LakeVille tech news tips & thoughts from Mike
A tech newsletter?
I set a goal to regularly update everyone on what LakeVille teachers and students are doing with tech. I will also include tips and thoughts about new ways to integrate technology to give students skills and tools for success. This first edition has:
- Highlights from three recent tech integration projects or classes
- Suggestions for two simple, free apps and related online resources
- Thinking about your PLN
- Other news or noteworthy items
How often will I be churning these out? I strive to use up all publications allotted by my free Smores account before summer. You can help me reach this goal by making sure I have enough content every month or so.
In other words, please say "YES!" when you see me around (or read one of my emails) begging for teachers to do a project with me. Or keep sending me your ideas if you think I can do anything to help with them.
If you find anything here useful or worth a comment or opposing view, I will always be glad to hear from you in person or by email.
Tech Integration Highlights
Math, Music & video production at Columbiaville
We called it the Smart Jams Math Music Video project. Besides math content, I was able to blend many of my skills and interests into the work. It made for an engaging, creative activity the students really enjoyed. I also learned a ton that will be useful for projects I do with other students and teachers.
In the project, students wrote short, original songs about math skills and we recorded them along with video performances.
This added up to more work than I anticipated, but the grant funded project achieved nearly everything I had hoped for - more time on math, new tech tools for teachers and students and a extra dose of all 4 C's. Crystal and I will be presenting our project for educators from around Michigan at the MACUL conference in Grand Rapids next month.
I put some pictures below, but if you want to watch samples of student videos see my blog post here.
And be sure to see the example video below that Crystal and I made about area and perimeter.
Interactive stories shared from high school to first grade
I loaded one of the stories on iPads at Otter Lake and Andrea Thelen let me hang out with her first grade students (some pictured below) to show them what the high school students created. Not one of them needed help working the iPads, but one girl asked me to open her milk carton. It was good to be needed.
The story went over well. Honestly, one group looked less than impressed, but I asked everyone if it was a thumbs-up or thumbs-down. Given those limited options, all thumbs were up.
The interactive story was posted online on the Tiny Tap sharing center and it has received some "Likes". The creators of the app were impressed we had older students make stories for younger students.
So there's the main takeaway: It's easy to focus on career planning and talk about getting a good job someday, but what could we have students make that would benefit others in the near future? Students are motivated by making a meaningful contribution.
Middle School Stem Lab - Project Based Learning Everyday
The three of us were trained for four days in the summer--nowhere near long enough to learn the enormous variety of software and all the possible projects available to us in the lab. From there the teachers (officially known as "lab facilitators" by the Creative Learning Systems people) have become our resident experts in the project based learning model.
I could say much more, but I'd rather let some students do the talking. Take a look at this short video we put together for a board meeting in December.
Simple, Free Apps for content creation
Pixlr for Photo Editing
Compared to Instragram, it adds a lot more control over the final look of your picture, but the options are not overwhelming.
Many students used this app or the online version when creating photos for Melinda Newcombe's six-word memoir assignment in her English 11 classes. Here's a video containing many of the best examples from that popular project. If you've had any of the current juniors over the years, check it out and watch for former students.
Free, Simple Comic Creator
You can arrange and resize characters, props and backgrounds then add speech and thought bubbles for dialogue. It's not the most powerful comic creation tool and the interface is smaller than I'd like, but free and easy makes up for any shortcomings.
Thinking about your PLN
A PLN is a personal learning network. I hear it most often in reference to social networks like Twitter, where professionals follow and contribute their own thoughts among peers and leaders in their fields.
I say everyone has a PLN because we all have a group of people we learn from. Some will talk about being "connected educators", but we are all connected to some degree. Whether it's to authors we've read, speakers we listen to at conferences or the other teachers in our buildings, we have a network that shapes how we see our work.
But not all PLNs are equal. For the sake of our students and the profession, we all should evaluate the quality of our PLN. We can do that by asking three simple questions:
- How does my PLN impacted my professional growth?
- How many teachers am I regularly connecting with?
- How often do we connect?
When measured in those ways, the advantage of technology becomes obvious. In fact, that's why PLN commonly refers to a large tech enabled social network. It's a given that we should use the most powerful tools for the job.
Those who regularly stay in contact through large social networks will confirm this. The anytime, anyplace nature a dedicated PLN is a lot like hanging out with teachers at a conference whenever you have a spare minute. It grants immediate access to timely answers, a source of collective wisdom, best practices and a perspective of education on a global scale.
If you already use Twitter, Edmodo or some other network as a PLN, I'd encourage you to share contact information with others in your building or across the district.
If you aren't yet a part of a larger network, I suggest taking the time to get started with Twitter. It only takes seconds to sign up.
This Teacher's Guide to Twitter is a good place to start for basic information. Here are two other good posts to start with if you are looking for other teachers to follow:
Also, I set up a Twitter account for LakeVille technology tips or other related communication. Right now the only followers are me and Kevin Honeycutt (and he could split at any minute). So if you've got an account, join in and you'll make a very significant contribution to the number of followers. The account is the same as the title of the newsletter: @lv_tech_connect
Other News or Noteworthy Items
Opportunities for Professional Development
Also, I've really enjoyed meeting with teachers the past two months since I sent out that reminder about the half-day sessions. We still have limited PD hours available and I will be meeting with several teachers over the next few weeks. If there is a tech tool or process you (and possibly others in your grade level or department) want to work on, please contact me soon.
I compiled these quotes* from satisfied teachers I met with recently.
"These free tools have supercharged and transformed my approach to PE. My classes are going to see less kickball, more computer lab from here out." - Chris Mahl - Formative Assessment Tools in Google Apps
"I am amazed at these comic and video creation tools. I haven't had this much fun since you taught me how to use layers in GIMP." - Ginny Gaudard STEM Lab 2 Resources
"Mike, thanks for showing me how to make the videos. Just let me know if you want any tips for dressing better." - Andy Horning - Video Lessons for Math
*These are not direct quotes, but they represent the clear impression I got after working with these teachers for half a day. Don't miss a chance to enjoy your own personalized PD experience.
Free eBooks for Teachers
I wanted to point out you can download his free ebook Teach Above the Test if you sign up to follow his blog here.
Also, he sent out this list of 21 other free ebooks for teachers. I have only read one off the list so far, but it gave me a lot to think about. If you're interested in expanding your usual reading material, please check it out and be sure to let me know what you think.
Free on-demand webinar on formative assessment
The webinar is free, but you will have to fill in the requested information on the page in order to access it.