Monday, July 27, 2015

Using Powerpoint to Create & Save Images

This summer, Kate and I have been diving into the Canvas Learning Management System. We will definitely do a post about that one soon, as it is a fantastic tool, and we are eager to see how it works with our kiddos/families.

That being said, there is one "downside", if you want to call it that--It is definitely "built" for older kids. Meaning, it is not "cutesy" like us elementary folks love. No fun fonts. No fun images. Dry to the viewer.

Kate and I have figured out some work arounds to "spice it up" some and "cute-y-fy" it for our elementary friends. The easiest way has been to make buttons, banners, and other images ourselves to use within the program. Our tool of choice for this is Powerpoint! So, let's dive in and learn how!

Before we begin, just note that this process can be used for any image you'd like to create and save! I will be making "buttons and banners" in this tutorial, but I also use it to group pictures for this blog! The possibilities are virtually endless, and you'll be so thankful to have this tool in your back pocket!

Let's make a button. Make sure when you open Powerpoint, you delete the preset text boxes they give you in their slide templates. You want to be working with a completely blank slide. The first thing you need to do is pick the shape of your button. I will start with two different shapes in my screen shot, so you can see both ways.

Next, you need to decide on the color or pattern of your shape. You can use solid colors, patterns, gradients, or even images that you upload (We like to use digital paper files that we have saved!)
First, select the shape you'd like to change, then go to "Drawing Tools", and select "Shape Fill".
At this point, you can either add a text box (BEGINNER LEVEL), or really jazz it up (INTERMEDIATE LEVEL). I'll show you both :)

Adding a Text Box: You can use whatever font, size, center, etc. just like you would with any other text box you would create!
Ready for the "Fancier" version?!? :) We LOVE to use fun clip art! One of our favorite clip art sources is MyCuteGraphics. Seriously, friends, they have the BEST school clip art! And most of it is FREE (yes, you heard me...FREE!). They also offer paid clip art with their small business, Whimsy Clips. Just type what you want (we typed "Math") and you will be rewarded with pages of things to choose from! Just pick your image, right click, and copy! Then you are ready to paste it into Powerpoint and resize! We used the same text box as the circle button!
You can also play with the borders of your shape! You can make them dotted, a different color, 3-D, or more! Select your shape and go back to "Drawing Tools" (where you found the fill colors). Select "Shape Outline" and start playing around! There are SO many options to choose from! You could even select "Shape Effects" to make them 3-D, glow, and more!
The final step, is to save it as an image. This is an image you can use later and insert anywhere (projects, Google Docs, blogs, or even to spice up CANVAS, like us! :) To save it as an image, you need to make sure that all parts of the image you want are selected. You can use a "Marquee Drag" by selecting a point above and outside your completed image, then dragging to the opposite corner. If you don't know how to make that work, you can click a part, then keep holding down "Ctrl", while you select other parts, until all of your layers are selected. Then you double RIGHT-CLICK, and select "Save as Image." We like to save our images as PNG files. The benefit of this option is that they are higher quality and they do not have a white background! Save them to a folder or elsewhere in an organized way, so you will be able to find them when you need them!
That's it! Now you are left with an awesome image that you can use anywhere!!

The same process can be used to make "banners" with directions like this example below (to be used at the top of web pages, documents, etc.):

We hope you found this helpful! Like I said, we use this tool ALL the time for so many different reasons! A couple of ways we use this:
  • Buttons for CANVAS (Our newest venture)
  • Creating class schedule labels for your whiteboard or bulletin board
  • Creating a custom image for a tool you are creating (packet, math exit slip, reading response sheet, etc.)
  • Grouping images for a blog post
  • Picture collages you'd like to print
  • ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES! Have fun exploring the many ways you could use this to meet your individual needs!

Happy Creating!


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Summer Collaboration

Ahhh....summer! Filled with family time and recharging! This summer, Kate and I have had lots of opportunities to meet with our new 4th Grade Team, as well! Lynn hosted us at her beautiful home (and fed us an exorbitant amount of delicious food) and we were able to spend 12 glorious hours together, "talking shop" and finding our "groove" as a new collaborative team!
(Kate is taking this picture:)
We had a two page list that we have been working through. We still have a few more hours left from our summer work proposal to meet, but we certainly have accomplished a lot thus far!

One of the things we felt strongly about as a new teaching team was to establish a united front for our classroom families. While Kate and I have been teaching in a personalized learning environment for the last two years, our team mates are just starting their personalized learning journeys! Kate and I will still be team teaching, and the rest of the team is eager to dive in and provide the best possible environments for their students! We all will be 1-to-1 with Google Chromebooks (and a few iPads each), and we really want to share, collaborate, and work together on all that we can.

However, due to the nature of our team-teaching environment, some things may just look a little differently in my and Kate's space! One thing we DO NOT want is a feeling of "us vs. them." We do not want our students or families to perceive our new team as a "have and have not" scenario. We want to make sure we start the year off on a united front, which means COMMUNICATION, COMMUNICATION, COMMUNICATION! One of the first things we did is create a "Team 4" logo. 
We will, again, be taking on the T.E.A.M. acronym (Together Everyone Achieves More). Each classroom took on a letter of the acronym. Kate and I will, again, be "Team Togetherness" (as we have been for the last 2 years :) So our new team we will now have

  • Team Togetherness
  • Team Exploration
  • Team Aspiration
  • Team Momentum
We will use this logo for all 4th grade team communications! Each homeroom also has their own log for their personal communications and use. We want all students and families to see themselves as a piece of a larger team. We want to send the message that we work together and are part of one larger entity.

We are also going to be sending out a Team 4 Postcard to all of our incoming students this August! This will highlight all of the amazing things that will be happening across the entire 4th grade!
Click HERE to see full size!
Now that Kate and I are into "year three" of this personalized learning journey, our school families are more familiar with the teaming environment option at the different grade levels. When we first started way back in year one, we sent out an additional letter explaining the concept to parents, in addition to the kid postcard. Even with that, plus "principal chats" from our amazing leader, we STILL had lots of parent questions! So, no matter where you are on your own journeys, be prepared for that! Things to help ease parents' minds that you can communicate early (in your intro letters or at "meet and greet") could be:

  • How you will regularly communicate with them! Kate and I offer weekly newsletters, Remind, daily Facebook posts, and a classroom website. We are in the process of exploring CANVAS, which is a learning management system that would help to consolidate some of those items! Stay tuned for a future post on this, as we are still learning/building!
  • Offer a PIN night ("Parent Information Night") where you can go over aspects of the curriculum and answer more questions. Any time you can get more face to face time with your families will help them feel more comfortable
  • Invitations to observe! Our first year, Kate and I opened up our classroom for 3 full weeks and allowed parents to sign up to spend time in our space. This was CRITICAL in many of our parents really getting a full understanding of what we were about!
  • Or more! With so many tools out there, it is easier than ever to communicate with families!

Stay tuned, as we are planning on updating on how we are using CANVAS, as well as how we are going to set up our new 4th Grade Learning Lab! Exciting stuff ahead!