Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Bag the Web

I think that I'm a bit late with this #TechieTuesday find, but it is too good not to share and maybe, just maybe, Bag the Web is new to you too:) I kind of stumbled upon this one as I was watching a webinar on Humanizing Your Online Class by Michelle Pancasky-Brock while doing research for my summer course. Michelle started the video off by telling the listeners that she had a virtual goody bag for all of us to enjoy.  Immediately my ears perked up.

Like most, I love a good take-away...especially one described as a "goody bag". So, what was in this promised bag? Michelle had curated all of the resources from the webinar into a self contained "bag" using Bag the Web.

Bag the Web, is a free web-based tool that enables users to bag anything from unit notes and videos to technology integration ideas. My first bag was a recipe...of sorts.  Let me explain, my techie friend, Lisa, and I have been talking about podcasting for awhile. The more we talked the more I realized that I didn't know and needed to research further. So, I started a bag just for my podcasting resources.  Now, I could have made a new note in Evernote or made a new doc in Google, but I wanted to give Bag the Web a try.

So, I put blog posts, videos, and product links in my bag. I chunked like resources in categories like "how-to", "tools", and "publishing" and I was able to separate each resource with a narrative and images to make the resources easily identifiable.  It was a very linear way of arranging links (something that this math teacher fully appreciates). My bag started with the basics like which software to use to record a podcast and worked up to tutorials on publishing a podcast in iTunes and Stitcher.  It is stil a work in progress, but I hope to have all of the details (links curated from around the web) for creating a podcast of my own.  To me it will read like a recipe, but instead of a cake, it will tell me how-to make a podcast.

I can see many applications for Bag the Web in the classroom. Teachers can add unit resources into a bag to not only help with planning, but also to share with students so that they can access relevant content.  Students can link research articles or project resources into a bag in the order they might appear in a paper or project.  Goody bags can be shared with parents at Back to School night and could contain links to games designed to reinforce content, supplementary websites, the teacher's webpage, and ideas to help students at home.  Really the possibilities are endless.

I've used many tools for curating, but to me Bag the Web is different.  Maybe it is just me, but I see Bag the Web as a platform for chunking related resources almost in bite size bits.  I don't know why, but I keep thinking of the saying, "How do your eat an elephant?  One bite at a time."  Bag the Web is kind of like taking one bite at a time.  Here I am not putting everything that I need for planning for an entire school year; I am tackling the planning by focusing on just one unit at a time. 

Interested?  Here is how it works:

1) Sign up for an account and select "create" to start your own bag.

2) Add details about your new bag.

3)  Add an image to your bag.  This is important, if you want to eventually make your bag "public".

4)   Start adding content to your bag. Click on the type of resource you want to include and fill in the details.

5)  Here is an example of a divider and link that have been added to the bag.

6)  Rearrange the items in your bag by selecting the gear image in the upper right corner.

7)  Keep curating until you have a bag full of goodies!

Wonderful, right?  Here is a handout of the directions and images for you to share with others.

I can't wait to see what you curate!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Goodbye Cameraman...Hello Swivl

I don't know about you, but making a video is hard.  I struggle to balance my device, get just the right shot, and stay in the camera's field of vision.   For me, it is definitely a challenge.  I've had others hold the camera, operate the tripod, and help build a tower of boxes to attempt to hold the device at the right height. I make lots of videos with both teachers and students and have yet to master just the right set-up.  So when I saw the opportunity to apply to be a Swivl Video Pioneer, I jumped on it.  And guess what???  I got it!!! Now, what exactly that entails, I have yet to understand, but what I do know is that I get to give the Swivl a try! My box arrived almost a month ago...about the time my summer class began, so I have used it only a couple of times, but wanted to share what I like about it already.

The Swivl Robot makes creating video (and soon...live streaming) easy with its seamless integration of the Swivl app.  Users can place an smart phone or tablet in the stand on the Swivl Robot and the robot will turn to follow you as you move about the room.  All you need to do to make it work is carry the included marker which contains a high definition microphone and a sensor for tracking. And just like that...the Swivl moves the way you do.  This is a million times better than the tripod or bulky video conferencing machine I normally use.  I usually have to physically move the tripod or try to manipulate the bigger machine with a remote control.  Needless to say, both options produce jerky results making the end view of the video less than ideal.

I also like the audio quality of the built-in microphone on the Swivl marker that is held or worn by the presenter. The sound is clear and plays back at a comfortable volume.  I usually use my Apple headphones when I am creating a screencast, but they are quite limiting when I am trying to record myself teaching or presenting.  Therefore, I frequently end up with poor sound quality unless I focus on raising my voice to abnormally loud levels.  With the Swivl, I am able to speak at normal a volume and feel much more natural when I record.  Here is a video I made.  See if you can recognize the point at which I changed mics to narrate. (I should warn you...this is the video of my first attempt at using it!)

By using the the Swivl app, it is possible to record and upload video directly into the Swivl Cloud, which...are you ready for this???...has unlimited storage!!!  Now, I obviously love the free storage, but I did find myself wishing that I could access my video directly from the device I used to create the video.  In my original video, I wanted to make a few edits and add additional clips. Unfortunately, the only option within the Swivl app was to upload the video to the Swivl Cloud before I could access it.  Still not a huge problem, but we do not have unlimited internet where we live.  We use a hotspot with a limited monthly data plan, so I don't like to unnecessarily upload and download files (it cost $$$).  I was really hoping to be able to have the video that I filmed store directly into my camera roll, so that I could make my edits without using my hotspot's precious limited data.  I know...its a minor issue and does not effect my overall love for the Swivl)

In short, I like it...alot!  It is lightweight, compact, and easy to use. There is video support to get you started, along with a list of frequently asked question to which users may refer, if needed. With the robot's ability to move, a teacher or student is able to make a video without being planted in one spot for the duration of the recording. By utilizing the included marker (which is what the robot tracks) the user is able to be mobile and still be clearly heard.

I can see this being used to flip the classroom, record students reading aloud, film best teaching practices, and record guest speakers and special events.  I took it to ISTE and I plan on using it at the Discovery Educator Network's Summer Institute, so expect more videos to come.

Are you videoing in your classroom?  If. so, please share.  I am eager to explore more applications for the Swivl!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Clean Up YouTube Videos with ViewPure

I'll never forget the day I was in Room A-10 sharing a really cool YouTube video on a new robotic technology with our 7th grade STEM students.  While I can not recall the exact name of the clip I showed, I will never forget the title of the one that popped up next...Daffy Duck says *?!x^!?* Says what?!? Oh perfect! I remember, slowly dying about a thousand deaths.  I couldn't seem to close YouTube fast enough. To top it off...a parent was in the room to witness the fiasco:/ Let me add that this was about 7 years ago and I still feel an inward cringe as I sit here typing this.  Why, oh why does YouTube need to suggest another video?  And how exactly do the clips posted in the column to the right actually relate to my perfectly innocent movie?

I would not wish this experience on anyone, so when I saw ViewPure at #ISTE2015, I knew I had to share. No sign-ups, no logins...simply copy the URL for the video you want to "purify" and just like that, the service removes all images, comments, ads,and related videos from the video of your choice. YouTube videos can now be watched without distractions or risk of "inappropriate content". It is even possible to pre-determine a start and stop time for the clip so that you can show only a specific portion of the clip.

Here's how it works:
Step 1: Find a YouTube video you like and copy the URL
Step 2: Head to VideoPure
Step 3: Paste the link to the selected video into the field on the homepage that says "Enter YouTube URL or search term..." and click "Purify"

Step 4: Enjoy your video of choice free from ads, pop-ups, and distracting sidebars
See video

It's that easy to avoid an incredibly awkward moment when showing a YouTube video!  Want to see a quick overview of the process?  Here is a quick overview:

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Back To School Supply Swap

I was scrolling through Instagram last night and noticed the #SisterhoodoftheTravellingGift hashtag on many of my virtual friends' posts.  As I followed the links, I came upon a post by Zoe at A Quirky Bird explaining the details behind the idea...in short, it looked fun!  So, I immediately contacted my #Made4Math buddies, Pam and Shelli who agreed, if fashionistas can gift clothing and accessories, teachers can gift school supplies:)

Fun, right?
My favorite part of going back to school has always been shopping for supplies.  I remember telling my grandmother when I was 8, how much I loved shopping for school.  Bless her heart, she thought I meant for clothes and told me a story about a pair of new shoes she got as a little girl.  I didn't have the heart to tell her that I meant that I liked the binders, the old cardboard school boxes, and the paste. But still to this day, I get a bit giddy as I see the colored paperclips, new planners, and fancy pencils being carefully arranged down the aisles of my local big box store.

So, if you are like me and love this stuff too,

Join the Back to School Supply Swap
What is it? 
The School Supply Swap is a fun gift exchange between July 27 and Aug 7.

A gift exchange?  Let me explain...
Imagine...your favorite parcel carrier pulls into the drive and knocks on your door to deliver a brightly colored package addressed to YOU.  You carry it inside...eager to open it.  What could it be???  Most assuredly that whatever is in the package was carefully selected just for you and will be the perfect addition to your classroom this fall, because this School Supply Swap was planned by teachers for teachers.

How does it work?
You will be matched up with another teacher and will be provided results from his/her online questionnaire, so that you can find out a bit more about this new friend. You will select a few school related items based upon the responses on the survey...something that you think that they would enjoy and would fit into their room's decor.  There is a prize for cutest wrapping, so box up your goodies, snap an image of your package and post to Twitter with the hashtag #SupplySwap.

The cost of the gift should be around $15 (excluding shipping) and should be shipped between July 27 and August 7.  It will be like a little Back to School surprise!!!

Ready to join the fun?
If you would like to participate to connect with other teachers from across the country, complete this Google form by July 15 and we will match you up.

Note: To keep shipping costs down, only teachers from the same country will be matched.

REAL mail filled with lots of goodies just in time for the new school year! We can't wait to see what the parcel carrier brings to you!!!

Lots of love! Cindy, Pam, and Shelli xoxoxo

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

8 Questions to Ask Yourself to Determine if You Are a Relevant Educator

I had the opportunity to join Swivl's Summer Learning Series today with guest speaker Steven Anderson in which the focus was on being a relevant, connected educator.  So, what is a relevant educator? A relevant educator is one who keeps up with students and provides a quality educational experience that all students deserve.  The overarching thought: educators who are not connecting with one another to learn from one another are becoming irrelevant as education passes them by.
Mr. Anderson, co-author of the book The Relevant Educator, identified characteristics common to relevant, connected educators...those who connect not only to learn, but also to share.  So, want to find out if YOU could be classified as relevant and connected?  Here are 8 questions to ask yourself:
1.  How do you feel about learning new things?  The relevant educator practices and models lifelong learning.  For them, learning never stops!  They continue to acquire knowledge through active participation in social networks like Edmodo, and Twitter...or really, anywhere else dialogue among educators is occurring.
2. How do you view failure?  The relevant educator views failure as a part of the process of learning.  No one has ever been perfect in learning everything the first time.  Failure is a process  and should be viewed as an opportunity to learn.  "Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker.  Failure is a delay, not a defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing."  - Dennis Waitley.  So, how do you connect while working through these detours?  Try blogging!  Blogs are a very public way of sharing, but they can almost be like a crowd sourcing of wisdom and ideas as readers comment on posts and offer encouragement as you go through the learning process.  Angela Maiers says, "In the 21st century, the smartest person in the room, is the room.  It is incumbent upon all educators to connect online with other educators who can reignite their passion for teaching."
3.  Do you share?  The relevant educator believes in sharing and collaboration:  Connected educators do not wait until they are leaving the building before they open files, lesson plans, and projects to share with others.  Relevant teachers share, so that students everywhere can benefit.  Imagine if we never shared as a society...where would we be?  How can you share? Certainly through websites like Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers, but also through capturing video (using Swivl).  Video is an excellent way to share what you know about a topic, a product, or a new technique that you are trying in your classroom.  (You Tube is proof of this!)

4.  Do you prefer to work alone or with others?  The relevant educator is willing to explore, question, elaborate, and advance ideas through connections with other educators.  Twitter chats are invaluable in that they provide an opportunity to engage with other educators at any time and in any place. Literally!  Twitter chats run from 3 in the morning (my time) to 11 at night.  A list of chats can be found online and range in topic from 1:1 Technology to Parent-Teacher chats.
5.  What tools do you use to learn and teach?  The relevant educator uses technology and it's capability of connecting to other educators to learn and teach.  Those connected participate in webinars, Hangouts, and Voxer groups to connect and learn from others.
6.  How do you personalize your professional development?  The relevant educator uses the tools of technology to personalize pd for themselves. Connected educators no longer rely solely on their school or district to meet all of their professional development needs.  There are too many resources readily available online. For example, it is not unusual to see postings for 3 or 4 webinars listed daily on edWeb, a professional online community for educators which features news, articles, and free webinars on a variety of topics.
7.  When is the last time you gave new technology a try?  The relevant educator is comfortable with new technology and regularly shows a willingness to explore.  Connected educators stay on the edge of their comfort zone.  They like to try and do new things.
8.  What is more important knowing the facts or constructing knowledge?  The relevant educator may put creation over content and relevance over doctrine.  The connected educator believes that at times it is more important for students to construct new knowledge rather just memorizing facts. The connected educator tends to hold firm to the belief that the learning process is fluid, not rigid.
So, did you find any areas for improvement?  I sure did, but I love the fact that until we breathe our last breath, we can all get better.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

First Course as an Aggie

     After watching the introductory video and completing the first assignment, I am more excited than ever to take my first course in Educational Technology from Texas A&M.  I love that in the Course Introduction, the instructor said that distance learning is current and relevant.  My first thought was that if the professor is eager to share information regarding this topic then I am eager to learn it! (Isn't it crazy how much a teacher's attitude can influence the student???)  Upon reading my first article, I quickly realized that the focus topics will be interesting, timely, and cause students to become more forward thinking.
     This is my first class at Texas A&M, so the fear of the unknown and wondering if I would be able to meet expectations were initial concerns.  I soon realized that there is no need to worry.  Project descriptions and deadlines are detailed on the syllabus and there is a Help Thread on the discussion board if further clarification is needed.  Already, everyone seems so nice and helpful and I realize that other students are like me in that they are seeking to grow professionally to better meet students’ needs. The available support helped reassure me that I would be able to be successful in this new environment.
     I think that what I will learn in this course will help me imagine new possibilities about education on a broader scale.  Too often I am limited by my own narrow thinking and the thinking of those with whom I surround myself.  I have witnessed first-hand that teacher leaders tend to repeat what they know.  Many educators, schools, and districts are doing school the same it has always been done, because that is all that those who lead know.  There is a saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”, but the issue is that education is broken when decision makers continue to treat schools as factories designed to turn out identical products.  We can no longer believe that there is only one way of doing things. Consider this TEDTalk by Sir Ken Robinson:
     I think that it is time to dream and to ask, “What if…” questions often!!!  What if we more thoroughly integrated technology to better serve students?  How come we can't take a school-wide blended learning environment to allow for flexibility for our students?  Why not broadcast lessons around the globe for anyone who wanted to take a course or just conduct a virtual field trip to a small school in Louisiana? After just two days in this course, I feel more energized and alive.  I am eager to expand my vision and learn.  If you like me, have been a bit nervous about starting something new...don't wait any longer.  Dive in this summer, the water is fine:)

Monday, May 25, 2015

Table Cards for Cooperative Learning Activites

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to attend the #ASCD15 conference where I was introduced to Kagan Structures.  Upon returning home, I attended a full day training on cooperative learning and since that time, I have planned an upcoming training of 2 days of professional development with Kagan.  After attending two different trainings, it's official...I am hooked!  I absolutely love the interactivity and engagement the structures provide and the organized method of grouping students. I tried some of the ideas at our recent 6th grade day and the structures helped keep everyone focused and on task.  Plus, the kids really seemed to enjoy them. (Bonus!!!)  Part of the organization with Kagan Structures occurs as students sit in groups of 4's.  To help facilitate activities and discussions, it is helpful to have table cards.  I made a set in our school colors.  Download the red and blue version or choose the editable file to customize your own:)
pdf or editable Publisher file