2016-2017 Thing 29: OER – Open Educational Resources

I understand Creative Commons pretty well and teach it to my students when applicable.  I love the idea of Open Educational Resources.  I think this is the way of the future and that we should be sharing our best work online.  This is a way to enable all people access to a great education, especially with vibrant Public and School Library spaces.

I always look for free resources and tools that I can use from someone else who has already done it.  There are great tools out there.  Usually they come from a teacher or a school who is okay with sharing their work.  I suppose it is out of principle that I refuse to pay for resources on Teacherspayteachers.com.  Or maybe I am a miser.  Either way, I think OER is the way to go.  

In the OER Commons explanation of what OER are, it says that OER are clearly labeled with a license.  In that case, many online tools may be posted online without much thought for how people are taking and using them.  These would most likely fall under Fair Use and most of the time in my experience are just a page here and there.  In OER Commons, schools can share big things like entire grade level units.  I thought the article, 5 Questions to Answer About OER Use was helpful because it emphasizes collaboration between teachers and technology specialist (media literacy teacher or librarians) to take resources from OER and redesign it so it works best in the program and school it is being used.  

Our school uses the modules available on EngageNY.com.  I had talked to my family in Connecticut who also teaches with material available on EngageNY.com.  To confirm my suspicions, that EngageNY modules are available in the OER, I visited OER Commons and searched for EngageNY.  It popped up with a Custom License.  The Custom License of EngageNY.com specifies that curricular materials that we currently supplement and enrich modules are available for free use under the Creative Commons Attributions Non-Commercial Share Alike law.  These are videos and links are available because NYSED is licensed to use these materials but NYSED is not the owner of these materials.  The license goes on to explain that anything NYSED has created, such as lesson plans and graphic organizers are available for free use.  It also emphasizes that nothing is to be used for Commercial benefit.  

EngageNY is a huge resource in the OER Commons and is having an enormous impact on the students in our district.

I went into OER Commons to search for possibilities for my lessons.  I found Project Look Sharp lesson plans to teach students about Fake News and how to be critical thinkers about the information presented to viewers.  Project Look Sharp materials are available as Share Only which means they cannot be remixed and distributed.  This makes a lot of sense when fighting a Fake News epidemic.   

While searching the STEM are of OER Commons I found Ad Access, a collection of advertisements from 1911 to 1955.  This tool could be a fun extension after studying commercials made for children in the 1980s from Project Look Sharp.  Teaching young children how to be critical thinkers in the face of information is difficult.  I like how OER Commons will allow you to log in and save favorite pages.  This is a great tool for teachers looking for access to lesson plans and ideas.


2016-2017 Thing 32: Global Connections and Collaborations

I’ve been hearing for the last couple years (since I started my position) how teachers should be striving to use technology to broaden our student’s world.  To enable them to connect globally and communicate with an online audience in an authentic way.  In many cases, fancy technology tools come into the classroom and unfortunately are not used as anything but a glorified pencil and notebook.  Which is why, I so often hear from our Technology Integration Specialist, that we need to be looking for ways to use technology to go beyond things paper and pencil can do for us, specifically connecting with those beyond our physical communities.

Recently, a teacher requested this very experience for her students.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to provide these experiences, but rather that I’ve been nervous.  I’ve skyped and facetimed several times with my own devices at home with family members, very comfortable situations for me.  However, reaching out to a stranger and asking them to connect via school computers and equipment feels unstable and scary.  I’m a shy person, so reaching out to a stranger is difficult in that aspect alone.  On top of that, I don’t know exactly how to set up a skyping experience with our desktop computers that don’t have cameras or microphones.  I have equipment that can be plugged in, but very outdated.

Anyways, when this teacher asked, it was the push I needed to step forward into global collaboration.  She wanted her students to experience a virtual field trip or to have a virtual guest speaker to study habitats.  I began searching Skype for the Classroom and while that looks like a very organized and easy to use program, it seems to book up quickly.  Many of the programs were unavailable in the time frame I needed.  From there, I began searching National Parks and sanctuaries and contacting them through the email posted on the park website.  I heard back from a Turtle Sanctuary in Costa Rica, a Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica, and from Everglades National Park.  Other places were not able to connect.

I now have the support of my principal and we are very excited to try out a skype appointment with Everglades National Park.  If all goes well, I feel that the possibilities are endless!

I have also been looking for ways to connect more classes to a broader audience on a regular basis since my post on Twitter.  I have a Twitter account set up and am going to start communicating with other schools in our district soon.  Thinking of Twitter made me want to connect with schools in other countries.  Our third grade classes are studying Italy, India, and Iraq.  I thought it would be great to have them connect with students from those countries.  I couldn’t find a way through Twitter to find schools from those countries.  I looked at the ePals website, which is organized by Cricket, the magazine company, and I think it’s just the platform I’ve been looking for.  

On ePals, I’ve connected with two schools in India and one in Italy.  Already we’ve heard about Holi, a celebration of color in India.  I’ve only set up a pen-pal exchange so far, but the website also encourages deeper sharing and collaboration.  It is a safe space where students are only accessing other students.  No one from outside is advertising or attempting to access conversations, like Twitter.  I am hoping with ePals that we can begin with short exchanges and then as I become more familiar with connecting with a global community, that we can begin collaborative projects like the Design a Robot challenge.

I love the idea of connecting professionally to other teachers while traveling abroad.  I can see the potential and hope to continue forward with technology in a way that enables and allows me to build more connections and enrich the perspectives of my students.  I read about the Fulbright Teacher Exchange… I think I’ve got a new dream!

Thing 33: eBook Creation (2016-2017)

2016-2017 Thing 33: eBook Creation

We’ve just received 5 ipads for our school and thus begins an adventure of creativity for my students!  We have played around with Aurasma and iMovie.  I thought Thing 33 would be a good way to try out the Book Creator app.  We have a snow day today so I made a very brief story about my snow day to try out some of the features.  It feels very much like a slideshow.  I already see how Book Creator will be more useful in some ways than Google Slides because you can add videos and audio.  I also like how you can publish it as an ebook to be read in ereaders.

Here is my trial of Book Creator: Snow Day

After using Book Creator, I am going to use it as a follow up for a Google Hangout with a ranger from Everglades National Park.  First grade students will design and draw a robot that can survive in Everglades National Park.  Then each child will use Book Creator to take a picture of their robot and add it to a class book that we will send to the ranger as a “Thank you!”

I then read the article Dragon Quest: A Google Slides Interactive Story. I am excited about the presentation of this story for a Choose Your Own Adventure.  My fourth grade classes are doing Choose Your Own Adventure right now and this would be a perfect way to tie in their activities with media lit.  It is such a simple way to tell a story and when Google Slides is presented as a full screen, interactive story with links enabling viewers to select their path in the story (or really select which slide they read next) the story becomes a Choose Your Own Adventure!  I’m definitely going to do this with my fourth grade!