17/18 Media Skills

I feel like most of the things I’ve worked on this year for Cool Tools have somehow revolved around creating visuals for sharing information.  It is an important skill in today’s world and seems to be the prevailing form of communication especially with social media platforms.  I want to give my students the opportunity to share about what they are learning in a language that is most familiar to them as digital natives. Photo editing, gifs, and memes are some of the ways I could provide these opportunities.

I love the article by Meredith Akers, “Using gifs for Learning.” She is an assistant principal and her blog focuses on using technology with elementary aged students.  This helps me enormously because I feel like half of what I do is wade through tools and sites that are just beyond or inappropriate for elementary aged students.  I used the site https://andtheniwaslike.co/ to create a gif of my pug.  It was fun once I got myself out of the screen. 

I have an idea to have my students recreate the Harold and the Purple Crayon books by Crockett Johnson by photoshopping them into a black background and allowing them to draw the scene just like Harold does with his crayon.  Before doing this I have to play with some photoshopping apps and I found two that erase the background.  One was Magic Eraser and the other is just Background Eraser.  I liked Background Eraser better because it doesn’t erase directly under your fingertip and you can see the little dot follow your finger.  So it makes for more precise editing.  I did this test run with my son.

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(Moon image from wallpaperput.com)

I have used Tagxedo and Wordle before and I plan to put those to use again soon.  I enjoyed Stencil and can see that coming in handy in the future.  I also thought snagit would be a great google chrome extension to have on our chromebooks.  Pixlr is perhaps a little advanced for elementary school and it takes a lot of trial and error for me to figure out something like what I did with my son above.

It is a continued goal of mine to get more technology in action at school.  Meredith Akers has great ideas and this opportunity to explore with photo editing and gif creation was great.  Thank you!!


17/18 News Literacy

The other day I was watching one of my favorite shows, Amazing Race, and I noticed a Google Pixel 2 ad that was playing every commercial break.  I’m so good at tuning out commercials, it probably took 3 or 4 times before I noticed there is a media literacy message in it!  The commercial ends with, “There’s a deeper story behind every picture.  Question your lens.”  I think it will take a cultural shift to help people become aware of the influence of fake news in their lives.  Like the TedEd video by Damon Brown, “How to Choose Your News,” he points out that even older siblings may not be aware of how much information we are faced with daily and that we need to know “how to read the news.” If mainstream pop culture and media begin teaching through advertising, it could really get the ball rolling.

I wrote down several words from Glossary: The Language of News Literacy, from the Digital Resource Center, which listed several key vocabulary words surrounding news literacy.  In order to give my students some focus, at the elementary level, I’ve selected a few to teach, including: accountability, bias, context, direct evidence, entertainment, and fairness/balance.  I also took note of what News is supposed to be – subjected to journalistic process of verification and an individual or organization is directly accountable.  And also that reliable information has verification, independence, and accountability.  Some of these messages were repeated over and over as I clicked on the articles in News Literacy.

The Factitious game by JoLT and AU Game Lab would be great for high school students and I thought my elementary teaching colleagues would benefit from this activity during a staff meeting.  It is fun and really makes players think about what makes an article real or fake and how difficult it can be to distinguish between the two.

I will definitely begin using Newsela and Newseum ED.  I had never visited those sites before and they will be useful tools for collecting and sharing articles with students.  Newseum ED also includes some great lesson plans for the elementary level.  Lessons for elementary students on fake news are difficult to find.  Last year I found this Scholastic lesson plan which was perfect for elementary.  Students had to figure out which article was real and which was fake.  From there I had my fifth graders break into two groups to write their own articles.  One group wrote a fake article and the other group wrote a true article.

This year I am going to incorporate photo editing tools and begin the process of teaching students how easily photos can be manipulated.  I will also use BrainPop. While exploring the resources for this lesson, I decided to check BrainPop for media literacy and there is a great video for elementary students about media literacy.  It covers bias and point of view, looking for a motive, and the fact that we are surrounded by media all of the time.  It’s a great introduction for elementary students and stays in a safe territory.

While I haven’t put together a plan based on this lesson.  It is a work in progress.  I emphasize questioning motives all the time.  With copyright and plagiarism lessons, I try to get students to think about who’s getting the credit and who’s getting paid.  While learning about databases and the WWW, I emphasize the advertisements showing up all over the free articles on the World Wide Web and again we talk about motives and who’s getting paid.  I am hoping that by covering this concepts throughout the year, by the time students work on the fake news activity, they’ll be thinking more critically about information.

Thing 43: Google Drawings (17/18)

I have been trying to branch out from the Google Suite but this is one tool I haven’t used yet.  I really appreciate all the ways it works well with other tools in the suite and I can see how it’ll be great for future projects.

I read Tony Vincent’s article Get Creative with Google Drawings at https://learninginhand.com/godraw/.  Tony Vincent is great at providing numerous examples and tools for teachers to modify and apply right away.  I explored Eric Curtis’ charts and appreciated Vincent’s note that Curtis shares his work to Creative Commons.  This is great to know and as an aside, I feel like Creative Commons and appropriate use information is becoming easier to find and use.  The Google Images search feature in Google Drawings gives a little information about using images fairly.

I also tried the Noun Project.  Another tool that is deliberately set up for people to think about whether attribution needs to be given.  I really like this tool.  If you pay for the tool, you have access to all icons without needing to give attribution.  If you don’t pay for it, you have to give attribution, but the site makes it incredibly easy.  As in, you don’t actually have to do anything, but attribution is attached to the icon you’ve downloaded, as you can see in the flower image below.


The site explains, “To provide proper credit, use the embedded credit already in the icon you downloaded, or you can copy the attribution text and add it to your citations, about page, or place in which you would credit work you did not create.”  Just by using this site people will be more aware of copyright infringement and Creative Commons.

I also tried Auto Draw.  I didn’t have much luck.  Personally, I can see more use for my students using the Noun Project just because in elementary school drawing skills may not be refined enough to use this website effectively.  It is a fun website to use though!  Below you can see my attempt to draw a tree.  The site suggested spiders first, then the Mona Lisa, then I had a few Eiffel Towers to choose from, and finally grass.

autodraw 2_7_2018autodraw 2_7_2018

I wanted to see if Google Drawing would be an option for our upcoming infograph project.  We’re creating infographs on Air Pollution to participate in a contest with our ePals in India.  Another one of my favorite projects initiated from my participation in Cool Tools!

air pollution-1

While building this infograph, I learned how to crop images into shapes using the mask feature.  I was able to make the fruit and vegetable heart that way.  The icons are from the Noun Project.

Google Drawings definitely gives my students more options.  We need options when we don’t have enough computers or iPads to go around for a class.  This will give students more choices and enable them to work together from separate computers.  I would recommend Google Drawings as a great tool for teachers!



Thing 18: Infographics and Data Visualization (17/18)

After doing my last post on Annual Report, being impressed by Tony Vincent’s infograph from App-palooza, and attempting to make a newsletter, I realized I needed to do Thing 18: Infographics and Data Visualization.  We’re beyond the age of power point and slide shows.  People want to look at something quickly and be informed.  Infographics need to be informative, easy to read, and visually beautiful.

So I read The Anatomy of an Infographic by Sneh Roy, Producing Info Pics by Tony Vincent, Infographics Lie: Here’s How to Spot the B.S. by Randy Olson, and I watched the Ted Ex talk by David McCandless and Infographics as a Creative Assessment by Kathy Schrock.

Many of the articles and videos covered similar concepts.  Infographics must be visually stimulating with accurate and meaningful content.  David McCandless mentioned that he was self-taught in the art of design literacy, mostly because there are so many great examples to study and learn from.  Both David McCandless and Randy Olson point out that it’s important to read infographics for accuracy.  Just as with Fake News, consumers need to check the source, read the labels carefully, and be aware that we tend to trust images more than text.


I wrote down a list of apps and websites to try with my students.  I am thinking of many ways my students can begin creating infographics or at least using design literacy tools in order to make book summaries, valentine cards for ePals, or as in my example below, to highlight the benefits of a database.  I can see the application for design literacy skills in nearly every lesson moving forward.

database awesomeness.png

Fourth and fifth grades will be moving into comparing databases with searching the world wide web.  I will use this infographic to introduce databases and also to model what I would like them to accomplish in their own creation of an infographic using the app phonto.


Thing 32: Annual Reports – Make Them Matter (17/18)

Our amazing middle school librarian, Rebecca Ekstrom, does quarterly and annual reports for her library.  This is my third year in our district and she recently approached our elementary team about joining her in this annual reports initiative.  I’ve seen a few annual reports and worked on my own for coursework or internships, but I have yet to do one in my current district.  I like the clear message in several of the articles included for Thing 32, keep annual reports brief and visually stimulating and relevant to student impact.

The Blue Skunk Blog by Doug Johnson had a couple articles to this point.  I started with 7 Tips for Making Your Principal Your Ally.  His list of tips are great.  Most importantly, I think creating an annual report for my principal and staff will help inform those I work with and create an ally out of not only my principal but my staff as well.  I found a comment on the Teen Services Underground blog by Sereena Hamm about a monthly newspaper called “The Toilet Paper,” which is installed on bathroom doors for light and easy bathroom reading.  While entertaining people and being humorous doesn’t come naturally to me, I think something like this could be enormously valuable.

Library Girl’s School Library Annual Reports: Connecting the Dots Between Your Library and Student Learning, started out by saying, “Assuming others know what you do is silly,” which is true, but I guess I’ve been doing a lot of assuming.  When I started in my position, teachers were required to accompany their class to media lit.  This was a sore issue for teachers and a practice put in place before I arrived and I’m afraid resulted in some bad blood between teachers and the library.  Now, teachers are not required to be there during media lit. and there really is no reason they would know what is happening in the library.  So… it would be a great time to start newsletters!

The most important message I read while reading through the articles is to make sure newsletters and reports focus on students.  Doug Johnson wrote, “the alignment of our “it” to their “it,”” referring to the goals of librarians and administrators in terms of student success as the most important focus.  And Jennifer LaGarde, aka Library Girl, wrote that “Our work doesn’t matter if it doesn’t impact students.”  It’s clear what my focus will be!

I remembered Tony Vincent’s infographic in iPad as the Teacher’s Pet and want to try using pages to create the initial workings of a newsletter.  I will consult with my media lit. team because I think we will try to create unity and work together on this to keep our libraries and schools on the same page.

Here is a start to a newsletter.  I’ll need to meet with my MLS team before continuing on, but Thing 32 was the boost I needed to get started.  Averill Park Elementary Library newsletter.


Thing 28: App-palooza! (17-18)

Our district has recently acquired iPads.  I wanted to work on App-palooza! because I hope to stay informed and up-to-date with the latest apps should a teacher come with a question or an idea.  I continue to use the iPads on a regular basis in the library.

My favorite newest app is Flipgrid.  We use it to exchange videos with a school in India.  So far it has been very casual and we’ve only opened up one room for exchanges because that’s all that is available for free.  I really like the app and as our activities with our ePals evolve, I hope to subscribe to Flipgrid and open up more rooms for different schools and focuses.

I’ve also heard a lot about Seesaw and can’t wait to try it.  We have it installed on our iPads, I just need to think creatively about how I can get it in use and properly expose teachers to the tool.  Because digital citizenship is such a big focus for me in the library, I hope to use apps like Seesaw not only for their intended purpose of sharing work with parents and the classroom, but to practice and be mindful about ways to be good digital citizens.  My thought is to have one grade level use the free version to share their learning in Media Literacy (the library) and allow teachers to see how it works.

While reading through the list of Apps, and there are a LOT, it can be overwhelming… I kept a list of apps I would like to try for school.  We have a very focused approach to how iPads can be used in our district, following the SAMR model.  iPads are intended to be tools for creativity with an emphasis on transforming learning.  Many of the apps reviewed on Common Sense Media are educational, but don’t offer students the opportunity to create and share their learning.  I found many apps on Common Sense Media that I would like to let my own children play and explore including several created by Tinybop, 1600 (an augmented reality tour of the white house using a dollar bill), Flocabulary, and Ginkgo Dino.  I read that Shannon McClintock Miller’s son likes Terraria better than Minecraft, which I will try with my son.

My favorite article was iPad as the Teachers Pet – Version 2.0 from the blog written by Tony Vincent, Learning in Hand.  This article is really one big giant Infograph about the many uses of iPads in the classroom.  I like infographs and this one does a great job of chunking iPad uses into 7 different categories including: 1. Show on a Big Screen, 2. Manage the Classroom, 3. Assess Student Work, 4. Interact with Students, 5. Manage your Files, 6. Make Instructional Media, and 7. Learn New Things.  In another article I read how much device use in classrooms improved student performance.  As long as teachers are mindful about the purpose of iPads in education, using them as a means of reaching learning standard, iPads should be utilized.

Some other apps I want to try right away include: Post-It Plus, Pic Collage, Mindmup, Adobe Capture, Photo Editor by Aviary, and Masterpiece by Osmo.  Post-It Plus is the solution to sharing student ideas without having a device in every hand as you would need for Padlet.  Pic Collage will be a great way for students to create a visual representation or digital poster for an academic purpose, perhaps a book review.  Mindmup will be useful for students to organize thoughts or review content.  I have on the look out for a photo editor.  This winter/spring my goal is for students to create fake photos so they can understand how easily fake photos are made and from that experience, be more critical and wary of the questionable images they may see online.  For that purpose, I am going to consider Adobe Capture and Photo Editor by Aviary.

Staying current with the latest and greatest apps is a challenge and time consuming.  It is also very rewarding though, as I’ve experienced while using Flipgrid!  Thanks to CoolTools for compiling and sharing all these resources!


17/18 Thing 24: Digital Tattoos and Digital Citizenship

I worked on Thing: Digital Citizenship last year so my blog post for this year may have similar reflections.  I continue to believe digital citizenship is one of the most important topics I teach.  Unfortunately, I’ve since learned students receive very little digital citizenship education beyond 6th grade in our school district.  I feel it is a topic that should be revisited and taught year after year, especially in high school where there are most likely the most active digital users in our student population.

A few months ago I read the book American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers by Nancy Jo Sales.  This book was the most eye-opening exposure I’ve had to the current struggles of today’s teens.  The author uses the experiences of real teenagers to highlight the issues of social media for teenagers.  I was appalled at the sexual activities of teenagers on social media.

It is scary how easily a teenager can be exchanging nudes right under the noses of supervising adults.  I didn’t begin to read It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by danah boyd.  I have a feeling it would be very similar to the book by Nancy Jo Sales.

I read 17 Apps and Websites Kids are Heading to After Facebook by Christina Elgersma.  I was happy to find I have heard of many of the apps and I am fairly familiar with the concepts behind them.  I haven’t explored most of the apps and I’m not sure it would help me professionally to actually create accounts and try the apps.  I think it is important for me to know how my students are active online so I can make sure I am teaching them how to stay safe online.  Many of these apps I knew about because while teaching digital citizenship, my students share about their experiences online and the apps they like to use.  One of my favorite questions this year was, “Are the songs on Musical.ly infringing on copyright laws?”

I continue to use Citizenship in the Digital Age from the NYC Department of Education.  I was happy to see Student Social Media Guidelines by NYC Department of Education.  This resource was written in a simple way and is consistent with the message I teach.  While reading this I thought I might use it as a checklist while teaching.  I teach digital citizenship to 4th and 5th grade over a period of several months.  Having a checklist to use while teaching for each class would help me make sure I am covering each subtopic area.  Sometimes I forget which stories I’ve shared already and which points I’ve already made or neglected to make.

As I continue in my third year of teaching digital citizenship I am constantly looking for ways to make the content more relevant and meaningful.  I feel this year was an improvement over last year but my goal is to embed it throughout the year in a way that is consistent with the Digital Leadership Continuum rubric by George Couros from his article, “Is Your School’s “Digital Citizenship” Practice a Pass or a Fail?”  I would like students to have more hands on experiences using social media sites while practicing good digital presence.  I love the idea of beginning with pen and paper as Sage Briggs suggests with her lesson in “See Why This English Teacher Says Digital Citizenship Must Start with Pen and Paper.” The idea is to create a class paper blog to mimic the digital realm giving students the opportunity to practice commenting on blog posts.  The aspect I liked the most is teaching students how to respond to negative comments and how to maintain ownership over the blog and a positive digital presence.

I also liked the article 8 Digital Skills We Must Teach Our Children by Yuhyun Park.  The pie chart was a beautiful graphic demonstrating all of the areas children must be aware of as they embark into the online world.  And I also enjoyed the article What Your Students Really Need to Know About Digital Citizenship by Vicki Davis.  Both articles break down digital citizenship into 8 or 9 manageable content areas.  Vicki Davis also discusses websites to check on scams on cons such as Snopes, Truth or Fiction, Threat Encyclopedia, and the Federal Trade Commission.  Fake News is a new part of digital citizenship I cover with my students and using these websites will help my students check on questionable content.

As described on the Thing 24: Digital Tattoo and Digital Citizenship page the quote from Richard Culatta, CEO of ISTE, “The ISTE Standards define digital citizenship as recognizing both the responsibilities and opportunities of an interconnected world,”  I hope to be steering my students toward positive experiences creating their digital presences.  We have epals from India with whom my students are learning how to communicate online.  We have Biblionasium accounts for students to have a social media account experience with a reading focus and with teacher supervision.  I hope to continue finding ways for students to develop positive global media presence in a safe manner that will encourage safe and positive digital citizenship presence as they travel through their teen years and into adulthood.