ShowMe and the Common Core

ShowMe provides access to higher-level learning activities.

Here in Kansas, I think we’ve done a great job of testing the lower domains of the Bloom taxonomy since 2003 — the “remember” or “know,” “understand,” and “apply” domains. The new Common Core standards are meant to drive testing and teaching to the higher domains — the “analyze,” “evaluate,” and “create” domains. We are, however, one of the 44 states that have adopted the Common Core; we’re on schedule to implement them fully in 2013-14.

I’ve unpacked the 8th grade Common Core math standards (I’ll call them CCM8) and broken them down by cognitive domains. You can see the details on my blog at Here’s the breakdown by number of tasks in CCM8:

Level Number of Tasks
Know 1
Understand 19
Apply 30
Analyze 11
Evaluate 3
Create 0

We might think that the CCM8 is lacking for having no obvious “create” level activities, but I think that ball’s in my court and that of my fellow middle school math teachers. It’s up to us to find ways for students to create. I think we can use ShowMe to flip the process and have the students do some teaching — just the sort of activity that research suggests is most effective in fostering learning not only for the student doing the creating but for students who use the demonstrations to enhance their own learning and understanding. Student-created ShowMes uploaded to private communities also give students opportunities to criticize and debate responsibly, important higher-level activities where students engage not just “in” the content, but “about” the content.

Is anyone else starting to unpack the Common Core? What are your thoughts? How are you going to get your students to the creative domain, where all the other skills find their best expression?


ShowMe and Formative Assessment

Once you have created your lecture video, it is important to understand whether your students understand the information that you want them to know. So what I have done in the past is setup a worksheet to guide the students through the work that I am showing them in my videos. In the past, I have sent the lecture video link with the handout, which has allowed me to differentiate the work that I have given my students in the classroom. What I have noticed is that more than a majority of students will and prefer to watch the video rather than outline a textbook. But the problem still is whether the students truly get what is in the video. Most times I find that it is important to use some sort of entry slip where the students, at the beginning of the class, can work out a problem before the lesson begins to determine whether they truly understand what I what them to understand. This gives me great formative data, which allows me to create a learning environment that raises the bar for the entire class. Those students that might struggle will be able to get specific help from me while the rest of the class is working on other problems. By the end of the period, I notice that all students will be able to work on the most complex examples related to the video.

However, just recently I have been thinking about this process and have been wondering if there was a way to collect this data in some other way and what I came up with is pretty simple. What I have been doing is playing around with Google Forms. This web-based application gives the user the ability to develop open-ended questions (which would be great because you could give the students the ability to free write about their understanding of the content of the video) and multiple-choice questions (which could target specific learning for the students to understand). The great thing about Google Forms is that all of the information is collected in a spreadsheet, which gives the teacher ability to target the specific problems the students are having with the content. The next day’s lesson can be tailored to the individual needs of the students rather than the lesson being one size fits all.

The next time you develop your ShowMe video, consider using Google Forms to collect formative data on your students and remember this will get easier especially when you start your ShowMe with an essential question. Also remember it is important to design your video lesson with what you want your students to understand and be able to do. This way you have organized yourself to target a specific outcome.


A Second Timesaver for your ShowMe: Keynote

When developing your ShowMe, it is often time consuming to write a lot of text that can make your video longer and in the meantime lose your audience’s attention. What I have learned is that using the Keynote app ($9.99 in the App store) on the iPad can save you a lot of time in laying out your video. I use Keynote from the iPad to writing essential questions, headings for charts or just to organize the information that I don’t have to write but is important to the overall development of the lesson. What I do is type the information into a slide and then I take a screenshot (click the power button on the top right corner of your iPad, while holding down the home button of your iPad; you will know that it works because the screen of your iPad will flash) of the text on the slide and import into the video from the camera roll on the device. Now the image is ready to be used in the ShowMe.

I have used this method for a while now and I have found it is faster and more efficient because after all the shorter the video the more engaged you will find your audience. It also has saved time for my ShowMe by allowing me to focus on the lesson rather than wasting time by reading additional text that I am writing on the iPad.


School Violence

My first year teaching was during the 1997-98 school year. During that year we found out about intern Monica Lewinsky and President Bill Clinton’s relationship, it was the year of Princess Diana’s fatal car crash, but what I most remember about that year was that there were three school shootings that spring, a full year before Columbine. What I most recall was the tragedy in Jonesboro, Arkansas where two boys pulled the fire alarm and waited for students and teachers outside and began firing as they exited the school. Why does this one stand out? Because the next day my school had an unscheduled fire alarm, and I remember the faces of my students and the head teacher, whose room I was in, as we slowly made our way out of the building, praying that this was just a drill. It was by far the worst timed fire drill in history.

On Tuesday, March 6, 2012, in Jacksonville, Florida, my friend and former employer Dale Regan, head of school at Episcopal School of Jacksonville, was shot and killed by a recently fired employee of the school. It was the third school shooting in little more than a week. Chardon, Ohio had suffered a fatal school shooting a week earlier and late last week in Arizona there had also been a shooting at a school, where fortunately no deaths had occured. Is this a blip on the radar or trend to be watched carefully?

The reality is that, schools cannot have this. One school shooting in 100 years is one school shooting too many. Learning can only thrive under the fertility of safety. Ask a kid who has ever been bullied if they are capable of learning at their full capacity, when they are afraid of being physically or mentally threatened. As educators, parents, students and administrators of schools we have to continue to fight bullying, teasing, and hazing on our campuses and in our homes. We have to find ways to help people feel included in the community and continue to fight maintaining traditions that undermine these efforts. We have to help everyone develop better strategies for dealing with stress and disappointment, and urge them to seek professional guidance when that is necessary.

All of our learning tools, whether it’s ShowMe, Khan Academy or 1:1 technology programs; all the creative and talented teachers out there working with students; and all the innovative and child-centered schools and curricula won’t amount to much learning if people don’t feel safe on their school campus.

Dedicated to the memory of Dale Regan.


Virtual Teaching

My wife and I recently travelled to California to adopt a four week old little boy. It was a quick process, and many pieces were left up in the air at home, most notably, what do I do with my classes? Prior to this year I would have slapped together a worksheet, a project, or just labeled my days away as “free time.” Seeing as my life was about to make a major shift, perhaps nobody would have blamed me for not focusing on creating authentic lesson plans for my math students. This, however, is no longer an excuse. With all the tools available to us to teach lessons that kids can access online, it’s no longer okay to pass out busy work, when students can and should continue progressing and learning new concepts.

The Monday morning I was out, I woke up at 4:30 (my new son’s wake-up call) and put together a ShowMe presentation on algebraic expressions whose link I emailed to students before heading back to bed. Upon my return I checked in with the students to see if they had understood the lesson and the work associated with it, and each student was able to show that they had understood the lesson and could apply what they had learned. It was an example of the best of both worlds, I get to bond in person with the newest edition to my family and also do virtually what I love…teach.


Discovering and Exploring Pinterest for Education: Great vacation activity!

Schools on Long Island were on vacation for February Break this week, but I am one of those educators who is never really ever completely free from planning or thinking to myself, “Wow, I should take some pictures and show my students “ or “I should buy this for a certain lesson I would like to complete”. I brought my iPad and did work on a ShowMe for one of my very favorite students, but I must say, that little breaks I had on my vacation were spent on my new obsession, Pinterest.

I was invited to Pinterest a few months ago, and had forgotten about it until I was searching for a story that a friend had forwarded to me. Well, it turns out, that I did not need to search for it because I remembered that my friend invited me to Pinterest and it was likely that she ‘pinned’ the article to one of her ‘boards’. Sure enough, it was there, and the great article I was searching for is easily found on one of my created boards.
Needless to say, when I should have been packing last Friday, I was figuring out how to pin, create my own boards, and prioritize which pins I needed to work on first!

If you do not know about Pinterest, which I have found that many of my friends are new to it, I describe it as a high tech way to display, share and organize your interests, ideas, or your ‘to-do’ list on categorized boards. I am sure you have all been in a waiting room at the doctor’s office, where you are pretty much forced to read magazines, and then a few ‘ideas’ (recipes, decorating, books, articles) catch your eye. You are not sure how to rip out the page so no one can hear you and then you file it in your purse or pocket, no sooner to totally forget about it and then go crazy when you try remember where you put it or recall off the top of your head what you had seen.

Well, with Pinterest, you can create a ‘pin’ of something you like to post onto a ‘board’, or see something of interest from someone who you ‘follow’ and then ‘pin’ it onto your categorized board. The best part is you can ‘follow’ people around the country who may have similar interests, fashions or home designs, recipes, or same profession teaching a similar grade as you. The educational learning activities, blogs, crafts, and cooking ideas, which can be shared are endless. The visual of pinning a picture and then having the activity described through the link makes the activity doable and useful. Sure, I have bought numerous teaching books about how to teach lessons, but the pins that members share show real life learning. This sharing environment has inspired me to create some pins that have been successful in my classroom.

I have to admit at night when my family was asleep on vacation, I was pinning away. I even completed three pin ideas on the long ride home. I could never say this about a ripped out magazine page, filed away somewhere next to my checkbook and make-up case in my purse.

If you are not on Pinterest, find someone who is because that person must invite you though email. I do want to give you a friendly warning however to block off a few hours of time once you accept the invite because you will find that a person you ‘follow’ leads to more ‘boards’ and even more exciting ‘pins’.


A Timesaver for your ShowMe: OmniGraphSketcher

If you are looking to produce quality graphs without drawing them in your ShowMe, then OmniGraphSketcher is the perfect application for your iPad. The application is available in the app store for $14.99; OmniGraphSketcher gives you the ability to draw high quality graphs for your ShowMe presentations. In the application, you can draw line graphs and import data from Numbers on the iPad to create graphs. By simply touching the text boxes, you can add labels to the axes of your graph and the labels of your lines. Once you have drawn your graphs with the basic drawing system, you can export your graphs to the Photo library of your iPad and then import them into your ShowMe. Once in your Photo Library, you use the images in your PowerPoint or Keynote presentations. This application is intuitive. Despite its price tag, OmniGraphSketcher is a definite compliment to your ShowMes, especially if you are doing a lot of graphing and demonstrations based on your graphs.

I use ShowMe and OmniGraphSketcher together quite often, and I find that they work great together. I can point out the changes in the curves and not have to worry about my handwriting, having sloppy labels on each curve, or explain why they look the way they do in less time (which is always important when you are going to have students watch and take notes from the videos). As the developer mentions and I totally agree it really does take seconds to produce great looking graphs.

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Teaching Learning

Hey, everyone. I’m Mike, the new Ambassador from Ft. Leavenworth, KS, where I teach 7th, 8th, and 9th graders Pre-Algebra and Algebra 1 and coach football and basketball. I’m also studying for my master’s degree in School Leadership and loving family life with my wife Diana and two beautiful baby daughters.

I’ll open my account here by telling you a about how I got fired up about ShowMe.

I first encountered the idea of computer-driven instruction in 5th grade, in a short story in which kids did daily lessons in an hour or so through computer-telephone devices at home. They spent the rest of the day playing in anti-gravity chambers with genetically engineered pets like dogs but with more legs and fur.

I thought it was a cool idea back then, especially the sixty- to ninety-minute school day. I had no clue, of course, what computers were. Mrs. Johnston challenged us in the subsequent discussion and writing assignment to consider how mechanized instruction might make school less cool. I’m sure I argued that it made school much more cool and got a B because, while I failed to respond as instructed, I spelled every word correctly and used proper capitalization and punctuation.

Where’s that idea today? We’re not in that short story just yet, are we? I think we’re about to deal with technology-driven instruction in a big way in the next generation, however. School budgets are facing massive contraction; those who must make the hard budget decisions in government are faced with a massive shift in priorities driven by demographics and debt. They face the terrible choice between paying for these essential promises and paying to help children fulfill their promise. I don’t envy them.

We’ve also spent about twenty years in the classroom perfecting an industrial evaluation process that might lead to a better mousetrap but doesn’t seem to lead to students becoming better learners. While we wrestle with standards and assessment, technology tempts policymakers to shift fiscal focus away from buildings and facilities toward on-line instruction and remote delivery. On a slow day, technology leaves many teachers floundering in the dust. Our students need us to break this wild horse to harness, and fast.

Does anyone think we won’t be trying to leverage technology to make schools less expensive but more effective? Where will we create those ideas? Where will we develop new techniques? How will we discover that new strategies and techniques work without many years of trial and evaluation? What’s the cost if we fail?

We’ll have to do those things in communities like this one, built around ideas like ShowMe. ShowMe and technologies like it help us overcome some of the impersonality and inflexibility of educational content developed for students but delivered by technology. That technology simply can’t incorporate the personal touch of a professional teacher. We’ll have to share action research with each other, because we don’t have time to wait for the ivory tower researchers to finish running multiple double-blind controlled trials involving hundreds of students over half a generation. Our budgets are shrinking now, and our students are building their futures now.

I found ShowMe through my school district’s technology staff, and the idea struck me at first as a great way to overcome a recurring problem in my class: I call it Poliquinitis. Poliquinitis is the phenomenon in which a student understands a new concept flawlessly in the classroom, only to return to the content several hours later in the form of a homework assignment and discover that nary a hint of a clue remains.

My ShowMes — so far — are refreshers based on my actual teaching. Unlike a video made by some other teacher or professionally produced by some think-tank, or even a tutor, my ShowMes include my voice inflections, my bad jokes, my style, my occasional mindless errors, and, unfortunately, my handwriting and art work. If that doesn’t nudge the neurological network between the ears of my forgetful students into action, then I’ll just have to re-teach it in class. That’s where I’ve started with ShowMe, but I think there’s a lot of potential for wider use of this technology in schools, and I’m really excited about it.

I’m looking forward to teaching my students how to make ShowMes and having them share them with each other. In my classroom, my ShowMes support learning at the memory, understanding, and apply levels very well. Those aren’t the skills of learning, however. They are the skills of doing.

Can ShowMe support the development of higher-level learning skills? Can ShowMe help us in our quest for that Holy Grail of positive-feedback loops known as independent learning? Can ShowMe help me get my students to analyze, evaluate, and create? Let’s find out.

That’s where I want to go. That’s why I’m here. I’m really excited to be an Ambassador in this community. Please bounce your ideas off me, too, in the comments on this blog or out in the wider ShowMe on-line community. We can’t meet the challenges a wild new world is going to present to us alone, but we can leverage our content knowledge, teaching styles, and favorite strategies to even the odds. They can’t put a price on what we do — and we’ve got the paychecks to prove it — but it’s going to take more than just more money (which probably isn’t coming) and more assessments (which, sadly, probably are coming) to get our students ready for their futures.

I do have my own blog. It’s about math and curriculum and occasionally personal. I’d love to have conversations with you there as well. It’s at

Let’s do this!

Mike Poliquin
ShowMe Ambassador


ShowMe and E-pubs

Marko is a ShowMe Ambassador and totally awesome! He’ll be writing all about the tech he uses in the classroom and we’re super excited to have him!

As everyone knows by now, Apple announced last month their new free powerful tool for publishing called iBooks Author. This tool as everyone has already seen has the ability to incorporate videos, 3D images, multiple choice questions and PowerPoint and Keynote presentations right into the book. The software also allows you to take notes and convert the notes into flash cards for review once you are done reading the chapter.

The great thing about the software is that every file is drag and drop. The user agreement that you sign with Apple has some complications; for instance, the book goes to the iTunes account holder not the school district, so as advertised, most districts are not excited about the prospect of purchasing textbooks every year even though the textbooks are only $14.99. This may keep schools from adopting textbooks published in iBooks author.

So what does mean for the classroom, very little.  If you own a Mac and have Pages (Apple’s equivalent to Word), you can create your own epubs by downloading the template. Now you can create one file that incorporates your ShowMes and the text of the concept that you are teaching your students. So now students can watch the ShowMe in one place with the text of what you are teaching or notes from your PowerPoint or Keynote presentation in the same file.

The only downside is that your students will need an iOS device. You can then email the file to your students and then they can open the file in iBooks and you then have your very own textbook without the worries of the user agreement.

Download the Pages Template from Apple