Create, Create, Create!

I have had many a conversation about students’ ability to consume digital content vs. creating digital content.  Which do you think students are better at? I’ve always leaned toward consumption over creation. They use Google, social media, and other online places to intake great amounts of information, but how often are students actually contributing something back for others to benefit from? How many times do we ask students to go grab this or that bit of information from the web or go to YouTube and watch this video or that video? Is it possible that we’re proverbially “stuck” in our education system because we don’t give our students enough opportunities to create and in turn share their creation? I’m not saying that students creating “stuff” is going to be the magic that fixes everything, but what if it could be? Should there be more of a conscious effort to give plenty of choices for our students to be creative with that information they find for this project (homework, assignment, etc.) or that project?

There’s certainly no shortage of information that’s produced for you and I and our students to learn from. We teach our children, students, and each other to “pay it forward” in face to face spaces, but should we do the same in online spaces too?

These are just some thoughts I had bouncing around after coming across this video: 29 Ways to Stay Creative. It’s certainly not exclusive to the digital world, it even reminds us to step away from all things digital from time to time. It just reminded me that we need to have our students see the value in creating something not only as a way to express ourselves, but possibly to the benefit of others as well.

Thank you for reading.

29 WAYS TO STAY CREATIVE from TO-FU on Vimeo.

Telling Search Stories with Google

Yesterday, my district hosted a day of professional development for teachers and staff that are involved with the e-learning program at three area districts (including mine).  It was a great day for teachers to collaborate and learn with each other about best practices and hopefully get some new ideas for teaching online.

In the afternoon, we had a good ol’ tech tools smackdown where folks from each respective district went back and forth sharing a favorite tool they have used or think students would enjoy using in an online course. I decided to share the Google Search Story Creator.  If you’ve never created a Google Search Story, it’s a lot of fun and a great way to quickly share a search experience. Since the search story creator is kind of hard to find (it’s located towards the bottom of this page and says YouTube is making a new, permanent home for it), I also made a custom link that was easier to share with others. Please feel free to pass this along: http://bit.ly/searchstorycreator.

I wanted the teachers to see a relevant example first before I explained how to create one. I only had about 4 minutes total during the smackdown so the first 35 seconds was sharing an example of a finished search story. One of the online courses in my district (American Government), students have an assignment to create a short commercial for a political candidate. I thought this would be a great way for students to chronicle locating information about a specific candidate. So I created this search story:

I picked the first candidate that came to mind and it very briefly shows how I located information on a particular subject. Students would have a great time creating these and I’m sure would do a much better job than my example (as I alluded to in a conversation later that day).

Then I went on to explain how the search story creator works. You plug-in your search terms, define the type of Google search to be completed on each of those terms (web, images, maps, news, blog, product, or books), add some music and upload to your YouTube account. As you can see in the above example, YouTube (Google) packages it all together in a nice little video to share with classmates or make it a nice addition to an overall assignment.

Click for a larger preview

When you’re creating one, definitely take advantage of the preview area as you plug-in your search terms and define the kind of search you want to perform. This comes in handy for checking out the kind of results that are going to appear in your video before you finalize it.

Have fun creating your search story!

Edcamp KC – What to expect and what to bring

We are just one month away now from the 2nd annual Edcamp KC (Kansas City)! I am really excited that we were fortunate enough to again have another Edcamp KC this year. I cannot believe how quickly the time flies. I believe we were one of,  if not THE first Edcamp to happen in the Midwest. I’m proud of that! I am also very proud to be part of something bigger that is the Edcamp movement happening all around the country. I need to give a big thanks to folks like Josh Allen, Steve Moore, and others that have helped to plan another great day of learning and networking as well as all of our fantastic sponsors. If you’re not familiar with the Edcamp model of professional development, everything is 100% sponsor driven. We do not charge anything for folks to attend, and any logistical cost associated with putting on the event comes completely from sponsor donation. For us, this is how we covered costs such as liability insurance. Through generous sponsor donations we are also able to provide some small giveaways,  a light breakfast,  and lunch for everyone! Yay sponsors! If you haven’t yet signed up to join us please do so now and please share with people in your school, district, and community about this great day of learning and conversing about all things education. Teachers, administrators, parents, students, and community members are all welcome!

What to expect

An Edcamp isn’t your traditional conference. In fact, there’s really nothing traditional about it at all. Our sessions for the day are not published, or even known, ahead of time. That’s right, you’re going into the day not quite sure what you’re going to learn about. Stay with me here, don’t back out just yet! 🙂 Since the day is 100% driven by you, the attendees, that is where the session (conversation) ideas come from. You (plural) are our leaders (facilitators)! What does this look like you ask? When you arrive in the morning we’ll begin with breakfast and some networking time (meet and greet). On the wall you’ll notice a very large piece of chart paper. This will have on it our shell of the day’s structure. You’ll see what classrooms we’ll be using as well as the different session times for the day.

Do you have an idea for a session you’d like to lead or a conversation to facilitate? Simply head up to the chart and write it in for the classroom and time slot you’d like. It’s as simple as that. In a very short amount of time, the session board will be filled with an entire day full of sessions. As Josh Allen calls it, it’s an “old school wiki” at its best!

Now, don’t worry if you don’t have a full blown presentation with slides, handouts, and the like ready to go. That’s not necessary. If you do, great! If you don’t, that’s probably better. There will be a projector in each room for anyone to connect their device to if needed for showing supplemental material. Just because you added the session/topic to the session board doesn’t mean you have to be the only voice during that entire time slot. In fact, we don’t want you to be. This needs to be a learning conversation around a particular topic. We need you to facilitate and give us focus and let the other folks in the room take it from there. Throw together a wiki of information resources as you learn together or build a Google doc. As a group do whatever you need to do to make the learning relevant during the time (and to help make it stick after the time).

So you might be thinking, what if I start in one session and after a few minutes discover it’s not for me? Here’s what you do: vote with your feet. If you’re not getting out of it what you need, go to another session. That’s OK to do during an Edcamp! Traditional conference settings this is usually frowned upon or seen as rude. Not here! We want you to get the most out of your day of learning. It’s your day. If you need to, go revisit the session chart and head somewhere else.

You’ll likely see conversations continuing during lunch and throughout the day. Some may carry over into other sessions, some folks may skip a session to head to the commons area to continue a conversation. Again, while informal and non-traditional, it’s all acceptable.

What to bring

Here are some things you might want to bring with you:

1. An open mind

2. A laptop, tablet, smart phone, or other preferred device. These come in handy for needing to email, tweet, blog, Google doc, etc. during a session.

3. Your passion for education and desire to make it better for kids.

4. A plan for sharing what you learned. We must take these new ideas, information, and conversations back to those that weren’t at Edcamp KC.

5. A friend, colleague, or an administrator! The more the merrier! 🙂

Whether you’re attending Edcamp KC or attending another Edcamp closer to you, I hope you find this information beneficial to get a better understanding of what an Edcamp typically looks like.

Get registered and additional info about Edcamp KC here: http://edcampkc.wikispaces.com

Find out even more about the Edcamp movement here: http://edcamp.wikispaces.com (lots of great resources and help here from my Edcamp Philly friends)

Other Edcamps happening around the Midwest:

Edcamp STL (St. Louis) February 11, 2012

Edcamp Omaha  March 24, 2012