Wednesday, December 11, 2013

#Techmas Challenge Day 3: Padlet

On the third day of #Techmas, TechformersU challenged me to create a Christmas Padlet for all to see. Padlet, formerly known as Wallwisher, is an online graffiti board in which users can post pictures, text, and links.  There are many applications for using Padlet in the classroom from brainstorming to collaborating on a group research project, students can use these virtual bulletin boards to post online sticky notes in a variety of ways.  Here are just a few:
  • K-W-L charts for pre- and post- assessment
  • Sentence Starters (Allow students to complete the sentence with their own ideas.)
  • Group research projects (share links, topic ideas, etc.)
  • Showcase student work
  • Exit Ticket
  • Collect feedback
  • Book reviews
  • Ask questions 
  • And, even more ideas
A Padlet wall is quick and easy to create and can be shared, exported, or embedded.  Students can begin using it simply after you click "Build a Wall" and share the address with them. 

The walls can also be customized to better fit instructional purposes.  Last Spring, I made a wall (virtual bulletin board) for students to use before we Skyped with a college admissions counselor.  The wall included a background in school colors and featured the school's logo.  To focus the students on the upcoming visit, I asked students to add sticky notes listing one fact about the university and one question for the counselor. Then, I shared the link with the counselor prior to her virtual arrival so that she could make a connection with the kids.
See Richard Byrne's  "How-to Video" for details on customizing a Padlet wall  
For my Day 3 #Techmas Challenge, I made a "Sentence Starter" wall to use tomorrow with my students.  I chose to do "The Holidays In 3 Words." (I was always a huge fan of Good Morning America's In 3 Words segment.) Here is a sneak peek of the wall: 

I think my students will love it:) To give it a try and add your own 3 words, double click on the image above.  What do you think of when you think of the holidays?

Monday, December 9, 2013

#Techmas Challenge Day 2: Smore

On the 2nd Day of #TechmasChallenges, TechformersU wrote to me..."Create a Smore of your favorite Christmas place or city".

My Day 2 project focuses on my little slice of heaven right here in Louisiana.  I used Smore to highlight a favorite Cajun Christmas story, our holiday bonfire tradition, Louisiana's Christmas Fairs and Festivals, and some special recipes.

Online Flyer
Smore, a free webtool, allows users to create online flyers with pictures, videos, links, and events. The creations can be shared via Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and more.  For the classroom, it would make a perfect platform for presenting research information.  I like the way the flyer looked on the Smore page more so than the way it looked when I embedded it in the blog - some of the formatting changed on the embed and I had trouble getting Blogger to load it, so I opted for an image.  If you try this as a class project, the variations may drive some of your kids nuts, so you may want to give them a bit of a warning in advance:)

Until tomorrow...Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

First Day of #Techmas Challenge: Wordle

It is the first #TechmasChallenge... today's Techformer's task: Create  a Wordle of your favorite Christmas song.  Before beginning the task, I researched a bit.  I was trying to find ideas for using Wordle in the math classroom.  While I did stumble upon a few math-specific ideas, I felt like I hit the real jackpot when I found Jennifer Wagner's SlideShare presentation in which she shows examples of using Wordle across the curriculum.  From analyzing speeches to artwork reflections, she has compiled a plethora of ideas. In many of her examples, she shows Wordle word clouds layered over background images (see several of her examples below)...
Via Jennifer Wagner's SlideShare
While viewing her creations, inspiration for today's project hit!  Jennifer uses Paint Shop Pro to manipulate the images.   I don't happen to have that particular software, but I do have my trusty Promethean ActivInspire (love!!!!).

Here is what I did to make my layered Wordle image:
1.  After selecting "create" on Wordle and copying and pasting the lyrics of the song into the empty text box, I took a screen shot of my word cloud using Promethean's ActivInspire.
My Original Wordle Image
2.  I hoped that I could manipulate the background in ActivInspire to make it transparent, but honestly was at a loss until I ran across Terri Oswald's how-to video. She's brilliant!  It was just what I needed to make it work.
3.  I found an image that I wanted for my background and layered it behind my word cloud.
Via Vector ClipArt
4.  I cheated a bit and used the "camera" tool to trim some of my Wordle image and the "paint bucket" to fill a few of the words with the bright yellow.  (I found it easier to do in ActivInspire than trying to make the perfect image in Wordle.)  In case you are wondering, I also changed some of the words.

     And that was it - I had my finished product.  Wordle would definitely be a tool that students could use in the classroom. It is super quick and easy to do. I liked the idea of adding the art as a background image because for me, it evokes more of an emotional response than the words alone, making it perfect for our Humanities and English/Language Arts courses.  For math, I am still not sure (my two favorite ideas included creating a Wordle for Common Core Standards to identify important concepts and creating one to identify the mode in a list of numbers); so math teachers, please share how you are using this tool in your classroom. I am anxious to try it with my students!

     Oops! Back to the #TechmasChallenge!!! Without further adieu, my Day 1 creation:

Joy to the World :)

I've been invited to... #TechmasChallenges

After decking the halls and filling the sleigh with brightly colored packages, I stopped for a cup of cocoa brimming with marshmallows (yes, I did say I was starting my diet again today only to jump right off of it at the mention of hot chocolate) and took a moment to check my lists Facebook. Much to my surprise in my inbox I found an invitation to a party...a technology party.  The geek within me jumped for joy to read the details.  The invitation, sent by Techformers Unite (which, I think was organized by Andrea at BusyBee) and forwarded via my dear friend and fellow DEN member, LeaAnne, reads, "the purpose is to spread the holiday cheer, far and near by completing the 12 Days of Techmas Challenges."  So, what is it?  The Techmas Challenges are fun holiday centered tasks to complete using different online tools. I have only used a few of the digital resources listed, so I am so excited to try out some "new-to-me" tools.  Here is a quick overview of the tasks:
The first challenge begins tomorrow. Will I be able to complete them all... in order... every day?  Ummm...doubtful.  Do I have to?  No, actually I can pick and choose which challenge tasks to complete. "Although a challenge will be posted every day, you can work on them in any order and at any time!"  Yay! My kind of activity focused on my most favorite time of year, learning about tools that I can incorporate in my classroom, all over an extended holiday break.  I'll post the challenges from the Techformers group here along with my projects and thoughts of how to use the featured digital tool in my classroom.  If you want to join in the fun, post your projects on your blog (feel free to grab the 12 Days of #TechmasChallenges graphic above) and tweet a link to your post using #TechmasChallenges.  Can't wait to get started - I hope you will join me!!!

Friday, August 30, 2013

#MyFavFriday: School Clothes Galore, Blog, and More

Trendy clothes with no commitment? Never do laundry again?  Wear a new outfit every day (or at least a couple of days a week)? Oh yes, with  #MyFavFriday find for the month, Gwynnie Bee!!!  My commitment for the new school year...try not to get into a work clothes rut.  In late July, I consciously considered my wardrobe (very, very rare) and decided that just because the students wear uniforms doesn't mean that I need to; though by the end of the last school year, I found myself wearing pretty much the same thing day in and day out.  So looking to get inspired, I started searching blogs for new styles and trends and stumbled upon...GWYNNIE BEE, which is by far my coolest find of the summer!!!
The rent-a-clothes website contains tons of cardigans, blouses, skirts, and dresses to allow a teacher to wear something different everyday of the school year.  The best part, they don't want you to wash the items!  At the end of the day, you simply throw your garment in the postage paid envelope and toss it into the outgoing mail.  Gwynnie Bee ships your next outfit immediately.  Fresh new looks without hours spent shopping...LOVE!!!
     My second favorite find...@druinok 's 180 Day Blog.  @druinok happens to one of my absolute favorite math teachers to follow on twitter and in the blog-o-sphere.  To get a peek into her daily happenings in the classroom thrills my soul. Only 2 weeks into her new blogging venture and already, I have spotted several activities to try and share like Sarah's (from Everyone Is a Genius) 31derful.
     I am picking up a class set of cards tomorrow for my last favorite find!  I think this might be a perfect focus activity for my very, very large, predominantly male 3rd block that is interrupted by lunch somewhere smack dab in the middle of the 90 minute class.  After a strong opening, starting the lesson, just getting the kids going, BAM...the bell rings.  Away we go to lunch.  Upon our return, it feels awkward diving back into number crunching.  I am thinking that perhaps math activities, like 31derful, would help re-direct students' attention as we transition back into class.  What do you think?  Anyone else with a split class???  How do you do it?  Ideas would certainly be appreciated.

Monday, June 24, 2013

MOOCs: Passion Driven Learning

I think all teachers have a basic commonality in that we want to make a difference, empower our students, open their thinking to explore the what-ifs and how-'bouts, change our future by impacting our kids' present.  We signed up for this gig with a bigger vision.  We wanted to attach our life to something that we felt had meaning: kids.  According to Dr. Scott Garrigan of LeHigh University, you can reach and teach more kids in a semester online than you could ever teach at a traditional school setting in a lifetime... in fact, 5 lifetimes, provided you start when you're 20 and retire at 70?  If you were a teacher who taught 200 kids at a time, it would take 250 years to teach 100,000 students.  In Fall 2011 at Stanford University, the first MOOC enrolled 160,000 participants!!!!!
     I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Garrigan present this morning at #ISTE13.  His topic: How will the MOOC Explosion Effect K-12 Schools and Students?  Okay, I know this is a bit of a deviation from the this blog's norm, but it is Sch00lStuff and since I teach in a blended learning environment this MOOC stuff interests me.  Why? There is a lot to glean about teaching and learning from these online courses.
Let me back up...
What is a MOOC?  A MOOC is a massively open online course.  Basically, it's a class that is offered by a university at no charge and in which, participants are awarded no credit.
Where do you find a MOOC?  There are major providers of these free online courses: Coursera, edX, and Udacity
What kinds of classes are offered? Really, really hard ones covering a variety of topics...including my favorite, teacher pd

     So, why do so many people enroll in tough classes....for no credit?  Simply, they want to LEARN.  People are willing to challenge their thinking, master material, try hard classes, IF they think the topic is interesting and there is no risk.  In these courses, students are able to learn about what they WANT to study...for free with no risk of failing...since the courses are not for credit.  The classes are for real though...there are due dates, assessments, and opportunities for collaboration.
     My first thought was what if passion of interest drove learning in K-12?  Many of us are reading Dave Burgess' Teach Like a Pirate where we are exploring our own 'P'assion as teachers and thinking of ways to bring our whole self into the classroom, but WHaT iF the kids' 'P'assion drove instruction?  I know some are exploring the 20% time/ free time, but I am not sure this is even that.  I think it is bigger.  I think it is maybe like Utica Junior High's Teach Like a Pirate Day,
where Principal Ryan McLane asked, "If kids didn't have to go to class, would you be teaching to an empty room?" Except maybe, it is not just a day.  What do kids want to learn? What do kids need to try?  Maybe it is like Jane McGonigal's thoughts at the #ISTE13 Opening need a place to practice being an entrepreneur, become a published author, engage in meaningful activities with a purpose and goal in mind.  Maybe a school's goal could more closely align with Jane's vision, "where we make it as easy for our students to save the real world, as it is to save the world on online games."  Where are educators providing opportunities for kids to practice this?  
     In  Disrupting Class, Clay Christensen states that educators "teach all students in the same way."  My concern, being at a small private school with understandably limited course offerings (on a limited budget with limited number of faculty members) is that not only that we are teaching them all the same way, but we are teaching them all the same things.  The current structure of school is very complex and I am not sure how to allow more flexibility in learning while still meeting accountability standards.  It seems like if we could combine Jane McGonigal's idea of Gamefication with the course choice afforded through MOOCs, it would be an ideal online world, but then on the practical side...what about the kids that need to see a caring adult face-to-face everyday because they don't have that at home or those who need to hone social skills through interaction with their peers or even those who just need to eat and the classroom teacher is the one who brings bread and peanut butter each day to meet their physical needs?
     So, let's skip the virtual Utopia.  How do we offer passion driven courses at school? Do we offer an elective hour?  Saturday school? Summer camp?  Do we connect high school kids with the MOOC catalogs?  Let kids teach kids?  Let kids teach teachers?  Finally, how do we incorporate the 8 lessons learned from online teaching  to improve all teaching?  I do not propose to have the answers and I am not even sure I am asking the right questions (#tlap -Dave Burgess), but I am thinking.  Maybe, that is what being around so many inspiring #ISTE13 educators makes you do.
     So, help me all of you people in the blog-o-sphere...what is your school (or just you) doing to offer students passion driven learning opportunities?  

Monday, June 17, 2013

#Made4Math: Dice Game

Last week was a whirlwind for me.  I attended the Ron Clark Academy (RCA) 3-day National Conference and then our school's annual Curriculum Camp.  My mind is spinning and I have yet to process it all!  So, for this week's #Made4Math post, I opted to start with the simplest idea I heard this week which was shared by Adam Dovico of RCA, the dice game.  In the true spirit of #Made4Math, I hit the local dollar store this weekend to purchase 4 packs of dice and came up with one concrete concept with which to use them.  First, let me say that I normally DON't do worksheets ever, ever, ever, but I made an exception because I looooovvvved the Dice Game idea.  It works with any age and any subject!

What you need:
One die  per two students (or the Dice app downloaded to each student's phone), one pencil per two students, and one worksheet for each child

How to play:
1.  Divide students up into groups of two.  The goal of the game is to complete the worksheet before your opponent does.  Though, when described to our staff by Mr. Dovico, by design there is rarely, if ever, a winner.

2.  Give both students a worksheet (perfect for test review, multiplication review, factoring practice...literally, anything!!!).  Hand one student the die and give the other student the pencil.

3.  Count down for the game to begin.  When the game starts, one student grabs the pencil and begins work on the paper, while the other student begins rolling the die hoping for a "6".  The student rolls the die repeatedly until a "6" is rolled.

4.  After rolling a "6", students swap the die and the pencil.  The student with the pencil works on the independent practice worksheet until his opponent rolls a "6".

5.  Monitor students' progress as you walk about the classroom.  Allow the game to continue until students get close to completing the worksheet, count down for the game to end prior to anyone actually winning, so that there will be a sense of urgency next time you play.

For this activity, I focused on second semester's Trigonometry class, because my second semester could use an infusion of fun.
Word doc or pdf
 I created practice problems to review finding other trig functions given one value and the quadrant, but the idea could be used anytime and anywhere!