Taking the Baton

I don’t know how or why things all seem to converge almost to the breaking point, but it did.  I meant to post about my class’ experience with EdTechBaton three weeks ago…my how time flies.

I came across EdTechBaton while doing a search on Instagram for teachers and classes to follow.  The idea of “taking the baton” for the day and sharing what my students were doing on the iPads was too good to pass up.

It was easy to sign up (http://edtechbaton.com) and even easier to get started.  My students, after all, were plenty used to my taking pictures of them…but this time we upped the ante.  My students were not going to be featured just on our class website (behind a locked page), but rather on the Internet for a global audience.

It was fun to take pictures of them working.  Using technology in the classroom always requires a lot of planning and forethought, but once the ball gets rolling, I’m really just roaming around the room.  The learning process is definitely student-centered in my classroom.  And the pictures that I posed to EdTechBaton definitely show-cased that.

I cannot tell you how proud I am of my students and their enthusiasm for learning.  It’s not just the iPads…because the novelty will eventually wear off…but the enthusiasm remains if the teacher plans authentic learning opportunities.  Students need to find meaning in what they are doing.  They need to be given choices in the learning process.  All of which I try to keep in the forefront of the planning process.  I’m all about switching things up, making them current, making them relevant to my students…and perhaps just a bit more importantly…entertaining for me to watch.  =)

A Case for MI

I am a huge proponent of honoring MI.  From my early beginnings in education, I recall my teachers allowing us to experience the learning process in a variety of ways.  I remember being able to draw, sing, write, act…the whole shebang.  Learning was fun for me because it honored the way that I learned best.  And in my own classroom, I am continuing the process.

When I think about what I want my students to “experience” when they walk through the doors of my classroom, I look to the multiple intelligences to guide my lesson planning.  The purpose for this is to make sure that each and every student (at some point in my class) has a chance to shine in an area that interests them most.  I’ve given MI surveys off and of throughout the years and the trend for middle schoolers seems to lean heavily on visual and kinesthetic with a nice mixture between intrapersonal and interpersonal learning.

Yesterday’s lesson focused on visual, kinesthetic, and interpersonal learning experiences.  But it also included higher order thinking along with reading and writing literacy.  While all this might sound impressive…I must begin by giving credit to TCI.  I am lucky in that both middle schools that I have worked for have had a complete set of TCI materials for 7th grade World History.  TCI materials are awesome.  They focus on a range of skills for students to get them engaged in the learning process.  But because I rarely take things “as is”…I had to put a twist on the TCI Skillbuilder: Contributions of the Chinese experiential lesson.

Instead of having the students take a placard and run around the room to find the corresponding placard, I took all of the placards put them in a PPT and uploaded it to our HaikuLMS class.  Students shared iPads to view the PPT which forced them to communicate and collaborate with their peers (interpersonal).  The iPads also allowed students to zoom in (kinesthetic) to the placards so that they could see the most minute details.  In table groups (interpersonal) my students had to use their deductive reasoning skills (higher order thinking) to try to figure out which Chinese achievement was being depicted in the placard (visual).  In the first column of their chart, students had to write 3-5 characteristics (Keys to Questioning/Keys to Learning) that stood out to them.  In the middle column, students had to write what they inferred the Chinese contribution to be and then support their inference with evidence.  Students could have done this one of two ways: they could explain how the 3-5 characteristics led them to that conclusion OR they could go back into the textbook and cite the evidence that supported their inference.

The conversations that I heard throughout the day were amazing.  Students argued about what they were seeing, they questioned their tablemate’s inferences, they referred back to the reading to support their point…I mean, wow.  I wish that I could have recorded their conversations because it was a pretty awesome to witness.  Because students had to support their inference with an explanation or evidence, this activity will carry-over to Monday.

Come Monday, my students will fill out a GoogleForm with their inferences and then will be able to see if they were “seeing” the same things as their peers in other classes.  From there, I will reveal the Chinese achievements to them and they will fill in details/contributions in the third column of their chart.  But the activity doesn’t end there.  In table groups, students will go back to our HaikuLMS class and respond to several prompts about a particular Chinese achievement.  All of the prompts are connected to one of the Keys to Questioning/Keys to Learning.  This is where the reading and writing literacy comes in to play…

Gunpowder Example – WikiProject

Each table will be responsible to post their group’s response for one particular Chinese achievement in the WikiProject.  By the end of the day, students will have seven group responses for each of the nine Chinese achievements.  Do I expect them to read all of the responses?  No.  But the students who plan to do Level 4 for the summative assessment will no doubt benefit from reading what their peer’s have written.

This activity spans three (maybe four days).  And for a course that is allotted only one semester (don’t get me started)…it’s totally worth it.  The amount of skills that students are practicing and the fact that I’m also able to honor several areas of MI make this activity worth it in the end.

In fact, yesterday one of my students who saw the chart immediately smiled and said, “Oh!  I like this activity!”  And that’s, my friends, why I teach.

Learning is an Adventure!

So Year 2 with 1:1 iPads has officially begun.  It’s been a rough start.  I can’t update my iPads…in fact, five of my iPads are no longer working because those were the ones I was trying to update.  But luckily enough for me, my principal let me “borrow” five iPads from another cart…which means that all of my students have their own iPad to use in class, every.single.day.  =)

The first learning tool I shared with my students is Edmodo.  They are slowly learning how Edmodo can be used to connect with peers in other classes, how Edmodo can help with their homework questions, and how Edmodo is really just a lot of fun.  =)

The second learning tool I shared with my students is Popplet.  Today they were introduced to the basic features of Popplet.  As usual, I let them simply have time “to play”…to get to know the app…to find out things on their own.  And do you know the craziest thing?  One of my students discovered that if you took a picture (in his case, a selfie), uploaded it to Popplet, that you could actually draw on yourself.  And if you know anything about middle-schoolers, they’ll take any and every opportunity to take a selfie and then draw on themselves.  It’s the weirdest phenomena, but one of the reasons why I love teaching middle school.

Needless to say, I’m really looking forward to tomorrow when my kiddoes will take what they learned about identifying human and physical characteristics of Arabia and put that learning on a Popplet.  To add a layer of depth, my students will also have to include textual evidence.  We are going full speed ahead: technology + creativity + writing literacy.  It’s going to be a great year!