Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Happy Halloween

Due to the influx of the iPad, the past two years has seen a huge influx of Halloween themed apps that show up a week or so before the event. However, even without getting any of those specialized apps, one can organize a variety of Halloween related activities with the same basic apps that you have on the iPad. Any of the usual apps for creativity come in handy. All one has to do is work on them with a Halloween activity.

For example, the past two days third graders and fifth graders worked on Halloween poetry. They worked by themselves or in pairs to write a poem. Once the poem was ready, they used either Sock Puppets, or Toontastic or Tellagami or iMovie to record their poem. Some wrote Haikus, others Acrostic, others rhyming, yet others phrases or just their version of poetry. The students got to be creative, they got to come up with their Halloween themes, we worked on age-appropriate vocabulary for the projects, they got to record their voice, they got to work together, they had so much fun and learned a lot, without spending any extra money on any more apps. 

It just validates my belief on the use of the same creative apps across all age groups and across the curriculum. 

Happy Halloween everyone!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Twitter Introduced in a Fourth Grade Classroom

Thanks to my fun, ever challenging job, today I got to introduce Twitter in a fourth grade classroom at my site. At first thought, those new to twitter, those who have never used it might think - really? Fourth graders? How will they use it? Why would they use it? As a parent, I am sure I would have been nervous had I not known better. 

Having experienced the benefits of twitter for my professional learning and development, I have been eager to share it with colleagues and students. Those who see the benefits and jump on it have been quick to see beyond and get newer ideas. One such teacher has been a fifth grade teacher at my site who let me introduce the tool to her class on day one of the school year. I feel fortunate to have the trust of the teachers to let me go ahead even if they are unsure of the benefits or use of the tool. Fifth graders have 1:1 iPads so it is great to have the class Twitter account as they can tweet way more regularly. Also, the digital etiquette learning that takes place is unbelievable. Not only is that class using twitter regularly and continually getting better at it, the teacher created her personal twitter account too that she now uses. 

I approached the fourth grade teachers a short while back. Two of them were really keen on implementing the idea soon, one of whom asked me to go ahead with her class today even though she was away. I decided to ask two of the fifth graders to come introduce it since I really believe in the power of student-student knowledge transfer. The two students who were assigned belonged to that particular fourth grade class last year and were really excited to come. They not only came with their iPads that they reflected and showed the tweets, they came up with a host of ideas for the fourth graders in terms of what they could do. 

They talked about appropriate tweets, explained hashtags, explained responding to tweets, how they need to tweet as a class, what kind of people they could follow, showed all their tweets, their followers and how it has helped them. They explained the 140 character limit, how it needs editing, how the important aspects need to be included, the language that would be used and patiently addressed all of the fourth grader questions. When the fourth graders came up with their profile description and wondering what profile picture to put up, one of the fifth graders actually suggested putting up a picture of a centerpiece of the room, which is very special to that room. After that, they went back to their classroom and tweeted to the fourth graders asking about their learning experience. Wow! That was so very thorough and great modeling of student-to-student collaboration, teaching and learning.

In the meantime, each one of the fourth graders was so engaged in the activity, so full of ideas about what they would like to share, so excited to learn about what is taking place in a fifth grade classroom so they would know what's coming next year and so respectful of the fifth grade students, it was extremely rewarding.

And so another set of students has been charmed by the magical world of social media with cyber citizenship smoothly rolled in trying to get them ready to take on the world!

I needed to put in an addendum to the above. One of the other fourth grade teachers read this blog entry, got inspired and now has a bunch of fifth graders coming in tomorrow to introduce twitter to her class. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Fall CUE 2013

I haven't been as regular as I would like to be about my blogging for a few months now, not for any particular reason but that life gets in the way and trying to juggle a husband, my own children, school life and a masters, parent volunteer jobs, cultural obligations, it feels like there isn't time to do all of the things I like doing. In between which, I did make time for my closest friends, which to me is really important. However, this morning, someone I met at Fall CUE ( @jkloczko), talked about my blog. And I felt so guilty about not updating it for a while, thought I should write something worthwhile today. 

One of the great things about conferences now is that even if I have never met someone in person before, it is almost relatively easy to recognize them because of Twitter. It is very nice to have someone walk up to you or for you to walk up to someone and say - I think I know you and you launch off into a really interesting conversation. 

This year's #fallcue had the largest number of attendees since 2002 - 1,124. It is extremely impressive given that several educators pay for themselves to attend the conference. It is a reflection of the drive, the passion, the inherent motivation that so many of the educators have. Their students are very lucky to have them indeed. As a result, the energy in the sessions was very positive and wonderful. I got more than a whiff of it during both my presentations, one of which was the very last one of the day on a Saturday afternoon and was still very well attended as well as the level of participation was high. So grateful for that. 

The links for all of the Fall CUE sessions can be found at:

The one big idea that I walked away with - try and organize an Innovation Day. Loved the concept, the benefit for the students and everyone else involved in the process and have to say that my brain is working hard at how to make it happen this year whether in my school or at the district.

Kudos to the organizers for a very well organized conference, for a variety of sessions, for excellent keynote speakers (Ramsey Musallam and Angela Maiers) as well as for the level of presenters. Kudos to the participants for the level of enthusiasm and energy and it made every bit of effort in preparing for the conference, leaving the family behind worth it, coming back rejuvenated and re-energized and ready to take on the world :)

Monday, October 7, 2013

iMovie on the iPad

While working with teachers at various grade levels, when one says iMovie, they immediately think of movie making on the computers which they designate to be a long, elaborate affair, little realizing until they get their hands dirty that iMovie on the iPads is another story altogether. Today, I taught a workshop on using the iPad as a creativity tool. Almost the entire morning was spent on the iMovie app though. I am not in the least bit surprised. iMovie the app is fascinating and extremely versatile.

If you had to have one application, which one would you choose? I have a hard time choosing between Explain Everything and iMovie

The iMovie app allows you to create trailers and projects. 

The trailers are constrained in that one must use the template as is with the time clips as is, and no voice over. But then the purpose of a trailer is to give the audience a precursor of what's to come. It needs to be short and enticing. The words and pictures/video clips that go into making a movie trailer can be very attractive. 

When students work on the trailers, giving them explicit guidelines on the expectations around vocabulary is key. It is also critical to give them guidelines around the images and/or video clips. Once those are planned out, placing them appropriately in the trailer is very simple. Hey presto - you have a movie trailer ready to go! The music is preloaded with the theme, as is the length.

While working on the iMovie app projects, you can add in text, pictures, videos, titles, credits, voice over and edit clips. The text items can have subtitles in English (if for instance you are creating a movie in another language). 

In both cases the movies can be saved to the camera roll (besides Dropbox, Youtube, iTunes and Facebook). The camera roll means that students can then directly upload those to their course on the Schoology app.

The possibilities for creativity are endless, the benefits to the students are tremendous - listening, speaking, creating, language, explaining their thinking, collaborating, etc, etc...
So pick up an iPad, get iMovie and get started...