Monday, April 6, 2015

ACT Prep: Basic Algebra Skills

For the past 7 years, when I haven't been working my day job, I have been tutoring for the math portion of the ACT.  I absolutely love helping students and celebrating with them as they reach their goals for college and scholarships.  For me, tutoring is one of those things that I think that I would keep doing even if I won the lottery today.  I find it that much fun...seriously! :)
As I have tutored, I have noticed that students tend to miss the same problems repeatedly.  I can tutor 10 students in a week and 7 of them might miss the same problem on the practice test.  We work on the problem type during the session and again at the end of our appointment, but I also like to begin the next session with a similar problem.  It is helpful to have frequently missed problems ready to go either for a tutoring or a traditional math class.  So, today's #Made4Math is just that...a quick 2 question quiz "ready to go" to practice frequently missed Basic Algebra skills. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Free Blog Post Planner

Blogging has been one of the best things that I have done as an educator to get organized, create an electronic portfolio of sorts, and improve professionally. When I first started teaching, I tried to collect all of my lesson plans, ancillary materials, and tests into a binder that would become too full too quickly.  So, I moved to floppy discs and felt a bit better about being able to access my lesson materials quickly, but realized that unless my file names were explicit (like Day 1, Day 2, etc.), I would forget what I did from year to year only to find a great activity that I had filed after the lesson was complete.  Once I started blogging and utilizing online storage, I felt like I was able to gain momentum.  Not only was I documenting activities with photos and electronic files by date utilized, but I was also reflecting on what worked and what needed tweaking to make the lesson even better. Over the years, I connected with other educators in the blog-o-sphere through participation in linky parties and educator challenges allowing me to collaborate with teachers around the globe.  This connection helped me grow.
For me, blogging has obvious benefits and when I am not blogging, I miss it.  I have found that when I post in themed categories (#Made4Math, WebtoolWednesday, #MyFavFirday, etc.), I tend to be more consistent in posting. Also, I know that I am more likely to post when I schedule it on my calendar. So, to help stay focused, I created a Blog Post Planner.  It is my first attempt at maintaining a separate calendar for blogging.  The planner will provide a place for me record ideas for future posts and plan by category.  Take it. Use it. Provide feedback. What helps you stay on track with writing your blog?

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Highlights from #ASCD15

#ASCD15 in Houston TX was amazing!  It has been just over a week since I have returned and I am still thinking about all that I saw and heard.  I have had the opportunity to share some resources with my co-workers and try some interactive teaching strategies that I learned from the Kagan session in a middle school math class this week.  During the conference I tweeted, shared pics, and wrote a couple of blog posts, but I wanted to capture the highlights of the conference while they were still fresh on my mind. So, here is a bit of a visual summary of my time at #ASCD15.

Pre-Con Marzano Leadership Strand:

Meet and Greet hosted by Discovery Education:

Top Technology Resources (as shared here and here):

Hands-on Learning with Dinah Zike Foldables

Active Engagement using Kagan Strategies:

Great Presentations:
 Maximizing A School's Potential Through Teacher Empowerment (Presented by authors, Ken Cooper and Joe Salah, who lead by example.)

I left with so much more than with which I came (both literally and figuratively)!
Thank you ASCD for an incredible experience!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

AppSmashing at #ASCD15

I had heard of AppSmashing, but I had never tried it until today at #ASCD15.  This afternoon, Dr. Bruce Ellis kept us captivated with his recipes for smashing, but as we soon found out....pretty much anything goes!  AppSmashing, also known as layering apps, is the process of using multiple apps in conjunction with one another to complete a final task or project (via Greg Kulowiec).

In AppSmashing, you can use pretty much anything.  When searching for apps to use, free is good, but shouldn't drive the train unless it is a true constraint. As with everything in lesson planning, start with the end in mind and then back it up from there.  The big question should always be, "What is the learning outcome?"

It is okay to think of tools beyond the iTunes store (Yikes! Did I really just say that? Disclaimer: I'm only repeating what I heard, because I secretly adore Apple).  But according to some, there are other resources on the web that are open-ended platforms which allow students to be creative.  It's also important when choosing tools to think about students' strengths and what they like...or don't like. For example, if students don't like hearing their voice, give them the option of modifying their voice with an app like Change My Voice.  If they don't like seeing themselves on camera, allow them to use an avatar or simply add audio to images.  Bottom line: be flexible, because

it's about the content and lesson objectives, not the technology tool.

Start with determining what you want your kids to learn, demonstrate, or analyze?  Got an idea? Great, then figure out what app you could use to support your objective... When Dr. Ellis asked session attendees "What apps would you recommend having with you if you were stranded on a deserted island with your students?" here is what we came up with (after getting past the idea of being on an island...with students!!!):

He added to our list:

and then added even more:

Again, it is not about the app, it is about the end goal: students interacting with content in new and innovative ways.

It turns out that AppSmashing is pretty straightforward. First, create content with an app and save to the camera roll. Then, create content with another app and again save to the camera roll. Finally, use a third app to merge the first two products and to the camera roll. Repeat, as needed. That's it! That's AppSmashing! Here is one recipe involving only 2 apps to get you started, Dr. Ellis' presentation with samples on the last several slides, and tons more on Pinterest:

So, what will you smash? Have you already done this? I would love to see what you or your students have done!

7 Super Tech Tools Spied at #ASCD15

I feel like a kid in the candy store at #ASCD15 as I go from session to session, tour the exhibit hall, and network with awesome educators from around the world.  I truly feel like the luckiest girl in the world to have the opportunity to learn from so many!  My favorite sessions have been the ones that were hands-on, engaging, and packed with technology, of course. (You know that I am a geek at heart!)  I ran across tons of new tools, but I have narrowed down my list to what I think are the Super 7.  So, here they are... in no certain order, the 7 Super Tech Tools I Spied at #ASCD15:

1.  Plickers - Collect real-time formative assessment without student devices! Give each student a printed card unique to them. Ask a question.  Have students hold up their "vote". Scan the room with your iOS device and... voila...all student responses are recorded.  Genius!

2.  EdPuzzle -EdPuzzle allows a teacher to insert audio notes and embed questions into a video of your choosing.  Questions may be multiple choice or open ended thus allowing for a "check for understanding" while the students are viewing.  It also allows you to see who has viewed the video and how they responded to the embedded questions.
3.  Photo Math - PhotoMath helps students solve equations any place  and at any time.  Simply scan a math problem with the app and see how to work it out step by step. I have used an online platform for independent math practice for the past several years. One of my students favorite features in the web-based tool is the "Help Me Solve This" option.  PhotoMath takes the same idea and puts the "Help Me Solve This" button directly in students' hands.

4.  AdobeVoice - AdobeVoice makes projects with backgrounds, photos, music, and voice overs a snap to create and it allows your design to be saved directly to your camera roll!

5.  Pixel Press Floors - Love! Love! Love! This app allows students to turn their drawings into an original video game that is playable!!! I am so excited to roll this out in our Makerspace.  The kids are going to love this.

6.  Discovery Education's STEM Camp Resources - Discovery Education has done it again.  If you are thinking of hosting a summer camp, starting an after-school club focused on STEM, or even just looking for resources to use in your own classroom, definitely check out DE's STEM Camp Curriculum.

This all encompassing resource includes detailed guides to running a week long camp, From a daily schedule to links to digital resources, DE has provided everything you need to be successful.

7.  Tricider - Tricider allows you to pose a question and then invite others to answer and then vote on what they think is the best response. I know you are probably thinking, "How can I use this in the classroom?"  Well, I recently had the opportunity to visit a Master Teacher's English classroom at East High School in Memphis.  While there, I saw this incredible educator lead her students through a character analysis.  In the activity, the teacher would ask a question, allow for a response, and then quickly fire off, "How do you know?" or "What made you think that?"  She was fishing for textual evidence.  Tricider with its "Pros and Cons" section might be the perfect place for students to voice an opinion, provide textual evidence to support their thoughts, and then respond to other students' responses.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Paper Circuitry

Project: Hack #2 for the Tinker, Make, & Learn MOOC.  
The Challenge: Hack A Notebook
Until I read up on this, I had no idea that "Hack Your Notebook" was actually a nationwide event focused on paper circuitry.  This STEM learning event was held last summer and brought makers from around the country together.  The purpose? Get participants working with electronic components in an accessible, craft-based way.  

Comfortable with crafts and hoping for do-a-bility, I got really excited about this make.  I had never tried anything like it and I admit, I found myself a bit afraid to try (though I am not sure why!?!)  After watching several videos, including this gem on Tapetricity, I grabbed a high school junior who happened to be walking down the hallway and asked him to try it with me before I introduced it to my middle school friends.  We ended up quite successful. Not only were we able to make my project light up, we showed a middle school student what we did and he made his project light up too.

3V Watch Battery (available in packs of 2 at Dollar Tree and located with the AA and AAA batteries)
Conductive Tape (I could not find copper tape, so I used foil tape from the plumbing section of Home Depot.)
LED light (Look for products at the dollar store that utilize these bulbs. I snagged a garden light that had 3 bulbs that I could use.)
Craft Supplies

Here is how we did it:
1] The foil tape is almost 2 inches wide (way too big for what we needed). We cut a 6" strip into thirds, so that we had three 6" long strips to use.

2] After drawing, cutting, and gluing our artwork, we gently pushed the legs of our LED lights into the portion of the paper we wished to illuminate.

3] We laid one of the 6" strips across the back of the paper being careful to ensure just one of the legs of each of our LED lights could open to lay across the tape.

4] Next, we laid a second strip of tape (close enough to the first one, but not touching), so that the LED lights' other leg could lay across this piece of tape. The second strip of tape needs to gently curve to meet the first strip. (The first time I tried it, I made a sharp right angle to join the two pieces of lights did not work.)
5]  We then tested our lights with the battery.We needed to determine which LED leg should touch the positive side of the battery and which leg should touch the negative. Since, it matters, we made sure that both lights were pointed in the right direction before we taped everything into place.

6]  We used clear tape to secure the legs of the LEDs and the battery to the foil tape. My middle school friend was actually making his project for someone else and he did not want the battery to run out of juice before he delivered his project, so he left a little wiggle room between the battery and the tape and then wrote "push here" on the front of his creation.  By pushing as indicated, the recipient of his card will make the contact between the battery and the tape thus making the contact to illuminate the lights.

It turns out that it is pretty easy to hack a notebook... or in this case, a birthday card!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

10 Ways to Use Video to Boost Instructor Presence in an Online Environment

Okay, if you have been following my blog for the last month or so, you know that I have been participating in free professional development through a MOOC called Tinker, Make, & Learn, a course focused on developing a Makerspace.  Well, the course ended...but not the desire to continue to build our new space.  I promise I will be posting our latest make before the week's end!!! In the meantime, I thought I would share what I am learning now in a course called Humanizing Online Instruction: The #HumanMOOC.

Technically, it is a course for online instructors, but the information could apply to any classroom. Take this week for example...our topic: Establishing Instructor Presence.  In an online environment, learner isolation is one of the primary reasons students choose not to continue in a web-based program, but an instructor can help combat the isolation by humanizing the learning experience.  So, what does that mean?  The teacher can ensure that students know that course material has not just been launched out into who knows where by a professor in a galaxy far, far away, but that a real, live person is on the other end carefully planning and teaching.

One of the ways suggested to boost instructor presence is through the utilization of  video.  Video allows people to see and hear you and if students can see you and hear you, they feel as if they know you.  If they feel as if they know you, they are more likely to approach you.  Being more of a traditional K-12 girl (not online teacher anymore), I began to think about others besides just my students that I wanted to "get to know me"...the parents being at the top of my list!  I think often times parents want to support their kiddos, but they are not sure quite how to help.  The same types of videos that an instructor might create for students could be shared on the K-12 educator's parent portal...just a thought:)

So, video? Yes!  Think about the last email you received. Unless it is filled with emojis and exclamation marks, it is hard to read into it the verbal and non-verbal cues that one would normally recognize in a face-to-face interaction. Video is much more powerful than text alone.  Even asynchronous one way video begins to feel like a conversation when students and parents view this type of communication regularly.

How can you use video to boost instructor presence in the K-12 classroom???  Here are the top 10 ideas shared by Tracy Schaelen, online instructor for Southwestern College (I've linked to some of her videos so that you can see examples):
1)  Use video on your website as a greeting prior to the course beginning - think about the anxiety this could alleviate!  It is a great way to welcome new parents and students and for them to "see" you before arriving on the first day of school.
2) Conduct a course tour via video.  This is especially helpful at the beginning of the course so that students and parents can see how to navigate through the online environment associated with the class.  You can demonstrate how to access grades, see the syllabus, find class notes, and turn in digital assignments.
3) Use video to introduce a new unit of study.  Whether teaching online or in a traditional setting, peaking a student's interest is key. It could be like a movie trailer of sorts that gets students excited about what is to come.  It also provides an entry point for parents.  If parents see where you are going, they can get involved, read up on the topic with their child, share resources, pull images and videos, and help connect the dots for students.  Dialogue can changed from, "How was school today?" to "Tell me about ______.  Did you get to the ______  yet?"
4) Make announcements using video to personalize messages and allow viewers to see facial expressions and hear the instructor's tone of voice.
5) Use video to provide feedback on student work thus allowing you to make the same type of comments you would make normally, but with much more detail.  Ms. Schaelen suggested using props with numbers on them, so that a student can quickly find the markers before each comment. Feedback video should be kept unlisted to ensure privacy.
6) Create "how-to" videos. This particular video is for students and shows how to find and use video feedback.
7)  Make a video to introduce a research assignment, major project, or special event in the classroom.
8)  Use student created videos to demonstrate understanding, add to an electronic portfolio, peer tutor, or build resources for those needing extra support.
9)  Video a guest presenter.  As a high school teacher, I want my students to connect with college admissions counselors.  On several occasions, an invited counselor could visit only one of the 6 classes I taught; while I was happy that 25 students heard from the admissions counselor, I found myself wishing that ALL of the kids could benefit from the information. Video would be a perfect way to capture and share the guest's visit.
10) Use snippets of video from various locations throughout the course to allow students and parents to get to know you even better.  Consider sharing video from your latest 5K, your weekend excursion, or something you saw that you thought was interesting.

Why? "Showing" is powerful.  Videos help students and parents build a personal connection with the instructor and make content, announcements, and details accessible anytime and anyplace (everything I believe in!!!) So, I guess the question I need to ask next is "What will I video today?"