RemixEd

On Saturday 28th November we ran our first RemixEd event at the McGill University Education building in Montreal. Along with GEG Montreal, LEARN Quebec and Learning Bird, Educators from across the Greater Montreal Area (and further afar) came to take part in a brand new event which combines a traditional conference with an EdCamp.

Our conference rooms included opportunities to learn about blended learning with Learning Bird, a Maker Space run by LEARN Quebec, and a Tech Room, we had five un-conference rooms where people had the opportunity to add their own sessions to the schedule.

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We started the day with a welcome address in the auditorium, where we introduced the day, thanked our sponsors who included; Otter Box, Remind, Studyo, Learning Bird, LEARN Quebec, GEG Montreal, Double Pizza and more. This took place in the amazing auditorium which includes group whiteboards, student microphones, height adjustable desks, speaker note screens, document cameras, SMART Podium screens, lighting control and more, a true 21st century learning space.

IMG_20151128_081143.jpg Session 1 involved me talking about Google Apps and the advantages. Thie was an interesting session which had people who had no idea about GAFE to those who had specific security questions which led to discussion of things such as YubiKeys which protect from social engineering to the key features of Google Apps for Education and what makes it the ultimate tool in education at the moment.

Session 2 led to a discussion about workflow including Remind which allows messaging with students and parents for free, and also allows group chats and more. This session was interrupted by me accidentally calling campus security from the phone, which was rather embarrassing. I think that most people took quite a bit away from the session including their own sharing of their uses of Edmodo.

Lunch was sponsored by Learning Bird and LEARN Quebec. With Double Pizza Montreal helping reduce the cost of the pizzas! 50 to be exact!

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During the afternoon session I went to check out the Maker Space which I hope will be making an appearance at the upcoming Future Ready Summit in Montreal in April. There are some amazing things happening here including Makey Makey and textile technologies which blew my mind.

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We finished with a GEG discussion and a wrap up with prize giveaways including Chrome Casts, Google SWAG, Otter Boxes, Books, and Much Much More!

All in all this was an amazing day with lots of events and sessions run by amazing educators. My favourite tweet of the day was:

If you’re interested in hosting a RemixEd please get in touch and we’d be happy to talk to you about using our branding and how to get started.

You can follow us on Twitter @RemixEdMTL and find us on Facebook

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Chromebooks in the Math Classroom

I’m lucky this year to have access to a cart of 30 chromebooks which I can book and bring to my classroom. A lot of our students have phones or iPads but not all of them, and this often makes planning an activity in class which relies on students being 1:1 tricky. I’ve been looking for ways to make Math not only more relevant for my students, but also integrate technology into my teaching. I ran into a few obstacles, but I set up the class to be easy to access for the students.

The Obstacles

My first obstacle has been (to my surprise) my students resistance to using tech to complete assignments and work. I’ve been asking them to use Google Forms to submit homework assignments and then using Flubaroo to check their answers. Surprisingly they really want to hand in the tangible sheet of paper, even when they are just simple single value answers, or multiple choice options. I even made their life easier by shortening the link to the form and sending it to students using Remind. They have also been using a Math site developed by one of our teachers called Math Help Services and they seem programmed to go to their one stop shop which is great in one aspect, but not when you want them to use a variety of sites and resources.

My second obstacle was that my school acquired Chromebooks quite a while ago and they haven’t been used due to a whole range of issues. Therefore students hadn’t been using their accounts, so they had forgotten their usernames, passwords and in some cases had no idea what they were doing! This was quickly fixed, but it shows how quickly Chrome progresses.

Setting up for Success

I wanted to ensure that students were able to take part in the class, so I made sure that they were able to access the pages that I wanted them to access. The first task after having logged in, was to access Google Classroom. Once they accessed Classroom, they discovered that they had been invited to my Class, and all they had to do was click Join.

I’d had the Share to Classroom extension pushed to all the students in the school by our Google Apps Administrator which then meant that using my class roster I could push sites out to my students. This meant that I didn’t have any issues with students mistyping addresses nor did they have to worry about finding a resource or typing in long URLs.

The activity

Our first stop was in Google Classroom where I had posted a question using the new question feature. Attached to the question was a link, which I then opened for them, taking them to a graph on Geogebra tube (a site which allows you to explore graphs and functions). They then answered the questions about the graph, (e.g. what is the slope, what is the y-intercept) using Classroom.

Once we’d done this we then moved over to Desmos, who have developed a range of activities for classes which the teacher can administer and monitor from a dashboard. The one that we tried out was polygraph which gives the students a guess who style set of questions about a graph. The key thing here however is that the questions are coming from another student in the class. Here’s an example from the desmos site:

The activity went well and the students whilst being a little silly with their questions at times, really built on their language, and in the main, managed to choose the correct graph.

Using these online activities really allows you to make math more meaningful for students, and allows them to explore the things that they are learning, quickly but in depth. Completing the same type of exercises on paper would have taken a long time, but the Chromebooks allowed us to do this within an hour.

Periodic Function

I’ve been working on functions with Grade 10 this week and I found this blog post by Sarah (Math Equals Love) hugely helpful. Along with her post I began to think about how I could take this and apply it to periodic functions which we cover in Grade 10, a topic that my students always struggle with.

For some reason they never manage to associate the fact that the pattern (or function) repeats with the fact that they will end up at the same point every cycle. They always seem shocked and surprised when this happens.

So I came up with this little booklet which you are free to use or adapt as you see fit. The original LucidPress file is here.

https://drive.google.com/a/lbpearson.ca/file/d/0B_FV9bBQGZrnWm5nTXZCaG1lYkU/preview

Math & Google Apps

I’ve spent some time thinking about the new school year, and how I can integrate Google Apps into my Math class. It’s not a simple task but there are some things that you can do to make life easier and allow you to make better use of the Apps.

1. Make use of Google Classroom

Classroom is great for powering assignments and allowing students to find information in an easy and quick matter. You can put a worksheet here and ask students to complete it, you can post notes from class, video tutorials and make them aware of all sorts of news items from class.

2. Use forms to power your teaching

I use forms to ask students 5-10 questions about a topic that we are learning about, and then use Flubaroo or SuperQuiz to carry out an assessment using these for the next class to establish if students have understood the questions and which ones need interaction.

3. Respond to a form using math and more

The GMath add on for Sheets, forms and Chrome, allows you to really get some powerful math flowing in your class. You really need to check it out if you haven’t yet seen it.

4. Use the new Google Classroom API

The new Google Classroom API allows you to use third party sites with Classroom. Some examples include:

      – Peardeck
      – IXL
      – Khan Academy

Once you have integrated it with the service you can sync class rosters, pass information back and forth and so on.

What are your ideas for using Google Apps & Math? Let me know

The value of teaching computing

Yesterday I was lucky enough to visit the Google Montreal offices. We got a tour, ate a delicious lunch and then took part in a Chrome hackathon, where we looked at writing a Chrome app. Along with myself were 7 other educators, and some of these people had never written a line of JavaScript in their lives.

The fascinating discussion that came out of this experience of sitting around a table, hacking together code, with Google engineers helping, was that students don’t know how to problem solve, they don’t know how to choose their best work, and they aren’t critical thinkers. My suggestion was that here in Quebec we should be integrating Computing into the curriculum, here is why:

    1. Computing encompasses many disciplines –
      • Coding
      • Testing
      • Logic processes
      • Creative arts
      • Math
      • Logic
    2. Coding introduces the concepts of language to students, it highlights the need for correct punctuation, the need for writing discipline, and for creativity. It also requires that you comment your code, so that others can follow along. Thus, encouraging critical thinking and reflection on one’s work.
    3. No matter how much we try, getting students to apply the Math that they learn in high school is extremely difficult, but through coding and the teaching of computing we can get students to apply a number of concepts which they don’t use elsewhere. The use of arrays and greater than or less than can be applied simply and quickly.
    4. Computing encourages creative thinking. We are always pushing the boundaries of what is possible when we are creating applications, websites and more. Those who are creating blogs with their class are already implementing computing in their classes, and they are encouraging creative thinking, but imagine giving the students a problem, and then giving them the skills that they need to solve the problem, but they can create whatever implementation that they want to solve it.
    5. Computing requires that students continually develop their ideas, problem solve (to find out why their code doesn’t work) and use reference materials (similar to a dictionary).

So how can we encourage students to embrace computing and what do we need to do to introduce it? Here are my favourites and they are easy for people to pick up:

Kodu (http://www.kodugamelab.com/) –

Kodu is a free application from Microsoft Research and Microsoft Fuse. It allows users who have a PC or an XBox to create games and program them by using a simple click and action interface. Students get to see the actions that they can apply to their world and their characters, and they quickly learn the idea of coding and procedures.

Scratch (https://scratch.mit.edu/) –

Scratch is a free program from MIT which allows you to create simple applications which tell stories, animations and simple games. Everything is done through dragging blocks around which is a quick, easy and intuitive introduction to code. As you move through the idea of variables is introduced and you can do some pretty amazing things.

AppInventor (http://appinventor.mit.edu/explore/) –

This is another free online application from MIT which helps you to create Android applications by using an interface which is very similar to the one that we find in Scratch. Once you are done developing you can move your application across to your phone, to see your app in action and actually use it.

Lego Mindstorms & Lego WeDo –

These are expensive options, but students can program a robot in either C# or using the block based interface. The possibilities are endless and they can create amazing things out of lego.

Do you see the value of computing in education? What do you think about using it to encourage students to critically reflect on their work and develop problem solving skills? Let me know!

 

 

Using an NFC transit ticket to unlock Android Devices

We have been thinking a lot recently about how to make our Android tablets more accessible to Elementary students who don’t have a strong strong grasp of language. Once set up as a user and the students have logged into their Google Apps account, we can use NFC tags to unlock a device which has an NFC reader. No passwords or username required.

In this example I’m going to use an AMT train ticket, but you could purchase NFC tags from Amazon or eBay.

The first step is to ensure that you’re running Android 5.0 (Lollipop) on your device. If you aren’t this won’t work.

Step 1 – Go to Settings

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Step 2 – Security – then Smart Lock

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Step 3 – Enter your pass code – now choose trusted devices

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Step 4 – Add trusted device (here you can see my YubiKey and car are already trusted devices)

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Step 5 – NFC

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Step 6 – tap the tag you want to set up

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Step 7 – Give your tag a name. Now you’re all done – to delete a tag you simply press the one you want to remove and confirm.

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Now all you have to do is swipe your device to unlock it and tap your NFC card against the device. It will unlock and you will be able to access the tablet.

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The great thing here is that for a lot of people you can use transit tickets which are just garbage and lying around to become repurposed tech. They can also be used with special needs students and you can even use ID cards with NFC to act as smart cards for staff.

Hopefully over time Chromebooks will also come with NFC and a similar functionality will exist.

We can now print students photos on stick labels and attach these to the tag that is registered under their name. These cards can now be put in a drawer, pencil case or kept on lanyards.

We have also been trailing YubiKey Neo’s which allow a students username and password to be stored on a USB two factor hardware token and also have NFC built in. These have the advantage of allowing students to use both tablets and computers with the same device. However at $50 a student they are an expensive solution.

Digital Citizenship in the Math(s) Classroom

A lot of Math teachers are not interested in Digital Citizenship; their subject is very paper based, they don’t see how Digital Citizenship could possibly fit into their subject area, or they simply don’t think that it is their job. I think that they are wrong.

Why? Well it’s fairly simple, given the right tools and few ideas you can actually lead your schools Digital Citizenship Curriculum from your Math(s) classroom.

Blogging

As we all know a lot of Math is all about thought processes. If the thought process doesn’t make sense, then often the work on the paper, and at the end of it all, the solution doesn’t make sense. Students are inherently bad at showing that thought process, because all we ask them to do is show their work (i.e. the mathematical steps) but not to show why they did this. But by blogging, we can get students to do a problem, and then write a blog post about what they had to do, how they solved the problem, and why. You can use whatever blog platform you want, but if you’re using Google Apps for Education, it makes sense to use Blogger.

Once you begin blogging, you can now open up conversations about appropriateness of content, and about freedom of speech.

Digital Portfolios

Students spend a lot of time in Math working on activities with manipulatives, completing work on paper, or completing exercises from workbooks. The problem with this is they have no evidence for the future, the number of times that my classes have completed a puzzle to just put all the bits away, with no record is shocking.

The solution is easy though, use a Digital Portfolio to get students to record what they did, they could take photos with a phone or tablet, and record their accomplishments. This gets them to reflect on their best work, and to showcase it for the future.

There are plenty of ways to do this, but a Google Site, or a blog are the simplest methods. Using a website is teaching your students important web design skills.

Online Communities

Using an online community in Math can be rewarding, it’s easy to set up your own, using tools like Google Groups, or Classroom (if you prefer you can use Edmodo, or Schoology). This is a great way to begin Math conversations, and to talk about appropriate use of discussion forums, and how to stay safe.

The inclusion of Digital Citizenship is an important one, in all subject areas. No matter your experience and knowledge you can help your students learn. If you don’t know where to start, try this website.

Using Google Forms to Blend Learning in the Classroom

I recently did a webinar for EdWeb (which if you missed you can watch here). It was voted #1 webinar of the week on EdWeb, which made me think, why was this topic so popular with people, and why were the takeaways so good? Learning Bird made a fantastic overview of the webinar which I think summarises the ideas well, but still what made this a topic which people enjoyed?

We to begin with its fairly simple, people are stuck teaching the same old thing, in the same old way. Oh yes, they have ‘integrated technology’ into their teaching, but this often isn’t effective, efficient or pedagogically sound. The idea that I introduced in the webinar was that we could use Google Forms, along with a playlist to actually create a workflow which could power further learning and assessment. We aren’t actually doing anything too radical here, but we are changing the way that we do things, and we are removing some of our control, making effective use of our time and putting more trust in our students.

So how do we do this?

  1. Create a playlist of videos for a topic (Learning Bird, YouTube, Vimeo, or whatever platform you want to use)*
  2. Create a Google Form with a few questions which assess the knowledge which has been shown in the videos
  3. Set up Flubaroo or SuperQuiz to assess the responses
  4. Send feedback to students

* – Unfortunately YouTube Playlists can’t be put into a form as a video, so you will have to link to it

Flubaroo

This is an add on that you add in the responses sheet, it will check the response submitted against one which you have submitted and told it, it’s the answers. You can only check one correct answer unless you use %or to separate multiple correct options. The limitation here is feedback, the same thing goes back to every student, they just get told what was right and what was wrong. Have a go and see what feedback you get here.

Super Quiz

This add on again is added in the responses sheet, but this time you can customise the response which gets sent out. You could suggest videos for students to watch if they get certain questions wrong. Check out what happens here.

Taking it further

I think that using apps script it is probably possible to take this even further. The day that Google open up an API for Classroom will be the day that a workflow like this will become invaluable, with the form hosted in Google Classroom, the student completes the task and then gets their feedback and their mark (if you want to mark it) directly in Classroom using an add-on.

You can also use sheet formulas to process the form responses, which allows you to customise your responses. The great thing with this idea is that its not restricted to one subject area. Whilst it is well suited to Math, it could equally work well with English, Science or Foreign Languages.

Why Inbox won’t work for Domain Account Users

A recent announcement that I saw on Google+ told the story of how Google Inbox is going to be available for Google Apps Domains (at the moment it’s only available for personal accounts – those that end in gmail.com).

There is a problem however, I don’t see a use for Inbox in the Domain environment, here is why:

  1. GMail allows you to set Out of Office notifications, Inbox does not – this is a really handy feature for when you aren’t in school due to a conference or not in the office due to a meeting. Keeping people in the loop is essential and opens up paths of communication.
  2. GMail allows you to manage tasks and add emails to your calendar, Inbox doesn’t do this. The ability to add an email to your task list, or to turn it into a calendar entry, is one of my favourtie features in GMail.
  3. GMail allows you to choose your inbox type, and delegate others to manage your e-mail. This is really handy depending on your job role.
  4. GMail has the ability to add rules and show e-mails with multiple labels. Inbox doesn’t allow you to assign more than one label.

So these are just a few of the reasons that I’m not sure that Inbox is going to take off. Don’t get me wrong, I use Inbox everyday for my personal GMail account, here’s why:

  • Inbox filters out all of my promotional e-mails and doesn’t notify me about them
  • Inbox makes sure that all of my updates from forums and discussion groups get organised together
  • Inbox allows me to quickly archive and get rid of messages that I don’t want to read, and keeps my inbox less cluttered
  • Inbox has the ability to snooze an e-mail, I don’t have to worry about it right now, and it will appear in my inbox again as a new message in a few days

Inbox is simple, it doesn’t have many features which relate to day to day business. Unless your business e-mail is full of junk, offers and promotions, or you use it as your personal email account (which we all know you shouldn’t be doing), then it is missing almost all of the features which relate to business use.

There is an exception however, I think it might work really well in Elementary Education, to get students started with email. It is simple to use, it has few additional features, and all of the mail synchronises back to GMail, so you can migrate to GMail after you need the additional features.

So as Google have produced Inbox you would think that the Android App would be great! Well that again is where things fall apart, it sucks. When you are replying to an email, the tick, to mark a message as done, is where the send button should be, and the send button gets hidden by the keyboard. I cannot count the number of times that I think that I have sent an email to then discover that it is sat in my drafts because in a rush I hit the tick, thinking that it would send the message.

So to wrap up, Inbox just isn’t going to make the inroads that Google want it to in the domain sector, it might be used in Education by those who just don’t understand how to use their email effectively, or who want a simpler experience for students, but if you are a daily email user then Inbox just doesn’t cut it.

The Importance of a Workflow

Often I find myself working on something and I find that I am gathering information, providing information or simply manipulating data. For example, lets think about assigning a piece of work to students to complete at home, for example a Google Form which contains a quiz. We could simply assign the quiz by writing the URL on the board, and then asking students to complete this, we can then look through the results and mark it by hand. The issue here, however, is that this process is time consuming. How can we make this simpler?

The first step is to think about what you want to achieve. In the example above, I want to assess student work, and have a snap shot of how they are doing. So my final goal is to have some form of analysis. So the things that I need to do are:

  1. Create the form
  2. Share the URL
  3. Collect responses
  4. Analyse responses
  5. Return marks and/or comments

So using Google Apps for Education, I can turn this into a workflow:

  1. Create the form using Google Forms
  2. Share the URL using Remind allowing students to simply click and view the form
  3. Students complete the form, signing into their Google Apps account and the form automatically collects their username
  4. Using formLimiter (a forms add-on) I place an end date on the assignment, preventing the form from being completed after a certain time and date
  5. I complete the form with the correct answers (you can use %or to provide more than one answer in a text box)
  6. Using flubaroo (a sheets add-on) I can now mark all of the students answers in a couple of clicks
  7. I now return the marks to the students using flubaroo via e-mail

This is a fairly simple example, but we have cut down a large number of steps. We have allowed ourselves the opportunity to open up communication with our students.

Let’s think about something a little more complex. Using multiple forms we can actually create a workflow which uses the form responses from a form submission to pre-populate a new form. This sounds fairly complicated but is actually fairly simple. Jesse Spevack from New Visions for Public Schools has created a great video which shows you how to get started with this:

The idea is that you create a form and collect the submissions, you then create another form and use the ‘pre-filled URL’ feature to get a prefilled URL for the new form. We then take this pre-populated URL and we replace the values (the things which will appear in the form) with a cell reference to the thing that we want to appear in the form. Let’s think about this as a diagram:

Form exampleHere we can see a teacher submitting a behaviour report using a form, the responses are recorded in a spreadsheet, and by using a formula, we can then create a link to a follow up form which is created for an administrator to follow up with. We can use add-ons such as copyDown and formMule to make our lives easier and automate the formula and e-mail process.

So we can see, that by spending a little time planning, we can come up with a workflow which allows us to save time, effort and communicate more effectively.