I was reminded recently of a site I would like to use more in my classroom – Socrative. Socrative is an online site that allows teachers to create interactive quizzes. Students can sign on using a computer, their iPad or their smartphone to answer one question or a series of questions. It is engaging students and teachers are able to receive instant feedback. It could potentially be a great hook to start a new unit or to get students to be thinking about an idea before a lesson begins. It can be used to gauge your students’ understanding of a topic before or after a lesson or both. You may want to use Socrative as an “Exit Ticket” or as a competitive unit review. The results can be displayed publicly or can remain for the teacher’s eyes only. The responses could be used to prompt a discussion or give students and teachers some feedback about areas in which the students may need further review. I found the site to be well organized and easy to navigate. There is a good video overviewing the uses of Socrative; look for “Watch the Video” on the homepage.

I have used Socrative only once before for our 6th grade integrated unit. I wanted to prompt a discussion about what students felt was having the biggest impact on sustainability in the cocoa industry. It led to a good discussion among the students, as there wasn’t necessarily one right answer. The biggest challenge to using Socrative in grade 6, and the main reason why I have not utilized it more, is the access to computers. The time it takes students to get a laptop from the cart, log on and go to Socrative would be quite a bit longer than the actual time needed to take the quiz. And not all students have smartphones at this age, so that is not really an option. I think I need to think more purposefully about integrating Socrative into a lesson or two this year. Maybe one where students will be using computers anyway as a way to engage and formatively assess. Other ideas anyone?


Explain Everything Part 2

I used the Explain Everything App for the first time in my classroom this week. The assignment was for students to work in pairs to create tutorial videos as a review for our operations unit. This unit is not a particularly interesting or exciting unit for the students. It is mainly a review of basic skills –multiplication, division, addition and subtraction. They are very important foundationally, but students are at very different levels with these skills and need practice and review in different areas. I thought using Explain Everything as a review for the unit would not only engage students but reinforce their skills in a weak area as well. Students were asked to create a tutorial demonstrating a math skill they themselves needed review with related to this unit. We used tutorials from Khan Academy as examples, observing the clear descriptions of the steps to follow and different ways of presenting the material. We looked at a brief tutorial that explained the basics of the app and then I let them explore on their own. (begin at 1:18)

We experienced a couple of hiccups. The first one being time. One block was not enough for all the pairs to complete their projects. Unfortunately, we had limited time with CWW’s imminent approach. If I used this app again, and I plan to, I would allot 2 blocks. Whether or not students completed their tutorial, though, they still experienced the most important part of the activity, the review. The other hiccup was that the iPads are not designed to have numerous users, and when students went to upload their videos to Google, the previous user came up. Sturgeon helped me solve this dilemma. Save the tutorial on the iPad from the home icon, go to the toolbar menu, go to accounts, and turn off the Google Drive switch. Go back to the film icon and upload.

Overall, it worked great. Students loved it! The pairs were excited and engaged about using the technology. I was surprised at how smoothly it all went and how quickly students figured out the program. I would highly recommend this app! Here is a link to one of the students’ completed tutorials – Ben and Hayley.


I have created a screencast tutorial for my students designed to teach them how to access their online textbook. Every year, signing students up onto their online textbook is a challenging endeavor. As you can see, there are quite a few steps involved. This year we tried it together as a group, but unfortunately for one group, the classzone site was down. Since then, numerous students have come back to me saying it “didn’t work” or they “weren’t able to sign up,” so I thought this would be a great opportunity for a screencast that my students would have access to at all times.

To Tweet or not to Tweet…

My recent perception of Twitter and all it potentially holds for me has not been a particularly favorable one. The desire to sort through relevant and irrelevant information, seemingly endlessly, is not something that appeals to me. Two words – sensory overload. I struggle to get through my home page of Facebook more than once a month. I saw a video that argued social networking sites give us an identity. Sites like Facebook are visual, documented reminders of who we are, where we’ve been and what we’ve done.

Could this be said about Twitter as well?

It has been brought to my attention that Twitter may hold more than just the mundane day-to-day revelations people are experiencing. That it is, in fact, a potential font of resources for teachers, a way to share new ideas quickly and effectively, reach a broad audience with this information, and get instantaneous feedback, allowing one to expand those ideas even further. It is a way of keeping up-to-date, collaborate with colleagues from around the world, and get questions answered. So, I have decided to enter into the year 2008 and open a twitter account…

I see Twitter mainly as a good source for me to get information and resources for teaching in my class. I was already inspired by @rmbyrne with a couple good ideas, one of which was a reminder about another great resource, Socrative. My students are in 6th grade and Twitter is blocked at our school so it can only be used as an information and update source and problematically, I can’t ask students to get it as they are below the 13 years age limit. However, I do see its potential as a source for parents and the wider community. As for myself I think I will use it as a way to keep updated on the interesting things happening in Math, technology and other interest. I have also been recommended Pinterest by a friend who says it’s great and may be more related to what I’m interested in using it for. As such soon I will start a Pinterest account and gauge, which is better for me and go from there.

I enjoy using technology and think it helps in a great many ways. I’m busy, though, as is with most people so ideally I need the technology to help me make things more efficient and engaging. Let the Twitter/Pinterest experiment begin!

Learn a Zillion!

Erma Anderson visited us here at ISM recently and left us with a wealth of online resources for us to use in our math classrooms. One of her favorite sites, and now one of mine, is LearnZillion.

LearnZillion is a site full of ~5-minute videos about math and English topics. Each video is teacher created and designed to teach a specific math, or English, concept from grade three through high school. The topics per grade level are broken down according to the Common Core Standards. The main idea behind the creation of this site is to provide teachers with the opportunity to differentiate their students’ learning. Students can watch videos at their level and at their own pace, repeating as many times as necessary, to develop their understanding of a concept.

Here is an example of a video I used in my classroom to demonstrate the distributive property and try it to a lesson we just completed regarding using an area model for multiplication. I appreciated the visuals the video provided as well as the clear explanation of the concept. The more opportunities I can give my students to “see” how it works, the better!

To find out more about LearnZillion take a look at this CNN article.

Everything Is Coming Up Google

This year in the Middle School at ISM there has been a big push for Google: using Google calendar, gmail, Chrome, etc. I would like to take a moment to extoll the virtues of Google Sites. Each year the 6th Grade Team facilitates an integrated unit where all subjects are “suspended” for an opportunity for students to research the sustainable practices of 4 major worldwide industries. This is a complex, multi-layered research task. A plethora of age-appropriate resources need to be gathers for students to collect information from. Students need to take notes and document their sites accurately. Students need to have access to a calendar to know when the various assignments are due. They need to have access to the expectations of the project and see examples of other projects completed by the previous year’s students.

The Google site provided us a place to keep all of that information that was both teacher and student friendly. Everything a student is going to need for the project is on this site.

Here is a screen shot of our first page and a link to the site for you to check it out:

Screen Shot 2013-09-14 at 3.14.29 PM

The site is “living” in that all the documents attached are google docs. Teachers can update them at any time without having to change the site. Students can download what they need onto their drive. The work is automatically saved and accessible which removes the “not coming prepared” factor to their progress. On top of this, I created the site in an afternoon with only a few tweaks needed here and there throughout the project’s duration. This was a great organization tool for our unit. I would recommend Google sites for any project you are developing with numerous steps and documents and one that students will be completing mainly on computers.

I have further gone on to create a Google site for my math students. A question I hear often from parents is where can my child go for more help. I collected my favorite site and videos for the concepts we are working on and compiled them onto the site. I embedded most of them directly, so students play the review games on the site and are not navigated off. I linked it to my blog and away we went…

I see a future where I blog for my math class on a Google site… 🙂

Check out the tutorial:

Explain Everything

Explain Everything iPad App

I was just introduced to Explain Everything, an app for your iPad. It allows you to create, narrate, and design a presentation that can be used to inform, entertain, compile, explain and/or teach. Some of the “cooler” features include the ability to use text or written words, include shapes, laser pointers, and arrows to highlight. You can import photos and video; you can even import a PowerPoint allowing you to add narration and to literally point out key ideas. Once your masterpiece is complete, you can export your creation directly to YouTube.

This app could potentially have numerous applications in my math classroom. The most obvious at first glance would be to use this app as a way for students to reinforce their skills by creating tutorials explaining math concepts. This would not only demonstrate my students’ skill and understanding but the tutorials could be posted on our math practice google site and others could learn from them as well. And, the bonus, students are engaged in the process!! Furthermore they would have to really think about the concepts they were presenting to be able to break down into a few slides. Other ways I envision this app being used include recording student solutions/work to observe understanding and creating my own videos for tutorials or interactive lessons. The world is your oyster!

Good Tutorial for using Explain Everything.