Monday, April 28, 2014

ScreenCastOMatic and tool

If you are like me, when using the FLiP laptops with students, you have likely found students get excited about the use of technology, but do not necessarily pay attention to your entire set of instructions before jumping in to an activity. We all grow weary of answering the same questions repeatedly, yet if we don’t repeat ourselves, the lessons can quickly become chaotic. To remedy this, I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND using to record your instructions for activities and assignments involving computers. The program captures your actions on the computer screen as well as verbal directions you create- and even better- it can be saved and posted to D2L for those students needing repeated directions. You can record directions on how to navigate D2L screens, how to create a work cited page, directions for saving work on the computer, etc.

I have provided a link to a screencast showing the fake twitter tool I use with my students when they are creating twitter wars between historical figures. The tool, "twister" is a creative way for students to apply their understanding of historical figures, scientists, mathematicians, writers, literary characters, or politicians by creating “tweets”. The  website and you can see how it works in my screencast-o-matic recording.

CLICK HERE for my ScreenCastOMatic explanation of Twister

Friday, April 18, 2014

Blogging with Students

Last week I had my students create blog posts using this very resource. In my World History class we were discussing absolute rulers throughout Europe and as a way to help distinguish them from one another. My students were split into groups and chose a specific monarch to work with. The goal was to create a sort of campaign working with the claim that their ruler was the "most" absolute. They had several difference criteria to include in this campaign and their final product was posted to the blog for the class to see. Once everyone posted we pulled them up on the SMARTboard and had a class discussion and vote to see who made the strongest case for their monarch. See the example below for an idea of what they were able to do.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

In my last post I mentioned having students complete a video assessment using videonote in D2L.  As we finished the Layers of the Earth and Plate Tectonics unit I created a scoring guide for the video assessment.  There were three parts: Layers of the Earth, Continental Drift and Plate Tectonics, and Plate Boundaries.  With each question I suggested vocabulary to use.  In class we constructed a foldable that resembled the layers of the Earth (students could use this in their video as a visual).  I urged students to think of ways to "teach" me about these topics through their video.  We had taken notes in class, completed labs, watched video clips, played science games with the material and had also practiced songs related to the unit.

I was impressed with the understanding students were able to convey through the video and how they were able to tie one subtopic in with the others. 

We practiced using videonote ahead of time so that students would be more comfortable seeing and hearing themselves.  It was difficult for several students because they had to know the material and not just guess with typical items such as matching, multiple choice, T/F or fill in the blank.  It was very easy to tell if students understood the concepts or not.

I am definitely planning another videonote assessment before the end of the year.

Any negatives . . . ?   I am not used to being tied to my computer, however, to grade these I sat and watched 114 3-minute videos (some were much shorter than 3 minutes).  I did find myself smiling quite a bit as I watched students and their excitement as they completed the assessment.
One more tool in my pocket.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Handy D2L Tools

One of the best things I've done this semester with my AP class (although it would be great for any) is create a unit discussion board. For each new unit that I introduce I've created a discussion board via D2L that is open for the duration of the unit. Normally when it comes to discussion boards I do not allow anonymous posts and I require that each student start a new thread before they can post but I've gotten rid of those for this particular item. The purpose of this discussion board is to allow students--at any time during the unit--to post a question about a topic, homework assignment, or really anything they want help with. I check in regularly to respond to posts and other students are able to respond whenever they want or if they have an answer. It has been a great way to allow both of my classes to interact with one another, and it has been really helpful on homework nights so I don't come back to class with hundreds of questions. The anonymous part allows those who are normally on the shy side to get the help they need without everyone knowing who it is. I've loved this and I'll definitely be continuing to offer this as an option for my future classes and integrating it into everything I teach. It is super easy to set up and it is low stress on me and the end result is completely worth it!

Monday, March 3, 2014

I should begin with a short history of how I have gotten to where I am in regards to technology in my classroom.  This is my 5th year in the Park Hill School District and my 25th year of teaching. Wow, time has flown by and technology is in such a different place than when I began my teaching career.
As a beginning teacher we didn’t have computers.  Within a few years the “typing” teacher replaced the type writers with computers and students learned how to use the keyboard to create documents on the computer at school.  It was difficult to have students complete a project for individual classes because there were only about 25 computers in the middle school building for students 5th-8th grade and they were all in the computer/typing classroom.
At home I had access to a Commodore 64 and began trying to put all of my grades into an excel sheet.  Lot’s of frustration because the only computer experience I had was with punch cards in a college computer class.  By trial and error I finally succeeded and was then blessed with a desktop at school.  I read a book to learn how to use the “Gradebook” on the computer for teachers which was a major undertaking at the time.  I had three little ones of my own and no one at my school had learned to use it yet.  There were quite a few glitches back then but we trudged forward.  We all finally started using “Gradebook”.
Moving ahead about 5 years society was transitioning from the bag phone (of which I could not afford at the time) to hand held cell phones, from typewriters to a small amount of computers for the entire school, and from Pong to more advanced video games that students played at home.  I learned how to email and to type everything on the computer instead of a typewriter that I had been using.  With the teaching position that I had at the time, I also starting using flash-drives to store information (doesn’t seem like a lot now but at the time it was a big deal to me).
Why share my technology background?  I can only hope that those who feel as helpless with technology as I have and still do some times, will gain confidence from knowing that a seasoned (old) teacher can learn “new tricks”.  It takes me longer than young people sometimes because my brain doesn’t wrap around concepts as quickly as others in this new arena of technology but I can see so many positives that I am confident that I want this tool in my teaching arsenal so that students will benefit and will have the opportunity to learn in a way that best suits their learning capabilities. 
Will I use the computer all day everyday?  No.  However, myself and the students use it quite a bit. I have found that it has been beneficial not only to the students who are in class but also to those who have been absent.
Here’s how I’ve used it so far:
1.  Before the Flip program I was concerned that I didn’t know enough about the newest technologies so I checked out computers and had students try learning various ways of taking notes on the computer such as:  Word, Onenote, etc.  I hadn’t used Google Docs yet but we would eventually.
2.  I began using Blackboard and set up my class by units.  I learned how to insert links, download Prezis, PowerPoint’s, word docs, video clips, science games, and set students up with threaded discussion questions.  I also put a few formative assessments on Blackboard for students to take.
3.  I had students use Edmoto for a discussion but found that I liked using the threaded discussion on Blackboard better because it kept everything in the same location. 
4.  As Park Hill switched over to D2L I found that much of the work that I had done to find sites to put on Blackboard (a lot) had to be done over again because the videos, science game sites, etc. were lost when my class was moved over.  To my amazement it was not as much work because I felt MUCH more comfortable with D2L since I had already learned Blackboard.  In fact, many of the processes are much easier to carry out on D2L than they were on Blackboard.
5.  In the 2013/2014 school year I have had students use D2L on a regular basis as an information repository for each unit.  By knowing that the units each have video clips that relate to the learning goal as well as PowerPoint’s that we go over in class (they can go back to these anytime they want to), songs detailing key points, games that allow them practice with specific pieces of the unit as well as work sheets and labs that are downloaded as word docs so that they can print them if they are absent or print another if they misplace theirs. I haven’t done as good a job as I’ve wanted to this year with putting all of the word docs on D2L.
6.  Besides using D2L as a repository I’ve used parts of it with PBL’s this year.  One of the projects students completed was a Crime Scene investigation.  They used their knowledge from labs and classwork on physical and chemical properties of matter to solve a crime.
Each of my four classes had a different crime scene scenario.  I set up the crime scene in my room as well as the “Investigation Offices”, i.e. footprints, fingerprints, hair samples, powders, photos/sketches/video, timeline, handwriting/fiber samples and central command headquarters.  I collected “evidence” from the crime scenes and presented it to the class as we  went over the scenarios.   Teachers, custodians, Vice Principal, Principal and Media Center Specialists were involved in the scenarios.  Students collaborated in their own “offices” as they collected samples from suspects throughout the building and compared the samples to what was collected at the crime scene.  To communicate with central command, students  used D2L (Threaded Discussion).  It was great reading their professional communications which included the physical and chemical information they had learned in class.  Officer Macey came in as a guest speaker several days prior to the investigation and then came in during the investigation to help guide students.  His presence reinforced the relevance?  Students collaborated as an entire unit (class) the last day of the investigation to decide who they thought committed the crime based on the evidence.  My science investigators were interviewed by Dr. Richardson’s Language Arts reporters for newspaper articles.  The project took 3 – 42 minute class times.
7.  I have started working closely with Becky Bledsoe at Russell Jones on Science projects.  We have used the Park Hill Lync site to visit with one another and students remotely.  I have shared my D2L science class with Becky so that she can use any the materials that I’ve put on it in her class. 
8.  I had students use SmartArt in word to organize their thoughts on the computer when we were learning characteristics of minerals.
9.  Students have begun using Google Share as they read informational text, annotate the material, and share thoughts.  They have also made power points on google that they are able to share in real time with their teams.
10.  I had students produce infographics on atomic structure and the periodic table using an infographic website.  I was pleasantly surprised at the depth of knowledge they had and the various ways that students chose to organize it.
11.  Students use computers regularly to research information on the various units in the 8th grade science curriculum.  They are getting much better at choosing sites that contain reliable information.
12.  I recently received some base knowledge on Examview and intend to work on it more fully to implement formative and summative evaluations on D2L.
13.  I am excited to use Powtoons or a similar site with our unit on Geologic Time and/or Body Systems.
14. I am preparing for another PBL using the computers and a socratic seminar while I incorporate Geologic time/Crime Scene Investigation/Rocks/Fossils.  I have the general idea in my head at present but will need help with the socratic seminar and setting up D2L to work with it.  More to come on this one. . . . .
15.  After attending the METC conference I began videotaping myself for in-class instruction.  I learned how to use my phone (I just got a smart phone) and love the fact that students are watching me on screen so that I can move around the room and help students, keep everyone on task, and not forget what I have told another class because I’m just replaying the video each hour.  This method helps me move forward much more efficiently.
16.  After students had watched my videos for over a week I told them that instead of the verbal test that I always give for the Plate Tectonics/Layers of the Earth unit I would have the produce a videonote and submit it to the dropbox.  They practiced one day in class and submitted their practice videos and will be completing the video test this week.  They can use the foldable (manipulative) that we made in class, any of the visual aides that I have in class or make their own diagrams or props to explain the concepts on the test so that I know they know the information.  They were given a scoring guide as well as in-class instruction, homework, and guided time with all of the information I provided on D2L.  I look forward to grading this test in a new way.
     I continue to be excited to learn more.  I know it doesn’t come to me easily but I also know that current technologies are good for my students and their learning.  I hope that as they see me struggle and not give up that each one will take to heart that we ALL are life long learners.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Jumping on DLD

     By nature, I am hesitant to jump on badwagons, especially if I don't see how the "new" way of doing something is any better than the "old" way.  Like Jennifer West and Kim Hindricks, I used TodaysMeet this week in support of Digital Learning Day.  My AP Literature class tried this on Tuesday to discuss their literature circle books and then again on Wednesday to support our discussion about persuasive analysis.  For many of these students Tuesday was the first time using TodaysMeet.  I asked students to post a line from their books, then choose a peer's line,  and reflect/connect it to their own lives and their books.  The discussion was okay...but I still wasn't jumping.  Wednesday, however, as we toggled between print and digital media, the texture of the activity and the class changed a bit.  Most students were able to navigate in and out of print and screen while choosing specific examples of text ("When I first read this, I didn't notice all of the moody words to make it seem happy at first, like "skipped lightly" and "light and good") and reflecting on skills needed to strengthen their writing:  "This time around, I noticed that the voice is incredibly important and can play a key role in the difference between a 6 and 9 essay"; "Reading the sample essays really helped me understand, what things I need to work on and add to my writing."    So, my takeaway from this is that the "old" way for me would have been a ticket out the door via a post-it, which is fine, but the "new" way--though similar--saved some post-its and gave me time to interact with students immediately versus after they left my classroom.  I'm jumping.  On this one. 


underrated tech tool gets some love

Yesterday was DLD, and in my opinion, a success at PHHS! I presented during our "Appy Hour" and it seemed to be appealing to many teachers. I think backchannel is underrated- seeming almost too easy to set up. Many of us use it as an avenue for students to ask questions or comment during class presentations. I have instead found my students LOVE using it as a digital study group. I teach mostly 9th and 10th grade students, not yet able to drive themselves and dictate their own schedule. I always encourage students to create study groups for my course, but the logistics are difficult when depending on rides. I created a TodaysMeet page and shared it with my students on D2L- students were then able to ask questions about vocab, free response questions, and concepts from the text or lecture. Students respond to each other's questions, helping their classmates while also assessing their own understanding of the material. I usually check in a few times to see if there is anything students are struggling with. This has not only helped my students, but I also have a new way of knowing whether I need to revisit material. My students are now requesting that I set up a page a few days before all of their tests. I never considered using this tool in this manner, but I'm happy I've come across it!