Teaching & Learning: Digital Comm Mad Lib

Today I attended the TLT conference because I wanted to find new technology tools and ideas. During the DigiComm presentation, I was most interested to learn about Timeline JS.

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I think (noun) will be useful to implement digital storytelling into my Minecraft: Cityscapers club as they begin their city project in the coming months.


To introduce it to my students, I found this great resource: 


And here’s an example of the kind of project I’d like them to create:

This is a timelapse video, but we do not have that kind of capability in our club, so a timeline would be a better choice to document the changes to the city over time, including images. Instead, the timeline would document the build process, and student explanations of their work. There are also great examples of Digital Storytelling from all over campus such as Storymap JS.

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Fluco Toolbox: Resizeimage.net

Welcome to Fluco Toolbox, a series of posts that showcases potential edtech tools for the Fluvanna County classroom. Each post will discuss the tool, the type of problems it can help solve, and how it can be used in the classroom. If you’re a Fluvanna County staff member and want to learn more about using the tool in your own classroom, please schedule to see your ITRT and we will develop professional development based around your needs. If you’ve stumbled upon this post and you’re not part of the district, no worries! Feel free to use the information provided to jumpstart your own research.

Have you ever had students on Chromebooks who needed to modify the size of an image, rotate it, or crop one? You might have noticed that it’s not so easy to do, but thankfully, there are many programs out there online that can take care of this.

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: Resizeimage.net

First, the basics:

Name: Resizeimage.net
URL: http://www.resizeimage.net
Cost: FREE
Problem this tool solves: Easily upload photos that need to be cropped, resized, or rotated. Edit the image, and download the new file. Please note, this tool should not be used for images that are not your own, or that don’t fall under Creative Commons licensing that allows editing.

Resizeimage.net is one of many tools of its kind available online. The reason this tool is being featured is because it was very quick and easy to use, which is what I needed for students. Please feel free to use any other tool out there that accomplishes this goal. When I needed to edit images on my Chromebook for a recent blog post, this website did so quickly, and I was off and on my way to posting my blog.

This simple editing website walks you through the various steps to edit your image. Users simply upload the image from their computer, and then move on to step 2. Step 2 allows the user to crop an image. You can either specify specifics, or simply drag the mouse over the part of the image that you want to keep. Step 3 provides options to rotate the image, if one so prefers. Step 4 lets one resize the image. Users can do so based on a percentage, a width/height numerical input, or a slider bar. By default, “Keep Aspect Ratio” is selected. You’ll want to leave this selected. Step 5 will allow you to make the background transparent, but in most cases, you’ll probably skip over this. Step 6 allows the user to select an image type to output. For highest quality, select PNG. Finally, step 7 asks about the image quality. “Best Quality” is selected by default. Select the “Resize Image” button below Step 7 to implement all changes.

When all of the above steps have been completed, users can chose to download their image by clicking “Download Image” in the blue box at the bottom of the screen. The image will download, and can then be added to whatever project the user is currently working on completing.

Resources

I Got Married!

You may have noticed that in past weeks, this blog has been very quiet, save for Fluco Toolbox posts. And of course, there was no Fluco Toolbox post this week. I’ve been so busy, but that’s because I got married this past weekend! I married the love of my life, Bethany, and we are now beginning our journey together as wife and wife.

We were married on October 15, 2017 at Canaan Valley Resort in West Virginia. We had great weather for our ceremony, and a few hiccups along the way. However, in the end, we were married, and that’s what counts, right? I could not have asked for a better ceremony once it got started, and our officiant was fantastic!

You’ll now notice that I’ve also changed my last name. I decided long ago to take on my wife’s last name, and it’s been an adjustment getting used to hearing it from staff and students. All of my social media currently reflects the change, and I’ll start working on the tags on this blog as well.

Now that the wedding is over, I can work on the fun planning for our honeymoon. We are headed to Disney World during the week of Thanksgiving, and we have everything pretty much laid out for that, plan-wise. That’s the easy planning stuff, and way less stressful to deal with when I don’t have to consider a million other factors and other people while I work. Pretty sure I can cross off any notions I had of ever wanting to be a wedding planner! (Not that I wanted to be anyway).

I’m sharing a few pictures from our wedding below. These were taken by our guests, and we’re hoping to get a sneak peek at some of our photos from our photographer this weekend.

Fluco Toolbox: Poll Everywhere

Welcome to Fluco Toolbox, a series of posts that showcases potential edtech tools for the Fluvanna County classroom. Each post will discuss the tool, the type of problems it can help solve, and how it can be used in the classroom. If you’re a Fluvanna County staff member and want to learn more about using the tool in your own classroom, please schedule to see your ITRT and we will develop professional development based around your needs. If you’ve stumbled upon this post and you’re not part of the district, no worries! Feel free to use the information provided to jumpstart your own research.

Have you ever wanted a quick way to assess students on their learning with a survey, poll, a word cloud, or an open-ended question? How about assess them on their learning with a poll embedded into a Slides presentation?

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: Poll Everywhere

First, the basics:

Name: Poll Everywhere
URL: http://www.polleverywhere.com
Cost: FREE (K-12 Basic), $50 per year (K-12 premium), OR $1,000+ (Entire institution)
Problem this tool solves: Access to quick digital assessment options for classroom lessons and activities

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Poll Everywhere is a digital tool that lets teachers have students participate in quick assessments with the use of a device. Students can use their mobile phones to send a text message response, or they can use any device to access a link to the poll. Teachers can easily see the results of the poll as they are returned in real-time. Poll Everywhere offers a variety of poll types, and educators can choose the one that best fits the current set of activities.

When teachers sign up for the first time, they’ll need to make sure that they select that they will be using their account in a K-12 setting. If you forget to do this, or you set up an account long ago, you can still change to a K12 account. Simply click “Pricing” at the top of the screen, and find the options for K-12. Under K-12 Basic, click the “Upgrade” button. You’ll confirm that you’re changing plans.

Educators should use the K-12 Basic plan instead of the default free plan because educators get a few more items for free. Instead of just 25 responses per poll, educators will be able to receive up to 40 responses per poll. The K-12 plan also lets educators implement Poll Everywhere with PowerPoint/Google Slides, have full screen presentations, and access to many question types.

Once logged in, there are 2 ways to create a new poll activity. One is by clicking the button with the + inside in the upper left corner. The other is to click the red “Create” button. Both options will then show the user different available question types.

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Teachers can create different polls to suit different activity needs. Poll Everywhere provides polls for multiple choice, word cloud, Q&A, ranking, survey, open ended, and so many more. In fact, Poll Everywhere currently has 23 different polling options! We aren’t going to explore every single option in this post, but the image below shows the current options:

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Each option has its own tools and layout, so today we’ll start with creating a simple multiple choice poll. First, make sure to click on multiple choice. For this poll, I simply type the question, and then my answer choices. I can use text, or I can use an image. I can add more answer choices if needed. When I’m finished, I click the blue “Create” button at the bottom of the page. I created a simple question in the image below:

Screenshot 2017-09-27 at 1.33.58 PM

I am taken to a new screen. This screen will display my results once the poll is active, and I can make further adjustments to my poll as well. Here I can customize how people respond, how many times they can respond, if they can change their answer, create a custom reply message, and if I want my poll to activate/deactivate at a certain time.

To manually activate/deactivate a poll, click the image of a phone with arrows shooting off to other devices. This same button deactivates a poll. Only one poll can be activate at a time.

Screenshot 2017-09-27 at 1.48.12 PM

Once a poll is active, live updates will appear almost immediately as the question is answered. In the image below, you can see the live updates screen, side by side with the mobile view of the question. In this case, the user has typed the web address for the poll into their phone browser.

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With so many options, Poll Everywhere makes a great exit ticket, or a polling system built into a presentation. This is a simple, yet complex tool, and with so many options, there’s sure to be a poll to suit your needs!

Resources

Fluco Toolbox: Symbaloo

 

Welcome to Fluco Toolbox, a series of posts that showcases potential edtech tools for the Fluvanna County classroom. Each post will discuss the tool, the type of problems it can help solve, and how it can be used in the classroom. If you’re a Fluvanna County staff member and want to learn more about using the tool in your own classroom, please schedule to see your ITRT and we will develop professional development based around your needs. If you’ve stumbled upon this post and you’re not part of the district, no worries! Feel free to use the information provided to jumpstart your own research.

Have you ever wished that you could set your Internet bookmarks up so that they were visual icons, instead of walls of text? Wished you could create different pages for different bookmarks so you could keep home and school stuff separate? What about wished it was easy to share all of your bookmarks with your students?

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: Symbaloo

First, the basics:

Name: Symbaloo
URL: http://www.symbaloo.com
Cost: FREE or $49 per year for Symbaloo PRO for Education
Problem this tool solves: Allows users to create visual bookmarks such as they’d see on a tablet. Can be embedded into their Google homepage or shared with students.

Symbaloo is a visual bookmarking tool that resembles apps on a tablet screen. Many folks prefer this method of bookmarking over the traditional text-based system, and this visual system is easier to use with younger students who have yet learned to read. Teachers (or anyone!) can create themed webmixes of bookmarks and then share the webmix with others.

Once a teacher has signed up for an account (and if you’re a Google teacher, it’s easy to connect your account to Symbaloo!), it’s time to create your first webmix. Users have two options – they can create an empty webmix, or they can add an existing one from the gallery. For the sake of today’s post, we’re going to focus on creating a webmix from scratch.

When you first create an account, some default webmixes will appear. These can be deleted or customized if you would like. More often than not, you’re ready to set up your own webmix. You do this by clicking the + sign to the far right of your webmix tabs, as shown in the image below:

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You’ll be asked if you’d like to create one from scratch or find one in the gallery to use. We’re going to focus on the left side, where we can create our own webmix. Give the webmix a name, and then click the green “Add” button. Now, your webmix will appear in your tabs on the page.

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With our blank webmix in place, we’re ready to begin building our bookmarks! There are a couple of ways to do this.

One way is to already know the website address. Click any blank tile, and a new window will pop onto the screen. You can create the tile yourself, by providing the website address, the name on the time, and the color of the tile itself. If you want a certain image for the tile, you can also upload one at this time. Finally, click save to add the tile to the webmix. Now, you can click and drag the tile to any location on the webmix.

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The second option is a little easier, especially if you know what you’re looking for. You can either click anywhere on the webmix to get the same pop-up window as before, or you can click search in the upper right corner. The search option defaults to tiles, but you can also search for other webmixes or someone’s profile.

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If searching for tiles, simply type the name of the site or service. For example, typing Kahoot or Khan Academy will bring up the tile that is already created for those sites. Click on the tile from search automatically adds it to your webmix. It can then be moved anywhere on the screen.

Webmixes can be shared by clicking the “Share” button at the top of the screen. A new window pops up and asks for a webmix name, description, and keywords. Users have the option to share the webmix publicly in the gallery or privately with friends. You’ll notice that the right side of the screen is hidden. This is only until the webmix has been shared. Click the green “Share my Webmix” button. You’ll be taken back to the webmix screen, and you’ll now see that the share icon at the top of the page is also green.

Clicking the Share button again will now open a window on the left side of the screen. If you click the webmix info and sharing options, you’ll again see the same share window as before, except now the right side is no longer hidden. Retrieve a link to share with others, share to Facebook, or even embed directly into Google Classroom.

Symbaloo has many other neat tricks and features, but the above will get you started. Once you are comfortable with the tool and using it, then feel free to check out the other things Symbaloo can do, such as become your homepage, add bookmarks as you browse the web, and create learning paths!

Resources

 

Fluco Toolbox image created by Stephanie King (Fan) for this series. Please do not use without permission.

Fluco Toolbox: Prezi

Welcome to Fluco Toolbox, a series of posts that showcases potential edtech tools for the Fluvanna County classroom. Each post will discuss the tool, the type of problems it can help solve, and how it can be used in the classroom. If you’re a Fluvanna County staff member and want to learn more about using the tool in your own classroom, please schedule to see your ITRT and we will develop professional development based around your needs. If you’ve stumbled upon this post and you’re not part of the district, no worries! Feel free to use the information provided to jumpstart your own research.

Have you ever found that students tend to always use Google Slides or PowerPoint for presentations? Are you tired of the same old thing for presentations all of the time?

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: Prezi

First, the basics:

Name: Prezi
URL: http://www.prezi.com
Cost: FREE (with paid options)
Problem this tool solves: Provides another option to create visual presentations without using a slide deck format.

Prezi is a presentation tool that can bring more of the “ummph!” to your students’ work and projects. Students can create presentations that are visually connected and intriguing. While Prezi is offered to the business community with a limited free option and some paid options, Prezi for Education is much cheaper. The standard education version is free for teachers and students, and the paid option is $7 per month. In most cases, the free option will suit teachers and students just fine, but a comparison of features and prices can be found here.

In terms of what makes it different from PowerPoint and Slides, Prezi provides a different visual layout that transitions from one idea to the next. Ideas can be nested within each other, and the start of a Prezi can show all parts of the topic on one screen without overwhelming the audience with text. Prezi is an online only tool, much like Google Slides. Presentations cannot be downloaded for offline viewing with the free version.

Prezi does not limit users to a slide deck, but allows ideas to be connected and branched out, much like a concept map. Users need to plan the flow of their presentation still, just as they would with a Slide or PowerPoint. Ideas that just randomly flow into others does not help the audience to understand the topic or content. It is also helpful to note that with the latest version of Prezi, there is no blank template to work from. Users must choose an existing template and modify it to suit their needs.

Prezi is also now divided into Prezi Classic and Prezi Next. In the spring of 2017, Prezi launched Prezi Next, which is the newest version of the tool. All previous presentations became Prezi Classic. Prezi has no plans to develop Prezi Classic any further, but they will continue to provide support for it. If you signed up for Prezi after April 25, 2017, you only have the option to use Prezi Next.

No matter what tool is used, whether it’s Prezi or PowerPoint or Slides, the real key to a great presentation is going to be the presenter. If the presenter cannot deliver an engaging and memorable presentation, then the digital presentation tool becomes nearly worthless. Choose the tool that works best for the situation and use it wisely.

Resources

  • Here is a sample presentation I created for a conference about branding our district.
  • Prezi has created a playlist of tutorials for Prezi Next
  • If you prefer Prezi Classic, they have a playlist for that as well

 

Fluco Toolbox image created by Stephanie King (Fan) for this series. Please do not use without permission.

Minecraft: Cityscapers is a Go!

Yesterday, I held the second meeting of Minecraft: Cityscapers. I have changed things around this year with running a club in general. I took a max of 20 kids, due to space and licensing issues, but also because it makes management and grouping a lot easier. I had students fill out interest forms, and then drew names from a bucket, taking 20 students. I knew there would be many unhappy students, but with my distance from the school, once a week is all I can really do for meetings.

This year, I have also developed more of a curriculum and lesson. I knew I would need general lessons before we started on the main goal of the club, which is to build a gigantic city. I prepared a Google Classroom for this task. I wrote up a basic lesson format for club meetings. It’s not strict or lengthy, but it is flexible and follows a set pattern:

  • Take attendance
  • Review previous week
  • Lesson
  • Google Classroom instructions
  • Minecraft
  • Google Classroom reflection question

I planned out my basic introduction for the first meeting, which was similar to that of my workshops – build a realistic home. I wanted to see building skills. We wouldn’t really start anything new that meeting because it would be hectic enough getting everything started and going.

Well, I was certainly right. Things did not go as planned, and they were rough. Because I didn’t assign the students seats right off, I couldn’t log them into their computers. Instead, I waited until they arrived to log in. That wasn’t a problem, but the issue came signing into Minecraft. For whatever reason, the school computers have issues signing into an account. It seems to get worse after school lets out. We avoided this issue last year with a shared account, since so many students were in the club and were coming every other week.

That issue probably created more chaos than I would have liked. We did what we could, but only 10 of the students were able to be on at a time because the rest of the accounts wouldn’t log in. It was not a happy time, but we made it through. I had written down where each student had sat, so I knew I’d be able to log them in before the club meeting the next time and hopefully avoid this issue, just as I had last year.

In addition, I had a couple of students who wanted to test my expectations. I wasn’t happy, but knew I’d need to stick to my guns on this one. After the meeting, I developed a Code of Honor for the club. It’s basically just a fancy title for the club expectations, and the students sign at the bottom. It lists the consequences of not following, and repeatedly not following means being kicked out of the club. I don’t want to have to ever do it, but I want the students to know that they have consequences for their actions.

I did my usual planning for the next lesson, and began laying out the activities for the topic of the meeting: color theory. The day of the meeting, I decided to change the room we had been using. I had been using a lab, the same from last year’s club. While the layout of the computers was nice, it lacked a projector and a board to write on. I switched to a different lab instead so that I could project my work, and have the white board just in case.

With all of those things in place, I started the second meeting. Things went much more smoothly this time around. We took the attendance, I went over the Code of Honor, and then we settled in to work. I was amazing that the students stayed on task so well, and they worked very hard. We were able to pretty much finish everything we had started that day. Some of the students asked if they could free build sometime, so I have decided to work that into our meetings as well.

Check out some of our work from yesterday:

When we don’t have club days, I leave the server open to the students. Only about 4 students have personal accounts, and they like to get on and build. This is fine with me. I logged in last night to check on the day’s work and to take images for documentation. One of the students happened to be on, and he wanted to show me his work. He told me his plans and ideas. Everything came from his imagination, and he thought it was easy for anyone to do. He soon had to log off, and so I took screenshots of the things that had been built on free time. Our chat gave me a glimpse into the student’s head, and if anything were to ever arise, there are always chat logs kept on the server.

I am now thinking ahead to the next meeting. I am thinking about starting shapes, but I also think I want to explore color some more, and so may also work with color palette selection to add to what they’ve already done. I will think some more on it before deciding for certain.

In the meantime, check out some of the free build work: