Archive for the ‘Teaching and Technology’ Category

Getting to the (foam)Core

January 13, 2017

microphone-blue-lightSomeone was throwing out a very large piece of foamcore and, as I’m in K-12 budget world, I grabbed it for re-use.  The first purpose I used it for was as a light reflector for video and photography shoots.  Then a new need arose.  Our English Learning Acquisition (ELA) office asked me to make an audio recording of 4 narrators who would act out a screencast sequence.  I already had microphones and a usb audio mixer, but I knew that I needed some separation from each microphone during the live recording.  I grabbed the oversize piece of foamcore, cut it in half,  and made two slits in the center, just going halfway up the edge.foamcoreslits8x5

I then slid them together to form a +plus sign and set it on the table.  I placed microphones at each corner and proceeded with the recording of the narration track. foamcore-dividers-8x5

You can take a look/listen here to evaluate the results.

The only thing I would do in the future for this type of setup is to get an even larger piece of foamcore.  This one was originally 3′ x 4′  before I cut it into two pieces.  I might have even added some sound absorbing material to the sides.  But in any case, I’m ready for next time.

I hope this quick tip helps you if you ever need to make a low-budget audio recording of multiple voices.

Always innovating and problem-solving, Paul.

2016 ATD Conference Top 5 Sessions

September 16, 2016

yjyxkn7iThrough the fortune of geography and the opportunity to work as a volunteer, I was able to attend the ATD Conference in Denver this past summer.  Usually I like to share my top takeaways, but because of the enormity of this conference I had to go the level of top 5 sessions, not just top 5 ideas.  Here they are, in non-ranked order.

1. Storytelling is the Secret Sauce  Doug Stevenson, author of “Story Theater Method” echoed Chip and Dan Heath when he opened with this idea: facts fade, data gets dumped, but stories stick.  I was already a believer in the power of stories to teach and move people to action but Doug taught me some new things.  First, don’t tell a story just because someone told you stories are good.  It has to be the right story, at the right time, for the right audience.  Context is king.  Secondly, as a presenter, you should pay attention to your role as an actor/performer when you step in front of an audience. Just where you stand on a stage imparts meaning.

2. Effective Virtual Training/Webinars led by David Smith, from Virtual Gurus.  David recommends Adobe Connect as the best webinar tool and I found that reassuring, since I know the strength of that software and use it almost daily.  He gave me some ideas of elements to add to my webinars such as an intro video (to be played as people enter the virtual room) that shows attendees how to use the interactive tools.  Another recommendation was to avoid using yes/no true/false questions in polls, rather just have attendees respond using the agree/disagree buttons to save time.  He strongly advises for using a producer to handle tech issues, and only using the webcam at the very beginning of a webinar to establish presence, then turning it off to avoid distractions.

3. Awesome Powerpoint Tricks by Wendy Gates Corbett & Richard Goring from BrightCarbon. This demo went at breakneck speed leaving we in the audience dazzled, yet yearning for slower paced step by step instructions.  The main concept is to create visual sequences in Powerpoint that look like detailed animations focused on clearly communicating the most important messages.  I could see how most of us could develop creative animations, given the time.

4. Using Social Media and Online Learning Communities by Daniel Jones.  Daniel gave me some new ideas such as using social media before, during and after a course. This aligns well with the concept of ongoing learning that doesn’t just start and stop within course deadlines.  He touched on ingredients to create a successful online community: finding people who want to share, have something of value that makes them want to come back to the community area, and have a community manager who keeps the discussions on point, keeping it positive, and asking questions to spark discussions.  Daniel also gave me a new idea for webinars-seeking out resident subject matter experts to share their knowledge, instead of waiting for people to approach me to host webinars, I approach them first.

5. Biology, Sociology of Learning and Leading, keynote address by Simon Sinek.  If you’d like to see him talk on this topic, check out his TED Talk here.  Simon showed how our biological chemicals-specifically endorphins, dopamines, seratonins and oxytocins-give us powerful motivators to act in certain ways.  We must be aware of these to recognize what drives us and other to action.  Another factor is the influence of others, especially leaders, on our ability to work well and persevere.  Simon believes that leadership is a choice and involves personal sacrifice.  By building trust people will follow you.  Many of these ideas seem self-evident, but he added some more that serve as a personal challenge to me:  Anyone can lead.  It’s a daily practice.  We can lead by exercising selflessness, even when no one sees you.  This sounds like a bold, strong ethical ethos that I’d like to strive toward.  In closing, he said, “I urge you to take care of each other.  If you take care of each other, I guarantee we will change the world.”  Let’s do it!

Thanks for reading.

Let me know what you think.

 

Hanging Out on Air

August 19, 2016

googleplushangoutonair-300x207Dear Faithful Readers,

Sorry it’s been a while since posting…this summer has been hectic.  But the good news is that I have plenty to share over the coming weeks!

First, I want to talk about the streaming broadcasts that I hosted for the DEPLA (Digital Educator and Personalized Learning Academy) event this summer.  I volunteered to handle all streaming from one of the classrooms.  My challenge was to find equipment to support a panel discussion and to select the best free streaming platform.

In regards to selecting the platform, I chose Google Hangouts on Air and was pleasantly surprised by the ease of scheduling, automatic recording, and even stats for attendees and recording views.  I highly recommend it for these features.  Thanks to the static urls, we were able to publicize the links before the sessions (for live attendees) and afterwards for viewers of the recordings.  Here is our page of links to the recordings.

My biggest challenge was to find a usb audio mixer for the streaming room since my other mixer was being used in the cafetorium (yes, that’s what they called it, a combination of cafeteria and auditorium).  I purchased a Alesis Multimix usb audio mixer for this event.  This is  a mixer I would highly recommend for it’s affordability, ease of use and high quality sound with no noisy channels.  This mixer made me very happy over the two days of streaming panel discussions.

The lessons I learned to improve my streaming for next year are:

  1.  Try to use a better webcam or video camera
  2. Try to get a backdrop for the panel to avoid distractions and
  3. Look into a virtual or physical video mixer to run more than one camera

Here are photos of one of the panels and my humble streaming rig:

panel at deplamy streaming rig at DEPLA 2016

 

Camtasia Recording Tip for Capturing Phone and Tablet Screens

April 8, 2016

DR-Camtasia-148x148Camtasia remains my favorite screen recorder because of it’s flexibility and editing capabilities.  Recently someone asked me to make a screen recording from their iPad.  After updating my operating system and Camtasia software I was ready to try this out.  Everything looked good-Camtasia saw the attached device.  But when I made a recording it was a failure.  After some sleuthing on the web, I found the answer which was not intuitive.

camtasia and iphone recording

If you’re using Camtasia to record the screen of a mobile device, make sure you select BOTH your microphone AND audio from the device, even if you don’t plan to use the audio from your device. Don’t worry, even if you don’t need that audio source, you can always mix/edit/delete it because Camtasia puts it on a separate track, as seen here:

separate camtasia tracks

Well, that’s my quick tip for this week.  I hope to return to being more active in my blog posts, it was just another crazy winter that I went through.

As always, I welcome your thoughts , comments, and feedback.

DIY Genius Bar

December 9, 2015

erinmagleysmallimageHave you ever thought of creating a help desk like those seen at computer stores?

We just held our first Genius Bar event at Denver Public School’s central office and I want to share the experience with you.

The Logistics

The idea of this event was suggested to me by a leader in our district.  I recruited “geniuses”  from our Ed Tech and IT departments as well as some other software experts that I knew in our building.  Using a Google doc I had folks signup and list their expertise.  I used this list to also generate table signs to go on the tables.  We’re fortunate to have a large open space on the top floor of our building, also known as the 14er.  There are long bar tables that I thought would be perfect for our purposes.

To promote the event I created very simple fliers that I posted throughout our building-in stairwells and on every bulletin board.  Here’s what the flier looked like:

geniusbarflierimageforblogpost

On the day of the event, the experts found their places at the bar and awaited people needing help  For people needing help they were greeted by two people on my team-Jessica and Taiya-who directed them to the appropriate expert.  If the expert was already busy then they put their name on a post it note next to the expert so everyone was aware of the queue.  Here are some images of our greeters and experts:

Reflecting on the Event

Enthusiasm was high among all participants and the “geniuses” did a lot of peer sharing when not helping folks.  I wish we had more folks dropping by in need of help.    We’ll try some different times and maybe different locations.  Everyone definitely wants this event to continue. We may not need as many “geniuses”.  This first time I had 13!  I’m also going to try some different communication channels.  The fliers by themselves may not be enough.  The trouble with email is that I have no way of just targeting people in the central office building and I don’t want other staff members and teachers who are at other locations to feel left out.  One last thought-we may have to create another name.  I have a feeling that “genius bar” is trademarked by Apple.  I welcome your suggestions!

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 🙂

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

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.

Innovate Conference at OSU

March 29, 2013

ImageThis post is my overview of the Innovate Conference held this past week at The Ohio State University (OSU) in Columbus Ohio.  The first keynote of the day was Jim Grooms from the University of Mary Washington.  I’ve been familiar with Jim’s work in the open digital storytelling course called DS106 (that you can sign up for here).   The DS106 concept is “everything you do online is a story”.  Jim fervently believes in totally open educational experiences and open platforms.  My favorite quote from him is “At its best, openness is an ethos not a license.  It’s an approach to teaching and learning that builds community online and offline.

One of the interesting presentations of the day was on iPads in the Classroom, although perhaps a more appropriate title would have been iPads In and Outside the Classroom.  This biology class divided the students into groups of 4 and gave each group an iPad to work on the day of class.  Using tools such as Apple Configurator, iTunesU, Notability and Box, the students are given an assignment to work through.  Some of the activities take place outdoors and involve documenting plants, the iPad is perfectly suited for this and by limiting the software that is installed on the iPad the students stay focused on the assignment.

One panel of the day that was surprising in its appearance and candor was one featuring three undergraduate students relating their “user experience” with technology in the classroom and online activities.   They stressed a desire to follow their grades online and for faculty to post course materials online.  They were undecided the use of discussion boards but did like the idea of posting short lecture materials online and leaving more time in the classroom for interaction with the teacher and course activities.

I could go on and on about the ideas shared at the conference and its incredible value.  Did you know this annual conference is free to attend?  I invite you to look at this year’s recordings here and mark your calendars for next year when the conference will be on March 25 and 26, 2014.  Kudos to all the folks at OSU who I know must put a lot of work into this magnificent event for everyone interested in technology and teaching.

Jumping In To The MOOC Pool

March 21, 2013

ImageWell, I’ve finally taken the plunge and signed up for a MOOC.  This one is offered by Coursera.  The course is on songwriting and is being taught by Pat Pattison from the Berklee School of Music.  Currently we’re in week 3 of 6 so I feel I can offer some accurate observations on the design of the course, the delivery system and my personal experience.

Here’s what you find inside the course:

Short video lectures that are no longer than 20 minutes long.  Some are as short as 1 and a half minutes in length.  The short length is a good design choice and the videos have embedded quizzes that are interspersed within-another element of good instructional design.  The videos are well produced (probably shot with at least 3 SLR cameras), edited, and have graphics added to illustrate important points. Pat, the teacher delivers the lectures in a personable way with humor, drama, stories and great examples.

Each week has graded quizzes that can be taken repeatedly as the highest mark becomes your final grade for the assessment.

Every week also has an assignment that is turned in online.  Although not called a rubric, detailed expectations for the assignment are given.  These guidelines then become the grading criteria when the assignment moves into its second phase: peer assessment.  You must grade at least 5 peers before you receive feedback on your own submission.

There is also an open social dimension to the course.  Discussion forums are setup for formative feedback on the videos, quizzes, assignments and design of the course. Students can also start their own forums and threads for interest groups, meetups and spinoff discussions.  These areas are quite active on the course page and searchable.

Bottom line, thus far: I’m finding this experience to be rewarding personally for my creative development and professionally as I see the inner workings of a MOOC and how it can be successful.  My advice to you is don’t be afraid to jump in to the MOOC pool.  The water’s fine!