Thursday, November 7, 2013

15 And Counting

About a year ago I took on a project that seemed like it would be something fun to do.  I would arrange conversations with friends, colleagues, and educators from around the Discovery Educator Network (DEN) community, record them, and have them posted online for others to listen to.  This project appeared to be a great way for me, and those in my conversations, to share what we're passionate about, exchange ideas, and have some fun in the process.  

What this project has turned into, after all this time, is The DEN Zone.  A passion project.  My passion project.  A project that has grown into something enormously important.  A project that I own, create, and beam with excitement every time I find that tweet announcing a new show has been posted.  

15 and counting.  15 shows since I began this journey, this passion project. I've had the pleasure of talking to great educators, experts in many areas of education, DEN team members, and an Emmy Award winning television producer who also produced North America!  And, I'm just getting started...

I'm really looking forward to what's coming up for The DEN Zone.  You will soon be able to hear the first show that not only included a student, but provided the opportunity for the student guest to have the final word.  There will be guests from different areas of Discovery Education to talk about exciting, new changes to the product.  You will hear tales of success from great educators who continue to try new things, break the rules, and prove that success is not solely measured on a standardized test.  Also, you'll hear from our clientele, the students, as I plan on incorporating what they have to say about education and what makes great teachers.

Consider this post my first DEN Zone reflection piece.  I'll probably write more as time goes on.  Thanks for joining me on this journey!  I look forward to where we stop as it continues.

Before I leave you, I guess I have to come clean on this.  I don't really own it, The DEN Zone, so to speak.  It was handed over to me as an opportunity to make it my own, to create something that would provide a benefit to our community and the education community at large, and as an opportunity to carve out a space where educators' voices can be heard.  I hope that I've lived up to that.

In closing, I have to give a big, big thank you to Steve Dembo and Dean Shareski for the hand off, Discovery Education, and the folks at the BAM Radio Network for their support and guidance.  

I'll see you soon, in The DEN Zone!

Monday, July 1, 2013

The House Of Your Dreams

A few nights ago I presented to a group of realtors from the Gold Coast Real Estate Investment Association.  My topic: iPad 101 For Realtors.

During the presentation I discussed the use of Google Drive for the storage, and accessibility, of all of their important documents.  Pages and Keynote were previewed so that the realtors were able to see that the preparation of documents and presentations can easily be completed on their iPads.  A couple of apps that allow you to fill in PDFs on the iPad were shown as ways to complete contracts and leases.  Social media was woven throughout the entire presentation.  Networking, as we know, is something that will lead to sales and that's what realtors want.

The highlight of the presentation was what I called a realtor's 'New Virtual Tour,' an iMovie Trailer that can easily be used to highlight all the ins and outs of a property.  Have a look for yourself:



I made the trailer completely on my iPad, using the video feature on my iPad, and a trailer format from iMovie.

The realtors really enjoyed the video and were clear about how powerful the iPad can be when it comes to selling property.

Based on the positive response, I may be doing a longer workshop in the fall for realtors.  Several have contacted me offline to get individual instruction as well.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Book Report - No! iMovie Trailer - YES!

iMovie is a great tool for your students to use to create movies in your classroom or at home.  One of the best features of iMovie, which can be used on any device, is the trailers feature.  Trailers?  Yes, trailers!  As in movie trailers like the ones you see on television, in the theaters, YouTube, etc.  If for some reason you're unfamiliar with this feature and haven't had the pleasure of seeing one, check this out:


I made this for Discovery Education and the Discovery Educator Network (DEN).  The star is the DEN Gnome, a great guy who loves to travel around the country visiting schools and DEN members.

The entire trailer is just over a minute long, but it took a bit of time, approximately 20 minutes total, to get it together.  Why so long, you wonder?  The right wording for the right message.  Capturing the video and selecting the clips were easy.  Selecting the theme, piece of cake.  Changing the credits, no problem.  Creating the message....brain busting!

Even though iMovie has all of the placeholders you need to make a great trailer with your video, you still have to craft the wording to get the right message across.  

Think about the work, the creativity, the thought processes that are involved in this while applying the iMovie Trailers to your next book project instead of the dreaded book report.  I did, and here's what I found out.

After reading books of up to 350 pages, the students whom I gave this project to, a mixed grade class of 3-5 graders, produced trailers on each one.  Their videos were great, their inclusion of each other as actors was superb, but their choice of wording was even better.

These students had to synthesize their books into what probably equates to no more than a really well written paragraph.  Within this paragraph they had to provide enough details about the story to get the viewer interested in reading the book.  If you think of the skills, decisions, and analyses that these kids used to get there, it's amazing.  I think that I'd find it hard to get one of these together, yet these students have already embarked on their next trailer projects with the expectation of even greater results.

Thinking about challenging your students in a completely different way for their next read?  Give iMovie Trailers a try!

You'll be glad you did!


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Why Every Teacher Needs To Attend A Technology Conference

Tuesday, February 19th, was the 15th annual School District of Palm Beach Technology Conference.  Our conference looks, feels, and acts much more like a state or regional conference than just a local district conference.  With over 2000 attendees, speakers like Kevin Honeycutt, Ken Shelton, Angela Maiers, Lance Rougeux, and Hall Davidson, we stand out in a crowd.  And, we like it!

If you didn't attend our conference, or have chosen not to attend a local technology conference this year or ever, you're missing the boat.  Big time!

Whether you want to believe it or not, teachers are no longer captive workers relegated to the confines of their four walls, twenty or so desks with their twenty or so students.  Teachers are not relegated to only experience professional development provided by their schools or districts.  Teachers have the ability, and capability, to choose how to become educated to better serve today's students.  Technology is where it's at, people!  Don't let anyone tell you otherwise!

Angela Maiers delivered this line during her presentation, "The smartest person in the room is the room!"  The room.  No longer is any one of us, by ourselves, the smartest one in the bunch.  It takes all of us to build knowledge, sharing our thoughts with the world so that another has the opportunity to learn and grow.  If you're not part of the room, you're not growing and learning and you're hindering the rest of us.  The secret to this: technology.  We're not going to hinder our students' quest for knowledge, right?  Then why hinder your own?  

Lance Rougeux spoke about the The Collective Brain.  Two heads are better than one.  Put your heads together and work it out.  Collaboration.  No longer can we do it, or go it, alone.  We have to work together, whether we like it or not.  Collecting resources from one another, then sharing those resources out, adds to our ability to bring truly meaningful educational experiences to our students.  Collectively we can do more.  Collections serve a purpose, and we all have our own personal ones.  If we don't share them, we can't teach someone else about our passions.  Technology is no different.  Share your collections.  Start a new one.

In the end, it really boils down to this: Education today and technology are inexorably intertwined.  Today's technology conferences provide you with everything you will need to change your teaching.  The only item missing is your willingness to step outside of your safety zone to learn and try something new.  Come on, you can do it!

There's no way to be an effective teacher without incorporating technology into your classroom.  That doesn't mean every lesson you deliver is going to be technologically driven.  But, it does mean your students will benefit in many more ways with its inclusion.  Keep in mind that these benefits, changes, increases in motivation to learn, passion building, and so many other positives are those things that standardized tests cannot, will not, and should not measure.  Paraphrasing Mark Twain from years and years ago, "I never let schooling get in the way of my education."

Let's not forget that our students live in a technology filled world.  They attend conferences daily.  How so, you wonder?  Lunch, the bus home, Google Hangouts.  Get the idea!  Our students are creating their own conferences at will, sharing what they know with each other on the spot.  They get it, and so should you.

Still think you don't need to attend that local technology conference?  

I guess you could always ask your students if you'd be welcome to join theirs.




Thursday, February 7, 2013

Why Don't You Care!?

Why don't you care!?

You're a teacher.  A professional.  A leader.  A person responsible for the development of today's children.  So, why don't you care!

Let's not forget, I'm one of you too.  I may not have a class of my own, or have the responsibility of preparing for another round of testing.  I may not have to correct papers, attempt to contact parents who may never return my phone calls or answer my emails (if they even have an email address), or even have to prepare formal lesson plans.  

Yet, I do care!  And, I probably care too much!  

If I really didn't care, I wouldn't be writing to ask you why you don't care.  I'd just go about my day, answering personal phone calls in class, eating in front of my students whenever I felt like it, and I certainly wouldn't do anything to develop myself as a professional educator.

BUT, I DO CARE!  AND IT REALLY BUGS ME THAT YOU DON'T!

While you don't help those students who are falling through the cracks, or reteach concepts that your students totally bomb, or simply teach your students what they need to know in order to read, write, perform math, and understand the basics of science, you are, very clearly, showing that you don't care about the future of your students.

I hope that you change, and change soon.  I do hope that you persevere to make yourself a dynamic, well loved teacher. 

I also hope that you don't  find yourself alone, at the end of your career, decrepit, immobile, and at the mercy of someone pushing you around in a wheelchair.

If that's the case, you'd better hope that the person pushing you around isn't one of your former, not cared for students, who may decide to return the favor  and just push you into the wall!

After all, why should she care?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Fluency Matters

Reading teachers know fluency matters.  Adult readers who devour books at a frightening pace know fluency matters.  Writers know fluency matters.  For anyone to experience effective and efficient interactions with text, fluency matters.  The question is, however, how do you make fluency matter with iPads in the classroom?

For years I had to measure my students' fluency using a one-minute fluency assessment.  This assessment was completed three times per year, and the results of each assessment were turned into the administration for review.  There were times when the results came back with all kinds of marks, circles, and notes about why some students hadn't progressed in their fluency.  For some of those whose performance wasn't perceived as moving forward, it was simply because of a learning disability.  That can't be recognized from a name on a paper.  

For others it was due to the fact that the one-minute fluency assessment became a game.  The game was to read as fast as possible without worrying about things like punctuation or prepositions.  There were times when the words 'the' and 'a' became interchangeable.  Word endings, who needs them?  Add all of that up and you actually saw subtraction symbols instead.

Then Audacity arrived.  Audacity is an open source platform for recording and editing sounds.  It was installed on all three of my classroom computers and it became my fluency work station.  Every week I would have my students record a fluency passage on Audacity.  They would work with a partner who would score the reading, then the student reader would listen to him/herself.  This became a powerful tool in my reading program.  Once students were able to listen to themselves, they quickly understood how important fluency was to their reading success.

One problem kept creeping up; there was no paper trail, so to speak.  The students weren't able to save their audio files on the computers.  Using flash drives became a nightmare.  What good was this doing my students if they couldn't see, or listen to, how their reading changed over time?  This is where the iPad shines!

Every iPad in my program has QuickVoice Recorder installed as one of its apps.  QuickVoice is an extremely easy to use recorder app with great potential to increase reading fluency for every student. Why?  One very important reason: the recordings remain on the student's iPad where they can listened to again and again.  

Here's how this can work for you and your students: It's time for you, the teacher, to conduct a RRR (Reading Running Record) on your student.  In the past you might just have your student sit with you at the back table with the leveled text and scoring book.  Enter QuickVoice.  The scenario doesn't change, except the student can now record the entire RRR session on his/her iPad and listen to it as many times as needed to understand where their reading errors occurred.  As the teacher, you also have the session recorded which means you'll be able to more accurately score the RRR because you'll have missed less due to the speed of the reader.  It's a win-win!

Let's not forget that uneasy parent conference that starts with the 'why can't my child read' question.  Just press play!  Here's the information they'll need to really understand the answer to that question.  Now is the precise moment where you swoop in and save the day with an awesome, concrete, and detailed plan to be implemented in school and at home.  Fast forward four months to the next conference after another RRR.  Just press play!  Now you have a fluent, grade-level reader, happy parents, and cheshire cat grin!

Want to put a twist on all of this?  Get read for your close up!  Use the camera on the iPad to video your student during a RRR session.  Not only will you get the audio, but you'll also be able to observe the student's reading behaviors.  The eyes really are windows to the soul, especially the soul of a reader.

In the end, fluency matters.  Whether you use QuickVoice, the video camera on your iPad or other tablet, or any other voice recorder app, recording your students while they read and providing the students and the parents access to that recording is what's most important.  We, the teachers, should not be the only ones in the room with that information.  It has to be shared with our constituents, the students and parents.  Not doing so only makes our jobs harder.  

Students love to see themselves on screen, and they love to listen to themselves over and over.  Why not use that to their advantage.

Fluency matters.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

First Impressions: Samsung Note 10.1

The afternoon of Friday, December 28, 2012, turned out to be the delivery day for my new Samsung Note 10.1 Android tablet.  Like the iPads that have arrived upon my doorstep previously, this tablet was encased in a sturdy white box adorned with great pictures and descriptions of its contents.  The box was sealed with two adhesive warning stickers telling me not to open the box if they were broken.  Good thing for me they weren't!

Stickers broken, box opened, Samsung Note 10.1 staring me in the face.  The tablet was nicely situated on the top of the box.  It was easily removed, unlike some of the plastic coverings that were a bit difficult to remove.  Once they were off, I was eager to get this thing powered up.

I did spend a few minutes reading through their getting started information, a booklet of about 30 small pages.  Having not used an Android device in some years, it was a nice tool to have at my disposal for those first few minutes.

After turning on the Note, it walked me through its set up process: name, date correction, time zone, network preference, and Google information.  There was no need to connect to any computer as all of the registration process took place wirelessly over my home network.  Once that was done, I really began to see what this device could do.

As a Google user, I have to say that the immediate syncing of all of my Google information was really nice.  My email, calendar, and contacts were ready to go through the Samsung apps.  I've since added the Gmail app to the tablet, but the Samsung mail app wasn't bad.  One of the nicest apps from Google that I added was Play Music.  This app allows me to play my music from Google's cloud music player.  To do that I uploaded my iTunes library, about 1200 songs, through Music Manager.  This download allows you to upload 20,000 songs in total.  It took a while to do that, but now I have all of my music with me without using any of my storage.  

The coolest app that comes with the Note is S Note.  S Note is a combination of Evernote, Notability, QuickVoice, and a whiteboard all in one.  What makes this app really shine is the use of the S Pen, the Wacom pen that comes with the tablet.  S Note lets you take notes in your handwriting, or you can convert your handwriting to text.  You can add images to your notes in a multiple of ways, record notes, and even turn your work into a whiteboard type movie.  What really sets this app, and this device, apart from the iPad is that you can open and work in two apps, side by side, simultaneously.  This feature doesn't work with every app, but you can research something from the web and take notes together.  

Like the iPad, the Note comes with a bunch of pre-loaded apps, in addition to S Note, that anyone can use.  There's a camera, front and rear, a photo library, email, calendar, chat, and many others.  Some of these apps are more functional, in my opinion, than the iPad equivalents.  For example, the camera allows you to create your images in four styles before you even take the picture.  You can make other edits later if you wish.  There's even a video creation app that's included.  It's very similar to iMovie without the expense.  Titles, sounds, effects, and transitions are all built in.  It doesn't offer all of the other robust features of iMovie, like the trailers, but it's certainly a video creator that any user would be happy with.

What's missing on the Note are some of the easy, I don't have to think about, sorts of things.  For instance, the iPad let's you move photos around as you wish, create albums, and do what you need to right in Photos.  To do that on the Note you need another app.  The management of the device is not as clear as the iPad, at least in my opinion, but it's not impossible.

So, where do things stand at this point with the Note?  I like it.  I like the fact that I can add memory, which I did.  I like the fact that I have the ability to access a flash drive with an adaptor.  I like the stereo speakers, two of them, that are front facing.  I like the collection of apps that came with it, especially S Note and the video creator.  And, I like the inclusion of the S Pen.

Where this device is so different from the iPad is that you can't project from it or attach it to a projector; perhaps this will change with an OS update.  There are fewer apps available for education, even though I did find some of the ones that I use most frequently.  

Overall, I'm happy with the Note and I think that it will turn out to be a great device to learn Android on.

If you're concerned that this sounds like I'm giving up on my iPad and other Apple stuff, don't be.  

This post was proudly written on my MacBook Pro.  There are some things that are really hard to give up.