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.

#satchat March 5 2015

It has been a long time since I participated in a Saturday morning educational Twitter chat, called #satchat.  I thoroughly enjoyed today’s on Digital Citizenship, I archived most of it via Storify.com. The hashtag #satchat was either continued or highjacked after our conversation, so I had to manually create the Storify today.  It took almost 2 hours of work on my part…from now on, I will create my Storifys as the #satchat ends.


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.

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 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.

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.

What I Learned Today: iPod Restrictions

Okay, I finally played around with restrictions on my class set of iPods.  I am not a big fan of censorship, and banning things, I prefer to have things open and teach appropriate behavior/use of tools.  Afterall, the world outside of school does not have filters, students need to learn how to self regulate.

Anyway, as I updated the iPod cart I began looking into the restrictions on the devices.  You can limit content and what can be adjusted on the iPods and lock in those restrictions with a four digit code.  I set two iPods up with restrictions to see what would happen.  You can restrict the following items; Safari, YouTube, iTunes, Installing Apps, Deleting Apps, Locations, Accounts, In-App Purchases, ratings for multimedia and apps, and game center settings.

I locked down the two iPods restricting everything but Safari and YouTube, since we have a firewall and filtering system here in school which would control what can be accessed from those apps.  The restrictions were not worth the effort, they not only blocked others from working with the iPods, but they blocked me.  I could no longer use the cart to update apps and information, I had to go into the iPods individually and unlock the passcodes to make adjustments.  The process was going to be too cumbersome.  I need to be able to make adjustments to apps and such from the cart.

By limiting the “accounts” my students would not be able to log into school email using the email app on the device.  I also have the students using Evernote and Google Apps, they would be locked out of adjusting those accounts with the restrictions on.  I took the restrictions off for those items also.

It was a nice, short experiment that proved to me to keep restrictions to a minimum.  I did lock down the Game Center, and restricted media to PG-14.  This was mostly for superficial reasons, the students cannot access the Game Center because they do not have my iTunes password.  The students are also limited to what they can actually download to the devices and I have made a habit of not putting explicit material on them either.

Overall, for the time it takes to adjust the iPods it does not make much sense to put the restrictions in place for a high school setting.  Unless you have a lot of free time with nothing better to do…