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.

School Week Two: A change in plans

Week Two of the 2010-2011 school year is now in the books, fortunately, so here is my take on how things went…

by the end of Week One, the students were becoming a bit frazzled with getting hit with new tools everyday, even though they were not familiar with using the iPods and the tools.  I had the students log into the class blog site on Edublogs.  I upgraded to the pro account and set up student accounts.  I will not explain the process here, since I already have several posts explaining the process.  The students logged in and followed along watching what I was doing on my laptop.  I had my screen projected over the LCD projector onto my Polyvision Board.

Students were given the opportunity to sign up for an Animoto account using my all access teacher code which enables them to make longer videos and have all of the advanced account privileges for free.  They understood that we would not use it right away, but needed to sign up now so they could use it over the next six months.  They viewed an example of an Animoto video while they signed up.  We were able to create accounts using the Free Animoto App on the iPods.

We had a short week to begin with the Labor Day holiday on Monday, then we had Foresight Benchmark testing on Wednesday and Thursday.  The testing creates shorter classes, about 30 minutes each, so we used the time to have students work on their introductory blog posts and get caught up with any account sign ups and basic tasks.  Students were still coming and going on my class roster, so catch ups were necessary.

Students continued using the mini Eno Board and the LiveScribe pen throughout the week, but it was hard finding a rhythm in such an abnormal week.    I figured it best to hold off on the rest of the tools until they are needed, the kids were getting stressed and tired of practice.  Week Three starts the roll out of curriculum and projects that will receive more scrutiny in the assessment and grading departments.

I do need to roll Google Apps for Education out in the next week or so, but that is another story for a later date.

The First Week of School: a reminiscence

Well, the first week of school with students is now over.  My ambitious Student Technology Orientation Plan is behind schedule, but I am adjusting well.  Somethings are out of my control, such a s schedule changes, pep rally schedule, Gaggle emails, and class sizes, I just work around these issues.

Day One was the worst day of the week, I handed out my classroom rules and expectations and reviewed them with all six classes…ARGH!  It was tedious and mind-numbing, even with variations and exaggerations, but necessary to review with students.  I did not hand out the iPod Touches on this day for two reasons.  I still was upgrading the software and adjusting the apps on the iPods; over the summer I loaded all of the apps I have tested on the iPods for some conferences and workshops I presented at.  I also had students in and out of classes with schedule changes, so I thought it best to show them the cart and explain the sign out process before trying to accomplish too much in the 40 minutes I have for each class.  We did manage to break the monotony a bit by having some students use the hand-held mini Eno Board to control my Macbook from their seats.  I survived the day feeling much like a zombie after the mindless repetition of the day.

I had some students approach me asking for help to use their own devices for learning.  I gave them a list of free apps that can be used for educational purposes, as long as it is not in a classroom, since it is against many school districts’ policies.

Day Two was another story.  The students were called up one at a time to sign out the iPods, initialing next to their name on a class spreadsheet.  We worked on double checking the ID number on the iPod they use.  It sounds silly, but it is important to make sure they are signing for the correct iPod, they are after-all responsible for its well being during class.

The directions for the day were projected on the Polyvision board, I use the RM Easiteach notebook software to organize my lessons. Students were directed to open up the Safari browser and go to Edmodo.com, which is the platform I use for my online classroom.  The process was helped along in the 11th and 12th grade classes by some unofficial student mentors who have worked with the technology before in class, either iPods, Edmodo, or both tools.  In the two 9th grade classes none of the students had never used Edmodo or iPods in class, but they were smaller classes which makes working with them easier.

The students either signed into Edmodo or created accounts, then used the 6 digit code to join my class.  They students are grouped by subject, then I created small groups for each period.  This will help with class management of information and allow for greater collaboration.  An explanation to how Edmodo will be used can be found on a previous post.  Students were urged to help each other out while the Edmodo class was projected up onto the Polyvision board.  I directed traffic by modeling what do do on the board and floating around the room, once again we used the mini Eno board to control my Macbook. The students introduced themselves to the class by posting a note in Edmodo and then answered a survey question in Edmodo.  They were able to see the live updates on the vote and posts on the Polyvision board.  We wrapped up each class a bit early to sign the iPods back in.

The only hitch was in my last class when the Edmodo site went down.  Fortunately there are a number of students in ths class who have used Edmodo and were already logged in when the site stopped working.  They were directed to work the classroom, showing others how Edmodo looks on an iPod, while I used the static image on the Polyvision board to explain some things.  In the middle of all of this organized chaos I put out a question through Tweetdeck to see if anyone else was having Edmodo issues and a quick Skype message to Edmodo co-founder Jeff O’Hara about the issue.  I had replies from both sources within 30 minutes, but I was too busy to respond back to them.  By the evening Edmodo was back online.

The students enjoy watching me fumble around with the mini Eno board while others tried the board and showed me up.  It is important for students to see that everyone has a learning curve with new ideas and tools.

Day Three began almost the same as Day Two and the students were becoming quite comfortable with the process much more quickly than I had hoped for.  Sign-out the iPods, go to Edmodo, and the assignment is right there.  Today’s assignment was to click on the link in Edmodo to jump to the class wiki and request to join.  I explained that Edmodo is how I push information out to them and the wiki is their platform to collaborate and publish their work. Students who needed to finish up yesterday’s assignments were given time to do so.  They were also encouraged to look over the wiki and the various iPod apps to become more familiar with the tools.  My last class of the day worked on getting caught up with the other classes, they joined the Edmodo class and began posting introductions and completing the survey.

One other difference in most classes was the use of my Livescribe pen.  I received a Livescribe pen at the KTI Summit this past summer.  The pen records sound and pen strokes then uploads them to a computer.  You can push the information out to the Internet to share with others.  The plan is to have students take turns taking notes in class then push the notes out to Edmodo and the wiki as an additional resource.  At this time I am unsure about using the audio recording feature in class.

Day Four followed the previous patterns, students took the Livescribe pen to make a file of record for what we did, students signed out the iPods, logged into Edmodo and looked for the assignment of the day.  There have been a number of schedule changes in all of the classes, so the students were directed to help each other out and get all of the previous tasks completed.  While they were doing that, I handed out the directions and parent sign off sheet for Textmarks.  This will allow for parents and students to sign up to receive text message updates for my classes.  The students worked on getting each other caught up and used to the iPods.

Day Five had shorter periods, we had our first pep rally of the school year.  The students signed out the iPods and logged into the Edmodo classroom.  Each class then followed the link to a Google Form that was embedded into the class wiki.  They were asked 8 questions, such as name, period, what tools they were comfortable with, which ones they weren’t what tools would they like to learn about.   This will give me some basic information as to how they are adjusting to the new tools in class.

Once they finished filling out the short form, they were directed to the Evernote app on the iPods.  Students were to create accounts or log in and we worked with typing on the iPods.  I also modeled how Evernote works on a computer, by projecting the process onto the Polyvision board.  Students practices taking screenshots on the iPods so they could upload them to Evernote, it seemed to be a very productive day, except for my last class.  The announcements for the pep rally interrupted the class, so we stopped signing out iPods and discussed how the week went.

Overall the week went well and we seemed to accomplish a good bit of basic work.  the students are catching on quickly, so we can start getting into curriculum sooner rather than later.  I did not want to overwhelm students by tossing them into new technology and then dumping curriculum on top of that right away.  It would be unfair and many could shut down and be lost for the year.  As for signing the iPods out and back in, we are down to 7 or 8 minutes in my larger classes, not bad considering I have around 30 students in some classes, to under 5 minutes in my smaller classes.

There are a few more basic tools to be introduced next week, along with the first Blog assignment of the year using the iPods, but that is another post for another day.

Student Blogs: So easy even a Social Studies Teacher can do it!

Okay, I paraphrased a popular tag line from a commercial as my title…bad cliche.  I just wanted to emphasize the fact that setting up blogs for my classes was not difficult, it just took some time.  If I was a better typist, I could have finished the set up process in half the time if not less.  Here is the process:

First, I have upgraded to an Edublogs Pro Account, this upgrade enabled me to add students to my account.  I clicked on the “Add New Users” tab on the left side of the screen.  I was able to type in batches of 15 students, creating usernames, and passwords.  I ran into trouble because my students do not have Gaggle email accounts set up as of yet through school.  At this point I made the first of several emails to Sue Waters…Sue is on Edublogs Support Team and Sue rocks!!!  She has helped me out several times with issues and is a great resource.

She had recommended that I create a generic class email account, in Gmail, which I did.  The next step is to insert a “+” then a unique ID between the main email name and the “@gmail” in the address.

It looks similar to this, “my class+student id@gmail.com”  I created users in batches of 15 and gave each a generic password.  A verification email was sent to the new email account I created in Gmail.  I typed my way through my preliminary class lists in a couple of hours.  I set up each student as a “contributor.”  This setting allows students to create posts, however they cannot make a post public without my approval.  I like this added safety feature, you never know when a student may have a bad day, or get their account hacked, or forget to log out which could lead to bad things happening.  I will need to approve every post before they go out over the Internet.  I need to grade the posts anyway, so it is not really an issue.

I then copied all of the usernames and passwords onto a Google Doc for reference later.  I have found it best to keep all student usernames close by for reference, you never know when you will need them.  In hindsight, I should have given every student the same generic password.  That would have saved me from copying their log-in information from my email account.  My colleague Bryan Pasquale was going to do that with his students…but he did not upgrade to the Pro account.  I believe he is going to use the work around of having his students create accounts, but not blogs so he can add them to his blog as contributors…but that is a different post on a different blog….

I hope to roll out the first blog assignment next week across all six of my classes, it will be on student expectations for the year.  We will see what they come up with.

Student Blogging: A new perspective.

I presented at Laurel School District’s Tech Camp recently and an issue was brought to my attention…I was bashing writing, or at least my desire to grade student writing.  I didn’t mean to come across that way, but after further review…I was.  I do not push too many formal writing projects in my class.  Students use the writing process in my class and with all projects, I just do not have them turn term papers.

I need to make an adjustment, and it will happen now.  All of my students will now blog as part of their class grade for my courses.  Not all of my classes will have to blog on a regular basis, some may be once a nine weeks with the option to post more often for alternate assignments.  In the past, I encouraged students to blog for enrichment assignments, but I had few takers.  This new system should change the lack of participation, although educators know there are often students who do not turn in assignments or make up tests they miss.

The blogs will vary in length and purpose, but will be graded on a rubric that includes grammar, spelling, and other areas of literary importance, along with being on the topic of the assignment.  The most important aspect of the assignments, is that they will be posted publicly.  In retrospect, my issue with the writing assignments of yore was that students wrote for a specific length, based on words or pages, then discarded once graded.  Students would toss them out, toss them in the hallways or stairwells, lose them in their lockers, etc. There was no purpose outside of a grade, or practice for the PSSA, at least in the students’ minds.  No matter how much I emphasized the purpose of the assignment and the importance of learning the subject, the students were only concerned with the final grade.  Now, their work will have a purpose beyond a grade, it will be published for eternity on the Internet.  They are all set up as contributors, so I will have the ability to keep work private until approved.  I will write more about this reasoning shortly.

For now, all that counts is that I found a problem and I believe I have addressed it for the better.

Google Images: A Clarification…

I have been a strong advocate of using Creative Commons for all projects, students, teachers, mine, regardless of whether or not the projects would be posted on the Internet. My philosophy is fairly simple, we as educators need to be consistent.  As a teacher, we give students a zero for copying answers off of someone else, be it homework or a test. We consider it cheating and wrong to do. Well, copying images off of the Internet that aren’t ours to use is pretty much the same thing, unless you have their permission to use the images.

You can’t fail someone for cheating, then turn around and teach them to copy any image off the Internet regardless of usage rights. Well…okay…you can…but you will look foolish to the kids who are fairly intelligent.

Now to my point…I was against students just “Googling” for images, mainly because they would not check for usage rights, they would just copy and paste, or download and insert. They never checked for copyright. I tried to push to sites where usage was usually permitted, such as Flickr and our CFF wiki where I posted many open source links.  I have to admit that it was a losing battle.

At the two days of Google Training at IU 7 in Westmoreland County, I learned the solution to my situation. You can go to Google’s Main page, then click on images. You will see a list of links across the top of the page, choose “Images.” You will be directed to a search page specifically for images. Next to the box to search, choose “Advanced Search Options.” (See Image Below)

Google Image Search

Google Image Search

In advanced search options you can choose which type of usage rights you are searching for. There are five options for usage rights, I have one highlighted below with a yellow arrow. You can also choose for a content secure search based upon your students’ ages. This option is highlighted by a blue arrow.

Check out the arrows.

Check out the arrows.

If you take the extra five seconds to work in advanced search you can easily use Google Image searches to get information for class presentations and projects.  This not only models appropriate behavior for your students, but it keeps you from compromising yourself down the road if you ever decide to post your presentation publicly, or get called into a parent conference for failing a student for cheating.

Techno-Geek

Today the obvious has slapped me right across the face. Something that has been lurking in the front of my mind close enough to know it is there, but far enough away that I could not make it out, until now. I realize that I am becoming a techno-geek. Not that it is a bad thing, I still have around 20 years or so left in education and I need to stay ahead of the curve, (bad pun unavoidable). Afterall, what good am I in the modern era if I am teaching with strictly 19th century skills.

I am so fired up that I have been telling everyone I know about a new trick I figured out on my own today. No help from anyone, just me coming up with something new.

I told everyone left in the building, called a couple of people I work with who were gone, sent a couple of e-mails to others, I even posted it to my Twitter network…geek. Total geek. Before it was intentional. I was a geek to annoy those who annoyed me…now I have no control over it.

For those who have not heard, I embedded review questions into my class wikispace for the students’ quiz tomorrow. I did not know it could be done with my test generator program, until this afternoon.

Hopefully the review will be used by students and they will do well on tomorrow’s quiz. If not tomorrow, word will spread and many will use the ones I make in the future. It is useful and the kids should benefit.

I am an old dog learning new tricks…an old dog willing to teach others the tricks I learn…I have become… a techno-geek.