Honored to be Nominated for a Bammy – Would Love Your Support

Honored and humbled to be nominated for a Bammy Award. The Bammy Awards shine a spotlight on what is good in education. I have be fortunate enough to know many of the great people nominated. 

Got this in the mail this morning. (Thanks, Andi! I look forward to seeing you again at workshops.) 

Congratulations, Samantha Morra has been nominated for a Bammy Award in the category of Education Commentator / Blogger by the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences.

Andi Jacobson submitted the following reason for making the nomination:

Samantha Morra has been a positive voice in education for years. She has been a teacher, technology coordinator, administrator, and educational consultant. She is so creative and has brought new dimension to what students and teachers can do with technology to improve learning. Her work with digital storytelling is so powerful. She talks about giving students voice and empowering them with great tools to communicate and express themselves. Her discussions about empathy as the 21st century skill make you rethink how students collaborate and communicate in your classroom and how we can help them become better digital citizens. She has created 21st century classrooms and shared her experience with others. She has even re-framed the “flipped classroom” discussion to focus it more about how teachers can reflect on how to use their face to face time with their students more effectively. She is an advocate for strengthening teachers, engaging students and empowering schools to improve for the benefit of everyone. 

I was lucky enough to attend my first workshop with her a few years ago, and have been following her on Twitter, her blog and other social media since then. When you leave her workshops, you feel like you can take on the world. If you reach out to her, she answers and supports your work. I recently saw her in a webinar and I was able to use the information she shared the very next day. I know so many people who have been inspired by Samantha and she should be recognized for her passion, innovation and collaboration that has benefited so many.

You can see the nomination details here and vote: http://www.bammyawards.com/index.php/component/content/article/69-education-commentatorblogger/1245-samantha-morra 

Please check out all of the nominees. Let’s all celebrate and shine a spotlight on what is good in education.

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Two Free Google Apps that Bring Out the Best In an iPad

This first appeared as a guest post on FreeTech4Teachers.

Many of us using technology in the classroom find ourselves caught between two worlds: Apple and Google. Apple’s iPad is a fantastic tool in the classroom which provides students with various opportunities to consume, create, and communicate. Similar to a swiss-army knife, it is only limited by how we choose to use it. At the same time, Google apps provide students with cloud-based services, from search to document creation and sharing, that work seamlessly on iPad.

So, what are some of the best ways to experience Google on the iPad? Let’s take a look at two apps from Google: Google Search and Drive.

Google Search

Usually when you think of Google you think of searching first. The Google Search app has a nice clean interface: a search bar, a history button, a voice search button, an apps button, and Google Now cards. Most of the features are pretty intuitive. While, I like the apps button because it provides access to many Google apps and sites from one place, my favorite part about this app is Google Goggles.
With Google Goggles, you can take a picture with the iPad camera, and Google Search will scour the internet for that picture. This is a great feature that taps into two of iPad’s strengths: mobility and image capture.

 

Google Drive

The Google Drive app offers some great features on iPad. You can create docs, sheets and folders, as well as open, edit and collaborate on any doc or sheet that you started from another device. There are also two great features that bring out the best in your iPad: speech-to-text and supporting workflow.

Speech-to-Text

I have tried speech-to-text on other apps and sites with minor success; however, it works really well when creating documents in Drive. The best part is that because it syncs with the cloud! This means that you could be on the same document from a computer as well as iPad, talk into iPad, and the text will also appear instantly on the computer. This is an amazing feature – especially for students who struggle with writing.

Workflow

Another powerful feature of Google Drive is how it supports workflow on iPad. You can upload video and images from the camera roll right into your Google Drive. This is a great way to get an important video or image off of iPad and onto your computer or another device. It is also a great way to collaborate. You can gather class images and video in Drive and then share or merge them together on a single device. Google Drive liberates your creative masterpieces from a single iPad.

A final great workflow feature in Drive is “Open In…” Any file, in any format, can be stored in Google Drive. This feature gives you a variety of options for how you want to open that file and use it on iPad. For example, you could open a PDF from Google Drive in iBooks, Evernote, Subtext, or any other app that might allow for PDF Annotation.

Google and iPad compliment each other beautifully, and together can make a great tool for learning and teaching.

 

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Elements4D – Exploring Chemistry with Augmented Reality

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This first appeared as a guest post on FreeTech4Teachers. Augmented Reality (AR) blurs the line between the physical and digital world. Using cues or triggers, apps and websites can “augment” the physical experience with digital content such as audio, video and … Continue reading

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5 Fantastic Apps for Digital Storytelling on iPads

This first appeared as a guest post on FreeTech4Teachers.

Computers, and the digital tools on those computers, brought video editing to the classroom years ago. As those tools became easier to use, more and more students were given opportunities to share and demonstrate knowledge using video. iPad continues to transform the process by integrating the key elements of digital storytelling – capturing photos, videos, and audio – all in one mobile device. Through apps, iPad provides a variety of options for how to compose or combine those key elements to create an effective demonstration of learning.

Digital storytelling is a powerful tool in the classroom. It is engaging for students and teachers of all grade levels and can be used across the curriculum. Most of all, digital storytelling gives students a voice and a way of communicating information in an authentic manner. One of the great things about digital stories is that there are no “cookie cutter” answers. Each student creates a unique piece that demonstrates their understanding. Digital storytelling on iPad can empower, motivate and engage students, helping them to make deep connections to learning.

So, grab your iPad and check out some of the best free apps for digital storytelling:

With Tellagami, students can create quick animations that liberate them from the physical world and remove concerns about appearance and general physics. Tellagami allows them to create an avatar and custom background, as well as to have the avatar speak with the student’s voice or via text-to-speech. Students can place their avatars in all sorts of interesting places like a plant cell or next to George Washington. They can have their avatar sit on a library book shelf or stand on the ocean floor. You can read more about Tellagami in a previous post on FreeTech4Teachers.

Videolicious allows students to shoot, do short quick edits in a matter of minutes, and easily share their videos. The app is being used by reporters from newspapers, like the Washington Post, to have their reporters capture and report news quickly. Students can use this app like the experts, quickly and easily creating videos.

ScreenChomp is an awesome way to use screencasting for storytelling with our youngest learners. Just put up a picture and have your student talk about it, draw on top of it, and record. This app allows for authentic communication of learning as students are able to show process and understanding.

Animoto has been around a long time on the computer. The app is even more powerful because of how quickly and easily images and sound can be strung together, helping. Additionally, this app helps students understand the power of images, requiring them to think critically about the images they choose and what information, tone and emotions are conveyed by those images. Captioning and choice of music add to the impact of each student’s work.

If you hand an iPad to a student with Puppet Pals on it, just be prepared for a little fun. This highly engaging app allows you to move “puppets” and record your voice to create a story. It’s fantastic for all sorts of things such as public service announcement, telling a story from different characters’ points of view, and sharing information. There is a paid version which gives you more characters and more options, but even the free version allows for a great deal of flexibility and an authentic expression of writing.

Digital stories help students to become creators of content for the Internet, not just consumers. They give students a voice and allow them to express themselves at a higher lever. iPad takes digital storytelling to a new level by making the process easier and mobile. When paired with great apps, digital storytelling is the perfect tool to unleash student creativity.

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Connected Educator Month

Today kicks off the second half of Connected Educator Month.

I find great value in being a connected educator, regularly tapping into the information and social aspects of using the web for professional and personal growth. It has taken time, but has been worth it because it has transformed my practice and provided me with invaluable feedback and support. Most importantly it has linked me with other educators who opened up the world to me and my students. Twitter, Skype, even Pinterest have all become a part of how we connect and learn with each other.

Being connected can help you on your own path to becoming a lifelong learner and help you gain perspective and support from educators around the world. We now even have a month, Connected Educator Month, dedicated to helping educators understand the potential in being connected.

Connected Educator Month is an initiative from the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education and invites everyone in education to embrace being connected. The site from USDOE has a great calendar of events with almost 200 events scheduled for October. The topics range from Connecting & Collaborating in Elementary Classrooms to Connected Leadership to Digital Citizenship and more. There is a Connected Educator Month newsletter and a starter kit to help you learn more. Earlier this month, I hosted a webinar, Connecting & Collaborating in Elementary Classrooms, discussing this topic with Holly Clark and Beth Holland.

 In addition to live events, Twitter is a great way to follow the events for Connected Educator Month – as well as to get connected. Educators across the globe are on Twitter learning, sharing and collaborating. If you are new to Twitter, you can check out this presentation –Introduction to Twitter for Educators. Once you get comfortable, go on at certain times and “follow” some chats by using a hashtag. Check out this schedule of Educational Twitter Chats to find a chat that would be meaningful to you. Connected Educator Month even has its own hashtag #ce13. Just click on the link or type it into the search at the top of the page on Twitter.

I hope you will join us as we share and learn together to strengthen education across the country. Make this your month to connect!

Quick Links

USDOE Connected Educator Site - http://connectededucators.org/

Calendar of Events - http://connectededucators.org/events/

CEM Newsletter - http://connectededucators.org/cem/cem-newsletter/

Getting Started Kit - http://connectededucators.org/cem/cem-getting-started/

Twitter Hashtag – #ce13

Introduction to Twitter for Educators
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Heading to the Bammy Awards tonight. Think Academy Awards for Education.

I am  attending as one of the Bam 100: Influential Voices in Education. These are people like me who have harnessed social media address critical issues, become part of the national discussion and  to spread the word about all that is good in education.

Tonight, I will cheer on many of my friends and colleagues as they are honored for the great work that they do everyday for students and communities across the country.

You can watch the event live tonight at 7:30 PM EST http://www.bammyawards.com/index.php/bammy-awaards-live

 

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A Handful of Ideas for Using Tellagami In School

This first appeared as a guest post on FreeTech4Teachers. 

Tellagami has updated their app. You can now draw or doodle on the background.

Tellagami, a free iOS app that lets you create short animated movies called “Gamis,” is one of my new favorite animation apps to explore. Although the site promotes the app as a way to send greetings and messages for use within social media, I see it as a great tool in the classroom.

With Tellagami, begin by creating and customizing a character. Although there is not a great deal of variety in virtual appearance, just enough options exist to personalize your character. From there, you choose a background either from a few in the app itself or your camera roll. I love to take a picture at the front of the classroom and have my character introduce me to the class. I have worked with teachers where they introduce the classroom to students or parents with their character in different spots around the room, even on a bookshelf.

After you customize your character and background, you can choose how you want your character to talk, either by recording your voice or typing in text. If you record your voice, you have 30 seconds. If you choose text to speech, there are male and female voices with a few different accents.

Some quick ideas you might try:

  • Have your character tell a story.
  • Pick a person in history and have them introduce themselves
  • Use a plant cell as the background and have the avatar name and discuss the function of each part of the cell.
  • Recite a famous poem or speech
  • Read a poem they wrote
  • Take a trip or go back in time and describe where the location/time period
  • Speak in Spanish, French, Mandarin or any language

When you are all done, Gamis can be emailed, posted to Facebook, or Tweeted, which also generates a link to share. You can also view your movie online and get the embed code. I could see embedding a whole bunch of these on a class wiki or blog.

You can also save them to your iPad Photos, which is what I like to do. From there, Gamis can be combined together in iMovie or incorporated into other apps like Explain Everything. (Greg Kulowic has some great examples of this, as “appsmashes.”) Your only limit is your imagination!

Using animation with your students can have a profound effect on how they participate in a project. Their work can be liberated when they have the opportunity to separate themselves from the physical world, removing concerns about appearance and general physics. Students who are usually introverted tend to really shine with animation. It makes them feel safer and more willing to “put their work out there.” To quote one of their emails, “It’s Gamilicious!”

I will be presenting more about Tellagami and other apps at the Boston and San Diego iPad Summits.

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5 Flipped Classroom Issues (And Solutions) For Teachers

 

5 Flipped Classroom Issues (And Solutions) For Teachers

This is an article I wrote with Beth Holland and posted on Edudemic.

We will be talking more about iPads and Flipping at the upcoming EdTechTeacher iPad Summits in Boston (November 13-15, 2013) and San Diego (February 3-5, 2014).

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Exploring IFTTT.com

(I just read this tweet from Holly Clark (@HollyEdTechDiva) about a site called IFTTT and had to check it out.)

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IFTTT stands for “If this then that” and is pronounced like “gift” but without the g. It’s a site that allows you to connect online services.

I decided to try to make the recipe like the one on in Holly’s tweet which connected FourSquare to Google Calendar. It was so simple! After you sign in, the site walks you through the steps to make a recipe with a trigger and an action. I was able to do another recipe with the iPhone/ipad app just as easily. This time I connected new Facebook status with the calendar.

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What really makes this powerful is that Evernote, DropBox, and GoogleDrive are all a part of the services included. RSS feed and email also makes this pretty powerful. There is even a recipe gallery that you can explore.

Here are some interesting recipes I plan to check out:

  1. Save Gmail attachments to a folder in Google Drive named with the sender’s email address. 
  2. Copy photos I’m tagged in on Facebook to Dropbox
  3. Twitter favorites to Evernote

I plan on playing with this site some more, but I can see it as a great introduction to coding for students. When teaching Scratch and basic coding, I would often go over “if then” statements. I can really see students having fun creating on this site and gaining a better understanding of “if this then that.”

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8 Steps To Great Digital Storytelling

First appeared on Edudemic.  (Updated 3/14/2014)

8 Steps To Great Digital Storytelling

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Stories bring us together, encourage us to understand and empathize, and help us to communicate. Long before paper and books were common and affordable, information passed from generation to generation through this oral tradition of storytelling. Consider Digital Storytelling as the 21st Century version of the age-old art of storytelling with a twist: digital tools now make it possible for anyone to create a story and share it with the world.

WHY Digital Storytelling?

Digital stories push students to become creators of content, rather than just consumers. Weaving together images, music, text, and voice, digital stories can be created in all content areas and at all grade levels while incorporating the 21st century skills of creating, communicating, and collaborating.

Movies, created over a century ago, represent the beginning of digital storytelling. Consuming movies has become a cultural phenomenon, but making them was inaccessible to the average person for decades. Film cameras, 8mm and even video cameras served as big breakthroughs, but editing posed a challenge until technology progressed with software, websites, and apps exploding on the scene and putting advanced editing skills into the hands of everyone. Look at the meteoric rise of YouTube and other video sharing websites. At no other time in history have we been able to create, edit and share video on both a personal and global scale. In fact, video and images have become primary ways of communicating, taking the place of traditional print literacies in some areas.

8 Steps to Great Digital Stories

Great digital stories:

  • Are personal
  • Begin with the story/script
  • Are concise
  • Use readily-available source materials
  • Include universal story elements
  • Involve collaboration at a variety of levels

In order to achieve this level of greatness, students need to work through a Digital Storytelling Process.

digital storytelling chart

1. Start with an Idea

All stories begin with an idea, and digital stories are no different. This idea could be the topic of a lesson, a chapter heading in a textbook, or a question asked in class. Digital stories might be fiction or non-fiction. Once you or your student have an idea, make it concrete: write a proposal, craft a paragraph, draw a mind-map, or use any other pre-writing tool.

I once had 5th graders write their proposal on National Parks as a paragraph. The topic sentence was the park that they picked and its location. Then, they had to include three interesting facts about the park. Finally. the conclusion sentence had to explain why they picked that park or were excited to study it. In the process, we not only wrote the proposal but also improved our paragraph writing. One student commented, “I think I finally have this paragraph thing down.”

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2. Research/Explore/Learn

Whether writing a fiction or nonfiction digital story, students need to research, explore or learn about the topic in order to create a base of information on which the story will be built. During this process, students learn both about validating information and information bias as they delve deeper into a topic.

At this stage, organization is very important. I often use mind-mapping to help students keep track of information. Outlines, index cards, and online note-taking tools all work as well. If students can organize their information digitally, then it makes the next steps much easier.

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3. Write/Script

When you are trying to write, there is nothing worse than a blank sheet of paper. That’s why I strongly encourage the 2 pre-writing steps above. If students have a proposal, with a little bit of editing, it can become the introduction. If students research and explored a topic well, the body of the script should fall into place like a jigsaw puzzle. The pieces are already there, students just need to make them fit.

This is also the time where literary decisions come into play. Ask students to determine whether they will use first, second or third person. Challenge them to expand word choices. Give them an opportunity to break out a dictionary or thesaurus. I once worked with high school social studies teachers who had the students write a full essay or research paper before turning it into a script. They told me that when they were done with the project, the students should be “experts” on the topic. It depends all on your goal and your students.

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4. Storyboard/Plan

Good stories start with a good script, but they don’t end there. This is where we transition into visual media literacies. George Lucas once said, “If people aren’t taught the language of sound and images, shouldn’t they be considered as illiterate as if they left college without being able to read or write?” Storyboarding is the first step towards understanding sound and images. It is the plan or blueprint that will guide decision making about images, video and sound. Simple storyboards will just have room for images/video and the script. More advanced ones might even include room for transitions, and background music.

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5. Gather and Create Images, Audio and Video

This is the “stuff” that makes magic happen and writing come alive. Using their storyboard as a guide, students will gather – or create – images, audio and video. Everything they choose will impact and set the tone for their digital story. Introduce concepts such as visual hierarchy, tone, and illustration. This is also a great time to talk about Copyright, Fair Use, and Creative Commons. Students should use this time to record themselves reading their scripts. I have often noticed that students rewrite their scripts as they record. Through this step in the process, they become acutely aware of mistakes and poor word choices.

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6. Put It All Together

This is where the magic happens – where students discover if their storyboard needs tweaking and if they have enough “stuff” to create their masterpiece. You will see students revisit and revise their storyboard. I love this stage. This is usually when students are so engrossed in their work that they don’t leave when the bell rings, or they come back at lunch or after-school to work on the project. They will find ways to push the technology and tools beyond your expectations – blending images, creating unique transitions between video clips, incorporating music or sound effects. I also use this stage to provide students with a rubric so they understand what is necessary for a completed project as well as how to push themselves beyond the expectations.

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Rubrics

7. Share

Sharing online has become deeply embedded in our culture, so as educators, we might as well embrace it. Review your school or district’s Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) and then look for a way to share your students’ stories with a broader audience. Knowing that other people might see their work often raises student motivation to make it the best possible work that they can do.

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8. Reflection and Feedback

Too often in education, we do not teach or allow time for reflection and feedback. What did I learn? What do I know about myself that I did not know before? How can I do better next time?

Students need to be taught how to reflect on their own work and give feedback to others that is both constructive and valuable. Blogs, wikis discussion boards, and student response systems or polling tools can all be used to help students at this stage.

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Beyond Traditional Assessment

Schools across the country are embracing digital storytelling as an amazing tool for students to communicate their personal understanding of a topic. Digital stories create a bridge across content areas and provide opportunities for students to break free from print literacies to add deeper dimension to their work. It is critical that schools embraces digital storytelling and video creation as skills our students must learn in order to successfully communicate in the 21st century. This is a “Gutenberg” moment where communication and storytelling have changed so drastically that it “shakes-up” our cultural, social, and academic norms. Digital stories provide us with information that knowledge has been shared and understood. They allow us to ask our students:  ”What is the story? What is your story.”

To learn more about Digital Storytelling, come join me for Digital Storytelling & Multimedia Projects, July 8-10 in Boston.

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