Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Crazy idea or crazy smart?

gum on the ground by the Alamo

I have been watching a billion crime shows on Netflix over the past year or so. Mostly because many of the shows have lots of episodes, right now it is Bones. What those shows have taught me was that everything leaves trace evidence behind.

I was strolling by the Alamo and took the image above. Gum. I have noticed there is a lot of gum on the sidewalks. I wonder how much gold and silver could be harvested from that gum. There has to be trace amounts of precious medals in the gum, how might we mine it?

This reminds me of a time during my student teaching. A student exclaimed that ice cream was made of dirt. No one laughed or said anything, the room was quiet for a bit. Slowly others started to figure it out. His connection was that the grass grows in the dirt, cows eat the grass, people take the milk and turn that into ice cream, thus ice cream is made out of dirt. This connection was brilliant and helped the other kids think differently and take intellectual risks. 

What does all this mean? Sometimes I jump too quick to dismiss a good idea. Sometimes I don't remain quiet like those first graders did. Ice cream is made from dirt and maybe, just maybe, we could mine the gum for precious medals. Maybe we don't have the technology to extract the gold today but I'm sure that is just around the corner.

This summer has brought some hard lessons, but one of the benefits has been slowing down and taking life one day at a time. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Sometimes time off isn't a good thing.

Just too much noise!

It is just about July and I have taken a bit of time off. At home things can get all kinds of noisy. Kids talking (yelling)  to Alexa/Google Home to play some great hits like that pen pineapple song, someone else watching random Youtube videos, cell phones dinging, Nerf guns and more. All this noise can drive me nuts. Then there are times when the house is too quiet, so quiet I can't think. This post is how to fix the too quiet issue.

Simply, a way to create soft background noise like you are in a coffee shop or on a college campus.

Navigate to coffitivity and check out the left side.
Select one of the three top options.
Let the concentration begin!

Need more sounds? The premium is only $9! That is less than a trip to the actual coffee shop.

Add it to your mobile device for total portability. So sweet!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

New Ideas for the New Year?

Are you looking for a few new ideas this summer? Maybe something to improve a workshop, parent communication or just something fresh? Starting in a few days there is a HUGE educational technology conference happening in Texas. I believe there are over 16,000+ participants, you can just imagine how many ideas will flow during the conference.

The ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) conference runs from June 24-28.

So how can you hop on and join in?

Open TweetDeck and start to read.
     Don't have a twitter account? Make one! You will need one to use TweetDeck. I promise it won't disappoint. 
     You can also just click on the hashtags below and follow along. 
          #iste17 - people at the conference use this to tweet out new learning and ideas
          #notatiste17 this hashtag is used by those who are not at ISTE

Tweet Deck
TweetDeck opens with three main columns.
Home - your stream. Everything shared publicly shows up here.
Notifications - anytime your twitter name is mentioned.
Messages - private messages

Adding a new column
1. Click the little magnifying glass on the far left. Type in #iste17.
2. Click on the hashtag.

New column appears. Newest tweet will appear at the top. Once the conference starts this column will move faster than any human can read.
Repeat creating columns with people, ideas or hashtags.

Making It Work
1. I found something that looks interesting. I can click on the link and check out what it is all about.
2. I can also favorite it by click on the heart. This is like a bookmark, saved to look at later on.

Why TweetDeck?
I stared using twitter and TweetDeck a while back for idea generation. I know there could be a ton of junk in the feed, just like watching something on tv. Stuff that might be fun to look at but does not have a long lasting quality to it. By following a few key hashtags and people you can start to access fresh perspectives you did not have access to before. There is a lot of noise, after a while you can tune your feed to increase the quality. 

Share - if you see something please share it. Share with your building, a buddy or anyone you think could benefit. 

Need help bringing something to life? Just reach out, Doug and Colin can help.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Keep: Powerful, Simple and Free

My current note taking application. Not always effective.

I feel pulled in a billion directions all the time. I sometimes forget more in one day than I care to admit. Other times I show up somewhere and can't recall why I am at the store. Like just two days ago I went to Target and bought some stuff, some we even needed, but totally forgot to get the one thing my wife told me to get. She only told me like five times but I still forgot. Ever happen to you?

There are a number of ways that the Google Keep app can help keep you on track. In this post we will show you a few ways on how to do this on your mobile device. It works pretty much the same way on your laptop.

I fell in love with checklists after reading the Checklist Manifesto.

Open the Keep app on your mobile and create a new note.
1. Title your note.
2. Click the little plus symbol in the lower left. Then you will have access for the next step.
3. Click Checkboxes.

1. Click the little ice cream cone in the lower right. (three dots) Then choose a color. I tend to use color to help the more important notes standout. 

1. I checked off this one item. Just like paper, the item remains visible. I could also deselect this item and it would appear back at the top of the list. This deselecting gives the app a slight advantage over paper. You could create a reoccurring checklist for the things you do over and over.

This idea would have saved me at Target. The big idea is to have the note appear once you get near the store, like it magically detects when you get within maybe 100 feet or so and up pops the note.

This example is using a checklist I (should have) created for my recent Target shopping adventure.

1. Click the little finger with the ribbon in the upper right corner.
2. Click Place.
3. Start typing the name of the place you want the note to pop up when you get close.

I started typing the word Target and this appeared. I can now pick the Target that I shop at.

Now at the bottom of my note I can see a little Target icon appear. Once I enter the parking lot a notification will appear on my phone. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Is there a way to export/import my bookmarks?

Want to export/import your bookmarks from Chrome? Follow these steps and you will be good to go.


Open Chrome.
1. Click the ice cream cone. (three little dots in the upper right corner)
2. Click Bookmarks.
3. Click Bookmark manager.

1. Click Organize.
2. Click Export bookmarks to HTML file...

1. Feel free to rename the file so it is easier to find later.
2. Click Save.

Open Chrome.
1. Click the ice cream cone(three little dots in the upper right corner)
2. Click Bookmarks.
3. Click Bookmark manager.

1. Click Organize.
2. Click Import bookmarks from HTML file...

1. Locate your bookmark file.
2. Click Open.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Summer 2017: Digital BreakoutEdu

BreakoutEdu has been an exciting development in education.  Kids love discovering clues, solving puzzles, unraveling mysteries, unlocking locks, and competing with other groups to finish first.  And while most people know about the physical games and kits, few are aware of the amazing world of digital breakout games.  This summer class explores digital breakouts--what they are, where to find them, and how to make them.

Try it!

Teachers in our district and around the world are creating digital breakouts to make learning fun.  Team up and try one out!

Cha-Ching by Anna Martin and Emily Bozdeck -- 1st grade, Concord
Tic-Tic-Toc by Sarah Behnen -- 2nd grade, Crestwood
Og's Great Adventure -- 2nd grade
Monkey Cage Breakout -- 4th grade
JFK by Greg Seagraves -- 7th grade - Truman Social Studies
Ticket to the Bahamas -- HS math/probability
Poetry Breakout -- Middle School ELA

Learn how to do it!

Now that you have experienced a breakout, think about these questions:

  • What technology tools did the teacher incorporate into the breakout?
  • How did the teacher bring the curriculum in?
  • How would I start to plan a breakout?
  • If my students were participating in the breakout, what would I be doing?

All digital breakouts have a few things in common, including:
  • a storyline that is fun and engaging
  • a goal (usually unlocking a Google Form lock)
  • clues that reveal hidden challenges and mini-games
  • new ways for students to engage in the content
  • opportunities for learning (new and old) and teamwork

Some breakouts also include:
  • a timer -- a clock ticking down always adds more excitement to the game
  • distractors -- content information that is not needed to unlock locks)
  • physical challenges -- clues that require students to find/do something in your classroom
  • puzzles that are more about critical thinking, abstract thinking, and teamwork  
  • clues that must be solved through online research

When designing your own breakout, try this planning strategy:
  1. Choose the content topic or theme for the breakout.
  2. List the knowledge, skills, and new learning you want students to apply.
  3. Thinking about each item on your list, consider the possibilities, brainstorming ways students could apply their learning during the game.
  4. Build your challenges and mini-games.
  5. Build your lock (Google Form)
  6. Assemble your breakout using Google Sites.
  7. Have someone beta test it.

Most digital breakouts use the same basic technology components:
  • Google Sites -- website construction
  • website text with hyperlinks to off-site content
  • Google Forms -- the lock
  • Google Draw -- add clickable hyperlink "hotspots" to images
  • Jigsawplanet -- build your own jigsaw puzzle using an image file (jpeg)
  • an iPad or cell phone -- Make a video introducing a real-world problem.  Upload it to YouTube.
  • Google Docs and Slides -- formats for visual and written clues, such as a cryptogram
  • resources found at (browse the "Build Your Own" section)

Take time now to design and begin building your own breakout game.  It may be best to collaborate with a partner or a team on bringing your idea to life.

Share it!

When you have something ready for testing, share it!  Get feedback on your design.  Was it challenging?  Was it fun?  Were there too many clues?  Were the locks too easy or too hard to open?

Monday, June 5, 2017

Marketing 101 - (Summer 2017 Class)

Marketing 101 - aka how do I get people to look/click on what I post?
This post was created to be a guide for a summer class.

By the end of the class you will...
  • have a few ideas on how to market what you post from your classroom
  • create a schedule of ideas on your calendar
  • boomerang a reminder to get started in August
What makes something clickable?
Why do videos go viral? Why did Rebecca Black become a success? Is there something here that we could apply to what we do with our own social media?

Why do some sites/posts get traffic while others are simply never clicked upon?

Idea Generation
The posts below were used to look at how we create our message. The big idea was to look outside what were are already doing and finding some
     1. 5 Ideas To Build Your Personal Brand This Summer - this is a super interesting idea. How do we create a brand for ourselves and the classroom? The five ideas help to start building a consistent message, one that people can depend on.
     2. What creativity in Marketing Looks Like Today - Idea one was gold, find the pain points together and build from there. I would assume parents are busy, so their pain is super long posts are hard to read.
     3. 5 Easy Exercises to Find Your Brand's Voice -
     4. 8 Tips to Attract Your First 250,000 Instagram Followers - disregard the Instagram part, just read the tips. Many of these can be applied to your blog/social site. The one thing that stands out to me is consistency. 

Sites Around The World
We investigated these sites to look for evidences of how they market themselves to their readers. Our hope was to discover additional ideas on how they get the word out compared to the articles we read.


Charting A Path
We used the articles and links above to chart a classroom marketing path.
Some of the big idea are:
  • #hashtags
  • Keeping a consistent schedule (Math Mondays, Text Tuesdays, etc)
  • Creating informative images
  • Creating specific jobs for the teacher and some for the students.
  • Facebook - video vs. text post
Next Steps
Google Calendar and Boomerang - using these two tools we create some reminders to help us with our marketing plan once the year gets underway.

Google Sites - Is this your missing link? (Summer 2017)

This post was created to be used in one of our summer courses. Feel free to use it as a reference as you create with Google Sites.

Sites is a quick way for you and your students to create a website. The site can be limited to people within the district or published to allow anyone with the link to view the site. You can also add additional editors to the site allowing many people to collaborate on the same site.

Is this your missing link? Is this the thing that might just tie all of your student work together into one place? One portfolio? See Classroom Ideas #3 to see how it happened for one kindergarten class.

overview video
At this point in the class we opened Sites and created most of a site in a few minutes. 

(This is just a mock challenge, you are not really building a public site for Moore.)
Your team is tasked with creating an informative site based around the Moore Leadership Center. The site will be used by those within the district and the public. 

You have 75 minutes to create your site.

Your site must contain:
     1. Multiple pages and at least one nested page.
     2. Text.
     3. Images that show off the property.
     4. Video(s).
     5. Header image.
     6. A short URL to make easy to type.
     7. Link(s) to external site(s).
     8. Embed a minimum of one Google product.

Getting Started
We would recommend using a whiteboard, paper and Post-It notes to lay the site out before you start creating. This method will help you create an organized structure before you create it electronically, in the end this saves a ton of time.

     1. Nested Pages - hover your mouse over the Products tab at the top. Each of these sub pages is directly tied to the parent page. This is a great way to tie lots of pages together.
     2. Embedded Elements - scrolling down the first page you will twitter, Google Calendar and images embedded into the main page. Also check out Students - After School Enrichment. While the embedded docs are not visible you can vision what it might look like.
     3. Tabs - the tabs across the top of the screen help you navigate very quickly to what you need. Scroll down the main page, the layout is very nice.
     4. Links - the list of information and external sites is more informative than some of the other examples we came across. This might be a good way to introduce sites and resources to viewers.
     5. Random! - a random page we came across. We added because the layout of some of the pages was pretty interesting.

The Pitch
Each team will demonstrate their site to the class.

What did you learn about Sites while participating in the challenge?

Below are resources you can use to help create your Sites.

Classroom Ideas
     1. Sites can be used for large projects as well as tiny ones. Think small, grow big.
     2. Google Sites Reminders - a few ideas on how you could use it and some ways the students could use Sites.
     3. Using Sites to Build Portfolios in Kindergarten - I was seriously impressed with this idea. I can see this happening at the middle schools with student lead conferences. The idea of the checklist is pretty sweet, she included a link for it if you want to use it.
     4. Classroom Apps You'll Want to Try - this site lists a number of apps you might want to try in the classroom, while that is neat look beyond that. Think of this site as something you create, or some kids, and it lays out a whole unit or chapter. What if they created a site that was all about a certain math idea, some character in history or highlighted some literature?

External Help Sites
     1. Google Sites Help Center - official help page by Google.
     2Google Sites Help Forum - a user generated forum. Pretty helpful when you are stuck.
     3. 7 Hidden Tips for Google Sites - Alice Keeler's post. 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Snapseed Selfie Tip - How is this possible?

Not sure how to really explain this so just check it out.

I took a quick selfie and opened it in the Snapseed app.
To start editing, click the pencil in the lower right.

1. Scroll down to the very bottom.
2. Click the Pose button.

Click on the center icon and drag up/down/left/right.
It actually moves your face while the rest of the image remains in place.
Not a big selfie taker but this seems to be a interesting idea. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

This Friday - time is running out.

What are you doing this Friday from like 8-12? Why not join us in St. Charles for this great learning event.

Why should you attend?
I went last year and had a series of great conversations about education. I believe it is worth a few hours of your time.

Sign up for this free event.

Making Beautiful Art (Summer 2017)

The purpose of this post is to serve as a guide for our summer class Making Beautiful Art. If you did not attend, no worries! You can read the post and gain some new skills to help your punch up the images you take on your mobile device.

By the end of this course you will be able to:
  • Use the Rule of Thirds when you take a picture.
  • Edit images on your laptop.
  • Edit images using a variety of apps on your mobile device.
  • Download, install and set up Google Photos on your mobile device. (iOS/Android).
  • Download and install PicMonkey (iOS/Android)
  • Download and install Snapseed (iOS/Android)
Task 1
Take a picture of that.
We started the session by taking a picture of a random table. The table was littered with assorted things just to make it a little interesting. The big idea is to start with a common object we all take a picture of. We will come back to the table and apply new skills to see how we develop throughout the session.

Evaluation of Award Winning Cell Phone Images
The class studied a series of images that were taken on mobile devices. The idea was to experience award winning images and try to under the techniques they used.

Rule of Thirds

After the video we talked a bit about the rule. Then we revisited the award winning images and applied the Rule of Thirds to it. The goal was to see how the rule could impact the viewers experience.

The Two Big Ideas
1. Use the Rule to direct attention.
2. Use the Rule to tell the viewer what the most important part of the image is.

Another idea that was not presented in the video was to zoom with your feet and knees. Many of us take images like they were shot from a helicopter. See the first image for an example, it was like I was hovering over the table when I took the shot. When you force yourself to move you start thinking of the image in a new way.

Retake Time

Before we took our second table image we turned on the grid lines in our camera app. This allowed us to see the Rule live on the screen.

Retake the shot of the table using the new ideas you just learned.
Compare the two, what do you notice?
Does one image tell a better story that the other?

Outside Photo Shoot
Remember to use the Rule of Thirds, tell a story with every shot and make every shot worth viewing. Keeping that in mind, complete the following task.

Go outside and shoot the following images:
  • 2 close up shots of anything you find interesting
  • 2 wide shots
  • 2 medium shots
  • 2 of anything you want
After shooting the images open up Google Photos on your laptop. Make sure the photos have synced so we can start editing.

Do you notice anything different about the shots you took?

Cropping - Google Photos
One of the fastest ways to improve most images is by cropping.

Open the image.
Click the pencil.

Click this icon.

Grab one of the corners and start dragging.
Note the grid lines, keep in mind the Rule of Thirds.

Color Adjustment - Google Photos
Adjust the appearance of your image is wicked easy, just a click and a slide.

1. Click the middle icon.
2. Click the drop down arrow.

Select an option and slide.

Editing on Mobile - Google Photos
It is almost exactly the same as editing on your laptop.

Once you open the image you want to edit you will notice the pencil at the bottom. Click that to find the editing tools.

The tool options will appear at the bottom of your screen.

A sweet app and site. Super easy to use for editing your images.
The idea here would be to start editing in PicMokey, save to camera roll and continue adjusting the image in Google Photos. This is a process commonly referred to as App Smashing. I'm positive many of you already do this with Seesaw.

Similar to Google Photos, once you open the image you will find the editing tools at the bottom.

1. Find an effect
2. Adjust
3. Save
Then click Share. Choose Google photos.

Now you can continue to edit the image in Photos.

Snapseed is another Google product. While it is similar to Photos, it offers a few unique tools.

Open an image.
Click the pencil.
You will be presented with a number of options.
Check out the Text option.

Want to see the most amazing option?
Take a selfie.
Open Snapseed and find your selfie.
Scroll down and find Pose.

Next Steps
In class we took some images. Edited them. Shared the results to a Slides so we could talk about what we did to create the art.

Google Photos
     Official Google help page.
     PicMonkey's twitter feed. This might be the best to follow for ideas and how-tos.
     PicMonkey's support page - from photo editing, design collage and more.
     Snapseed's Help Center

Bonus App
For some great B&W shots check out Lenka.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Have you seen this program?

I'm sure you are reading something this summer, why not join this program offered by the St. Louis County Library?

Signing up for the Summer Reading Club is just a few clicks. You can even track everything online, no need for the paper forms.

Can it get any better? You bet. Check out the calendar for a bunch of fun activities at the surrounding libraries. Some of these require you to register for the free classes.

Story Time/Lap Time - story time for the youngest readers
Art Experiences - from crafts to sewing
Minecraft - have your kids go and play on the library server

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Build Your Own Spaceship - Academy of Science

Check this out! There is a free event happening soon at the Grant's View library. The event is sponsored by the Academy of Science, a St. Louis organization to help promote science interest and education in students and adults.

 Why not sign up and join us for an upcoming session on June 8th from 7:00-8:30 PM.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Novel Engineering - Space it running out!

Check this out!

Not sure if there is any room left but sign up if you are interested. Looks pretty fun.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

This one thing has saved me year after year.

I am a digital pack rat. I never delete emails, I just move them into a folder to give the appearance of an empty inbox. I keep all pictures, never delete even the blurry ones. All that deleting takes too much time and way too many clicks.

I have the same issue with bookmarks, I have a ton.

Years ago I would save them to the browser but after a while I could never find what I needed. It was nearly impossible to figure out which folder sites belonged to. Did the district page fall into the school folder or work? Sometimes I would make a folder for finance another for bank and a third might contain stocks. It was a messy system.

I kept seeing all these tweets for Diigo, some type of site, app and extension for saving bookmarks and once I signed up I never looked back. Using Diigo has saved me time and now all bookmarks are a simple search away.

This tool allows me to tag each site I save with different key words. I could pick a stock I want to follow (Apple) and tag it with apple, stock, retirement, money. This system makes it simple to save and always have the ability to pull up information quickly. No more second guessing about which folder something belongs in.

If that wasn't enough, I never loose my links. When I get a new laptop or the one I'm using is reimaged, I just download the Diigo extension. All my sites are there. I can also find them on my mobile devices.

Getting Started
Start at Diigo's website.
Create an account.

I would recommend adding the Chrome extension
I also added it to my Android phone and iPad. This enables me to save things I see on twitter, facebook or the web quickly. No idea is lost. While I might not look at it right away, I'll have it when I need it.

Bookmarking on Chrome is a breeze assuming you installed the extension. I found this page about Pi and wanted to save it for later.
1. Click the little d and the drop down will appear.
2. Click Save Bookmark.

1. Add one word descriptions (tags) for the site you want to save. You can add more than one word but you need to put quotes around those words.
2. Click Save.

Finding Your Bookmarks
This is the true power of why Diigo has been so transformational for me, the library!
Click the little d in your browser like you did to add a bookmark.
1. Click the small double arrows in the lower right.
2. Click My Library.

1. I entered pi as my search term.
2. All the posts that reference pi appear in the results.

I could refine my search by adding summer17 after pi and my results would narrow considerably.

The big idea is to add more than one tag to each link you want to save. It becomes much easier to find later on.

Take It Up A Notch
Check out the teacher features. This is worth signing up for.

You can import your current bookmarks from your browser

Crazy idea or crazy smart?

gum on the ground by the Alamo I have been watching a billion crime shows on Netflix over the past year or so. Mostly because many of...