Finally! We’re using a REAL LMS.

As an educator of middle school students, I have been denied the opportunity to use our district’s LMS.  The reasons no longer matter because I just found out that Haiku increased the number of students that a teacher can have on a free account.

Which I did.

Last week, I introduced Haiku Learning to my world history students.  They created an account in our World History class and immediately began working on two different assignments.  One was a discussion topic.  Finally, we get to use an LMS with a threaded discussion instead of the linear fashion that we used with MyBigCampus and Edmodo.  Students posted their initial response by Friday 9PM.  Can I tell you how much I love the extended due times? I think my kids even like it.  It takes the pressure off from having to finish their assignment before the bell rings.  Of course, that means they have to remember to finish it once they get home.

The second assignment was a WikiProject.  Students were to revise their Popplet to include new information, upload it to their WikiProject and then include a reflection.  I’ll be honest, it was a bit tough to explain how to add a content block because this was virgin territory to my students.  Boy, I wish that I knew Haiku Learning had upped the free student accounts.  I would have been using it from the beginning of this semester.

The only problem that we’re experiencing right now is that our iPads do not include the newly revised Haiku app specifically designed for iOS7.  Our CRA has been busy getting  our tech tools ready for SBAC so he’s had little time for frivolities.  Bummer.  But my kiddies are going to Safari and things seem to work well (for now).  But as soon as testing is done…believe you me, that app will be installed on our iPads.  I want my students to have the full experience of using an LMS.  =)  This is one happy teacher.

Not Too Shabby

When I submitted my application for CUE, all I knew is that I was excited to share with others my experience with technology and my students.  I could have piddled forever on the presentation…but when I heard that the wifi was spotty (at best), I spent my time trying to troubleshoot issues by taking screenshots of my wiki.

  Luckily for me, the wifi worked (for the most part).  I plugged in the Ethernet cable but nothing happened. So I’m glad that someone was watching over me because I was a bundle of nerves.  
It all started by me walking in 20 minutes early to my presentation to a room that was about half filled.  I could barely contain my nerves as I watched people continue to file into the room.  I had people sitting on the floor in the front.  It was crazy.  I seriously thought I would only have maybe 12 people on my session.  Wrong.  I don’t know how many people were actually there, but it was a lot.  One kind gentleman mentioned that I needed to do two sessions.  =) 
Once I started my presentation, my nerves started to calm down.  I was focused on trying to impart all of the lessons and wisdom learned from using the iPads with my kiddoes this year.  I hope that I did my students’ hard work justice.  Because what I wanted most to impart is that 7th graders can do some pretty remarkable things if given the freedom to do so.  But I also wanted to share with my peers the fact that we can easily layer our assignments with levels of depth and complexity that give students practice in communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity.  
I was so touched by the kind words from the attendees.  =)  Can’t wait to attend sessions tomorrow to geek out.  

I [heart] My Guinea Pigs

Today in class I tried a variation of an assignment that I did with students in a different unit.  I uploaded a picture onto a GoogleDoc and I had students write a response about what they thought the painting was depicting and the context clues that support their conclusions.  With the big push to incorporate specific Common Core reading and writing literacy skills, I thought it would be a good idea for to give students a more creative way to practice using context clues.

Needless to say, I was very pleased (and albeit surprised) at how well they used the clues from the picture to support their conclusions about the event being depicted and the people involved.

The next step is to introduce students to Think Like a Disciplinarian.  Tomorrow, students will choose a disciplinarian and then re-examine the picture through that disciplinarian’s lens.  I would like the students to practice writing solid questions using the Keys to Questioning/Keys to Learning from Dr. Sandra Kaplan.  By consistently incorporating the Keys into what we do in class, I’ve noticed a marked improvement in their writing.  It’s a win-win situation.

Taking it Online

Today I introduced my 7th graders to MyBigCampus (MBC).  I told them that the BEST part of MBC was the potential to have awesome online conversations and dialogue with peers.  The WORST part of MBC is what I affectionately call “Three Strikes and You’re Out”.  For those of you who are not aware of the login requirements for MBC, what that means is that students have only three attempts to log in before MBC locks the account for 24 hours.  Now, this is not a big deal for most adults.  But I work with 7th graders…from all walks of life…with varying levels of academic prowess and attention spans.  So, what does that mean?  I means that I’ll inevitably have to deal with students who lock themselves out of MBC right before a due date.  =/


Today all of the students were able to log in.  Now, I don’t know how my attempts they made.  But I do know that a couple of students were compassionately helped by their peers.  In fact, I looked up at one point and saw three students standing around one tablemate watching him, helping him, correcting him…so that he didn’t lock himself out. Whew!

You don’t know how stressful this can be until you’re worked with a program with this kind of safety feature.  My students didn’t know how easy they had it with Edmodo and GoogleDrive.  But they know now.  =)

Today my students began their first online discussion.  We’re preparing for our next unit: Medieval China.  Students looked at the four main teachings of Confucius and had to choose which one his teachings would have the biggest impact on building a strong society.  You’d think with the amount of talking 7th graders do that having them compose a minimum four sentence initial post would be easy.  Nope.  Think again.  Now some students can easily post four paragraphs…but for others.  It’s like pulling teeth.

The initial posts are slowly coming in.  The due date is tomorrow by 9PM.  Truth be told, I like giving them the extended due times with Internet-based assignments…and I think the students like it as well.  😉

Peer responses are next.  But that’s not until Wednesday.  And A LOT can happen between now and Wednesday.

Finally! Students Engage in Collaborative Writing.

Using GoogleDocs with my students has been such a liberating experience.  These 7th graders have really owned up to being my guinea pigs ready for whatever I throw at them.

Period 2:  I wanted students to work on a GoogleDoc individually. They were to find textual evidence to support the Big Idea.  They were expected to cite their sources.  The purpose of this was to give them practice in identifying textual evidence and explaining how it supports a generalization.  I encouraged the students to engage in dialogue with each other, but I wanted them to write their own paragraph.

Period 3:  I changed my mind.  In the passing period between Period 2 and 3, I decided to create a folder for Period 3 which contained a GoogleDoc for each table.  It was the same assignment as Period 2, but students were going to work collaboratively to find textual evidence, include commentary, and cite their sources.  I gave them some options (e.g. assign who will write the intro, who will find textual evidence, who will write).  But in reality, students could decide however they wanted to divvy up the duties.

It was really eye-opening to listen to students discuss the evidence, give encouragement, jump in to “fix” something, etc.  In fact, it worked so well that I decided to use the same procedure for Periods 4-6.  I was amazed at how well the groups worked!  Even the tables with students whom I wouldn’t normally think would be into collaborative writing worked together.  It was essentially a pretty-well oiled machine.  And this was the first time my students had done this type of assignment.

I love the freedom and self-regulatory learning that has been the mainstay of my classroom this school year.  Having 1:1 iPads in the classroom has taken away many of the restrictions and barriers from the times of pairing up students to use MacBooks.  I am so lucky to have a principal who believes in my ability to utilize and incorporate technology in authentic and meaningful ways with my students.  This has most definitely been a year of growth for all.

Digital Social Studies

One of my personal goals was to be published.  My work as a master’s student in the Ed Tech program at CSU Fullerton opened many doors for me to pursue my goal to publish in the academic world.

Though my first publication was technically last November (TechTrends), this book chapter was the first proposal that was accepted for publication.  The book chapter is titled “Wikis in Social Studies” which focuses on my work with wikis and my middle school students.  This was essentially my master’s project, but has blossomed into so much more.

I have used wikis with all of my students since 2008 with the exception of last semester.  With the integration of iPads and GAFE, I’ve moved what I used to do on the wiki to GoogleDocs.  Though it’s not as polished as the wiki pages, GoogleDocs is a bit easier to use on the iPads than wikis.  However, I haven’t completely closed the door on wikis.  I would like to still incorporate the use of wikis into my curriculum because the finished project looks great and we have the option to make it public or not.  Our GAFE accounts prohibit students and teachers from networking outside of our domain.    Sort of defeats the purpose of collaborative learning, no?