Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Shadow Puppet Edu: A Break from the iMovie Monotony

Ta-Da! The wonderful people at Seesaw created something else magical. Shadow Puppet Edu. This video creation platform is extremely user friendly and has very few written directions, making it easy for English Language Learners to use. It's also a refreshing change from using the somewhat complicated program that is iMovie. Don't get me wrong -- I love using iMovie! It's sometimes just a little too much for kids to use, especially when they accidentally find themselves on an unfamiliar screen, swearing up and down the wall that they "really didn't touch anything". By giving students a simpler platform, in this case Shadow Puppet Edu, you can eliminate this issue. The best news? The app is totally free!

Drawbacks to Using the App Include:
1. You cannot insert movie clips into Shadow Puppet presentations, just photos. That's definitely the biggest drawback, but if that's what you need, I would just use iMovie instead.
2. Shadow Puppet Edu is currently only available for iPads and iPhones, not android devices and tablets.
3. There is currently not a way to use Shadow Puppet Edu on computers either, with the exception of playing the videos you have already created by clicking on the link associated with them.

Here's what it looks like in the app store:

Get started with these quick instructions & tips:

1. Download Shadow Puppet Edu from the App Store. When you open the app, click the first "Create New" button. 

2. You will then be prompted to choose the photos you want to include in the presentation from your camera roll and put them in the order you want.
**If you do not put the photos in order you want during this step, you will not be able to go back. Kind of annoying, I know, but true nonetheless. 

3. After you choose your photos, you can add a combination of text, music, and voice recordings to some or all slides! Simply choose the appropriate icon at the bottom of the screen to choose what you want to add first. 

4. As you progress through editing your presentation, you can start, pause, and restart the voice recordings as you move through each slide. It's just as easy to add text. You can scroll through text placement, font choice, and color simply by clicking the left and right arrows on the screen below:

Here is a quick, and might I add, cheesy, example of what a finished product may look and sound like!

Here are a couple sets of video directions I recorded in under 5 minutes for students in my class who struggle with reading grade level texts or remembering more than one or two directions. They simply use an iPad to scan a QR code that is posted in the room next to where the directions are housed. I apologize in advance for them being a bit dull, but it really is just me voicing over their directions for the reading block in the quickest and easiest way possible!

Thinglink: Make Learning Interactive!

If you're anything like me, you always have what feels like 100 tabs open in your web browser at the top of your screen. Thinglink is a great platform for putting lots of the tools you use, like pictures or links, in one place. Basically, it gives you a way to imbed links into a picture of your choice. Sound too easy? Well, it turns out it actually is. Here's how to do it:

1. Create a Thinglink account (obviously). They have both a free and a paid version. The free will do just fine! 

2. After you have created an account, click the red create button in the upper right corner. 

3. Upload the picture you want for the background. It could be anything! I like to choose pictures that enhance student learning experiences. For example, if we are studying a region of the United States, I may choose a popular attraction from that area like the Grand Canyon or Carlsbad Caverns for the Southwest.

4. All you have to do now? Add a tag (all this means is that you are adding links! For example, on the following picture of Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, I would most likely add a link to their National Park website. 

5. When you touch the "Click to add a tag" button, a white screen on the left will pop up that looks like this:

Simply add the information you need. In this case, this is the URL I want students to go to and a quick description of what it is. Above is a quick example of where exactly to input this information. Simply click the picture to enlarge it! 

Here is an example of a Thinglink I made for the first day of school this year, introducing myself to my class. 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Seesaw: Take the Grading Stress Down a Notch

Feeling overwhelmed with the amount of papers you take home every night? Or how about going through all those student notebooks to find the one assignment you need to grade? Seesaw may be a quick solution for you. Seesaw is a platform (web based and in app form) that allows you as the teacher to create a digital portfolio for each student in your class. The best part? You don't have to upload things for students. All they have to do is scan a QR code and choose what kind of file they want to upload (don't worry, Seesaw gives you the page to print for this). This could be a document, a picture, a movie...almost anything! You just have to add the students to your class up front -- easy peasy! There is a free version of Seesaw along with a paid version. Here's a breakdown of prices followed by a comprehensive comparison table (simply click on each picture to view the full size version):

From a student's perspective, the app looks like this:

As the teacher, you will receive email notifications when students submit assignments to you for approval. The email will take you directly to the assignments you need to okay (mine opens directly in the app). You can give feedback via typed comments, drawing on their photo, or even an audio recording! This is extremely helpful for any students I have who struggle with reading my feedback. When you submit your commentary, it may look something like this for students:

Have you been thinking to yourself, "But I want parents to see the work they're doing in class. How can I send it home?" Don't you worry your pretty little mind. There is free parent access on both the free and paid versions through the simple use of another QR code. Once you finalize your class roster, Seesaw will generate individual QR codes for you to send home with for parents to view anything their student has submitted that you have approved. For me, that means daily assignments and finalized projects, alike! 

You can also categorize assignments into folders for subject areas and tag them with specific skills (for me, this means Common Core State Standards). You can then view all of the assignments in a feed view (in the order assignment have been turned in), calendar view (the dates each assignment was turned in), or skill view (ordered by the skills or standards you attached to each assignment.

Are you ready to make the switch?

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Genius Hour: Follow Your Passion

Thinking about launching Genius Hour in your classroom? Here are 10 picture book ideas to help get you and your students motivated to pursue your passions! 

1. Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty
Click here to purchase on Amazon

2. Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty 
Yes, this is the same series. And yes, it's worth it to purchase both! 
Click here to purchase on Amazon

3. The Ok Book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
This one is especially great for younger students.
Click here to purchase on Amazon

4. On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne
If you're looking to inspire students with real people, this story about Albert Einstein fits the bill!
Click here to purchase on Amazon

5. Going Places by Peter and Paul Reynolds
If you loved The Dot or Ish by Peter H. Reynolds, then you'll love this one, too!
Click here to purchase on Amazon

6. The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
Click here to purchase on Amazon

7. What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada
Click here to purchase on Amazon

8. What Do You Do With a Problem? by Kobi Yamada
This is Yamada's newest book and it's just as wonderful as What Do You Do With a Problem.
Click here to purchase on Amazon

9. I Wonder by Annaka Harris
On this one, you can even watch the book trailer
Click here to purchase on Amazon

10. Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg
Do you have students who struggle with a fixed mindset? Help them move to a growth mindset with this book. It's all about learning to mistakes work! 
Click here to purchase on Amazon

Google Classroom: Even Easier Than Google Drive!

I know a lot of teachers who love to use Google Drive, including myself. Have you ever thought about using Google Drive instead/in addition? It's definitely a simpler alternative, in my opinion, for students and teachers alike. Instead of having students create Google Docs or Slides, saving them to their Drive, and sharing it with you, they simply click a "Turn In" button. Let me show you how it works.

Step 1: Click here to get started. 

Step 2: Add a new class by clicking on the + button in the top right corner. Name your new class. I have found recently that naming it with the school year tends to be the easiest! 

Step 3: Guess what? You don't even have to go in and add your class! I have to admit, that is my least favorite part of using multiple technologies in my classroom. Copy and pasting your students names over and over and over again. No longer! Using Google Classroom, all students have to do is enter a code to join your class. That's right. They do all the work! That way when you get a new student smack in the middle of the year, they can simply type in the code to join your class and you don't have to worry about remembering to add him/her into your Google Classroom roster. All students have to do is go to the Google Classroom site and click the + that they see in their upper right hand corner to type in the code. Easy peasy! 

Step 4: Add an assignment for your class by clicking the giant + in the bottom right corner. 

When you click the + button, there will be a few options for new assignment options that pop up above it. I usually click "create assignment". 

When students look at the page to begin working, they will be able to click on each assignment you post and hit the "create" button to add a Google Doc or Slide and complete the assignment. All they have to do when they're done is click the "Turn In" button in the top right hand corner of the screen to send it to you. From there, you can comment on it or send it back to be redone. 

See? Told you it was simple. Now go out and conquer it!