Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Proving Twitter helps us to be #bettertogether

Have you ever had an idea about something but you were not sure how you could make it work?  Maybe you wanted to plan a family vacation and you have an idea in your head about how you want it to work but you are not quite sure how.  Do you stay in a hotel or a test?  Do you go to an amusement park or a  national park?  Do you drive or fly?  Take a cruise or stay at in a motorhome?  You have many ideas and many ways to make them work - so how to you know you are doing the right thing?

Well this happened to me this week.  I decided I wanted to create a Twitter account for my chemistry classes.  My idea was to tweet out assignments, questions, ideas, links to cool things and follow some scientists and hopefully tweet them!  But I was not sure how to make it work - just like the trip you were planning.

So what did I do?  Well, I started by creating a Twitter account for my class - @Chem4Grizzlies.  I searched for a few chemists to follow and added some chemistry teachers - but then I was stuck.  My next move was to tweet out that I set up the account for my class and asked for some people to follow it...and they did!  Now I had an account, was following some teachers and scientists - but didn't know what to do next.  So you have a destination, but you don't know what to do while you are there!

It didn't take long before a few chemistry teachers that I follow tweeted me back and said they had similar ideas.  Before long there were two other science teachers ( and ) interested in doing the same thing and two more ( and ) that were already doing it!  Before long we had planned a Google Hangout (GHO) to discuss our ideas.  Now you are getting together with friends that have been to where you are planning to go!

We had a successful GHO where we were able to share ideas about a classroom Twitter account.  +Adam Taylor told us how he used a classroom account and had set up a monthly chat with scientists and his students (#scistuchat).  He also gave us a list of scientists to follow and several ideas on how to use Twitter in the classroom.  There were other ideas shared - here is a list of our notes.  At this point in your trip planning you have a destination, a place to stay and an itinerary. 

This is just another example of how having a Twitter PLN is helpful.  I had an idea, tweeted it out and within a week I was collaborating with three other teachers who were taking time out of their summer to make their classroom a better place for their students.  There is a hashtag out there that explains this collaboration - #bettertogether. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Have a little patience!

I woke up Saturday morning with a little extra excitement - I was going to be a part of something new, something that had never happened before - #edcampHOME.  I follow +Karl Lindgren-Streicher  (and +David Theriault (on Twitter, so when I saw they were planning an edcamp that you could participate in from your house - I wanted to be a part of it!

Over the course of a few weeks Karl and David introduced me to +Kelly Kermode  () and +Shawn White () - the other creators of #edcampHOME - and between these four awesome educators I felt more at ease and ready to help out!  I was impressed by the courage the #edcampHOME creators had in trying something brand new - with the world watching - not knowing for sure what would happen!

My biggest take away from the event was the patience everyone had during the day.  There were technical difficulties, a flood of Google Doc editors on one document, trying to get moderators to be in a session they wanted and even the "issue" of having eager non-registered' teachers who wanted to join!  Patience was a key to the success.  During the morning I was reminded once again of the power of a Twitter (and now Google+) PLN.  I was  It seems like everyday I "meet" someone who I wish I was more like...or wish I could do what they are doing - Twitter really is full of these amazing people!

I just hope that I can remember this when school starts back up in a few weeks.  Patience is the key!  We have three days to prep this year and I am someone who needs all three of those days - I usually end up talking to people more than prepping so I need all the time I can get :)  I will arrive at school and some things will be moved, missing, lost or stolen - and I'll have to be patient while I figure out how to fix/replace them.  I may be asked by some teachers to help set up their room or for an extra copy of this or that - I just need to remember to keep my patience.  When Friday at 3pm rolls around and I am not ready for Monday with students walking in the door - I will need to keep my patience (but also get my stuff ready fast!).

So while many have great apps or processes they learned about during #edcampHOME...and so did I - don't get me wrong.  But the thing that I was most amazed by and the thing I was most proud of during the event was the patience shown by all involved!

So my BIGGEST take away is that there is no reason to stress - just keep calm and have a little patience!

If you missed this event, all of the GHO's were recorded and posted to YouTube.  Check the Session 1 and 2 Links at #edcampHOME

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Hanging a curtain rod...

We have lived in our house for 3.5 years and during this time my wife and I have had wood blinds in our bedroom with no curtains.  Last week my wife came home from a trip to the mall with curtains that she said she wanted me to hang in our room.  Now I'm not sure why we all of a sudden needed curtains - but what is the saying - "happy wife, happy life"?  So I made a trip to Home Depot and bought a curtain rod (which she didn't like and went to buy another one that she did like) and planned on hanging the curtains today.

When the time came to hang the curtain rod my first move was not to get a drill and get to work - the first thing I did was go to my computer.  I wanted to find out how high off the ground curtains should hang, how far outside the window the rod should be and what the best way was to make sure everything was level.  I have hung several curtain rods in my why was my first step to go to the computer to get more information?  I didn't want to make a mistake and I wanted to double check everything.  While searching I did learn a few things - like the curtain should hang 1/2" from the ground, the rod typically goes 3"- 6" outside the window and using a measuring tape and a level ensures the rod will be level (duh).

I started thinking about my students as I was doing this and I figured they were just like me.  No, they are not hanging curtains for their wife - but when they have a problem they probably go to a computer (or some device) to find an answer.  If I assign a stoichiometry problem in class some students will be able to set it up and solve it.  Others may ask a friend for help, some may wait for me to offer help and many (if given the chance) would take out their cell phone and Google how to solve the problem (or for you iPhone users - they would "ask Siri).  So why is it that many teachers/schools/districts do not allow this to happen?

As teachers we are always saying we are preparing students for the future - setting them up for success in "the real world".  So if that is true then why don't we give students the tools necessary to be successful in our classrooms?  I hope that as teachers, admin and district tech personnel start to see this more and more - that we start to see classrooms with 1:1 technology - or at least come to terms with implementing a "bring your own device" policy.  We need to get tech in the classroom in order to give our students the best chance at success in "the real world".

By the way - here is a picture of the final product (curtain hold backs were on back order...should be here in a few weeks):


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Stop Motion Video

I have always loved video - from planning to shooting to editing - I love taking an idea and putting it all together to tell a story on film (though who uses film anymore?).  This year I am flipping my classroom and in the process I have found reasons to use some stop motion photography in my videos.  In reality, I have been trying to find reasons and ways to use stop motion so I can practice some more :)

Here is an example of something I just finished (be sure to watch the end):
Just so you know - there are 850 photos over 70 minutes (1 pic every 5 seconds)

So if you want to give it a try...


  • Canon T2i (any digital DSLR will work)
  • Timelapse Timer Remote - here is mine
  • Memory card with lots of space - I have 16gigs
  • Tripod (any will do)

Set up:

  • Be sure your subject is well reason to take the time to do all of this if shadows ruin it all
  • Place the camera on the tripod (the camera should never change position) and focus the scene (I press the button half way down in Auto mode to get the best focus...I figure it knows better than I do!)
  • Attach the timer remote to the camera
  • Put the camera to the "M" setting
  • Check the lens and turn off the autofocus (you don't have to change anything since you used autofocus in the beginning - your welcome!)
  • Turn off red-eye
  • Keep your ISO between 100-400 (lower is better)
  • Change your white balance to what type of setting you are in (daylight, tungsten, cloudy, etc.)
  • Use SRGB for the color space
  • Be sure auto power off is not turned on
  • Keep file numbering to continuous 
  • Set your timer remote to how often you want to take pictures (I set mine for every 5 seconds)

Extra tips:

  • Shoot a few extra shots (add more time) in the beginning and end to help you when editing your video
  • 10 frames a second is a good rule of thumb - think out how long your event will take and multiply that by 10...that is the number of frames you need to animate

After shooting:

  • Download all the pictures to your computer (they should be in numerical order)
  • Open your favorite video editing software - iMovie, FCP, Adobe Premiere, Movie Maker - I used Sony Vegas 9 Studio
  • Find the where you can change the duration of images in your timeline - it is typically defaulted to 3 want to change this to 0.1 seconds
  • Import all of your photos (I had 850 for 70 minutes of shooting)
  • Add a title at the beginning if you wish
  • Drag all the photos in to the timeline 
  • Add an ending title if you wish
  • Add music (this is important - getting the right music for your video is the hardest part I think!)
  • Render and save your video

That should be it!  You should have a fun stop motion video if all works out well.  Beware of motion and lighting - both will affect your scene and you may need to change the manual settings on your camera.  I suggest picking something simple like I did - something that does not move and the lighting only changed very minimally.

Good luck and let me know how you do with your stop motion videos!  Post them to YouTube or Vimeo and send me a link...I'd love to see them!

In the beginning...

Every summer I take some time to reflect on the last year of teaching and how I can improve, what changes to make and any new things I want to learn over the summer.  This year is no different.  Looking back I have to admit it was not my best year.  I was out of the classroom 18% of the time - most were school related...but still - 18% is a lot of day!  Being out of the classroom that often made it difficult to keep classroom management in line and it felt like we were always playing catch up!
So in the coming year I have set four goals for myself professionally:
1. Be in class
This seems obvious, but I say "yes" to many things which means I end up going here and being there all too often.  I am a member of our district's advanced SDAIE training team, I am part of a cohort of teachers piloting a 1:1 netbook inquiry program, I am a BTSA support provider and last year I was a mentor to another teacher who needed some help getting on track.  Anyway, my school year is usually pretty busy - but I want to be in the classroom more than just 82% of the time this year!

2. Blogging
I started a blog last year and it lasted for about a month and only contained 3 blogs.  This year I am going to (try) blog at least twice a week.  I am going to force myself to sit down and reflect on what I am doing in the classroom each week.  I also will tweet them out and I am sure my great PLN will help keep me focused and offer advice as needed.  I believe blogging will help push me forward...after all, tt seems like all the awesome teachers/admin I follow on Twitter have a blog...and suggest blogging to everyone else.  

3. Flipping the classroom
My chemistry class is broken up in to four units - two before winter break (when did we stop calling it Christmas break?) and two before state testing.  Last year I tried to flip my class after the first unit - but the students did not approve.  I blame myself, I did not really explain what it was or how it would help them.  This year I am going to start off using the flipped model and hopefully things will go a little more smoothly.  I have started making my videos - but what I am most nervous about is the class time - or the prep for the class time!  I know flipping will give me more time to do labs...but labs take time to set up and put hopefully I end up with an awesome TA!

4. Going paperless (or using less paper)
I recently had the pleasure of co-moderating #CAedchat with @SamPatue and @JenRoberts1 about the paperless classroom.  I was inspired by all the teachers who are looking to do the same thing as me - use less paper in the classroom.  This morning during that in and out sleepy state - you know it...the time after you have looked at the clock but before you actually get out of bed - I had a dream.  It was the first day of school and I did not have a syllabus ready for my students.  I quickly grabbed last year's syllabus and ran to the xerox room.  As I was dream copying I was beating myself up over using so much paper on day 1.  When I woke up I knew I needed to get my syllabus ready and put it on Google Docs so I won't need to use paper for it this year!  That will save my first 185 or so pieces of paper!
      • By the way - for a great 'going paperless' blog read Sam Patterson's blog  
      • Jen Roberts has been nearly paperless for years! Here is her blog
Well that is it! Those are my goals.  I will have to refer back to this post in June to see how it has gone!  Wish me luck...and I wish all of you luck with what ever your goals are for this year!