Monday, February 12, 2018

"The Important Thing" about Augmented Reality

The important thing about augmented reality is that it is a great way to merge digital and analog student-created content. It is true that with the free app Blippar, it is simple enough for third graders to use. It offers great options for a student publishing project, and will likely response many positive reactions from your entire learning community. But the important thing about augmented reality is that it is a great way to merge digital and analog student-created content.

Many may recognize this text pattern from Margaret Wise Brown's The Important Book. Recently this text was used as the basis for a third grade project in Mrs. Pistulka's reading class while learning about their local community history.

Katie Morrow from ESU 8 worked with the class to assemble the pages students wrote and the illustrations they created into a book modeled after “The Important Book” by Margaret Wise Brown. Then we made the pages “come alive” through augmented reality. Basically, if you download the free Blippar app on your smart phone, and enter our localized "code", then you can scan the pages of the book and videos will “pop up” where the students teach you even more!

Here are the steps completed in the process:

  1. Mrs. Pistulka encourages her reading class to learn about community history in creative ways. First students learned about O'Neill's past by interviewing a local historian and viewing past projects.
  2. Second, students selected a key person who has had an impact on our community of O’Neill. Each 3rd grader researched their "Important Person” and took notes. 
  3. They then wrote their narratives for the pages of the book, modeled after Margaret Wise Brown’s The Important Book.
  4. Next, students decided on an additional fact or interesting tidbit to share out loud in their video.
  5. Mrs. Morrow helped us film in front of a greenscreen that we borrowed from the Eagle Eye News crew.
  6. Each student created an illustration to go with our page and hand-wrote our “Important Book" text onto a template page. 
  7. Mrs. Morrow took photos of all our pages and uploaded them to BlippBuilder hub to make them come alive with Augmented Reality (AR).
  8. Finally, Mrs. Pistulka sent our book off to be printed so we could share our creation with others!

And here is the end result:

on iBooks (free for anyone with a Mac or iPad to download and try out)
The Important Book of O’Neill, Nebraska

and physical books printed through (approximately $6 for each economy color, soft-bound  trade book).

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Free EdTech Resources for Computer Science and Digital Citizenship

Any teacher. All students.

Either recently released or new this school year, we didn't want you to miss the opportunity to incorporate these important instructional technology lessons into your curriculum. 
How Computers Work
free video series with related careers from
target audience: MS-HS
Learn More
Be Internet Awesome
free Digital Citizenship curriculum and online game from Google
target audience: grades 4-6
Learn More
Everyone Can Code
free coding curriculum with apps and learning materials from Apple
target audience: K-12+
Learn More

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Coding with Keynote

Prior to teaching coding to any age of learners, it is smart to teach better communication skills. At ESU 8's recent Elementary Science Olympiad one of the student activity stations did just that. 

First we began with coding with blocks. The engineer and the builder had the exact same blocks but their workspace was separated with a divider, blocking their view of each other's creations. Instead they gave verbal "code" as instructions to each other in the attempts of replicating the exact same structure. Modifying each round with various alternations (ability for builder to ask questions, written instructions only, etc.) added additional discussion on the importance of communication in the process of science, and coding in particular. 

Activity Guide for 'Let's Communicate'

Next we moved to the computer and worked instead with digital "blocks" which were actually shapes in Apple's Keynote application on our MacBook Air laptops. Both the engineer and the builder had to pay attention to the very fine details and convey that "code" back and forth in order to replicate each other's designs. 

  1. Use basic shapes to construct an image on a blank Keynote slide.
Note: The more “complicated” the shape, the more “code” will be involved.

  1. Complete a “code sheet” with each shape’s details from the Inspector.
Blank “Code Sheets” for students:

  1. Exchange code sheets with a partner.
No peeking at each other’s screens!

  1. Using the code alone, attempt to rebuild and replicate your partner’s image on a new blank slide. Enter details into the Inspector exactly for each shape added.

  1. View each other’s original slides and share feedback with your partner.
Debug your errors.

Optional Lessons:
  • Add a theme to the challenge, such as flag designs, pumpkin carving, or monster creation.
  • Address the importance of specific communication as discrepancies arise.

    Activity Guide for 'Coding with Keynote'

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Digital Citizenship Week 2017

Visit Digital Citizenship Week site

Digital Citizenship should not be an "event", but rather an everyday occurance.
However, this past week was a good reminder to be incorporating these important lessons for our students. 

At ESU 8 we celebrated by sharing a week's worth of proactive tips-- what to do before students get into trouble online-- to promote positive digital citizenship. 
Use any of the following as starting points to launch your next online learning experience for students. Or better yet, request ESU 8 to partner with you and support the journey.

Visit ESU8PD on Instagram for more instant PD tips.
TextingStory app


Share Your Work
Creative Commons

Paper Blogging
Table Top Twitter
Blog Comments Sort
Common Sense Education
Media Smarts

Friday, September 15, 2017

A reminder of how to use copyright-friendly media sources

If you are looking for sites with copyright friendly, appropriate media for students to use for projects, we would love to share a few tips, in case you were not already familiar. 

Probably the easiest way to search for filtered, copyright friendly images is simply by using advanced features of Google’s image search. 

1) Search like normal.

2) On the results screen, click on Tools.

3) This gives you a variety of advanced settings for the images that Google finds. Your students can find more relevant images by choosing certain sizes, colors, or types (photographs, line art, etc.). But what is most important is under Usage Rights. Select ANY of the Usage Rights options (other than ’Not filtered by license’) and you will find that your results are fewer, but the ones that are left are marked for reuse, therefore definitely more copyright friendly.

* For best results, always save images from a webpage where they are full size and not simply the thumbnails from the Google Image Search results page. 

There are many sites where the media is all filtered for reuse. 

Our personal favorites for students and teachers include the following:
Here is a much longer list of copyright-friendly media sites here, especially if you are looking for a certain kind of media and a more obscure topic.

Also here is a poster created for an elementary teacher that they could hang in the classroom. It has QR codes to go to a few of the most popular sites so that students can scan the codes and go straight to the image-finding sites.

Forms that auto email results

There are many times when a need exists for results from a Google form to be instantly shared beyond the person completing the form.

  • An administrator completing a walk-through observation who wants to send the results to the teacher just observed, and/or another supervisor
  • A teacher completes a grading rubric for each student assignment and wants the results instantly sent to the student
  • A band director hosts a regional event asking participating schools to sign up via a form, but wants a copy of their submission information to be shared back for reference purposes
  • A staff developer collects feedback on a professional learning event and wants to share the results with a team
The list could go on and on. 

Several solutions exist for creating a workflow to collect information via Google form and then instantly share with multiple desired parties. The following is one simple way that anyone could get started on their own.

It utilizes an Add-On called Form Mule.

  1. Build the Google Form.  *Be sure that you have one question with a drop down menu of choices of all your desired recipients’ email addresses.
  2. Make sure the form results are going to a NEW SPREADSHEET as the results destination.
  3. Go to the Google Spreadsheet where the results are being collected.
  4. Add-ons > Get Add-ons
  5. Search for FormMule and add it
  6. Add-ons > FormMule > Launch 
  7. Choose source data and merge type. 
  8. Set send conditions. 
  9. Save and then edit template.
  10. When building the template, use fields from your form for both the send to (choose from the merge fields and the body of the email. (Add your email in the CC field and any additional info that you want viewable on every email.)
It may look something like this:

Preview and send all will go back and send to any previously submitted form results. Otherwise, complete a test form submission and try it out!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Back to School with Canvas

It's Back-to-School time again and we couldn't be more excited to kick-off another year of learning powered by Canvas in many of our classrooms!

As the supported learning management system in ESU 8, you know that you have a support team and implementation team behind you; ready and eager to help you put Canvas to work for all your learning needs. 

On July 31, 2017 educators from K-12 districts and Higher Education institutions across Nebraska gathered at the Lifelong Learning Center for an exciting day of Canvas Learning. Dubbed the first-ever Nebraska Canvas Users Group conference, the event was well attended and supported strongly by Canvas Team representatives. 

Get a sense of the sessions shared by viewing the Session Smackdown that we helped moderate. 

But even more importantly, learn some of the new (or new-to-you) features that Canvas offers for this school year.
  1. Google integration (Similar to Google Classroom, Canvas can create an assignment from a Google Doc that you have created, distribute it to students, complete the "make a copy" and "sharing settings" automatically for each student, and collect it so that you can grade in Speed Grader. Beautiful integration and workflow if you are already a Google Apps for Education school! 
  2. Scheduler (Appointment Groups) (Set up appointment slots for your next calendar event and allow students/teachers to self-sign up based on a wide range of criteria that you decide. Once the appointment slot is filled, others will see that and get to choose another.) 
  3. Late/Missing Assignment label feature (for grade book and Speed Grader)
  4. Assignment and Pages Duplication (Settings > Duplicate) (Discussions and Quizzes are coming)
  5. On new courses, the course homepage defaults to Modules (this promotes the best practice of organizing your course by modules. You can still point to a Welcome Page/course homepage if you'd like.) 
  6. Canvas Doc Viewer automatically lets you annotate any document - highlight, comment, draw on, etc. (even more improved than Croc-a-doc feature of past!)
  7. Blueprint courses make it easy to deploy similar course shells across your department or school site. 
  8. Teacher app (Brand new Canvas Teacher app to make course administration easier on your mobile devices!)
Additionally, the following are Canvas features that teachers are re-falling in love with this fall. Just in case you forgot they were available, try out the following:
  1. Student To-Do List 
  2. Hide Navigation Elements for your course if you don't use certain Canvas features in that course - (Settings > Navigation tab) to clear unneeded clutter in students' course navigation bar.
  3. Student View - view your course as your students view it to check publish settings, etc.
  4. Speedgrader - filters, ordering, audio/video feedback, and more!
  5. Discussions & Announcements: are MORE THAN discussions and announcements! Refresh your mind with the possibilities by viewing this Wednesday Webinar from last year:

There is so much to learn with Canvas- whether features are new or have existed for a long time. Perhaps my personal favorite source of expanding my Canvas knowledge is through their "Fast Track Video Series". These videos are short and sweet-- typically 2-3 minutes-- and do a great job of walking me through one focused topic. To see what I mean, check out this Canvas Fast Track video on student journals in Canvas, a topic several teachers have successfully used this year already! 

The Canvas Community has so many resources available it is sometimes hard to know where to start. This Canvas Resources page may be just the solution. 

With more and more of Nebraska's higher education institutions adopting Canvas (the University of Nebraska system has completely switched to Canvas as its LMS), there is more reason than ever before to give our students experience with the platform/learning skills while still in high school. These are exciting times for both students and teachers, and a critical key to increasing educational success is a powerful vehicle to tie all efforts together. Canvas can be that engine, and we at ESU 8 are more than happy to partner with you for successful driving.