Sunday, November 30, 2014

How One Flat Classroom Became Animated...

Merkel High School located just under 20 miles west of Abilene, TX is undergoing a Culture Shift... Community members, parents, students, teachers and administrators are consciously taking steps to bring more non-traditional approaches to learning into the classrooms...

In a more "flattened" educational environment, students are encouraged to gain depth of learning outside of the four walls, textbooks, and teachers that have historically been the basis of knowledge acquisition.

In her first efforts at modeling how we learn from experts outside of the classroom, Animation teacher Ashlei Adams (@MHStechteach) sought the connection with someone in the animation industry... An email, a Google search, a Tweet, and a text later (ok...maybe not that exact order, but close enough) and Ms. Adams' students had booked a Skype call with former Pixar assistant editor David Condolora (@davidcondolora).

Students devised questions, and the teacher handled logistics. How fun for me that I was invited to watch, learn, and listen!

And learn I did! About animation...yes... but even more! I was validated in my belief that...
"real world" expertise can bring laughter, smiles, enthusiasm, and a level of engagement completely unattainable by traditional instruction.

Some of the students, via their teacher, emailed me quotes they would want shared with the world... Pretty cool!


Alee- "He helped me have a better insight into how creating an animated film really works!"

Alexis- "It was cool to get a chance to talk to an actual professional from the industry."

John- "It was interesting to hear what software programs are used in the animated film industry."

Brittany M.- "I appreciated the advice he gave us on how to pursue animation after graduating High School."

Angel- "It was more interesting than regular classwork!"

It seems their expert enjoyed the experience too!

How are you, as educators, flattening your classroom?

It's your turn! Let's CommuniCATE!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Great Googly Moogly! It was a Monster Match!

I had such a great time on Oct. 30 after being invited into a Google Hangout between classes at two of my districts (Clyde ISD and Merkel ISD in Texas) about 35 miles apart. (Merkel would also have a classroom that did Monster Match with a class in Highland ISD.)

Fifth grade students had a blast creating monsters and then using their English/Language Arts TEKS for process writing through the sharing of a Google Doc. It didn't hurt that this Halloween-themed option was just plain fun!

Listening and speaking skills were also covered as the students revealed their monster challenge of recreating another class's monster through Google Hangouts.

Below is a Google Slides presentation of the lesson plan and process... Here is a link to the scrolling presentation as well...

NOTE: Merkel fifth graders enjoyed the fact that their monsters and stories were part of a Haunted Hallway for Pre-K and K students on Halloween. Monsters were accompanied by ooey-gooey items of spaghetti, grapes and gelatin.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Groovy 7th Graders Learned to Research -- And it was FUN!

Last week, I received an email invitation to spend an upcoming day exploring a student created museum approach to the 1960s. That's the kind of email I will clear my calendar for!

Yesterday, I ventured out to Wylie ISD and found myself on the Junior High campus. Within minutes, three 7th graders eagerly showed up to escort me down to their 1960's walkthrough museum. I was checked to be sure I had a QR code scanner on my "smart" phone and a set of earbuds...

Let the learning for this former history teacher begin!

Oh... Did I mention this was an ELA class? Yes! The TEKS to be covered and learned by the students were centered around research papers, citations, primary sources, and writing... It took me at least ten questions before the students articulated that bit of information... They were more interested in explaining the "fun" they had in learning and show off their knowledge of the 1960s.

The teacher, Mrs. Ann Hurst, approached her content by allowing her students to utilize their own voice and choice in exploring the research process. In fact, this started out to be a project over the Titanic, but after the students brainstormed things that interested them and voted, the 1960s emerged as a time period the students clamored to know more about.

What was difficult? According to Alex, Anna Claire, and Reid, that would be "CITATIONS!!!" and "figuring out how to validate our resources on the internet!"

The breakdown of the process:

Students chose their own groups and topics, as well as made sure each student in the group had job responsibilities (true PBL fashion). The research and writing began, then the students chose a way to "present" their papers. Most groups selected the creation of a ShowMe or an Animoto. Utilizing four iPads brought into the classroom, the student groups rotated, shared, collaborated, and presented their papers... Campus Instructional Technology Specialist Coach Luke Hurst assisted with any technical questions the students had.

Then the museum construction began. Administration allowed the students to decorate an empty room with 60's flair. Students posted pics and QR codes by year around the room. All visitors walk through with a "smart" device and scan QR codes posted near pictures and descriptions of poignant people and events from the 1960s. The reward is a ShowMe or Animoto with student selected or drawn representations coinciding with student read research papers. An old turn table softly plays 60's music in the background and visitors are taken back in time to the Vietnam War, Alcatraz Prison, and the first Super Bowl to name a few.

A job well done, 7th grade Bulldogs!

The museum is open for the remainder of the month.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Do I Really Want Data-Mining to Disappear?

Google Apps for Education has recently come Under Fire in the courts (Education Week… and is perhaps inadvertently causing a maelstrom of activity as educators struggle through the dilemma of adequately identifying and defining “data-mining” and its impact on student privacy. Has a line been crossed? Are our students at some type of identifiable risk? And is it all Google’s fault?


Data-Mining per se has, is, and will continue to occur in varied forms or fashions simply because our world is CONNECTED, SOCIAL, and CONVENIENT – BY AN OVERWHELMING DEMAND… As such, we, as consumers, actually DESIRE data-mining – if not, we lose that which we have grown to expect, especially from our world of technology. By slapping the hands of Google, Dropbox, Apple, broadcast communication commercials in general, even school yearbook ads, we are in essence “biting the hands that feed us.”

As a small child pushed in the cart at the grocery store, I refused to try the fruit-flavored snacks the kind employee was passing out as store samples. My mom sheepishly explained that I didn’t like fruit… The “Samples Lady” never offered me fruit again and/or tried to sell my mother on such a product (not the same response when it came to chocolate)… Data was “mined”…  Permission wasn’t given to keep records on me, but it was stored in someone’s memory and for the express purpose of not wasting time and knowing when a profitable sale would be made. Was that the end of my privacy???

I remember being a high school student and enjoying the TV we received in class by being a Channel One school… We watched about 15 minutes of news each day that included teen targeted ads like Doritos and Nike… Channel One has fabulously evolved into a current events curriculum-supported concept that encourages and engages student participation through quizzes, social media, etc. But picking apart the concept of data-mining reveals that they too use information from our students… (
One of the first storage concepts I fell in love with as an educator was Dropbox… Good bye, flashdrives!!!! Many of our schools have encouraged students to utilize this service personally for years. But what about protecting their privacy?!? (
 Then there is our ever-popular iPad/Apple movement in education… Really? No data-mining? Hmmmm… ( And I once again want to point out that for the most part, we WANT them to figure out some things for us based on our usage, what web sites we go to, our needs for updates, etc.
Referring back to Google and the lawsuits they are facing, the conflict seems to surround commercial gain from educational purpose.  I contend the benefits to our students, schools, and staff and ultimately our new and improved COMMERCIAL products stemming from the data mining far outweighs any semblance of privacy violation…
"I don't think there's another product on the market that provides the same level of power to its users, regardless of price," said Henry C. Thiele, the assistant superintendent for technology and learning for the 6,800-student Maine Township High School District 207 in Illinois.
(later in the article)
Of course, the problem extends far beyond Google, Mr. Evans said (Cameron Evans, Microsoft's chief technology officer for education). A growing number of companies rely on "freemium" business models in which they provide technology services to schools in exchange for access to an increasingly comprehensive body of information about students-including "ambient" data about where they are located, what devices they are using, with whom they are interacting, and more.

And if Microsoft is truly claiming that Office 365 doesn’t do the same… perhaps due to their verbage in policy… consumers might beg to differ… compare wording… not really “different”.
 I don’t work for Google (but I love my GAFE and personal Gmail though), I am a huge Microsoft fan (have a PC and a Surface Pro with a Live account tied to my Google), can’t live without my iPad, iPad mini, Mac Air or iPhone… And am ever thankful that I can post to Instagram or Twitter about my recent rug purchase on Overstock and receive ads helping me cost effectively furnish my new home!
Your turn...
Let's CommuniCATE!