Friday, November 30, 2012

Hey, I think this might be useful...

We all discover those gems of sites that seem to offer just the right thing at the right time.  The following link is just one of those.  It's called Internet 4 Classrooms, and you can click on the link below to visit it.

The return to normalcy...

I've discovered a comfortable compromise between all-out tech and teaching/learning with tech.  With the beginning of second quarter, I laid out a plan to rotate daily work with our devices. I vary my "bellringers" between edmodo assignments, socrative quizzes, polleverywheres  voice recordings, old fashioned "paper" bellringers and non-graded activities like online language games, and realia.  It keeps things less robotic and routine and each application has individual benefits and reaches/appeals to different students. I still use edmodo as the vehicle to link to the other sites. It's just so direct and easy.  It's also simple to post, check work and give feedback.

Our devices are daily - just not every class and I'm finding it easier to integrate technology now.  Surprisingly, that came when I allowed myself to relax and "go back" to my style of teaching.  I just wasn't connecting with my students because I was doing TOO much technology.  Yes, Marty and others said "start slow", "ease into it" - but, I felt very strongly compelled to use the devices 24-7 - to model their effectiveness and because I felt compelled to demonstrate my commitment to the Pilot program, (oh and yes - I do love technology!!).

A big help was that our systems technicians worked their magic and now we're up and running in much less time.  That's helped immeasurably.  And finally, I moved the students' seats from groups of four to pairs of rows.  I can see all the computer screens from the back of the room at one time, yet they can still partner up to help one another while I keep more of their attention. Even though I'm feeling less than successful instituting what I perceived the Community of Learners ideals to be, I believe we've in fact become a real Community of Learners because of the bond, affection, respect and positive atmosphere we share together now that we've settled into routine and "normalcy". Come see for yourself - Room 401 - Kernersville Middle School!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Having Fun with Problem Based Learning

I have continued with PBL and things are getting better.  Last week my students worked of a science PBL which I titled "Willy Wonka's Candy Challenge".  The premise was that New Line Cinema enlisted the help of Wonka's Candy Co./Nestle to market and advertise for their new movie, Journey to the Center of the Earth 3.  Students had to create a candy that resembled the structure of the earth and also develop a candy wrapper.  I used a few movie video clips to engage as part of the 5E model and I hooked them right off the bat.  As part of the research students used videos, a Powerpoint, and a Mentormob presentation. 

My math PBL for the week was on ratios and required students to determine a fairer way for Nike to price their shoes, than one standard price (sizes 7-23 = $160.00).  I wish that I could take the credit for this awesome PBL but the credit should really go to Mathalicious.  I must say that this is by far one of my best finds this year.  This resource provides teachers with a lesson guide, students blackline masters, and presentation tools which are aligned to the Common Core curriculum.  Each lesson takes 50-75 minutes which is perfect for what I want to do.  I have never been a teacher to buy teacher guides or spend money on resources because I have always written my own.  With that said, I signed up for $15.00 per month.  This may sound high but if you consider what you get in return and the time that it would take you to create something of the same caliber, you would also agree that it was money well spent. 

My next Mathalicious PBL lessons are on rate, unit rate, and proportions.  I found two that I really like which deal with hybrid automobiles and when they would be considered an ideal purchase.  The other is about the aspect ratios of movie and television screens.  I'm really excited to see how my students do with these.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

1st Quarter

As I look back on 1st quarter, I am noticing some things that have gone really well and some things I need to improve on.


The students are very comfortable using the laptops. They respond quickly to directions and they are willing to help others. Establishing a specific routine in the beginning has definitely helped my class run smoothly.

I think I have done a decent job at giving the students projects where they can create something from what they have learned.

I have showed the students a variety of sources they can use to create presentations from topics they have researched.

I thing I have kept the students more engaged in school using the computer.

Room for improvement:

I need to do better in giving them activities that are higher levels in Blooms Taxonomy. Common Core calls for students to think logically at a higher level so I need to find activites that incorporate a higher level of thinking.

I have a handful of students that always forget to charge their computer. I need to come up with an effective method to help those students remember to charge their computer.

The internet is also an issue sometimes. These laptops are very tricky to get onto the internet. Even though the students are very familiar with the routine, if a problem arises, they don't know what to do. Sometimes, I don't know what to do other than tell them to restart their computer. Of course, they get frustrated and they get further behind in completing their assignment for a reason that is not their fault.

MATH! That is the subject where I find it very difficult to incorporate the computers. I am so accustomed to thinking/teaching math in one way. I really need to work on getting myself out of that mindset.

I also want to do more PBL. My goal is this quarter is to incorporate one PBL unit per subject this quarter.

Hopefully I can wrap my mind around all this. I am blessed to have a great class, but I know from previouses experiences that establishing a firm routine is necessary to help everything run smoothly. Sometimes, I feel like I am being way too strict. However, this has definitely helped me to keep my level of sanity!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Reflecting on the 1st Quarter

Looking back on 1st quarter, here are some positives and negatives.  As I reflect more, I'll edit the post.  The sequel to this: what are my plans for 2nd quarter will be a followup.

Students comfortable with laptops: 
+ Very few locking themselves out now.
+ Routine settling in: read bellringer on monitor, Edmodo? log-in link?: Get your computer up and running.
+ Computers logging onto the network faster. (yeah C. Corbin and crew!!)
+ Students being student leaders - helping one another with problems.
+ Independent learners - accessing Edmodo from home to complete work.
+ Involved parents using parent codes; calling, emailing to support students & technology
+ Creatively incorporating technology into lesson planning.
+ Giving students time and opportunity to learn basic, and necessary computer skills, copy, paste, open, close, locate...
+ community work helping with differentiation: Wallwisher, Primary Wall, Edmodo, Polleverywhere, Today's Meet.

- Used devices too much for menial tasks causing waste of teaching time. (ex: labels on shared drive)
- Used it just to use it (see above) so I didn't feel like I was wasting the gift of having them on a daily basis!
- Lost instruction/connection time.  With laptops, time with teacher is lost.  I see this as a minus, some might see it as a plus.
- activities low on Bloom's Taxonomy. - Question is with beginning languages, how far can I go up?
- students struggled with Edmodo steps, didn't complete work due to slow log in time, distractions.
- Group setting detracted from my introduction of my courses, routines and rules - should have followed by first inclination to begin as individuals and "grow" into community of learners.
- Focused on mechanical use not creative use.  Need to use WWW sources for students to benefit from OTHERS using their languages.