The new school year is just around the corner. Oh how I love the beginning of a new school year! Coming back from summer break feels like coming home. I love the weeks leading up to students returning when all my school family is together, preparing our classrooms, minds, and hearts for a new group of students. On our first day the district had the wonderful opportunity to hear Dave Burgess, author of Teach Like a Pirate, prepare our hearts to reach every student in our class by making our content engaging. The second day we had Austin Buffum with Solution Tree prepare our minds for committing to teach every student by understanding the right questions to ask regarding our curriculum. The rest of the week was spent preparing our classrooms and lesson plans. Our theme for this year is TEAM, because we are all on the same team. No matter what subject or grade level I may teach, every student in the building is MY student. One of the things I did this year in my classroom was get a different desk. The desk I had was a metal one that was not flat across the front. I received a poster of my grandchildren for my birthday, and wanted to prominently display it. Our maintenance guru, Barry Henson, graciously hunted down the perfect desk.
One of the changes I wanted to make this year has to do with my treasure chest. I see 3 groups of students in the lab each day for a total of 15 a week. In previous years, I would draw one student from each class to choose something out of the treasure chest every six weeks. This year, I want to do a weekly reward by choosing a class from each grade level. I have decided I can use Class Dojo to determine which classroom to pick. I tried using Class Dojo in the past, but it became a little cumbersome with over 300 students enrolled. This year, I created a class on Class Dojo called Mrs. Peery’s TEAM and added each classroom as students. I have only two behaviors: respectful and disrespectful. Using Class Dojo in this way will allow me to assess quickly and easily which classroom has the most points.
This week third graders will be learning the procedures for the computer lab. They will choose a color of balloon to go on the outside of their fidget. What is a fidget, you say? A fidget in the lab is a balloon filled with rice with another balloon on the outside. Students keep them in their headphone bag and pull them out to squeeze whenever I am giving instructions. This gives some students the movement their bodies need so their brains can focus on instruction. You will find a how-to video here.
Fourth and fifth graders will be reviewing procedures. They will be broken into groups of three or four to discuss suggestions for procedure changes or ideas for rewards. After 10-15 minutes, we will agree on procedures and rewards. They will then choose the color for their fidget. After completing their fidgets, the students will watch Kid President’s Pep Talk to Teachers and Students embedded below. The fourth graders will log in to Edmodo to complete this assignment: Tell me one thing you want me to teach you this year, and tell me one thing you would like to teach me. Fifth graders will log in to Edmodo to complete this assignment: What will you teach the world? Using their responses in Edmodo, I will prepare their answers on a sheet of paper for them to hold so I can snap their picture with my iPhone next week. Using my Groovebook app, I can print all the pictures off as 4x6s to create a bulletin board. This idea came from this article that was posted by my friend and colleague, Pam Cranford on Facebook.
Or… SAY GOODBYE TO THE SAGE ON THE STAGE
Public domain image from:
I love my job. I love being a teacher. There is a popular saying I have seen on everything from coffee cups to t-shirts that says, “The top 3 reasons for being a teacher: June, July, and August.” I use to think that was offensive to teachers. It offended me, because I am always disappointed when the end of the school year rolls around. I want to say, “Wait a minute! I have just now gotten in the swing of things and have SOOO much more to share!” But what those two and a half months give me is perspective…time to reflect and reformulate and renew my vision. I always come back to a new year with a renewed hope of correcting my mistakes of the past and creating a better learning environment for my students. This year I am trying something new. This year my students will be teaching each other. Rather than me being the “Sage on the Stage”, my students will be working collaboratively on EVERYTHING, beginning with the first day they walk in the computer lab. Generally the first week of instruction is one of my favorites, because it gives me an excuse to use the entire enhancement time to stand at the front and introduce the rules and procedures. I love that part of my job. I do not like to put things in written words, but give me a captive audience and a subject I am passionate about, and I can talk for days. That does not serve my students well, though. They learn best when they discover for themselves and teach each other. (I will have to find a different venue for the sageness :roll:) There will be times in the computer lab when they will post individually to their blogs or create their own Animoto or Voki, but the process of getting the information and posting will be with the aid of at least a partner. I believe my students will enjoy the process much more, and they will retain what they have experienced much more readily. I am also making a commitment to myself to document their learning on this blog at least bi-monthly, so check back often. I cannot wait to see how it is going to turn out – for my students and me!
A co-worker and good friend of mine, Pam Cranford, is a Keynote master. She not only uses Keynote for presentations, but she uses it as a virtual scrapbooking tool as well. Most of the teacher blogs have her handiwork incorporated somewhere, and you can bet Keynote was used at some level. She is the one that taught me how to animate objects on slides as well as include transitions between slides to create a beautiful visual effect. When our principal, Danieli Parker, suggested we start creating video announcements for teachers to access each morning, Pam created an intro and exit feature that you can view here. This year, I took her instruction and example to create a new intro and exit that fit with our theme for the year: White Oak Intermediate Rocks. You can view it here. I introduced students to the concept by having them create Countdown to Christmas clips to use during the month of December for Morning Announcements. Here is an example of one student’s creation (at 2 minutes 47 seconds in), but when a student takes a concept and incorporates their own ideas and creativity, magic happens. That is what happened with this instruction. A fifth grade student of mine, Ryan B., spent his free time in the computer lab to create this amazing video entirely in Keynote. It took him weeks and weeks of fine tuning, but he truly created a masterpiece.
After seeing the excitement and engagement of my students when they participated in the Hour of Code, (see the related post here), I talked with my principal, Mrs. Parker, about finding a time students who wanted to continue could participate in the 20 hour coding course offered by code.org. I created a quick survey in Edmodo for students to let me know their interest. We decided the 30 minutes each day of tutorial time, before their 45 minutes of enhancement, would be the perfect time for those students to come to the computer lab and work through all the levels. Code.org, in participation with DonorsChoose, was offering the first 1,000 schools that had 15 students complete the course a $750 grant from DonorsChoose. If half of the students were female, they included another $250. I had to admit that was the motivation I needed to set up all the students with usernames and passwords that wanted to participate. I began with 47 students in 3rd-5th grade. The course got very rigorous around about level 15, and some students chose not to continue. I had 28 students complete the course and received the DonorsChoose grant. I purchased an iPad mini for the classroom. Students used it to make their drawings come to life using the colAR Mix app. I learned so much, and I know my students did, as well. We celebrated with a pizza party. I am thinking over summer break how I can incorporate coding in my curriculum next year, at least for all the 5th graders.
I had six students submit their ideas for the Doodle for Google contest. The contest theme this year was: If I Could Invent One Thing to Make the World a Better Place. One drawing will be chosen from each age category in each of the 50 states;
- Grades K-3
- Grades 4-5
- Grades 6-7
- Grades 8-9
- Grades 10-12
The Guest Judges and Google doodlers will select a State Winner from each state. These 50 State Winners will be displayed in an online gallery on the Doodle 4 Google website for public voting on April 29th. On May 9th, public voting ends. On May 21st, there will be a final awards celebration for the 50 state winners at Google’s Headquarters in Mountain View, California and the overall winner will be announced.
My third through fifth grade students recently completed the Hour of Code hosted by Code.org. I initially heard about this opportunity by reading about it on one of my favorite blogs to follow: Engage Their Minds by Terri Eichholz. With the approval of my principal, I signed my computer lab students up. I have to be honest and say the promise of 10G of free Dropbox space for signing up a class was a definite draw for me! In addition, there were other prizes being awarded to schools who registered the entire student population. I registered without realizing I would not have them all in the computer lab during the week of December 9-15, 2013 when the events were to take place. (We had some benchmark testing days and early release days in December). The week we returned from Christmas break became our Hour of Code week. There were seven different platforms to choose from. I “test-drove” several before deciding on the Tutorials that Teach Beginners module with Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies. After the first ten minutes of my first class of third graders, I realized it was a winner! I had over 60 students a day, (I have a class of 3rd, 4th, then 5th graders each day for 1 1/2 hours in the computer lab) for a total of 300+ students participate. Every single day yielded the same results – 100% ENGAGEMENT. Some students completed all 20 puzzles in the time allotted, and wanted to do more. The students who did not finish all the levels wanted to get back on the website. According to Hadi Partovi, the purpose of this endeavor was to introduce students all over the world to the discipline of computer science. According to Computer Science Education Week, over 23,000,000 accessed the Hour of Code resources. I polled my students through Edmodo to get their insights about the experience. Here are the results:
These results tell me that even though over half (57%) of the students rated the activity as Medium in difficulty, almost 87% said they enjoyed the activity. In other words, it posed a significant challenge for them, but they enjoyed being challenged.
Image from http://learn.code.org/users/sign_up.
So, what now? The code.org website offers activities for going Beyond the Hour of Code. One of the activities is a 20 hour coding course called K-8 Intro to Computer Science. My principal is giving students the opportunity to participate by coming to the lab every day for 30 minutes until they complete the course. I had students indicate their interest by filling out a Google form I posted in Edmodo. According to the data from the form, I have 36 third graders, 35 fourth graders, and 42 fifth graders that want to learn to code thirty minutes a day! I am so thankful for people like Hadi Partovi and the opportunity the organizers of the Hour of Code have given to so many, young and old alike, to discover an appreciation for computer science and its place in our world.
Photo from http://www.flickr.com/photos/aneye4wonder/ used under a Creative Commons license.
Mark Clements, in his blog post titled “The Importance of Reflection in Education” states that most students do not understand that initial failure is part of the learning process, and that is why reflection is so important for them. He makes the point that teaching students how to reflect on their learning is time consuming, but without it there is no real “learning” taking place. Unfortunately, in the educational culture we are currently in where presenting an increasing amount of content is required, teachers feel pressured to cover the material. There just does not seem to be enough time to allow students to reflect. I am not a typical classroom teacher. I see each student for 45 to 75 minutes once a week. I am not under the pressure they are under to get the core subjects mastered, and yet I feel the temptation to skip the opportunity for reflection because of the time it requires. We were all encouraged this year to build in that time for reflection for ourselves and our students. I committed myself to doing just that at the beginning of the year. Most of our teachers have some sort of bulletin board where students post their reflections. I started with a wall outside the computer lab that said “Learning that Stuck.” At the beginning of the year, I had students write their reflection on a post-it note and stick it on the wall.
Since I have over 300 students in the computer lab each week, the wall became a little crowded. That is when I decided to go to a digital solution. After the first two weeks of school, we began using Padlet to post our learning. It is very easy to create a qr code with the url generated in Padlet so other teachers, students, and parents can easily scan the code to see what students are saying about their learning. Right now it looks like we have plenty of room to share our Learning That Stuck.
I have so neglected my blog this year. It is not because there is nothing going on in the computer lab. On the contrary, students are learning and doing amazing things this year thanks to the help of Symbaloo and great ideas from other bloggers like FreeTech4Teachers, iLearn Technology, and Engage Their Minds. The problem lies with me and my disconnect (I do not know a better way to describe it) with the written word. I have a mental block when it comes to taking my thoughts and transferring them to written language. It takes so much mental energy to complete a blog post about what we are doing in the lab, I procrastinate to the point that it seems untimely to write anything at all. I am making a confession here hoping someone who reads this blog can tell me a magical cure. I have been inspired by my co-worker and great friend, Pam Cranford, who is constantly posting on our White Oak Elementary blog and school Facebook page, and Terri Eichholz at Engage Their Minds, who blogs almost daily about the things going on in her classroom. As a matter of confession, I want to be those two ladies when I grow up! But for better or worse, here goes:
The past two weeks have been crazy in the computer lab because everyone’s schedule is out of sync. We have benchmark testing days, special reward days, early release days…you get the picture. During the month of December, we incorporate a Countdown to Christmas in our daily Morning Announcements. Last year, I created all of them using Keynote (inspired once again from what I learned from Pam Cranford) and Christmas images I found online or photographed myself. I screen captured the Keynote slide using JingPro last year. This year I am using SnagIt. This year, I decided to have my students who are in the computer lab during this time create them, and they are truly AMAZING! They create their own image or background using TuxPaint (a free download) and screen capture it. Our lab is equipped with MacBooks, so that part is easy for them. (Command, Shift, 4) They drag that image onto a blank slide. Then they create three textboxes, (1) number of days (2) the words “days until” (3) Christmas. They animate each one of the text boxes to create the countdown. I save it to a flashdrive where I load it to my computer, use SnagIt to screen capture playing the slideshow, and then import the created video into iMovie where the morning announcements are created. Embedded below is a tutorial the students use to learn the process. You can go to our Morning Announcement channel and watch any of the December videos to see their creations. The introduction and ending for the morning announcements was also created using Keynote.
I am so grateful as a public school teacher of technology for all the wonderful resources available on the internet that inspire and motivate my students to learn. Edmodo is a social networking site that allows my students to practice good digital citizenship while “chatting” with one another while allowing me to publish assignments and instructions in a safe, efficient way. Voki is a program my students use to create talking avatars to extend and cement their learning. Animoto is a wonderfully creative slideshow tool that allows my students to be exposed to mashing together graphics, music, and text. BrainPop is a great source for over 700 quality videos on a wide range of subjects that include activities and quizzes for students age 8 to 14. Facts4Me is a website created by a retired teacher who was frustrated with the lack of resources available to her elementary students for research purposes. Facts4Me contains ninety categories with more than one thousand reports, and more are added continually.
Public school teachers in the United States spent $1.6 billion from their own pockets in educational products in the 2012-13 school year, according to a National School Supply and Equipment Association study. Read more: http://www.dailynewstranscript.com/news/x511626034/Teachers-spend-out-of-pocket-money-to-perk-up-classrooms#ixzz2gKg4SMpJ
That is just what teachers do because school budgets often times do not have the funds to cover everything a teacher might wish to provide her students. From professional development to classroom resources to subscription based websites, teachers all over the world reach in to their own pockets to give their students the best advantage possible and make their job easier to manage. I am very grateful for websites like Animoto, that provide free educational upgrades, but I also understand that the creators of the awesome websites my students and I find very useful have the right to be paid for their hard work and ingenuity. There are two web services I opted to pay for this year out of my own pocket.
One is Professor Garfield. I teach a unit on Digital Citizenship to my third through fifth graders using a variety of resources. One of the resources I depend on is the Professor Garfield videos and activities from Infinite Learning Lab. I discovered over the summer that their resources now require a subscription. Their classroom subscription for up to sixty users is $39.00 a year. I have a computer lab equipped with twenty-eight macbooks, so that is the subscription I purchased.
Symbaloo is another service where I have opted for the premium account, and I am loving it! Symbaloo has made my job in the computer lab so much more manageable and time efficient. I thought I had hit pay dirt when I discovered I could set browser preferences to open to the web pages I chose. I would go to the computer lab over the weekend, turn on all the computers, sit down at each one and open the sites I wanted students to visit that week, set the preference, and then close the browser. Then I discovered Symbaloo! From the comfort and convenience of my home, I can create webmixes that contain all the websites I want my students to have access to. I have the computers in the lab to automatically open the browser when I turn them on, and the browser automatically is set to my Symbaloo site. The only problem was I had the computers logged in to my Symbaloo, and sometimes the student would log out. I would have to log them back in. I also had a problem with students, either accidentally or purposefully, deleting tiles from my webmixes. I even had a student create a tile on one of my webmixes that went to a very inappropriate site! Thankfully, our filters blocked the content!
Enter Symbaloo Premium. For $34.99 a year or $49.99 for two years, a premium user gets a custom URL and up to 50 users on the account. My premuim account works from a dashboard, which allows me to create as many webmixes as I like, customize a white or black list of websites, turn on and off the visibility of each webmix as I see fit, and gives me the control to determine what a user can do within each webmix. I have created eighteen webmixes under my account, of which six are currently visible to students. I can control them all from a single computer anywhere.
Click on the image below to go to my Symbaloo.
I opted to pay for these two subscriptions personally because my district is already doing so much for me and my students. I am so fortunate to work in a district that always strives to provide what is best for students. My district has already provided my students access to Brain Pop, Facts4Me and Smilebox.