Thursday, August 20, 2020

New Turnkey Project-Based Learning Resources for High School STEM Teachers


MIT BLOSSOMS, an international education initiative founded in 2008 to encourage high school STEM teachers to pursue more active, student-centered learning, has recently enlarged its focus to support those teachers in moving to Project-Based Learning. Project-Based Learning (PBL) is an emerging teaching/learning strategy. The traditional teaching/learning model has students passively “receiving content” from the teacher, practicing with homework, memorizing for the next exam and then – tragically – often forgetting it all. PBL offers a substantially different experience where the teacher helps students form small teams and then challenges each team to work on a demanding problem over the course of weeks. The ideal problem is socially important, located in the real world — preferably in the students’ community, and requires mature application of STEM knowledge. The complexity of the problem is such that it has no right or wrong answer, a situation often troubling to students used to formulaic learning. Rather, the team must devise its own procedures for problem framing, formulation, and resolution. In the course of this effort, where now the teacher is mentor or coach, students experience discovery learning — in sharp contrast to taking lecture notes. They also must develop 21st Century skills involving cooperation, collaboration, conflict resolution and reaching out to local professionals who work in the domain of the assigned problem. The team’s problem resolution is typically presented in a final written report and public oral presentation, often with local stakeholders attending. It is a learning exercise that these students will likely never forget!

Yet imagine the challenge for a teacher to design and operate such a PBL project over the course of three to five weeks, while still having to prepare and give lectures for other required topics. This huge teacher preparation “start-up cost” (in terms of time and energy) is certainly one reason why many high school STEM teachers hesitate to try PBL, although they may want to. Our new MIT BLOSSOMS PBL units are designed for just such a teacher – someone who wants to give PBL a try, but is not sure just how to get started.

The first five MIT BLOSSOMS PBL units listed below:

Each of these units is developed to provide a teacher with all the resources and scaffolding needed to lead a three to five-week classroom project. To begin, each unit kicks off from a BLOSSOMS video lesson, thus providing the teacher with anchoring content and clear direction. Teachers have informed us that one of the most useful scaffolds provided in these units is the “Project Calendar,” which offers a detailed, flexible day-by-day schedule for the unit. This calendar includes downloadable resources to lead the project, such as lesson plans, teacher notes, slide presentations, student handouts, homework assignments, etc. — thus removing myriad hours of preparation time for teachers who might not try PBL without such scaffolding. Other valuable resources provided with each of the five BLOSSOMS units include “Video Teacher Guides,” “Summative Assessments,” “Project-Based Learning Tools,” “Teacher Questions/Answers about PBL”, and a discussion of “Common Student Concerns During PBL.”

Education professionals are looking forward to using these new PBL resources. According to Michael Lauro, Associate Executive Director of the Atlantis Charter High School in Fall River, Massachusetts, “We have learned much from collaborating with the MIT BLOSSOMS team over the past three years. We think we have played some role in helping BLOSSOMS define their PBL capabilities, and we look forward to using in our classrooms these five new PBL exercises in the coming academic year.”

Financial support was generously provided to MIT BLOSSOMS by the US OPEN EDUCATION RESOURCES FOUNDATION INC of Ruckersville VA, Lincoln H. Miller, Jr., founder and president.

All content from BLOSSOMS is OER, Open Education Resources, freely available to all.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Virtual Summit – Reopening: Innovative Tools & Strategies for Anywhere Learning - August 17-20, 2020

Teq is hosting this free virtual summit to discuss innovative tools and strategies for reopening schools — whether in a traditional, hybrid, or distance learning format.

We would like this to be an open forum where communication is encouraged to get a true understanding of the needs of each school. As always with Teq, there will be opportunities for virtual product showcases throughout the summit and our PD team will be available to answer specific edtech questions.

Sessions will be presented live using Zoom and are 45 minutes (30 minutes with 15 minutes for discussion and Q&A). Here are some of the topics to be addressed at the summit:
  • Effective Organization of Google Drive and Google Classroom
  • Supporting Teachers during Distance Learning with PD
  • Rube Goldberg and Minecraft for Remote STEM Learning
  • Keeping Students Safe in Any Learning Environment (with Gaggle)
  • The Virtual Tech Coach
  • Using Microsoft Teams for Remote Learning

For more information and to register for the summit, please click on the link below.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Easily make screen recordings (with or without your face)

Screencastify if one of my favorite screen recording tools. A few quick notes before I talk about it more; you have to be using the Google Chrome browser, have a Google account and the free version has a recording limit of five minutes.
 Screencasting for All

To start you'll visit the Screencastify web page and install the extension.

Screencastify LogoOnce you have installed the extension, you will see  pink arrow that represents Screencastify.  To get things going you will have to click on it and activate your account.  You will have to agree to some permissions and then you'll be ready to go!  

You have three options to making a recording: desktop, tab or webcam.  Desktop and tab recording are similar.  In both cases you will be recording your screen.  The desktop option allows you to record everything one your screen no matter what window it is in.  The tab option gives the option to record just one tab in your browser.  This means that anything that doesn't happen inside that one tab won't be in the recording.  For both of these, you have the option to add in your webcam in the bottom corner of the screen.  This allows the view to see you as well as your screen.  The last option is webcam and this is what it sounds like.  You will be using your webcam and anything in front of it will be recorded.

Once you are done with your recording it will be saved for you in Google Drive.  Now you have the option to share it with others, embed the video, do some simple editing or download it to use or edit elsewhere.

Now that you know how to make recordings, what will you record?

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

How add Text Effects to your Word documents

Text effects are a way to elevate your text.  I made this short video for my students as a reference and wanted to share in case it could be useful to you or your students.

Friday, April 10, 2020

How to use Screencastify for free screen recording

Screencastify is a Chrome extension (meaning that it only works on in the Chrome browser) that allows you to record what is happening on your computer screen.  While there are a number of other screen recording tools that you can use, this one is my favorite.  Let's take a look at its features:

  • you can record a browser tab, your whole screen or just your webcam
  • you can add your webcam into a browser tab or whole screen recording
  • it can record offline!
  • drawing tools to annotate
  • spotlight tool to call attention to something
  • highlights your mouse clicks
  • recordings save in Google Drive
  • option to upload directly to Google Classroom or YouTube
  • export recording as an MP4 (video file) or an animated GIF
  • basic video editor
As I mentioned earlier, this tool is free, but there is a limit of 5 minutes per video.  If you want the ability to record longer videos the paid version is $29 per year.  In addition to the extended recording time the paid version also give you additional editing features. 

It's honestly a very easy program to use and I think you can figure it out by just playing around with it (that's what I recommend for most things), but they do have some training resources that you check out as well.  Plus you can earn a fun badge and certificate if you take the whole training courses. 

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Quizlet Teacher is available for Free through June, 30, 2020

During the current outbreak of COVID-19, Quizlet’s goal is to support teachers and students in all impacted areas. To help with remote teaching and student engagement while schools are closed, they are providing free access to Quizlet Teacher through June 30, 2020.

Quizlet Teacher includes Class Progress, a formative assessment tool that can help track students' progress. You'll also get access to advanced content creation tools, such as diagrams and audio, which enable you to create custom study materials for your class.

For more information on how to create better, more dynamic sets or use Class Progress, check out our Help Center.