Preparing for #notatiste14

iste2014Okay, I wish I were preparing to actually go to ISTE 2014 in Atlanta but sadly, again this year, it’s not happening. Why am I not going? I want to but I pay for conferences myself and it’s just too expensive for me to do especially with one daughter just graduating college (that we’re still paying for) and another entering college this fall. Instead I plan to get as much out of the conference as I can virtually and for free! There are some paid options for those not going to ISTE and wanting to “attend” virtually including ISTE Live, but for me, it needs to be free options. I should be expert at this by now since most years I’m #notatiste but …

First a Whine

When I first started following ISTE conferences (ahem, they were NECC at that point), there were some awesome options for those of us following along at home including:

  • ISTE Unplugged – Today, ISTE Unplugged does some great things including an unconference the day before ISTE (that I would love to attend) but not for those of us at home. Back in 2012 and before, ISTE Unplugged (and it wasn’t always called that) was set up so that anyone could propose and present a session which was streamed live via Elluminate (what is now Blackboard Collaborate). This platform let viewers interact with the sessions that were being streamed! It was awesome, not always the best quality, but it allowed those of use not attending the conference to be in “sessions” with those who were actually at the conference. Check out the session archives from 2012 & 2011. Sadly, ISTE Unplugged no longer does these type of sessions.
  • ISTE Video on Demand – Some of the sessions at ISTE are video taped and last year (and before) those session were publicly available on YouTube. This was an amazing way to have access to some great sessions even if you had to wait for a bit after the conference was over. Sadly, this year, it appears that the Video on Demand sessions will no longer be free. I understand as an organization that ISTE needs to support itself, but I’m sad I won’t be able to catch up on some sessions (even after the fact) unless I pay for it. Wondering what type of sessions were available in prior years, check these out from last year and check out what’s being taped this year.:

#NotAtISTE14 Plans

So, enough whining about what I can’t do, here’s what I am planning for my ISTE 2014 experience – even if it is virtual!

  • Twitter:
    • Follow along on Twitter using the official hashtag which is #iste2014 and the hashtag that some people are using (because it’s always been that way in the past & it saves 2 characters) #iste14. You can search for both at the same time by typing the word OR (all uppercase) between the two hashtags #iste14 OR #iste2014. I use HootSuite which allows me to save a search in a separate column on my computer and my iPad. TweetDeck also has multiple columns. Alice Keeler has a great post about setting up a column with multiple hashtags on TweetDeck over on her blog and it’s even about ISTE 2014 hashtags.
    • It’s not just the official hashtag that I’m going to be monitoring over on Twitter. There is quite a community of educators not going to ISTE and they also have a hashtag (or more) to follow. For those NOT at ISTE, the hashtags of interest would be: #notatiste14 OR #notatiste2014 OR #notatiste.
  • ISTE Conference Site: Even for those of us #notatiste14, there is a wealth of information on the actual conference site. Here’s just some of what you can find on the conference site:
    • Program – Dream about what you would have gone to if you were at ISTE 2014. That’s what I’ve done and, hey, a lot of the sessions have links to the resources for the session. I’m bookmarking those in Diigo along with other things shared out during the conference. My list of sessions also gives me things to watch out for on Twitter. Want to see what caught my attention?
    • ISTE 2014 Network – I’ve joined the Conference Ning. There’s often great resources and photos posted on the Ning. Pictures are almost like being there, right?
    • Conference News – This is a page I plan to check daily to see what’s happening at the conference. I’m guessing all of this will be tweeted out with the conference hashtag but the hashtag can get really busy.
  • #notatiste14 Google+ Community:  One of the things I really miss by not attending ISTE 2014 is the face-to-face interactions with my PLN. Jen Wagner has set up a community on Google+ for those of us Not at ISTE. It probably won’t be face-to-face unless there are some Google Hangouts (there were last year) or some face-to-face meet-ups set up where they can be but there are already fun things happening! If you’re #notatiste14, join us for some challenges like having your picture taken with someone at ISTE or playing Not at ISTE Bingo with more to come!>
  • TeacherCast Live Broadcasts: TeacherCast Podcast will be broadcasting live every day from 9am- Noon EDT starting Saturday, June 28th. They’ll be interviewing some amazing people and the episodes will be rebroadcast throughout the day!
  • Google Booth Presentations: There always a lot of action in the Google Booth in the Exhibit Hall. You could just sit at their theater for the whole conference and learn so much about Google Apps for Education from amazing educators. In past years, these have been streamed out live (okay GHO on air actually)! I’m really hoping that’s the case again this year! Check out the action from last year:

  • Prizes!: Who says you have to be AT the conference to win prizes?
    • There’s at least one vendor (Tynker) at ISTE that’s offering those not attending a chance at some prizes. You can’t win if you don’t enter, right? I have, have you?
    • There doesn’t seem to be anything in the rules of ISTE’s ISTEgram Contest that says you have to be there to win – at when this was posted there wasn’t. Hmmm, thinking about how to enter this one.
    • There’s been some mention of prizes in the #notatiste14 Google+ Community though I don’t think we need prizes. Badges, maybe we need badges!

That’s my plans for now. Because I’m at home, it won’t be all about ISTE the way it would be if I were in Atlanta. In fact, I know, I’ll miss part of the action on Sunday because I’m heading up the coast to see a friend of mine, Susan Cowsill, at a house concert!

Are you #notatiste14? How are you planning to learn with those at the conference and those of us #notatiste14?

If I Could Only Use One …

This year in the Computer Lab, all of my classes spent some time learning to code or learning coding concepts. As I look back on what they accomplished and learned and think about what I want to do next year, I had a thought. If I could only use one app/program/website, what would it be? Honestly, if I had to pick only one, it would have to be Scratch.

StM2013-2014Studio

This year, 2nd grade through Middle School used Scratch, among other programs, and I love the flexibility it offers. Here’s some of what my students did in Scratch this year:

Drawing Shapes
Many of the grades created a project that would draw shapes. This was a great project to use for multiple grade levels. 2nd graders could guess and try and when it didn’t work, try again. 3rd graders could think about the math involved and check their guess by multiplying the number of times the loop would repeat by the angle of the turn. 4th graders and above could divide 360 by the number of times the loop would repeat and calculate what the angle of the turn should be. Middle School students could use variables to set the number of sides and set the color to use based on a random number. Check out our Shapes Studio to see student examples.

All About Me
Who hasn’t done an All About Me poster or writing assignment with students? I know I have done these in PowerPoint and in Word. Why not let the students program something about themselves. That’s exactly what my 2nd-4th grade students did with their All About Me projects. This was completed right at the end of the year and unfortunately we ran out of time but I see great possibilities here. What about “All About” a main character in a book or a historical figure?

Games
I don’t know about you, but most of my students love video games. I love that Scratch lets them create their own games! This year, 6th grade ended the year by creating a game of their choice. They ran out of time but had a lot of fun and learned a lot about controlling sprites, keeping score, winning and losing games, etc. You can check out their games in our 6th Grade Scratch Studio – also in that studio are their Shapes projects and a 10-block Challenge Project where they had to create something using only 10 specific programming blocks.

Mission Projects
Every 4th grader in California does some kind of Mission Project. Each year in the Computer Lab, I use Mission Research to help teach students about not plagiarizing and how to credit sources, etc. This year, I decided to expand on that and my 4th graders created a project in Scratch about their missions. Scratch could be used in almost any curricular area and I plan to have more grades do curriculum related projects next year. If you want to check out this year’s projects, head over to our 4th Grade Scratch Studio (which also has their Shapes and All About Me projects) to see them.

If you want to see all of the projects my students did this year in one place, check out our 2013-2014 Studio.

Do you see now why I love Scratch? The possibilities are endless!

You do have to have a log in to save work on the Scratch website and yes, you do need an email address to set this up. My students don’t have individual accounts – at least not for school; some of them do have accounts they have set up at home. I have a single account for the Computer Lab but you could easily have one per class or one per grade, for example. At this point, you can have multiple computers logged in to the same account but my students actually work offline.

We have Scratch 1.4 installed on the computers in the lab and 2nd and 3rd grade have been using that version to create their projects. Next year, I will probably install the Scratch 2.0 offline editor rather than continuing to use version 1.4. For 4th grade and up, students just use the Create option on the Scratch website and Upload (open) and Download (save) their work to their computer in the lab. This is a great teaching moment about why it’s “upload” to open your work and “download” to save your work. When a project is finished then I log in and let the student save their work to the class account. The big thing missing when working offline is the backpack but the few times we have needed this, I just log the student in and when they’re done using the backpack, have them log out again. If you want more details on this, check out my Using Scratch With Class Login Instructable.

Now back to that if I could only use one thing. Yes, it would be Scratch but Scratch isn’t perfect. What is?

  • Scratch isn’t good for students who aren’t reading yet. Scratch, Jr. is scheduled to be released soon but it’s going to be an iPad app which won’t work in our lab.
  • It’s been another teaching moment to have 2nd and 3rd graders use Word to write their text for Scratch so they can fix spelling errors and then use Copy and Paste (must be CTRL+V in Scratch) to move the text into their Scratch project. It would be nice to be able to have spell check built into Scratch to avoid that though.
  • I love the way that the activities at Code.org let you see the code you are writing when you use their block programming environment. This would be awesome in Scratch and in my opinion, would create a truly great transition from block programming to a more traditional programming environment.

Luckily, I don’t have to use only one app/program/website to introduce Computer Science concepts and coding to my students. Even though I have many choices, Scratch will still be one of my primary choices!

Are you teaching coding to your students? What would be your ONE choice?

Edcamp Palm Springs & Thoughts About Session Boards

edcampps

This was my very first Edcamp as just an attendee and it was awesome to be at an Edcamp and not have to worry about anything except which session I was going to attend. It was great to reconnect with Jen Wagner, Dennis Grice, Karl LS, Holly Clark, Moss Pike, and Jo-Ann Fox (and I’m sure I’m leaving someone out) and it was wonderful to meet Sam Patterson! The organizing committee did a super job – you never would have known it was their first time organizing an Edcamp – kudos to all of you. The day ran pretty much on time, the WiFi was working and they even got Twitter unblocked (Yay!), the Slam! at the end had great what I learned shares, the food was amazing, plentiful, and free and there weren’t super huge lines for lunch either.

AND … I won a Kindle Fire HD!! How amazing is that. Edcamp Palm Springs ROCKED! I’m so excited because I do have Amazon Prime and now I can borrow books from the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library. I love gadgets and have wanted to get a Kindle but couldn’t justify it.

I didn’t even propose a session – instead, I was able to attend all 4 sessions and here were my choices:

#edcampps Session Board

During pretty much every session time, there was more than one session I wanted to attend. I really hope that people add their resources to the EdcampPS Wiki page so I can feel like I went to more sessions that I did.

While I learned something or had my thinking pushed in each and every session, I found that my favorites were those sessions that were not someone standing at the front of the room using a presentation tool or showing me how to do something. That can be very valuable and I’m sure for some this is what they wanted but to me Edcamps are about discussions. Discussions where no one is the sage on the stage and you’re sitting in a circle to facilitate the discussion or you’re moving around the room. This might come from attending Edcamps where WiFi was an issue so that conversations and discussions were mandatory because the tech just wasn’t there but I think there’s more to it than that. These kinds of sessions just make me think and actively participate more and just feel like an Edcamp to me.

So, why do there still seem to be so many sessions that are “traditional” at an Edcamp? This is the question running through my brain today. Having been an Edcamp organizer for 6 different Edcamps – EdcampOC (2011), EdcampSFBay (2011-2013 though I didn’t attend in 2013), EdcampOCLA (2012), and EdcampLA (2013) – and in charge of the Session Board for 5 of those, I have been mulling over how to improve the session board building process. Even before attending EdcampPS, I had been wondering:

  • How do you get new attendees at Edcamps to propose sessions?
  • How do you involve ALL attendees in the session selection even if they don’t want to facilitate a session?
  • How do you minimize the overrun of the board from people who present all the time at traditional conferences especially because Edcamp attendees often want these people to run a session?
  • How do you make sure that vendors are not proposing sessions about their own products? This has been a problem at a few Edcamps though didn’t seem to be an issue at EdcampPS.
  • How do you help all of this to run smoothly without creating a bottleneck at the beginning of the day?

What do I think could be done to address these things? As I have thought about this since EdcampLA, here are some things that I think might work. Instead of saying the first hour is for registration & socializing, it should be turned in to the Session Board Hour where, of course people can socialize, but they should also concentrate on helping to define the day:

  • As attendees check in, they should be given a session card or a post-it note to suggest What Do You Want to Learn? This wouldn’t be posted on an actual session board with rooms and time slots but in some open space – a wall, a blank board, a table, etc. Changing the emphasis from what do you want to facilitate to what do you want to learn should encourage more participation. Attendees should also be told that their session does not have to be tech-related. Personally, my favorite sessions are usually not tech-related.
  • Attendees should also be encouraged to indicate that they would be available to facilitate (not present or lead) about a topic; this could be the topic they’re proposing or any topic that has been suggested. This is where using a printed session card might come in handy where the card has on it:
    • What do you want to learn?
    • Add your name if you are willing to facilitate this topic:
    • Voting
  • About 3/4 of the way through the hour, attendees should be encouraged to vote for their 4 favorite topics (or however many session times exist) and add themselves as facilitators if suggestions don’t have a facilitator. Organizers will use the voting to determine sessions if more sessions than slots exist or to schedule the most popular sessions at different session times.
  • As attendees are welcomed to the Edcamp and told how the day will work, a group of organizers will need to pull the suggestions into an organized session board. This is where I see problems happening because there’s a time crunch here. The welcome will only take 10-15 minutes and the organizers need to:
    • Put suggestions that are similar together
    • Decide if there are too many sessions and pick those that are most popular or combine things that aren’t quite the same but that could be put together
    • Figure out what sessions should be presented when making sure things like “Things that Suck” are in the afternoon and that the most popular choices aren’t at the same time, etc.
    • Make sure there are facilitators for all sessions
    • Make sure there are no vendors as facilitators of their own product
    • Build the actual session board – or at least the 1st session

We actually attempted something like this at EdcampSFBay in 2012 and there was definitely somewhat of a bottleneck. Part of the problem was that we didn’t have WiFi that day so the physical board became very important since some attendees couldn’t access the online board.

Having only attended California Edcamps and having been an organizer at all but one that I’ve attended, I wonder how other Edcamps are dealing with this … or if this is just me seeing a problem when there isn’t one? I’d love some feedback about this.

Have you attended an Edcamp? What did you think about how the session board was built? Did you feel that everyone had an equal say in what the sessions would be? Did you feel the sessions were different from a traditional conference?

Have you helped to organize an Edcamp? How did your session board building work? Are there things that worked great? I’d love to hear about it. What, if anything, would you change?

Dot Day & ColAR app: Adapting for the Computer Lab

When I saw the post by FableVision Learning about Augmented Reality Dots, I wanted to definitely try to incorporate this in the lab for Dot Day this year. I knew there could be a few stumbling blocks to this though because:

  • There is really no desktop space in the lab to let students color the ColAR sheet without having to move keyboards which is not convenient and in the past has lead to a few dropped keyboards with the younger grades.
  • My students really want to be ON the computers when they’re in the lab especially the younger students.
  • I have typically used Dot Day as an introduction to Tux Paint for my Kindergarten students. It’s a great introduction to using that program but the ColAR sheet is vertical and Tux Paint’s screen is horizontal.
  • While I have the ColAR app installed on my iPad, I only have my iPad available in the lab for students to use.

Not to be deterred, I decided to forge ahead with this for Kindergarten through 3rd Grade. I converted the PDF into an image so it could be used in Tux Paint and Paint.NET.

Tux Paint
The awesome thing about Tux Paint is that I can set all white areas to transparent in the PNG image I created and put this in the starter folder for Tux Paint and the students can’t color over or erase the outlines which is perfect for use with the ColAR app! The not so awesome thing about Tux Paint is that the image is sideways but my Kindergarten and 1st Grade students haven’t really minded.

ColAR Sheet in Tux Paint
My sample

Paint.NET
My 2nd & 3rd graders were introduced to Paint.NET for creating their ColAR dots. I didn’t introduce the layers features or anything complex. They are using the Fill Bucket, Paint Brush & Pencil and learning about Edit/Undo or undoing using the history window. The students were warned not to color over or erase the black outlines and they all have done really well with this so far. The one warning I didn’t make was not to fill the outside paper with black which one student did. It still works in the app but the app had a difficult time with this image.

2013DotDay-PaintNET

I try to be as green as possible in the Computer Lab which means almost no printing. Guess what? The ColAR app works pointed at the screen, too! I haven’t shown the the AR feature of the dots to the students yet. I can’t wait to see their reaction next week!
2013DotDay-PaintNET-ColAR 2013DotDay-TuxPaint-ColAR

What About 4th-8th Grade?
As part of our Dot Day celebrations, 4th-8th graders are doing an adaptation of Tricia Fuglestad’s Turn the Table on Tabloids lesson using Paint.NET to draw self-portraits and add the Newsweek magazine cover. I’m not leaving them out of the ColAR fun though. I am going to let them move their keyboards out of the way and color actual Dot Day ColAR sheets!

Edmodo, Schoology, My Big Campus – OH MY!

I am currently using Edmodo with my 4th-8th grade classes but often wonder if another Social Learning platform might be a better choice. Is it a case of the grass is greener or might another platform better meet the needs of what I’m trying to do? Do I want to try something different just because it’s a newer, shinier option or is there something it offers that what I’m using doesn’t? I don’t know the answer. I haven’t tried the different platforms with my students and don’t know that I want to have them be guinea pigs on a lot of different platforms just to see if they might be better.

What to do? During #caedchat last night a suggestion was made to start a document to compare different social learning platforms so I’ve done just that! Why these platforms? They’re the ones I’ve heard about and they have a free option for educators.

Do you use Edmodo or Schoology or My Big Campus or Haiku or Collaborize Classroom? Feel free to edit this spreadsheet to help identify the strengths (and weaknesses) of each platform so that other educators can make more informed decisions about which to choose for their students. If you are going to edit the spreadsheet, it’s best to use Chrome; I’ve noticed there are some definite display issues in other browsers.

NOTE: The ability for anyone to edit this document has been disabled. There were obvious edits made by some vendors about their own products and edits and deletions made to other information that was not true or that removed valid information. This was not the purpose of this document therefore public editing has been removed.