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!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Chatting It Up @ #TLAPMATH

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

#tlapMath: Passion and Immersion

Tonight was our first Teach Like a Pirate Math (#tlapmath) chat on Twitter and the excitement was contagious!  Our focus: passion and immersion.  My phone was buzzing like crazy as everyone shared their thoughts.  Here is a quick overview of the discussion:

Friday, May 31, 2013

#MyFavFriday: Assessing Student Learning

I have had so much fun this week catching up on missed blog posts and pins from the Spring.  There are some great ideas that I am definitely planning to incorporate next year!  As I was going back through everything, I seemed to gravitate to assessment.  I found myself up way to late reading about self-assessment, interpreting data, and testing treats.  Some of #MyFavFinds are:
I heard about something like this last year and never quite wrapped my mind around how it worked. I guess I am a bit of a visually learner, because this makes perfect sense now and seems like a fantastic idea for evaluation at the end of class.
What a great visual aid for 'where to pick it up tomorrow'!  Timeouts and Tootsie Rolls has numerous  ideas for exit tickets.  These are providing great inspirations for a few #Made4Math projects:)
Here is a similar idea using only a bulletin board and post-it notes.  I appreciate the simplicity!
Sarah at Everybody's A Genius literally made exit tickets and laminated the slips to make them reusable.  She created enough so that everyone would have one and she would not need to erase them between classes.  I like the variety of ideas.  It keeps class fresh.  
Finally, Tonya shared an awesome idea for instant data analysis!  Her idea makes it easy to gather feedback and analyze both formal and informal assessments.  In her blog post, she describes handing each student a strip of paper containing numbers representing a corresponding test question.  She has the students color the numbers of the problems they missed.  When she glues the strips onto a manila folder, she is quickly able to identify opportunities for reteaching.  Genius!

Monday, May 27, 2013

#Made4Math: Alien Invaders

I am so excited to get back in the swing of #Made4Math Mondays.  This makes 2 in a row for me!!!  It has been too long and ideas have been rattling around in my head for months.  This project is a spin off of Splat!, in which students use flyswatters to swat the correct answer to a factoring question.  In Alien Invaders, students will use laser pointers or flashlights to select correct answers!  Hopefully, the kids won't notice the similarities since one will be played in the Fall and the other in the Spring.  For Alien Invaders, I started out by creating my own creatures, so that I was not infringing on others' artwork (I'm never sure about appropriate use of  published stuff).
Being a middle aged woman, somewhat removed from little boys and aliens,
I looked to the internet for some inspiration.
The nicely shaded ones were created by true artists.

Mine were done using Promethean's ActivInspire and a bunch of shapes (feel free to improve them and then share with me:).  For this game, I will tape the aliens sporting answers to the ceiling, arm the students with death ray beams (laser pens or flashlights), prepare a stack of questions, flip the lights off and let the fun begin.

  I have created this version for trigonometry to reinforce the (x, y) coordinates of significant angles on the unit circle.  I have tutored kids from all over and noticed very few students have a good handle on being able to rattle off the sin 150 degrees or the cos 315 degrees (not that this is an important life skill, but it does prove particularly useful in trig class).  A few years ago,  I found the "Trig Hand", which I use instead of having students just memorize the entire circle.  It reinforces the importance of quadrants in determining the sign of trig ratios and reference angles.  I made Alien Invaders to practice evaluating the trigonometric ratio (without a calculator) using the trig hand, but this could be adapted to fit any question and answer scenario.
The students will be divided into four teams.  Two teams will compete against each other at one end of the room, while the other two teams are battling it out at the opposite end (so that everyone gets a turn quickly). With the lights off, I will call out a question like the sin 225 and students will use the laser pointer (flashlight) to identify the correct answer before their opponent.  
Like Splat!, I expect this to get ReALly noisy, ReALly quickly, but if they are yelling about math, I will be okay with that...and hopefully, so will the teachers in neighboring rooms.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Ahhh Summer: Resting, Reflecting, and Refreshing

Yesterday was the last official day for teachers for a while.  It is always a funny thing...a school without teachers and students...essentially an empty building visited only occasionally by parents returning lost books, a student in need of assistance for the upcoming ACT, and athletes getting a sip of water after practice.  I'll be there another month breaking only to attend a conference or two during June, planning for next year already, and getting new spaces prepared for our 2013-14 ECA family.

Thinking as a teacher, I have been reflecting on the year, identifying what worked, what didn't, and what needs tweaking.  At our school much of this week's talk revolved around the Common Core.  We are scouring Pinterest and blogs for insight on a smooth transition to the new curriculum. Our state is in the process of assembling a Teacher Toolbox.    It is still a work in progress as of now, but should be filling up with scope and sequences, unit plans, and sample mid-June.  I saw a CCSS Flipbook the other day from Algebrainiac that I am eager to explore. The flipbook helps organize the common core standards by grade and by subject in high school.  It looks like it will be very helpful in keeping it all straight.

I am so looking forward to summer, because can't wait to get back to my regular blog postings of #Made4Math and #MyFavFriday!  Last night around 11PM, I seriously considering going out to the car to retrieve my computer so that I could blog my 'My Favorite Friday Finds", because I was so excited about Runde's Room 4 corner strategy.  I thought this collaborative activity was fantastic!

If my friends are reading this, they are probably shaking their heads right now, but blogging, creating, working on my home is refreshing for me.  I am encouraged and refueled by the sharing of ideas via conferences, twitter feeds, and others blogs.  So, thank you to all of you who blog, pin, and tweet - you help me grow to be the teacher I want to be.  Wishing you a HaPpY SUmmEr!!!!!!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Made 4 Math: Celebrating Black History Month

 Disclaimer: This post was actually drafted in February, but due to my pesky need to have everything 'just right', I didn't publish it because I couldn't find pics of the activity.  As the year draws to a close, I wanted to share it, because it was really fun and it is something I will continue this summer as I create Math Questions of the Month for the 2013-2014 school year.

 I am so excited to share this week's #Made4Math idea, because it motivated tons of random kids to do math problems for something other than a grade!!!  In fact, students were literally running down the hallways (sorry, Principal Dean:) to check their answers...okay, I promised the "first one with the correct answer" a candy bar, but all of the others were curious just to see if they worked the problems right.  Yay, score one for the Math Department!!!
     So, let me back up...every February our school celebrates Black History Month through a program filled with songs and praise dances. This year, the event organizers asked departments to furnish a Fact of the Day honoring an African-American who made significant contributions in each content area.  The facts were read during the morning announcements. Each department was responsible for only one day of the week and since we were out one week for Winter Break, each department had to furnish only 3 facts for the month.  The math department's day was Thursday.
     As the first Thursday rolled around, I knew I wanted our's to be different, interactive, and contain something about math.  I researched African-American mathematicians and stumbled upon Benjamin Banneker, who, besides studying engineering and astronomy, wrote math riddles in his personal journals.  Very cool and the inspiration for our 'math facts' announcements.  I wrote the announcements introducing Mr. Banneker and then included a math riddle at the end.  Here are a couple that we shared:
Announcement 1:  Benjamin Banneker, American scientist, author and mathematician, was a self taught inventor and engineer. After studying a neighbor's pocket watch, Benjamin Banneker constructed a working wooden clock that kept accurate time for 50 years.  Assuming there a 365 days in a year, how many minutes did Mr. Banneker's clock tick? Be the first to A-5 with the correct answer and win!

Announcement 2: Last week, we introduced Benjamin Banneker, a son of a former slave, who was born on a farm near Baltimore. From books loaned to him by a neighbor, Banneker taught himself surveying, astronomy, and mathematics. Later, he published several almanacs of his own containing astronomical observations.  He also kept a journal.  In his diaries, Banneker wrote mathematical puzzles, one of which we are featuring today.  So here is the math question of the week:  A farmer had $100 to spend on 100 animals.  If bulls cost $5, cows cost $1, and sheep cost a nickel, how many of each type of animal was the farmer able to purchase?  Be the first to A-5 with the correct answer and win!

I created table tents featuring the math riddles for each of the cafeteria tables in case someone missed the details during the morning announcement (I figured the students might as well do math while eating their fish sticks).  Finally, I created a candy bar wrapper which was wrapped around a giant candy bar and given as a prize.
Next year, Math Question of the Month...something to work on this summer:)

       The first person with the correct answer won the Banneker Bar and everyone else received coupons for a free hamburger at the local fast food restaurant near the school.  Truly, kids ran to my classroom to check-in with their answers.  If the answers were incorrect, it provided me with an opportunity to ask them to explain their mathematical thinking and help redirect them to the correct answer.  I loved seeing students that are not in my class this year and watching them get excited about solving problems.  So why should math facts make the announcements only in February?  Why not throw in a challenge question randomly through out the school year?  I promise, it's fun!!!