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Over the past school year, the district has been exploring a number of new, exciting classroom ideas involving learning and technology. So, while we recharge our batteries over the summer, now is a good time to take a look back at what we have seen and then think ahead of some new trends that are likely coming down the pipe. One of the emerging topics you may have heard abuzz in our schools is STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) and the Maker Movement. For example, over the winter, some of our teachers such as Mrs. Lisa Meyers (see below working on a STEAM project in her classroom with a few of her students) attended a guest lecture by Don Marinelli as part of The Community Foundation’s Speaker Series. In his talk, Marinelli spoke about the rebirth of his adopted "second hometown", Pittsburgh, through a series of community-based STEM initiatives. His lecture was highlighted by the “Do-It-Yourself” maker culture that has redefined many of his favorite neighborhoods in Pittsburgh. He singled out places such as the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum for encouraging young people to engage in creative problem solving where STEAM subjects intertwine. Marinelli encouraged the Mohawk Valley to embrace a similar mentality, noting that this catch-all idea of “makers” has attracted the attention of technology companies all over the world in Pittsburgh and it has great potential to do so here just like had happened there. Meyers was so inspired by the ideas that Marinelli planted that she successfully integrated a few STEAM projects into her classroom over the last school year. She hopes to continue her work in this area next year and to get even more teachers involved in doing the same. For ideas on STEAM projects you might want to try out with your students or to get up to speed with what STEAM is all about, check out Maker Education Initiative this summer, and witness how industry is increasingly relying on the maker-life as well how education fits into the mix. Another resource to take a look at about the growing STEAM movment is the fun and surprisingly informative film, Lego: A Brickumentary. Of course, in additon to STEAM, another tech initiative that continues to grow and expand in our schools are the ongoing updates and features from Google that extend learning beyond the walls of our classrooms. For example, over the last year, many of our teachers begin getting trained and started with Google Classroom as it has the potential to be a great vehicle for blended learning and other cutting edge modern instructional strategies. While Google rolls out new technology for teachers at a rapid, steady pace all year long, history shows it tends to leaves its biggest reveals for Google Apps of Education during summer months so keep your eyes peeled out for them. This way we all have a chance to adapt before September! While we cannot be completely sure of what to expect from Google over the next few months, we are willing to wager a Coolata on it being some exciting, big changes to Google Classroom. Google has been integrating teacher suggestions into Classroom rapidly as it has evolved over the last year, so odds are that Google will have plenty of many new options available for implement with it in the fall. One feature they have already announced that's coming soon will be a "parent portal" of Google Classroom so parents can see what is happening in school from the comfort and convenience from home or work. In closing, eventually, we all get to the point over the summer where we excitedly re-envision our classroom for the upcoming school year. If any of the ideas we’ve shared above sound enticing to you, please just reach out to your Technology Department anytime over the summer to plan some of the ways that maker ideas and Google tools might make their way into your classroom teaching in the the fall. Until then, have a safe and enjoyable summer. We have all earned it!

 

While Google offers a wealth of tools for content creation, organization and file management, one of their more useful but perhaps overlooked is Google Photos, a powerhouse for storing, sharing, as well as integrating photos into Documents, Sheets, and Slides. Among its features for organizing and sharing pictures directly from the cloud, one set of features that is definitely worth a closer look is its Assistant, which lets teachers or students create albums, stories, collages, animations, and movies with ease.

Originally billed as a feature called “Autoawesome”," it let you “automagically” create video montages and animations by feeding it a series of images. Since then it has evolved into what is now termed "Assistant,” and offers a useful set of tools for photo editing as well as the automated or manual creation of collages and animated content from your photos.

Using the Assistant is easy. Just navigate to photos.google.com when you are logged into your Spartan Apps account. From there, click on its icon (see circled area in the screenshot below) that appears along the far left hand side of the Google Photos window. Four colorful icons will appear onscreen for you to choose what creation task you would like to use.


The first two are for creating albums, either an Album you privately create from your own photos or crowdsource with collaborators via a Shared album. Albums let you create traditional thumbnails galleries via or even add text blurbs and maps of where photos were taken to create a photo story.

The other two options are for creating a collage or animation. A Collage, if you aren't familiar, is a simple multi-frame layout that lets you display many pictures next to each other at once. An Animation will stitch your photos together as an animated GIF that makes the images for more interesting to look at.

It should be noted that Assistant creations are also just a click away from either the app's main screen by using the + icon next to the Search your photos field. Finally, while the web version is quick and easy to use for creation, if you have a smartphone or tablet, there is also an additional option in the Assistant for creating a Movie in the mobile app for iOS and Android. When you choose this option on your mobile device, you can automatically create a MP4 video of selected photos that then can be downloaded or shared on the go.

Of course, albums, movies, stories, animations, and collages all have their own specifications regarding how many photos can be included. Albums can include as many items as you want, while movies are limited to 50, stories need at least 5, animations can have between 2 and 50, and collages can have between 2 and 9. Don't worry if you can't remember these parameters as the specifics are spelled out right below the app's toolbar while you selecting images for a particular creation.

In the end, Google Photos Assistant offer a wealth of creation features you may not have been aware of but are fun and easy to use. Take a look and you will see how awesome the Assistant can be with your photos in the near future!

 
   
Web 2.0 Tools for Teachers
 
iTunes Content for Your Classroom

Are you looking for a great new way to create online flashcards, jeopardy-style games, MadLibs, and more for your students? If so, Flippity.net is a site that might be your perfect helper.
 
Flippity.net is a free site created by a teacher for teachers that guides you in creating instructional materials from data that is found with your own Google Spreadsheets. The site provides demos, templates, and clear directions with simple steps to create your own materials. To started with it, go to the Flippity site, download the appropriate Google Sheets template, enter your own data, publish the spreadsheet to the web, then share the link to the published file. If you are looking for a quick, easy way to create classroom materials using Google Spreadsheets, Flippity is a worth a look. Visit it now and you can get your materials ready for the fall in no time!
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Transforming Public Education
M. Shannon Hernandez

The timely, engaging podcast has been created with the idea of helping teachers, administrators, and parents create the types of school environments where students of all ages can’t wait to get their days started! Through interviews, personal insights, and conversations, you’ll learn gain idea on how you can transform public education by creating REAL reform that begins with you. Take a listen today and you will be sure to find something help to try out next school year in your own classroom!
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The New Hartford Tech Spotlight is a monthly informational e-mail newsletter published for all faculty and staff of the New Hartford Central School District by Mike Amante & James Davis. If you wish to contribute to or inquire about the newsletter, please visit here.
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