Back to School Goodies!

The first day of fall has come and gone. Teachers and students in my district are working hard to build relationships, mitigate stress and settle into new routines. It’s the perfect time for gifts all around!

The first two gifts are new digital resources for you to use in the classroom.

Let’s start with Quill. Quill is a web-based English resource designed to be used with students from Grade 3 through to upper high school (they even have special material for pre-AP and AP English). With Quill, students work through short, 15 minute sessions designed to help them with vocabulary, sentence structure, editing and grammar. The website contains lots of information to help teachers set up their classes and learn how to use the website. Right now they’re even offering back-to-school webinars to help teachers get the most use out of the site.

Here is an editing activity I was given:

I know there are 11 errors on the page. I’ve found and corrected the first two. When I think I’ve found them all, I click Get Feedback and I will find out how I did, with a quick review of each answer. That is then followed by targeted practice. 

Here is a document showing Best Practice for creating a Quill class and setting your students up. Remember, do not use Google to set up accounts!

The second resource is Typing Club. Both teachers and parents have been asking for a typing resource for a number of years and we tried this one out in the spring with good success!

Typing Club can be used with students from K on up. Although it is mostly targeted at elementary students, high school students who are not great with speed or accuracy could benefit from practice, too! 

Like Quill, Typing Club has a teacher dashboard, where you can set up your class and see how they are doing. Do note that we are using the free version, which does feature some limited, non-targeted advertising.

Typing Club takes students from the location and recognition of letters through to a goal of 75 words per minute. One of the nice features Typing Club has is its accessibility affordances such as the ability to increase font size and use a high contrast theme.

With the free version, teachers are limited to 3 classes with unlimited students and they can share their classes with a second instructor. Unfortunately, the iPad app is not available with the free version. Here is a document showing the Best Practice for setting up your class.

I can see Typing Club being one of those activities kids can do while waiting for everyone in class to arrive or even something they can focus on at home!

The next gift is three new features on Google Meet as well as one that’s not as new but that you might not have noticed!

In Host Settings (you can get there by going through Settings or by clicking the little blue “sheild” on the bottom left) you have three new options.

The first one is “Quick Access”. When turned off, this prevents people from joining anonymously, it allows only the host to end the meeting and, best of all, it forces people to “ask” to get in to the meeting. This creates, in effect, a kind of waiting room, which would make Meet easier to use for things like office hours or back-to-back-to-back parent conferences.

The second new toggle in settings is the one that enables/disables attendees from being able to share their screen. Handy if you’ve got kids who are constantly distracting the class by trying to share their screen!

The third new toggle shuts down the Chat. Now, sometimes you want Chat in the background. It can be really useful. But…sometimes not! It can also be very distracting! This toggle allows you to shut off Chat for everyone except the host.

Finally, in the Change Layout section, you can now control the number of tiles (other people) that you can see. The top number is 49 (depending on the size of your screen). This is great as you can now see your whole class at once!

Hopefully these little gifts have made you day or week a bit better!

Peanut Butter and Jamboard!

Okay, so to be honest, this post has nothing to do with peanut butter. I just thought it was a catchy title because it’s back to school time and my favourite back to school sandwich used to be a good old PB & J!

Having said that, this post is about Jam…board! Yep, Jamboard.

For those of you who are uninitiated, Jamboard is a super-cool, collaborative whiteboard extension that we have enabled for teachers and students in our district. Jamboard works with Classroom and Meets and it’s a great “low floor, high ceiling” tool that can be used in many ways.

How do you access Jamboard? Like most things Google-y, there’s more than one way. You can click the “waffle” in the upper right hand corner of your drive and scroll down until you find the orangey-yellow “music note” J for Jamboard icon. Or, you can type jamboard.google.com into your omnibar.

This is what Jamboard looks like:

As you can see, there aren’t a lot of moving parts. There’s a pen that comes in a variety of styles and colours, a background that is white but can be changed to a few colours as well as lined or graph paper and a laser pointer. You can add text, shapes, images and (my favourite) sticky notes in a number of kid-pleasing colours!

A “jam” can have up to 20 pages or screens and you can have up to 50 people interacting on the board. You can give people a link to a jam or assign it on Google Classroom. The whole class can work together on a jam or you can give each small group their own jam or even assign one to each person in the class.

I can see what you’re thinking. “Okay, cool but so what? Why is this worth a blog post?” Well, dear reader, it’s not about what Jamboard can do, it’s about what you can do with Jamboard!! You can use it for: basic graphing, collaborative brainstorming, exit tickets, gallery walks, illustrating thinking and problem solving, interactive worksheets, polls, sentence diagramming,story mapping, and venn diagrams, just to name a few.

But, let’s show you. Jamboard is really a K to 12 tool, so I’ll show you a primary example, a middle school example and a high school example.

Okay….primary. Well, loads of primary teachers use a magnetic whiteboard and little magnets with kids’ names on them as a way of taking attendance and sparking class discussions. Students enter the room, read the question on the board and put their name beside one of the possible answers, Let’s do this Jamboard style!

Here’s a simple one for K. Since the kids can’t read, there are two pictures. Also, to make this easy for them, each of their names is at the bottom so they can drag and drop their names to the bear they like. Now, would you do this in a regular classroom, with the kids in attendance? Maybe not. But it would sure work well in a virtual classroom. Share the link out and have everyone vote! For slightly older students, you could put a question up. Then, after teaching them how, they can add a sticky note with their answer.

Let’s move to intermediate / middle school. Imagine you’re about to teach BEDMAS in Math class. Assign this board to each student through Google Classroom:

If you do it before you teach BEDMAS you can use it as a way to see what they already know. If you use it after you teach BEDMAS, you can use it to see what they’ve learned and get a glimpse into how their problem-solving is coming along.

What about high school? Let’s imagine a hybrid (half the class at school, half at home) English class that’s studying Shakespeare. They’ve read Romeo and Juliet and watched Westside Story. For the students at home, put them in small groups and have them work on a Venn diagram Jamboard, comparing the two versions of the “star-crossed” lover theme. Let them choose how they collab – they might choose facetime, texting or any number of other tech tools they have access to. 

Finally, if you still aren’t convinced that Jamboard is one of the best parts of your back-to-school lunchkit, here’s a video that goes over the basics of Jamboard.

I Published a Book….Sorta

It was a bit of a weird summer, wasn’t it? For me, I didn’t do some of the things I normally do, for various reasons. Instead, I did some things I’ve never done before! I learned how to do Instagram Lives, publish videos to IGTV and with my friend and fellow Apple Distinguished Educator, Darcy McNee, I wrote and published a book! That’s what this blog is about.

Well, let me start by saying….we kind of published a book! Darcy and I had grand plans to publish our book to Apple Books (and we still will at some point) but between my un-cooperating laptop, files sizes that were too big and again my laptop, we weren’t able to get it to publish to Apple books…yet.

Instead, we published to Book Creator and here….live (well, linked because I couldn’t figure out the iframe at 10:00 last night) and in all its glory, is our book!

https://read.bookcreator.com/Ga9bUO7IExRo37sUt6pFfjNQ83T2/oRkvby86TzKTUvQalWyiTg

“What’s it about?” you say. 

“How kind of you….I thought you’d never ask,” I reply!

Well, you may remember that in the spring Darcy and I created something called #belikeishi. Using an incredible picture book called “ISHI: Simple Tips from a Solid Friend” by Akiko Yabuki, Darcy and I created a project with lesson ideas to help teachers and students deal with their feelings as we went into lockdown and then started “June school”. We created a website to capture all the incredible work the kids did and we even got to work with our local public library to do a virtual Q and A with the author. We eventually presented our project at the Apple Festival of Learning in the month of July.

Fast forward to August. Darcy and I were asked, as Apple Distinguished Educators, to find another awesome picture book and put together a series of lesson plans for teachers to use in the fall, as we all take our first tentative steps back into the classroom! And we were asked to “publish” our lessons to Instagram Live and Instagram TV, on an amazing channel called The Creative Station (seriously, if you are on Insta [notice how I use the cool kid way of saying “instagram”, ‘cos I’m that cool now] you NEED to follow The Creative Station (@atcreativestation) – there are some amaaaazing ideas there from some incredible Canadian educators who also happen to be ADEs, like Darcy and me.

The book we chose is Be You! By Peter H. Reynolds and published by Orchard Books, and Imprint of Scholastic, Inc. It’s truly a wonderful book! Here’s a video of the author reading it.

Darcy and I put our heads together and created a series of activities teachers and students could do at the beginning of the year, with two goals in mind. The first was to have activities that were creative and could be used at the start of the year (or the start of a term, high school teachers!). The second was to get more people using some pretty incredible tools (Keynote, Voice Memo, Clips, iMovie, Notes and the camera on a phone or iPad) to do some pretty neat learning activities! We have a stop-motion animation lesson, a “pass the object” lesson and even a simple photo walk lesson that even littles could do! And there’s even more lessons than that!

We really hope you like the book we made and more importantly, we hope you can use one or more of our lesson ideas. Use them as is or use them as a springboard for your own ideas and lessons. Either way, we’re happy!

Side note: When you click on most of the pictures in our book, they will take you to our Instagram videos. You don’t need to sign in…just double click on them again and they should play!

That’s A Wrap!

Well friends….we’re almost there! It’s the end of what has undoubtedly been the strangest year of our teaching careers (to date). Collectively we’re exhausted…it’s been hard work these last three months. We’re emotional…one minute elated at seeing our students and the next minute in tears over a video of high school grads trying on dresses they won’t be wearing (okay, maybe that’s just me). We’re overwhelmed – this school year we’ve felt fierce pride watching our students stand up for the environment and equality, we’ve felt relief at the successful conclusion of union bargaining, sadness at the hurt going on in the world and anxiety about what the future holds. But collectively….we should also be proud. We’ve worked hard to support our students and their families. We’ve learned new skills, taught in new ways, recorded ourselves reading stories and conducting experiments in our living rooms and done hundreds of other things to make this school year one for the history books.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

As educators, we spend so much time looking after everyone else. Now it’s time to look after yourself. Whatever rest and recharge looks like for you, make sure you do it. Read a book, walk on the beach, hike the trails, ride your bike, play with your kids, eat nothing but fruit salad for a week (oh…maybe that’s just me again…sorry). The point is, take this time to do what you need to do to decompress and rejuvenate. And when September comes, we’ll manage whatever happens…together. Stay safe. Be kind.

The Titanic

Forewarning: Yikes! I did not realize how long this post was…make yourself a cup of tea and settle in!

When you take the existing environmental crisis, add in a pandemic crisis and then toss in an equality/racism crisis that’s been brewing for hundreds if not thousands of years it truly seems as if 2020 is a year of crises. A crisis can be defined as a time of intense difficulty or danger, a turning point or time when a great decision or change must be made.

The thing about a crisis is that it can be a catalyst. A call to action if you will. Surviving a crisis requires adaptation and change. The future suddenly seems very uncertain but what we do know is that education and the education system are going to need to be adaptive and flexible in the light of crisis. 

Easy to say. Not easy to do. When we made the first big shift to remote, crisis learning in the spring, people likened it to turning the Titanic on a dime. And then, teachers in BC were asked to turn it again in June, when a form of in-class instruction started up.  Now we have a chance to look at the Titanic and ask “what should stay the same, what should we change and how can we make the boat better/safer/more responsive?”  Whatever system we wind up with, here are some things I think we need to keep in mind as we move forward.

Education Will Still Need Connections, Culture and Caring

You know that saying about “kids don’t care what you know until they know that you care?” It’s true, isn’t it? As teachers, we work hard to build an environment of trust and we want our students to know how much we care for them. We make connections with them and we spend considerable time and energy at the beginning of any  year building our classroom culture.

So whether we are face to face or all at home or some combination thereof, teachers and students need to be able to connect and build a culture of care and trust. We need safe tools that allow us to do this if we have to be in isolation. We need time to do this. At the beginning  of the year, this should be more important than anything else like curriculum. Especially after the spring we’ve had. We’ve all been through trauma. We need time to connect and bond with our new students. We need time to heal each other, before we worry about getting down marks for report cards.

What Do We Do With The Outliers?

This June in BC, the return to school has been voluntary. Even from week to week. This has been understandable given the circumstances but completely less than ideal. Assuming we are going back to some version of face to face school in the fall, attendance should be mandatory for everyone, right? 

Oh, but what about the student who is waiting to go in remission after having cancer treatment? Or the educator who has an autoimmune disorder? Do we force them to return? It’s clear that classroom teachers can’t keep up the “teach at school and teach remote” dance. So, could we look at a form of teacher-led homeschooling for those teachers and students? For instance, maybe one experienced intermediate teacher could remote school 25 to 30 Grade 5, 6 and 7 students from across the district.  It would be a little more complex in high school but could work. These “digital teachers” could then become valuable resources for the rest of us if we have to go back to isolation.

Technology

When we went into crisis schooling at the end of March, technology quickly became the tool we all needed. Many teachers who had previously put off using technology found themselves scrambling to get online. Others found themselves looking for tech tools that would allow them to connect and engage students from the ages of 5 to 18. The learning curve for many was steep but all teachers now have a better understanding of the role technology can play.

As we move forward, we need to build on this and continue to search for technologies that can help us transform education and not just replicate what was done in analog. Now that we’re finally all in the SAMR “sea”, let’s get more people diving into the deep end.  

What Do We REALLY Need to Teach and Assess?

I think it’s fair to say that this spring, not as much teaching happened as usual. And assessment? Not easy. Especially for younger students, where it could be hard to know if you were assessing the student or the parent. No blame here…everyone was  doing their best in a situation no one had experienced. 

Looking forward, we need to do better. Most students will be starting the fall up to a half a grade behind. What are the truly important things that we need to teach? In BC we are fortunate that the new curriculum has more flexibility and fewer outcomes. We are also fortunate to have Core Competencies to focus on. I would argue that these should be our main focus. Skills like creative problem solving, critical thinking, communication and a flexible growth mindset are going to be important in an increasingly unpredictable world. 

And assessment? Well, you can’t give an online test where the answers can be googled and at-home projects need an additional rubric column for  how much parent help was given. Many of our ELL students have  no English speakers at home to help them and some students have parents who are too exhausted and stressed out to help. We need to decide what we are actually assessing with any given assignment and how we do it authentically. No easy task. I have no easy answers and I know it looks different depending on the age of the students you teach, but it’s a  subject that should be part of our conversations and staff meetings.

What Worked, What Didn’t?

In our district we are very lucky in that most families have technology and wifi. For those who didn’t, the district was able to help them out. Not everyone is so fortunate. Moving forward, with the idea that digital tools will need  to be embedded in our practice so that we can move more seamlessly between in-person, hybrid and remote learning, digital equity needs to be addressed. And with the government feeling it was already adequately funded education, this may be the time we start looking to partnerships between business and education. Some of the larger telecom companies have already stepped up to help during the crisis.

Whether your district has used Google Meets, as we have, or Zoom or Microsoft teams the concept of virtually meeting with students and colleagues has gone well overall, and is something we need to build on. In the absence of being able to meet face to face, virtual meetings provided a way to connect. I’ve heard from many teachers who felt excited and even a little teary when first meeting with students they hadn’t seen in over a month and I’ve heard from parents who say their child eagerly waits all day for the appointed time when they get to meet with their teacher and classmates.

In our district, this method of connection has been optional this spring. Moving forward, I think it needs to be part of business as usual  if we are forced into remote learning. Not because of the teaching that happens (seriously….how much teaching can happen in a virtual meeting involving 20 6year olds and their parents) but because of the connections and reconnections that are built.  

Another thing that went well and that we should keep regardless of what stage of education we are in, is the idea of screen capture or screen recording. I’ve written a post about it here.

When I think about what didn’t work out well two things stand out. The thing I have heard more teachers and parents complain about (all from different perspectives) and it’s the thing that I think is the most difficult to address. It’s been a problem now (while education has been adapting to this crisis) and it will likely continue to be a problem as the education system evolves. I don’t know whether to call it equity, or fairness or what? 

From the teacher perspective there is a feeling that not everyone is putting in equal effort or time. That not every district is expecting the same thing from their staff. From the parent perspective there is a feeling that there has not  been enough work, or too much work or the district next door or over there is doing things “better”. I don’t know how to easily solve either of these problems and I think they are both somewhat exacerbated by the stress and uncertainty we are all living with, but I do think they are the kinds of problems that will fester if not addressed at some level.

Finally (thanks for hanging in there), we need  to acknowledge that not everyone is suited to remote teaching and learning. Some have loved the new challenge while others have really struggled. We have some time now. How do we better prepare the system, the teachers, the students and the parents so that we are all more successful if/when we are all forced to learn from home again? In our district we are looking at offering additional professional development for teachers. Maybe we should also be looking at training for students? How to set up a learning space, how to set up a schedule, how to focus and take effective breaks, how to ask for help? And while we’re at it, I think parents need more support, too. Perhaps district PACs could organize similar sorts of training and offer interpreters?

Overall, I think BC educators, schools, students and parents should be so proud of how the whole “crisis learning” experience has gone. It hasn’t been perfect but considering we had little warning and no prior experience, I’d say we met and sometimes exceeded expectations. We’ve changed the course of the Titanic…twice. Now we have a chance to think about how we want the boat to move forward. It’s a rare opportunity. Carpe diem. Stay safe. Be kind.

Endings and Beginnings

In a normal school year, the weeks in June are filled with year-end traditions like sports day, field trips to the beach, award ceremonies and graduation. There is a bittersweet feel to everything as both teachers and students celebrate “lasts” and look forward to the lazy days of summer as a time to rest and recharge.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Yep, well….Covid scrambled all of that, didn’t it?! This has been the weirdest school year in probably anyone’s memory. Districts (including ours) and teachers and parents have done an incredible job to keep some traditions alive, even if they’re in a modified format. Other traditions, like the year-end field trip or class party just won’t happen this year. And then there are those year-end chores, like emptying desks or lockers; handing back textbooks and returning library books. These things still have to happen in some fashion.

Since we’ve spent so much time in the digital world lately, thinking about how we organize our digital year-end is time well-spent. So, with that in mind, here are some tips for starting to think about wrapping things up.

Google Drive

It’s great practice to encourage your students to spend time cleaning and organizing their Google Drive at the end of the year. They can start by going through their files and getting rid of anything they no longer need. What should they keep? Well, anything they’re still working on, as well as assignments that they feel are indicative of their best  effort or that show progress over the course of the year. Depending on the age of your students, they might need some help with this! Everything that they plan to keep should go in a new file called “2019/2020” or  “Grade __”. It might be a good idea for them to empty their Shared With Me folder, too. You  can do this quickly by selecting the first file, holding down the SHIFT key and then selecting the last file. Automagically, all of the files between them also get selected and you can drag them all into the trash!

Oh yeah, in case it wasn’t clear, take some time to clean up your own Google Drive and archive your old Google Classrooms!

If you have a student who is leaving the district or if you work with students who are graduating and moving on, they should know that their Google Drives will eventually be deleted. If there is anything in there that they want to keep they should use Google Takeout or Google Transfer to move their work out of their school account. This blog includes instructions for this.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

FreshGrade

At the end of the year (well, actually sometime during the summer) Fresh Grade will archive your students’ accounts. They’ll still be there for you and students and parents to look at but they will no longer be available for commenting on or adding to.

Before that happens, if you have added videos of you or someone else reading a story, those should be deleted from accounts, due to copyright issues.

In September, when classes are all set up, student FreshGrade accounts will be relinked to their new homeroom teacher.

Other Accounts

For district managed accounts like MATHIXL and DiscoveryED, students will be able to continue to access their accounts all summer long.

For accounts on recently approved sites or apps, like EPIC books, where you as a teacher have set up a classroom and student accounts, students will be able to continue to access those accounts until you delete the classroom. If you have used the site for assessment of any kind (such as the quizzes in CommonLit),  please retain the classroom for one calendar year before you delete it. For information on how to delete a classroom, refer to each site individually.

And the whole time we’re doing all of this year-end stuff we can’t help but look forward to our next beginning. 

Photo by Gantas Vaičiulėnas on Pexels.com

What will start-up look like in the fall? Will we all be back in the classroom? It’s doubtful. How do you set classroom expectations and culture when you are not all in the classroom at the same time? How do you get to know your new students and develop those relationships and that trust that is vital to a students’ ability to learn with you? These are big questions. I have thoughts on them but no answers yet. I suspect a lot of people will be doing a lot of thinking on these questions over the summer.

I Can’t

I can’t. Huh….those of you who know me will know that those are two words I rarely say. But tonight, I can’t write a blog post about another tech tip or a way to engage students. I just don’t have it in me.

I can’t – because my heart is feeling broken. 

I can’t – because as a young adult my father engaged in civil disobedience to protest segregation in the small college he was attending and today it seems like nothing got better. 

I can’t – because as a mother I keep hearing George Floyd’s voice call for his mother and the tears fall unbidden and unchecked.

I can’t – because while a virus rips through the world doing its best to eliminate the human race there are people on the news who seem to be doing their best to eliminate other people. All because of the colour of their skin?

I can’t – because as a privileged white female I wonder what I could have done differently? Have there been times when I should have said something, done something…but I didn’t?

I can’t – because right now all I can see is the hurt in the world and I feel it will get worse before it gets better and that scares me.

I can’t write a blog post about technology tonight. But  what I can do is be a teacher. I can teach my students to stand up, to stand together and to speak out. I can show them that the night is always darkest right before dawn, but dawn does come. That peace conquers war and love conquers hate and good conquers evil. At least, I have to believe these things. I have to believe in hope and kindness. Because if I can’t believe in those…then I just can’t.

One Thing We Should Keep

Everywhere I look, people are starting to talk about going back to “normal”; getting their hair done, playing a round of golf, shopping at the mall, having dinner out. I find myself somewhat puzzled by this. We’re not really going back to the “old normal”; we’re going forward to a “new normal”. And truthfully, no one is really sure what that new normal will look like or how long it will last. I wonder if what we were used to will ever be normal again? Will I ever not worry when boarding a crowded international flight? Will it ever feel normal to shake someone’s hands? I’m not so sure.

Photo by Yaroslav Danylchenko on Pexels.com

Before this gets all “gloom and doomy”, there are some things that I hope we keep as we move to our “new normal”. Things like more family time and a slower pace of life, things like discovering new hobbies or creating new traditions. In the same vein, as much as I am looking forward to getting back to some safe form of face-to-face teaching, there are some things that I hope we keep from this period of remote teaching and learning.

One of those things is the use of tools like Screencastify to record teaching moments so that they can be watched again and again.

This practice is nothing new to the ed tech field. It’s the basis of sites like the Khan Academy and trends like the flipped classroom. The idea is that the teacher records their screen and maybe even themselves, as they explain a new or difficult topic. The resulting video is shared somewhere where students can access it whenever they need to, for as many times as they need to, in order to learn the content. The videos can be helpful for ELL students or for students with hearing or sight issues.They’re great for students with chronic health issues who often miss class. And they even help students  like my own two kids, who often needed to overlearn a concept before they felt comfortable with it. 

Now, don’t misunderstand me, here. I am not, in any way, advocating that teachers should video record every lesson they give. That’s not only not necessary, it’s not practical! Nor am I saying that a recorded lesson is better than face to face teaching. However, whether students are learning from home or at school, the ability to watch and rewatch a critical lesson can be very helpful to many students. And I’ve spoken to a number of teachers who have enjoyed the creative process of filming and editing these helpful videos.

So, whether we move forward to a new normal or to the old normal, I hope that screen-capturing lessons and making them available to students is one thing that we keep.

Professional Development…Now?! Seriously?!

Okay, let me start off by saying that I am fully aware of the fact that many (if not all) educators are currently in a state of managed chaos mixed with disbelief, a bit of denial and a dash of depression. None of us signed up for  what we’re going through. So….now might not be the best time to bring up professional development, right? Who has  time for it?  Well….we do?

Hear me out on this one – it might be worth it. I’ve watched over  the last two months as many of you have embraced new technologies and learned new skills, all while in a very stressful situation. You have amazed me  and sometimes even brought me to tears with your success stories and your struggles. So, why not take some of what you’ve learned, add a bit more learning and have some kind of designation to show for it? (And for teachers in my district, this might give you some goals for your professional development plans for next year).

THE BIG THREE

Let’s start with Google. Google has a whole website and infrastructure dedicated to professional development. There are guides to all of the Google tools, there’s a course for those interested in learning more about distance learning and for those who are really feeling “googley” you can get certificates. There’s Google Educator 1 and Google Educator 2. I have both of them and I have to say that I learned a ton while studying and taking the tests.  Once you have both of those, you can apply to be a Certified Google Education Trainer or a Google Innovator. As I said, you do learn tons and you can apply almost everything you learn straight into your job!

Not feeling Googley? What about Apple? Apple has an AppleTeacher Learning Centre. You sign in with your Apple ID. Some of the resources on the site are really geared to schools or districts where every student has an Apple device but there’s still great stuff here. There are three main “courses” you can take – iPad, Mac and Swift (coding) and you can take quizzes and become an “Apple Teacher” in one or all of  these. There’s lots of great stuff on the site. One of current favourites is the 30 creative activity cards, geared to primary kids. You could download these and send them home to your students as”optional” activities to do at home!

For those who are interested, Microsoft has the Microsoft Certified Educator program. I haven’t personally done this one, so don’t have much to say about it but if you teach in a Microsoft district it might be worth looking into it!

OTHERS

Lots of Ed-Tech companies have their own certifications and digital badges that teachers can earn. Sometimes it’s a matter of showing them how you use the resources and sometimes there’s a quiz you can take. Some companies offer incentives. For instance, when I became a BookCreator Ambassador I was given a huge library, rather than the smaller size you get with a regular free account.

Here are some of the sites/apps that offer educator certificates/badges. I’m sure there are more sites and apps that offer training or accreditation.  If you know of any, leave a comment so I can add them.

Book Creator Ambassadors

Fresh Grade Champions

Screencastify (Master Screencaster)

Kahoot Certification

Common Sense Educators

Common Sense Ambassadors

Go Noodle Ambassador

Quizlet Ambassador

You may not be ready to think about any of this right now. I get that. This remote learning stuff can be all-consuming! Or maybe you’re sick of Netflix and tired of your own company and this is just the distraction you needed. In either case, be kind, be well  and stay safe!

Book Creator? You Bet!

What if I told you there was a digital creation tool that was safe for kids to use and  A) allowed them to create ebooks that incorporate images, video, audio, text and drawings, B) allowed them to create comic strips, C) worked on almost all devices, D) could be used with students from K to 12 AND was super cool?! You’d be interested, right? You bet! 

Well….welcome to Book Creator!

Book Creator has come a long way since its launch in 2011 as an ipad app. Here’s what it’s like now:

So, how do you get started? Well, go here and create a teacher account. If you work in SD45, do not use the “Sign in with Google” as this is not part of our G Suite. Create an account using your school email. Once you’re signed in, you’ll be guided through creating a library. Make sure you give your library a unique name. (eg – Gr. 3 Library…not very unique! Mrs. Baskin’s Gr. 9 Biology…better!)

Free teacher accounts get one library with 40 books allowed. Although there is a limit on books, there is no limit on the number of pages in a book or the length of the audio or video files added to a book. And, once you are done with a book you can delete it to free up space in your library.

To add students to your account, follow the instructions here. NOTE: If you teach in SD45, do not have your students join by clicking Sign in with Google!

So…..what can kids do with Book Creator? Just about anything! An explorer’s guide to penguins. A book about your school with interviews with all the teachers – what a great thing to show families new to the school! A book about local plants and animals along with the First Nations name for each of them. A math journal, with how-to videos for each new concept learned! A poetry and photography portfolio. A book snap! A collection of Shakespearean insults with a reference to what play they were found in and what they meant. And while you’re at it, create and add a meme for each one!

Here’s a link to a video/webinar showing you the ins and outs of using Book Creator. And here’s a recent one with a focus on accessibility from home (warning….it’s long!) Here’s a shorter one that shows the basics!

Normally, kids can only collaborate on a book in the paid version of Book Creator. But right now, it’s being offered as a 90 day perk due to Covid-19. Here’s how to get it and here’s how to have kids collaborate on the same book at the same time.  And here is information on how to combine books within your library.

Once you and your students have created the incredible books I know you can make, you have a variety of ways to show them off. You can save them as an epub,  embed them on a website, or publish them online. The iPad version also allows you to save the book as a movie. The Chrome version does not allow that function. Just make sure that anything you publish to the wide world does not have students’ full names or pictures of students in it.

We’re all working and learning from home and let’s face it, PowerPoint and Google Slides are great presentation tools but they can get a bit boring after a while. Why not mix things up a bit and have your kids become digital authors with Book Creator? You bet!