Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Got Centers?




Teaching with centers or stations is not a new concept, but it has had a resurgence in many of the schools I have been to and in many of the trainings I have been leading. Elementary teachers, particularly in the primary years are masters at creating centers of learning for their students and engaging them in multiple experiences with limited equipment. For some reason as the students get older, we do less station like activities. Why? I truly believe our secondary students have a greater need of learning activities. When we only have a few devices, stations are the perfect way to spread the wealth. Although there is A LOT of preparation that goes into the creation of stations, the time spent in the classroom facilitating, individualizing, working with the students and sitting in groups with them is priceless relationship building. This “tuesdays” is designed to help you take a second look at doing centers (or stations) or rotations or whatever you like to call them.


A creative website

Just yesterday I came across the most gifted centers teachers I have ever seen! Scholastic has always been a leader in supporting teachers, but I was totally unaware of their Top Teacher area until Barbara brought this particular idea to my attention on Facebook. Erin Klein is a second grade teacher who has created a hybrid flipped classroom like none I’ve ever seen. Her gift is for organization, sharing and creating a practical and appealing classroom environment. On her Scholastic blog, she has shared how she has leveraged technology in ways that are so creative. Not only is she utilizing a modified flipped classroom, she has trained her students to become very independent learners in 2nd grade! Her real gift is that she has made all her classroom organizational forms available for download. Now there’s a Top Teacher for sure.  I encourage you to check out her blog. It may be one of the best out there.  I did notice that Scholastic is highlighting 10 Top Teachers, but for me, Erin is my pick!


An image to share


6th grade students in centers

A proverb

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. 
Art is knowing which ones to keep.”

Scott Adams

An encouragement

There is no doubt that stations/centers in the classroom has its pros and cons. Teachers who use centers are the greatest advocates. Teachers who don’t use centers have many valid reasons such as pacing guides, pressures of testing, lack of planning time, etc., however I would like to encourage you to try one unit of study in a station setting this school year. So much of what we teach from the front of the room is not absorbed by our students even if they sit compliant, but when they are given an opportunity to get the same work that they may have had to do in class in a station setting, it suddenly takes on a more engaging environment. Being able to collaborate, work at your own pace and get to try technologies that are normally unavailable are great motivators for students. Don’t try to overdo it and bring out every great idea the first time you do centers or you will exhaust yourself. Instead create only 4 activities related to what you are studying and make 8 centers out of them (2 will be the same, of course). Put your students in small groups and rotate them through the activities. One of the most unused pieces of equipment in our classrooms is the projector as a station. Have the students do an activity using the teacher computer (logged out of everything important, of course) projecting to the screen.  Even a one-computer classroom can have technology in centers. Talk to your colleagues about trying centers and I bet you will get a great deal of support. Who knows? It may be just the medicine needed to add engagement to your classroom.


How do you do that?

How do you tackle centers in your classroom? Little-by-little and step-by-step. My favorite centers patterns happened by accident. When I taught 8th grade math, I had four times in the year that I ran centers (one a quarter). With 32 students in my class, I had 8 groups of 4. I designed 8 activities that took a whole class period, which meant I had centers for 8 days. Instead of doing them 8 days in a row, I had centers on Mondays and Fridays for 4 weeks and taught normally on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays. The students and I really loved Monday and Friday centers because without planning it, I gave them four days off.  There was no homework for them and no planning or papers to grade for me! One of the greatest tips I learned was to make sure I kept detailed information of their work in class and got everything graded while we were in the centers.  Like any learning environment, teaching strategy or classroom management piece, nothing works all the time, but having a classroom with variety is one of the great gifts you can give your students.

As always, I am
Ubiquitously yours,
K

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Power of Vocabulary




The power of words is astounding. Just the right word at the right time can bring incredible results. Spewing the wrong word at the wrong time can cause results that are equally damaging.  As teachers, choosing our words wisely is critical.  No matter what subject we teach, vocabulary is an essential part of establishing understanding.  Why not investigate the power of words using Web 2.0 tools? There are a plethora of new tools that I can only begin to examine with you in this issue of “tuesdays” but I hope that you will send in some of your findings so we can share.
             
A creative website
We are mapping just about everything these days.  We have curriculum maps, learning focus maps, and strategic planning maps, why not word maps?  Visuwords is a creative, online graphical dictionary. Unlike other dictionaries, this one is totally interactive.  I typed in the word collaborative and by double-clicking one of the nodes, I learned a whole new word relative to collaborating - quisling.  Did you know that a quisling is one who collaborates with an enemy occupying force?  It came from WWII when Major Vidkum Quisling was a Norwegian traitor working for Nazi Germany.  Today we think of collaborating in such positive light that is didn’t occur to me that it had a negative side to it also. This makes the study of words all the more fascinating.  Give it a try with words that are relative to your classroom and see where they lead you. Visuwords is built on Princeton University’s open source database by university students and language researchers and is a free resource to all patrons of the web.

An image to share
The image above is a Visuword map made with the word collaboration.  Some of the images that words create are quite attractive. 

A proverb
"Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”  Psalm 119:105 - King David

An encouragement
I would like to encourage you to create a love of words in your students.  They normally see vocabulary as a chore, but with the rich tools available to us online, we may just peak their interest.  These are a small collection of dictionaries and thesauri that I have also placed in my del.icio.us account to share. Click the tags for dictionary or words and you will easily get to this list.


What are some of your favorite and little known words? Where do you think I came up with Ubiquitously Yours? Let us know your favorite words by posting them in the comments.


How do you do that?

How do you study words in the classroom?  There are so many ways.  Today, I see Word Walls everywhere I go.  One teacher was doing her Word Wall in PowerPoint with her kindergarten students as they sounded out the names of their classmates.  One of my favorite activities when I taught 5th grade was to bury overused words and use the thesaurus to find better descriptions.  How I wish I had these online tools!  We literally buried words like: nice, good, pretty, wonderful on tombstones.  Although it sounds morbid, the tombstones were RIP (Rest in Peace) plaques decorated with our overused word and planted besides them were beautiful substitutes for these  worn-out adjectives.  How do you get your students interested in the vocabulary of your classroom? 


As always, I am
Ubiquitously yours,
K

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Plickers - Picture clickers




I had a delightful time helping our team do a presentation at the Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence at Disney’s Contemporary Convention Center today. I love these types of events because everyone who comes brings ideas and is so willing to share. Our team’s presentation was wrapped around a “Carousel of Progress” theme. Scott and Brett cleverly demonstrated a science lesson on an overhead projector (the 1990’s), upgraded the same lesson to PowerPoint through a projector and document camera (the 2000’s) and then a more modern approach to the lesson with an interactive whiteboard (the 2010’s). Although the technology changed, the student interaction remained the same. The sage on the stage had fancier tools. The students still took notes and with the exception of the one student that came up an interacted with the whiteboard, it was pretty much business as usual. For most of our participants, it was a great eye opener. 



A creative website

Scott and Brett also share their Top 20 picks that help move the needle along the technology integration continuum (TIM) (see An Encouragement section for their picks) and the one that really caught my eye was when they used Plickers. This low tech, high yield FREE student response system was one I had never seen before and just loved how the participants had that “Ah-ha” moment across the room. The idea of Plickers is combined paper codes with app technology to help teachers quickly engage their students without them feeling self-conscious. Plickers are sheets of paper that work like clickers. As your students turn their Plicker their response can be A, B, C or D to any question the teacher designs. The Plickers are reuseable or reprintable and created online when you make an account. One of the best testimonials by teachers was quoted as, “Hands down the greatest discovery for my classroom this year was Plickers. Sheer and utter brilliance!” This is definitely a game-changer when it comes to formative assessment.




An image to share


A sample Plicker

A proverb

Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.

Henry Ford


An encouragement

I know how hard it is to break away from school to go to conferences so I thought I’d encourage you and give you Scott and Brett’s top picks for engaging students right here:

      Prezi
      Screencast-o-matic
      iMovie
      SketchUp
      Canva
      Symbaloo
      Friendblender
      Aurasma
      QR codes
      Padlet 
      Kidblog 
      Weebly 
      Plickers
      OneNote
      Animoto
      Socrative 
      Skype
      Powtoon 
      Popplet
      Remind


How do you do that?



How do you use Plickers? It’s actually one of the easiest technologies available. It’s FREE and you need a teacher account. Creating the account was super simple. Once you are established, you can add your students by using generic names or nicknames. Plickers will generate the picture clickers. Hand them out to the students and with each turn of the card, they can hold up an A, B, C or D response. The teacher uses their camera enable device (tablet, smartphone, iPad, etc) by downloading the Plinker app. The camera, through the app, will scan the room and gather all the data (answers) the student are holding. Super cool, super easy and super engaging. Well done, Scott and Brett. Thanks so much for sharing.


As always, I am
Ubiquitously yours,
K

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014




It’s great to give thanks. I am very grateful that we live in this time period of Internet communication. I have never had so many connections in my life and treasure the new opportunities and friendships created through online communities, email and networks. I am grateful also that there is forgiveness (and not just for turkeys!) I am most grateful for my family and granddaughters, Frankie and Charlie.  I thank God for His generous blessings of health and love. I looked back on the “tuesdays” I wrote last Thanksgiving and found some really fun stuff I forgot about so I thought I would share it with you again. I hope you have a wonderful time with family giving thanks for the blessings of this year.

A creative website
The History Channel has some amazing teachable moments about Thanksgiving including a short video history about our uniquely American holiday. Unfortunately, you have to weed through the commercials.  Dig around a little deeper and you will find videos on unique ways to prepare turkeys, cranberry bogs, turkey assembly lines, FDR and Thanksgiving, debunking Thanksgiving myths and even a video on the Turducken - the turkey, duck and chicken. You take a duck, debone it, season it, debone a chicken, season it and stuff a turkey with both for a Turducken. Who knew?


An image to share

Every year since 1948, our Presidents have been pardoning a turkey by official proclamation. The History Channel even has some great video of some of those pardons (minus the commercials!) This photo is public domain from the Presidential website, www.whitehouse.gov

A proverb

"On the Fourth of July we celebrate our independence. On Thanksgiving Day, we acknowledge our dependence."

William Jennings Bryan

An encouragement
This Thanksgiving season finds many Americans concerned about their finances. I want to encourage those of you in need to ask and for those of us who can help to give. There is no shame in asking for help. I think the greatest gifts I was given when finances were overwhelming was the conviction to become debt free. It sounds so impossible at first, but my husband and I have been methodically working on creating a culture of only buying what we can afford and never going into debt to purchase anything ever again. Most of all, being debt free allows you to be a generous giver. There is no magic formula or instant relief to financial strain, but once the mindset for debt free living begins, hope replaces despair. The single most influential advocate of debt free living is Dave Ramsey. I highly recommend that you check out his Financial Peace University course if you are hoping to become debt free someday.


How do you do that?
How do you show gratitude? The way people celebrate thanksgiving is unique. If you would consider sharing how you and your family give thanks, please let us know in the comments below. If you don’t have time, please enjoy this electronic card by Jacquie Lawson that I made for you. Her electronic cards are by far the most creative cards I have ever seen. Give thanks always. Grateful thanks from Karen.



As always, I am
Ubiquitously yours,
K

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Arizona Technology Integration Matrix



My favorite tool for understanding technology integration is by far the TIM (Technology Integration Matrix.) I had the privilege of training administrators how to use the TIM the last few days and was very excited to see them embrace the TIM as a resource for teacher ideas and a way to communicate a common language of technology integration. One of the principals came to the training because she wanted a date with “Tim” and wasn’t disappointed. The best part of Florida’s TIM is that it is being used all around the country and is being revisited as a statewide tool. The TIM is totally agnostic, it doesn’t matter what platform you like, what device you use or what type of classroom you have. iI provides a resource of ideas to “upgrade” any assignment an bring it into the digital environment. This “tuesdays” is an opportunity to look at the TIM from an even broader perspective.

A creative website

The Arizona Technology Integration Matrix (TIM) is my pick for the most creative website. I am a total cheerleader for our Florida TIM because I have seen it used in Michigan, Virginia, Georgia and Colorado, but Arizona is only one state that I know about has recreated the FL TIM. They loved the TIM so much that they thought, “Why don’t we create our own version with Arizonian teachers?” (Is Arizonian a word?) The Arizona TIM uses the same levels of technology integration and classroom attributes, but replaces the 100 videos of Floridian teachers with 50 videos of teachers from Arizona. The few that I have watched so far are exceptional. Wouldn’t it be amazing if each state created their own version of the TIM with their own best practices? We would then have 50 states with 50-100 videos of technology integration examples – that’s between 2500-5000 videos vignettes! This is one small sample of a Social Studies lesson that falls on the matrix as an authentic/transformation lesson. Kudos to the team at the Arizona Center for keeping the integrity of the TIM, while customizing the look and feel of the videos for their teachers and students.


An image to share


A student researching using technology

A proverb

Learning without thinking is labor lost; thinking without learning is dangerous.


Chinese proverb


An encouragement


Have you tried to determine what kind of classroom you have according to the Technology Integration Matrix? I encourage you to view a few videos in the FL TIM or the Arizona TIM and ask yourself – what level of technology integration can be seen in my classroom? Are my lessons entry level? Are they adoption level? Are they adaption, infusion or transformation level? The most accurate way you can determine the answer is to ask yourself, “What are the students doing?” Technology in your classroom is at entry level if you are the one using the technology and not the students. If you give the students an opportunity to use technology, but guide most of their steps through the process, it’s an adoption lesson. When the students have more freedom to explore options of technologies to use, but are still limited in their choices, the lesson becomes an adaptive one. Once you reach the infusion level, students have a wide range of choice when it comes to the types of technology to use to explain what they have learned. If you have the rare opportunity to teach a transformation lesson, it would be one that could not have happened except for the technology. In other words, if the technology wasn’t present, the lesson could not have taken place. I encourage you to take a good look at your classroom. Once you determine a lessons level, consider “upgrading” it one level. Let me know if you need any help.


How do you do that?

How do you use the TIM? The most important part is to dig right in and just explore the matrix. It has 25 cells and within each cell there are 4 videos –that’s 100 lesson ideas to examine! If you add the Arizona TIM, then you have 150 video ideas! One tip that I would like to give you is to not be pigeonholed into grade level. Look instead at the lesson and think about how you could take the strategy and use it at our grade level or subject area. If we are ever going to move along a continuum of improvement, we must first have a common language (entry, adoption, adaption, infusion and transformation) and encourage each other that entry level lessons are often VERY good lessons. We just can stay there. Leaving a teacher-center classroom and going to a student-centered classroom takes a lot of effort. Be sure an take a honest look at your classroom and ask, “What are the students doing?”

As always, I am
Ubiquitously yours,

K