I have had several teachers during the year this year that have either inquired about using comic creation software in the classroom or have used it at some point. Below is a link to an article published on the Free Technology for Teachers webpage that may give you a few more great ideas for how to incorporate this tool in your classroom. If you have not had a chance to check him out, DO IT! He is also one of the keynote speakers at the Upstate Technology Conference this year!
10 Ideas for Using Comics In Your Classroom
So, I started this teaching journey way back in 2004 (which still does not seem like that long ago thank you very much!). Back then, we had the YouTube but we certainly couldn't use it at school, at least not in my district. YouTube was more so for sharing cute (and/or ridiculous) videos thanks in part to the arrival of camera phones. However, remember having to plug that bad boy in and upload all your media goodies afterward. How did we live like that, seriously??
Since then, YouTube has become one of the most popular go to multimedia sources in education. While it still gets its fair share of creators just looking for their 15 seconds of fame, every once in a while I will luck up on someone who makes you go, "Man why didn't I think of this?"
The New Teacher Academy Channel is one such thing. John Spencer is at the helm of this humorous but true set of videos aimed at fully immersing new recruits to the educational crazy train. Though I have not watched all of his videos yet, I am a fan of how short, sweet, and most importantly hilariously accurate most of them are.
For example, I came from an early childhood background. Glitter was a requirement of the job. You don't like glitter, you don't do kindergarten. Period. He has a short little video on the two types of teachers called "The Glitter Wars Are Real. Choose Wisely" (see video link below).
My favorite so far though is one that I think every first year teacher should watch. It is almost as effective in preparing you for your first year as Harry Wong's now infamous The First Days of SchoolI book. It is called " 17 Things They Didn't Tell You About Becoming a Teacher" (see below). Things like the "freshman 15" and teacher nightmares are featured. Again, it's a must see before school starts! So, check out The New Teacher Academy channel today!
Okay, I'll admit, we have a lot of technology out there. Like. A. Lot. But not all technology is bad. And not all technology is good (don't even get me started on SnapChat..just don't). However, I was presented with a new piece of technology yesterday, and I am having a really hard time deciding if I like this or not. As we move to more integrated technology (making everyday objects a wee bit "smarter" ala the Smart Watch), I have to stop and wonder if there should be a point that we stop trying to make EVERYTHING a computer. So, with that said, a web developer in New York has figured out a way to turn a mirror into a smart phone. Don't get me wrong it looks super neat, but I have to stop and question: Why did he do that? Here's what I like about it. You can be putting on your makeup or shaving your face and at the same time you can be checking email, texting, etc. I like the efficiency. Here's what I don't love. We are becoming SO tethered to technology that we literally cannot put on makeup or shave our face without [essentially] our phone stuck up our nose. And I am basically calling myself out because I am guilty of having my phone in my face A LOT. In my defense I need my phone at work so that I can actually get up from my desk every once in a while and go to the bathroom or make sure my legs still work. I try to be more conscious of NOT having my phone near me at home unless I am looking up a recipe or something, but sometime it is so hard to do that! So, herein lies my dilemma. Do I love this smarty mirror or not? I really can't decide. Maybe you can decide for me?
Just a quick little post about Google Drive. I swear I learn literally something new about all the Google "stuff" every single solitary day. How can I keep track of all of this? Oh, well, yeah I guess I can always Google it if I forget.
So, today's little nugget is about converting files to Google formats automatically. If you have ever noticed when you upload a file to Google Drive it will still have the format extension it originated in. For example, a Word document will have the extension .docx. Well, there is a way to just automatically format it to a .gdoc. You can either got to drive.google.com/settings OR you can open Google Drive and click on the gear icon in the top right corner and select settings. Once you do that, it is the second option. You simply click "Convert uploaded files to Google Docs editor format" and from now on when you upload a document, powerpoint, spreadsheet, etc. it will convert it to an applicable Google App. Voila! Life changed!
If you don't already subscribe to Free Technology for Teachers on Facebook, you should. This guy really must not ever sleep, or eat, or have a social life. But it works to my advantage because he is always coming out with new little tips and tricks that are really cool but also really useful. This video below about the add on CheckItOut does not disappoint. Where was this when I was managing my classroom library of hundreds upon hundreds of books. Elementary teachers gather up some volunteers and get them busy getting your library cataloged in a Google Form then you will never ever again have to wonder where your copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar has gone. It is fabulousness!
So, here I am in a training listening the presenter talk about different types of screen capture software, which is very relational to my current research project on Flipped Learning. I have preached for, gosh, three years about the wonderful world of Snagit by TechSmith. First and foremost it is FREE (which makes this poor teacher smile!). Second of all it saves all of the screenshots and screen captures directly to your Google Drive, in its own folder (easy peasy, right?). And lastly, it is a Chrome Extension which means you don't have to close a window to go and hunt for it. It's right there in the right corner. It is a very user friendly tool. When I started this venture into Flipped Learning at the beginning of this year, I had all my curious and willing participants download Snagit even if they didn't think they would ever use it.
Now, cue the violins.
Snagit is no longer free. This is SO frustrating to the poor teacher living inside me! You create this cool tool. You make it available for free for a very long time. Then, BAM, now you want to charge $29.95 for something that was FREE literally yesterday. And, it doesn't look any different than the version I have that was, did I mention, FREE! I guess everyone is in it to make a dollar, even if that means not updating your product to make it any better than it was before you needed that $30 from your customers.
So, now I am scrambling to find a new favorite. There is Jing which is comparable but something about that golden orb thing that hangs out on the side of the screen just bothers me. I have also used the basic screen recorder in the ActivInspire program and it works okay if you want something very basic. There is also an open source program called CamStudio. I haven't tried it but it gets really good reviews.
If you are going to go the paid route for a screen capture tool, I would spend my money on Camtasia (https://www.techsmith.com/camtasia-education.html). It is $179 per user license which is VERY expensive. However, it is a screen capture and video editing program. It is very user friendly and you can publish in multiple formats. Now, with that said. Don't you dare use your money to buy this...you gotta eat and pay bills and stuff, right? Download the trial version first and try it out. Then, when you fall in love with it, and you will, pitch your purpose for needing this fantastic tool to your principal, your PTA, and maybe even your district. TechSmith has different levels of pricing. There is bound to be one that will work for you.
So , I am sitting here doing my monthly round of nerding out as I read through the Tech & Learning magazine, always with teachers on my brain. Some of the stuff in here is a bit too nerdy for me, I admit (particularly when they start using the big words like "extractor" and "interface"). But every month I do get lots of ideas to share...and I get Mary Katherine Gallagher excited about it (ha not really...no plaid skirt splits...but close). The April issue did not disappoint. The biggest thing that has caught my eye as far as being a usable tool for my teachers is ViewPure. Sweet genius where was this little piece of techno goodness when I taught second grade. I always, ALWAYS, no matter what video I was trying to show from YouTube, ALWAYS ended up with some inappropriate ad or video suggestion at the end of it (way to go school district filters, right?). Eventually, I learned how to download videos from YouTube to work around some of these issues but that is not a skill I like to pass around to just anyone because of copyright and people getting their feelings hurt and yada yada yada.
Enter, ViewPure. Before, you would see a lot of ads on the right hand side of your screen while watching a YouTube video. This made it challenging for some students to focus on the content at hand. It also made for some awkward moments in my primary classroom (especially at Halloween when all kinds of "ghosts caught on camera" video suggestions would pop up when I would show anything even remotely related to Halloween).
So, now with ViewPure you go and grab the URL of the video you want to show. Then, click Purify.
And BAM...video with no ads, no junk floating around to distract. Just your video. GENIUS!
But WAIT!!!! That's not all this little beauty does. Now, you can use ViewPure as a YouTube search engine and cut out the middle man. You can search videos on YouTube through ViewPure and instantly you have beautifully uncluttered videos for your viewing pleasure. And you can customize the search settings (strict, etc.). Love, love, love this!!!
I was very excited to read TWO articles in this months edition of Tech & Learning both dealing with coding in the classroom. Now, if you had asked me two years ago what in the world coding was, I would have probably thought that it was either something my doctor's office did with my medical chart or if you caught me in a more intelligent moment I would have thought it had something to do with the laborious and sometimes mind-numbing exercise known as HTML (or XHTML or HTML5 whatever your pleasure). Don't get me wrong, taking that class during my master's coursework was well worth it but I still have to refer back to my manual at least once a week in order to solve a coding problem.
But I digress, while I can or could see the merit in grown ups learning how to code for web purposes, etc. I had no idea on this earth why you would want a child to learn how to do this. Until about a year ago. I was introduced to a wonderful website called Kodable. Now, at the time I was teaching a bubbly group of second graders who (according to their biased teacher) were very advanced for their age. So, I introduced Kodable as one of our rotating math and literacy stations. And guess what? They absolutely loved it. Kodable teaches computer programming in a fun, challenging format where students tell, through a series of directional commands, their little fuzzy how to move to make it through the maze and collect coins at the same time. I even brought it home and let my eldest try it out.
The beauty of teaching children early about coding is that this is a universal language. Comptuers are everywhere. And computers need code to perform. You don't have to aspire to be a computer programmer to need these skills. Imagine you are an aspiring fashion designer who is going to rely heavily on computer technology to manufacture your designs. How beneficial will it be to you to be able to pinpoint a flaw in the code of your design in order to prevent thousands of dollars of wasted merchandise? I cannot think of any job in today's economy off the top of my head that does not utilize computers in some fashion...even if it is just a time card.
There are several websites out their that use gaming as a way to introduce and facilitate the learning of basic codes. I have my favorites so far listed below. You should check out the two articles as well.
I kind of get a chuckle over this because a few years back I was sitting down for a job interview and the very much older gentleman who was part of the interview board asked me where I thought educational technology was headed. My response was that we would see a shift towards more virtual learning experiences (i.e. virtual field trips and the implementation of virtual reality). Well he looked at me like I was bonkers and (shocker!) I didn't get the job.
Well, this morning I was perusing around the web and came upon the article below. Now, I about had a nerd attack back before Christmas when I saw that View Master was releasing their own Virtual Reality viewer. So, naturally I got one (errrr I mean the kids got one...yeah that sounds better). It is AMAZINGGGGGG!!! We opted to buy the Space experience pack and it is out of this world good (cheesy yes I know). You actually feel like you are on a Space Shuttle or exploring the planets. The graphics are dynamic in my opinion. And the coolest part is that you use your cell phone for the viewer and insert it into the VR case.
But I digress, back to where we started. In this article teachers are now using Google Cardboard (which is the google version of the VR Viewer see here) in the classroom to enhance and/or blow the top off of their teaching. Imagine students being able to experience in 3D rushing down the Amazon or scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef. The New York Times is featured in this article because they now have their own app. I tried it here at school but without my View Master it's not as cool. I will definitely be giving it a try once I get home. This is definitely something to check out for your classroom!
Virtual Reality App: Free VR Experience
So there is a huge learning curve with any new piece of equipment and Chromebooks are no exception. Several teachers have expressed some concerns about their new little friends, and I am slowly but surely trying to find answers to most of them. This video goes over how to gain access to PowerTeacher and YouTube. As you come across little tricks or tips I encourage you to share them either here or by email.
Hi! My name is Allison Barton, a former elementary school teacher turned Technology Integration Specialist at Greenville High School in Greenville, South Carolina. I have been teaching for 11 years and have relied on technology during that time to excite, engage, and educate my students (both young and old). I also enjoy very much sharing my knowledge about technology with other teachers.