Day 8 – Genius Hour for MEEEEEE

Today I had my own 20% time. This year, I’m teaching half of the school day, and the other half, I serve kind of as an Instructional Coach for tech integration in our building.  I’ve structured it so that Monday-Thursday, I am at my colleagues’ disposal.  My buddy Dr. Will gave me the fantastic idea to use SimplyBook.Me to help me keep my sanity…er, I mean to schedule professional learning sessions.

Fridays are my days.  Oh, I’m a poet and don’t even know it.  But anyway, I am claiming this one day of the week to handle everything that I want to do.  I have three hours of professional learning with…myself lol.

Today, my project was to fix all of the laptops in the mobile lab that could be saved, in order to use them with my classes.  Prior to that, we had issues with some error message popping up.  It said something along the lines of, “no logon servers are available,” or some infuriating garbage similar to that.  I was able to save all but two by hardwiring them to the school Internet, logging on, then shutting down.

Third and fourth periods were cool.  The kids were a little amped, I’m guessing because it’s Friday.  Also, there were some major changes to the leaderboard since yesterday.  Two players hit 50 points today.  I’m going to need to slow up on giving out points, or make items in The Item Shop a little more expensive.  Good thing they have a lot of options, or things could get chaotic.

One major takeaway that I learned from ELA class today is to save all of the high-energy fun stuff for the end of class.  I allowed them to play each other’s Zondle games right after our warm-up with Edmodo’s Snapshot.

I’ll come back to Zondle in a second, but I just have to say that two of my kids are now meeting last week’s standard (8.RI.10), which I threw back in the mix just for fun.  Last week, not a single solitary kid scored “meets standard.”  The funny thing is that 8.RI.10 was only in the curriculum once last week, and the students are supposed to hit that mastery level at the end of the year.  I think all of the Actively Learn warm-ups are helping.  We also did 8.RI.1, which we did work on this week, although not much.  Five students have hit the mastery level there.  I’m expecting better next week.

As for Zondle, the students were so hype to play each other’s games.  I was walking around, looking over shoulders, and I found some of the games were on things like cell division.  Ha!  Not exactly what I was going for, but I’m glad it’s academic.  Next week, I will be very clear with them that they should be using academic vocabulary words while in my class.

We then used Google Classroom and the online textbook for a group classwork assignment.  Both periods ran out of time, so I assigned the rest as homework.  We are going to have to work on the collaborative teamwork thing.  It will go more smoothly as the year goes on.

For sixth period, Technology, we played Kahoot to review digital citizenship.  This was a final activity, before I give them my blessing and set them loose on their gamified journey in Tech class.  Speaking of that, I will work on the challenge board this weekend.

Kahoot, for those of you who don’t know, is a website that is very similar to bar trivia, but it’s educational.  That’s probably the best way I can describe it.  Thanks to my buddy Carla‘s awesome idea, we used Kahoot as a way to educate parents on new tech developments in our county, including GAFE and BYOD, yesterday at BTSN.  The parents had a great time, and this planted the seed for today’s activity with the students.

By the way, the seventh graders totally called me out today on not giving them their Xbox party last year.  D’oh!

Day Four – Leveling Up

In the words of Ice Cube, “today was a good day.”

Feel free to press play, and let the instrumental serve as the soundtrack.  Let me steal a page from my homie The Weird Teacher, and I will kick a funky rhyme.  I can’t wait to hear Sound Gecko read this one aloud.

Today everything went so well

Slept in, still got to work before the school bell

Said hello to my principal and colleagues

Gave a hug to all of my little buddies

My eighth graders grew and now they call me short

But it’s ok, I’ll still school them on the bball court

Did some Snapshot for warm-up, #edmodo

Then we turned around and talked about the Dojo

Fourth period figured out their squads overnight

Looked around the class, there’s no drama in sight

Then we took a look at the leaderboard

We brainstormed some Item Shop rewards

Not from Chicago, no Bull, but he’s the realest

Shout out to my homie Chris Aviles

Used his model and I told him he’s a genius

Check it out on Teachers Pay Teachers

Class time flew by, both periods

No interruptions, so I wasn’t furious

I’m impressed the kids are so curious

Tech class: #digcit, the kids tried to Google us

They had lots of knowledge that they dropped my way

I gotta say, it was an awesome fourth day

Fiki fiki fiki. Take that, Sound Gecko 🙂

Hanging Out for Winter Break

2013 was epic.

I’ve been doing a lot of new things in my classroom this year, such as #gamification, #blogging, and #flipclass, and it’s been working out!  Yaaaaay!  Big shoutout to my PLN for teaching me all of these great strategies.  My group of highly intelligent young scholars also thanks you, whether they know it or not 😉

Needless to say, I was really amped about Winter Break, but this year, it’s for a different reason.  Most other years, I’d put in some much-deserved R&R, binge watching series on Netflix (ok, you got me…I’m doing that too); however, this year is different.  This year, I’m “hanging out.”

Wait, wait…

Before you click off, let me explain.  When I say, “hanging out,” I’m not talking about sitting around playing Playstation, or going to karaoke with my buddies.  I’m referring to Google Hangouts on Air, a way to interact with people that is changing the way we can collaborate, educate, and…uh…something else ending with “-ate.”  Relate.  There we go.

Let me backtrack for a minute.  A few years ago, I had this totally awesome idea that went…absolutely nowhere.  Womp womp.

A parent at my school suggested that I offer technology courses online, so I ran with it.  I got it all set up, made a Google Voice number, and even printed up business cards through VistaPrint.  Check Exhibit A:

I had a website all ready to go, but I never launched it, because one little thing held me back.

It was too daggone expensive!!!


I window-shopped all the various platforms for collaboration at the time, and I realized it was going to cost me an arm and a leg.  Hence, I would have to charge an arm and a leg for tuition.  No bueno.  So the idea just sat, and festered, and sat some more.

Flash Forward

(That was an awesome show, by the way.  Highly recommended for winter break binge watching.)

I was introduced to Google Hangouts (offered free of charge), first hearing little bits and pieces through the grapevine, mostly on Twitter chats and the like.  One day, I took the plunge to meet with a supervisor in my school district to discuss new features in Safari Montage (also awesome).  That was the moment that I fell in love with Hangouts.  Awwww…flowers and roses.

I could tell that Hangouts were going to change my professional life, but the gears in my head didn’t really start to turn until I attended a session at EdCamp NJ about Google Hangouts, presented by several of my PLN members, including Bill Krakower.  There, they introduced us to Google Hangouts on Air, which would allow large groups of people (up to 10), to sit in on a panel.  An unlimited number of people can watch the hangout as audience members.

Later, I discovered that audience members can use a Q&A feature to interact with the panel.  Thus, Thomas Tech Tutorials was reincarnated!  Yaaaaaaay!  Wait, that sounds like the plot of a scary movie.  Oh well, you guys know what I mean 🙂

I learned more about the features of Hangouts while I was helping my sister-in-law design her website on Wix, which will be the topic of a future walkthrough.  Within Hangouts, you’re also able to share your screen, and even access the computers of other participants, through the Remote Desktop app.  Sweet!  Of course, I don’t plan to do this during the On-Air Hangouts, but it’s a nice feature to have.

Flash Forward…Again

To wrap it all up and throw a nice bow on it, I’ve been using Hangouts to do tutorials for a few days now.  So far, I have the following tutorials under my belt:

Google Drive
Google Sites
Edmodo

It has been such a great experience…since Saturday (five days ago), I’ve met a ton of great educators from all around the globe.  We’ve bounced ideas back and forth, and I’ve learned so much already.

This Saturday, at 1 PM EST, I will be leading a discussion of ways to extend the recent Hour of Code initiative throughout the remainder of the school year, and beyond.  Please click here to RSVP.

It’s geared towards the absolute beginner; however, I would love to have those with more experience sit in on the panel and offer their tips, too.  Please contact me if you are interested.

Welp, time for me to sign off…tis the season, and I’m about to spend some much-anticipated time with my family.  Adios mis amigos…I hope to catch you on the Hangout!