Saturday, June 29, 2019

Tech Tool: ChatterPix

Have you ever wanted to make a picture talk? How cute would it be to hear a book character or a cute animal read a story to you? Do you have some camera-shy students who might respond better to not seeing themselves but hearing themselves read or speak? What about finding a new way to collect fluency grades? This app is a possible tool to help with all of these!

ChatterPix is an app that allows the user to put their voice onto any image and make it speak. I was shown this app by another amazing educator. She was planning on having students record their voices while reading animal reports and having their animal speak. It was such a neat idea, but I wasn't sure how to use it for my 5th-grade students.

Luckily I had a few snow days to try it out. I chose to create a snow day challenge for my students. The first one I just used videos of me pretending to be different characters. The second day I chose to try out Chatterpix. I took pictures of my dogs and used those images and made them talk using the app. I loved being able to make videos, especially with my animals. It was fun to make them talk and give them silly voices. I had some really awesome feedback from my students. I even had students create their own videos with their pets telling my dog Bella where she left her missing bone.

My tech review: I would say this app is easy to use and really a fun way to add tech to a lesson. It would be a great app for younger students especially since the magic of animals or objects talking would be excited for them. I would say for older students it would be fun to use if they were creating something for a younger audience, like doing a story read aloud or sharing research. This would also be a great way for student created character to tell their own stories or artwork speak for itself. I loved that there are filters and stickers. This would be something that students would love too, but also what they might spend most of their time on.

Now, this app can only be downloaded through the Google Play Store or the iTunes App Store. Therefore it is best suited for tablets and cell phones. This works against our one to one which is Chromebooks, but if I was to use it I would have a station set up with our class I-pad and a station with me and my iPhone and record all students within a week. If you are one to one tablets or even a small group set of tablets I would definitely say try it out. Take a leap and show your #teachingpower by giving ChatterPix a try!

What other apps do you use in your classroom? What app of tech tool should I review next?

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Monday, June 24, 2019

Reflect: WITcon 2019

Another year in the books for the best Western Illinois educator conference! #WITcon19

First, if you haven't heard of WITcon (Whatever It Takes Conference) you need to stop what you're doing, yes stop reading, and look it up. It is an amazing conference all about the latest techniques in teaching and education technology. I have attended or presented every year since it has been established. Therefore, I can attest it is a must-attend event! So spread the word and consider attending next year. I know I would love to meet you!

So I know your anxiously waiting to hear about what happened at this years WITcon and it didn't disappoint. I mainly attended Day 2 and Day 3 of the conference. To open day two the amazing, strong education advocate Adam Welcome was the keynote. It was completely engrossing and for that hour you could hear a pin drop. He left me, with such a strong impression that made me feel confident in my craft. He had such a strong point of view that I admire, but I related to so many things he said. One in particular that spoke to so many people was, "You can teach for 25 years, but don't teach the same year 25 times." As educators, we need to change up our teaching. We have to adapt and learn the languages of our children. Sometimes that is stepping out of your comfort zone or putting students in charge, but regardless of what it we need to teach for this generation.
Adam Welcome giving his keynote

I had the pleasure of talking with Adam a few days before the conference on a Google HangOut. Honestly, it was complete luck. I saw him request some educators to brainstorm with and I just responded. It was such a great chat, I got to meet some other amazing educators and got to hear some words I needed to hear. Adam listened to my tale and left me with a great piece of knowledge. I know that as an educator we want to be liked, but do we truly need to be liked to do what is best for our kids? We want to support our students and we should do that by any means necessary. Other teachers may not like us rocking the boat, they may even be jealous, but we need to find our PLN and rock our classroom! It's funny because Adam spoke not only to teaching for me but for my life. Let me tell you a secret, I'm not perfect. I have issues like we all do and more often than not I doubt myself more than most. I have anxiety and sometimes I let the voice in my head take over. I worry what other people think of me far too much. Often times I'm my own worse critic. Yet, there is something truly amazing that we all do, we make relationships with students, we show up for them and in my case, I do it in crazy, wacky ways. I can't let others define me, nor should any of us allow others to bring us down. If Twitter and my digital PLN have taught me anything it's to be your true self and know there are people out there who will support you! Now I'm still a work in progress like we all are, but I'm going to live brave for me and for my students.
Adam and I meeting! 

Another major gain for me was meeting Monica Burns and having a chance to listen to her keynote on Day 3. She really pushed for Tasks Before Apps (She has even written a book on that concept, which I totally bought). Truth be told I know I really need to think about the end goal more and not just the apps I want to use or try out. We need to use tech, but it is truly important to sitting down and analyzing what your true goal is for the students. Apps are great and can make so many amazing things happen for our students, but we need to decide on the goal and standards first. Apps come later to make things achievable we couldn't before or allow our students to connect with an authentic audience they couldn't before. I had the amazing chance to attend two of her sessions and ask her for some advice on podcasting. She is very kind and gave me some great advice. If you haven't checked her out you really should and check out her podcast too!
Monica Burns and I after her keynote

Lastly, I got to meet an old friend who is doing amazing things. Rae Hughart graduated and started working in the district the same time I did. We even met while filling out paperwork. I could tell right away she was strong, determined, and would do anything to support her students. She ended up moving after a year after getting her dream job and has not looked back. She not only works as a junior high math teacher, but she is head of Training and Developing for the amazing professional development company Teach Better. They have so many different digital webinars and courses to help teachers #teachbetter. I was really intrigued with the Grid Method model and have always admired Rae's classroom internships in her Teach Further Model so I went to her session. After attending I knew two things:
1) The Grid Method is not as scary as I thought. It definitely will take time, but I love how it will force me to focus on the standards, ending objectives right away (Sometimes I get caught up in the pressure to teach it all that I don't take the time to plan out how I will know the student has mastered it. Knowing the problem is half the battle). I also love how students get to have more independence.
2) I was going to try out the Grid Method this year. I plan to blog about my experience and my courses so stay tuned to hear more!

Rae in her old classroom sharing the Grid Method

Now let's get to all the cool Apps!

One app I learned more about was BookCreator. I had heard about it but never really used it before. It is so easy and truth be told I was wondering why I hadn't used it before. There is so much you could do with this app and it definitely would help with students creating comic book endings to books we read in class or writing their own stories. It even can be used to create graphic organizers for students.
A Page from my Goal Journal I created on BookCreator

I got a chance to play with Padlet, Back Channel Chat, and Nearpod. I had heard of all of these, but like many things in edtech, there is so much out there that you rarely use it all or know the best way to use it. All three of these have some amazing uses. Padlet you can use for KWL Charts, T-Charts, and any other collaborative resource you want to use it for. Speaking of collaborating I loved the Back Channel Chat as a means for students to real-time chat about anything you choose. It allows students to share their thoughts with others and allows the teacher to get real-time data. Nearpod, on the other hand, reminded me of Peardeck, but it has a few different features like 360 field trips that you can add into the slides you make. Monica Burns really outdid herself with these awesome resources!
Another Great Quote from Adam Welcome's Keynote

On Day 3 I learned a lot of different tools to use with Chromebooks in my classroom. One tool I have avoided, because of fear, is Screencastify. I realize I do a lot of similar things using Flipgrid and I need to let go of my fear. This year since I want to cut down on lecture and empower my students to lead. I plan on truly using Screencastify more. I know I'm late to this awesome train, but sometimes you need to see that it's not as hard as it may seem to really let go and try something new.

On top of that, I also got a chance to play with Tour Builder, Jamboard, hyperdocs, and Animoto. All of these amazing tools have great purposes and I'm excited to play with them more. I for one have always been intrigued by hyperdocs so learning all the amazing ways to use them really thrilled me. Keep an eye on my blog to see reviews of these apps and creations I make as I go. Won't be perfect, but I know I'm definitely going to try them out and see what works for my tasks.
When you win an epic prize!

And it's signed by an amazing educator!

When it's all said and done I walked away from WITcon19 with more apps to use in my class and the spirit I need to get back up and start a new year. More importantly, I got the chance to be brave. Be open enough to introduce myself to some amazing educators, not fear attending sessions alone, and playing the confident teacher I know I can be. It's about losing the fear of trying a new app and being confident. Even if you fail, remember failure is just part of the process. It will take time but I will get there, Whatever it takes after all!

Did you attend WITcon19? How are you planning to Be Brave this school year?

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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Before you attend an Ed Conference...

Tis the season for teacher learning! There is something about teachers that even when summer comes we relax, but we make time to learn, grow, and make plans for the coming years. I have attended and presented at quite a few education conferences (Witcon, ISTE, and RCA). I would be willing to say that they all are unique in their own ways, but have quite a bit in common. There are some basic things that you need to keep in mind if you plan to attend any conferences this summer. So here is my list of MUSTS for attending Ed conferences!

  1. Bring your Technology! - This goes really without saying, since many of these conferences have gone digital, but bring your favorite piece of technology. For me, that's my laptop and my phone which allows me to take notes, use websites, and download new apps if I need to. Also, don't forget to stay charged. I always charge the day or night before and bring a phone charger or battery pack with me if I plan on being out all day. Tweeting about all the amazing things you learn can really drain your battery! 
  2. Have an open mind! - Walking in with a positive attitude and open mind is important. You want to be open to anything new because you never know what you might uncover. You want to try things and go to sessions that pique your interest. Be willing to interact with others and share your experiences you never know what you will be able to use. 
  3. Use your time wisely - Plan out your day ahead of time. With conferences like ISTE there is so much going on that you really want to plan ahead. Pick the main sessions you want to attend but give yourself time to stumble across a new adventure in the play, poster, and exhibit areas. For a conference like Witcon use your time in those sessions to find out what you want to learn more about and take advantage of the conference website and lunch to make connections. 
  4. Do things you enjoy! - Choose sessions that speak to you. It's ok to go to things that focus on your strengths, weaknesses, or even things you're curious about. I would say from personal experiences push yourself to find those sessions you know you are going to learn a lot in. You can try a new app on your own and you can meet with your teacher bestie later to talk about their session, go to the ones that you only got one chance at. 

  5. Be Brave! - This one sometimes can be the hardest, Be Brave! This means to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Be willing to go up and talk to the speaker if you really connected with what they said. Volunteer, answer questions, be the audience we crave from our students. The more you give the more you will get. Don't be afraid to make conversations with those around you. Last year at ISTE I even went to a book launch party. I was nervous as all get out, but it was great to meet some amazing people. Now looking back I should have been even braver, spoke to more people, shared more things, made more connections. Learn with no regrets!

Are you attending any ed conferences this summer? Where to? What is your advice?
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Friday, June 14, 2019

Relationships: School Wide Theme

Summer is coming and school is wrapping up. It might be a little soon to look into the future and make plans for my next class. Yet as exhausting as this year has been I have big plans and a part of me is very excited to start again. There are many students who feel the same way, but also many who dread walking through those doors and coming back to school. One thing my building has done for a few years now makes that first day a great one! It is kicked off with students parading into the building, music playing, and students in awe of the school being decorated.
Zootopia School Theme

Every year for the past few years our school has come up with a school-wide theme. This theme is often linked to learning or growth in some way. Our first year we had the theme of Zootopia and "Try Everything" was our motto. This past year we took inspiration from Moana and pondered "How far will I Grow?" We typically try to choose themes that will excite the students and draw from movies and music for inspiration.
Vines hang from the ceiling and paw prints on the floor

We had animals all over the school and each pod was a different animal.

With the Zootopia theme, we created a giant waterfall in our lobby. We hung vines through the halls. Each pod in our building chose an animal and used it for inspiration. The K-1 hall was monkies, 2-3 hall was snakes, and 4-5 hall was lions. We hung decals, animal print, lanterns in the hall. We even found quotes to spread throughout along with giant cardboard cutouts of animals. The moment we entered the building that first day to "Try Everything" playing from the speakers in the hall the kids were speechless. They were excited, some confused, and many just wondered what the rest of the year would hold.
Moana Ocean in the Windows

This past year Moana was our inspiration and we truly took our decorations up a notch. We had the entrance as if you were in the ocean using blue cellophane and created amazing looking jellyfish with ribbon and paper lanterns. Once you entered the lobby you had Moana's boat with HeiHei and ocean paper lined some walls as you approached the shore. As you move further into the room there was a giant volcano, palm trees, beach chairs, and umbrellas. We decorate bulletin boards in our hallways. We had blown up fish and a dolphin hanging from the ceiling, teachers decorated with Hawaiian flowers, flip flops, surfboards and more. It was fun to see the students react and get excited to walk through the school again. They were greeted as they entered and given a lei to welcome them into the new school year. Moana soundtrack played as students marched through the corridors as they were led to their new classroom. It's fun to create these amazing experiences and as the school year advances, we still reference the songs and motto throughout the year. It is a nice way to tie the school together and work together as a staff to do something powerful for the students.
Giant Light Up Volcano in the Lobby

I loved that this year the students almost expected it. The 4th graders asked questions and tried to guess what they think the theme will be for the next year. Students get excited and expect their teachers to be silly and do something special for them on the first day. That excitement is special, but also awesome because even after summer students are excited to come back if only for the surprises on the first day.
Moana's boat

This year we personally delivered tickets inviting students to "step right up" on the first day of school. We personally invited all students and mailed them to students who weren't home. It was an amazing experience and I hope it continues. We decided to do a carnival theme decorating the lobby with a rollercoaster, Ferris wheel, merry go round, and a ticket booth. My peers and I decorated our hall with popcorn and circus animals. I even dressed up on the first day in a top hat and a tailed red coat! It was a fair to remember as we paraded in on the first day to "This is Me". The tradition continues and at this time of year, we are looking forward to next year and what theme we might dive into next!

Do you or your school do anything special to ring in the new school year? What theme would you choose if your school had a whole school theme? As we wrap up this school year what are you going to do now to make the next year even better?

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