10 Creative Play Gadgets to Add to Your Classroom

“I love technology, and I love new gadgets. I can no longer figure out how to use ay of them, but I love them.” Jerry Zucker

New technology gadgets are always coming out; check out some of these creative play gadgets to add to your classroom.

1. Ozobot

2. Parrot MiniDrone Rolling Spider Blue*

3. Spheros*

* Bonus both the MiniDrone and Spheros can utilize Tickle App to teach programing.

4. LittleBits

5. Fascinations First Time Clock Puzzle

6. Rubik’s Slide

7. Osmo

8. Roominate

9. Cublets

10. Moss

Be on the lookout for Bloxels which is coming soon! Please share any gadgets that you are utilizing in your classroom in the comments section.

Blended Learning Tips and Tricks

“Learning is always rebellion…Every bit of new truth discovered in revolutionary to what was believed before.” Margaret Lee Runbeck

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Last week I discussed picking the right model for your blended learning classroom so it is only natural that I now offer some tips and tricks for running a blended learning classroom. 🙂

  • Focus on the lesson or content skill and let the technology be the tool or guide.
  • Start small and in one subject area.
  • Rearrange your classroom so that when you are working with your small group,  the students screens are facing you. (You want to be looking at the back of the students heads) This way you can see if they are on task by looking at their screens.
  • Plan the layout and procedures of your blended learning classroom before you begin.
    • Put students in charge of putting them out and away, letting them take ownership will help them value the use of the devices as well.
    • When the devices are out and you need the student’s attention, say 45 and have the students put their screens to a 45 degree angle like the above picture (not closed so it will have to start over or lose what they have done) or flip it over for devices such as phones.
    • Know what learning management system (ex. Google Classroom, Edmodo etc) and other web tools you plan on using.
  • Be flexible and understand that students might need to be scaffold info this type of environment.

Misconceptions:

  • Blended Learning = 1:1 environment. Not true: a great blended learning model can use only 10-15 computers. (Ex. Station Rotation Model)
  • Blended Learning = No Teacher. Not true: It is critical for a teacher in any learning environment and blended learning allows teachers to have more one on one time with students to help them grow as learners.
  • Blended Learning  = Babysitter. Not True: Students should never be just sitting at a screen but using higher order thinking skills or working with an adaptive learning program like Dreambox or Compass Learning.
  • Blended Learning = Everyday. Not True: You do not need to do blended learning every day, many happen to do it everyday because they like the time it gains them to be with small groups of students focusing on individual needs. I have seen lots of teachers only do a blended approach a few days of the week, while the other days they are doing more Project/Inquiry based learning.

I would love to learn more tips and tricks of a blended learning classroom. Please share in the comment section.

Choosing a Blended Learning Model

“Learning is more effective when it is active rather than passive process.” Euripides

According to Christensen Institute blended learning is a formal education program in which a student learns: (1) at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace; (2) at least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home; (3) and the modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience. There are four different models: Rotation, Flex, A La Carte and Enrichment Virtual Model. There is a difference between blended learning and technology integration, learn more about that from my previous blog post.

 

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Truly understanding the difference within the blended learning models will help make choosing and implementing blended learning in your classroom easier.

Rotation: Students are rotating through stations with at least one station being online. (Most often used)

Flex: Students main way of learning is online. (taking multiple classes)

A La Carte: Some students (not a whole school) take a class that is entirely online but is done inside the school they attend.

Enriched Virtual Model: Students attend class and then do coursework online, on their own time.

In my experience, most teachers use one of the four sub-models based on the rotation model. Below I define the differences between the sub-models.

  • Station Rotation: (Most used and easiest to manage)
    • Takes place in one classroom
    • Usually three stations: 1. Teacher led 2. Online Instruction/Practice 3. Student collaboration
    • Students rotate on a fixed schedule to the different stations that is managed by the teacher (Ex 15 mins per station, the teacher rings a bell and the students move.)
    • Students rotate through all the stations but do different activities based on level
    • Each station is the same content area (ex. everyone is doing math)
    • Teacher led station can be instructions or conferencing
  •  Lab Rotation:
    • Rotation happens through multiple lab/rooms within the school building
    • Students rotate among lab/rooms
    • Each lab/room is usually a different content area
    • One lab/room is online learning
  •  Individual Rotation:
    • Students rotate on an individual schedule based on their pace and needs.
    • Students don’t have to rotate to all the different stations in the room. They go to stations based on their needs as a learner.
    • Typical stations that are set up are: Online area, small group/direct instruction area, group work area and individual work area.
  •  Flipped Classroom:
    • Online delivery of instruction and content is done through video that the students watch at home. Best practice and research shows videos should be no more than 10 mins.
    • During class students are working on an active learning strategy such as injury or project based learning.
    • Sometimes flipped and another sub-model of rotation is used. (Ex: I used flipped and station rotation)
    • Misconception: Homework practice online is flipped learning. (Ex: students using adaptive learning software such as dreambox or a teacher assigning problems for students to do using a learning management system like Edmodo – These are NOT flipped classrooms)

Now that you understand the differences between the blended learning models, chose the one that best fits your classroom. Next week I will share some tips and tricks of managing a blended learning classroom.

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.!

Using Booktrack in the Classroom

“There’s so much more to a book than just the reading.” By Maurice Sendak

Booktrack aims to improve student literacy through encompassing technology and Common Core Standards. It can be used two different ways: One is students can read stories, poems and other texts that are associated with a ‘movie-style’ soundtrack or two, students can create Booktracks, using their own writing.

How does it work?

You choose a book. As you read, you’ll see an arrow going down the right-hand margin of the page. This arrow moves down the page as you read so that your reading speed goes with the soundtrack. If the arrow moves too fast or slow, use the plus and minus icons at the bottom of the page to change the speed.

If you want students to create their own book, they can do so in a few easy steps:

1. Click on the icon create

2. Type the story

3. Add the sound track by highlighting the text you want to each part of the story from the library of over 20,000 sound clips.

4. Preview and then publish!

Here are my ten reasons why I like Booktrack:

1. FREE

2. Lesson plan library created by teachers, for teachers

3.  It is easy to create a class account. To enroll your students into your class add their name and select add or just upload a CSV file – Booktrack will set them up for you.

4. Books for all levels of students elementary, middle and high.

5. If you have any questions or need assistance just click on “Help” in the upper right hand corner. There are video tutorials to help guide you as well, which makes it very user-friendly.

6. Works on all devices! (Great for BYOT classrooms)

7. The books are all labeled with genre, type, language and ratings.

 

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8. Students can create their own books and publish them so others can read as well.

9.  The sound track can distract some students but you can mute it and read it just like a regular e-book.

10. Teachers can use the books as their read alouds; modeling on an eReader can help promote 21st century digital literacy skills.

Articles about Booktrack:

Booktrack Raises $3M To Add Soundtracks To E-Books, Launches Classroom Version

Booktrack – Create and Listen to Soundtracks for Books

 

Pixar Pitches in Education

“Write it. Shoot it. Publish it. Crochet it, sauté it, whatever. MAKE.” By Joss Whedon

This summer I learned a new way to present information in a quick manner called Pixar Pitch. The concept is that if you only have 60 seconds (elevator speech) to ‘sell/tell’ your idea, you need to know the key important information. To help condense your story into a single paragraph, Daniel Pink, the author of “To Sell Is Human,” suggests using this  6 sentence formula original created by Emma Coats.
 

Pixar Pitch Formula:
– Once upon a time…
– Every day or year…
– Then one day…
– Because of that…
– After That…
– Until Finally…

 
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Here is an education example that I created. The topic: Personalized Learning.
 

Once upon a time…we wanted to maximize student academic achievement in the 21st century through innovation.
Every day…we took notice that the world was changing. We were preparing our students for jobs that were not even invented.
Then one day…we realized we needed to make an instructional shift and personalize the students learning.
Because of that…we created a cohort of schools that would focus on an instructional design that requires a fundamental shift from a traditional teaching model, to a classroom that empowers and nurtures the social, emotional, academic, and developmental needs of each self-directed 21st century learner.
After That…the schools focused on the whole child, student ownership, mastery learning and paces, playlists and pathways.
Until Finally…we changed the classroom experience and raised student achievement.

 

Here is another example by Jay Connor from his blog. The topic: The community is seeking to dramatically improve early childhood reading outcomes.

 

Once upon a time there was … an education crisis haunting our schools and communities across North America.
Every day … large percentages of our children were not achieving proficiency in vital literacy skills to the point that some in our community even doubted whether they ever could.
One day … we developed a simple and shared definition of what children had to know to be ready for school.
Because of that … our early childhood centers and parents became better at helping all children enter kindergarten ready to learn
Because of that … teachers were free to work more on skill development for each individual child.
Until finally … every child, irrespective of ethnic or economic circumstance, became a proficient reader by the end of third grade.

 

I would love to hear your examples of using Pixar Pitches in education. Please share in the comments.

Using Google’s Smarty Pins in the Classroom

“The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you.”By  B.B. King

Smarty Pins is a Google Maps based geography and trivia game. It is very user-friendly like most Google products are. The purpose is to answer as many questions as you can before you run out of miles.  Miles are lost when you answer incorrectly based on how ‘far off’ your answer is. You can decide if you want random questions, or if you want a specific category and there are six categories to choose from such as arts and culture, science and geography and sports and games.

Once you start, your first question will appear on the left-hand side of the screen. To answer you have to drag the map pin to the correct location. (I have found the map will start near the area you need to go) You can zoom in and out as well based on the level of detail you want.

Once you find the correct location you drop the pin and the name of the location will appear, for example Charlotte, NC. You can then submit your answer or get a hint if you would like. The hint show up on the left hand side under the question. If you chose to use the hint, you do not get to earn bonus miles. Bonus miles are given for answering a question correctly within 15 seconds. There are funny captions after you answer each question no matter if you get it right or wrong. When you answer a certain number of questions correctly you earn awards: bronze, silver or gold.

Smarty Pins

How Could You Use This in the Classroom?

1. Each day as a class, (or one day a week) you can use Smarty Pins as a class team building activity (ex. during morning meeting). Together the class can see how many questions they get right before they run out of miles. Each day or week they could track their progress and then graph it for each month. This allows team building, critical thinking, collaboration and problem solving along with learning geography.

2.  Use Smarty Pins as a base for students genius hour or passion based learning ideas. As the students plays the game, they will learn facts and geography of places that they might find interesting and want to learn more about. For example when I played, I found myself interested in more about the ‘Leaning Tower of Pisa’ as I had a question about the bell tower.

3. This game could be used for when a student finishes an activity early as a fun extension or during when you find you have a few minutes before a transition.

As always, I would love to hear how you would use it in the classroom! Please share in the comments section.

 

Classroom: Google in Education’s Learning Management System

David Lee EdTech

With Google in Education’s Classroom teachers can:
-Create a class
-Add students from your Google Apps account or with a class code, create assignments
-Add a file from Drive, YouTube or webpage onto Classroom
-Allow students to see assignments and complete them in Google Docs
-Allow students to submit work automatically
-See who turned in what in real time
-Provide grades and feedback from Classroom

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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?

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Google Tools

“One of the greatest and simplest tools for learning more and growing is doing more.” By Washington Irving

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Google has many great free tools that you can use in the classroom. Below are a few of my favorites:

Flippity: You can make flashcards in google spreadsheets with step by step directions.  You can even add YouTube videos on the flashcards!

StoryBuilder: Have students create stories or explanation and watch the animated video of their writing experience also an other way to present information!

Google Connected Classrooms:  Take students on virtual field trips using Google+ Hangouts, students have the opportunity to ask questions of the museum and zoo experts that are leading the virtual field trips. You can find schedules of  the virtual field trips and links to the past recordings.

Google a Day: Have your students work on a challenge problem based on ‘Google a day’ when they finish work early or as a class during transitions. (Secret: I like just doing them myself)

Google Scholar: Have your students use this free accessible web search engine that indexes the full text of scholarly literature across many different publishing formats and disciplines.

 Google Translate:  Translate your document into any language, great way to help parent communication.

I also wanted to share this document again of all the ways you can use Google Doc’s in the classroom. I would love to know your favorite Google tools as well.