Saturday, June 9, 2012

Reflections on a Year of YouTube and Flipping the Classroom

This past summer, I was fortunate to be selected to participate in a full day of training in screencasting and flipped teaching at the YouTube Teacher Studio at the Google offices in Kirkland.  It was a fantastic day of learning and connecting with other educators doing great things to improve learning.  Many thanks go to Will Houghtelling, Jim Sill, James Sanders and Ramsey Musallam for the fantastic professional development they offered.  And also to excellent new colleagues like Karen Mensing who contributed heavily to my personal learning network.

Often times when we go back to the realities of our regular jobs, the excitement of our new learnings fade, and we don't follow through with those big plans we had.  I was determined to really make an effort to incorporate YouTube and Flipped teaching into my work with teachers this year.   Each month I contributed playlists to YouTube/teachers - and about half the time I teamed up with a content specialist to on this partly because I don't have any specific classes of my own, and partly to promote the use of YouTube.  Additionally I teamed up with a fantastic Physics teacher and co-led two 45 minute Flipped Teaching Salons (designed to spark interest amongst other teachers) during a Professional Development day.  The sessions were well received by the 25 attendees.  These salons were the spark for many 1 on 1 follow up sessions where I worked with teachers to be able to use the tools on their Mac to record instruction then post to YouTube.  Two teachers I work with have really gotten into the method.  The Physics teacher I mentioned with YouTube channel "druceisp" (although it is still private) has uploaded 294 videos to date, and is completely restructuring how he organizes his courses.  Our guitar teacher is getting started on recording EVERY lesson for his beginning guitar classes (tonyackermanguitar). He only has about 10 public at this time, but will be "releasing" them as appropriate, timed with his classes next year. I've really enjoyed the thoughtful conversations that have come about while supporting teachers in this methodology.

Wanting to use YouTube to host some excellent, creative, student content, I helped the European Student Film Festival design a channel and get all of their student submissions and "24 Hour Challenge Films" online for viewing by a larger audience.

I also made a commitment to do more screencasting myself.  When ever I was asked a question that was best answered by showing, I tried to take the time to do it with a video so that I would have it to use again the next time I was asked.  Similarly, when working with teachers on longer projects, such as an interview project in Psychology where the final product was a podcast, I used video to record instruction that could be accessed at anytime, making the instruction so much more meaningful to the various groups of students.  My screencasting skills have improved over the year, and I'm much quicker now (although it is still difficult to listen/watch my own videos).

Looking back, I'm so grateful for the training I received at the YouTube Teacher Studio, and thankful for the connections and friendships made.  YouTube is an extremely flexible and relevant tool that is easily adapted for use in the educational realm.  Screencasting and YouTube are now just part of my daily work flow.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Stop Motion on iPhone

One of our Apple Certified technicians was having some fun testing iMotion on his phone to make a stop motion video.  He showed me the video and I asked him if iMotion does all the transitions and text as well.  "No," he said, "that was done in iMovie".  I assumed he put the footage onto his Mac and then made the movie in iMovie.  But, no.  He did the whole thing on iMovie on his phone.  And if you can do this quickly on an iPhone, I'm sure it is an even better experience on an iPad.  Maybe iPads/iPhones are more of a creative tool than I thought.  Hmmmm....


Friday, March 30, 2012

iPad and Apple TV

ISP is hosting the Czech Teacher's IT Summit this weekend, which will focus mainly on using iPads in the classroom.  Our network manager connected an Apple TV to the projector in our theater so that the speakers can present using AirPlay on their iPads.  This required a little bit of troubleshooting since the projector did not match the outputs of the Apple TV.

Here is what our setup eventually looked like:

  • Apple TV connected via ethernet cable to a wireless router.

  • HDMI output through a HDMI to DVI cable connected to projector.

  • Optical output connected to digital/analogue converter connected to theater sound system.

  • iPad2 connected through AirPlay to Apple TV


  • Wow.  This set up has some serious potential.  The various adapters are a bit of a pain, but the outcome is worth it - being able to view the iPad on the big theater screen.

  • Keynote on the iPad is quite nice.  The presentation screens are customizable and can allow you to view next slide as well as notes.

  • While we are using this in the theater, I can envision this setup being used in classrooms, offices and conference rooms of various sizes.

  • I've never been a fan of Interactive White Boards, and I really can't see how they will survive against the tandem of iPad/Apple TV.




Friday, March 23, 2012

Google Search Stories in HS English Creative Writing

Earlier this year, a fellow Google Certified Teacher, Wendy Gorton introduced me to Google Search Stories.  Since then, I've been waiting to find the perfect opportunity to use them with students.  This week, I've been invited to guest-teach in our Creative Writing course where I plan to lead students through the process of creating their own.  My plan is to show a few videos created by Google, then one created using the Search Story Generator (hat tip - Jim Sill) and then have students analyse what elements make them "work" before letting them loose to create their own.  I'm hoping it will be a good brain-stretching, creative, one-class-period exercise that gives them experience with working with a new and unique genre.



A popular Google Search Story - Parisian Love

An excellent student example created using Google Search Story Video Creator

Google Search Story Video Creator

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Flipping Guitar

We've got pockets around the school where teachers are experimenting with flipping the classroom.  Tony Ackerman, our amazing guitar teacher, is using the power of video to differentiate during class.  While he is working with one group of students, he sends another group out into the hallway with their laptops and a pre-recorded lesson tailored to their skill level.  In this way he is able to meet the needs of each of his diverse learners.

The videos are so good, that even someone as tone-deaf as me could learn from them. You'll have to excuse me - I'm off to buy a guitar.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Introducing A New DCA

We've spent a good deal of time this year working on creating a meaningful Digital Citizenship Agreement (which I blogged about here).  In rolling this new agreement out to students we wanted to get them thinking about and talking about some of the themes and their meanings and applications.  We split our 230 students into two groups; our amazing librarian took the grades 11 and 12 while I took the 9s and 10s.  We first introduced the idea through a short presentation(embedded in this post - hopefully I was more engaging in the live version)  that was meant to emphasize the powerful tools available to all of us and the importance of community norms and positive behavior.  Then advisors led their small groups of 12 students through a discussion using the following prompts:
Prompt 1: How do you respect yourself and others in your digital life?  Why is this important? Why is the school concerned about this?

Prompt 2: - How do you respect property and intellectual property in your digital life? Why is this important?  

Prompt 3: - How do you protect yourself and others in your digital life? Can you share an example? Why is the school concerned about this?

As expected there was some push back by students regarding why these things were the school's business, but overall the discussions went well and students were able to speak about the themes and listen to the ideas of others.  Our goal was to raise awareness and get students sharing and thinking about these topics - this we achieved.  Additionally the next day all students signed the agreement in their advisories.  We had a follow up session a few months later that was also well received by students.  This is a good start, but what do we do next?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

GTA Action Plan: Photo Contest in Picasa Web Albums

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="288" caption="After the Rain - Jana Lohrova"]After the Rain[/caption]

This past summer I was fortunate to attend the Google Teacher Academy where I spent two days meeting many amazing educators while receiving training in Google tools and being inspired by the collective creativity in the room.

Action Plan:


Our school only uses GAFE(Google Apps For Education) for faculty, not students, and they don't want to take on student accounts for various reasons, but there is a need for using all the collaborative features.


I am going to create and implement a plan to get all ISP Upper School students (about 260) to create their own Google Accounts and then share them with the school so that teachers can utilize the power of Google products with students.  DETAILS:  I will communicate the requirement to students and assist students in creating Google Accounts.  I will facilitate the collection of student email addresses via our website and then push them to PowerSchool and Moodle so that teachers have access to them.  I will launch a photo contest to coincide with our Week Without Walls student trips (using PicasaWebAlbums) that will encourage students to actually get their accounts created so they can participate in the contest while simultaneously engaging them learning to use the collaborative features of PicasaWebAlbums.  Lastly, I will create instructions for teachers explaining the best way to gather account information from students and then share documents with them as well as lead a number of after school Cyber Cafes on Using Google Docs in the Classroom.


[caption id="attachment_362" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Everyone Enjoying Paris to the Fullest - Lucie Soudkova"]Everyone Enjoying Paris to the Fullest - Lucie Soudkova[/caption]

For the most part, my action plan was successful.  That is not to say there weren't some hiccups along the way. In a nutshell, I met my goal of getting all of our students set up with a Google Account and all of those accounts recorded into our various systems.  The photo contest was really a bonus and a fun way to go about getting all students to sign up for an account.

All of our students have google accounts.  These accounts are used as their "professional" or "school" accounts and are connected to any other accounts they create for school purposes such as Youtube, etc.

We recorded each student's google account info in our Learning Management System (Moodle) and Student Information System (PowerSchool).  Now, when a new student enrolls in our Upper School we ask them to create a google account, then use that info to populate our systems such as those listed above and Edublogs.

Using the Photo Contest as a catalyst for getting all students to create their accounts worked well…for account creation.  Students wanted to contribute photos and view each others' photos of our Week Without Walls.  Most students created their accounts by the deadline and I only had to chase down a few of them.  From the outside, the photo contest ran smoothly, although I did encounter some unexpected issues with using Picasa for this event.

I used Google Sites to create a portal for the Photo Contest, and used PicasaWebAlbums as a way to share albums to students so that they could submit photos to various categories.  You can view the portal here.

The issues with PicasaWebAlbums mainly had to do with sharing and specifically me sharing with too many students in a short period of time.  I needed to share 4 albums to 300 people so that they could have the ability to upload to the albums.  This was too much for Picasa; it seems Google thought I was spamming if I shared with too many people too often.  I was finally able to share everything necessary in small batches over about 10 days, which was a big problem since I wanted to share everything out before students went on their trips.  I'm not sure if Google has changed any of this, but I know with the advent of Google Plus they've been making some changes to Picasa Web Albums.  Maybe this is easier to do now - I'm not sure, but I definitely would look into the sharing features and limitations before I tried another photo contest using Picasa.

My biggest personal learnings were associated with both Google Sites and Picasa Web Albums.  I had not created a Google Site prior to this, and so this project really had me digging deep into the menus to see just what Sites could do.  The visual nature of a photo contest lent itself to embedding of media, slideshows and instructions.  I'm pretty confident with Sites now and feel that I can create sites pretty quickly and easily.  I think Google Sites are fabulous for people don't have advanced web design skills but who need to create a site for an event, a class, or for hosting any sort of information.

Final Thought:

My action plan was centered around the idea that we wanted a way to utilize the power of Google Apps without hosting our student accounts on our domains.  While I like having our student accounts off the domain, giving students complete ownership, this set up does have drawbacks.  It just isn't as smooth to share things with students as it would be if they were organized in the teacher contacts and possible in groups.  However, I do think that having students off domain is possible, and should not be considered a barrier to effectively using the collaborative power of Google Apps if a teacher is in a situation where the school does not or will not put students on Google Apps.  I'd love to hear about other schools that are having success with this same sort of set-up.

Thursday, January 19, 2012



What is negative, loaded with rules and consequences, stuffy and outdated, and never read but signed by all?  Your school Acceptable Use Policy?  Our AUP certainly met that description - but not any more.  Our IT/Library team was tasked with tweaking our Acceptable Use Policy.  We deleted and altered until our AUP was no longer recognizeable.  With (lots of) inspiration from Educational Origami, a new Digital Citizenship Agreement (DCA) emerged that is student friendly and focused on positive behaviors.  We also think it models our community values and can be used as a teaching tool.  Check it out.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Educational Origami"][/caption]

Much of our document was adapted from the work of others at Educational Origami thanks to their generous use of a Creative Commons license.  Have a look at their site for inspiration to revamp your school's AUP.

Would You Hire You?

As part of our roll-out of a revamped Digital Citizenship Agreement (formerly Acceptable Use Policy), we had the opportunity in an advisory class session to engage our Upper School students in thinking about their online identity - their personal brand.  @bobthebrarian and I created a lesson, Would You hire You?, designed to have students evaluate their digital footprints and reflect on how they are portraying themselves to university admissions officers and potential employers.

Lesson Materials

Presentation (with teacher notes included)

Teacher Notes for Presentation in PDF

Handout PDF


I was fortunate to substitute for a regular advisor at the last minute.  My group of 12 students was mostly engaged for the entire lesson and gave me some good insight in our debrief at the end. We had a good discussion, although I wished I would have come up with debrief questions prior to "on the spot."  While a majority of the students rated themselves to have mainly positive digital footprints, it was also good to hear how many of them had a good grasp of privacy settings and other strategies.  In fact, every hand went up when I asked "who has ever asked a friend to remove a photo or other content from a social network?".  You can look at that as 1) there are photos out there of all the students behaving badly, or that 2) all students know the appropriate steps to advocate for themselves and attempt to remove potentially damaging photos - I'm choosing the second view.