Spread the Word to End the Word

I am taking a step away from all of the tech talk for a post to talk about something else important.

If you have been following my Twitter account this past week, you have probably seen my posts about Spread the Word to End the Word week, a campaign created by Special Olympics to educate people about the  derogatory effects of the use of the R-word (retard/retarded).

I had always been aware of this campaign and would sign the pledge each year out of solidarity to my special education teaching counterparts, but only recently have I become involved with the campaign itself.  This year, in my role as a tech integrationist, I was able to work with my district’s wonderfully talented special education department and their amazing students to create the video PSA you see below.  It was so much fun getting to know the students and their teachers better, and I hope you take their message to heart: that there are many words you can use to describe people, but the R-word should never be one of them!

Enjoy 🙂

Jumping Back in with WeVideo

Hello!

It has been a while since my last post, so welcome to all the new followers, and thank you for stopping by!  I hope you are finding useful information here – please drop me a line if there is something you would like to see on the blog!

I have been neck deep in new projects with teachers at my school and can’t wait to start telling you about some of the tools I have been using.  First up is a great site called WeVideo.

Now that my school is 1:1 with laptops, many teachers are now shifting to having students create video content, mostly for unit or semester projects.  I love the idea of this, but always found it frustrating when I used Windows Movie Maker, the program that comes pre-installed on all of our student devices.  It often would shut down, stall, or pop up error messages, making it hard to get meaningful work done in a short amount of time.  This is why I was so happy when I discovered WeVideo through another tech-teacher colleague of mine.

WeVideo is one of the most versatile free video editing tools out there.  First of all, it is cloud based and will sync across devices (and there’s a app for it too) – always great for people on the go.  Secondly, it allows the user to choose between several different levels of editing tools, ranging from very basic to very advanced, making it a great site to use withe younger and older students alike.  In terms of the actual video editing, it closely mirrors Movie Maker, meaning that, if you have a working knowledge of Movie Maker, you can quickly and easily teach yourself how to use WeVideo.

My favorite part of WeVideo, however, is its ability to “share” video projects.  Similar to Google Drive and SkyDrive, WeVideo allows for multiple collaborators to share and edit the same video file.  As a teacher, evaluating the usefulness of an application in the classroom, this always scores big points.  Now, this feature only comes with a paid subscription, however I feel the cost for the license is actually pretty reasonable, given how powerful of a tool this could be.

I am curious to hear from you out there – what is your video editing tool of choice?  I am always looking for new ideas!

The Modern “ScanTron”

UPDATE: See my post on introducing GradeCam to my faculty for the 2014-2015 school year!

As a student, I dreaded ScanTron tests.  In high school, one of my classes was right across the hall from where the ScanTron grading machine was located, and I remember constantly hearing a noise, which can only be described as a machine gun-like, as the teachers shot the answer sheets through and the grader marked incorrect answers.  I never thought much of it until I was a first-year teacher myself, and my school was fortunate enough to have a ScanTron machine.  Each time I shot answer sheets through, I would cross my fingers, hoping for a “quiet” passage, cringing every time I heard that all too familiar rapid-fire of wrong answers being marked.

While I think ScanTrons are fairly common in high schools, they are much more rare at the lower levels.  When I worked in an elementary school, we did not have a ScanTron machine which, while not the end of the world, would have made the grading process for end of unit exams, much, much easier.  Many schools, in fact, are like this – there are teachers that, if they had this technology available to them (ScanTrons are fairly expensive and some schools can’t justify the cost), would most likely use it.  This is what lead me to find these two great programs, both of which attempt to solve the “ScanTron-less School” issue.

Created by a team of educators through a KickStarter fund, this website and iPhone/iPad app combination work similarly to a traditional ScanTron machine.  Teachers load students into the program, either through their mobile device or computers, and then print out the program’s unique answer sheets.  These answer sheets can be used in conjunction with any previsouly created test, quiz, or exam.  Teachers then use their mobile devices to scan the answer sheets.  Answers are uploaded directly to the program, allowing for teachers to see quiz item analysis, student progress, and download CSV files to upload to nearly any gradebook (their claim).

Pros:

  1. FREE to use
  2. up to 30 questions per quiz/test/exam
  3. iPhone/iPad app to scan answer sheets (from developer – Android app in development phase)
  4. item analysis and student progress can be accessed from phone or computer
  5. still in the beginning phases, so lots of new updates can, hopefully, be anticipated (confirmed by developer)

Cons:

  1. Answers need to be bubbled in extremely dark (think black pen or marker) to be scanned
  2. website is basic, although it gives all the needed information
  3. answer sheets need to be printed – making copies from a blank master sheet tends to not work well when it comes time to scan
photo 1 (1)

QuickKey answer sheet with bubbles filled in with heavy, black pen in order to register on the scanner.

This program has been around longer than Quick Key, so while the two programs essentially do the same thing, their website is more streamlined and offers a few more options.  With GradeCam, teachers load their students into the website and print off GradeCam’s custom answer sheets for students to fill out.  Answer sheets are graded by placing them under a camera attached to the computer – according to their website, most webcams or document cameras will work.  The camera scans the answers and the computer instantly grades the assignment.  The one notable aspect of GradeCam is that it has three access levels for its users – a basic, free package (limited to 10 questions a quiz, cannot export grades to gradebook), a mid level package ($15/month, limited to 100 questions a quiz, link CCSS to assignments, export to gradebook), or a school package ($2.50/student/year, same as mid-level package, with some additional features).

Pros:

  1. item analysis and student progress can be accessed through the website (also charts this data in graphs for you)
  2. user-friendly website
  3. Custom student ID numbers
  4. Can easily scan answer sheets with eraser marks or where bubbles are lightly filled in with pencil
photo 2 (1)

QuickCam answer sheets with bubbles that get progressively lighter – all were easily scanned into the system.

Cons:

  1. No mobile app, for either Android or iPhone/iPad
  2. free account limited to only 10 questions per assignment
  3. Additional (and beneficial) features, like exporting to a gradebook, are pay-only for $15/month

Do you use either of these program?  Do you know of one I missed?  Let me know in the comments section!

GoogleTreks – Exploring the World with just A Few Clicks

Google is constantly amazing me.  Honestly, if I wasn’t in the education field, I think I would want to work for Google, solely because of all of the really neat things they are continuously coming up with!

My newest Google obsession?  GoogleTreks.

Similar to a virtual field trip, visitors can explore unique and exotic locations using Google’s StreetView technology.  I included them in my Virtual FIeld Trip list below, however felt they deserved a post of their own.  My personal favorite is their Trek of Darwin’s Gallapagos Island.  You can click your way all throughout the island, and even take a “swim” with the sea lions off the coast.  It is truly one of the most unique web experiences I have ever seen.

Take a minute this Friday and explore a corner of the world that you might not have ever seen before – and keep checking back, because they are adding more (VENICE! coming soon!).  Tell me your favorite destinations in the comments below!

#MysterySkype is Back!

skype3

With the new school year beginning, Skype has opened up registration for its very fun and unique Mystery Skype program!

With this program, two registered classrooms are connected via Skype and the aim of the game is to figure out where each other is located, 20 Questions style.  Not only does this give your students a hands on approach to using geography, but it also opens up the possibility of future pen-pal communications between the two classrooms.

Prior to this year, Mystery Skype was something that was, in theory, open to anyone and left to the individual involved to organize.  With the increase in the program’s popularity, Skype is starting a new community just for schools.  The program is open to all classrooms and teachers can register HERE to be notified when it is up and running (soon!).

Want to prep for your own Mystery Skype experience?  Search #mysteryskype on Twitter or check out the links below!

BLOG POST: So You Want to Do Mystery Skype?

PowToon – Video creation that packs a punch

PowToon-is-a-brand-new-presentation-tool-that-allows-you-to-create-colorful-visually-engaging-animated-presentations-and-cartoon-style-videos-with-drag-and-drop-simplicity.

Earlier this spring, my husband accepted a new job requiring us to move a good distance from where we were currently living.  We were very excited about this new possibility for him, but it would mean that I could no longer work at my current position, as it would require me to commute about 90 minutes each way.  This meant I would have to go where no teacher wants to go…

The job pool.

I searched relentlessly for a few months, securing a position as a technology specialist on the first day of summer vacation – score!  While I had always been a bit of a techie-teacher, I began to do more research as the summer marched on, looking to better prepare myself for my upcoming job.   In doing this, I came across something I had always wanted to do – a Google Certified Teacher workshop and – even better – it was going to be in my hometown!

The applications were due the next day, so I raced to fill mine out, only to be stumped by the final question: “Please submit an original one minute video on one of the following topics…”.  I immediately felt disheartened – how could I possibly create a video by that night?  I put the application aside, thinking I would just have to apply another year, and began to skim through my Twitter feed, looking to distract myself.  I came across a Tweet singing the praises of a website called Powtoon.

In checking it out, I found an extremely user-friendly site which allows users to easily create animated cartoon videos with just a few clicks.  Users can narrate their videos or set them to a soundtrack, eventually uploading them to YouTube or burning them to a CD.  After watching the demo clip, my mind immediately began to race – I could use this for my Google application!

I quickly outlined a script and got down to work.  Within about an hour, my video was finished and uploading to YouTube and I was pretty impressed with how polished it looked in the end (even if I do say so myself).  I began poking around the site, looking a bit deeper as to how this application could be used in a classroom.  Immediately, my mind goes to English and reading teachers – making “teasers” for new books or a more dynamic book report.  It would make an excellent improvement on any slideshow type of presentation – it’s even easy enough to use that tech-familiar students could, most likely, teach themselves how to use it.  Apparently, I am not the first teacher to think so either – they even offer their premium accounts free to teachers and students (with valid @___.org or @___.edu email address).

When you go back to school this fall, stick PowToon in your folder of resources (check out tutorials here) – come project-time, you will be glad you did!