On Friday, August 8, I attended the Best of MACUL conference at Oakland Schools. It was jointly hosted by the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning (MACUL) and the REMC Association of Michigan. The conference was designed to highlight some of the presentations that were given at the MACUL conference in March, mostly for those who were unable to attend.
The Best of MACUL conference ran similar to most conferences, there were one of three presentations to choose from during each hour. There were four total hours in addition to one lunch hour. For the full list of presentations and presenters, please see the Best of MACUL Oakland Schools conference schedule/agenda.
App Smashing Your Way to Powerful Learning
(Presenter: Laura Cummings, Oakland Schools)
App Smashing, coined by Greg Kulowiec, “is the process of using multiple apps to create projects or complete tasks.” It’s not a new idea, but once Kulowiec gave the concept a catchy name, it became the newest buzzword in education.
Cummings demonstrated a few apps on the iPad that worked well together to create digital content that reflected student learning. These apps help students see that the information they learn in school is doing something. The paper is no longer the final product; the digital content is. The students are now producing something they can share on social media.
Side note: Cummings created a Weebly page with links to the apps and project examples. It also has some excellent links to more information about App Smashing and rules to follow for a successful experience.
I was most impressed with the following apps: Skitch, PicPlayPost, and ThinkLink. Skitch, as many of you may have heard, is a photo annotating app. It allows you to add text, shapes, blurs, and crop. The final image is then saved to the Camera Roll. This saves students time from having to add annotations in the program they decide to use. For example, students can then import those images into PicPlayPost, along with a recorded video (reading their paper?) to create a final media collage. See an example of a PicPlayPost collage uploaded to Dropbox. But what if there is just too much content to annotated on the photo? ThinkLink creates hotspots on an image that can link to video, images, text, sound (reading the paper in SoundCloud), and even downloading the paper in Evernote. See an example of a hotspotted image on ThingLink.
Engage Students. Explore apps, interactive books, and MultiTouch textbooks (Presenter: Joanna Montgomery, Apple)
“Just because the students know the technology, doesn’t mean they know how to use it to learn.”
Montgomery’s presentation also focused on apps on the iPad. But while Cummings’ presentation focused on apps that created digital content to demonstrate learning, Montgomery’s presentation focused on apps that had rich content written by academics for use in classrooms. Montgomery sees a future in which back-to-school lists will eventually include recommended apps.
iTunes U has expanded exponentially since the last time I looked at it. In fact, course materials for universities is only one-third of the content. There is a section exclusively for K-12 and another for Beyond Campus (i.e. the Smithsonian, Khan Academy). Material is not exclusively courses anymore. Of course, there are many courses, but users can download singular materials from a course. During Montgomery’s presentation, she showed us some videos and PDFs available from several sources. All content is screened by at least one educator, so while it is educationally appropriate, there is no guarantee it will be grade-appropriate. Thus, it is still best to preview material.
iBooks has may books that are beyond copyright for free. There are also plenty of books available for free. But Montgomery emphasized caution in using iBooks in the classroom. The “Top Free” book list is full of erotica. Teachers are encouraged to have students select a genre when searching for a free book and not using the top list to assist in filtering out inappropriate content.
Showcase Your Classroom Using Google
(Presenter: Jennifer Bond, Walled Lake Consolidated Schools)
Bond using numerous Google products in her classroom to connect parents with her classroom. She highlighted several classroom blogs that she has created using Blogger. Since she is a third grade teacher, students cannot have an email address and thus, cannot publish their own blog. Thus, she is the moderator. Most often, the students write blog entries in their journals and Bond would choose the best ones, type them up, and post them. Another option for teacher moderation is, using Blogger, set up an email address students where can email posts (this works best if the school has a contract to allow the students to have an email address under the age of 13). The teacher will then be able to see the post prior to accepting it for publication. Many teachers have been doing this for years, but only showing the best writing in class, not publishing it to the internet.
Google Hangouts was another technology Bond used in her classroom. She uses it to help connect her class with other classrooms as well as parents. Sometimes, it is used just for fun. But be careful…there is a different between Google Hangouts and Google Hangouts ON AIR. On Air records the entire hangout and automatically uploads it to YouTube after you click done. There is no editing. There is no option to not upload.
Creating a Genius in Every Hour: 20 Time in Education
(Presenter: Nick Provenzano, TheNerdyTeacher.com)
A number of years ago, Google implemented a policy that employees were to work on a non-assigned project 15% of their week. In other words, Google would pay them to work on side projects. Just something fun. Many people though the executives at Google lost their mind. Do you know what they got? GMAIL. ADSENSE. And so some people wondered…what if we did the same for education? What would students achieve? The concept then became known as 20 Time (easier to give 1/5 of the week).
Provenzano piloted 20 Time in his class last year. He said it was difficult…when he realized in order to make it truly 20% of the school year, he had to figure out how to get ride of 34 instructional days (yes, there was a deep inhale by the teachers in the room at this moment). He cut movies, he trimmed his curriculum, and reworked lessons. Eventually, he obtained those 34 days. He didn’t even waiver on the commitment when the worst Michigan winter eliminated numerous instructional days. He kept his word: every Friday was 20 Time work time.
Students were graded on a completion basis, did they write this blog post, etc. They gave a speech at the end, TED style. In fact, they organized a TEDx event to showcase some of the projects.
I was amazed at some of the projects that students did. But the more I think about it, I wasn’t so amazed as I was thrilled that students rose to the challenge. Given time and encouragement, students are capable of doing great things.