Comics Show Who You Are!

Today was the second day of grade 4 this year, and my eagerness to learn even more about my students led me to turn to technology. I gave my students a quick low down on Comic Life, and then let them explore, play, and create a comic of themselves. Their only requirement needed was to take a picture of themselves, include their name, and tell me five things about themselves. If they had any questions about how to use the app, I encouraged them to ask their peers, as they are becoming wonderful teachers themselves!

Once their projects were completed, they were easily able to airdrop them to me, so I could share them as well. Besides the fact that my students were instantly engaged in their projects, their tidbits about themselves gave me insights into who they are. Leaving the project open-ended, instead of providing a simple fill in the blank all about me sheet, seemed to encourage the students to tell me a lot about them. Many of their thoughts made me smile, and taught me something new and interesting. I’m looking forward to using their comics to generate further discussion, make connections with each of them, and between them, to continue to build our classroom community.

Here are some examples of their finished pieces:

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Tech, Tech, and More Tech

Each school year, as I begin planning my days and units I am amazed at the changes and progression of technology. Last year, I was excited to use iPads, really focus on blogging with my students, and begin our Twitter classroom account. The connections made and sharing abilities proved to be successful, and provided ample learning opportunities for my students. This year, the options are endless: iPads, blogging, Edmodo, chromebooks, apps galore, and Web 2.0 tools. Initially, I felt overwhelmed trying to discover new and innovative ways to use these tools. How do I know which tools is the best for the job? How can I decide which device to use? These questions led me to wonder, is there truly an answer? Can one tool be the “be all, end all?”

As I began to reflect, I immediately disregarded these initial queries. I think that we have multiple tools because they are each unique and beneficial in their own ways. If I didn’t have laptops, I would want them. If I didn’t have iPads, I would wonder how to complete projects. Limiting ones tools is not the answer. Discovering how to use them, and allowing students to use what works best for them is a better response. My appreciation and excitement has flourished as I imagine the projects and possibilities that technology lends itself to. Let the 2015 school year begin!

Creating Comic Masterpieces

Comics are a great way for students to show their learning in a concise manner. They are limited to the speech/thought bubbles, but still allow for creativity and appeal to a variety of learning styles. Today I used Comic Life with my beginner Spanish class, and loved the creations that they came up with. Without being taught explicit instructions, they were able to take pictures, type words, change templates and styles, and create a wonderful, polished product.

Student Spanish Comics Using "Estar."

Student Spanish Comics Using “Estar.”

From this assignment I was able to see who grasped the concepts and who still needed assistance. It provided me with addition information about creativity and knowledge about the students. Due to the ease of use, it allowed me to assist those who needed extra help with the app or with creating Spanish phrases. Additionally, exporting to another platform was easy for the students to do. Comic Life allowed for creativity, knowledge to be shared, engagement with students, and a seamless ability to create projects. My students loved using it!

It made me think about other ways in which it could be used in the classroom. Here were a few examples that I was able to find online:

Math Class

Science Class

Social Studies

The ways in which you can use this app in the classroom are endless. I’m only just scratching the surface!

Here are a few links/tips on using Comic Life in the classroom:
How to Use Comic Life in the Classroom
Comic Life
School Examples

Tellagami: The Voice of Reason

Recently, I had my students use the app Tellagami to complete an assignment and was blown away by their abilities and the ease of use of the app. For those of you who don’t know Tellagami, it’s an app where you create an avatar, design their hair, clothes, etc…, as well as the background. You have the option to type in your text and choose a voice, or can use your own personal voice. Here’s a few reasons why everyone needs this app for their students:

1) It’s free!! It will cost you nothing and the abilities are endless.
2) The ease of use is amazing and is intuitive to the kids. I pulled out the iPads, told my students to click on the app, and the worked away on their assignments.
3) It saves to your camera roll so you can easily upload into another platform, or use in another program.
4) It’s a great way to provide students with a way to express themselves, especially for the more introverted students.
5) Although the app is limited to 30 seconds, it does require the students to be precise in their explainations. They must be straight and to the point!

My student’s assignment was to explain the difference between transparent, translucent, and opaque objects. Here are two examples of the work they completed:

I think this app could be used in a variety of ways in the classroom. Besides having the students explain what they’ve learned in another way, it could be used as an activity it to provide feedback on reading (i.e. if you had them focus on expression), and could also be used to combined several Tellagamis together to create an iMovie. Here’s an example:

If you haven’t checked it out, or are unfamiliar with it, I highly recommend trying Tellagami with your students today, and would love to hear of other ways that you use it in your classroom.

Digital Learning Day

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Digital Learning Day is a yearly scheduled event to help focus on learning through different technology platforms. It is a great way to get students excited about using technology and to see the abilities that it has to enable their learning.

Twitter was filled with amazing examples around the globe of educators using technology with their students in numerous ways. It was inspiring to see and to participate in the conversations. Here are a few comments that stuck in my mind.

I’m lucky enough at my school to have a variety of technologies to use: ipads, laptops, smartboard, flip cams. Our day was filled with exciting activities that had the students actively learning new things. Close to the end of the day, a student asked me if they could blog about what Digital Learning Day is, so I of course gave everyone some time to type an entry. Here are a few examples.

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Their reflections were great and each varied in meaning and understanding. We are lucky to have such an easy accessibility to technology. I sometimes feel that we forget that we’re even using it. Days like this are a fantastic opportunity to reflect upon how technology can help us leverage teaching and the improvements and ease it allows. Be thankful we have it. Be appreciative of the abilities it grants for us. Be mindful of the possibilities and immense learning opportunities it creates.

iPads, No Wifi, and 26 Students

Every year sometime during term 2, my school has student-led conferences. It is a way for students to showcase their work and explain their learning to their parents. As a way to introduce this concept to the parents, I asked my students if they would like to create a movie trailer, using iMovie, to entice their parents and to get them excited about this great learning opportunity. My students loved the idea, and after two periods (2 hours), created these fantastic projects. I was blown away by the creativity, level of confidence, and abilities that my nine year old students have.

As my students began to upload their videos to Showbie (the platform my district has adopted), I was inundated with questions, raised hands, and shouting out of my name. Turns out our iPads were not connecting to the wifi network, which made this project quite challenging. We also had some issues with Showbie not accessing the photo stream, and overall I felt like this lesson was a mass failure.

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Using technology can be frustrating at times. You have great days where everything goes as planned, and then you have the other days which make you reconsider even using it. I consider myself to be a tech savvy person, but other teachers are new to it and still learning. What would happen if they had planned a lesson like this and it did not go according to plan? Would they have the tools and skills to know what to do? Would they be discouraged from using technology again? What kind of system do we need in place to support teachers and technology? These are some questions that I myself am struggling to answer. I believe that we need a support system, but am unclear of what this would look like.

I feel that as educators we teach our students the skills of perseverance and determination. Students also learn these concepts through observations and role modeling. I think that if you can take a stressful and frustrating activity and show your students how to manage it calmly then that in itself is a great learning opportunity.

Give Children the Tool of Technology

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At my school we have an iPad cart, with a set of iPads that can move from class to class. This has proven to be a little challenging, and we had many hiccups along the way, but they finally seem to be up and running consistently. I brought them into my class yesterday, and as a fun activity wanted my students to create a movie trailer for their parents, for our student-led conferences next Thursday. Prior to starting the activity I questioned how many students had used iMovie before, to which I was shocked by the surprise of only 3! I went through some minor instructions, but thought it might be best for the students to play around with it themselves.

After the first 5-10 minutes of constant questioning, “How do I do this? How do I do that?” it was incredible to see their abilities with a tool they had never used before. It was so intuitive for them to discover how to use it and their level of engagement was significantly high. They were out of their desks, collaborating together, mentoring other students, and fully appreciating the task at hand.

I think sometimes as teachers we over think our lessons. Our perfectionism and desire for control over takes the voice and ability of our students. I think we’re scared sometimes to let go and let our students lead. This proved to me, that if they have the tools necessary, the technology to enable, their voices and skills are apparent. Being a teacher in the 21st century, we need to be able to give control to our students over their learning and allow them to shine.

My class thoroughly engaged in their iMovie project.

My class thoroughly engaged in their iMovie project.