Author: Greg Cox

UCET was Great…Now What?

Isn't that the question we always ask ourselves when we get done with a conference or training.  I learned all of this great stuff, now what do I do with it? How do I implement it? Where do I start? What's the best way to incorporate this? 

Going to a great conference like UCET often provides us with a lot of resources, but sometimes it often leaves us with a lot of questions.  When I go to a conference I always feel so overwhelmed with so much great stuff that I want to start in my classroom, but for some reason or another I tend to falter and I put those ideas on a shelf for another day. Here are some tips that may help you implement some of the ideas you learned about at UCET. 

1. Try to focus on one thing that you could implement today and do that thing. I know there were a lot of great sessions, but focus on the one that would be the biggest boost to your teaching right now. The problem we sometimes have is that we want to do everything. That burns you out and you end up not doing any of them.  A great mentor teacher of mine once said, "Every year you should add one thing to your teaching that pushes you to become better." I've taken that advice and it's changed my teaching for the better. 

2. Don't let perfection interfere with progress. Kevin Honeycutt presented at UCET one year and he mentioned one thing that has stayed with me.  Don't feel like you have to be an expert at something before you use it with your class.  Half of the time your students will be able to figure it out despite you.  Also, it's good to show your students that you don't know everything, but that you are learning all of the time just like they are. 

3. Don't go at it alone. Stay in contact with teachers you met at UCET, the presenters, and share your ideas with teachers at your school.  It helps to work with others so that you can bounce ideas off of each other.  

And The Award Goes To…Class Dojo

I love award shows, but I especially love the Oscars.  This year's Oscars weren't great, but there's always something that I can find enjoyable.  

This year an older man by the name of Ennio Morricone won for best composer.  He's 87 years old and has never won an Oscar in his life.  You could feel the sense of gratitude and accomplishment he felt as he slowly made his way to stage.  For the first few seconds he stood with his head down, filled with emotion.  

I'm not a huge fan about giving awards or rewards in my classroom.  I want students to become higher level thinkers and become instrinsically motivated.  Occasionally, usually at the end of the year, I do give out awards to some of my students.  This is for students that have gone above and beyond both behaviorally and academically.  It's important to celebrate accomplishments.

One way you can do this in your class for free is by using ClassDojo.com.  It's a quick and easy way to award students for being good examples and constantly reinforces good atitudes and behavior.  One way in which I use it is by not showing them the website, but giving them points on my cell phone through the ClassDojo app.  This way students can hear that someone has received a point, but they don't know who.  This makes everyone look at their own actions and they get to decide whether that point was given to them or not.  It helps them monitor their own behavior and act accordingly.  

Teachers use ClassDojo in many ways, whats a way you use it or will use it in your class? 

Integrating Video into the Classroom

I love film.  I love watching them, making them, and talking about them.  I made my first video when I was in Mrs. Hansen's 3rd grade class.  We had to create our own pizza company and try to sell the idea to others. I hated being in front of the class so I decided I would make a short commercial for my company and that way I didn't have to stand in front of the class. I continued making videos for a lot of my classes and currently create videos for companys as a fun hobby.  My favorite thing about making a video is the ability to explore and be creative.  For the last 4 years I've been directing a video club after school.  Kids voluntarily come in for a couple of hours every week and learn how to make videos.  I just started with my new group of 5th graders this year and it's so rewarding to see them interact with their peers and with me on a different level.  There is a lot of discussion, a lot of tinkering, and definitely a lot of laughs as they show their final products.  If you want to integrate video into your classroom I'd suggest a few things.  

1. Start with an iPad – You can film, edit, and export everything from one device using an iPad and iMovie.  The controls are easy enough to use that students can usually figure out how to use it without your help. 

2. Apps – Other than iMovie, which comes free with newer Apple devices, I would suggest some other kid friendly apps. MyCreate is a stop motion app that is really easy to use. Toontastic is a great animation app that allows students to move animated characters and do voice-overs. Animoto is a fun app that makes videos look very professional with very little effort.  I use it to create an end of the year yearbook video for students.  WeVideo allows users to edit online and across other platforms, but is the more expensive app out of the bunch.  

3. Build it into your curriculum – One of my favorite things to do with the kids is to create educational videos that aren't boring where I'm just standing in front of the camera.  Put the students in front of the camera and tell a story.  Have them recreate a scene from their favorite book.  Let them film a trailer for a book they want other kids to read.  Explain a math concept in a fun way using a song.  Students will retain the information better and have fun doing it. Below is an example of a vocabulary video I've made with former students.  

4. Share their work – It's important to share these videos with others.  That gives the students something to work towards.  There are different contests available to students as well.  My favorite is NextVista.org.  Not only do people from around the world get to watch their videos, but they can also win some really cool prizes.  

Happy Filming

 

#HourOfCode

Last week Leslie posted about Rose Park doing an early Hour of Code.  The official kickoff started this Monday and ends tomorrow.  My class did their hour today and I love introducing this to them. When I showed them what we were going to do they were just counting the minutes down until we actually started, literally.  I would hear students say "I can't wait to get back from prep to start coding" and "Only 2 minutes left until we get to code."  When is the last time one of your students has looked forward to learning with such zeal throughout the day? Hour of Code does a great job teaching students about coding using things that motivate them. Last year they capitalized on the success of the movie "Frozen" and were coding geometric chapes.  This year my students jaws dropped when they saw that they were going to be working with Minecraft and Star Wars. The levels are challenging enough to keep their brains working at full capacity, but easy enough that they won't get too frustrated.  I love seeing them work on a level that may take them ten or more attempts to complete. This helps them develop GRIT and the ability to develop a growth mindset. If you haven't made coding a part of your classroom you should at least give it a try. Hour of Code is a perfect way to get started.  

Recharging your Batteries

UCET was the first conference I’ve ever attended and I’ve been going ever since.  My elementary technology instructor told us about it and offered us some extra credit to attend.  I didn’t know what to expect from it, but I came away with a wealth of knowledge and a positive attitude about all of the great things I wanted to accomplish in my class.

I have been able to attend several other conferences since that first time 8 years ago and at each one I learn a new tool or a valuable lesson I wouldn’t have received otherwise.  In addition to the lessons learned and the awesome swag at the vendor booths, conferences are a way to grow your PLN.  I’ve met many teachers and have continued to follow them on social media.  Also, conferences are a way to recharge your teaching batteries and become excited about doing something new in the classroom. 

If you’re reading this blog post it means you probably attended UCET in the past and I hope you plan on making it this year.  In the meantime may I suggest some other conferences that are coming up this weekend.  The Utah Council for Teachers of Mathematics (UCTM) conference is being held in Lehi.  It begins at 4:30 this Friday and runs through Saturday afternoon.  If you’re down south and Lehi is out of the way you should look at attending the Southern Utah Educators Conference (SUECON) in St. George. This is affiliated with UCET and is being held at Desert Hills High School.  It will start  this Friday afternoon and run until Saturday evening.

There are other conferences held throughout the year and I would encourage you to find one that fits your needs and expertise.  There are conferences for gifted and talented, special ed, librarians, and many more.  If nothing else, we hope to see you March 17th and 18th up at the University of Utah for some tech madness with UCET.   

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