Friday, September 25, 2015

Posters, Resources, and ELD Standards

I've lived in California for almost a year now, and am becoming very familiar with the California English Language Development Standards. My goal for this post is to share a few of the big ideas I've learned about the CA ELD Standards through the use of two tools: Canva and Tackk.


I learned about Tackk through +Lisa Johnson (TechChef4u) when I stumbled upon her post about Tackk. I quickly realized that it was a useful tool to create and curate content. I think of it as an online poster or magazine article.

It seems like an easy tool to use because you can just drag and drop content into it. Headlines, text, images, graphics, vidoes, audio and playlists, GIFs and media, Google Maps, PayPal, contact forms and RSVPs can be added.

I've downloaded Tackk on my iPad, use it on my desktop, and can install it on my Chrome Browser. There are also several templates for educational use.

Click here for more information on Tackk.


Another tool that Lisa Johnson introduced me to is Canva. I use this tool to design slides, posters, and visuals. The visuals I created in my Tackk poster (top) were created in Canva.

Final thoughts

There are many other tools that I use for these same purposes, but I wanted to try something new and accessible across multiple platforms.
  • What are some educational uses for Canva, Trackk, or other similar tools?
  • How might you use Canva or Trackk?
  • What did you learn about the California ELD Standards?

Monday, July 20, 2015

Digital Storytelling and Stories for the Desktop

Digital storytelling is an art form conveying a message. It uses images and voice narration to convey emotion with the message, and to ignite empathy from the audience. It incorporates storyboarding and writing a script. It is created with digital tools and published on the Internet.

I often think of digital storytelling as something done in first person because it creates that personal connection. Whereas, I think of a digital story as an anecdote or story typed or narrated in third person.

Image attribution: Lyn Hilt's Slideshare, used with permission.
Original work: "Writing- Pen & Paper" CC-by Laurie Richie

Here are some of the many benefits of digital storytelling and digital stories:

    Get Adobe Flash player

  • The 21st century skills and ISTE's Standards applied are critical and creative thinking; written, oral, and digital communication; collaboration; authentic learning; digital fluency; informational fluency; and project management.
  • It is great differentiation for all students including ELs, gifted, and special needs.
  • It increases student engagement in a meaningful and relevant task.

State Standards

Many specific content standards can be addressed through digital stories. Here are some of the Common Core Standards that digital storytelling and digital stories address:
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences. 
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. 
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.5 Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.
Here are some of the ELD Standards: ELD.P1.9-12

Types of digital stories and some prompts

Digital storytelling and stories can take shape as a:
  • Short Story: This narrative shares an insight, a perspective, or an entertaining story.
  • Myth, Legend, Tall Tale, Folk Tale, or Fable: While each of these are a little different from one another, they tend to describe origins, values, beliefs, accomplishments, or special events. 
  • DocuDrama or Historical Storytelling: This digital story is told from the point of view of a person (or object) in a different era. It requires researching a time period, then using creativity to have those facts come to life.
  • Describe and Conclude or Reflective Storytelling: Tell about something you're learning and the impact it has on you.
  • Public Service Announcement, Advertisement, or Persuasive Story: This digital story has the purpose of calling others to action for or against something else.
These prompts were inspired by Bernajean Porter's Digital Storytelling Across the Curriculum

The art of digital storytelling

Several years ago, I participated in an outstanding webinar by ISTE's Special Interest Group for Digital Storytelling, where Bernajean Porter shared about the "Art and Soul of Digital Storytelling." After being inspired by the webinar, I created the following page summarizing some of my key take-aways:
Click here to download PDF

Below is an example of digital storytelling by Siobahn Quigg.

Step 1: Writing the script and planning the project
Click to download
  • Prompt: I'd choose one prompt to introduce the process of digital storytelling to students. I might even do the first one as a whole group with parts and roles shared by the students. (Here's the first try from a second grade class and a Kindergarten student). As our class becomes confident with the process and media, I'd open it up to more choices and smaller groups/individual productions.
  • Teaching about the writing: Teach the importance of first person for adding spice to the story; share an interesting problem, perspective, or insight; and use strong word choice to convey the message.

Step 2: Production and digital tools
  • Choose the tool: When I am introducing the digital storytelling process to classes, I choose the tool for them to use. Once the process is established and they have a toolbox of sites (or apps) to use, I give them a choice in tools.
  • Images and Creative Commons: Have students create their own images, take their own photos, or find photos that have Creative Commons Licenses and have them properly cite the photo either on the same page as the picture or at the end.
  • Background music and Creative Commons: If there is not music to choose from on the app or site, then find music that is legal to use in your video. I select music from the list suggested by Creative Commons, Dano Songs, or Melody Loops. However, background music is not a necessity, especially if it's new to the class. 
  • Production: Before production, I treat this part of the process much like I would the rough draft of a writing assignment with editing and revising. Here's where the mini-lessons come in about voice, word choice, etc. I like to conference with my students to make sure they are ready for production, then I allow them to start once they've gathered all of the photos and music (optional).

Digital Story and Digital Storytelling tools

There are some amazing products that I've taken students to in the past but are no longer feasible options due to issues with privacy, security, and/or advertising. Here's my quick test to see if I'll use the app/product:
  • Am I concerned about student safety with using this app/site? If so, I have no qualms with finding a different app/product. 
  • Does it have advertisements on the site? If so, I'm shying away from using that site.
If it passes the aforementioned questions as a safe site that doesn't advertise, then I ask myself:
  • Can I log students on without giving away their last name, email address, or other personal information? If not, and I can't work around it by logging in as me, then I'll need to find another product.
  • How does it protect, store, and secure student data? 
  • Is it compliant with FERPA, PPRA, and COPPA, and meet state legislation?
Below are a few sites that can be used to create digital stories and storytelling. Some are more for narration; others for story books; and several allow digital storytelling with visual and narration.

More resources

Step 3: Publishing and connecting with an authentic audience

Celebrate their creations by sharing with others.

Building an authentic audience to view the digital stories is powerful for students. They are no longer creating a project just for the teacher -- it's for their families, friends, and people around the globe.

Each of the apps listed above have a description for sharing on the Internet. Emails can be sent to parents with the URL for where the digital story is published (or through the RSS subscription for the class blog). When shared on a teacher's blog, a Tweet can also be sent through Twitter asking for comments on their work by adding the hashtag #comments4kids. If your school uses social media, you can ask to share the link there.

Reflection, evaluation, and rubrics

Providing specific feedback along the way with daily goals is part of the process. Self-evaluations using the scoring guides or rubrics are strong formatives for the students to target their next steps.

Formal or informal student reflection is part of the process. It's important that a positive class atmosphere is established for this step.
  • Asking reflective questions: Have partners share their work with one another and ask them, "What parts or images captured your interest or attention?" 
  • Tracy's Rubric: This rubric was created as an introduction to storytelling, with the purpose of focusing on Common Core Reading Standard #6, "Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text," by applying it to digital storytelling.
  • Digital Storytelling Rubric: I discovered Jason Ohler's post about assessing digital stories from Lyn Hilt's wiki. This is an extensive list of ideas on assessing digital storytelling.
  • Create your own rubric: If you end up creating your own rubric, remember to focus on your content standards the most with only a little emphasis (if any) on the technology piece.

Final thoughts

Digital storytelling is fabulous for content learning, 21st century learning, and active engagement. If task predicts performance, then my money is on digital storytelling.
  • What apps or digital resources would you add to this list?
  • What tips or questions would you add to this conversation about digital storytelling?
  • How else does this post connect with you?

Portions of this post was originally published in 2013 and as part of AJUSD professional development with netbooks.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Readability Tech Tools for ELA Standards

ELA Text Complexity

Readability levels are an important ingredient for figuring out text complexity. Reading Standard 10 specifically states that students must read complex text, "Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently."

Text complexity reminds me of a s'more. It contains three main parts, and while you can talk about each ingredient separately, it's not really a s'more until you put them all together.

Tools for readability

Have you ever wondered if the text on a website is the appropriate reading level for your students? Here are some tools for assessing the quantitative measures of readability:
  • Determines the Flesh-Kincade Reading Level by copying and pasting the text into the box.
  • Lexile Analyzer: You can scan your text (or type it in) to see the complexity of what you've written (or text in any website). Note, you'll have to register to use this site.
  • ATOS: Determines the ATOS reading level by copying and pasting the text into the box.
  • Lexile: This site helps you find the lexile range, and recommended books for that range.
Table: Supplemental Information for Appendix A of the Common Core State Standards

Text with adjustable readability
  • ReadWorks: Reading passages, lessons, and units with comprehension questions for K-8th and by select domain or standard.
  • Newsela: You can find current events by content area. Create student accounts and it will provide different copies of an article with various reading levels.
Here's an example of the Newsela teacher dashboard

  • Wikipedia: Even though some might consider Wikipedia as a site with questionable reliability, it is a site that shows current understanding of a topic by the public. Furthermore, it might be a good place to start a search because it provides a broad overview of the topic. It also allows you to adjust the vocabulary to Simple English, which may assist English Learners or other students when reading the text.

Online portfolios

There are many tools that can be used as a portfolio. The beauty of a portfolio is it shows growth over time.

Have you considered these tools for portfolios?
  • Edublogs, Wordpress, Blogger, or Kidblog: Blogging allows writers to connect with an audience beyond the four classroom walls.
  • WeVideo or YouTube: Vlogging (video blogging) again allows authors to connect with a global audience. Both of these have built in video editing tools.
  • Evernote: This tool is great for note taking, keeping documents organized, and annotating documents. Other tools that work with Evernote are: Skitch, Penultimate, Web Clipperetc.
  • Flickr: Photography portfolios allow students to create personal history museums, collecting photographs of artifacts and sharing the importance of those artifacts. (A special thanks to Denise Krebs for this idea.)
Final thoughts

There are many resources available for learning the ELA standards. Technology is included in those standards. We are no longer in a day and age of putting technology off as something we didn't get to. Technology is essential for students to be prepared for college and careers, and it is built into today's learning standards.
  • What ELA tools and resources would you add to this list?
  • What other thoughts or ideas from this post would you like to challenge, add to, or share?
Revised edition of this post from 2014, based on my learning from Kyle Brumbaugh and Elizabeth Calhoon.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Creating in Educreations

Educreations received a slight makeover, and it now has a few new features that allows teachers to push lessons out to student accounts, while also being able to see published student work for those enrolled in her/his classes.

What is Educreations?

Educreations is an interactive whiteboard and screencasting tool for both the iPad and desktop computer. Its features include drawing, annotation, and narration. You can insert photos straight from your camera, photo album, Dropbox, Google Drive, and from the Internet.

  • Students can use Educreations to investigate ideas, and create videos to share their thinking and learning.
  • Teachers can use student artifacts as formative assessments as evidence of learning or misconceptions/gaps in understanding.  
  • Teachers can use Educreations to send presentations to students as well.
How do you use it?

How do Teachers sign up and create a Class account?

How do students sign up and connect with the Class account?

Any drawbacks?

Students and Teachers can only save and work on one draft at a time with the free version of the tool.

One way a teacher can have multiple groups of students work on the same draft is to add a page to make it a collaborative presentation, with each student or groups of students contributing to the topic. Tip: Have students put their initials or first name on each of their slides.

What are some other tools like Educreations?
  • Desktop: I like using Screenr for screencasting. 
  • Chromebooks and Chrome browser from desktop: Snagit works nicely in Chrome, Google Apps, and Google Classroom. 
  • iPad: Seesaw has a lot of potential (see this post by Richard Byrne).
  • iPad: ShowMe is another whiteboard recording tool that allows you to add multiple pages. You can save multiple drafts at a time with this app.

Final thoughts

When choosing any app or site for students to work on, it's important to make sure they are compliant with FERPA, COPPA, PPRA, and meets state legislation. I've been shying away from some great sites and apps until companies rethink what data they need to collect and their use of advertisements.
  • How would you have your students use a screencasting tool? How could that benefit their learning?
  • What tips or tools would you recommend for screencasting?
  • How else did this post connect with you?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Comments for Community to Enter a State of "Flow" #C4C15

According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, happiness and genuine satisfaction comes from a state of consciousness called flow. To achieve flow, one must be completely absorbed in an activity, a mindful challenge, involving creativity. Those mindful challenges can not be too demanding, nor too easy.

This "mindful challenge" reminds me of a volleyball net. If it is set too high, it is too difficult to hit the ball over the net, resulting in giving up the game out. Likewise, if the net is too low, there's not enough challenge to keep my attention, leading to the same outcome of giving up the game. Thus, we need to set the net at the appropriate height, and then we'll start learning how to make changes to improve, which is when we'll become intrinsically motivated by the act.

“Most enjoyable activities are not natural; they demand an effort that initially one is reluctant to make. But once the interaction starts to provide feedback to the person's skills, it usually begins to be intrinsically rewarding.” ― Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

#C4C15 Project

A few weeks ago, I received a quality comment on my blog post from Ben Wilkoff. At the end of the comment, he shared his #C4C15 Project: Comments for Community, which is his call to create a community of writers by leaving comments for others to build connections and a culture of learning.

Ben Wilkoff's Launching #C4C15: Comments for Community in 2015

I'm inspired by Ben's #C4C15 Project, and fearful at the same time. I fear the time commitment. I fear being completely open and vulnerable.

If I really want to grow, I need to allow for that vulnerability and trust that I'll gain critical friends rather than criticism.

Slide_CriticalFriends by Bill Ferriter, CC: BY, NC

Count me in

Despite my apprehension, I am making the goal to connect and learn with others online, and leave quality comments.
“It is when we act freely, for the sake of the action itself rather than for ulterior motives, that we learn to become more than what we were. When we choose a goal and invest ourselves in it to the limits of concentration, whatever we do will be enjoyable. And once we have tasted this joy, we will redouble our efforts to taste it again. This is the way the self grows.” ― Mihaly CsikszentmihalyiFlow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

  •  How do you connect and learn with others?
  • What risks are you taking to grow?

Saturday, February 28, 2015

What does it mean to be literate in the 21st century?

There's not a doubt in my mind that technology has changed our world. Information is created, shared, and evaluated differently. People connect, communicate, and go about their daily lives in new ways with the use of technology.

Think about the impact of technology on industries like newspapers, publishers, movies, travel agencies, etc. I go online to read the news, view books, and watch movies. I plan vacations, make travel arrangements, and purchase tickets online. I find new recipes and share them with friends through social media.

We are in an information revolution. It's changing and disrupting how things are done, and requires new skills to be successful. Therefore, it impacts what it means to be literate, moving beyond reading and writing and into information and digital literacies.

New literacies

Today, students need to be taught information and research fluency, along with digital citizenship and technology operations and concepts.

Final thoughts

Even if students are "digital natives" it does not mean they know online information skills such as vetting valid and reliable sources. Students must be taught the new literacies.

Literacy is not optional, and teaching students how to search, organize, evaluate, synthesize, and share information, is part of learning in the 21st century.

  • What do you think it means to be literate in the 21st century?
  • How do new literacies change the learning environment?
  • How else does this post connect with you?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


One question I'm asked on occasion is, "How do you capture a copy of what's on your screen?"

The procedure differs a little depending on the device. The devices I most frequently use are listed below.

On PCs, this is often how I'd do it:
  • Press the “Print Screen” key on the top right of my keyboard.
  • Then open my email, PowerPoint, or Paint.
  • Press CTRL + V to paste the image.
  • Decide if I need to save the image (or crop the image). If so, I like using Paint.

On my Mac, I'll:
  • Press Command, Shift, and 4 at the same time.
  • Then pull the crossbars down and around the image you want to capture.
  • You’ll find it on your desktop as a Screenshot.

On an iPad, I'll:
  • Press the sleep button and the home button simultaneously. It will save in the Camera Roll album (see icon below).
Final thoughts

Screenshots are valuable when creating presentations or explaining something from the screen. For example, if there is an error message, I like sending a screenshot along with my request for help to show exactly what occurred. 

I am also cognizant of copyrights.
  • What questions, comments, or insights would you add to this post?