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Secret Builders Update

What it is: I have reviewed Secret Builders virtual world before, but some new additions and features deserve another post.  Secret Builders is a virtual world for kids (8-12) that introduces them to fictional characters from history and literature.  Secret Builders has added a host of new historical characters that students can interact with including: Jane Austen, Bach, Alexander Bell, Emily Bronte, Confucius, Marie Curie, Thomas Edison, Hafez, Magellen, Omar Khxyam, Motzart, Issac Newton, Rumi, and Lao Tzu just to name a few.  Students can actually visit the historical figures house, learn more about them, interact with them by asking questions in a virtual chat (answered as the character would answer), and take a quiz to find out how much they know about the historical figure.  Secret Builders allows kids to get up close and personal with history in ways not previously possible.  It allows them to gain a better understanding of historical figures than a textbook offers.  Secret Builders has additional school friendly features like areas for students to write, collaboratively draw and share, and play educational puzzle games.  Secret Builders also has a great Internet safety quiz that tests students on their knowledge of what online behavior should look like.  Secret Builders has just added a Teacher’s Console where teachers can add and manage their students from one central location.  Teachers can also set up an online reward system for students where they can unlock special Secret Builder features by completing “quests” that you assign.  For example, you may be studying Thomas Edison in class.  You could send students on a quest to find and learn about Thomas Edison and give the reward to those students that correctly complete the quiz. How to integrate Secret Builders into the classroom: Secret Builders is an excellent way to bring history to life for your students.  They will understand historical and literary figures better as they interact with them in this virtual world.  Secret Builders is best in a lab setting where every student has access to a computer.  Be sure to sign your class up under a teacher account where you can control and monitor what students are expected to do in Secret Builders.  Encourage students to interact and “interview” the historical figures that they encounter.  They can then write an article about the historical figure for the Secret Builders virtual newspaper.  Secret Builders is a great first stop for learning about important figures in history.  It will leave them wanting more and excited to learn more about these interesting people in history. Tips: Secret Builders also has a program that is connected called “One for All” students can raise money for their school by answering math, logic, geography, and vocabulary questions. Leave a comment and share how you are using Secret Builders  in your classroom.

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Math Class Needs a Makeover: videos, inquiry, math stories and more

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Blogs, Create, Download, Evaluate, inspiration, Knowledge (remember), Math, professional development, Teacher Resources, TED Talk Tuesdays, Understand (describe, explain), video, Websites | Posted on 18-06-2013

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What it is:  I’ve had the great fortune of time to go through my Google Reader favorites this week as I prepare for the shutdown (still bitter about that!).  The unexpected benefit I’ve had from Google Reader’s demise? The forced opportunity to go back through and be reminded of some of the truly amazing people and resources in education.  Dan Meyer is one of my all time favorite math geniuses.  He reminds us that math is more than computation, it is a frame of mind and an outlook on the world.  If your math program isn’t that…it is time to change!  As I went back through the resources of Dan’s that I had tagged, I re-watched his TEDx Talk: Math Class Needs a Makeover.  If you haven’t seen this TED Talk, or haven’t watched it in a while…now is the time.  I’ve embedded the talk above for your viewing pleasure…you don’t even have to go anywhere!  If you have watched it recently, be a friend and share it with someone else.

Dan also has some other really useful mathspiration.  His blog, dy/dan, is a source of math prompts and discussions that will have you thinking beyond computation. 101Questions is a project that encourages students to think about math through photo prompts and inquiry.  Graphing Stories is STINKING fantastic, Dan offers a printout for your students, they can then watch any video and graph the story.  AWESOME describes this resource. Three Act Math is a curricula that Dan developed, click on the links within the doc to get to the resources.  Again…AWESOME. Geometry curricula offers you Dan’s handouts, pdfs, powerpoint and keynote presentations.  Algebra curricula offers the same.

THANK YOU Dan for sharing your passion for mathematics, your inspiration for those of us who aren’t as naturally inclined to geek out about math, and for your openness of resources.

How to integrate Dan Meyer’s awesomeness into the classroom:  Dan makes it really easy for you to integrate his methods into your classroom.  Everything you need from inspiration, to mathematical story sets, to curricula materials is available.  If you teach math, the obvious place to start is with the type of math that you teach.  Dan’s resources are mostly intended for high school students use.  However, as I looked through his resources again, I think they could be appropriate for students in elementary school as well.

101Questions is a great way to have your kids enter an inquiry mindset as they approach math.  These are photos that ask your students what the first thing that comes to mind is.  Students can type in their answer and get a new prompt.  These would be a great way to start your class using a projector or interactive whiteboard.  Have your class inquire and come up with questions together.  Students can also do this as an independent activity and then share their questions with other students.

Graphing Stories speaks for itself.  Again, it is geared toward secondary students, but I think that given enough support, primary students would really enjoy engaging math this way too.  (Sometimes we don’t give students enough credit for where an interest can take their thinking.  Case in point: Anastasis 2nd and 3rd graders who know Fibonacci inside and out. Normally you wouldn’t see the concept until high school or later.)

The Three Act Math is also a favorite of mine.  Use Dan’s three acts, or use his as inspiration for creating your own!

Dan’s resources hit on every level of Bloom’s Taxonomy…that alone is good reason to stop reading this and go on your own exploration!

Tips: Dan is great to follow on Twitter...a constant stream of 140 character mathspiration!

How are you using Dan Meyer’s Awesome in your classroom?  Leave a comment below!

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