Category Archives: Technology

Using Sumdog to Improve Math Skills and Student Motivation

One of the sites that I used in my Teacher Inquiry project over the summer was one I have mentioned before: Sumdog. I happen to love the site and have been using it again this year with my current students. My results from my teacher inquiry indicate that using Math sites such as Sumdog have a positive effect on students’ attitudes toward Math and motivation to do Math. The results also indicated that regularly using a site like Sumdog can result in improvement in accuracy and speed in the skills that they practice.

I have been using Sumdog for the last four or five years and the site underwent some major changes over the summer to streamline it, making it even more user-friendly. I use the site to assign weekly homework and an assessment to my students. I am able to customize skills for students easily and get real-time results of my students’ progress. I sent out a mass email at the beginning of the year to ensure that all parents were aware of the homework I was assigning (since you need technology to complete the tasks). Students also have the option of completing their work at lunch or after school in the computer lab. So far, I have had a mostly positive response from parents and students on this homework. As a teacher, I really like that it is so easy to assign tasks, but also that the site gives me so much data on student performance. I can even see problems that students get incorrect when I give an assessment, in addition to their final score.

 

Improving Math Skills with Sumdog

If you haven’t used Sumdog with your students – check it out! I have used lots of different Math sites, but this is the one I go back to year after year. The kids enjoy it – which is the most important thing to me. Kids can play against the computer, the world or even against kids in their own class. They can earn little rewards – pets, for example – as they get more and more points. This is new this school year, but even my grade eight and nines are getting a kick out of their new pets and the tricks that they can do. As the teacher, I can assign competitions, assessments, and challenges easily and track data from each. The site is appropriate for grades 1-9, with a wide selection of skills from which to choose. Differentiation is super simple and a huge benefit of the site, as I want different students to work on different skills. Anyhow, I like to share this site each school year because it is one of my favorites! 

What are your favorite Math sites? 

Elora of Stone

Engaging Middle School Writers with Picaboo – Trust Me!

It can be difficult to engage kids in writing – that’s just a fact. Therefore, I am excited to share a site that I found called, “Picaboo Yearbooks” to publish a class book containing my students’ writing. My students have bought in and so I’m stoked! You can actually create lots of different things on the website, but I am using it to create a class book of writing to engage my kids, and so far, so good!

I had been searching for a “self-publishing” type of site and couldn’t seem to find just what I wanted, in terms of style, practicality or price. Picaboo’s books are affordable (less than $10 for a 20 page book – full color, softcover and less than $20 for a hardcover) so I’ll be able to purchase one to have in my class library – this way everyone will be a published writer this year. There are no minimums needed to buy a book, either. If I just want one book – I’m free to order just one! Also, the way that I am choosing to set things up, each student has their own page to create. All I had to do was make ONE login and they can all access our class book. They know to work on their own page and not to mess with anyone else’s page. They can also easily read and give feedback to classmates, as we create this one collaborative collection of their writing. Finally, they love that they can change the layout, and add fun pictures and backgrounds to their pages to make them even more polished. They are enjoying the fact that this book will be published and so have been putting forth commendable efforts, so far.

In terms of particulars, I was going to have students write directly into the template, and some are. For others, they rather use Word to create their draft and then they are pasting the draft into the website to get feedback from peers. There was a little bit of a learning curve, however, the site is very user friendly and the kids are having no issues with the technology side! They’re grade 7 – technology is their forte!

Oh, and I did contact Picaboo before I decided to do this project to get a sample of their books. They actually sent me a beautiful sample and I was sold on the quality! If you are thinking about doing a class yearbook or wanting to engage your kiddos by setting up your class with Picaboo so that they can all get published – I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. They also have tons of helpful videos, and Live Chat to help out as well, if you use the yearbooks as yearbooks, since they are more involved than what I am using the site for.

I only wish I had incorporated Picaboo earlier in the year with my kiddos – we could have made a larger collection of their work. Oh well, there’s always next year!

Picaboo Yearbooks

This is a first draft that one of my students is working on in the Picaboo Yearbooks template…

 

Elora of Stone

Take Your Students on a Virtual Field Trip To Africa

How does a trip to Africa sound? Your school doesn’t have the budget for that? No worries! If you teach grades 3-8 – listen up!

Virtual Field Trip to Africa

Nature Works Everywhere and field scientist Charles Oluchina have joined forces to provide a live virtual field trip to the deserts and grasslands of Africa! I know, right? Pretty cool!

Virtual Field Trip to Africa

 

What will you experience on this amazing virtual adventure?

You and your students will visit Burkino Faso and learn how one African farmer helped bring back forest lands that were being lost to desertification. Then, you’ll head to Kenya to learn about the importance of grasslands and the effects of ecotourism. And all from the comfort of your own classroom! Technology rocks! Oh wait? Did I mention that this is all free? Yep! You just need to register and you’re set!

 

A Google Hangout  is being used for the VFT which is so smart! The VFT to Africa is streamed live on YouTube, on February 5th, at 12:00pm Eastern Time, or you can view it at your convenience. The field trip is about 40 minutes in length – which is great because that is about the length of a class period. You and your students will also get a firsthand look at a PBS LearningMedia collection of videos, digital games and educational resources from the new PBS series EARTH A New Wild.

In case you are interested but worried about dedicating the class time to such an event, here are the key terms and concepts that will be addressed during the VFT: People and Conservation, Desertification, Global Agriculture, Smart Development, Ecotourism, Habitat, Grasslands, Reforestation. Not only that, students will learn the science behind how nature works for us—and how we can help keep it running strong. 

 

Nature Works Everywhere and The Nature Conservancy have lots of other resources to check out as well.

 

Farming the Desert | EARTH A New Wild from The Nature Conservancy on Vimeo.

 

If you choose to attend the VFT, please come back and comment how it went!

Virtual Field Trip to Africa

Have Yourself a Moby Little Christmas

Updated: Congratulations to Meghan L., the winner of the MobyMax tablet!

I know that everyone likes a good giveaway, and this is a pretty sweet one! Have you heard of MobyMax?  MobyMax tablets offer teachers and parents an amazing option to help their kids gain skills in Language Arts and Math. Students can work to close gaps in their learning by working through lessons on the Moby tablet, and continue to challenge themselves to move ahead. Teachers and parents can monitor their child’s results through reports that Moby offers. There are games and other “fun stuff” to motivate kids as well! 

 

MobyMax curriculum is based on the research of professor John Hattie, and it is a great way to differentiate in your classroom.

 

Although these tablets are specifically loaded with MobyMax curriculum so that you can individualize your instruction, they are still tablets and so you can load them with your favorite apps, as well. Want your own Moby? Entering is easy, and one lucky follower is going to a have a “Moby little Christmas”! 

 

Check out these specs!

moby specs

MobyMax Curriculum includes all of this? Wow!

moby 2

Contest ends December 21st, 2014! Be sure to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Master’s Update and Math Apps!

I have been working really hard this year to try to differentiate a bit more effectively for my students. Last year I looked into Guided Math, and although I loved the way it sounded, I know that I fell short of actually following through with my well-intended plan. As part of a Master’s assignment this year, I actively started incorporating more small group time for guided practice into my classroom. Honestly, I can already feel the shift. The things that I thought would happen (a bunch of hands up in the air as I try to help those in the group) haven’t really been an issue, yet. Those who need help are with me and those who do not are able to move along and complete their work. It’s actually kind of simple. I also established some anchor activities for students to choose from when they do complete their work. I haven’t worked out all of the kinks, but knowing that I’m going to get to more students more quickly makes me feel as though I am teaching more authentically! If you don’t do much “guided practice” after your initial lesson, try it! For a week or two, try to build in more time to work with students in a small group. And keep it simple! Right now, I have it established that after my mini-lesson anyone who feels that they would like to work through a few more examples can join me at the back table. The students CHOOSE to come. What I love MOST is when the students who choose to join are the ones whom I was worried would be acting up and making it difficult for me to teach. They are CHOOSING to come back and work through examples with me. I still have a few students that I’d like to see join me at the back, however, I will give them time to decide if they need my help or not. If they should be going through more examples with me, I will ask them to join the group as well. I’m playing this part by ear, so far. What I’m also really happy about, is that my small group time has been with many different students. Initially I was scared that there may be a negative stigma attached to coming to the small group for more guided practice. However, this has not been the case. This small change to my teaching practice this year has been amazing and I’m looking forward to really harnessing the power of small group instruction.

As a part of this week’s assignment for my course I found a great blog post on Math Puzzle Apps and another on Incorporating Games into the Classroom . Math games and puzzles are simple options to use as anchor activities for students when they have finished the assigned work for the day. They keep the kids engaged while you can continue to work with those students who need your help.

I haven’t checked out all of the Math Apps in the article yet, but it’s on my to-do list for later this week!

Do you have any great Math Apps for middle school that don’t require internet? Please share if you do! I’m always on the lookout!

 

 

5 Top Educational Apps For Middle School Teachers

We all know how important it is to integrate technology into our classrooms when we can. That’s why I’m so happy to have George Campbell, a freelance writer specializing in various topics including education, to supply me with a helpful blog post on 5 TOP apps for middle school teachers! Please be sure to add your own favourites by commenting on this post!

~~~

1- Science Glossary (Free)

Science Glossary is an app which offers students a comprehensive glossary of scientific terms, as well as a collection of succinct biographies of famous scientists. Simply enter a scientific term and the app provides an easy to understand definition as well as additional scientific terms related to the topic which was searched. Teachers and students can also use the app to connect with the educational website; Vision Learning. The website promotes itself as a “free digital resource for teaching and learning science”, so all you need to get started is an Internet connection! This combination of the Science Glossary app and the Vision Learning website enables both teachers and students to access detailed science learning modules in order to further supplement studies and stimulate scientific curiosity!

  top educational apps for middle school teachers                     

(Image Source)

2- GoSkyWatch Planetarium – the astronomy star guide ($3.99)

With the GoSkyWatch app students can explore the universe from the palm of their hand! This app presents over 200 high resolution images of planets and deep sky objects in day, sidereal and time lapse animation. Students can immerse themselves within images of constellations, boundaries and star patterns as well as comprehensive information on the various planets, stars, comets, constellations, galaxies and DSO ephemeris data. This app also informs students of the current moon phase calendar as well as sunrise and sunset times, enabling them to extensively expand their knowledge of the universe.

 

(Image Source)

3-Mental Maths (Free)

Mental Maths is an app is created by educational agency Maths Doctor. They provide a series of educational resources which are centered around the principle that; “every leaner is an individual with their own needs, abilities, strengths and weaknesses”. Subsequently, both their website and app endeavour to offer children multiple methods through which they can enjoy expanding their mathematical knowledge. To use the Mental Maths app, students simply select a maths topic and are presented with a related question. There is no time limit whilst they work out the solution in their head, then swipe the screen to reveal the answer. If students get the answer wrong, they are able to try again as many times as they wish until they confidently understand the mathematical principle. What’s more, the app hosts a built-in percentage tracker so that teachers can monitor their students’ progress and challenge their newly developed knowledge with an end of topic test. As a result, this simple yet creative app offers a fun and interactive medium through which your students can overcome any mathematical obstacles!

 top educational apps for middle school teachers

(Image Source)

4-History: Maps of the World (Free)

History: Maps of the World provides a great resource for developing your students’ historical and geographical knowledge. Using the app, you can gain exclusive access to 178 historical maps from across the world, all of which display the source of each map as well as highlighting any geopolitical and geographical shifts which have occurred over time. Within the app, maps are grouped by category or era, or alternatively can be located via a keyword search. Each map is accompanied by a wealth of information which details its rich historical significance. This facilitates an innovatively visual method through which you can educate your students about major historical, social and regional changes.