BELIEVE…One Word Goal

If you love Ted Lasso, then you’ll love this post. For those who haven’t seen Ted Lasso, it is a series on Apple TV about an American Football coach (Ted) who attempts to turn around a losing professional soccer team (AFC Richmond) in England. Although he has no experience coaching soccer, and little understanding of the British culture, Ted’s relentless optimism wins over players and fans. To instill faith and confidence in his new team, Ted taped a Believe sign above the door leading out of the locker room. The imperfect sign symbolized optimism, faith, and hope. Believing in something is a choice and the symbolism of the yellow background reminds us of light and happiness. As Ted says, “I believe in believe.

How can we apply this feeling of relentless optimism, faith, and hope in education? What if we all channel our inner Ted Lasso and create a one word goal, like Ted did with the word Believe? A word to remind us of the goals we want to achieve this school year; a symbol of hope when so many need it most.

I’m lucky to work with a great team of educational leaders. Our team of four brainstormed goal setting and how to communicate this to a staff already feeling burnout in late September. There are so many frameworks we talked about. There’s SMART Goals, OKRs, Backwards Goals, Tiered Goals, Golden Circle, Locke and Latham’s 5 Principles, and more. It felt overwhelming just talking about goal setting with teachers in a year following so much trauma and uncertainty. What if we put a spin on a Ted Lasso theme and have teachers create one word, focused goals? What we love about one word goals is that it really does help teachers narrow their vision and focus on one goal, which serves as an umbrella for all the goals they wish to achieve. One word goals also eliminates this over-complicated process of goal setting frameworks and avoids “analysis paralysis,” which many teachers already feel this year.

Believe: One Word Goal Presentation

I share this with you because I really do feel that it is a morale booster and makes the school feel more positive, and who does’t love a little joy and positivity right now! We delivered the presentation, which I will attach the template for you to download here. Feel free to add, change, or adjust to fit your needs. Once we set the stage with the teachers, we had them write down their goals for the year. Next, we had them brainstorm words that summarized those goals, and finally we had them choose one word. Once they chose a word, we had them fill out a Google Form, indicating their word and room number. We then printed their words on yellow paper and hung each corner of the sign with less-than-perfect straight lines and torn black painter’s tape. The one word goals are displayed over their doors as a symbol and a reminder of their goals and hope moving forward.

“Be a Goldfish.” Spread relentless optimism where you can. 💙

The Proudest Post I’ll Ever Write…

This blog entry is going to be a little different than my past blog posts. It’s the story of a kid who worked hard, became resilient, stayed positive, remained faithful, and never quit. I usually try to leave those who read my blog with a resource, or something to take back to the classroom and use with students. Today’s resource is the gift of hope. The hope for a great year and the reminder that you have one of the most important jobs in the world. You are molding and inspiring young people. You can be a reason why they never gave up and kept reaching for their goals. You can help impact students in ways you will most likely never get to see, yet you become are part in their story. A story like the one I am going to tell about my son, Austin. He gave me permission to share this personal story as he hopes that it inspires someone.

“We need stories of hope perhaps more than we need new ideas on curriculum, formative assessment, or instructional strategies. Stories of hope can nurture our spirits”

-Elena Aguilar, Educator

The Early Years

In March of 2003, my husband and I were blessed with a beautiful baby boy, who we named Austin. I remember just staring at him when he was a baby, just marveling at what a miracle he was. He was such a happy baby and was a great sleeper; something young parents only dream of! He hit all the milestones babies are supposed to reach their first year of life. As he got older, I began to notice that he wasn’t hitting those verbal milestones in the same timeframe as some of his peers in our play groups. He cried in frustration much of the time as he tried to communicate with us. I figured he’d just catch up and that it was perfectly natural to have a delay in speech development. He was saying some words, but not enough to string together full ideas. He was two years old and we were expecting our second little boy when I began researching speech therapy. As an educator, I knew that early intervention was key in his development. I can recall being in my 7th month of pregnancy and taking him to a speech therapy appointment and he was not happy. He was melting down and I had to carry him kicking and screaming down two levels of stairs. I remember missing a step and falling. Thankfully, none of us were hurt, but I do recall my heart feeling pretty broken. I didn’t understand why he was so unhappy and I truly felt helpless. There were other situations where he would have full meltdowns in public places. I vividly remember being at Costco and he threw a full carton of eggs out of the cart. I slowly slid down the wall and fell to the floor and cried. I was at a complete loss as to what to do next. I read book after book and tried strategy after strategy to find ways to help him communicate.

As time went on, his speech began to improve, but the meltdowns became worse and more frequent. He had a difficult time playing with other children. As his language began to increase, so did talking about particular interests. He did tend to perseverate on some topics and was particularly interested in things like buttons, cameras, trains, and lining up his toys in very particular ways. He had an amazing memory for a 2.5 year old. I began to pour my heart into research. I started reading about Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD. Austin did have many characteristics that fit the profile so we decided to have him tested. Little did I know that being tested was not an easy feat. We were on a waiting list to see a specialist at the University of New Mexico for nearly a year. I fought relentlessly with insurance companies as I tried to get testing elsewhere. I had piles of books, spirals full of notes, and folders full of bills. I remember navigating this time in my life, complete with dirty looks from strangers, and friends saying “Oh, so he’s like Rain Man?”

All smiles!

A Diagnosis and Preschool

We finally got him tested and the evaluation specialists were split in their diagnosis–half went with the diagnosis of Pervasive Developmental Disorder and the other half went with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Either way, we had somewhat of a diagnosis, which was the next step in receiving services. Austin was accepted to an early intervention program, called Child Find. He received OT, PT, and Speech Therapy. This was the first encounter with teachers who would change the course of his life. They saw things we didn’t. They immediately saw that Austin had weak trunk strength, flat feet, didn’t walk up and down stairs naturally, and demonstrated difficulty with fine motor skills (holding a pencil, cutting with scissors, and coloring). The teachers had suggested we put Austin in gymnastics to strengthen his upper body. He continued this program combined with gymnastics for two years and the results were remarkable. His speech improved tremendously. His handwriting was probably the neatest handwriting I had ever seen in a preschooler, and he gained strength to walk up and down stairs correctly.

As Austin became older, it was clear to us that he had a gift; the gift of a photographic memory. I can recall him coming home from preschool and writing down all of the names of each of his classmates and spelling them all correctly, even though he was an emerging reader. There were many other examples of his amazing gift of memory; this would become even more amazing the older he became.

The next part of the story which changed his life was attending Covenant Preschool. This school was structured perfectly for Austin and he had teachers that loved him just as he was–what a perfect gift. I will never forget the grace and love shown by the late Ms. Carol, Ms. Joy, Ms. Ashley, and Ms. Stephanie–all whom I am still in contact with after all these years. They remember Austin. They prepared him for kindergarten and set him up for success. Most importantly, they loved him and he knew it.

Preschool

Elementary School

Next up was kindergarten. Austin was in a general education kindergarten classroom where he went to speech therapy twice a week. I will never forget his kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Cvetic. She loved Austin, even though I know he was a handful for her. She saw his potential and worked on his strengths. We were so fortunate when our younger son was lucky enough to be in her kindergarten class as well. Austin was lucky once again in first grade to have Mrs. Hess as his teacher. She, too, loved Austin and was patient, loving, structured, and kind. My husband and I were truly blessed to witness Austin’s growth in these critical, early years. If there’s anything that will calm an anxious mother’s heart, it’s knowing that her child is being taught with kindness and grace. As Austin progressed academically, the social aspect of school proved to be the most difficult. We joined various social skills classes, but never found the right fit. Many of the social skills groups thought Austin was the peer model because Austin was so social. He may have lacked some of the social norms, but Austin has always been very outgoing. We attended these groups, but never returned for a second visit.

We fought hard for Austin. We never wanted him to feel less than or different. He belonged in general education classes and always met the grade level milestones. Of course, not every teacher was the best fit for him, and I don’t even remember some of their names…but the ones that I do remember are because they made an impact on his life forever. There’s a reason why we have such tender memories of these special teachers…it’s all about relationships and connection.

In fourth grade, we moved schools. I brought both of my boys to North Star Elementary, where I was a technology teacher. He had another fabulous teacher that year, Mrs. Butler (formerly Mrs. Sutphin). She was the perfect mix of structure and kindness for Austin. He thrived in fourth grade. This was also the year when Austin received his Black Belt in Taekwondo, something that he’d been working on for the past three years. The following year, he had another amazing teacher, Mrs. McDowell, who also left an imprint on our hearts. Austin was even more blessed to have so much support and love from the administrative team, Mrs. Fascitelli and Mrs. Smith. It’s special people like them who build a culture of love and acceptance. It was in 4th grade where we finally received an offical diagnosis of Aspergers. The diagnosis didn’t change anything in Austin’s education, but it did serve as protection for him and could be beneficial as he got older. Overall, his elementary school days were filled with sweet memories and huge gains, both academically and socially.

“Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.”

-Rita Pierson

Middle School

Middle school would prove to be the toughest for Austin. Sixth grade was difficult not only because having multiple teachers was hard and curricular content wold become more difficult, but socially it was rough. He wanted so badly to fit in, but many kids had a difficult time accepting Austin as he was still working on social norms and two-way conversations. As we all know, middle school kids can be cruel. I don’t think any of these kids had intentions of being so mean, I think it’s just the most awkward time in adolescent development. Our saving grace in middle school came from a loving counselor, who we believe was the key to Austin’s success during his three years in middle school. Ms. Matteucci never gave up on Austin and always showed kindness and compassion for our whole family. Through the years, she has become a great friend and we love her dearly. Ms. Cox, formerly Ms. Greaser, was another teacher in middle school who worked so hard to help Austin achieve his goals. I vividly remember her texting me a selfie of her and Austin when they found out he made the honor roll for the first time in 7th grade. She was just as excited as we were! Both of these teachers went the extra mile. They made genuine connections with us. As middle school ended for Austin, the special education team discontinued speech therapy for Austin as his academics no longer justified needing the service. Moving forward, he would be monitored for continued progress. He finished the last year of middle school on the honor roll and enjoyed learning from teachers who brought learning to life, particularly Mr. Martin, who made U.S. History his most favorite class. There were other teachers like Mr. Thompson who didn’t even have Austin in any classes but made an impact because of daily conversations in the hallways. He still talks about some of the funny conversations they’d have about sports during passing periods. That’s connection and it makes all the difference.

“The biggest challenge in life is to be yourself in a world that is trying to make you like everyone else.”

-Author Unknown
Dad and younger brother testing Austin’s sports knowledge in 2017.

High School

Austin continued to have teachers and counselors who were continuously supportive during high school. He had teachers who listened to him and gave him opportunities to participate in activities where he could demonstrate his strengths. Great things began happening for Austin. A sweet friend of ours, Mindy, and her son Jacob, knew Austin had a gift for sports statistics. They had asked Austin if he wanted to be the PA Announcer at the Sandia High School baseball games. This would be his first opportunity to be a public announcer and gave a voice to the kid who knew everything about sports. He announced for Sandia HS that baseball season and was once again shown much kindness by the baseball team and people like Mindy and Jacob. Austin was truly blessed to be mentored by his buddy, the late Austin Denton. He was a talented sports journalist at La Cueva and one grade ahead of Austin. Once Austin Denton graduated, he and the Athletic Director, Ms. Moores, passed the mic to Austin, where he announced the games for volleyball, boys and girls basketball, and baseball. He even had a few paid gigs to announce at local youth football games. We will always be grateful to Austin Denton for his friendship, guidance, and the advice he gave to Austin.

A few months before the Pandemic, Austin got his first job at Dion’s Pizza. Dion’s was another company that gladly took him in and taught him the ropes. The entire time he was employed at Dion’s, he was punctual and never missed a shift. I am quite certain he had managers that had to remind him to get to work and stop chatting, but Austin’s work ethic is something to admire. Although the Pandemic took away many high school memories that Austin never got to have, he always maintained a positive attitude. Through online high school, Austin continued to do well and had teachers who continued to encourage and inspire him. There were many teachers along the way, but one that stands out is Austin’s English teacher who wrote this very special note to him on graduation.

“I am glad to know you and so proud of you as you finish high school. We have shared many moments, and I feel sort of nostalgic for your honesty and generous stories that help others know what the world looks like from your perspective. I remember working together to score Julius Caesar final projects during finals. And I remember fishbowl discussions during class and the way other students grew in their own empathy after learning from your experiences. I hope these strange times have not diminished your inner light and you have good opportunities to make use of your gifts and talents. Whatever path you take, those you meet will be blessed from your efforts.”

-Ms. Schripsema

It’s difficult for me to even get through that note she wrote without a tear or two running down my cheek. Her words built him up. Austin had also shared with me that one of his favorite high school memories was just hanging out and chatting with Coach Perea after his Calculus final. Imagine something as simple as the gift of your time and having a conversation being one of your student’s favorite memories. Despite the year and a half of being taught online and the struggles that came with that, Austin graduated with a 3.1 GPA. He is excited to be attending a four year university this fall and is preparing to “leave the nest,” as he says. He was named “Most School Spirit” by his classmates for the Senior Superlatives and was voted onto Homecoming Court. Kids came to accept Austin for who he was and seemed to value his uniqueness and thoughtful spirit. I’m so grateful that he ended high school on such a high note and I will forever be grateful for his time at La Cueva High School. “Once a Bear, always a Bear.”

Family and Village of Friends

Austin would not be where he is today had it not been for the amazing support and love from his grandparents (Nana & Papa). They never missed a gymnastics event, tee ball game, Taekwondo test, band concert, or honor roll assembly. They were there to not only support Austin, but they helped wipe my tears along the way during those early years. I’ll always be grateful for their unconditional love and support. His late Mimi would have be so proud of Austin and I know she’d be bursting with joy to see the young man he is today. Grandpa Mike and Grandma Kathy have loved seeing Austin grow up and I know they treasured the summer he spent a few weeks on his first solo trip and flight to North Carolina. He is loved by his aunts, uncles, and cousins. I know that as he graduated, they were beaming with pride.

We have been very lucky in our lives to have made the best of friends. From great friends since before we were married to Stonebridge friends to the Bear Village (and so many dear friends in between), we have been blessed beyond measure to have friends that have supported the growth of this young man. They say it takes a village to raise a child…no truer words were ever spoken. To those friends who are a part of this story and have prayed, loved, watched, and cared for Austin…thank you.

“Autism doesn’t come with an instruction guide. It comes with a family who will never give up.”

-Kerry Magro

Gratitude & Hope

I am so proud of Austin. He has overcome more in his 18 years than most of us could handle. He has put in the hard work and has taught us all what love really means. If you’ve met him, then you know his loving and genuine spirt, fierce loyalty, and his zest for life. I hope he goes out into this next chapter with confidence and continued positivity. My heart swells with pride as I look back and reflect on just how far he has come and what a remarkable young man he is today. He is loved like crazy.

If you made it this far…thank you. Remember that one child with Autism is one child with Autism. You will rarely meet two kids on the Autism spectrum that behave the same. It’s important to know that labeling and limiting children doesn’t benefit anyone; it narrows one’s mind and imposes unnecessary hurdles. Acceptance, love, loyalty, and compassion are what these kids need most (and a great teacher)! My hope for all teachers is to simply remind you to go out this school year and be the best you can be. Remember why you do this important job and carry stories of hope like this with you. You are making a difference. Take the time to build relationships and create trust with your students. Remember, you are being written into a child’s story. Here’s to writing a great one!

♥️ April

You’re off to great places, kiddo!

Create and Customize Folders on Your Mac!

Spring clean your computer files! Here’s a new take on a blog post I wrote back in 2016 about creating customized folders on your Mac! I love the ability to take the folder shape, completely customize it with color, icons, and text so that I can visually see what I am working on at the moment! It really helps for organization!

Here’s the step-by-step video to get you started!

Click here to download the Keynote folder shape.

Happy organizing! 🙂

The Best Whiteboard Tool Inspired by Teachers

Whether you are teaching full remote, hybrid, or fully in-person, this web based tool just might be the answer to your teaching prayers! In my work as an instructional technology coach for my school district, increasing student engagement is the number one request I hear from teachers these days. I truly believe that this tool has everything you might need to bring student engagement back to life!

Trust me when I tell you I have vetted all of the whiteboard tools teachers can use to increase engagement and feedback with their students. Here are my favorites (in no particular order).

  • whiteboard.fi: great for seeing individual screens
  • Jamboard: Great for collaboration. Add text, sticky notes, shapes, drawings, images. Have multiple pages within one board. I love to use this to build drag and drop templates for students to interact.
  • Aww App: A great whiteboard where students can collaborate in real-time, but all the features are not not free, therefore I don’t recommend. 👎
  • Canvas Chrome App: A very simple interface with drawing tools and the ability to save image. This is great for flipped teaching if you use a screen recording tool (Quicktime, Loom, Screencastify) and record your narration and drawing to build a flipped lesson.
  • Keynote: If you are a school using iPads with managed Apple IDs, this is a great way to collaborate real time. What sets Keynote apart from all the others is the ability to insert video right from the camera and audio right from the device. There are other features such as drawing, shapes, and animations that can make collaboration a dream come true!
  • Whiteboard.chat: It’s the newest of all the tools and it has some very exciting and promising features. This is the tool I am going to talk about in this post. This collaborative whiteboard tool delivers great results for teachers and students, especially during this time of uncertainty in education.

Let me tell you about Whiteboard.chat

What’s cool about whiteboard.chat is that it’s entirely based on suggestions received by teachers. Simply send them feedback and they will try to make that improvement for you. It will be exciting the improvements and additions that come along as the result of teacher requests.

Features:

Features of Whiteboard.chat app from their Twitter page

What I am really liking about Whiteboard.chat

  • Teach, explain, observe, coach, or model to the entire class at once or individually (all real-time). As a teacher works on his or her board, it is replicated on all students’ boards in real time.
  • Tool is web based and works on all platforms (Mac, iPad, PC, Chromebook)
  • Create boards ahead of time or as you go along in your lesson.
  • Use this tool while live on Google Meet or Zoom in synchronous sessions, or use this when asynchronous learning is taking place. During asynchronous learning sessions, teachers can engage with students real time.
  • For the middle school or high school teacher, make one board and save a copy for multiple class periods.
  • View students as they complete their work in real time by using the grid view. Zoom in on one particular student’s board to see if they need help. If so, teachers can easily join their board and offer feedback real-time.
  • Students can raise their hand if they need help and teachers can immediately jump in their board and provide feedback or coaching.
  • Upload PDFs and images. Import multi-page PDFs and create a workbook. Students can annotate each of the PDFs with text and drawings. Students cannot delete anything posted by the teacher.
  • This tool doesn’t require a high amount of bandwidth! Whiteboards are not shared as video streams.
  • Teachers can create individual breakout rooms for cohort groups.
  • A built-in timer helps with time management for both individuals and groups as they work through assignments.
  • There are no adds (huge plus for a free program)! Note to developers! 🙂
  • The built-in backgrounds are great! Primary and intermediate teachers will rejoice! Also…there is a special gift for music and math teachers!
  • Boards are private so students cannot see each other’s boards.
  • Ability to type in mathematical equations directly on board
  • COPPA compliant
  • Students can be invited with link, class code, or QR code. Teachers can post join links in Google Classroom, Canvas, or Seesaw. The teacher can mandate students log in and can also remove students.
  • Students can use the chat feature if working together.
  • Probably my most favorite…manipluatives! SAY WHAAATTT??? So many! Math blocks, rulers, charts, and more. These tools include music, letters, alphabet, holidays, currency, clocks, pattern blocks.
  • Lock objects in place so students don’t get frustrated by moving them around if drawing or annotating on object.
  • Ignite creativity by drawing concepts and animating. What a great way to show learning concepts!

Can you tell I’m excited by the potential! Those are just my highlights…so much is offered. So, here’s how you get started:

  1. Open whiteboard.chat

2. Click start drawing and then you’ll start teaching! Students would enter a classroom code or if given a link it will take them right to your class.

3. Click on the gear to login with your Google account. This will allow you to save all your boards. After you sign in, you can change the settings of your boards.

4. Whiteboard.chat interface

5. Now you are ready! Create. Engage. Interact. Collaborate. Share.

Here are images that showcase some of the tools and manipulatives embedded within the application.

I hope you’ll give it a try and see how this can increase the real time communication and collaboration in your classroom!

Follow on Instagram!

Hi friends! I wanted to invite you to come follow on Instagram! My instagram handle is @appsolutelyapril. Over on Instagram, my hope is to share small bits of creative tech inspiration. I sure do hope you are all well and gearing up for the school year, in whatever capacity that looks like for you and your district. Be well and happy creating!

April

Getting Creative With Slide Decks

This week I had a really great chat with Mike and Webs from the Intelligent Hoodlums. Mike and Webs are friends and fellow Apple Distinguished Educators. Together, they’ve started virtual conferences to reach educators across the globe in presenting professional learning opportunities to all. During this uncertain time in all of our lives, they put together a limited series called “I’m Bored.”

We can’t lie. We might have a bit of cabin fever. So we thought we’d hangout with some cool people and make stuff. Twice a week- Tuesdays and Thursdays, we’ll issue a creative challenge. On Tuesday we’ll discuss it. On Thursday, we’ll give everyone an opportunity to present their work. Sounds like a good time, right? It’ll be a fun time to exchange ideas, some laughs, and make some new friends as well.

Mike and Webs, Intelligent Hoodlums

Mike and Webs reached out to see if I’d be interested in sharing about slide decks…and since I am a slide enthusiast, I of course, said yes! To see a replay of our conversation, click here. We chatted about tips and tricks for creating compelling presentations, but also talked about moving beyond the traditional and into more non-traditional ways to use slides.

To read more about this limited series and to see the speakers they have lined up, click here. Additionally, you can find them and follow their work on Twitter @trustahoodlum.

I use both Keynote and Google Slides. In my opinion, based on so many factors, creativity and innovation being number one…Keynote will always win the golden crown.

Resources I Shared:

Resources from Apple:

I challenge you to use the slide creation tool of your choice to create compelling presentations. Take a chance and move beyond the presentation tool to give students opportunities to share their learning in new and innovative ways! Watch the creativity go through the roof!

Cheers, friends! Hang in there! #thistooshallpass

Animated Visual Vocabulary

This week I have been trying to think of activities, projects, and ideas to engage students in distance learning through fun and meaningful ways. I’ll admit that I have felt like I’ve been in a creative slump, as most likely is the case for so many others during this time. I have had this idea in my head for awhile and I thought this would be a good time to share it. I think it would be fun for siblings to do together or a project to get the whole family involved! This would be a great for PE teachers to demo various exercises, foreign language teachers to bring language to life, and other vocabulary words where kids can bring to life through visualization. After all, did you know that it only takes 150 ms for a symbol or picture to be processed and 100 ms to attach meaning to it? Our brains crave visuals and what a better way to study and learn vocabulary, parts of speech, or physical movements!

The Project

This project can be completed in Keynote or Google Slides. The first step is to create the background. I like to have 4 rectangles on each slide with the vocabulary word at the top, but you can design it however you’d like. Then, you will need to use your device to take video of someone demonstrating the word. These are just short videos, no more than 5 seconds. The next step is magical! I stumbled upon the site, unscreen.com. This site doesn’t require a green screen at all, it just analyzes your video with AI technology and generates it without a background. For this project, I chose to have a transparent background, but you can do some other cool videos that have awesome built in backgrounds for additional awesome amounts of fun! You’ll see the one I created at the bottom of this post…I’m surrounded by fireworks! This company also removes backgrounds from photos at remove.bg. Once you upload your video, you can download it as a gif (more downloading options for the pro version). Once downloaded as a gif, then you can place it on the rectangle to visualize the vocabulary word.

In Keynote, you can set each video as an animation and have them all loop and play at the same time. You can export the slide as a movie and play the movie as it loops through. At this time, I do not think there is an option to export a Google Slide as a movie, but you can use third party extensions, such as creatorstudio.dev. I haven’t used it, but from what I’ve researched, I think that would be the way to go. The other option with both Keynote and Google Slides is to create each slide and just present (or play) the slide and it will keep looping though the animated gifs while it’s in full screen mode. This would be especially helpful to have when we go back to school and you are teaching PE moves or introducing new vocabulary. I think students will have a blast making these…I know I did with my two teenage boys!

Download the template (Keynote)

Download the template (Google Slides)

Animated Visual Vocabulary
Example of the various backgrounds at unscreen.com

Hope you enjoy this! Have fun! Create videos where you are in lots of different virtual locations while social distancing! Be safe out there, friends!

Green Screen Magic

Keynote+iMovie=Green Screen Magic!

This week I set up rotational stations for my students to experiment with various green elements to use as green screen props. We experimented with green and blue food coloring in water, green play dough, green magnetic letters, green blocks, and green paper. I had each station set up for 4 people and when the bell rings, they switch to another station. The goal for this was to play with the features to see how they worked and then talk about ways we could use these tools in deepening our learning for different content areas.

The green screen is an integral part of the special effects process known formally as chromakey. … Chromakeying, also known as color keying, is the process of singling out one color in an electronic image and then using software (iMovie and iPad) to make that color transparent.

Here’s a video with a few examples (green marker, green food coloring, and green paper)

iMovie is the magical tool you need to achieve any green screen videos! The important part is making sure you have great lighting and no other random green objects in the movie frame itself. Also, no green clothing unless you want that to be intentional. Students will need to create a bottom layer (this is the layer that will show through the green) and then create a video layer on top. At the end of this post, I will also show you how to line up photos and videos by using Keynote to achieve the perfect balance and alignment.

How to achieve the human body effect:

Draw or find a free-to-use human body online. Save the picture to your Photos.

Capture video of a person holding a green piece of construction paper (make sure lighting is good) and have them slowly move the construction paper down the body and back up again.

Open Keynote and select a wide screen slide. (I prefer to use Split Screen so I can quickly drag images back and forth). Insert both the video and the photo on the same slide.

Change the opacity of the video and line up the photo so that the proportions of the body align. Once they align, you can delete the video.

Drag the slide thumbnail over to Photos app and now you have your bottom layer ready to go to align with your video!

Open iMovie

Add the photo as the bottom layer and disable Ken Burns.

Add the video and insert as a green/blue screen overlay.

Tap the green part of the video…your video should be in perfect alignment!

Happy creating! There’s so many ideas in bringing learning to life with green screens!

Coding Activities for Young Learners

Teaching students the concepts of coding is such an important skill in today’s world. Teaching even our youngest learners these concepts is easier than one might think. To put it in the most simple of terms, coding is instructions given in order to complete a task. We use coding concepts in our daily lives without even thinking about it! We create daily schedules for students to follow, we lay out steps in projects, and we break down problems into smaller pieces, which is the skill of computational thinking.

I love the Code and Go Mouse from Learning Resources because of it’s simplistic design and ease of use. Kids love using the mouse and it’s fun to think of a variety of ways to integrate content curriculum with the mouse. I purchased mine on Amazon. You can’t beat that price, especially if you are low on technology resources.

One really fun way to use the mice is to build mazes on your floors with painter’s tape and build in obstacles that would block the mouse from moving further, which allows students to have to think about how they will get around that particular barrier. In this case, I created coding mats using Keynote on my Mac and then blew them up on our school poster maker. It’s important to make the squares 5″x5″ because the mouse travels a total of 5″ when it moves. Creating the squares to go the same distance really helps students visually understand how many forward spaces they need to travel.

Getting Started

To get started, talk to the students about what they know about coding. Talk about how coding is basically following a set of instructions (algorithm). They use these computational thinking skills when they get dressed in the morning, when they get ready for bed, when they make a sandwich, etc. Next, show students the coding cards (these come with the mouse). Those cards are the code they will follow when they program the mouse. Finally, introduce the mouse. We named our mouse Jack. Talk about how the buttons work and how they function. I usually show with a partner how the mouse works and I write an incorrect code so that we can demonstrate the process of de-bugging to find out where we might have made a mistake and then we try again.

Some additional tips:

  • I put students in groups of 4. Each student has a role for one round and then they pass the necklace with their role title to the right. This ensures each child has a turn to do each job. That being said, this is a collaborative project and they need to work together to create the code to get the mouse to where they want to go. They have to break down the problem with the coding cards (these come with the mouse). The roles: Object Chooser, Code Writer (programmer), Code Tester (button pusher), and Code De-Bugger. I put the cards on lanyards and have the students wear these. This really is a must because all of the kids want to push the buttons. 🙂
  • Rotate the mats so each group has a chance to use all 4 mats.
  • Use some type of marker (blocks work great here) to designate what object they are coding to get to.
Coding roles so each child has a job during the process.

Download Resources:

Happy Coding!

The Key(note) to Coding Version 2

There is a misconception when it comes to thinking about coding; some think it’s only for computer programmers and others think it’s too difficult. To put it simply, coding is giving a set of instructions to the computer to create an action. In this post, I will give the instructions that were in my first publication of this idea from my iTunes U Course (2015) as well as some fun updates! This project combines coding concepts and encourages students to understand basic coding concepts in ways that also spark their creativity. Students will use Keynote to create pictures out of basic shapes and learn the variety of ways to format shapes while taking note of the shape’s placement, size, color, and rotation. Once the picture is complete, students will write all of the “code” so that another student can replicate their picture. It would be very difficult to teach someone how to recreate a particular shape with precise measurements, but when given the exact “code” students are able to follow it and replicate the picture with ease. In addition to coding skills, students learn vocabulary for working and manipulating shapes, such as arrange, flip, size, position, and rotation. It’s perfect as a stand alone project targeting STEM or within your geometry unit as you discuss variations of shapes. This is designed for Mac OS because of the advanced tools in Keynote, however, students can use this idea as a guide for building and creating pictures with basic shapes on an iOS device as well. This is a great time to teach kids the design process and utilizing an engineering mindset as they will make mistakes, but through testing their codes, they will go back and refine and improve their code so that it’s just right for replication!

In my original iTunes U Course, I had students create tangram shapes. However, I didn’t want to limit students to just creating tangrams, so I changed this so students can create pictures of anything with basic shapes. This allows for a deeper level creativity. It is easier for students if they create pictures with 7 or less basic shapes as this helps with time creating the code as well as completing a partner’s code.

Before you get started, you will need to add a third party tool for the color picker. This will allow you to be specific with the colors and students will add the HTML Hex RGB #. With this option, students can be creative with colors they choose for their pictures. It is important to note that students should use solid colors only, no gradient or image fills for shapes.

Here are the steps:

Step 1:

Using basic shapes, create a picture (train, car, house, anything…be creative). Once the picture is complete, “Select All” and move the picture to one side of the screen to leave room for the code you will create. *Important note: The size of the slide is important. For this project, I’d recommend all students use the same standard slide size.

Step 2:

Use this PDF to print or distribute through Google Classroom. In Keynote, students will click on the Format (paintbrush) tool and then the Arrange tool. This is where they will note the shape, size, position, rotation, and color of each individual shape. I think if a student focuses on writing the code for each individual shape, then it’s easier to keep track of when writing the code on their Keynote slide. I prefer to have students handwrite the code and then transfer that to the slide, as it creates less errors. Since precision is so important, it’s a good step in the process.

Step 3:

Insert a square and create a larger rectangle on the Keynote slide to type in the code. *Note: Type out the required elements once, and copy and paste to save time.

Step 4:

Once you are finished with your picture and you’ve typed out the code, export slide as an image. Upload to a shared photo album (Photos, Google Drive, Google Photos, comemories.com). Once students have a partner, they can download their partner’s code and start the process of creating their picture based off the code of their partner. Remind students to take notes if they have to “debug” the code as this is good feedback for the creator.

Remind students that they need to be exact, specific, concise, and pay close attention to detail.

Step 5:

Once students successfully or unsuccessfully complete the code, have them complete a reflection for their partner. You can download the reflection here.

Happy creating! This has always been one of my favorite projects!