Lots of Bang for Your Buck

8700093610Being an educator on Twitter is a daily learning adventure. Each day I find something new to read, try, think about, and share. It is what makes me feel connected to both my virtual and my local pln. It is also part of what motivates me to continue learning.

This week I have four great things to share. While four sounds like a small number, each of the four has hours worth of learning included. It’s a lot of bang for your buck!

The first is an article from one of my favorite thought leaders, Alan November. I have shared many thoughts from previous articles and with each one, I find myself questioning, reflecting, thinking, and rethinking. This article is no different. “Crafting a Vision for the $1,ooo Pencil” challenges us to hold a mirror up to our use of technology and ask ourselves several questions, one of which is, “are we applying new tools to do old work.”  This article is about transformation- using technology to transform teaching and learning, “What have we never done before that technology uniquely enables to enhance teaching and learning?” November offers a framework of six questions that will help educators decide if technology has brought a transformative value to instruction. As always, Alan November gives us a lot to think about.

The next article is from another favorite, the oft-mentioned Alice Keeler. This time it is a guest post on Keeler’s site from another fantastic educator, Shaelynn Farnsworth. In this post Farnsworth suggests six alternatives to traditional reading logs that you can begin using with your students right now that offer your students different ways to engage, celebrate, connect, and share what they are reading.

Speaking of reading, last week the amazing 5th grade teacher Paul Solarz tweeted this link to a video library from the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. If you have ever been to the reading and writing project in person, you know how exciting this is. If you have never been to the TCRWP, then you also know how exciting this is. When I was a self-contained classroom teacher, Lucy Calkins was one of my teaching idols. I read her books, attended her summer workshops, and implemented the reading and writing workshops. I can still remember hearing her speak and asking if as adults, when we finish reading a book, look over to our partner, friend, or spouse and say, “I loved that book so much I am going to make a diorama.” This library of videos is a treasure trove of learning for anyone who implements or wants to implement the reading and writing workshops in their classroom. What you will see are 59 videos and 17 collections of Kindergarten through 8th grade reading and writing videos. These are actual teachers in actual classrooms teaching mini-lessons, doing pre-conferences, and more. There is some serious professional development in this collection! By the way, the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project site is also an incredible resource for educators, students, and families. Just check out the resource and clearinghouse pages to see what I mean.

Last, in terms of collections, this next series of videos put out by Rich Kiker of Kiker Learning, gives you everything you need to get started, use effectively, and feel confident and competent about using Google Classroom. There are 21 step-by-step videos that can take you from “novice to master in no time” so you can begin, or enhance your use of this incredible- and -keeps -getting -better workflow tool from GSuites.

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More Cool Tools for Schools

8297369596Learn as if you were to live forever ~Mahatma Gandhi

This past week I learned about some great tools and upgrades that I am happy to share with you.

First off is Pixiclip which I heard about from Richard Byrne’s Practical EdTech Guide. Pixiclip is like a marriage of an online whiteboard and Screencastify or Quick Time or Jing. You get my point. It is your online tool for making whiteboard explainer videos. What is great about it is that it starts recording as soon as you start working on the whiteboard. You can type, draw, and record yourself or your microphone. You can upload your own images and then mark them up while recording your mouse movements. It’s not only great for teachers to use but for students as well.

Next up are two great extensions from Alice Keeler and Matt Miller, two names you should remember from my previous post about the #DitchSummit among other mentions. From Alice Keeler comes Slideshot, a Chrome extension that takes a screenshot of your work once a minute (or you can do it manually) and then creates a slide presentation of those images. For your students, it is a great way to see their progress in a time-lapse sort of way. You may remember my mentioning Slideshot before the winter break but it is worth mentioning it again because it works so nicely with this next extension created by Keeler and Miller. DriveSlides takes photos from a folder in your Google Drive and automatically creates a Slides presentation with them. Miller explains how it can be used and gives great, step-by-step instructions in both video and text formats that you can read about here.

This afternoon, at precisely 12:03 when my TechCrunch email arrived in my inbox, I heard about a new FREE digital storytelling app from Google called Toontastic 3D. Yes, that’s right, 3-D. Using Toontastic 3D kids can draw pictures, animate, insert images, and narrate while moving their characters around the screen to make their story come alive. What makes this app even more exciting are the story arc options kids can choose from to plot our their tale. From “family flicks” to “social lessons”, “cooking shows” to “documentaries” and more, there are a variety of ways for students to tell their story. In just a handful of steps – literally 5 – you can go from ideas to export.

Just when you thought Google couldn’t get any better comes an upgrade to Google Classroom that I think teachers are going to love! In the past teachers had to post assignments to everyone in their class; now teachers can assign to individual or small groups of students. This is something that I personally know my colleagues love about Edmodo, now they can differentiate in Classroom as well.