Tuesday, April 23, 2013

PowToons: Presentations with Pizzazz!

PowToon is yet another way to add some pizzazz to presentations. I added this app to Chrome during TCEA and started playing, but I just can't stop! It is just so much fun!

There is no reason to waste any more words describing this great tool. It just needs to be seen to be believed. I created this PowToon as my "job description", so you may want to skip to this great educational sample with set-by-step instructions from Web App Reviews.

(P.S.--Notice how young I look as a cartoon character!)

Monday, April 22, 2013

2 Boos from Audioboo

Students love working with pictures and videos on computers or iPads to create stunning and surprisingly professional products. Sometimes, though, it is nice to grab a sound-bite from a student for a quick assessment,  a center summary, or a check of reading fluency. Teachers can use quick voice-recordings to provide instructions or create short tests that can be shared with a simple link or an embed code.

Since we use a combination of netbooks and iPads on campus, we need sound recording for both devices. On computer, we prefer Audacity as several tracks can be added and easily edited. These files can then be saved in a variety of formats, shared through email, or uploaded to a Google site (in a file cabinet page).

For really quick recording on any computer, we use Vocaroo. In just minutes, you have a completed voice recording that can be emailed, embedded or shared without any hassles at all.

For recording on the iPad, we are using Audioboo (version 2.4.0) instead of the newer version, Audioboo 2 (version 3.0).   Why are we using Audioboo that's not new? Well, Audioboo2 changed the way in which boos can be published, and this complicates the easy transfer of boos directly from shared student devices.

In original Audioboo, a student can create and share a completed recording by copying the link and pasting in another app, such as Edmodo, Google Drive, or Evernote. Once the link is shared, the file can be accessed and played from any location and even provides an embed code. The downside of this version of Audioboo is deleting existing boos from the devices. So far, I have been deleting the app and adding it back. Any other ideas out there?

 Audioboo2 recordings can only be published with an Audioboo account log in or through Twitter. They took away the quick link in the update! As with other apps, our students can create accounts, but this adds the extra step to a previously simple app. The biggest issue of an Audioboo account is that all boos in your account are public. There is no way to adjust this, and that can be an issue for
educators of the "under 13" set.

So, there are 2 boos from Audioboo, and, though both provide clear and easy voice recordings, the difference is in the sharing. As for me, I will cry "boohoo" when they finally do away with the version I prefer!

Enjoy this  recording from a student's Science journal entry:

Mix It Up with Mixbook

With so many technology tools out there, it is sometimes hard to keep track of them all, much less the various passwords or emails used to access each of the various sites. Last week, I was needing to put together a quick photo presentation of Flat Stanley pictures for some 2nd grade students, and I just wanted something fast, fun, familiar and friendly. And so it was with perfect timing, that Mark Brumley tweeted out his newest blog post, "My Hugely Successful Technology Integration Strategy" in which he shared how he motivates teachers to use technology by creating digital books. I know this stuff! I love this stuff! It is the one of the very first tool-types I had used as a first-year TIS. In our case, we fell in love with Photo Story and Movie Maker to create digital memories for our classes and our families. In his blog, Mark Brumley suggests digital photo book sites such as Mixbook, Picaboo, and Blurb. That rang a bell! Somewhere in some point....I knew I had made a Mixbook account, and I set out to find it. I had a book to make!

Mixbook is easy to use. Go to the website, create an education account, upload your photos, select a theme, add photos and text, move everything around, and save! You can zoom in on and move pictures and even do a few quick photo edits within the program itself. Pages can be added, easily moved within your book, and everything saves automatically--which I really appreciate! The best thing about Mixbook for educators is that books can be worked on collaboratively and then shared via a link or embedded in a site. This gives teachers many ways to share with students and alternatives for student submissions on completed projects. You also never pay a thing unless you wish to order a completed book. So, if you are looking for a quick and easy project for ....say....after a week of intense testing, Mixbook might be a great choice! Thank you for the reminder, Mark Brumley!

Here is the Flat Stanley book created in Mixbook. Looks like they had a great vacation!

Mixbook - Create Beautiful Photo Books and Scrapbooks! | Start your own Photo Books | Create custom Christmas Cards

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Haiku Deck Difference

In the educational world, teacher training is often structured around the same basic format: a presenter stands before the group reading from a Power Point while the audience sits and stares at a personal printout of the exact same information, wondering why this all couldn't be accomplished through email. These same adult educators, will then leave this boring event and to return their classrooms only to subject their poor students to the exact, same process. In middle school, this is often called "taking notes".

The justification of these teachers is that some information just has to be delivered this way, so let's just go ahead and deem this to be truth and move on the more important concern. Are students really listening and learning this way? Could we not make our point or provoke thought with fewer words or without copying from the screen?

For those that might be looking to move beyond the pale of Power Point,  Haiku Deck might be a great place to start. This simple, easy to use presentation app allows the creator to design a slideshow by selecting a photo and then adding only two lines of text or a few bullet points.  I believe this word limitation not only causes the presenter to focus on the "meat" of the content, but, with the right images, can evoke a deeper and more meaningful or  independent thought process on the part of the viewer. Haiku Deck offers simplicity that is unique and artistic.

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad

To use Haiku Deck, go online and create an account. This will allow you to have access to your decks on all devices. Then, download the newest version of Haiku Deck from the iTunes store and start designing. You can use the search in Haiku Deck to find suitable images or use your own. If you don't like the photos in Haiku Deck, use another program to create a picture or group of pictures (In fact, this is a great use for that Power Point program! Just create a slide and save as .jpeg)

For those presenters needing more details and notes added to slides, those can be easily added from the Haiku Deck website.  For more information, check out the Haiku Deck FAQ page.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Fotobabble: Talking Pictures

Yesterday, students used the Educreations app to take photos of a math problem and add annotations and voice-recordings to create a multiple-slide presentation. The downside to Educreations is that you can't correct mistakes. You absolutely have to start over, and this can be frustrating and problematic in a classroom setting where not all students finish on time and are sharing devices!

Today's app, Fotobabble, allows the user to create, save and return to edit and voice-record on a photo to share through email, Facebook or Twitter. This app works on both  iPad or  iPhone. The great thing about Fotobabble is that is also has a website that provides an embed code, and, more importantly, students can re-record or edit on Fotobabble! The only downside is that only one photo can be recorded on at this time. Fotobabble's support says that this will soon change. This app does require an account or access through Facebook or Twitter.

Sorry that this Fotobabble sample is not a student product. I wanted to let some 2nd graders know that their Flat Stanley family was returning home soon, and this seemed like a fun way to share the news!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Educreations for All!

Our 6th graders have been using the app Educreations to "show what they know" in Science class, and we have found it to be a  great tool for all stages of learning and assessment. Since it has been so easy and fun, we wanted to explore its use in other subject areas as well.

In this Educreation sample, students work through a math problem to explain why answers are correct or incorrect. Talking through the process of problem solving clearly bumps this common worksheet question to a higher level of thinking. No one here can simply circle an answer and move along. It demonstrates the thought process behind the answer, whether it's right or wrong. In fact, in this sample, one student determines the answer is incorrect, but not for the right reason, a step that never could be detected without "hearing" the thoughts behind the process. Though this may seem time consuming, what if every student did one exemplar math problem each week? Over the course of a year, that is a great deal of "thinking out loud"!

Just one thing about this Educreation: the students forgot to record on the first slide which did actually show the entire math problem. The downside of Educreations is that if you mess up, there is NO way to edit (yet!).
Still, a great tool for quick use in the classroom!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Several weeks ago, our content mastery teacher was trying to help her students as they learned the parts and functions of the inner ear. They were needing to label parts and find definitions, and I really wanted to find another way for them to gather and express this information. It needed some technology magic!

ThingLink will allow you to easily take any picture and make it interactive by adding text or links. Once your interactive ThingLink is complete, it can be shared through Edmodo, Pinterest, Google+, emailed or embedded. ThingLink does require an account to be set up, and if you really want to make it easy, there is even a ThingLink plugin that can be easily added to your Chrome browser.

ThingLink has plenty of how-to videos out there in its very own You Tube channel, so quick visual help is readily available. The only downside I have found so far is that you can't make the image full screen.

Though I discovered ThingLink a little late to help with the study on the inner ear, I did go ahead and sling together a quick ThingLink to show the text and one link to a video. This tool definitely has potential!!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Lessons from LEAP--Part 2

One of the most compelling activities that took place during last week's LEAP tour at West Ridge Middle School was the half-hour spent with the student panel. They were funny and engaging, shared favorite apps, and answered questions from the curious group of tourist-educators as we rudely munched our lunch. The highlight, however, came with the final question which was posed by Greg Garner, the Educational Technologist of WRMS. Though I can't quote it verbatim, the basic question was:

If the iPad program were suddenly ended tomorrow, how would you feel or how would this affect you?

I expected the usual, general student answer:  it would make me sad because I really like technology. However, that was not the response from these students. Their answers reflected true connections to the changes that were brought about by the seamless melding of technology into their learning environment.

One student expressed how he would miss typing since his handwriting was not only horrible for teachers to read, but a painstakingly slow process for him. An 8th grade girl used the word "stressed". She is so busy that she couldn't possibly add one more thing to her life, and the iPad has pulled her entire workload into one place, making managing school....well....manageable. Another student said that he would revert to being disorganized. He stated that the iPad kept everything in one place, and, after all, "backpacks don't have search engines!" I was extremely impressed that technology had dramatically changed the way they learned, the way they functioned,  and the way they felt about school.

What a great question to ask?
If technology were removed from my school tomorrow, how would I feel and how would it affect me?
Perhaps it is the answer to this question that offers a true measurement of how successful we have been in implementing the use of technology into our classrooms.
What would your answer be?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Lessons from LEAP--Part 1

This past week, I was privileged to go to a site visit of West Ridge Middle School in Eanes ISD to see their LEAP program in action. This middle school campus has gone 1:1 with iPads, and I just had to see it for myself! Since my return, I have been asked so many questions about my visit, that I thought I would share my thoughts here.

Lessons I took from LEAP:

1. Have a great reason for going 1:1--not "because we want the toy". Relevance: learning and creativity
2. Start with a plan--the WRMS plan was a three year deployment process
3. The plan must start with sound investment in infrastructure--including the MDM and APs
4. Develop proper forms for students, parents, and teachers (include Responsible Use Guidelines)
5. Insurance is critical
6. iPads should be etched
7. Cases should be included in implementation cost--protect the corners
8. Apps should be included in implementation cost--starter money per device and additions for each year
9. Plan the initial distribution process careful--who and how many
10. Teachers need the technology 6 months to a year before students
11. Teacher training must be part of the process--PD, OTS, "on time"
12. Minimum teacher expectations and maximum student expectations (or kids can drive the program)
13. Rules for use and a common language established in the school
14. Develop clear communication channels for parents to set expectations and offer support
15. Parents are still in charge at home and teachers are still in charge at school
16.  Plan the check in/check out process--I love the idea of year long check-out!
17. Be prepared for student distractions and the "implementation dip"
18. Follow-up and track progress with "vision committee"--including teachers, parents, students
19. Campus on-site tech help for repairs/tech issues and on-site Ed Tech--two separate roles
20. Allow teachers and students to find and use the apps that meet their needs

I can't begin to thank the principal, teachers and students of West Ridge Middle School enough for opening your doors to so many curious people. I was very concerned about being subjected to a "dog and pony show", but everywhere we went, the students and teachers were genuine, open and honest about the entire process.Thank you for sharing your time and your great resources as well.

Best quote of the day:
I asked a 6th grader if he had found moving to the iPad difficult.
His answer: "It's so easy a teacher can do it!"

Bigger picture:
Starting anything this big requires great planning and attention to detail.
Random acts of technology purchasing is like grocery shopping without a list. You are liable to spend a great deal of time and money only to get home and still not be able to make a meal with what you have in the bag!

The most important thing I learned:
All schools will eventually be 1:1, it is just a matter of when and what device.
This probably shouldn't be news to me, but I had gone to the site visit because I am concerned about going 1:1 with iPads due to current device management issues I am having with a very small set. This realization was a wake-up call for me. I don't know when my district will finally move to 1:1 at the Middle School, but, when we do, I hope to be ready, and this site visit was of tremendous help!
I'm certainly glad that I took a look before leaping!!

The great resources of West Ridge Middle School are posted right on their webpage.
For further information on the LEAP program, you can also visit their district's home page.

Friday, April 5, 2013

QR Crazy Again!

So, I finally decide to post on this blog again, and, of course, its about QR Codes!! I just love these things!
In fact, I simply adore that fact that technology has come so far that we have all kinds of scanners that change simple print into something new and exciting.  It's like magic....and students love it too!

Over spring break, I was finally able to share my scanning passion with my daughter, Megan, who just happens to be a kindergarten teacher who happened to be in need of some technology to enhance her grade level PBL ocean unit.

Students were each given an ocean animal to research at home with their parents. Models of their animal were created at school along with a final written report. Each child practiced reading their report in "Reader's Theater" fashion and recorded in Audacity.

Click to enlarge and scan QR Code to hear Andy's story.
I helped Megan set up her Google site to host the audio files in a "file cabinet page", and QR codes were created on QRStuff from those URL links.

End result: parents can now visit the classroom aquarium and hear their children's voices.
Megan loved it, the kids loved it, and the end results are, I believe, magical.

To see other great projects by this wonderful teacher (I'm not biased in ANY way!) please see their classroom blog. They would love to hear from you!

Can't scan Andy's story? Add a QR code reader, such as I-nigma, to your smart phone

Are you sharing the "magic" of technology with your students each day?