APS Tech Goddess Blog

Shannon Wentworth is a STAR member of the Discovery Educator Network

Make Your Own App For That!


My absolute favorite take away from ISTE 2013 came from a group of amazing students from Centro Escolar Los Altos in Mexico.  Their Student Showcase “Cooking Your Apps” taught me about www.AppsBar.com, a website that helps anyone create their own FREE apps.  The girls from Centro Escolar used AppsBar in their Home Economics class to create their own cookbook app.  They included recipes, photos, and how to videos they created in class.

I have already created my own free account and have plans to create a parent app for the school as well as one for the teachers.  I may even have students create apps for their classrooms.

Now if I can only remember the username and password I set up!

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Green Screen and Six Year Olds


My favorite project every year is the animal unit I do with my first grade students.  We begin by learning about different classifications of animals: mammals, birds, fish, insects, reptiles, and amphibians.  Then students each pick an animal they want to learn more about.  To prevent 25 students from all picking the exact same animal, I usually create a list of animals from all classifications and then let students pick an animal out of a hat.

As a class we generate a list of 4-6 questions to ask about our animals.  I then put those questions together in Microsoft PowerPoint with one question per slide.  I also add a picture to help my second language students and beginning readers remember what they need to find for each page.  The PowerPoint file then gets printed out as a Handout with 3 slides per page.  The benefit of the handout page is that students who are capable may write their answers on the line.  Struggling readers and second language learners can draw the answers as they find them.

Then we learn about research.  I make sure I have read over every question with my students several times first to make sure they know exactly what they are looking for.  Then we get a lesson on the research tool of the day.  I try to tailor the research tool to the ability level of my students.  Classes with high populations of low ability readers will usually get to watch videos of their animals from Discovery Education (http://www.discoveryeducation.com) or PBS Teachers Domain (http://www.teachersdomain.org/).  I download the videos ahead of time and place them in a folder on the desktop of every student computer.  Then students can put on their headphones and watch the video as many times as they need to find the answers for their project.

Other classes have used a terrific search engine called Nettrekker (http:// http://school.nettrekker.com).  Nettrekker is a paid service, but it is terrific for elementary schools.  First, it provides students with a safer search area then the standard search engines do since all sites are evaluated for their appropriateness.  Second, it provides a read-aloud feature that will read any highlighted text for students.  Third, I can create bookmarked lists ahead of time for students to access that are based on animal.

I help out students who are having trouble finding answers.  I also designate students who finish quickly as “Teacher Helpers” who get to help other students.  Generally we do get all of our answers found in one 50-minute period, although I do designate two days for this just in case.

The next step is to find pictures of their animals.  Sometimes I also have students draw a picture of their animal on the computer using the available drawing program.  Our picture search always comes from one place www.Pics4Learning.com.  Pics4Learning is a free image library for education that provides teachers and students with thousands of copyright-friendly photos and images for classroom projects.  I teach students how to download the images by clicking the Download button.  For simplicity, students just save to the Desktop of their computers.   I can quickly move them later to the school server for faster access.

Afterward, I photograph each student standing in front of a green backdrop.  The green will be replaced by the images students downloaded earlier.  This is actually called Chroma Key.  It can be done very easily with a simple green background (or any other solid color that students are NOT wearing).  I do enough green screen projects that I have actually spray painted an old projection screen green.   I also keep a cardigan or lab coat on hand for those students who are wearing green so their clothes don’t disappear.

To do the actual Chroma Key magic, I use a program called Frames by Tech4Learning.  I start by importing a picture of the student’s animal and a picture of the student.  These get imported onto the same page or frame.  Then I remove the green background from the student photo using the Chroma Key feature from the tool bar.  This reveals the animal photo behind it and makes it look like the student is part of the animal photo.  The same can be done with video as well as still images.

Don’t worry if you can’t afford to buy new software.  You can do the same Chroma Key magic with Windows Movie Maker and iMovie.  There are dozens of video tutorials on YouTube that will walk you through the entire process.

The final step is to prepare a script for the students.  I help them rewrite the answers from their PowerPoint created planning sheets to the scripts.  Finally I connect a microphone to the computer and record students reading what they learned about their animals.  This can take some time, so I prepare an independent activity for students to complete while they wait their turn.  When I can, I’ll recruit a few 5th grade students to come do the recording just to make it go faster.  Fifth graders can be a teacher’s best resource sometimes.

The best part of the entire project is Premier Day.  After all the projects are complete, I roll out a red carpet and we watch everyone’s finished movies.  Every time, without fail, students get embarrassed when their movie is playing and then they giggle with excitement during everyone else’s movies.  They applaud for each other and help build each others’ self-esteem and confidence.  They become so proud of these movies.  I love that.  I love that I can give them a project they become excited about and that they want to share.  Those are the days that I love being a teacher.


CCIRA 2012


Once again I am attending and presenting at the CCIRA conference.  This year’s conference has a much heavier technology presence than ever before.   This year’s theme is “Digging Deeper.”  I can’t wait to see, hear, and learn from others around the state who are pushing boundaries and getting results.

I will be part of 2 presentations.  The first on Digital Draftbooks is Thursday morning at 9:15 am.  Gwynn Moore and I will share how we have used Microsoft OneNote with students.  The next presentation is Friday morning at 9:15 am.  This presentation, Hola Hello, will focus on Web 2.0 tools that benefit second language and struggling learners.

Catching Up


Wow! I can’t believe a whole month has gone by since my last post.  I guess I have just been too busy.  Let’s see, the 1st quarter ended which meant lots of projects to grade.  There were three nights of Parent/Teacher conferences.  Professional development sessions were attended and led.  Yep, just a little busy.

I did have a great time leading the Digital Storytelling seminar for AEA on Oct 15.  We discussed all sorts of great tools and ideas.  The biggest hits were Kerpoof and Glogster.  Every teacher wants to have a class website and now at least a few more know that Glogster can help them do that.  They also saw lots of great ideas of how to use Glogster with all grade levels and subjects for student projects.  I’ve used it for a couple of years now so I will gladly sing it’s praises.  Kerpoof is the same thing.  What started as a small local company has gone global and offers digital storytelling ideas for K-12.  Simple to use and free for all.  You can’t beat it!

One week later I joined the DEN Leadership Council for Colorado at the Denver Museum of Nature and History for the DEN Tech or Treat.  More great storytelling ideas and networking.

I am on Fall Break right now.  So far it has been a great week of relaxation, reading, watching tv (actually catching up on the DVR), and napping.  I did take a few minutes to work on some lesson planning.  I finished up my Glogster verb QR code hunt for first grade and I created an Astronaut training Glog for my 4th graders.  I’ve used Glogster a lot for student projects, but never really explored it for lesson presentation.  After this week I am getting all sorts of crazy ideas!

Today I have been participating in the virtual FETC conference.  Hall Davidson gave a great presentation.  I’ve picked up a few new tips and tricks from all the presentations.  Oh, and I won a free registration to the real conference in Orlando.

Well, my stomach is telling me it is time for lunch.  So, that’s all for now.

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Tech or Treat Virtual Conference at DENver Museum of Nature and History


Colorado LC members hosted their inaugural event at the DENver Museum of Nature and Science. Fifty-eight educators from across the Denver metro area gathered at the museum on October 22nd for a great day of fun and digital storytelling. The DMNS catered a delicious breakfast for everyone that was enjoyed during the virtual “Digital Storytelling: Get it Write!” session with Joe Brennan. Personally I have to say it was hard to eat because I was taking so many great notes! Lindsay Hopkins from Discovery Education followed Joe with some more great Digital Storytelling tools and ideas. Matt Keillor from Tech4Learning then gave us a tutorial on how to do green screen! All of this great learning was then followed by the Iron DEN challenge -> 1 hour + 1 team + 1 secret ingredient = 7 great examples of using Digital Storytelling to introduce Photosynthesis. Congrats to Team Bats (my team by the way) who won the challenge with their Blabberize/Candy-mation creation! You can view their winning creation on YouTube http://youtu.be/DucMegO-ILM. Prizes were also given to the best costume – Deviled Egg (pictures to come later) and to several DENGO winners. Red velvet cupcakes, a trip to the Planetarium, and time to explore the museum rounded out the day. Thank you to all the teachers who woke up early on a Saturday to join us. And a HUGE thank you to Lindsay Hopkins and the Colorado LC team for organizing and hosting an amazing day!! Can’t wait for the Spring Virtual Conference!

ISTE Application Submitted


Well, cross your fingers.  I have submitted an application to present this Digital Draftbook project to be a three-hour workshop at ISTE 2012.

I hope to have some student samples published here soon.  We are in the final stages of editing and revising now.  So far the paragraphs are looking great!

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Student Feedback


I polled my students today about the Digital Draftbooks.  Overall, they had very good things to say.

The first comments did point out a typo from my end that I promised to fix later.  (Good way to point out that even teachers make mistakes, though.)

Here are a few quotes directly from my 5th graders…

“It helps me be a better writer.”

“I learn to put facts and opinions in my story.”

“It’s helping me write more better.”  (Ok, we still need to work on some grammar lessons here.)

“It’s helping me write more and write longer sentences.”

“I can learn new words.”

ISTE Unplugged Session Recording


Since I have been blogging about my experiences with Digital Draftbooks, I thought I should include the link to the ISTE Unplugged session I did this summer with Gwynn Moore.

You can access the video by going here.  You will need to scroll down to find our exact session which is number 10 on the list.

Thank you again to Steve Hargadon for recording us.

Blogging 101


I am attending a webinar with Steve Dembo right now to get some tips and tricks about blogging successfully. Here are some of the tips I am picking up…
1. Use the categories from the list on the right side to organize blog posts.
(This will be used for the Colorado LC blog to make sure posts go to the Colorado page only.)
2. Very nice buttons that allow you to paste from Microsoft Word (when it works). Formatting may be off, but at least there’s a good spell check!
3. Inserted images can be resized by clicking on the image icon ON the picture. Select percentages to resize on main tab, click Advanced to specify actual pixals.
4. Use the HTML tab to paste embed codes.
5. Go to Appearance and Themes to create/choose a custom header.
6. Widgets are all the fun extras you can add to your sidebars. They can help with highlighting information or offering search options.
7. You can add embed codes for outside widgets for Twitter/etc in a text widget.

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Today I saw a miracle.  Ok, so it wasn’t as much a miracle as it was a testament to the power of properly integrated technology.  Today I saw a class of 25 low-performing 5th grade writers actually get hooked on writing.  I should probably give you a little background on this particular group of students.  This group is regularly called challenging by their classroom literacy teachers because of the ongoing behavior choices that disrupt learning in the classroom.  Forty-eight percent of them scored Partially Proficient on the state writing assessment, twenty percent scored Unsatisfactory, and another twenty percent have no score because they were not living in Colorado at the time.  So that leaves only twelve percent, or three students who are identified as Proficient writers.

I was completely blown away by how attentive they were to the digital draftbook.  Every student was focused on their writing.  They asked good questions about how to complete each organizer and were able to successfully complete at least the first two pages in one class period.  I can’t wait to give them a bit more time to dig deeper into their digital draftbooks!

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