Photo Credit: Nina Matthews Photography via Compfight cc

The Best Plans of Mice and Men

When I returned to school after vacation, I was reminded of one of my favorite sayings.

“The best-laid schemes of mice and men often go awry.” – Robert Burns

Plans

This summer I planned out a Unit in Math in which I wanted to incorporate new technology to further student learning.  I thought that flipping the classroom would be a redefinition of technology that could make the classroom much more efficient.  Using the first unit of study in Math, I created instructional videos for each topic.  I was eager to try this new teaching method out.

Awry

When I arrived back at school at the end of summer, I learned that we had a new Math curriculum.  The new Math curriculum did not match up exactly with my instructional videos.  I could’t use most of the Math videos I created.  I spent the beginning of August familiarizing myself with the new curriculum rather than flipping the classroom.

Adapting

I love watching my students explain something they have learned to others.  They love sharing information and putting on their teacher hats.  I wanted to give my students a chance to create their own math tutorial videos to share with others.  I adapted my project by putting the video creation task in the hands of my students.

My students will create video tutorials to explain their math concepts to others.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/21789669@N00/4702589575/

Professor Bop

Junction

Next year I will be teaching third grade.  I looked ahead at some of the units of study and thought how I could integrate technology into a unit.

 

Digital Citizenship:

The first unit of study next year will be Community Spirit. It would be very easy to tie this unit into digital citizenship.  We could cover our acceptable use policy, our digital footprints and digital citizenship.  I would then like to challenge the students to create a digital story that demonstrates a concept we covered in the unit.  This digital story could be shared with others through YouTube, our class blog or other sites.

I have one camera and a webcam on my computer.  This would mean that the students access to the video cameras would be limited.  Working in small groups would help to overcome this hurdle.  I could ask parents, that are comfortable, to send in a digital camera for a day.

A Flipped Math Class

I think the flipped classroom model can be effective and more efficient then our current Math instruction.  I would like to try it out with my new third grade class.  I find differentiation is important in primary Math instruction.  I think a flipped classroom would lend itself to this.  The students would watch an instructional video the night before.  They would complete a short assessment test when they first walk in the class.  Based on the results they would either get further small group instruction or they could work on their own on a challenge problem.

Gamification

Another idea I had was to gamify a unit.  We are doing a unit on transportation.  I could teach the unit using games and text based adventures.  The students would work toward receiving a badge n each standard covered in the unit.  At the end for a final project, I could ask them to create a short game on Scratch.

 

Each idea has obstacles and benefits.  I feel I am at a junction and will now choose the direction in which to head.  Over the summer I will research more into the feasibility of each idea and choose a path that would be best suited for third graders.

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BYOD

In my classroom, I bring in my own device (BYOD).  I have a MacBook Pro that I use for writing lesson plans, sending emails to students and parents, reading our class writing blog and presenting media to the class. The desktop that the school provides for the classroom I have placed on a desk for students to access.   The computer is available to the students but it is only one device for a class of thirteen students.

 

This semester I asked the students to bring in their own devices as well.

 

At first I was apprehensive about asking students to bring in their own iPads.  What if not enough students have iPads? What if parents don’t want to send them? What if an iPad get damaged in class?

 

In class we used the student’s iPads to complete center activities on explorers. Having the iPads used at only some of the centers made it possible to complete the activities without everyone bringing in an iPad.  Students offered to use their cellphones but we didn’t need to use them because enough students brought in iPads.  We completed the center activities in three days. This limited the amount of trips the devices made to school and back.  The most important step I took in the BYOD activities was to communicate clearly with the parents.  I sent an email to all the parents explaining the activity. I made sure the parents knew how the devices would be used and the benefits. With a little planning and good communication the students were able to bring in their devices and benefit from more technology in the classroom.

 

There were four centers where students used iPads.  There was a center where the students would use the iPads to map out the route of the explorers, a center where the students would identify different spices using spiceadvice.com, a center where the students would match explorers to their discoveries and a center where the students would create a timeline of the age of explorers.  There were also centers that didn’t involve iPads as well.

 

It is irresponsible to teach and not introduce students to digital devices in the classroom.  At one point writing was a new technology but we would never limit a student’s access to writing.  There are obstacles to overcome when asking students to bring in their own devices but these obstacles are surmountable.

 

There are a lot or resources out there for helping you with a BYOD program.  I found these helpful:

http://www.k12blueprint.com/byod http://www.peelschools.org/aboutus/21stCentury/byod/Pages/default.aspx

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Connecting to the Online Community

Connecting my classroom to the global community can offer the best opportunities for learning. As my COETAIL course continues, I am being introduced to some ways and means to connect my students to the online community.

 

This is a simple list of ways to connect online and some ideas about using them.

 

Emailing

Writing emails to students in another part of the world is a great way to connect online.  Teachers can find email pals through a site such as ePals.  Students could also write emails to politicians, companies or institutions.

Messaging

Messaging is a great way to communicate instantly with people across the web.  You can create chat groups and chat to multiple people at the same time but it remains private on the web.  The messages are private so others can’t share the information you are discussing.  This is a helpful tool when collaborating online.

Calling

Skype and Google hangouts can both be used for messaging, voice calls and video calls.  Face to face chats with authors over Skype can be a great experience for young readers and writers.  Kate Messner created a really nice list of authors that will Skype with your class for free.

Commenting

Writing comments is a great way to connect with all different kinds of people and sites online.  Helping the students understand the difference between complimenting and commenting can be a lesson early on.  While complimenting is nice to here it doesn’t progress the conversation forward.  A comment adds something new to the conversation and moves the conversation forward.  This is a simple but helpful lesson for students.

Blogging

Starting a class blog is a simple way to share student work online.  Student’s enjoy sharing their work with their classmates and larger audiences.  They seem to improve drastically in their writing ability when they think a lot of people will view their work.  Students can create an online portfolio on their blog.  They can use their blog to reflect on their learning, add journal entries on what they are learning or publish their writing work for a larger audience.

Social Media

Social Media is the most common way people connect online. Vicki Davis recently posted on Edutopia with a Guidebook for Social Media in the Classroom. This guidebook is comprehensive and influential with many great examples as links.  Creating a Twitter account for a book character is a great way for the students to practice tweeting. There are a lot of other great ideas in Vicki’s post.

Uploading Videos

Making and sharing videos is another way to connect to others online.  Students could teach others a lesson they learned in class.  They could make a video tutorial on how to do something or how to use a certain program.  Students could also make a public service announcement to make others aware of an important issue.  Creating and sharing media is a great way to participate in the online culture because you are adding something to the web that could help others.

Sharing Other Content

One of the greatest things about the digital format is that it is so easy to share.  Creating a Prezi to share is a common activity.  There is also Haiku deck or simply Google presentations.  Recently a student wanted to post a quiz on his website he was creating to test the readers knowledge.  In Scratch, students can create programs that others can use and rate.  Creating a podcast is another way to share learning.

 

I look forward to hearing about other online connections I missed or ideas for connecting students to the web.

 

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Dear Threes, I want my life back.

I have been hooked on a new game.  I have devoted a bunch of my free time to sliding number tiles around on a board.  Why am I doing this?

 

Games can be addictive. Gamification is the application of game elements into the classroom. I was introduced to gamification at the Bangkok Teachers Network.  The presenter discussed online programs such as Zondle and Class Tools that allowed content to be presented in a game format.

 

My experiences with these programs are limited.  It seems to engage the students quite a bit but I have found the content becomes secondary to the game play.  Students would guess at answers to get further in the game rather then try and learn the content.

 

Another option to introducing games in the classroom is a text-based game.  These are easy but time consuming to create.  I have had more success with this in my class.  The students really enjoyed playing it.  Some of the students bunched up in groups with out direction from me.  In their self selected groups they helped each other determine all the different endings.  They had fun with this but they didn’t see it as a game.  For the students in my class a video game doesn’t include so much reading.

 

Here is an example of the text-based game I made:

 http://textadventures.co.uk/games/view/ftoak1sad0wjs3m-qh4ina/eco-quest-1-the-rainforest

I used Text Adventures but a Google presentation is another option.  If you are feeling like a challenge Twine looks like a tool that takes more effort but can give you more options.

Although adding video games to the class can engage some students to a greater degree, I think the real question is how can the psychological principles used to restructure a class?  The idea of badging would be one place to start.

Photo Credit: december_snowdrift via Compfight cc

Going Further with Projects

Project based learning and challenge based learning (PBL and CBL) have always appealed to me.  PBL and CBL motivate students through increasing student autonomy and purpose.  Students are able to complete the project or solve the challenge the way they want.  It is often easy to connect PBL or CBL to real world situations.  The students can see how their work has a greater purpose.

Here is a video by Common Craft showing how project based learning more closely resembles real world work assignments:

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Recently, my class completed a project for our Native American unit. The class divided into groups and the groups chose a region of the United States they would study.  The assignment for the students was to create a museum exhibit on Native Americans from the region they chose.  

The GRASP Task looked like this:

G – Goal – Explain to other classes about the culture of Native American tribes and how their environment affected their culture.

R – Role – You are an archeologist called upon to design a museum exhibit on a group of Native American tribes.

A – Audience – Classmates, schoolmates and fourth grade teachers will be the audience.

S – Situation – You have been working on uncovering artifacts in a certain region of the United States.  The artifacts are from Native American tribes.  You have been asked by a new museum to design an exhibit on Native Americans.

P – Product – Create a museum exhibit showcasing the different tribes culture.  Pay specific attention to how the tribes environment influenced their culture.  Make sure to include:

1) A poster containing information of the tribes’ culture
2) Explanation how the environment of the tribe influenced their culture
3) An artifact from the tribe

S – Standards and Criteria for Success

I had the students self-assess their work with this rubric:

 

Native American Museum Exhibit Rubric

 

Name:____________________________                                                                             Date:______________________

 

4—Above Standard

3—Meets Standard

2—Below Standard

1—Way Below Standard

1. Poster—well made, informative, text and images, colorful, complete.
2. Artifacts—authentic, realistic, well made.
3. Presentation—informative, clear, interesting, complete.
4. Concepts—exhibit clearly shows what students learned and helps others to learn the same.
5. Work habits, time management, cooperation, effort.
6. Group score

 

Total:______________

 

The students were motivated and engaged when working on this but writing this post and reflecting on it how I can go further.  I could increase the student’s autonomy by letting them decide how they want to communicate the information learned.  Instead of limiting them by requiring an artifact and a poster, I could ask them to design their own section of the museum.  Their section could include a presentation, a movie, a play, or any media they choose that communicates the information on their Native American tribe.  I could also give them more autonomy by allowing them to choose a tribe from anywhere on the globe.

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Reflection

 

Teaching teachers is a difficult proposition.  They always have ideas about how the material should be presented and how to assess the knowledge gained.  I am no different.  I have recently started a master’s degree program in education and I have a lot of suggestions for my professors.  They haven’t asked me my opinion yet so I’m still just taking mental notes at this point. Maybe I will suggest sweeping classroom reforms in the future.

This new experience has put me in a reflective mood and I have been thinking about how my teaching has changed since I started the COETAIL program.

Drawing from more resources

As I read new blog posts every week, the ideas I have for my classroom are being pulled from a much larger group.  Before I would search the web for ideas when desperately needed.  Now I proactively seek out new ideas before I am struggling to develop an engaging lesson.  Using a personal learning network, PLN, has broadened my horizons.

I experiment more with new ideas

I am not a natural blogger.  It has removed me from my comfort zone.  After taking this step it has been easier for me to try other new things as well. Recently in my class I created an interactive textbook for the students to use.  This is something I would not have attempted at the start of the year.  It didn’t work perfectly but I enjoy the atmosphere created in this more experimental classroom.

I allow more freedom in my classroom

Last year I was nervous about giving students too much freedom on the web.  I was worried they would use it to avoid classwork or find inappropriate pages.  Seeing how other teachers work gave me more confidence to allow my students more freedom.  I enjoy giving more open ended prompts and more choice on projects.  I have not noticed the students avoiding work by playing games online.

 

Picking a Good Book

At the beginning of the year, before I talk to my students about how to pick a book, their book selections are all over the place. Some students will be trying to read and comprehend a book way past their level and others will be cruising on auto pilot with simple text.  Sometimes students don’t know how to find a book they will be interested in.  This is the presentation I will use to help them to choose books independently.

 

When creating this presentation, I used the rule of thirds, I limited the text, I used a simple design and I used memorable images. The images on slide 4,5 and 6 were not particularly memorable.  I struggled with using stickier more memorable images or using images that display the idea being shared.  I went with the images that more accurately display the ideas.

This is the presentation I created for my class.  Giving the students clear and practical advice on how to choose a book has always proven useful in my class.  I want my students to choose what books they want to read because they will be more motivated to read if it is their own selection.  I also want them choosing books that are interesting and fit them well.

 

I have made notes on the Google presentation for each slide:

Slide 1: Picking a good book at the right level is the most important step in reading.

Slide 2: Ask your friends for recommendations. Most of the books I read come from recommendations from friends.  After you can share about the book with your friend to learn more about the book and more about your friend.

Slide 3: What are you interested in? Reading a book that interests you will be easier and more enjoyable.

Slide 4: If a book won an award, then it will be a good read.

Slide 5: What books have your classmates recommended?

Slide 6: Is the book summary interesting to you? What have people blurbed about the book?

Slide 7: The Five Finger Rule

Read a page of the book and hold up  finger every time you get to a word you don’t know.

0-1 fingers – the book is too easy

2-3 fingers – the book is right at your level

4-5 fingers – the book is too difficult

 

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Character Sketches in Tiger Rising

Infographics are becoming increasingly popular with the spread of computers and graphic design.  They are a more efficient way of displaying information.  Here is an infographic displaying information on infographics.

 

Infographics can be powerful.  I found this on at Edudemic, a website linking education and technology.  This site uses infographics frequently.  Edudemic posted, Why Should Teachers Use Infographics? this month.  It is a short article that highlights the benefits of infographics in education.

 

Here is another blog, Teacher’s Tech Workshop, that lists online tools you can use to create infographics. I like how she covers all the sites that can be used for creating infographics online.  By looking through the list I was able to locate easel.ly. This site was easy to use but what I enjoyed most was that the templates were very customizable.  I found some of the other sites were less customizable and I couldn’t display exactly what I wanted.

 

Using the easl.ly, I created a character map for Sistine, a character in the book Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo. I’ll use this as an example for the class.

Sistine title=
easel.ly

 

The students in my class worked together to complete the character sketch for Rob from Tiger Rising. The pictures were made at Easelly.  After scaffolding this process I would like the students to create their own for another character.

Rob title=
easel.ly

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To Digital

Last year I taught first grade and used digital story telling in a unit based on The Best Part of Me by Wendy Ewalt. This is a book was created when Wendy Ewalt, a photographer, asked students about their favorite part of their bodies.  We used this book as a portal to a discussion on self esteem and differences.  We then created our own pages for a class book entitled The Best Part of Me.  I am not the first teacher to use this as a base for lesson plans.  Here is a page that is a great example.  Our class ended up creating a VoiceThread as a class.  Each student shared their favorite part of their body and we recorded it.  The transition from paper to digital media always seems to present unforeseen problems.  In this project, when recording the students background noise made the recordings a little fuzzy.  In the end I was happy with the way the VoiceThread turned out and the students loved watching it.  I always like giving the student’s more responsibility when we create projects but I found that the first graders needed help recording their entries.

Here is a link to my first grade class’s The Best Part of Me VoiceThread from last year.

 

In fourth grade my class is currently writing procedural texts. I would love the students to be able to create short how-to videos that they could share online. This isn’t exactly digital storytelling but it would give the students good practice turning their writing into digital output.  My students become more motivated with a larger audience and I think they would be excited to post their videos on YouTube.  I haven’t attempted a project like this before but I think it would be possible.  The obstacles I can foresee are limited supply of cameras.  I have one digital camera and I have a camera on my laptop as well.  Another issue would be storing and editing their footage.  Has anyone done a project like this before?  I would be interested in any suggestions.