, and the push for increased computer science (STEM) in schools, I was curious to check out this new option. One of the most intriguing aspects of StoryBricks is that users don't simply play the game; they build the game using basic concept of computer programming. Once I signed in and began playing around, the interface really reminded me of Scratch. Scratch is a "computer programming language learning environment" created by MIT, which has been used in schools to introduce youngsters to the concepts behind computer programming. StoryBricks, on the other hand, seems to be aimed at an older demographic. I predict that this will be used mostly in middle school and high school classrooms. As many students in this age group are already playing MMOs, introducing the complexities of computer programming through this format is sure to spark some students' interests.
I'm not a computer science teacher, so my first thought was "That's great, but how can I use this in my English classroom?" The first idea that came to mind was using StoryBricks as a digital storytelling tool; I could have students create their own interactive myths or legends. I also notice that the commands that are used to build the stories really enforce logical thinking (if-then statements, for example). I also thought about the revision process that students would undergo in order to get their stories to turn out well. In short, there are many reasons why StoryBrick would make a good edition to the English classroom. If nothing else, pose it as a challenge to the uninterested student who hates homework but loves computers; have him* work on a story during his "free time" and see where it takes him.
Below, I have embedded a brief screenshot of myself experimenting with StoryBricks. It's best viewed if you imagine some incredibly suspenseful, adventurous music as you watch...
*or her, because computer superstars come in all shapes and sizes