Sunday, January 31, 2016

Crowdfunding Your Classroom

We see stories about crowdfunding in the news all the time, but have you ever thought about crowdfunding a project for your classroom or library?

Sites like GoFundMe, Kickstarter, and IndieGoGo have become big players in the crowdfunding game. With each of these sites, a user submits a project, from medical expenses, to rent, to crazy inventions, and asks strangers online to donate money for their cause. Crowdfunding becomes big news when stories go viral about good causes or ridiculous requests. At ISTE 2013, Steve Dembo from Discovery was toting around an awesome backpack that had hidden charging ports that he had contributed to the creation of via crowdfunding. I have even helped fund the second album of Wild Child, an indie folk/rock band rom Austin, TX.

Although these popular crowdfunding sites have categories for education, most projects submitted are more personal in nature. However, there is a crowdfunding site geared specifically towards education, Donor's Choose. Their slogan, "Support a classroom. Build a future." clearly communicates their focus of helping educators prepare students for tomorrow.

This year I had my first project funded through Donor's Choose. Here are some things I learned:

1. Know exactly Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? - Answers to these basics questions will help you in writing the narrative that donors read to learn about your project. That narrative is all you have to tell a stranger why they should give to your project and not someone else's. 

2. Donor Matches - My project sat unfunded for a few months before it was quickly funded because of donor matches. Companies looking to support specific projects will use Donor's Choose to match funds already donated. I have even gotten an email from Donor's Choose letting me know about a company who was offering a match on projects like mine and was told what phrases to include in the narrative to qualify for a match.

3. Advertise your Project - The site suggests you use social media and other online tools to send your project out to everyone you know. I did not do this with my first project and it took months to fund. 

4. Have replacement parts in mind - After my project was funded I received an email that some of the items were no longer available. This would only happen with certain projects that are purchasing a number of different parts.

5. Be ready to document - Each project requires pictures and testimony from teachers and students to document the impact the project had on the learning environment. These artifacts must be submitted by a deadline to close the file on that project.

My experience with Donor's Choose was so positive that I have just submitted another project. It is three times the cost of the first project, so I am curious to see how that changes the funding time.

If you are looking for a source to fund a project in your classroom, try crowdfunding. It may be the boost you need for that innovative learning endeavor. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Work Smarter, Not Harder - EasyBib App for iPad

Spring is research time in many schools. Students come to the library to find books, online for websites or use mobile devices to access databases. Once they gather all of that information and finish their projects, they must cite their sources.

I remember research in high school and college. The trusty MLA Handbook was my dear friend through those years. Until the semester where I had to write three research papers and each professor required a different citation style! Yep, MLA, APA, and Chicago all in one semester! And I had to buy a manual for each style!

Today's students have a wealth of help creating citations at their fingertips. Websites like Citation Machine and Purdue OWL provide all one needs for creating citations and bibliographies to please any teacher. Or try a site that does it all for you like EasyBib.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Building a Maker Space

I have wanted to build a Maker Space for some time, but have not been in a position that would use it. This year, I am working in a high school library which gives me a great venue for this project. The original plan was a Lego Wall, electric circuits, and some robotics pieces.

The first obstacle was money. I didn't have any. An email to staff for left over Legos produced none, and the Lego Wall was going to cost tons. I decided to scale back the project and purchase Snap Circuits, Cubelets, and an Osmo system. But how do I purchase these items? Donor's Choose to the rescue! Within a few months of putting my project on the site, the materials were sitting on my desk in the library.

Here is what we got:

Osmo is a gaming system that works with the iPad. Since our school is 1-to-1 iPad, this made sense. The starter kit provides the base and mirror that turns the surface in front of the iPad into an interaction space. Using the apps, players can guess words,  create tangrams, do math, practice physics and drawing all with this system.

Snap Circuits is a simple, easy, snap in place, exploration option for creating electric circuits. Kits come with many pieces and a project book for the circuit-challenged, like myself. Different kits are sold that create themes. My students especially like the Color kit that allows them to connect their music to the circuit and the lights in the circuit change to the beat of the music.

Cubelets are modular robotics pieces that combine together to move and function based on the configuration of the blocks. We bought a starter kit of 6 cubes, but more are available with each having it's own function.

This is just the beginning of our Maker Space adventure! I cannot wait to learn more next week at the Library Academy at TCEA in Austin, TX. More information to come!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Klikaklu - Scavenger Hunt with your iPad

A few years ago, I smashed several apps to create a Scavenger Hunt using the iPad driven by QR codes. Those codes were connected to text, questions, and video. It was a painstaking process to create, but the teachers and librarians in the training had a great time searching for clues throughout the building.

Klikaklu has taken the Scavenger Hunt to a whole new level by creating an app that does it all plus some. In addition to QR Codes connected to other content, Klikaklu lets you take pictures, create quizzes or polls and give rewards for correct answers.

Klikaklu, like many student response apps, has a free app for participating in a hunt. To create a hunt, however, you will need to purchase the Klikaklu Creator app currently priced at $9.99.

Watch the video below for how to create a hunt:

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Maker Space Projects with Heart

Maker Spaces are all the rage in 21st Century minded schools and libraries. Most Maker Spaces are filled with robotics, electronics, legos and many other tinkering tools. What a great way to support STEM in your community! But what if the Maker Space was low tech and more benevolence-minded?

Consider these three simple projects to include in your Maker Space that bring joy to someone else:

1. Teacher Gift Bags - Create a project area with simple craft bags and tons of goodies from the Dollar Store or Target. Allow students to make gift bags for their favorite teacher. They can write a personal note or just attach a tag that says "This gift was created for you by a student who thinks you are _________________" and let the student add the adjective. Deliver these gift bags to the teachers or put them in their boxes. What a great way to send some love and build community within your school!

2. Encouragement Cards - Provide scrapbooking supplies like card stock, stamps, stickers, glues, etc. and invite students to create cards of encouragement or holiday themed cards. These cards can then be delivered to the residents of the local Nursing Home or Assisted Living Center. How fun to bring light to the life of an elderly person where you live!

3. Crochet for a Cause - Warm Up America  is an organization that accepts donations of crocheted items. They have partnered with Parkland Memorial Hospital to provide baby caps and afghans for newborns. If you have seasoned crocheters, that would be a great project. Or they also accept crocheted squares measuring 7" X 9" that are then joined with other donated squares to make afghans which are donated to homeless organizations. Host a crochet lesson, bring in a local person to teach the class, and then provide yarn and crochet needles. Ask your staff for donations of yarn they may have in their closets. Support benevolence and teach a useable art form at the same time!

If you look around you can find many other projects for your Maker Space that benefit others. What a great kindness lesson to teach and foster in our kids.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Smore - Newsletters with more than Words

The teachers at my school send out "Monday Mail." This is a weekly email to parents letting them know what will be happening in class that week. As a parent this is huge! Many of my daughter's teachers use Remind for announcements also, but Monday Mail gives a big picture for the whole week. I decided to start a weekly newsletter for the library, but it couldn't just be an email.

I dug into my tech toolbox and pulled out a tool I haven't used in a few years, Smore. I remembered being so excited about this site when I first heard about it at a conference. I used it for workshop flyers, resource hubs and advertisements. It was the perfect platform for my weekly newsletter!

Like many online tools, Smore has a free option with limited functional. Or you can purchase a personal, business or corporate plan. They also have an educator plan for a discounted rate if you work in a school. I bought the educator account during a special and got an even bigger discount. Having the educator account gives you more background options in addition to a few more settings.

I love the options that Smore provides. Embed images, video, text, links, all kinds of possibilities.

Here are a few examples:

It also comes in handy for advertising activities and events: