Friday, February 24, 2012

Creating eBooks

One of my second grade teachers would like to have her students create eBooks to publish their country studies learning. She would also like to have them record themselves reading the story as they so enjoy using the website Tumblebooks where they can listen while they read. We brainstormed a bit and came up with the following ideas for both recording and not recording voice. Additionally, I showed her the options in this website which include having the students create a real eBook that can be read on portable reading devices. I hope this spurs some ideas in your classroom.

Create eBooks
1.       Use Power Point (our students are secure in this software)
a.       Show them different page layouts
b.      Clip art has many good pictures of both the country and general pictures
2.       From here, to create an eBook that you can listen to, see #3. To create an eBook that you just read, see #4
3.       Add voice
a.       Save the Power Point slides as .jpgs
b.      Insert them in Photo Story
c.       Have the students record themselves reading it (parent volunteer?)
d.      Save them as a wmv file
e.      Combine all the wmv files into Movie Maker to make one movie (or you can make multiple smaller ones)
f.        Upload this movie to the internet
4.       Without Voice
a.       Save the Power Point slides as .pdfs
b.      Upload them to Flipsnack
                                                               i.      You can keep them each separate and have 20 books
                                                             ii.      You can upload three at a time to create one Flipsnack, so that would be about seven for your class
                                                            iii.      Use a website to combine all of them into one .pdf to create one book

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Using Excel in Your Literacy Block

As I was discussing teaching our third graders graphing in Excel, one of the teachers mentioned that it is hard to fit it in the curriculum without contriving a situation since we are such a literacy based school. This got me thinking, and I came up with a few situations in which we could incorporate Excel meaningfully in our literacy blocks as a whole class and/or on an individual basis.

Good readers ask questions. As such, it would be fairly easy to collect data that we could graph around these questions. For example, if you are modeling a particular question during a group read aloud, students could brainstorm some possible answers. Once five or six answers are written down on the board or a flip chart, a quick survey could be done on the answers and summed up in Excel. The survey can either be done by hand, or if it is a question asked after reading, could be put into a Google Form and during independent reading time, students could come up to the computer and submit their answer.
The graph can be displayed once everyone has submitted their response and could continue to be displayed the next day at group read aloud time before reading as discussion, or during reading to see what the answer turns out to be. This would engage the students even further as they look at the graph, remember their choice and then pay attention during the reading to see what happens in the book. Depending on the age of the students, each day a different student or group of students can be in charge of creating the graph from the information provided.

Other examples include students voting for their favorite character, then discussing why a certain character won. Comprehension questions work well here, as do analysis questions that require students to brainstorm ideas/solutions. I found an excellent list of questions that are organized by Blooms Taxonomy and many of them would work well with a graph.

Ideas for Integrating Technology in Grades 1-3

For the past two years, I have worked with grades 1-3 as their Technology Teacher, but also helping the teachers integrate technology into their classrooms. Here is a list of some of these ideas that I hope spark some interest in your classroom!

Digital Learning Day 2012

Our school participated in Digital Learning Day this year to promote the integration of technology in the classroom. Two other teachers and myself began by developing a list of ideas as a springboard for the day.

We then created a Google Form where teachers could share the activities they did on this day, with a reflection of how it went and where it could be used again. I was very impressed with all the new ideas our teachers had!  A copy of the flyer and what we did can be found here.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Strategies for Developing Independent Learners

If one were to Google "Developing Independent Learners", 2,450,000 results appear today, with the potential for even more in the future. Obviously this is an important topic in education and a goal of many schools. Since I teach computer classes, where the possible scenarios of what can happen on a computer are endless, I have found a couple of main areas that help my students become independent learners. One of our first grade teachers implements two of these strategies in his classroom and they are by far my most independent learners.

The first strategy is when a student asks a question, to respond back with "What have you already tried?" This strategy requires the student to problem solve as you are no longer going to quickly give them an answer. The second strategy is asking the students "Where can you find that answer?" By putting the responsibility back on them to find the answer, you have removed the cycle of the student always relying on the teacher for their learning. However, as a teacher, you need to make sure you have provided the students with the resources needed to find the answer. Possibilities include books, posters on the wall, directions on a piece of paper or the computer and other students. While I don't like to encourage too much reliance on other students as this shifts the responsibility off the student, it has been a proven resource. Diligent monitoring of the student's habits and timely intervention helps curb too much reliance on others. 

As a teacher, I also need to have routines in place so that students know what to do in certain situations (when they are done, when they are waiting for me) so that they stay focused on what they are doing.These strategies work in any grade. In my 8th grade class, the students don't like it, but I always ask them if they have read the directions when they ask me how to do something. If they have and are still confused, I follow up with "What have you tried so far?" and they we walk through it together. When they are done, I ask them what they should do and redirect them if needed. There are many other well-thought strategies to developing independent learners, but these are some of my go-tos.

Work at Your Own Pace

My middle school classes are structured so that I see them once every four days. Keeping every student synchronized on the same activity is a challenge. Since I don't mind students working on different things at the same time, I decided to reread a website and book that really opened my eyes to doing things differently in the classroom, Layered Curriculum, by Kathie Nunley and implement some of her ideas. I had worked with this concept years ago on some selected activities, but now I decided to apply it to an entire unit.

My lessons always begin with the basic information and skills needed for our topic. From there, I assessed what the students really needed to know and then added activities and projects that worked their way up the Bloom's Taxonomy scale. Once I had done that, I looked over all the components again to determine what I felt all students needed to complete, which was everything except a final project. Additionally, if some students complete that before the rest of the class finishes the basic assignments, I am prepared for them to develop an independent course of study. 
 The entire unit is posted on Moodle so that as students complete one item, they move right on to the next. Each morning, I go through my log sheet and meet with small groups of students to instruct them on what they need for that day, having three to four groups come up. I am able to provide smaller, more individualized instruction and the students are more focused because they know this is their task for the day. I make sure that I stay on top of my grading so that they receive timely feedback, and can look in their online gradebook to see what assignment they should be working on next. If needed, I will also have students redo assignments that were below average.

For the final project, the students will have a choice of an "A grade" project, a "B grade" project and a "C grade" project. If they don't have enough time in class to finish the "A grade" they may still do it, but as homework. This is still a work in progress, and it is taking some adjustment for the students to pay attention to where they are at on their own instead of me telling them what to do. However, I feel like I am meeting the needs of the students better to reach them where they are at now, instead of treating them as one large group.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Flipping a 6th Grade Math Class

My student teaching experience was an excellent experience for me as it afforded me the opportunity to work with a great teacher @jgbluedevil as we strived to provide the best possible learning opportunities for a group of struggling math learners. From the beginning, we collaborated on ideas to help the students and from there we laid the framework for a flipped classroom. The concept behind a flipped classroom is that the students watch an instructional video for homework and class time is spent on what would be traditionally considered homework. This allows for the teacher to spend class time working with the students instead of doing whole group instruction. This website is a great resource for information on teaching with a flipped classroom.

To begin with, we quit demonstrating problems from the workbook as the students would tend to tune us out and continue with other workbook problems, and we switched to notetaking. This is a process you need to teach the students, both how to take notes (write down steps with examples, not just random math problems all over your page) and then how to use the notes (leave them open on your desk as you do your math workbook). Using, I created a website where I posted these notes  along with links to online manipulatives, videos and also surveys for formative assessment. That way, if a student forgot to bring their notebook home or didn't understand their notes, they could access them at home. Additionally, the online manipulatives and videos provided extra reinforcement for the day's lesson.

Once we had established a routine of notetaking and helped the students become secure in using the notes, I created a screencast for one lesson. To scaffold the experience of a flipped classroom, we began on a day the students took a quiz. As they finished the quiz, they were to go to the website and watch the screencast video, then do two pages of their workbook. The video I created was also scaffolded to help them with the experience as I talked them through how to learn from a video. I told them when to stop and write something down and when to stop and do a practice problem. Students worked on this in class and then continued it at home. 

The next day, we corrected homework and all students who scored 80% or above on their homework worked independently to complete the remaining workbook pages in the lesson. The other students met with me for re-teaching. It turned out that over half of the students I met with were secure in the day's lesson, but had forgotten to simplify their fractions. The other half needed anywhere from five to fifteen minutes of individual teaching to become secure in the lesson. As they became secure, they independently worked on the remainder of their homework.

About a week after this experience, I surveyed the students about notetaking, notes posted on the website and the video lesson. The majority of the students felt it beneficial to have the notes posted online and half felt the video lesson was preferable to a lecture. Unfortunately, our school technology systems did not support the continuation of the flipped lesson. We had many difficulties finding a way to host the video in a manner that the students could consistently view it without errors occurring. Despite those problems, which we continue to work through, the students and I felt the lesson a success and one I would definitely continue to use.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Technology Curriculum Map

When asked about my curriculum for K-3, and 7th/8th tech classes, I guess I do a month by month pacing guide. Last year for my K-3 classes, I listed all my possible units and then tried to put them in a logical order for the year. For example, September starts with internet safety/navigation/email. Then October is graphic organizers which leads into November's word processing. We then work with pictures in December, slide shows in January, spreadsheets in February (fits in with the 100th day of school), desktop publishing in March, digital stories in April and then May is "use your toolbox" choices. Every grade does that same unit, but I add more difficulty as we move up the grades. This allows us to bring in different tools, for example the younger grades focus heavily on Microsoft Office, but higher grades could add in different software and Web 2.0 if possible. I am loosely following this pattern this year, but some of the order is changing as I work more closely with what the teachers want to do in their classrooms.

Here you can find our district guidelines, aligned with the ISTE standards. I currently teach K-3 according to the spiraling plan I mentioned in my comments above and that is the document titled Primary Tech Plan.  I also teach 7th and 8th grade, and we are focusing a lot on self creation in these areas rather than always relying on using the internet for pictures.

I have not included the specific projects because they change year to year depending on the teacher's requests. On this blog, I am trying to post as many projects as I can which will hopefully spark ideas in your classroom. 

For more great ideas, here, here, and here are plans from other school districts, and here is a great Technology Integration Matrix (TIM) illustrating technology integration to enhance learning.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Vote with Your Feet

 How often do we offer students choices? When I plan a lesson, there are some things the students "need to know" and then there are areas where I am very comfortable offering choices. Today I read a great blog post about letting students vote with their feet. Often we feel like we have come up with some really great ideas, when in reality, the students have no interest in them. 

While I have almost always offered some individualization of products in my class, and I am getting much better at offering different ways at obtaining the content (the process part of differentiation), I am still working on offering choices in content. I have no trouble with different students working on different things at the same time, so my next goal is to differentiate the content a little bit more and when possible, letting them choose which content they would like to learn more about. In the meantime, I will continue to try to hold true to letting the student's voice be an integral part of my classroom.

Create a Story with QR Codes

During my 8th grade advertising unit, I wanted to incorporate QR codes. Always trying to avoid a lecture, and also always trying to include hands-on application, I created the following lesson with the end product being a story using QR codes. Here is my story, with details on the lesson at the end of this post. 

The students really enjoyed pulling out their phones and iPods (We are a BYOD school) to read QR codes that they found online and that they made. Of course they started out making silly ones, but then they also created some unique stories. The first limitation we had was that the more common QR code generators like Kaywa limit you to 250 characters, about two sentences per code. Then I found Delivr which allows 1500 characters. 

Our art teacher had the students use Delivr to do their author biographies and our gym teacher is planning on using QR codes to post instructional videos at each station. There are many curricular uses including creating notes and links to study for a science test, explaining how to solve a math problem and assembling a timeline for an event in history using text, links to pictures and links to videos. Since they are essentially a picture that can be saved, they can be posted in blogs, on Edmodo and Moodle, and as I did shared via many Web 2.0 tools. 

I tend to follow Bloom's Taxonomy when creating a lesson, so I began this lesson with the students doing individual research, replying to these questions with details in their own words: 

1. What is a QR Code?
2. Where are they found?
3. How are they used in advertising?
4. Compare/contrast them to a regular magazine ad or posted sign
5. Convince our principals that there are many helpful ways they can be used in the classroom (by students and teachers)
6. With a partner, learn how to create a QR code and use them to create a story. The story needs to have ten QR codes, seven with text and three of them being links to pictures. I also offered the option to work alone and only create seven codes, two of which were pictures.