Lunch and Learn #1: Getting Creative with Images and Working in Word

Thanks to everyone at both schools who stopped by for our first Lunch and Learn of 2012-2013.

We discussed some free online sites that let you have fun and express some creativity with everyday images you take before finishing up with some tips on using them in Microsoft Word.

Photofunia: This site lets you upload any photo and feature it in all kinds of scenes and backgrounds. Here I made myself look like I was being spray painted on an outdoor wall. Photofunia keeps adding more and more scenes. Be aware that some have gotten increasingly violent so it might not be somewhere to send younger students. There is nothing gory or offensive, just the presence of some weaponry. It is addictive though.

Photofunia.com

Pixlr.com: Here is another easy to use site for adding a little flair to your images. There are three levels from which to choose on the home page. The middle choice “Pixlr Express” is the quick and easy choice for adding borders and stickers to your images. It also lets you make photo collages in literally seconds. Here is one I did in less than a minute.

Pixlr Express image

We wrapped up the lunch hour by doing a little work in Microsoft Word’s “Publishing Layout”. It is under the VIEW menu in Word. The big advantage we discussed for this layout method is the ability to organize and control a newsletter all through floating text boxes and inserted images. Also under VIEW is control over your toolbox. When you click on your “Object Palette” you have direct access to your iPhoto library. When out saving images for clipart, why not use Safari? It has one major advantage over Firefox and Chrome. With a CTRL-Click or right-click (for you two button mouse users) you can send those images directly to iPhoto and have them one click away in Word. Below is an example of how that looks.

Organize clipart in iPhoto and it is just a click away in Word

The next Lunch and Learn is set for October 17 and 18. The topic will focus on how to manage your iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches through iTunes. See you there.

Tip #3 Using the readability feature in Microsoft Word for Mac

Thanks to Ellen Berens for sharing this tip with the Blue Star staff today.

Microsoft Word will gauge the reading level of any document. It is one of those features that isn’t turned on by default but easily added to the Spelling and Grammar tools.

This feature is especially useful when insuring that your students of varying reading ability are able to understand the selections you give them to read. It is also important to insure that the materials you are sending home aren’t written at too high of a reading level. This isn’t to assume our students’ parents don’t read well. This just helps you keep your newsletter from being too wordy…and nerdy.

Here are Ellen’s instructions. I also created a screencast showing visually how to use the feature.

1. Open a word document, scan some text, etc.

2. Click on “Word” at the top of your screen.

3. Click “preferences.”

4. Click “spelling and grammar.”

5. Check the box next to “readability statistics.”

6. When you want to check the reading level, run spelling
and grammar check. Once you are done, your reading level
will be displayed.

For the YouTube video below be sure to watch full screen so you can see the menus clearly enough.

The Anatomy of a Collaborative Endeavor

Today Melinda Bronkhorst, Brian Lancaster (both 4th grade teachers at Bentheim Elementary) and I laid out three collaborative projects in under a half an hour. Here is how it all came together so quickly.

Melinda initiated the planning session by signing up for some collaboration time. She basically just wanted some ideas on how she could engage her students a little more deeply with technology. We came up with an idea where students would connect the iPhoto use skills I had planned for Infotech with their beginning studies of the United States regions. The plan is to have me bring down the mobile lab on Thursdays and ask students to begin exploring the tourist sites of states in their assigned region. They will find pictures that show examples of physical characteristics, save those to iPhoto, add bibliographical information to each photo, and organize them into albums. We will continue the work each Friday when the students visit me for Infotech. The three week project will culminate in some type of production where students share their photos to show the uniqueness of their regions.

I love planning like this. I am able to share my technology knowledge and the classroom teachers share their content and curriculum knowledge. Jointly we can put together an endeavor that is solid in all aspects of learning.

We weren’t quite done though. We started to then think about what the next step might be and what other grade level objectives we might be able to address. I shared that sixteen years ago I used to have my fourth graders practice business letters by writing the game and fish office of different states. Every student was tickled to get a packet of information in the mail that featured all kinds of posters, pamphlets, brochures, and stickers. We decided we would resurrect the project and work together to do some business letter writing with Google Docs. Students will find the natural resources office for one of the states in their region and ask for some information on the wildlife that call it home.

That second project led to a third one that involved meeting briefly with Brian. Every year he does animal reports with fourth graders in Science. In the past we have worked together to give students links to research sites, and published them with the computers. This year we are going to try to connect the animal investigations all of the way back to the original regions investigation. The animal that will be the subject of the science report will one that students learned about through material solicited from the business letters. This is designed to build a little extra connection between the student and the subject they will research.

All of this planning and brainstorming took about 25 minutes. In that time we were able to tie together Social Studies, Writing, and Science…all of which were infused with educational technology. These are just examples of the types of projects we can do together. We took Melinda’s general initial idea and quickly generated three very specific projects designed to engage learners in new and different ways.

Tip #2 Saving a document as a .PDF on a Mac

There are a number of advantages to saving a document from Word or Pages as a .PDF, especially when you want to share it or keep it on a mobile device. You don’t have to depend on your recipient having the same application or version of the application to read it. Graphics stay where you want them and most mobile devices handle .PDF files quite easily.

If you have ever gone to your FILE menu and looked for an option to save a document as a .PDF you have come up empty. It is somewhat counter-intuitive to click the PRINT button but that is what you have to do.

1) Click PRINT under FILE or do a Command-P. I still mentally think of it as Apple-P.
2) Look at the bottom left corner of the window for the PDF button. Click it.
3) Click on “Save as PDF”.

There are also a number of shortcuts that you can use from this menu as well. You can mail your .PDF. This is great for sending your newsletter to your principal or emailing a document to parents. You can also send .PDFs to iTunes. Huh? It might not make sense on the surface but iTunes will organize your .PDFs under Books. When you sync your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch you can then have all of those documents handy in the iBooks app. I keep different schedules and lists of meeting dates handy with this feature. It is also really great for taking things like A to Z Reading books in .PDF form (used legally with a subscription) and putting them on an iPad or iPads for students to use.

Here is a screenshot of the .PDF menu that you can access from a PRINT screen.

Tip #1: Compressing Files with a Mac

Consulting time is open to all staff who wish to learn something new. Yesterday, Blue Star Principal Teisha Kothe and I completed the first one-on-one learning session. We talked about bookmarks in Firefox, Google Calendar, and especially about how to compress a number of files into a .Zip file. By compressing a file, you greatly reduce the size of the item or items and it makes it easier to email.

Here is a screencast of the basic steps with a Mac.

And so it begins…

This year at Hamilton Community Schools we are re-inventing professional development one educator at a time.

Wendy Baker who covers Sandyview Elementary and Hamilton Elementary and I are expanding our roles as elementary Infotech teachers. This year in addition to teaching 40 minutes of combined media and technology instruction to students in grades Young Fives through Fifth we will be providing elementary staff a number of professional growth opportunities.

Instead of sticking with the old model of professional development coming in the form of a one day workshop where the great new idea has little follow-up we are choosing to truly differentiate and do PD on an individual needs based level. No matter where anyone might be on the road of technology integration we will help them grow in ways to improve their teaching and engage learners.

The following are the goals of our program:

•To provide elementary teachers with relevant, usable, needs-based professional development in the areas of educational technology and its successful integration into the curriculum
•To create team-teaching opportunities for consultants and classroom teachers to integrate technology together into the core curriculum
•To develop collaborative projects based on a combination of technology skills taught in Infotech and the content being taught simultaneously in the regular classroom
•To create a repository of online self-help reference materials for teachers to utilize. Most likely a blog or Weebly site that houses help guides but also highlights the successes we are having through teacher reflection pieces and examples of student work accomplished through this process
•To champion and highlight professional development the way it should be . . . a bottom-up approach that is individualized, not a top-down shotgun approach that is presented one day and then never addressed again

This blog will share my experiences working with staff members at Blue Star Elementary and Bentheim Elementary this year. It will feature many of the lessons we learn, tips and tricks, as well as reflections from real educators sharing their experiences with this PD model.

I hope you will join us on this journey by reading and leaving your own comments.