Monday, October 28, 2013

PBS Math Club

The flipped classroom - some think it is revolutionizing education while others believe it is just another education fad that will go away soon like "No Child Left Behind". Either way you see it - this website I just found will help students learn math in a fun way while at home! We may not all agree if the flipped classroom (in any of its many forms) is good or bad for students, but I think we can all agree that if students want to watch math videos on their own time...then we should encourage this in any way we know how.

PBSMath Club helps math teachers (or parents) get their students learning on their own. This is a YouTube Channel where 5 teens are hanging out and talking/teaching math. Grace, Hannah, Jazmin, Jacob and Madison give students a quick (about 5 minute) lesson on a topic - and they include an interactive quiz!

You can also use their website to get handouts and worksheets for their videos - but you will have to create an account after you view two resources (and I still am hoping that you'll go the more paperless route).

The quiz is the best part in my opinion. If students select the correct answer they are taken to another YouTube video as a reward. If the answer is incorrect the video link takes them to a quick tutorial of the concepts learned about the incorrect question.

Another great thing about PBS Math Club is that you can access these well-made videos free of charge on YouTube! The bad news is that many schools do not allow YouTube on school computers...and PBS Math Club has only created made two videos so far...but they are funded by Newman's Own Foundation and PBS so I would expect to see more in the future!

I embedded the video and quiz for "What is an Interger" below. Take a quick look and then try the quiz!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Boom! and you're published

Did you ever take a road trip when you were a kid?  Our family drives from California to Colorado twice a year!  Yes, that is 14-16 hours in the car with a 4 and 6 year old.  That is a long time in the car!  And while watching movies helps keep them entertained,  as a parent I don't want them to sit in front of a screen for that long (even if it does keep them quiet).  So we come up with games to play in the car.  We do some of the classics like I spy, guess what animal I'm thinking of and finding the alphabet on road signs.  
These games are great time killers on a long road trip, they don't really stimulate imagination or creativity in my kids.  To try and get them using their imagination more we play the "add on to the story" game.  This is where one person starts a story and then another person picks up where the first left off and adds their own part of the story.  Then it moves to the next person and so on until the story ends.  It may start off with "Once upon a time there was a princess that lived in a castle... "and end with "...they lived happily ever after"  (I have two girls) - but the middle is up to them to imagine and create as we drive.

I thought this would be an awesome thing to do in the classroom if possible.  Well, while looking around online this weekend I found a tool that makes this happen!   Admittedly this tool is probably best for elementary school aged students - but I think with some good directions and a little planning it could be used in the upper grades.  The website is Boom Writer - or @BoomWriter_ on Twitter.  
The website has a great "how-to" graphic...but here is a quick explaination.  The teacher goes in and creates an account and then adds their students in their classes within the site (as a MS and HS teacher I would not want to input all of my students in the system...but a good TA could make it work!).  There are ways to have them enter themselves in the class also if you want to go that route also.

Next you select a book beginning.  You could write your own or select from one of the many they have available on the their site.  And here is where the fun begins!  You have students read the first chapter and they write the second chapter to the book.  But wait - you don't have time to read all of the students second chapter, select the best and then tell students who had the best and why.  So Boom Writer sets this up for you!  Students go on and read other students chapters and they vote for their favorite.  I would be worried students would just vote for their friends or the "A+" student in the class.  But Boom Writer keeps the authors anonymous so you don't have to worry about those problems :)  

Once the second chapter is selected you can continue in the same way...keep going until your book is complete.  So if a student's chapter was not selected this will motivate them to write again to hopefully be voted in for chapter 3.  This just seems like a great tool and I would love to see my 1st grader get involved with this in her class.

So what happens at the end?  Well, I'm not in love with the way it ends...but there are pros and cons I suppose.  Finished books are published!  The problem is that they cost $9.99.  I did not see anywhere on their website that you can get a free book - but I suppose they do need to make money.  Again, in an elementary classroom this could be a great opportunity to have parents buy the book for their child as a keepsake.  It would be nice if Boom Writer would give the teacher a free book if 20 books were purchased - but like I said, I did not see that as an option on their website.

So anyway, I thought this was a pretty cool tool and wanted to share it with you.  I can see it being very powerful in the lower grades...allowing for creativity and critical thinking (leaving the story open so it can continue).  In the upper grades I think you could create a story for each class.  And maybe you just have them write but they do not purchase the book in the end?  

The possibilities with this are endless.  I can see two or three classes at the same site (or even better in different cities, states, countries) all in the same "class" all trying to be voted as the best next chapter.  As a science teacher I could see some sort of sci-fi book with real science facts intertwined.  History teachers could re-write history and see what changes students would allow.  Elective classes and PE could start any story they wanted and easily have students writing in their classes also!  And I think ELA teachers could figure out how to use this without any problems!

So if you give it a try let me know how it goes!  I'd love to read your story :) 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Share the White Board

When I first saw RealtimeBoard  I wasn't sure it was going to have a use in the classroom - it is more of a business tool.  But the more I thought about it...and then when I started playing with it - this tool is awesome!  We all have the little whiteboards in our classroom (some have even make their own with this DIY video and a trip to Home Depot) and many of us use and love them - they are a great resource. many whiteboard markers do you buy each  year and still hear "my marker doesn't work"?  And what is your breaking point with students drawing random pictures on the boards?  Well RealtimeBoard helps with these issues - and many more!

First of all the whiteboard has a lot of space - you can just expand it more and seems like it goes on forever (well not forever...but check it out and  you'll see what I mean).  Also, you can add text, images, lines and arrows, URLs, video, files from your computer or Google Drive - just about anything.  I wanted to practice creating here is my "Chemical Reactions" practice board:

As you can see, I have jpegs of my PPT slides, video from YouTube for different reactions and I have linked them together with the text boxes in the middle (one of the templates provided).  So now you're saying to yourself "big deal, I can do that with popplet or some other program".  Yeah, I know - and I said in the first paragraph that this is I have to give you more reasons to use it right?

Well this little icon is a game changer.  You can leave little notes on different items for students to read - or to remind yourself of things (we are all getting older and more forgetful - post-its may be our future...time to get used to it).  But seriously, leaving notes for students to refer to is a very helpful feature of this web 2.0 based product.  You can remind them of where to find other resources, give them questions to answer, give more instruction or just let them know what you think about a video.

But wait...there's more!  You didn't think I was going to tell you that just leaving a note made this "awesome" did you?  Here is where it gets powerful - it can be shared like a Google Doc and students can collaborate on the whiteboard!  The image to the left is an example - I left a note to my students and they can also leave a comment back to me.  What's that?  Oh yeah...awesome right?  Let's see, we can check off Create, Collaborate, Communicate and we can get students thinking critically with the right assignment!  So yes - it fits right in with Common Core.  And you can share it with specific people via email or just have it open on the internet.  So here is a link to my practice board...check it out and leave me a message on the board!

How do you export is your next question...I know - it was mine too!  Check this out:
So you can export just about any way that you want!  You can also make multiple boards and put them together if you like.  The only thing missing seems to be a link to share it via Twitter :(

OK - here is the downfall of this tool.  You can sign up for a free account - but you only get 3 free boards. After that, if you want to upgrade it goes to $8.50 a month for unlimited boards.  I know, I know - I got you all worked up and ready to use this and then pulled the rug out from under your feet (or maybe I'll go with Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown).  Sorry about that :(

Oh but wait...there is still more!!!  Since we are all educators (and I don't pay for many things for the classroom) - there is a way to get a free license.  If you click on the education link on their website you can input your school email and web address and they'll look in to giving you a free account...and the same for your students.  So like I said...this really is an awesome tool!

 So what are you waiting for?  Give it a try and let me know how you used it...and even better - let me know what your students thought of RealtimeBoard!