Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Middle School Students Create Hollywood Magic

Each year, Amy Becicka and Kearce Lindner have the 6th grade students create a commercial as an extension of their reading/writing project to advertise a new, fictional athletic line created by Jackie Joyner-Kersee called JJK Fit.  In the past, students have filmed their project outside or in echo-filled room or gym that would pick up background noise, which tended to affect the audio quality.  Also, students were limited in the choice of locations around the school where they could film their commercial and still make their commercial look realistic.  

This year, they tapped into some technology that is often used in movies or weather reports to create a new location layer behind the actors called green screen.  Green screen technology may seem like Hollywood magic, but the technology behind the idea has greatly advanced and become pretty easy to use with a simple app.  

Tools Needed:
Green Background- cloth, paper, anything ✔ (Solon has a cloth green screen & stand that was purchased for the district through a Solon Education Foundation Grant in 2014)
Green Screen by DoInk App ✔
Willing students who want to go anywhere in the world and not leave the school building ✔✔✔

The set-up is pretty easy, students filmed their commercial in a quiet room (library or empty classroom), in front of a green screen and then found copyright-free images, from places like Pixabay or Grant Wood AEA online resources, to serve as a backdrop for the commercial.  This gave the students endless possibilities for the settings of their commercials.  Also, since they were filming the commercial on a “film set” in a quiet room, this improved the audio quality of the videos. 

The Green Screen by DoInk app is very user friendly for students and offers basic editing options to enhance the quality of their videos. The one limitation that students had to realize is that they only could work within the space of the green backdrop and if there were several students on the screen at once, this could be difficult. Also, middle school students can be quite tall and they would have to restructure their shot in order to get their head-to-toe shot in the frame. One of the editing options DoInk offers is a masking feature to magically "erase" anything outside of the green frame that you do not want to be shown in the main film.  

The students projects turned out great! Check them out….

This group was able to have outside backgrounds, but good quality audio.  
They showcased a trick of the eye with moving backgrounds.

This group really stepped out of the school environment and used a variety of different locations and settings to enhance their video.  

Echoing gym?  
Not a problem for this group who blended live and 
green screen videos together for their project.

Ask Amy or Kearce about their experience with green screen to learn more about how you can bring it into your classroom. Miranda Kral and myself offered extra assistance for those first few days of getting students going with the project. Feel free to contact either of us to help you get started with your green screen project.

-Contribution from Amber Bridge, Technology Consultant from Grant Wood AEA.  Want to share what's going on in your classroom or collaborate me on an upcoming project?  Feel free to
email me

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Student Portfolios and Blogs all in One Place with SeeSaw

As educators, we juggle a lot of things.  Student learning, student needs, classroom management, creating an engaging learning environment, as well as including the parents in on what’s going on with their children.  As technology has made its way into the classroom, online journals or blogs have become a great outlet to share what is going on with your classroom.  Technology has also made strides with ways to organize student work through online portfolios.  All of these advancements are great and provide an open door for parents to be able to check into these places to see what their students are doing at school.  But, it has been separate places to navigate.  One website for a blog and another for the student work and unless parents subscribed to notifications or check everyday, they would not know when it has been updated.

Maria Schroeder and Jan Johnson have begun to use a new, free product that was created this past summer that combines blogs, portfolios and brings parents into the mix called SeeSaw.  I was able to talk with Mrs. Schroeder about how it has impacted her classroom.

SeeSaw is an easy program to use and manage for students and teachers because everything is in one program, one place for teachers, students and parents to access.  It works with multiple types of devices as students can upload projects to their account using an iPad or a computer.  They can upload links from projects they have created in Google Drive.

Or they can upload photos or video reflections of their learning.

Mrs. Schroeder says that the video option is very powerful.  Students can capture parts of their learning in a subject and then reflect on the process.  This creates a very real world experience for her students as a big part of sharing learning online involves video and reflection through blogs.  The video option can also be very helpful for students who may struggle with typing.

As SeeSaw collects the students’ work, it creates a natural online portfolio to watch the students’ growth throughout the year.  As students upload their work, they simply choose the work file they want it to go into, which makes it easy to find artifacts related to the different subjects.  

SeeSaw turns learning a social experience as well.  Users can like or comment on each other’s work within the program.  

Teachers can grade student work within SeeSaw and even leave audio recordings for students to hear.

This biggest impact that Mrs. Schroeder has seen is the increase in parental involvement.  Parents can access SeeSaw directly on their phone and SeeSaw will notify parents directly when their child has uploaded new learning, which is very convenient for parents access and know what their students are learning about in school.  This is definitely a great benefit for teachers because this takes one thing off of a teacher’s workload - woohoo

Stop in and ask Mrs. Schroeder more about how she integrates it into her classroom and what she typically has her students upload to SeeSaw.

-Contribution from Amber Bridge, Technology Consultant from Grant Wood AEA.  Want to share what's going on in your classroom or collaborate me on an upcoming project?  Feel free to email me

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Story Telling in Math Class Stretches Student Creativity

Storytelling can be a great way to empower a student’s voice and clarify students’ understanding of different topics, even in math class. Wait, do you mean story problems? Nope - storytelling in Math Class.  I was able to work recently with Solon Middle School Math Teacher, Nancy Trow, and Instructional Coach, Julie Smith, on an idea that Mrs. Trow created for her students by having them create children’s books over middle school math concepts.

One of the driving forces of the success of this project was student choice.  Students were allowed to choose what story they wanted to tell and how they were going to tell it.  Students had the options of creating a hand-drawn children’s book or an electronic book.

For students who chose to create an electronic book, they had even more choices to make: Did they want to start with a blank slate?  Or did they want to allow artwork to guide their story?

For those that chose to start with a blank slate, they created their books using Google Slides.  Google Slides may get stuck with the wrap of being PowerPoint for Google, but it can do so much more.  Under File -> Page Setup, you can choose a custom size to be able to print the book on normal paper.

Using Google Slides, it gives students a blank template to incorporate copyright-free pictures of their own choice, create layers with the pictures, and upload photos of their own to assist in telling their story.

For students, who let artwork guide their story, they used a website called Storybird.  Storybird houses collections created by different artists.  A student chooses a collection to work with and organizes the photos and adds in text to help their story come alive.  

Just check out a few examples of the students’ creations.

The student's creativity flourished connecting Unicorn horns to triangle angles using Google Slides.


Getting inspired by art to help tell their stories with Storybird.


And creating their own original designs with some assistance from Comic Life.

-Contribution from Amber Bridge, Technology Consultant from Grant Wood AEA.  Want to share what's going on in your classroom or collaborate me on an upcoming project?  Feel free to email me

Friday, March 25, 2016

Watch Your Step! Spheros in Action

Around lunch time in the library at Lakeview, you may spot a white ball whizzing by you on the floor.  No, the students haven’t organized an indoor baseball game.  4th grade students are learning with robots called Spheros.  Spheros are a tough, spherical robot that can be controlled and coded to drive around and change colors using different apps on the iPad.

On the day that I visited, students were using an app called Drive and Draw.  It appears deceptively simple, draw a path or shape on the iPad and then hit play and the robot travels in the drawn path.  However, on the app surface, there is a grid.  Students were testing their math estimation and measurement skills by determining how far each grid square is in “real life.”  Once students have determined the distance, they design an obstacle course using common objects around the library, including books, chairs to see if they can draw their Sphero successfully through the course.  The students showcased their imaginations and innovation skills to rethink purposes to common objects and applied their math estimation skills in a whole new way.  

Check out their creativity below!

-Contribution from Amber Bridge, Technology Consultant from Grant Wood AEA.  Want to share what's going on in your classroom or collaborate me on an upcoming project?  Feel free to email me.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Make it Visual with Infographics

Nonfiction writing is such an important skill for students to work on, but it might not always be their favorite writing style.  There are many ways to build up students for nonfiction writing, one being, Make it Visual. Infographics combines text, images, and data and clearly and concisely creating a visual story. Infographics can be a great support of nonfiction writing because it asks students to rethink the information and tap into not only informational literacies, but also visual and technology literacies, fostering a creative space for students.  I recently had the opportunity to collaborate with 6th grade teachers, Kearce Linder and Julie Breza, and the 6th grade students at Solon Middle School to create infographics.   

Students used an infographic tool called Piktochart.  Piktochart is great because it logs in with Google, it has a simple drag and drop interface, and gives students immediate access within the program to great clip art, fonts, and word and photo art simplifying the process for students.

The students were taking their student-chosen nonfiction writing assignment and translating it into an infographics.  Ms. Linder and Mrs. Breza invited me into their classrooms to help introduce their students to Piktochart.  I was able to give students an overview of the program and students were able to explore the potential of this tool.
As a wrap up from this project, Kearce Linder and I discussed her thoughts on incorporating infographics into nonfiction writing.

As the teacher, like about this project?
As a teacher, I found it very powerful that students were able to have creative control over how they wanted to represent their information. Some students are more comfortable with expressing their thoughts through text, some are better with visual or graphic representations. This project allowed students to take what they learned through their writing projects and present that information in a way that played to their strengths. It was fun to watch students explore a tool they hadn’t used before. They were excited, which had me excited!

What did your students gain from creating infographics?
The most important thing that I think students took away from working on their infographics was another tool to have in their toolbox. We teach them how to use programs like Powerpoint and Prezi, and now they have another tool to reach for when they are asked to present something.
The other thing that I think students were able to do was find a new purpose for summarizing information. Because they were drawing information from a five paragraph essay and condensing it into an infographic, they had to select what information was the most valuable and important to their topics. Asking them to visually represent this information gave it purpose and made the act of summarizing applicable to a real life situation.

What do you think is the greatest strength of using infographics in the classroom with students?
The greatest strength of using infographics in my classroom was finding a new, innovative project to get kids excited about writing for an informational purpose. Sometimes students have a hard time seeing the value in learning to do research - or as we like to call them “I wonder”- projects. By using infographics, which is an emerging digital industry, students are given a purpose for which they are researching and writing. Students like to create and like to experiment with graphics and like to read a text that is visually pleasing. An infographic incorporates all of these aspects to increase student motivation.

-Contribution from Amber Bridge, Technology Consultant from Grant Wood AEA. Want to share what's going on in your classroom or collaborate me on an upcoming project? Feel free to email me.

Friday, February 19, 2016

What will you look like 100 years?

Aging is a concept that can be really hard to wrap your mind around, especially for the youngest students in the Solon District.  To help celebrate the 100th day of school and address this topic, Laurie Stinocher, Begindergarten teacher, had the students tap into a great tech tool to explore aging.

Mrs. Stinocher used an app called Aging Booth to transform photos of her students instantly into an much older version of themselves.  

Their older version photos created so many great conversations. They had fun with the photos by guessing who with the other students' photographs.  

Through this topic, students were also able to tap into literacy activities. They wrote about 100 wishes that they had, activities they thought they'd be doing when they were 100 years old. It was a great opportunity for the 5 year-old students to practice sentence writing and tap into their creative drawing skills to help them create a book about their 100 year-old self.

Mrs. Stinocher used the Aging Booth app on her phone to take the transformative photos of her students. The app used to allow a way to email the photos to her email account, but got rid of that feature since the last time she used the app. Since she had an iPhone and a Mac computer, she was able to use a feature called Airdrop to send the photos directly from her phone to her computer. It's easy to use, just make sure that you are on the same wifi network. Choose the photo you want to send through your camera roll, then choose the share with Airdrop feature and within seconds it will appear in the corner of your computer and show that it is sending the photo to your downloads. You can send multiple pictures or videos as well through Airdrop. It's a great feature because it doesn't require you to connect your devices through any cords!

-Contribution from Amber Bridge, Technology Consultant from Grant Wood AEA. Want to share what's going on in your classroom or collaborate me on an upcoming project? Feel free to email me.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Connecting Your Class Through Augmented Reality

There are so many moments in a school day where students show the best side of themselves.  And even with any best educator’s efforts of sharing and celebrating what happened that day with parents, it’s not the same as being there.  There are a few solutions to this problem that 4th grade teacher, Jan Johnson, has been working on to help share what is going on in her classroom. 

One way is an augmented reality app called Aurasma.  Augmented reality uses a type of technology that creates a computerized layer over any common object.  Using the app, the common layer comes to life revealing what was hidden there.   

Check out how Aurasma works in a variety of different ways.

During a recent unit on biographies, Mrs. Johnson had her students record themselves sharing the biographies that they wrote.  This was not only a great way to share with parents what students are studying, it also gave the students fluency practice, as well creating a record of their reading skills.  This also gave students an opportunity to publish their work and practice presenting to an online audience.

So you may be wondering how this worked?  Aurasma uses the different stages of the project to create layers to make the augmented reality work.  The top layer, the students created a video themselves reading their biography.  Then, they printed a picture of the person who they were studying their life’s history.  They used this image as the trigger image, which serves as the bottom layer.   When you hold the app on top of the trigger image, the video of the student biographer pops up sharing the story of the person.  Parents, grandparents, and other family members living anywhere can view the recording of the student by using the trigger image, even by viewing it on a computer.  Mrs. Johnson shared the Aurasma through an online student portfolio system called SeeSaw.

Curious as to how to get this all to work?  Check out next week’s blog post where we walk through how you can get Aurasma set-up in your classroom.

-Contribution from Amber Bridge, Grant Wood AEA Technology Consultant. Want to share what is going on in your class or collaborate on a technology project? Feel free to contact me.