Saturday, June 28, 2014


   I'm excited to get to share with you all my journey this past year in the classroom.  In many ways, what I did this past school year began last summer at ISTE in San Antonio.  I hope that you find the variety of tech and non-tech approaches I used in the classroom helpful and easily transferable to your classroom.  Please don't hesitate to connect or ask questions of how I did these examples in my classroom.  Enjoy the conference and I hope you gain a wealth of knowledge to take back to your schools.

"Connected Learners Across Curriculum, Classrooms, and Beyond"

Monday, June 9, 2014

The School Year Closes, A New Position Begins, and ISTE2014 Looms Near.

   I'm amazed how out fast the year concluded these past two months.  I absolutely loved my students and the fun we were able to have in the classroom.  As I embark upon a new chapter in my professional career, I can't say enough how great of a sendoff I got into my new position.  The way this year went only makes me MORE motivated to be in the classroom and help other teachers.  I should make known my new position.  I will now be my school's Technology and Learning Coach.  This means I'll be over teacher support, development, and technology managment and implementation.  I'll definitely have numerous plates to keep in the air but I'm excited for what's ahead.  I plan to use this summer as an oppotunity to chronicle my preparation for the new position and will certainly be blogging my progress.  Enough of the set-up.  Let's celebrate the year that was and how I plan to share this fun work in my Poster Session at ISTE 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia on Sunday June 29th.  Come see me!  I look forward to talking to and meeting the amazing educators that attend this conference.


See you at ISTE2014.  Contact me on Twitter @TylerAbernathy1.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Augement Reality and Ancient Rome

      The school year has been a whirlwind but we've gotten to do a lot of cool work.  The crazy weather definitely affected our ability to stay on pace but when you're teaching and learning to engage students I try not to get too anxious about pacing guides.  I also find that learning gets messy so you might as well embrace it.
      In late February and March we studied Ancient Rome.  This unit is always a favorite of students as they love learning about the army, buildings, and gladiators!  What I love getting to share with them is the incredible achievements of the Romans.  There were advancements they had 2,000 years ago that are impressive even in today's society.  Students are shocked and grossed out by some of the ways of Roman life.  Horrible Histories "Roman Baths" is always a favorite to show.  My absolute favorite achievement of the Romans came during Julius Caesar's Military campaign in Gaul.  As he sought to expand his power and Rome's control he decided to take his legions of soldiers across the Rhine River to conquer Germania.  What made this accomplishment so amazing is that Caesar didn't travel by boat but actually had his engineers plan and build an over 400 yard bridge across the river that was wide enough for 40,000 soldiers to cross.  The more amazing feat is that all this was done in 10 DAYS!!!  That's baffling to me to believe.  I try to convey this disbelief and amazement on to my students.  As we began studying this I got the great idea to embrace something I used to do with a more "techie" and research focused approach.  That's what led to "Ancient Roman Replica Research Project."

Objective:  Students work as an individual or group and pick a famous Roman achievement to research in order to build a model of achievement and tell about the history and impact of the item through Videolicious and Aurasma

Step One: Research  Students used this guiding plan to help them with research and directions for the project - Abernathy Replica Research Guide  (3 sources for research with title and urls and urls for all pictures used in Video)

Step Two: Draw Blue Print  Students were asked to draw a blue print of what they wanted their model to look like before building.

Step Three: Write Script Students used the notes created from their research to develop a 45-60 sec script of their replica

Step Four:  Build Replica Students used popsicle sticks, toothpicks, cardboard, paper, and marshmallows to build their replicas

Step Five:  Make the Videolicious and Aurasma  Students used iPod touches to video themselves talking and importing pictures and short video to develop their final video.  This would then be uploaded to Aurasma so they could have a "trigger" image that functions like a QR code.


- I absolutely loved getting to watch my students work on this project.  They really got into it and I could see the expert knowledge they gained from their work.
- I'm glad I only did it with two of my classes first and am doing it with my other two in a different unit.  This made for more manageable days and a break from the chaotic nature of students working across my room and other spaces.
-  Students really built cool models of the buildings.  I was amazed at their precision and attention to detail.  I also liked how they added creativity to what they showed in their replicas.
-  Students actually researched information and had to find authentic details.  This was more than just build a model.  They had to know the background.  I saw how this helped them know the Roman content better overall.

Room for improvement:
-  Have students bring in more supplies.  I bought them for these students and ended up wasting a lot of supplies
-  Tighten up the research.  I've gotten better and enforcing proper citations but I want students to get even stronger.  They've really gotten strong with using free to use pictures instead of copyrighted
- Strengthen my help for guiding their topics and research.  Some hit road blocks initially and I could have helped them better
- Time - It's always tough but I did give this a lot of time and could have used less time.  I struggle with this because I care how much students gett to do the work in class and see their progress.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

How do you plan a city? PBL in the classroom

    It's good to back in the friendly confines of my blog since it has been too long since last posting. I've got to find a better way to be more accountable.  This year's work is progressing nicely as we are at the end of the semester.  Students have made tremendous gains in their learning.  As I stated in earlier posts, I work with a team of teachers with the same 100 students.  Having the same students has enhanced how well we know our learners and makes planning cross curricular activities much easier.  We have control of our class meeting times and can adjust as needed when we are doing team projects or have special guests share present.
    Our work thus far has led to engaging, collaborative work that students have really responded well to.  I can honestly say this has been my most enjoyable year of teaching.  I feel like the work I'm having students do is more relevant and meaningful to them.  Our work this year has ranged from International Student Presenters from the University of South Carolina, Creating Apple Mummies to connect with Egypt, and have city planners from Columbia come to work with our students as they create a city scale drawing of their unique city.  The last work on the city design has been amazing.  I am proud of the work our students did with one another.  We had students work across content disciplines and levels.  I feel this organization made this activity even more rewarding because all levels of students were involved and challenged to think critically on what should be involved in designing a city.  Here's our process we took over the past two months to bring this project to its completion.

I'm putting my Project reflections at the beginning.  If you'd like to read the steps check them out below.  

Closure: My Personal Feedback

    As I look back on this project I am really proud of the work students accomplished.  Bringing in experts, working across all content areas, and setting groups heterogeneously really worked well.  I think all these factors made this project a success and allowed students to have the support they needed to design cities that could be legitimately sustainable.

  To make this better for other groups considering such a project I would suggest you find a stronger math presence.  We talked of scale and map grids but other than that math got short-changed.  I definitely think there is a place for math but we did not do as well getting that content involved.  Secondly, we needed to get this project finished in a shorter amount of time.  This stretched over 3 months and we used a total of probably 10 school days.  Of those 10 I would say 6 were all content periods.  The others were for part of the day.  That allowed for good work but it did affect other studies.  Lastly, we needed to find a real-world element.  I wish we could have found a park or area in our community students' could have helped design or update.  That would have taken the ideas they had on their own maps and put into practice.

   I would encourage anyone with a willingness to help your students see what it takes to organize and plan a city to try this project.  Enjoy reading our steps and please contact me if you have questions about the work.

(Connections to Science (Sci), Social Studies (SS), Lang. Arts (ELA), Math (M)

Step One:
Make connections with content and get an expert.

Blended Learning of City Designs:
VoiceThread viewing with Google Form to assess learning

Small Group discussions with students to assess knowledge of city designs

Students played game from BBC Professor Indus: Mohonejo-Daro

 - Students studied city lay-outs in my class as we studied the Indus River Valley city of Mohenjo-Daro.  Examining this city lay-out and other modern cities by using VoiceThread I created helped introduce city planning. (SS)

- Next, students met with local city planners from Columbia to learn about mapping, scale, and how city planners use citizens interpretations and views of their surroundings to figure out how to design different aspects of a city.  (SS, Sci, M)

- Students worked with the city planners and created a map of what they encountered between their home and drive to our school.  These drawings told a lot about what was important to students by what details they gave.  Examples included:  neighborhood landmarks, restaurants, and particular signs along their journey.  (SS, Sci)

Students blogged about this experience: Posts - "City Design"  Abernathy 1st Pd.     Abernathy 2nd Pd 
Step Two:

Form groups, define key words and concepts, brainstorm the type of city desired, and prepare for Rite of Passage to begin planning out city.

- Students were placed in heterogeneous groups to create a city.

- Students defined key vocabulary:  scale, ecosystem, characteristics of a civilization (laws, government, economy, art/culture, inventions, written language)   (SS, Sci, M)

- Students needed to choose where they city would be located and if it would be ancient, modern, or futuristic (research possible city sizes or types based on geographic location) (SS, Sci)

-  Go through the Rite of Passage providing what kind of city, 4 justifications for why it could sustain life, define key vocabulary, and give example. (Sci, SS, M)

Step Three:

-  Begin designing and drawing city to scale: Students had large easel paper to draw their city to scale (M, SS)

- Students had to create a map key and designate different areas of their city to different parts (schools, government center, business district, etc) (SS, Sci)

-  Important advantage during this process was a revisit by Columbia City Planners for feedback and consultation

- Students used this feedback and had not only the birds eye view but also created a side view, like a snow globe, to show topography  (SS, Sci)

Step Four:

- Final completion of the maps.  Do necessary coloring and make clear markings on city (SS, Sci)

- Write a written description of city highlighting all the important components.  Provide viewers a in-depth view will all key vocabulary and concepts of city that they would not pick up from looking at city map.  (ELA, SS, Sci, M)

Step Five: Showcase

- Students show off their work and have guests from Columbia City Planners and school district come and see their finished products.

 To close, we did a gallery walk where students used post-it notes to share feedback on what they liked as well as critiques group's could use to reflect on their own work.

- Each group then did a close feedback form where they answered two tasks.
    Task 1:  Type the "Keepers" and "Polishers" sticky note feedback
    Q2:  If you could redo any parts of your map what would you do?

Friday, February 28, 2014

SCMSA Conference 2014

          I'm excited to be sharing at the South Carolina Middle School Association Conference this year in Myrtle Beach South Carolina.  Here below you'll find the link to my presentation on "Connected Classrooms, Connected Learners."  My presentation addresses the following strategies and ideas:

- Key Questions to extend learning
- Blogging in the Classroom
- Skype Visits
- Bringing Experts into the Classroom
- Close Reading Strategies

Here is my link.  I hope you find these ideas applicable whether you are in a non-technology or technology environment.

SCMSA Conference Presentation    Twitter: #sced