In need of a spark of creative energy, I checked out this great post by Kathleen Morris over on The Edublogger. I found a prompt that mentioned making a blog post into a video using a tool called Lumen5. This tool uses AI to create attractive videos by pairing and animating images or GIFs with pieces of text. The text can either be copied and pasted or pulled from a link. So, for example, a student could link to a blog post and create a very cool video in just a few seconds. In fact, Lumen5 lets users add a site or blog’s RSS feed to automatically create a new video whenever a new post or article is added. You can go in and pic specific design styles, change images/GIFs, choose music, etc. as needed, but it really does a pretty amazing job automatically.
Lumen5 does require membership to use, but you can currently join for free and create unlimited videos. Paid subscriptions allow for HD rendering and removes branding (in the form of a slide at the end of each show) from videos. Paid subscriptions also allow for the creation of collaborative teams, while free accounts do not.
I dug up a recent, quickie blog post and created the following in less than 15 minutes the first time I signed on:
I have to say that I really like the potential here. Like most folks, I will admit I am more likely to watch a catchy video than read a long treatise, at times. I like how this opens up both options. One tiny improvement that would be useful is the ability to embed videos in blog posts. While they can be automatically shared to multiple social media sites, I cannot find a way to embed beyond downloading a copy, uploading it to Youtube, and embedding the video from there.
Here are a few prompts to get the creative juices flowing for your secondary students, including several related to issues plucked from recent headlines. Some are for deep thinkers, others are…well…not so much. But writing should be enjoyable, anyway!
As of 2018, student loan debt in the US stands at over $1,500,000,000,000. The average cost of a public school bachelors degree is nearing $100,000, and a private school will set a graduate back almost $200,000. Is a 4-year college degree worth the price in today’s society?
Review the most recent book you read or movie you watched.
Are there situations when it is expected that we put on a different persona than our true selves? Is this a good or bad thing?
Describe your favorite sports-related moment.
What do you think of your schedule this year? Will you be able to focus on what is most important to you? How can it be more manageable?
What life lessons can be gleaned from Napoleon Dynamite?
What is your favorite musician or group? Why do you like them?
Recently, several prominent people have faced consequences for old social media posts (e.g. James Gunn, Guardians of the Galaxy director). Should we be held accountable for our words, even words spoken or written years ago?
Helen Keller stated, “The highest result of education is tolerance.” What do you think? Why is this true or untrue?
Describe a time when a personal failure became a positive experience.
In response to the ongoing debate over NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys recently stated that anyone wanting to play for his team would “stand for the anthem, toe on the line.” Should a private business owner be allowed to enforce a policy like this one?
Should all students be required to take algebra to graduate?
Watch the video below and discuss your views on homework. Do you feel teachers assign too much? Not enough?
What changes, if any, should be made to the current school dress code?
Would you be better or worse off if you were to get rid of all of your social media accounts?
Which is more important, creativity or knowledge?
If you could go to lunch (their treat!) with anyone, past or present, who would it be and why?
Would you be open to having a small computer implanted into your body to monitor your daily activities at all times, if the device promised to detect illnesses or other threats to your health at the earliest possible moment?
Complete the following using no more than 50 words: If you want to achieve greatness…
Something I noticed today made me get all reflective…
On December 8, 2006, I wrote and shared my first blog post, something about educating parents about Web 2.0 tools. That’s a quick 372 weeks, 2603 days ago. Since then:
265 posts, an average of 1 every 9.8 days or so.
25,316 views (Half of which are possibly my mother, I’m sure.), or a little more than 10 per day (since Jun 4, 2007, actually, but close enough).
588 comments (not sure how many are my replies–I do try to respond), which is about 2.3 per post.
62 pings (other folks’ sites or blogs linking to my posts)
Visitors from all 50 states and 135 countries
True story: I once bought a t-shirt with this on it. (Pretty much gave up being cool right after college.)
So, what does this mean? (It definitely means I don’t have the most popular blog on the Web, for one thing.) Importantly, that first post on December 8th represented the first day I started building my PLN–first blog conversations, then Twitter, Google+, etc. Too many great, professional and personal conversations to count. Imagine the challenges connecting with even a fraction of those numbers of folks only 15 years ago. That post led to others and to the first reader comment (Thanks, Jeff Whipple–my co-workers still make fun of me for an over-the-top celebration of getting a comment from a stranger.), the first conversations, numerous collaborations, and genuinely close friendships. It also was the start of some healthy and productive reflection. I never liked diaries or journals. Hated ’em, in fact. Yet blogging has somehow been something that I have enjoyed and stuck with, and it has helped me grow as a person and professional. I liken it to people who talk to themselves to sort out their thoughts, only someone occasionally eavesdrops and chimes in to find out what you are talking about.
Over these 7 years, I’ve read opinion pieces saying blogging is dead or has already died. Thankfully, those writers get paid to write nonsense (I do it for free–yea!), and I look forward to doing this for the foreseeable future. I encourage every single educator to give it a shot, too. Professional reflection is a very worthwhile exercise, even if you don’t load up on comments (Don’t discount the possibility, though!). While you’re at it, get your students blogging. It is a great opportunity to apply writing skills, share with an authentic audience, and start putting together a record of their growth as students and individuals. On top of that, it is quite simply a truly pleasurable undertaking. Thanks for reading (not just you, Mom)!
Schools are popular targets of those who wish to find a scapegoat for every societal ill from a sour economy to the pitiful season the Dallas Cowboys put us through this year. I believe we are part of the problem, because we don’t do enough to shout about our successes from every rooftop in every community. While I don’t pretend all schools are equally successful, neither are they equal failures. The budget crisis looming for Texas and for its schools, in particular, has heightened my own awareness of the need to become self-promoters. I intend to devote more time than ever before in sharing the ways that our schools are using technology to engage students like never before and to give them opportunities to learn in a real way, infused with 21st century tools and skills. Our communities and leaders need to see how amazing things are happening, not just the negative, isolated events that make our newscasts.
In the spirit of this resolution, I wanted to share some of the ways that Web 2.0 technologies have had a powerful impact on our students, teachers, and schools in Birdville. It has been just 4 short years since I had the opportunity to share my vision for Web 2.0 with our district’s leadership team. It has exceeded my expectations in many ways, and is the most gratifying thing I’ve been a part of as an instructional technology specialist. It has not only made learning more relevant and engaging. It has also thrust our district into the national spotlight, as we have been cited for our progressive stance toward use of the vast Internet resources available. We have been assembling a slide show that highlights how tools such as YouTube, Glogster, Google Docs, Xtranormal, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, wikis, podcasts, Skype, and many more are being put to powerful use in the district. The show is embedded below, or is alternately viewable here. More examples will be added in the coming weeks. I hope they might provide some inspiration for teachers looking for ways to use the technologies in the curriculum.
We held our convocation last week, which focused on 21st century teaching and learning. Aside from some complaints about the length (We have been spoiled by getting released by 11:00 for a leisurely lunch in the past–this year’s went closer to noon.), I’ve heard numerous positive comments about the subject matter and productive discussions about how to turn the vision into reality. I am very optimistic that more and more students and teachers will be engaging in authentic, relevant, technology-rich classrooms this year.
I had a role in convocation this year for the first time. I was called to a planning meeting a week before the event and asked to assist. My task included creating a video with students/teachers talking about 21st century learning they had engaged in during the past year, creating a short Polleverywhere quiz about technology and society, and finding a few folks to connect to via Skype to demonstrate how educating our students is a global matter. While this was quite a set of tasks to accomplish in a week (one when students were still out on vacation), it was interesting and amazing that the last, the Skype connection, was probably the easiest. I simply reached out to educators who I had initially come to know via Twitter, asked them to share how students in their parts of the planet were learning 21st century skills, and set up the times to connect. We connected to Jeff Utecht in Bangkok, Thailand, and Sue Waters in Perth, Australia. Both were amazing (despite technical issues on my side–never fails).
Reflect on this for a moment! These are educators I have had the distinct privilege of meeting in person, but only after establishing a relationship through Twitter and Edublogs (Sue is THE go-to person at Edublogs.). A decade ago, I essentially collaborated only with the teacher next door, and my professional acquaintances were primarily limited to the educators in my building. As recently as 4 or 5 years ago, I would have not known either Sue or Jeff if I bumped into them on the street. Now, they are not only people whose ideas and insight I value, but who I can call upon on short notice and have them share their great minds with our educators, despite being separated by thousands of miles! This is the power of today’s technologies. It isn’t about electronic textbooks, interactive whiteboards, iPods, or any other device. It’s about the connections, the relationships, and the collaborations that are possible. It is about viewing the education of our students as a collaborative effort involving the entire global education community, not the teacher isolated in his room. I know I am a better educator because of my relationships with Jeff, Sue, and the hundreds of other dedicated educators I’ve connected with through Twitter, blogs, social networks, and other technologies.
If you are an educator who has never attempted to use any of these technologies, or one who has tried but not persevered, I cannot encourage you enough to jump in and begin to get connected. Twitter is a fantastic place to start, and there are numerous catalogs of educators to begin building your community (e.g. Twitter4teachers). All it takes is finding a few similar teachers to follow, engaging them in conversation, and sharing your thoughts, questions, and ideas. Blogs, education social networks on sites such as Ning are also fantastic tools for building collegial relationships.
Teaching is a noble call that suffers when we practice in isolation and flourishes when we work together, and at no time in history have we had the tools we do today that allow us to work together for the good of our children. When we take the time to learn and embrace these tools, we grow as professionals–I can testify to that wholeheartedly.
The 2008-2009 school year saw some exciting developments in the use of technology in Birdville schools, and there are increasing signs that many teachers and administrators here no longer view technology as an exciting addition, but as a critical necessity. Among other trends, the district witnessed explosive growth in the number of students enrolled in online courses. A new digital media system will make storing and retrieval of digital content faster and accessible from any Internet-connected computer. Video is gaining momentum rapidly, as more campuses add webcams and small, portable video cameras to the arsenals of teachers and students.
Web 2.0 tools also continue their steady infiltration of the day-to-day activities of students, teachers, and administrators. Our department launched a very successful program to educate administrators on a wide variety of educational technologies this year. Called Lunch and Learn, the program offered short (1 hour) introductions to technology over a gourmet lunch (usually pizza). The response was very positive, and plans are under way to continue the program next year.
The 12 Second Tech Challenge was started on a whim as an effort to encourage reluctant teachers to try new tools in short bursts. I offered the challenges (and possible prizes, such as web cams, graphics tablets, wireless presenter mice, etc.) to my own campuses, and I received excellent participation and feedback asking for more. I am hopeful that the project will be a district-wide offering next year.
Numerous Web 2.0 tools have gained a significant foothold in the teaching practices of our district campuses. Blogging and wikis continue to have a significant impact. Two campuses, for instance, established student news sites using Edublogs. Students published researched stories, conducted interviews, reported on school events, and incorporated videos of campus events. Twitter is beginning to be utilized in exciting ways. As examples, a middle school teacher (Twitter name foxworth) utilized the tool to communicate news and course information to students and parents. Several campuses, such as Birdville High School and Holiday Heights Elementary, are using Twitter to broadcast campus events and announcements to parents and the community. Ustream was used by the technology department, campuses, and several teachers to stream class and district events, training, and more. The availability of YouTube in the district let teachers and students access powerful educational videos and, even more exciting, to create and share their own work with a global audience. Communication tools, such as Skype, Dimdim, and Mebeamallowed classes to collaborate with other students in distant locations and teachers to attend training (see below) from the comfort of their classrooms.
Student creativity was encouraged through the use of online tools such as Glogster, Animoto, and VoiceThread. Online office applications began to be utilized, with tools such as Google Forms showing particular promise for conducting surveys, gathering data, assessing student progress, etc. The online quiz tool MyStudiyo gained a following among teachers who incorporated the interactive products into class websites and blogs.
The list could certainly go on, but this gives a good, general view of some of the exciting ways teachers and administrators have taken to the use of Web-based instructional tools in the district. Were I to create a “grade” for our progress, I’d give us a solid B+. Our faculties are showing tremendous creativity and enthusiasm, but the utilization of technology needs to see continued growth in the coming year. Far too many of our classrooms are still the domain of well-intended but out-dated practices, resources, and curriculums. The encouraging thing to witness is the fire that is spreading from small sparks of innovation, and the potential exists for a blaze of 21st Century teaching and learning to engulf the classrooms of our district.