Mystery Skype

“It is the dim haze of mystery that adds enchantment to pursuit.” By Antoine Rivarol

Guest Blog Post by Megan Mehta

We were a few weeks away from a unit centered on the 5 Themes of Geography, and my options were looking like either a) pull the info from the textbook, or b) do something the kids would be excited about.  So I started doing some research and some thinking and this is what I came up with:

We would still use the 5 Themes framework, but I wanted them to branch out beyond the borders of North Carolina.  I also wanted them to work collaboratively while sustaining interest in a project that was going to span a few weeks. I began with a regional map of the United States:

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I split up the kids and let them choose their regions.  Each and every group was excited about their region because someone had some connection to a state, so we were off to a great start!  The next step was to figure out a way to organize our information.  We are a BYOD school, but not all of my kids have devices, so we discussed ways to keep track of our learning and research and decided on a common graphic organizer:

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Hey! That’s only 4 themes! I decided to omit the “movement” theme for the purpose of this unit, as we will be learning about it later in the year.  Anyway, we discussed the themes as they related to Charlotte, North Carolina, and began with Location.  They immediately realized that finding the absolute location of their region was going to be tricky. One group’s solution was to do it just for the capital cities in their respective states; the other groups declared them geniuses, and everyone was happy with the solution. For relative location, some groups chose to describe it for the capital cities, some chose to focus on the region itself.

We went through each of the remaining themes like this: I modeled, they applied. I assessed them with a simple rubric of 3 (mastered), 2 (partially mastered) and 1 (not mastered), and provided support where needed. I expected to be tearing around the room with my hair on fire, but the kids were really into this and did an amazing job of working collaboratively.

We finished our graphic organizers (this took about 4-5 class periods of 45 minutes each) and I was (fairly) confident we were ready to set up our first Mystery Skype. I found a list of jobs and tweaked it to meet our class needs. What we ended up with was this:

1 note taker (records the clues on paper)

2 tweeters (to live tweet the event, of course!)

3 moderators (the faces of our class– asked the questions from the inquirers and relayed answers to the mappers)

4 state experts (answered the questions from the other class)

3 inquirers (asked questions based on the mappers’ notes)

4 mappers (used maps of the U. S. and Google Earth to narrow down the other class’ location)

2 photographers (used iPads to document the experience)

For the first call, I assigned the jobs but in subsequent ones, I have had them pull them out of a hat (a fancy word for “quart-sized storage bag”) and given the option to trade.

To set up the call, I turned to the Great and Powerful Twitter. Within hours, we had three classes wanting to connect. I learned quickly that scheduling can be a challenge with our regimented days, but with some creative rearranging we managed to find a time to connect with a class in Iowa. I told them from the get-go that we were completely new to this in case we breached some Mystery Skype protocol or etiquette that we were unaware of. We took our cues from them and we were off and running! Their first question asked us if we were in the U.S. and where we were in relation to the Mississippi River. It took all I had to restrain myself and let the kids figure out the strategy! I’d like to say that everyone stuck to their job and their assigned classroom area the whole time and everything went perfectly… However… we had sound issues which made it all much more difficult than it should have been. We couldn’t get skype to work on our desktop, so we were using an iPad. The speakers I had weren’t working, so the only audio we had were the tiny sounds coming from the iPad speakers. In a room full of excited 8 year olds, this is not ideal. At one point, I was leaning in to the speaker to listen, not realizing my face was right in the camera. Not exactly the big screen debut I was hoping for, and I’m pretty sure I reappeared in a subsequent nightmare or two because that was one intense close-up. Also, the kids were SO excited that they were (of course) all over the room, talking over each other, doing each other’s jobs, and often doing everything but paying attention to the clues. BUT, we made it! After 45 minutes, they had guessed our location and we figured out theirs (with a little help).

In all, it was and continues to be an amazing learning experience for these kids. They are learning so much about U. S. geography, and thrilled about connecting with other kids across the country. We will definitely continue this throughout the year! If you are looking to connect with us, our Twitter handle is @MehtasBESpandas.

**Update! This process has evolved throughout the year, and I’m sure it will continue to do so next year. I’ve since added the job of “back channellers” where we set up a room on TodaysMeet.com and ask questions about how many kids they have in their school or class, what their school mascot is, etc. We also use Google maps to find out how long it would take us to travel to their school by car. Something we may do next year is come up with a short bio about us and the Charlotte area to use as a wrap up or conversation starter once the locations have been correctly identified. We also need to talk about time zones and the 13 original colonies– both those questions came up a few times and stymied our state experts. I’ve also learned that guessing the state is the easy part– guessing the town or city is really tough! I think the biggest take-away I have from doing these this year are how quickly my kids took over and rocked it out. There was a lot of initial coaching, but by the end of the year, THEY were the ones taking the lead, keeping each other in check, critically thinking, and collaborating. And no one will ever be able to say one of our Pandas can’t find xyz on a map of the U.S.!

Ways to Use Canva in the Classroom

“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up” By Pablo Picasso

I used to spend hours using photoshop and other similar graphic design tools to create graphics for my classroom. Not anymore because I am now using Canva; a FREE new simple graphic design web tool that I am loving. It is user friendly and simple to use.

Canva is loaded with templates that you can simply drag and drop your content information from images to text. There is one millions stock photos and text options for you to use plus you can also import images from your documents to produce more specific content. You can create posters, presentations, blog graphics and social media graphics. There are many tutorials for those that also want to learn more about graphic design ‘rules’.  You can even have others edit  your canvas by clicking on the link and publish button and then clicking anyone with this link can edit. Once you have competed your graphic design, you can publish it many ways such as a link, image (see example below), PDF or using social media.

Below is 5 ways you can use Canva in your classroom:

1. Students can create a persuasive poster for the book they have read to entice others to read it. The student will be using their 21st century skills (communication, critically thinking, creating and collaboration) about what content needs to be in the poster.

2. Students can create graphic visuals and ‘app smash’ it with Thinglink.

3. Students can create presentations on the topic they are working on in any subject.

*Bonus: Teachers can create posters for any event such as publishing party, parent teacher conference information or any other school event. Teachers can also use Canva to promote what is happening in their classroom.

*Please not in Canvas terms of use: “Canva is a great service to use for creating your designs, but you have to be at least 13 years of age and fully able to form binding contracts in order to use it. You may not use the Service in violation of these terms or any laws or regulations.” This means you will have to have parent permission for students under 13.

I would love to know how you could use this tool in your classroom?

Edulum 14

 

 

Think Like Scientists: Can You Balance An Egg on Its End?

“Great discoveries and improvements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds. I may be given credit for having blazed the trail, but when I look at the subsequent developments I feel the credit is due to others rather than to myself.” Alexander Graham Bell

Guest Blog Post by Wayne Fisher, Elementary Science Specialist

There is an urban myth that the only day you can balance an egg on its end is during the spring equinox, which happened to be March 20th at 12:57 pm. Is that true and how can we know?   Here’s how:
Use the CL-EV-R model to engage your students in an activity where they try to balance a egg on its end.   CL-EV-R stands for Claims, Evidence, and Reasons and is a wonderful teaching and learning strategy to support argumentation in the Common Core as well as learning in science.
The short version of CL-EV-R is for students to make a Claim, gather EVidence to support the claim, and explain their Reasoning for why the evidence supports or does not support the claim.

CLEVER

Below is a 5E Lesson Plan: Can You Balance An Egg on Its End?
ENGAGE
For this activity, I suggest using a dozen eggs, one egg per group of 2-3 students. Explain to the students that you have heard that it is possible to balance an egg on its end only on certain days such as the Spring Equinox. Ask them to pair-share what they think about that statement (or claim). Ask them to talk about evidence they can gather to prove or disprove the claim. The response you are looking for is “let’s just try it today!”
EXPLORE
Hand out one egg per team of students, or even one egg per student. Have paper towels handy for that one egg that will roll off the table or desk and needs to be cleaned up!  Use the opportunity to talk about the effects of gravity! Allow students to try to balance their eggs.   Note – for every dozen eggs, about 25% will balance! Be prepared for the “ah-ah!” experiences students will have when several of them do balance their eggs! Record student results in a t-chart.  You may want to ask students to predict how many eggs out of a dozen will balance and how many will not.
EXPLAIN
Look at the class data.  How many eggs were students able to balance?  How does that compare to the student predictions? Why do some eggs balance and others do not?   (There is a reason that you can read about on-line). What does the evidence tell us about the claim that you can only balance eggs on the Spring Equinox?
EXTEND
Does it make a difference if the eggs are raw or hard-cooked?
Would we get similar results for duck, quail, or other types of eggs?  How about an ostrich egg?
Is it possible to balance an egg on its pointy end?  (I have been able to do that only once in the last 1472 eggs I have tested!)
If you freeze the egg would it be easier or harder to balance?
Challenge students to do the same activity with their parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, etc!  Take a picture and share! Include this activity as part of your school’s STEM Night of Science and Math Night. Gather other questions from the students.
EVALUATE
Take a picture of your students doing this activity and share on your school’s website.
In this lesson students are using all the 21st century skills. To integrate technology seamlessly into the lesson, you can have the students blog about the experience, create a presentation demonstrating their results such as using EduGlogster or creating a poll (poll everywhere or Google Forms) to gather the results from the class.

Playlists in Education

“To provide children with the different support they need, a school has to be able to draw on resources that lie beyond its walls.”  Charles Leadbeater

The term ‘playlists’ is becoming more and more popular in education because it is a way that teachers can personalize students learning based on standards and interest. But when most people think of  playlists they think music but it is taking on a new meaning in education.

Playlists are tasks complied using multiple media resources such as urls, videos, articles, images, files, assessments etc. Often playlists are a unit or concept broken down into tasks for students to be able to learn at their own level, pace and time. Playlists are often used in a blended learning classroom when the teacher is facilitating a small group other students are working on their playlist that is individualized for them based on their needs.

Playlists is a very new concept and is also in beta mode in education. Educators and different web tool developers are still being ‘perfected’.  Below are a list of FREE Playlists web tools that I have been testing out. I have not found a favorite yet but OpenEd and Sophia are at the top of my list.

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OpenEd: There are three reasons I really like OpenEd. One reason that makes OpenEd different from other playlists is that it works with many other learning management systems (LMS) such as LearnZillion, You Tube and IXL. You can also choose by Common Core Standards as well. Another reason is because you can create courses which is great for teachers in the older grades or as a PD tool. The third reason is because the company is very responsive to suggestions and has teachers, like me, as Ambassadors to continue to make their product the best. I ask questions and they have responded both via email and twitter (@OpenEDio) within 24 hrs. They do have an Android App and are working on an iPad App but this site works on all devices using any browser. Adding your own resources is something that’s “in the works.”

Sophia.org: I have been using Sophia for years for the flipped classroom, recently I have started creating playlists. I like how user-friendly it is and they just added Common Core and NGSS-Aligned Content which has made a huge difference in using this web tool. I also like that Sophia provides Professional Development for teachers as well.

Other Playlists web tools:

Lesson Paths

Khan Academy

Activate Instruction

EDLE 

Blendspaces

Before playlists web tools were available I used Google docs to create playlists. I used the feature ‘Table of Contents’ (under insert) and added the resources for the students. This is something you can still do, the down fall, it takes a lot more time then having resources already curated for you. 🙂

If you use a playlists web tool in your classroom that you love, please share in the comments section so our blog readers can add it to the list.

Engaging Students with GoogleTreks

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” By St. Augustine

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I was recently came across this amazing Google Site called  GoogleTreks  – taking virtual field trip and learning to a whole new place. (GoogleTreks™ is not affiliated with or endorsed by Google® or any of its companies. Google® is a registered trademark.) GoogleTreks was created by Dr. Alice Christie who is a Google Certified Teacher and has taught in the classroom for 25 years. Dr. Christie used the formula of  web tools + Google Maps = GoogleTrek. Here is an example of GoogleTreks she created about the History of GoogleTreks.

GoogleTreks are engaging lessons that can work on any device which makes for great activities for Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) or technology rich classrooms. The lessons also have the students using their 21st century skills of creating, collaborating, communicating and critically thinking while also aligned to Common Core Standards. You can easily differentiate these lessons and make them accessible using QR Codes. You could also have the students create their own to show mastery of content. Check out some of these great ones below:

How Does Global Warming Affect Human Health?

5.G.4. Classify two-dimensional figures in a hierarchy based on properties

Want to make your own GoogleTrek? Use this tutorial and create your own, it walks you through the steps. Then you can submit them  here for others or you can have it saved in your google account. If you chose to submit, all GoogleTreks are scored based on a rubric so you know you are getting quality lessons.

Other Google Trek Resources:

Google Treks gives a behind-the-scenes glimpse at Maps’ most awe-inspiring Views

Google Trek – Street View

Trek the world with Google Maps

INTERNET EXPLORER: Take a virtual field trip with Google Treks

I would love to hear how you have used GoogleTrek or plan on using it if you are not already!

Utilizing Mathigon Site in the Classroom

“Math is like going to the gym for your brain. It sharpens your mind.” By Danica McKellar

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Mathigon is a new STEM website that consists of interactive eBooks, videos, slideshows and animations, with the aim of making advanced mathematics more accessible, entertaining and applies real world application. This website is FREE, works on all devices and has a Chrome App extension and can be made into an iOS App (by saving to home screen). Follow them on TwitterFacebook and Google Plus.

You can choose from a variety of activities, lesson plans and slideshows that have been designed specifically for the classroom. This site is created out of the UK but meets many Common Core Math Standards,  Math Practices and NC Science Essential Standards.

One of my favorites is the ebook,  “World of Mathematics” which was also 2013 Lovie Awards Gold Winner. It is a great, engaging way to add non-fiction text, class discussions and writing tasks into the math or science classroom. Another favorite activity, that the students also love, is the Math Treasure Hunt (Middle of Page).

“This essay (The Value of Mathematics PDF) explores the practical, intellectual and cultural value of teaching mathematics at school, examining a wide range of research and with many examples.”

Mathigon is still being developed but many of the activities to coming soon look very promising such as Mathemagic, Carnival of Mathematics and more ‘chapters’ in the ebook called Motion and Matter.  I would love to hear what you think of this new site and how you will incorporate it into your classroom.

Work Sited: About Us – Mathigon | About.” 2012. 4 Jan. 2014 http://www.mathigon.org/about

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Hour of Code

“Any fool can write code that a computer can understand. Good programmers write code that humans can understand. ” By Martin Fowler

Did you know there will be 1,000,000 more computer science jobs than students by 2020 and that 9 out of 10 US schools don’t teach computer programming? This week (December 9-15) Computer Science Education and Code.org will host the Hour Of Code. The Hour of Code is an event organized to show that everyone can learn to code.  Here is a short video describing Hour of Code:

I believe that Computer Science courses will soon be in every school, as it is a language we should know for the 21st century. Teaching students to code from a young age (just like foreign languages) can help students have a better understanding of computer science. This video is an oldie but goodie that talks about why we should be teaching coding.

Do you want to teach your students to code but don’t know where to start? Or maybe you want to learn coding yourself? Check out all these resources:

Tynker (I have seen a few  3-5 grade teachers use this for coding clubs after-school) and Tynker’s Hour of Code Info

Codecademy.com (I have seen a few middle schools use this site for coding clubs after-school, this is how I taught myself to code)

Scratch  and Scratch’s Hour of Code Guide

Kodu and Kodu’s Hour of Code Info

Khan Academy: Computer Programming  and Khan’s Hour of Code Info

Activate! 

Code Monster

Gamestar Mechanic

Lego Digital Designer

My favorite coding App is Kodableyou can read about why here. They are always adding more and more resources to make this app very easy for teachers and parents to teach coding.