Our Tech Ed teacher would like to do an animation unit. What app/programs do you recommend?
Wowza . . . that's a tough one. I haven't really ever thought of animating anything before, so I wasn't even sure where to go with this one. The first thing that popped into my mind was those little flip books I used to make as a kid, where I would draw a stick man who slowly changed position from page to page along the bottom edge of a notepad so that when I put my thumb on the corner of the pad and let the pages fly, he would look like he was moving. Usually my stick men met disastrous ends when they would jump into empty swimming pools or mysteriously lose their limbs, but I digress.
That fun memory made me remember a really cool Google Slides video I once saw, where someone had created a 450-Slide presentation for a Demo Slam, then turned it into a YouTube video (which now has nearly 2 million views).
That little ditty reminded me of a sixth grader from whom I was fortunate to learn last year - in fact, I've written about him here before, when I was first realizing the power of Google Drawings. He created a presentation that not only included some really imaginative DRAWINGS that he whipped up in that tool, but he then used the Web Clipboard to bring them into Slides and make them move - DANCE, even!
I suggested this tool to Linda, but then I got to wondering how realistic this was. I couldn't feel right about offering an idea I had never tried now, could I? So slides.google.com, here I come!
Clearly the fates of my animated characters haven't improved over time, but I did realize that Google Slides is really a do-able tool for creating these type of projects. Here are a couple of things I learned:
Once you have the link or the embed code, show your stuff . . . one slide at a time!
Yea, kids can SLAM, too, and it turns out they are loaded with sass! Or . . . should that be the other way around???
I did my first-ever Demo Slam with the staff at a local elementary school, and it was so much fun, that I decided to try it out with students. I had been working with a group of 6th graders at that same school for a couple of months, and being quite Google savvy, they were quickly cashing out my repertoire of new and interesting things that I could show them. Talking this over with their teacher and their library media specialist, we realized that this put us in a wonderful predicament - what if the kids showed something to us?! And so the idea of a Kid Demo Slam was born.
The kids were pumped! Did they have the motivation? Yup. Did they have the tools? Sure (thanks to the dedicated scheduling efforts of their teachers). Did they have the skills? Heck yes. Did they have anxiety like their teachers did? NO! Well, actually that's not a solid no. A few of them did - some of them told me days in advance that they were very nervous, and even sitting their in their seats waiting for their names to be called, there were more than just a few nervous glances sent my way. But they were GREAT sports, and it turned out to be a wonderful time.
The students had one week to prepare a presentation, using any Google tool they wished, which was instructional, a little bit sassy, and kept under 3 minutes. They were instructed to share their topics, titles, and links with me via a Google Form. While prepping them for the event, I used the opportunity to teach them about URL shorteners (specifically goo.gl and bit.ly) which they were very excited to learn. Once I had all of their information in the Form-generated Sheet, I activated the Random Generator add-on so that I could select students by number of row.
On the day of the Slam, I showed up with just my video camera and tripod; since I was using Google tools, I didn't even bring my computer! I just logged into my Google account by adding myself as a user on the library media specialist's computer, and accessed the Sheet with all of the students' names and links. I demonstrated how to use the Random Generator by selecting 4 students to do a few of the housekeeping chores for me; by random row number, I selected a person to run the randomizer, a person to start and stop the video camera, a person to ensure that the Redcat Access microphone was in use around each presenter's neck, and a person to set and monitor a 3 minute Omnibox timer.
We had one hour, and 18 slammers; my biggest concern was that we would run out of time, since kids' nerves often cause them to ramble (especially when encouraged by a microphone)! As it turned out, the 3 minute time limit was perfect. They were so concerned with being concise out of fear that they would "go over," that most of them finished up in just under 2 minutes. There were a few who spoke with quiet, shaky voices, but for the most part, they were confident, clear, and sassy! Best of all, though, they were incredibly supportive of their peers, and the audible cries of "WOW" proved that they learned something! Impressive!
At the close of the last presentation, I brought their names back up in a Google Form, and asked them to choose their favorite two presentations. To the top vote-getter, I awarded a gift card to a local ice-cream shop . . . because their presentations were SO COOL!! To the winners (all of them), I awarded Google stickers and small treats. Because really, when we get to learn from and cheer for our friends, isn't that really a treat in itself?! SLAM!
I attended my first-ever Demo Slam at a Google Summit in Las Vegas this past winter. I actually think I may have witnessed one at the Google Teacher Academy, but truthfully those two days were such a fast and furious blur I barely remember what happened.
So What IS A Demo Slam, You Ask?
EdTechTeam, who puts on the Google Summits, touts a Demo Slam as a "high energy, geek out kind of session," where participants both get and give a bunch of tips, tricks and tools in a really short amount of time. In Las Vegas, 7-10 participants, speakers and sponsors presented 3 minute showcases (demos) on something Google. Most chose to show either their favorite tool, the most geeky use of a tool, or the most overlooked use of some "hidden" menu item. The fun was that they did it in such a way as to "slam" their competition in order to win (bragging rights, admiration, etc). The winner walked away stoked, but really EVERYONE who observed or participated was a winner because in about 30 minutes, we learned 7-10 new things or new uses for old things. Mostly we won an emotional bucket full of energy because of what we had witnessed: excitement about geeky stuff!
All pumped up with excitement after Vegas, I decided that a Demo Slam just might be an interesting method for delivering "training." While I was sitting at an elementary school doing "Geek in the House" one day, I decided that the staff there would be perfect for this kind of experiment. And so, without even asking permission, I sent the following email:
And from that I got exactly zero replies . . . HOWEVER, I checked the Doodle (to which I referred in a follow-up message) the next day, and 15 people had replied with suggested dates right away. Yes, game on.
Planning for Slamming
So here's the thing about a Demo Slam: you don't really plan anything. You just get the "volunteers" - whiiiiicchhhhh proved to be harder than I thought. It turns out that people aren't very confident when it comes to sharing, NOT because they don't know what they're doing, but because they think everyone already knows what they know, or that what they have to share is not geeky enough. After asking, coaxing, and just-short-of-begging, I had 12 very anxious Slammers lined up, two of which were my husband (the Director of Technology) and my son (a programming major in college). I collected their topics in a spreadsheet just to make sure there weren't duplicates, but I kept everyone's idea secret.
The day before the big event, I sent this message to all of the staff, as well as my "external" presenters (and the Director of the Education Foundation, and the Directors of Curriculum and School Leadership Support, and the Superintendent):
Welllll, then the emails started coming in. "I'm nervous." "I'm not sure my topic is slammy enough." "I don't think I can talk for 3 minutes." "I don't think I can keep it under 3 minutes." To all of these I simply sent a reassuring, "YOU CAN DO THIS!" reply. Luckily, I didn't have to pull out the, "For Heaven's sake, you teach 11-year-olds all day, you can teach your co-workers!" and only one person (a long-term sub) backed out.
The Big Day
With much excitement, the staff began gathering in the library at 3:15 sharp. I pulled up a random name generator on my iPad, and called out the first name: GULP. Aaaand . . . it was awesome. As was every single presenter after that. Of course there were hiccups in the technology: the Internet was slow, Reflector wouldn't reflect, the RedCat microphone walked away around someone's neck - the usual ed tech follies. BUT all 12 people got up and showed something awesome. Here were their topics:
What Did I Learn?
Every good experiment has outcomes, and I would be so bold as to call this one a tremendous success! I saw apps I had never heard of before, I saw tools I had never seen used, I learned brand new things I didn't know, and NONE of it came from a paid trainer. The speakers were friends, peers, colleagues, and trusted advocates for the very tips, tricks, and tools they demonstrated, and because of it, the audience was supportive and enthusiastic. The best part was that all it took was about an hour! It was fun, fast-paced, exciting . . . and as promised, everyone won. Yes, there were prizes involved, but truly, everyone who learned something new walked away a winner.
My favorite comments from participants:
My most recent iteration of this event was with my TILT Professional Development groups. Even though these teachers have been working and learning together for two or three years, everyone learned something new, and all of them were pumped to try a Demo Slam with their colleagues.
I am SUPER excited to test out my first-ever student-led Demo Slam this week! Just in looking at what they've shared with me so far, I have a feeling this will be my next new "thing" to encourage technology integration by students in their own classrooms. Check back for updates, but in the meantime, I double-dog dare you to try your own! All it takes is a few ideas from a few willing participants, and SLAM! You have yourself an event!