Skrbl-What Kind of Potential for Students?

Skrbl is a collaborative tool that acts as a whiteboard. You can type text, write, upload pictures and files to the board. People can join in by going to the url that has been set-up. You can publish the session (and update it as well) and people will be able to refer back to it. The best part of this is that this is a multi-user platform. People can collaborate in real time unlike wikispaces where it can only be updated one at a time.

Click here to see a published Skrbl page. Click here to see a TeacherTube video for a demo on using Skrbl in an English class.

skrbl.jpg

As you can see in the top left corner of the Skrbl page there are File, My skrbls, text symbol, pencil symbol, and people symbol. Th efile option allows you to same Skrbl as html, upload pics and files, email invite, save print view, and access to files, pics, and urls already saved on Skrbl. If you notice the the url it is skrbl.com/dtspdmka. That is where people would go to collaborate on that particular project. Each project can be saved and published with a different url. One problem I saw is that when the page is published the uploaded file did not appear. I sent feedback to them and I am currently waiting for a response.

What are it’s implications for students and in particular students in math class? Right away I could see Skrbl being used as part of a project that the students are working on in math. Let’s say they are collecting data, saving that data in a spreadsheet. As well, they are collecting information on the internet. All of this can be shared in one place. Students can plan to meet on the site at a specific time to work on it outside of school. Skrbl could be used in a teacher directed way as well. If a teacher is using a presentation, a worksheet, etc. that could be uploaded to the site for students who may have missed class. You could then have an exchange of ideas at a time that is convenient for all. Or maybe classes are working collaboratively across town or from a different district, they could be work together during the day on a project/lesson/activity.

What ideas do you have? I would be interested to hear.

Kidspiration 3

Kidspiration 3 is an updated version of the popular Kidspiration software that has been around since 2001. There is a 30-day trial version that is available for download. The new features are “user friendly” and make it a more valuable teacher and student tool.

One of the new features are the activities. These prepackaged lessons provide an example and then reinforce with follow-up problems for the students to solve. This has great potential to extend and remediate right in the classroom even with two computers like we have in POB. For example, as students finish a lesson with the teacher they can move to the computers.

Fraction example.jpg

Another option is during math learning centers (a.k.a-meeting the needs of all learners) the computers can be set-up as a choice. The great part of this is that the teacher, as needed, can modify the prepackaged problems. All that the teacher needs to do is click on the word problem to change the words and/or the numbers as needed. The fact that students cannot only solve the problems on the screen, but they have manipulatives right at their fingertips is a bonus. There is no need to leave the computer to get any type of material. If students are developing the concept of finding common denominators, students can click on a fraction box and each time they click, a new fraction is shown. If the new fraction is equivalent to the original fraction, the dotted lines of the original fraction match the solid lines of the equivalent fraction.

Click here to be taken to video of fraction word problem in action.

Besides the activities, you can choose the “Math View” option under new. This allows teachers and students the opportunity to create their own lessons/activities from scratch. They have various tools including color tiles, pattern blocks, base-ten blocks, fraction tiles, and fraction boxes. As well there is a free space option that leaves the decisions directly in the hands of the user. Click here to see a lesson that I created for a 6th grade algebra lesson.

There are the same options of prepackaged lessons and new activities available not only for math but reading, writing, science, and social studies. In science they have concept maps, classification charts, comparison charts and more. In social studies you can create graphic organizers based on biographies, times in the past, as well as completing a branches of government chart. Reading and writing activities include blending sounds, character webs, KWL, and poem frames to name a few.

Although designed for the K-5 crowd, I could see middle school students can use this without feeling it is at an “elementary level.”

For more information, you can visit http://www.inspiration.com/productinfo/kidspiration/index.cfm.

Solving 1 & 2 Step Algebraic Equations

After listening to the Tech Chicks podcast I decided to further investigate Kidspiration 3. I enjoyed the new version. I will be discussing it some more on Tuesday. You can clink on the link and give it a try yourself. They have a 30-day trial available for download. I also discovered Jing which can capture images of anything on your screen as well as record video of what you see and do on your screen.

So I have combined the two and used them to present a 6th grade N.Y.S. Post-March concept (see link below or click here). Solving two-step equations in sixth grade can be a difficult concept for some students. Considering how much time is spent on solving one-step equations in 5th grade (students can solve them both algebraically and through explanation) and then summer comes and goes, I am glad to see students bring forth what they have internalized so far.

I have tried, with some success, to present to students with a scenario to help them think about the process of solving algebraic expressions. I begin the conversation with a visual, in this case a balance scale. I want them to internalize that both sides of the equation are the same and if one side is different in value, then we need to look back at what we had done. The balance scale, although not knew, I think is a powerful mental image in this case.

We then talk about numbers and variable in a problem. I talk to them about numbers and letters being friends. They live across the street from each other. They like to hangout, read books, and play video games. But at the end of the day, numbers need to go home to numbers and letters go home to letters. The equal sign is the street and either the number(s) or the letter(s) need to go across the street to their house. When they cross the street they are crossing the street the opposite (or inverse) way they came. This is why we need to use the inverse operation.

Students have told me in the past that this scenario has helped them make sense of what I was doing mathematically. See below for a visual explanation.

After exposure to one-step equations, I move on to two-step equations. At this point students can make the leap to two-step equations. We work through the same scenaios previously explained and apply it to the new scenario.

For a more thorough explanation, go to the following link: Solving One & Two Step Equations. On Tuesday I will share some more about my experiences with both Kidspiration and Jing.