Thursday, July 3, 2014

Technology Infusion: Three Ideas to Jumpstart Your School Year

I have been spending a lot of time over the past couple of months trying to come to terms with the fact I have branded myself as a technology specialist. It really hit me when someone asked me to present at a conference and wanted me to send in a proposal for a session. I sent several possibilities with some sessions directly related to technology while others were geared more to literacy topics. I was surprised at the response I received. Actually, I wasn't surprised, I guess I should have expected it since I named my blog "Tech with Jen". :) She wanted me to teach a technology session. She said this was my area of expertise. I wasn't at all upset about the statement, it is nice to know people value my experience and knowledge. However, I did start to think about the comment. To be perfectly honest, my area of expertise is teaching students how to read and write. I have a specialist degree in reading. I am a National Board Certified teacher in literacy. I'm not just about technology. This is why I started my blog in the first place. I want teachers, administrators, and anyone else who will listen to know it is NOT about the technology!! It is all about HOW we use technology in the classroom. Technology is such a valuable tool to take our lessons to a whole new level. It can provide numerous ways to help differentiate our instruction. Technology can help students create, collaborate, and communicate like never before! 

Many teachers struggle, not only with ideas for using technology in the classroom, but how to make it work. Using augmented reality is super cool but if you don't know how to create the triggers and overlays it can be hard to try these new tools with students. This is what I do. I provide the "behind the scenes" knowledge of how to make it happen in the real-world but I hope I offer ideas of how it works with the curriculum. So I have decided to take a look at several of my posts from the past and elaborate how these tools can be used in the classroom. These three ideas may help jumpstart your mojo to use technology for the upcoming school year.

One idea is from a favorite post about interactive notebooks. This is my version of the popular paper versions floating around except I use the Book Creator app. Using this app along with other iPad apps allow students to "think and talk" about their reading. I like to allow students to respond to the reading of text in a variety of ways. To be perfectly honest, I prefer students choose what works best for them. If a student struggles with writing why do we make them write first? Could they not draw, create a video, or maybe even a Toontastic presentation? Students really enjoy responding to text in this way and students' writing improves. So start your year allowing students to respond to text through projects on the computer, apps, a poster, or whatever fabulous ways you can think based on your students' learning styles. Get to know your students; their likes and dislikes. If technology is not available, students can still respond to their reading in a variety of ways.

Speaking of writing, I wrote a post about using technology in writers' workshop with a lot of ideas for infusing technology. Some other ideas that might be of interest is having young students rehearse their sentences using the Tellagami app. They record their voice and then go back and listen to the video over and over again to help with the transcription process. If you teach young children, I am sure you are aware of having students rehearse the sentence by saying it over and over again and counting the words. Using tools such as this will help your students like never before. You don't have to have a classroom set of iPads. Even if you only have one iPad you could teach the students how to use it in a small group setting first and then begin to allow students to use it individually. Imagine this...picture in your mind the student that, when asked to write, just sits there and looks at his/her paper with a blank stare? Can you see his or her face? Now imagine handing your iPad over to create a gami. Is the student a little more engaged? I promise one device can be a game changer. Even older students love Tellagami. Students can explain their thinking about a particular topic or story they have read. The skies the limit and students usually come up with a lot of great ways to use this app.

Have you heard of augmented reality and how it can help you in the classroom? I wrote a post last summer about augmented reality apps. At the time, this technology was brand new to me but now I have had the opportunity to try it out with kids and get feedback from a lot of teachers about how this works in the classroom. I am excited to present about this topic at the end of the month at Technopalooza. There are so many cool augmented reality apps out now. I will be writing more about this topic at a later date, but I do want to share how augmented reality can help you engage your students before a unit. Build background for students by creating links to websites and videos. This can also be used to allow students to explore research topics more efficiently. I am currently working on a human body unit about the body systems and created this freebie. I thought you might be interested in taking a look at for me. 

Many of you wrote to me and suggested students use Aurasma to create their own auras. I couldn't agree more! Students can use the Aurasma app to share their work in a variety of ways. Let's go back to the ideas of students creating a Tellagami or Toontastic during reading and writing. Imagine students linking this resource to a trigger image. When students scan the trigger image they can see the video the student created. I could think of all kinds of ways this could be used in the classroom. It would be great for book talks. Add a student's trigger image to the inside cover of a book, when scanned an aura appears and a student's video tells more about the book or their recommendation.

My hope for this blog to help you see ways you can develop your curriculum in the 21st century classroom. Remember to start small and never let the lack of technology keep you from doing what you want to do with your students. Let's figure out a way to build these innovative classrooms together. Our students deserve it and so do you!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Teach Like a Pirate Book Study: Transformation

I apologize for being a little late getting this post out to everyone! Life has been a little crazy to say the least. For starters, as I sat down to prepare for 3 professional development sessions last week, my MacBook decided to quit! If you know me at all you know the loss of my beloved MacBook is devastating. Out of all my technology gadgets my MacBook Pro is my fave! I absolutely LOVE it! Hopefully the sweet guys at the computer shop can fix it for me but I'm not holding my breath. They think it is the logic board which doesn't sound good. I probably wouldn't have had such a panic attack about the crash except for the fact I am now officially self-employed! My district offered a buyout to the teachers of our district to help save money. I decided the buyout was a good opportunity to TRANSFORM myself as an educator. Hence my decision to write about the transformation chapter in our online book study of "Teach Like a Pirate".

Teach Like a Pirate Transformation

In the chapter on transformation, the author Dave Burgess, encourages readers to reflect on the current reality of their classroom. Is your classroom a purple cow or a brown cow? A purple cow is one that stands out from the rest. The question encouraged me to reflect on my current situation. In many ways my blog has become my classroom. I try to use this platform to help you learn to infuse technology in the classroom. This is important to me because I have learned technology can help an extraordinary teacher transform how students learn and create. However, technology is NOT the only way to change teaching and learning. When reflecting on how I wanted to reframe my message (as suggested from the chapter) to anyone who happens upon my blog, I decided my vision is bigger than just teaching technology tips and tricks but to offer amazing content to help you position yourself as an educator with a classroom filled with engaging content. I have lots of ideas and my goal is to become a purple cow of the blogosphere. I loved reading this chapter and it helped inspire me on my new venture. I'm sure it can inspire you as well. Whether you are a classroom teacher, instructional specialist, or a lover of technology I encourage you to check out this book or any of the other online book studies to help transform you in one way or another in your career. Next stop, it is on to Looney's Lit Blog to learn about Enthusiasm.

Teach Like a Pirate Enthusiasm

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Math Apps Review: Drive About Number Neighborhood

Ready for a road trip this summer? Your kids can travel on an exciting adventure by boat, car, under the sea, in a hot air ballon, and rocket up to space as they learn number sense skills. No, it is not an episode of the Amazing Race but it is the new release of the app Drive About: Number Neighborhood by Artgig Studio just released today. This app is so stinkin' cute! The child uses his or her finger to move different types of transportation around town while stopping periodically at a destination to play a math game.

There are nine games in all, each one to help students learn a unique number sense or math concept. This app will help teach the following math skills:

Identifying Numbers
Counting Numbers to 20
Showing the Same Number in Different Ways
Writing Numbers to 9

The app is appropriate for children in preschool through Kindergarten or children needing help with simple number sense concepts. There is a parent section of the app to provide feedback or reviews, as well as turn the music on and off. The only suggestion I would make is to add more settings for parents to adjust the difficulty level of each game. Other than that I cannot think of a thing I would change. Not only will your child develop number sense skills but also problem solving and critical thinking! The concept for students to get from game to game is absolute genius and the sound effects are hilarious! 

This app would be the perfect companion for your child this summer or to help teach number sense concepts to your students. Try it today and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

My Mashup of Inspiration

I love to read nonfiction! I am constantly downloading books to my phone to learn about different topics and ideas. One of my favorites downloaded recently was the book "Steal Like an Artist" 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon. 

The idea behind the book is that every new idea is just a mashup or remix of other ideas. I truly believe this to be true. My creative process is to begin with a little research about the topic I am teaching. I like to see what is out there, what inspires me, or what peaks my interest. I love this quote that drives the idea of "stealing like an artist" home.

So needless to say when I found this amazing post by one of my favs, Lisa Johnson a.k.a Tech Chef, I knew I was sent to her site for a reason...inspiration! On her Wicked-Good Wednesday post she discussed 3 ideas worth stealing. I have to admit all of the ideas were awesome but the idea that caught my eye was just what I was looking for to help me with my next professional development session. My session is called "App Smashing Made Easy". It is all about using multiple apps to create a product or complete a project. 

So in true artist fashion I'd like to share with you 3 ideas helping me plan my next professional development.

1. App Dice - I found the idea on Tech Chef's post but it was originally posted by Annie Barton and Hayley Schirmer @ the Apps in Education blog. The post was called Rolling the Dice with Teacher Professional Development. What I loved most about the idea from this post was the fact they used the 5 E's of Instruction to help structure their session. They used three dice, each dice representing a particular e5 principle; explore, explain, or elaborate. If you have ever read any of my units of study then you know I love the 5e's. So this made a lot of since to me.

2. The next idea I found was from the blog "The Pepper Mill". The title of the post was called "Oh, what smashing apps!" What I really loved from this post were the great posters! The idea behind the posters is kids can refer to them to help decide which app is best for what project. I thought this would be great for teachers, as well. 

3. What about app smash challenges? This is such a great idea from Comfortably 2.0. Now while this idea won't necessarily work for my one hour session, it definitely has promise for future challenges for this little 'ole blog. My wheels are turning!

I will be sharing more about this topic throughout the next couple of weeks so be on the lookout for more ideas! I'd love to hear about your app smashing experience. 
Maybe I will be able to share it with my audience. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Summer Book Studies for Teachers

Enjoy your summer by reading as many books to inspire, reinvent, and invigorate your mind, body, and spirit. This is what summer break is all about, isn't it? We need this time to reflect on our past practices and prepare ourselves for an upcoming year to make a difference in the lives of students. One great way we can get inspired is by participating in book studies with other like-minded educators. There are so many book studies for teachers on the Internet.

I will be participating in a book study by reading the book {"Teach Like a Pirate"}. This is a great book to help transform your life as an educator. The study begins June 2 as a Twitter discussion using the hashtag #tlap2014summerbook between 7:30-8:00 CST. This discussion will help prepare the participants for the first blog posts on June 8 hosted by Lisa Ann Tani our own Who's Who blogger from the blog Okinawan Girl on the topic of passion. Andrea Crawford of {Reading Toward the Stars} on Immersion and Krista Mahan of {Teaching Momster} on Rapport.

There are a lot of great book studies happening over the course of the summer I thought might be of interest to everyone. I am sure there is something to fit your individual needs. I've created a minilog to compile these studies into one convenient location for you. I will continue to add to the list as I find more studies. I have also made this minilog collaborative so please feel free to add your book study too! If you click on the words Summer Book Studies 2014 on the minilog below it will take you to the site to add your link.

Happy summer reading!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Why I Love Google Chrome

I have so enjoyed sharing with everyone what I have learned about using Google Apps for Education (GAFE) in the classroom. Through this process, I have also finished taking the tests and have achieved my Google Qualified Individual status. Next step, Google Education Trainer! Well it is time for the last post of our Teacher Training Bootcamp Google series. This time I wanted to share what I have learned about Google Chrome and why it is my web browser of choice.

I have been using Google Chrome now for about two years. If you don't have Chrome downloaded on your computer you can do so right here. I love it because I have several Gmail accounts and prefer the ability to move from one account to another with just a click of a button. In Chrome, there is a menu button in the top right-hand corner. This is where you can find the settings. In the settings, there is a place to add new users. Just add your other Gmail accounts and choose a picture. Notice the white picture above the menu button. When clicked, the different Gmail accounts added will appear. Click on the account needed to open a new window. It is super easy to toggle back and forth from one account to the next.

Another reason why I love Google Chrome is the user can download extensions from the Chrome Web store. Extensions are extra features and functionality you can easily add to Google Chrome. This allows you to customize the user experience when searching the web with Chrome. To get extensions, first go to the Chrome Web Store. On the left-hand side you will see extensions. Click to search extensions that might be of interest to you. Some of my favorite are:

Dot ePub - Turn any webpage into an ePub. I use this when I want to turn online articles to read on my eReaders or have students read them on theirs.

Evernote Web and Web Clipper - If you use Evernote than these two extensions are for you. With Evernote Web, the user can create and synchronize notes across devices. While the web clipper, will allow the user to save things from the web to the Evernote notebook.

Eye Dropper - This is one of my favorite extensions. I use this all the time in my design work. This nifty tool allows me to click colors on the web and it gives me the hex#. I can use this number in Photoshop, Illustrator, or other drawing tools to match colors. 

Tab Glue and Tab Scissors - Use the tab scissors to split your browsing screen. Great for multi-tasking. When done, click on the tab glue to put the screen back together.

Clearly - Clearly makes blog posts, articles and webpages clean and easy to read. You can also save them to Evernote in order to read later.

Adblock - Get rid of the unwanted adds with the Adblock extension. This would be a great extension to add for anyone with Chromebooks in the classroom.

Google URL Shortener - The Google shortener is my favorite of all shorteners. I especially like it for younger students because it is easier for little ones to type the URL in the omnibox vs. using other shorteners.

There are even more reason why I love Chrome but I will let you explore Chrome for yourself. The only drawback to using Chrome is the size of the download file. In our schools, we ended up having to delete the Chrome browser because it bogged down our computers. However, our computers are ancient! 

So have you ever used Chrome? I'd love to hear what you like about this browser. 
I am always on the lookout for new features. 
Hope everyone is enjoying the Memorial Day weekend. 
Get some rest and relax with your family!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

4 Tips for Using YouTube in the Classroom

I am so excited to once again participate in this month's Bright Ideas Link Up with some talented teachers from across the globe. I thought I'd share an idea based on questions I receive a lot about using YouTube in the classroom.

This week I had a teacher contact me in desperate need of help! She was panicking! She had uploaded a video of her students performing their grade level PTA program. She wanted her parents, grandparents, and others to have access to the performance anytime, anywhere. However, once the video stopped playing she noticed inappropriate content displayed after the video. Not knowing what to do she asked for my help. So here are 5 tips for using YouTube in the classroom.

Tip #1 - All Gmail users have YouTube channels
So many Gmail users do not realize this fact. Uploading videos to YouTube accounts are just a login away using a Gmail username and password.

Tip #2 - Use SafeShare or ViewPure for viewing in the classroom
There are more safe view sites out there but these are the two I use most often. It works by pasting the URL of the YouTube video to create a safe link. This way there are no videos on the side with inappropriate content. With ViewPure, the user can also set the specific start time for the video to begin as well as add a password to access the video.

Tip #3 - Using Video Manager in YouTube
There are a lot of ways to edit YouTube videos but the one that might be of most interest to teachers is the enhancement feature allowing the user to blur all faces in the video. This will obscure the identities of individuals within the video. Now keep in mind videos can be set to private, but there are some instances in which a teacher might want to share and yet keep student identities private.

Tip #4 - Add Closed Captioning to Videos
Another editing feature in YouTube is to add closed captioning to videos. This might be a great feature for students with disabilities or for students needing extra assistance with reading. Close captioning is a great way to help students with tracking problems.

I know many districts across the country are still not allowing teachers access to YouTube. The main reason our district did not allow access was not so much about the content and more about bandwidth. Therefore, I hope to see an increase in the use of this wonderful tool in the next few years. YouTube as a plethora of resources that can help teach almost any topic.

How do you use YouTube in the classroom? What tips do you have that might be of interest? If you enjoyed this bright idea, please consider joining me on FacebookPinterest or Twitter for more helpful classroom tips. For more bright ideas from 150 different bloggers, please browse through the link up below and choose a topic/grade level that interests you. Thanks for visiting!