A Smartphone Becomes a Teacher’s Best Friend

I did not have a smartphone when I started teaching. The phone I had was basically used for making and receiving calls outside school hours. That is all I need in a cellular phone, I had convinced myself, what kind of person needs all of those crazy gizmos and gadgets at their fingertips?

Teachers…the answer is teachers!

I got my first smartphone a few years later. Still a novice technology consumer, I used my new cell phone to simply check personal e-mails at lunch and check the weather before heading out to coach at a cross country meet. Still, the phone rarely made it out of my purse unless I needed a clock at recess or a stopwatch at practice.

Well, after that phone was batted into the toilet by my cat one morning, I upgraded to another, better toy smartphone. Now I could download “fun” apps such as Dictionary.com, iTranslator, and Google Maps! I could also look up YouTube videos, peruse the Internet, and check my school e-mail account at any time.

I even made up a game with this new handheld apparatus. If a student asked me a question to which I wasn’t sure of the answer, I would time myself and the powers of 4G to see how fast I could retrieve it. How tall is Mt. Kilimanjaro? Give me 30 seconds and I could tell you. (Approximately 19,340 ft.)

More than anything else, I really began to rely on this device for communication with parents. Since most smartphones today are equipped with high resolution cameras, I began to use the camera to share our classroom discussions with parents at home. Here’s what I would do:

Step 1: Take class notes on the board.

This is an example of the notes I would write for the class to copy down.

Step 2: Take a picture of the notes with my smartphone (see picture above).

Step 3: Send the picture via e-mail to my class distribution list.

I would send the picture of the notes with a brief email, usually sent directly from my phone.

Step 4: Parents review the notes at home with their children.

I found out later by accident that this really became popular with absent students who missed a day or two of notes. Also, if a student forgot their notebook at school the night before a test, they could pull up the notes in their parent’s email and still be able to review.

Keep in mind that this same transference of notes can be done just as easily with iPads and Flip cameras (with Wi-Fi or 3G network capability). Plus, you don’t have to just take pictures of notes. Do a cool activity in class that day? Snap a quick picture and share it! Reading a new novel in class? Take a photo of the cover so parents know what to look for in their child’s backpack. Use that smartphone to get parents involved and keep them included in what you are doing!

Five Other Fun Apps for Teachers:

Bookabi (Free) – Make storybooks with cartoon characters in 2D or 3D.

Pinterest (Free) – A surplus of teaching tips and ideas are just waiting to be explored at pinterest.com, and their app makes it even easier to access it all!

Quizzam ($0.99) – Use this app on iPhone or iPad to give quizzes in a group setting while keeping students engaged!

Writing Prompts for Kids ($1.99) – Help young writers break out of their shells with a variety of creative prompts!

Pencils, Words & Kids ($4.99) – This app gives ideas for writing, a How-To guide for beginning writers and struggling authors who can’t seem to get the words to flow.

Happy Apping!

Back to School Blues

It didn’t truly hit me until I stumbled upon the dreaded “Back to School” section at my favorite store, Target. In years past, I would steer clear of this section until absolutely necessary. Once you step foot into that overflowing oasis of notebooks and coloring supplies, it means that you are consciously ready to start prepping for the next school year…and I was never fully ready. But this summer was different.

This summer, instead of my usual dodging into the electronics department and sulking my way to the front of the store, I boldly marched toward the backpacks and sticky notes.

You see, I made the decision at the end of the last school year to take some time away from the classroom and focus my energy on supporting other teachers and students. And while I am beyond excited for this opportunity to educate via the World Wide Web, there is still a small part of me who longs to be in the classroom.

There are so many things that I will miss about the classroom. Here are just a few of them…

  • Hugs. About 30 of them each day.
  • Celebrating every national holiday – even Columbus Day – with crafts made out of paper plates and Popsicle sticks!
  • Field trips.
  • Not needing an excuse to break out the crayons and markers.
  • My desktop “Trash Can” secretly filled with chocolate and candy for students.
  • Keeping up with the latest hairstyles, clothing, boy bands (ahem, One Direction) and video games without having to take one glance at a magazine.
  • Playing with glitter. (But I definitely won’t miss wearing it for 2 weeks afterwards.)
  • The technology! If only I had a SMART Board in my house…
  • Having a bad day (Yes, a bad day, because the royal treatment you receive from some of the sweetest kids always makes it a good day in the end.)

And saving the best for last:

  • Watching a student learn and feel success. It is magical.

I am going to miss the classroom, and the thought of missing out on all of the above this year does make me feel kind of blue. I guess you don’t just have to shop for school supplies to get the Back to School Blues.

Who is That Math Lady?

Where did That Math Lady come from and who is this new edublogger on the block, That Math Lady? Continue reading to find out!

I hit the jackpot when it comes to husbands.

What would your significant other’s reaction be if you came home from work one day and said you were quitting your job to focus all of your energy on creating a math website (which, by the way, you have very little experience in doing) just to help out other teachers and students in math?

Some of you might say, “My husband would be skeptical,” or “Yeah, right, my wife would never let me quit my job!” Mine? Downright supportive. Our conversation went a little something like this:

 “Hi, Sweetheart, I came up with a great idea today! I’m going to start an education website – and a blog – about math…”

[Silence.]

“… and this project is going to take a lot of time and commitment, so I will have to quit teaching…”

[More silence.]

“…but I’m really excited to do this! I’m going to be, like, That Math Lady!”

And after briefly internalizing his wife’s hysterical burst of insanity, my husband gave me a hug and simply said, “OK. Do it.”

And with those three little words, That Math Lady was born.

This all came about when I was in my fifth year of teaching in an elementary school near Charlotte, North Carolina (a beautiful city, for those of you interested in travel and have never visited). Like most teachers, I starting to feel that common burn-out sensation plus a healthy dose of anxiety with every little curriculum change that was being thrown at me. I had studied the new Common Core State Standards for months and knew that the pending implementation of these standards would be yet another mammoth of a change in curriculum. If I was going to continue teaching in the classroom, I would need some extra support; and I was sure there were other teachers out there who felt just like me. My thought: why not be the one to help these other educators? And while I’m at it, why not support the students, too?! They need as much guidance, if not more!

And the name, you ask? Well, I could have come up with something very witty, I’m sure. But I just wanted something simple and to the point. It doesn’t get much simpler than That Math Lady!

My website, http://www.thatmathlady.com, will be up and running on September 1. It is my greatest pleasure to start helping – and blogging with – teachers and students soon!