Category Archives: Education

My Brain on Open-Ended Projects

Thanks to some inspiration on Twitter from Jessica Hirsch (@jhirschcusd), I thought it would be a neat idea to have my 4th grade gifted students try to create Makey Makey Operation games with shapes.  (They are on a Geometry unit in their regular classrooms, so this seemed like a good time to try it.)  As my classroom once again became a Disaster Zone Lab of Innovative Thinkers, I realized that I pretty much go through the same thought process every time we embark on these adventures. I tried to make a visual of it, which you can see below.  I ran out of space at the end, so don’t assume that these things always end on a high note…

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We will hopefully complete the project next week, and I will blog more specifics about it.  If you aren’t familiar with Makey Makey, you can see my post from earlier this year about the Onomatopeia Poetry the students created with Scratch and Makey Makey.  And yes, my brain went through the same steps for that one, too!

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War

One of the sessions I attended at TCEA 2018 was presented by a group from Richardson ISD.  #4CoresonFire focused on some cross-curricular activities using tools that I’ve used before.  However, I got some great integration ideas I hadn’t thought of – which makes the session a success in my book.

One of the teachers described how she had used StoryCorps and Newsela to start a unit about the Civil War.  (Here are my previous posts on StoryCorps and Newsela.)  I starred my notes wildly as she spoke; this is my secret code for, “USE THIS AS SOON AS YOU GET BACK TO SCHOOL!”  My 5th graders were about to read the chapter in The Giver that describes Jonas’ first introduction to the concept of war, and I knew these would be great connections.

In the lesson described at TCEA, the teachers posed the question, “When do the costs of war outweigh the benefits?”  Their students discussed this, and then watched, “The Nature of War” on StoryCorps.  After a post-video discussion, the students read an article about the Civil War in Newsela (you do need to register for free to read the articles).  Then they launched into a study of the Civil War in their history class.

I tweaked the lesson to use with The Giver.  I used Pear Deck to give an interactive, student-paced lesson.  Here is the link.  If you want to use the presentation as intended, you will need to register for Pear Deck.  You can find out more about Pear Deck, as well as a link to get a premium code that lasts the rest of this school year, here.  Also, the StoryCorps video link is embedded.  Do to our district filters, students had to log in to YouTube on a separate tab before they were able to watch the video on their own devices.

I chose to use an article from Newsela about, “Just War Theory.”  Student responses at the end of the presentation varied widely from their initial ideas about whether or not war is ever justified.  Many of them agreed with the quote I posted at the end about war being banished from the earth – until I brought up The Giver.  There is no war anymore in this dystopian world, but there is also no freedom.

Is it possible to banish war without giving up most of our freedom?

That was a discussion that definitely engaged the class!

war

 

 

Global “Heart” Warming

One of the presentations I gave at TCEA was called, “Global ‘Heart’ Warming,” – a title that one of my friends later told me should be changed because it didn’t really describe the presentation very well.  (I’ll take new name suggestions in the comments below.) However, I thought I would share the presentation here for those of you unable to attend.  There are tons of links (especially in the “Project-ing” section) to different ways that you can collaborate globally.

Global _Heart_warming quote
Aaron Sorkin

Of course, some slides would make more sense during an oral presentation.  If you are ever interested in having me present to your school or at an event, please contact me at engagetheirminds@gmail.com.  You can see other available presentations on the top right side-bar of this site.

Things I Learned about Presenting while at TCEA

Despite my natural introverted-ness, I enjoy presenting.  Attending conferences like TCEA allows me to learn from some of the best presenters out there.  Here are some lessons I gleaned from TCEA 2018:

  • Always show up.  This may seem to be a no-brainer, but both of my sessions happened to be timed at inopportune moments this year.  I was pretty pessimistic about the chance of having anyone in the audience for either one.  However, people did attend.  I found out what it feels like when your presenter does not show up late on Thursday afternoon – and I don’t ever want to be the person who makes people feel betrayed for planning their day around a no-show.
  • It’s helpful to put the shortcut to your presentation on every slide.  I used to just put the bit.ly/goo.gl/tinyurl on the first and last slides, but people who come in late and/or leave early miss out.
  • Teachers like door prizes.  I don’t know about other professional conferences, but all of the educational ones I attend seem to have a lot of presentations that offer door prizes – codes for premium subscriptions, t-shirts, random items from the Exhibit Hall.  This is something I always forget about when I’m presenting.  Vendors are often happy to give you a couple of things to publicize their products, especially if you are using them during the presentation.
  • Include great infographics and step aside so people can take pictures.  Most presenters know that we should be using more images than text on our slides.  I’m envious, though, of the slides that prompt audience members to take out their devices and start snapping pictures like the one from Garland ISD below.

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from Garland ISD PD Roadmap presentation at TCEA 2018

  • Offer a backchannel or other digital way for the audience to ask questions.  As you can also see in the above slide from Garland ISD, they posted a link to a Todays Meet site for us to post questions that you could address throughout the presentation.  This is a good idea (especially if you have a partner who can monitor the backchannel) as it can help you personalize your presentation on the fly and give participants the opportunity to anonymously ask questions.  Pear Deck, which I posted about last week, is another way to invite audience participation.
  • Don’t forget to turn in your handout ahead of time for interested parties to access later.  Yep, I forgot.  But, you can access all of the TCEA 2018 handouts of those who did remember here.  This is helpful for those who missed out on sessions for various reasons or couldn’t access the handouts during the presentation.

If you need more advice, you can always take a look at this presentation, crowd-sourced by Alice Keeler and others a couple of years ago, about what not to do when you present!

More News from TCEA 2018

I don’t want to overwhelm you with all of my take-aways from TCEA 2018 so far, so I thought I would give you a few new tools I’ve learned about with brief summaries and links to the presentations.   I am really cherry-picking from the plethora of resources I took notes on, so definitely click on any of the presentation links if you want to learn more.

I have a few more things to share in the near future, but I don’t want to be a “dumper” as Jennifer Gonzalez would say.

If you are still at TCEA tomorrow (Friday), I would love for you to join me at my session at 9:15 am in Room 12B.  We will be talking about making global connections, and I could use a few extra audience members to drown out the heckling I will have to listen to from my colleague, Angelique Lackey.  Also, I will be using Pear Deck so you can see it in action!

storymaker
TextingStory Chat Story Maker App

 

Pear Deck

Hello everyone – reporting to you from TCEA 2018 in Austin, Texas!  My partner in crime, Angelique Lackey, and I arrived yesterday just in time to attend a session on Pear Deck in the morning.  JP Hale was the presenter, and he did a great job showing us the multiple uses of this tool as well as how to get started with it.  After we saw his presentation, we decided that it would behoove us to try Pear Deck out on our own presentation – which were giving at 2 yesterday afternoon.

Well, I say “we” decided, but Angelique tweeted this:

The good news is that everything went smoothly and the only regret that I had afterward was that we hadn’t added even more interactive options to our presentation.

What is Pear Deck?  It’s a tool that you can use to invite audience participation as you present.  Anyone with a device and your join code can interact by drawing, adding text, moving icons, etc…  (Some of these options are only included in the Premium version.  Two download a trial copy of the Premium version that will last you the rest of this school year, go here.)  Pear Deck has template slides that you can use, but the great thing is that you don’t have to create your presentation on the Pear Deck platform.  You can import Powerpoint, Slides, and PDF’s into Pear Deck, or you can do what we did- use the Pear Deck Add-On in Slides.

If you have a Google Slides presentation all ready to go, you can just go to “Add-Ons” in the top menu and choose to Get Add-Ons.  This will take you to a site where you can search for and download the free Pear Deck Add-On.  Once it is installed, you can access it through the Add-Ons menu to open a side bar as you work on your presentation.  The side bar gives you buttons to quickly add interactivity anywhere you like in your slides.

As you can see in the image below, we added a Pear Deck feature to the slide that would allow participants to drag an icon to any part of the slide.  During our presentation, we could ask the audience what the hardest part of teaching Design Thinking might be, or what they thought the students would enjoy the most.  We could get instant feedback from over 60 people as each of their icons appeared on our slide. (This picture shows how things looked as we prepared the presentation, not as we gathered responses.)

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Once you are ready to present, you can choose to “Present with Pear Deck.”  Pear Deck will take a moment to process everything, and then provide a slide that prompts the audience to go to joinpd.com and enter the special code to participate.

One thing that I should note is that any special animations or transitions that you may have added in Slides will not transfer when you Present with Pear Deck.  However, that was not a crucial issue for us.

The Pear Deck creator can choose to make the presentation student-paced, allowing everyone to move through slides on their own,  or only allow the audience to see on their devices what you have on the screen.  As you project, you can also decide if you want to show the responses on the screen in real-time by toggling an icon on the bottom right of your screen.  Responses are anonymous, but the teacher can access the names through a teacher dashboard.

We had great fun during a brainstorming activity in our presentation as we scrolled through drawings and text responses. Pear Deck was also an excellent way to give the audience a chance to ask specific questions anonymously at the end so we could respond immediately.

When you are finished presenting, Pear Deck gives you the option to send the entire presentation and responses as a Google Doc to all participants.  This is not only great in situations like ours, but could be wonderful for test reviews in the classroom.

If you want more specifics on Pear Deck, I highly recommend this article by Eric Curts of Control Alt Achieve.  You can learn more about the 21 Pear Deck templates included in the Google Slides Add–On in this post.

Thanks to JP Hale for introducing us to this great tool, and to our patient audience as we tested it out!

 

Build to Learn

Sometimes random themes show up in the various social networks that I follow.  Today, I came across two completely different posts that appealed to my appreciation for creative ways for students to show their learning.

First, I saw this tweet:

I like the idea of making poetry 3-dimensional, and I could see lots of ways to go with this idea.

Then, I saw a tweet from Russel Tarr about “Tubular Timeline Towers,” an idea one of his students designed for an open-ended homework assignment.  What a great way to represent something chronologically!

The wheels are turning in my brain as I try to think of variations on this theme!