Monday, February 24, 2014

Sub plans from the snowbank, thanks to Google Drive

I have been a Google Docs guys since before there were Google Docs. We used "Writely" in my online graduate classes back in 2005. On Friday, Google Docs got me out of a real pickle...well partially.

When I left my house for the typical 30 minute commute to Bentheim Elementary School there were strong winds and a little light snow was falling.  All area schools were open because when officials had made their early morning checks conditions were good with what forecasters called "light snow" slowly making its way to the Eastern shore of Lake Michigan. As I got closer to the open farmland to the east, those winds had kicked up the worst white-out conditions I have experienced during my thirty-plus years of living in Michigan. When I got to M-40 I witnessed a jack-knifed semi and cars plowing into each other. After some of the chaos cleared I continued my journey and made harrowing crossing after crossing through intersections with no visibility and no stop signs for cross-traffic. Two miles later I would find myself smacked up against a snowbank, having been clipped by a Ford F-150 that was completely invisible in the storm until I was in the middle of the intersection and it was approaching from 10 yards to my right. crunch

First thought: I am okay.

Second thought: What about the other driver? As I got out to check on him, he and his wife were headed my way to see how I was. Luckily we had all come through the collision physically unscathed.

Third thought: Uh...those emergency sub plans I have been meaning to get to since September sure would be nice to have sitting on my desk right about now.

After calling police, my wife, and school to inform them of the incident and that we were all unharmed I went into McGyver-mode and started digging into the Google Drive app on my iPhone. Within just a few minutes, I was able to cobble together enough activities to keep 5 grade levels of kids engaged for the rest of the day. I emailed them to our fabulous librarian who helped set up the substitute they were able to secure for me.

Google Drive does so much for me as a teacher. I know some people can't get beyond how sterile the documents are (Foof them up with fonts and borders in Word later.) but  I never worry about work not being saved. Students share with me to turn in documents. We have classes collaborating on presentations and the list goes on and on. On Friday, Google Docs kept the learning going even when my Ford Escape and I weren't able to go anywhere.

Now if Google could somehow figure out how to do extensive body work with just a few keystrokes....

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Connected Educator Un/Conference: April 26th Preview

I am looking forward to April for so many reasons and one of them is the  Connected Educator Un/Conference in Jackson on April 26th.

I will be delivering the opening address (Wow, what an honor!) and then doing a session entitled "If you can't build it in Keynote, you don't need it."

I sat down Wednesday with un/conference coordinator Dan Spencer to talk about the conference and what attendees can expect from the "learn by doing" session.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Fix your grammar

From the geniuses who brought us the best tool ever for stamping out vertical video syndrome comes "Fix your grammar."

We can make all of the excuses we want for why such terrible grammar is perpetuated not only across the Internet but by an alarming amount of of our society. Here are a handful of funny reminders for all of us and especially our older students.

Enjoy...and hope with me a sequel is in the works directed at knocking "I seen" from the world's lexicon for good.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Elementary Market Day: A great 'maker' experience

Two  of the really cool events that happen at the elementary school where I teach and the elementary school where my daughter attends are the student-led market days.  The two schools put their own spin on market day, but the premise is the same.

IMG_5017It is a mini maker faire, DIY entrepreneurial experience where students develop, market, and then sell handmade wares to classmates. My daughter used unwanted upholstery samples to create microfiber computer/smart phone screen cleaners and cloth book marks. Other projects kids made included root beer floats, pvc pipe marshmallow shooters, and laser cut metal letters painted in popular university colors glued on a magnet. I have even seen a massage booth and a miniature golf hole complete with volcano.

What an amazing outpouring of creativity was on display in those gymnasiums!

Products have to be pre-approved by staff but created primarily by the students themselves. Each school has students advertise during the days leading up to the big sales day either via poster or promotional spots they deliver live during morning announcements.

At Douglas Elementary, Market Day works as a fundraiser where proceeds go toward the end of the year 5th grade celebration at a local fun spot. Raising money this way gives the kids a stake in the efforts and builds a sense of giving and working toward a shared cause. Items are sold to other kids and nobody ends up with ugly wrapping paper and overpriced cheese logs like the average fund raiser.

At Blue Star Elementary, teachers use Market Day to build meaning around economic concepts like operating costs and profit. Students have to use their own money or seek a loan from family members. All costs have to be detailed and recorded. These students get to keep all of the money from their sales but must re-pay any loans immediately.

Talk about authentic assessment when it comes to whether kids developed and marketed a successful product.

The thing I like most about the Market Day concept is that it lets each kid develop something they enjoy from their own interests and background. These are just a couple of ways to hold Market Day. I am sure with a little more creativity, there are lots of other ways too.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Life is Too Short for $#%++% Professional Development

Life is too short for crappy professional development and on Saturday February 8, several of us at the inaugural Nova Now Conference had a great conversation about where professional development in education often comes up short.

This wasn't just a gripe session but one where we discussed what works well in professional development and what we as teacher-leaders can do to help foster better learning experiences for all of our colleagues in association with our admin teams.

The following slides were the collaborative effort and summary of our conversation.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Dean Shareski: What ever happened to joy in Education?

Last summer I had to pleasure to finally meet Dean Shareski, someone whose tweets have informed me and entertained me for years and whose "EdTech Posse" show was one of the first podcasts I ever listened to.

In addition to his duties teaching at the University of Saskatchewan, Dean is also the Canadian community manager for Discovery Education. Dean capped a fabulous week for me at the  Discovery Educator Network Summer Institute with a version of the following talk. As those of in most of North America slug through this endless winter it is important to reflect on Dean's essential question: "Whatever happened to joy in Education?"  I think most of us could use a little joy right now.

I am excited that Dean will be here in Michigan next month sharing this presentation at MACUL.

Enjoy and spread a little joy today as well.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Autism really speaks in student-made video

"Autism Speaks" is a slogan used by those working hard to raise awareness for the genetic disorder. Their efforts must be applauded but nothing I have seen about life with autism has struck me like the student-made video below.

Rushton Hurley, the undisputed nicest guy in educational technology shared this link from his website with me a couple of weeks ago. What struck me was that this young man, Michael, was sharing his deepest feelings. People with autism struggle mightily understanding emotions and have an even harder time communicating them. In the footnotes, Rushton shares that this 3 and a half minute video took more than seven months for Michael and his teacher Mr. Lozano to produce. This truly is autism speaking.

I have shown this video to a number of third and fourth grade classes. Each time their is pin-drop silence and very thoughtful reflections on Michael's words. One student stated, "You don't have to have autism to feel like Michael." No buddy, you don't.

Take a few minutes to listen to Michael and please share his great message.

Keynote beyond Presentations

Apple's Keynote is great for presentations but the tool can be used for so much more. In this screencast I explain diagramming, employing advanced photo editing techniques, and creating high-end looking video production. Created with Camtasia 2 for Mac.