Voki and Wix

Today a learning opportunity arose with a student who was working towards completing a project for my Honors Civics class. The student had embedded a Voki into his Wix website. The Voki was showing on the page, but no audio would play.

Several quick tests eliminated browser compatibility issues, java and/or flash issues, and web filter issues. Other students who were in my room from their study hall soon joined in. We experimented a bit, re-recording another Voki, checking the audio in the original, we even looked at the html code, though neither of us know code. None of the experiments turned up a solution, although I noticed that the Voki was being cut off at the bottom on the webpage. Wix does state that html is in beta and not fully supported, but I did not believe that was an issue.

One last trial turned out to be the solution and it was so easy, even an old teacher like myself could do it. We simply clicked on the html widget box,on the edit view of the Wix page, and dragged a corner of the box to resize the widget. We republished the site and found that Voki now had the “Play” button partially showing on the webpage. The student repeated the process and realigned the widget on the page. There were several more alterations needed on the site, but the lesson worked across the pages.

It was nice to see an easy fix to a unique situation. All students involved learned more than just a quick fix to a simple issue. They learned to not stress when things go wrong and sometimes it takes more than one try to fix a problem; even for someone who seems to usually know what he doing with classroom technology.

 

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 Two

What a day…today was organized chaos with a very productive outcome.  It was also iPod Roll-out Day.

The students remembered the process we discussed yesterday.  I ran a brief discussion as to what we were trying to accomplish and the students seemed confident we would be successful.  The Polyvision interactive whiteboard (IWB) was used to model the steps to each of the following tasks.

They came back to my cart when called to sign out their iPods.  They double checked the numbers, initialed the sign-out sheet and jumped into Safari to go to our district Edmodo domain.  The web pages were open on the Polyvision IWB and the regular dry-erase board contained static text as to what was needed for the class today.

Many students already had accounts and could log in and join my classes, others had to create accounts to join my class groups.  For the most part the students at both levels were at ease with the interface.  Even students who were viewing Edmodo for the first time noticed how it was similar to Facebook in looks.

Once the students logged in they saw the assignments for the day.  Each of today’s three tasks were listed as assignments along with turning in the signed parental forms from yesterday.  The goal was to ingrain the concept of “I need to turn in assignments” on Edmodo and know how to do so.  Last year my students were a bit forgetful with this concept, but we did not use the assignment tool until late in the school year.

At this time the signed forms were collected by hand and the students used the Edmodo assignment interface to leave a digital note that they had their signed forms.  I later compared the turned in forms to the number of students who left digital notes…the numbers were close.

The students were then turned loose to go to their new Gaggle email accounts.  The link to Gaggle was embedded in the Edmodo assignment along with a pdf copy of directions.  I had the directions opened on the Polyvision board with links to the various pages open in multiple tabs.  This enabled the students to view what to expect on their screens with a larger interface.  Students volunteered to run the board during this exercise.

Once logged in to Gaggle, the students came back to my desk to change their passwords.  Administrator or teacher rights are needed to do this with Gaggle.  We had the process down and moved quickly to update passwords without holding up the class.

Students then sent an email to my school email account.  This had them actually complete a task they may need to do in the future and get my school email address in their contact list.  The plan is for them to use their Gaggle accounts when signing up for Web 2.0 tools or to email me when Edmodo is down.  They can access their Gaggle accounts to verify email addresses and retrieve passwords if needed.  Otherwise, we will be using the Edmodo classroom for communications.

Students were great at helping each other and mentoring others who were having technical difficulties.  Their ability and willingness to help out freed me up to handle issues that needed full administrative rights to fix.  These included changing passwords in Edmodo and Gaggle, looking up users in Gaggle, and reconnecting iPods to my dedicated classroom wireless network.

We adjusted on the fly with some students not in Gaggle’s system; they could not complete some of the assignments yet, but collected information so I can try and get them in soon.  This situation reinforced the concept of flexibility and the need to adjust as necessary in the classroom.

The day was not flawless by any means, but it was a great learning process for all involved.  What seemed the most impressive to me was that all of this was accomplished on an iPod interface.  Most of my students have used iPods for games and music, but few have used them in a classroom setting, with the exception of students who had me last year in other classes.

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.

Yes Charlotte, you can post to Edublogs from a Color Nook

Yesterday, May 19, 2011, we ran a little experiment with a Color Nook in our High School Library.  I had a couple students who were using the devices as eReaders test several tasks.  I should have tried this before, but it is sort of hectic right now.

The students jumped on the Internet using the web browsing app and were able to log into Google Docs and edit documents.  The next step was to log into Edublogs and post to the class blog, which was easily accomplished.  This creates another option for mobile technology in the classroom.  With ever shrinking, or straight out disappearing budgets in public education, the more options the better.

Student Math Projects

One of our high school math teachers, Kerri Heymann, @kheymann on Twitter, recently had her Algebra students create a neat project to help other students in the school.  The idea is not new, but it is useful; the students created screencasts of math problems and posted them on the Internet for other students to use as a review resource.  You can find the screencasts here.

The process was simple, students paired up, chose a topic, designed several problems and directions to solve them, then recorded their examples.  Kerri then posted the link to the videos on her school Edline page and her Edmodo classroom.  Now for some name dropping to explain the details…

The students set the problems up on the Polyvision Boards using RM Easiteach software, Kerri set up a free account and a channel on Screencast-o-matic, which the students used to record their explanations.  At this time I would like to thank fellow technology coaches, Jason Henry, John Deihl, and Carol Roth who helped with the recording ideas.  I could not find a way to record directly with RM Easiteach, and they helped clarify that you cannot do so at this time and suggested alternatives.  The students then came into several staff classrooms to record their presentations without distractions.

The students were comfortable with using the Polyvision Boards and Easiteach, we run both the Next Generation and older versions in our district.  Screencast-o-matic took them all of about 10 seconds to learn; the process went very well…the hardest obstacle the students had to overcome was giggling or shyness during their presentations.  The best part of the project was the independence of the students.  We sat back and waited to assist if necessary, but the students handled their issues well.

As a first step, the project went very well, we are already planning expanding and improving upon things for next year.  Hopefully the students can help pull other staff members into similar projects next year.  After all, students are the best at pulling hesitant staff into the realm of classroom technology use and making these tools a part of everyday life.

I Learned Something New Today: Well yesterday actually

I learned something new today, and I didn’t even get in trouble to learn the lesson, which was nice.  Well, now that I am actually finishing my post, I need to say I learned the following concept yesterday. Many people may already know how to do this, but we didn’t.  The fact that I was able to successfully accomplish this, in a a short time, with the stressful week I have been having, made the lesson worth writing about.

About two weeks ago one of the Middle School teachers approached me about learning how to incorporate our Quizdom Student Response Systems with Study Island, a program we use district-wide.  We are strictly a Polyvision District, but you can use a number of student response systems with Study Island.  I read a little bit into how to work out the situation, but CFF Boot Camp and grad school took up most of last week for me.  Yesterday was one of my scheduled days in the Middle School, so I worked with two 6th Grade teachers on the concept.

I printed up a small file of directions from Study Island and in under 10 minutes we had the system working rather smoothly.  The entire process works off of the Study Island site, and you can choose which brand of hardware you would like to use.  We worked on creating our own district specific set of directions’ figuring the booklet would be a bit much for most staff to work with.  I hope to run through the process again with another staff member to make sure they are clear and concise.  Once that occurs I will publish them on our school wiki.

In a nutshell, you open up your Study Island account and pull up which subject and lesson details you would like to work with.  Instead of creating documents to print, you choose the Student Response Option.  From there you follow the prompts and and make the decisions as to how you would like to run the presentation of material. We chose “Teacher Paced” presentation and the content teacher, Jason M., guided his students through a math lesson on triangles. It was going to be a guided review on the topic.

We had the class take their Quizdoms out and log in with their ID numbers, which was just the controller number on the device.  Jason presented the first question to the class and they collaborated on how to come up with the answer to the question posed.  The students worked through the problem, with Jason’s guidance and they answered the question using the devices.  As he was doing this, the special education co-teacher, Traci C. and I were helping students who were having questions about the devices.  Jason then showed them the correct answer and how he could see how the class answered the question as a whole and individually.

After modeling the first problem, Jason continued the guided review with the students solving the problems on their own. After all of the students answered, he showed how the class as a whole answered the questions, then the right answer.  This process built up student interest, especially when more than one answer had a number of responses.  A student who had the answer correct would then be asked to explain how they arrived at the the correct choice. The process worked well.

At the end of class, we ended the session and printed out the results.  We were also able to print out a detailed student response log that listed each student, their percentage of answers correct and how they rated on a scale of ‘Below Basic” to “Advanced.”  This was helpful since we use Study Island as another tool to prepare students for the state-mandated, high stakes, standardized tests that measure whether or not our students are being properly prepared for their future in the eyes of bureaucrats.  Sorry…I became a bit carried away…I just came back from an intense three day training on Project Based Learning, (PBL), and I am posting to my blog about standardized test preparation…kinda, sorta, I feel like I am in an episode of the Twilight Zone.

Anyway, today I hope to follow up and see what other information we can pull from the reports and how we can use it to help the students.  I am also curious to see if any of the information carries over to the students individual accounts and how it affects the teachers’ class accounts.  I hope to have more to discuss on my blog soon.