Monday, October 24, 2016

Communicate with Comic Strips

Mix it up and use comics strips to communicate. Here is a sample I made for the library:

So it may look complicated, but it was really very simple. I used Google Slides, Slide Carnival and Bitmoji to make this awesome comic. Your students can do it too!

1. Visit Slide Carnival and get a template. I used the Jachimo template. 

2. Make a copy and open it in Google slides.

3. Use the line tool in Slides to divide the slide into the number of squares you want in your comic.

4. Add the Bitmoji extension to Chrome and create an Avatar to represent you. 

5. Find Bitmoji that tell the story you want to tell.

It is that simple!!

Inspired by Sylvia Duckworth

Friday, October 14, 2016

It's Not the Tool, It's the Learning

In all the years I have worked with Education Technology, I have seen a recurring theme. Administrators, Tech Directors and teachers often go to conferences or sales demonstrations and get dazzled by new and shiny things. They immediately come back to their campuses and purchase these items. When the fancy new toys arrive, they say, "Let's write some lessons to use these cool things!"

But what has happened is that they have missed the point. Technology integration is about transforming learning. Buying technology and them forcing it to fit into every lesson is like forcing a square peg in a round hole. It just doesn't work that way. We need to think about learning first and then find the right tool. Otherwise we are spending money on what George Couros calls "thousand dollar pencils".

Be mindful about technology integration by asking yourself these things:

1. Will our network support it? - Schools need a robust infrastructure first. Going from teacher desktops and a few computer labs to a 1:1 or BYOD initiative is overwhelming for a network. Make sure you have enough bandwidth and connectivity before purchasing devices that need wifi. Otherwise, your devices will become expensive desk decorations and discourage teachers from using technology because it never works.

2. How sustainable is our plan? - Your district just got a grant for technology. It sure is nice to have 1:1 MacBooks or iPads, but hardware gets old and must be replaced. How much time will you have before you will be buying new devices? Will you need to hire more staff? Who will pay their salary? These are all considerations before you begin any type of technology initiative.

3. How will we train our teachers? - Giving teachers technology does not mean they can effectively utilize it in the classroom. Just because they can check and send email does not mean they know the ends and outs of that new Chromebook they have just been assigned. Regardless of what technology is adopted, training of staff will need to happen. And training needs to be more than basic functionality. How can the tool be used to transform your classroom?

4. How will it impact learning? - If the technology will not change the way we teach, we are wasting our money. A digital worksheet completed on a laptop and turned in via the internet is still a worksheet. Technology is designed to transform the student experience. It should do more than substitute digital for print. It should connect students with learners in other places. It should give students authentic audiences for their work. It should empower students to be curious and self-driven learners.

We have to pick learning first. Then we can assess what tools will assist in that learning objective. It may not be the same tool for each school or each teacher. But if we are getting our students Future Ready by transforming their learning and building a successful tech-based skill set, we are impacting the future.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Google Innovator #TOR16

This is a blog post I had hoped to write for years. And I am writing it now because my dreams have finally become reality. I am becoming a Google Innovator.

For years I had looked up to certain people in the world of Ed Tech. I would attend their sessions and be inspired by their ideas. Many of them were Google Trainers and Innovators. I would look at the requirements for those certifications, and talk myself out of applying. It wasn't like you could take a simple test and get the badge. It was a process. It required exams, resumes, references, and ideas. I talked myself out of it every time.

But something switched in my brain this past Spring. I decided that I should try it anyway. The worst thing I could get told was no. I had become used to rejection, and my grit was intact. Professionally, I was in a rut, in a place where my ideas and experiences did not seem to matter. I took the Educator Level 1 & 2 tests, passing them both.

As I was prepping for and taking the exams, I noticed that the window for Google Trainer certification was open. I looked at the requirements and felt a bit overwhelmed. Yet, I took a deep breath and dove in. It took several weeks to put together the paperwork, video, and other documentation. I submitted my application and waited, self-doubting the whole time.

On June 22, I got the email. I was now a Google Trainer.

This was a big deal for me. There are only about 1,400 Google Trainers in the world, and I was now one of them. I felt like all of my experience finally counted for something. I had a new motivation to keep going (plus, I had to clock trainings to keep my Trainer certification). Although I have had a few hiccups, I have soldiered on and created a weekly Google class at my school in addition to proposing sessions for conferences and summits.

It was because I am now a Google Trainer that I got the email. Applications for the first Google Innovator Academy in Canada were open. I looked at the requirements and felt a bit overwhelmed. Yet, I took a deep breath and dove in. It took several weeks to put together the paperwork, video, and other documentation. I submitted my application and waited, self-doubting the whole time.

On September 6, I checked my email all day. It was a 50/50 chance. In the evening,  I started getting invites to join Google+ groups. Documents were shared with me, and my Twitter started blowing up. In my Spam folder, I found it:

Wow, I am a Google Innovator. 

After the whirlwind of this week, booking flights, hotels, and applying for a passport, I sit here is awe of this opportunity. I have for so long been a single voice trying to make change in a world of status quo thinkers. To think that I am going to spend three days collaborating with like-minded educators who want to change the world for our students as much as I do, I get choked up. 

It inspires me to keep going when all I find are brick walls. It humbles me to think that Google trusts me to help lead that change. It awes me as I look forward to the learning I will do so I can encourage learning in others. I can't wait!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Google Chrome extension - Destiny Discover

If your school library uses Follett Destiny have I got news for you! The Destiny 14.0 update just added a Google Chrome Extension that allows Google search to find books in your school library.

Watch this video on how to set it up:

This is a great way for students and teachers to use the Google interface they love and find great books available in their school library.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Digital Natives, Curiosity, and Research

On the way to drop my kids off at band camp yesterday morning, Obadiah Parker's cover of Outkast's "Hey Ya" came on Sirius radio. My sixteen year old daughter was amused by the stripped down version of this song and googled the singer from her phone. She learned that he was a songwriter from Arizona, he didn't use his real name, and his open mic night performance of this song had gone viral on YouTube several years ago.

Last night I was surfing around on YouTube and discovered the video below:

Apparently other people are obsessed with Hamilton too! What really excited me about this video was that a kid was so intrigued with the musical that he researched to find errors in the history of the story. He even quoted the playwright and linked the original interview.

These two events made me think about how our students use information to answer their own questions. When I was growing up we did not have instant access to the volume of information available now from any web-connected device. We had to go to a library to find answers to these questions. I think it is amazing that in 2016 my curiosity can be quenched with a simple Google search. However, I think this ready availability of information has made student lazy in the research process. Teachers and students need to consider more when planning and completing research units.

1. Complexity of questions - If a research project can be completed with a simple Google search, the complexity of that research is not good. A decade ago, David Loertscher wrote a book named Ban the Bird Units. He argued that students were not learning quality research skills when they are asked to find simple facts about any given thing, like birds or woodland animals. Of course, for elementary students to learn simple techniques, these units are important. However, if high school students are doing such research, they will not be prepared to answer the complex questions needed in higher education and the workforce.

2. Copyright - If a student is only trying to answer their curiosity, they are not concerned with copyright. If I see a person's name and want to know what they look like, a quick image search that finds copyrighted photos isn't hurting anyone. I wondered, I searched, I learned. But if those images are supposed to be used for a project and I do not check usage rights, there is a concern. Everything on the internet is not free to use and reuse even in an educational setting. Students either ignore or lack instruction on this fact. They need teaching and guidance on copyright issues. Even teachers have questions about copyright. Collaborate on lessons with your librarian to educate yourself and your students before starting that research project.

3. Quality of resources - Although my curiosity can be satisfied with Wikipedia, my AP English Research paper cannot be written from this resource. The internet is full of great information, but very little of it is vetted or reliable in an academic capacity. Students need to look deeper for answers to academic questions than Wikipedia or Teacher should require specific sources and work with their librarians to get access and training for the best research tools available for their content area. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Smore Giving More with Smore Classroom

If you love Smore like I do, just wait until September!

Smore is launching Smore Classroom. This new feature will give teachers three major updates:

1. Simple Management - Teachers can manage student projects from one dashboard.

2. Easier Access - Students will not need an email address to login to create flyers.

3. Extra Privacy - Flyers will only be accessible by the student and their teachers.

Watch for this great new product from Smore to be available in September!