• 'Going Google' with Your Teaching

    Posted By Alexandria Mooney | Mar 23, 2015

    The title says it all: going Google has indeed changed the way I teach and my approach to education. Being in the technology education field lends itself very well to “going Google”; however, I haven’t always been where I am now. Not long ago I was just your run-of-the-mill middle school social studies teacher. My embrace of Google in a general education classroom has definitely paved the way for where I am today. There’s this nifty little app you can get on your phone called Timehop, which syncs all of your social networks and gives you a “day in history” report for the past several years with everything you’ve posted on that date—a walk down memory lane each day. Recently on my Timehop I noticed I posted four years ago this Facebook status update: “New goal: Google Certified Teacher. Stay tuned, friends.” Without Timehop I don’t think I’d ever remember posting that, but as soon as I saw it, it came back to me: in 2011 I was doing some research for a technology course I was taking for my master’s program, and I came across the Google Teacher Academy and becoming a Google Certified Teacher. The school I was teaching at used Google for a lot of things, but the more I researched about the Academy and Google in Education, the more interested I became in the doors certification would open both inside and outside my classroom.

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  • Indulge in Technology over Spring Break for Yourself and Your Students

    Posted By Michelle George | Mar 16, 2015

    I wonder if all teachers and students feel the slow drag of third quarter. By the time March begins, the class hours seem to lengthen with the lingering sunlight. Students acting as seventh graders normally do, bemoaning my latest project, seem more apathetic than hesitant. The gray mornings feel colder, and the weekends feel shorter. It seems the lion of March has slunk in, and that cat is crabby! It’s a good thing spring break is just around the corner with the promise of rest and rejuvenation for students and teachers alike. A few teachers will escape to a warm beach somewhere and sip drinks with floating umbrellas. That sounds mighty fine to me right now, but I’m planning to try out some of the creative projects that I’d like to share with my students when we return. Spring break presents the opportunity for me to indulge in technology and take time for my “creative fix.” The revised version of Bloom’s Taxonomy shown here has “creating” as the pinnacle of the pyramid. It’s interesting that most versions of the spectrum actually changed the labels of stages from nouns like “comprehension” to action verbs like “understanding.” Students are no longer expected to be simply consumers of information; they are now viewed as active producers, expected to use the tools we provide them to produce and create.

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  • Give Me a (Spring) Break! Ways to Recharge for the Home Stretch

    Posted By AshaLee Ortiz | Mar 09, 2015

    March means one thing for educators: spring break. If you are anything like me, you may try to achieve some sort of balance between professional development, catching up on work responsibilities, and being able to take time to relax and recharge. Also, if you are anything like me, you will feel guilt about not being able to achieve any of these objectives with a semblance of success, tainting the time spring break is supposed to afford us to recharge for the final weeks of the school year. For a music educator, February through April can be one of the most hectic times of the year. The beginning of second semester in the music world has a different, more serious tone, but also a frenetic feel to it as individual students and ensembles perform and prepare to perform at a plethora of events. Spring break provides a slight reprieve to the insanity. It neatly cuts expected performances in half, making where and when I am required to be at concerts, festivals, and competitions seemingly manageable. I know many ensembles across the country use their spring break as an opportunity to travel with their students. This allows directors to shoChoir-SpringBreak_3-5-15-1wcase the hard work ensembles have put in over the course of the school year, as well as to afford students performance opportunities that they will remember for a lifetime. I, however, do not subscribe to this practice for various reasons, mostly because, if I am being honest, I need the break.

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  • Not Hard to Convince: Narrative As a Vehicle for Argument Writing

    Posted By Michelle George | Feb 20, 2015

    As a middle school English teacher, one of my greatest challenges is to help lead my students from narrative writing into argument writing. What I am realizing as I peruse the “real writing” and communication so prevalent today is that narrative is a vehicle for strong argument writing. Good writing is good writing, no matter what the mode, and using the familiar mode of narrative is an effective way to bridge young writers’ purpose from entertainment to persuasion. Not long ago I found myself in the same boat as millions of other Americans, parked in front of a huge TV with a bunch of friends, overeating and watching the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl is that anomaly of TV viewing when spectators not only watch all of the commercials, but actually look forward to them. I am no different.

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  • Make It Happy: Teachable Moments on Super Bowl Monday and Beyond

    Posted By AshaLee Ortiz | Feb 13, 2015

    I consider the Super Bowl to be a national holiday. Regardless of your religious background or your cultural upbringing, the Super Bowl is a uniquely American social experience that unites even non-sports fans for one reason: the commercials. This year’s Super Bowl was especially significant for me, and not just because it was hosted in my hometown of Glendale, AZ. I feel there were several companies that chose to use their 30-second time slot addressing the largest audience of the year not just to sell a product, but to share a message. One in particular, the Coca-Cola Commercial, really caught my attention. So, as my students returned on Super Bowl Monday buzzing about the big game, I decided to capitalize on an opportunity to augment my objectives for the week.

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  • Help Math Students Attend to Precision

    Posted By Michele Douglass, Ph.D. | Feb 06, 2015

    Part 8 of 8, Strategies for Integrating the Mathematical Practices into Instruction We have compiled all strategies from this 8-part series into a complimentary white paper that can act as a guide for teachers. Last but definitely not least in this series on Integrating the Mathematical Practices into Instruction is MP#6: Attend to Precision, which often impacts a solution more than any other practice. This practice is generally understood to be about accuracy of solutions and good estimations. While these ideas are certainly part of the practice, it includes so much more. “Mathematically proficient students try to communicate precisely to others. They try to use clear definitions in discussion with others and in their own reasoning. They state the meaning of the symbols they choose, including using the equal sign consistently and appropriately. They are careful about specifying units of measure, and labeling axes to clarify the correspondence with quantities in a problem. They calculate accurately and efficiently, express numerical answers with a degree of precision appropriate for the problem context. In the elementary grades, students give carefully formulated explanations to each other. By the time they reach high school they have learned to examine claims and make explicit use of definitions.” —Common Core State Standards (CCSS), MP#6: Attend to Precision

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  • If You Want Technology in the Classroom, Go Get It!

    Posted By Alexandria Mooney | Jan 29, 2015

    I present at a number of (mostly technology) conferences throughout the year, and someone in my session inevitably says, “My school can’t afford this technology” or “How am I supposed to do this in my classroom when I don’t have any resources?” My heart goes out to them. I’ve been fortunate enough in most of my teaching career to be in schools where technology is highly looked upon and sought out. However, I have been on the flip side of that as well, where technology was on the back burner and other, more pressing issues took priority. What I always tell these commenters at my session is, “This may sound harsh, but those are merely excuses. Don’t let your school’s limited budget stop you from using technology—any kind you want—in your classroom.”

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  • 7 Ways to Motivate Students with Creative Teaching in Any Classroom

    Posted By AshaLee Ortiz | Jan 22, 2015

    I teach music, so being creative is kind of essential to my classroom. However, a little bit of everything should be present in all content areas, because that helps depth of knowledge and retention. So let’s get past the stigma of what something looks like in an “art” classroom or a “science” classroom. What should student motivation look like in any classroom?

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  • Make Sense of Problems and Persevere in Solving Them

    Posted By Michele Douglass, Ph.D. | Jan 14, 2015

    Part 7 of 8, Strategies for Integrating the Mathematical Practices into Instruction This mathematical practice involves the ways students can explain to themselves the meaning of a problem and the ways they find to enter into solving it. It might feel like being a detective who is looking for clues or evidence on how to solve a problem. Students proficient with this practice believe they are mathematicians and try several methods to come to a solution. This blog series will conclude by examining Practice #1 in this post and Practice #6 in the final post. These two practices can be thought of as overarching habits of mind that productive thinkers use as they work with mathematics.

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  • Fighting the Technology Gap in a Time of Tight Budgets

    Posted By AshaLee Ortiz | Jan 05, 2015

    21st Century learners are used to being plugged-in. They crave it. They have been raised in a technology rich environment. When toddlers reach for a phone now, they immediately try to text and swipe, rather than mimicking talking into the device. The times are changing, and your classroom should too. But what if you don’t have the funding? Maybe your district was hit particularly hard during the recession. Maybe resources are being allocated to special programs like STEM or to magnet sites within your district. Maybe you teach an elective course, and resources are reserved for “core class” instruction. How can you tap into your student’s desire for technology on a tight budget and with limited resources?

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