STEM Fun at the Akron Children’s Museum

Akron Children's Museum Logo image
Akron Children’s Museum Logo image from http://www.akronkids.org/

The Akron Children’s Museum is a great place.  I love spots that give my kiddos a chance to play, pretend, explore, discover and learn (Plus, the fact that they’re not making a mess of our house helps).

As an advocate for STEM learning, I am especially drawn to the activities that relate to engineering.  So, in this post, I’ll share about those activities at the Akron Children’s Museum.  They also have a lot of other fun things that involve pretending, climbing, playing and having a blast.  I recommend checking it out if you’re in the area! Continue reading STEM Fun at the Akron Children’s Museum

My Favorite Podcasts . . .

I’ve added a new page to my website, “My Favorite Podcasts.”  I really enjoy listening to podcasts on my daily commute and I think that you may enjoy some of them too.  Check out my favorites here.

BFF’s: ⌘+W and ⌘+Shift+T

Use Ctrl W to close your top tab and Ctrl Shift T to open your most recently closed tab (or window).

Video included at bottom of the post.

Keyboard shortcuts are a great way to be a little more efficient.  Two of my most used in Google Chrome are:

  1. Ctrl+W (or ⌘+W on Mac) for closing your “top” tab (the one showing on your screen).
  2. Ctrl+Shift+T (or ⌘+Shift+T on Mac) for opening your most recently closed tab.

#2 is probably my fave.  Not only does it open your most recently closed tab, even if you closed it hours ago or even before shutting down Chrome, but it can open an entire window full of tabs, if you closed them.  But my favorite-est part of it?  Well, it has an educational aspect of course:

Ever walked by a student and seen them quickly close a tab before you got there? Ctrl+Shift+T to the rescue! Just imagine that student’s face when they find out that their teacher is a Chrome Keyboard Shortcut Ninja!!

(mem)e-mail

As a Technology Integration Specialist, I end up sending the staff that I work with lots of emails.  I work really hard to only send what’s important and to keep it brief.  Occasionally, the things I send out are necessary and/or require some sort of response or action step.  As you can probably guess, if my response rate was a test score, there’d be a red F written next to it.

And I understand, educators are uber-busy people.  But I still need those action steps taken.  So?  I use some silly tactics.  There are 2 in particular and here’s the first . . .

Memes & GIFs in emails

If I can get someone to open the email just because a colleague told them there was a ridiculous meme or GIF in there, well, that’s half the battle, isn’t it?

Here are a few that I’ve used recently.  Got any others you’d like to suggest?  Put them in the comments or send them to me @JakeMillerTech.

A word of advice if you decide to adopt this tactic: only use it sparingly and when you really need to draw in your recipients… a fun and novel approach ceases to be fun and novel when it becomes overused and annoying.

Good ol' Lumbergh.
Image from MakeAMeme.org.
Pretty Please?
Image from QuickMeme.com

(Ctrl +) Shift (+ V) Happens

Use Ctrl Shift V to make pasted text match the destination!

We’ve all pasted something from a website into a doc, presentation, email or other destination before and experienced that annoyance when it doesn’t match your other font.  Fixing this is simple…  Just add shift to your ctrl+V keyboard shortcut to make your text match the destination font (including size, color, spacing and all style options).

Note: I’ve always been a little apprehensive about sharing this with students, because there’s no easier way to identify a plagiarizing student than a mismatched font with white highlighting . . . 

Be Honest with Yourself

One of the most difficult things to do as a creator of content – lessons, activities, blog posts, videos, art . . . anything that has an audience – is to be honest with yourself when you’ve created something not worthy of your audience’s time or attention. 

Tonight I spent 10 minutes recording a video and 45 minutes editing it before I realized . . . my intended audience doesn’t want this. It was longer than necessary and “clunkier” than I should accept. 

So, what did I do?  

I clicked delete. I was honest with myself. 

Have high standards. Self-assess. Give yourself real feedback.  Evaluate things honestly. Judge them based on quality and value, not the amount of time you put into them. I could’ve said “it’s not my best work, but deleting it would mean that I just wasted an hour.” First off – if we see it as an opportunity for growth, that time wasn’t wasted. And second – if it’s not your best, go back to the drawing board. Make it your best. Be honest with yourself. 

Levels of PROFESSIONAL Learner Engagement

The Levels of Professional Learner Engagement

Presenter: What brought you to this professional development session?
Attendee #1: I needed contact hours for my IPDP.
Attendee #2: This is something that I wanted to learn more about.
Attendee #3: My administrator said I had to come here.
Attendee #4: I want to be a better educator.
Attendee #5: I needed the credit hours.
Attendee #6: There were no other sessions that I was interested in and I had to choose something.

I was thinking about PD for educators recently and realized . . . we’re just like our students.  We have varying levels of interest and, therefore, varying levels of motivation.  It reminded me of Schlechty’s 5 Levels of Student Engagement.  And then it hit me . . . these are also the 5 Levels of PROFESSIONAL Learner Engagement.

  • Authentic Engagement—the educator is engaged and sees the PD as valuable, applicable and exciting.  They want to learn this.  They can’t wait to apply it in their classroom.
  • Strategic Compliance—the educator needs credits or contact hours in order to receive a benefit, likely in the form of a step up on the pay scale or recognition from their peers or administrators for taking the initiative to participate.
  • Ritual Compliance—the educator needs credits or contact hours in order to keep their license and/or job.
  • Retreatism—the educator attends the meeting, but does not pay attention or engage in the content.
  • Rebellion—the educator checks their email (or performs another task without hiding it), refuses to participate and/or complains.

Now, it may seem like I’m bad-mouthing the educators, but I’m not.  I’ve probably been at each of those levels at least once myself.  We all probably have.  So, what does that mean?  It means that I’m bad-mouthing the PD.  Who can blame them for not being “authentically engaged” in the professional development?  Authentic engagement is not a choice.  Either the activity engages them authentically or it does not.

So . . . what do we do?

We give these professionals a say in what they learn.  We give them time to explore the possibilities.  We give them an opportunity to investigate what may be useful for them.  We give them Dan Pink’s 3 factors of motivation: autonomy, mastery & purpose.

Why?

Because it’s what’s best for the kids.  And that’s all that matters.

 

Learn more about the work of the late Phil Schlecthy at schlechtycenter.org.
Learn more about Daniel Pink’s phenomenal book Drive and his other work at danpink.com.

The Text Styles Dropdown in Google Docs – Why it’s useful & how to update your Defaults

Efficiency is intelligent laziness.

This pretty well summarizes my approach to use of technology.  If I can find a way to trim seconds or minutes off tasks without sacrificing quality, I’m all for it.

In recent posts about Google Docs, I shared how to boost font formatting efficiency with the Paint Format Tool and the Select Matching Text option.  This post’s topic fits well with those 2.

Most people type in Google Docs and change fonts as needed without ever noticing the Text Styles dropdown.  They live in “Normal Text” mode, but change their fonts regularly.  But they are missing out!  There is hidden functionality in that dropdown . . .

  1. It allows you to change your default font styles.  Are you an elementary school teacher who always types in size 16 font?  Change your default!  Are you a professional basketball team owner who always types in Comic Sans?  Change your default!  Do you believe that Helvetica is the world’s best font?  Double-space all of the time?  Prefer blue font?  Like size 13?  Always typing in italics?  Change your default!
  2. Using titles & headings adds other functionalities to your Doc.  Do you have a 100-page Google Doc for your lesson plans and hate trying to navigate it to find the correct snippet?  Use Headings & Document Outline view!  Here’s how . . .

The quote at the top is often credited to David Dunham, though it appears that he’s not the originator of the quote).

Exploring Measures of Center with Google Sheets

My obsession with Google Sheets is no secret. I loooove spreadsheets.  And I think that they have a big place in education, especially in math (but elsewhere as well).

Recently, I posted about how you can prove the mean (or average) formula using Google Sheets.  In this post, I’d like to share with you how you can find all 3 measures of center (or measures of central tendency) and explore them in Google Sheets.  I love to change or add numbers in the data set and ask students to make predictions about what will happen.  It really is a great–and relevant–way for students to become more familiar with these statistical measures.