A Modern Teacher

Today, I found myself looking back on my teaching expirences. I started as a general educator in elementary school. Since I decided to expand into educational technoogy a few years ago – my teaching world has expanded so much. During a planning period today, I found myself replacing Chromebook screens. There is certainly never a dull moment being a Teacher/Educational Technology Specialist.

ChromeTimeLapse from thinkedtech on Vimeo.

Blending Google Classroom

blendgoogleMy initial reactions to first using Google Classroom were mixed at best. The majority of my LMS experience has been centered around using Edmodo as a platform for any blended content that I would personally make. WIth the latest tweaks and updates to Classroom, a few issues have been since addressed. My main concern focused on the ability to turn off the student chat function. I still think the interface and document workflow is a tad counter intuitive for younger students (mostly 5th graders), but enough has been done to make it a powerful tool used in the right manner. I like the fact that students using Google Classroom can take them to the level of how we as adults use cloud computing. Edmodo was a bit to childish for my liking and perhaps even my 8th graders liking. Student engagement and interaction levels with Classroom give them the sense that they are working on document creation with a purpose. blendgoogle2 I have used Classroom extensively with my 5th grade science class as we started our first year with the Next Generation Science Standards. The document integration and creation capabilities of Classroom pair well with a curriculum that teachers need to curate such as the NGSS. As an avid user of Blendspace, I have found the best way to blend Classroom is to create my own documents for students to read. These documents parallel our class notes. I also keep a master Blendspace of our current unit, which in turn, I attach to any assignments they are working on for that given unit. Going even further, pairing Classroom with voice over or screencasts will definitely increase the capability of blending your classroom. While Google Classroom is not shaking up the world of ed tech, it is providing a clean and reliable blended learning platform (if you as a teacher subscribe to being a content creator and curator). I have enjoyed my time with Classroom as I integrate it with younger students. Classroom lends it self to an excellent workflow that students should get acclimated to at earlier ages in academia. If you are a teacher that liked Edmodo, check out Classroom. The change takes a few assignments for both teacher and student to become acclimated to, but it will benefit students in the end.

History Teacher Guest Post

add3Recently, I have completed my unit on Westward Expansion as a review for my 8th graders. We decided to make the complete unit have a huge technological influence.  We started with using America Story of Us: Westward as an overview of what the unit would be about, followed by a discussion. It was able to get the scholars attention at the beginning and keep it throughout the unit. The next day Christopher Brignola told me about a program called blendspace to use. It was a more interactive technological tool that could enhance lessons. It worked perfectly for when we talked about all the land acquisitions. It allowed to showcase true emotion and why we moved west, the reasons behind it. After that we played the video game Oregon Trail to showcase what the journey West was like. The highlight of the unit had to be the following day. We again used blendspace to show what happened to the people/animals of the West. With this technological tool we were able to show the highs of moving West like the Mormons escaping persecution as well as the lows with the removal of the Native Americans. Speeches, videos, artwork that we found really helped the scholars to get an all encompassing understanding of the content. What was accomplished by using this tool helped the scholars to achieve something no textbook could really do. At the end, we asked the students to create their own blendspace on whether or not Manifest Destiny was justified. The end results were outstanding. The students were able to replicate their feelings and emotions on the screen. Showcasing what they believed and why they believed this. Overall, I was extremely happy with the technology we used for this lesson.

Chromebooks for small groups

photoSometimes when you don’t have a laptop cart, or a place to charge brand new Chromebooks you get thinking. When planning for laptop deployment, many tend to only think about device-to-student-ratio. Our newest shipment of Chromebooks do not really have a home yet, but I guarantee they will be ready for small group instruction. I have enrolled a small set, provided sleeves and packed them in a clear case. Small groups can now grab and go for Chromebooks. By doing this, the entire process seems a tad bit less disruptive and gets devices into the hands of students much faster. If you are getting devices in large amounts for schools, please don’t be held back by inventory, agreements, and storage locations. It is true, you must take all of these important factors into consideration, but by doing so you may delay device deployment to students.

Today I was inside a particle accelerator  @ Cornell

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“In operation for over 25 years, CESR has been a world class collider for particle physics and is now used as a test accelerator for components of the planned 30km long International Linear Collider. The site of numerous innovations in accelerator technology, its presence on-campus provides a unique opportunity for students to “drive” an accelerator, test their ideas and learn about nonlinear beam dynamics.”

3D Printing, A LOT!

photo (1)So I packed my MakerBot Replicator 2 to bring to a summer program. We are printing objects about Macbeth and Hamlet for 40 kids. As I was unpacking our printer in upstate New York, I realized I had forgotten the filament guide tube. I first tried to make a new one out of coffee straws – guess what? That did NOT work. I caught a ride into town to purchase a hard plastic 1/4 tubing which seemed to be nearly identical to the one MakerBot ships. Next, I find that my spools are tangled and we are having a problem keeping a constant feed of filament. I had students sitting in the back of the class moving the spool every time they heard the motor jump trying to push filament. I took a look online and found a model for a plastic guide which I then decided to print. I loaded my sample clear plastic that came with the printer and made the piece. At this point, I had 10+ objects that were printed in between jams, misfeeds etc. After some research online I found a guide that could be added to the section on the back of our printer. I decided to give it a try – and it is working. Paired with a new plastic guide tube and this new guide we are churning out objects. The best part about this addition is that it has two angles to feed the filament from both sides – for those who have a dual color extruder.

photo (3)As this was sort of a pain of an issue to deal with around 40 kids looking on to see if their prints would work, the ability to print parts to fix an issue is ironically awesome. The fix literally took 30 minutes and snapped right in. The take away from this process certainly has many benefits for the field of 3D printing. Even something as silly as monitoring the filament into the guide tube has turned me into a true maker in the sense. When you think in terms of creating without boundaries – nothing that you area teaching or doing really makes you nervous. I know that when a problem arises I can print something to help. Extrapolate that to other parts of your teaching practices please!