A great resource I finally got to look at!

Now that school is out and I have a little time to look at some resources that I had bookmarked. I came across one that I wish I would have looked at during the year.  AVIARY is an excellent free resource to use in the classroom.  This site contains some great tools for students to use in their projects.  Such as image editors, audio editors, music creators, and a variety of other creative tools.  This is a great resource to get students to think outside of the box for their projects and promote creativity.  This site has a community of artists sharing ideas, images and music.  As I perused this site I found the content to be suitable for secondary education and think that it would be a great resource.  As with all communities however, you will want to monitor student activity and work on this site.

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Piloting 30 cell phones in the classroom: Test One “Twitter”

This past week I introduced my students to the 30 HTC Touch Pro2 I am going to test for the remainder of the year.  Each student was assigned their own phone.  After allowing the students a day to familiarize themselves with the phones I decided to try them out.

My first use with the phones, as a resource, in the classroom was to test out Twitter with my Jr. High Students.  As I presented information to them on Washington State history specifically the fur trade and missionaries.  They were allowed to participate in a back channel on twitter. If you are not familiar with back channeling is when people in the audience converse online about the topic being presented to them live.  To do this they use a designated hash tag in Twitter to see and respond to people in the class.  I was surprised by the by the results of my little experiment. Students were very engaged with the topic and obviously the technology.  I was also very surprised to see that they stayed on topic.   Not only were they on topic but they answered each others questions and posed other questions to each other.

On the second day, I decided to post questions to them on the topic and have them respond to those as well.  This really seemed to keep them engaged on the topic being presented.  I even had a student at home who logged on to Twitter and was participating in class from home. I did find that conducting a class and monitoring and posting to Twitter was quite difficult.  Although by the second day, I did see how it could be done.

While I was encouraged and saw the potential of this type of technology use in the classroom I am not sure if this would be a great fit for Jr. High students.  Some of the students a hard time using the phones and got frustrated with the technology.  As a result this pulled them off task as they tried to fix their phone or interrupting class to vent about their phone.  I felt that there is some true potential to using this type of social networking in class.  Will be revamping my use from what I have learned over the past week and giving it another try. Will post the results when I do.

One of the issues that I had was the Twitter client that I used.  I was using a Twitter client called MoTweets.  Does anyone know another mobile application for a windows mobile phone that that works better?  I felt that this client was not very reliable and often very slow to post to Twitter.  If you know of one please leave me a comment.

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Why should I teach like I am in 1970 when it is 2010?

I have been surprised by the emails and discussions that I have had with people over the changes I have made in my room.  I blogged about this change a while back in a post called “Revamping My Classroom: Goodbye Desks Hello Couches and Beanbags“.  In this post I describe how I changed my room to see if a new environment would be more conducive to learning.  While the jury is still out on its effectiveness, I have been very surprised and disheartened by the amount concern this has created among teachers.

As teachers we must change to the times to provide the best learning environment for our students.  If you are not willing to change and try new things, you will not be a successful teacher.  We all have good lessons that we use over and over again, but even these lessons need to be tweaked to meet the needs of students today. Change is something that must happen often.  Changing how we engage students and the tools we use, allows teachers to meet the needs of more of our students.  The idea behind changing my room was to create a more relaxed atmosphere and to have students collaborate more.  I have found that at this point engagement is up and there is no difference in classroom management.  I did not tell my students why I was doing this, but I have had a few students say to me that my room feels more relaxed.

The resistance to change among teachers just does not make sense to me.  If you work with kids, it is a process of trial and error.  This is

Change Education

Education Needs To Change

in essence change.  So why does anytime a teacher thinks outside of the box and challenge the norms of teaching does it cause such a a big stir?  The reaction of adults and other teachers is really strong when they see my room.

“What are you doing?”

“That will never work.”

“Students can’t learn like that.”

These are some of the comments from parents and teachers.  Education has to change. The way I was taught as a kid will not work on a student of today.  So why should I teach like I am in 1970 when it is 2010?

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Interactive Learning Content for your Students with “Magic Studio”

Magic Studio provides teachers the ability to create interactive content for their classes.  Teachers can create Drag and drop activities that allow students to manipulate content by dragging items to specific locations to show learning.  Teachers can also combine different multimedias by embedding them into an image, and then allow students to explore the image exposing students to different types of media and content.  Teachers can also create online presentations, quizzes and even interactive timelines for students to explore and learn.  These are some great tools for creating interactive online content for students and is a resource that would be very beneficial for any teacher.

Check out this resource at http://www.magicstudio.com/

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Blogging an Essential Part of a Successful Learning Environment

Over the past year I have begun to use blogging in my classroom as a way for students to communicate with each other and me.  I have found that it can be an engaging and useful tool for students.  I often use blogging to have students answer sample test questions  to prepare for their upcoming state standardized tests.  I have found that students seem to put forth more effort into their writing in this type of medium.  Students also seem to really enjoy looking at other student work and commenting.  So I have begun to put out grading rubrics to the students and have them grade each others work.  This has led to some heated discussions about different topics that have been incredible learning environments for these students.  This has also helped them prepare for their testing by making them well aware of the grading criteria on our state standardized tests.

The key to blogging in the classroom seems to be timely responses to their posts.  As long as students feel that someone is reading their posts they see a real world connection and this really seems to motivate them to keep writing.  Blogging as become a big part of my classroom learning environment and one that I will continue to use in my classes.  Here are some great resources for more information on blogging in the classroom.  They will provide you with ideas and how to write  and comment on blogs.   Blog Basics; Blogging Support

If you are looking to try blogging in your classroom here are some great places to setup a class blog.

  1. KidBlog.org http://kidblog.org/home.php: This site is designed for elementary and middle school students.  It allows the students to create unique blogs with no email addresses.
  2. Class Press http://www.classpress.com/: This site does require a reasonable yearly fee.  They however do monitor the writing and will send you emails with questionable content. This site also also allows kids to create their own unique blog.
  3. ClassBlogmeister: http://www.classblogmeister.com/
  4. Edublog: http://edublogs.org/
  5. 21Classes: http://www.21classes.com/ This site does require a monthly fee but provides lots of storage and tools for your students.
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Augmented Reality Lesson Plan “History Detectives”

This assignment was created with Mscape and is played on window mobile 6.1 or higher devices. Since Mscape is going to be discontinued by HP I was hoping that someone out there could point me to another platform that I can use to create these type of learning environments.

Here are the programs I am aware of:

In this simulation students are in groups of two or three and each have a specific character that they select and play in the simulation. Also each character is vital to the overall game and students must discuss what they find at each location to correctly solve the mystery.

Storyline or topic:

Skeletal remains have been found in the back field of the school. Students will investigate the scene to discover what took place. As they investigate, they will learn that this event is a murder; however, it took place over 150 years ago. Their task is to discover what happened to this individual. While investigating the scene, they will gain valuable insights and an understanding of the conflict between Native Americans and white settlers in the mid 1850’s in the state of Washington. Through this process they will discover the 10 major reasons for conflict and gain insight from both perspectives. Students will conduct interviews, read journals, and hear native stories throughout the simulation. Like my last scenario, I will give the students a week to conduct the simulation and develop a presentation to present their findings and theories.

This project will consist of two to three people per group: an archeologist, detective, and a historian.  All the roles will be vital in the development of the groups overall theory. Each individual will be responsible for finding and developing key pieces of evidence to assist the group in developing their overall theory and game strategy during the simulation.

Archeologist: This role is responsible for dating the evidence and discovering the physical evidence of the scene. In a way they are setting the stage for the group.

Detective: He/she will take the information from the Archeologist and the Historian and piece together the events that occurred at the site.

Historian: This player will provide valuable insight to life of the times including opinions, feelings and biases.

As they work together, they will be able to put together what happened at this site and be able to draw inferences to the conflict that occurred throughout the rest of Washington State.

I have chosen three players, because it seems to work better for middle school students. It distributes the workload without overly taxing the individual student. This allows students to work collaboratively by assisting each other to discover the mystery behind the skeletal remains. Since the roles may overlap, I can have some students take on two roles, again, without overloading them. This will allow me to separate the class into groups, whether I have an odd or even number of students.

Curriculum standards are as follows: Based of Washington State Bench Marks

Social Studies:

4.3.1 Analyzes and interprets historical materials from a variety of perspectives in the state of Washington or world history.

4.3.2 Analyzes multiple causal factors that shape major events in the state of Washington or world history.

5.1.1 Understands evidence supporting a position on an issue or event.

5.1.2 Evaluates the breadth of evidence supporting positions on an issue or event.

5.4.1 Analyzes multiple factors, makes generalizations, and interprets primary sources to formulate a thesis in a paper or presentation.

Science:

2.2.1 Apply curiosity, honesty, skepticism, and openness when considering explanations and conducting investigations.

2.2.5 Know that ideas in science change as new scientific evidence arises.

3.1.3 Analyze multiple solutions to a problem or challenge.

Technology:

1.1.2 Use models and simulations to explore systems, identify trends and forecast possibilities.

1.2.1 Communicate and collaborate to learn with others.

Analyze, synthesize and ethically use information to develop a solution, make informed decisions and report results.

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The First Two Steps to Ensure a Successful Lesson

The bell rings and students are beginning to filter into your classroom.  As a teacher you need to grab their attention and refocus it from  previous classes and what just happened in the hall, on to your subject.  This is often a daunting task and one that can seem impossible at times.  I have found two strategies that have been quite effective in getting students focused and  ready to learn in class.

Step one: “Baiting the Hook”

First have a learning target on the board everyday for them to read.  How often as a teacher do you hear, “What are we going to do today?” or my favorite,  “Are we doing anything in class today?”  After you have trained them to look at the whiteboard for the learning target they will form a habit of look for and reading the learning target each day.  This will start to refocus the students on your subject and topic of the day.  I tell my kids to help me out and remind me if the learning target is not on the whiteboard.

Step Two: Reeling Them In

The next thing is to captivate their attention.  This can be done through many different types of bell-ringing activities.  One of my favorites is to use a movie clip to get them talking about the topic of the day.  This catches their attention and ca be very effective in engaging your students.  A couple of great sites to use are MOVIECLIPS (http://movieclips.com/) and AnyClip (http://anyclip.com/).  These sites give you short clips on many different subjects from modern films that always get the kids excited and engaged.  There are many different types of bell ringer activities here below are some links to a few lists of activities that have been useful to me in the past.  Doing these two steps at the beginning of each class is an effective way to refocus your students and get them learning in your classroom.

Here is a list of some ideas for bell ringer activities:

  1. —Political Cartoons
  2. Historical and Current —Video Clips —
  3. Online —Games and Activities —
  4. Art and Images
  5. —Pre-assessment & Review —
  6. This Day in History —
  7. Short Readings

Other Links I have found useful:

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