Saturday, April 28, 2018

Thing 37: Green Screen Fun

This Thing was aptly named, for using green screens truly is fun! This year I have been creating video announcements for school using a green screen and DoInk, and there are so many creative things that can be done with them. I explored this Thing to see what else I could add to my repertoire and learned some lessons about green screen work in the process.

Step one, of course, was finding something at home that could substitute for a green screen. I have a sage green sofa in my living room that I thought (erroneously) would fill the bill. I took a video of my cat sleeping on the sofa, planning on transporting him to a tropical beach. Apparently my sofa isn't a deep enough shade of green because the end result was my cat sleeping on a sofa on the beach. I don't know if different lighting in the room would have made a difference. As my true goal was to learn Chatterpix, I decided to forgo experimenting with lighting and pulled out some green construction paper instead. The construction paper worked (after eliminating shadows), and I went on to animate the stuffed animal "understudy" for my now uncooperative cat.

Chatterpix is easy to use. I had one glitch on my first attempt. After drawing the line on the stuffed tiger's mouth and adding the video to DoInk, I could hear the audio, but the tiger wasn't "talking". Somehow the "mouth" ended up in the lower right-hand corner (oops!), but attempt 2 was successful. I am impressed with how well the talking mouth coordinates with the audio.

The possibilities for using this with my students and in instruction are endless. Also, some students do not have permission to be video recorded, so having an object fill in for them onscreen would solve that problem. I love Nicole Rosen's idea for book talks. Students could also presents reports using Chatterpix. Right now there are rain forest projects displayed in the much fun  it be to have the projects "talk" in a video! I also see myself using Chatterpix with DoInk in lessons as a way to enhance engagement.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Thing 33: Flash Cards, Quiz Games and More

I love learning games; my students love learning games. Using SmartNotebook, I create games frequently, and I am always on the lookout for more tools to add to my repertoire. I was eager to explore this "Thing" to see what all is out there. I was already familiar with Flippity so I took a look at Quizlet. I tried Polly's Flowers matching activity and knew my classes would have fun with it.

One nice feature of Quizlet is that once my cards were created, I could switch how I wanted to present them to students. While I created mine under "Match", by clicking another option such as Flash Cards, Learn etc, the same material can be used numerous ways.

I used UNESCO World Heritage Sites and learned that in order to work in all the different options, I should not have listed the place names in the 'definitions'. My game works with  Match and Flash Cards, but not any of the others.

The computer voice in Quizlet is quite natural...does anyone know if it is an actress or just a very, very good computer voice simulation? Having an audio option serves as a scaffold for students who need it, and is thus a great feature.

'Gravity" would be very appealing to students, but my cards are not well-suited to it. The answers (as I created them with name and place) are too long for students to type in the given time. I need to spend more time on 'Gravity" because I am not certain how some of it works. There is an option to answer with photos...but I don't understand how to do so.

I was pleased with the variety of photos in the Quizlet library.

The Diagrams option is a great tool, as well. I had some fun with it, creating a diagram I will hopefully use with my students before I go out for foot surgery. However, it did not go well. I created a link to share, but cannot get the interactive diagram to come up...I get the diagram and the answers. Something else to keep playing with. Overall, Quizlet is great and I will definitely be using it with my classes.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Thing 43: Google Drawings

This! I loved learning Google Drawings and students would, too. This is truly one of those engaging activities in which one gets 'into the flow' and time just flies. (I can easily envision the students' collective groans when they are told that time is up.)

As Alice Keeler states in her video, one obvious use for this tool is for student projects. At our school, tri-fold or poster boards are generally the de facto format for projects, and we have Student Showcase of Learning Nights when parents can come in and see students' projects displayed throughout the school. One big benefit to creating digital projects is that they can be shared with families who are unable to attend a school event. They are also 'portable' and much less cumbersome than physical projects.

After losing myself for an inordinate amount of time in Google Drawings, I finally ended up with my own graphic version of the water cycle.

I had trouble with gifs. My intent was to have the waves moving, but was unable to master that on this attempt.

I found Google Drawings to be very similar to SmartNotebook in term of creating files.

One bonus piece of learning: png! I now know how to search for images that don't come with their own backgrounds.

Next up: I will try magnetic poetry, and have students create their own poems. April is National Poetry Month and this would be a fun project.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Thing 26: Note-Taking Tools

Notes, notes, notes. I am a prolific note-taker and list-writer. It seems to be the only way to keep my life organized and on-track! My tools of choice: pen and paper. I like tangible visuals.

Students often have difficulty learning note-taking skills; it involves higher-order thinking skills as students need to analyze and evaluate what is important. I jumped into Thing 26 hoping to find some new tips and tricks to help my classes. Some Excellent Note-Taking Tips for Students has some concrete advice that would help students along the right path. The nine guidelines listed were validating (I did them as a student!) and valuable. A hard-copy would be an essential tool for students to have, and the list could be posted in classrooms/library as well. I found pen vs. keyboard interesting as well. I have always favored pen and paper over electronic notes and lists.Part of it is because, as the article states, writing helps me retain information. Graphic organizers are a key component in helping students handle information  (although I never wanted/needed to use them when I was a student).

Note Taking Tips for Different Learning Styles was terrific, as it speaks to differentiation (although the article's title was a bit of a misnomer, as it really pertains to study tips.) However, it would help students identify their own learning style and make a study plan accordingly; another great resource to share with them.

Our District uses a Google learning environment and I am a big fan of the Google apps, so I decided to focus on Keep. I was surprised that there is no tutorial embedded in the app (if there is, I cannot find it.) However, with just a bit of exploring, I found Keep to be easy to use, with one exception. I love that lists can be shared and emailed, making collaboration easy. So much fun adding photos to my grocery list, drawing my to-do list and changing background colors! (Just too tempting to play around with it!) I love, absolutely love, the fact that I can add check boxes to my lists and mark off the things that I have accomplished. So satisfying! Students can use Keep to keep track of assignments and due dates. (Our older students have paper agendas for this purpose, but those can be lost or left behind at home or school.) Committee members working on a project, or teachers collaborating on a lesson, can easily track what has been done and what still needs to be accomplished.

I wanted to experiment with the web clipper tool, so I searched Keep for it. My grocery list came up as the only hit. Where is that tutorial??? Polly, can you help this befuddled person? I searched Google for how to use the web clipper but I still cannot get it to work. (Maybe I've been looking at this for too long and need to step away.) I will keep (hah hah) trying, because without the web clipper, some of the value of this app is lost. (On my computer Keep comes up as a Google app; I also see it referred to as an extension.Some cognitive dissonance taking place!)

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Thing 8: Research Databases

As much as I love Google and (gasp!) Wikipedia (at times), at work I sometimes have to struggle to get students out of the habit of using them for research. Bethel College library's comparison chart for databases vs. search engines is a wonderful, at-a-glance resource for helping students and families understand when it is appropriate to use each one. I copied the link to my library catalog's home page as a reference for the school community.

World Book and Brittanica are my two go-to online resources for teaching research skills to students. I also have them used the vetted web sites that can be found through a subject search in our library automation system. Gale's Kid InfoBits looked like it would be a good addition to my list of favorites, so I explored that. Overall, I liked the database. It has a kid-friendly interface, is easy to navigate and provides many built-in scaffolds for students. Students can read the articles, listen to the articles being read and translate the articles into other languages. The latter is of particular importance for our students as for many of them, English is not their first language. Articles can be downloaded as text or as an MP3 audio file. Students can highlight text and MLA citation formats are given for articles.

Students can search by clicking on a grid of topics on the home page, or by typing a topic in the search bar. Results come from a variety of sources, depending on the topic. I initially clicked on Animals>Dinosaurs and Other Extinct Animals>Extinct Birds>Dodo Bird and was led to an article about the bird, along with a picture of a model of the Dodo. Returning to the home page, I selected People>Jobs and Careers>Librarians (of course!). Results included photographs, book excerpts and encyclopedia, magazine and newspaper articles. One caveat: while the result for Dodo bird was relevant for student research, not all of the hits for "Librarian" were. For example, the CNN Wire article, How a Librarian Taught Herself to Invest and Retired Early, while interestingwould not be particularly helpful for students researching library media science as a career. However, it does present an opportunity to teach students how to evaluate the relevance of the information they uncover in their research. Kid InfoBits will become another mainstay in my research work with students. It is very similar to World Book Online, with which they are familiar.

I also looked at Gale's New York State Newspapers database, and was a bit disappointed. Twenty-six publications are included and I was hoping for more. Additionally, the publications I looked at didn't go back as far as I would have hoped. The New York Times has full-text articles dating back only to 1965. Many other newspapers go back less than twenty years. To supplement this database, I would add New York State Historic Newspapers,