Stories (An Epiphany)

The thing about stories is that they don’t have to fascinate the storyteller. I mean, the event doesn’t have to be fascinating or extraordinary to you to have meaning to your audience.  Sometimes it’s the mundane that provides a lesson worth telling. I tell stories to my students all the time, some entertaining some not so, and I’m often struck by what they connect with in the story.

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A story I have shared often with my students is the story of a bowling class I took in college. It’s not an interesting story, but I tell them how when I learned how to throw a hook and count boards, I immediately lost 30 pins on my average. I share that story with them to say, “Sometimes when you learn something new or develop a new skill your overall ability suffers in the short term, to make you better in the long term.” I tell them I’m a better bowler now than I would have been had I never learned these skills, but I was a frustrated bowler as I continued to practice. I use the story in math or coaching basketball because sometimes students need to know that learning often comes out of struggle. You backslide and grasp to old habits, but when the challenges get more difficult, you realize the old habits don’t help you, but the new skills and knowledge will. Once I tell the story to a room of fifth graders they start asking me about what my average bowling score was and is now, and I tell them my scores and say, “I’m far from a professional and I don’t play much anymore.” That’s irrelevant because usually when I tell that story it’s for the  benefit of the kids who think “Why do I need to show my work when I can solve it in my head?” or “Why should I shoot the ball from above my head when I make plenty of shots shooting it from my hip?” As teachers and coaches we can see the bigger picture, and our stories, especially ones that tell of our struggles, can help them learn a little more about that picture. Share.

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Three Strategies for Teaching Grammar in ESL

Grammar can often be frustrating for ESL students, partly because many grammar texts contain exercises that use the “drill” method with sample sentences out of context. While the drilling method can be very helpful for students who are in beginning stages of learning English, it may become difficult for more advanced students to apply the structures in their own writing. To help students incorporate their newly learned grammar skills into their writing, teachers can ask students to practice specific skills in a paragraph. As students re-write drafts, the teacher can ask students to focus on another skill. This way, students will not feel overwhelmed or frustrated.

Student Mashari reviews independently

ESL student Mashari, reviews independently whenever he can

Showme has helped me to cut down on the time I spend lecturing on grammar structures in class. With the Showme tutorials, students can watch at home what they do not understand. In class, I can focus more on using the structures in context by asking students to write their own pieces. It is not completely “flipping” the class, but it has made a huge improvement in the way I structure my class sessions; they are no longer just grammar lectures with a bit of time to practice at the end.  I would like to share three strategies that I find successful in the ESL classroom.

First, it is important to collect errors unique to the cultural group(s) a teacher works with. For example, Chinese students tend to have trouble with articles because their language may not have a need for them, while Saudi and some Middle Eastern students tend to have difficulty with Subject-Verb-Object order. As teachers collect work samples, it is wise to also make a list of all the common errors. By using lists of these common errors, teachers can point them out to students so that they become aware that they are incorrect. I normally explain a grammar structure, and after the students have practiced it independently, I often make a list of errors made by previous students and ask them to correct them. Error-correction helps some students understand certain structures better. Creating Showme tutorials for common errors helps students to review them independently.

Second, use a lot of self-talks. This means that as I correct an error on the board, I talk out the steps: “First, I check that my subject and verb are correct; then, I see that the pronoun is “she” which is third person singular, and I see that this needs a third-person-singular‘s’”. I often ask students to do this at the board along with self-talks. Because they are ESL students, they have to internalize these steps. By speaking them out loud while they analyze, their brain has another chance to remember the steps. Of course, the structure of self-talks will depend on the students’ level. I have successfully done this with beginning, intermediate, and advanced English level students, both children and adults. I model self-talks in my Showme tutorials and have noticed that the students who watched them at home often use self-talks on their own in class.

Third, guided note-taking can help students who don’t have the best note-taking habits or lack note-taking experience. How does one take notes for grammar? In addition to what I post on the board and students’ individual notes, I ask students to circle, underline, and draw arrows just as I draw them on the board in their independent homework assignment. I have, over the years, noticed that students who practice this will also do it on an exam, and those students tend to score higher because they caught an error they made and erased it (this also takes years of collecting samples). A teacher will also be able to easily see which students are struggling with a concept because they will often circle or underline incorrectly. Note-taking helps to reinforce students’ memories. The Showme tutorials often show my own underlining and circling which helps encourage students to try out sample exercises the same way.

 After all these strategies have been practiced by the students, I often show a video clip and ask students to write a summary using specific structures from a unit (i.e. parallel structure, adverbs of time, etc.). I like to use Mr. Bean clips or Wallace and Gromit. They are short, funny, and usually have no complicated dialogue, so they’re ideal for any level (writing activities should be tailored accordingly for beginning levels). Finally, this is what Showme has enabled me to do more! I used to never find the time to show a video clip, but now that students get to review common errors in my Showme tutorials, students look forward to writing those summaries! Who would’ve thought? Many of my students used to groan whenever I mentioned a summary. With a video clip, they have something concrete to write about and although the class writes about the same clip, I end up with very original samples that students are proud of!

Our Experience at ISTE 2012

One year ago ShowMe was actually launched at ISTE. Needless to say the ShowMe team was excited to be in San Diego this past Sunday-Wednesday for ISTE 2012. This Conference, hosted by the International Society for Technology In Education (ISTE) is one of the largest Educational Technology events in the world each year. Thousands of people from many different countries gathered together to attend workshops, foster new relationships, and learn about new innovations regarding technology in education.

Things We Did:

On Monday and Tuesday ShowMe had an Ice Cream Truck outside of the convention center handing out free ice cream to all attendees.

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ShowMe team in front of the ice cream truck. Like our shirts?

Happy attendees enjoying ice cream and their new Boxwave styli

The best part of the conference was being able to meet and reconnect with so many awesome people and share ShowMe with them. Special thanks to Donorschoose.org and Boxwave for donating giftcards and styli for us to share with the ShowMe community!

It was really beneficial to have the opportunity to meet current users and hear their ideas and feedback firsthand.  We were finally able to meet ShowMe Ambassador and power user JR Ginex-Orinion*, a Chemistry teacher from Orange County, CA. We also met two educators from Chile,  @jessievaz12 and @titialvayay, who’ve used ShowMe in their classroom, and @kcakderw and Educational Technology enthusiast who created app4ed.com. These are just a few of the awesome conversations we had at ISTE, thanks to everyone who sat down to chat with us! We had a blast!

*JR wrote a great post-ISTE blog post filled with some really good advice if you are interested in attending the conference next year. Take a look here.

 

 

Using ShowMe to Develop Student Created Math Tutorials

This guest post is written by Kelly Wroblewski, a High School Math Teacher in Austin, TX. She and her coworker and fellow teacher William Kiker assigned a fantastic class project to their students, resulting an an entire website of support materials for their Algebra 2 and Pre-Calculus classes. Check out the website here. 

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This past semester, William Kiker and I (Kelly Wroblewski) applied to be part of a pilot iPad program at our high school.  As members of a small project based  learning community within Austin High School in Austin, TX, we latched on to the ShowMe app pretty quickly.  Some of our students use the Khan Academy website as a resource to supplement in-class instruction, but some topics were either unavailable or were not tailored to our courses or textbooks.  Mr. Kiker and I determined we could use the ShowMe app to create videos similar to those found on the Khan Academy website, but specific to our courses at Austin High. Rather than having students hear their teachers yet again in video, we decided to design a project where the students create the instructional materials.  Since we were implementing this project towards the end of the school year, it provided the opportunity for students to review for the upcoming state exam or reflect upon a specific topic from the school year, depending on the needs for that course.

This project required that students create a short instructional video supplemented by a video guide document to lead the viewer through the content and a quiz to assess the viewer’s knowledge over the skills that were taught in the video.  The topics ranged widely from specific objectives from the state exam to specific Algebra 2 and Pre-Calculus concepts.  Though the concepts were quite specific, it was interesting to observe the unique ways in which the students decided to present the topics in their videos.  Using ShowMe as a medium allowed for creativity and individuality while still guiding students to accomplish the overarching video creation task.  What we have compiled as a result of student submissions is our significantly more customized AHS Academy website where students can go for Austin High specific assistance with their math courses.

Overall, this project was a great learning experience for all involved, especially the teachers.  Mr. Kiker and I will be implementing version three of this project next school year in the hopes of expanding and improving upon the current content.  For more information on this topic, or to provide feedback regarding the website, please email me at kwroblew@austinisd.org or Mr. Kiker at william.kiker@austinisd.org.

Announcing ShowMe 3.0!

We are so excited to announce the release of the newest version of ShowMe! In this version it becomes easier than ever before to follow new people, discover great content, and watch ShowMes easily.

Big Changes:

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  • The Look: Unlike older versions, We now have 3 columns at the top of the page. Activity, Explore and My ShowMes.
  • Create an Account: When you create a new account we now ask that you follow at least one topic. New users automatically follow a few of our favorite users so you can see awesome content in your activity feed from day one.
  • Facebook Integration: You can now add ShowMe to your Facebook timeline! Let your friends know when you create a new ShowMe or like a lesson.
  • Easier to upload and add topics: It is now easier than ever to share your ShowMes publicly and include topics!
The Look:

There are now three different sections in ShowMe. Activity, Explore and My ShowMes. You can always create a ShowMe by selecting the button in the top right corner of the app. You can edit your profile or log out of your account by selecting your name in the top left corner of the app.

Activity: The activity page lists the most recent activity taken by the people you follow on ShowMe. You’ll know if someone you follow creates a new ShowMe or likes another user’s lesson.

Explore: This is where Search is permanently located. You can also peruse Featured ShowMes and Featured Users, chosen for their exceptional content, by our staff. Or you can click on a topic image to browse what that topic has to offer.

My ShowMes: This page is where all of your ShowMes (on iPad and uploaded to web) are located. On the top of the page you can edit your profile description. Above your ShowMes you will several options. You can view ShowMes on your iPad, on the web and manage them by uploading or sharing with others. You can see the people you follow, the topics you follow and ShowMe’s you’ve liked in the past.

Create an Account:
Now when creating an account you are asked to follow a few topics. With this information we compile a list of stand-out users that create awesome content for you to follow! You can also create an account using information from facebook or twitter.

Optional Facebook Integration:
Now you can automatically share ShowMes you’ve recently watched or created on your Facebook timeline. The first time you login it will ask you if you’d like to integrate. If you are interested in integrating later, simply login to your account on the website (not the app), hover over you name and select “settings”. There you will see the option to activate ShowMe integration on your timeline!

Easier to Upload ShowMes and Add Topics:
We’ve made it easier to add topics with topic buttons listed for some more popular topic choices. After you create a ShowMe you are automatically sent to upload, making the process more streamlined. To share a ShowMe to twitter or facebook simply click the their corresponding gray icon. To upload the ShowMe privately, simply click the small lock on the left side of the box.

After you update the app, let us know how you like it by sharing ideas, feedback, or questions!

Friday Round Up 6/22/2012

Happy Weekend Everyone! We hope to see some of you at ISTE in San Diego from Sunday June 24th to Wednesday June 27th! Take a peek at our collection of ISTE Survival Guide ShowMes here. 

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AFT and Britain’s TES Connect Unveil ‘Share My Lesson,’Which Will Become Largest Online Site for U.S. Teacher Resources
This is a press release from the American Federation of Teachers. They, along with Britain’s TES Connect,  just released the website Share My Lesson which is now the largest online community for US teachers to share their lesson plans, resources and ideas. AFT president Randi Weingarten explained that this initiative aims to help teachers that often face barriers to receiving free shared resources from other teachers across the country. The website will allow teachers to upload resources as well as rate and review resources of others. An important additional feature will be the high supply of resources created to support Common Core Standards, which are being implemented in 46 states this Fall. Randi Weingarten believes this will become the “single most important tool the AFT has launched in over a generation.”

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7 Things Graduating Seniors Should Know About College
These tips are a compilation of excerpts from the book “The Secrets of College Success” by Lynn F Jacobs and Jeremy S. Hyman. They focus on the academic side of college, topics ranging from when to pick your major, to what to expect when writing a paper. Jacobs and Hyman make the great point that a college paper requires “analysis and research” at a much higher level than high school. (This was something that took me a few months to fully grasp in my freshman year!)

Before Standardized Tests, Teaching Children Not to Drown
Swim For Life is a project in New York City that was brought to life parks commissioner Adrian Benepe, who knew many drowning deaths each year could be prevented if everyone had access to swim lessons. Although weekend and summer courses are available in the city, Benepe felt it was important that swim lessons were provided to students during school hours. Over the past 18 months 14,385 second graders in New York City have participated in swim lessons during school hours at indoor pools across the city. The program has been a success, especially for those students that  started the program petrified of water. After ten weeks these students were able to confidently and happily swim.

Developing A Student iPad Leadership In Your School
Many kids have the ability to pick up an iPad and begin downloading apps and playing games within minutes. However key skills like troubleshooting issues, keeping safe online and learning effectively through technology may not come as naturally to students. It is our responsibility as educators to teach students proper digital citizenship. This article contains several awesome resources you can use to teach your students how to troubleshoot problems and use an iPad effectively and safely in school.

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