Monday, July 23, 2012

Angry Birds and Twitter: How to Use Tech as a Teacher

How do I use technology in my classroom? And what does it actually look like in practice?

Last Friday there was a guest speaker in my Teaching with Technology class. For the life of me I can't remember his name (I tried to find the info, but to no avail). So, we'll just call him John. Who knows, this might actually be his name.

John is a math teacher. This year, he was teaching his students how to solve parametric functions and equations. I'm not really a math person, so I had to look up what parametric means. According to wikipedia, a "parametric equation is a method of defining a relation using parameters. A simple kinematic example is when one uses a time parameter to determine the position, velocity, and other information about a body in motion."

Now, he did what any good math teacher would do. He taught his students formulas, he gave them problems, and he made them practice. But, for good measure, and quite possibly good fun, he also let them play a game that uses parametric functions.

"What game would that be?" you might ask. And I would reply "Didn't you know Angry Birds is a perfect example of parametric functions in play?"

So, he made his class fun and interactive by having the students study and learn how parametric functions work and then required them to use their knowledge to play Angry Birds, a game most of them were already familiar with and enjoy.

This part of his class was a success. 

And it made me think about how I might use something interactive like this in my own classroom. So, I did something that "John" suggested I do as a teacher. I went on twitter and I started following some of the teachers in my field, English, to see if they had any suggestions for how to use technology in an English classroom. 

What I found was a wonderful source of teaching tools, plans, and general information (most of the tweeters aka "Tech-Savvy English Teachers" suggest technology to use, or suggest resources that are found through a technological medium such as a website, dropbox, blog etc.). 

Here is what I found: 

A new website. (Wow, seriously, what a resource for lesson plans and ideas. Search for a piece of literature or browse the lesson plans. They've got objectives, detailed lesson plans, resources and extra resources. It's kind of beautiful)

A handy worksheet located in dropbox (which can be found here) on how to get students to figure out what a word means using context.

And a series of free video lectures (please go here) on how to use the ipad to improve/meliorate your teaching.

So what have I learned? Technology can be pretty darn helpful for teaching. I mean, look at all the resources I found and I was only trolling twitter for a matter of 15 minutes. Granted, it took me about an hour to suss through all the resources and pick out the relevant ones, but in the scheme of things that really isn't too long to spend.

What else? Technology can open up communities and discourse. Seeing John discuss how he used technology in his own classroom was inspiring, but not too helpful since I, as an English teacher, will never touch the subject of parametric functions. 

However, his suggestion for using Twitter as a knowledge base is something I will continue to use to find resources and suggestions for teaching. It's the whole give a man a fish versus teach a man to fish argument. 

Albeit, in my case, it's show a girl how to use angry birds versus teach a girl how to tweet and find tweets. 

I suppose, however, any way you look at it I'm being shown the bird. :)


  1. You are such a fun blogger :)

    I am so glad that you found that Discovery site, I think it's a great way to supplement our lesson planning in the winter and next year! I also think it's great that you immediately found a way to maintain your technological learning even when we're done with this class.

    Hope you don't mind, I'm going to borrow your idea, and follow some educational resources on twitter :)

  2. Hi - Our MAC alum was Tom, and he's joining the Greenhills School staff this fall (Greenhills is not far from the Geddes exit of US-23 on the northern end of Ann Arbor). It is always so much fun for us when alums return to visit and meet the next class!

  3. Wow.

    I. Love. Your. Blog. :D

    So much fun to read! Especially with all of those pictures in there. I am such a fan of the stuff that you found in such a short period of time on twitter! While I have had a twitter account for a few years now, I never have been a huge user/tweeter. However, Tom's experience with Tweetdeck that he showed us really did convey to me how amazing Twitter can me! It's totally a great place to gather ideas from-- Woo! Would you mind sharing some of the good educational ones to follow? I am totally curious, and am an English teacher like you, so this would be awesome.

    I would also like to share that I spent a solid 20 minutes studying that picture of the nonsense words. (Haha whoops). What a cool phenomenon though. Something I really like for some idea is the notion of little brain busters like that one to hand out to your students at the beginning of class. I just love the idea of a little fun assignment like handout just to get student's brains going with classmode and away from what just happened in the hallway 5 minutes ago. I think that something like the nonsense word activity that you posted would be great for this :)

    Like you, I really have found already that technology can be pretty freakin' cool in the field of education. I literally started off from ground zero with the whole technology thing too (even only being 21 years old). For example, I still don't think I know how to work the MacBook that I have had for 5+ years now ... So this whole idea is super fascinating and exciting for me. It's amazing how many cool resources we learn every day!

  4. It is a great idea to use tech as a teacher. it took me 5 seconds to read the definition you provided at the beggining, "parametric equation is a method of defining a relation using parameters. A simple kinematic example is when one uses a time parameter to determine the position, velocity, and other information about a body in motion." and I didn't understand much about it. However, with the angry bird picture that was shown, I was able to understand the genaral idea about the parametric right away. I honestly do prefer to solve my problems in a game rather than face a blank paper with my pencil. Teachers can use tech as a tool. With tech, they can show the students their thoughts by creating learning programs, or using motion pictures for instance. It is easier for the students to understand, not only through listening or reading, but also by looking at pictures and motion pictures. Do you think in the future teachers may also use the tech to create scent, so the students can smell the scent from their laptop?....That'd be crazy wouldn't it, smell has been shown to increase memory though. By the way, love your graphics, they help me read the blog easier.