Sketchnoting: An old dog learns new tricks…again…

Last night I sat in on a PAECT members only webinar about Sketchnoting, or visual notetaking with Sylvia Duckworth.  I have read about this concept before and encouraged a number of my students to work with the concept over the last several years.  I never practiced it due to a very basic level of drawing ability, my wheelhouse is writing.

A free refresher on the topic was too good to pass up, especially when presented by someone as well respected on the topic as Sylvia is.  I was hoping to pick up some new ideas to pass on to my students, which I did.  That being said I also gained a better understanding of of the overall concept.  This came about by actually practicing or trying out the various strategies as Sylvia explained them.  After the hour and a half webinar I can safely say that I am still far from a Skectchnoting expert.  I can say, however that I am much more comfortable explaining the concept to others.

I also see how Sketchnoting can help me when the need arises to study.  Going back to review my notes and sketching out a re-writing would benefit me the most out of the strategies discussed.  I hope to have a Sketchnote to embed in this post shortly.

Here is a short video overview of the Sketchnoting concept.

This is my Sketchnote Review of the webinar.

EverFi Teacher Sign Up

I am blogging about my EverFi trial run with my students.  While our school is in the throes of Keystone Testing, I thought it best to take a side excursion with a lesson on Digital Citizenship; students are sometimes fried from 3-4 periods of standardized testing so why pile on.  There is also a lesson on STEM Education, but I am not attempting that with my students as of yet.

Starting out with EverFi is easy, the URL for the site is www.everfi.com/loginIf your school is not listed in the drop down menu while creating an account, it may take a bit of time to become verified.  You could also email my contact at EverFi Alyssa Mahramus, her email is amahramus [at] everfi.com, I checked with her about publishing her email before posting it here.  

Once you have your account started, the easy to use dashboard allows you to create classes, I made one class for each period, I will explain more in a bit.  You can also use the dashboard to review student scores, review ands reset student information, create student accounts, access your courses, and review support materials.   The entire menu is uncluttered with an easy dropdown interface.  You can also preview the lessons from the students’ perspective which I find very helpful.

I actually started by creating a class for my daughter, jumping right in without previewing the resources, it was easy to maneuver through the lessons.  I did preview the resources before rolling out the courses with my students at school, I wanted to be prepared for any questions they may ask.  

So, I clicked on the “Classes and Codes” tab and set up one class for each period of students, I like keeping the groups organized so I can filter information during class in an easy fashion.  I set up for the “Ignition” course; EverFi automatically creates a course code for the “Future Goals” STEM course if you go this route.  I did find that creating a course for “Future Goals” does not seem to reciprocate for “Ignition” in the same fashion.

Armed with class codes and pre-made curriculum I was ready to rollout the courses to my students.  The roll-out will be discussed in another post.

 

 

 

EverFi Experiment

Recently I encountered the opportunity to try out EverFi, a free website/program that offer courses in Digital Citizenship and STEAM Activities.  Digital Citizenship fits nicely into my curriculum, so I am giving it a try.

I started out the pilot project today with several of my classes; our school’s Winter Semi-Formal is tonight and many students had early releases to prep for the dance.  I thought it best to work with start with small groups and see how things work.

Overall it was a fairly painless experience, I will post a bit later on how to set up classes and how to sign up students for the lessons.

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.

 

Floating In-Service: Day One

We get a floating in-service day at the beginning of the year, at least the last couple of years have afforded us this option.

I use the time to prep my room and wrap up loose ends before the year starts. My best assistant, Arianna, usually comes with me to help out with my tasks.

Day One went much better than last year, when my room was not done being cleaned and put back together.

This year, my iPads were already in the cart, not all the way updated, but close enough. They have new management software on them and apps can now be pushed out remotely.

Arianna pushed out the new iOS update to each iPad, so they are all good to go. I just need to submit an email as to which apps need to be pushed out to the class set. That will be a future post.

While Arianna updated the iPads, I set up my desk and unboxed my class resources from storage. There were some class documents that needed updated, along with setting up my Edmodo groups for the year. My online gradebook was set up and rosters printed and converted to Google Sheets as needed.

We spent several hours organizing and setting up. I have to return for a second day, so we wrapped up our work and headed to Hank’s for tacos.

All in all it was a productive first day.

Hour of Code 2014: Day Two

On Friday, December 12, 2014, four of my Honors Civics students stayed after school to participate in an Hour of Code.  I would have had more students, however many students had an early release for the Christmas Dance which was later that evening.

Two of my students came back from the previous day’s activity to continue their work.  This was the first time the two new participants were available to stay after.  All four worked on iPads and used one of the free Lightbot apps available for an Hour of Code.  We continued to use an Edmodo group dedicated to this endeavor as the platform for communication and organization.

I stood back after a brief overview and let the students discuss the events of the previous day.  The two students who participated Thursday opted to continue on with the Lightbot puzzles instead of creating code via PageStudio.  The new students joined in and they began working on individual tasks.  I mirrored one student iPad onto my Interactive Whiteboard, IWB, using Apple TV.

The students were very quiet as they worked on their tasks, which was not what I was hoping for.  The students were super-focused on what they were doing which was good, but I was hoping for more teamwork.  As I observed what each was doing on their iPad, the student who was mirroring her iPad onto the IWB hit a snag and was stuck on a puzzle.  I encouraged her to ask the others for help and reiterated that I was hoping for a group effort.  As she asked for help, the students realized that they were all around the same puzzle and having similar issues.

JACKPOT!!!!

The four students began to talk, collaborate, and test out possible solutions on their individual iPads, sharing their ideas with each other using the mirrored iPad.  This went on for the rest of the sessions, almost the full hour.  Their ability to work through the increasingly complex tasks increased in speed and the tasks were less tedious as they joked and talked out the solutions.

Overall, the session seemed to be a success.  I posted an assignment in the Edmodo group to add to the enrichment assignment; write a reflection blog post on the Hour of Code, or record a short podcast reflection of their efforts.  I am looking forward to seeing their thoughts on the activities and hoping for honest opinions.  I would like to expand upon this event and getting their opinions on how to improve it is key.  I also offered to continue with activities like these throughout the year if they are interested in doing so.  Hopefully I will find out soon via blog post or podcast if they thought the effort was a success.

My major epic fail for the project was forgetting some Christmas cookies on my dining room table at home that I bought as a snack for the participants.  I did remember to bring juice pouches for them, and had some animal cracker/cookies for snacks, but forgetting the good treats bothered me.

Hour of Code 2014: Day One

Thursday, December 11, 2014, we made our first attempt at Hour of Code 2014.  Hour of Code is an optional enrichment assignment for my students.  To organize the efforts of my students I created a group for them in Edmodo; which I used to survey them via the quiz feature and poll feature.  Links to all resources were also posted there, though I just used Code.org‘s site as the main resource.

Due to scheduling conflicts we all agreed that the only two days this week that we could meet would be Thursday and Friday; with the majority of students only being able to attend one after school session.  For our first day, I had two students stay after school, both have had experience with coding.  They participated in CodeHS last year when they were in Middle School and this November they participated in a Hack Day, I was not the teacher of record for these activities.

The two students came in and jumped on the class iPads and off to Edmodo they went.  Once in Code.org’s site they chose to use Litebot as the tool to complete exercises.   The apps are/were free for Hour of Code.  Both students were gracious enough to answer all of my questions about their coding experience as we worked through Litebot.  They will actually be the main facilitators for this with other students, since they understand coding much better than I, you can see my previous post on this topic.

We were having technical issues with the school wireless that had crashed several times during the day and was currently running rather slowly.  I handed off my iPad to a student and they worked on tasks while I tried to get Litebot downloaded on other devices.  I was successful, but it took most of the time we had to get the iPads set up.  This will make tomorrow easier, although it limited what we could do today.

We projected my iPad screen over the Apple TV, practicing for the larger crowd expected on Friday.  Overall, they seemed pleased with the effort, they will be back for Friday’s session.  For Friday, they can use other code apps to actually work on creating code, while my other students can focus on levels that match their ability level.

I hope to have more to post soon.

Touchcast App for iPad

“Wow! Why have I waited so long to try this out!!!!” Those were the initial thoughts I had yesterday when I finally tried out Touchcast. Touchcast is a video recording app for iPads and in beta for PCs. I have had this app on my iPad for awhile now, but never attempted to use it. My personality changes when I record myself, I become very introverted and quiet, not very good qualities for recording oneself.

Nevertheless, I jumped in yesterday to record a couple of short videos to introduce myself to my next school year’s Honors Civics Classes, you can read more about this here. After about 15 takes I came up with two videos that explain a few things about my class, important links, what is expected, and attempted to show a glimpse of my personality.

Videos are limited to five minutes at a time and you are given sixty minutes of storage on their site, which is not an issue since you can automatically push videos to your YouTube account for archiving. Touchcast has some neat built in perks such as sound effects, green screen, audio file insert from iTunes, and whiteboards. Best of all, it is FREE!

The videos were pushed to YouTube where I grabbed the embed code and shared to my Edmodo classroom for my incoming students to view. Super easy, super quick, and a great way to communicate with students and parents.

Check out Touchcast here.