Unlocking the Power of Video

Video Film image

Image courtesy of Mosio for Libraries

Okay, let’s face it: video is not a new medium. From the days of silent film through the late 1960s , it was the sole domain of professionals. Big, bulky, mounted broadcast cameras would clearly not have a place in the home, much less in a classroom. The early 1980s explosion of VHS camcorders firmly placed it in the hands of the public (my mom still has some classic childhood videos of me to prove it!) . But, up until recently, equipment costs, file/data storage, and security concerns have largely kept it out of the hands of students. 

Even today, some schools and districts are slow to embrace the power of student-created (and edited) video? Why? At the elementary level, teachers often cite time concerns and lack of training. Standardized testing and letter/number grade systems increase pressure on teachers to stick with paper-and-pencil assessments. Districts that still rely heavily on networked drives for storage are battling size issues. Cloud storage solutions like Google Drive can open new pathways for students to leverage this medium to showcase their learning, connect with others, and to impact their communities and beyond. Standards-based grading and elimination of NCLB testing mandates would help, too, but I’ll save that for another post.

Today, my 8-year-old and I set out on a Minecraft screencasting mission. He enjoys watching YouTube videos with players demonstrating various aspects of the game, and he was ready to take the step from consumer to creator. Thanks to Air Server, Screencast-o-matic, WeVideo, and some patience from both parties, we were able to get the job done. He really enjoyed being able to create and especially doing the video editing part. Usually these tasks are reserved for middle school and above, but I see no reason that a 2nd or 3rd grader couldn’t use a simple video editor. I hope that you enjoy our production and that it inspires you to take the video plunge with your students!

Click the picture to watch my awesome video!

Click the picture to watch my awesome video!


Beginning the Nexus 7 Adventure

The New Google Nexus 7

In December, my school, a K-5 elementary in Georgia, purchased 42 of the new Google Nexus 7 tablets to supplement our schoolwide BYOD program. We have been primarily using iPad minis in grades K & 1 with a mix of older tablets and laptops in grades 2-5, but this purchase will allow grades 2-4 to have large sets of tablets to share. As the technology coordinator, I am responsible for setting up, maintaining, and conducting PD on facilitating the use of the tablets in the classroom. Although our teachers are somewhat familiar with Android devices due to the BYOD program, most have never owned or used one in the past.

The Learning Curve

As an iOS user, I found that Android devices were a little hard to get comfortable with in the beginning. Many users are tripped up by basics, such as locating the all apps button and how to connect to WiFi in the settings icon. I’m hoping to get our teachers past these bumps quickly, so we can move on to how to have students use them in the classroom. The ideal situation would be to let each teacher use a Nexus as their primary way to connect to the internet for a few days, just to figure out some of the basics and to understand some of the frustration their students might initially feel with a new device. But, I don’t believe that every teacher needs to be an expert with each piece of technology in their classroom. They only need to be expert facilitators, not expert users.

How do you help get teachers comfortable with new technology in your school?

What are some strategies/structures you have in place to support this?

Initial Setup


Here is the initial screen setup for a 4th grade device. Although we are technically a GAFE school, we don’t have permission for individual student accounts using their district IDs, so for now I have 5-6 devices set up on one generic Google Apps login. This gives us access to Drive for cloud storage and integration with many other apps, but still leaves us short of the ideal solution.

I chose to focus mainly on versatile creativity apps for the initial setup instead of content-specific ones. The ones in the picture above are the free ones that are on so far. Based on budget, the picture below shows my wish list for paid apps. I would love any suggestions on other free or paid apps that you use with elementary students.


Going Forward

We already have scheduled monthly technology staff development sessions to help teachers learn about new hardware, software, and web tools. I am hopeful that these sessions will give teachers what they need to help them feel comfortable using the Nexus 7 as another tool that help them facilitate engaging, personalized learning experiences for their students.  I want to ensure that we always focus on technology as another tool, as a means to an end and not the end itself. I know that in a few years that these tablets will be obsolete and we will have moved on to other things, so I’m not deluding myself into thinking that they are the answer to every problem in education, but I do believe that they can be an important tool to teach a curriculum that prepares our students for middle school, high school, college, career, and beyond.

Have you used the new Nexus 7 in the classroom yet? 

Any suggestions for apps or settings that would help an elementary student be successful?

Website & App Reviews – Creativity Tools

App Review Photo

As my school moves ahead full-throttle with BYOD this year, we are working to review websites and apps that work well for our students. We started in October with Educreations, ShowMe, and Book Creator. We wanted to start with tools that were versatile, easy-to-use, and could be used across grade levels and content areas. We used a Google Form to make the review and then I published to a website using a format similar to graphite.org from Common Sense Media. Check out our first 3 reviews, complete with teacher quotes and a star-rating system!

Website and App Reviews – Creativity