Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Summer Learning: Blogs

Learning together at Apple Academy
I have been blogging a lot more this summer than I have during the school year.  I think this has been happening for a few different reasons.  First, I have more time than I typically have had during the school year. I know I will get busy again, but I plan to post with more frequency now that I have been getting in the swing of things.  Secondly, I have had time for learning this summer.  I have been lucky to attend two awesome experiences, Apple Academy and ISTE, as well as hosted many summer learning options for my district.  I have found that the best way for me to learn, is to reflect.  Blogging is the platform that is the easiest for me to reflect on my learning.  When I think back to the school year there were many times I was able to learn, but I spent little time reflecting.  I plan to keep up with the blogging when the school year begins, not only to keep up, but to help me reflect on my experiences as I go.
One of the themes that I wanted to blog about this summer was ways for teachers to take control of their summer learning.  Reading blogs and writing blogs is another way to do this.  If you have an experience that effects you, you blog about it!  Use your blog as a platform to reflect.  Not only does that support your learning, but then others can learn from your experiences as well!
Even if you choose not to blog, you should read blogs.   Twitter and Google + are great places to find blogs to read.  Find the blogs that interest you and save them for future posts.   I encourage you not to only read the posts, but leave comments as well.  See an awesome comment strand on this post by MattBGomez here.  Commenting and replying to comments challenges you to reflect even further.
I have recently been encouraging teachers in my district to blog.  You can find some herehere, and here.  I'm glad they are taking the digital leap into blogging and hope that they get the same benefits as I have.
So challenge! Read more blogs, comment on those blogs, and start your own.  Further you own learning and you never know you could even contribute to someone else's.  Happy Learning!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Its Not the Technology Its Us!

I have been sitting on this blog post for a while now.  Been looking for the best way to talk about how technology isn't amazing because its an awesome tool, it's because there are awesome teachers.  At today's professional development session I facilitated the teachers helped give me the words that I was looking for.
Teachers working to keep tech integration fresh!
Today I facilitated another two sessions on the SAMR model.  If you are interested in more info on what SAMR is you can watch this super awesome video or read my blog post on the SAMR model.  Each session had awesome conversation around which level of SAMR is related to different tech and tasks.  What we finally drilled it down to is that the technology tool isn't at a certain level, its the expectation of the teacher.  It's not the tech its us!  Many different tech options, from Promethean Boards to apps, can be integrated into the classroom.  The expectations and tasks that the teachers support and set out are what makes the difference between a classroom simply substituting technology with minimal gains, and a classroom blowing it out of the water and being innovative.  Technology is awesome, but its the teacher that makes the real difference for the students.
Later in the afternoon after the professional development sessions were done I met with a science teacher in my district who is trying to integrate iPads into her classroom, check out her blog here.  Writing grants, meeting with me on a regular basis, and research has inspired our district to repurpose Generation 1 iPads to her class.   To many these iPads are junk and belong on a shelf.  To her, its an opportunity to utilize Edmodo to support tasks via Google Drive, Educreations, and research capabilities.  It's not the technology it's us!
No matter what you have in your classroom for technology you, the teacher, are the real tool that is you the teacher!  Be sure to keep yourself fully updated!  Keep reading, learning, trying, testing, and asking.  Reach out to your peers, coaches, PLN, and social networking circles.   Join Twitter and build your circle!  It's not the technology it's us!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Managing Your Learning on Twitter

This past Thursday my school district hosted a day long learning event for all school staff called Summer Splash.  From my perspective it was a very successful event.  Teachers were able to register and sign up for sessions hosted by coaches in our district.  Sessions included everything from how to differentiate your classroom, how to be a reflective teacher, to integrating technology.  I lead three sessions, Twitter for the Classroom, The SAMR Model, and Small Groups with the iPad.
I received a lot of great feedback especially in my Twitter session.  One question I was asked was how do you manage and "file" everything that you learn on Twitter.  There is a lot to learn on Twitter and it can be overwhelming.  So I began to think, how do I organize and store my learning from Twitter. Here is what I came up with.

Create bundles to organize saved links
When I find a link to a blog post I like, I will retweet it or share it out.  Twitter saves all of your tweets but it's in a timeline and can be to remember where that great blog was.  I use bitly to shorten all of my links.  Bitly will store your links and save them.  You can also bundle together links that are similar.  If you create bundles its easier to find those links again.
Save Blogs in Feedly

Another way I save and organize my Twitter Learning is with Feedly.  When I find a blog that I like I add it to my Feedly account.  You can also organize by groups here.  It makes it easier to sift through the blogs you like to read.  Kinda like a digital magazine of all my favorite reads.

One last way to organize your Twitter Learning would be through creating lists in Twitter.  I have not played with this a lot yet but it's something that has been added to my to do list.  When you gain more people to follow your timeline can become overwhelming.  If you have a lot of time to sit and sift through that's fine, but what about when school comes and free time gets more and more scarce?  Creating lists can sift through your feed and highlight people's Tweets that are in that list.  Timesaver for sure!  You can also follow other people's lists and they can follow yours as well.  Great way to organize and build your PLN.

So there we are, my two cents on organizing Twitter.   Happy learning!
Click to follow me on Twitter!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Key to Tech Integration: SAMR

Higher levels of achievement as you move up the levels.
Over the past year I have been working with my district to integrate technology into the classroom.   Many teachers have been excited to use new ideas and try something new.  It has been an exciting time but I have had the feeling that I have been missing something.  I wasn't sure what it was but I knew there had to be a key to the success of integrating tech.  Over the past year I have been very fortunate enough to go to conference and connect with other educators around the country and world.  I've learned a lot and I found that missing key, the SAMR Model.
The SAMR model is one of the models of tech integrations.  It's a way to evaluate the integration of technology based upon research by Dr. Ruben Puentedura  His research in Maine showed that all technology implemented by teachers falls into four categories; Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition.  To learn a little more about the SAMR model watch this amazing video by Candice M. on YouTube.
I have led a few trainings on this model with the teachers in my district and received good reviews.  I think that this model is what the teachers have been hunting for as well.  Before the goal was to have the students using the tech.  Now the goal is to facilitate learning opportunities for student that will engage and create previously impossible opportunities.  As a result, students will achieve higher levels of academic achievement.  All future trainings of mine will have a portion of time dedicated the SAMR Model.  Regardless of what technology you are using using, the SAMR Model can help you to evaluate how you are enhancing the students learning experience.
I challenge you!  How have you been using technology in your classroom?  Where does your tech integration lie?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What Should PD Look Like?

Teachers working together on a SAMR educreation
A few #edchats ago the discussion revolved around what good professional development or PD should look like.  An hour later, a lot of awesome conversation, a lot of lightbulbs, and a lot of ways PD can be more productive.  Teachers' time is SUPER valuable.  They have so many things that they are responsible for that it is important that when they do choose to spend an hour or 3 or a full day of their time in a session that we make the most of it.  There have been many ideas rolled around as to how to make the most of this valuable time, everything from flipping PD, tiering PD, and embedding it in their jobs.  Today I think I was able to create professional development that teachers found valuable and got a lot of.  I'll share what I did that I think made it valuable, I took a step back and let the teachers do the talking!
Today I led a training on the SAMR model.  This was a model that many teachers didn't have very much experience with, so this was really their first exposure.  I stepped them through the four levels, but as often as I could I had the teachers think/pair/share.  They were able to reflect and talk out what they thought each level was and apply it to experiences that they have provided to their students or things that they could do.  I was incredibly lucky to have groups of teachers who were so willing to speak and share!  That being said it is super important that the presenter have the tools to draw out conversation.  After they were able to talk it out they were able to share out how they understood the here, here, here, and here.  They were able to reflect on what they learned but also feel what the different levels of SAMR felt like.
Result of teacher collaboration

SAMR in their own way.  You can see examples
In addition to the teachers learning from themselves, when you let the teachers talk you can learn too!  I have a few new resources that I excited to play with and learn about (goanimate) , and a few new whys to reach out to teachers in my distrtict(app clubs).
I challenge all of you PD providers to incorporate as much teacher discussion into your professional development.  A great way to engage teachers, and use their time to the full extent.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Aurasma vs. Onvert

I have been spending a lot of my summer reading blogs, following Twitter, attending conferences and trainings, and leading a few of my own trainings.  Little did I know when I accepted this position that it meant that summer vacation was a thing of the past.  It has been super exciting, draining, and has allowed for me to learn a lot more.  In all of this summer learning, I learned about two iPad programs, Aurasma and Onvert.  I have played with both a little and decided that the next blog of mine should be devoted to comparing the two apps.
I first learned about Aurasma from another blog I follow from Matt B Gomez.  Aurasma is basically a QR scanner with a twist.  Instead of a QR code leading to another web based resources, you scan an 'Aura'.  An Aura is a picture which will trigger  media.  When you scan a 'Aura' another resource appears directly on top of the Aura.   The website has a set of media that you can utilize, or you can upload your own pictures and videos to the  Aura.  To be able to utilize this program you download the free Aurasma app which is available through Google Play and Apple's App Store.
Image I used for my Aura

Strength of trigger photo
I tried out this program and created my very first Aura. All Auras are created on your device.  For the media that will be displayed I created a Keynote video on my MacBook and exported it to iTunes.  This caused me a bit of a headache as Aurasma wants to load videos from your camera, photo album or something called blinkx which I haven't explored yet.  After playing for a while I ended up recording the Keynote while it played using my camera on my iPad. Once you have selected your media that will be shown over the trigger picture, you select the picture that will be scanned, the trigger.  Through trial and error I discovered that the picture must be relatively complex.  I originally wanted the trigger to be a sign with a few numbers and letters, like an element on the periodic table of elements.   Aura will show you how strong your image is with a bar ont the bottom of the selection window.
 You also have to actually take a picture of your trigger image so be sure to have that ready to go.  Once you have your trigger and overlay set up you save and you are done!
I could see a lot of excellent uses for Aurasma, the most exciting being student created Auras.  They are very easy to create especially when you use the camera tool to record your overlay.  Students could create anything from book reviews when you scan the cover of a book, to All About Me's a the beginning of the year when you scan their photos.
QR code you scan on the first step
Onvert is a program I learned about from a session that I attended at ISTE this summer, Crackin' the QR Code by Kurt Kohls.  He shared a lot of different ways to use QR codes.  My big take away was Onvert.  Onvert is a web based program that allows your iPad to scan QR codes, and then creates 3D media that is displayed when you scan a picture with the same QR code. Onvert works with both Apple and Android devices as well.  You create an Onvert QR code on the computer.   Go to the website and follow the steps.  Upload information about yourself the first time, load the trigger image and what will be layered over the tigger when scanned.  You can also load audio recordings as well.

Image to scan after you've scanned the QR code
I found this program to be a bit tricker than Aurasma.  The images had to be certain requirements and it required more work to set this up.  Students could use Onvert to create any type of presentation in the classroom.  They would need to be sure to have images and audio already recorded.
When thinking about which would be easier for a student to create I think Aurasma was the winner, although Onvert does has value as well.  I had some difficulty getting pictures which were the correct dimensions and it was difficult to change the layout of the layers.  I encourage you to try these programs out.  Both allow for students and teachers to create more interactive activities.