Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The QR Code - Tiny Box. . . BIG Information

We've all seen QR codes. Those little squares of black and white pixels might look meaningless to the naked eye, but with a quick scan with a QR code reader, you'll quickly find there's more than meets the eye! They are used to quickly launch the viewer to websites, videos, images, and even file downloads. What appears to be a random collection of black and white pixels is actually a complex code with an interesting development story.

These little boxes present some intriguing possibilities for education. I've used them at conferences to easily provide my website address to attendees. This article from Free Technology for Teachers describes how teachers might create treasure hunts for their students using QR codes. Finally, what an interesting way to display student work! As discussed below, Cindy Smith's 7th grade Computer Information Technologies students will have their work displayed through QR codes for the Middle School Open House on Wednesday, April 29, from 3:30 - 7!

Interested in checking out some QR code generators? Kaywa QR Code is a great place to start! This source allows for the unlimited creation of static QR codes and a limited number of dynamic QR codes. The difference between the two? Dynamic codes can be changed when needed. How about QR readers? A quick search in your mobile device's app store will return numerous results. I run QR Code Reader on my Android telephone and it works just fine!

Want to discuss how you might use QR codes in your classroom? Schedule an appointment!



Friday, April 24, 2015

Gamifying Education

I'm a gamer at heart. I can remember so clearly sitting on my grandparent's living room floor on Christmas Day of 1986 and opening a brand new Nintendo Entertainment System. My life was forever changed! I still, at 35 years old, get a thrill when I unlock a new trophy or achievement in my current PS4 video games. To be able to look at my digital trophy collection is very rewarding. . . and motivating as I am constantly looking to see what I must do to earn that next trophy! This type of motivation is what I always desired to see in my students.

The gamification of education is not a new movement; I've been hearing about this concept at conferences for the last three or four years. What I am finding, however, is that it is becoming easier and easier for educators to gamify their classrooms! This gamification could be based on a badge system where students are rewarded with digital trophies and badges for performing certain tasks. Want to create custom badges to begin distributing to students for their achievements? Try Open Badges or ClassBadges to get started. Want to make actual games more of a part of your everyday teaching and lessons? Try Kahoot!Quizizz, or Plickers. These tools will lead to an energy and engagement level you've only dreamed of!

With the technology we have available in this district, why not meet our students on their interest level? I believe a little gamification may just be what some of these students need to engage in the educational process!



Friday, April 17, 2015

PD Opportunities Galore!!!

Professional Development. These words do not often garner positive reactions from professional educators. The reasons for these less than positive reactions vary from person to person, but, in my own experience, I find these opportunities often have little relevance to me as a teacher. When I don't see the relevance, I have a hard time buying in to the program and information being offered. I have recently come across a web resource that helps me to focus on PD opportunities that are of interest and relevance to me as a teacher. That resource is SimpleK12.

This web resource has it all! Teachers can find an astounding number of resources shared by other teachers around the world, discussion forums to discuss a wide range of topics with other educators, and a ginormous library of webinars, both live and on-demand. This resource is especially helpful for those in our district as we begin the shift to Google Apps For Education (GAFE) as many of the webinars focus on Google-related issues. Check the Professional Development Opportunities links below to find topics to fit your needs!

If you happen to participate in any of the webinars available and would like to share any valuable takeaways with me, I would greatly appreciate it! I would love to pass along the little gems you find to the rest of the district. I find the best way to learn is when our teachers teach our teachers!



Friday, April 10, 2015

Augmenting Your Reality

Several months ago, I heard a term that was brand new to me: Augmented Reality. I know that people have been using various substances to augment their reality since the beginning of time, but this was something different. This emerging technology is allowing users to view the world around us through electronic devices and find that there truly is "more than meets the eye." To see an example, click the picture of the Paris street to the right.

Augmented Reality technology is popping up everywhere! Major companies are using AR experiences in their print ads found in major magazines, newspapers, and the actual product packaging. The Philadelphia Eagles have AR experiences tied to printed season tickets. The coolest AR application has to come from the United States military as it will begin outfitting pilots of the F-35 Lightening II with helmets capable of "seeing through" the floor of the jet (read the article here)! The emergence of AR technology presents the possibility of the futuristic world we've seen in movies for the last several decades. This is truly some exciting technology that holds a great deal of potential in education.

Interested in learning more about augmented reality? Want to see some incredible examples? Visit the official Aurasma website! Want to begin seeing the augmented reality around you? Want to bring this technology into your classroom? Do you have access to a smart device? Download the Aurasma app and create your account at the Aurasma Studio to get started!

FYI: Some of the art work you see, or will see, hanging on the walls of FMS, Central, and Victory may just be more than meets the eye! Stay tuned for more details in the weeks to come. . .



Educational Application
How about an AR-Powered Library where students create and bring book reviews to life, allowing students to scan a book and hear their peers talk about it? Maybe virtual field trips in Social Studies classes made possible by students simply scanning an image of a significant historical site. Science teachers, take your students on a field trip to the International Space Station. Math teachers, how about interactive bulletin boards with explanations of formulas being studied in class along with example problems and their solutions being explained? The possibilities are endless!

If you wish to discuss how to utilize this technology in your own classroom, contact me and let's make it happen!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

There Will Be Hiccups. . . .

Last week's Act-80 Day was an important one. How so? Important in regard to the learning that took place? Absolutely! Elementary school teachers were treated to some fantastic information about the reporting tools available in Successmaker, while secondary teachers received training on Google Sites and Google Classroom. The information was great, but there was an important lesson to be taken away from those training sessions that does not deal directly with the content being presented.

The elementary teachers quickly discovered a few "hiccups" in the format of the Successmaker training. For those that are unaware, this training was conducted via Google Hangouts, a fantastic tool for bringing people together in spite of the distance between us. As with all technology, however, there is a slight learning curve. Teachers learned by the end of this session that whichever microphone is picking up talking is the picture on display for each meeting place. This resulted in rapid flashing of pictures throughout the training session. The tech. department has discussed this and we have ideas for implementing this type of training with future topics. 

The secondary teachers were treated to a mixed bag of results. The ELA session, the first of the morning, got off to a rocky start when the URL that was supposed to be the basis of my entire training session was blocked by our filter. Rest assured, I had tested this in the morning and the tech. department made sure it was working. . . for teacher computers! I believe the issue is that teachers were signed in to student computers, resulting in the blockage. In addition, we experienced hardware problems and account permission problems throughout the day that almost had me ready to throw in the towel, but I adapted and adjusted and I feel had a very successful day of training.

Lesson learned through all of this: don't get discouraged if the technology doesn't work perfectlythe first time out! By demonstrating to our students how we react in the face of adversity, we have the power to teach them a very important life lesson: Don't fear failure, learn from it!