Saturday, August 26, 2017

Help me help the teachers.

Happy Saturday, colleagues!

I'm all over the Colorado Springs area this morning. I was "hired" to take pictures at a local bike race (after they caught wind of my photography Facebook page), so I'm taking my talents to South Beach (i.e. on the road).

So with that, this will be a short post. I am putting together a training for new 1:1 iPad teachers at Skyview next week. I want to increase their iPad familiarity by demonstrating how to use applications in their content areas and demonstrating how technology can help them increase the depth of knowledge (DOK) of their lessons. I put together this handout for teachers.

See anything missing? Help me help them and fill out this survey!

Thanks for reading. I'll see you next week :)

- Rachel
My Teacherspayteachers website

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Sharing my love for Screencastify!

Hello there colleagues! This week, in my new job, I found that Screencastify is the greatest thing in the world. Seriously. I don't think I could do my job properly without it!

I learned about Screencastify during a Google Summit in 2016. I know my husband mentioned it to me once or twice (as he uses it quite a bit for his job), but I never saw a reason to use it in the classroom. I tried screencasting feedback for students on projects, but they were cumbersome to make (Really? 150 videos?), and the students rarely watched them. It was a risky attempt, and it crashed and burned :)

What I found Screencastify most useful for was "how to" videos. Whenever students would get stuck on a problem, I would make a screencast for solving the issue. Instead of answering the same question 300 times, I would point them to the tutorial video. The students did not care for it because they just wanted me to give them the answer, but over time, they were trained.

Now teachers, on the other hand, value their time. They know how busy they are and how they do not have easy opportunities to visit me over and over. Tutorial videos are wonderful for teachers because they can access them on their own time, can watch the video as many times as they need, or they can completely ignore the video and pretend that I did not e-mail it!

We have had some weird technology issues in the district... such a great way to start the year! I realized that I was answering the same question over and over. I helped one teacher, who is not super tech savvy, log in to the firewall and create a bookmark to the firewall. I realized that it would be helpful to ALL teachers if they knew how to bookmark the firewall website as well.

After sending this video to the staff, many people stopped me to say "thank you." It feels good to know that my video helped!

When meeting with my principal about my job, and what it entails, she told me that I should be coaching non-iPad teachers in the building. Her goal is to have every student touch technology once a week. It is a lofty goal, but I think it can be possible as the year goes on. One thing that prevents me from co-teaching and modeling for teachers is that I have three broadcasting classes in the morning. I have to find a way to work around this, and Screencastify is working for me!

I have a 7th grade teacher who is having his students make iMovie trailers about books they are reading. He was able to figure out, on his own, how to use iMovie and how to teach his students how to use iMovie. But he wasn't 100% sure how to have his students turn in their trailers because they are using an iPad cart, not 1:1 iPads. Screencastify is not available for the iPad, so I did some Googling to find a work around. Someone online mentioned taking screenshots step by step, then screencasting the pictures on the computer like it is a video.

Worked like a charm, and the teacher said it was beneficial for both him and his students!

The last way I recently used Screencastify is to teach my students the ins and outs of iMovie. My students have been filming and are in the process of editing. Most of the 8th graders took broadcasting last year, so they knew quite a bit about editing. All of them, however, said that they learned something new from these videos. And for the students who are taking broadcasting for the first time? They learned a ton!

I just can't say enough good things about Screencastify, but I forgot the most important thing - it's free!

Thanks for reading. I'll see you next week! 

- Rachel
My Teacherspayteachers website

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Successful "back to school" nights with 1:1 devices

Good morning, colleagues!

I. Am. Exhausted. It's been a long two weeks in my new job, mostly because I was required to attend three "back to school" nights for the three, grade level iPad teams. This was my first time attending three different grade level meetings, and it was an experience!

When I first starting teaching 1:1, we did not have a special back to school night for 1:1 students and parents. We still had parents attending our traditional back to school night with the entire staff. It worked okay, but parents had a lot of questions, and the teachers did not always have the answers. We, as a 1:1 staff, realized that we needed to place more importance on meeting the students' and parents' needs when it came to the iPads. So three years ago we started having separate  1:1 back to school nights.

They were a disaster. The first year we were in the gym, and no one notified the custodial staff that we were having a special event? The custodial staff turns off the air conditioning at night to save electricity/money. So we had more than 150 parents sitting in a gym with no air conditioning. It was miserable. So last year, we notified the custodial staff AND decided to meet in our classrooms. Unfortunately, the air conditioning still could not keep up, and it was hot... not as bad, but still terrible.

So this year, we split 6th, 7th, and 8th grade nights, and held the meetings in the cafeteria which is the coolest room in the entire building. We held the 8th grade meeting first, and it still did not go well. What were the biggest issues? 1) The wifi was unable to process so many people on devices in one room. We had an open wifi so that students could log into their devices. I have a suspicion that parents and students also connected their personal devices (hey, free wifi!). We found out later that we really can only have 90 devices connected per Meraki box. We had two boxes set up in the cafeteria but then discovered that one was not fully connected by an IT specialist. WHOOPS. 2) Most of the 8th grade parents had students on a 1:1 team since 6th grade, so they didn't need all of the information they were given. They were itching to get out of there, but our principal was planning on a 90-minute meeting.

So after a not great night, my principal, our 21st C specialist, and I got together to discuss how to make this better. We knew we needed to have it figured out before our 6th grade meeting. The good news is that I feel like we finally mastered the formula! Even one of the 6th grade teachers agreed :)

#1: Parents were given the iPad when they came in the door. This was not any different than what we'd done in the past, but we had directions on the screen for how to log in to the iPad. This meant that the wifi was not overwhelmed with too many devices at once.

Parents also filled out a questionnaire once they got connected.

#2: Teachers presented information about their classes. My principal told them she wanted the teachers to present, between the four of them, for 30-45 minutes. LOL. By the last night, she told them to talk for no more than five minutes each! Parents had access to their presentation slide deck, and if they had questions, they could stick around to address the teachers.

#3: I went over logging in directions one more time and explained why the questionnaire was necessary. I then told parents that they could stick around and get logged in, or they could finish at home. Then I dismissed them to check out. We finished the 7th and 6th grade meetings in less than 60 minutes (compared to 90 minutes for 8th grade). Getting the parents out promptly was incredibly important.

So, if you are starting 1:1 teams in your school or you haven't held a special "back to school" night for your 1:1 teams, I encourage you to think about trying this next year :)

Thanks for reading. I'll see you next week! 

- Rachel
My Teacherspayteachers website

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Story Spheres!

Colleagues! I'm back!

I cannot believe that a new school year has started. It has been overwhelming being in this new job, but boy has it been positive! Many teachers have wished me luck, told me that they believe in me, and have already asked to meet and build their tech knowledge.
What has been stressing me out is designing this new broadcasting curriculum. Teaching Social Studies is easy. I've been doing that for eleven years, and I don't have to prep much to start. Teaching something new is probably good for me because I am way out of my comfort zone! This year I am working on being comfortable with being uncomfortable.

A couple of weeks ago I went to a Google Summit here in the Springs. My very first session was with Jessica Loucks (who is ah-mazing). She presented 360° storytelling with Street View and Story Sphere. I just recently received a grant from the Edcamp Foundation and was able to buy 30 Google Cardboards and 15 phones. I KNEW that I wanted to incorporate VR, but wasn't sure how to do it. 

I finally figured out that I wanted to start with Story Spheres in my class so that students could a) learn more about storytelling and b) tell me/the class about themselves. I started with a video from Khan Academy/Pixar in a Box. The video talks about telling stories that are exciting but make people feel how you feel about your story.

Then I had students access this great PDF about major master plots. I told students that they were going to write a story about themselves (so I could get to know them) using one master plot. I told them that my story was plot #13: maturation. 

How do you create a Story Sphere? I first wrote my script about what I wanted to say. I then went on Street View (on an iPad) to find 360° photos of the locations in my script. I saved the images to Google Drive, downloaded the images to a computer from Drive, THEN uploaded the photos to Story Sphere (it is much easier than it sounds!). Inside the web app, you can upload hot spot recordings so that students can hear from you as they "visit" these locations. I just used the voice app on my phone, then e-mailed the mp3s to my school e-mail where I uploaded them to Story Sphere. Students viewed my Story Sphere, through VR, on the first day of school!

Needless to say, the kids thought this was SO COOL. When I told them that they were going to be telling me a story about them using a Story Sphere, they were all in!

They have taken quite a bit of time to create, partly due to me trying this for the first time, partly due to some tech issues in the building, and partly due to my students' lack of tech knowledge with iPads and new software. Even so, the kids still bought in and were excited to share their stories with each other. I'm hoping on Monday that we will get some Story Spheres actually created so I can tweet them out. 

Thanks for reading. I'll see you next week! 

- Rachel
My Teacherspayteachers website