Category Archives: Blog

Blog Education

Changing Education Paradigms Video

No matter how often I watch this video, it never gets old. It invigorates me, and reminds me why I went into education.

 

Blog Education

eBooks and Comic Tools for the Classroom

I was asked recently about how to have students create eBooks. EBooks are simply work that is published online. More often than not, authors use common tools such as word to create PDFs. There is also what is called the “Open eBook” format and “EPUB” format which are the most commonly used formats for publishing eBooks. Some software allows the writer to export documents to some of these formats (Word and Pages), and some authors hire people to convert their writing for them prior to publishing their work through Nook, Amazon, or iTunes. You can even get a word file converted for free to the Kindle by using https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin. Additionally  there are other ways to publish work out their that are more accessible to students, such as http://www.lulu.com/us/en and http://www.smashwords.com/. However, as teachers, we need to use great caution when assisting students in self-publishing, and the legalities of such an endeavor are beyond my knowledge.

Some of the really cool software out their for working with eBooks can range from free software, such as http://www.apple.com/ibooks-author/, to very expensive expensive software, such as http://www.adobe.com/products/indesign.html. Most of these are out of reach for us as teachers in the classroom, but may be options for students who have parents that are actively participating in the process of having their kids pursue the publishing of their work.

However, if your students are just interested in playing with the idea of hosting documents online and working with a story or piece of writing online to give them the feel of creating an “eBook” like experience, I think there are a few webpages and tools that could assist students and teachers, such as:

Digital comic creation creates a similar problem. To publish a comic or graphic novel, you need to use a CBZ or CBR format. This is more difficult than simply exporting a word document to the EPUB format. Most people use either WinZip or WinRAR to accomplish this.

However, there are many interesting websites and apps that allow students and teachers to explore comic design in the classroom.

Sites:

http://www.comiker.com/ – Simple comic strip maker.

http://www.pixton.com/ – A place to make and share comics.

http://www.toondoospaces.com/ – Website for making simple comics.

http://www.comicmaster.org.uk/ – Website for creating short graphic novels.

http://www.bitstrips.com/ – Website for creating custom avatars and short comics.

http://chogger.com/ – Simple Comic builder to draw short strips and infographics.

http://comiclife.com/ – Software to make comics for Mac or Windows, costs $29.99.

http://www.sketchup.com/product/newin7.html – Awesome way to make really cool 3D models.

http://manga.smithmicro.com/ – Expensive software for creating comics, costs $79.99.

http://www.summitsoftcorp.com/lifestyle-software/comic-creator.html – Probably the cheapest option for comic creation software at $19.99.

http://www.autodesk.com/products/sketchbook-pro/overview – A common software that is also available for iPads and Android tablets for a smaller fee, costs $59.00.

http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop.html – Industry standard, but very expensive!

Apps:

Comicbook! – App that allows you to use pictures and drawings to create a comic strip.

iMockups – App for wire framing a comic strip or other pictures.

Brushes – App for painting.

Sketchbook Pro– App for drawing and coloring.

Comic Strip – Another app that allows the user to select pictures and art from their photos to create a comic strip.

Blog Education

Infographics in the Classroom

Lately, I have been playing around with the notion of using infographics in the classroom, especially as classes move to a more blended environment with some portion or section of the class being housed in an online classroom management site, such as 3DGameLab, Moodle or Blackboard. A few sites that I came across were http://infogr.am/http://visual.ly/, and http://www.easel.ly/.

 

Below is a quick infographic that I made in about 5 minutes to use in this post using infogr.am. I would love to hear other teacher experiences using infographics and the tools that they have found to be the best. Please add a comment if you have come across such a tool or had such an experience. Thanks!

 

Blog Education

Training at PCS 2012 Convocation

I was fortunate enough to be asked to conduct a short training class on podcasting for beginners at this years convocation. Below is my Keynote presentation for the training session. Please let me know what you think.

 

Blog Education Reflections

NCTies 2012

Blog Education News

GarageBand for Books!

Could be be rocking out e-text books as fashionably as creating a song in Apple’s GarageBand? We will know on Thursday when they are scheduled to make an announcement that will affect education for the forceable future.

To read more about this story visit this ARS Article.

Education Parent Message

End of the Nine Weeks

Dear Parents,

We are rapidly coming to the end of the nine week period. Some things to remember:

  • Students should be reading for a minimum of 30 minutes every night.
  • Students should use their daybooks to take notes while they are reading.
  • All work must be turned in by Thursday.
  • Students should have the following Units completed in the Moodle: Unit 10, Unit 11, Unit 12, Unit 13, and Unit 14.
  • Please make sure that you return the Wiki form that I sent home with students.

Also, students completed their second Benchmark last week. These scores should be showing up in the Moodle gradebook by Friday. Remember, similar to EOG scores, these scores do not follow the normal grading scale. It is my hope that students are scoring over 65% by their third benchmark. If they are below this goal, we will be doing things in the upcoming weeks to give them additional assistance in preparing for certain EOG questions based upon their benchmark results.

If you have any questions, please let me know.

Blog Education News

WoWinSchool on the News


Yesterday, our WoWinSchool elective class was visited by Lindsay Curtin from WETC channel 6 news. It was a pleasure having them in class, and the students really enjoyed talking about their experiences using video games in school. It made me very proud to be a part of this program, and I applaud our leadership for allowing us to be innovative in the classroom here in Pender County Schools.

For more information you can read the short article that corresponds to the video here.

Blog Education Reflections

What I’ve Been Missing

For the last nine weeks, I have been feeling that something was missing from my class. I have loved having the Moodle, but I felt that it lacked a place for students to just think and explore their own thoughts and ideas in and out of school. I really wanted my students to become writers, readers, and thinkers, but I didn’t have something concrete for them to use as a collection of these processes. Instead, I was asking them to synthesize information to put into a final product on the Moodle without having a place for them to construct their thoughts, enter the “Daybook.”

From the advice of Mrs. Amy Pridgen, a colleague that works in Pender County Schools, I picked up the book Thinking Out Loud on Paper The Student Daybook as a Tool to Foster Learning by Lil Brannon, Sally Griffin, Karen Haag, Tony Iannone, Cynthia Urbanski, and Shana Woodward. The book was created from the authors experiences in the National Writing Project at the University of North Carolina Writing Project (Brannon ). After reading the book, I was very excited about the idea of using the Daybook in class. I felt that the book itself was a bit vague on a lot of areas of using the Daybook, but it gave the reader enough of an overview to allow them to develop their own uses for the book. The process is very student centered to authentic learning experiences that they encounter on a daily basis, and it is easily adapted to multiple uses.

Initially, I wanted to find a means for creating an online Daybook using Google Documents or Dropbox. However, I ultimately decided against this idea because I wanted my students to take the Daybook with them everywhere throughout the day. I did not want them to feel tied down to an electronic device, and they all don’t have an iPod Touch, iPad, or Android device. Speaking of those devices, I have downloaded a few apps to play with the idea of keeping my own digital Daybook. So far, “Day One” and “Maxjournal” seem to have the nicest features.

I started keeping a Daybook last week, and the class starts keeping their own Daybooks this week. It is my hope that they will increase student buy-in to the writing process. I am hoping that they take ownership of these books.

Blog Education

Big Thinkers: James Paul Gee on Grading with Games

 

While watching James Gee speak towards a paradigm shift in education in the video above, I am left thinking about my own personal classes and feelings. Lately, I have been really focused on this idea that our education system reward the development of the “Copy and Paste” personality that I see dominating my eighth grade students. They seem to move along as drones in droves as they complete task after task in a monotonous fashion from class to class. They avoid thinking as it often causes their ridicule for failure, and they find it much safer to mimic a desired outcome through the regurgitation of standardized procedures and language.

Parents struggle to understand what an “A” means when grades are inflated and fail to point to a students strengths and weaknesses. Teachers flock to a formula that is deemed to produce statistical results in a standardized test that measures the growth of these “Cut and Paste” skills.

In it all, I am left with the feeling that I just want my students to “think.” I want to encourage collaboration and failure in my classroom. I want my resources to be used proactively by students to solve the problems and challenges they face in completing the production of products that are meaningful to them.

From working with 3D GameLabs in our WoWinSchool class, I have come to hunger for a system that measures student progress based upon the completion of tasks and ability to apply instruction in the creation of products that are “quest” related. I am invigorated to see that students wish to work on quests at home, and they show a healthy competition of gaining ranks within the class. My students don’t say that they are “A” students, for that holds no value or concrete meaning to them; however, they are enthusiastically passionate about becoming a “Sergeant” in the class.

I am also really encouraged by the importance of choice. In WoWinSchool, we have students that break up into these unique groups that seem interested in accomplishing the same tasks in-game. As a gamer myself, I realize how people play the same games so differently. From exploring to achieving, gamers are as unique in their motivations and interests as are students are in the topics and products that they wish to pursue for their own personal education and career growth. The providing of different paths that students can take through the exploration of the same curriculum knowledge is the true differentiation that the education system has been seeking. Ironically, Orson Scott Card talked about this very type of system in this book Ender’s Game were he describes an adaptive video game program that is used to instruct students based upon their individual needs.

It is this type of student- centered and directed approach to curriculum discovery through a path of choices and self-direction of material and products that promote the need for the jargon and skills required of the language arts standards that I seek to desperately provide to my students through the use of online tools. My students should be engaged and devoted to the development of their ideas and passions, not mine. Through it all, I want my students to think and not merely copy and paste a compartmentalized skill set that allows them to “beat” a standardized multiple-choice test. I want them to “beat” their competition in a growing global- and technology- rich economy.