Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Santa's Back, alright!

Google released Santa Tracker 2015 on their main page. Santa Tracker is full of Christmas related virtual stocking stuffers. Santa Tracker is a virtual Christmas village. Each day a new game, video, or tool is opened to the villagers. Many of the games are educational including a dance game that teaches the basics of computer coding. There is a Santa Selfie station, Elf Jamband, and a translator tool (Elvish is included). With only a few days left of school, let your students explore Santa Tracker 2015. 

Tip: Turn it into a virtual scavenger hunt using Google Slides. Simple assessments can be created using Google Forms or YouTube. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Three ways to celebrate Mountain Day in the classroom

Today is International Mountain Day. How have you celebrated? Hopefully you will find some time to visit a mountain or a big hill. There are tons of things to do in the outdoors related to Mountain Day - hike, view the scenery, play in the creeks, or nap in a hammock. Let's take a look at how Mountain Day can inspire engagement in your classroom ( or life in general). 

Learn to read a Compass - All that wander are not lost, true, but knowing how to use a compass is a great skill to have when you want to be found. Check out Compass Dude to learn basic to advance navigation skills with a compass. Compass reading, as a part of Social Studies class, is a great way to teach students about the outdoors, environmental protection, and situational awareness. 

Learn about Topo Maps - The best online topo map website I've found is caltopo.com. This site integrates with single sign on for Google and Yahoo. Users have access to a great map selection, distance and marking features, and ability to print custom PDF maps for hiking. There are also Google Earth/GPS files. Now that your students can read a compass, teach them how to create a map of their school or neighborhood using this website. Give them homework that requires them to navigate to parts of their neighborhood using a topo map and compass only. They can document the distance using the map scale, triangulate their location, and estimate how far to other areas of their surroundings. 

Geocaching - This is grown up hide and seek. There are thousands upon thousands of containers hidden on trails, trees, and urban settings. These containers, known as caches, hold a wide variety of trinkets inside. The owner of the cache post the GPS coordinates online to a website such as Geocaching. You (or your students) can now take your new learned map reading skills and a compass or GPS to search for caches hidden in your area. Rules are inside explaining the value of the treasure and what you have to do to replace it. This builds global awareness and community among the participants. Better yet, teachers can build caches and bury them around your school with test question answers, homework passes, or extra recess time for those that find it. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Youtube Playlist - Directed Visual Learning

Looking to engage students? Worksheets - Check, Lecturing - Check, hmm, I'm out of ideas. Take a look at any 10 year old with a device, and you will see that YouTube is rather engaging to them. Side note: Do you hear clapping and a catchy theme song in your head? Students should not be allowed to freely search YouTube without adult supervision. Luckily, YouTube has provided us with a way to direct and guide students to appropriate curriculum rich videos. It's called YouTube Playlist. Start with a topic, search for videos on YouTube, review the video for content and safety, add to playlist, then share with the world. That's it.

I produced a video (2:00) on how to create a YouTube Playlist.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Collaborate with Google Slides - #winteraroundtheworld

Shannon Miller, from my Twitter PLN, introduced me to a  cool (pun intended) idea called Winter Around The World Project. This is a project after my professional heart. It is collaborative, timely, and meaningful to students. According to their website, the project uses Google Slides to collect winter stories, songs, poems, illustrations, and photographs from students and teachers around the world. Once all of these are collected as a slide deck, there will be a digital eBook published by Cantata Learning.

Here's my favorite winter story ever told:

If you have the chance to add to the story, use the information below for the richest experience:

Shannon Miller Twitter: @shannonmmiller
Twitter Hashtag: #winteraroundtheworld
Google Slide To Add Your Story: Winter Around The World

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Searching Skills - A Google A Day

Do you know how to search Google? Of course, a monkey can do that. Not so fast. Searching is a key discipline related to Digital Literacy. Educators take for granted that everyone knows how to search for resources online. According to Google Help, there are fourteen basic search options available. These range from specific punctuation marks to search operators. Knowing how to use these searching skills can improve your returned results. Not only that, but it will quicken the process of vetting the results. Let's see how this works, shall we?

Abraham Lincoln returns 79,500,000 results
Abraham Lincoln -war returns 41,000,000 results
Abraham Lincoln -war "foreign policy" returns 365,000 results

That's not too bad.  By harnessing the power of Google search students and teachers can spend less time searching and more time vetting the value of the source. Isn't that our ultimate goal?

Looking for a fun way to integrate searching skills into your classroom? Google has created a website that turns learning about searching skills into a game. I've tried a few games;  it is fun and challenging. It is called "a Google a day". (Click here for larger picture)

If you would like to implement this into your classroom, check out the Google Search Education website for classroom materials. Here's a great one minute video showing how to use a Google a day.

Hemingway App Readability: Grade 7

Thursday, November 12, 2015

GaETC - Three Take Aways

Another amazing GaETC has come and gone. This year's theme was "Super Heroes". As always, the volunteer staff and presenters were the true Super Heroes. Every volunteer I met was over the top helpful, and friendly. Even to those of us that forgot our badges for the 12th year in a row. There were so many high-quality concurrent sessions. I felt bad for not being able to attend everyone. A week later, I'm finally able to settle down and process the experience. Here's a few thoughts:

Chris Craft is a great resource, excellent presenter, and a really nice guy. Of his many presentations, I took the most out of Chris's Google Q&A, and his session on  Google Drive Add-Ons. PearDeck was a fan favorite. 

Image result for pear deck

GaETC concurrent sessions were rich with ideas related to professional learning. Professional learning programs and professional learning networks (PLN) were hot topics. The model from Clark County School District (CCSD) is an exceptional model. Clint and Carrie, instructional technologist from CCSD, led a live session taking the audience through their program called Club Tech. I'm glad to have them in my PLN, and excited to borrow some ideas for our new professional learning program.

The conference was active and full of learning. Some districts have many resources and employees, and some have few. Several districts were Windows, many were Mac, and even more across the state were embracing the wonderful resources of Google Apps for Education (GAFE). There wasn't any technology snobbery, or rumbles in the streets between Windows and Mac users (AKA: Socs and the Greasers). Just thousands upon thousands of educators trying to better their career and the lives of their students. At the end of the day everyone was there to share, teach, and encourage. Now that's enough to keep you going till next year.

Posting this clip does not endorse greasy hair, collared shirts, smoking, violence, or open fires.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Google Chromebook: The Mark Twain of Laptops

In 1897 Mark Twain said, " The report of my death was an exaggeration". Just like Mark Twain in 1897, the media wrote Google Chromebook off for dead this week. According to several sources, Chromebook production would stop after 2016. Should I blog about the misrepresentation of modern media? No. How about a lesson on proper evaluation methods of online stories? Maybe. Better yet,  I will link a blog post from Hiroshi Lockheimer, Senior VP of Chrome OS. Enjoy and Bonjour.

Hiroshi Post: Chrome is alive

Friday, October 23, 2015

Write for Understanding - Billionaires Love It

Write for clarity. Earnest Hemingway was an expert in the area of precise prose. Arthur C. Clarke credits Hemingway with writing the world's shortest story. "For Sale: baby shoes, never worn." Did he, who knows. Clear writing has many fans, including Paul Tudor Jones. Mr. Jones is a billionaire hedge fund manger. He forces employees to take online classes in journalism to improve their writing skills. Paul demands clarity, precision, and order from all memos. If not, they are destroyed. Here is Paul's interview.

Strunk and White's Rule #17 clarifies the need for concise writing. Rule #17: Omit Needless Words. This rule and concept is not easy. Trust me. If you are looking for an online page for help. Look no further. Check out the Hemingway App to help improve your prose. 

Hemingway App approved: Grade 5

Monday, October 19, 2015

Doodle 4 Google Is Open - Let's Doodle

Google posted the details for their Doodle 4 Google contest. According to Google, "Students in grades K-12 are invited to take part in the 2015 Doodle 4 Google contest". Teachers can find all the details under the "How it Works" tab. Make sure and check the site out before introducing the contest to your students. The contest is open from October 19th till December 7th. 

 Along with the rules and entry form,  Doodle 4 Google also list the wonderful prizes up for grabs. Click here for a list of prizes (hint: $30,000 scholarship). Google has assembled an all-star group of judges to select the winner. Some of the judges are Julie Bowen (Modern Family), Dr Cagle ( Astronaut), and Stephen Curry (NBA Player). Make sure you check out the "Classroom Activities" tab when you visit. In this tab, teachers will find inspirational videos and grade band specific lesson plans  to use with their students. Here's video one of the three part series of inspirational videos geared towards students:

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

2015 Google Science Fair

Greetings Everyone! 

I wanted to let you all know the 2015 Google Science Fair is now up and running. All submissions need to be turned in by May 18, 2015. If you think you may be interested please go to www.googlesciencefair.com for tips about what to do and what not to do. 

Here are the instructions on how to enter.

If you are looking for a bit of inspiration on the possibilities within the Google Science Fair, please check out the video below from the 2012 Google Science Fair winner. She was able to develop a new way to help in the detection of breast cancer. Amazing story... 

I look forward to seeing what all you can do!

Monday, March 23, 2015

EdCamp Rome: A Reflection

Saturday morning my alarm went off at 5:30. I got up, did my morning routine, and I was on the road to Rome High School at 6:30 to begin a day of learning with close to 150 of my closest friends. If you were at EdCamp Rome, you know how amazing it was. If you weren't I hope this post will take you further to understand how amazing this day of learning and sharing was.

Let's back it up a little and tell you where this day came from. I've heard of the EdCamp model for a couple of years now. In short, the EdCamp model is one of empowering teachers to learn what is important to them. For an EdCamp to happen there will be a facility in place with an outline of session times and no scheduled presenters. Attendees are presenters and the sessions are put up on a board the morning of the event. Attendees are encouraged to go to sessions that apply to them and if the session doesn't, then they are asked to "vote with their feet" and move on to sessions as needed.

This EdCamp movement is a movement that has grown rapidly over the past few years. Atlanta will be having their fourth this coming year and communities around the state are in the process of holding them. If you go to the EdCamp Wiki, you can find a record of thousands of these types of events around the world. Last week there was one in Cobb County and next week there will be another in Roswell. I'm personally excited about EdCamp GigCity coming to Chattanooga on May 9th.

The idea for EdCamp Rome was born at this past years GAETC, Georgia's premier EdTech Conference. My friend, Kate Matthews, was doing a session on how several Fayette County Schools were utilizing the EdCamp model for their professional development. I was blown away by how empowered Fayette County teachers and administrators were through the process. The Fayette County presentation made it seem as though EdCamps were a feat anyone could pull off. I was immediately on board with launching our own EdCamp here in Rome, but I knew I would need a lot of help. Luckily, when I turned around in the Fayette County session at GAETC, I saw Terrie Ponder behind me. Terrie is the Rome City Schools Instructional Technology Specialist. Terrie and I immediately started talking about holding our own for Rome City and Floyd County Schools. Our thought was things are always better when you are working together, so bringing the two systems in would be beneficial for all involved.

Terrie and I were on board, so what's next? We needed a place to host the event. Terrie shared that Rome High School was in the process of a wireless upgrade. She was able to work with Dr. Evans at Rome High and found us a date. Putting that date down on the calendar made the event real and we knew we had some more work to do. It was too much for the two of us to handle. This is where the event really took off. First, my boss, mentor, friend, and office neighbor, Craig Ellison said he'd love to assist in any way he could, so Terrie and I now had a third partner in the mix.  Then, EdCamp Rome scored a coup de gras by gaining the support of Cat Flippen from Georgia Gwinnett College.

Cat is the engine that kept things going for EdCamp Rome. She has been in the planning and implementation of multiple EdCamps in Georgia and her expertise was invaluable. She has a strategy for every facet of the EdCamp process. Due to her persistence and planning, everything about EdCamp Rome ran on a dime. If you are planning an EdCamp and can have Cat on board, do it. She lives to serve and would love to help.

Lee, Cat, Terrie, and Craig; EdCamp Rome Organizers Extraordinaire

The process of getting to Saturday the 21st was awe inspiring. Craig made calls to RRW Multimedia Services and boom, we have Bojangles for breakfast. Craig made a call to EDCO Education and boom, we have t-shirts. Craig made a call to Logical Systems and boom, we have Chick-Fil-A lunch for all attendees. It was amazing how many people stepped up to provide door prizes for the event as well. Through all of us reaching out to our various resources we had swag from Techsmith, University of West Georgia, Yapp, Flocabulary, Voicethread, Little Bits, Chick-Fil-A Rome, Blue Sky, Bird Brain Science, Makey Makey, Kahoot, Edutopia, Brain Pop, Mellow Mushroom, Edupuzzle, and Padlet. So many sponsors! Thank you all for making this day so great.
Yep. These people are sitting on the floor in a classroom to learn on a Saturday morning.
We had sponsors, we had food, we had t-shirts, we had swag, and the final step was getting people. From Cat's advice, we created an Eventbrite page and opened up to 150 attendees. A couple of weeks after launching the Eventbrite page, we hit our target. People dropped out and people were added, but when it was all said and done we had roughly 120 people in attendance at Rome High School. On a Saturday. To learn. For free.

Carrie Siegmund and Clint Winter from Clarke County Schools gearing up for an amazing day of learning.
The organizers and the sponsors are great and all, but EdCamp Rome would be nothing without the attendees. At an EdCamp, no attendees means no presenters! We were not at a shortage for presentations at EdCamp Rome. Our local staff stepped up, but we were also graced by amazing people from Alabama, Chattanooga, Athens, Fayette County, and Atlanta. PK Graff, a veritable superstar in robotics and coding, shared with teachers throughout the day. Craig, Cat, Clarke County Schools crew, and I did a session on Pop Culture in the Classroom with the phrase that pays being, "I Kanye do technology." Kate Matthews from Fayette County was able to share about Transformational Leadership in Technology.

The EdCamp Rome Session Board, Before and After. Look at all the learning taking place! 

The beautiful thing about this day is that I think it will continue and grow. We have shown two systems what can happen when we work together to advance learning and I think there are more opportunities in the future to learn and grow together. In fact, Terrie, Cat, and Craig may not know it yet, but we are already planning EdCamp Rome II. Stay tuned for more details!

I'd be remiss if I didn't offer a few thank you's for the day. Aside from the coordinating crew, I have to thank Chris Carey of Logical Systems, Jeff Bunch of RRW, Amie Briggs of EDCO, and all of the other sponsors. You all made the day a huge success. I also want to thank Rome High Principal Dr. Tygar Evans and Rome City Schools Superintendent Dr. Mike Buck for their hospitality and letting EdCamp Rome use Rome High School. Another huge thanks goes to the support of Floyd County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff McDaniel, Chief of Academics Tony Bethune, and Director of Professional Learning Terri Snelling. It was great of you all to take the time to come out and support EdCamp Rome. 

The final thank you goes to the most important people of the day. The attendees. You all gave your time in service of your schools, students, and community. I hope the learning continues and you all are able to extend what happened at EdCamp Rome into your daily life. Vote with your feet, find things that work for you, and keep on learning.