My Dad: Life-Long Learner

My dad will soon be celebrating his 66th birthday. He is a life-long learner. Within the past year, he ditched his flip phone for a ‘smartphone’. It was bad! He hated it at first then got to know it and like it. I hated that phone! He couldn’t send or receive photos with his plan, but he had voice typing. It was awful. So his texts became a decoding game I had to play. He enjoyed that aspect.

Then, came the most recent ‘smartphone’. Sooooo much better! His plan allowed him to voice text more accurately, send and receive photos, and best of all, it was Google based! Since purchasing the phone and 5 Gigs of data (monthly), he has downloaded countless apps, initiated a Google Hangout (although he has no idea how he did it), viewed a shared photo album (Google Photos) of Ireland I sent him, signed up for Uber (even though he won’t use it “I don’t get drunk at bars, what do I need it for?”), and countless other things I have no idea about, yet.

18268201_403501643363221_1980745947158834116_nMost recently I received a text telling me that he ‘enrolled’ in Instagram. Yes, he did this without knowing what it was, how it worked, or why he would even need/want it. Then, 24 hours later he decided that he didn’t have the ‘brain of a teenager’ and Instagram wasn’t for him. Ironically 72 hours after signing up, he was back to looking at my photos and liking a few.

All this got me thinking. How is it that a retired man just jumps into technology and yet so many teachers are still afraid or claim it’s not for them? Really, it’s not for my dad either, but that doesn’t stop him from trying. Clearly, my father has a growth mindset. And if I said as much to him, he’d look at me like I was crazy. But, he’s not afraid to try and fail. He’s not afraid to ask questions. He’s okay with playing around to see what happens – thus the Google Hangout that one day.

So my point to all this is; if a retired, soon to be 66-year-old, is unafraid of new technology, we can all try something new. And don’t worry, I’m headed back home this summer to teach him a bit more about his phone and set him straight on his email, which is Gmail.

Finally, because my dad inspires and amuses me, I started a Facebook Page, Texts From My Father. If you’d like to ‘follow’ him on Instagram he can be found @garynowakowski. We’re still working on his selfie taking skills. We can no longer see both arms holding the phone! So that’s progress!

Go forth and experiment, be unafraid, and play!

Social Media & Genius Hour

Each Friday our 5th-Graders participate in Genius Hour. This year, there is a large group of students that either create slime – in order to sell – or draw. They hop on either Google Images or YouTube to hone their skills. I have encouraged them to create a website to showcase their work. Silly me, no one wants to do that. BUT, showcasing their work on their Instagram accounts, that’s another story.

Yes, I am aware that Instagram is for 13-year-olds and older. Each time a student tells me they have an account I remind them of this and ask if their parents are aware of their account and do they have the password. If their parents are okay with it the best I can do is teach them how to be responsible: no locations, birthdates, first or last names, etc.

IMG_0013When we were cleaning up on Friday, I watched one student pull out his phone, snap a pic, tag people, and post to one of his Instagram accounts. I thought this was a brilliant way to document and share his work! Now I need to work with the district’s IT department to unblock Instagram so my class can have an account and document our work.

State Test & Slime: Perfect Pairing

img_0003.jpgSlime. A craze that is still going strong in my classroom. While many teachers find it the bane of their existence; I do not. Okay, fidget spinners might be the new bane of our existence. I don’t ban the slime, or fidget spinners, mainly because my students seem to understand that each has a time and place. My students, for the most part, have found a balance between work and slime.

This past week, my students began taking the state test. Again, I didn’t ban slime, nor did I encourage it. It’s just a ‘thing’ that exists in the classroom. As I was monitoring the students, I noticed an interesting phenomenon: while taking the test they were playing with slime. Let me be clear. It’s not all students, in fact, it’s about 5 or so and they were completely focused on their tasks.

IMG_0006One student kept the slime in her container, read, and simply played with it by dipping her finger in and out of the slime. She gets a bit nervous because she wants to do well. I believe it helped relieve some anxiety. I took a quick picture and texted it to her mom (our school’s secretary). We just giggled.

Meanwhile, a few other students had it on their tables, off to the side. They poked at it, rolled it, and kneaded it all while focusing on the test.

So if you’ve banned slime in your classroom, you may want to rethink it. Of course, there have been times where I had to confiscate slime because someone was focused on playing with it rather than working. However, if it helps calm students, why not let them play?

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Coordinates Breakout Continued

Yesterday, my class began creating a Coordinates Breakout. They figured out which locks to use and what the codes would be. Today, I tasked them with creating the clues and a story to accompany the Breakout.

IMG_5343We had a bit of trouble coming up with a story so I had them creating some of the clues to the locks. They were RockStars creating the clues! They really thought out how to make the clues meaningful, with a bit of depth. One clue deals with the compass rose. We are still debating if we should have different ones on one page or split them up onto different pages and have them placed around the room. I think we will have to run the game with another class to work out some of the kinks.

Another clue, or three, deals with coordinate planes – first quadrant. Each group took aIMG_5346 different approach in creating the coordinateplane. One group created a visually pleasing one with gradient coloring and took the time to draw each line. Meanwhile, another group struggled to create one; they needed four or five. The struggling group asked if the gradient colored group would mind sharing so they could copy their coordinate plane. And of course, the group was kind enough to share!

Then, while in the middle of creating, a student came up to me with a back story for our game. We bounced ideas off of each other and made it better. Tomorrow, I think I am going to have the students work together to make the story even better.

So far, this experience has been challenging, yet rewarding. It is our plan to submit the game to the Breakout EDU website. I think before that happens, I will share it out to make sure it’s in tip-top shape!

Coordinates Breakout

This year I have done a few Breakouts with my class. To say that they love them would be an understatement. So this week when we started coordinates in math, the wheels in our brains started turning. Seriously, there are so many things a person can do!

As we were walking to lunch one student suggested that we do a Breakout based on coordinates. I thought this was a GREAT idea and told him that I would search to see if there were any already made. However, by the end of the 45-minute lunch break, I had decided that making our own would be more fun!

I have been wanting to create my own Breakout for over a year. I have had a few ideas. One was an entire Breakout based in Google Maps. Another was based on directions and graphing. Unfortunately, I could never really get clues and ideas that I felt were good enough. Today was a different story. With the help of 28 other brains, we began creating an exciting Breakout – if I do say so myself.

IMG_5342I posed the idea to the class and they went for it. We decided which locks and accessories to use, created codes, and clue outlines. They even designed a distractor that should be used. They had some great ideas! We’re not done yet, but we will definitely share when we are done. I will have them create the clues and the story. I’m pretty excited for what they will come up with.
They know that I introduced this concept – BreakoutEDU – to the staff last week. They want to run their Breakout with the staff. I don’t think there’s time for that, but hopefully, we can run it with the other 5th-grade class.

Google Classroom – Personal Accounts

So I received this today in my inbox!

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 5.49.59 PM A few days ago I wrote about Google Classroom and Personal Accounts. I applied for early access and was granted it today! The nerd in me is super geeked.

This is a game changer for me. First of all, I enjoy sharing my knowledge of Google Classroom with the masses. Secondly, a friend and I thought about created classes that people could take to become more proficient in technology use in the classroom. THIS is the perfect tool to get that going.

I can’t wait to see what uses others come up with.

Biggest, BEST Fail of the Day

Yesterday I wrote about the MLK Hyperdoc my students are doing this week. Today we discovered that at least one other class is using it. While doing their work today, a student approached me asking, “Who are some of these people?” My student was on the MLK Padlet doing their assignment. I looked, and sure enough, there were names on it of students who weren’t in our classroom or school.

When I shared the Hyperdoc I forgot to unlink the padlet and make a note to create your own padlet. The other teacher must not have thought about it either.

padlet-1I got pretty excited about this. THIS makes their learning even more relevant. They now have a chance to talk with another class somewhere in the US. I encouraged my students to answer questions and check out what the other students had written. Some were silly (a string of letters) and my students were disturbed by this. Which I took as a compliment. This means they know what I expect from them and that that sort of Internet activity isn’t acceptable. My students then began answering questions and reading the information.

This was such a GREAT learning opportunity for them (and me). So yes, my Padlet is a ‘hot mess’, but a wonderful ‘hot mess’!