Saturday, December 29, 2012

We Voki'd

I just wanted to throw out a quick updated post about Voki.  I had a few days before school let out for the holidays to try Voki out with my students.  I made a cute little Voki to introduce the lesson:

Terribly Cute isn't it!

My plan was to have my students make their own Voki and talk me through a math problem.  I wanted to try something simple at first and then we will work on building what I can do with it later. 

* I found it MUCH simpler to purchase Voki for my classroom.  I believe it was $30 for a year.
* The one downfall I found was that students could only have 1 Voki each.  So they couldn't make several... bummer.

The students LOVED creating their own Voki.  The crazier the better.  I had one student make a politically charged word problem with his Voki.  It made me laugh and I loved seeing their creativity come out.

It really is hard as a math teacher to come up with different ways for students to use those critically thinking skills especially when so much is geared towards other subjects.  I didn't want that to stop me and decided the best thing to do would be to take those things and cross them into mathematics so we could be more involved with all the cool math out there.

My future plans for these Voki's will probably be to use them during presentations during project based learning.  Have you used Voki in your classroom?  If so, what did you do?

Have a great vacation everyone!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Departure from the Usual

With the recent tragedy in Connecticut affecting our nation, as a teacher it raised a lot of questions for me about my classroom safety.   Of course the school has procedures in place for a campus emergency, but how safe are we really?  A more passive educator stated at lunch the day the tragedy occurred that maybe now the government would re-look at gun issues.  I stated yes, wouldn't it be nice if we were armed for a change.  He actually looked stunned.  I nicely explained to him that I could protect myself just about anywhere I go, until I come on a school campus, and then I'm defenseless.  What if select teachers were trained for such an emergency situation?  It need not be EVERY teacher, and it need not be anything other teachers know about.  Much like what was done in churches when gunmen were storming in and shooting parishioners, much like that plain closed air marshal on a plane protecting you when you fly.   Maybe this is the wrong line of thinking, but would this help to protect more innocent children from dying?  Obviously I'm an advocate for gun rights.

Since I know that guns are not allowed in schools, I began looking at my classroom safety next.  I can say without a doubt the first thing I did was lock my door so that anyone from the outside couldn't just walk in.   We are far away from Connecticut, but it really makes you think, what if.  I know when I did make it home that day I was hugging my own kids, and before I made it home that day my colleagues and I discussed what we could do to make our kids in our classrooms safer.  Some of the teachers blessed with huge supply closets immediately started cleaning them out after school so they could hold as many students as possible.  I don't have this luxury however.  I am on a ground floor, with a bank of windows, and my classroom door is half a window.   I'm also one of the first room accessible when you walk into the school building.  I don't have a huge bookshelf near my door to block anyone's way in. 

The more I sat and thought, the more I prayed.  I know that I cannot live on what-if's.  I know that following procedures on campus is going to be the first step in protecting my students.  I know the second step is going to be hiding them as best as possible, and possibly giving them a good escape route.  I pray that a tragedy like this never occurs in another school anywhere.  That life is held sacred, and that our government allows God back into our schools.  I'm blessed to be at a school where my students can pray before class and that we can talk about God, but many children in our country don't have that opportunity.  I find solace in prayer.  I find solace in God.  I hope that all of the communities in our nation come together to support this community who has lost so many lives in such a senseless tragedy. 

Has this tragedy changed how you look at classroom safety?  What are your thoughts?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Live Binders

After 1/2 a week in the classroom I have pretty good reviews to report about Live Binders.  For those that didn't read my last post about the conference I just attended, I'll give a brief synopsis.  I learned a lot of cool free and some not so free technology apps and programs to use in the classroom.  My goal was to integrate all of these different types of programs into my lesson plans here and there to spice up life a little bit. 

One of the programs I introduced this week is Live Binders.  LB is essentially a virtual 3 ring binder that you can add notes, documents, and websites to.  I wanted to introduce this tool to my students to give them a way to organize their notes, and encourage them to discover new resources for class.    Even better; LB has a free app for the iPad.  Here is a little video from their site:

Here is what I've learned so far:

Some students took to this program like a duck to water.  They were excited to show off their resources and create their binder.  In fact, many of the students created multiple binders so that they had one for their Science Fair projects and other subjects.

Some students... were indifferent.  In fact they weren't really excited about learning about it because they really didn't care about being organized.  They didn't want to discover what they could do and the features in the program... some of the more enthusiastic participants had to show them things to get them rolling and on board with doing something more than just the basics. 

The app itself for LB does have limitations.  For instance we have found that it is difficult to add items sometimes and that you can't delete binders within the app.  Another feature we found lacking was video.  Because iPads do not have flash players you have to get apps to help with flash features.  The LB app doesn't have that flash feature in it, so videos you put into your binder will not be playable through the app.  It really limits the coolest features my students like such as game sites they find that are specific to the math problems we are working on, and their favorite right now is searching out videos of remixed popular music done with math in mind.  (My personal favorite is Mathmeticious... you really gotta check it out)

I digress.. LOL.

Kids really do come up with the greatest stuff!

My students are really excited about Voki so I think what I'm going to do is set up our own class blog/website and introduce the students to it with a Voki... but I'll post on that later.   I hope to be able to add LB's for the kids to take a look at and continue to keep LB's moving.  I'll add updates to see if there have been any changes, and to see if the LB's can be integrated nicely.

Until next time!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Another Day.. Another Conference

     It has been a busy time since I last posted about my NCTM conference.  Since then I've gotten my students hooked on Mathletics and we have successfully added Mathletics to our curriculum arsenal.  Currently I am using Mathletics as a warm-up for students in the classroom, but we are also using activities and lesson plans to get students engaged in learning in a whole new way.   Just after getting Mathletics on board in school, I headed to another conference.  This time I went to a Differentiating Instruction conference held by SDE

      Honestly, I wasn't really excited about this conference.  (1) During my graduate program and even during undergraduate studies, that is all you are taught.  You are taught to differentiate instruction and how it needs to happen, ways it needs to happen, and why it needs to happen.  DI, DI, DI... do it is what that needed to stand for.  (2) My colleagues who have had the opportunity to go in year's past told me... it's boring.. ewwww... have fun.  Not a winning combo there!  HOWEVER....

      SDE must have done something crazy or maybe I just picked the right seminars to attend at the conference because I came back with so much information my head was swimming and I put things into action as soon as possible.  I told my students when I got back.."hey guys, you know that when I'm away I'm learning about new things we can do... so you know I've brought you something back!"  They were excited, and why wouldn't they be!  Last time I went to a conference I came home with Mathletics!

      Two of my absolute favorite speakers at this conference were Katherine McKnight and Cheryl Dick.  Katherine and Cheryl both really brought on board A LOT of different things to for me to consider in my classroom, and for me, it was all about technology.  I absolutely soaked up how I could use technology to grab my students' attention, and to reach ALL of my students while I'm at it.  I highly recommend checking out their websites and their blogs for some amazing information.  Katherine is an author of several books to help current teachers and she has more coming out.

     In my next few posts, I am going to talk about several pieces of technology that I learned about at the conference.  I'm going to share my experiences in the classroom along with my list of things I did, and things I should have never done! 

Just to give you a heads up, this is what I'm checking out:

1 - LiveBinders - I'm using this to get students involved in building their own study guides.  The fact that it is free is a definite plus, and the fact that there was a free app for the student iPads was even better.

2 - Voki - I'm hoping to use this for some vocabulary exercises (yes... there is vocabulary for math students!).

3 - Kid Blog - I'm kicking this idea around in my head right now to see how advantageous this would be for my students, and how I can relate their blogs not only to math but school in general.

4 - Symbaloo - An alternative to Live Binders, but a pretty cool alternative.  I'm thinking of giving students the option between Live Binders and Symbaloo.

5 - Story Bird - yes most story technology is for the English/Reading teacher, but why not Math?  We have stories too :)  They are called word problems!