Friday, October 28, 2016

Students Propose "Invent For Good" Projects - SharkTank Style!

This week students in our 5th grade LittleBits Choice Unit took on a new Invent For Good Challenge  for their final project. Their teacher, Susie Wilson, gave students the time to research and think about the possibilities. She requested that students identify what they would need to complete their project and create a materials list. Of course, as the title implies, the ultimate objective was that their invention serve to make a difference in someone's life. Students used their chromebooks to look through the projects in the Invent For Good Challenge on the LittleBits website.  These completed challenges ignited student creativity as they decided on their own inventions!  Students came up with some really exciting projects - Bumper Bot, Dog Food Refiller, Pet Scratcher, Robo Servant & Temperature Sensing Fan.  

Once students created their plan, Mrs. Wilson and I became a panel of two teacher sharks! The students LOVED having us pretend to be sharks as we listened to their proposals and ask them questions to help them navigate the possible hiccups in their game plan. By the time we were finished, students had polished their ideas and were ready to get started on their inventions.  Stay tuned for our Invent for Good finished projects!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

2016 Best App & Website Is Truly EPIC!

Every July, AASL releases their list of the year's best websites and apps. This list is rigorously vetted and is where I find some of my all time favorite apps! Often the digital tools are free, which makes it even more likely that I can find a place for them here at Oak Hills Elementary!

This year, among the apps was one stand out offering.  EPIC! eBooks is free for educators. Given the high price of eBooks, this is a tremendous gift to our students!

Once a teacher creates their free account, they can add students. EPIC! works with a laptop, chromebook and iPad (with the free app).  There are thousands of high quality fiction and nonfiction books. Teachers have the option to assign books for students to read and have them take teacher made quizzes. There are read aloud books and books that students can read to themselves. EPIC! even has lots of educational and "how to" videos!

I can't wait for our teachers to try out this fabulous tool!

Just a few examples!

And this eBook entitled Dog Selfies is my favorite!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Whew! Co-Chairing The ITEM 2016 Conference - Innovate, Integrate, Motivate!

On October 13 - 15, the state's school librarians and tech integrators gathered at the Marriott Northwest for our annual conference. We connected and shared ideas centered around a theme of Innovate, Integrate and Motivate.  ITEM, an ISTE & ALA affiliate, stands for Information and Technology Educators of Minnesota. 

This year, I decided to go all in and volunteer to be a conference co-chair along with my great friends Sally Kimmes, a library media specialist for the Osseo School District and ITEM manager, Deanna Style. I'm not gonna lie. There were a tremendous number of details to organize and oversee. I am happy to say that it was a resounding success!  The hotel, food, breakout sessions, vendor fair, keynote speakers, author book signing, book store, unconference and poster sessions all came together to create an opportunity for our members to connect, be inspired and learn. 

We discussed eBooks, Makerspaces, Personalization, Collection Genrefication, Instagram for the Libraries, Project Based Learning, Innovative Library Spaces, Digital Storytelling & Tech Integration to name just a few!  I felt like my brain was exploding with new ideas, and a fresh dose of inspiration to bring back to my school and my students! 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Kindergarteners Learn to Make Words With the Talking Alphabet From the Word Wizard App!

This week, our kindergarten teachers invited me in to team teach a literacy lesson with them.  They read the delightful ABC book by David Kirk, Miss Spider's ABC.  

We followed up the ABC book with the iPad app Word Wizard. Word Wizard is an app that has been around for awhile and is perfect for giving students an opportunity to spell words and hear them pronounced.  Unfortunately it is not free, but if I were to create a short list of apps that I believe are worth the money, Word Wizard would be on the list!

Each time a student touches a letter they get to hear the individual letter sounds.  When students put letters together and touch the new word, they get to hear their newly created word. Even in cases where the word is incorrectly spelled, students can hear it pronounced and try to correct their errors. The app has other spelling games as well.  Students can choose from a list of spelling games and practice that support them as they learn to read, write and spell. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Smartboard Teacher Training - Fantastic Digital Options For Our Classrooms!

Thanks to Katie Kelsey from Tierney Brothers for spending her day at our school teaching our staff the wonderful features available in the Smartboard software, Notebook!  I sat in on training with our 5th grade teachers and learned so many new things!  Smart has incorporated interactive features that help teachers engage students! Digital gaming and assessment options that allow students to interact from their devices are easy to use and help make learning FUN!  I am excited to see teachers begin to build these options into their lessons!

Book Fair Fun!! Celebrating New Books And Generating Excitement About Reading!

Every Fall our library turns into a book store for a week. Students love browsing the newest books from a huge variety of authors! New nonfiction and fiction books of every genre are at their fingertips!

I love the book fair, not only because it gives us an opportunity to buy so many new books for our library, but also because it immerses our student body in reading possibilities. There is something for everyone, and ultimately it generates excitement for reading! Students know that I will try to buy their favorites for the library so whether they choose to buy it for their own collection or not, they will have access to it in our well stocked library!

A big huge shout out to my fantastic book fair co-chairs, Kathy Postlewaite and Jeanne Storlie. Together they are a super organized dynamic duo!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

2nd Graders Are Totally Captivated By Digital Books From Capstone's MyOn!

This week I have been helping our second grade teachers get their students reading with our fabulous digital reading program MyOn!  We have been using MyOn with our Oak Hills students for several years, but this year, with more devices for students to use, teachers are realizing the possibilities! MyOn will be perfect for students to use during their MTSS literacy time! The best thing about MyOn, beside giving students the opportunity to read digital books, is that it is a great source of nonfiction. 
Reading nonfiction helps students to improve their vocabulary, build background knowledge and because it is typically more challenging, it helps students to improve their overall reading skills! 

Students have the opportunity to read a variety of fun topics! 

Reading with MyOn is a great way to give students choice, prepare them for digital reading and give teachers feedback about student comprehension. We are delighted to have this fabulous tool!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Team Teaching In Kindergarten! Students Celebrate Home With The Draw A House iPad App!

Recently I got together with kindergarten teacher, Natalie Remiger, to plan and teach a lesson using iPads.  This lesson was the first time kindergarteners were using iPads at school.  I suggested that we find a creative app that would support one of the learning objectives for kindergarten, be easy for students to learn, while also giving me an opportunity to chat with students about iPad guidelines and tips!  After brainstorming a few options, Natalie and I decided to share the book Home by Carson Ellis. 

Every page of the book is inviting, with illustrations that sprinkle the warmth of home. It is whimsical, with examples of make-believe homes and homes from the future and past.

Natalie read the book to her students.  Students loved this book! Once they saw all of the creative possibilities that make up a home, kindergarteners got the chance to try it themselves! With the free iPad app Draw A House, students put their creative juices to work creating a house of their own!

The app is easy to use, with backgrounds, walls, roofs, pillars, windows, doors and even an elevator! Students created houses that looked realistic as well as fantasy homes! It was super fun and creative for these young creative learners! 

Along the way, I had a chance to share tips and guidelines:

1.  Always carry any device with two hands!

2. Swipe down on the screen (in the middle away from an actual app) to get a search option!  This way students aren't left trying to figure out which page their iPad app is on.  They can type in the first two letters to the search window to find their app!

3.  Five finger close.  Students can spread their hand out on the iPad glass and draw their fingers into the middle to close out of an app.  This is great for saving wear and tear on the home button on the iPad.  (It is also a great option if the home button is being a bit glitchy!)

4.  Never touch another student's iPad. If you want to help a fellow classmate, you need to point, not touch to help them find their way.  

That was enough for our first day in kindergarten! Students read a book, learned about different homes, created their own home, and learned how to use their iPad successfully!  All in all a good day in kindergarten!

Monday, October 10, 2016

My Favorite Web Tool - Padlet Is Collaborative, Flexible & Fun!

Oak Hills Elementary teachers are discovering the wonder that is Padlet!  Padlet (both the web app, Chromebook extension & iOS app) gives teachers and students an easy way to share their ideas in real time for free!  Teachers can quickly create a padlet and then share the URL with their class. (I also taught our teachers how to use the google URL shortener - This made it even easier for students to access the class padlet!)

Once I introduced Padlet to teachers, they were able to use it right away! 5th Grade teachers chose to use Padlet to brainstorm their classroom rules for the year!

Third and fourth grade teachers used Padlet as a summer share so each student could write about their summer! 

Mr. Hemann even had his students include a selfie with their summer highlight!

Padlet has unlimited uses! Students can summarize articles they read in Newsela or Newsela Elementary for their class! Students can read each other's summaries!

Newsela | Nonfiction Literacy and Current Events

Padlets can be used as an opening share as students arrive in the morning. Teachers can ask students to answer silly or serious questions to kick off their learning for the day.  Students can even video tape their response to share with the class! 

As I already mentioned in my earlier blog post, Digitally Diving In With Four Back To School Ideas, teachers can use Padlet to share photos and information with parents by sharing the URL.  Below is an example from Cindy Johnson's "Our First Two Days Together" Padlet that she shared with parents!

Even teachers can use Padlet! Third grade teacher, Melissa Lorenson created a padlet asking our staff to share our Labor Day weekend plans! It was a great opportunity to connect with each other!

Padlet is a great learning tool for students of all ages!  Just share the your padlet and see where it takes you and your students!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Making & Learning With LittleBits, Collaboration & Fun!!

In my new role as Digital Literacy Specialist, I was invited by 5th grade teacher, Susie Wilson, to team teach a choice unit with our new makerspace kits - LittleBits!  Check out this short video I created after today's lesson!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Digitally Diving In With Four Back To School Ideas For Classrooms!

In August, as teachers were in their final weeks of summer, I wanted to share some ideas to get their creative juices flowing about ways to digitize their "Back to School" classroom activities this year. Teachers use these activities to create a "responsive classroom" designed to help the class come together, validate each student, set expectations and prepare a positive learning environment. These traditional activities provide a vital springboard for student success, but there is no reason that they have to be delivered in a traditional way! So....I sent teachers just a few ideas for them to mull over!

Digitizing back to school activities can also provide students with an opportunity to revisit principles of digital citizenship, establish device expectations, practice logging in with new passwords and help student get acquainted and share their voice.

1.  A Video Introduction with Adobe Spark iPad App (or any video app) - Students will share their name, selfie, a favorite thing or a favorite book, and one thing they are looking forward to this school year!  They can turn it into Schoology or save it to their Google Drive! It would be fun to revisit these at the end of the year!

Here was my example:

2.  Let's Get To Know Each Other! Discussion with Schoology - Students will take a selfie and share a favorite summer memory.  Using the discussion option when setting up the Schoology lesson gives students the opportunity to comment on each other's posts so students feel like they are on social media! It is a great opportunity to teach appropriate commenting skills!


3.  Share one thing about yourself that your classmates don't know! with Padlet - This is one of the easiest options as Padlet doesn't require individual student logins and gives students the ability to collaborate in real time!  The Padlet page is essentially a bulletin board webpage that allows students to post simultaneously.  Teachers can use any prompt that they want, including brainstorming classroom rules!  Padlet can be used to get students writing while also sharing with one another! Sutdents can add their selfie to their post if they wish.  This activity is also easy to share the URL with parents after students have finished!


4. Video Time Capsule with device camera - Have students create self-interviews using reality TV "confessional" style.  Ask them to turn on their device video camera and create a video message to their future end-of-year selves.  Ask them to talk about their goals, their hopes and dreams for the school year, or share a concern.  Then "archive" these videos in Google Drive and take them out at the the end of the year to help students see how they've grown!  (Thanks to Education Week Teacher, Back to School article by Jennie Magiera for this idea!!)

YIPPEEEE!!  Results!!  

I really didn't know how teachers would feel about me sharing these ideas with them while they were still on their summer vacation. There was always the possibility that they would greet them as most of us do the abundant back-to-school advertisements that start right after the 4th of July! Collective SIGH!!  Happily, because I teach with the best teachers ever, I received immediate feedback from staff expressing their enthusiasm for these ideas. The real proof that my suggestions had actually served to prime to pump was born out in the first two weeks of school. Teachers took the ideas that I shared and edited them to make them even better! Many of our 3rd-5th grade teachers used Padlet and Schoology to have students share something about themselves or collaborate on classroom rules! Fabulous first grade teacher, Cindy Johnson, combined Padlet and the Video Time Capsule idea to have students video tape their "Hopes and Dreams" for the school year using Padlet!  She also used Padlet to communicate and share photos with parents about the first day of school!  How fun that will be for students to see these at the end of the year!  

Free Read Aloud eBooks In Multiple Languages From Unite For Literacy!!

I am so excited to share a free eBook website from the folks at Unite for Literacy! This collection of eBooks can be read aloud in many different languages!

With a variety of text complexity and subjects that will interest elementary students!

Because it is web based, it will work on most any device!  Thank you Unite for Literacy and the corporations that are helping to provide this wonderful resource!!