Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Animated Videos and Presentation Oh My!

I must confess before writing this blog that I (wait for it) am not a full time math teacher......yes...it is true, I just have the fortunate luck of getting to teach math occasionally.  My real background is business and I have been able to teach in a computer lab for many years now.  With the access, I am able to play with and try out new programs that are available to schools.  

Recently we were covering the exciting world of ergonomics and the final project calls for the creation of a poster.  I thought to myself...a poster...this is crazy...we have all this access to technology (we don't even print assignments my class)  - there must be something better.  I headed off into Twitterland and found PowToon......and any site that has a cool slogan that claims it "brings awesomeness to your presentations" has to be a great site!  

I took a quick look around, checked out a few animated videos and was sold!  It is a super easy free (yes!!!!) web based program.  One can easily and quickly create animated videos as well as slide shows, and there are even fun little tutorials if needed.

I set my kids loose onto the program and within a few days, they had created some great little videos to present to the class.  They were much more interesting then posters and my students had a lot of fun creating them.  What is great about the program is they could all put their own creative spin on it and still easily meet the parameters of the assignment.  

I recommend that you head on over and check it out at http://www.powtoon.com/

Friday, February 27, 2015

On Top of Our Game!

SSI Conference

Last week I was able to attend a Student Success Conference in Toronto focussing on students in the 21st Century - what an eye opener....in a great way!

I was asked to facilitate a math session so I sat down with 6 other teachers who either taught in the Toronto District School Board or the Niagara Board.  The focus was grade 9 applied math and what could be done in the classroom to help motivate the students of the 21st century.  We had to choose a lesson and come up with learning goals a plan on how it could be taught in class.  The lesson and the learning goals were pretty straight forward and done quickly.

Now for the eye-opener part.....at our board and school, we are leaps and bounds ahead of what the other schools were doing!  Simply the daily use of entry cards which have questions from the work the day before that are graded and checked daily with students being able to correct them was greeted with great enthusiasm.  Add in our use of interactive projectors, tablets, iPads, blended learning, Google docs, blogs and everything else that is incorporated at our school was mind boggling for the rest of the table!  Much information was shared and quickly the focus of our task was put aside as we pulled out our own devices and shared much information, tips and tricks to help each other out.

It was a good session, interesting to see what the different schools and boards are putting in place and trying to adapt and change to meet the needs of the new student.  Much more to come!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

BYOD - Projection Issues (Chromecast specifically)

Okay, so, if you are lucky enough to be able to provide a device to each student in the class then you don't have the technical issues of projection to a large screen.... once you get it figured out for that style device(iPad,tablet, chromebook, iphone etc) then you are good to go.  We are trying to trouble-shoot the best way to provide possible projection to a large screen (smartboard, epson projector, stand-alone projector) for any individual's device.... since we are trying to accommodate classrooms with BYOD.

First of all, why might one want to project from a student's device?  These are some reasons:
- to free up the teacher computer who might be accessing marks/attendance etc at the same time
- frees up the teacher as students can initiate playing on the projector themselves (since you likely don't want them going on to your computer to access their content they would like to view)
- allows a small group of students to watch the same video... saves download time as our internet does not handle a lot of student's loading videos simultaneously.... and provides an opportunity for students to collaborate/discuss/ask questions amongst themselves during the video
- to easily display student made presentations/solutions to questions to compare/contrast without having to save/send a file to the teacher

We basically just wanted to be able to bypass the teacher having to go to the computer to project.

Thus far I have been testing out the "chrome cast".
->Allows you to project wirelessly from your laptop to mirror a tab or window with a google extension
->Plays netflix, youtube, just dance now(good activity break for students... they can use their phones as "wii -motes") and a few other apps while still using your computer for other things
-> will "cast" from android or iOS hand-held devices
-> cheaper than apple TV ($40 at Future Shop)

-> I haven't figured out how to mirror a screen from android... some forums I've looked into say it won't mirror the screen from a hand-held... others say it will... but I haven't figured out how to get that to work yet.  I found this below... but it says it needs to be on the same network as the chromecast... which could be difficult if your chromecast is on the staff network and student's devices on the student network.... [which could be why I'm having no luck... wish I'd read that before I wasted a few hours trying]
  • Casting your Android screen is currently in beta and available on devices running Android 4.4.2 or higher.     

Now... with Google Apps for Education... (we aren't immersed in these yet)... I'm not sure if any of them are going to be chrome-cast friendly....?

VERDICT - Chromecast works well with a laptop/desktop/chromebook where you can get the google extension for it, but very limited to what it will project from a hand-held device.  Do not get chrome-cast if you are looking for an easy way to mirror a hand-held device.... it doesn't have those capabilities (not easily anyways)

In chatting with other teachers, many like "air server" to put on their computer... it projects through your computer but mirrors both android and iOS.  My sister really likes "Reflector" ($12) and only needed to put on the teacher's computer... easily projects via "air play" on iOS devices... and can display MULTIPLE DEVICES at a time!  [cool for comparing different solutions]  DOES NOT MIRROR ANDROID.  Splashtop and Teamviewer are two other options as well.

Apple TV - very easy to mirror when dealing with iOS via air play (but more expensive.... over the next while I will test how easily an apple TV works with android via extra apps to allow this)  I'll post again once I have the results!

For even more ideas, check out 10 Ways to Show Your iPad on a Projector Screen from Learninginhand.com.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Trying new things: LiveScribe Pens

As a part of our TLC grant, we budgeted money to buy a couple of LiveScribe pens for the math department (however, thanks to a generous donation (from another MSS!) of pens that weren't being used, we were able to put the same money toward an extra tablet). We just received the pens last week, and have started to play with them.

Play the piano, that is: 

Seriously though...

We initially wanted to try out the pens because as we move more and more of our content online, we wanted to give the students access to solution sets that were more than just "the answers" - we wanted an easy way to have full, written solutions available for students to follow along with. 

The bonus with the LiveScribe pens is that you can also record your voice as you write, so not only can the students read your full solutions, but if they like, they can listen to you guide them through the steps.

I made a couple of solution sets on the weekend for one of my courses in D2L's vLE, and really like how easy it is to transfer the note to the computer and share as a PDF. I've played around with recording voice, too, but haven't yet added it to a solution set. I'm hoping to do that this week.

The one thing I find tricky, though, is the inability to erase what you've written if you make a mistake (and I tend to make a lot of mistakes!). I made one last night, about half way through the solution set:

Oops! I can't erase a mistake...
I was devastated! What can be done?? My options were to 

  • scratch it out (too messy), 
  • redo the whole page (way too time-consuming), 
  • or......admit to making the mistake, HIGHLIGHT the mistake, and then work through the correct solution.
If I'm making a mistake to begin with, I imagine other students might make the same mistake, too. And what better way to model problem solving and resilience than to not be perfect in front of the students (and I am far from perfect!). 

This is definitely something I'll be doing more often (both perfectly and not perfectly) with all of my classes as they work through content online and from a variety of resources. Stay tuned to both see AND hear me make mistakes in future documents!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

MPM1D - Watching Students Struggle

Cross-posted from BYOD, ASAP...

Coming back from winter break, I found myself pressed for time in my grade 9 math class. We have just three weeks before the end of the semester, in which I need to squeeze one more unit (linear equations - arguably one of the most important concepts the grade 9s will take with them as they pursue higher levels of math), a unit test, a practice test for EQAO (don't get me started), the EQAO test itself (lasting two days) and the summative project.

We haven't had a snow day yet, but if we do lose a day because of one, this it going to be cutting things awfully close.

My instinct returning from winter break was to rush the students through the learning goals of this last unit - cover as much ground as possible - in what little time we have left. But I knew, too, that particularly with these linear equations, there needed to be a deeper level of understanding. 

I forced myself to slow down. Instead of assigning many small, quick learning checks, I assigned a a larger activity, forcing the students to also slow down. Forcing them to take their time and really understand what it was they were doing. Forcing them to not get the correct answer right away, but instead have to tweak and place in check what they knew as they went. 

The students found the leap to using equations to represent linear functions to be very hard. On Monday and Tuesday, I heard many students complaining about how much they "hate" this unit, and how difficult they find it. This has really been their first challenging unit in this course, and this is the first time all semester I have heard my students speak like this. It was disheartening.

To make matters worse (in their eyes), the activity I assigned them is in Desmos... which many of them haven't used before and were very hesitant about trying.

We had some pep talks in class, we discussed the value of being challenged and growth mindset ("This is hard!" they'd say; "Good! That means you're learning!" I'd say), and we talked about how the only way to get through this was to TRY things and to make mistakes - to take the time to play with Desmos and play with the equations. That things this challenging don't come immediately. To be honest, though, I didn't think they believed me.

Things started to change, however, on Wednesday of this week. Students started coming into class saying "I did it!!" They told me about how it took them one-and-a-half, or two, or two-and-a-half hours the night before, but they figured out Desmos and they got their initials done. They told me about how they understood this whole linear equation thing. And they told me all this with huge smiles. 

They started telling others in class that it wasn't that hard, but that they, too, HAD to play with it. They started helping each other, and creating things in Desmos together. Students would come up to me with their tablet to ask how to place a line or "cut" a line, and then figure it out on their own and literally cheer with joy. No longer afraid, they jumped into the rest of the learning goals of the unit, and are picking them up much faster than I would have expected.

Within a week, our class went from knowing nothing about linear equations, to being able to graph them (from an idea AND from an equation), figuring out the equation from a given graph, creating tables of values from equations and from graphs, and determining the equations of horizontal and vertical lines. I'm super proud of them for digging in deep and overcoming the urge to give up. I think they are also quite proud of themselves.

As teachers, we naturally want what's best for the students. In the beginning of the week, it was tough for me to stand by, watch my students struggle, and listen to them complain without jumping in to help. There were many times I really had to bite my tongue in order to do nothing but encourage them.

But taking the time to let them struggle paid off with huge dividends in the end. Something I definitely have to keep in mind the next time we tackle something new and difficult in class.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Last Day of the Year - First Day of the Blog!

Welcome to ManitoulinMath - a new blog dedicated to Manitoulin Secondary School's math teachers and their classroom adventures. We are recent recipients of OTF's TLC grant to purchase technology for our students, and winners of ORION's Teacher Survey contest, bringing tablets into the classroom.

What are we going to do with all this new technology? Stay tuned...