Sunday, October 30, 2011

Engagement in a 21st Century Classroom

Today my colleague and I had the privilege of bringing several iPads and an iPod touch into a fourth grade classroom to focus on the goal of increasing the fluency of basic multiplication facts.  It was exciting to see the look on the students’ faces as we unpacked our tools and laid them out on the table.  We heard some “Oh look!  It's an iPad!”  You could feel the air change like static electricity in the room!  We set it up with the goal of “Let’s see if you can be really fast with your multiplication facts today!”. 

One interesting thing we could easily do was to modify the levels for each students’ level.  We had three top math students in the class and so we pulled out some apps that still focused on multiplication but allowed the student to experience algebra with the same goal in mind.  For the rest of the class we set it on easy multiplication facts.

In reflection of our time together I was amazed at how engaged these kids were with their activities.  And then I thought, how is engagement defined in the 21st century?
The most recent issue of EQ (vol. 32, no. 4, 2009) provides this definition:  Student engagement is a rendezvous between learning and the digital tools and techniques that excite students.  These 4th graders were just that-very excited!  The use of technology is key in engaging our students in the classroom, but technology for the sake of using technology is not enough.  With these devices we were able to tailor the apps to the objective and tailor the apps to each child’s level.  It was using technology to increase learning and student engagement.  What a powerful way to run a classroom! 

So the next time you choose to include technology into your lesson, ask yourself these questions.  "How excited will my students be? Will this digital tool meet the needs of all of my students?  And will this resulting engagement lead to a deeper understanding of the concepts being taught?"  Hopefully the answers will be yes!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Digital Devices Empower Learners

As my colleague, Jenny (@jennykbps)  pulled iPads out of the bag, the 4th grade students were breathless and wide eyed, as if superman himself had appeared in the classroom. Excitement filled the air and everyone was waiting on the edge of their seats, hands in the air, in eager anticipation of what they were about to learn.  

Delighted, the students enthusiastically joined us at our technology center where they were given an iPad 2, iPod Touch, or a DS, and were engaged immediately on math facts by the apps, videos, and games on the devices.  They worked intently for an hour on mastering multiplication facts, trying hard to beat their time, set a high score, or move to the next level.  Each student was working at his/her own level and motivated to learn.  

The hour long math class melted away quickly and before long we needed to pack up.  The kids said the following:
“Do we have to go to lunch?”

“Just a minute, I need to finish this level.”  

“I almost have a new high score.”

“When are you coming back?”

“Math was fun!”

“I did more problems than ever!”

“I liked the video, it helped me remember.”

We knew putting the iPads, iPods, and DS’s in their hands would make a difference, but we did not expect it to be transformational.  Not only were we able to individualize the instruction for each child, every student was 100% on task the entire time, had fun, did more problems, and did not want to stop working.  Every student was challenged at their level and advanced at their own pace.   

Another interesting finding at this school where many are free and reduced lunch, was that most students have access to technology outside of school, but use the devices for entertainment, not learning.
“I have a DS at home, but I just play games on it,” one 4th grader said.  “I am asking for Math Blaster for my birthday.”
“My mom has a phone that has apps,” said another student. “I am going to ask her to get Math Bingo for me.”

According to Mary Beth Hertz (@mbteach) , “The digital divide is no longer an issue of access. Instead, there is a widening gap between those who use technology to be entertained and those who are empowered by it.”

Our next step is to collect some baseline data and work with this same group of students over the next six weeks and see how learning with iPads, iPods, and DS’s impacts test scores.    

Check back later for more about our pilot with these 4th graders.

Apps Used: Math Bingo, Bubble Math, Math Samuri, My Math App, Flash Racer, Math, Sum Stacker
DS Games: Math Blaster, Learn Math
1. Multiply by 9’s -

2.  3, 6, 9, -
-Ann Feldmann

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Recently I ran in the Race for the Cure. Every corner I turned there were cheerleaders right there to give all of us runners encouragement.  Their enthusiasm and energy were invaluable.  As I was running a steep hill in the middle of the course, I felt myself losing steam, just like a balloon with the air seeping out.  I was going flat.  Then, there they were, the cheerleaders telling me I could do it and that the top of the hill was just ahead. I soaked in those encouraging words and replayed them over and over as my feet pounded in rhythm up the hill.  They knew I could do it and so did I!  Because they believed in me, I knew I must keep going. I needed to dig down deep, push through the pain, find a new gear, keep the legs moving, and finish the race.

The encouraging words from the cheerleaders were personal and meaningful and inspired me to keep running the race.  

Educators are like those cheerleaders, they have the ability to encourage students everyday in a meaningful way.  But teachers are just one person.  Often the encouragement stays within the walls of the classroom and not every student gets encouraged daily.  For example, when a student writes a paper for class, typically the teacher is the only one who reads and evaluates the document. Many students get discouraged writing because the feedback comes several days later and from only one person.

If that same information is shared electronically, feedback is immediate, rich, and encouraging. The immediate electronic validation comes not from just one cheerleader, but from cheerleaders all over the world. The comments can be read and re-read and give the author new insight and purpose to their creation.  Encouragement instills a passion to continue to create and develop ideas.   The result is a desire to write and share more information.

I enjoy both roles, as both a creator of content as well as an encourager.  When someone leaves a comment on a story or post I have written, I feel like the color yellow, happy and radiant.  I find that leaving a comment on someone’s blog feels as good as receiving one.  I know by reading and responding to a post makes a lasting impact on the writer because I took the time to read their ideas and leave words of encouragement for them.

As poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe  said, “Correction does much, but encouragement does more.”

-Ann Feldmann

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Power of Sharing

Sharing is a lesson learned at a young age.  It is a difficult concept and as a parent, one that seems to go against the very nature of little ones.  “It’s mine!” our kids exclaim when being directed to share.  Parents look exasperated as they teach this most important lesson.  We wonder if our kids will ever get it and share openly without fear or hesitation. 

The choice of sharing is now imbedded in almost everything we read, look at, come across, or post.  It is a wonderful feeling to share.  As a Roman philosopher from the mid-1st century AD stated “There is no delight in owning anything unshared.”  Sharing can bring a sense of joy, freedom and power.  Sharing also presents its fair share of personal challenges.  Sharing your ideas can bring a sense of dread or empowerment depending on the voices in your head.  Will I be heard, will I be ridiculed, will people think it is a good idea or just plain dumb and tired? Erma Bombeck said, “It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else.” 

I say go for it!  Be courageous!  Hit the share button as often as possible.  You will reach someone or no one, but what is the worst thing that can happen?  In order to be able to share one must take the risk of not being heard, but so what? 

Teachers are in the position to share information to the whole world.  Sharing what happens in our classrooms can empower others to embark on a new journey.  So whether you share by blogging, Twitter, Facebook, or on a wiki; share out your ideas, experiences, resources, and thoughts.  And who knows your might change the world one share at a time! 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bouncing Into the 22nd Century by Embracing New Tools

What makes someone embrace a new technology tool?
Every two years my cell phone is eligible to be upgraded.  Each time I am forced to learn a whole new set of tools in order to communicate effectively with this new phone.  First came texting, then taking and sharing photos, and now with the release of iPhone4S, Siri!  
If educators would be forced to refresh and re-tool with instructional technology in the classroom every two years like we must with cell phone plans, we would be blazing trails into the 22nd century and beyond!
We all cling to the comfort of the old, afraid to drop the heavy old tools we are so familiar with and embrace a collaborative 21st Century tool.  By clinging to old technology and not venturing out to try new things, we become weighted down just like carrying a load of bricks where ever we go.  If we were to try to jump weighted down with bricks, we do not have the ability to leap for the sky.  
As an example, I took a bold new move several years ago when I abandoned my brick of MS Word and took my bold leap into Google Docs.  
It started after I had attended the ISTE conference and learned about this new tool several years ago.  I was at a meeting in school where most people were taking notes in Word, a few even with paper and pencil.  I jumped in with a new Google Doc and shared it with one of my colleague's. As the meeting progressed, we together took notes, added links, and even shared ideas by instant messaging on the side of the doc.  It ROCKED!  When I left the meeting, my notes were not only complete, but the doc was shared with all the people in the room! The days of attaching files and e-mail people are over! Everyone had the power to add more content to this document and the doc is always available in the cloud for everyone to access anytime.
Then and there I knew this was a game changer for workflow productivity.  The power of many brains on one document was revolutionary.  Imagine how teacher collaboration could be transformed if everyone were using Google Docs.

Taking that first step to incorporate a new tool into my routine is vital to continual growth and learning. I am constantly learning, unlearning, and re-learning so I can bounce higher and higher into the 22nd century!

I am glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone and dropped the brick of MS Word and embraced Google Docs.  Letting go and re-tooling is a must.    

It’s up to you, are you ready to drop a brick and bounce into the 22nd century with with me?
-Ann Feldmann

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Stepping Out of the Comfort Zone

We are creatures of habit.    

For example, if a student sits in a chair on the first day of school, the student will return to that same chair the next day expecting to find it empty. The same thing happens in a restaurant, once a person finds a favorite item on the menu,  they order it over and over again.  

Technology is like a new menu item in the restaurant.  Technology tools are on the menu of items to choose from, but are often times overlooked for the comfort of a tried and true lesson just like that new food item on the menu that may tantalize the taste buds but will never be ordered over the comfort food that is known to be delicious.  

Stepping out of the comfort zone means to take a risk.  It means to move forward on a path that is not predicable.  It means to invest time.  It means to become a learner and not know all the answers.  It is uncomfortable.  It takes courage.  

“Older people sit down and ask, 'What is it?' but the boy asks, 'What can I do with it?'.”
Steve Jobs

Be the learner today.  Start with one new technology tool. Learn it, create with it, and integrate it into your daily workflow.  It will feel uncomfortable at first, like being in an elevator with a bunch of strangers, but before long it will become as natural as sending a text.

“In times of profound change, the learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”
~ Eric Hoffer, American social writer

Help!!! Stuck in Power Point Jail!!!

Are you stuck in power point jail? Do you have several power point files that you always pull out year after year? Do you wonder if maybe there are some more engaging visual ways to present material beside the old stand-by of power point? Here are three great tools that you can use to create visual presentations for your content! Each one requires a few minutes of brain power and then you should be off and running! You can even just copy and paste your pre-made slides into some of these great tools!

Tool # 1  Spicynodes allows you to create information in a logical and sequential order that presents itself as branches. This is a great tool for students to use as a pre-writing tool as it requires the user to put the concepts and content in an outline format. You can upload youtube videos, images, url’s and documents. There are a variety of styles to choose from that create a visually pleasant presentation. The first time I tried it, it took me ten minutes to create a “nodemap”. After that I created a few more in a matter of minutes. Checkout their gallery as well for nodemaps that are already made and available for you to show you students.

Tool # 2  I am a HUGE FAN of scoopit! It allows the user to curate a page of online resources centered around one topic. How is this different than say, Diigo? Well, it crawls the web for you and you become the editor, slashing what you don’t like and scooping what you do. I made one centered around being a mom and a part-time triathlete just for fun. I had a page up and running in a matter of minutes! You can check it out here! Again, if you have a list of websites on a topic in your curriculum, you could easily make a scoopit page for your class. What an awesome way to guide your students research. How about allowing your students to create their own scoopit page and then share it out on twitter to your class?

Tool #3  Google docs are here to stay so you might as well get your nose in it! In Google docs you can upload your power points into a google presentation doc and then change it to an interactive doc by sharing it with your students. How about just putting headings on the slides and allow your students to insert content and then share it with the class? Remember, being a facilitator is a powerful teaching position. We don’t always have to be in charge of every detail. Allow your students to create and present. They will learn more along the way and retain more information! Scared of what might come out of it Create a rubric prior to the exercise at . The definition of “facilitator” is a person responsible for leading or coordinating the work of a group. Not a bad thing to be! You might even get out of “jail”!

32 Ways to Use Google in the Classroom

Check out this presentation by Julia Stiglitz on 32 Ways to Use Google in the Classroom.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Training VS Coaching

“Mom, we just got two iPads in my classroom.  The school is tech-ing up, but my teacher sure isn’t,” said my son.

Wow! What a profound observation for an elementary kid.  

Why is that the case?  Everyone went to the pre-school training, why aren't they tech-ing up?

The assumption that training = fluency of technology is a misconception.   Teachers attend trainings, often before or after school or on an in-service day, and then are expected to be ready to roll in the classroom in front of 30 pairs of tech savvy eyes the next day.  That would be like sending everyone to a basketball clinic and then expect all attendees to be able to play varsity ball.   Everyone was trained, right?  Why is no one on the court?

There is a huge difference between training and coaching.  Training gives everyone the big picture of what can be done and coaching is that day by day movement towards that end goal.  Without the constant coaching, full implementation of technology tools will not be achieved.

There can be no assumptions that people will just be excited and use a tech tool with out ample time and training to develop that digital comfort.  Coaching helps teachers take risks and step out of their comfort zone.  The coach is the safety net that allows them to explore the technology tool whether it be a grade book program, Google Docs, blogging, Twitter, etc.  The coach believes in them and helps them gain the confidence in a 1 on 1 environment, gradually building up to complete digital comfort.  

Staying Connected, Email, Text, Twitter, and Facebook

We all want to stay connected to the people and events that are important to us.  Whether it's an update on an upcoming event like a family reunion, party, or ballgame, or just saying hi to the people we are thinking of at that moment, social media can have a place in everyone's life.  We are moving to the age where email, while still viable in the workplace, is becoming obsolete.  Information is shared in a variety of ways so quickly it is important to take a moment to consider the what and why of our media options. 

There are so many different ways to stay connected these days, it is hard to know which is the best way.  Thankfully there really is a simple answer to this 21st century question.  What does it do and what does it do for you?

Communication tools have to serve a purpose and updating every tool every day is just too much.  I went from using my Facebook to connect with my workout buddies to using my twitter to connect with other professionals.  Both serve a purpose, but I use them for different reasons.  Email helps to stay connected with my family members who are slightly challenged by social media.  When I ask my teenage daughter whether she has checked her email recently I get a blank stare.  The stare says, "you can't be serious.  You think I am going to check my email when I can text people to get the same information?"  I know that stare well and am now using different language, like did you Facebook today, or can you text me with that information please? 

My own journey on using social media is still developing and I am fortunate to have some wonderful coaches!  It will continue to develop until I have gone global or better yet just proficient and in touch with the people and events that matter the most to me!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pearson Math Online Tips and Tricks

These tips and tricks will hopefully make your online experience with Pearson Math a success!  A great place to start, once you've entered in your class roster, is to use your lesson planner.  Make sure you set up your Lesson Planner under the "Planning".  You can drag and drop your lessons onto your calendar once you've set it up.  If you click on the lesson you can view it in a new detailed window.  There is also an "edit plan" button at the top right of the screen.  From there you can upload a document or add a link to a website that will support your lesson.  You can also print your lesson in a PDF version for a substitute teacher.  The PDF version will work best. 

Assigning tests and having students take the tests in the computer lab is a great way to get instant data for yourself as a teacher and to provide feedback to your students.  You can assign tests by going to the "Content" tab and clicking on "tests".  From there choose your test type and then left click on the assessment and hit assign.  Remember it takes a few minutes for those tests to show up on your students login screen so assign it well before you want them to take the test.  It is possible to create your own assessments in the Planning tab under my tests.  You might like this if your pacing guide requires you to touch on only parts of the topic units.  Remember that your students will get interventions assigned to them based on their test performance. 

Looking under the "Reports" tab will really give you a picture of how your students are currently performing on their EO's.  You can check for lesson progress, mastery of skills, class progress, and an item analysis. 

The Intervention Kit is a great resource for supporting those lower performing students.  You can find the intervention kit like this:  Click on the premiun button beside your online book picture >click on the topic your students are covering>click on teacher edition on the right side of the screen>click to open book>under the purple tab labled printable resources you will see the intervention resources.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Connect with Students via Text Using Class Parrot

ClassParrot was my Twitter gem for the day! ClassParrot allows you to text all of your students at once for FREE! Set up is simple and you will be up and running in minutes.  See slide show for details.

To get started, here is what you need to do. First, create an account and set up a class. Then, have kids text to join the class with the code ClassParrot provides. The dashboard in ClassParrot makes it simple to send your 135 character message to your class of students. I created my account and have given it a try. I LOVE it!

I see the communication potential as being HUGE using this tool. Most kids prefer a text to an e-mail, so this is the perfect way to get a message and reminders your students who are connected to their phone like fingers are their hands. The fun part is that the cell phone numbers are organized into classes by ClassParrot AUTOMATICALLY. This is the first tool for organizing and sending multiple messages via text that I have found to be so user friendly. ClassParrot is to text messaging what groups are to e-mail addresses!
In addition, you can pre-load your texts to be delivered at a certain time and date.  You can sit down and put in all the reminders at one time and kick back while the system does the work for you!

Invite other teachers to join ClassParrot with your invitations. Each time a teacher signs up, you both get credits that allow you to text for free!  If you want unlimited texting with your students for the year, it is $9/month or $90 for the year! Check it out at and see what you think!