Moovling along

I’m happy to report that I practiced EVERY DAY last week! That’s quite the accomplishment at this time in the semester when the work load is mountainous! But, as a result, I think my guitar playing has greatly improved. I have really been enjoying practicing my song. It’s starting to feel just natural to play it!

After last week’s adventure with Scratch I was intrigued by the idea of making animations and I figured there had to be a fun and interesting way to present the recording of my playing. I searched for different ways to make videos with slideshows or music, and found quite the variety. Wideo seemed kind of interesting, but their free account only allows 45 second clips, so that wasn’t going to work for my song. I tried out Garage Band, but found that it went a little too complex for what I needed as for music editing, and of course, it’s only music with no visual. I also found a cool app called UJam, which, like GarageBand allows you to upload your own music and play with its style. It was really fun to play around with because you can also add different styles to your music, and all the instruments that go with them. From punk to pop to classical, and everything in between, there’s a style that fits almost anything. For what I wanted to do, however, it wasn’t going to do the trick.

I also considered Animoto, but decided to go on a hunt for something new to share with my ECMP class, as Animoto had already been presented. I also wanted to find something that had a library of images or animations that I could use instead of uploading photos. After some searching I came across Moovly. This web-based application allows you to create your own animated presentations, and has a great library of pre-made images, or you can add your own. It also has a database of sound effects and music, or you can upload your own! You can also add text to your presentation. It’s super simple to use, and is basically just drag and drop. You just find the image you want and slide it over to your “stage.” From there you can control how it enters the screen, how it moves and when and how it leaves with simple menu clicks for the item and dragging some slide bars. You can also change the colour, size, position and orientation of the objects at any time, and also their layering within the screen.

It’s marketed towards doing presentations, specifically “white board presentations”, and has “hand drawing” options for many images, text, and entrance/exit styles, but you could really use it however you wanted. Plus, even on the free version you can make videos up to 10 minutes in length! The site automatically saves your work, and when you’re finished you have the option of downloading it, emailing it or publishing it to their public gallery and/or YouTube.

So, here’s my video!

How should I present my video to everyone next week? Hmmm…I’m thinking music video…because obviously I’m at that level, right?

Not So Beautiful Just Yet!

In my post last week I’d asked for people to vote on which song I should play! Well, it was a tie of points between “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt, and “Do You Hear What I Hear?” the Christmas Traditional as sung by Carrie Underwood. Firstly, thank you to everyone who participated!

I chose to play “You’re Beautiful,” because after some more careful looking at the chord charts I realized that I could not find my way around a barred chord, and no matter how hard I tried I just could not make that note play! So, back it was to the song with the 5 chords I could figure out! I really do enjoy this song though, so I’m happy to learn it.

I was away for the weekend with my provincial gymnastics team though, so unfortunately did not get my continuous days of practice in, but I have been working diligently on it for the last three nights and thought I’d update my progress!

Photo Credit: Paul 李加乂 Li via Compfight cc

To learn the song, I’ve been relying on this TAB chart, and also this YouTube video, which I believe I posted before. I also found just a straight up recording on YouTube of the song itself to play along with (censor warning it does have one swear in it), as the radio link I found before doesn’t let you rewind the track, which is important to me so that I can keep practicing it!

It’s been so much fun to actually try to play along with the song! It just makes me smile to know that I’ve learned enough to play along to a real song!…ok, enough to sort of fumble through playing along and make myself think I’m actually playing it.

I didn’t have anyone around to video me playing tonight, so I made a “voice memo” on my phone. I figured I could just load that on my computer and link it to the blog. Easy peasy right? Uh…no. Turns out you have to sync voice memos to your computer, find the file, then import it into iMovie, add an image, save it as a .mov file then upload it to YouTube….oy. But hey, I did it! I actually ended up making it into a slideshow of photos of my husband and I, which probably took a lot longer than it needed to, but I think I’ll probably keep it like this and just update it at the end with a better version of the song! Way back when this song was newer my husband used to play it for me all the time because he liked the words, so it certainly reminds me of those moments.

Now my playing is not very good….and I missed a lot of chords, but I think it sounds pretty decent so far! And if you really find my playing to be horrible, just turn the volume down and enjoy all of the cheesy photos!

Aside from just practice, practice, practice, does anyone have any suggestions or tips?

Skitch, Skatch, Scratch!

What do I know about coding? ………yeah……..not much. I did take a computer programming class in grade 11, and made some sweet games like hangman and word search, but I honestly do not remember anything from it. That was so long ago! Since then I’ve maybe dabbled in little tid-bits of html coding when trying to play around with website building, but then too, I just followed some how-to videos. Really, I just don’t know much of anything about any type of coding.

Enter Scratch! We were briefly introduced to this cool site in our class this week, and were asked to give it a try!

I really enjoyed my Scratch experience! It was a little finicky at first, but once I figured out the process of what did what, and how to add and delete rows I was good to go! The drag and drop method of coding is really easy to use, and would be great for students to use.

There’s lots to play around with in just a simple animation, and I tried a few things, including changing the “costume” of the character (really it’s just the pose or direction the character is facing), changing the background, adding and editing sound effects, and including some user inputs. There are so many more options in the program that I’d like to try out sometime also!

Here’s my awesome video!

I also found several videos that guide you through how to make games using Scratch too. I also found this website that has lots of videos on it, and while it uses an older version and is a little difficult to hear I’m sure the videos are still helpful. If you simply type in “make a game on Scratch” into a YouTube search, there is a large list of videos to choose from of varying levels of difficulty. I found a really cool one that a young boy made to make a simple platform game. While he goes quite quickly, it’s pretty straight forward, and I think with some time I could figure out how it all worked.

There are so many ways that this program could be used in the classroom! You could have students make an animated narrative of a story, explain a project or presentation, or even a math concept! Making games could incorporate problem solving skills, team work, and idea flow. Students could also make games to explain or use a concept that you are working on.

Using this program students could also be working on improving their digital citizenship. They would be encouraged to make videos or games that would be helpful or entertaining to others while increasing their skills in the online world by learning a new “language”.

I found this blog post with some more ways to incorporate coding into the classroom!

What are some ways that you could see using Scratch or coding in the classroom?

Site Up!

In addition to binge watching “How I Met Your Mother” on Netflix and smiling every time Barney uses his “Suit Up” phrase, I am constantly thinking of fun ways to approach my required projects and assignments at school. As an education student I’m also always trying to find ways that I can make everything sharable with fellow classmates and teachers and also usable in the future. With my current tasks incorporating a lot of lesson and unit planning I thought it made sense to start putting all of these resources and outlines together in one place – my very own website!

Photo Credit: rcrhee via Compfight cc

I have already had a bit of experience in building a website, as I put together the site for my gymnastics club, Adamo Rhythmics. I really enjoyed using the GoDaddy website builder, so that’s naturally where I went back to! There is a cost for using their platform, but right now they have a sale on so it was only $12.00 for the YEAR! I think even when I purchased it for my club it was only a couple dollars a month, which is totally worth it to have your own domain name and total creative control.

The website builder is SO EASY to use. You can start with a template (free with your original sign-up), and then totally customize it with fonts, colours, backgrounds, photos, etc. You can move everything with ease, and there are plenty of grid snaps to help you line everything up neatly. If you want to delete something, it’s just a simple click, and it’s just as easy to drag and drop any sort of content you wish, including photos, maps, YouTube videos, or forums. It’s also super simple to connect to social media and blog sites. Adding pages is a breeze too! You can also link any of your page content to other pages within your site, or to other sites by just clicking options. And if you ever do get stuck, their customer support is fabulous! I’ve used both their online chat and telephone services before, and got fast, simple help to my problems.

While my site is still under construction, feel free to check out what I’ve got so far! …It’s really just a title page for now. But there will be more soon, I promise!

Guitar Dreams

When I first started trying to play the guitar I thought “How hard can this be?” Answer: VERY HARD! Learning to play an instrument is difficult! And I find that learning to play the guitar is even more difficult than I anticipated. I learned how to play piano as a young child, and then clarinet in grade six, so I just thought that this would be like that. All I needed to do was learn the pattern of notes and off we go. The problem with guitar is that there IS NO PATTERN of notes! Or if there is I have not found it yet! Sure, I know the order of the strings, the names of chords, and can read music, but does that help me? Nope.

Photo Credit: victor.lavrentev via Compfight cc

In playing piano if you know the order of the notes and how those notes look on a page you can theoretically play pretty much anything with some practice. I know what a C note looks like, therefore I can play the C on the piano because I know where it is. After C comes D (just like the alphabet!), and wouldn’t ya know it comes right beside C! Even on clarinet, you often just added or lifted one finger to move up or down one note. Even for chords on the piano the notes were in similar patterns. But in guitar this is not the case. If you want to play a scale of notes (that’s the 8 notes in a row that combined in different ways make up chords in that key) you can sometimes play them all on the same string, but if you want to play a chord, you have to play on a variety of strings with fingers stretched in all sorts of ways. And no, a C chord does not even remotely resemble a D chord.

So this has been my battle the last few weeks. I have been attempting to learn chords, and just continue to repeat the same 4 or 5 chord positions over and over until I think I have it. But then inevitably the next day I don’t remember any of them anymore! Then I’m back to looking at my chord charts every day…also, did you know that there’s multiple ways to play many chords? Oy. So confusing! This has been helpful though, as many chords are played using a barre technique where one finger (usually the index) has to span the whole neck of the guitar on all the strings. I’ve tried some of these with little success. Luckily I have been able to find out ways around this!

I have not given up hope though, and I am determined to learn to play at least one song! But, there are only a few short weeks left in this semester, eek! So my goal is to work dilligently each day on just one song. No more switching songs and getting overwhelmed by the millions of possibilities out there! The problem has also been that many of the “beginner songs” that I have found are ones that I have never heard of. I would much rather play a song that I actually know and enjoy over one that I don’t, but it’s been difficult to find these.

I have a few choices of songs that I would like to learn: “Shake it Off” by Taylor Swift, “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt, “Teardrops on My Guitar” by Taylor Swift, or the Christmas classic “Do You Hear What I Hear”, but I’ll learn to play with the Carrie Underwood version (I found a great website for this one that plays a video and lets you actually play along while it highlights the chords!).

Which song do you think I should learn? Help me choose by filling out this survey!

WE!

This Friday I had the privilege of attending We Day in Saskatoon. I had never been before, and had only even heard of this program about a year ago, and wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. What I experienced was just fantastic! I was surrounded by 15,000 students who earned their way to the event and were truly passionate about social justice.

There were musicians and dancing, and it was a lot of fun. The crowd was very enthusiastic, and very excited to be there.There were messages of hope and action, and the presenters applauded the teachers and students for stepping up to the challenge of making a difference in the world.

Stadium filled with 15,000 students and teachers

A crowd of 15,000 students and teachers gather to make a difference in the world.

The day was divided into for “class periods” to accompany this year’s theme of The Year of Empowerment: Economic Empowerment, Technological Empowerment, Education Empowerment and Social Empowerment. Each period consisted of stories, ideas and action plans of how Free the Children (the parent company that puts on WeDay) and students can contribute to and support each sector. These actions ranged from collecting $50 in toonies to purchase a goat for a family, to buying Rafikki bracelets to support and empower women in Africa, to putting on bake sales to raise funds, or even raising enough funds to go on a Me to We trip to help communities in need. Each attendee received a great notebook to record thoughts in throughout the day, which also has wonderful quotes, stories and calls to action.

It was great to see how technology was being incorporated into the event! Not only was it one of the “periods,” but they also encouraged everyone to tweet using several #weday hashtags like #changeisinyourhands and #spreadyourroots. They also have an app, We365 that can help students connect with others to create challenges, take action, keep track of volunteering, and much more. The bracelets that each person in attendance received were also embedded with technology. Each bracelet had a code that could be scanned at different kiosks in the lobby to access free downloadable music, take photos,  enter contests, and get more resources. I wish I had the chance to check some of them out, but asking 15,000 people to navigate a narrow concourse is rather impossible.

There are a lot of resources available on their websites on how to engage students, including the WeAct kit for teachers, which has downloadable guides and ideas to incorporate into your classroom.

After being at this event it really brought to light some of the amazing things that students can do to share their voice and work towards big changes in our world. I hope to be able to incorporate themes of social justice into my teaching in the future, and let children know that they really can have a voice.

What will you do to promote and encourage social justice in your classroom, in your school and in your community?

Introverted Technological Evolution

Today, as I was taking my weekly browse around the Chapters website in search of more books for my ever-growing collection of engaging novels and information, I happened upon a rather intriguing title: “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain. As surprising as it may to some people I know, I am, in fact, an introvert myself, and wanted to learn more about this book and this author.

It took me many years to come to an understanding of my own personality and realize that my so-called “shyness” and aversion for being in large groups, being forced to do group projects, and generally be amidst a lot of people was not really shyness at all, but rather introversion. As a kid I loved sitting in my room and working on art or craft projects, spending hours tediously fine-tuning rather insignificant school projects, and reading books. I disliked being the center of attention or having to collaborate with classmates, but was often just told I was shy and I would grow out of it. As a result, I did not speak my mind in class and felt awkward when I had to work on group projects, though I still was able to obtain very good marks in school. Needless to say, I did not grow out of this, and many of these traits have remained with me, though they may come through in slightly different ways as I have learned to work with them and have learned how to interact with the seemingly extroverted world.

Photo Credit: horrigans via Compfight cc

In re-visiting these ideas and memories about introversion it made me wonder what teachers think about introverted students in classrooms today. Does technology have an influence in this aspect of the classroom also? Is technology creating more introverts? Is that even possible?

Susan Cain, the author of the book also hosted a TED Talk on introversion, and I found it quite enlightening. She speaks about how introverts are not just shy, but do not seek the stimulation of busy social environments. They do best when they can find solitude to be with their own thoughts and ideas. This is not to say that introverts prefer to sit in a little room forever, but just that the type of stimulation they require is different from extroverts. This certainly rings true for me, as I prefer to work at my own desk in my home even over a large table in a library where there are other people around. Even though a library is quiet, there are still often other people mingling about, putting their own energy into the space. If this is how I still feel as an adult, how does that impact children in the classroom where there can be an additional 30 people moving and shifting around?

I found several articles about the topic and started reading.

Most articles that I read discouraged the idea that introverts are just shy, and noted that introverted students often seek someone to talk to, but may not know how. Some suggested strategies like placing an introverted child’s desk near the edge of the class or providing cozy reading nooks or using technology to aid in student responses. One post talked about how an introverted teacher had to leave her job because it was just too much, yet another gave some ideas for how introverted teachers can thrive in a classroom.

Some articles led me to consider the Myers-Briggs personality model. I recall doing this with a counsellor before I got married, and was categorized as an INFJ. I found a free version of this test, and took it again, and I got the exact same result. Here’s a little bit of what it said about me:
“The INFJ personality type is very rare, making up less than one percent of the population, but they nonetheless leave their mark on the world. As Diplomats (NF), they have an inborn sense of idealism and morality, but what sets them apart is the accompanying Judging (J) trait – INFJs are not idle dreamers, but people capable of taking concrete steps to realize their goals and make a lasting positive impact. INFJs tend to see helping others as their purpose in life, but while people with this personality type can be found engaging rescue efforts and doing charity work, their real passion is to get to the heart of the issue so that people need not be rescued at all. INFJs indeed share a very unique combination of traits: though soft-spoken, they have very strong opinions and will fight tirelessly for an idea they believe in. They are decisive and strong-willed, but will rarely use that energy for personal gain – INFJs will act with creativity, imagination, conviction and sensitivity not to create advantage, but to create balance.”

I thought that was a really interesting view on my personality, and actually a fairly accurate one. While being very much an introvert I often appear to be an extrovert as I enjoy working towards goals and fighting for what I believe in. I do all of this always with an end goal in mind though, often for the benefit of the gymnasts I coach or my family.

But how will this impact and influence my role as a teacher, and how does technology impact or affect these differing personality types?

In the last few years there has been a lot of hype around extroverts and introverts on the internet. For a while I can recall there being something on my Facebook feed every week with an article, quiz, or meme post about introverts or extroverts. In many ways I think that all this talk aided the introverts in just making their personality type more understood, but it also sort of commercialized the idea of being a “nerd” by making book-lovers cool, but also anyone who was overly zealous about any particular subject. There are websites like Think Geek that capitalize on this, and yes I’ve shopped on them because they have some cool stuff that my husband loves. But is my husband an introverted nerd? Well, no, not really. In fact, he’s probably what any person or test would classify as an extrovert. So what’s the big deal with defining these personalities? Well, I found this fun video:

I like that the video examines ties to technology, but it didn’t address one aspect that I repeatedly saw in some articles I read. While it suggested that some see introverts as being either sided with technology as they may be participants in its creation and continued evolution, and others on the opposite side of it with more thoughts and ideas, it neglected to speak about how many introverts can sometimes find a “safe place” on the internet to express their thoughts without the draining social interaction required of “real life” interactions. One article suggests that the internet and technology is, in fact, creating more introverts by providing outlets to do pretty much everything online and requiring people to post about their lives in order to verify that it actually happened. I’m sure that most people have heard or even used the term “Facebook official,” and we’ve all surely walked into a waiting room of people sitting side by side engaged only in the screen in front of them, but does that mean everyone is just anti-social and introverted? Another article (by the same Susan Cain, author of “Quiet.” who was referenced in many of the previous articles) suggests that these little screens truly allow introverts to speak out in a comfortable way.

In the end, it’s all about balance and recognition that not only are there different learning styles within a classroom, but different personalities too. I think that technology opens up a wide variety of ways to interact and engage with students in ways that are most comfortable for them. Apps like ClassKick, which I’ve spoken about before, provide students the opportunity to work alone, yet allow student collaboration in a safe setting. Google apps like Classroom and Drive also provide this opportunity for group collaboration on a single project. As teachers we must realize that some students will love living in the spotlight or working as big teams to create projects, but others will prefer to do solo work, and it is our job to find a balance and support the needs and learning opportunities of all students. Extroverts need to learn how to work on solo thoughts, and introverts need to be introduced to teamwork, but neither should feel like they are being told that they have to conform.

As a teacher, I hope that I can use my special introverted traits to the advantage of my teaching style and my students’ learning. I trust that I will be able to understand the struggles of the introvert, but also give the extroverts the attention and support that they need also. I realize that the stimulation level of the classroom may be high at times, but am looking forward to discovering ways to survive and find balance in my teaching style that can also aid my own needs for those quiet times. While the internet may have made being an introvert hip and trendy, I know that I am not just following a trend here. I have always been this way, but it has only been in the last five years or so that I have truly come to accept this and be content with my own being. I hope to continue along this path and use my introverted ways for the good of others in my teaching career.

So what kind of personality are you? How will you work with both introverted and extroverted students in your classroom? And bottom line, what will your message be to students about embracing who they are?

The Language of Social Media

Ever jump on Twitter or read a text and you don’t understand it? This has happened to me a few times in the last few months. The various abbreviations, hashtags and “lingo” of the fast paced text world are often difficult to decipher, and it takes some asking around to find the answers and meanings. I also find many people actually speaking in these abbreviations “off screen,” and wonder if all of the abbreviating, “hashtag-ification” (just found out that #hashtagification is actually a real hashtag), and new slang words are actually changing the way we communicate.

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In my ELANG class we looked at this idea too, and discussed whether or not our use of “improper” English is detrimental to students’ writing in school. There are a lot of opinions out there, and I think that if you talked to any educator you would likely gather some more. While some articles suggest that there is evidence of a negative impact of social media on student writing, others show the potential that social media text language has to provide learning opportunities and allow students to explore their thoughts and creativity. The same article also links to a great piece on some ways to incorporate ideas of digital citizenship and internet literacy into the classroom.

So you may be wondering, what’s my opinion in this debate about text language? Well, I am of the opinion that students need to understand the proper times and places to use slang and when to use more grammatically structured language. I think that on platforms like Twitter, where you only have 140 characters to communicate and categorize your message that abbreviations are often necessary, but when you’re writing a blog, perhaps they are not. However, the way you write in a blog may not be the same way that you write an essay or report for an assignment. While some people may see the changes in technology and the way we communicate as a negative aspect of our society and a distraction in our classrooms, I tend to look at it as an opportunity for discussion with students.

These children in our classrooms don’t know a world that doesn’t have the technology of the 21st century. They are not “old” like us, and did not have to live through days of only having one household phone, or having to wait until the next day to find out what your friends did that night. These kids have cellphones and Facebook and Twitter where they can keep up with their friends all the time, and so can we as adults and teachers. I feel it is our job as adults and teachers to help kids understand that just because you can text “C u l8r” to your friend does not make it appropriate to write in your English reflection in the same way.

I think that we all also have to acknowledge that we all use language differently in various aspects of our lives, whether it is through text or speech. We likely don’t speak the same way we do to our friends as we would to someone in a job interview, nor would we write the same way we do on Facebook as we would in a letter to a professor. As adults we don’t do this because we understand the uses for these various platforms and how our language needs to adapt to suit the purpose. We have learned these things as the technology evolved though, whereas young students need to be informed about the various audiences that our language is directed to.

The bottom line is that I do not believe that we can blame social media for student’s poor spelling or grammar. As teachers, we just have to recognize that we need to actually explain how language is used in our society. Language use is not just a given, it is a learned process and will vary between communities, countries and cultures.

It may be amusing, to txt #yolo <3 to ur #bff, and he/she will totally understand you, but we have to recognize when that kind of language is useful, and when it is more appropriate to write your friend a nice note, or have a meaningful conversation with them. There will always be #teacherproblems in our classrooms, but we need to embrace the possibilities of social media and educate our students about language as we do it. If you need some help with all the lingo that is out there, here’s a place that might help.

I just hope that one day we don’t all end up speaking like this…

So how is the language of social media really impacting our students where you live? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? Or is it just a thing? Are there ways that social media can be helpful in our schools and that teachers can use tools to foster students’ creativity and writing abilities?

Beyond the Screen: Connecting with Teachers and Technology

In the last month I have learned some incredible things about apps and technology in education. Becoming involved in the Twitter-sphere has been awesome, and has allowed me to connect with some incredible people from around the world! Ok, so most are in Canada and the USA right now, but that’s going to change! Through Twitter I have learned about some fantastic blogs and apps and have tried a few of them out. Some of my favourite finds include: ClassKick, Idea Sketch, Haiku Deck, ClassDojo, and Science 360.

water colour of app logos

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While it is all well and good to go out and search for cool apps, it’s even cooler to have people share their finds! But aside from scouring Twitter, how does one do this? By talking to other teachers of course! As a pre-service teacher that can sometimes be a challenge though. We are not in the classroom much, and have little connection to the actual teaching world other than the minimal classroom visits we may get to experience. So finding just one teacher to connect to in person is difficult, let alone a whole group!

Lucky for me, I have a sister who is a hair stylist (and a great one too!), and she has some great clients at her salon. And lucky for me my sister talks about me to her clients who are teachers! One such client and I connected over Facebook and she invited me to join some great #edtech events through #edcampyqr and #rbeappyhour! At the end of September I had the opportunity to join several teachers for some informal discussions about using technology in the classroom, and through that was then able to connect with them via Twitter. I also have attended two #rbeapyhour events. Appy hours are a great opportunity for a few teachers to get together and share your app finds with other teachers. It’s great to hear the different ways that teachers have incorporated the apps into their learning, how they manage them in large classes when there aren’t enough devices to go around, or how some apps can work for multiple grade levels.

This week I learned about Only 2 Clicks, a great web site that allows you to manage and categorize great web pages, and PickMeBuzzer, which can bring a game show style atmosphere into the classroom. I also had the chance to really talk with some current teachers and build relationships with them. I am excited to continue to foster these relationships through sharing the apps and ideas that I am finding and learning how real teachers are incorporating technology into their classrooms.

There is also usually a live feed of the #appyhour and it’s archived so you can access it later.

The YouTube Debate

Is YouTube really a great tool to use in the classroom? My classmate, Dustan, and I hash it out for you…

And as promised, here are some funny videos that are actually educational!

…Now if you want to see some adult educational humour check out this YouTube channel. A tad bit of inappropriate language, but oh so funny, and also highly educational! (I highly recommend the one on the Mantis Shrimp.)

The bottom line is that the main goal of using YouTube in the classroom is to encourage this

engaged children raising hands

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not this.

bored children watching a video

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