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Sunday, September 30, 2012

How Twitter (and IdeaPaint) are transforming my classroom.



This summer I was looking for IDEAS; ways to make learning more engaging, collaborative, hands-on, and student-centered. I was specifically looking for a for new classroom arrangement to facilitate all this.  I found my inspiration via Twitter, and then I found some more inspiration from Twitter. The wealth of knowledge and ideas on Twitter amazes me! All this inspiration led me to IdeaPaint and now my room looks different than it did in May of last year, and I'm pleased about it! If you'd asked me back then what my room would look like today, I wouldn't have guessed it would look like the pictures you see below and the CLASSROOM VIDEO from Thursday, Sept. 27, shown at the end of this blog post!

Here's my Twitter/IdeaPaint story!

This was the arrangement of my room for years. All tables were in the middle of the room in 7 sets of 2 tables each; extra space was segmented around the outside of the room. It's not a complete room picture but you get the idea. I would rearrange occasionally but not for long. Too stale. No room for 'activities.' :)



I read this room arrangement blogpost from Miles MacFarlane (@milesmac) via TWITTER early this summer and I clipped it immediately, June 18th, into my Evernote account. In July I looked up my @milesmac note and committed to giving it a try. My tables are now arranged like the ones in Miles' pictures--around the outside of the room.  Kids can use the whiteboards on the wall or chart paper (since there are only 2 whiteboards)--as collaboration space. Bonus: The middle of the room is now available for 'activities' such as Philosophical Chairs and Socratic Circle and much more, actually.




Then I saw this on TWITTER: a blogpost about Evernote and IDEAPAINT in a classroom. Check out the pictures in the blogpost and watch the video below! 




After watching the video, I wanted IdeaPaint in my classroom. So I did what any resourceful teacher would do. I went to the IdeaPaint website and clicked on Chat. Since my Science funds are already spent, I threw out the question: Can I get some IdeaPaint to TRY out free and then share my story with my district and the world via blogging/tweeting? The answer from IdeaPaint was a YES! Many thanks to the person I chatted with and to Chris Doney, Sales and Operations Manager at IdeaPaint.

Chris sent 100 Sq Ft of IdeaPaint, 8 eraser cloths, 3 bottles of cleaning spray, and 4 boxes of IdeaPaint markers. With 100 Sq Ft, I did the math and I could IdeaPaint all my tables. I described my IdeaPaint plan and reasoning to my principal, Terri Stirlen, and to district operations and maintenance directors. They were curious about it and gave the green light. THANK YOU! The one catch: I would need to find different tables to paint. The Science tables in my room could not be painted due to the special surface on top. They will be used by another Science teacher.

My principal told me to contact Rick Gentry, director of purchasing/warehouse. Rick invited me out to our North Kansas City Schools district warehouse. I met with Rick and picked out 6 eMINTS tables that were simply there in storage. The tables were shipped to New Mark. Mark Hogge, our head custodian and all around great guy, stored them in a hallway until we were ready to paint.
Gray eMINTS tables waiting for IdeaPaint!

My husband came out to school two different days to prime (day 1) and IdeaPaint them (day 2). Thank you, dear! We did all the priming and painting on the dock at school. We lucked out with nice weather. Mixing the IdeaPaint on day 2 was easy. You pour THIS into THAT. Not kidding. Apply the IdeaPaint, then let the tables cure for 4 days!  As Kuzco says in The Emperor's New Groove,  "No Touchy. Nooo Touchy"


50 Sq Ft IdeaPaint Box
(also comes with a roller and a lid opener!)
Stirring This into That!
You pour THIS into THAT!


Tables are now painted and
ready to cure for 4 days inside.



Mark had the tables moved into my room last Wednesday night, all ready for Thurday morning! These two fine ladies volunteered put all the chairs around the tables before school started. They were just fine  being the FIRST students to try out the tables! It WORKED, it ERASED cleanly, and they LIKED IT!

I like the layout/flow of my room with these tables; less clutter. 6 tables instead of 14 smaller ones. Lots of space in the middle to do activities.
The WHITE tables result in a brighter room! I start class with the overhead flourescent lights off; lamps and projector on. What a difference a white, reflective surface makes. IdeaPaint really is a 'bright' idea. :)


The first assignment was collaborative in nature. Since 5 kids sit at many of the tables, I added a 5th job to my usual 4. Each group identified their top rules for the IdeaPaint tables and their top ideas for creative use of the tables. Then they got to individually write down and come up with mnemonic devices to remember the steps of the Scientific Method and the 3 variables in experiments.  It was cool to see the different ways the kids arranged their work and ideas on the tables!

The kids reported at the end of class and in their Science 'Smash' Journals the next day that writing on the tables was helpful, fun, and cool. They couldn't wait to do it again. They thought it was hands-down more effective than if I'd had them use paper. They said they liked sectioning off their area, writing their names, being creative in that large space, and learning from looking at others' work and and listening/speaking with them. I see all sorts of usefulness when we WRITE. Kids WANT to write on these tables. Kids can write/respond on the tables and then peer editors can walk around the room and edit in a different color. I'm just getting started with ideas. I'm curious about how gross motor (writing on big table with whiteboard makers) and fine motor writing (with pencil on paper or typing) impact learning/memory. Is it different? What research could I do on this?!

Here is the slideshow video I made using iPhoto on my MacBook Air. I used an iPhone 4S to shoot all pictures and video. Enjoy!











Sunday, September 16, 2012

LIFT: Get in the HABIT of using this APP!



LIFT!
I need all the help I can get to balance my home and school/tech life. I saw this app mentioned somewhere, most likely on Twitter, and I checked it out on my iPhone.





I downloaded this immediately and selected tasks to start tracking. I chose 4 tasks to begin: Take multivitamins, Do laundry consistently, Clean up email, Evernote, DBox and finally Blog more.

I am happy to report that LIFT has increased my productivity at home. 

I am adding daily school tasks to LIFT this week that will make me more efficient at school.

Here's a quick video using the screenshots on my phone. Lift is easy to use.



I took screenshots of the app on my phone and then uploaded the pics to iMovie to create a quick video. Trying to increase my iMovie fluency!



I simply like the check-ins. Each morning now I do laundry before 7am. I NEVER did that before LIFT. Take that, laundry mountain!!

You can add friends or not, the choice is yours. I don't know anyone on Lift yet and it doesn't bother me. The social aspect of it is there if you want it; it is not necessary to achieve results with LIFT!



Enjoy and may your efficiency increase!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Edmodo's Healing Power


I enthusiastically rolled out Edmodo to my team of 80 6th graders on week 2 of school, just over a week ago. This is year 2 of Edmodo, by the way! The kids are embracing it and working toward beginning badges. Many have the Edmodo app on their phones and are getting started posting and replying. We're working on basic posting guidelines and will roll out our grammar pact next week.

One of our students posted on Edmodo this past weekend that he was depressed. When another student asked why, he responded that his father had just passed away. One of my colleagues who saw the post before the rest of us immediately emailed the counselor and then texted us. (We get Edmodo notifications to our phones so we see comments in real time and can monitor them.) All team teachers responded to this student with words of sympathy within a few minutes. But then the real power kicked in: comments from other students started flooding in. It was truly heartwarming to see the support for this student in what is one of the hardest things to experience in one's lifetime--losing a parent. 

How does one successfully implement Edmodo in a class, team, or group? The main prerequisite is commitment by the teacher(s) to posting, monitoring and taking part in the discussions, learning, and fun of Edmodo. Edmodo can build community and create opportunities for kids to grow, share, and lead! Some of our students right now are working hard on badges and showing leadership in that department. They will be known for that skill. Others are leading in posting, replying to others, and supporting our growing Edmodo community. That is just the beginning!

I started a new group called Quotespiration this week that team students can join with a code. Those interested in sharing/disussing wisdom and humor through quotes now have a specific forum. We will start off with a couple of quotes about loss and friendship and see where we end up going from there. 

Our student who lost his father has posted numerous times about his thoughts, his sadness, and his gratitude toward his fellow teammates and teachers. In fact he has made almost 60 posts and replies in only 1 week. He is reaching out and finding support. His mother has thanked us for the kindness extended to her son and the family. We are thankful for our supportive and thriving team of connected students and teachers made possible by Edmodo!