Essential question #9 #diffimooc

How can I use Pearltrees to differentiate content in the classroom?

I’m having a “homework bonanza” day and trying to get a leg up on these assignments so I can veg out over the weekend. My eyes are starting to go crossed from gazing into the computer screen, though.

I’ve been messing around with Pearltree, figuring out its features by trial and error. I added a Pearl for my loner project on Prezi. It’s cool the way I can add a Pearl for any little aspect of my project. It’s also handy to look at the Pearltrees that my cohorts have added to Projects. I think a significant portion of my learning in this type of format (distance, web-based) comes from looking at the examples provided by others.

With regards to the question – I could use Pearltrees to differentiate content in my classroom by creating a Pearltree about a specific topic and offering Pearls that explain that topic in different ways. Students could also be asked to choose one Pearl from an array to respond to, which would differentiate content and/or process. And similar to what we are doing in this class, students could be assigned a general project and may choose to respond with their own method of choice and linking it to the main Pearltree.


Assign #2 – Differentiating the process #diffimooc

Part 2: So, if I can’t make it with Minecraft, what can I do? I’ve been trying to set a goal for myself that is within the parameters of this assignment. Differentiate the process using technology. On the outer edges of my consciousness I keep thinking I should pick a specific standard to address and target it through technology. Reading, writing, math, social studies??? Age group: fifth grade? How about U.S. history or geography? Think, think, think. (My best Winnie the Pooh imitation).

Assign. 2 – Hmmmmm #diffimooc

I thought I’d better do some processing on my blog to figure out this assignment. The original plan was to hop into the simulations group to which I was cordially extended an invitation about three weeks ago.  There are six of us in the group and I am the only one who does not live in the same city. I’m not sure if this makes a difference, I know from the viewpoint of MOOCs and PLNs it should not. Perhaps it is simply a misstep in terms of having different technology visions and experience.

In any case, after about three weeks “in the group” – emails, two Google hangouts and following the discussions on an assigned website – I am not a contributing or productive member. No ones fault (except perhaps mine for not being savvy enough?).

The group members immediately decided to work on determining if Minecraft is a tool that can be used in the classroom. I set a goal for myself to try Minecraft and come to some understandings or conclusions. To that end, I downloaded a trial version and got onto the program. I didn’t spend much time there, though. I found it silly and pointless and just really hard to consider how it could be used to teach kids things that they are required to learn. So, I then began the process of extricating myself from my group and striking out in a new direction. Luckily, I hadn’t really contributed or committed myself in any meaningful way to my group. I will say that I truly admire the members of the group who are going down this road and wish them the best on their journey. They are passionate and hard-working and driven to make it add up to something.

Now, what should I do?

Essential question #8 #diffimooc

How might video games enhance my students’ learning?

In order to answer this question, I had my two kids, Max – 11, and Alex – 9, play some online games that addressed some of the skills they have been working on at school with the question in mind – Do I feel like this helped them acquire the skill/knowledge they are seeking?

First, with Max, who is a fifth grader, we went to a vocabulary games site and chose a game to learn about prefixes.  The game involved dragging a line between the prefix and the remainder of the word. In terms of games, it wasn’t very stimulating. The activity, while straightforward, was dull. In educational terms, I wasn’t impressed by the prefix practice. Max got all of the words correct without much trouble. There were “hints” on the site if the player was unsure and he used it once for the word “automaton”. The hint explained that the prefix means “self”. At first, Max thought he was dividing the words up by syllable, so it was a good lesson differentiating between prefixes and syllables in that respect.

The next game Max and Alex both tried out was a multiplication memory game at another games site. The game was basically an electronic version of standard memory games in that they clicked on two cards in a grid and tried to find the product that matched the problem. The game had a timer that stopped once all the matches were made, so they could try to beat their time by playing more than once. There were addition, multiplication, mixed, and algebra versions of the game with varying levels of difficulty. I recommended Max should attempt the algebra one because I felt it would be challenging. It was! The equations required some paper and pencil figuring and Max found it too frustrating in the “timed” format. He gave up quickly. Being the more methodical child, Max played the memory game with some thoughtful methodology.  Alex, being more impulsive and concerned with speed, took a more random approach – pressing the cards as quickly as possible to get matches, considering the numbers less thoughtfully. Game review: I like Memory because it is mentally challenging, but it lacks the entertainment value that most kids seek out in electronic games. Education review: I recommend this game for students trying to memorize math facts as another method in their arsenal of learning. Even if they take the “Alex approach” some facts might take hold. 

They both chose the site based on past experience. Let me just summarize that experience: they loved it. Here was the graphics-heavy, opponent-based playing environment that offered video game stimuli. Educational merit? The games were short and offered some good basic math facts practice. I would feel comfortable letting them spend ten to fifteen minutes a day playing at this site. Game merit? The best in terms of simulating a video game.

Lastly, Alex tried a hang-man style game at The graphics for the game called Stay Afloat were really nice. I encouraged Alex to choose the category “Countries of Asia” because he has been learning about Asia in school and I felt it would supplement that unit of study.  Game merit: Hangman is fun, and it is nice to choose the category to narrow down possible answers, especially if it is directly applicable to the content at school. Graphics are fun – low level of stimulation, though. Educational merit: Nice way to review what countries are in Asia. It forced Alex to mentally review and eliminate answers that did not work with the letters guessed.

Side note: I also like the games offered at because they encourage vocabulary growth and discourage aggression.  Of course, my kids will choose the games that have opponents, explosions, and simple mazes if left to their own devices. But, there are educational tools available in game format if used with supervision.

Using my PLN: I look forward to reading what other class members found in reviewing online games and incorporating some of their ideas in my parenting and teaching practice.

Differentiation tool #diffimooc Essential question #7

simple machine cartoonI spent this week substituting at the middle school in the technology lab. While there, I was able to watch and use the online comic-strip-generating program “Pixton”. The students were charged with the assignment of creating a comic strip that taught a message about Internet Safety and Digital Citizenship.

Each student had a username and password and had used the program before, so they knew right away what to do to get started.  In experimenting with it myself, I found that it was a very user-friendly tool.  The buttons were intuitive to the novice creator.

In deciding on a tool to explore for this week, I found it easiest to think in terms of a particular standard. I chose the science standard having to do with physics and simple machines, as I previously taught a unit during student teaching to second graders. I wanted to find something they could utilize to better grasp understandings about simple machines such as: what simple machines are and how they make work easier.

I think the students would be engaged and highly motivated with Pixton AND come to better understand simple machines.  Second graders love comics, they would have a blast playing with the program. They could also share their creations with the rest of the class by logging on to the program and sharing on the Promethean board.

Unfortunately, Pixton does cost money. It appears that the school has a subscription and multiple teachers use it to create assignments for different classes. Some nice features:

  • teachers put assignment descriptions for students to look over
  • before students submit their comic, they can assign a grade to their work based on a rubric that the teacher inputs
  • a teacher-graded rubric is set up next to the student rubric
  • a place for comments is available for students to give feedback to other students’ work

Second graders may need additional support using Pixton – depending on their comfort level with technology. Also, as with any creative-based assignment, the amount of time per student will surely vary greatly. As I alluded to earlier, this tool could be used for any number of topics as another way to explore important concepts. I think something like this requires the student to explain to themselves what they know in order to relay their message to a broader audience. There is a lot of a potential for furthering understanding through this tool.