Thursday, October 22, 2015

Nearpod, I love you!

If you haven't played around with, you must.  You will fall in love with this website.  I learned about nearpod when I attended EdCamp 605.  People were talking about this "new" website that the students loved and the teachers loved, too.  Of course, I had no idea what this site was and when they compared it to kahoot I thought, this could be fun.  Others said, it's powerpoint on steroids, I thought of Prezi.  Well, the description of a powerpoint on steroids, does not do this site justice.

After attending EdCamp, (if you've read my previous posts, you know that's another thing I love) the next morning with my husband still snoozing away, I fixed myself a cup of coffee and thought let me just check out what all of the excitement's about.  After I signed up, I still didn't quite understand what this site did.  I had to explore, do the same, you won't regret it.  When you click on "Explore", this takes you to a ton of lessons.  There are many free lessons, so don't purchase right away.  I suggest getting a free one.  When you do, it will go into your "library". I suggest you go to your library click on it, then assign it as homework.  When you do this it will give you a session code.  Open another tab and log in as a student and navigate through the lesson.  If you aren't impressed with that lesson, try another, you're bound to be impressed.  OK, I thought, this is cool.

But I couldn't find a lesson that fit quite what I wanted.  So, I decided I'd create one.  My students had just finished reading James and the Giant Peach, I hadn't taught them much about the author.  I went in and got to work, within 20 minutes I created a complete lesson.  I couldn't wait to go in to use it.  The kids absolutely loved it.  I assigned it as a live presentation, in this mode, you control which "slide" they look at.  I embedded a video and was not sure how that would work, as students in my district are not allowed to go on youtube.  So, in this case, the video did not play on their chromebooks, but because I controlled the screen I just had them all look up at the smartboard and we watched the video together.  As students finish each "slide" you get instant results.   When they are all done, you can click on "reports" and see everyone's results.  Love it.

So, I learned that in "live" mode I control the screen, in "homework" mode the students go at their own pace.  In live mode, if a child accidentally exits out they can go right back in and it picks right back up (not true in homework mode).  The session code is always in the left corner of your screen.  Or they have now learned they can look at a neighbor's screen and at the end of their url is the session code.

I was using it for math, absolutely loved it.  As I had not had "drivers" and "navigators" before on a shared device, I began my lesson with the video on pair coding.  We were doing multiplication using the area model.  I created a word document with the multiplication problem on top and a rectangle for the area model, then I uploaded it onto a "draw it" slide.  I played it in "live" mode, they then had to work together in pairs to solve the math problem.  I showed their answers on the smartboard.  Of course there were a few wrong answers, which I thought was great LEARNING MOMENT!  We worked through the incorrect problems and found the mistake.  There was such great interaction between the pairs of students.  They were so engaged.  My principal walked in while they were doing this math lesson.  She asked what they were doing. I told her and she stayed for the whole lesson.  She was very impressed how every single student in my classroom was engaged in the lesson.

So playing you may find these things that you are not impressed with:  when you assign the fill-in the blank activity you can not see their results and when you share a lesson you created with another teacher they can only view it not assign it to their class.  I contacted the company and asked about this.  If you have the paid version, you get all of those things.  Right now they are having a sale, purchase 10 licenses get 10 free, in my view that is an awesome deal.

I have told my entire site about this website and every teacher I come in contact with.  This is a super easy to use and navigate resource.  I hope you fall in love with it too!

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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Computer Science at the Elementary Level

I am not as computer savvy as the younger generation just entering into teaching, but I am not afraid of the computer.  Our students were born into a world where all they have ever known were computers in their lives.  The only computer class I took in high school had only the old apples or commodore 64s.  The new generation of teachers have probably never touched either of these.  I took a computer class in college, which just had me play with a few programs we might use when we had our own classroom.  So computer science is very foreign to me.

Last year I wanted to learn more about this whole "hour of code".  So I read up on it and visited  According to the site, this is part of computer science and anyone can do it.  I went through the tutorials and decided I really liked it and it had value to my students.  I put my first graders on it.  They absolutely loved it!  What I liked about it, was that sometimes students had to struggle through the puzzle.  They'd raise their hand and ask me to help I'd tell them I'd sit next to them as they gave it another try.  They always figured it out, maybe after multiple tries, but they did it.  The excitement was there, many students went home and completed puzzles at home on their own. So I'd say I dabbled in coding last year.

This year, our district invited a representative from the Orange County Department of Education out, to teach us about  Our district offered this unpaid professional development to anyone who'd like to attend on a Saturday.  I know it's very difficult to give up a Saturday and not be paid, but I was that interested in learning more.  It was a long training, 9:00 to 3:00, but I now feel I understand a little more about coding.  We had to complete 10 puzzles, it was funny to see adults struggling through puzzles that kids complete so quickly.  We each received a teacher's manual which had "unplugged" lessons in it.  These are lessons you can do with your students that do not require a computer.  My group thought there were some great lessons in the manual.  Although, we received a teachers manual with all the lessons, those lessons can also be found on their website.  We were broken into grade level groups and had to teach the lesson to the group of adults in attendance.  That was a learning experience.  It was nice to see what a lesson looks like in a kindergarten class versus a sixth grade class. 

If you are new to computer science and you would like to learn more, our trainer said that through most Department of Education offices there are trainers like her that go out to sites and train.  They are always free, but very often take place on a Saturday.  If you'd like to dabble, like I did last year, one of the things I learned was, if you would like to do this with non-readers to beginning readers, it is very do-able.  My first graders loved it, but what you want to do is start them in course 1.  If you have readers about second grade or higher reading level you want to start them in course 2.  If you start any higher then this, students may not understand what they are doing, as course 3 is based on things they learned in course 2.  I have students in my class this year that are reading at a first grade level and others reading at a fourth grade level, for this reason I have a few students starting in course 1 with the majority starting in course 2.  So, you do have the ability to have 2 different courses going. 

I'm writing this in hopes that there are other educators out there who are trying to figure this all out (maybe you are from the generation, where you weren't born with computers in your life) now have a place to begin.  This site is set up so it is very teacher friendly, even to those who aren't computer savvy.  AND don't be afraid to tell your students you don't know, but you will sit next to them and help them out.  I did that plenty my first year and will be doing that this year as well.

Happy Teaching!
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