I learned a new game today…

I learned a new game today, well I heard of it Saturday at EdCampPGH, but I tried it out with my students in class today.  The game is QuizletLive.  Students are broken into random teams and must communicate and collaborate to answer questions correctly.  My students loved it and I was able to use my existing Quizlet flashcards as the basis of the game.  There was no need to build new material, which a a HUGE time saver.  QuizletLive motivated my students, the vocabulary review grew into a repeated competition for class supremacy.

There is a brief tutorial video embedded in the site so there is no need to repeat instructions here.  You see live tracking of student progress while the students are playing.

In my not so humble opinion, the random grouping of students is probably one of the biggest benefits of this tool, along with using pre-existing resources.  Having students step out of their comfort zone to work with new group members is important.  They can no longer become complacent and work with their usual band of cohorts.

If you get the chance check it out…SOON.

My Labor Day 2015

This Labor Day weekend was interesting.  My wife and I attended the wedding of a family friend’s daughter, then we took a family trip with our daughter to Sandusky, Ohio and the Great Wolf Lodge.  It was our first time to visit that water park, but we have been to Sandusky many times.

The forecast called for sunny skies and temperatures in the mid 80’s, we decided to find a place with indoor and outdoor water areas.  I had checked Groupon to find a good rate, but after calling the Lodge 800 number, I found my AAA rate to be better.  We arrived early Sunday afternoon, actually before check in, so my wife did a quick social media search for local restaurants that we have not visited in the past.  We found the Dockside Cafe, a walk-up restaurant with bayside outdoor seating.

As we sat down and waited for our food to be ready, my wife found someone’s wallet that they dropped.  We returned it to the counter where the staff paged the gentleman over their PA system.  The grateful owner rewarded my daughter with $20 for our honesty, we attempted several times to respectfully decline the reward, but he was adamant.  Shortly thereafter our food was ready and we were paged to go pick it up at the side counter. The Perch Tacos were excellent!!!!!!  I would post pictures of them, but shortly after we left here, my trip took a precarious turn.

After our lunch we drove back to the Great Wolf Lodge and checked in to our room and the water park.  I planned on taking pictures and video of our stay for posterity.  I placed my iPhone in the waterproof case that I have used for two years.  The reliable case has kept my phone safe during water slides, pool adventures, rain storms, and other watery adventures.

Unfortunately, this time things would play out differently…in my haste to start having fun, I tucked my phone into the case with a few dollars for poolside snacks and rushed down to the water park.  My “Spidey-sense” of foreboding and onrushing doom, was triggered briefly, but I shrugged it off as a mild bout of OCD.

For the first few water slides and pool events, I kept checking the seal on my phone case.  All was good, so I let my guard down and further buried the sense of worry from my conscious mind.  Two water slides later I casually reached for my phone to snap a picture when I saw the water-tight seal was no longer water tight…the phone was in a small bit of water inside the pouch.

To make a long story less tedious, the iPhone could not be revived, and it would cost $200 for the replacement even though I have a protection plan on it.  That is cheap for a replacement, but not when I was due for an upgrade in two months.  My photo/video memories did not materialize, but the weekend was till fun.  Meeting new people, running into another family we are friends with, and enjoying the last “Summer Weekend” of the season made wiping out my phone less crushing.  I am now running an old flip phone, “two screens, two keyboards, and no Internet,” but that is fodder for another post.

 

Collaborative Assignments

So, my students are winding up their collaborative projects that I have posted about previously, click here to view.  The last couple of days students have made a a concerted effort to finish up the projects.  Students have been staying after school, using my open door policy by coming in during their study halls, lunch periods, or any other free time, and asking questions after hours via Edmodo.  While I admire their efforts, I believe that if they started out this focused on the project, there would be no need for as much effort now.  I do realize that the dreaded, state mandated, standardized tests were last week which created a different atmosphere for the start of the project.  Being entrenched in the holiday season and weekly threat of “SNOWMAGEDDON X” from the local weather forecasters has added to the ongoing list of distractions for this project.

IFTTT

My IFTTT recipe experiment worked…I posted earlier today about combining IFTTT with Edmodo. The post was hashtagged with #IFTTT, which my recipe was to automatically push into my Instapaper account.

The recipe worked as directed. Once the post was published, I received an email from IFTTT that the recipe was activated.
I added another step, but not through IFTTT, I set up my Instapaper account to automatically push out to my Tumblr account. This was set up for strictly educational purposes, so I can direct my students to the account. It still does not meet the goal I am trying to achieve; information posted directly to an Edmodo group using a recipe, but it is a step in that direction.

For now I can use IFTTT to push out recipes and then send an Edmodo alert to students who are participating to the various sites via supplied links to perform the tasks. It is not as fluid as I would like, but it will work for now.

Class Expectations 2012

Hello, my name is Mr. Salvucci, most students call me Mr. Sal. I teach high school social studies, specifically Honors Civics, World Cultures, and Econ/POD. I am looking forward to a productive year with all of my classes. I have a number of expectations for my classes and students this year. My main academic focus is to be able to engage the students in the learning process and motivate them to participate beyond basic levels. The students will hopefully be able to go out and apply what they learn in class in the real world and contribute to society in a positive way. As for expectations with technology, the goal is for the students to be comfortable and confident with the tools we use. I am hoping they can become student leaders in the effort to create a wider usage of the tools throughout the district. These actions would also tie into the curriculum expectations.

The expectations for the course curriculum are rooted in my hope to get students involved beyond the classroom. I hope to get them participating in such projects as the model United Nations and voter interviews at the polls. Other activities such as students learning about the community and government through primary resources and first person experiences. Hopefully these activities will allow then to remember and understand key concepts beyond the classroom assessments.

My technology expectations revolve around the students becoming comfortable with the classroom tools, so much so that they become mentors to both students and staff when it comes to technology. This level of competence also allows the students to not view the tools as novelties, but as objects as common as pencils once were. This is important so they can focus on the concepts to be learned instead of the technology we will be using to learn the curriculum.

Time will tell if these expectations can be met. Throughout the year I hope to reflect back and keep readers updated on the students’ progress.

Continue reading

Discovery Education and CoverIt Live: Two great tools that work well together

First off, sorry for the Reeses’ rip-off…now on to my post. I rolled out CoverIt Live with all seven of my classes today.  It went rather well…a few minor technical glitches, several stressed students, and a bit-o-scrambling on my part. I wanted to show a Discovery Education video to my classes, the topic was about 9/11.

This would be a perfect opportunity to also show the students CoverIt Live.  I wanted to make sure the students were focused on the video, not other things, so I thought of my options.   A worksheet full of questions to complete would probably only be done by a few and copied by many, so it was out of the mix.  Discussion is good, but pausing and discussing interesting sections fragments the video and waiting to pause may lessen discussion.  I went with an option many of the students have already experienced; texting while watching videos.  This would give us live discourse without totally disrupting the video.

The iPods were handed out as usual in class and one student in each class got to use the lone iPad my classes have at this time.  The students logged into the Edmodo online classroom, then jumped to the sub-groups.  I embedded a separate CIL for each class on a different wiki page…past experiences have shown that the sharing of pages causes issues with my students.  This is also why I posted the links in the sub-groups, there would be no chance of clicking on the wrong link.

The set up of CoverIt Live can be found here on a previous post.

We watched about the first ten minutes or so of the videos and had the students post a few basic comments.  They introduced themselves and made one or two general comments.  They were urged to use first name and last initial as their post ID. There was one student who tried to use a pseudonym.  The comments were not published, though appropriate, and the students were once again asked to use their real names.  I did not try to figure out who the student was…no harm, no foul in my book.

My first period was a bit hesitant with the process, I had about five or six students adding most of the posts.  Once the others found out they would get participation points for the assignment, I had most of the class jump into CIL.  We actually had students turning in iPods after the dismissal bell in an attempt to get participation points. The timestamp shows when comments were submitted, so I can monitor the process.  Other classes were very interested in the processes, both video and CIL, and we almost ran late in several classes.

Later, several students had to log out earlier classes from Edmodo before they could log in, which happens on occasion with the iPods.  Running 24-25 iPods through one airport, along with several other machines can bog things down, especially when dealing with Cold War Era cement walls.  A few others had previous students names in the ID window…I am not sure how that happened since each class had its own CIL and its own wiki page, but it seems that CIL remembers ID names on each device. The students were focused, for the most part, on the assignment and since we did not have time to finish the video in class, I placed the session on “Standby” and we will continue the process tomorrow.

We did spend a few minutes to discuss etiquette on how to respond to others questions and comments.  I used the free CIL app on my Droid X to walk around the room and review any comments that might need “refined” before they hit the “public” Internet site.

There was an overwhelming preference by the students to use CIL when working with videos in class instead of using worksheets. They seemed genuinely interested in continuing the effort and even expanding it to working with other classes via Skype later in the year.  I hope to utilize Skype in the Classroom to achieve that goal soon.

The lesson can be completed with any type of mobile technology, or computer.  All you need is to be 1:1 students to computers, therein lies the problem for many…

20011 School Year Day One: With Students

I titled this post accordingly, since I have been prepping for the 2011/2012 school year for awhile.  In general, I am always trying to build upon what I work on with my classes and improve as a teacher.  Specifically, I have been “game planning” specifics since I was told which courses I would probably be teaching in late May.

My plan was to scale back last year’s student class orientation from the two week monstrosity it became to a nice clean and concise three day roll out.  I am only introducing Edmodo, Gaggle email, and Edublogs as hands on tools right now.  Google Docs and possibly Evernote will be rolled out once we start working with books and documents.  Anything else will be dealt with on an as needed basis throughout the year.

Anyways…away we go…

Today was an intentionally slow day, handed out class rules for students to bring back signed, reviewed the rules, discussed how we use the iPods and iPad in class, talked about what topics we would be covering, and from my third class on introduced Cel.ly.  Cel.ly is the new group text notification tool that I will be using this year.  I will discuss Cel.ly in another post sometime soon.

One reason for starting slow is that the students are still fine tuning their schedules.  I have had several students added to my classes, and one entire class missed their class period due to a Junior Class meeting.  Most students SHOULD have their schedule changes completed by Wednesday at the latest.  Another reason is that I have many students for the first time this year.  It is important for them to be able to ask questions and get an idea what we will be doing before jumping in.  Admittedly, there were few questions from new students, but a good number of questions came from past students.  The most prevalent was whether or not I would be pulled out to be the district’s Technology Integrator again.  I do not know if they were hoping the answer would be “yes” or “no.”

By this evening, a small number of people have signed up for my Cel.ly groups, which is a good sign.  I have everything for tomorrow set up in Edmodo. I am hoping tomorrow’s iPod roll out goes smoothly, that is the key for moving into actual class work in the next few days.

I hope to post a review of tomorrow’s activities by Wednesday morning.

CoverIt Live and Current Events: Students’ Choice

This post was started on May 3, 2011, however life got in the way and delayed its publication.

My classes have been observing the events of the last few days and commenting on them through their blogs.  Today my Honors Civics class was given a choice before viewing videos of the recent events.  The first option was to view the videos and respond via their Edublogs accounts; while the second option was to comment while watching the videos using CoverIt Live (CIL).

Their response was unanimous in favor of live dialog. I quickly created an event through my CoverIt Live account and embedded the code for the event in my class wiki. This enabled me to archive the event and keep it public. The link was pushed out to the students through our Edmodo classroom. By pushing the link out this way the students do not need to type in urls, they only have to go into our classroom and click on the link.  This makes it easier for them when using our class iPod set.

Once the students were on the CIL wiki page, they typed in a short greeting as prompted and we started watching the news videos. There was no need to post any starter or ice breaker questions, the students jumped right in with comments. Several of my most even-keeled students were set up for approved comments without moderation, while most of the others had to have their comments approved. This was just a safety precaution, students usually get approved to post once they show they are acting responsibly. I walked around the room using the CoverIt Live application on my Droid X to moderate the debate.

Most of the students were commenting appropriately, they a a great group of Freshmen. There were several comments that needed to be adjusted, there was nothing inappropriate or rude about the comments.  However, some of the wording could have been misconstrued, especially the tone or intent when read later on the Internet.  The students viewed the comments, and rewrote them to get rid of any ambiguity.  Most of the students agreed with the rewrites, and understood how the misconceptions could occur.

The debate was rather spirited on the topics of the day.  The students were very opinionated about the world events, but respectful of opposing opinions.  This was the third time the students have used CIL in class and they are becoming much better at working on the iPod platform and commenting appropriately.  The students were also getting better at using “@” to direct comments to specific authors in response to their initial comments.

While writing this I now realize that I forgot to hand out the class iPad, which rotates to students in lieu of an iPod who request to use it.

My First Post From My Droid

After way to much fretting and deliberation I finally got a smartphone.  My wife bought me a Droid X as an early Christmas gift.  I want to thank all of those in my PLN who have put up with and answered all of my questions on the topic.

The last phone I purchased was the Envy 2, at full price.  Two months later, the phone was being sold for under fifty dollars…and my phone always ghost dialed others…much to their annoyance.

Anyway, I am digging the new phone, it is a bit more bulky than my iPod Touch, but it is not overly clunky and awkward.  It is nottaking too much effort to become comfortable on this new platform.  I already downloaded most of my regularly used iPod apps and am looking into the new ones such as the mobile microsoft office app suite.

The big geek excitement will be when I successfully tether my other mobile devices and my laptop off of this phone to have full mobile access.  The goal is to be able to work from wherever I would like, preferably sitting on a deck overlooking a beach with a cup of coffee in the morning.  I tend to enjoy being at the beach in the summer, and this will allow me to do that and still have the ability to work, a necessary task until I become independently wealthy.

Happy holidays!