Friday, October 28, 2011

Fun with Learning

This week while I was researching some resources for one of my schools I came across a neat little game to help young students learn the Alphabet without having to sing it.

Promethean Planet has an interactive resource to aid students in learning the Alphabet.  It is an interactive puzzle where the students are able to come up to the board and interact by moving the puzzle pieces around so that they fit into their desired location.  When the puzzle piece is in its correct location it will lock in place and is no longer able to move.  If the student does not place the puzzle piece in the correct location the piece can still be moved around on the board.  Each puzzle tile has a Capital and Lower case for each letter of the alphabet along with an image to help reinforce their learning.

As I was touring a school this week I saw a teacher in a Kindergarten classroom that was having her students looking at an alphabet handout that was being displayed using the document camera.  I went into the classroom and talked with the kids to see how they like the new equipment all of them were really excited and were telling me how much they liked getting to go up to the board and touch it.  I asked them if they would like to play a new game to help them learn their alphabet letters.  They all were nodding their heads in agreement.  I loaded up this swf file onto a flipchart and all of the kids were clapping and cheering and all of them had their hands raised to come up to the board first.  It was great to see all of their faces light up as they were working on the board.  I even had them stop for a moment to turn on the Dual User feature so that two students could be at the board at the same time.  You think I had brought in their favorite candy and let them run wild.  They were all engaged and telling each other where the pieces were to go.

If you are a teacher give this a try by clicking the image above and downloading the file to your computer.  Then you will need to open up ActivInspire and click Insert then Media and choose the alphabet.swf file to place it into your flipchart page.  One hint to help you out would be to make sure after you insert the file and re-size it appropriately then save the flipchart so that when you reset the page after the lesson it will move all of the puzzle pieces back out around the edges.

Image provided by Promethean Planet

Friday, October 21, 2011

Re-Opening my Eyes to Instruction

This week I had a great opportunity to be in Alpharetta and Atlanta Georgia.  While in Atlanta I was fortunate enough to be able to go to the Ron Clark Academy and sit in on a class.  This was the first time that I have ever been there and in my normal fashion was late getting to the school.  As we came into the classroom I found a seat on the far side of the room and had walk through the room to sit.  I quickly moved across the room as quietly as I could, while doing so I noticed that non of the students were disrupted by my tardiness and that Ron Clark kept their attention the whole time.

The room was alive with action, Ron Clark was talking, students were responding and interacting to his queues all without giving a second thought to the number of people that were staring at them around the room.  As I looked around the room I thought to myself, wow how can these kids be able to keep focused with almost double their number in adults sitting there watching.  Then Ron turned the tables on us, the adults, he had the students grab an adult to help them work out different math problems he had posted around the room.  So our student led us over to the one of the questions and he was working it out so fast that when it came time to answer it on our ActivExpression we did not even have the unit on and working.  Then we did another activity with the students and we were all engaged in the classroom activity.  Me I was awestruck at how well behaved and comfortable the students were with us in the room.  Almost like it was old hat to them.  I came to find out a short time later that these students had only been in the school for just around 30 days.

At the end of the lesson Ron Clark gave the adults in the room the opportunity to ask questions of the students.  I was amazed again at the students responses.  There were very well spoken and thanked us for asking the questions.  One question that I had my co-worker asked a young girl in the room was how she and the class felt about having all of the adults coming through on a regular basis.  She responded with that is was almost second nature to them and they were happy to have us in the room because were excited to see the students learn and they thrived on the energy.  I heard the question come up about whether or not they were treated differently now that they were at the Academy by their peers.  The answer came out that things had not really changed all that much.

In talking with someone a little bit later who said that these students had come from so many differing situations and felt so proud of what these children had accomplished in just a short amount of time was remarkable.  Me I could not believe it.  Which led me to share on another co-workers blog post It started with a simple question..   what I learned this week and that is, "regardless of a child's situation if they have a goal and are focused on that goal they can overcome and accomplish anything."

Now I am not the type of person that gets overcome by certain things but as we were leaving all of the students in the classroom were shaking our hands and thanking us for coming in and sharing their day with them, but one little girl came up and said I don't shake hands I give hugs and thanked me for being there and sharing in her day.  I could not believe it and was overcome with some emotion that this young child whom had never seen me before was comfortable with hugging a perfect stranger and thanking me for being a part of her class.

Of course we, the adults, all came out into the hallway to go down the slide at the Ron Clark Academy where all of the students from the classroom were at the bottom waiting for us singing and cheering us on as we got to the bottom of the slide.  As we emerged form the slide the children shook our hands and gave us a sticker that said we were "Slide Certified"

This experience has given me a new perspective on my own personal and professional life.  A kind of re-opening of my eyes to certain things and breathing some new life back into this routine which we all get in from time to time.

Monday, October 17, 2011

ActivEngage: A BYOD Solution?

I recently had the opportunity to take a look at the new ActivEngage from Promethean Planet and have to say that I am very impressed.

You may be asking yourself what is ActivEngage, in my own words it is an interactive way to deliver and receive content to and from students over multiple types of devices.  The full description from Promethean is: "...a virtual learner response system that enables students to contribute in the classroom by responding to questions from their laptops, tablets or mobile handheld devices..."  So what does it do?   ActivEngage allows the teacher to deliver Learner Response questions to students without the need of either an ActiVote or EctivExpression, yes, I said without the need.

How does it work?  ActivEngage is a software package from Promethean Planet that you download to your computer, ie a teacher workstation.  Once installed you will have an additional option in your voting Browser that will allow you to deliver questions through a Virtual Hub to any wireless device in range.  With the install there is a Server install which is what is setup on the Teachers computer along with a Client install which will then need to be installed onto any laptops, or other computer workstation in the classroom.  Along with this any student that had their own handheld device, ie. iOS or Android product they can install the ActivEngage App from the respective store onto their own device and interact with the Teacher workstation.

The question then comes to So What?  So what  do you do with it now that you have it.  It looks like it could be an answer to the question of how do we deliver assessments to students.  There are a lot of discussions starting now and some implementation of school systems going totally paperless.  That is everything provided to and handled by students would be delivered electronically.  Testing being one of the discussion topics.  This could be a great opportunity by school systems to take advantage of what is already available to them that they normally will take away if seen in a classroom.

That is why I say lets take a look at the BYOD option, not implement it outright, just take a look at it.  Yes it is going to be a very large undertaking for many school districts across the country and world.  You are looking at fundamentally changing the infrastructure of your local in house LAN/WAN.  There are lots of precautions that have to be taken into account first.  Many regulations put in place to protect the students, teachers and schools.  But now is the time to start the conversation if you have not done so yet.  Normally we have students put away their devices in the classroom or even in some cases we take them away.  Let's take a look at possibly embracing the technology and using it to both advantages.

I know that there are many other products out there that can offer up similar results based on student devices and teacher delivered content.  I hope that some will share their options as well.  ActivEngage was something that I saw that really looked like it could solve a growing problem positively.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Exploring New Territory

While working in a school this week with different grade levels a Tech Facilitator told me about one of their Kindergarten teachers who was going to make their first Skype call with another school. Now I was thinking that they were going to make a Skype call here locally within the school district or maybe at the most here in North Carolina. I was surprised, and a bit excited, to hear that they would be talking with a classroom in Hawaii. When I talked with the teacher involved she said that they were going to be talking with the school and then she had also setup a Twitter account so that her students could tweet out their feelings about the call. I could tell that the teacher was a little nervous about making the first call, but that is normal since you really do not know what to expect the first time.

Their first call was this week and everything went really well when we talked about it and the students had already began to post their tweets on Twitter. The only thing that the teacher remarked about was that she was going to look into getting a different microphone so that the participating class would be able to hear the students better during the call.

This Kindergarten teacher has taken a big step and seems to have gone outside of her comfort zone. I have to commend her for taking things to the next level and exploring new territory. I hope that this quick blog will help to inspire you as well to explore new territory and to step outside of your comfort zone.