SNOW DAY TECH DAY

Well, it’s official. This weather stinks. Winter needs to end. I was ready last weekend to hear the news that Punxsutawney Phil was ready for spring, but alas, no such luck. Instead that little rat was scared back into hibernation by his own shadow and we were graced by not one, but two lovely snowstorms this week. Now, don’t get me wrong…in a normal winter I love snow. I get excited for it. I dance around outside with the snowflakes swirling around me, in my own little snowglobe world. Not this year. Now I stand outside, bundled, chipping ice and frozen snow off of my driveway and cursing the weather for the number of snow days my school district is accumulating, cutting into my summer vacation.

Our total so far is 5. 5 additional days added to our school year. This week we had a snow day on Monday, 2-hour delay on Tuesday, snow days on Wednesday and Thursday due to a lack of power in the district, and finally with power restored we were supposed to return to school today, Friday, with a 2-hour delay. That was until 8:15 this morning when we got word that our school was closed yet again, this time due to a water main break across the street. No school for students. Teachers had to report to another school in the district for in-service. We weren’t excited.

Our disappointment and disgruntled behavior this morning quickly melted into enthusiasm and dare I say excitement as we learned about 3 new technology tools for our district: Skype in the Classroom, Office365 and its SkyDrive; and Screencasting through Screencast-O-Matic.com.

By far, the most popular was the idea of having a SkyDrive, increasing our district storage space from our 4gb personal drive on the district servers to the 25gb cloud storage provided through Office365.

My favorite however, seems to be the idea of screencasting my lessons. I love the idea that I can record my lessons and share them to students who may be ill, injured or homebound. I can send tutorials for skills that my students are struggling to grasp. I can create test reviews and more to be shared with my classroom community. It’s awesome and simple to use – two of my favorite adjectives when it comes to technology in the classroom. Press record, capture up to 15 minutes of material, save and send. Or, better yet, I can post it to my classroom website.

Now that I’ve shared it with you, I hope you’ll check it out. I’m off to go record something….

Guest Post By: Jennifer Quaresima

What Does Being a Connected Educator Mean to Me?

My position includes finding and recommending apps for the teachers I assist. I’ve learned that many of the app makers/designers look for feedback on how to improve.

Nearpod has a community section on their site where anyone can contact them with suggestions or problems. (Take a look at their app here) When I started using Nearpod I took to Twitter to tweet their praises. I went to conferences to present how it changed my teaching. And the cool thing was they noticed. They reached out to me with giveaway memberships to raffle off at the conferences.

Another app I was looking at, T-Charts (Pros and Cons), was very simple. Create a chart on any topic listing the Pros and Cons. Very applicable in school. I wished it could go a little further by allowing the user to change the words Pro and Con to allow for more t-chart making. I reached out to them with this suggestion and their latest update allowed that process to take place.

So as these two examples suggest, a connected educator is one who reaches out to those that create/provide tools for instruction. You become an active participant in the development/improvement process of educational apps, in this case. Don’t be afraid of your ideas or suggestions. There are people out there that want to hear them. E-mail, tweet, post, whatever you do to get your thoughts out there do it. You never know what might happen.

Have you ever reached out? Tell your story in the comments below.

Follow-up to Nearpod Oct. Post

I’ve recently started to expand my lesson integrations when using Nearpod to include other apps. My first grade teachers, that I’ve been working with, have been using Nearpod as another assessment piece at the end of their Math units. The last two in particular have been great topics to pull in other apps: Graphing and Geometry. In the graphing unit, I kicked off the lesson by taking a poll of the class on favorite pets. The students used that data to create a bar graph using the app Easy Chart. Another lesson on Geometry has the students using an app called Geoboard where they were told to ‘create a five sided shape’. The students took a screen shot of their iPad and saved it to the camera roll to be accessed later in Nearpod. Now the teacher has these images in their class assessment report to view later. Paperless classwork in action!
Easy Chart

Geoboard

Nearpod App adds Exciting NEW Feature

A few years ago when I was a classroom teacher, I discovered Nearpod. I wrote a post back in May of 2013 titled, How Nearpod Brought Active Learning To My Classroom. Nearpod is an excellent tool, which they only want to make better. So fast-forward to this past August when a new update is launched. I checked out what the update contained and was pleasantly surprised to see that many of the recommendations teachers made on the site’s community blog where included with the update. One of the updates was the ability for students to submit a photograph through a Draw It slide.

Now as a former classroom teacher, I know the value of manipulatives. They can increase engagement, they provide kinesthetics to a lesson, and can truly make a lesson authentic to the learner. Teaching a lesson on money wouldn’t be the same without actually being able to touch and count coins. Being able to use place value blocks assists a lesson on number value. There are many examples of how teachers can use manipulatives in their lessons. But unless the teacher goes around with a camera and snaps a photo then organize those images by some means, student examples go undocumented. Data showing students’ learning or the opposite, students’ struggling, is non-existent.

Until now! A teacher can have their manipulatives on hand. Engage their Nearpod lesson, which includes a simple Draw It slide stating what they need to capture. “Take a picture of your Tangrams in the shape of an animal.” “Submit a photo of how to make $0.82.” “Show me the best way to make 123 with your place value blocks.” The students then submit each of these photographs and more. The image will be tagged with the students name under the date stamp of when the lesson was delivered. The teacher can go back in and run an assessment report to verify student learning by examining the data collected.

One week ago, I was presenting at the Edscape Conference in North Jersey. I went through a demo lesson with my workshop participants. The lesson was on money and they loved the fact that the students were being engaged. I pushed out a blank Draw It slide and told the audience to take a photo of the change they had in their pocket. Now a couple of people had change. When the photos were submitted, I chose one at random and shared it back out on the iPads. We were able to simulate a classroom discussion on how much change was shown, what was another way to make that amount, etc. The educators in the audience then started brainstorming ways that they could apply this new feature to their own class lessons.

My all time favorite app keeps getting better thanks to feedback from educators. I challenge you to try out Nearpod if you haven’t already. Use the submit photo feature on Draw It. And if you think of something that the app could use go to Nearpod’s community page and offer a suggestion.

*I am hopefully getting this cross-posted on Edudemic & AppoLearning Advisor*Slide1

Four Ways to Become a Digitally Engaged Educator

I can’t believe I’m doing one of these numbered-tips styled postings, but these ideas have been on my mind lately. So here are my four tips to becoming a more digitally engaged educator.

First, use your mobile device in the classroom. An IDC Research report states, “49% of the entire US population uses a smart phone” (source). That percentage is projected to reach 68% in four years. Students need to see teachers modeling how to use the device properly. So pull it out to Google an answer, scan a QR Code, text or tweet a positive behavior, etc. But, also show the students when it is appropriate to leave the device in your pocket as to not distract others. Our example will show students that this is an everyday tool used for purpose not just play.

Second, as mentioned above, use QR Codes. These are powerful means to help students get to selected material. When grading an assignment, place a QR Code next to a question the student answered incorrectly; when scanned the student is directed to a short screencast or video showing how to properly answer the question. They’re a variety of educational ways to implement QR Codes in the classroom, so be adventurous and try something new.

Thirdly, as was custom in some of my previous schools, the copy room became a place to share paper resources. One teacher creates a worksheet or finds an article that might benefit others, they leave a copy of it out for others to duplicate. Do the same virtually! Create a school/district Pinterest account or use anyone of several social bookmarking tools. When you find that blog, screencast, video, webpage, etc. pin it or bookmark it so we can all have access to the best resources available.

Finally, tweet from the classroom. I visited a school district in northern New Jersey who uses twitter to showcase their one-to-one initiative. Administrators, teachers, and parents look to their hashtag to see how they are using their Chromebooks. By tweeting out successes, the teachers and students are being showcased in a global way; one which is much broader than just hanging something in the hallway. Students now can feel their work has an audience. They can take pride in sharing what they are learning and creating.

I feel that each of these, for lack of an over-used term, ’21st Century Skills’ must be seen in our classrooms to model for students what we do correctly in a digital age.

Stake your claim on social media venues. Image source: iStockPhoto.

Why It’s Time To Take Ownership Of Your PLN

I know the old saying can be true, teachers make the worst students. But we need to take ownership of our learning, and sometimes that means we need to be the presenters in our own learning environment.

I have gone to a few ‘unconference’ EdCamp-styled events the past couple years. At each of these, I left with tons of ideas, felt inspired and rejuvenated. Each time I went as an attendee, with the mindset to sit back and absorb as much information as possible. But I was wrong, I was being selfish and using the other attendees for my own personal gain. The buzz phrase lately has been PLN – creating a personal learning network. A network involves connections. As an audience member, I was not connecting and engaging with the other learners, my fellow teachers.

Taking Ownership

I went to an event recently in NJ with the goal being to get involved. Yes, it can be a scary feeling. Intimidating, too. But we all have ideas to share that can be beneficial to others’ teaching, and to our own learning.

When I arrived at the event, there were about 50 educators, none of whom I knew. I saw the sign-up board; only four spots were taken out of about 25 available. Only four people had something to share. I thought about it, I knew I could get involved. I have this app that I have used successfully, maybe there are some teachers who could benefit from hearing about it. I didn’t have a formal presentation, no slide show to click through. All I had was my iPad where I could access the app and have the audience see an example lesson I did with some second graders. So jumping in, I signed up.

That signing up spurred me to go further. I started to tweet to the event’s hashtag. This connected me to some other teachers, present at the event who had similar interests (technology). I saw an individual was recording a podcast of the event. He was looking for educators to interview, but no one was going over. I felt encouraged to keep going outside my comfort zone, so I went over to him. I ended up having a very rich and in depth conversation on engagement in the classroom.

Creating Your PLN

When the time came to present, I had about a dozen teachers who came intrigued to hear about this app that I was willing to share. Of course, technology being what it is, I had a couple connectivity hiccups, but sailed through the rough waters by having a discussion on what topics I’ve taught with the app. Once we connected, we were able to get interactive with it, and even though I was the presenter I was learning by listening to all the ideas they generated. Statements like, “I could do this…” or “the students would be able to do that…” Echoed around the room. My willingness to share one item that works well for my teaching gave a wealth of ideas back to me from the audience members.

I’m looking forward to the next ‘unconference’ where I will get up and present again. Sharing a strategy or activity that has worked well for me and maybe a benefit to someone else’s teaching style. But the true benefit will be to me. By getting interactive, creating connections, and building a network that grows my own professional learning.

Cross-posted on Edudemic: http://edudemic.com/2013/05/taking-ownership-of-your-pln/?utm_source=feedly