Monday, April 14, 2014

Tech Tuesday for April 15

Sorry for the long delay in posts! It has been a crazy school year and I've been meaning to share with you some very cool things. Checkout the neat things you can use for your classroom.


In January, I was granted a license by TEDx to host a TEDx event at Grosse Pointe South. This is connected to the 20 Time projects my students have been working on all year. Students from Grosse Pointe South will be sharing their thoughts on education and other topics they are passionate about on Saturday June 7 at Grosse Pointe South's Auditorium. Their talks will be live-streamed to the world and saved on the TEDx website. Space is limited, so please sign up before it is too late. Please show support for some amazing students sharing amazing things they are doing.


Newspaper Map is an awesome site that allows a user to locate newspapers from all over the world. A user can help narrow down the papers by setting the search parameters in the upper left corner. I can see this being great for our World Language classes and for our Social Studies classes as well. Take a look and see all of the different papers out there and how they might be used in your class.

Swivl - Making the Flipped Classroom Much Much Easier

I heard about Swivl from a friend who attended a conference on the Flipped Classroom and it sounded amazing. I reached out to Swivl and was able to use a demo model for this piece.

Swivl is a robot that allows you to record everything you have wanted in a classroom. By wearing or holding on to the Marker, Swivl will follow you around the room and record your audio. Take a look at the graphic below for more details.

The idea is pretty simple. Have a camera follow the user around as they teach a lesson. The Marker can hang around the neck and it will be tracked by Swivl. The Marker has a microphone in it, so it will record the audio from there, so standing far away from Swivl does not matter.

I was able to carry the Marker around and pass it to students so they could share their answers and have it recorded on the video. It was easy and the audio sounded great.

All of this is done through the Swivl Capture App that connects your device directly to the robot. From the app, you can record your lesson or upload slides that will then be incorporated into the video you are recording. So, if you have slides your students will see on the wall, you can upload those slides to the Swivl app and move through them with the Marker. This connection is all done through Bluetooth and it was seamless to set up and use.

Swivl runs on battery and can be charged each night so it is ready for the next day.

Swivl also provides a cloud service for all users. Everyone starts off with 200 total minutes of video, but they do offer upgrades you can purchase.

Using the Swivl Cloud is great for teachers that want to record their lessons, but restrict who has access to it. While the videos that are recorded could be downloaded and uploaded to YouTube, the Swivl Cloud allows users much more control over the content and would address privacy concerns some parents or districts might have regarding the recording of class. The group management is also very nice so the user can create specific groups for students to join and access specific videos that have been shared by the user. 

For me, I often have discussion that head in different directions in different classes. I would love it if other students could see those conversations and add that to their notes. It is a great way to expand my classroom as an English teacher so more of my students can see and hear the ideas of their peers. I also see this as being huge in Science, Math, Social Studies, Foreign Language and many other disciplines because of the ability to easily record video and audio and make it available to students. 

The Swivl robot is wonderfully made and works flawlessly with my 4th Generation iPad. It also works for the iPad Air, 2nd - 4th Gen, iPad Mini 1st and 2nd Gen, iPod Touch 4th and 5th Gen, as well as the iPhone 5S, 5C, 4S, and 4. They are testing other Android models and cameras as well. 

The overall price for the Swivl robot is $299 with options for a $499 and $799 package that will also add the different levels of Swivl Cloud. 

If you are looking to Flip your classroom and have been striving to find the right tool to make it possible, you should really consider the Swivl. It is portable, so it can be shared in the department. It is easy to set up and use. It works with devices you might already own. It provides wonderful audio recording that is perfect for making great videos. I'm recommending Swivl to all of my teachers looking to Flip their classrooms. You should check it out as well. 


The example I posted might have trouble loading on the school computer. Maybe it's just slow today. Check it out at home if the computer is taking too long to load it.

Blabberize is a very fun site that could be used in a single class period in the computer lab. It's an online computer tool that allows you to add your voice to a picture of your choosing. The cool part of this is that you can select the area over the images mouth and the mouth will open and close while it plays the recorded message.

The message can be recorded via microphone, audio file or your cell phone. The cell phone option is really neat if you do not have a microphone on your computer at home. It gives you a number to call and a 4 digit pass code and the site will record your voice and save it to the picture you have selected.

You could use this as a fun option for students to find characters from a novel and record their favorite line or lines from the story that best suit them. At the end of the class period, you could play a selection for the class. If you are a History, you could use the site to have kids record parts of speeches for historical figures.

This site might not revolutionize education as we know it, but it is a nice tool to have in your drawer if you decide to do something a little different with your students. If you are not sure how to use it in class, just show the students and I'm sure they can come up with some fun ideas for class projects.

Here is my goofy example. It only took me 5 minutest to put together.

Try having some fun with Blabberize and see the silly thing you can do with it. You might just want to create a few fun pictures and place them in a Power Point or on your class website. Give it a try!

Sphero 2.0 Can Bring Coding To Your Classroom

Before you read anything else, please watch this video so you can get a feel for what Sphero 2.0 can do.

I was sort of into RC cars when I was little. I would drive them around the house and run into things and generally scare the crap out of my dogs and cats. Those fun memories came flooding back to me after I had a chance to play with Sphero 2.0

I have to say, the Sphero experience is way better than any RC car I had growing up. By connecting the Sphero to my iPhone using a Bluetooth, I was able to control Sphero very easily. The movements were just as smooth as you saw on the video (You did watch the video right?) and controls were easy to understand. My students picked up my phone and were able to control Sphero without any instructions. 

I love that there are many apps available to do different things with Sphero. Here is a picture of the apps I have on my phone. 

The Drive app is simple driving and changing colors. It has some pre-programmed patterns it can do and flashing multicolored lights. It is a great app to get a user comfortable moving Sphero around. 

Draw and Drive is exactly what the title says it is. You can draw the path you want the Sphero to take and it will follow that path. It takes some getting used to to fully understand how far a line drawn is to the actual surface you have, but once that is figured out, it is a really fun app to play with in a large space. 

Rolling Dead is an Augmented Reality game that allows you to roll Sphero around and shoot zombies that crawl out of the ground. Here is a shot of some zombies and Sphero in my school hallway. 

This is a fun game that takes some time getting used to moving the device to follow Sphero to keep it in the camera view, moving Sphero around, and shooting zombies. After a few minutes of playing with it, my students were soon competing for high scores. 

One of the coolest aspects of Sphero is the fact that it has an app that can allow for some coding. This is really what sparked my interest as I thought about the implications a device like this could have in the classroom. The MacroLab app allows users to design their own programs for Sphero

A person can design their own paths, color combinations, and any other tricks they can think of with MacroLab. As I think more about coding for younger students, I love it when I see something that could fit perfectly in a classroom. Here is a shot of one of the programs that can be run using the app. 

Orbotix has launched their education page that has lesson to make Sphero part of your class. They have also launched an #SPRKScholarship contest on Instagram. Check it out so you can bring Sphero to your class.

Sphero 2.0 is priced at $129.99 and I think it is worth every penny. The apps that are available are free and will lead to hours of enjoyment and learning for adults and students. If you have a budding programmer in your house or classroom, Sphero is a fun way to get started. Heck, if you have wanted to do a little programming, Sphero is perfect for you too. 

Thanks for taking the time to check these out. If you have any questions, please let me know and I will be more than happy to help. 


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