5 Tips for Taking Care of Business AND the Family During the Holidays

5 Tips for Taking Care of Business AND the Family During the Holidays

 

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The holiday season brings all kinds of extra responsibilities for business owners and other professionals. Most companies are taking stock of the last year while simultaneously preparing for the next, which often means jam-packed working days and even a few late nights. But being successful shouldn’t mean giving up all your time with loved ones — and it doesn’t have to! Here are a few tips for striking the balance between work and leisure this holiday season:

Outsource tasks that don’t require you personally

If you had endless time and no holidays to consider, you might be able to accomplish everything on your own. Unfortunately, time isn’t on your side during the holidays, so establish which duties you can afford to delegate and assign them accordingly. There are likely at least a handful of responsibilities that you usually perform but don’t necessarily require you to be the executor, plus you’ll want to save your energy and focus for more urgent issues. Find ways to assign personal tasks as well. For example, if you don’t have time to run home on your break, hire a dog walker. No time (or patience) to assemble the playhouse you bought for your kids? You can even hire an assembler!

Give yourself a break — literally

When work is chaotic, many businesspeople have trouble justifying a break. But giving your brain a little time to rest, even if it’s only 15 minutes, can actually make you more productive. Try to get up and get moving if you can, perhaps taking a walk outside or even through your office space. Do some stretches, practice meditation, or sneak in a few chapters of the book you’re reading. Breaks are especially important in the busy season, so don’t be afraid to take them!

Divide and conquer tasks

In addition to delegating entire assignments, see if there are any large projects you can effectively break up and divide amongst yourself and your co-workers. Utilize your people according to their strengths — some workers might be better with numbers, others may be stronger with creative skills, for instance — and consider making some responsibilities a group effort. In addition to breaking your project down into more manageable steps, you’ll be able to come together as a team and present work that was truly a group effort. (And don’t forget to say thanks!)

Focus on one area at a time

You’re only human and can only handle so many things at once. Don’t let your mind wander to “everything else” while you’re trying to complete a task. It’s not going to shorten your to-do list, nor will it make the task at hand any easier — in fact, it’ll only add to your stress and potentially distract you from giving your current project your entire focus. Concentrate on what’s in front of you and don’t get distracted with trying to multitask. Your work (and your family time) deserves your full attention.

Do something special with your loved ones

It could be date night with your spouse, taking your children to a holiday festival, treating your mother to the ballet, or catching a basketball game with your sibling. Even better if you can surprise someone! Go to events you’ve been looking forward to and participate in activities you genuinely enjoy. Your hard work deserves to be rewarded, and your loved ones will appreciate special time with you even amid your chaotic work schedule.

It’s certainly a busy season, but the holidays can still be the most wonderful time of the year for business owners. Keep these tips in mind, and don’t forget to show appreciation every step of the way. Thank your workers for their continued hard work and your family for their understanding — by the end, you’ll come out as a stronger team both in the office and at home!

Julie Morris is a life and career coach. She thrives on helping others live their best lives. It’s easy for her to relate to clients who feel run over by life because she’s been there. After years in a successful (but unfulfilling) career in finance, Julie busted out of the corner office that had become her prison. Today, she is fulfilled by helping busy professionals like her past self get the clarity they need in order to live inspired lives that fill more than just their bank accounts.

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Here’s How You Can Write Like a Halloween Story Champ

Here’s How You Can Write Like a Halloween Story Champ

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If there’s any time to get creative during the calendar year, it’s Halloween. Be it the costumes, the carving, or the confections, this spooky holiday is brimming with opportunity.

From Coraline to Frankenstein, and with the psychological thriller Girl on the Train hitting theaters this weekend, let’s just say there’s plenty of suspense brewing in some of our favorite books.

To be fair, not all of us think in the macabre mindset, but we can certainly all think in the imaginative one. This Halloween season, writing activities are the perfect outlet to tap into the creative voices of your students.

It’s the common rite-of-passage for critically acclaimed novels to be adapted for film. We can’t offer you a budget to get your story to the big screen, but we have something else in mind.

It just so happens that Voki is well equipped to participate in the Halloween writing process with you. Voki avatars do the job in adding animation to your ideas—not to mention social media can get them visibility.

As for characters, Voki has all your usual spooky suspects: Dracula, Frankenstein, skeleton, witch, zombie, bat, jack-o-lantern. But if you steer clear of the haunted path, then we have over 200 characters too choose from that can meet your imagination’s needs.

Teachers can prompt their students to write about anything pertaining to Halloween, but we recommend something that gets them thinking in the spirit of the holiday, something out of the ordinary.

Students can write their essay, and then create a Voki avatar(s) to narrate it. Using Voki Presenter, they can upload images, backgrounds, and links to create scenes and settings for their stories. There’s choice in how you want the story to be told. You can upload audio, type in text and have one of the Voki automated voices recite for you, or record your own voice.

We know: this is starting to sound more and more like a movie, and the students more and more like screenwriters, producers and directors.

It’s Halloween—what better time to think box office big?

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Catherine Alvino is the Digital Marketing Coordinator at Oddcast. She holds a BA in English Literature and a MBA with a concentration in Marketing. She loves to write and is proud to work for a company that adds value to learning.

 

Why Everyone Should Celebrate World Teachers Day

Why Everyone Should Celebrate World Teachers Day

Today, October 5th , is World Teachers Day (WTD).

What exactly is WTD?  In 1994, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proclaimed WTD a global event.  The day was chosen to commemorate the special intergovernmental conference convened by UNESCO in Paris concerning the Status of Teachers in 1966.

WTD has historically served as a day devoted to appreciating, assessing, and improving the lives of educators around the world.  The day also provides global citizens a special opportunity to address the issues pertaining to teachers across the world.

This year’s WTD marks the 50th anniversary of the original 1966 conference. It is also the first WTD to be celebrated within the new Global Education 2030 Agenda adopted by the world community one year ago.

In honor of this year’s WTD theme, “Valuing Teachers, Improving their Status,” the team here at Voki would like to take an opportunity to bring awareness to one important issue affecting the teaching community worldwide; namely, the concept of teacher retention and induction.

According to a 2003 study by Ingersoll & Perda, between 40% and 50% of new teachers are estimated to leave within the first five years of entry into teaching.

What’s more is that according to UNESCO, by 2030, an estimated 3.2 million more teachers will be required to achieve universal primary education and 5.1 million more in order to achieve universal lower secondary education.

This revolving door policy is often the result of insufficient resources, support and guidance for teachers as they begin their journey as an educator.

The process of acclimating teachers with their new job is known as “Induction” and the process has grown in recent years from relative obscurity to an important ideology within educational reform.

WTD encourages spreading awareness. We would like to have this piece initiate a dialogue and raise awareness. Please be sure to comment, share, like and or tweet this article with the hashtag #WorldTeachersDay to do your part in building a brighter future where education is a right not just a privilege…

About Voki:

Voki is free educational software that allows teachers to create awesome, customizable speaking avatars to better enhance learning and student engagement. Teachers record their voice and an animated talking avatar is exported.  A Voki can be used for debates, presentations, lessons, speeches, language studies and much, much more. Our character library includes cartoons, pets, historical figures, and cultural figures, just to name a few.

Our basic product is completely FREE because we believe all teachers deserve a chance to enhance their classroom no matter what their budget is. Voki is used in thousands of classes around the globe and is supported in over thirty languages.

Voki is truly a global tool made for educators by educators. Try it out for free today at www.voki.com.

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About the Author:

Michael Cassidy is the Product Manager of Voki. He is a digital marketer by background but also dedicates his time as an educator, philanthropist, coach, mentor and anti- bullying crusader. His book “The Skinny on Bullying, the Legend of Gretchen” is used around the world to help teach young students how to cope with bullying in a digital age.

External Resources:

Beginning Teacher Induction: What the Data Tell Us: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/05/16/kappan_ingersoll.h31.html

World Teacher Day (Official Site):

https://www.worldteachersday.org/map/

Featured Teacher Sheila Slawiak Transforms Her Classroom with Voki

Featured Teacher Sheila Slawiak Transforms Her Classroom with Voki

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This summer, we asked our Voki community to submit their stories on how Voki has changed their classroom experience. We’d like to share with you the story of Sheila Slawiak, our featured teacher winner, who transformed her students’ attitude, engagement level, and integrity in their work using Voki.

Last school year during Q4 I tried out Voki for the first time.  I teach inner city struggling urban middle school students at a Level 4 school and before Voki, no project impressed them!  Then I found Voki and tried it!  To my surprise, all of my students loved it (from special ed to honors); I had 100% student engagement; and I had a student focused class!  It was a huge WOW! For me and for my students.  Even my most  highly risk students produced their product using my project requirements.  Never did I hear, “this is too  much work!”

I do have to admit, I used a lesson plan from the Voki blog as an idea.  Our school requires monthly written essays that show “citing of evidence”.  I took the idea of writing a persuasive essay about the importance of healthy snacks.  I gave my students a text set of 3 articles regarding the pros and cons of healthy snacks so they could synthesize their essay.  I also told them that their audience were 5th graders so they could feel important sharing what they have learned about healthy snacks.

To my surprise, they were so involved with all the activities in order to produce a talking persuasive avatar.  For the first time, there were no moans or groans inundating the lab, or piercing eyes staring at me. For the first time, I was able to facilitate peer reviews where each student really took an interest in their partners’ work.  For the first time, each student wanted to present their findings. For the first time, each student either scored a 3 or a 4 on my rubric vs. 0-3s. And for the first time, I was rated with high evaluative scores from my principals!  We all won and I attribute these wins to Voki!  Next school year, I’ll invite parents!

Thank you Voki for being so imaginative and for not ever settling!

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Sheila is an Instructional Technology Teacher for grades 6-8. She is passionate about teaching educational technology to both her students and colleagues. Shelia has expressed this sentiment on teaching: “It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that you can encourage all students (no matter what their challenges are in learning) to express their thoughts by utilizing audio applications like Voki that allow students to imagine greatness!”

The Benefits of Hooks

The Benefits of Hooks

How many of you have found yourself in this situation: it is Saturday night and you are watching TV.  All of a sudden, this intriguing movie trailer comes scrolling across your screen.  It is a teaser about this amazing movie coming out this summer.  You are captivated and memorized.  You have to find out as much as you can about this movie that has captured your attention.  You are hooked, line and sinker.  You will be buying tickets online to see that movie as soon as they are available.  Effective classroom hooks are the same in regards to exciting movie trailers.  A great hook gives students a preview of what an amazing lesson is getting ready to be taught and learned. It can make the difference between the best lesson ever and the worst.

Student engagement during lessons is an area in education that teachers are battling on a daily basis.  Dorit Sasson, author of “7 Ways to Start a Great Lesson”, emphasizes that “the most important part of the lesson occurs during the first five minutes.” What is the trick to engaging students? According to “Shooting for Success!  Madeline Hunter Lesson Cycle”, written by the creator of the “anticipatory set” or “hook”, “the hook should excite students about the subject matter.” Hook activities are short introductions at the beginning of a lesson or even a project.  A hook can be a song, rap, dance, game, acting skit, art activity or even a technology-integrated activity that is directly related to the lesson’s topic. Ms. Hunter also states that the hook should “grab the students not focused upon learning. By having an activity related to what will be learned, it shifts their attention to the learning process. Anticipatory set can also establish a readiness or anticipation for what is to follow. For the “hook” to do so, it must pique students’ interest. Otherwise it might do the opposite and turn students off to the topic.”

I have talked about what hooks are and what purpose they serve during a lesson.  Now let’s talk about the benefits of hooks.  Hooks provide engagement, excitement and a gateway into the lesson’s objective that can prepare and motivate students to learn the content being taught.  Students can focus on creating more productive work and hooks make the learning environment fun right from the start.  These activities can tap into the multiple intelligence approach to learning simply by allowing teachers to be creative with the type of hooks used to kick off the lesson. For example, in Using Hook Stations to Engage Students in a Lesson, Hillary Mills, a 7th grade Science-Geology teacher, uses hook stations to kick off her geology/biology lesson.  The stations are set up just like small group learning stations but incorporated at the beginning of the lesson.  Each of the stations incorporates different hands on activities, with the students acting as geologists studying fossils in each case.

Before I became the Voki Content Development Manager at Oddcast, I was a classroom teacher for twenty years with a Master’s degree in Integrating Technology in the K-12 Classroom from Walden University.  When I reflect on the years I taught in the classroom, the lessons that resulted in the best student engagement were always the ones that kicked off with an awesome hook.  I would always use different style hooks that would touch on the variety of learning styles in my class to meet all of their learning needs.  Of course I was passionate about integrating technology as much as possible into my lessons!  I really wish I had the opportunity to use Voki Speaking Characters as hooks when I taught. It would have been one of the top software integration tools incorporated into my lessons. I truly believe Voki Hooks capture and engage the 21st Century learner.  There are a variety of ways to use these speaking characters and Voki Hooks are just one way.  The Voki Hook activities guided by the Voki speaking characters provide top level engagement at the beginning of lessons. There are over 250 speaking characters to choose from and some fit perfectly into themed units of study. There are also hooks created to celebrate special days of the year like Dr. Seuss’s Birthday, St. Patrick’s Day and National Pencil Day!  Here are some examples of exemplary Voki Hooks—feel free to incorporate them into your classroom lessons:

March Madness Multiplication

http://www.voki.com/presenter/playPresentation.php?id=0eb178c5581f651876fadae5a8980899

Tell a Fairy Tale Day

http://www.voki.com/presenter/playPresentation.php?id=57d2108c6efd565d5bd6b27e4c7e747a

Phases of the Moon

http://www.voki.com/presenter/playPresentation.php?id=494ad0d24e15c7da81c7ea265c7f4cb4

Pencil Day

http://www.voki.com/presenter/playPresentation.php?id=29ec8066dea8748449b852688c46ee5a

Voki also has a product called Voki Teach.  Voki Teach is a library of Common-Core aligned lessons, hooks, and tech project activities in the areas of ELA, Math, and Social Studies. Science and Foreign Languages are coming soon.  Learn more here: http://www.voki.com/teach/home

 

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Christina Bazemore is the Content Development Manager at Oddcast.  She was an elementary, high school, technology lab teacher and soccer coach for twenty years.  She received her undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Education from Georgia Southern University and her Master’s Degree in Integrating Technology in the K-12 Classroom from Walden University.  She is fulfilling her lifelong dream of working and living in New York City.  She has one son, Andy and a dog named Shadow!   Christina is a big Georgia Bulldog football fan!

Voki Teach: Making Lesson Planning Easier

Voki Teach: Making Lesson Planning Easier

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It’s Sunday, but instead of being out and about, you’re perched over your screen opening new tab after new tab. You’re hoping that you’ll land on the site you’ve been looking for, and that your endless hours of research will prove fruitful. But as the clock hands fly in their circular orbit, the only answer you’ve arrived at is, “this is going nowhere.”

For a teacher, weekend lesson planning can quickly replace #SundayFunday with #teacherproblems. Hunting for the right activities to fill your curriculum likely includes a fact-checking process where too many marks are missed: standards aren’t met, technology isn’t integrated, methods are out of line with your teaching style.

But before you peg yourself as a lead-less investigative journalist, we have something that might just solve the problem. Our New Voki Teach Library hosts lessons, hooks, and tech projects all in one spot on voki.com. Voki Teach not only eliminates the blind search in the thicket of the World Wide Web, it allows you to specify what grade and subject area you are interested in. To make your selection process even easier, all of our content is rated by fellow teachers so you can curate the material that is liked by your peers.

Think about your potential school day using Voki Teach. Say it’s National Grammar Day. You can kick off your Language Arts lesson using the National Grammar Day hook and have your students create grammar superheroes that wield special powers and rescue sentence errors (our Voki avatar Fragment Eliminator and Comma Man will show you how it’s done). Having engaged your students with this activity, you can then transition into the other objectives you have prepared for the class.

Fourth period bell rings. Some students are cowering at the thought of learning new math techniques. Our Voki Teach Math lessons incorporate games into the lesson, so multiplying is not so meticulous.

Science time. Learning the states of matter can be confusing. How does a liquid transform into a gas again? Our Voki Teach tech project outlines how a teacher should demonstrate the different properties of matter, and prompts the student to recall what he knows by designing a Voki avatar at the end of the lesson that reiterates the material.

The Voki experience is everything but dull. Research shows that technology integration in your classroom boosts student performance, and talking avatars are proven to engage all types of learners across age groups. Voki activities get students hands-on with their work, customizing their own avatars to deliver the knowledge they’ve obtained.

Wouldn’t you rather hear a lesson from an avatar? Or better yet, have one give your answer?

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Catherine Alvino is the Digital Marketing Coordinator at Oddcast. She holds a BA in English Literature and a MBA with a concentration in Marketing. She loves to write and is proud to work for a company that adds value to learning.

Beverly Burks Shares a Few of Her Favorite *Voki* Things

Beverly Burks Shares a Few of Her Favorite *Voki* Things

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In my position as a district-level trainer, I get to experience and use Voki in a lot of different ways.

As a technology trainer, I use Voki to add interest to my presentations.

Vokis are great because my audience gets to experience different personas when I present, not just me.

I also create and demonstrate Voki to teachers to use in the classroom. I encourage teachers to create and have their students create Vokis that go with a variety of subject areas.

For ELA, my Gramma Eula Voki is a Voki where Gramma Eula speaks about her “Chicken Sunday” character.

For Social Studies, a Voki was created to tell about the Alamo.

We use Vokis in math to demonstrate and explain math problems.

Each one of the Vokis created for “Chicken Sunday”, The Alamo and the math demo contained corresponding lesson suggestions. If you are a Promethean ActivInspire user, you can download the flipchart with the lesson idea here. https://goo.gl/JEQNNH (the giveaway on this flipchart is over).

Here’s a static copy of the flipchart in PDF form. https://goo.gl/JdkkT8

The uses for Voki are limitless. My last newsletter for this school year was pretty much devoted to Voki.

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I believe the introduction of the Voki app is only going to make Voki more popular. Being able to create Vokis on mobile devices is a big step forward. I am looking forward to diving deeper into Voki Presenter so that I can share those features with our teachers next school year.

When the school year starts back up, I am thinking that will be a good time to have a create a “Back to School” Voki challenge.

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Beverly is a district level technology trainer with the Fort Worth Independent School District in Fort Worth, TX. She has an undergrad degree in Education from Western Michigan University and a Masters of Technology and Cognition from the University of North Texas. Beverly is a longtime Voki user and is very excited to be a Voki Ambassador.