Saturday, February 25, 2017

I Flipped for Flipgrid

Have you tried Flipgrid yet? Based on the activity and love they are getting on Twitter, it seems like just about everyone is trying Flipgrid! My students and I tried out this tool in a lesson this month.

Flipgrid allows users to create and submit a short video in response to a prompt. The tool works on laptops and also as an iOS app. Videos can be recorded within the webtool or app, but they can also be made with a different tool and uploaded to Flipgrid. That feature has some great app smashing potential! Once videos are made, they can be watched by the teacher or by other people who have the address of the "grid" or topic. Viewers can "like" videos too.

I wanted to give my students practice interpreting scenarios in terms of some basic gas laws. Flipgrid was perfect for that. In groups, my students completed one of six experiments. Then they did the experiment a second time but they explained and recorded it in response to my prompt. Here are a couple of samples:




After recording their own videos, I provided descriptions of all the experiments so that students could try to provide explanations for each other's experiments. Then they watched the other videos to see if what they thought matched each group's ideas. They liked the videos of groups that they thought had explained the scenarios correctly. Overall, it was a fun lesson and a nice change of pace as a formative assessment.

Flipgrid just recently rolled out Flipgrid One, the free version of their tool, which is what I used for this lesson. Flipgrid One gives teachers one "grid" to use for free. A grid is like a classroom. Within that grid, you can create topics, or prompts, that students respond to. The more robust version is called Flipgrid Classroom ($65/year) and has some added features, including providing video responses or emailed feedback within the tool, downloading videos, and exporting data to gradebooks. For what I needed, Flipgrid One was enough, but there are excellent benefits to Flipgrid Classroom.

If you're interested in giving FlipGrid a try, it's intuitive enough to sign up and get started. If you want more of a guided tour, they have an Support Center to walk you through and give you some ideas. They even have a way to connect with educators across the globe. It's loads of fun. I recommend it!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Keeping our Chemistry PBL Relevant: Week 4



I wrote three posts in January about the PBL that my PLC is trying out this year. Students are creating infographics about any topic in chemistry that interests them. Read more about the project here and here and here.

With half of our PBL-designated time behind us, we revved into high gear with Week 4. Week 4 was primarily designated as work time for groups. However, in an effort to provide a checkpoint for students, we wanted to design an opportunity for targeted feedback by the students. 

We took our project rubric which is broken into four categories and we created a feedback column. We assigned one category of the rubric to each person's role in the group and sliced the rubric into four strips. We placed the strips into baskets on each group's table.


Following a class period work session, each group displayed the rough draft of the infographic on their laptop. All the students moved around and viewed the work of their peers but only through the lens of their particular group role. In other words, the Graphic Designers critiqued only the Layout and Design, while the Researchers looked at the Chemistry Content. The students left the feedback forms at the group tables and returned to their home table receive their own feedback.

I didn't see any of the feedback that the students left for each other, but I did hear a lot of interesting comments while they completed this rotation. Some students were wow-ed by the work of their peers. Others were very underwhelmed by content or design. One student commented: "I have to be honest. I don't see anything visually interesting about this one."

I liked that we adapted the rubric for this purpose so that students had a chance to give and receive feedback with the rubric before the infographics are due in Week 5. I think it focused the process on the expectations of the task but also chunked this process so that a 10-15 minute gallery walk was doable and productive.

Coming up in Week 5: Finished infographics displayed on our website! Very excited to share the work on this project!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

My Most Popular Posts of 2016

Here they are:


Thanks for reading!

I used elink to make the page I embedded above. It looks pretty cool, doesn't it?

PS I know I need to update some of these comparison posts. That is on my to-do list!

Provide Web Resources with elink.io

Last night I tried out elink, a tool that allows users to curate web resources and share them as a newsletter, a web page, a link, or embedded in a page. It's VERY easy to use. Ten minutes after I signed up, I had created my first elink.

Here are the steps to creating one:








1. Click Create New and choose a layout. Some layouts are only included in the PRO version but there are several in the free version that appealed to me. 


2. Paste in a link.

3. Edit the link or upload a different image if you want.

4. When you have all the links you want, click done. Then you can add a header and publish your page. It couldn't be easier.

Today I used elink and my blog analytics to create a summary of my most popular blog posts from last year. I have embedded it below:



What I like about creating elinks is that this visual representation of weblinks is much more interesting than a boring bunch of links written as text. Have a project for your students? Providing resources? Why not do it like this? Perhaps the visual will draw students into a particular resource. It would also be great to have kids find resources and present them like this. I think elinks would also be useful as a landing page, especially for young students, to organize all of the webtools that are used in a class. In an increasingly visual society, elink.io is a great way to share resources. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Nuggets from the Nearpod Summit

Two weeks ago I got to participate in a Nearpod Summit for their PioNears. One of the main purposes of the summit was to see the projects they are working on and will roll out this year. I wrote about some of those when I returned home. Another of the purposes of the summit was community building. The PioNears are an amazing group of educators and we spent a good portion of the weekend working in teams. Many of the activities were very fun and easy to replicate in classrooms, so I thought I would share them here:

The Living Camera

Working in pairs, one person is the camera and one person is the photographer. The person who is the camera stands in front of the person who is the photographer. The camera has eyes closed and is directed around an area by the photographer. When it is time to take a picture, a signal is given (tap on the shoulder) and the camera opens her eyes. It was hilarious to see "photographers" line up perfect shots and modify the signal to take panoramas, selfies, and more. Definitely a good one for building partnerships and trust.


Make a video

Working in groups of 3, we were given four images to lay, face down, on the table. We scrambled them into a random order and turned them face up. Then we had to make up a story and make a video about it. That's pretty much all the instructions or equipment we were given. And we had 15 minutes to do the whole thing.


Count to 3

With a partner, count to three, alternating who says each number. Each time you get to three, start again. Go as fast as you can. Next, replace 1 with a clap. Clap-two-three-clap-two-three as fast as you can. Then replace two with a snap. Clap-snap-three-clap-snap-three. Then replace three with a stomp. Clap-snap-stomp-clap-snap-stomp. It's not as easy as it sounds.

At one point in the process, we were encouraged to watch our body language when we screwed up. It was about what you'd guess - fist shaking, face palming, slumped posture. Then we were encouraged, both partners, to throw up our hands and shout "ta-da" every time we made a mistake. This became a framing concept for the weekend. Every time we turned around there was another "Ta-Da" moment. I loved the celebration of errors!


Fashion Show

I am a huge fan of Project Runway, so when we were invited to form a team of six for a fashion challenge, I was in my element. There was a table of materials - rolls of paper, post-its, tape, markers, pipe cleaners, props - and we were all given a concept to represent with a fashion design. We had about 15 minutes to design and create it. Then we had a runway show. Our fashion represented Evidence Based Writing in Math. How did we do? I think this would be fun to represent characters in a book or new vocabulary or historical events.


Three in a Scene

Working in a group of 6, you create an improvised scene. Person #1 begins by assuming the position of something in the scene. For example, she might stand with arms outstretched and say "I am the tree." Person #2 adds himself to the scene. Perhaps he flaps his hands above one of the branches, saying "I am a bird in the tree." Person #3 adds herself to the scene in a similar way. Now the first person removes herself and either Person #2 or person #3 from the scene to create a new beginning and new people join. This was silly, but fun. Our scenes went to hilarious places!


Rock-Paper-Scissors Tournament

Challenge the person next to you to rock-paper-scissors. Whoever loses must become the loudest, most enthusiastic supporter of the person who just beat them as she takes on the next person. Eventually the room is divided in half where each half is cheering for one person. Good as a brain break or to bring the energy back after lunch!


Best of Seven


Everyone write their best idea on an index card. On the back, draw 5 squares. Walk around the room and exchange cards with everyone as fast as you can until someone says stop. The person closest to you is your partner. Read the ideas on the card and divide seven points between the ideas to indicate how valuable they are. How will you divide the seven points - 7 & 0? 4 & 3? Write your values in a square on the card. Then repeat the process again and again until all the boxes are filled. Total the numbers in the boxes to see which idea is the best. This was a fun way to sift through many ideas to come up with a great one.


Haiku Band

Working in teams, participants write a haiku to sum up an experience. Choose one person to read the haiku. All haiku readers make a circle in the center of the room. Everyone else surrounds them. The group is divided into fourths. One section makes a repeating rhythm, another section sings a repeating baseline, another section sings a repeating horn riff, and the last section sings a repeating melody. The "band" plays loudly until the leader quiets them and then the haiku is read. Then the music swells. A great finish!



Hopefully one of these ideas is one you might try. I hope to use them all in my classroom or in professional development that I lead this year. Thanks, Nearpod, for all the great ideas!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Keeping our Chemistry PBL Relevant: Week 3



Here is the third installment in a series of posts that will reflect on the chemistry PBL my PLC is trying this semester. Our students are creating infographics to explain the relevant chemistry of any topic they choose. The topics they chose are listed above in the word cloud. You can read the first two posts here and here. So far we have used a BreakoutEdu challenge as our entry event and used a BuzzFeed quiz to form groups. During our third week, it was time to settle on a topic, choose an infographic tool, and start researching.

Before we got down to the nitty-gritty of the topic, I wanted to do a quick group exercise to encourage group collaboration. I read this post on Sara VanDerWerf's blog and it sounded awesome, so I decided to give the 100 numbers task a try. It was awesome! 

As she reports, all the groups were able to identify more numbers the second time through the task. In addition, I observed that the groups were quieter with heads closer together and using strategies they created the second time through the task. Look at the photo on the left of students working on the task the first time. In the photo on the right, where they are working through the task a second time, they have created a smaller workspace, their hands are all closer to the task, and they look more focused. We talked quickly about what adjustments groups made in order to be more successful. Hopefully they will apply those things during the remainder of the PBL.

Then we watched a brief video about what an infographic is. I was worried that I was using that term like we all know what it means (infographics are everywhere in edcuation it seems). I also liked the video because it emphasized what makes a good infographic. Here is the video we watched:




Then I gave groups the rest of the time to narrow their focus and begin researching. Our web designers and graphic designers were encouraged to review tools for making infographics and our project managers and researchers were encouraged to focus on content for the topics.

Next week they will have the bulk of the class period to start to create their infographics with a gallery walk of rough drafts and focused comments at the end of the period. We hope to wrap up the whole project after two more class periods.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Keeping our Chemistry PBL Relevant: Week 2

Last week I wrote the first post in a series about the chemistry PBL that my colleagues and I are piloting this year. Here is the update for Week 2!

On our second day devoted to this project, we asked students to read the article that was the springboard for this project. Instead of reading it in its original form, I pasted it into Prism and asked students to read and highlight one thing they agreed with, one thing they disagreed with, and a reason we might be doing the project. After they submit their highlights, they can see everyone's highlights. Want to check it out? Take a look at the Prism article here.

We wanted our students to choose groups and begin thinking about a topic. We have identified four roles for each group - Project Manager, Researcher, Web Designer, and Graphic Designer - and we wanted to help students choose groups that would allow them to draw on diverse strengths instead of just relying on their pals. Since we are working on relevance, we decided to use a BuzzFeed quiz. Students completed the quiz and then received a match of their best role. Want to try our quiz? Here it is.

As they waited for everyone to finish, students put their names onto post-its and brainstormed a quick list of 3-5 topics for which they might want to investigate the chemistry. Chemistry of saxophones? Lattes? Drugs? I collected the post-its as they finished them.

After learning of their best match role, they grouped together with the other students in that role and read the description. If they didn't think it fit them, they could change, but we emphasized that all groups would need to designate a different person as each role, so they should carefully consider what their attributes. When they were firm in what role they could play, I put the post-its on the whiteboards in role categories. Then students could walk around and read what their peers might want to explore and begin choosing groups.

Once all the groups had formed, they had time to start talking about a topic and looking around on the internet to see if information would be available for the topic they chose. By Week 3, they would need a firm topic.

I liked using the BuzzFeed quiz and I think students did too. They thought it was silly, but it pointed them in a direction to get them started. One student said, "I love that we took a BuzzFeed quiz for school since I take so many at home!" Unfortunately, about half the students in each class came up as Project Managers, so compromises had to be made about who would actually serve in that role. This surprised me a little, especially the really quiet students who pictured themselves in this leadership role. I have obviously watched a lot more Project Runway and Top Chef because I know what happens to the Team Leader when the project goes awry!

The day actually had a reality TV feel. I'm not sure the groups formed in exactly the way I hoped. Many students opted to work with friends and made the roles fit. Also, in one class, two students didn't make it into a group, so there was an awkward conversation that had a happy enough ending (or so it looked to me!), but I hate that feeling of waiting to be chosen. I might change how I do this next year, but I'm not exactly sure how. Maybe identify the Project Managers first and then let them choose their teams? Not sure, but I would love your suggestions in the comments!