Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Setting up your Digital Classroom Part 3 (Digital Citizenship): Technology Tuesday

Digital Citizenship in the Classroom

Its the first few days of school and students are learning the rules and procedures of your class.  They are told they need to be respectful, they need to honor each others opinions, to not make fun of others answers, and speak in complete sentences.  Were they taught that the same rules apply when they are on the computers or iPads?  With all this amazing technology entering our classes and more and more students coming to school with smart phones there is a need to teach about digital citizenship.  

         It is so easy to just post a comment or picture about something or someone and not really think about the results of that post.  Cyberbullying is now taking the place of physical assaults with almost 60% of students now saying that something mean has been said about them online.  If we are going to use technology in our classes than we need to teach our students what is acceptable and what is not.  There are a few ways we can do this.

Digital Citizenship in the Classroom:

There are 10 parts to digital citizenship but I feel that 7 of them really apply to the classroom.  These seven should be incorporated into your rules of your classroom.  I like to have my students do a blind pole and ask, how many have had someone say something mean about them through texts or Facebook or other online means.  We talk about why it happens and how it makes them feel.  Then I introduce the seven parts of digital citizenship

1. Digital Rights and Responsibilities: Right to privacy and the Responsibility to use technology in an appropriate manner.
2. Digital Communication: The exchange of information electronically
3. Digital Etiquette: Digital users are expected to conduct themselves in an appropriate manner.
4. Digital Security: Protecting themselves from digital thieves and using virus protection. (I also use this time to talk to them about security on their phones.  Many of my students have smartphones but do not have find my phone or similar apps installed or activated)
5. Digital Literacy: Knowing when and how to use technology.
6. Digital Law: Legal rights and restrictions.  This is an excellent time to talk about the illegal downloading of music or movies or using copyrighted material.
7. Digital Commerce: Knowing how to buy from legitimate companies.

We talk about the Do's and Don'ts.  
*Do listen and think first           *Don't forget the human behind the screen
*Do use proper English             *Don't shout by capitalizing every letter
*Do be careful about what you share    *Don't share images or videos with strangers

I also use sentence frames to help my students practice digital citizenship and reply to posts using academic language.

My students are constantly having online discussions and collaborations so one thing I like to have posted in my classroom is this THINK poster.  Before we start our discussions or online collaboration we review it.  I also find it helpful for me to review every now and then as I do collaborations online with other teachers.

What have you found to be helpful to help your students with digital citizenship in your classroom?


A great way to integrate social media into your classroom in a safe non-digital way is with exit tickets.  Students can "chirp" what they learned or draw a picture of what they learned.

Ready to Use Exit Ticket

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Blended Learning Science Stations: Science Saturday


Blended Learning Science Stations

Students learn in different ways which is why the blended learning model is such a great way to differentiate your teaching and help them understand the concept in a way that works best for them.  There are four basic models with blended learning: Rotation model, Flex model, A La Carte model, and Enriched-Virtual model.  I will be focusing today on the Rotation model with an emphasis on Station-Rotation.  

      When I do Station-Rotations I like to have 2-3 stations that the students move through. The three stations I generally have is an online station, a group collaboration station, and a teacher-led station.

Online Station:

In the online station students work pairs to investigate the topic by either doing a virtual lab, watching a video, completing a digital interactive notebook, or using thinklink to navigate through different websites, videos, and pictures that will then allow them to learn the topic.  The important part about the online station is that they need to work in pairs and discuss what they are doing and seeing.  Some people put students in front of computers for the whole class time and the students are silent, there is no interaction with someone else to discuss what they are learning.  This is, in my opinion, is not a good thing especially for EL learners.  They need to talk about what it is they are doing, what they are seeing, their understanding of it.  Another important part about the online station is that their needs to be interaction with the information and an accountability piece.  When my students do a virtual lab one student will have their computer open to the virtual lab and the other student will have theirs open to either a google form where they will be answering questions or a lab template that they are filling in on google sheets.  If they are watching a video or doing a thinklink investigation, they are taking notes, answering questions, and summarizing the main ideas of their investigation.  I have also given them a digital flip book that they work on together to complete.  Using an LMS like Schoology or Google Classroom makes it easier to give students directions and lead them in what they are suppose to do.

Group Collaboration

Group collaboration stations allow students to do some hands-on learning.  The students work together to do a lab, create a poster, work with manipulative's, or complete a learning task.  To help with the organization of this station it is important to assign students roles, to have clear instructions, and to make sure they have a finished product at the end that they are held accountable for.  I try and incorporate more of a business setting so I have the CEO (leader), Reporter (speaker/writer), the IT director (materials person), and the Ambassador (person that can talk to other groups or the teacher).

Teacher-Led Instruction

This station is my favorite station out of the three.  Sometimes as teachers we find it difficult to really meet the needs of all our students and give them that special one-on-one attention they deserve.  Especially in a secondary setting when you might have 36-40 students in a class and you only have an hour with them.  That is why this station is so important.  Instead of working with the whole class you are able to work with a small number of students.  You can keep this station the same for every group and teach the same thing or you can differentiate it for each group.  Most of the time I like to divide my students up by ability level for that topic.  When I do that I am able to meet the needs to the students when they come to my station.  For the students that are struggling we might practice the information, I might reteach it, or we will do some basic activity.  For the students that have a good understanding I might have them learn about some real world applications and help them work with higher level thinking tasks to see how deep we can go in their understanding.  My students love the more one-on-one this provides and feel that they were finally challenged in ways that are more difficult to do in a whole class setting or that they finally understand the topic because of the individual help.

Keys to Successful Station-Rotations

1. Clear instructions at each station
2. Clear expectations for the activity (I usually have a poster and refer to it at the beginning and during each rotation)
3. Daily review for groups to share out what they learned from the rotations each day
4. Engaging activities that challenge them but aren't so difficult they give up

If you are interested in doing science station rotations and more information on how one is done, check out my science station rotation for the scientific method.  It is a great place to start to incorporate this model in your classroom

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Setting up your Digital Classroom Part 2 (Google Drive / Google Classroom): Technology Tuesday

Welcome to another Technology Tuesday. For some, summer is just getting started, for others it is coming to an end.  Around this time teachers start heading to stores for back to school sales and start thinking about the first few weeks of school.  With that in mind I have decided to put together a three part series to help you get your classroom ready for digital learning.

  • Part 2: How to set up Google Classroom and how to use Google forms to gather information about students during the first few days of school

Part 2: How to set up Google Classroom and How to use Google Forms to gather information about students during the first few days of school.

-Google Classroom

Most school districts have embraced Google Education as a means to integrate technology into the classroom.  With Google Education districts and schools are able to set students up with user names and passwords and put restrictions on them to make it safer for students to work within the cloud.  It also allows teachers to use Google Classroom.  Google Classroom is not an LMS (Learning Management System). It is similar to blackboard.  It is a place where teachers can post useful documents, assignments, and announcements.
      When you enter classroom you will create a class using the + sign in the corner.  Once you have created the class you simply give your students the class code so they can join.  In their main stream you can give students announcements and give them assignments.  If you create a document in your Google drive and you want to share it with your students you simple go to add assignments and then attach your document to the assignment.  Classroom will make an individual copy for all students.  When the students open the assignment they will be able to write on it and then click the turn in blue button at the top to submit it when they are done.  Using Google classroom is the easiest way to share and gather products from Google drive.
     For more information on how to set up google drive check out this video.
-Google Drive (Google Forms)

  One of my favorite features in Google drive is Google forms.  I use google forms to gather information about my students.  Before a test I use Google forms as a review.  When students get the question correct the go to the next question.  If, however, they get the question incorrect it will bring them to a help page to review the topic and then back to the question to try again.  I use it for their major tests and quizzes to gather information about how they are doing.  I can create multiple choice, short answer, essay questions, and many more for a variety of leveled questions.  At the beginning of the year I use it to gather information about my students.  Since I use technology in my class and I incorporate the flipped model I need to know if my students are able to get onto the internet at home and how comfortable they are in using technology.  I ask them a variety of questions about what type of technology they use, how reliable their internet connection is at home, how comfortable they are with using technology, and what they use technology for.  Once I have this information I use it to help group students to make sure that students that are used to technology are with someone who is very good with it and can help them.  I also make sure that the students who don't have internet at home have a place to watch the flipped videos.  
For more information about how to create a Google form for a technology survey check out this video

What are some things you use Google forms for? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Reinstate Pluto as a Planet: Science Saturday

Image credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

On July 14, 2015, after launching 9 1/2 years ago, New Horizons finally reached its destination, Pluto.  It is the first time we have gotten a close up view of this beloved Dwarf planet.  Nasa is now gaining more information about this amazing object.  Some of these new discoveries include an Ion tail where the Nitrogen in Pluto's atmosphere is being blown away by solar winds. There is also a concentration of frozen carbon monoxide in the "Heart of Pluto".   So what do these new discoveries mean for the fate of Pluto.  Before we look at that let's look at the reasons Pluto became reclassified as a dwarf planet.

      After over 20 years of searching for a ninth planet, Planet "X", Pluto was discovered.  It was discovered on February18, 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh after looking at photographs taken in January of that year. In August of 2006, the IAU (International Astronomical Union) came together to create a definition of a planet.  According to the IAU there are now three criteria's of a planet.

1. It is in orbit around the Sun.

2. It has sufficient mass to assume hydrostatic equilibrium (a nearly round shape).
3. It has "cleared the neighborhood" around its orbit.

Image Credits: NASA.gov
Pluto Meets the first two but does not meet the third one.  To have a "cleared neighborhood" an object needs to be large enough have no other objects similar in size next to it except for its satellites.  Pluto is not large enough to have enough gravity to clear its neighborhood.

     What does the future hold for Pluto?  The new information gained from New Horizons confirms that Pluto meets the first and second criteria however it still does not meet the third criteria.  The IAU will meet in Honolulu this August and at this time there are no requests to put it on the agenda.  For now Pluto remains a dwarf planet.  

What are your thoughts about Pluto? Do you think it should be reinstated as a planet or keep its dwarf planet status?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Setting up your Digital Classroom Part 1 (Schoology and Edpuzzle the Perfect Combo): Technology Tuesday

Part 1: Learn why Schoology and Edpuzzle make the perfect combination
Welcome to another Technology Tuesday. For some, summer is just getting started, for others it is coming to an end.  Around this time teachers start heading to stores for back to school sales and start thinking about the first few weeks of school.  With that in mind I have decided to put together a three part series to help you get your classroom ready for digital learning.

  • Part 1: How to set up Schoology and Edpuzzle and get them ready for your students

Part 1: How to set up Schoology and Edpuzzle and get them ready for your students.


Lets begin with Schoology. If you haven't read my post about why I choose schoology for my LMS you will want to read that first.  It gives some of the basic features of schoology and why it is so great.  This post will be more about how to sign up for schoology, create your classes, organize your class information, and join the wonderful collaboration groups.  
Easy to follow steps on How to sign up for Schoology
      To set up schoology you first need to sign up.  Once you sign up you can take the simple tour of the different features it has to offer.  After the tour you will want to add your courses. If you are a primary teacher you will only need to add one.  If however, you are a secondary teacher you probably teach multiple courses and have different sections of those classes.  You can put all your students that are in the same course into one group or you can create sections of the groups.  For example, I teach both 8th grade Core Science and 8th Grade Pre-AP science.  I created the two groups and then created my different sections within those groups.  This way instead of having 90 students in one group I have 36 students in each section of the group.
How to organize your class on schoology using folders
       After you have your courses its time to organize the information within the course with folders.  To make it easier for students to find information you create folders that will contain the different topics or categories.  For example, I have one folder for each quarter.  Within my quarter folders I have folders for homework, assignments, unit quizzes, practice quizzes, and review information.  You can always go back and create folders later but its easier to set up your folders in the beginning.  
     Next you will want to do is join some of the amazing Schoology educator groups.  The educators in the groups are amazing and are willing to help and offer support.
     When you are ready for your students to sign up you will need to first give them the access code for the class.  I usually just project it onto the screen.  They will then need to add their name, email, and birthdate.  My students have a google account provided to them from the district so I require them to use that email account and password.  This way they only have one account and password to memorize.  Every student that is under the age of 13 will need to get a parent permission first and then send that permission to schoology.  It will take you through the steps for doing that.  It is just as an added protection for them to make sure parents know their kids are online.  Schoology itself is part of the safe habor framework and is designed for K-12.
    For a more detailed, visual information you can check out my youtube tutorials on setting up Schoology and how to sign students up.


     If you plan on flipping your class or you want to use videos as text to help your students learn than the perfect addition to schoology is Edpuzzle.  You can read about why I love Edpuzzle as a tool to flip my class in a previous blog.  This post will be about how to sign up for Edpuzzle, create your classes, and add your content.
Easy to follow steps on how to sign up for edpuzzle
    Signing up for Edpuzzle is easy since you can sign in with google.  Once you sign in you will want to create your classes.  Again if you are secondary teacher you can decide if you want all your students in one group or if you want to create separate classes.  I like to have separate classes so that it is easier to keep track on how individual classes are doing and which students in each class need extra support.
How to organize your content with folders
     Once you have created your classes its time to add your content.  You can either upload your own videos or find ones already created by other members of Edpuzzle.  A word of caution, if your district has blocked youtube, like mine has, you will need to upload your own videos.  If you choose a video from the bank you will not be able to tell if it comes directly from youtube or if it was first downloaded and then uploaded.  For that reason, unless you decide to choose the videos at your school so you can test it, you will need to use a youtube video downloader first to download the youtube video to your desktop and then upload it to Edpuzzle.  This takes longer but it works around the problem of having youtube blocked.  Students will be able to see your uploaded videos.   After you have uploaded your video you can crop the beginning or end, you can create a voice over if you want your students to hear your voice instead of the person on the video, you can add voice comments if you want students to pay close attention to a point in the video, and you can add the questions.  The questions feature is great because you can add an open ended question, a multiple choice question which can have multiple answers, and just a comment.  The multiple choice questions will be graded automatically and give the students immediate feedback.  Once you are done you just save and then its ready to share with your students.   

     If you have used Schoology or Edpuzzle before leave a comment about what you like about them.

     Stay tuned next Tuesday for Part 2 in the series.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Fun with Slime: Science Saturday:

Two weeks ago we had a few kids over for a just because slumber party.  In between playing video games and soccer the kids wanted to do a science experiment.  So we did a simple science experiment that I do with my students in class.  We made slime.

To make slime you will need:
- 1 tsp borax (this is a laundry booster found with the laundry detergent)
- 4 oz glue  (clear glue will make clear slime and glitter glue will make glitter slime)
- 1/2 cup tap water
- 1/2 cup hot water
- two cups or containers
- spoon for stirring
- food coloring if you want to add color

Here is how we made our slime.

Part 1: In one cup / container
-First: pour 1/2 cup of tap water into the cup
- Second: pour 4oz of glue into the cup
- Third: add food coloring to the cup and then stir everything together

Part 2: In a second cup / container
- Fourth: put 1tsp of borax into the cup

Part 3: Mix it together
- Fifth: Pour the cup with the borax into the cup with the glue
- Sixth: mix everything together. After awhile this might get difficult as the ingredients start to combine together.
- Seventh: take it out of the container and have fun playing with it.

     If the slime is a little to wet, which can happen, you could place it on some newspaper to absorb some of the liquid.  The kids had a great time pulling the slime, bouncing the slime, and watching it turn flat if they left it on the counter.  To save it for later simply place it in a ziplock bag.

    I hope you have fun making your own slime.  Let me know how it turned out in the comments below. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Shifting time spent in class away from lectures towards application: Technology Tuesday:

According to Edgar Dale, students have a 75% chance of learning the information when they practice doing the information and a less than 10% chance when they are lectured on it.  Our job is to increase the amount of student practice and decrease the amount of lecture/reading (without writing).  Take a look at your class time.  How much time is spent on students receiving the information and how much time is spent on the students practicing using the information.   A few years ago I would spend at least half the class time giving the students information through power points or other methods.  Yes, I would have a few checks for understanding and pair-shares. But if I am honest with myself, the majority of the time was spent on giving the students the basic information through power points.  As a middle school teacher, I felt that the majority of the students came in with no background knowledge on science and so I needed to spent most of my time building that background knowledge and that left little time for practice.  This brings me to the three facts about student learning.  Fact 1: students learn more by interacting with the content than by listening to the content. Fact 2: students learn more by writing and talking about what they are reading than just reading alone. Fact 3: students learn more by practicing the content over and over again. 

        Tackling Fact 1.  To allow students more time with practicing using the information and less time listening to lectures or reading about the information I have flipped my class.   For some teachers flipping your class can be intimidating.  How should you flip? What videos should you use? How long should they be? How do I hold my students accountable?  What do I do in class the next day?  What if they don't watch the videos? These were my questions when I decided to flip my class last year.  To make it easier I have taken the fear out of flipping a class.  I created an acronym called FIRE: Format, Interact, Review, and Extend.  I use this format whenever I do a class lesson.  It helps me figure out the videos to use, how I will hold the students accountable, and most importantly what I am going to do in class the next day.  You can check out my scientific method bundle to get a better idea of how I "FIRE" up my flipped class. 

     Tackling Fact 2: Its very important that students practice reading expository text, however when they read text they need to interact with it and they need to review and practice what they read.  Textbooks can be very difficult for some students to read.  They are filled with lots of difficult vocabulary words and contain some information that students might not need.  My expository summaries provide the basic information using the key academic vocabulary.  Plus students have a handout that goes with each expository reading that has a varied leveled of questions that challenge the students at all levels.

      Tackling Fact 3: The most important thing to remember when planning your lessons is to allow a lot of time for students to interact and practice working with the topic. This is where their minds start remembering, learning, working through the misconceptions and difficulties.  They figure things out and through practice start to own the learning.  The hands-on investigations and virtual labs my students do with help from their groups help my students understand what it is they are learning.  I love it when I can see the lights click on and you know that they finally get it.

      For more information on how I tackle the three facts when teaching the scientific method click here.  What do you do in your class to help tackle the three facts above?

Friday, July 3, 2015

4th of July Celebration: Science Saturday:

The 4th of July is a great time to celebrate the birthday of our country and the science of chemistry.  All the different colors that you see in the fireworks displays are possible because of chemists mixing elements and compounds together.  This post from Chemistry Professor Bassam Z. Shakhashiri at the University of Wisconsin-Madison called Chemical of the Week: fireworks explains how the different colors are created and what chemicals go into them.  It is so amazing how different combinations of our roughly 120 elements can make something so beautiful.

To celebrate this beauty and our nation's birthday I am having a giant sale in my store.  Everything is 20% off or more.   You can find everything you need to start the year off right and teach the scientific method.  Including, expository readings, science stations, fun candy labs, review task cards, flipped lessons, and assessments.  Your students will have a great time with theses lessons.

        Plus if you are curious about flipping your science class but don't know how to get started or don't think you have the time than check out my flipped lessons.  They have everything you need including links to videos, note taking templates, mini quizzes, and differentiated lessons to do in class the day after the flip.  I've done all the work for you so you can flip your class with ease.