Monday, February 13, 2012

Loving iTunes U

The last few weeks have been quite exciting in the ed tech world.  Apple's announcement of the iBook textbook has brought quite a bit of discussion about the future of textbooks.  I was very interested in this development myself, but more so in the possibility of creating my own interactive book with iBooks Author.  My interest in both of these products however eventually led me to looking into the iTunes U app for my iPhone and for the last week I have been spending a lot of time checking out what it has to offer and how it can help me be a better teacher.

To best see how it worked I decided to take a course myself.  I'm a science teacher and I really enjoy teaching the life science standards at my grade level so I decided to take Ecosystems: Living Communities from The Open University.  I love how the course is laid out, with a series of assignments and due dates that I can check off as I complete them (though I'm having a hard time keeping up!).  Taking a class on my iPhone means I have no class to go to and no instructor to deliver the basic content.  I don't miss it at all though because the videos that I watch for many of the assignments are better than listening to a lecture.  And since I have Apple TV, I can watch the videos on my big screen television.  There is more to the course though than watching videos.  Readings are interspersed with the videos and those are done on the iBooks app.   

I've really thought a lot about course design in relation to my classroom while taking this course.  Showing videos and having students read from texts are not new and innovative teaching approaches.  What has affected me so greatly is that I have been able to do it while sitting on my couch or at the tire store while waiting to get the oil changed in my car.  The depth of resources available for learning now is greater than at any other time and I think it's incredibly important to give our students the opportunity to access them, not only in school, but also outside of school. 

My school currently uses Blackboard and it seems to be the perfect tool for consolidating a number of resources for each of my classes.  My goal is to gather and arrange these resources--photos, videos, worksheets, handouts, readings-- so that they support and enrich the learning going on in my classroom.     

Corning's A Day Made of Glass Part 2

This is a pretty amazing vision of the future from Corning Glass.  Check out how cool the technology could be in the future for classrooms (starts at 4:50).
  • Community Activity Tables
  • Interactive Wall Displays

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Flipping the Classroom Part Two: The Nuts & Bolts

Back in September, I wrote a post about how I was planning to give the Flipped Classroom a try in my fifth grade math class.  I've now tried it out during two chapters from my math textbook.  The first chapter was one covering addition and subtraction of decimals.  I chose this one because I knew that most of the content was review for my students and I wanted to make sure that the content they would be learning/reviewing at home was not too difficult.  The second chapter covered basic fraction skills - GCF, LCM, comparing & and ordering, changing fractions to decimals, etc.  Once again, I chose this chapter because I knew that the material would not be too challenging for my students to learn through a video. 
Following is a description of how I went about implementing the flipped classroom approach.  This was my first time giving it a shot, so it is definitely open to suggestions and is by no means the standard. 

Videos on Blackboard
My district uses Blackboard as a content management tool.  I use it to post homework, link to helpful websites, and much more.  Since all of my students know how to use this tool, I decided to post my videos there.  Speaking of videos, I use SMART Recorder and a microphone to record short lessons (I try to keep them to about 5-8 minutes) and then post them to SchoolTube. I then embed them into a page on Blackboard.  I let my students know a couple days ahead of time that their homework will be to watch a video.  This gives students without access to the Internet a chance to make arrangements to get to our computer lab (open each day after school) to watch the video.

I also use Blackboard to create short five-question quiz for my students to complete after watching each video.  The multiple choice quiz is automatically graded and I can download a spreadsheet with all my students' scores. This feature allows me to see who has watched the video and gives me a rough assessment of who understood the lesson. 

Meeting My Students' Needs
I set out on this project because I teach two accelerated math classes.  I have some truly outstanding math students in these classes and they often need enrichment beyond the content we are currently covering.  There are, however, also some students each year who struggle to keep up with the curriculum.  Some have been misplaced into my class while others just haven't been exposed to some of the skills and concepts and need more time to learn them. 

Flipping the classroom allows me to differentiate and meet the needs of both groups of students.  By looking at the quiz scores from Blackboard I can get an idea of who needs a little more work and who is ready for enrichment.  Students in need of more work often get a remediation worksheet and more of my time during class while the others get another assignment that goes beyond the curriculum.  I monitor both groups throughout each class period and do my best to provide them with the best experience I can.

I have to say that I am excited about further applications of this approach.  Taking learning beyond the walls of the school so that it can occur anytime and anywhere seems to me to be the way education in the 21st Century will take place.   In my next post,  I will talk about my learings from the Flipped Classroom approach. 

Monday, December 05, 2011

Free Science Resources for Your Interactive Whiteboard

1. Photosynthesis Animation - A great animation that teachers can play/pause/replay to show what plants need to carry out photosynthesis. Use in a lesson on plants or food chains.

2. Levels of the Food Chain SMART Notebook File - Teach your students about producers and consumers and where they fit on the food chain. Includes interactive Flash animations that make for engaging assessments.

3. Properties of Light SMART Notebook File - Teach students about reflection, refraction, and transmission of light with this interactive Notebook file. Included are Flash animations that can supplement or even take the place of hands-on science activities.

4. Clouds Gallery Collection File - These mini-movies describe the weather which accompanies cumulus, cumulonimbus, cirrus, and stratus clouds. Display them on your interactive whiteboard so that your students can observe the cloud's appearance and then click the INFORMATION button to learn more about each cloud. Interactive flashcards!

5. Refraction in Prism Collection File - This animation shows light passing through a triangular prism. Your student can see the light refract inside and then separate into the colors of the spectrum.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Five Awesome Activities for Teaching Math with Your Interactive Whiteboard

1. Use the interactive angle to teach your students how to measure angles. The name says it all - this virtual manipulative is an excellent tool for getting students involved in building acute, right, and obtuse angles. The buttons on this tool allow students to build or take away one, five, or ten degrees at a time.

2. Show the relationships among the radius, diameter, and center of a circle with the interactive circle. Click on the circle to plot a point and then click the center to draw a radius. Define radius, click RESET, and then click on circle and the point directly across from it to create a diameter. Ask students to tell you the relationship between the radius and diameter. A full-featured version of the interactive circle is available in the Geometry Whiteboard Teacher Pack.

3. Graph daily temperatures using a line graph tool. Show your students how line graphs show change over time by making a table of the weekly high temperatures and then dragging and dropping points on a grid to create the graph. MisterTeacher's line graph tool is part of the Representing Data Whiteboard Teacher Pack.

4. Build growing patterns out of triangles and rectangles. Use the Pattern Tool to create two rows of shapes that show a pattern growing from just a single triangle and rectangle to a triangle and two rectangles. Have students come to the whiteboard and drag the shapes into place to complete the next row of the pattern.

5. Represent integers less than zero with a scuba diver. Have your students use the drag and drop diver below the water to represent numbers less than one. Call out depths and have students move the diver up and down the number line. The scuba diver is part of the Integers Whiteboard Teacher Pack.

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Free Interactive Whiteboard Resources @

Take advantage of the free resources for your interactive whiteboard at

  • Math Facts Flip Chart - This virtual manipulative is now free! A great resource for teaching addition, subtraction, multiplication, & division facts. This tool works just like a modular flip chart and is perfect for whole-class demonstrations, small group work, or learning center practice. Push the submit button for instant feedback.

  • Fractions Flip Chart - This virtual manipulative is now free! Display this resource on your interactive whiteboard and show your students fractional parts of a circle, fractions, decimals and percents. Push the submit button for instant feedback.

  • Alphabet Symmetry Tool - The ultimate tool for teaching transformations! Display this resource on your interactive whiteboard and use letters of the alphabet to teach linear and rotational symmetry as well as reflections, rotations, and translations.

  • Interactive Food Chains & Webs - Eight awesome Flash mini-movies teach your students the organization of simple food chains & food webs. Get your students out of their seats and up to the whiteboard!

All of our WebQuests & student activities are free:

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Venn Diagrams for Teaching GCF & LCM

For many teachers, the Venn Diagram has become an indispensable instructional tool. A few years ago I discovered (for myself) how to use the Venn to teach greatest common factor and least common multiple.

A few years later I created a few Venn Diagrams using Adobe Flash so I could teach GCF & LCM on my SMARTBoard. Just click on the link below and you can use them too. A SMART Notebook gallery collection file will download to your desktop. Open the file and the Venn Diagrams are automatically added to your My Content folder.

You can download 4 more Venn Diagrams at In addition, you'll find 4 more activities on even/odd numbers and prime/composite numbers.

Check out more free SMARTBoard mini-movies: Number Properties | Virtual Manipulatives

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Right, Acute, Obtuse Angle Flash Cards for SMART Notebook

Teaching angles used to be something that I found very difficult. I remember trying numerous ways to get my students to see that the measure of an angle was determined by how much it opened, or rotated on its vertex.

Teaching this concept has become much easier on a SMARTBoard. Flash animations like the Angle Flash Card Mini-Movies pictured above show angles rotating on their vertices, making the concept come alive for students.

Try out these mini-movies on your SMARTBoard with this free download. Just click on the link below and a SMART Notebook gallery collection file will download to your desktop. Open the file and the angle flash cards are automatically added to your My Content folder.

Types of Angles Flash Cards

Check out the rest of's geometry Flash mini-movies with the Interactive Geometry Whiteboard Teacher Pack. It includes many more angle angle animations, including the Interactive Angle. You'll also find mini-movies that teach circle concepts as well basic geometry concepts like lines, segments, parallel, perpendicular and more.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Flipping the Classroom

By now, you've probably heard of Salman Khan and the Khan Academy. I watched his TED video over the summer and I have to say I was impressed, though not totally sold that his ideas will transform education. I am interested enough though that I am giving the teaching approach he espouses--one that teachers Jonathan Bergman and Aaron Sams call the flipped classroom--a shot this year with my accelerated math classes.

Since my first days as a teacher back in the year 2000, I have worked hard to be on the cutting edge of technology integration while being careful not to jump on the bandwagon of trendy technologies that I feel have little use in the classroom. From blogs to wikis to digital cameras, I have used a lot of effective tools and now I am ready to try flipping my classroom.

What is the Flipped Classroom?

In the article The Flipped Class: Myth vs. Reality, the flipped class is described as being one where student/teacher interaction time is increased, the teacher is not the "sage on the stage", constructivist and direct instruction are blended, and much more. Mainly though, the flipped classroom is one where teachers record lessons for their students to view outside of the classroom (through a site like YouTube) and then use class time for doing assignments. The goal being to increase student/teacher and student/student interaction.

Read about the history of the flipped classroom at the Flipped Class Blog.

Transforming the Classroom

In their article How the Flipped Classroom is Radically Transforming Learning, Bergman and Sams identify a couple ways that flipping has transformed their classes:
  • Student Interaction Increases - When the classroom is flipped, the role of the teacher changes from presenter of content to learning coach. Because of this, the authors have been able to observe their students interacting:
"Since the role of the teacher has changed, to more of a tutor than a deliverer of content, we have the privilege of observing students interact with each other. As we roam around the class, we notice the students developing their own collaborative groups. Students are helping each other learn instead of relying on the teacher as the sole disseminator of knowledge. It truly is magical to observe. We are often in awe of how well our students work together and learn from each other."
  • Flipping Changes Parent Interactions - In a flipped classroom, learning becomes the focus As a result, discussions with parents aren't centered on issues like behavior, but more important questions like are the students learning or not and if not, why?

You can join The Flipped Class Network to engage with other educators using the flipped class approach.

More Flipped Classroom Articles

The flipped classroom concept is also getting mentions outside of education. In Daniel Pink: Flip-Thinking, the popular author describes Karl Fisch's method of flipping his classroom and then describes how Seth Godin has applied "flip-thinking" to other areas of life. Though not an article, in this forum discussion titled "Remind me why I'm doing this" educator Steve Hegwood describes some of the intense resistance he is receiving from parents in his district. Finally, read about some more resistance to the Kahn Academy approach over at the Action-Reaction blog.

Hopefully there is enough information here to get you interested in the flipped classroom approach. I plan to start with the second chapter in my math textbook. I'll be posting updates on its progress here.

Thursday, September 08, 2011 an International Sensation

Australia | Bahrain | Canada | Chile | China | Czech Republic | Egypt
England | Finland | Holland | Hong Kong | Indonesia |
Ireland | Israel | Italy | Jamaica | Nepal | Kenya | Lesotho
Malta | Mexico | New Zealand | Phillipines | Portugal
Puerto Rico | Romania |Saudi Arabia | Singapore | South Africa
St. Lucia | Turkey | USA | Vietnam | Zimbabwe

In countries all over the world, innovative teachers are enhancing their SMARTBoard lessons with MisterTeacher's Flash mini-movies. We love that no matter where in the world they are, educators see the value in using our interactive resources. To show our appreciation, we're having a sale of Earth-sized proportions.

Right now subscribers to our newsletter can get
60% off their total order!

Just head over to, select the teacher pack (or teacher packs) of your choice, and enter the discount code WORLDSALE60 to enjoy this massive discount.

Click here to browse our Whiteboard Teacher Packs.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Fractions to Decimals to Percents Flip Chart Virtual Manipulative

Fractions to Decimals to Percents - use your SMARTBoard to teach your students these important conversions with the new Fraction Flip Chart Virtual Manipulative. Based on the popular manipulative, this flip chart features four modules that display visual fraction models, fractions, decimals, and percents. Show only the visual fraction and fraction and then continue on to equivalencies with decimals and percents and then click the SUBMIT button for instant feedback. Great for whole-class lessons or for use with small group instruction.

As with all of MisterTeacher's products, once you make your purchase, download and open the file, the flip chart is automatically added to the My Content folder in SMART Notebook! You'll be able to add it to your lessons whenever you want and write on it and resize it. Your purchase also comes with a Notebook file with directions and a list of Math Standards.