Thursday, February 19, 2015

Creating Tools for Specific Assignments

I have been writing a lot here about the different types of collaboration that I have been doing in all subject areas. I want to share an instance where I created the tool for a science class, but I didn't really do any teaching for this assignment. The biology teacher, Mrs., Higgins, came to me recently about beefing up an assignment that she has done in the past. She had created a writing assignment on the stem cell controversy that she has used before. Students had to take a stance on whether they believed embryonic stem cells should be used for research, or if they thought the use of adult stem cells was sufficient. She was happy with the idea of the product where students wrote a letter or a speech defending their stance. It was the research part that she felt needed some help. She was pleased with the pathfinders that I have created for her lessons, and she thought it would work well in this situation, too., Together we came up with a set of questions for the pathfinder. Then I set to work.

I used Livebinders because they are the best tool when you want to include links to audio, video, and database articles as well as embed documents or files.  The layout makes it easy to create and easy for the students to use. I posted the assignment and rubric that the teacher created, the pathfinder that I created, the article from Gale that the teacher wanted everyone to read, the video that she wanted everyone to watch and the additional print and video that I found that would help the students answer the questions on the pathfinder. Our goal was for the students to use the completed pathfinder as the ammunition that they would need to defend their stance. The students would complete this work in the two days that the teacher would be away at a conference. Unfortunately, the school was having major Internet issues those days, and the Livebinder did not always load, nor were the videos that were embedded load for viewing. It was quite frustrating because with this tool they would have all the resources that they needed to find the evidence supporting their stance.

In the end I think that most of them were able to complete the assignment in the allotted time, but I was at loss to help them when their emails came in telling me that they couldn't open the Livebinder. There really was no backup plan, and I guess that if we were truly desperate, we could have photo-copied all of the the articles from the database hat I had embedded in the Livebinder. Open here to find the Livebinder that I created for the stem cell project.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Spreading the Word about in the Classroom

my blog post is here

New tech tools are great, and when launched several years ago, several of the teachers in my building began to use it with their students. We had some success and failure with this tool used to create infographics, so I reached out to them through twitter. We have kept up a relationship ever since, and this past year I became an ambassador with They asked if I would write a post for their blog on the use of their tool in  the classroom. Click here to read the post that I wrote for them

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Students Create a Quiz with Flippity

Example of the Flippity game board the student's made

At the beginning of the semester, I read this post describing how to create a Jeopardy-like quiz game using a Google spreadsheet and Flippity. I thought this would work really well with a social studies class. I approached Mrs.Hampton, who is teaching 6th grade world history this semester, to see if she wanted to try using this tool with the students to make a quiz. We really wanted the kids themselves to create the questions, so we knew that we had to wait until she had taught them several units before they would have enough knowledge to create the questions for the quiz. We also decided to make the categories of art and architecture, family life, land forms and climate, religion, rulers, and science and medicine rather than the categories by country so that it would not matter how far into the textbook she taught before the planned activity. The students could ask questions about Mesopotamia, Egypt, or India. The logistics for this took some planning. At first we thought that the students would write the questions on paper, and I would type the text into the Google spreadsheet. As I thought about it, I realized that this would have been silly. The students should be typing the questions. I had a concern that the students would somehow ruin the template by making a serious mistake when typing, but we came up with a plan that in the end worked very well. 

The teacher divided the students in each class into six groups of four students. Each student in the group had a textbook  In each group there was a recorder who wrote down the questions, and a typist who typed the questions into the spreadsheet. As the group created their questions, the teacher and I moved from group to group approving each question or offering suggestions on how to improve a question. The students had the freedom to decide how many points each question would be worth. Once the questions were approved, the typist could get to work on adding their questions to the spreadsheet. The students did make some spelling and grammatical errors. I just went back and tried to fix the errors, but in the end, even I missed some of them. 

Using the textbook to create questions

We spent almost an hour on developing the questions for the quiz. Then two days later we played the game which also took about an hour. Since the teacher had two classes, first period played the board created by second period and vice versa. When the groups began to play, we gave them the following rules: one person in each group would be the spokesperson; the group could not choose a question from the category in which they wrote questions; only one group would have a chance to answer any one question; and the winning group would win a small prize. That meant that every group had the opportunity to answer 5 questions. We gave them about 20 seconds to confer, but we were not hard and fast with that rule. Since it was such a successful activity, we decided to do it again when the students need to review for the final exam. 

Game board with question

Technically, this was not a library-related activity, but I found the tech tool, and I was happy to work with the teacher and the students to make the activity happen. The library being a bit roomier than the classroom made it easy for us to move about as the students worked in groups. Would the teacher have done it without me? Maybe, but collaboration is collaboration no matter what form that it takes. My job is to be there as a resource, and in this case, it worked quite well. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Collaboration Takes Many Different Forms

I have been talking lately about the different types of collaboration that I do with my teachers. This collaboration can be formal, informal, planned or done at the last minute. I like that each day is different for me and that I can be in a science class one day and a social studies class the next. Last week a science teacher visited me during her off period which was at the beginning of the day. She wanted her 8th grade Earth science students to depict geologic time periods in an infographic. Almost all the students would  be using, which I have talked about before here. They were working in groups of four and had to include about 12 pictures of fossils and were also asked to create some sort of timeline to illustrate the geologic eras. 

I promised the teacher that I would visit all of her classes and spend a portion of the period helping her students. This is the type of collaboration that I call the Second Person in the Room. I did not plan with her on the lesson nor did I help her design the lesson, but she felt that she needed some back up with the use of the technology tools. That is something that I can do with ease. Most of the students were familiar with as they had been introduced to it in sixth grade. I wasn't really needed for that. It was critical that the students list citations for information and pictures that they used. They would not be giving the teacher a works cited page but would list the citations on the infographic itself. Our school has purchased Encyclopedia Britannica Image Quest for students to find pictures for class projects. It is easy to get the citation for any picture that you use. If all the students used Image Quest, the infographics would start looking alike with the same exact pictures. I suggested that the students use Photos for Class. There are millions of searchable high quality photos there, and the best part is when you download a photo, Photos for Class automatically adds the attribution at the bottom of the photo. Way cool and way easy for the students. Most of the photos found there are from Flickr with a creative commons license. 

Creating a timeline easily was another issue. Infogram has a chart and graph feature, and some of the students created their timeline as a one bar graph adding the data for the timeline in the graph function within Infogram. Others were trying to use, but it was not designed to illustrate millions of years. Then I put an all call out on Google + to see if someone had found an online solution for creating a timeline depicting such large amounts of time. I got some answers but none of them were going to really work for inserting within the infographic. Suggested tools: Knight Lab, Meograph, Prezi, Read Write Think, and Tiki-toki,  The coolest site that someone shared was Chronozoom from UC Berkeley. It felt a little bit out of my league, but the idea of browsing through time rather than looking at it in small bits allows you to look at pre-history in a new way. 

I think that the teacher was happy with the students' products, and I was glad to help. We still need to come up with a satisfactory solution for making an accurate timeline, but I imagine that will happen eventually. 

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