I’ve Got #FlipgridFever

Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 5.16.50 PMYup, I’ve got #FlipgridFever along with my students. Over the summer I learned about Flipgrid. I was intrigued by the idea that students could respond using video and their videos would be organized! No messing around with creating and uploading. The whole thing is wrapped up in one neat package.

So the first week of school was the perfect chance to play around with the tool with my students. After listening to a speaker, Steve Ventura, I was inspired to ask my students “What does a good learner look like?” He asked students in a school and the answers were of passive students – “Doesn’t disrupt the class,” “Listens,” and so on. Based on his experience, I wondered what my students had to say. Sadly, much of the same: “Someone who does well on tests,” “Someone who reads a lot,” etc. I plan to ask them again later in the year in hopes that they realize that a good learner collaborates, questions, defends, disrupts (respectfully), etc.

Stickers

They LOVED the stickers!

Now I’ll be honest, I had no idea how to use Flipgrid. And I told my students that! They were eager to explore the tool. They had no problem jumping in and figuring it out. And then…they discovered the stickers they could put on their pictures. Some enjoyed the experience so much they asked to create another video. Yes, I allowed them to. I wanted them to play with the tool now so that when we use it for learning they can focus on the learning and not the stickers!

And they couldn’t get enough of watching each others’ answers. They loved that they could ‘like’ or ‘love’ a particular video. In fact, they had so much fun they came in the next day asking if they were going to do it again!

I plan on using Flipgrid for responses in literature, defending a math problem, and self-reflections on projects and work. The possibilities are endless. I know that we will read Bud, Not Buddy this year. It might be fun to have students use Flipgrid to respond as if they were a character. I am so excited to use this throughout the year!

How do you plan to use it?

Back To School Night

Last night was Back to School Night. We have it the night before school starts. I like it this way. It helps to alleviate a lot of anxiety for both teachers and students – and I’d suspect some parents too.

Facetime Back to SchoolI’m no stranger to Back to School Night. I’ve done them for over 20 years. However, last night I had a first. And the nerd in me was so excited! A mom came to me with her phone explaining that the father couldn’t be there but wanted to participate. She had him on Facetime! We were able to introduce ourselves, talk for a bit, and have a ‘regular’ Back to School Night!

It’s the little things that make us happy. Being able to stay connected to parents is so important. I’m glad dad was able to ‘attend’. It make everyone’s night!

Bathroom Signs

IMG_0833THIS! How awesome is this?

A few weeks ago I was at #cuerockstar #rOxnard and this sign caught my attention. The event was held at a middle school and I couldn’t help but think that all schools should have these. I’m also happy that gender fluidity and acceptance of the LGBTQ community is more commonplace than it was just a few years ago. Let’s hope that more schools and communities embrace differences.

Mathematical Mindsets

Mathematical Mindsets book by Jo BoalerThis year, as a parting gift, my principal handed out this book to all returning and new staff members. We were invited to participate in a Summer Book Club. One in which we read, post thoughts, videos, questions, and ideas. This made me so happy! I had thought about buying the book earlier this year when my principal told me to hold off and that he was buying one for all of us. So for the last 2 weeks of school, I hounded him to let me take my copy. He wouldn’t give it to me until I signed out of my room. Tricky man! (NOTE: I NEVER ask to read a book. I have some reading disabilities that make ‘heavier’ readings difficult for me)

So a few of us have started the book and are making our notes/comments in the provided document; my principal created a shared doc in Google. I appreciate this way as I can read what others have written and get a general sense of what’s to come. The most recent chapter, Chapter 3, really caught my attention. In it, the author talks about how students view math vs. mathematicians view math. Students tend to view it as procedures, rules, and/or calculations. However, mathematicians tend to see it as creative, beautiful, and full of patterns. It was the sentiment that math is a study of patterns that made me take notice.

I have, for years, told my students that math was about patterns. That it was like a puzzle one needed to solve. I have always viewed math as a series of patterns and puzzles. I remember when I was in Kindergarten, a friend and I were talking. She was bragging how she could count to 100 while I could only count to 20. This irritated me. I wanted to count to 100 too. I remember going home and working this problem out in my room. Why I didn’t ask my mother is beyond me. But I was a stubborn kid (and for those of you who know me now, I’m still pretty stubborn). I remember looking at the numbers and ‘analyzing’ them. I thought, “If I can count to 20, then I can figure out how to count to 100.” And as I looked at the numbers, I saw a pattern. The numbers repeated. I began to realize that once the numbers in the one’s place (although I didn’t know place value at the time) were done, they started over again. And the numbers in the ten’s place began at 1, then went to 2 when all the numbers in the one’s place had been used. I had figured out the problem and went to school the next day bragging that I too, could count to 100.

Part of my success with math has come from A) a reading disability, so I gravitated towards math, and B) the fact that I was able to play and manipulate numbers on my own, okay and C) just being a plain old stubborn kid! We need to help students view math as patterns. We need to get over our own fear of math. We need to explore and allow conversations to happen in math. This is where the learning happens and a love of math will develop.

This is such a great book! Full of inspiration. I’m so glad we are reading it as a staff.

One final note: From grades 2 – 6 I was convinced I was going to grow up to be a mathematician. While that’s not my occupation, I’d say that I am one! We all are!

Create Your Own Workbooks?

Print Workbooks

Don’t make copies, print workbooks.

While scrolling through my Facebook feed, this image caught my attention. Yes, you read that right, “Don’t make copies, make workbooks. Get your curriculum professionally printed for less” This made me sad, depressed, and horrified.

Disclaimer: This is a local business and they do great, quality work. This is NOT against the printing company. They are doing what businesses do. They are not ‘in the business’ of education; that’s you and me.

So what’s wrong with this? Well for starters, a worksheet is a worksheet whether in a booklet form or not. Secondly, worksheets are boring and nicknames ‘shut up sheets’ for a reason. And since this whole thing called education is up to you and me, let’s make it better! Do you enjoy filling out paperwork? Yeah, me neither! So imagine how students feel. I know, your thinking, “But they need practice!” And I agree. But how about making it more engaging and interesting. For example, in 5th Grade, students need to find equivalent fractions. Now, I can either have them do DOK level 1 work via a worksheet – 3/6 = ?/2 OR have them manipulate fraction tiles to discover, and record, all the fractions that equal 1/2. Which would you rather do? Okay, so you might not have fraction tiles, right? But what if instead of printing worksheets, your district took that money and bought manipulatives? It’s all about where the district chooses to spend its money.

So while if I want something printed, I prefer going locally and will use this company. However, I implore schools to think differently. Let’s get away from worksheets and workbooks!

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.