“Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is most important.” —Bill Gates

Thursday, December 26, 2013

YouTube Audio Library

Hi! Happy Holidays!

Are you tired of using the same iMovie music tracks for your videos? (or any other application you use) Well, look no further. YouTube offers free background music you can download for your videos! There's a vast collection and it's so easy to find just the right track you need.

Here's a sample:

In an earlier post we saw that you could edit videos within YouTube, which includes a selection of free music too. But this time we'll see how you can download the music file to your computer and insert it into your favorite movie editing tool.

Try it out! Sign in to your YouTube account. Enter your dashboard. Look for CREATION TOOLS. Next, you'll see the Audio Library.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Augmented Reality in School

I recently made a presentation at my school about Augmented Reality (AR). I had heard about it before, but thought is was something futuristic or far too techie. However, during the summer, at the ISTE Conference, I attended a session on Augmented Reality. I was surprised at what I learned and walked out feeling less intimidated by such a geeky word.

So, as I was preparing for my own presentation, I looked around for apps that could be applicable to our educational setting and would be a fun and easy way to introduce the concept to my fellow colleagues. Below is a list of some of the apps I selected and why I chose them.

ColAR Mix - This app requires you download a set of sheets. You can color the pages and the AR view includes the colors you used. I like this app because you can see how the drawing you colored comes to life. The characters shown are animated. 

GWR 2014 - This app is used together with the Guinness World Record 2014 book. I like this app because you can see how books we even find in the library can also become interactive. 

 Dinosaurs Everywhere! - This app overlays dinosaurs on the view you are seeing through your camera. I like this app because the animated dinosaurs can be seen no matter where you point your camera. You don't need a specific marker for this. 

Butterfly Fingers! - This app overlays many butterflies. Very similar to how the Dinosaurs app works, however you can interact with the camera and have the cameras follow your finger. I like this app because of the added feature of interacting with the camera. 

Junaio - This app shows points of interest based on your current location. Move around and you can see nearby restaurants, stores, etc. Change the distance. I like this app because it's an example of a helpful use of AR for anyone. 

AR Flashcards - This app shows an animated 3D image for each of the letters of the alphabet. It includes the sounding of the letter and word too. You need to download and print the flashcard sheets first. I like this app because it is a well-made, ready-to-use application for young children. 

Fetch! Lunch Rush - For this app you need to download and print the worksheets. This app is actually a game that involves addition and subtraction. The game pieces are viewed with AR. I like this app because it is an example of a fun, yet educational use of AR. 

Spacecraft 3D - This app is by NASA and it features 3D models of different spacecrafts. I like this app because it displays 3D models that you can explore and look in detail. 

Aurasma -

They are all great examples of AR, however, I was not satisfied. At first I liked what I found but, I thought it was limited to a certain number of images or worksheets. I wanted to be able to create my own AR targets. So I set out to find a way to create them that would be easy at the same time.

That's when I came across the Aurasma app. Creating targets, or auras, as they call them, is a cinch. Let me show you step by step. At the end is a video that demonstrates how to create an aura.

1.  Install the Aurasma app. It's free!

2. Create an account. All you need is a username and a password. Email is optional. (Great for kids' use!).

3. Create your "aura" with a video or an image.

4. Choose a target or marker. This could be something in your classroom, a drawing a poster, a landmark, etc. Anything works.

5. Finish the steps to connect the aura with the target. Make sure you select "public" and add the aura to a channel. This is how your students will be able to use the same auras that you created.

6. Done! Now point your camera through the Aurasma app and see the reality become augmented!

7. Have your kids create an account. Another idea is that you create a generic one that all of your students can use. Have them follow you. That's all! All they need to do is use the Aurasma app to view the targets you have defined.

Now you go ahead and try them all out. They are all free. If you've used AR for educational purposes, write a comment, I'd love to hear about that.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Typing: Then and Now

Hi! I was looking for a document on my computer and I bumped into an essay I wrote back in 2008 for one of my graduate courses. I love to type and whenever I can I encourage students to learn it well, so I enjoyed the reminder of why I love it so much. Here's an extract of the paper which, by the way, was about Behaviorism Theory.

About the Teacher

Mrs. Reyes had been in school for many years now; she was basically a teacher for the Commerce section. She had not studied to be an educator; she had studied to become a secretary and an accountant. She was dedicated to forming new secretaries and accountants. Unfortunately, the Commerce section at the school had to be closed down, and fortunately, she entered the secondary school faculty, hence, her experience with the course to be described. At the same time, she was the homeroom teacher for the same group of students. She was a nice, middle-aged woman at that time, with an only child: a twenty-year-old daughter.

About the Class

The school was a rigid, catholic, private, girls only school. It had preschool, primary, and secondary levels. In this generation there were 40 girls. Besides having the core subjects, Music, and Sports classes, the Typing and Shorthand class, was one of the few elective classes that were available at that time in the secondary of that school. There was not much to choose from, the other classes were cooking and sewing. Two courses that didn’t seem too promising at the moment. For this generation of students, most of them for the three years of secondary school chose the same class: Typing and Shorthand. The first year they had another teacher, whose name has been forgotten. Then Mrs. Reyes became the new teacher and would be with them for the following year too. The class met for Typing three times a week, one hour each, and Shorthand one hour a week but included lots of homework for practice.

Class Procedures
Three times a week, the group would go to a room equipped with one Smith-Corona typewriter for each of them. The machines were arranged in a way in which they were all facing to the front of the room. At the front, attached to the blackboard, was a large chart displaying the keys and fingers, color-coded. There was a textbook that needed to be purchased by the students that included lessons with pages of typing examples. The pages had to be copied exactly, without errors. 

These lessons were gradually increasing in difficulty level, throughout the school year. At first the lessons were simple letter combinations and repetitions. As more letters were learned, the lessons included words, and later on sentences, full paragraphs, stories, and full page letters. So eventually, the lessons resembled more what everyday typing would be like.

The first few weeks of class the students and the teacher thought they were doing fine. The typed pages looked great: no mistakes and no smudges. But then suddenly, the teacher noticed that although the end-product was looking fine, the students had really not learned to type. She observed them and quickly noticed how deficient their typing skills were. They had not learned proper homerow position, nor correct finger memorization. They had spent the previous year typing erroneously. Now the teacher had a big problem — and so did the students.

This is how she solved the problem. First of all, she stopped expecting nicely typed papers from the students. Her objective was memorization. The only and most drastic thing she did was to tape a sheet of paper to the typewriting machine, in order to cover up the keys; for lack of a better covering-up device. Hands had to be placed underneath the paper. The students were expected to only look up to the chart at the front of the room, which had been completely ignored before, and look at the book placed to the right side of the typewriter.

This went on for several weeks and the teacher was always encouraging the students and noticing how faster they were typing and how many less mistakes they were making. She would move around during the full hour of class, looking at hand placement, posture, and the typed paper coming out. If she noticed good typing habits she would quickly say it out loud to the class for all to hear. If the student was typing incorrectly, she would discretely make the necessary corrections, and the student continued her practice.

Finally, after about 3 months, most of the students had mastered all the keys, alphabet, number, special, and shift keys. Just a few students still struggled to catch up. From then on, it was just a matter of practicing more and more. The teacher’s objective had now switched to improving the speed and the accuracy, that is, the words-per-minute (wpm) and the number of mistakes. The students were beyond the memorization stage, and were ready to improve their wpm and accuracy.

Teaching Typing Today

The teaching methods used to teach typing 30 years ago to secondary school students are still valid today. At present there are numerous computer-based and on-line typing tutors that teach typing without necessarily the presence of a teacher. For example, the software called “Ultrakey”, includes lessons that gradually increase in difficulty by the addition of new letters. In total it has ten lessons. 

Each lesson is accompanied with a series of skill checks or tests, in which the student can practice his typing skills and receive immediate feedback as to how his speed and accuracy resulted. The student has the option to redo the lesson or move forward when he feels secure. Additionally, the software provides charts and statistics, history, and dates of all the lessons and test attempts taken, not to mention commendations on achieving the typing goal and improving from previous lessons.

There are currently sophisticated devices geared towards covering up the keyboard names. Some are stickers; some are dark plastic keyboard protectors; some are cloths; specially made keyboards, etc. that serve the same purpose as having a taped sheet of paper above the keys.

This new version of a typing tutor doesn’t sound too different from what Mrs. Reyes was doing back then 30 years ago. Her teaching methods have been transported to the modern age and are now systematically incorporated into a commercially distributed typing tutor

What has your experience been with learning or teaching typing skills? I'd love to hear your story!


Monday, October 14, 2013

Push Your Limits

Hi! I spent last week in Mexico City, attending the 32nd Annual Tri-Association Educators' Conference 2013. The theme of this year's conference was "Pushing Our Limits". In fact, every keynote and session was geared towards pushing us one step further at a time.

With almost 1000 educators from different parts of the continent, there was a lot of learning happening and it turned out to be a very busy week. I truly enjoyed my time there:

  • I had the opportunity to present a workshop on Social Networking in Schools: Edmodo. The attendees were amazed at how easy and safe it is to use Edmodo in schools with young students. 
  • I attended the two day pre-conference session called "Understanding by Design" offered by one of the authors of this concept, Mr. Jay McTighe. A valuable take-away from this session is understanding what makes an Essential Question and how important it is to state them before starting a lesson.
  • I attended a few other sessions, such as, Creating a High Impact Digital Learning Environment, Developing a Successful Technology Integration Program, and 21st Century Fluencies for a Digital Age.
  • Last, but not least, I met many new teachers, technology coaches, technology integrators, old friends, and fellow ADEs.
The common denominator that kept coming up during the conference was 21st Century Learning & Teaching. Included are the 21st century skills, the 4, 5, and even 6 C's, sustainability, global issues, the future of education, and innovative forms to enhance the curriculum and learning programs.

In one way or another, the conference was addressing one or more of the C's. I'm sure you've heard of these. There are 4 C's in the 21st Century Learning Framework: Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication, and Creativity.  Mr. Pat Bassett, the keynote speaker for day 1, introduces a fifth C: Character, and later a sixth C called Cosmopolitanism.

Any way you look at it, making sure we address the C's in our lesson planning and teaching is what makes us push our own limits to become innovative educators. I invite you to reflect on how are you taking action to prepare your students for the future.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Social Networks and Kids

Hi everyone! 

It's been a while since I last updated my blog. I've been very busy at school with the start of this school year, which is still not over. However, a recent news article I read made me feel upset and got me thinking. I didn't want to miss this opportunity to write about this important topic.

You might have heard about the sad story of a 12 year old girl that committed suicide after experiencing cyberbullying. If not, you can read about it here. Coincidentally, I came across a related and thought provoking article that questions the use of social networks and devices. I have to say that I share many of her thoughts.

As I was reading this, I remembered something that happened to me in school, just a few weeks ago. I was visiting a third grade classroom to help the teacher and kids solve some tech issues. I was about to leave, the teacher and I were talking about some digital citizenship topics, and casually, the homeroom teacher turns to the students and asks them to raise their hand if they had a Facebook account.

We all know that Facebook is not for children under 13 years of age, however a large number of them still manage to create an account. So I was expecting to see many hands go up. We had asked that question a number of times before in previous years, always to have the same answer.

To my surprise no hands were up. Not one single child in that group had a Facebook account! Wow! I thought to myself, "all those lessons on digital citizenship finally paid off!" I was feeling proud of myself and my school, but not for long, when suddenly one student interjects, "Miss, I don't have Facebook, but I have an Instagram account." What? Afraid to ask, I say, "Ok, so how many of you have Instagram accounts?" Eighteen out of twenty kids had an account! Unbelievable. I left shocked. Times are changing too fast. I had just confirmed that what they say is true, young teens are moving away from Facebook, because too many parents are part of the community now. It's not cool anymore!

Now they are turning to other social network options, such as Instagram, Pinterest, Ask.fm, Vine, Twitter, etc. Don't get me wrong, I'm not promoting any of these options, in fact, I'm totally against kids under 13 joining social networks that were not intended for them in the first place. I am against children creating false identities in order to create an account. However, I am in favor of offering children the opportunity to become a part of a social network and learn important communication and collaboration skills. For this reason, I recommend using kid-friendly sites, such as Edmodo, in schools to provide young students with a secure, friendly social networking environment that was created for educational purposes only.

My intention today is to raise awareness amongst teachers (and parents) to the fact that children lead a busy digital life nowadays. It is our duty as adults to be informed and vigilant and hopefully avoid unfortunate situations that involve our children's online life. If you want to learn more, a great web site I recommend is Common Sense Media. It offers a vast amount of resources for teachers and parents to stay informed, updated, and help children lead a healthy digital life.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Kids + iPads = Learning

Well, as they say, "all good things must come to an end". :o( 

Summer is over and I am back in school, but very excited with my new job position. As of this school year, I am the Technology Integration Specialist for our Elementary Campus. A position I was seeking since two years ago, is finally a reality. Yay! By the way, you will notice that from this post on, the title of this blog will read: "From a tech integrators' perspective." :o)

During the summer I attended the ADE North America Institute, in Austin, TX. There was a lot of learning and sharing going on that week amongst colleagues and one very important project saw the light there. I'm talking about the "One Best Thing" project, in which each ADE will share something they feel they are good at.
Although an individual task, It started with small group work in which we brainstormed and bounced ideas back and forth. I'm very grateful to my team for guiding me through the process. You'll hear more about this in the months to come, once the project is completed and released.  

As I was working on my project I looked for resources that kids could use, whether it be a laptop, desktop or a mobile device. I want to share with you today a variety of iPad apps I found for ensuring a kid-friendly and safe internet search experience. In a similar blog post I published in late November "Safe Searching for Kids", I talked about various kid-friendly search tools. However, today I am focusing on the use of the iPad.

Apps for kid-friendly Internet browsing:

Quintura Kids 

McGruff Safeguard Browser

Maxthon Kids Browser HD

 K9 Web Protection Browser

SurfBalance Safe Browser for Kids

Kids Browser

KidBox Safe Kid Mode

I end this post with something I can't say enough: "Nothing beats adult supervision." Make sure you walk around your classroom or lab and are aware of what your students are doing at all times. I believe it’s better to be proactive and provide kid-appropriate resources and set the groundwork for a fun and educational experience with your students.

For all those teachers out there...I wish you a successful school year 2013-2014!


Saturday, July 20, 2013

ADE Institute 2013 North America

Well, I'm back after a full week in Austin, TX. What a way to spend some summer time! I have come back inspired, empowered, and engaged in learning! I was at the Apple Distinguished Educators (ADE) Institute 2013 North America. 

W-h-a-t  a  b-l-a-s-t! An intense week of professional development hosted by Apple. This institute represents for me an opportunity to meet new people, make new connections, learn from awesome teachers, attend workshops, and very importantly, reunite with my old and new friends!

This has been the best PD I have had yet. The Apple folks have a way to make each and every one of us feel special. I am very grateful for this opportunity to attend as alumna of the ADE program and together welcome the new ADE class of 2013.

Around 400 educators coming from different places from Canada, United States and Mexico, attended engaging, fast-paced, hands-on conference sessions led by ADEs for ADEs. 

A plus in this year's institute was the presence of a large variety of developers, in an event titled "Meet the Developers". I had the chance to meet the developers and designers of different applications that we use at my school, such as, BrainPop, Explain Everything, Powerschool, Book Creator, Evernote, Toontastic, amongst others.

As expected, each ADE will be developing a project, due in a couple of months, that will represent a tiny glimpse of one of the great things that we are already doing. More about this to come.

If you are not yet an Apple Distinguished Educator, I encourage you to visit the ADE website, and be in the lookout for the announcement that applications have opened for for the next class. Believe me, it is a unique opportunity to become part of the best professional learning community you will ever be in.

Stay tuned, in the coming blog posts, I'll be sharing specifics of what I learned from the workshops I attended.


Monday, July 1, 2013

Reflecting on ISTE 2013

My tech colleagues and I came back from an intense week of learning and sharing. I'm talking about the ISTE 2013 Conference. I haven't been able to attend these conferences every year, but rather when they are hosted in San Antonio, TX, which is just a 6 hour drive away from home. Perhaps that's the reason why I am more than amazed by everything I saw!


To me there are five main areas to explore at the conference. They are: The workshops and concurrent sessions, the playgrounds and posters, the keynotes, the exhibit hall, and the professional learning network. You can't miss anything!

From what I saw, my feeling of what are the hot topics today is:

  • Problem-based learning
  • Augmented reality
  • Gamification (huge!)
  • Mobile devices
  • QR Codes
  • e-Portfolios
  • Integrating the arts
  • Collaboration
  • Professional development
  • Google Apps
  • Professional learning network
  • Create vs. Consume

  • Flipping the classroom

What's new?
  • This is the first time I attend a conference that includes a Conference Welcome and Opening Ignite Session. This is going to be a must for all other conferences I attend. It really set the tone and provided an overview of what to expect at the conference.
  • ISTE13 introduced an Interactive app. This is great! I didn't need to carry the heavy program book (which has 200 pages). Besides, there was a game to play, a section for various social networking options, a QR code scanner, a message board for attendees, my planner, conference updates, and important information.
  • Attendees got to witness the unveiling of the new ISTE logo! That was exciting! This is what the new logo looks like.
Moby and me.
The opportunity to develop or strengthen your PLN is invaluable! In fact, I increased my Twitter contacts with awesome people. I have tons of notes to complete and organize yet, but am really happy I was able to attend and see first hand what technology in education is all about!

If you have an extra hour or so, I invite you to see the outstanding and inspiring closing keynote by Adam Bellow: "You're invited to change the world."


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Mapping with Google Course

Google does it again! I just finished the Mapping with Google course. Awesome! This makes summer learning fun! Google courses are so well prepared. You don't want to miss any of them! It focused on Google Maps and Google Earth. This course was led by the product managers themselves. How good is that, huh?

If you registered, you received an invitation to access the preview of the new and improved Google Maps and to Google Maps Engine Lite. Eventually we'll all have this version.

What's new (or maybe just new to me)?

Google Maps

  • Getting step by step directions with estimated travel times for different travel options.
  • See ratings for businesses.
  • View traffic reports.
  • Easily drag the path to try alternative routes.
  • Switch between maps and earth view.
  • View images of interesting places on the bottom as a carrousel.
  • Cool explore features - natural like.

Here's a sneak preview:



Google Maps Engine Lite

  • Create your own maps.
  • Add placemarks, layers, polygons, icons, labels, and share easily!
  • Customize your placemarks, the base map, the type of data displayed.
  • Create data sets with the help of layers and tables.
  • Import data from .xlsx, .csv or Google Drive files.

* Both options are great for use with students and for collaborative work! *

Google Earth

  • Keyboard shortcuts.
  • Layers.
  • Earth Gallery for more layers.
  • Adding placemarks with description, video, links, photos.
  • Organize places by adding folders.
  • Use the snapshot view, while editing a placemark.
  • Create a tour. Play, pause, and resume.
  • Share your tour via Google Drive or email.
  • Any .kmz files uploaded to Google Drive will open up in a map, and can be downloaded and opened up in Google Earth.
  • Show elevation profiles for a path.
  • Add historical imagery and street view to a tour.
  • Use the Tour Guide to learn more about places.

Have you explored Google Maps or Google Earth before? What are you waiting for to have the world at your fingertips? It's free and truly amazing!!


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Mailbox Rules

The school year is over and now I am faced with 10,000+ messages on my school's email account. How can I accumulate that many? Well, that's me, I don't like to erase messages, until the end of the year, just in case I need them. The truth is that I have been able to save my day or someone else's by recovering a past email.

Hey, I did partially organize my mail throughout the year, otherwise, I'd have about 20,000 by now. I've been using mailbox rules. They are very useful for automatically applying an action to a specific type of message. What actions can there be?

Here's an image of what can be done in Apple's Mail application.

What I use the most is Move Message to a specific folder On My Mac and Delete Message.

Another rule I use, not quite for organizing, but to be alert, is Set Color to Message. That way I can "highlight" messages I receive from people I want to make sure I don't miss reading.

Let's see how this works in other mail services:

Gmail - The same idea here is called Filters. Go to Settings, then Filters, and it looks like this:

Microsoft Office 365 - Go to Options then Create an Inbox Rule.

Outlook/Hotmail - Go to the Gear, then More Mail Settings, Customizing Outlook, then Rules for Sorting New Messages.

For the deleting and archiving process I will use the different sorting features in my mail application to review messages in a more efficient and faster way. I'll organize by date to delete really old messages; I will sort by sender, to delete messages form people that are no longer in school; I will sort by subject to delete all the confirmation messages I received from Google Calendars, every time someone booked a computer lab or invited me to an event; and so on, and so on.

Wish me luck as I start my "spring" cleaning. Next stop...clean my computer desktop! Yikes!!


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Google Search App - Revised

No, it's not deja vu, I had reviewed this app back in March. However, after I updated several apps on my iPad, I noticed that this one didn't look the same. I went back to see the old blog post for this app, and yep, there it was, it was different! So I'm rewriting that post again today. Here goes...

I am very excited to share with you an iPad app that I've been trying out. The app I'm referring to is called "Google Search". It brings the power of Google to your fingertips...literally!

It's a free app that you can find in the iTunes Store, yet so powerful. Let me show you a little how it works.

After you open the app, you will find some options to choose from:

What I use the most is "Apps".

I basically use Calendar, which shows your daily agenda, and Drive, which gives you the mobile view of your docs. Cool!

The amazing options I'm so excited about that I've been trying out are Voice and Goggles. With Voice you can speak and enter a search query. Here's a video that demonstrates this.

There is also Goggles. Awesome! Just point your camera at anything: an object, a picture, a book, etc. and Google will search for it's description. It’s a little tricky to find. When you search, before typing anything, look for the camera and mic on the keyboard.

If there is text involved, Google will recognize it and offer to search and translate it. Here's a video that demonstrates what happens when I take a picture of a book through Goggles.

Isn't this wonderful? Now you try it out! I hope you have fun trying out these great features!


Monday, May 20, 2013

YouTube Video Editor

Hi! This is the third and last post of the YouTube series. If you're familiar with iMovie or MovieMaker, you'll love the YouTube Video Editor. It's really easy to use! Spare yourself from having to export and upload again, and again, if you happen to make more changes to your videos. It's all done online, so no need to be tied to a single computer when it comes to working with videos.

To access the Video Editor, you can go two ways:

  • In the Upload page, on the right side options.

  • In the Video Manager page, select a video, go to the Enhancements page, and in the bottom right side, you'll see the "Try the YouTube Video Editor" link.

Here's an overview of what you'll find:

  • Project/New Project
  • Search videos (previously uploaded to your video manager)
  • Creative Commons Videos
  • Photos
  • Music
  • Transitions
  • Text
  • Publish

Watch this video for a quick demonstration of the editor.

Have fun!


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Interactive YouTube Videos

Hi! This is the second post related to editing videos in YouTube. 

Did you know you can make interactive YouTube videos? Yes! This means you can add options to the video so the viewer can decide what to watch next. This is great for story telling, video series, personalized learning, etc. 

Here's an example of an interactive video that plays a magic card trick with you. The options are endless!

Remember, this is done in the same place where we edit videos, but now you will go to Annotations.

 Basic Steps:
  1. Upload first all the videos you'll need to YouTube.
  2. Open each video in a different tab. (This is so you can copy-paste the URL of each video easily)
  3. Start editing the first video you will start the series with.
  4. Add annotations:
    1. Note - The annotation will be visible. You write a message in the text box.
    2. Spotlight - The annotation is invisible, unless you hover the mouse over it. Great for placing a link over an image in the video.
  5. For any of the annotations you choose, check the Link option, add the URL of the next video. (This is what does the trick!)
  6. As the videos become connected you can be adding more annotations until you're done.
  7. Save and Publish.
  8. Share the link of first video.
  • Create a "map" to visualize the navigation through the videos, especially for the more complicated ones. This is a simple map for the card trick. 
  • Add a note at the end stating “Finish” or “End”, to show the viewer that it’s over.
  • Add the options (links) in the last seconds of the videos.

Watch this video for a quick explanation. Have fun!