30 January 2016

A School in the Cloud...

I recently saw a TED video and was moved by the content and scope of the talk. For those who are not familiar with TED, it is an online database of brilliant lectures on various topics. In this lecture, Sugata Mitra begins by speaking of his previous life as a computer programmer. One day, after speaking with co-workers who kept exclaiming to him how smart their children were, Sugata had an epiphany. He wondered to himself why only the children born into wealthy families were supposedly gifted. He decided to perform an informal experiment. Next to his office was an Indian slum. He cut a whole in the wall and inserted a computer. The local children began to use it. Within 8 hours, they had learned how to use the mouse and browse the internet.

28 January 2016

Staff Messenger: School Faculty Communication App

Connect to your staff!

The Dilema of Communicating in a School: Solved

Avoid chasing faculty around the building to ask simple questions!
How many times have you tried to contact another member of the faculty only to find that they weren't in their classroom and didn't have their cell phone with them? How much time to you spend flipping through the school faculty directory list only to be unable to connect with the person you were looking for? Schools are big places and it can become extremely difficult to connect with other staff members at times. Well, the folks at Scholastic have a solution for you. From the same people who brought you Class Messenger comes this new addition to their software. Titled Staff Messenger, this program works through your Class Messenger app (for more details of Class Messenger, see here). The options are the same as Class Messenger; you can attach messages, links, pictures and documents to any communication.

21 January 2016

Plickers: Cheap and Easy Student Response System

Just like their motto, plickers are clickers, simplified.

Plickers are a great way to engage your students while concomitantly checking for understanding. This easy to use student response system allows teachers to check for individual student understanding in real time. So how do they work? Plickers work through the use of QR codes (you know those wierd bar-code like symbols that have been popping up everywhere for the past few years?)

QR Code
Check for understanding by student.
The teacher enters a question into the plickers app on their device, chooses the correct response, and projects/writes the question and responses for the entire class to see. Students hold up their plicker in one of four possible ways (each turn of 90 degrees will give a different response). This is the part where it gets interesting. The teacher then scans across the classroom with their device and picks up the various responses throught the camera in their device.
Kids love technology!!!

If your school is lucky enough to have a professional grade student response system, you may want to stick with that. However, these systems can often be difficult to set up and maintain (the clickers at my school need to be recalibrated often, taking valuable time away from prep time).

There are many ways to modify plickers to suit your needs in class. I created a class set, glued the QR codes to construction paper, and laminated them. They are available anytime I need to do a quick check for understanding. 

You can also choose to create a specific plicker for each student. If you choose this option, you can track student understanding over time, a great perk for the current push for data in education. If this is the option for you, you simply copy and paste your roster into the plickers website and it creates an individual QR code for each student by name. Then, when you scan your device across the class, you not only see how many students 'get' the lesson, but specifically which students are struggling.

I know that a lot of teachers already have a system in place to check for understanding, whether it's a simple thumbs up, color coded response, or some other way to indicate understanding. I have noticed however, that the class usually falls in line with the first person to respond. Plickers avoids this issue because the students responses are not clearly obvious to the rest of the class. 

I have used plickers with great success and the students always love using some new technology. I highly recommend this tool!


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