Wednesday, August 20, 2014

20 Time

This year I have decided to do 20 Time projects with my Algebra Math Lab students. This project is something that inspires the students to make the community, the school or themselves better. It allows them to be creative and be passionate about something they are interested in and do something good for the world. This project started at Google and has trickled down into education. Jeff Bernadt and Ann Feldmann explained to me what this was and I knew I had to do it with my students. The first day of school instead of playing get to know you games I got out the iPads and had them search 20 Time Projects and learn for themselves what this project was about. The next few days were spent researching different ideas and coming up with their own. The students then had to pitch their ideas to the class. An amazing website I found as a wonderful resource to implement and use is This website helps you learn what it is all about, gives great examples of project ideas and teaches you how to implement this project into your classroom step by step. In about a month we are going to do a community pitch where my students will present their projects on a poster like a science fair and we will invite the school, their parents and community members to come and check it out. Each Friday will be spent working on their 20 time projects. I am requiring that each student creates a blog that they write in each week discussing their progress, successes and difficulties. Some of the ideas my students came up with are amazing and I could have never assigned something that fit each of them individually so well. I learned more about my students in those first few days while talking with them and discussing what they are passionate about than I have with some of my past students in an entire year. I got to know them on a completely different level and I am so excited how this project is transforming my classroom. At the end of the semester my students will present their projects or give a presentation on how their project went to the class. Some of them will fail at their goals and that is ok. It is the process of learning and it will help them to learn from their mistakes! I am extremely excited for this year with my students.

Check out the video below that gives some different project ideas for 20 Time.

Friday, August 15, 2014

New School Year

As I start this new school year I am embarking on a new journey. I have the wonderful opportunity to teach 5 sections of math lab this year, if you do not know what that means it is a class that students take that coincides with their math classes and gives them extra support to ensure their understanding of the concepts in the class. On top of that I work on skills that will help them be more successful in their math classes along with other classes. I am extremely excited to help build these students confidence in math and school in general! The great part about math lab is that I have students on all different levels and with the help of my tech trainers and the use of a shared model with my iPads I am able to differentiate every lesson and build a curriculum for each individual student. This summer I taught an Algebra Skills course to incoming freshman and I used Khan Academy every day to help differentiate the math that the students were learning and to be able to see where each individual student was on their journey through the summer. Khan Academy allows me to assign different concepts to different students to help them improve on areas where they struggle. The information I was able to get from using Khan Academy with my students was more information than I had ever known about my students before. As a teacher you know the skills in your class that they struggle on and you assume why that is, but with Khan Academy you are able to identify the underlying issues and help bridge the gaps between grade levels. Just like last summer I will use Khan Academy often. At least once a week my students will be on Khan Academy working on building their basic math skills. Another huge part of the math lab is that without having a set curriculum and tests and grades I am able to focus specifically on my students learning and their progress. My main goal for this year is to teach my students how to self-assess their abilities and to talk about that through a weekly blog entry. The majority of the students who struggle with math and school in general also struggle with their writing and putting thoughts down on paper so I am hoping with some structure they are able to discuss weekly what they are learning and how it applies to their own life. My students will blog with the use of KidBlog which is a great app that allows me to control the comments and safely put their writing out into the world. With the use of the ever so wonderful gclass folders I am able to create folders shared between my students and I to go completely paperless. I am able to keep a running daily agenda that they open as they come in the room to know what the agenda for the day is. I am also able to give them the assignments and activities through the drive and they are able to open them in Notability to complete them and send them back to the drive with ease. This worked extremely well last year and this last summer. This year since I am doing the shared model I have been having to learn to teach my students to sign in and sign out of everything daily. Right now this seems like a chore, but I have faith that after the students get into the habit of it this will run smoothly. A great aspect of Notability is that they allow users to create locked folders so each student on the iPad has their own locked folder where they keep their work. Another app I will be using frequently this year is ExplainEverything. Unlike Notability this does not allow for locked folders, but I will have each student create their own folder with ExplainEverything and I am stressing to my students what digital citizenship means so they know to respect others work and also to respect others in the world. I am extremely excited to get started this year as I know it is going to be a great year!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Algebra Skills App Smashing

This is the second week of my Algebra Skills summer class. This class was designed by me last year to help incoming freshman get a boost on their math skills before entering high school. We targeted students who are willing to work, but still struggle with basic math skills. We found these students with the help of teacher/counselor recommendations, parent recommendations, MAP test results and their middle school math grades. These are some great kids who really struggle with basic concepts, and after a 4 week boot camp they go into their freshman year of high school with more confidence and last year we saw a lot of success with the students who took the summer course.

This year I have completely changed how this course looks. I now am 1:1 with iPads for the summer and have used all of the wonderful resources I have learned throughout my work with the iPad Academy and all of the help I have received from Ann Feldmann and a lot of other educators in my district and that I have met through Twitter. Each day we begin with 30 minutes of work on Khan Academy. This is a wonderful site that allows me to track my students progress and see what they are doing well in and what they are struggling with. Each day I look at what my students are struggling with and I recommend practice accordingly for the next day. It makes differentiation as easy as the click of a button and the students do not even know what the other students are working on so you don't have to worry about some students feeling behind and others being ahead. On Friday's we have Khan challenges to see who can get the most energy points. The best part about this is they know who they feel is the brightest in the class and expect them to win, but that doesn't happen. It is usually the lower student who works hard and completes a lot of little challenges which earns him/her more energy points and the look on some of those students faces when I called their name as the Khan Champions was priceless!

Last year I flipped my classroom so I have a lot of concept videos that explain concepts so throughout each day they watch one or two of those as we learn or review new concepts which leads them into some individual practice. Luckily last year I learned about gclass folders so now I am able to send out one copy of each assignment and the students are able to open those in notability and work on them and then turn them in through the Drive and I get to see their work immediately and send it back to them.
Once they have practiced the concept individually I have found apps that work with all different concepts and I have them spend time on them playing the math games, working on certain individual skills. There are a ton of apps out there that work on number sense, operations with integers, fractions, expressions and equations and those are the main focuses on this course so it works out great. I like to give them multiple apps for choices so they can find one they like and are comfortable with. 
Once they have practiced their skills using the individual apps and are confident in their abilities with the concept I then flip the script on them. I use ExplainEverything, Tellagami, and iMovie so they can create their own concept videos and explain their reasoning behind their answers. I feel that this helps them truly deepen their understanding of the concept and they are getting more and more used to talking through the math problems which will help them tremendously if they begin to struggle in their classes in the future. A lot of the students are not comfortable with recording their own voice, but I'm hoping by the end of the course they will all feel more comfortable with it. 
Overall the students are becoming more and more comfortable with using the iPad and all of the resources it allows and are truly improving their math abilities. I'm extremely excited as next year I will be teaching math lab which will be a year long extension of this course and all of the endless possibilities the iPad Academy has given me and taught me. 
I'm always looking for more app smashing opportunities, what is your favorite app smashing activity?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


Would love to do a #mysteryskype with another classroom and so I set up this skype lesson to use if we can find another classroom!!!
Check it out below :)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Introduction of iPads

This post is long overdue and as I have been stewing on this blog post for a few weeks now, I finally am sitting down to write it. I had the wonderful opportunity to implement iPads into my 1st period Algebra class a few weeks ago thanks to my district and to our wonderful tech coordinators! After a semester of training and many conversations with colleagues and other teachers who have implemented iPads I was finally ready to begin. We started by teaching the students how to use the iPad and a few essential apps. Notability, the Drive, Explain Everything, iTunes U, Tellagami, KidBlog, and Khan Academy. We took a little over two weeks off of math and just worked on getting to know our iPads and how the workflow would work. We luckily found out about gClass Folders which worked amazingly with the setup of our drive and allows for very easy sharing of material and turning work in for the students. We have a running daily agenda that the students look at each day to find their tasks at hand and get to work right away. I keep saying we because I am lucky enough to be doing this with 2 of my closest colleagues Tina and Sarah. They are my lifesavers right now as well as Ann! I am not sure how I would have been able to do this on my own!
The students are loving the iPads and having a device in their hands. We are working on our blogs and they are improving each time we blog and I am hoping to be able to share them with the world soon! Yesterday we focused a good chunk of time on Khan Academy. If you are a math teacher and are not using this yet YOU NEED TO!!! It allows for my students to work at their own pace on the skills that they need to in order to improve their math skills. We worked for 30 minutes and I reflected my iPad up on the screen with our classes energy points. Once we as a class hit 100,000 energy points we are having a donut party! We started the day yesterday around 30,000 points and ended around 90,000 so we are close! This helps bring out the competitive edge in the students and at the same time allows those that are at a lower level to compete just as evenly as those at a higher level! I LOVE IT!
We did a wonderful activity today with QR codes. I took the students down to our senior commons and laid out 24 QR codes that had different problems on them. I had the students going back and forth from i-nigma to notability to answer their questions and then at the end they shared their answers with me in their drive! The students love being out of the room and up and moving. It also helps because then my students can go at all different paces and not feel bad for being too slow or bored being too fast! It really changes my views on differentiation completely. It is harder and harder for me to teach my other classes each day without the iPads because I know how much more I could be doing for them if they had a device in their hand. I am going to try and do as many activities as possible with iPads in those classes, but I am not doing a shared model as I believe the iPad is a personal device and I think the students love knowing that it is their device. I have a student in another class who is at a very high level and is bored often so I signed him up with Khan Academy last week on a review day since he was done with his work and let him go. He earned almost 10,000 energy points in just that one sitting and was already working on math I would have never been able to teach him while still working with my other students! He asked me yesterday that if he set a goal and made that goal if he could have his own iPad. We talked about what he meant by that and he just meant one of my spare iPads that he could put his name in and work on whenever he was done with his other work. I said ABSOLUTELY! His goal is 100,000 energy points on his own. I love that he is learning math while working towards a goal.
Tomorrow we start in on math. We are using iTunes U to share the course materials and then letting the students work at their own pace knowing there is a set date for the units end give or take a few days. This will allow those students who need the extra practice ample amounts of time and opportunities while those who catch on quickly can move ahead and then do more in-depth projects that help them with the understanding piece of the Algebra that most of the students will not have time for. We will still bring them together and work as a class somedays, but others my students will be at different paces completely and I will be more of a mentor and support along the way as they take on the journey of learning the 2nd semesters material. I am very nervous and excited to see how they do on their own pace. I know some will need a lot of support in the beginning, but I think I will be able to differentiate in a way that I was never capable of doing in the past!
All in all I have had a blast implementing iPads. It has been a lot of work and will continue to be work, but it is work that is worth it and will pay off as I see my students improve on a daily basis!