politics, public school, Uncategorized

Doesn’t Every Child Deserve a Private Education?

I don’t usually write about political issues but during this time of great decision making for our Presidential office and Supreme Court appointees, it’s difficult to remain quiet. I’ve been making the rounds to a few private schools, and I am always amazed at the luxurious facilities and technology-laden schools I have the privilege of working with. Some schools have amazing working and learning spaces with moveable furniture, iPads on stands for student access, as well as successful 1 to 1 technology plans.  There are beautiful libraries with roaring fireplaces and cushy places to read, collaborate, and study. I walk away in awe. In fact, sometimes I just want to have a cup of coffee, find a book and stay. At around 5 I might hear, “um, Ma’am, its time to go home now.”

You see, I come from the public school sector and have been conditioned to accept what is given and not complain. Teachers in the public sector spend time coming up with ways to purchase basic necessities and fundraise for extra projects and programs.

So its no wonder I drool over some of the, shall we say, well-endowed places I have seen. I shared a few pictures of a private school I visited with a retired teacher of public schools. Without missing a beat, her response was that all children should have that kind of education. Her statement struck a chord with me and after thinking it over, I have to agree. Why doesn’t our country provide outstanding educational facilities and educators to everyone? Why is it only the wealthy get to experience facilities loaded with everything you could imagine; from access to the latest technology to healthy foods to sporting facilities and outstanding educators? How did we become so accustomed to discrepancies of access to high quality education and outstanding facilities for kids across our great nation?

In the midst of these thoughts we have a water crisis that speaks volumes to our nations infrastructure and we have students who attend schools that are unclean or unsafe. How can our country boast its importance in the world when we are failing to take care of our children’s basic needs? Schools should be equitable, safe, and yes, even luxurious. Students spend approximately 18,000 hours of their life in k-12 grades. Why wouldn’t we make those places beautiful? We’ve become complacent and too accepting of the status quo. Every child deserves an amazing education, clean water, technology, great educators and healthy food. It is disheartening to say the least. Wouldn’t it be awesome if you walked into a school and couldn’t tell if it was a private or public school?  I don’t have the answers but remain hopeful that the next wave of public servants will impact our country for the better and improve public education.

Widespread public access to knowledge, like public education, is one of the pillars of our democracy, a guarantee that we can maintain a well-informed citizenry.

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instructional tech, Uncategorized

Four Great Ways to Stay Epic in Your Classroom

4 WAYS TO STAY INSPIRED
created by me at Canva.com

This time of year can be challenging for teachers because it is the time of testing, test prepping, and yearning for that upcoming spring break. Students begin counting the days until summer and graduation. Last night at our dinner table my teens had the number down pat! 58 more actual school days and 93 total days till graduation. The school year is a roller coaster of ups and downs, fatigue and energy, testing and “thanks goodness that test is over!”, ups and downs.

 

I encourage you to stay fresh in your ideas and teaching during this time of year no matter how much your neighboring teacher is complaining of exhaustion and frustration. Stay true to your passion to educate and engage your students. Here are four ways to stay current, excited, and fresh in your teaching.

Twitter

  • Being a connected educator on Twitter is one of the best things I have done as an educator. Twitter feeds me new ideas, brings new people into my professional life, and inspires me to continue my own learning. Try participating in a Twitter chat to discover new ideas and connect with educators just like you. Check out this list of online educational chats happening everyday on Twitter. If being connected on Twitter doesn’t push you to learn something new everyday, nothing will! Remember that if you are new to Twitter it might feel a little slow at first, but once you start popping into chats and following the right people, it will pick up momentum. I tell new teachers to Twitter to click on who I am following and then start following those people. It isn’t perfect, but its a start to finding the right educators to follow.

Edcamps

  • Edcamps are a stress free and fun way to learn from other professionals and its completely learner driven. Edcamps have no set agenda and anyone can share information and lead sessions. Teachers, administrators, and other educators are welcome to come. Edcamps can be found across the nation. Check out the list of Edcamps here.

Your Students

  • Sometimes inspiration is right in front of us. Ask your students what their passion project would be and what it would look like. I have seen passion projects, or genius hour completely revive a classroom with excitement and interest. Read this teacher’s blog about her middle school genius hour. We get so caught up in teaching to a scripted curriculum that we can miss opportunities to engage students more deeply in content for which they are passionate. Letting your students lead the way can energize you and your students. I see a lot of teacher wait to begin until after all the testing is over. I say go ahead and jump in now! You will be amazed at what your students come up with.

Online Courses

  • Taking an online course can inspire you in a couple of ways. First, it  provides CEU’s or CCU’s, (insert your preferred acronym here). These credit hours usually help you move increase your salary. Who doesn’t like the idea of higher pay?! And secondly, you will be able to learn some great information in a really short time. Quality online courses are well organized, packed full of great content, and thoroughly engaging as well as available 24/7. Check out the online courses at edcelerate.org for educational technology courses for about half the price of most online classes. Their classes are accredited through Brandman University, in California.

Take heart that spring is here and keep your teaching fresh with these ideas. What is your favorite way to stay current and engaged with teaching? I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts!

ibooks author, instructional tech, iPad

5 Design Elements to Consider When Writing Your iBook

Creating your iBook with Apple’s iBooks Author software is an exciting project!  You’ve got the content, ideas about which widgets you want to use, and maybe you even have the intro media ready to throw in. Great! But before you dig in, stop to consider your design. This is probably the most overlooked aspect of creating a high quality iBook.

When I facilitate the writing of iBooks during teacher trainings and professional development, I discuss the importance of good design. Fortunately for me, I get to work with a great graphic designer, George Otvos of Ego Design. Good design in an iBook makes your book easy to read and content easy to find. Colors, fonts, images, and the careful placement of widgets and videos are critical design elements to consider.

Design post

Color

Stay away from too many colors in your text, shapes, and lines.  Choose no more than three main colors for your book and stick with it.  Bold colors are better than bright, and black and yellow are easy to read for most people.  You can favorite your colors in the inspector so that they are easy to find to apply to your text and images.  I am a big fan of the basic white background and black text and using one color to highlight important vocabulary or key sentence.  Here are some things to consider when choosing your color scheme.

Font

Your fonts needs to be clean. It is tempting to combine fonts. If you do so, make sure they are either in the same family or they are completely different. Try to stay away from two fonts that are very decorative. Look for sans and sans-serif fonts. This means they are in the same family and will match if you choose to go that direction.

You can also choose one font and use it throughout your iBook but distinguish headings and chapter headings with a heavier weight and size. iBooks Author will have these weights and sizes already set up for your as text type, but you can customize these at will.  The main point is to keep your fonts clean and do not mix more than two different fonts.  Find more food for thought on fonts here.

Images

Using open sources images can really improve the look of your iBook. I encourage teachers to use their own images that they have culminated or find a good graphic designer to help them create templates to use throughout their iBook.  If you are going the route of online images from copyright free images, be sure to crop, rotate, and frame out your images before you place them inside your iBook.  Don’t forget to consider the best placement for your image and refrain from more than one image per page.

Widgets

The placement of widgets should be very clean.  Avoid placing a widget in the middle of your text.  I recommend text on one side of the landscape view and a widget to go with the content on the opposite page. Keeping your pages clutter free and clean will help your reader engage with the content more easily. You can set your widgets to open into their own screen as well thus giving you more space to work with.  Read more about the different kind of widgets here.

Video

Video within your iBook becomes an amazing teaching and sharing tool. Before you drop your movie file onto your iBook page, be sure that you have cropped it to the desired length. Even though you can set the start and stop places within inspector, it will be faster to export if you have already cropped it up. I like to use Quicktime or iMovie to crop up my videos before placing them into the iBook. You do not need to worry about optimizing the video as iBooks Author will do that for you when it is published.

I’ve written in the past about the importance of having a critical friend. Do the same with your iBook. Get a few people to check it out in preview mode before publishing it to see how they react to the design of your book. Most people will just be in awe of the fact that you’ve got yourself an iBook to publish to the iBook store! Always use a critical eye to be sure your design is as good as it can be. And as always, feel free to reach out to Score Publishing if you are in need of a graphic designer or publisher for your book. Happy iBooking!

ibooks author, instructional tech, iPad, Uncategorized

Have iPads in Your Classroom? Use iBooks Author!!

widgetsMany institutions are continuing to move towards a 1:1 iPad environment.  It’s been an interesting thing to watch as early adopters of iPad technology and digital content users slowly infiltrate the education realm. Typically technology evolves and  tools change, but iPads seem to have the staying power that truly transforms classrooms.

Along with this digital shift comes many questions. One question is “How do I get student textbooks on the iPads?” Some institutions purchase the electronic version of a textbook. Most of these resources are simply epub versions. This means there is little if any interactivity in this type of book. In this case one is simply digital content for paper. This is not transformational.

In order to transform your classrooms and utilize the power of iPads, use iBooks Author to create interactive books for your students.  Teachers constantly curate materials from Youtube videos, self made resources, online articles, and discussion forums.  If you are a one of these teachers and your students are using iPads in classes, then iBooks Author should be the tool for you!

iBooks Author gives you the ability to create beautiful textbooks that become interactive experiences for your students.  As I have written in my previous post, the easiest way to deliver your books to your students is through iTunesU.

What makes iBooks author so unique are widgets and media. The best part is you do not need to code anything yourself.  iBooks Author does it for you.

Widgets

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 5.12.35 PM

Widgets are basically coded placeholders for interactive information.  The widgets inside of iBooks Author are Media, Scrolling sidebar, Pop-Over, Keynote, Gallery, Interactive Image, 3D, and HTML.  Each of these widgets does something unique to create an interactive experiences for the reader. Other third party widget creators that I love are bookry.com and bookwidigets.com. These sites help you create many other HTML widgets that can be downloaded and dropped right on a page in iBooks Author.  Some of my favorite widgets from these sites are word searches, crossword puzzles, quizzes, and embedded websites.

 

Media

Using the Media widget within iBooks Author allows you to simply drop in a Keynote presentation, a video, or an audio file. Teachers can record their lecture and drop it in their book, or create a how-to screen recording and drop it into a books, or add an audio recording into their book for greater accessibility features.

If you have some text, media rich information, and the desire to use some widgets to create a more interactive experience for your students, then you are set to learn how to use iBooks Author! If you want more information on how to become and iBooks Author Guru, please leave me a comment or email me at jennifer@ibooksauthor.guru.

 

My next post will be all about design elements to consider before creating your iBook.

iPad, LMS

Four New and Amazing Features of iTunesU

This month I will be writing a lot about iBooks, iBooks Author, and iTunesU.  This little triplet packs a huge punch for content creation, delivery, and management for educators.  This post focuses on the new features found inside the iTunesU platform.   

 I’ve just delivered a two day training at Northeast State in Johnson City, TN. Our topic was iBooks Author and was hosted through Score Publishing. One of the key parts of iBooks Author for book delivery to students is the iTunesU platform. Teachers were so enthusiastic upon seeing not only the power of iBooks Author, but the seamless method of delivery for their books brought even more excitement!  
Apple has done a nice job of beefing up their iTunesU platform. Here are some features that you may not know about as well as the latest exciting improvements to iTunesU. 

 Students can turn in homework and assignments.  

It used to be that iTunesU was a one way street. Meaning, you could deliver content, but students could not turn in assignments within iTunesU. Now students can turn projects and assignments directly into iTunesU.  This is a huge improvement of functionality. This keeps everything in one tidy space.  Thanks Apple! 

You can grade student work and view grades at a glance.

This is just one more step towards iTunesU becoming a learning management system. In the administration tab click on students and you will see the ability to leave grades for them.  Grades can also be posted as assignments and projects are turned in.

You can have a backchannel discussion within your course.
This came on board back in 2014. This is a great tool to use for discussions that remain private within the course. Students can see each other’s comments and you as the instructor can respond as well or guide a discussion with inquiries.  

You can transfer a course, invite collaborators, and duplicate a course.

Being able to duplicate a course as well as transfer a course is huge! This can save you or a colleague so much time! Course creators can also invite a collaborator.  This allows you to build a course together with a team member. These options can be found under the settings wheel in iTunesU in the upper right corner on a Mac.

If your students all have iPads, learning itunesU is a must! It’s a straight forward platform that continues to improve with time.  Having all your assignments, resources, and iBooks in one place is a seamless way to manage your one to one iPad environment. 

Blogging, collaboration, Uncategorized

Collaboration~Your Key to a Better Blog

Back in the day teachers were master hoarders.  They kept great lessons to themselves, self created activities were top secret, and articles written were published with one author and one author only.  

Then along came tools like Google, and all of a sudden people were able to easily collaborate together.  This meant a huge cultural shift in educational settings. Every educator is faced with the question of “to collaborate or not to collaborate.” It also raises these questions: “What does good collaboration look like?” and  “Why would I want to collaborate if what I am doing is working for me?”

creativecollaborationisawesome.jpg

 

When it comes to blogging, I learned that my posts became much stronger when I was open to sharing and collaborating with my colleagues. My preferred method of sharing was through Google Docs. I was fortunate to have some really good writers on my team.  People who have a different perspective than mine are invaluable critics of my work.  People who are more detailed oriented than me are also invaluable to my work.  I like to move quickly and think big and picking things apart just isn’t in my nature.  We all have weaknesses even if we don’t realize it.  Being open to critique will identify your weaknesses and help make whatever you are creating even better.  

Being open to criticism is a refined skill. The things is, once you pause to consider how it could help you produce higher quality work, it becomes essential.  I encourage you to find one or two people who are willing to look at your posts before you post. Look for someone who isn’t exactly like you.  A little dissonance can be a good thing in a critic. What you don’t want to hear is, “looks good to me”.  This is not helpful.  With a good critic and collaborator your written work improves and it might even spark a new idea for your next post.  

Now that I am working for little ole’ me, I miss having my team around to look over my work.  I am so used to collaborating that I am positive that what I am creating now isn’t as good as it used to be because I am missing out on their input.  So if you have a couple of people who are game to work with you, take advantage of it and be open to their ideas, and critiques.  

I have shared this video several times in the past during training sessions, but it is really beneficial for those of us who have a difficult time working with constructive criticism.  

Austin’s Butterfly 

Do you have a favorite method to share and work together?  Please leave me a comment on your views of teacher collaboration.

 

Uncategorized

How to Make Blog Post Titles That Rock

OK so you’ve committed yourself to attempting to create and to keep up with your blog.  You’ve got your first post idea rolling around in your head and maybe you’ve even started drafting out the content. Great! Now how what about that title?  The trick to a solid title is to catch the reader’s attention and convey immediately the point of the post. Teachers are busy people and like things to be to the point.

I have a teacher colleague who always started his blog with, The Time When.. It worked for me as a reader because I knew he was going to tell a story and reflect on the event. Other teacher bloggers might use titles like How We Beat Long Division, or Three Tips to Successful Calculus Problem Solving, or When the Chicken Came Out of the Egg.

Here are five ways to make your titles stick and be amazing!

Use Strong Language

Sounds simple enough but you want to use words that convey emotion. Words like unbelievable, amazing, rock, impossible, and mind blowing are good examples of words that will catch reader’s attention. Every teacher wants to achieve the impossible right?

Use Numbers

This is a very common but effective strategy to title creation. I use it often enough for sure.  Titles like 3 Ways to Master Notability, 5 Things You Didn’t Know Your Second Graders Can do Better Than You, or 10 Ways to Use Google Classroom Today!”  This lets your reader know exactly what they will get out of your post.

Ask a Question

Opening your blog with a title question is a great way to increase interest. Question titles like Want to Know More About Pages? or Did You Know That Your Students Can Change The World with One Google Hangout? Using questions isn’t my favorite method because as you can see sometimes your title becomes lengthy, but its a good strategy to have tucked in your back pocket if you get hung up on one of the other methods. Change is good right?

Use Specific Words

Nouns and adverbs are great ways to start a title. Words like how, tips, tricks, why, when work really well in titles. Titles like How Your Students Can Create 3D Images, or Tips and Tricks for your Google Drive, and Why You Want to Let Your Students Play on their iPads.  

Create Your Title After You Have Written and Revised Your Post

I often start a post with a title in mind and then completely change it after I have revised the post.  Sometimes I end up with two different topics in my writing and break it into two different posts.  Don’t feel like you have to have the title first. Working backwards is really helpful. Teachers work backwards all the time so this should feel pretty natural.

Basically, your titles should be catchy, simple, and to the point. There are actually blog title generator websites, like BlogAbout and HubSpot that will generate a title for you. When I am desperate I will use these but your voice will always carry  greater emotion and energy.

Next up in my blogging series on teacher blogging:  How to Make Your Posts Even Better With Collaboration

Blogging, Uncategorized

Be A Teacher Blogger

Tell Your StoryShare Your HeartBLOG

Classroom teachers should blog. Its a tool that can increase reflection, inform parents and supervisors, increase interest in the classroom goings. I come across so many teachers who exclaim, “I don’t have time to blog!” and “I don’t have anything to write about worth reading.”  If you are a teacher, trust me, you have lots of content to write about. You have stories to tell, field trips to document, announcements to make, and praise to give. If you are a teacher, you are tasked with documenting your professional growth, reflecting on your practices, and making it better. If you are a teacher, blogging is an excellent platform to model written communication for your students. Blogging accomplishes all of these things. Here are 5 things to consider when starting your own teaching blog.

Don’t Get Hung Up on Perfection

It’s easy to get hung up on perfection when writing. Don’t do that! One way to rest assured that your posts are ready is to have a trusted partner read your pieces before you publish them.  Your audience of parents, students, and fellow educators are a super forgiving group. They will be grateful for your extra effort in communication and story telling.

Keep it Simple

Think of blogging as a narrative update for what’s going on in your classroom. Your blog posts can be as long or short as you like. It isn’t necessary to write several paragraphs every time. Some posts might be two photos with a few lines of text. Keep it simple and purposeful and it won’t seem so daunting.  Parents love seeing their kids featured, and will enjoy keeping abreast of what’s happening in your classroom.  Even parents of teenagers will appreciate the more detailed narrative of a blog as opposed to the usual 15 minute conference twice a year.

Share With Your Target Audience

If you only want to share it to a small group of people, do it. You don’t have to publish it to the world if you aren’t ready yet. Tools in WordPress.com are great for keeping your blog a bit more private. If you do want to share it out to the world, use Twitter as an avenue for sharing.  Be sure to tag your tweet with hashtags that will be seen by more people like the ones mentioned below.

Use Your Blog as a Reflection Tool

By documenting your school year in your blog, you can revisit it during those pesky evaluation conferences. It is an excellent documentation tool as well as a reflective tool for you as a professional. Some teachers enjoy blogging about a successful lesson or activity. Other teachers like to blog about their ideas. Even in today’s digital world, Principals are often impressed by your amazing blog.  You decide how it can support your own professional growth throughout the year and you can’t go wrong.

Use Twitter to Locate Good Blogging Examples

Later I will be sharing out my favorite edu blogs to read, but for now I encourage you to get yourself connected on Twitter to find some blogs. Good educational blogs can support your own learning and provide examples of enjoyable and interesting blogs. Search hashtags like #edtech #edchat #tt4t #ipadchat to get started.

I myself needed a little motivation to continue my own blog for the year 2016 so I am going to use a thematic structure to my blog. Each month I will blog about a particular topic. This month my theme is Teacher Blogging. I am also going to be setting aside a little time each day to write something with the goal of one post per week.

How can you get started with your own blog?  What is holding you back?

holidays, Technology and Teens

QR Codes for Stocking Stuffers

IMG_0126
image created by me with SketchbookX

 

If you have tech savvy teens in your house and you need some stocking stuffer ideas then this post is for you!  As a mom and professional in the Ed Tech sphere my kids think I don’t know anything about apps and how kids use tech.  Don’t worry, I take no offense at this.  I just find ways to show them differently in a kind, motherly way.  This Christmas, my teens are getting QR codes in their stockings.  The codes link up to some new and very cool apps that most teens would enjoy.

 

Here are 4 of the apps that I am “giving” my kids as stocking stuffers.

Cam Me

This app lets a person take a selfie by waving their hand in front of their phone.  Cool right?

French Girls

It sounds creepy, but FrenchGirls crowd sources artists from across the globe.  You send a picture or selfie out through the app and someone creates a sketch of it and sends it back to you.

Smule

This will link your teen to dozens of music apps on the itunes store.  There is a Karaoke app with Smule, instrument apps and more.  

TickleApp

Tickle is a simple coding app that lets the user create directions that will control a drone.  We are linking it to the Parrot Drone.  

MorphiApp

This is a 3D design and printing app that anybody can use.  You don’t even have to print it if you do not have access to a 3D printer.  Being able to design in 3D is becoming an essential skill for kids interested in STEAM.  

 

Feel free to download the document, print it and pop it in your kids stockings.  All your kids need is a mobile device and a scanning app like Inigma.  They might love them, already have them, or hate them.  Disclaimer, one of the apps is a coding app that then controls a Drone.  So if you aren’t buying a Drone for one of your kids, you might not want to share that app.

Here is the document I created and printed to use in their stockings.

If you’d like to see more amazing ed tech tools and resources click here.  

Do you have a techie thing you are doing with kids for the Holidays?

 

instructional tech

Six Tips for a Successful Collaborative Student Doc

collab
image from pioneer woman.com

Looking for a new way for students to collaborate while researching and taking notes?  Google Docs is a great way for students to create collaborative notes while researching a topic.  Students can access their research notes from anywhere and you as their teacher can monitor their work and progress.  You can view their progress by time stamp under file>see revision history.  It creates a collaborative working environment that they can work on at home, school, or anywhere they are online.

Collaborative group work takes a little organizing up front to ensure success. Here are six ways to set up your kids for amazing results when working together on a Google Doc.

 

  1. Group students in a way that makes the most sense.  For example, if you want your students to work in pairs have them name an A and a B.  This helps when giving the next directions.
  2. Have one person, A, create a document, name it, and then share it to their partners and you, the teacher with edit rights.  Naming conventions are important so have students put the last name of each group member in the title as well as the name of the assignment.  For example a title might look like this, Smith, Jones, Andrews, Biome Research. Allow group members to access their new shared document under the Share with me in their Google Drive.
  3. Create an organized example doc to project to the class and have students replicate it.  

    Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 3.52.13 PM
    example set up for researching biomes
  4. Use tables as a way to organize information. Simply insert a table and give it some headers to keep student work organized. This also helps to clarify who will be doing what. As students type their findings into the table it will expand.  
  5. Have each student choose a color and a font in which to type.  Again, this helps everyone know who is who and colors help the brain decipher information.  
  6. Encourage students to use Google Drawing instead of simply copying images off the web onto their document. Google drawings can be found under Insert>Drawing on the doc.  

 

One middle school teacher used this method in her science class.  Her students were excited to be able to easily collaborate using Google.  I overheard two students excitedly exclaim, “I am going to work on this tonight and we can use the chat feature!”   

There are always unexpected teaching opportunities and outcomes, when teachers try something new with their students.  For this lesson the teacher discovered that it created the opportunities to teach digital citizenship, respect for others work, copyright rules and law, as well as learning to accept constructive criticism.  Do you have unique ways that you use Google Docs with kids beyond a simple word processing tool?  Please share your examples or ideas here or tweet them to @jennyktechin!