Sunday, September 30, 2012

5 weeks in & still going strong...somedays...

So we are 5 weeks into school now (which, can I just say, seems like SO much longer!).  It seems like everyday I'm learning something new about these tablets.  Unfortunately, most days it seems like I'm learning something new that I can't do on them (cue the sad puppy dog eyes).  

Most recently, I assigned my Honors Earth Science students their PBL for the Rock Cycle.  I decided it might be fun to let them create a children's book about the rock cycle in which they personify a rock.  In an effort to "Go Green" and such, I decided it would be fun to find an online program which would make their story more realistic (and conserve some paper!).  

MY IDEA: I ran across StoryJumper (<--Click if interested) which allowed students to create children's books for scratch, or from using a template.  What was also cool about it, was that you could set up an educator account, which allowed me to create my class so that I could keep up with what they were doing and make it easier for me to grade and such.  I've learned to do a brief "pre-test" for cool stuff like this on the tablet because 9/10 times it doesn't work or doesn't work to its full potential.  It seemed to do OK when I did my brief test and decided to give my  kids the option to create it on this website if they wanted.  They ALL jumped on it and, to begin with, thought it was really cool like I did!

THE DRAWBACK: Unfortunately, as it seems more often than not, there were several features that didn't work on the tablets.  Students couldn't upload there own pictures from their files, some of the icons worked off and on, and the screen would freeze up.  I then told them if they wanted to take it home and do it on this software that was fine.  I then opened back up the option to do a paper children's book.  Bummer.

REFLECTION: It seems like my creativity gets hindered SO much by these tablets.  I hate that they have so many things that don't work on them like a laptop or PC does.  I would have NEVER guessed that tablets would be so different and picky when it came to stuff like that.  All the cool ideas I've came up with my classroom that include any kind of Flash Player or interactive element seem to ALWAYS fall short on these tablets.  With all subjects moving towards a common core, and several of them becoming online interactive tests, it seems these Tablets are not very helpful in preparing the students.  There are many days when I wish I had laptops in my classroom so that I could make all my technology ideas come to life.  It's not only frustrating for me as the educator, but for the students as well.  They get excited about my ideas just as much as I do, and also share in the disappointments.  

It is my opinion, at this point, that tablets are not practical for a classroom setting.  

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Trying to do More...A Little at a Time

So Close!

My week started out GREAT!  Marty Creech asked if there were any issues that we needed fixed and I quickly texted back.  I let him know that I didn't have access to my science and math interactive game tabs from my webpage.  I was also experiencing difficulties playing anything that needed Adobe Flash.  I tried Chelea's fix but it didn't work.  Believe it or not but Flash is no longer usable on the Galaxy tablets.  What's that about??? 

Marty sent a text to Steve Anderson who then tweeted his followers for a fix.  Minutes later Marty told me to install the Dolphin Browser.  It seemed to fix the issue and I was able to run a few games.  The following day, some of my students finished their classwork early and they were directed to play some math remediation games.  They didn't work...what a bummer!!!!  Not really sure what happened other than to guess that the games that I tried didn't require a Flash player.  I am sure that there is a fix out there and I feel confident that my students will have access to all of the tools on my webpage.  What I was most impressed with, through this whole problem/solution process was the power of Twitter.  Steve Anderson has a huge following and it is apparent how useful this can be as a trouble shooting tool for teachers.

Moving Up the Bloom's Ladder

Our sixth grade math and science PLC meeting are always filled with ideas that we share with each other.  My biggest takeaway from last week's meeting was given to me by Duncan Maye, in regards to answering questions using a three stem response.  As we move forward with common core curriculum and try to meet the needs of providing instructional opportunities that provide students with higher thinking level opportunities, it's always nice to hear a "best practice".  The three stem response requires students to respond to questions by saying:
3 Stem Response
I think the answer is...
I think this because...
I solved this by....

I love it!  I have started to use this when checking homework orally in class.  I am in the process of training my kids to respond in this manner when they hear "Give me three."  Answering open response questions is another opportunity to throw this at the students.  Today, I posted two questions on Edmodo which required students to answer questions about comparing fractions when given the choice of multiple strategies.  I haven't looked at the results yet and I'm sure that they will be weak, BUT eventually the students will get there.  The responses that I am looking for will become a reality.  It's a matter of training the students in what I want and providing constant opportunities to respond in this manner. 

Other Positive Moments of the Week

Book Reviews - Students read three picture books on the moon and had to write a paragraph "book review" on each, using a newsletter template from MS Word or online.  Without prompting, one student included QR codes with direct links to Amazon.  Thirty students successfully submitted an electronic copy of their book review to Edmodo.

Installation of Dolphin Browser - Installing an app onto a tablet doesn't take very long unless 30 students are doing it at the same time.  Many students are becoming troubleshooters for the class.  They finish and hop up to help others.  This week, the work around was logging off the MLC server and logging into the managed server to install the Dolphin Browser.  It seemed to speed things up and I'm always impressed when students who take the initiative to help other and save time in the classroom.

Great idea of the week - I was traveling to Greenville SC last Friday and finally had three hours of uninterrupted time to think.  This is hard to find this time of year, as all teachers know.  Earlier in the week I asked my students to respond to questions orally and I took the other side regardless of how absurd my responses sometimes sounded.  I did my best to sell my ridiculous answers but the idea was to provide two different views and let the class decide which answer was correct.  It turned into ten mini debates and the excitement in the class was high.  The question that I asked myself on this three hour trip was "How could this spontaneous idea be improved using technology?"  Skype popped into my mind.  We could debate with another class somewhere on campus.  I called a co-worker and explained the idea and that was when the idea really took off.  Daniel Bryant suggested that we open this up to all seven of the sixth grade classrooms using Google Circles.  I shared this with Marty and we spent a few minutes looking into it.  I would like to run this with one class sometime during the first semester and then try it with all of the math classes during the second semester.

Study Skills - We have created our study skills groups and will start working with our level I and level II students on Wednesday of next week.  Mrs. Abrams and I will teach math to the students who have failed the math and reading EOG's.  A huge obstacle with this is pulling students out of an elective to work on a subject that they have experienced little success in the past.  We will meet on Monday and Tuesday to develop a remediation plan around the tablets.  I'm sure that Khan Academy and Learnzillion will serve as key programs and be incorporated into our this plan.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"Can You Teach An Old Dog New Tricks?"

Can you really teach an old new tricks? We are fixing to find out in my classroom this school year. My name is Rose Ann Throckmorton. I teach fourth grade at Rural Hall School.  I will begin by saying that I am entering my sixteenth year at Rural Hall School. I've been teaching children for around twenty years.  The students and parents have basically the same outlooks on education as when I started teaching. However, the schools and curriculums have changed through the years. That is the reason you are reading this blog.

  I have been selected to complete a pilot for  the Winston Salem/Forsyth County School District. It is based on a grant to test the usage of different technology devices within the classroom. It is my job to find out what works and what doesn't work.

So, in the days ahead, you will begin to understand the reason for the title to this blog spot, "Can you teach an old dog new tricks?"

Let's start at the beginning...back in June. My principal e-mails the staff  about an opportunity for professional development  to pilot laptops or tablets in the classroom. It is a test to see which devices work in order to plan for the future when all students are allowed to bring their own personal devices to school.  It is another opportunity for my students to grow academically.

Rural Hall School is a themed-based school, our theme being technology.  Grant you, I have been at Rural Hall for several years, and I am still not what you would call your "tech savy teacher".  In fact, I struggle with it.  I've tried through the years  to learn and grow...and I have.(That credit goes to Linda McDermon, my teacher, mentor and friend. It has been through her careful, patient guidance that I have learned many things and have been given many opportunities. In some cases, we have made history together. Thanks, Linda! I am forever grateful!)

Times are changing and we are challenged to try new things...personally and professionally. We all , as humans, are challenged to grow. When reading about the pilot, I know that technology is here to stay. It is something that is not going away.

 Careers and jobs depend on the technology. I have several years left in this profession . I love my students, and I love my career. I realize that it is up to me to prepare my students, as well as myself, for the future. Technology is everywhere, in everything.

I have reflected on the things that I know that I can do with technology and have analyzed the things that I don't  know about technology. I have decided to try the pilot ...assuming that laptops are the tools to be used. I have plenty of experience with laptops and computers. I fill out the application and submit  it to the principal. I don't give it another thought. ( In other words, I have jumped in.)

From my Journal Entry:
June 19, 2012
dedicated to Mrs. Moore

This morning I got up and dressed as usual. I hopped in my car and headed over  to the school. I had made a committment to a friend that I would help her water the school campus because she was ill and couldn't do it herself. (That's what Bulldogs do!)

I'm driving down the road when my cell phone rings. (No, I do not text or talk when I drive.) I let it go to voice mail. I think to myself, I'll  get it when I get to school.

When I got to school, I listened to the voice message. It was a message from Mrs. Moore.  I walked on into the building, gathered my supplies and began to water the grounds. (I was puzzled about the message that was left on my phone. Don't ever put off valuable things...)

As I completed the watering,  the Rural Hall fire trucks rolled out to a call.  Another friend texted me to share with me some shocking news. Mrs. Moore had unexpectedly passed away. (Mrs. Moore, was not only a close friend, but also the parent of one of my students.) I can't tell you what was said in the voice message that morning. That will remain a mystery for the rest of you.  I'll just say  that it was a priceless call and returned conversation. You can just imagine what the next few days were like around Rural Hall School and our community.

In the mean time, my principal received an email  that I had been selected into the pilot program. I wasn't present to select the device I would be using, so he selected it for me. (Mr. Hall, we'll talk later!)
It wasn't until every thing settled down that I discovered the device I would implement was tablets.
How was this going to play out in my classroom?..Stay tuned for the next entries...

Journal Entry:
June 23, 2012
Things began to calm down later that week. I began to shift my thinking toward the tablet. It couldn't be that hard because I had recently purchased a Nook back in January to help one of my students in class with his reading. Both devices were similar in design and features. I was able to learn enough  technology to help this child for the rest of the school, so no big deal.  The application stated that we would be trained and could work on it during the summer. We all could grow.

Journal Entry:
June 27, 2012
Today I met with Mr.Creech and all of the other team members. It was our first day getting to know each other. I 'll have to say we all appeared to be nervous but  really excited about the opportunity that was set before us.
Today we were issued our devices. We learned the expectations of the program and some insights on how it was developed.  As an inquiry-based and problem-solving program, the lesson plans and skills were based on similar training that I had had in the past with CERTL. We talked about the grant and the purpose of the program. We were instructed to take the device and start planning and playing. I couldn't wait to get started. I was going to learn a lot of technology!

Journal Entry:
Early July, 2012
For the next two weeks, I spent time getting to know my device, as suggested, by the tech department. I tried applying everything that I knew about the desktop computer, my laptop and Nook to the new device. I spent many long hours in my classroom over the summer trying to understand how it worked. I tried to make the connections from one device to the new tablet and  found quickly that I only confused myself more and became frustrated.  After speaking to Mr. Creech, I pulled away from all the other devices and worked harder on the tablet and  started reading about apps for the device. (I had never looked at computer software, apps or any of that kind of stuff. I had always depended on my tech fi person at school to do those types of things.) I began to worry.

By the third week of July, I began to spend more and more time at school. What started out as a few hours grew to whole days. To complicate matters more, you must know, I did not and still do not have a computer in my home. I do not have internet access or wifi.   I began to travel after work hours to all types of places to learn this libraries, from bookstore to bookstore, from coffee shop to coffee shop. My best friend was eager to share her home at all  hours of the day and night.  Her children began to give me pointers on certain things to do with the device.I began to reflect on the programs and projects that I had worked on in the past...voicethread, storyboard, and digital media. I reflected on the successes with the Nook and that seemed to calm me down some. I was caught playing with the gadget at the pool. (Don't tell Mr. Anderson! He would pass out. That was before, I read up on wear and care of the device.) I went anywhere I could find a wifi hook up.The traveling didn't bother me. The lack of technology skills did! I wasn't grasping the technology fast enough.

Journal Entry:
July12, 2012
As I crossed the parking lot one morning, I met an indvidual who noticed the device. He probably had ten years on me. He quickly gave his opinion about the device and technology. I quote him, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks". He was joking. He just added to my frustration even more.

  I entered the building to find that one of my close friends had just resigned her position. She was tired. She was frustrated. She had been pushed beyond her limits. She was getting out! I turned around and went right back out of the building. My stress levels were high and my morale was very low. The technology was still moving too slowly.  What was I going to do? Training had not come yet. I met with Mr.Creech to share my concerns. He told me to focus on the lesson plans and to continue to work on the tablet.

 However, I quickly discovered that the apps and programs did not work in the same format on a tablet, as they had with the laptop and desktop.

 I didn't have the technology skills to do this job. I had to wait and  see how training went.

Journal Entry:
Mid to Late July
 Frustration was piling up more and more. I began to stay up later and later into the night. The tablet became an obsession. At this point, I wanted to fling it out the window.

Suddenly, one night, I couldn't get the device to turn on. It would not power up. I guess I had torn the thing up trying to learn. What had I done?

I ended up having to return the tablet.

I went without a tablet for about a week and a half. Parts of me grew more intense with worry because I really needed to be working on that technology. However, the down time gave me time to plan and organize lessons.

I quickly shifted my focus from tablet to curriculum. I contacted various people that I knew about technology and problem-based learning. I gathered resources and compiled ideas. (Thank Wake Forest Baptist Hospital and CERTL Problem-based Learning!) I developed and planned my lessons. I wrote drafts of the year at a glance and sketched it out on paper. I began to organize materials and arrange the future in my classroom. I made charts.  I prepared my room and curriculum for the fast approaching school year.

Most importantly, I calmed down. The week or so from the tablet was just what I needed.

In the meantime, I continued to look for resources. (One of which was the manual for the tablet that I had struggled with so much. Thanks, Miguel!) I continued to complete my summer committments of workshops on other technology skills and leadership opportunities.

Journal Entry:
August 1, 2012

Another device was issued. Would I be able to do this?..
More updates will be coming...

The week had been an emotional one. The good news about the opportunity to pilot the tablet came at a good time. (You'll begin to understand the reason for my giving you this tidbit of info about Mrs. Moore later in future blogs.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Am I still standing...

      Oh my goodness folks....between juggling new responsibilities with NHS, teaching 2 new classes, teaching one block Geometry and 2 year long geometry, a year long Int II and a year long Int III, incorporating Common core curriculum, integrating technology (where I can); not to mention my other life (outside of school) where I am planning a wedding and training for and competing in life is BUSY!!! And each moment, I do my best to remember which direction I am going.  Don't let me fool you though...I love it this way, it's EXCITING! No really, I was heading into my third year of teaching and had an easy 2nd year and I felt like I wanted more, so I volunteered for NHS and jumped on the opportunity to be part of the pilot to integrate a mobile learning community into (and outside of) my classroom.
         So, here I am on Tuesday night, finished with an A day, where I have block Geometry, then planning (preparing for 3rd and 4th for the day, as my life is day to day right now), then Int III and Int II to finish the day.  I had several students to stay after school to tutor and make test corrections, which is Great, but doesn't give me much time to plan/get work done...which time is what I need today :-) I mean, can't we add more hours in the day.  
          I have received my classroom solutions, and as of today at 11:00 it was set up and how to use it, that's another story.  But, as I told my students the rest of the day, I am learning and I thank them for being patient with me; yeah right....they kept trying to tell me how to use it :-) So I have fully integrated using Edmodo into my class and use it to communicate not only with my students but with parents too regarding upcoming quizzes, performance in class/on assessments, homework, at-a-boys/girls, thank you's to classes for such productive class sessions, etc.  Now, I want to integrated the use of the laptops into class on a regular basis, so it is an integral part of our environment.  At the moment, I feel like I can plan for it, and make a lesson, but then when we use them, it takes so much time, I feel like I don't get as much as I need to/want to/is set out in the pacing guide to get done.  So my goal in the coming week is to make it more a part of class, so that I may not have the "headache"/anxiety surrounding the time it takes to make use of the technology...

My First Day with Tablets

The day finally came!  My first day with my tablets was Friday, August 31st (yeah, I know...I'm a week late...I'm a busy working girl!).  I will, from now on, refer to this day as: Project Tablet Intro and Set up (aka Project TIS)

  1. I decided to label my tablets 1-15A & 1-15B since each box only holds 15 tablets.  Each student was assigned a tablet number for the rest of the semester.  
  2. I got the idea from Mike McDowell to use shelf liner as a way to keep their tablets from sliding around on their desk.  Once you cut it up to fit the tablet size, the students keep their tablet on the liner on their desk and it doesn't slide around. WHOO HOO for avoiding accidents, or at least trying to.
  3. I also got the idea from Cici, one of our tech gurus on the project, to use a wash basket as a way to store them during the day while they aren't plugged in.  Now, silly me, only bought 1 wash basket to store 30 tablets.  Lesson learned.  I now have 2 different colors and have the "A" tablets in one basket, and the "B" tablets in the other
  4. Because the tablets don't have any kind of cover on therm, it has become VERY obvious that the screens get dirty super easy.  So  I plan on cutting up some old rags and t-shirts to keep around the room so the students can wipe them off and keep them clean as needed.

If you plan too much, it bites you in the butt...
Alright, so I've FINALLY come to the conclusion that I can't be prepared for EVERY situation & EVERY mishap that may occur (But I sure did give it an honest go!). So my original plan for Project TIS was to have my classes do the following:
  1. Do the initial set up for the tablets (This was just my 1st Period Earth Science kids. Once you set the tablets up you don't have to do it again)
  2. Have each class download an app from the play store
  3. Get the students to register for glogster and make a glog about themselves..  I PLANNED on using this a lot this year so I wanted them to get comfortable with it doing something they'd put a lot of thought into = exploring = not being lazy and actually figuring it out for themselves.  Good plan right? hahaha....
So 1st period went swimmingly.  My Earth Science honors kids are truly a well behaved a sweet group of kids (aka my "sweet children" as I call them every morning...but I say this to all my student so....).  Anywho, I made a ppt taking screenshots of all of the screens they'd see when they turned the tablets on the 1st time.  Then, slide by slide (and screenshot by screenshot) we powered through the initial setup pretty smoothly.  I was super proud of this ppt and it seemed to REALLY help the kids keep up and know where we were.

Then, after the set up, we decided to download an app, and found that all 30 students trying to download an app at the same time was SUPER slow! Lesson Learned!

Not available in my country?!? But I live in the U.S.!

So as my classroom activity, I decided to let the students do an "About Me" glog on Glogster.  For those educators that haven't had the glogster experience, check out  It's FANTASTIC!  It's a virtual poster maker with lots of features, like animations that move, complete personalization, and more.  Fun right?  Oh, but that'd be too easy!  Come to find out, you need Adobe Flash to make glogster work. And oh yeah, apparently Adobe Flash is available to be installed on my tablets in this great land we live in. Wait...EXCUSE ME?!?!  Oh no bloggers, you didn't read wrong, it is NOT available.  Goodbye to all the flash interactives I wanted to use in class.  Goodbye awesome virtual webquests.  Most of all, toodle-loo glogster.  Cue sad face.

BUT WAIT!! Thanks to my awesome Uncle, I found a way to download the flash player from an outside source instead of the play store.  Cue evil laugh.  Now all my tablets have Adobe Flash and all my flash stuff works.  YAY!

Unresolved Issues
1. My only unresolved issue now is finding a way of mass charging the tablets.  Because it is thought that the boxes are made for ipads, there seems to be an issue keeping the tablets charged.  They will charge them for a while and then stop.  So for now, my students just spread out around the room and charge them.

Monday, September 24, 2012


It sneaked up on me and I almost missed it.  Last Friday, all of my students (110+) were able to "LOG ON/LOG IN", (our code  to Log onto our Network and Log into Edmodo) without incident.  What a great day!!

Using the laptops last week felt like "the norm".  We've used the laptops daily since we introduced them on the 6th day of school.  Each day, each period, my students come in, log on/log in and complete their bellringer in Edmodo.  It is taking longer to accomplish than it would on paper, and Mr. McDowell has raised an important question, "do you stop and teach a tech skill, or just do it for the student?"  One morning a good part of my Spanish lesson was spent demonstrating/supporting a segment on how to "Ctrl+c/Ctrl+v".

Last week we tried Socratize - (wow! - you've got to try it - it's easy to set up/deliver/receive feedback) for a Spanish numbers quiz. Last week, I also relaxed a bit and gave my students access to my Symbaloo sites linked using BridgeURL (another VERY useful app) after they completed their bellringer. I've also started using "games" to allow the students independent learning time. My 6th grade students spent a portion of classtime playing counting games,

We recognized and recited the numbers, did some activities and then I gave them time to "play" games that I had posted a link to in Edmodo, (I've tried, but sometimes that is even too long to get "right".)  After playing the games, I pulled them back together for another round of recitation and their voices were so much more confident and stronger than before - I liked it! (and so did they!).  The other huge success this week is the audio dropbox my students are using to practice pronunciation - and I will have an audio portfolio of their language skills over the course of the year!

I think what I'm recognizing is that having laptops in the classroom is not about having the applications to perform "wows" (which are still cool and very appealing to a middle schooler..), but using the applications to complete the work that needs to be done.  I see some of my students beginning to demonstrate a deftness at manipulating his/her laptop - treating it as a tool, not a novelty.  When I ask my students to go to their audio dropbox now, check the mic volume, log on and record, it's done in the almost same fashion as getting a piece of paper, a pencil and jotting down a few notes..

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Great Support makes all the difference.

Last Thursday evening, we all gathered at Mt. Tabor for our first 1:1 Device Pilot meeting.  The absolute highlight of the gathering was sharing our triumphs and our failures.  Charging devices, downloading apps, juggling technology with pacing were some of the repeat topics.  As each took a turn of sharing a plus and minus, the others of us could be seen nodding in agreement, making notes at an offered remedy, groaning in shared frustration or snacking on some candy corn, popcorn and mints (Katherine is a gracious hostess, thanks Katherine!).

We have so much in common and so little.  I can't help but wonder how big that chasm of difference will be when we go full District 1:1, but I'm sure it will demonstrate the same comraderie and support that we share amongst us go-firsters.

I'm attaching a pic of the Bloom's Taxonomy pyramid  that shows the apps we've used these past three weeks and where the activity falls that we applied it to - We all noticed they were low on the pyramid, but agreed, it's early yet - If we are still seeing the same pattern as the year moves forward, then we'll need to look more closely at our plans.
We posted our apps and what objectives were being met.
You can see, we're just starting to climb!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Learning Communities

Any teacher with a few years under their belt has heard a myriad of reason why students didn't do their homework.  Not to say that children don't have real problems, but sometimes students fail to follow through with their responsibilities.  What is a teacher to do when a student tells you that they didn't know how to do it?  Learning Communities is my preemptive strike against the "I didn't know how to do it" line.  On my webpage, a new tab has been created to help those who seem to forget an entire day's worth of curriculum and need a tutor at home.  Housed here, students can access math and science interactive tutorials and practice.  Learning has never been so easy.

I was so impressed with myself that I wanted my students to use it before their first quiz of the year.  Stations were set up with different concepts tested.  The kids rummaged through the math links in pairs and created a list of specific resources to use that night as they prepared.  Homework was to get the students to focus on their weaknesses using the tutorials found earlier in the day. 

Shock/Reality - All good ideas don't equal still have the human factor to consider.  Some kids need more time to buy into what you are trying to sell them.  I have to admit, it took a few days to recover from the terrible test scores that crossed my desk.  Despite the initial failure of my idea, I still believe that this will turn into something useful.  More exposure for the students and better communication with the parents will probably go a long way towards determining whether this addition to my webpage becomes a common site for students to find academic help.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Loving it so far but I want to do more...

We are progressing through Edmodo, learning and doing a little more each time we log in to the program.  Last week I posted an assignment which attached copies of a book review assignment.  Students will have to turn in their finished product electronically using the "Turn In" function.  Baby steps....

The book review assignment is an interdisciplinary activity that marries science, reading, writing, and technology as the students rotate through four stations.  They were required to read three picture books and then post a professional book review from a newspaper, magazine, or other source onto our Kidblog page.  By Monday, they have to pick one review from Kidblog and print it out so they have an example to use for ideas when writing their own.  I was a little surprised that less than five students knew how to cut and paste using the Galaxy tablet so the exercise with Kidblog (cutting and pasting links) was a great learning experience for all (me included).  Many students immediately asked me how to cut and paste and I reminded them that they had a tablet in their hand...."How can you answer this question for yourself?"  We are working on becoming problem solvers and I'm doing my best not to swoop in with quick answers.  The biggest problem with this approach is the investment of time.

I found our monthly meeting of participating teachers and central office technology specialists to be very inspiring.  We have such creative teachers in the county and I feel like a sponge every time I have the chance to talk shop.  The energy and excitement from that meeting motivated me to spend my Friday evening going through some of the bookmarked pages on my computer.  I found several wiki pages full of web 2.0 tools that I have been meaning to go through for some time.  The resources are overwhelming but I did manage to come away with something...a newly created link to my webpage titled Learning Communities.  I want this page to be used by students and parents who have questions with the curriculum or to prepare for future assessments.  I used sites that are tutorials for math and science like Khan Academy, LearnZillion, Gooru, Hippocampus, Number Nut, Show Me, and Mentormob.  Many of these interactive tutorials also include a "practice component", which I know will prove beneficial.  I also used the time to add Khan Academy tutorials for our upcoming quiz onto my Math Video Page.  Either of these additions should help in preparation for Tuesday's quiz.

How can I do more?  I want students to access material through a VLE (virtual learning environment) other than Edmodo.  I found Lore and I love its look and feel.  Unfortunately, it wouldn't let complete the initial setup because of "cross scripting".   I would like one location to post...
  • Essential Questions
  • Agenda for day
  • Links
    • Videos
    • PowerPoints
    • Interactive Games
    • Polls
    • Assignments
    • Homework

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Striking a balance.

Edmodo, Tagxedo, Audio Drop Box, Google Docs, online Flash cards, Symbaloo, Powerpoint, Twitter, Blogger, ..  just some of the applications we've used in my classrooms the first two weeks.  By far Edmodo has been the most useful and used, but I think I'm OVERusing it.  The assignments are too involved, copying pasting cognates from an article to the TURN IN note section, opening flashcards then writing down vocabulary they don't know yet.  I think I'm stuck in mile-wide, inch-thick assignments. The students are spending so much time completing the assignments, I don't get to the meat of the lesson.

My students have a bellringer each day when they come into class.  This week, I feel like the bellringer has been taking up to 20 minutes! - between not having forms signed, forgetting log-ins, locking themselves out (how are teachers doing it if they don't have the ability to unlock users on the network?!?!?), not understanding the assignment, not knowing how to perform the task, (copy/paste), there's the not knowing the material we're covering!!!

Today, during sixth grade encore, my students copied simple vocabulary words in French in Edmodo - they were cognates, and began with alphabet letters. We pronounced them, and compared them. Then I pulled out my ABC song cd, my 8 1/2 x 11 laminated paper flashcards with those same words on them in photos and their beginning alpha characters and taught.

I moved around the room, I sang and hummed, I called on students.  They sang, and repeated and looked up from their laptops for the first time in weeks!!  For the past two weeks, I've been so geared towards getting technology integrated, I didn't realize it had BECOME the lesson.  I have not been teaching.  I'd been pinned to the front of my classroom operating the projector with the powerpoint visually explaining the steps to be taken.  I know my students are learning about technology, but I've got to INTEGRATE it, not let it take over my classroom. 

There are lots and lots of shiny apps my students can use to learn/learn to use, but less is more I'm coming to believe.  To use technology just to use it is not the best use of technology in the classroom.  I'm looking forward to our 1:1 Device Pilot group meeting tomorrow evening.  I hope I'm not the only one who's looking for a way to strike a balance.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Edmodo... I think I love you.

Sunday evening and I'm looking over my "papers" to grade.  My A Day students accessed Edmodo on Friday, completed a Bellringer, and looked for cognates (words that look/sound like words from your own language) on Spanish/French store sights, (Furniture, Grocery, Electronics & Department stores) - definitely authentic learning! One of my students was seen copying my Symbaloo URL so he could revisit the Hot Tub deal he found! (Wonder what shipping will be from France!!??).  I like being able to leave personalized comments on my students work.

 A few of my very social students used Edmodo to "backchat".  I'll need to share with them about the purpose of Edmodo as a classroom tool.

Most of my students found the "TURN IN" box tocomplete their work, but some will have to re-do their assignments because they "posted" their answers instead of "turning in" their assignments.  I did find out that if you group the same work for several classes, the answers come back together too.  Edmodo will take some time to figure out, but so far, I see it being the vehicle for a lot of our classwork.

I ran into a parent Sat. a.m., running errands and she said her daughter introduced her to her classroom "Facebook". It reminded me I need to gather my parents' emails (from the Laptop Rules form they filled out) and send out offerings to use the Parent code feature in Edmodo.

Looking to this next week, all of my classes will be using Edmodo.  My "most looking forward to" this week is that my World Language classes, after learning about Communication, (speech, writing, gestures, sounds, symbols) will be working on my first generated PBL.  They are to decide on a message and a mode of communication to introduce us to the Martians.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Another Week in the Books

This was a short week (Labor Day holiday) and the three day weekend was a much needed break as it gave me a little time to plan this week's adventures using the tablets in the classroom.  In science I found three astronomy webquests that I plan to use for moons, seasons, and tides/eclipses.  I tried webquests for the first time last year, and I found them to be a break from the norm.  My kids from last year enjoyed them and I knew that this would be an easy way for me to implement something new with this year's group.  Two of the webquests are introductory activities and one is a higher level PBL project. 

Over the span of four days I was able to get most of the students through the webquest on the phases of the moon.  We experienced a little trouble with some of the links opening, so we pulled them up on the Smartboard for teams to preview together.  I had to omit one of the tasks (simulation) because it was impossible to get 14 groups on one classroom CPU.  I did preview the webquest ahead of time at home on my desktop, to be sure that it ran smoothly for the kids in class.  Lesson learned...but it wasn't a big deal.

Note to self:
1) Try activities out on a tablet instead of the desktop.
2) Continue to roll with the punches.

I posted my first "quiz" on Edmodo today.  It was actually a five question assessment on factors/prime and composite numbers/rules of divisibility that I will count as a daily grade.  Overall, this is a great way to assess student understanding.  The assignment is instantly graded for you, students get immediate feedback, and it's paperless.  As a bonus....the teacher is provided with an item analysis which informs you on which topics need to be retaught.  Loving it! 

Notes to self:
1) Be mindful of the timer feature if you think that time might be an issue.  I set it for 30 minutes and we had to go to lunch.  I had to ask a few kids to stay back so they wouldn't time out of the quiz.
2) Be sure that your answers are correct.  Mistakes can be corrected by cloning the original quiz and making changes, but it's always better to get it right the first time.
3) In the future, I will create the Edmodo accounts.  My kids input their user ID and password and I gave them a record sheet for this data.  They still can't seem to login, which means creating new accounts.  Real headache!

My Kidblog account is finally up and running.  The program is easy to use and I went ahead and input their UID and passwords to save a little time.  We hope to use this as a platform to openly reflect on our experiences with math, science, and technology.  Hopefully this will also serve as evidence for a successful 1:1 classroom pilot. 

Note to self:
1) Remind students that they are writing for all to read.  Proper writing mechanics need to be a focus, as others will read their writing. 


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Deployment and post-Deployment issues

So I have to start off by saying how incredibly grateful I am that not only was Marty in my classroom but so was Sandy and Doreen first thing in the morning. I had distinct plans in my head about introducing my kids to edmodo and guiding them in creating a tagxedo of themselves (which is such a fun cool site! I wish I knew about it earlier!). Everybody was excited about getting the computers up and running on the newly created wireless network created just for my kids! Surprise! It didn't work :(  So then we moved on to plan B. We had to log each computer onto the guest network as the students were coming in to the classroom. So I tried to manage them and instructed them to write in their journals quietly. By this time I had about five people trying to log onto the computers, Matt was trying to fix my board (yeah my board wasn't working on the deployment day either), two other people observing the project, and I am really expecting my students to keep quiet?! But they did! They were amazing! One by one, we called them to get their computer by their number, which they had already memorized.

Logging on to edmodo was a success! They were excited about it looking like facebook. They answered the questions I had posted and answered the poll question as well. The next step, the project I was most excited about, was not so successful. I instructed my students to   go to my website and click on the symbaloo link. They started getting very chatty when they saw all the cool sites they would experience. I told them to click on the Tagxedo and....IT DIDN'T WORK!!! So quick thinking, I told them to go to wordle instead. They loved it and they loved changing the colors, fonts, etc..

Of course, a wordle is not as easy to save as a tagxedo. We had to go through multiple steps to use the snipping tool, save it as a jpeg, then turn in the assignment to edmodo.

I felt like a broken record constantly repeating the steps. My kids did so well following instructions, but it really helped having so many hands in the classroom.

The next time we got out the laptops was the fun part...I was determined to teach my students to go through the five step process it takes to log onto the network. This is a time when my patience was tested. I did not even finish talking before I had ten hands in the air and kids trying to follow me around the room. I knew I couldn't do this every time we had to use the laptops. I used flags to help with this issue. I had a stack of three colored cups, one per student. I told them the green cup on top meant you were good, the yellow one meant you were struggling but trying to solve the problem, and red meant major problems.

The next time I tried to use these flags, I told the kids that if they knew how to sign on to the network, they could go ahead while I gave instructions to the rest of the class. Most of them were able to sign on, but I still had those few who just gave up and raised their hands the second they had a problem.

I was a little frustrated still because I couldn't get everything done that I wanted to accomplish because I had so many students who were relying on me to do everything for them. I went to my principal for advice. He said to let them struggle through it. They will work it out eventually. I tried just that and it was actually much better! Most of the students really tried to figure out and solve the problem. We were on the internet and getting our work done much quicker!

Now that the internet issue is sorted out, I am really looking forward to using these laptops more and more throughout the year!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

DEPLOYMENT - It wasn't pretty.. but it was cute :)

I guess I with thinking/hoping all would go smoothly today when my students finally got to log on to their laptops.  I was wakeful all night long last night watching the clock in anticipation of the big event.  I arrived at school about 45 minutes early, to get the laptops out on the table tops, (the signal that they're available for use and should be logged onto) and to grab a Mountain Dew, (power up!!). 

Help arrived from Central Office, (Yeah Colleen!! - Couldn't have managed without you - Great, great patience!) in time for our first class:  8th grade World Languages.  Only the students who had returned their signed forms were able to use the laptops, so ~8 students were out of luck.  Those students got 2 readings on "Why learn a Foreign Language" to read and write commentary. (I know - no competition against the glitz of technology).

After a myriad of small issues, (mostly forgotten passwords or being locked out from trying their forgotten passwords..) all were able to access the network. Their first job was to log into Edmodo, create an account, if they didn't already have one from another teacher and answer a question, then, look at the articles assigned to the non-laptop users and take a poll.  Edmodo threw the first curve..  Students trying to create an account received an unknown error which resulted in immediate failure to launch.  We adjusted the line up for 2nd period, and they went to my Tech Survey first, followed by Tagxedo leaving out Edmodo until we could come up with a fix. I even remembered second period to go through the routine we'd created; (When I greet the class, that's the signal to drop the screens to 45 degrees to get the class intro info).

My biggest hurdle today came from students who didn't have their forms turned in.  The seatwork was just so unappealing in comparison to the laptops that in one class, they just couldn't stay on task. I called their homes this evening to request parents help get the forms in so their students would have the privilege of using the laptops on Friday when I see them again.

With Tagxedo, I challenged the students to "figure it out" on their own.  I didn't tell them which icons to click to create a new design, nor did I tell them to click on "form" to add words.  I encouraged the students to share with their tables as they figured out something, and in one class in particular, joy burst out in cheers when they put it all together.

Tomorrow is another "Day 1" with my "B" day classes.  I'm looking at alternate assignments for my "no forms" students - to help alleviate the off task behavior.  I've dropped Edmodo for now, and after Tagxedo, I've set up a Bridge URL of videos for each subject areas, (to show off the screen and sound quality of our new tools).

Wish us luck!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Lessons Learned

5 days of school makes 1 weak.. I mean week.  With a student count of ~240, names are going to be something to work on, is there an App for that?? Hmmm.. Face recognition with an uploaded student roster and photo db!!

I have an Aday/Bday schedule, so I only saw my students at most three times. On Friday, my Aday students finally got to touch, (yes, only touch - not turn on) their devices.  I passed out 1:1 Pilot Device Addendums, and Laptop Rules/AUP forms to my students on the first day.  By the 2nd day, I realized I'd goofed.  I hadn't put MY name on the form, (homebase teachers were getting them, office staff, counseling, computer tech. teachers, ..).  I also forgot.. how forgetful our students are.. I planned to USE the laptops Friday.  Students were told, "without signed forms, you'll sit and watch longingly as other use their devices.  Friday would have left almost half of my population in that sad position.

Good fortune shone on me because Friday turned out to be an excellent OVERVIEW day.  The devices were in the middle of their table groups, (the signal that they will be used that day).  After completing unfinished business, we reviewed the three signed forms (had they read the forms before signing? (answer: no))

Then, each retrieved their assigned device, and by way of a powerpoint, we examined them, and their ports and dedicated keys. We talked about their handling and care and procedures (like a new pet); "45", (closing screens to give their attention to me), "90", (re-opening),  closing the screens for off-task behavior,  and "Ask 3 Before Me", (thanks peers in our Device Pilot group! - great advice.)

Not turning on the devices was the best way to deliver the lesson. By telling them upfront that we wouldn't turn on their devices, (collective "awwww"), we focused on laying the groundrules and learning about their devices instead "can we turn them on now? .. now? .. now?!"

It is really difficult not just putting the devices into my students' hands and beginning our first learning unit.  I'm struggling juggling content with laying a strong classroom management foundation.  I know from experience we've got to do that first, but my goodness, I'm itching to get INTO using the devices.

This weekend, I will put the finishing touches on my first unit lessons plans, (6 preps - whew!!) Following our Essential Standards and FL Pacing Guide, (thanks, Ms Baldwin/FL Peers), I've been investigating which technology will best lend itself to learning the required objectives.  I'll create Symbaloos for links. I'll also review a new link offered by one of my Twitter peeps,  ut, mostly, I'll enjoy Labor Day weekend; the time dedicated to honor the contributions all of us have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our great country.  Go USA!