Its been a while…

Lots of changes… Left the School District of Springfield Township; joined the West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School district in New Jersey. Between moving, getting engaged, planning for a wedding, etc. I completely forgot about keeping up with my blog. That doesn’t mean I stopped blogging. I will be adding a few blog posts I’ve made other places. Hope to get back into this…

SMART Distance Courses

I was selected last year to be a SMART Exemplary Educator. One of the perks rewarded me a free online certification. I went for a Cert. as an Interactive Teacher. I was able to take courses on SMART Notebook, Board, Response, Table, etc. It was extremely valuable and I learned a lot in each course. The new course offerings have been posted and it is definitely worth it. Take a look: Training

Not Tech Related… But Ed Related…

Yesterday while sitting down with colleagues over lunch, during a summer in-service academy, one teacher made a revelation that had me thinking. We are so focused on incorporating cross-curricular material in our lessons; do we think about how each subject is taught and how it affects the others. Here’s his thoughts, how do we teach reading unknown words? Sound it out… Chunking… and then the biggest: Skip it and use context clues to figure out what you didn’t understand! Imagine a student using that strategy in Science or Math. -(-4^3)=___

Do students understand that certain strategies are locked by subject area? Your thoughts

QR Codes pt. 2

Now the much awaited follow-up to QR Codes pt. 1… I wanted to expanded on the usage of QR Codes in my school. I partnered up with our Librarian who travels between two buildings. At Erdenheim, third graders come to her for library special. She selected one class to create book promos for some of the more popular books in the K-1 library. I contacted my counterpart, another tech coach and the two of us, when the class was finished reading, drafting, and writing their promo; recorded each student. Each student was pictured with the book they chose. The picture and sound recording were combined in Movie Maker and then uploaded to a private YouTube page. The embed codes were collected and placed on an individual page on the Librarian’s wiki. QR Codes were generated from the URL’s of those pages and each code was taped to the book. I had one of the library computers hooked up with head phones and a webcam. Adobe Air was downloaded to the computer as well as QReader. Now the webcam would act like a scanner. ***The idea, a student could pick up a book, take it over, and have it scanned, then listen to the promo from a third grader on whether they should select that book or not.*** The third graders did better than I could have expected, and they really enjoyed the project, many wanted to do a second and third book. My next step is to create a movie that explains QR Codes in a way that K-1 students can understand and then demonstrate how they can scan the code to watch the clip.

Here is an example of one Book Review

QR Codes pt. 1

After going to an EdCamp (which I will do a post later on), in Harrisburg, I saw a session on QR Codes. At the time, I thought this couldn’t be done in a K-1 school. Then at Pete & C this past February in Hershey, I sat in another session on QR codes in an Elementary School. Now the light bulb went off! What if I take (borrow, steal, etc.) what I heard and saw, give it my own spin, and come up with a neat way to introduce QR codes at my school.

Now I would send this flyer home to families with an actual QR code to a work that their child did in class. If they couldn’t scan it, the flyer also included the link so they could still see their child’s work on a computer. I picked out a first grade class which needed to do a personal narrative writing. After discussing with the teacher my concept, we came up with a (tooting my own horn) cool project. The first graders would write a piece on why they should be selected for student of the year. I would then take their photo, superimpose it on a fake cover of Time magazine, record their voice reading what they wrote, Blabberize it, then do a private upload to YouTube so I can have a mobile video clip embedded on a webpage. Then take that web address copy it onto Google URL shortener (goo.gl) get the QR code and paste it on a document specifically for that student. Yes, it does sound like a lot of steps but once you get in the groove of doing it it goes fast. The finished result… a flyer went home to every family in the class with their child’s individual QR code on it that would take them to a page like this: Student of the Year!

How To Have Our Teaching Lessons Go ‘Viral’ For Students

While on a flight I entertained my time by watching some TED talks. Teachers always seem to fill down time. There was one in particular by Kevin Allocca, ‘Why Videos Go Viral’:

His thesis finds three reasons why some videos on YouTube become a movement. Tastemakers, Participation, & Unexpectedness. Tastemakers are those whom people listen to, these individuals are placed in a status of ‘in the know’. In terms of Twitter, they are the ones with large numbers of followers. In today’s culture, Participation is what keeps attention, people want to feel engaged, and they want to be able to interact. Case in point, to drum up hype for new movies, many are creating a viral marketing campaign. Something for fans to get involved in and increase the anticipation for the movie’s release. Finally, Unexpectedness grabs attention! Reminds me of a funny commercial I saw a few years back an ‘elderly couple driving down a back country road’:
The passenger discovers a steering wheel, for whatever reason next to her. She picks it up and acts as if she is driving. As they approach a vehicle in the lane next to them, she decides to act as if she is going to run him off the road. Even though I have seen this clip more than a dozen times, the unexpectedness of that scene gets me.

How does this apply to education? Simple, the lessons which are remembered by students happen because of three reasons: tastemakers, participation, and unexpectedness. Teachers and even students can be the tastemakers – they posses certain information and are considered ‘in the know’. Those whom the students place up on the pedestal are the ones they listen to most. I remember more lessons from eighth grade than any other educational level to date, because Sister Irene was a tastemaker for me. She knew something about everything and had that art of storytelling to keep us enthralled by what she had to say. Student participation or engagement is a must. Now in a time with interactive technologies and mobile devices competing for student attention, those educators that can harness them will keep the students involved in their learning. Which is going to be remembered, the lecture of a units worth of information or the Jeopardy review game prepping for the ‘big test’? The unexpectedness element that grabs attention forces the brain to create more synapses (trying to sound scientific). Back during under grad, when learning how to write a lesson plan, this was called the anticipatory set, the time at the beginning of a lesson where the teacher grabs the attention of their students. Remember back to the science lesson that started with a mini eruption or the literature class where the teacher became Hamlet. These unexpected moments create a memory. So to have our lessons go ‘viral’ with our students remember: be the tastemaker, initiate participation, and be unexpected.