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Friday, June 12, 2015

Lower School THINK Math Tech Programs: Launch Grant 2015

My launch grant explored various math programs to use as a supplement to our first grade Think Math curriculum.  I was looking for a program that was easy to manage, had an at-home component, and was fun for the students.  I explored several programs including IXL, Symphony Math Adapted Mind Math, and Splash Math. 

This was the first program I explored.  It was easy to use and navigate as a teacher.  The graphics and quality to the activities were not great.  Kids found it boring since the activities are basic math sheets that look like worksheets they would complete in class. 

2.  Symphony Math -
            This program provides targeted instruction as well as benchmarks for students to meet.  It is similar to Lexia (phonics program we use) and has an at-home component.  The program was geared towards students who are high-risk math students.  Would look into purchasing singe subscriptions, if available, for students who were in need of targeted math support.
3. Adapted Mind Math -                                                        
            This program provided a free month trial, which I explored as an individual.  There were many categories of math topics to choose from which correlates well with our Think Math curriculum.  The games were fun and there were activities for the different levels so it is appealing to kids.  There is also the opportunity to choose from different levels so it meets the needs of all students from those who need support to those who need extension work.  I came across this program later in the year and wasn’t able to get all the information , but I plan to look into this program for future use in the classroom and at home.

4.  Splash Math -
            This program was the best that I looked at as far as accessibility for teachers to navigate and track student progress.  I could set up a class list and monitor kids work at various levels both at home and in school.  It provides categories for students to select which topic they would like to work on and the topics align with the Think Math curriculum we use.  Under each topic there are various levels, for example, under addition, students can do math facts to ten or work on addition problems using two digit numbers.  The games are fun and the students reported that they enjoyed the games for practice.  There is opportunity for students to move to the different sections with ease while playing so they have a variety during their time in the program.  The student reports the teacher can access are clear and provide accurate information about student progress within each section along with information about whether they have mastered the skill or need additional practice.    

I piloted Splash Math in my classroom for several weeks, having the children use the app during morning choice time.  The positives were that it was fun to play, easy to use, and covered a wide range of topics, which matched well with our Think Math curriculum.  The one negative was the difficulty using the program on an ipad with just a trial subscription.  Moving forward I would like to explore more about Splash Math versus Adapted Mind Math to see which would better suit the needs of first graders at BB&N.  I will also consider the cost of each program versus the quality of the program and the purpose for the use of the program.  I plan to continue this work into next year with help from Jen to pilot programs and compare positives and negatives of the programs being considered. 

Rachel Stevens

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Evernote in the MS Classroom

For my launch grant, I piloted a project in which students were required to use Evernote to take notes in class to chronicle their work on an iPad (pictures, audio and text) and progress on an independent project, the building of a whirligig. As move we forward with the renovation and the shift with respect to technology (1:1), since I use Evernote for my own teaching and organization, I wanted to explore how to implement the use of Evernote by my students in/for class. Additionally, in our MS Tech Committee meetings, we have dedicated quite a bit of time to the idea of “work flow” and digital organization/management, and I was hoping that this exploration might help to garner some new insights into these discussions.
When we return to the MS post renovation, students will have laptops, so I am thinking about what my parameters around note-taking will be. Some questions for me are/were: Do I want to have a paperless classroom? If so, how do I do that? What is the best tool and what is the most seamless work flow?

Because of my own work with Evernote, I figured it would be great to try with my students. Evernote has a free 1-GB/month plan that students can sign up for with an email account (BBN Gmail), and it is multiplatform (iPad, Android, Mac & PC). Evernote also has many web add-ons and additional supplemental apps (Penultimate for iPad, Skitch for iPad and Mac). Additionally, if the classroom where I teach has an Apple TV, students with Mac devices were able to project their work.
Based on my exploration, I think that as we move to 1:1, Evernote might prove beneficial in many facets of our work here at BB&N.

·      Teaching and learning digital organization
·      Note-taking
·      Creating yearlong portfolios (with both scanned and digital work)
·      Research
·      Sharing notes, ideas, brainstorms electronically
·      Using less paper (we are not yet at paperless) and ink

Right now, since we have a BBN account, I have explored benefits of Evernote Business and have helped other teachers explore and use this tool for planning and/or for teaching. Additionally, during the BB&N un-conference, I offered a workshop on Evernote and have presented my findings at a faculty meeting.   See movie of powerpoint presentation

Rachel Jamison
MS English Teacher

Launch Grant: Tinkering

Combining Art and Technology with Chibitronics

During the 2013-14 school year, Svetlana Grinsphan discovered a technological resourced called Chibitronics. Chibitronics was created by a Ph.D. student named Jie Qi from MIT who combined her passion for craft, art, and engineering and created a DIY manual and kit to that made circuits and LED light accessible to the public. The goal then was to bring this technology into my classroom for students to combine with their art in a meaningful way. That summer, I applied for a Technology Department Launch Grant to make this vision a reality.
This year in the fall, Dan Rile and several of the MS faculty "tinkered" with this technology and brainstorm project ideas. Kelley Schultheis and Svetlana sat with me again in the spring to strategize how students might interact with this new medium.
In the spring, students in my Drawing and Painting Class each received a manual and a kit; together, we explored the instantaneous pleasure of designing a circuit and making something light up. Each student designed a project to incorporate LED lights within their semester-long drawing and painting exploration. The students were given freedom to choose the paper surfaces and drawing materials that would most effectively achieve their vision. The one requirement was that the drawing had to stand alone--it had to be as visually effective alone as with the circuitry enhancements. The students were thrilled with the process from start to finish and were incredibly proud of their accomplishments. For me, working collaboratively with faculty and embarking on this project with a spirit of exploration alongside the students made using unfamiliar technology less daunting. Quite the opposite--I was amazed by the students' exceptionally high level of engagement throughout and the ways in which they helped each other with the challenges they faced in a truly collegial way. The artwork the students my unbiased opinion...were simply stunning"

Here are two websites for Jie Qi and Chibitronics:

Stephanie Moon
2D MS Art Teacher

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Upper School Launch Grant: Experimenting with Instructional Mathematics Videos

Video, as an instructional tool, is on the rise in recent years.   I used my launch grant to learn methods of making instructional videos for the mathematics classes that I teach and how to organize those resources.  In this blog, I will describe three different types of screencasting software and how I created my Google site.

So, which screencasting software is best?  It depends on your comfort level with video-editing software, and how much time you want to spend making your screencasts look professional.  Here’s my opinion of three particular types:

1.  Explain Everything

Explain Everything in an inexpensive app (currently $2.99) only available on an iPad or iPhone.  I never experimented with this software on an iPhone, because I don’t think that the screen is large enough.  In fact, I don’t actually find the screen big enough on an iPad for most of the educational videos that I wish to record.  But if the videos that you want to make don’t need a large screen and if you are comfortable on an iPad, Explain Everything is a very easy piece of software to use.  It records on-screen drawing, annotation, and audio through the iPad microphone.  Exporting your videos is simple.  For a teacher that is an iPad user and wants to begin making videos, I would highly recommend Explain Everything.

2.  Camtasia

Camtasia is available on either a Mac or a PC, but for a cost.  It is a very powerful software product though, and will allow you to do almost everything you would want to do in an educational screencast.  You can record through the webcam or the screen, add clickable links throughout the video, and easily share videos on YouTube.  The possibilities are actually a little overwhelming for the novice videographer.  I would recommend Camtasia only for teachers with some screencasting experience and demanding of a professional result.

My Camtasia Example Video

3.  Screencast-O-Matic

It’s free!  I think it also looks professional.  Both Mac and Windows users can run this software on their computer.  You can have it record your webcam or your screen.  I found it to be rather easy to use and make small edits.  It’s simple to upload videos directly to YouTube or save videos to your computer as an mp4 file.  I think that Screencast-O-Matic offers the optimum combination in terms of features, ease of use, and price.   I highly recommend this software to any teacher who is starting out in screencasting and wants more screen space or edibility than an iPad offers.

My Screencast-O-Matic Example Video

My Google Site

This past year I found that I needed to organize all my online resources in one central location.  My created Google site contains websites that I found to be valuable, instructional videos for different topics, and mathematics software programs, such as graphing calculators.  It also includes suggested follow-up questions to ask students once they have completed watching certain educational videos.  When I have experimented with the flipped classroom approach to teaching, I found it critical to ask my students follow-up questions to videos watched for homework so that I could be sure that they actually watched it and learned something.

My examples of videos with follow up questions

I have learned so much through this launch grant and had fun playing with new technology.  If anyone has questions about making or implementing instructional videos, I would be happy to help!

-Mariah NapeƱas

Monday, June 8, 2015

Upper School Launch Grant: Google Expertise with Haiku influence

Since the beginning of the summer and during the school year, I have been using HAIKU with all my classes as I did in the previous year.  This year in particular, I decided to work on a combination of Google with HAIKU as I requested in my technology grant last summer.

It was very interesting on how easy it is to mix both platforms but at the same time, it was difficult to keep up using it for everything.  I asked my students to use Google docs and Google slides for any work that was requested in the class. This system worked very well.  One of the things that I could not do this year was Google group discussion.  I will be continuing the next school year adding more to what already we do with both, Google and Haiku.

It takes time to explore the endless possibilities I can find, especially with Google. I learned to use the green screen, Camtasia, and Screen cast.  I would love to explore more the Camtasia and Screen cast to create my own grammar videos.  I also learned many similar things in my GOA courses.  This was very important and valuable to do at the same time I was trying to do the grant.

By learning all of these technology techniques I realized that I needed to keep up with my students learning styles and other ways so I could reach each one of their needs.  And I think these two platforms will definitely help me figure out how to access to them either at school, home, or at any place they go.

I post my syllabus and other materials such as videos, readings, pictures, etc. in Haiku.  I also put up Google documents and slides in Haiku.  I started using the Haiku grading system but I stopped after the second semester because I noticed that I wasn’t been fair with the grading system.  This is a big ISSUE that I need to solve and I am asking for help.  At the end of the school year, I had to manually calculate my students’ grades because I got stocked in the program.

Thank you for the opportunity I was given to do this grant.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Upper School Launch Grant: Blogging site

The time and training I received to work on Haiku was very important for me. It was a new platform for me and I needed to have the time over the summer (and the year)  to learn how to use it and also explore whether I needed to use other platforms or not because of possible restrictions with using Arabic. I was (and still am) interested in making Haiku the second textbook for my classes. This grant helped me begin this project and explore options and figure out what will and won’t work for my classes.

My main interest was to offer the students a place to engage the language through blogging but that did not work out as I had imagined so I decided to use Haiku for projects instead and from there try to develop the pages where students find a place to engage the language outside of class time.

I use Haiku now to share links of songs and movies that we watch and talk about in the class…each class has access to material of the previous year and I also post my assignments and syllabus. I also found out the more I use Haiku, the more interest the students have in using it. It is also my goal for next year to connect grading with homework assignment to make it easier for students to keep track of their missing assignments and stay up to date with their grades.

-Amani Abu Shakra

Upper School Launch Grant: Flipped Classroom for Vanguard trainees

 The students who run, write, and produce The Vanguard’s eight issues a year do so with very little reporting experience and no journalism course to drive or direct their efforts. The 10-person editorial board meets with me once a week during Activities and then once before each monthly publication date for an all-out, all-day (and sometimes all-night) production effort to lay out the paper and send it to the printers. Much of the learning is peer-to-peer and goes on behind the scenes, with feedback conversations filling Google docs and running over email from writer to editor, editor to editor-in-chief, EIC to faculty advisor, and back along the chain. Discussions about reporting are more likely to happen during 5-minute hallway interactions or 15-minute lunch breaks than in a controlled and contemplated learning environment.

The Vanguard is by nature a very results-oriented undertaking, then, with much of the process invisible to the novice and daunting for the more seasoned student reporter, who has learned by doing, to explain. The Vanguard “classroom” is by nature already flipped, and with so much to learn, so much to practice and pass on from production cycle to production cycle, it was a perfect candidate for some flipped classroom curricular attention. Over the summer I used a launch grant to learn some new applications in order to deliver task-specific journalism instruction in accessible, appealing ways. I focused on interviewing skills.

Using the presentation software Haiku Deck —which, as far as I can tell, has no relationship to the similarly named online platform that hosts our courses— I built student editors two tutorials to share with new writers as the editors guide them through the process of preparing for and conducting interviews with their sources. The slide format helps the editor pace the conversation, and the visual format makes the steps more memorable while differentiating the material from the slew of word docs and manuals already in the writers’ possession. Here they are:

I wanted to learn Haiku Deck because I’m interested in effective visual storytelling and in easy access to millions of high-quality images already available through Creative Commons. Using it is fun. Beyond applications to The Vanguard, this year I wound up inviting students to build their own Haiku Decks at the end of our Pride and Prejudice unit. The instructions were to present the novel from one character’s point of view using no fewer than 15 and no more than 25 slides and featuring no more than 25 words per slide. I got some hilarious distillations (and the students earned some extra credit while becoming still more tech-savvy). Here’s one from the character Charlotte Lucas, BFF to the protagonist Elizabeth Bennet:

I also learned to use Creatavist, a multi-media storytelling platform I heard about at the Columbia Scholastic Press Association. Because Creatavist can easily embed sound bites and audio files (not to mention images and videos), it helped me complement the how-to decks on interviewing with something more interactive. On Creatavist, I took a not-so-good interview conducted by one of the editors and broke it down for the others, commenting along the way about what was working, what wasn’t, and where the opportunities were for better follow-up questions and changes in the conversational dynamic. It turned into a really cool-looking online resource, sort of like a two-way textbook chapter. To build it, I wound up learning how to convert ma4 recordings into mp3 files and how to trim mp3 files in Quicktime. (I also learned how not to trim audio files in Garage Band).

Here is the link to the interview assessment tool I built on Creatavist:

I also created a Haiku site for The Vanguard where students can access and revisit these and other reporting resources:

All of this was fun. Screenshots of the Haiku Decks’ first slides are attached, in case you want to use either of those as an image for the blog.

-Allison Kornet

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Makey Makey Launch Grant '14-'15

Participants: Maria Elena Derrien & Carol Fine
During the 2014-2015 school year, we explored the use of the MaKey MaKey kits to see their usefulness in the science curriculum. We purchased five kits and spent time tinkering with them to understand how they could enhance what we do. Makey Makey kits as described by their creators are “MaKey MaKey is an invention kit for the 21st century. Turn everyday objects into touchpads and combine them with the internet. It's a simple Invention Kit for Beginners and Experts doing art, engineering, and everything inbetween.” We used the kits during the electricity unit in third grade. Kids had to discover what materials allowed the Makey Makey kits to work and what didn’t to reinforce the concept of conductivity. In addition, we used the Makey Makey kits to host a club during the winter months with students in the New Wing. The Makey Makey club was a big hit! Small groups of students tinkered with the kits and designed their own project. Projects included making human bongos, musical staircases, musical sipping straws, typing with fruit, triggering a video about locks when a door opened, and a digital water fountain prank which took your picture as you took a drink! Please see the link attached to see the kids in action. We also used Makey Makey kits during our Winter Family Science Saturday Extravaganza. The Makey Makey station was one of six tinkering activity centers that families could explore.

We enjoyed tinkering with the Makey Makey kits and finding ways to control the computer with everyday objects. We found the ideal use of the kits was in a more open ended, less content driven setting like the clubs and the family science Saturday event. The kits encourage creativity and problem solving, but required more time that could be given in the structured nature of an electricity unit. As a result of our explorations, we decided that Makey Makey kits would best be suited to an informal educational setting like an afterschool club, a family science saturday, a makerspace, or during club times at the Lower School rather than being a staple of the science curriculum.

To see more information about the MaKey MaKey kits please visit:

To see the kids in action using the MaKey Makey kits please click:

Below are two photos from the Family Science Saturday Maker Extravaganza.IMG_0296.JPG