Monday, 14 October 2013

How to "flatten your classroom walls". Ideas to foster life long learning in Math and Science

So the turkey was in, kids were playing outside....what to do? I was fortunate to catch a RSCON online learning session by Paula Naugle "10 Sites I can't live without in my Innovative Math Class". Paula is a 4th grade teacher from Bissonet Plaza/Jefferson Parish Public School in New Orleans, Louisiana. This teacher of 35 years has created a "blended" learning environment that is quickly becoming a paperless class. She has spent the last 10 years researching, testing and implementing technology within her classroom. This particular session resonated with me as on Friday our PD session focused on low math scores and student engagement. Further to that there was a great article in the Woolwich Observer this weekend talking about the lack of math and science interest by highschool students and what that disinterest and lack of skill would look like for future careers in Canada. "Lack of Math and Science Skills Hurting Canadian Job prospects" Woolwich Observer, October 12, 2013. With a $15,000 grant to start her off, Paula purchased netbooks, and an interactive whiteboard for her classroom. As Board resources were limited she took charge of her own PD as many of us have and took the time to learn how to effectively use hardware and software to engage and enhance student learning. She uses Twitter as her own Professional Learning Network and encourages teachers to use hash tags such as #4thchat to network with similar grades. Paula used this session to walk us through many of programs and sites that she uses on a daily basis. EDMONDO - She likes Edmondo as it is geared towards under 13 elementary students. This learning management system allows students to participate with a group code rather than the need for individual email accounts or login passwords. I appreciated her teaching strategy of revisiting expectations of use on a weekly basis and enforcing a "no tech speak" rule. Students are required to contribute using proper English grammar, conventions etc. No (LOL) allowed! Additionally, Edmondo does not allow students to "message" each other. All postings go to the "group" or the teacher. There is also a parent feature within the system to keep parents connected and involved. GOOGLE DOC (Drive) - Paula posts all of her anecdotals and lessons onto this. Her notes can be directly embedded into Edmondo without logging into Google. BRAIN POP - I was particularly interested in this one as I have just started using this site in my Grade 2 and Grade 3 Science classes! This is a site that you do have to subscribe to unfortunately (I have been using the free version but it is limited). Brain Pop is a huge part of what Paula does in her math classes. Students can also access this from home. She uses this during small and whole group instruction as well as connecting it to her interactive white board. She often puts Brain Pop math and science activities into Edmondo as an assignment. There are quiz features with every activity. She can assess which students need to revisit the concept again or she can send them directly to another learning link. LEARN ZILLION - this application is free right now, teachers must just set up an account. This site is full of short learning videos of particular concepts in math. Students could watch a video on how to do an area model for 2 digit by 2 digit multiplication during small group activities or at home. It is a great way for parents to see many of the applications that are being taught at school. SKYPE - Paula uses this application for global collaboration. Video conferencing with other schools and classrooms. Collaborative projects. One fun activity is "Mystery Number" calls. Classrooms will connect without seeing who the classroom is or where they are from (teacher initiated). Students on video will show cards with hints (equations) to the numbers included in the phone number (linked to the grade levelled math curriculum). I thought this was a terrific idea! GOOGLE HANGOUT - Paula is starting to use Google Hangout more than she is using Skype. She finds that there is less drag and less freezing with Google. She has used hangouts for collaborative projects with classroom inside and outside of her school. Students can take surveys, gather data collectively, create graphs, create word problems, present findings and ask questions. In her words a way to "FLATTEN YOUR CLASSROOM WALLS". TEN MARKS - mostly a free version. Paula has created a classroom site within this system. She can assign lessons to particular students. Students work through the lesson. They have options on the right side of the screen to watch a video or access 3 "hints". At the end of the lesson the teacher gets a score report, with information about completion time and the resources that were accessed by the student. This allows her to track what students are doing, as well as making students accountable as they know that the teacher will be checking. KIDSBLOG - This site is again geared towards younger students as you do not need an email address to get started. Paula begins each years with a "paper blog" activity. Students create a paper post about something that they are passionate about. These papers are left around the room with yellow sticky notes. Students then do a gallery walk and travel from post to post and write "comments" on sticky notes. Authors of the posts can in turn respond to comments on additional sticky notes. Allows students to experience authentic postings before going live online. Paula suggests a great hash tag on Twitter to help your students with comments #comments4kids. BLOG PARTY - Paula invites all parents to a Blog comments party at the beginning of each year. Parents are asked to come after school, bring some chips and drink and talk about their ideas of appropriate "commentary" online. She says every year it is a great success. She has also created a "how to comment on blogs" video DIGITWHIZ - Fact Fluency through gaming. Free application Teachers can create a class account and practice math facts. Students earn points to add things to the Avatar (Digy). She has found that this site has improved her students' fact fluency. She sets time aside during the day for students to work on certain facts, then they can move onto an assignment in Edmondo. PROJECTS BY JEN A great site for collaborative math projects. She has used the Oreo Project over the past several years. Overall a worthwhile session full of great ideas and future possibilities. To follow Paula Naugle on Twitter @plnaugle #4thchat


  1. What a fantastic opportunity that you had by attending RSCON - especially to hear from Paula. She has been part of my learning community for a few years now and continues to stretch her thinking and learn/teach in such dynamic ways. The sites and ideas here are authentic and current and as you heard, there are so many ways and opportunities to incorporate them into the classroom. With that said, there are realistic barriers in preventing teachers from using these programs (age, licensing restrictions...). I wonder, how would you handle a barrier with use of a specific program or technology tool/enhancement to your program?

  2. Thanks Zoe. I feel very fortunate that I was able to attend her session. I think she said she had over 30 years in the teaching profession which impressed me. I appreciated her comments about taking control of her own PD in technology as this is something that she did not begin teaching with. I think there will always be barriers, such as blockage of YouTube and other apps. I think teaching and learning programs are coming out fast and furious. I think with any resource it is an opportunity for us to research, and evaluate whether or not it has an authentic place within our program. Working with your Board (IT) and sharing information may be an answer. As I read more and more, there seems to be quite a few technology grants out there as well. Yes they take time to research, apply for but it could bring a long term benefit to your school community. Additionally, if possible being an active member of your parent council. Bringing issues of need so that they can plan fundraising accordingly.