Tuesday, March 3, 2015

You, Your Kids, & Your Phones

A while back I wrote about some ideas for talking about Digital Citizenship using visual metaphors. It's important to continue these conversations in school amongst educators and with our students. We have to involve parents too.

Digital Citizenship isn't an expression often heard outside of school. The ways in which it's discussed in main stream media are quite different from how it's discussed in schools. Most often the popular press shares sensational negative stories how kids use the internet and their phones to hurt each other.

We have to have open and honest conversations about how things can and have gone wrong and what we can do to make things better in the aftermath of things like cyber bullying, online harassment, or sexting. That said, it's a far more powerful message to talk to kids and parents about how engendering empathy helps us understand each other so we choose not to hurt each other. It's also important to share stories and ideas how our modern mobile technologies empower us to effect positive change in the world around us in ways that weren't possible 10 or 15 years ago.

We have to move beyond stranger danger and scare tactics. Sharing frightening stories (often overstated) does nothing to model positive outcomes or move the conversation to discussions of how to deal with something gone wrong.

Kids need more models of empathy and empowerment. Parents do too.

Below is an interactive "stand alone" presentation I made specifically to start these kind of conversations with parents in one of our schools. Many of the slides are "clickable"; clicking on the centre of a slide will take you to the online article or resource displayed. There are also several short videos embedded throughout. It should take about 20 minutes to work through it all, including the videos. I hope the conversations it starts last much longer.

If you use anything I've shared here let me know how it goes.

photo credit: creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by photoloni

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Learning On Your Phone: Math

There's never been a better time to learn math. With your phone, tablet or laptop you can touch mathematical ideas and watch them react in real time. Here are several ways you can do that. Right now.

Try out the free online Desmos calculator (available as a web app for laptops and a mobile app for phones and tablets). Try playing with the sliders in the face I drew below to change this fellow's expression.

Desmos supports the work of math teachers everywhere by curating lesson ideas that make use of visually captivating ways for students to learn math. Check out their lessons designed by teachers for teachers.

Geogebra is another free "must have" in your digital learning toolbox. It's a website and an app that's available on all mobile platforms. As the name suggests, it helps students make the link between geometry and algebra in a very visually tactile way. There are over 150 000 interactive materials you can use right now, such as the Pythagorean Theorem Proof Without Words or the Area of a Circle - Wedge Demo below.

The real power in using either of these tools comes from students exploring, creating, and sharing their own materials on a class blog, wiki, or other shared online space.

You might just be looking for a graphing calculator app. Free Graphing Calculator is popular on iOS and Algeo is popular on Android.

Another strong math app for learning is Math 42 (still in development for android). It's works like a private tutor suggesting possible nest steps, showing annotated solutions when needed, and targeted skills training.

For younger kids, from early through middle years, they can learn math tactilely using any of the Motion Math Games apps. They're not free but they do offer a fun and engaging way to learning about fractions, decimals, percents, place value, estimation, and all four basic operations.

Wolfram Alpha is another online tool worth exploring. It looks like a search engine but it's not; it's a computation engine. It will compute everything it can for any entry you type in the search bar. Wolfram Alpha not only brings high powered mathematics to the web, browsing through their many examples will help make connections between math and many other subjects; it shows how there really is math in everything.

Finally, if you're looking for rich math tasks to explore with your students, with or without digital tools, browse through the NRICH Mathematics collections of resources. My favourite colleaction are the Developing Mathematical Habits of Mind high school resources; problems for Being Curious, Thoughtful, Collaborative, and Determined. They also have teaching resources for all levels of mathematics.

If you use any of these suggestions in your classes let us know how it went over in the comments. Keep in mind, no app can ever replace the impact of artful questions a thoughtful teacher asks while looking over a students' shoulder.

photo credits: creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by Steppschuh, creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by ashkyd

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Learning On Your Phone: Languages

This is the first in a series of posts about ways you can have your students learning on their phones, right now, wherever they may be.
There's never been a better time to learn languages. Here's a quick explanation of how Duolingo, a free website and app, does it. (I really like the thinking behind the learning design.)

Here's another quick overview of Duolingo:

Lingua.ly is a relatively new player in the mobile language learning space having launched in mid 2014. It's also available on the web and as a cross platform mobile app.

Why not give them both a try yourself and with your students. Let us know which you prefer in the comments.

photo credit: creative commons licensed (BY-NC-ND) flickr photo by magdalar