Monday, August 3, 2015

Quick and Easy Way to Learn Students' Names

I am terrible with names and before I stumbled upon the idea of name tents, I found that with a seating chart or no seating chart, invariably there was still that awkward pause when addressing the student on the third row with the red jacket and yellow shoes on the 4th day of school.  No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't seem to come up with their name and by then, it seemed rude to just point and say, "What do you think?"  This odd exchange always seemed to disrupt the flow of the class and did nothing to foster the culture and climate I had hoped to establish.  Finally, problem solved!
Now, I start every new year by having students create name tents.  It helps me learn my high school students' names quickly and easily by keeping their names in front of me at all times.  The only supplies I supply is a pack of markers.  The students provide the paper.

Here is how to make them:
1.  Have students get a sheet of paper from their notebook.
2.  Make a fold about 1/3 of the way down from the top of the sheet.

I demonstrate the folds using 2 sheets of paper (one colored, one white) layered on top of one another. This helps the students see how far down to make the fold.
3.  Make a second fold about 1/3 of the way up from the bottom of the sheet.  This creates a triangle of sorts when you try to stand it on the table.
It ends up looking like a rectangle from the front
and a triangle when you look at it from the side.
4.  Have each student use a marker to write their first name in the center section of the paper.

5.  Have students stand their name tent on their desk.

6.  At the end of the class period, direct students to place their name tent inside their notebook for use over the next few days.

Now, no more awkward moments.  Use the name tents until you and the students learn everyone's name.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

#SupplySwap Info Has Been Sent...Let the Fun Begin!!

Almost 4 weeks ago now, @pamjwilson@druinok and I decided to host a School #SupplySwap.  We wrote a blog post, made a sign-up form, and then tweeted.  We had nearly 30 people sign up!  The perfect number...not too many to make it overwhelming!

The participants are from 19 different states with 5 participants hailing from Kentucky (Go Wildcats!)  The rest of us are from Louisiana, Tennessee, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, North Carolina, Massachusetts, South Carolina, California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Florida, Nevada, Michigan, Georgia, Oklahoma, Wisconsin. and Alabama.  

The most popular names on the list: Lisa, Lynn, Cindy and Jenn.  

Most are high school teachers, but several middle school teachers joined in the fun too.  

Primarily participants teach math, but we have a smattering of other disciplines represented like ELA/SS, Biology/marine science/forsensic science, Spanish, and STEM, as well as, administrators and a school counselor.

It has been so much fun just reading through the responses to the questions!

Just a reminder to participants, spend about $15 (excluding shipping) and mail between July 27 and August 7.  Keep your pairing a secret until your box is received by the recipient.  Your box will not be going to the person who is sending you a box, so that you will make even more new connections.

Here is a list of those who submitted twitter handles and blog addresses if you would like to check them out and make a few new friends!
If you missed out on the fun of #supplyswap 2015, join in on the next round...whenever that may be! Until then…Happy Back to School!!!
(post adapted from The Radical Rational)

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Should, Could, and Woulds of First Day Handouts

It is tradition...every year on the first day of school, teachers across the country hand their students some sort of letter introducing themselves, describing course content, and highlighting expectations for the year.  For new teachers, this is just one more thing on the overwhelming list of to-do's.  I met two such colleagues today.  This will be their first year in the classroom.  Both have an undergraduate degree in something other than education and they will get both professional development support and on-the-job training while serving as full-time teachers. During our conversation, this first day handout came up.  Questions about what it should like and information to include quickly began to surface.  There are so many different styles that I can see why someone new would want to talk it out. I think that what really matters is the content.  In reviewing various samples, I identified a few things that should be included, information that could be included, and a few things that I would avoid when writing my own first day handout.
Editable Copy

The BIG Question: What needs to go in it?  
Obviously, you should include:
  • your name, 
  • room number, 
  • special supplies, 
  • link to class website or online work space, 
  • availability to tutor and/or make-up work, 
  • any special policies in your classroom (like number of days to turn in missed work after an excused absence), 
  • preferred method of contact and necessary information, 
  • types of assignments that students will complete during the course, 
  • how grades will be determined (10% quizzes, 20% homework, etc.), and 
  • grading scale.  
If you are into interactive notebooks, check out Sarah's New Course Guide from Everybody's a Genius. It is super cute (with editable template included) and fits perfectly into a composition notebook.  I also liked these graphic syllabi created in Piktochart.  I think that you could take the basic idea and create something similar in publisher.
Links to Syllabi Pictured

You could include a bit  information about yourself  (in more of a letter format) like:

  • where you went to college, 
  • number of children or pets, 
  • outside interests (running marathons, hiking, sewing, etc), 
  • clubs you sponsor, and 
  • why you love the subject and/or grade level you teach.  
I would avoid:
  • sharing things that are too personal (it is always safer to keep it professional),
  • listing a classroom rule or privilege that contradicts school policy,
  • grammatical errors and run-on sentences (ask a friend to proof your letter), and 
  • food likes and dislikes (this is a personal preference and I would certainly share if asked by a parent, but I prefer to leave it out of the first day letter to students... and yes, I actually saw an example with this on it).
It can be cutesy or plain, it is really up to you...just ensure that the information is communicated clearly.  Do you have a first day handout that you love? If so, please share!!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Bag the Web

I think that I'm a bit late with this #TechieTuesday find, but it is too good not to share and maybe, just maybe, Bag the Web is new to you too:) I kind of stumbled upon this one as I was watching a webinar on Humanizing Your Online Class by Michelle Pancasky-Brock while doing research for my summer course. Michelle started the video off by telling the listeners that she had a virtual goody bag for all of us to enjoy.  Immediately my ears perked up.

Like most, I love a good take-away...especially one described as a "goody bag". So, what was in this promised bag? Michelle had curated all of the resources from the webinar into a self contained "bag" using Bag the Web.

Bag the Web, is a free web-based tool that enables users to bag anything from unit notes and videos to technology integration ideas. My first bag was a recipe...of sorts.  Let me explain, my techie friend, Lisa, and I have been talking about podcasting for awhile. The more we talked the more I realized that I didn't know and needed to research further. So, I started a bag just for my podcasting resources.  Now, I could have made a new note in Evernote or made a new doc in Google, but I wanted to give Bag the Web a try.

So, I put blog posts, videos, and product links in my bag. I chunked like resources in categories like "how-to", "tools", and "publishing" and I was able to separate each resource with a narrative and images to make the resources easily identifiable.  It was a very linear way of arranging links (something that this math teacher fully appreciates). My bag started with the basics like which software to use to record a podcast and worked up to tutorials on publishing a podcast in iTunes and Stitcher.  It is stil a work in progress, but I hope to have all of the details (links curated from around the web) for creating a podcast of my own.  To me it will read like a recipe, but instead of a cake, it will tell me how-to make a podcast.

I can see many applications for Bag the Web in the classroom. Teachers can add unit resources into a bag to not only help with planning, but also to share with students so that they can access relevant content.  Students can link research articles or project resources into a bag in the order they might appear in a paper or project.  Goody bags can be shared with parents at Back to School night and could contain links to games designed to reinforce content, supplementary websites, the teacher's webpage, and ideas to help students at home.  Really the possibilities are endless.

I've used many tools for curating, but to me Bag the Web is different.  Maybe it is just me, but I see Bag the Web as a platform for chunking related resources almost in bite size bits.  I don't know why, but I keep thinking of the saying, "How do your eat an elephant?  One bite at a time."  Bag the Web is kind of like taking one bite at a time.  Here I am not putting everything that I need for planning for an entire school year; I am tackling the planning by focusing on just one unit at a time. 

Interested?  Here is how it works:

1) Sign up for an account and select "create" to start your own bag.

2) Add details about your new bag.

3)  Add an image to your bag.  This is important, if you want to eventually make your bag "public".

4)   Start adding content to your bag. Click on the type of resource you want to include and fill in the details.

5)  Here is an example of a divider and link that have been added to the bag.

6)  Rearrange the items in your bag by selecting the gear image in the upper right corner.

7)  Keep curating until you have a bag full of goodies!

Wonderful, right?  Here is a handout of the directions and images for you to share with others.

I can't wait to see what you curate!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Goodbye Cameraman...Hello Swivl

I don't know about you, but making a video is hard.  I struggle to balance my device, get just the right shot, and stay in the camera's field of vision.   For me, it is definitely a challenge.  I've had others hold the camera, operate the tripod, and help build a tower of boxes to attempt to hold the device at the right height. I make lots of videos with both teachers and students and have yet to master just the right set-up.  So when I saw the opportunity to apply to be a Swivl Video Pioneer, I jumped on it.  And guess what???  I got it!!! Now, what exactly that entails, I have yet to understand, but what I do know is that I get to give the Swivl a try! My box arrived almost a month ago...about the time my summer class began, so I have used it only a couple of times, but wanted to share what I like about it already.

The Swivl Robot makes creating video (and streaming) easy with its seamless integration of the Swivl app.  Users can place an smart phone or tablet in the stand on the Swivl Robot and the robot will turn to follow you as you move about the room.  All you need to do to make it work is carry the included marker which contains a high definition microphone and a sensor for tracking. And just like that...the Swivl moves the way you do.  This is a million times better than the tripod or bulky video conferencing machine I normally use.  I usually have to physically move the tripod or try to manipulate the bigger machine with a remote control.  Needless to say, both options produce jerky results making the end view of the video less than ideal.

I also like the audio quality of the built-in microphone on the Swivl marker that is held or worn by the presenter. The sound is clear and plays back at a comfortable volume.  I usually use my Apple headphones when I am creating a screencast, but they are quite limiting when I am trying to record myself teaching or presenting.  Therefore, I frequently end up with poor sound quality unless I focus on raising my voice to abnormally loud levels.  With the Swivl, I am able to speak at normal a volume and feel much more natural when I record.  Here is a video I made.  See if you can recognize the point at which I changed mics to narrate. (I should warn you...this is the video of my first attempt at using it!)

By using the the Swivl app, it is possible to record and upload video directly into the Swivl Cloud, which...are you ready for this???...has unlimited storage!!!  Now, I obviously love the free storage, but I did find myself wishing that I could access my video directly from the device I used to create the video.  In my original video, I wanted to make a few edits and add additional clips. Unfortunately, the only option within the Swivl app was to upload the video to the Swivl Cloud before I could access it.  Still not a huge problem, but we do not have unlimited internet where we live.  We use a hotspot with a limited monthly data plan, so I don't like to unnecessarily upload and download files (it cost $$$).  I was really hoping to be able to have the video that I filmed store directly into my camera roll, so that I could make my edits without using my hotspot's precious limited data.  I know...its a minor issue and does not effect my overall love for the Swivl)

In short, I like it...alot!  It is lightweight, compact, and easy to use. There is video support to get you started, along with a list of frequently asked question to which users may refer, if needed. With the robot's ability to move, a teacher or student is able to make a video without being planted in one spot for the duration of the recording. By utilizing the included marker (which is what the robot tracks) the user is able to be mobile and still be clearly heard.

I can see this being used to flip the classroom, record students reading aloud, film best teaching practices, and record guest speakers and special events.  I took it to ISTE and I plan on using it at the Discovery Educator Network's Summer Institute, so expect more videos to come.

Are you videoing in your classroom?  If. so, please share.  I am eager to explore more applications for the Swivl!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Clean Up YouTube Videos with ViewPure

I'll never forget the day I was in Room A-10 sharing a really cool YouTube video on a new robotic technology with our 7th grade STEM students.  While I can not recall the exact name of the clip I showed, I will never forget the title of the one that popped up next...Daffy Duck says *?!x^!?* Says what?!? Oh perfect! I remember, slowly dying about a thousand deaths.  I couldn't seem to close YouTube fast enough. To top it off...a parent was in the room to witness the fiasco:/ Let me add that this was about 7 years ago and I still feel an inward cringe as I sit here typing this.  Why, oh why does YouTube need to suggest another video?  And how exactly do the clips posted in the column to the right actually relate to my perfectly innocent movie?

I would not wish this experience on anyone, so when I saw ViewPure at #ISTE2015, I knew I had to share. No sign-ups, no logins...simply copy the URL for the video you want to "purify" and just like that, the service removes all images, comments, ads,and related videos from the video of your choice. YouTube videos can now be watched without distractions or risk of "inappropriate content". It is even possible to pre-determine a start and stop time for the clip so that you can show only a specific portion of the clip.

Here's how it works:
Step 1: Find a YouTube video you like and copy the URL
Step 2: Head to VideoPure
Step 3: Paste the link to the selected video into the field on the homepage that says "Enter YouTube URL or search term..." and click "Purify"

Step 4: Enjoy your video of choice free from ads, pop-ups, and distracting sidebars
See video

It's that easy to avoid an incredibly awkward moment when showing a YouTube video!  Want to see a quick overview of the process?  Here is a quick overview:

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Back To School Supply Swap

I was scrolling through Instagram last night and noticed the #SisterhoodoftheTravellingGift hashtag on many of my virtual friends' posts.  As I followed the links, I came upon a post by Zoe at A Quirky Bird explaining the details behind the short, it looked fun!  So, I immediately contacted my #Made4Math buddies, Pam and Shelli who agreed, if fashionistas can gift clothing and accessories, teachers can gift school supplies:)

Fun, right?
My favorite part of going back to school has always been shopping for supplies.  I remember telling my grandmother when I was 8, how much I loved shopping for school.  Bless her heart, she thought I meant for clothes and told me a story about a pair of new shoes she got as a little girl.  I didn't have the heart to tell her that I meant that I liked the binders, the old cardboard school boxes, and the paste. But still to this day, I get a bit giddy as I see the colored paperclips, new planners, and fancy pencils being carefully arranged down the aisles of my local big box store.

So, if you are like me and love this stuff too,

Join the Back to School Supply Swap
What is it? 
The School Supply Swap is a fun gift exchange between July 27 and Aug 7.

A gift exchange?  Let me explain...
Imagine...your favorite parcel carrier pulls into the drive and knocks on your door to deliver a brightly colored package addressed to YOU.  You carry it inside...eager to open it.  What could it be???  Most assuredly that whatever is in the package was carefully selected just for you and will be the perfect addition to your classroom this fall, because this School Supply Swap was planned by teachers for teachers.

How does it work?
You will be matched up with another teacher and will be provided results from his/her online questionnaire, so that you can find out a bit more about this new friend. You will select a few school related items based upon the responses on the survey...something that you think that they would enjoy and would fit into their room's decor.  There is a prize for cutest wrapping, so box up your goodies, snap an image of your package and post to Twitter with the hashtag #SupplySwap.

The cost of the gift should be around $15 (excluding shipping) and should be shipped between July 27 and August 7.  It will be like a little Back to School surprise!!!

Ready to join the fun?
If you would like to participate to connect with other teachers from across the country, complete this Google form by July 15 and we will match you up.

Note: To keep shipping costs down, only teachers from the same country will be matched.

REAL mail filled with lots of goodies just in time for the new school year! We can't wait to see what the parcel carrier brings to you!!!

Lots of love! Cindy, Pam, and Shelli xoxoxo