Inspiring Pages with Adobe Spark


I’ve always thought it was important for teacher’s to have a web presence in a society that is saturated with technology. It always made sense to me that if I can order a pizza on my computer, my students and parents should be able to find out of their education on a computer.

Now there are great learning management systems like Google Classroom, Canvas and Schoology that let teachers share and receive information immediately with students. Everything is just a click away. Miss class? “Check Google Classroom” How can I turn this in to you? “Check Google Classroom”. There are even parent/”shadow” options on these so parents can see every educational transaction as it’s happening too. Plus almost every district has online grade books where parents can check grades and contact teachers through email.

I had a pretty good website. It didn’t require a lot of updating throughout the year, gave an extensive amount of information and looked not too shabby. But it wasn’t a high traffic area. Not often visited by anyone. Why was that? I deduced that it generally was not needed. My lesson plans were easy to find elsewhere. People who wanted to contact me already knew how to do that. Anyone that had questions about policies and procedures would rather just email and ask than click and read.

I maintain, however, that it is important for a teacher to have a web presence.  So I went small-scale and created a one page “hello” website about my Spanish class. Gives info, biography and has links to syllabi but otherwise it’s just some showcase photos.

I love Adobe Spark. Like, love it. It’s incredibly easy to put together a beautiful “web” presentation. I’ve used it only once before with my students but would really like to make the effort to use it more often. Just have to find the right inspiration.

I recommend you play around with Adobe Spark and think about how you can incorporate it into your world. It took me about 1 1/2 to create my new web presence with Adobe Spark and I think it’ll do the trick for a 2017 tech-saavy educational world.

Mrs. Huff's Spanish

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Also check out my TPT store between June 28-Jul 1 2017 for a 20% off everything sale. I’m working on adding new resources and welcome feedback and suggestions.

My Store

A Day in the Life of Classcraft . . . .


6:00 AM Wake-up and check email. Two students completed a Classcraft Quest for XP. Go into Classcraft and award those students XP.

7:40 AM Arrive at school. Award Prestige AP points.

*I have two students that surpassed Level 18 so they have reached “Prestige” status,

which means they earn an additional 5 AP everyday. I have to put these in manually.

9:00 AM 2nd Hour Spanish 3 class begins.

9:01 AM Generate a Random Event in Classcraft and do whatever it says.

9:02 AM Go about today’s lesson plan.

During the class period, I deduct HP when applicable (when students need to charge their computer, have their cell phone out, act disrespectfully, etc)

I also award XP when applicable (finish task early, win a game, help a student, etc.)

9:40 AM We have a test tomorrow. If students want to use any collaborative powers, they should plan accordingly.  If students have time, they go in and use collaborative powers or strategize with their tribe mates.

9:42 AM Dismiss class

1:10 PM Repeat process with 6th Hour Spanish 3 class.

3:10 PM School dismissed

8:00 PM Students continually work on additional (optional) XP Quests on their own time and I look at those when I can

Occasionally . . .

  • Once every two weeks I give some kind of in class assignment to be completed in groups. This assignment does not take the entire class period and students are encouraged to work on “craft” related things during time

Engaging Students Through Gamification


I recently wrote a reflection about implementing a gamification website into my Spanish 3 course. I recounted that after only 3 days, I thought it was a game changer and something that I was really excited about. This is a more detailed account of how I am using Classcraft in a high school Spanish 3 classroom. (For a student reflection on Classcraft, click here)

Why Gamification?

I was very happy with my standard classroom environment but always thought aspects of gamification would really boost student engagement. Meanwhile, I was dealing with two small teacher dilemmas.

  1. I have students coming to class with uncharged computers when they are supposed to have charged them overnight. I have students turning in late assignments. I have students doing small disruptive things that might not warrant a full 30 minute detention but are just annoying none-the-less.  I like the grades in my class to be an accurate reflection of student learning. If I deduct points for having to charge your computer during class, that de-validates my grading procedures. How can I address these things without impacting the student’s grade?
  2. I wish my students would want to do some extra enrichment in Spanish without having to require it from all students. But how can I encourage students to do extra learning tasks when I’m not going to reward them for it in the gradebook?

All this is in my mind and enters Classcraft.  Classcraft is a classroom gamification platform that I could customize to handle both of my concerns while also engaging students in a game type setting. Classcraft is something that I do in the classroom that is completely 100% separate from my gradebookAll students are included but can choose how involved in the process they want to be.

Main Concept

I imported my student roster into Classcraft. I assigned my students to groups of 4 or 5 and I kind of based those groups on abilities, personalities and perceived interest in “gaming”. In each group, I assigned their game characters. Each student is either a mage, a warrior or a healer. Each character has a different gaming experience. So when I introduced Classcraft to my students and they logged in for the very first time, saw their character avatar, their character statistics and their teammates.

Main_Profile

Each character starts on Level 1. They move to the next level by gaining a certain number of Experience Points (XP–explained below). In my game, students level up by earning 500 XP.

Each character also has Action Points and Health Points, all of which I will describe in the next section.

The gamification aspect of Classcraft has built in collaboration components, encouraging students on a team to help out their teammates.

Statistics

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XP: These points are what drives a student to move up to the next level. If you were to keep score, so to speak, the student with the most XP would be your “winner” (even though Classcraft doesn’t have winners or losers). I am in charge of awarding XP. I have created a few preset reasons as to why I might reward a student for doing something but I can also input any XP value I want for any reason I want. Giving out XP is a way to reward positive classroom behaviors without having to tinker with their actual academic grade.

HP: Health Points are represent a character’s life in the game. I deduct HP anytime I see behaviors that I want to punish or reprimand. I can also take away HP for any reason I want to. Once a student gets down to 0 HP, they have to roll a dice of consequence. This will give them some kind of punishment. I created the punishments and they range from having to do extra assignments to bringing me a treat.

AP: Each character can learn powers and take action if they have enough AP, Action Points. Students kind of use these on their own and then the points regenerate every night so I don’t really have too much to do with AP as the teacher.

GP: My students earn Gold Pieces but that’s entirely on their own and it is purely for cosmetic purposes, like adding to their avatar and having pets. I’m not using GP for anything game related.

Powers

Students need an incentive to earn more XP and be involved in the game. Each character has the ability to learn powers. Most of these powers I have written and crafted to fit what I am comfortable with in my classroom.

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At each level of the game, students get a Power Point which enables them to learn a power. The more XP, the more levels advanced, the more Power Points, the more powers a student is able to learn. Some of the powers are collaborative and help out their teammates. Some of the powers are individual. I tried to create powers that students would want and that I thought were fair in the classroom.  For example, if a student progresses far enough in Classcraft to be able to learn an advanced power such as getting to use notes on a test, then they have done enough good things in my classroom and they deserve to be rewarded.

I will probably have more reflection on power usage as the year goes one. At this stage, no student has really used a power so we’ll see how it all works out.

Random Event

Each class period with start with a Classcraft random event. It’s a “Wheel of Destiny” button that generates some kind of rule or activity for the day’s class. I customize these too and some are strictly game based (earn XP, HP, etc.), some are content based (speak only Spanish all day) and some are just silly (make your teacher sing a song). The variety and randomness of it grabs their attention and gets them ready for class immediately. Plus it’s fun!

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Additional Quests for XP

Immediately after introducing Classcraft, I had students asking for different opportunities to earn XP. I thought this would be an excellent way to introduce some enrichment Spanish activities—things that were completely separate from our day-to-day curriculum but that would enrich foreign language learning. Basically a way to make my students do things that I normally would just strongly suggest. This idea mushroomed into a few different things.

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Drill Quests: The first thing I introduced was Drill Based Quests that required students to do vocabulary or conjugation drills through two external sites that we use all of the time: Quizlet and Conjuguemos. If students showed proof that they completed these drills, they earned XP.  One of the Quizlet sets I gave them was a list of the 50 most common words in Spanish, which includes small by valuable words that students often forget. That review has been priceless and I can see the difference already with the students that have done those drills.

Project Quests: And they still wanted more Quests! I created a Google Doc with different project based Quests. There are writing, speaking, artistic, statistical and historical quests involving language and culture. All of these projects are beneficial in the foreign language classroom but might not fit into my curriculum. I love being able to encourage my students to do these things without requiring them.

Bounty Board: Then I created a board in my room where I could pin up index cards that have Quests written on them. These are one-time-only first-come-first-served Quests. For example, I have a board in my room that I need taken down and changed and I never get around to doing it. I made it a Quest and I have students clamoring to do it for me.

“Ok, but this is too much work for the teacher”

I’ve shared this evolution with a few people and I hear a variation of this comment a lot. Yes, Classcraft does look like it’s time consuming and overwhelming for the teacher. Looks awesome for the student, but I can understand how teachers looking at this might think Wow, way too much for me to handle. As with the implementation of any new procedure, there is some significant prep work to get it all ready and to make sure the back end is all set-up but after that, it’s just a matter of going with the flow. Each day I start with the daily event, keep track of what it tells me to do and go from there. As class goes on, if I need to deduct HP or award XP I make a note or do it quickly. The Classcraft website really does make it easy to do those things quickly.

The engagement I see and the enrichment possibilities associated with Classcraft have been worth any time sacrifices I’ve made. I’m also excited and happy to be able to punish small, unwanted behaviors in a way that doesn’t tinker with grades. I see a gamiification platform like this as a problem solver and content enrichment opportunity. I’m so pleased with what has happened so far and look forward to finishing the year with Classcraft!

Student Reflection on Classcraft


I had planned to update my blog this week with a more detailed picture of how we are using Classcraft in my classroom.  While I’m still working on that, I wanted to share something that one of my students recently wrote about Classcraft.  I love that it is in his own words and describes our process in a way that is easy to picture and understand.

Classcraft by definition is “a free online, educational role playing game that teachers and students play together in the classroom.” However I do not believe that the definition I just told you quite captures what Classcraft really is.

The thing is, is that Classcraft is so much more than just any one thing to a person or people. Classcraft is a place where a gamer who doesn’t quite fit in can work side by side and cooperate with a varsity Quarterback on the same level and work as a team. Classcraft is a place where a disinterested student who can’t find the motivation to take time and complete his homework or listen in class can finally have a fun way to learn an otherwise “boring” subject. Classcraft is a place where two girls who maybe aren’t in the same “clique” or do not get along can work towards a common coal (and maybe even become friends in the process). Classcraft is a place where you’re not a Jock, or a nerd, or even the mean girl. It is a place where people forget about the status quo and “the norm” and see their classmates as a level 3 healer who bailed them out so they didn’t have to roll the infamous “Cursed Die” or a level 5 warrior that took a big hit to their HP for you because that’s what teammates are for. And yes, even in some cases as a level 12 mage that stays up way too late completing quests. Classcraft is a place that transforms our classroom from a boring room with a whiteboard to a battlefield where we face other teams in competitions, or a foreign land that we are exploring during a quest. Classcraft can make you or take you anything or anywhere, it really just depends on your imagination.

Classcraft for me personally has been a huge motivator. Instead of procrastinating and waiting till the night before to due homework and projects I know finish the as soon as I can because not only do I get an XP bonus if I do finish multi-day assignments early but if all my other homework is done I have more time to complete other quests that reward me with XP. I also do more quality work because I get more XP if I do. Also by doing quests such as learning Spanish and Spelling Spanish on quizlet I have learned numerous new useful Spanish words that have been a tremendous help on my more recent Spanish assignments.

Classcraft most importantly is a new and effective way to teach kids in an age that students are constantly plugged into technology with their cell phones laptops and videogames. Times are changing and education needs to change with it. We can’t expect new and different generations to learn the same way kids did 50-100 years ago, and in reality our generation is much different from what it was even 15-20 years ago. Classcraft is a proven educational tool that can teach kids in a new and exciting format. Classcraft doesn’t just improve learning it changes it, and for the better.

Thank you to Creed K. for writing this assessment of Classcraft and allowing me to share it.  He did it for the XP but I appreciate it anyway 🙂

Triptico Classroom Resources


A few years ago I downloaded a classroom resource application called Triptico.  It had a great graphics look and some nice and easy tools to use in my classroom.  Recently Triptico launched a web-based application where you can save your activities to the cloud for easy use anywhere.  It’s great!

There are tools in Triptico that any teacher can benefit from—regardless of content area or age group.  All of the resources are dynamic and visually appealing to your students.  So besides being useful, they are fun to look at.

Below are some of my favorite uses of Triptico:

  • Student Groups  I created a class list for each of my classes.  On days when we do group activities, I bring up the Triptico Group Maker resource, load that class list and remove any students that are absent.  Then I tell Triptico how many groups I want and it will randomly generate them for me.  The kids love watching the colors pop up and waiting in anticipation to see who is going to be with them.  And it’s very easy for me to use.
  • Timers  There are a lot of online timers and stopwatches out there.  These timers are dynamic and visual.  I like the hourglass timer because it doesn’t show students the exact amount of time they have left (or that you set the timer for) so instead of being focused and worried about seconds, they can just get a visual snapshot of time remaining.
  • Selected Spinner  I’ve only used this one recently but it has been fun!  I put in a list of questions and answers.  Then when I’m ready to run the activity for a class, I put in the names of the students.  With the click of the button, Triptico will randomly choose a question and then randomly choose a student to answer it.  It’s fun to watch, totally random and the kids were glued to the board.  A great way to do a simple review for any test or quiz.

Check out Triptico for these resources and more!

Kahoot!


Recently a tech colleague passed along a great free online resource to use for formative assessment and classroom activities.  I’ve done little quiz games or review games in the past using online resources like Socrative, but this one has a new twist.  The website is called Kahoot.

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Kahoot reminded my students a lot of the quiz games played in restaurants like Buffalo Wild Wings.  A question is displayed on the front board and each student selects an answer to that question from their personal device.  (I’ve had students use computers, IPads, Kindles or phones for this activity).  If you get the question correct, you get points.  If you answer faster, you get more points.  After each question, the student sees their ranking on a leaderboard.  It’s a lot of fun and provides great motivation for the students.

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Teachers can create “Kahoots” from getkahoot.com.  It gives you the option of creating quizzes, discussions or surveys.  Right now I’m only using the quizzes.  The teacher creates multiple choice quizzes and has the option of adding in pictures and video in the questions too.  After a Kahoot is made, you are ready to share it with the students.

The students just go to kahoot.it.  From there they will type in a pin code that is assigned to the Kahoot the teacher is running.  The quiz is teacher paced, meaning that the questions only appear when the teacher is ready.  Once ready, the teacher shows the students the question on the board.  After 5 seconds, answer choices also appear on the board.  Each answer choice is color coded.  On the student’s individual device, they see the color coded choices but no words—they have to look up at the board for the question and the answer choices.  They select the color associated with the choice they think is correct.  Once all students have answered, they find out how many points they earned (if any) and what their ranking is in the leaderboard.  At the end of playing a Kahoot, the teacher can download the results, which gives you question by question analysis of how students did and you can easily see questions that were the most problematic.

We loved using Kahoot and now I’m just under pressure to create more Kahoots for us to do in class!

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Join Me at Join.Me


With the increase in technology devices in the classroom, what alternatives do teachers now have as far as displaying content?

Remember the overhead days?  I thought that the switch from that to a digital projector was a big deal but now that all of my students have mini, individual screens right in front of them, do I need one large projection in the front of the classroom.  What if I want to show content (a picture, file, presentation, map, etc.) and I want just want that shared with all my students?  What if I want them to see what I see on my computer screen?

I like the free-ness and the simplicity of Join.me.com  At Join.me, a teacher can download the software and be able to broadcast their computer screen to anyone that logs in with a passkey.  I run the software on my computer and the students go straight to https://join.me/.  They don’t have to log-in or download anything on their end; they just enter a code that I generate for my sharing time.  Once they enter that code, their computer screen turns into my computer screen.

The student (or the joiner) is just a vistor.  They cannot access or manipulate your screen without being granted access, so it’s safe.  The teacher can see who is all in the session and can see when anyone drops out.  There are some communication options too, where students can type in questions or answer your questions or have a complete discussion chat-room style while still viewing your screen.

There are some applications of this that are great but here is one important thing to remember:  there is about a 5 second lag between the real time on your screen and action that the students see.  I don’t see this as an ideal replacement for showing video or fast moving content.  But I think it’s great for pointing out or looking at stationary content for a little while.

Whenever the teacher ends the session, the code evaporates and all students are “dismissed” from the session and return to their originally scheduled programming.

Best Part:  Obviously it works through the Internet so it’s good on Chrome, Safari and Firefox, but there is also a free IPad app that lets IPad classrooms see a teacher’s computer screen.

Nearpod: Mobile Learning + Interactive Presentation App


For classrooms that have 1:1 access with IPads, Nearpod would be one of those tools I would say absolutely had to be used in classroom instruction.  Mandatory use in instruction.  It combines presentation and lecture, quizzes, polling and formative assessment, video and hands on demonstrating.  There are two sides to Nearpod: the teacher side and the student side. From the teacher side, one can create interactive lessons by creating a presentation in Nearpod that is like a PowerPoint on steroids. There are six different types of features a teacher can add into a presentation.  The presentation can have multiple features, all one feature or a mixture of whatever the author wants.

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A few observations about the features:

  • If a teacher already has PowerPoints created and wants to incorporate those slides into a Nearpod presentation, it would be complete possible!  Just go to PowerPoint and save the PPT as images (this is an option in the File Menu).  Now each one of your slides is an image file that can be uploaded to Nearpod.  I think the whole “Save as Images” option is key in using Nearpod with materials you’ve already created.
  • The quizzes and Q&A make great formative assessment.  It’s a little bit tricky to do an open ended question or a question with multiple answers, but it is do-able.
  • “Draw it” is pretty awesome.  I tested it out in a math presentation at halfway through the presentation, the teacher included a “Draw it” slide where the students had to work through the problem.  The teacher sees all responses on his/her IPad.

The teacher creates an interactive, instructional presentation or lesson on the web.  When it’s time for the lesson, the teacher uses and IPad and logs in to the Nearpod app as a teacher.  The students type in a code assigned to that presentation and are immediately taken to the lesson.  It’s a teacher-paced presentation, so students are only able to see the part of the presentation the teacher wants.  When the teacher is ready to move on to the next screen of the presentation, the teacher swipes the screen and all student screens will go to the next feature.  It’s a great instructional app that allows the teacher to move through content while allowing students the opportunity to get involved and participate, all while collecting data on understanding.

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Nearpod is one of those progression instructional tools.  Content used to be delivered through lecture.  Then overhead.  Then PowerPoint presentations.  Now the presentation includes interactive elements and is right there in each student’s hands.  It’s best used in situations where there is 1 IPad for every 1 student involved (either a 1:1 environment or a small group setting).  I think that in the future of IPads in Education, Nearpod will be the instructional tool that all others are measured by.

The Unlimited Powers of Skitch


I really love Skitch.  So much so that I have it (and use it) on my Macbook and my IPad.  It’s a product of Evernote – – another tool that other people just go crazy for.  Skitch is essentially an annotation program.  It allows you to add text, diagrams and other notations to any blank document, map or picture from your computer or the web.  It has amazing instructional potential for teachers.

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One of my favorite things to do with Skitch is to do graphic directions.  Providing step by step instructions on something is good, but pairing that with visuals is even better.  With the IPad, you can instantly take a snapshot with Skitch and start annotating it.

I’ve seen students use Skitch consistently in math and science; taking pictures of something and then using Skitch to apply their knowledge of the concepts learned.  One teacher practicing graphing has the students take a picture of graph paper, draw their graph while showing the work and then email their work directly the teacher.  In science, young students took pictures of their little seedling and used Skitch to label the parts.  Basically anything that involved labeling is a cinch with Skitch.

I love that, from within Skitch, you can go out to the web and take a snapshot of anything.  I think this could potentially be great reading activity: take a snapshot of some text, highlight the main idea, underline key words, etc.  There are so many possibilities to use Skitch in the classroom.  I recommend you download it, play around with the features and immediately start thinking of ways to use it to make your life easier.

Fun in Timbuktu


Timbuktu is a fun app for elementary students.  Think of it as a daily magazine for children, including reading stories that are graphically attractive and interactive.

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The content changes everyday.  Some features are premium and would cost something.  Timbuktu is 100% geared to be an interactive magazine for children so the features are all kid friendly and exciting.  There is a regular feature called “Ask Auntie Rita”, where children write “Dear Abby” type questions and get advice from kind Aunt Rita.  It’s interesting, relevant reading and hits on topics like getting along with an older brother, what to do about bullies, and how to get better grades in schools.  The reading features in Timbuktu are awesome.  The day I played with the app, there was a horror story to read.  But, instead of just reading it like a normal, students have to use their finger as a flashlight to read the story.  It’s reading and it’s interactive.  It’s fun!

You can also go back and access older content in Timbuktu.  They recently had a three part feature on Romeo and Juliet.  Students had to read about the story (in nice kid-language) and also got to interact with the story.  I put a mask on Romeo so he could go to the Capulet ball.  I helped Romeo find Juliet’s balcony.  It’s reading and it’s interactive.  It’s fun!

Timbuktu also has some activities and interactive features with pictures and videos.  They are all kid relevant and are created with education in mind.  Each activity is designed to pique the imaginations and creativity of young minds.  It’s interactive.  And it’s fun!

I really enjoyed my little tour through Timbuktu and think it would be a great addition to the Daily 5, center work or free time with the IPads.