Bravo, Apple. Bravo.

At a party this weekend, the talk turned tech.  It was a mixture of teachers and people who worked in the private sector.  The majority of us are Mac users.  The latest acquisition for several of us was the Apple TV.  And I jumped off the cliff with both feet and cancelled my cable the moment that Apple TV added Hulu Plus to the mix.

But that’s not the big news.  The big news is that I finally took the plunge and dropped the cash to purchase the 15″ MacBookPro with retina display.  I’ve spent my share of time in various Apple stores asking question after question about the various features of the MacBookPro versus MacBook Air.  I have been using a MacBookPro that I bought back in 2006.  The OS was not powerful enough to handle Lion…so that meant that Mountain Lion was out of the question.  It was like the stars were aligning to tell me that it was time to buy a new Mac.

Back to the party…

One of the couples (both teachers) were talking about the new MacBookPro that they bought just a few days ago.  She mentioned the great deal that Apple was giving educators – besides the usual Education discount, Apple was giving $100 gift card to the App Store and it gave a significant discount for Apple Care.  It was hard to contain my excitement.  All I could think about was getting myself to the Apple Store and the rest would be history.

And it was.

The MacBookPro with retina display is AMAZING!  The clarity of everything is something to behold.  I took a pdf and zoomed in…way in.  And the words were so clear.  No pixelations.  Absolutely beautiful.  And as usual, I’m very happy with my new purchase.  I’ve never been disappointed with anything that I’ve ever bought from Apple.  And this is no exception.

Time to go.  My new MacBookPro is calling.

Love the Word Cloud Apps

I’ve used Wordle for several years now.  I encourage my students to play around with Wordle and their vocabulary terms…they love changing the fonts, colors, and format.

At the CUE to You workshop last week, I was introduced to Tagxedo.  The name sounded familiar.  I probably came across it in some tech article, but I never explored the app until today.

Word cloud…it’s a totally new experience with Tagxedo.  I mean, you can manipulate the shapes!  It’s a game-changer for sure.  In fact, I’m thinking that I’m going to take the history standards for each unit and make a word cloud to introduce students to the important concepts.  One can see from the word cloud included that certain key terms are pretty important in the study of China.  I also made one for the historical analysis skills that I’m going to share with my students as well.  Right now, these word clouds are being relegated to my class website, but I think it’ll be a powerful tool to print these out and put them on the bulletin board as well.  If anything, it’ll give me something to put up on the bulletin board.  With the integration of technology into my curriculum, I’ve lost the student projects that used to adorn my bulletin boards.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bummed about it at all.  I hate doing my bulletin boards.  I could never be an elementary teacher.

Flipping for Flipped Classroom

I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a workshop sponsored by CUE to You at the Orange County Department of Education. The workshop focused on flipping how learning occurs in the classroom.  I had heard the term “flipped classroom” for several years, and I knew it had to do something with videos and changing the idea of homework.  But I knew little else.

At ISTE in San Diego earlier this summer, I again came across the term several times in the various workshops I attended.  I wandered over to where the books were being sold and at every table Flip Your Classroom was sold out.  I figured I would peruse the book at a later time.  Then came the PD opportunity at OCDE.

First of all, let me just state that Jonathan Bergmann is hilarious.  It was easy to listen to his stories because they were honest and forthright.  But I needed to get to the meat of the matter.  I listened intently to the three other speakers and I tried to figure out how I could implement this into my history classes.  I have to admit that I was a bit frustrated that science, math, English, and even computer technology were represented, but there were no “experts” in history who could lend their voice to how this could be implemented in a social studies class.  But I signed up for The Flipped Class Network, and found a couple of resources for history teachers.

I bought the book.

Actually, I bought the eBook as I’m running out of space in my office and it was 50% cheaper than purchasing the hard copy.

I finished the book this afternoon and I have to say that I am excited to try this with my students.  I like the fact that the authors address differentiation and mastery and how those concepts can be supported in a flipped class.  What I especially liked is the fact that they repeatedly mentioned in the book that there is no one right way to flip a class.  At least it gives me room to breathe.  But more importantly,  it honors me as a professional because I rarely take anything as is.  I like to modify things to work with my teaching style, my personality, and ultimately the needs of my students.  So the concept of flipping my class, or more accurately, flipping my lessons is something that I’m really looking forward to trying with my students.

It seems as if each year there are new things that I want to try with my students (heck, I don’t call them my “guinea pigs” for nothing!)…but I like the idea of adding yet another tool to help my students take charge of their learning.  But I have to add that I’m also coming from a school with a very supportive principal who gives me the autonomy to work outside of the box.  Right now I’m marinating on all of the things that I need to do to flip my lessons, and I’m energized!  =)