Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tuesday Teacher Tips Sept 24 - Photo editing & innerbody.com

These were tips I sent out to my faculty today.  I've really been having fun making photo-fliers that put into emails and print out for bulletin boards, so I thought I'd spotlight how I do that today. 

Creating Fun Signs Using Photos

You can create fun and engaging signs or handouts for your classroom using photos that you edit and add text to.

The process is very simple, all you need is a photo and a photo editing software like Picasa, which can be downloaded for free [here].

Example photo edited in Picasa
When you choose a photo to edit, you will want to make sure that it is either one you have taken yourself, or one that is available to use, share and modify under something like a Creative Commons license.  Good places to look for photos that you can use is MorgueFile, a free photo archive (click [here]), or Flickr Commons, which includes photos shared from many of the world’s public photography archives (click [here]).  Before you download, be sure to double check the copyright, and remember to give credit to the source.

To edit your photo, open it in your photo editing software, and begin to play around with filters and color schemes.  For Picasa, you will find those editing options on the left of the screen.  Click through the three tabs that have paint brushes. 
Picasa editing tools are located on the left

Once you are happy with your image modifications, you will be able to add text.  Most of your basic photo editing programs will allow you to add text.  In Picasa, from the tab with the wrench, choose the text option and click anywhere in your photo to begin adding text.  You can easily change the angle, color, and size of the text by using the tools on the side of your screen, and by clicking and dragging your text on the photo.

When you are finished, save your photo, then embed it in a document to print,  or in email, or on a web page to share online.

Need more Info?

Check out this 5 minute video about Picasa [here]

Or, for a quick directions from Techusers for adding text click [here]

Innerbody.com— an interactive way to learn about the human body

Innerbody.com is a great resource for showing students different body systems.  Choose between systems like the skeletal system, muscular system and cardiovascular system. 
Under each system you can choose between views of a male or female, and you can change from a front to back view.

From the menu on the left, you can choose different areas within the system, and it will give you a close up view, with a description of the parts on the right side of the picture.

Example from the lower torso view
 of the cardiovascular system.

This is an excellent way to show students how the different systems of the human body look, however be warned, the male and female views are anatomically correct, so you may want to have the system you would like to share already pulled up on the screen, and be sure to preview the systems first.

To check out the site for yourself click [here].
Note: You will need to make sure you are viewing the site on an up-to-date browser to see all of the features, and may be prompted to update different programs. I viewed it in Firefox with no problem.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tuesday Teacher Tips Sept 17 - Enlight for eBooks, Magazine Round-up, Blendspaces & Kid President

New App for Follett Shelf eBooks

Look for the Enlight app
in your device's app store
If you have been having trouble with your current Follett Reader app, it may be because Follett released a new app for eBook content called Follett Enlight.  Search for it in the app store on your device, and be sure to download it. 

You will need to enter your Follett shelf URL the first time you log in.

Enlight works in much the same way as the TextFlow app for smartphones and the Follett Digital Reader that was previously used for tablets.  Check out our FollettShelf eBooks page by clicking [here] for more information.
Odyssey, Dig, and Jack & Jill – magazine Round-Up
In an attempt to bring some new nonfiction selections monthly to our library, we are now subscribing to a number of new publications that may be of interest to you in the classroom.
Odyssey—is a science publication by Cobblestone geared towards Intermediate students.  This month’s issue focuses on music and why it is so important to us.  It includes articles about brain research and music, music and emotion, music in nature and much more. Graphics and photos are engaging and would be excellent in discussions of text features.  You can find teacher guides at the magazine’s website [here].
Can't wait for the kids to dig into these!
Digis an archeology magazine, also published by Cobblestone and geared towards Intermediate students.  This month’s issue also includes articles about music and different cultures through time.  There is also an interesting article about DNA and the Aztecs and Hagia Sophia.  Issues also feature projects—in this issue, learn how to make your own reed. Check out the website [here].
Jack and Jill—is a magazine for “Cool Kids ages 7-12”.  It includes reader submitted writing, stories, puzzles, craft ideas,  and fun feature articles.  This month, the magazine is featuring Extreme Pumpkin Carving, legendary creatures and vampires vs. zombies.  This could be a fun publication to submit student writing to. Check out the website [here].
What magazine subscriptions do your students or teachers find the most engaging?

Blendspace—helping you to curate resources for students to use in research

Have you made the decision to move towards Flipping lessons or Project Based Learning, but don’t quite know the best way to share resources with your students?  Give Blendspace a try. Click [here] to see the website.
This is the workspace.  Icons on the right let you access content.
Blendspace, formerly called EdCanvas, is an easy way to drop and load resources into a grid that students can clearly navigate through.  You can load those teacher centered PowerPoints onto Google Drive, and easily embed them directly into a square, embed YouTube videos, and websites all from a nifty side panel of choices.  The site is so easy to use, I was creating lessons in a matter of minutes.
One of the best things about it is that sharing is made easy. You can generate a link, embed code, share to Edmodo, Facebook or Twitter, or even generate a QR code without going to another site.
You can even add a quiz as a formative assessment to make sure students caught on to key ideas.
Take things one step further by inviting others to collaborate or by creating a class and inviting your students to create their own lessons with online resources.
Check out an example of how I’m using it with 5th grade [here]
Kid President Rocks!
You might not need a pep talk this early in the year.  But, when you do, Soulpancake’s Kid President is here to get you through the day. 
As Kid President says it’s time to be awesome—YOLO!

Watch the video [here]

This is also a fun one to share with your students;)
What inspires you to be AWESOME?!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Starting off the School Year with a Pow

Last year, right before I started my new position, I discovered PowToon, which was in it's start up form.  PowToon is an online service that allows you to create animated presentations and videos.  I was pretty impressed with the service at the time and wrote about it in one of my first blog entries here.  Since I tried it the first time, the service has changed quite a bit.  Currently, for a free subscription, you can create as many PowToons as you would like, but you can only upload 30 PowToons to YouTube.  Right now, for me, that seems like a pretty good number.

PowToons would be a great way for you to create short, instructional videos about difficult concepts.  It's also a great way to engage students in some of those more traditionally "boring" topics.  Even though creating PowToon can be time consuming, it could be an excellent way to create flipped class lessons.  

The first PowToon I created was to introduce myself to my new students.

While the process took me some time to get through, I was extremely happy with the overall product, and looked for a way to use it for something with more substance.

Introducing the Nonfiction Section

The next PowToon I created was to help introduce students quickly to the nonfiction section of the library.  My students loved it!  They were totally engaged and the information really stuck with them.

I didn't touch PowToons again for the rest of the school year, mostly because I didn't have time to dedicate to making a good video.

 Starting a second year off right

To start off this school year, I decided to revisit PowToons.  I noticed that since last year they have added a number of new characters, some animated characters and some new formats.  The changes, I think, give the free users a lot more options.  I was very happy with the result, and the kids got a good giggle out of it.

 Using PowToon to teach students Digital Citizenship & Responsibility

For my back to school video, I used the traditional characters that I had used in the past, but I wanted an opportunity to try some new characters, to see what I could come up with.  I found the opportunity when I realized that our students needed a little more direction when it comes to being responsible in our computer labs.  As a result, I made a video for teachers to share with their students prior to going to the lab.  I had hoped that the video would generate discussion about how students should treat the equipment in our lab.  Last year we had a lot of trouble with things getting broken in the lab, and computer stations being left a mess.  This year, after developing a campaign to help keep things neater, I am happy to report that we haven't had one mishap since school started, and the lab is left in excellent condition every day.

The Students Ask for More

After watching the introductory videos this year, I started to overhear students saying things like "That penguin is hilarious!"  and "can we watch more of these?"  I realized pretty quickly that (1) the kids had no idea it was me who had made the videos and (2) I am seriously on to something and need to use to engage students in those tough topics I struggle with telling the kids about myself.

My most recent PowToon is one on Dictionary Skills. I used this with my second graders this year, and so far have found that the kids are retaining the terminology much better this year.  Last year I had a difficult time helping the kids see the difference between entry words and guide words, and this year after one class, they seem to understand things much more clearly.

Now, the kids begin each class asking if we're going to watch a PowToon.  I love that they are so interested in the videos and they are gaining real understanding from the content presented. 

As the year goes on, I hope to find more opportunity to create PowToons as a way to engage my students in learning.

In a future post, I'll explain my process for creating the PowToons.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tuesday Teacher Tips Sept 3 - #KyEdChat, Padlet, & Extra Yarn

Here's the roundup of tips I sent out to the faculty today. Links are underlined in blue.

#Kyedchat—A good Reason to Join Twitter

In one of our last Tuesday Teacher Tips of the year last year, I talked about developing a Professional Learning Network (PLN) through Twitter.  Over the summer, my PLN grew, thanks in large part, to the start of #KyEdChat.

#KyEdChat was spearheaded by Lexington based elementary school teacher Donnie Piercey (find him on Twitter here) and includes a wide range of educational professionals based here in Kentucky and beyond . 

Using the hashtag #KyEdChat, educators meet weekly on Thursday at 8 pm—9pm to discuss timely education topics and get ideas.

Over the summer, “official” chat topics included: favorite technology, common core, back to school, what to do when a lesson fails, and project based learning. The hashtag can also be used to mark any comment or resource that would be useful to teachers in Kentucky.

Want to know more? Barbara Myerson Katz spotlighted #KyEdChat in a CTL blog post #KyEdChat: Join the Conversation, and Mike Paul made a great 5 minute video about How to Follow  #KyEdChat on Twitter.

You can also find #KyEdChat on Google +.  You can request to join the community where people share blog posts and continue conversations.

Need to join Twitter? Check out this how to guide from Brenham ISD Tech Dept. to get you started.

Padlet—Collaborate & Brainstorm Easily

Padlet is a curating tool that allows teachers and students to create together.  Essentially it’s like a big digital board with sticky notes that you can add to, move, edit and delete.
As a teacher you create a board where either you curate content or invite students to.  You can use it provide resources for a project, allow student to post projects, questions or information relevant to units of study. 

Checkout a Padlet I created here

Overall, Padlet is easy to use.  Create a free account, choose build wall, click the settings wheel to give it a name, double click on the board and start adding content.

Caitlin Tucker’s Blended Learning & Technology in the Classroom, gives a great introduction to the site with some excellent ideas for use at “Padlet: Create a Virtual Wall and Engage your Students”.  A two minute video, Padlet in Ed—Tech Tools Tour also provides a nice overview of how to use the site in your classroom.

Extra Yarn

Looking for more books with a clear theme? 

You might want to check out Caldecott Honor Book Extra Yarn by  Mac Barnett.
The book  explores the endless good that can happen when you do things for other people without expecting anything in return.

Check out the book trailer here.