WCMS Tech Talk

Fall Edition, 2015-2016

This is the first of four newsletters the WCMS technology committee will be sending out during the school year. Our goals for this newsletter include: giving you ideas to think about when implementing technology, sharing technology that is being used around the building, keeping you informed on what apps and websites you might find useful, and highlighting teachers and departments each quarter and how they use technology to promote student engagement and success.

WCMS Technology Committee

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Department Spotlight: 8th grade Math

In the past, technology was not used very often in the mathematics department here at WCMS. Of course calculators have been used fairly regularly, but other than that, it was difficult to start to incorporate technology into everyday lessons. After the introduction of the Promethean Boards, things began to change.

With the help of the Promethean Boards, more interesting lessons could be created. Students could now interact with the different features of the board instead of being glued to their seats for an entire class period. However, more technology was soon on the way to enrich the minds of our young pirates.

Laptops and smart phones began a shift in the way that technology could be used to enhance the daily lesson. Apps such as Kahoot!, allow for students to review basic arithmetic in a easy to use, competition atmosphere. Board races and repetitive paper worksheets are now a thing of the past! Laptops brought along a wide variety of programs that enables students to learn in their own way. IXL and I-Ready are two math programs that allow a teacher to see student progress through various mathematical subject matters and provide instant feedback to student users. YouTube channels such as Khan Academy provide lessons for students who are struggling with a particular topic or may have missed a day of class.

Specifically, the 8th grade math teachers, use Chromebooks every Friday to work on Geometry based state standards using online programs such as IXL and Geogebra as well as other geometric based games (ShapeMods, Transtar, etc.). These standards are often overlooked due to time constraints, but by using technology, students are engaged in the topics through games and other hands on activities.

Looking forward, a plan for a PBL involving BYOD devices and different systems of equations is in the brainstorming and initial drafting phases. Ellen and Kelli plan to continue to use technology as a way to provide a better learning environment for our students here at WCMS. The ability to use technology to gain instant feedback while working on homework problems is a huge asset that can boost any student’s level of understanding.

News You Can Use: BYOD Student Survey

Last spring the technology committee surveyed our very own WCMS students on their usage of technology in the classroom. Students were asked what types of devices they bring to school each day, as well as the purposes for using those devices. Overall the results were very eyeopening to us as a committee. We learned more about our building in terms of BYOD and hope to use this new knowledge to foster a better educational environment for both our students and fellow educators. Some of the results from those surveys are pictured here. It is important to note that over 80% of our students bring a device to school on a regular basis. It is also a very good sign to see that almost all of the different classes offered at WCMS are utilizing technology in one way or another. However, when asked what they use their device for the most often during the school day, students responded with "music' or "social media/gaming/texting" over "educational activities".
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Student Perspective: BYOD at WCMS

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App Highlight: Socrative

Socrative is a free, user-friendly app that delivers several options for live interaction between students and teachers through web-enabled devices. Classes of up to 50 students can be created, and teachers can deliver formative assessments in several different formats including multiple-choice, short answer, and true/false questions, quizzes, space races, and exit tickets. Immediate reports are generated and sent to teachers via email. Check out this link for more info: Socrative Overview

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Teacher Spotlight: Kelli Williamson

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How do you integrate technology into your classroom and teaching style?

In the "old days" math teachers had to rely on a chalkboard, and if you were lucky, an overhead projector, to try to model various mathematical concepts with their students. Modern technology has enabled me to make those concepts more concrete and visual for my students. Online graphing calculators are useful for observing the relationship between linear, non-linear, and exponential equations and their graphs. Practical applications of math, algebra and geometry are greatly facilitated by the use of the Internet. Last year's kids designed a beautiful tile floor for my upstairs bathroom. They researched everything on-line from what materials would be needed to the available shapes of sizes of tiles and trim pieces. It turned out beautifully!!! The year before that, they discovered, much to their dismay, that it was mathematically impossible for Santa to deliver presents to the entire world in a single night. Both projects made great use on online research. Finally, the use of geometry programs give us the opportunity to experiment with relationships between area and perimeter, number of sides and interior angles, parallel lines cut by transversals and their angles. The students can create the shapes or systems, and then manipulate and change them with a simple click and drag, while the values that are changing do so automatically in a virtual chart.

What benefits do you see from using technology?

I think the most obvious and important benefit is that we are really preparing our kids for life in the workplace! It's hard to name a profession that doesn't at least use technology in some way. In most cases, technology makes up a large part of the day-to-day processes and duties of the typical employee. Our kids will enjoy a seamless transition from school, to college, to work. They will be prepared to meet the technological demands of their careers.

How do you see your classroom evolving with future technology use?

I am VERY excited about the future of teaching in a technologically advanced environment!!! 5 years ago I would have handed my students a calculator and a piece of graph paper. Today, they whip out their smart phone and open their graphing calculator app. I can only imagine what our classrooms will be like 5 years from now! I imagine that my students will have access to a computer everyday right at their desk. When we need to know the population density of our city, or the distance to Mars, the information will be right there, sitting right in front of them, available when they need it!

Anything out there technology wise you'd like to try but haven't yet?

I would like to use handheld technology in the classroom to involve more students in the question/answer process. I'm not sure if I'm even saying this right, but I would like to be able to post a question on a flipchart, and have the students respond (all of them, not just the ones who raise their hand) via hand-held device so that all students answers can be shown, anonymously of course :) Another thing that interests me, and goes along with my first wish, is to have a tablet available for each student. I know a lot of teachers online talk about lessons they have designed for IPads or tablets. That would be great as those are becoming more popular and more versatile!

Recommendations to other teachers about using technology?

I think my biggest recommendation is 'talk to the kids!' I grew up before computers were commonplace, and I frequently go to the kids when I want to know what's happening in the tech world. Our students are on top of this stuff!! They wanted to be able to play games on their phones when they were finished with their tests. I told them they could only play educational games. They went crazy describing the math in some of the most popular smart phone games! Who knew Crossy-Road could be so educational??? My second suggestion is, 'don't be afraid to take a chance.' Sure, I've tried some apps that didn't work out. Kids are resilient, lesson plans are re-writeable, and some of the stuff you find will be pure 'teaching with technology' gold!

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