Mr. Benjamin Levy

Helms Middle School


I am a science teacher at Helms Middle School, a low-performing public school in West Contra Costa. I entered into a placement program–Teach for America–and soon found myself in an environment far removed from my comfortable SoCal liberal arts campus, where I studied chemistry and discussed every non-practical matter (pun) possible.Though I think Teach for America (TFA) did a great job training us–there hasn’t been a moment throughout my time where I’ve been introduced to a novel teaching strategy–nothing prepares you fully for the classroom. The insights I’ve gleaned from my classes have helped me see the many dysfunctional aspects of our education system and, more importantly, the low-hanging fruit–the things that any teacher could change in their class tomorrow and see significant improvements.My main interest is in technology’s role in the classroom. I hope to share the numerous and extensive technology-driven changes with which I’ve experimented and the associated results.

I teach: Physical Science

To ages: 13 to 14


January 13, 2014

Update: eduCanon now supports TeacherTube, as well as Vimeo and YouTube! If your school network filter blocks YouTube, you might find more luck with TeacherTube–not to mention 400,000 educational videos!

Flipped or blended. eduCanon: unleash video’s potential.

October 30, 2012

A whiteboard screencasting software that works best accompanied by a graphics tablet. Designed for educators, open-sankore is open-source and has many easy-to-use features. A great way to annotate anything on your screen.

March 15, 2012

I use Google Docs in a fairly unique way. Though the basic functionality can be understood and utilized in a day, Google Docs has a suite of excellent data-driven tool.

Google Forms is an effective tool to create quizzes and distribute quizzes, while providing grading transparency to students, if your classroom offers individualized computers. Though it is not the intended use of the app and there is not enough space here to expound, I'd be happy to explain it to any interested persons. Don't hesitate to reach out!

March 3, 2012

During 1:1 student computer use, I use Apple Remote Desktop (ARD). It allows monitoring of student screens, so I can see how they are progressing and what they are up to.

Also, I can chat them individually to help them through problems. Finally, I've found, though it can be frustrating, that ARD can be used to drop files – such as videos or presentation templates- over to all the computers in your class.

March 3, 2012

I've recently started using CX in place of dropbox. I often have large lesson files in the form of videos or presentations and they're not easy to transfer to my collaborating teachers. CX, though it's still early, seems to have all the functionality I need, but offers 5x the amount of storage space than dropbox and fulfills the collaboration I need.

I use this tool when I need lots of space to share resources, but since it seems a little bit more buggy than dropbox, I have maintained both accounts.

February 29, 2012

My middle school science students enjoy elements of BrainPOP. It is a low-performing middle school and I've found a lot of the material is over their heads. If you are using it to provide a way of reviewing material, BrainPOP is OK, but don't expect a student to pick it up if they haven't learned it through another medium.

Although I haven't discovered it, there must be alternative cartoon presentations of material. I generally use it as review the day before a quiz (coupled with a more hands-on activity) or as the background for a topic (a video introduction to Newton before a lesson on Newtonian physics).

February 29, 2012

I use this tool to record lessons, in a perfected form, so I can provide each of my classes (from period to period) consistent delivery of material.

I either project the lesson over an LCD projector from my computer, or place the video file generated on individual computers for students to use 1:1.

It is really easy to use; you can record external video (if you have a webcam), external audio, computer screen screen, and computer audio. Editing is a simplified version of iMovie — SHIFT and select highlight sections, which is useful when you want to delete errors.

It is really useful for direct instruction activities and lower level Bloom's content.