Friday, January 12, 2018

Links and Loves and a Guest Blog Post

Happy Friday Everyone!

Are you interested in having a smart home?

Here are some purchases I’ve made to convert our home into a smart home. I know, I'm a bit of a techy person.

Alexa Echo Dot  - This device connects to the voice-controlled intelligent personal assistant service called Alexa from Amazon. Here is a video showing some of the ways that it works.

Insignia Smart Plug - When you plug something into this plug, you can control it via the app on a smartphone or other device. And then you can connect the smart plug to your Alexa for a voice controlled outlet. Think how fun it was for us to say, "Alexa, turn on the Christmas tree" and the tree lit up.

Philips Dusk to Dawn LED
light bulb.  We put these bulbs on the front of our garage so that we never come home to a dark house. They are super bright and work like a charm!

This year our goal is to save up for a video security camera. If you have any recommendations on a good one, let me know.


In other news, but somewhat related, I had the pleasure of writing a guest blog post for the site ThingLink is a site that allows you to create interactive images with music, images, links, videos and more. One of my favorite features is the ability to annotate a 360° image.
The focus of my blog post was combining Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence using ThingLink. The blogpost is titled: An Innovative Idea: Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Come Together for a Guided Tour with ThingLink.

You can read my guest blog post by clicking here.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Links and Loves

Happy 2018 Everyone!!
Here are some interesting finds from perusing through the web.

This addon for Google Forms lets you add a certificate to a quiz. If a person takes your quiz and passes with a certain percent (set by you) they will earn a certificate that is emailed to them. Here is my certificate I earned from passing a quiz (don't look too closely at my score :-). This would be a neat way to acknowledge student achievement, staff completion of a survey or provide a reward for a club or sport. It always more special when you receive a certificate for a reward!

I love organizing and finding ways to store things. Since I consider myself a DIYer, doesn’t this look like a great idea?

This week a Bomb Cyclone hit the East Coast. Apparently this is like a winter hurricane!
Also, Niagara Falls froze and the images are spectacular!

Do you make a New Year’s Resolution? This year I’m going to try the #OneWord2018 idea. My #OneWord2018 is #Different - I want to try things I haven’t tried before and learn from those who think and live differently than I do. Want to see what others are doing? Check out this online community OneWordONT.

Quizalize looks like an assessment tool worth looking into. You can visually see who gets it and who needs help.

"Cheers" to a fabulous 2018! I hope your year is off to a great start.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

What I've Learned From Special Education Teachers

Thank You Special Education Teachers!

Before I was a technology integrator, I worked in a 5th grade classroom along side a special education teacher every day. We had students in our classroom with every type of disability. Now that I have become a technology integrator, I continue to spend time with special education teachers in their classrooms. Probably because I have a comfort level with them and also because I know that I can learn a TON from watching these talented teachers work their instructional and classroom management magic.

I think any educator that is struggling with managing behaviors in their classroom, or with meeting the individual needs of each of their students, should spend some time learning from special education teachers.

Here are some of the most important take aways that I have learned from working with special education teachers.

#1 - Get to know your students well and find out what makes them "tick". When a student is challenging you or refusing to work or participate, take time to have a conversation with them and find out what matters to them.   Conversations with a student in a non-judgmental way can build a trust and rapport that will go a long way in the educational setting.

#2 - Keep things to "Yes or No" - there are no grey areas.  One technique that I learned from my friend Stacey, was to ask students yes or no questions when having conversations with them. If a student is caught misbehaving, Stacey would simply say to the student, "Yes or no, did you _________?" If the student starts to avoid the question and engage in blaming or defending, she would interrupt and re-ask the yes or no question.  She would do this as many times as necessary.  This way the student is only given the choice to say Yes or No. This will eliminate getting into a power struggle with the student.  I have used this strategy successfully many, many times, even with my own children at home. 

#3 - Stay Calm and Don't Take Things Personally - Every special education teacher I have known is a pro at this. As the authority and teacher, we must remember to keep our demeanor at a professional level and never use profanity or sarcasm with our students.  Remind yourself that you know what is best for your students and have their best interest at heart. Keep your composure and breathe and count to 5 before you say anything if you are upset.

#4 - Communicate Expectations Often - Before I learned to do this I would often tell myself that my students should know what I expect of them and if they didn't follow my rules, I would think, "It's the students' fault, not mine."  But the truth is, students should be told (and shown) clear expectations at the start of every lesson or class period. One thing I have learned to do consistently is to start out every lesson by stating the learning objective as well as the expectations for the lesson. It would look and sound something like this:

"By the end of today's class, you will be able to write a thesis statement. First I will teach two basic strategies for writing a thesis statement. During this time, you will listen carefully and take notes. You will write your thesis statement independently on your computer without talking to others. You will not use your computer for anything other than to write your thesis statement. Next, each of you will share your thesis statement with a peer of your choice as well as with a partner chosen by me.  During this time, you will get verbal feedback from your peers. During the last part of class, each of you will work quietly on your own to revise and edit your thesis statement and turn it in for me to review and give you more feedback."

Throughout a lesson, if students need to be reminded of the learning objective or your expectations, put the academics aside and take time to restate these and get students back on track. Behaviors always come first and the learning comes second.

#5 - Structure, Routines and No Surprises - By stating the objective, (I often  will put it in terms of what students will be able to do by the end of the lesson), and expectations, you have added structure to your classroom. The students will begin to know that you are going to set up the class every time so that there won't be any surprises. They will always know what they will be doing and what is expected of them. Often, anxiety of the unknown is one of the biggest issues in causing behavior problems. 

#6 - Best Practice, Pedagogy and Engagement -  Finally, planning lessons that use proven instructional strategies, strong pedagogical methods and are purposeful, will help students to enjoy the learning process.  Three things that I often see special education teachers incorporate into a successful lesson are 
1) movement and working with peers - don't expect students to sit and get for 40 minutes 
2) graphic organizers for learning - give students the tools they need to understand the content
3) technology or real life experiences- incorporate these often but also keep the focus on the objective.

It is common for educators to think that if we give students chances to work together or to use their computers they will misbehave. But in fact, the opposite is true. Student behaviors often get better when we build in various collaborative and engaging activities.  It is also common for us to think that giving students an aid to help them such as graphic organizers is doing the work for them. But the opposite is true here as well. Graphic organizers are important and effective pedagogical tools for organizing content and ideas and facilitating learners' comprehension of newly acquired information. 

I hope these six takeaways are helpful to each of you as you continue to perfect the difficult challenge of managing a classroom in today's educational setting.  Learning from those who work diligently at classroom management such as special education teachers is a blessing. I'm so grateful for the experiences and knowledge that I have gained from these colleagues. 

Do you have a strategy or takeaway that you have learned from a special education teacher? I would love to hear about it. 

Friday, December 1, 2017

Links and Loves

Sometimes the power of technology, computer science and education amazes me. It has been a week of learning, exploring and creating.

Next week is the Hour of Code. Many jobs today require employees to code or program in some way. Coding is what makes this possible.

Since it is the season to listen to holiday music, why not try Incredibox and make your own music??  You can even share your musical creation.

What if Holocaust Survivors Could Teach Your Class? I love this idea! Virtual Reality is such an amazing learning tool.

Inserting images on Docs, Slides or Drawings has changed.  The ability to take a screenshot is no longer available.  Perhaps this extension or this extension can help with taking screenshots?

The 70 / 30 Principle - Who’s working harder?  In my opinion, today’s students should be much more active in the learning process.  

As I enjoy my weekend, I'm going to think about all of the ways that technology makes my everyday life easier, richer and more enjoyable.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Five Sites for Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

What is Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning?

AI (Artificial Intelligence) is the ability for computers to perform tasks that are usually performed by humans such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making and translations in languages.

Machine Learning is a type of AI where computer systems learn to make decisions based on collected data.

After listening to the Google Teacher Tribe Podcast on the topic of AI and Machine Learning,  I was inspired to write this post.

Here are some examples of AI and Machine Learning that you can use in your classrooms.

Quick Draw by Google - Draw the object and see if the computer system can recognize the object. 

Auto Draw - a game where the computer tries to guess what you're drawing and lets you replace your drawing with an artistic drawing.
I drew a turkey

Here is one of the recommended artistic images

Mystery Animal - The computer pretends to be an animal, and you have to guess what it is using your voice.  Ask 20 yes or no questions to see if you can guess the animal. 

Story Speaker  - Create talking, interactive stories with no coding required.  Just write your story in a Google Doc with the Story Speaker extension.  Create forks in the story similar to a choose your own adventure. Then play the story and ask the reader to answer, with voice, which choice they want. The story continues according to the reader's choice.  The stories can be written quickly using the templates. Try this one out.  Use the chat feature if you don't have Google Home.  Remember to get the extension.

Teachable Machine -  Teach a machine using your camera with no coding needed. Use gestures in your camera to have various actions take place such as playing a gif, making a sound, or speech commands. Machine Learning is difficult to understand until you show others this site and how it works.

I hope you check out these sites to keep up-to-date with the latest advancements in technology such as AI and Machine Learning. Share these with your friends, colleagues and students. Enjoy!