May 16, 2013

Tech Tips from the Un-Conference

Artwork from first grader Rowan's AOE project on
trains, captured digitally on the Bookmaker app

Of the hundreds of emails I receive each week, my regular favorite is sent by our school librarian, deana harragarra waters. It carries the subject line: “Tuesday Tech Tip”.

deana is a tech junkie. She thrives on informing her colleagues about the latest and greatest apps and websites available.  Most are educational in nature and help us with our work, such as recent referrals to websites on educating from the heart and supporting emergent readers.  Some are just for fun, like the link to a website where I managed to create an image of a clay animation version of myself (scary!)

A couple of weeks ago deana and Kindergarten parent Ally Delaney attended EdCampCO in Denver, a free "un-conference" where teachers gather to share innovative instructional strategies and pioneering technologies that transform education for students. Ally and deana learned hundreds more tech tips.

They returned to teach our Kindergarten and first grade teachers about the app Bookmaker.  It’s a means of creating books digitally from student work.  Teachers Beth Huennekens and Laurie Nakauchi saw a fabulous use for this app that they immediately put into use with their students.

Like all of our elementary classes, Laurie’s and Beth’s kids have been wrapping up their AOE projects.  AOE projects are self-guided, multi-dimensional research projects where our students choose a topic that they are passionate about and that they want to become experts in: Area Of Expertise.  Research findings, paintings, creative writing, bibliographies, and more are all presented on large three-panel display boards.

I love visiting all our classes when students are presenting their Area Of Expertise projects.  I learn so much. I am always seriously impressed by the passion and knowledge that our students demonstrate on an immensely wide range of topics.

Artwork from first grader Shanti's
AOE project on India - heading to India!
However the boards that the AOE projects are presented on are unwieldy and easily damaged.  Once they are taken home, many families struggle to keep these boards in good shape.  And we’ve discovered that they’re darned hard to squeeze into a three-ring portfolio binder!

Using the new tech tip from deana and Ally, Beth and Laurie developed digital books which capture all of their students’ work in an electronic file – all created on the school’s iPads. Not only did the teachers photograph all of each student’s work to include in the book, the kids recorded themselves reading their own writing on each page.  Now, not only will our parents have a saved copy of their child’s physical work to keep in perpetuity, we have captured in time sweet first grade and Kindergarten voices reading their discoveries.

These projects are now easily shared with grandparents and loved ones across the country.  One first grader, who studied India for her AOE project, is planning on sending the e-book of her project to her grandparents who live in India.

That’s what we want for the global citizens we are educating.

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