Gratitude

What a wonderful weekend! I got to see my cousin get married and had a nice relaxing day with my kids for Mother’s Day. Funny, but on both days I got reminders of my work as a teacher and admin.

At the wedding I ran into a former student whose work I still use today in my Digital Storytelling workshops. She gave me a big hug and we got to talk. She is in college now and is a beautiful, intelligent young woman. I had her in my class in 8th grade, so it has been about 6 years. It was so nice to see her and talk with her.

Today, I got a message from a former parent telling me that “you and your efforts are not forgotten.” He went on to say how certain things I had put in place came to fruition. Gulp!

I was so grateful to hear from both, I just wanted to share. Our profession, teaching and education, is all about delayed gratification. We may not see the fruits of our labor for years after we have had a student in class. This is why assuming teacher effectiveness can be measured in standardized tests is flawed. They can test our kids by any metric they want, but the real assessment of our work is what they become and how they live their lives. Our job as educators (and parents) is to show them the world and help them find their place in it. If we can make a difference along then we have had a great career.

An Introduction to the New Google Drive iPad Apps

This first appeared as a guest post on FreeTech4Teachers.

Check out the added information at the bottom.

Google just announced new apps for Google Drive. Earlier this month, I wrote about how Google Drive is one of the Two Free Google Apps that Bring Out the Best In an iPad. As much as I like the Drive app, I have been hoping for some more features when working in Docs and sheets – like the Research tool. When I heard that Google had created some new apps, I just had to check them out.

With these new apps, Google split parts of Google Drive into individual apps: Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Docs and Sheets are out now for both iPad and Android. Slides will be coming soon. All of the apps are free and Google Drive is still available.

Right now there are really only three ways in which the apps differ from the Drive app.

1. Each app is dedicated to just one individual tool in Google Drive.

2. When you open the app, you see your most recently edited files of that type only, which does mean less time searching and scrolling.

3. The apps have better built-in offline support, so you can easily view, edit and create files without being online.

When the new Slides app comes out, you will be able to create and edit presentations, so that will be a great new feature. Like I said above, I was hoping for more features, but these apps seem like  a step in the right direction.

You can download the apps here:

New Google Docs App                    New Google Sheets App                  

   docs                               sheets

Docs App in for iPad                      Sheets App in for iPad

Docs App in for Android                Sheets App in for Android

 

Google Slides – Coming Soon!

slides

You can still view and present from Google Drive

The Google Drive app is still an important tool on iPads, Android devices and computers. It is the bridge that connects all of the work you create in Docs, Drive, Slides and other apps. For workflow with other apps on your mobile devices, Google Drive is a powerful app to store, transfer and coordinate with other apps. These new apps, are also great because you will now have easy access to the specific Google tools you need.

Google Drive App 

Drive

Google Drive for iPad

Google Drive for Android

If you are new to Google Docs, Sheets and Slides, you can find some great information here to get you started:

Get started with Google Docs

Get started with Google Sheets

Get started with Google Slides

Added Information

So, I explored the apps even more and just a few days after I wrote the article above, there were some more changes.

Google Drive on the iPad no longer opens up Docs or Sheet in the app. If you tap on a doc in Drive it will open up Drive. It will do the same for spreadsheets. I can not wait until they come out with Slides so we can finally add and edit presentations on the ipad.

There are other features I had hoped to see, and I am hoping that separating the parts of drive into different apps is just the first step in that direction. I am really hoping for the research tool and the ability to add and edit images.

Jeanne Reed, @jeannereed1 , started a quick conversation on Twitter about other features that would be great to have on the iPad.Miguel Guhlin, @mguhlin , mentioned adding tables to Docs. Tim, @biology , mentioned adding charts to Sheets. I agree with both of them. We were all lamenting the loss of access in Drive, but I am sure we will get used to it.

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.

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.

 

Elements4D – Exploring Chemistry with Augmented Reality

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 simulations. There are many benefits to using AR in education such as giving students opportunities to interact with items in ways that spark inquiry, experimentation, and creativity. There are a quite a few apps and sites working on AR and its application in education. 

Elements4D, an AR app from Daqri, allows students explore chemical elements in a fun way while learning about real-life chemistry. To get started, download Elements4D and print the cubes

There are 6 physical paper cubes printed with different symbols from the periodic table. It takes a while to cut out and put together the cubes, but it is well worth it. In Elements4D, the cubes then become the trigger that bring the elements to life. 

Students point the iPad camera at a cube, and it will reveal additional information about that element. 

With 6 cubes, students have 36 naturally-occurring elements. Through AR, they will learn their names, what they look like, and their atomic weights. Here are gold and carbon. (If a student clicks on element, they will get more facts about it.) 

The best part, though, is when students put two cubes together, then they can see how they react and get the resulting compound and chemical equation. Notice, when they are not touching, Hydrogen and Oxygen are gasses. Put them together and, you guessed it, they turn into water. 

One of the big benefits of these cubes is that students can “play” with elements that they could never handle in a classroom. In fact, students can even “play” with Plutonium. Here are the cubes for Plutonium and Bromine separately. Notice that Bromine is a liquid and Plutonium is a solid. 

The really wonderful thing about this AR app is that it stimulates inquiry. After showing this app to students and teachers of different ages, the reaction has all been the same. They want to manipulate the cubes and see what happens. They are excited about chemistry.

4d

Augmented Reality with Elements 4D from Samantha Morra

Using Elements4D students could do a variety of these activities:

  • Create a log of different chemical interactions. Draw how each element looks individually and then how they look together. Take note of the state of matter, color, etc.
  • Pick one or two elements and see how all of the other element react with them.
  • View each element and create a chart sorting them by state of matter: solid, liquid or gas.
  • Try just putting gasses together, or liquids or solid. What kinds of conclusions can students make after observing what reacts to another element.

AR can make the 21st century digital classroom a dynamic place to teach and learn. We are just beginning to see apps and programs that are harnessing the potential that AR can have in the classroom. If you have not played with any augmented reality apps yet, check out Elements4D. You are in for a treat. This app works great and fosters inquiry and experimentation with chemical elements in a safe environment. 

Samantha will be leading EdTechTeacher iPad workshops in Chicago and Cambridge this summer.

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.

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

Image

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

 

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.