Tech Tuesday

Finds and Thoughts about Tech Integration

BrainPOP – Have You Checked it Out Lately?

March19

Allow me to take a poll…

How many people have used the movies at BrainPOP?

(I’m sure there are a generous show of hands…)

How many people have used the quiz that follows the movie?

(Again, I’m sure there are quite a few hands out there…)

How many of you are using BrainPOP for science and social studies?

(Yup, those hands are still up…)

For ELA and math?

(Oh, down go some hands…)

And how many of you have differentiated instruction using BrainPOP?

(OK… I will bet that there are far fewer hands now…)

I just wrapped up facilitating a BrainPOP study group. Our focus was on meeting the needs of diverse learners. If you haven’t taken a good look at BrainPOP lately, run right now and do so!

The school district I am in has a subscription that gives us access to BrainPOP, BrainPOP, Jr. and BrainPOP ELL. After being in this study group, we fully are aware of all the good stuff that we have been missing in BrainPOP and BrainPOP, Jr. (we did not explore ELL)… and definitely are taking advantage from this point.

First, get a My BrainPOP account. If your school has a subscription, there’s a code for you to use. We have connected our G-Suite with BrainPOP, so teachers easily can create classes in My BrainPOP. What does that mean?

When a student goes to BrainPOP or BrainPOP, Jr., s/he can log in, receive assignments and submit them directly to the teacher. These assignments can be: watching movies, taking quizzes, creating concept maps (Make-a-Map), composing their own movies (Make-a-Movie)… and this is only the beginning… NewsELA, Primary Source, Activity, Graphic Organizer, Vocabulary, or Related Reading also are BrainPOP features… and if you are using BrainPOP, Jr., students can be assigned Word Play, Draw About It, Activity, Write About It, or Talk About It.

Quizzes can be redesigned and modified by teachers. Templates for concept maps can be shared with supports as needed. Actually, different versions of assignments can be made and shared with specific members of the class.

I haven’t even mentioned SnapThought yet or the game features like Sortify that really get students thinking and digging deep as well as reflect on their learning.

Below are my initial thoughts about SnapThought that I wrote during the study group:

SnapThought is a real game changer. I always am promoting student reflection, and I was totally unaware that BrainPOP had that feature available! The fact that students are playing a learning game is motivating for many, but I always question whether students are even understanding why they are playing. Sometimes they seem to be ignoring informational pop-ups and just clicking away with no real purpose or thought. I can see how having students stop and take a photo with SnapThought of where they are and explaining their thinking or rationale at that point of the game will keep them focused. I can see having students identify what they have learned at that point of the game being very valuable and reinforcing to skills and concepts they are acquiring.

The bottom line: there is great depth to BrainPOP and BrainPOP, Jr. with so many possibilities beyond simply watching movies whole class. With so many avenues to take and customizations to make in this service, there truly is a way to engage all learners. I also see the service as a wonderful formative assessment, giving teachers real time data to inform their instruction in small groups.

If you have access to this tool, I definitely recommend you start exploring! I’d love hear any of your favorite things about BrainPOP.

Disclaimer: I am not a BrainPOP Certified Educator (although I work with two!) nor am I receiving anything from BrainPOP. I just like spreading good stuff.

A Math Station Activity with More than One Answer

January29

“How’s this? Did I get it right?”

Students ask their teachers these two questions quite a bit in the classroom.

If a problem truly is being solved, there very may well be multiple methods, viewpoints and solutions to be considered. There doesn’t have to be only one right answer, and for many students that concept is a difficult thing to understand and even accept.

We all want to be right and assured that we are correct. However, that can be nerve wracking and anxiety ridden, causing people to not take risks, nor that overused expression, “think outside the box.”

Being able to explain and justify one’s thinking can be more important than the one solution that a student believes a teacher seeks. Not to mention, innovation and creativity springing forth, and the influence on other’s approaches and thoughts about a problem.

Where am I going with this?

A few weeks ago, I watched Kara Brem‘s webinar, “Grow Your Math Mindset with Seesaw“, that had a very flexible math activity (15:30 in the webinar link) that I could foresee as an ongoing station: Which One Doesn’t Belong? (Slide 8.)

Essentially, students are given a math puzzle with four numbers or objects in a four-square with the task of explaining which one doesn’t belong. This thinking is captured as writing/labels and/or a recording in Seesaw (or Explain Everything could be used as well) and submitted to the teacher.

These puzzles really encourage and foster 3 out of the 4C’s: Communication, Creativity and Critical Thinking. Have students watch and comment on each other’s submissions, and then collaborate on yet another solution – well, there’s an opportunity for the missing C: Collaboration.

Check out her Seesaw activities, specifically the Which One Doesn’t Belong ones, that you can edit and use with your own students.

Brem’s activity was inspired by this website where you can get even more ideas for the puzzles.

These puzzles could serve as formative assessments for current topics as well as a great way to review concepts while applying to new learning. Possibly, a different puzzle could be offered each month as students rotate stations.

The possibilities could be endless, and that’s exactly what we want to teach our students.

Snow Days & Distance Learning

March27

Snow…

That’s become a dirty word in a lot of school systems.

Granted, we all love a random day off, but after too many, you suddenly realize that the school year will continue well into that period of time when students (and staff) shift into “summer vacation brain”, making instruction not so effective.

Many districts have tried Blizzard Bags (with and without success) to keep student learning from being interrupted on snow days. There are many reasons why such an endeavor may or may not work, from student resources and support at home to the structure and quality of the activities created.

My district has investigated the possibility of making up some of our snow days this school year with “Distance Learning Days”. Essentially, students would make up a specific snow day by completing a certain number of assignments (based on a developmentally appropriate number of minutes) that correspond with the missed day. Since we are looking at this from the perspective of making up days and want to make this endeavor family-friendly, students would be given a two week window to complete that Distance Learning Day’s assignments at home on their own schedule.

I was very excited to talk with a colleague this morning who had started thinking about this proposal. She had started a folder in Google with a Doc dedicated to each Distance Learning Day. She has given permission for you to peek at what she’s drafting here! (Thank you, Ms. Anderson!)

What you will notice is that she is developing a workflow for herself and colleagues to collaborate on building these Distance Learning Days as well as for students to complete assignments that address specific learning objectives in an efficient, clear manner using digital tools and services.

For example, this folder can be shared with all the members of her teaching team, including specialists. Let’s say that her students missed music class or strings class, that specialist will be able to type in an assignment on the chart she created for that day. That way when she links this Google Doc in her Google Classroom, students will have the expected work all in one place for easy access. Furthermore, many of her grade level team is teaching the same content at the same time as she is. Therefore, they will be able to work together on the creation of high quality assignments in this space and then make a copy of the Doc to tailor to that specific classroom’s schedule for the snow day that is being made up.

Ms. Anderson and I also talked about how familiar subscription services such as DreamBox, BrainPOP and Typing Club may be utilized by students at home with directed assignments. For example, the teacher may make a short term assigned focus in DreamBox that addresses that snow day’s math learning standard/lesson. The teacher can access the results of the work right in the dashboard of the program, proving that the work was completed and what next instructional steps the teacher can take with that student. In BrainPOP, students can be instructed to watch a movie in a content area like science or social studies and take the built-in quiz. The student can fill out a Google Form that reflects on the learning as well. The Form can be “generic” so that it may be used for lots of topics at BrainPOP and other future Distance Learning Days. The Form’s results will be submitted to the teacher and archived via a Google Sheet, demonstrating learning and holding students accountable for the work. (Of course, a teacher even could sign up for My BrainPOP for more great services and feedback opportunities!) In Typing Club, a teacher can make specific assignments as well or just indicate a set number of minutes for keyboarding practice. The service logs all of the work that students complete in order to check expectations and see progress right on the teacher dashboard.

And there are so many more Google apps and non-Google services that could be harnessed in the creation of authentic activities that meet student learning objectives. Plus, the opportunity to “flip classrooms” with teacher instructional videos… and differentiating and personalizing the assignments so that all students can get what they need and feel successful

I think we really could take control of these Distance Learning Days and craft them into wonderful opportunities for advancing student learning and teaching practices.

(Disclaimer: We all understand that if there is no power or access at a student’s home or even the local library that these outlined digital activities would not be able to take place. For synchronous Distance Learning Snow Days, alternate plans and materials would need to be ready for students or more time allotted for the completion. Making up days with the two week grace period gives us a lot more wiggle room for digital devices and services to be available and operational.)

An Idea for Sharing, Collecting & Organizing Links From Socrative (or Anywhere)

February13

At a PLC meeting this winter, group members were talking about not reinventing the wheel with Socrative quizzes that they had created in math. In Socrative, there is the ability to share a quiz to an email address; therefore, the team was beginning the process of sending each other these quiz links.

While I love the idea of sharing these resources, I was envisioning a possible nightmare for them: overflowing inboxes full of emails with these links that would have to be addressed and organized. The emails would come in randomly, too, as people shared new quizzes throughout the year. I’m also assuming that the sender would have to enter each person’s email address every time.

An idea that I proposed to streamline this whole process was the creation of a Google Form. Every time a PLC member wanted to share a Socrative quiz, she would copy the quiz link and then enter it into a Google Form that would organize the information into a Google Sheet that all PLC members could access. Members now could go to this Sheet to get the quiz links. Additionally, a member could set up individual notifications for the Sheet by going into the Tools menu as shown below:

Notifications would keep them from forgetting to check the Sheet for the latest links.

There also is another advantage to collecting and organizing these links via a Form: more specific details about the quiz can be included and archived that are not options in the Socrative sharing method.

For example, subject area and topic may be collected along with the link. Then when a teacher visits the Sheet for ideas, it is clear what the quizzes assess. There also is a place for notes on the Form for any other specifics about the quiz, such as titles, targeted audience, modifications, etc. The Sheet would be able to be sorted by subject area and topic for easy retrieval of all quizzes in that area and/or topic.

Here is an example Form from my Guided Math PLC.

We are all doing so many great things… how are you sharing, collecting and organizing them?

Explanation Station

December19

Looking for a worthwhile station during Guided Math? How about one that is an excellent formative assessment that makes student mathematical thinking visible and helps you determine next steps in small group instruction? And what if this same station worked for any math topic/concept?

Look no further… what you need is an Explanation Station.

What does it entail?

Using the Explain Everything app on the iPad, students record solving a problem or explaining a concept designed by the teacher. Students think out loud during the process; and, therefore, the app captures a much fuller picture about what a student knows. When a student solves a problem on a piece of paper a teacher misses out on so much. Even if a student writes every step, it’s often not clear if the student really understands the concept or methodology employed. Is the student just regurgitating steps without comprehension of them? Moreover, did the student just get lucky with the final answer? By adding the narration layer, a student can demonstrate key vocabulary as well as articulate knowledge of strategies. Plus, at the station, students are encouraged not to strive for perfection and even admit if there’s confusion or a mistake has been made. They are told not to erase, but cross out and explain why they know there is a mistake. It’s important for students to know the purpose of the station is for the teacher to find out what s/he knows, and from there, the teacher will know how to help a student progress and get better in his/her math learning. Whenever I explain the purpose to students I can see a sense of relief in their faces, and they are ready to give the station a try.

Here isĀ  a direction sheet developed for a grade four classroom that I have been supporting. (It can be used with any grade level.) In addition, here are the guiding questions that never change at the station. The only change is the problem or concept that the teacher puts on a small piece of paper or an index card (easily differentiated for students).

Ready to see an example? Please take a moment to check out this student’s recent work created at the station, showing an equivalent fraction for 1/2.

I’d love to help you set up a similar station in your classroom during Guided Math. Just let me know!

posted under Assessment, Math | 2 Comments »
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