Posted in Edublogs

Free Web Tools

Hello Readers!

I am a lil behind on my Edublogs challenge posts, but that’s ok. Life happens and skipping posts or posting late is fine. I am actually trying my best to not skip any posts at all. I enjoy a challenge and I want to address each prompt.

Prompt 5 was simply to write a post about free web tools. That seems like a pretty simple post, but there are so many free web tools! Being that I am late to this post, I had the benefit of reading all the posts from other bloggers on this topic before adding my own. I didn’t want to duplicate what any of them said, so if you are in the market for free web tools, be sure to visit the link above and check the comments, there are a lot of helpful posts on free web tools and how to use them.

Now for my suggestions! Many of the tools I am about to reference have both a free and paid version.

  • Skype – Skype is a communication tool I use regularly in many ways. It is a great instant messenger, but is also great for long distance calls (both voice and video). I tend to use Skype most with my gamer friends and when I was running a remote Minecraft Club. As a Microsoft Innovative Educator, I love the promise of Mystery Skypes to broaded the horizons of our students. I was never able to do one while I had a class of my own, but I have been part of a few group Mystery Skypes and they are great fun. Microsoft even has a whole page of classroom ideas.
  • Gyazo – I LOVE this tool for quick and easy screen capture! I learned about it from my gaming friends as a way to show one another things in our game without needing to screen share. Gyazo can make instant screenshots or GIFs and provide you with a shareable link in seconds. So easy!
  • Poll Everywhere – I was introduced to Poll Everywhere at a conference where the keynote speaker engaged the ENTIRE audience in a few questions, with the live results projecting on screen. It was powerful. I have used this tool a few times and really enjoy it, but it is best suited for a secondary classroom and up.
  • Today’s Meet – Another goodie I was introduced to at a conference. Today’s Meet is essentially a back channel, where students or those attending a meeting or conference can talk about pretty much whatever they like with the other students/attendees. I have used it a few times and found it to be not only fun, but very useful.
  • PicMonkey – I mentioned this one last week and I really can’t mention it enough. A free web editing tool that is super easy to use. You get great photo editing results with very little effort and time. LOVE IT!
  • Screencast-o-matic – I forget where exactly I learned about this one but I have a feeling it was from watching a teacher tutorial and I saw the watermark. Screencast-o-matic is great for making tutorials. It is easy to use and very intuiative. I have found I really enjoy making my own videos and I can see students being able to use this tool quite easily too, even upper elementary students.
  • PowToons – I have been aware of this tool for a while but never got around to actually using it. It is a bit time consuming, but I enjoy the creative process of creating an animated video. I am sure secondary students could handle it and likely some very motivated elementary students. (If you visit my YouTube channel you will find some examples of Screencast-o-matic and PowToons in use.)

Do you use any of these tools? Are you thinking you would like to try? I would love to hear from you in the comments! Thanks for stopping by!blog-signature

Posted in Minecraft

The Club is Back!

Minecraft with Mrs RuizI have missed having my Minecraft Club and learning as much as I can about Minecraft in order to make it a meaningful experience with students. I have officially launched my Minecraft Club again and I am looking for Miners who would enjoy working on projects on my private server.

I have a new flyer that can be given to parents of students who might like to join.

I learned so much from the first round of the club, and have made some great contacts since then. I am hoping some of my former club miners will join me again and pick up some new miners ones. This round should be better than before for sure!

Posted in Educational Technology

The First Several Weeks

It has been some time since I posted on my site. I have wanted to post, but have been uncertain as to what I wanted to post and what direction I wanted my site to go in now that I am out of the classroom.

Adjusting to leaving 16 years in the elementary classroom was an experience I could really not prepare for. I have gone from a highly structured day to one that is much more free form and full of meetings and collaboration. I also left a classroom environment. My classroom was my home way from home, my rather large office, and something that was mine. I had a great deal of control over my classroom. Presently I am in a space that is nothing like a classroom, and while nice, it doesn’t feel the same. I think in making this transition that was something I worried about the most. The space I live and work in is very important and has a good deal to do with my mental well being.

One view of my new work space
One view of my new work space
Another view of my new workspace
Another view of my new work space

I will have to share more images of what my work space looks like now. It is certainly less sterile and more organized looking. It is a communal space shared with two other Linked Learning TOAs. It is a temporary location and I am looking forward to seeing where we really end up and what it will be like when two more TOAs are brought on to complete our team.

Logistics aside, I have done a fair amount of learning. I hope to get some additional posts up soon focused on the trainings I have attended and how the information learned might work into the elementary classroom. My plan for my site as this point is to post my reflections and learnings and hope it might entertain and/or educate those who care to read.

Posted in Class News

A New Chapter Begins

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It has been a whirlwind of activity since I learned that I had been recommended for the position of Teacher on Assignment/Instructional Coach in the new Linked Learning department of Fontana Unified.

I had been encouraged to apply for this position by a few who knew my passion for educational technology. I had hesitated in applying at first because of the timing of the position (I had just spent a good deal of time setting up a new classroom and had just begun the year with my new class) and I was apprehensive. I had applied for positions like this one before and not been selected. That was several years ago, and I had not completed my Masters in Educational Technology, nor my National Board Certification, nor had I been a Doctoral student then either. So yes, a few things had changed, but my desire to teach teachers how to use technology effectively in their classrooms or help my district move forward with innovative ways to use technology had not. So I applied and made the second round of interviews for one of 3 remaining positions on this new team.

I was surprised how quickly the news of my recommendation came, I was shocked really. Then there was the waiting. I had no idea when I would be expected to leave my classroom. That was all contingent upon my replacement being found. Interviews were held for my position at Grant and my principal made her selection. That teacher accepted the offer and I was told the last day I would have with my students would be the Friday before we went on Winter Break. I got that news three days before Winter Break. I was preparing report cards and now had to prepare to move out of my classroom…again. Thankfully, I had my college freshman nephew visiting again, who seems to enjoy volunteering at Grant quite a bit. His help in moving saved my sanity once again (he has helped me move before). I told my students and their families that I was leaving them, and it was very bittersweet. I have been in the classroom for 15 and a half years, I have taught 2nd – 5th grades, and I have always had a passion for innovation and educational technology. I have been at that point in my career where I knew leaving the classroom would be eminent, I just had no idea how soon that moment would arrive.

Therefore, while I am thrilled to be offered this opportunity, to explore the next chapter in my educational career, it does not come without a price. I will miss my students and doing everything I can for them to bring them the latest tech tools to enhance their education. I take solace in knowing that this shift in my position means I will be affecting more than just my own students, I will be helping students in several classrooms at several schools in my district, and I am very excited about that. Dorothy Grant Elementary has been amazing for me. The staff, students, and their families are a wonderful community I am very proud to be a part of and the decade I spent there will be one I always cherish.

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Posted in Apple Applications, Class News, DGE Events, Educational Technology

Computer Science Week

The class is eager to begin coding!

This week is Computer Science Week and to celebrate, Dorothy Grant Elementary is participating in the Hour of Code. Yesterday my class had a special lab time to explore programming and they had a blast!

Matthew G & Jaythan work together on a bit of Minecraft coding.
Matthew G & Jaythan work together on a bit of Minecraft coding.
Madelyn explains how to do some coding to Samantha.
Madelyn & Samantha work together.
Dalia and Malachi explore coding together.
Dalia and Malachi explore coding together.
Brandon is excited to have completed his Hour of Code.
Brandon is excited to have completed his Hour of Code.

I shared the Code.org website with them and there they got to choose from three tutorials: Star Wars, Minecraft, or Frozen. I had them share their selection with the class via an Edmodo poll and after the hour in the lab, they were to return to my post in Edmodo to share their experiences.

edmodo poll snapshot

edmodo post 1

edmodo post 2

The Hour of Code website has been added to the class website on the “After School Links” page. I also wanted to take a moment to share Tynker, one of the more widely known coding apps for tablets. I know it is available in the App Store (for Apple devices) for free and it may be in the Google Play store as well. I will be installing it on the classroom tablets this weekend for the class to continue exploring coding. I recommend it for any personal tablets for students who particularly enjoyed the coding experience.

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Posted in Minecraft @ DGE

Minecraft Club Day 2

Mrs. Ruiz at the future site of Minecraft DGE

Our second time meeting on the server went much smoother today. I attempted to deal with any lingering tech issues before we met so I could have the whole time on the server with the kids. I even extended club time from one hour to two hours because one hour just didn’t seem like enough. After two hours today, I felt that was a much more appropriate amount of time and will likely extend the club hour from 4-5pm on Thursdays, to 3:30 – 5:30 pm on Thursdays.

We are still trying to establish our community on the server. I was trying to direct them to build our school, but the kids kept breaking off and building their own homes. I am currently brainstorming ideas on how to bring 20 “lil miners” (as educators in the Minecraft Educator Google+ group I am in call them) into focus. After viewing all of their newest creations, I broke off at the end of the session to try some building on my own. I didn’t want to build our school myself, but perhaps once I give it a footprint, the kids will then be more focused about making it happen.

We are using Edmodo in conjunction with Minecraft and Skype, so I will have to put up some more assignments there, mainly on planning our community, which should hopefully bring them into better focus. I think perhaps assigning them to regions of the school build is a start. I would also enjoy seeing what they have in mind for our Minecraft school, like drawings or blueprints.

Since I am presently unable to use Minecraft EDU, the suggestion of a Bukkit server was made as it allows for more options than a standard server. I am new to not only Minecraft but running a server and mods so it is quite easy to be overwhelmed. This week I plan on focusing my research on what a Bukkit server is like and what additional commands it can allow me and my students that our current vanilla server cannot. I have several experienced “lil miners” who are used to playing with several mods in place and are feeling a bit restricted by our vanilla server. Those experienced miners ask me almost daily (our Skype group is always up and running and chat there is frequent) about when I am going to allow mods and give them more command ability.

Here is a video I put together of some of the kids in the club telling me what they think Minecraft is along with some footage from day 2 in game. Enjoy!

Posted in Minecraft

Minecraft at DGE

Minecraft Club Header

Dear Families,

I am thrilled to announce the beginning of the 21st Century Club at Dorothy Grant Elementary! In this very special club we will focus on teaching students the 21st Century Skills they need as children of the information age. Specifically we will focus on the following International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards for students:

  1. Creativity and Innovation
  2. Communication and Collaboration
  3. Research and Information Fluency
  4. Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
  5. Digital Citizenship
  6. Technology Operations and Concepts

The first phase of our 21st Century Club will focus on Minecraft and game based learning. This opportunity is open to all 3rd through 5th graders as a distance learning experience. That means students will be connecting to the club from home. The following are required to participate:

  1. Reliable home computer with MinecraftEDU Minecraft installed (MinecraftEDU will not be used after all, regular Minecraft will.)
    1. This is different than the commercial Minecraft client. The MinecraftEDU client will be sent to students in the club once all requirements have been met.
  2. Reliable home internet
  3. A Minecraft account ($26.95) or a MinecraftEDU account ($18)
    1. With commercial Minecraft, the account is yours to keep. With MinecraftEDU, you are borrowing the account.
  4. Skype (for audio communication)
  5. Edmodo (online classroom)
    1. Students do not need to sign up for another Edmodo account if they already have one.
    2. A group join code will be sent once all requirements have been met.
  6. Permission slip with parent and teacher signatures

The Minecraft Club will take place on Thursdays from 4pm to 5pm. Our first meeting is Thursday, September 10th.

If you are interested in this opportunity for your child, please email me your child’s name and their teacher’s name. A permission slip will then be sent to them for completion along with further instructions.

Thank you!
Mrs. Ruiz
4th Grade Teacher & Technology Coach
ruizmy@fusd.net
www.mrsruiz.net

Posted in Class News

A New School Year Begins

Today marked the beginning of a new school year. I was very excited for the grade change from 3rd to 4th, but with that change came a room change. I have moved from F1 to P4, which is a newly installed portable. The move was not without its stresses, but in the end the room was ready to go come the 1st day of school to welcome in its first DGE 4th graders.

P4 a week before school started
P4 a week before school started
Moving a few things in, adding boarder and ceiling hangs.
Moving a few things in, adding boarder and ceiling hangs.
A bit more moving in...
A bit more moving in…
Furniture finally arrives
Furniture finally arrives
The furniture moving truck
The furniture delivery truck
The room is finally ready for the 1st day of school!
The room is finally ready for the 1st day of school!

We had an amazing day today. We got to know one another a bit better, and make our avatars for the year using the AvatarCreator app available on iOS. I also took quick stock of how technology equipped my students are. Of 31 students 6 had a smartphone of some kind, 20 had a tablet, and 8 did not have a smartphone or a tablet.

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Students emailing their avatars to me on the class iPads. (The lunchtime on the board is wrong, it is actually 12pm to 12:40.)

I introduced the class to Edmodo, which will be the online version of our classroom we will use daily. The students have set up their accounts and parents can join in as well to see what we are up to. Parents can get the parent join code from their child when the student is logged in to their Edmodo account.

Parents are welcome to contact me via email (ruizmy@fusd.net), ClassDojo, or Skype (dgeruiz).

I look forward to day two of school and all the days ahead of us. I just know we will have an amazing year!

Posted in Class News, Educational Technology

A Visit from President Obama


Barack Obama

Today we had a webinar with the President of the United States, Barack Obama. After the Jane Goodall experience, the class was very excited to have another well known visitor in our classroom. President Obama spoke on the importance of literacy and technology in classrooms across the country. While we watched the live stream, educators and students all over the world were talking on Twitter and you can see that conversation by searching #ofthepeople on Twitter.

I once again asked my students for their thoughts on the experience:

“I like how the President wanted everyone to have a library card.” – Nathan

“I learned that you can not get distracted from your school work because it takes time away from your learning.” – Elena C

“I liked that our President told us about his life.” – Therese

“I learned that President Obama likes Dr. Seuss books, science books and dinosaur books.” – Audrey

“I felt like the President was actually in our class with us.” – Clarissa

“I learned that some people don’t have library cards and President Obama will give them one for free.” – Madelyn

“I liked the part where the boy hurried the President up when he was answering a question.” – Andrew

“My cousins live in Washington D.C., just like the President.” – Xiomara

“I can’t believe we got to see the President live! It was such a cool opportunity.” – Amanda

“I like President Obama because he is trying to help everyone.” – Brandon

“I wonder what Barack Obama will do when he is done being President.” – Wyatt

“I learned that people didn’t always have the technology we have today.” – Xander

“I learned that President Obama wrote two books about his childhood.” – Denise

“I think President Obama is a good person and a good President.” – Daniel

“I liked how honest and kind the President was.” – Koral

“I enjoyed the webinar today because I got to meet a famous person and didn’t have to leave my classroom.” – Jorge

“It was amazing that kids like us got to talk to the President of the United States.” – Dalia

“I learned that reading is good for you.” – Jacob

“I liked how the President asked kids how they do things.” – Chijioke

You can view the recorded webinar on Discovery Education. We only have another month of school and I hope to bring in a few more virtual field trips and virtual visitors before school is out for the summer.

In addition to the webinar, I asked the class to explore an app I had shown them earlier in the week that I am considering for more use in the next school year, Paper 53. They created the following drawings to go along with their Presidential webinar experience:

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Posted in Class News, Educational Technology

Webinar with Dr. Jane Goodall

 

Jane Goodall

My class had a special treat today…a webinar with Dr. Goodall offered by TIME for Kids. I didn’t tell them until very close to the time of the webinar out of concern that our technology might not hold up and even warned them that may be a possibility to lessen any possible disappointment. I am happy to report that our technology did hold up and they got to experience their first webinar. They were completely thrilled and fascinated. One of my students had done her project for Women’s History Month on Dr. Goodall and was completely surprised she would actually get to “meet” the subject of her project.

my class at the webinar

My class learned a lot of amazing things. Here is a bit of what they wrote for me as they reflected on the experience:

“…Jane Goodall was amazing! Who doesn’t love watching a famous person? I never knew chimpanzees used tools or acted like people do.” – Angel

“I think the webinar with Jane Goodall was interesting because it was my first time experiencing that. It was cool because I learned things I didn’t know like it is legal to stay in the jungle and hang out with animals.” – Amanda

“I liked that we could watch Jane Goodall from our classroom and not get on a bus.” – Jesse

“Jane Goodall’s advice for us was to always follow the rules and never give up. I liked seeing the photos of her with the chimpanzees.” – Audrey

“I am a fan of Jane Goodall and it was really cool to be able to see her! I was so happy to see her I thought I might explode!” – Freedom

“Jane Goodall wants to help chimanzees and people all over the world.” -Bella

“I think Jane Goodall is very smart. I liked that she never gave up on her dreams even though she was laughed at.” -Wyatt

“I think the Jane Goodall interview was awesome. I felt that she was giving advice that made me feel experienced.” – Therese

“The webinar was very interesting and amazing. It was like Jane Goodall was right in our classroom with us.” -Xiomara

“I thought it was cool that we got to learn about Ms. Goodall and that she answered questions from kids across the country.” – Denise

“Jane Goodall and I have something in common – we both love animals.” Clarissa

“I thought Jane Goodall was very nice and kind. I think living in the wild would be scary, but seeing chimpanzees would be cool.” – Elena D.

“The webinar with Jane Goodall was pretty amazing…like her life with the chimpanzees…and how many people were online for her talk.” -Koral

I got to watch the conversation during the webinar on Twitter and I invite you to read the posts under #janegoodall and #edwebchat. You can also see my favorite tweets from that hour by following me @dgeruiz.

The entire experience was amazing not only for my students but for me as their teacher and seeing the power of educational technology at work and being able to connect with such a monumental public figure. I hope we can do many more of these webinars to bring the world and its people to my students.

Related Links:

TIME for Kids – Tanzania

The Jane Goodall Institute

Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots