Tech Salad

With Crunchy Bits and Bytes

Month: March 2012

Mobile Math

last night I joined VSTE in their Adobe Connect room to talk about our use of iPads and some of my favorite Math apps. It was an interesting experience. I am used to speaking in front of an audience, or at a webinar, in front of a chat room where the audience is “present.” Last night, however, I used the Reflection app to mirror my iPad on my laptop screen. I wanted to demo apps live. To make the content easier to view by attendees, I had to go full screen. That meant I did not see my audience or their chat. I found it a bit disconcerting, being unable to gauge my audience’s reactions while presenting.

Well, I had a couple of Goochland people in the audience, although I didn’t know it while I was presenting, and they liked what they saw. So, I’m fine with all that.

So what did I present?

I introduced the topic by talking a bit about what we call the 21st Century Classroom in Goochland. You can learn more about that form my presentation at the EdTech Conference. We do not have a Math classroom set up in this manner, but we are certainly working towards  more technology in the Math curriculum. This push has gained momentum since the Virginia Department of Education announced changes to the Math Standards of Learning tests. The items will no longer be comprised exclusively of multiple choice questions, but will require students to demonstrate a greater understanding of the concepts tested. This is not bad, of course, but change is never easy and our belief is that enhancing classroom environments with technology that allow for greater differentiation and flexibility will help.

The strategy involves using iPads in centers where students collaborate and teach each other. We have selected apps that help students understand concepts. We do have apps that drill specific skills, as this is sometimes necessary, but the aim is to enable teachers to better identify the areas where students need help and work with them in small groups, or individually, as other students collaborate on projects or practice specific skills. In some ways, it s a return to the elementary classroom setting at the secondary level. Julie García (iTunes U link) transformed her own Math classroom several years ago, and we have borrowed much of her approach.

Here is a list of the Math apps I have installed on my iPad. Most of them, and others, are on the student iPads. They are a combination of free and paid apps. The paid ones are definitely worth the money.

Logo Draw (a favorite of mine!)

Math Drills

Quick Graph

Data Analysis

Sketchpad Explorer

Wolfram Alpha, Algebra, and Pre-Algebra

Rocket Math

Math Bingo

Math Flyer (check out the website, too)

Virtual Manipulatives

Contig (I can’t say enough about this game!)

ShowMe

Macro Photography and Chemistry

Yesterday I had a bit of downtime while waiting for a video to render, and decided to try something I’d  read about. I used a coffee stirrer to place a drop of water on the lens of my iPhone. The first thing I shot, fearing damage to my device, was a bit of terry cloth. I made sure I had it handy just in case the water strayed off the lens. I had an iPod on my desk, and tried that next. This was easier to mange since the lens on the iPod is slightly recessed within its metal frame. The water held in place longer.

I thought about the process some more and realized the key to the drop holding its shape was related to the surface tension of the water. So, I went upstairs and talked to Mr. Kupferman, our Chemistry teacher. While he admitted fluid dynamics was not his area of expertise, he knew where to look this up. He suggested we increase the surface tension by adding salt, and the number we needed was a solution of just regular table salt in water, with a molarity of 6.

I know about molarity, but I don’t remember all I learned. Luckily, that was the exact topic Mr. Kupferman’s students were covering in class today. They figured out I needed ten milliliters of water and 3.5 grams of salt.

Perfect! The drops of salt water hold stable longer and I was able to take clearer pictures with higher magnification. Here are a few of them. Now I need to find a class where we can explore, say, insect wings, or particles of sand, or anything else that looks interesting up close.

taken with mineral water

Taken with tap water - eagle on a dollar bill.

Taken with salt water.

Taken with salt water.

IMG_0088

Date imprint on a wheat penny.

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My jeans 😉

Note: Please remember that any damage resulting from exposing your iOS devices to water is not covered by any warranty.

Got Culture?

This week I have had two incredible opportunities to capture events at Goochland High School. On Monday, Mr. Jay Ipson of the Virginia Holocaust Museum visited. He addressed the students, sharing his memories of his early life in Lithuania, where he and his parents managed to survive Nazi occupation (video link). On Wednesday, the Singing Men of Ohio visited and gave the students an unforgettable hour of music. Mr. Burch (blog), our Drama teacher and alumnus of the group, joined them onstage.

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Jay Ipson answer student questions.

I am the Instructional Technology Resource Teacher. Neither of these events involved technology, other than making sure the microphone worked. Still, I added the events to my calendar and made time to be there to make sure people outside our auditorium had the opportunity to experience these visits, even if only on the screen. Despite controversies and disagreements, I still see our schools as a center for learning and culture, not just for the students, but for the entire Goochland community.

Mr. Burch introduces the Singing Men of Ohio

Mr. Burch introduces the Singing Men of Ohio

Here is a video I captured on my phone as I wrote this post, while the Singing Men of Ohio relaxed after their performance. Although I thanked them in person, I’d like to thank them again, for their formal performance and for letting me sit at the back of the auditorium with my computer and enjoy their “musical hangout.” They took turns playing the piano and singing selections from Heart, Journey, Led Zeppelin, The Lion King, and even the theme from Titanic. I stayed there doing everything I could do on the computer without returning to my office to enjoy the music and the atmosphere of fun.

Slow Down Spam

I have heard from a few teachers lately who tell me they get dozens of spammy comments on their blogs. We do use the Akismet plugin, but some spam still finds its way to our blogs.

This is how I have configured the settings in the Discussion section of my blog to reduce incoming spam.

Screen Shot 2012-03-12 at 1.52.26 PM

The 21st Century Classroom at EdTech

Later this week I’ll be at the EdTech conference sponsored by WCVE. This is a preview of my presentation on what we are calling out 21st Century Classroom, our interpretation of an environment in which technology redefines teaching and learning. Joining me will be Ms. Yearout-Patton (blog), the teacher whose efforts have made this a successful endeavor.

Edmodo Has Arrived!

We have added Edmodo to our arsenal of learning tools in Goochland County. Mrs. Weyant (blog) is our first teacher to take the plunge, and her first activity sounds like a lot of fun.

Students in one of her sections of Family and Consumer Sciences have been researching famous chefs. Each student posts five facts about the selected chef, and everyone else in the class has to guess who the famous chef might be. The students are honing their online search skills in a fun way, I think.

Thank you, Mrs. Weyant, for leading the way with this new-to-us, incredible too.

Who Reads This?

The teachers of Goochland County have been blogging for years and years. Blogs were how I first learned about Goochland County and decided I wanted to work here. I believe our blogs really make us stand out, but sometimes it is hard to convince teachers of this. All they want to post is a list of objectives for the week.

Ms. Townsend, our ESOL teacher, sent me a message today letting me know someone from the British Council had left a comment on her blog. Our ESOL students have been using iOS devices since the fall, and one of the apps that have become essential to them is MyWordBook, created by the British Council. Ms. Townsend mentioned it in one of her blog posts, and now they’ve read it.

Does a representative from the British Council read our blogs regularly? Absolutely not. However, if a blog post is interesting and contains more than a bulleted list of objectives for the week, it is more likely to have a wider audience.

Teacher blogs should be a window into the classroom, and a showcase of good instructional practice, and a tool to advocate for public education.

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