Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Nepris + Project Based Learning = Unforgettable Experience

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit our middle school to witness firsthand the value of Project Based Learning. One of our 8th-grade math teachers assigned a Waterpark Design Project and then reached out to Nepris to find an industry expert for the project. (For complete details about the project, you can view the assignment here.) If you are not familiar with Nepris, I highly recommend you check it out! They find real-world industry experts to connect with your class via Zoom, a web conferencing program. While a free basic account has some limitations, such as only one LIVE web conference, you still have access to their growing database of recorded conferences to share with students. In this case, the 8th-grade math teacher has a FREE Nepris account. She completed the request form that correlated with the waterpark design project and then Nepris went to work to find an expert. The teacher was hopeful for an expert from the waterpark industry; however, Nepris was unable to find one. Instead, Nepris located a rollercoaster designer and connected him with the teacher. This expert exceeded everyone's expectations! Prior to the video chat, he completed the waterpark project so he could have a better understanding of what was asked of the students. Then, on the day of the video conference (all set up by Nepris), he talked with the students about his professional experiences, how math is used daily in his career, and related the engineering behind rollercoasters to waterslides. Students were engaged during the entire hour as they interacted with the speaker answering and asking questions. Near the end of the video call, students showed off their waterparks and were put on the hotspot as the expert asked them questions. *Once we receive the filtered video from Nepris, I'll be sure to add the link to this post.*

As I witnessed the live video web chat and talked to the teacher and students afterward about their project and their Nepris experience, I had a few thoughts. Hopefully, something in this post will inspire you to create an unforgettable learning experience in your classroom or campus.

  • I wish more teachers and more students had the opportunity to experience this project-based learning environment. As students applied their math skills to design their waterpark, they learned so much more than how to solve linear equations and plot coordinate pairs. 
    • When I asked the students if they would rather complete this project or practice solving problems on a worksheet, they, of course, chose the project. After all, they got valuable feedback from a degreed engineer which was way more meaningful to them than a grade in the gradebook. 
    • When I asked the teacher if she would rather prepare and implement the project or run-off worksheets and quizzes, she too chose the project. In fact, she stated, "I wish I could do this type of teaching and learning most of the time!" Instead, she feels pressured to follow the standard teach, practice, test format. But now that she's witnessed the learning that took place with this project, I have a feeling she'll be leading the project-based instruction philosophy on her campus next year. 
    • The learning experience was so much more relevant and rigorous and will be remembered by these students for many years to come. 
  • When talking with the teacher about her Nepris experience, she explained how simple and quick the request process was but definitely recommended to submit requests well in advance (2 to 3 weeks prior to the target date for video conference). She also raved about the ease of setup for the actual conference call. I hope other teachers will give it a try!
  • My favorite quote from the video conference was the rollercoaster designer's response to "what is your degree in?" His answer, "I have a degree in engineering but what your degree is in is not what's important. What's important is your desire to learn!
View a few of the finished waterparks in the slideshow below. (I wish I would have taken more pictures. The students did an AWESOME job designing their waterparks!)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Oh Chrome-eo, Chrome-eo! Wherefore art thou Chrome-eo?

Are you as smitten for Google Chrome as I am? Do you cringe when you see that blue e? If you aren't using Chrome for all of your internet needs, then you are missing out! Once you've signed in to Google Chrome and established your preferences, your internet experience will be like no other.

5 Reasons Why I Love Google Chrome:
  1. ALL of my frequently most used website favorites are just a click away! I can edit my favorites on my toolbar down to the website icons, a.k.a. Favicons, so that I have room for more favorites. 
  2. Each morning when I open Chrome, I can pick up right where I left off the day before because I've customized my Chrome startup. 
  3. When I accidentally close a tab, I can press Control, Shift, and the letter T and the webpage will reopen. 
  4. I can add a variety of Chrome extensions to make my life more exciting (like the Move It extension) or to make me look smarter (like the Grammarly extension). 
  5. My Chrome customizations will carry over to any computer! So as I travel from campus to campus or in and out of different training rooms, I simply login to my Chrome account on any computer and voila! all of my favorites and extensions will appear. 
Below is my brief Chrome presentation that I use during Chrome trainings with staff in my district. 

Are you sold on Google Chrome yet? Do you need to get some Chromercise?!

Have you moved from smitten to Chrome Addict like Kasey Bell from Shake Up Learning? View her presentation to learn even MORE great tips to make you fall in love with Chrome. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Time, Time, Time...

Time, time, time
See what's become of me...

It's getting to be "that time of year" as the end of the school year approaches and students and teachers are antsy for summer vacation. All too often, I hear students say "Why do we need to come to school anymore this year? We've already taken THE test!" Educators, I urge you to be innovative and creative in your classrooms and in your buildings so that students still feel there is a purpose to coming to school. Todd Whitaker tweeted it best:

So how do we keep students engaged? Here are a couple of tricks or tips to help you make the most of your time with students.

  • Keep time moving! Use the countdown feature in Google to manage time in your classroom. 

  • Turn a regular No. 2 pencil into a dice! You could use this little life hack for a variety of purposes. (Thanks, Julie Lyle for the find!)
    • Each number on a pencil (number several pencils for as many questions you may have) could correspond to a review question. Have students choose and roll a pencil to answer a review question. 
    • Use the numbered pencils in place of popsicle sticks to draw a student's number. Have the "selected" student choose the type of product students will use to demonstrate their knowledge over a recent concept. (Ex: Students could create a talking avatar using Voki or ChatterPix, write a tweet from a character or historical figure's point of view, or illustrate the concept using pencil/paper, Google Drawings, or fingerpainting app.) 

PS - Can you name the song and artist that is referenced in this blog post title? If so, leave a comment below or send me a tweet, and I just may send you a surprise!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

If You Have Google Drive Installed on Your Computer, This Is a MUST Do!

At the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, we did a big push to move staff from saving directly to their computer to saving directly to Google Drive as part of our Google Apps for Education initiative. With this, we first had to install Google Drive on all staff computers. Then, throughout the first semester I provided ample training opportunities to help the staff make the switch. View my "How To" presentation, as well as the final reminder video that were used as part of the transition.

Throughout this transition process, we have definitely learned a few things. One I just recently learned is how to enable the "Search" feature in Google Drive. (This applies to the software installed on your computer, NOT Drive via Google Chrome.) This is a MUST do for those who have Drive installed on their computers. I use my search feature daily to quickly pull up a file; by adjusting the settings as outlined below I can search all of my files on my computer's Google Drive just like I did in Windows My Documents.

Open Google Drive.

Click on "Organize" and then "Folder and Search Options." (NOTE: In Windows 8, open the Google Drive folder and select "View" and "Options" and then "change folder and search options." The remainder of the steps are the same.)

Click on the "Search" tab and then check the box "Don't use the index when searching in file folders for system files." Make sure you click "Apply" before clicking "OK."