What's a "Tweacher?" It's not just a teacher that tweets. It's a fabulous educator committed to teaching, learning, growing and sharing everyday. This blog is dedicated to highlighting the most amazing "tweachable moments" in the Twitterverse and beyond...

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Math Differentiation in 1:1

Math teachers with one-to-one technology, where each student has access to an Internet-connected device whenever needed, have the potential to teach in a more effective and individualized manner than ever before.  Lacking such technology, math classrooms typically advance from topic to topic in lockstep fashion, with all students forced to move through the material at an identical pace.  This hinders high-ability students from learning as much as they possibly could, and it also forces struggling students to move on without ever mastering certain topics.  In a subject like math, where content often builds upon previously taught material, forcing students to move on when they haven't understood something can have devastating effects down the road.


The ideal solution is clear: Students should be allowed to work through math content at an individualized pace.  With just one teacher and 20 to 35 students in the classroom, plus a fixed semester or trimester schedule in most secondary schools that forces classes to all begin and end at the same time, offering students the ability to work at their optimal pace has never been possible on a large scale.


1:1 technology has the potential to change that.  


The Power of Video


Video tutorials allow a classroom of students to receive instruction about different math topics at the same time.  This frees the students to move from topic to topic at their own individual pace; it also frees the teacher to stop lecturing and start working with students individually when they need help understanding a certain topic.  

Much has been made of the notion of "flipping" the classroom – asking students to watch a video lecture as homework (instead of hearing that lecture in class) so that class time can be devoted to discussion or application of the content being presented.  This model, unfortunately, still has students marching through material in lockstep fashion.  1:1 technology can take this idea even further, using video to allow classrooms to be differentiated or individualized instead of just "flipped."


Differentiated Pacing


It's a truth so obvious that it should hardly even need to be said: Students don't all learn at the same pace.  Yet our current methods of teaching rarely, if ever, take students' learning paces into account.  Standards, report cards, marking periods, and 48-minute class periods all work together to ensure that the amount of time spent on a particular topic is fixed and inflexible.


Inserting computers into classrooms won't instantly change all of that, of course.  But teachers with access to 1:1 technology who want to differentiate the pacing in their classrooms can begin by doing the following four things:


Take advantage of whatever freedom you do have. Many elementary math classrooms, for example, aren't scripted to the minute, so those teachers can add some extra minutes of math as needed to their schedule.


Allow the faster students to move on.  Even in schools where there's no freedom for students to slow down their pace when needed, there's no reason to hold back students who have already mastered a certain topic.  Let them move on as soon as they are ready!


Shorten the assignments.  Have the students do only enough math problems to demonstrate their mastery of a certain topic.  This will help everyone to keep up with whatever pacing is mandated without feeling rushed.


Push for systemic change.  Ultimately, 1:1 technology can lead schools to rethink the ways they force students to learn in lockstep fashion.  It's up to the early adopters of education technology to advocate for those changes on behalf of their students.



About the Author: Neven Jurkovic

Neven Jurkovic's interest in teaching mathematics with technology developed while pursuing a Master of Science degree at Southwest Texas State University. Apart from publishing a number of papers on the application of artificial intelligence in elementary mathematics problem solving, Neven is the creator of Algebrator, a widely used math tutoring software. Currently, he lives in San Antonio, TX and is the CEO of Softmath: http://softmath.com/  


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Guest Post: Student Programming & Scratch Two Point O

Student Programming and Scratch 2.0

            Looking for an exciting hook to present to your upper-elementary or middle school students before the end of the school year?  Want to help your students to find something fun and educational that they may well wish to continue exploring throughout this summer and beyond?  Look no further: the fourth annual Scratch Day is coming this Saturday, May 19th.

            Scratch, found at scratch.mit.edu, is a free programming tool that allows students to learn the basics of computer programming by using drag-and-drop blocks instead of having to type actual code.  Things like animating objects, writing dialogue, and creating variables are all made easy through Scratch, making it a great precursor to more advanced coding.  Student projects, once complete, can be uploaded and shared with others on the Scratch website as well.  Active, helpful, and well-moderated forums about Scratch can also be found at scratch.mit.edu/forums/

            Just over a year ago, Tweachers.org posted about using Scratch with a group of 4th graders – check out that post for more background information about the power of this tool.  My own experience is similar: this year I formed my elementary school’s first-ever Programming Club, where I taught Scratch to 15 fourth and fifth-graders, many of whom were complete novices at the beginning but got completely hooked by the power of programming by the end of our time together.

            Each year, Scratch celebrates its “birthday” on a weekend that falls near its original release date of May 15th.  This year, Scratch 2.0, which is a much improved version of Scratch that has yet to be released publicly, is being made available to the public from May 17th – 21st, 2012, at alpha.scratch.mit.edu.  (That link will be restricted until the 17th.)  For veteran Scratchers, this is something they’ve been awaiting for over a year.  For students who’ve never ventured into the world of computer programming, this five-day window is an ideal opportunity to give it a shot while trying the best, most powerful version of Scratch.  A video explaining many of the new features found in Scratch 2.0 can be found here.

            To upper-elementary and middle school teachers everywhere: consider introducing Scratch to your students this week! 

About the Author:
Mark Pullen has been an elementary teacher for 13 years, currently teaching third grade in East Grand Rapids, MI. He’s an advocate for classroom technology integration, and writes extensively on that subject on behalf of Worth Ave Group, a leading provider of laptop, tablet computer, and iPad insurance for schools and universities: http://www.worthavegroup.com/education   

Scratch On Twitter:  @ScratchEdTeam    @scratchteam  

Monday, April 30, 2012

John Cleese on Creativity and Creative Space & Time

I stumbled upon this article via Twitter links from @BrainPicker and @thecreativepenn

John Cleese on the 5 Factors to Make Your Life More Creative


© 2009, photo by Anirudh Koul on Flickr
via serarch.creativecommons.org
 Cleese gives fabulous insight into what is needed to find and thrive within your own creative self...

  1. Space (“You can’t become playful, and therefore creative, if you’re under your usual pressures.”)
  2. Time (“It’s not enough to create space; you have to create your space for a specific period of time.”)
  3. Time (“Giving your mind as long as possible to come up with something original,” and learning to tolerate the discomfort of pondering time and indecision.)
  4. Confidence (“Nothing will stop you being creative so effectively as the fear of making a mistake.”)
  5. Humor (“The main evolutionary significance of humor is that it gets us from the closed mode to the open mode quicker than anything else.”)

This is a highly-motivating article. I recommend watching the videos and reading the entire text, especially if you are a teacher trying to wrap up your school year and stay focused (and remain happy and sane at the same time!)

It's during the summer that I tend to discover and document some of my own best ideas. By creating space and time, away from my day-to-day tasks, I can see clearer in any direction.

Read the full article HERE.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Wonderful Weebly! Go Pro!

I just completed our district's first staff development on Weebly. While the service is free, we have upgraded to the Pro Education version. This enables our teacher to actually TEACH with the website as well as design it for parental communication. We have decided on four main pages: Welcome, Students, Parents and Gallery. This is in an effort to not clutter the header bar. Teachers can create nested pages that sit within the main pages. Its interface is almost all drag and drop (very easy for the Mac user transitioning from iWeb). The ease of drag and drop of "widgets" (elements such as title with paragraph, picture with paragraph, etc) allows the user easy shuffling of content. Widgets can even be copied or moved to other existing pages. The education account has additional features, such as uploading documents, collaborating on documents and accounts for students to create their own Weebly website.

I have suggested to teachers to continue using iPhoto to edit photos, but then export into a folder into Documents. Then, they upload to a slideshow in Weebly. It's a mini lesson for them in cropping, duplicating, red-eye, and folder structure.
I've developed a few tips for creating a photo that will fit the banner area. It was also important to teach them how to save the banner pic to only the page they are editing (not to all pages, as this is not intuitive in the Weebly interface for beginners).

    1.    Open iPhoto, and click on one photo (note a yellow box around it)
    3.    ⌘D (to duplicate the photo)
    4.    Double click on the duplicate photo to open for editing
    5.    Click the pencil at the bottom for Edit Mode
    6.    Next screen, click the Crop icon on the right-hand side
    7.    Check box "Constrain," scroll down to custom,
    8.    Click 16 x 9 HD, then scroll down again to click Custom (a glitch in the iPhoto interface)
    9.    Input 10 x 3  , then click Done
    10.    Drag this pic to the Desktop, then it's ready for import to Weebly

Teachers are also experimenting with video upload. All teachers have a Flip camera and have hours of footage to sort through. I've suggested using iMovie to edit and then practice exporting a short .mov clip for upload to Weebly. Since Weebly has a max of 100MB file upload limit, and until the district rolls out our Vimeo license, here are the parameters we're using when exporting from iMovie to QuickTime:

For HD projects  (16:9)  (at 60fps)
480 x 270 = under 3 minutes
320 x 180 = under 4 minutes

For SD projects   (4:3)  (at 60fps)
640 x 480 = under 2 1/2 minutes
320 x 240 = under 4 minutes

Here is an article by Jason Weaver that I've suggested all teachers read. Jason lists examples of elementary, middle school and upper ed Weebly sites:  http://jasonweaver.weebly.com/designing-classroom-websites-with-weebly.html

Others tweeting about Weebly:  @AndreaFlagiello  @LAMBRADLEY  @pipcleaves

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Creative Book Builder: ePubs in an instant!

 With the educational community a-buzz about ePubs, it's about time for an app like Creative Book Builder. Rather than re-invent the wheel, this is one of the first publishing app that does exactly what it's iTunes description says it does (quoted below)... All of the app by Tiger Ng are winners, including Touch App Creator, Rapid Book Creator and more....


Creative Book Builder enables everyone to create, edit and publish eBooks in a few minutes...and on the go. All published ebooks can be read by any ePub reader including iBooks. Everyone is professional writer now!

Content Creation
★ Inline editing: Bold, Italic, Underline & Insert Link
★ Add title, paragraph, images, videos, audio recording, music, links, custom HTML, and lists
★ Support Markdown syntax
★ Add page break within a chapter
★ Import ePub file from Dropbox, Google Docs & Email
★ Import document from Google Docs into HTML format
★ Import text, photo, music & video from Dropbox
★ Edit image (redeye removal, filters, etc)
★ Add internal links to different chapters
★ Embed pdf, doc, xls, ppt, pages, keynote, numbers files
★ Import PDF as images

Book Creation
★ Create unlimited number of chapters
★ Sort your content's ordering within a chapter
★ Move & copy element from one chapter to another
★ Move & copy chapter from one section to another
★ Customize your cover image
★ Customize book information including author, title, description, subject, and publisher etc.
★ Organize chapters into different sections
★ Create multiple books
★ Copy & Merge books
★ Change font, text identation, and alignment
★ Edit content offline
★ Preview book in iBooks

★ Email book
★ Upload book to Dropbox
★ Upload book to Google Docs
★ Upload book to FTP Servers
★ Share book to Book Center
★ Convert book to web app using TouchAppCreator

The format of the book is in EPUB format that includes HTML, javascript, css, jpg, mp4, m4a, mp3 and caf.

Please note that you need to turn on location services and accept location request prompted to allow this app to access your photo library. It is needed for the first time only.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Lori Mustiile's CUE prezo is now online!


Keynote is also now posted!

Fabulous conference. Now we need rest! Great to meet so many blog
followers at CUE! See you next year!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Friday, October 28, 2011

FINALLY! USB connector and keyboard compatible with iPad 2

I have been off the blogging map for a while. I have been asked to do some serious R&D for my district. We are about to adopt a very large number of iPad2 devices and I was getting the sense from my staff that maintaining keyboarding skills for elementary and middle school students would be an issue. While most of the third graders I teach can text faster than I can, I also wanted to see our QWERTY typing skills and home key training remain strong in our tech standards. (These kids will still have to type a paper now and then). Also, knowing most classrooms may go to a hybrid model of laptops and iPads, I wanted to find a solution to ease the transition for students and staff. In addition, I needed a USB keyboard solution for 30+ iPads in one classroom, so we did not run into any Bluetooth interference issues.

I've found it.

After many months of research, here is the solution. A $30 dock connector and a $16 keyboard. Upon plugging in the keyboard to the connector you get the traditional "USB device not supported error," however this can be bypassed and keyboard typing works! Not only that, but this keyboard was the only one I've found that accommodates CUT COPY PASTE UNDO with its "blank" apple/command key.

Introducing the first laptop/iPad hybrid model for the classroom.

Maybe I'll have more time to blog from now on.....  :)

Here are the links:



Sunday, September 11, 2011

Interesting Ways to...

Tom Barrett creates some great collaborative presentations in Google Docs about "Interesting ways to..." in your classrooms. The presentations continue to grow as they are shared among many educators who contribute their ideas and then share with others.
My favorite recent Interesting Ways is 27 Interesting Ways to Use Google+ to Support Learning
If you would like to you can 
  • Contribute your ideas and tips to the presentation.
  • Let me know how you have used the resource.
  • Get in touch. You can email me or I am @tombarrett on Twitter
Look at all the "Interesting Ways to..." by visiting Tom's Blog

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I Missed ISTE!! But Still Smiling!

Although I was not able to make this year's ISTE Conference in Philly, I was able to keep up with the threads on Twitter. However, I can boast about a clean desktop! (note brag-able pic above) and some great family time with my kids and hubby. Gotta love summer!! :)
If you are like me, you can relive all of the best links on Anne Bubnic's Diigo group http://groups.diigo.com/group/iste-2011

Follow @abubnic for great edtech resources!

Friday, June 10, 2011

A guide to building a great presentation.

If you have not had the chance to see Jesse de's work, this will truly inspire you and guide you to building a beautiful deck (as they call it in the business).
View more presentations from @JESSEDEE

I found my students need to learn the value of communicating ideas and delivering them in an effective way.
Happy deck building!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Got Dropbox?


I've been off the blogging beat for awhile, as most teachers are, frantically wrapping up end of the year activities and assessments. However, I've been doing a bit of research with Dropbox. If you haven't seen the capabilities of this cardboard "cloud," sign up now. It is by far the most highly integrated, free space arena that you can use with your peers AND your students. The school librarian and I are currently researching more than 100 educational apps for the iPad that feature a direct saving capability to Dropbox. You can easily share space (via folders) with anyone, and it's a hit with educators that are spearheading the effort to green our campus and stop unnecessary printing. You can even install the app and sync it with your laptop. Super cool. I've asked all of my staff to get an account, and we'll talk about the rest in the fall. I'd dare you to fit one more thing on your plate this school year, but I think you'll think this one is worth it.

Others tweeting about Dropbox: @Eduware_Inc  @mrmadden77 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

LiveCode Summer Academy with RunRev

I'm beginning a new stage of my professional development - learning to write iOS apps with RunRev's LiveCode. I have to admit this will be quite the challenge for me. However, as an ADE, I wrote a proposal to the company and was granted a full education license (Thanks, Kevin!). I'm hoping to master the LiveCode software this summer and make a Math App that can be used on our school iPads. In the meantime, I will be exploring the FREE online lessons and begin the FREE 7 week webinar series for new coders. I have read some of the company's K12 case studies, and I now have the lofty goal of teaching LiveCode to a select group of 5th graders this coming fall as part of our PLC seminar series. Our school uses a Professional Learning Community model, which enables our staff to teach targeted-learning to groups of students. I will most likely be assigned a group of higher-math/higher-tech students and be able to teach them the basics of iOS code. More on my experiences with LiveCode Summer Academy soon...it begins today!

In addition, here are links to the RunRev Forum and LiveCode TV.

Others tweeting about RunRev, LiveCode and iOS...
@runrev   @renrevkev   @HellerMD98   @jerrydaniels   @timanderson

Friday, May 6, 2011

Math is Elementary!

For at least three years, I have been recommending a few FREE software apps (compatible with PC and Macs) for my teachers during STAR test review time (aka Panic time). I am always pleased to see how engaged students are (even after endless teacher review) with
these titles by Elementary Software: Number String, Terrific Triangles, and Math Practice.

NUMBER STRING is a game that reinforces Order of Operations. Students are dealt 5 cards and the answer to the problem is revealed. The object of the game is to use a combination of + - x ÷ , one or more of the five cards, and up to two sets of parenthesis. So, the more complex a number string created, a higher number of points is rewarded for completing the problem correctly. Fun background "treats" are revealed for correct solutions, and points are also taken away for incorrect answers. Also, version 1.5 of the software adds 100 point bonus to the student's score and keeps track of the number of times this bonus has been achieved. This game is great for struggling students as well as good mathematicians, and is most fun when done in mixed-level teams. It helps to build strong critical thinking and mental math skills. You know it's fun if students choose to play this during rainy day recess!

TERRIFIC TRIANGLES is a fact family based math game. It can be leveled at easy, medium and hard and can be set for + - or x ÷ families. The triangles presented display two facts and the student must guess the final fact to complete the family. This game can be played in Teacher mode (for group review) or in student mode (where a spinner will indicate the student who needs to answer the problem against a timer). This is a very fun game to use with an interactive whiteboard.

MATH PRACTICE is the ultimate number puzzle game. It has many levels of difficulty so it can be used throughout the elementary grades. This game actually includes multiple game choices including individual + - x ÷ fact practice, facts against a timer, number sentence puzzles and math square puzzles (both pictured here). The latter two games mentioned even include a "Hall of Fame." The software designer, Scott Morrow, developed this game to help eliminate the need for paper worksheets. Although these puzzles were designed for 8-10-yr-olds, these can be super challenging at the highest levels (even for me)!

Elementary Software also makes a game called Ping Pop (just a game, no math here!) and Door Magnets, which is a program that can lock down desktop icons. They have paid games (which are reasonably cheap) such as Sentence Wrangler (for practice with word order) and RandoMeister (a teacher's aide for picking and organizing students).

Others tweeting about alternatives to traditional test prep: @mbteach  @TestPrepLaura   @Larryferlazzo

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Take notes on the iPad with Penultimate

This app takes the cake for writing notes, jotting down ideas, storyboarding for projects and making quick lists just to name a few. Watch this short video on the power of Penultimate.

Other tweeting about Penultimate @spoonrabbit  @magicaltablet

Apptivities for Mobile Learning

As mobile learning becomes more and more prevalent in education here is a fantastic site that pairs apps for Apptivities across content. http://www.apptivities.org/  Take a look at these great ideas for blending apps for some Challenge Based Learning.

Others tweeting about Apptivities @ictast  @marinmacteacher  

Wolfram Alpha is not just for Math Teachers!

Wolfram Alpha is a Computational Knowledge Engine. Check out these great example for teachers across content areas.
  For example a teacher might have students examine information about Charlemagne and then perform critical analysis of the results. 
As a math teacher I can have my students use Wolfram to complete side by side comparisons of linear and quadratic equations then write about the what makes them different.

Happy Knowledge Computing!

Others tweeting about Wolfram Alpha:
@Wolfram_Alpha   @WolframFunFacts   

Monday, May 2, 2011

FrameByFrame = Simple Stop Motion!

Here is a "rough cut" version of what some of my 3rd grade students are doing in a Lunch Enrichment Lego Animation Club. This movie is called "Monster Attack!" Using Frame By Frame software, a free download for the Mac, and a MacBook with iSight camera, students are creating short stop motion animations. The students will then export to QuickTime, and import to iMovie to add voice over, titles, transitions and their own flair to create finished multimedia project! I really enjoy how easy this software is to use, and intuitively they are able to tweak the frame rate settings and onion-skinning to develop a perfectly timed project. Enjoy the work-in-progress!

If you're really interested in this type of media, check out an amazing Stop Motion Lego Animation , entitled "Ah," on Vimeo via "Studio Shelter."

Others tweeting about FrameByFrame and other stop motion animation software for the Mac and PC:
@softsites  @STUDIOSHELTER  @LSWLSWFilmsLtd  @classroomantics  @iPodsibilities

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What Does That Mean?

I don't know about you, but I have a hard time trying to keep up with all the acronyms being bantered about on Twitter. Most of us have learned about RT (retweet-send someone's tweet out again), DM (direct message-send a tweet to just one person), PLN (personal learning network) and ISTE (International Society of Technology in Education). Since I wasn't into texting when I joined Twitter, I remember when I didn't know what LOL (laughing out loud), IMHO (in my humble opinion) or TIA (thanks in advance) meant. I actually asked on Twitter what LOL meant. Well, I guess I made more than one person LOL and I think I made a couple even ROFL (roll on the floor laughing). But, hey, at least I learned.

Since that time I've always asked when I don't know what an acronym means. Yes, I might make someone else roll their eyes or snicker under their breath when they see my tweet asking, but at least I will know what is being said.

When I blog I always write out the words for things like personal learning network the first time I use it, followed by the letters in parentheses (PLN), so that my reader will know what I'm talking about. My good friend, Beth Still, wrote a great blog post reminding us to spell out what we mean if we want to be understood.

I remember last summer reading a tweet from a member of my PLN that said, "I'm going OTG to spend more time with DH and DD." I had to DM (direct message) her and ask what she meant. Translation: I'm going off the grid (Twitter and other social media sites) to spend more time with dear husband and dear daughter.

Here is one of the responses I got when I asked my PLN on Twitter for some acronyms to help newbies. Funny thing is, I didn't know any of them. (LOL)

Just last week I told a member of my PLN to DM me and I would share the code to our LMS with her. She quickly tweeted back asking what an LMS is? And so she should. I answered her by explaining that an LMS is a learning management system. This occurred during an #edchat (educational chat) on Twitter and it is easy to talk in acronyms because you only have 140 characters to deliver your message. (I'll talk more about #edchats next time.)

I'd love to hear about some of the times you were left scratching your head and saying, "What does that mean?"

I'd like to thank Lori Mustille for inviting me to be a guest blogger for Tweachers.

Others tweeting answers about acronyms @katiechoudhary, @jdornberg, @derrallg, and @marsacat.

(Cross posted on my blog.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Story Path for a 6 Paragraph Essay

Here is the template that I use for almost all of my writing projects. It can also be used as a directional story board for a movie, or a directional path for any animation. I captured this image on my way out of school today with my new iPhone 4. Ahhh...the power of a good mobile camera...
On that note... Mobile blogging is now LIVE for Tweachers.org
Expect many great Tweachable "Mobile Moments" to come!

SCRATCH the Surface of Computer Programming

For the last seven weeks, I have been teaching a select group of 4th graders how to program. I have used SCRATCH, a free mathematical-based animation program developed by M.I.T, for a number of years. However, this year students were challenged to create their own games. We created our own channel, which is also free, on the SCRATCH website. Students can post directly from the software, Obviously, the final products ran the gamut of simple point-and-shoot basketball to and intensely-coded, two player soccer game. Enjoy!

Visit the Official Wiki!

Others tweeting about SCRATCH...  @scratchteam  @PierceCoLibrary  @derrallg  @retazens

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Boo! Spook Away Bad Search Habits



One ongoing "life standard" I try to teach everyone is smarter, more accurate , online searching. Even though Google is the shark of search engines, I feel it's easier to get your feet wet in more comfortable waters (especially for entry-level online researchers). One of the first lessons I teach in online searching is boolean logic, yet trying to explain this to some of my youngest students (and even some of my staff) is often a daunting task. So, to ease the process, I need clear, easy visuals. I often use Boolify, a puzzle-based, visual search engine, to introduce the topic.

I start by explaining what a Boolean operator is and the difference between "and" "not" "or" when doing a search query. Some of my my favorite examples are...

bass "not" fishing (which will bring up results about guitars, and even Bass Shoes)

mullet "not" hair (which will actually bring up results about the shark)

new york "not" tickets
(which will rule out the travel companies when doing state history research)

There is even a Boolify lesson handout that can be used with any age level...even reluctant staff.

In Boolify's search options, you can change from a general web search and further narrow results to a book, news, blog, video, or image search. Strict Google Search is the default, but the settings can also be changed to moderate. You can even save search results and search in four languages.

Boolify is a GLEAN Learning tool, developed by The Public Learning Media Laboratory. Other fabulous FREE tools from PLML are rolling out live later in 2011. Here are the links for their free MATH, SCIENCE and other Information Literacy tools. If you enjoy Boolify, you can support PLML by becoming a beta tester and sampling their upcoming tools, by simply agreeing to provide feedback.

Others tweeting about Boolify @gdouglasbundy  @librarianinasia