Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Looking Back and Jumping Forward

You may have noticed a lag in posts for a couple of months...we sure did!

(Tiffany will take a lot of the blame as she went back to work after a three month maternity leave!)

Here are a few things we were up to in the edtech world outside of our in-class responsibilities:

2015 Spring Blogger Meet-up in French Lick, IN

We were fortunate to escape for a two night get away sharing and learning with over 100 amazing, blogging educators from all over the United States.  We were able to share our quick tips and tricks in three table sessions during the event.  Always a pleasure!

From Left: Tiffany (holding Baby Micah), Brittany, and friend/blogger Marissa  Zimmer.
Photo taken at the French Lick Resort, French Lick, IN. (Hometown of Larry Bird!)
GoNoodle Headquarters 

Brittany was fortunate to tour the GoNoodle Headquarters in Nashville, TN with a small group of educators and bloggers.  The features coming soon are brilliant!

What a dream place to work! We can't wait for all of the new features to roll out!
Indiana Department of eLearning Science/Social Studies Digital Writing Cohort

We are currently writing digital content for the Indiana Department of eLearning with 22 other educators across the state of Indiana.  At our first meeting, we got to meet State Superintendent, Glenda Ritz!

Superintendent Ritz was extremely inspirational and very supportive of the eLearning movement!

That's where we've's where we WILL be coming soon!  

Presenters: June 9th iPossibilities Center Grove, IN

Spotlight Speakers: June 23rd & 24th Digipalooza Scottsburg, IN

Poster Session Presenter: June 28-31  ISTE Philadelphia, PA

We will add dates as we add them! Unfortunately many conferences are happening while our school is still in session due to snow days.

Oh...and we promise more posts now that things have calmed down! 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Facilitating Creativity: Relinquishing Control

I was mid-conversation with a colleague today about the evolution of projects in the classroom when I had a revelation. Often teachers cling to their tried and true classroom projects and assignments not for the fear of change so much as for the fear of relinquishing control.  Bingo.

Our society still embraces the old school picture of a classroom.  Desks neatly in rows facing the front of the classroom where a smartly dressed teacher writes clean, even handwriting.  Students intently watch the teacher and copy her every stroke into their crisp, spiral bound notebooks filled with meticulously and laboriously taken notes about a subject.

I used to be that teacher.

Now on a happy day, students are digging up earthworms which dangle from their little hands as they smile for the photo their classmate is taking of them.  Special areas around the room are filled with busy learners wearing headphones listening to informational text about any number of high-interest content. Still yet, a few learners are singing silly rhymes while a buddy records them.  I am usually flitting from group to group.  Checking in.  Asking questions.  Every now and then I stop the class and say something like, "Boys and girls! Everyone take a look at what he's doing here!"

Sometimes I wonder what the hallway passerby must think about my class.  It's funny how the word "structure" can be both a compliment and a negative.  I'd like to call my class structured, but in more of a 21st Century way.  We are busy, but everyone has a task to do.  Students are chatting, but engaged.  I have essentially two "silent" times in my day...independent reading and the minute and a half it takes during timed tests.  That's a glorious minute and a half.

Yet within all that busy-ness and movement, students are learning.  Sure they are learning important content deemed necessary by the powers that be in the state house, but more than that...they are learning HOW to learn. They are the experts, and I drive them and push them toward becoming independent learners who seek out their own outcomes.  It's not because I'm too lazy.  Heavens no. I don't have the luxury of laziness.  It's just that I want THEM to have control of their learning.

Here's why.  The world is changing more rapidly now than ever before in the history of the earth.  Technology created today is already on its way to becoming outdated tomorrow.  Yet if I teach students the crucial business of LEARNING, this doesn't matter.  If they have the skills of analyzing, making connections, and seeking answers...they will SUCCEED!

That's why we need to take a step back.  Analyze our own need to formulate our students' learning experiences so exquisitely that we miss the point.  It isn't about checking off all of the little boxes and making 15 slides in a Keynote presentation to our liking.  It's about giving them the freedom to create.  Mess up.  Discover.  Wonder.  Be unique.

Because within that process, we will find that we have truly succeeded in facilitating something much greater than we ever hoped for.


Monday, April 20, 2015

Digital Interactive Notebooks: Spruce Up Your Literacy Instruction

If there is one digital tool that's become our go-to this school year, it's been Book Creator.  Last summer we were researching ways to incorporate digital interactive notebooks into our literacy blocks.  All of our research kept pointing us back to Book Creator!

Originally we relied upon graphic organizers as our sole-source of material for these notebooks, but the ways in which they have evolved has been amazing. With traditional interactive notebooks, students create hands-on pieces that involve a lot of coloring, cutting, and gluing.  The purpose is that their work becomes not only three dimensional in look and feel, but that the learning itself goes deeper.  That's exactly what we wanted to achieve with our digital versions.  Simply annotating graphic organizers was not enough for us or our students.

As the year has progressed, we began to incorporate more and more into our weekly notebooks. Students often inspired these additions as well as discovery of new apps to utilize. Students are now including photographs, images, etc. from KidRex, recording video of themselves completing fluency tasks, photographing station work, incorporating ChatterKid images, and much more.

This is what a student page may look like before:

Anytime students can find or take real-time photos, it connects themselves to the text in a meaningful way.
Incorporating multiple apps within Book Creator is a major plus.
This page asks students to use ChatterKids to make the Fox speak!
Students take photos or record videos of themselves throughout the week at station.
This makes grading a breeze as well as presents instant accountability for the student. 

Eye-pleasing covers make it fun! 
So how do we build these interactive notebooks?  How do the students receive them?  How do we check their work?  

1) Building the Notebook

We choose to build our notebooks from our laptops using Keynote, but whatever you may use (PowerPoint, Photoshop, etc.) will certainly work!  We build each slide using a variety of graphics that make the page pleasing to the student.  Sometimes we choose to go full color, and other times we leave a little more white space for creation.  This really depends on the project as well as the time limits we are working with!  Many of our pages are created from scratch at this point, but we also incorporate quality work we may find elsewhere such as TPT.  Teaching is all about cheating as they say...if someone has already done it well...why reinvent the wheel?

Each week we incorporate a variety of literacy tasks including, but not limited to:

Fluency (have students read a passage while recording themselves)
Comprehension (graphic organizers that utilize photographs, drawings, text, etc.)
Text-to-self/world Connections
Station Work

Once we have built the slides we want to add to their digital notebooks, we export the slides as images.  This is easily done by going to File then Export to...  Select Images.  This will prompt you to save your images.

In order to begin the next step, you will need to save your image files to a storage system easily accessible on your iPad.  We like GoogleDrive, but you may also like other cloud-based apps like DropBox.

You will need to open and save these image files to your Camera Roll on your iPad before beginning the next step.

2) Building the Book Creator Book

From your iPad, open the Book Creator app and select New Book.

We prefer the Landscape format as it seems to fit our Keynote slide images perfectly.

From here, creation is easy.  On each page, click the + sign and choose camera roll.  Select the image you would like the students to work on for each page of their notebook.

Resizing is easy accomplished by dragging one corner of the image to fit the screen.

Once you have added all of your images, you are ready to share the book with your students!

2.) Workflow

Select the "share box" as we call it (the box with the arrow shooting out of the top) to export.

You should see what you typically use to share, expedite, or "push" files to students.  Again, we use eBackpack.  Note that iBooks is an option. This is great if you ever want students to publish their work for parents or beyond!

Book Creator will automatically save your creation as an .epub file.  Note that size may become an issue you have loaded your eBook with video files.  Sometimes we incorporate learning videos from BrainPop or other sources for students to view.

Students will simply open the file from your workflow app of choice (Drive, eBackpack, etc.) directly into Book Creator.  When they have completed their work for the week, they will simply follow the same procedures you did above to send it back to you! We love the ease of checking their work quickly at week's end by flipping through their digital notebooks!

3.) Student Creation

We utilize these digital interactive notebooks throughout the literacy block.  Sometimes students add along as we create a class anchor chart (they can even take a photo and annotate with you!), use them during stations (anytime they can record themselves, it's instant engagement), document fluency, and so much more! As you use them more and more, you will discover new and exciting ways to engage your students in literacy tasks!

Above and Below:
Connecting Literacy and Science after reading, "It Looked Like Spilt Milk."

Comprehension Skill: Drawing a photo of the main character.
Resource courtesy: Tech with Jen K-2 Interactive Notebooks
Recording fluency practice to add to their digital Interactive Notebooks. 
Drawing via DoodleBuddy then added to their digital interactive notebook.
This was after reading "Alexander and the Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day."
Question, "What does a bad day look like to you?"  
Students have many options when annotating directly in Book Creator.
This one loves the camera...instant engagement.
Text-to-Self connections using thought-bubbles.  
Sharing our work with Dads during our annual Donuts with Dads event.
We take ownership in our own learning. 
This is a sample page of where a student may add their fluency video.
We incorporate their fluency text for easy access.
Resource courtesy Christine DeCarbo April Fluency Just Print Pack.

We hope that this post has inspired you to take a new look at the possibilities technology can bring to your literacy block through digital interactive notebooks!  These have truly revolutionized both the workflow and engagement in our classrooms!  Let us know if we can help you further!