Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Tech Tip Thursday: Youtube

We all know that our students are familiar with Youtube but they are fascinated with music videos, reviews of games, and makeup tutorials. Have you ever thought about using Youtube for your classroom? With or without a tech heavy classroom you can make youtube work for you.

Today's #TechTipThursday features Youtube. Youtube is a very useful tool for the classroom. First and foremost it's FREE. That is something that you just can't beat. Youtube has come a long way. Check out my list, in no particular order, on how to implement Youtube in your classroom.

Youtube for EDU
  1. You can upload videos for your students to review content. How often do you begin teaching a lesson that requires background knowledge but your students forgot the background knowledge? Create or find videos that give your students a refresher of previously learned information. Be prepared for lots of "Oh I remember that!"moments.
  2. Use youtube to flip your sub plans. Have the substitute teacher to play the video(s) for the whole class or share the link with your students to view on individual devices. You can do something as simple as an introduction for the day or be as extravagant as teaching a full lesson. This also gives you the opportunity to encourage students to be o their best behavior for the guest teacher. Try the live annotation feature that allows you to insert word bubbles or links directly in your videos.
  3. Create playlist of research or concepts to share with your students. You can create a playlist as large or as small as you would like. Create a playlist for each chapter/unit for the students to have access to along the way. If they ever need an additional example or need to see the concept taught in a different way, it'll be at their finger tips.
  4. Create a class channel to share the learning with students' parents and other family. Students can demonstrate learning as well as document successes.  Students may find it fun to create a "week in review" or "Friday Rewind." Students may be able to use the channel as a study guide to prepare for assessments. Make the videos unlisted for privacy purposes but share the link with those who should have access.

Until Next Time,

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Tech Tip Thursday: QR Codes

Teaching in a technology rich environment affords you the opportunity to use many online resources. I have learned from experience that students struggle to type in web addresses correctly. I found myself walking around and typing in the same address numerous times. What if you are a teacher who has checked out the iPad cart and you need your students to complete a series of tasks that require them to go to several different websites? What if you are in a "Bring Your Own Device" (BYOD) and you want students to quickly get to a location on those devices? I have the answer for you! QR codes will solve your problems. QR stands for quick response and  these little scan codes are easy to create. There are tons of ways to use QR  Codes in the classroom but first lets see how easy they are to create.

Creating QR Codes
There are tons of QR Code generators available but my go to generator is There are many options for these handy little scan codes. As seen below you can create qr codes to follow urls, vcards with contact information, plain text, email messages, text messages, Facebook pages, open pdfs, listen to mp3s, App Store apps, images, or multiple urls.
1. Select the type of qr code you need to generate. I use url and plain text most often.

2. Enter the url or text you would like to be shown after scanned.

3. Select "Create QR code."

You have options when you save your code.

4. Either screenshot or screen grab the qr code from the web window.

5. Select "Download" or "Embed QR code." Downloading would add the image to your computer. If embed is chosen, there will be a code given.

25 Ways to Use QR Codes
There are many ways to use QR codes in the classroom. I have listed uses in not particular order.
  1. Give Parents Teacher Contact Information
  2. Scavenger Hunts
  3. Weekly Newsletter
  4. Self-Checking Activities
  5. Link to Forms for Tardy Students
  6. Links to Forms to Document Behaviors
  7. Link to Forms for Passes
  8. Give Students messages
    • Positive: Good job, Thank you for Staying on Task, Fantastic Behaviors, Rock Star Performance
    • Redirections: Get back on task, This is your warming, You have a missing assignment form to complete, Missing Homework Form
  9. Stations for Independent Task
  10. Instructions or Tutorials
  11. Interactive Word Wall
  12. Interactive Class Calendar
  13. Link to Additional Resources during activity
  14. Award Prizes
  15. To go paperless
  16. Provide early finisher activities
  17. Provide a vote
  18. Class Library Check in/out system
  19. To Display Student Products
  20. Give Students Access to Examples of Quality Work
  21. Codes for Student Who Receive Read Aloud Accommodations
  22. Provide an Assignment Extension
  23. Interactive Lab
  24. Allow Students to Create Interactive Displays
  25. Interactive Bulletin Board

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Five Things for this School Year

I was inspired by Kristy, @LoudenClearBlog, to reflect on last school year and think about what I'd like to focus on this year for 2017-2018. I've had a very restful summer. I chose to focus on family and professional growth this summer. I've since gone back to school and we just ended week 4 of 36. Although I had a hard time narrowing my list down to 5, I think I have it squared away and I'm ready to apply my list for a productive and successful school year.

Five Things I'd Like to Focus on this School Year

Student Choice: I personally believe that giving students choices is powerful. When students feel that they have a choice they begin to take ownership. For the past 9 years years I've been on a quest for this "magic pill" to make students care as much about their education as I do. I think choice will do that for me. When students are given choice there is a ripple affect. Students are given choice which in turn empowers them then they feel accountable for their learning because they made a choice in the beginning. I think this will be epic for learning and behavior management in my class this year.

Critical Thinking: "How do you get students to think for themselves?" is a questions that I've been asking for many years. I don't want to be the teacher that tells students what to think because I love it when they think outside of the box. I want students to analyze, evaluate, infer, and formulate on their own among other things. The idea of critical thinking got me to pondering about a poster that hung on the wall of my classroom for my first 3 to 5 years as a teacher. It was a poster made by my first building's content coach displaying the "12 Powerful Words."  Critical thinking by definition is the objective analysis and evaluation of an in issue in order to form a judgement. I plan to focus here by stressing Growth Mindset this year.

Small Groups: Students develop various gaps along the way. Some students need that small group/one on one attention to fill in those gaps. My entire reasoning for switching to a Flipped Learning Model was to be able to meet those kids where they are and fill in those gaps. I'd also like to use small groups to catch students before they fall when they are not understanding new concepts. Usually middle school does not come to mind when you think about small groups in the the classroom unless you are considering a Special Education setting. Small groups will be a safety net for my students this year.

Content Videos: I've struggled to consistently create my own content for my flipped lessons. I think my students will appreciate the information more if it all came directly from me. I attended a session during my 1st EdTechTeam Summit about blended learning and flipped classrooms. The one thing that stuck with me from that session was, "Your students want to see and hear you on the videos." I took that to heart and every year I've created more and more videos. My goal is to create 90% of the videos I use for my students.

Consistency: Earlier this year I did the #oneword2017 and consistency was my word. I plan to continue the journey of consistency across the board. I will be consistent in my classroom as well as in my personal life. I find that when I do get off track it is because of a lack of consistency. This also ties into my 2-5 things on my list. I must do the things that I plan to focus on consistently in order for those things to make a difference during my educational journey this year.

Have you thought about things that you'd like to focus on this school year? Have you had a chance to reflect on last school year? Let me know below.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Embracing the Fidget Spinner Fight

This is a combined blog effort with English Middle School Mania

The 2016-2017 school year is officially over for us! We are so beyond ready for summer. For weeks we’ve been fighting the “fidget spinner battle” and that combined with trying to keep students engaged during the last week of school got our wheels turning. As teachers we tend to understand the last week of school is often something the students aren't going to put much time or effort into, they're "checked-out" and so are we. We were both undecided going into the last full week of school (That's the beauty of teaching for a combined total of 21 years, we could pull something together over the weekend!), then I said, "Wanna do a project about Spinners?" Of course Andi’s answer was “yes.”

Our Eastern Hemisphere teacher also got in on the action. So, we started creating it on a Thursday, and continued adding pieces over the weekend. However, we’re really proud of what we came up with:

Learning Objectives
Students will:
  • Collect data.
  • Graph and analyze data using circle graphs, scatter plots and box plots.
  • Calculate mean/average.
  • Convert time (minutes to seconds) using proportions.
Students will:
  • Collect evidence for and against spinners as fidget toys
  • Present an argument to:
    • Persuade your teachers and principals to accept and see the benefits of fidget spinners
    • Convince your peers to stop spinning and to see the challenges it causes for others
Students will:
  • Research toys through the 20th-21st centuries
  • Generate a list of the top 20 toys of the 21st century
  • Design a toy

You can find the Math piece here and the ELA piece FREE here. The projects were actually pretty great! The students loved working together for the four days, and even though we only had four school days left in the year, a lot of the students really worked hard to create a solid presentation for our last full day. They took ownership of their learning and their projects.

For math, I wanted to focus on applying useful math skills in a meaningful way. I also wanted students to apply skills that they had learned this school year. I not only wanted students to take ownership, s wanted them to answer that age old question, “When am I ever going to use this?” Students were given opportunities of choice and were able to share their opinion of this hot topic. Although the ELA focused on the debate of the topic, students had to take a stance and develop a survey question for their position of “To spin or Not to spin?” with statistics in mind. The math of this project focused on collecting and analyzing data to back up their argument and test the quality of these overnight sensations. The price of these little gadgets range from $5 to $40 and are made from a plethora of materials. After gathering all the data and creating displays, students were expected to analyze their data in such a way to decide if price and materials plays a role in how well a fidget spinner spins.

For ELA, Mrs. Adams wanted the students to focus on one last argument piece. Articles were chosen to outline positives and negatives of spinners as a useful fidget. The students also needed to create a survey to track their argument. Some of the groups were surprised. They thought everyone would vote yes in favor of spinners in the classroom, however about half of the students they surveyed were against them. After gathering all the data and creating displays, students were expected to present their math data and their argument showing evidence to support their stance on spinners.

This brought us to this blog post today. I thought of how we embraced this item that has become the bane of teacher's existence. We took something that challenged us and turned it around on the students. As many say, “if you can’t beat them, join them.”

What we as teachers need to do is help our students take ownership of their learning. We need to help them make that shift. I think Ownership is the biggest shift in education. Ownership is by definition the “fact of being an owner.” This may not be true for all but when you own something, you have a sense of pride about it. You want to show everyone and you sometimes brag about it. When you think about all of the buzzwords and phrases that have been around for the past 10 years: project-based learning, one-to-one, flipped learning, blended learning, flexible seating, flexible spaces, genius hour, makerspace, growth mindset... What do they all have in common? We're trying to put the student in charge of the learning. All of these things were also created with the student in mind and tend to promote a student centered environment.

Why do we get so frustrated over small objects spinning in our peripheral vision? It's because we feel like they are distractions from the learning. They usually are, but that's because the students are taking ownership of everything in front of them instead of their own learning. It is also frustrating to see the way fidget spinners are being marketed. Let’s face the fact that they are indeed toys.

If you want to continue teaching the way you were taught and the way your parents were taught, stop reading NOW. If you want to embrace this shift: Try, and really do it, don't just say it, but try to focus on one of those phrases from above. If you already do one, add in another! All of these practices are meant to help students take ownership of their learning. Which should be the ultimate goal, to get the students to care equally or even more than you, as an educator, do about their learning or education.

As educators, we should focus on only what you can control. This means if you are the only teacher embracing student ownership, so be it. You can't control the others in your building or on your grade level team. You can also say over and over that you wish the parents would instill this concept themselves, but you can't control that either. You can only control your classroom.

So, when the next annoying fad comes in, embrace it. Your students will love you for it and will learn so much from it. Show your students how they take ownership of that fad, and they can take ownership of their learning too. Enjoy the end of the school year if you are finishing up. Rest, Relax, and Rejuvenate over the next few weeks. Tell me below what your students were obsessed with and how you could have incorporated it into your instruction.

Until next time,

Friday, June 9, 2017

Flipping over Math

For the past year and a half I have embarked on a journey to flip my 7th grade math class. Since I have officially end the 2016-2017 school year, I thought it was fitting to reflect on my process, achievements, and struggles. As I sit here, I think about:

  • What went well?
  • What can I improve? 
  • How to use the feedback I received?

I guess I'll begin with the basic question, "What is a flipped classroom or flipped learning?" Flipped learning is when content is delivered electronically prior to the class before the content will be applied. Students take notes or study the lesson on their own and come to class with knowledge of the topic. There are tons of layouts but I personally like to use: 1) videos to deliver the lesson, 2) a quick assessment to show prior knowledge or area of need, 3) quick mini review at the beginning of class then, 4) application or further instruction in small groups depending on student need during class.

What went well?

Given that I began transitioning to a flipped class after 1st Quarter in 2015, I feel that I was better prepared this year and the students received the idea of flipped learning better than my previous students. Students knew exactly what was expected since the 1st 2 weeks was dedicated to practicing what flipped learning would look like and the parents were clearly communicated with about the process. Last year I used a Google Site to house my content while this year I used Schoology to hold all the videos and quick checks in a single assignment. I found that this change simplified the process for my students.
This is from last year. I used a Google Site, Videos (Youtube, Learnzillion
I posted the assignment in Schoology, my school's LMS, then added a link to
to my site. Even though the link never changed, I would drop the ball and
forget to post the link in the assignment sometimes. Students would use 
that as an excuse. That would drive me bananas but I could be angry since 
I forgot the link.
This screenshot is from this school year. I gave the students what to write in their 
table of contents of their notebook, the essential question(s), and instructions. I 
posted the video, notes, and questions in a Schoology quiz. This automatically 
graded the questions and students are also able to submit their notes directly in 
the Flipped Lesson. I stressed to the students that notes are most important and 
answer the questions to the best of their ability came second. It was more important 
to me that they had solid notes than correct answers. I used a rubric to check notes.
Students received a participation grade for notes.

Here is my generic "Rate Yourself" question that was included in every 
quick check. When grouping for the lesson, I would look at student 
performance on the questions first and at the self reflection questions second.
I would build tiered groups:
  • Level 1- Small group with the teacher
  • Level 2- Additional practice with a group or partner
  • Level 3- Extended practice or application
I am also excited to report that about 80% of my students would complete the flipped learning nightly. That is a great improvement considering the 30% of students completing it the year prior. My goal for next year is to have at least a 95% completion rate. I am not sure how to go about achieving my goal at this time but I'm working towards targeting parental support.

What can I improve?

There are several things I would like to improve. To begin with, I'd like to use videos made by myself almost exclusively. There are some YouTube channels that I love so I will probably use some 3rd party videos but using mostly my own is the plan. I plan to record a majority, if not all, of the videos this summer. Some of my favorite channels include: Don't Memorise, Khan Academy, PBS Math Club, and MashUp Math. I am hoping to build my own channel up so that my channel can make another teacher's list one day. I'd also like to improve the parental support. Our math textbook is not the best resource for parents when it comes to helping their student at home so I'd like them to become an ally. The videos are for my students but parents will find them help when they are trying to help their students navigate math standards. I'd also like to improve the in class activities to apply concepts. I'll like to set up centers and have student assigned to two centers each day.

How to use the feedback I received?

I received feedback from parents, students, and colleagues. I was told that the doodle notes and notes outline was very useful for the students. A parent should concerns that here students never knew what to write down in their notes. I plan to have outlines and doodle notes ready to go at the beginning of the school year. A student told me that the notes without the quick check question was less stressful for them. I was told that the questions created pressure for them. I don't think that I will eliminate the questions since I use the results for planning and instruction. I been told by parents and students that they like the flipped learning model as well as be others who much they dislike the model. Parent say that I am expecting the students to teach themselves by utilizing this model.

I plan to take this summer break to relax and unwind. I also plan to use this time to improve my classroom practices.

Until Next Time,

Getting "Social" in the Classroom

Getting "Social" in the Classroom
Students are always eager to make connections with school and teachers outside of school, but there is a spotlight on keeping those connections appropriate. This year in my class I've incorporated social media into my classroom to allow students to make those connections outside of school. I have a class Instagram page and twitter hashtag that I've been using. Students can share with me or see what's new by following the hashtag. It took me almost the entire school year to relinquish some of my control a bit and allow students to post to the class social media outlets.

My job tags. The coffee cups are seat numbers. Jobs are assigned by seat locations. Job assignments change daily.

Allowing students to somewhat "run" these accounts were always the plan but sometimes it is hard for me to let go of some of the control. I created nifty tags to assign different jobs daily to students. Tweeter and Instagram photographers are included on the possible jobs list. This year I utilized the Tweet Master and Instagram Photograph. I set up a team Youtube page that I plan to use next year and I'm thinking hard about a class SnapChat. SnapChat will the hardest for because I do not fully understand it's purpose but my students love it and it given the opportunity to teach me about something. My Tweet Master is supposed to summarize the lesson, pose a questions, or tweet something that they learned or thought was pretty cool. The Instagram Photograph post cool pictures from class with a caption. When I post, I post about the lesson, inspirational repost, and I pose questions and give prizes to the students who comments with the correct answer first. I'd love to do more student create video as review, explanation, or a Vlog.

Check out my class social media feeds:
  • #mathinroom202 on Twitter: I used a hashtag instead of setting up an account. Students will be to use the hashtag from their own accounts.
  • @MathinRoom202 on Instagram: I actually created an account on Instagram. I sometimes post questions and give prizes out. I also post student work and notes for the day.
Other examples for classroom uses of Social Media:
  • A book talk twitter chat.
  • Twitter chat study session OR chapter review.
  • Instagram survey with using emojis for different responses.
  • Weekly/Unit rewind Youtube video to wrap up the content and highlight the most important things

What does this look like in a classroom?
  • Of course I post things but in class students access to a "Master" that I have social media apps on. 
  • They know my expectations and what is appropriate/inappropiate. 
  • Students what the last 5-10 minutes of class to post if it is their job in place of the exit ticket that the rest of the class is completing.
  • Students end each post with their first name and last initial.

Things to keep in mind:
  • Parents must be aware and kept in the loop.
  • Students must be taught your expectations and the guidelines. You may have to model what this looks like.
  • Students must see examples of what to do AND what not to do.
  • You must trust that your students will make good choices.
  • And if your students do not make good choices, you must have consequence already outlined.

In closing, I've got awesome feedback from my students about the Classroom Social Media outlets.

"I really like the class instagram page, because it is fun to follow and answer the questions that you post." -Gabby

"It's cool" -Jhay

"I haven't really kept up 😬 Sorry, I've just been grounded, but otherwise for what I have seen of it, I feel like it's fun." -Jessica

"I feel like it is a smart thing to do because kids like social media and that is a way to put school into social media." -Connor

"It's a good idea because then we can see how others do their work and we can learn from them." -Micheal

Until Next Time,

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Quizizz vs Kahoot: The battle of the Game-Based Response Systems

Quizizz and Kahoot are both game-based response systems and I love them both equally for different reasons. When my students arrive to class and I reveal that we will be playing either Quizizz or Kahoot, my students immediately become excited.

Quizizz is a game-based response system that may aid in the gamification of your classroom or to just get your students excited about learning. You could easily search for a ready-made quiz,  create your own using the Quizizz database of questions, or create a quiz with your own questions. Even if you choose a ready-made quiz, you could edit the questions, delete questions, or add questions of your own. You can also set time limits, as little as 5 seconds and as much as 15 minutes, for each question individually.

After the ease of setting up your quiz, Quizizz gives teachers the option of playing a live game or assigning it as "Homework." Assigning the Quizizz as "Homework" just means the students can complete the Quizizz until it expires. In either mode the students are able to view all the questions on their own device as well as see the leaderboard.

There are also several options that allow you to personalize the Quizizz for your students before giving them access to it. I usually keep everything on but sometimes I turn off the "Show Answers" feature. I find that the leaderboard motivates the students but when it's assigned as "Homework" students believe that they are in 1st place but they can be pushed out of the top spot if someone faster comes along.

I created a Quizizz to allow you to experience it through the eyes of the students. Unfortunately, it expires on April 5th. The expiration of the quizzes is one thing that I wish they'd change. There are some instances that I would like my students to be able to have access to Quizizz quizzes for as long as they'd like for practice and review.

Follow the link below and use the game code provided before April 5th to experience the thrill of Quizizz for yourself.

1. Open in your browser.
2. Enter the 6-digit game code 986726  , and click "Proceed."
3. Now enter your name and click "Join Game!"
4. You will get an avatar, and then see a "Start Game" button. Click it to begin!

What students love

  • It's fun for all the students. What's wrong with friendly competition? The students play it like it is a video game.
  • My students love the silly avatars. After they put the code and choose a name it amazes me how they look at the screen waiting on their avatar to pop up. 
  • Who doesn't like music? The music changes the entire atmosphere in my class. 
  • Based on my students reactions, I'm pretty sure that the memes are their favorite. It's almost as if they don't even realized that they are reviewing math skills and concepts.

What I love
  • I am not confined to my device whether it be an iPad or laptop to control the questions.
  • The students see the questions on their individual devices.
  • I feel as if I am as bad as the students when it comes to instant gratification because I love the live feedback when we play live and I love the instant results when I assign it as "Homework."
  • I love the fact that my students like it.
  • Quizizz is student paced. Whether it's live or not students can still move at their own pace.
  • I LOVE the ease of creating quizzes. The question search option has me sold!

Kahoot is already loved by many educators. It was the best new thing in our build last school year. The students LOVE to Kahoot and anytime I ask for suggests for reviewing math concepts, they ALWAYS say Kahoot. Kahoot as another game-based response system that helps students get excited about learning and teachers get excited about teaching. With Kahoot, you can also create your own Kahoots, their version of quizzes, or search ready-made Kahoot that are usually created by other educators. Kahoot gives the option of setting time limits of 5 seconds to 120 seconds.

Kahoot offers a little variety. You also have the option of creating discussions or surveys. 

Kahoots can only be played live but I've seen classroom on opposite sides of the globe play together using a shared screen. Students or participants see the questions projected on a screen and answer those questions on their own devices. You, as the teacher, hold the upmost honor of press the button to go to the next question. 

Kahoot also has a new question format. Jumble allows players to put the answers in a correct order instead of choosing one correct answer.

The students will see their own score and rank on their individual devices but the top 5 kahooters will be displayed on the projected Scoreboard.

You can download the results from the Kahoot to see the results and use for grading or instructional purposes.

What students love

  • The students love the game appeal. Kahoots are fun for all students.
  • Students love the music. I can't argue with that either.
  • Students love the Scoreboard. Most of my students are competitive. I even have a competitive spirit myself.
What I love
  • The ease of creating the Kahoots.
  • I like the variety. I like being able to do discussions, surveys, and the new Jumble questions.
  • I can't resist how much my students enjoy Kahoots.
  • I love being able to add videos to the questions.
When it comes to Quizizz, Kahoot, and students it is a win-win. You can create either with ease and the students love it so how could you lose. Both can be used as a preview to content to come, as a review for things already taught, or as reinforcement for freshly introduced concepts. When things appeal to my students, I try to incorporate them in my classroom. In this case, it not too hard to make happen. Drop me a line below and tell me if there is a clear cut winner in your eyes.

Until next time,