Day 10 – Clubbin’

Today, we took the SRI.  Nothing to report.  Almost everybody finished.  Most of Third Period got through it a little too quickly for my taste.  I asked them if they checked their work and they assured me they did.  A lot of kids said it was “easy.”  The scores will speak for themselves.

In Fourth Period, the kids took a little longer.  For some reason, this made me feel a little better.  I think (hope) they were careful.  There are about five students who need more time tomororrow, which is fine.

The big excitement for the kids today was turning in their club pre-authorization forms.  I lead five different technology clubs for the students.  That may sound like a lot, but really, it’s helping everybody in the long run.  The kids learn some cool skills that they can bust out later in life, and I get some help and don’t lose my mind.  These are our five clubs:

  1. A/V: Sets up and breaks down equipment, and runs the sound board during chorus concerts and plays.
  2. Photography:  Captures special moments at our school through photos and videos.
  3. Morning Announcements: Produces and edits our morning announcements in the school, via Google Sites (see video below).
  4. Yearbook Committee: Open to eighth graders only.  My right hand, helping me plan fundraisers and design the school yearbook.
  5. Repair Squad: Helps teachers with basic troubleshooting.  Also designs websites, logos, etc. for our special events.

The eighth graders have first dibs.  They are super-excited, because they paid their dues last year and took all the sloppy seconds.  Poor seventh graders, last year there were no sixth grade slots left for them.  This year, I’ll try to keep this in mind, and save a few spots for the underclassmen (and underclasswomen lol).  Most groups will have seven slots, four for eighth graders, two for seventh, and one for sixth.  This will be first come, first-served.  With Yearbook, though, all seven slots will be filled with eighth graders.

One year, we even had a Music Production squad.  The eighth graders of two years ago were incredibly musical, and a student approached me with that idea, so we did it.  Last year, I was stretched really thin, especially coaching basketball.  Plus, the students were more into sports than anything else, so it worked out.  One seventh grader asked me to do a Drama Club, but I really couldn’t fit it into the schedule.  Maybe we’ll try it this year.  We might try a Ted-Ed Club later in the year, since I’m freed up a little bit, but I don’t want to bite off too much.

Anyway, I was bombarded by students for signatures, ever since the papers came out.  When they turned in their pre-authorization forms with all of the teacher signatures, I passed out permission slips for them and their parents to sign.  Hopefully we will get clubs underway shortly.  The sooner, the better.

On another note, I explained to students about the self-assessment for the collaborative work that I talked about yesterday.  I actually developed a Google Form, and asked students to fill it in tonight.  The evening is still young, so we shall see what they report back to me.  So far, a couple of students have filled it out, and the comments are very fair.  One said to divide the points for his/her group evenly, and that the assignment was challenging, but s/he appreciated the teamwork dynamic.  Another assigned points based on contribution, and had similar feedback about the process.

One last thing…as a team, we came up with a way to hold people responsible for checking out the shared iPads via QR Codes linking to a Google Form.  I played with the customization.  Here it is.

Tomorrow: Genius Day, because it’s my birthday and we’ll be smart if we want to!  Woohooooo!!!  Adios.

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 Five – (Edited) A Little Less Blah

Today was Day Five. There’s not much to report. We did a diagnostic writing pre-assessment from the county. That’s basically it. Hopefully tomorrow will be more exciting.  By the way, this is one of those short post days I was talking about.

Edit: I’m back.  Ok, I’ll write a little more.  The magic for me happened today when I got home, and I was able to do my videos for the week.  I did two flips, one for all of my students, and a secret one for captains of the squads.  In case you don’t feel like watching them, the first video was a very general recap of where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going.  The second one is a secret mission for all of the captains.

Again, it would probably be smarter of me to keep this hush, hush so that my students don’t find out, but:

  1. I don’t think they read my blog, and
  2. I secretly want them to see the video, so everyone will want to be a captain.

Muhahahahaha.  I think everybody does want to be captain, but this will make it even more desirable.  One of the items that students can “purchase” with their Class Dojo points from The Item Shop is a change of captain, but this is by team consensus.  I think I’ll add an item to immediately grant themselves captain status.  This will cost them dearly, my pretty.  But it’s all good…to loosely paraphrase Chris Aviles, status is the most coveted reward.  Following that, there is access, power, and stuff, respectively.  Being a captain hits three of the four, but from what Chris said, the kids don’t care that much about stuff to begin with.

My first year using Class Dojo, I used a lot of stuff as rewards.  When you hit 100 points, you got a pizza party.  Boom.  It was ok…better than nothing, but it was costing me a bunch of money, and it probably wasn’t the most healthy thing to do.

Last year, I hit on access more.  When you hit 100 points, you got an exclusive invite to a Dance Central Party.  The kids loved this, but we ran out of time and didn’t get to everyone.  I felt horrible about this, because they earned it, but you can only have two players battle at a time.  Once the list started to pile up, it was a lost cause.  I think I’m forgiven.  Anyway, this year, I’m trying to hit all four domains, but focusing mainly on the first three.

I saw just how right Chris was, when I read this blog post this morning.  A student said that being captain, even for a short time, was “the best 60 seconds of this year!”  Wow, that’s pretty deep, even though we’ve only been in school for five days.

I loved the support that she gave to her classmate.  I think this year will be pretty cool.  The eighth graders are a phenomenal, talented group of kids.  They don’t like taking diagnostic writing pre-tests very much, but we will work on that.  We still have 175 days to go.  It’s already going by way too quickly.

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!