Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Not Always My Favorite

I think it's very important that students create stuff. Having to transfer what you know into a new product it's extremely valuable for really understanding a concept. What tool is used to make that stuff can vary greatly and is largely irrelevant to the bigger goal of increased knowledge. Just like students, teachers have their own favorite tools for creating stuff for students. Like everyone else, I have my favorite apps for different tasks on my iPad or iPhone. As apps change, my preference changes. I used to be a HUGE Penultimate fan (see why here) until they "improved" their app. I was one of many who couldn't stand the new update. While they've made some changes (shameless plug that I was once quoted on TechCrunch), it's never been the same and, although it was once a staple of my iPad dock, it's no longer anywhere on my iPad.
On the other hand, there are some tasks that have two apps that switch back and forth between being my favorites. Screencasting on an iPad is a great example. For a long time, I was in the ShowMe "camp" because of how much I liked their online community. Then Educreations added multiple pages. I sway back and forth depending on their most recent update. I generally tell people to try out both and pick one you like.
Another one is book creation. My two favorites, in alphabetical order, are Book Creator and My Story. Unlike the screencasting apps, these two go back and forth of my "favorite" depending on the situation I'm in. If I'm creating a book for myself, it's definitely Book Creator. It's layout is hands down more "sophisticated" looking. It also allows you to add video within your book, something My Story doesn't do. However, for younger students, the My Story layout is much more friendly. Just recently they introduced the ability to share My Story books between iPads.
1st graders creating books on how to make no bake pies.
We used this to make a template for 1st graders and then Air Drop the template to their iPads. Students could then edit their own book and resend it back to me as a movie. They have the option of making it an ePub that you can read in the Safari browser, an option that is fantastic for class presentations or sharing with parents, but I noticed that when students sent the link back to me, all of the ePubs had the same short URL. I've reached out to My Story, so hopefully that'll get cleaned up. You can see the student videos below.

So which app is best for each task? Depends on the audience, the day, and the most recent update. The apps will always change, but the purpose of the learning will not.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cow Tipping and Improving the PD Experience

Have you ever been cow tipping? How did it end up? Like TommyYou don’t have to honestly answer that. 
What’s the purpose of cow tipping? Does it make a better steak? No, it doesn’t. But, generally, it wakes the cow up with quite the shock. 
What is your school climate like? How excited is the staff you work with for the next inservice day? Or early out? Are they going through the motions? Are there some cows that need to be tipped? 
This isn’t a post to question the weight of your staff. Nor is it permission to knock any of them over. In fact, I strongly suggest doing NEITHER of those. And I will not be held responsible for any injuries relating to that activity. Or any others. Nor do I condone actually trying to tip a live cow.

This post is, instead, a call for you who provide any sort of professional development for others to start doing things differently. Math, reading, science, whatever. If your staff moseys down the hallway (like a cattle chute) and plods into the training session, give them a little shock by stepping outside of your own box. Make them get up and move around during the session. Utilize videos. Make it interactive by modeling Kahoot or another tool to collect information. Heck - put blank pieces of paper on the wall and let them fill in what they want to learn more about (if you are not sure what that looks like, come see it live at EdCamp Omaha, March 21, 2015. Click here to register!). I'm not claiming to have all the answers - I need to do a better job of this, too! Maybe I should've started this post with "Hey, Josh!"
If you continually provide instruction for students the same way, day after day, regardless of the instructional method, most are going to eventually tune you out. Teachers are not much different than kids. You cannot provide professional development the same way over and over again. They will begin to tune you out. Every now and then, you need to model stepping out of the box and tipping them over. 
For those of you who don’t spend much time around cows, you can learn more about cow tipping here.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Behind the LewisCentralCSD Social Media Curtain

This week, I helped launch my new school district into the social media world. The key, for me, was automation. If you've ever scrolled through this blog, you know that means IFTTT
We set up a Facebook Page, Instagram account and Twitter account for Lewis Central. We created a generic email address within our domain that was used to create all of the accounts. There were many ideas for what the username for the social media accounts would be. Ideally, you want them to be the same so people can look for the same thing across all platforms. @LewisCentral was already taken on Twitter. Another thought was LCCSD (Lewis Central Community School District), which would be nice and short for Twitter, but already taken on Instagram. So my attention turned to LewisCentralCSD. While it's a little longer than the "preferred" Twitter username, other users will just have to be creative to get their mentions under 140 characters!
The header images for Facebook and Twitter, as well as the profile picture for all three accounts, were created with Canva. I grabbed a picture I had and one from a teacher librarian to make the header images. I tried to match the district website header text with the text in the Canva images.
On to the automation - after one day, I've already had to do some tweaking. Anytime a picture is posted to Instagram, it gets posted to Twitter and Facebook. But I had also set up a recipe that anytime I put a link on Twitter (like to a news article), it would post to our Facebook Page. That was causing duplication in those pictures. So I've instead added a new recipe that anytime I use the hashtag #fb on Twitter, that tweet will be posted to the Facebook page. I've already forgot that tidbit once this morning, but hopefully it will become habit.
Below are the recipes that we are currently using to automate the posting process:
IFTTT Recipe: Instagram to Facebook Page connects instagram to facebook-pages IFTTT Recipe: Instagram to Twitter connects instagram to twitter IFTTT Recipe: Twitter hashtag makes FB Page text post connects twitter to facebook-pages
I will be using Tweetdeck in Chrome to do most of the monitoring. I've also used it to schedule a tweet or two every now and then. For instance, I emailed our staff a link to a post on our district website about the new accounts. I wanted to give them a chance to read the article prior to sending it out via Twitter and Facebook, so I scheduled a tweet to go out after school gets out. That way I won't forget AND I get to begin my weekend on time!
In 36 hours, we have 87 "likes" on Facebook and 46 followers on Twitter. Instagram only has 14 followers, which I'm less concerned with because I'm thinking of it more as a tool to provide content for the other two sites. Honestly, I'm not concerned with numbers anyway. That will come with time. It's exciting to have the district in the social media/networking world and I'm looking forward to seeing how it evolves in the future.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Screencasting made simple with the Screencastify Chrome Extension

Moving to a Chromebook 1:1 environment, I've been searching for ways to do screencasting that students could use.
Screenshot from EdTech Teacher's website
Thanks to EdTech Teacher's App Recommendations website, I found a free Chrome extension called Screencastify that allows you to record your screen and/or your webcam, pick up sounds from your computer or mic, then quickly publish to either Google Drive or YouTube. That video could be shared in a lot of places - email, linked in a Google Doc, etc. For me, it has been working very well! There are not any editing features, although you could use Screencastify and then download the video into a video editor of your choice. 
As I was talking with an English teacher today about using Google Classroom, we were talking about her having to be gone this afternoon for a sub, but she was trying to leave directions for students. It's not necessarily feasible to leave a substitute teacher your district GAFE credentials, and Google Classroom does not currently allow for "co-teachers," meaning we couldn't create any sort of "dummy" account for the sub to use. So, especially since teachers are still introducing this to their class, how do we properly give directions without giving someone else our district log in information? Screencastify would be a PERFECT tool for this. The teacher could give students a tutorial of what to do or where to go, a reminder about accessing files or resources, etc. Once the video is uploaded to Drive or YouTube, the link could be somehow shared with the sub to play for students. Maybe even put in Google Classroom in case they have questions during the day. Creating a video in Screencastify could be a lot quicker than actually writing out the plans. Just leave five videos for the sub, one for each period or subject!

Update: Heather Callihan saw this post and shared that the tech challenge for her staff this month is on Screencastify. Click here to see her challenge.

Check out the examples below and put in the comments other extensions or ways that you have students using screencasting in the classroom!

Here is a Screencastify example only using the microphone and screen recording:

Here is a video I did for my staff that also used the picture-in-picture webcam recording: