Monday, 29 September 2014

Note-Taking Strategies and Tips

Today we brainstormed ideas, strategies and tips for taking notes in class. Here is the Padlet we created.

After our brainstorming and discussion session we tried out a new tool. We used Educreations to record short tutorials including our favorite note-taking or school success tips. This was our first time using Educreations. Today our goals were to;
  • develop strategies for improved school performance (such as note-taking and organization)
  • practice using new/different digital tools to explain our understanding (Padlet and Educreations)

Friday, 26 September 2014

Using Scratch for Learning Strategies

We needed something to get our class back working together as a cohesive unit today. Yesterday we had an amazingly awful run of things trying to get text-to-speech tools installed and running on all students devices. It was chaotic, crazy and frustrating for many of us.

We had planned on starting with Scratch next Monday, but needed something exciting and fun to end the week on a positive note. Wow, did that plan work!

Scratch is a tool created by MIT that allows youth to create animations, videos, games, etc. while developing some skills required for coding. Over the past few years Scratch has moved to a web-based platform that runs in the browser. This means my students could access it from any device except iPads. Lucky for us, their teacher is a bit geeky and always has an extra Chromebook kicking around. In learning strategies we are using Scratch to address the following learning goals:

  • Practice skills required to learn new things.
  • Develop critical thinking skills required to troubleshoot when things don't go as planned. What can you do when something doesn't work? 
  • Develop collaboration skills. Students can build together, learn new features from each other, build on each others code. 
  • Practice critiquing each others work and providing effective feedback for improvement. 
  • Reflect on what it means to have "grit" or resiliency. How do we respond and feel when things don't go as planned? 
  • Develop skills for creativity and innovation. How can you make this piece of work even better? 
  • Provide context and practice of some literacy skills. We will be keeping design journals as we go. 
  • Provide context for reflection on learning skills.
  • Provide a real virtual community to practice and demonstrate our digital citizenship skills in. These skills will include appropriate communication, sharing our work, remixing others work while providing credit. 
We had great conversations about "the Grandma rule" (don't post anything online that you don't want Granny to see). We also talked about the skills required to troubleshoot when technology goes wrong and what it means to tinker and figure things out on our own. 

During the initial exploration period, students explored previously created Scratch projects and started to create their own unplanned projects.  Unrestricted exploration. Their reflection was based on brainstorming things they could create. As I walked around class, I heard the following from students;
  • "how did you do that?"
  • "here! come see this!"
  • "Wow, did you know that you can... ?"
  • "ok, so what if you did this and I did this... "
  • "urrrrrggggg, why can't I get this to work? Ok, lets try this..."
  • "I just made the coolest thing, come here and I'll show you how I did it"
  • "so, how did the person make that game? Here, we can look at the code. Does it make sense?"
Todays class was the most engaged I have seen my students by far. It was also the most collaborative they have been, with exception of previous "directed" group work. Meaning, they were all up and learning over each others computer screens, helping each other out and interacting with each other. 

Mission accomplished. A great end to the week. Next week we'll each find a feature to share with classmates. 

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Genius Project Ideas

Today, in class, we started talking about our Genius Project. Once we finish introducing a few more literacy, numeracy and success strategies, we are going to start our Genius Projects. Students will practice, fine-tune and reflect on their use of a variety of learning strategies through a project of interest. There are very few restrictions on this project - students are encouraged to design a project that is of high-interest. It will be assessed through their demonstration and reflection on the specific learning strategies they choose to incorporate.

Here are some of the ideas students have chosen so far:

  • Video Editing - using my GoPro, an old MacBook outfitted with Adobe Premiere and a microphone, Caleb will be learning how to create and edit video. 
  • Cooking - Logan will be creating a digital cookbook of recipes he has tried and will then teach our class how to cook something of his choosing. 
  • Game Design and Creation - Cole and Jacob both want to look at how to create video games. We will likely start with Scratch and see if they can create some basic video games to start and work from there. 
  • Photography - Katherine is interested in photography and so will learn some new styles and techniques using both her phone and my dSLR. She will create a digital portfolio using Google Open Gallery. 
Other ideas we have include an interest in vet tech and/or animal training and an interest in building, auto mechanics and "taking things apart and putting back together". We will be doing some research and fleshing out these ideas into learning projects that are of interest. Any suggestions are welcome! Many of these topics are way out of my comfort zone and I cannot wait to learn with the students. 

Friday, 19 September 2014

Math of the Ice Bucket Challenge

Today in class we looked at the following problem:

Different groups made different assumptions, but generally we decided that each person challenged three others and each had 24 hours to respond. 

In groups, students considered the problem and then responded using ClassFlow (they can write their responses using a pen tool or typing). At the front of the classroom we could project different group responses and discuss them (similar to a digital bansho). Here is one groups work: 

Our work today resulted in a few big "take home" ideas: 
  • math is a language and tool to use for solving problems 
  • when we have a broader mathematical knowledge, we have more "tools" in our toolbox. That allows us to find easier ways to solve problems. For example, this problem could be modelled using exponents if we knew how. If we didn't, we could use multiplication. 
  • exponents/powers are a great way to simplify repeated multiplication 
  • inverse operations are opposite operations 
  • how to use square root operation 

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Life in Uganda

We've started reading War Brothers in class. It is a story about teenagers in Uganda who get abducted by a group of rebels and forced to fight as Child Soldiers. It is going to be a very difficult topic to work through.

Our first activity is to research Uganda. Students are posing a question about Uganda and researching the answer. They are practicing the skill of evaluating websites (to ensure they are good sources of information) and co-creating a Google presentation about Uganda.

So far, questions include:

  • What is Krest? (a type of soda mentioned in the book that students want to know more about it)
  • What type of food do they eat in Uganda?
  • What type of sports do they play in Uganda? 
  • What is traditional clothing in Uganda? 
  • What is the most popular religion in Uganda?
  • Is there racism in Uganda? (the book has parts where children say "white man, white man", which prompted this discussion)
  • What to people do for fun in Uganda? 
  • What do people do to earn money (work) in Uganda? 
  • Where do they go to school in Uganda? 
  • What are village buildings made out of in Uganda? 
  • What is the population of Uganda?
  • What does Uganada "look like"? (geography)
Do you have any questions about Uganda to add  to our collection? 

Our spark activity (which today was a walk/run) ended up going a little longer than anticipated because it was so nice out and we have some great runners in class! We will complete our Uganda presentation soon and share it here. 

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Girls First Ski Jump

We will be watching this and discussing it in class.

Log in below with the code dJQO3o

The video will stop periodically while I point something out and there are two questions to answer near the end.