Middle School Math iPod Touch Blog

Integrating Technology into the Middle School Classroom

A lonely student with hearing loss needed a friend. My student’s best friend today was an iPod :) April 22, 2011

Our school does an excellent job of trying to provide positive reinforcement opportunities for each child. In middle school, this is not always an easy task. One thing that we do is give coupons to students who have made good behavior choices during a certain timeframe. This time our coupons provided students with the opportunity to wear a hat, or sit with a friend at lunch.

One of my sweet students, whom I will call Brian, is totally deaf and has Asperger’s. He can be a neat kid, who adds a lot to our classroom. He is the only student with hearing loss in seventh grade, although there are several other students with hearing loss at our school. During lunch, he typically sits by himself and eats his same lunch in the same order each day. He likes it this way. Routine makes him comfortable, although many of our hearing students don’t understand this. They, enjoying time with him and wanting to help Brian feel included, ask to sit with him and write on a dry-erase board or paper to talk with him during lunch. We usually agree to let them try, but it doesn’t take long before the other student learns Brian would rather sit quietly.

Upon being praised for excellent behavior this quarter, Brian was offered a coupon and he chose a sit with a friend pass. In my less than stellar signing ability I asked if he had a friend he wanted to sit with during lunch to use his pass. He said no, he just wanted to sit and eat. Knowing how big he smiles when we use the iPod Touch in math class, I asked him if he would like to take it to lunch the next day.  It was a no-brainer! He smiled and said yes.

Today, he quickly ate his bag lunch as usual, but then with excitement reached for the iPod. I am now thinking of utilizing the iPod as a lunch buddy for Brian on special occassions. I am excited about looking for an app that teachers sign language (I know I have seen one before) and loading it on to the iPod. Then, some students can learn some signs in order to be able to have small conversations with Brian. Then, when he gets an “eat lunch with a friend” pass, he can use the iPod and another student can play apps with him and sign as well, after having learned some sign language.

I just wanted to share this story because we all know how iPods can help keep students engaged, it can differentiate instruction, and make learning fun. Now, it can help students build relationships by learning to communicate and can be a “friend” to a student in need.

 

iPods, Games, SmartBoard, YouTube…but what about student accountability? April 20, 2011

Filed under: blog,education,math,middle school,technology integration — msmathteachr1 @ 3:17 am
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        This has been one of those weeks.

       Maybe it is because my students have spring fever with break right around the corner, and it is beautiful outside (some days…when the tornadoes take a break). But just maybe it is because I am focused on the year-end test that tells the teacher “gods” what kind of teacher I am. I consider myself a caring, empathetic, motivating teacher that truly wants to see my students each do their personal best on a daily basis. I realize the year-end test means more to me than it does to many of my students, but I also want them to view it as an accomplishment. If they pass the test, they can have pride in knowing their effort paid off. If they improve over last year, they can build self-confidence and realize they can be successful. But what about those students who really don’t care how they do on a test?  What about those students who say, “I like to go to summer school. That way I get lunch during the summer”. I cannot compete with meeting a student’s basic needs like food.

         It is good to motivate students!

       Teachers spend countless hours planning meaningful lessons incorporating music, videos, technology, cooperative learning and many other creative means of educating and entertaining. The majority of my students respond well, with excitement some days.  It is evident some of my students have made great strides in math progress this year and I try to hold on to those “happy spots” and help them also to recognize how their attitude and effort have helped them to make such improvements.  I love how many of my students stay after school for an extra 90-minutes of math tutoring twice a week to help get extra practice on past math concepts. They inspire me.

            But then I feel the tug of futility.

       It happens to many of us at some point. I have about 6 students in my classes who don’t care about learning, and I struggle with keeping positive while watching a student refuse to try. Is it because they don’t have food to eat? Is it because mom just went back to jail for the third time? Is it because they are living with family until their house is repaired after the tornado? Is it because they hate me? Is it because they hate math? They may not always like me, but I believe they know I care. They tell me I explain it and make things easier for them to understand and my class is fun sometimes. So, what? Is it because the student’s parents are in the process of getting divorced? Is it because the child lives with grandma and never gets to see mom or dad? Is it because the child has no friends? How can I compete with all of these surrounding, important, issues in a student’s life? How can I make them see this is an opportunity for them to have some control in one small part of their world?  

          What is the solution?

         I am still searching for the solution. I hope for some form of student and/or parent accountability for those cases where students can learn, but choose not to try. I focus on those students who do care. I network with an amazing PLN that offers suggestions, support, empathy, and just “listens”. I try to be a blessing in some way to each student, even if it isn’t in regards to learning math. This is why I became a middle school math teacher initially, and this is what I love about teaching. I can show students I care and help be a positive influence on them.  I will try to focus on this goal of “reaching each student”, realizing it may not mean they will succeed by reaching a mandated score on a year-end test. I hope that happens too, but really it is the student that is most important.

        A resource I enjoyed, and I think you will too:

                CoolCatTeacher had a wonderful blog this Monday that was very helpful in offering a renewal that I needed. Visit the blog and see if you, too, gain a lot from her great words. Thanks Vickie!

http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com/2011/04/monday-morning-pep-talk-for-teachers.html

           Please comment and let me know how you deal with the year-end stress of tests, and how you motivate those hard-to-reach students! Thanks!

 

Making Math Movies- Pros and Cons April 18, 2011

My students worked so hard on their movies this week using the MacBooks, keynotes and lots of their own creativity and excitement. This was a wonderful thing to see! I have had some wonderful suggestions on how to reach students without internet access at home. Some of the ideas include making dvds for them to use with computer, dvd player or x-box. Wow! Great ideas…I didn’t realize you could play dvds in gaming systems. I tried making a sample dvd and it worked great, so my student developers and I were even more motivated once they saw a sample.

So, those are clearly “pros”. Now, I have a few “cons”. Unfortunately, students were not able to use the recorder option in keynotes to record their voices to their presentations. I am not sure if this is a bandwidth issue, since our school struggles with this issue. Now, because I have spent 3 class days making wonderful videos, I am planning to load them onto iPods for students without the voice recording. This can always be added later. I am going to hold off on the dvds in light of the glitch, which is upsetting because I really wanted those dvds out to families to use for SOL reviews. I will have to keep trying, and find a way to help my students find success with such a worthwhile project that they really enjoyed.

 

Keeping students and parents connected with technology April 7, 2011

I feel so inspired! I see my students in class watching videos re-teaching math concepts from earlier in the year to brush up on past skills, and they are engaged and learning. What a wonderful feeling! I am so proud of how hard my students work when they are in my classroom, and for middle school sometimes that is a lot to say. My concern…they are only in my classroom 50-minutes of the day. What happens when they leave and do not open their notes or complete homework until the next day, or worse over a long weekend? I have called parents, kept students after school, and tried to assign only 15-minutes of meaningful math homework. I am still looking for solutions to motivating these students, and would love suggestions. If you have tried a method to increase outside effort of students, please let me know.

Earlier this morning, I read a reply from Eric Biederbeck regarding “Flipping the Classroom” (http://msportal-2.ning.com/forum/topics/flipping-the-math-classroom?commentId=2593214%3AComment%3A50167&xg_source=msg_com_forum) where he recommends putting videos on dvd or cd-rom for students who do not have the ability to use iPods at home. I love this idea! I could even make sets of videos for year-end standardized test review (SOLs in Virginia). I also think this would be an excellent resource to help some parents feel more connected to what the students are learning about in math class. Thanks, Eric, for the great suggestion!

My students and I will be so busy making and viewing videos and I know this will be a great help in motivating some of them. I also love that this allows me to more easily differentiate by having students watch different videos depending on where a student may have a weakness. I do need to come up with something different for those students who do not have computer access at home. I do plan to call parents to see if the students could get to the public library, but I’m going to keep thinking…

 

Using Keynotes to Make Movies April 5, 2011

My students really enjoy watching video tutorials of past concepts as a way of reminding themselves of a skill. They would much rather watch a video on their own, then read a review page or ask the teacher a question. What is even better is when some of their classmates created the video that they are going to watch. The students are not in the video, but their voices narrate the keynote presentation for their classmates to view and listen to either on the iPod Touch or on the MacBook.

Try this out for your class and see how much the students enjoy learning from each other. Have two students work together to make a keynote presentation as they would normally make a Powerpoint. Then, follow these easy steps:

1. Select Play – Record Slideshow    Students record their narration and simply hit the down arrow when they are ready to move to the next slide. At the end, they hit ESC to end the narration. Be sure they save after re-checking their work.

2. Export the Keynote either as a QuickTime video or to the iPod as a movie.

3. It’s as easy as that. You students will love getting out their earbuds and listening to a review and learning from their classmates. They will then want to get a good grade on the next quiz so they can record a lesson for someone else.

It’s really exciting to watch students making and viewing these videos!

Try it out, and let me know how it goes!!

 

A new venture… Response Systems April 3, 2011

Filed under: iPod Touch — msmathteachr1 @ 10:18 pm
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   Our school system is looking into various response systems for us to use with out iPod Touches. I am interested in this, and of course would like something that does not require a great deal of time spent on preparing questions for the students. I am familiar with Google Forms and think they are very beneficial, although not friendly to math questions that involve fractions. I may have to play with this a bit more and just become more comfortable with it. My students have said they feel it is too hard to see the questions on the small screen of the iPod, even though they have the ability to increase the magnification of the image.  What I do like is the immediate feedback and the ability to view data immediately.

  Tony Vincent has some other suggestions for response systems that I am interested in trying out. Check out his blog and see his suggestions. He has a wealth of information and is kind enough to share it with those of us still learning about the technology.  http://learninginhand.com/blog/four-student-response-systems.html

  So this is my goal for this week; I will try one of the response systems to see how my students and I feel it works out as a formative assessment. I will be sure to let you know how it goes!

 

Favorite Uses for iPods in Education March 31, 2011

  I feel like this past week everything fell in place with the iPods. My students are very comfortable with ScribbleLite (which I believe is fabulous), and are getting much better with using the iPod as a response tool. They would much rather draw a function table in ScribbleLite and save it as a photo for their friends to solve, than do a worksheet or even Powerpoint. They enjoy the device, but they really appreciate how it can be used as an interactive tool.

  Some other students appreciated being able to listen to a video to remind themselves of a past concept in math class. One student replayed a portion of it several times, which I really enjoyed seeing.  I don’t believe that student would have asked me to repeat myself if I taught the concept in front of class, but because I was on video he could pause and rewind at his leisure. Flashcards are great for individual studying or review of concepts, and of course many apps provide needed practice of skills.

  So, the students enjoy them, I enjoy them, and they are being kept very busy these days. I’m always open to new ideas, so if you have any suggestions for uses in a middle school math classroom let me and others know! Thanks!