Archive for the ‘Technology in the Classroom’ Category

Reasons for Encouraging Our Students to Blog

July 5, 2015

student-blog-reasons

Courtesy of

 

 

Click on the link to read Tips for the Use of 3D Printers in the Classroom

Click on the link to read Why Schools Shouldn’t Block YouTube

Click on the link to read iPads are Not the Solution

Click on the link to read 7 Key Characteristics of a Digitally Competent Teacher

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Tips for the Use of 3D Printers in the Classroom

July 2, 2015

 

3d-printer-classroom

Written by elementary and middle school educator Karen Winsper courtesy of  fractuslearning.com:

 

1. Designing a unique product for 3D printing can be tricky for 10 and 11 year olds.

Students had to identify a problem and then create something using SketchUp to solve their problem. Ideas ranged from pencil holders to earbud organizers to knitting needle guides. Creativity wasn’t an issue with my students. What was more challenging was using the software to actually design their products. I observed many students having to simplify their designs or make changes based on their comfort level with the program. Expert users did emerge in each of my 8 classes and they were eager to help their classmates as needed. I must explore other 3D modeling programs that may be simpler to use or more appropriate for my elementary students. Maybe just spending more time exploring within SketchUp is needed to truly grasp the tools. In the very least, I will revisit the expectations for both grade levels and determine if adjustments should be made based on the student feedback I received.

 

2. 3D Design and printing takes a long time from start to finish.

Because I only see my students biweekly, the challenge was getting each of them to complete a design and then print it within a timely manner. The first steps in the process, identifying a problem and brainstorming ideas, took one class period of 60 minutes to complete. The next step of actually designing the product using the 3D modeling software took another one or two class sessions to complete (60-120 minutes). I worked with approximately 180 students on this project and most of them didn’t actually see their own concept being printed. This is because their projects often took two to three hours to print! On a good day, I could print three or four designs. Sometimes, I was lucky if one finished before the end of the school day. Needless to say, I had to develop a system for printing (save files by student name/color choice, group colors together on SD cards, have multiple SD cards available for saving/printing) and even then I didn’t finish everyone’s prints. It didn’t help that the printer wasn’t working for several weeks. I truly felt I failed the students who didn’t leave with their tangible product. Next year, one of two things must happen: students’ creations will either have to fit a specific size criteria before printing or we start earlier in the school year to allow more time for printing.

 

3. The 3D design challenge is real-world application of skills at its best.

By combining problem solving with project based learning, students used logical, spatial, design thinking and math skills to develop their products. Students were engrossed in this project! From the moment I set up the 3D printer in the tech lab, students wanted to print something, anything. When I posed the design challenge to these fourth and fifth graders, every single one of them tried their very best to design a cool, yet useful, product. They manipulated shapes on a plane to get their design just right. They measured their designs using millimeters, centimeters, and/or inches using the virtual tape measure. They scaled their designs up or down. Some had to go back into the program and revisit the measurements if they had a “design flaw.” I was so impressed with their determination to get their designs just right and I think it was because it truly meant something to them.

4. One must not be afraid of the 3D printer.

I consider myself to be pretty tech savvy. I can figure out a program or online tool without reading directions. I’m like the kids and will search for a YouTube video to help guide me along. Inevitably, the 3D printer will have an issue and you will need to troubleshoot or take it apart to address it. The support team at MakerBot was awesome and helped me via Twitter, email and even over the phone. I can’t say enough about their patience with a newbie like me! I would absolutely recommend that you contact your 3D printer support team if/when you have an issue. These are the problems that arose during this project:

  • The filament jammed in the extruder. I had to take the extruder motor apart on several occasions and now can do it without asking for help from MakerBot Support. I know that the telltale “clicking” requires me to unload the filament and remove whatever is jammed in the motor. You can’t be leery about this task as it is very common and happened weekly during our design challenge.
  • Humidity caused havoc with filament. I work in a 100-year-old building in a lab with no air conditioning. The least bit of humidity in the air causes the filament to swell and not work through the extruder. After realizing this, I had to adjust my printing schedule around the weather. I’d get to school super early just to get a print started before the change in the tech lab environment stopped our production. Maybe winter and spring in New England is the best time for 3D printing!
  • The thermal barrier tube became blocked. This was a bit trickier to fix than the simple filament jam. After unsuccessfully trying to clear the blockage, I actually had to request a replacement part. This presented us with an unforeseen delay in printing.
  • Prints weren’t printing correctly on the build plate or were difficult to remove. Blue painters tape is a 3D printer’s best friend. The full sheets of tape are great but a roll of 2-inch tape works just fine too for covering the build plate and making prints easier to remove. I would also suggest getting a putty knife or similar tool for aiding in the removal of the prints. I learned rather quickly to set all designs to print with a raft as well.  It is super important that you take the time to level the build plate at least daily; maybe even after each print. All of these things will help with the final prints.
  • One of the plastic pulleys and belt wore out and needed to be replaced. This was very challenging to fix. Although MakerBot was great about sending me the X-axis belt, gantry bracket, idler pulley, dowel pin, and PTFE grease needed to fix the problem, it was hard to do! It turned into a two-person job with help from my building’s custodian. I can only suggest keeping up with regular maintenance in hopes of not running into this same problem. It took me several days to fix!
  • The printer made a dreadfully loud noise when the extruder went to its “home” position. This issue was apparently caused by a glitch with the stop end cable. Although not as difficult as the pulley and belt replacement, this fix scared me the most! I actually had to deal with the motherboard and feeding the cables through the machine and making sure everything was attached correctly. It doesn’t sound like much but it sure did intimidate me initially!

You may have a district computer technician who you can rely on when something needs to be fixed with your printer. I would suggest checking your district’s policy on this prior to getting a 3D printer. This way you’ll know if you’re on your own or not. If you are, like I was, don’t hesitate to reach out to the support team to help guide you through whatever issues arise.

5. The benefits of 3D printing far outweigh any potential problems!

There are so many awesome reasons to try 3D printing with your students. The levels of enthusiasm and engagement as well as the multitude of skills used by my students during the process were exciting to observe. The daily collaboration among students and the way they could view me as a learner too were results I hadn’t anticipated.

The pure joy and pride on each student’s face as I took their picture with their completed design was priceless. My students became designers and makers and were super proud of themselves!

 

Click on the link to read Why Schools Shouldn’t Block YouTube

Click on the link to read iPads are Not the Solution

Click on the link to read 7 Key Characteristics of a Digitally Competent Teacher

Click on the link to read The 10 Best Educational Apps for Children

Why Schools Shouldn’t Block YouTube

February 25, 2015

youtube-in-schools

I use YouTube across the curriculum. From supporting me in teaching a writing skill or a math concept, YouTube is invaluable. It pains me to hear that it is banned in many schools. Whilst I understand that not everything on YouTube is appropriate for kids, as long as there is proper supervision taking place, I believe the good outweighs the bad. The following are some compelling reasons for embracing YouTube as a learning tool:

1. YouTube is a fresh and engaging way of learning. Think about how much better it is teaching poetry with poetry recitals from some of our best known and respected performers, rather than just the classroom teacher!

2. It allows teachers to broadcast class movies under a safe, privately locked format.

3. Teachers can compile playlists full of great educational clips for their students to enjoy.

4. YouTube is brilliant at helping us troubleshoot. Whether it is learning how to use a computer program, cook a recipe or edit a movie, YouTube is a visual tool for helping us all develop new skill sets.

 

Click on the link to read iPads are Not the Solution

Click on the link to read 7 Key Characteristics of a Digitally Competent Teacher

Click on the link to read The 10 Best Educational Apps for Children

Click on the link to read The Must Have iPad Apps for the Classroom

Click on the link to read Using Videogames in the Classroom

iPads are Not the Solution

November 4, 2014

pad

There is no doubt that iPads do provide the teacher with new and innovative ways of teaching a tired curriculum. But they should be 1 of a variety of different tools in a teacher’s arsenal. The fact that schools are making everything about the iPad is a very sad indictment on other tried and true ways to engage the learner.

As well as this, iPads may well come with some other points of concern:

Swiping a finger on an iPad is as natural to a modern preschooler as turning a page – but little research has been done on the impact of technology on children’s health.

Curtin University’s School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science wants families for a study into the effects using devices can have on children’s development and posture.

Researcher Erin Howie said many schools used iPads and parents asked Curtin for advice after some children complained of sore necks from bending over them.

The study iMove, iPlay will focus on children from birth to five to find out how often they use technology and what for.

Researchers will observe children aged three to five in a laboratory to measure their physical activity while they play.

In earlier research, the Curtin team found schoolchildren tended to hunch over more when using a tablet but also used a bigger variety of positions.

Dr Howie said it was better to use a neutral posture with neck and wrists straight.

Paul Taylor said sons Michael, 4, and Daniel, 2, were allowed to play educational games on an iPad or smartphone once or twice a week. “We’re more into getting them outside and playing and reading books,” he said.

 

Click on the link to read 7 Key Characteristics of a Digitally Competent Teacher

Click on the link to read The 10 Best Educational Apps for Children

Click on the link to read The Must Have iPad Apps for the Classroom

Click on the link to read Using Videogames in the Classroom

Click on the link to read Five Great Technology Tools for the English classroom

7 Key Characteristics of a Digitally Competent Teacher

August 24, 2014

Courtesy of dailygenius.com:

 

digital

 

 

Click on the link to read The 10 Best Educational Apps for Children

Click on the link to read The Must Have iPad Apps for the Classroom

Click on the link to read Using Videogames in the Classroom

Click on the link to read Five Great Technology Tools for the English classroom

Click on the link to read 5 Great Spelling Apps for Tablets and Smartphones

Click on the link to read Are Educators Being Conned by the i-Pad?

The 10 Best Educational Apps for Children

August 21, 2014

tablets

 

As brought down in the Adjust Report:

 

1.Bugs and Buttons

2.Kids Puzzles Puzzingo

3.Preschool EduKitty-Amazing

4.Heidi on the Alp

5.Shape-O ABC’s

6.TeachMe: Kindergarten

7.Monkey Math School Sunshine

8.Green Eggs and Ham — Dr. Seuss

9.Endless Alphabet

10.Dr. Seuss’s ABC

 

 

Click on the link to read The Must Have iPad Apps for the Classroom

Click on the link to read Using Videogames in the Classroom

Click on the link to read Five Great Technology Tools for the English classroom

Click on the link to read 5 Great Spelling Apps for Tablets and Smartphones

Click on the link to read Are Educators Being Conned by the i-Pad?

Click on the link to read The Best Phonics Apps for iPads

The Must Have iPad Apps for the Classroom

July 6, 2014

apps

Known as the periodic table of iPad apps, these are all extremely useful for the classroom.

 

 

Click on the link to read Using Videogames in the Classroom

Click on the link to read Five Great Technology Tools for the English classroom

Click on the link to read 5 Great Spelling Apps for Tablets and Smartphones

Click on the link to read Are Educators Being Conned by the i-Pad?

Click on the link to read The Best Phonics Apps for iPads

Click on the link to read Should Teachers be able to Text Students?

Using Videogames in the Classroom

May 13, 2014

 

video

A very interesting article by Michael Kasumovic:

 

Although videogames are seen by many as a waste of time, one thing they do undeniably well is teach. The problem is that educational games are about as much a game as low-fat ice cream is delicious. Both leave a bad taste in your mouth and are generally unfulfilling.

That’s because there’s a fundamental difference between games made to teach and games where you learn. In the former, you know you’re being lectured to, while in the latter, you’re having fun and just happen to learn.

If you have children in school, you’ve likely come across Mathletics, the educational “game” that schools use to teach maths.

Contrast a maths question from the Mathletics site where students are rewarded with points with a level in Wuzzit Trouble where students need to turn cogs that differ in the number of teeth to reach the right position of a dial to free a wuzzit.

Both games teach maths, but one is a game rather than being a gamified version of a maths equations. By ignoring traditional symbolism, Wuzzit Trouble teaches through a fun intuitive mechanism where players can’t help but learn if they play long enough. The important lesson here is that students are learning through a familiar framework that minimises the costs of mistakes and allows the opportunity for discovery.

The problem is, however, that games such as Wuzzit Trouble and Dragon Box take a substantial amount of time to create and we can’t expect educators to invest such time.

But what if using games to teach wasn’t either difficult or time consuming? What if current games could be hijacked for education? What if there were easy ways to manipulate code? And what if the creation of games could be part of the lesson?

Gaming in the classroom

The value of Portal 2 and Minecraft as teaching tools is due to more than their popularity. It’s because they allow students to create worlds and manipulate the rules that govern them to explore scientific phenomena in fun and intuitive ways.

A quick search for lesson plans for either game provides numerous examples, often on blogs that provide insight into individual successes and failures.

Physics With Portals is one such blog, where high school teacher Cameron Pittman explains how he teaches Netwon’s Laws.

In a similar way, Minecraft can be used to teach simple mathematical concepts such as perimeter and area, to more complex ideas such as probabilities and reaction times.

It’s not only sciences that benefit from a technological perspective. Remixing College English is a website by English professor Tanya Sasser that explores ways to use technology to teach writing, editing, and revision. One of my favourite posts is the idea of having students explore writing through creating text adventures reminiscent of the Choose Your Own Adventure novels.

Imagine asking students to create games instead of handing in written reports. It’s clear the creators of Cuddlefish and Benthic love researched and understood their topics. Instead of marking dozens of papers, students could play and help grade each other’s games.

Groups at Wisconsin and MIT have also been working on a new way to engage students by using augmented reality. Game editors such as Aris and TaleBlazer allow you to create a virtual world where students use GPS enabled smart-phones to visit map locations to interact with virtual characters.

I’ve used Aris to create augmented reality games to teach evolutionary concepts such as sexual conflict and life-history trade-offs. In such games, I’ve created worlds where students take the role of male spiders searching for mates while avoiding predators.

By working in teams and competing against classmates, students learn how different mating strategies evolve, why others fail, and do so in a social setting familiar to them.

 

Read more of the article by clicking this link

 

Click on the link to read Five Great Technology Tools for the English classroom

Click on the link to read 5 Great Spelling Apps for Tablets and Smartphones

Click on the link to read Are Educators Being Conned by the i-Pad?

Click on the link to read The Best Phonics Apps for iPads

Click on the link to read Should Teachers be able to Text Students?

Click on the link to read 50 Ways To Use Skype In Your Classroom

Five Great Technology Tools for the English classroom

February 20, 2014

technology in the classroom

 

Courtesy of English teacher, Sarah Findlater:

 

Google Drive

Google Drive is a free online storage cloud that has Google’s version of Word, Powerpoint and Excel built into it. It allows students to create documents for free on the go. They can access and edit these documents on a tablet device or computer from various locations with their Google account login. They can share the documents they are working on with other students and can even work in one document at the same time to co-create pieces of work. They can also share the document with their teachers while they work or once they’ve finished to get instant feedback.

Teachers can help students with the creative writing process by getting them to share their stories as they write so you can feedback live without stopping their creative flow. You can give them quick and easy targets through the chat facility or highlight specific sections and create a comment – they have to respond to these otherwise the comment alert won’t disappear. You could also get students to co-create a presentation with one another on an element of the social or historical context of a text you’re studying, for example. Once finished, they can share the document with you, close down their computers and come up one at a time and simply click on their presentation now housed in your drive for instant feedback.

Edmodo

Edmodo is a free social learning platform for students, teachers and parents. It looks a little bit like Facebook so it is a familiar format for students to use. But before you run for the hills, it is very different to Facebook in that it’s completely controlled by the teacher and specifically designed for educational purposes – one of my classes has affectionately named it “Fakebook”. It has a shared timeline as a homepage where you and your students can interact and you can allow students to interact with one another, if you wish. Both teachers and students have a library where they can store documents and share them with others if they want to. The teacher can set assignments, students hand in assignments and teachers feedback on the work all within Edmodo. Two particularly useful functions are the quizzes and polls, and there’s also a built-in grade book that houses your teacher-assessed grades and quiz results for each student.

It really is a very useful all-round tool. You could consider saving essential documents – such as mark schemes, poems being studied and teaching presentations – in the class library to give students easy access to these at any time. You could also post photos of classwork completed by groups of students or individuals so all the students can see it for best practice. You could schedule weekly spelling tests – set as multiple choice quizzes – through Edmondo which will automatically collate the results so you can easily see trends within the class’s performance.

Screen casting

There a loads of tools out there that capture your computer or device screen and allow you to record your voice while you do so. Two that are often used are ScreenR which is free and Explain Everything, which is quite cheap. The idea is that you can take a picture of your computer or device screen and then set your voice against the website or pre-prepared powerpoint. If you collate these in one place, you have a bank of instructional videos.

A simple way to use this tool is to create short instructional videos to help your students study independently or revise a topic. For instance, you might create clips outlining different writing styles or perhaps your team can work together to create clips on themes you all think are important. You could get students involved and ask them to prepare a short videos explaining poems that you have been studying as a revision tool.

YouTube

One way to collate the videos created by a screencast tool is to start a YouTube channel and upload them all there. This is simply your own YouTube home page – you can style the background, upload profile information and follow other channels of interest. You can also create playlists within your channel to organise videos into topics and allow students to find them easily. If creating your own videos is not for you then you can create playlists of videos that are already out there that relate to the topics you are studying.

What about creating a channel for your department? Create a playlist for each topic on your curriculum map from myths and legends to war poetry and creative writing. All you would need to do is to drop in videos of your choice. The videos could be created by your students, staff or just found from educational sources around the web. The clips could help students get more from the topic or encourage them to read and research around the subject – a wonderful resource for years to come that you can regularly update.

Blogging

There are many blogging platforms around but the two that are most popular are WordPress and Blogger. If you’re looking for the easier of the two then Blogger from Google is the one. If you want a more sophisticated platform then WordPress is probably a better choice. A basic blog allows you to have a rolling front page of updating posts and static pages accessed via tabs, often along the top of the page. It is a great record of the year for the students to look back over.

Get your students to create their own blogs and use them as digital portfolios for the year, posting up their best work. Getting feedback from a real audience as well as peers, parents and teachers is a great opportunity for development. How about creating a blog for your class? You could update the main page with homework tasks, recommended reading and updates from your classroom. Try creating a post with a task or question based on the topic you’re studying and get the students to use the comments facility to respond. They could even extend their answers by responding to one another’s comments. You could use the blog as a record of lessons by uploading presentations and photos. If a student is ever absent, this is an invaluable tool to enable them to keep up.

 

Click on the link to read 5 Great Spelling Apps for Tablets and Smartphones

Click on the link to read Are Educators Being Conned by the i-Pad?

Click on the link to read The Best Phonics Apps for iPads

Click on the link to read Should Teachers be able to Text Students?

Click on the link to read 50 Ways To Use Skype In Your Classroom

Teaching History: A More Enjoyable Affair With Visual Tools

February 11, 2014

child ipadd
Photo courtesy of flickingerbrad via Flickr Creative Commons

Reader and prolific blogger Jennifer Birch was kind enough to submit an article especially written for us. History is a subject that seems to turn off students, but as Jennifer writes, that doesn’t have to be the case:

 
If there is a subject that benefits the most from visual medium, then it has to be History. It’s not a secret that many students find this particular field of study uninteresting, dull, and irrelevant. Of course, to us educators, that is not the case. But because history is comprised of entangled events that stretch endlessly from the time of the Neanderthals, it is hard for teachers to avoid the pitfall of history teaching for young learners –boredom.

Forget the tiresome dates and trivial facts; what’s more important is that the students realize the importance of these events and their relevance to the present. There is a reason why the History Channel is such an engaging piece of the television – it’s interesting. In this age of smartphones, tablets, and the rise of visual media, we can transfer the same charm that the History Channel creates for us into the classroom. Here are some of the best tech tools that take advantage of 21st century technology, helping out teachers to get students more interested:

American History in Video

This app is a cornucopia of historical footage, comprised of over 5,000 (and counting) videos on demand for free. It offers a wealth of archival footage, newsreels, olden broadcasts, images of important events and many other visual aids. Rather than letting students read up on a boring wall of text, American History on Video will show them exactly how it happened and how people at that time reacted. Hook up your laptop on your iPad and play the most exciting videos for the class. Expect many raised hands when the question and discussion time comes.

Event-specific Apps

Whenever a historical event is being discussed, know that there is a good chance that a dedicated app is already made for that. For schools that employ the BYOD model, it is recommended that teachers guide their students in downloading these apps for a better understanding of the lesson. For example, the Gettysburg 150 app “acts as a Gettysburg Battlefield assistant for visitors.”

Sheldon Jones, Verizon’s Public Relations Officer, said in his article that other historical apps such as the Civil War Trust Battle App and the Historic Gettysburg Walking Tour app are perfect for discussing the American Civil War.

Secret Builders

Role-playing games are great tools for teaching history, especially on topics that tickle the imagination of young kids such as the Greek and Roman era. Secret Builders enable children to do just that – create a virtual world where they can participate in the economy, talk to prominent people, create art and many other things. Recommended for students on the first to fourth grade, they will get a clearer picture of how it was to live during the romantic era.

Time Tube

This website is the epitome of engaging students through visual means. With Time Tube, students can type in a moment in history; and a series of related videos will be laid out on a timeline. Very easy to use and informative, this tool is even recommended for teachers to expand their knowledge on a particular historical event. Teachers can also create a custom timeline which students can access, acting as a learning aid and lecture guide.

Chrono Zoom

Created by Microsoft Research, the app contains massive amounts of curated content about thousands of topics including most of those in the curriculum of a history teacher with the help of international researchers. Middle-school teacher Samantha Shires vouches on the effectiveness of the tool. “Chrono Zoom breathes life into history,” she said.

The main brain behind Chrono Zoom is Professor Walter Alvarez from the University of California Berkeley. He was one of the proponents of the theory that an asteroid was the cause of the extinction of dinosaurs.

 

History is far from boring and dull. It’s our job as educators to present this fascinating subject to learners in an interesting and engaging manner. With tools such as the ones mentioned above, it is easy to create an enjoyable history class. What other tech tools for history did we miss? Tell us your favorites in the comment section below.

 
About the Author

myMINIavy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jennifer Birch was a volunteer teacher and Ed-tech researcher. She spends most of her time writing and reading. Read more of her musings on Techie Doodlers. Contact her on Twitter or Google+.


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