Thursday, October 6, 2016

Growing Better Writers Through Blogging

Today, we picked up on a project that we started last year...blogging.  I am thrilled to say that as I watched the lesson unfold, I saw real learning happening for our sixth grade students.  According to last year's teacher, the hardest part of blogging for our young writers was providing quality comments.  So, where did we start today?  You guessed it, with commenting.

Our Grade 6 teacher, Mrs. Downs, created her own post using only a graphic image and invited the students to share their thoughts.  No guidelines were stipulated regarding the length of the post nor were reminders given about sentence structure.  The directions...look at the image and comment.

The students' writing began to flood the screen.  From short posts to creative rhymes, student personalities began to shine through with each entry made.

The most beautiful part however, was that students provided the material for the day's lesson on grammar, syntax, and quality writing.  Take, for example, these 3 comments to one student's response:

"Do the comments make sense grammatically?  Is punctuation missing?  Should sentences begin with a capital letter?"  As Mrs. Downs, asked probing questions while reviewing the students' first attempt, we could see light bulbs coming on across the room, as well as, the strong desire to correct mistakes made.  After Mrs. Downs invited the young writers to edit and revise, the students' comments became more thoughtful...more conversational...more grammatically correct!

Are they perfect?  No, but we are not looking for perfection; we are looking for growth.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Engaging Learners in Virtual Tours with ClassFlow

I am not sure why I am so enamored with virtual tours, but I have been hooked since Google's visit last year when they came to share Google Expeditions with our 5th and 6th grade students. Maybe it is because it is so easy to get the students engaged in a virtual tour...maybe it is because the students can explore places they have never been...maybe it is because virtual tours not only provide learners with a visual experience, but also an auditory and kinesthetic one, as well.  Based upon my one day experience with Google Expeditions, I can tell you that I am so excited about their recent release for iOS devices.  With their teaching notes, question prompts, and gyroscope compatible pictures for students, it is so easy to integrate Expeditions into the curriculum.  In fact, I invested in 25 ViewMasters and an equal number of iPods in early summer, because I am convinced that this type of learning activity is a game changer for our student population who have limited experiences outside of their own neighborhoods. I feel that if I can take students around the world through interactive pictures, a wealth of opportunities will be unlocked for our students to associate mental pictures with words they read and hear, thus expanding their background knowledge, but not every location is available through Expeditions.

Enter ClassFlow.  About a month ago, I started using ClassFlow, a free online presentation system kind of like an interactive whiteboard, but with built-in assessments, assignment creator, badging, and interactivity tools.  In ClassFlow, there are 2 slide decks available, one on the teacher side (the things that will show up in the front of the room through the projector) and one on the student side (the things that will show up on the students' devices). The 2 slide decks do not have to match and therefore allow for the creation of the customized virtual tour complete with teacher notes and talking points!!!  By embedding links to 360 degree videos and photos on the student side, virtual tours can be built with images with which students can interact.  By including teacher notes or questions on the teacher side of the slide deck, lessons aligned to content standards can be developed with questions or facts designed to keep class discussions on topic.

I shared my first tour, Regions of Texas, with 4th grade students last week.  It was so rewarding as a teacher to hear the students oohs and aahs as they saw the different pictures appear on their devices and honestly, in my 16 years of teaching, I have never introduced something to students that resulted in a similar response.  They were so excited to share what they were seeing with classmates as they moved the images around on their screen that on more than one occasion the teacher turned to apologize to me for the noise.  I assured her, no apologies were needed.  I love to hear engaged students excitedly talking about content!  Next stop...the White House.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Lights, Camera, Action: Welcome, News Crew

What a start to the new year!  It honestly has been a whirlwind of great fun.  Just last week, we celebrated International Dot Day, built amazingly awesome marble runs, made liquid nitrogen ice cream, and were featured on the news!!!

CBS 19, a local news station, visited one of the schools with which I work to see how teachers and students are using augmented reality to bring learning to life with Osmo.
Osmo, one of my favorite tools to use in K - 2 classrooms, gets results by providing practice opportunities for students in spelling and numeracy and challenges student thinking through the coding and tangrams apps.

The students and teachers love it!  Osmo is perfect for center rotations and with its 7 different apps, students are always excited to use it.
See our story here.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Giving Students Out of This World Experiences with Augmented and Virtual Realities Using Quiver Vision, Osmo, zSpace, and ClassFlow

School has been in session just 3 weeks in our district and already our students are immersed in augmented and virtual realities. These technologies are impacting student learning in classrooms around the globe, so why not in a tiny town in Texas? Experiencing augmented or virtual reality makes you feel as though you have stepped into a Harry Potter movie with paper coming to life and images literally popping out of the computer screen. How fun, right? It doesn't have to cost a ton of money or be "something else" we do. It truly fits naturally into our classrooms to support student learning.

We are using coloring pages by Quiver Vision, formerly known as ColAR, as writing prompts, STEM starters, and review pages in our interactive notebooks. The kids are always delighted when they scan their customized images to see their work come to life with music,movement, and interactive features.  We re-size the images so that time is spent less on coloring and more on guiding students through the writing and design process.

Inspired by Andrea Beatty's book, Rosie Revere, we were challenged to create our own Eggs-eptional Flying Machine

We are also using Osmo, a device that attaches to an iPad, takes interaction to a whole new level. LoVe!!! In this gamified application,  students use included tiles to practice spelling words, acquire new vocabulary, reinforce math skills, expand spatial awareness, learn coding, explore STEM concepts, and make works of art…all while “playing”.  

Literally, we CaNNoT get EnOUgH of Mo! Students love it and the academic benefits have helped students of all abilities exceed academic expectations in spelling and math.  

Finally, to see graphics jump out of a computer and into the space in front of your face, you must see zSpace! Loaded with hundreds of lesson plans and labs for math and science, this equipment allows students to interact with models in way that would have otherwise been cost prohibitive.  From frog dissections to exploration of the human brain, learning environments are transformed by these highly engaging student experiences.

AR Circuits
Regardless of budget, teachers and students can experience augmented reality.  Inexpensive apps like AR Circuits and AR Flashcards (for addition, letter recognition, space, and more) can be used to create a whole different experience for students.  Place the apps' free images into an interactive presentation software such as ClassFlow or print tangible cards using copy paper and you will immediately see increased excitement and engagement in classroom learning stations.  Pick up a copy of Moonbot Studio’s The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore or borrow that Guinness Book of World Records (years 2013, 2014, or 2015) from your local library to augment your reading nook. Add a VR ViewMaster to a learning center along with some of your favorite VR apps and students are immediately immersed in another culture, habitat, or experience.
With augmented and virtual realities you can do things that you’ve never done and see things that you never thought possible. The ideas are endless and, with this still new technology, the possibilities are great.  It will be interesting to see which augmented application will be developed next to positively impact teaching and learning.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

6 Reasons I Love ClassFlow

It's official....summer is over for students and teachers in East Texas!  We are headed back to school tomorrow with new friends to meet and fresh opportunities to make a lasting difference.  In preparation for the new year, I have hit the Target Dollar Spot more than one should, bought my Heidi Swapp light box, and taken a deep dive into Promethean's ClassFlow.

For me, ClassFlow is a keeper (and not just because I saw my favorite teacher, Ron Clark, using it at ISTE 2016)!  It is truly an all-in-one solution.  From presentation station to interactive student response cards, ClassFlow has it all.  I've practiced using it this summer alongside a few of my teacher besties and we all agree...we have a serious case of #ClassFlowLuv!!!

Here are a few of the things that I love most:
1.  It is possible to have both teacher AND student cards.  So, one card can be displayed on the board and another card can be sent directly to the student device.  This allows students to refer to the image displayed by the teacher while interacting with information unique to the device that they are using.  So, in my STEM Nametag Challenge lesson, I was able to explain the engineering design process while students thought through how they would complete the design process template.

2.  And when I say unique, I mean that you can literally differentiate student assignments using ClassFlow.  Groups can be pre-set and when student cards are distributed during the presentation of the lesson, assignments that have been selected based upon student needs are sent directly to participants.  Since it is digital, you have electronic documentation of differentiation for all students.

3. ClassFlow makes it easy to consistently monitor the quality of student participation and performance with real time polling options available.  Simply with a click of a button you can ask students different types of questions like true/false, Likert scale, text or number answers, and even creative response allowing students to draw or capture an image!!!!

4.  Whether using a poll on the fly or integrating planned assessments within the web tool, ClassFlow allows you to systematically gather input from students to monitor comprehension and adjust instruction as needed.  No more going 50+ places to provided varied student assessments. With ClassFlow, it is all available in one spot!

5.  Since ClassFlow is web-based, teachers and students can be anywhere and still access instruction. Just this morning, I sat in a McDonald's in Louisiana and tutored a student in Texas using ClassFlow!!! We saw the same images.  I got real-time feedback.  I was able to help as needed and guide him through tough concepts...while working 212 miles away.  I love this, because I have struggled for years with being able to teach multiple students who were out with prolonged absences due to medical issues.  I could figure out how to present one sided lessons, but other than utilizing the speaker on my phone or a service for which I had to pay, I couldn't figure out how to get real-time feedback from my students.  With ClassFlow...problem solved!

6.  Finally, I like that ClassFlow has a Marketplace with a plethora of awesome lessons searchable by topic or standard making it unnecessary to reinvent the wheel as we give ClassFlow a try!

Friday, August 5, 2016

STEM Quick Challenge: Design a Nametag

What a summer! The past few months have been packed with conferences and presentations focused on STEM in Elementary, STEM in Middle School, and now, STEM is for Everyone.  I have definitely stayed busy, but it has been so much fun prepping, planning, and sharing my passion with others!
When I present, I like to start off with some type of introduction and a name tent so that everyone can get to know one, with the many days of STEM trainings, I thought that it would be fun to include a quick challenge to get everyone comfortable and creating from the very beginning.  I developed 2 versions of a STEM Quick Challenge: Design a for STEM teachers and one for teachers new to STEM.
Needless to say, we had so much fun collaborating and thinking through how we would accomplish the task and with a roomful of teachers, we had no shortage of creativity!
I used resources which were readily available: white and colored copy paper, markers, craft sticks, pipe cleaners, pom poms, glue sticks, tape, paper brads, and markers.  For the "new to STEM" challenge, I added conductive tape (left over from my paper circuitry project), LED lights, and watch batteries to the more advanced version.
Here is the printable version of both challenges!  Enjoy!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Augmented Reality App Giveaway at ISTE 2016

I am so excited to be part of the Creativity Playground (ToDaY from 3 - 4PM...Concourse E!!!) at #ISTE2016. I am sharing how I use some of my favorite augmented reality tools like Quiver, BlippAR, AugThat, AR Circuits, AR Flashcards, and The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.  From writing prompts to science applications, you can do it all with #AR.  Whether you are at #ISTE2016 or #NotatISTE16, you can still enter to win 1 of 20 promo codes for these awesome apps to use in your classroom!!! Then, join in the #AR4Learning Chat on Twitter...the talk is all about augmented reality every Thursday night:)