Tag Archives: classroom

Top Tips to Remind your Students

10 Mar

Over the past five years I have played with a lot of technology to keep in touch with students and make sure that the kids were connected and informed about school. With everything I have done, texting is the most effective method to connect with kids. If a student has a phone it will always be on his or her person and they will be tuned in waiting for  the next update or message that has relevancy to their world. With that I recommend Remind as a tool to help you stay connected. This is a teacher friendly app that safely connects you to students or parents to share information and content relevant to your class.

Here are some tips to get started:

  1. Have your class sign-up together as a group on the first day of school. I explain that text rates apply, kids get that, and that you want your kids to stay connected and informed.
  2. Make it Interactive right away. My first text that night is a question. The first ten kids who show up at class with the secret word or the answer to the riddle get a giant candy bar or similar prize.
  3. Tell kids to save the number you are using to sign up for the reminders as “School Reminders”. This way, if other teachers use the app, they won’t confuse Mr. Smith’s updates with Mrs. Jackson’s updates. This also goes back to not over texting kids especially if multiple teachers at your school use Remind.
  4. Encourage kids to get the app if they are able. There are additional features in the app, such as the new Chat feature from Remind, that goes beyond simple texting. Kids can use the app to communicate with you directly. This is a feature you can turn on or off.
  5. Put Remind up on your white board or screen, let kids see your admin panel, ask them when they want a reminder for an assignment. This will build trust as your kids see what you are doing and how you are managing the text messages.
  6. Create groups for each class. As hard as we try, first period and fifth period may not be on the same pace and updates may vary.
  7. Send out extra credit questions via text or leak test questions. The goal is interaction, that is more important than a point on a test.
  8. Attach handouts, resources, photos of the agenda or notes taken on the white board. Send out photos of great projects or historical events relevant to the course of study. In my class I send out video tutorials the kids can use on projects.
  9. Be aware of times. With high school kids, I target fifteen minutes before school, when the bell rings at the start of lunch, when the bell rings at the end of the school day or between 7-8 at night. I know that is when kids will have eyes on their phones and I will get the most interaction with my text. If you are middle school, I would target before school or after school. If you are grade school or below, find out when your parents are most receptive to getting info for your class.
  10. Sync your Remind account to Twitter. Now, you can group text and update Twitter with one push of the button.

Get started using Remind with one of your classes today. What are some ideas you have for using Remind in your class?

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Creation vs. Consumption

12 Mar

When I first got my iPad, I had it for about a year before I knew what to do with it. I couldn’t mirror on my project, so that took teaching out of the equation. I could show video, but how was that different than me pulling up the video on my computer. I didn’t even have full capability in Keynote and other services that I loved. However, this all changed with iPad 2. Now I could mirror, I can not only show video but I could use apps to show information; but this is was not enough. While finding information was good, I needed something for the kids to do with that information. Garageband got me excited as kids could create music, and even Pages got them processing and creating to a degree. With iPad 3 there is so much more that this small tablet device can do, it’s astounding. We are entering a time when the iPad can be used to creating content, and not just consuming content.

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Cell Phone Karma, It’s Real

4 Jan

About two years ago, right after my daughter was born, my wife and I managed to escape for a night to a movie, our first one in months. As the previews started I noticed the faint glow of Facebook on a smart phone beneath us. I ignored it at first, but it was distracting in the dark theater. When someone behind us yelled, “turn it off!” I decided to do the same and asked them to turn of the phone. About ten minutes later after the previews, the phone was on again back to Facebook. I had to ask again, got a rude reply, but did not see the phone till after the film. Constantly in social settings more and more people are oblivious to acceptable social norms when it comes to technology. Schools are not addressing the issue as many districts ban the use of phones due to fear of liability. The downside are students who enter the world with covert cell phone skills as they text like ninjas all the while oblivious to the information they have access to through their phones. Additionally, these same students are ill prepared to take jobs at corporations who expect them to be able to use the resources available to problem solve, communicate as to use professionally.

Keep in mind, that we are not only fighting the kids but the kids’ parents: the ones who bought the phones, pay for the phones, expect their kids to answer anytime they call the phones, and any other number of reasons parents want their kids to have a phone. Think about how many times you have students who go to the parking lot to meet a parent during lunch or between classes? Or, a student comes up during class and says, “My mom is here can I go to the office?” even if you have not gotten a call or note from the office stating that someone is here for the student. If you were to ask them, “how do you know your parent is here,” the answer usually revolves around a text. I was getting tired of this behavior, so I knew it was time for a little professional development with cell phones and my students.

My first lesson was when students could have their phones on and off. So, I would ask kids to take out their phones, and done one of two things depending on the lesson:

1. Everyone please take out your cell phone, make sure it is turned off right now as we won’t be using them for a bit. Once your phone is off please put it on the left hand side of your desk so I know you are ready.

2. Everyone please take out your cell phone, make sure it is turned on, and when you are ready please place your phone on the left hand side of your desk.

The left hand side is key as most students are right handed. The motion of reaching across a desk for a phone will be awkward and noticeable, plus it was a visual cue for me to know when kids had their phones and were ready. If students felt more comfortable putting their phones in their bags while they were off, that was fine. However, if the phones were out or not where I expected them to be, the phones were mine.

In the early days I did not do much: some texting, a few surveys, definitely Twitter (fast follow is one of the best inventions ever) which I will touch on later.

One of the most common questions I get is access. When I started this, over half my students had phones, about half could text during school. So, for certain projects students partner up or work in groups. Over time, I have more students with smart phones or the ability to text so that number has gone down over the past two years. As early as 2008 Nielsen reported that over 70% of students had a phone while over 80% had access to a phone. That number has risen significantly.

Smart phones are a game changer. Where I had one or two kids with smart phones I now have over half my class with smart phones. Now, I can have the students do research, look up films, find articles or do basic research as necessary. Some studies I have read estimate that as of December of 2011, over half of all phones that students use are smart phones.

As tech savvy as we think students are, they are not as good at technology as we give most of them credit for. Students are only as good as their needs, and most of their needs occur on Facebook. Basic skills such as searching, analyzing, filtering content, or even recognizing marketing trends are deficient. Much like the old musical number from Bye Bye Birdie – it’s not the phone lines that are tied up but how many text messages one person can send in a minute.

As for AUP’s, I will include one I got from Ron Ippolito – a fellow teacher with an amazing blog – who is doing some great work with phones and other items: AUP Policy. After researching all over, the basics are this: you can have it, you may use it with teacher permission, it’s a privilege to use your phone at school, we are not responsible if your phone is lost or stolen. Keep in mind, phones are a part of the curriculum, they are not the only way to complete the curriculum, therefore phones enhance the learning process but are note required for the learning process.

In the end, my students enjoy have greater access to me via their phones either through texting or through Twitter. I’ve noticed that the level of understanding, respect and responsibility with technology has gone up immensely while the lessons I am able to figure out from basic social skills to applicable career skills is astounding.

Podcasting Made Easy, Part IV: Video

7 Jul

My introduction to video came in 2001 with an early edition of Final Cut.  I had to work on two different computers as the file sizes – at 14 GB – were too large to use on just one Mac.  This was so much better than using two VCR’s to create the high-light tape for our college team.  That’s right, I was at a UC school and we were using two VCR’s to create the high-light tape for our final awards dinner … not any more. This idea stuck with me as I began to incorporate video content into my podcasts – I needed to provide video of good quality to make my episodes interesting to watch.
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Podcasting Made Easy, Part III : The Interview

5 Jul

For one of my first podcasts, I called upon Phil Boyte who lived up in the foothills two hours from where I live.  He agreed and I offered to drive up and meet him.  We sat and spoke for a bit, and it became clear I did not have a vision of what I wanted the subjects of my podcasts to be.  I had ideas, and most of the time I left that idea choosing process up to the person I was interviewing.  However, with that much choice, my subjects would often get lost and be unsure of a topic.  I lost a few interviews that way, especially from people who are not used to be recorded.  Phil and I eventually did a great podcast on ideas you can use for the first days/week of school – but it took a little time to get there.  I began to learn – thanks to my conversation with Phil – that I needed to get dialed in to the content I was looking for in the podcast. Continue reading

Video on the iPad and iPhone

22 Jun

Film, and a technology, has only been around for about one hundred years, it is still relatively young.  Conversely, story telling, has been around for thousands of years and been the backbone of society and culture throughout that time.  Film takes story telling to another level and gives people a medium to share their interests, ideas and passions.  I recently had a chance to do a lot of work on my iPad as well as my iPhone to record and process video on a mobile platform.  My goal is to find what I can use personally and what I can teach my students to make them better story tellers using film.

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My Next Scavenger Hunt

20 Jun
QR for my website

Try this with your camera, it's a great way to find my blog.

I love QR images on so many levels.  The are around us, some subtly some not so subtly, on bust stops, billboards, website, produce and even on some of the packages you receive in the mail from the postal service or UPS.  Founded back in the 1990’s by the Japanese Auto Industry, these images are being used by marketing companies for gorilla marketing campaigns to gain the attention of a tech savvy crowds.

I recently purchased some produce and on the inside of the label was a QR image to scan an enter a contest to see if I won the sweepstakes.  I was recently at a wine tasting  in Lodi where the winery was using QR images to download tasting notes.  I could scan the image and I was taken to a website with notes, pricing and ordering information.  I can then save the info in my scans and access this data any time I want.  “What was the wine I liked again, I will look at my phone.”  Jimmy Fallon used an image on his Late Show during one of his comedy bits that took you to a link of the video he was making. This technology will start to pop up more and more and in many different ways, so how can I use this in education?

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