Starting From Scratch

A Return to the Beginning

What ever happened to a blank, white piece of paper?  Why is it that every app or tech tool claiming to inspire creativity simply has the user fill in a template?

I’ve recently switched jobs, and in the process (thanks in part to @sadieclorinda), have become enamored of a couple of concepts, one of which is teaching students the design process with the end user in mind. Instead of simply assigning a PowerPoint project where the students choose a template and cram each slide with as many facts as possible, have them think first of the end user.  What will their experience be like? What types of presentations do they like to view, and why?

One of the first steps is to toss the word ‘project’ and replace it with ‘product’.

The next step is to have them go through the design process, and start with blank slides (or docs, or whatever), thinking about what mood they want to portray, the feelings they want to convey to the audience.  Then, they can match color scheme with fonts and layout to create a product that is pleasing to the end user.

As an example, here is how I would make a slide that would present my winter haiku

Step 1: Write Haiku

blizzards swirling ’round / erasing summer palettes / blinding I now see

The message I want to convey is confusion, cold, with limited color.

Step 2: Find my Palette

There are color palettes already chosen in just about every creative tool, but what’s the fun in that? My new favorite tech tools are the palette generators.  I use Adobe Capture for my phone, and coloors.co for my desktop.  Nature seems to do a bang up job of combining colors, so if you take a picture of something in Nature, the color combination should be a winner.  Today, I took a picture of the morning sky with its great cool colors, and put it in Adobe Capture:

WinterSky_Palette

Then, I thought about font.  I like the idea of pairing two contrasting fonts, one to show the swirling snow (a script font) and another to show the weight of blindness and the feeling of loss of control and color (a bold headline font).

Font_Pairings

Then, on a Google Slide, I can easily arrange all my elements (a GSlide is much easier for this than a GDoc!).  Normally, I would use Canva.com, but I’m using what a student would likely have as part of their Google Classroom toolbox.

Blizzards

In making this slide, I actually lightened the lights, and darkened the dark since I couldn’t alter the transparency of the photograph.

Looking at the finished product, I wouldn’t give myself a good grade for finding a photograph that illustrated the poem (or in this case, writing a poem that fit the photo!).  BUT, I started from scratch, and used the design process to visualize what I wanted the end user to view.

***LATER***

OK. So, I gave it back to myself and redid it – just as I would expect a student to do.

Blizzards (2)

 

Another perk to starting from scratch is that everything here is my own work, so I don’t have to worry about copyright!

 

 

 

 

Google Hangouts for Lunchtime PD

The Literacy Coach and I put our deviously creative hats on to come up with a new form of Professional Development.  We developed a semi-monthly, 30-minute session that repeats three times during lunch from 11:00 – 12:30.  So far there have been five dates, and the fifth one which occurred today, was the most successful by far.

The Technology

Photo: roe17.org

Photo: roe17.org

We chose Google Hangouts for a couple of reasons.  First, it’s on everyone’s classroom computer.  It’s also an amazingly simple tool to use, and one that I think the staff could really use, considering we have seven buildings (8 if you count the District Office).  However, it’s a hard concept to demonstrate and fully understand the potential without actually participating.  And goodness knows I already make enough videos that they don’t watch.

The Content

Google Hangouts provides the framework, but the content had to come from elsewhere, and where better to look than other district-wide initiatives.  The Literacy Coach in our district is amazing: 30+ years of elementary teaching experience in all grades, not to mention a growth mindset like nobody has every seen.  She was always trying new styles, techniques, and ideas while in the classroom and hasn’t stopped.  She and I brainstormed about what teachers still weren’t ‘getting’ when it came to Daily 5/CAFE implementation, and also what they might like to learn with PARCC (our annual Common Core Standardized Test) on the horizon.

  • GHO #1 – Classroom Innovation
  • GHO #2 – Vocabulary Instruction
  • GHO #3 – Citing Evidence
  • GHO #4 – Paired Texts
  • GHO #5 – Constructed Responses on PARCC

The Details

Ms. Witkus and I created a Google Doc in advance, and developed an agenda, complete with questions and resources that we could share out through the Chat feature.

We wanted a safe topic for our first one, since we realized people were really going to be learning how to use GHO.  We added Vocab Instruction because a mutual pet peeve is the use of DOL (Daily Oral Language) by the many of the reading teachers, and the fact that some of the vocabulary lists that students learn every week contain words for no apparent reason (but I digress…).

The next three topics cover Common Core skills that seem to be difficult to teach.  Citing evidence correctly at the secondary level is easy, because your school follows a specific format, like MLA or APA.  However, at the elementary level, where citation is introduced, can be more tricky:  how do you know what proper citation for a 3rd grader is compared to a 5th, for example? Paired texts seems easy to accomplish with such websites as ReadWorks, but I think many teachers have a fear of, or don’t like to, create their own material.  Therefore, we thought it beneficial to introduce some online resources for Paired Texts.

Finally, helping kids write Constructed Responses for the PARCC is huge.  As I assist teachers in the computer labs as their practice PARCC with their kiddos, MANY students get to that question, and then write a two- or three-sentence response. Not cool. So, Ms. Witkus shared some lesson ideas to get kids writing daily, especially with responses to informational text (say in science or social studies) that kids finish in 30 – 40 minutes. I then jumped in with a plan to help students actually complete a constructed response, the crux or which was for them to use the scratch paper explicitly allowed in the directions to make an outline at the very least, and an outline with textual evidence source as better yet.

The Reflection

The first two GHOs were held for an hour after school.  I suggested an hour, because Twitter chats generally last that long, and I have been in several that FLY by.  However, attendance seemed low to us, and feedback indicated that many teachers would like to join, but had family obligations after school.  Therefore, we decided to move it to the lunch.  Better, but still not where we would like it.

It seems best if we divide and conquer, too.  If we are in different buildings, and can drum up business in each of THOSE buildings, we have better attendance.

Topics with immediate relevance seem to elicit better attendance as well.

The Future

With every session, more people have experienced GHOs.  At the end of the year, Ms. Witkus and I will look at attendance stats and determine if the Return on Investment was really worth the effort.

Have you ever used Google Hangouts for PD?  I would enjoy reading about your experience.

International Dot Day

{Sent this out to my staff today.  Every Friday, I send out a Tech Tips/Tricks email to all faculty/staff/admin/Board.}

This is Exciting!

OK, so it’s not truly Tech related, but it could have a lot of tech components…
International Dot Day is September 15.  #DotDay is a celebration of creativity and individuality that was created by a classroom teacher, Terry Shay, when he read the book “The Dot” to his class on September 15, 2009.  Since then, the anniversary of that reading has become a huge annual event, with (as of today!) more than 1 million participants from 61 countries signed up to participate this year.  There’s even a Dot Song (and a Dot Song Video with lyrics) available this year.
I think it would be great to have everyone in D90 make their mark and sign it (you’ll have to read the book to understand) on September 15.  Take lots of pictures or videos, and then we (I or another volunteer) can make a movie of our district’s celebration to share out to parent, families, and fellow classrooms worldwide (and when you get your classroom blogs, you can put it on there).  I challenge each of you to make your own Dot, sign it, photograph it, and send me the picture.  I will then collate them in a publishable format.  We could even show the video of all the adults’ dots to the kiddos as an anticipatory activity (or we could post pictures of them and guess whose dots they are…).  Here’s mine, made with some leftover jewelry pieces:
 2014 Dot
Since collaboration is a big piece of this event, I would suggest connecting with another class in another building in the district prior to the event.  If you’re feeling brave, connect with another classroom in IL, the US, or even the world.  Then, read the story and make your dots in the morning, and then connect with your partner classroom and share your dots in the afternoon (of course, if you’re in different time zones you’ll have to plan accordingly!).  To find far-flung classes, jump onto Twitter and ask for a class using the #DotDay hashtag.  If you need me to be an intermediary, let me know.
Speaking of #DotDay, the author, Peter Reynolds, and Terry Shay, the creator of DotDay, are often on there:
OriginalTweet
photo 3.PNG
photo 1.PNG
So, check out the website www.thedotclub.org and see what’s up.  Be sure to watch the videos of what other classes have done.  Another good resource is this blog post by Terri Eichholz.  She has links to Celebrity Dots, Pinterest Boards, and an Educator’s Handbook.  Check out FableVision’s blog that has a list of 20+ educator blogs that celebrate DotDay.  For those of you with iPads, yes, we have the ColAR app mentioned in some of these blog posts (we used it at Math/Science/Tech night at EK last year), and you can use that to make 3D dots.
If you need help, let me or Durrelene, our literacy coach, know.  We have so many ideas for this day that it’s a bit ridiculous.  Stay tuned for this semester’s No Worksheet Week and the annual Hour of Code coming soon!
Enjoy your long weekend and be safe,
~Matt

TextHelp: One of the New Add-Ons in GDocs

This week, a powerful new feature appeared on Google Docs.  You and your students can now run little sub-programs called ‘scripts’ on your Documents. These scripts can be found in the new ‘Add-ons’  button located in the main ribbon:
Add-ons new
There are tools in there for making bibliographies, adding charts, making labels, flowcharts/mindmaps, tables of contents, and even for writing music.  The one that caught my eye is the highlighting tool called TextHelp.
TextHelp
Students can highlight parts of a text in different colors, and then this script will collect the different colored highlights together in a new document. Check out this page of suggestions on how to use this in the classroom.
How else could this be used with students?

Visualization Activity with First Grade and iPads

MeTeaching Fridays at 10.  It’s my standing appointment with a first grade class to work on one of their weekly skills using a new app every week.  We’ve done Screen Chomp, Educreations, and more to work with skills like fluency and sequencing.  Last week, their skill was visualization, so we used the Doodle Buddy app on our iPads, and some books from the library.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.7: Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events.

“When students listen to or read text, they can create pictures in their mind or make a mind movie. When readers visualize what is happening in the story, they remember more of what they read or hear. ” (The Daily 5 CAFE)

NatalieDoodleBuddyBefore class, I went to the school library and found 5 books I figured they had never read (my sole criteria for determining this was that they looked OLD, and had those uniformly beige hardcovers).  I made a makeshift book cover out of orange construction paper, so they couldn’t see any part of the book.  I then read a page or two from a story, then gave them about three or four minutes to draw what they were visualizing.  At the end of the time, they held them up for me to see, then had another minute to show each other.  Finally, I took off the orange construction paper and showed them how the illustrator had visualized it.

We started with an edition of The Princess and the Pea where the characters were illustrated as animals (all the kids’ illustrations were stick people), read a couple pages of The Goggles by Ezra Jack Keats (the kids all drew their goggles in black, while Keats did his in yellow), and the first two pages of Big Al by Andrew Clements Yoshi (describing a very nice but scary-looking fish named Al).  We finished with the beautifully illustrated book called Crossing by Philip Booth.  In this book of rhyming train terms, our suburban kids had no idea what any of it meant without seeing pictures.  I started in the middle:

“Fifty-nine, sixty, / hoppers of coke, / Anaconda copper, / hotbox smoke.”

cars on roadThe results on the iPads were the best of the day.  There was more variety than with any other story, and the fact that they all drew automobiles rather than trains led to a discussion (well, a pointing out – this is first grade after all) that they drew auto cars because that’s what they know (the teacher even used the word ‘schema’!).  In reflection, the classroom teacher and I decided that the more nonsensical the text, the more imaginative the visualizations.

I would suggest everyone try this 45-minute activity with some of your lit picks, and let us know how it goes!

 

Making Audio Books with QR Codes

Recently, our district decided to unify our reading instruction practices by implementing The Daily 5 and CAFE by 2015-16.  The five parts of The Daily 5 include Writing, Word Work, Read to Someone, Read to Self, and Listen to Reading.  As teachers started assessing where they were, and how they could best implement Daily 5, they noticed that there was a dearth of audio books available for Listen to Reading.  The premise behind Listen to Reading is not only to listen to stories, but to follow along in the text.  Hence, it’s necessary to have an extensive library of audio books AND the accompanying texts.

ImageTo solve this problem, I enlisted the help of the National Junior Honors Society.  These students are constantly in need of community service hours, and besides, who doesn’t love to read children’s books?  Classroom teachers gave me books from their classroom libraries. I took them to after school sessions at the Junior High, and the students there used iPads and the Voice Record Pro app to record the stories.  Files were converted to MP3 versions (the app recorded them in MP4), renamed, and uploaded to Google Drive (here are the recording directions I made for the students).  Once in Drive, QR Codes were made and uploaded to Drive.  All parts were then added to a Google Doc (Title, Author, Illustrator, audio file link, and QR Code).  Finally, QR Codes were printed and affixed to the front of the books with packing tape.  By sharing the Google Doc Master List, teachers can search (using that handy CNTRL + F feature) for books they have in their library which already have a QR Code available.  Primary students then scan the codes and listen!

It takes a bit of behind-the-scenes work, but I believe this to be a low-cost (as in just about FREE!) way to increase your classroom audio book libraries.

Ground Zero: Creating a Tech Integration Program From Scratch

As I sat down today to really think about creating a technology integration program, I was struck by the magnitude of opportunity I have before me.

How often does one have the chance to create a program from the ground up?  How often does one have the ability to create it on your own, since you are the program?  Not often, if ever.

It’s not like I sat down and just put something down.  With the help of my PLN, I’ve been learning about what’s really important in education, how to best teach teachers technology, and how technology can really drive positive change in schools.  So clearly I’ve been pondering this for about the last year.  About three-quarters of last year’s time was taken up with teaching and all that goes with that (’nuff said).  This year, I will be a full time Tech Coach, so I need a structure, a curriculum with standards, from which to work.

To accomplish this, I started with the biggest picture and progressively narrowed the scope.  I looked at my District’s vision and mission statements, and then the same documents from the Technology Department.  With those open in one window, I was able to craft a first draft mission statement for my Program:

To provide District teachers, administration, and staff with the resources, training, and support necessary to integrate technology into the existing curriculum emphasizing 21st century skills and authentic, relevant learning.

 Taking this mission and Danielson’s Instructional Specialist Rubric (which is used by my District for my evaluation), I was then able to create three broad goals for the program:

1.  training – To develop and provide relevant and meaningful training sessions for faculty and staff of District 90 in the areas of iPad use in the classroom, Web 2.0 tools using the PC labs, and District software programs.

2.  resources – To develop and provide relevant and meaningful digital and print resources to help teachers and staff integrate technology tools into their professional lives.

3.  method for data collection & program improvement – To continually collect and review data from teachers and students on the effectiveness of the Program, and to then modify the training and resources to better fit the needs of the teachers and staff as a whole.

I then went on to create timelines, action steps, resources, etc. (but I don’t think you want to see all those).  HOWEVER, I do want feedback on these goals and on my Mission Statement.  What needs to be added/deleted/substituted?

Thanks in advance for your comments!