Tech Salad

With Crunchy Bits and Bytes

Month: January 2014

Need a Twitter Widget?

Now that so many of our teachers are tweeting, we get questions about displaying Twitter feeds on blogs often. The widget we had in WordPress no longer works, so here is a tutorial showing how to create a new widget that does work.

 

Ceramics Fun

This week I have been helping out a bit in Ms. Shelton-Eide’s class. We had planned to use Frame By Frame to create claymation videos. I love Frame By Frame and I’ve used it a bunch in the past. This week, however, the app kept quitting. We made it work, though. We shot the sequenced images using Photo Booth, then imported the files into iMovie. We turned off the Ken Burns effect and set the duration of each image to just .03 seconds. Then we added music and titles, exported, and that’s all.

 

Managing Your WordPress Media Library

Have you ever uploaded a picture to your blog, then decided it was not the one you wanted to share with the world? It happens. I do it all the time.

Most people simply delete the picture from the blog post and leave it at that. Unfortunately, this leaves the file still sitting on the server, taking up space. It would be fine if we had infinite server space, but we don’t and sometimes teachers run out of space for pictures and videos on their blogs.

Here is a video showing you how to remove unwanted files from your blog’s media library.

Engaging Students

last week I got to spend time in Ms. Rogers’s Chemistry class. I really liked the way Ms. Rogers engaged the students in the discussion of chemical reactions.

After presenting some background information about a reaction she was going to demonstrate, Ms. Rogers asked kids to make predictions and write them in their notebook. Then Ms. Rogers mixed chemicals in a flask and let the kids observe. She let the students think of their own explanations and asked questions that made them think. Why do you say that? What would happen if instead we…? What does that tell you about this reaction?

Ms. Rogers also gave students interesting examples from the real world. Have you ever heard of blue people? Yes, people who have bluish skin and don’t have to pain themselves to go on stage.

Maybe students might have benefitted from hands-on activities where they mixed the chemicals themselves. However, this is sometimes dangerous or cost-prohibitive. But, by having a meaningful discussion where students think of answers rather than being given answers is a great way to approach chemistry.

To end the class, Ms. Rogers carried out one more experiment. She generated hydrogen by dipping sodium hydroxide wrapped in aluminum foil in water. She collected the hydrogen in a balloon, then held it over an open flame to watch it burn. It made quite an impression.

Here is a video clip of the explosion slowed down to 10% of its original speed.

 

Hydrogen Balloon from Bea Cantor on Vimeo.

“Grading” Digital Citizenship

Seeing technology as a distraction rather than a learning tool is ridiculously common. I see teachers struggle with this predicament and I feel an obligation to change their minds. When ball point pens were invented, some schools banned them because… well… I don’t know why. This is something my mother told me about years ago. Ball point pens were new technology and maybe kids would draw mustaches on pictures in textbooks with them. Who knows?

Of course. My job depends on teachers using technology. I have to defend my job. I also have to defend the future of the digital citizens these teachers are shaping.

Technology in schools is not a passing fad. We have transitioned from typewriters and radio, through film strips, television, desktops, laptops, tablets. What’s next? Who knows, and who really cares? We have to adapt or retire, I say. If you disagree, read a bit of Marshal McLuhan’s writings obsolescence and adaptation (Wikipedia link). Technology changes society, and education is an integral part of society. Therefore, education MUST change as technology changes if it is to be relevant.

It all sounds very nice in theory, but we don’t live in theory. We must put this into practice. We must use technology in teaching.

I doubt there is a silver bullet that will eliminate every single incident of misbehavior when using technology. We work with children, and it is perfectly natural for children to get distracted, to push their limits, and to misbehave sometimes. What we can do is guide students in order to minimize misbehavior and help them grow to be good digital citizens. We must set expectations and remind students of those expectations often.

A great way to keep digital citizenship in every students’ mind is to include it as a component in grading rubrics. Grades should reflect academic growth, so any part of a grade that is not related to required learning objectives should be small enough not to be punitive. If a teacher is planning a project worth 100 points, a small portion of that (5-10 points) can be set aside for digital citizenship. Rather than telling students what NOT to do, tell them what will earn the full amount of points:

  • time on task (distraction)
  • responsible use of technology (vandalism)
  • use of appropriate sources (media literacy)
  • collaborative effort (disrespectful or bullying behavior)

Having these on a rubric lets students know that you are serious. It will also prevent a teacher from reacting too harshly and shying away from technology in the future.

 

Zoo Enclosure Project

Last semester I blogged about 3D design, spatial thinking, and Minecraft. I was working on a project with Ms. Rhonda Kass. The project went without a hitch and the students created beautiful zoo enclosures.

Here is the video we put together to showcase this G21 project.

 

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