Why Atomic Learning - Why Now?

#edtech #edchat

As an edtech blogger I get to review quite a few products and services each year. Some things I like and incorporate into my school, some things I like but don't need, some things I want but can't afford and the remainder are things which I do not care for, to put it mildly. Which brings me to the edtech training subscription service called Atomic Learning.

I have had an Atomic Learning account for the past five years and it has saved my edtech-bacon a few more times than I would like to admit. If fact, I couldn't really imagine being able to do my job effectively or efficiently without it. I have never found anything that compares to it - in price or product.

So let me tell you about three of the ways I use Atomic Learning in my elementary school...

- Tutorials: these are probably what Atomic Learning is most known for. Every time I need a little help with an application, like our district moving to Office 2010 from 2003, I will use their little 2 to 3 minute videos to keep me on the cutting edge. After all, I am the tech guy in my building so I had better know what I am talking about. I also send teachers to these tutorials so that I don't have to stand over their shoulder teaching them step by step how to do something. This way I can be in 20 places at once. So I am up to date (they are adding new tutorials every week), and more efficient in my job.

- Workshops: it is by using their themed workshops that I got into podcasting and filmmaking with me students. It's like having my own little professional development course that I can take at my own pace. Plus, it is way better than regular PD because Atomic Learning never wastes my time. I only watch the lessons that are applicable to me. I have no time to waste in my job so I like the fact that I don't have to be stuck in boring ol’ PD meetings. Instead, I do most of mine while sitting on my couch with my iPad.

- Spotlights: this is something fairly new for Atomic Learning. They shine a “spotlight” on a new concept and show you everything you need to know to get better at it. They feature “best practices” so that I can be better at what I do. I go to tech conferences to steal ideas for my school and these spotlights kind of remind me of mini conferences, they give me ideas that I usually start using the very same day.

In the end we are all just looking for better ways to get the job of teaching done, for me Atomic Learning delivers.

- Brad Flickinger, Tech Teacher, Bethke Elementary School.


How do you know so much about filmmaking?

#edtech #edchat #FETC After my recent presentation at FETC, I got the usual question, "How do you know so much about filmmaking?" My answer is simple, "Atomic Learning."

Years ago when I first wanted my elementary kids to make their own movie I turned to the Video Story Telling Guide at Atomic Learning. Back then we barely had anything -- a flip video camera, a tripod and our school had a subscription to Atomic Learning. That was it, but it was plenty enough to make a movie. The first movie I made was "Dude! Where's My Pencil?" Thanks to what I learned about filmmaking from the video tutorials I found on Atomic Learning, So began on my path to student filmmaking and I haven't looked back since.

I look at the lessons on Atomic Learning as just tools that help me get to where I want to be as a 21st Century educator. Since my first film, I moved on into podcasting with young students, and many other projects. Projects that help my students become better prepared for the modern world that they live in. Projects that I was able to do because of the lessons I found on Atomic Learning.

The latest thing I had to take on was the iPad, more and more students are using them and I want to make sure I was ahead of the curve so I turned back to Atomic Learning and did a search for iPad and I got 192 lessons! I scanned the lessons and soon for the ones that I needed to stay ahead of my kids.

At a modern educator I need every tool that helps me stay on top of my profession, so it is nice that I don't have to go all over the web looking for help.

- Brad Flickinger, Tech Teacher, Bethke Elementary School

Differentiated Tech Instruction by Flipping My Classroom

#edtech #edchat #elemchat

In the past, trying to differentiate instruction in a tech class was almost impossible.

Take for example, teaching my fourth grade students how to edit their newly recorded podcasts in Audacity. I could only go as fast as the slowest student, because I didn't want to leave anyone behind. "Okay everyone, let's add music to our podcast. Under "Project" select "Add Track." I would say. Then I would have to go around the room and help those students that were now lost. Meanwhile my tech-whiz students would just sit there bored out of their minds. This kind of instruction was not working, two or three students were holding up the entire class.

Then the idea of a flipped classroom came along, where the students learn content on their own and get help from the teacher later when they are working on their skills. But the thought of making all those screencasts of the steps involved made my great idea fade. I just do not have the extras hours that doing something like this would take.

If only I had some screencasts...

I chewed on that for a few days when it suddenly hit me -- I use screencasts all the time to learn new tech skills. My school has a subscription to Atomic Learning for our teachers, but I didn't see any reason why I couldn't use it for my students. So I had the guys at Atomic Learning set up a generic log-in for my students and then assigned them the Audacity lessons that they would need to do their U.S. Constitution podcasts.

Boom baby! Instant differentiated instruction by flipping my classroom with Atomic Learning screencasts. Besides, there screencasts are way more professional than I would have done. Now my students can go as fast or as slow as they want when it comes to building new skills. My tech-whiz students now just pick and choose any video tutorials that they might need while other students will watch the same tutorial three times until they get what it is talking about.

Now I can spend my time "working the room," helping students one on one without slowing down the whole class.

- Brad Flickinger, Tech Teacher, Bethke Elementary School

Below is one of the U.S. Constitution podcasts that my students made.

01 U.S. Constitution

10 Steps to Successful Student News Podcasting

#edtech #edchat

I had a little extra time over the Thanksgiving break to finish my new video how-to guide called 10 Steps to Success Student News Podcasting.

In this Video How-To guide I give you all the secrets that I use to get my elementary students to do the best student-news podcast on the web, and how our news podcast makes our school over $1000 a year.

Step 1: Developing a Show Format, Step 2: How to Set-Up your Studio, Step 3: Writing your Script, Step 4: Setting Up your Show in iTunes, Step 5: Putting Together a Great News Team, Step 6: How to Train your Team, Step 7: What to do Before the Show, Step 8: Doing the show, Step 9: What do do After the Show, Step 10: Extras.

Here is the intro video so you can see what it is all about. I have it for sale in my store (above) for $35.

- Brad Flickinger, Tech Teacher, Bethke Elementary


Three things I learned from Steve Jobs...

#edtech #edchat #elemchat What an elementary teacher learned from the Titan of Tech.

Some would argue that an elementary tech teacher and one of the great innovators of Silicon Valley could not be further apart, but regardless of that distance I have learned a lot from the man who influenced much of the technology we use every day, whether or not is was made by Apple. So as my humble tribute to this man I offer the three things that I learned from Steve Jobs.

Simpler is always better. When I design my lessons for my students I always look for the simplest way to get things done. This past week I have been teaching digital photography to my fifth grade students and instead of a million different rules about what makes for great photography I only have three. Three rules that are easy for my students to remember, three rules that allow my students to take surprisingly good photos.

Always tell a story. When I get up to show my students a presentation I now go away from bullet points and use powerful images instead, images that help to move my story forward.  When I teach my students about the history of podcasting I have images behind me of a family gathered around an old radio listening to a radio-drama, and then I move to an image of students hanging out at a skate park and listening to the radio and the students draw the connections that a podcast is like a radio show that you can listen to anytime and anywhere. That is when an image of a person on a subway listening to a podcast comes up and the connection is solidified. Images make the story.

Never give up. Let’s face it we all get kicked around by the world we live in. Focus on what’s important and don’t let anyone stand in the way. For years I had these ideas of what an elementary news show could be like and time after time, it just wasn’t quite right. So I would make a few adjustments and slowly we began to move towards the show that I have imagined years ago. Now we have a great show, everything I ever wanted from my students.

So farewell Steve and thank you for making my world better place for those of us who like to “think different.”

Finally the Podcasting I Thought My Students Could Do

#edtech #edchat #elemchat A big thing happened last week in my elementary school with regards to podcasting. You see, last week we published our 308th episode of our student-made news show, which makes our elementary school the one with the most published podcasts on iTunes. We also have over 4,300 subscribers which makes us also the most listened to elementary school podcast. This is all great and I am really proud of my students for this, but beyond the numbers something amazing is happening in our podcasting studio.

Years ago when I first got the idea to do podcasting with elementary-aged students (grades 3-5), I imagined a funny and informative show, that was done in a professional yet relaxed manner. But that was not what I got when I started. I had robotic readers that couldn't really tell a joke on air, let alone, read announcements properly. But then in my second quarter I got a one student who changed everything -- and this gave me hope of what could be made with this young of students.

From then on, with each new quarter of students coming in, I began to tweak the show. Here a little, there a little, and the students started to build upon what they had seen their classmates do. The show was getting better!

Every summer I would listen to past episodes trying to figure out what was not quite right. And at the beginning of every school year I would change how the shows were made, which brings me to the current year. I have finally decided on a crew of five. Two hosts, a puppet, a sound tech and a producer. This seems to be the perfect size to get a good show. One host, the producer and the puppeteer do every show for a quarter, which gives me good consistency. The second host and the sound tech are different for each day. For example, one student is always the Wednesday sound tech, etc.

So yesterday I brought a Flip video camera into the studio just to get a video of what they do because we only record the audio for our podcast, many of our fans wanted some behind the scenes footage of our crew in action. What I recorded in nothing short of amazing. You will see that my students follow an outline for the show: announcements, weather, lunch, etc. But then you will see them ad-lib so much more. They are relaxed, confident and know how to make a great show.

What you won't see, or hear, is me giving them direction. This is 100% student-made, they have a student producer who keeps the show together and they do it all. Students can do amazing things with technology -- they want to be creators of digital content, so with a little time and effort unbelievable things are possible.

If you want to check it out for yourself, here are some links:

Bethke Elementary iTunes Channel

Behind the Scenes Video of yesterday's show (you won't hear the sound effects because those are recorded directly to the computer, listen to the iTunes podcast to HEAR the show how it is recorded)

New Podcast Episode: Day 1 from TIE Colorado

#edtech #edchat #elemchat I just uploaded a new episode of Elementary Tech Teacher's Journal.

Episode Number 27 for the week of June 20, 2011

"Day 1 from TIE Colorado"

This is my first episode live from TIE Colorado. I am getting ready to do my two presentations; Movie Making with Elementary Students and Podcasting with Elementary Students.


This week's episode is sponsored by Atomic Learning.

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Off to TIE Colorado

#edtech #edchat #elearning Tomorrow I am off to speak at TIE Colorado at Copper Mountain. This year will be a little different in that I will be leaving my laptop at home, everything that I will be presenting will be coming off of my iPad 2.

I will be presenting two workshops; Movie Making with Elementary Students and Podcasting with Elementary Students. So there I will be making movies and podcasts with my iPad if you can believe it. When the iPad came out last year I thought it would be a great consuming tool, but now I use it for almost everything I do. In fact, this blog post is being typed into my iPad (although I am not really typing, I am dictating instead).

So with the movie making workshop, I will show teachers the tricks I use to get students to make awesome movies and with the podcasting class I will show my secrets on how I have made over 280 podcasts with my elementary students.

If you are at TIE Colorado, please come and find me and say "Hi."

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The Frustrations with Elementary Tech Projects

#edtech #edchat #elearning #elem There are days that I think that I am insane to teach technology to elementary students. There seems to be one constant that I fight with all the time, which is; The first time you try any new tech project -- it will fail.

Case in point: my fourth grade students are trying to do podcasts on the U.S. Constitution. Which you think would be easy in my school considering we have done over 225 podcast episodes of our morning news show.

No such luck.

My students have hit quite a few roadblocks in the process, and I found myself running around in circles trying to troubleshoot their issues. So I had to back things up and get back to the basics of podcasting. When I reviewed the problems, it turned out that most were centered on their lack of experience in using the free program Audacity. Although their recordings were good (we have a really nice podcasting studio) it turned out that their editing skills were getting them into trouble.

To solve this I sent them back into our Atomic Learning account to learn the basics of Audacity, I found 6 video tutorials that I assigned my students and low and behold it worked. They were soon editing their podcasts like nobody's business.

My point is that edtech is a new frontier, each project we do with our kids is like a step into the unkown. We never really know what they will pick up quickly and what will cause them to hit the wall -- but we need to keep trying. Sometimes we need to reset our lesson and try a new way. But don't give up or throw in the towel, because the payoff is huge when it does work and there is too much at risk for our student's future for us not to try.

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Elementary Student Podcasting - New Season

#edtech #teaching #podcasting - I just uploaded the first 5 episodes of the new podcasting crew here at Bethke Elementary in Timnath, Colorado. Each episode is the morning news for our school. The students range from 3rd to 5th grade and did fantastic for their first time at podcasting. We will do our first video show tomorrow morning. http://www.bethkeelementary.com/kbob-studios.html

Podcasting is a great use of school technology to develop 21st Century Skills in our students.

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Funding my elementary tech class - #edtech

The other day I got an email from a fellow tech teacher asking how I can afford things like Flip video cameras and podcasting microphone for my students to use. The truth is I do a lot of fund-raising.

Video camera in action.
Image via Wikipedia

Here is the breakdown from last year...

  • Building Buget for my Classroom $100.00
  • DVD sales of school performances ($10/dvd x 212) $2120.00
  • Donations from parents $650.00
  • Grants $2700.00
  • PTO contribution $1100.00
  • Total $6670.00

The truth is that it takes money to run a tech class and even with the $6670 there are still a lot of things I need to get. School technology is not cheap. So this year I will be teaching before school Podcasting and Movie Making clubs. This should add some more money to my budget...

User Fees for my before school clubs (16 students per quarter x $35 each)  $2240.00

I hope these ideas help, what do you do for school technology money?

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Big Changes for Podcasting Studio - #edtech

Last year was a huge trial-run for the students at my school. We wanted to see if it was really possible for elementary students to podcast a daily school news show -- which they did. So now that my students have proven to be great podcasters, it is time to change some things in the studio.

Change #1: Change from a laptop to a desktop computer. The laptop kept getting "borrowed" for other school projects, so it is time to have a dedicated podcasting computer.

Change #2: New soundboard software. We decided to go with the Sitter Downers Soundboard, which is freeware and really easy to work. The students love to add sound effects and music to their live podcasts.

Change #3: Record directly to Audacity. Last year we recorded to a digital voice recorder, then took it into iTunes to convert the file to MP3 and then into Audacity for editing. Now we have streamlined the process.

Change #4: Two hosts are better than one. This year I want to use two hosts, we were already set up with the mics and mixer, so this is a natural progression that should make for a better show.

Stay tuned, we start our new podcasting season in a few weeks.

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Tech Integration Workshop - Step 11: Gather a Body of Evidence

Note: Do not do this lesson until you have watched the Watch First video.

Lesson + Action Guide Video:

Once you have watched the video please complete this step in the Workshop Checklist.

Return to the Table of Contents for the Technology Integration Workshop.


Updates to these videos:

Transcription of Videos:

Lesson & Action Guide

Hello once again and welcome back to the Tech Integration Workshop here at SchoolTechnology.Org.  My name is Brad Flickinger, and welcome to Step 11 of our 12-Step series here - and it is called “Gather a Body of Evidence.”

Now, as we have talked in the past, back in the first couple of Steps, we use a K-T-E-C System, so K is for Knowing, T is for Training, E is for Embedding - and now we are finally at C, which means to Check on the work that has been done.  And this is what this is all about:  A body of evidence is all those little pieces you put together that PROVES your teachers and your students have 21st Century Skills in your Building.  And that is what it is all about - that body of evidence.

Because remember, for the most part - I mean, it is starting to get a little more popular out there - but for the most part none of the skills that you have taught these students will show up on a standardized State or National test.

Now, 21st Century Skills are being added to a lot of State testing.  But for right now, like in my State of Colorado, everything I have taught them about podcasting, and creativity, and collaboration - all those things like that - would just not show up in a normal standardized test.  So you need to have a different way of collecting the data.

And really we said 21st Century Skills deserves 21st Century assessment - and so we get little artifacts; digital artifacts are what you are looking for.

So we want to celebrate the successes of the students.  So students that were shy are now suddenly doing podcasts, or movies - those types of things; that had a hard time in other academic areas can excel in animation and… you know, it just… So you want to find all those moments when the whole system is working and students are having a great time, teachers are having a great time, and you want to celebrate those with either an evening of showing things off, or an assembly - whatever - but find a way to celebrate the successes in your Building.

And of course I don’t mind putting in a little bit of a competition and awards.  Now I spread out my awards; so for example when we make a documentary, we have “Overall Best Documentary,” we have “Best Cinematography,” “Best Sound…” So we have different categories so that there are different winners in there.  And it is not like we are trying to give a blue ribbon to everybody for participating because I don’t think that is authentic.

But I think if someone really has exceptional, let’s say, cinematography; how they film everything is so beautiful, see you can use that the next year when you show the upcoming students, and say, “Now, why did this one win Best Cinematography? Why did this one win Best Sound?”  And all the kids are like “Oh, you know, because we can understand everything that’s being said, and the sound track’s not too loud…”  All those things you collect, all those things - and of course these students walk home with an award for doing something really, really good on a project.

And so we have competitions in my schools with all these digital artifacts, and then we have little awards; and we just get simple trophies and those types of things to give out.

Now, you can see I crossed out here this whole idea of “Audience of One.”  And that is because these kids work hard to produce all these things and now it is time to put them out there for the world to see, in a SAFE way.  So you don’t want to be putting their full name and address and those types of things.

But your school website should have some type of an area where you show off the best of student work.  So you show all the best web shows and podcasts and documentaries and animations and all those things; best writing, best photos… those types of things all should go in some type of Showcase so that these kids can get home and realize their aunt and uncles can come to see it; everybody in the WORLD can come to see it - and they just LOVE that idea of being open to the whole world.  And it is great that way.

And also it is really important to gather what I am calling “Best of” examples - again going back to the awards that are given out for like cinematography and sound and stuff.

But think of it from a teacher’s point of view, not a student’s point of view.  So if you have a teacher working on a great digital product, you want to get like the BEST example from the school so when NEW teachers come in, they can go online and see, “Oh! THAT’S what it means when we were going to do an animation about cell structure!” because you are showing them the best possible one there is.  Don’t show them the cheesy ones - show them the really GOOD stuff, so that the teacher goes, “Okay, we are going to use clay, and we’re going to do it this way; and we’re going to take photos, and it is going to end up being an animation.”  They will get it once they can see those “Best of” examples.

And I also like to survey my students with just a simple little survey, just asking how much they enjoyed these projects, what could we do better, what could we do different; what would they do if they were in our shoes - those types of things.

Because, you know, when I gather them all up and look at them over the summer, when I make all the changes to the curriculum and to the ideas, it’s good to look at them with, well, you know, you have got to kind of weigh it out for how much weight you might put on a student survey because sometimes they might be very opinionated in one way or another; just because student doesn’t like to write they might go, you know, “Way too much writing.” Now, that doesn’t really play out.

But you should look for trends though.  So if all of them are saying, “Oh, the project was just way too long,” you go, “Well, okay, let’s not do a five-minute documentary - let’s do a three-minute documentary.  Those types of things are what you are looking for.

And most importantly, when my teachers go back and take the self-assessment that is on Atomic Learning, this is what I am really looking for, is them to come to me and say, “Mr. Flick, look at where we’re at now.”  And you know, I don’t have access to what their information is, but they voluntarily bring it to me and say, “Look at what has happened to ME! I had no idea what a Wiki was..” or a blog - all these things.  And now their classroom is doing all these things and they can show their results from their self-assessment, and they are very happy with it.

And number one is that the STUDENTS are very happy with being able to acquire 21st Century Skills.  So THEIR self-assessment is way up, that they take on Atomic Learning.

So suddenly, you know, we are seeing these big, huge leaps in one or two years of students now having great 21s Century Skills.  And THAT is what it is all about.

So gather all this body of evidence - because in Step 12 we are going to talk about making just those minor improvements that you need to do to it.