Saturday, September 28, 2013

Students and Teachers as Makers: Apps to Present and Share Lessons and Learnings (Part 2)

In Part I of this post, I introduce the web-based application as a potential tool for you and your students to create video presentations, tutorials, and lessons.

Two additional tools my students and I enjoy are ScreenChomp and Screen-cast-omatic.

ScreenChomp (available in iTunes) is-in essence- a white board that you can record.  Teachers utilize ScreenChomp to record their drawings, diagrams, or text on a whiteboard or customizable background with audio explanation and guidance.  You can pause the video, insert photos and PDFs, change the background, erase, and then publish as a link or save to your account to share with students.  Want to be really efficient with your time?  Connect your iPad to a project with AirPlay mirroring through an Apple TV or a VGA adapter so you can record the demonstration or lesson while you are teaching face-to-face.  Then, post the link of the ScreenChomp for students to review.

Check out the developer Tech Smith's website for an overview of features.

Ideas for students:

  • Demonstrate a process with a "think-aloud" like solving a math problem or conjugating a certain type of verb in a language class.
  • Respond to a picture or prompt by annotating and talking about their responses.
  • Crate a video lesson for their classmates on a focused topic or skill like mitosis vs. meiosis or allusions in literature. 

Screen-cast-o-matic is a free web-based tool you can use to screen capture your desktop on a PC or Mac.  Click on the screen recorder button on the website and a dotted-line box appears that you can re-size to create a record window on your screen.  This is my go-to tool to create quick tutorials for technology topics ranging from citing sources in databases to creating a Google Doc.  The free version does limit the recording time, but in general tutorials are under five minutes, so I haven't had a problem there.

Web Page Tour Created with Screen-cast-o-matic

There are numerous screen recording apps available.  A trip over to the Chrome Store in your browser and simple search for "screen recorder" yields many extensions and apps.  

What tools do you find invaluable for you and your students as you make and share new knowledge in your class?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Students and Teachers as Makers: Apps to Present and Share Lessons and Learnings (Part I)

Thinking about "flipping" your classroom? Looking for tools your students can use to demonstrate their learning? I've become a fan of three simple (and free) apps that you and your students can easily use to record and share tutorials, lessons, and demonstrations.

For those of you who miss the face-to-face quality of in-class tutorials and instruction, this website might be just what you are looking for to create and share tutorials or presentations with your students while maintaining that human and personal aspect. allows you to create presentations with slides and video, slides and audio, or just video.  Upload your existing presentations, PDFs, or pictures and then record a video where you explain or teach in a split screen.  Feeling a little camera shy?  It's just as easy to record audio alongside the slides as video.

Check out the fractured fairy tale book talk for my example and's own list of simple tutorials.

The free version allows you to upload content and record video, audio, or video-only.  You cannot download the video and save as a file with the free account, but you can embed the video in a web page or share through social media sites and the direct link.

A few things I learned while making my own

  1. Write your content first if starting from scratch--If you have an existing lesson or PPT, then it should be relatively quick to create your own explanation or to record the lesson you are accustomed to.  If starting from scratch, I definitely recommend writing a script, first.  The better Present.Me videos do have more of an "off-the-cuff" feeling.  I wasn't quite there with my first attempt, so I split my screen and had a script up that I read from while clicking through the slides.  
  2. Practice your timing before you record--I think I took something like 8 recordings before I got to the final version.  Many of the deleted versions were due to clumsy fingers.  When you record video or audio alongside slides, you have to click to advance the slides while you record...takes a couple of practice rounds to get used to, but then it's a synch. 
  3. If you video, use a high(er) quality camera--I went with the built-in camera on my iMac, but will try using my webcam next time.  I wasn't too happy with how pixelated the video came out, and there was a slight delay in motion with the audio.  But, that's a nit-picky thing.

Ideas for students:

  • "Me-Presentation"--this platform lends itself well to a little bio about yourself or even an alternative to the paper resume.  
  • Explanatory/ Process--Students could create a presentation aimed at explaining a process or concept that utilizes examples or diagrams. 
  • Digital Storytelling--What if students narrated their own stories alongside a visual storytelling technique?  We've been using MovieMaker, iMovie, and Animoto for digital storytelling, but those tools eliminate a lot of the power of students' own voices when telling the story.  Why not allow them to tell the story alongside the story for a dynamic narrative experience?
*Anytime students record themselves and publish to the web it's important to be mindful of privacy laws and policies for your district.  In general, never post a video of a student to the web without written parent consent, and do not include any identifying information such as name and location.  A safe alternative could be to have students email you links to the video or publishing to a closed group like in Edmodo or a similar online classroom platform that is protected.  

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Fractured Fairy Tales--Cyborgs and Zombies and Witches! Oh, my!

Prime time television is ripe this Fall with fairy tale spin-offs. ABC's Once Upon a Time is a mash-up of some of your favorite heroes, heroines, and villains! This features popular Young Adult novels with a fairy tale twist in conjunction with our English I classes experimenting with their own fractured fairy tales.  

Looking for more fantastic ideas for your teen readers?  Visit 
Media Mania—Magic and Mayhem: Mesmerizing Fairy Tale Retellings for Teens at for Joy Fleishhacker's list of top pics. 

What's your favorite fractured fairy tale?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Reel Reading For Real Readers--Ask the Passengers

Today's Reel Reading for Real Readers highlights Ask the Passengers by A.S. King.    The titles that appear at the bottom of this glog  all touch upon LGBT themes and issues--but here's my challenge for you:  don't keep these books on reserve for "those teens" who might be experiencing issues and conflicts of their own.  I feel like sometimes we reserve LGBT booklists as bibliotherapy for gay teens. I'm a full believer in books as instruments of healing, but I'm also a big believer in the power of books to introducing teens to choices, lifestyles, and experiences that they may never have themselves, but when learning how to be empathetic, they would benefit from reading about.  What I particularly love about these books is that they include a complex cast of characters, representing diversity fully and with intriguing situations and conflicts.

Monday, September 9, 2013

If this girl had a wishbone...what would she hope for?

It's Monday!  What are you reading?  


A face, masked in cobalt feathers, has been haunting my reading life for a couple of years now.  I think the first time I encountered it, I was browsing the teen section at the local book store, my soy chai latte in hand.  I picked it up that day, ran my fingers over the images of the feathers thinking that I might feel their soft, glossy texture.  I remember a tangible chill that ran up the length of my fingers and the length of my arm.  Then, I put it down.

Since that day, the enigmatic mask and daring gaze caught me now and then as I straightened shelves, pulled books out of the return bin, and even placed it in to the hands of one of my avid fantasy readers.

“Have you ever asked yourself,do monsters make war, or does war make monsters? I've seen things, angel. There are guerrilla armies that make little boys kill their own families. Such acts rip out the soul and make space for beasts to grow inside. Armies need beasts, don't they? Pet beasts, to do their terrible work! And the worst part is, it's almost impossible to retrieve a soul that has been ripped away. Almost."

Daughter of Smoke and Bone and its sequel, Days of Blood and Starlight completely captured my reading imagination, leaving my heart hurting for the present political and humanitarian situation in Syria, and compelling me to get my hands on my own wishbone.

This YA fantasy series by National Book Award author Laini Taylor is Romeo and Juliet, Aida, and Paradise Lost--but it also reads, to me, as a marvelous commentary on contemporary tensions and turmoils filling the CNN and MSNBC newsfeed this past week.

I do not pretend to understand, nor have I really sought understanding in regards to the present situation in Syria.  It honestly hurts my heart to do so.  When I find my mind grappling with the myriad of political commentary, ethical analysis, and presidential criticism, my son's face surfaces in my mind, and I freeze at the thought of the world that he is inheriting.

Karou, the heroine of Daughter of Smoke  and bone finds herself in the middle of an ancient battle between good and evil--but, of course, who the real demons are is in the eye of the beholder.

Here's the thing that I love most about extraordinary Young Adult works--they allow teens to explore, experience, and process situations and questions in a safe context.  Many teens will gravitate this series for the unmistakable star-crossed lovers and first love; but, many--I believe--will find that this little work of fantasy has a lot to contribute to in the way they choose to respond to their generation's greatest conflict:  hate.

“You have only to begin, Lir. Mercy breeds mercy as slaughter breeds slaughter. We can’t expect the world to be better than we make it.” 

I could go on and on about what this series means to me, but I don't want to spoil it.  Instead, here's a list of the top ten reasons to put this book in the hands of your teen readers:

10)  It has the sense of humor to make fun of its own fairy tale origins.
9)  The cast is complete with Karou's own "band of merry men" and the duo leave you rolling on the floor!
8)  Angels are hot, but demons can be hotter.
7)  The two lovers have an extraordinary balance of masculine and feminine traits, challenging traditional gender roles.
6)  Prague is ah-mazing and a beautiful backdrop for book one--right out of a fairy tale.
5)  The non-linear storytelling adds sophistication and nuance to the genre (but may be a little sticky for readers new to Fantasy or inexperienced with navigating plot devices like flashback and third-person omniscient).
4)  That Laini, she can put together a sentence!  Ex., "“Mercy, she had discovered, made mad alchemy: a drop of it could dilute a lake of hate.” 
3)  It's a safe place to grapple with very scary issues like war, vengeance, genocide, terrorism, and century-old-hatred.
2)  Love is depicted as raw, complicated, sacrificial, and beautiful.
1)  One word--HOPE.

OH, and what would I use my wishbone on?  An ARC of book three, Dreams of Gods and Monsters, because I cannot wait to experience the fate of Akiva, Karou, the Chimera, Angels, Eretz, and Earth!  (or maybe for blue hair, because let's face it...that's cool.)

Monday, August 19, 2013

It's Monday! What are you reading?--Special Edition--Summer Reading Report 8/19/13

It's back to work tomorrow, and as I reflect on this past summer's reading (while listening to City of Ashes on my newly renovated patio, a pleasant, steady breeze wafting under the cedar pergola) I feel like I'm saying goodbye to my summer camp friends.

I remember  back in June when I loaded up my bags with books that I had been promising myself (and my students) I would finally spend some time with while school was out.  I'm so excited to recommend these books to students this year and to chat about my reactions with my regulars who have been hounding me to try them.

Books I read:

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta.  5 stars.  Lovely, lovely, lovely.  This one took some investment and a lot of faith for the first 100 pages.  Despite the non-linear plot with dual narrators, I felt a tiny ember take root in my heart after the first few pages for the main character, Taylor, and her entourage in the Australian bush.  It's mysterious, heart-breaking, and ultimately--healing.  When recommending to students, be sure to touch base with them frequently in the beginning and support their "wanderings" and wonderings early on.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  4 stars.  Crazy. Creepy.  Sinister.  This was my indulgence in an adult best-seller with a soon to be released feature film (Ben Affleck and Neil Patrick Harris--perfect casting. I found myself picking up my jaw more than once during this one.  Although I did purchase it for my library, I'm thinking that it might find a comfy spot in my office for special recommendations to mature and older teen readers due to several graphic and sometimes violent sexual scenes and situations.

Legend by Marie Lu.  3 stars.  I've heard this series likened to Hunger Games on several occasions.  There were many things I enjoyed about Legend.  As a dystopian title for teens, it delivers on pacing, character, plot, and romance.  With a male and female narrator, it has wide appeal for teens and a nice gender-neutral cover.

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare.  3.5 stars.  Also a feature film due out in theaters this week, C of B was a demon-killer book I could get behind.  I enjoyed the mix of supernatural creatures (vampires, werewolves, warlocks, demons, and a race of humans descended from Angels).  I had to joke with a friend who had read them before after the first 50 pages that I had the story line for the next 3 books down.  Predictable?  Yes.  Even the twist of fate between the star-crossed lovers can be deciphered early on in the first installment.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth.  4.5 stars.  I finished this title yesterday during my last day of vacation in Galveston with my family.  I can say that it is perhaps the most honest book I've read in a while.  I've wanted to recommend this book with its odyssey of a young girl whose parents are killed in a car accident the day after she kisses a girl for the first time in rural Montana, but I don't want to sell it as just another LGBT title like I sometimes can when recommending dystopia or fantasy.  Cameron Post is so much more.  It's a moral tale on empathy, identity, and friendship.

Book I'm reading (listening to ):

Books to read (before the kids actually start in 9 days!)

Who did you meet this summer in your books?  Which characters will stay with you, leaving that lasting and warm impression like the first friend you found at summer camp?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Covey and Community: Being mindful of all areas of our lives as learners and educators

I've been (shamefully) silent in the blogosphere and Twitter landscape since May.  I wish I had a clever, original rationale for my sudden silence.  I don't.  So, I'm not going to even pretend.

What have you been doing all this time, Audrey?  Well...let's try one of these on for size:

I've been _________(fill in the blank with your favorite).

"On sabbatical"
"Renewing my energies"
"Investing in 'me'"
"Cultivating my inner goddess"
"re-inventing myself"
"re-directing the inner-eye"
"drinking pina coladas on a pristine Caribbean beach"

Eh,  that's not quite it.  Instead, let's borrow a turn of phrase from Stephen Covey that might shed some light on my life in the cyber shadows these last few months.

Sharpening the saw.

Just remember that every day provides a new opportunity for renewal--a new opportunity to recharge yourself instead of hitting the wall. All it takes is the desire, knowledge, and skill. ~Stephen Covey

It's all about maintaining balance.  My unexpected and thrilling foray back into graduate school to complete the school library certification program left me somewhat imbalanced (i.e., tired, exhausted, stretched-thin, mentally full...and a little paunchy around the middle from too many late-night chocolate binges to fuel the demands of an online student).  I've neglected many other areas of my life while my learning self was in full force and often in over-drive.  My physical, emotional, and social selves were put on the back burner.  But, self-preservation seemed to kick in the moment that summer school ended--yes, I did that, too--and I focused on how to "sharpen my saw" so that I could continue to grow and change.

Physical.  Sleep.  I slept this summer.  It's so simple, but when my two-year-old napped, I napped!  And, it worked.  I started over for the *cough* fourth time on my couch to 5k app.  I got out and walked/ran with my son in tow, enjoying those few precious moments early in the morning when you can not only bare but enjoy being outside in Texas during the summer.  We explored; we sweated; we got tan at the pool; we watched the deep blue expanse of sky turn shades of gray, white, and green while afternoon storms rolled through.  I dusted off my yoga mat and enjoyed quiet, peaceful practices in my living room on Sunday mornings.  Activity-induced endorphines coursed through my blood stream...and it worked!  I returned to a vegetarian profile and saw my complexion clear and my mid-section become less like a pudgy hill and more like a gently rolling plain.

Wow..come to think of it.  While I did "nothing."  I did everything for my physical well-being.

Social/Emotional.  I made sure to carve out time and space to just be with friends.  Whether trekking to the zoo with our toddlers or splashing at the pool, I enjoyed having no expectations for our friendship other to enjoy.  One of my favorite things to do is to host parties, and this summer I hosted a family-friendly baby shower for a dear and lovely friend and her husband.  Having our friends together in one place to celebrate this next phase of their lives reinforced for me how much I value the women in my life and their families. They are my family in every sense of the word.

Without the relationships in my life that sustain me, why would I do what I do?  Who would I share the experiences they bring with?  Who would be the witness to my life?

Mental.  I was in graduate school...nuff said. But, in addition to being a learner, I also had the pleasure of being a teacher to 20 teenagers during our summer intervention program.  It's been three years now since I've had my own classroom.  The sheer joy of watching these students discover themselves as writers was enough to energize me for the next year.  I was reminded of many things one of which was the importance and value of talking to students about their writing.  Simple. Sweet. I also allowed myself the time to catch up on my TBR stack--I'll be showcasing my favorite reads from the summer pile in a couple of days on IMWAYR!

By cultivating the parts of my academic self that I was passionate about (reading young adult literature, teaching writing, writing for pleasure), I remembered the importance of time, choice, and authenticity for all learners.

Spiritual. This summer I took time to heal some fresh (and old) physical and spiritual wounds.  Watching my son during his first trip to Colorado, taking our first (turbulent) horseback ride, breathing in the thin, sage-scented mountain air, and reflecting on the past year free of the distractions and demands that often come across my desk and inbox, allowed me to greet myself.  In the quieter moments on that trip, I wrapped my arms around her congratulating her on a job well done, forgiving her for those things that could have been done better, and letting her grieve for those things that she had lost.  Physically removing myself from familiar surroundings allowed me to spiritually forgive myself and others who I felt disappointed or rejected me, allowing for the room to renew those bonds.

Here's my challenge to myself (and you should you choose to accept).  Find moments to sharpen the saw everyday.  You may not have the opportunity to attend to all four areas of your life, but make it a goal to attend to at least one each day.

Take it a step further--be mindful of when and why your students begin to check-out.  For both teachers and students this often happens around the holidays and into the Winter months.  When building your communities this first part of the year build in practices that are mindful of the areas of our lives and students' lives to counter the burn-out before it begins.

How do you tend to these areas of your life?  What routines and practices are part of your communities that allow students to attend to these areas in their own lives?

Photo credit: <a href="">papalars</a> / <a href="">Foter</a> / <a href="">CC BY-ND</a>