I want to teach in Dysart Schools

So today’s post comes from a discussion I had with my boss yesterday. His children go to school in the Dysart Unified School district in the Phoenix area. Over the weekend he attended a technology night the discussed what technology they are using in the classroom. By the end of the conversation, I was green with envy. the thing I was most impressed with is there implementation of QR codes. Apparently what they are doing is recording the classroom lectures. The homework assignment has a QR code already printed on it. The teachers then upload the video of the lesson that the did in class, attach it to the QR code. Bingo Bongo you have help on your homework if you get stuck! Now I could probably figure out I way to have implemented this on my own, but the fact that this is a district imitative just amazes me.

The second item for discussion is a paper I’ve been reading that is wrinkling my brain. I want to say that it’s completely changing my thought process on teaching, but really it’s putting things I’ve observed onto paper in a more educated way then I could put it. The paper is Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A Framework for Teacher Knowledge and it’s been awesome. Basically the authors, (side note, I had a professor in college who would make us write abstract’s on Supreme course cases that had to be 300 words or less. Let’s see if I can still do it), breaks down teaching into 3 realms, Content, Pedagogy, Technology. Often these three things are handled mutually exclusive of each when in reality we should be building our knowledge on how these things intersect. For example, author talks about how not only is there Pedagogy but content pedagogy. How is teaching history different than teaching math. The author mentions preconceived notions that students have and having to overcome those. This put my teaching in government in DC in a whole new perspective as my students have an inherent distrust of the government, specifically the federal government, that I didn’t happen when teaching government in Arizona. In the realm of technology, the author put into words a problem I had with my principal that I discussed in my second post. She wanted me to use more technology for a lesson that in my opinion didn’t need it. As my wife pointed out later, pens and paper are technology. The author states that these have become transparent technology, something we are so used to they have become common place. When new disruptive technology comes out, we have to rethink our pedagogy to understand how that technology is going to change the way we teach. To sum it up, “Thus, our model of technology integration in teaching and learning argues that developing good content requires a thoughtful interweaving of all three key sources of knowledge: technology, pedagogy, and content.” (Bonus, summary is under 300 words when taking out the initial sentence used to set up the paragraph. Still got it!)

Power On!


So a couple of things for my small crew of followers, I am going to try to update this on a more regular basis. Right now we are going to start shooting for a new update every Tuesday at minimum.  Secondly, I am soooo behind on a masters program I started. It’s pathetic. While I was talking to my professor though, he commented that if I have geography topics in here I can use this as a capstone project. So the moral of the story is expect some geography stuff thrown in here now. You saw a nice taste of it with my last post on Geoguessr. I presented that lesson last week at the Arizona Geographic Alliance. If any teacher is reading this in Arizona and you’re not a member, join! One of best network of support I’ve been a part of. But the lesson went over with a resounding success.  So my next post will be a first impressions on the Learning Managment System, Canvas, I’ve been helping to implement in my district.

And as always,

Power On!

Geoguessr – Try not to get too sucked in

So I’m finally starting to settle into my new job as a technology trainer. It’s interesting to see things from the district office stand point, instead of the little fiefdom of my class room. The biggest issue I’m dealing with now is our district’s implementation of Canvas LMS. I think this has the possibility of being a great service, but getting teachers to buy in is difficult. Both Canvas and teaching buy in I’m going to talk about in a later post.

The true reason of this post is a lesson I’ve created that I’m going to be presenting soon. Thanks to this xkcd comic my wife and I got addicted to geoguessr. Geoguessr takes images from Google Street View and plops you down some place in the world and you have to figure out where you are at. My wife and I immediately started thinking about the educational value of this item. Fast forward a couple months and I request for presenters is sent out. I started doing some research and came across this Slate article. 5 days later, I’ve got a lesson plan using Geoguessr as a tool for critical thinking skills with human/cultural and/or physical geography. Feel free to take a look and provide any comments, suggestions, or criticisms.



The Details are the Picture

And as always Power On!

Review and How To Socrative

So first off, so my follower(s) for the long delay between post. Since the last post: My wife gave birth to our first kids, yes kids; we then moved across the country. To top that all off, I started a new job. Originally I had been interviewing for regular classroom teaching positions. Once again, it’s all about who you know though. An old friend of mine told me of a technology trainer position that was opening up in his district. After much editing of resume and long delays with their HR department I was hired. Yes I have my dream job. So far, it’s been quite nice.

but on to the real reason why you are here. Socrative is a student response system. I remember years ago (3 years ago to be exact), my wife talking about student response clickers her school bought. The only problem is that they were difficult to use and required proprietary software. On top of that they were expensive meaning that they only had a few sets for the entire school. Socrative eliminates that problem. Using a smart mobile device or a computer browser, Socrative puts a response system into every students hand. If I were in the classroom today, I would be using this to facilitate my warm ups as I teacher can create a multiple choice, true/false, or short answer quiz and have the students take it when they walk into class. On top of that, Socrative then grades the quiz (mc or t/f, short answer you still have to grade yourself) and spits out a nice Excel spreadsheet of scores for you. The best part about this system, FREE. So take a look at a training video explaining Socrative I put together for my application to my current job.

Power On!

Review Anki Flashcards

Anki is the concept of notecards for the 21st century. I was a big fan of Anki when the first version was released, but I had to reacquaint myself when they switched to version 2.0. With that said, now that I’ve been able to familiarize myself with the new interface I love it. I’m not alone in this affinity for Anki either.  A former college classmate, who is easily one of the top five smartest people I know said he would bow down (to Anki) and worship it! So beware, Anki flashcards may just become your new religion. What makes Anki so awesome that it verges on the edge of deification? To begin with: the flexibility of the card system and the portability.

 First off, Anki could be used as nothing more than a glorified notecard. It allows you to construct your basic card with a front and back. You can set the system to do your standard review showing the front or the back for you to correctly identify the other side.  That’s nothing special and as easily achievable with paper, rocks, wood chips and the like.

Now here’s where the beauty of Anki comes in though. This Lifehacker article suggests the best way to learn a new language is to associate new words with pictures.  The article highlighted Anki because the platform is capable of associating words with pictures.  To test this type of flashcard out, I created a deck that used pictures for Spanish verbs. Again, this might be achievable with paper, but Anki comes with the flexibility to associate a concept with a visual representation or a word-based representation.  So far, I’m sold.

The next flexible feature is the cloze cards of Anki. In working with historical facts, the cloze cards are what I would probably use most often. With the cloze system, I can create a card that says, (Robert E Lee) was a (general) for the (Confederacy). The items in the parenthesis are essentially wildcards. When Anki displays the card, one of those wildcards will be missing and waiting to be filled in by the studious student. 

The other nice feature is the field system that was implemented with version 2.0.  This new field system is what stymied me the most, but now is an awesome feature.  With this feature I can create fields that will be used a templates to help populate other cards. For example, my wife, who is an English teacher, would like to spend less time and effort grading vocabulary and give students more effective and differentiated practice time with new words. With Anki I created a card template that contained the word, definition, synonym, antonym, etymology, and a sentence. When reviewing, the card will display the definition, synonym, antonym, etymology, or the sentence at intervals with the reviewer connecting the vocabulary word to all six fields.  My wife can’t wait to see what happens when she gets to stop handing out (and grading) vocabulary worksheets and instead focus on study aids such as Anki flashcards.

Oh yes, even with all that flexibility, there is even more awesomeness to Anki. With Anki, you can sync your decks to a Smart Mobile Device, your desktop, or the web, giving students almost no excuse not to be able to study. The reason why I say ‘almost’ is my one detraction against Anki. While the app is free on Android, it is unreasonably priced at $25 for iOS devices. The ability to use it on the web or a desktop should be able to mitigate the high pricing for Apple fans.

Essentially, teachers can use Anki to create decks that students can then import into their profile to use to study on the device (priced accordingly) of their choice or availability. On the educational theory side, Anki uses spaced repetition in order for the reviewer to learn the content. When answering a card, at the bottom there are choices the reviewer can select that correlates with how easily you were able to get the answer. The variable on when you will see that card again is dependent on your response. For example, when it is first seen a card will have the options of; Hard:1 minute, Good:10 minutes, Easy:1 day. As you study more and more, the timing will be space out farther. This system allows the student to focus on the things that they need to study but keeps the material they know around for a random pop in.

On a final note, I think the implementation of Anki would take some time. The user interface for card creation in version 2.0 took me some time to learn, and I consider myself rather savvy at deciphering convoluted interfaces. I believe though with proper training, this tool could be a huge asset in any curriculum in a school.  It’s definitely a plus, but also something to develop over the Summer to be ready to go with implementation during the school year.

Power On!

Review MyScript Calculator

Review MyScript Calculator

Alright this one goes out to all my math friends in the audience (maybe 2 people). It’s rough to watch students today who can’t do basic math problems like 10×10, but this app is for more advanced math. MyScript calculator is a free (a word I like to hear the most) app that can do advanced (or what is advanced to me) math functions. Install this on any smart mobile device (smd) running Android or iOs, and give students a replacement TI calculator (of course I still haven’t been able to find a suitable replacement for the TI Drug Wars game). Using your finger or a stylus, the app will use hand writing recognition to write out the formula and solve it. Any math student should have this handy app installed on their smd.

Basic operations: +, -, x, ÷, +/-, 1/x
Misc. Operations: %, √, x!, |x|
Powers/Exponentials: ℯx, xy , x2
Brackets: ( )
Trigonometry: cos, sin, tan
Inverse trigonometry: acos, asin, atan
Logarithms: ln , log
Constants: π, e, phi.

Power On!

Review and How to QR Codes


For this post we are getting both a review and tutorial on QR codes. At least I’m going to share how I have implemented them in my classroom recently. QR codes began as a tracking device for auto manufacture. With the rise of smart mobile device (smartphones, iPod Touch, iPad, other tablets)(SMD), they can be utilized in the educational setting. The code allows you to link a website, 160 characters of text, phone number, SMS, or contact information on a scan able item.

I’ve used QR codes once and I have another lesson set up to use them again soon. So far I’ve implemented them gallery walk style. When we were studying World War I propaganda, I found the posters I wanted the students to study then created a Google site with those posters. I then created a QR code that sent the students to the link to look at the posters individually. This proved beneficial for me as my printer doesn’t have color ink, color being critical for propaganda. In addition, instead of creating a PowerPoint where every student had to go at the same pace it allowed the students to go at their own pace.  They could have just visited the website, but the QR code isolated each piece of propaganda as a small chuck. This system also opens up differentiated instruction possibilities. For instance, when reading a document you can put a code on for students that could provide different scaffolding tools like word definition. You can specify to students what codes they need to scan or what codes that they don’t need to do. The next lesson I’m using QR codes with will be examining the effect of World War I on African American life in the U.S. For this lesson, instead of creating a site, I’ve linked to codes to other sites and the students have to take notes and report back. This negates the need for a computer lab, but still allows students to access outside material using their smart mobile device.

The students seem very receptive to the process. They liked the ability to get up, walk around and go at their own pace. For the few students who didn’t have an SMD, they were able to share with another student who did have one and still accomplish the task.

The process is rather simple. There are several QR code generating sites. I use www.qrcode.kaywa.com to generate mine. This site gives you the option to create either free static codes, so once they are created the code can’t be altered. You can also do 5 free dynamic codes, or more with a paid monthly subscription. Dynamic codes give you the ability to alter the destination of the code. They also give you the ability for analytics, but these are mostly geared towards businesses.

There are numerous other ways codes can be utilized. I’ve read of teachers putting them on worksheets to get the answers for previous homework assignments. I’ve seen a Periodic Table of QR codes. And this website has even more ideas.

How To

Step 1: Decide what you want to codify.

Step 2: Go to www.qrcode.kaywa.com


Step 3: Create the code.

Step 4: Right click on the code and select copy


Step 5: Insert QR code into Word document and print


Step 6: Post and have fun

Power On!