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