Task Before Apps

Recently I was pitching an idea for a workshop on spreadsheets.  The an administrator gently shot down the idea. He had politely listened and then asked a couple of questions, “Are you going to do more than just show the basics of how to start a sheet file? What are you going have the teacher do?  What will be their takeaways? Will this help them in their classrooms?”

His words that impacted me the most were, “True, we are looking for classes that teach applications and programs, but we want classes that put “tasks before apps.”

I drew a blank.  I couldn’t remember hearing that phrase. What does he mean, “tasks before apps?”  My creation for a spreadsheet presentation got shelved.

A week later I attended a workshop by Martin Cisneros.  He presented some 40 plus or minus apps and tools for use in classrooms.  Repeatedly he told us to choose only two or three, and not try to master all of them. As I explored each app as he presented it,  I began to realize what “Task before App” means.  Some apps and extensions he presented were useful. Some were frivolous. Some had no use in my classes.

I understood:  If I don’t have assignments to use the app, then there is no need to teach the app.  Now I understood that administrator when he says, “task before app.”

Let me share just two apps that have become mainstays for me.

First, Keep.google.com;  

keepI use the Keep app to make notes that include lists, links, pictures, note taking, outlining and reminders.  I can even use them as a collaboration tool. The best function of all,  is that this one app will automatically sync across all my devices. I have an icon on my smartphone, an extension on my laptop and on my desktop.  It doesn’t matter where and when I add a note, it automatically syncs with all the other devices.   


Second, Mercury Reader offered by postlight.com.

mercury readerI use the Mercury Reader to get rid of all the clutter on web pages. It simplifies the looks of the page to make it easier to read. I can easily print hard copies or post to Google Documents or to a Google Classroom assignment.  All this make the pages become student friendly.

Other features allow me to toggle to a white on black screen or increase the font size.    I can highlight.  I can send it to a Keep note.  For Kindle owners, the touch of a button will send the file to a Kindle for on the go reading.  

I hope you can enjoy these two apps for the task that need apps.

Working Smart Not Hard Using Screencastify

Ever had the experience of explaining how to do something to students so many times that you abbreviate the steps to the point of ineffectiveness? I am a little ashamed to admit that in my 20 years of teaching, I have noticed I sometimes have grown to assume students already come in with certain skills. This leads to more work on my part in the long run because I find myself repeating and reteaching when I could work smarter, not harder. Let me introduce Screencastify.

Screencastify is an extension you can find in the Chrome Webstore and is used to create screencasts. A screen-cast is a digital recording of a computer screen’s output, which is also known as a video screen capture, often containing audio narration. The most common way I have used Screencastify in my classroom is to create instructional videos either made by me for my students or for my students made by my students. These videos enable students to learn at their own pace, whenever and wherever they prefer.

There are other uses for this extension. Follow this link to see the many ways you can use Screencastify in your classroom.

How to get Screencastify:

  • Make sure you are logged in to chrome (if you are on a chromebook, you are on chrome)
  • Chrome Web Store
  • Search for Screencastify (in the extensions area)
  • Enable extension
  • Allow camera access (it also allows the audio)
  • Choose to save to Drive
  • Choose last choice (with nothing written on it)

To begin recording:

  • Click the extension
  • Click Record Desktop
  • It will “count down” so you know when to start talking
  • Start moving the mouse and TALK
  • Click Stop Sharing
  • NAME THE SCREENCAST

Want your image on the screen as well?

  • Start Screencastify
  • Turn on “Embed Webcam” you CAN choose which corner your image belongs
  • The first few times you may WANT to have the preview on, for me it is distracting and I end up watching myself
  • Record Desktop
  • Talk and move mouse
  • Click Stop Sharing
  • Name the Screencast

Done Recording?

  • NAME IT!
  • It is saved in your Google Drive
  • Depending on the length of the video, it may take a few minutes
  • How do my students see it? Share it with them, put it in Google Classroom, download then upload to YouTube

Here are some example videos my students have made (Sorry but these are student work, so you must be logged into your Stockton Unified Google account to view these videos):

Student video (Yocelyn Chavez, 7th grade, “Using ST Math”)


Student video (Velencia Cromwell, 7th grade, “Using Prodigy”)


Student video (Jocelyn Arredondo, 8th grade, “How to Log Into Google Doc.”) (With an interesting interpretation of how to do a book report!)


Student video (Bryan Gonzalez and Kevontay Makinsey, 7th grade, “How to Log into Khan Academy)


 

Student video (Katia Martinez and Jazlyn Rios-Fox, 8th grade, “How to Build a Paper Box.”)

Thanks for reading, and I hope this helps in some way in your classroom!

12 Books in 12 Weeks 

Our school district, Stockton Unified School District, recently concluded a 12 week reading campaign. The challenge was for all students of SUSD to read 12 books in 12 weeks.

I thought it was a benevolent activity so I gave the flyers and challenge to my classes. I quickly realized this challenge was accepted by more of the elementary students and teachers than the high school audience.  My high school students laughed and satirically asked what a book was?  I guess they use cell phones and videos rather than pass their time reading pages on paper.

 I decided to “do it myself” just like the Little Red Hen in one of my favorite children story books.

I gave it the good old college try but came up short in total books read. I could analyze and make a list of why I didn’t meet or complete the challenge. I could dwell on dissatisfaction of not obtaining the worthy goal. Instead I have decided to share my list of books.  

The order of the list doesn’t have any strategy. Following is just a list that came to mind and a reason why I would like to read it.    

I hope you enjoy reading.

Books to Re-read:

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The Little Train That Could  by Watty Piper  

Childhood favorite.


15014._uy630_sr1200630_Crucial Conversations   by Kerry Patterson, et. al.  

Hints on how to talk when the results could cause a loss or really hurt feelings.


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One Minute Teacher: How to Teach Others to Teach Themselves by Constance Johnson       

I wonder if there are any suggestions to make me a more effective teacher.


 

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Mindset: The New Psychology of Success  by Carol S. Dweck  

Top guru of having positive attitudes about success.


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Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions 

by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana

My  students are very weak at asking investigative questions. Will this book help?


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Ditch that Homework: Practical Strategies to Help Make Homework Obsolete   

by Matt Miller and Alice Keeler  

Excellent book to learn better strategies to help students learn.


Books on the first time to read list:

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Blink   by Malcolm Gladwell  

I have read other books by this author and believe this would be an awesome read.


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The New One Minute Manager  by Ken Blanchard, PhD

I used the previous book which was excellent as a help for managing people.  I am curious of what is new in management styles.


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Measure What Matters    by  John Doerr    

Sounds like a statics and a help guide for science experiments.  I am curious to see if it will help me teach investigation to my science students.  


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Ditch That Textbook: Free Your Teaching and Revolutionize Your Classroom   by Matt Miller  

This title sounds like additional hints and helps from an excellent author I have read.


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Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport  

I am curious what hints and behaviors will help me focus deeper and longer than I already do.


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Out of Curiosity: Restoring the Power of Hungry Minds for Better Schools, Workplaces, and Lives    by Bryan Goodwin

This book was suggested by a friend to see if science students can be taught to be curious and thus engage in science classes.

 

Do’s and Don’ts

In past years I covered A LOT of classes, but this year not so much. I get called to cover if a sub position doesn’t fill, if there’s an I.E.P. meeting, and many other reasons. Sometimes it’s for “15” minutes but it’s usually longer. So the one thing I have learned over the last few years while covering a class is the do’s and don’ts of technology in a classroom. Here are a few lists:

DO

*Set the rules before anyone….ANYONE….I mean ANYONE is allowed to even think about opening the computer. Reason why- that one student will go ahead and either use someone else’s account/computer.

Image of students in class.

Students will tell on each other with no reservations.

*Do ask if anyone should not be on the computers. Students will tell on each other with no reservations. If you don’t ask they will be on a computer when their privileges have been revoked and when everyone else has told you repeatedly that that student should not be on the computer, that student will  have a melt down when you take them of the computers.

*List the websites then can go on. If you are allowing Prodigy then list it. Also tell them that these are the only sites you can go on. If you just say educational sites they will find a way to get around the “educational” part. (Student states “Well, my uncle told me I could learn a lot if I looked up……”)

*When setting rules make sure you tell them the volume level on their computers or make sure they use headphones. Also let them know if you allow them to partner up or work with a small group. My suggestion is if it’s your first time covering the class, everyone should work independently.

*Monitoring is still need even if they are all on task and silent. Chances are there’s one or two surfing the web and the ride is a category 5 wave. (Meaning: definitely an inappropriate site).

Don’ts

*Don’t sit and think they are all innocent happy learners. Keep an eye on them. If you hear giggling or noise of trying to talk go quickly but stealth like behind the student so you can see what they are doing.

*Don’t take for granted that the screen they have up is what they have been working on. Nope. Usually they think they can get away with switching back and forth but check the tabs or click on the back arrow to see where they have been.

*Don’t say “This is fun time or free time”. Say “Additional learning time” or “GATE scholar time” It is harder for the teacher to get them back on task when he/she returns to teach.

Picture of Kids throwing paper airplanes in class! Oh my!

Kids throw paper airplanes in class! Oh my!

*Even if your “15” minutes is extended to 30 don’t let them stay on the computer more than 20-30 mins. After 30 mins. they usually are bored and will start to wander  sites or writing notes to someone else in class. Depending on the grade you could wind up with notes that just might make it into an airplane shape that will try to travel the length of the classroom.

I know there are many do’s and don’ts and some seem like common sense, but maybe by reading this post it will be in the back of your mind when you need to cover a class…say for “15” minutes.

Best of luck when you do.

Using tech to promote equity: technology equalizer

Technology can be used to level the playing field for learning. You may ask how can this be? Imagine a classroom where all students receive personalized learning plans that support their learning styles and social-emotional needs.25733957In the book, “For White Folks that Teach in the Hood …and the rest of Y’all too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education,” Dr. Edmin states, “ The technology alone was not enough to engage them. What they cared about was how it was being used.” Below I will list a few uses for technology that can engage urban youth by creating the cosmopolitan effect which is a feature of Reality Pedagogy.

  • Design a digital scavenger hunt related to the content being taught. Components: a powerful driving question, a quick assignment for students to complete and a short lecture.
  • If your district and students age allow: Use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or another social netting site as a platform to share homework assignments with classmates, plan school activities, or create profiles dedicated to topics being taught. Create a Facebook, Twitter, etc. that highlights your class name, homework assignments, members of the class, books being read, links to Youtube videos related to classroom content. You can invite experts on the field of study to join the discussions.
  • To teach students these same skills with actually joining an internet-based social media group use the following ideas. A Twitter board can be created in your classroom. This is equivalent to a Twitter timeline. Students will need to create a handle. The process begins with students writing their handle on a paper tent that is placed on their desk for all to see. Next, the teacher sends tweets about what is currently being discussed in the class to one student using their handle. When someone has been tweeted they have to come up to the Twitter board and respond. A person cannot be tweeted more than 5 times. Students must answer the question and then ask someone else a question. If they don’t have an answer, they must ask a question about what they don’t understand. All questions must relate to the main hashtag( topic) set by the teacher and the beginning of the activity. This event ends when the teacher writes a closing Tweet.

Social media is a powerful engaging teaching tool. In order for students to see it as a tool for learning, teachers should teach this skill. If we don’t Dr. Edmin states,” …as a result of excluding social media from schools is that students then infer that these platforms are completely unrelated to learning.”

Emdin, C. (2017). For white folks who teach in the hood – and the rest of yall too: Reality pedagogy and urban education. Boston: Beacon Press.

Teaching Math In the Digital Age: The Resources (Part 1)

Teaching Math in this age requires a lot of technical skills when it comes to creating and implementing curriculum. Luckily there are many programs out there that can guide you on your path to teaching Math in this day and age. In this blog I will give you a quick rundown of the tools I use with my students as we go from paper and pencil to stylus and screen.

The first and most interesting website to me, which is incredibly interactive, is Desmos. Desmos is geared towards most standards from 6th grade to college calculus. It can double as a graphing calculator and the best part is that it is totally free.There are interactive activities that students can give feedback in anonymity, manipulate graphs, and even play games with. You as the teacher, can easily connect this program and activities through google classroom or many other mediums by creating a class code, copying it, and pasting it into a link in Google Classroom.

This leads me into the next program/programs that I use daily which are Gsuite, (formerly known as Google Apps For Education). The main program that I use to give access to websites and information to my students is Google Classroom. It is very easy to set up and can generate class lists for all of the programs I am mentioning in these blogs. To assess my students I use Google Forms which can allow teachers to insert answer keys into the assessments so students can get instant feedback. It also frees up time for teachers because Forms will do the grading for you. There are always new features coming out, most recently the screen lock feature which will lock the screen as seen in Smarter Balanced and MAP assessments. You can also import grades from Forms into your Google Classroom if you do chose to use Google Classroom’s grading system.

This leads me into Google Sheets which can be used as grade sheets all the way to creating graphs of students’ data. Students and teachers should get familiar with Sheets because it can save massive amounts of time for teachers and gives students a tool to use in their future endeavors. I mainly use it for data analysis of assessments and to post grades in Google Classroom. The students use it to collect, organize, and display data with graphs and tables. I will introduce Sheets to them once we have gone over general statistical analysis tools and how we derive them. Once they know how they work, I will show them that they can compute what would take them 20 minutes into 1 minute. This saves time for the students and allows them to get a better grasp on the story the statistics are displaying.

The beautiful part about Gsuite is that a student can create a spreadsheet and insert it into Google Docs or Google Slides with a few clicks of the mouse. The student can display data in a presentation with a pie, bar, and many other types of graphs of their choosing. The students can all work on these platforms together through sharing them with other classmates, which allows collaboration to be done anywhere, anytime, very easily. Once the students are done with their assignments or presentations all it takes is a couple clicks of the mouse to turn them in to me in Google Classroom.

In part two of my blog I will go over more online platforms that go deeper into Math and Science which can easily be posted into Google Classroom for easy access. If you start with a few of these programs mentioned above, it will not only save you, the teacher time, but it will save the students frustration by making collaboration and access to materials extremely easy.

Skills USA

On February 9th, students from Harrison Elementary School participated in their first year in the SkillsUSA competition. SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers, and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce.  

In its inaugural year, Harrison’s Chapter sent 12 students to Delta College to participate in a variety of skills, such as “Team Engineering,” “Pin Design,” “Mobile Robotics,” and “Job Skill Demonstration.  These skills required some to work in groups to complete a task, or independently to present a skill that the student has prepared for judges.

Besides students having to participate in events, students are required to dress for success.  Many students traded in their loose jeans and oversized hoodies for black slacks, tie, and a red SkillsUSA blazer.

Overall, the day was a success for Harrison as all students from their chapter qualified for the state championships in Ontario CA from April 25th – 28th.