Tag Archives: writing

Upcoming Workshops & Sessions at FETC 2015

6 Jan

FETC15_eBadge_250_speakerHard to believe that 2015 is already underway… and with that only two more weeks before the National FETC educational technology conference in Orlando, Florida.

It is an honor to be selected as a Featured Speaker for this year’s conference! I can’t wait to present alongside so many brilliant and talented educators.

Here is a list of the info for each of my workshops and sessions. Would love to have you join me!

Featured Sessions:

Digital Village: Using Technology to Increase Parent Involvement
Thursday 1:00-1:40 p.m. – S310A

If it takes a village to raise a child, then this digital generation calls for a digital village. Studies increasingly show that parent involvement is directly correlated to student achievement, behavior and high school graduation rates. By using digital collaboration tools, parents can become an integral part of their child’s education, sharing from their knowledge, careers, and life experience. For students, their friends and family are the best place to establish their Personal Learning Network, preparing for a lifetime of communication, collaboration and digital citizenship. In this engaging session, attendees will examine pertinent research, explore best practices for implementation, engage live demonstrations of collaborative web environments, view diverse examples, and delve into free, effective Web 2.0 tools like blogs, wikis, Voicethread, video-conferencing, collaborative applications and workspaces, and communication tools. Creating an innovative, connected classroom was never easier than when using these parent-friendly ideas. Whether for individual lessons or yearlong initiatives, educators and educational stakeholders will leave feeling inspired to expand the educational experience with a digital village!

Innovative Elementary Writing Instruction for the Digital Age
Thursday 3:20-4:00 p.m. – S320G

With the emergence of Web 2.0, tablet apps, and global communications tools, the art of writing is becoming increasingly vital to our students. Whether it’s translating the concise word choice of poetry to Twitter, the voice of persuasive essays to blogs, or the delicate crafting of an engaging narrative into ePublishing, effective writing is at the heart of 21st century learning and skills. In this eye-opening session, educators learn how to bring out the inner Shel Silverstein and J. K. Rowling in their students through intentional uses of dynamic applications and student-created digital media. Plus, educators learn about free and affordable ways to promote their budding authors by publishing paper and digital storybooks and anthologies. In fact, these activities, projects and practices have already empowered the presenter’s students to win international digital storytelling awards and even pen an Amazon Best-seller! Through these engaging, student-created projects and instructional practices, educators will see measurable improvements in their students’ spelling, grammar, voice, word choice, figurative language, creativity, elaboration and more! With the ideas, student samples, adaptable rubrics and the practical resources they need to get started, educators will rush to integrate their new learning as soon as they return to school!

3D Technologies: A Key to Maximizing Digital Age Teaching and Learning
Thursday 4:20-5:00 p.m. – S230B

Teaching and learning with 3D technologies can improve student achievement, attention, behavior, and more! Learn how three types of 3D educational applications can enhance teaching and learning at all grade levels! 3D design applications allow students to make their mental images a reality by creating 3-dimensional objects and scenes by using programs like Google Sketch-Up and Autodesk Maya. Progressive uses even include augmented reality, virtual environments, and video game creation. 3D printing produces such digitally designed objects in tangible materials from plastic to human tissue. Through its emergence in the “maker” movement, students are engaging an iterative engineering design process firsthand. Finally, stereoscopic 3D is familiar to many students from 3D movies and theme park rides. Whether with glasses or new glasses-free displays, 3D videos and simulations are increasing students’ learning gains, retention, and attention in classrooms around the world. Each 3D technology provides powerful opportunities for learning and develops the essential skills and knowledge needed for success in emerging 21st century fields and careers. Through best practices, practical applications, student-created examples, and true success stories, we will explore the basics of these 3D technologies and how they may serve as the key to maximizing digital age teaching and learning.

Workshops (a few spots left!) – more info and to register:

Lights! Camera! Student Moviemakers in Action!
Wednesday 8:00-11:00 a.m. – S330G

Lights! Camera! Student Moviemakers in Action! is a hands-on workshop that assists educators in effectively integrating student-created movie projects into the K-12 classroom. In this engaging workshop, educators will explore the positive impact of student media creation on meeting the challenges of 21st century learning and the participatory digital culture. They will learn a basic workflow for approaching various types of class video projects with iMovie. Plus, educators will also discover powerful applications of several student moviemaking genres and styles, as well as technological hardware and software tools, that support implementation of the NETS-S, the Framework for 21st Century Learning and the Common Core State Standards across curricular areas. Guided hands-on activities and demonstration in making creative and advanced video types, including stop-motion, time lapse, and stereoscopic 3D, round out this session to make it an innovative professional development experience that educators won’t want to miss. Best of all, they will acquire access to extended resources, reproducible classroom materials, sample rubrics, student-created examples and how-to video tutorials. As a result of this inspiring session, educators will leave ready to connect with their students in creative and meaningful ways upon returning to school.

Powerful Technology Centers for Elementary Students
Wednesday 12:00-3:00 p.m. – S330D

Whether for reading groups, Daily 5, math activities, or creative projects, centers are an ideal way to provide differentiation, independence, and discovery learning in the elementary classroom. By integrating easy-to-implement technology activities into these centers, every student, from kindergarten to fifth grade, can enhance their learning experience while developing progressive technology skills. In this interactive session, attendees gain first-hand experience of six progressive Independent Technology Centers. Each hands-on center provides samples, ideas for extended applications, how-to tutorials, adaptive lesson and rubric templates for K-2 and 3-5, as well as time to experiment with the tools. Plus, the session will provide best practices learned from successful implementation at several elementary schools that are making substantial gains on standardized testing while still promoting technology activities that develop creativity and critical thinking. With practical tools, resources and hands-on experience, attendees will leave confident and inspired to successfully develop 21st century skills and deep learning of the standards through these powerful learning centers.

Digital Storytelling with Animated Powerpoint – 100,000 Youtube Views and Counting!

4 Mar

In 2011, some of you were there with me when I gave my first conference presentations to standing room only crowds at both FETC in Orlando, FL and in Philadelphia at the ISTE Conference.  The presentation was titled “Elementary Media Projects You Have to See to Believe!” and it never failed to live up to the hype.  With innovative project ideas and inspirational student work samples, student-created media was (and is) one of my favorite things to speak on.  It’s truly incredible what even our youngest students can do!

Click to view student-created example!

One of the most popular projects from that presentation was the use of animations in PowerPoint to create digital storybooks that played like an animated movie.  This type of project supports reading, writing, fluency and editing.  It helps students to think and write with all of their senses and to experiment with various concepts of spatial thinking.  Plus, it actually serves as a great precursor to computer programming through the use of strategic design thinking in executing both linear and parallel animation sequences to accomplish different visual effects.  And the kids just love it!

To support my own students, as well as the other students and teachers who started experimenting with this type of project, I created a set of tutorial videos that walk through each step of the process.  I then hosted them on YouTube so that teachers could embed the tutorial videos into their own school and class websites to share with their students.  Since then, countless numbers of student created projects have followed…. along with this week’s 100,000 viewer milestone for the full tutorial on YouTube!

I wanted to share this momentous milestone with each of you who have used and shared these resources.  Your efforts to give your students voice and purpose are commendable… and it has brought me great pleasure to provide this and other resources to the incredible ed-tech community over the last few years!

And if you are new to this idea, below you can find the video and some information about using it in class.  You can also learn more about innovative ways to use PowerPoint and other student media creation tools in the Interactive Student-Created Digital Media Portal in the site’s Resources.

Happy creating, learning, and teaching!

Creating with Animated PowerPoints

Kids love illustrating their stories. Using clip art in PowerPoint is a great way to allow our young students to create complex illustrations for their writing and stories without depending on their ability to draw them. And the best part? When they’re all done, these animated storybooks actually play like a movie.

The Concept:
Illustrate and animate a narrative using custom animations and timers in PowerPoint or comparable presentation software

The Applications:
Creative Writing – Identifying Setting & Characters, Plot, Sequencing, Character Development, Dialogue, Voice
Math – Real World Problem Solving, Geometric Transformations, Equivalent Fractions
Demonstrate Scientific Concepts – Virtual Experiments, Revolution of the Planets, Water Cycle
Social Studies Concepts – Election Process, Teeth Care/Dentist, People in my Neighborhood
*Students can complete a whole story or documentary on their own or each student make one slide to combine into a class “video.”

The Hows:
Prerequisite skills: Decent spelling ability (clip art searches must be spelled correctly), Familiarity with the basics of PowerPoint (text boxes, clip art, transitions)

  • The Storyboard – Before beginning to create the animated illustrations, students should either write their rough/final drafts of their story or voice overs… or at least have a decent flow map story board or what happens in each scene.
  • Create slides using the following tutorial video. You can also embed this video into your own teacher website to use with your students.
    • Have students save their work often. At least once every ten minutes.

This video and/or the step-by-step tutorials below can be linked/embedded into your class or school website.


  • Inserting clipart – All backgrounds and clipart should be inserted as movable objects. Objects that come in and out of the scene can be placed outside of the slide. Also, let students use creative problem solving to “crop” clip art to get one piece of a larger picture.
  • Custom Animations – When creating the animations, instead of using “after previous,” set all animations to happen at the same time and then use the time delay to make them happen over the span of the slide. If you don’t do this, the animations won’t run at the same time as the narration after they are recorded.

Visit our class website to see several more samples, like:
A Retelling of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” by a 4th Grader
Animated Commercial integrating Excel Graph by a 3rd Grader
Science Experiment Demo
And for some mind-blowing inspiration, check out some of the work at the PowerPoint Heaven website!

Video Tutorials – To use with your students or embed into your own site!
Full Video
Part 1: Intro & Samples
Part 2: Getting Started: Background and Clip Art
Part 3: Adding Custom Animations
Part 4: Adding Text
Part 5: Recording Narration
Part 6: Setting Automatic Timers

“It’s a Small World: Elementary Global Collaboration Tools” @ #GlobalEd12

13 Nov

Day 2 of the Global Education Conference has begun!  Yesterday was filled with inspirational speakers and practical tips.  I especially enjoyed Tony Wagner‘s ideas about fostering innovation in our students and Rita Oates’ practical tips for connecting with guest speakers who have International perspectives, yet live within our local communities. (If you missed them, I will be posting a link to the #GlobalEd12 session recordings later this week.)

As promised, tonight (or tomorrow morning depending on where in the world you live) at 11:00 PM Eastern Time, U.S, I will be presenting as well.  Here’s the scoop!

It’s a Small World: Elementary Global Collaboration
Nancye Blair, Education Innovation Specialist & ISTE Emerging Leader

Direct Link to the Session: https://sas.elluminate.com/d.jnlp?sid=2008350&password=GECPart101

Session Description: With mountains of resources available for Global Collaboration, elementary teachers often spend hours sifting through tools and practices to find the select few that will be successful for young learners. In this high-energy session, attendees learn about powerful web resources and best practices that are perfect for our youngest learners. With ideas for tools like Google Docs, Storybird, Voicethread, ePals, Skype, Flockdraw and more, participants will learn how to find other teachers and classes who are interested in collaborating, how to set-up 21st century learning activities that promote global awareness and real world problem solving, and easily implement these new tools in their classroom. In no time, elementary students can be blogging; digital storytelling; sharing videos, images, knowledge or skills; and even creating websites with other students across the classroom and around the world.

Today guarantees to be another wonderful day of connecting and learning.  Once again, the full GlobalEdCon schedule can be found  here.  And remember, you can follow #GlobalEd12 or me (@EngagingEdu) on Twitter for ongoing updates, tips and highlights as well!

Transforming Students to Authors: National Novel Writing Month (#nanowrimo) starts today!

1 Nov

In my eight years of teaching, rarely had I encountered a project that gave students as much ownership and motivation as the Young Writers Program for National Novel Writing Month…  Or as lovingly referred to by its participants, NaNoWriMoYWP.

Today commences the 2012 month of novel writing.  Students around the world are choosing a personal word count goal and launching on an adventure to tell a long narrative tale by November 30th.

Not only does this project significantly boost the quality of student writing through hours of deliberate practice and give amazing opportunities for powerful writing mini-lessons that students can immediately put into practice, but NaNoWriMoYWP also provides an appropriate learning environment for demonstrating  to students the power of setting and working toward a challenging goal.  Completing one’s first novel at the age of 8, 12 or 16 is something that belongs wholly to that student and can never be taken away.  It represents a lifelong transformation from writing student to author.   The message of empowerment is undeniable.

NaNoWriMoYWP Planning Sheet

Click to download .pdf version.

So, I encourage you to take join my students, colleagues, friends, writers around the globe and me in taking the NaNoWriMo challenge in 2012.  Just because it is November 1, doesn’t mean it is too late to jump in. In fact, I am attaching a .pdf adapted from NaNoWriMo materials that can help you shortcut your planning time, turn your ideas into a true story concept and even connect with other NaNoWriMo-ers.  Plus, this month, I will be continuing to share writing resources, tips and student stories to keep your writers engaged and motivated along the way.

So, take the challenge yourself, integrate the program into your reading and writing instruction over the next month, or at least send a Twitter message to the many students on their way to becoming authors!

Let the novel writing begin!

“NaNoWriMo – I am an Author” – Video
NaNoWriMo - _I am an Author_ - YouTube






Click here to read more about our 2011 NaNoWriMo experience!

7 Ways Technology Can Enhance Your World Read Aloud Day Celebration

2 Mar

With World Read Aloud Day just around the corner, it’s not too late to use your technological resources to enhance your celebration and bring reading to life for your students. Here are seven ways to do just that!

1. Guest Readers & Audiences – Using Skype, iChat, Facetime or other applications, classes can bring in virtual guest readers. Guest readers come in all shapes and sizes. LitWorld and Kate Messner both provided a list of published authors who are willing to Skype with students on WRAD, which you can find at
Yet, guest readers can also be students’ parents or grandparents, volunteers from local businesses or organizations, or even students and teachers at other schools. If you would like to connect with other educators who are interested in Skyping for WRAD, visit this wiki created by John Schu and Shannon Miller – ChangeTheWorldStoryByStory.wikispaces.com/Skype+Schedules+and+Projects.
By the way, don’t miss out on the opportunity to allow your own students to serve as the Guest Readers for other classes or schools as well!

2. Podcasting – Get your students excited about reading by using voice-recording applications to record themselves reading aloud. Vocaroo.com or the Voice Memos app on various iDevices are simple ways to implement this… or use a more robust program like Audacity, Aviary or Garageband, which would even allow students to add mood music or sound effects to their productions. Play these finished masterpieces for the class or publish them online to share with others!

3. Talking Avatars – Using the voice recording function at Voki.com, students can use their voices to create an avatar that can read aloud to the class. Whether Abraham Lincoln is reading the Gettysburg Address or a cat is reading Carl Sandburg’s famous Fog poem, this activity will delight students of all ages.
Bonus: Students can read their own poems and compositions aloud as well! Check out this elementary Voki project by Samantha Lewis that promotes literacy and writing through Dr. Seuss inspired rhyming poems.

4. VoicethreadVoicethread is a dynamic digital media tool that will allow your students to write or record comments. For World Read Aloud Day, create a Voicethread with slides for various figures of speech or genres and allow your students to read aloud to audio or video record examples that they discover in literary works. (Learn more about this tool’s potential at Voicethread.com.)

5. Digital Storytelling – To celebrate both reading and writing, consider allowing the students to create Digital Storybooks using the Web 2.0 application, Little Bird Tales. This application allows students to compose a written piece, draw original illustrations and record themselves reading the book aloud. Best of all, they are easy to share with the class, e-mail to parents or paste on your class website.

6. Puppet Shows or Reader’s Theater – Lights! Camera! Action! Bring reading to life with a little drama! Use your document camera to create live or recorded Read Alouds of Reader’s Theater or other works with engaging images of student-created popsicle stick avatars, finger puppets or other manipulatives. For example, read Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar with a large popsicle stick avatar of the caterpillar and real versions of the red apple, two green pears, a cupcake, a single leaf and more.

7. Video Book Reviews – Students can use a webcam, Flipcam or Doc Cam to record a review of a favorite book, including sharing illustrations and reading their favorites passages aloud.
Bonus: Upload these video book reviews online and connect their URLs to QR codes (qrcode.kaywa.com) that can be printed and affixed to the cover of the book for other students to watch throughout the school year!

Using Technology, you can easily use your World Read Aloud Day event to ignite a passion for reading in your students and allow it to spread far beyond your classroom walls.

World Read Aloud Day takes place on Wednesday, March 7th. For more ideas, activities resources, visit LitWorld.org/WorldReadAloudDayActivities. You can even download their original picture book, New Day, New Friends, to share with your class!