Conference workshop time – AATM 2014

It was great to meet new friends and see old friends at AATM on Saturday.  As promised, here’s a copy of my presentation.  Also, I referred to the following websites: – Terrific, FREE formative assessment tool – Overstock materials available to teachers for a nominal fee – The Markerboard People – My YouTube channel – Vimeo is the safer place I host my videos.

What I wouldn’t do for math presentation:

 Hi Tech, Low Tech, No Tech presentation:

Questions? Comments?  Email me at

Listen Edition – Listen While You Work


I’ve always been a huge fan of NPR (National Public Radio).  Each time I listened, I heard something new, interesting and informative.  I shared what I learned with my students and family.  The fit of NPR and my physics classroom was generally not a comfortable fit.  All that changed when I went to Boston for the NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) conference. I learned about Listen Edition.  Immediately I was hooked.

For most of my career I have read aloud to my students.  I’ve taught grades 4 – 14, and read to them all.  Jim Trelease (author of The Read Aloud Handbook, and listening guru) has inspired me to do so.  Listen Edition had some of the same benefits of reading a book aloud like increasing vocabulary.

Listen Edition is easy to use with my students.  They offer robust lesson plans, Common Core aligned.  Student background is provided, quizzes on (a site I am not very familiar with) and homework assignments.  You can search by subject, grade level, look for current events and more.


How It Worked for Me

The first time I used Listen Edition with my 8th grade science students, I told my students to listen and take notes on those things they thought were important. Since I haven’t taken the time to figure out Socratic ( I put the quiz questions on Edmodo ( They didn’t do very well on the quiz.  I took a few minutes to debrief with the kids and realized my instructions were vague.

Next time I talked about listening skills and how they are different when you are having a face-to-face conservation, an on-line or texting conversation or when you are listening for information or entertainment.  We talked about living in a noisy world and finding some quiet each day.  They actually came up with that, which was a very good point.  They generated a list of actions they could take to be better listeners in each scenario.

I knew that if I gave them the questions before the listening they would be more focused and they were.  I put the questions on my interactive white board for them to see while they were listening.   But since in life we aren’t usually given the questions in advance I didn’t want the students to rely on seeing the questions.

After a couple of days I gave them all of the questions before listening, but only for a few minutes.  Once we began listening I gave them some questions so that they could see those while they were listening.  My goal is to not have question available either as a preview or concurrently with the listening.  But, truth be told, they (we) tend to be lousy listeners. It’s a skill that needs to be taught and practiced.

We also had discussion about why it’s OK to not get 100% on the post-listening quizzes.  What’s truly interesting to me is that once they finish the quiz, they now tell me things like, “that question was asking about trivia.”  All year long I try to teach them how to weed out the trivia and focus on the important stuff when it comes to reading the text or other articles.  It was gratifying to see them transfer that concept to the listening quizzes.  The students also tell me what they thought was important and why.  This week I am going to ask them to generate their own questions about the listening, in addition to answering mine.

I thought this was going to be an interesting warm up, something to keep the kids busy while I did attendance and other teach stuff.  Instead it has turned into a life skill building activity. As I told the kids, people love it when they are actively listened to.  I told them to try it with their parents and with other people who aren’t in my class.  They’ve already gotten a great response.

Thanks for Listen Edition.  I never considered doing listening training for my students, but now I see how important it is.  I’ve noticed that I repeat directions less (thank goodness) and that they seem to be getting more information from my videos (I have a flipped classroom).  I’m eager to see if this is reflected in test scores.

In the fall, Listen Edition will be used in my class on the first day of school.

Lighting the spark of curiosity

I once heard a minister talk about religion.  “You can’t really get someone to convert,” he said.  “The best you can do is live an amazing life.  They will want what you have.  And then you can help them into the church.”  I’ve thought about that a lot – not really in terms of religion, but in terms of education.  As an educator, a teacher, my job is to share that enthusiasm for learning.  The way I see it, if I can make my content (whatever it is, though currently it’s physics) so fun, so engaging, so applicable to life, my students won’t be able to help themselves.  They will want to learn too.

In his TED talk, Sir Ken Robinson talks about “lighting the spark of curiosity.”  That can be a daunting task.  But to use technology as a kindling to get that fire blazing helps make it not only possible, but likely.  My students, middle school kids, are unbelievable social.  The best I can do is to tap into that social hunger and to allow my students to fill their hunger (it will return) with learning.

That’s where edmodo comes in.  It is a safe, secure environment that allows my students to be the social creatures that they are.  It wills their needs and at the same time if fulfills mine.  I am able to quickly assess student understanding, I am able to close monitor student progress.  I don’t need to make copies at the copy machine (yay!).  The learning curve for edmodo is not steep.  It’s pretty easy to learn, and the more you learn how to use edmodo, the more you find out what else it is capable of.

Welcome to your new addiction.

The Unintentional Geek – Edmodo and me

            I’m too old to be a geek.  Seriously.  I’ve been teaching longer than most of today’s geek have been alive.  I could easily be the geek’s mom (actually, I am the mom to 2 geeks).  I achieved my geek status because of two things: iPads and Edmodo.

            I wasn’t asked if I wanted to be in my district’s iPad pilot program, I was just put in it.  I wasn’t too happy about it, especially since I got in trouble for missing the first meeting, which was held while I was cruising in Alaska over summer vacation.  But I was game.  I knew that the students would love it, and I could only use my double dice and other games for so long to keep them engaged.  To say that I was overwhelmed with the iPads was putting it mildly.  I was in survival mode, and I planned to stay there until this pilot program was over.

Out of all the stuff we were supposed to do with the iPads, and there was a lot, I decided that I would pick one, and only one, and I would get good at it.  In fact, I would be the best at it – the expert, the go-to person.   I picked Edmodo.  I picked Edmodo because I was tired of waiting in line to make copies and struggling to have enough copy paper.  Using Edmodo meant that I didn’t need copies.  That’s it.  That’s the real reason I decided to go for it with Edmodo.

It didn’t take long for me to see that I made the right decision.  Sure, I stopped making 150 copies of everything.  But I also streamlined my assessment strategy but using Edmodo quizzes.  I could easily assess students on a daily basis, and they would get IMMEDIATE feedback.  I could, with laser-like accuracy, determine where a student’s understanding was strong and where it needed some attention.  I spend more time working with students on the topics they need help in exactly when they need the help.  I address misconceptions and misunderstandings as they occur and not a day or a week later, as I used to do in the past.

The time I spent grading decreased significantly (my family claims it’s decreased by at least 70%).  Homework became less a chore for me and more an opportunity to take the pulse of each of my students’ comprehension and mastery of individual concepts.

Saving time was one thing – and it was a big one.  What was incredibly important – maybe more important than saving time – was that I was able to take a peek into my students’ brains.  In real time I could see what I needed to do to help a student learn.  Before Edmodo I would have said this was impossible.  Now I want to share it with everyone.

One a daily basis I find new and exciting tools that are in Edmodo.  I like being able to interact with my students when I have the day off.  They are convinced that I can see what they have on their screen at every moment since I frequently drop in on them via messaging when I am not at school.  I like being able to schedule quizzes and announcements in advance.  I like being able to put links to my video lectures and to the note taking guides I have developed.  I like being able to see their interactions with one another on a thought-provoking question that I have posed or a challenging problem.

Mostly though, I like Edmodo.  I am the go-to person in my district.  And I love being that geek.