Category Archives: K-12

Give the Green Light with a Green Screen

“You mean they didn’t really go there?” a student asked me.

She was pointing to a bulletin board of Photo Mapo projects by my 1st graders.  Each student had chosen a Google Street View image of a landmark in the country they were studying.  Using the Green Screen app by DoInk, the students inserted pictures of themselves in front of the landmarks.  They also took video of themselves explaining the landmarks.  The pictures were inserted into Photo Mapo, linked to their videos on Aurasma, and presto – interactive postcards.

Photo Apr 14, 8 52 49 AM

Several of my grade levels have taken advantage of the Green Screen app we purchased this year.  My 2nd graders used it to portray themselves in front of famous bridges around the world, and one chose to use it to make a video about her biomimetic invention.

Biomimicry

In yesterday’s post, I showed how word clouds can be fun with the Green Screen app (thanks to Tricia Fuglestad for the idea).

Tricia also gave me the idea for the Time Magazine covers my 5th graders worked on last week.  Here is a link to her post about this project.  For our own versions, my students used Green Screen by DoInk and Canva.

Time Magazine (Some of my students have become so familiar with using the screen that they automatically turn it around to the blue side if a student is wearing green so he or she won’t appear as a disembodied head.

If you want some more green screen ideas, I highly recommend you do a search on Tricia’s Fugleblog.  Don’t have the ability to buy apps? Touchcast is free, though not quite as user friendly for younger students.  No green screen in your classroom?  There are tons of instructions for makeshift screens on the web, including pizza boxes, science boards, sheets, and paint.

Let your students travel to any continent, planet, or even the future with a green screen.

 

Word Cloud App Smashing

I think we’ve already established that I have very little imagination.  I admire creativity, but I am much better at borrowing other people’s ideas than I am at generating my own.

When I first learned about Word Clouds, for example, I thought they were fun but really couldn’t think of too many applications for their use.  Fortunately, I network with many other people who can think outside the cloud.

For example, someone tweeted the other day about using Word Clouds with Thinglink.  I wish I remember who.  Great idea!  If you are using iOS, you can use the ABCya Word Cloud app along with the Thinglink app.  On the web, there are plenty of word cloud generators such as Tagxedo and Wordle, and Thinglink has a web application as well.

In April, Tricia Fugelstad blogged about using word clouds with self-portraits.  Since we were using iPads in my class, my students had a bit different workflow than Tricia’s students.  Again, we used the ABCya app.  We also used Green Screen by DoInk.  (Unfortunately, the latter one isn’t free – but well worth every penny!)

wordcloudselfportrait

Last week, Susan Prabulos blogged about using word clouds to reminisce about the year.  I realized her idea would work perfectly with the Pic Collage and/or Canva project I planned for my students. Since we were using iPads, we couldn’t use Tagxedo to create a special shape (great idea, Susan!) but the students enjoyed it anyway.

My 2nd graders were short on time (and somewhat keyboard challenged) so we brainstormed a word cloud to represent our year in GT together.  Then they added it to Pic Collages they created using self-selected pictures from our blog.

Some inserted the word cloud into the layout,

wordcloudpiccollage1

while others chose to use the word cloud as their background image.

wordcloudpiccollage2

Of course, you could take this activity even farther by creating a Thinglink from the collage and having students reflect on how the photos relate to the words in the cloud.

For more word cloud ideas, check out this post from awhile back.

A Few More Reasons to “Conduct” Your Own Genius Hour

During the weekend, I happened to hear two radio interviews with different orchestra conductors that reminded me of the reasons I started to offer Genius Hour in my classroom.

NPR’s Scott Simon spoke with the conductor of the Boston Pops, Keith Lockhart, about a feature called By Popular by Demand, which allows the audience to use mobile technology to program the second half of the concert they attend.  Here is one excerpt from the interview, spoken by Keith Lockhart:

“People are clapping along, people are singing every word to some of the things that have lyrics to them, and there was just a celebratory spirit. And it really got me – it succeeded beyond my wildest dreams and really got me thinking about maybe one of the elements we’re missing in the live performing arts is this feeling of investment on the part of the audience. Certainly, you know, “Dancing With The Stars,” “The Voice,” “American Idol” – all those have already thought that the way to keep people interested is to give them a voice.”

The way to keep people interested is to give them a voice. Exactly.  This is what Genius Hour is all about.  Even if the teacher does not feel comfortable in surrendering a fifth of the curriculum to the students, that feeling of “investment” Lockhart mentions can still be achieved by offering more choices.

In a separate interview on TED Radio Hour, Guy Raz spoke with Charles Hazelwood, a conductor who has worked with orchestras around the world.  The theme of the show was “Trust and Consequences.” Hazelwood has done a TED talk on “Trusting the Ensemble.”  During his TED talk, Hazelwood quoted a fellow conductor, Sir Colin Davis, who once advised him, “Conducting, Charles, is like holding a small bird in your hand. If you hold it too tightly, you crush it. If you hold it too loosely, it flies away.”

I feel that Genius Hour works this way as well.  By giving our students the opportunity to pursue their own interests, we loosen our hold on the small bird.  But we must continue to guide them because allowing them complete freedom before they are ready can have disastrous consequences.

Hazelwood ended his interview with Guy Raz with a piece of advice that truly resonated with me as a teacher.

 

quote from Charles Hazelwood
quote from Charles Hazelwood

Here is a link to some Genius Hour resources in case you are interested.

Makey Makey Go

I really wish Kickstarter would offer gift cards.

I have a huge obsession with creativity – and browsing Kickstarter fuels that craving.  I am awed by the imagination of the inventors, and constantly berating myself for not coming up with any of these ideas.

So I do the next best thing.

I back them.

Because it takes imagination to recognize imagination, right? By throwing in my ten or twenty dollars I’m saying, “Well, I may not have dreamed up this awesome product, but at least I’m innovative enough to realize its cutting edge potential.”

Right?

Anyway, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see that Makey Makey Go is going to “go” far.  Its predecessor, Makey Makey, was one of the 50 top-funded Kickstarter projects ever. I’ve mentioned Makey Makey on this blog several times, including recommending it as a great holiday gift. Jay Silver, the inventor of the original, is behind the new, portable version.  You absolutely must see his suggestions for the many uses of Makey Makey Go, including several taking-selfies-in-odd-situations solutions.

I, of course, went with the $39 Pledge because:

1. You get a Bonus Tin

and

B. You get two Makey Makey Go Sticks – which means I can wear them as earrings.

image from: Makey Makey Go Kickstarter
image from: Makey Makey Go Kickstarter

Totally worth it.

 

 

7 Books That Make Great Graduation Gifts

After doing yesterday’s post about videos to inspire graduates, I realized that I could easily  list a few books that I would recommend as graduation gifts.  Oh, The Places You’ll Go is a regular favorite, but here are some lesser known choices that might work:

For Kindergarten or Primary Students:

Pete the Cat’s Groovy Guide to Life by Kimberly and James Dean (I just ordered this, so I can’t whole-heartedly recommend it, yet.  However, I will update this with a blog post as soon as I get a chance to review it.)

image from: Pete the Cat's Groovy Guide to Life by
image from: Pete the Cat’s Groovy Guide to Life by Kimberly and James Dean

For Elementary (5th or 6th Grades) or Middle School Graduates:

Heroes for my Daughter (or Heroes for my Son) by Brad Meltzer

365 Days of Wonder by RJ Palacios

Kid President’s Guide to Being Awesome by Brad Montague and Robbie Novak

For High School or College Graduates:

Whatever You Are Be a Good One by Lisa Congdon

Zen Pencils Book by Gavin Than

Things Don’t Have to Be Complicated edited by Larry Smith

Of course, you don’t have to restrict your gift-giving to graduates. Teachers and administrators might appreciate these, too ;)

You can check out more general gift ideas on this Pinterest Board, and I have some other recommended books here.

What Every School Needs

Our elementary school is currently raising money to add a track.   Since my 2nd graders are studying Structures, I invited one of the stakeholders to speak to the class about the process of coming up with an idea and following it through.

After our guest left and we debriefed, I asked the class to brainstorm some other structures they think would enhance our school.

“An ice cream shop.”

“A swimming pool!”

“A Large Hadron Collider!”

Confused faces turned to the last speaker.  And, yes, my face was included in that crowd.

Everything I know about the Hadron Collider, I learned from Big Bang Theory, and I was fairly certain that my 2nd grader didn’t want to add one to school property so Leonard Hofstadter could bring Penny to Texas for a romantic weekend.

“Maybe you should explain to the class (and me) what that is,” I said hesitantly.

“It throws beams of protons at each other.  I watched a special on it last night,” was the proud response.

This resulted in another student declaring that he would like to see a chemistry lab on campus – one that would allow him to “deconstruct dangerous acids.” (This was the same young man who asked our guest if he had considered the “ethics” of adding a track to our campus.)

May I remind you that these are second graders?

After watching a TEDEd video about an incredibly unique rooftop kindergarten in Japan (embedded below), the students drew their own ideas for school additions.

The Hadron Collider morphed into a “Black Hole Room” with the purpose of helping you to “see and feel what a black hole is like.”  My future self-proclaimed geneticist drew a “Biomimicry and Invention Test Center.” One young lady redesigned the room next door (our Maker Studio), specifying it as a Robot Lab instead.  She meticulously drew every robot we have and included a child and an iPad as well.

I think more school districts and architects should consult young students on their designs.  Maybe adding a Hadron Collider to the blueprint isn’t very practical – but neither is building a school where the only place our students can run is the parking lot.

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5 Things We Need to Start Pretending

I was intrigued by a couple of blog posts yesterday that were titled, “5 Things We Need to Quit Pretending.”  You can read them here and here.

Time to Pretend

Since I like to steal ideas but modify them, I decided to flip the coin. What should we start pretending in education?  Here are my 5 things (okay, it’s actually 6 – just pretend it’s 5):

  • Every child in our classroom is our own flesh and blood and we have a vested interest in the education they receive.
  • Our classrooms have no walls and it is just as easy to interview a student in another country as it is to speak to the teacher next door.
  • Every student has at least one social media account and it is our responsibility to teach them how to use it safely and kindly.
  • The interactive, passionate lessons you teach will have a greater impact on your students than their scores on their standardized tests.
  • Dr. Derek Shepherd did not die on Grey’s Anatomy.
  • Steve Jobs was reincarnated into the young man who refuses to stay in his seat, always asks you to repeat directions, and never actually follows them.  You will patiently engage him in exciting lessons and he will mention your name one day in the Harvard graduation speech that he was asked to deliver after creating a successful and thriving community on Mars, referring to you as the person who inspired him follow his passions.  When you retire, he will offer you one of his palatial mansions as a retirement home, which will include a chauffeur, a chef, and a hot tub that you never have to maintain because, duh, there are other people who will take care of that.

Okay, I guess I got a little off track for a moment.

Obviously it’s not pretending to think our lessons are going to effect our students more than those silly test scores.

Right?