Category Archives: Research

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.

 

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.

White House Science Fair

On Monday, March 23, 2015, the White House hosted it’s fifth annual Science Fair.  You can see some of the participants in the video on this site.  I haven’t been able to watch the whole video, but I enjoyed the segment that starts about 57 minutes in (I just chose a random place to start) where some students describe their experiences with their FIRST Lego League robots to Bill Nye.

White House Science Fair 2015
White House Science Fair 2015

If you visit the site, you can learn all about this year’s exhibitors – which include the 6-year-old darling “Supergirls” FIRST Lego League Team below.  Talk about STEM Inspiration!

The Supergirls from Tulsa, OK
The Supergirls from Tulsa, OK

You can find more coverage of the event here. And if you want some STEM resources, check out this Pinterest Board.

Engineering – Go For It!

When I realized that last week was National Engineering Week, the week was practically already over.  I tried to salvage things by doing some engineering with my 5th grade last Thursday – Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day.  Ironically, there are only 5 girls in my 5th grade class of 18.  But that’s still a higher percentage of females represented in my class than in the engineering workforce according to this article.

During my attempt to find an informational engineering website that would appeal to my students, I stumbled on eGFI (Engineering – Go For It!).  This site shows the many different professions that fall under the umbrella of “engineering.”  You can read about all of them, find out how to make a difference in each career, and “meet” engineering students as well as current engineers by reading their bios and major accomplishments.

eGFI

My students enjoyed just browsing the site and writing down 6 facts that they didn’t know about engineering that they learned from the site.  I wrote down 6 myself, and could have continued for another 50, I have a feeling!

The eGFI Magazine was a huge hit (but it seemed to work better on the tablets than on the PC), with articles about everything from movie-making to fast cars.

Of course, I didn’t have my students just read about engineering. We attempted to do our own engineering by designing the best ways to make straws fly through the air.  I gave them this activity from Zoom after they had tested out other options – some of which worked better.  (They are still reporting back to me on iterations they continued to create at home.)

On the way to lunch on Thursday, I overheard one student say, as if in complete surprise, “Engineering is really fun!”

I guess I need to do a better job at communicating that!

Twister

Just to be clear from the outset, this post is not about the game that prepares you for a career in Cirque de Soleil – or, in my case, a long stay in the hospital.

Twister, basically a fake Tweet generator, is one of the many fun tools available from ClassTools.net.  (Check out this post from Richard Byrne about Connect Fours, another really cool ClassTools resource.)

ClassTools is the site that also brings you Fakebook. (You can probably easily deduce the purpose of that tool!)  I’ve used Fakebook, and included it as one of the challenges on Brad Gustafson’s ConnectED Bingo Board.  Joelle Trayers has a great post about using Fakebook with Junie B. Jones, and reading her post reminded me that I had been wanting to explore some of the other Classtools resources.

Twister is very simple to use.  You can see the required fields in the picture below.

from ClassTools.net

 

The tool actually pulls images from the internet to use for a background, so I tried a fictional character, Harry Potter, to see what would happen.  Here is what I got when I submitted:

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 8.09.29 PM

Then I thought I should try something more historical.

 

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 8.18.09 PM

This tool is easy to use and probably works for any famous person, fictional or historical, on the internet.

If you want something a bit more complex, you can try out this downloadable fake Twitter template.  Or, for a simulated Twitter experience, try Tammy Tang’s awesome Google Class Tweeter Template.

Genius Hour Interviews

Last year, one of my fabulous Twitter connections, Andi McNair (@mcnairan3, http://ameaningfulmess.blogspot.com/), mentioned that she required all of her students to interview an expert for their Genius Hour projects.  Previously, this was one of the mystery challenges on my Genius Hour Challenge Cards, but not a requirement.  The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of building this into all of their projects.

My biggest class is my 5th grade GT class – 18 students.  They rocked Genius Hour in 4th grade last year, so I thought they would be the best class to “pilot” this idea.  Since many of the students are working in pairs, this meant we would need at least 9 experts.

We discovered that finding an expert to interview isn’t easy.  We learned pretty quickly that calling the names on websites wasn’t going to work very well.  As soon as the person on the other end heard a child’s voice, my students weren’t taken very seriously.  So, we decided to try e-mailing people to ask if they would Skype with us.  That has elicited a better response, but still requires persistence. (The students typed e-mails from my account requesting help with their projects and for the expert to please contact their teacher if interested.)

Our first expert helped a group of students with a project they were doing on wild animals in captivity.  We found them through a contact I had made when we did our Cardboard Box Arcade earlier this year.

Then, through a comment made by a teacher in a Twitter chat about her students’ Genius Hour projects, I was able to connect another group who is studying the impact of divorce with two students who have experienced it first-hand.

Last week was one of my favorite Skypes.  Some students who are studying global warming talked with an expert who was not only very knowledgeable but also extremely good at explaining his topic to young people.  The students were glued to the screen for almost 45 minutes, covering pages of paper with notes.  However, I couldn’t tell if the students were just being polite or really engrossed in the conversation.

Afterward, I tentatively asked them their impressions of the interview.

“It was great!” “We learned so much!”  “He really explained well!”

Whew.

They had graciously thanked him at the end of the interview, but I ended up sending my own e-mail of profuse gratitude for him taking the time to explain such a complicated issue to my students.

Not all “experts” are great at speaking to students.  However, the process of taking their research out of the classroom and getting a professional perspective gives the students an idea of the relevance of their work, making it much more meaningful to them.

You can learn more about using outside experts in the classroom from Andi’s post – which gives great, specific advice and links to other posts on this topic.

To find out more about Genius Hour, check out my page of resources here.

My students Skype with an expert on global warming.
My students Skype with an expert on global warming.

 

Google Recipe Filters

This week (except for Wednesday) I am dedicating my posts to sharing resources I learned about at TCEA in Austin last week.  I think packing too much info into a blog post is overwhelming, so if you are craving more, feel free to check out my notes (which are not finished yet!) here.

So it turns out that finding a Phun Phriday post based on your notes from a conference about technology in education is a little bit harder than I anticipated.  Because…  education.  And Phun Phriday posts are supposed to be (according to the rules I established for such posts) decidedly not educational.

I did find a note from the very first TCEA session I attended this year that could qualify as not really educational – unless you happen to teach at Le Cordon Bleu.  Unfortunately, since I don’t really like to cook, it doesn’t quite qualify as Phun, either.  But maybe you would disagree.

I learned from Richard Lombardo (@Rich_Lombardo) and Jerrad Barczyszyn (@rpdpjerrad) that the Google Search Tools aren’t always the same.  I usually use them when I’m looking for an image to determine copyright.  But I had no idea they would be helpful on the nights my husband works late and I’m stuck cooking dinner.

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 7.53.45 PM

For example, go to Google and do a search for fried chicken.  Then click on the Search Tools underneath.  Now, you can filter the recipe results by anything from calories to cook time!  By choosing “under 15 minutes” and “under 100 calories” I changed the number of results from over 50 million to just 1 recipe.

I’ll be only slightly more impressed when I can type in, “Make me some fried chicken,” and Google completes the task for me.  But then I’ll probably just complain about how Google always leaves the kitchen so messy…