Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ratios with the Wii

Today we decided to give another pre and post test to see if we could recreate our success with the Wii and numbers on the number line (see this post for more info). Chris wanted to do a lesson on ratios. All of the students came into the lab and took our pre test using Google Forms.

Here are the questions and some of the answers from a group of students.
As you can see, the answers were all over the place. She began by discussing ratios and the vocabulary involved. She talked about the relationship between the first number and the second and the format which ratios can take (using the word "to", posted with a semicolon or as a fraction). We made a point to remind the students that the relationship that you are asking for will dictate the results of the ratio. It will be wrong if you put the correct numbers, but in the incorrect order! After this discussion we used the Wii to bowl.

We had 4 players registered and each student was able to bowl one frame. This way we got all the students involved in game play. After each throw Chris would ask for a different ratio. For example, the ratio of pins hit down to total pins. Or pins hit down to pins remaining. After a few frames we increased the difficultly a little and asked questions like the ratio of odd numbered scores to even numbered scores. Each time the students had to write the ratio in multiple ways. We were able to complete several frames (but not a complete game in the time allowed). Bowling lended itself to lots of ratio questions. We were able to stop play in between each bowler and ask a different question without interrupting game play/learning. There were plenty of numbers and plenty of options. Later that day (you can see the timestamp in the first column) the students took the post test (the same exact test). Here are the results (again) of some of our students.

While there are some formatting mistakes (some of which can be attributed to Google Spreadsheet trying to "help" with the formatting) you can see, we had much better results, but still have some students who didn't get all aspects of the concept. We are working on that!

We had good feedback from the students. They enjoyed bowling and seemed to do a good job with the ratio options.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Follow up on negative numbers with the Wii

A few weeks ago we gave our students a pre-test about putting numbers in order from smallest to least (including negative numbers - you can see the post here). After the pre-test we played the Wii game Brain Age, specifically Balloon Burst.
Then we gave the post test. If you look at the original posting, you can see the great growth that our students showed (from 4 students getting the correct answers to 18 students getting all correct answers). Today, we opened the form again and had the students complete the same post test, just to see if what we did stuck with them over time. Success! A little over 90% of the class (91.3%) had no problem and received a score of "A" on the post test. Chris and I couldn't be happier.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Using the clickers in the classroom 2

Today we used the clickers with a quiz that Chris was giving in the classroom. Putting it midly, it didn't go well! We were not able to get the clickers to work at all at first. Since we only have one set, earlier in the week we had moved the clickers AND THE RECEIVER to another classroom to use it in there. Once we brought it back into the 5th grade room Chris plugged it into a different USB port on the computer. Because teachers do not have admin access to their machines (for different security reasons), the receiver did not get fully setup and would not pick up the clickers when the students started clicking (or at least that is my best guess at what happened). Once I pulled it out of that plug and put it back into the same port as when I installed it (with admin rights) they seemed to work again. Of course, by the time I figured this out after various troubleshooting efforts, we were 15 minutes into the period and Chris had to go back to paper and pencil so she could get through the assignment.
It was user error that was the problem, but I wanted to share what may be a common problem/scenario in classrooms.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Using the clickers in the classroom

So, we used the clickers from Turning Technologies in the classroom today. Chris wanted to give a quick review grade for the work in 5th grade Geometry and she wanted to give a Spelling test in 6th grade that would be similar to the type that the students would see during our standardized tests.

So, using the TurningPoint software (which comes with the clickers, or you can download from here) she made some tests. The Geometry test had a question and 3 possible answers (A, B, or C). The Spelling test was a little different in that it asked which word was spelled correctly and then gave 4 options for each word (A, B, C, or D).
The TurningPoint software is pretty slick in that, using PowerPoint, you put up the question and you can see a box in the top right of the screen that tells you polling is open.

The students hit the letter that they think is correct (you can hit the button as many times as you want but only the 1st click is the one that records) and the box tells you how many responses it has received (the receiver is a USB dongle plugged into the computer and has good range in our classrooms). There is also a question mark button on the clickers. If you hit that button the user feedback number will go up one. You can't tell which one it is, but you can clearly see, without interruption, that someone has a question. Once you have all the clickers' answers, you can mouse click the screen (or touch the SMART board to slide advance) and a graph (which ever graph you chose in the setup - there are bar and pie options) will show immediate results of the overall answers. No individual clicks are shown, you can just see how many people chose answer 1, 2, and 3. But the students still liked to see that they were, or were not the only people to choose that option. We had cheering and ohhs when they saw how many clicked the choices. Using the software you can also tell the computer which one is the correct answer (the format is different if you are using Office 2003 or 2007) and it will basically grade the test for you. Since our students each have a number (for text books and such) we just made sure that they each got the clicker with their own number. You can also set up groups for each grade with student's names (we haven't gotten this far yet) so you know which students answered which question. After the presentation is complete you go through the information using the Participation Monitor. The results show each question, each clicker, and what answer that clicker chose. Chris had more set up work before the test, but after the test the work is done. The software will tell which clicker got the wrong answer for each question.

We are going through a training session next week so we are looking forward to learning how to use the clickers more effectively. Stay tuned for more info.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ubuntu & NComputing working together

I know it has been a while since I wrote about getting Ubuntu working, but I have been busy! Anyway, I was able to revisit trying to get it up and running today and as is often the case, it was 1 step forward, 2 steps back.
After doing some online research (and sending a message to tech support), I found out that the latest Ubuntu version which NComputing supports is 8.04 LTS (Long Term Support). As of this writing, the newest version of the software is 10.04 (which just came out in April). I don't know why the NComputing software has not been upgraded to work with the latest software but since Ubuntu is on a 6 month update cycle I can only assume that they are working on a newer version. I also have to say with great candor that I do not know enough about the different versions to have any idea what the differences are between the newest version and the older 8.04. So, I guess we will overwrite version 9.1 and downgrade to 8.04!
The first thing I had to do was download this version. I did this from the machine that had Ubuntu version 9.10 on it (since I was going to have to downgrade anyway). Version 8.04 does fit on a CD disk (it is 700MB in size) so installing it on the computer was very simple. All I had to do was download the file, right click on it and burn it to CD (one of the options by default in Ubuntu 9.10). Once the CD was created I rebooted the machine. On reboot it read from the disk and prompted me with 7 questions (all of which I chose the defaults) and began to install (essentially the same installer that 9.10 had). The installation itself took literally 10-15 minutes. After the install is complete you must reboot the computer. You will have to log in with the username and password that you create during the install.
After the reboot and log in it was time to download the NComputing file (again). You can get that file here. I downloaded the file on to the desktop and double clicked the file. WARNING - YOU MUST HAVE AN ACTIVE INTERNET ACCOUNT FOR THE REST OF THE STEPS HERE. The first time I tried to install the file I received an error message telling me that it couldn't open a file and the install box was grayed out. I then plugged in the Internet cable (which I had removed to plug in another machine) and tried the file again. This time it worked just fine and I was able to install. So I guess it looks for an active connection before the install occurs. After I found this little tidbit of information out the rest of the install was simple. Double click the install package button and hit the Next button when prompted (it will happen several times). (The download link above also has a link to a .pdf file that gives specific directions on how to install the program if you need more help.) Once you have installed the package you will get a message that the installation is complete. Close the install window and reboot the computer. From my experience you must reboot before you try to do anything with the NComputing boxes.
Once the machine comes back up you need to log in to the host machine. As the computer was loading, I was getting something on the virtual machines; but just a screen that said the x350 card has been initialized. Nothing else. Now, I don't know if this has anything to do with my getting things to work, but when I went to the upgrade, I was met with a window telling me that the list I had was old and I needed to download a new list. I clicked the OK box and a new list of files was downloaded. That was all that I did. I want to be clear, I didn't install any updates or any other machine file, just the list of files available (as a matter of fact the directions from NComputing are very clear about NOT downloading updates to the OS). After this list update I rebooted the computer and I was able to see the same initialized screen on the virtual machines. But then, I got a new message that the station had been unlocked and low and behold, the screen came up with a login prompt! I don't know if the two steps were related or if there was something special about the 2nd reboot, I just know that it worked for me! At this point you need to follow the directions to register the card with the company and go from them. I haven't had any problems booting up the computer or the virtual boxes with about a half dozen boot-ups since it was working. I will continue to post updates as we use the equipment.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

wii day 8 finishing up Meteor Math

This week we wanted to make sure that everybody else who missed playing last week had a chance to play the Meteor Math game. So the first thing we did was turn on the machine and make sure that it still worked out on the Internet, it did! Whew, first hurdle down. Then we had to get to the site, go to favorites and click on the link, BAM we are there, second hurdle down. Now we have to review the different activities we did last week, Fact Families, Multiples, Factors, and Prime Factorization, the students all seem to remember at least one part of each of the activities! Man, three for three! We play one round each with the different activities letting the students come up and play - either completing a round or until they get hit by the meteor.
I will give one example for each activity. For Fact Families we got 12 - so one was 12 x 1. We get it again so it is 6 x 2. For multiples we get a 7 - so it was 7, 14, 21, 28, and 35 (we had them go up 5 multiples). For Factors we got 15 - so whe had 1, 3, 5, and 15. For Prime Factorization we got 24 - so it was 6 x 4 which gets broken down to 2 x 3 and 2 x 2. The final answer would be 3 x 2 cubed. All of this went pretty well. Plus, we had several students who were able to do the math including one of our star Math students who got through 27 problems in 1 minute (the fastest in the class by far).
So, Chris decides to add one more activity into the mix, Exponents. This one was where we hit a bit of a wall with the students. Several students had a hard time with the idea that you have to multiply the number however many times the exponent says. Many of them wanted to just multiple the number by the exponent. So after a little pause of play we went around and made sure that everyone was on the same page. We went through a few examples on the board (6 squared, 4 cubed, etc) and then had them do the rest at their seats. All in all I believe it went well.
Just some ending notes. Again I heard some "This is easy" during the Math problems and "don't die!" and "it's that one right there!" from the students while their classmates were trying to find the correct meteor to take out. The only vocab we had to review was Prime and most remembered what it was. We gave the students a fair amount of praise and they still seemed to enjoy working the problems.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Student Response Systems (Clickers)

Chris received a bit of good news a few weeks ago - she had won a grant! The prize included a class set (32) of "clickers". The clickers are a Student Response System (SRS) where each student gets their own little receiver which allows them to vote for any question the teacher asks. While there are many different companies which provide these systems, the company that was part of the grant was called Turning Technologies. The product name is ResponseCard RF (Radio Frequency) and there is some info about this particular model here.We just opened the box today and I wanted to post some initial information. First off, when we opened the box we found a carrying case.

Inside there was a CD, 32 clickers, and some paperwork.

Each one of the response systems is numbered (as well as the case for easy placement).

Here is a closer picture of the "clickers" themselves (sorry it is a little blurry, I was borrowing a camera).

There are several different options for the "clickers" and this is one of the basic models (there is no LCD screen or ability to put in short answer responses); but, they are still a really cool technology and did I mention that Chris won them?! :-)
Before you can begin with the software, you have to put all of the "clickers" on the same frequency so the computer will "see" the responses. To do this you have to click the Ch button in the bottom left and then hit the channel you want to put them on (I chose 01). Then just push the channel button again. The small green light on the SRS will light solid green for a few seconds and you are good to go. You have to put all of the clickers in the same set on the same channel so I repeated this step 32 times! My guess is that if you had several class sets of clickers they could each be used in different rooms as long as they were all set up on different channels.
After that, I had to download the Turning Point software (TurningPoint 4.2.2 as of this writing) from the web and install it on the computer. It basically is a specific version of PowerPoint which adds a special toolbar and integrates the questions/answer portion of the SRS into PowerPoint. To use the software, you put the question at the top, put the answers (True/False, Multiple Choice) in the middle and then you can begin the show. When you put up the question there is a little box that appears in the top right hand corner of the screen and lets you know that polling is open. It will count up for each answer that is pushed on the clicker (you can only answer once). When you have all the answers accounted for you can click your mouse (like you were going to the next slide) and a graph will appear showing the answers chosen.
There is also another software download (the same link as above) called TurningPoint Anywhere 2.2 which allows you to just put up the polling software on the computer screen with nothing else. You can just ask the question verbally (or put it up on the screen in another program besides PowerPoint) and have the students answer with the clickers. You then can close the polling box and the results will appear on the screen (in a graph form). I can see easy integration with Brain Pop quizzes through this software. The whole class can now answer the question before we show the answer and Chris can see how many of the whole class knows the answer!
There are other pieces of software to download and use and there are a lot more options that we haven't gotten into yet. I will continue to post updates about the clickers the more that we use them. I know that Chris is interested in using in the classroom so I am sure we will be learning more soon!