Gear 360 vs. Theta

If you’re exploring 360 photography, there are many options available, but the top two that come to surface for me are the Samsung Gear 360 (2017) & the Theta S. Both are phenomenal 360 cameras for anyone looking to get started in photosphere photography. Now that I have experience with both, I’d like to share the plusses and minuses to both.

Theta S

Plus…

  • Straight out of the box easy to use. Seriously, I was using mine within minutes of arrival. You just need to download the Ricoh Theta app on your smartphone and off you go.
  • Photos transfer back to your phone right away. After you take the photo, the camera will begin transferring the image back to your phone. You won’t have to remember to do it later.
  • Location information is turned on by default. When you upload photos to Google Streetview, GPS information will make that process so easy.
  • The Theta+ and the Theta Video app are phenom for editing.
  • The Theta allows manual tweaks of features like ISO and shutter speed.

Cons…

  • Connectivity to your smartphone can be sassy. I’ve had plenty of times where it wouldn’t connect to my Samsung S8+. My only recourse was to restart the phone.
  • The video quality is just okay. The video quality is 1920×1080, but by the time you send it to Facebook it’s not even worth sharing.
  • I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that I returned my first Theta. It was defunct. Luckily, Amazon’s 15-day return policy afforded me a no-hassle return policy. I was still super frustrated when I realized it was broke after I climbed a bluff for an awesome shot. The second theta has been great.

Samsung Gear 360

Plus…

  • The price is right. At about $120, you can have a fun little 360 camera.
  • The video and photo quality are nice. I wouldn’t say “professional quality” under just any conditions, but if it’s the morning or afternoon on an overcast day or inside, you’ll like what you take. The video quality is better than the Theta.

Cons…

  • Moving photos back to your phone is a bit tricky. You’ll get the hang of it, but it’s not as automatic as it is with the Theta.
  • It requires a micro SD card. Really, that’s not a bad thing because it can hold more videos and photos, but it is an added cost that you might not realize. If I remember right, I bought mine for an extra $30 dollars.
  • The default setting is to NOT include location information. I took about 25 pictures and didn’t realize this until I went to upload to Google Streetview. Boy, was I mad!
  • Editing on the Samsung app isn’t as good as the Theta app. The options aren’t as creative, although I’ve been able to edit Samsung photos on the Theta App. That speaks volumes to the Theta app, right?

So…which one to buy?

Well, ideally I’d suggest that you save up your pennies for the Theta V, but at $430, it’s tough to justify if you aren’t planning to recoup your investment. So, if you just want a bunch of fun photos and videos, I’d go with the Samsung Gear 360, but be prepared to spend time getting the hang of it on events that aren’t crucial to catch. There’s a bit of a learning curve. If you’re not a techie, and you just want 360 photos, then go with the Theta. Both devices are super fun and offer all sorts of creative options.

 

Small Town Love

When I moved down here I was so surprised that several communities have their own fairs. Where I grew up there was just one, the county fair. Down here individual community spirit is very much a fabric of our culture. Each event might have a little midway and almost always there are kids showing animals or other exhibits. Platteville hosts “Dairy Days” just a few weeks after the Grant County fair. Gosh, I think the Belmont fair might be after this one too.

I’ve lived here about five years and events like these are near and dear to my heart because they resemble a precious community spirits that each town possesses. Multiple generations engage in these events and, from what I gather, not much has changed. And that’s okay.

This evening, as the cool breeze dampened the midway, I was thinking to myself, “Yeah, I love this town too.”

Peace

This marks my first time walking the barns at night, and I was sure thankful to do so with my camera in hand. I love the sounds of the animals settling down for the night and folks finishing up late-night chores. While the daytime is so very busy, the evening is satisfying, signifying the conclusion of yet another memorable day. The barns have a certain peace about them late at night that’s really neat.

Chrome Apps and Extensions for Students With Special Needs

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Read Write Pricing Matrix (as of Feb. 7, 2017)

Recently I was asked to talk about Chrome Apps and Extensions for students with special needs, so I’m leaving my ideas here. I do want to say though that these tools are good for any learner.

1. Read Write. What an amazing tool. The free version offers text to speech which, in my opinion, is the best feature. Note that the paid version comes with all sorts of goodies. I do have to, however, note that the paid version is better to be purchased district-wide. The smaller the group, the most costly.

2. Mic Note. Mic note reminds me a Evernote without the frustration. Mic Note is very easy to use, stores to the cloud, and contains multiple features that make note taking easy. Note that the free version only allows for ten minutes of audio per note, so the student will not be able record long lectures.

3. AdBlock. So Adblock isn’t going to help them learn content, but it reduces distraction. I dislike seeing advertisements all over students’ screens. AdBlock reduces those occurrences.

4. Mercury Reader. Formally called Readability. This app clears the clutter from a website you need kids to read. Let’s face it – digital media is busy. If I have to read multiple pages online, my attention is drawn to all the other text and imagery. Mercury Reader flips the page to a distract-free version and allows the user to change color contrast and font size.

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After you launch Mercury, you can make these changes.

 

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Grammarly Sample

5. Grammarly. This app catches grammar mistakes but goes beyond just spelling errors. As students type, any mistakes or possible mistakes will be highlighted in a coral color. It is, by far, more accurate than just using spell check in Googledocs. Students should be logged into Grammarly for more free features.

There are LOTS of Chrome Apps and Extensions that can be beneficial to students with special needs, anyone actually. I would caution you against installing 15 of them at the same time. 🙂 There are extensions that cause glitches in Chrome, and it would be easier to narrow down the culprit, if you only tried a few at a time.

Just know that there are great Chrome App and Extensions that can assist students in controlling their own learning. Try a few out. Share with students and be ready to support them through the process. Not all students will not use these tools without your reminders or support. And practice what you preach, right? Use them yourself too! And lastly, share your experiences with your colleagues!

 

Read & Write for Chrome

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This is what the FREE Read Write tool bar looks like.

Read and Write for Chrome offers annotating built right into Chrome. What an awesome tool!

It’s a tool bar that installs in your Chrome browser so you can annotate or utilize speech to text.

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Free and Paid Features of Read Write for Chrome

The free version does NOT offer the ramped up features you are going to want. For example, you will not get the speech to text features, word prediction, highlighting annotations, or even ability to insert pictures.

You WILL get the following goodies:
1. Text read aloud
2. Translator
3. Fluency tool

All three are certainly helpful, but just a carrot to get you to consider the whole package. 🙂 To make matters more tempting, teachers can access the premium version for free.

Southwest Wisconsin Field Trips for Social Studies Classes

2014-07-29_22-26-58Southwest Wisconsin is rich in history, and there are several resources calling your name. When I moved to Southwest Wisconsin four years ago, I fell in love with the idea that I could visit so many places and experience history with primary and quality secondary sources. Check out the map below for a list of great places for you to visit. Of course, before you head for visit, check hours of operation. Enjoy!

My Latest Green Screen Adventure

About two months ago we moved into a new home. The basement is large, but missing my do-it-yourself green screen I created in the old basement. The basement has unfinished drywall, but I still didn’t want to paint the walls lime green just quite yet.

I was in Hobby Lobby this weekend (giant craft store) and found a bolt of lime green poly fabric. You know — when you go to a conference and get a free bag that is a mix between fabric. That stuff. It was $2.99 yard and there were seven yards left. I knew that I needed something 7ft tall and at least 6ft wide. I’m not good with measgs1uring, but the gal at Hobby Lobby figured I’d have a lil’ extra, so I took it all.

My first step was to cut even panels. I had enough for three single-ply panels. I really wanted two-ply because there’s a light that shines behind the screen. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough fabric.

So I cut three even panels and stitched them together. I didn’t press or pin because I’m, well, impatient. Seriously though, it’s no big deal. This fabric burns easily so don’t try to iron it. If you’re bent on ironing, then you have to place a barrier between the iron and the fabric. If you don’t, it melts in seconds.

After the panels are stitched together you need to make your top. You have choices here. I decided to take the quick route and run duct tape across the top. Had I been more patient, I would have sewn a casing for a shower curtain.

The downside to that gs2decision, though, would’ve been a shortened curtain and additional cost in a shower curtain rod. So far I’m happy with my decision.

After folding over my duct tape, I used a paper hole punch to run a hole every 4ft.gs3

The header in the basement was at just the right spot, so I found some old tea cup hooks. I screwed them in every four feet and hung the curtain.

I didn’t know if I had enough fabric to stretch across, but it turned out I had an extra 2ft. I cut it off and gave the top another punch hole.

Once I was done, we gave it a test using the Do Ink app — it worked great. I still think I need to invest in a lamp, but that’ for another day.

Total cost — Under 15 dollars!

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Early Adopter Review: Team Drives

Back in November, Google offered our district the chance to try “Team Drives.” I promptly applied and was granted access shortly thereafter. So far, it’s been a pleasant experience. I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes!

Team Drives

For early adopters, Team Drive is a link under My Drive. The idea is simple — You can upload files to a folder under Team Drives. From there, users can edit and share files as normal. Should someone leave the team, the files stay in Team Drives.

This will prove useful when grade-levels are sharing content. For example, our second grade team created a plethora of content, but this fall teams were rearranged. I suspect it was quite a challenge to share content with the new members of the team. Team Drives would have eliminated that hassle. Honestly, team-level or subject-specific curriculum could be housed in Team Drive with the collaborators being all teachers of that content, curriculum coordinator, and any technology integration specialists.

I was thinking, however, that people could not delete content in a Team Drive folder. That is not the case. I ran a test where I jumped into someone else’s Team Drive folder, and I started deleting content. It is still entirely possible to delete files out of a team’s Team Drive. Additionally, I was not able to move entire folders over to Team Drive. Any folders have to be downloaded and reuploaded. I suspect that will quickly change. Lastly, I was not able to “Save to Team Drive” from Gmail. Again, I’d have to download the file and then upload to Team Drive. I’m betting that one will change too.

Despite those few gaps, our staff is really enjoying the Team Drive experience. The tool supports teachers that want to share and collaborate on curriculum and projects. If you’re interested in learning how Team Drives can work for you, take a peek at the Early Adopter program.

Notes from Differentiation in Middle & High School by Doubet and Hockett

There are lots of books on differentiation, but I rarely uncover enough that really offer strategies that a teacher could try that week. The Doubet and Hockett text proves to be an exception. Here are my ramblings from what I’ve read (note: these are not all encompassing, but rather a snip it of reflections.). I’m going to abbreviate Differentiated Instruction by just writing DI.

First, I appreciate a reminder on what the difference is. DI really takes a great deal of time. It isn’t a quick worksheet or permanent work groups. The groups are flexible and student learning is carefully examined.

What I like about this book is the sections talk about concepts that must be in place long before the lesson.

Chapter 1 is on “Building a Healthy Classroom Community.” Students need to fit in and be known. They also need to feel a sense of safety. All of this can be achieved by offering a compassionate, community-centered classroom.

For those of you completing the edTPA, this is a huge factor. Creating a community of learners is so important. We all remember Rita Pierson’s Ted Talk, right? Kids won’t learn from people they don’t like. It doesn’t mean you have to be their friend. Just provide respect and genuine interest.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFnMTHhKdkw[/youtube]

Chapter 1 of this book focuses on ways to creative a community-centered, compassionate classroom. Here are snip-its of strategies as suggested:;

  1. Provide a prompt on the Smartboard. Have students state their name and their answer to the prompt. Return with a question. Perhaps the question can tie to the reading for the day.
  2. Ask students to create a pie chart of at least five of their interests. Follow up with discussions on similarities and differences.

Note that there is a section on developing mindset that I particularly like. The text does a great job suggesting ways to redefine fair so students understand that fair doesn’t mean that everyone gets the same thing. Teaching mindset is so important for those moments when students want to quit or do not understand why they are being pushed so hard.

Chapter 2 is called “Articulating Learning Goals.” Oh my gosh, this sounds like the “Central Focus.” The concepts we teach give students ways to organize new learning for future applications. Concepts are the root to the trees, the basement to the house, and the chassis to the car. 🙂

Chapter 6 screamed formative assessment. The idea of checking for understanding is so important, but so easily overlooked by new teachers. I think it’s important to note something the book mentions — formative assessment is for individual student assessment, not the whole class. One huge red light moment for me was when reading the statement that quizzes should not be included in the gradebook. Formative assessment is just checking for understanding — it should NOT be reported in the gradebook. For many teachers, this is mindblowing and radically different from practice even 8 years ago. When I was teaching in the K-12 world, I only skipped the gradebook because I ran out of time to actually grade them. It wasn’t until I hit Higher Education that I figured it out.

Chapter 8 offers suggestions for summative moments where the “training wheels come off.” In other words, where students will demonstrate what they know or what they can do. The first suggestion is to create RAFT experiences. I used the RAFT activity during ACT III for Julius Caesar, if I remember right. For example, students could pick Brutus and write a diary entry torn over what was going to happen. Now a’days I would include a layer of social media and have Cassius launching a series of hostile tweets. 🙂