Saturday, October 22, 2016

Go Formative!

I am a big fan of Classkick. Often, when I describe what I like about it, people ask me how it compares to Formative. I have known, loosely, what Formative is, but I recently set out to learn more about it so I could answer that question with some authority [aside: a comparison of the two tools is coming as a post soon].

I attended a session at a local conference to see Formative in action. Formative allows you to ask students questions and see their answers in real time. Question types include multiple choice, true/false, short answer, and show your work. You can also add images, text blocks, and videos for students to view. At the conference, Jileen Urbanek described how she uses Formative with PDFs of already created assignments. Upload the PDF and anchor questions to it using Formative. Then see student responses in real time or grade them later without hauling a big stack of papers around. I was impressed and intrigued.

I tried it out in my classroom almost immediately after the conference. My students were working on a stations activity to learn about pattern of trends on the periodic table. They work through six stations and record predictions and findings on a guidesheet. I don't collect the guidesheet; it serves as their notes, but it would be helpful to see how everyone was answering while they worked. Enter Formative. I uploaded the PDF of my guidesheet and placed the anchor questions. That was a very easy and intuitive process. Then students created accounts with their school Google accounts and joined my class with a code.

As students worked, I could see how many were selecting the correct answers. Formative gives the ability to sort this data a couple of different ways. Plus, you can hide the names or whether answers are correct or not if you want to project this for the class. I liked that I could look at a glance to see if my students understood the concepts and I used that to determine which questions we needed to talk about as a class.

I didn't use Formative to provide a grade on this activity, but I can see where it would be very easy and useful to do so. The multiple choice and true/false questions grade themselves. The short answer and show your work questions can be hand-scored within the tool by clicking on students' names. Written comments can also be added. I like the idea of turning lab assignments into Formative assignments because questions could be graded one at a time without endlessly flipping through pages.

Overall, I really liked Formative for doing exactly what the name implies - checking for understanding of content during instruction. I like the versatility of using it to record grades or not and seeing student responses in real time. Thanks, Formative, for a great tool!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Foster Teamwork with Classkick

Lately I have been doing a lot of talking about Classkick. In August the webtool version of this amazing app went live and now schools without iPads can take advantage of this fun and useful tool in their classrooms. As a result, I have spread the word at a couple of local conferences and in some PLCs in my district. If you aren't familiar with Classkick, take a look at some of my previous posts to read more about it. Today I will describe a way to use it for group work.

I was using Classkick in my classroom last year and stumbled upon a feature that created a new avenue for teamwork. When students use a code to sign in to an assignment, they type their name and get added to a roster. I had two Mikes in class last year, so I told them - the first time we used Classkick - to sign in as Mike J and Mike T. Fast forward to March and we were working on an assignment. They forgot about their last initials and both signed in just as "Mike." When they did this, they both started working on the same version of the same assignment. In other words, they were sharing a canvas. They realized this when they both started solving the same chemistry problems and could see each other writing on their papers: "Hey! Someone is writing on my page!"

I was warning about this in a PD session this fall and, as I described it, it occurred to me that this could be a powerful way to use Classkick in a classroom. Create a group work assignment and have everyone in the group sign in under one group name. For example, I could create checkpoints for an inquiry-based lab experiment. Everyone in the lab group signs in as "Table1" and works on the assignment together. They could work on each page together or every member of the group could tackle a different part of the task, like a jigsaw strategy. Everyone has access and can edit the work. The teacher can see the group working together in real time. The hand raise feature can be used to have their group work checked or to request help.

I haven't tried this in my classroom yet, but my son and I tried it at home and had great results. We worked on this slide collaboratively (I used an iPad; he used a chromebook): 

He wrote in black and green; my writing is red. I drew the blue car, but he gave it the smiley face. As we worked, we could erase and change each other's work. In the picture at the top of this post, I changed the color of one of the lines. He edited my textboxes. On another slide, he wrote a just-the-facts story ("the object moved at constant speed, then stopped, then moved again") to match a motion graph, but then I added some details ("the wolf moved through the forest looking for food and spotted Red Riding Hood . . .") to make it more like a story. After we tried three slides, I told him that I had seen enough. I knew it would work and had the pictures I needs for my blog. He asked if we could keep working. He thought it was fun. I agree. It was fun.

Using Classkick like this could make group activities more manageable because teachers can use the great feature of watching work in real time to monitor group progress. Students can divvy up parts of the task to make the work go faster or more smoother. Or they can use the shared canvas to edit each other's work without waiting for someone to ask for help. I love the possibilities that this creates for a classroom that emphasizes group work!

Friday, October 7, 2016

An Extension of your Library

If I have said it once, I have said it a dozen times: The best part of teaching is what I learn along the way. Tonight, in a Google class at a local college, I learned about an extension called Library Extension.

Library extension is a simple but powerful concept. Install the extension and indicate the libraries you patronize. Then, when you browse books at websites like amazon or Barnes and Noble, the extension will search local libraries to see if they have the book and if it is available to be borrowed. 

Take a look at these screenshots:

I was browsing for the book Rain Reign and a overlay appears on the right that indicates which of my local libraries have the book available for borrowing. When you find an available copy, clicking on the Borrow button opens a new tab for the library website so you can arrange the hold.

When looking for a Harry Potter book at Barnes and Noble website, the same type of information is available:

This is a really simple concept, but a great one. Often, I am looking for books in one place and then opening new tabs, sometimes for several libraries, and searching them so that I can reserve the books. This extension eliminates several steps. Plus, they have a form for suggesting other libraries to include in their list of over 1200 already included. I have already filled out the form for a library I found missing from the list.

This is a Chrome extension only so far, but the website reports that Firefox is also in the works. Check this one out today!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Sharing PAEMST Resources

This month most of my blogging has focused on my PAEMST trip to Washington DC. This week the PAEMST awardees received some resources that I want to share.

If you enjoyed reading my post about Active Learning Day, or if you are just interested in Active Learning, take a look at this site that details the speakers and events of the Active Learning Symposium, including the slides from each of the breakout sessions. You can watch the keynote and panel discussions on the materials page.

If you enjoyed reading my post about Next Generation STEM High Schools, or if you are curious about reading up on the logic model that was developed around STEM High School research, please enjoy this site that details the speakers and events of the STEM HS Forum.

One last word about the PAEMST process and trip. If you have landed on my blog because you have been nominated and are thinking of applying, or because you have applied and you're waiting, please feel free to contact former awardees. I can't speak for all of us, but I know that many awardees in my class had networked with winners from previous classes. That's something I wish I would have done.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Who'd Have Thought? Sporcle to the Rescue!

Last year, while working at a Speech and Debate Tournament, I watched some friends play a bunch of online trivia games on Sporcle. The games were all "name these" kinds of games - name NFL teams by stadium picture or name movies Mel Gibson starred in and other such diversions. I have to admit that it looked like a pointless waste of time, so I really never thought I would ever need this website. And then, this month, I did.

My son was assigned the task of memorizing a bunch of prepositions for his English class. The goal was to build prepositional fluency and students were expected to simply rattle off a list on demand. I have to admit that when my son described this to me, I didn't take him seriously. And he took his first quiz over this and bombed. We talked about how to manage this task. It's not a great task for flashcards because what do you put on the side opposite the preposition? And then I thought of Sporcle. 

It's very quick to create a Sporcle account. Once you do, it is also very simple to create a game. I spent about 20 minutes, mostly thinking of hints for the prepositions, to create the first game. My son played it four times, each time trying to beat his previous time, and had already learned 16 of the 24 that were assigned. Mission accomplished.

Want to try your hand at preposition Sporcle?

OK, you might not love the idea of preposition Sporcle, but my son has also really enjoyed playing the hard vocabulary Sporcle games we found in our game making process. Here is one with difficult A words. See if you can beat our record of 21/25. I liked these so much that I am including Sporcle in some vocabulary centers I am introducing in an inservice next week.

Sporcle games race the clock which is part of their appeal. In addition, games can be shared on Facebook and twitter and embedded as I did above. Friends can challenge each other on Facebook as well. Users can create up to 100 playlists of 50 games each. Sporcle is free, fast, and easy. People seem to love playing it. With over 1,000,000 user-generated quizzes, you are certain to find one that interests you. I'm glad I stumbled upon it while friends wasted time so that I knew about when I needed to save time for studying!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

PAEMST 2015 Washington DC Trip - Day 3

By Day 3 awardees were approaching overload. We began, again, at breakfast at 7:00 AM. As we entered the hall, the presidents of three PAEMST alumni organizations were there to greet us. Who knew there were alumni organizations? CPAM, APAST, and SEPA all exist to continue the connections and learning that begin during this weekend. It was great to meet the presidents and hear just a bit about these organizations. Each of us gets a free membership into these organizations this year!

Following breakfast, we were invited to participate in the Next Generation STEM High School Forum. The Forum kicked off with some terrific speakers:

  • Tom Kalil, Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation for the White House Office of Science and Technology, shared some of his work and vision with the audience. People loved his statement that learning needs to change from "just in case" to "just in time" as students stop "covering" material and start pursuing their passions. Tom is an engaging speaker who furthered endeared himself to me when he told me that he is also a former high school policy debater (now working in policy!).
  • Dr Sharon Lynch, professor at George Washington University, returned to the podium and shared with us the details of a study of eight STEM high schools. The goal was to create a scalable logic model to implement and affect change in STEM education. Her data was interesting and I hope we will have access to her slides so I can share them at some point.
  • Dr Barbara Means, Director of SRI Education, presented data and information about the importance of inclusivity in STEM education. Some of these statistics were truly alarming in terms of poor access to science and math courses in high schools across the country. Again, I hope at some point we gain access to these slides so we can share the information.
Our group then boarded buses and headed for the White House where we went on our tour. I had never been to the White House before so this was definitely a highlight for me. I loved looking at all the photographs of Presidents and their families at various events. The decorations in each room are so beautiful and ornate, steeped in tradition and history. 

Our group was hoping for a miracle, that when we arrived for the tour, a change in plans or opening in a schedule would result in a quick hello from someone with the word President in their title. Alas, that was not to be. Rumor has it that we are the first cohort in 33 years of the award to not meet a President or Vice President. I don't know if that is true or not, but I was disappointed with the outcome. I was also determined to get a picture of me with the President, so the selfie to the left is the best I could do!

Presidential disappointment aside, it was a memorable and exhausting trip that will remain a milestone in my career. I am looking forward to continued contact with the people I met this weekend. The 2014 and 2015 awardees are an impressive and inspiring collection of educators.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

PAEMST 2015 Trip to DC - Day 2

Day 2 of the trip started early, with breakfast at 7 AM. I had a delightful conversation with my tablemates, a mix of K-6 and 7-12 math and science teachers. We shared stories of our PAEMST videos, both our instructional choices and our blooper reels. Most of us agreed that we tried to show different types of instruction, often large group and small group, in our videos. We all included a hands on or active learning component.

After breakfast we lined up by award year and height and moved to our group picture location. Once in place, we were introduced to Megan Smith, the US Chief Technology Officer. Megan congratulated us, shared stories of inspiring teachers from her education, and talked just a bit about her work. She has an infectious enthusiasm for STEM projects, including education, and an authentic affection for people, like the awardees, who are deeply committed to STEM education. 

At the conclusion of her remarks, Megan introduced us to the Secretary of the Department of Energy, Dr Ernest Moniz. He shared an overview of the work at the Department of Energy and gave us an open invitation to visit any of the Department of Energy Labs. He shared a statistic that 50% of the US economic growth since World War II has been due to STEM efforts, providing a foundation for the importance of our work and recognition. Then he joined us for our group picture!

Next on our agenda was participation in a Symposium on Active Learning in STEM Education. Our keynote speaker was Dr William Penuel, a professor of education psychology and learning sciences at the University of Colorado-Boulder. He talked about the characteristics of and importance of active learning in STEM education, emphasizing these key points:

  • Active learning should be anchored with authentic student questions and life experiences
  • STEM learning should include all students and all students should be visibly represented in examples of STEM learning
  • The idea of smartness should be expanded to include qualities we see emerging in ur students, not just the skills they have mastered
We watched a video and discussed the active learning principles we saw in action to develop a common understanding of active learning. I was also intrigued by the idea of "talk moves" and watched this video about it to learn more.

Then we listened to a panel of three more engaging people:
  • Dr Barnett Berry, CEO of Center for Teaching Equality, talked about the importance of teachers driving their own professional development and taking back PLC time to meet their needs. He also emphasized the importance of modeling great teaching for others and of hybrid coaches who share time between classroom and coaching.
  • Talia Milgrom-Elcott, Executive Director of 100kin10, shared her organization's work to prepare 100,000 excellent STEM teachers by 2021. She invited teachers to sign up to collaborate with 100kin10 here.
  • Dr Sharon Lynch, professor at George Washington University, previewed work she would share with us the next day about the inclusive success of students in STEM high schools across the country.
During lunch, Megan Smith returned to the podium and shared with us some interesting initiatives and work at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The awardees used words like "amazing" and "inspiring" to describe her. We could have listened all day, but the message was this: include all students in high quality STEM education that is tied to student passions and you will unlock more talent and unlock the possible. 

After lunch we attended breakout sessions. My session was called "Developing and Testing a Model to Support Student Understanding of the Sub-Microscopic Interactions that Govern Biological and Chemical Processes" and was led by Joe Krajcik, professor or Science Education at Michigan State University. He was awesome! Here is a link to the slides. He shared an exemplar unit that starts with a natural phenomenon and builds toward student understanding through activities and questions. See sample phenomena here. He also shared two resources, Michigan's Create for Stem Institute and the Concord Consortium which are free.

At the conclusion of the symposium, we had one hour to catch our breath and change clothes before boarding the bus for the DAR Constitution Hall where our awards ceremony would take place. Once there, we lined up and had a brief rehearsal. Then had 20 minutes before we lined up and processed in for the real thing. The venue was spectacular and the attendees included our family members, some congresspeople, and representatives of professional organizations like AACT. We heard congratulations and inspiring words from Dr Sylvia James and Dr Joan Ferrini-Mundy of the National Science Foundation, Dr France Cordova, Director of the National Science Foundation, and Dr John Holdren, the Science Advisor to President Obama. Then we each received our award and attended a lovely post-ceremony reception.
Ohio 2014 PAEMST Awardees: Susan Dankworth & Marcy Burns
Ohio 2015 PAEMST Awardess: Beth Vavzinczak & Amy Roediger

Following the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy's Call to Action to improve STEM education through active learning, the Office announced an initiative to celebrate Active Learning Day on October 25. I hope many teachers in Ohio will join me in participating.