Mr. Kamrowski

"Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children." –Sitting Bull

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Reach Them to Teach Them

Recently, I attended a music festival that involved embarking a bus at 9 a.m. in the morning, waiting in line for one hour, trekking through rugged terrain to secure decent seats (With my own bag chair), paying exorbitant prices for food and drink, and arriving back home at 2:15 in the morning.  And, the truth is I loved it and will do it again next summer.   As I look forward to another school year, I wonder if I or another teacher can make their course so engaging that students will be as motivated to attend class as I was the music festival?  Dave Burgess, in his book titled Teach Like a Pirate poses the question: ” If students were not forced to come to your class would they?  Or, better yet, would they pay to come to your class?”.  Continue reading

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App Tested: Zaption, EDpuzzle & EduCanon

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In the winter and spring of 2013, I piloted a one-to-one classroom using the flipped learning model.  Content lectures were recorded and assigned to students as homework.  Students then came back to class, took a short quiz to show their understandings, and worked on a higher order thinking lesson for the day in the classroom.  The process was fairly efficient and somewhat effective.  I still use video within my courses, albeit differently than I had that first year.  The flipped model and methods have since become popularized and tools to make video-based content more interactive have been produced.  Three companies that have capitalized on the popularization of this method are; Zaption, EDpuzzle, and EduCanon.

In the 2014-15 school year, I incorporated the use of Zaption and EDpuzzle in some of my classes to see how they could benefit my instruction.   I used the premium version of Zaption until the free trial expired.  I then downgraded to the basic account.  EDpuzzle has always been free and I tested EduCanon features this summer.  The following is what I learned.  Continue reading

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Reflect, Reform, Revolutionize

Recently, I have been viewing the HBO mini-series titled John Adams;  a take on historian David McCullough’s book of the same title.  The series begins with the Boston Massacre and continues through historical events that led to the Revolutionary War and the creation of a new government.  It has been exciting to watch for various reasons (I love history, especially revolutionary history).  However, what struck me in the series is the events leading up to the Declaration of Independence and the war itself.  In other words, the moments that led to a dramatic change in thought and action in the colonies.  Many of the founders, according to the movie portrayal and McCullough’s interpretation of history, were reluctant of drastic change.  Some, if not a majority, wanted reform rather than revolution.  It was the persuasive talents of a handful of individuals, as well as some actions by the British, that tipped the tides.  As I ponder this perspective of the start of our nation, I cannot help but ask the questions:  What is the best approach to initiate needed change?  How am I a change agent?  And, I frame these questions within the context of the current educational system. Continue reading

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How To: Create an Interactive E-Book with Google Slides

Working in a one-to-one school district, where every student is provided with a device such as an iPad or Chromebook, can be a great opportunity of freedom for teachers and students.  The device serves as an efficient tool to create and curate information, as well as, a flexible environment to share content.  No longer does an individual need to negotiate with textbook publishers and be locked into the confines of the perception of the authors of a company when it comes to the content and methods that should be used to teach a specific skill or understanding.  The digital world allows for educators to create e-books, or electronic versions of a book that may contain interactive elements, that can be produced, shared, and modified quickly and with little expense to a school district. Continue reading

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App Tested: Pear Deck vs. Nearpod

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With the popularity of one-to-one classrooms, and the ensuing demonizing of the lecture as a pedagogical method, software to make lectures/direct instruction more interactive have developed.  Pear Deck and Nearpod are the two software companies that have become popular in this field (You can watch their promotional/informational advertisements here and here).  Both of these apps allow a teacher to embed formative assessments, engaging activities, and teacher analytics into a slide deck.  The days of using just powerpoint, keynote, or google slides are over.

In the last few months of the 2014-15 school year, I tested the paid version of Pear Deck in my one-to-one iPad classes.   I used the premium version as a free trial.  This summer, I played with Nearpod to compare the two.  In the fall, I would like to select one of the free versions of the two as my go to software to make slide decks interactive.  The following is what I learned.  Continue reading

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Technology as a Tool in the 1:1 Classroom

This weekend the International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE) kicked off their annual, larger than life, conference.  Thousands of people are in attendance.  It is held in Philadelphia, PA and will be in session until July 1st.  If you are an ed-tech nerd, as many are who read educational blogs, you are probably aware of this event.  If you are like me and unable to attend, you can follow along with the hashtag #notatiste15 and #iste2015 or go to this flip board page.  You will undoubtedly pick up some sort of new tech tool to use or be inspired to introduce more technology than you already may in your classroom.  I find it to be a worthwhile experience.

It is because of this event that I am reflecting on the one to one classroom and the commonly used phrase “technology as a tool.”  The phrase has been uttered so many times that it has almost become a cliche and lost power:  “…use 21st century tools…students need 21st century tools to be successful in today’s world…one to one is necessary for students to learn the tools used in the 21st century.”  However, as my school recently finished it’s first year of one to one iPad implementation, I wonder if many educators actually comprehend one to one technology as a tool.  When discussing success and failures with the technology, there seems to be a lack of understanding of the fact that the technology is indeed a tool and not a pedagogy.   Therefore, I believe it would be useful to incorporate metaphors of technology as a tool when considering complaints, questions, and discussions about one to one technology.  Take a look at the following statements and how they are framed when applying the technology as a tool more metaphorically. Continue reading

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How To:  Use Schoology So Students Become Masters

When I turned 16, like most kids in the United States of America, I took my driver’s test–and, I failed.  I went right through an uncontrolled intersection without blinking an eye–let alone slowing down to check for oncoming traffic (Luckily there was none).  It was a miserable day for me.  I tried making excuses but none justified the tragedy of failing.  I simply did not perform well on that test, and I was devastated.  I am quite thankful, however, that the man working for the Department of Motor Vehicles did not say “no second chances are allowed.”  Rather, he said “When would you like to try again?”  I am happy to announce that I am a fantastic driver today.  I have never been in an accident nor have I incurred a traffic citation.

I tell every one of my students that story as I explain my policy on second chance tests/projects in my class.  I let them know that I want them to learn the concept or improve the skill that I felt was important  to teach and assess.  That they can take a second chance test or rework the project (Not to be mistaken with a retake that is the same test or just blindly turning in multiple revisions of a project.) if they come to me and look at what went wrong the first time around and we discuss how they can improve.   Continue reading