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Stories of Learning

Stories of Learning is another new blog I am launching this week.  I interact with teachers every day who are innovative, creative, and doing transformative things in education.  We need to collect these stories in one place.  Stories of Learning is (I hope) a place where we can record all of these. ...

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Friday Recap: Geeking over new apps, celebrating week 5

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Friday Recap | Posted on 23-09-2011

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Whew, it has been a while since I have done a Friday recap.  Mostly because these days I’m just so happy to have made it through another week that I am celebrating other ways…like by taking a nap.

Anastasis Academy has just completed week number five.  Can I say how incredibly cool it is to see something that you pour yourself into come to fruition?  We have students! We end every week with a field trip learning excursion.  Awesome.

If you are interested in following our journey, you can follow our blogs (yes plural, we each have at least one, some overachievers have two…or more).  I’ve created a bundle that you can subscribe to in Google Reader.  Subscribing to a bundle means that you will never miss a beat…it will almost be as good as being here with us.  This is just the collection of teacher blogs.  Each of our students blogs as well, we can’t share those publicly because we use full student names.  Occasionally I may let you have a peek at some of our student writing by republishing the post anonymously.  For now you will have to take my word for it, these kids are amazing.

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and YouTube.  You can be a super fan and like us on Facebook.  If you are ever in town, stop by and let us show you around!

This week I found some super cool apps.  I’m talking classroom changing here.  I couldn’t wait to blog my favorite find which is Demibooks Composer.  A BIG thank you to @ianchia for making me aware of its existence.  I can’t wait to see what our students come up with!  Demibooks Composer puts the power of interactive e-book publishing into the hands of every student.  I am geeking out here.  It is seriously cool.  Hurry up and download it while it is FREE.  I would have paid big money for this app.  Big.

 

Inside Story Flashcards: The world’s most interesting way to learn words

Posted by admin | Posted in Apply, Interactive Whiteboard, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Spelling, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 22-09-2011

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What it is:  First of all, how about that for a tagline?  “The world’s most interesting way to learn words” is a lofty goal for anyone to reach, but I must say, Inside Story Flashcards is doing a bang up job of it!  What makes these vocabulary flashcards so great is the accompanying pictures.  They are so appropriate for the words they are describing and offer a great visual to associate with the word.  In addition to the well matched picture, students can click on a speaker icon for audio of the word.  Students can choose to show or hide the definition.  Students can choose words at four different levels: Basic (includes words like seven, comb, typewriter); Easy (includes words like attire, inclined, endorsement); Medium (includes words like prodigy, monochrome, dank) and Hard (includes words like crepuscular, bedizened, atavistic).

The online flashcards are fantastic but there are also free printable flashcards for offline use!

How to integrate Inside Story Flashcards into the classroom:  Inside Story Flashcards are a superb addition to any classroom.  They are just the ticket for visual learners…petrified will forever more be associated with the kitten picture above in my mind!  These flashcards are a fun way to practice vocabulary and learn a new word.

Use the site with the whole class using a projector-connected computer or an interactive whiteboard.  Split students into teams to see which team can come up with the most creative sentence using the new vocabulary word.  The online flashcards also make a great creative writing prompt.  Students can use the newly learned vocabulary in connection with the picture displayed.

Students can practice their vocabulary skills on classroom computers using the “hide definition” feature.  Students can quiz themselves and then show the definition to find out if they are correct.

The print flashcards can be used in the low tech or no tech classroom.  Print out flashcards to keep in a writing inspiration station.  Students can use them to learn new vocabulary or to inspire writing.

Start your day with a new word.  This can be the “word of the day”, challenge students to use the word of the day in conversation at some point during the day.

Do you have students who are gearing up for the SATs?  Send this link home for some fun practice/learning time.

Tips: At Inside Story Flashcards, you can also purchase sets of flashcards with a theme.  I’m liking the cat and dog flashcards.  Can Haz vocabulary.

**For those who are wondering, I did write this post on my iPad.  It was not wicked hard…just different.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Inside Story Flashcards in  your classroom!

Writing Prompts Tumblr

Posted by admin | Posted in Blogs, Create, Evaluate, Interactive Whiteboard, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Websites | Posted on 21-09-2011

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What it is:    Writing Prompts  is a Tumblr blog I learned about from @johntspencer on Twitter this morning.  It is a fabulous blog packed FULL of writing prompts to use in the classroom.  There are currently 247 prompts on the site but new prompts are added regularly (so subscribe to this one!).  The prompts are pictures coupled with a text prompt and are sure to get the creative writing juices of your students flowing.

How to integrate Writing Prompts into the classroom:  These Writing Prompts are a fantastic way to get your students thinking outside of the box and interested in writing.   Display prompts on an interactive whiteboard, projector connected computer, or at a writing center on classroom computers.  Students can spend 15-20 minutes of uninterrupted time just writing their thoughts.  Keep these in a journal so that they can go back through their writing and choose a 15 minute piece they would like to expand on.

A blog is the ideal platform for writing of this kind because students can re-blog the prompt along with their written piece.  Students can get feedback from teachers and peers in the form of comments on the blog.

The Writing Prompt Tumblr blog is the perfect addition to a classroom or student RSS reader.  New posts will be delivered as they are posted so your students will always have a fresh supply of writing inspiration.  I use Google Reader when I am at a computer, Reeder or Flipboard on the iPad.

Tips:  These prompts are best for secondary elementary, middle and high school students.  If you teach younger students, consider creating a writing prompt Tumblr of your own.  They are easy to get started with!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Writing Prompts in  your classroom!

Thinking Blocks: Model math word problems with virtual mantipulatives

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Evaluate, Interactive Whiteboard, Knowledge (remember), Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), web tools, Websites | Posted on 19-09-2011

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What it is:  Thinking Blocks is a great find by @matthewquigley who was nice enough to share his find and let me take the credit (I may have made up that last part…).  Thinking Blocks lets students model and solve math word problems by using online virtual blocks to visualize the problems in new ways.  Thinking Blocks includes blocks to model addition and subtraction, multiplication and division, fractions, and ratios.  On the Modeling Tools tab, students will find modeling tool videos on addition and subtraction, multiplication and division, fractions, ratios, decimals and percents, and algebra.  These thinking blocks were developed by Colleen King as she worked to help her students in their Singapore Math program.  While the concept of modeling word problems with the blocks is most closely associated with Singapore Math curriculum, it can be used to support any math program and is especially helpful to use with visual learners.  Students can use virtual blocks to model known and unknown quantities.  By modeling in this way, students are better prepared for moving from arithmetic to algebraic thinking because they learn how to break complex problems into their simplest form.   The activities on the Thinking Block website includes guided and independent practice opportunities.  The tutorials can be used for guided instruction.  Videos show worked examples from each section (addition, multiplication, division, fractions and ratios.  Progress tracking is built-in (currently this is only per session but the site notes that sometime in September this should be included for multiple sessions).  The Modeling Tool lends itself to independent practice.  Students can choose from hundreds of built-in word problems or enter their own.  Dynamically generated models let students check their own work.  A full screen option is included for use on interactive whiteboards.

How to integrate Thinking Blocks into the classroom:  Thinking Blocks is a wonderful website for exploring and demonstrating understanding of word problems.  Visual students will be keen on the ability to visualize math in this way, using the virtual blocks to represent word problems.  Because Thinking Blocks addresses so many different math disciplines, it is a great way to differentiate instruction for students at a variety of levels.

Thinking Blocks can be used with the whole class using an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer.  Students can take turns working out word problems on the whiteboard while students at their seats work to arrive at a common solution.  Students at the board can “phone a friend” if they need a little extra help or guidance.

Thinking Blocks would make a fantastic center activity on classroom computers.  Students could visit the center to practice some word problems and record a reflection about how the blocks enabled them to visualize the problem differently.

Be sure to bookmark Thinking Blocks on school computers and let parents know to bookmark the site at home.  I suspect this site could be a life saver for MANY students (I would have been one of them!)

Tips: You can adjust the difficulty of each model by adjusting the numbers addressed before students begin an activity.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Thinking Blocks in  your classroom!

Presenting Learning with Stop Motion Animation

Posted by admin | Posted in collaboration, Create, inspiration, iPod, Knowledge (remember), Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Subject, Understand (describe, explain), video, Video Tutorials, web tools, Websites | Posted on 14-09-2011

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What it is:  At Anastasis Academy, we have some Stop Motion Animation PROS in the form of an eight year and ten-year old boy.  These brothers taught themselves how to use stop motion animation, proceeded to create several learning videos (without assistance from a teacher) and, if that wasn’t enough, went on to teach the rest of our students how to do it!  Incredible.  Nothing like starting the day with a little viral learning!  Today these two young boys stood before our junior high students (twelve to fourteen year olds) and taught them how to make a stop motion animation video.  The young boys are SO proud of their accomplishment and were incredibly articulate as they taught the older kids about stop motion, the programs that can be used for stop motion and talked about technique.  The older students followed along as the boys led them step-by-step through creating their own short stop motion video with a pencil or shoe.  The ten-year old then issued the jr. high a challenge: Create a stop motion video before the end of the school day to show me, I’ll give you tips on what you can improve on.  Above is one of the jr. high created videos that was presented.  It was incredible to stand back and watch kids teaching and leading kids this way.  The age difference was no barrier today!

Today, our students used the iMotion HD app on the iPad to create their stop motion animations.  This FREE app is powerful in the hands of creative kids!  The brothers have been using stop motion regularly to reflect on, or display learning.

The older of the two brother’s started learning stop motion using SMA (Stop Motion Animator) this is a free program that works using a PC, webcam and a whole-lotta (technical term) imagination.

For the Linux crowd, there is the free Stop Motion.

For the Mac crowd (cheers), there is the free Jelly Cam.

How to integrate Stop Motion into the classroom:  Stop Motion is a great way for students to create their own animated videos.  Students can use stop motion to display learning, as a way to reflect on learning, to tell a story, to demonstrate a time-lapse of a scientific process or just as a creative outlet.  Stop motion requires students to do some pre-planning.  First students have to decide what story they are trying to tell, next they have to decide how they are going to demonstrate that story visually, finally they need to move an “actor” frame by frame through the scene.  The results are pretty incredible (as you can see above).

Tips:Some tips from our Stop Motion PROS: Make sure not to move your actor too far each time or the end result will be choppy, make sure to move your hand out of the shot before snapping the picture, plan through your story BEFORE you start.

Check out our YouTube channel for more stop motion animation from our students.  The Bones, Gnome.Eaten.By.Jaws, and Anastasis Academy videos were all created by the 8-year-old! (P.S. The kids LOVE comments on their videos!)

This, my friends, is what happens when you give kids room to learn!  Onward.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Stop Motion Animation in  your classroom!

Paper Toys: Architecture to print and build

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Art, Create, Download, Geography, History, Math, Middle/High School, Secondary Elementary, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 12-09-2011

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What it is:  At Anastasis Academy we have several kids who are absolutely crazy for architecture.  Not only can they emphatically tell you that they want to be an architect when they grow up, they collect architecture Lego models, will tell you how they wish they could go back in history to meet Frank Lloyd Wright and will build and draw models any chance they get.  These are elementary students!  Today when I came across these Paper Toy models of famous architecture, I knew I would have to share with our students and, while I was at it, would share with all of you who may have your own budding architects!

On Paper Toys you can find and print paper models for:

How to integrate Paper Toys Architecture Models into the classroom: In addition to instantly reaching hero status among your architecture crowd, the Paper Toys Architecture Models is a great addition to the math, history and art classroom.   Students can put the models together digging into the different architecture styles, mathematical models represented by the architecture, and the history of the architecture.  Students can print and build the models (a great exercise in patience, perseverance and attention to detail).  Next students can attach their finished model to a base where they can surround it with math, art or history details they learned about the building to the base.  If they really want to get creative, they can twirl and swirl the words around using different color markers to create an informative landscape.

Students can dig in further and map the various models on a Google map.  If several students are creating models, they can compare and contrast architecture from different time periods, different geographic regions and identify the origins of the type of architecture.

Tips:  Be sure to check out the other Paper Toy models. Your students can build cars, monuments and much more.  New models are added every month!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Paper Toy Models in  your classroom!

Flake Pad: Create geometric, symmetrical shapes

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Art, Create, Interactive Whiteboard, iPod, Math, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 12-09-2011

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What it is:  Flake Pad is a very simple little website that lets students create geometric snowflakes using basic shapes and a grid.  To make their flake, students choose a shape and click a spot on the grid.  Students can add as many or as few shapes as they would like to their flake. When they are done the flake can be viewed off of the grid for a screen shot that can be included in other projects or it can be printed off.  I like Flake Pad because it gives students space to be creative and can be used to teach and practice symmetry.

How to integrate Flake Pad into the classroom:  Flake Pad is a great little site to help students understand symmetry.  Any time students click a space on the grid, the shape is added to multiple points on the grid.  Use Flake Pad on an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer where students can identify lines of symmetry on the flake that the whole class can see. With the pointer tool on Flake Pad, students can drag the shapes they have created to different points.  Have students in the audience describe what happens to the flake as the shapes are moved.  Do the lines of symmetry change?

Flake Pad can be used on classroom computers as a center activity.  Students can create their own flake, print the flake out and draw the various lines of symmetry with a ruler.

Use Flake Pad during a unit on weather.  Students can experiment with creating their own snow flake, print the flake out and use the print out to list characteristics of snow, or snow related vocabulary along any straight lines on their flake.

Tips: Flake Pad works from the Safari browser on an iPad….mostly. The line shape doesn’t work.  Students could still create their own flakes, print and add lines with a pencil…further practicing their understanding of symmetry!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Flake Pad in  your classroom!

Learning Box Base 10 Blocks: Virtual math manipulative

Posted by admin | Posted in Apply, Interactive Whiteboard, Math, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Understand (describe, explain), web tools, Websites | Posted on 07-09-2011

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What it is:  Today while I was doing a quick Google search for a place I could buy a set of base 10 blocks, I came across this AWESOME digital version by accident.  What a happy accident!  Learning Box has a virtual version of base 10 blocks that builds in a fun practice game.  Students are given a target number and drag base 10 blocks onto the paper to represent that number.  As students add blocks, a counter at the bottom of the page shows how many blocks are currently on the paper.  This is a great way for students to digitally practice place value, counting by hundreds, tens and ones.

The outcome of my shopping trip for base 10 blocks: the digital version is MUCH cheaper (read:free) than the physical version (not free).  While I understand the value of the physical blocks, the digital version is a fantastic alternative for classrooms without the budget for each student to have a set or for students to continue practice at home.

How to integrate Learning Box Base 10 into the classroom:  The Learning Box Base 10 blocks are a great example of a virtual manipulative.  They help students visually represent numbers and place value.  I like the way the slider and cups on the bottom of the page help track student progress as they drag blocks to the paper. When students get the target number, they don’t start with a blank slate, instead a new target number is given and students have to figure out which blocks to add or subtract. You can adjust the level of difficulty and place values practiced by clicking on the 1, 10, and 100 circle to the left of the paper.

Learning Box Base 10 would make a great center activity in the one or two computer classroom.  Students can use the digital manipulatives with the built in game or to help them represent real-world problems.

Start a whole-class game with the Learning Box Base 10 blocks using a projector-connected computer or interactive whiteboard.  Students can take turns at the board solving the problem and “phone a friend” if they need some additional support.

Tips: This Learning Box activity is flash based…I’m hoping that someone comes out with an app of manipulatives for the iPad (hint, hint).

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Learning Box Base 10 Blocks in  your classroom!

Class Connect

Posted by admin | Posted in Classroom Management, collaboration, Create, Middle/High School, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 01-09-2011

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What it is:  Class Connect offers teachers a students everything they need to work in one place.  Class Connect brings social networking to the classroom, it can do everything from giving you a place to manage your files in the cloud to building a full online learning community.  Files can be easily shared with a drag/drop interface.  All of your files can be shared with multiple classes without having to reload them.  Teachers can create and deliver interactive lectures, starting from scratch or importing existing PowerPoint files.  All content can be dragged and dropped.  Mini quizzes can be added for presentations that require something of students.  Class Connect also enables you to build up community within your classroom by posting messages for the class, receiving student feedback and encouraging student-to-student collaboration securely.  The interface for Class Connect is intuitive and easy to master with built-in video tutorials that guide you through.  The learning curve here is small!

How to integrate Class Connect into the classroom:  Class Connect gives your students a virtual environment for sharing and collaborating.  Extend the walls of your classroom by making documents readily and easily available to students.  Post assignments, reminders, “wonders” (statements/questions to make your students wonder) and class announcements.  Allow your students to work together and collaborate on projects in a secure environment where they can safely learn to use and manage their online communication.  Create “live lectures” where your students can continue their learning, or catch up on learning. This is great for kids who have missed days-or months- due to illness or travel.

Older students will appreciate the calendar that allows them to set up reminders as texts to their mobile phone.

Tips: Those of you who use Google Docs at school will love this feature: full integration of Google Docs! Woo hoo!  Attendance and gradebook integration are on the way…stay tuned!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Class Connect in  your classroom!

Lessons learned from Stanford, Google, IDEO and Pixar

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, inspiration | Posted on 01-09-2011

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This weekend I spent some time with incredible innovators at Stanford University to talk about innovation in education.  All walks of life gathered at d.school to discuss problems in education and to propose solutions.

My biggest takeaway: Education needs more design thinking and collaborative concepting at all levels.

Throughout the day we shared stories, created concept maps, brainstormed collaboratively, identified problems in education and prototyped possible solutions.  I love that we didn’t just give answers. We prototyped possible solutions in the prototype lab where we had access to all kinds of great building materials.  We came up with some pretty impressive solutions.  What if schools operated more like this?  If teachers and students worked together as designers.  This is the drive behind Anastasis Academy’s morning inquiry block.  We look at big questions and work on interdisciplinary projects that incorporate a range of subjects and disciplines of learning.

“What if the process of education were as intentionally crafted as the products of education (i.e., we always think about the book report or the final project, but not the path to get there).” (Fast Company)

Schools have a lot to learn from Google, IDEO and Pixar.  These are companies that have created a culture of creativity, play and collaboration.  IDEO mirrors this culture in their physical space.  The space lends itself to creativity and new ideas because the space isn’t overly prescriptive.  Stanford’s d.school was very similar.  Tracks run all over the building where walls of whiteboards can be clipped in and moved around easily.  A writing space wherever and whenever you need one.  Brilliant.  All of the furniture is on wheels, it is easily moved and rearranged based on current needs.  Large wooden Lego-type blocks can be easily moved, arranged and built with for any situation.

I love the philosophies of Pixar, the layout is designed to foster “forced collisions of people”.  Students with different backgrounds, passions and understandings collided in new understandings.  Would forced collisions of people encourage a whole new population of da Vinci thinking?

At Google play is not only encouraged, it is deeply engrained in the culture.  Spaces are flexible and constantly changing and being built.  This is was the case in Stanford’s d.school and I have to say, the instant ability to edit our workspace impacted our thinking.  “Imagine what might happen if students had this same power to edit and make their own spaces within the school environment.” (Fast Company)

I highly recommend the following article from Fast Company “What Schools Can Learn From Google, IDEO, and Pixar.”

The article mentions High Tech High, a collection of charter schools in Southern California led by Larry Rosenstock.  Please take the 14 minutes to watch this great video about High Tech High!  Innovation is education is emerging in pockets all over the world. Anastasis Academy is a part of this innovation!


 

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