Archives for November 2013

Coach’s Eye

coach's eyeThe two middle schools in my district have a unique focus.  One is considered an “Academy of the Arts.” The school has a partnership with a local museum and with a performing arts center in our area.  The other middle school is focused on Science and Technology, and their big partnership is with Project Lead the Way. They also have a program called TSMA, which stands for Technology, Science, Math Academy (similar to STEM).  Last year, as part of this Academy plan, they added an innovative class:  Advanced P.E.

The interesting element with Advanced P.E. is that it’s not just physical education in the traditional sense. This course requires students to go beyond the physical aspect of Physical Education and examine the science behind the sports they are learning. The class has ten iPads that are available for the students to do research, watch focused videos on specific sports techniques, and create tutorials for their fellow students. About halfway through the year, the  Advanced P.E. teacher asked me about how to the iPads in a more advanced way than to just do research. I knew about the app, Coach’s Eye, by TechSmith, because my husband had been using it to help coach our son in baseball. This teacher and I decided to investigate a way to use the app in Advanced P.E.

Coach’s Eye allows the user to record video of a sports technique and then annotate the video using shapes, lines, and free-hand drawings to bring attention to certain points in a video. It also allows the user to zoom in on a specific part of the video or to view two different videos side-by-side for comparative purposes. The app also allows the user to shoot a video and play it back in slow motion, all the while annotating and recording voice to give feedback. It’s relatively easy to use the app, but there are some great tutorial videos on YouTube that can help a new user navigate the app. You can subscribe to the Coach’s Eye channel, as well.

Coach’s Eye is well-worth the $4.99 price tag. It seems hefty, yes, but considering the possibilities in P.E., it’s still a good buy. For only $1.99 more you can have the Precision Pack which includes the Angle Tool, the Timer Tool, and the Spot Light Tool. It really is a reasonable price, especially if you are coaching students for intramurals or helping improve their performance for a sport they play outside of school.

Common Core Connection

Common Core calls for an integration of subject areas, and this app can help P.E. teachers integrate science and math into the sports they are teaching. In addition, it allows for the students to communicate their learning about a sport because they can analyze and discuss their own form or technique by having a classmate record the video. Students could also use this app for a science-fair type project by making and testing a hypothesis about their performance in a particular sport by changing the technique they use and analyzing the different videos.

While the app is best suited for P.E. teachers, I think it could be applicable across different subjects. I can see science teachers taking video of different experiments to do a side-by-side analysis of the results. I can also see Language Arts teachers using this app to compare performances in speech and debate or just a general classroom presentation. They can use the app to point out slight differences in body language and gesturing that might make a difference in a competition.

Coach’s Eye has a lot of potential in the classroom. How do you plan to use it?



Thinglink: Create Interactive Images in the Classroom

thinglinkMy school district uses Microsoft products, and each time I launch Internet Explorer I’m introduced to an intriguing image on Bing. I love that different areas of the photo are tagged so the reader can learn more about the image. So when I was introduced to Thinglink, I thought, “This is so cool! It’s like kids creating their own Bing images!”

I’ve introduced Thinglink to many teachers in my district. A first grade teacher has used Thinglink with students to show what they’ve learned about bats. Another teacher used Thinglink in her 8th grade science class. Students tagged an image with information about chemical reactions. History, English, math, science, P.E., music… the possibilities are truly endless.

How Does Thinglink Work?

One of the greatest things about Thinglink is that it integrates with so many other web-based tools.

  • Students can take a photo of their own work and upload it to Thinglink, or they can go online to find an image appropriate to what they are studying (as long as they obtain permission and properly cite their sources).
  • Once the photo is uploaded, students then “tag” the image with many different types of rich media tags, including audio files, videos, other images, and more.
  • For example, students can record themselves reading a story on SoundCloud and use that recording as a tag on an image.

Using Thinglink is a great way to combine many different smaller projects related to a theme into a central, visually-appealing location. Here’s an example of a Thinglink I made to show the different apps on my iPad’s One Screen.

Common Core Connection

Thinglink is yet another web-based tool that can be used in any subject area and by any grade level. It more closely aligns with the 7 Cs, specifically Communication. Students use Thinglink to show what they know (and possibly how they know it), so they are increasing their ability to communicate effectively as well as improving their Content Understanding. It doesn’t get more Common Core than that!

What Do You Think?

How have you used Thinglink with students? Do they create the Thinglinks or do you?

How Your Students Can Explain Everything

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I’ve been thinking a lot about Common Core lately, as I suspect you have. I found an excellent handout on Pinterest by Jen Jones at Hello Literacy that sums up Common Core keenly for parents. The third educational shift explained to parents on this poster is that Common Core requires students to show how they know something. As a middle school teacher, I only had my students in my classroom for 48 minutes a day. So I kept wondering, in the course of those 48 minutes, how am I going to get a chance to hear from every single one of my students so I know whether they are able to explain how they know what they know?

Enter Explain Everything.

The name of this app, Explain Everything, is self-explanatory.  Explain Everything allows the user to do just that— explain anything and everything! This is one of my favorite apps and I am always promoting it.  Students will mention other apps that have similar functionality, and I always tell them, “Sure. You could use *whatever* to do that.  Or better yet, try Explain Everything.” They are always glad they did.

What is Explain Everything, you ask? It’s basically a screencasting app that starts as a blank slate.  You can write directly on the blank page (think: digital white board) but there is so much more.  You can import PDF files, images from your camera roll, Keynote presentations, a web browser, and so much more. Once you’ve determined which of these items will be the background for each of your slides, the magic begins.  Hit the record button and start explaining your thinking. I appreciate that students have the ability to create a Keynote Presentation, import it into Explain Everything, and narrate their presentation as they would if they were giving a live presentation. The students can  practice their presentations this way and get immediate feedback about what it might sound like when they present in person. Other apps do this, too. The difference between the other apps and Explain Everything, and the reason why I believe the $2.99 cost is completely worth it, is this: you and/or your students, as the creators of the content, have total control over the sharing and storage of the videos.

Common Core Connection

One of the most obvious Common Core Connections is with the Speaking and Listening Standards, specifically CCSS Anchor Standard SL 5: Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations; and CCSS Anchor Standard SL 6: Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate. It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that the technology is just a tool.  Neither the app Explain Everything nor the device itself can teach these standards.  That’s our job as teachers (duh!). This tool, however, can greatly enhance students’ ability to meet these standards.

What are some ways that you have used Explain Everything with your students?



Aurasma: Adding Augmented Reality into Your Classroom


This past summer, I took my children to the Museum of Natural History while we were visiting my parents in Cincinnati, Ohio. The museum was exhibiting a very cool interactive dinosaur exhibit. One of the museum’s docents invited me to download the museum’s app and have my children stand right behind one of several squares that were on the floor around the room. He then instructed me to hold my phone up to the square, and as I did, an image of a dinosaur appeared on my screen. It was awesome! My children and their cousins pretended to fight the  (and then pose with them), and because I was using my phone, I was able to take a screenshot to capture the fun. It reminded me of an Augmented Reality app I had seen a teacher use during the previous school year.

What is Aurasma?

Aurasma, the aforementioned Augmented Reality app, allows teachers and students to create a digital “overlay” (usually a video) that plays through the app when a person holds an enabled device over a “trigger image.” The overlay + the trigger image is called an “Aura.” The students in the class I observed were writing book reviews and the teacher wanted her class to try something new and different to present their learning using Aurasma. After writing the book review, the teacher had the students create an illustration of the book’s main setting to be used as the trigger image. Once that was finished, it was put aside and she had the students record each other giving their review of the book to be used as the video overlay.

How Do I Create an Aura?

When creating an Aura, you can upload the overlay (video) from the camera roll on your device, but you cannot access the photo album when creating the trigger image. That means the students can pre-record the overlay video, but when it comes time to determine a trigger image, the students must use the camera to take the photo of whatever will be the trigger image. Students in this classroom uploaded their videos to Aurasma when the app prompted them to, and when it came time to choose the trigger image, they took a photo of the setting they had drawn.  The teacher then hung the hand-drawn setting images around the classroom.

Parents came to the classroom for Open House later that month, and the teacher had her iPad out for the parents to use. Because she only had one iPad being used, she didn’t need to worry about making the Aura public. Making an Aura public is one way that others can view the Auras that students create. Another way is to send the Aura by email to the people you want to be able to see it.  In this case, it would be parents. If a teacher were to send the invitation email to parents, they could download the app and essentially “follow” the teacher’s Aurasma channel, and they would be able to see any Auras in the channel created by the class.

Common Core Connection

All across the country, school districts are shifting to the Common Core State Standards and 21st Century teaching and learning. Using Aurasma in the classroom is one way to help students master the standards. Because the standards are linear across grade levels, a digital tool that helps to develop standards in Kindergarten will also work for high school students. In the example given above, the students were working on CCSS  ELA-Literacy.RL. 5.2, determining the theme of a story from details in a text and summarizing the text.  The were also developing their strength in writing Opinion pieces, specifically ELA-Literacy.W5.1: Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information. In addition, as students were recorded for the overlay video, they were developing CCSS ELA-Literacy Speaking and Listening.5.4 by reporting on a text and presenting an opinion with logically sequenced ideas. There are, of course, numerous other Common Core standards that can be developed by using an app such as Aurasma in the classroom.

Students aren’t just developing the Common Core State Standards when they are using Aurasma, they are also working on developing their ability to communicate, collaborate, and be creative, which are three of the 7 Cs (yes, there are now seven according to Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel) that make up 21st Century Skills. Of course, the Cs go hand-in-hand with the Common Core.

There are so many other ways to use Aurasma in the classroom. As soon as I saw it for the first time, my mind started going crazy with all the awesome ways teachers could use it with students. Aurasma can be used in any subject, by any grade level, and really for any purpose.

What Do You Think?

How have you used Aurasma in your classroom?