Your Best Idea X 100

When I was at the 2013 Apple ADE institute in Bali we all began work on a “One Best Thing” iBook (link launches iTunes). At the time I didn’t really grasp the idea and sort of passed it off as a bit trivial. Nevertheless I was excited about some collaborative projects I had been doing in my classroom so I decided to focus on that as my OBT.

One Best things screen shotQuite a bit of time passed and I didn’t hear anything from Apple. My thoughts on the project joined all the other half baked plans and ideas I have had but never seen to fruition that now reside out in the ether somewhere. Low and behold months and months later I get an email from Apple letting me know they are about to unveil the project. My book was chosen as one of the 100 “One Best Thing” iBooks. All the books were created using Apple’s iBooksAuthor software which is actually a very powerful yet relatively simple app to use. If you are new to iBooks I recommend seeking out some tips and tricks before you begin a new project in earnest. There are definitely some time saving tips and tricks that will make your life a lot easier.

I finally got around to spending some time looking over some of the other titles in the One Best Thing series and I was blown away with the quality and breadth of topics. All these books center on classroom practice and how to use technology in fun, innovative, and meaningful ways. I kept finding myself saying, “Heck Yeah!.. Sweet!… Awesome!. If you find yourself with a moment why not head over and check them out. I almost guarantee you’ll find some nuggets to enjoy.

If you like, you can check out my book, Connecting Classrooms: Activities to Promote Global Collaboration“.

As always any feedback is welcome!

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Back in the US…S…S…A

My family and I have relocated back to the good ole USA. I’ve enrolled in an educational leadership and technology PhD program at the University of Kentucky here in Lexington, KY. So far I really like it. I’ve thought about working towards a PhD for quite a while but hadn’t found the program or the people that I felt were a good fit. I had the opportunity to work with Dr. John Nash and Dr. Jayson Richardson this past year when they came to work with the school I was teaching at in New Delhi. I was very impressed with how knowledgable and professional they were and at the same time super approachable. I also had the opportunity to meet Dr. Justin Bathon last year while I was in Singapore helping out with the Learning2.013 conference being held at UWCSEA. After only being here for a short time I knew that I made the right choice and I am in the right place.

I’m not going to lie and say it’s been easy though. It’s been one of the bigger shifts we’ve been through. We are used to moving to a new country and getting set up but this move has had some big differences. First off, every time we have moved in the past it has been because we had been offered jobs at a school and we were going to go to work there. When we moved to Lexington my wife didn’t have a job and I am working part time as a graduate assistant. My wife worked her butt off to find a job teaching at a public school in Lexington. What was a bit frustrating for her is that she has been working at great schools with great people for the last 10+ years but her international experience doesn’t really translate well to people here. It’s almost like starting over which can feel a bit frustrating to a veteran teacher of 15 years with a masters degree in school counseling. Also we’ve always had our kids with us at the same school or at home with a nanny. It’s been a shift sending them off to school each day and not really knowing a ton about what goes on. The channels and amount of communication between school and home is quite different than what we are used to. We’re getting ourselves up to speed and overall feeling good about it.

Our kids are overall happy about things. It is quite different from what they are used to but they are masters at adapting to new environments. One is in private day care and the other is in 2nd grade at a neighborhood public school. I have some issues with some things that I see happening (or not happening) at school but I am trying to be patient and go with the flow. I have a lot to learn about how public education works here in Kentucky and more specifically Fayette County public schools. The teachers seem to be very dedicated and truly caring people which I feel very lucky about.

I am excited that my GA focus is working with the UK Next Generation Leadership Academy. Through the academy UK has been able to work with schools and districts here in Kentucky to help kick off transformative change. Working together an entry point is identified and a reform project is developed and implemented. It’s nice to be fighting the good fight and positively affecting education and kids in a tangible way.

For the last ten years I have been focusing pretty heavily on international schools as that’s where I have been living and working. Now that I’m back in the states I’ll be sharing more of my thoughts on what I see happening in education and schools here in the US. I’ll still be keeping an ear to the ground on what’s happening internationally but I’ll be paying more attention to what’s shaking stateside than I have in the past. I hope to continue to look at what awesome things are happening in classrooms and how teachers and students can help each other do amazing things.

Random… rambling post but I just needed to get something out!

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Full Tilt Into Design Thinking

Getting our ideas (many!) on the wall as part of the Design Thinking process.

Getting our ideas (many!) on the wall as part of the Design Thinking process.

This past week I was lucky enough to participate in four days of Design Thinking workshops given by the University of Kentucky DLab (ukydlab) director John Nash. In addition to myself, the people who participated in these four days were; Stacy Stephens (curriculum coordinator), Jessica Krueger (assistant curriculum coordinator), Dave Beaty (tech director), Maureen Cullen (HS Tech Coordinator), Gary Coyle (ES tech coordinator), Phil Rynearson (ES tech integrator), Ruchira Kochar (ES tech integrator) and Robyn Ibrahim(ES curriculum). We spent the first day learning about the Design Thinking philosophy and structure. We explored this structure with a hands on exercise and tried to create a better wallet for our partner. I have to say this was right up my alley. Two key elements of Design Thinking that I connected with immediately were the human centered approach and the onus on action.

Trying to design a better wallet.

Trying to design a better wallet.

The second day we spent using the Design Thinking process to look at creating a model for staff professional development around technology. We were going full tilt for the entire the second day. By the end of the day our brains were fried, but at the same time our spirits and motivation were high. I think this speaks not only to the exceptional facilitation by John Nash, but also the engaging and relevant nature of using the Design Thinking approach.

The third day we were lucky enough to have one of our stellar teachers come to work with us. She brought to the table something she was grappling with in her classroom. As we worked through the day using the Design Thinking process we broke out to interview some of the teacher’s former and current students.(remember the human centered nature) This was so valuable on so many levels. It reminded me that sometimes we educators get so wrapped up in content and standards that we forget about the human element of teaching. I was also reminded that sometimes we need to slow down and take this into account.(Because it’s so important!)

Sharing a prototype.

Sharing a prototype.

As we moved into the afternoon we had come up with some really cool ideas. One stumbling block was that we kept falling into the trap of trying to make sure our ideas were bulletproof. (Which I think is an easy trap for educators to fall into.) I had to keep reminding myself that this was merely a prototype and that once we implemented it we would gather more feedback from the people it affected to tweak and improve as we learned more.

As you may have noticed I have used “we” quite a bit in this post. That’s because Design Thinking involves collaboration. John Nash even says it requires “radical collaboration”. The process followed more of a “yes and” rather than a “no but” approach. If you know me at all you know that I am a big fan of collaboration so this is a natural fit for my working style.

If only it ended there! We still had one more day to work with John and to learn more about Design Thinking. This time we brought in 20 middle and high school students! The first challenge we explored was for them to redesign their partners morning routine. This involved building a prototype of whatever tool they were going to use to help create this new and improved routine.

I feel like I’ve been blabbering away long enough so take a moment to enjoy some Vine’s that hopefully will give you some insight into what we did!

The kids getting some of their ideas on paper.

John Nash explaining what the students had to work with to build their prototype.

The kids working feverishly on their prototypes.

The kids all explained how their prototypes would improve their partners routine.

All in all I was super pumped on the four days we spent learning about Design Thinking. This week some grade 6 teachers approached me and asked if I would help facilitate a Design Challenge around service learning projects. I’m very excited to give this a go. I’m a little anxious about diving into this for the first time on my own but John Nash left us with so many top notch resources and we were so heavily immersed in the process for four solid days that I’m pretty confident the day will prove successful.

Have you used Design thinking at your school and/or in your classroom? If so what nuggets of insight can you share?

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Stop Motion Remix Examples

My kindergarten students made a stop motion movie that they shared with the world (which you can read about here). They asked people to take the video that they had made and to create their own version, or remix, and share it back with them. We had a very good response with people sharing examples and resources for creating stop motion movies. If you are interested in making a stop motion movie definitely check out the comments to my previous post as people have shared a number of stellar resources.

We have gotten a couple versions that I wanted to share with you.

Here is a great version from Mr. Hodgson a sixth grade teacher in Southampton, Massachusetts called “Escape from the Dark Side: The Cupcake Thief Remix”.

Here is another awesome version made by Miss Pana’s kindergarten class at ISS International School in Singapore.

Definitely check out her blog for great ideas and examples of the stellar things she and her kindergarteners are doing in their classroom.

Here is a very hip and musically eclectic version by a student named Chris at Korea International School Jeju campus. Definitely watch to the end…

Here is a version made by Chad Sansing a humanities teacher in Central Virginia called “Are You my StarWars?”

Here is the version my kinder students came up with.

We have heard from a few more classes that they are working on creating a version of their own. I will share more as they come!

I also wanted to mention again the series by Kirby Ferguson called “Everything Is a Remix“. You can check out his website to learn about the work he is doing.

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Building Collaborative eBooks on an iPad via DropBox and Book Creator App

Right now I’m lucky enough to be collaborating with the amazing educators, Michelle Hiebert and Jason Graham. They’ve invited my class to work on creating a collaborative book. The idea is for one class to write a bit and then pass it on to the next class who in turn adds a bit and then passes it on etc. We’ve decided to use the Book Creator app on the iPad to create our book. My kinder students have had success in creating books with this simple to use app. We have decided to use DropBox as a way to share the book back and forth with each other. (I recently learned this process from @KLirenman, another awesome educator.) What I thought I’d do is provide a simple how-to on this process.

First thing you need is to have the Book Creator and the DropBox app installed on your iPad.  (You will also need a DropBox account, but don’t worry it’s a free cloud based storage app that pretty slick.) Once you have these two things you are all set!

First, someone needs to create a new book in Book Creator.

Tap the “+” box to create a new book.

Next you will be asked to choose a book shape (portait, square, & landscape) this is a personal preference and totally up to you. After you have chosen your book shape you’re ready to start creating your book! To start adding text, audio, and images simply tap the “+” icon in the upper right hand corner as seen in this picture.

Tap “+” to add text, audio and images.

Take some time to play around with the “i” button as that allows you to change font type/size, page color, alignment as well as some other editing features. Once you are at the point you want to send the book to DropBox you can do it one of two ways. You can either do it from the book view screen or from within the book itself. It is my experience that either way is pretty much the same. The below screenshots were taken when I shared the book while I had that particular book open. If you have the book you wish to share open go to the upper right hand corner and look for the box with an arrow coming out the top . This will allow you to open/send this file in DropBox where you can then share with other classes/people.

Click “Open in DropBox” blue and white icon.

After you click on the DropBox icon you you will be taken to the DropBox app where you will be prompted to “Save to DropBox”.

Save to your DropBox.

You are almost done! From here you just need to share this with whomever you are working with. As you can see in the image below you must choose the file you wish to share (right side) and then choose to share it via our friend the square with an arrow poking out of his head icon.

Choose the book you wish to share and choose to share it via email.

Now you have officially shared your book with another person/class. You are on your way to completing a collaborative project that will undoubtedly bring joy and learning to you and your students. The benefits will be far reaching and vastly surpass the creation of book itself.

The person on the other end must simply open DropBox on their iPad and select the book from the list of DropBox items on the left hand side. Once they select the book they must then look to the upper right and choose the blue and white icon of the arrow pointing down into a little tray. As you can see the screen is very similar as to when you shared the book.

Choose to “Open in Book Creator”.

They must simply choose to “Open in Book Creator”. Once they have done this they will automatically be taken to the Book Creator app where they can add/edit the book. They simply follow the steps above to share the book again!

Now of coures this is not the only way to do such a project but it’s a process that we can all commit to. Since the kids can drive an iPad this process provides the possibility to puts the kids in the drivers seat every step of the way. I’m excited to see what the kids come up with!

Do you think this type of project is something worthwhile? What other ways have you found success in doing similar projects?


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