Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Technology 2015-2016

I am at that point in the summer where I decide I need to start planning but then my temporary ADD kicks in.  Standards, Lessons, Benchmarks, PARCC, Technology, Class Rules,  INBs, Flipclass...
It drives me crazy!  I always say to myself KISS! But of course my brain doesn't work that way.

So I start by breaking it down into categories,  This post is obviously about technology.  I won't lie I am the teacher in my school that loves technology and gets super excited about trying new things  However, I am also not naive enough to think that tech is the answer to every prayer and will change everything about my teaching.
The main thing I try to ask myself when thinking about technology in my classroom is:
Will it improve student learning?

The following are things that I know for sure I will use this year.
All things Google:
 We are a GAFE school and I have totally fallen in love with Google Drive after having to send out my laptop for repairs last year, got a loaner and never missed a beat since all of my files were on Drive.  I plan to use Google Forms for administrative tasks like parent logs and for stuff like formative assessments.  I plan to use Google Drawings by uploading photos of student work and annotating them to provide feedback.  I plan to use Google Classroom to share this feedback, along with flipped videos and to provide a place for students to communicate with me and peers. (*along with other uses I find after reading Alice Keeler's great post:

I know I just raved on about how much I love Google and we are a GAFE school, but my admin wants us to use Weebly sites.  I have no clue why, but it is what it is.  I have a class webpage where I share info with parents, the weekly assignment sheets I make for students and any videos they need to watch are there in addition to Classroom.  

Discovered Plickers last year and my students and I love them.  My favorite way to use them is for quick formative assessment.  After I teach a whole group mini lesson I give 2-3 problems to see where the students are.  Then I can sort them out to groups based on the results.  I like that it saves the results so you can go back and analyze it a little more when you have time, the only drawback is you can only get a report on one question at a time.

This shows a portion of the report which is really cool.  Not only can I see who got it right, I can see the wrong answers that were chosen so I can figure out where the misconceptions might be.

BRAND new to this!  CueThink was suggested to me by our awesome, amazing, wonderful (can you tell I think highly of her?) technology consultant Lauriene.  I can't even begin to explain how super cool this app looks in this post since I've only just created my account and tinkered with it for about an hour yesterday.  However, trust me it is super cool: teaching students problem solving skills, getting them to share their THINKING, visually and orally, and sharing with peers for feedback.  Since we are not a 1:1 school, I plan on using this in one of my centers so hopefully all of my students can get on and use it within a two week period.

Even though my students didn't exactly love Tenmarks due to the fact that they found it too challenging (too bad!) I am continuing with it this year.  As much as I hate teaching to the test, I feel that Tenmarks really prepared them to take the Parcc test.  Since the questions and responses are set up in the same format.  I really like how their reports are formatted.  Very usable which is important.

We have a subscription for this at my school and we use it a lot.  My students who didn't like TenMarks were happier with IXL, because I think there are less word problems.  Unlike TenMarks, the reports are really hard to figure out and use.  Its almost like there is just too many options. But in general I really like this app because the students really get a lot of practice with the skills we are learning.

There are other things I might throw in from time to time like Kahoot, xtra math, Brainpop, StudyJams, etc.  But the others will be used on a regular basis.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Waaaaay Out of My Comfort Zone

This summer I am tutoring a former student of mine in Algebra 2.  She didn't pass the course and has to attend summer school in order to receive credit.
She is a great student but makes silly mistakes. She really knows what she's doing and we are having great conversations about the math.
However, I haven't done some of this since 2008!  And it is so much fun!  I LOVE it!
Since I don't teach this normally and sadly sold back my Algebra 2 textbook from college, I've been relying on two awesome resources, Tenmarks and Desmos to help me out.
In Tenmarks, I've set up a Tutoring class and when I meet with her we do an assignment together and then I give her another assignment to practice.  We work on the topics they are reviewing in summer school or the ones they told her will be coming up.
The nice thing is that while we are doing the assignment together if there is a place I get a little unsure of myself I just click on the "hint" and its also showing her that its okay to do that.  I know a lot of my middle school students feel like they shouldn't look at the hints, but I tell them that's what they are there for!
Demos is just the most awesome app I've ever played with.  And that is usually what I do with it, just play.  Now it is coming in so handy!  I use it on my phone just to double check some of the work I do to make sure I'm remembering correctly.
I am so glad I agreed to do this, not only am I enjoying the time with one of my former students, but I'm also learning a lot this summer too!

She has been getting high 80's on her quizzes and tomorrow is her mid-term.  I'm hoping she does just as well on it as the quizzes!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Parent Contact Log pt 2

After sharing my idea for the parent contact log using Goggle Forms  I couldn't stop thinking about how something was missing.
Thankfully it didn't take too long to figure out what it was. One of the greatest things about Google products is how easily you can collaborate with other people. In my small school we only have one teacher per subject for each grade level. For example, I am the only math teacher for 5th and 6th grade. So I'm thinking I will share the form with the ELA, science and social studies teacher for 5/6 and then we could really see trends in student behavior!
It will be nice to see if a student is having trouble in one or multiple classes, or if there is a student not getting any parent contact at all. With 72 students it's hard to contact all parents regularly, but this system and working together could make it easier to reach out to every family without feeling overwhelmed.
I'm not sure how it would work in bigger districts, but any school that has teams or sharing students between subjects, I think could benefit from it.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Parent Contact Log

I've said before that this year I have really learned to love Google Drive and since I have learned so much reading other teachers blogs I am always looking to share things that I find helpful.  This is one of them, it may seem basic to experienced Google users, but hopefully it will help someone!

When it was time to upload Domain 4 artifacts into Teachscape I kind of panicked because I keep a lot of my records on paper and the Parent Contact Log was one of them.  I have a nice black binder on my desk where I write it in.  I wasn't sure how I was going to get that into Teachscape other than snapping a picture on my phone and just uploading a page shot.  This got me thinking about getting prepared for next year and how I could make this process not only easier for the end of the year, but easier to maintain and use as well.  
I also like to make videos for my students so I thought instead of trying to explain it all in a post I would record a video to share exactly how I edit and use my electronic parent contact log!  Excuse the "ums" and fast Jersey girl speak!  Here's a link in case the video below doesn't work:

Let me know if you would like me to send you a copy of my form and if you have any questions!