Tag Archives: technology integration

Turntable Trig

Today we experimented with using iPads in a math class.  We had 3 school-owned iPads as well as one brought in by a student.  Students used the Vernier Video Physics app in groups of two or three to review and investigate trig graphs.

Turntable Graph

Ms. Flaherty first reviewed a couple of math concepts that the students had already  reviewed as part of their homework by watching a YouTube clip.  Then I demonstrated how to use the various tools built into the Video Physics app to plot the points of a sticky note as it travels around a Fisher Price Turntable, and to set the scale and change the location of the origin.  From there, we handed off the iPads to the students and away they went.

Once students plotted the path of the sticky note, and viewed the resulting graph, they then worked through the following prompts:

  1.  Find the equation of your curve.
  2. How does the equation change as you change the A.) origin, B.) scale?
  3. By adjusting the position of the origin and the scale crate a graph that has:  A.) An amplitude of 5  B.) A wave axis of 10

Findings, Thoughts, Reflections:

  • Students were engaged in the hands-on learning, and shared the device appropriately around the group so that everyone got a chance to manipulate the data.
  • Students are really comfortable with iPads.  They took to the app quickly and were easily able to use the gestures to perform specific tasks within the app.
  •  Investigative Math rocks.  I wish that when I was learning math I had had access to the tools that students have today.  Changing different variables and seeing how that affects the output helps students get a better understanding than just working out problems.
  • Personal devices are better than school-owned devices.  When the teacher asked students to send her the files this became obvious.  The student who was using his own device easily emailed a few photos to the teacher because his email was already set up in the iPad’s system.  Web versions of email (we tried gmail) don’t allow attaching files from an iPad because they don’t know how to navigate the iPad file system.  The work around is to either attach the ipad to a laptop and use iPhoto (or another photo app on a PC) to pull down the images, or have students enter their email info into the iPad system, send the files, then delete the account before the class ends and their email account and ipad are handed off to another student.


This past July I spent an action-packed day learning about YouTube in the classroom at The YouTube Teachers Studio with fantastic lead learners, Jim Sill, Ramsey Musallam and James Sanders. We heard from Will Houghteling about what the YouTube Education team is cooking up. One of their goals is to find a way to give access of the great educational content that exists on YouTube to the teachers and students in schools where YouTube is currently blocked. They have a number of good ideas in the works. Today they launched YouTube.com/Teachers to support teachers with ideas for using YouTube in the classroom complete with examples and screencasting tips. Additionally teachers can sign up for the YouTube newsletter for teachers and submit their favorite YouTube playlists to be highlighted on YouTube EDU. You can read more about the launch on YouTube’s blog and view my interview below.

Summer Homework: A Reading List for Educators

Homework on the beach (http://www.flickr.com/photos/spree2010/4930763550/) / Ingo Bernhardt (http://www.flickr.com/photos/spree2010/) / CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)
Homework on the beach (http://www.flickr.com/photos/spree2010/4930763550/) / Ingo Bernhardt (http://www.flickr.com/photos/spree2010/) / CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

I was a bit surprised to hear that in our Upper School we assign homework over the summer.  It is usually to read a novel for an English class or something similiar, but still, I was surprised.  It is part of the culture here though, and it is difficult to argue with anything that supports the notion of “always learning.”  At a faculty meeting the other day,  I was assigned some homework of my own. Our Director, Dr. Bieber, suggested we pick one of the “strands” under umbrella of  school improvement, skim a few and then read one closely.  I’ve posted the list below (compiled by Dr. Bieber,  Mr. Mobbs and Mr. Helmer with links where possible as it looks like a provocative list of reads that will spark some discussion at the start of the 2011-12 school year.

Assessment for Learning

How Should We Measure Student Learning? The Many Forms of Assessment. There is more than one way to measure a student’s abilities by Edutopia Staff

Drive (excerpt): Dan Pink: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc – Animated Video 11minutes

Dan Pink on Motivation – TED Talk 19 minutes

From Degrading to De-Grading: Alfie Kohn

Seven Practices for Effective Learning: Jay McTighe and Ken O’Connor

Show Us What Homework’s For: Kathleen Cushman

Authentic learning/Inquiry

High School at a Crossroads: Ed Coughlin

Inquiry learning – journeys through the thinking processes: Kath Murdoch

Making Thinking Visible: Ron Ritchhart and David Perkins

Problem-Based Learning: The Foundation for 21st Century Skills: John Barell

21st Century Skills

Comparing Frameworks for “21st Century Skills”: Chris Dede

The Five Minds for the Future: Gardner, Howard

Innovation Through Technology: Cheryl Lemke

Preparing Creative and Critical Thinkers: Donald J. Treffinger

School for the 21st Century

A Diploma Worth Having: Grant Wiggins

Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow—Today

Designing New Learning Environments to Support 21st Century Skills: Bob Pearlman

Leadership for Learning: Powell and Powell

Do schools kill creativity? Sir Ken Robinson

John Davitt Visits

John Davitt - image from www.newtools.org

We were fortunate to have John Davitt, a writer, broadcaster and digital tool maker, be our school’s special guest the past two days. Previously I was inspired by John’s presentations as a keynote speaker and workshop leader at a conference and wrote about that experience on my blog. John met with different groups such as the librarians, administrators and IT specialists, spoke to the middle school students at an assembly, and guest-taught a number of classes in the elementary, middle and upper schools utilizing his Learning Event Generator and some outdoor learning (similar to this one) . He presented “How Technology can Fit and Enhance Learning” to a mixed audience of students, teachers, and parents. These past two days were filled with a multitude of learning opportunities. If I were to go into detail about each profound thought that came from these two days, this post would go on and on.  Instead,  I’ll offer just a few personal reflections:

  • Teachers need to become better at letting go and letting students own the learning.
  • Let students demonstrate their knowledge in different ways – some they are comfortable with, and some they are not.
  • In group work, students might go off in the wrong direction, but there is learning happening as they correct their course – learning that the teacher could not have planned for.
  • The power of group learning is underrated – Groups of students can achieve greater heights than individuals.
  • Given a problem with very little direction on how to solve it students will amaze you with their problem solving skills, often utilizing tools and techniques that the teacher might not have thought of.
  • There are many different approaches to powerful learning and as teachers we need to be offering our diverse learners different ways of learning and demonstrating learning.
  • There is a struggle (that enhances and consolidates learning) when you have to demonstrate learning in a way that you are not comfortable with.

Lastly, I would like to thank John Davitt for his thoughtful insights, his energy and generosity (he is leaving us with some copies of the Learning Score, which I will write more about later)  .  I would encourage any school out there to bring John to your campus if you have a chance.  You can learn more about John Davitt at his blog, his website or on twitter.

Outdoor Learning Adventure
Outdoor Learning Adventure

Facebook Friend Map in Social Studies

A colleague recently sent me a link to this article about how a Facebook intern mapped out the relationships of ten million pairs of friends.  My first reaction was to note its beauty.  But then I started thinking about how it might be used in a Geography or other social studies class.

Facebook Friend Visualization Map
Facebook Friend Visualization Map

There are actually quite a few things you can learn about geography, population and even politics from looking at this. Depending on the age of your students, you could put this image in front of them and have them come up with observations and/or questions for further exploration.  Or, maybe you have to give them some prompts such as: What does this image tell us about the geography of Canada or Australia? Where did China go? etc.  I’m sure there are plenty of educational uses for this image that I’m not thinking of.  If you have an idea, please share your thoughts in a comment on this post.  For a larger-than-full-screen view check out this post on Gizmodo, and for more about the process and data visualization check out this page on Facebook.

QR Codes in Maths Class

I’ve been working with a fantastic math teacher, Anne F., on how we might use QR codes in the classroom to engage students in a new way. It took her all of twelve seconds to come up with an idea:  Each group of math students has a problem to solve as an introduction to the mensuration, space and shape unit.  They solve the problem and post their answer to their blog.  Then, they create a QR code that will direct people to the blog post and we post that QR code in the hallway.  The hallway will be full of math questions like:

Screen shot 2010-11-02 at AM 11.49.47

The next day, we’ll send students around the halls with their mobile phones equipped with QR code readers. Their task will be to search for a question that interests or intrigues them, anticipate how the group may have solved it, view the group’s blog post and then leave a comment.

Will QR codes improve student learning? In this case, we are anticipating that the novelty of it will at the very least engage them. Additionally, having the codes posted around the school will draw some attention to QR codes and hopefully might generate some interest among teachers in finding ways to leverage them for learning.

I’ll write a post about how this activity works out later, but for now, here is the information that we will share with the students.

Order of Operations for students:

  1. Solve the problem in your group and document your answer (text, audio, video, etc. or any combination of those).
  2. Post your answer to your blog.
  3. Find the url (web address) of this specific blog post (clicking on the title of your blog post will take you there)
  4. Paste the url into Google’s URL Shortner http://goo.gl/ (you have to have a Google account if you want create the code)
  5. Then click on “details” to see your QR code
  6. Save the image of your QR code to your desktop
  7. Create a document including your problem, and your QR code (following the example above) for posting in the hallway.

QR Code Readers

There are a lot of readers for iPhone, Android etc.  Here is just a quick reference of links:

iPhone – I tried three and read the reviews of seven.  Red Laser is the free one I chose and it works well for me.

Android – try QuickMark (thanks, Jeff)

Other Phones – Try here: http://www.mobile-barcodes.com/qr-code-software/

Mac OSX (and Windows and Linux) -Your Mac can read QR codes using the built-in iSight camera.   QReader is the only App that I found that isn’t in Japanese (which I can’t read).  You also have to have Adobe Air downloaded.

Reducing the Noise

I just returned from two days of thought provoking conversations with IT Directors from a number of schools in Europe ( I was standing in for my IT Director who was unable to attend).  We discussed the education and technology issues that all international schools are dealing with.  I learned a lot from listening to others that are far more experienced in planning and managing the IT infrastructure of a school.  But the thing that kept going through my head as I left the meeting was how much I think my current school is doing “IT” the right way by keeping things simple, reducing the noise and focusing on learning.

When I first joined the school, I was surprised to find out how many systems or software we just don’t have.  Don’t get me wrong, we have plenty of hardware and software for students to use, but from a school administration/management/systems standpoint it is minimalist.  And I like it, because rather than spending time managing and teaching people how to use the systems, I get to focus on learning.

Here is a quick list of things that “reduce the noise” at my school and allow me to focus on learning.

Strong Preparatory MS 1-1 Laptop Program that feeds into the US 1-1 Laptop Program – The gradual 1-1 program roll-out started in the MS and built from there.  The MS program checks out school owned machines to students in grades 6, 7, and 8.  The students go through a “license to drive” type program before they earn the right to take the laptops home and back to school each day.  Students enter the Upper School with a large skill set.  The MS program prepares them for the increased responsibility that comes with owning and administering your own laptop.

Macs –  I honestly can’t believe how few issues there are.  I don’t want to get into the Mac vs. PC argument as I consider myself as someone who can use either OS well, but the truth is that Macs have an incredible up time and don’t really have to worry about viruses.  Those two areas alone can suck up a ton of time if they go the wrong way.  Another great thing about Macs is the built in iLife suite that allows students to be content creators.  Additionally, having only one operating system allows for some students to become experts and bring the others along all the while increasing the level of average user ability.

Absence of File Servers –  We don’t have them.  We don’t manage them.  We don’t spend money or man hours on servers or backing up servers. So, where do students and staff store their files?  Great question; I should ask them?  My guess is that most of them store files on their laptop hard drive and the ones that care to keep them backed up use external hard drives or cloud-based file storage.

Gmail and Google Apps – We have a Google Apps Education account for our faculty, but more importantly we don’t have the following: email servers and the monetary and human resources costs associated with the purchasing, upgrades, backups and maintenance of those servers.

Integration Specialists at Each Division –   Our current ratio is 1 Integration Specialist for every 275 students.  My hat is off to the leadership team that was forward-thinking enough to see the impact that a dedicated Technology Integration Specialist can have on individual teachers, curriculum, and student learning.  With a IT Director focused on the big picture, the Integrationists are free from the tasks that can bog them down (budgeting, troubleshooting, managing systems) and able to be in classrooms with students and plan units with teachers to meet the NETs standards.

Open Wireless Network –  When a student enters the school and open their laptop they get connected.  We don’t spend time configuring or trouble shooting.  It just works.