January 23, 2014
Our district is using a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) model, and just last week I worked with all five second grade classrooms at one of our buildings as they brought in their devices for the first time, which was an exciting and fairly large scale project! Their goal was to use some of the databases we provide to our students to do some research.
The first day of bringing in devices can be a little bumpy and seem a little time consuming, but that’s usually just because it’s the first time students have connected to the district’s wireless network and they may need help (especially in the primary grades) with this step. The good news is that going forward, their device will remember and auto-connect to the school’s wireless the next time they bring it to class, so this is usually only a bump on day one that you don’t have to take time to address every time. (more…)
December 17, 2013
I mean it. Drop whatever you’re doing and go check out Blendspace.com right now. (Formerly known as EdCanvas, so don’t be confused if you see EdCanvas branding in the videos!)
Blendspace is a free web tool for teachers to collect resources in one place to form a bundled, interactive lesson for students or colleagues. When you create a Blendspace lesson, you can pull in videos from YouTube, websites, pictures, EduCreations lessons (check out my previous post about EduCreations for more info on that!) Flickr images, or links and images from Google. You can import from Gooru, OpenEd, Dropbox, or Google Drive. AND you can always upload your own files, like PowerPoints or resources housed on your own computer. Pretty much any resource you can imagine or that you would pull together to share can be embedded into a Blendspace lesson. But that’s not all! (Note: video above is a quick overview!) (more…)
September 12, 2013
If you enjoyed my last post about EduCreations, a great free whiteboard app for iOS that lets you record whiteboard lessons that you can share with students, then you’ll really love Explain Everything. Especially if you flip your classroom or are experimenting with the idea of flipping some lessons.
I explained all of this as part of my EduCreations post, though. So how is Explain Everything different and why am I spending time with it? Explain Everything is the next level of whiteboard lesson creation. Don’t get me wrong – I love EduCreations. It’s simple, free, and sometimes that’s all you need. However, I found myself wishing I could embed video clips, pull websites into my whiteboard lessons, or go back and edit parts of my previous recording and this wasn’t possible… until I discovered Explain Everything.
With Explain Everything, your basic functionality is there, of course – different pen colors for annotating, the ability to record yourself as you work through as many slides as you need to teach a concept, inputting text from your device’s keyboard, pulling in images, etc. But Explain Everything lets me pull images, VIDEOS and FILES from Dropbox, Google Drive (which is great for our teachers, who all have Google Apps for Edu) Evernote, WebDAV, iTunes, box, or your camera roll. You can even pull in a webpage – type in the web address and the site appears, so you can record yourself going through actions on a website, or even annotate on the website. Super slick!
A few other little added features to Explain Everything that are nice to have when you’re recording a whiteboard lesson include the insert shapes feature. There are only a couple of shapes – an arrow, a star, a line, a circle, and a square – but having those to draw attention to key pieces of your lesson are handy. Speaking of drawing attention to something, I also love the various cursor types available. When recording a whiteboard lesson, your gestures aren’t always obvious, so having a laser pointer cursor or even the recognizable hand or arrow icon used on most computer operating systems to help you point something out is useful.
One really great feature of Explain Everything is the ability to go back and edit your recorded lesson’s timeline. It’s simplistic, but so helpful. Say you just messed up part of your recording. Pause the recording, press the Timeline Scrubber to go into playback mode, and go back to a point in your recording before your mistake. Then just press the Record button and you can record over and replace the existing recording piece where you messed up. This was something I really wanted from EduCreations, so I’m glad to see it in Explain Everything.
Once your whiteboard lesson, with all of its added bells and whistles, is finished, it’s time to share with students. Just like you have a wide variety of choices when pulling in media to your lesson, you can also share your finished lesson in several ways. You can save it as an image, or as a video file for playback by students later. Save it to your camera roll, upload the movie to YouTube, Dropbox, Evernote, Vimeo, or Google Drive. Our teachers have access to a YouTube account through our Apps for Education Google accounts, which includes Google Drive. If uploaded to YouTube or Google Drive, teachers then have access to a URL to their video they can share with students, or they can Share in Google Drive with just the specific people that need to see the video lesson.
A few technical notes – Explain Everything isn’t free, but its $2.99 price tag isn’t bad, either. Definitely worth it for the added features it has over EduCreations if you need or like the extra bells and whistles that Explain Everything provides. Both EduCreations and Explain Everything are currently iOS only, HOWEVER, much to my excitement, Explain Everything is also available for Android, too. This will make my BYOD teachers that have Android devices very happy!
The possibilities seem almost endless with Explain Everything, and I definitely think it’s a fabulous tool. Check it out!
September 10, 2013
|Screenshot from the web version of the tool.
Don’t mind my poor handwriting with a mouse!
A lot of our teachers have recently begun experimenting with a flipped classroom approach. While the basics of flipping at its simplest level involves lesson content being watched by students outside of the classroom (i.e. online) while follow up & class discussion about the lesson then happens in person, teachers eager to get started with such a model aren’t always sure HOW to get going. What tools can help a teacher get their lessons online? Where do you post them?
There’s no one right way to flip, and flipping can look different from classroom to classroom. Some teachers post video lessons they curate from other sources, while some record their own. (Check out Kathy Schrock’s awesome guide and resources for screencasting!) There are 100% flipped classrooms where EVERY LESSON is online, but most teachers I work with who are flipping are just doing so some of the time, for very specific lessons or student needs. For example, one teacher I know will do quick recap videos of big science topics (i.e. the water cycle) and make it available for students who missed class or who want to use the video to help them study for the upcoming test.
Whether you plan to truly flip lessons or just make content available to students online for remediation, one tool that I really enjoy is EduCreations. EduCreations is a whiteboard web tool and app that allows you to record whiteboard lessons and share with students. It’s also 100% free!
|Create a lesson via the web or create on the iOS app.
Lessons created on the app will appear on the web dashboard, too.
Teachers first register for an EduCreations account. To keep it simple, they can leave it at that, and just start recording some whiteboard lessons. To take it to the next level, they can set up virtual classroom spaces on the website and invite students with an access code to be members of their classroom.
|Share options on your finished lessons.|
When a teacher creates a whiteboard lesson (either via the web tool when they’re logged in or the iOS app on their device) they have a few ways to share it with kids. The most simple way is to just grab the URL for the lesson and link to it on their own classroom website, BUT if the teacher has set up a class space for students on EduCreations, they can instantly share the lesson with the class that way, too. There’s even embed options if your class website or blog supports embedding HTML code. It’s pretty simple!
Here is a quick demo “lesson” I made of EduCreations’ tools and features that I have embedded into my blog:
If teachers are just getting started with the idea of flipping their classroom or just want to make their own video lessons for students to help reinforce things they learn in class, EduCreations is a great tool to try and is very user-friendly. The URL of your lesson can be linked on your homework page or even emailed out to parents to help keep them in the loop, too. I definitely recommend giving it a try. You’ll be hooked!
May 7, 2013
Okay, maybe a “zillion” is exaggerating a bit, but you really can learn an awful lot at LearnZillion.com! (Updated 6-5-2013 with an introduction video to take you on a tour! See below)
LearnZillion is a database of over 2,000 high quality instructional videos for grades 3-9, all tied to and searchable by Common Core State Standards in math and language arts. Everything is 100% free for teachers, who make accounts and can search the database to find videos that support teaching the common core standards.
The videos are made by a huge “dream team” of qualified educators and all start with learning targets and have the same intro look and feel and high quality across the board, which I really like. Teachers can use the videos personally as inspiration to help them find new and different ways to approach teaching specific standards, OR they can take LearnZillion to the next level and assign video content to their students.
Say what?! Yup, a teacher can optionally go in and set up their class(es) in LearnZillion, too, by creating and managing student accounts for free. The beauty of this is that since the teacher is managing the account, no email address is required by students to sign-up; they simply use the unique access code generated by their teacher. LearnZillion has thorough parent letters that teachers can print and send home or link on their classroom website to help parents help their kids get connected. LearnZillion content bridges the gap between home and school – now the parents can be involved in what their child is learning and understand what’s being taught in class by watching the videos with them at home. I know this would’ve helped soothe frustration on many nights back when I was in school and struggling with my math homework!
LearnZillion videos could be used whole group to supplement a lesson, or video content can be assigned to individual students or to support small group instruction or stations. Since you can pick and choose which videos to assign to which students, differentiation has never been easier. And every video is around 5 minutes or less, so they get to the point in perfect bite-sized chunks.
When you assign video content to a student in LearnZillion, practice activities and quizzes are available with each video that you can use to assess their understanding along the way. Students don’t just watch a video and move on; they practice while they watch to reinforce the content that they’re learning. And this data can be analyzed by student or by class from the teacher’s dashboard in a variety of ways. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, right?!
As an instructional specialist, one thing I appreciate about LearnZillion is how there’s teacher support everywhere, on every screen, and alongside anything you do. You’ll never feel lost or wonder how to do something. The dashboard has a series of help videos to get you going with your account and getting students set up, all at less than a minute each. And when you’re previewing a video, you’ll find additional valuable resources along the right side of the screen, like PowerPoint slides of the lesson, (with the narration from the video typed up in the notes section of each slide!) coach’s commentary, guided practice, prinable assessments, note & discussion templates, and a parent letter. ELA content includes downloadable anchor texts, too. Below the video there’s even step-by-step instructions to explain how to use the lesson and the available resources to get the most out of the content.
Oh, and did I mention there’s an app for that? Just recently released, LearnZillion has a cross-platform app (free) for students. While LearnZillion works perfectly in any device’s browser with internet access, the student app does make assigned content cleaner and even simpler for them to access with a single tap. Teachers will still need to use the website, though.
Update 6-5-2013: I recorded a quick screen capture of me taking you on a tour of LearnZillion and its features. Take a look!
Want to flip your classroom? LearnZillion can help. Want help figuring out how you’re going to teach that tricky, abstract standard? LearnZillion can help. Want high quality content to help support and enrich differentiation in your classroom? LearnZillion can do that, too. Is there anything LearnZillion can’t do? Well, currently there’s no content yet for high school ELA, but I hear that’s coming, as well as eventually including science and social studies content, too. I can’t wait to see what LearnZillion comes up with next.
How would YOU use LearnZillion in your classroom?
April 10, 2013
Our district uses Google Apps for Education. All staff and students have their own district Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) account. A lot of our teachers have dug right in because of Google’s rich collaboration functionality, and their excitement has been spreading… every day, I see more and more staff members getting their feet wet by exploring other ways that Google Drive can enhance their classroom experience and engage students.
There’s not just one way to use Google Drive in the classroom. Most who have attended my introductory professional development go on to use the basics of what Google Drive has to offer right away: collaboration on documents. But there’s so much more that you can do when you think outside the box!
A Shared Classroom Space on Google Drive
I had a secondary art teacher contact me to tell me about a project she was doing where students would be taking pictures with their smartphones of various aspects of art that they found in everyday situations. See a great example of color, line, or perspective while you’re at the mall? Snap a picture! Kids were given a week to take photos on their phones. But then she was stuck… she wanted a single place, accessible to all students in the class, to access all of the photos. One solution we came up with was for the teacher to create a shared folder on Google Drive, shared with all students in the class. Often we’re comfortable with sharing individual documents and files on Google Drive because that’s what we do the most, but forget that we can apply share settings to an entire folder as well.
Click the Create button and create a new Folder. From your dashboard, select the folder and press the Share button at the top of the screen. Now you can share this folder with multiple people just like you would share an individual document with multiple people. The cool thing about this is that now anything you upload to this shared folder going forward is automatically accessible to everyone that the folder has been shared with. (Also a good tip so that you only have to share something one time with 30+ students, instead of having to share every document you upload individually with 30+ students every time.)
The next step in this case was to have students install the Google Drive app (free) on their devices, from their device’s respective app store. Once they had logged in to their school Google Drive account via the app, they were able to find the folder their teacher had shared with them. (Under the Shared With Me section; they can then select the folder and click the Add to My Drive button.)
Once they’d added the folder to their drive, students could upload the images from their photo roll on their device right into that shared folder. They could now also browse (and download) all of the pictures that their peers put up, too. The teacher had essentially created a database of images related to her art project in the shared folder on Google Drive. Since the teacher was the owner of the shared folder, she had complete control over monitoring the images uploaded, and was notified when new files were uploaded so that she could keep an eye to make sure the images were appropriate. (And could tell who uploaded the photo in the event of an issue.)
Turning In Assignments via Google Drive
But what if you want students to turn in a homework assignment via Google Drive? It’s kind of the same idea, but from the students’ side this time. The student would create a folder on their Google Drive account and title it “Ann Smith’s Assignments” for example, and share that folder with just their teacher. Anything the student uploads or creates in that shared folder is automatically available to their teacher.
When the teacher logs in to their Google Drive account and looks under the Shared With Me section, they’ll see one folder for each of their students. (I’d recommend having students use a consistent naming convention to make organizing your Google Drive easier – i.e. requiring them use their first and last name and/or class/period number, etc.) Because of the shared folder functionality, teachers will now have access to anything the student puts into their shared assignment folder going forward, making this a way for students to turn in assignments to their teacher from anywhere.
One last thing…
Don’t forget that the permissions you give to a folder will be applied to everything in the folder, so if you share the folder with others giving them Can Edit rights, (vs. Can View rights) any files that you upload or create in that folder will automatically be shared with everyone on the folder with those same rights.
How do YOU use shared folders to think outside the box when it comes to using Google Drive in your classroom?