Monday, January 31, 2022

It's a Comic!

First time in a long time that I made a comic in Pixton! It was super simple, easy enough for even kids to use!

The week three challenge in the Google Educator Group of Michigan Tech Challenge was to create a comic with Pixton, and I loved revisiting this tool. There are so many ways that using comics in the classroom can enhance learning for kids and teachers alike. From creating graphic novels, which require concise and deliberate word choice to convey a message, to depicting science experiments, I have yet to meet someone who is not a fan of creating their own comics.

Check out the Teacher's Guide to Tech, it is very handy to have on hand!

Pixton has a one week free trial, and pricing for individual teachers and classroom by the month or by the year. You can also get a quote for school-wide use. Login is simple with Google or Microsoft (or even Facebook for older kids) making this tool great to integrate into teaching and learning.

Friday, January 28, 2022

Westward Ho!

When I was in the classroom, the 4th grade immigration unit was one of my favorites. Exploring the impact of other cultures and histories on our life and community fascinated me, and my students.

Every year, as part of their studies on the great state of Michigan, our 4th graders dive into Westward Expansion. They explore the concepts of movement, immigration and emigration, and challenges people faced as they ventured into their new lives.  There are many tech components to this unit that I love, one of my favorites being what the kids got to (finally) explore - The Oregon Trail! No, we're not talking the new fangled version, we're talking the Trail of the good ole' days. And thanks to a MECC simulator on the Internet Archive, they're playing just like I played when I was in 4th grade!


You get to go through the same experience - choosing your profession, the time to travel, and setting up your wagon party. Decisions must be made about items to purchase, how fast to travel, and how satisfying to make the meals. Fred broke a leg? Harry has dysentery? Whatever will you do?  

This year, though, the teachers found an addition to the experience - an Oregon Trail pre-game simulation, where the kids had to talk through their options and make a decision on each of the choices they would be exposed to in the game. They were then awarded points based on their answers. This activity prepared them for the game on a new level - they knew what they were getting into, they were able to make more informed choices, and both of those things only enhanced the fun of the play!

Well? What are you waiting for? Go waste some time revisiting childhood on The Oregon Trail!



Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Thinglink

Have you ever seen an image that has different places in which to click? Then you click one of those places on the image and it takes you to a video, another image, a website, or other text? Have you wondered how it was created?

Wonder no more!

While there are a few tools that do this, my favorite is Thinglink.

Thinglink is straightforward and intuitive, making using the platform easier than others. In a nutshell, once you login (Google is an option!) you choose the type of interactive "thing" you want to use.  Then you upload your image, click edit, and start tagging.


The possibilities for use are pretty limitless! We've used it to create interactive "Who Am I?" posters in upper grades, with kids linking images, sites, and quotes that represent them. We've used it to create interactive images for teaching. We've used it to create an interactive map, where clicking on one of the cities takes you to a writing piece about that location.

Not only is it a very useful resource to have in your toolbox, it's kind of fun, too!

So? What are you waiting for? Go make your free account and start linking those things!

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Friday, January 21, 2022

Math Is EVERYwhere!

Earlier this week, a first grader asked why we seem to be playing so many math apps during tech time. I told her that it's because everything, everything, EVERYthing is math! The answer satisfied her curious mind, and so I proceeded to introduce the new math app for the week.

The truth is, math is one of the simplest subjects in which to integrate technology. There is a plethora of math apps solely for fact practice (some rock, some sink) and there are even more apps that work in the problem solving realm. In my head, knowing problem solving is a critical skill, I strive to find engaging ways in which kids can practice.

Some of my favorite math apps are (in no particular order!)

Mystery Math Museum

Mystery Math Town

King of Math and King of Math Jr

Tiggly Addventure and Tiggly Chef Subtraction

Fetch Lunch Rush

Math Ninja AR

Math Brix

Math Doodles

The majority of these are problem solving games that reinforce basic math facts, all with a little twist. Math Ninja AR and Fetch Lunch Rush use physical movement to engage the kids. Mystery Math Museum and Mystery Math Town incorporate a story and (obviously) mystery element. King of Math and King of Math Jr are great for logic exploration at all levels. Math Brix brings in the good ole' fashioned lego blocks to supplement. Math Doodles is a personal favorite, because it takes me back to the fun of a game we used to have in the computer lab back in the day, Math Arena, and because it's doodle style imagery and animation make it memorable for kids exploring concepts like symmetry, angles, and more.

In addition (notice the math pun!), if you have access to an Osmo kit, their math games are unsurpassed - Numbers, Tangrams, and the newer, Math Wizard sets, make screen-time tangible!

As an aside, the game we played in first grade this week was called Math X Creature. To help make direct connections to their math lessons, the kids first completed a practice activity in Seesaw. I created it using screenshots from the game, and then we walked through the slides together to practice. It made the game waaayyyy smoother for the kids to play! I love the game because it is self-correcting, and it challenges the kids to think differently as the work through their math facts.

Yes, most of these are iPad and tablet apps, but some have versions that work on the web, so definitely consider spending some play-time exploring!

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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

It's Here! It's Here! The 2022 Teacher's Guide to Tech!

For the past several months, me and a team of four other fantastic (female!) tech educators have been working with Jennifer Gonzalez (yes, *that* Jennifer Gonzalez, of Cult of Pedagogy) on her annual publication of the Teacher's Guide to Tech.

And it's finally here!

It has been so much fun working on the Guide - checking all the tools that were previously included to ensure the descriptions and images are still accurate representations of the tool. Then, checking all the video links to make sure they still worked, replacing them with updated links where possible.

The next step was reviewing new tool suggestions that have been collected over the past year. Some were amazing additions, some were already in the guide, and some need another year to grow (and were stowed away for a revisit next year!)

All sorts of behind-the-scenes magic happened next, cross checking links, creating the reference section, the index, and so on. It was a lot of work.

And it's finally here!

Do yourself a favor and head on over to The Teacher's Guide to Tech and grab a copy! Listen to the podcast while you're at it, and you'll hear me and the rest of the incredible Tech Guide team sharing our favorites from this year's guide!

P.S. Be sure to follow Cult of Pedagogy on Twitter for all sorts of tidbits throughout the year!

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Monday, January 17, 2022

A Day to Celebrate Double!

Today was a doubly celebratory day. It is unusual to have both a secular holiday and a religious holiday on the same day!  We honored the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and we celebrated Tu Bishvat, the birthday of the trees, and we kicked off this special day with a school-wide assembly.

The rest of the day was a special day of learning.  From learning about the seven species and shmita, to Dr. King's legacy and his impact in today's society.

Artwork created by 1st - 4th grade students.
Dr. King's Portrait done by our amazing Mr. Bugelli!

Over the past week-ish, students partook in an inspiring activity in art class that bridged the two celebrations. And in tech today, second graders engaged a directed drawing of Dr. King himself. 

I tried this same guided drawing a few years ago, and made some tweaks this year that made it even better. First, instead of having the kids draw directly on the iPads, we blended things - they drew with pencil and paper, and then we took a picture and uploaded it to Seesaw. Then they add some embellishments and a recording to complete the activity. 

Each of their drawings, even though they all followed the same set of directions, turned out as unique as each student - and all of them, despite level of ability, were wonderfully done. They would have made Dr. King quite proud!



Friday, January 14, 2022

It's a Book!

Over the December break, I took an incredible course with Dr. Mina Blazy, on publishing your own books on Amazon. It was a three hour course, spread over the course of three days, full of tricks, tips, and direction on how to take the plunge into publishing.

I knew I had to do something about teaching, for teachers, but with the current state of educators... deciding what to do was not easy. I wracked my brain on what I could write, how I could format it, and all along the way, asked myself "what would I want as a teacher?"

And then, on January 1st, I clicked "publish."

Purchase your own copy HERE!
(It's an affiliate link, and your click is much appreciated!)
And The Teacher's Technology Notebook, An Interactive Monthly Organizer for Teachers was born.

Designed as a "tool a month" workbook for classroom teachers of all levels, and all technology experiences (yes, even you, the one who says you don't know how to turn on your computer!) this notebook is small enough to carry in your bag, and packs a big wallop of self-directed, low-key, powerful learning opportunity!

My first copies arrived this week and it is an incredible feeling, holding a copy of a published book, written by you, in your hands!

Click here to order your copy, and let me know what you think!

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Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Gif me!

This may seem odd, especially for a tech educator, but I just made my first gif this week! And you know what? It was way easier than I thought it would be!

The first challenge in this year's GEG tech challenge was to create a gif using Screencastify.  Now, I love Screencastify and use it for everything. But I've never used it to create a gif before. 

My first attempt literally was a blank... literally drawing a blank. But my second attempt was actually something useful! All our ECC teachers got new iPads right before the December break. And while I did get everything set up, I forgot to do one thing... If you're stuck on how to get your iPhone photos to be more user friendly, and not that HEIC format, check this out -->

It helped me learn how to create a gif, and it helped out my teachers in the process!

I can't wait to see what next week's tech challenge brings!

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Monday, January 10, 2022

Tech Tip Take Two!

Last week was a rough one in my community. The number of COVID cases are climbing drastically, and the stress level for everyone is reaching peak levels.

And yet, we're still plugging along, because that's what we do as educators!

Parent emails were plentiful, with some students going remote for the first time, and parents trying to help them get online and whatnot. I found myself writing the same response over and over. And then on Friday when Google Meet went down?! With so many remote students, the emails multiplied like bunnies!

Cartoon by Glasbergen

Thankfully, I love using the custom dictionary on my phone and in Google. It is one of the few times I like auto-correct, actually! I have created my own "codes" so that when I type in a shortcut, say, plmkq, auto-correct automatically changes that to please let me know if you have any questions. Which means as I copied and pasted replies to parents, it was easy to just drop in plmkq, and the other custom dictionary codes I've created, into the emails to expedite the process!

This Week's Tip: Play around with the custom dictionary to make auto-correct a helpful time-saver!

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Friday, January 7, 2022

Tech Time Fun!

Every week I get to spend "tech time" in each class, first through fourth grade. During this time we ignite curiosity and engagement via a variety of tech tools. Every tool is connected to learning that happens within the classroom content, as a way to reinforce or practice skills.

We start this with in grade, as generally, they've got a year of schooling under their belts, they have some experience with how to be a student, how to interact in a classroom setting with peers, and so on. Now, many people are probably thinking that little kids know how to use tech, which is totally true!

But.

They don't know how to engage with tech. They definitely use tech, probably more than we care to acknowledge. Engaging with tech is a completely different experience. They're no longer passive, watching videos or playing mindless games. Instead, they're using their knowledge, experience, and curiosity to navigate through different platforms, creating moments of learning, and a lot of time, shrieks of joy, giggles of happiness, and "wows" of wonder.

During tech time, students unknowingly practice perseverance and problem-solving, along with natural communication and collaboration skills - the so-called soft skills - in addition to whatever content they're practicing.  It is SO much fun walking into classes, especially the first grades. Their little brains are ready to tackle whatever technology challenge is tossed their way. 

First graders explore Tiggly Chef Subtraction
That means that a child who usually gives up on a math problem, or prefers to ask for a word instead of try out reading strategies, is more inclined to try, try, and try again with the technology. They naturally look for other solutions when their first attempts do
n't work. When a student is stuck, other students happily pop out of their seats to offer help to their classmates.

It's important to add that tech time isn't a special or a drop-off. Instead, it's a collaborative effort between me and the classroom teachers. Prior to class, I peruse the teachers' lesson plans to find a tech connection. Then we follow the "I do, we do, you do" model:

  • I bring tools in and model how to use them, then
  • we play with them together for a while before 
  • the teachers feel comfortable enough to finally integrate into them into their own classroom time.
And to be honest? I don't know who has more fun during tech time, the teachers, the kids or me!

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Monday, January 3, 2022

Tech Tip!

At the beginning of a calendar year, it is known that lots of people like to set resolutions, things they want to do differently in the coming year.

And then, usually within a month, all those resolutions break. Or at least this used to be my story. Now I just don't make resolutions anymore.

Instead, I stick with one, life-long goal: Be a better version of me than I was in the past.

Some days feel like definite backslides. Other days it feels like I'm miles ahead of where I was.  Most days, though, I try to smile more than frown, be kind not critical, and always presume positive intentions.

Comic Credit: Aaron Bacall
For teachers, it is super easy to focus on the single negative event from the day, especially in days that are packed with more than a regular human can handle. My therapist once suggested that before bed, try to think of three positive moments from the day. Don't dwell on the single piece of criticism or the negative interaction from the day. 

I'll admit that it was (and still can be) a very challenging task. In a day full of smiles, the one frown can pierce my gut like a sword, and sit there for days. It's so easy to perseverate, even though I know it doesn't help at all, instead, giving me perpetual stomach issues.

This Week's Tip: try to find three positive moments in your day, and hold on to those for dear life.