Friday, May 23, 2014

3 Ideas to Promote Deeper Learning of Mathematics with iPads

Do you want your students to do more than practice math skills and play math games on the iPad? Here are three quick ideas to fuel your thinking.

1.  Have students build a game using math concepts they are learning.  In the video below you can see a 5th grade student's math game created using the Hopscotch app. Game building allows students to gain deeper understanding of math concepts, they learn essential skills like perseverance, problem solving and critical thinking.

2.  Using an app like Doodle Buddy, students can build and work with number lines.  Creating a number line helps students to better understand how to use them. Below is an example from a 3rd grader in +Tracy Campbell 's class.

3.  Older students can use the Book Creator app to create tutorials and guides for math concepts.  By creating resources to teach others, students gain deeper understanding of the material. Take a look at these equation books created by Bowdoin Math high school students.

Do you have other ideas and example? Please share in the comments.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Ramp up communication with parents and students using Remind 101

As many of us know from experience, the one device we have on us almost all of the time is our phone.  One of the easiest ways to connect with parents about their students in our classroom is to text them.  However, not everyone is ready to share their personal cell phone number.  That is why Remind 101 is a perfect way for educators to maintain an open line of communication to parents and guardians.

Remind 101 provides a safe way for teachers to text message students and parents for free.  It is a broadcast system, so messages go one way and students or parents cannot reply.  This is a one way, private communication. Teachers don't see parent phone numbers and parents don't see teacher phone numbers, making this a safe and professional way to increase communication from schools and classroom.

Create an account

Go to and set up a free account.

Set up a class

To set up a new class just log into your account and add a new class. Give the class a name and then choose a class code. This is the code the parents or students will enter when they send a text to join your Remind 101 group.  You could set up a class for your 2nd Grade Class, GATE Club, the entire freshman class or after school program.  Any group that you want to be able to communicate with and send reminders.

Two ways for parents to receive messages

Teachers (or principals) can send out a text using their Remind 101 account to parent, guardian, or student phones. All students and parents need to do is text a message that you create to your Remind 101 assigned phone number. Best of all, this works on ALL cell phones, no Smartphone required!

Parents without phones or who don't want to use a phone can opt to use email with Remind 101.

Read more about Remind 101 as a safe way to keep in contact with parents and students via text

What reminders can you send?

  • Remind students to study for a test
  • Send parents a filed trip permission slip as a pdf
  • Send students a link to a homework video
  • Remind students to have a good breakfast before testing
  • Announce dates and times for performances
  • Let specific students know they still have a missing assignment
  • Announce schedule changes
  • Share safety information during school emergencies
  • Send out practice reminders for sports and extra curricular activities
                          the possibilities are endless....

The afterschool program at Del Norte High School, Warrior Overtime, uses Remind 101 to notify students of activities and events happening after school.  They post an announcement in the student bulleting informaing students how to sign up.

Read how +Todd Nesloney uses Remind 101 in a PBL Flipped Classroom

Awesome features in Remind 101:

  • You can send a message to one class, several classes or individuals in a class
  • As of April 2014, attachments can be added to the message. Go ahead and attach the field trip permission slip or other document you need parents to have. No more lost papers on the way home from school!
  • Insert links to online resources.  You can add websites and other resources to your messages. We use Google Docs and I was able to add a link to a flier to my message. 
  • Messages can be scheduled for later - you can sit down on Monday and schedule all messages for the day, week or month!

Message History:  

All messages are stored in your account and can be exported from your account for auditing purposes

Use it on your mobile device:

Remind 101 for iOS

Remind 101 for Android

Want to know more? Remind 101 Resources for Teachers

I am excited about the new features coming soon: streamlined payments and polling 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Embrace the Hashtag

Some argue that Social Media is one of the most powerful forms of writing today.
Photo courtesy @techminock

Vicki Davis (@Coolcatteacher) points out in her blog post on Edutopia that writing via social media can:
  • Arguably get someone fired, hired or forced to retire faster than any other form of writing.
  • Be read by college admissions offices and teams of student "stalkers" hired to vet students before they receive scholarships.
  • Prevent some people from running for political office and get others elected.
Understanding, integration, or acceptance of social media doesn't have to be scary, but it does have to happen.  As educators we can no longer say, "Ah, that stuff is for kids" or "I am not interested in social media".  We must educate ourselves on how to use it responsibly and manage it effectively because our students are exposed to it daily.  Even if they don't have their own devices. I know of students who are active on sites like facebook and it is all done through their friends phones!  We wouldn't let students navigate the roads without driving lessons, yet many students are joy riding all over the information super highway with no guidance at all.

So we must: Embrace the Hashtag

What is a hashtag anyway? 

Your students probably know, ask them!
A hashtag is a way to use a symbol (the # sign) to categorize information on social media platforms. Including a hashtag in a post on social media platforms like twitter, instagram or facebook allows others to search and find posts along a common theme.

For example, the hashtag #4thchat is used to discuss topics of interest to 4th grade teachers on Twitter. A search for #4thchat on Twitter will result in all posts that include that hashtag. This is a great way to find current conversations about teaching 4th grade.

Here are a few ideas for using hashtags in your classroom with or without technology.

Hashtags for reading analysis: 

Even if you have zero technology in the classroom, you can use the hashtag idea to engage students, enhance learning, and teach 21st century skills.  High school Language Arts Teacher, Alison Eckart, had her students create hashtags next to paragraphs in text they were reading to identify key ideas, themes, or feelings from the reading.

After an activity like this, students could get in groups to discuss which hashtags they used, citing evidence from the text in support of the hashtag they chose.

Hashtags for online discussion:

If you have one or more computers or mobile devices in your classroom try hosting a twitter chat to engage students in online discussion of a topic. Students can create a post as a class, team or individual. Encourage classes at the same school to engage in Twitter discussions using a hashtag.  When studying animals for research reports, students could share facts they learn using a common hashtag. Checking the Twitter feed each morning can be an inspiration to start learning that day.

This is an example of a teacher using the hashtag #TKaM for posts discussing class reading of To Kill A Mockingbird.

TIP! Always search for a hashtag first before using it with students to see if it is already in use

Hashtags for homework help:

In George Couros' post about using hashtags in the classroom, he suggests having students use a hashtag when posting questions for their teacher online. Adding something like #DNHSbiohelp to the end of a post allows questions to be read by more than just the teacher. If students know to follow the hashtag, more than one student may be helped when you post the answer. Also, other students are able to post answers and help each other, creating a true culture of learning for your school.

For more great ideas about using Twitter hashtags in the classroom you can read this post on Graphite: 7 Ideas for Using Twitter in the Classroom.

I am always looking for new ideas to share with teachers about using hashtags to engage students.  If you have an idea please post ways you are integrating social media and use the hashtag #embracethehashtag on Twitter.