Thursday, August 29, 2013


I've known about Animoto for a few months but haven't bothered to use it till the other day.  I'm using Common Sense Media's digital citizenship curriculum with all of my classes from kindergarten to middle school. Their lesson called Digital Life 101 suggests that students write and illustrate a simile to describe their digital life.  It also goes one step farther and prompts students to create an Animoto video to demonstrate this simile.

Here are two really cool videos my students made in a matter of minutes.

Yes, I think I will be using this site more often in the future.

How do you use Animoto in the classroom? 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Innovation Kick-Off Fall 2013

It's a new school year, which means a new round of Innovation Projects.  I teach a middle school course called Tools for Technology, which is where I implement my projects.  This semester I have a total of four students, which is both sad and exciting.  The good news is that I'll be able to give students more input and guidance along the way.

I have two goals this time around to make things better.  One, I wanted to start things right by helping students select their projects more wisely.  I want the focus to be on creating something to be proud of, not being entertained by something someone else made.  Two, I want to be able to model excellence and help scaffold students along the way.

If you click here and here, you'll see the two documents I had students read and interact with to plan their projects.  In the past, I merely asked students to think of a technical project they would like to do and write me a proposal paragraph. I accepted just about anything and maybe helped tweak the idea a bit.

This year, I've tried to get them to focus more on something they are passionate about.  I also created a contract.  I simply took their proposal paragraphs then added my own stipulations.  For instance, one student is creating his own song.  I added that he would have to write two songs, upload them to YouTube or some such site, then put the links on his blog.  I printed out two copies of the contract.  We each signed both and kept a copy. Hopefully the students will use their contracts to help guide their projects, and this will also serve as the standard by which I judge the quality and quantity of their work at the end.

Here are the projects we'll be seeing this time around:

  • Evan -- Creating eight or more pictures using pixel art and putting them on his site.  Evan is a return student from last year, and I like that I'm seeing some more creativity on this project than others in the past.
  • Max -- Creating two songs using Dubstep. Like I stated above, he will upload these to YouTube or a similar music sharing site and put the links on his blog.  I'm unfamiliar with Dubstep, so it will be interesting to see where this one goes.
  • Mason -- Creating his own web site, though I'm not quite sure of the platform or the content. I'm going to be watching over his shoulder to see what he comes up with.
  • Cole -- I'm not sure yet. You know how that goes.
The second goal I have for this semester's projects is to be a better source of help and encouragement during the projects. The vernacular for that is... I need to get up off my butt and get involved with the kids.  I just need to make it a point to spend a couple minutes with each student every Friday to make sure he knows what he's doing rather than wait for someone to ask for help.

I'm excited for this set of Innovation Projects and love the fact that I'll be seeing some creative creations rather than creative consumption this time around. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wanna chat sometime?

Dear #edtechex Friends:

I humbly apologize to you for ignoring you over the summer. It was not intentional.  I meant to meet you during our prescheduled chat times.  It started with a family camping trip during our first chat because that was the only time we could camp.  (We had a great time, by the way.)  Then, I realized I was thoroughly enjoying my summer blissfully ignoring educational technology and never looked back.  It really was a good summer!

Now summer is over and it's the first day of school. (Oddly, I am monitoring a study hall during first period this year.) I'm looking at my schedule for the year and see that Thursday is my best day to chat.  I'm free from 9:30 till 1:30 (with the exception of my Lunch/Recess duty between 10:45 and 11:45).  Is there a half hour or hour in there we can chat?

Let's compare schedules and see if we can gather 'round the ol' Twitter table.  It doesn't have to be Thursday.  Throw out an idea and we'll see if we can agree on some common ground.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Three I's

Sitting in church on Sunday this summer, I got some incredible inspiration for becoming a better teacher. Now, mind you, the point of the message was about how to build into people spiritually, not intellectually. While I fully recognize this, the message was full of insight into being a better leader of people and help them  grow to be all they were intended to be.  Isn't that what teachers strive to do every day? (For those of you interested in listening to the message, feel free to watch the video here.)

Our speaker was Jo Saxon, originally from England, talking about how to disciple people and help them to grow.  She used plenty of personal history to talk about how she grew, watching over the shoulders of others.  In fact, she went on to discuss that the meaning of "disciple" is to "watch over the shoulder" of your leader.  She talked about sharing life with her mentors, learning from watching them live in the good and bad, talking through issues, and eventually being mature enough to step out on her own.

Obviously, as educators we are not going to take all of our students home with us each night to eat our food, watch us parent our children, and see us live our lives 24/7.  However, there is something to be said about the mentor/disciple relationship over the teacher/student relationship.

Jo broke this relationship into 3 I's:

  • Information:  Obviously, in order to learn more, you need to be given more content.  Without the building blocks of information, you can't do anything.  (As I saw one tweep mention the other day, you can't Google EVERYthing. We need to teach content.)  Some things are taught.
  • Imitation: Mentors need to be living examples for their students.  This requires relationship, time, and sharing.  All too often, we are ruled by the lesson plan, the objectives, or the Common Core standard and forget to let the kids see our lives and get to know us.  One really cool quote I took from the message was, "Their testimonies became my tools." As we share our stories and let kids into our lives, our testimonies can become their tools to live. Some things are caught.
  • Innovation: Turn them loose so they can do bigger and better things.  Talking of her own daughters, Jo said, "I want the ceiling of my life to be the floor of their lives." Isn't that what we want of our students?  When I look at some of my former students, I can say I may be the most proud of the ones who have exceeded what I may have expected: the microbiologist who hopes to do his doctoral work at MIT, the VP at Dropbox, the IT guy at Children's Hospital, my worship pastor, the social network guru.  
How many of us as teachers -- >ahem< mentors -- focus on all three of these aspects of discipling? I bet if we did an honest poll of teachers across the land, we would find that most of us hone in on only one of these, and a few of us try to nail two of them.  

The third I hits home for me.  You've read my blog enough to know that I'm all about innovation.  Not only do I have my pet Innovation Projects, but I also spend a lot of time talking about students using technology to create, not being consumers of technology.  Guess what?  If all I want to do is guide them into innovation, I'm missing some key aspects of mentoring.  

So, as I look forward to another school year, I'm committing myself to focus on all three.  I can't expect students to create unless I give them better raw materials to build with and show them a few tips on how best to make something to be proud of. 

Which one of the Three I's do you need to work on?