Monday, June 29, 2015

Monday Made It - June 29

Happy summer, everyone! I'm linking up with Tara and the other wonderfully creative teachers at 4th Grade Frolics for this Monday Made It.
The Made It that I am probably most proud of is our teacher staff videos we have done for the past 3 years.  Each year we end the school year with a student talent show.  We used to end with a teacher dance number that the kids always loved.  

The past three years, however, I have organized a fun video for the kids and parents.  The most fun part for me is hearing the reaction of the kids (and teachers) as the video is played.  (This year, they were so loud I could barely hear the music!) Since I record and edit all of the video, I get to see all of the footage before everyone else  which means it's a surprise. 

We have used this video also as a special send off for our retiring or leaving staff members who we always try to showcase in some way.  As you'd expect, it typically gets posted all over Facebook and other social media so it becomes a neat shared experience for the whole school community.  Here was the video we shared this year.

You might recognize this as our version of the famous Evolution of Dance. What?  You've never seen it?!?  Well, it's posted below.  We are hoping to catch up to his 290 million views!

Our video we did the previous year was to the song "Happy."  Stay tuned for the end to watch the bloopers.

Our first staff video was to the viral video hit "Call Me Maybe" with a surprise ending using "Harlem Shake."

As many people have done, I have used some of my summer to finish and update some of my products on TpT.  This was one of my most popular, but it was also one of my first products so I decided to spruce up the design a bit.  I also changed about 10 of the questions so there was better alignment and balance with the Common Core standards.


The cool part is that the answers can be used to fill in this secret code joke!

This was my weekend TpT project.  I am a big fan of Learn Zillion.  I have used LZ over the past couple years in many different ways.  Most commonly, I would give students videos to watch for homework ahead of my introduction of a skill - preteaching the skill, if you will.  The problem I had with the videos initially was that there wasn't any really assessment to go along with it for me to gauge the students' understanding of the concept (or to check that the student actually watched the videos in the first place).  Hence, I developed these Learn Zillion Practice Packets. They are great for more than homework.  They can work well if you have a sub, if a student was absent for a lesson, if you want students to work independently at a math station, or for those looking to try a "flipped" classroom.  

This product is currently half price ($1.75)

So, my son and some of our friends planned a 4 day overnight backpacking trip at the start of summer.  Unfortunately, the weather and the conditions of the trails where we had initially planned to hike was not ideal for us or our first time backpacker friends (bad mosquitoes, uncleared and poorly marked trails, rattle snakes, thunderstorms).  So, we called an audible and decided to hike the safer/shorter/less snake infested trails around Mohican State Park in central Ohio.  
 Here we are at the parking area by Pleasant Hill Dam where we started hiking.  (I'm not in the picture because some one had to take it.) 

The long stairway down to the trail head which follows roughly along the Clear Fork Mohican River.

The pink line shows roughly where we hike in the first day, minus some backtracking that we did.

Despite choosing an "easier" backpacking option, the hike was actually much more challenging than we anticipated.  Despite having three different maps to refer to, we had trouble finding the access areas to the different trails.  (I won't say we were "lost").  To be on the safe side, we actually hiked on roads for a time to make sure we made it to the right area.  By the time we got to our campsite 9 miles later, we were very tired and running low on water and there was no water source there.  The river, while relatively close to us, was down several hundred feet of steep terrain making it effectively inaccessible to us.

  The next day at our campsite, ready to hike to the state campground.

 Oh yea, enough backpacking stories, what did I make, right?  How about these cool firestarters.  When wood is sometimes damp, its great to pack something like this that burns hot for a long time.  We tried them on this trip and they worked fantastic!

Here's the video that taught me how to make them.

 Thanks for reading! See you again soon!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

My Experiences Starting a School Technology Club

I'm linking up with one of my favorite blogs, Teaching Trio for this week's post.  Its been a while, but I'm hoping to get back to blogging over my summer break.
Whitehouse Tech Club Members  Photo credit:Karen Gerhardinger The Mirror

This year I had a group of students that inspired me to do something that I had been thinking about for a long time.  For years I have wanted to start a technology club so I could show kids some of the cool things they could do to be creative with technology.  In November last year, I gained permission from my principal and superintendent to start the Whitehouse Technology Club, an after school club for 3rd and 4th graders.  I'd like to share with you some of the things we did in our club in the hopes that it might help others who are looking to start something like this at your school.  Being that this was my first year doing this, I learned a lot and I hope that sharing this experience can be worthwhile for someone.

I started by developing a proposal for my principal and district superintendent about the intent of the club.  Both administrators were very supportive and allowed me to use district space (my classroom) and computers/iPads for use in the club.  The goals of the club were to create and collaborate using technology. I wanted the focus of the club to be about kids making things together using technology rather than simply being consumers of tech.  Many of the students were initially drawn to the idea of playing games (like Minecraft) with their friends, but I tried to make it clear that we would be doing much more than that.

To join the club, students had to complete and return a parent permission slip and also create and share a google presentation with me explaining why they wanted to be in the club.  To keep submissions low, I only gave one week to return the permission slip and prepare the slideshow.  Since I was doing this club on a volunteer basis, I was initially planning on holding a meeting once a month for one hour after school.  I was expecting maybe 15-20 applications.  When all 50 of the permission slips were picked up in the office, I knew I had greatly underestimated the demand for the club.  When I collected the forms before Thanksgiving break, I was stunned to find 56 completed permission slips. 

This presented a problem for me.  Obviously, this was far too many students to teach in just one group.  As a result, I decided that rather than exclude students or "choose" the best presentations that I would split the students into a 3rd grade and a 4th grade group and instead hold meetings twice a month.

December Tech Club  Meeting
Project: All About Me Poster

So what did we do in our tech club?  Our first meeting was a get to know meeting.  I used the first few minutes to introduce myself and to lay out the expectations for the group - be kind, listen/follow directions, and be picked up on time.  Then I demonstrated for the students how to use google drawing to make an "All About Me" style poster.  I used the google add-on Doctupus (I'll try to blog on this great tool at some time later) to share a template file for all the students.  Then I created a demo poster for myself while showing the students how to use all of the tools. 

Students created these step by step along with me and then finished them at home to share for the next meeting. You can see all of the posters they made here.


Since adding images was a important element of this project, part of this demo included showing students how to do a better google search for images.

Video:  How to do a better google image search

I also created a video tutorial to show students some things I didn't have time to show them during our first meeting, like adding backgrounds and "call outs."

Video: How to add a background
Video: how to Add a "call out"
After doing these videos, I realized that creating how-to videos was a great way of showing students how to do something without taking valuable meeting time.  It was also much less time-consuming than answering student questions via a lengthy e-mail.  So, as students posed questions, I'd create a "quick" how-to video to show them the steps.  I put quick in quotes because sometimes a simple 5 minute video would actually take 30 or 40 minutes to prepare, record and post.  

Here's my advice on making how to videos:
  • Do a dry run, but video it just in case you nail it in the first try. 
  • I hardly ever got them right the first time.  Expect to do 2 or 3 "takes" unless you aren't that picky about mistakes or make less mistakes than me.  
  • If most of the video was good, sometimes it was easier for me to do a quick video edit or to add some clarification text at the bottom rather than redoing the entire video.
  • Take a few notes or make an outline as a reminder of what you want to say so you can cover everything in the most logical way.
  • Keep the videos short (3-5 minutes).  Rather than trying to cover 3 or 4 different skills, break them into 3 or 4 videos.  You'll have less mistakes, and it will be easier for your students to find exactly what they need help doing.
  • I use the Mac app Screen Record Pro, but there are a lot of free options out there.  Just google search "free screen record application" and you'll get lots of choices.  
  • If you don't want to post and share videos using Youtube, you can simply add the video to your Google Drive and share with all of the members of the group that way.
Creating videos was a great way to share information with the club members.  As I accumulated more and more of these, I created a whole page of "How to" videos on our Tech Club Website.  This year, I hope these will be an easy resource for the new tech club members.
Sometimes the students would do something really cool that I had not tried or did not know how to do, and I would ask them to make a how to video to share with the club.  They loved this!  

Sorry, I couldn't link this video, but its on the WTC page if you want to check it out.
I finished the first meeting by talking with the parents and students as they arrived to pick up their kids to let them know my expectations for the group and what we had learned that day.  We  also talked about that month's optional at home projects.  We would share progress on these projects at the next meeting.

Our December project: 
  • Finish "All About Me" poster using google drawing
Optional December projects: