Thursday, May 29, 2014

Pages, The Most Under-Utilized App Ever

I am a huge fan of Pages.  I haven’t used Word in over five years now and I can honestly say that there is no huge gaping hole in my life.  Quite the opposite!  I can do things in the Pages App that my fellow Word users have no idea how to do.  When people ask me, “what’s the difference?” or they say “so it’s like Word?”.  I have to remind myself to close my mouth so the flies don’t get in and breath in ten seconds to calm myself.  
Seriously, Pages is an application that allows you to create the most beautiful documents with layers of shapes, texts, videos, links, and graphics.  It is so intuitive it only took 10 minutes for a group of 4th graders to start creating a newspaper article on it!  
The best way to think about working in pages is to understand layers.  If you’ve ever worked in Adobe’s tedious Illustrator you understand layers.  If you haven’t you just have to think about layering up shapes with colors and texts to create pretty documents.  One of my favorite things to do with Pages is to create a document, PDF it, load it up to Google Drive, and then share it out via Twitter or shared settings.  
While Google is awesome, it is still lacking the amazing formatting options available in Pages.  It doesn’t matter if I am creating on my iPad with the Pages app or on my laptop in Pages. Furthermore, with the latest OS updates, you can now share a link to your working document and collaborate in real time with whomever you invite. It is as simple as drag and drop, resize, turn, mask, and type. Text boxes work best if you are working with lots of graphics and the paragraph styles drawer lets you optimize formatting easily and quickly.  Sorry, Word, but you are just never entering my work flow in the future.  Oh and Google, you could learn a few tricks from Apple on this one!

Written by Jenny Krzystowczyk

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Augmented Reality - Famous Nebraskans Come to Life

I have been intrigued with Augmented Reality (AR) since the Ed Tech Teacher conference I attended last April in Atlanta and subsequent discussions with my colleague Jenny Krzystowczyk (@jennykbps).  I was reinvigorated to dig deeper into AR after a GHO with Sue Gorman (@sjgorman) with our iPad Academy.

What is Augmented Reality? Augmented Reality (AR) allows you to connect the physical world to the  digital world! Auras can be added to almost any physical object.  Then, using the Aurasma app, users scan over the image or object and the aura will launch to something out of Harry Potter's World.  Bulletin boards, desk, doors, and objects in the room can have a hidden aura waiting to be revealed.

One of the iPad Academy Teachers I coach, Courtney Smeby (@coachsmeby) was telling me her students have a test over Famous Nebraskans coming up and an AR spark inside me was lit! I told her my vision of creating a "talking wall" of Famous Nebraskans using the Tellagami and Aurasma apps inspired by Michelle Klamm's @klammlovesmnm wall of app auras.  She loved the idea, so I went to work.

It took a good two weeks to put this project together. I learned a lot in the process, especially about all the nuances of Aurasma Studio!  Once complete, I was thrilled to bring the finished project to the 4th graders!

It was a magical experience for both the students and their teacher, Mrs. Smeby.  They were in awe over the auras! It was so fun to use the iPad to "discover" the hidden videos which made studying so much more engaging and productive.   They came out into the hallway in small groups and chose which auras to reveal.  I just soaked up their joy as they learned history from the auras of Famous Nebraskans.  Studying with the "amazing auras"  made the Famous Nebraskan's come to life and was an awesome. An added bonus was students were up and moving! You  can check it out.  My public Aurasma channel is: Famous Nebraskans.

Here is what went into the creation process:

Steps 1 and 2 - Creating the content.  You need a "trigger image" and an "overlay" for Aurasma.

1.  I saved a high resolution image of each Famous Nebraskan to a folder on my computer. These become the trigger images.

2.   I worked with a team of two middle school students to create all the Tellagami's videos for the project.  They e-mailed the Tellagmi videos to me and I put them in a folder on my computer Famous Nebraskan videos. These become the overlays.

Steps 3 and 4 - Getting Geeky with TAR files 

Note: If you are uploading fewer than 10 images/videos, you an skip steps 3 and 4

If you plan to upload more than 10 Auras, I recommend zipping the files and uploading the bulk files to Aurasma Studio.  Aurasma Studio only takes .TAR folders, so you need to download the software 7-Zip on a PC or Gui TAR on a MAC.

3.  Download and install the software.

4. Create a TAR folder of images and videos.

Steps 5-6 - Aurasma Studio: Creating Accounts and Channels

5.  Create an account at Aurasma Studio .

6.  Create a public channel. This will allow others to scan your trigger images to reveal the overlay.

Steps 7-8- Aurasma Studio: Uploading TAR files

7.  Upload the pictures

First create a folder within Trigger Images for your project photos. I named my folder Famous Nebraskans.
  • Click on Trigger Images. Click Add --> Bulk Upload --> Browse for your TAR folder of images.
8. Upload the videos
First create a folder within Overlays  for your project photos. I named my folder Famous Nebraskans.
  • Click on Overlays. Click Add --> Bulk Upload --> Browse for you image TAR folder.
Note: If you want to upload the files individually, click Add and browse for the files.

Steps 9-10 - Aurasma Studio:  Linking the Trigger Image to the Overlays

9.  Click on the first trigger image.

10.  Click the Aura tab.

Fill in the name, select the trigger image, select the channel.
Click the + to add an overlay and scroll down and select the one you would like to add to the image.

11. Click Save.

Continue to follow steps 9-11 for each trigger image and overlay.  In the Aura column, you will see a number appear once it is ready to go.

Steps 11-13 - iPad Time

11.  Print off the Trigger Images and hang them around the room or on a poster. For this project, I glued the images on a big sheet of butcher block paper.

12.  Open the Aurasma App on the iPad.  Search for the public channel you created, in my case, Famous Nebraskans. Follow the channel.

Note: If you do not follow the channel, the auras will not scan.

13.  Select the scan icon and scan the images and watch the magic happen!

Written by Ann Feldmann

Monday, May 19, 2014

Operation Read 2014

327 students on 68 teams representing all 15 elementary schools in Bellevue Public Schools  gathered at the Lied Center on Thursday, May 8 for the annual Operation Read contest.  This academic contest which started out years ago as a friendly competition between two schools has grown into a major culminating event for many students in grades 4, 5, and 6.
In the fall, students began by reading books from the Golden Sower list, which is the Nebraska children’s choice award list. After reading the books, teams of 3 to 6 students formed and started preparing for the May contest in earnest.  With the help of librarians, teachers, and parents, teams studied the books and practiced answering questions. Each school was allowed to have up to six teams with a total of 30 students involved.
During the contest, answers were recorded electronically using clickers.  Students immediately knew if they were correct.  Their detailed knowledge of the books was incredible. By the end of two rounds, the atmosphere at the Lied was electric as students waited to see if they were in the final round.
This year 11 teams competed in the final round. After 10 very difficult questions, it came down to a sudden death contest between teams from Belleaire and Birchcrest.  Both teams matched answers point for point until the 4 question. At that point, Birchcrest answered correctly and Belleaire did not, making Birchcrest the winning school.  Both teams received medals and the coveted traveling trophy will reside at Birchcrest until the next contest.

Students on the 2nd place Belleaire team were:
Stephanie Hernandez
Felicia Perez-Magrans
Jaylor Whetstone
Anthony Wiglusz
Paige Wilson

Students on the winning Birchcrest team were:
Nikki Beaulieu
Breck O'Grady
Kelsie McBlain
Jack Mettin
Breonna Gill

Their coach, Mr. David McBain, Kelsie’s grandfather, practiced with them 3 times a week for 3 months.

Congrats to all the students who participated!

Written by Terry Osborn, guest blogger