Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A 5 Bar Classroom?

As a teacher in today’s modern classroom, I have a front-row-seat when it comes to watching technology unfold. Whether I’m the one applying the technology, sharing strategies with my students, or even reversing the roles and learning from them, technology has ultimately changed how we need to approach education. More importantly, I feel that embracing technology, specifically mobile technology, serves as a catalyst to giving students more potential than all previous generations.

The question is: Can we truly utilize mobile technology to reach out to students to convert unproductive time into enriched experiences?

The answer: Absolutely! Mobile technology is a bridge between teachers and students that can turn any situation, specifically outside the classroom, into a productive opportunity. In fact, I’ve been able to reach more students and significantly impact their success due to mobile technology. Through the use of various apps on a mobile phone or tablet, I’ve been able to directly communicate, share information, and reiterate important concepts which would not have been available without the use of such technology. 

Specifically, here are a few mobile apps for both the smart phone and tablet than can ultimately change you and your student’s digital experience.

  • Edmodo has a similar feel to Facebook but is for educational purposes only. They have a great support group willing to help in real time. The site allows you to create multiple classes, share files, hold discussions, upload assignments, and create digital quizzes (just to name a few). They have a decent mobile app (smart phone and tablet) that meets the basic needs; however, there are a few bugs that are being worked on. I currently use this for all of my classes.
  • StudyBlue, in my opinion, is the leading flashcard editor and NO-ONE can compare to their mobile app. Depending on the methodology, the teacher can structure the digital space such that the teacher is in control of the flashcards; or, it can be student driven. Either method, the website and mobile app is geared towards one thing: maximizing efficient education through the use of a flashcard. There’s no doubt in the research behind using flashcards; however, StudyBlue works very hard to go beyond the “call of duty” to provide effective tools such as the quiz creator, review sheet, and the flashcard editor on a smartphone. Here’s a short clip on how to use that technology: LINK Furthermore, students can maximize their learning by accessing content via their smartphones to and from school, in between classes, during lunch, and late night in bed.
  • Vimeo, for my purposes, is the ideal video hosting site. In particular, I enjoy creating screen-videos of my teaching. Because I use a digital writing tablet (Wacom Intuous 4) to write my notes in the classroom, it’s easy to use screen-capture software, such as Camtasia, to record my notes as well as audio. This is ideal for the visual and auditory learner, a student that misses the class, and/or the student that wants that extra reinforcement. Once uploaded, the video can be shared easily with anyone. In addition, Vimeo provides a great mobile app that allows one to view any video as well as uploading directly from a smartphone – ideal for quick tutorials away from the computer.
  • Additional notable apps include Dropbox, Evernote, and ProBoards.

To conclude, one may ask, “Will the classroom ever be contained on a phone or tablet?” While I don’t believe mobile technology can or will ever take the place of the physical classroom, evidence has certainly shown that it can we have many reasons to engage ourselves in it.


Daniel Rothrock


Disclosure: Daniel is a user and Teacher Advocate for StudyBlue.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

An Educator’s Virtual Classroom: Edmodo Style

Since I stumbled upon the virtual classroom website Edmodo, I have approached education in a slightly different manner. To put it simple, I have been able to re-create a classroom setting that is engaging and refreshing for both my students and myself. The following is how I use Edmodo in and out of the classroom.
  1. Direct Communication: As with many things, students need to know and understand what is expected of them. In particular, I use Edmodo to list assignments, answer questions, and communicate with parents. What I like most is that I can add assignments to the calendar that are automatically listed as either an assignment or an upcoming event. Assignments have past due dates while events simply remind the student there’s something due. Nevertheless, students see both bits of information seamlessly. This helps when a student is absent or forgets to write the homework from the board because there’s a central online location as a backup.
  2. Folder Management: Edmodo allows the teacher to create endless folders. Since I teach multiple subjects, I use their folder management system to dump all resources into and then share the folders with each class depending. In addition, I place many of my daily quizzes into a folder and share with the class just before initiating the exam. With the use of a computer lab, students simply refresh the browser and the folder appears – giving students the access to the PDF file.
  3. Collaboration and Feedback: In conjunction to the folder management, I use Edmodo to engage students in collaboration sessions, setup virtual small groups, and receive feedback. Subsequently, I enjoy using the poll feature on Edmodo after homework and quizzes to allow students to submit which questions were the most difficult. I use this data to determine my discussion and will typically go the most requested questions.
Now that Edmodo and StudyBlue have joined hands in a digital partnership, I can certainly add several ways to enrich my classroom.
  1. Direct links: Students will receive direct links back to their StudyBlue flashcards as well as an “all-star” deck in which I’ve merged personally. As a side note, my students are responsible for building their own flashcards; however, I will merge those in which I see fit together into a single deck that encompasses the necessary criteria.
  2. Speed drills: With a link, I will share the URL to a common deck for students to study as a speed drill. This would include students using the quiz function on StudyBlue and practicing their vocabulary in class in 10 minute increments. Students must continue their practice until master is achieved – 100% score.
  3. Embedding: While this is not currently an option, I can imagine that StudyBlue would add this option as a function to export or embed flashcards through a widget. This would further enhance the functionality of one’s use by embedding flashcards directly into Edmodo. Students could login and have that as their homepage each day in class and that could serve as an easy, yet effective, warm-up strategy.

Daniel Rothrock

Disclosure: Daniel is a user and Teacher Advocate for StudyBlue.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Digital Classroom: The Ideal Plot

Every year, I spend a good portion of my summer contemplating the upcoming year. A lot of that time is usually spent working on my personal website, reworking lesson plans, and organizing files; however, this summer was a little different. Because I had spent the previous year piloting two amazing programs (StudyBlue and Edmodo), the new year was going to change the way I approached education. Edmodo would serve as my digital classroom (posting assignments, answering questions outside the classroom, and adding digital notes) and StudyBlue would serve as my digital media (outlines and flashcards for studying purposes). With the two combined, I had an arsenal that could sustain the full year if need be.

clip_image002_thumb4Internally, things will not change compared to years past. As normal, I will continue to nourish the development of independent, critical, and inquiring thinkers (possible future link to Independent Thinker BLOG). However, with a push for technology to be fused into the classroom, my secondary approach will be altered slightly. Knowing this, I was required to think more about the procedural issues over the summer as compared to personal productivity. Nonetheless, I want to develop a process that is easy to follow and tolerating for months on end. I recognize students appreciate consistency; therefore, I feel that simplicity will have to be the answer.

Thus, when students read (goal 1), I will have them do one of two things (goal 2): In math, students will handwrite their notes unless they choose to type them. In information technology, students will be responsible for the latter. Either way, some form of note taking will take place.

Afterwards, students will then be responsible for taking their notes and converting them into flashcards (goal 3) using StudyBlue’s interface. Preferably, students should upload their notes to increase efficiency (that means scanning if they handwrote them); however, I will not require them to do so. Assuming their notes are accurate, this will be the 3rd or 4th time in which they’ve seen rich content – imperative for the brain to start saying, “Hey! This material is important!”

Lastly, students are expected to study their flashcards on a routine basis (goal 4). This process will continue throughout the chapter helping students prepare for the chapter assessment. What’s more, I spiral all chapters; therefore, their personal resources will be crucial for each subsequent chapter starting with week 1. Within a few weeks, students should find their routine and I’ll add checks and balances along the way to avoid complacency.


Daniel Rothrock


Disclosure: Daniel is a user and Teacher Advocate for StudyBlue.

The Digital Classroom: The Real Scoop

Technology is a revolution that cannot necessarily be reversed. Without a doubt, there have been countless measures to which technology has allowed humans to do more. Unfortunately, some use technology (sometimes unknowingly) in ways that could potentially hinder their own personal performance and education.

As I previously stated in “The Digital Classroom: The Ideal Plot”, I had several goals that my students were to meet. As I discussed these goals with my colleagues, I found myself under fire with questioning such as, “What will you do if a student shares their flashcards with another? Do you know that students can copy and paste? What about stealing information off the internet?”

While all of this is true, I reassured my peers that I would continue to hold discussions with my students about integrity, model students how to achieve earnest success, and supply evidence on how retyping your own notes is beneficial. But what if all of this wasn’t good enough? Would all be lost?

This is where I put myself into my students’ shoes.

In particular, I teach at an IB school where students are on a collegiate block schedule – a 2 day rotation that includes 4 – 90 minute classes a day. By their junior year, students have room for one elective (which is typically another IB course) and they’re all competing for various awards and scholarships. By the end of their senior year, students will need to have amassed a total of 24 points and a satisfactory completion of three compulsory core components. Needless to say, the tension is high and their personal time is low.

Therefore, when I was asked these questions, my secondary response was a little rhetorical; “What is our ultimate goal?” In my opinion, it’s two-fold. First and foremost, I want my student to master their IB exams for my class. However, beyond that, I want to develop life-long learners that are eager to learn in the field of their interest. As with many times in life, we often find ourselves short on time; therefore, we do the best we can with what we have. If a student feels the need that they have to copy and paste their notes into their flashcards, then they’ll have to recognize where they need to make the difference up – either reading through their notes an extra time or studying their flashcards more often. Either way, I will continue to nourish their development and stress the importance’s of doing things through a proven method. Regardless, if a student copies their notes yet aces an IB exam, I have to ask - did it really matter?

We all have a limited time to do the very best that we can. I suspect my students will want to make me proud and when time runs out, they’ll continue to rise to the occasion.


Daniel Rothrock


Disclosure: Daniel is a user and Teacher Advocate for StudyBlue.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Vulnerability into Credibility: Introducing New Technology in the Classroom

After learning about StudyBlue.com, I immediately went into action. I knew that I had found something worth sharing to my students; however, I also knew that this would be a fairly large risk if I honestly expected every student to be apart of this learning process. Because it was late in the year, I had to develop a simple system that did not intimidate my students but instead gave them an alternative learning style that felt and appeared natural. The following is a general overview of how I introduced StudyBlue with the end in mind:

How to introduce technology into the classroom:

  1. Do the research! Before I ever introduced StudyBlue to my students, I had a sound understanding of who the company was and what they represented. Just as important, I knew how to complete many of the common tasks that all of my students were going to ask assistance with. For example: How do I enroll into your class, Mr. Rothrock? How do I create a flashcard? Can we share resources?
  2. Have a plan! Because I only had the last 9 weeks to really get students engaged, I decided that I would introduce StudyBlue as a mini-project (my plan). I knew that if I left the integration process as optional, as many as half the students may not have participated; therefore, involvement was mandatory and feedback would be part of the assignment. I really had to know whether or not this would be something I wanted to continue in years to come.
  3. Communicate! Elementary sounding, but my students needed to know exactly what I was thinking and more importantly my expectation of them. I was willing to communicate as much information as I could afford. Everything was out on the table. When things went wrong (and they did), I wasn’t afraid to admit a mistake. Ultimately, my vulnerability paid off and gave me credibility.
  4. Stay consistent! Once the mini-project was introduced, I had a routine check that was completed on a weekly basis. I also brought it up in causal conversation just to remind them of my expectations, which I feel ultimately helped them participate in the overall project. They knew that every week I would be checking for their production.
  5. Find the value! We all do this last one. We invest in the things that we see value in. My students weren’t any different. I had to sell the value in their education. StudyBlue offered me an alternative learning method through technology. I wanted my students (even the ones who hate technology) to see that value. In doing so, I shared with them how they could search for other topics outside of my math class and integrate their findings into their own flashcards. I showed them how to jigsaw a chapter using 4-5 students so that not everyone was re-creating the wheel and then share those resources to each other. And lastly, I showed them how consistent studying using their flashcards helped them perform at a higher level on a mock exam.
Daniel Rothrock
Disclosure: Daniel is a user and Teacher Advocate for StudyBlue.