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 6 (Edited) – I Don’t Need a Nap Anymore

Okay, so today was day six of school. I am currently “voice-typing” this into my iPhone, if that’s even a phrase. Today would be the day that I would totally lose in my blogging challenge, but thank goodness for voice recognition.

I am “writing” this as I drive home in my car. It has been a very long and grueling day. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great day, but it was still very long, and I am still very tired.

In class today, we first worked on Actively Learn to help us with informational text. Afterwards we read about the different characteristics of genres in our online textbook. Then, we worked on a collaborative Google Doc about said characteristics of different genres. Third period did incredibly well. I was very proud of them. Fourth, well, they got a little carried away, and someone deleted everything after we were done. But it’s okay, we’re still learning Google Drive.

Then, we discussed the reading log that we’re going to use for the 25 Book Challenge this year. I found it from a template on Google Drive that I tweaked to fit the needs of my class. Now with the new upgrade, it should be so much easier to make the forms look awesome.

Afterwards, we talked about The Item Shop. The kids oohed and aahed over different perks they could purchase with their spendable points. My third mod got to see Sphero, the remote control ball that I bought for absolutely no conceivable reason. At least now I get to justify it to myself. Fourth period ran out of time.

In technology class at the end of the day, I decided to take my seventh graders to the cafeteria for an in-school field trip. There, we talked about the soundboard. This is partially because I need a new army to replace my A/V gurus who graduated from the school two years ago.  Last year, I did it mostly by myself.  It’s better for everyone if the students learn how to operate it.

These kids were particularly into the lesson, because they’re really big into music, something that we share in common. They were so hype over learning about EQ, as well as basic operation of the board. We had a good time, then we went to the gym for dismissal.

Today was cool, but I need a nap.

(Edit)  Ok, I don’t know if this is the new thing with me, but it seems like as soon as the school day is over, I’m wiped out.  Then, once I get home, I suddenly have this second wind as I am planning the next day’s lesson.  Very strange.

Anyway, this is the results of the planning for tomorrow.  I was planning to do an academic vocabulary lesson with the students, but I refused to make it dry.  Never will they copy words from a dictionary in my class.  No siree, Bob.

I was thinking about buying a vocabulary subscription for my classes in Edmodo, until I saw the price tag.  It was $50 per group, for a grand total of $100.  While it did come highly recommended, I can’t won’t spend that much for an app we will only be using sporadically.

Next, I took to the web with a vengeance to find a *free* app that I could use with my students.  I read many reviews and settled on Quizlet.  Prior to doing so, I had used Voxer to ask my teacher buddies from the GEG DC Metro Area about their experiences with the $50 app.  They echoed that it was a great product, but they also shared a free website called Zondle.  Big shout out to Rafranz and Jake for steering me in that direction.  What it allows you to do is create games based on any subject.  Jake and Rafranz both shared that they allowed the students to create their own vocabulary games.  #doublewin!!!

I called an audible and saved Quizlet as a plan B. We are so going to use Zondle tomorrow.  I was initially going to let students choose their own words, but I think I’ll hold their hand a little and assign words to various squads this first time.  Eventually, I’m thinking of using the TextHelp Study Skills Read and Write add-on.

In the curriculum, we are supposed to do level 3 words for grades 6-8, but I’m also going to throw in level 4 words for grades 9-12.  Being overprepared never hurts. These kids can take it…they’ve been flying through passages for grades 9-10 without even knowing it.  But I’ll never tell 😀

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.

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 🙂

Guest Post!!! 4 Things to Consider when Going 1:1 (via @iamdrwill)

Hi readers!  Here is a fantastic guest post written by Dr. Will Deyamport, III, regarding 1:1 programs, tying in with the theme of BYOD/1:1 for the DC Metro Area Google Educator Group.  

Dr. Will’s Bio:

“I am a district instructional technologist, connected educator, and ed tech consultant. I began teaching the educational applications of digitals as the Campus Outreach Coordinator for CAREEREALISMcampus.com. I also spent another two years as the Chief Social Strategist for StrengthsFactors, where I oversaw and managed the company’s social strategy, created and curated content for the company’s Ning, as well as launched multiple projects that expanded the company’s digital brand.  Currently, I work with teachers in discovering how they can use a multitude of technologies, such as Compass Learning, ActivInspire, Google Hangouts, etc., to create an array of interactive and engaging collaborative learning experiences, with a focus on differentiated instruction and connecting students to a global community.

Over the past several years I have presented at a number of conferences, guest lectured, and regularly blogged and produced online content aimed at the educational uses of web tools and social technologies.  In my travels, I have met some amazing educators. Along the way, I earned a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership and Management from Capella University, where my research concentrated on digital leadership and teachers using a Twitter-supported personal learning network (PLN) to individualize their professional development. And this past year, I was part of a dynamic group of educators who organized the first Edcamp in Mississippi.”

You can find his blog here.  Without any further ado, let’s roll this blog post out!

4 Things to Consider When Going 1:1

Infrastructure:

This involves the broadband, network, access points, etc. You have to have enough broadband that can handle the number of devices you rollout. You also have to have the access points needed to keep students from being bounced off the network. My suggestion is one AP per classroom.

In terms of your network, how many SSID’s are you going to have? Are you going to create a separate network for students? How are you going to monitor devices and the amount of broadband being used? Do you plan on capping the usage of certain sites? For example, instead of blocking Netflix altogether, the network administrator can set it where videos can only be viewed in standard definition.

Please note, before you buy one device, get your infrastructure in place. If you don’t have the set-up to handle 300+devices, there’s no point in moving forward with a 1:1 rollout.

Professional Development:

This is one of the most important components of going 1:1. Teachers will have to be trained how to not only use the device, but how to effectively use said device for instruction. They will also need to how to best utilize the LMS (Learning Management System), any sites, resources, and applications that work best for their students.

Another important aspect of the professional development needed for going 1:1 is shifting the teachers’ mindset, expectations, and instructional practices. In my opinion, an effective 1:1 does away with the teacher sitting at his or her desk. The teacher really is “the guide on the side”.

Now that doesn’t mean that teachers won’t deliver direct instruction. Quite the opposite, this shift involves teachers working with smaller groups on projects or discussions, while another group of students are engaged in self-directed learning via an LMS, which I will get into in more detail in the next section.

In going 1:1 it is essential that professional development isn’t a one and done or a lecture-style delivered professional development. Teachers need hands-on instruction. Even further, teachers need to be coached, as well as seeing the tools and instructional practices modeled for them. Jennifer Magiera wrote a brilliant piece on the practice of creating IEP’s for teachers – you can read her post here. Above everything, work with teachers in feeling comfortable about the journey they are about to take.

Instruction:

This is what going 1:1 is all about. How is going 1:1 going to enhance instruction? That is the question you should ask yourself everyday. In fact, every decision should be based upon how it empowers students.

For me, implementing blended learning, using an LMS, is the best instructional method when going 1:1. What this does is allow the teacher to not only differentiate instruction, it provides students opportunities to own their own learning. Which empowers students to work at their pace and to develop their individual strengths.

Another point regarding the adoption of an LMS is the kind of LMS to use. Meaning, will you choose a LMS to be used district or school-wide, or will you leave it up to each individual teacher to decide which LMS he or she will use? There are pros and cons in each route.

The pros being teachers having the ability to make such a key decision based up the needs of their students. The cons being the lack of management and oversight from administration. My district has gone with the enterprise version of the LMS that was chosen for our school that recently went 1:1.

Devices:

There are some amazing devices out there. From the iPad to the Nexus tablet to a PC to a Macbook, there is plenty out there to choose. Don’t get glossy-eyed by the new shiny or giddy over the new sexy. You must go with the device that fits your instructional needs. There’s no point in buying iPads if they can’t do what you need them to do. The same goes for the Chromebook or any other device you can think of.

Once you have narrowed down your choices to two devices, or let’s say you have decided that you are going to go with the Chromebook, buy a class set and start piloting them. Doing so should give you an idea of what to expect in a 1:1 environment.

After you are sold on your device, now you have to deal with the choice of carts, how you decide to assignment carts to teachers, as well as the checkout process for the devices, which is another process in itself.

Thank you, Dr. Will, for dropping that knowledge!  Until next time, readers 😀

#lifehack: Four Ways that Tech Can Help You Reach Fitness Goals

(Featured image courtesy of colonnade.)

Hey guys!  Ordinarily, I do #edtech  tutorials, but this one is a little different. We all have a lot to do, and it’s often a struggle to find time to take care of ourselves.  In this interactive session, I’ll share with you my journey thus far.  Surprisingly, it incorporates many of the best practices of technology integration, LOL!

Topics include: building a support group (#PLN), motivation (#gamification), accountability (#blogging), and fitness apps (#flipped instruction).  Guess I’m not so different from my students after all 🙂

Oh, and by the way, this isn’t just for “teechurs,” it can benefit anyone trying to keep it tight in 2014 😀