Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Unexpected complement today

As you know, I teach high school math but what you may not know, is that I teach in a one school district.  K to 12 is in one building and we have a little over 300 students.  Since I've been pioneering the iPads in the classroom, I'm considered the expert.  The tech department passed out a bunch of mini-iPads to the elementary classes. The 5th/6th grade math/science teacher told me today that he had his iPads imaged with all the same apps as on my classroom iPads.  He has his students using prime smash and algeboats to help the improve their skills.  He even said he was addicted to Prime smash......LOL.  As I find programs, I am sharing the apps with him and he is having fun integrating them.
I also found out that beginning in January, the person in charge of our weekly Wednesday inservice/whatever is going to try to give me one day a week to conduct technology training classes for the teachers who now have iPads in their classrooms but are not sure how to use them.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Last post till Dec 2nd

With the thanksgiving weekend starting tomorrow, I am not going to post till December 2.  I showed the kindergarten how to create a QR code so she could create a QR code with the url for which has some great math material for pre-k and kindergarten.  She said the kids loved playing with the QR scan program but after a few times of doing this, they will start doing more of the math work.  She likes the site because the answers have sound since her kids cannot read the written material and the sound provides a verbal.
I also spoke with another teacher on ways she can have kids annotate a pdf file and be able to save the work in a safe location as we can neither use dropbox nor google docs.  I know she uses Edmodo so I worked out ways she can use that. 
On the other hand, I am working out ways to have my students take quizzes in a way so they can fill in a blank with the actual answer so I can do something other than multiple choice on the computer.  Since our state is going to be giving computer based tests starting in the spring, I need to get students used to taking tests that way, otherwise they may not do as well as they could.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A web site with quizzes.

The problem with using online quiz or practice sites, is that many sites use java or flash and cannot be used on the iPads.  Today, I had two different classes use to practice.  One class used it to practice identifying congruent triangles using SSS and SAS, while the others class worked on writing an equation using the point slope form.  Both worked really well.  The only issue is that students are only allowed a certain number of practice problems each day before you are told that you need to join.  I liked using the website because if the students missed the problem, they were told exactly what they did wrong and how they should have done it.  The kids enjoyed working and learned the material.  I plan to use this website again.
On the other hand, we are still having issues with google.  I know the tech dept is working on getting us set up with google docs but that won't be for a while.  Up to recently, the head of the tech dept has said no to google docs.  We are not allowed to use Dropbox and we are trying to get the ability to use youtube videos without out getting preapproval through the tech dept to get the one video unblocked for the day.  Life is always a challenge.

Friday, November 22, 2013

I'm glad it was Friday.

I had my 6th period take the quiz in Schoology but it took almost 15 min to get them all on because they forgot their username, they forgot or changed the password and then the internet got persnickety.  A couple students started the quiz and quit so they could retake it and discovered about the third time they couldn't take it again.  So we are going to try again Monday.  I am going to try making quizzes in a couple of other classes.  It is all one step at a time.  Next step is to have them lean to use the calendar feature so I don't have them always asking "When is this due?"
One shift that is happening is my students are coming in to work on their big projects that are due in about two weeks. I also need to download an app that will let students solve systems of equations automatically so they can check their work.  If they know their answers are wrong, they will know it before they turn it in.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

google and Schoology

Due to reasons beyond anyone's control, we cannot access any portion of google at work.  This is making it much harder because I can't access any google docs, the community, not even my blog.  So until they get that fixed, I have to wait till I get home.
Another teacher showed me something I didn't realize was in Schoology.  As I mentioned earlier, I am learning to use the app and getting my students used to checking it for assignments.  Today another teacher showed me that within the quiz/test option is a way of attaching common core standards. That is cool.  I also created my first quiz. Six questions were short answer and four were multiple choice. I want students to identify the slope and y-intercept in equations in the slope intercept form.  I choose the short answer questions although I now realize that I could have used the fill in the blank type questions.  I am going to keep that in mind. Little by little, I am learning to use the program and in the process I am working on getting students to check it for grades.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

levels and depths

Yesterday, I discovered that one of the apps I chose had more depth than I anticipated and my students are developing some patience.  I used a free app called Thump Ultimate which has several quizzes grouped according to areas such as number sense, basic algebra, etc.  I discovered that each quiz in various area checks for something different.  I found that one quiz under number sense checked for knowledge of ratios which is what we just started in one of my classes.  I had my students take it and the results range from 2/10 to 6/10.  I am thinking of having students retake the quiz at the end of the unit so that I have done a pre and post assessment.  The great thing about yesterday was simply for the first time, my students actually stopped and read the explanations when they missed a questions.  Last time they used this app, they just closed the explanation boxes and moved on, this time they read the explanations.  I do like that about this app.  When a student selects a wrong answer, a dialogue box pops up to explain why the student missed the problem. 
This is a group who up until this year has always rushed through anything that required reading.  They have been slowing and discovered when they slow down and actually read the material, their scores go up.  This is a major step.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Exit tickets

I know exit tickets are a great thing to use for the last few minutes of class after the students clean up. I have posed a couple of questions and had the students create a QR code with the answer but I'm thinking that instead of writing something I can have students play a short game on one of the apps I have on the iPads.  I think that giving a short time to play certain games will allow the students to enjoy a round without getting bored. I have a couple of students who have a very short attention span and easily give up if they can't win.  Using only the last 5 min or so would allow them to develop skills yet not get frustrated or bored.  I am hoping they will also learn.  I could make it the last 10 min and have them play the game, then create a QR code of what they learned from the game. 
Since my students are ELL, any chance I can have them speak or write will help increase their vocabulary development.  Yesterday, three students came up to the smartboard and discussed how to find the answer to one of the standardized test questions.  This is something they were not doing at the beginning of the year but now we have increased mathematical dialogues.  I am thrilled with the developing conversations.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Lions and tigers and bears, Oh My!

This weekend, as I was planning this weeks activities, I realized that I have so much technology I want to use in class but I do not have the time.  I spent the summer looking for some game type apps that I could have the students use as a reward but would reinforce their mathematical skills.  There is one or two games they like but the response depends on the child.  The 9th graders love playing the games but the seniors are too "cool" to play such games.  One reason is that it is hard to find good games for the students who are below grade level that are not created for middle school students.  I also wonder if my students are so used to playing certain types of games on their mobile devices that they find many of the educational games "Boring." Then I am faced with the question of "How educational is the educational game?"  I read an article that stated the 8 of the top 10 paid "educational" games were not educational and they explained why they took this position.
Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with the push to integrate technology into the classroom with little or no guidance and time.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Break through

Since the beginning of this school year, I have been integrating literacy techniques into my mathematics class.  I have also been using open ended questions and questions that require my students to discuss materials among themselves.  One of the things that I have been having my students do recently is to create word problems using certain key words.  As students share their problems, we take time to correct the grammar, the word usage, etc in the hopes that my ELL students improve their vocabulary and understanding of mathmatics. 
I have a class where I work with students who did not pass the graduation test in Mathematics.  Although most did not pass the test this last time, the majority of them improved their score from last spring and today we looked at all their scores and they decided what they should study next.  This is an awesome shift in their attitude and they seem to be taking ownership of their learning.  This is a tremendous step for these students.
Yesterday, I attended a teleconference where the presenter was suggesting a app called Aurasma but honestly it is something I need to investigate and see if it is worth integrating into math.  I am still not sure what it actually does and how it fits into Blooms Digital Taxonomy.  I know the idea is to have students create but is the creation being used to make something that is digital that is just a regurgitation of the material or if it is a true creation which uses higher order thinking skills.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

SAS Flash cards

Due to an early out on Wednesdays, we have a short 25 min "study hall".  Rather than letting kids catch up on their work, I gave them a list of mathematical vocabulary for Grade 8 TAK test from Texas.  Although I do not work in TX, the list has a great list of vocabulary words.  The students began constructing a deck with the word, an image, the definition and an audio component.  The kids were having a great time creating their decks.  The nice thing about this program aside from being free is that it allows students to create a standard deck with the word on front and the definition of the word.  In addition, the students could create a deck with multiple choice, true or false, fill in the blank or a mathematical problem. One young lady was having so much fun creating a deck with audio. 
The elementary immersion program has been looking for something like this so I showed it to the tech dept and he thinks it is going to do precisely what they want because the app can be used to create flash cards for any subject. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


I organized a choice of projects and backed the number down from 3 to 1 because my students are not used to creating anything.  The students tend to freeze when faced with what they see as something that is insurmountable.  I am giving them a bit of time once a week to work on it and they are very much into the "Am I doing this right?" and "What do I do next."  Overall, some of the students are starting to take small fledgling steps.  Since they are easily frustrated, I put most students on Haiku Deck to create their presentations.  Haiku deck is free and it allows them to change the theme, text, make lists, add pictures and has pictures available for use.  It is a good app to start students in creating a digital work. 
This project is also allowing students to learn how to write their own material and learn it better.  It is another way of presenting it to them.  I went over plagiarism and explained that if they take anything off the internet, they must give credit to the person who originally created it.  My students are so used to being allowed to cut and paste anything they want in their computer classes that it is a fight to get them to understand they cannot do that without proper acknowledgement.
I do not need to run the text through anything because so many of my students are ELL and if the phrasing does not sound like them,  I simply ask them to clarify what they wrote and usually they can't tell me what it means so they have to rewrite it.
This is also the first time I have assigned something like this so I am trying to help them learn the app, learn to create something that will match up with Blooms Digital Taxonomy, and teach them about paraphrasing and plagiarism.  Did I mange it?  I don't know but I do know this is a learning experience for both the students and myself.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

flipped classrooms and other things.

Many of my students do not have access to the internet nor do they have unlimited data plans.  So I cannot use it.  What I am finding is that I have to integrate short videos into class time for material we are going to cover if I am getting ready to move on or show a video on the topic we are working on.  The kids often sit there and talk to the screen as the material is being presented. 
This morning, I showed a video on rate of change and slope in real life.  Once it was done, I replayed the video and we stopped it at important parts and discussed it.   When we started using the slope formula, the kids did a pretty good job of working the equation.  So at this rate, I may replace part of the direct instruction time with videos to help students learn more.
I find that I have to watch my mindset in regard to technology.  I have been teaching for a very long time and when I started we still did the lecture and worksheets classroom.  High school math teachers did not do much if anything using videos, games or even manipulatives.  We just lectured and let them practice.  Now I'm spending time integrating technology into the classroom and I am working on staying one step a head of the students while helping them learn to use the iPad as a tool, not a toy.  In the last couple of years, my teaching style has changed quite a bit.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Increasing QR code use

This week I have added QR code use in the classroom. First, I added a QR code to their homework which has the answers.  They still have to show their work but they have a way of checking their work. Second, I am using the QR code as their exit ticket. Today I am asking them to find their grade and create a QR code with that grade. This helps them become more familiar with making QR codes and it eliminates the 'I didn't know what my grade was!"  I plan to make the QR codes as exit tickets a regular event in my classroom.  Some of my students do not have a QR scanner on their mobile devices so they used the iPads to scan the QR code, find the answers to their homework and hand write the answers on their homework sheet.  I am happy they are taking some responsibility for making sure they get their homework right.
The next step is to get them to regularly look at what is due so tomorrow's exit ticket will be for them to look at the assignments list and write down what is due this week.  I am hoping by doing this on a regular basis, they will learn to be more aware of deadlines.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Nearpod, Haiku deck.

The training sesson on Nearpod went well yesterday afternoon.  I had elementary teachers who came in to experience it and take their first steps towards creating their own presentations.  Everyone who attended signed up for their free account and that is about as far as we got so we decided to continue the session next week Thursday after school.  I expect to create a page of instructions so they will have both audio and visual instruction during that session.
I have two classes working on presentations using Haiku deck.  This is a nice free app that allows students to select a theme, add text and pictures to create a slide show/presentation. The kids are enjoying working with it because it comes with its own photos.  One class is using Haiku deck to create presentations on classifying triangles.  One girl found a wonderful picture of triangular slices of watermelon to illustrate isosceles triangles.  This is the first time I've had them work on any projects and they did a great job getting started.
The kids love using the iPads in class.  Several students snap pictures of the warm-ups on the board and then copy the material from the photo to their warm-up sheets.  They do the same thing for standardized test questions and for notes so the whole class does not get held up because they copy at a slower pace than others.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Nearpod and Schoology

I am working with the tech dept to give a training session on Nearpod this afternoon.  I have a presentation that shows some possibilities and then I'll help them set up an account and start their own presentation.
In a couple weeks, I'll help the tech dept give a presentation on Schoology and using it.  I even spoke to the person in charge of the after school program for college bound students and I am going to show her how it works and how it might serve her better.  I am having fun setting up all sorts of things on it and getting my students to use the discussion.  They love commenting on each other's comments. 
I had first period find two uses of linear equations and then had them post what they found to the discussion group.  It went quite well.
I had kids start using Book Creator and discovered the free version only allows you to create one book.  I don't remember reading anything about the free version only allowing for one book.  It just means I can only let one class use it and once we are done with the unit, I"ll have to delete the book or have the book sent to me to save for them.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Step by step

Everytime, I think I have the kids to a point where they will start running off and doing technology, they stop.  I don't know if it is a fear of being wrong or of failing.  So today, after a quick warm-up, I am going to have them open the Book Creator app and have them do one thing in there.  I think this might give them confidence to start working on the projects a bit more independently.  I told them to choose 3 but I think I overwhelmed them with the choices and they were not sure how to start. Today's activity will help them get started.  I look forward to seeing how well it goes.
On the other hand, I am working on a Nearpod presentation for a training session tomorrow afternoon.  I"ll be working with the tech trainer to show other teachers here, ways to use the app in any topic and use it so their presentation is interactive.  The only down side to Nearpod is the bandwidth issue but it is a good program.  I have been working with the Kindergarten teacher to create nearpod presentations for reading.  She is setting it up so the kids can answer simple questions, draw on the page, and do a short quiz that has pictures to help the.  She is enjoying using it.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


I am getting quite a few students signed into schoology. So far my seniors have reacted the most positively because the interface reminds them of facebook. One of them posted a comment before anyone else.  I had a hard time getting them to actually log off and start today's work.  The next step after I get everyone registered and on is to start sending information to them so they will get in the habit of checking for messages or posting messages.  This means I need to start a discussion so they can comment tomorrow.  I think the discussion will focus on the word problems they are working on.  Since I work with ELL students, I am trying to increase the opportunities they have to communicate both in written and oral formats. 
Early next week, I am going to have them use a google earth math lesson so they know more about using the program.  I know there is one on linear equations and I need to see if there are others they can use.  On Thursday afternoon, I get to help the tech dept run a training session on using Nearpod.  I am so excited about that.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Argggg and did it.

I will start with the did it.  I handed out the project requirements for each class.  I ended up using 4 apps on the iPad.  Book Creator, Google Earth, Garage Band and Showme.  The 5th one I stated they could use any app on the iPad to complete the assignment and they could use their own mobile devices to complete the assignment.  This is the first time I've used learning menus so we will see how it goes.  One choice is for them to create mathematical problems on the topic using Google earth.  I decided that I will have them complete a math problem or two using Google Earth so they know how it works.  I gave them a month to complete it so we will see. So far the only complaints I"ve gotten are with the students who have me for two periods.
As for the Arggggg, I am trying to set up schoology to use with my students.  I am trying to figure out how to get them in as members and I am having trouble finding the information so I am going to have to go to the 6th grade teacher who uses it.  She said there is a way to do this.  When I"ve tried to bring up the help answers, the web page won't come up so I need to try a different browser to see if that is the problem.  I want to get this going as soon as I can.
Yes I talk about what I am doing but it gives me a record of what I'm doing so I know what works and what does not for next year.

Update:  I found out how to get my kids onto schoology using only a username and no e-mail. This is awesome because it means that I don't have to mess with things.  I had them use a common password just to simplify things overall.  First step taken.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Calculators, thoughts and a student question.

This morning I explained to my Algebra II class that beginning next week I will be assigning a set of projects for part of their quarter grade.  At the end a student raised his hand and asked if he could do the projects on his own mobile devices rather than on the class iPad set.  This shows me that he would like to be able to work independently and work outside of class.  I said I'd let them know on Monday but I was beaming inside at his question.  I think I am going to allow it.
When I was growing up we learned our math facts and could do them in our sleep.  Now there are all sorts of calculators for students to use including equation solvers.  Even our state tests will allow calculators that they provide as part of the online test.  My concern is that most students accept the answer they get as the correct answer.  They do not take a min to check to see it is reasonable.  Almost like the idea that if they find it on the internet, it is the total truth. 
I am thinking of having students use the equation solvers when we do systems of equations to show their work.  They will show their work but may check the answers for problems that are not in the book.  If they provide answers only, I do not plan on accepting the assignment.