Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Thinglink





FETC, the Florida Educational Technology Conference begins tomorrow. It is my favorite place to learn and share. I love to try to seam together themes and trends that help us integrate student use of technology into the curriculum. My eyes and ears will be wide open for strategies and tips to share with you. I have been extremely blessed to visit hundreds of classrooms in scores of districts over the last few years and am happy to report that the effort and ability to use technology in the classroom has definitely improved, but I am still seeing teachers working far too hard. It’s time to embrace student use and how to best provide our content through their devices or through stations when we only have limited technology access. Let’s give them the opportunity to be creative. It’s amazing what they can come up with given time and opportunity. This “tuesdays” is a mix between looking at BYOD and very cool simple design website that anyone can do.

A creative website

Thinglink is slick, creative and simple to use. Teachers and students can easily create interactive images and videos for presentations, projects or any digital explanation of learning. We have all heard the expression, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Thinglink takes that concept up a huge notch. Imagine asking your students to do their report with a single image that has multiple links to websites, videos they have created, or any digital asset that helps explain their understanding of the concept. It would be such a refreshing change from the standard PowerPoint. Give students an opportunity to try Thinglink as a project option and step back and be amazed at their creative abilities to bring digital resources together. I made my first one this evening and found it super simple. It’s a combination of technology integration and BYOD.  The name Thinglink is so perfect because all you need is a “thing” to add “links” to and you can create a whole project.

An image to share

A student using their own device

A proverb

“New technology is common, new thinking is rare.”

Sir Peter Blake

An encouragement

May I encourage you to consider a new way to have your students present information? There are a host of other tools than PowerPoint that your students can use to show understanding of content. Some of the best known are Prezi, Voicethread, Powtoon, Keynote, Slides and more. Thinglink joins the list of options with high marks. One of the scariest parts of technology is not knowing how to use all these tools. The good news is that you don’t have to know how to use them when you make them options. Students with options are more apt to learn perseverance, patience, collaborative skills and teamwork. There is great wisdom in trying some of the tools you list as options, but a simple disclaimer that trying these options are voluntary leaves the learning to them. I always marvel at what kids can do with tools that I do not even have a clue to use.

How do you do that?

How do you use Thinglink? First, I would recommend that you click around on their website because their explanations are crystal clear and spot on. It doesn’t matter what kind of device or computer you have, Thinglink only needs an image to begin. Second, you will need to create a FREE account and like most website like this, you will be given the opportunity to upgrade, but it’s not necessary at all. Third, I highly recommend storyboarding the basic idea of what you want to explain or teach. Once you have a plan, then you need to select the perfect image that will draw attention. Fourth, gather websites and/or upload related materials to your own One Note or Google account. Finally, create little hot links on your image. You can add icons, make them shimmer, invisible or hoverable. (Is that a word?) Just have fun and get your message across with a whole new look.

As always, I am
Ubiquitously yours,

K

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I Have a Dream




I can remember when we first heard about Martin Luther King, Jr. yet it wasn’t until I heard his voice that I was captured by his message. His gift of the English language and ability to inspire is the reason generations will look to his legacy and message of non-violence and racial equality.  I have been presenting “Pay It Forward” to students for years and one of my favorite parts is to ask the students to list persons of impact or influence. Even when I limit them to only 5 responses, 95% of the time Martin Luther King, Jr. is on the list. I also share three persons of impact in my life and he is one of them. (If you want to know the other two, let me know!)  I want to dedicate this “tuesdays” to him and to all teachers who want to do something with their students. If you don’t time by Monday, don’t forget that we still have Black History Month in February and the resources I point you to today will be most helpful. It may be the best speech of our times.

A creative website

Although much has been written about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the most reputable website is The King Center that was established by Mrs. Coretta Scott King in 1968 and now revitalized under its new president, Martin Luther King, III.  Why go anywhere else? In fact, the website is so creative and high-tech that it maybe one of the best use of images and text I have seen. The website hosts a digital archive that was created by JPMorgan Chase & Co. with over a million documents associated with the life of the late Martin Luther King, Jr. He was a scholar, a father, a pastor, a husband and great humanitarian.  This website is so huge, I only began to browse the tip of the iceberg.  If you don’t have time, expose your students to it.  They will definitely be benefactors of one of the wisest men of our times.

An image to share

Wordle sample of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech



A proverb
"All men are brothers because they are children of a common father.”

 Martin Luther King, Jr.



An encouragement

Have you ever listened to the full 17-minute version of his “I Have a Dream” speech?  I first head it on a free podcast from LearnOutLoud.com and was blown away by his incredible vocabulary.  His ability to weave words into a melodic and visual memory are striking. I was so encouraged that I created a video with images and wrote the whole text of the speech out for the students to listen to and read.  When we played it over the closed-circuit system five years ago, you could have heard a pin drop across the whole campus. You can download the video for your students from my website.  I want to encourage you to do a vocabulary study of this most famous speech. It’s very emotional and well worth your time. 


How do you do that?

How do you sift through this vast amount of information on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? You probably can’t.  Fear not. I have compiled a few good resources around the “I Have a Dream” speech for you on my website.  Most of your students have heard the 2-3 minute vignette of his full speech, but I am sure there will be few who have heard the full version.  It’s a step back in a much more trouble time with the voice of a true peacemaker ringing out a challenge to America. If you haven’t heard it yourself, please make time to listen to it because it’s pretty humbling. His passion and grasp of the English language is phenomenal. The full 17min.video of “I Have a Dream” that I compiled with photos and text is available to you and your students on my website.


Let’s encourage our students to learn about great men like Martin Luther King, Jr.




As always, I am
Ubiquitously yours,
K




Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Got Centers?




Teaching with centers or stations is not a new concept, but it has had a resurgence in many of the schools I have been to and in many of the trainings I have been leading. Elementary teachers, particularly in the primary years are masters at creating centers of learning for their students and engaging them in multiple experiences with limited equipment. For some reason as the students get older, we do less station like activities. Why? I truly believe our secondary students have a greater need of learning activities. When we only have a few devices, stations are the perfect way to spread the wealth. Although there is A LOT of preparation that goes into the creation of stations, the time spent in the classroom facilitating, individualizing, working with the students and sitting in groups with them is priceless relationship building. This “tuesdays” is designed to help you take a second look at doing centers (or stations) or rotations or whatever you like to call them.


A creative website

Just yesterday I came across the most gifted centers teachers I have ever seen! Scholastic has always been a leader in supporting teachers, but I was totally unaware of their Top Teacher area until Barbara brought this particular idea to my attention on Facebook. Erin Klein is a second grade teacher who has created a hybrid flipped classroom like none I’ve ever seen. Her gift is for organization, sharing and creating a practical and appealing classroom environment. On her Scholastic blog, she has shared how she has leveraged technology in ways that are so creative. Not only is she utilizing a modified flipped classroom, she has trained her students to become very independent learners in 2nd grade! Her real gift is that she has made all her classroom organizational forms available for download. Now there’s a Top Teacher for sure.  I encourage you to check out her blog. It may be one of the best out there.  I did notice that Scholastic is highlighting 10 Top Teachers, but for me, Erin is my pick!


An image to share


6th grade students in centers

A proverb

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. 
Art is knowing which ones to keep.”

Scott Adams

An encouragement

There is no doubt that stations/centers in the classroom has its pros and cons. Teachers who use centers are the greatest advocates. Teachers who don’t use centers have many valid reasons such as pacing guides, pressures of testing, lack of planning time, etc., however I would like to encourage you to try one unit of study in a station setting this school year. So much of what we teach from the front of the room is not absorbed by our students even if they sit compliant, but when they are given an opportunity to get the same work that they may have had to do in class in a station setting, it suddenly takes on a more engaging environment. Being able to collaborate, work at your own pace and get to try technologies that are normally unavailable are great motivators for students. Don’t try to overdo it and bring out every great idea the first time you do centers or you will exhaust yourself. Instead create only 4 activities related to what you are studying and make 8 centers out of them (2 will be the same, of course). Put your students in small groups and rotate them through the activities. One of the most unused pieces of equipment in our classrooms is the projector as a station. Have the students do an activity using the teacher computer (logged out of everything important, of course) projecting to the screen.  Even a one-computer classroom can have technology in centers. Talk to your colleagues about trying centers and I bet you will get a great deal of support. Who knows? It may be just the medicine needed to add engagement to your classroom.


How do you do that?

How do you tackle centers in your classroom? Little-by-little and step-by-step. My favorite centers patterns happened by accident. When I taught 8th grade math, I had four times in the year that I ran centers (one a quarter). With 32 students in my class, I had 8 groups of 4. I designed 8 activities that took a whole class period, which meant I had centers for 8 days. Instead of doing them 8 days in a row, I had centers on Mondays and Fridays for 4 weeks and taught normally on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays. The students and I really loved Monday and Friday centers because without planning it, I gave them four days off.  There was no homework for them and no planning or papers to grade for me! One of the greatest tips I learned was to make sure I kept detailed information of their work in class and got everything graded while we were in the centers.  Like any learning environment, teaching strategy or classroom management piece, nothing works all the time, but having a classroom with variety is one of the great gifts you can give your students.

As always, I am
Ubiquitously yours,
K

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Power of Vocabulary




The power of words is astounding. Just the right word at the right time can bring incredible results. Spewing the wrong word at the wrong time can cause results that are equally damaging.  As teachers, choosing our words wisely is critical.  No matter what subject we teach, vocabulary is an essential part of establishing understanding.  Why not investigate the power of words using Web 2.0 tools? There are a plethora of new tools that I can only begin to examine with you in this issue of “tuesdays” but I hope that you will send in some of your findings so we can share.
             
A creative website
We are mapping just about everything these days.  We have curriculum maps, learning focus maps, and strategic planning maps, why not word maps?  Visuwords is a creative, online graphical dictionary. Unlike other dictionaries, this one is totally interactive.  I typed in the word collaborative and by double-clicking one of the nodes, I learned a whole new word relative to collaborating - quisling.  Did you know that a quisling is one who collaborates with an enemy occupying force?  It came from WWII when Major Vidkum Quisling was a Norwegian traitor working for Nazi Germany.  Today we think of collaborating in such positive light that is didn’t occur to me that it had a negative side to it also. This makes the study of words all the more fascinating.  Give it a try with words that are relative to your classroom and see where they lead you. Visuwords is built on Princeton University’s open source database by university students and language researchers and is a free resource to all patrons of the web.

An image to share
The image above is a Visuword map made with the word collaboration.  Some of the images that words create are quite attractive. 

A proverb
"Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”  Psalm 119:105 - King David

An encouragement
I would like to encourage you to create a love of words in your students.  They normally see vocabulary as a chore, but with the rich tools available to us online, we may just peak their interest.  These are a small collection of dictionaries and thesauri that I have also placed in my del.icio.us account to share. Click the tags for dictionary or words and you will easily get to this list.


What are some of your favorite and little known words? Where do you think I came up with Ubiquitously Yours? Let us know your favorite words by posting them in the comments.


How do you do that?

How do you study words in the classroom?  There are so many ways.  Today, I see Word Walls everywhere I go.  One teacher was doing her Word Wall in PowerPoint with her kindergarten students as they sounded out the names of their classmates.  One of my favorite activities when I taught 5th grade was to bury overused words and use the thesaurus to find better descriptions.  How I wish I had these online tools!  We literally buried words like: nice, good, pretty, wonderful on tombstones.  Although it sounds morbid, the tombstones were RIP (Rest in Peace) plaques decorated with our overused word and planted besides them were beautiful substitutes for these  worn-out adjectives.  How do you get your students interested in the vocabulary of your classroom? 


As always, I am
Ubiquitously yours,
K

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Plickers - Picture clickers




I had a delightful time helping our team do a presentation at the Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence at Disney’s Contemporary Convention Center today. I love these types of events because everyone who comes brings ideas and is so willing to share. Our team’s presentation was wrapped around a “Carousel of Progress” theme. Scott and Brett cleverly demonstrated a science lesson on an overhead projector (the 1990’s), upgraded the same lesson to PowerPoint through a projector and document camera (the 2000’s) and then a more modern approach to the lesson with an interactive whiteboard (the 2010’s). Although the technology changed, the student interaction remained the same. The sage on the stage had fancier tools. The students still took notes and with the exception of the one student that came up an interacted with the whiteboard, it was pretty much business as usual. For most of our participants, it was a great eye opener. 



A creative website

Scott and Brett also share their Top 20 picks that help move the needle along the technology integration continuum (TIM) (see An Encouragement section for their picks) and the one that really caught my eye was when they used Plickers. This low tech, high yield FREE student response system was one I had never seen before and just loved how the participants had that “Ah-ha” moment across the room. The idea of Plickers is combined paper codes with app technology to help teachers quickly engage their students without them feeling self-conscious. Plickers are sheets of paper that work like clickers. As your students turn their Plicker their response can be A, B, C or D to any question the teacher designs. The Plickers are reuseable or reprintable and created online when you make an account. One of the best testimonials by teachers was quoted as, “Hands down the greatest discovery for my classroom this year was Plickers. Sheer and utter brilliance!” This is definitely a game-changer when it comes to formative assessment.




An image to share


A sample Plicker

A proverb

Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.

Henry Ford


An encouragement

I know how hard it is to break away from school to go to conferences so I thought I’d encourage you and give you Scott and Brett’s top picks for engaging students right here:

      Prezi
      Screencast-o-matic
      iMovie
      SketchUp
      Canva
      Symbaloo
      Friendblender
      Aurasma
      QR codes
      Padlet 
      Kidblog 
      Weebly 
      Plickers
      OneNote
      Animoto
      Socrative 
      Skype
      Powtoon 
      Popplet
      Remind


How do you do that?



How do you use Plickers? It’s actually one of the easiest technologies available. It’s FREE and you need a teacher account. Creating the account was super simple. Once you are established, you can add your students by using generic names or nicknames. Plickers will generate the picture clickers. Hand them out to the students and with each turn of the card, they can hold up an A, B, C or D response. The teacher uses their camera enable device (tablet, smartphone, iPad, etc) by downloading the Plinker app. The camera, through the app, will scan the room and gather all the data (answers) the student are holding. Super cool, super easy and super engaging. Well done, Scott and Brett. Thanks so much for sharing.


As always, I am
Ubiquitously yours,
K