AI and the classroom

AI is going to find its way into education one way or another. Understanding what it can do for you as an educator is a great way to better understand the technology and prepare for both its use and misuse in the classroom. For instance, is one such tool that aims to help teachers improve their classroom experience. Offering Google SSO, it offers an easy entry to the use of the tool. Log in, select your subject, select the appropriate grade level, then make a choice on how you want the site to help you out. They offer science, social studies, math, language arts, and enrichment options. With my ELA background, I chose language arts and middle school. I selected the Lesson Seed option, scrolled down, and entered one of my favorite novels The Cay. Tapped Add to Workspace, and tada! Lesson ideas for the novel that will be a huge help to beginner teachers and possibly shape some new ideas for veteran ones. This is what it provided me for lesson ideas:

Lesson Plan: “Exploring Themes and Characters in The Cay”

Objectives (scaled to Bloom’s Taxonomy):

  1. Remembering: Recall the main events and characters in The Cay.
  2. Understanding: Analyze the relationships between characters in the story.
  3. Applying: Apply critical thinking skills to interpret the themes and messages in the novel.
  4. Analyzing: Compare and contrast the characters’ experiences in different settings.
  5. Evaluating: Formulate opinions about the choices made by characters in the story.
  6. Creating: Develop alternative endings or solutions to the challenges faced by the characters.

Teaching Strategies:

  1. Think-Pair-Share: Students think independently, discuss in pairs, and then share their thoughts with the whole class.
  2. Socratic Seminar: Facilitate a student-led discussion by asking open-ended questions.
  3. Literature Circles: Divide students into small groups to independently read and discuss assigned chapters.

Cue Sets:

  1. Anticipation Guide: Present a series of statements related to the themes or character traits in The Cay. Students respond with “agree” or “disagree” before reading the novel.
  2. Visual Images: Show students images related to the setting and characters in the story to elicit their thoughts and predictions.
  3. KWL Chart: Activate students’ prior knowledge by asking them to share what they know about World War II and shipwrecks. After reading, they complete the “What I Learned” column.


  1. Character Analysis: Students create a character profile for either Timothy or Phillip, including physical appearance, personality traits, and significant events in the story.
  2. Theme Exploration: In small groups, students identify and discuss the themes present in The Cay. They support their ideas with evidence from the text.
  3. Role Play: Students reenact a scene from the novel, focusing on a significant event or conflict. They analyze the characters’ motivations and reactions.

Assignment Ideas:

  1. Reflective Journal: Students write a journal entry from the perspective of one of the characters, discussing their experiences and personal growth throughout the story.
  2. Book Review: Students write a book review of The Cay, summarizing the plot, discussing their favorite parts, and recommending it to others.
  3. Creative Writing: Students develop an alternative ending to the story, considering how different choices would impact the characters’ lives.

Encouraging Real-World Skill Use:

  1. Research Skills: Assign students to research and present information about the historical context of The Cay, including World War II, racial segregation, and the Caribbean.
  2. Communication Skills: Engage students in group discussions and debates about the moral dilemmas faced by the characters and the author’s message.
  3. Empathy and Compassion: Encourage students to reflect on the experiences of the characters and consider how they would respond in similar situations.

Closure Questions:

  1. How did the relationship between Timothy and Phillip change throughout the story? Provide examples.
  2. What are the key themes explored in The Cay? How do they relate to real-world issues?
  3. If you were in Phillip’s situation, how would you have handled being stranded on an island with someone like Timothy?
  4. How did the setting of the story impact the characters’ emotions and actions?
  5. What lessons can we learn from The Cay about the importance of understanding and accepting others?

Now jump in there and try some of the other great options like Unit Plan, Rubric, Learning Target & Success Criteria, and more. I will highlight other AI sites I find interesting and useful in the future. Just be sure to review what it suggests and make sure it aligns with what your state requires and what is fitting for your classroom and students. AI can be helpful, but by no means is it perfect.

Social Media for Professional Growth

Anyone who knows me knows that I find a lot of value in Twitter. It has been my go-to source for connecting me with inspiring educators around the globe. I have learned from and with technologists in Australia, education department officials in Israel, design thinking teachers in Scotland, teachers and administrators across the North America, mentored student PBL groups in Oklahoma, and even discussed the State of the Union live with students from Philadelphia. Twitter is simply a powerful tool for learning.

WOISD staff have used Twitter to connect their students with authors, politicians, experts in other fields, and even a Holocaust survivor. Their lives have been changed and their learning improved because of a social media tool.

This video gives a quick testimonial on how one school district uses Twitter to make a difference in their classrooms. If you want to get started on Twitter, shoot me a note. If you start this school year modeling for our students how to utilize social media as a learner, you are helping them develop a valuable, lifelong skill.

Keeping Students Informed

We all know the feeling. The students show up to class, you tell them to put away everything but a pencil because it’s test time, and they groan and announce they knew nothing about the test. Right.

Your students have Google accounts. Why not add those major events to your Google Calendar and “invite” the students. This gives you two more points of documentation of the event: it sends them an email telling them it’s been added, and it adds it to their school Google Calendar. Add to the fact it’s probably on your blog in lesson plans and has been announced repeatedly in class, and you’ve covered more ground than anyone would expect.

If you create Groups in your mail Contact list ahead of time (learn how HERE), this process is made even more simple than it already is. You’d just type the name of the Group and the entire list is populated automatically.

Let the Google Gooru walk you through how easy it is to keep your students informed of major events using Google Calendar.

Common Planning Time Assistance

There always seems to be the need to meet with your team, and you end up standing in the hall between classes trying to find who is available when. Well, let Google Calendar do the work for you with the Find Available Time option. If your team keeps their calendars up to date, this will save you loads of time. Let the Google Gooru walk you through the steps.

Creating Appointment Slots on Your Google Calendar

This is a great, short tutorial from the Google Gooru on creating appointment time slots on your Google Calendar. Keep in mind, you have to be in either Week or Day view so you can select the time slots you want in order for Appointments option to be available. Also, Those picking slots have to have Google accounts themselves since it will automatically collect their name for you.

This would be excellent for any number of classroom or school based functions:

  • reserving a time slot for writer’s conference with teacher
  • reserving device cart
  • reserving computer lab
  • reserving ThinkLab (our innovative learning space)
  • tutoring or extra help
  • PBL presentation sign-up
  • and more!

History in Video

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Looking for some historical media to make a lesson pop? Or maybe you’re trying to find the right piece to begin that Socratic conversation with your students? Regardless, PBS comes through for you. Check out Newseum Digital Classroom where PBS has compiled a large collection of videos with summaries, essential questions, and links to continue further inquiry work on the subject. Great stuff. Don’t miss out.

Geddit! Got it?

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 4.45.24 PMFormative assessment plays perhaps the most important role in monitoring our students’ progress. Summative assessmentonly tells us what they didn’t get. That’s too late. Formative tells us what they DON’T get. That’s just in time.  It’s always nice to know what our students are thinking when we’re working through a lesson, but it’s not easily done. Until now, that is.

LetsGeddit was created by teachers for the sole purpose of diagnosing understanding issues on the spot during instruction. The great thing about the product is that it works with any web enabled device (smartphone, iPod, iPad, Chromebook, laptop, etc). And it’s pretty simple to utilize, too. If you are using Chromebooks, it is already loaded as an app once the student logs in with their school email account. Any other device just needs the student to go to and start from there.

Basically, you use it as a quick quiz tool, a climate tool, or even an exit ticket. The built in private hand raising and note sharing tools allows even your quietest students a chance to have a voice with you during the instruction without fear of ridicule or embarrassment. They can rate their level of understanding through an easy to use bar system or they can even add a note asking for more help with the concept. This is a great way to differentiate your instruction on the fly.

The kids can join the class with a Class Code you give them, and they create their accounts using their Google Apps information. Very easy to do, and only takes a minute at most. Watch the videos below to become familiar with the tool and decide if it’s for you. Let me know if you want help setting it up for your classroom. I’m confident when you see the value of the data it shares through the formative assessments, you will want to start using it that first week of school. Be sure to Follow GedditHQ on Twitter. They’re always happy to answer your questions about what their tool can do for your students.

Great Intro

Excellent How-To Get Started

Geddit – Teacher’s first experience (Shows a little about the reposts/data are viewed)

Add a Timer to Your Blog

There are times you could use a timer that’s easy to use and easy to find. So, why not put it as a widget on your blog. You can add one to your blog by following these steps.

1. Go here to find the timer.

2. Click on the gear icon in the bottom left of the timer window to go to the settings for the timer. Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 7.58.32 PM

3. Highlight and copy the embed code given in the new window. Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 8.00.15 PM

4. Go to the Dashboard of your blog.

5. Click on Appearance in the lefthand menu. Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 8.03.14 PM

6. Click on Widgets in the lefthand menu.Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 8.03.28 PM

7. Make sure you can see the widgets already in your Sidebar. You do this by making sure the arrow to the right of your Sidebar name is pointing up (just click on it). Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 8.04.41 PM

8. Drag a Text Widget from the left side list into the now expanded Sidebar on the right. Drag it up and down in the list to place it in the order you want it. Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 8.07.20 PM

9. Paste the code you copied earlier into the big box of the new Text widget.Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 8.08.07 PM

10. To make sure the new timer fits inside the sidebar of your blog, we need to make it a little smaller. You do that by changing the width and height numbers in the code you just pasted. Basically, cut them in half. Change the “468” to “234” and the “420” to “210” to make it small enough.

11. Now, hit the Save button below the box you just pasted the code into.

12. Enjoy the new timer on your blog. You can change the time on it by clicking the minute or second digit you would like to change. Also, this timer has some predetermined times with music to go with it. Just use the dropdown box above the timer numbers and select the appropriate time/song.