Cool Tools for School, Thing 28: Anything Goes Google

This is another Cool Tool topic that never disappoints! I don’t know how Google keeps coming up with new things but they do and they do it faster than I can keep up with them-thank goodness Polly does this fabulous round up every year!

What I looked at:

What I’d like to do with them:

The Primarily Google blog and website were chockful of ideas! I love their post about embedding YouTube videos into Google Forms to both avoid the YouTube website and the various issues that can come with it and, for gathering feedback and information from your students when they are done watching the video. I’m so blown away about the ideas they presented I’m seriously considering signing up for their self paced class. It’s a little pricey but I think it could be worth it…

The Control Alt Achieve blog was full I can’t wait to share with my teachers! They basically gave me enough awesome ideas to fill the “Technology Tips” section of the monthly e-newsletter I send teachers for the rest of the school year (and maybe even into next school year!). That is, if I can hold off sharing for that long-that’s how exciting I found things like:

Sidenote: I loved the idea of the Google Spell Up game but can not seem to get to work. Every link I find for it (even through the Chrome Store) just takes me back to the regular Google homepage. If you know how to get it to work, please, please share the secret with me!

In keeping with my obsession with Library Centers, I was very excited to read on the Ditch That Textbook site about YouTube Editor and being able to edit and customize other videos to better fit our needs but, that appears to no longer be an available option. However, I did learn about a fun Google Experiment I think our music teacher might enjoy using with students: A.I. Duet!

What I’d like students to try with them:

I’d love to incorporate the Primarily Google blog’s YouTube/Google Form idea into our Awards Season centers. Currently, we’re watching videos of this year’s 3 Apples books and our mock Caldecott contenders in our center rotations. I think this could be a great way to have kids think about things they liked and didn’t like about the 3 Apples books and/or the contenders in our Mock Caldecott. They could even review their responses before casting their final votes.

So I know I said I wanted to share the ideas I found on the The Control Alt Achieve blog with my teachers but I do have some ideas on how they (and I) could use them in the classroom with students. Perhaps in the future we’ll add some of these games/ideas to our library centers.  

  • Land Lines-I think it would be interesting for primary students who are just learning shapes to see how those shapes can be found in real life, in both manmade and natural forms. Plus, it would give them a chance to practice mouse control while also practicing drawing the shapes.
  • Smarty Pins-A great way to practice geography skills and work in some basic research skills as well (like identifying key words, best places to find the answer etc).
  • Google Maps-Space & Access Mars-Our 5th graders do a planet research project every year and these would make great extension activities for students who finish up early or, a fun way to drum up excitement and interest before the project starts.
  • Mystery Animal-I think this could be a fun treat when a class has a few random minutes in their day or at the end of library class. But beyond being fun, it’s also a great way to fine tune their questioning skills, deductive reasoning skills and, work on their listening comprehension.

I had so much fun working on this Cool Tool topic. It really gave me that energized, excited feeling you get when you attend a great session at a conference and you’re just buzzing with ideas. Which is nice because our state conference is still months away and this stretch between February break and April break can be just a tad…draining. But now I’ve got some fun ideas to work on and experiment with in the meantime!


Cool Tools for School, Thing 29: App-palooza!

Recently, I’ve been inspired to start bringing back library centers and more flipped classroom style learning in the library. I did library centers and more flipped classroom instructional videos earlier in my career but that style of learning in the library kind of fell off my radar when we lost our library clerks a few years ago. Now that I have a clerk again, we’re through the bulk of her training and, have settled into a smooth working routine together, it’s felt like a great time to start bringing back those centers and flipped classroom instructions again. With those goals fresh in my mind, a few apps stood out to me during this Cool Tool exploration.

What I tried:

Apple Clips

Somehow, I had never heard of Apple Clips before this tool! I love that it has just enough options to make a video look splashy but doesn’t have all the bells and whistles and options to distract and overwhelm me. It’s also simple enough that I think students could quickly get a handle on it and make short videos of their own but again, it won’t overwhelm them or give them so many choices they keep tinkering and struggle to finish their project. Another thing I loved about Apple Clips was the option to have captions display what you are saying when you record a video of yourself. This is a great, easy way to sneak in reading comprehension skills since it gives students the chance to hear and see the words at the same time! I tested it out during a few practice videos and it was surprisingly accurate!

Shadow Puppet

We already have this app on our school iPads but I had yet to use it myself. Like Apple Clips, I like that it has enough to make a video look slick and cool but not so much that it’s difficult to use or time consuming to learns the ins and outs of creating with it. I love the ability to not only do voice overs for selected images but also zoom in and out of them and add extra effects.

What I’d like to do with them:  

I’d love to app smash these two apps together! I’d love to take pictures of a book and record myself reading it with the Shadow Puppet app and then, upload that video to Apple Clips and use that app to add in a cool introduction and closing. As part of our unit on the 3 Apples Award, I’ve wanted to break the kids into groups and have one center where they watch/listen to the books on the iPads. I normally use YouTube videos for this because there are so many wonderfully produced ones out there that remind me of my Reading Rainbow days but, YouTube can be a sticky wicket. Every now and then you have a student who says they aren’t allowed to watch YouTube. It also opens up the possibility that some of the students will migrate away from the video they are suppose to be watching and find other things to watch instead. And of course, there are the issues of inappropriate content in videos aimed at children that seem to pop up every few months. Most of the YouTube issues can be circumnavigated by closely monitoring the students but, one of the things I like about doing centers is it gives me a chance to work intensively with a smaller group of students while the other two groups do a relatively self-guided lesson on their own. Having to intently monitor the YouTube viewing center takes away my chance to work hands on with the other groups. I think app smashing with these two apps will give me the ability to make my own snazzy, Reading Rainbow style videos for my students and upload them to the library websites via Google Drive and thus, cut down on the temptations to go elsewhere on YouTube! I’d also like to make some short, videos explaining library vocabulary like author, illustrator, and the parts of a book to work into library centers for next year!

What I’d like students to try with them:

Instead of using our trusty old paper grading rubric when we study the Caldecott award and do our mock Caldecott, I think it would be great to have them use Shadow Puppet to take pics of certain pages of the book and record themselves explaining things they liked and didn’t like about the illustrations. Apple Clips could be used as an assessment tool during some of our centers. Students could record themselves identifying the parts of a book or explaining what an author does (and so much more!).

I always love this Cool Tool-it’s so fun to explore new to me apps as well as find fresh, fun ideas for apps we’ve been using for years. I’m particularly excited to have found not one but two easy to use apps for myself and my students to use as we start doing more and more center based library instruction!

1/2 Days Are the Longest Days…

I don’t know about you, but sometimes, I struggle with planning my November lessons. I mean, between Veterans day, Thanksgiving break, a Superintendent’s day and, Parent/Teacher conference days, I think we’re in session for 15 whole days the entire month! And that’s if we don’t end up with any snow days, 2 hour delays or early dismissals…

I think the half days are the hardest to plan around. We seem to have quite a few kids who don’t come to school on half days and the kids who are here tend to be a little off the wall with the completely different schedule on those days. It’s a delicate balance finding lessons that will be fun, engaging, and educational but not so important to the curriculum that kids who aren’t in school come back behind everyone else and needing to be caught up.

In the past, I’ve done basic review type activities but tried to make them as fun and game like as possible but this year, while scrolling through Instagram (my PD activity of choice), I spotted The. Most. Amazing. Idea. Ever. It was posted by librarian Chrystal Burkes (Instagram handle chryschool) and you should totally stop reading and just go check out her feed-it’s chock full of good ideas-and come back when you’re done.

Back? Good. Just in case you couldn’t find the idea I borrowed from her (and I can totally see you missing it in the sea of amazing stuff she posts), I’ll share what I did based on the post she shared back on November 13th. It caught my eye because she mentioned using the book Balloons Over Broadway in the lesson. I bought this book at our spring Scholastic Book Fair last year and while I was just in love with the illustrations, it didn’t seem to be getting much circulation time with the kiddos. So, I was eager to see what this creative and inspiring librarian had found to do with it-and I was not disappointed! Per her Instagram caption, “We read the book #balloonsoverbroadway and then went on a @macy’s #thanksgivingdayparade #virtualfieldtrip using #ipads and #youtube 360!” So fun, right?!?! In the comments she gave the link for the video but I found it easier to just search on YouTube for “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade 2017 360”. And really, that’s the whole lesson right there in her caption. Read the book, hook them up with the iPads, watch joy and magic happen. It does require a wee bit of prep though so I’ll walk you through what I did to make the lesson go as smooth as possible:

  1. Several days before the lesson: Check that all the iPads you’ll be using have the YouTube app. The 360 videos only work on the YouTube app so you can’t use the web version for this activity, you’ll have to have the app installed. Some of my iPads had the app but some of them had “lost” it somehow so I needed to put in a help desk ticket with our IT department to get them all hooked up with the app.
  2. Morning of the lesson: I went through all the iPads I’d be using and opened the YouTube app, searched for the video, opened it, put the video in full screen mode and then paused it. I then closed the cover and put it back on a book cart until we needed it for the lesson. That way, when it was time, I could just pick up an iPad, hit play and the kiddos could just be handed an iPad that was ready to roll.
  3. Lesson itself: I read the book, we discussed parades and parade balloons, then I told them we were going on a field trip to NYC to see the parade ourselves, without having to leave the library! When my clerk wheeled the cart of iPads into the story area I explained that the iPads were their tickets to NYC. Then, I showed them how the video worked with the iPads and finally, we talked about being a safe tourist (ie how to walk with the iPads, looking out for other tourists, making sure we didn’t stop or sit down in front of people, etc).

In the end, I only was able to do the lesson with my classes the day before we went on break. However, I will absolutely be doing this one with all my classes leading up to the Thanksgiving break next year! My students LOVED this lesson and activity. Throughout the course of the day I received: spontaneous applause, cheers, hugs and, one little guy even yelled, “this is the greatest thing I’ve ever done!”. It definitely made that last hectic day before break sail right by-something for which I can be truly thankful!