Sunday, November 19, 2017

Learning as a Journey - Helping Students Become Their Own Teachers

I recently finished the video below with help from Brenda June. Brenda is a friend and a middle school math teacher from my district. It's designed to give some simple tools to students that they can use to be self-sufficient learners.

It's a result of many discussions over the past couple years about our classroom experiences and ideas about learning that we've discovered from many sources. Most notably, we were both greatly inspired by Jo Boaler's Mathematical Mindsets and John Hattie's work.

The video (which will eventually be the first of two) provides some simple images and ideas comparing learning to a journey. While that's nothing new, we hope the simple visuals provide a concise, effective way to present it to students.

It includes our "3 Big Questions" that can help students identify their next step and it provides our take on a familiar four-point scale for students' regular self-assessment.


I also created this Google Slides presentation, which provides a space to write the learning target and success criteria for a lesson. There are summary slides for the 3 Big Questions and the four-point self-assessment scale.

We have received some helpful feedback from our students. We would love to hear any thoughts about the video from other teachers. Please send me an email or comment below about its usefulness or how we might improve it.

A couple other notes:

  • I used Camtasia to create the animation. What a great program! Many thanks to TechSmith for providing a copy through their program for Google for Education Certified Trainers.
  • Most images in the presentation came from Pixabay
  • This video is part of the grant funded project Brenda and I started in September. You can read about our project for MACUL here.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Short Music Video Project for Middle School

Here's a quick music video project we did for our middle school Computers class. We used iPads with the Pixlr app, GarageBand and iMovie.

The video that students produce will be very short and the song will be very simple. Here's a sample one I made with my family. It took about 30 minutes from start to finish, but students will probably take at least two class periods to work through everything.


All of the directions can be found in this document. It links to the sample video and to four tutorials. We assigned it in Google Classroom and the students were editing pictures and making songs in no time!

Here are a two notes:
  • I made the tutorials as a series of slides rather than capturing the iPad while I used the apps. It was a shortcut that leaves out some details, but I like the students to have to explore and learn the apps rather than watching every single tap.
  • Our iPads are shared between classes, so each one has a generic Google account on it. We encourage students not to sign in on them with their own accounts. That's why the final steps explain that the students must share the files with their account. If you have a different setup, you will want to modify those last steps.

It's really easy to add some class content to this project. Just have students sing a simple chorus or make a short rap about what they're studying. They could hold signs in the pictures or use text features of Pixlr or iMovie too.

I'll be glad to hear feedback if you get a chance to try this fun activity with your students!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Math Video Lessons - Grant Funded Project for Middle School

This year I'll be working with Brenda June's 6th grade math classes to create video lessons. It's a plan I submitted in May as a proposal for a MACUL grant. I was excited to learn they accepted our proposal. Brenda and I started working with the classes last week.

I will be reporting regularly on the progress, so I won't go into great detail here. The basic idea of the grant is we will post several video lessons that have been created by me, Mrs. June and the students. In building our video portal site, we will also be developing a classroom brand.

The photo above shows the equipment we were able to purchase with the grant. We have two iPads along with tripods and mounts. We also got an iRig Studio microphone and a Dell Chromebook.

We will be using the Explain Everything app to record the tutorials and then edit in some standard bumpers to the beginning and the end uisng iMovie. We hope to incorporate live video in time too. Besides math videos, we will make some that feature growth mindset and study skill tips.

Last week we took two class periods to work on a very basic video lesson. We use the ShowMe app on the middle school's set of iPads. Normally we won't work with the whole class at one time as we create the videos, but we wanted everyone to see the process form start to finish. As we suspected, a lot of the lessons were rough, but I was very impressed with the students' excitement as they worked!

Next up, we will decide on a name for our video lessons and we will begin building the site for the portal. Brenda and I will get things rolling with a few lessons. We will start working with the first group of students soon.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Ongoing Comic Project for Everyone

Here's a exciting project we started this week.

I had assigned my usual comic projects in the middle school Computer class and a couple girls really got into the idea of making a story. So I suggested we make an ongoing story to post on our school page along with a survey to let everyone make suggestions on what happens next.

So comics, cliffhangers and everyone can play a part. How fun is that?

Here are the few pages we came up with to kick things off. I also made a short Google Form that asked for suggestions about what the girls should find in the storage room. I gave them a chance to vote for if the thing they find should surprise them right away or if it should take awhile.

We got several votes in the first couple days and the girls are planning the next part of the story. I look forward to seeing it play out over the next several weeks.

When the story is done, I'll post an update.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Updated Comic Activity with Google Slides

Last week I assigned my popular creative comic assignment to the middle school Computers class I've been working with. I posted about and shared a similar assignment earlier this year.

This time around it was just as engaging for the students. I decided to extend it with a second part that required them to take their own pictures for the comics.

Part 1 introduces students to the simple process of making comics using real life photos and Google Slides. They don't have to take pictures for this part.

Part 2 has students make an original comic from scratch using photos they take. We use iPads in our middle school and each iPad has it's own G Suite account associated with it. So the assignment directions refer to that.

You can find the full two-part assignment as a free download here from Teachers Pay Teachers. The PDF download links to the two parts as PDFs and as Google Docs, so you can edit them to fit your needs.

If this activity looks interesting, be sure to see my full ebook (only $1), Creating Comics with G Suite Apps. In it, I explain additional publishing options and I have several tips for making a successful comic project.