Friday, March 27, 2015

Amazing Authors Abound in Bellevue Public Schools

Bellevue Public Schools students enjoyed sharing their eBooks at the NE iBook Showcase on Thursday, March 26, 2015, at the Support Center in Bellevue, NE.  Bellevue Public Schools, in conjunction with Apple and the Nebraska Department of Education, are thrilled to showcase student-created ebooks. 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 .

Read about our project from WOWT news too by clicking this link.

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

Monday, March 23, 2015

When Kahoot Meets Google Hangout

Kids yelped with joy when they got the correct answer on the Kahoot game about Dr. Seuss  For Read Across America. Mrs. Brown from Fairview Elementary joined a group of educators across Nebraska and Iowa to participate in a Google Hangout that used a game using Dr. Seuss trivia with questions for their second graders.  

Mrs. Brown had actually never tried a Google Hangout or Kahoot, so she was really stepping outside her comfort zone.  When she heard about the opportunity, however, she did not hesitate to sign up!  Along came two tech trainers to provide a little support and she was off and running.  Four first grade classrooms joined the hangout and one of the tech coaches, Josh Allen (@j_allen), shared his screen with everyone so that all the kids could see the game from Kahoot!.   

Students paired up or made table teams to answer each question while Josh moved the game along via the Google Hangout.  But what was even better was that Steph (@KahootSteph), the Community & Events Evangelist for @GetKahoot!,  joined the hangout and played the game with all of the students.  

She was joining the Kahoot fun from London, UK and the kids got to ask her questions like, “Is it cold in London?”, and “Have you ever been to America?”  Students enjoyed her British accent and sweet demeanor.  Students pinpointed on a map how far London was from Nebraska, and they were all amazed at how they could be connected with a Google hangout to places so far away.  Students had even more questions about maps, distances, and time zones.

The students loved playing the Kahoot game, getting their answers correct, and competing a bit as the watched the leaderboard change throughout the game.  At the end of the game, students said goodbye to their new friends and pulled out another map to analyze the locations of their schools.  What a great way to create a global experience for kids that is meaningful and engaging!

How have you used technology to create global experiences for your students?

Kahoot website Video on how to use Kahoot.

Written by, Jenny Krzystowczyk & Ann Feldmann

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Tweaking Test Taking with Video

Have you ever found yourself reading aloud a test to your entire class because you don’t know any other way to read it for the kids who need it read?  Or how about trying to get every student to take the test at the exact same pace?  We’ve all been there and done that, but there is a better way!  Tweaking test taking can make a big impact on the experience for both teachers and students.  Read through these scenarios and see if you can relate.  

Scenario 1

It is test day.  Some students need the test read aloud.  The teacher hands out the tests and reads over all the questions before the students begin.
Who does this help? Very few people.
Most of the students can’t remember what was read on question 17 when they finally get there. The students who wish to work independently are stuck.

Scenario 2

The teachers reads a question then waits. Then reads the next question and waits, and so on.  
Who does this help?  A couple people.
The independent test takers keep having their thoughts interrupted and get frustrated.
Those needing the test read may or may not be ready for the question, and some even ask for the questions to be read again and again.
The test takes a long time to administer.

Scenario 3

All students take out their tablets and pull up a screencast made by their teacher.  Students begin the exam and are independently working.   If they need assistance, they pop on the headphones, listen to the the screencast of the exam being read aloud, pause the video, and work on the test. They can listen to all the questions as they need them and as often as they wish.  All students move asynchronously through the test.  The teacher moves about the room watching students work on the exam.  What can be better than team teaching with yourself?

I was in the classroom with Meagan Cinfel, 1st grade teacher at Central Elementary School, on test day and was amazed at the shift the screencast made to learner independence.

“I have a student in my class that has huge test anxiety,” Cinfel said.   “She would literally cry when it came time to take a test.  When I got the iPads in my classroom, I knew that one way to help her and every other student was by recording myself reading the test.  By doing this, she was able to go at her own pace, pause the video if she needed more time, have limited distractions and rewind the video as many times as she needed.”

While independence was a planned success, there was also an unplanned success.

“I never thought that I had anxiety giving a test,” Cinfel said.   “After watching my students take a test independently with no distractions, I felt my demeanor change, too!”

The teacher was not on the only one with a different demeanor.

“I will never forget the smile on this student’s face the first time she finished the test by listening to the questions on the iPad,” Cinfel said.   “When I asked her, “How’d it go?” her quick response was “Great!! I usually get scared to take tests, but I feel really good about it now!”  Every time we take a test now, she always asks “Do we get to listen to the questions on the iPad?” Just that simple ten minute recording, that I can use every year, helped this student overcome the fear of test taking.”

Positive Outcomes
  1. Time saving and voice saving.
  2. A room full of independent test takers.
  3. Private differentiation for those who need the support.
  4. All students can work at their own pace without interruption.
  5. The teacher is now free to walk around and proctor the exam.
  6. Lessened text anxiety.


Create a screencast of yourself reading the test questions aloud leaving a few seconds between questions so students can pause the video, rewind, play again, and continue at their own pace.  

Share the screencast to students using iTunes, a LMS, or a link to a YouTube video.  

To check out Mrs. Cinfel's screencast, click HERE.

Software needed:
Screen-Cast-O-Matic (PC) or  Quick Time (Mac).   
You can find details on video creation tools  here.   

Written by Ann Feldmann

Monday, March 2, 2015

Talking Snowmen Appear When Technology and Pedagogy Meet

Students in Ms. Sara Zajicek’s first grade classroom at Fort Crook Elementary recently created talking snowmen.  How did this come to be? Digital tools brought this assignment to new levels when students took a piece of artwork, a great story, and combined it with ChatterPix. Here are the details.

  1. Students created their snowman art project.
  2. Students used the writing process to plan, draft, revise, and edit their work. They copied their final drafts onto their snowman art projects.

  1. Students practiced reading their stories out loud.
  2. Ms. Zajicek and Mrs. Feldmann recorded their snowman tales using the Chatterpix app.

  1. All the video were compiled into one iMovie for everyone to enjoy. Click HERE to watch the video

Lessons Learned
  1. Students loved to hear their recorded voices.
  2. When the videos were played back, students automatically self assessed and asked to redo their video if they deemed it not their best attempt.
  3. Students developed their fluency skills as they re-recorded the stories.
  4. Students were excited to read their stories and found this activity fun!
  5. It is easy to combine all the videos with iMovie and share as an unlisted video on YouTube.
  6. Students are eager to share their stories with their families and the world.

Bellevue Essential Objectives:

LA 1.2.1
Writing Process: Students will apply the writing process to plan, draft, revise, edit, and publish writing using correct spelling, grammar, punctuation, and other conventions of standard English appropriate for grade-level.

LA 1.1.4
Fluency: Students will develop accuracy, phrasing, and expression while reading a variety of grade-level print/digital text to support comprehension.

Chatter Pix


How have you used digital tools to enhance writing and fluency in your classroom?

Written by Ann Feldmann

Friday, February 13, 2015

5 Benefits to the Global Classroom

Connecting is common place for students today. Students connect to people everyday via social media, gaming, and YouTube   Why not tap these connectivity tools for your classroom.  Globalizing your classroom is beneficial because it allows you access to experts, raise multicultural awareness, give students an authentic audience, provide opportunities for cooperative learning, and create a magical classroom environment.   

Let’s look at five benefits to the global classroom.

1.  Expertise
Let’s face it, we all can’t know everything.  In these days of tightening budgets, field trips may not be an option.  A perfect solution is to bring the experts and experiences to your classroom. Allowing students to connect with experts not only allows them to hear what they have to say, but to be inquisitive and ask questions.  Whether you participate in a Mystery Skype, explore a museum by a virtual field trip, join a global project, or bring in an expert to your students via a Google Hangout,  you will see direct educational benefits from the learning from their experiences.    

2.  Multicultural Awareness
The second best thing to traveling to a new country is connecting with a country via a video conference.  Having a class discussion with two classrooms in different countries increases student perspective and allows all students to gain new insight.  While literature and videos are great ways to learn about new cultures and different languages, there is no replacement for face time with individuals actually living a different culture and speaking a different language. In addition, students gain a global perspective, understand time zones, can identify cities and countries around the world, and enjoy a first hand learning experience.  Connected teachers often hang a world map in their rooms and track their hangouts with thumbtacks. This map becomes a great talking point, is a visual reminder of their experiences, and an excellent way to keep track of all the connections made throughout the school year.  

3.  Authentic Audience
What is the value of an audience beyond the classroom teacher?  Motivation! I have witnessed students blossom into incredible readers and writers with an authentic audience waiting to read and comment on their work.  Globalizing your classroom with blogging is powerful.  Suddenly, not only does writing matter, but word choice and grammar do too.  Our students have enjoyed being partnered with sister blogging classrooms. With blogging partners, classrooms takes turns in the blogging and commenting process.  One day your classroom adds comments, and the next day you write blog posts!  It is incredibly validating for writers to receive meaningful comments from around the world. An easy way to start blogging with students it to use .  Amplify your student work and join with other blogging classrooms using the hashtag #comments4kids on Twitter.  

4.Cooperative Learning and Collaboration  
Global classrooms foster cooperative learning experiences for students.  One such global classroom idea is Mystery Skype / Hangout.  Students participate in a class challenge to determine the location of the other classroom.  Mystery Skype is global geography game.  By asking a series of yes/no questions, students narrow the location of the mystery classroom. The first classroom to guess correctly wins!  This activity taps into deductive reasoning skills, collaboration, and previous geography knowledge. The students gain confidence in their mapping, geography, and questioning skills as they partake in more and more of these activities.  You can read more about Mystery Skype in a previous blog post here.

5.  Curious and  Magical Classroom Environments
The ARCS model of technology integration says “lessons should increase students’ focus by using novel, surprising and out of the ordinary and uncertain events.  Effective techniques should stimulate a sense of wonder and maintain interest.”  The global classroom provides daily opportunities that raise curiosity and create magical learning moments.  One magical moment was when two high school Spanish classes connected for genuine Spanish speaking practice.  As the other students appeared on the screen, it was as if a UFO landed in front of the classroom. They were glued to the new people on the screen. Students fired off questions in Spanish and began a dialogue back and forth. They were curious to learn more about each other.  This created an authentic speaking environment with a classroom over 1500 miles away.  Suddenly grammar and vocabulary mattered.  It is important to have global learning activities on the calendar so students can look forward to the next time they travel outside the classroom walls and connect with others.

Globalizing the classroom gives your students access to the world’s expertise, an raises multicultural awareness, provides an authentic audience, allows for cooperative learning opportunities, and a creates magical learning environments.

Challenge yourself to participate in one global learning project this year.  Use these resources as a springboard to connecting your classroom globally.

  • Join a Google Community such as Connected Classroom

Let's celebrate global classroom success stories.  Share your global classroom experiences by adding a comment to this post.

Written by Ann Feldmann


Monday, February 9, 2015

The Media Center/ Library: Hub of Creativity and Collaboration

Creating a library/media center with learning spaces conducive to collaboration and communication is essential for the library/media center of today.  Today’s students use the library/media center as more than a place for research. It is a place to utilize books, media, and digital tools to create, collaboration, and discover.  The library/media center at Lewis and Clark Middle School is the heart of creativity. It is centrally located in the middle of the building for easy access by all classes. The addition of iPads and Mac Airs increased the strength of the heartbeat.

Pat Smith, Librarian/Media Specialist at Lewis and Clark Middle School, and Roxie Kelly, Library/Media para, have developed a culture that meets the unique needs of middle school students and teachers.  Reinventing the library/media center space has been accomplished at little or no cost.  Learning spaces can be created easily to accommodate large groups, small groups, and individual work.  While the expectations of learning are high, there is also an emphasis on creation, innovation and collaboration.  Students are encouraged to move around, group and regroup themselves, and share ideas while using all the resources the library/media center has to offer.

Using iPads in the library/media center is part of the culture at Lewis and Clark. Students and staff seamlessly weave technology into their daily routine. Teachers can and do expect students to use the iPads or laptops for research, most often using Destiny as the gateway to the Internet.

When developing lesson plans, teachers choose technology as an option for students to demonstrate their learning. iMovie, iMovie Trailer, Haiku Deck, Explain Everything, Pic Collage, Keynote, WebMD, Accelerated Reader and Destiny are some of the most used applications.  Along with all of the tools and resources available in the library/media center, there is a green screen studio, fondly named Studio 3B. Recently, Mr. Bradley, an English teacher, had his students recreate a play based on the Twilight Zone using the green screen app Doink and Studio 3B. Also, eighth grade language arts students created digital books about a favorite author with the app Book Creator.

Here are some impressive numbers on the utilization of technology:

iPad usage at Lewis and Clark for 1st semester during regularly scheduled classes exceeded 5300 students. Also, 332 students dropped into the library/media center during Guided Study to take AR quizzes and use the iPads for research and projects.

Desktop Lab 130 - 335 class periods
Desktop Lab 131 - 270 class periods
MacAir Cart A - 372 class periods
MacAir Cart B - 394 class periods

Out of 648 class periods available during 1st semester, 424 were scheduled with classes. Communication and collaboration between the media center staff and the teaching staff is encouraged and sought after. The primary reason we do not use Google Calendar or another online scheduling tool to schedule time in the media center/computer labs is so that we can have one to one conversations with the teachers. This enables us to delve into the needs of the individual teacher and inquire about what the library/media center can provide in terms of suggestions and support.

The above statistics translate to approximately 9800 students served during the 1st semester. These statistics do not include drop-ins, as students are not tracked in 9th period Guided Study or other periods of the day.

Regardless of the time of day, the library/media center is full of students collaborating and creating with a variety of resources.  The heart of the school beats strong and flows into all curricular areas.  How are you utilizing your media center?  How does your  librarian/media specialist establish a culture of creation and collaboration in your building?

Written by Jeanette Carlson (@mrsjcarlson), Ann Feldmann (@annfeldmann1), and Jennifer Krzystowczyk (@jennykbps) in conjunction with Pat Smith.