Thursday, June 4, 2015

iRead a Book ... Now What? - Book Posters, Book Trailers, and More

This week I am hosting some guest bloggers. This is a guest post from Angie Oliversen.

My social media bios declare “I like kids. I like books. I like tech. What else could I be but a school librarian?” That pretty much sums it up right there.

Now, I do want to make one thing clear. I do not believe every book needs a “project.” READ MORE BOOKS. That’s what will encourage a love of reading (and the literacy skills will come). That said there are times when added tech IS fun and helpful to instruction. We had 6 iPads last year but this December were lucky enough to get a cart of 25! Of course we wanted to use them.

One housekeeping tip … I use generic Dropbox or Google Drive accounts or Chirp to transfer photos and videos between devices.

The most recent project used Pic Collage for Kids. Fourth graders researched book summaries on and created posters of books they were excited to read over summer vacation. Posters were then used to promote the books throughout the school. We will repeat the project in the August to recap their summer reading!

Before author Jeff Mack visited recently, many of our kinder and first graders finished the sentence “I can …” and illustrated it. We snapped a quick pic of the drawing, videotaped student authors, and put the two together in Book Creator. Voila! Project to share with parents and the author.

Earlier in the semester we used Chatterpix Kids for a characterization activity from David Gordon’s book Smitten. I snapped two pics of the main characters and put them on all the iPads. The students drew mouths on the characters and recorded themselves as the sock and mitten introducing each other and recounting their adventures.

A fun app for practicing sequencing is Shadow Puppet EDU. Our younger students ordered pics snapped from John Rocco’s Blizzard and recorded themselves retelling the story. Older students used it as a way to show a timeline of events from both fiction and non-fiction selections.

Several classes that were first introduced to the app during a research project discovered Haiku Deck could also be a way to share books they had read. They worked at summarizing the high points of a story, finding the most interesting photos to go along with the important events, and above all never giving away the ending!

Of course either of the Puppet Pal apps (version 1 or version 2) provide opportunities for sharing the love of a book. The free versions have content that can be used for projects but if you can get the full paid versions (1 $3.99 or 2 $5.99) you can do a lot more. Students can add their own illustrations or photos and use the app to animate their retelling.

The LEGO Movie Maker stop motion app takes some patience and at least a few minifigures but it helps the kids practice summarizing and storyboarding. Students can often loan minifigures to a filming cause. Or ... the teacher librarian can take a deep breath and share some of her (or his) own.

And last but not least Telestory has fun news templates that can be used for book reviews!

Angie Oliverson is an elementary teacher librarian in south Texas. Find her on her blog, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, and recently on Instagram.

Creating Narrated Slideshows with Google Tools

This week I am hosting some guest bloggers. This is a guest post from Mike Petty.

Last fall our high school purchased Chromebooks and the new principal set high expectations for more project-based learning and technology integration in all subjects. As the instructional technology coordinator for the district, this was great news for me! This school year was a ton of work, but we’re now wrapping up what was certainly the best one of my career.

Over the past several months I’ve often been asked by teachers for presentation options beyond PowerPoint. They wanted something that can be shared beyond the classroom, but that isn’t as involved as a full video project. To meet this need, I outlined a process (and made some tutorials) to make simple narrated slideshows using Google Tools. They are like presentations that present themselves.

The process uses Google Slides and WeVideo and can be completed using Chromebooks or laptops. You can also make them with a desktop computer as long as you have a microphone.

Here is an example of one of these narrated slideshows.

And here are the steps, each with a video tutorial showing the process.

Step 1: Create your slideshow in Google Slides and download each one to your device.
Step 2: Log in at WeVideo and put your images from Step 1 into a video.
Step 3: Record your narration for each slide.
Step 4: Publish the video to Google Drive where you’ll be able to share it with your teacher.

After using this process with several classes I’ve learned a few tips.
  • It helps greatly if the teacher works through the entire process first. I suggest creating your own example to show the class so you’ve seen every step in detail.
  • Relatively short slideshows of 6 to 8 slides work best the first time students work through this process.
  • Students need to be reminded that steps 2 - 4 will take awhile the first time they do this project. They must pace themselves accordingly on step 1.
  • WeVideo adds other files or folders to Drive and students often share the wrong one with their teacher. Remind them to test the file before sharing. If it plays as a video, that’s the file they should share. (And to help avoid some of this confusion, if your students have access to Gmail, tell them they will receive a notification when their video has finished processing.)
  • Yes, you can easily record narration and make a video using PowerPoint. I prefer using WeVideo as outlined here, though, because it is a great introduction to using a video editor for more involved video projects. It’s also prefered because it works on Chromebooks.
  • Since the free WeVideo accounts are limited to five minutes of export time each month, students should not publish until they are sure the slideshow is how they want it.

Mike Petty is a Google Education Trainer and the instructional technology coordinator at LakeVille Community Schools in Otisville, Michigan. He is passionate about inspiring students and teachers to reach their potential by using simple, powerful tools. You can follow him on Twitter at @mpetty39. He blogs at Classroom Games and Tech and

Creating Concrete and Shape Poems on iPads

This week I am hosting some guest bloggers. This is a guest post from Debbie Carona.

April was National Poetry Month but not all of us finished our poetry units during April. Thanks to a few too many snow days, Mary Odom, our 4th grade language arts teacher wisely let the kids work on their original poems well into the month of May. I was lucky enough to be the tech person working with her class on creating individual poetry books using the Book Creator app and helping the kids with their concrete poem illustrations. Another name for a concrete poem is a shape poem. It’s basically where the shape of the poem plays an important role in expressing the topic or meaning of the poem. Our kids have always loved to write and design their concrete poems but with the help of the Type Drawing App, their options have hugely increased.

With Type Drawing, the kids type their poem or just a line or phrase from their poem and then draw the words with their finger. Your finger can create randomly shaped lines or it can draw horizontal, vertical, or diagonal lines. You may choose from a nice selection of font styles, sizes, and colors. You determine whether or not you want the lines of your poem to repeat and how much, if any, space you want between your words.

Learning with the Type Drawing App for iPad from April Requard on Vimeo.

Another great feature of Type Drawing is the ability to add a photo from your camera roll. After uploading the photo, go ahead and type the lines of your poem, making the above mentioned design choices. Then simply trace the photo with your finger. You can add lines to fill in the details of the picture. If you want the photo to disappear and be left with only the lines of the concrete poem, move the photo opacity line to 0%. You can also use the photo opacity line to simply fade the photo.Take a look at these original concrete poems that I put together using the Puppet Edu app.

So, next year when National Poetry Month rolls around, share Shel Silverstein’s concrete poem, “The Circle”, with your students. Then let the Type Drawing app inspire your kids to write and illustrate their own concrete poetry.

Debbie Carona spent the first 20 years of her teaching as a classroom teacher. For the past 8 years, she has been a technology integration specialists at St. John’s Episcopal School in Dallas, Texas. St. John’s is beginning their 4th year as a 1:1 iPad school and is a major proponent of project based learning. According to her, the best part of being a tech teacher is being invited to go into the classrooms and work alongside the teachers. Please visit Debbie’s blog site, At a Glance, and follow her on Twitter @DebbieCarona.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Transforming Learning Through Student Content Creation

This week I am hosting some guest bloggers. This is a guest post from Adam Schoenbart.

Students must create. That’s my big epiphany this year. Learning is better, more fun, and more memorable when you make something that lasts.

I used to spend hours carefully grading and commenting on student work, only to have my feedback lost in the black hole of their backpacks. Sure, my students left class with new learning and skills, but my comments were left crumpled and ignored, and my assessments lost meaning. In the past two years, a lot has changed in my classroom because I realized the transformative power of Google Apps for Education. With Google Communities, students could now participate in conversations that extended beyond the classroom and period. Classes could research, share, write, and revise seamlessly. Students’ learning was in their own hands; instead of the Jedi master instructing young padawans, we learned together.

I thought this would solve my earlier woes, but somehow Google Drive’s organization didn’t work for some students. Instead of losing the work in their backpacks, they misplaced untitled documents, ignored online comments, or even worse, moved files to Trash. I knew I had a problem that technology alone couldn’t solve. Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.” I knew I had do better to engage students in the process of learning and make the products matter, in and out of my classroom.

Inspired by ideas like project based learning and #20Time, I decided to take a stand against “Google-able questions.” Instead of students only finding information and curating content, they needed to create the learning for themselves. Our students live in a world of Web 2.0, social media, and content creation, and I needed to bring this into their learning.

And together, we did. Halfway through this school year, I explained that we will no longer produce work that is forgettable and can be left in a backpack. Instead, we will create content that we can be proud of, will remember, and will help each other learn. I wanted to push students to develop more meaningful and diverse skills to prepare them for their futures by creating work that matters to them. To do this, we needed to produce for an audience; all learning was now public to the world. Suddenly, the learning was visible, the technology was more purposeful and complex, and class was more fun. Students’ work wasn’t hidden in their notebooks, but shared, produced, and even live-streamed, like the argument videos below.

It was a big and challenging shift at first. I gave my students self-directed time and freedom to play with and practice a variety a Web 2.0 tools, which they used to present a synthesis argument assignment. Then, they applied these skills to book review projects, creating audio or visual book reviews and trailers. I had more fun watching these than anything else this year. Find all of the results here with some highlights in Yoo Shin’s infographic, Elliot’s EMaze, and Gabby’s Divergent trailer (below), which made me laugh.

In my classroom, creation is the future. Students are learning more, developing new skills, and having more fun. It also forced me to step back and put the trust in my students’ hands. And so far, most rose to the challenge. As we end the school year, students are wrapping up #20Time Projects, which I hope will celebrate the success of student choice, voice, and creation. Reflecting back, I look towards summer with pride, hope, and excitement for the positive impact that creation has brought to my students’ learning. And I can’t wait to do better next year.

Adam Schoenbart is a high school English teacher, Google Education Trainer, and EdD candidate in Educational Leadership. He teaches grades 10-12 in a 1:1 Chromebook classroom at Ossining High School in Westchester County, NY. His work and teaching focuses on best practices of educational technology for active student-centered learning and engagement. Adam received the 2014 LHRIC Teacher Pioneer Award and is a frequent conference presenter in the NY/NJ area. He is the co-creator of the crowdsourced #edtech events calendar, EdTechCalNYNJ, and he blogs about his work and teaching at The SchoenBlog. Connect with Adam on Twitter @MrSchoenbart to continue the conversation.

Teaching Mathematics With a Surface Pro Tablet

This week I am hosting some guest bloggers. This is a guest post from Bryan Davis.

For the last 6 years I have done all of my teaching on a tablet Windows PC. I have really liked using the tool for these reasons. I can have a digital copy of all of my lessons sync to all of my computers and be instantly searchable. Since my lesson was already digital I could easily upload it to my website. I could use any computer program (graphing utilities, geometric or algebraic drawing utilities, Excel, and more) in my lesson seamlessly.

But up until last year there was a drawback. I could never leave my podium for a couple of reasons. First, the computer did not have a way to wirelessly stream the video output to the projector. Also, the computer was not small enough to just pick up and walk around with using only one hand.

One of the best things about technology is how the tools we use are constantly changing. Last year I updated my school computer to a Surface Pro 2. The portability of this computer is incredible! I was inspired to look into ways of untethering myself from my podium. I originally used the software program AirParrot to send the video to my Apple TV. And while that solution was good, it was rather processor intensive and would drain the battery pretty quickly. Just recently I started using a Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter, which Windows 8 natively supports (the streaming stick uses the Miracast wireless streaming protocol). This setup has a much smaller drain on my battery which means more time away from my podium!

So now I walk around the classroom and have the ability to project anything I want on my screen. I use the camera to show student work directly from the desk of the student. I give my lesson from the front, middle and back of the class, sitting down anywhere to do my thing. I can quickly show any computer tool to help explain a concept. This tool has helped me be a better teacher.

Additional Resources:
Tablet PC List
Examples of Posted Lessons

About Bryan: I am a teacher of math, physics, and engineering at Healdsburg High School in beautiful Northern California. I have been teaching for 10 years. I have also had jobs as a software engineer and a test engineer. But my passion is education. I have really been trying to take elements of play and bring it into my classroom. Watch children play… they will try something, they might fail, but they fail safely. And then they try something else. And they will keep trying until they are successful. Isn’t that also what we want to see in our classrooms? I like to believe that this addition of play in my classroom is visible and making a difference for students.