Interactive Learning: Padlet

So many options right now online learning. If you’re an educator, you’re probably overwhelmed. If you’re a parent, you’re probably overwhelmed. If you’re a student, you’re probably overwhelmed. This is a time of uncertainty and the unknown.

I totally don’t want to overwhelm anyone any more than they already are. With that said, I will try to keep updating my blog with some helpful tools, reviews and ideas for those that want them. I know there are sooooo many resources floating about, and I know most of them are amazing! But it’s hard to try to get around to using them all; it might actually be impossible.

The tech tools I share are ones that I have personally used and found tried and true in my own classroom and library. So feel free to reach out and ask me questions!

Padlet is an online interactive technology tool that makes learning fun! Google Classroom is interactive, but more like a place to house assignments. Padlet can be created over a certain topic and students can go and add information to the board. It can be used in so many ways! It could be a Q&A board, or a KWL chart, dream board or a place to load resources for a project. The possibilities are really endless. Have fun with it though! My students loved using Padlet and had fun commenting on each other’s posts.

11 11❤️ Tara

Rev Up Learning: Zoom!

By now, Zoom is not a new word in your vocabulary. However, a week ago, most of you possibly would think I was talking about getting a closer look with a camera lens. It’s crazy how one minute educators are comfortably teaching in their classrooms, familiar with the lessons they have planned and the delivery method and then BAM! the next thing we know, we are playing a game that is speaking a foreign language all while trying to teach our students the same game. And parents are in the exact same situation, just a different game, but still one that is unfamiliar to them.

However, that’s when being the good comes in. You know that’s my favorite phrase, “BE THE GOOD,” and it 100% fits into what is happening in our world at the moment. So many of us have different points of views, different political opinions, different ideas on this whole mess, but the one thing we can and should all have the same outlook on is trying to be the good and find the positive in the mess we’ve got going on. One of the positives is that now all of you who aren’t super tech savvy can now become pros! All while in the comfort of your home! No one will know if you tried out something that didn’t work the first 20 times 🤷🏼‍♀️😂. It’s the perfect time to try out things you would normally have said no to in the past. And if you mess up? It’s okay because making mistakes are the way we learn!

With that said, I have made two videos on Zooming (online video conferencing in case you aren’t up to speed). One video is how to set up your own Zoom. Maybe you’re the lead on your teaching team or a leader at church, or even a mom who wants to visit with her friends because her kids are driving her crazy while being on house arrest (😬🙋🏼‍♀️). The video is short and sweet and will hopefully be helpful. The other video is how to login to a Zoom meeting that you have been invited to (think, teachers with their principal, students invited by their teacher and other moms who have been invited by another mom to partake in a sanity meeting.)

If you have other questions, comment and let me know! Feel free to email me also! I am here to help! I’m a librarian after all and that is my speciality! ❤️

11 11 ❤️ Tara

Library Rules (Freebie)

My district officially started back Thursday, August 15th, but I won’t start taking classes till this Monday. I am super stoked though and can’t wait for fourth graders to pour into the library Monday morning! I am so nervous though and hope they love everything about the library and I really hope they love their new librarian😬.

This weekend I have been working on finalizing my library rules and book care guidelines. I tried not to make too many of them, because let’s face it-the more rules there are, the harder it will be for them to remember them all. So I kept it pretty basic and will give examples of what to do and what not to do for each. I created some cute posters in Canva that I plan on printing on colored card stock. Here’s a free copy for both the rules and book care!

What are your rules for the library and book care? I would love to know! Drop me a comment or a question below!

11 11❤️ Tara

 

Podcasts, Vodcasts, Vlogs…Huh?

I love listening to podcasts…I’ll be honest, I don’t normally listen to them from the teacher or librarian side though, I like to listen to them for the sheer pleasure. I absolutely love to listen to Ted Radio Hour, The Chalene Show for health and fitness reasons, beauty secrets and tips from The Skinny Confidential and Enjoying Everyday Life with Joyce Myers to get in some soul food. I have always used Pocket Casts to house my podcast channels on, but have found myself using Spotify a little bit too. I also listen to my new district’s podcast through Facebook, which you can find here. So many avenues and such a great way to get in a little bit more knowledge as you’re driving around running errands, working out or even getting ready in the mornings for work. My husband has been obsessed with The Joe Rogan Experience which is pretty awesome (but the language is for grown up ears only).

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Today I come to you giving you ideas, tools and advice as an educator who likes to create her own podcasts, vlogs (video blogs) and even vodcasts (video podcasts). Although I love to read, I don’t always have time and I feel like I can absorb listening to others talking about subjects and ideas I’m interested in just as my six year absorbs what I read to him at night before bed. Even when I taught fifth graders, they would beg for me to read to them…there’s just something about having someone else read to you that is so calming and enjoyable.

In this post you will find my reviews for several sites that you can host podcasts through or create video podcasts to upload to a host site or Youtube. I have also shared a podcast episode that I worked with Molly Childs, a fellow colleague, on (check out her blog here). We created one as a simple audio podcast housed through Podbean (check out my review below) and the other was the audio and video portion through WeVideo (make sure you read my review though on this one!). Molly wrote the script and I recorded it. I think we make one heck of a team!

Let’s begin with my favorite site to host podcasts on-Podbean. I actually used a different site (that I’ll review next) but was disappointed when I tried to share a post that contained one of my podcasts in it and the podcast was gone! Ugh! So I hopped on Podbean and have had wonderful luck! It’s free and there’s even an app for it! You can search for other podcasts to listen to on your desktop browser as well. It allows you up to 500 characters to type under your podcast and you can add a picture to it also. You can house your episodes all in one location and it’s super user friendly. podbean

Another host site is Buzzsprout. Now, I started out thinking this site was everything and more…then I got burned. It’s pretty easy to use upfront. It does tell you that you have only a certain amount of time to record during each cycle. What you don’t realize is that they only host your audio file for a certain amount of time. Then they delete it without letting you know. The next thing-your podcast episode is gone and you have to hope you saved the mp3 file on your computer so you can go to a better site such as Podbean and upload it again.  I think if you are serious about podcast and post a new episode weekly or even monthly, this would be a good option, but of course you would need to pay. As a rookie or someone who is trying the whole podcast thing out, this probably isn’t the best bet. buzzsprout

Ok, so both Podbean and Buzzsprout are sites that host AUDIO files for podcasts, but lets talk about one where you can create a video podcast, which some refer to as vodcasts. These are fun because they include audio, video and music (if you wish) along with titles and such as well. Now, I know what you are thinking-why can’t I just use iMovie or something like Animoto for this? The answer is-YOU CAN! But let me share with you a site I was told about by a fellow colleague who visited TCEA and learned all about this. The site is called WeVideo. Now, I really loved this site, but be warned-there are some hiccups with it that were so frustrating. Let me explain…

Screen Shot 2019-07-16 at 9.39.37 PMIt begins so wonderful and turns into a nightmare. WeVideo is a fantastic way to get access to over a million stock images and video, as well as music. They have tons of templates and it’s a fun way to add video and music to a podcast or any other type of video. They have options for plans and they even tell you that you can sign up with a valid school email for a FREE 30 day educational trial. It clearly states all the wonderful features you can use in the trial, such as access to all the images in the Essential Media Library and more. However, this is my hang up. I poured a couple of hours into the video podcast, found the perfect template, perfect images and videos and recorded my voiceover, only to be told upon trying to export and finish it, that I would need to purchase the school plan before doing so. WHAT?! Nowhere did it say I could only play with the features for free, but not actually be able to utilize them…what’s the point in that? So I thought, it’s all good, I can purchase a single professional license and be able to still download. Well that wasn’t quite the case. The message box that comes up when you try to switch from the school trial to an individual plan is scary. It tells you that you will lose everything if you cancel the trial. I reached out through email, because there is no phone service-Yes, you heard me right. None. There is a phone number, but its a recording that tells you to leave an email. The emails did not come through in a timely fashion and I started to hyperventilate. One email that finally worked said that I would not lose my work, however, that did not console me, because after taking the plunge and hitting cancel to switch the plans, another box popped up (see below) that only gave me the options to join a district plan or to downgrade or cancel. Well, none of those are good options when you are wanting to SWITCH to an individual plan and not one of those. It also says you’ll lose full access and I wasn’t sure if that also meant access to what I had created so far. So I plunged in and prayed hard and selected to downgrade. Thank goodness luck was on my side. My video was still there AND finally in the top right hand area of the screen, it gave me the option to simply upgrade. After that, everything was fine. I don’t know about you, but when I have spent hours working on something that I deem is great, I freak out when it gets pulled out from under me! It’s like when your computer crashes and you didn’t save your word document (which I haven’t had happen since early college days). img_0859.jpg

I did end up still using WeVideo for my vodcast with Molly, but only because I have now paid for it for at least a month (I will have to remember to cancel soon so I don’t get charged again) and because I spent a lot of time making it look and sound great!

Molly Childs, who I worked collaboratively with for the podcast over makerspace and STEAM, gave a great review over Audioboom.

Like most, signing up for Audioboom is free for the basic version. As a podcaster, you pay
$9.99/monthly and receive unlimited episodes a moth, up to 10,000 plays, multiple means of
distribution, and analytics to breakdown the app device and geographic region. For the more
established podcaster, one with over 10,000 plays per episode, there is another option that you can
choose that helps you earn money. This was the only program I saw that had an opportunity like that,
allowing the website itself to help you profit instead of doing it yourself. The free version allows you to
start publishing the day you sign up and has no contracts or commitments, allowing the ability to stop at
any time. Overall, the commitment to its customers is something that took me aback due to the
honesty and up front information on the home screens.

As podcasts go, this program was the easiest to find a podcast that I enjoyed. Once you load the
homepage, click podcasts, and you are brought to a new webpage that allows you to choose the topic
you fall under: podcasters, advertisers, or listeners. There are Audioboom Originals and an Audioboom
Network one can peruse through to find the perfect podcast. After sifting through a few sites, I found
this one to be the easiest to navigate, choose, and listen to. Most importantly, I felt as if Audioboom
truly cared about their podcasters and customers, something we don’t see as often as we should today.

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As I stated in the beginning, I think Podbean is my favorite of all, but I really did enjoy WeVideo, I just think they need to fine tune it a bit more when it comes to the customer service side. Even still, this site is so much fun to use and I can see it being wonderful for students to use and really dig into how to make a video. It uses all the right parts from adding pictures, videos clips within the video, transitions, voiceovers, music, theme titles and captions and more! It really was incredible. I enjoyed learning how to do things within it and I’m pretty good with using raw footage to create videos within iMovie. This was just…better.

Here is the podcast Molly and I did. One is the whole package, whereas the other is perfect for just listening as you drive or workout. We included a pdf file link under the Podbean podcast episode in case you would like to read what is said instead. Podbean only allows 500 words, so we had to link the pdf instead of putting the script in.

https://www.wevideo.com/view/1428262648 (for some reason the embedded link wouldn’t work)

Podbean Podcast: Makerspaces…



Podcast: Makerspace and STEAM in the Library

Let us know what you think!

Cartoons and Comic Strips? Why not?

I use to have a bad taste in my mouth about comic books. Not necessarily because of data or something I read about them being a bad influence, I simply was not into comics. I grew up in a house full of girls…like straight up GIRLY girls and comics just weren’t our thing.

As I began teaching ten years ago, I never really had comic books on my classroom bookshelf and I never had a demand for them from my fourth grade students. When I taught kindergarten, I would get a few here and there from the DC Comics collection as readers for my students who were reading on a second grade level or higher. Then out of nowhere, comics exploded. I started seeing them everywhere and for all ages. I’m not sure if it was because I had blinders on or just never really had the demand for them, but now, I feel like I can’t get enough of them.

I was reading several YA books and novels last summer and discovered how they make comics for even books such as Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. I think comics are wonderful and relatable for so many students. It’s a way for them to understand better and sometimes to cope, according to a piece from  The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore.

I have never really played with creating comics or cartoons, unless you count bitmoji on my phone 😝. Here is mine for that via Zmoji 😉

okay me

These are fun to use on your phone and to add a fun touch to blogs, websites and syllabuses, but below are some actual sites I tried in order to make some fun comic strips. I tried each site for something different. All had their ups and downs though and none were perfect by any means.

Let’s start with a site called Toondoon. Ever heard of it? No? Yeah, me either. So this site was great in a couple of ways. For starters, there were lots of FREE elements. You could add several panels to your comic as well as choose from a plethora of comic characters with backgrounds and pieces. You could even search for specific things which I thought was handy. One thing I didn’t care for (and spent WAY too much time on to not get right) was the ability to create a character in the likeness of you (or whoever you want it to look like). I did feel like it was easy to use and save and/or share. You can click on button and copy the same panel onto the next so you can have some of the same elements, but change whatever you need as you go. You also can change the expressions of the characters easily and the posture too. I created a three panel comic strip below that would be useful for the first few weeks of school. A teacher could even had it printed and posted outside the door to the classroom as a reminder of what to bring to class and what to begin working on when the bell rings. I used a stock character since I was unable to create one in the likeness of myself.

Come in with...

The next website I tried was called Pixton. I actually really loved this site except for one (kind of big) thing…you are SOOOOO limited on what you can use for free. I was thinking of recreating the same comic strip I did with Toondoon to compare, however, I realized after clicking around, that you have 3-4 backgrounds you can use for free. They are all of dinosaurs and volcanoes. 🤨 Since this was what I had to work with, I decided to create a little strip for the beginning of a lesson over dinosaurs. It was kind of fun and honestly I began to think back to my own second grade classroom, Mrs. Zinkie’s class, and think about all the things I learned about dinosaurs. (She was amazing!) Besides the fact that you are limited to the backgrounds and expressions and such that you can use, the rest is pretty fabulous. You can create your own characters very easily. You can share and print and download your comics with no problems AND you can create classes and share comics with your kids! How wonderful! I finished this comic off with a question which could easily be answered with students creating their own comics! I thought that was pretty awesome.

dinosaur_extinction

Click on the comic to enlarge.

The last site I tried and succeed with was Makebeliefscomix which is free and doesn’t require you to sign up in order to create a comic. I used this site to create a simple remake of a personal narrative I did when I taught kindergarten writing. This would be perfect to stay up all year for your littles like kindergarten and first grade as an example during their writing time. My older students (4th-5th graders) would enjoy creating their own stories using this site! You could even use it for students to recreate a story they read.

make-beliefs-comix

Click the image to enlarge.

I had a lot of fun making these, but I won’t lie, there was a lot of frustration also. I think the most user friendly one for teachers would be the Pixton site. It was friendly enough to create and put your own spin on your comics, as well as share and have a whole class option. Even if one has to pay for it, I think it would be a worthy investment. The most kid friendly comic making site would be the Makebeliefcomix site since there is no need to sign in. It’s limited to stock images they have, but for young students just getting started, it would be great! Definitely a good place for beginners.

I think the ways I illustrated I used the comic creating sites would be the exact way I would encourage teachers at my campus to use them. I would also think they could be used as print outs in different areas of the library for when I am not physically able to help students. Those areas and times could be when I am with a class, but a student can’t remember how to do self-checkout, or for the procedures for beginning and cleaning up the makerspace area. They could even be used to remind students how to sign on and off the computers within the learning commons. Honestly, students are so responsive to comics and that means they could be used virtually anywhere and for all contents.

***I did attempt to download an app for my iPad called Tellagami. However, the app was outdated and said it wasn’t updated by the developer to work on iOS 11 or newer. I also noticed the reviews for this app were old…the newest one being from 2016.

Know of any new comic maker sites or apps? Feel free to share with me in my comments section!

Let’s Talk Infographics

I have never seen myself as creative. I am a teacher though and teachers are super great at finding ideas and recreating them to fit their needs. Now, I SAY I’m not creative, however, I do have a craft room in my house where I have loads of scrapbook stuff, ribbon, embellishments, a Silhouette machine and a heat press…so I love being crafty, I just have to find ideas first and put my own spin on them.

Right after my son was born, I wanted to lose my baby weight (I know, what does this have to do with infographics? Keep reading!). I decided to join Beachbody as a fitness and health coach since I loved working out prior to baby. It was within this side job that I found a love for all things graphics. I began creating my own Facebook graphics through an app on my iPhone called Rhonna. From there I then toyed with PicMonkey (it was free at the time) and my latest crave has been Canva. I have thoroughly enjoyed creating invitations to many birthday parties, resume headers for myself and friends, graphics for my blog and more on Canva. Recently I even made an infographic over copyright and fair use using this site you can see here. It has been a dream and the best part-it’s free! There is a paid membership, but you can still do so much with it without paying.

Recently though I’ve been turned on to a few more sites, Easelly, Piktochart and Infogram that are wonderful for making infographics, posters, slides and more. I haven’t had as much time with these sites as Canva, but here is what I found to be helpful for each, along with things that I felt hindered me.

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Image used from Easelly.com

The first site I tried was Easelly. I’ll be honest (since this is my blog and I can be), I did not like it at all. If you are new to creating graphics of any kind, templates are a MUST. While this site has templates to LOOK at, you can’t use them unless you pay (womp, womp, womp). I felt like this site could be good for someone like me that has been creating graphics and infographics for years, but still, I need a source to pull my creative vibe from and this just did not fit the bill for me.

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Image used from Piktochart.com

Piktochart was the next site I looked into. At first, I didn’t think this would be the site I favored between the three new ones, but turns out it was. I came back to this site after beginning a new infographic using Infogram because I wasn’t finding exactly what I wanted. As I began to dig into the templates on Piktochart, I found so many I loved and was able to take ideas from a few to create a wonderful infographic over Millennials versus Generation Z (see image below). This site is free, but does include a paid membership similar to Canva. As a matter of fact, this site reminded me a lot of Canva. They both have backgrounds to choose from as well as shapes, graphics, charts, maps, videos and you can even upload your own images. I found a couple of things that weren’t the same-on Piktochart you can only download the image at a low to medium resolution and only in a PNG (picture) form; you have to have a paid subscription to download at a high res and to PDF. That was a little disappointing. Another thing I didn’t care for was that PIKTOCHART is labelled at the bottom of your infographic when you download it. Overall though, I liked using this site. It was super easy to navigate, easy to add your flare, and great for a beginner.

 

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Click here to enlarge infographic.

 

The last one I’ll give my two cents on is Infogram. This design site is a good one to use as well. Although I liked Piktochart a little better, Infogram still had some great qualities.

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Image used from Infogram.com

Like the other sites I like, you can choose from lots of templates (for free) to create slides, infographics, Facebook posts and other projects. I didn’t like the fact that you have to pay in order to keep your designs private (yes, they are there for public eyes if you don’t pay).  Infogram had the abilities to add color, maps, charts, graphics and shapes. It even gives you the ability to integrate different forms of media and data! I simply didn’t use this one for my latest project because I felt Piktochart had better templates for what I was needing. I think Infogram is still high on my list though of sites I will keep in my pocket for future use.

All these sites are super easy to sign up for. You can simply sign in using your Google or Facebook account or use a good email and password. They all offer free use, but allow for more templates and graphics and abilities with a paid subscription. I always recommend trying sites out and using the free membership before you jump in all the way.

I feel like I have a good grasp on graphic design websites, so feel free to leave questions or comments below!

The Mindset List

Be
The
Good.

As educators we (for the most part) make every attempt to connect with our students on some level outside of the academics in the four walls we call home 8 hours of the day. If you think about it, and I’m sure you have, we spend more time with our students than they get to spend with their actual parents during the week. Sure they are with them 16 hours out of the 24 (or less due to parents’ work hours), but they sleep for 10-12 of those hours so teachers, librarians, aids and admin really must make the time we have with our students count.

I will say, I consider myself “young” and “hip” and assume I know everything there is to know about life outside the classroom for my school kids. I do have a six year old son who keeps me in the loop with video games, apps and what’s in on Youtube, and I’m pretty good at talking with my students about what they like, and what’s going on in their worlds, etc.. Despite those efforts though, I have had an epiphany that I’m still not 100% up to speed on their world. I have stepped up with my kids the past three years, going from third grade to fifth grade with them. We are all very close and I have a great relationship with my parents and students, especially since I was teaching in a 3A district with three schools total. Even with three years with my students, I came to realize just this week that things that are completely normal to them are foreign to me, and visa-versa, things that are normal to me, are foreign to them.

I came to this conclusion when one of my professors in my graduate program suggested a website to read. I had never heard of this site prior, but apparently it goes back to 2005 (the lists that is, which you will understand in a sec). The site is called The Mindset List. The first list I read about was The Mindset List: Class of 2022. These lists are lists that Ron Nief writes that contain things (people, places, events, etc.) that in a way define the college class of that year. So the list for the class of 2022 has norms and facts on it that have to do with those specific kids. After reading this list, I came to understand that there is a bigger gap than I thought between me and my students. I may know what kind of games are popular on the Playstation (1, 2, 3, 4…?) or Xbox and I may know that they like TikTok as a form of social media and just to lip sing on, but I wasn’t fully aware of things that were right in front of myself, but that I didn’t stop to pay attention to.

Here’s an example (using myself):

According to the list for the college class of 2022 (Nief, 2017), “Same-sex couples have always found marital bliss in the Netherlands,” meaning that same-sex marriage is a norm for this class; they know nothing different. However, when I was growing up homosexuality wasn’t talked about out in the open and here in the south (think Republic of Texas), same-sex marriage simply did not happen. For my mother (56), interracial relationships were taboo when she was little, but are nothing to think about for my generation.

I know this seems like a crazy example, but for people my age and older, same-sex marriage is still a political topic that causes blood pressure to rise and people to be mean and say hateful things. I use this example because this is what I want educators to understand and what I want my students to know:

My heart, my mind, my library will BE THE GOOD. No matter what my religious or political beliefs, no matter how old I am, no matter what it going on in society, I will make sure my library or classroom is a safe haven for whomever comes in. There will be no judging or ridicule, only love and goodness. As an educator, a teacher, a librarian, I am here to teach and I choose to make sure I teach all my students, colleagues, friends and even social media followers how to be a good person. That no matter how different we are and no matter how different we may see things, we all have good in us and it helps no one to be ugly or hateful just because they don’t see eye to eye.

I implore you to take a gander at the lists. Check them out and see how different your students are from you-the age gap, the celebrities, the wars, the tragedies, the politics, the digital age…check them all out. I think you might find it eye opening.

And feel free to share or comment! But please-be nice!