Friday, February 27, 2015

My Week as Tech Integration 2/27/15

I was asked to do a bit of research on online comic creation sites.

My first thought was to share the comic book dissertation. Comic book readers have always bristled at the idea that comics are not a true literary form. This just steps up the quality to the nth degree. I grew up reading comics, but I was never as serious as most comic book lovers. I just liked the stories. I hated that they just never seemed to stop. No purpose, no end etc….I watch the movies that come out now, but I don’t get too worked up about them, the stories aren't as good, more snark and less human frailty. The life lessons like “With great power comes great responsibility” Uncle Ben from Spiderman are lost.

Using comics in class.


Pixton is usually recommended as the cadillac of interactive comic sites. It does seem to have more options than the rest. This comic took me about five minutes to create from scratch.

When you click the pencil button on the top right
you are taken to a page where you can create a comic or a character. If you create a character it walks you through the process with almost no words necessary, even non-readers can do it.

If you choose create a comic you are immediately given the choice between beginner and advanced. I choose beginner. The beginner process allows you to choose from stock backgrounds, characters, and speech bubbles. The advanced process gives you a blank slate, but allows you to add backgrounds and props just a bit at a time. Unless creating the scenery and characters are important I would stick with the choice of beginner.

I did not examine the pricing structures. For a one off assignment this seems to work fine and allows you to send a link of your work to the teacher. Plus you have a range of privacy options which is great.


I liked makebelievfscomics, very basic and easy to get started.  It took me even less time to make this comic.

With makebelievefscomix (easy to misspell) you don’t even have to sign in to create a comic. Head to the comix creation page and get started. You have only the basic three panel scheme and you cannot create personalized characters, but for young kids this is the choice. Literally everything for creation is on one page. Click next and you can review, print, and email.


Storybird, is not a comic creator, but a book and poem creator. I like it because it allows you to choose great art and then write a story. Or if you like  you can upload your own picture prompt. It took me about 15 minutes to create this picture book. It is also easy to share, plus commenting with moderation is built in.

As a teacher you can easily create a classroom and add assignments for students (free).  Students can write a poem, a short picture book,  or a long form chapter book. As a teacher you can choose the type of book they write for their assignment, you can add some pictures or art for a prompt, and set due dates.


It is very easy to forget about Google Docs. Opening a blank document it is easy to insert a drawing (which can be a picture with a textbox overlayed). If we create a table and add these drawings into the cells we have a simple comic strip with text boxes instead of thought clouds.  The pictures can be a simple hand drawing that we take a picture of with our phones and upload to Google Drive, they can be pictures from the internet, or even snapshots from our webcams.

ICE 2015

ICE is the Illinois Computing Educators annual conference. We are lucky to have such a large and vibrant community of technology educators in Illinois. They also love to share in the knowledge, the notes from almost everyone at ICE2015 can be found here.

Effective Presentations for 21st Century School Leaders
I spent two days this week at the ICE conference in St. Charles, IL. My first all day session was Presentations for Administrators. Lot’s of good suggestions. (shared notes)

  • When watching a video open a back channel like and have students discuss the video while watching.
  • All presentations should probably start on paper using basic creative writing 101 skills. Tell a story don’t read bullet points from a slide.
  • Seven Tips for Storytelling
  1. Stories are about people.
  2. Let your characters speak for themselves.  
  3. Audiences bore easily.  Make people wonder what will happen next, always throw up obstacles.
  4. Stories stir up emotions.
  5. Stories don’t tell: they show.
  6. Stories have at least one “moment of truth.”
  7. Stories have a clear meaning.
  8. Finish with a STAR moment (Something To Always Remember) Nancy Duarte
  • A good presentation will kind of look like this

Tuesday was three distinct activities. A half day program on Google for students with mild to severe disability, a few short speakers, and EdCampAfterDark.

I tried to put some of these practices into my presentation on helping students make better presentations. A new tool - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

Google for Students with Mild to Severe Disabilities
I love these Special Ed programs because most of the tools can be used in the regular classroom, they just don’t have to be used. (shared notes)

Speech to text

Nothing on the market today seems to match the accuracy and functionality of Dragon Dictation software. If however, you have a chromebook or don’t want to pay there are still options.

  • Read&Write for Google Docs (free for a year subscription for teachers)
    • Previously we pushed out a speech to text chrome extensions to D2 called SpeakIt. You may have noticed it reads a webpage when you highlight the words. Read&Write is much more advanced.
    • Read&write also helps convert text to speech and predicts the next word when writing.
  • Dictanote A speech to text writer. Also recognizes foreign languages. This program and most like it probably uses the same speech to text engine as when you talk to your phone. It isn’t great or fast, but works pretty well. This also means it can tap into google Translate and allows you to speak in any languages they have (a lot).
  • Use Hello sign to have parents sign forgotten field trip forms etc.. up to 3 per month free.
  • Workflows When working on a building it might be nice to add workflows so everyone knows who is doing what and who needs to sign off on what.
  • Using a single google doc for repetitive notes. Create a table of contents at the top, use bookmarks or headings to create links to days. I’ve put my blog post drafts on a Google doc on this manner so you can see.
    • If you use headings 4thor insert > bookmarks you can create hyperlinks within a google Document. Then you can insert>table of contents to create a quick hyperlinked table of contents anywhere in your document. Or add the hyperlinks one at a time to the top.
    • This is great if you have regular meetings on the same subject or student. Instead of creating dozens of documents and maybe losing one everything is there and easily found.
  • Distance measurements on maps or Map a work-out
  • You can add several flags on a map and ask students to measure distance, create directions etc….
  • Adding pictures to Google forms and spreadsheets. When you click insert > image on a google form or spreadsheet you can search online or your computer and add a picture. This can be great for students who make grocery lists and need pictures.
I used my new better presentation skills to create a quick presentation on HaikuDeck about HaikuDeck. A great little web and iPad tool to break out of the worst PowerPoint mistake (too many words on a slide).


DOE clarifies student privacy policies

3:36 using websites and parental consent in class.

6:30 using free apps - This site may help with terms of service

The official government website on student privacy

Friday, February 20, 2015

This week in technology integration - 2/20/2015

I spend too much time in my office, trying to solve the worlds problems. I am going to do my best to stick to my schedule of one day a week in each building visiting classrooms, then on Fridays reflect. Classroom stuff first then some resources down below.

Classrooms Around Town

Smartboards are great for organizing class during transitions. Many teachers have a list of names, especially in the morning and let students move themselves from absent to present or to hot or cold lunch. Even kindergartners can often do this activity.

Daily Agendas are also a great way to keep students informed and involved in the school day -

In one class I visited, a teacher asked a volunteer to read a book while she was getting the next lesson ready. I thought, students love to hear their teacher reading a book, why not record yourself reading a book and post if for your students? Copyrighted books should not be posted online, but anything written before 1930 is fair game. In the case of needing a few minutes of time you could record yourself reading and save it on your google drive for play in the classroom. This is fair use and perfectly legal. 

About 5 years ago I recorded a Dr.Seuss book for my kids. I had fun finding images for this book and recording myself reading.I wonder if the kids would like to do this too?

Dr. Seuss from Brendan Murphy on Vimeo.

That reading took me an afternoon of playing around with MovieMaker and finding images, but today I would just create a powerpoint or Google presentation and do a screen recording. I am checking with to see if Dr. Seuss books allow this type of recording. I think they might. 

A teacher took just a few seconds before turning off her document camera to pan around the room. Kids waved and danced as they showed up on camera.

Math fluency and speed in computation is not the same thing. However, competition can often be a way to practice math facts until they are automatic. Live mathletics and games on (free daily practice usually 15 questions), or can be fun.

Some of the hardest days teaching can be reviewing study guides, or walking the whole class through instructions to make sure everyone understands exactly what they are supposed to do. It always takes three times as long as it should and even then there are those one or two students who just don’t seem to get it. I wonder if we could flip these lessons. A ten minute video going through the review questions or a podcast? Could this be a job for a star student? Maybe, during the year students can earn the right to be the homework instruction star? They can record the instruction video or audio and post it to the class youtube channel or something.

I sometimes see teachers writing homework assignments on a word document projected on the wall and asking students to copy to their assignment notebooks. What if I did this on a Google Document then clicked File -> Publish to the Web? It becomes a webpage that automatically updates itself as I put the next day’s homework on top. I can send the link home to parents through skyward everyday (just resend the same message everyday) I can publish the link on my classroom or department web page. I can even embed the page into an existing webpage.

Things Found on the Web

Anytime we try to convey information to the entire class students have questions. Some are shy and don’t want to raise their hands, some don’t think of the question until too late, and other times the answer to the question is coming up if they just hold on.  That’s why I think it can be useful to have a backchannel up and running, especially during these review or instruction settings. Questions can be put on the backchannel and even sometimes answered by other students without slowing down the pace of the class.

The ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) is attempting to create child friendly translations to the NETS-S (national educational technology standards for students) standards. What do you think? 

Stuck trying to create a new lesson try this: Search for publicly shared Docs. Just type "Example Topic" into Google Search. See how it is done here.  (Quotes will force google to search for the exact words, but are not required. Try with or without for different results.)

Taking notes on paper and reviewing them, enhancing them and then sharing digitally. This is pretty advanced and might be best for high achieving high school students.

A different way to learn vocabulary

8 apps to turn your ipad into an interactive whiteboard. You may not have $2,000 for a Smartboard, but can you get $400 for an iPad? I wonder how well they work on the $300 Google Nexus?

Surveys for grade 2 using forms. Teaching questioning skills as well as math skills as they examine the results.

If you only read one thing, then read this post.
Tech Integration - "There is No App for Good Teaching"

Friday, February 13, 2015

Ask the Right Questions

When bringing technology into the classroom, how do you know you’re asking the wrong questions?

Can you help me find an app that will teach ...?What kind of tech should I have in my classroom?How do I use this in my classroom?Can you show me how to use this?How do I find time for this?How do I fit this into my lesson?

When your questions have to do with bringing something extra or replacing expert knowledge of teaching.

Instead ask:
What do I want my student to learn?What ways to I want to present the content?How will students prove they have gained understanding?How will I give feedback to my students?How will students make corrections and resubmit? (iterate)

CCSS doesn't leave time for this.I have so much more content to cover. The kids are/will be off task.Students just know how to play, not learn.Texting, slang, etc... is not real speaking writing.The technology/wifi/site doesn't always work.Students wont get enough practice.They cheat on tests/quizzes.I don’t know how to do it. I don’t have time to learn.