Clip this onto educlipper

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Get rid of unwanted emails with

This morning I got into work and checked my email, a regular first of the day occurrence for many people, usually followed with some dread, not from their respective employers, but more for how many irrelevant and commercial filled emails fill their inboxes. There was nothing important, nothing pressing, nothing even worthwhile in the inbox. Instead I found a slew of unwanted emails. Many of which from companies I don't remember signing up to receive emails from. At the same time my co worker shouted out that his goal for the morning was to unsubscribe from all unwanted emails. I quickly decided to join him in this worthwhile quest. Another co worker told us about and both of us jumped at the chance to rid ourselves of unwanted messages in our inboxes.

I feel like I need to add that I have a filter set up and many of the emails sent to me are automatically added to the spam folder.

Quick rant: I really dislike companies that make it hard to unsubscribe. Why should I have to type my email in a box and give reasons for ending an endless barrage of unwanted emails? I shouldn't. And neither should anyone. We should be able to click unsubscribe and never be bothered again.

Thank you! All you have to do is enter your email address and then make a few decisions. After typing in my email I found that I had over 80 subscriptions (found out that was well short of everyone else in the office), many of which I never signed up for. (I know some of them sneak it in if you use their site and automatically add you to a list. With this service you can decide if you want to unsubscribe completely or get a daily digest that comes when you want, morning, afternoon, or evening. The digest has a screenshot of each email and short summary. I thought this was nice. I don't know if I want to never receive a Groupon again, but I am tired of at least one email a day. I imagine somedays I may just delete the digest email other days I may take a peek. Either way it's at my convenience.

One click to unsubscribe and no dumb reasons to sort through. I get that businesses may want feedback, but I imagine for most of us we just don't want to see their emails anymore. And that's the point of we don't have to continue to see emails we don't want to anymore. Spread the word and take control of your email.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Quizizz-Your new formative assessment

At ISTE I heard about Kahoot while in the poster sessions. It was a quick view with little more than "we started using Quizizz, it's like Kahoot only better." If you have been to the poster sessions you know that they aren't the place for tutorials so jotted down Quizizz and moved on through the throng of people and noise. After getting back I reviewed my notes and decided to check out Quizizz for myself. This is what I found:

The biggest complaint about Kahoot is that if you are in large group, those in the back of the room can't see what is on the screen, cause the choices are at the bottom of the screen. This is alleviated in Quizizz. The answers are on the bottom still, with the same layout and color configuration, but you can read the choices on your device. Clearly a much needed upgrade.

Because Kahoot is set up in game show fashion you are competing against everyone in the room, this may or may not be at your pace. If you can't keep up it get's frustrating and many just give up. Quizizz is set up so that the experience is totally self paced. You are still competing but you go through the questions at your own pace by looking at your device, not the main screen. This automatically makes the experience unique and properly paced for each participant. You are still competing, and your score is based on accuracy and speed, but you can move through the game at your own pace.

One thing I really liked was that you could see what all the questions were without having to preview the quiz

Most everything is else is just like Kahoot. You can find premade Quizizz in the public forum and copy and modify them how you like. You can download the results in a csv file and import to a spreadsheet.

The only thing I didn't really like was after each question it shows a meme if you get the question wrong or right. You do have the option to turn this off in the settings so if you like it you can keep it, if not just turn it off.

A few features that would be nice to be added: being able to select more than one correct answer, being able to remove images from a question without deleting the question, and being able to size images and move text.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Fooling yourself effect

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool" Richard Feynman

When it comes to being aware of our learning this can be tricky. Sometimes we think we are learning and we really aren't and other times we think we didn't really learn and we did. Knowing whether you are learning is difficult because we can fool ourselves. Research has shown that there are many times students think they are learning and they are not. This is due to the fooling yourself effect.

Students don't arrive with blank slate, everyone comes in with preconceived ideas and misconceptions of what they think is right that in fact inhibits and impedes the learning process. As teachers we need to teach misconceptions to help students understand fact from fiction. This is on of the best ways for learning to stick long term (and let's face it, if it's not long term was it really learned?). Studies have shown that when misconceptions are taught students learn better even though they may not feel as confident with the material. Many times students feel confident but perform poorly because they didn't really learn. In other words the background information students brought in made them feel comfortable with the learning process, but they didn't really learn. This is where we live up to the quote.

As educators we have to be fully aware of this effect and really get students to feel uncomfortable about the learning. They need to be stretched and challenged. They need to experience first hand the 'why' and 'how'. Learning needs to be an active experience, it needs to be one where students are really pushed to consider multiple perspectives and the one they bring with them may need some reshaping.

If we aren't challenging our students then we may be fooling ourselves.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


With the new Star Wars movie coming at the end of the year I thought it would be fun to show off Thinglink with an interactive Star Wars image. If you are new to Thinglink you take an image and make it interactive. There are so many possibilities for educators. You could create one for your class, you could have your students create them for really any subject and for any purpose. Basically what you do is add an image or many images and place a 'tag' or a button on the image(s) that will give information or link to video or just enhance the experience. You can then share your thinglink by embedding it or with the link.

Here is my Stars Wars themed thinglink. If you are a fan of the series this should be nostalgic. If you are unfamiliar, well this will get you caught up on the characters, though nothing can replicate watching it for yourself.


Thursday, April 30, 2015

5 things I have learned in last 5 months since starting at UEN

I got hired at the Utah Education Network on Halloween of 2014, I started working in December. The past five months have been a fantastic ride in which I have learned a lot about so many different aspects of education. It has been neat to be able to go to different districts around the state and meet hundreds of dedicated educators making a difference to their students daily. It is interesting to see how the different districts handle the intricacies and evolving technologies and overall landscape of education. It has been refreshing to see different and creative approaches to solving the complexities that come with education.

Here are the top five things I wish I had known before I started at UEN:

1. Network of teachers
2. Noodle Tools/Pioneer Library
3. Culturegrams
4. World Book Encyclopedia maps
5. Canvas modules

Teaching is tough, for so many reasons. Just knowing what is effective, what is a good use of time, what is free, what is worthwhile, is important in not only planning but actual implementation of everything you do. Sometimes the four walls in your class seem like they block you out of everything going on in the outside world, and your class feels isolated, withdrawn, and disconnected. Knowing that there are others with your same struggles outside your class and school walls is invigorating and helps you feel connected. One thing I have definitely felt is the vast web of educators, especially in Utah that are doing all they can to be the best they can be. I don't mean for that to sound cliche or even trite, I love working with educators and find them to be thoughtful, determined, and compassionate. There is a weekly forum for Utah educators to connect, share, and meet other like minded individuals from around the state and even nation. Wednesdays at 9 pm using the Twitter hashtag #UTedchat educators from around the state connect and have a weekly topic that drives discussion. The UCET conference is another great opportunity for Utah educators to share ideas and connect with other Utah teachers. Held annually around spring break this conference focuses on effectively using technology in the class. I always get a lot of great ideas, but perhaps more important is the network of educators the conference connects. I have met many great teachers from around the state at UCET. Another option is taking professional development courses and signing up for other conferences. I would encourage anyone to do so not just for the knowledge, but for the opportunity to meet other people as well. There are many ways to connect with other teachers. Find a way that works for you, and remember while it might be okay for you to be a hermit its not okay to disconnect your class from the outside world. Get connected and you will find that there is a fantastic web of educators in your own backyard.

Free tools are great, really good free ones are even better. Pioneer library and Noodle Tools are two such options that I wish I had known more about. It's funny, now I can't really imagine doing a research project without using either. Pioneer library has many great resources, among the free tools are databases for research. Rather than have your students do a Google search and either pick the first site, or look up Wikipedia, Pioneer has easy to use academic articles that are easy to cite and include in research. Honestly there is no need to have students search out there on the world wide web when the state has such a great free resource in Pioneer. Among the tools is one called Noodle Tools which helps students organize, cite, research, and write their own paper. This is the tool I wish I had known about. It's intuitive and easy to use and will change the way you and your students use the internet for information.

Culturegrams is a fabulous part of the Pioneer family. It is social studies based and has so many great capabilities for any age student. You can look up any country and get information and then compare that with other countries. One of my favorite uses is to have students make and compare their own graphs and tables. Just about any data you are after is available for comparison. If you are having students learn about particular places or compare and contrast places, this is the place to go for information.

When I was much younger my parents bought a set of encyclopedias for our family. I would use them for reference or just to learn about stuff. However they were static and limited. To stay relevant encyclopedia companies have had to adapt to the changing landscape. I like the a lot of the features in World Book, but my favorite and the one I so wish I had known about was the outline maps. Most maps I had were from the text book company and all of them were limited in some way. The last textbook the district purchased had the worst maps of any book we had ever used. World Book offers the ability to print your own outline maps, which is really nice. What is even better is that they are high quality and just what you want. You also have the option to have them include the names of places or not.

I started using Canvas three years ago. At that time I was figuring it out and trying stuff here and there, I liked it, but didn't see it for all that it could do for me and my classes. Over the past couple years I blended more and more of my class, and really liked the results. One thing always bugged me though and that was it always felt chaotic and messy. Since coming to UEN I have realized how much modules can help not only organize, but declutter and arrange your Canvas in an orderly and clean fashion. As much as I like having a cleaner Canvas, students really like the look and feel and organization of modules. As the teacher you can lock modules until a certain date or upon completion of certain assignments. I always felt like my Canvas looked like a messy desk with folders and paper all over. Modules have helped me organize the material and arrange my class in way that is clean looking and easy to navigate. If you don't use modules, you should, I guarantee that you will like it and your students will too.

There are plenty of other things I have learned over past months but these are the top 5, if you aren't using them I suggest you investigate and learn more about the free tools that are there for you and your students to use. If you feel like you need some help getting started, feel free to contact me or the UEN professional development department, after all this is what I do now.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Augmented Reality in Education

If you haven't heard of augmented reality, here is a quick video:

When I first downloaded the Aurasma app and pulled out a $20 I thought this was as cool as anything I'd seen. I remember the Harry Potter movies with the moving pictures and thought well now there's an app for that. There was a lot of wow factor with apps like Aurasma, but I didn't really know how to make this work in my class. Sure it was cool, but that's not really a reason to use it in class. There has to be educational value other than the cool factor. I was interested, but I had a lot on my plate and didn't really have time to play around with an app and try to figure out some way to make it educational. The UCET conference was at the start of April and is always a great time for new ideas. I saw a class on the agenda about augmented reality and thought that it was time for me to take a more in depth look at augmented reality and see how other teachers were using it in the class. You can guess that since I'm writing this post that I found what I was looking for.

What I was after was practical application and use of the app. The cool factor makes augmented reality unique, but there has to be educational value in using it. After UCET I did a lot of research on my own and have come up with the following list of ideas. There are two lists one for the school as a whole and one for individual classrooms. This list is by no means comprehensive and I have taken many ideas from other sites and compiled them here. If you have other ways to use augmented reality in the class, feel free to comment to add to the lists.

For the school:
Faculty Pictures: Tag the faculty pictures with teachers introducing themselves. You could have them tell the school what book they are reading among other interesting topics.
How to videos: Create how to videos like opening a locker or how to navigate the lunch line. Set these up at back to school night so that parents and students get to know more about the school.
Library Book Reviews: Create a section in the library where students can find books in which other students have given reviews. This would work as a great way to get rid of the traditional book report and give students an authentic audience to share their book review again and again.
Student of the Month Showcase: Students could record video and tell the student body about their favorite things.
Yearbooks: Parts of the yearbook are brought to life with video from actual events. Remember when the girls volleyball team won the championship? Now you can relive it again and again.
Deaf and hearing impaired: What a great way to have your deaf students express themselves. Lots of possibilities with augmented reality.
Staff Meeting Agendas: Quite a few ideas here, you can tag items on the agenda or have an item on each table with the agenda.
Back to School Night: What a great way to get students/parents excited about school. You could have a scavenger hunt, school tours, how to videos, interesting school facts. Endless amount of options.

For the teacher/student/class:
Word Walls: this is a nice starting point for using A.R. in the class. Take the vocabulary words (this will work in any class, not just English) and have your students make each word into an aura. Great way for your students to learn the vocabulary without realizing they are learning.
Reports: Students research and write a report about a topic they then record some highlights about their topic and make their report much more interactive. You can have your students researching, storyboarding, making a video, doing voice overs, and finally creating an A.R. moment to go with their report. Sometimes projects can drag, but by having it broken into bite size parts and having a carrot at the end of the stick (the A.R.) they will work through the drudgery to get the carrot.
All About Me/Meet the Class: I have seen this assignment in every grade K-12 and with A.R. it can really come to life and add a personal touch you wouldn't get any other way.
Virtual Field Trip: There are so many options with this activity: you could print off pictures of a place and have students create an A.R. for each picture/place, you could link video to each picture that gives background information to preview a book or topic, really you could use this in just about any way you wanted.
Flashcards: I'm not sure there is a more practical way for students to get engaged in studying and learning the material than creating interactive flashcards.
Homework with mini lesson. Teachers make the actual assignment into an A.R. You could give a brief explanation/summarize the assignment and/or show how to do a few of the problems. Students would be able to watch the A.R. over and over until they understood it.
Rubrics embedded on the assignment: You could link the rubric to the assignment and then students would be able to have the rubric with them and view it as many times as needed.
Scavenger Hunt: I loved creating and doing scavenger hunts with my class, especially in the spring when the weather was nice and testing was over. The problem I always had was things got lost throughout the day, misplaced, or even stolen. Being able to tag and object with a clue would be such a great way to have your students complete the scavenger hunt.
Preview material and give extra commentary: You could find places in the text that you want to highlight with either more commentary or give essential background information. This is a great way to have your textbook come to life.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

5 thoughts to be more positive: The thin line between venting and negativity

We've all been there; had a bad day, students didn't listen, lesson didn't go well, students misbehaved, trouble on the home front, seems like nothing will go right, etc... Sometimes we have to talk about it, or vent. There is something to be said about talking about our problems. Somehow it gives us some control back, even when it feels like things are spinning out of control. There is a relief that comes with this, our problems can be reduced and managed by talking about them. We gain some semblance of peace back in our lives.

Then there are those days when we have to do more than vent. We complain and we belittle. We twist the notion of venting and turn it into a pity session. We seek relief by tearing down others. We get to the point where we need things to go wrong to validate our negativity. Instead of venting and releasing some frustration for how our day went, we pour more fuel on the fire and aren't satisfied until we burn others in the flames.

We have to be careful that we don't allow ourselves to get to point that we are becoming the problem. Negativity can and will tear you down. Bitterness and anger will lead to misery. Our attitude about a situation is probably more important than the actual event itself. Many people have come from tough circumstances and made a great life and are happy despite dealing with less than desirable events. Other people spend their entire life miserably hung up with every little thing that goes wrong. Its the classic glass half empty and half full way of looking at life.

None of that is really news, an important reminder, yes, but nothing new. But here's where I worry. When we begin to be negative about our job, or students, or other staff it will become very hard to look at things objectively. If I am upset about a student and talk about how much they annoy me, it becomes increasingly harder for me to effectively work with them. Sure this student can be a problem, but my attitude about them can make things worse. If the faculty room has become a place where venting has turned into venom it may be time for a change of scenery and attitude.

Being a teacher is tough, dealing with people all day is never easy. However, if we look negatively at students and other staff members we will actually make our job harder. How can you really help out a needy student if you continually complain about them? End of the year is tough and some of those things our students say and do become more and more frustrating. If we talk poorly about them, there is no way that it won't affect the way we treat them and work with them. Our venting session can become a bastion of negativity and affect our performance with not only a particular student, but every student as well. We must make sure we don't cross that line.

One of the things that has helped me over the years are a few thoughts I was lucky enough to pick up early in my career. These sayings/philosophies have helped not to get to the point of negativity:

1. Treat every student like they are your favorite. This thought alone is transformational and solves many problems before they exist. Think about the effect if every student really believed that they were your favorite. Not only would they try to live up to that expectation, but you would see much more of the good in them than the not so good.

2. My grandmother was a songwriter/musician. One of my favorite songs that she wrote was called "Make it a good day" The overall message is the same as what is stated in the title in that you have some say into whether it will be a bad or a good day, so do what is necessary to make it a good day.

3. Never have two bad days in a row. One of my core thoughts was that I would never allow two bad days in a row. I found that when I changed what I did, how I interacted, my attitude, the lesson, how I handled situations; I was able to solve most things myself. Sometimes though I needed to get after a student and help them fix themselves, every once in a while this might extend to the whole class.

4. "How can I help this young man/young woman out?" The first job I had was with an extremely difficult population to work with. One of the staff was always able to help calm down the mood when people were getting negative. If you have this thought when talking about difficult people (or just any person) it will help you see them as a person and you will be much more likely to see past faults.

5. Forgive. One of the most powerful things you can do for yourself is to forgive. We all make mistakes. None of us wants to have every misdeed we have done held over our head. We hope that others would forgive us when we fail to live up to expectations. We can give ourselves a great gift by doing the same for others when they let us down or make mistakes. Education is as much about helping people pick themselves up after failing as anything else we do. Forgiveness is powerful and creates an atmosphere of improvement, not one of punishment.

End of the year can be tough, don't make it tougher by being negative. Choose to be positive and lead by example. Your students and fellow staff will appreciate the guidance and try harder to live up your example.

Friday, March 27, 2015

3 thoughts about Genius Hour

In preparation for #UCET15 I felt it necessary to compose some of my thoughts about Genius Hour. If you haven't heard of Genius Hour or are uncertain what it is here is a quick video:

The way that I did Genius Hour in my Geography class was that I allowed each student to choose a topic they were interested in that was geography related. Considering Geography is the broadest of all subject areas this meant that just about any topic would fall under this umbrella. Some knew the second I announced the project what they were going to do, others needed more time and help. I was able to either schedule the computer lab or get the laptops one day each week for one period for students to work on their projects.

It's interesting how diverse and different the topics students chose to focus on. Of course there were a few that were similar, but even they had differences from topics that were the same in nature. If you were to ask my students what they remember best or what their favorite part of the year was I am certain a vast majority, if not all students would say that Genius Hour was their favorite part. Some students hit a home run, others only got a single, but every student found something they were interested in and enjoyed the time they spent learning about their topic. I wish I would have created a video where each student told about their topic, but here is another classes experiences:

1. Starting Genius Hour for the first time is scary. It really is, you have to give up some control, time, and space to kids who like to jump in mudpuddles and allow them to make decisions and research and work on their own about a topic you as the teacher may no little about. Some teachers give up an hour a day. I only saw my students for 45 min periods so I gave up a period a week for them to work on their projects. You have to do what works for you. There is something magical about giving students their own license to study what they want. Honestly, I had less behavior problems with Genius Hour than anything else I did. Overall, students were engaged, self motivated, and eager to learn. Don't be scared, try it. Figure out what will work best for you in your class, in your school with your subject.

2. Learning is messy and not always easy. Some topics are easier than others to find material on. All take dedication to see the project to the end. Some students will get right in and get to work, others will have a harder time and not know what to do. They want things handed to them, they want learning to systematic and clean. But it's not always like that . Learning is messy, good research is difficult, creating a worthwhile project should take effort and hard work. Not everyday is going to sunshine and easy, but it will be worth it. In that way it mirrors life. Be prepared for some difficulty and even push back in the beginning. Students are no different than anyone else, we like things easy, and any good project takes plenty of effort and perseverance to see it through. Here is a great video by Ira Glass of This American Life to show when students struggle

THE GAP by Ira Glass from Daniel Sax on Vimeo.

3. Help your students through the process by providing rubrics and tools to outline and be successful. I am big believer that successful projects need to be broken down into bite size portions for students to digest. Give them credit by having fill out a Google Form with what they learned for the day/week, what resources they found, what other questions they now have, what their next step will be. One of the best tools I have found for teachers and students to handle projects is Noodle Tools Noodle Tools sets up a way for students to send the teacher daily/weekly updates on their progress, including their correctly cited sources, their outline, research, and what their plan is to finish the project. I think Noodle Tools would be a great way to help students keep track of their research and sources and stay on course to finish their project.

If you haven't made the plunge into Genius Hour, dive in, just do it. Your class will never be the same and you will wonder why it took you so long to give it a try.
If you need more motivation. Watch this. Do you have a class of cats? Time to unleash their inner dog

Be More Dog:

UCET 2015 Presentation

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Create your own video creations using Zaption

Zaption is a great way to take a video, including from YouTube, Vimeo, and private collection and use it for your class. You can trim the videos, add images/text, drawings, and questions. You can view an example I created below.

Here is what I like:

Very intuitive and easy to use. I made the Overpopulation tour in about 15 minutes. That includes adding all the images and questions.

Really like that you can have questions right in the video. You can set it up like a quiz with correct answers or have them respond with text and explain their answers.

Great way to guide students through media by extending their thinking and getting them to think critically about the material.

Would work very nicely in a flipped or blended class. But even if in a regular class it is a nice formative assessment.

Easy to share or embed

Analytics afterwards give a nice overview of how viewers are participating.

Like that you can have multiple choice with a 'correct' answer or just get students to think and write up responses.

Pro version allows you to add multiple videos.

I wish you had the ability to narrate parts, but I guess you could just add your own video like a movenote in which you could do just that.

Great product that will be very useful to teachers.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

10 Great Educator Channels for YouTube

I had to do a presentation on using YouTube in class this week. As I was preparing I thought it would be nice to have a bunch of good YouTube channels for Educators. I did a lot of searching and decided I needed to blog about the channels I found. Here they are with a short description.

Note: All of the channels are great for educators. Some would be better for you as a resource to get ideas from, some are good to show in class. It's up to you to decide how you will use these resources.

ASAP Science: Nice short informative videos. There are many to choose from, although not all are class appropriate. Topics range from 'Which came first the chicken or the egg?' to 'Why do we yawn?'

Here is Fresh vs Frozen which is more nutritious?

CGP Grey: As a social studies teacher I love using his videos, but he has lots of topics about all sorts of interesting topics. Some of my favorites include: 'The difference between the United Kingdom and Great Britain' 'Bizarre Borders' 'The difference between Holland and the Netherlands' 'Are Hong Kong and Macau countries'. You can see a geography bias, but there are lots of videos on all sorts of topics. He does talk really fast, but he's fun and you will definitely learn something from his videos.

Here is 'How Scotland joined the United Kingdom'

Crash Course: The Green brothers John (yes THE John Green) and Hank have researched all sorts of subjects world history, biology, etc... and have created fun, witty, fast paced episodes that you can show your students. Here is their own intro

Hip Hughes Keith (Hip) Hughes has a lot of videos that cover world and US history, government, current events, and all sorts of other great content. He is a great guy that will connect with you on Twitter @hiphughes as well. And in case you are wondering he is pretty hip. Here is his intro video:

Kahn Acadamey: I think most have heard of Kahn Academy. They have an incredible database with thousands of videos. They have channels that are in different languages. Lots of great math material, but there are also videos on finance, biology, chemistry, etc... If you haven't check out the Kahn Academy you should it's an incredible resource that is only getting better. Here is the intro:

MinutePhysics: Like the title states these are short fun videos that feature science topics. Guaranteed you find something you will be interested in while searching. Topics include: 'What is angular momentum?' 'Antimatter explained' 'Immovable object vs an unstoppable force' among many other interesting topics
Here is 'Common Physics misconceptions':

Numberphile: Kahn Academy isn't the only source of math videos on YouTube. Numberphile features lots of great math and some science topics. They even tackle the great Monty Hall problem which you can see here:

Smarter Every Day Great title, great thought. Your host is Devin, a real life rocket scientist who takes the viewer with him as he tries to live up to the mantra of 'smarter every day'. The videos are definitely scientific in nature but no matter what you will find something interesting.
Here is a video about caterpillars moving as a group:

Ted ED: Everyone loves a good motivational Ted talk, but did you know that there are Ted talks directed specifically at education? If you didn't you are really missing out. The Ted Ed talks are a bit different than the ones you are thinking of when you think of Ted talks. These are short videos that include images and are narrated. Full lessons on each topic are provided at which if you haven't checked out yet you should. They boast over 100,000 videos and over 3.9 million questions answered. Certainly you will find something of interest.

Here is a video on 'What we know about Ebola'

Veritasium: This another science site. Lots of great experiments and questions. There are over 120 videos and that number will only increase. Here is the intro:

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Using the research tool in Google docs

Google has made it really easy for you to cite sources, add images, quotes, and look up relevant material on your topic while you are working on a Google doc. Here is a quick video explaining this process.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Purpose Games

One of the many challenges that teachers face is finding the right tool for the job. What I found is that there were usually way too many resources and I never knew where to start. Sorting through website and website can be daunting, frustrating, and too time consuming. All that said when you find the right tool for the job it's like you got an A on your own test. As a geography teacher I was always looking for a fun way to do place name geography. Most of my students didn't jump for joy when we were doing place name geography (learning where places are on the map). I am firm believer that you can't really talk about a place if you don't know where it is, so I found place name geography essential. Over the years I used tools like Google Earth, Seterra, among multitudes of online map games. All had there place, but none of them were ever THE tool I was looking for; then I found purpose games.

Here is what I like about purpose games:

It's FREE! You create your own account and students can create their own as well.

It's not just geography games, it has games for every subject area

There is a TON of material already created in purpose games. One of the problems I have found with similar sites is that I would have to spend a lot of time creating content as a new member. Not so with purpose games, there is already a lot content available. For instance if I search for Europe this is the screen that comes up:

You can see that I have a lot of options(4873 to be exact) You can sort through the games, not all are going to be what you want, but you can always find some that will work.

It is easy to add your own material. All you need to do is to go into your profile shown here

In the upper right hand corner when click on quick options it gives you the following options:

Click "Create a game" and then you will have the option to use their templates or to add your own. You also have the option between choosing between creating a quiz with dots, shapes, or multiple choice. You decide what you want from there and create away.

You can set up groups and have your students compete in challenges: One of my favorite features in purpose games is the ability to create your own group and then set up a tournament in which they could compete against one another. By using the quick action drop down in your profile (same pic up above) You can begin to set up your group. Note: before you can add anyone to your group they need their own account. There are a few ways you can do this, you can set up a public, private, or invite only group. This is what the screen looks like:

If you choose public, anyone can join the group, that probably isn't ideal for what you want to do as a teacher. You can make it private and then your students can search for the group and apply to join. All you do is go to the member management page and accept them into the group. Invite only is not a good option either because you would have to have the username for each student and add them individually. Best to have the students search for your group and then apply for membership.

You can have multiple games with each tournament: You can set up a tournament and add up to 100 games to it. After you name the tournament and add a description you can begin to add games. This is where purpose games is clunky. You can search for games but it will only show the top 60 games in each topic. This is fine if you just want to add a game that comes up in the search, but if you have your own it is not ideal. Instead of putting up a screenshot for this part I have made a quick video.

Each game keeps statistics. This is what keeps the students coming back for more. They will play for hours to move up the charts. If you have a tournament with multiple games it will show the scores for all the games and how you are doing in each one.

It is fun and students love to play! My students really enjoyed playing and loved to compete against one another. In the end they learned all the place names without even realizing it. Not sure there is a better way.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Why the Utah Education Network?

The first Edcamp Utah came with a lot of new ideas, connections, and opportunity. One opportunity that I was surprised to hear about was that there was an opening at UEN. Before I go on any further I need to explain that I have wanted to be an instructor at UEN for some time now. At the time I knew a lot of the instructors and saw this a nice opportunity to move up the career ladder, especially without having to go the administration route. In addition to that no other source has helped me improve as an educator as much as UEN.

That last point needs additional explaining.

I started out teaching the toughest kids in the nation. I know that people say they teach tough kids, but the ones I taught really were as tough or even tougher than others. I worked for a correctional facility for youth that had trouble with the law. I don't mean minor skirmishes, I'm talking these kids were court ordered to be in a lockdown facility for a period of anywhere from 9 months to 5 or so years. Taking this job threw me directly into the fire. A few days I got burned, but overall I learned how to work with people no matter how difficult they were.

After a few years I got a district job as an at risk specialist. You know those 2 or 3 kids in every class that if they weren't there the class would go smooth? Well that was every student in my class. Overall this would become the most impactful part of my teaching career because students came in hating school and did poorly and we were able to get many of them to turn things around and become decent students to exceptional students. It was a neat time in which I really saw my efforts rewarded as kids totally changed their lives.

My next position was that of finally using my major, social studies, to teach regular classes. I taught geography and loved it. The thing I like most about geography is that it is current. It's about what is happening right now. I was happy things were good and I was where I wanted to be in my teaching career. Or so I thought.

When I was finishing my degree at the U I had some teaching classes with Jared Covili. We found out we had a lot more in common than our namesake and became good friends. Jared joined UEN as a presenter a while back and I took a few courses here and there from him and others at UEN. Because of our association he invited me to UCET, which basically is the biggest tech conference for educators in Utah. It was here when things started to change for me.

I have never been satisfied with mediocrity and have always been one to try harder and be all that I can be, however, I think it is easy as an educator to get to a certain level of comfort. That doesn't mean that you aren't actively trying to improve, just that you are comfortable with where you are at. In many cases, my own included, this was partly because I just didn't know what else was out there. One of the most important things in my opinion in becoming all that you can be is having a greater understanding as to what that means, and the only way you can really find out is to participate in a conference like UCET so that you can see what all is available to you.

UCET opened my eyes. I feel like U found the answer to U2's song "I still haven't found what I'm looking for" Here was a world of like minded educators actively trying to improve, sharing ideas, networking, and collaborating. I found the experience invigorating and motivational.

I'm not the type of person that has to take time to implement new ideas. If something works, or is a better way of doing things, then I will make a change as quickly as I can. I took what I learned at UCET and put it into my teaching as soon as I could. I looked at how I was currently doing things and made massive changes. It was a bit unnerving at first, but at the same time there was an enthusiasm that came with it that had been lacking. Don't get me wrong I totally enjoyed what I was doing, but when you find a better way of doing things there a fresh feeling that comes with it, like putting on a new pair of socks.

If UCET opened my eyes, then ISTE changed my world. I had the opportunity to be a part of a presentation and go to ISTE in San Diego.