Monday, June 24, 2013

Who's iPad is on 1st? No, that's What... Why? Hmmmm....

Do you have a tablet or smart phone that is still defaulted to the stock photo background it came with? This can be a real security problem especially in offices or schools where everyone has the same device, case and only a serial number sticker to tell them apart. 

Save yourself a headache and make a "lock screen" so your device is personalized. It doesn't have to contain any personal information (like a photo of you) unless you want it to. For classrooms of iPads, especially in the younger grades, a student picture may be the way to go since they can't read each others names. 

Click here to watch a screen cast from start to finish, of how to change your lock screen.

OR... are you a directions follower? Here is your to-do list:

  1. Find a background picture you like, preferably from Google Images so it is different from the stock backgrounds that everyone else already has. 
  2. Save it to your iPad's camera roll
  3. Open the Skitch program and import the picture you chose.
  4. Write a lock note like "Bart's iPad" on top of your picture with the pen tool
  5. Click the "share" button that looks like a rectangle button with an arrow (top right)
  6. Select "Camera Roll" again to save your annotated picture
  7. Find the picture in your photos and click the "share" button again
  8. Select "Use as Wallpaper"
  9. Select "Set Lock Screen" and then exit the program
  10. Click the sleep/awake button to make sure it saved.
The below example is what I would suggest doing with your younger students (sans cat). The name on the iPad doesn't matter as much as the picture but it's helpful to have both the name and the picture on the device in case you have a substitute teacher or other classroom assistant in your room. 

I was trying to do my best Caesar Flickerman pose, but clearly I need some work.

In other news, I have begun work on my second workbook, entitled "Advanced Coordinate Graph Art for Grades 6-8: Transformations in the Coordinate Plane". To be written, edited and published some time this summer. I have much of it mapped out in my head, but I haven't had the time yet to sit down and flesh out the details. What I can tell you, is that the sections will look like this:

Section 1: Review the Basics of Cartesian Coordinate Graphing
graph in Q1, Q1&4, Q1&2, Q1-4 + Q1-4 challenge puzzle

Section 2: All about Translations
graph in Q1, Q1&4, Q1&2, Q1-4 + Q1-4 challenge puzzle

Section 3: All about Dilations
graph in Q1, Q1&4, Q1&2, Q1-4 + Q1-4 challenge puzzle

Section 4: All About Reflections
graph in Q1, Q1&4, Q1&2, Q1-4 + Q1-4 challenge puzzle

Section 5: All About Rotations
 graph in Q1, Q1&4, Q1&2, Q1-4 + Q1-4 challenge puzzle

Section 6: Transformation Challenge! Mixed (X,Y) Rules
-translation + dilation (larger)
-translation + dilation (smaller)
-translation + dilation (X larger, Y smaller)
-reflection + dilation (X smaller, Y larger)
-rotation + dilation + translation

I did two self-edits, one peer edit and one set of student edits before publishing my last book. It's now much earlier in the summer the second time around, and I don't have a class of students to fall back on anymore as my guinea pigs. If you are interested in editing a section for me, I will send you a free digital copy of the final product once it is published, and list your name on the copyright page as an editor. Win Win!

Drop me a line at if you are interested.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Zombies invading Wikis near you!

Greetings and Happy Summer Zombie followers! Nearly two weeks after school ended, I finally have a day to sit down and catch up on life. Housework is out of control so I figure a few more days of laundry/dishes piling up won't make much difference. 

What will make a difference, in the short and long term, is sharing the amazing things my students accomplished in the last few weeks of school. In addition to building a Stage 5 Tetrahedron, we also built our own collaborative Wikis that are now public and editable by members of the Wikispaces community.

You may be asking yourself, "What's a wiki?" The simple answer: a wiki is a website developed collaboratively by a several users, where any user can add/delete/modify content. The best wiki sites (like are free and have their own web software that is easy to use and requires little to no web development skills on the part of its users.

Wikipedia is the most popular example of a wiki. It is a free, online encyclopedia that is amazingly accurate, although anyone on the planet can edit the content. One of the authors of the textbook for my technology course actually tested this theory, by posting 13 pieces of false information on Wikipedia. All were corrected within a few hours!!!

So how did all of this come about in my classroom? Well, I had to make a wiki for my grad class anyway and figured it minus well be a purposeful task. I absolutely loathe doing projects for "school" that serve no purpose in my real life. You'd think we'd take that comment more to heart for our own students, since I'm sure they feel it too. 
We were covering linear equations in my regular math classes, and sequences in my accelerated math class. In my search to find an engaging chapter opener, I stumbled across the Fibonacci video at the top of the page. I was brought almost to tears watching how amazingly mathematical nature is. Not only did I show it to my class, I also linked it to the aloe picture on the home page of the Sequences wiki so students could watch it again if they wanted to.

I made two wikis and let the students contribute to them as an assignment choice. I still offered the book and worksheet assignment options as I always do on my math menus, but I went heavy on the technology to stimulate interest and engagement during those last few weeks. Boy did it work out! I've never been able to teach new concepts so late in the year (especially after state testing is over), and have students actually excited to keep learning past grade level standards. Here is what their last menu of the year looked like.

In developing the wiki pages, many of the students were interested in the photo journal choice. I gave them time to use their smart phones at home and school to walk around (with a pass) and take pictures of linear equations and/or sequences. They emailed, texted, Instagrammed, and in some cases, directly posted their pictures either to the wikis or to the Pinterest boards I'd made using universal student logins. This circumvented the issue of students who are not allowed to have their own emails, in that they could sign in as a student, and still use Pinterest and Wikispaces. 

I would recommend teaching Pinterest posting, Wiki building and Google video/picture searching/saving in small chunks, to small groups of students. And NOT just your G/T group. Some of your lowest, most uninvolved students will be really engaged in technology assignment opportunities. This is one of the biggest benefits to the Flipped Classroom model; my students were able to read the lesson and take notes, and watch example-by-example How-To videos on Holt McDougal's online site

When class time rolled around, we did a quick warm-up of the concepts they had read, talked through the lesson and what was easy/confusing/too hard for them and I had to reteach. Then, we still had 75% of the class time to work on their assignment choices. They branched out all over the place; some doing worksheets with their work groups, others roaming the halls for the photo journal, and still others getting help from me and other tech-savvy students to work on the wiki on our school laptops. We still had a summative quiz, which by then, most students felt was extremely easy. 

The most valuable learning, however, was looking through the Wikispaces sites and Pinterest boards we had created, and having the students feel they had contributed to something important and meaningful that is out there "published for the world to see". 

My challenge to you, fellow educators and blog readers, is to click on the wiki picture/links above, peruse what we have made, and see if this is something your students would like to be a part of. You can either start your own, or join WikiSpaces and ask to be added to our Slope and Sequences wikis. I would be thrilled to see our wikis grow as more classrooms jump on board.

Now get outside! Get off your computer/device! Lay in a hammock somewhere in the shade, sip a giant iced tea, and do nothing. While you do that, I'm going to attempt to go out for a 10K run. Although... it's pretty hot and humid... maybe I should take a nap instead ;)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Exponential Growth of Zombie Brain Decay & Tetrahedrons!

Well folks, we have reached the end of another amazingly transformative year. My biggest regret is that life trumped my ability to blog. Although, I have switched over to "micro-blogging" on Twitter, so if you're not following me there yet, you're missing out on my more frequent (and less wordy) life/school updates. So much has happened since my last post, I hardly know where to start! Maybe working backwards is best. 

This past Saturday I ran my first half-marathon and nearly fainted. Everyone said, "It's really hilly!" and I assumed they meant just the downtown portion. I knew that, and had trained on it. Lake Waconia looks relatively flat, from a distance, but IT IS NOT. Thank goodness for the Twin Cities Orthopedics Pacer Team who kept me going with all their shouting and cheering on. I finished with a personal best of 2:01! 

It's laughable to look back on my first day running, almost exactly a year ago, and how much I whined about my 2-mile run being as bad as child birth. Now, here I am, running 13 miles at a 9:11 minute pace. If I can do it, anyone can do it. Really and truly. Start small and set goals. Keep a fit journal. You'll get there eventually!

Backing up further, I am proud to say that my 7th graders this year exponentially surpassed last year's goal of a Stage 4 tetrahedron (256) and built a Stage 5 tetrahedron! (1024 individually cut, folded, taped and glued tetrahedrons). We made individual nets that were slightly smaller than last year, knowing that the Stage 4's wouldn't fit through my classroom door otherwise. 

I used the Educreations app on my iPad, projected onto my Smart board, to launch the project. I took screen shots and uploaded photos to my iPad on slides in the app, and then hit the "play" button and dubbed over each slide. It took me about 4 tries to get comfortable with my own recorded voice, not say "um" every two seconds, and figure out exactly what I was trying to say.

Students in four PLP's (prescribed learning periods) and one math class, took part in constructing the Stage 5. It all came together at the second to last hour of the day, on the last instructional day of the year. Talk about cutting it close! This is as big as you can go, without reinforcing the corners and connectors with some sort of Popsicle sticks. 

Click here for more information about the book that inspired our class, and how to get started on your own version of this interdisciplinary project.

Rewinding a few more weeks, when I was still well into training for the race, and my students were hard at work on their first Stage 4, I finished my Learning Technologies Certificate from Learner's Edge. The best part of this distance learning program, is that they partner with Pacific Lutheran University. I got 12 semester credits for a fraction of the price of attending graduate classes in person. The learning was all hands-on, apply in your classroom today, and very motivating. Highly recommended!

My favorite new skill is building wiki's! (like Wikipedia, except student-made)  A wiki is an online site that allows registered users to interact with and add to the content. You can sign up for free at I found it helpful to create a student account, that anyone could use, so my students without emails could still access the program. Several students created their own wikispaces accounts, and with the tech skills they learned on the projects, can now build their own wiki sites. 

I also created a school Pinterest account, and a student login that could be used, both to find existing pins of slope and sequences, and to upload their work to a safe and secure account (not requiring their own email). Many students were so fascinated by Pinterest that they created their own accounts there too!

Click here to see the Slope Wiki my students built in Math-7 classes.

Click here to see the Sequences Wiki my students built in Accelerated Math-7.
*Click the main aloe picture on the home screen for an amazingly inspiring video on the Fibonacci Sequence in nature!

The last bit of big news is that I applied for, and was hired as, a Technology Integration Coordinator for Waconia Schools! I am really excited for this new role. Many of my coworkers asked, "Why would you want to leave the classroom?" My answer, was that I really don't have to leave the classroom. I get to work in all levels and types of classrooms across the district, as well as sharing instructional and pedagogical best practices with staff! It's really the best of both worlds. For me anyway. 

How will this affect my blog? It won't really... I've always been pretty interdisciplinary-minded, and I'm sure the math focus will still remain. You may notice that I'm posting more about learning technology, standards-based grading, and backwards design (UbD). I'm quite sure that I'll still be a zombie, and in my heart I'll always be a math teacher, even though I'll be reaching out to a wider audience. 

Speaking of... have you read The Fundamental 5 yet? One of my administrators recommended it for staff development and I second his high opinion of the content. It's a fantastic (and short) read. It reminds us all what we already know about best practices for instruction. If you're looking for some inspiration this summer, and/or a guide for PLC or teacher evaluation, this book is as great place to start.

That's pretty much all that's new since my last posting.

Here's my parting thought: 

Teachers tend to keep their blinders on to all that is dirty/broken/unfinished around their house and in their personal lives during the school year. We have that first night of celebrating, "WAHOO! School's out!" Then we go home and open our eyes to the overwhelming mess waiting for us to clean up in just 11-12 short weeks. On top of that, many of us have summer jobs (like writing more books, hopefully?) or attending staff trainings or grad classes... or curriculum writing or teaching summer school. Anyone who says teachers "work for their summers off" is seriously deluded. 

My advice to anyone who is fighting the panic of their summer to-do list, like I am, is to THROW IT AWAY. Mark down on your calendar the dates/events you ABSOLUTELY have to accomplish. Let the rest happen as it will. It's a very powerful feeling to wake up in the morning, and say, "What do I want to do today?" You'll be amazed how much actually gets accomplished and you won't feel so overwhelmed. 

And you won't feel nearly as guilty for taking those well-deserved days off, sipping a margarita and laying out in the hammock, doing absolutely nothing :)

-Zombie Out.