Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Digital Citizenship in the Classroom: Technology Tuesday:

In an age where students are coming into our classroom with smartphones, ipods and tablets it is essential that we talk about digital citizenship.  Our students are on social media all the time from facebook to instagram to snapchat or whatever is the new and hip social media site to be on.  They are posting pictures about themselves and posting about what they are doing and many don't stop to think about before they post.   They feel they are protected behind their little devises where they can post what they want and say what they want and it doesn't matter because no one really knows them.

This is why it is so important to teach students digital citizenship in the classroom and beyond.  I love the saying that I see in a lot of classrooms called THINK. T- Is it True?  Do you have evidence to support what you are saying? H- Is it Helpful? Does your post or comment help to drive the discussion? I- Is it Inspiring? Will it inspire readers to think differently? N- Is it Necessary? Does it need to be seed? K- Is it Kind? Are you making this post or comment in a kind, respectful, courteous way?   Students need to know that when they are posting comments whether in a classroom setting or on social media that there is someone else on the other side of the computer that has feelings.  Posting is a reflection of who they are and who they want to be.  If they are posting negative comments about people or their ideas than it reflects negatively back on them.   

In the classroom I have them practice academic writing.  They are not allowed to just say good job or to like a post, they need to explain why they liked it and add to it.  If they do disagree with a persons post they are taught to do it in a respectful manner.  They don't attack the person, they disagree with the idea.  For example, my students are taught not to say I don't agree with you they are taught to instead say, I don't agree with the idea of ___ or the statement of ____, I see it this way ___.   If you are thinking of incorporating technology into your classroom or are already doing it don't forget to teach digital citizenship and how to be better people out in cyberspace.

Let me know your thoughts on this and how you are helping your students to be better digital citizens.

See my other post on digital citizenship and getting started with your digital classroom HERE.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Candy Labs: Science Saturday

                                               Fun with Candy

Three candy experiments differentiated 
to meet the needs of all learners from K-8
        Being a mom of a 2 year old and an 8 year old it's sometimes hard to find activities that both are interested in and can do.  However, they both love candy.   My 8 year old was watching youtube and came across some cool candy experiments she wanted to try out. We had some left over halloween candy so we decided to have some science fun.  

Our gummy experiment:

         We placed gummy's in different liquids to see what would happen after they sat in there for a day. My two year old enjoyed helping to place the gummy's in the different liquids and my 8 year old enjoyed measuring out the liquids and pouring them in the cups.
 As the gummy's were growing my 2 year old talked about what he saw and my 8 year old got to measure the size of each gummy before and after and practice her math skills of making bar graphs.  We noticed that a lot of the gummy's fell apart as she tried to pick them up so she had more questions like how long would it take for them to dissolve completely?  

Our floating letters experiment:

        For our next experiment my daughter wanted to see if m&m's or skittles would lose their letter faster.  We practiced sorting colors with my 2 year old and measuring with my 8 year old.  I think both kids ate more candy than went into the cups.  It didn't take long for the letters to start floating to the surface.
 My 2 year old got very excited to see "his letters" (he is obsessed with the alphabet) and my 8 year old enjoyed looking at the water turn different colors.


Three candy experiments differentiated
to meet the needs of all learners from K-8
Although these two experiments contained the same materials both kids were able to have a great time and learn science based on their age ability.   Since I teach middle school I also use these candies with my students.  Again same materials taught differently based on student ability.  If you want to do these experiments with your kids or students than click here for more information.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Why I chose Schoology for my LMS: Technology Tuesday:

Why I chose Schoology for my LMS
         When I first started to integrate technology in my classroom I needed a place for students to get the assignments and to post about them.  A few teachers at my school were using Edmodo for this and I jumped on board.  I liked that I could create individual classes to make grading easier.  I also liked that I could assign them homework, online investigations and quizzes.  The students enjoyed having everything in one place and the capability to post questions to other classmates.  The downside was the lack of organization.  Everything went into the feed so it was difficult to find older assignments or posts.
          Next came My Big Campus.  The major pro of this one was the ability for my students to watch youtube videos.  My district has blocked youtube for student use.  With My Big Campus I could give students youtube videos for them to watch.  I also liked that it was easier for my students to find their assignments.  The major downside was that it was not free.  My district paid for everyone to use it since it was a more secure site.  Although I liked the features of My Big Campus I felt it was still lacking the ability for personalization.
          I was then introduced to Schoology when I joined my district technology pilot group.  I instantly fell in love with all of the features.  There are many reasons for why I chose Schoology but here are my top five:

1. The ability to make classes and groups.  If you have GATE identified students in different classes like I do, they can belong to their individual class and then you can also group them all together in one group.  This allows you to post questions to them as a whole group and they can discuss information even though they are in different classes.

2. The ability to make folders and organize the information the way you want it.  I love the fact that I can make a folder for each Quarter.  And then folders within those folders for quizzes, reviews, topics, whatever you want.  If you make a mistake you can always change the folder or make a new one and move the assignment to it.

3. The ability to make one assignment, discussion, quiz, or video for a class and then copy it to the other classes.  I only have to do it once and add all my links or files to the one assignment or discussion and then just copy it to the other classes.  This saves so much time.  I was also able to post videos, worksheets, links to websites on one class and then copy those to other classes as well. Plus it is integrated with google drive so I could take a document from my drive and then add it to an assignment.

4. Analytics. I am a huge fan of stats.  I love that schoology gives numerical data and graphs to show how many posts a student has done overall and per assignment.  For quizzes I can see how students did individually, how they did per question, how the class did as a whole, and which questions they did well on and which ones they struggled on.

5. Variety of quizzes.  In schoology you can create almost any type of quiz.  It will grade the multiple choice and short answer quizzes for you.  You can make the multiple choice quizzes more like common core by having more than one answer for the question.  You can then give the students partial credit if they get part of the question correct or make it all or nothing.  You can also add images and video to the quizzes.  For one question my students had to watch a video of a person on a skateboard and explain if the person was accelerating and why?  The more practice students can have at answer multiple answer questions and questions with video the more prepared they will be for the common core state testing.

If you are thinking about integrating technology into your classroom than schoology is a great option to help you with this.  It is an easy to use, free LMS (learning management system) site and the different collaborative groups you can join are a great place to learn about all the things you can do with schoology and with technology in general.
Schoology analytics to help drive your lessons and track your students

Friday, June 19, 2015

Common Core in the Science Classroom: Science Saturday:

Tackle the Common Core Science Literacy Standards
using CER (Claim, Evidence, and Reasoning)

        When people think of common core they think of English and Math. However, all subjects are part of the common core. 

 In science, along with our science standards we have the common core science literacy standards. One of the key parts of the common core standards for science is having students support their claims with evidence. To help students with this teachers can incorporate the CER model: Claim, Evidence, and Reasoning. I first came across this model in the book: Supporting Grade 5-8 Students in Constructing Explanations in Science: The Claim, Evidence, and Reasoning Framework for Talk and Writing. I was very intrigued about this model and like anyone searched for more information on the topic. I found a video on youtube created by Matthew d'Alessio. In this model the students state their claim, the answer to a question. They then support their claim with evidence. This evidence can come from text, from data, from observations,... Finally, they use reasoning to explain why the evidence supports the claim. 

I have found that for middle school students they catch on pretty quickly with the concept of supporting their claim with evidence. After practicing a few times they were able to find evidence to support their claims without help. The struggle they had was with the reasoning. Although they could tell me the basic idea of the concept, they had a hard time making the connection between the evidence and the claim. To help them with the reasoning I found that asking them what they already know about the topics and reviewing what we already learned in class with the textbook or our flipped video helped. I also created a template that helped the students organize the claim, evidence, and reasoning before putting it into a summary. I have the students use it in their Big Idea summary of the unit and also in the their lab reports as their conclusions.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Flipping your class with edpuzzle: Technology Tuesday:

Flip your class with edpuzzle
This year I took on the adventure of flipping my 8th grade science class.  I had heard about the flipped classroom from my district’s blended learning group that I belong to. I wanted to try it out but I needed a way to hold my students accountable for watching the lesson.  After scrolling through the various posts about the flipped classroom in schoology I came across Edpuzzle.  This was it.  Here was a way for my students to interact with the video and get immediate feedback on their learning.  This is why I love Edpuzzle:

1. Student Accountability:  Edpuzzle forces the students to interact with the content.  You can set it so that they cannot fast forward.   They are required to answer questions that you embed in the video before they can watch the next segment. 

  2. Student feedback: Students are given immediate feedback on multiple choice questions.  They are shown right away if they missed a question.  Plus, you can make it so that there is more than one answer, which requires the student to think more about the choices. 

  3.  Student Differentiation: Students are able to move at their own pace.  They can watch and re-watch a segment as many times as they need to understand the topic.  They can pause the video to take notes.  For a three minute video I have some students finishing in 6 minutes while others need 20 minutes.  No one feels as if they are slowing the class down, or getting board while waiting for the class to finish. 

   4. Analytics: As a stats person I love the analytic part of edpuzzle.  It gives me feedback on how many times a student watched a segment.  If I notice that there is one segment that most students had to watch multiple times I would clarify that information in class the next day. It also lets me know if a student finished watching a video and how they did on the questions.  Since my questions are multiple choice and based on the information in the video, my students are required to score a 70% or higher or they have to watch the video over again.  It also gives me feedback on how the class did on each question so I can clarify any questions that the class as a whole seemed to struggle on. 

The only downside, and this is not the fault of edpuzzle, is that if your district has blocked youtube you will need to do a work around in order for your students to watch it in your class.  To work around the problem you must first download the youtube video to your desktop and then upload the video to edpuzzle.  It is a few more steps but well worth it.

Monday, June 1, 2015

TLAD: Think Like a Disciplinarian

With school winding down and testing over I like to give my students an idea of what real scientists have to do.  In this TLAD (Think like a disciplinarian) my students because astro-scientists.  They learned how astronomers determine what the characteristics for a habitable planet are.  They then got to use the tools that astronomers use in order to find planets in other solar systems that meet those characteristics.  From there they were put into groups with each person in the group taking on the roll of a different astro-scientist.  Some were astro-biologist and learned the importance of producers and decomposers in creating a habitable planet.  Others were astro-geologists and learned why plate movement and volcanoes are important.  Yet others were atmospheric scientists and they learned why we need an ozone layer and why its actually bad for us to have to much oxygen in our atmosphere.  The students then used their knowledge to come up with their own habitable planet and star system.  They had to explain the biological, geological, and atmospheric features that help make their planet habitable.  Some of my students chose to present their planet on a poster, other chose to create a powerpoint presentation, and yet others decided to make a 3-D model.  I even had one group create a travel commercial for visiting their planet.  The students had a great time and really enjoyed learning about the different tools and what it takes to discover planets that have the possibility of life.  You can see a slide show of some of my students projects below