Toon Doo is Cool for School!

I have to work on my post titles!

This post is going to focus on a website that all teachers can utilize in his or her classroom immediately and it is very easy to use. The site is called “Toon Doo”. Toon Doo is a free open application that allows anyone to create a comic strip. All it takes to sign up is a username and password. Easy enough! And no spam e-mails!

Here is how you can get started on Toon Doo…

Here is an assignment that I assigned for my class for our initial reading of Hamlet.

  1. Read Act 1 of Hamlet
  2. Take notes on the lines or passages you find important.
    1. Provide at least 5 passages (one for each scene, but you can use more than five).
    2. Provide the Act, scene and line number in this format I, i, 1-10
    3. Provide a brief summary (short paragraph) of why you chose that passage.

This was their homework and the next day we discussed and reflected on their first reading in class. Then I had the take their passages and translate them into a comic strip via Toon Doo. Here was my model that I showed them.

Toon

I feel Toon Doo can be used in any classroom at any level and it is easy for students and teachers to create. Plus, it will give you something that you can print out and post on your bulletin board for back to school night or simply for your Administrators to see! Here are some more ideas for other disciplines:

Math and Physics – Create a Toon Doo for a three-step equation. You can use symbols and text and if you wish to make it flashy and creative you can have characters embedded as well. When you are finished, you can hang them around on a bulletin board or post on your class website.

Special Education – The possibilities are endless for your students! Have them create a Toon Doo simply for fun! Or you can give them a specific task to create a Toon Doo for, possibly a life skill task or conversation skills between two people. I’d be interested to hear feedback on what you used Toon Doo for!!!

History and Government – Like language arts, you can create a Toon Doo for a specific moment in History. Example: The signing of the Treaty of Paris.

Foreign Language – Have students create a conversation between two characters in the language you teach. Or you can create a conversation between two people in English and have the students translate into French, Spanish or German.

Hello Animoto

Have you ever wanted your students to make a video for a class project but felt uneasy about the laborious process and the amount of class time it would take to accomplish this task? Fear not! Animoto is here to save you time and still give you the video your students can enjoy and share!

I have personally used Animoto for back to school nights and in my Language Arts classes to help students understand themes, characterization and symbolism within the novels we cover. Animoto is simple, easy and free for educators to use. All you need is a digital camera (or properly cited photos form the web), a laptop and an Animoto account for educators. Watch how simple it is…

Here are some ways you can utilize Animoto in your classroom

Create Novel Movie Trailers!

  1. Animoto utilizes “MTV Style” editing to show brief clips of a specific subject or theme set to music. This is perfect for gleaning the main elements of a novel or chapter you just read in class.
  2. At the end of the school year when you are reviewing for finals or mid terms (depending on your schools academic calendar) have the students make a brief Animoto video that they can use to
    1. Reflect on what the novel or unit was about
    2. Pick out the important elements of the chapter or novel

i. Main Points

ii. Characters

iii. Themes

iv. Symbols

v. Setting

    1. Tell them that their audience will be next year’s incoming class and they have to convince them that this novel will be an amazing read! Just like film directors would do with a summer blockbuster.
    2. If you want to stretch out this assignment and go a step further, visit http://www.bighugelabs.com/flickr/ and you can create movie posters for the novels.

i. You see what is happening here…Students are creating a product that requires them to use prior knowledge and also display that knowledge in a creative manner.

  1. As a teacher, you can show these videos on the first day of class next year. You can print out and hang up the movie posters of the novels on your bulletin board.
Here is how easy it is to create an Animoto video
and…
Here is what I just created in roughly five minutes

Creating Animoto Videos in other Disciplines!

  1. For Vocabulary words
    1. At the beginning of the Vocabulary unit have go over the list of words with your students as you normally would at the beginning of a unit.
    2. Have students define words, provide proper parts of speech and provide sentences (maybe 3 to 5).
    3. Students are arranged in groups of two. Each group will be given the following:

i. One digital camera

ii. One Vocabulary word

    1. Students will have to create an Animoto video for the word they are given. Students must include in their video:

i. The word

ii. The part of speech

iii. The definition

iv. At least two sentences

v. An image relating to the word

    1. Once the videos are created, the teacher will present the videos to the class and will serve as a brief review for the upcoming Vocabulary quiz.
  1. For Math teachers
    1. This would be a flashy way to introduce a new formula or problem. You can take the above examples and apply it to your discipline.
  2. For History teachers the possibilities are endless.
    1. In history class you could have students research an Amendment and make an Animoto video displaying the main points of that Amendment and also find images that represent that Amendment. This could work for numerous historical units:

i. Presidents

ii. New Countries covered

iii. Bill of Rights

iv. American Wars

  1. For Special Education and Life skills Teachers
    1. This would be a great way to show your kids how to perform a basic task such as raising your hand
    2. Students, with assistance, can find images of kids raising their hand in class. Students and teacher can assemble the images and even take a photo of the child performing the task, and compile them into an Animoto video.
    3. This could work with various life skills

i. Crossing the street

ii. Washing your hands

iii. Brushing your teeth

Again, this is another practical, easy to use application that every teacher and student can use. I hope this idea has helped to bring technology into your classroom and look forward to hearing how you are using Animoto in your classroom!

The Summer is for Reading!

As the temperatures begin to heat up in classrooms around the country, I felt it was a good time to discuss summer reading lists!

Summer reading has always been an unorganized disaster that most school districts fail to upgrade year after year. At my previous district we assigned one book per summer. The following September we would begin the year with an essay exam in which students could respond about a book they

A) Did not read

B) Read in June when it was assigned

C) Read the back cover and sparknotes

Personally, I found this exercise to be a waste of time and resources. Plus, students were only assigned to read one book! ONE! I know some districts have reading lists that students can select from or offer free personal pan pizzas when you finish a book…BOOK IT! (clap if you remember!) What a great way to educate and fatten at the same time! Go America!

In order to make summer reading an effective tool in our academic arsenal, we need to first define what we want our students to gain from their summer reading lists. The obvious answer is to get them reading during their summer long down time. That’s the wishful thinking response. Other responses might include preparing students for the initial unit next fall, introducing a theme or simply to expand their world view on books teachers cannot fit in during the school year. While all these examples are practical, there is no checkup through out the summer and no way of collaborating.

Here are my problems with summer reading:

Why is there not summer reading for every subject?

What is our objective and end goal for reading in the summer?

Why is there not summer reading for Faculty and Administration?

Now some of you may work in districts that can answer all of those questions with specific examples of how your district has integrated summer reading programs, but I am here to provide an answer to all of the above through two free web applications.

Goodreads

and

Shelfari

If you are unfamiliar with these applications let me briefly explain what they can do. Enjoy!

In short, Goodreads and Shelfari are social networks for people who love reading and sharing their thoughts on the books they read. Here are some ideas in which you can make Goodreads and Shelfari a part of your summer reading curriculum:

  1. Create a class group and assign a reading list for the summer.
  2. Have students post a discussion topic on the book they are reading and respond to other student posts weekly
    1. Teacher can create a rubric for discussion posts.
  3. Use the online discussions as an icebreaker for the following year or segue way into the first unit.
  4. Include parents in on the summer reading fun! Parents can read along and include their thoughts on the books!
  5. If students do not have computer access it will give them a valid excuse to visit a library (shiver!), Internet café or school districts could (if available) laptops for the summer.
  6. Create a group for cross-curricular reading, i.e. Language Arts and World History.
  7. Create a faculty reading group!
    1. This is a great way to share good reads (pun intended) concerning education. Most of us take courses throughout the year and are introduced to various new books on our craft. Every teacher should have a good reads or shelfari page!
  8. Make reading interactive and fun! Like Facebook!

Hope this helps and I would love to hear ideas and feedback on how your district is approaching summer reading this year.

Power Who? Power What? Power Point!

Yesterday I posted on the great features of SlideShare. Today I received this response on my Ning…


Googledocs is better as it is more collaborative and allows the easy use of Youtube videos. Slideshare is merely passable as you lose all music, animations and video. At that point you might as well output your ppt as jpegs and drop them into a java slideshow which is essentially what slideshare seems to do.

While this author makes a valid point about the collaborative nature of GoogleDocs and the ability to embed video and animations, he fails to miss the – get ready to LOL at this intended pun – point of the intended nature of my students’ powerpoint.

Here was my response…

For the project I assigned above, my students were only allowed to use images and brief text to convey their idea. When you rethink the idea of a powerpoint what does a video, massive amounts of text and neat animations provide an audience anyway? If you are presenting it is YOU who is presenting the information, not the powerpoint. If you embed YouTube videos and animations then you might as well tell your students to create an imovie and let the students sit back and watch while the presenter joins in the viewing.

I want my students to be thorough with their research and knowledgeable presenters who can think on their feet and are well versed on what they are presenting. I alway show the first few minutes of Al Gore’s movie, “An Inconvenient Truth” to help students understand what a good presentation looks like. The presentation should be the backdrop to the presenter not overly animated and visually distracting.

Nothing against Googledocs, but when you want students to PRESENT and not ENTERTAIN then have them use slideshare!

I’ll leave you with this from a former colleague of mine who was helping students rethink and redesign powerpoint…

If your students are presenting on hieroglyphics, which slide looks better to as an audience member? Which slide intrigues you more? Which slide requires more presenter involvement and knowledge?




or…



When I am sitting back in the audience grading a presentation, I want to see slide #2! I have created – back in the days of primitive powerpoint (insert golf clap for alliteration! Teaching moment!) – and have sat through numerous presentations using slide #1 and it is torture to an audience member.

Two years ago our assistant principal gave a powerpoint presentation using a stoic white backdrop that was flanked by default black text. Despite numerous misspellings, the powerpoint was a flop. A flop in the vein of The Love Guru.

My point is that no matter what housing forum we use to share and embed our powerpoints, we need to understand that powerpoint is a tool for a presenter; it is not intended to replace the presenter. As teachers we must also employ this same method when presenting to our students. Many times we don’t practice what we preach and torture our students with text laden powerpoints that go on for days.

The next time you create a powerpoint for your students, think about how it would feel to view the same powerpoint you just created. What effect will it have on learning? If you are just dictating notes via a powerpoint to usurp valuable class time, then simply give them a hand out or post the note filled powerpoint on your class wiki for students to view at home, take notes and then discuss the next day in class. This will surely save class time and your students will love you for it!

I’m not saying that SlideShare will change the way we present, but it gives us an option to display the powerpoints we want, while providing a central location for viewing and sharing them.

I hope this helps in your classroom and I always welcome feedback!




SlideShare is Everywhere!

Have you ever plugged in your flash drive into a laptop, opened a powerpoint presentation and it doesn’t work? Have your students ever done the same thing, and used technology downfall as an excuse to get out of presenting? Have you ever wanted to embed your powerpoint slides on a wiki to share with students and parents? If you answered yes to all of the above then I have your solution.

Slideshare is a site that allows users to upload, store and share powerpoint slide presentations. Slideshare gives you the ability to have your powerpoints at your disposal where ever you go and the best part is that it is totally free!
Last year while I was teaching 1984, I utilized slideshare with my students who were presenting chapters of the novel to the class. I introduced them to slideshare and they were able to upload their presentations and then post them on our class wiki. If you reference my earlier post on wikis in the classroom, you will see that I had students maintain a daily log of their work on the presentations. They had to provide progress, group tasks and any documents they would be handing out during their presentation. Here are two of the examples that students used via slideshare.



You will notice that once the presentations are embedded into your blog or wiki, they allow you to utilize most of the functions that is alloted in a presentation program. Also, teachers can utilize this with all of their presentations they use in the classroom. You can even email them to students if they missed a class in which you gave a presentation. Slideshare is also useful for professional development classes and workshops. It is one way in which you can share your presentations and student work without having to locate, find and sync a flash drive.
Students and colleagues alike can follow along with a slideshare presentation as well. If teachers embed their slideshare presentation to a blog or wiki, students and faculty can follow along on their laptops. This may assist students who have trouble following slides or if students wish to use the presentation as a study guide later in the unit.
I hope you enjoyed this idea and would like to hear feedback about how you utilized slideshare in your own classroom!

Evernote Will Organize Your Life!

Today I will be beginning my two part series for Earth Day! These two lessons will help you reduce paper usage in your classroom, library and school building, while educating your students with great web tools for research and presentation. However, be careful of jealous colleagues when you are suddenly viewed as the “green teacher”. I was told once that I was, “making everyone else look bad and ignorant.” This comment came after I began piloting my paperless classroom. I put a lot of time and effort into reducing paper in my classroom, only to be scoffed at by several colleagues who were not willing to…

  1. Try something new after 30 years of teaching
  2. Improve their classroom organization and reduce clutter
  3. Enjoy their prep period rather than spend it fighting with the copier

Enough about my ranting and on to the content for today! Go GREEN!

Today I am presenting a wonderful web-clipping tool that both teachers and students can use in a variety of ways. The tool is called Evernote. Evernote can be downloaded on to MAC and Windows operating systems and is completely free. This can also be used on smart phones and the iPhone.

Here is an introduction to the basic features of Evernote

Evernote allows you to gather clippings from various websites without having to bookmark every single site you enjoy. In short, you can select the text and photos that are of importance to you! So, let’s consider Evernotes practicality in the classroom.

Language Arts/History

Think about students doing research. The teacher gives his or her students a credible, academically authored list of websites. This list can be posted on the class wiki or moodle in order to save all the future trees that will be planted tomorrow! Students review the sites and find a piece of information they really like on George Orwell. However, time is running out and for most students they would immediately select FILE > PRINT. And what prints out? The entire web page! (Insert old school Mr. Yuck sticker here!). The student takes the 15 pages that just printed out, stuffs it into a folder and forgets that good bit he or she was reading right before the sound of the bell. This is the old way. Let’s have our students try the new way!

Art/Graphic Design

Let’s consider what an art teacher might use Evernote for…

Using Evernote in the classroom is always a great way to help students understand the importance of a “Tag”. Provide students with a mini lesson on tagging and how it can save them time when conducting research.

I hope this has been a valuable asset to your class and look forward to hearing how you use Evernote in your class!

Where for art thou Twitter!

I have been using Twitter for over a year. Since New Years 2009, Twitter has taken off to new heights. Everybody wants you to follow him or her on twitter, from United States Senators to Shaq, twitter has become a ubiquitous forum for those who want to know everything.

So, why is Twitter so cool? I still haven’t figured that out yet but it has become a forum for all of us to communicate and collaborate. So how can we utilize the concept of twitter in our classroom? Here are some ideas I am pondering…

…but first, let’s learn about Twitter in Plain English…

Language Arts

Objective: Have students twitter between characters in a story from the previous nights reading.

Process: Students will read chapter 1 of Lord of the Flies. After they read they will construct a twitter list between Jack and Piggy

This twitter list must include the following elements:

  1. Setting
  2. Characterization
  3. Context
  4. New Vocabulary
  5. A twitter screen name for Jack and Piggy that reflects their character.

NOTE: Entry can only be 140 characters long! Be specific and concise.

EXAMPLE

LeaderJack: Looks like we are stranded! Fat kid is freaking out. I call him Piggy.

TimidPiggy: There are no adults here! My Auntie says I should not go swimming because of my Asthma.

TimidPiggy: Where are the other boys. Found a coch shell – Raplh blew it and we found the other children

LeaderJack: Piggy wants order. I blew the conch shell and we gathered everyone.

LeaderJack: They elected me chief!

Have students read their twitter posts out loud in class and explain why they selected their material. Segue this into a class discussion. Compare and contrast postings from other students.

Social Studies

Students can make a twitter list for historical figures. Like the language arts example, students can glean the main points of a specific historical figure and use that to understand whom this historical figure is.

Activity 1:

  1. For homework, assign students a historical figure based on the current unit of study.
    1. NOTE: you can also use this to personify Amendments, Bills, etc. i.e. what would the First Amendment twitter about?
  2. Students construct a twitter list for the aforementioned assignments. Students must provide the following elements for their twitter list:
    1. A screen name that represents the personality of the figure, Amendment or bill. NOTE: it will be the roles of your classmates to guess whom you are referring to based on your twitter information.
    2. Organize your “tweets” chronologically.
    3. Provide context and information pertinent to your subject.

Students bring in their Twitter list and present it to the class. Students will try and figure out who is Twittering based on the information provided.

This is a great idea for a unit review and students can use their “tweets” as a focused study guide.

Activity 2:

This activity would target secondary and middle school students.

Objective: Have students create their own twitter account and follow a US or State Senator or Representative.

Process:

  1. Students find a US, State or local dignitary to follow on twitter.
  2. Students will follow what the dignitary is “tweeting” about and file a twitter report each week on whom they are following
    1. This could be a form of current events in the classroom.

Recommendations: Make sure you alert administration, parents and your tech director before allowing students to participate on twitter.

Mathematics

For math, teachers can use this tool very simply.

  1. Every night one student will tweet a selected math problem to the class.
    1. EXAMPLE: 32 + 43 = ?
  2. Students will have to answer the problem by the student posted for that night as an extension of the homework.

NOTE: Based on grade level, you can make your tweets more challenging. I see this working well with more involved math such as Algebra, Trigonometry and Calculus.

Colleagues

I have always felt twitter would be an effective tool for teacher collaboration. Imagine a world where your entire school building is on twitter. Your principal opens up his twitter account every morning and can see what you will be covering in your classroom today. Maybe something peeks his interest and he sends you a direct message to ask if he could drop in to see this lesson. Cool right? Unless you don’t care for your principal and feel that he or she serves a better purpose at his or her desk then in your classroom.

Or imagine collaborating with other teachers on your own twitter account. Say you are covering Hamlet and a neighboring teacher is covering the same unit. You collaborate through twitter about what you are covering each day. Maybe even set up a web cast between your students where you can discuss Hamlet Act 1 Scene 1.

The above examples are simple blueprints of what you can do within the parameters of a twitter post. And you thought only celebs and Senators could twitter! Pshawh! Also, check out TWEETDECK. It is a great forum to organize all of your tweets on your desktop!

I hope these ideas peeked your interest and that you take leap and make twitter part of your classroom! I look forward to hearing your feedback and how you have used twitter in your classroom and school district!

Replacing the yearly planner with an iGoogle Page

Every year, students receive a daily planner before the start of school. Depending on the grade level, some teachers will spend a day showing students how to effectively plan their week. For most, this is a practical tool that has worked for many years. However, it is also a tool that many students lose. What if it was impossible to lose your planner? What if it was always with you?

We can improve this method by spending the time it takes to show our students how to use a daily planner and show them how to set up their own iGoogle page. An iGoogle page is a personal space that anyone can manipulate to reflect his or her personality, lifestyle and schedule. It short, it is the one page you can turn to each day and find out everything you want to know for that particular day.

Last year (Spring Semester 2008) I piloted a new project that flattened my classroom and provided a consistent forum for information. I set up a blog page that I controlled and my students could access directly through an RSS feed on their iGoogle page. The results were great! Here is how I set it up.

On the first day of class I walked in and had all the students take out their daily planners that were handed to them by administration as they walked into the doors for their first day. I then did my best Robin Williams impersonation from Dead Poets Society, and asked them to hold them up and drop them on to the floor.

Then I turned on the projector and showed them the future of daily planning. Here is how my presentation began.

***For best viewing, increase video to full screen. Click on screen in lower right hand corner of video***

The students can add the blog to their iGoogle page and receive assignments, reminders and updates. Students can also comment on the blog if they have a question or concern. This forum is also used to organize. I am not one for papers and folders; I loose them! The blog and iGoogle page is especially helpful when a student is absent.

In one particular instance, I finally yielded the results I have been looking for since I started this “flat classroom” project. I received an e-mail from a student who had been home sick all week. He was in class on Monday (the first day of our new spring semester) when I had all of my classes set up their iGoogle page and link to the blog. Here is the e-mail:

Hey Mr. Marcinek, I have had a real bad cold over the last few days, but I saw the doctor today and I should be back tomorrow. I saw the assignment on the blog and wrote a rough draft, so I thought you might want that. The rough draft is attached.”

Eureka! It worked! My students and their parents always had access to the classroom. Assignments could no longer get lost! They were now a constant in the lives of my students! (insert sinister teacher laugh).

Positive Outcomes

1. Students, special education teachers and parents always had access to assignments.

2. Students could access assignments if they missed extended time in class and never fall behind.

3. Students could keep pace with class discussion threads on the blog page if they missed a class.

4. Parents could review assignments and even participate in the learning process.

5. A universal hub for students to access class information, news and anything they enjoy.

6. They could not lose it!

Recommendations

1. Use this as an icebreaker on the first day of class. Have students design and setup their own iGoogle page and present it to the class. Have them explain why they selected a specific theme and why they chose to read The Guardian news feed over the New York Times.

2. Create a rubric for the iGoogle page. Do not give students free reign on this idea. Make sure there are parameters for content they display.

a. Must have a news feed

b. Must have class blog feed

c. Must have a homework list (to do list widget)

3. Invite and consult with administration, technology directors and parents before going forward.

NOTE: I plan on mentioning this recommendation every time I blog because it is so important to protect yourself, your students and your content before venturing out into the dense forest of the internet.

Rethinking Current Events with Newsvine


If there is one thing students and teachers despise it’s clutter. One way teachers create clutter is asking students to print out a current event. Students print out weekly current events, read and summarize it, have it graded and then throw it out. I found more current events lying on my floor or in my trash than any other classroom document. Cringing already teachers? Fear not! I have a environmentally friendly solution that will surely net you Environmental Teacher of the Month.

The process will not only cleanup your classroom and tag you as the “Green” teacher, but you will enhance the discussion and debate in your classroom. Students will be interested in what they read because they are engaging and collaborating with their peers through a threaded discussion. I have found that students speak volumes via the web based forum as opposed to the prompt and answer method. Think of the amount of content students send and receive from each other on facebook daily! Imagine if you could take this enthusiasm and translate into the academic arena. Let’s get students discussing the economic stimulus like they debate the relationship of…of…(insert popular “it” couple here).

I found a way for Social Studies and Civics/Government teachers to replace the old printed paper current events with a practical web 2.0 solution! Here is a brief introduction to newsvine.com and how it can supplant paper current events.


Hopefully these eloquently narrated videos will help you set up your class newsvine group.
Positive Outcomes of this Lesson
  1. Students have an archive of current events to look back on throughout the semester.
  2. Teachers can design a rubric for the discussion forum and then quiz students on current events.
  3. Invite parents and administration to participate in the discussion. A great way of allowing parents to participate in the learning process.
  4. Creates a fourum to facilitate classroom discussion
  • Students can lead the class in discussion and answer questions gleaned from the discussion thread.
  • Create a debate session based off current event discussion.
Recommendations
  1. Become familiar with the newsvine site before you start using it in your classroom.
  2. Take time to instruct students on how to properly utilize this site and provide a handout on your class wiki or moodle for reference.
  3. Make sure you set your classroom group to private before going forward.
  4. Create a teacher made rubric that covers all of the content you want to assess on the site. Many times students get online and forget about spelling, grammar and providing acceptable academic content.
  5. Consult Administration, Technology director and parents before creating this forum.
  6. Invite all the members of #5 to join in and even participate in the online group discussion forum.
  7. Enjoy the idea of saving trees and limiting the use of paper (CLUTTER) in your classroom!