Friday, July 20, 2018

EPIC SUMMER BREAK #LAX18 GOOGLE INNOVATOR ACADEMY!

professional photos by Andrew Weeks Photography

So, we got out of school right before Memorial Day, and I found out shortly after that I was accepted into the Google Innovator program for the #LAX18 cohort! My summer plans instantly became 100000x more exciting.

So from July 9-11, I flew into California and got to hang with 37 of my new best friends and seven coaches for some intense training at the Google Venice Beach offices. It was overwhelming and wonderful all at the same time!

My innovator colleague Manuel Herrera @manuelherrera33 drew super cute cartoons of all of us! 

Day one started with a tour of the YouTube Creator Space LA, and then headed over to Google LA for team-building and design thinking intros. We ended the day with a relaxed dinner and got ready for day two, which ran from 8 am to 8 pm!


Day two was an intense day of spark challenges, design thinking, brainstorming, prototyping, testing, and obtaining feedback from our fellow innovators and coaches. We were taught to think big, to start small, and to fail fast! It was incredibly energizing and overwhelming to be around so many like-minded educators and I want to take them all home with me so we can start our own school! :)

deep thoughts at #LAX18
my overflowing vision board for my Innovator Project brainstorming sessions

Day three also started bright and early, was filled with more Sparks and design thinking, and ended with an awesome live-streamed graduation event! I was so excited that my husband, son, mom, and mother-in-law were all able to watch me in California from back home here in the Chicago suburbs. I was a big crybaby because I was so happy and overcome with emotion that the whole experience was ending.

my crew, Team Nacho Mama, and a sappy graduation pic


I am so grateful and amazed that this whole experience happened to me! It pretty much still feels like a dream. I have a lot of work ahead of me in the next year for my innovator project, which will be all about giving teachers a chance to try new things and to re-energize their teaching, which is something I'm really passionate about.


I know my blog post here hasn't done the whole experience justice. Several of my colleagues have also done reflections on #LAX18 that you should also really check out:


I'm so happy and proud of myself for taking a chance and applying to be a Google Certified Innovator. An extra special thank you shout-out goes to Ben Hartman, my colleague at Churchville Middle School and fellow Google Innovator for helping me with the entire application process! I couldn't have done it without you!

- Mrs L.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

My First ISTE Experience


So, I'm almost a week out from my very first ISTE experience. For anyone who's never been, ISTE is the International Society for Technology in Education, and their yearly conference is a super big deal in terms of size and scale. It's basically the national version of your teaching association group, but for anyone who uses tech. 

Then multiplied by 100. 

In Illinois, we have a state group, called Illinois Computing Educators, with regional chapters and such. Their state conference is big and all (it's the one I usually go to) but I was grossly unprepared for what to expect at ISTE. 

This year, ISTE was local to me, being held in Chicago at McCormick Place... the place that the auto show and Comic-Con is held, if that helps. Oh, and it's expensive, like too much for a person to pay out of their own pocket. So you have to be lucky and have your company or school district send you there. Thankfully, because of my history with WeVideo and willingness to present on their behalf and work in the exhibitor booth, they offered to send both myself and my husband, who teaches art in Oak Park. We worked in the exhibitor booth for 2 of the 3 days, and just that experience alone was insane and fun and basically a giant overload to the senses!

I know it's mostly because it was my first time, so I was unprepared as to what to expect. I'll do better next round. 

Mr Leban and I doing what we do best. Being weird. 

For starters, it felt like we were non-stop hit by people at the booth! Some with questions, some who wanted to try out awesome green screen activities using WeVideo, and LOTS of friends: both my coworkers AND my virtual friends who I was finally able to meet up with in real life and say hello! 

from upper left, clockwise: Suzee Reinheimer (my D205 coworker) and Todd Burleson (author/librarian/twitter buddy), Ben Hartman (another D205 coworker), Kaitlin Fajks (my grad school colleague), and Abby Almerido (one of my new #LAX18 cohort pals!)

I was able to hit up a few sessions, including one on creativity by Todd Burleson, who was kind enough to include me in his Green Screen Makerspace Project book last year, and one on the Google Dynamic Learning Project, which I am super interested in learning everything about! 

Not only did I meet friends at the WeVideo booth, I also had the chance to present at the Google for Education booth on WeVideo. (WeVideo is a Google for Education partner and so we had a space to present - it was super fun!)


I haven't actually shared the awesome news here on the blog, although I've been tweeting all over - I was accepted to the Google Certified Innovator program this summer! I'm going to LA in a little over a week to work on my project, and I am so so psyched about it. I have a really amazing and friendly group of teachers in my cohort with me, and a bunch of us were able to meet up IRL at ISTE! Don't worry, I'm sure to have a blog post all about it after I get back. :)

(Note to self #1: Always take selfies with everyone you meet at ISTE. I forgot this like 90% of my time here.)

We were invited to the special WeVideo/Soundtrap social at Underground on Monday night, which was super fun, and I met up with even MORE friends. Seriously, this ISTE thing is the best place ever to connect with your PLN! :)

Our WeVideo crew! Back row L-R: John, Todd, Me, Jaime, and Krishna. Front row L-R: Emily and Allison

On day three, Todd and I had the time all to ourselves, so besides hitting up a session AND meeting another friend for coffee, we made a valiant attempt to make it through the vendor hall... and I'd say we did a pretty good job of it? 

I was ridiculously excited to find the Osmo booth (I don't use it in middle school, but Iggy has a setup at home and we keep buying more stuff for it because IT IS AMAZING) and I got to meet Awbie of the Osmo Instagram account, who I'm kind of obsessed with. He's just the cutest. 


I also got to talk with exhibitors at some of my other favorite (and new favorite!) vendors, and learn a bunch of new and exciting tricks and preview a bunch of upcoming fun things: Makey Makey, littleBits, iPevo, Swivl, Flipgrid, Creaza, Strawbees... oh geez and I'm probably forgetting a whole mess of others... I told you this ISTE thing was overwhelming! :)

Did you go to ISTE? What was your favorite part? 

- Mrs L.

Friday, May 18, 2018

I'm A Failure, And That's OK!


I’m writing today’s blog post to tell you all about how I’m a failure. I’m going to my first ISTE Conference this summer. Because I’m a WeVideo ambassador, I typically present a session on their behalf in exchange for admission to the event. Well, this time around, the deadline for sessions had already passed, so I was asked to submit proposals for the “New Ideas” sessions at ISTE.

Well, yesterday I found out that BOTH proposals were declined. Heck if I know why, but it happened. It is what it is. I still get to go to ISTE, and I’ll be running some fun demos at the WeVideo booth (so stop by and say hello!), so it’s not really a loss on my part except for a little blow to the ego.


I really feel like it’s important to talk about our failures as well as our successes, for a variety of reasons:

Failing teaches us about what DOESN’T work. 
In the great wise words of Jake the Dog, “Dude, sucking at something is the first step towards becoming kinda good at something.” We learn a lot from failing!


You won’t have ANY success if you never put yourself out there.
If you never try, you never take a risk, you never even gave yourself the chance that you just might succeed. You’re doomed to fail no matter what!

Failure makes us human.
Failure is a part of life. No one is perfect, or succeeds all the time, and showing vulnerability is just one way that we can relate to other people.

Trying new stuff (whether we fail or find success) is good for your brain.
It stimulates creativity. You get to know yourself better. You overcome fears.

Failing shows others that you’re trying.
Again, as in #2, if you never try, you’ll never achieve. Others see you working hard and putting in effort regardless of your success (or lack thereof).

So speaking of taking chances and putting yourself out there, I decided to apply to become a Google Certified Innovator - the next cohort is being hosted in LA this summer (#LAX18). I know a few people who have done it, and I decided that I’m ready to take the plunge, knowing full well that many people do NOT get accepted the first time they apply, and it takes several tries before they got in. But I’m doing it anyways. Because failure is good.

Guess what? My theme, or problem that I want to tackle as an Innovator, is all about failure and risk-taking! I want to help other teachers and school staff be OKAY with failing. Let’s try new things! We always tell our students about how failure (or trial and error) is a learning process, so why don’t we follow our own advice?

I had to make a movie about it, you can check it out here:


Applications close TODAY. I’ll know if I’m accepted sometime after school gets out (our last day is May 25th), and although it’s nice to be accepted, if I fail, I’m okay with it.

Actual footage of me failing miserably. :)

Just get back up, and do it again!
Hope to see you at ISTE this summer!

- Mrs L.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Easy Video Ideas for Teachers!


I love experimenting and testing out new video project ideas! But to some, new projects are a source of stress, fear, and anxiety. What if it fails? What if I forgot to plan some key component?

Or, the most common concern I hear:
I DON’T KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT MAKING VIDEOS, and WHAT ABOUT THE TIME?

To help combat these concerns, I've compiled a list of easy video project ideas that you can start using in your classroom right away. The EASIEST method of incorporating video would be to simply offer it as a choice item amongst a variety of choice project options for demonstrating understanding and/or mastery of a concept. Put the onus on the student to find the time and resources to develop the video on their own, if they so choose.

But maybe the idea of doing a video project in your class sounds super fun (spoiler alert: it IS) and you're just not sure where to start? Here is a list of some easy project ideas:

  • Narrate over a slideshow and record as a video instead of a whole-class presentation. (Eliminate student stage fright!) See my suggestions for screencasting below.
  • Set up a video camera on a tripod and record an IGNITE presentation (Presenters get 20 slides, which automatically advance every 15 seconds. The result is a fast and fun presentation which lasts just 5 minutes.)
  • Create a screencast (it’s a one-shot and done type of deal) - I like Screencastify and Screencast-O-Matic, although WeVideo has built-in screencasting abilities, too! Great for how-tos and having students teach eachother. 
  • Give a virtual tour - students could always record this outside of school, and use a limited time allotment in school to edit and assemble.
  • Create a gif using stop-motion: could be using photos or simple sketches/graphics, like a flip book. This is so easy that it can be done with as few as two pictures!
  • A book trailer - WeVideo now has TEMPLATES to use for video creation, as well as a gigantic media library (hundreds of thousands of files) of still images, video, and audio content (royalty-free!!!) that makes creation fast and easy - you don't even need a camera! 
  • A newscast - also available as a template on WeVideo!
  • Time-lapse: Set up a camera (or smartphone, iPad, etc) while students work; speed up the video to show work being completed at an amazing rate! This was super fun to do in art class to show progress over the course of several days; all it took was the time to set up the camera!

  • Lip dub: My son made this video in his bedroom all by himself, using a selfie stick. I can't even handle the cuteness, but imagine THIS with a whole class of students. They could each be responsible for a verse or phrase... or an AIR INSTRUMENT!


  • Challenge students to tell a story in four shots (or less!).
  • Challenge students to do a presentation on a topic in only 3 minutes! Here are some 3-minute(ish) TED talks for inspiration.

Hopefully this list has got you itching to try a video project in class! Maybe you're not sure where to go from here? As far as structuring your video projects go, I’ve done presentations on this very topic for a variety of groups. Check out my slide deck from a presentation on this topic that I gave last year:


I love helping other teachers try out new material in their classes, and brainstorming new, fun ideas. Never hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or need help!

- Mrs L.

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: https://blog.wevideo.com/news/insiders-view-the-geg-film-festival-seen-from-the-big-stage/

- Mrs L.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Tech Smash: Creating and Using Gifs in Your Lessons

via: http://images.clipartpanda.com/hulk-clip-art-hulkjump.png

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.
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