Whereby…A New Name has Appeared!

I have been a longtime fan of a website/app called appear.in.  I’ve probably taught thousands of people about it over the years.  Well, as of August , they’re changing their name.  The new name is Whereby, a play-on-words decision that emphasizes the company’s vision to allow people to choose WHERE they want to meet and work BY using tools that allow them to collaborate.

If you have an account with appear.in, no worries.  They’ve automatically migrated your account and you can still use your site with the appear.in/_____ domain address for now.  However, after September 1, you’ll be switched over to your new Whereby domain address, which will just have the new domain prefix.  (see image below).

whereby url

If you’ve never used it, like I said, the site is basically a virtual meeting room.  It is, in fact, the EASIEST virtual meeting room experience that I know.  I recommend it far and wide to users of all ages and “digital abilities” because there just is no simpler way to connect directly via video chat.   To set up your own account, you just go to the website, choose an available username, and once you submit, you OWN that room forever.  What you really own is the URL, the website – it is forevermore unique to you and all you have to do is share it with someone and be on the site as the same time as the other person/people.  For example, if I choose the username HappyFaceSmileGrin, then my room will be whereby.com/HappyFaceSmileGrin.  If I tell my friend Sally to meet me in that room (go to that URL/website) at 7pm EST, we will literally be in a video chat room immediately when the website opens.  That’s it.  No logins, no remembering passwords, no guest access QR codes…just go to the same site at the same time.  Up for 4 people can meet in a room at a time (for free).

There is a way for the owner to “lock” a room, which requires the visitor to “knock” virtually, which prompts the owner to look through a virtual peephole, see who wants to enter, and permit entrance.  I definitely advise keeping the lock on.  If you want to keep it unlocked most of the time, selecting a really unique but easy-to-remember username will also help strangers from randomly accessing your room!

Whereby says that they’ll be making a few more changes, including a new “new visual profile” to go with the new name.  Their blog also reports that they’ll be making some  updates to the platform.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there are still quality options available for people who want to use the free version.  Change can be a good thing, whereby we all benefit from thoughtful upgrades and a new look!

Read more about the reasons behind the change on their blog post.

Merge Cube: Curricular “Magic” With The Explorer App

WHOA! 😲You’ve just GOT to see this! There is 🔮magic🔮 in this cube, I swear! Check out this quick video I made to see some of the new awesomeness brought to us by our friends at Merge!

Note: I am sharing this video that I created today, but there are folks around the world who are taking Merge skills to a whole different level! I am in awe of the creators, those who are curating new AR and VR material…..and even better – those who are teaching students to curate new AR/VR material to inspire all of us! Our friends at Merge are opening whole new worlds and learning possibilities for us. They are to be commended, congratulated, and thanked.

I am just a newbie…I’m standing back and am just awestruck by all of it. I’ll keep sharing the things that I’m able to understand, and hope to guide a few newcomers along on my journey. The most profound thing that I’ve learned is that it’s all attainable – everyone can do this at some level.

Let’s Merge together.

Wheel of Names – A Randomizer Without Character Limits

I happen to have a little extra time to explore today because we have a snow day! ☃️ I just learned about this free site. It’s a randomizer, another online spinner tool, but what evidently sets this one apart is that there is no character limit. You can add phrases or even complete sentences to this one. (The whole sentence doesn’t show up in the slice of the wheel as it spins, but it does appear in the winner announcement at the end.)

 

There are times when this would come in really handy, like when you want to include writing prompts or insert whole questions for students to answer.

If you teach STEM-type classes, run a makerspace, or dabble in design thinking, this would be be fun to use for design challenges. Give students a pile of random supplies (cardboard tubes, clothespins, magnets, styrofoam, clips, etc.) and put design challenge ideas on the spinner sections – such as “make a vehicle for an injured hamster”, “build something that can move snow without it melting for at least 5 minutes”…there are so many possibilities!

If you look at the wheel above, you’ll notice that it even let me add emojis! 🤗

Check out wheelofnames.com and give it a spin!

As always, I’d love to know what you think! Feel free to leave comments and ideas here on the blog, or you can find me on Twitter as @kerszi. I also have a Facebook page called Integration Innovation.  And if you’re from Washington Township elementary schools and read this far into my blog in the month of March because you saw it in my Integration Innovation newsletter, the 1st two people that email me will win $10 Wawa gift cards.

Type Accented Letters on iPads

📱Micro-tip: If you have an iPad or iPhone, did you know that if you “long hold” on some of the keyboard letter keys, you get variations of that letter with accents? If I long hold “n”, I can type señor. If I long-hold the “u” key, I get über-excited! If I long-hold the “e” key, I see this:

This is especially great to know if you have students and families from other countries, but I think it’s a wonderful tip for all teachers and students to know. Add that to your edtech resumé! 😉

As always, you can find me on Twitter as @kerszi or on my Facebook page called Integration Innovation!

I Had a Flipiphany!

It wasn’t a real word.  Until now.  I just made it up, but it’s a real thing so I’m keeping it.  A Flipiphany is when you suddenly realize that Flipgrid would be the ULTIMATE tool for doing what you need to do.  And that just happened!

About 20 minutes ago, I posted another blog post called #EdTech on a Field TripClick over and read the whole thing, because I really was proud of the idea.  It is the story of how I created a fun, curriculum-based, tech-infused photo scavenger hunt for 1st graders at the zoo, and then I offered the teacher a diverse menu of choices as to how to implement the photo scavenger hunt with her class.  After I hit publish on that blog post, I went to bed…..and 15 minutes later I came right back downstairs because I had a serious Flipiphany!

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My original list of options for ways this teacher could USE the scavenger hunt list didn’t include Flipgrid – and it ABSOLUTELY should have!  It needs to!  I’ve already revised the original option sheet from my earlier post – check it out:

flipiphany zoo list

There are lots of ways this could be organized in Flipgrid, but for folks using the free version, I’d suggest setting it up as described in the last option above.  Since most of the scavenger hunt items on my hunt are photos, 15 seconds will be plenty of time.  Removing the selfie decorations will allow viewers to see an accurate thumbnail of the students who participated.  I’d also suggest leaving the “Response Title” on so that groups could use their group name or a brief caption of their grid post.  The topic in Flipgrid might look something like this:

phillyzooflipgrid

I have now decided that this is my new favorite thing in the world….Flipgrid Photo Scavenger Hunts!  Seriously.  I need to do these with other teachers for my PD sessions (this is a Tech Integration Specialist’s dream toy tool), with friends and neighbors, and on my family summer vacation!

Ohhhhh…..and if you happen to be going to Flipgrid Live this summer, you’d better believe that there will now be a big ol’ super-fun, kinda crazy, official #FlipHunt happening in Minnesota.  That’s a real word now, too.  The #FlipHunt is ON!

 

You know I just love to hear from you and connect with other awesome educators.  You can find me on Twitter as @kerszi, on my Facebook page “Integration Innovation”, or leave comments right here on the blog! 

EdTech on a Field Trip?

As a Technology Integration Specialist, I get all kinds of interesting requests from teachers. They never cease to amaze me with their ideas and the things they want to learn. One of my very favorite unique challenges this year came from one of my first grade teacher friends.

She wanted to know if I could help her think of ways she might be able infuse technology into her field trip to the Philadelphia Zoo. No teacher had ever before asked me anything like this, and I fell in love with the idea! Adding to the challenge was the fact that it involved our littlest littles – 6-year-olds!

I began by checking to see if the zoo offered free WiFi access. We have iPads, but they don’t have 4G, so my planning would be influenced by WiFi availability. Philadelphia Zoo does indeed offer free WiFi, so I knew we had that option if we needed it.

I looked at the educational activities on the zoo’s website. They do have some there, including printables and lesson plans. I found a scavenger hunt, which I thought was a good idea, but I wanted to really personalize it for our first graders from our district.

If you follow me, you know that my mantra/ tagline/ philosophy is P.A.R.T.I., which stands for “Purposeful And Relevant Technology Integration.”

So I found our district’s first-grade Life Science benchmark, and I built a field trip photo scavenger hunt from it! I combined content knowledge with the silliness I knew our first graders would love.

Take a look at the simple but fun list I created, and you’ll see how it challenged students to apply knowledge in amusing ways:

The next thing I needed to do was to think of the teacher’s needs. How many groups would there be? How many chaperones? Was she sharing this with all the other first grade teachers? Did she want to upload photos to some sort of app while at the zoo (which would require WiFi) or just take photos? Did she want chaperones to be able to use their own devices/phones, or did she need our iPads? I met with her once to discuss options and get a feel for what she would consider, and then I went to work creating a printed list of options for ways she could deploy the scavenger hunt. It was SO fun to create this list!!! I gave it to her several days in advance, because at least two of the options would require additional set-up. (Goose Chase and QR Wild, which are both awesome!)

I had an absolute blast creating these resources, and I didn’t even get to go on the field trip! If you’re wondering how that teacher decided to use the scavenger hunt, she went with the second option. That night, she created a beautiful PowerPoint slideshow of all the pictures so that she could share with students the next day in class! (See just a few of her slides below!)

I ended up sharing this idea with five first grade teachers from another one of the schools I serve. They each decided to do their own thing – some did option 3, one did option 4 (the Bingo board), and some did option 8 (using Seesaw). Oh, and I heard that those “live interview” questions were a big hit – I’ll go back and add more of those next time!

In the end, no matter which way they chose to use it, this tech-infused field trip photo scavenger hunt was a big hit with every single teacher, parent, and student!

Bravo & big thanks to the teachers who continue to challenge and inspire me!

Thanks as always for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts & feedback! You can find me on Twitter as @kerszi, on my Facebook Page “Integration Innovation”, or leave comments right here on my blog!

ClassroomScreen – EVERY Teacher’s Whiteboard Friend

I just know you’re going to love this – whether you teach Kindergarten or college, Spelling or Trigonometry…this site is really something that all educators can use daily!  It’s called ClassroomScreen, and it is precisely that.  It is a background screen that you can project and just sort of leave up all day.  It has a handy tool bank across the bottom of the screen full of things we all need, love, and use in our classrooms all the time.  ClassroomScreen just puts it all in one place – with one brilliantly simple interface – so that all the tools are accessible to you all day long!

After you open the ClassroomScreen website, begin customizing your screen.  You choose the background image from a very nice selection of photos:

cs1

Just look at all of those tools across the bottom!  They’re very self-explanatory, so I’m just going to give you a quick little photo tour of what they’ll look like on your screen:

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Random name generator…click choose and it selects one name from your personalized class list!

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Calculator

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Simple drawing tool – you can choose small screen (like I did) or full-screen.

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Text box – you can copy/paste from another source, and use formatting tools including emojis

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Work Symbols lets you display your expectation for the sound levels in your classroom

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Traffic Light is another classroom management tool that you can display

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Timer

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Clock – displayed both ways, with date (click on date to reveal monthly calendar)  –  As you can see, I do random blog posting in the middle of the night!

There’s not much else to say except that I think a tool like this is remarkably handy.  There is a brief little YouTube video about ClassroomScreen that shows you how this works, but I’m pretty sure you already have it figured out.  Have fun!

 

I’ll be really curious to know if any of you end up using this during the school year, so drop me a comment to let me know what you think of it.  If you’re reading this on my blog, just enter comments here, or you can find this posted on my Facebook page (Integration Innovation) and I’m also on Twitter as @kerszi   – Thanks!

Google’s Reverse Image Search

I learned about this in the strangest way.  Last summer, I was traveling through New England with my family.  It was nighttime, and we were driving over a bridge that was lit up and interesting – and I thought was pretty.  I snapped an iPhone photo from the passenger seat, and quickly posted it to Facebook with the caption, “Who knows where I am?”

My buddy Kevin came back almost instantly with the name and location of the bridge, and I was shocked!   I assumed he was familiar with the area.  He admitted that he just used Google Reverse Image Search.

TBH, I had no idea what he was talking about, so I made it a point to – well – Google it!  It’s another super-cool, super-easy way to WOW your friends and perhaps look like a genius from time to time.  I’ll bet you can come up with great ways to use it with students.  Tonight, I used it to satisfy my curiosity.  A few weeks ago, I had gone for a walk and noticed these beautiful little purple flowers.  I had taken a picture, and tonight I used Google Reverse Image Search to figure out what they were!

I started at the URL shown below, which is the site for Google Images.  Notice the little black camera in the search bar, and when I hovered over it, it says “Search By Image”.

Google Reverse 1

Next, I chose “Upload an image”.  (I had saved the photo to my laptop, so it was easy to upload.)Google Reverse 2

After I uploaded the file and clicked the little “search” magnifying glass, this is what I got:

google reverse 4 flower

“Oh, joy”, I thought – Google just let me know that this thing was – a flower?  Hmmmmphh….I almost thought I had wasted my time, until I scrolled down JUST a few inches and found this:

google-reverse-5-similar.png

Aaaah….thanks Google!  Now we’re talking.  Google found “visually similar images” for me, and that 4th one on the top is pretty much an exact match, so I clicked on it.

google reverse 6 periwinkle

How cool is that?  I narrowed it down until I surmised that my little flower was – a periwinkle!

There are lots of times my students and I wonder, “What IS that?” (and…umm…sometimes it might be better if we don’t know…you know how THAT is, right?)  Google Reverse Image Search gives us a fun and cool way to do a little investigating, a little research, a little debating, and a little deducing to find answers to some of our most burning questions!

In doing a little research for this post, I found these other helpful & related resources that you might enjoy:

  • CTRLQ.org – same as Google Reverse Image Search, seems to be a more direct link & possibly even easier.  You can use this right from your cell phone, too!
  • Reverse image search using your phone or tablet
    1. Use the Chrome app to do a search.
    2. Touch the image you want to search with to open a larger version of the image.
    3. Press and hold the image. In the box that appears, touch Search Google for this image.

     

     

I’m sure you can find even more ways to use this and great things to explore with it.  Please share.  I really love to learn from folks who stop by to read my posts, so let me know what you’re thinking!  I’d especially love to hear ways that you’ve used this in school.  Feel free to reply here on my blog, on Twitter @kerszi, or on my Facebook page – Integration Innovation!

 

 

A Technology Infuser

I came across this picture on Pinterest the other day, and it swirled around in my mind for a bit until now.


It’s a tea infuser.  You put whatever blend of tea leaves you enjoy in that infuser, and lower it into the hot water until your tea reaches the desired strength.

This is very much my philosophy as someone who helps teachers with technology.  The privilege is called by different names – a tech coach, tech trainer, tech integrationist, or.. I propose… a tech infuser.

First, tech infusers need to realize that for many reasons, they may be approaching hot water.  Teachers are sometimes reluctant to try new things, have a general insecurity about technology, or be uncomfortable having someone come into their rooms to offer help.  

The water itself also symbolizes ‘normal’ classroom instruction.  Guess what…sometimes water is exactly the ‘taste’ that’s needed in a classroom.  Sometimes it works just fine.  Sometimes, plain old water is really the perfect thing.  But not always.  Not for today’s learners.

Sometimes, a little more flavor is needed.  Sometimes, a lot more flavor is needed.  That’s where a tech infuser can do the most magic.  He or she can bring so many varieties of tea to show a teacher!  She can give tastings in the form of demo lessons.  He can observe a lesson, get a flavor for what’s going on, suggest a few ideas and – let them steep.  She can brainstorm with the teacher and prepare special blends – for any occasion!  

Here are five things that really great tech infusers do beautifully:

1) Really know their tea!  Know lots of teas, stay current on the latest teas & be creative with cool new ways to blend them.  

2) Go in gently.  Sometimes a subtle dip is just the right way to get those who’ve never drank the tea accustomed to the taste.  

3) Know balance.  Know when plain water will do the trick, when a gentle infusion is called for, and when a mighty strong infusion might just be a complete zinger!

4) Let things steep. Sometimes it takes awhile for a taste or a flavor to really develop.  Let it steep, but come back to check every once in awhile until it appears ready.


5) Have tea parties!  Let all of those who have developed a taste for infusion come together & celebrate!  Be sure to invite those reluctant ones to the party, too, to hear how delicious it can be to infuse a little variety into their TEA-ching!

Tech Playdates – Try Sump’n New

As I reported on Twitter in 140 characters or less:  I tried sump’n new this week.  I hosted a little very informal, very unstructured,  and very welcoming event which I dubbed a “Tech Playdate”.  It was pretty much a Professional Learning Community in disguise, but we had too much fun to even realize that!

I’m always looking for new ways to get teachers excited about Purposeful And Relevant Technology Integration (PARTI). I’ve tried PD sessions during the day, little after-school workshops, putting resources online, and even stopping into classes to see if I can help facilitate lessons with tech.  This time, the goal was different, and it was simple:  provide lots of  food, invite lots of people, make it as unassuming and casual as possible, don’t call it professional development, DON’T have a presentation or agenda, and let the people in the room dictate what happens.

Oh, and have it after school, for no stipend or reimbursement, no credit…and just see who is curious or ambitious enough to come.

First, I ran the idea past a group of amazing teachers with whom I spent a week during a summer technology institute.  They loved the idea of being able to continue learning ed tech together, especially with no strings (or mandates) attached.  They helped me by completing a quick little survey to see which days and times would work best, and for us that turned out to be Wednesdays or Thursdays from 4-7.   I picked a bunch of Tech Playdate dates for the rest of the year, ran the idea through administrative channels, got the okay, and developed this invitation:

techplaydatememo

The approved invitation was sent out to all seven elementary school principals, and from there it was sent out to staff.  I asked for an RSVP for this one (because pizza was involved), and about 20 people said they’d come!  I was pretty elated with that response, as this was a great unknown and it involved after-school travel for many.

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The turnout was accurate!  We had 20 people, representing six of the elementary schools and two administrators.  For a first try, this was not only impressive, but a revelation.  Clearly, there is a desire for folks to learn & explore ed tech, and evidently informality and choice are critical components.  Teachers are craving this.

StickyNoteCharts

The photo above was the most critical part of planning the Tech Playdate.  It couldn’t be a “sit & git” presentation-style PD session.   There would be nobody at ‘the front of the room’ …no presenters.  I really wanted it to be participant-driven, where everyone was invited to share or learn, and there was no fear in asking questions – any questions.  I set up these three posters on a table and put some sticky notes nearby.  I suggested that attendees fill out a note and try to find a ‘sticky-note buddy’ that matched their needs.  There were knowledgeable people in the room who were empowered to share what they knew, and there were people (myself included) who just wanted to try learning something new with someone else.  All kinds of beautiful sharing and learning ensued….it was collegiality & collaboration at its best!

AliciaKelsey

Alicia (left) learned about Plickers at our summer technology institute.  She became the expert, and was more than happy to teach Kelsey all about it!  Alicia was ready to share all kinds of wonderful things that she learned during the summer and had since been trying in her classroom:  draggo, Quizizz, Google Forms, and more!

LisaJan

These two ambitious teachers wanted time (How often do we hear that?) to work on their teacher pages on the school website.  They both liked just being in a room where there was support and other people with the same questions…and their teacher pages are really awesome!

CathyKim

These ladies were amazing in their zest to learn new things!  They not only supported each other, but asked a ton of great questions and we all learned new things from their questions.  Together, they explored a site called Curriculet so that they could develop great Reading lessons for their classes, but then they wanted to know more from people in the room:  how to take screenshots and edit them, how to make word clouds, and how to earn Ed Tech Digital Badges that are now used in our district!

JimMary

Mary heard about Plickers, too, and James was more than happy to teach her about it!  She had time and support to set up all of her classes, create folders, and start to set up questions.  By the time she left, Mary had an activity she could use the next day.

 Jim

One teacher came ready to share all about a site called GoNoodle, but didn’t get a chance during this first Tech Playdate.  Hold that thought for next time.  Another teacher didn’t get the opportunity yet to show people about coding with kids, and someone else is still willing to teach about Symbaloo!  Great!  It looks like we have an awesome starter list for next month!

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Ambitious Rich came with the hope that he could learn web design!  Luckily, there was someone in the room who was willing to share all about a site called Weebly, which allows for very user-friendly, very beautiful website creation!

RichMeriLinda

Linda’s sticky-note just said that she wanted to learn how to ‘work with pictures’.  She was interested in learning how to upload, crop, edit, and get creative with her photographs.  Lo and behold, there was someone in the room who knew that, too!  This time, it was my brilliant friend Meredith Martin from a neighboring district, who”‘crashed the tech playdate” just because she loves this kind of learning, too!   Linda and others got some very cool lessons on how to use Sumo Paint!

MikeAnneLisaJan

You know it’s a REAL playdate when the principal comes to play!

food

TBH, for our first Tech Playdate, this might have been part of the lure.  This plus seven pizzas.  I wanted to have a very homey and welcoming feeling for this first one, so – uh – food!   The gang decided that now that we’re all friendly, techy buddies, we’re going potluck for the next one!  Everyone’s bringing a treat to share with the class!

Oh, and everyone’s bringing other colleagues who will enjoy a Tech Playdate, too!  This thing’s going viral, and I hope that this kind of informal, free, no-accountability, exploratory, collaborative, playful learning becomes the ultimate ‘computer virus’!

For local friends:  The next Tech Playdate is October 28 from 4-7.  No RSVP needed.