Sunday, August 30, 2015

When it all comes together....

Technology is often viewed as making our lives easier and helping to connect us in a whole new way.  Most times people associate technology with frustration, which can make my job as a technology consultant challenging.
Recently I was able to be a part of an experience that technology made an impact, connected people from across the country using 3 products.
This started with my sister telling me that my 5 year-old autistic nephew, Daniel did not want to go to school and it was greatly causing him some anxiety.  Unfortunately, they don't live close by about a 7 hour drive, so I often use Skype to talk and connect with them.  I asked her is she wanted me to make a video for Daniel and she said sure!
So, I used an app called Voxer.  Voxer kind of acts like a walkie talkie that records your message and allows people to listen to the message at their convenience.  I sent a message out to the great team of people I work with to see if they had any suggestions for my video.  They are amazing and had so many great suggestions, including video taping their kids on what they liked about Kindergarten.  They shared the short video clips with me through Google Drive, where I was able to download them on my iPad and put the clips together using iMovie.
The video turned out great and Daniel really liked the video.  It was just awesome to watch all of this come together in about 24 hours.  The technology made it slick and easy and it was used to communicate with people far away.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Camtasia Platform Switch

Camtasia is my favorite video editor.  I first learned about Camtasia when I was practicing a flipped classroom.  I got training when I attended FlipCon in Chicago using the PC version.  I love the playhead that allows you to select the clip area and the way you can make customized intros.  Two years ago, my PC decided to die.  Thankfully, my administration said, "What would you like?"  I have always been very pro PC, but my tech coach said, "Macs are better for video." So, I took her advise and took the plunge into the Mac world.

Now, Camtasia on a Mac is a bit different and took some getting used to.  But, I have enjoyed the ripple cut editing.  I've been using it for two years now and I just realized one of the biggest differences between the two different platforms.  When you export your video in the PC version, it asks you what kind of video you want to export, HD, mp4.  I had never realized that the Mac never asked me.  I've just been exporting and starting to notice that the video was slightly out-of-focus, or I was questioning whether or not I needed glasses!

That's because you have to set up the canvas to the ratio that you want when/before you edit the video.  Once you change the canvas size you have to resize any clips, annotations, or photos that make up your video to fit onto the new canvas. Ugh!  I've been working on many video products lately and never realized that I needed to change the canvas size, but I was noticing that the videos were not as crisp and clear as they originally were.  Thankfully, I have the original Camtasia files and I can resize my video pretty easily.
Lesson learned!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

My Favorite App...

There are so many apps out in the world that help us to do just about anything that you want to do!  It is truly hard to pick just one, however when I was practicing my flipped classroom with students over the years, there is one app that I wouldn't have been able to do without -- Explain Everything.
Explain Everything works in a very similar way that ShowMe does, but comes with more bells and whistles to make it a teacher's and students' best friend.

Explain Everything allows you to record your writing and speaking in small chunks, so that if you mess up, you don't have to redo your whole video.  It then takes each of those little chunks and stitches them together into one video.  And my absolute favorite part of Explain Everything is how you get your movie.  You can send it to your camera roll, directly to YouTube, or Dropbox, Google Drive (my personal fav), and the list goes on and on.  It will connect to just about any platform that you could be using.

I would offer this as an alternative for formative assessments with students.  I would simply give them an iPad with Explain Everything on it and tell them to show me what they know.  I did learn the hard way that it's good to give a time limit, otherwise you could get an chatty student who makes you a 10 - 20 minute video.  I usually capped it at 5 minutes.  It was a great way to hear in the student's voice of what they actually understood and misconceptions stood out.  You could understand the depth that they knew by how much detail they went into to explain the concept.  Since I only had 5 iPads in my room (we were not 1:1), I had each of them logged into the same Google account and had the students upload their videos into a shared folder, making it easy for me to access and grade.

Even though it's not a free app, at $2.99, it's well worth it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

3-D Printing from NASA

3-D Printing never ceases to amaze me.  And quite frankly, I hope it never does.  I'm totally fascinated by the videos on YouTube about 3-D printed arms.  Have you seen this one featuring Iron Man?

It gets me every time.

3-D printing can make amazing impacts on people's lives, but as an educator sometimes it's difficult to figure out ways to incorporate it into our classroom in relevant ways.  Never fear, NASA is here!  NASA has recently released 3-D printer files of great space related artifacts.  This can be a great way to incorporate 3-D printers into a space or math unit.  You can discuss scale and examine what some of these space artifacts look like up-close without having to schedule a field trip to a museum.

Check out all that they offer at  We printed the wrench they sent up to the space station and it turned out great.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Opening Doors...

I came across a really eye-opening article in this month's NSTA Reports titled, "Drifters Take Students on Scientific Ocean Journey."  It's a fantastic read about a geometry teacher who is not letting his subject confine him to only teaching right angles.  This teacher has an obvious passion for science and technology because he has his students design, test, launch and track devices on the ocean.
Being from land-locked Iowa, I am immediately jealous that he has the opportunity to offer this experience to his students and that he wasn't my geometry teacher.
I wish more teachers would open their definitions of what their subject could contain.  Science and engineering are such important life skills that transfer and could breathe life into any subject.  I wish that you have your administration's support not to be confined by the textbook or the test.  And, then maybe, finally we can answer the question student question of "When will I use math in real-life?"
I would highly encourage you to read this article and check out the work that these students are doing at   Plus, if you go there, you can learn from their experience, they've even posted lesson plans - Bonus!