Blog vs. Wiki

I have gone around and around with this. I have been wrestling myself over which medium to use, and I think I have come to an answer. As with most of these types of questions, the answer often ends with “both.”

And so it is. I have come to a peaceful conclusion. My blog will serve as the forum for ranting and raving and exposition of something great and new and earthshaking, while the wiki will serve as a repository, or even my place for scribbling in the sand. I like how I can brainstorm real quickly in a wiki and then leave it for another time.

I’m glad I came to this conclusion!

You’re welcome to go to my wiki and have a look around. Everything is new and fresh, and you can still smell the paint on the walls, but go for it.

The address is as follows:

http://mrcloudsclass.com/techwiki/

Cars With Wooden Bumpers

Cars with wooden bumpers intrigue me. I am amazed at several things in this regard. The fact that someone would consider such a proposition in the first place is pretty cool to me. And then that someone would give such a thought flesh and bones is another thing entirely. I like the fact that someone brought an idea to life that others might deem impossible, or at best, useless.

I hope to do the same in my craft. I am always seeking to make possible the things that myself or others at first shrug off as a worthless endeavor. I have enjoyed looking at tech resources lately that make me scratch my head as to how to make them useful in the classroom setting. Specifically, I have been trying to look at Web 2.0 resources that logically lend themselves well to ELA instruction, but that could be used in the Math classroom. I am trying to construct a wooden bumper.

Here are some thoughts…

Holt Interactive Graphic Organizers

Now here’s one that we would not normally think of as a math resource. This site offers many fillable, save-able and printable graphic organizers. Perhaps you would have students use a particular organizer to map their thinking about a math operation you’ve recently studied. Or maybe you could present students with word problems, and ask them to use a graphic organizer to analyze the problem. You could even use a sequence chart to have students teach others the order of operations or the correct sequence for solving one problem or another. This is a great way to stretch students’ thinking and integrate math and ELA.

Popplet

This is another site that is usually not the first choice for math teachers. Popplet allows the user to make “popples” which are little boxes that can be filled with text or pictures. Here’s a picture of an example:

This popplet obviously deals with an historical topic, but you could easily use this format to have students outline different math concepts. The students could use Popplet to take notes about geometric shapes (including pictures), a sample problem that was solved in class, or they could even use a different popple to represent a different part of an equation.

One of the neat things about Popplet is that the popples can be shared with others. Users can generate a link to the popple, or an embed code can be retrieved, allowing integration  with a web site. Of course, emailing the popple is also an option.

Today’s Meet

Today’s Meet is another resource that has potential in the math class. This site allows for users to login to a created online room in which thoughts may be shared and questions may be posed. The transcript of conversation can be preserved and revisited for up to a year. Users may also print the record of the forum. There’s no reason why math teachers couldn’t post a problem on Today’s Meet in anticipation of students giving input on how to solve the problem as well as giving the answer itself. This would be another way to encourage dialogue and writing in the math class. Go Soap Box is another site that functions similarly to Today’s Meet, but offers more bells and whistles. I think it’s possible to build bumpers out of plastic wrap there.

So this is part one of a thought I’d like to continue sometime soon. Stay tuned.

 

SMART, Web 2.0, and iPads, Oh My!

Below is the description of my teaching experience today. I taught a lesson with Marguerite Kane at Nimitz Middle School.

We continued today with a lesson about animal adaptations, and our focus was the Tasmanian Devil. We presented some video and pictures of the Tasmanian Devil via SMART Notebook, and we handed each student an iPad, and asked them to visit Today’s Meet at the following address: Today’s Meet

Hint: you’ll have to type tasmaniandevil in the blue box and press enter to see the room we created.

Today’s Meet is a site that allows the user to create a room for discussion and invite others to collaborate with them. You can follow the link above to see what our discussion looked like. The students absolutely loved being able to type in a response, and see it appear on the screen.

Then we had each student bring up the iPad and take a picture of a Tasmanian Devil that was projected on the screen. Once they had the picture, they were asked to open it in a free app called Educreations Interactive Whiteboard, and write about it. If we hadn’t run out of time, we would have asked the students to record their thoughts in Educreations, as it is also a screen and voice recorder. Maybe next time.

Overall, the students were extremely engaged, and the teachers were excited to see their reactions.

Great day!

A Twist on Math Instruction

Math has not always been my favorite. I’m sorry to admit to this, but I am just being honest. Today, my opinion may have changed, though. I attribute the change to the way I taught math today. If I must teach math, then give me an iPad!

I had a lot of fun teaching math today. Did I just write those words? I was charged with the task of reviewing the addition and subtraction of mixed numbers, and I turned to a few pretty cool apps to help me achieve this. Educreations Interactive Whiteboard, Airboard, and Sketchpad 3 – Unlimited Canvas are the apps.

I began the lesson with Educreations Interactive Whiteboard to display a few types of problems that the students would encounter. I prepared the videos on the app prior to the lesson, and then connected my iPad to the video and audio connections of the projector. I played the lesson, and stopped the video at critical points for discussion. I think the video engaged the students more than my regular presentation of the topic would have.

Then I presented some word problems using a Keynote slide show that I had converted to PDF and dropped into Dropbox so I could retrieve it and display it on my iPad (I don’t have Keynote on my iPad, but the PDF worked rather well).

I asked the students to solve the problem using either Sketchpad 3 or Educreations Interactive Whiteboard. I continued this pattern for several problems. The students would solve the problems themselves on their own iPads, and then I or another student would solve the problem in front of the class on my iPad to ensure understanding.

Finally, I introduced the class to Airboard by creating a session, and asking each student to join the session with their iPads. Of course, I let the students play with the app a bit. It’s pretty cool how numerous iPads can join a session and how each person can make their input on the same session. It can also get pretty messy in a hurry without some parameters.

After this, I cleared the session, and set up a new problem on my iPad (still in Airboard), and began to ask questions about how to solve it. As input came from the students, I asked them to write their input for all to see. It seemed like a powerful thing – each student (if they chose) had a voice, and could contribute in turn, to the solution of the problem. I hope to use Airboard much more in this type of instruction!

I’ll say it once more…if I must teach math, then give me an iPad.

 

 

Start Flipping Those Pages

Page Flip Flap is a neat site that I just discovered. This site offers a free service in which the user may upload a doc and have it converted to an online book. Here is the description given on the site:

Transform your doc, pdf, word, movie into an interactive flipbook. It’s very easy: upload your file and you will receive an email with the url to your creation. You can share this with your friend, family… by email, on your blog, on facebook or twitter.

Here is a link you can follow to see the results of a PDF I uploaded today:

http://www.pageflip-flap.com/read?r=PWYxJG9QSEimhqT

The process is painless and quick (I uploaded and received an email with the link and embedding code within 3 minutes).

I can see this as a great way to organize instruction. Here are some of my thoughts about bringing this tool into the classroom:

  1. The teacher compiles information he/she wishes to share with the class into a Word or PDF file, and then converts it to a flip book for use in a lesson.
  2. Students collaborate on a research project, and store their findings in a document. The doc is converted to a flip book, and then all the data becomes searchable, so students can use the book to make another doc for presentation that will then be converted into a book to share with the class.
  3. Elementary students create their own flippable story book using pictures they illustrate and words they author. This could be done first in PPT, and then converted to a flipbook. The students would be able to access the link from home to share with family.

Here are a few of the capabilities this program offers the user:

  1. Search for a keyword in the document
  2. Print any page in the document
  3. Zoom
  4. Flip pages (sounds like pages turning)
  5. Full screen
  6. View thumbnails of your document’s pages

I think this is a useful site for teachers and students. Let me know what you think.

 

Seven Things

I thought I would take some time to look back over the last couple of weeks, and write down some things I’ve learned recently that might help with instruction. Here they are:

  1. I have learned that kindergarten students can take a challenge. I worked with a kinder teacher a couple of weeks ago at Colonial Hills and we asked a group of students to try their hand at using Microsoft Paint. The teacher selected a book on Tumblebooks, and set it to read aloud. We paused at critical points in the story, and asked some questions regarding the plot, and it seemed like the students enjoyed themselves. We then discussed the main features of Paint, and asked the students to use the program to paint pictures of the story’s main points. We were amazed at the ability displayed! An extension of this assignment (which we hope to accomplish soon) would be to import the students’ pictures into PowerPoint, and ask the students to discuss their pictures while the teacher types on their particular slide. We will end up with a nice summary of the story.
  2. I have learned that Weebly offers an incredibly easy way to make a free web site. Easy and free! Pretty cool. I helped a few teachers introduce this site to their students, and I helped another intern at Jackson open an education account and create accounts for his classes with the click of a button. Add painless to the list under easy and free! It is a snap to create a fully functioning web site in under 10 minutes. You can even make sites private with a teacher account. I have never known it to be so easy to make a web site.
  3. I have learned that Museum Box is a neat tool for presenting information like images, text, links, and sounds. A teacher at Castle Hills has embraced the software, and is using it to help her students chronicle their learning on the topic of weathering and erosion. What I really like about the site is that a free teacher account allows the students the ability to submit their work to the teacher rather than letting it go immediately live on the internet. The teacher gets to peruse the work prior to putting it on the web. They are able to review the work, edit it, make suggestions and send messages to the students, or submit it to the site for live viewing. This is a great resource.
  1. I have learned that a blinking cursor is a fabulous thing. I refer to the lovely relationship between the blinking cursor and alphasmarts and neos. Did you know that you could have your whole class typing information (notes about a nature walk, an essay, a solution to a math problem, etc.), each student having their own alpha smart or neo, and then, with the connection of one little cable and a blinking cursor on the screen, each student may send work quickly into your computer. All you need is a blinking cursor. Pretty awesome. Think about all the programs that have a blinking cursor…Word, PowerPoint, Publisher, Paint, Inspiration, Kidspiration. I have named six programs that are each loaded on district computers. I haven’t even mentioned interactive web sites. The opportunities are really amazing. Let me know if you are interested in learning more.
  2. I have learned that iPods and iPads are more than just sleek gadgets. There are some very helpful basic things that iDevices can do for you in the classroom. If you happen to have iTouches or iPads on your campus, you might want to think about checking them out for use with instruction. We are in the process of updating them with the new operating system, and with that update, we are placing on each device, an email account that allows the user to send (but not receive) email. The benefits of this function are great. Imagine your students using something like a whiteboard app and being able to send their work right to you when they are finished. Or maybe you would like to spend some time in class allowing your students to collaborate. There are many apps that would accomodate this.
  3. I have learned that SMART Notebook software is extremely versatile. If you have not spent much time scrolling through the resources available to you in SMART software, I encourage you to do so. There are keyword-searchable lessons waiting for you, interactive dice, clocks, timers, and stories, and so much more. I have seen how a SMART board or a slate can get students engaged. I hope you will give SMART a try.
  4. I have learned that there is still much to learn. I cannot emphasize how flooded my brain is right now with new concepts! I am finding it easier and easier to just accept that I cannot know it all, because today I know more than I did yesterday or last week. I appreciate all who have been so patient with me as I find my bearings in this new position. I hope that I can serve you as you serve your students, and I hope that you will take the challenge to make your classroom more interactive. Your students will thank you.

Today’s Meet

I encourage you to visit the site known as Today’s Meet. It is a site where you can host online discussions, and there is no sign up needed. You simply visit the site, name the meeting room, decide how long you would like the conversations to remain, and send out (to desired participants) the URL that is generated when you create the room. The duration options range from 2 hours to 1 year. This way, you, your students, or peers may revisit the discussions you had on a particular day.

Some classroom applications would be to collaborate with other classes within your school or district, or even buddy with a teacher across the country or in another part of the world to participate in discussions related to curriculum.


A helpful resource for ideas about Today’s Meet is Lisa Johnson’s Blog (another ITS).

Be sure to let me know how it goes if you use this in the classroom.