Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Don't Lose Your Dongle!

My crafty, art teacher background comes in handy quite often. This time, it's helped me to come up with a way to keep my bluetooth dongles from being lost and/or forgotten after being plugged into a student chromebook! 

My littleBits code kits have a bluetooth dongle that needs to be plugged into the students' machines in order to function correctly. Well, despite numerous reminders and attempts at attention-getting signage, students would still leave the room with the dongle still plugged in. Other devices utilizing "dongle" technology include wireless mice, the keyboard for the Kano computer kit, and pretty much anything else that works wirelessly and needs an adapter to connect. 

By the way, I could totally call this a bluetooth adapter, but the word "dongle" is wayyyy more fun. And I teach middle school, so that's where my humor is at. Dongle it is then! 

So... I had some extra yarn lying around from the time I tried to crochet some Dot and Dash hats, so I decided to repurpose the leftovers into chunky tassels that I could attach to each individual dongle. I'm (pretty) sure no one will walk out of the room with a giant purple and gray yarn tassel attached to their chromebook... fingers crossed! 

Making a yarn tassel is fairly simple. I used a tutorial graphic found on Pinterest, much like this one below, to guide me:

via craftberry bush blog

Now, depending on the shape and size of your dongles, you may or may not be able to attach your tassel to it by simply tying. Mine are fairly small, so I utilized a combination of tying and hot glue to create a strong attachment between the two: 

It's basically a blob of hot glue over the yarn knot and around the plastic. You know, super fancy. Just be careful to leave the metal USB plug part intact with enough room so that it still plugs in completely.

Ta da! It's now infinitely more difficult to lose these babies! If you're feeling extra, try customizing your tassels to your school colors or create a color-coding system for your devices. Enjoy!

- Mrs L.

Monday, March 12, 2018

DIY Emoji Magnets for Your Classroom

Not only do I have a magnetic white board in my classroom, I have a long metal electric supply channel that runs around the perimeter of my classroom (from back when this room was a traditional desktop computer lab setup) that is perfect for using magnets on. Therefore, I love all things magnetic: tiny organizer jars, wire baskets, erasers, clips, hooks, and decorative magnets for the sake of decorative magnets.

I guess this DIY falls into the latter. Middle school kids are motivated by all things quirky and trendy, so it helps to be on top of these things as much as possible. I can't keep up with it all, but I know that emojis are a "thing" right now. I thought it would be fun to print out full-page versions of some emojis to use in the classroom.

First, I did a regular old Google Image search for emojis. Then I printed the image files out as large as possible on a page.

Emojis are easy to search via Google Images, or you can borrow from my folder of emojis here!

After printing them out, I thought, "hmm I should laminate these so they last longer."

After laminating and cutting them out, I thought "hmm I should make these into MAGNETS for the whiteboard!"

And so it was.

I went on Amazon and ordered a 10-pack of these adhesive magnet sheets. I stuck my laminated printouts (I was only able to get 1 per sheet, but I had some leftover magnetic sheeting I could use with stickers or smaller images) onto the adhesive, and used regular old scissors to cut them out.

Voila! Giant emoji magnets for your whiteboard.

Fun, right? Think of the possibilities! 

- Mrs L.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

ICE Conference 2018 Recap (Tardy to the Party!)

My blogging has been a little bit slacking as of late... I've been lucky to be pretty busy doing a bunch of other fun things that have kept me away! But, today I am procrastinating about grading stuff (it's seriously my LEAST favorite thing about teaching) so I thought I'd check in and do a little (albeit tardy to the party) recap from my 2018 ICE Conference experience this year!

I was super fortunate to get to attend all three days of the conference this year - woo hoo! It isn't easy to be out of the classroom for that long, but this conference is so packed with awesome ideas and PD opportunities that I genuinely feel like it's worth it. You can check out lots of photos from the event here.

I got to present twice this year at ICE: once as an assistant for a 1/2 day workshop on using Ozobots in the classroom, and once as a solo presenter for one of my all-time fave tech tools, WeVideo!

photo courtesy @MrLeban

Instead of one keynote speaker to kick off each day, a panel discussion was hosted, featuring a group of well-known and influential education leaders. I really liked getting to see so many teachers I look up to, sharing together in one discussion.

Of course, I went to some pretty amazing sessions, too! My favorite one was a presentation by Carrie Baughcum (@heckawesome) and Dana Ladenburger (@dladenburger) on Learning Mascots!

I've long been interested in sketchnoting, which Carrie is a total PRO at. I love how she turned this talent into a motivating social-emotional learning strategy for use in the classroom! I am a constant doodler, and hope to start using my own #LearningMascot in my classroom!

The vendor hall is always a great experience, and on day two I got to bring my husband along. We spent time talking with vendors and checking out new products for the classroom. The big winner for us was the Bloxels booth - they totally got me to buy a starter set at a special show discount price, which we took home and starting playing with alongside my 6-year-old son right away! It's so much fun!

I also enjoyed taking with the people behind the products we currently use here at school: PowerSchool, EverFi, Hapara, littleBits... I'm sure I'm forgetting a bunch. Fingers crossed that some of the conversations we had will be brought back to the developers to make improvements in the future.

And of course I spent a chunk of time on Wednesday in the WeVideo booth, talking with teachers and answering questions about the service. I had fun with Greg, our WeVideo sales rep, challenging visitors to take and post selfies with us in exchange for green screen t-shirts!

But possibly the best thing about education conferences is getting to meet people that you know, sometimes from IRL, and sometimes only from the internet! It's so cool to meet face-to-face and talk with the ever-growing community of professional educators that love to collaborate and share. Thank you to everyone (both old friends and new!) who said hello or stopped by to talk!

- Mrs L.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

GEG Student Film Festival @ Google Chicago

At the end of January, the 2nd Annual GEG (Google Education Group) Student Film Festival awards were held in Chicago, IL at Google Headquarters. It was a great experience! This event honors the film and storytelling efforts of student groups ranging from elementary through high school levels. Each year there is a theme. This year’s theme was In Another’s Shoes.

Winning entries ranged from literal interpretations - What would happen if you put on another person’s shoes and became them? - to illustrating empathy through multiple perspectives, and even documentary-style interviews of individuals who optimistically persevere through circumstances others would find difficult. Topics covered included friendship, bullying, female athletes, and physical and mental disabilities. One elementary group even featured some digital animation!

In addition to screening the winning films, students, teachers, and families were treated to some demonstrations and speakers from a variety of filmmaking areas: improv, sound effects, digital effects, podcasting (via Nate Butkus’ The Show about Science), and even a couple of YouTube entrepreneurs:Mitchell Brown and Scotty Vrablik, creators of Clean Minecraft Videos.

I was given the opportunity to represent WeVideo and talk about some of my favorite features, so of course I chose GREEN SCREEN! In this presentation, I gave a few ideas for how to take the tool and create different effects with it (like supersizing something that would otherwise be very small, or using green screen as a tool to uncover and reveal parts of the screen). I want students to feel free to experiment with the technology and try out ideas, no matter how weird or zany it may seem at first. Well, then again, I’m a big fan of all things weird and zany, so…

via David Chan on Twitter

I had never been to the Google Headquarters in Chicago before, so this was super exciting! I live in the suburbs, so I took the green line and walked the few blocks over to the building. There’s no mistaking you’re in the right place! Once we checked in, we were brought upstairs where the conference room and stage were. Although it was a small stage, there were no less than four screens for the audience to watch on, allowing everyone a fantastic view, as well as a podium and timer for the presenters to stay on track! It sort of gave you the feeling like being on an awards show where if you stayed up there too long, you could get played off the stage! Ha! Each student group had the opportunity to give an acceptance speech after the screening of their short films. It was wonderful to hear the stories behind the work.

Outside the conference room, I loved all the various seating options and little “nooks” where you could hang out and work, or even just enjoy the view… or perhaps take a little power nap? The Google chefs made us all lunch, which was super delicious and had options for all of our varied diets. As a vegetarian, I very much appreciated that!

In the end, I had a wonderful day, and really enjoyed seeing all of the amazing work done by students of all ages and backgrounds. I love that there are services like WeVideo out there to help students tell their stories and make the otherwise impossible, possible!

Note: This blog post was first published on the WeVideo blog at:

- Mrs L.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Tech Smash: Creating and Using Gifs in Your Lessons


So, I use a lot of video in my classroom. One of the technology units I teach is video production using WeVideo and filmmaking/storytelling techniques, but I also do a lot of informational screencasts to demonstrate assignment directions or how-tos when it comes to technology. (You can check out my YouTube channel here for more.)

Embedding a YouTube video or Google Drive video in Slides is great, but it’s a feature in Google Docs - not yet, at least. Because I rely on video so much, it’s kind of frustrating to link stuff and have a new window/tab open. Many middle school kids don’t like to exert the energy to click on a link and dig for information (ha ha - true story!). They want it RIGHT THERE in front of them. One way to do this is through inserting gifs - short animated looping images. Once you create a gif, they're easy to insert into your doc - same as inserting any other image!

I started out making gifs via free web services like Recordit, which allows you to select a portion of your screen and screencast it. You can then output your screencast as a gif. It’s a great way for beginners to do simple demos, like where to find functions in a menu and perform simple steps in an assignment that require the visual only.

But what if you want to add titles or captions to your gif? What if you have a video file (or portion of a video file) that you want to turn into a gif to insert in your assignment? Here are some options:

Screencast + captions/titles + Ezgif

You can take a screencast (this can be done directly in WeVideo, or via any other fave screencasting app) and upload it to WeVideo, or another favorite video editing tool to add your titles, captions, or annotations as needed. Export your video file. Now, upload it to Ezgif to turn that video into a gif!

Video file + Ezgif (video to gif function; then “frames”)

When you upload your video file to Ezgif, you have the option of splitting the video into individual FRAMES. This is amazing, because you can edit your gif to clip the beginning/end as needed to include just the essential parts. You can also adjust the frame rate to speed up/slow down as needed.

Gif maker in Ezgif!

Whaaat?! An easy gif and animation creator! Upload photos or graphics as individual frames and turn it into a gif. I can’t wait to try this out with my students.

I love that I can “smash” together different apps and software to create quick visualizations to help illustrate concepts for students! Bonus: the looping aspect of a gif ensures that students don’t miss the action; it gets repeated and re-enforced in case they miss the step the first time around.

I used WeVideo’s green screen effects to create short demo videos, and then turned the videos into gifs for my presentation at the GEG Chicago Student Film Festival last week:

P.S. Speaking of tech SMASHing, are you following the Ed Tech Hulk on Twitter? He cracks me up!

- Mrs L.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Art +Technology: A Picture Person Project

In another life I was an art teacher. For 13 years, in fact! I've never lost my love for art, so when my son started kindergarten and the PTA was looking for a parent to act as the "Art Mom" (called "Picture Person" in my son's district), I jumped at the chance.

The program in my son's district is through the Picturing America program, which, I gotta tell ya, made me a little disappointed at first. I wanted full freedom to choose my own artists and activities! But it really makes sense - by using this program, we ensure that grade levels and volunteers don't overlap or repeat.

For one of my visits, I chose the painting George Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze. I adapted one of my favorite former 6th grade art projects to fit the kindergarten level. I took photos of the students wearing a cape, tri-corner hat, and holding a play sword, and superimposed them into the painting!

If you do some Googley-searching you can find links back to my old art blog, including this entry that talks a little about our Kehinde Wiley project. (Ugh thanks to Photobucket - that's sarcastic, by the way - most of my old blog images are now broken links.) Kehinde Wiley poses his models in classical poses after Baroque-style portraiture. We used this as inspiration when posing for our George Washington photos.

While the photos were being taken, students worked at their tables. They used colored pencil to add patterned backgrounds to a black and white photocopy of the original painting, to mimic the highly ornate backgrounds in a Wiley painting:

image via
At home, I worked to layer the original painting with the student photos we had just taken. I did a presentation at a PTA workshop for the other volunteers that details the whole process below:

This "picture person" project was really fun because it allowed me to combine my love of art and technology into one fun project. I sent color printouts of the final images home, along with a quick note explaining what we did in class. I got a lot of positive feedback from the parents and the students seemed to really enjoy dressing up and being a part of the artwork!

- Mrs L.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Hour of Code 2017 is coming!

Next week (December 4-10) is Computer Science Education Week, otherwise known to many students as that time of the year that we complete the Hour of Code!

I sometimes struggle with ways to motivate and engage students at the middle school level (in general!), so this year I'm trying a special badge/achievement award that I really hope catches on!

To celebrate, all students have the chance to earn a very special locker laurel badge next week by completing the Hour of Code on their own:

​To earn a locker laurel badge, students will need to show evidence of completion of an Hour of Code in a variety of ways:
  • via a certificate from or other coding website 
  • a screenshot/screengrab providing proof of completion 
  • a note from a parent verifying completion of an activity

To sweeten the deal, I have a small stack of special CODE stickers to give to the first 15 students to complete an Hour of Code:

I purchased a whole slew of these online from the store at I may have also grabbed myself some goodies, too, like buttons and a t-shirt! My personal favorite is the "Code Like a Girl" t-shirt. :)

I'd love to have other fun prizes to pass out for the future... what does your school do? Do you have any inexpensive/free-ish ideas that would interest middle schoolers? Let me know!

Here's wishing you a very happy Computer Science Education Week!

- Mrs L.
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