Three Questions

What if? Why not? Could it be? sang the glowing, wondering heart of Leo Matienne” (DiCamillo, 2009).

I realize it is July and there is still another month before required teacher workdays start. However, I just finished reading The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo and the character of Leo Matienne got me thinking about teaching and planning for the upcoming school year.

I’ve always been a fan of DiCamillo’s books and did several of them as class read alouds or novel studies when I was in the classroom. I had never read this book, but my daughter just finished it and told me how great it was. I thought I would read it before we returned it to the library.

As I expected, it was another wonderful story by DiCamillo. The character of Leo Matienne makes his first appearance in chapter three and this is where these three questions are first introduced. He is described in this chapter as someone who has “the soul of a poet, and because of this, he liked very much to consider questions that had no answers” (2009). This questioning nature of Leo Matienne makes him a very important character as the story unfolds.

I still have a position as a technology facilitator, but this year I will also be teaching a technology course (a very broad topic, I know). While I am doing my best to relax as much as possible this summer, I am still thinking of the upcoming school year and what I want to do with this class.

After reading this story and the role of Leo Matienne, I could not stop thinking about his three questions. Like Mr. Matienne, I feel like I have a lot of questions to consider that do not have answers. I think these three questions – What if? Why not? Could it be? – will work as a guide not only for the start of school, but throughout the upcoming school year.

After all, Why not?

References

DiCamillo, K. (2009). The Magician’s Elephant. Somerville, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press.

My Summer Reading Plans

I meant to get this blog out closer to the beginning of the month when summer break started. However, being that it is summer break, I got slightly distracted with just relaxing and catching up on some Netflix binging.

I have been doing some reading since the break began and have come across some books that I have found particularly interesting. Some I have read and others I am still in the process.

Measuring Instructional Results or Got a Match?

by Rober F. Mager

I know this is a job-related book, but I feel I have to do some professional reading over the summer. I heard about Mr. Mager this spring while taking an instructional design course for license certification. He has quite a few books out and I really didn’t know where to start. I chose this one because it focuses on instructional objectives and knowing whether or not these objectives have been mastered by learners.

Along with my responsibilities as a technology facilitator, I will also be teaching a broad-ranging technology course throughout the year on various topics like coding, web design, e Portfolios, and digital citizenship. These are new topics for me and they do not really have a strict set of standards to follow as some of the other cores subjects, like math or language arts. One thing I found particularly important in this book is the establishment of definitions and distinctions in the second chapter. There are several words discussed here, but I thought the explanation of norm-referenced and criterion-referenced evaluations was very helpful. The example of “The Coffee Pot Caper” in this chapter makes it very easy to see the difference between these two terms.

Practical SQLA Beginner’s Guide to Storytelling With Data

by Anthony DeBarros

This book is one I am still in the process of reading. It is a book that you read and work on examples in each chapter to learn SQL. Working with data and learning SQL has become a recent interest of mine. I have been studying SQL on some online sites, and have also been searching for a good book to use as a reference. After going through two other books that didn’t work for me, I came across this in the library. I like the layout and explanations for each of the lessons. There are files for each example, so you can copy and paste the data for a table, instead of typing it out yourself. This gives you more time to learn the important aspects of SQL. This will take me some time to finish. I am only on the third chapter and often go back to previous material or spend time elaborating with a current lesson. If you are interested in learning how to work with data using SQL, I strongly recommend this book.

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

by Daniel H. Pink

I have seen several posts about Mr. Pink’s books on social media sites, like Twitter and Facebook. I was actually looking for his book Drive at the public library, but there was quite a long wait for it and this book was available there on the shelf. I’m sure Drive is as good as all the reviews say it is, and I’m sure it is worth the wait, but I am really glad this book was available.

This is another book that I am still reading. However, the first few chapters I have read are very interesting. The studies he mentions that show research on how our minds and our decisions can change throughout the day is fascinating. The idea of when to make a decision is something that never really occurred to me before reading this book. The author also includes a Time-Hackers Handbook at the end of each chapter that is “a collection of tools, exercises, and tips to help put insights into action” (Pink, 2018).

The Language of the GameHow to Understand Soccer

by Laurent Dubois

Growing up, I was never much of a soccer fan. To be honest, it wasn’t until well into my adulthood that I became interested in the game. My first memory of watching a game with any interest goes back to the 1999 Women’s World Cup and the final match between the United States and China. I can remember being glued to the TV as both sides took penalty shots to break a scoreless draw and determine the winner. As exciting as this was, the interest never really held until 14 years later when I saw the men’s German national team play the Kazakh national team in Astana, Kazakhstan. This was the same German team that would go on to win the World Cup in Brazil a year later. Now I was hooked.

I apologize for the digression above, but I feel it is important in order to explain why this book is so special to me. I actually came across this book last year and read it because the men’s World Cup was taking place at the time in Russia. I decided to read it again this year in honor of the women’s World Cup taking place in France. I feel like I’ve arrived very late to the game of soccer and have a lot of catching up to do. This book is an excellent resource for providing a history of the game, its rules, and its players. I love the layout of the chapters based on the positions in the game – goalkeeper, defender, midfielder. The author even includes the manager, referee and the fan as chapters, too.

Since this is my second time around reading this book, I am doing it a little differently. The author mentions a lot of games and players in each chapter, so I decided to read with a computer or phone nearby with access to Youtube. When a particular game or player is mentioned, I am able to search for a video and see it for myself, as well as, read Mr. Dubois’s description. I would not recommend doing this if it is your first read. I suggest just reading it in the book and not interrupting the flow of the story/chapter.

I hope this post provided you with some reading material if you are still searching for something to read in the coming weeks. I hope you are able to find some time this summer to read, relax, and spend time with family and friends.

References

Pink, D. H. (2018). When: The scientific secrets of perfect timing. Canongate.

My First Ignite Presentation

I did my first Ignite presentation earlier this month. It was a great experience and a classic example of volunteering for something without really knowing all the details. This was not my first time presenting at a school-based session, but the structure of an Ignite was something entirely new to me.

Ignite Requirements

When doing an Ignite, you have 20 slides that automatically advance every 15 seconds. This makes for a quick 5 minute presentation. This also means that slides cannot be too wordy, and usually contain more images than words. The images are usually a variety of pictures, gifs, or memes. The explanation of the topic and the slides comes more from the speaker than the text. For me, this meant more rehearsal than usual in order to get a feel for what 15 seconds per slide feels like, and how much can be said for each slide.

Ignite Challenges

The biggest challenge I had with this type of presentation was staying on topic for each slide and not changing what I wanted to say each time I rehearsed. This link is an article by Laura Foley and gives 6 steps for creating an Ignite. If this is your first time doing this, it is well worth taking the time to read. Be sure to pay particular attention steps 1 and 2. Writing an outline and a script is essential. I wasted a lot of time trying to jump right into making the presentation only to go back and do the first two steps.

The other challenge I had was that I felt limited with how much I could write on each slide and what media I could use. Even though this was not my first time presenting, I feel like it never gets easier. I always feel nervous getting up in front of people, especially when there are colleagues in the audience with much more experience than me. With other presentations, I’ve been able to add sound or video clips, and also use fancy transitions so I am not constantly talking. With an Ignite, however, the text and images need a quick, concise explanation from the presenter. There is no time to ramble and get sidetracked. This is where preparation and rehearsal plays an important role.

Preparation and Presentation

As I was working on this presentation, I was reminded of the saying, “Failing to plan, is planning to fail.” I felt this was really the case here. The outline and script took me the most time, but when they were done the rest moved very smoothly. Designing the slides was probably the easiest for me and took the least amount of time. I used Google Slides and wrote the script for each slide in the speaker notes section. I went through the presentation a couple of times without the 15 second limit just to practice what I would say. After this, I published the link to the slides and set the transition time for 15 seconds. I then began practicing the presentation from start to finish. The topic I was speaking about was a project I was working on since January, so it was very familiar to me. I had written some paper notes out to guide me and keep me on topic, but after a couple times through the presentation, I no longer needed them.

There were five presenters doing an Ignite and I was third on the list. Listening to the first two was very nerve-racking, but when it was my turn it felt like the fastest 5 minutes of my life. It was over before I knew it and I was surprised at how smoothly it went. All the practice and preparation was well worth it.

How I felt after the presentation.

Other Resources

Along with the article link above, this Ignite link has a great collection of Ignites from all over the world and on a variety of topics. It also has links to help you find an Ignite near you or Google Form link to start an Ignite in your city.

Note about the images

All of the images above were done through a Google search with the image settings on “Labeled for noncommercial reuse with modification”. Why the Rocky images? I traveled with my family up to New Jersey and Philadelphia for spring break. One of our stops along the way was the art museum and the Rocky statue. I grew up there, so it was not new to me, but I guess it has made me a little nostalgic.

Three of My Favorite Things

Over the past two months I have come across some new sites and apps that I have a grown to love and use more and more.

Kubbu

Kubbu can be used as both a game site and an assessment tool. At first, the homepage looked a little plain and uninviting. However, once I started to create some activities you I quickly began to appreciate what could be done with this site. 

There are 5 types of activities you can create and examples of all of them can be found in the links below. There are a variety of options for each activity. I was unable to show all of these with just one link for each activity. For example, you can make the activities have a time limit, reveal the correct answers at the end, or randomize the order of the questions. I tried to include various options in each of the links in order to show these features. Games can be created for individual students are groups, and data can also be gathered and analyzed if it is used as an assessment. You also have the option to upload pictures, sounds, and other files and include these in certain activities. For an example of this, check out the Composer – Activity/Quiz link.

The links below are examples of the type of activities and assessments you can make with Kubbu. You will need Adobe Flash to view the links.

Science Review – Divide Activity

Crossword Puzzle

Match Game

Composer – Activity/Quiz

Cloud Quiz – Slides

WorkFlowy

This is a great app if you need to store how-to information that you don’t use on a daily basis and it is easy to forget. I also use it to trouble shoot tech problems that staff have regarding their accounts, desktops, or laptops. I get questions like this every so often and because I don’t do these procedures on a daily basis I don’t have them memorized. I find this app much more convenient that searching through my Shared folder on Google Drive. After four years, my Google Drive is just a digital version of an unorganized file cabinet.

It is also great for documents with a lot of information that you need to refer to frequently but are too hard to remember.  I started using it last week with our inventory audit for Chromebooks and classroom technology. I was able to quickly find room numbers and Chromebook cart numbers for the auditors just by checking by phone and clicking to the specific teacher. 

VoiceThread

VoiceThread is a presentation tool that allows you to create slide presentations using a variety of media and provide commentary. You can post a variety of comments ranging from text, audio, video, and even comments from a telephone call. It is impressive and easy to use on a basic level, but I’m sure the more time I spend with it I will discover a lot more features. The tutorials are fairly short and very helpful. It also has a training section with free workshops, certification, and a library of VoiceThreads from other users.There is also a browse feature on your home page that allows you to search other VoiceThreads on a variety of topics. The media that you add can be pulled from your computer, other media sources (Kahn Academy, Google Drive, Flickr, and even other Voice Threads), audio recordings, webcam pics and videos, and URLs.

You can sign up for free with the usual information of first and last name, email, and a password. You click Create and start adding media to your slide presentation. When you are done, you can start playing through the presentation and adding audio or video commentary, or written comments throughout the presentation. You can also annotate on slides, if needed. There is a fade option on the annotation, so it won’t stay on the slide permanently but you can disable this feature. When you are done, you can share the presentation with others and they can leave comments, as well. Along the lines of sharing, you can also create a contact list and sort people in your contacts into groups.

One way I hope to use this at my school is for our School Leadership Team meetings. We have these meetings every third Tuesday of the month and the parent turnout is very low. I would like to create a slide presentation of what we will be discussing that evening and create a video comment for each slide. We could then share the presentation and invite parents to comments as they watch. There is a comment moderation feature, so we could chose to leave comments out if they were off-topic or not appropriate for the discussion. I think this is a viable option for reaching more parents at the school and including them in the discussion of important topics like bullying and harassment and grading and homework policies.

What is a PLN?

The last two weeks have been very busy, so I have not really had much time to get to a blog post for March. However, I did spend these two weeks getting to work with Adobe Spark for a presentation I did on defining, creating, and reflecting on a professional learning network, or PLN. The embedded presentation below will take you to the Adobe Spark I created on this topic. I hope you enjoy it and please leave comments if you feel I left something out, or you have some advice of your own to give.

I would like to add a quick note on Adobe Spark, too. If you have never used this tool for presentation, I would recommend giving it a try. I wanted to try something new and this was a nice change of pace from Slides and Powerpoint. As with most of these tools, there is enough on the free account to create a nice presentation. If you are looking for more features to add to your work, then you will need to consider an upgrade for a price.

https://spark.adobe.com/page-embed.jsPLN Presentation and Reflection

Creating Digital Citizenship Lessons with Common Sense Media and Padlet

Digital Citizenship in the Classroom

Students today are surrounded by technology. It is a large part of their life outside of school, and is also becoming more and more prevalent in the classroom. Along with the myriad list of rules and procedures teachers need to cover in the classroom, digital citizenship is now being added to that list. It is essential to educate students to be positive and productive members in an online community.

Digital citizenship can be defined as “the norms of appropriate, responsible technology use” (Ribble, 2017). This definition does seem rather broad and subjective, however, websites like Common Sense Media break this topic down further into smaller categories. If you are a teacher in North Carolina, digital citizenship is one of the four focus areas in the North Carolina Digital Learning Competencies. It is important to note that when reading through this section of the standards, there is much more for teachers to do than just “teach” digital citizenship. Words such as engage, model, demonstrate, and integrate are used as guides for what teachers should be doing with this topic (North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, n.d.).

Technology, especially in the form of social media, plays a major role in the life of students. Research from Cyberbullying.org shows that 95% of teens are online and a majority of them access the internet on a mobile device (Hinduja & Patchin, 2018). Along with the potential for cyberbullying, there is also a strong potential for students to overshare or post something inappropriate that could have a lasting impact on their future. The Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) lists college admission, scholarships, sports, and employment as potential areas a negative digital footprint can affect (Fani, 2015). These four areas are what middle school and high school students are working towards for their future.

The development of critical thinking skills is a concept teachers address in their subject areas and is also important in digital citizenship, as well. “It appears that even young people, oft thought to be the tech savviest among us, are just as susceptible to believing falsehoods and information from questionable sources” (Perkins, 2016). With such a large number of teens accessing the internet, research shows this is also the place where they get their news. A survey posted on Common Sense Media shows that forty-seven percent of teens get their news from Facebook and only forty-four percent feel that they can tell real news from fake news online (Robb, 2017). The need for media literacy and critical thinking is essential in order to ensure that the news young people are reading is factual.

Resources like FOSI, Common Sense Media, and the North Carolina Digital Learning Competencies provide teachers resources to inform students of the dangers online, as well as, lessons with a positive point of view. It can be easy for those in education to constantly point out negative online behavior and the countless number of things that students shouldn’t do.  However, this will not create the type of digital citizens we need for the future. Teachers and administrators strive to provide students with a school that is physically safe and welcoming. This same atmosphere must be considered for them as they navigate the online world where so much of their time is spent.

Padlet and Digital Citizenship

Made with Padlet

The embedded Padlet above is an example of how you can use this platform to create lessons on any topic…in this case Digital Citizenship. All of the material posted in this Padlet came from the Common Sense Education site and their digital citizenship curriculum. Much of their curriculum on this subject has been upgraded recently and is much easier to use. For example, the lesson quizzes are now force copy Google Forms making it much easier to link to another site or platform. The curriculum on Common Sense is broken down into six categories.

This material in the Padlet above is from the 6th grade curriculum and it only features lessons for three of the six categories. In each of the categories above, I included an overview that is slightly reworded from the one find on the Common Sense site. I then included the video (if one is in the lesson), the slide lesson (already made by Common Sense), and the lesson quiz. I like to include videos with each of the lessons, so if there isn’t one in the specific lesson, you can always search the Common Sense website and find something on that topic.

I have created three Padlets for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade teachers to use in their classrooms over the next few weeks. I have never used Padlet like this before and I am hoping it will be successful. I will add to this post later  to provide feedback from the students and teachers.

Resources

Youtube’s Free Audio Files

Since moving into the position of technology facilitator, I have been making more use of my school Youtube account. I find myself making more videos now to help train staff and students on a variety of apps or software that is used in the classroom and school. I have also returned to school for certification and now have assignments that require me to make videos.

When I first discovered this about a month ago, it was one of those moments where I thought, ‘”Why has it taken me so long to discover this and why does it surprise me that this is available?” What prompted me to write this post is that when I started mentioning these files to others at my school, they didn’t know they existed either. The best thing about these files is that they are royalty free.

To access these files you will need to go to your profile section in the top right and click on Creator Studio.

Once in the Creator studio, scroll down to Create and select Audio Library.

As you can see in the image below, there are music and sound effect tabs for you to select. Below that you can see how you can select what type of music or sound effects you are looking for based on a variety of categories (Genre, Mood, Instrument, etc.).

One way I have used this is with PowerPoint presentations. I am still trying to work on using these files with Google Slides. It is not that hard of a process, but with a busy schedule I have just found it easier to insert and audio file into PowerPoint. I also might save that topic for a future post. After showing these files to some students at my school, they also found it to be a nice addition to their presentations.

Enjoy!