Sunday, March 22, 2015

AppSmashing at #ASCD15

I had heard of AppSmashing, but I had never tried it until today at #ASCD15.  This afternoon, Dr. Bruce Ellis kept us captivated with his recipes for smashing, but as we soon found out....pretty much anything goes!  AppSmashing, also known as layering apps, is the process of using multiple apps in conjunction with one another to complete a final task or project (via Greg Kulowiec).

In AppSmashing, you can use pretty much anything.  When searching for apps to use, free is good, but shouldn't drive the train unless it is a true constraint. As with everything in lesson planning, start with the end in mind and then back it up from there.  The big question should always be, "What is the learning outcome?"

It is okay to think of tools beyond the iTunes store (Yikes! Did I really just say that? Disclaimer: I'm only repeating what I heard, because I secretly adore Apple).  But according to some, there are other resources on the web that are open-ended platforms which allow students to be creative.  It's also important when choosing tools to think about students' strengths and what they like...or don't like. For example, if students don't like hearing their voice, give them the option of modifying their voice with an app like Change My Voice.  If they don't like seeing themselves on camera, allow them to use an avatar or simply add audio to images.  Bottom line: be flexible, because

it's about the content and lesson objectives, not the technology tool.

Start with determining what you want your kids to learn, demonstrate, or analyze?  Got an idea? Great, then figure out what app you could use to support your objective... When Dr. Ellis asked session attendees "What apps would you recommend having with you if you were stranded on a deserted island with your students?" here is what we came up with (after getting past the idea of being on an island...with students!!!):

He added to our list:

and then added even more:

Again, it is not about the app, it is about the end goal: students interacting with content in new and innovative ways.

It turns out that AppSmashing is pretty straightforward. First, create content with an app and save to the camera roll. Then, create content with another app and again save to the camera roll. Finally, use a third app to merge the first two products and to the camera roll. Repeat, as needed. That's it! That's AppSmashing! Here is one recipe involving only 2 apps to get you started, Dr. Ellis' presentation with samples on the last several slides, and tons more on Pinterest:

So, what will you smash? Have you already done this? I would love to see what you or your students have done!

7 Super Tech Tools Spied at #ASCD15

I feel like a kid in the candy store at #ASCD15 as I go from session to session, tour the exhibit hall, and network with awesome educators from around the world.  I truly feel like the luckiest girl in the world to have the opportunity to learn from so many!  My favorite sessions have been the ones that were hands-on, engaging, and packed with technology, of course. (You know that I am a geek at heart!)  I ran across tons of new tools, but I have narrowed down my list to what I think are the Super 7.  So, here they are... in no certain order, the 7 Super Tech Tools I Spied at #ASCD15:

1.  Plickers - Collect real-time formative assessment without student devices! Give each student a printed card unique to them. Ask a question.  Have students hold up their "vote". Scan the room with your iOS device and... voila...all student responses are recorded.  Genius!

2.  EdPuzzle -EdPuzzle allows a teacher to insert audio notes and embed questions into a video of your choosing.  Questions may be multiple choice or open ended thus allowing for a "check for understanding" while the students are viewing.  It also allows you to see who has viewed the video and how they responded to the embedded questions.
3.  Photo Math - PhotoMath helps students solve equations any place  and at any time.  Simply scan a math problem with the app and see how to work it out step by step. I have used an online platform for independent math practice for the past several years. One of my students favorite features in the web-based tool is the "Help Me Solve This" option.  PhotoMath takes the same idea and puts the "Help Me Solve This" button directly in students' hands.

4.  AdobeVoice - AdobeVoice makes projects with backgrounds, photos, music, and voice overs a snap to create and it allows your design to be saved directly to your camera roll!

5.  Pixel Press Floors - Love! Love! Love! This app allows students to turn their drawings into an original video game that is playable!!! I am so excited to roll this out in our Makerspace.  The kids are going to love this.

6.  Discovery Education's STEM Camp Resources - Discovery Education has done it again.  If you are thinking of hosting a summer camp, starting an after-school club focused on STEM, or even just looking for resources to use in your own classroom, definitely check out DE's STEM Camp Curriculum.

This all encompassing resource includes detailed guides to running a week long camp, From a daily schedule to links to digital resources, DE has provided everything you need to be successful.

7.  Tricider - Tricider allows you to pose a question and then invite others to answer and then vote on what they think is the best response. I know you are probably thinking, "How can I use this in the classroom?"  Well, I recently had the opportunity to visit a Master Teacher's English classroom at East High School in Memphis.  While there, I saw this incredible educator lead her students through a character analysis.  In the activity, the teacher would ask a question, allow for a response, and then quickly fire off, "How do you know?" or "What made you think that?"  She was fishing for textual evidence.  Tricider with its "Pros and Cons" section might be the perfect place for students to voice an opinion, provide textual evidence to support their thoughts, and then respond to other students' responses.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Paper Circuitry

Project: Hack #2 for the Tinker, Make, & Learn MOOC.  
The Challenge: Hack A Notebook
Until I read up on this, I had no idea that "Hack Your Notebook" was actually a nationwide event focused on paper circuitry.  This STEM learning event was held last summer and brought makers from around the country together.  The purpose? Get participants working with electronic components in an accessible, craft-based way.  

Comfortable with crafts and hoping for do-a-bility, I got really excited about this make.  I had never tried anything like it and I admit, I found myself a bit afraid to try (though I am not sure why!?!)  After watching several videos, including this gem on Tapetricity, I grabbed a high school junior who happened to be walking down the hallway and asked him to try it with me before I introduced it to my middle school friends.  We ended up quite successful. Not only were we able to make my project light up, we showed a middle school student what we did and he made his project light up too.

3V Watch Battery (available in packs of 2 at Dollar Tree and located with the AA and AAA batteries)
Conductive Tape (I could not find copper tape, so I used foil tape from the plumbing section of Home Depot.)
LED light (Look for products at the dollar store that utilize these bulbs. I snagged a garden light that had 3 bulbs that I could use.)
Craft Supplies

Here is how we did it:
1] The foil tape is almost 2 inches wide (way too big for what we needed). We cut a 6" strip into thirds, so that we had three 6" long strips to use.

2] After drawing, cutting, and gluing our artwork, we gently pushed the legs of our LED lights into the portion of the paper we wished to illuminate.

3] We laid one of the 6" strips across the back of the paper being careful to ensure just one of the legs of each of our LED lights could open to lay across the tape.

4] Next, we laid a second strip of tape (close enough to the first one, but not touching), so that the LED lights' other leg could lay across this piece of tape. The second strip of tape needs to gently curve to meet the first strip. (The first time I tried it, I made a sharp right angle to join the two pieces of lights did not work.)
5]  We then tested our lights with the battery.We needed to determine which LED leg should touch the positive side of the battery and which leg should touch the negative. Since, it matters, we made sure that both lights were pointed in the right direction before we taped everything into place.

6]  We used clear tape to secure the legs of the LEDs and the battery to the foil tape. My middle school friend was actually making his project for someone else and he did not want the battery to run out of juice before he delivered his project, so he left a little wiggle room between the battery and the tape and then wrote "push here" on the front of his creation.  By pushing as indicated, the recipient of his card will make the contact between the battery and the tape thus making the contact to illuminate the lights.

It turns out that it is pretty easy to hack a notebook... or in this case, a birthday card!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

10 Ways to Use Video to Boost Instructor Presence in an Online Environment

Okay, if you have been following my blog for the last month or so, you know that I have been participating in free professional development through a MOOC called Tinker, Make, & Learn, a course focused on developing a Makerspace.  Well, the course ended...but not the desire to continue to build our new space.  I promise I will be posting our latest make before the week's end!!! In the meantime, I thought I would share what I am learning now in a course called Humanizing Online Instruction: The #HumanMOOC.

Technically, it is a course for online instructors, but the information could apply to any classroom. Take this week for example...our topic: Establishing Instructor Presence.  In an online environment, learner isolation is one of the primary reasons students choose not to continue in a web-based program, but an instructor can help combat the isolation by humanizing the learning experience.  So, what does that mean?  The teacher can ensure that students know that course material has not just been launched out into who knows where by a professor in a galaxy far, far away, but that a real, live person is on the other end carefully planning and teaching.

One of the ways suggested to boost instructor presence is through the utilization of  video.  Video allows people to see and hear you and if students can see you and hear you, they feel as if they know you.  If they feel as if they know you, they are more likely to approach you.  Being more of a traditional K-12 girl (not online teacher anymore), I began to think about others besides just my students that I wanted to "get to know me"...the parents being at the top of my list!  I think often times parents want to support their kiddos, but they are not sure quite how to help.  The same types of videos that an instructor might create for students could be shared on the K-12 educator's parent portal...just a thought:)

So, video? Yes!  Think about the last email you received. Unless it is filled with emojis and exclamation marks, it is hard to read into it the verbal and non-verbal cues that one would normally recognize in a face-to-face interaction. Video is much more powerful than text alone.  Even asynchronous one way video begins to feel like a conversation when students and parents view this type of communication regularly.

How can you use video to boost instructor presence in the K-12 classroom???  Here are the top 10 ideas shared by Tracy Schaelen, online instructor for Southwestern College (I've linked to some of her videos so that you can see examples):
1)  Use video on your website as a greeting prior to the course beginning - think about the anxiety this could alleviate!  It is a great way to welcome new parents and students and for them to "see" you before arriving on the first day of school.
2) Conduct a course tour via video.  This is especially helpful at the beginning of the course so that students and parents can see how to navigate through the online environment associated with the class.  You can demonstrate how to access grades, see the syllabus, find class notes, and turn in digital assignments.
3) Use video to introduce a new unit of study.  Whether teaching online or in a traditional setting, peaking a student's interest is key. It could be like a movie trailer of sorts that gets students excited about what is to come.  It also provides an entry point for parents.  If parents see where you are going, they can get involved, read up on the topic with their child, share resources, pull images and videos, and help connect the dots for students.  Dialogue can changed from, "How was school today?" to "Tell me about ______.  Did you get to the ______  yet?"
4) Make announcements using video to personalize messages and allow viewers to see facial expressions and hear the instructor's tone of voice.
5) Use video to provide feedback on student work thus allowing you to make the same type of comments you would make normally, but with much more detail.  Ms. Schaelen suggested using props with numbers on them, so that a student can quickly find the markers before each comment. Feedback video should be kept unlisted to ensure privacy.
6) Create "how-to" videos. This particular video is for students and shows how to find and use video feedback.
7)  Make a video to introduce a research assignment, major project, or special event in the classroom.
8)  Use student created videos to demonstrate understanding, add to an electronic portfolio, peer tutor, or build resources for those needing extra support.
9)  Video a guest presenter.  As a high school teacher, I want my students to connect with college admissions counselors.  On several occasions, an invited counselor could visit only one of the 6 classes I taught; while I was happy that 25 students heard from the admissions counselor, I found myself wishing that ALL of the kids could benefit from the information. Video would be a perfect way to capture and share the guest's visit.
10) Use snippets of video from various locations throughout the course to allow students and parents to get to know you even better.  Consider sharing video from your latest 5K, your weekend excursion, or something you saw that you thought was interesting.

Why? "Showing" is powerful.  Videos help students and parents build a personal connection with the instructor and make content, announcements, and details accessible anytime and anyplace (everything I believe in!!!) So, I guess the question I need to ask next is "What will I video today?"

Friday, March 13, 2015

Top 20 Projects to include in a New Makerspace

I have just completed my last assignment for the Tinker, Make, & Learn MOOC with Robin Bartoletti and all that I can say is that it was incredible!!! For a few weeks, I became immersed into this new world where everyone was talking about designing hands-on environments for students to create and investigate math, science, and engineering topics.

For my final project I developed a Makerspace plan in which I chose to write for middle school - the group that I have been working with to complete my pilot projects.  In writing my plan, I included sample experiences that I could use as a springboard to get students into the space and provide direction and focus.  The selected activities would allow for interactions with technology and exploration of concepts in a way that is not currently being offered in the classroom or laboratory.  I had so much fun pinning projects and even trying a few at home. So, if you are like me and just getting started, here are 20 do-able ideas to integrate into your classroom or makerspace:

Curriculum Ideas

Curriculum Area
Maker Project

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Fun with Makey Makey

This week, I hosted my first "pop-up" Makerspace. I didn't go crazy, invite the whole middle school, or even bring out everything that I had snagged the day before at the Radio Shack sale. I simply invited 3 friends from 7th grade to join me in the un-boxing of the Makey Makey. I wanted to get their input not only on the product, but also on the whole idea of having a space to create, explore, and make. Before I proceeded with "MY" plan to build the space, I needed to hear ThEiR VOiCe. So, I started with just introducing the idea. I told them what I was thinking and asked them if they had ever heard of a Makerspace. Nope - nada - no idea what I was talking, I showed them the New Milford High Makerspace video. They were hooked!

Perfect time to open the Makey Makey.  I carefully pulled the components from their plastic packaging (and I noticed that the students handled them just as gently for the 90 minutes that we were together).  I showed them the video about what you can make with the Makey Makey and that was it.  The making began!  No other teacher-centered instructions were needed other than pointing them to the Makey Makey website.  Each student used a computer to research the possibilities.

First up, a play-doh joystick to play a little Pac-Man.

It was fun watching Eric build it, but it was even more delightful to see his initial reaction.

Sarah made a working guitar using cardboard and some coins.  
The hardest part?  Cutting the cardboard.

Of course, we had to try our hand at the bongos.
Derrick is in the percussion section of the band, so he was a pro!

Finally, the students worked together to compose a song that even I could play. 

I connected to the Makey Makey online piano and just followed the students' directions: left, left, space, space, click, click, space, down, down, right, right, up, up, left 
(This will be the perfect introduction activity to share with our Head of Schools when we introduce the idea of a Makerspace.  It was extremely easy and a whole lot of fun!)

I would have to say that my impromptu pop-up was a success. The students were ecstatic.  I heard comments like, "This is so cool!" and "This is better than recess in elementary school!", soon followed by the question, "Why can't school be like this?"  Great question, little friend.  It can be!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Makerspace in the Making

For those of you who are long term friends and readers, you know that this space is truly just my online learning log, a place to document what I've tried, what I've learned, and what is inspiring me. It has been a while since my last post, not because I wasn't doing any of the above, but because my perspective changed a bit. I am now out of the classroom completely.  It has been a big adjustment and knowing how to have a voice in the blog-o-sphere has been lost on me because I am such a practitioner at heart.  I read other blogs where school leaders are sharing about thoughts and opinions on Common Core, state assessments, and philosophies about teacher prep programs and I can honestly say that I am less likely to share what I am thinking about a topic than I am about what I am doing.  I would much rather tell you how we are implementing the Common Core State Standards, how we implemented a new after-school program to prepare for state assessments, or how we are turning professional development on its head and seeing fantastic results.  (It must be the teacher in me., but rather than say anything, I have said nothing for many months.

I wasn't sure anyone would really be ThAt interested, but I have missed blogging.  So, I am jumping back in doing the only thing I know how to do...telling you about my latest venture.

So, what am I doing?  I am in the very beginnings of creating a Makerspace at my school. Makerspaces have been around for a few years. I first saw a video featuring a Makerspace designed by the one and only, Laura Fleming, media specialist at New Milford High, last year.
3-D printing, make and take apart, programming, circuitry, soldering, sewing, crafting, designing, creating...making.  Who wouldn't want this in their school?

Why now? As soon as I saw it,  I shared the video and additional links with hopes that it would capture the interest of others.  It did, but while my co-workers thought it was awesome, they were like me, stumped about how to make it happen.  I mean, which of us could show a student how to turn a banana into a space bar or an orange into the "enter" key?  No one...not a single one.  Much less make play-doh into a joystick:
I knew the kids would love it though, so I attended ISTE 2014 conference with hopes to learn more. I was so inspired and again thought, "We should start a Makerspace". Still no progress beyond the thought.  Fast forward 8 months later to February 2015. I attended Ignite '15 and heard a presentation by Eric Sheninger, the principal who had the vision and made the decision to hire Laura Fleming who designed the Makerspace at New Milford.
After hearing how neither he nor the librarian had any idea about how any of this stuff worked when beginning their project, but committed to figuring it out along the way, I was inspired to stop thinking and start doing! It is time to take a give it a make the leap. I believe that I do not have to have all of the answers, I just have to be willing to put myself out there and learn.

Why?  It is for the students.  It is time to allow them to become creators, not just consumers.  It is time to empower them with knowledge about how stuff works and foster skills that will allow them to re-imagine their world.

So where am I in this process?  I am definitely taking baby steps.
  • I ordered my first "kit" within hours of hearing Eric Sheninger's presentation.  I chose the Makey Makey - the kit that turns the banana into the space bar, the stairs into a piano, and playdoh into a joystick - because it just looked fun!
  • I arrived home from the conference  at 1 AM on Monday morning and spent Snow Day #1 writing 2 grants for more stuff for the Makerspace (3-D printer, Little Bits, Smart Home kit, and more).  
  • On Snow Day #2, the Makey Makey arrived.  I opened it, looked at it, and put it back in the box :)  
  • Snow Day #3, I finished a video application for another project and still avoided the Makey Makey. 
  • Day #4, back at work. I collaborated with the IT department (who got really excited about putting practical technology into students hands - and then admitted that they didn't know how to make a banana space bar either). 
  • Day #5, found out that Radio Shack near our school is closing.  Hopped in the car and headed out to shop!  I ended up purchasing way too much and have absolutely no idea what any of it does, but I am certain that when I figure it out that it will be really cool.
  • Day #6, found Tinker, Make & Learn, a MOOC related to creating a Makerspace and promptly enrolled.
  • Day #7, I have completed my first assignment in the MOOC and decided to blog about my journey so that if anyone else out there is like me...having no idea how any of this works, but knowing that it would be engaging for can learn about available resources as I document my progress toward Making a Makerspace.