Sunday, December 22, 2013

Rethinking and Recharging Your Battery for 2014: Do What You Can...Where You are At (Part 1)

I always enjoy how the holiday break gives us a chance to reflect, recharge, and re-engage at the halfway point of the year. Many of us use this time to catch up with family, read a great book, or plan some new technology ideas for the new year.

Here are some ideas on how you can become more tech-savvy in the new year!

1. Join Twitter

Twitter has literally changed the way that I operate as a teacher. Whenever I needed ideas in the past, I would spend hours searching through Google. Now I ask my PLC on Twitter! There are literally millions of other like-minded educators like yourself, sharing ideas, participating in Twitter chats, etc. Why not try it out?

There are some great chats out there! I personally love #21stedchat on Sunday evenings from 8 - 9 pm EST. Who knows? You might learn something! :)

2. Don't Be Afraid to Ask

Teachers are creatures of habit. We often feel the need to  have all of the answers and maintain control at all times. In a fast-paced technology-driven world, it is impossible to keep up with everything. It is virtually impossible to know everything about every single technology that exists.

Why not ask fellow colleagues for advice? Why not ask your students to help "teach" you how to use certain technologies. You would be amazed at the dynamic and respect this creates in any educational situation.

3. Read Blogs or Ed-Tech Websites

There are thousands of educational technology blogs and websites out there, which can help give you ideas on how to use technology effectively and efficiently. Make the investment of reading new ideas for 5 to 10 minutes each day.

Sign up for email updates, RSS feeds, or bookmark your favorite blogs. Some of mine are Free Technology for Teachers, anything on Edutopia, and Ed Tech Magazine. Don't box yourself into one or too many! Select a few that you find value in and that are helpful. Of course, I would love to have you add this blog to your list too!

Conclusion:

You might be overwhelmed with the amount of technology available to you, wondering where and how to begin. In the words of Teddy Roosevelt, let me leave you with some basic advice, "do what you can with what you have, where you are at."

The most important thing is to take baby steps. Spend a few minutes each day reading, experimenting, and talking with others. Don't try to do everything at once; however, learn something new each day. When you do this, you are literally planting a seed of knowledge that will grow exponentially - if you keep investing your time and efforts into becoming the best version of you that you can be.

DECEMBER CONTINUES CLICK FOR A CAUSE!

Ayden Murray is from Wrightsville, PA and was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma. He is receiving treatment at Hershey Medical Center and needs your prayers and support. 
For every time someone visits my blog until the end of December, myself and several donors will donate to his medical fund "Prayers 4 Ayden." 

How can you get involved?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Are You a One and Done? Using iPads to Get Learning and Get Social (Part 3)

Are you a one and done? Are you an educator who uses only one App per educational experience, meeting the needs of some and ignoring the needs of others? In this series, I am continuing to explore how you can use multiple Apps to address the needs of ALL learners. In other words, how do you Universally Design an iPad experience?

My previous post discussed how to provide options for reading on an iPad. Today I want to show you how to turn learning into a social activity through a recipe of three free Apps. 

Ingredient # 1: Get Brainstorming with iBrainstorm



Making connections with new material often begins with activating background knowledge. Recently, I had my students use a free App called iBrainstorm, to generate  a list of three things they already knew about a particular topic. 

Students used the App to write ideas by hand or create typed post-it notes.. When they were finished, they got up and began to mingle with other classmates, swapping and sharing their ideas until they filled their iPad with eight different facts. We discussed the facts and began to discuss our lesson for the day. 


Ingredient # 2: Get Talking with NearPod

 As we progressed through my Prezi presentation, students worked in pairs to discuss questions using a free App called NearPod. If you are not familiar with it, NearPod helps create dynamic and interactive presentations through a variety of features to help students learn and demonstrate their understanding. To make things simple, I created a series of blank slides, which students could draw or write their answers. 

After each group submitted their response, I could see a gallery of their answers. I showcased each group's answer, which also appears on every single group's iPad (what a great classroom management feature!). I noticed that this feature helped my students become more attentive because it eliminated distractions. It is also a great tool for visually challenged students, because they can see what's on your projector screen on their iPad.

Ingredient # 3: Get to the Point with Tellegami

The last five minutes of class are often the most wasted minutes of a class period because many students use this as a time to put away materials and socialize. I figured that I would allow my students to become chatty through a free App called Tellegami. Students can record their voice in a 30 second customized cartoon called a Gami. Students use it to summarize what we learned in class that day. The best part is that it can easily be shared through social media, text messaging, or email.

What about your socially-awkward or quiet students? One alternative is a free educational social network called Edmodo. 

Conclusion:

There is nothing better than getting students talking and moving. When you can accomplish both, students are often more engaged and ready to learn. With all of the cool Apps available, we often forget that iPads can help students develop social skillls too! Why not try your own social recipe today?

DECEMBER CONTINUES CLICK FOR A CAUSE!

Ayden Murray is from Wrightsville, PA and was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma. He is receiving treatment at Hershey Medical Center and needs your prayers and support. 
For every time someone visits my blog until the end of December, myself and several donors will donate to his medical fund "Prayers 4 Ayden." 

How can you get involved?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Are You a One and Done? Using iPads to Help ALL Students READ (Part 2)

Are you a one and done? Are you an educator who uses only one App per educational experience, meeting the needs of some and ignoring the needs of others? In this series, I am continuing to explore how you can use multiple Apps to address the needs of ALL learners. In other words, how do you Universally Design an iPad experience?

Let's begin with a topic that we all have to do in our classrooms. How do you use iPads to give reading assignments that meet the needs of all learners?

Ingredient # 1: PDF Copy of Text

I had a student named Omri, who had difficulty seeing text. Whenever we had an article to read in class, I began creating a PDF copy of the text for him. I noticed that many other students liked this idea too. Why not use the tools associated with Adobe reader to help students zoom, highlight, and add notes?

Ingredient # 2: Voice Record Pro 

I had another student named Jamar, who had trouble concentrating whenever reading assignments. He found it easier to listen to the text being read; however, this can be distracting in a room full of students. Other students also liked this idea

How did I do it? You can use the free Voice Record Pro to create audio copies of text. Not only is it easy to use, but it is easy to share. You can upload your audio files to Google Drive, Dropbox, or Edmodo. You may wonder how I have time to do this. Do you have students that finish early? They love hearing their voice, so why not have them help you build your library?

Ingredient # 3: Quizlet

Why do so many students avoid reading? Could it be that they don't understand the vocabulary terms? I often pre-teach vocabulary terms using Quizlet. After we have used it to teach the terms, students can use it to brush up on some of the required terms they may still have trouble remembering. It also helps them study through games, quizzes, and reviews. This App is perfect for our ESL students, who may need to hear the definition and term being read to them.

Why should we use multiple Apps to stimulate learning?

Let me follow up with a question: have you seen the diversity in our classrooms today? It is mind-blowing to see how many languages, learning styles, IEP's, 504's, and GIEP's are represented in our classrooms today. Diversity is an awesome thing, but we often forget to plan for it. 

Using multiple Apps helps address the variability that occurs in our classrooms because not every student learns the same way. Apps give us the chance to engage students and represent concepts differently. They help students show what they know and express knowledge in different ways. 

When we have a One and Done philosophy, we often neglect the idea of diversity and limit our students to only one way of learning. Unfortunately this doesn't work in today's classroom.
DECEMBER CONTINUES CLICK FOR A CAUSE! Check out a recent article about Ayden! Ayden Murray is from Wrightsville, PA and was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma. He is receiving treatment at Hershey Medical Center and needs your prayers and support. For every time someone visits my blog until the end of December, myself and several donors will donate to his medical fund "Prayers 4 Ayden." How can you get involved? Keeping doing what you do and read my blog! Every visit counts! Email me to become a Change Partner to donate a penny per click Learn more about Ayden Murray at facebook.com/Prayers4Ayden. Donations can be made at www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/prayers-for-ayden. Upcoming events will be posted on the Facebook page. READ MORE ABOUT CLICKS FOR A CAUSE

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Are You a One and Done? Using iPads to Help ALL Students Learn (Part 1)

On Monday, December 16th, I will be making a presentation at the Capital Area IU (Harrisburg, PA) for their 2nd Annual iPad Summit titled Don't Be a One and Done. This presentation has inspired this series! I hope you find the ideas helpful!

Introduction

iPads have been a game-changer in education for many years, but the way that you use this device can have lasting impacts on the way students learn. How would you describe your "iPad Philosophy"?

Are you using iPads as a tool to help ALL students learn? OR are you just trying to keep up with the latest fad? Be careful how you answer! You might be a One and Done or an educator who takes a one-size-fits-all approach to iPad usage. 

You might use only one App per educational experience to address the learning needs of some, but neglect the needs of others. Are you thinking of the needs of some or all of your students? Are you Universally Designing your iPad experience?
Avoiding the Mistakes of a One and Done:

Our classrooms in the 21st century are filled with diversity that cannot be addressed through One and Done usage. One App doesn't solve the needs of all students. 

Why? "The way that students learn is as different as their DNA" (CAST, 2013). Each student's brain interacts with content and materials differently, creating a unique learning experience for everyone (Check out some of the latest research from CAST).

How can you avoid this easy-to-make mistake? 

1. Open your eyes and to see the diversity learners around you. From IEP students to GIEP students, it is stunning to see the variety that exists in a single classroom.

2. Think about the barriers an App could pose for some students and find ways to overcome them. For example, you may give a reading assignment in a PDF or eBook format; however, did you think about the student who may have visual difficulties or the auditory learner? Sure they may be able to zoom in and view text better, but perhaps an audio version of the text could help.

3. Avoid making assumptions about Apps! Some of the most common assumptions that I hear are
  • Assumption: We would love to use Apps, but they are so expensive!
  • Assumption: If an it doesn't cost money, then there is probably no educational value or it is filled with a bunch of ads.
  • Assumption: If an App doesn't do everything we want it to do, then it must have little value.
Conclusion:

Unfortunately, one App is not going to solve the learning needs of ALL of our students! This is why I have created several additional iPad recipes to share with you over the next few posts. I have made some suggestions in the past, but I will be updating you with new ideas! 

DECEMBER CONTINUES CLICK FOR A CAUSE!

Ayden Murray is from Wrightsville, PA and was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma. He is receiving treatment at Hershey Medical Center and needs your prayers and support. 
For every time someone visits my blog until the end of December, myself and several donors will donate to his medical fund "Prayers 4 Ayden." 

How can you get involved?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Tools for Reflecting: 5 Web Tools for Reflecting #UDL Style


How do you have your students reflect? Reflecting on learning is extremely important at any level. Many teachers turn to journal reflection, which is an excellent way of promoting student thought. Here are a few of my favorite reflection tools:
  • Penzu – is a free online journal students can use to reflect on their thoughts through text and adding pictures. Their journal can be password protected and shared via email.
  • Wikispaces – many of the graduate courses that I have taken in the past have used this platform as a reflection tool. I like the fact that you can reflect and also multimedia to your reflection pages.
  • VoiceThread – have students add their thoughts and comment on other student’s thoughts through the power of voice, pictures, and text. The only thing that I don’t like is that there are limits on how many free threads you can make.
  • AudioBoo – have students reflect on their learning through the power of voice. They can use AudioBoo to voice their thoughts and reflect on their learning experiences on their PC, SmartPhone, or Smart Device.
  • Voice Record Pro App – want a very easy way to record student thoughts on an iPad or iPhone? Try using the Voice Record Pro App. It is easy to use and can be shared via Dropbox, Google Drive, social media, or email.

Why is it important?
When students have strategic ways for reflecting on their learning, they are more likely to be engaged I the learning process (engagement). Why? They are able to see where they have been and where they are going.

To keep students engaged and to make reflection authentic, I would highly recommend using a combination of different types of reflection tools to show what they know, so that students can represent their thoughts in different ways (representation).  It is important that the way that students learn is as different as their DNA; therefore, providing students with different options to demonstrate their knowledge (action and expression) helps increase their ability to make meaning and connections with learning.

DECEMBER CONTINUES CLICK FOR A CAUSE!

Ayden Murray is from Wrightsville, PA and was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma. He is receiving treatment at Hershey Medical Center and needs your prayers and support. 
For every time someone visits my blog until the end of December, myself and several donors will donate to his medical fund "Prayers 4 Ayden." 

How can you get involved?


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Guest Blogger Rob Donatelli - An Hour of Code? You Game?

This week's guest post comes from a good friend of mine, Rob Donatelli, who is a Business and Computer Science teacher at Dallastown Area High School He teaches accounting, entrepreneurship, sales, web page design, and life skills. Connect with him on Twitter @DTown_MrD and say hello!

December 9-15 marks computer science education week in our nation. Computer Science Education Week.org has partnered with Code.org, Scratch, Tynker, LightBot, and other successful programming and coding wizards such as Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and others alike to create fun, engaging, and interactive web based tutorials that teach students the basics of programming and coding. Their mission is for ALL teachers during the week to take ONE HOUR of CODE time out of their usual lessons to let students walk through the tutorials and learn how to program a game, app, holiday card, and much more! At the end of the hour, students can print a certificate that states they completed one hour of code. To learn more visit http://csedweek.org/learn OR http://code.org

As a business & computer science teacher, I felt I had to jump on this great learning opportunity for my students for several reasons. One, programming and coding is the where the jobs are in the future. Two, being able to program is an extremely valuable skill in the workforce. Three, students are very interested in their technology, yet many do not know how it works. “Every person in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.” –Steve Jobs 

For these reasons, I decided to take a day out of my classes to let the students explore and walk through the tutorials. If you are interested in what I am doing with my lessons, please click the links below. I recommend the first one if you only want to do a day or two, because it touches on the basics of programming. If you want to take more time, let the students pick an option of which tutorial they want to complete.

Many schools DO NOT teach these skills yet programmers and coders are the ROCKSTAR's of our society. They are the ones that make all of the awesome technology work. These are skills that can’t be ignored. Who knows…maybe after an hour of code, your students will want to finish the tutorials and find a passion and career path in life!

Check out some of the following lessons: 




DECEMBER CONTINUES CLICK FOR A CAUSE!

Ayden Murray is from Wrightsville, PA and was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma. He is receiving treatment at Hershey Medical Center and needs your prayers and support. 
For every time someone visits my blog until the end of December, myself and several donors will donate to his medical fund "Prayers 4 Ayden." 

How can you get involved?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tools for Reflecting: Creating a Positive Classroom Environment with a Post-It Note?


How can you use post-it notes and mints to create a positive classroom environment?

A few months ago, a student of mine asked to have a mint from a jar in my room. After letting this student take a mint, I noticed that this became a daily habit for many of my students. I soon ran out of mints and many of these students demanded (rather nicely) that I fill my jar with more. Being the softy that I am, I caved in an bought more mints; however, I had an idea of how they could "pay" for the mints that they took (this is where the post-it notes come in!).

I decided that I would make a thankful tree in my room with one simple rule: if you take a mint, you have to write something that you are thankful for. I would have the students put the notes on the door of my classroom and soon it began to fill.

Where did I get this idea? 

Several years ago, I was a teacher at another school and was inspired by a student of mine. This student's world was falling a part, leaving her to feel that suicide was an option. My heart broke for this student whom I had known her and her family my entire career in this district.

She and I had a blunt conversation. She felt that she had nothing to live for and I was going to prove to her that she had everything to live for. Each day, I would have her stop by my room to check in and turn in a daily assignment / ritual we went through for the next several months...she was to give me a list of 10 things she was thankful for. Each day she gave me the list, we added to a wall in my room.

It is amazing how being thankful could dramatically change someone's mindset so drastically. Over time, she became a totally different person, who had everything to live for.

Conclusion:

So when I sit at my desk in my room today, I have to think about this student and how much being thankful changed her life. I laugh at the posts some students make today at Milton Hershey, but I see the differences it makes in their lives. Students from other classes are starting to come in and fill out post-it notes because they have been inspired too. Who would have thought that a simple post-it note and mint could have so much impact?



DECEMBER CONTINUES CLICK FOR A CAUSE!

Ayden Murray is from Wrightsville, PA and was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma. He is receiving treatment at Hershey Medical Center and needs your prayers and support. 
For every time someone visits my blog until the end of December, myself and several donors will donate to his medical fund "Prayers 4 Ayden." 

How can you get involved?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Tools for Reflecting: Create a Thankful Garden with AnswerGarden

In the month of December, I want to continue sharing inspiring ideas in 140 words or less! 

I'm also continuing Clicks for a Cause because I want to help raise more money for Ayden and his family! 

I wanted to a moment to wish all of my readers a happy holiday season.  Many of us use this time of year to reflect and give thanks! Why not incorporate this theme into your lessons? Over the next few posts, I want to share some ideas to create an atmosphere of thanks and reflection. The rewards are amazing and can change an entire classroom environment.


Jamie teaches French and wanted to give her students a way of practice using the language (in a creative way) to share what they were thankful for. She used an online brainstorming / word cloud tool called AnswerGarden to engage hers students in a different way, inspiring them to share and brainstorm answers.


Not only did her kids enjoy the activity, it provided students with the “hook” needed to practice using the language. 

DECEMBER CONTINUES CLICK FOR A CAUSE!

Ayden Murray is from Wrightsville, PA and was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma. He is receiving treatment at Hershey Medical Center and needs your prayers and support. 
For every time someone visits my blog until the end of December, myself and several donors will donate to his medical fund "Prayers 4 Ayden." 

How can you get involved?