Sunday, October 28, 2012


My 7th and 8th grade students were given the assignment to create an introduction presentation of a randomly picked verb they had learned last year, develop a classroom practice activity and issue a quiz to support their lesson. I charged them with choosing methods that would be inviting and help students retain the reviewed information. I asked them to consider what had been especially appealing and useful when being presented with information by their own teachers when being introduced to new/review material in their classrooms.

One group chose Animoto to present, another group chose Wallwisher for practice,  and yet another chose Socrative as their method of testing.  All three applications I've introduced to my students this first quarter. I'm pleased they feel that these three apps met the qualifications and that they chose them to apply them to teach their lessons. 

Gotta Smile...

I overheard one of my not-interested-in-foreign-fanguage students this week as he was writing the verb conjugations for "ecouter" on the dry erase board, setting it up for his classmates to play "fly swat" as a verb review before issuing a quiz that he and his partner created, say, "I'm working here!" - In this amazed, incredulous tone - as if it was a novel experience, (which it has been!) to him.

I followed up with, "yes, and when you take your quiz, you'll know all the answers! Can a day get any better than that!!??"  He laughed and agreed with me that, no, it really couldn't.  What a positive learning experience it was - for us both.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Did I waste my time?

     I have spent the past week and a half working on two PBL lessons in class.  The first was a lesson on multiplying and dividing fractions and mixed numbers.  My Top Chef Challenge was taken straight from the reality show and the students bit on the idea.  The idea was to take a few recipes that fed 4, 6, or 8 people and use it to feed our teaching staff of 75.  We started with a KWL chart, downloaded three apps (recipes, converting, and substitution), drew knives to pick teams, and threw in a mystery apple.  There were a few twists along the way.  All three chefs ran out on an ingredient and had to find a substitute ingredient (used an app) for their dish.  Paula Deen pops by and the chefs had to take an original recipe and cook for her in a Quickfire Challenge (dividing fractions and mixed numbers).  There was a writing component where students reflected on the experience and wrote about the math and apps used.
     My second PBL required students to write a picture book using the Storybirds program.  The topic was what makes Earth unique and able to sustain life.  We watched a video of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  From there we watched a few short videos on Goldilocks Planets.  Students transitioned to research using a few links that I provided.  Additional research was to move beyond what I included on the handout.  The book was to teacher the reader about 5-7 unique features of Earth that are different when compared to the other seven planets from our solar system.  They were to discount the possibility of colonization on the other seven planets using the plot from Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  The book was to conclude by taking the reader to a Goldilocks Planet where students explained the possibility of colonization based on the traits mentioned earlier.  Students sent the URL code of the book to Edmodo where I copied it and posted it to a Tizmos dashboard program for others to read.  I titled this page New! Student Artifacts.   
      Overall, I expected some excellent artifacts. Surprisingly, I had to return half of the Top Chef group projects because the math was wrong. Ughhhh!  I planned to use a rubric to grade the Storybird but had to throw it away three books into grading because I quickly realized that all of my students would have failed.  The books lacked strong research and mimicked a free writing exercise.  I am sure that I have plenty of room to adjust and stengthen the two of these but I can't help but feel deflated.  Have I wasted my time?  Is this what I can expect after investing a huge chunk of time into an assignment? 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Was ist das?

Das ist ein video about Classroom Items a couple of my World Languages students compiled using Animoto.

Genie├čen Sie!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Next step...

Monday started with classroom visits from Steven and Evan.  Professionally, I welcome visitors to my classroom, but personally, I'm always anxious.  Is my lesson strong? Are my students on task?  Am I using the devices in the most beneficial way?  Monday was a "B" day too.  On "B" days, I deliver five (5) different lesson plans over three (3) grade levels through six (6) classes.  "A" days are easier - four (4) different lesson plans - three (3) levels - five (5) classes.  - And it was ... Monday.  Looking forward, when classroom devices become a reality throughout our District, juggling/managing preps, student population, classroom location, administration, and teacher personalities will all factor in.  The human side of technology.

Strong strides came from Steven and Evan's visits.  I've been struggling with slow start up time because I was having my classes log off/shut down after each class. I've been ten - sometimes more - minutes just trying to complete the bellringer portion of my class lesson using side lessons for those quick finishers.  From Steven's visit, (followed by Marty's the next day), we decided to try just logging off - not shutting down between classes. I'd been trying to save the battery, but with the Lenovo x130's,  it's just not necessary. (hoorah!!) That's helped.

Evan's suggestion to put my Wallwisher links on Edmodo to cut down on the time it's taking for students to type in the quirky web addresses is helping me make my start up time more manageable too.  I'm also considering starting the class differently. More on that later.

From their visits, I've recognized that I need guidance and recommendations to improve instruction, flow of classtime schedule and how to maximize my devices' capabilities to get good "bang for the buck".  It's time. Marty affirmed just that.  It's the next step in his implementation plan. First quarter was the "burn in" time - working out the mechanical and introductory "problems".  Now, it's time to work on lesson implementation, structure and guidance to support strong program delivery.

Step by step by step.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012



Here is the other video my kids created. I can't wait for them to see it!


My Animoto Video

So here is the first video. A little rough, but the kids enjoyed it. At first, I had them post their pictures to edmodo thinking I could pull the pictures from there. However, it would not let me save any of them! So, I had to go to each child individually and save their photo to a flashdrive. I thought it was pretty successful, but had I done it differently, I need to find another way for them to post photos!! Any suggestions?

Using Laptops Week 7...

First, let me say, I cannot believe it is only week 7 into the year! I have a block class (I see them everyday) and I feel like I have been with them a lifetime.  We have used the laptops more than any other class, as I have been able to catch my breath to then fill it with developing lessons to use Geometers Sketchpad (GSP).  It has been a difficult task getting them comfortable with using the tools on the program so that it may be an instrument to expanding their understanding of the geometric properties, relationships, etc.  This software was so effective in learning geometric properties for me, that I really want to impart this onto my students, providing them yet another medium to see and understand the various properties we are studying.  Today was our 6th or 7th time using GSP to investigate and I feel like it went OK, it just took longer than I'd hoped for them to be able to construct the sketch.  So, there was less time than I felt necessary to really grapple with the relationships of the angles. The picture below encompasses what we were focused on:
We investigated Parallel lines yesterday and
introduced transversal lines today
in order to discover relationships of Corresponding
Angles, Alt. Int/Alt. Ext Angles, Same-Side Int/Ext Angles.
I am hopeful about them becoming more comfortable and I am committed to being patient with them to develop the skills necessary to use this as a resource to discover geometric properties.  It can be so beneficial.  

Thursday, October 4, 2012

More Dog Training...

Journal Entry:
The second day of training...

I went back the tech training and tried to have an open mind. It was another hard morning.

My grandfather always said to step back and to take a good look at the things that are going on around you, to scope things out, to try to learn everything about a situation, and then to take action. He said to migrate toward positive open-minded individuals, to watch them, and to learn from what they do. He said to do a lot of listening.

I spent the next hours watching others and tried to learn as much technology as I could from the groups around me. I took notes. By lunch time, I felt that my note-taking was not much help, but I continued to do what my grandfather had suggested years ago. (He was a great man of intellect and wisdom.)

After the second day of training, I sat  down once again and chatted with Mr. Creech. I began to weigh the pros and cons of the situation. I was still very frustrated. Was it time to throw in the towel and call it quits? I knew that I was in over my head from the beginning...but this was a pilot...wasn't a pilot a time to learn, grow and try new things?

Before I left for the day, I voiced those concerns to Mr. Creech. I was prepared to quit. Mr. Creech told me to reflect.

That afternoon,  I went home and reflected. I decided that the knowledge wasn't going to come quick enough. I prepared a written statement to the program leaders and planned to meet with them Friday afternoon.  The last day of training would be completed.

On the way home, I stopped to get gas at a local gas station.The owner knew that I was piloting the program  and asked how things were going. When I responded "very rough", he reassured me that everything would come together because everything I needed would come, and that I would learn it. This gentleman was from Egypt and, through hard work, had overcome obstacles that brought him to America.  

Still, I left the station with lots of doubt.  As I pulled into my driveway, a friend called and asked about the tablet. Her comment to me went something to the effect of ..."You're not giving up, are you?"...
The call ended.

I walked out to get the mail, carried it into the house unopened, and went walking, thinking about my friend, Mrs. Moore, and how Mr. Moore had talked about walking the fence line on their family farm the morning of Mrs. Moore's funeral. Walking the fence line is something my grandfather used to do when he needed to think clearly.  So I got in my car and drove down to the family farm where my grandfather had walked so many times. I walked the fields and the fence lines. I reflected...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Just because you can... doesn't mean you should..

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading everyone's posts.  Each entry brings feelings of relief, hope, comradeship - and absolutely, competition.  There are so many great uses of technology appearing in this blog that I feel inpired and desirous to add to the growing list of the great learning opportunities occuring.  I question how I'm using these awesome - and I do mean awesome - tools - (hoping that I NEVER take them for granted!).  But, last week, I took a step back from technology.  Most of my students grumbled, (loudly).  The reason is the purpose of this post.

I have said before, I love Edmodo.  It's got pretty much all a teacher could ask for, (and probably has those too - I just don't know how to access them yet.)  After two weeks of using Edmodo daily for my students' classwork, I was faced with a mountain - a Kilomanjaro actually, of assignments that needed grading!  Of course I knew I was creating Assignments daily, but over the course of the ten day period, I had amassed a total of over 600 "turned in" assignments to grade!!! - Yes, I had been whittling them down, but you know that "out of sight, out of mind" addage?  I must have been out of my mind!  And progress reports were coming due!

So, back to paper/pencil we went.  We still used our laptops; Audio Dropbox, Tagxedo, Symbaloo, and of course, Powerpoint, as well as Word, Voki, BBC for Kids, other Foreign Language learning sites, but I stayed away Edmodo and I told my students what I had done and that we would return when I had cleared the decks, so to speak.

I can now report, I am almost at sea level again, but I've also found another consideration!! (Close a door.. Open a Window!) Today, I used Wallwisher for my bellringers!  - Talk about a community of learners!  I posted questions for each class, and the students, in the target language, responded.  The ones who "got it", were done quickly, those who struggled  - as they realized they'd been given the "pattern" by their peers' answers, they were able to complete theirs as well!  And it was a great way to see at a glance who didn't "get it"!

It was a "village"! I had the students identify themselves with their last names, and took a screen shot of the site for a grading reference later.  I'm looking into other "boards" as well. So far, Corkboard Me, Pindax, (more feature/complex), Popplet, (have to log in). Any others that you've found successful?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Dog Training and more...

Journal Entry:
Early August

Today was the beginning of a new month. Summer was quickly fading away. Today was also our first day of real training. I was beginning the technology with lots of excitement yet some uncertainty... could you really teach an old dog new tricks? We'd soon find out.

It was great to see our team face to face.

Our training was not the normal every day technology training where you went in and sat at the computer and people spoon fed you what you hoped to learn, needed to learn, or wanted to learn.

I think that we were all taken by surprise. I know that at least I was surprised. We didn't sit behind the computer screens and listen to the average lecture-type jargon. It was a real hands-on experience!

The training was geared toward problem-based learning, inquiry, and teamwork.  I knew all about problem-based learning, having been trained in it several years ago, and having used it on a regular basis in my classroom. I used inquiry all the time in science and math. No Problem! Then came the teamwork part.  In most of the situations that I had experienced, roles or positions were appointed. Not in  this case.
The trainers were waiting for us to jump in and go at it.

We spent the first half of the morning trying to get know each other and how we fit together as a team. Most of the team fit perfectly together...their common tie...the  knowledge of technology. I was the weak link. The lack of technology was holding me back, and therefore, it was holding the team back. This was not what I had anticipated.

We were given a problem-based assignment and expected to produce a final product. I approached the task with more confidence as this was real-world learning much like lessons that I used in my classroom.

I realized quickly that I was not a tech-savy teacher. All of my other team mates were rolling out those technology talents. I had little-to-no skills at this point. My future did not look good!

By lunch time, the team was meshing, and I was frustrated because I didn't know what I was doing and was confident that that feeling would remain.  I ended the day on a down note.

So much to do!

I constantly am feeling overwhelmed but having a great group of kids definitely helps! I am trying to integrate technology everywhere I can, make sure I am "going deeper" and becoming more rigorous, and trying to incorporate some systems thinking in there too!
I think there have been some very successful projects. We have been communicating with a classroom in Canada via epals and skype. We have sent out emails and have met a few times on skype (when technology has allowed us to). I think this will be a great collaboration for the students to have. Hopefully, we can tie in parts of our curriculum together and the students can do projects together.  How cool will that be to do a project with a student in another country?! I am pretty excited about it and I know they are as well.

Glogster has also proven to be an effective way to present a project. The students have completed glogsters on a famous scientist (one that ties into the common core of course) and they have also completed a glogster on a famous explorer to the Americas. Once the students finished their presentations, we were able to compare explorers and document where explorers from different countries went.

We have also used the laptops to take notes. I have posted sheets on edmodo for the students to download and fill in during a presentation (well actually, they have to save the document to their desktop, go to open office, re-save the document in the odf open office format, then delete the original-they have gotten very good at this process because they have to do it every time I post a document!). These forms help them to have an idea of what material they need to pay attention to. It also significantly reduces the chances of them losing it or the dog eating it since it is saved to their computer!

Edmodo has also been awesome! The kids have been able to turn in assignments and I am able to grade them quickly as well. I can also post links for them to use as well. I was worried about them not having a student shared folder at the beginning of the year, but edmodo has helped alleviate those fears.

Tomorrow, I am going to allow my students to create pictures of different types of figurative language like similes, metaphors, idioms, personification, etc. We will then create an animoto video for each type of figurative language. Once the videos are completed, I will post them to edmodo so students can make comments on the videos. Hopefully everything will work out. I will blog about it tomorrow or before the end of the week :)

Finally, I found a way for my students to use twitter! It's not exactly on the computers, but the students enjoy it at least! Plus they can keep a record of everything they write about what they learned throughout the year. If anyone has another way for them to keep a record of their thoughts, please let me know!