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Redefining the (digital) Classroom

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Creating an Interactive Table of Contents for YouTube Videos

In the previous post I show you how to create differentiated Choose Your Own Adventure Videos using YouTube. That video is kind of long... 10:44. Perhaps you didn't need to know how to create a YouTube Channel... or maybe you wanted to skip ahead to the part on adding free music.

This post will walk you through how to use YouTube Annotations to create an interactive table of contents at the beginning of a video. This way viewers can see all the topics you'll cover and then skip to the content they're most interested in seeing without having to scrub through the timeline and potentially skipping other important parts.

Hope to see more videos come out like this - it would definitely save me a ton of time :)!

Creating Choose Your Own Adventure Instructional Videos

In other posts I've talked about Cloning the Teacher through differentiated screencasts. But what if the assessment and differentiation were automated as part of the video? Using YouTube annotations, you can embed quiz questions into the video itself and by clicking on the answer, the student is led to either a re-teach or challenge video.

This has been super helpful for my students and colleagues. While not everyone works in a district where YouTube is open to kids, families are incredibly appreciative of quality instructional content for their child to access at home. These videos are easy to create and quickly build up to a collection for you to use for years to come!

Check out this tutorial I created to help you get started :)!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Still here... and there!

Hello readers,

I'm so sorry I've been MIA for the past few months... it's been a busy winter! Some reasons I've been so bad at posting here:

  • Some of my time has gone to supporting other projects - i.e., supporting schools and districts through speaking and workshops or being on a team to help review and update the National Educational Technology Plan (NETP). (Note: If you haven't had a chance to take a look at the last update of the NETP, from 2010, you definitely should. There are a ton of great ideas and stories in this document to help you lead your digital initiatives in your school or district.)
  • The rest of my time has been in our schools, working with teachers and students to leverage devices!
However, don't worry - I haven't abandoned this blog! I will be sharing more stories about my students, our classrooms and digital learning tips. I just wanted to check in to let you know I'm still here and to thank you for reading!

Smiles :),

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Let it (OK)Go - Inspire your students

You may already be a fan of OKGo - if not, perhaps you may recall them from their iconic treadmill video from 2009. I have been a long term diehard fan of this band for many reasons .. hometown love as they're #ChiTown locals, their heartwarming start as 5th graders in camp, and most powerfully, the impact they've had on my students. In past years OKGo has become one of the most inspiring catalysts for my kids' learning. Let me tell you why.

First off, the adorable story behind how this band started... As 11 year olds, lead singer Damien Kulash and bassist Tim Norwind met at Interlochen Arts Camp. They met, fell in bro-love and kept in touch after camp, sharing mixtapes and ideas. The name of the band came from their camp art teacher, who would say to them "OK... Go!" How lovely and telling that these two children found each other in an environment where they could truly be themselves and have the space to play. As inspiring is that they chose the name of their band based on those simple two words... OK Go. Go Play. Go Explore. Go Get Messy.

Quick Meta-tangent: How often to do we as teachers simply say to our students... "OK... go!" And when we do finally release them to an activity, how free are they really to truly "Go"? What parameters have we set that may limit their "Go"? Have we set up an environment where they feel it's really "OK"? 

Ah, now we're back from that metabreak, let's get into how OKGo is inspiring my students in the here and now. Back in 2009 I remember seeing that treadmill video and thinking "wow... that's pretty cool". Then, in 2012, I saw this video from a seven year old named Audri, inspired by OKGo's This Too Shall Pass video. The incredible lesson of resilience, learning from failure and engineering inspired me to have my own students create Rube Goldberg machines.

I started by showing my students the same OKGo video that whet Audri's interest in this concept, then showed them Audri's own creation. By the end of both videos, they were positively chomping at the bit to begin constructing their own masterpieces. It was a delicious mess, with students bringing in more and more "junk" to school daily to build, refine and rebuild bigger and bigger machines. Students who were normally stymied by failure were cheering one another on each time their contraptions failed, saying to one another "remember Audri did it!" or "do it like they did in OKGo!".

From there we watched OKGo's video, Needing/Getting a glorious celebration of "found sounds" to create music. Driving a car through a musical obstacle course in the middle of the desert, the band members create the percussion to back their vocals. My students immediately set to work finding rhythms in their own school day, taking notes about sounds --- coming to me after school to share ideas for moving carts down the hall to provide bass or girls playing double dutch to add the beat.

Most recently, we explored the newest release I Won't Let You Down. This video's explosion of patterns, rates and shapes inspired my students to dig into the math of music, explore marching band patterns and wonder how to build teamwork in their classmates to accomplish something similar. As we studied the video to decide on a project, one of my students commented, "I really wonder how they all got along so well. Sometimes we can't even line up for lunch - how can we get everyone in our class to team up to do this?" We spent a good 15-20 minutes seeing if we could cooperate enough to time a jumping photo - first in the hall then moving to the classroom as we realized we needed to sit down and literally think before we jumped. So while I set out hoping they'd explore the rates, timing and math of the patterns in the video, it looks like my students are digging more deeply in to the social teamwork it would take to coordinate such a collaborative effort.

After we're done seeing where "I Won't Let You Down" takes our learning, I plan to show them The Writing's on the Wall, a wonderland of optical illusions. Awesome to teach about light, reflection, refraction.

OKGo's innovative music, and music videos have not only engaged my students in my own learning goals but also pushed them to wonder and explore ideas neither they nor I had considered before. OKGo - you may entertain millions of people with your snappy beats but you're making a real difference in the lives of your students by daring to be different and thinking outside of the box. Thank you innovating... and to your Interlochen Art Teacher -- thank you for saying "OK... Go". 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

My TEDxTalk: Sorry Sir Robinson... I think I killed creativity

On September 20, 2014, I was fortunate to give a TEDxTalk. The title was "Power to the Pupil" but in retrospect, I wish I'd named it "Sorry Sir Robinson... I think I killed creativity." 

This talk is about what to do once you become inspired to embrace student agency, creativity and exploration in the classroom... but you realize that your students have already become rubric zombies. It's about wondering - what do I do now? Am I too late? 

It's about how to help your students rediscover wonder, rediscover playtime. It's not just about the need for classrooms to become more student centered or joyful... but about how to take that first step to implement these ideas. It's eighteen minutes, and I hope you enjoy it.