Rube Goldberg-esque

General Education, General Science, Using Tech No Comments »

Cookie or Cream?

That is the question that Oreo is currently posing to the public. As part of their most recent marketing campaign, they have enlisted engineers, “tinkerers” and roboticists from around the world to design and build machines that separate the cookie part of the oreo from the cream. They are sharing these machines in a series of four episodes. The machines are not quite as extravagant as full Rube Goldberg machines, but I think that the very nature of a machine built to pull apart two sides of a cookie must classify as, at the very least, Rube Goldberg-esque.

Check them out for yourselves.

Episode one

Episode two

Episode three

Episode four

Have a great week.

App Review – The Periodic Table Project

General Science, Using Tech No Comments »

Most science geeks like me are quite familiar with the iPad app, The Elements: A Visual Exploration. It is a stunning app, and I have not found another Periodic Table app that visually compares. However, I recently came across a Periodic Table app that peeked my interest.

The Periodic Table Project is an app that was developed by the University of Waterloo for the International Year of Chemistry in 2011.  It was a joint project between the Department of Chemistry and the Faculty of Science, where the call went out to chemistry educators worldwide to artistically interpret an element. Each piece of art was accompanied by a description from the artist, which explained its significance. As well, specific data can be found for each element in relation to high school curriculum.

It is a free app, so there is no cost to take a look. Alternately, you can check out the interactive version on the University of Waterloo website.

Have a great week.

App Review – Math Doodles and Symmetry Shuffle

Math, Using Tech No Comments »

There are two apps by Carstens Studios that I have loaded onto our school iPads.

The first app is called Math Doodles and it sells for $2.99. The user is given three challenges (a fourth is in development) that revolve around addition, logic, and algebraic thinking. In the first challenge, Sums Stacker, the user needs to manipulate values within three piles in order to reach a target sum. In the second challenge, Connect Sums, the user must select values that reach a target sum. In the third challenge, Unknown Square, the user must find the missing value in a 3-by-3 array of numbers. One of the things I love about this app (in addition to the awesome graphics) is the ability to play in a variety of number systems. The user can choose to play with values represented as dice, fingers, holes, ten frames, tally marks, binary system, Braille, number prefixes, polygons, US coins and dollars, a variety of fraction types, Roman numerals, numbers shown in  either Chinese, Arabic, Gurmukhi, Hindi, Hebrew, or Spanish, or a mixture of all of the above. There are different levels of difficulty, as well. All of these options allow the app to be used across a number of grade levels.

The second app is called Symmetry Shuffle and it sells for $1.99. The user must either rotate (turn), reflect (flip) or translate (slide) the image so that all targets have been matched. The user can select from 12 possible images to “shuffle”, and can also change the size of the “shuffle” grid. Its features are not as diverse as on the first app, but I still find it a great addition to our math apps on the iPads.

Both apps allow the user to track the number of moves they have used so that they can attempt to solve the puzzle in the fewest possible moves, which is another great feature for differentiation.

Have fun playing.


App Review – Interactive Telling Time

Using Tech No Comments »

Part of my role this year is to find new apps to put on the school iPads. To date, I have mostly searched for math apps. I have finalized my list of recommendations, and over time I will share them here, as well.

The first app that I will highlight is Interactive Telling Time by GiggleUp. There is a free version and a paid version ($2.99). I first installed the free version, then upgraded to the paid version and found it well worth the money.

This is a great app for kids who are learning how to tell time. There are many options for play. Users can set the time and learn how to read the time on analogue clocks. There is also a puzzle setting where users have to put the correct number on the proper place on the clock. This can be done with regular numbers or roman numerals. The “stop the clock” game allows the user to stop the clock hands from moving when they reach a specific time. In the quiz feature, the user is told a time and must choose which clock displays the correct time.

The settings menu allows for a variety of choices. Users can choose between eight different clocks to work with, each of them focusing on something a little different (roman numerals, no numbers, only the numbers 3, 6, 9, and 12, or all hours). The user can also choose to work with either a 12-hour clock or a 24-hour clock. Difficulty levels also allow the user to work with various time intervals during play (1 minute, 5 minute, 15 minute, 30 minute, or 1 hour).

Overall, I feel that this app offers many options which would benefit students at various stages of learning to tell time.

Have a great week.

Tech Toolbox

Using Tech No Comments »

As part of my job this year, I will be helping teachers integrate technology into their classrooms. This includes anything and everything, such as blogging, website creation, digital presentations, digital tools, iPad use and Smartboard use. I have spent a lot of time this summer researching resources, and I have created a list in my updated tech toolbox page. There you can find various links to resources for iPad use, screen capture and audio/video/image editing, infographics, posters and charts, digital storytelling and comic creators, interactive whiteboards, presention methods, and other miscellaneous tools.

As I continue my research, I realized that there is so much more available to explore, and I will continue to do so regularly. If I have missed something that should absolutely be on the lists, please let me know.

Are smartphones smart for the classroom?

Using Tech No Comments »

I know that there are many who are in favour of using smartphones in the classroom, but I must admit, I just don’t get it. I am a middle school teacher who incorporates tech as often as possible, and I see no need for my middle school students to bring their phones to class.

In trying to understand the viewpoints of the other side, I have come across many valid reasons as to why people want to incorporate smartphones into classrooms. Smartphones can be used as cameras and they can also take video, and there are many apps that could be useful in the classroom. The various social media tools offer many possibilities for learning, and smartphones allow internet access when laptops or other computers may not be in the budget. (Have I missed any major points?)

You can also find many arguments against the use of smartphones in the classroom. Some say that they enable cheating and that they allow another form of bullying to go in schools.  Others say that they end up creating inequities in the classroom, as not everyone has a smartphone and not everyone’s smartphone has the same capabilities. People are worried about long term exposure to radio waves, and others are worried about using up data plans in the classroom.

Nothing that I have read, though, directly highlights my concern.

I cannot agree with those that say it is okay for students to quickly check text messages or various other communications in the classroom, as long as it does not monopolize their time. I don’t believe that is what we should be teaching our students.

We live in a society that is dependent on smartphones. I get that. If I were asked to give mine up, then you would certainly have a fight on your hands. But as soon as I walk into my classroom my smartphone gets put away, and it does not come out again until I am on my own time. I am not worried about people not being able to reach me, because they know that I am teaching. If a true emergency occurs, then they know the phone number to the school, and the office will find me wherever I am. When I am in the classroom I am focused on the people in my room, and not on the flashing red light on my smartphone. That also holds true when I am with friends and family.

I believe that we must teach students that same social etiquette. They need to learn that when they are with a group of people, that those are the people that matter. We need them to understand that not everything needs to be answered immediately. I don’t want my children living in a society where they are the least important people in the room, and their competition isn’t even in the same building. I think that we can do better than that.

The irony is that they the students of today are immersed in social networking, but they are losing their social skills in the process. Some may call me archaic and that I am not able to move with the times. Perhaps I just don’t believe that all trends of the future are in our best interest.

I welcome your thoughts.


Blogging with Students

General Science, Using Tech No Comments »

I took part in a great #scichat tonight about student blogging. I say it was great because there were many ideas shared by both new and experienced educators, all eager to discuss ways to enhance their students’ learning. It was also great because it opened my eyes to ways to blog with students.

Currently, in my school we use private wikis and class homework websites. I have posted some student work on my class website, but have not yet begun letting the students take ownership for a blog of their own. I think I am ready to change that, and I have my twitter PLN to thank.

From tonight’s #scichat I came up with a useful list of ways to blog with students:

  • end of unit summarization of learning
  • reflections from labs
  • sharing of digital work
  • writing from the perspective of scientists being studied
  • recap of the day’s learning (a different student each day)
  • microblogging – for my use I can see incorporation of twitter streams into the class blog
  • post pictures from field trips
  • discussion starter before diving into a new unit to share current beliefs and understandings

And a few of my own additions:

  • real-world applications of labs and classroom learning
  • highlighting current events in the science world (through student-written articles or videos)
  • student-created science cartoons based on current classroom topics
  • post videos of students presenting design-build projects

In the #scichat discussion there was also mention of using blogging as an opportunity to enhance written skills. Students should learn to make their posts concise, thoughtful and enriching and they also need to learn about responsible and respectful commenting. Perhaps this is an excellent opportunity to collaborate with language teachers.

I am not sure how many teachers give their students free reign, but I agree with @whiteley in that I, too, would have to be the “gatekeeper to their comments going public”.

 A lot of great ideas – now the hard part….putting them into action.

Play some games

General Science, Using Tech No Comments »

A while back I came across –  a collection of physics-based games. The downfall? You need to watch a short commercial clip before accessing the game, which may be enough to turn away some people. My favourite on this site is Fantastic Contraption, which I have used in the classroom for a few years, and my students love it.

I have not explored all of the games, but I have played quite a few of them. Given the chance, I could probably play Colour World for a few hours (whether that is good or bad, I am not quite sure….).  I seemed very ineffective as a truck driver transporting animals in Zoo Transport, but I feel that I need to improve, as I have done harm to too many monkeys and turtles in this game.  I also enjoy testing my abilities in the Magic Pen game, and I think I will introduce this one to my students this year. 

If you have some good links for fun games such as these, I would love to hear about them.
Have a great week.

The HTML Challenge

General Education, Using Tech 2 Comments »

I am, by no means, a tech guru.

I can work my way around the back end of a Google site, where my site was originally hosted. Now I am on WordPress, and I can still work my way through the back end, but it is the finer details that cause some problems.

For example, when I transferred my content from Google to WordPress, not all of the content was the same size (still working out those issues). So as I update pages (gotta love the summer), I am trying to figure out how to change all data so that it is the same size. This is not so easy on the visual mode, and so I ventured into the HTML view. Brave? Stupid? The jury is still out.

I did a quick search for HTML tutorials, spent some time going through some of the basics, and then began to make some minor – very minor – changes. All was going well and I was making some good updates. I did this for a few days until I ran into some trouble. I was making what I thought was a basic change, and I refreshed the front end of the site to see the updates. But alas, I no longer had a background on the page that I was updating. I scrolled down, and realized that my background had been pushed to the bottom. This was a simple fix, as I found out later, but my initial response was, “Uh oh”.

One of the reasons that I ventured into HTML-land was that I have a backup system by way of my husband’s company’s tech team (true gurus who fixed the problem in a snap), but it certainly opened my eyes to the fact that I need more HTML training before I explore again. I choose to do my training on my own time, and self-learning on the internet is my preferred go-to method.

Here are a few of the sites that I am exploring and would love to hear your suggestions:

Connecting Math

Math, Using Tech No Comments »

I am continuously looking for ways to connect math learning meaningful and connected to the outside world. Here are a few resources that I have found along the way:

Real World Math – This site offers ideas for incorporating Google Earth into the math curriculum.

mathalicious – This site strives to provide real-world connections in all areas of math learning

Math in Daily Life – From, exploration of a few math concepts and how they are applied

Yummy Math – This site offers various ideas, organized by math strands

Radical Math – A resource to integrate social justice issues into the math classroom

Bowland Maths – A good resource for real world assessment tasks

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