PAECT Radio: Member Showcase Rachelle P

Last night we interviewed Rachelle Poth, PAECT member and foreign language teacher at Riverview School District.  You can access the show recording here.

This is the Storify of our Twitterfeed from last night.

 

Admittedly, we have not had a lot of Tweets, but we will continue moving forward.  It will catch on.

 

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.

End of the Year: Edmodo Clean-up

The end of the school year is upon us; time to wrap up loose ends and organize everything so summer is productive after a brief shut down and decompress.  It is at this time I usually archive my Edmodo classes for the current year, deleting them erases everything, archiving saves information for later access if necessary.  Yes, I am a hoarder…but that was a previous post.

This year, PAECT pushed out a student survey for inout about technology, I received it yesterday.  The link to the Google Form was promptly sent out to students via Edmodo, with an update via Cel.ly.  Archiving needs to wait until the survey closes out next week.  I thought about what to to do with the classes in the mean time, I have good students, but I did not want to chance inappropriate comments being posted in the group feed.  If comment were to show up I could delete them, but there would be no way to handle the issue with the students.  I am fairly certain that 99.99% of my students would not post anything inappropriate to the class feed, but when it comes to silly comments and goofiness, the number drops to 95%.  *

I decided to go in change students in all of this year’s classes “Read Only.”  Students can still message me with questions and concerns, but they can no longer comment in the classroom feed.  To do this I clicked on the “Members” tab on the left side of each group.  This pulls up my students in alphabetical order where I click on the “More”  tab to the right of each name.  A drop down menu appears and you click on “Read Only.”   It may seem a bit cumbersome if you have a large number of students, but it is nice safeguard against a possibly bad decision.  In reality, it did not take long to accomplish this task.

*Yes, the numbers are unscientific, but I did have a large number of students who forgot to sign out of accounts on the shared iPads this year.  The students who found these issues gleefully shared the incidents with me, but did not post anything in the other students name.  Therefore I think my numbers are fairly accurate based on informal observations.

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.

School Year 2014/2015

Well, the current school year of 2013/2014 is coming to a close…as of Thursday, June 5, 2014, my students are sone for the year. Before the end of the year we started having what was called “Step-up Day” where students would go around with their next year’s schedules and meet their teachers for the upcoming year. We are a smaller school, so most of the high school students and teachers can at least recognize each other on site if not know each other already. The big introduction comes from the Eighth Graders who come up from the middle school. This year due to a myriad of issues, there will be no “Step-up Day.”

I will have two Ninth Grade Honors Civics Classes next year. The transition from 8th to 9th Grade is a tough one for some students; add to that jumping in to an honors course AND the non-traditional structure of my course…it can take a bit of time for them to adjust. To combat the changes I have already set up my Edmodo classroom for the Honors Classes and emailed the code to their 8th Grade Social Studies Teacher. Students will not be given mandatory summer assignments, but will have the opportunity to voluntarily check out resources and items that will be posted over the summer.

Those who participate will receive badges, or some sort of fun reward for taking the time out of their summer to peruse the Edmodo group. The direct benefit for them will be that they will be comfortable with the online classroom and resources before the school year even starts. Hopefully they, and their parents, will also be comfortable enough to communicate and ask any questions that may arise during the upcoming year. My goal is to make them more prepared for the challenges they will be facing next year and beyond…(sorry Buzz Lightyear, I could not resist stealing your line.)

It has been less than 24 hours since the students have had the Edmodo join code and 4 students have already joined the group. They will be greeted with a typed message and two Touchcast videos from yours truly, but that is another post…

What to do during New State Standardized Testing Window…Expand Project Week

Well, we in Pennsylvania we have new(er) standardized tests, the Keystone Exams.  It was my distinct pleasure to be permitted to proctor them this year, sarcasm is intended.  I hate standardized tests, but that is a rant for another post.  The state window for testing started after Thanksgiving break and ended a week or so after we got back, sorry, but I do not pay attention to such details, I just focus on when we HAVE to take them in our school.  Our district took the tests right out of the gate  following break; if you have to do it, just jump right in and start. With the majority of my students testing at least one of the three scheduled days I knew I would not be able to accomplish much.  My students would either be testing and out of my class, or coming into class after testing and have their brains fried to a mush-like substance.  All students who missed class would need filled in, and students who had their brains curdled would need remediated…what a world, what a world.

I chose to jump into collaborative project week and expand the assignment by a week.  Each of my subject classes had a different project focus of topic, but similar style projects to create.  Podcasts, websites, videos, to combinations of such things were highly encouraged.  Students were to use the new iPads or their own personal mobile devices to work on the projects.  With a week of near empty classes, or classes filled with zombified students I rolled out the projects.

We started slow, students used Google Docs to sign up for groups, topics of research/presentation, and methods of presenting.  We brainstormed ideas of research together as group, discussing why topics were of interest and should they be accepted.  As usual, Edmodo was used as the mothership platform for communication and organization of the classes.  This first week went well, students were able to accomplish work and decompress from the testing.  The opportunity to collaborate, socialize, and have others to lean on was a major benefit for the students.  Those students who did not have to test benefited from not having to do extra assignments, or busy work as they call it.  As you will see in my next post, students who missed for testing even started the projects while away from class.

While I still thoroughly despise such tests, I now have a worthwhile concept to get my students involved in while we grind out these mandatory requirements.

Computer Room Chaos…or not

I rolled out the students’ blogs last week in three of my classes while my other three classes logged in today.  Overall the students were very productive, they began personalizing their blogs and writing their class expectation blog posts.  The three classes that started last week are almost done with the assignments and ready to move on.

I broke the assignment up for my classes up to keep me from dealing with the potential of six periods of chaos in one day.  Today, all six of my classes were in the computer lab, we all managed to survive the day.  Having half of the classes wrapping up the assignment while the others were starting allowed me to troubleshoot issues so much more effectively.

Speaking of troubleshooting, I did discover that for the most part, the students who had blogs from my class last year had a harder time remembering their log in information…which I anticipated.   Most could log in to Edublogs, a few needed their passwords reset via their Gaggle student email accounts.  A select few needed assistance to log in to both accounts, but this happens on occasion and the students were eager to help each other out while I helped with the administrative tasks.

The students who were new had an easier time, they were given their usernames and they all had a generic password to use.  There were a couple of hiccups with students who were added to my class in the last couple of days, and one or two that I missed when creating the blogs.  I am not sure of it was out school filter or an Edublogs issue, but several student accounts were rough to set up and once they were logged in, they had multiple blogs created from my various attempts to create accounts for them.

Their first task was to change their password to something they would remember.  The students then had to make their blog the primary blog.  This defaults the students to their personal blog instead of the class blog at sign in.  From there they began writing their expectation post and personalizing the space.  The processes were modeled the previous day in class, using the Interactive Whiteboard.  In a couple of classes I had the students gather around a computer while a student modeled how to turn in the assignments or complete a task that was confounding several students.

The assignments were posted in Edmodo along with my classroom expectation post.  I also created a couple of screencasts with Camtasia for Mac for students who may need reminded how to “Turn In” their blog posts and/or personalize their blogs.  The videos are posted on YouTube and SchoolTube for general access, they were also embedded in a folder within my Edmodo classes for easy access by my students. I could not resist name dropping tools so I can add the tags below…

All in all it was a very productive day, with many lessons learned and everyone playing different roles; students as teachers, teachers as learners.  It was what school and learning is supposed to be about.  And the chaos…it was nothing like I had feared.

 

Class Orientation Day Five: Getting caught up

Today, the last day of week one, we headed back to the computer lab.  The plan was to have the students go into Edmodo and check their grades, then work on any assignments from this week that they had not yet completed.  I had graded everything that they had turned in so far and placed grades in the Edmodo gradebook.

We discussed why some of them had submitted assignments but not received grades.  This meant something was not right, they may have submitted the wrong assignment, a name was missing, or I may have missed the assignment.  This process of submitting work through Edmodo will keep all of us informed as to the status of work and what we need to to do keep EVERYONE successful.

The students worked well, many went back and “officially” turned in assignments through Edmodo that they had completed but not submitted through the online classroom.  I was able to work more one on one and with small groups on technical details for Edmodo and Edublogs.

We did encounter an issue with Edublogs where some students could not log in and their password resets to Gaggle were not working.  I submitted the issues through the Pro Support tab in my dashboard and before the period was out I had the issues resolved.  Sue W. and Ronnie B. were the specific helpers in Edublogs support.  They did inform me that Gaggle disables the password resets from their site, but they were working to resolve the issue.

I had one or two students who were new additions to my classes and they were once again added into everything.  I was able to sit down with a couple of students who were behind and assist them with tasks.  As more students asked for help we went to the mentor approach.  Some students who were asked to mentor others were a bit surprised; they did not think they knew enough to help.  They were wrong, they did an excellent job helping others which made the day a success.

There were a few parent concerns sent in on the signed information sheets.  I was able to zip off email replies to answer their questions.  The main concern was about a lack of home Internet access and if it would affect student grades.  I assured the parents that time is given in class to complete assignments, and my room is open during the day for students to come in and work.  A lack of home access should not be a problem unless students are wasting time in class and not utilizing time during the school day.

Overall, the day was very productive and the students cleared out most of their due assignments, which left me with a ton of work to grade.  The pace was much more relaxed, which I greatly appreciated.  It has been a bit tiring this week, but the groundwork is in place for the rest of the year.  There are a few more tools that need to be rolled out, but they can wait until they are needed for specific assignments.

Class Orientation: Day Four Computer Lab

Today, my students went to the computer lab around the corner from my room…they experienced working on the iPods, now they needed back in their comfort zone.  The assignments that needed to be completed could be done more efficiently on a larger interface than what the iPods could provide.

We met in my room to review the lesson for the day.  We ran a quick overview of what needs done by looking at the assignments in Edmodo.  They saw haw to use the “Grades” tab to see what they have turned in, received grades for, or owed.  The Blog Expectation Parent Sign-off sheets were handed out, and I showed them the Dashboard of their blogs on the Polyvision Interactive Whiteboard (IWB). The last lesson for Orientation was also rolled out.  After the students post to their blog, they are to personalize their blog to their liking.  It is their blog, hopefully they will use it beyond mandatory class assignments.  They should be allowed to place their stamp on it.  There is a rubric for basic minimums required, it is their blog to personalize, but there still needs to be some requirements in place.  I shared a folder with links to a few widgets for them to use in Edmodo.

Once in the computer lab the students jumped into the assignments.  Some caught on rather quickly and became student mentors to others.  This helped me out tremendously; since there were still a few new students in some classes that needed put into the class system, Edmodo, Edublogs, and all of the previous assignments.  Once again I could handle the administrative tasks and have my students mentor the new students and get them up to speed. Once those were completed, I floated about and worked one on one or with small groups answering technical questions.

Overall the day was rather fast paced and a bit hectic, but very productive.  Two more days in the computer room and we are jumping into the curriculum.

Class Orientation: Day Three…Bring on the Blogs!

Today we slowed the pace down a bit during class orientation and let the ideas of this week soak in.

A student from each period logged into Edmodo and projected their view of Edmodo to the rest of the class.  It looks rather different on an IWB when compared to the screen on an iPod Touch.

We worked around the various functions as a review and the students were given instructions to finish up left over tasks from yesterday.  The students liked the notification feature in the top right of the screen, they saw how easy it was to keep informed of class information.

Next the new assignments were introduced; signing in to their individual blog,  changing their password, and if there was time they would start their Class Expectation Blog Post.  The first two assignments were short and sweet.  The third assignment made their faces drop at first…it seemed as if more than a few were expecting DOOM and GLOOM when the word BLOG was mentioned.

I then explained that instead of writing paragraphs and essay question answers on paper that would be possibly forgotten at home, in a locker, lost by one of us, and eventually thrown out or forgotten, we would complete most of our writing on the INTERNET.  Same writing they are used to completing, different platform for submission.  The mention of Digital Portfolio and Resume did not seem to resonate with them as I had hoped…I will explain that purpose again once they have more information posted online.

A student volunteer worked the Edmodo interface where the assignment, links, directions, and rubric are posted.  They pulled up the documents in a preview mode as we discussed the assignment.  They opened my example post on my Class Expectations for this year and saw what was expected of them.  Students who were in my classes last year added to the information.  Once they concretely saw what was expected of them they became more relaxed.  I suspect, and hope, the office will get less calls this year because, “Mr. Salvucci is making my child blog and I thought the class was about social studies.”

I know information being filtered through students to parents can become muddled or convoluted so I am sending parent information letters home to be signed.  This should help keep confusion to a minimum.  Unfortunately, I forgot to send them home with my earlier classes, so they will all be send home tomorrow.

A few students who were added to my class through schedule changes or being new to our school did not yet have accounts.  I jumped into Edublogs and used my Pro status to create blogs for them.  The entire process took about 30 seconds per student.  During Period 8, we had a slight “hiccup” and my students lost connection with Edublogs, but were still able to access other web sites.  I posted a quick tweet to @Edublogs asking about their status and received a timely reply.  The entire time of being unable to connect was only about five minutes and it was toward the end of class so we just wrapped up the lesson for the day.

In other events of the day, my two world cultures classes voted on dividing into sub-groups.  When the idea was brought up, I began to comment that I know what we can do…which was finished by one of my students from last year, “you are putting it to a vote with a poll.”  Some of my students know me and Edmodo rather well.  The results of the poll will appear later in this post.  Just as a note they were given the option of staying in one group or splitting since they are not an overwhelming number of students.

I have one class, a period 2 20th Century U.S. History class that is one day behind everyone else due to Junior class meetings on Monday.  They were almost caught up by the end of the period, with some students even to the point of logging into their blogs.  It was nice to see them jump right in and be comfortable with what we were doing.

All in all I believe we had a very productive day.