Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A decade of ADE lessons


Yesterday marked exactly 10 years since this photo was taken: a decade of belonging to the Apple Distinguished Educator Community. In some aspects of my life 10 years is but a blink of the eye, but in terms of an educational movement and the passion to make a difference, 10 years is a sustainable force.

And a life-changing force that I don't take for granted.

This month I had the opportunity of attending my 11th ADE Institute-- the 2017 US ADE Academy held in Houston, Texas from July 17-20. During this it was easy to reflect on the lasting lessons I've learned as an ADE through a decade of experiences, a decade of nurtured growth, and most importantly a decade of perspective. These themes include:
  • Relationships matter.
  • To innovate, you need to create.
  • Access for all: all ages, all abilities, all interests
  • There is joy in the learning process-- celebrate it!
  • and, again, relationships matter!
But it is really the shifts in my thinking, the ways that I've changed-- it is these lessons that stick with me even more strongly.

Firstly, global collaboration is one of our most untapped opportunities. This is true in all of education and especially true amongst our ADE Family. I used to think it was an educational 'extra', but I now see more than ever the absolute necessity of it. Why we don't call upon each other more often and in even more meaningful ways is a tragedy. So used to working in silos, as members of the ADE Community we have no excuse! Whether co-presenting at a conference, cooperating on a project across continents, or connecting one classroom with another, collaboration with my ADE community continues to be an area of emphasis in my professional practice.
Secondly, it isn't enough to be good. We must also be brave. Nothing could exemplify this more than Sady Paulson. Meeting her in person after following her for years via Mark Coppin was a lifetime highlight for me. And this wasn't the only embodiment of bravery that I see in my ADE family. It is everywhere, in so many ways. In the courage to think differently, to break the mold, to go beyond the minimum on a daily basis.
Third, design for the margins. "When you design for the margins, things work better for everyone."
Why create, present, educate, for the average when I can have a broader impact by addressing the needs of the outliers? There is no such thing as an 'average learner', so by targeting the far ends of the spectrum I can actually reach more in the process. This is a lasting lesson I have learned that has been reiterated by Apple's commitment to accessibility for all. It also is a guiding principle when working with other ADEs to create transformation concepts, content, and experiences. 
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And finally, as I deal with yet another post-ADE-event let down, I now see conclusions differently. It isn't the end of an Institute, Academy, or even a decade. But rather, each conclusion is a call to action. There is so much unfinished business for me and for all of us as ADEs! And that is what will continue to drive me forward for hopefully many more decades to come.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Hour of Code 2016

There were so many new resources for coding with kids available during the #HourofCode week for 2016 that I just had to share them with you through this blog post! Remember, that coding shouldn't JUST happen during Computer Science Education Week, but rather all year long! Actually, if you visit NOW (following the completion of Hour of Code Week) it is even better, as your progress will be saved in the system. (It wasn't possible during the week of Dec. 5-9 due to the extremely heavy traffic to the site.) So, here are some of the new and applicable activities for schools for coding for this year's Hour of Code week and beyond:

Swift Playgrounds app

Apple recently released a free iPad app from which anyone can learn the Swift programming language. The Swift Playgrounds app will only run on a newer iPad updated to at least iOS 10, but if you are able to access it, you should definitely give it a try! The logic skills and fundamental coding lessons are excellent for any age (although geared more towards grades 5-8, in my opinion). Within the app you will find various challenges in addition to 'Learn to Code 1 and 2' including a special "Hour of Code" challenge, designed to be completed in about an hour. Also, don't forget about the free teacher's guides available, making exposure to coding easy for an educator to implement regardless of personal experience.

If you don't have a new enough iPad to run the Swift Playgrounds app, there are plenty of alternative options. Choose an 'Hour of Code' activity to get started and then go beyond an hour by joining a self-paced course.

Some of the Hour of Code activities that students really enjoyed from the website this year included the following:

Minecraft Hour of Code

Star Wars: Building a Galaxy with Code

Code Your Own Sports Game


See all possible activities (and filter by age level, experience, coding language, etc.) here:

Code with Google

Mickie Mueller and Becky Miller shared a Google Hangout on Air about Hour of Code Google Style.
You can view the recording below.

The following were resources they shared:
Also, check out Mickie's coding LiveBinder:

ESU 8 schools who participated in Hour of Code activities were numerous! I was personally able to visit several classrooms and lead a few activities myself. It was wonderful to see firsthand students' excitement and ability to master the art of block coding in a very short time. The rich dialogue, college and career-ready skills, and deep life lessons that come from these student experiences validate the small amount of time they take in our schools. If we have the opportunity to hook one kid onto something that he or she can continue to pursue independently, we have opened a tremendous doorway for their future!

2016_12 Hour of Code 
2016 Hour of Code photos from ESU 8 ... click to advance images

How to start a classroom YouTube channel

Available as handout on 

How to start a YouTube channel for your classroomOpen ...
Katie Morrow, ESU 8

  • Ability to Share: Access
  • Organization: Playlists
  • Promotion & Spreadability: Subscriptions
  • Storage & Cost: Unlimited, free space!

Examples of Educational YouTube Channels:

Getting Started:
*Each Google account/Gmail address automatically has 1 YouTube channel associated with it. You simply need to activate it to use!
What You Need:
  • Google account with Google+ enabled
  • OR YouTube app

Steps to Complete:
  1. Sign in to your Google account.
  2. Visit
  3. Click on ‘My Channel’ from the main menu.
  4. Accept the terms of service to create channel.
  5. Add Channel art and Channel description (optional).
  6. Choose your Channel Settings including privacy settings and customizing the layout of your channel (add a channel trailer and organize playlists into sections)
  7. Create new playlists around topics of interest by either uploading videos or clicking “Add to” button when viewing videos from others.
  8. Share your playlists and/or your entire channel.

Channel Settings
  • Description (sentence or two describing your channel content, purpose, and intended audience)
  • Channel art (suggestion: Create graphic with dimensions of 2560 x 1440 pixels or use to create YouTube channel art.)
  • Privacy (can be set at the individual video and/or playlist level as well)
  • Customize the layout of your channel
    • Channel trailer (welcome video that will only play when people visit your channel for the first time)
    • Suggest content to subscribers
    • Organize playlists into sections (lots of options for organization here)
    • Advanced settings

  • Can create as many playlists as you want...
  • But only 10 playlists can be displayed as sections on your channel homepage
  • Create playlists by class, chapter, or topic
  • Add videos to playlists directly upon uploading or when viewing from YouTube
  • Add tags for additional keyword searchability

Uploading videos to your channel
  • Upload button from YouTube in a browser
    • Choose Privacy: Public, Unlisted, Private
  • OR use YouTube capture app (signed in to your account) from a mobile device
  • While uploading, you can add description, details, etc.
  • Click ‘Publish’ for it to be searchable/subscribers to get notification

  • Require students and encourage others to Subscribe to your channel by clicking once on the button on your Channel homepage.  
  • If you get over 100 subscribers, you can create a custom URL for your channel.

Additional Information

  • In order to upload videos longer than 15 minutes you must verify your YouTube account (YouTube will send a verification code as a text message or voice mail so that you can verify you are a human YouTuber!)

Honeybees in a Hologram?

Mrs. Rossman's 4th grade students at West Holt Public School have become experts on honey bees! They wanted to share what they learned with others and thought that creating a hologram might be a memorable experience for all.

First the students researched and learned all the amazing facts about the honey bee. They compiled their research into topics and each constructed a short "script" to explain key findings.

I (Mrs. Morrow) visited the group and showed them how to build hologram "projectors" to use to view hologram videos (from YouTube) on their iPads.  Each student built their own and many questions were asked that added to our collective curiosity, such as "What is the biggest hologram we could create?"

On my next visit, I worked with the kids to begin to create their video.  We decided that the best approach would be a live action video (rather than an app-animated video) and knew we needed to film in front of a green screen in order to make our video appear on a solid black background (for the hologram).

Mrs. Rossman and the students collected great props and costumes and the students brought their scripts to life in front of the green screen!

I initially planned to use the DoInk Green Screen app to assemble the clips, but it was actually easier to do the additional editing (and the green screening) all in iMovie on the Mac.  This made adding the voice over even easier as well.

On my last visit with the group, the kids each recorded their scripts narrating the scenes as voice-overs right in iMovie.  In doing so, they could view the source clip in real time and time out their reading somewhat.

We exported from iMovie and had one full size video, which can be viewed on YouTube here:

The final step was to AirDrop this video to each of the students' iPads.  We started a new Keynote file, widescreen format with black background. We inserted the video once and re-sized it to smaller dimensions. Then we copied and pasted, and rotated the video three more times. (90 degrees, 180 degrees, and 270 degrees) Using Keynote's guides we aligned the four videos so that all the "feet" were touching the inside borders, and attempted to make that interior "window" in the shape of a square.  An animation needed to be added to all four videos so that they all played automatically in unison (and not in succession of each other).

Note from Katie: The widescreen format of our video proved challenging to forming that inner square. It was a bit easier to see if we changed the background color of the Keynote slide to something other than black, and then changed it back at the end. I overlapped the videos a bit trying to get the hologram image as large as possible, but still somewhat centered in the projector pyramid. Also, I muted the sound (turned volume to 0) on three of the video clips to avoid the echo-ish sound that is typical of these video projects.  

So, now our hologram video was complete and we published it on YouTube as well.  Now any iPad with any hologram projector anywhere can enjoy the amazing bee knowledge of these fabulous 4th graders!

TOP 5 Easy New Year's Resolutions for Educators

"Out with the old; in with the new" is honestly NOT a phrase that should completely dictate our 2017 planning as educators. Research shows that much of the "old" that we are doing is good for kids, and there is no reason to abandon EVERY educational practice in exchange for the newest trends.

However, the start of a new calendar year, and a new academic semester for most, does encourage thoughtful reflection on the first 18 weeks of school. Along with that, it is an ideal time to infuse a few new practices for increasing the success of your classroom or campus. Here are my Top 5 recommended simple practices to incorporate immediately in 2017.

#5 - Connect your Classroom (Virtual Field trips or Zoom video conferences)

Although Virtual Field Trips are far from "new," the new year is a perfect reminder of their availability, simplicity, and educational power.  Whether free or paid, interactive or not, synchronous or pre-recorded, a VFT can be a great entry point into a new unit of study, a review of key content, exposure to application of concepts in the real world, or even a classroom reward for work well done.  As a reaffirmation to this time-honored practice, check out Matt Miller's (STI 2017 Keynote) latest post featuring 10 great virtual field trips for 2017.

New to ESU 8 educators this school year is the availability of free Zoom Pro licenses (contact Molly to get set up). Whether it be to share your screen for tech support purposes, collaborate with a colleague over distance, or simply launch an interview with an expert, Zoom is one of the easiest, most reliable tools currently available. And Zoom's newest features include some really powerful educational tools, including a green screen feature. To learn more about connecting your classroom globally, visit this recent ESU 8 presentation. Set a professional goal to launch at least one global collaboration experience for your students in the early months of 2017, and don't hesitate to reach out to ESU 8 for support. 

#4 - Coding for Kids (Swift Playgrounds and drone robotics activities)

One unfortunate byproduct of the Hour of Code initiative is that schools restrict coding opportunities for students to that one week in December. Coding should be infused year-round for all ages and this new year is prime time to work in some coding activities in your classroom. 

If you have access to iPads for students I would highly encourage starting with Swift Playgrounds. Apple announced their Everyone Can Code initiative this school year, consisting mainly of the new (and free!) Swift Playgrounds app (for newer iPads) and accompanying free Learn to Code Teacher's Guides and free video lessons on iTunes U.  To be perfectly honest, teachers don't need to know a single thing about coding and still successfully lead the lessons that are laid out in these resources. 

To read more about opportunities for exposing kids to the power of coding, visit this blog post from Hour of Code week 2016 at ESU 8. Also, contact us at ESU 8 to learn more about checking out Sphero SPRKs and/or Parrot mini drones to use for computer science activities in your school. 

#3 - Online discussions (Canvas LMS or blogs)

Promoting more authentic dialogue for students has never been easier! If your classroom already has access to a Learning Management System (such as Canvas) you most certainly should take fuller advantage of the built-in features, one of the most powerful being discussions. While an obvious discussion prompt would be a question that all are expected to answer, there are many options for structuring it to promote additional skill development.  (Delayed response, group moderated discussions, private student-teacher discussions, for example, are all possible with Canvas LMS.) Consider using an online discussion for your next: bell-ringer, scavenger hunt, back channel, daily skills practice, journalling activity, vocabulary practice, anticipatory set, brainstorming session, gallery showcase, or exit ticket.

Using a blog for authentic student dialogue is simple to get started as well. If your school is a Google Apps for Education school already, then every account already has access to their own Blogger space. Start a class blog and add your students as co-authors. Set up a calendar so that each student takes his/her turn as being the "daily blogger" and documenting each day's learning objective and activities. Alternatively, each student could begin the 2017 semester with their own individual blog. On it, they could post their best learning artifacts (portfolio), weekly progress updates, or personal reflections on their learning journey. Regardless, do not neglect to emphasize and model the powerful practice of commenting to make student discussion even deeper. 

Coming Soon from ESU 8: a Wednesday Webinar (and Winter Workshop session) to help you get more from Canvas. 

#2 - Breakout EDU

Coming back to school following a break is a perfect time to run a Breakout EDU in your school or classroom.  The team-building and critical thinking benefits are vast; not to mention the opportunities to infuse current curriculum. If you haven't yet tried a Breakout EDU, I would recommend beginning with one of the featured games on However, don't be afraid to stop there! Everyday there are more and more quality games being added to the published and sandbox games areas of the site. Consider searching for games aligned with your next unit or topic of study. 

Don't have a Breakout EDU kit? Don't hesitate to reach out to us at ESU 8, as we have several kits available for checkout in the Media Center. In addition, multiple members of the professional development team are willing to come out to your classroom and help you administer your first Breakout EDU experience. 

Yet another option is to try one of the newest digital breakout games. These require no physical locks or kits of any kind, as they can be completely solved on any web-enabled device. Beware, however, as there are no answer keys to these deductive puzzles!

#1 - Apple Teacher Program

In my opinion, there is no current, better way for personalized professional growth, than the Apple Teacher Program.  Simply register for the program with your Apple ID, download the free Starter Guides, and take the quizzes at your own time and place. Learning at your own pace is certainly appealing, as is the ability to retake quizzes over and over until you have mastered the content. Even if you already feel competent in your Mac or iPad skills, you are certain to learn new ideas for the classroom application of many built-in tools and apps. Read more about the Apple Teacher Program in this blog post from Edutopia.

If you don't teach in an Apple environment, you might consider Google's similar certification program. While the quizzes do have a fee associated with them in the Google Certified Educator program, you can still access the study materials and learn from them for free.

Whatever path you choose, be sure to celebrate your accomplishments through the ESU 8 Certification Challenge. Submit your certification(s) achieved and enter your name in a drawing for a free technology integration day led by the ESU 8 Team.

So, there you have it... my Top 5 picks for educators to amplify their teaching in 2017.  Choose one right now and commit to it as your professional New Year's resolution. Better yet, select more than one and work on progress towards those goals little by little. I guarantee you'll add new life to your classroom environment, and even without ditching ALL your past practices.  As always, remember your ESU 8 partners are ready to work alongside you to help you achieve these goals and more.

Happy 2017 to all educators, near and far!

~Katie Morrow, ESU 8

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Capture Your Journey: Digital Storytelling for Schools


(from STI 2016)

Everyone Can Code!

Everyone Can Code!
an ESU 8 Wednesday Webinar from Katie Morrow

Everyone Can Code is an initiative recently launched by Apple to make coding with the Swift programming language even more accessible to all. Learn about Swift Playgrounds, a free app designed for middle schoolers on up, accompanying Teacher’s Guide, and related resources to give even novices more opportunities to reach students interested in coding. 

View the webinar here

and check out the Links and Resources below:

Everyone Can Code (and Swift Playgrounds)
Wednesday Webinar 10-5-16

Swift Playgrounds app
*Requires iOS 10.0 or later
Designed for Middle School Students

Swift Playgrounds Teacher Guide

App Development with Swift
Designed for High School or College Students

App Development with Swift Teacher Guide

Additional Resources

Coding STEM kits available for check out through the ESU 8 Media Center

Tickle app (free, but requires newer iPad)

Ozobot for pre-coders

Coding for Kids blog post by Katie Morrow from last year