Sunday, August 31, 2014

Pretty Pretty Pictures with Pixlr

I like clipart. Each pretty picture that adorns my pages, websites, lesson plans, smart notebook files, powerpoint files, etc. adds a special touch or contributes to the theme in some way. is a great website for you to use to edit/customize/create or otherwise manipulate digital images. Pixlr's free editor shares several features with Photoshop, and for me has worked swimmingly as a free alternative.

Standout features of Pixlr include:

`It's free
`No log-in or plug ins required
`Image importing and exporting
`Supports: .jpg, .png, .gif and even .psd
`Allows you to create, edit, crop, resize and reformat clipart/images

If nothing else, pixlr solved one pesky problem whose solution had always eluded to remove or change a background on a piece of clipart.

For a quick 'how to', please watch this video!!

Image editing with Pixlr and Your Smarticles!!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Ponderings of an Open Sim Pioneer

My students and I have been on an amazing journey this year. We've had the privilege of engaging in learning and exploring through a virtual world.  I began this journey back in August and, at the time, I had no idea the massive journey I was about to undertake.  Islands of Enlightenment was conceived by Andrew Wheelock of Erie Boces and essentially was an effort to bring students into a virtual learning environment through a platform similar to Second Life.  I became involved in the project on year #2 to help create a gamified virtual world focused around Medieval Times.  I had some experience gamifying my curriculum (  .....and so I leaped on board and that is where the Heir of the King was hatched.

This project involved students exploring the Kingdom of Stormfield....a Kingdom in need of an Heir. Each student donned an avatar and logged into the virtual world. The unit was gamified so that learning took place in the form of earning badges and earning XP points in lieu of grades. Each level along the way, students expanded their knowledge of the Singularity Open Sim platform and also gained critical knowledge of feudalism and Medieval Society. The final project took the form of Evidence Based Writing whereby students were required to state a claim regarding the rightful heir to the throne of Stormfield and provide evidence to support their claim.

For more:

After the project, unquestionably, students clamored for more.  But when you're done, you're done, right? NOPE!!  I couldn't let it go (and neither could they).  So off we went into project #2 the Invention Convention.  In this project, students were given a store front in a mall and were taken through the patent process from Product Conception, Prototype, Patent Application to Marketing and Sales....all within a virtual world.

For more:

With both projects, I marveled in so many ways: at the challenges, at the depth of learning that takes place when teachers and students take risks, and  at the rewards of 'letting go'.  As I result, I have concocted this list of ponderings about being on OpenSim Pioneer.

#1. Parallel Play
You can't know it all....don't try.  Learn from your learners.  Explore with your learners.  There is great joy and a rich experience in the journey itself.

#2.  Let things Unfold Organically
The Heir of the King was prescribed and prepackaged and involved a LOT of preparation...countless hours.  It was a great way to expose students to virtual learning experiences and with the Gamification component, it was HIGHLY motivating.  Invention Convention involved WAY less preparation, nonetheless, there was an EXPLOSION of creativity

#3. Be Patient (with yourself and with your learners)
You'll need to troubleshoot on the spot.  You'll need to repeat yourself.  You'll need to enlist the aid of more intuitive digital builders to help others. You WON'T know everything. The system WILL crash.

#4. Creativity Can't be Anticipated.
With the patent project, I had a general idea of what I wanted and provided a skeletal framework to the students with a basic set of objectives.  Each student had a storefront and they were asked to decorate.  HA!!!!!  My students expanded their stores, added second levels, built tree houses, formed groups added lounge areas, pools, massive signs, etc.

#5. You ARE Teaching!
It's like's IN there.  It wasn't until I sat down, reviewed the CCLS and brainstormed that I realized over 12 standards were solidly covered within the patent project from communication and collaboration to cross curricular connections and in the Heir of the King project we had completed an entire unit of study!





Sim-ply Amazing.....Using Your Smarticles!!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Behavior Management: Always a Homerun!

Spring.  Birds are chirping, flowers are blooming and the grass is turning green.  As a Middle School teacher, naturally, my thoughts turn to.....

Behavior Management!!

As my students progress towards the end of the year, as rambunctious as a rowdy group of baseball fans, I've decided to run a Home run Derby in my class.  Combining a little bit of baseball, some tried and true behavior management techniques and a little bit of technology I've generated a little controlled excitement in my classroom!

 Here's how it works...

#1.  Each student is assessed through assessment sheet that measures their weekly classroom performance.  It rates them on Behavior, Materials, Participation and Homework.  Their goal is to keep it CLEAN each week.  If it's clean....that's a home run!!
(Note:   ClassDojo is GREAT for monitoring student performance using technology.
For more on Class Dojo, see my livebinder

#2.  Students can earn additional home runs (baseball stickers) during the course of the week. They can place the stickers on their assessment sheet.

#3.  Students are combined into 'teams' (Groups of 3 or 4) and select their MLB 'team''s a great app for selecting.  (Decide Now)  I included every MLB Baseball Team, printed and laminated a logo for that team.

#4.  Students are then given this roster.  On the roster they must rank themselves based upon the likelihood that they will achieve home run(s) by the end of the week.

#5.  You will note there are 6 spots for players.  Not every group has six students!  Here's where real life comes in.  Provide students with iPads.  Direct them to the statistics for their team.  Encourage them to evaluate player statistics and decide who the home run hitters are for their team.  Students can rank their MLB player in ANY slot.  If they rank them first AND that player hit 3 home runs during the week, they will earn 18 points.

#6.  I run my derby from Friday to Friday with a clean slate each Friday (and a chance to rearrange rosters).  Students decide upon rosters (using the roster sheet above) and points tally up throughout the course of the week.  The winning group earns prizes each Friday!!    

#7.  If you teach multiple classes, and added incentive is to create a total home run challenge....keep a running total of home run points earned by each class and reward the winning class!

To Tally Points

 For the BRAVE TechEd Teacher, this Google Doc is a GREAT way to tally up stats.

#1.  Provide students with an iPad and the link to the form  (I like using a QR Code for this)
#2.  Allow students to work with their groups to enter their 'home runs' or their 'non-home runs'
#3 Use this spreadsheet to aggregate all of the data!  

Google Doc:
  • Enter teams and rosters into the Rosters and Scores tab
  • Copy and paste assessment form data into the Assessment Form tab
  • Copy and paste MLB statistics into the Weekly HR Data Tab
  • Watch as the formulas automatically tally and total the scores
  • Declare your winning group!!!

Scoring a home run is TRULY using Your Smarticles!!!

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