Monday, August 31, 2015

Countdown to a New Year!

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The Final Countdown

The countdown is on! Are you sitting back and relaxing, knowing your classroom is ready to go, frantically trying to put everything together, or somewhere in between?
Wherever you are in your planning and organization, take a moment or two to ask yourself, “Am I where I want to be with using technology for teaching and learning?” This is the time for you to be more reflective on what you want to achieve with students, while you are not in the thick of teaching!
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Digital Kids

We’ve all watched the videos and heard the conversations around Digital Kids. The message has been clear - use technology with your kids. However, this message comes with no extra time for teachers to learn and build their confidence and skills with technology. While many of you are ‘full steam ahead’ teachers, fully integrating technology, many teachers feel that technology is an ‘extra’ to be packed into an already full curriculum. Once you get going with it, though, you will find many ways to use technology to enrich your classroom practice and engage students!

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Small Steps, Please

If you are just getting started, think of baby steps. Each one of the items below will take you 10 minutes tops to set up! Choose one thing that will make your teaching life a bit easier:


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Using Google Docs to collaborate with colleagues to create units, lesson plans or report card comments


(While you’re at it, why not use the Upload button on your Drive to store all of your favourite Word documents in Drive? Sub plans, lesson plans, centres rotations, all available quickly for editing whenever you need them!)


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Using Kahoot to create an engaging question and answer game or even a test







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Creating a Symbaloo so all of your links are in one place for easy access for students







I’m Ready For More!



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Get your students going with Chromebooks






Have students create Google Presentations to show their learning (Grade one teachers, this is a great activity to do with your buddy class!)





Get students writing with Google Docs and Read&Write for Google





I’m Ready For Even More!




Use Google Draw to create digital worksheets, get pictures for research questions and even write their own Geronimo Stilton story!









Before you know it:



You will be a Digital Teacher!


Friday, August 21, 2015

Subscription Based Websites For Math: Prodigy $

Subscription Based Websites


For the second summer in a row, I attended the GAFE Summit in Calgary. One of the sessions I went to was Emily Fitzpatrick's session: Not Your Momma's Math Class - Elementary. It got me thinking about what subscription based websites I wanted to invest my time in (and sometimes money) and that support the grade two Alberta math curriculum for the upcoming school year. This the second blog post in a series of (number to be determined).


Series

  1. Mathletics
  2. Prodigy


Prodigy

Emily introduced me to a new math game this summer: Prodigy. Like Mathletics (my previous blog post), Prodigy is solely a math-based program. It is much more gamified than Mathletics. Unlike Mathletics it has a free and premium option. I have not used this with students yet. I did create a teacher account and created a student account so I could explore its potential.

It Is Free... But

When you sign up for the teacher Prodigy account, you have access to all the educational content of the game for yourself and your students for free. The premium features are truly extras and are purchased by parents. However, students will be constantly reminded they are missing out on the premium features throughout game play. 

While I appreciate companies need to make money, it is a negative for me as a teacher making a choice about what to expose my young students to. On the one hand, this is a reality of the many apps that they are probably exposed to on their (or their family's) iPads, tablets and so on. So by having the same experiences in school, it gives me the opportunity to talk about the commerce element of digital citizenship and awareness. On the other hand, it is not something I necessarily want my students exposed to virtually after every task in the game. 

Content Is Read To You ... Sometimes

As a teacher of students who often are struggling readers, I LOVE when a product has reading support. Prodigy does provide players the option to have the question and answers read to students. However, the non-math gameplay also has a lot of reading and most, if not all, of this does not have reading support. While it is not essential to the game play, I can see it being frustrating for students.

It Is Canadian ... If You Are From Ontario

It is Canadian based! Yay! It has a Canadian curriculum you can assign your students. Yay. It has only one Canadian curriculum you can assign your students. Oh. While most Canadian curricula are similar, they are not the same. Initially I thought that might not be a problem. Much like Mathletics, teachers assign a task based on a specific outcome. Great, I can avoid the topics that do not align with the Alberta curriculum. However, once students complete their tasks Prodigy assigns them random questions based on the overarching curriculum you have assigned your class. 

How is this problematic? Well, when playing as a grade one student, I was asked to tell the time on an analog clock. This is not in the Alberta curriculum until grade four. Now students go from independent practice to likely needing direct instruction from a teacher or adult for some of the content. 

Gamification Equals Motivation... And Distraction

All the quests and actions that will level you up are math based. However, there is a whole world to explore. There are shops to look at and other players to check out (you cannot interact with them). Students could easily not do math while in the game. This will require the teacher to be very vigilant in monitoring student activity. As a result, teachers may spend more time monitoring students being on task than assisting students with math.

Digital In-Game Support

When students are answering math questions, they have access to lots of support. They can be given hints by selecting a question mark icon that gives them a tutorial on the topic of their question (there is an option to have this read aloud). Students access to a variety of manipulatives for each question: coloured pens to draw on the question, fraction blocks, base ten blocks, Canadian money and counters.


Diagnostics

Like Mathletics, Prodigy provides teachers with a wealth of data regarding student progress. 


Is It Worth It For Younger Students?

As a teacher with access to Mathletics, Prodigy is not going to be worth me investing a lot of my class time with younger students. They have a great deal of support and resources for teachers. It has great potential and I will continue to keep my eye on it.  I think it could be something I teach my students and then send home or for use in free time. I do not see it being regularly used in my math classes at this time.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Subscription Based Websites For Math: Mathletics $$

Subscription Based Websites

For the second summer in a row, I attended the GAFE Summit in Calgary. One of the sessions I went to was Emily Fitzpatrick's session: Not Your Momma's Math Class - Elementary. It got me thinking about what subscription based websites I wanted to invest my time (and sometimes money) in that support the grade two math curriculum for the upcoming school year. This the first blog post in a series of (number to be determined).


Series

  1. Mathletics
  2. Prodigy
  3. EDpuzzle coming soon

Mathletics

I have used Mathletics for the past seven years or so. The subscriptions have been school-wide. It has been a well used resource in my class. I like it because you can differentiate and assign tasks. Most students like it because of the "Live Math" feature. 

How I Use It

In September, I have (ask the staff member who administers Mathletics) the assigned passwords changed to be the same as the district passwords students have. The usernames are not changeable. I hide all content (under Courses) from students. These will be the assigned tasks that I will use, so I do not want some students completing them ahead of time. I also initially turn off Times Tables (these are songs). 

At the beginning of the year, I do a few whole class lessons to teach how to use Mathletics. Students are prompted when they first log in to customize an avatar. I give them about five minutes and then explain this will now be an "at home" task. I then show them how to access Live Math and allow them time to play a few games. I show them the games in the Problem Solving area, again I allow them some exploration time. As well, I show them Rainforest Maths and allow them to play a few games.

The second time we do Mathletics as a whole class, students are assigned a task. I demonstrate how students can have the words read to them. This is when they learn that all other activities (Live Math, Rainforest Maths, etc) are locked to them until they complete their assigned tasks. Once they have completed their assignment, students are then free to go onto other parts of Mathletics.

In the Results section, I get to see how each student did on the various assigned tasks. The majority of the time, students truly try their best on a task. Occasionally I have a student who I know is capable score 0 or something similar on repeated tasks. They typically click through the assignment to get to Live Math. After a conversation and continued monitoring this promptly stops.

Once I feel students are independent, Mathletics becomes a regular centre in math. It also is something I can easily leave for supply teachers. Students get to take their username and password home and are free to use Mathletics at anytime. I have learned that as a result of this practice, I need to set assignments in the morning of the day I want to use them. As I mentioned above, you can differentiate. Students can receive different assignments at different levels.

Once a unit is complete, I show (turn on) access to the topic under the Courses setting. Typically many of the activities have been completed during centre time, but not all of them. Students are now free to redo activities and/or complete any activities that were not assigned. Near the end of the year I turn on the Times Table Tunes for students (and provide them time to listen to them) to get them excited about what they will learn in grade three.

What I Did Before Mathletics

Before my school had Mathletics, I would use a wide variety of free game-based math websites for centres. What I like about Mathletics is that it saves me time and it holds students accountable (they know I can see their progress). I no longer have to spend time finding math websites (I actually still do, but to a lesser extent) that relate to the current topic for centre work. I also do not have to spend time teaching students how to use new websites each time we do centres because they are already familiar with Mathletics. As well, I have found students are less likely to be off-task.

So, Is It Worth It?

I started with the question is Mathletics a website I want to invest my time and my school's money? Yes, as a division one teacher, this has been a great resource.