ADE 2015

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Reading the bios of the featured ADE’s on the website inspired and intimidated me to no end. I didn’t apply for many years because I compared myself to them- I compared what they did to what I was doing. And after applying for different jobs and different accolades, I’ve realized that comparing myself to others professionally is futile. I don’t compare myself to others in my personal life, so why do I do it in my professional life? Why does it matter who has more twitter posts or followers? Why does it matter if one has a certification from Google or Apple? It doesn’t.What matters is how I feel about the work that I do and the hope that I can have an effect on students’ learning experiences. I will admit, sometimes it’s really nice to be recognized and appreciated for the work that I do and get an opportunity to learn from others. I am so looking forward to meeting other Class of 2015 Apple Distinguished Educators and learning from the alums until my head explodes.

Below is my video application for ADE 2015- the Americas.

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Snow Day Math App

I have a love/hate relationship with math. I cannot do mental math to SAVE MY LIFE. Being a bartender in a ski resort during apres was a nightmare for me. I just never solidified basics in my head. On paper, however, I can kill it. Ironically, my mom has her PhD in Math. Go figure. I had to take my Calculus 2 final exam verbally with my professor in his office because I could explain it and do it step by step, yet somehow when I went to paper, I couldn’t do it. I would get messed up in all the little basics that by the time I reached an answer, I was way off. Screen Shot 2014-05-21 at 11.24.11 AM

This brings me to an absolutely AMAZING app called Snow Day Math by Beth Stade, who works at CU Boulder and also for many small grants. She is one of those people who gets math and knows that everyone else can get math if they just know the fundamentals. This is one of the coolest apps out there. (no pun intended with the snow…cool…get it?)

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Snow Day Math helps you learn place value, something that many kids (and adults) struggle with. The app allows you to touch the numbers, stack them, pull them apart and repel. The app is not set as a game, there’s not right or wrong, which is imperative for those who have had a bad experience with math and feel incompetent. As you move the numbers, you notice that you can’t add numbers that add up to more than ten on top of each other without splitting them to first reach the decade and then add the rest. Same with 100. I’m not the most eloquent with math terms, so I’m sure I’ve messed up already (sorry math aficionados).

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We piloted the app with first graders last year, and with some we scaffolded it and had them use real counters next to their iPads while with others we just let them “figure it out.” We also worked with students to have them verbally share their explanations of why they could add certain numbers and not others. Beth worked with second graders this year for her research and came up with incredible findings on how kids were able to use the app in their head to help answer tough problems. Another amazing finding was that without introducing subtraction, students were able to immediately transfer their understandings from addition to subtraction when using the app. Amazing.

Puffins…not Penguins

Not supporting Flash is one of the main downfalls of the iPad (I could list MANY, but I’ll keep it cool). A few years ago I had tested out the free Rover App, which crashed incessantly. I then found this sad looking Puffin.

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Puffin, although still a bit buggy at the time, allowed students to use Raz Kids and watch flash animations on Discovery Education and National Geographic Education sites. It took up a lot of bandwidth, which was an issue for us back then, but it worked. The dark side was that it cost $3.99, which for one iPad is fine, but I manage 200+ iPads. I thought it was worth it, and luckily so did my boss. I’m not gonna lie, I’ve used it personally to watch Broncos games online (shhhh).

And then I read a post by +Dan Gallagher who mentioned using the Puffin Academy App, which was free.

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Same sad little Puffin, but this time, revamped. The Puffin Academy app is a curated space for educational sites, and it is restricted. When you try and go to YouTube, it says “No Result!”…which also means if I tried to watch my Broncos games, it would have the same response. Phooey.

Why is Puffin Academy so great for education? For starters, it’s FREE. Thank you, CloudMosa, Inc. Second, educational publishers or content providers have to apply and be approved before being curated. That means that no icky sites can appear, so in theory, if your district is controlling over allowing Safarai or YouTube on iPads, this could be a fantastic alternative. You could Restrict Safari, but still be able to access educational websites AND be able to view flash animations.

Who knew this sad little Puffin face could bring so much joy?

Jigsawing

For those of you educators out there, describing how to do a jigsaw activity for the first time with students can be a bit confusing. I, at times, have even confused myself and had to write out the groups on the board a few times when I hadn’t had enough sleep. I wanted to include a jigsaw infographic in a science unit I am revising and couldn’t find a decent image anywhere.

So, I made one. Enjoy.

Jigsaw Infographic

I made it with Google Drawing, so if you’d like to make a copy for yourself and alter it in any way, please feel free to do so.

iMovie with First Graders

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Yes, you read that correctly.

iMovie with first graders. We sent 3 classes of first graders to the Apple store in the fall to learn how to use iMovie. What does that look like? Well, it looked kind of chaotic and kind of awesome. The kids were amazing. The teachers and parents who accompanied us were amazing. Some of my favorite moments revolved around the students just playing with sound effects and giggling uncontrollably. Yes, the words used by the Apple Trainers were way above the kids’ heads, and above most of the adults as well, but that didn’t really matter. And yes, the kids were more excited about getting t-shirts and wrist bands than editing film, but it didn’t matter. They had a blast while learning a new tool.

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Fast forward to March. Students will now be using the iPads to create their videos for their PBL unit on beautifying the playground.

Each group of 4 students has created a drawn out plan of how they would beautify the playground, incorporating their learning from FOSS Pebbles, Sand & Silt, New Plants and Solids & Liquids. They’ve also written a persuasive letter to community members to contribute either money or landscape materials to their idea.

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They will be using iMovie to videotape themselves reading their letter and showing the drawn plan while describing how the playground will be changed and why. The groups will compete against each other within their classes and the winners will compete against the winners from another class, and then will be submitted to local companies. Hopefully they will receive money or supplies or both, but if not they will need to go back and revise their plans, budgets and strategy and try again.

The kids and teachers used iMovie on the computers at the Apple store, not on iPads. So now the trick is to have them transfer information from one device to another. Good thing they look so similar…ahem. So for the teachers (and students if they’d like), I made an intro video tutorial for iMovie 2.0.

Without Context

Sometimes I have conversations in my head and then speak out loud. When I do this, the response from others is usually, What are you talking about? I’ve left out the context for the other person, and in turn, they can’t really engage in the conversation. They can’t provide their thoughts, opinions or research, they can’t agree, disagree or ask relevant questions- they can’t reason. In short, I have to provide context for the conversation to move forward.

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So why, then, do we ask students to do things out of context? They practice spelling words from huge lists and they do tens to hundreds of math problems in class and for homework…but can they truly reason, can they then apply what they know to other problems or words? They’ve been given no context, and in turn, can’t provide their thoughts, opinion or research, they can’t agree… you get the point.

This thought was triggered by a blog post by David Wees, who frankly talks over my head about math most of the time, but this one stuck. In his post What does effective mathematics teaching look like?, he discusses what students are doing and what teachers are doing…and wrote this:

5. An effective teacher uses technology to focus students on mathematical reasoning.

Classroom technology, in an effective mathematics classroom, is used to support student’s mathematical reasoning. Rote practice exercises, even if administered via technology, do little to help students develop their reasoning skills, and because they lack context, have limited ability to help students develop connections between different areas of mathematics.

Imagine a classroom where students are looking for connections between different forms of a quadratic function. They could plot these functions using pencil and paper, and then look for connections, but during the time students would take to draw the functions, they would lose track of the goal of the graphing. Every time we ask students to do another task in preparation for mathematical study, they lose active cognitive resources to keep track of the overall purpose of the task. Instead, in an effective classroom, the teacher would give students access to a graphing calculator or graphing software, and students would be able to focus on seeing connections between graphs, instead of creating the graphs.

Obviously he caught my attention when he spoke of classroom technology. With or without technology, shouldn’t we be supporting reasoning in all content areas? Scientific reasoning? Spelling reasoning? How can we ask students to learn, to critically think, to reason through a problem when they are given no context? Why do teachers continue to have students repeat problems without context? And why do they use the iPad, of all amazing clown car gadgets, to have kids practice math facts on apps that provide no context? They could be using it for students to create their own problems that have context and meaning, and have kids solve their own problems. Or they could be creating apps or games that demonstrate and apply those skills. Or take a real world problem and try to solve it.

Zydeco Inquiry App

This is hands down one of my favorite apps. It was designed with science inquiry learning in mind, but the awesome thing about it is that it can be used for ANY content area. The teacher (or student) creates an investigation with a guiding question and possibly add a hypothesis or supporting questions, then users in the investigation collect data and observations in the format of audio, movie, photos, or text which is all stored in the app. Once the students are in wifi, all their data is collected together so they can see what each other collected as well. They then type in their claim (which may or may not be the same as their hypothesis), and are able to tap in any piece of evidence from the investigation- regardless of file type or the person who collected the evidence. Once they’ve pulled in their evidence, they must write in their reasoning for why the evidence supports their claim. Genius. I mean, genius.

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This can be used for literacy, social studies, music, etc. What is so great is that curriculum and assessments are continuously striving towards students showing their understanding through evidence…which is why this app is so perfect. It provides enough basic structure for students to support their thinking with evidence and reasoning.

For more information regarding Zydeco, go to their site http://zydeco.soe.umich.edu/ You may notice that the site says UMich…aka the University of Michigan. Yes, this app was designed by science educators from the University of Michigan and it was funded by an NSF grant. Which means it was fairly well thought out. Also, the developers are really nice guys who are always trying to improve it and are open to feedback and suggestions.

You can also access the app through the web at https://www.myzydeco.com/users/sign_in which is awesome, especially if you forget your iPad at work, or a student is using it.

I can’t stop Hangingout

So a few great things happened in my life in a very short amount of time…I’m talking 24 hours.

1. I missed a Hangout with some fellow GCT’s from the Google Teacher Academy in Stockholm regarding “How can personalized that broadcast live enhance learning situations?” I really wanted to either listen in or participate because one of the participants recently got Google Glass and I was curious to hear her experiences and I just wanted to learn more about it.

2. I Hungout with 2 friends from the GTASWE who were both in Asia- one in Singapore and one in Hong Kong…both of them at their schools during breaks, while I was comfy on my sofa at home. It was great to hear what they were up to, and particularly what PD they are offering others as well as more PD they are attending. And it was just fun to giggle with them and try on Google Effects.

Hangout with Anita and Anne

3. I attended a Live On Air Connected Classrooms Hangout with the Doodle for Google team and a couple participating schools. I’m not gonna like, when the kids showed their Google Doodle to the doodlers at Google, I got a wee bit verklempt. Ok fine, I wept. Why? Well, I’m a weepy person. But in my head and heart, I was imagining what that experience would feel like as an elementary kid- to show not only the world my doodle (live, on air on YouTube), but to show the artists who make the Google Doodles my own drawing.

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What is so great about these 3 things? They NEVER would have happened without Google Hangouts. My own professional growth and curiosity is stretched to different corners of the world with a variety of people in such different professional situations, all learning and sharing. The ability to reconnect and see and talk with my new friends who live on the other side of the world (while wearing puppy faces and devil horns) couldn’t have happened without Google Hangouts. And lastly, those elementary students were able to share their creative brains with the exact people who make Doodle Googles. That’s like meeting Julia Child and sharing your recipe/food with her and getting direct feedback. Boom. Need more convincing? Google Hangouts is literally becoming the backbone for all of my communication- personal and professional.

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One of the features of Google+ that I love is the Hangouts. The more you use it and search around, the more cool stuff you find. For example, did you know there are scheduled On Air Hangouts with awesome conversations? Like this….

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I mean, awesome. Who wouldn’t want to hear that conversation as it happens…live…for free…

But even better, wouldn’t you want your students to participate in an On Air Hangout WITH Bill Nye? Or some other really smart and quirky person?  Or what about with kids from another classroom around the world? Well, they can. Join the Connected Classrooms on Google+ and do just that.

Google Connected Classrooms

Want to connect with teachers from all over the world, but you don’t know how? Join the Google+ Connected Classroom Community and find all kinds of other educators who are eager to chat with your class. And, if you want to refer back to the video chat and watch it later, or have students who are sick and can’t make it into the classroom that day watch it at home while it’s occurring? Just make it On Air and and anyone can watch.

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Google+ Presentation for BVSD