Tech Badges Program Year 2 Successful Start

#edtech #atomiclearning  

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Well the kids came back to school and the new and revised tech badges program is up and running smoothly. The kids are excited at the possibilities of earning the tech badges that interest them, after they have earned the required ones, of course.

A few changes for this year:

- I now only hand out badges once a month. So on the last week of each month they get the badges they have earned that past month. Handing them out as they earned them was too disruptive to the class.

- Also on the last week of the month I allow students to work on projects that are one level up from where they currently are. This is to help some of my students that are stuck in a rut -- usually with keyboarding. This once a month chance to work on other projects gives them the motivation they need to kick it into gear and get to the next level.

- I have moved all of my lessons onto the Atomic Learning servers. The students now log-in and get right to work with everything in one place. I would say about 75% of my content is from AL, with the other 25% my own video that I have uploaded to their "custom training" side of things. The nice thing about Atomic Learning is that it is reliable and safe. Sending kids to YouTube for video tutorials can be risky at best. I have had videos that start off nice (on Excel formulas) but the person then drops the F-Bomb about half way through it when a formula doesn't work how he wanted it to. With AL videos I never need to worry about it.

So far so good with this year's launch. Next week they will work on their own badges, so keep your fingers crossed and we'll see how that turns out.

More updates to come...

Brad Flickinger Tech Teacher Bethke Elementary School, Colorado

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

I finally give into using Evernote

#edtech #edchat #elearning #elemchat

Image representing Evernote as depicted in Cru...

While I was sitting and enjoying the opening keynote for the TIE Colorado conference, I could help but notice that the presenter, Roger Pryor, was wearing a tshirt with a elephant's head printed on it. If fact, he even referred to his shirt a few times in his keynote. The elephant's head is of course the logo for Evernote. I had never really though very much about Evernote, but the keynote references to it were just the beginning. It seamed that everywhere I went this summer I kept running into people that love Evernote.

So take I finally gave in and I downloaded the Evernote app to my iPad, then to my iPhone and then finally to my MacBook. I will install it on my school PC when I get back to work next week. I know nothing about using Evernote so I started with some online tutorials form Atomic Learning. You can see from this image that they had a lot of quick little lesson videos about Evernote. These lessons are part of their much bigger workshop called "The Social and Interactive Web."

I spent about 15 minutes watching the videos all the while pausing every now and then to practice what I had just learned. I am now using Evernote lickety-split. I'm no pro -- but I know way more about Evernote than when I woke up this morning.

Part of being a 21st Century teacher is always being ready to learn new things -- and today I am glad I did, I can already see how this little program is going to help me get a little more organized as  teacher.

- Brad Flickinger, Bethke Elementary School

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The "Step Aside Teaching" Method.

#elemchat #edtech #edchat #elearning The other day I had dinner with a fellow educator and we naturally started to talk about technology integration in the classroom (of course), so I shared a story about my daughter and Wikipedia.

The last week my daughter came home and explained to me about a game she and her classmates play on their smartphones when they are bored in school. They call them “Wikipedia Races,” they like to use Wikipedia because it is banned by most teachers at her school so they feel a bit like rebels by using this “outlawed” website – evil Wikipedia.

The game goes like this; someone names two terms that are totally unrelated and then they race to see how they can use Wikipedia to get from one term the other the quickest, kind of like using six-degrees of separation but with terms instead of people.

Here is the one that she gave me: Turtles and Photosynthesis

What the? Turtles have nothing to do with photosynthesis!

Then she showed me how she won this round just that afternoon.

She looked up turtles in Wikipedia. Then under culture she found that a turtle is used on the Cayman Island’s coat of arms. So she went to Cayman Island, then to scuba diving, then to oxygen and finally to photosynthesis. Voila!

She said that they love playing this at school – weird, I know.

This reminded me of the scene from Jurassic Park when they realized that the female-only population of dinosaurs were somehow reproducing. “Nature will find a way – Nature always finds a way.”

Our students want to use technology to do their school work, and if we don’t let them, they will still find a way to use it. So rather than trying to make our entire population of teachers tech-savvy, maybe we just need to step aside and let the students just do it.

Case in point:

I wanted my 4th grade students to learn how to make video games.

I know nothing about making video games.

So I let them watch some video tutorials on Atomic Learning to get the basics on how to use the free application called Scratch and before I knew it, they were making video games. That’s “Step Aside Teaching.” If you don’t know how to do something with technology, just step aside and let the students teach themselves.

By the way, I now know how to use Scratch because my students have also taught me while they were learning themselves. So check your ego at the door and learn a little from your students.

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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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Canada Photo Essay - 3rd Grade Project

#edtech #edchat #elearning My 3rd grade students have just finished their project on Canada. The students have been collecting photos from different approved websites to represent different aspects about the country of Canada. The photos were then to be presented in a slide show with narration that each student wrote and recorded themselves. Here is a sample from one of my students...

As you can see from this example, students chose beautiful images to tell their story about what they have learned about Canada -- digital storytelling at its best! The students used MS Photo Story 3 after learning how to use it by following the video tutorials on our school's Atomic Learning account. The fun part was seeing how shocked the students were when they saw how professional their photo essay looked. One student even commented, "This could be on the Discovery Channel Mr. Flick!"

Building my Personal Learning Network PLN Part 1

#edtech #edchat I have been hearing the ideas about building your own PLN for the past year and even though I have most of the parts already in place, I think that it is high time for me to get serious about doing it up right.

Step 1: Understand exactly what a PLN is.

A PLN or Personal Learning Network is really a collection of online and offline resources that you will use on a usual basis to make you better at whatever you do. Since I am a tech teacher, my PLN will be resources that will make me a better tech teacher.

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

Step 2: Start with Twitter.

I don't know why I started with Twitter, but to me making room in my hectic schedule to read 140 characters is a lot easier that finding time to read a book on edtech.

I have had a twitter account for years, but if you don't have one, or you have no idea what twitter is, a good place to start is the video below. When I searched Atomic Learning I found 57 video tutorials about Twitter -- so you have no excuse not to set up a Twitter account.

Once you have Twitter you now need some people to follow. After using the search function for edtech and school technology to find some people to follow, I clicked the follow link on the people I liked and thought could help build my PLN. If you want to see who I am following, just click the link below.

Brad Flickinger's Twitter Account

The next thing I did was to set up some twitter searches for the hashtags (#) that people from my list where using as a sort of keyword for subjects that might help me as well. I found these hashtags to follow on Twitter.

  • #edtech
  • #edchat
  • #elearning
  • #elemchat

Now I can follow Tweats about these subjects for my PLN without following individual people. Following these hashtags really gives me a "feel" for what is happening in the world of edtech -- this keeps me up-to-date. I use a program called TweetDeck to keep it all straight on my laptop. For example, right now while writing this blog post; Twitter is buzzing about tablet computers and teaching -- cool!

Already now that I am a little more organized, I feel like my PLN is starting to look better. The last thing I did was to schedule a little time three times a week to check in on Twitter and see what is happening. I feel smarter already.

Check out Part 2 in a few days.

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My Student Blogging Needs a Makeover

#edtech #edchat #elearning -- This past week I wanted to throw in the student blogging towel. Nothing was working, or at least that's how it felt.
A few weeks ago I had given my fifth grade students the assignment to blog about Feudal Japan. In my mind the project was going to be great: young students doing academic blogging (oh, the awards I was going to get for this one). In reality though, everything was falling apart. So this weekend I went back to the drawing table to see how I was going to change things on Monday .
I searched for "blogging" on my Atomic Learning account and found an entire workshop based around blogging. I reviewed 5 or 6 video tutorials on some of the roadblocks we were facing with blogging. Revamped the lesson plan and now I am ready to teach Feudal Japan Blogging 2.0
The point is -- tech projects rarely work the first time you try them. In fact, they usually crash and burn with a beautiful explosion instead of accolades from students and teachers.
DO NOT GIVE UP.
Fix what is wrong and try again.
I remember the first time I tried doing claymation with third graders -- what a mess. But I kept with it and kept tweaking the lesson until it was just right. Now my student can do claymation like nobody's business.
What tech lesson did you try that at first bombed, but is now running smoothly?
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Implementing Atomic Learning: Day 1 - #edtech

Last week I got the email back from Atomic Learning saying that all of my teachers have been added to their database. It took them less than 24 hours from when I sent in my list of teachers and email addresses to being up and running. They said it might take three days, so I love it when a company gets things done quicker than expected. Tom, my rep with Atomic Learning, sent me an email that outlined how to get things started with my teachers. I had to put all of this aside for a week while I got through the rush of back to school, but now my classes have starting to flow smoothly so I can shift my focus back to Atomic Learning.

So the first thing I did this afternoon after I logged in was to go to the Support section and then to Getting Started. I found toturials and training on how to implement Atomic Learning in my school. Tom did a good job with his training so I sailed through the video tutorials.

The next thing I did was print out the 21st Century Skills Professional Develpment Worksheet. It is a simple one page worksheet that took me less than 5 minutes to fill out. I probably could have breezed through the worksheet in 90 seconds, but I want to do this right, so I spend a little time on each question to makes sure that I knew where I wanted all of this to go. The worksheet asked questions like: "Who will participate in the program?"

Next up; a poster to promote using Atomic Learning. I printed up a bunch of their ready-made full-color posters and filled in blanks with my school's information. I am planning on putting one of these in each teacher's mailbox on Monday.

The final thing that I did today was to open on of their sample emails to introduce Atomic Learning to teachers. I copied it and I am planning on emailing it to every teacher this Monday morning. I decided that Friday afternoon is not a good time to introduce and new idea to tired teachers.

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My ISTE 2010 School Technology Predictions

The ISTE 2010 Conference starts in just a couple of days, so before I pack my backs and go I would like to make a few predictions about what will be the thing this year.

Drumroll please...

Ubiquitous Education: Anywhere - Anytime Education. Think about it, students being able to access their education from anywhere they are at anytime they want. In my district students cannot access their student folder on the school's server from home, so we moved them all over to Google Docs and now they can access their school work from anywhere they have the Internet. I like to call it portable learning.

So I believe what we are going to see a lot at this years ISTE conference are products and services that promote this type of learning. Here are a few examples:

Netbooks: they are small and portable - perfect for ubiquitous education.

AtomicLearning.com: provides their quick video tutorials any thousands of subject that you can get to anytime you need their help.

iPods/iPads: apps promoting curriculum when and where the student wants to learn. Check out this frog dissection...

Student Learning Systems: services like Blackboard which allows students to access their lessons anytime and anywhere they want.

I can't wait to see what the vendors and speakers will be offering this year -- I hope to be blown away.