I will be the first to admit that I love web tools/apps that invite creative uses no one thought of before. Beginning Sunday, TeachersFirst will be featuring a review of Patatap, a seemingly simple musical gadget to make sounds by tapping your computer keyboard or tablet. You can even embed it in your web site. Many teachers might react to it as they would to party noisemakers or kazoos interrupting a lesson in their classroom: by taking it away and go back to the lesson at hand.
But what a lesson you would miss by closing out Patatap! Ask your students how it “sounds” to spell the term they learned today on Patatap (try typing in onomatopoeia for example). Some words have especially meaningful spell-sounds. Try the word we. It almost sounds like harmony of two souls.
What if we asked kids to listen to all the Patatap vowels or to letter combinations and use those sounds to help remember spelling demons. For example, sepArate has that lower pitched, letter-a snare-drummy tap in the middle, not the higher pitched e-snare. Even the SOUND of the word please “patatapped” sounds polite!
What if we asked kids to write sound poems or compose music using letters on Patatap?
What if we watched the colors and shapes that change to remind us of new terms: “Onomatopoeia starts with the popping bubbles of o.”
Ask your gifted or creative students how Patatap could help them compose and play word songs, rhythm combinations, or memory prompts to help them recite states and capitals or elements in the periodic table. The LETTERS of the chemical elements could have sounds, too. Unfortunately, the numbers have no sounds so compounds like H2O don’t work. Share the “tunes” link at the bottom of the page for examples.
Instead of taking away this mental kazoo, embrace it. Give your students the homework assignment of creating a way to use Patatap to help them study. Let them work with a buddy or small group. Your classroom will sing with the sound effects of learning. This one will work in your BYOD classroom, too!
How do you explain what you know and do every day as a teacher? Would anyone other than another teacher understand you?
I gave a tour of MySciLife to some non-educators this week. After decades as an educator, it is hard to explain anything about teaching or learning without slipping into the language I use among teachers. I use terms like differentiate, ESL/ELL, prompt, scaffold, and digital citizenship. Like most teachers, I do not even realize when my audience is thinking:
Differentiate… means to delineate the differences between two things. What is she telling the differences between?
ESL… or did she say easel? Is this for Art?
prompt… what does this have to do with being on time?
scaffold… are they painting her classroom?
digital citizenship … is that something about online voting?
When I use an education-specific term in a parent conference, I make sure to circle back and define it in context. I do the same with unfamiliar terms I use with students:
Today you are going to work in small groups on an issue related to digital citizenship. When we talk about citizenship in social studies class, we are talking about the way we read, listen, and evaluate what our government does. We especially focus on how citizens participate in that government. Learning to do this responsibly is what makes us good citizens. So talking about digital citizenship…
This is easy when I am in teacher mode with kids. Sharing the intricacies of teaching and learning, especially a form of learning unfamiliar to most adults over 30, however, is a real challenge. There is such richness in student-centered, social-media based learning that giving an introduction to MySciLife requires circling back over and over — risking listener dizziness. The intelligent adults who are listening would never expect me to understand the intricacies of what they do every day in their professional roles. But any adult touring MySciLife carries along their own school experience. It is hard for them to understand MySciLife without comparing/contrasting with that experience.
Teacher to teacher, I would say that MySciLife is:
a safe, online learning space where your students can learn local science curriculum through student-driven learning and interaction with peers across the U.S.
a social learning community where students take on and maintain a role of a science identity, such as Mighty Mitochondria or Gregarious Gravity (they choose the name but concepts are determined by curriculum)
student-centered, meeting today’s digital learners in a familiar digital space while respecting and directing their use of the digital tools they know so well for productive purposes in social-media based science learning (now that is a mouthful!)
a learningcommunity designed in accordance with specifications and experiences of our teacher-ambassadors throughout over 2 years of research pilot
designed to offer scaffolding and opportunities for differentiation for ESL/ELL, gifted, and learning support students
well-suited to the needs, strengths, and interests of emerging adolescents
a whole new experience in teaching… that gets easier and better with each unit
engaging to ALL students, promoting participation and interaction among peers. No passive learners here!
aligned to best practices in process writing (drafting, feedback, response, publishing, response…) and centered on experiences with digital writing and informational textsa la Common Core
infused with models of good digital citizenship
creative, open-ended, and focused on deeper learning
in short… amazing. It changes your whole view of what science learning can be.
I can talk to teachers about MySciLife for hours. I have not, however, perfected an introduction to MySciLife that connects with non-teaching adults’ prior knowledge of school, redefining what it means to teach and learn using safe social media. I can give them a gallery of mental pictures, but captions for those pictures rely on my educator-specific language. I ‘ll keep working on ways to make the captions circle back.
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Two Truths and a Lie. You may have played it as an icebreaker during a professional development session or even a party. It is a terrific “Getting to know you” activity for the first day of school with middle or high schoolers. In thinking about it, I decided to offer My Two TECH Truths and a Lie as a way for ed tech coaches and teachers to break the ice this back to school season. It’s simple. Offer up two TECH truths and a lie about yourself. Share them on a wiki, blog post, or Twitter post — with #2techtruths as a hashtag. Choose your sharing method depending on the learning tool(s) you are trying to introduce. Or allow teachers to choose their OWN tool and figure out how to share it with the rest of the group. For the simplest version, try using chat tool like Todaysmeet for people to share. Imagine trying this on the first day in a BYOD classroom or workshop for soon-to-be-BYOD teachers!
Have everyone in the session to do the same. Then have everyone browse, read, comment, discuss, or tweet back their guesses as to which is each person’s LIE. You will not only teach social learning, you will build trust among a cohort of learners, including yourself. Isn’t that what learning with technology is supposed to be all about?
Here are my Two Tech Truths and Lie:
A. I once co-wrote a text-based, “adventure” style game called Ice Cream Mountain to play on Apple IIc.
B. I once shared a porn site on the projection screen in a teacher inservice session.
C. I once shared resources for teaching gifted with the US DOE.
Guesses? Tweet @cshively with hashtag #2techtruths or comment here.
Name (or recite) your favorite poem. No, you cannot run away or close this tab.
I hear you now…
I don’t have one.
I can’t remember, but I’ll Google one.
I had once once, but that was in 5th grade.
Insert something from Shel Silverstein that you read to your kids last night or to your classroom today.
Who cares about poetry?
Common Core says we don’t teach poetry anymore.
I don’t teach English. Ask the English teacher.
Yeah, right. Like I have time for poetry with all the other stuff they lay on us.
Try this: For one week beginning April 1 (the first week of National Poetry Month), carry your favorite poem in your pocket or — even better — on your smart phone. Be ready. You could be asked by anyone, anytime to produce and recite it. Pack poetry in your pocket with tech. Create a QR code that directs to:
a web page montage you create of the poem and the images it generates in your mind
a video of YOU reciting a poem YOU wrote (posted on YouTube or any online video service)
When asked,”What is your favorite poem?” hold up the QR code (saved on your camera roll) so others can scan the QR code to listen or read. As you ask others, collect their online offerings in your Diigo or post the QR codes from students on your class wiki or web page as a scannable “treasury” for others to explore.
Not ready for such high tech stuff? Find a special piece of paper to transcribe your favorite poem and flamboyantly unfurl it when asked. Maybe a scroll or a cleverly folded booklet?
Why bother? Elena Aguilar offers Five Reasons Why We Need Poetry in Schools, and I am sure there are many more. As stressed, overworked teachers, perhaps the most compelling for us to write our own poems may be her Reason #5:
Poetry builds resilience in kids and adults
Surely, a poem penned by a teacher– included at the end of this article — may resonate with other teachers seeking resilience.
Pack a poem in your pocket. Ask your students to do the same, whether you teach physics or first grade. Simply the act of valuing the power of poetry to express, visualize, and revitalize is reason enough. You might even find yourself humming a song or bellowing its lyrics in the car on your way home.
For more ideas for National Poetry Month, including loads of tools and prompts to write and share poetry, see this collection.
I cherish my collection of memorable teaching/learning moments that exemplify how gifted students “see” the world differently. I do not believe that gifted students are alone in their unique views. They are, however, uniquely willing and able to express these thoughts — or may have them far more often. In any case, I believe we as teachers can learn much from listening to the questions of gifted students who blow away the cliche, “think outside the box.” Their questions, ideas, and thoughtful approaches unfold the boxes, creating something entirely different from the plain brown cardboard called “school.”
One such unfolded view comes in the “visual creativity” Jonathan Wai describes on the Mindshift blog. Wai posits the importance of recognizing and promoting visual thinking (“spatial creativity”) among all learners. I have seen memorable moments of this acuity “unfolding” in front of me, students whizzing through Tangrams and Set so quickly the rest of us missed the answers before they began another problem! Visual-spatial skill uses an entirely different part of the brain, one typically underdeveloped in teachers’ verbally adept brains and ignored by tests, Standards, and cardboard school. The Common Core Standards include shapes, slices, rotations, flips, turns, surfaces, and the usual volume and area. CCSS high school geometry standards include endless requirements about relationships and functions that define shapes. There is even one standard that calls for “Apply[ing] geometric methods to solve design problems (e.g., designing an object or structure to satisfy physical constraints or minimize cost; working with typographic grid systems based on ratios). Another calls on students to “Identify the shapes of two-dimensional cross-sections of three-dimensional objects, and identify three-dimensional objects generated by rotations of two-dimensional objects.” But all of these are within confines (boxes) that are rarely unfolded outside of “math class” or for other purposes and approaches to thinking visually.
Stop to think about the kid you went to school with, the one who was amazing at geometry and stunk in every other math class. S/he “saw” the proofs that you struggled with, even if s/he never quite got them on paper correctly. Remember those kids. I taught them, the gifted kids who scored the maximum 19 on the Block Design subtest of a WISC-R but could barely write or speak a complex sentence. Jonathan Wai may be onto something. If promoting talent in visual thinking is good for these extreme cases, perhaps we should be encouraging all students to unfold and repurpose the boxes. I share ten FREE, reviewed resources to get started, since this is not an area most teachers feel adept to address:
Another, profoundly memorable teaching/learning moment for me came in a single question from a second grader: “Is the number of grains of sand on the earth — at any one moment– infinity?” I thought of this question when I ran across this post, an example of a box unfolding to new thinking. Questions like the second grader and blog versions of the grains-of-sand debate defy boxes. They do not go “beyond” a box, they create new folds in our understanding of the world. Like many questions that pop into our students’ heads, these fall outside the scope of cardboard school. But shouldn’t we invite them inside? The BEST source for questions is your students’ own thought questions. If you don’t want them to “interrupt” a lesson by unfolding their thinking out loud, at least offer a virtual graffiti wall using a tool accessible from any device where they can post their questions and “crazy ideas.” How/ how often do you encourage your students to interrupt YOUR thinking with theirs? Here are some sources for questions you and your students can drop into your curriculum, outside the “standard”:
This is the season of boxes: shipping boxes, gift boxes, ornament boxes, etc. Why not use the inspiration of a few experiences with gifted kids to unfold some of the cardboard in your class’s thinking as a special gift? You never know what you might unwrap.
When learning works, it feels like a Super Bowl victory to a teacher. Unlike the Super Bowl, we receive no media hype, give no interviews, wear no ring, never have a sexy half time show, and certainly don’t make a profit on clever commercials. But we celebrate as best we can, and it feels GOOD. We WON! #eduwin!
Today I celebrate a BIG victory: MySciLife WORKS! And now we can share the report that proves it. Both the documented learning and the act of publishing the report are victories. Believe me, I am celebrating!
Key findings in the report:
When asked to compare MySciLife to their experience with traditional methods of science instruction, most students replied that MySciLife helped them understand content, that they enjoyed the social interaction, and that MySciLife was fun and creative.
Three out of four groups using MySciLife showed a statistically significant increase in students’ science content knowledge as compared to the control groups using traditional instruction.
Almost four years ago, three creative teachers got together and dreamed up MySciLife, an entry in the 2010 MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning competition. A few months later, we were finalists. Then we “lost.” We did not receive the funding. I blogged throughout the process and have shared more as the project moved ahead in new venues. Fast forward to 2012, and we had enough funding to conduct a limited research pilot of MySciLife with middle school science teachers, collecting data throughout the 2012-13 school year. We watched the dream unfold and shared it at the ISTE conference 2013.
Unlike the Super Bowl, the learning game does not end. As MySciLife moves well into its second year and a much-expanded control group study, the players are going without a huddle, eager to engage with each other inside MySciLife. The teachers meet for monthly collaboration where learning also happens. Unlike the Super Bowl, the “coaches” cooperate and share strategies. Unlike a football game, there are no losers. We share the triumph as we watch learning unfold.
Today feels like a Super Bowl victory for social media-based learning, and we won unopposed. Here’s to us!
I get lost in web resources that intrigue me, and I love the feeling. If there were one thing I could wish upon every child, it would be the experience of losing all track of time and place, teleporting into an alternate era or experience where curiosity takes complete control. The time-travel hole that forms the central premise of Stephen King’s novel, November 22, 1963, is a perfect parallel to the timeless-learning experience I have when whirled into certain sites.
My current learning vortex is the JFK Library’s interactive, The President’s Desk. (How appropriate to time-travel just as Stephen King imagines, landing the oval office during JFK’s presidency.) As a big fan of West Wing and The American President and a child of the 1960s, I am powerless to resist. I click and experience sounds and artifacts of the era. JFK makes a phone call in my ear. His diary shows where he was and when, and I follow him along. I am gone for hours. Every click makes me curious about the next one. I regret not having someone alongside me, since my impulse is to share, “Look at this! Remember phones like this? Listen to him talk about the sea from this scrimshaw thing. He’s here.”
Is it the lure of the Camelot fantasy that holds me at this desk? I think not. It is the layering of experience: a school child stunned to hear that the president has been shot, the touch of artifacts made real by sound and voice, the connections between what I knew, what I know, and what I want to know. Just weeks from now, we will pause to observe and struggle to explain that day 50 years ago to many who have no connection or recollection. But this virtual desk tips up like a floorboard, dropping us into a time and place where we wonder and touch and learn. If there were one thing I could wish upon every child, it would be this feeling, this experience — as often as possible and on whatever topic draws him/her as Kennedy was drawn to the sea (click on the scrimshaw to hear it).
I posted last week about playing with words and the ways wordplay can build vocabulary, enrich word choice, or simply enhance appreciation for our own language. Although I am pretty good at mental math, I find it a little tougher to imagine “gamifying” math with as much enjoyment. So I challenged myself to rediscover some of the resources that open my mental playspace for math. Some are sites that let us play with number sense, some that connect math with graphical representations of geography and places (maps), and some that show math applied in real world settings we might not think of as “mathematical.” Hopefully, any imaginative gamer can find ways to play with math among these.
Every Second on the Internet simply gets you thinking about HUGE numbers (and time), all related to the phenomenal growth and use of technology around us all the time. This one begs us to ask each other, “So how many xx do you think appear each second on the Internet?” in a sort of stump-your-friends style of oneupmanship with tech statistics.
Virtual Number Rack is just what it sounds like: a virtual manipulative (aka hands-on toy) where you slide beads back and forth on rods. You can add multiple rods, thus creating “place value” to please your math teacher. You can also invent games to play: create patterns, ascribe meanings to the negative spaces (and spans) between the beads. or even invent a digital “code” to send messages using beads. As you play with red, white, and space, you are playing with math. Shhh. Don’t tell kids that. You’ll ruin their fun.
If It Were My Home gives more statistics than you can imagine about places all over the world. Compare where you live with another place. Look at all those statistics. What do they mean? Which country has twice as much? Which one has half as many? As you wonder about the reasons behind the stats, you start to play mental games with the comparisons.This is real world math with a bonus: all that comparison builds number sense, too.
Overlap maps. What a cool way to care about area! The concept of “square miles” never meant much to me, but this does, especially if I use a place I know well. I have driven across Pennsylvania or Massachusetts enough times to know what each “area” feels like. If you put Iowa on top of Iran, which would be bigger? What about Colorado and Tibet? Challenge your friends to predict which map would be larger than the other… and prove it here.
Maths Maps is Tom Barrett’s project to merge math and Google Maps. This one begs for your contribution. I personally like the idea of locating shapes in various places and making placemarkers for them. But I could see mapping all sorts of mathematical concepts. What about a creating a treasure hunt using maps and math?
Yummy Math has math problems related to today (or this week), but they are not simply :George has seven pumpkins” for an October “word problem.” They are REAL events or people. MY immediate reaction is to try some but to quickly move to inventing some. What math problem can you create from today’s lead story in Google News? The questions might be a bit shocking, especially when the lead story is about chemical weapons or a Navy Yard shooting, but math certainly takes on meaning this way. Make reality into a math game. It might have a secondary benefit of helping us cope with nasty news.
Get the Math makes math hip. Here comes a math teacher’s favorite question: Where will I actually USE this? Answers: In fashion? Check. Music? Check. Video Games? Check. Forget justifying math. Just go play in the many places where math sings its own tunes.
Homestyler is one of my very favorites. Design a dream home in 3D. You have to know about measurement and proportion, of course, but who cares. I want a cool kitchen and big windows. Hoe many homes can your design? Can you design a home for someone who is 6 foot 7? What about a mini-house for kids to play in? Design a “fun house” with weird proportions to confuse people who enter. Make design a game, and it will never feel like “math.”
Arounder See and imagine all that travel entails: plan the travel costs, count the miles, choose the best route, and more, all inspired y these amazing 360 tours. Invent your own world math challenge beginning here.
I thought it would be hard to generate a list for gamifying math, but now I find myself wanting to GO PLAY.
Unpack those funky little boxes. Embed widgets are a very handy tool for teachers.
The What of widgets:
Widgets are clever little gadgets you can add to your class web site, blog, or wiki using funky looking gobbledeegook called embed code. They are little boxes that automatically fill with content provided by someone else from somewhere else on the web. This means that your site can show something new all the time without any time and effort by you. It automatically appears in the little box (widget) on your page/blog/wiki.
Widgets are embedded content, an empty box on your site that fills itself with “stuff” from somewhere else. Some embedded content is simply that: a piece of “stuff” that appears in your empty box but really LIVES someplace else on the web. It might be an embedded version of a video that actually “lives” on YouTube, like the one in this post. It might be the Google Map on a restaurant web page.
Widgets are a special kind of embedded content because the content DOES something. It changes and updates periodically and automatically. The Cluster Map widget on the right of this blog counts how many people have visited this blog lately. The LIVE Feed one tells where visitors come from and when. Some widgets let the site visitors do something (see the weather widget below), but the site owner doesn’t do anything to make them work. They are embedded widgets that load content provided by someone else.
The Why of widgets (Why go through all this geeky stuff?):
You might be tempted simply because your students will say, “COOL!” That’s certainly OK. but move beyond cool to meaningful by embedding widgets that connect to your curriculum (weather, news from the country you are studying, phases of the moon, news about congress, quote of the day, reading tips, etc.).
HOW you embed a widget depends on both the widget embed code and the site/blog/wiki where you want to put it. For starters, try this blog post on how to embed almost anything. Often the site offering the embed code for the widget will give you tips and directions. But the place where you are going to PUT the code may need to help a bit. If you are using a school web site, try clicking help and searching for “embed.” If you use Wikispaces, they offer help when you click the little icon that looks like a TV set: It even says “embed code” when you roll your mouse over it.
The general rule is that you need to COPY a chunk of code filled with marks like <> / etc. and paste it into a place on your site that accepts CODE. On this blog, I have to click the text editing view instead of the visual editing view. An important skill for copy/paste is knowing how to select a block of stuff, COPY by pressing Control+C, (Command+C on a Mac), then PASTE in you desired location by pressing Control+V (Command+ V on a Mac).
Widget wisdom: Be careful who you trust.
One potentially dangerous thing about widgets is that you do not control what shows up inside that box. Make sure your widget is a trusted source. TeachersFirst recently introduced a Featured SItes widget for teachers to put on class, school, media center, or other educator web pages. Those who know TeachersFirst know that our reviewed resources are vetted thoroughly by a team of experienced teacher leaders. In short, we will not embarrass you by sharing anything bad. We will enhance your web page with new, useful content every week, and you don’t have to do anything. See an example of our widget below, and get one for yourself here.
Want more ideas? Here are search results for the term widget on TeachersFirst. This barely scratches the surface of the widgets available out there. These are a few reviewed sites that offer widgets. Add an embedded Google Map to your class web page showing the country you are studying or the route that a certain explorer followed. Here’s how.
As you get to like any site, watch for widgets they might offer. Watch for cool widgets on other teachers’ site and click “get this widget,” usually offered below the widget. As your students learn new creative tools, watch for the ability to share their products using embed code— not a widget as much as simply embedded content, but it is YOURstudents’ creative work, pulled into your web page or wiki. You can gather tproducst from many places into ONE class web page or wiki using embed codes. The ability to share products using embed code is one of the Edge Features mentioned at the end of TeachersFirst reviews.
Just to get your brain going, here are some examples of embedded widgets:
Weather widget for world language teachers or classrooms studying geography, weather, or temperature conversions:
Here is the TeachersFirst Featured Sites widget looks, available here:
As the new school year begins, teachers attending OK2Ask® sessions are noticeably more stressed and overwhelmed. During these sessions, we share many, many resources and teaching ideas. We pack the sessions with choices: so many tools, so many interactives, so many strategies for organizing lessons that put technology tools to work for learners. Those of us who prepare and teach these sessions are steeped in the stuff. We can name (or at least retrieve) dozens of creative tools and strategies for any learning need : tools to make multimedia presentations, tools to comment and interact with peers, tools to learn about vocabulary and word choice, ways to improve digital citizenship. Honestly, even we are overwhelmed as we narrow down our offerings to fit 75 or 90 minute OK2Ask sessions with eager teachers from all over the world. Practically speaking, none of us can do it all. It is time to give yourself permission to limit your attention to a chosen few.
No, I don’t mean a few students or a few curriculum concepts. I mean give yourself permission to master a chosen few new tools and lesson strategies. Choose one– and only one –of each:
tool for collaborative writing
tool for graphic organizers
tool for sharing images and adding text to images
tool for “collecting” things like web links, pieces of text, images, drawings
tool for creating or clipping video
Is this enough? A handful is plenty. If you are in a BYOD school, you might want to find DATs (device agnostic tools) to do each of these so every kid can use the same tool and collaborate across devices. Or you can assign your students to find and learn one of each type that they can use on their own device. If you are using school machines and network, be sure your chosen few all work inside your web filter.
Then what? Make your choices meaningful by focusing on the learning instead of the tool. Challenge yourself to complete a chosen few “bingo” board that has five tools by five learning strategies that students will do (the possibilities are endless — I just chose 5):
Collaborate to create a group product
Prioritize/choose and justify choices
Practice and teach a skill
Publish, then respond to others’ reactions
Discover new information and organize it in an intentional, understandable way
Make a bingo board for yourself and keep it handy on your desk (or computer desktop). Or use this freebie I am sharing on Google Docs. (Open it and SAVE A COPY for yourself so you can edit.) As you plan an activity this year where students use one of your chosen few tools in one of the learning strategies, put a brief description of the activity and date in the square. Aim for Blackout Bingo by spring! Think of it as your personal professional development plan. Happy New Year!
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