Maker Space, Teaching, Technology Integration

10 Ways to Use Spinners in the Classroom

spin11111111Ah, spinners. The newest toy designed to drive teachers mad.  Pokemon, hackey sacks, digipets, it’s an age-old problem for teachers.  The hot toy of the day makes it into the classroom.  Schools quickly ban the toy and kids create a black market to sneak it in. Why fight it? Embrace it!  Invite those spinners into class as a learning tool!

Here’s 10 easy ways to be the cool teacher:

  1. Review friction– students find different surfaces around the classroom to spin their spinner. Use timers or cell phones to time how long the spinner spins on various surfaces. Students can then enter their data in Google sheets, and even use the “insert chart” feature to make  a line graph of their data.
  2. Write a persuasive letter– students hate being told, “You’re not allowed”. Have students write a persuasive letter to the powers that be, enumerating all the reasons they should be allowed to have spinners in class.
  3. Practice vocabulary– (use this sheet) ask students to make small squares labeled 1,2 & 3. Have students tape each number to an arm of the spinner. Choose some vocabulary words. Students then spin their spinner and stick out their pointer finger towards their spinner. Whichever arm stops closest to their pointer finger, is the action from the sheet they will use with their first vocabulary word. Students repeat this process for each vocabulary word.
  4. Practice spelling– students use the same labels from above. Students then spin the spinner, whichever number their pointer finger points to, their partner has to write spelling sentences with multiples of the number that was spun. If I spun a 3, my partner would have to write sentences for spelling words #3, 6, 9, 12, 15, & 18. If they spin a 1, the partner writes spelling sentences for #1-8. Then switch, and have the partner do the same.
  5. Multiplication practice– Are your students studying 1×1 digit multiplication, 2×2, or maybe 3x?  Ask students to create three labels for their spinner. They can choose their own numbers, but they should correlate to the number of digits they are practicing. If you are studying 1×2 or 2×3, ask one partner to choose 2 digit numbers and the other partner to choose 3 digit numbers.  Tape the labels to each arm of the spinner.  Partners point at each other’s spinner.  They take each number that they spun and pair them together to practice multiplication.  Repeat.
  6. Division practice– students again choose their own labels for their spinner. Students can practice in small group, with one student making numbers for the divisor, and the rest making numbers for the divisor or quotient. Everyone spins at the same time. The group must use the divisor from the one student.  That student may choose which dividend they want to use. Everyone uses the divisor to solve for the number they spun. Once they have gone through all their numbers, have them switch spinners clockwise.
  7. Revise & redesign– Ask students, “Where will a spinner not spin?” Can students redesign a spinner to spin better? Ask students to design a better spinner. Have them draw up plans, diagram it, and even create an advertisement. Then, put their plans into action. Provide basic supplies: Popsicle sticks, jewel cases, old CD’s, aluminum foil, brads, paper clips, etc. Allow students to create their design and demonstrate at a “Spin-off”.
  8. Fraction comparison– students label their spinner with three labels, this time fractions. Students tape their labels to their spinners.  Students then go around the class, spinning their spinner and partnering up to compare their fractions.  They choose a new partner for each spin.  Students can even keep tally of the number of times their fraction was the largest.
  9. Random name generator– use word art to make a page with everyone’s name. Attach a paper arrow to one of the spinner’s arms.  Then place the spinner in the center of the circle and spin.  The class will love this new take on an old favorite.
  10. Reading with purpose– Find the history of the spinner here and its original purpose. Great article, but there are many ads. The article also mentions toys of the past.
Teaching, Technology Integration

The Mindset You Need for Tech Integration

Using technology in the classroom is a little bit about skill, and a lot about being a daring tight rope walker on a high wire.  It has incredible thrills and engagement for all, when it works. But when it doesn’t……. your fall from on high can resemble falling off the high wire and into elephant poo.  Most of using technology in the classroom is planned out and prepared for during instructional preparation.  For this reason, technology use should not be a risky proposition.  However, we all know too well that computers are unpredictable.  Screens freeze, the internet goes down, servers become overwhelmed, and let’s face it- something I can only call tiny computer goblins often take over.  For all of these reasons, your regular type A plan-everything personality, may find many situations in a technology classroom unsettling.  In order for technology integration to work, you must adopt a certain mindset.  The thinking goes something like this:

  • Something will go wrong everyday and it will be ok
  • From each failure will come an instance of learning for you and your students
  • Each day will come with unexpected rewards in tiny ways
  • You didn’t become a teacher just to teach content
  • Good teaching can happen no matter what or where
  • You are NOT the most knowledgeable thing in the classroom, you are a talented education facilitator
  • Student collaboration is essential to the environment
  • If you must choose between believing if it was student error or computer error, give your student the benefit of the doubt
  • Your students may be able to fix your tech problem

Your mindset is always an integral part of your classroom.  You are adding an unpredictable element, technology, to your classroom upon which your instruction and your students’ learning relies.  The way you mentally approach technology integration in your classroom will make it or break it for you and for your students.  Remember: the learning process should be enjoyable for all with or without technology.  I truly hope your daring tight rope walk is an incredible success enjoyed by all.

Technology Integration

The Formula for Technology Integration in a School…….

dewey2At one time in my career the pressure to use technology in my classroom made it feel like the walls were closing in on me.  I knew this was the path education was taking.  I knew that kids were interested in computers, but I honestly didn’t see the point.  Every time I saw a student on a computer, they were playing a multiple choice game or learning multiplication facts.  I can teach them deeper learning than that, I thought.  The computer is just a vessel for rote memorization. Students were being babysat by a screen as they did little more than a digital worksheet with moving parts.  Then, I moved to a new school.  I thank the heavens for this change, as it was indeed a paradigm shift in my entire thought process as a teacher.  It is by changing districts that I was able to learn a new mindset towards educational uses for technology.  The differences were so stark between these districts, I realized that people really don’t know what they don’t know.  Many education leaders claim they want their teachers to use technology, but they fault the wrong reasons as to why the teachers do not use technology.  I wanted to lay out a formula for a successful model of what makes an environment for technology integration friendly to teachers.  It is rarely because teachers do not wish to use technology.

The message must come from the top

The teacher may know technology is important, but if the leader of the school does not express that they feel technology use is important in instruction and student learning, teachers are unlikely to become new adopters.  Those that are late-adopters will feel no push toward adoption and those that are new adopters will be unsure of their footing when it comes to the woes of technology integration.  Teachers must hear from their leader that technology integration is important, without high pressure sales tactics.  Indeed, the best encouragement is by example.  Leaders who teach PD with various new technologies are doing their staff a world of good by educating them on new technology as well as sending a message of favor.

Safety must be assured

Almost every reason I had to NOT try technology had to do with my concerns about my job safety.  When the technology fails for any of the millions of reasons that it assuredly will when I choose to use it with students, I know with out a doubt that will also be the exact moment one of my appraisers will walk in to do an observation of me.  The teacher has to know that in this moment, the appraiser will compliment him/her for their valiant attempt, recognize their effort and gracefully bow out.

The teacher also must know that they will not be persecuted when they become behind in the curriculum because of these types of incidents, or because the students have to be taught how to operate the computer/program before they can use it.  If the leadership is truly on board with technology integration, they must be ready to support the teacher in their learning curve and the students in theirs.

My fear of the above two incidents taking place paralyzed me and my classes into computer paralysis for many years.  It was not until I met people who applauded and complimented others many classroom technological blunders that I decided I was in a safe environment.

A safety net must be in place

I can not over value the importance of having an IT dedicated to only your campus.  A kind IT is worth a million dollars.  I’ve had IT support that was knowledgeable and not kind, no one will go to that person for advice.  If you have to make a choice between the best IT person to hire and the kindest, choose the kindest, they will reach more people.  Lucky for me, I have both in one person.

Inspiration must be ever present

Leaders can force people to do things and people will hate every minute.  Students can ask for things from teachers and they might be indulged.  Teachers are most often moved to action by other teachers.  Just like our students, it is our peer group that influences us in our ways.  Google Plus is a great place to showcase ideas and ask questions in a safe space.  Even better, those who are too shy to ask questions know who to email or ask in person because of what they see on G+.  Having one person on each content or grade level team be the designated Techspert is always a good idea.  Also, creating an atmosphere where teachers share one new technology idea a week in their meetings is usually something easy to accomplish.  Find your most energetic, enigmatic teachers, and ask them to be loud and boisterous about their technology use.  Have the teachers offer their most useful websites/apps for elective PD hours perhaps during lunch or after school.  Only teachers know what is most useful to other teachers and can present it in a way that troubleshoots classroom problems no IT or career speaker can see.

Celebrate students

When student work is celebrated, teacher work is celebrated.  There is a teacher behind each piece of student work that beams with pride.  If students do digital work, have them share their work with another teacher of their choice, unsolicited from that teacher.  This might be by hitting the “Share” button on Google Apps, it might be by emailing teachers a link to an online creation, it might be that the one teacher may have to email the other teacher for the student, as the student has no email.  So when my class created a diagram using Lucid Chart in class about the 3 major religions of the Mid-East, students were offered the chance to send a “Share” message to any teacher in our school.  This act has so many ripple effects, it is hard to name them all.  Not only does the student have a new sense of pride for their work, they have a different audience.  They also get to make a different educational connection with a teacher who doesn’t usually teach that subject.  The teacher receives validation as a member of that student’s social circle and also possibly sees the student with a new skill set not usually presented in their class.  The teacher also sees a piece of technology in action that he/she might then see as a viable option for their class.

Display student work on the teacher’s website.  Scroll it on the school’s website.  Run it on the TVs in the cafeteria, front office, and everywhere else.  Take that digital picture frame out of your closet and load it up with student work to show in your classroom.

Do you have staff meetings that start with celebrations?  While you are talking about all those personal staff celebrations, why not add some student tech celebrations to the mix?  Show a few pre-loaded pieces of student digital work from around the school from the past week.  Students get applause, teachers get celebrated for their hard work, new types of applications are noticed, and those whose mantra is constantly, ” we don’t have time for that,” see that some teachers are using technology to make wise use of their time.

All in all, you must engage

There is a place for rote memorization in education.  To reach the top of the pyramid, you sometimes have to start at the bottom.  There are MANY apps for that.  The message and the emphasis should be on creation.  When I originally saw technology in use, I only saw teachers using multiple choice programs, multiplication websites, and point and click interfaces.  This led to my thought that technology could not teach deep thought.  Since then I have changed schools.  My new principal held the belief that the internet was for creating thought through synthesis of content taught. This indeed was an eye- opener to me!  As I began to look around my new campus at what other teachers used to achieve this, I was freed into a rebirth of technology where the skills of blooms met the skills of an artist, inventor, map-maker, engineer, scientist, and so much more.  This was what must be so great about the internet!  After this revelation the world was my oyster and only the minutes in the school day were my enemy.  My students were the beneficiaries of my new discoveries.

So many teachers do not understand there is a distinction between these old out-dated point and click websites and the rich thinking that the art of creating something new can arouse.  This is a distinction that actually has to be spelled out for teachers.

If you train them, they will come…

It may be an old, tired phrase, but PD is still one of the best ways to get teachers to use new tools.  If you honestly think about your technology PD, how much time is actually dedicated to it?  What message is sent by this?  After the testing data is discussed, and the new system that just got adopted, the book study, the emergency procedures, the district goals, the PTA announcements, how much time is left for tech PD?  And who teaches it, the IT person?  Who determined this is what should be taught?  Probably the district who just bought some new initiative.  Grass roots efforts are best.  Let teachers teach and let them be genuine in what is best for their peers.

A message of support, an atmosphere of safety, collaboration, and celebration.  These are the pieces to the technology integration puzzle in a school.  Oh, yes, and time.  Paradigm shift is a lengthy process that cannot be pushed, but instead must be pulled ever so gently in the right direction.