Have you heard about Quills and Thrills yet?

Want to know more? Read all about it at What is Quills and Thrills?

Ready to start the first writing prompt? Check it out at Quills and Thrills: Writing Prompt Week One!

Download a printable version of the Ten Commandments of Digital Citizenship Pledge and Permission Form today!

Quills and Thrills: Writing Prompt Week One

Good afternoon, Thrillers!

Welcome to Quills and Thrills: Creative Writing for the Google Generation! Not sure what Quills and Thrills is?  Find out here!

Figurative Language Throw Down Challenge

Prime your mind for creative thinking every week with the Figurative Language Throw Down Challenge! Check out the rules for the weekly challenge before playing.

Thanks to @SSMindSchool for this week’s challenge!

Five Minute Burn

Your first writing prompt will require pre-writing using a nifty method I like to call a “five-minute burn.” Here’s how it works: I’ll set a timer for five minutes. As soon as I say go, you will start writing without stopping until the five minutes are up. If you run out of things to write about, simply write “IDK IDK IDK” over and over again until something comes to you. The trick is to keep your pencil moving. Don’t worry about erasing errors or scratching out mistakes. Just ignore them and KEEP WRITING!

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Ready for your prompt? Here it is: How would you define writing and why is it important to you?

If you’re following along at home, use the video below to keep track of your time.

Time is up! How did you do? Take a moment to reread your burn. If you come across a phrase or word that you really like, underline it.

Now, we’re going to revise our burn to be a publishable piece of writing. Here’s your new prompt: Use imagery and figurative language to define the importance of writing in your life.

Before you start revising your burn, check out two tricks of the writing trade below to help you jazz up your writing a bit.

Continue reading

My First Flippin’ Video

Hot diggity, dear reader! I finished editing my first flipped video last night, and I’m actually quite pleased with how it turned out! You can see it below.

Many thanks to Abacaba, Kate Gardoqui, and Gastondeluxe for the video clips!

Video Recording and Editing Software

I recorded some of the footage using QuickTime Player’s video recording and screen recording features on my school-issued MacBook Pro, and the rest of the footage came from YouTube. Finally, I edited the video using iMovie and PowerPoint. All free software!

I’m currently trying to get a more robust video editing software so I don’t have to use PowerPoint to create a picture-in-picture effect, but I’m hoping to get the software through my school so I don’t have to pay for it out of pocket.

Teaching Students to Learn from Videos

If you watched/read my seven tips for creating your own flipped videos, you may remember that you should teach your students how to learn from a video by showing flipped videos in class before assigning them as homework. Well, today I taught (most) of my students how to learn from videos using the video you see above.

Overall, I think it was a success! The students used visual cues to let me know when to pause the video, play the video, or rewind the video. Sometimes I paused the video myself and explained why I paused it, other times they told me to pause the video by holding up their hands. It worked pretty well, and it allowed the students to become familiar with the structure of my (soon to be created) videos, which will help them become more efficient and effective note-takers.

I learned quite a bit today as well. First of all, the video was only 15 minutes long, but between pausing, rewinding, rewatching, and note-taking, we needed a full 50 minutes to get through it. I’m sure the students will become more efficient with practice, but I will need to make sure future videos are no longer than 10 minutes if I expect the students to take thorough notes.

I also learned that visual cues within the video are very helpful for the students, but those cues don’t necessarily have to be text-based. In future videos, I may hold up a pencil when I want the students to write something down. That way I don’t have to do as much post-production editing, but the students will still know what they need to copy down. That’s a trick to perform later in the year as a way to scaffold good note-taking skills, and to teach the students how to differentiate between important information and fluff.

No Tech at Home? No Problem! 

Since coming back to school and sharing my flippin’ aspirations with my colleagues, many of them have raised a very valid concern about flipped learning for students who are unable to watch videos at home due to a lack of technology. I also had a handful of my new students express the same concern. In response, I created this Tech Letter for Parents which addresses those concerns. I’ve welcomed students to come into my class during lunch to watch the videos on the big screen, and I’ve also highlighted some of the resources within our community that students can use evenings and weekends, such as the public library and public transportation. Feel free to steal my letter and modify it to meet your own needs.

That’s all for today! Back to work for this busy teacher. If you want to read more about strategies using technology and the SAMR Model, check out my post on using Animoto in the classroom or my post on EDpuzzle. You can also read the first post in this series here.

Check out my prior post on practical tips for flipping your classroom!

Flippin’ Flipped Learning, Yo!

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Hey there, dear reader! It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. I spent the past month traveling to San Diego and Denver, partaking in Netflix binges (Sense8, anyone?) and brewery shenanigans, and researching how to implement the flipped classroom model for the first time: all very important summer activities for a teacher blogger.

But now the first day of school is nearly upon us, which means it is time to get back to work. As you may already know, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to flip some of my lessons this summer. Since I’m to teach ninth grade for the first time this year, I figure this is the best time to flip since I need to develop new curriculum resources anyway.

Initially, I didn’t think flipping would be too much of a shift. I’ve always been a tech savvy teacher, so flipping some of my lessons seemed like a natural next step in my professional development. Alas, the more I’ve read, the more I’ve learned; the more I’ve learned, the more I’ve realized what a large task I have in front of me.

Have I wavered? No! Have I procrastinated? Yes! But I’m done with that now, so bring on the flip!

The first thing I’ve discovered on my flippin’ journey are Twitter hashtags #fliplearning and #flippedlearning. Why are there two (or more) hashtags and not one? Because it’s Twitter, and the hashtag you use depends on how many characters you have remaining in your sweet little tweet. As a novice Tweeter, I’m amazed at the number of (free!) resources available to teachers swimming around the Twitterverse.

People have a lot to say about the flipped classroom model, and many educators have taken it further than I ever imagined. When used with fidelity, flipped learning changes much more than content delivery. I’ll admit, it’s a bit intimidating: kind of like watching a professional skateboarder land a Stalefish Grab when you’re barely able to stand up without banging your head into the concrete (and yes, I did just Google “fancy skateboarding trick” to come up with Stalefish Grab).

Skateboard Slay
Reading about the flipped classroom model on Twitter
How I imagine my first flipped lesson IRL
How I imagine my first flipped lesson IRL

But, since success is almost always a product of failure, I’ve brushed my survival instincts aside and made three major adjustments to my plans for the first few weeks to allow for flippin’ scaffolding!

Flippin’ Adjustment #1: Watch the first few videos in class

One of my prized Twitter finds is a podcast called The Flip Side with Jon Bergmann. The episodes titled “Flipping Your Class? Do This, Puh-Leeze Don’t Do That” Parts One through Five have been extremely helpful by answering my questions about video length and the importance of making them interactive and whatnot (more on this later). Most importantly, however, Bergmann stresses the importance of teaching students how to watch and learn from the videos. He suggests watching the first few videos in class so the teacher can model how to pause and rewind the video to clarify important points, show the students how to take notes, and teach them how to develop meaningful questions to bring to class the next day.

Flippin’ Adjustment #2: Hold the students accountable

Once you’ve taught the students how to learn from your videos, Bergmann urges his listeners to resist the urge to reteach the content from the video the night before. Since some of our darling students may not watch the videos on time (just as they don’t always complete their homework on time) we may be tempted to teach the content again in class, but that completely negates the flipped learning ideology. Plus, it encourages students who have watched the video to blow off the next one. Why watch it at home when you’re going to teach the same thing in class tomorrow?

Flippin’ Adjustment #3: Dedicate class time to applying concepts

Bergmann also cautions against the temptation to assign a video without in-class application. Yes, we have too much content to get through and too little time to get through it, but if students don’t have the opportunity to practice the concepts discussed in the video while their teacher is available to support their learning, they might as well not watch the video at all. The whole point of the flipped classroom model is to increase your one-on-one time with the students as they partake in hands-on learning in the classroom. Don’t treat your videos as substitutes for real learning.

Now that I’ve explored the flippin’ concept and adjusted my lesson plans, I can no longer delay the inevitable: I need to create my first flippin’ video. Gulp. So, to synthesize my learning and practice using iMovie (and procrastinate making an actual video to use with my students) I created a flippin’ video on how to make a flipped video! You can see the video below, or if you don’t have six minutes and thirty-eight seconds to spare just skip ahead to my checklist below.

Seven Flippin’ Video Tips

  1. Show your flippin’ face! Disembodied voices are creepy and boring and lack nonverbal cues that aid effective communication. Get over yourself and get in front of the camera.
  2. Vary your flippin’ speech! Avoid the “Bueller” effect and actually sound excited about your content. If you’re excited, the kids will be excited too. They’re just pretending to be bored.
  3. Record flippin’ everywhere! Have you ever been on vacation somewhere and thought, “Man, I wish my kids could see this.” Well, thanks to that handy-dandy smartphone in your pocket, they can! Pull out a video and record your thoughts. You can edit them down later.
  4. Make your own flippin’ videos! You know what your students need to succeed on your end-of-unit assessment, so you should be the one teaching in your videos. Students prefer to learn from their teacher. If there is an awesome video on YouTube that is completely perfect for your lesson, download it and cut to it in your video.
  5. Make them inter-flippin’-active! Accountability, accountability, accountability! Use programs like EDPuzzle (read my post on EDPuzzle here), TodaysMeet, PollEverywhere, or your favorite learning management system to give your students a reason to watch the video, formatively assess their learning, and give them a safe place to discuss the concepts from your videos online with their peers outside of class. Bonus: if you have the kids ask questions the night before class, you can review them and tailor your lessons and individualize your instruction.
  6. Include flippin’ note reminders! Students are kids, and they need constant skill reinforcement. Remind them to pause the video and jot down important information using your preferred note-taking system.
  7. Keep them flippin’ short! Again, students are kids, and they have limited attention spans. I’ve read that the average medical student has an attention span of only twenty minutes. Med students! They’re like, the cream of the crop! Bergmann suggests sixty to ninety seconds per grade level maximum, so if you teach tenth grade, keep your videos no longer than fifteen minutes. Also, don’t forget that students will have to pause the video to take notes, which will add to their viewing time. If they’ll need to take a lot of notes, try to keep it between five and eight minutes.

That’s all for today, folks! I’m going to attempt a video introducing Greek and Latin roots. Wish me luck!

If you want to read more about strategies using technology and the SAMR Model, check out my post on EDpuzzle or my post on updating EdTech PD. You can also read the first post in this series here.

Check out my next post: My First Flippin’ Video!

Doug, SAMR, and Me: Reflecting after a week of PD

Summer is officially here for most teachers across America (woohoo!) and unlike most summers, I decided not to take on the burden of a summer job this year. Doing so cleared up my schedule so much, that this has become one of the busiest summers of my career. 

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May twenty-second was the last day of school, and I’ve spent twelve of the following thirteen weekdays being professionally developed by organizations such as ABC Community School Partnership, College Board, Apple, Discovery Education, Promethean, and APS’s Vanguard Team. And I still have eleven non-consecutive days of scheduled PD to go. 

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Note to self: when scheduling PD next summer, leave buffer days for reflection and relaxation!

The best and worst thing about back to back PD is the overwhelming amount of new approaches to include in next year’s curriculum. I’m only half way through my jam-packed summer, and I already feel bogged down with ideas for the next school year. The past few weeks have been a whirlwind. So many new ideas! And strategies! And texts! And tools! And they’re coming at me so quickly that I’m afraid I’ll forget about something really cool before I’m able to include it in my plan for the new school year.

I’ve spent the past week learning all about new strategies to use with the technology available in my classroom. Now, before I continue, you should know that I describe myself a tech savvy, born-again, Apple purist, meaning I now own an iPhone, iPad, and MacBook Pro (well, it’s a school-issued computer but you get the idea). I try to integrate technology into my lessons as often as possible, and I rarely get excited about other people’s tech-strategies because I often feel like I have a better, techier (pronounced tech-E-er) way to do it.

But not this week. This week, I’ve felt a lot like Russell in Up when he and Carl Fredricksen meet Doug for the first time.

When it comes to new tech tools to use in the classroom, I’m sure many of you feel more like Carl Fredricksen than like Russell. I can think of a few Carl Fredricksens myself (Mr. Lee, anyone?).

Today, however, I started to feel a bit overwhelmed. There are just so many Dougs out there, all competing for my immediate attention!

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Me trying to simultaneously nurture all of my ideas on how to use Schoology, Animoto, PollEverything, Tellagami, ChatterPix, ClassFlow, EdPuzzle, lino, iMovie, Keynote, Pages, ActiveInspire, and…and…and…inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale.

Consequently, I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing right now. They told us to focus on just one tech tool and design just one digitally infused lesson for the next two hours, but in order to sustain my sanity I’m going to use this time to start a series of posts on the awesome tech and my ideas from the past week so I can refer back to them later.

But first, the basic concepts of using technology in the classroom: The SAMR Model!

The SAMR Model: Bloom’s 2.0

When using technology in the classroom, it’s important to not just use it for the sake of using technology. I don’t knoScreen Shot 2015-06-12 at 9.02.29 AMw about other states, but New Mexico teachers will get a score of Highly Effective for Domain 2B on their evaluative observations if technology “is used skillfully by teachers as appropriate to the lesson.” If you’re anything like me though, Highly Effective isn’t good enough. You’re aiming for a score of Exemplary, in which case technology needs to be “used skillfully by teachers and students as appropriate to the lesson.”

At first glance, many of us (myself included) may think that our students are already using technology skillfully within our classrooms. I mean, they’re using Padlet to turn in their exit tickets! It’s like they’re slapping sticky notes onto a piece of chart paper, but they’re using technology! That qualifies as Exemplary for Domain 2B, right?

Wrong. This is where the SAMR Model comes into play:

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Click on the picture! It will take you to a student-created YouTube video that explains the model.

The SAMR Model is like Bloom’s Taxonomy for technology. Check out the SAMR image above. There are four levels of technology integration in the SAMR Model, just as there are six levels of thinking in Bloom’s Taxonomy, and like Bloom’s Taxonomy, all levels have a time and a place in the classroom.

The Padlet exit ticket I mentioned earlier would be an example of simple substitution – if you don’t take advantage of Padlet’s accessibility. But what if, as homework, we make the students refer back to the Padlet exit ticket and summarize all of the different responses into one concise paragraph? We’ve just moved on to augmentation! Padlet is still being used as a substitute for traditional strategies, but we have improved functionality through easy access for anyone with an internet connection. But don’t get too excited. It’s a step towards Exemplary, but it isn’t enough.

At first, the SAMR Model was a bit inconvenient. It reminded me that I wasn’t using technology skillfully enough to be considered Exemplary because I was hanging out in the substitution and augmentation range. Effective? Yes. Highly Effective? Maybe, depending on my evaluator. But Exemplary? No. Rude. After attending a whole bunch of mini-lessons on how to meaningfully incorporate technology into my lessons, however, I no longer feel like giving the SAMR Model the cold shoulder.

Tech Talk – Know the Jargon! 

I forgot to tell you! I learned a new phrase this week: blended learning. ooOoh! Some of you may be shaking your heads at me, wondering how the heck I’ve made it this far in my career without knowing the term blended learning. Have you ever skipped over an unfamiliar term while reading a text of some sort instead of stopping and trying to figure out what it means like a good little reader? I know I’ve heard the term blended learning before, but I’ve never used it myself or stopped to figure out what it means. Here’s a list of terms you may have heard or read without attempting to process the definition.

  • Blended Learning: This term describes learning achieved through a combination of face-to-face traditional instruction and technology-based instruction that happens outside of the traditional classroom. Websites like My Big Campus, Edmodo, Schoology, and BlackBoard are considered blended-learning environments.
  • Web 1.0: This term describes websites that behave like a one-way street. When using Web 1.0 tools, students are passive recipients of information. Think of Web 1.0 tools as teacher-centered lectures. There is a time and a place for them, but if used too long or too often they lose their effectiveness.
  • Web 2.0: This term describes websites that behave like a two-way street. When using Web 2.0 tools, students are actively engaged in both receiving information from the internet and interacting with others through digital means. Think of Web 2.0 tools as student-centered activities.

Fun fact: Web 2.0 was the one-millionth word added to the English language! 

Now that we understand the basic concepts of digitally infused classrooms, we need to put them into practice with concrete lessons. Originally I was going to include a list of ideas describing how I plan on using these new tech tools with my students next year. Seeing as how I am already over 1200 words, however, I think I’ll save the actual ideas for another post (or series of posts) in order to keep from overwhelming you with a bunch of Dougs all at once.

Doug = so-awesome-it's-intimidating technology
Doug = so-awesome-it’s-intimidating technology

Putting Theory into Practice: EdTech Strategies

Put theory into practice and read more from this series!

1) Poll Where? Everywhere!

2) Simply Animoto

3) Flippin’ with EDpuzzle

4) Professional Development 2.0

5) Flippin’ Flipped Learning, Yo!

6) My First Flippin’ Video…In the Classroom

7) Support Learning with Aurasma

8) Final Thoughts

Check out my running list of awesome teacher tech tools.