A Dream Presentation

A little over month ago, I got the great privilege to present a panel at the biggest Star Wars convention in the world. (I am not exaggerating here. It really is the biggest!) Star Wars Celebration Orlando! Now presenting in itself isn’t a new endeavor for me, especially in the education field, but presenting at a convention attended by fans, families, and celebrities…..that was a first! To say this was an honor would be a gross understatement.

To give some history, I submitted a proposal in April of 2016, a year before the actual convention. I did it partially as a joke but mostly as a hope. My department last year was in the learning commons, a mix of technology, library, and meeting space, and it was a phenomenal group of individuals. You know how at work you are always wishing for that magical, perfect team that just clicks and works together so well? That was us. It wasn’t perfect, but damn was it nice!

As a team we decided to go full tilt into Star Wars Reads Day; a yearly celebration of reading hosted by Lucas Films and held in October every year. I had hopes of doing this for years before but never had the right team, school, or support to make it happen, at least not to the extent I had wanted! Last year though I had the team for it. 5 out of 7 of us were huge Star Wars fans and the other 2 were open to the idea.  Right away we knew that simply mentioning it and going to some classrooms and reading wasn’t enough. So we expanded it. We incorporated all the divisions in the school (K-12), technology, literacy, art, and just had fun with it. (For more information on what he did, check out my previous posts here, and here.) 

That was what I pitched to Reed Pop and Star Wars Celebration as a panel; how we used Star Wars and technology to change education in the classroom.

18058122_10154776230119412_1052970908922204704_n

I added everyone from my team to the roster as presenters, crossed my fingers, and hit submit. 11 months later I found out my panel was accepted.  (3 months AFTER I was supposed to know!) The rest of our team had become scattered with one in California, two of us in completely different departments, leaving 3 to the Learning Commons. It was such late notice that only myself and one other teacher were able to go. 

The two of us had 2 and a half weeks to compile a 1 hour long presentation on materials and events that occurred over a year prior. Even with a few missing elements, we pieced together a pretty awesome slideshow. I also added a short video of interviews with my advisory girls. All this put together during a very busy season at school and in less than 2 weeks. We never rehearsed it really (shhh!!), just walked through the slides, but we felt confident and ready for action.

The convention itself, (The second I personally had attended and the first for my co-presenter, Dee,) was great. It had some problems here and there, but we were treated like rockstars and quickly learned the perks that came along with a presenters badge.

THIS cannot be understated! We got SPECIAL GUEST BADGES! Do you know what that means? I’ll give you a hint. It’s the same badges the celebrities and their families get. Lines? Forget it. We walked right up. That six hour wait for the special convention store? HA! Nope. We got a special entrance AND check-out line. I’m betting we could have gotten onto the showroom floor early too, but I was never quite brave enough to try it.

17861655_1289767207759308_88954600374904670_n

Our special entrance to the Celebration Store.

Our panel went very well too. Besides the small hiccup of not bringing a dongle to attach our laptop to the projector (SPECIAL THANK YOU to my friend DEREK who happened to have an extra. LIFESAVER!) everything went smoothly. The staff /volunteers were so helpful and reassuring and gave us plenty of time to rehearse and test our materials. We had a good turnout of around 60 guests (which is saying something as it was scheduled the same time as the HUGE Last Jedi movie panel!) Everyone asked good questions and overall we were very well received.

17952649_1289767311092631_502810852908620838_n

Don’t we look professional?!

For the record, there are a ton of educators who go to these geeky conventions I mention from time to time. I’m not the only one!

I could go into every detail of our presentation, OR I could just let you see it for yourself! Special THANK YOU to my awesome husband (The Kanan in the photo above) for video taping the entire thing! (Warning, it’s an hour long. Our main presentation ends at around 36 minutes. The rest is the Q&A.) I am also attaching the quick video I made of my advisory girls answering questions about Star Wars. It is super cute so you should watch!

Our presentation

SW in the Classroom (Advisory Girls Q&A)

Websites and Resources for SWRD activities

In conclusion, I absolutely loved presenting at SWCO and honestly still can’t quite believe I got to do it! It was such a unique experience and one I will always remember.

So….who wants to present with me next time?!

Presenting in Orlando at the Star Wars Celebration

Or… I’M PRESENTING AT THE STAR WARS CELEBRATION IN ORLANDO!!!

Clearly this is exciting news to me, as I think it should be! It isn’t every day you get approved to speak at a convention as big as SWC (Star Wars Celebration.) Now for anyone who knows anything about the convention or educational conference circuit, you may notice that SWC isn’t an educational conference. It’s a fan convention specifically geared towards the Star Wars fandom. Think….San Diego Comic Con but more focused. Now that’s not to say they have tiny attendance, quite the opposite! The last time SWC was in the US, back in 2015 (Check out this post for more on my experience at that convention!) it was held in Anaheim, with an estimated overall attendance of around 150,000 people over the 4 days.

So not only am I speaking about education at a huge fan-based convention, but we’re the only school being represented (as far as I can tell!) So, you know, no pressure! 0_0

Now you may ask, how did this awesome turn of events come to be? Well last year my team and I did a Star Wars Reads Day event. Remember that?  So, knowing I was planning to attend SWC anyway, I figured, why not see if they’ll let me talk about the awesome things we did in our school?!

Changing Education with Star Wars and Technology

Star Wars is for all ages! From reading, writing, robotics, interactive media, and 3D printing, come discover how a K-12 school in TN was able to implement Star Wars Reads Day into their curriculum for every grade, every subject and even every faculty member! Fostering creativity, individuality, exploration, invention, and communication, come see how Star Wars transformed an ordinary day into something magically educational!

In all seriousness, I didn’t expect it to go through. I expected it to get lost in the shuffle of thousands of fan panel submissions and to never see the light of day. When the deadline for hearing back came and went without a peep about approval, I chalked up my effort as futile and planned my trip as usual.

Then this last week I got an email detailing the schedule of panels for the “Star Wars University” track of programming. Low and behold, there is my proposed panel. Shock would not be a strong enough word to describe my feelings at that exact moment. I was floored! SWC was only 2.5 weeks away and I HAD A PANEL?! I swiftly contacted all my fellow team members in a mad dash to gather materials and to see if anyone else could make it. Luckily I have one team member, who now teaches in the upper school, who will able to present with me.

Now I have less than 2 weeks to get this presentation together and make it AMAZING! I know I can do it, and I’m SUPER excited about. So, if any other educators are at Star Wars Celebration in a weeks down in Orlando, and you don’t mind live streaming “The Last Jedi” panel while we talk to you at OUR panel, PLEASE COME!

After all, I AM PRESENTING A PANEL AT STAR WARS CELEBRATION! How many educators get to say that?!

 

 

Making Fantastic Beasts

Or How the World of Harry Potter won me Cash

Back in November J.K. Rowling and Warner Brother Studios released the movie Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them. Scholastic of course was hot on their heels, incorporating the hit film into their issue of Scholastic Magazine. Now being the huge HP fan that I am, I couldn’t let the chance to bring the world of Fantastic Beasts into my science class pass me by.

So my 5th grade science students made their own Fantastic Beasts. They were responsible for creating their beast, telling us where they came from, what adaptations they had and so on. I even wrote a cute little cover letter from Newt Scamander himself introducing the project! (Check the link below for a PDF of the introduction letter and rubric.)

fantastic-beasts-project

After that, Scholastic announced a contest, where teachers could submit a 30 second video of how they used FB&WTFT in their classroom and possibly win a $100 gift card. My first thought was

YES! I can totally do this! I could even win!

My second thought was

Wait…how do I explain a week long project with so many pieces in just 30 seconds?!

But I managed to do it, and at EXACTLY 30 seconds.

My 30 Second Submission Video

Somehow I won and walked away with a $100 gift card. HOW AWESOME IS THAT?! Now I can officially say that Harry Potter won me money. Of course I could easily spend that much on butterbeer but that’s a different story 🙂

If you’d like to see some of the awesome beasts completed by some of my students, please check out the slideshow below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Superheroes in the Library!

April and May’s theme was Superheroes. My love for comics aside, this was in large part due to the many hero movies that premiered during the spring months. Captain America: Civil War and X-Men: Apocalypse to name a few. Even if younger students wouldn’t be seeing these films, they would be subjected to them visually through commercials, billboards, and various other forms of media, so what better time to take advantage of it?!

To start with, we needed a new book drop sign.

IMG_6855

From there we also needed to redo the window (always a favorite of mine!)

IMG_6857

Inside were various superhero pop figures (yes the’re all mine,) several comics from both the elementary and middle school sections,

a cityscape complete with flying superheroes and a “bat signal,”

and taped to the sides were pictures of other comics and graphic novels in our collection. (Sorry for the glare. There’s really no good way to get those angles clearly!)

This was all illustrated with a simple sign over to the side that stated “Graphic Novels: More than just Superheroes.”

IMG_6862

A fairly simple theme true, but it did help circulation of comics and graphic novels. I can’t tell you how many times I had to go into the window and remove a book for a student to check out, which is awesome! It also attracted a lot of attention from girls, who didn’t realize there were so many different types of graphic novels!

To add to the theme, I also had my 3rd grade LibTech class create their own superheroes to display in our window. For more on that project, please visit my other post titled 3rd Grade Superheroes! (And Villains.)

All in all, I loved this theme. There was so much more I could have done with it, but simply not enough time, or energy. Have you ever used superheroes as a theme for your class? If so let us know in the comments below. Share the comic book love!

EDUCATORS, ASSEMBLE!

 

3rd Grade Superheroes! (And Villains)

For my 3rd graders final project this past year, I and the other teachers decided on a Superhero theme! They would create a superhero (or super villain) complete with powers, an origin story,  a base or lair, an arch nemesis, and a favorite hero story. They also designed and decorated their own costume and mask!

This all cumulated in a self written comic book using the app Comic Life, where they would tell their origin story or most memorable moment in comic book style. In truth, only about 5 students completed the entire thing, while most simply ran out of time. (For this reason, I sadly have no Comics to show you as examples, but if you’ve ever used Comic Life or read a comic book, you get the idea!)

To introduce the project I read two stories to the classes. Dylan the Villain, and The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man.

In retrospect, I should have also introduced them to an actual graphic novel or comic book as many had never seen one before! This led to some pretty awkward Comic Life attempts that weren’t readable so much as a visual representation of selfies and pictures from the internet.

 

Sadly I don’t have a ton to show, but here are some costumes displayed on my window! You can also download my worksheet HERE

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Superhero names ranged from Darth Tyler and Cheetah Girl, to Neon and (everyone’s favorite,) Super Granny!  I was also surprised that only 3 boys decided to be a super villain! The best part, 2 of them incorporated their villain with a classmates hero. 🙂


Things I will do differently next year:

  1. Start the project near the BEGINNING of school so we don’t run out of time. Plus it’ll be a great introduction to me and each other.
  2. Read several actual comic books to them as examples, as many had never seen one before!
  3. Have the students create hard copies of the comic FIRST before inputing into Comic Life. That should simplify the whole creative process.

For more Superhero Excitement in our learning commons, check out my next blog titled Superheroes in the Library!

Updates, Moves, and D&D Therapy!

Good Afternoon!

It’s been a while hasn’t it? I apologize. But, first things firsts. I have some good news!

  1. For those who haven’t heard, I’ve moved my general geekiness and travel blogging to  a new blog, Geekified Wanderings, which can be found HERE!  So if you want to follow my Disney, Orlando, Universal, Costuming, Convention goodness, that’s the place to go 🙂
  2. It’s SUMMER! And it’s a busy one at that! With that said, I have several updated entries I want to complete before this nice warm weather runs away from me. OH! And keep a special lookout for some exciting conference updates near the end of this month! EXCITING THINGS ARE HAPPENING!

 

Dungeons & Dragons as Therapy

Today’s blog entry is all about gaming (like that’s a surprise.) Recently Geek & Sundry, an amazing geeky web-based site dedicated to all things nerdy and geeky, posted an article titled “Dungeons & Dragons as Therapy.” It’s about the use of RPG’s such and D&D as a form of therapy and social conditioning for teens. It’s an excellent and VERY informative read! It’s short, but as some very good points about anxiety and character building.

Dungeons & Dragons as Therapy

For the record: If you’ve never checked out their site and you’re a geek, I strongly recommend you do so now!

My Tabletop Gaming Keynote

I’m sure I uploaded this at some time but I’m adding it again since I’m giving another presentation today at TAIS Tech Institute.

This is my keynote I presented at FETC in January about implementing board games into the classroom. It’s been heavily updated since then to include custom modified games as well as various app versions.

Tabletop Gaming

7th and 8th Grade Escape Game, Track 2

In my last post I discussed how we created an escape game for the 7th and 8th graders right before Spring Break. (You can check out the post HERE)

We divided the students into three skill levels, or tracks. This is the medium level’s escape game.

As with the easy level, the medium level group started with a math problem.

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 9.08.06 AM

Answer is 209 

The answer, 209, led the students to room 209 which would be their base of operations throughout the game. There they found the second clue.

Inside the correct envelope was their third clue, which lead to the laser maze. (Both fake envelopes has a message saying “Try again.” )There were also 3 playing cards in the envelope; 6,7, and 8.

Starting with this group, we made the maze clues more like actual coding instruction.

The playing cards were the number code for the lockbox. (678.) In the box was the North Star clue and the key to the treasure chest which they’d find later.IMG_6537

On the page about the North Star Polaris (pg. 20), they found a post it note with coordinates 22N, 80W written on it. This led them to the map on the wall.

This proved to be the most difficult clue for the Jolly Roger group. Finding the Caribbean was easy enough, but picking out the specific country was hard. Figuring out what to scan was also difficult. Many kept trying to scan the country itself, not realizing it was the country’s flag that was the Aurasma piece that needed to be scanned. (Many many hint cards were used for this clue!)

When they scanned the correct flag, they got a poem leading them to their final clue.

One fish, two fish, Red fish, blue fish

One leg, two legs, Peg leg, bone legs

This directed them to the Dr. Seuss section where the treasure was ultimately hidden.

I think it’s fair to say that while it might not have been the easiest track, it was the quickest for them to solve. Every group found their treasure with time to spare. Next time, I think we’ll make it a bit longer so they feel more pressure to succeed. They tended to move at a very leisurely pace which can be boring to some.

To see the other two tracks, check out my other posts

The Black Pearl

The Flying Dutchman

 

7th and 8th Grade Escape Game!

You know those popular escape games people are obsessed with? 
Let's use them for education!

Before Spring Break, the 7th and 8th graders have a Springterium; a half day full of specially scheduled events and activities. The Learning Commons was asked to do something for 45 minutes, 3 times during the day. We had already done a good amount of research on BreakoutEDU and had been looking for an excuse to try it out with a class. What better time to give it a shot?!

Since we have a wide range of abilities, we created 3 separate “tracks,” an easy, medium, and difficult. Since the groups wouldn’t be coming to us by skill level, we had to plan to run each track three times, with about 5-1o minutes to reset. (NOT enough time FYI.)

We also created an elaborate backstory about 2 pirate ghosts and lost treasure. This isn’t necessary for a breakout game, but it sure was fun! In the end our game became more of a treasure hunt and less an escape. However for what we were doing, this worked out really well!

Here are a few things we learned from our day of treasure hunting!

  1. BreakOut games are time consuming! It’s incredibly beneficial to have more than 1 person working on creation. We worked as a duo; collaborating on material gathering, clue creation, and backstory.
  2. Don’t underestimate reset time (If you’re doing the same game more than once in a day.) Allow at least 10 minutes per game to reset adequately. Otherwise you may forget some tiny details like post it notes in certain areas or repositioning a hidden clue.
  3. Make it clear to the teachers helping (or whomever is assisting with supervision) that this is a STUDENT LED ACTIVITY. They are welcome to walk through it with the students, but they shouldn’t help. At all. (That’s what the “hint” cards are for!) 
  4. Keep groups small if possible so everyone has a chance to help out. We noticed that groups of 3-4 students were most efficient.
  5. Hint cards are the best tool the students can use. Don’t let them forget this! Many of our groups wouldn’t have succeeded without using at least of the two cards we gave them.
  6. Run through the game first with a teacher or a colleague. Trust me on this one. You don’t know what you may have missed or need to change until you have an outside eye having a look at it!

 

Ok so, Our Day Begins!!

In costume,  we showed the students this trailer explaining the story behind their quest. (costumes optional.)

Followed by the following keynote, Pirate Treasure Hunt, Explaining the rules and expectations.

Students were then places into three pirate crews, depending on the level. From there, the students had 30 minutes to find the lost treasure of Captain Peg-Leg Bones!

To follow each track, click on the name of the crew below

The Black Pearl (Easy) 

The Jolly Roger (Medium)

The Flying Dutchman (Difficult)

 

THE BLACK PEARL 

CLUE #1

The first clue was a math problem, that would lead them to their base of operations (classroom)

IMG_6557

This was the math clue for the easy track, The Black Pearl crew. The answer was 218.

In the room, on the table, they found this language arts clue.

IMG_6555

The numerical code opening an iPad

 

Once the iPad was opened, the opening screen had the following science clue (Sorry I don’t have a photo for this one!)

If there are cumulonimbus clouds above you, what’s most likely happening?

This led to a weather map taped to the wall of the classroom

IMG_6567

(Notice the Aurasma app symbol in the far right corner)

When students scanned the thunderstorm, a message appeared saying

X Marks the Spot

Which led them to the map taped to the adjoining wall, a social studies clue.

When the students, again using Aurasma, scanned the correct coordinates for the red X (C3), They saw the next clue.

A boy who never grows up fights a pirate who fears a croc.
Seek this book. 

This (library and literature clue),  led them to the fiction section (and the book “Peter Pan” where, next to the matching novel, they found a fake book with a rolled up clue and red crayon inside.

The rolled up clue included a grid and coordinate, our version of a coding clue. The students had to color in the path according to the listed coordinates. This clue led to the “laser maze” we had set up in the board room (a 9 x 6 grid made from yarn about 1.5 feet above the ground.)

When they found their correct ending coordinate, the found a basket with a lock box hidden underneath. The code to open the lock box was handwritten near the top right hand corner of the rolled clue (the one listed the coordinates to color in.)

IMG_6551

The instructions on the top were to make sure the blue bins stayed in the maze. Otherwise the last group would have an easy time finding their lockbox!

The box, when opened, included a picture of a beanbag and a key. This instructed them to look underneath the myriad of beanbags in the Learning Commons until they found the treasure.  The key from the lock box would open the lock where inside we had stashed some candy and Mardi Gras beads.

IMG_4078

Yes that’s a Harry Potter box. It’s hard finding cheap treasure boxes big enough and not made of cardboard!

That was the path for the easy track! Don’t forget to check out the other two tracks we designed as well, which can be found below.

EDIT: The other tracks aren’t available to view yet since I haven’t finished their posts! Just keep checking back. I should have them posted up later this week, if not today. (3/29)

FETC Reflection day 1

So it’s been a while, I know. I About 3 weeks to be precise. To say we’ve been busy at school would be an understatement. With snow days, sick days, and a staff presentation on gaming, my blog got lost in the shuffle. HOWEVER, due to my awesome super detailed convention notes, I’m able to finish up my FETC review now that things have calmed down a bit.

To keep this simple, I’m going to review a few sessions at a time. The first session was so full of information and resources however, that it get a full post of its own. Yay!!

Session #1: TechShare Live 2016

Lead by: Adam Bellow, Hall Davidson, Leslie Fisher, & Kathy Schrock

This session was a quick “what’s new and cool in technology” hour. It was fast paced and sometimes difficult to keep up with. It also incorporated a game element where we had to find various clues during the session to spell out a secret code word. The first one to tweet the answer one a BreakOutEdu box for their classroom. (It wasn’t me. I was too slow!) Here is a list of SOME of the cool and interesting new things I discovered.

BreakOut EDU: Along the same lines as the ever popular Breakout and Escape rooms available across the nation, BreakOut Edu is specifically designed for a classroom or learning environment. That isn’t to say that it’s just for students, it’s also great for teachers, administrators, and basic team building activities.  Having not played this myself, I think their website is a much better reference for this activity. Please visit them at http://www.breakoutedu.com/how-it-works/

wemoWEMO: I know a lot of people already know about this line of home automation devices, but it was cool none the less! The idea that you can control your lights, air conditioning, coffee makers, crockpots, camera, and so much more with just your phone and from miles away, is amazing to me. Hellloooo Smart Home! They also work with the new Amazon Echo speaker which since I won one, is a big bonus for my like of these products. Check them out here http://www.belkin.com/us/Products/home-automation/c/wemo-home-automation/

EmberLight: This device screws into lightbulbs that you already have. Basically, non-smart bulbs. You know, the kind you get for cheap(ish) from Wal Mart or the grocery store. The Ember Light turns those ordinary bulbs into smart bulbs that can be operated and monitored with a Smart Phone. It’s cheaper than Smart bulbs (at $49 a device), BUT it’s still in preorder stage, with estimated arrivals in March of this year. Their homepage can tell you more, http://www.emberlight.co/, and you can see preorder on their Indigogo site here, https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/emberlight-turn-any-bulb-into-a-smart-light#/

Mother_by_SenseSen.se: These little(ish) attachable cookies can monitor and track anything you can stick them on. Did you take your pills on time? Are the kids ACTUALLY brushing their teeth? Did your teen get home all right? Was your house entered while you were away? What exactly is the temperature in your house throughout the day? All these details and data are picked up by the little “cookies” and sent to the “mother” device which looks like a simplistic Russian stacking doll. You can monitor all this data from any mobile device at any time. Basically you can Big Brother your home and disguise it as Smartifying, but hey! It’s still cool if used right. I actually would use these in certain situations. You can find out more at their site here. https://selectric objectsen.se/mother/

Electric Objects: These are digital art displays that you change with an app. It is literally
exactly what it sounds like. And expensive. Is it cool? Totally. But it isn’t huge and it isn’t completely wireless. (Must be plugged in for power.) So I’d vote to see where it goes in the future first but hey, very cool concept! https://www.electricobjects.com/

Seesaw: Seesaw is a digital portfolio tool specifically designed for students. It’s created by students in any variety of media or product and available on any device. It’s also a great way to share what is going on in classrooms. I’m not sure it’s the best or only option out there, but it was nifty and new so I took note. http://web.seesaw.me/

Formative: This is actually very cool and noteworthy! It’s not just a student response site, but it gives live results at the same time. It also gives teachers the ability to comment and respond live as the results show up. Live results and comments AS they test or progress through the assignment and all private? PRICELESS! It can be used on any device and doesn’t restrict itself to multiple choice answers, as students can draw or write in their answers on the device.I personally love this site and if I had a class or subject of my own, I would use it all the time! https://goformative.com/

Bloomz: Bloomz is an app that teachers can use a communication tool between themselves and the class, and the parents. You can share photos and updates, schedule conferences, organize volunteers, and it saves it all in a nice little timeline you can view later. It can be used individually as students or a whole school. https://www.bloomz.net/

HyperduinoHyperduino: This was by far the coolest educational technology they showed. It basically turns a students reports into an Interactive Maker presentation. To describe it wouldn’t do it justice so I would suggest you visit their website here to see a few examples and just how advanced this technology could make student presentations in the future.  http://hyperduino.com/