MMEA Resources

Here are the resources from the three sessions I’m presenting at the MMEA Mid-Winter Clinic this week:

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bit.ly/MMEALittleHands

 

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bit.ly/MMEAChrome

 

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bit.ly/MMEASubPlans

Google Expeditions!

Today, we hosted the Google Expeditions Pioneer Program at our middle school!  The program uses Google Cardboard, which is a viewer similar to the Viewmaster toys many of us had as kids.  Except this time, the view is in 3D and you can turn a full 360˚ and see everything around you.

The Expeditions program is still technically in beta form and they are “taking their show on the road” to let schools try out the app and get feedback.  They have an extensive and varied list of places and things to see around the world, including Mt. Everest, coral reefs, various cities around the world, and national parks and monuments.

While the scheduling process was a bit tricky, we were able to figure out a plan that allowed every 6th, 7th, and 8th grader at our school to take part in at least one Expedition.  8th grade world studies students learned about Syrian refugees and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, 7th grade social studies students checked out the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and world language students went on a tour of Barcelona and saw the Sagrada Familia in its yet unfinished state (complete with construction cranes).

The students were absolutely mesmerized!  Many of these students may never get to see these wonders of the world in real life, but the 3D viewing capability makes it feel like you’re really there.  Many of them asked if they could buy the Google Cardboard viewer for themselves.

My one frustration with the whole process is that our teachers didn’t have any idea what to expect from the program.  Though they were encouraged to choose an expedition that supplemented their curriculum, they didn’t get a chance to see what they’d actually be doing with their students until just before school started.  Once the program is widely available to teachers and schools, I can see how something like this could be incredibly valuable in the classroom.  Imagine learning about the Great Wall of China and then going to visit it in 3D in the next lesson!

What is amazing to me is that now geography doesn’t even hold these kids back.  If they want to see the Colosseum in Rome, all it takes is a few clicks of the mouse and they can be standing right outside.  While it’s definitely not as good as being there in person, it’s much better than looking at an Atlas or a photo in an encyclopedia like previous generations.  My hope is that seeing some of these sites will make these students want to travel the world themselves one day.  I know it’s definitely making me want to check my own passport!

Get Them Talking About Their Learning!

If you’ve spent any time with children, you know that the majority of them LOVE to talk.  In fact, as many parents and teachers can attest, once you get them started, it’s hard to get them to stop!  Teachers cite excessive talking as a problem issue for many students in class, but what if we could teach them to harness this power and use it for good rather than evil (well, not really evil, but certainly not productive)?

What if instead of giving a student a test at the end of a particular lesson or unit, you had them talk about what they know or what they learned?

Would you be able to say with certainty whether or not the child had mastered that standard?  I feel confident that if I got to hear my students talk through their learning, I could get a pretty good handle on what they know and where their learning gaps were.  On top of that, while reading and writing are extremely important skills for students to develop, the ideas of speaking and listening are too often neglected yet just as valuable.

But what about the fact that you have 20+ kids in your class?  Or multiple classes?  How can you get to every student?  You can’t always count on them to listen to each other, because it takes a fair amount of practice for students to evaluate each other well and give constructive feedback (though I would absolutely recommend this as a good practice to get into the habit of doing in your classroom).  So how can a teacher reasonably listen to that many students to ensure that he or she truly knows what their students know?  By using technology, of course!  Teachers can have students use a variety of tools to record themselves sharing their thoughts and listen to them later, freeing them up to work with other students or manage other tasks during the school day.

The easiest way to have kids create an audio or video recording with a mobile device.  My favorite is simply the video camera on an iPad.  They can record in “selfie mode” so you can see them as they talk or they could use the back camera to show something they worked on (paper/pencil, manipulatives, artistic creation, etc.) and explain what they did or learned.  Rather than spending time outside of class correcting papers, the teacher would watch the videos instead.

If you want to get a little bit more exciting, you can try out a few iOS apps like Chatterpix Kids, Tellagami, 30Hands, Educreations, and Book Creator.  Each of these apps works a little differently, but what they all have in common is they have an audio recording feature that lets students talk about what they’re learning.   And each app allows students to take or import a photo of something they have working on and would like to tell you about.  Not only that, but each of these apps is easy to use and content-agnostic, meaning you can use them with literally any subject area.  That’s particularly important because teachers get more bang for their buck when they can teach one app to do many things rather than many apps that each do one thing.

For the most part, each of these apps creates a video that can be exported to your device’s camera roll.  Once there, you can choose to view it from the camera roll or collect it elsewhere.  One tip though: if you have many students doing this type of project, it is helpful to have them include their name on the project somehow.  In Chatterpix, for example, I have my students put their name on the photo they record so I can easily see which student I’m listening to.

Once you have all of these great artifacts showing student learning, you can manage them using a great app like Seesaw.  At its most basic level, Seesaw is a digital portfolio where you and your students can collect all these great photos and videos, comment on them, or annotate them.  It can pull items directly from the camera roll or you can record right in the app itself!  And it’s so easy to use that even the youngest learners can use it independently with some pre-teaching.  The biggest benefit to Seesaw, though there are many, is that the photos and videos are already organized for you by student, which makes assessing and later sharing with parents much easier.  If you prefer not to use Seesaw, see my previous blog post about getting photos and videos from a iOS device to Google Drive for storage and viewing.

What should students record?  Anything and everything!  Use Educreations to work out a math problem and record themselves solving it and talking through their answer.  Snap a pic of a reading passage using Chatterpix and have them read it on video for a fluency check.  Show a diagram of the water cycle and create a Tellagami to explain how the process works.  Instead of doing a traditional report on an animal, state, or other common theme, create a slideshow in 30Hands and narrate the entire thing.  Create a story with Book Creator and narrate it, either in addition to or instead of writing the words – your choice based on the time and readiness of your students.

By the way, as I was searching for images to use with this post, I couldn’t find many pictures of kids talking in a school setting. It was almost always kids reading or watching the teacher talk.  I was able, however, to find several pictures of adults talking to each other.  What does that tell you?

iPad Full of Photos? Send Them to Google Drive!

Photos and videos can be a powerful tool for students and teachers.  But getting photos from place to place can be tricky.  It used to be the only way to move photos from your iPad to your computer was to email them a few at a time.  It took forever!  Not a good use of any teacher’s time!

Many teachers find themselves with very full iPads. Often, this is because they and their students are documenting their learning through photos.  Pretty soon, though, the iPad is full but we still want to keep those pictures.

Your iPad has limited storage, but your Google Drive does not.  You can now easily move photos from you iPad device to your Google Drive, where you can store as many photos as you need.  Once the photos are uploaded, you can delete them from your iPad and free up much needed space.

Teachers can opt to do this in one of two main ways: manually or automatically.  Now, you might be asking why I would even mention a manual option when it can be done automatically.  I like teachers to have options that meet the needs of their workflow.  If you have students taking photos, you may want to go through them before they end up in your Drive, so you’d rather upload photos as needed (Manual).  Or maybe you’d prefer an automatic solution and you’d like to go through the photos on your computer instead (Automatic).  No right or wrong answer here because both will accomplish what we need to do.

I have created directions for performing both options (click each option to see the directions I created for my teachers):

Manual Uploading

Automatic Uploading

Hope it’s helpful!  And keep taking photos!

Update: In the short few days since I created these tutorials, I’ve shared them with at least a half dozen teachers in my district! Apparently, I was more timely than I thought!

Voxer: Professional Development in Your Pocket!

Many educators out there have been touting the merits of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter for connecting with fellow educators for promoting ongoing learning and development.  I agree with them, and I’d like to add another app to the list: Voxer.  It’s a free website as well as an app for iOS and Android and it will literally change your professional life.

Voxer is essentially a walkie-talkie where you can either listen to people talk in real time or hear their recorded messages later.  Messages can be sent to individual people or multiple users can send messages back and forth in a group conversation.  The result?  You can listen to colleagues from around the globe asking questions, providing solutions, and offering support in real time.

I discovered Voxer a few months back after joining in on some Twitter chats with some fellow Minnesota educators.  I was added to the group and at first I wasn’t sure if I liked it.  Then I was added to another group that made me almost give up Voxer entirely – the group was huge and I couldn’t keep up with the messages!  But then I found the #TOSAchat group and it has been the best thing that has happened to me as an educator!

The group is active, but they make it okay to come and go as you please.  We use a hashtag system, which allows users to know the topic of the message so you can skip over it if it doesn’t apply to or interest you (this was me when some of them were talking about some standardized testing issues in California when I’m in Minnesota).

Just like Twitter, some people actively participate in the voice chats, while others prefer to listen and lurk.  You can record voice messages or you can write text messages.  You can like another person’s message and you can forward them to a variety of other apps to store them for later reference.

I take advantage of my commute time by listening to Voxer messages while I drive.  Time that would normally be “wasted” in the car is now time I use to enhance my practice and connect with other educators.  No other social media can do that!  Others listen during breaks during the day, others at night during Twitter chats.  Because you can listen to messages any time, you can hop in and out as you please.

Have a question? Throw out a message in the morning and you’ll likely have a response later that day.  Just need to vent?  Throw out an “edu-rant” and get support from like-minded colleagues.  Want to celebrate a major “edu-win?”  Share it with your pocket pals who will be more than happy to celebrate with you!

The friends I have made and connected with the past few months have literally changed my life.  Being the only TOSA in my district can be a lonely life sometimes, but I know I’m not on my own because I have an entire network of fellow coaches in my phone who support and challenge me to grow every single day.

Your first step is installing the app and creating an account.  Next, you need to find the right group.  I have seen lists floating around Twitter of all kinds of groups around a variety of topics.  Many times Twitter chats will also have a Voxer group on the side for continued discussion.  If you’re having a having trouble finding a group, reach out to me on Twitter (@halversonandrea) and I will try to help you find a group that meets your needs.

Overwhelmed by Social Media? Meet Nuzzel!

One of the comments I hear from teachers all the time, particularly if they are new to social media, is how they feel overwhelmed by the sheer amounts of information that can flood your news feed every day.  I’ve often heard it described as trying to take a drink from a fire hose.  I’d say that expression is generally pretty accurate.

The best way to get connected and really learn from others is to follow a lot of people.  When you don’t follow many people, you don’t see as much in your news feed.  On the other hand, once you start down that road, it can become impossible to read everything that comes into your feed.

Some Twitter fans use other sites or apps like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to organize their feed into different lists or groups, but I’ve never really had much success with that.  I know I won’t be able to see and read everything, but I’ve always felt like I have been missing good information that could really benefit me as an educator.

Enter Nuzzel!  One of my fabulous #TOSAchat colleagues introduced it to me last week and it has CHANGED the way I do social media, particularly Twitter.  Available for both iOS and Android, Nuzzel is an app that shows you the most relevant tweets from a given time period, such as the past 24 hours.

Not only that, but it tell you how many of your social media friends have shared it.  Now you can know exactly what everyone is talking about (or tweeting about) because it shows up first on the list.  You can view the tweet (or connected blog post), share it out again on social media, or export it anywhere (like Evernote where I personally like to store info for later reference – see blog post about Evernote).  There’s also a “friends of friends” screen so I can expand my search out to beyond just my own Twitter circle.

I can still go back to Twitter any time I want and take a sip from the firehose, but Nuzzel allows me to focus my searching and see the best of what’s out there with just a few taps on my phone!  Almost everything I’ve read through Nuzzel has been worth retweeting because it has been just that good.  If you tweet, you MUST use Nuzzel!

Nuzzel Website

Nuzzel for Android

Nuzzel for iOS

Want to keep track of things? Try Google Keep!

It seems like there is a never-ending stream of information for teachers, staff, and students to keep track of.  You write it down, but then that post-it note falls off your computer. Or you can’t remember where you saved a file with some important info.

One possible solution is Google Keep.  It allows you to create notes that look like sticky notes, but with so much more power!  Here are a few great features you might like:

  • Title your notes
  • Choose a note color to keep yourself organized
  • Add a note reminder
  • Search your notes for any words in the title or body of the note
  • Share notes with colleagues
  • Tag notes with keywords (which allow you to pull up all notes with that tag)
  • Add images to your notes
  • Copy a note to a Google Doc if you need to do more work with it
  • Can access on mobile devices (iOS and Android) or on the web
Use them with your PLC to have shared notes with reminders.  Use different colored notes to keep track of different things (students, parents, PLC, grade level, etc.).  Collect information or data on students and tag with the student’s name to find quickly.  Keep track of teaching resources, websites, etc. that you need to reference later and tag by subject or standard. The possibilities are endless!

To check it out, view the video below or visit https://keep.google.com/.

Evernote (Part 2: Planning & Organization)

Okay, so by now, you have probably figured out that I love Evernote for teaching.  It is my absolute go-to for organizing my teaching resources (see post here).  But I also use it both personally and professionally in other ways, particularly for planning and organizing tasks and information.

One way I use Evernote is for travel.  When my husband and I traveled to Italy in December 2013, I began researching various aspects of the trip: sights to see in various cities, train schedules, tips from various travel books and websites, etc.  I created a notebook in Evernote and collected all kinds of information in it that would be helpful as we planned our trip.  When we got closer to traveling, I created a note for each day of our trip; each note contained any pertinent travel information (flight times and numbers, for example), lodging info, tourist sites we were visiting, as well as the PDF copies of hotel reservations, museum tickets, and other documents.  Everything I needed for that day was right there at my fingertips.

I also use Evernote as a sort of “catch all” for any ideas, websites, blog posts, or other resources that I’d like to reference later.  Most of these are related to teaching, though not always.  These ideas are organized and tagged in a separate folder so I can easily find them when I want them.  I even use a site called www.ifttt.com that automatically collects any tweets I favorite in a special notebook in Evernote (IFTTT does SO much more than just this – check it out!).

Do you use Evernote?  In what ways have you found it useful?

Evernote (Part 1: Curriculum)

Quite possibly my favorite teacher techie tool of all time!  On the simplest level, Evernote is a notebook where I store ideas I want to save for later.  But because it’s amazing, it does so much more!  I have two accounts, one personal and one professional.  In this first installment, I’ll explain how I use it for my curriculum.

In my professional account, I keep my curriculum I’ve used when I have taught music: songs, games, literacy activities, etc.  I can see the sheet music for the song (that is, a master copy for those of the Kodaly music persuasion), game directions, pictures of the books I have on my shelf and any other pertinent information.  Each note is also tagged by keyword, such as lesson theme, rhythmic or melodic concept, type of movement activity, etc. so I can easily find what I need.  This also comes in extremely handy when I need to share an activity with another teacher – email or print it out and, voila!

I also used to be terrible about filing away workshop notes.  Because Evernote allows the inclusion of photos and PDFs, I simply scan any of my handouts or notes from any workshops or conferences I attend and put them in my notebook, again tagged as necessary.  No more paper clutter and easy to refer back to my notes!

Check back for my next installment, Evernote Part 2: Planning & Preparation!