Creating CREATORS, rather than just CONSUMERS

Originally posted on October 17, 2017
Last year I had an opportunity to work with a technology integrator for a project I was doing with my students in science.  We were going to create human body projects, but I wanted to change things up, I didn’t want to do another PowerPoint… I had recently seen a news show that was talking about AR (augmented reality) in the classroom and was hoping to incorporate some aspect of AR with my students and their projects.  The project ended up having multiple layers, covering a multitude of standards, and grew into something I could never have imagined when we started.
I created a Google Site which housed all of the materials for the project.  First, the students watched (consumed) a short video about the human body. We then had a discussion about the human body and why it was important and brainstormed a list of things they already knew about it.  They then filled in a Google Form, choosing their top three choices of body systems they would want to do their research about.  Most students were able to research either their first or second choices.
Next, students did research (consume), which was guided by a graphic organizer which provided them with a place to keep track of their important information, as well as a focus for the information they needed to gather.
Once the research was complete, students were asked to gather images related to the different aspects of the research they were doing.  Then we began to discuss the next steps. 
They were going to create a video, which was going to explain the importance of their body system.  At this point in time, they were then partnered with the other people who were researching the same body system.  They first compared and contrasted the information they researched.  Then, they highlighted the information they wanted to use from each person’s graphic organizer.
Now, it was time to plan things out.  Each group began by creating a storyboard to decide the order in which they were going to present their information, as well as the visuals they wanted to use for each segment.  Once they had their plan, they used a Google Doc (shared with their group and with me) to start drafting their scripts.  Students were able to work and collaborate on their scripts at the same time, which maximized their time on task. Once they felt they were done with their writing, I read and commented on their writing, providing them with suggestions for improvement.
As if they weren’t having fun already, the ultra creation time was about to commence! Enter, Explain Everything…boy oh boy do I just love this app!! The students imported images, drew diagrams, added their own video and text to create their finished products.  Watching this happen in the classroom was pure joy! Talk about student engagement!!!
…but we still weren’t finished!!! Each group was tasked with creating three questions (and providing the answers) about their system that would be asked after someone watch their video.  We talked about wanting to know that they gained a general understanding of the importance of their body system, so the questions shouldn’t be too specific.
Almost done…
Lastly, students created a poster with the name of their system, the names of the people in the group and a visual that best represented their body system.  This is where the AR comes in.  The posters were going to serve as the ‘trigger’ for the Aurasma app.  As the posters were scanned, their videos would pop up on the screen and begin playing. When the videos were finished, the questions (which were loaded into a Google Form) would come onto the screen so they could be answered by whoever was watching the video.
Other 5th grade classes were invited to class to watch and learn from the videos.  In addition, parents were invited to see what their children were working on in class. Students in my class were also able to watch the videos made by their classmates and use them to help learn and study the body systems that they didn’t research.
There are many tech tools out there that allow our students to create a product which helps demonstrate their understanding of a topic.  As I mentioned before, I really LOVE Explain Everything (luckily for me my district purchased the app for our iPads).  Some teachers may not be ready to have their students tackle that app.  I have recently discovered Adobe Spark, which I think is a great starter tool to create quick and easy videos, and delivers a beautiful finished product.  If videos aren’t in your wheelhouse, I also used Book Creator last year with my students to create children’s books about the ecosystems they were researching.
We all need to consume information to gain new information.  In my (humble) opinion, if we don’t do something with all that we consume, we (and our students) will never have a true understanding of all the information we are taking in…
What creation tools do you use with your students? Have you tried the ones mentioned here? What are your thoughts?

The road to creating your Personal (Professional) Learning Network…should you take the time?

(Originally posted September 19, 2017)
There were times, as a classroom teacher, that I felt alone…left on my own to try to improve the things I was doing, make changes or to find new and better resources to share with my students.  Then I discovered Twitter…and Pinterest….and Instagram…and Google+…and Bloglovin…  These resources provided me the ability to connect with other teachers (and other innovators) and gain a window into their worlds, which in many cases weren’t so different than mine.
When I first started using Twitter, I have to admit, I was a lurker. I found more and more people to follow, and did just that-follow.  As my comfort level grew, I began to Tweet to other people and share my own ideas. When I started engaging, and the more exciting part-when people engaged with me, I felt like I was part of something that was bigger than me.  It made me feel connected.  There are so many talented people doing extraordinary things to help students become more engaged, and therefore more successful in their schooling, and these online tools enable us all to collaborate and share.
Once I got comfortable using Twitter, I wanted more! I branched out and started to use Pinterest. Well, if this wasn’t like opening Pandora’s box! I was like a kid in a candy store! Although I don’t find myself interacting with people that much on Pinterest, it has provided me with so many valuable resources.  It is through Pinterest, that I found more people to follow on Twitter and also peeled back another layer of the #EdTech onion-BLOGS!  I am amazed at all the valuable information that people share on their blogs.
How do you keep up/keep track of all the blogs you want to follow? That is the question that led me to Bloglovin.  Bloglovin is a great way to keep all the blogs you want to follow in one place and stay up to date with any new posts that are made to them.
I recently went through the training to become Google Education Certified for Levels 1 & 2. Although I had used many features of the Google Suite for a number years, the certification led me down some paths that I never thought to travel or would find useful. One of those paths was Google+. Who knew there was a whole other Google world out there where people with similar interests could join together and share ideas?!  Although I have just started to dip my toe into these waters, I can see how it can be very beneficial to me in my new role.
As I said in my first blog post, I am beginning this year in a new position as a Secondary Educational Technology Coach.  There is only one other person in my district doing the same job, at the elementary level.  This is why I started thinking about this topic.  I knew there had to be other people out there doing the same job as I am. The trick was finding them and tapping into their expertise.  I feel that taking the time to start to build a PLN for myself will not only benefit me but also the teachers that I work with in my district.
Have you created a PLN? Where do you look to tap into information to help you grow professionally?