Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Thing 21 -- Flipping Your Classroom

Many people approach flipping the classroom as an all or none. But many elements can, and should be incorporated bit by bit. Getting teaching content and resources to students ahead of actual coursework saves valuable time, gives students a chance to be prepared and gives them a platform to return to for reference and follow up. Video resources tend to be a big part of flipping the classroom. If you aren't ready to put yourself out there, don't worry. Simply link to any of a number of online video resources (see my previous post) and get started. But don't be shy. Students respond much better to teacher-made resources. It makes you human and helps you connect with them in the Internet experience. Use Go Animate or blabberize other recorder that let's you hide a bit.

Create units of study via Glogster or Prezi that students can access anytime and most importantly, have a place to store your stuff that they can easily access. Wiki, blog, Website, YouTube channel, edmodo. Access is key. It's important to understand how your students access the Internet. I've created a student tech access survey based off of a few examples. Feel free borrow and edit as needed. Knowing where, how, how often and what experience students have with Internet access helps you time assignments, and assist students in accessing course resources.

Screencasting is not for the faint of heart! The task of organizing; what to include, how to keep it succinct and effective takes some getting used to. And hearing your own voice, or watching yourself on line can be intimidating! But don't despair. As with anything, the more often you do it, the easier it gets. And once you get started, you'll be hooked. Imagine developing a library of explanations, how-tos and general info that you can share year after year. No more answering the same question a million times! And students can watch you video as many times as needed to get the point.

I created the following video using screencast-omatic. I usually work with Camtasia, but wanted the experience. I've used Jing in the past, and I found SOM to be a bit  more user friendly in the call outs, cursor highlighting and they give you more than 5 minutes with editing options. Based on user feedback, to improve this video in the future, I would add title slides and captioning or transcript.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thing 20 -- Online Audio & Video

Why Multimedia? 
Our world has become incredibly media-rich. Kids grow up on a 2 minute news cycle in which everything passes by in flashy audio & video. While there is great value in books and static images, the inclusion of audio and video instantly brings any subject to life. It's also comfortable and familiar. Kids are accustomed to processing audio and video. Incorporating audio & video resources is a great way to instantly apply UDL principals as well,

Just having music playing in the background is a great classroom management tool. When I taught high school, I always played music during 'student' time. I rarely had to even have to ask them to be quiet, as soon as I paused the track, they stopped and looked at me, knowing I had something to say.  Now in PD sessions, I play music at the beginning, it fills the emptiness of the room and creates a more relaxed atmosphere. I've even noticed when I don't have music playing there is much less social interaction between attendees.

I use video to provide examples and background knowledge or to get my students thinking. Video clips can encapsulate ideas in an engaging summary. I use video clips to quickly get all my students on the same page and set the theme for the course.

Which Resource?

I'm very excited to have explored Learn 360 for this module. This is a video subscription service available in my district and I've recently been asked to provide training and consulting on classroom integration. Learn 360 gives teachers access to audio and video files of all types. Both clips and full-length videos, audiobooks, speeches, music, images and more. All files are downloadable and can be integrated into already existing lessons such as Powerpoint, Inspiration and others software programs. There's even an easy Moodle integration plug-in.

Many of the resources also come with pre-made worksheets, or have teacher-created resources attache to them. Or you can create your own and attach those to the Learn 360 site, sharing with ALL Learn 360 users. You can search by grade, content area, state standard, media type or keyword.

Learn 360 is much more than just an resource site with integrated sharing and collaboration. Save your results to a playlist, create a quiz, blog and more.

Audio  or Video?

Of course, each media type has its strengths and weaknesses but in the end I think they're fairly equal. Like anything else, you need to have a balance in your classroom.

Video is fun, but when it's video after video day in and day out, kids will lose interest. And each has something different to offer. In video, images contribute heavily to the meaning as do our own opinions when we see people. 

Audio alone gives kids more to work with cognitively. They can listen to something and then interpret it for tone or create their own visual representation.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Thing 19 -- Digital Storytelling

A fundamental skill for flipping the classroom? 

 Video Creation -- AKA -- Digital Storytelling.


There are lots of options out there for creating digital stories or short videos to demonstrate and present. Teachers and students can easily tap into these tools and take what used to be a timeline, report, essay, explanation of process, poster, brochure -- anything -- and  make a quick video, or digital story instead. For this activity I used Windows Live Movie Maker. Voicethread is another I like esp. because it has a great iPad app.

The How

To create a digital story, start with a series of still images. In my example, I created a digital story demonstrating the use of reflexive verbs in a beginning Spanish class. Here's the storyboard I started with:

As I worked through my project, I added title slides and more images. The storyboard is really easy to work with, you just drag & drop to rearrange items. Adding narration wasn't the smoothest. I had to kind of trick out the sound recorder, which is a separate tool in Windows. But it came together pretty easily in the end and only took about 1.5 hours. This might seem a bit long, but that includes finding images, creating script, adding narration--everything. Compared to what it would take to do this same activity by hand it's at least equal, if not shorter. And I never have to worry about it getting lost or ruined. One & done!

I asked a few colleagues to preview this and the only real improvement I would make is to fix the audio. In other projects, I might add more bells & whistles; fancier transitions, background music, etc. But as a project demo for students, I wanted this to be simple and focus on the content requirements of the assignment. However, I would encourage my kids to do  as much as they want as long as it doesn't interfere.  View my completed video below -- if the embed isn't working follow this link: 21 Things Demo Video

The Why

Digital stories give students yet another option for demonstrating knowledge. For those with less confidence in drawing skills, digital stroytelling takes some of the creativity fear away. Working in digital media also allows for quick, easy edits. No need to start all over or crumple up paper in frustration at one small mistake.
As a teacher, I create a video tutorial of exactly what I want my students to do, complete with instruction. I can pair it with a handout and easily meet multiple modalities without a lot of extra work. This is a great resource for others involved in educating a student. Parapros, special ed support, parents etc. can all see exactly what the content is, how it was presented in class and what the expectations are which supports them assisting the student.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Thing 18--Virtual Classrooms


Good News!! The process of extending the classroom beyond traditional brick and mortar walls IS for the faint of heart, AND you don't need to be a 'tech guru' to get started. 

My plan begins with the cornerstone of any good education program; communication. Start with an e-copy of a newsletter, and set your frequency. Your audience will quickly start deleting important info if you constantly bombard them. Monthly works best for me. Better yet, set it up in the form of a blog that allows for interaction. (NETS-S; 2.a,2.b,5.a,5.b,5.c,5.d,6.a,6.b)

In your newsletter, include links to resources bundled on your favorite social bookmarking tool, your classroom YouTube channel, course calendar or...

Create a Web presence via classroom blog / Wiki / Website or  district LMS. House all these resources in one place and provide your students and parents with a 24/7 link to your classroom. 

Time management of all these resources can be tricky. Try establishing 'office hours'. This set time let's your students know when they can reasonably expect to communicate with you and gives you the necessary boundaries so your online work doesn't become all-consuming. 

As you start expanding your classroom take it slow. As you integrate more tools, you'll also pick up new ideas for implementation and what starts as a static communication (newsletter) will quickly morph into collaboration as students begin to engage in more dynamic ways.

Teaching and learning both benefit from making these small steps. All users become more comfortable with hardware and software processes. Fresh, dynamic resources bring new perspective, ideas and opportunities to the classroom experience.


So what about the student? Unfortunately, online learning is NOT for the faint of heart and DOES require the ability to work with technology to a certain degree. Navigating the Land of Online Learning provides all stakeholders the opportunity to experience online learning from a different perspective than their own. The student view highlights how students should, and should expect to be, part of the process in online learning. 

Unlike any other form of education, online learning really lets students take control of their learning. Students choose when, how, where, to study in order to meet course goals. This can be thrilling at the beginning -- isn't it every teenager's dream -- control!! To frustrating mid-stream and downright defeating in the end. However "With great power comes great responsibility" (Spiderman) 

Successful online students need to be independent, self-starters willing to rise to a challenge and problem-solve on their own. That doesn't mean online learning is an isolated process, quite the opposite. What it does mean is that online learning is a new and different process that requires a new approach.

The role of various adults in the online learning process can not be ignored. Mentors, counselors, teachers and district admin provide all the traditional supports. Students still need support in managing time, course loads, content and equipment.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Thing 17.1 -- PLN

A great resource for Michigan teachers. The platform provides a space to keep track of professional development, store certification information and even build a learning plan to keep you on track for re-certification or personal learning goals. You can also build your learning community by joining a collaboration space or following a blog. 

However, Learnport, like many online resources, can be a bit daunting. There is SO much available it takes quite a bit of time to learn and explore. I’m afraid without proper support, either by administration or a home-grown cohort of teachers using the system together, it can easily become one of those things that just isn’t used to its potential. 

That said, based on my personal experience, the courses offerings are the simplest and most valuable part to start with Learnport. The offerings are incredibly, extensive, very up-to-date and often free options for continuing their learning. And since it’s all web-based, course access and completion is quite manageable. I personally recommend the Intro to Blended Learning course as a follow up to 21 Things. While 21 Things is good at introducing the tools, Intro to Blended takes it to the next level with considerations for effective integration in classroom instruction. 


I use Twitter almost exclusively as a PLN. I follow many professional organizations and other educators across the country. I think it’s important for educators to do this because, whether you think Twitter is valuable or not, the kids are doing it. As an educator it’s important to have shared cultural experiences with students. Knowing even a little bit about what Twitter is, how it works and how kids interact with it should be a priority for teachers.  You can participate in Twitter backchanneling as an alternative to live participation in conferences and networking events. Tuesday evenings from 6-7 check into #edchat to network with educators nationwide on all things ed tech. Through this process you can learn how to utilize backchanneling in your own courses and start slow with a tool such as Today’s Meet. 

Facebook has fast become the preferred method of communication for the younger generation. In fact, many colleges and universities no longer provide email addresses to students, but rather rely on staff creating and maintaining Facebook groups. The one big trick to Facebook is keeping the personal you separate from the professional you, which FB does not readily support. With ever-shifting privacy rules educators have to really stay on top of how they connect to students. But that’s no reason to eschew FB. And it’s a great way to instruct students on good Internet social behavior. Again, there are alternatives that give you an FB feel such as edmodo. (Free and run by the folks over at Twitter) 

Another wonderful, statewide resource for educators to get involved in all things ed tech. The annual MACUL conference routinely draws top-notch ed tech professionals from across the nation as do the various smaller MACUL conference throughout the year. MACUL recently dropped their membership fees, so anyone can become a member. The MACUL journal is a well developed, manageable resource (not too long, well focused on timely topics) But it does take a bit of cajoling to get actively involved in MACUL. Despite repeated attempts, I’ve not had much luck hooking up with any of the SIGs, which is frustrating. But for anyone looking for general information and resources applicable to ed tech within the parameters of Michigan, you can’t miss with MACUL. 

Although the focus of Sloan is toward higher ed, there are a few pioneer programs in k-12 that also work with them.  Bridging the gap between k-12 and higher ed is increasingly important. k-12 educators should have an understanding of what the expectations and experiences are for students once they leave. And higher ed needs to know where they’re coming from. Most colleges and universities offer most of their courses through some kind of LMS. Assignments, course communication and other traditional F2F interactions are done online. But students leave k-12 with little , if any, practical experience in managing academic learning, workload etc. in this way. Sloan Consortium provides many free resources, support and networking through membership. 

The skills I would bring to Sloan is the k-12 perspective. I would be able to not only partner with other k-12 programs looking to enhance their online programs, but also with higher ed to ensure that the necessary elements are included. I highly recommend Sloan Consortium to anyone looking to enhance online  / blended elements of learning in their class or district.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Thing 16--Research & Reference Tools

 Beyond Google & Wikipedia! 

I’m thrilled with what MEL has to offer. I’ve been introduced to it before, but this overview really demonstrates the tools and resources. I’m excited to bring this back to my students. It offers so much of what we look for on a daily basis in regards to UDL, reliable resources and Internet experience for students. 

As for appropriateness, usability, content and credibility, all the databases on MEL rise above a standard Google or Wikipedia search. All are maintained by industry-recognized curators of information such as Gale. These are the same databases students will encounter in college, which is another reason to access them now – College & Career Readiness. They provide reliable resources that are updated regularly. 

Infotrac databases take the guess work out of Internet research. With tons of search options for students, it’s a great place to teach them how to research. Filtering tools allow for search by publication, topic, media type, keyword and more. Each database also returns suggested further search results similar to a yahoo, google or other traditional search engine, all of this in a super user-friendly format that students will find familiar based on general Internet experience. 
Further user support tools include audio files with text to speech read along tools, various download options from MP3 files to full-text copies, Lexile scores listed with all articles, and support for ELLs, such as the ability to change the language of the user interface and translate articles into 11 different languages. 

At the student level, I investigated Infotrac Junior and Infotrac Student. I searched for Summer Olympics in London. The main difference btwn Infotrac Junior and Infotrac Student is that Junior only returns full-text article and Student broadens the search to include podcasts and reference books.
I then searched the same topic in one of the advanced databases; General Reference Center Gold. This database combines all the materials of Junior and Student and adds maps, podcasts, videos and a few other magazines and articles of a less academic sort.

Citation Tools:  
With a quick click, students can generate either APA or MLA style citations right within MEL. Following is an example of a resource I found on MEL and the accompanying MEL-generated citation:  

Hennessey, G. S. (2012, July). Olympic games. Boys' Life, 102(7), 6. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA295057220&v=2.1&u=lom_accessmich&it=r&p=ITOF&sw=w

As for general citation tools, I prefer bibme.org. Why like it better than others is that bibme doesn't require an account, and the adds they run tend to be more student friendly-- less visually distracting than on other sites. I also like the user interface on bibme, with the colored icons it's a little easier to use than some of the more clinical looking bib sites. You can also annotate your bib on bibme. 
Following is a citation for the film "The Mission" a fantastic historical fiction account of Jesuit work in the early Americas. (I used to teach Spanish at a Jesuit high school. This film was a wonderful resource!) 

The Mission. Dir. Roland Joffe. Perf. Robert DeNiro, Jeremy Irons,. Warner Bros, 1986. Film.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Thing 15 - Staying Informed

Click here to visit my West Mi Ed Tech public page

I set up a Netvibes aggregator to go with my website -- West Mi Ed Tech. I've found this whole 21 Things process to be great for my work. Even thought I pretty familiar with tech tools, I've really expanded my toolkit and forced myself to try new things. I've already got a few aggregators that I use--google reader & Symbaloo. So I took this opportunity to start something fresh, just for my WMET. I love it. I was able to link my new WMET google calendar as well as a generic twitter feed for edtech. 

I chose the M-Live education news link and the Education Week Michigan news to make it specific to our area. I also added a couple of blogs I like; Blue Skunk and iear. And a few other generic news outlets; Ed Week Digital Directions, Google Ed Tech and Tech Crunch.

Of course it's one more thing to maintain, but my students will get good use out of it. It can be difficult to know what to pick or follow online. This netvibes page gives the beginner a nice one-stop source for getting started tapping into ed tech. I plan to add / remove content as I discover new items. I'm thinking I could create a new tab just for podcasts or just iOS info. 

As a teacher, this would be a great way to collect and share information for class projects, units, bell ringers etc. I found a few good examples for using netvibes in the classroom. The Thinking Stick site taught me how to share my page (which Netvibes didn't make very clear; insisting users need a Netvibes account to access a Netvibes page -- not true!)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Thing 14.2 -- Productivity; Google Calendar

So why a shared class calendar? Keep students and parents up-to-date with all your classroom happenings.  Standardized test dates, field trips & guest speakers, assignment details & due dates, and, most important of all,  VACATIONS! You can also link files and class resources via Google Drive. You could create one standard (school) calendar that links to all your calendars and then a separate one for each class or content area as needed. 

I created and shared a Google calendar for my Website. I've used shared calendars via 30 Boxes. I like a lot of the features in 30 boxes; it seems more robust. But the Google calendar is more convenient as it comes with the whole Google package and if you check out the google calendar labs you can see how to add 'flair' (event icons) and access other gadgets to beef up your calendar items. I'll have to return to this after exploring more. 

The West Mi Ed Tech calendar is public on google. Follow this link to access the html version.

Thing 14.1 -- Productivity; File Conversion

Converting files helps students access them regardless of the software they may be using. Putting them in .pdf format ups the security on your files as users can’t readily make changes to .pdf files. I often post items to district-wide shared drives which literally 1000s of users access and it’s reassuring to know that I have a secure paper trail in the event a rogue copy gets loose!:) 

Word allows you to do this quite easily. Simply choose .pdf as your file type when saving a document. I tend to keep duplicate copies of items I share with others; one .doc & one .pdf. This may seem extraneous, but by keeping an editable version, I can quickly update a rubric, newsletter or other doc and always know that I have the final available. It’s kind of like having a template. Plus I always know that the pdf is the official—best version. 

File conversion tools such as zamzar and media converter give you many more options and not just for working with text documents. The ability to convert to various audio, video and image files means anything you create can easily be viewed by any user. Here are just a few examples: tiff, thumbnail, html, pdf, jpg. A quick trick like this is especially useful as you consider multi-platform delivery. Students (and parents) access materials from a variety of endpoints devices; computers, phones, tablets etc. The ability (or willingness) of each individual manufacturer and operating system to support various file types can be frustrating. File conversion gives you a way to speak the language of each user. 

I really like the thumbnail option. Sometimes titles just aren’t enough. If you have a variety of resources for a particular unit of study, displaying thumbnails helps your students select what they’re looking for without having to click back and forth.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Thing 13.2--Interactives; Flashcards

In my former life I was a Spanish teacher and I used a Website called Quia. This fantastic tool is quite similar to Quizlet. I created flashcards that students used for a variety of games & practice. Quia is a bit more robust than Quizlet in that I could create different classes, with calendars, grading etc. 

One important thing to note about using online flashcards is that there is a learning curve. Students have to be taught HOW to effectively use flashcards. It isn't enough to learn just one side. They have to be able to go both ways. Adding voice, image and making other differentiations may be useful for many students, but remember that how they learn and study the terms is how they should be expected to recall them. So make sure your assessment matches. If they have to be able to match or define terms, learning / recalling a picture won't be of much use to them. If they need to simply understand a term to demonstrate it in a project, that allows for more flexibility in creating the set. 

Either way, flashcards provide a quick, concise way for students to become literate in any discipline and represent an priceless addition to their strategy toolbox. 

Thing 13.1 -- Interactives; Google Earth

Loving Google Earth! This is one of those tools that truly crosses all content areas. As a tech specialist, I strive to find resources that work in multiple areas. This assists staff in collaboration, and helps students envision how tools apply in multiple areas, rather than 'this is a [fill in content area] resource only'. Placemarkers are especially useful for this in establishing location for history, literature, famous figures--and their lives, discoveries, etc. Here are my two examples. 

Lake MacDonald in Glacier Natl Park. The exact spot we got married at last summer!
Princess Juliana Airport beach in St Maarten. Look for the placemarker -- we weren't actually on the beach, but in a catamaran off shore -- which is why I missed the Adobe session! ;)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Thing 12.3 - Data Warehousing Reflection

In my district, we have two main systems of data warehousing that are tied. Our onsite SIS, created specifically by / for our district links to the KISD warehousing systems IGOR and INGA. We also use TieNet to support tracking / maintaining IEP and other special ed data.

With a greater push for data-driven instruction, school improvement data and expectations for transparency in general, data-warehousing has become an invaluable tool for staff and administration in targeting instruction, filtering results, and sharing useful information with others. 

These and other tools make it much easier for teachers, counselors and parents to get feedback that goes beyond grades. Everyone involved in the education of a student can look at various factors that inform the process. Item analysis, demographic data and demonstrated trends in between classrooms and buildings assist everyone in identifying best practices and areas for improvement. 

We also use a few CMS tools, such as edmodo, Moodle and E2020. In each of those, teachers and students can easily monitor usage, course completion, and success rates etc. Parents and students see the same data allowing them to participate more actively in the educational process. 

With all the online options, and the growing availability of student data in more public spaces, teachers and staff need to have a more active awareness of FERPA / HIPAA guidelines. Gone are the days of paper files that got photocopied and mailed. Now, anyone with the right username / password can access student records. As teachers take a more active role in setting up online course resources, they need to be keenly aware of who has access to something as simple as a student last name.