Theriault Talks Tinkering On Techlandia.....

David Theriault has been busy. He is a guy that is constantly tinkering and trying to make things better. If he fails, so be it. At least he tried. The Techlandia crew sat down to chat with David after the Wisconsin/Kentucky game Saturday night for episode 57 "Special Sauce." David is a super nice guy, who hails from the OC. He is the co-founder of #edcamphome and #caedchat. He teaches high school english at Fountain Valley High school. He also loves to do the "Googles," and is a Google Certified Teacher. 

We invite you to take a listen to our talk with David and the links to our conversation below. This coming Saturday, we will have Sarah Thomas on the show, AKA @sarahdateechur. If you ever want to watch live, check the @techlandiacast Twitter feed on Saturday. We send out the link to our Google Hangout On Air, and usually start the show between 10-10:30 PM CST on Saturday night. 

Are You Up For A Little Friendly Competition?

I sit around at the computer....a lot. I have tried different things to get me to be more active. I just can't seem to get going. Let's be honest...I have four kids under the age of ten. I am lucky if I make it through the day without one of the kids starting a fire. Exercise, or anything that involves helping myself, usually gets left behind. (This WAS the year I was going to blog more....HA!) The gym is a 5 minute drive for me, but I have to change clothes, and then take a shower afterward. That all takes TIME. There was a brief moment that I defied the odds, and drove to the gym late at night. I exercised for 45 minutes, I was so proud of myself. On the ride back home, I saw the police lights behind me....I had a headlight out, and now I was the proud owner of a 200 dollar ticket. Can't a chubby guy catch a break?

Matchup.io is a site that has recently caught my attention. My good friend, Jake Duncan, got me started on it, and I have been using it ever since. 

It is a simple idea. There are many affordable fitness trackers that people have been purchasing lately. The most popular being the Jawbone Up and all the different versions of the Fitbit. The problem is, if I don't buy the same product as my friends, I can't track my progress against them. I don't have many friends to begin with, so the chances of us coordinating our fitness purchases are slim to none. Matchup lets you connect your tracker at the website and then you can start a contest with anyone, regardless of the device you choose. I wish that the Nike FuelBand was included as an option, but Nike is very protective of their brand, and that can't happen. 

To get started, go to Matchup.io and request an invite to the beta. You should get the invite within 24 hours and you are ready to begin. Sign in by selecting your fitness tracker, and the password you use for the website. It doesn't take very long and you are ready to go. You can join a competition that someone else has made open to the public, or create your own. That is what Jake did, and we started a fierce competition called #edtech folks. A battle royale of six educators that included:

  1. Jake Duncan
  2. Wendy Sanders
  3. Dorie Glynn
  4. Todd Nesloney
  5. Joey Kirkland
  6. Me

Matchup even added a new feature last week, that will allow you to have friends and see how they are doing, regardless if you are in a competition with them or not. I will include a few screenshots of the #edtech folks contest below. It has some good information to keep you motivated. There are three ways in which you can compete: a daily head to head match with someone, best daily performance, or total steps for the contest. I tip my hat to Kenya for winning the head to head competition. Although you can see from the screenshots that I "crushed" her in total steps. 

The best part about this website is that it is FREE. So get on there, and give it a try. I would love to have some more friends! 

Individual Matchup Screen

Individual Matchup Screen

Total Steps For Competition 

Total Steps For Competition 

Best Daily Performances 

Best Daily Performances 

The Trifecta - Autism, Podcasts, and Playlists

A completely random post of things I created in the horrible month of February

It is no secret that I dislike February more than any other month. I used to be real vocal about it back in the Facebook days. I don't even need to say a word about it now, more people are jumping on the anti-February bandwagon every year. I think it's the Valentine's Day/Holiday cash flow shortage/Not quite Spring Break/About to start standardized testing/Bad weather combination for teachers and students. I know the month isn't over, but I am going to say that this February wasn't historically bad. Here are the reasons why:

  1. The TCEA conference is always a good time in February. This is our annual Texas edtech conference, and it has been a good time seven years running for me. You get meet new and old friends, learn and share, #goodtimes.
  2. Edcamp OKC was a great to attend this year. My first Edcamp outside of Texas. Some great educators up in Oklahoma, that were very friendly. 
  3. Edcamp Awesome was also a good time. It amazes me when people keep asking, "How many people here are first time Edcampers?" and has easily been 80% of people the last three Edcamps I have attended. The movement is growing, we all want more say in our professional development.
  4. Saving the best for last....IntegratED Portland! This has so many great presenters, I can't wait to go. I also get to hang with so many great educators and administrators, if I tried to name them all, I couldn't. Alison, Curt, Tyler and I had a ball last year, and we will go with the flow and see how this year ends up. Techlandia Live during a happy hour, should be an interesting time as well. #totalchaos written all over it. 

I have created a few things this month that I am proud of, and wanted to share them with you.

The first one is a blog from my second grade son. I looked on my son's iPad mini and found an interesting collection of pictures. I decided to create a Tumblr of all those pictures that I would post to daily. I decided to title it Through the Eyes of Autism. I was going to post all pics by MJ, but I have already broken that rule and posted one that my wife took at his birthday. It will mostly be his photos, #nofilter, #noedit, just the way he sees things. I am kind of private about having a son with autism. I appreciated John Spencer commenting that he thought it was a cool idea that humanizes kids who are autistic. If John Spencer thinks it's a cool idea, then score one for me in February. You can visit it here: Through the Eyes of Autism

We did it! A full Symbaloo of Techlandia episodes? Yep, it is here for you. Hours of us rambling incoherently about edtech. If you want to listen while you work on the computer, this webmix is for you! 

Finally, my Spotify playlists for Techlandia this month. There is a great one for Maryland artists for Timonious Downing, and one for Canadian Artists for Victoria Olson. Check them out, I love both of them. 

That's all for now. Boarding my plane for Portlandia in a couple hours. Be good, and remember this famous quote, which I may misquote: 

It’s not your fault....that is just how it is in February.
— Robin Williams - Good Will Hunting

Students creating apps? Yes, you can!

We talked today with students from Jackson County, MI about Coding and creating the app Things To Think About

 

Techlandia had been trying to get some more students on the show recently. Sometimes the stars align....we had it happen recently at 7:30 AM. Brad Wilson is a great educator up in Michigan. We all love the app that he helped create Write About This. We even had him featured on his own show talking about how a "regular old" fourth grade teacher helped to create an app, in our Write About This App Special. Sometimes the best conversations happen after we turn off the mic on Techlandia. Brad told us that they were about to complete an app that was created by students. The app came out a few weeks later and it was called Things To Think About. It has some very thoughtful writing prompts designed to encourage conversations and ideas on issues that students face. I think it would be a great "Family Friday" app to encourage some healthy debate among your class. I know, I know, yes thank you, I AM an elementary teacher. 

The story of how the app came to life is where this story begins. Joyce King, a second grade teacher from Portage, Michigan, began saving prompts that she had used with her class. She finally decided to take those prompts and self-publish them in 1997. Brad lived in the area and purchased the book on the recommendation of another teacher. It became on of Brad's go to books while he was teaching. He decided in 2012, that it was time to update the book for the digital world. Brad works in the Jackson Intermediate School District and knew of a great teacher, Steve Keinath, that he had connected with at an Edcamp. Steve, a programming teacher at the Jackson Area Career Center, had the students and resources to turn Joyce's book into an app. This app would be created BY students, FOR students and teachers around the world. 

The way that Steve and Brad had students create the app while they stood by as the "mentors in the center" was inspiring. (Shout out to @mrhooker for teaching me that saying) Brad had about 60 2nd - 5th grade students illustrate the prompts for the app. The students were given the freedom to be creative and make their own connections to the prompts in their illustrations. A great idea that makes the app useful for the younger grades, is the audio component. These students also provided voice for all the prompts, in case a younger student needs it read to them. The audio and illustrations complete, it was now time for Steve to step in with his high school seniors for the coding. Steve found two students that were willing take on the challenge of creating the app as an extra project. Brenna Dillay took on the designing of the app. She created the graphics using a Wacom tablet and Photoshop software. Brenna was also responsible for the user interface, which she wanted to make fun and easy. She decided that a cute animal theme would tie the app all together. Users could tap the doghouse to get to the home screen, and choose categories with animals acting out the prompt themes. While Brenna worked on all the design details, Jacob Chesney worked on the coding. Jacob used Corona SDK to build the iOS app. Jacob and Steve used a combination of Dropbox and Edmodo to troubleshoot and develop the code. This year, Steve has working with students to make Things To Think About into an Android app. 

I suggest that teachers should all give the app a download and take a look regardless of what grade you teach. It may provide you with some inspiration for your own app, or idea to pursue with YOUR students this year. Brad Wilson and Steve Keinath deserve a lot of credit for what they are doing with students. You can reach out to them on Twitter, and both of them are happy to answer your questions. You can also find all the resources to our podcast on our Learnist board, and here on their website, Connecting Educators.

 

Why Would You Block YouTube?

 

They are just going to go there when they get home....and I do the same thing. 

 

Why do school block YouTube? Oh right, because we wouldn't want these poor students to see all the bad content on YouTube. Well I have news for you, they are there already. When are schools going to wake up? The very least a district could do is open it up for the teachers. Quit fighting it administrators! You can upload student created videos, embed videos on your website, the list goes on and on! There is so much great content out there to use with your students. I can't even count all the wasted minutes spent trying to get around the district filter, just to upload student work. District filter admins....you need to buy a vowel and get a clue! 

There is a great new site I discovered called Huzzaz. We have talked about it on our Techlandia Podcast a few times now. (Click that link and you will get all of the episodes in a nice Symbaloo webmix) Do you know how many YouTube videos I have favorited? Not that many, only 1,130. Do you know how hard it is to keep all of those organized? YouTube has improved the system over the years, but it is still hard to keep track of all those. That is why I absolutely loved Pinterest when it came out. I used it right away to sort all my favorite videos. You can take a look at all my Pinterest boards, if you don't believe me. Huzzaz takes care of all that for you. I suggest that you check it out if you are a YouTube junkie. I think it would have some great uses in the classroom for sorting and categorizing videos that go with units. 

On Techlandia, we all are big fans of music and things that are awesome. We are making a Huzzaz board each week of things we find. I am going to embed one below. I think it is great how you can embed them, and just hit play and watch, or skip to the next video. Wouldn't that be cool on your classroom website as well? Come on people, get to Huzzaz and sign up for the beta. I may even have some invites to give out if you have to wait. As always, just ask me! I love to help out. Please feel free to stay and enjoy some of these great videos, and relax! Winter Break is almost here!