Saturday, 30 August 2014

Website Layout Success But Problems Embedding Prezis

I've just finished wrestling with a new website for the Year 11 Ecosystems topic that is beginning in a weeks time. After about 4 full weekend days of creating resources, uploading, fiddling with annoying layout issues and creating buttons that are at least a similar size to one another I'm finally happy with how it looks

Along the way I discovered that I don't know how to embed Prezi presentations, so to get around that I tried using Quicktime screen recordings and publishing them through iMovie and Youtube. It worked fairly well (but took a while), and another limitation is that students will need to pause the video if they want to read slower or read again, rather than clicking through a Prezi at their own speed. 

If someone knows how to embed a Prezi then I would be very happy to find out! 

I also found out that you can put tables within tables to help with the layout, and also how important it is to not turn the tables invisible until you're completely done with moving them around.

To make buttons of a similar size I created a background pattern using colorlovers, took a screenshot that was the size of the button I wanted, and then added text to that screenshot in picmonkey. It's taken me about 5 different websites to realise that if I just take a small (button-sized) original screenshot from colorlovers, then I can just take a screenshot of that full size when I'm finished in picmonkey, rather than guessing at how large I should drag the final screenshot.

Now I'm looking forward to seeing how the Year 11's react to the site and the work!

Monday, 11 August 2014

New Tools, Games... Music? in Class

For the last two days I've been experimenting with some different tools and ideas that I haven't regularly used before.

The first was Class Dojo, and it appears to be a hit!  Students compete with each other to earn the different Dojo Points - Starting the Do Now, Working Hard, Helping Others, or being On Task.  Now that I have set up classes online I can wander around holding my cellphone, awarding students points for great work.

 I know that I need to DO something with those points soon though! I have a store of prizes in my office that I need to find time to wrap in newspaper - perhaps the person with the most points each week can do a lucky dip prize draw on Friday! I think it might be a good idea to reset the points at the end of each week and give everyone a clean slate and even footing again, ready for a new week of hard work.

Today I also trialled Socrative Space Race. The first thing I had to do was sign up with school email and create my own quiz questions. Then I could choose whether to run the quiz as Quiz, Quick Question, Space Race or Exit Ticket.

If you select Space Race, you get to choose how many teams you want the students to be randomly assigned into. Socrative gives you a room number (my Chemistry Quiz is in Room 688040, as you can see below).  When students come to play all they need to do is enter that room number and wait for the teacher to click 'Start Activity' once everyone is ready. Then they enter their names and answer questions correctly to help their space ship blast as far as they can!

Something else I have been trying a little is using music in class.  Last week I played 2 minutes of Pharrell's song "Happy" while one of my classes packed up after a messy Elephants Toothpaste experiment. Before the music came on they were dragging their feet a little, but with the upbeat song playing, clean-up became a breeze! I will definitely play music during pack-up again, but I need to make sure the lyrics are clean and wholesome! Perhaps this can be a weekend project for me, compiling a list of usable, upbeat songs for clean-up time.

In a similar vein, today with one of my classes I played Motzart during the Do Now. I think that it settled them some, but I need to repeat this experiment and observe the outcome again!  Some students requested we let the song play on beyond the Do Now, others didn't enjoy it as much. 

I also had a go using movement to help another class remember a concept they have been struggling with; the difference between reactants and products. I got this idea from observing a wonderful maths teacher in my school - she taught her class a rhyme with actions to help her them remember a division concept!

We constructed a rhyme together - "reactants are ingredients you need at the start, products are what you see at the end, made of new parts" (we toyed with the lyrics "like a piece of art," but decided it wasn't as good) - and then I made up a few actions to go with the lyrics.  As we practiced it together some moves were altered (my original action for "new parts" was not specific or cool enough to start with) and I gradually rubbed words off the board until everyone could remember the actions and rhyme without reading the words.

After a few rounds of this I thought we had finished so I went to move on to the next activity when a student said "we should try it without you Miss," which I thought was a GREAT idea! So everyone did it one more time without me. We will see tomorrow whether this helped the class remember the difference between reactants and products! 

For some summarising activities recently I've been using to create some really visually appealing (if I may say so myself) infographics. They are incredibly easy to make, by dragging and dropping different components and double-clicking on any text you want to change. By downloading or taking screenshots of the canva creations I've been able to put them into Google Drawings and add text boxes over the top for students to write their observations or summaries into.  Check out the image below to see how Caroline shared her understanding of Gas Tests:

The next step will be for students to create their own infographic, using either or or piktochart.  I think I will try this with PLa first, as they all have working netbooks.  I could also envision maths teachers using, and next year I would love to get some seniors to make summaries of biological concepts with Piktochart, perhaps like this one: