Thursday, April 30, 2015

EdCamp GCISD is Coming August 5, 2015!

Have you heard about EdCamp GCISD?  All DFW area educators are invited to attend this great day of self-selected learning!

What Is an EdCamp?
EdCamp GCISD is an “unconference”.  It’s free professional development for teachers by teachers. Instead of one person standing in front of the room talking for an hour, teachers are encouraged to have discussions and hands-on sessions. Edcamp strives to bring teachers together to talk about the things that matter most to them: their interests, passions and questions. Teachers who attend EdCamp can choose to lead sessions on those things that matter, with an expectation that the people in the room will work together to build understanding by sharing their own knowledge and questions.

Watch this video to learn more about EdCamp:

How Will EdCamp GCISD Work?
Come enjoy a day with colleagues from GCISD. Arrive with an idea for a session that you would like to lead or with the anticipation of a full day of learning about topics that interest you. A session might explore a technology tool, a discussion about best practices or a collaborative presentation with multiple facilitators.  During the first hour, you will have time to meet other teachers and share your ideas for session topics.  
Over the course of the day, you will have the opportunity to attend four sessions. The rule of the unconference is to “vote with your feet”. If a session doesn’t meet your needs, simply get up and move on to another room.
You will learn something new, maybe make a new friend and receive information that you can immediately apply in your classroom and professional life!

Who Is Invited?
All DFW area educators are invited to attend.

What Should I Bring?

Bring your laptop and/or iPad so that you can view the session board online, take notes and view websites discussed throughout the day.
How Do I Register?
GCISD Teachers - Register in Eduphoria:

Out of District Registration:

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Epic! for Educators - Free eBooks for Kids!

Today's guest post comes from Bridget Visser, 1st grade teacher at Dove Elementary.  You can follow Bridget on Twitter @vissersvoice or on her blog  

Epic! for Educators is an INCREDIBLE free eBook resource for teachers to take advantage of! You will be amazed at all the choices of books kids are able to read through this app. They earn badges, track their reading time in minutes and hours, track pages flipped, can favorite books, and more. They LOVE it and so do I!

There are so many ways Epic! can help the classroom teacher out! 

  • It is an app you can put on the child’s iPad or use the website.
  • It provides one more way to help children fall in love with reading! 
  • It provides a way for children to log their reading documentation. 
  • The choices of literature are AMAZING!  Many genres at all levels.
  • It allows differentiation in the classroom because you can choose what age group you are interested in reading. 
  • It has books read to you for the emergent readers.
  • It has chapter books of all genres for the higher readers.
  • It has books for all academic subjects!  Easy way to do nonfiction mini lessons in small group reading that seem exciting to the kids!

Directions for how to Get Started:

First, you visit the website and scroll down the page until you see Epic! for Educators.

When you select "Learn More", scroll down until you see this screen. Once you complete this information, you will select Create Account.  My advice: You will want to create an account with a password that all students will be able to have access to use - so nothing personal. :)

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At some point, it will ask you how old is the reader, what are your interests, and you will select what you want to read.  My advice: Select all of them because you never know when one kid will have access to a story another kid does not simply because they selected mysteries and the other kid did not.  

Once you are all in, you will enroll your students.  It will have you enter their name and a Parent’s Email, along with Security PIN.    

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The parent email address is really just to say “Yes, my child can use this at school.”  They will not receive any data or such.  The student will not be able to use Epic! until the parent agrees to this by the email.  It sounds complicated, but it really took less than a day for all of my students to be able to fully use this program!  Another tip: Security PIN makes each student’s reading data secure so that you know they are the only ones using this.  I gave my first graders the 4-digit number in their Google/Apple ID.  This is already something they have memorized, so it is easy.

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You will notice it shows how long they were in each book.  Sometimes your student might decide, they just are not into this book and leave.  Sometimes, you might notice they are only in all the books for a few seconds. Don’t worry, it will not let them “finish” the book if they flip through too quickly.  :)

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A quote I heard on a Monday morning from one of my little firsties, “I want to be a Weekend Warrior!”  The other little one said, “Well, you need to read on the weekend then.”  Badges.  That’s right my friends….competition and motivation that develops the love of reading.  I hear them talking about books they are reading on Epic! and making recommendations to friends!  During any free choice time they may have, I am not surprised to find them huddled in a corner reading a story and laughing!  My own daughter will read a science book or some other nonfiction book and want to talk about the things she is learning.  I knew I found something good when the love of reading meets user friendly technology and is carried home!  

Here are some screen shots my first graders took of the iPad app one day.  I pulled these off of their Google Drive Reading folders.  Can you tell they are excited!?  These little badges keep these kids motivated to want to read at home, on the weekends, and all day at school!  









Friday, April 24, 2015

Easy Digital Newsletters with Smore

Today's guest post comes from Gypsy Mishoe, GCISD Instructional Coach.  You can follow Gypsy on Twitter @GypsyMishoe or on her blog  

Have you ever meticulously formatted a class newsletter and printed out your 174 copies only to discover you misspelled "Renaissance" and put the wrong date for the grade level NASA field trip? 
Have you ever spent 30 minutes in vain looking for the bright pink paper newletter your daughter brought home 7 days before that has all essential information needed to complete her regions of Texas project?

I know I have.  Smore is a digital tool that creates beautiful newsletters that are easy to access, easy to update, and easy to share.  Smore could have also prevented both of my sad tales above.  

You can create a Smore newsletter in under 5 minutes.  The results are polished, and the design tools gives you just enough options to customize to your liking without becoming overwhelming. You can include pictures, websites, links to projects, as well as basic information.  If I had utilized Smore to create my class newsletter, I would have emailed the link to my parent group, and each family would have a live link with the most up to date (and correctly spelled) information. You can also embed your Smore directly into your blog or website. The Smore site provides valuable information on how many people have viewed each newsletter.  

 As a parent, Smore newsletters are great because you cannot misplace them.  I have four kids at four different schools myself, and keeping up with the ins and outs of each campus is enough to drive me crazy.  Knowing there is a digital version safe in my mailbox provides some much needed peace of mind.  The Grapevine Middle School STEM team provides links to all their SMORE newsletters on their Schoolwires websites.  I think this is genius.  Everything is in one place.  Another benefit from the parent perspective is that the newsletter opens instantly and all the links are all clickable.  Often parents get pdf copies of newsletters and have to save the file to their own computer before they can open it up.  Research shows that the fewer clicks people have to go through, the more likely they are to read your information.  We are living in a digital world.  The full power of an online newsletter is caged when you package it as a non-interactive, one way mode of communication.   I read an interesting article by Georgy Cohen a few years back that said,  "You can't do print on the web.  You need to do web on the web, so your content can actually live and breathe out in the world."  Smore provides an easy way to do just that.  

Here are a few examples of ways you can use Smore in your classroom

1) For a lesson- I created this Smore for a professional learning session on differentiating for the gifted learner.  Smore can be a great alternative to a powerpoint.  The visuals can help drive discussion, and the links needed are all in one place.  The Smore can easily be shared via google classroom (or any other learning management system) so students have immediate access to all the resources.

2) For a project- Leigh Ballard, the 4th grade ASPIRE Academy teacher, and I teamed up to put this Smore together as a culminating project for her unit on Texas Independence.  It was a great way to take multiple different projects and put them all together.  This Smore houses a google tour, several Thinglinks, an interactive timeline, some videos, and several pieces of student writing. 

3) As a newsletter- Dr. Suzanne Newell put this newsletter together to provide teachers with access to all of the summer learning opportunities available this year.  Although all of this information can be located in other places, the power of this newsletter is that it brings the sources together in one place.  

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