Featured Teacher: How Superstar Educator Christi uses PowToon in the Classroom (Like a Rockstar)
It’s not easy being an awesome teacher; You’re always trying to come up with cool and clever lesson plans, or searching for the latest tools and apps to integrate into the classroom so that your students are happy and engaged. Taking Risks means that sometimes your lesson turns out surprisingly successful while other times, it doesn’t exactly work out according to plan.
But the dedicated and brave teachers out there don’t let anything get in their way. They realize that the key to getting kids hooked and engaged is directly linked to igniting creativity within their students. And as all the research on creativity has proven, allowing kids to develop their creativity, especially with the right technological tools, fosters a sense of empowerment.
The Scientists at PowToon are all about empowerment! We hear many stories of teachers who have integrated PowToon in the classroom and have used the power of animations to get their students excited about learning! And, this literally makes us well up with tears of joy!
But, every now and then, we come across an educator who is so unique, who teaches the standard lesson plans in such an engaging and cutting edge way, that we literally have no choice but to shout out and share their awesomeness with the world.
I introduce you to Christi Collins; elementary school teacher at Wise Primary School and the creator of the most rockin’ lesson plan out there,“Christi’s 6 Step, Totally Do-able, Tech Combination Lesson Plan!“ (Click here to get the lesson). But child development is only the first of Christi’s many talents, she also helps shape adult minds as online adjunct instructor at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise/Center for Teaching Excellence.
So what’s the story behind such an inspiring educator? What motivated Christi to become a teacher and what keeps her going strong?
Well, we’re about to get a little peak into Christi’s world, come along as she shares her journey with us!
Tell us a little about your teaching background – what grades and subjects have you taught?
My teaching career began 13 years ago, when I landed my first position teaching kindergarten at Coeburn Primary School. After teaching kindergarten and Title I for a total of three years, I felt that it was time to transfer to Wise Primary School, my hometown school. Following my transfer to Wise Primary, I taught first grade for six years and am currently in my fifth year as a second grade teacher.
What is your favorite subject to teach?
Although I enjoy teaching a variety of content areas, I must say that I enjoy teaching Language Arts the most.
In addition to being a second grade teacher, I also teach online re-certification courses for the University of Virginia’s College at Wise/Center for Teaching Excellence. As an online adjunct instructor, I enjoy teaching a Google Apps for Educators course to educators across the state of Virginia. Check out Christi’s’Introduction to Gmail’ below:
Describe yourself in five words, why did you choose these words?
If I were to describe myself in five words, I would say I am:
Fun- My students describe me as being a fun teacher because I am always cracking jokes and entertaining them.
Creative- I enjoy drawing, creating my own content and teaching concepts in a more engaging way that encourages active, hands-on participation.
Innovative– I enjoy exploring and utilizing a variety of technology platforms, that will allow me to assist and reinforce the concepts being taught in a new and exciting way (app smashing).
Outgoing- I enjoy working with and providing professional development training workshops to fellow educators. I feel that it is important that they feel successful and comfortable implementing the latest technologies in their classrooms.
Motivated– I am highly motivated and have set personal and professional goals that I plan to accomplish as an educator and an instructional designer. I want to make a positive impact in the field of education.
When did you decide you wanted to to become a teacher…what inspired you?
Since I was a little girl, I always dreamed of becoming a teacher. Throughout my childhood, I enjoyed helping and motivating others to succeed. My inspiration to become a teacher stems from the positive impact that two amazing educators had on my life. These two amazing people went above and beyond the call of duty. As educators, we motivate and believe in our students, we push them to see their capabilities and strengths, we work hard to create meaningful and engaging lessons that are fun. These two educators did all of these things, but what set them apart and made the biggest impact on my life was that they continued to care long after I left them. They expected invitations to my high school graduation, college graduation and other events in my life that mattered most. As I would accomplish one feat, I would receive a handwritten card and money. The card didn’t just say congratulations, it would say “Now I expect an invitation to your college graduation in four years. You can be anything you dream to be and I am very proud of you for all your hard work.” The fact that these two amazing educators cared that I became successful in life and wanted to be there, made a positive impact on my life.
What do you feel is the greatest challenge facing students today and what has been your biggest challenge as a teacher?
One of the greatest challenges that students are faced with today are the pressures of meeting the required demands of state standardized tests. Although I agree that student growth should be measured and assessed, I feel that our current assessment methods are not conducive to learning. Our focus needs to be centered around ensuring that our students can successfully function in a world consumed with technology.
We should be providing students with opportunities to engage in meaningful, real-world learning opportunities that require hands-on application, collaboration and communication with others.
The biggest challenge I face as a teacher is finding the time to adequately cover all the skills my students are required to learn. Due to the increase in testing demands and the pace at which my students are required to learn, I often feel that we aren’t spending enough time covering each skill before quickly moving on to the next.
What is one memorable or funny story you’ve experienced while teaching?
Two years ago my class and I went on a field trip to Bays Mountain Park and Planetarium in Kingsport, Tennessee. We were able to see and learn about wolves, we visited a Herpetarium, and explored a lot of other great wildlife exhibits containing live animals. After eating lunch we decided to take a walk down to the dam, which was a downhill hike to the lower portion of the park. After we finally arrived at the dam and explored the scenery, I noticed that a large amount of my students suddenly began to unleash some built-up energy.
So, in a desperate attempt to keep 23 second graders under control, I quickly said, “Hey, let’s play a game…we are going to jog all the way back up the mountain in single file playing follow the leader!” Luckily for me, I was in shape from doing the’Couch to 5K app’ on my phone or I wouldn’t have attempted this feat. So here we went, I took off leading the kids up the mountain jogging. Meanwhile, the teaching aide in my classroom said she would gladly walk up the mountain and keep an eye from behind. When we initially took off, my students were full of energy and jogging right behind me full speed ahead.
As we proceeded further up the mountain, nearly half of my class began to lose steam and started slowing down. One student proceeded to jog side by side all the way up the mountain with me, loving every minute of it. Finally, as we neared the top, I was relieved to see that I had managed to succeed in depleting their bursts of energy. As more than half of them slowly met us at the top of the hill, I knew the bus driver would be very grateful for the quiet ride home. As we left to head back to school with an hour and a half journey ahead of us, I found it strange that the bus was abnormally quiet…Believe it or not, I turned around and my entire class had fallen asleep within 10 minutes of getting on the bus to head back.
How did you discover PowToon?
About three years ago, I set out on a quest to find more engaging ways to teach my students and hold their attention. I wanted a tool that could hold the attention of a seven year old, but that could also make learning enjoyable. I was fortunate enough to stumble upon PowToon, which seemed like the perfect solution to my problem. Luckily PowToon was everything I needed and more. I have been faithfully using this amazing tool since then. And you can too:
How have you used PowToon to integrate technology into your own classroom?
I initially started using PowToon to create instructional videos for my students. I discovered that PowToon allowed me to take difficult concepts and break them into small, easy to understand chunks. After successfully using PowToon as a teaching tool for a year, I decided to take it a step further and teach my second graders how to create videos. For the past two years, my students have been using PowToon to create their own videos. They have successfully learned how to script, storyboard, record and create their own stories, reports and more.
Getting my students to write has always been a struggle, especially at such a young age. After implementing PowToon into my instruction, my students now enjoy writing and beg to write and create stories. They enjoy writing because they are able to see the results of their final product. PowToon has truly made a huge impact in my classroom.
How do your assignments offer students the opportunity to express their creativity and individuality?
In my classroom, I like to provide my students with ample opportunities to express their creativity (to the right is a screenshot from a colorful PowToon that was created by one of Christi’s students). I like to provide them with a variety of technology platforms to choose from for creating their own materials. I assign activities that will extend the weekly concepts to the next level, by requiring them to apply what was learned.
For instance, one week their reading story was about a superhero. The story demonstrated the obstacles that the character faced along the way, and how he overcame these obstacles to become a superhero. After spending several days reading and discussing the story, I divided my students into groups and asked them to create their own superhero story. Each student had to actively write his or her portion of the story and sketch out the ideas to visually compliment their story. Once this was completed, each student was then required to type their story into Google Slides. The Google Slide presentations were printed and final sketches were hand-drawn. The final steps required each student to record their portion of the stories orally, and create their sketches into live animations. The final project for each group consisted of one superhero story that combined elements contributed by each member. Each group then presented their project for the whole class to enjoy.
How have you addressed your students’ different learning styles?
To address the unique learning styles of my students, I try to provide a variety of formats for learning, as well as, a choice of tasks to complete. For example, I may introduce a new concept in an interactive Thinglink image. Attached to that Thinglink image you would find videos, embedded Google Docs, images, links to websites containing review games, links to sound files containing music, sound effects or narration, Go Noodle activities and more. By combining all of these elements into one platform, I can successfully combine elements that will address the needs of all learning styles.
And for the final question: Vacation Time! What does ‘summer vacation’ mean for you, as a teacher?
For me, summer vacation means teaching educators how to successfully use Google Apps in their classroom before the upcoming school year. It means providing professional development workshops to educators at Tech Splash. It means inspiring my own children to continue learning during the summer by participating in summer reading initiatives. It also means taking breaks from working to take my children swimming, recording them riding their bikes on video, watching movies or drawing with sidewalk chalk in the driveway.
Whether it’s running up mountains with her students, or helping them create their own superheroes, Christi Collins is a rockstar educator and an inspiration to us all!
Thank you so much for sharing your awesome experiences and insight!
Stay Awesome and continue igniting creativity in young (and older) minds.
If you would like to be a’featured teacher’ on PowToon’s Blog or know of an awesome educator who has used PowToon in an extraordinary way, write to GreatestTeacher@PowToon.com!
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