Saturday, November 15, 2014


I'm moving!

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Chromville and Write About This

(Posted a day late)
Tomorrow is day one of a New Jersey Education Association's Annual Teacher Convetion. It's amazing. It also means NJ schools have had a 3 day week. Like many schools my school also held conferences on these days giving students 1/2 days. This turned my 45 minute classes into 30 minute classes. What to do, what to do...

We are lucky to have be getting a more iPads for the school. It puts us at a number that allows each grade level to have about 10. So I decided to spend my short time showing students new apps. 

Chromville- free
This us an augmented reality app. It has different lands whith different characters and chapters that tell a begin to tell a story. 
First you print the pages and the students color them. After the open the Chromville app, choose the world, and aim the iPad at the page they colored. The iPad then brings their coloring page to life/shows a 3D animation of their coloring page. 
Students can move the iPad around to see different angles, hear music, and take screen shots of what they are looking at.
This app was a huge hit!
Students took 2-3 pictures of their favorite angles and opened the next app.

Write About This- free and $3.99
This app provides a variety of different ways to get students writing.
Students can create writing portfolios with a picture of themselves or any image to represent them.
There are different categories for students to find a prompt and write about.  Each prompt has a image and matching prompt.  Students can choose a subject and a prompt, search for one, or get a prompt at random.  Teachers can create their own prompts.  Quick Write allows students to add their own image using the camera or from the camera roll and write about anything.
Writings can be saved to the camera roll for emailing and printing.
The free versions gives a preview of each section.

During my short period students used one of their 2-3 pictures from Chromville and wrote a quick story about the character.  Here is an example.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Meet Alex, The Voice Of Your Mac

Meet Alex, the voice of your mac. 

Alex is the voiceover accessibility feature built into Mac computers.  He is designed to tell you what is on your screen, assist you selecting menus, and help give you complete control of your Mac with oral directions.  Apple has had this built into their computers for awhile but it has greatly improved.  Alex now looks at an entire paragraph at once instead of one word at a time.  When reading passages he sounds more realistic following the nuances of a person talking.  It is now much easier to comprehend what he is saying.  Alex's voice is smoother than most text-to-speech and just to easy to use.

You can hear and adjust Alex's speed under your Mac Settings.  Menu option Dictation & Speech--> Text to Speech.  You can change Alex's sped and even change Alex but he is truly the best. There are 3 female and 3 male default voices.  You can add novelty voices and voices with accents.  I can see a great use for these in education.  The video below shows you how.

To get Alex to read to you, first highlight a section of the text.  There is NO pause feature so highlight a small amount at a time.  There is more than 1 way to start the speaking.

Option 1, my favorite:
1. Control + click or right click within your highlighting
2. Select Speaking
3. Start Speaking

Option 2, easiest for young children:
1. Choose Edit from the menu bar 
2. Select Speaking
3. Start Speaking

Option 3, best for those in need of this on a frequent basis:
1. Go to the System Preferences
2. Choose Speech and Dictation (Speech on older OSX)
3. Check the box "Speak the selected text when the key is pressed"
4. Change the key if you do not like the default of Option+Esc
5. Highlight your text and press your key

For the last two weeks the first graders have been using Alex in the computer lab.
The first week we learned about encyclopedias and online encyclopedias.  Together we looked up scarecrows on World Book Online Kids.  Students then looked up anything they wanted to and tried having Alex read the article to them.  World Books Kids articles are advanced for most first graders but having Alex allowed students to listen as they read along. They shared facts they learned at the end of class which was a lot of fun.

Week two students chose a topic to research by picking a book from the library.  They picked facts from the book and listened to Alex read facts on the same topic from World Book Kids.  Using a Venn Diagram, students recorded facts they learned from the book and facts they learned from World Book Kids.  They shared their new information with classmates.

At the end I took about a poll asking students which they preferred: learning from the book or learning from World Book Online with the help of Alex.  The classes were split.  We will explore this more. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Chirp IT

This week I've been unboxing, charging, sorting, and connecting Chromebooks for the middle school to start their 1:1 program next week.  While I cannot wait to blog about that, it means that many of their iPads will be redistributed down to the elementary school and that is MUCH more exciting!

A great new website to use with the little is

Using sound, Chirp, "sings" information from one device to another.  No more scanning having kids type in URLs, bookmarking, or creating QR codes. A two second sound now shares what you need to all the students' devices.

Share webpages, photos, contacts, all with a sound from the teacher's device.  It's so simple I thought "No way will this work".  But, it does!

If you are not sending the students to a webpage but sharing photos with them, it does NOT require a network connection. This makes it even better than QR codes.

Link to itunes store here

Monday, September 29, 2014

STEM/STEAM Introduction

This blog post has been planned for weeks.  It feels amazing to finally get it typed.

This summer I researched and planned ways to incorporate STEAM Education into my media curriculum.  STEM education, now commonly referred to as STEAM, is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math.  Its focus is to  educate students through an interdisciplinary and applied approach.  Rather than teach each discipline separately, STEAM integrates them into a cohesive learning situation based on real world problems. Students engaging in STEAM projects will demonstrate critical thinking, curiosity, adaptability, and initiative while developing as leaders and supporting one another through collaboration and team building.

The students will have design challenges throughout the year that will relate to what I am teaching or their classroom teachers are teaching. Students will use the Engineering Design Process to complete the challenge: Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, Improve. Hanging in my room are the posters I made, and the students will work through the process with my worksheet. (both freebies right now, click the pictures below)

Before even discussing STEAM or the Engineering Design Process I read the book "Rosie Revere Engineer" by Andrea Beaty illustrated by David Roberts to the students.  Each class I started with, "This book is written by an amazing author and illustrated by an amazing illustrator so we must have an..." and students responded with "amazing book!"  Students shared their ideas about what an engineer is and I filled in the holes.  This book is truly amazing!  The lesson of perseverance, never giving up, and confidence is told through lyrical rhymes and detailed illustrations.  
"Your brilliant first flow was a raging success! Come on, let's get busy and on to the next!" She handed a notebook to Rosie Revere, who smiled at her aunt as it all became clear. Life might have its failures, but this was not it. The only true failure can come if you quit.” 

Since we will be doing design challenges throughout the year I wanted projects to introduce each grade to the design process.  My goal was to have each challenge be hard enough to teach that it was okay to fail but easy enough that they could focus on and learn the design process. 

Fourth grade: to build the tallest tower out of 20 pieces of spaghetti and 30 marshmallows
I put my own twist on the spaghetti tower challenge.  The tape and string I thought would be a bit too confusing and take away from my main goal.  The students learned failure with falling towers but every team had a tower that stood in the end, some not so tall. 

Third Grade: save Freddie
I found the Save Freddie activity from these free lab sheets i found here. (I wish I know who made them.) While I didn't use the sheets I used the activity.  Freddie was in his boat, the cup, when it capsized.  Unfortunately Freddie is not a good swimmer, but he safely made it to the top of the boat.  His life preserver sadly did not, it is under the capsized boat.  Using 4 paperclips and nothign else, students had to save Freddie.  Groups came up with many ways to save Freddie.  Some tried to get hi in life preserver while others tried to turn the boat over and put Freddie back in.  It was a great way to introduce STEAM.

Third Grade: to build the tallest cup tower
Students were given cups to build the tallest cup tower.  I cannot recall a single group that stayed with their original plan.  It was a perfect introduction to the design process.

First Grade: to build a tin foil boat to hold the most pennies
With this younger group I told them the question to ask and we looked at the book "Boats" by Gail Ginbons.  I showed students the different sides, shapes, and bottoms of different boats before I had them plan and create their boats.  Also, I showed students how aluminum foil will hold a fold and will rip easily in case they had never worked with tin foil before.  The students had so much fun and were not upset when their boats sank, they quickly pulled them out and rebuilt.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Video Game Design

In my last post I explained that my summer is split into 3 class periods.  The first period being Comic Book Creation.  While I have students creating some fun comics each week (you can read it and see some from a post last summer) this summer, my second summer, I had students with my every single week. Some I had many weeks the previous summer too.  Not surprised to say, they were a little bored of making comics.  I was not upset!

We turned our class into a Comic Book/Video Game Creation Class.

Each student interested in Video Game Creation started with Hour of Code,  If they were still interested they continued onto Scratch and created a maze game, racing game, and then a platform game.

After creating a racing game one of my students took off and made more games on her own.  Others, as expected, needed more assistance.  Since students were all in different places at different times depending on when the week they started it was hard to teach everyone what they wanted when they wanted.  We had limited time so I found a great resource,  This site provides videos to teach different lessons in Scratch.  There are 24 videos that start with the basics, motion and looks, and advance all the way to arithmetic operations and logic functions. 

With the maze game it was all about focusing on learning Scratch.  Then the racing game was about gameplay.  Last, the platform game, combined previous knowledge, added gravity, and we focused on the look of the game, the art.

I had one student that was interested in making a game but not interested in Scratch at all. Pixel Press Floors to the rescue. It was an amazingly fun app!  You can LITERALLY draw your own video game. 

1. Students can draw their levels on the free printable graph paper and capture the drawing (iPad 3 or newer)

Or students can draw in the app. Perfect for iPad 2 users.

2. Students then design the boards based on two main "stories" or designs.  They pick the character, floor, pits, coins.  For $0.99 they can add power-ups.  For another $0.99 they can add enemies.  Both are well worth the money if you plan on using the app on a regular basis. 

3.  As students design they can test their game.  This is a great for teaching how to test game play.

Pixel Press Floors Trailer from Pixel Press on Vimeo.

As a teacher they have some great resources.  First there are lesson plans,  It contains instructions and rubrics for a 1 day or 5 day curriculum.  Also included are sketch guides, brainstorming guides, and more.

Stop by their Educational Portal,, for ideas, Q&A, and assistance. I found it really helpful this summer.  I found this post about a dry-erase sketch sheet. Great for classroom use.  One was HUGE and on the board:

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Summer is flying by. I know I planned on posting a couple of weeks ago and a couple of weeks before that but of course it never happened.

This summer I worked at a creative arts camp. Camp was 6 weeks long and full of creativity.  Some students were there for all 6 weeks, some for a week or 2, or 5.  There were 4 periods a day and each student chose their classes by week.  Since I normally work with elementary age students this camp, for middle school students only, was a pleasant change. (I am excited to get back to the little ones though.)

Period 1: Comic Book Creation (I'll post about this soon)
Period 2: Digital Art
Period 3: Lights, Camera, Action
Period 4: NOTHING- I worked part-time! (I'll post about this soon)

Digital Art was an amazing class! The main focus was Photoshop and photography.  The students/campers loved it.

We looked at Pop Art:



And just had some fun:

At week 3 and week 6 we hold art galleries.  Families come and see the work all the students' created.