Sunday, February 21, 2010

Cell Phones in the Classroom - Lesson 1

In addition to my high school courses, I am currently teaching half a day at our middle school.  I had the pleasure of working with Lisa Smith, our afternoon science teacher, in developing the following lesson. 

In our eighth grade science course we have been preparing for the upcoming PSSA tests by exposing students to current events that relate to material from past science courses.  We normally do this by having the students blog outside of class about various current event articles.  However, this particular lesson took place in the classroom.  We decided to have our students take a closer look at President Obama's decision to build new nuclear power plants in the United States.  This lesson would easily be adapted to any current event issue that has a pro and con side. 

We began the lesson by creating an online poll using  This poll asked students whether or not they believed it was a good idea to build new power plants in the United States.  The students had the option of voting with their cell phones or logging into moodle and following the available link to vote with a lap top.  Due to the students willingness to share cell phones, all students voted in the poll long before the first lap top was logged in. 

After the students took the poll they were given two articles.  The first dealt with President Obama's plans and the second discussed the pros and cons of nuclear power.  The students read the articles in groups of two or three and were told to write three to five main points from each article.  After the students finished reading and writing their main points they were instructed to come to a group consensus on the topic.  They then had to write their opinion in 1 to 2 sentences and post it using their cell phones to a Wiffiti board (Below).

Once all the groups comments had been posted, read, and discussed the students watched a two minute video found on that served as a great summary of the discussion.  The lesson came to an end with the students once again taking the same poll they took in the beginning of class.  It was very interesting to see that many of them changed their opinion after the lesson.

Of course this lesson could have been completed without the use of cell phones.  Below is just a few of the benefits I found due to their incorporation:
  1. Students love using their cell phones!  I think this is sometimes an understated reason for doing things in education.  How can you go wrong if the students are excited for class before you even tell them what they will be doing?
  2. We handed out two articles consisting of four pages of text to eighth graders.  There was not one groan, whine, or complaint!  I think the student's eagerness to read the articles so they could send another text message speaks volumes.
  3. Every eye in the class was glued to the Wiffiti board to read the next posted comment. 
  4. Every student had the opportunity to voice their opinion in the pre and post discussion polls. 
  5. The students left the classroom and raved about class and using their cell phones during the periods that followed.
Resources Used:

Poll Everywhere -

This resource allows you to set up a poll where students can submit responses with their cell phones.  The poll can be reset making it available to be used with multiple classes. 

Wiffiti -

Wiffiti allows students to submit a text message an online bulletin board.  Messages can also be submitted to Poll Everywhere, but the Wiffiti board is large and animated.  Not to mention the students love the fake names it assigns to their posts.  

Poll Everywhere and Wiffiti are easy to set up.  I do think it is necessary to do some preplanning before the first time cell phones are used in the classroom.  Prior to this lesson we used Google Docs to survey our students to learn more about their cell phones.  We also had them use (an online bulletin board) to post possible rules for using cell phones in the classroom.  Additionally we sent a letter home with the students to explain our intentions to parents.  You will find these resources below:

Cell Phone Survey

Letter to Parents

Student's Wallwisher Board

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Who says class has to stop for a snow day?

Recently I created a facebook page using my school email address and opened it up to friend requests from my current students.  I will not go into detail about my facebook page and its rules now, you can find more information about it under the communication link on my website.  This page has been up for about a week and I currently have 29 students and 3 parents as friends.  Earlier tonight I got the idea to post the following update on my page:

"Let's experiment with the power of social networking. I am going to create a moodle chat room. If we get 50 students to join I will give each chat participant bonus points! Let's go..."

In a very short period of time I had my first couple chat participants.  Over the course of the next hour or so the chat grew and hovered around 15 students.  That is about 50% of my facebook "friends", but a far cry from 50 students.  These were my 8th grade physical science students, and since I only teach for half a day at the middle school, I invited the other physical science teacher to join as well.  

Of course the students still wanted their bonus points.  It was my initial intention to wait until I had 50 students and then offer to double the five bonus points I intended to give them if they could answer some questions.  With the realization that the chat was not going to get 50 students, the other science teacher and I offered to give them one point per correctly answered question.  They jumped on it!  We initially asked six questions, but how can you refuse when they ask for more.  We ended up asking them ten questions, of which they got nine correct.  Five of the questions came straight from current class material.  The other five came from past science courses and where about topics they might see on their upcoming PSSA exams.

This was a blast!  I have one question for those teachers and administrators out there that do not think social networking applications and course management software like moodle have a place in education...  What were you doing on your snow day?  I was having class, and my students loved it!  


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Web 2.0 & Moodle Technologies Training

This Friday, February 12th, another teacher and I will be running a technology training at our middle school.  Below you will find links for the schedule and the slide show that I will be using to run the web 2.0 session.  I tried to incorporate some web 2.0 applications like xtranormal, animoto, and wifitti into the presentation.  Of course, I am going to focus mostly on Google Docs and Moodle for this introductory training.  We are hoping to help teachers with the initial setup of Moodle and expose them to some of the other web 2.0 applications available to them.  I am also trying to provide them with a host of reference materials.  Many of these can be found on my website under the Ed/Tech Resources link.  Feel free to look through these materials and comment.  Your thoughts are appreciated!

Schedule -