Thursday, November 1, 2018

How to create a Google Classroom assignment for a project that requires students to create a video.

Students love using technology.  Teachers who are willing to provide students with opportunities to illustrate their learning in unique and multifaceted ways by using technology, are usually stunned by the high quality of the final product their students create.   Implementing technology allows students to get out of their comfort zone and create projects that are nontraditional, and therefore unique and thought-provoking.
Video creation is one such example of technology that can be used by students to produce an artifact that demonstrates their learning.  Combine that with one of the best LMS’s around, Google Classroom, and you have a powerful platform that makes learning, creating, sharing, and grading a breeze. 
Here is the Google Classroom teacher and student workflow for such a project:

Teacher Workflow
1.  On Google Classroom click on "classwork", then on "create", and then "assignment"
2.  Enter the title e.g. Video Assignment
3.  Enter instructions e.g. "Please create a video that illustrates your understanding of..." 
4.  Assign points, due date, and/or topic (if applicable)
5.  Attach a grading rubric (if applicable), and/or instructions, or an example of a video with all the elements you want the students to include in their video.
6.  Click “Assign”

Student Workflow
1.  Students can use the free versions of:
·      Animoto (web & app)
·      VideoScribe (web & app)
·      LEGO Movie (app)
·      iStop Motion (app)
·      iMovie (Mac & app)
·      Clips (app)
·      WeVideo (web & app)
     to create their video, then they download the video onto their device.
2.  Students open Google Classroom, and then click on the appropriate assignment.
3.  Students click on "ADD", then "File", they upload their video.
4.  Click on "TURN IN"

Now, the teacher has access to all the student videos.  Students can only access their own videos, unless if the teacher provides universal access to that particular assignment folder.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Plato Academy and Superior Schools Collaborate with Schools in Greece to Shape Global Citizens

     It is not a secret that teachers often spend a good chunk of their personal time to do things that are school related, and I am hardly the exception to that rule.  Two weeks ago I took advantage of the weeklong break during Thanksgiving Week to travel abroad and see my family.  While in Greece, I had the opportunity to visit two schools, one in Ptolemaida, Kozani and one in Thermi, Thessaloniki.  Both schools, although very different from each other, offer great opportunities to create global connections with our own schools, Plato Academy Schools.


     The school in Ptolemaida is very special to me, as it is the school I attended when I was growing up.  As I was walking up the stairs of the new building, old, pleasant memories came back like a stream of ferocious intensity.  The voices and laughter of my friends and fellow students echoed in my ears and I have to admit, that these memories brought tears to my eyes. 
     Soon, the warm welcoming of the principal and assistant principal of the school brought me back to reality.  The teachers there gave me the opportunity to teach a class, and even deliver a short session to the whole faculty on Augmented Reality.  Although the technology equipment of that particular school is not the greatest, the teachers enjoyed learning about Augmented Reality in the classroom and saw the huge potential of emerging technologies.

Mr. George Chatzopoulos and Mr. Nikolaos Chatzopoulos
at the Mandoulides School in Thermi, Thessaloniki

     The school in Thermi, Ekpedeftiria Mandoulides, is a private school with a more advanced structure and superior technology.  I met with the principal of the school, Mr. Georgios Chatzopoulos (notice the name: quincidence or fate?), and one of their awesome teachers, Ms. Jeanette Nikas, who were very kind, and very interested in building a collaboration between the two schools, mandulides and Plato Academy.
      I believe that the development of opportunities that foster global connections between schools, teachers, and students is crucial.  Our interconnected world shapes global citizens.  International connections between students of different backgrounds, nationalities, and languages are highly beneficial for everyone involved: students, teachers, schools, and communities.

     I look forward to collaborating with the schools in Greece so that we can all learn from each other on how to best prepare our students for the future.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

2 Simple Ways to Create Digital Textbooks in the Classroom

This article was first posted on Daily Genius in June 2015

Textbooks are an irrevocable part of every classroom, and sometimes, they constitute the classroom, school, or district curriculum. Teachers rely on them to teach concepts, and use them to illustrate examples, share ideas, and assign homework and class work.
However, any teacher who takes his/her job seriously will tell you that there is no textbook in the world that is perfect. This statement couldn’t be more relevant today, because the many changes the Common Core Standards introduced to our nation’s educational system has made many of the mainstream books and textbooks insufficient.
But, what if teachers could write their own books? What if they could write their own textbooks that complement, and in some cases, replace, the always expensive and often outdated textbooks, bypassing the slow textbook adoption policies of large states and districts around the country?
Even more importantly, what if students where given the tools to create their own books and textbooks in which they illustrate their understanding of concepts, and even use these books in the classroom to teach their peers?
Today’s technology makes these, once outlandish ideas, very possible.
There are several platforms teachers and students can use to create digital books that match, and sometimes surpass the quality of traditional books. Two of the most user-friendly and inexpensive tools are Book Creator and iBooks Author. Although both platforms have their advantages and disadvantages, they both are capable of creating state-of-the-art digital books that can transform learning in the classroom.


Book Creator is currently an iOS, Android and Windows app, with a web version coming out around the beginning of the next school year. The app is currently free for Windows users for limited time, while it costs $4.99 for iOS users, and $2.49 for Android users, although there are free versions of Book Creator on both the iTunes and the Google Play stores.
Despite some minor differences in features and appearance, regardless of what platform a user prefers, Book Creator’s performance is solid. Book Creator allows teachers and students to create and publish digital books that contain text, drawings, pictures, sounds, and video files.
As such, it offers the opportunity to create lessons that are exciting, and provide unique educational experiences for all students. For instance, teachers can use Book Creator to create a book that serves as an introduction to a concept he/she wants to teach.
Or, a teacher can assemble a book with videos, text, pictures and drawings on a concept that is not covered adequately by the current textbooks. The biggest advantage of these books is that they can be highly personalized and directed at a specific audience. That will enable students to create personal connections to the material covered by these books, which will increase the chances of knowledge retention dramatically.
Teachers are not the only ones who can take advantage of this powerful platform. Students can use Book Creator to assemble resources such as videos, pictures, and text in order to produce a multimedia project that illustrates their understanding in multifaceted ways. For instance, in our school, 4th graders used Book Creator to create a digital book of collaborating math videos, and then used these books to teach 3rd graders a number of 4th grade math concepts.
Here is a short tutorial on how to get started with Book Creator for Windows


iBooks Author is Apple’s free ebook authoring application for iBooks. It is a powerful platform that was designed to revolutionize modern textbooks. With iBooks Author teachers and students can easily write and publish interactive digital books and textbooks that have a professional look and are highly engaging.
Much like Book Creator, iBooks Author users can add text, images, sounds, videos and drawings to their books. However, Apple’s platform is much more diverse and offers a level of customization that can only be seen in professional desktop publishing applications.
Users can use a number of widgets to bulid-in their book review questions, interactive texts and images, 3D objects, Keynote presentations, and even HTML5 widgets that almost everyone can build without coding experience. The final product can be shared with students and enjoyed on an iPad, or, it can be published on the iTunes store.
As one can imagine, the implications of this are staggering. Teachers and students can reach vast audiences and break the barrier of the classroom microcosm by connecting to others on a global scale, as they can create digital books that can be literally downloaded by anyone in the world. The power of connectivity in conjunction with the power of creativity can drive innovation to a whole new level and open the door to a brave new world for all students.
One of the more important responsibilities and duties of a teacher is to encourage his/her students dream and empower them to become masters of their own learning. Teachers and students around the country are creating a small revolution by using technology to create their own books and textbooks. The question you have to ask yourself is, are you ready to join this revolution?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

How to use Osmo in the Classroom

This article was first posted on Daily Genius in April 2015

Today the field of educational technology is literally bombarded with new ideas and devices that promise to revolutionize the way we teach.  Some of these newcomers have strong potential and promise a unique learning experience.  One such product is Osmo.  Osmo is an innovative device that transforms an iPad into an interactive classroom accessory able to add a level of excitement that engages students in the learning process.
Osmo is made of a vertical base for the iPad, and a reflective mirror that sits in front of the camera.  These two unassuming accessories work together to change the physical space in front of the iPad into an area of active engagement that interact with a number of iPad apps made for Osmo.

Osmo Kit
Osmo will only set you back $79, but for that money you get a well-designed Kit along with four Osmo apps you can download for free.  Aside from the base and the reflective mirror, Osmo comes with a set of tangrams and two color-coded sets of alphabet letters.  This may seem simplistic at first, but these modest accessories can guarantee hours of enjoyable learning and turn mundane and repetitive learning activities into highly appealing and engaging lessons.

Words App
Words is the most interesting, and the app with the highest educational value of all Osmo apps.  Words has a lot of potential in the elementary classroom and the fact that it is highly customizable makes it ideal for all elementary grade levels, from Kindergarten to 5th grade.  The app consists of two sets of color-coded alphabet letters that the students can use to interact with the app.  The objective is to guess and use the correct letters in order to match the target word on the iPad’s screen.  Words does a superb job in differentiating and offering diverse levels, which enhances the experience.  For instance, K-1 students can start using the Junior level, while everyone else can use the standard level that comes with the app.  Even within the standard level there are four different difficulty levels.  Depending on the level you choose, words may be single or multi-syllable words, and a picture in the background may provide little, some, or a lot of support. 
Users who own an Osmo unit can create an account at, and this is where things get very interesting.  From there the teacher can generate his/her own lists of words and pictures.  The implications of this are staggering.   
Due to its highly customizable nature, Osmo allows teachers of all subjects to create their own albums, therefore making Osmo relevant to any subject, math, reading, social studies, or science.  Creative teachers can design spelling bee contests, math games, science vocabulary quizzes, social studies puzzles, Cloze sentences, and the list goes on.  Furthermore, at teachers have access to a growing number of public albums they can download on their iPad for free, ensuring that there is always something new to engage the students.

Words App for Osmo from Nikolaos Chatzopoulos on Vimeo.
A short tutorial on how to create private albums on the Words App of Osmo

The newest addition to the Osmo family, Masterpiece, is a fun and super engaging drawing app that can elevate the excitement in any art class.  The app contains a good number of curated pictures that, when selected, transform into drawings that you have to recreate.  The camera tracks your pencil’s every move while it guides you to follow the lines, which allows you to be incredibly accurate while drawing.  In addition, the app records in real time every line you draw, and comprises a time-lapse video of your drawing, which is a very neat feature.
Following in the Footsteps of Words, Masterpiece allows the user to import his/her own pictures, opening the door for some quite astonishing challenges.  Self-portraits, familiar landscapes, and favorite pets are only some of the things the students can interact with and draw using this truly intuitive app.

Tangram App
Tangram is an old Chinese game made of a square divided into seven basic geometric shapes that can be put together to create hundreds of other shapes.   Osmo’s twist on this old game is ingenious and highly interactive.  The tangram app displays a shape on the screen and the objective is for the students to recreate this shape using the real life tangram pieces that come with the Kit.  The app is designed to adjust the difficulty level and the support it provides to the student, therefore the teacher can differentiate lessons and activities to meet the needs of a diverse group of students. 
Although tangram is ideal for K-2 students, as it can be used to introduce students to the properties of 2- dimensional shapes, upper elementary students can benefit from working with the app as well.  The app can be used to teach students how to visualize 2- dimensional shapes, and to think out of the box in order to combine commonly used shapes to create unusual forms and arrangements. 

Newton App
Osmo’s doodle application easily earns the title of the most basic app of Osmo.  Newton is a game in which the objective is to draw lines on a piece of paper placed in front of the iPad, in order to force the balls falling from the top of the screen to hit certain targets.  This is the equivalent of a pinball game played on the iPad.  Although Newton falls short in providing some strong educational value, it is still great for hand-eye coordination practice for K-2 students, not to mention the hours of fun students can have challenging each other.

Apple TV & Osmo

I am a strong believer of the fact that an Apple TV can make a great classroom accessory, and I have written about that in the past.  Using Osmo in conjunction with an Apple TV opens up a wide range of possibilities in the classroom.   One of Osmo’s greatest strengths is its ability to make the learning experience social.  However, you are still limited by the small size of the iPad’s screen, so only a small number of students can share the experience.  Mirror the iPad to an Apple TV and you have a very different picture.  The whole class can participate and be part of a lesson, in which physical interaction goes well beyond the usual tapping of the iPad’s screen.  That’s learning at its best!