Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Cool Factor Matters

When creating lessons teachers often work backwards.  They have their learning objective laid out and they know where they need to end up at the end of the lesson or lessons.  Sometimes it's the path that can present the biggest challenge for teachers.  How am I going to get my kids where their learning outcomes need to be?

When sharing a technology lesson or activity, I have heard “Well that is cool, but so what?”  So what?  Well I say the cool factor does matter!  Technology increases the cool factor for kids and their learning.

Like Dave Burgess asks, “Would you pay to sit through your own lesson?”  In other words, is your lesson cool enough?  

I remember being the cool teacher who had the only SmartBoard on the 4th-6th grade wing.  It was cool because my lessons looked different and my students couldn’t wait to manipulate content on the board.  We used web tools and videos along with the SmartBoard to increase engagement and yes, even the cool factor.  I had kids lined up at my door at the end of 3rd grade begging for me to be their 4th grade teacher the next year.  

Unfortunately, by sixth grade many students do not expect much of their daily learning experiences.  They have become used to desks in rows, worksheets, sharpened pencils, lectures, and walking in nice quiet lines around the building.  It doesn’t have to be this way!  Learning can be cool, engaging, and noisy.  

Here are 5 ways you can increase your lessons’ cool factor:

  1. Worldwide Connections.  Use Skype for Education or Google Hangouts to connect with students from across the world.  These platforms take your students outside their classroom.  Geographical knowledge increases, conversation skills improve, and collaboration happens.  Check out how one teacher uses her laptop to increase global awareness with her students.
  2. The Osmo.  Called one of the best inventions of 2014, the Osmo turns your one iPad into an amazing learning center.  The Osmo comes with four apps that increase critical thinking and problem solving skills.  Check out how you can get your own Osmo here as well as how one teacher uses it in his classroom.  
Students using the Osmo
  1. Use the Do Ink Greenscreening App.  The Do Ink Greenscreen App can be loaded on to one iPad and baam! With some green butcher block paper, one iPad and the app you have yourself a greenscreening studio for groups of kids.

Videographers in the Making!

  1. Aurasma  Aurasma uses auras and trigger images to bring content alive.  Some teachers have used Aurasma for parents teacher conferences, history studies, or as a replacement to the traditional book report.  Read this post from Ann Feldmann about how Aurasma was used to teach NE history.
  2. QR codes.  Scanning QR codes is a great way to get your kids up and moving around the building, outside, or in the classroom.  Creating QR codes at sites like is super easy.  Kids can easily scan the codes which takes them online to websites, texts, images, and more.  Place a QR codes outside your classroom door to provide easy links to your classroom Facebook Page, contact information or Twitter handle.  Here is a great way to try using QR codes for a lesson.

Smiling faces, creative kids, and movement in the classroom is cool. And guess what? You can meet learning objectives using cool lessons. Why not give it a try? How do you use the “cool factor” in your lessons? What “cool” can you add to current lessons? Drop us a line and let us know.

Written by Jenny Krzystowczyk

Friday, May 1, 2015

Creating with the iPad ~ Watching Kids Think Differently

After visiting with 4th grade teacher Mrs. Keene, at Leonard Lawrence Elementary School, I left with a few interesting thoughts.  Mrs. Keene shared with me how one of her students professed to using 28 different apps to create a project sharing how individuals could project the earth. His end project was an iMovie and sure enough he used a variety of apps to make his own images.  He used everything from Pic Collage to Notability, Telegami and Chatter Pix. The video itself was nothing short of a montage of images that expressed his topic. What struck me was that this student thought differently about how to create his project.  

App Smash  Examples From Student
When tasked with creating an iMovie on the iPads, often times students will save Google images and then throw those onto the storyboard. What this student did and many others like him in his class was to create their own images.  Not only did he create his own drawings and images but he used multiple apps to do so. I can appreciate this on a couple different levels.  

One is that, I myself, become frustrated when trying to find an image that expresses my message. I have started drawing what I want instead. Even though it isn’t perfect, I know its mine and I don’t have to worry about copywrite laws.  

Second, I love that kids who are immersed in iPad technology are developing skills to think differently about how to complete a task. No longer are they tied to paper, pencil and crayons. They have the tools to create anything they want. The only limitation is their imagination. The world needs individuals who can look at a project from different angles, and experiment with a variety of tools to complete a task.  

And third, these kids are learning from each other because they are all doing something different. The idea that an assignment must turn out with one correct format or answer has been completely thrown out. No longer does everyone’s work look the same, and no longer is the evaluation of a task a simple percentage or letter grade.  

Over and over again, I am so moved by how our iPad academy teachers are reaching and teaching children. When unexpected outcomes occur, like critical thinking skills and creativity the reward is never-ending. Way to go Lisa Keene and so many others who provide the tools and let their kids explore, create, and share!

Written by Jenny Krzystowczyk

Monday, April 27, 2015

NETA 2015 Inspired Keynote Review

NETA 2015 turned out to be a fabulous two day experience. Adam Bellow and George Couros contributed more than they know with their story telling, resources, ideas and passion for education. If you couldn't make it to NETA, here are some snippets of what they shared with the teachers at NETA last week.

Thursday April 23rd, NETA kicked off with Adam Bellow talking about the fear of failure and letting our kids reach their dreams. Adam Bellow is always an inspirational speaker with a focus on how we use technology in schools. He says the  "break it, make it, share it" model should be repeated all day long in schools. And that "learning can be a messy process." Adam talked about turning a child's curiosity into passion. He makes the point that technology is the stuff and that what matters is what we allow kids to do with it.  

Adam encouraged the audience to live the life of
beta. Meaning, continue to try new things, fail, and then try again. Learning and life aren't perfect. Even though Adam is passionate about educational technology, he warns against certain things that cannot be downloaded, like curiosity and personal connections. He wishes to give kids roots and then wings for the future. He also made the point that the missing main ingredient for effective technology integration is time.

This philosophy of giving teachers time is what our TT4T team always preaches, so it was validating to hear Adam profess that teachers need more time to play. Giving teachers time and support and providing a risk-tasking environment has been critical to the success of our very own iPad Academy. Time to play, time to fail, and time to try again. He left the audience with two words: create and share.  Do you?

Some tools that he mentioned briefly :
Pixel Press~ Lets kids create their own digital games with paper and an iPad.  
Kano computer  ~ Lets kids build their own computer.

Day 2 at NETA kicked off with George Couros talking three things: innovate, create, and voice. George has a real knack for storytelling and he told many during his keynote. One in particular was about his father and the things he learned from him. As a child of an immigrant parent, he saw innovation at its best. He watched his father go from only having a few dollars to owning his own restaurant, building relationships, and raising a family. He shared a video of his father, who passed away recently, and expressed how much it meant to be able to see his father in video. There was not a dry eye in the house.  

George went on to explain the importance of connecting with his students as a principal. He greets kids each morning at his building, knowing their names. He admitted that his wife, a third grade teacher, keeps him grounded and provides perspective into the lives of kids.  

Twitter became a game changer for George, once he began connecting with educators. He stated that surrounding himself with passionate people made a huge difference for him in education. Both Adam and George talked about the importance of Twitter and being connected to people who are passionate, intelligent, and connected. They made the point that teachers are only isolated if they choose to be.  
I love his analogy to “be more dog”. The idea that people need to build strong connections to people and to be more playful in life and learning. Social media is an amazing tool to stay connected using selfies, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This idea of digitizing our life to document amazing moments is a powerful tool that our teachers and students need to be leveraging,  

The topic of innovation is central in his message. He stated that “you must change your routine to begin your innovative thinking.” He showed examples of digital content that can be remixed to make it even better. His message that innovation has no age barrier is so true!  

He talked about creating opportunities for students to share their learning to give voice to what they create. I love the quote “chance favors the connected mind”. Are you giving your students room to be innovative, to connect with the world, and to publish to the world?  

Nothing can compare to being there in person, listening to their stories, feeling their passion for people and education and gleaning ideas from Adam and George, but hopefully this post will help you feel a little more connected. We encourage you to follow these amazing educators on Twitter. I will leave you with this quote that George Couros shared:

Written by, Jenny Krzystowczyk

Monday, April 13, 2015

Mixing Math and Explain Everything Makes a Difference for Learners

Mrs. Smeby (@coachsmeby) was recently teaching a lesson on multiplying fractions in her 1:1 iPad classroom, and I was there as her tech coach.  She started by giving her students some direct instruction on how to solve fractions with pictures, repeated addition, and multiplication. Then, they began guided practice, solving problems in groups while we walked around and helped them out. It was fun to watch each child work collaboratively to problem solve. This was just the beginning.

The most incredible thing happened next when the kids moved to the next activity.  She asked them to create a screencast using Explain Everything. They were to solve two problems using the three methods they just learned.  They eagerly spread out into the hallway and each student began creating.  As they started to work, we shifted to the guides on the side and individually conferenced with students.  They were able to ask us questions, record their work, listen to their projects, and revise.  
For several students, as they were talking through the steps to solve the problem, everything crystallized for them. Suddenly, the light came on and they got it, they understood!  As teachers, we know what that joy looks like as students take off and leave scorch marks.

As I step back and reflected on this afternoon, I still revel in the joy the students felt when they learned this concept.   What I witnessed was the collision of pedagogy and technology. What organically evolved was a wonderful way for each student to construct meaning using multiple modalities.  The kinesthetic piece was a game changer.  As they talked, they drew pictures, words and numbers and the concept became crystal clear to them.  All of these culminated as they created their own videos.
Screen Shot of Student Explanation
Because every student was individually explaining the concept, they were all actively, personally involved in the learning process.  With our support as guides on the sides, we were available for just in time learning, clarification, and re-teaching.   This combination of experiences cemented the concept in their minds.  Essentially, when they were done, they had an assessment that demonstrated mastery of the curriculum objective.  Now, they can teach others and that is my definition of mastery learning!

Take Aways

  1. Talking out the problem while simultaneously solving the problem helped students make connections.
  2. Teacher availability during work time was important.  Coaching each student individually helped them learn exactly what they needed to know.
  3. Individual screencasts creation used a number of learning modalities and tapped several of the multiple intelligences.  
  4. Showing what they know increased the ownership of learning.

Video Sample created by Brody:

Written by Ann Feldmann

Monday, April 6, 2015

6 Tools to Find Your Digital Presence

Educators of today face many challenges. Students live in a face-paced, information-saturated world. How do educators keep kids engaged, informed, and connected? Creating your own digital presence as a teacher is key to answering this question.  

If you aren’t sure where to start here are 5 tools that can increase your digital presence.

Blogging is an excellent way to tell the story of your classroom. There are many platforms that work for a classroom blog. We love Blogger, Wordpress, or Edublogs. Blogger is connected to your Google account if you have one. Some teachers find that with blogging they do not need a website.  
Check out these class blogs for inspiration.  

If you are not big on blogging, use a Facebook Page to communicate events, student work, and ideas. It is super easy to set up an account. Many teachers find their Facebook pages work well for them because they can update their feed right from their phone. Privacy settings can be tailored to suit your particular needs. Check out these classroom Facebook Pages to get some good ideas.  
Second Grade Classroom

Twitter is being overtaken by educators! Use Twitter for yourself professionally to connect with other educators and ideas. You can use Twitter for your class by creating your own class hashtag. Simply choose a word for your hashtag and tell your kids what it is. For example, you could use #mrssmithclass and use it for class discussions.  

Now more than ever kids are into Instagram. This generation has been dubbed the most photographed generation ever. Kids use photos to express emotion, status, and experiences. Use Instagram as a way to showcase student work, literary themes, science experiments, field trips and more.  

YouTube Channel
Create playlists on content that support your teaching and require students to watch those videos prior to coming to class to increase intervention time and mini lessons. YouTube channels and playlists are great, because you can simply add to them throughout the year.  

A Website
Teacher websites provide important links and information to students. We like Weebly and Google sites. Both platforms are free and easy to use. Here are some great teacher websites to check out.  

Written by Jenny Krzystowczyk

Friday, March 27, 2015

NE iBook Event Showcases Budding Bellevue Public Schools Authors

Amazing authors abound in Bellevue Public Schools! Bellevue Public Schools, in conjunction with Apple and the Nebraska Department of Education, were thrilled to showcase student-created eBooks at the NE iBook Showcase on Thursday, March 26, 2015, at the Support Center in Bellevue, NE. Students in grades 3 - 8 participated in the iBook Showcase.  Kristina Peters, eLearning Specialist & School Library Liaison, NE Department of Education, and Mark Billington, from Apple, kicked off the showcase with enthusiasm and applauded the students for creating their books.  “It is fantastic to celebrate your accomplishments,” said Billington. “Keep up that fantastic effort. We want you to keep writing and authoring books and it is fantastic to see the effort that was put forth. I look forward to hopefully seeing all of your projects this evening.“

Parents, students, and guests enjoyed visiting with the authors one-on-one. The students shared excerpts from their books in this informal setting.  

Kristina Peters, eLearning Specialist, visits with 4th grade student Natalie McNamara 

 Each book is unique, just like its author.  Books covered a variety of curricular topics from poetry, parts of speech, to history in a variety of genres from mysteries to non-fiction. Elementary students created their books using the Book Creator App on the iPad; some middle school students used iBooks Author on the MacBook.   Not only do these books include text, but the students also incorporated a variety of media including illustrations, pictures, and movies. Students use a variety of apps such as Notability, Screenchomp, Thinglink, and Pic Collage for illustrations as well as movies created in iMovie, Explain Everything, Shadow Puppet EDU, and audio recordings which makes their books come to life.  

For example, Matthew Breuker, 3rd grader at Bellevue Elementary, said he used Screenchomp to illustrate his book. On his reflection page, he illustrated himself as a pilgrim and put himself on the page as one of the first settlers in Jamestown.   

Matthew Breuker, 3rd grade author
The NeBooks Project is a partnership between schools, state agencies and non-profit organizations across Nebraska for the common purpose of providing quality instructional materials. Students are creating eBooks in all content areas to be added to the eBook Library housed at the Nebraska Department of Ed . Peters said, “Your books will be posted on our website and  available to anyone. That means you will be published authors which will be awesome. I am not even a published author.”

Bellevue students already have their next books in the works! The elementary students are working on weather books and Nebraska history books, while the middle school students are working books of their own choice.

In addition to the evening showcase, these students will have an incredible opportunity to attend the Nebraska Book Festival on on Saturday, April 25, at the UNO Community Engagement Center.   The book festival is free and open to everyone who wishes to meet, hear, and talk with a few of Nebraska's many talented authors who have published new works. All participating authors will answer questions from the audience and be available for book signings.

If you are a Nebraska student or teacher who has created a digital book this year and would like to show your work, please contact Kristina Peters .

Related Links:
Read about our project from WOWT news by clicking this link.
Read Michelle Klamm's blog post iCan Publish My Own Book.

Written by Ann Feldmann and Jennifer Krzystowczyk
Pictures and videos by Ann Feldmann

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Involve Your Students in Their Learning

The title of this post sounds funny, right? Involve students in their learning? Don’t we do that already? Let’s take a look at what it means to truly involve students in their learning.

I’m sure you have all heard some version of the Benjamin Franklin quote above. With today’s students, living in a fast paced world, this quote is something to keep in the back of your mind when crafting engaging lessons. If there is any way to get students truly engrossed in their learning and reflecting on what they learned, you will see much better results with engagement and retention.

Recently, in Bethany Klone’s 3rd grade classroom students began work on the following math standard: Comprehensive Geometric/Measurement. How does a teacher go about teaching this concept and how does the teacher make it meaningful for the students? Involve them in the learning process.

Here is an example of how this was done with teachers Bethany Klone and Joel Scholten at Two Springs Elementary.

After the topic was introduced to the students, the project began with work in art class. The task was to create a paper quilt using symmetry. They began by creating a border for their paper quilt in art class with Mr. Scholten following these steps.

The students:
  1. Created one strip that was then folded in half, which created a line of symmetry.
  2. Glued shapes down that were congruent on each side.
  3. Created three more strips that were congruent to the first.
  4. Rotated two of the border pieces up then translated one to the top to form a square.
  5. Created a center design that also used lines of symmetry. (Within the center they had to use rotation, reflection and translation.)

They also practiced fractions using three by three inch squares that they could cut into halves or fourths creating squares, rectangles and triangles. While making the quilts, you could hear all of the vocabulary words floating around the room.

Now, these turned out beautiful, but how does Mrs. Klone know if they grasped the concept of all of the vocabulary words above? She decided to listen to the students-literally, listen to them tell her what they know. Time? That process would take too long to have each student come up to her desk and provide a narrative of their learning. So she had her students use her classroom set of iPads to accomplish this task. Students embarked on an app smashing project using the camera, and the apps Tellagami and iMovie.

These are the steps they used to complete their app-smash. Students
  1. Took a picture of their quilt using the iPad’s camera.
  2. Launched the Tellagami app and created an avatar.
  3. Inserted the image of their quilt as the background.

Mrs. Klone gave the students  questions that they were to answer about their quilt. The questions pertained to the vocabulary words heard floating around the room throughout the project and how they related to each individual quilt.

Next, students

  1. Recorded their own voice answering the questions to show understanding of the concepts taught and using key vocabulary words from the unit.
  2. Brought the Tellagami videos into iMovie and added some unique touches. Many students even decided to add a video recording of their thoughts to the end of their movie.

Lastly, the videos were uploaded to a playlist in YouTube and the playlist was shared with parents, grandparents and people all over. Below are a few of the student examples.

As some of the students mentioned in their movies, they felt that this activity truly helped them learn about symmetry. By involving the students, in the learning and reflecting pieces of this project, they took ownership and were sure to produce a quality product that they were proud of sharing. Hearing their voice sharing what they learned is very powerful. And if we remember back to the quote by Benjamin Franklin….involve me and I learn.

Written by Jeanette Carlson and Bethany Klone