Tuesday, June 19, 2018

It's ISTE Time!

Next week at this time, the annual ISTE Conference will be winding down, but this week everyone is gearing up for a BIG five days of educational technology.

Last year I wrote this post about the Google + Community #NOTATISTE. At almost 2200 members, it's not as big as the conference that will take place in Chicago next week, but in many ways, that's better. The people who participate are very interested in sharing with and learning from each other. If you will not be at ISTE, I highly recommend this community. I have participated in the community for the last two years - lots of the fun of a conference without the expense! Currently people are introducing themselves and making badges to post to the community. There are daily challenges that people can answer via Flipgrid (or just by posting comments) and a very impressive wheel of door prizes.

I am headed to ISTE this year. I am going to attempt to blog from my sessions, so hopefully I will post next Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. I'm planning to focus on coding and am really looking forward to a session on Micro:bit. I'll be bringing one home (Thanks Microsoft, Micro:bit, and Fair Chance Learning for that!), so I'll be able to practice what I learn there.

What are you doing to get ready for ISTE or NOTATISTE? Maybe we'll connect at the conference or the community!

Sunday Saves 6.10.18

Here's what I bookmarked this week:

1. SpeakerDeck: This is an online host for slide decks. Start with a PDF and turn it into slides. Then use the service to present or share as a link or with embed code. Here is a deck I made to try it out (using the embed code to post it to my blog - not sure how to make it smaller!):

2. Crayon: A very bare bones (still in alpha) collaborative whiteboard space. Very easy to use! Click the Get Started button and then type in a name and a room name. To ask others to join, provide the link or just share the name of the room. Then users can interact on the board.

Note in the image above that it shows the names of who is on the board at the top of the screen and shows what color ink they are currently using. Crayon is not fancy, but it is easy. 

3.  What does an atom look like? A good video from PBS Nova:

Monday, June 11, 2018

Making Math Graspable

When Dan Meyer invites me to try something (ok, even if the invitation wasn't directed strictly at me), I try it. That's why when I saw this

I tried this:
This crazy magic is Graspable Math and allows you to use some basic gestures (drag, tap, double tap) to do algebra. After I made the clip you see above, I showed it to my high school freshman son and his eyes twinkled. "Wow, Mom. That's awesome."

Or is it?

Dan described some reasons to be skeptical about the tool. You can (and should) read his post here; Dan postulates that perhaps this tool makes math too easy and reinforces tricks, and perhaps misconceptions, through its use, especially when it is used before students master the content on which the tool is based. I can't disagree with those contentions, but I'm still excited about this tool and here are a few reasons why:

In my class, we solve problems like this:    

With some prodding, my students always figure out how to set them up, but some of them really struggle with how to solve the equation after it is set up. Or they have the general idea of how to solve, but they make a mistake getting to the answer and become discouraged about chemistry because of an algebraic mistake. I like the idea of using Graspable Math to solve because then the math wouldn't slow down their understanding of chemistry.

I also love the idea of using Graspable Math to make videos of my solution steps (for problems like the above or any problems). Sure, I can do this with lots of tools, but I thought it was very easy to quickly solve the problem and record my iOS screen. The strength of Graspable Math over other tools is the speed with which I can make expressions that look like textbook math and not like my messy screencast handwriting. Kids could watch the videos to see each step of the algebra I did in class, in the order I did it, to help them at home. Or if they missed class entirely. 

Graspable Math also has potential for teaching inquiry lessons. I wonder if the tool could be used to demonstrate a certain property or process in order to ask students why the process makes mathematical sense. Or, given several similar equations, kids could use the tool to solve and then deduce what they all have in common.

This next idea relies on a perfect world. In a perfect world, I like the idea of using Graspable Math to teach students to check their work. I can see where, especially with students that struggle to make sense of algebra, this tool makes checking work at home, with parents who might want to help but don't feel equipped, a cinch. And, sure, kids could take the value they found for x and plug it back into an equation to check it without Graspable Math. Except that 99% of students won't actually do that and if they have made an algebra mistake on the way to the answer, they are probably equally likely to make one checking the work.

Once upon a time I enrolled my two children in Montessori school because of the public school kindergarten requirement of a calculator. In the same way that I didn't want them to learn operations via calculator, I wouldn't use Graspable Math to teach algebra. Still, it looks like a neat tool, one that I hope I can incorporate at the right time in my teaching. If nothing else, it's good for teachers to know that it's out there because our students will find it. And use it. With our help, maybe they will use it for good.

Here's what I read Jun 3-10 that was worth saving:

Capsure:  Take photos (or probably any images as jpegs) and add captions with text or audio. Share on one private board or on many boards or with the whole world. Create a timeline even. This tool has loads of educational potential! Bonus: Capsure donates a portion of profits to Alzheimers Association because they prioritize preserving memories.

Google Tour Creator: Danny Nicholson posted to his excellent blog some excellent information about using Google's Tour Creator to make a virtual reality tour. Nicholson highlights the basics about creating a tour.

Two articles that reference the 2017 NAEP (Nation's Report Card):

Are American Kids happy in school? Published in the Washington Post, this article looks at the answers to two questions (Are you happy in school? Do you feel awkward in school?) by fourth and eighth graders who took the 2017 NAEP. The data shows that eighth graders are less happy at school than fourth graders.

How do we know if ed-tech even works? Education Week reports that according to the 2017 NAEP data, US students showed little progress in math and reading. Teachers will search for a solution, probably try some educational technology, but what do we really know about its efficacy? The article concludes that districts should rigorously evaluate technologies, perhaps in pilot groups, before adopting them widely.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

A Google Augmented Reality Expedition

Last year, Google embarked on Expeditions where they previewed their virtual reality experiences with their now signature cardboard viewers. This year, in a similar fashion, they are previewing augmented reality experiences. My school participated in one this week, so I thought I would share what it was and how it went.

First, to invite them to my school, I filled out this form with some general information. I knew Google was in my area at the time I requested the experience, so I probably lucked into the Expedition. Timing is, after all, everything. 

Google responded to my request with one of their own: respond to their invitation email with a complete schedule of teachers who would rotate into two rooms for the Expeditions over the course of a school day, leaving a one hour break for lunch. I invited anyone in my school to participate; a great cross-section of teachers responded positively. An art teacher, a French teacher, three science teachers, and a computer science teacher agreed to bring their students during our abbreviated testing schedule. A math teacher and our interactive media teacher wanted to come, but I couldn't work them into our schedule.

Imagine one of these dinosaurs in your classroom!

On the day of the visit, a representative arrived at our school. He quickly setup rooms for the Expeditions - 11 phones on selfie sticks for students to use, one similar setup for the teacher "guide" and QR codes on sheets of paper scattered throughout the room. The teachers came down for 30 minutes of training where they learned the ground rules and experienced the Expeditions.

Each of the QR codes triggers an augmented reality object from a set of objects in the Google app. There are many to choose from, some really amazing (Mars, dinosaurs, mitosis) and some not really worth exploring (periodic table), and they often match up with the virtual reality Expeditions to make a cohesive combination. The teacher uses the app to select the set of objects to be explored. The app seemed very easy to use - swipe through the objects and tap play for students to explore it. Teachers can also tap and hold a place on the object to create a spotlight that students can hunt for (to highlight something) or make the object really big (very cool for dinosaurs) or very small. Students can move all around the objects, zooming in by moving the viewing device closer to the object.

The students who participated were very engaged and enthusiastic about the experience for the most part. They eagerly explored objects, often sitting or kneeling or laying down on the floor to get a better look. They also called out what they would like to see from the extensive list of options. This experience came at the end of a week devoted to state testing and I think they were grateful for a completely different type of experience.

The form is still live for teachers to request the experience. I'd recommend trying it out for sure. Hopefully, these Expeditions will allow for fine-tuning of the app before this version is released for all. There is also a form available to volunteer to create augmented reality experiences. I'm really intrigued by this and am considering filling it out. I think there are many possible intriguing chemistry experiences that this app doesn't capture yet. The possibilities, though, for capturing things we can't see or interact with directly are amazing.

Want to learn more about it? Click here.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Science . . . the Write Way

Twice I have been honored to contribute to Larry Ferlazzo's Education Week column, Classroom Q&A. This tweet at the right announcing the most recent contribution is getting a bit of attention tonight, so I thought I could put together some references about science writing.

First, please visit and read Larry's column. He includes ideas from a variety of teachers so there will certainly be something of interest to all educators. This particular column addresses "ways to integrate writing into science classes" and features my ideas alongside Mary Tedrow, Maria Grant, and Diane Lapp. I also participated in Larry's BAM Radio Network program with Maria and Mary and you can listen to that program here.

I have written two posts to my blog about the way I incorporate writing into my chemistry classes with lab reports. I have twice modified testing rubrics so that my students receive regular practice at writing using a standardized test rubric to guide their practice. In this way, I can reinforce what they practice in English class and help prepare them for their state tests. If you could like to read my post about the modified PARCC rubric, click here. If you would like to read the post about my modified AIR rubric (Ohio test), click here. In both posts I share my actual rubrics. Feel free to use them if they suit your needs!

How are you integrating writing in science class? Please leave your ideas in the comments below.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Screencasting . . . with iPad!

I can't believe that it took me this long to try screen recording on iPad, especially since it is my device of choice. Today I made my first screen recording and it was very easy.

First, I had to find the controls to screen record. Go into Settings and select Control Center. Then tap Customize Controls. You will find a list of things you can add to your Control Center. Tap the green + to the left of the Screen Recording icon.

Once you do this, it will appear in the list of things included in your Control Center.

That's all there is to it. Exit Settings. Open your Control Center. Tap the Screen Recording icon to begin recording. Demonstrate whatever you want to show on your iPad. Tap the Screen Recording icon again to stop.

If you try it and your first screencast doesn't have any sound, you have to enable the microphone. To do that, tap and hold the record button (pictured above). When you do, you will get a pop-up that allows you to turn the microphone on! Thanks to Ken Krott who commented on that below!

This would be great to model an app that you want students to use or show the features of an app they will explore. I am definitely going to start making use of the feature!