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According to Wikipedia, as of February 16, 2014, Tumbler had around 172 million registered blogs, and WordPress had 75.8 million blogs in existence worldwide. These are only two of many blogging platforms available around the world, so you we can only imagine the true number of blogs being published on the Internet each day.  A blog, short for web log, is basically a website updated periodically by the author that shares information, a person’s interests, or…well, anything really.  Updates to the blog are called posts, and they’re arranged on the site in reverse chronological order.  Blogs are powerful tools because they allow for discussion and collaboration through commenting features.  Most blogging platforms will also allow you to add collaborators in order to create a shared knowledge base.

bloggingAs many teachers are discovering around the world, blogging is not just for people looking to share what they know, it’s also a great tool for motivating students to write and for enhancing a student’s writing abilities.  According to Alison Sawmiller, author of the 2010 article “Classroom Blogging: What is the Role in Science Learning?”, blogging has many benefits for students including giving the “silent student” a voice by providing a medium where they are not interrupted or talked over, encouraging critical thinking by requiring students to actively think about and reflect on what they’re learning in class, and allowing for differentiation of writing assignments.

As with any implementation of technology, the focus should be on sound pedagogical practices, not the technology itself, and this is true for blogging as well.  Our students already know how to use the technology tools, they’re just not familiar with how it can change their learning and their understanding.  That’s where we, as teachers, come in.  “Well, what, Lauren, can I get my students to accomplish through blogging?”  I’m so glad you asked!

The first thing we need to do is to make our learning activities and writing prompts are authentic and meaningful.  If our students can’t connect what they’re learning and doing to their real life, we’ve already lost them.  Allowing our students to become invested in what they’re writing by providing them with an opportunity to share what’s meaningful to them, we’re creating in them an interest and motivation to do more and learn more.  Next, we need to give them a real-world audience…other than you, Mom, and Dad.  Publishing a blog to the Internet does that!  Share your students’ blogs with colleagues at other schools.  Get them to share the blogs with colleagues in other states and countries even.  Encourage those readers to comment by posting feedback and asking probing questions.  As soon as your students know that they’re writing to a broader audience, they’ll begin to pay more attention to spelling and grammar.  You’ll also begin to witness them experiment with developing their own voice as an author.  Eventually, through consistent and structured blogging, you’ll notice a shift from self-centered writing to audience-centered writing.  They’ll remember a comment and tie it in to a new post, or let a conversation spark an idea for a new topic.  Everyday experiences now become spring boards for new posts, your students actually become excited about writing, and you’ll see their abilities begin to bloom.  Encourage your students to take risks, explore using humor, and share their own opinions, not just the facts that they’re learning.

What are some ways to get your feet wet without diving into the deep end of blogging?  Start by creating a class blog rather than having all of your students blog individually.  Post questions about a book you all are reading, an experiment you’re conducting, or where students are using the math they’re learning in the classroom in the real world.  Have your students blog by commenting on your questions and responding to other students’ comments.  Just get the conversation started!

reciprocal_teaching

Reciprocal teaching is a great instructional strategy to use with blogging!  Mainly used as a guided reading strategy in elementary school, students follow a series of activities before, during, and after reading.  A different student is responsible for each step in the series.  The activities are 1.)  Questioning, 2.)  Clarifying, 3.)  Summarizing, and 4.)  Predicting.  Why not designate students to blog specifically about one of the processes above.  It doesn’t even have to be about a book you’re reading.  You could use the four steps of Reciprocal Teaching with any subject area!  That gives your students a leadership role in the classroom by making them responsible for consulting the class before making their post.  Also, classmates will be responding to their (the student’s) posts, not just the teacher’s, which will also give them a sense of importance and purpose.

My point in writing this post (other than the fact it’s a grad school assignment :) ) is to get you to think about blogging as something other than just students jotting down their thoughts of the day.  Get them involved in research, give them a specific purpose, and give them an authentic audience.  If you’re strategically planning your blogging activities/projects, students will be able to learn about giving credit to other people’s work through citations and linking, they will be able to develop their own voice as an author, they’ll begin to understand what it means to write for a broader audience, and they’ll hopefully begin to understand the power of communicating to a global audience.  When blogging, students are utilizing skills such as critical thinking, questioning, working with others, providing constructive feedback through commenting, and (hopefully) proofreading.  So give it a try.  Below I’ve linked to some easy-to-use blogging tools that will help you get started.  Please consider leaving a comment below if you’re already blogging with your students, if you use a different tool than one listed below, or if you have any questions about how to get started!

Blogger.com

Weebly.com

KidBlog.org

So far in the series, Putting the YOU in YouTube, we’ve discussed personalizing your channel, uploading your videos, and trimming out the parts of your videos that you don’t want.  In this post, we’re going to look at using the tools within the YouTube Editor that will help you put your mark on your movies.

I’m not sure why YouTube has made it so hard to find the Editor, but they have.  You can find a link to the Editor under the Enhancements option in Video Manager, OR you can simply type in youtube.com/editor in your address bar after you’re logged in.  Once at the editor, this is what you’ll see:

Video Editor - YouTube 2013-10-02 13-48-11

 

In the Editor, you can bring videos together to make one longer video, you can apply filters to your video clips, add music, titles, and transitions, as well as insert still photos into your video.  The image below shows what each of the icons in your “Options Menu” represent.

editor tools

 

The Video Editor is very easy to use because it is a simple “Drag & Drop”.  You’ll start by dragging all of your video clips you want to include in your movie onto the row of the workspace for the videos.  To add additional video clips, drag the clips down to the workspace and “drop” it beside the clip you’ve already placed.  You can click the Creative Commons icon to access video clips that have been licensed under the Creative Commons that you’re free to use in your own videos.  If you have still images you’d like to incorporate into your video, you can click the camera icon.  You’ll then be prompted to either upload images from your computer, or you can import pictures from your Google+ account.  Once they’re displayed beside the preview pane, again, just drag and drop them where you want them to go in your video.

When you drag a video clip (or any of the other options) onto the workspace, you’ll be able to edit those clips or elements further.  Below is a screenshot of what your screen will look like when you drag a video clip onto the workspace.  Notice that you’ll have the ability to make some quick fixes which include zooming in and out, change the brightness, stabilize, rotate, etc. You can also add text to your video clips.  Be careful with this, however, because if you add text here, it will display the entire time your video clip is playing.  If you’d rather just add a title text or a “slide” of text between videos, you use the text icon from the original Editor menu.  Keep reading to learn more.  To get back to the original Editor menu, simply click in the gray area of the workspace, or click the x in the upper right-hand corner of the clip editor.

video clip options in editor

The music icon will allow you add Creative Commons music clips to your videos.  Although there is a volume bar where you can tell YouTube to favor either the sound from the original video clip or the music, the music always seems to be louder than the sound from the video.  add music in editorSo just be careful and consider which is more important, music or sound from your video.  At this point, there isn’t a way to assign music to only certain portions of your video either.  You’ll drag the music clip onto the workspace under the videos and images.  Also, there is currently no way to upload your own music files…more than likely copyright issues.

To add titles and/or transitions to your movie, you click and drag the type of title or transition you’d like onto the workspace where you want them to go.  When you drag the element down to the workspace, you’ll see a blue line appear to show you where the element will be added.  You’ll need to be careful with the titles because if the blue line highlights the entire video clip, that means that title will play the entire length of the clip.  If you only want it to show before or after the video clip or image, you’ll want the skinny blue line.  To get back to the original Editor menu, you’l usually click the x in the upper right corner.  However, for some reason, that “x” isn’t present on the transitions menu.  To get back to the Editor menu, you can click in the gray area of the workspace.

If you decide that you don’t want an element in your video after all, or any element for that matter, you can hover your mouse over that element.  A small x will appear in the upper right-hand corner of the gray bar.  Simply click the x and that element will be removed from your workspace.  You can also reorder an of the elements in your video by clicking and dragging it to where you want it to go.

Once you’re video is like you want it:  all of your video clips are in the correct order, you’ve added any desired still images, you have transitions between the elements to make it flow smoothly, and you have inserted all the necessary title slides, it’s time to publish.  Directly above the preview pane, you can rename your video, then on the right-hand side of the screen is a blue “Publish” button.  Depending on how long your video is, how many transitions you’ve included, and if you decided to include music clips, it may take your video a little while to publish.  The beauty of the Editor is that until you publish, all of your work is automatically saved.  So if you don’t have time to finish your video in one sitting, you can log out of YouTube, come back to it later, go to the editor, and all of your work is still there.  When you publish, you’ll then have a blank workspace again.

Next Steps:

Making your videos interactive (Coming soon!)

Publishing your videos on YouTube (Coming soon!)

Did you miss the first three post in the series Putting the YOU in YouTube?  Check them out!

Putting the YOU in YouTube

Uploading videos to YouTube

Trimming your videos

 

If you read the first Totally Awesome Things to do with Spreadsheets in the Classroom post, you’ll know that I’m a little obsessed with spreadsheets right now becaflat-28205_150use I made the lowest grade of my life on a recent grad school assignment involving spreadsheets.

As I do more research, I’m beginning to see how versatile spreadsheets can be, and how, as teachers, it would be very beneficial to our students to use them in regular classroom activities.  By using formulas, students are able to show their procedural knowledge.  Through database creation, students are taken through the research process and can then use sorting and filtering to find what they need quickly.  Spreadsheets have the ability to instantly take data that we have input and create charts and graphs, which will help students understand how information can be shared visually.  Even young students can use spreadsheets!  Go ahead and set up your input columns and headings, and insert a chart.  As students (either individually or as a class) enter data that they’ve collected, the charts are automatically updated!  How cool!  Continue reading below for some specific activities and links that incorporate spreadsheets into classroom activities.  I have included two activities for elementary, middle, and high school.  Read what applies to you, or read all of them and adapt the activities to your needs!

Elementary School

Create timelines:  To help students get used to typing in boxes (cells) rather than straight across a line, using spreadsheets to create timelines is a great activity.  In the lower grades, I’d go ahead and have a template set up, but in the upper elementary, I’d let the kids play around with setting borders around boxes, hiding rows and columns that they don’t need after they’ve sent up their timeline, etc.  Here’s a sample timeline template for you to use (Google Spreadsheet).

Making Decisions:  Before having your students  collect or input data, go ahead and set up the spreadsheet and charts like I said before.  Set up several different spreadsheets for the same data, but have each spreadsheet generate a different chart.  In groups, have students input the same data and examine the charts.  As a class, discuss what each chart shows and then decide which chart was the best for displaying the data.  You’ll want them to recognize that line graphs are best for showing change over time, bar charts are best for showing comparisons, and pie charts are best for showing percentages or parts of a whole.  Although I listed this under elementary, this would be a great activity for middle and high school as well since you’ll be asking the students to justify their decisions.

Middle School

Exploring Weight and Age on Other Planets:  In small groups, have students research how our weight and age are different on other planets.  Set up a shared spreadsheet (Google), and have the students set the formulas for what age and weight would be on other planets.  Some students may not feel comfortable putting in their actual weight, so you could set the fill color to the same color as the text to “hide” their original weight.  Have students draw conclusions about effects of planet mass and diameter on gravity and weight, and rotation and revolution periods on age.  As a challenge, you could have students try to write the formulas for comparing weight and age on planets not starting with their Earth weight and age.  I did this activity one year with my third graders, but I had already set up the template.  They loved seeing how their weight changed on the various planets.  BTW, Pluto was still a planet then. :)  Speaking of, here’s a sample template that you could use.  I used the information from this article from LiveScience.com, and this website to help set up the template.

Budget Planning:  Financial literacy is becoming more and more important for our students.  If you’ve read the About Me page, you’ll know that my husband and I are working Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps to financial freedom.  We are always saying, “I wish I knew this before I graduated high school!”  I love scenario-based learning, and if I were a middle or high school teacher, I’d definitely have my students go through the scenario of planning a budget based on a specific set of criteria (monthly take home salary, cell phone bill, cable bill, groceries, car payment, house payment/rent, utilities, etc.).  Having students set up a simple spreadsheet where they can set up a subtraction formula would be a great way to show them how quickly money can disappear each month.  Challenge them to make decisions about sacrifices they may have to make.  Ask questions like, “How would you budget be different if you were supporting kids?”, “Last month, your spouse lost their job, so now your monthly budget is __________.  What adjustments are you going to have to make?”  You can find budget templates all over the Internet, but in middle and high school, I’d definitely have the students set up the spreadsheets themselves.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy.  Here’s a blank template of the one my husband and I use each month.

High School

What is Average?  Read the short story, Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut, with your students.  It’s about a dystopian society where people are forced to wear “handicaps” in order for everyone to be equal.  AWESOME story.  You can even register at Izzit.org and get a free DVD of 2081, the movie version of this story.  Have students brainstorm various characteristics that they’d like to find the “average” for in their classroom.  Some characteristics could include height, weight, a rank for mental ability, a rank for athletic ability, etc.  Create a class spreadsheet with each student’s data, then use the AVERAGE formula, filtering, and sorting to find a class “average” of each characteristic.  Discuss what handicaps would be necessary for certain students/characteristics.  Have students create an illustration of themselves with their handicaps.

Doctors as Detectives:  This lesson activity was actually created by the Learning Times people at the New York Times.  In the activity, students read an article from the Times about how doctors sometimes serve as detectives when it comes to infectious diseases.  Students then research a particular disease and input data about it into a shared database (Google spreadsheet).  Here’s a spreadsheet template with the fields recommended by the lesson developers.  After students have filled in their database information, they write a short story like they are a patient suffering from the disease they researched.  They’ll swap stories with a partner, and then the students will have to use the information in the database to try to diagnose their partner.  Here is a link to the lesson plan.  This one really sounds like fun!

I hope that some of these activities and spreadsheet templates are useful to you in some way.  I also am hopeful that some of these activities gave you ideas of your own about how you can utilize spreadsheets in your classroom.  If so, please share those ideas with us in the comments below.  Thanks so much for reading!

This will be the third post in the series, Putting the YOU in YouTube.  The first post focused on setting up your channel and making it reflect you and your purposes.  Last week’s post described the process for uploading your videos from your computer or mobile device.  I’ve actually had some trouble uploading this past week from my computer, so I’m hoping you all have been able to get at least a few videos online.

This week we’re going to look at trimming out unwanted parts of our videos.  Beginning next year in North Carolina, elective teachers, like PE, Art, Music, etc. will have to submit videos as artifacts for their evaluations.  In fact, this is one artifact I recommend ALL teachers using for their evaluations.  I have yet to find a more powerful way to reflect on and improve your teaching than being able to watch yourself.  For these reasons, I’ve been training all of the Media Coordinators and Instructional Coaches in my district on how to help their teachers trim and edit videos using YouTube.   Most teachers will find when watching their videos that they can either trim out the beginning or ending few seconds/minutes of a video, or that they need to trim out part of the middle when Little Johnny or Suzie decided to flip out.  Let’s take a quick look at how to do this.

All videos that you upload to YouTube are stored in your Video Manager.  You can access your Video Manager by clicking the drop down arrow beside the Upload button, or my clicking on your username in the upper, right-hand corner.  Once you’re in your Video Manager, you’ll see all the videos that you’ve ever uploaded, with the latest videos listed first.  Below is a picture of your Video Manager in list view.  You can also change it to thumb nail view by clicking on the 3 x 3 grid to the top, right of the page.yt list view

 

To begin trimming your video, find the Edit button beside the video you’d like to trim.  Using the drop down arrow beside the Edit button, find and click Enhancements.  This will take you to the Enhancements tools.  I’m not going to go over any of the tools here because they have included all of them in the Video Editor, which we’ll look at next week.  On the menu, in the bottom, left, locate the Trim button.  When you click the Trim button, you’ll get a new window underneath the preview pane.yt_trimming_brackets

You only get one trim at a time, so if you only need to trim out the beginning or ending of a video, you’re good.  You’ll just need to watch the video through and make a note of the times that you want to begin and end with.  Simply drag the blue trimming brackets to your desired start and end time, then click the Save drop down arrow in the top, right-hand corner.  Choose “Save As”.  This will create a whole new video in your Video Manager, and it will automatically named “Copy of <NameofVideo>”.  You can rename it using that same Edit drop down menu and choosing .Info and Settings”.

The issue comes in when you need to edit out a chunk in the middle.  As I said earlier, you only get one trim at a time.  What you’ll have to do is watch your video, make note of the time(s) in the middle that you want to trim out.  You’ll drag the trimming bracket to your first start time and end time, then “Save As”.  From your Video Manager, you’ll have to back to your original video, the drag the trimming brackets to your second start and end time, then “Save As”.  Hopefully, you’ll only have one chunk of time to edit out (fingers crossed).  You’ll now how two “Copy of <NameofVideo>s in your Video Manager.  No worries, next week I’ll show you how to combine those two clips to make one movie!

I hope this made sense and wasn’t too confusing.  If you need more help, please don’t hesistate to email me at iTeachTeachersTech@gmail.com.  I’ll be happy to walk you through the process.  I hope to “see” you back next Thursday when I’ll show you all the cool tools contained in the YouTube Editor!

Next Steps:

Video Editor

Making your videos interactive (Coming Soon!)

Publishing your video on YouTube (Coming Soon!)

Did you miss the first two posts in the Putting the YOU in YouTube series?  Check them out:

Putting the YOU in YouTube

Uploading videos to YouTube

 

Since last January (2013), I’ve been working on an add-on for my teaching license that will qualify me for my current position as an Instructional Technology Specialist/Facilitator.  This spring I had one assignment in my current class that gave me quite a bit of trouble.  In fact, I made the lowest grade I’ve ever made on that assignment…I mean EVER! It’s all good though, I still have an A. :)  Anywho, the assignment was on the use of spreadsheets in the classroom.

In the past, I’ve used spreadsheets to create basic gradebooks, budgets, and lesson plan templates, but I’ve never really thought about using them with the students.  I’m the kind of person that I’m not not going to know something for long, so when I recovered from the shock of my grade, I became determined to learn more about spreadsheets in the classroom.  Holy cow, have I been missing out!

Tammy Worcester Tang is using Google Spreadsheets in some really incredible ways.  You definitely have to check out the Google Stuff page on her website.  A couple of her awesomely creative ideas include:

    • coloring lines and resizing rows and columns to create index cards, notebook pages, and journals.  Since a spreadsheet can have multiple tabs, those are great ways of creating study aids and digital notebooks for your students. Here’s an image of an index card I created. spreadsheet_indexcard
    • use “if/then” statements to create “Guess and Check” activities for your students.  Hide the actual answer in cell A1 and set the background color to the text color.  The correct formula for an “if/then” statement is: =IF(what you’re testing, “true value”, “false value”).  In the example below, I asked the question “How old is Mrs. Boucher?”  I had three formulas that I used: =IF(C6>A1, “Too High”, ” “), =If(C6=A1, “Correct!”, ” “), and =IF(C6<A1, “Too Low”, ” “).

Some other ideas that I’ve found through my research are:

  • Creating math review for basic facts or finding the average of a set of data using a spreadsheet.  Print them out and have your students complete them.  Show students how to use the basic formulas for addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and average.  Have a computer station set up where students can input the formulas and check their answers.  By putting in the formulas, they’re cementing their procedural knowledge.
  • Have students collect data on the latest tablets or other desirable electronic devices.  Record the prices for each and have them use the MIN and MAX formulas to identify which one costs the most/least.
  • Have students research different summer jobs that are available in your area.  Input the data and use the MIN and MAX formulas to determine which are the best jobs.  You could go a step further and use charts to compare pay per hour for the jobs to see which jobs offer the most money for the least amount of hours.
  • Have students create databases using spreadsheets, then teach them to sort and filter to find the information that they need.

I always stayed away from spreadsheets in the classroom because I really didn’t understand how they worked.  As I continue to research and find more classroom activities that even the youngest students can do, I’m getting more excited about them.  Have you creatively used Spreadsheets with your students?  If so, how?  Please share your ideas and experiences in the comments below.

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