Sunday, July 26, 2015

Digital Citizens are Global Citizens

I'm currently sitting outside (poolside to be exact) working on some digital citizenship curriculum for the beginning of the school year.  It's one of those evenings where the sky is just a million shades of beautiful, and you can almost see the curve of the Earth's atmosphere.

Which got me to thinking.  This world is a big ol' amazing place filled with learners of all ages, races, sizes, and shapes.  When we give our students the freedom that digital access should bring, we are not just shaping them as digital citizens, but global ones as well.

When I was in high school (circa 1997-2001), we were on the cutting edge of "distance learning."  I remember sitting in front of this ginormous, boxy television monitor sitting on the edge of my seat as we prepared to connect with another high school.  This was groundbreaking, Back to the Future-type of technology for us.  It was exciting and something that helped ignite my passion for what I do today.

These days, distance learning is at the touch of a button on any phone, tablet, laptop, etc.  It's no longer considered groundbreaking technology.  It

Today's students have heard the digital citizen spiel.  While I feel it is certainly an important conversation, I think we need to go broader.  Deeper.  Students need to feel and experience the sense that they are just one in billions of other people like themselves who are now connected in ways previously unimaginable.

We need to teach them that they are responsible. Responsible for embracing the opportunities they have to reach out and make a difference in their world.  They need to know they are connected. They need opportunities to go beyond their small inner circle of peers. They need to connect with all generations and races of people in meaningful conversation.  WE need to teach them to be considerate.  This is where those digital citizenship traits come into play, but even more than that...teach them to be aware of cultural and generational differences.

Finally, we need to show them that they are capable.  As a global citizen, they are capable of doing anything they put their mind to.  The resources are unlimited so long as we refrain from setting limits. The world is certainly theirs to explore.

Let's teach them how.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Successfully Implementing an Elementary Tech Club: Looking Back to Move Forward

A couple of years ago I (Tiffany) had a dream to start a tech club in our building.  At that time, our technology was fairly limited compared to what we have now, and it didn’t seem like a smart venture.  That was my excuse.

So last year in Atlanta for ISTE 2014, I spoke to another teacher who had successfully gotten one off the ground. I sure wish I remembered her name so I could thank her, but I sadly do not. Perhaps it was a combination of something she said with the mountain high you get when attending a conference like ISTE, but I came back to school last fall with a resolve.  To get a tech club up and running at Scottsburg Elementary. 

These ladies did a great job representing our Ninjas back home!
One year later, I am heading home after a whirlwind week of learning and sharing in Philly for ISTE 2015.  Only this time I took members of our tech club with me to share in a student showcase.  Wow.  It still feels totally surreal all that happened this week for both Brittany and myself.  Between our separate student showcases and our two posters presented together…I am mentally and physically exhausted in the very best of ways.  

I would love to say that the past year was perfect and that everything we did in club was awesome and amazing.  I really can’t, but if anyone ever says they are 100% perfect…they are either lying or…lying.  Anything worth doing is always hard work of course, and starting a tech club was just that.  It was a lot of hard work, some failures and flops, and stressful at times.  More than that though were the highlights.  The smiles and laughter, the successes, the progress, and the fun.  

So for anyone out there who may be considering a leap this fall and starting their own tech club, I leave for you the top ten things I learned this past year.  I also encourage you to visit our club website where you can find resources, project samples, and more.  I beg you to steal from me, learn from my mistakes, and otherwise use our club as a springboard for your own!  You won’t regret it!

Not all projects and/or ideas are going to work.  Relax.  Failure is a wonderful opportunity to teach and learn from the process together.  You'll make it better next time!

Plan A may not always work so be sure to have a Plan B, C, and sometimes D!  Inclement weather, project deadlines, scheduling conflicts all abound within the school year.  Make sure your parents know that schedules are always open to change!

Whatever rules and procedures you implement for your club, make sure you stay consistent with enforcing them.  Start club on time; end on time.  Period. 

Tech club members need to know that their academic life is of utmost importance.  Be vigilant in checking grades and behavior referrals.  Enlist the help of classroom teachers and administration.  Club should be something worthy of working their hardest. 

Spend time at the beginning of the year assessing your club members' strengths and weaknesses.  This gives you a starting point.  Each year you should find a greater knowledge base.  Then reflect.  What went well? What didn't?  What other opportunities can you take advantage of next year?

Whenever you can connect students with real-world experiences...DO!  Guest speakers, Skype sessions, field trips, etc. are all great ways to make the learning authentic and relevant. 

Use the power of digital tools like Remind and social media to keep your parents informed.  Any letters and formal communication can be sent via paper or LMS.  The key is to utilize as many avenues as possible and use them frequently.

People love to help and donate when they feel appreciated.  Whether you are asking for their time or for items like refreshments, be sure to thank them!

Tech club tends to draw students who may not always find a niche elsewhere.  Be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to connect with each club member throughout the year.  Interest surveys may be helpful so you can direct them to tech ventures they will appreciate. 

There's absolutely zero point in starting a club if the goal doesn't include having fun.  Play games, laugh together, share successes, and keep the atmosphere relaxed.  They've worked hard all day.  Club should be a time to have fun exploring and growing as learners together!

Questions? Comments?  Need more info?  Connect with me via Twitter, email, or comments below. 

Be sure to check out our Tech Ninja Weebly by clicking the image to the right!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


You asked, and we’re delivering ISTE 2015 followers!  As promised during our poster sessions, we are writing this post for YOU.  Below you will find ten of our favorite tools we use almost every week to foster creativity and engagement in our classrooms. Be sure to check through archived posts where these are spoken about at length!

These are also in absolutely NO order whatsoever!

PicCollage (FREE app)
This first grader created a PicCollage with photos
and videos of action verbs. 
Created as an app to allow normal people (let’s face it…teachers aren’t normal) the ability to mash several photos together to share on social media.  Teachers, being the devious sort we are, have pirated this app and made it work for them. Bonus is that students can add video in addition to photos.  Take student PicCollage products and incorporate them into their digital interactive notebooks using BookCreator!

Use it for: (Anything your imagination can dream up!)

  • Scavenger Hunts- Finding real-life examples of abstract concepts. 
  • Skill Sorts- Geometric Shapes, Nouns, Digraphs, short vowels, Types of Seeds/Rocks/Whatever, Fiction vs. Non-Fiction, and on and on.
  • Grammar- Photos and videos of students demonstrating parts of speech. 

ChatterKid, ChatterPics (FREE app)
Whoever created this app is a genius.  Not only is it engaging, but once again teachers have found ways to make this app functional in the classroom.  This app allows kids to take photos of real-life objects or grab photos from the web and make them come to life.  Kids get 30 seconds to record and then have the options to jazz up their creations with a variety of stickers, frames, filters, and text. Pair this app with their digital interactive notebooks to make them more authentic!

This cutie is creating a ChatterPix to share interesting facts
she gleaned from an informational text about Ireland.
Use it for: 

  • Recording facts they’ve learned from informational text.  Ex. A book about elephants…grab a photo of an elephant and make it talk about itself!  Make this part of an animal project where students create a QR zoo for their peers to enjoy!
  • 30 second retellings.  Get them down the main idea of a text in 30 seconds or less!
  • Phonics fun.  30 seconds to name as many words in a phoneme family and more!
  • Spelling shorts.  Have them spell as many words as they can in 30 seconds!

Book Creator (paid app)
 Click Me to Find out How!Yes, this app is paid.  BUT…if you’re going to buy one app that will totally revolutionize your classroom…buy this one!  We're going to link you to our lengthy blog post about how to create interactive notebooks using this favorite.  Some of its best features are its workflow capabilities.  There are many options for sharing out including iBooks, ePub/video/PDF files, and more. You won’t regret it! 

Click the app image to the right to go to that blog post!

GoNoodle (web-based)
Want to cut down on wasteful transitions?  Kids stuck inside for recess for days on end?  Need a solution for PE when you just ran out of creative steam for the week?  Want to just have a little F-U-N? GoNoodle is your solution.  This database will be a kid and teacher favorite in no time as they sing, chant, dance, balance, and otherwise exercise their way through quick, engaging brain break activities.  Have a favorite YouTube educational video you enjoy? Add it to your personal account and never spend precious time searching for it again.  Our personal faves?  Anything by the KooKooKangaroo guys.  

BrainPop & BrainPop Jr. (paid subscription, web-based)
This is our go-to for short, engaging, content-rich videos created solely for kids.  Bump it up by taking the hard or short quizzes, playing the related games, or checking out the Storymapping component.  At this time, story mapping is only available for BrainPop, but GOOD NEWS!  Brittany and I were a part of a focus group at ISTE that got to see and give input on this feature for BrainPop Jr.  Trust us…you’re going to LOVE it!  Even if you can’t snag a paid subscription, students can take advantage of the Movie of the Day! You might just luck out!

Coding for Kids (web-based & app platforms)
Coding and programming continues to be a hot word in the edtech community.  Why? Understanding the process behind and using the critical thinking skills it requires allows kids to expand on not just their tech-savvy, but their creativity as well.  If you’re afraid that you just don’t know enough about coding to teach kids…stop worrying.  These no-fail websites will have your kids from zero to coding in minutes.  We also encourage you to call in the experts on this one, too.  Skype or bring in a coder/programmer.  Let kids see a neat perspective on why knowing computer language is important to them!  

Oh…even the littlest of learners can get into this! 

Try out: (app version as well)
or the HopScotch app

Allowing students voice and choice in what information is important to them is a powerful way to engage.  We like the free app Voice Record Pro, but also check out BossJock or Garage Band for more technical endeavors.  Create digital “newsletters” for your parents through the kids’ perspective.  Tip:  Allow them to listen to several different types of podcasts out there so they can hear what’s out there.  

Toca Builders (paid app)
Warning: Toca Builders is
HIGHLY engaging!
This kid-friendly version of Minecraft allows students a whole world of creation and fun.  We’ve even used it to do spelling, addition/subtraction stories, and more!  Have students build a layout of the school or redesign a playground.  The possibilities for creative play are endless. 

iMovie (paid app)
This is one of those heavy-hitter apps that is so versatile regardless of student age and ability.  This is a great app to smash with others that we’ve mentioned above or ones like keynote, DoodleBuddy (for illustrations), and more, This tool is great for project products or fun. Try out the Trailers option to connect with literacy!   

A step-by-step tutorial “how-to” post is coming soon detailing how to use this app with kids. Student samples will be included. Be sure to check back!

Stop Motion Animation
We certainly don’t do stop motion animation projects every week, but when we do…kids love them!  There are a variety of tutorials available on YouTube that will walk you through the process regardless of the medium or tech tool your kids have access to.  For us, the intermediate ages can handle iMovie (easier if accessing Mac version vs. the app).  The smaller kids use the app MyCreate.  There is a lite version if you want to check it out first.  This is much more kid-friendly.  You may also check out iMotion. 

We hope you found a tip, trick, tool, or two that ignites an idea to use in your classroom.  Connect with us below in the comments or via Twitter if you want more!  We'd love to hear what YOU want to read about!