Tag Archives: technology



Snapguide is designed for users to create visual based how-to guides.  That’s it.  Sounds simple. It is and that is what makes it great.  The guides are built around teaching how to do something through pictures and videos.  Adding text is a part of the process, but you are limited to 200 characters a page.  Once your guide is finished you publish it to Snapguide’s site, then you can share it through other social media sites. Guides can also be viewed on their website, but can only be created through the app.

Why I like it:

It is easy and fun to make a guide with your mobile device.  One night I decided to make a Snapguide about one of my family’s favorite dinners, Pizza Sandwiches (click to see the Snapguide). So, I grabbed my iPad to take the pictures as I cooked, then designed the guide later that night.

Another bonus to the app is the Snapguide community.  You can investigate other guides, or follow someone who makes guides covering subjects your are interested in.  Be prepared to interact through the comment option with people who like your guides.

Use in the classroom:

I have a Process essay unit for my writing class.  I showed the students Snapquide as an option to create a “visual how-to” assignment (the students had a number of options).  Three students used Snapguide.  Below are their guides.

How to French Twist Hair

How to Bake Chocolate Chip Cookies

How to Make Ramen Noodles in the Microwave

Each guide was viewed at least 500 times.  Each had at least 50 loves.  And each got at least one comment.  This is the power of creating work that connects beyond the classroom.

The other side of Snapguide is finding guides to enhance what you are doing in class.  There are guides that could be used in art class, industrial arts, or music. Just browsing through the categories will spark ideas for you.

Snapguide’s focus is to allow users to make and find great step-by-step guides.  It is a great example of how we can share our knowledge with people who also enjoy our interest.  Using Snapguide is a great way to enhance any lesson that is centered on how to do something. Share your guides with me via Twitter (jdog90).

Series Note: I decided to use Tagwhat in the upcoming website series that I will be doing in December.

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Pic Collage


Pic Collage is a fun, easy, and powerful app to create collages. It allows you to access photos from your camera roll, the web, Facebook, or take a picture from the app.  The app comes with a standard set of stickers, with the option to buy more sets.  You can add text, colored borders, and even crop your photos by tracing around the section you want. You can even send your collage as a postcard for $1.99.

The finished collage can be shared on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.  You can also save it to your photos or send it in an email.  Pic Collage now has an account option that allows you to share your collages on Pic Collage’s site.

Why I like it:

Designing the collage is easy.  Rotating, resizing, arranging, and even trimming the photos are gesture based.  In no time you can create a nice looking collage. The ability to access images from the web makes the app a creative tool for the classroom.

Created by Kaylee, English Comp student.

Use in the classroom:

I have used the app as a poster alternative.  The example above is a poster of a student’s persuasive topic.  I think Pic Collage can be used for any class or grade level.  Being able to access images from the web enables students to research and show their understanding of any topic in a new and inviting form.

Whether it is for the classroom, or a collection of photos from Thanksgiving, I think you will enjoy Pic Collage.  Share your collages with me via Twitter (jdog90).

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Announcing App Series

When I was in high school our school purchased a new technology that was going to change how the classroom worked.  We could now pause, rewind, and even jump to certain parts of a film.  I don’t remember which year it actually happened, but we moved from film projectors to VHS and Laser disc players.

In college I had a class that covered how to troubleshoot overhead projectors, VCRs and other technologies we might encounter in the classroom.  The objective was to be able to quickly handle situations so that instruction time was not disrupted.

These technologies didn’t really change anything.  Yes, we loved movie day in English class.  It was interesting to see how they changed the story and we would have discussions about how we “saw” the character versus the actor in the movie. But I would often doodle or write poetry during instructional films in Chemistry. Which might explain why I got D the first quarter, but did end up with a solid B by the end of the year. What changed was simply how we watched film.

Jump forward with me to today.  Using an idea from Malcolm Gladwell, I think we are at a “tipping point” in Education.  Mobile devices are the catalyst for this change.  I don’t think this is going to happen today, or even next year, but I sense the change.  And I think it will take one bold school in this area to start the change reaction.  What education might look like after the tipping point is for another blog.

This blog is to announce that next week I am going to do a five post series on specific apps for mobile devices that personify the fun, creative, and educational aspects of mobile devices. If you want to get started on investigating the apps for yourself, below are the days and apps with links to their sites.

Monday: Pic Collage (and photography in general)

Tuesday: SCVNGR (gamification)

Wednesday: Snapguide and Tagwhat (sharing what you know)

Thursday: Coursebook (creating your own course of learning)

Friday: Aurasma (augmented reality)

Join me next week to learn more. You never know what new ideas might be generated.


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Happy Birthday?

What does it mean if I only had two people wish me happy birthday on social media?

In the overall scheme of things, it doesn’t mean much.  I could have written a post to notify everyone that it was my birthday and received the traditional responses.  But I didn’t.  And therefore there was no stream of birthday wishes on Facebook or Twitter.

So, why am I writing about it if it didn’t matter?… Because it is a chance to explore social media’s connection with human relationships.

Birthday Cookie

My family sang “Happy Birthday” to me as we shared birthday cookies from Eileen’s.  I got cards from my parents and friends, and laughed with my best friend about getting “old” and the irony of our age getting closer to our golf scores for 9 holes on the phone. I also got to host a workshop I designed for creative apps in the classroom.

The two birthday wishes I got via social media made me feel good, especially as the day wore on and nobody else wrote anything to me.  Of course, it got me thinking about what social media is and what we expect from it.

First, what did I expect from my social media connections?  Some of my connections are with people I consider friends; others are people I know I would be good friends with if we worked together or lived in the same area.  Even more connections are surface relationships made through social media because we are interested in the same things or working in the same field. Then there is connections, especially on Twitter, that are purely one sided.  I follow bands, athletes, and/or other powerful people that do not even know I exist, even if I do reply to one of their tweets.

What do these connections mean for me, for anyone?   It lets us be heard.

That is a powerful motivator (as expressed in the above movie clip from 12 Angry Men). We now can all be quoted. But that single aspect can lead us to believe that social media is more than it is. I see (or read) many people who use social media as the main facet of living.  The worst example is reading as a marriage disintegrated into divorce through Facebook updates.  Comments left on social media is not living.  Yet we can find ourselves sitting in front of a screen waiting for something to happen, most of the time just a response to our post… a reinforcement of our existence.

At this time in our society we are working through these social issues.  Finding that balance between our life in front of a screen and the life we have in front of our eyes.  The hard part is both affect our hearts.

The only answer I have at the moment is that I believe that social media, even just technology should be approached with the idea of enhancing our lives.  Allowing us to feel, share, or express our lives on deeper levels than we could not do without it.  From sending pictures of the grand-kids to the grandparents as we play in the park, to sharing lesson plan ideas with a teacher in Georgia.  Social media and technology allows us to experience and share life with close friends and family, but even more powerful is the ability to make connections that enrich our lives.  But we need to remember that life happens away from the screen and that there is a person behind the avatar.

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The American Scholar Today?

I have been thinking about Ralph Waldo Emerson’s speech “The American Scholar” lately.  The speech is a part of the American Literature course I teach in the spring semester, and it is one of my favorite pieces of literature.  I agree with so many of the points he expresses about true scholarship.

I wonder what he would think about the state of education today?   At the beginning of the speech Emerson reveals the three main influences in a scholar’s education. The first is Nature.  Simply stated, being outside.  Emerson goes much deeper in his speech, but the idea is that scholars spend time with Nature, spend time reflecting, as he states, “And, in fine, the ancient precept, ‘Know thyself,’ and the modern precept, ‘Study nature,’ become at last one maxim.”

I have been trying to conduct my DL classes as if I was in my own classroom, and so my CCC writing course went outside to write.  I instructed that they could take pictures, too.  As students will do, they had some fun:

Burwell Students

Then this morning 1011 News reported about Kearney public school’s “Outdoor Days.”  Don’t get me wrong; I think this is a really good idea.  But what does it say about the norm of our education, that having kids outside learning is news? Emerson states this is the first thing that influences scholars. Yet, we set up learning to be done inside, during the best time of the day and in rows.

The second influence is the “mind of the past” that at his time was best reflected in reading books.  We know that today that influence is even greater. I won’t spend time on this point because my thoughts have been on the fist influence, Nature, and the last influence…

Created at PicLit.com

Emerson makes a strong argument that true learning is done in living, “Of course, he who has put forth his total strength in fit actions, has the richest return of wisdom.”  He states that we can only truly understand that which we live, that true scholarship is produced through our lives.  Emerson states, “Character is higher than intellect. Thinking is the function. Living is the functionary. The stream retreats to its source. A great soul will be strong to live, as well as strong to think.”

I show this clip of Neil Gaiman at the beginning of the CCC writing course, listen to what his first piece of advice is for writers.

In my position I am immersed in technology, but I also see our students immersed in technology to the point that I do wonder if they understand the beauty and heartache of living.  Or are they just skimming the surface of life one statues update at a time?  I believe technology and especially mobile devices can enrich our lives deeply.  But that has to be the focus for the use of technology. It should be a tool we use in living. Living is our greatest teacher, “Time shall teach him, that the scholar loses no hour which the man lives” (Emerson).

I have been thinking about Emerson’s speech, “The American Scholar,” lately. I wonder what he would think about the state of our educational system?

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Different Road

Designed at PicLit.com

Routine isn’t bad.  It provides a sense of security and understanding on how life works.  My children do better when we keep to a routine.  Even in my classroom, I noticed when I arranged my desk in rows there were less issues to deal with.  The sun comes up, the sun goes down; nature has its routine.

But all routines have a beginning and an end.  As my kids grow their routines change.  The desks in my room had to move to fit different lessons.  The time when the sun rises and sun sets change everyday.

When do we change?

Why don’t we change?

The first iPad sold on September 17, 2010 (just two years ago).  In the ESU 10 area we have at least eight schools with 1-to-1 iPad programs this year and at least another five looking at going to 1-to-1 programs next year.  Not to mention all the schools that have iPad labs. iPads are just an example of the rapid shift happening right now in our world. There is change happening in schools, but we are still driving on the same road.

We have been on this road for so long that we don’t even consider pulling over at a rest stop. We put the school on cruise control and head toward graduation.  Even if there is construction, or a bad storm, we have always arrived at our destination.

Courtesy of Flickr user Jared Zimmerman.


But there are many roads we can take.  And reasons to take them.  The first step to change is recognizing that the road we are on may not be the best one for us.

Because I am afraid the kids are sleeping in the back to pass the time…

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Reading the book Too Big To Know, by David Weinberger, was one of those moments that helped me see something I already knew in a slightly different light and that sparked a whole new train of thought.  I love these moments.

The book is a look at how the Internet is changing the view of knowledge.  I highly recommend the book, but I want to discuss the most obvious point from the book.  Abundance.

Courtesy of Cornell University Library from Flickr

As David Weinberger points out, we have had an abundance of information for a long time.  Have you read every book in your local library?  Have you read every book you have bought or downloaded?  Neither have I.  What the Internet does is make that abundance faster and in different forms: articles, videos, apps, music, and opinions.

School is out for the summer, so I’m going to approach this idea from a dad perspective.  Through this example I hope to express how abundance can be a great thing for learning.

Question, what does “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, Yoda, and a Tom Brady rookie card have in common?  Answer: My sons and how they come to find interest in things.

My two sons are 11 and 9 right now. And because of the abundance of the Internet and technology, I have been having a blast sharing my interest with them. One example is music.  Right now my oldest son is into Harry Connick Jr. and 80’s music, while my other son is listening to the songs “Good Life” (One Republic) and “Believe” (Cher).   They use Grooveshark to create playlists to dance to, or to have as background music as they play animal tag with their sisters.

My oldest son’s interest in 80’s music comes from the video game series, Just Dance.  His interest in Harry Connick Jr. comes from the movie, Dolphin Tale, which Harry Connick Jr. has a role in.  I have some of his CDs, but my son has been checking out other CDs from the library.

When my second son bought his iPod, I put some music on it he might like.  The music on his iPod has grown from his own interest and suggestions from me.  One of our favorite songs is “Closer To the Edge” by 30 Seconds to Mars.

We cheered on the Celtics (I am a Kevin Garnett fan) in the Eastern Conference Finals together because of trading cards and the NBA 2K11 video game.  My second son’s favorite basketball player is Shawn Kemp, who he has only seen play on YouTube videos and the video game.  He does have a few of Shawn Kemp’s trading cards.

We watched the Super Bowl because they have a Tom Brady rookie card.  I’m a Minnesota Vikings Fan, last season was a tough one.

Both sons like Star Wars; that started because of the Lego Star Wars games.

The boys have also seen the movies / shows, Hoosiers, Clue (thanks to my wife on this one), Searching for Bobby Fisher, and the original The Muppet Show just to name a few.

They don’t like everything I share with them, but what is incredible is the ability to share aspects of my life with them.  And to share the original content, not just a story.  My music collection is not unpacked yet, so I use Grooveshark to share a song they might like.  Then if my second son wants the song we can buy it from iTunes.  When my oldest son got the part of Winthrop in The Music Man last September he used YouTube to study the role.

The abundance we have can be a powerful aspect to our lives.  Yes, there are some negatives, but that is for another blog post.  My sons’ and I are building strong connections because we can share and experience life in a completely different way than before.  History is important and powerful.  Shawn Kemp is my son’s favorite player.  He has never seen him “play.”  But he knows a lot about him, plus he understands the history of the Oklahoma City Thunder (who he is cheering for in the finals because they use to be the Super Sonics) because of his interest.

When embraced, this abundance we have can allow us to naturally learn anything that interest us.  It can build connections; between people, between today and yesterday, and even between who we were and who we can be, because it allows us to explore and investigate life in ways we couldn’t before.  It gives me an opportunity to be a better dad, to be able to enrich my children’s life with more than just stories. I can share my history sometimes in its true form today.

I remember when “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” was a hit in 1984 and have shared stories from that time in my life with my boys.  Today, the song is just as important because it makes us excited when it is one of the songs for the dance battle on Just Dance 2 (yes, I have won on that song a couple of times).

A Pic Collage of Interest

P.S. My second son made the collage this morning at home while I am at work.  Connectedness, but that benefit of technology is another blog post.

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Choice or Indecision?

As stated in Barry Schwartz’s TED Talk, too many options can be paralyzing.  We all feel empowered by choice.  It gives us a sense of control of our lives, of our own happiness.  But I agree with Barry Schwartz’s there is a negative side to choice.  Whether it is too many choices, or an unexpected choice, we don’t feel empowered.  We feel frozen and unsure.

Personally, I went through this last week.  I was presented with an unexpected opportunity to return to the classroom.  Understand; this was a choice that was totally unexpected.  It challenged me to think about my future: where did I want to be in five years?  Where did I want to be next year?  Instead of feeling free and honored to be considered for the position, it froze me.   I decided to stay with ESU 10 at the moment because I needed to finish what I had started.  Where will I be in five years?  I can’t say for sure, but that is for another blog.

But I’m starting to see this paralysis in education.  Many schools are considering going to a 1:1 environment with iPads.  I think that is awesome, but there is a hurdle that needs to be addressed: app choice.

7415 free apps in the area of productivity.  How productive would I be sifting through all those choices? I know what you are thinking; use the search option.  OK.  I’ll use the keyword “Grammar” (Hey, I’m an English teacher).

Results: 720 apps, both free and paid.

As the landscape changes in the classroom with mobile technology, it is good to be aware of different hurdles that a school, a teacher, or student may face.  In this case the option of choice regarding apps.  A great benefit of mobile devices is the ability to personalize content and the learning experience a student has through the apps and tools provided for them. But which app to choose? There is not a “right or wrong” answer here, but Barry Schwartz’s does present a philosophy to consider.

We are in a transitional period, a reconstructing of our “fish bowls” you might say. It is not easy, but it is exciting to be in the mix of this change.  What will education look like in 5 years? The choice is ours…


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What a year… As the academic year winds down I have time to reflect on how much I failed this year.  But I have learned some interesting things about education and myself through these failures.

The first lesson:  Teaching is really about the relationships we build.  By teaching from an office over a codec system 100 percent of the time has reinforced how important personal interaction is.  For the students and the teachers.  And it is not just the connections we develop during the class; it is the daily vibe of school.  The interactions between class, lunchroom banter, and the questions before and after school.

I was unprepared for the drastic change in the environment of my classroom.  Trying to remember names, understanding strengths and weakness, and interacting with students to understand their personality.  I failed.  I have a few ideas for next year that I will try to use to create a better personal connection with the students.  Because, at the heart of learning, is the relationship between student, teacher, and the subject matter.

The second lesson: Technology is not a separate component to learning.  It is not a bonus feature to bring into the classroom and use because it is cool.  I failed in the use of technology this year.  Part of my teaching responsibilities is the TECHS course that ESU 10 has developed over the last seven years.  Since the class is centered on teaching all aspects of technology I thought I had to use technology everyday.  Which isn’t my personality (lesson three).  So, I saturated the class with technology instead of using the best tool for the lesson.

The third lesson: Teaching is an art.  I know that there are strategies that support an effective classroom, but I think those strategies work because they support a teacher’s personality. For the TECHS class, I used everything that was in place from last year (I did add some lessons but I used the timeline, test, and other assignments that were already set up unchanged). And I failed.  It was like trying to dance with another person’s shoes on.  Hard to find your groove.

Ironically, Mr. Stritt told me how each year the class changed, lessons were moved, new ideas added.  But I tried not to change it, to follow the great lessons that ESU 10 had built.  But it wasn’t mine.  It didn’t fit my personality.  Which connects back to lesson one; learning is a relationship between students, teachers, and the subject matter.

The fourth lesson: Failure can be a good thing.  I have learned a lot this past year.  Would I do it again? Maybe not, there were some hard times for me.  But to have the opportunity to come to a deeper understanding of education was worth it.  I am excited to see what I do with my failures next year.  I hope I can write a success blog next year.

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Mobile 2012 Reflections

As the weekend winds down and I get some time to reflect on the Mobile Learning Experience, a couple of things come to mind right away.

Point One: The energy from the conference was intense.  The conference was big enough to meet a new person at every breakout session, yet intimate enough to make real connections with people.  Even the schedule worked into this with the meals.  I was able to sit with my colleagues, yet have new people to meet at every meal.  The keynotes were also an integral part of the energy.  Each message was connected to the conference, but unique to each keynote.  I walked away with different ideas because of each speaker.

Point Two: The power of mobile devices. The first aspect is from Graham Brown-Martin’s keynote, which is we are still not tapping into the power of mobile technology.  We are using a technology designed to be mobile in an immobile environment. Now, what educators and schools are doing with them is awesome!  I’m pushing the idea farther, as I was thinking during Graham’s keynote and tweeted the idea that teachers use Mondays as a “Keynote” day, then, let the students go the rest of the week.

I understand that wouldn’t work all the time, but it brings up the second aspect of the mobile devices and technology: options.  There is a time for lectures (think about how powerful the keynotes and breakout sessions were), a time for worksheets, a time for tests even.  A buzzword right now is differentiation.  Simply put, options.  Mobile devices equip both students and teachers with that.  As an example, I will use simple story structure as a lesson.  In class we might read, listen, or even watch a YouTube video of the story.  I would have some vocab, which I could have a stack of flashcards for them to study, or even have them design their own.  Then, allow the students to show they understand story structure by writing a story, filming a story, or creating a cartoon.  All of which can be done on a mobile device.

Which moves me to the third point: the Teacher – Student relationship.  I started an interesting discussion about app development for teachers between breakout sessions, but I didn’t get the opportunity to finish.  Understand this discussion had the chance to be one of those incredibly deep pedagogy challenging discussions, but I never had the chance to bring it up again.  At the beginning, my inquiry was on the idea of equipping teachers to be able to build apps that would help students in their study of a lesson.  The opposite side was that the students should build them.  I don’t disagree with that, but one aspect I see of technology is the empowering of teachers to be what they went into this profession for, to teach.  Teachers can be the experts again of their field.  If fostered correctly, teachers should be the experts of the curriculum, not the textbook or a website.  The “options” available to connect to the content pushes teachers to raise their game.  And that, as a professional, is exciting.  Our jobs are changing.  Our challenge is to actually design a learning experience that gives students the tools and motivation to live by the highest expression of their talents.

Mobile 2012 was an incredible opportunity for me as a teacher.  I cannot wait to hopefully be a part of Mobile 2013.

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