Free! Region 10 Digital Fluency Conference – May 6th : EDIT

EDIT: Unfortunately, registration for the conference has filled and closed. If you’d like to check out the online schedule, I know many presenters will be sharing links to their information after their presentations. You can find the schedule here: Region 10 Digital Fluency Conference Schedule

Also, make sure you follow @R10Tech on Twitter to get the latest news on what’s happening in the North Texas area. 

With STAAR testing prep, meetings, and my own daughter registering to enter Kindergarten next year, I have not been very active here on my blog. I am working to set up a schedule to help keep that from happening again, so you should be able to check back in here regularly to find some new resources, ideas, and events.

For anyone near to the Dallas area, I wanted to let you know about our Region 10 Educational Service Center’s annual Digital Fluency Conference coming up on Tuesday, May 6th. The conference is completely free, and it will be a great opportunity to hear from teachers, educational leaders, and students (yes!) about how technology is changing the way that learning takes place in our schools. I’m excited to attend sessions, but I will also actually be presenting for the first time on my own! I’ll be sharing my ideas and experiences with incorporating Genius Hour into my science classroom and how Google Apps for Education can help the process run smoothly.

I know I mentioned that the conference is FREE, and you can earn CPE credits by attending. There will be door prizes, networking opportunities, and some awesome local food trucks to enjoy. (like Jack’s Chowhound, Easy Slider, and Mo’Jo A Go-Go)

Click HERE to register. If you’d like to view the conference schedule or get more information, visit the conference webpage HERE.


Get Kahoot! – Game-based learning

For most teachers, springtime means that state assessments are right around the corner. I teach 8th Grade Science, so my students will be taking a test to assess all of their science learning for the past 3 years! Unfortunately, spring can also mean that students start to get antsy, overwhelmed, and burned out. Not a great combination for trying to keep  students engaged and learning. We have tons of material to review and synthesize together, so we teachers have to find new ways to keep our students’ attention and excitement.

I’ve integrated games and instant response activities before, but I had been hearing a lot about Kahoot lately. I decided to give it a try as we were finishing a unit on ecology and living organisms. Kahoot is a free game-based learning tool that can be accessed on any web device. I liked it because I was able to create, edit, and run my game using my laptop or my iPad. The creation tool was really simple to use, and I was able to easily upload diagrams and pictures for my students to analyze. In one afternoon, I was able to create a 22-question review activity and share it with the other teachers on my team.

When it came time to try the game in class, things ran very smoothly. I did not have to pre-load any rosters or create student accounts – they simply accessed the site by clicking on a quick-link I added to the home screen of our department iPads. Students worked in pairs, and all they had to do was enter a 4-digit game pin, then type in their names to keep track of their answers. The activity was teacher-paced, and all students answered the questions at the same time. They earn points (or Kahoots) by correctly answering the questions as quickly as possible. I especially appreciated that the system allowed students a few seconds to read the question before the answer choices were given or the count-down clock started – it helped keep everyone on an even-playing field. While the students are thinking, fun background music and sound effects play to create sense of urgency.  After each question, the program gives the correct answer and then displays a bar graph to show how student answers were distributed. The results were anonymous for the whole group so that no one got singled out for a right or wrong answer. Before moving to the next question, a leader board flashes across the screen and on the student devices. At the end of the game, I was able to easily download all the data I could want (item analysis, individual student performance, etc.) into an Excel spreadsheet.

Using Kahoot with my classes was  fun – the students loved the competition, and one of my more reluctant classes was much more willing to participate and really try to get things right. I’ve used response systems like Socrative and InfuseLearning before, but I really like the competitive game-based environment. I would highly recommend giving it a try in your classroom – or even staff development session!

Nepris – Connecting classrooms to real-world experts

Nepris - Connecting classrooms to real-world experts

I was on the #scitlap (Science Teach Like a Pirate) Twitter chat last night, and a comment came up about breaking down the four walls of the classroom to engage and connect students with the real world. People were sharing their ideas and experiences, and I thought back to a meeting I attended in the fall at our local high school. We observed a pre-calculus class as it participated in a video conference using a program called Nepris. The presenter was a young mechanical engineer who gave examples of how various pre-calculus and trigonometry principals were used to create and analyze blueprints. Using real plans on the screen, he walked the students through a set of actual calculations he had to complete. In addition to the technical lesson, he also talked about his high school and college experiences, his work history, and even the perks of working for his company. Student were able to text questions into the Nepris system, and the presenter was able to see and answer them in real-time.

Nepris is a non-profit organization local to me in North Texas, and their goal is engage students in STEM subjects at all levels. They have opened up their free dashboard to allow teachers to submit session requests based on their curricular needs. When an industry expert responds to a request, he/she is connected with the teacher so that they can communicate to plan and set goals for the session together.  If you are short on time and can’t wait for someone to sign up for a personalized live session, teachers can also browse recorded sessions to find something that matches your needs.

I really liked how the presentation had technical/instructional components, as well as opportunities for students to learn about the presenter as a person. These students were mostly 10th graders, so they were interested in hearing about how he chose the right college and major, and if he was able to get a job when he graduated. The program is fairly new, so I’m sure that things will be changing and growing in the near future. But Nepris is definitely something that I would love to include regularly in my Science classroom.

Genius Hour Update – The Good and Not-So-Good

I had been looking forward all week to Friday, as I told my kids that we would be able to start getting into the real meat of their Genius Hour projects. Since I teach a subject/grade that is state-tested this year, we have been averaging a Genius Hour day about once every two weeks. Today was our third opportunity to work, and my goal was to finish up the initial brainstorming-phase and move on to 1-on-1 conferences and research. As I posted on Twitter, there were definitely highs and lows to the day – but I know if got to stick with it. 

The Good: My 6th period class is a Pre-AP class, and they’ve gotten the most class time to wrap their heads around the idea of the project, and also the most computer lab access throughout the year. During our last session, most of them submitted a few topics or questions through a Google Form I created for them. My librarian came to observe and act as another resource, and the kids seemed pretty focused. I was able to have quick individual conferences with about half of the students in the class, helping them to decide between multiple topics they submitted or to tweak questions that seemed a little to narrow or too broad. I was super impressed by some of the topics they came up with! Here are a few that really stood out to me:

– How do we forget? How are memories made and why do we forget some things?

– I want to learn more about unusual animals and their adaptations. 

– What effect does war have on soldiers and their families?

– How were electric cars made and what is their history? What will their future be?

– What effect do video games have on kids?


The Not-So-Good (AKA What We Need to Work On): So due to computer lab scheduling issues, my 1st period class had only been to the computer lab once this semester so far. I had explained the whole Genius Hour concept to them, and helped them use their own devices to look for ideas or examples of projects. We went to the computer lab today to submit possible questions, and I had a hard time getting them to take the process seriously. Not that they didn’t like the idea of getting to design their own project, but they struggled to come up with ideas without acting silly or joking around. They probably weren’t used to having this type of freedom, so maybe they were feeling a little bit lost? This class also has quite a few beginner ESL students in it – but I didn’t want to let that keep me from trying out Genius Hour with them. I spoke with these students individually, and decided that it would be ok if they found some resources to support them in their own languages. I also allowed them to use Google Translate to help them submit their thoughts and wonderings on the Google Form in English. We ran out of time before I could get to any individual conferences, and there were a few students who got away without submitting any questions. 

So – what’s there to learn? I am still excited about Genius Hour – now I just know I will need to provide some additional support for some of my ESL students. I plan on providing students with more concrete examples of project ideas and setting up a few daily goals/tasks to be completed each day they work on their projects. I also want to continue to use Google Docs – hopefully by setting up shared “conference documents” with each student to help our conversations move more quickly when we meet. Any other ideas or feedback?

iCivics: Social Studies and Civic Learning

iCivics is a great resource for secondary educators teaching social studies, government, and civics courses. Originally founded by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the non-profit site provides full-unit lesson plans, interactive activities and games to engage students on important topics such as the foundations of government, the Constitution of the United States of America, and the 3 branches of government. There are also a wide variety of interesting games to help students apply their knowledge in real-life situations. (The games are created in part by Filament Games – the same company who works with the JASON project and BrainPop!)

All of the materials on  the site are free, but there are additional resources and game-play options when teachers and students create free accounts. I forwarded the link to the Social Studies teachers on my campus, especially since a lot of the curriculum matches up with the 8th Grade curriculum here in the state of Texas. It seems like they have enjoyed using it so far – hopefully it can help you, too!

Haiku Deck – Presentations in a New Way

The Power of Images in Teaching and Learning

I first learned about Haiku Deck from some of my PLN members on Twitter. I know that all teachers are familiar with Powerpoint and Keynote for presentations, but I like to explore new options and see what is out there.

At first glance, Haiku Deck seems like a pretty standard presentation platform. There is an app version for iPads and a web-based version for creating products on your computer. The presentations are broken down into slide form, which can be play automatically or clicked through at your own pace. However, the company really focuses on helping people develop creative, visually appealing presentations that will engage audiences in new ways.  Haiku Deck encourages you to make images – not bullet points and mountains of text –  the focal point of your work. They even limit the amount of text that you can put on a single slide to make sure that users do not overwhelm their audience.

We’ve all sat through professional development sessions where people have literally read text aloud from a standard Powerpoint template. And as teachers, most of us have probably used them for students to copy notes or complete study guides. But if you really want your audience to LISTEN to what you are saying and THINK about the topic at hand, Haiku Deck can be a really beautiful option to harness the power of imagery.

Here are a few other awesome examples Haiku Deck. Check out their galleries to see how others are using this product in education, social media, business,travel,  and other fields.

Ten Tips to Transform your Presentations the Haiku Deck Way

Step Away from the Bullet Points by Dr. Brian Housand (hosted on SlideShare)