Monday, November 20, 2017

Parking your car somewhere soon? Check out this app.

Parking ramps can be a little sketchy. I didn't want to park here anymore.

I was on my way downtown for the NCTE conference and was unsure where to park. Sarah mentioned this app she used to find and pay for a spot before she ever left home. If that isn't enough it was half the price of the other spots! I'm thankful for Sarah's advice, it saved me a ton of money.

Start by downloading the SpotHero app on your device and create an account.

I searched for parking near the convention center. 
Clicked on the $5 spot.

Click reserve spot.
It automatically charges your card.
I was shocked when I saw the kiosk in the parking lot, it was charging $10 for the spot!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Digital Conferring and Collaborating - NCTE 2017

This post was created as a reference for a presentation given at NCTE 2017.

I was the teacher with a million different systems to keep all my notes organized. My first strategy was a clipboard with a note card for every student taped to it. I was kinda slick except I would forget it at school, outside or in a different classroom. I never had my notes when I needed them. That system fell apart way too fast.

The next was Post-It notes. I'm sure you know how that ended, tons of money spent and notes all over the place.

Evernote was awesome but I always found it hard to use. The one part that was sweet, audio record right in the note. That might be the killer feature that separates Evernote from everything else.

Google Forms was OK but reading words on a spreadsheet is maddening.

I was at a loss. Nothing was working well and I was chasing the elusive productivity monster.

A year or so ago I attended a Google edcamp and stumbled upon an add-on for Google Sheets, this chance encounter changed everything. I'm sure there are a million different ways to do this but I have found that using docAppender has opened more doors than I expected.

Getting Started

Overview Video - Watch this to understand the whole process.

1. Create a folder in Google Drive. All of your student Google Docs will be housed in this one folder.
2. Create a Google Form.
3. Run docAppender and watch the magic.

Workflow - here is a digital copy of the step-by-step process to creating a form with docAppender. While it may appear to be a lot of steps it can be completed in under 4 minutes.

Engaging Today's Learners to Create Tomorrow's Readers and Writers - padlet we used during the session.

I used the following posts while researching this topic.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Lunch and Learn (#booksnaps)

Is it possible to engage kids in what they are reading? Is there a way to do it without Post-It notes and highlighting in the actual physical book? How do we get them to share beyond book groups? Is it possible to do all of this in a kindergarten room in the morning and a high school class in the afternoon?

You bet! #booksnaps might just be the one idea that transcends every grade level. This one idea can be used in every classroom across the district. This one idea could be used to share out about the learning that is happening no matter what you are teaching.

Why #booksnaps? What makes this worthwhile?
  • It is fun. We all put way more effort in things that are fun versus things that are the opposite of that. 
  • Free form expression. This allows the student to create something that sparks them and share it out without much effort.
  • Adds value. Their thinking is public, not Post-It Note private.
  • The conversation could grow as it does not need to be face to face.
  • Reflective on my time. I can have time to think and then share.
How does this get them ready for the world?
  • Teaches the kids how to create a positive footprint.
  • Creating on their device, not just consuming.
  • Helps them hone their communication skills. (see State of St. Louis Workforce 2017)
  • Elevates their personal creativity as they find unique ways to share their thinking.

What are #booksnaps?

Taking it up a notch with Seesaw.

Getting Started
  • Pick a pathway to follow:
    • #booksnaps
    • #gratitudesnaps 
    • #artsnaps
    • #pesnaps
    • #othersnappystuff

There are a bunch of directions you could go, for this post we will show you two pathways.
  • Seesaw
  • Pic Collage

Create - Seesaw
The following assumes you are already using Seesaw. These steps will just highlight the #booksnaps aspect of Seesaw.

Start by taking a picture.

Click the Label tool to add text.

1. Text and emojis added using keyboard.
2. Clicking the drawing tool allowed me to add some pop to the page.
3. Recording voice to add value to the snap.
4. Don't forget that on iOS you can use the arrow to help direct the viewer as you talk.

Pro Tip - add a #booksnaps folder to make it easier to find all the snaps.

Create - Pic Collage
Pic Collage
This is a free standalone app that does not require any login. These snaps could be shared digitally or printed out.
Start by clicking Freestyle.

1. Clicking the PLUS symbol at the bottom will always give you this menu option.
2. Click Photo. Use the camera app to take a picture of the text you want to snap.

You have taken the picture and adjusted it to fit the screen.
1. Click the PLUS to add text or a doodle.

Click the PLUS symbol to share the final creation.

Monday, November 13, 2017

B&W Challenge - How are you altering your pics?


I'm sure you have see that seven day B&W challenge post making the rounds on Facebook. Interested in upping your game? Check out these tips on creating a more dynamic B&W shot.

Google Photos
Open your image in Google Photos.
1. Click the Edit icon. Then this current screen will open.
2. Scroll and choose a preset option.

1. Adjust the sliders to alter the image.
2. Click Done when finished.

Final image.
I would play with this a little more but it looks better than the traditional automatic filter.

A free iOS or Android app.

Both of these photos were taken with the Lenka camera app. The app only allows very little adjustment which is pretty nice.

I would recommend taking the picture with the Lenka app and editing it with the Google Photos app. This usually results in a much better end result all with just a click or two. Pretty slick. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

#booksnaps - This might replace my obsession with Post-It Notes.

My first #booksnap. 

I have seen this shared on Twitter for a while now and decided it was time to try it. While my snaps are not super great, it has helped me narrow down what is really snapable and what isn't. I'm sure you can understand, sometimes we just highlight too much on any given page.

What is a #booksnap?
I think it is simply taking a picture of the book you are reading, highlighting an outstanding quote and sharing it publicly.

The idea came from Tara Martin, @taramartinedu, when she began reading the Launch book. Like any book, it can be difficult to keep the conversation going between face-to-face meetings. I know I will highlight and add a ton of Post-Its to my book which might be great for me but not the greater conversation that could happen around what I'm reading. #booksnaps solves this issue by giving me a quick pathway to snap, annotate and share my thinking.

I believe this will change my reading by helping me narrow down my highlights and share what I find to be most impactful.

Student Examples
Check out the scrolling examples on Tara Martin's website. I would recommend taking a look at what she has posted before reading any further, so many great ideas to get you started.

What if...
  • you did snaps for math?
  • they created snaps for social studies?
  • they participated in #gratitudesnaps?  

#booksnaps using Pic Collage or Seesaw
Snapchat is not required to participate, there are other avenues to get everyone to make their thinking visual.

Pic Collage
Pic Collage is a free iOS and Android app that allows the user to annotate any image they take.

Creating a Pic Collage is wicked easy, just follow these steps.
Note: This is my first time creating a #booksnap, I'm sure it will look a ton better with a little practice.
Open the app and click Freestyle.

Click Photos.

1. Click the camera icon to take a picture.
2. You can also select a picture that is already in your camera roll.

I used an image already in my camera roll.
I clicked Text to begin adding the quote.

There are three tools at the bottom to adjust the text. 
Click the check at the top when finished.

Adjust the text.
Click the plus symbol to add additional details.
Click Done when ready to share.
Your class could share it to Classroom or any other public place you use.

Seesaw shared this video highlighting #booksnaps using Seesaw. It was record by Tara Martin.

Additional Resources
Tara Martin has a bunch a videos on how to create #booksnaps using a variety of apps.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

This might win the award for best STEM candle.

I bought the cake but totally forgot about candles! How can you have a birthday cake and not have candles?

Just before we cut the cake I recalled that I had one special candle left from a pack I bought maybe a year ago. I am still amazed at the level of engineering it took to make this thing work.

Thoughts I had:
  • How do they get the big flame to work without totally melting all the smaller candles?
  • Why does the wire stretch across the big flame?
  • Could you make a different candle to play a customized song?
  • How many version did they need to make before they found one that worked flawlessly?
  • How did they come up with this idea?
  • How much math was involved in making this?
  • Could you use different chemicals to produce a different colored flame?
We took it apart to find the electronics inside. We found two batteries, a simple speaker and a tiny circuit board. The best part was the small strip of metal that was tightly wound which provided the power to rotate the flower. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

This machine is so STEM, you just gotta see it.

Soda machine at 5 Guys.
STEM is everywhere.

My wife was out of town and I had not listened to what we were supposed to do for dinner so my solution was to take the kids out for dinner. We hadn't been to 5 Guys in a long time we we decided to stop by.

We ordered and turned the corner to fill up our drinks and stopped cold, the FreeStyle machine was open. One of the employees explained to me how the whole thing works and I was in awe.

The first thing that hit me was how much they must be saving on shipping costs. Look near the bottom of the image above, you can see where all the flavor packs are stored. Each of these holds about two hundred drinks and weights less than a paperback book. The carbonated water and sweeteners are added the instant you fill your drink selection. No need to ship those five pound boxes of syrup anymore!

How is this STEM?

  • The mixing of the drink is very precise, I wonder what the mathematical formula is for this. This technology originated from a drug manufacturer.
  • I was amazed at who designed the outside shell of the machine, not in a million years would I have guessed it. Just Google Coke-Cola Freestyle and check out the webpage.
  • The machine as an app. What has to take place to allow your mobile to talk with the machine? Check the video below to see how it works.
  • Why would they have a Facebook page
  • How many drink combinations can they make based upon the flavorings and sweeteners?
  • How do the RFID chips work?
  • etc...

Parking your car somewhere soon? Check out this app.

Parking ramps can be a little sketchy. I didn't want to park here anymore. I was on my way downtown for the NCTE conference and was...