Month: October 2012

Tech Tuesday: The Flipped Classroom

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Tech Tuesday:  The Flipped Classroom 

(heads-up to the new buzz word coming down the pipe)

Are you flippin’ kidding me?!  Yet another buzz-word, topic of discussion for faculty meetings, initiatives, seeds, pilots…they just never end do they 🙂  Nor should they!

I, too, tired of the endless onslaught of programs, anachronisms, and pilots, but let’s keep some perspective and remember that the business of education cannot become static.  It is in our best interest to continue reflecting, examining, and being critical of the practices and tools we bring to our students.  Do they truly represent the demands and learning styles of a digitally-savvy generation?

Today I present you with a little nugget of an idea that a few of you have already started to nibble at:  the flipped classroom.

Here’s some food for thought:

Don’t you just love infographics?!  They make blogging so easy 🙂

Is this idea entirely revolutionary and unique?  No, there are many other names and variations out there (front-loading, anticipation guides, schema theory,  VESTED).  What might be novel to some folks is the idea of employing technology as a tool to do these things.  The infographic touts some impressive (and hard-to-believe) statistics for one flipped school.  I’d be very curious to see this tried in one class for one week. My Big Campus is a terrific fit for this approach with the extensive Library resources, ability to upload YouTube videos, and learning tools such as discussions, chats, and assignment.

Heck, I’ll even pitch in and help gather resources and organize the content into MBC!  Take me up on it, seriously, let’s see what happens just for one week…

For dessert, visit Khan Academy, and take a little test drive for some possible videos you could use as part of a flip:

I even grabbed one for the electoral college to re-post just to tickle your taste buds…

Tech Tuesday: My Big Campus

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Tech Tuesday:  My Big Campus, a safe online classroom platform

What if we could create an educational mash-up of Facebook, YouTube, Blogger, Google, chat rooms, Twitter, and more?  Why couldn’t we?  In fact, it’s been done.  What began as Light Speed’s answer to providing safe access to YouTube videos for educational purposes has turned into a full online classroom experience.  My Big Campus, with it’s familiar look and feel, allows teachers and students to connect virtually during and outside the school day.  Complete with full filtering, tracking, and 24/7 monitoring, MBC utilizes the same LightSpeed system as on campus.
Groups–Getting started is easy-peasy!  Teachers and students are already registered.  In fact, when you click on your groups, you will see each class period and subject already organized into groups.Students will see each of their classes as well.  Click on a group to enter the online classroom for that class period.
Inside groups students can see announcements, respond to discussions, attend a chat session for tutorials, view additional pages, submit assignments, and view a dynamic course calendar. 

“Right now, I am loving the calendar feature.  Each morning I put our physics plan for the day on the calendar and in the description portion I let the students that are absent know what they will need to do in order to make-up their missing work for the day.  I no longer have to answer the dreaded question “I was absent yesterday, did I miss anything?” ~ Camren Robinson

In addition to groups, teachers and students have access to Conversations, a messaging feature, Schoolwork–the feature that allows students and teachers to create and access many types of assignments.  Bundles allow teachers to create online units of study to align with curriculum. Teachers can upload YouTube videos, pdfs, word docs, and jpegs to “bundle” together to create an engaging extended classroom.
“Your Stuff” provides students and teachers with an online drop box to save and access their work.  Since it is web-based, students can retrieve and upload their work anywhere they have internet access.

Both students and teachers can maintain a blog through MBC.  Blogs allow for a personalized platform to reflect on learning in any content area. 

“This year, I’ve been pushing for my students to improve their writing skills when describing a scientific process or concept. This gives me, as a teacher, a much clearer idea of what they understand and what they are confused about. Writing about science also helps the students to think critically (with an appropriate prompt) about the concepts and helps with retention. Through the first couple of weeks I was met with strong resistance and lazy writing samples. This aspect has vastly improved as the students become more comfortable with using writing to portray their ideas. Not too long ago, I introduced my classes to My Big Campus. That day was a shining beacon of engagement as the students were instantly hooked. My students now write science blogs using My Big Campus to practice writing while using a rubric. I had students get so excited about blogging that they wanted to go home and start their own personal blog. The students seem to be disconnected from the notion that blogging IS writing! My Big Campus, in conjunction with my teacher webpage, has been an invaluable resource for my classroom.” ~Brendon Lowe

One of the most useful features in MBC is the Library.  Teachers can search for content that has been uploaded into bundles to pull into a bundle for their class.  They can also upload additional content and share with team members.

My Big Campus extends the learning experience beyond the four walls of the classroom.  Students engage in learning through a safe, social platform drawing upon their digital awareness and habits to support learning in all content areas.  Teachers can now be a resource beyond the traditional school areas through features such as chat, conversations, and discussions. 
Stay tuned for a video introduction to MBC following the after school workshop on October 23rd.  (Link will be posted below)

Independent Reading Myth #3 Students Won’t Read

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Myth #3–Students won’t read in class if I give them time.

This is the #1 management issue I hear from teachers and that I’ve faced myself.  For some reason they think when I say, “reading time starts now,” its code to begin whispering to one another, working on homework for another class, sleeping, or not-so-covertly texting
My first question for a teacher who comes to me with this concern is, what are you doing during SSR?  Nine times out of ten the teacher “borrows” a few minutes to take attendance, check her email, or enter those last few grades for the essays she stayed up well past midnight to grade;  I’m guilty of all of the above.  
Stop it!  When you stop everything that you are doing to read it sends a powerful and unforgettable message that reading is so invaluable nothing is to interrupt it, not even your own perceived needs.  This was probably the most difficult part for me.  I am a perpetual multi-tasker.  But, oh!  The freedom from trying to do so much revitalized my reading life. 
When all of the above fails,  I have to ask, how are you helping match your most tangled readers with an appropriate text to spark their interest?  We’ll spend more time on this learned talent later, but until then here are just a few pieces to the machinery of my reading community.
  •  Book Talks–Talk about what you are reading.  What do you say to your friends when you are excited about a book you can’t pull yourself away from?  You don’t spill the entire plot, right?  Rather, you give them just enough so they want to snatch it up as soon as you are finished.  This is the perfect opportunity to model what real readers do as they share their reading experiences.  Also, it’s an opportune time to sneak in a mini-lesson (very mini) about previewing and predicting texts.  Book talks work especially well at the beginning of SSR.  I’m very purposeful with my booktalks.  Sometimes, it’s a book I’ve chosen for a reluctant or stalled reader, knowing he or she will be the first ask for it.  And other times the book might have a thematic link to our shared reading;  my more sophisticated readers understand the magic that can occur when you begin to read for themes across genres and across books.  If you’re still unsure what to say, read the cover.  Publishers usually do a pretty good job o inviting readers to try the book on. 
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  • Read-Aloud–I fight hard to preserve my read aloud time.  This is also a good practice to begin SSR with.  During read aloud, you are reading and the students are listening.  That’s it.  Period.  I begin read aloud by reminding my students of the purpose–listen to enjoy.  Read alouds can be editorials or articles, cartoons, excerpts from novels, picture books, or entire novels.  One of my favorite read aloud experiences was with a little book called Same Kind of Different As Me.  Written by two Fort Worthers, this precious story describes the unlikely relationship between an entrepreneur, his terminally ill wife, and a homeless felon and how they learned that it’s not the differences that matter, but the sameness.  Choose texts that are pleasing to hear, good strong story arcs or structure, and challenge the reader just enough to help build an understanding of structure and vocabulary.  At the end of a read aloud, don’t start in with twenty questions over plot, character, support, or theme.  Invite students to respond however they need to with a simple, “what sticks with you?” 
  • Excerpts–  I love to be sneaky and bring in an especially enticing YA excerpt to pair with traditional literature.  Some of my favorites include Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak paired with The Scarlet Letter, Gordan Korman’s Jake, Reinvented with The Great Gatsby,  Sharon Draper’s Romiette and Julio with Romeo and Juliet, just to name a few.  The excerpts are used not only to draw connections between texts, but also as vehicles for many litearcy skills.  I find that examining the isolation and social-outasts from the perspective of a 15-year old freshmen is a little more approachable than through Hester Prynne.  Inevitably, some reader will ask to check out the entire book once we spend part of  a day exploring a snippet.  Excerpts also make for terrific mentor texts during writer’s workshop as well. 
  • Conferences–  I’ve already discussed the power of talking to your readers about what you read.  Talking to them about what and how they read is as equally important.  I’m not talking about asking them to provide you with a five sentence summary, analyze the intrinsic motivation of the character, or expound on the symbollic or thematic elements.  The kind of transformative talk that makes readers grows organically from a student’s reading experience, how he or she relates to the text.  Conferences, one-on-one or small group discussions with readers, allow this transaction to come to the surface.  Tangled and alliterate readers may not have recent experience with a text that invited them to make their own meaning.  Their experiences stem from teacher-selected reading tasks and purposes.  Again, I like to start with a simple question, “What sticks with you?”  From there, with some probing and modeling, I allow the conference to take its natural shape.  Not only can I judge whether or not a book is a good match for a reader, but I can facilitate a deeper reading experience and recommend subsequent titles. 

Any new practice takes time to adapt.  Most of your average 17-year olds have very vague recollections of choosing a book AND being given time in class to read it.  Some have no memory of such a practice as they were probably never given that freedom.  Sad, I know.  And so it’s going to take some time.  In the fall we are warming up, building those reading muscles, forming good habits as readers, exploring our own reading interests and styles.  Sometime before Christmas my new readers might finish the first book they have ever read by themselves that they chose.  Between New Year’s and Spring Break everyone is exploring their reading identities.  And in the spring, we all sit back and marvel at the transformation.  Just remember, for some of your readers, one or two books is a success. 

Still unsure or need more convincing?  Check out some of these resources:
Teri Lesesne’s Making the Match
Kelly Gallagher’s Readicide
Penny Kittle’s Book Love (coming fall 2012)
Janet Allen’s Yellow Brick Roads

How are you able to facilitate a reading community that reads together?
Happy reading!


Tech Tuesday: Apps for Animation

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Tech Tuesday:  GoAnimate and Sock Puppets

A few weeks ago, Jennifer Morgan, French teacher extraordinarie, came to me with an idea.  “How,” she asked, “could I take advantage of one of these animation apps that I’ve found to engage my students in tasks that require them to use their conversation skills?”
Jennifer already had the free app, Sock Puppets in mind, as one tool, but she also wanted an option for students who did not have smart phones or tablets that they could bring to class.  We determined that the best way to bridge the technology gap would be to find a web-based animation application, similar to Sock Puppets that allows students to create characters, establish a setting, and record their voices for the dialogue. provided several free templates to create animated scenes.
I’ve asked Madame Morgan to be my guest on the blog this week, and she graciously accepted. 
Here is our conversation as we reflected on her use of apps to support students in reaching their learning objectives:
What were your instructional goals for this project?
 My students needed to take a spoken test to show they could carry on a basic conversation in French.  By creating a video, they actually were able to show more of their knowledge, because they performed both sides of the conversation.  These videos were able to show me their ability with the language and the pronunciation of French.

Why did you choose GoAnimate and Sock Puppets?

Sock Puppets is the Apple app – both programs allowed students to record their voices onto pre-made characters to create short videos.  Both programs had different parameters, and I really liked both of them.  Sock Puppets will actually change the student’s voice (they can set it to go higher or lower) and that was really fun for them.  Also, Sock Puppets allows 30 seconds of recording time in the free version.  GoAnimate, on the other hand, didn’t have a time limit, but instead limits students to only 10 lines of dialogue.  In order to include all the required parts of conversation, my students definitely had to get a little creative!  GoAnimate does not alter voices, but it has a wide variety of settings for the videos, and you can change the emotions of the characters.
Can you tell us a little about how you prepared your students to use the apps?
 I had created a few samples on each program that I showed my students before they got started.  Then during class I also projected the program and showed them how to get started, up to how to record their voices.  After that, I pretty much let them work on their own – and most of them didn’t need any additional support.  Those that did I was easily able to help.

What obstacles, limitations, or surprises did you encounter?

I had booked the COWs [computers on wheels] for two days, “just in case” and boy did we need BOTH days!!  Neither of the programs we used allow you to save your work and edit/add to it later, so most of my kids spent the first day choosing their characters and settings, and testing out the program they were using.  Then on the second day they were able to come into class, get their device and start recording their final project right away.
Overall, how do you feel the use of these tools impacted student engagement and learning?  Will you use them again
 I think doing the conversations digitally was really fun for the students, and therefore they were definitely engaged in the process.  The videos also made the process much less stressful for my shy kids, as they tend to get intimidated by spoken tests where they have to approach me one-on-one.  Those type of tests still have their place, but this was a great alternative.  As a teacher, I personally really enjoyed many of the videos my students produced – they were really funny, so it was also more enjoyable for me to grade than having them come up to my desk one-on-one.  Although it took two class periods to complete, it would have taken that long for me to do spoken tests, and it was much easier to grade since I could re-play the videos at will.

What are the benefits to using applications and web 2.0 tools for animation?

  • engages students in the learning process as they synthesize content into a digital story
  • supports collaboration between students through the writing process:  brainstorming, story-boarding, drafting, revising, publishing
  • a task with an identified audience of their peers, other students, YouTube, etc. provides relevance along with rigor

We’d love to hear your thoughts regarding possible extensions and adaptations of this project in your content area!  Feel free to leave any questions or thoughts for Mme. Morgan as well.

Tech Tuesday: Socrative, Mobile Classroom Response

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Tech Tuesday (again…late, by 6 days!  oy vey…):

My apologies for my tardiness.  Last week, I was able to demonstrate a fantastic mobile app and website that allows teachers to create response activities for students.  The fifty or so teachers who sat in on my demonstration were so very patient with my technology flubs and mishaps.  I promised to be more organized in my blog post, so here it goes!


I’m the queen of sticky notes.  I love sticky notes for reminders,  annotations, brainstorming, and exit passes with my students.  Sticky notes were my go-to tool for a quick glimpse at what my students walked away with from our lesson that day.  Now, although still love, sticky notes are a little archaic (and costly).  Socrative ( offers a way for teachers to engage students in checking for their understanding before, during, or after a lesson.  Students and teachers can access the various tools through the website or the free app. 
How does it work?
The teacher creates an account and is provided with a room number.  After creating an activity (multiple choice, true/false, short answer), students can then enter the classroom by typing in the number the teacher provides them.  That is all they need to do!  No creating an account, logging in, etc.  Easy-peasy.  Socrative asks for the student to enter their name before responding to the activity, allowing the teacher to see who submitted which responses.  Once the time for the activity is up, the teacher can view the results.
Socrative would be a quick and engaging way to assess student’s prior knowledge, enthusiasm, and attitudes towards concepts and topics that will be discussed in class that day.  During a lesson, students can also submit a response as a “check for understanding.”  At the end of the day, the teacher can post an activity as an exit pass that will help him or her plan for learning.
Since Socrative allows for multiple students to use the same device, this is not one of those apps that requires one device per student.  
I invite you to try it out!  Let me know what you think.  Did this mobile tool help to enhance student engagement and learning?   

Mythology Book Talk

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Each year our freshmen English I classes study classical Mythology.  Man, did I love teaching the literature in English I!  I mean, seriously,  The Odyssey, Mythology, Romeo and Juliet, To Kill a Mockingbird…you don’t get much better than that!

I wish that when I was leading students through an exploration of classical mythology, I had shared more books with them that borrow from it.  Part of the reason why I didn’t was because I didn’t know many!  But, now I have more to share than I have the time and space to do so.  Today, I posted a book talk sharing four YA novels that are inspired by mythology or spin-offs.


Glolgster…not your ordinary poster project.

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Tech Tuesday #6:  Glogster–Virtual Posters

Thanks to a very unwelcome visit from the stomach-flu fairy, I missed yesterdays Tech Tuesday posting :-(.  So this week I am presenting Tech Tuesday on Wednesday!

Everyday I have teachers ands tudents asking me about technology tools for class presentations.  They are eager to move beyond the traditional stand-and-present poster project or click-and-read PowerPoint (this makes my heart happy).  Today I present Glogster, an interactive poster creator.  Gloster allows the creator to create a mash-up of video, images, text, and graphics to create a virtual poster.  View the VoiceThread tutorial below for a basic introduction of the educational version of glogster (

Ideas for Glogs:
  • Book reviews
  • Advertisements
  • “About me” presentations
  • Compare/ Contrast ideas or topics
  • Illustrate concepts
  • Extend and Deliver in VESTED

Have you or your students glogged?  Tell us about it!