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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Using IFTTT to Get Your Picture-a-Day Dominoes to Fall in Order

Photo by marfis75
Since 2009, I've been doing a "picture a day" blog for our family. It's gone through many iterations - first iWeb, then Posterous. After those two went by the wayside, I moved to Blogger (where it should've been at first...but that's another blog post). The blog started out just being shared with parents and grandparents via email. Then I began sharing them on social media and wanted an easier way to back up the pictures and text. That's a lot of different places to post. Thanks to If This, Then That (IFTTT), I can now post to one spot and all of that happens automatically. Like knocking over one domino and watching the rest fall down!
Thanks to two IFTTT recpies, when I post to Blogger, the post automatically goes to both Facebook and a copy is sent to Flickr for the picture backup (see below). One post to three places. As I've began using Instagram more, I set up an IFTTT recipe to autopost to Flickr if I used the hashtag #mykids. I typically set up similar ones for special events (#snowdays, #ressesturns1, etc.). 
IFTTT Recipe: #mykids from Instagram to Flickr connects instagram to flickr
What I began to realize is that sometimes I would have the same picture in Flickr twice: once from the #mykids recipe and once from the blog post. That doesn't always happen, but sometimes I make a #mykids post on Instagram in the morning and then decide to use that picture later in the day. It's not a huge deal because Flickr gives you a terabyte of storage for free (that's a lot), but if I ever get around to organizing my pictures it could be annoying. So the other day I set up a new recipe that if I tagged a picture in Instagram picture with #blog, it automatically creates a new post on my picture a day blog. That starts the dominoes falling!
IFTTT Recipe: Create Blogger post from Instagram hashtag connects instagram to blogger
IFTTT Recipe: Pics blog to FB connects blogger to facebook
IFTTT Recipe: Pic a day to Flickr connects blogger to flickr
I won't always start my blog post from Instagram, but it's now possible and I won't end up with two pictures in Flickr.
There are thousands of ways to use IFTTT. If doing a picture a day blog for your family or class, you wouldn't have to use as many recipes as I did. Or you could substitute other recipes. IFTTT would be a great way to get share with parents more of what is going on in your classroom. Setting up recipes to work together gets all of your dominoes to fall the same direction.
Click here for my IFTTT presentation at #neta14.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Learning and Sharing with Flipboard Magazines

Updated (June 2014) - Flipboard mentioned this blog post in their own article about educators and magazines! Thanks Flipboard! 

This spring, I was tasked with learning more about blended learning for my district. I set up a Flipboard magazine for myself to read based off the #blendedlearning hashtag on Twitter, but I wanted a way to save and share the great articles I was reading. I had heard about creating your own magazines in Flipboard, but hadn't ever tried one. They are very simple to create and easy to add to from any device, not just the app! Check out the video below on how to do it (or click here for Flipboard's "how to" page).
Recently I accepted a new position in a district that uses Google Apps for Education (GAFE), something my previous district hadn't used. So I set up another magazine! But this time I knew I needed some help with curating good articles. When you create your magazines, you are also allowed to add "contributors" to help you curate. I had added my friend Kristina to my blended learning magazine because of some work she's doing at our state department of education. This time, I decided to add a larger number of people who were already familiar with GAFE (Stacy, Mickie, and Jim), knowing they would have different perspectives and information streams that I might not be familiar with.
During a recent Dads in Ed podcast, a show I host with Devin Schoening and Brent Catlett, I mentioned Flipboard as my "app/site of the week." One of our listeners, Patrick, shared an article he had found on embedding Flipboard into Google Sites. Even better! I had just created a new Google Site for my upcoming job, so I added the GAFE magazine to the site. It's great because it automatically updates, meaning content will always be new! 
Magazines would be a great way for secondary teachers to create textbook supplements for their students, especially around current events. One idea mentioned in the video above was to save recipes into a magazine to create a cookbook. What a great idea for a family and consumer science classroom! They'd also be great for building leaders who are researching a new curricular or behavior philosophy. You literally can put ANYTHING into magazine form. I may need to share this with my soon-to-be-four-year-old as she works on plans for her birthday cake!
Below I've linked the three magazines I have created. While demonstrating Flipboard magazines for teachers in my iPad graduate course last week, I created one for iPad Ed as well. I'm open to having more people contribute, so drop me a line in the comments or on Twitter if you're interested! 
Blended Learning Magazine
Google Apps for Education #GAFE Magazine
iPad in Education Magazine

Monday, May 12, 2014

Bringing Poetry Objects to Life

student working on her ChatterPix videoI started my day working with 3rd graders on publishing their poetry. Because we only had a short amount of time, I knew we needed a quick and easy app. We chose to use the app ChatterPix Kids to bring the object of their poetry to life. In planning with the teacher, we decided students would come ready that day with their poem and an idea for what to find or take a picture of, related to their poem. Then we would make the object say the poem! What I didn't know walking in was that students were writing a poem about "what's in my desk." Perfect! Because they obviously had the object, the picture hunting went nice and smooth! I did a quick, five minute demo of the app, we talked about putting their object on a contrasting (dark/light) background, and how voice levels should be while we were recording audio. Then students were turned loose! 
We ran into a couple issues with the app not being on the iPad and students clicking "Don't Allow" for pictures and microphone, which we fixed in Settings-->Privacy, but those are pretty common occurrences for Day 1 with a new app. We had a couple students who, when they went to save to their Camera Roll, it took longer than normal. I did a "force close" by double-clicking the home button and swiping up on the app. We then re-opened the app, clicked on Gallery to find the project (auto save, for the win!), and the second time we exported it worked. I've had to do this process with a couple different apps when they get "stuck" in a task. It's not a big deal, but it's pretty obvious when you are used to the export being rocket fast.
ChatterPix icon
Apps like ChatterPix are very simple to use. Take a picture, draw a line for a mouth, record 30 seconds of audio, then dress up your picture. ChatterPix walks students through the creation steps in a very easy-to-understand manner. Your final project becomes a QuickTime video file. The regular ChatterPix lets you publish to social media and email. Because we were using ChatterPix Kids, which doesn't have those social media sharing options, students saved/exported their final video to the Camera Roll, then opened up the Photos app and emailed their creation to the teacher. We didn't publish ours to YouTube, but as I was looking for a quick "how to" video to share, I found lots of other examples (click here to see).
Two alternatives I've played around with are Morfo & Yakit. Morfo (which also has a paid version that contains all of the "extras") is a little more advanced in terms of function and content. The eyes move in a little more life-like fashion than the others (click here for teacher example). Morfo also has a more detailed eye & mouth placement, which may be better suited for older kids. Yakit has some pretty cool animated objects, but is limited to fifteen seconds of audio recording. In working with my grad class, they also found getting Yakit to save properly without a Facebook account was not as intuitive as we'd hoped. The app crashed a couple times and did not save the work. Like ChatterPix, there is also a Yakit Kids alternative, which may fix our Facebook account issues. Yakit is an iPhone app, so if you search for it in the App Store, you may need to switch your search from iPad only to iPhone only.
ChatterPix worked perfectly for these single poem activities. They would also work very well as a simple app smash with something like Book Creator that allows you to import videos from your iPad. The Morfo teacher example linked above was supposed to be just that - students write a book about a famous person, use Morfo to record a famous quote, and then put that video in the book. Unfortunately, we used a book making app that didn't support video import. We know better now! 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

An Organizers Reflection of #EdCampOmaha

It's about time. A week later, I'm finally carving out some time on a beautiful Saturday afternoon to reflect about another amazing EdCamp Omaha.
Because I'm so late, I've had the opportunity to read some insightful reflections of the day from the people that matter the most - the attendees. Because they all captured the day so well, I'm going to direct you to all of their blog posts and reflect on some other things from an organizers perspective. Thanks to Michelle, MichelleDarin, Guy, Ann, Brent, Alex, Jennifer, Kristina, the camera-toting teacher Laura and all the others who gave their feedback about the day. I truly appreciate the feedback and hope we can address some of the critiques that I've seen as well. We are far from perfect, but I feel we learn more each year and I really like how we do things at EdCamp Omaha.
One of the most important times for me is the before and after of EdCamps. Twitter allows educators to connect on a regular basis, but I really love the opportunity to sit down with people in a more social setting. It allows you to get to know them a little more personally. Saturday night a group of 8-10 of us went to The Blatt for supper. I shared something that had been rolling in my head for a while - attendance. To be clear, I'm not disappointed in our attendance, even though it was slightly less than the last two years. I don't concern myself with having x number of people, because when we had 60 people show up, the conversations were just as rich as when we've had 130. But if you click on any of the links above, you read about how energizing of an experience EdCamp is, how refreshing being around all of those passionate educators is, and how attendees leave wanting more professional development like this - how many times do you hear people want more professional development? 
During one of the breaks, I got to talk with Joe from NE Loves PS, one of our local sponsors who does GREAT work across the state (they even let me on their blog!). We talked about the quality of educator that attends EdCamp Omaha (any EdCamp, for that matter) and we both agreed that, while there are definitely others like them out there, these educators realize this isn't an 8-4 job. They genuinely love education, kids, and being a learner. 
It got me to thinking more about how do we get more people there, so they can feel the same feelings that you read about in the posts above? I don't have a great answer, but Saturday evening allowed me to do some brainstorming with those at Blatt. We'll never get 1000 teachers there. Things happen. Life happens. My wife reminds me often that our target demographic is 25-55ish (*edited after comments & more reflection :)) year olds, working people, many married, many with kids. Giving up a Saturday is tough, and as the father of three I completely understand and am not criticizing them. But I know that there are educators out there in that demographic who would have a better understanding of why I, with three kids, have made time the last four years for a dozen EdCamps if we just get them in the door. Why three people traveled 6+ hours to come last week. Why about 20 more traveled over 2 hours. They would see how empowering it is to have a voice and learn with others who were born to do what they do. Another analogy that I've been think about is that EdCamps are kind of like churches - if you are a religious person, it's a no-brainer that you make time to attend church regularly. But how often do you bring someone new with you? How easy is it for you to explain what you get out of attending in a way that someone else is compelled to devote time and energy to attending (I'm horrible at this)? It's something that I think about a lot and have been keeping more resources for next spring. I'm also hoping to infiltrate some other list serves after January 1st to get the word out a little better. Admittedly, we had significantly increased attendance the first three years so I wrongly assumed that EdCamp Omaha would promote itself. Live and learn.
EdCamp Omaha continues to be a great event and one that I'm very proud to organize with a wonderful minion like Kristina.
We have such great educators that give up their time to make the day so great, I just hope we can share the wealth some more!
Thanks to everyone who attended and reflected! You really make the time and effort easily worth it! Follow our website http://edcampomaha.wikispaces.com and @EdCampOmaha - we've hopefully got a big announcement coming in the future!