Monday, December 8, 2014

Resources for Learning Windows Live Movie Maker and Creating Book Trailers

I'm working with a group of students on creating Book Trailers with Windows Live Movie Maker. This is a really easy video editor to learn, but it is always useful to have a few resources to refer to. The links below will take you to the resources I've found useful in learning the program:

Bullitt Schools Movie Maker Cheat Sheet PDF

INTERACT Movie Maker Cheat Sheat PDF

Windows Live Movie Maker Tutorial PDF

Windows Live Movie Maker for Dummies Resource

Windows Live Video Tutorial YouTube Playlist

With some of our computers we ran into problems with working with subtitles in Movie Maker, so I also shared the following webtools that allow for video creation that can include audio files, photos, video and text. Each has it's plusses and minuses, but all can be used to create a good book trailer:




The tools below are also useful for doing these types of projects, though they don't match the needs of this particular project:





There are other great tools as well for video editing, digital storytelling and for presentation creation that might be worth a look.

Also, since the kids are using photos and music, here are are some resources for finding images and audio that are legal to use through Creative Commons Licensing:

How to Be a Good Citizen in a Connected World

A Teacher's Guide to Image Copyright

Annotated List of Free Media Resources

Free Music Archive

Creative Commons Search

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

25+ Free #EdTech Ideas for Recognizing, Thanking, or Giving a Gift to Teachers

I'm working with a group of amazing eLeader kids and their sponsors, and each month we are challenging the teams to do something different with technology in their schools. Since this month includes the holidays and the season of giving, we invited our students to find ways to share digital gifts with their teachers. That got me thinking. How would I meet that challenge. Here are a few ideas I came up with:

  1. Make a Tellagami thank-you.
  2. Make a ThingLink that links to various free gifts, discounts, etc.
  3. Make an online eCard with a tool like JibJab.
  4. Make a tribute video using Magisto or Animoto.
  5. Design your own card using Canva or a poster using Smore.
  6. Make a class slideshow with Slidely.
  7. Create a teacher tribute infographic with Piktochart.
  8. Create and record a song with GarageBand or other audio editing tools.
  9. Light up a teacher's social media with positive messages.
  10. Create a photo collage using BeFunky or a photo message using Photofunia.
  11. Create an original work of art using one of many online art tools.
  12. Send a virtual bouquet of flowers.
  13. Write and publish a tribute poem or thank-you letter on the class website or on a site like Quozio.
  14. Design and gift a set of teacher avatars in different styles.
  15. Organize a Gift Exchange with Elfster.
  16. Create a Free Online Cookbook for your teacher.
  17. Write and publish an open letter in Google Docs or on a blog to politicians praising your teacher(s) and share it to them via social media (#MyTeacherRocks). 
  18. Create a What I Learned From _____________ book, poem, story and publish it online using a website like FlipSnack
  19. Schedule a series of emails, Instagram posts or tweets with uplifting messages to be delivered over a period of time.
  20. Create a YouTube Playlist of videos that will uplift a teacher.
  21. Create a YouTube Playlist that features a teacher's favorite music (or music you think they would like).
  22. Build a monument to your teacher in Minecraft, take a screenshot, and share it with them (not exactly free unless you are already there).
  23. Create a Wordle with all of the qualities you love about the teacher or their class.
  24. Create a Pinterest Board of things that will inspire your teacher.
  25. Create a VoiceThread about your teacher and invite your classmates to leave their own personal thank-you to the teacher.
  26. Create and give teacher badges using a tool like Credly
  27. Create a 12 Days of Tech share on a blog or website, and share each day's link with your teacher (props to @mrg_3 for that idea).
  28. Code your own animated holiday card with Scratch.
I'd love to know what other ideas you might add to this list. Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Cheers!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Lessons from WDW #10: Engage the Senses

It's no secret that I tend to view the world and our profession through Mickey-shaped glasses. This is, after all, #10 in a series of posts about how the Disney culture might translate into education. So I know you won't be shocked to hear that I've been reflecting lately on a recent trip I took with my family to Walt Disney World.

Splash Mountain

Engaging the Senses

What struck me most profoundly this go around was how completely the Disney folks engage a visitor's senses. All of them. Continuously.

If our experience of the world is affected by our 5 senses, then our experience of WDWorld is affected by them even more so.

Here are a few examples that jump to mind from my last trip:


Festival of the Lion King
Every sight line in a Disney Park flows from one colorful and well-groomed vista to the next.

The positive visual messages are ubiquitous.

There are so many playful visual details (yes, including hidden Mickeys).

The use of light, especially at night is part of what makes attractions like the Main Street Electrical Parade and IllumiNations so popular.


Dancing to the Music
The sounds of a ride are as essential as the sights, from the scream that launches Haunted Mansion to the sound of crashing waves at the end of Maelstrom.

Music underscores every experience, from park open to the fireworks at the end.

The language of Disney makes interaction with cast members stand out. I love it every time a cast member calls my daughter, "Princess."


Crazy Good Dessert at California Grill
Of course, there are the classics that everyone references, Turkey Legs and Dole Whips.

My favorites are the exceptional flavors that can be found when you have a Disney sit-down meal. One of the best meals I have ever eaten was at the California Grill.


Skunk: Journey Into Imagination
The different smells that escape the restaurants are memorable, but the use of smell in the rides is even more impressive:

People actually applaud after Soarin', and I know a big part of that is the experience of smelling the orange groves and forest.

Another favorite is the smell of fresh baked apple pie during Mickey's Philharmagic.


Spinning on the Tea Cups
If you haven't experienced Stitch's Great Escape, there is a great moment when it feels like Stitch is bouncing on your seat.

During Mickey's Philharmagic, there are several moments when the audience feels water splash on their face.

Visitors can experience the G forces associated with space flight when they ride Mission: Space.

Messing with the Senses

Expedition Everest Backwards
These are just a few examples, but what is even more impressive to me is how Disney messes with one's senses to create unique experiences.

Dark rides like Space Mountain can make the sensations of movement even more dramatic.

By hitting people with unpleasant smells, Disney can create unexpected (and comedic) effects in rides like Journey Into Imagination.

By switching rapidly from between speeds, rides like the 7 Dwarves Mine Train, Tower of Terror, or Expedition Everest can enhance the feeling of motion.

So what does this all mean for your classroom?

Our senses are deeply connected to our memory, our mood, and our engagement. By thoughtfully maximizing our use of sensory input, we can affect how our students experience our lessons and our environment. We can boost moods, set tone, underscore ideas, and increase interest in our curriculum. In other words, we can bring our lessons to life.

When I think back to some of my most significant learning events and my most successful teaching moments, it's easy to identify the care taken to engage the senses. Whether teachers dim lights to set mood, or integrate food to create community, or play music to explore culture, each time we tap into the senses, we create the opportunity for deeper engagement.

Our Challenge

Every moment we have with our students counts. We know that we are in constant competition for their focus and engagement. Getting them through the door isn't enough. We have to give them experiences that are memorable and that reach them at levels deeper than the intellectual level. To paraphrase the adage:

 The way to our students' emotions is through their senses.

I have no doubt that Disney's success in creating memories and engaging visitors is due in large part to their focus on purposefully designing experiences that engage the whole guest.

In a single attraction, all of a guest's senses are invited to participate in the experience. How often is this true of a daily lesson? How actively do we plan and prepare to interact with students through their 5 senses?

When we design learning experiences, we can choose to ask ourselves these questions:

  1. How does my classroom engage students' 5 senses?
  2. What mood or tone would I like to set, and what sensory experiences can help me do that?
  3. What opportunities does my subject/topic offer for sensory extension or engagement?
  4. What resources can I connect to and bring into my classroom that will create a sensory experience?
  5. How can I use color, light, image, video, and written language to reinforce meaning?
  6. How can I use smell to reinforce meaning or to set mood?
  7. How can I use volume, music, spoken language, sound effects, and silence to reinforce meaning?
  8. How can I use texture, movement, air flow, temperature, weight, and shape to reinforce meaning?
  9. How can I use food and its various flavors, cultural connections, and emotional connections to reinforce meaning or to build community?
  10. In what ways are the experiences I create having a negative sensory response with individual students?
I suspect that adding this to our approach to lesson design would yield greater engagement, bring more joy to the classroom, and increase the chances that our students will remember the work we did together.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Teacher Creativity Skill: Express Yourself

Express Yourself

What is the point of creativity if it's not to express ourselves? Each of us has a unique perspective on the world, and it's our creativity that allows us to share that perspective with others. As we develop creatively, we find more success accurately communicating how we experience the world to others.

Not only do we see the world from a unique perspective, we also are gifted in unique ways and have unique interests that drive how we choose to express ourselves. Some of us prefer to express ourselves through music, others through language, and still others through images, video, or other media.

Saying what we have to say in the way that we want to say it so that we can make an impact on others' lives is really what creative expression is all about, and when we are working in this way, it's almost a given that we will find our work engaging, even when we find ourselves getting frustrated over our inability to use our creative talents to accurately give voice to our ideas.

Creativity is a learned set of skills that come with practice, and we all have the opportunity in our lives to hone our abilities to harness creativity for the purpose of self-expression. Luckily, today, we have more opportunities than ever to not only find the tools that fit our particular styles of self-expression, but to also use that creativity to reach an even wider audience.

We are living in a world built for expression.

Thanks to the Internet and digital media, we have hundreds of free tools to enable creative expression. If we prefer to write music, there are tools for that. If we want to create and edit videos, there are plenty of tools for that. If we prefer to draw, there are great digital art tools to help us realize our vision.

Beyond that, the social nature of the Internet has given rise to whole communities dedicated to particular forms of self-expression. The popularity of YouTube, Flickr, and blogging services like Blogger and Wordpress speaks to how willingly people will share their creativity with the world. Websites like Pinterest invite people to explore ideas and find new pathways to creative expression. Other websites like Etsy actually give people a platform for turning their creativity into a livelyhood.

Our ability to self-publish means that we can reach an audience that was not possible even a few years ago. And when our creative expressions strike a chord with other, it is now possible for our efforts to go viral, reaching an audience beyond even our own imaginations, thanks to social media.

We can even use digital shorthand to leave windows into our creative life with QR codes and Augmented Reality tools like Aurasma.

Our Challenge

Given all the tools we have at our disposal to create and share our creativity with others, we should all feel empowered to build the skills that we need to express ourselves to the world. As educators, we should not take this abundance of opportunity for granted.  Just because we have the tools in our toolbox, does not mean that we are visiting the workshop as often as we should. We need to take every opportunity to develop our creative voices so that we feel comfortable encouraging our students to do the same.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

#MACUL14 Wrap-Up

I had the great honor of attending and presenting at MACUL 14 this  year in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Apparently it was the largest MACUL ever at 4,500 attendees, and I could see why it was so popular. The conference was very well run and I had the opportunity to learn with so many amazing educators.

Here are just a few of my thoughts:

What I Learned as a Conference Coordinator:

I loved how MACUL provided their presenters with a presenter resource page ahead of the conference. Even seasoned presenters could find great reminders about how to prepare for their sessions.

I also liked how they actually had representatives of their main sponsors physically on stage for the kick-off. That was a nice way to show that the conference sponsors were a part of the conference, rather than just a source of funding.

MACUL also ran a "Tell Your Story with Photos" contest, which encouraged attendees to tweet out their conference experience. I thought this was a great idea in terms of creating buzz, advertising the conference, and crowd-sourcing documentation of the event.

At our conference (the EVSC eRevolution which takes place on July 8-10- Save the Date) we have a Technology Playground that is filled with great up-and-coming technology for the classroom. During his MACUL14 keynote, @adambellow shared the MayKey MayKey Invention kit. Gotta get one of those for the Playground!

I also had a chance to rub elbows with some kindred #edtech spirits, including @AdamBellow, @TomWhitby, @LeslieFisher, @TheNerdyTeacher, @RushtonH, @MrLosik, @Shareski and @TechBradWaid. Forgive me for name-dropping, but that made for a load of inspiration, and there isn't a name on that list that I wouldn't want presenting at one of my conferences.

During a break, I had the chance to ask folks what makes a good conference. @shareski shared this thought: Build a conference that has a balance between talking and doing opportunities. His point is that people need chances to engage all of the ways that they learn. I believe that we try to do this, but it was a timely reminder that we should make sure that we have something for everyone.

What I Learned from Adam Bellow

Adam gave an exceptional keynote at MACUL14. Actually, I've never seen Adam give a bad session, so there is really no surprise there.

I had the chance to ask Adam about how he approaches tone when preparing his remarks. I wanted to know because I find that when I am presenting, there is a fine line between facing hard truths about education, and inspiring others. You don't want to be so negative that you turn people away, but you also don't want to be too pollyanna about the state of education. Adam's advice was that the more critical the statement he wants to make, the more important it is to couch that criticism in humor. Good advice. After all, if we want to engage learners, we have to engage their emotional centers.

Speaking of that, Adam shared this video:

Not gonna lie. Teared up a bit there. What I like about this is that the commercial could be for anything. It's the story that matters.

Adam also exhorted the audience with the some challenging questions and statements. Some highlights:

  • Are we brave? The innovation we need to see in schools is bravery.
  • Give kids the questions that are worth their time to answer.
  • Let students amaze you.
  • We don't need more tech, we need a culture change.
  • Lesson plans should read: students will be able to question, think, ask.
  • The missing ingredient in PD is time. 
  • School should not be about getting kids college and career ready. It should be about nurturing a love of learning.
  • Live life in Beta. Be good today. Be better tomorrow.
  • Tech needs to be innovative NOT just another way to take a test.
  • Give kids fewer directions and more freedom. 
  • Let students amaze you.
  • We can't allow technology to eclipse our humanity.
  • We don't need more tech. We need a culture change.

Adam also shared the story of this video:

This is a great reminder that we can use our talents, time and access to technology to make a difference in the world. How are we using our 180 days with students? What are we giving them the opportunity to do?

Adam ended with Shel Silverstein's poem Listen to the Mustnt's. It was a fitting and powerful ending to a great keynote.

What I learned from Dean Shareski

Besides the advice for building conferences above, I had a great chance to learn from Dean Shareski at MACUL14. I attended is his session Whatever Happened to Joy.

I should preface this by sharing that Dean has a TEDx talk that will serve to give you a sense of where he is coming from:

Some of the standout thoughts from this session include:

  • The average 4 year old laughs 300 times a day. The average 40 year old laughs 4 times a day.
  • Essence of a great teacher: Wants to figure out how to make a kid smile.
  • Why don't we hear more music in school?
  • Rigor is a crap word. Look up the definition and look for something you want for your kids.
  • As teachers we live for the moments when students express joy and show that they find learning interesting. How do we maximize that?
  • Do we teach students to be happy?
  • Teach and explore "wonder" with something as simple as a seed in a cup - Why does the plant grow up and the roots grow down?
  • We have a responsibility to awe.
  • Take a photo a day to remind ourselves what awe sits in front of us everyday. 
  • If someone asked our students, "How does your teacher learn?" would they be able to answer? We need to share ourselves as learners.
  • Guide on the Side isn't enough. We need Meddler in the Middle.
  • Is your classroom a joyous place? If it isn't, why not? What can you do to change that? Joy matters.
  • Five habits to bring joy to education: 
    • Inspire Wonder. 
    • Be Interesting. 
    • Share the Joy. 
    • Random Acts of Kindness. 
    • Just Do It.
I was particularly struck by a thought exercise that Dean shared. He showed us a video of a group of students who had obviously invested a great deal of class time creating a lip-sync video to Mylie Cyrus' Party in the U.S.A. It was a clever multi-camera shoot that clearly took a great deal of planning, problem-solving, and practice. It was also clearly a lot of fun to make. 

Dean shared this video with colleagues and invited them to discuss whether or not they would invest class time toward a project like this. He gave them a few response options ranging from Absolutely (standards be damned) to No way (it doesn't meet the standards). I think we should all be having this conversation with our peers. 

Dean also shared a couple of articles:

Maybe There is Something to this Joy Thing

What I learned from Leslie Fisher

Leslie Fisher is one of my favorite presenters, and no matter how many times I see one of her sessions, I always walk away with new ideas and new tools to try out. This time I attended her session on capturing and editing photos and videos with a mobile device. 

As expected the session was very funny and very informative. I learned a few cool tricks for capturing better photos based on the limitations of a mobile phone or tablet. (Don't let the quality of the selfies in this post be a reflection on the quality of her work :) I also learned about several mobile apps that I have since added to my devices. Here is just a small portion of them:

Photo Apps:

Camera Awesome- Camera Awesome takes your photos to the next level by shooting faassst and taking sharper, better-exposed shots. Make your memories come alive with stunning professional effects, and 1-Tap sharing on the sites you love.

Pixlr Express- Pixlr Express is a fun and powerful photo editor that lets you quickly crop, resize, and fine-tune any picture, all in a completely ad-free experience. Choose from over 2 million combinations of free effects, overlays, and borders to further personalize your image.

ImageBlender- A simplistic and creative app for combining images with masks and different blend modes on your iPhone and iPad. While the use and basic idea is very simple, there's almost an endless list of things you can do with it.

Video Apps:

Horizon- Horizon lets you record horizontal videos no matter how you hold your device. Hold it upright, sideways or even keep rotating it while capturing, the video will always stay horizontal! You can add filters, shoot with the back or front camera and share your creations!

Action Movie FX- ACTION MOVIE FX lets you add Hollywood FX to iPhone AND iPad movies that YOU shoot!

iMotionHD- iMotion HD is an intuitive and powerful time-lapse and stop-motion app for iOS.
Take pictures, edit your movie and export HD 1080p & 720p videos to your device or directly to Youtube.

Ahead of her session, Leslie also shared some cheery videos, including videos from and this Highway Sing-A-Long video:

My Presenting Experience

I also had the honor of presenting alongside my friend and colleague @JeffTron71. Our session was on 10 Teacher-Friendly tools to unleash Creativity.

We had 2 hours to share some great tools that can be used in any classroom to inspire creative expression. Our resources for this session live at our Teacher Fun Park Website.

We enjoyed connecting with about 25 great educators. We had a great session and received some very positive feedback from our attendees.

I look forward to presenting this same session in June at ISTE14 in Atlanta.

All in all, #MACUL14 was a great conference, and I'm so glad I had the chance to attend. I definitely recommend the experience to anyone looking for lots of learning in a collegial atmosphere.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Teacher Creativity Skill: Meet a Challenge


One of the ways that we grow creatively is by challenging ourselves to do something new or to push ourselves farther than we have been. I've often said that learning is a continuous act of managed risk-taking. By that I mean that we learn by using what we already know to help us complete new tasks that seemed difficult to us before. If you haven't seen the video below before, it illustrates what I mean better than anything I could write:

When we take risks and meet challenges, we add to the internal resources we can bring to bear in new situations. The more challenges we face, and the more experiences we have, the more resources we can call upon when life demands our creativity.The digital world is filled with opportunities for us to challenge ourselves, to learn and develop new skills, and to test ourselves against the unknown. I recently shared a post about developing our problem-solving skills in the Digital Age. In that post I share the many ways that we can use technology to enhance our ability to solve a problem at hand.

But we should also be aware that we can prepare for future problems and develop our skills without the immediate need to answer a burning question. Using the Internet as a training ground to grow and test ourselves is an opportunity we should not pass on. In fact, not only should we be viewing the web in this way, we should be encouraging our students to do the same.

There has never been a better time to learn.

One way that we can use our connected devices to achieve this is to remember that any topic or skill that we want to explore is already well-documented online, not only in terms of text, but in terms of video resources, dedicated websites, and passionate learning communities. Given that, we can all set ourselves the challenge of learning something new. With the right search skills, anyone can learn to play blues harmonica, learn to re-tile a bathroom, learn to speak conversational Greek, learn the basics of String Theory, or learn to paint happy little trees. Not only that, but they can be doing any of this within a matter of minutes.

And, thanks to resources like iTunes University, TED Talks, Coursera, Udemy, and MIT Open Courseware, we can all be learning from experts in a given field.

More than that, connected educators and learners can take advantage of their connections through social media to find already vetted and curated resources that will best help them develop the skills or learn the content that they want to master without having to search for the proverbial needle in the haystack.

Additionally, many online communities and resources exist just to give learners the challenge that they need in order to develop their creative side in hands-on ways. The Internet is filled with challenges that run anywhere from a week to a year. Annually, the team I work with puts out two challenges. The first is a Web 2.0 challenge designed to help educators explore digital tools for the classroom. The second is our Digital Heroism Challenge designed to invite students to explore and discuss topics related to living ethically in the Digital Age. The Indiana Department of Education eLearning team runs a digital learning challenge during February.

There are also great challenges that focus on writing skills, video production, and photography. There are fitness challenges, cooking challenges, technology challenges, and art challenges. While some challenges are actually contests that include prizes, most challenges are really just a way to help participants find inspiration and stay focused.

A Few Favorite Challenges

Here are a few great daily challenges that you might try:

The Me You Health Daily Challenge- The Daily Challenge is a social well-being experience that gives you the opportunity to positively impact your life every day by doing simple daily challenges and sharing the experience with your personal connections -- all while you earn points, collect stamps and achieve new levels.

The Daily Create- The Daily Create provides a space for regular practice of spontaneous creativity through challenges published every day. Each assignment should take no more than 15-20 minutes. There are no registrations, no prizes, just a community of people producing art daily.

Find the Awesome in Your Family- From Parent Wellbeing, this is a series of challenges designed to help you get past the challenges of parenting in a hectic world.

A Daily Brain Teaser- A great blog that offers up a brain teaser each day. If you are looking to challenge your brain, this is a great place to start the day.

Teacher Reboot Camp 30 Goals Challenge- One of my favorite challenges. Now in its fifth year, this challenge focuses on great teaching and learning. Such a gift from @ShellTerrell

Our Challenge

All of this brings me to our ultimate challenge. We need to develop the skills that it takes to be persistent independent learners. The purpose of finding the resources that will help us challenge ourselves is that we will develop good habits of mind and strong skill-sets that we can call upon when we need them. This allows us to not have to learn skills and content as we are supposed to be applying them. Instead, we can approach creative problems confidently.

More importantly, developing these skills in ourselves enables us to create learning opportunities for our students that will help prepare them for similar challenges later. Not only should we be identifying and embracing challenges for ourselves, we should be creating these types of challenges for kids. Imagine a daily creativity, leadership, or collaboration challenge for students that would engage their minds and challenge their talents. Imagine daily learning challenges that call upon student passions and talents, while pushing them into unknown territory.

Really, isn't that what we want learning to look like everyday, anyway?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Few (LATE) Valentine's Day Resources

Dear Valentine,

I'm sorry this is late, but I found a few things that I really liked as potential Valentine's Day resources for your classroom. Will you use them this year? Maybe not, but save them for next year and you will charm the heck out of your kids:)

With Love,

Make your own Conversation Hearts

VDay Photoshop Tutorials

Minute to Win It VDay Party Ideas

Teach Empathy for VDay

How to Say I Love You in many Languages

How to Write the Sound Kiss

14 Weird and Wacky Vintage Valentines

TED Talk Playlist "I'm in the Mood for Love"

photo credit: JD Hancock via photopin cc