Sunday, February 28, 2016

That's Bananas!!!

So we got our Makey Makey and setup the obligatory Banana Piano. It was a hit at my main campus library. Within a few tries I had kids holding hands to make circuits, playing a symphony on several computers, and even harmonizing with each other. Our Technology Integration Specialist even had someone record her playing "Ode to Joy" which was the first song she learned in piano lessons and sent it to her mom!

I packed up the stuff and took it to my 9th grade campus library and had a different reaction. We have a small Maker Club there because I am only on that campus a day or two a week. As my Maker kids were exploring the Makey Makey, other students were in the library for credit recovery and tutoring. Several of those students were very concerned with the fact that we were wasting perfectly good bananas! I also had celery and they were much less concerned about that!

After seeing an article in the local paper about the Children's Museum in town adding Makey Makeys to their activities, I took a set, some bananas, and a Chromebook to my nephew's birthday party. The three year old loved it! He played the Banana Piano with abandon. His two year old brother banged on one key long enough to split open the peel and then turned it into a snack!

So much learning going on!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Work Smarter, Not Harder - Kanbanchi

I am a list girl. I inherited this trait from my mother, and my girls got it from me. I need lists for everything! My class desk used to be a sea of colored post-it notes. I migrated to tasks in my Gmail or apps like Google Keep or Wunderlist. Then I was shown Kanbanchi, and I think I am in love!

Kanbanchi is a Google App that can be accessed via your Google Apps or Drive. It is much more than just lists, it is a Project Management platform. Create cards for each part of the project. Include task lists, attachments, and notes for each card. Click and drag the cards to reorder or change the column they belong in. Share a project with others in your organization via their GAFE accounts. There is even a revision history option to see who made what changes to the project board.

What a great tool for student management of projects. Have the team leader create and share the project dashboard with the group. Each student can take ownership of the tasks and mark them completed as they finish. All of the group members can track project progress.

Check out this intro video:

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Work Smarter, Not Harder - Duck Soup

Today was a follow up day for the Project Based Learning (PBL) training I participated in with my district this summer. These are great days for sharing out what you have learned, discussing implementation issues, and planning with others.

Kathryn Chapman, a 4th grade math and science teacher at Lamar Elementary, shared some tools she was using in her classroom to facilitate PBL lessons. I was very impressed with one of those tools, Duck Soup.

Duck Soup is a work smarter, not harder website. It is designed to self-grade assignments. Teachers upload PDFs or pull in documents from Google Drive. They create answer blocks with the correct answers. ESheets are then assigned and shared with students thru Google Classroom. Duck Soup grades the assignment and the teacher can see the student scores. Kathryn heard about Duck Soup at TCEA and began using it to allow students to self-assess their learning checkpoints during the PBL journey.

Give Duck Soup a try and support other ed tech specialists as Duck Soup was created by Instructional Tech Specialist Robert Boyett.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Zaption - Video with Interactive Elements

We know that 21st-century learners are visual. They watch hours of video on television and online. Most teachers incorporate video into their lessons on a regular basis. Imagine if you could easily add interactive elements to that video!?!

Zaption is a website and app that allows you to use published video on the web or upload your own. As you watch the video, you had elements, like open-ended response, multiple choice, or text. Publish the video and assign it to your students or present it live in class. Videos can be shared via email, link, social media, or Google Classroom. The creator of the video lesson can view analytics to see how each participant answered the questions or responded. Those responses can be easily downloaded into a CSV file.

This is a perfect tool for blended learning, the flipped classroom, or just to spice it up a bit. Give it a try!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Gale and GAFE Work Together for Students

Being a librarian I stress the importance of using vetted and accurate sources for academic research. Google search is awesome for pop culture facts or online shopping, but it should not be your primary source for school projects. The Texas Legislature currently provides access to Britannica School and Gale Cengage Databases to all public schools in the state. And there is a plan to expand access in the future to more digital resources. How great is that!

 Recently, Gale announced a partnering with Google Apps for Education (GAFE) to connect the two resources. Students access the resources they need in Gale, they can highlight and add notes to their research, and then download directly into Google Drive. Drive creates a folder named after the database they are using. The Google Doc that is created contains the article, citation, URL, and any annotation the student created. I love this collaboration! It makes the tech work hard, and the student work smart!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Tagboard - Connected Learning for the Armchair Learner

Some people are born athletes. They are just talented when it comes to running and catching the ball or tackling people. Then there are those that like to watch a live game: the excitement in the stands, the cheerleaders, the concessions. But there is yet another category that are happy to experience the event at home from their recliner. Keep these three groups of people in mind.

Being a connected educator is an exciting experience. Using social media, like Twitter, can put you in contact with experts in your field and give you a sounding board for ideas. Many people enjoy that connection. There are hashtags to follow, people to tweet, and chats to engage. While some people like being in the heart of the action, others prefer to watch from the sidelines. Seeing the action unfold and adding a cheer or retweet from time to time. The whole idea of Twitter is overwhelming to many people, but they don't want to be left out of the learning happening there. What's a girl to do?

The answer is #tagboard. This clever site allows the user to create a tagboard that grabs everything on social media according to a certain hashtag. All of those posts are added to a tagboard so they can be viewed together. Tagboard does not require the user to have any social media accounts to see what others are saying about a given topic. Genius!!

Reasons I dig #tagboard:

1. It grabs posts across social media platforms. I used to be a huge Tweetdeck user. I loved having columns following different hashtags. There was so much content to read, but it was all only shared in Twitter. As social media has evolved, people share across platforms and this site puts them all together with the common hashtag.

2. It is super simple. Just navigate to the site and type in your hashtag. A quick search brings all the posts to you.

3. No need to be a part of the social media scene to see what is out there. Many people are still fearful of social media and don't want to have any accounts. Using tagboard allows users to hear the conversations even when they don't want to respond.

Social media is a great place to learn and keep up with trends in education. Try using #tagboard to stay in the know.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Quizizz - Turn your Quizzes into Games!

Student engagement is key to learning. Gamification has become very popular as a means of classroom egagement. I have used Kahoot with groups of students, teachers, librarians, superintendents, and even school board members to engage them in learning fun. They all loved it!

As fun as Kahoot is, it was designed as a game to get audience's excited and involved. The questions being on the screen and the buttons being on the device take a little adjustment and lead to lots of looking over shoulders. It is fun, but not the best choice for assessment.

Then along comes Quizizz. This site was designed to make quizzes and assessments more engaging and fun. And it is really easy to use!

Here are some reasons I love Quizizz:

1. Shared Quizzes - Much like Kahoot, Quizizz let's you launch public quizzes and use them as your own. What a time saver! If you can find a quiz with the same (or similar) questions you need to assess your students, that could save a great deal of time.  (Rememebr - Always check the questions and answer for accuracy.)

2. Question Bank - Quizizz also let's you use questions from multiple public quizzes. This allows you to customize your quiz, but still saves you time. No starting from scratch! Find a few questions in several quizzes and put them all together. Modify to meet your needs.

3. Question & Games Settings - When you launch a  quiz you can select several features that will jumble questions and answers so that students sitting next to each other will not see the same thing on their screens. The teacher can turn on or off a leaderboard, music, question timer, and between question memes. These features give teachers more control over their quiz.

4. Homework Mode - So you run out of time for the quiz in class? Assign it for homework in Quizizz. Teachers can set the window that the quiz is open and it will close once the time has expired. It even allows the teacher to share with Google Classroom so students can get the assignment and link for the homework quiz they have to complete.

5. Embedded tutorials - There are great videos throughout Quizizz that shows you what to do. There is no way to mess this up!

Add this new tool to your toolbox for those times you need a quiz with engagement and fun. Try Quizizz today!


Monday, February 8, 2016

Voice and Choice to Apathy

Everytime I attend a conference or training I get fired up to try new things. After attending the Library Academy at TCEA I was determined to start the journey to transforming our traditional library to a Learning Commons. Since we are shifting to a Project Based Learning curriculum, I had already started thinking about what changes would best facilitate learning in the library.

Since it isn't just my library, I decided to survey the students in the library to get some feedback. I replaced the usual library sign in with a QR code to a Google form asking four questions. I was stunned at the results.

Many students refused to do it with several leaving the library rather than completing the form. One even left me some colorful parting words on his way out. Since our school issues students iPads, the problem was not lack of access to technology. By the end of the day there were 58 responses which was small based on a normal day of library traffic.

Here are the results:

Question 1 asked what grade the student is in. This was split across the three grade levels that attend the school with seniors making the largest group.

Question 2 asked how often the student visited the library. More than 40% responded that they come to the library at least once a day with two thirds visiting at least weekly.

Question 3 asked about what they did in the library. Reading and homework were the most answered with hanging out and "chilling" coming up close behind. When watching students in the library, I would have flipped these answers as it appears more hanging out happens than reading and homework.

Question 4 asked about what could be added to the library to make it better. About half of the responders answered nothing or claimed they were happy with the library as it is.

So much for voice and choice! Here I was asking students what they want to see and they answered with apathy.

My vision for the library is a dynamic learning commons with multifunctional spaces. I would like to see a MakerSpace or TinkerTown. Students actively engaged in learning and exploring and creating. Right now I see more sleeping and chilling and goofing off.

But then I realized, maybe they are apathetic because they don't know what the options are. I have spent years reading and studying on improving the library. They only know what a library should be based on their personal experiences. Maybe my first step should be exposure to what a library can be to let them dream of what ours could become.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

"Googling it" is Harming our Students

Let me be honest. I am a librarian, and I love Google. It is my go-to for pop culture, maps, and fun facts. Search tricks and features, like roll dice or flip a coin, make using Google efficient and effective for many tasks. It has been years since I purposely used anything other than Google Apps for creating, storing, and sharing. Not a day goes by that I do not use google in some way, but "googling it" is harming our students.

I grew up in a time before the world wide web was in everyone's pocket or purse. In high school I spent hours flipping through magazines and books in the school library for the latest information. Since I participated in UIL Debate, I practically lived in the library.

By the time I started teaching, the internet was a big deal. In addition to the school library, there were computer labs for classes to use for projects and research. I will shamefully admit that I took my speech students to the computer lab for research. And I told them to google it! As schools have adopted BYOD or 1-to-1 initiatives, web searching has become the primary source for research.

We are raising a generation of students who do not remember a time before computers, tablets, and smartphones. They can YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, and tweet. They have had access to technology for their whole lives, but most are ignorant on how to use that technology for academic purposes. 

This is where librarians are invaluable!

1. Librarians teach copyright - Not everything on the internet is free! Several years ago, my son came to me with an awesome project. It was full of great pictures, and I asked where he got them. His answer, "Google." Students need to know how to search for and use creative commons licensing as well as learn how to attribute works to the owner. Plagiarism and copyright infringement is a big deal in higher education and the work force. Let's not set our students up for trouble by not teaching them these skills.

2. Librarians teach research skills an information literacy - Who knows how to search? Use Boolean search? Search databases for academic content? What is good and what is junk on the internet? Your librarian! Just typing a question into Google will bring back results, but they may not be what you need. Besides, college professors will laugh when a student turns in a research paper crediting Wikipedia as a source. Research is a skill. It has to be taught. You have to know how to search, where to search, and what to search to find the most relevant, academic information.

3. Librarians teach digital citizenship - Thank goodness that I grew up in a time when what I did was not posted on social media for everyone to see. Whether students post it themselves or it is posted by others, your online presence has a huge impact on your life and future. That stupid thing you posted because you thought it was funny can cost you friends, college admissions, jobs, and respect. 

Librarians are there to be your collaborative instructional partners. Ask them for their help. Work as a team to help prepare our students for the future.