Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Cabeza de Vaca Goes Digital!


Who is Cabeza de Vaca?

Schluter 4th grade students created an authentic game-based learning platform to show depth and mastery of knowledge on the DBQ study on Cabeza de Vaca. This fun project supports Social Studies and History skills in which students demonstrate communication skills by creating written and visual material, as well as identifying the accomplishments and explaining the impact of significant explorers on the settlement of Texas. (TEKS SS 4.2B & 4.22D)

Using the game platform Kahoot! each student created their own questions about Cabeza de Vaca with answer choices, identifying the correct answer. Students chose either multiple choice or true/false questions, and they could upload visuals to accompany the question. Students received feedback from classmates and their teacher as they developed and tested their questions. As one student describes, "We were testing each other to see if we really knew the information."

Students collaborate & discuss accuracy of other students' questions

To provide peer feedback, students play each other's game to see who "wins" by correctly answering the questions.


Multiple classes worked on this project, which provided a unique opportunity. After students completed their assessment questions, a set of questions was created for each class and then... they switched classes! Each class played another class' game to provide not only a review of the material but also to experience how other students created unique questions covering the same material.  

The excitement shown by students who get the correct answer says it all!

In addition to demonstrating content-specific skills, this project utilized technology in a way that enabled students to demonstrate how they are empowered learners and creative communicators, crucial skills for being future-ready. (ISTE Student Standards)

Some students will be presenting their Cabeza de Vaca Kahoot! project at Techno Expo on February 23, including the opportunity for audience members to play a sample game to test their knowledge of the impact of Cabeza de Vaca on Texas history!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Striking It Up: Innovator's Day

Eighth graders in Mrs. Nolan’s Communication Applications class at Medlin Middle School recently explored what it meant to be an innovator. As part of this process, students participated in activities that would lead them to develop an original business, charity, or product that would culminate into a formal professional presentation in front of their class.

To begin, using Genius Hour concepts and Thinking Maps, students brainstormed their passions. This process helped guide them through decisions for which passions they would move forward with in developing their business, charity, or product. After narrowing their list down to their two best ideas, they began doing some in class market research by conducting survey interviews with their peers. This enabled them to see how their idea fit with the need in the market. They also did research online to ensure the idea was unique, yet still directly related to their passion.



Using the Organizational piece from WICOR, students kept their ideas in a booklet provided to them by Mrs. Nolan. This booklet was an integral part to the process and it contained everything they needed to know about their business, charity or product as they moved it towards a digital presentation.

Their next step to building this concept would be designing a logo, slogan, and jingle that would represent their idea. Their jingle would need to be an original tune, or it could be a tune that already existed with new original lyrics. It was especially neat to hear Mrs. Nolan featured as the voice behind several jingles. Tess says, “My favorite part was getting to design my logo for my company that would go into my commercial. It let me express my own artistic skills and it was fun to do.”

Although each student was tasked with coming up with their own ideas, during the process of building their concept, the students sat with the same group of peers each day in class. They collaborated with their peers and were encouraged throughout the process to get feedback from their groups in many of the decisions made about their business, concept or charity. When it came time for their formal presentation in front of the class, students shared about their journey and the development of their idea. Their peer group also stood with the presenter and reported what they contributed during the developmental process.


“Technology helped me learn what a realistic commercial looks like and it gave me a chance to learn about making my own commercial by giving me the resources to do so”. (Tess)

The majority of the class decided to use PowToon to create their commercial. The commercial had to include their logo, jingle, a voiceover, and a minimum of four advertising techniques studied throughout the semester. Student discovered various web tools to tie things together. Many of them are credited for teaching their peers how to try something new on the Chromebook.


When asked about using technology in class, Serena said, “I love using technology in class because it's not boring to learn about different subjects. I get really excited when teachers say we can use technology to do projects or research things because I really enjoy learning online and using my technology. Also, its easier to understand things online than it is in real life." Both Serena and Tess will be presenting their commercials at this year's Techno Expo event.

Additional projects that will be presented at Techno Expo:

Monday, February 6, 2017

Learn, Experience, Explain: Kindergarten Jumping Into The Frog Life Cycle


Working on the Popplet Flow Map
Students in Mrs. Slimmer's Kindergarten class at Hughes elementary recently learned about the life cycle of a frog. Rather than simply reading about the process in a book, these students got to create their own frog habitat, take care of their own class frogs, and create a collaborative flow map explaining what they've learned. This project allowed the students to explain their learning through visuals and voice over using SeeSaw and Popplet. Popplet gave students the opportunity to draw their learning and connect different parts of the life cycle, which is great for visual learners. Mrs Slimmer pointed out, “This project gave my students exposure to the technology in a very meaningful and purposeful way. They are used to playing games on the iPad, but this project allowed them to create and be producers rather than consumers.”

Owen, Kalynn, Mason, and Alliah had a lot to say about this experience. When asked what they learned throughout the project Kalynn's face lit up as she stated, "I learned that frogs actually live in land and in water." Owen quickly added, "And they need food. They need lots of crickets." Mason adds, "Did you know that frog's eggs look like eyes? They start as eggs and then turn into tadpoles." The group all agreed that their favorite part of the experience was taking pictures of their frog habitat and drawing each step on the iPad. They especially liked drawing the frog eggs and the tadpoles. They also enjoyed being able to use SeeSaw to explain their learning with voice over.

When asked what the most challenging part of the project was, Alliah comments, "I had a hard time drawing the water and finding the best picture of eggs to take from our book." At a young age these students are learning how to gather, organize and sequence their information. They are also able to explain their learning, and work together to create a published product.

Students Take Pictures of Their Frog Habitat
for Their Flow Map



Primary Student ISTE Standards:
  • 3C: Students curate information from digital resources using a variety of tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions.
  • 6B: Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.
  • 6C: Students communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using a variety of digital objects such as visualizationsmodels or simulations.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Cox Academy Takes Off!

4th graders at Wayne A. Cox Elementary are taking learning into their own hands.  Mrs. Krista Sarpalius created a Wix website for her students to use this year called Cox Academy.  While, she set up the shell of the website, it is up to the students in the grade level to add the content.  The students have spent the year creating math instructional videos and presentations to add to the website.  The website is then available to parents and students at any time to help them with the understanding of any of the math concepts that have been taught this year in 4th grade.
http://www.coxacademytx.com/
 In an interview with some of the 4th graders they told me exactly how Cox Academy has helped them understand the content at a much deeper level.   One of the girls, Averi, stated that,"When I make the videos I try to think about what it would be like if I didn't understand the problem.  I have to not think through it like I already know how to do it. I have to think more simple and slow down my thinking so that anyone struggling to understand also has time to think through it."
Another student, Klaire, told me that the website has become a great tool for self- assessment.  She said that students can take the quizzes when they feel they have mastered a concept, and if they don't pass the quiz they know to go back and watch the videos again.

The students create the videos using an ipad and then upload them to Dropbox.  The presentations have been created in Google Slides and there are even a few quizzes that have been created in Fyrebox Quiz Maker.  The students have been the ones to decide on how they will deliver the content and then researched presentation platforms to choose the best fit for their audience. When I asked Brynne, a student at Cox Elementary, who she thought their main audience was she said, "My parents are always trying to help me with my math. But they learned it a different way and when they show me their way I get confused. So the videos and quizzes help them see how to do the math and then tests them on their understanding."

This really has been such a mindset shift for these kids and parents.  One parent has even helped them make a Cox Academy App using Hockey App. The free app will be available in the App Store for iOS devices hopefully, next week! Also coming next week, a guest appearance by some 1st grade mathematicians with instructional videos for addition and subtraction!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Let's Plan a Party!

Have you ever been responsible for planning a party for a big event? The 7th graders at Pike Middle School were asked by the Principal to plan the 7th grade End of Year Party. A big task, right? The students in Mrs. Morton’s Pre-AP Math class embraced the real-life challenge of being an event planner. They had to put their knowledge of patterns, equations, and rates of change to the test.

“Our project was to plan a party for Mr. Jones. We could choose where to eat and what activity to do, the challenge was to find the best deal so that we could spend the least amount of money as possible.” -Joseph



"The project was fun and took a lot of brain power because you had to think through the problems. We used the comments feature to talk back and forth to one another when we were confused. We don't live close to each other so the comment feature allowed use to collaborate from home." -Evelyn

"We used the website, Create a Graph Classic to make the graphs. Last year in math class, we made pie charts using that website so I figured I could go back to that website and make these graphs."-Raegan


This project challenged the students to be a proctor of their own learning. It is no surprise that they ended this project with more knowledge of real world experiences in the field of Math and had some fun planning a party at the same time. The International Society for Technology in Education would describe these scholars as; knowledge constructors, computational thinkers, and global collaborators.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Accessibility, Reflection, and Feedback with Nearpod

How does a teacher deliver a visual presentation with a broken projector? How can a presentation be viewable to ALL students in the room, no matter how close or far from the screen they are? How can a teacher with any size class gather immediate feedback from every student during a lesson, whether it is a planned question or an on-the-spot question? The answer is Nearpod!

A class of 60+ accessing a Nearpod presentation simultaneously.
Physics teacher at Byron Nelson, Courtney Toht, temporarily delivers content to two full classes at a time as she supports students for a team teacher who is out on maternity leave. Her Science classroom had the physical space for 60+ students at a time, but students at the back of the room could not view the projected presentation at the front of the room and it was difficult to gauge students' understanding for such a vast number of kids...until she started using Nearpod.

Nearpod enables the teacher to take existing presentations from PowerPoint or Google Slides and import it into Nearpod. Once in Nearpod, the teacher can embed questions in the following formats: open-ended, poll, or quiz. These can be added prior to the presentation starting as well as can be added in during the presentation as need arises.

To join a live-presentation, Nearpod generates a 5 character code that can be written on the whiteboard, shared as a clickable URL, or assigned to a class in Google Classroom. Once a student connects into a Nearpod presentation, the presentation appears on each individual student's computer; so, previously-projected content can be accessible anywhere. Better yet, there is an iPad app for Nearpod so the teacher can control the progress of the presentation while being mobile around the room. When the teacher progresses to the next slide in a live-presentation that is teacher-paced, so does the presentation on the individual student computers.

After content slides are delivered, an open-ended formative question uses accompanies the content to gauge student understanding. When a formative question appears in the presentation, a new screen appears on the student computers with the question that has been posed to the class and a space to answer the question.
Student View: Displayed Formative Question with Space to Answer


As students answer, the teacher can view submitted responses to gather on-the-spot feedback that can be used to assess learning at any given moment. The teacher view also shows the percentage of students that have answered. A setting can be changed the make the students names appear anonymous so a teacher can show all submitted answers without associating a name to the response. 
Teacher View: Formative Question Feedback

If an exemplar answer gets submitted, the teacher can choose to share a selected response which means that answer gets pushed through to be viewable on all student computers. Mrs. Toht uses this feature to gauge understanding of newly presented material and shares students' answers to help them interpret the information using student-friendly and student-generated responses. Note that once the teacher shares a response, the activity closes and students can no longer continue submitting responses.


All features shown in this post are included in the free version with the exception of having 60 students connected at once; the free version allows up to 30 students to connect at a time. Upgraded features include the ability to assign student-paced lessons as well as additional question styles such as a "Draw It" style question which allow students to use their touchscreen or mouse to draw a picture or solve an equation by showing their work as pictured below. Same as the open ended questions, the teacher can view all students submitted work and share a selected response.


Moodle and Google Classroom are great places to store the actual presentation (PPT or Google Slides) for later access. Nearpod does not replace either of these Learning Management Systems; rather, it a tool used to present the content while gathering real time feedback from every student. A report is generated in Nearpod so the teacher can access the formative information after the live presentation has ended so the data can be further used to drive instruction.

1C - Promote student reflection using collaborative tools to reveal and clarify students' conceptual understanding and thinking, planning, and creative processes.
2D - Provide students with multiple and varied formative and summative assessments aligned with content and technology standards, and use resulting data to inform learning and teaching.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Technology Tackles Tricky Standards

Over the past few years, Texas math teachers have been challenged with updated TEKS.  One of the new standards (4.5 A) requires students to utilize strip diagrams to represent their work.  Strip Diagrams can be difficult for students to comprehend without a clear visual representation. Mrs. Mooneyham, teacher at J.C. Thompson Elementary, met this challenge head on and turned to technology for help teaching students about the valuable strategy.  


In this 4th grade classroom, students spent several weeks utilizing strip diagrams to decode and represent word problems.  As a way for students to showcase what they had learned, the teacher created a Google Slides presentation with an individual slide assigned to each student in the class. On the first slide, students were presented with a word problem and asked to solve the equation using a strip diagram.  





Students were provided Thinking Blocks from the Math Playground website as a resource to create their strip diagrams. Once completed, students took a screenshot of their diagrams and added it to their slide, along with a written justification of their thinking.  An example can be seen to the left.





Mrs. Mooneyham always strives to provide students more opportunities for written feedback.  To take this activity deeper, students were asked to look at the work of one of their classmates and use the comment feature of Google Slides to ask questions and/or provide meaningful feedback to one another.  Feedback from the teacher was also given in the same way.  Mrs. Mooneyham found this piece especially valuable stating, “Students took giving and receiving feedback very seriously. They were able to see multiple ways to represent the problem using strip diagrams and were exposed to a lot of great feedback that would be lacking in a notebook.”

Through this learning experience, students were able to further develop their problem solving, collaboration, and critical thinking skills.  The integration of technology into this lesson, increased engagement and deepened the level of learning.  Natalie, a student in the class, enjoyed this experience. “I liked how we got use this cool app that helped me understand strip diagrams.  The technology gave me the opportunity to do something outside of our other work.”  Thinking outside the box and looking to the vast array of resources available through technology, took this seemingly simple lesson to the next level.