6 Things, 20 Slides

March 12, 2015

flying handlebars purple effectIn the book Presentation Zen Garr Reynolds recommends finding a Pecha Kucha night to practice the skills learned from his book.  When I moved to Denver I punched in the search terms and found an organization called Ignite Denver.  They do a variation on Pecha Kucha-you are limited to presenting 20 slides but each only lasts for 15 seconds, giving the presenter only 5 minutes to convey a message.  (Pecha Kucha is 20 slides for 20 seconds each.)

After applying and being accepted by Ignite Denver I went to work on my presentation: 6 Things I Learned While Riding My Bike.  My idea was to share lessons learned and tie it to my new experiences after moving to Denver, giving it a local angle as well.  The number of lessons or stories went down from 8 to 6.  I figured that if I told 6 mini stories, then I could allot 3 slides to each.  The remaining 2 slides would be used for intro and outro.  Next, I outlined the presentation as a storyboard using 20 sticky notes.  I had to decide what 3 images would be used to tell each mini story.  Talk about economy…tell a story with only 3 images.

Well, I was up for the challenge.  To up the ante I decided to shoot new photos and use a minimum of text on the slides.  I treated the project as if I was shooting a film.  I made a shot list which included location and props needed.  Ah…the  props.  This  took some extra work, and at one point out of my comfort zone.  One of the props I needed were bullet casings.  Not being a gun owner, nor having many gun-toting friends I had to go to a local shooting range and ask them for some empty shells.  Fortunately they gave me some without any questioning, although they may have joked about me later after I left.  No matter. I got what I was after.  As time went by I was able to take all the photos, with the exception of 2.  One  had to be shot by my wife Nita, since it included me in the frame.  The other, of a large truck, I found on Flicker Creative Commons and gave it proper citation.

The setting for the Ignite Denver presentations are different from any other presentations I had ever given.  First of all, they are in front of a large live audience who are drinking large cups of beer.  Secondly, presenters are expected to memorize their speeches.  No notes allowed.  Fortunately for me, my years as a performing musician helped me deal somewhat with any stage fright and I am blessed with a good memory.  To thwart any potential memory lapses, I used the slides to be my prompts/reminders as to what I should be talking about at that precise moment in time.

Now any good storyteller/presenter needs to bring emotion and engagement.  The stories themselves would help a bit with this, but I made sure that I included drama and humor into the script and my vocal inflection.  What more could I do for engagement? Ironically, one day while riding my bike to work I came up with an audience participation segment.  I would encourage them to make motorcycle sounds.  Since I figured their inhibitions would be lowered from the beers, I thought I could pull this off.  What did the end product look and sound like?  Take a look here at the recording and let me know what you think.   (NOTE: the recording has a few buffered glitches in it, but you should get the idea. And there was a technology bonus to mention. The event was streamed live, so some of my friends on the East Coast were able to attend virtually.  This may have helped me too. Knowing that I had friends in the audience-in person and virtual.)

EdCamping Again

March 6, 2015

edcamp button 2015Recently I was lucky enough to attend my second EdCamp in Denver.  Some things were different on this go round.  First, the initial paper signup sheet was gone, replaced by a google doc.  No problem there since it saved a step for the organizers and gave everyone easy access to notes.   Secondly I led a session, but in a new way.  I tried to be more “guide on the side” and allow for plenty of sharing among the participants.

So, what was my topic?  E-portfolios.  One of my personal purposes was to find out what other educators were using in terms of platforms and how they were using them to assess student work.  It surprised me that many teachers were still searching for platforms and protocols themselves.  One revelation was that not everyone was clear on the purpose of e-portfolios.  Fortunately, I found a great website that explains the why and how of e-portfolios.  If you’re interested in this topic, take a look at the site here.  (Not?) Surprisingly there are many quotes from Austin Kleon’s book there.  (The connections continue.)

What other topics were discussed that day?  Using Video in the Classroom, Blended Learning, Gamification, Personalized Professional Learning, Problem Based Learning, Twitter, Schoology, Google Apps in the Classroom, and Makerspaces, to name a few.   Fortunately for all of us, there are extensive notes shared with the world here. Edcamps are great places to hangout, network, learn, share, and you don’t need a sleeping bag :-)

Photos for Class

March 2, 2015

6819094724I’m a big proponent for using Flickr Creative Commons as a source for finding reusable photos.  I’ve used many over the years and have made a concerted effort to give back by licensing virtually all of my photos with Creative Commons (CC) licensing.  The main hurdles for K-12 teachers who want to use Flickr CC is getting a safe filter and making it easy for them and their students to properly cite the photos they find.  Now there’s software to solve these problems:  Photosforclass.com

Besides providing a safe search for images, you’ll find that when you download an image it comes with full attribution at the bottom.  The image I used for this blog post is an example.  Let’s all find photos for class!

Website on the Move

February 27, 2015

criteriumphotoforblogpostAs I promised in my last post, here is an update on my new website and a review on the software that I used to create it.  As i mentioned previously, this new website aggregates all the creative and instructional work that I’m producing.  These areas include instructional design and technology, digital storytelling, photography and music.  It should provide one-stop shopping for people who want to find and use my work.   I’m very happy with how it turned out and invite you to take a look here: http://pauliwancio.com

I want to share with you the process I engaged when building the new site.  First, I wanted to move to a friendly website builder where I could balance good design with quick design.  The software that I chose was Wix.  It’s free to use and publish-if you don’t mind having their branding on your pages.  I chose to buy a premium account so that their branding wouldn’t appear and I could use my own domain name.  Wix has hundreds of templates to choose from and I went unconventionally with a theme that was created for a restaurant.  Why? I just liked the layout, the clean look and how photos could be featured on the front page.  I can’t stress enough how easy and intuitive the editor is to use.  There are many choices for customization bu you could create a simple site in minutes.  Besides ease of use and creative templates, the other thing that I have to recommend about Wix is the wide array of plugin/add-ons that they have available.  They are easy to install and use.  The one I chose for starters is a Twitter plugin that shows all my tweets.  I can adjust the size, the feed, and placement on my page.  So…look at my new site and try out Wix for yourself.  I’d love to hear your thoughts

Synergistic Cognition

February 18, 2015

chihuly smallSometimes everything comes together in the most delightful way.  I’m calling this new experience “Synergistic Cognition” since interdisciplinary studies or curriculum integration sounds too dull for the wonderful feeling when multiple subjects and modes of learning mesh.

Here’s what happened to me this week.  I’ve been taking a course on PLNs-Personal Learning Networks.  The course is being held online.  Most of my fellow students are in Maryland while I’m in Denver Colorado.  In the course we looked at and tried out various social media for learning.  The platforms we touched were Scoopit, Diigo and Twitter.

As the course is winding down, I’m ratcheting up work on a new aggregated webpage for all my work and social media presence too.  This new site will also serve as my final project for the course.  So, at the same time I decided to start reading this book “Show Your Work!” by Austin Kleon.  The first chapter is called “Find a Scenius” which he defines as a group of creative people to get feedback from.  Where can you find a Scenius?…Online of course!..in social media networks- PLNs!

All of sudden I saw the connections between this book and work from my recent course. I got quite a brain rush when these two sources came together for me.  I’m calling this Synergistic Cognition.  Not only did I make a connection from the course to the book I was reading but the book also connected to other ideas and books.    Later in Chapter One, Austin talks about how freeing it is to be an amateur.  Everything is new.  He quotes a Zen monk Shunryu Suzuki: ” In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few”.  This drew my mind back to “Made To Stick” where the Heath brothers talked about the curse of knowledge.

I am joyful at all these connections being made.  I will have more to share and I wish you happy connections, or Synergistic Cognition!

Drag and Drop Quizzes in Moodle

February 4, 2015
Daniela Harmann Flickr CC

Daniela Harmann Flickr CC

I’m really excited about the new drag and drop quiz functions in Moodle.  We added them to our main site last month.  There are three audiences that I can see using these immediately:

1.  Adult Learners-for our adult learners we have the option of making more complicated, yet visually appealing, drag and drop matching text quizzes.  Not only are they easy to create and automatically grade, they can engage adult learners in choice, applicability and higher-order thinking.  Of course, auto-graded quizzes are useful in self-guided online course modules.  They will run on their own, indefinitely, without further facilitator interaction.

2.  Teachers will find these quizzes easy to create and appreciate the auto-grading. I hope teachers will consider this a wonderful opportunity to create PARCC-like tests to get their students ready for the real thing.

3.  Students will enjoy the visual appeal, be engaged by the game-like challenge and get great practice for future mandated online testing.  They might even find that taking a quiz can be fun!

Below are some screenshots of quizzes I created for elementary school students as examples:

drag and drop map quiz in moodle

fish matching quiz in moodle

Edcamp Denver

March 14, 2014

edcamp coloradoLast month I attended my first “unconference” which was called Edcamp Denver.  Initially I was a little skeptical since I was giving up a good part of my Saturday to attend a conference where I had little to no idea of what the sessions would cover.  The fact that it was held at a “Creative Academy” and the likelihood that some of my fellow DPS staff would be there gave me some level of comfort and hopefulness though.

For those of you who have never attended an Edcamp or an unconference I will describe some of my experience. When I arrived on this snowy morning we gathered in the cafeteria and enjoyed free coffee and pastries.  Have I mentioned yet that this Edcamp was totally free?  Yes, a free conference with breakfast and lunch provided thanks to sponsors.  Soon the mapping of the unconference began.  On a large sheet of paper participants wrote topics in which they were willing to lead discussions and perhaps make a brief presentation. There was no keynote presentation, just some brief introductions.

edcamp signup sheet

Since I had just been part of a digital storytelling workshop I volunteered to lead a session on that topic.  Why not dive into the pool, right? After starting my session though I learned quickly that the aim is to encourage discussion and collaboration over traditional conference presentations.  So rather than take up all the time with me sharing information I asked other attendees to share their experiences and resources.  Fortunately at DPS we have our core values highlighted at many meetings and one of them is collaboration.

One of the nice things about this unconference was how technology was applied all along the way.  All the session listings were transcribed into a google doc so we could all refer to it for choosing topics and room locations.  In addition to the online schedule each session was given a google doc to document everything that was shared in the session.  You can see these docs here. (Be sure to scroll down the list and realized that some folks took notes diligently while others were left blank.)  After lunch we reconvened as a full group in the auditorium for a demo slam.  Participants shared (in 5 minutes or less) an app that they found useful for education.  For more info on what an Edcamp is, check out this link.

Of course, given my featuring this event on my blog you can be sure that I’ll be attending more Edcamps and other unconferences in the future.  But I also have the idea to incorporate unconferencing into part of a future conference I’m planning so that half the day will be traditional and the other half on free-ranging topics ala the unconference.  What’s really amazing is that some DPS schools have now adopted the unconference model for their professional development meetings so that teachers can tailor the workshop(s) to meet their specific needs.

Digital Storytelling: DPS meets CDS

February 5, 2014
Maggie Gordon and Daniel Weinshenker

Maggie Gordon and Daniel Weinshenker

This past week I was able to accomplish something I’ve been wanting to realize for some time now-introduce more people to digital storytelling.  Daniel Weinshenker from the  Center for Digital Storytelling (CDS) led a 2 day workshop for a diverse group of staff at Denver Public Schools (DPS).  Since I’ve worked with CDS in the past I knew that we would have a rewarding workshop.

CDS has moved away from the 7 elements of digital storytelling and now embrace 7 steps.  Some of them are similar, but the focus is now on the process and development of the story.  My own digital story took a dramatic turn after reading it in the story circle.  Only a few lines remained from the original draft.  This was also my first experiment with creating a digital story with a single image, letting the narration drive the story and deliberately choosing not to include music or sound effects.  This included my first foray into using the online video editor WeVideo.  Although the editor does have its limitations (especially obvious to someone who is used to Final Cut Pro) I was impressed with the range of tools it did provide and the fact that it is cross-platform with nothing to download or install.  This means that everyone in my district can use this tool. So, it does show much promise for future use.  TIP for WeVideo users, when it comes time to download your video, make sure you use Chrome for your browser.

But enough about me and the software.  What about my co-workers who took their first leap into digital storytelling? We’re still collecting formal feedback and discussing publishing the stories online.  I will certainly post a link here when some of them are published.  I know that everyone increased their skills in video editing and storytelling.  I know that everyone had a positive experience that bonded us together as a group of educators, co-workers, and human beings.  The power of story is woven into who we are as human beings.

New Horizons

January 27, 2014

new horizonsIt’s time for a personal note to explain my absence from this blog and tell you about seeing new horizons.  Over the last 6 months I moved to Denver Colorado to take a new job at Denver Public Schools.  I’m now the Manager of Online Professional Development.  Even though my position is with a K-12 school district, my focus remains on adult learners.  I help teachers with their online professional development and work with central administration in the design and delivery of online professional development.  I’m still working with Moodle and Google Apps and always learning new designs and applications.  I will continue to share my discoveries, best practices, and experiences here on this blog.  Thanks for staying tuned in!

Report on Pilot of Course Evaluations Delivered Online

June 7, 2013

ImageWell, the results of our latest pilot of delivering course evaluations via online delivery are in.  This semester we tweaked the delivery process and encouraged all the participating faculty to make time during their last class meeting for students to complete their course evaluations-using the online tool instead of paper.  Faculty also asked their students to bring their laptops, tablets or smartphones to class on the last day.  The results were impressive.  Many of our classes had response rates of 80 to 100%.  What led to this success?  We listened to students who told us that the last weeks of the semester were an overwhelmingly busy time for them and they were likely to postpone or forget about the course evaluations unless faculty gave them time to complete them during class.  This mix of traditional delivery(in class) with modern collection methods(online forms) seems to be working.


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