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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Don't Be a "One-and-Done"

I don't want to be a teacher who is one and done. What do I mean? I don't want to use one App and have my iPads gather dust. I have been looking for creative ways to use multiple iPad Apps in a lesson.

Just the other day, I had my students listen to a college class in iTunesU. I figured that it was better than listening to me! As students listened to portions of the lecture, I had them take notes on a graphic organizer.

Instead of having the podcast go in "one ear and out the other," I wanted to create a unique way for students to share their new knowledge. Students were asked to use Toontastic, an App designed to create dynamic cartoons, to author a "training video" about the topic for "new employees."

Toontastic was very easy to use because it provides background templates and characters. As they navigated the characters by a simple drag and drop, students narrated the story as the App recorded their words. Most of all, it created a memorable experience for all involved. It engaged students!

My seniors loved using both Apps! In fact, one of my very mature male students said that this was the "coolest thing we have done all year!" In a way, I was glad to hear that!

There are many ways that this particular App could be used in any classroom. Imagine quick ways to review vocabulary terms! Have students recreate a historical event! Even have them explain a complex scientific process! It was very easy to use and the best part - it was free!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Tech Instead of Turf?


I don't do this often, but I figured that I would share my opinion instead of a new technology, partially because I am tired of hearing about all of the reasons why we cannot invest technology into our schools. We are willing to spend thousands of dollars putting turf on our athletic fields for a few students who may play collegiate athletes, yet we cannot add new technology or create a position to "coach" staff and students on how to develop 21st century skills. Don't get me wrong, I am a former college football player and love the turf. But let's be realistic, more kids will benefit when technology is strategically implemented into classrooms. Just having the technology is not enough. How it is used makes all of the difference!

How would you compare school during your days as a student compared to today’s classrooms? One big change is the integration of technology into the classroom. As schools progress in the 21st century, many schools still lag behind in technology integration. Why is this?

I recently read a blog post in Edutopia titled Why Integrate Technology into the Curriculum?: The Reasons Are Many. It explored some of the reasons why schools still lag behind.
  • One major issue is funding. Schools just don’t have the money to provide the latest and greatest technology and professional development. Integrating technology would require teaching students and teachers the technological skills necessary to use technology, which could be done by incorporating a technology class to teach these skills.  However, given today’s financial constraints on schools, administrators are looking for ways to cut positions and not add them.
  • Integration should be a cross-curricular activity to be most effective. The article had mentioned the four key components necessary for successful integration:
    • Activity Engagement
    •  Participation in Groups
    •  Frequent Interaction and Feedback
    • Connections to Real-World Experts

  •  The article had mentioned the barrage of new technology tools available to students and teachers; however, this can be overwhelming to educators who feel that they need to be the “expert.” Author Margaret Wheatley once stated that true learning and understanding occurs when we are “willing to be disturbed.” We need to let go of the need to constantly be the expert and allow our students to help us learn valuable technology skills. When was the last time you asked a student for technology advice? Or better yet, when was the last time you allowed your students to use your SmartBoard to create an interactive lesson? Can you say that you are you willing to be disturbed?
  •   “Technology changes the way teachers teach.” The old broadcasting method is becoming obsolete, where the teacher is the expert and students must learn by listening. Education is changing and so are our student’s brains. Why are our students bored with school? Perhaps is could be the way we engage them. In his book Grown Up Digital, Don Tapscott mentions the need for collaborative learning or a 2.0 model of education.  In this model, collaboration and interaction is expected from both the educator and students.  We may no longer be able to rely on sharing the same PowerPoint year after year because the needs of our students and the content may change. As educators, can we say that we are comfortable in teaching in this type of model?

As our 21st Century classrooms are changing, we have some major questions to ask ourselves. Are we willing to be disturbed? Are we willing to take the risk to change the pedagogy used to teach students? Dave Edyburn once stated that “technology is essential” to enhancing student learning. Many educators, administrators, and parents would agree. If we think this is so, then why are we not doing anything? Are we willing to make an investment in incorporating technology in our classrooms?  Our educational system is in the midst of dark days, where cutting seems to be more prevalent than investing. If our children are our future and they will eventually inherit this global economy, then why aren’t we taking a stand? Why aren’t we digging our heals into the ground and saying that we have had “enough”? Why aren’t we willing to invest in teaching our students in a relevant way? 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Online Chart Tool is a Must for the Math Classroom

Creating online graphs used to be a hassle for both students and teachers. If you did not know how to navigate Microsoft Excel or PowerPoint, you may have had difficulties understanding how to create pie charts and bar graphs. A site called Online Chart Tool can solve this problem through its easy-to-use interface.

It's been several years since I have been in math class, so I gave it a try. I was pleasantly surprised by the sheer number of options of graphs to create and ways to customize my information. You can start simple and create bar, line, or pie charts or grow more complex by creating scatter plots and bubble graphs.

One drawback was that you had to manually enter in data, but this can be an advantage too. Many teachers want to find unique ways for students to interact with x,y data points. When manually entering in the data points, students can view the relationship between slopes and intercepts.

When students are finished, they have several ways to share their product with you. They can save it as a picture file in the form of a PNG or JGEG. They can save it as a document in the form of a PDF or a CSV spreadsheet. Students can even send it to you via email.

Online Chart Tool is a very easy to use tool, which could easily be used in high school, middle school, and even some upper elementary grades. Give it a try and let me know what you think! Feedback is always appreciated.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Make Stories Come to Life with StoryBird

My seven year-old daughter loves reading stories. In fact, we have read every book on our book shelf at least three dozen times! As a father of an avid reader, I am always looking for new stories to share with my kids. I found Storybird, a unique visual story telling site, where you can create, read, or share stories.

The site is filled with stories of all different types and quality; however, I like that my daughter can practice reading and writing her own stories. Storybird takes a unique approach and allows users to create stories by starting with a visual first and then adding the story second. There are literally hundreds of pictures to choose from from the library of illustrations and the interface is very easy to use.

There are a variety of ways that this site could be used in any classroom. Elementary and middle school students could use the site to practice their writing skills. Foreign language teachers could implement this site into their curriculum as a unique way to practice their language skills. No matter how you use the site, it is a very unique way to allow students to express themselves.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Helping Students Use a Journal with Penzu

Author, speaker, and entrepreneur Jim Rohn used to emphasize the importance of journalizing and learning from your life experiences. In fact, Rohn used to carry around a leather bound journal with him wherever he went, so he wouldn't miss a thing.

 In our classrooms today, we ask students to journalize their thoughts, feelings, and dreams. When they write something down, they take ownership and solidify their ideas. I just stumbled across a site called Penzu, where students can create their own private online journal. The journal design can be customized to meet the needs of students and entries can even be password protected. There is a feature that will send email reminders to write in their journal or they can choose to receive email updates of what they were thinking on a date in the past.

When students jot down their ideas, they are writing on a sample page of notebook paper. The authentic look can stimulate thoughts within their heads, which they can highlight with their own pictures! Postings are initially private, but students can share their entries via email, a public URL, or by printing a physical copy.

We know from research that when students are writing, they are learning. With Penzu, why not help them start a lifelong success habit?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

TinEye

Forgive me! It's halftime of the Orange Bowl and I haven't posted in a few weeks.

Don't you just love holiday breaks? It gives you a chance to refresh your batteries, reconnect with family, and have the enthusiasm to try a new idea or two. Over break, I was able to find a few websites that I will be sharing with you over the next few weeks. One cool site that I found is called TinEye.

TinEye is a reverse image search engine, meaning you can upload a picture or submit an image URL, and TinEye will conduct a search over the Internet to see:

  • Where the image came from
  • How the image is being used
  • What other versions of the picture exist
  • Other higher pixel versions of the picture
Educational Uses:

As an educator, this is a great tool to use when you are checking for plagiarism or if students are properly using images in presentations. When you are having students make presentations, they often use thumbnails that can blur when stretched. TinEye would be a great tool for students to use to find alternative or higher pixel versions of pictures. 

Check it out and as always, let me know what you think!