Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Making a necessary evil fun and engaging!

Student assessment. It happens in schools all around the US .. all the time! Student assessment can make your extremely nervous. It can also make you wish the class period would never end.

I had the chance to share some online assessment resources with a group of teachers in February. They could name all of the icons below... except one!

They couldn't figure out the top, left icon. That is the icon for The Answer Pad.

The Answer Pad, like the other programs, allows your to assess students in an interactive format.

One thing I like about The Answer Pad is the fact you don't have to have a certain device. You can access it from the website, iOS app, or Android app. This means BYOD classes can use The Answer Pad as well as a one-to-one environment.

Once you create your account, you can start using The Answer Pad without having to enter the first student or question. This is a plus for me!  This means one less login/password for students (and me) to remember. I can also ask questions on the fly, which means I am prepared for those teachable moments.

When you select the Quick Connect feature, students enter the session with a Connect Code.  Once they are in the session, you can ask a variety of questions. I personally love the drawing question. This may be a little difficult with a mouse, but it forces the students do to more than mark a letter.

The Likert Scale question is also a good question for self assessment.  Ask the students who well they feel they understand the material.

You will see the student answers on your screen, which allows you to quickly check who does and does not understand the concept being assessed.

This is an example of a student, Eva, selecting thumbs up for the Up/Down question.

The Answer Pad also allows you to create student accounts and make assessments ahead of time.  You can also pay a yearly fee for more features. 

For me, however, I like the options available to me in Quick Connect. I can assess my students on the fly using multiple question formats. It doesn't matter the device type and I can see the student responses immediately and adjust the lesson accordingly.

Have you ever tried The Answer Pad?  If so, tell us about your experience!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Computer Science Week and Hour of Code

It is almost that time again -- Hour of Code and Computer Science Education Week. This year, Computer Science Education Week is December 4-10, 2017. This is a great opportunity to ignite or continue to ignite student excitement for Computer Science by participating in the Hour of Code.

The Hour of Code can take on many forms! You can stop everything and have the entire school or entire grade level participate in coding activities for one hour. Students can participate in coding activities during their computer lab time. Students can participate in activities where they see the connections between Computer Science and Math, Science, and Language Arts. Students could even learn the history behind what we celebrate during Computer Science Education Week.

Where to begin!

The first place to start is with the below three websites:

These sites provide great resources for getting started on promoting the Hour of Code as well as a wealth of activities. Data USA can provide great talking points about Computer Science jobs, demographics, colleges, and much more. You can find that resource here.

Non-Tech Activities
The Hour of Code does not have to include the Internet or a device! There are several non-tech resources out there. You can find several at CODE.org and CSUNPLUGGED.ORG

​The non-tech activity, Color by Numbers, talks about pixels and has the students create drawings based on pixels. You can find this activity here.​ This is just one activity from CS Unplugged.

Devices and Apps

​There are several devices out there that help get the students excited about coding. These include Dash and Dot, Sphero, and Makey-Makey. If you have one in your classroom or school, check out their websites to find more resources and/or ideas for incorporating these into your Hour of Code activities.

Another great resource is iPad apps. These are just a few:
Daisy the Dinosaur
Lightbot: Code Hour
Scratch Jr.

​Don't forget the experts in your building! Your computer lab managers, PLTW teachers, and CS teachers.​ Ask them how you can incorporate coding into your classroom.

The goal of Hour of Code is to ignite a passion for Computer Science in our students! You may have a future Steve Jobs or Grace Hopper in your classroom.

What will the Hour of Code look like in your classroom this year? Share your resources and ideas with us!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Math Learning Center - An Interactive Resource for the Classroom

I saw a tweet a few days ago on Twitter I should have taken a screenshot of! The tweet talked about how worksheets should be used as a form of punishment.  I love that!

The tweet reminded me of a math resource I have shared with teachers in the past - The Math Learning Center.

The Math Learning Center has 10 interactive math apps students can explore on the computer or iPad. The interactive math apps include:
- Fractions
- Geoboard
- Math Vocabulary
- Money Pieces
- Number Frames
- Number Line
- Number Pieces
- Number Pieces Basic
- Number Rack
- Pattern Shapes

The Geoboard app is always a favorite of mine!  As a 2nd grade teacher, rubber bands would end up in the air or broken when we used the geoboards to explore geometry. With the Geoboard app, you don't have to worry about rubber bands.

The Number Pieces app provides the students with a board to construct, deconstruct, and compare numbers.

These are just two of the 10 apps available.

Have you used The Math Learning Center in your classroom? Which app do your students enjoy? How have you used them in the classroom?

Share your ideas with us!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Digital Citizenship 101

Are you part of the 46% of smartphone owners who can't live without their device?
Do you spend the majority of your day in front of a screen?
Are you one of the 17.6 million US residents that experienced identity theft in 2014?

Without digital citizenship as a part of K-12 education and beyond, the answers to the above questions will become more and more alarming!

There was several resources out there to help educators with discussing the multiple areas of digital citizenship with students of all ages.

Common Sense Media
This is probably my most favorite digital citizenship resource for K-12 educators.  CSM provides a free K-12 curriculum for educators. The lessons are divided into grade levels and units. Each lesson is approximately 45 minutes, but can be divided into small chucks with ease.  I love how everything is right there for you. You don't have to feel nervous about discussing the topics, because of how CSM has it laid out for you.  There are also several digital resources available as well as student and parent resources in multiple languages.

These lessons are geared toward 4th - 8th grade.  There are lesson plans and video resources available for teachers and students.

This is a great resource for parents and teachers.  This site has great resources, blog posts, and suggestions on all things digital.  I had the chance to hear Kerry Gallagher at FETC, which drew me to this resource.

Classroom Read Alouds
I came across this blog post that talked about digital citizenship read alouds.  Ten minutes later I found several other books you can use to discuss various digital citizenship topics with students in both lower and upper elementary.

Some of the books include:
Goodnight iPad, by Ann Droyd
If You Give a Mouse an iPhone, by Ann Droyd
Webster's Email, by Hannah Whaley
Webster's Friend, by Hannah Whaley
The Pirates of Plagiarism, by Lisa Downey
Bully, by Patricia Polacco

There are also resources out there for you, the educator!  If you have on Twitter, do a search for #digcit. This is a a great hashtag related to all this digital citizenship.  You also want to check out Susan Bearden's book, Digital Citizenship. These two resources are a great start to learning more and becoming more familiar with digital citizenship.

Do you have a great resource, share with us here!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Everything online is NOT true!

Have you come across this image in your Facebook feed?  This was something I saw shared more than once around Jan 1st and Jan 2nd.  People were sharing this image, thinking "how cool is this", without realizing 1-1-2017 was on a Sunday.  It's so easy to click "share" that we forget to use common sense sometimes.

Children and adults are presented with mountains of information on a daily basis. From the news to our social media feeds to our friends and family, information is everywhere.  Some many people (children and adults) have gotten into the "It's online, so it must be true" mindset, that images like the one above is shared and liked without doing a simply check on the calendar.

We have to teach our students (and ourselves) how to determine what is true and what isn't online.

Three Great Places to Start
The first place teachers can go to find some great critical evaluation, is at Kathy Schrock's Critical Evaluation website. This website provides some great resources and information teachers can use to better prepare themselves and their students when it comes to evaluating information online.

A second resource teachers should check out is November Learning.  Alan November provides some great resources for teachers on information literacy.

Of course the Digital Citizenship Curriculum by Common Sense Media provides lessons for grades K-12 that include evaluating information online. These are a must in every classroom!

Four Answer Worthy Questions
(1) Does the website have an author and/or publisher?
(2) What is the URL?
(3) Is the information current?
(4) Is the information reliable?

The four questions above are a great checklist when evaluating websites and the information they contain.

Does the website have an author and/or publisher?
You want to find the author and/or publisher of a website. Is the author and/or publisher a reliable source? Don't think just because you find the author's name that the information is reliable.

What is the URL?
The extension of a URL can tell you alot!  Extensions like .edu (education) and .gov (government) are for specific groups. Extensions like .com (companies) and .org (non-profit) can be purchased by anyone.

Is the information current?
Look for a date. When was the information posted, updated, or created?

Is the information reliable?
As you read the information, think about the author's purpose.  Are they trying to sell you something or push you toward one view vs another?  Also, try to find the same information on a different site. This will help you cross reference the information.

Being a critical evaluator of websites and information can help ensure you are not sharing images like the one so many did just a few days ago!

Do you have any resources you use to evaluate websites?  Share your resources with us!


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Digital Citizenship Week

Next week is Digital Citizenship Week.  Although this topic should be taught 24/7, we can use next week to stress the importance to education stakeholders like parents and community members. 

If you do a Google search for digital citizenship resources, you will come up with some great resources! Below are some I have shared with fellow educators.

The number 1 resource is Common Sense Media! If you have never explored the Common Sense Media website, stop right now and check them out! CSM offers a free, K-12 Digital Citizenship curriculum. The lessons are 45 minutes each and provide teachers with a guide for how to discuss the topics in the classroom. The curriculum is constantly evolving to include resources in multiple languages and meet the various standards. The lessons focus on 8 topics:
~ Internet Safety
~ Privacy & Security
~ Relationships & Communication
~ Cyberbullying & Digital Drama
~ Digital Footprint & Reputation
~ Self-Image & Identity
~ Information Literacy
~ Creative Credit & Copyright

Another resource I came across this week is iKEEPSAFE. This is a resource I will explore more for sure! Click on the "educators" section to find PD and curriculum resources for K-12.

Teaching Digital Citizenship is another resource I have found that provides lessons for grades 4-8 on the following topics:
~ Communication & Collaboration
~ Digital Citizenship
~ Privacy
~ Media Literacy
~ Cyberbullying
~ Information Literacy

If you are in search of a game, check out Webonauts Internet Academy from PBS. Common Sense Media also have some great online learning resources for students in grades 3 and above.

Edutopia and  Edudemic also provide a list of resources K-12 teachers can use to discuss digital citizenship in the classroom next week!

Do you have any digital citizenship resources you plan to use next week? Share them with us!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Breaking Down the Classroom Walls

If my lessons and activities only include the textbook and items within the four walls of the classroom, I have put my students at a disadvantage!  Thomas Friedman, author of The World is Flat, provides a great description for moving beyond the textbook and classroom.

We want our students to be the ones doing the innovative ideas. We want our students to be the ones doing the creative thinking.

In order for this to happen, we have to go beyond the classroom walls and textbooks. By going beyond, you are exposing your students to the world around them. They are able to gain a global perspective of their environment and how our actions can effect others.

Going beyond the classroom walls can seem overwhelming, but with the right tools and knowing where to look, you can start toward that path!

One great way to go beyond the classroom is with virtual field trips.  Now, before you dive into a virtual field trip with your students, think about the following:

(1) Have you explored the site?
(2) Do you have a "path" prepared?
(3) What will the students discuss along the way?

Don't start a virtual field trip without exploring it yourself! Make sure you have an end goal in mind. What do you want the students to walk away from this virtual field trip with?

Virtual Field Trip Idea #1
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History -- cost is free

Students can explore the museum through a self-guided tour using panoramic and up-close images. You can easily get lost in this museum! This resource could be used in multiple subject areas and throughout all times during a lesson. Science is of course the obvious choice, but think about ELA and descriptive writing as well. 

Virtual Field Trip Idea #2
Museo Galileo -- cost is free

This museum is located in Florence, Italy! Students can explore the virtual museum through videos and images. The rooms include the Science of Warfare and Galileo's New World. Of course, this museum has science and history written all over it! You can also explore the library collection as well.

Virtual Field Trip Idea #3
National Parks -- cost is free

In a 2008 blog post, Richard Byrne talks about creating a National Parks virtual tour. Although it would be great if we could actually take our students to National Parks, it is not always an option. You can also watch this 12 minute video on how to create tours on Google Maps.

Google Maps has so many great uses in the classroom! Students can plan out trips, explore areas all over the world, and see what it looks like beyond their city limits.

Virtual Field Trip Idea #4
The National World War II Museum -- cost $100 per video conference

This is a real-time video conference on a selected topic from the museum. Although this does have a cost, I have heard from middle school teachers this is worth it!

Virtual Field Trip Idea #5
The Rosa Parks Museum -- cost is free

This is a 360 degree view of the Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery, AL. This tour provide students with a view of the different areas in the museum.

This virtual tour is part of Alabama360.  You can also find virtual tour of Helen Keller's birthplace and the USS Alabama.

Do you have a favorite virtual field trip resource? Share it with us!