Virtual Valentines are an incredible global project in February. If you want to join a group of teachers doing Virtual Valentines, you’ll want to listen to the show and sign up by February 2. Also, learn about other projects throughout the year and how teachers design these projects to meet standards. So much fun!
PowerSchool is my SIS and LMS and is the sponsor of today’s show. On January 31, they have a free webinar“Preparing Students for Success: Measuring What Matters.” Jake Cotton, a superintendent from Virginia, will be sharing.
Virtual Valentines: Get Ready for February!
Link to show: www.coolcatteacher.com/e237
Date: January 23, 2018
Vicki: Today we’re talking with Micah Brown @mbrownedtech, an Instructional Technology Specialist in Kansas.
We’re going to talk about Virtual Valentines and lots of other ways that you can connect and collaborate with other classrooms.
So Micah, tell us. What are Virtual Valentines?
What are Virtual Valentines?
Micah: Virtual Valentines are an amazing way for you to get yourself and your students plugged in with other classrooms around the world.
Vicki: So what will classrooms be doing with the Virtual Valentines?
Micah: Well, the Virtual Valentine Project is run by me and some of my amazing and super teacher friends. We put a platform out there for you to get some ideas of how to make Virtual Valentines with your students.
We love digital tools like Buncee and Green Screen, Adobe Spark. You basically make a Valentine with your class. You can make it as a whole group. You can have your students make them individually. Just share that love on social media.
You can also go an extra step, which is my favorite step. That is connecting with another classroom via Skype. You can take that step and share your Valentine either live or with video messaging so that you can learn about each other’s community. It’s an awesome way to get connected.
Vicki: So what grade levels are going to be participating in the Virtual Valentines Project?
What grade levels can do this?
- Check out the show with “Mrs. Smoke” 5 Ideas for Fantastic Professional Development – she's a gem!
Micah: That’s the really cool part about it. We are encouraging all grade levels, Pre-K through 12. We even had some pre-service teachers participating last year, with Jed (inaudible), it was fantastic! So all grade levels are most welcome.
One of the things I’m most excited about is that we’re adding a new section to this project. We’ll be adding the tool Flipgrid. So even if you’re not very comfortable with holding a live conference call via Skype or Google Hangouts, the cool thing about Flipgrid is that you can record video messages with your kids.
- Learn more about Flipgrid at Flipgrid: 6 Ways to Engage Learners in Conversation with Teryl Magee
So maybe your students have created an amazing Valentine. You can record them saying, “Happy Valentine’s Day!” and have them tell a little bit about themselves and their communities.
One of the big things that we would like to know is how many miles away you are from different people, so we’ve got a little map going for social studies. There are all kinds of different content areas and ways that you can participate with your students.
Vicki: So they need to sign up by February 2nd, is that right?
Micah: Yes. It’s coming up!
Vicki: And we will put the link to that in the Shownotes for how to sign up.
So Micah, when you’re describing this, pretend that I’m a teacher getting ready to sign up. What are the things my students are going to learn by creating and sharing Virtual Valentines with other kids?
Micah: Absolutely! Well, it’s kind of twofold.
One of my jobs is to make teachers a little bit nerdy on the side. What we like to do is to put together some digital tools for them to create the Virtual Valentines, and at the same time do some research and create some geographical awareness and by connecting with other classrooms, either Skype or Google Hangouts or Flipgrid, create that cultural understanding.
Vicki: So is it kids all over the world?
Micah: Yes. Last year, we had over 27 countries participate, over 400 classrooms.
Over 27 countries participate
Vicki: Wow! That just seems like so much.
OK, so let’s say that I’m a teacher and I’m not super comfortable with technology. I mean, I’ve used Skype just a little bit, and Google Docs maybe a little bit. Is this something that I can do?
Micah: Absolutely! What we’ve done for this project is that we’ve actually created two levels. We would love for everyone to be able to connect with different classrooms via Skype, but some people just aren’t comfortable with that yet. And that’s OK. That’s why we’ve created two levels for you. We have Level 1 and Level 2.
Level 1 and Level 2
Level 1 gives your students the ability to create that Virtual Valentine with whatever digital tool that you’re most comfortable with, and then share with others via social media and Flipgrid. Those are two digital tools that you don’t have to feel the pressure of a live call.
What’s awesome about Flipgrid as well is that it’s really easy to use. Twitter is just as easy as posting a picture of your students’ Valentine. We have Level 1 for those people who aren’t quite comfortable yet, and that’s OK. We still want to feel your global Virtual Valentine love.
Then we have Level 2 for those people who are ready to take it up to the next level. If you’re a little nervous, that’s OK. Once you register for the project, we’re going to give you a link to our special Facebook group so that you will be linked up with other teachers and the project creators to give you that extra support that you might need. Maybe you’ve only used Skype once, maybe with your grandmother over the holidays.
We can take you through a test call. We can help make sure that your technology’s all set up and ready to go, so that you can show your students’ awesome creativity. So we’re really excited about the support in the Facebook group that we have going.
Vicki: Cool. So Micah, is it free?
Micah: Totally free! That’s in my price range as a teacher.
Vicki: Yeah. Now back in December you did the Gingerbread STEM Community in Maker Space. And then you got something else coming up in May. Tell us about some of the things going on all year long.
Micah: Sure thing!
Like you just mentioned, in December we did the Gingerbread STEM Community Challenge. This is a project near and dear to my heart. It started in my second grade classroom over five years ago.
I don’t know about you, Vicki, but there are just some units that I’m just tired of teaching. I have to teach to these standards, and if I’m bored with it I know my students are, too. And so I was just — not dreading, but yeah, dreading — teaching kids the Communities Unit five years ago.
So I was still in the classroom, and I (said to) my mentor, Dyane Smokorowski, “You know, I just really need some creative juice for my brain. What can we do to make this unit better?” And so together we dreamed up this project.
My first year, I had the students talk about goods and services and just really focus on our community. We wrote persuasive essays about what things should be included in our community, and then I let them know that we were building a gingerbread community.
So then they had to make blueprints that matched what their essay said, so that they could build it into our community. They became architects. This replaced my holiday party. We brought the parents in and my students built their gingerbread community. They had to become historians and write facts to share with others.
My students became architects and historians
The next part made me a little nervous. The kids were so into it. But you know, Mrs. Smoke, she pushes you to the next level. She said, “What if we had other classes do the same thing, and then let’s hold a Skype call to compare your communities.”
I was like, “Oooooo, that sounds amazing. Comparing and contrasting and working on our speaking and listening. But it just makes me really nervous!”
So she said, “Oh no, I’ll be there to hold your hand and get you through this.”
So with her help, my students were able to connect with classes representing the different types of communities — urban, rural, and suburban. We live in a suburban community. We actually got to Skype with — it was wonderful — my mom also taught second grade at the time, and she lives in an urban area.
With Mrs. Smoke’s help, my students were able to Skype with my mom’s second graders and compare our gingerbread communities. We took them on a little virtual tour, you know, panning the camera around. You could just hear the oooohs and ahhs.
The students were able to ask each other questions about their communities. That’s when the magic came alive. I saw my students glued to the screen and asking deeper questions than they had ever done. I could have never done this without the Skype experience. So it just really enhanced that learning.
Asking deeper questions
We also were able to speak with a rural community in Canada. You hear an accent, and the kids were like, (squeal)!
Micah: It was amazing. So I just was so pleased with the idea, with those calls. The Skype really opened my eyes to the global collaboration type of opportunities can do for you and your students and what powerful learning can occur.
You know, I could have just said to my students, “My mom teaches second grade in an urban community, and what does that mean?” But what happens is what I call the Mobi Effect. Vicki, are you familiar with BrainPop?
Vicki: Well, yes, but go ahead and share.
The “Mobi” Effect
Micah: We loved BrainPop in my classroom, and you know, Mobi is awesome! He’s the robot there. I could teach about a concept over and over and over, but as soon as I showed them the little clip of Mobi, it was gospel.
And that’s how I feel about when student connect on Skype. They are hearing from an authentic source, and it means so much more to the, learning from that expert or that person in the community than I could have ever said.
Do they listen to what I say? Do they learn from me? Well, yes, that’s my job. But it makes a deeper impression on them. So we like to celebrate the Mobi Effect whenever we Skype.
Vicki: So teachers, there’s a lot that we can pull from this.
First of all, we are recording this in late December, and after she does Virtual Valentines, Micah will be feeling very ebullient about that as well. She just finished up the Gingerbread STEM Community, because that was a December project. These teachers have lots of projects that go on throughout the year. They are free.
The other thing that I love, Micah, is how you said that Mrs. Smoke just kind of held your hand and took you through it, encouraged you, and said, “I’ll be right here with you.” And that is really how change happens. We can’t push somebody up the ladder, but we can hold their hand and be with them and try stuff together. That’s what makes a great educational change and transformative teaching, as well as we learn how to use technology in a nonthreatening way.
Vicki: That was fantastic.
Micah: Yes. It can be scary, and I think sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to ask for help, and also for permission for things not going right. You know that awful word, failure. It’s OK, and sometimes we need to model that for our students in a safe environment in a safe way.
When you find your teacher superfriend, hold onto them and don’t be afraid to ask for help. They’re happy to help.
Vicki: OK, so sign up for the Virtual Valentine Project. Do check the Shownotes for this. Get out there and be remarkable. Remember that the modern 21st Century teacher is a connector. We connect our classroom with the world.
Contact us about the show: https://www.coolcatteacher.com/contact/
Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford [email protected]
Bio as submitted
Greetings from Wichita, Kansas! My name is Micah Brown. I graduated from Wichita State University (Go Shocks!) with a B.S.E. in Elementary Education. I earned my Master's degree from Emporia State University. I am a lifelong learner, Skype Master Teacher, Osmo Ambassador, Seesaw Ambassador, and currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for USD #385 in Andover, Kansas. I have also taught 1st and 2nd grade. I am passionate about engaging and inspiring students through global collaboration and hands-on opportunities.
|Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.|
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