Friday Funny!

Helium walks into a bar,
The bar tender says “We don’t serve noble gasses in here.”
Helium doesn’t react.

Have a better math or science joke than this one? Send it in today!

Apps for Teaching

A new school year is a great excuse to find new apps to download to your iPad or smartphone to help make your classroom run even smoother.  Check out a few of the apps for teaching recommended by our users below and let us know what other apps you use in your classroom!

QuickVoice Recorder: by nFinity Inc, Free

QuickVoice is the most popular, full-featured iPhone/iPad/iPod voice recorder available. Record ideas, voice memos, voice email, dictation, lists, meetings, classes, or entire lectures!  Great for uploading lectures for students to review after class, or for classes they have to miss.

Quickoffice Pro HD: by Quickoffice, Inc, $19.99.

Get the #1 office editing suite for iPad. Create and edit ALL Microsoft® Office document, spreadsheet, and presentation formats, as well as view PDF files, on the go. This file manager lets you manage local files, access cloud accounts, and works with your iPad email attachments so you can work anywhere, anytime – online and offline.

Planbook Touch by Hellmansoft, $9.99.

Planbook is a lesson planning application.  It is designed to completely replace your paper plan book with an intuitive, easy to use application that gives educators everything they need to keep organized and present their lesson plans to both their administrators and students flawlessly. Simply put, by using Planbook, you can be more productive as a teacher by staying organized and prepared for each day.  Check out the Android version of this app as well.

Idea Store: by Spore Tools Ltd., cost $2.99

Idea Store is a place to easily save your ideas so you can build on them later. Quickly save ideas with no distractions, then put them in groups for organization.

TeacherCast Pro: by TeacherCast, Free

The TeacherCast app includes App Reviews, Podcasts, Blogs, and Screencasts as well as links to Twitter, Facebook, and Daily Newspaper.  TeacherCast brings you TeacherCast Podcasts, and AdministratorCasts with some of the best teachers in the world.

Dropbox: by Dropbox, Free

Dropbox is useful before, during and after school. This free, universal cloud storage service is great for storing your lesson plans, items you wanted to share with the class, SMART lessons, and more. No need to remember to bring a flashdrive from home to classroom and back, burn CDs/DVDs, or email things to yourself. Simply drop everything into your Dropbox, and it’s just there, on any computer you use, on your iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, or even other smartphones.

Evernote: by Evernote, Free.

Evernote is an easy-to-use, free app that helps you remember everything across all of the devices you use. Stay organized, save your ideas and improve productivity. Evernote lets you take notes, capture photos, create to-do lists, record voice reminders–and makes these notes completely searchable, whether you are at home, at work, or on the go. Available for Apple and Android.

Goodreader: by Good.iWare Ltd.

Having a solid file management system on the iPad is a must. GoodReader includes VGA output support, which is perfect for the classroom. GoodReader has earned its accolades by the way it handles huge PDF and TXT files, manuals, large books, magazines, and renderings of 100 mb and more with great speed. The ability to mark-up PDFs opens up new doors to GoodReader users who can now use typewriter text boxes, sticky notes, lines, arrows, and freehand drawings on top of a PDF file.  Besides reading, you can also sync your files with remote servers.
ShowMe Interactive Whiteboard: by Easel, Free.

Turn your iPad into your personal interactive whiteboard!  ShowMe allows you to record voice-over whiteboard tutorials and share them online. It’s an intuitive app that anyone will find extremely easy to use, regardless of age or background.

Keynote: by Apple, $9.99

Keynote may be an obvious inclusion for teachers, but nonetheless it is an important universal app in any teaching arsenal. With the ability to import PowerPoint presentations, or to create your own Keynote files from scratch on the iDevice,  it makes creating a world-class presentation — complete with animated charts and transitions — as simple as touching and tapping. Highlight your data with stunning 3D bar, line, area, and pie charts, animated with new 3D chart builds such as Crane, Grow, Radial, and Rotate.

PowerPresenter: by Alterme Inc, $1.99

This app will help you do a presentation on a projector. If you can upload your file to a web site, it also can present that website for you. It automatically detects the projector and sends the signal to the projector when connecting with the VGA cable. It mirrors the screen to the projector using software so you can not only see the presentation on the iPad screen, but also on the projector. You can now also draw, highlight text on the slides, and send your drawing to email. It also contains a blackboard and web content presenter so you can write your formula on a whiteboard or blackboard, show video clips using a single app.

The 2016 Mindset List

The Mindset List is a compilation of the values that shape the worldview of the new class of college freshman each year.  Originally created as a reminder to faculty to be aware of dated references,  Belloit College produces their annual Mindset List to take a look at the cultural touchstones that shaped the lives of students entering college in fall.

Here are some of the facts about the class of 2016 that stood out to us about the latest class of college students:

  • Before they purchase an assigned textbook, they will investigate whether it is available for rent or purchase as an e-book.

  • They have always lived in cyberspace, addicted to a new generation of “electronic narcotics.”
  • If they miss The Daily Show, they can always get their news on YouTube.
  • Their lives have been measured in the fundamental particles of life: bits, bytes, and bauds.
  • They have never seen an airplane “ticket.”
  • Their folks have never gazed with pride on a new set of bound encyclopedias on the bookshelf.
  • Outdated icons with images of floppy discs for “save,” a telephone for “phone,” and a snail mail envelope for “mail” have oddly decorated their tablets and smart phone screens.
  • They have always enjoyed school and summer camp memories with a digital yearbook.
  • They watch television everywhere but on a television.
  • Despite being preferred urban gathering places, two-thirds of the independent bookstores in the United States have closed for good during their lifetimes.
  • Genomes of living things have always been sequenced.

Read the complete list here.

Preparing for a New Semester with WebAssign

A new school year has begun for many of you and with that comes new students who may also be new to WebAssign. An important part of getting your classroom set up for the new semester is making sure your students are as prepared as you!  In order to help get your students up and running with WebAssign we have created a Student Quick Start Guide in the form of a printable handout that you can access here.

We recommend making this guide available to students at the start of the semester so they have a handy reference on common WebAssign tasks such as logging in and submitting assignments.  We also have an Instructor Quick Start Guide for step by step guidelines on basic WebAssign set up as well as additional First Day of Class Resources to use in your classroom.

For more  WebAssign help please refer to our blog posts on Creating a New Course, Copying Assignments, Student Self-Enrollment, and our WebAssign 101 Workshops.

Friday Funny!

The optimist sees the glass half full.
The pessimist sees the glass half empty.
The chemist see the glass completely full; half in the liquid state and half in the vapor state.

Have a better math or science joke than this one? Send it in today!

Teacher Spotlight: Dan Burns

We have seen more and more AP teachers using WebAssign to enhance their teaching experience and wanted to share with you some insight into a typical day of one AP Physics teacher’s classroom. Dan Burns, who has a master’s in instructional technology, has been teaching high school physics since 1992. He has been a member, officer, and contributor with NCNAAPT and worked with the SETI Institute, USGS, AAPT, and SJSU. He now serves as the Faculty Scholar at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and is working for the National Science and Math Initiative to expand and improve AP courses.  Currently, he teaches AP Physics at Los Gatos High School in California, but prior to becoming a teacher Dan was a senior research specialist for the Lockheed Missiles and Space Company. He is an avid amateur astronomer and astrophotographer and has had several pictures published in astronomy magazines!

What does a typical day look like in your classroom?

I like to think in terms of units or topics instead of days because the daily routine varies. I start with some phenomena that might be puzzling to them. It may result from a student activity or a demonstration or a discussion of relevant real world examples. For example, I start the year with the students doing some races and determining their average speed. They then try to determine a mystery distance (somewhat longer so it is hard to estimate) by timing a race of known average speed. Almost every group will underestimate the mystery distance. They will want to know why. This creates a “need to know” that they may not have otherwise. There are things like this for every topic in physics.

The next step will be a discussion and lecture of material needed to resolve or explain the puzzle. This would include clicker questions and demonstrations and activities to give them the foundational knowledge of the unit. This will be followed by more extensive labs and activities that give them a chance to apply this knowledge and receive feedback as to whether they did it correctly. This would be exploring motion graphs with motion sensors, analyzing a glider’s motion on a tilted airtrack, and doing simulations like Graphs and Tracks and the new Super Ultimate Graphing Challenge!

Interspersed among these activities would be going over some (not many) example problems and time for students to solve WebAssign problems in groups. There will be a unit quiz that they get back before the unit test.

What types of quizzes – if any – do you give, and how often?

I give one unit quiz, with the exception of the rotation unit which warrants 2 quizzes in Mechanics C. I used to give homework quizzes almost every day which had students complete a problem almost identical to assigned homework. I stopped doing this when I went to all homework on WebAssign. It still might be a good idea, but with block schedule I no longer have the time.

What activities do your students do on any given day?

Since we went to block, I have looked for a few quick things to do to get them out of their seats during lectures with Interactive Engagement sessions. Some examples include a quick session of broomball, playing with Astrojax, playing with yo-yos, and dropping cups of water with holes in the side from the second floor.

How does homework “work” in your classroom?

I assign a WebAssign that is due at the end of tutorial the next day they have class. I am on every other day block so this gives them at least 2 days. The WebAssign assignments typically have 6-8 problems.

What are your grading procedures/policies for daily grades, homework grades, quizzes, labs, tests, etc.?

Homework is worth 15% of their grade, labs 30%, quizzes 15%, and tests 40%. I don’t curve quizzes but I throw out the lowest score each semester. I curve tests so that the average score is about a B-. I have some extra credit homework. Students can earn about 105% on homework if they complete it all correctly and on time. I rarely give any other extra credit. If I do it is offered to all of the students. This is typically for doing something extra on a lab or coming to a public lecture that I am helping with. I like having the different grade categories. This means that if a student brings their grade up in any one category, their overall grade will go up. This is helpful for struggling students.

I am not a hypercritical grader of labs. If they complete the lab they rarely get less than a B. I do grade much harder at the beginning of the year to create the illusion that I am carefully reading every part of all 100+ lab reports throughout the year. This seems to work.

WebAssign Partners with OpenStax for Affordable Textbook Solutions

As a stakeholder in the education world for over 15 years, WebAssign is well aware of the heightened interest in more affordable textbooks, and we hope to become part of the solution to support low-cost options.  To support this effort,  we have partnered with OpenStax,  a company that offers free, open-source textbooks.  OpenStax is currently primarily funded through philanthropy, but plans to become self-sustaining by partnering with web-based educational companies like WebAssign to develop supplemental content that students could purchase with a support fee being paid back to the open education mission. Through this strategy, OpenStax hopes to deliver high quality education solutions that will ultimately save students an estimated $20-$30 million over the next several years.

Read the full article in Time Business to learn more about the open-source textbook revolution.