Mathigon: engage, play, and explore math

Mathigon explore, engage, play with math

What it is: Today I was working on our inquiry block framework for the 2017/2018 school year and, as often happens with inquiry, fell down a wonderful rabbit hole that led me to this site. Mathigon is a fantastic *newish* math site (it’s still being built and added to) that brings textbooks to life. I know you’ve probably seen this claim before, but this is unlike the other online interactive textbooks I’ve seen. It’s more…alive. It’s like a personalized tutor, combined with story, and exploration. Really, textbook is the wrong word, because this is something totally new. A chat bot tutor makes Mathigon like having an additional team of teachers in the room, ready to answer questions and support your learners in real time. Real life application and narrative is part of the Mathigon DNA. This means that beyond learning the “rules” of math, learners are actually invited to engage the concepts, play with them, explore them in context, and find out what other concepts they are linked to. Rather than a linear approach, Mathigon lets students explore math in a more organic way through interest, linked ideas/concepts, and in a ‘down the rabbit hole’ approach. There are very few math sites that I’ve come across that truly support an inquiry approach to learning math, Mathigon is one such site.

How to integrate Mathigon into your classroom:  There are several ways to use Mathigon. Students can get a personalized math curriculum that adapts to them and offers recommendations based on what they are interested in and their understanding of different concepts. They can begin from several places: exploring the applications of math in every day life, the link between math and origami, Eureka Magazine (published by Cambridge University), through problems and puzzles, through fractal fiction, or through courses for grades 6-college.

The Treasure Hunt is a complete PDF Kit that can be downloaded and printed out. Split your students into teams and send them on an epic math treasure hunt through your school (available in primary and secondary levels) where each of the clues leads them to another.

Fractal fiction is particularly cool because it lets students explore mathematical concepts through interactive narrative of popular films including Alice in Wonderland, Oceans 11, and Harry Potter (the latter two are coming soon). You really have to go experience these to really understand the brilliance of how Mathigon has combined story with math exploration.  From the site: “The key to successful teaching is captivating storytelling – through real life applications, curious examples, historic background, or even fictional characters. These interactive slideshows combine an engaging narrative with beautiful graphics – explaining mathematical ideas in the context of popular stories and movies. They can be watched individually or be presented in classrooms.”

I cannot say enough about how impressed I am with the vastness of what this site brings to the classroom. Even if you don’t have the capacity for each of your students to have an account with Mathigon, the site can be easily adapted for the one computer classroom (as a center activity). Much of the content could also be explored as a whole class with a projector-connected computer.

Tips: I’ve found that really well done content for grades 6-12 (and beyond) in math to be severely lacking. This is a welcome addition to the math teachers tool box of resources!

Check123: Video Encyclopedia

 

What it is: Check 123 is a new video encyclopedia site for kids. All videos are validated and ranked by Check123 professionals, are 1-3 minutes in length, and a curated on just about any subject you can think of.  Broad topics covered on Check123 include: history, sports, politics, food, performing arts, economics, earth, nature, tech, philosophy, music, cars, pets, human body, arts, geography, religion, psychology, TV, gaming, science, literature, fashion, media, and space.

How to integrate Check 123 into your classroom: Check123 is a great place for students to begin their research. These videos are between 1 and 3 minutes each, keeping students engaged in a topic and giving them bite-size information. I like that the videos are so well curated, it keeps search results on topic rather than the endless dig for quality content that can happen in a YouTube  search. Check123 videos are also wonderful as provocations for further inquiry. The short format gives students just enough information to whet their appetites and encourage additional questioning. Check123 is a great one to keep bookmarked on classroom and library computers for quick reference.

Video is the preferred learning method of 90% of our students at Anastasis, when they do a search, they usually begin on a video site. With Check123, they are sure to get some quality results back to kick start their learning and research.

Tips: Check123 is free for teachers!

Making & Science with Google

Making & science with Google

What it is: Making & Science is an initiative by Google aimed at showing students that anyone can be a maker or a scientist. Using the featured Science Journal app (Android and Chromebook only), students can measure light, sound, and more. They can also use the app to record observations, organize data, and add observational notes. Making & Science has partnered with Exploratorium for some fantastic activities that will have students exploring the world as a makers and scientist in no time. Students will explore light, sound, motion, graphs, conductivity, and much more through activities powered by the Science Journal app.

How to integrate Making & Science with Google in your classroom: The Science Journal app makes any Android phone or Chromebook computer into a scientific tool that students can use to collect data on light, sound, and motion. The activities included encourage students to explore the world as scientists and makers. The activities are simple enough for any classroom, and lead the students through understanding how the world around them works. They are a great kick-off to more in-depth studies of light, sound, and motion and teach students how to use the sensors on their phone and computer to collect data.  Most activities take 15-30 minutes, so would be the perfect length for groups of students to visit as a center if you have a few devices for students to use. I love the way each activity thoroughly introduces a concept, and equips students with the tools and understanding for further experimentation and investigation. The activities included are wonderful, but after students have a basic understanding, encourage them to come up with their own investigations of light, sound, and motion.

Students could use the Exploritorium Activities as guides for creating their own investigations and activities to share with the class.

Don’t miss out on the Making and Science YouTube channel, and recommended podcasts. They are AWESOME!

Tips: While the activities reference the Science Journal app for data collection, if you have access to other types of devices you can still use these activities! Just download a light, sound, and motion sensor app and your students can complete any of the activities on the Maker & Science site.

Photomath: Scan math problems for immediate step-by-step instructions

Photomath app: Scan math problems for immediate step-by-step instructions (with handwriting recognition!)

What it is: Photomath is an app available on the App Store and Google Play. With Photomath, students can scan a math problem and learn how to solve it with step by step instructions and an answer. The app includes a photo calculator (take a photo of a math problem, it gets solved in an instant), handwriting recognition, step-by-step instructions, and a smart calculator. For added features, Photomath+ includes complete step-by-step instructions, colorful explanations of the math, and extra math knowledge.

How to integrate Photomath into the classroom: On the surface, the Photomath app might look like the ultimate way for students to “cheat” their learning. After all, they can snap a picture of any math problem, get step-by-step “show your work” instructions, and the answer in an instant. When I look at Photomath, I see each device with the app as another teacher in the classroom. When students get stuck, or need to check their work/understanding, not only do they have access to the answer, but also to the process. They can see exactly where a mistake has been made, and even get an explanation about why the process is what it is. It also changes the math class from being procedures-based, and empowers teachers and students to engage math from a problem-based, practical aspect. Since students have help with the procedure of how to solve a problem, they can engage math as a mathematician, identifying the problem that needs to be solved, using number sense to understand the problem, and with Photomath ensuring that the procedure they apply has been solved correctly. It definitely could change the goal of your math class, rather than just finding the answer, assignments may become more practical application in nature.

Consider using Photomath as a check-in station where students can go through their own work and identify where they may need support. The app offers immediate step-by-step guidance, when students don’t understand the guidance, you know instantly that more teaching is needed.

Tips: If your school has homework, this would be a great app to recommend to parents! When they get stumped, the app can be a sanity saver.

 

The Letter Project: Spreading good to girls through handwritten letters

The Letter Project: Spreading good to girls through handwritten letters

The last week has been heartbreaking to watch unfold. My heart aches over the fear, the divisiveness, the “us” vs. “them” mentality. The stripping away of humanity. As an educator I know that when we take away all of the labels that we use to categorize each other, when we look each other in the eye and listen to each other’s stories, we find out that we are all human after all. When I feel despair over the state of how we treat others, I look for ways to combat that. I look for those doing the hard work of caring for others. The Letter Project is one such organization spreading good.

 

What it is: The Letter Project has one primary objective: to teach women and girls that they are enough. They are driven by the belief that we flourish by supporting each other, and seeing the good in each other first. How do they do this? by writing letters to girls and women around the world who need a little bit of extra encouragement.

How to encourage girls/women with The Letter Project: If you know a girl or young woman who is going through a tough time or needs some extra encouragement/confidence, you can request letters through the Letter Project. She’ll receive a bundle of letters from women around the US who want to build her up and support with words of encouragement.

Wondering what is considered a “tough time”? It could be girls having trouble finding friends at school, feeling lonely or sad, experiencing family turmoil, having trouble with how they look, feeling anxious/nervous. Really, the topics can be limitless. The letters are meant to encourage and show these girls (ages 6 to 20) that they are not alone. To request letters, just fill out a short survey about the girl you are requesting for. In about 4 weeks, the girl will receive 10 to 15 handwritten letters from women across the US.

We all know those girls who could use extra TLC. Maybe they are dealing with body-image issues, maybe a divorce in the family, perhaps they are nervous about moving on to [middle school/high school/college]. Maybe they are overwhelmed with school, or believing lies about themselves. The Letter Project is for these girls, all of them!

I love the heart behind this organization, empowering women and girls to believe in themselves. To remind them that they aren’t alone, we are all in this together!

Tips: The Letter Project is a Christian organization, although they will write to any girl (Christian or not). If you are requesting letters for one of your students, you might specify that the letters be faith-background neutral. If you are requesting letters for a student, please get permission from a parent/guardian first.

You can help: You can support the good work of The Letter Project by partnering with them to write letters, or through monetary donations that go toward stamps, envelopes, and stationary.

Using Agency to Empower Students: What is Sacred in Education? #5Sigma

Using Agency to Empower Students: What is Sacred in Education?

 

We are in full on count down mode for our yearly education conference, 5Sigma. This year our theme is Using Agency to Empower Students: What is Sacred in Education.

I could not be more excited for our third annual conference! Each year we work to include educators who have inspired our work. This year is no exception. We have a pretty incredible line up! I’m so thankful for the way that each of the people you see below have shaped me, and inspired me. I know they will do the same for you!

Some things that you can look forward to at the 5Sigma Edu Conference:

  1. We will spoil you (because you do hard work every day, and deserve a weekend of being spoiled).
  2. You will leave inspired, changed, and with practical ways to “launch” (did you see the line up? I mean….)
  3. El Toro the Tot (if nothing else inspires or changes you, lunch on Saturday will!)
  4. Happy hour meet ups (because we are convinced that the Happy Hour is Education’s Magic Bullet).
  5. You will see what happens when students are empowered (we can’t wait for you to meet the students of Anastasis, they are seriously the COOLEST! *slight bias*)
  6. An adult field trip (because who doesn’t love those?!) This year’s trip: Half Penny Brewery including a brewery tour, Most Likely to Succeed showing, and conversation with other passionate educators.
  7. The opportunity to talk shop: have you ever dreamed of starting a school? Re-imagining assessment? Throwing away one-size-fits-all curriculum? Ditching homework? Ditching the test?  Team Anastasis will share how we’ve done it, what we’ve learned along the way, share our insight into what not to do, and be transparent.

We’re excited to meet you! If you haven’t already registered, it isn’t too late! Learn more and register at http://5sigmaeducon.com  If you need help requesting the professional development dollars to attend, we are happy to help out, customize our template letter.

 

2017 5Sigma Sessions

2017 5Sigma Line Up

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StackUp: track self-directed learning online

Assign and track reading online: StackUp

 

What it is: I’ve written about StackUp before here but, over the last three years, the company has grown up enough that it warrants another post! StackUp has a pretty great back story. Nick Garvin, the founder of StackUp, was fresh out of school and wanted to apply for a job at Tesla Motors. The problem? His traditional resume failed to document the thousands of hours that he spent online in self-taught learning about the automotive industry. This frustration led to the creation of StackUp, a way for Nick (and others like him) to better document self-directed learning. As an educator, StackUp immediately appealed to me for the way that it could capture my own learning. Though I don’t hold a degree in educational technology, my years of independent study should be captured! My blog does a decent job of helping me share my learning with others, but it is still just a small representation of all that I have learned over the years. Similarly, my graphic artist husband has realized that he has a love for industrial design and machining. He has spent hours and hours learning 3D digital design, playing with 3D printers, CAD programs, woodworking, welding, and recently machining with a metal lathe. Though his traditional resume wouldn’t easily reflect it, he has a pretty impressive industrial design background. StackUp is a Chrome browser plugin that tracks everything from personal productivity (I’ve learned I spend way too much of my life in email hell), to verifying independent reading/learning, to helping quantify self-directed learning.

How to integrate StackUp in the Classroom: The beauty of StackUp is that it isn’t one more program to add to your curriculum, it isn’t one more piece of technology that your students have to learn. Simply add the plugin, ask your students to sign in, and it runs automagically in the background while they carry on with their learning. As a teacher, you can login to StackUp and create reading challenges for your students. At Anastasis, we are using these challenges in inquiry to encourage students to spend time on a variety of website types. Right now our students are doing an inquiry on How the World Works. They are inquiring into different types of energy. This lends itself to a lot of research on science websites. The challenges help us encourage the kids to diversify the types of sites they are incorporating into the inquiry block. Yes, we want the kids to be researching the science behind different kinds of energy, but we also want them to explore the history of energy use, the social and economic implications of how we use energy, the current political climate and it’s impact on how we use energy. You know…connective inquiry! StackUp lets our teachers challenge students to diversify their learning in this way by creating a category challenge. Teachers choose categories for students. No matter which websites they visit, if they are included in a category, they will get ‘credit’ for visiting that site. I love the way StackUp works for your classroom, and doesn’t box students into specific requirements for the tracking to work. Teachers can also set up challenges based on a specific website or time spent learning in a category.

One of the unintended consequences of using StackUp with our students, is they way it has added to our Learner Profile. Using StackUp has helped us gain a better understanding of who our students are by uncovering hidden interests that they might have. If a student spends a lot of time in a specific category or on specific websites, StackUp  gives us insight into those passions and interests.

Students (and learners of all kind- teachers count!) can use StackUp to showcase the reading and learning they do online by subject area. At a glance, students can see how much reading they are doing and what topics have been of most interest to them. This can help them discover the things that they are most passionate about, and even help them discover where they waste time. It is pretty revealing when you see how much time you sink into things like email, Facebook, etc. While I appreciate the time to connect with others through social media, I realized that I spend more time there than I probably need to. StackUp can help you manage online time more efficiently by revealing where you spend it.

Students can engage in classroom reading challenges and see how their learning compares to their classmates. This can be used as a motivational element, though we don’t use it this way at Anastasis (inquiry lends itself more to competition with self than competition with others).

One of the things we’ve loved about StackUp is the ability to help parents see the learning that their children are doing online. So often our time spent on devices can appear to be frivolous to those who don’t know what is happening while we are online. With StackUp, parents can see the time students are spending learning and what they are learning about. Of course, if students are spending 90% of their time on gaming sites that tells a story, too.

I really appreciate the way that StackUp helps teachers and students alike metacognate about where and why we spend our time online. It is a great tool to spur on reflection about where we spend time, and what we care most about.

One of the StackUp stories I love was from @SenorG, he talked about students taking a credit recovery class online. One of the things StackUp revealed was for every hour spent on the credit recovery site, students spent 20min on Google Translate. This information was invaluable for those assisting students. It was also valuable information to consider for the credit recovery course platform. Could they better empower students by embedding a translate feature? By translating the whole site? Way cool!

Bottom line: StackUp can help give you insight into your students online reading habits. It gives you a way to see where their learning takes them and how much time they are spending on their online reading/learning. We realized after a few weeks that our students had the bad habit of site hopping. They would start research using Google, but if the answer they were hunting for wasn’t immediately apparent on the site they clicked on, they would go directly back to Google. This helped us realize that we needed to teach students how to search smarter, and that when they arrived at a site, we needed to better equip them with the tools to dive into the learning.

Tips: StackUp is super easy to install, you can do it in under a minute! If you have Google apps, you can do this in under a minute for your whole school! Students can sign in using their existing Google education accounts. Don’t have Google for Education? First, I’m sorry! Second, not to worry, students can sign in using any email address.

The StackUp plugin can be easily turned on or off at any time. All information is private and can be deleted at any time. It is both COPPA and FERPA compliant. Students can choose which information to share on their profile.

StackUp Chromebook

Shout out to StackUp who generously donated a class set of Chromebooks to Anastasis students! Thank you!

 

Are you coming to the 5Sigma Edu Conference in February? If not, you should be! It is the place we were originally introduced to StackUp!

 

Grmr.me Empowered Editing

Grmr.me Empowered Editing

What it is: Grmr.me is a great site for middle school and high school English teachers (and anyone else who edits student writing). This site was built by, and for, English teachers to help students learn how to fix the most common grammar and punctuation errors found in writing. Topics include: Pronoun disagreement, subject verb agreement, pronouns with compound word groups, commas and clauses, comma splices, direct address, usage of words, passive voice, literary present tense, iambic pentameter, and dramatic irony. It’s like having @michellek107 in your pocket! 🙂  For each topic, there is a short video explanation of the problem and how to fix it.

How to use Grmr.me in your classroom: I would have so appreciated this site when I was a student! (Let’s be honest, I still appreciate this help.) I’ve always loved writing, but would often get feedback about comma splices or run on sentences. This feedback was less than helpful because while it identified a problem with my writing, it didn’t help me understand how to fix it. With Grmr.me, you can not only help your students see the problem in their writing, you can offer a quick link of immediate support. Grmr.me empowers students to take your edit notes and understand where the problem is and how to fix it. Rather than just writing “comma splice” on student writing, add  grmr.me/csp/ in the margin. Now those edit notes make sense, and give students the instruction to re-write with confidence that they understand where and what the error is.

Tips: Points to anyone who comments with links to the videos I should have consulted when writing this post!

“What if we started a school?” – Come see us in action!

Professional Development that lets you see with new eyes

So often I see the same sentiment from educators involved in education dialogue, “Wouldn’t it be nice if a school were doing ____.  I would love to see a school who actually implemented _______, instead of just talking about it.”

As an educator, I felt the same. I would be energized by discussions with colleagues at conferences and then again each week during Twitter chats; I was inspired to do something better, but unsure of where to start. Equally disheartening, I rarely had the examples of schools doing really transformative things to share back with my own school.

It was as a result of these types of interactions that I started my own, “what if we…” school. What if we redesigned assessment and ditched tests? What if we had a school with a no homework policy? What if we got rid of all boxed curriculum? What if we took kids on learning excursions every week? What if we built a true community of learners? What if we got rid of classrooms that looked like classrooms and used space differently? What if we had 1:1 technology?

I want to invite you to come see what this kind of, “what if we…” school looks like. For all of you who have dreamed a different kind of school, a different kind of education, this conference is for you.

5Sigma Edu Con  is not your typical conference. Our goal isn’t to show you all of the latest and greatest apps that you can use in your classroom (although you’ll likely learn about some new ones while your here). Our goal isn’t to inspire you (although inspiration will be here in abundance). Our goal is to give voice to all of your, “what if we…” dreams. To show you what it looks like to start that school, and then empower you to launch some of those dreams in your own classroom.

The conference begins with a Keynote by Jimmy Casas followed by a tour of Anastasis Academy led by our students. You’ll get a learner-eye-view of this “dream” school.  You’ll get a variety of sessions by the very people who have inspired us along the way. Sessions that go beyond your typical sit-and-get. Sessions that inspire you and then empower you to launch change in your classroom.

You’ll also get a closing keynote by the awesome Sarah Thomas, panel discussions, an adult field trip (to a brewery…because it is in Denver!), and the most amazing burger and tots you can imagine (seriously, ask anyone who has been to a 5Sigma Edu Con and they will tell you that this alone is worth the price of admission!)

If you need help getting the PD dollars to attend 5Sgima, customize this template letter to request help from the Powers-That-Be (AKA your administration or development committee). Just copy and paste the sessions that interest you most.

Below are just a few of the sessions you can look forward to at this year’s 5Sigma Edu Con. Space is limited, so make sure to reserve your spot today! If you want to bring a team from your school, please email me at info@anastasisacademy.us and I will be happy to work out a group discount.
Simplify: Becoming a Carry-on Teacher in a Checked Baggage Classroom
-Kevin Croghan
In teaching, we have a bazillion things to do every day, but that doesn’t mean we need to have a bazillion things.  Brass tacks: I like minimalism, I dig gadgets and tools that I can keep on my person, and I love going mobile.  This session will provide sample minimalist philosophies, ideas for everyday items to carry, and time to craft our own personal teaching toolkits to manage our workflows.  The concepts apply to all teachers and are particularly valuable for those who share space.

PBL and Tech: Tools to Support Inquiry Based Learning    
-Jennifer Anderson
Explore tools and apps useful to teachers and students in an inquiry based learning environment. Facilitator and participants will share what they know or learn about tools that support engaging student interest through inquiry, research, project management, and creating artifacts of learning.

Shades of 1:1 – What Models Work Best to Transform Classrooms
– Ben Wilkoff
How does a 1:1 environment change the way we plan lessons to create more engaging learning tasks? How does it support and empower students? If we haven’t answered these questions, why should we hold it up as the ideal? In this session we will interrogate the notion of 1:1 and explore alternative ways of supporting Blended and Personalized Learning in our schools.

Let Them Lead! Student-Owned Learning Environment (re)Design
-Jessica Raleigh and Chris Moore

How might children be leaders and highly engaged learners throughout all phases of a student-led learning environment design (or redesign!) cycle? This session explores the question with a variety of adult and student facilitators from McGlone Academy, guided by a backchannel and planning documents for a learning space (re)design.

Know Your Place: Using Placemaking and Storytelling to Make Meaning & Change the World
-Noah Geisel
We are preparing students for successful futures in a world of automation and outsourcing. This session investigates and unpacks skills that people do better than machines and that can’t be shipped to other countries. Let’s be human and state making meaning together.

Learning  > Assessment: Embedding Stories that Empower Learning
– Kelly Tenkely
How might we re-imagine our assessment practices to better embed stories in the data? How might we give our assessment practices an “upGrade” to better empower students as learners? In this session, we’ll explore the purpose of assessment and identify those elements that help us better tell the stories of learning. We’ll start from a clean slate and re-imagine assessment from the ground up.

What is Sacred in Education? Building a Foundation for Agency
-Kelly Tenkely
What is the first step for agency in education? How might we use a Learner Profile to build a foundation and culture for agency in our schools? Together we’ll explore the pieces of the Learner Profile that we use at Anastasis, as well as how this step into agency seeps into every decision we make as a school.

Passion-Based Learning Through Inquiry- “An Inquiry Inception”
– Michelle Baldwin
Students are often asked to find answers to problems created for them by adults; frequently, these concepts are introduced with little to no context as to how they relate to the students. We want learners to feel empowered to explore ideas that make them wonder, discover problems to solve, ask questions, and demonstrate what they’ve learned in ways that help them make sense of the world around them.

Empowered learners follow their curiosity past mere engagement to discovery and “light bulb” moments in learning. Through an inquiry model, students are able to explore new concepts and follow their passions to a higher level of learning. This results in increased ownership, deeper levels of understanding, and the ability to assess their own progress through reflection. As student agency increases, their learning becomes more meaningful and relevant!

In this session, participants will learn the inquiry model through inquiry – Inquiry Inception! We’ll explore passion-based learning and inquiry methods to learn how to guide students into discovering their passions within any classroom.

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Literature-Map: Help students find new authors to fall in love with

Literature Map: Help students find new author to fall in love with

What it is: Literature Map is a literature recommendation system. It is really easy to discover a new author. Start by searching for an author you enjoy, and magically a map of names will appear based on what other readers of that author have read. The closer that two writers are on the map, the more likely it is that you will like both of them. Click on any name on the map to travel further and find more recommendations.

Literature Map- find your next favorite author

How to integrate Literature Map into the classroom: It’s a common problem, a student falls in LOVE with an author and devours everything the author has ever written. Then they come to the end of their journey and a sort of sadness hangs over them, there is nothing more. Enter Literature Map. Students can easily enter the name of the beloved author and discover others they are sure to love, leading them down a rabbit trail of reading utopia! Students can discover new voices, genres, and keep the love of reading alive. Literature Map is a great site to bookmark on classroom computers, in the library, or on student devices.

If your students do an author study, this site could be useful for helping them find related authors and then using Wolfram Alpha to compare the authors they find side by side.

Tips: Hat tip to @michellek107 for sharing this with Anastasis staff this week!