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 (@BLKlone) 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