Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I Will Not Let An Exam Result Decide My Fate by @SuliBreaks #Edchat

I'm very happy that I found this on Twitter yesterday. This was a great spoken word poem that I shared with my students. They were very impressed by Suli Breaks. It lead to a great discussion that is worth having with students. Take a moment and watch the video and share it with your staff and students to start a conversation.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Gripcase Review - It's Awesome for Kids #edchat

One of my biggest fears I have when I set my iPad down in the house is whether or not my son is going  to pick it up and make a run for it. Now, I love using the iPad with Leo, but I worry that he is going to drop it throw it or do any of those other things that 2 year olds do with anything in their hands.

I'm not much of case guy, but I knew I needed something to protect the iPad, but no be too cumbersome for a little kid to handle. That is where Gripcase comes in.

The Gripcase has been the perfect solution to my iPad damage related worries. Leo can easily take the iPad and run from one couch to the next and sit down and play his favorite games without a care int he world. It is not heavy and the special made handles allow him to easily hold on to the iPad with his tiny little hands. The drop in nature of the iPad means if he were to drop it face down, the handles prevent the screen from hitting the surface, make the iPad very safe for the less coordinated. 

I watched Leo run across the kitchen floor and carry it up the stairs without a worry. He feel very comfortable using the iPad with the Gripcase and I feel comfortable letting him carry it around. It was only a matter of time before he took over the iPad mini, but at least I know it is safe and secure in the Gripcase.

Here is a video with more information on Gripcase and you should check out their website as well. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 Desktop Scanner #Evernote

I was very lucky to get my hands on a Fujitsu ScanSnap Desktop Scanner a few weeks ago and I have been using it at home. I had heard about this scanner from other Evernote users and Ambassadors over the past few months, but had not thought much about it. As tax season was coming around, I really started to get a clutter of paperwork piling up around my home office. I wanted to quickly scan a ton of documents, many of which were double sided, and add them to Evernote. Well, the Fujitsu scanner is what I needed to get the job done quickly.

This scanner has to be one of the fastest scanners I have ever used and it scans both sides of the paper as it passes through the scanner. With a scanning speed of 25 pages per minute, I can add many of my old handwritten notes to Evernote quickly and easily. After the scanning takes paces, you are given the option to send the scanned images to different cloud based sources. For me, I send all of my goodies to Evernote.

Another cool feature is the ability to send a scan directly to your device. With the ScanSnap app, you can scan papers and have them sent directly to your mobile device as long as you are on the same wifi network as the scanner. This is a really neat feature if you are on the go and do not really use any of the cloud based options ScanSnap allows you to scan to. The free app is easy to use and the scanned documents look great.

Scan snap created searchable PDFs, auto-crops, removes bleed-through and removes blank pages. This is great if you have some pages that are double sided and other that are not. It's one of those little things that make organizing information a little bit easier. I've been scanning a few times a week since I received the scanner and I couldn't be happier about the work I have been able to get done at my desk.

As a desktop scanner, I couldn't be happier with the quality of the scans and the ease of sending scanned documents to Evernote. As I prepare for conference and other speaking engagements, ScanSnap is my go to Scanner for signed documents I need to save and organize in Evernote. Fujitsu has made a great scanner for the desktop environment and I recommend it to those in need of a tool to help get rid of the clutter on the their desks.

Here is a video with more information and you can check out the Fujitsu website for more information.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I Am Not The Enemy #edchat

I am not the enemy.

I am the person that gets up every day excited about sharing the wonders of literature. I am the person that shows students the power of the written word and the beauty of the spoken word. I am the person that values each and every student in my class.

I am not the enemy.

I am the person that sits with a student revising an essay until they get it right. I am the person who keeps their door open after school for those students who do not have a place to go. I am the person that provides the attention to those who do not get it at home.

I am not the enemy.

I am the person that provides the tissue after a heartbreaking truth is revealed. I am the person that guides students to their future career. I am the person that is a sounding board when they are not sure how the parents will react. I am the person who provides supplies because there are none at home.

I am not the enemy.

I am the person that forfeits personal time to ensure students have extra time. I am the person who provides a shoulder to cry on when nobody is around. I am the person who smiles when everyone else is frowning. I am the sunshine in a world of darkness for many.

I am not the enemy.

I am the person that will show students the future and tells them they can achieve all of their goals. I am the person that will be the biggest cheerleader and the biggest critic. I am the person who will be there years later and remember where they sat and how they did. I am the person that calls them, "My kids".

I am not the enemy.

I am not perfect, but I strive for perfection. I am constantly learning because I expect it from my students. I provide a safe haven for the bullied. I love the unloved.

I do this every day.

I am not the enemy.

I am a teacher.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Mini Display App - Check it out! #edchat #Apps

Recently, I purchased a new Mac and mounted it on my wall to be super fancy. I also had an older Ipad my wife and son were not using very much. I thought it would be cool to mount them on the wall to give me a couple of extra screens while working on my Mac. I could keep Twitter and Email up on these screens and work on school stuff on the big screen. Here is a picture of what I set up.

I used Pad Tab to mount the iPads. Here is the link and what the connectors look like. 

The cool thing about Pad Tab is that I can take the iPads with me and use my cases as if I did not have anything on the back. When I'm working, I can just mount it on the wall. The Pad Tab set comes with an extra wall mount, so I could pace the wall mounts in other places I might want to hang my iPad. The kitchen is one place that comes to mind. 

Anyway, this was a cool set up, but it just got a bit cooler thanks to the Mini Display app I read about on The Next Web the other day. The app is $12.99 and it allows you to connect to your Mac and add an extra screen. There is a free download you need to do from their website so your computer will connect to the app. The download was quick and easy. After a restart, I was ready to go.

The connection is quick and gives you a brief tutorial on the different hand gestures you can use with the connection. The mouse moves right over to the iPad and you can do all of the things you want to do on the screen as if it were another monitor. Even better, it is still touch sensitive. As I'm writing this, I have my iTunes open and I can quickly switch songs by rolling my mouse over to the far left and watch it appear on the iPad screen where I can choose another song. I can throw up my Twitter feed, my email and all of the other things I want and it matches the screen size of the iPad. 

Now, I know I could have placed all of those things on the iPad without paying thirteen dollars, but it's the fact that I do not have to change keyboards or reaching out and touch the iPad to do work on that screen. It is a seamless transition once I select the screen I want to work on with the mouse. If I wanted, I could take the iPad off the wall and sit on the couch and do some work while still being connected to the Mac. 

Overall, this is a great app for those that feel they need an extra screen when they are on the road with their laptop and need some space for more work. My situation is a bit unique, but there are definitely possibilities with this app down the line and is worth exploring if you are the nerdy time like I am. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Sometimes You Just Have To Let The Students Have A #GoodTime #EdChat

My first and second hour had been working so hard in my class and others the past few weeks and I noticed they were burnt out. It is so frustrating to see kids who care so much about school be beaten down by the stress of school and teenage life.

We are in the home stretch and morale seems to be down across the board, so I thought it would be a good idea to remind the students and staff that it is going to be all right and that "It's always a good time" at Grosse Pointe South.

The directions were simple. Use this song and stay in the room. Everything else was up to them. I am very proud of the work they did and the responses from the staff after I shared the videos has been great. Please share the videos and leave comments for the kids. They would love it.

Giving up a couple of days for silliness is going to be huge dividends later in the year. How does your class have a "Good Time"? I would love to see other classes do their own versions. You have been challenged. :-)


Markup - An App Review #EngChat #EdChat

One of the things that has always made my life difficult is grading essays. Well, that is what I get for loving literature and deciding to teach it. :-P I have always been on the lookout for ways to cut down on the amount of paper that I have to take home, but essays always seemed to beat me. I have used for paper collecting, but need a desktop to grade the essays because they do not have an iPad solution. I want to be able to grade papers on the go. I want to be mobile. Well, the makers of ShowMe have now made that possible.

Markup is a really cool app that allows me to grade essays by hand. You can find great information here on their Kickstarter page. The concept is pretty simple. Students email papers to the special Markup email address registered to you and you can grade the essay. It is best to use a stylus when going through the paper. Once the essay is complete, the graded essay can be emailed back to the student. I love the email feature of the app because it is a seamless way to send papers back and forth. It also works great for me because I can cc my Evernote account on the email and store a copy in a digital portfolio. This is awesome. I hope there is a way for Markup to have a "send to" Evernote option so I can just save the paper in Evernote quickly and put it in the Notebook with the tags I want.

I love the app because it is straightforward and easy to use. As a teacher, that is what I am looking for in an app. Markup is the perfect accessory for the teacher looking for a paperless solution for essays and an option to grade on the go. The app is only going to get stronger as Markup receives more feedback from educators. If you are looking for something different that can make grading easier and less messy, pick up Markup.

Price: $1.99 - iTunes Store

Monday, April 8, 2013

Farewell #ProjectPLN

"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,"

When I think about the morning I decided to text Kelly and tell her about this awesome idea I had to bring together people from our PLN to share their thoughts and ideas, I always smile. It was a crazy idea that I had no idea where to even begin. So much time has passed since that first idea. My life has changed in so many ways. I have an amazing son who is turning 2 in a month, my website has been busier than ever and I speak at conferences around the country. All of this for a little guy from Detroit who used to be too short to ride the the roller-coasters

It has been a painful decision to make, but Kelly and I have decided to let ProjectPLN close shop. Our goal was to give a voice to people who did not have a space to share their thoughts. After a few years, I feel there are so many people that have taken to their own blogs and have spoken their minds. Project PLN seems to have served its purpose and it's time to say goodbye.

It was an absolute honor to work with Kelly on this project. She always managed to find the time to help me edit the magazine and tweak the layout while she was designing her own school. I couldn't think of a better collaborator for this venture and I know we will be working on something equally awesome in the future. 

I love this Shakespeare quote because I feel it represents a little of who I have been these past few years since I became a connected educator. My role in education has changed dramatically over the past three years and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for me. I do know that no matter what I end up doing, I can count on my PLN to be there to offer guidance and support. 

Thank you to everyone that helped make Project PLN a success and supported our crazy idea with your own posts. Project PLN started off as an idea between two passionate educators and it became real because educators cared. That is something very special that I will be able to hold on to long after Project PLN fades from the collective memory. 

I look forward to the next great adventure.


Friday, April 5, 2013

The #EduTour13 Announcement!

I am excited to announce that the #EduTour13 is happening! Back in December, I write a post about how I would love to drive across the country and talk to people about education and see what I can learn from them.

The idea would not get out of my head, so I contacted some friends and I was able to put together a full trip with amazing sponsors!

Best of all, my #EduBro will be along for the ride!

Please check out to see what all of the fuss is about.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Build Me An App! #DevCup #EdChat

Evernote's DevCup is kicking off and the Evernote Ambassadors have been asked to share with all of the developers out there what they want in an app that would work with Evernote. Well, I am always up for issuing a challenge, so here it is.

Build me an App!

The Problem:

I use Evernote for just about every aspect of my educational life. I use it for lesson planning, file storage and note-taking for meetings. However, my frustration is in the fact that I cannot see my lessons or notes in a calendar or attach them to specific dates. This would allow me to move more easily between different days and different lessons. Evernote has allowed me to "Remember Everything", but I need a solution that allows me to organize like a teacher.

The Challenge:

Create an app for educators that can give us what we need.
  • I would love to be able to pull up a calendar and see a day, week or a month and attach specific notes to them. 
  • I need to be able to access any attachments in the notes. They should hopefully open within the app if possible.  
  • I would also like to be able to create a quick note in the calendar and have it saved in Evernote. This would be perfect for those quick appointments that come up with students, staff and parents.
  • I need to be able to add photos to the calendar as well. I often like to write out my lessons on my IdeaPaint covered desk and take pictures to store in Evernote. It would be better if I could write the lessons, snap a photo and attach it to a specific date in the calendar. 
  • I need to be able to easily move items around on the calendar. If I get sick, I need to move a lesson from one day to the next without a hassle. 
  • I also need to be able to share the information in the notes very easily.
  • I need it to work on the iPad as well as the iPhone and iTouch. 
Why This is a Great Idea:

There is nothing out there that does what an educator needs an app to do and this could be huge for all of the tech savvy educators out there. An all-in-one app that allows educators to access their notes and make quick additions to the calendar is something that educators need. Trust me on this, I'm an educator. Actually, I'm the Evernote Education Ambassador. ;-)

If you have questions or want to pick my brain about making this app, drop me a line and we can chat. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Professional Learning in the Digital Age #EdChat

While at #ASCD13 in Chicago, I was able to get my hands on a copy of Dr. Kristen Swanson's book Professional Learning in the Digital Age. I am really glad I did.

The focus of the book is on User-Generated Learning. After defining UGL, Dr. Swanson covers Curation, Digital Footprints, Reflection and Contribution. It's not the fact that Dr. Swanson provides research to support her case, it is the fact that she provides real examples from educators that really makes the difference. I'm not a big research guy, but I do take stock in real educators sharing real stories and that is what stood out to me with this book.

Dr. Swanson does a great job of making all of the information accessible to all educators and even provides a handy checklist at the end of each chapter for readers to follow to help them get started. Little things like this are so important for busy educators looking for the best way to get started doing something that is foreign to them.

The book also has great resources in the back of tools and people to connect with on Twitter. I was shocked to see that I was a suggested follower. That proves Dr. Swanson has impeccable taste. :-)

If you are looking for a great book, filled with great tips and real life examples from educators talking about the value of User-Generated Learning, Professional Learning in the Digital Age is the book for you.

You can find the book on Amazon here. I know you will enjoy the book as much as I did.

Amazon book description:

Discover how to transform your professional development and become a truly connected educator with user-generated learning! This book shows educators how to enhance their professional learning using practical tools, strategies, and online resources. With beginner-friendly, real-world examples and simple steps to get started, the author shows how to harness information from physical and virtual communities and become a lifelong learner in the digital age.

This book features:

- In-depth explanations of curation, reflection, and contribution
- Guest appearances from digitally connected educators
- Simple to-do lists to help you get started
- Handy appendices with resources for further learning, and so much more!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Mentoring Minds and the Common Core

I have been sitting in a few meetings this year where people tried to digest the Common Core Standards. Many people feel like it is going to change the entire way that they teach and some just assume it will go away like all other mandates if you give it some time. I'm not sure the CCS is going away anytime soon and those teachers that are confused as to where to start need some guidance in meantime.

While I was at ASCD, I had a chance to speak to the people at Mentoring Minds. We chatted briefly and I was given one of their 9-12 ELA flip charts that breaks down CCS. Here is a video that provides more information on the flip charts. 

I shared the flip book with one of my colleagues and they were impressed at how easy it way to use and find information. As teachers, we are very busy and it is impossible to find the time to read through those massive PDF's the government shared about CCS. The flip books are a great way to break down the information for the teachers that want to learn more about CSS but do not know where to start. 

I recommend you take a minute and check out the flip charts and the other products from Mentoring Minds. You might just find something that is perfect for you or your district.