Tuesday, July 30, 2013

10 Edtech Tips if You Only Have 10 Minutes

A lot of times people come from conferences or webinars and they are overloaded with information. One of the biggest complaints that I hear from my colleagues, is "When am I going to have time to do this or that?" With that spirit in mind, here are  10 tech integration activities that take about 10 minutes to implement.

10.  Get started with Evernote. You've all heard me talk about Evernote and I've done my best to make it easy for folks to get started with it. I've created these two videos that walk you through getting set up with Evernote and the webclipper. Then it's easy to keep all your files and things that you find on the web. With tags you can keep track of everything.

9. Start using Wunderlist. Wunderlist is another one of those amazing free apps that lets you keep track of things. It also lets you collaborate on projects with your colleagues. This would also be a great tool for your students when working on group projects. It becomes an easy way for everyone to keep track of what needs done. And it works on every platform.

8. Create a word cloud using Tagxedo or Wordle. Word clouds are a nice way to get your students attention when starting a new unit or subject. It is also a great way to incorporate literature and other texts into a variety of curricula. Simply copy/paste the text into the site, or enter the url of the website where you want the information to come from. This is a great way to start discussions.

7. Use interactive tools. Even if you do not have an interactive whiteboard, you can still use interactive tools, many of them are free. If you have a computer with a projector in your classroom, either you or your students can manipulate the software from the computer itself. This allows for the interactivity needed to help increase student engagement. Many interactive tools are free.

6. Start asking questions. We ask questions everyday in our classrooms and sometimes students may be apprehensive or uncertain of their answers, but it important for us as educators to ask those questions and that we give the students an opportunity to do so in a safe and comfortable environment. If you do not have a class set of clickers, students can use their smartphones (or computers or class iPads if you have them) to answer the questions and give you instant feedback. Checkout Poll Everywhere or Socrative.

5. Make a One-Shot video. Using screencapture software like Camtastic or Smart Capture allows you to record what is on your screen as well as audio. Instead of assigning homework, you can create an introduction video for students to watch at home/before class. This is a way to do some pre-teaching before you get into the meat of things.

4. Make a Voki. Voki is a free website that allows you to create a simple animation that speaks with either your voice or computerized voice. This can be a way to introduce a topic, expand on something that students are learning, or an activity for students to create their own to demonstrate learning.

3. Liven up your PowerPoints with embedded websites. Many times people who use PowerPoint know how to link to a website, so that during the PowerPoint, they can click on the link and the website will open. This will "pause" your PowerPoint and then you'll have to alt+tab or click on the icon on the dock to get back to your PowerPoint. However, if you install the LiveWeb plugin, you'll never have to close out of your PowerPoint because the website will be right there on the slide.

2. Create an interactive image using Thinglink. Use these in your classroom on an interactive board of as a way to start a webquest.

1. Make a plan. It's easy to suggest these things and all the other resources that we have here out there, but sometimes, time just gets away from us. Making a technology integration plan is an excellent way to keep yourself accountable. Whether it's in your planbook or with your team. You can also keep a log of the technology that you use and how you use it, this way you can reflect on how successful it has been, or things that you would change in the future.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Connecting Authors with Students

When I taught 5th grade, I read aloud to my students for about 20 minutes a day. We read a variety of author's and books, two of which had a strong impact on the students, those being The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger.

I read on Tom's website, that he would Skype with classes. This was an amazing experience for students, they were able to ask questions of Tom and learned how to fold an emergency Yoda. This connection to the author helped inspire several of my students to read the other books in the series, and some of them continue to read them.

Skype is a very powerful tool, one that people are using all over the world to connect classrooms, I highly recommend that everyone try it.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Quest Attractiveness

When I initally mapped out my quests I was thinking very linearly, just as traditional teaching would have us. Teach a lesson, assign homework, assess what was taught. However it seems that in trying to force this one-way-street type of thinking into Quest Based Learning it completely removes both choice and attractiveness of quests. Quests must be both engaging and informational to students. It is also important to include variety


While some students may learn better reading a text, others may learn better by watching a video, I believe that it is important to include this kind of flexibility within quests so that activities do not become stagnant.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Summer Time Blues

Hey folks, the summer is half over and it feels like I still have a lot to do before I go back to school. This summer has been filled with good times with family and friends, travelling and watching way too many shows on Netflix. And there's still another month or so before I have to report back to work.

Unlike previous years, this year is the first year that I have not taught summer school, which has it's ups and downs. Missing that extra income has been one of the larger "downs." And the "ups" are fairly obvious: I've been able to catch up on some housework, get some yard-work projects done and work in my garden (which is currently overgrown with weeds, the weekend's not too far off and then I'll remedy that.)

I find that I miss my classroom and my students, but hopefully with my professional development and planning plans, I'll keep busy and the new year will be here sooner than I thought.

This summer I only attended one in person conference: i-STEM which is offered at universities around Idaho and focuses on, you guessed it: STEM!

Here's some of the resources, tips and tricks that I picked up at this conference.
I got to hear Kenneth Wesson speak on how the brain works and how that effects STEM education. His site Science Master, is filled with tons of research and resources. If you ever get a chance to see him speak, I highly recommend that you do. If you want to see the slides/read through the information that he presented it can be found here.

The strand that I took for the week was called Computational Thinking and it was taught by Alark Joshi (@Alark). We spent the 4 strand days being introduced to 2 different programming languages (Processing and Python - both of which are FREE!) as well as interactive resources and other block type programming. That's all well and good but how am I actually going to use these things in my classroom? Some background. I will be teaching Robotics (as an engineering elective) and Tech I and Tech II for grades 6-8.
  • Alice - is a graphical based block programming that students can use to create videos to demonstrate their knowledge (think machinima).
  • Python and Processing can be used as stepping stools/alongside students who are learning to program their robots with ROBOTC
  • Data visualization, this is more than just a Wordle or a Tagxedo, using ManyEyes, you can collect data in your classroom and view it in a variety of formats that allow students to draw correlations and make inferences. If you are a teacher who teaches classic literature, you'll be able to find entire copies of it available on the public domain, and when you visualize it, you're able to make other connections with the text. 
  • Blockly Maze - this fun and surprisingly addictive game lets your or your students build a foundation of block based programming.
  • Want to build your own games, videos, or interactives like the Blockly Maze? Check out Scratch

It seems like there was SO much more and like I am forgetting everything, but this is a start. While this is the only in-person professional development that I will be taking this summer, I have been working on 3DGameLab and quest based learning for most of the summer. I'm sure I'll have a post about that up later this week, it is super exciting stuff!