Saturday, April 18, 2015

Review of "The Tech Savvy Administrator"

At 45 pages and approximately 30 minutes to read, I am embarrassed how long I have carried Steven Anderson's "The Tech Savvy Administrator" around in my book bag waiting to get a chance to read and review it.
I settled into the coffee shop this morning, closed my laptop and started reading.  I timed myself.  The whole book cover to cover in 30 minutes with at least 5 minutes playing games and refilling coffee.  It is not a long book, but it might be just long enough to change the way an administrator imagine technology usage in schools.
Like other texts in the Aria series, Anderson aims to level up his audience's holistic understanding while giving clear direction for their learning.
On some level I was thinking of not only my principal, but all of the non-teaching staff at my school while reading this text. Anderson writes for the administrator that does not know what they do not know.  He focuses on general tasks and talks in broad terms about how to use some popular tools to move that task into a context of modern connected tools.

For example, his discussion of social media will not turn the reader into a Twitter superstar, or demystify hashtags, but it will help someone who believes Twitter is silly begin to understand how social media can support a school’s communication and community.

ACSD provided a copy of The Tech Savvy Administrator for review.  The whole series can be found here

Review of Pure Genius by Don Wettrick

Pure Genius from Don Wettrick is a great orientation text for anyone new to Innovation time in the middle to high school classroom.  I love the fact that he mentions important factors, but doesn’t write a step by step guide. Pure Genius talks about what innovation is and why if is a great learning context, but Wettrick leaves the heavy lifting to Daniel Pink, encouraging the reader to watch the
video referenced in the text. This type of learning and teaching requires customization.  Wettrick trusts his readers to find outside information, infact he provides a great guide to social media in the mid chapters of the book.  This is another awesome book for teachers written by a teacher and published by Dave Burgess Consulting.
Don writes from his own experience and shares his best practices.  Personally, I would lift up the knowledge that many small projects work better than one big project.  The text holds a great deal of context, Wettrick reveals his own missteps, like inadvertently alienating other teachers when he started teaching innovation class.
Don Wettrick’s Pure Genius (Dave Burgess Consulting 2014) is a great balance of inspiration and best practices for supporting a community of innovation at your school.Wettrick’s honest evaluation of his own learning models the process honestly, and makes this work accessible even for teachers who have not yet begun to dream about a choice based learning environment.

Friday, April 17, 2015

ThinkWrite Headphones Review

If you want to know what my number one ed tech wish is, close your eyes and listen to second grade learning, and then tell me how to support video creation in that room.
If my former supervisors are reading this they are laughing.  I LOVE noise in the classroom.  I believe it is generated by the friction of learning, like heat from a light.  But even loving the noise, I am challenged when I want them all to make a video.  They ask if they can go some where quiet, but there simply are not enough quiet spaces.
I first tried to solve this problem with REALLY CHEAP ear buds.  Seriously I think we paid 3 dollars per pair.  The mics were ok, but my first grade kids cannot use earbuds, their ears are too small and the ear buds fell out.
At CUE I got a chance to talk with ThinkWrite, and I like the quality of the headphones. This week I had a chance to test them against no mic and the inline earbuds mic.  Check out the 40 second video below and judge for yourself.

I think we will be ordering a "cart set" of the ThinkWrite headphones, while they don't cut the background noise, they do amplify the foreground much more than the other set ups.

I have to admit this video about how tough the headphones are made me laugh!

ThinkWrite did provide the sample headphone for this review

Quit Raising Hands!

Raising hands is a waste of time!  There it has been said.  Nothing brews boredom faster than the time it takes to get quiet and listen.  Do you want to support literacy skills, typing instruction, and student voice?  If you do, and you teach in a 1:1 environment, I want you to consider the possibility of text-supported discussions.  Teaching your kids to type their discussion increases the depth of learning as well as finding time for applied typing practice.

Looking for a controlled way to have kids show what they know?  Want a snappy formative assessment?  Try Kahoot. 

Want to get a full on chat room going?  Use Today's Meet to make sure you can control the content and the archive of the chat.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Sketching for #STEAM in Second Grade

Checking in with my second grade team, I discovered they are on the cusp of 3 long experiments about stages of life.  They will be growing beans, hatching chicks, and watching caterpillars become butterflies.
In class, they record daily observations in a science notebook writing a description as well as sketching what they see.
In tech class we got started with Paper and Skitch.  The kids were creating detailed and annotated digital sketch in under 30 minutes.
To prep for this I loaded Paper on the ipads, and gave thanks that all the drawing tools are free now, and made sure Skitch was also in place.
Then I grabbed 4 mostly dead plants from the staff lounge.  Thankfully each 2nd grade classroom also had a few plants or silt plants to sketch.  I did have to talk about the difference between representational drawing and imaginative drawing.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Scratch Jr, Now Free for Android!

There is something beautiful that happens when great apps are no longer locked into one platform.  I am super excited that all my android wielding friends will now get to use Scratch Jr with their students.
Why is Scratch JR awesome?
This brings the power of content supporting programming to grades K and 1.  The camera import function means you can transform seat work style worksheets into interactive programming lessons.  Once you get your students creating presentations, dialogues, and skits in Scratch JR, you will be amazed at the power of programming as a formative assessment tool.

Still not convinced?  Check out these videos about Scratch JR and lesson ideas.  If you have been lamenting your device and feeling left out of the most exciting thing to hit coding for the pre-reading crowd, get off your apps and install this amazing tool!