Sunday, May 18, 2014

A Less Painful Newsletter

I am the designated newsletter writer on our team and I have to admit,  I don't enjoy it at all.   I have been using PowerPoint to create it and then make copies for some parents and email others.   It is boring and annoying,  but has some value.   Parents have a digital copy of what we are doing and have a copy of spelling words etc.   We are so close to the end, I am sticking with the plan for the rest of this year but next year I am excited to have found a new way - Smore. is a website that has a completely easy-to-use formatted newsletter to send out without all the work of making your own.   It has places set up for pictures,   lots of different themes and fonts to use and is super easy to access.   You can link anything inside of your newsletters, including homework,  websites,  whatever.   But the best thing about it (other than being FREE) is that it takes seconds to use and can be accessed on any device (phone, computer, iPad etc).  

You can add as many pictures as you want - which is really cool if you want to put in pix of kids work,  or something you are doing.   It is web based so as long as parents have the link they can go back to it whenever they want.   I think I am in love!   I think this would be an awesome site for kids to use for a class newspaper as well! 

I know this year is not over yet,   but my mind is already next....

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Super Fun App!

Summer is so close.  My kids are so ready.   I am so ready.   So things are getting a little wonky.   The volume is UP!   Attention spans are tanking.  So it is time to pull out some seriously engaging stuff to keep us floating to the finish line.

Enter - ChatterPix.   Do you know this app?   It is seriously the easiest app to use EVER.   It's free.   You can download it on any Apple device.  It's fun and motivating in a serious way.  

You kids can take a picture of ANYONE (or anyTHING for the matter) and create a talking biography or report.   They literally just have to save the picture to the camera roll,  upload it to the app,  use their finger to draw a little dotted line across the mouth of the picture (or where a mouth could be), and press the microphone icon and speak.   My kiddos seriously went crazy for it.   They wrote biographies about a famous person and then read it into the app.   Even my kids who hate writing or struggle,  had a very easy and fun time with this. 

One of my kids made a ChatterPix video of our town mayor.  I sent it to him and he loved it so much that he put it on his website.  She was so thrilled!   

Give it a try if your things are getting a little dicey in your room as well.   You can also do an app smash up with ChatterPix and Aurasma.   You can upload the video you create into Aurasma and then link it to a photo or drawing of the person and create a talking biography gallery!   The kids can use iPads or other devices to walk around and focus the app on the photo or drawing and see it come to life! So fun!

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Mind Blown!

Today I seriously had my mind blown.   I went to a digital fluency conference and it was truly crazy.    I am kind of tech-y.   I got to tech conferences a lot.   I am willing to try new things and get excited about really geeky stuff.... but today I had my mind BLOWN.   I spent almost all of my day learning about augmented reality and seriously I almost can't wait til morning to try this out with my kids.   My own kids have been playing with it all night.

I guess this stuff has been around for a long time... but I didn't know about it.   I actually did hear about it a few weeks ago but didn't have the time to really work with it like I did today.   It is freaky cool!  And SUPER easy...!  What what?  Oh and it's all free...

One app is called AR Flashcards.  Totally free app.   You can download it on any platform.   You simply download the viewer (takes just a few seconds), go to their website -, print out some flashcards and you are ready.   You hold the viewer up to the flashcards and the images POP off the the page is 3D awesomeness.   They move around and make noises.  Seriously!

Now,  I am not even going to venture a guess as to how they do this, but holy moly,  I am glad they did.   This particular app is a little young for my second graders,  but you can bet I ran the cards off my own little ones! 

The next app we used was called colAR.   Free again.   It is a coloring app.   You again,  visit the website and download and print their coloring pages.   Once colored, you view your creation through the app and they JUMP off the page and come to life.  Like the birds eat worms and the fish blow bubbles.   It literally takes seconds to download, and your kids think you are a magician!

Watch this video!

It turns out that there a LOTS of these apps.   They make Valentines cards and games and all kinds of things.  And while I thought these were AH-mazing... they are maybe more fun than educational.   So I was beyond excited to see the last app in action.

It is called Aurasma and I have actually heard things about it and have had the app downloaded for a while.  But,  I haven't really used it.  Today our presenters gave us time to actually use it and create an Aura of our own and I CAN NOT stop thinking of how many ways it can be used.   The FREE app layers a flashcard, or image with a video or another image,  so when you hold the app over your image - the video or second image comes up.   For example,   if you hold the app over a student's self portrait in an art display,  their photo will show up so you know who made it.   Or if you hold the app over a flashcard the answer may come up.   You can make vocabulary cards for a unit and have a video clip come up of what the word means.   You can download videos or create your own.   You can even make a video about how to do a problem.  Hold the app over an image of a math problem and have a video explanation come up.  I am thinking truly interactive word walls,  self check stations,  vocabulary centers....just think of how freaking amazing this could be for ELL's - image of the word dolphin, video of a dolphin swimming with the word pronounced.   

We made Auras in a few minutes and I imagine with time it will only take seconds once you have picked your images.   The only thing you really need to know is that you have to upload your overlay first - meaning whatever you want to show when you click on the image is where you start.   You upload a video or image and then select it in the app.   As soon as you do that it will prompt you to hold the app over the image you want to associate with that image or video and that is IT!   I can't wait to show my kids.   I can't see the things they CREATE!   Can you imagine this in book reports or on a report board - having a new video or image to explain every image there? Who even knows what they will come up with? 

I can't wait to try it out with my kids tomorrow!

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