Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Must IPAD App for Teachers: SPHERE

I am super excited about the plethora of IPAD Apps that have been coming out. In the past month, I have been exploring with a Makerbot 3D printer in my classroom. With the printer making all kinds of unique tools, objects, and models, I have also been looking into how I can use our classroom IPAD to scan.
While there is a new IPAD attachment that looks promising, I didn't find anything great yet. In my search I stumbled upon a really amazing app. The app is called Sphere. For awhile now it has been used by travelers/photographers to capture full panoramic images of places. Just recently they have added an update for the IPAD.
For the classroom teacher, you can now use this app to create a full Sphere image of your classroom. This is a great way to give parents and community a snapshot into your classroom. 
The app is very straightforward on how to create the Sphere. There are step by step instructions and guided arrow, prompts, and cautions along the way. Remember to go slow when creating your image. I also found that I don't need to create a perfect shot of my ceiling and floor. Focus your spinning (not getting dizzy) on "the meat" of your classroom. Parents want to see the walls and setup mostly, so don't get too hung up on getting the top and bottom perfect.
You can see my Sphere here:

Get your IPAD out, capture your room, and share. We all want to see your room!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Make Real World Connections: 30 Goals Challenge

*This post is part of the 30 Goals Challenge for Educators.

One of the hardest parts of being a writing teacher is leading kids to the place where they internally find the value in being able to write. For many of the other subjects my students encounter, the skills are much more concrete to evaluate and play out in front of them daily. In the world of writing, I am pummeled with questions and looks that often shout, "Why do I need this skill?"
Overall this question is posed to teachers on a daily basis. Because our students are being raised in a world where the culture serves as a domineering third parent, what we say is often drowned by much louder voices. Entering this school year, I set a goal to engage my students with the real world, specifically how writing plays out in the work world. Since they are heavy on the visual side of learning. I asked, "How can I show them writing? I recognized that showing them would be a louder voice.
So I started to ask myself, "Who can I bring into the classroom to engage my students attention and still speak threads of content?" Musicians. Poets. Professors. Publishers. As I started to ponder this question, the amount of people who administer writing in their workplace seemed to explode in my head.
Leading up to Christmas, I was able to bring in a young, charismatic, and funny local musician. His hair and style were just perfect for my students. (They instantly thought he was uber famous and had him sign autographs.)
When Alex (Allistair) came, I had already prepared him with some core questions that I needed him to answer in front of the kids. The questions touched on content, but also made real world connections to how writing is part of his career. With this setup, I was able to sit in the back of the room and let my experiment play out. I didn't have to preach how writing works in life, they witnessed it for themselves. Honestly, my students were 100% engaged. They talked about that experience for weeks after.
I counted this as a huge success. So for the spring, I have three more guests coming to visit my room (a local poet, a published college professor, and a writer for a magazine). The format will be similar, and though they may not play music or dress zany, the mission remains the same. Show them writing in the real world.
Who can you bring in to your classroom? Yes, it may take some planning, and you have to pass the reins over to another. If you take the time to do it well, the results can grow your students, especially when your words are starting to fall on deaf ears. This is one way we can make a difference in the lives of our students. The difference made by bringing the world into the classroom will bloom in the eyes of your students. Unlock their passion. Make the difference.
Check the video below...