Celebrate Pi Day in Your Class

I posted this last year, but it’s still valid. One addition: new activities down toward the bottom of the post.

Pi Day is an annual celebration commemorating the mathematical constant π (pi). Pi Day is observed on March 14 since 3, 1, and 4 are the three most significant digits of π in the decimal form. Daniel Tammet, a high-functioning autistic savant, holds the European record for reciting pi from memory to 22,514 digits in five hours and nine minutes.

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169 Tech Tip #126–7 Tips to Differentiate with Tech

tech tipsIn these 169 tech-centric situations, you get an overview of pedagogy—the tech topics most important to your teaching—as well as practical strategies to address most classroom tech situations, how to scaffold these to learning, and where they provide the subtext to daily tech-infused education.

Today’s tip: #126: 7 Tips to Differentiate with Tech

Category: Differentiation

Sub-category: Teaching, Pedagogy

Here are seven ways to differentiate instruction every day:

  1. While some students take their time to carefully finish a project as suits their learning style, others slam through the steps, looking for ‘what’s next’. Both are fine. Have a lot of authentic activities going on in your classroom so students are encouraged to work at their own pace. Let them self-manage their education. Be clear about your expectations, and then trust them to find their way. Have links on the class internet start page for organic learning like keyboarding practice and sponge websites that tie into subject area inquiry.
  2. Let students communicate ideas with not only text, but layout, color, and images. These can be graphic organizers like Venn Diagrams or pyramids, or an infographic made in ly. Let students
  3. Show students how to add pictures, borders, and fonts. Some students will tolerate the words to get to the decorating.
  4. Use online tools like Discovery Education’s Puzzle Maker to review concepts. Move away from rubrics and study guides. Anything that gamifies learning will go down easier with students. They are digital natives so let them learn in a more natural way.
  5. In fact, gamify anything possible. There are an amazing number of high-quality simulations that teach through games–Minecraft,iCivicsMission US, Lemonade StandHere’s a long list. There’s probably one for every subject. Take advantage of them.
  6. If students aren’t excited by the tools and widgets you offer, let them suggest their own. If they can make the argument for it, let them use it.
  7. Always offer do-overs. I call them ‘Mulligans’. In a differentiated classroom, let students redo an assignment. What if they didn’t understand? Or were sick? How does trying harder defeat education’s goal of learning? With technology, all students do is open their project and continue work based on your feedback. That’s cool. Rest assured: When you offer this in your classroom, most students won’t take you up on it. It’s too outside-the-box. You won’t be deluged with double the work. But, be happy if you are.

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How to Teach STEM Every Day

STEM in schoolSTEM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. These four topics cover every aspect of our life. Science is our natural world, from the land we live on to the oceans and space we aspire to visit. It’s the weather that changes our picnic plans to the natural disaster that destroyed a town in our own state. Technology includes the iPads toddlers play on, the smartphones we use to guide our days, the apps that turn our lights on and off–or start our car. Engineering is why traffic flows smoothly on crowded roads and why bridges survive despite massive loads of trucks, and is the foundation for much research into global warming and alternative energy. Mathematics happens everywhere–at the grocery store, the bank, the family budget,  the affirmative nod from parents to update a child’s computer to their agreement to add apps from the app store.

Every corner of every life includes STEM, which explains the increasing interest in STEM-educated students to fill the nation’s jobs. According to the U. S. Department of Commerce, STEM occupations are growing at 17%, while other occupations are growing at 9.8%. According to the Bureau of Labor and Management:

… jobs in computing and mathematics are projected to grow by 20 percent.

Significantly, STEM degree holders have a higher income even in non-STEM careers. The reason: Students trained in STEM subjects think critically, develop creative solutions, solve problems rather than look to others for solutions, and create logical processes that can be duplicated in all parts of their life. STEM-trained students understand how to look at the forest and find the particular tree.

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Kiddom now offers personalized curricula, visual reports and more

kiddomIf you’re a fan of Kiddom, the easy way to plan, assess, and analyze learning, you’ll be excited to hear that they added more than 50 features to the new Kiddom 2.0 (see my review of Kiddom). These include:

  • Planning — personalized curriculum to meet the changing needs of students
  • Reports — visualize progress with beautiful analytics that track student performance
  • Student Ownership —  empower students with the ability to track their own progress
  • Customization — customize content, grading, and analytics specific to unique classroom needs
  • Collaboration — amplify information sharing amongst teachers, administrators, parents, and the school community at-large
  • Beautiful Design — a major redesign focused on functionality and usability, based on educator feedback

Kiddom 2.0 is available for free for teachers and students and available for use on the web and for iOS at the Apple App Store.

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169 Tech Tip #120–Why Use Airplane Mode

tech tipsIn these 169 tech-centric situations, you get an overview of pedagogy—the tech topics most important to your teaching—as well as practical strategies to address most classroom tech situations, how to scaffold these to learning, and where they provide the subtext to daily tech-infused education.

Today’s tip: #120–Why Use Airplane Mode

Category: CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT

Sub-category: Hardware, Internet

Q: Why would I use airplane mode when I’m not flying?

A:  Airplane mode stops your phone from searching for an internet connection. If you don’t use it on a long flight, you’ll find your battery drained by the time you land because your phone ran through its power searching constantly for a signal that didn’t exist. If you know you aren’t using the internet for a period of time, switch your phone to airplane mode.

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How to Run a Parent Class

parent-teacher classParents often find technology a roadblock to helping their children with classwork. There are too many geeky tools with too few instructions, and every year, what they thought they understood changes. Like students, they don’t want to sound like Luddites, so they struggle for a while and ultimately give up. With that comes either disinterest or pushback against your efforts to blend tech into learning. Both are dangerous to your teaching goals.

You can solve this by offering tech classes to parents, to teach them either the skills their students are learning or an introduction to tech in their lives. They can be offered while parents are waiting for students to finish after-school activities, as a brown bag lunch program, or online during evenings or weekends via Google Hangout or Skype. Which is best will depend upon the needs and schedules of your parent group. Kick off the program with a poll (use an online platform like Google Forms or PollDaddy, one students use in class) to find out what time works best.

If you find there’s interest, get approval from your administration before going further. There are lots of reasons schools have for NOT offering free classes to parents. Make sure you don’t infringe on any of those before proceeding.

Once you decide to move forward, determine which of two approaches work best for your needs and parent interests:

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169 Tech Tip #119–What to do when Computers are Down?

tech tipsIn these 169 tech-centric situations, you get an overview of pedagogy—the tech topics most important to your teaching—as well as practical strategies to address most classroom tech situations, how to scaffold these to learning, and where they provide the subtext to daily tech-infused education.

Today’s tip: #119–What to do when Computers are Down?

Category: CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT

Sub-category: Problem-solving, teaching

Here are six suggestions:

  • discuss digital citizenship
  • build a digital citizen
  • review computer hardware
  • assess student knowledge with a blank keyboard quiz
  • play Tech Challenge
  • play a tech-themed Jeopardy

For more detail, click the full article. For more ideas, check out these articles:

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What You Might Have Missed in February

tech resourcesHere are the most-read posts for the month of February:

  1. 169 Tech Tip #116–How to Take Screenshots
  2. 169 Tech Tip #115–Three-click Rule
  3. Bring an expert to your classroom for Black History Month
  4. Edit and Share Videos Like a Rock Star
  5. How Tech is Part of my Education, Through the Eyes of a Student
  6. How to Prepare for the SAT Essay
  7. How to Use Google Apps
  8. Touch Typing Basics from KidzType (an infographic)
  9. What’s a Digipuzzle?
  10. What parents should ask teachers about technology

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Subscriber Special: March

Every month, subscribers to Ask a Tech Teacher get a free/discounted resource to help their tech teaching.

March 6th- 15th (ten days only):

Get 10% off for early sign-up for Summer Online Professional Development:

20 K8 Tech Curriculum Webtools in 20 Days

Use Coupon Code: SUBSCRIBERSPECIAL

This is priced for a group of five from a school that wants to learn the tools included in their new tech curriculum. Participants in this four-week online class (you can set the dates for your group as long as it ends by July 31st) will explore twenty of the digital tools used in the Structured Learning K-8 Technology Curriculum. These include 20 webtools from the following comprehensive list:

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13 Ways to Use Canva in Your Classroom

canvaNo one disagrees with the importance of the visual in communicating. The problem usually is creating it. Most teachers aren’t adept at matching colors, picking fonts and font sizes, and then laying everything out artistically. It’s much easier to use text with a few pictures tossed in and leave the artistry for the art teacher. When Microsoft Publisher came out over twenty-five years ago, it was the first major desktop publishing effort to blend layout, colors, and multimedia that was accessible to everyone. Unfortunately, it was (and continues to be) an expensive piece of software not traditionally included in Microsoft’s Office Suite (though that changed with Office 365). That meant MS Publisher skills learned at school were rarely transferrable to a home environment.

Canva changes that. It’s web-based (including apps available for iPads and Chromebooks) with a drag-and-drop functionality that makes the design process simple and intuitive. You can create professional presentations, posters, multi-page documents, marketing materials, social media graphics, and more (see the list below for education) using Canva’s more than 1 million photos, icons, and layouts, each with colors and fonts coordinated into attractive schema easily accessed by both beginners and reluctant designers. There’s no cost when using the thousands of free illustrations and images in the Canva library or uploading your own. For a small fee (usually $1.00), more than one million professional stock images and graphics can be used on a pay-per-use basis.

Educators: Visit Canva for Education to get how-tos, lesson plans, and teacher-oriented advice. One of my favorite features: Student designs can be shared, allowing teachers to view and add comments.

Once a template is selected, many projects can be completed in five minutes:

  • edit text
  • add relevant pictures
  • save/publish

Here’s how it works:

  • Sign in with your Google account or create a separate Canva account (must be 13 or over unless directly supervised by an adult).
  • Select one of the over fifty-six categories such as presentations, posters, greeting cards, infographics, and cover pages.
  • Select a category template that fits the project.
  • Replace text and images.Optionally change colors, size, layering, and more.
  • Save/publish/share.
  • Extras include:
    • themed elements
    • more text
    • more images
    • your own uploaded images

If you have never designed graphically before, start with the free Design School with how-to instructions on many projects and skillsets. There’s even a pithy collection of lesson plans. Follow the directions for the project as you create your own.

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