Posted in Cool Tools, Creating Accessibility, Student Creation

Student Created Read-Aloud Videos of Awesomeness

Recently, I read the article “Best Read Alouds on YouTube” from the website We are TeachersThis article is full of great YouTube channels where favorite picture books are read aloud by a variety of personalities.

The read-aloud portion of my day was always one of my favorites. Whether as a classroom teacher or as a media specialist, I relished the opportunity to share my reader’s voice with my students. I tried to bring the story alive and I felt an inner sense of pride when the kids would listen to the story with rapt attention. But there is always a moment in my teaching life that has stood out. One year, I was teaching language arts to a really rowdy group of 8th graders, most of whom were reading significantly below grade level. We were doing a unit on poetry, slugging through the classics, when a student asked if he could read his favorite poem aloud to the class. I was so excited that he had a favorite poem that I immediately agreed and listened in awe as he presented us with an amazing version of My Beard by Shel Silverstein.

This performance kicked off a really cool string of days where the kids searched out their favorite poems, practiced reading them aloud and then performed them for the rest of the class. Student engagement was high, but most of all, students were practicing their fluency and really digging into text so that they were able to read their favorites with voices that would entrance and capture the attention of their classmates.

I am thinking that it is time for students to share their read-aloud voices with us. Instead of listening to an adult voice, it is their turn to bring stories to life. I know that we don’t have the time in our day to have 25-30 kids read their favorite stories or passages to the class, but we can use our technology to give them the chance to record their favorite stories for their classmates. (Or their parents, or their siblings, or just you, or really, just themselves)

Students can select their favorite picture book or passage from a book and practice their fluency until they have all of the confidence of a kindergarten teacher singing the ABC song. Of course, students might need to see a few examples of awesome read-alouds, which is where you, oh amazing teacher come in. If reading aloud isn’t your thing, click on the article above and fill the brains of your students with excellent examples from one of the YouTube channels listed in the article. Once they feel like the read-aloud rockstar they are, choose one of the platforms listed below and let them get on with their bad selves. Imagine the listening library that your students will create for one another. Imagine the fluency practice they will be getting! And don’t think that this idea is just for little kids. Big kids like to read aloud too. They can choose picture books or pieces of their favorite novels. Just get them reading and sharing their voice with their peers!

Flipgrid: Create an entire grid dedicated to read-alouds. Students can choose to sit in front of their devices and show the pages of their book as they read aloud, or you can rig up a stand where the camera points at the book only and the student narrates from behind the screen. Shockingly enough, some of our students are a little camera shy. Students can then visit the read-alouds of their classmates, leave feedback, or suggest new titles for their friends to read. I bet you will find there is a lot of natural voice-over talent in your classrooms.

Seesaw: Students can add their read-alouds to their journal and their stories can be shared with families and other students in the classroom. Just like with Flipgrid, students can either hold their books in front of the camera or can hide behind the camera as they turn pages and bring their stories to life.

Padlet: Padlet has a nifty tool that allows you to record a video directly into a Padlet post. You can create a shared Padlet and student can record right on the Padlet for their classmates to see. The only drawback to the Padlet is that videos can only be five minutes long. This might be a great option for those shorter, favorite passages from older readers.

Screencastify: Using the free Screencastify chrome extension, students can record their read-aloud using their Chromebook camera and microphone. Once their video is recorded, students can then put their videos into a Google Slide presentation or upload directly to a class YouTube channel. If it were me, I would create shared Slides presentations that were themed by genre. Then I would put the links to the Slides presentation in Google Classroom, students could create their videos and add them to the correct presentation. My favorite part about this is that you will have have a library of read-alouds that you can use with future classes.

I would love to hear your ideas about how you would get your students creating their own read-aloud. What tools would you use? How would you get them to interact with your new library? How will you motivate them to join in?

Posted in Cool Tools, Creating Accessibility, extensions, G-Suite for Education, Google Classroom

Math in GSuite with EquatIO and EquatIO mathspace

Math and GSuite have not always gone hand-in-hand. If you wanted to create math-rich Docs or Slides, you were pretty limited in formatting options, and many teachers wound up relying on screenshots and snipping tools to create materials for students. But, rejoice, for now there is EquatIO! The EquatIO extension allows you to add real math language to Google Docs, Slides and Forms. Equations, graphs, formulas, etc are all easy to create and use with your students.

Once you install the extension, you will have a new toolbar available in your GSuite products. With this toolbar, you can create expressions, formulas; all that crazy math stuff that I really don’t understand. 

equatio toolbar
EquatIO Toolbar – Available in Docs, Slides and Forms

Not only does EquatIO offer an easy to use equation editor that allows the teacher to either type or dictate mathematical sentences, it also has a nifty prediction tool that helps you add the correct math symbols in your work.

If you are more of a talker than a typer, try the voice input option. When you speak your problem, EquatIO will create the sentence for you. If you want to allow students to talk through their problem solving, they can continue dictating their thinking and add additional lines to their math as they work towards the solution.

EquatIO has paired with Desmos to offer an easy to use graphing tool.

Desmos Graph

Another bell and whistle EquatIO offers is the ability to handwrite your math. If you are one of the lucky ones and have access to a tablet or touchscreen, you can handwrite all of your amazing math problems. 

Handwriting

Sometimes we find the material we want to share with our students online. EquatIO offers a screenreader that not only grabs math from other digital locations and transfers it to your document, it also reads it to you! Here it is in action:

Since the free student EquatIO accounts are limited to Google Docs, I can create all of this math in a doc and then assign it via Google Classroom with the “Make a Copy” option. My students will then be able to use the same tools as they solve my problems. Well, not my personal problems, just my math problems.

EquatIO’s mathspace

Sometimes our math involves more than just numbers and letters and this is where EquatIO’s mathspace comes in. Instead of just adding equations and formulas to a Google Doc or Slide, EquatIO’s mathspace gives you a blank canvas where you can create the math (or chemistry or physics) problems of your dreams! 

When you go to equat.io, you will first land on your EquatIO dashboard. Once here, you can create a new mathspace or you can edit/work with an existing one.

shows squares with math work in them and a plus sign to make a new math canvas

The mathspace canvas is amazing! In addition to the equation editor, you have a freehand draw tool and access to a variety of shapes, symbols and clip art.

graph paper with a drawing canvas and shape tools
Different shapes and symbols available in the mathspace canvas.

This space now becomes an interactive math problem.

Advanced Problems

The teacher can create on the canvas and then share a link to the problem in Google Classroom with the “Make a Copy” option. As a user of a free account, your students will not be able to respond directly on the canvas you have shared, but they can open their own mathspace, construct their response and then turn in their work by adding a link in Classroom.

I am not a math or science teacher, but these tools really excite me. The EquatIO extension and Equat.io mathspace create endless possibilities! To get your free educator account for EquatIO, click here!

 

Posted in Creating Accessibility, Google Classroom

Add Events to the Google Classroom Calendar

I love Google Classroom. I think it creates an easy way to manage workflow of assignments in the classroom, and if you supercharge your Google Classroom, you can create amazing learning opportunities that were previously impossible. 
 
The one thing I don’t love about Google Classroom is the calendar view located under the three bars on the left in Classroom. If you create an assignment with a due date, Classroom will helpfully create an event on the Classroom calendar. That is basically it. The teacher is unable to add any additional events to the calendar, which makes it frustrating if you want to add reminders, special events, or long range dates that are not tied to assignments.
 
But did you know that your Classroom calendar actually shows up in your regular Google calendar? And did you know that your students also have access to that calendar from their regular Google calendar? You can add any event to your Classroom by visiting your regular calendar. Once you have added the event to the calendar, it will show up on their school Google calendars. Of course, you will have to show your students where to find their Google calendar. Most students aren’t even aware that they have a calendar! I was working with freshman at the high school last week and one of the kids exclaimed, “How did I not know this was available? I would have been using it if I knew!”
 
Here is a short (2 minute) video that shows how this process works. I think getting our students to start using their calendars could cause an organizational revolution. And, brother, I am there for that! 

 

Posted in Building Relationships, Cool Tools, Creating Accessibility, Student Creation

Build Relationships and Engage Students With Seesaw

This summer, I attended a conference and Joe Sanfelippo, the author of Hacking Leadership and The Power of Branding, was a keynote speaker. He passionately spoke with us about the idea that educators need to share what is happening in our classrooms with our families and the community at large. Joe wants us to build relationships while we flatten the walls of our school and broadcast student voices. A major point he hit on is that we need to share our stories to build relationships with our families because if we don’t show them what we are doing in our classrooms all day, families create their own truths. By using tools like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, we can reach our families and give them a peek into what is happening in our classrooms every day.

I love his ideas and his passion, but I know that some teachers are hesitant to begin this journey because they feel that they don’t have time to be snapping pics and crafting posts for the interwebs to view. They are more focused on the teaching and learning that is going on in their classrooms and not necessarily on sharing all of the wonderful things that are happening within their walls.

Would you be excited if I told you that there is a tool out there that allows you to inspire learning, engage your students, create amazing activities, give students opportunities to explain their thinking and share their voices, and communicate with parents all while saving teacher time? Well, there is a tool and that tool is called Seesaw!

Seesaw is considered to be a digital portfolio and while it is definitely a place where students can collect and reflect on their learning, it is so much more than a digital portfolio. Seesaw gives students powerful creative tools to capture their learning but it doesn’t stop there. Once students have added materials to their online journal, those learning moments are then shared with their teachers and even more importantly, their families! Families can view their child’s work in the Seesaw app right from their phone, tablet or computer. And since families are already connected, the teacher can send out daily updates, announcements, cute pics of students at work, videos of happenings in the classroom and weekly newsletters.

As a communication tool, Seesaw gives students an audience for their work. It gives families a window into what’s going on every day in their child’s classroom. It, as Joe Sanfelippo suggests we do, flattens the walls of your school and broadcast student voices. Teachers can quickly and easily share all of the amazing things that happen every day in their classroom with just a few clicks of a button.

As a teaching and learning tool, Seesaw excels! The teacher can create activities for students to engage with. These activities can be varied, but the point of them is that it is an opportunity for students to “show what they know.” Seesaw gives students creation tools like a camera to create a video or still images, and drawing tools and text features so that they can explain a concept, write and reflect, capture an experiment or share their newfound knowledge.

When you see Seesaw in action, you will know that it is going to be the tool that will be a game changer for you. I found this awesome video from fellow user, Suzanne Awrtey, that shows some quick ideas about using Seesaw with primary age children. If you don’t want to watch the entire video, check out clips at 2:44, 3:12, 4:10, 4:43 and 5:49.

It might seem overwhelming for a teacher new to Seesaw to come up with activities for their students, but fear not for Seesaw now has a library with activities that are already created by fellow teachers. Browse through and select activities that match your grade level and subject, hit the “Share” button, and you are in business! Just look at some of the amazing activities I found!

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Once you begin using Seesaw in your classroom, you will find that Seesaw makes the paperwork beast easier to manage since you won’t be lugging papers back and forth every night. Instead, you can see and hear what your students are thinking and create new opportunities for learning based on their responses. The best part is that Seesaw works on all devices! It works in an environment where every student has a device just as well as in a room where you only have 1 or five devices. Students can still use Seesaw as part of a center activity or as a journal activity. You don’t have to be 1:1 to be able to implement Seesaw in your classroom.

As you are reading about Seesaw, you might be worrying about who will be able to see the work of each student. Don’t worry because privacy is a big deal with Seesaw. By default, all student accounts are private to the classroom only and you decide when it is time to begin sharing student work. When you are ready, you invite parents to be a part of your Seesaw community, and once they join, they only have the ability to see the work of their own child or any announcements that you send to the class. And unlike other tech companies, Seesaw doesn’t collect or sell student and teacher data, nor do they claim ownership of any material you put into Seesaw.

The takeaway from all of this is that Students are empowered when they use Seesaw.  The creative tools allow for choice, collaboration, and sharing.  During this process students reflect and apply critical thinking skills, and these insights are shared with important audiences.

Who is Seesaw for? Every student from PreK to grade 12. And the best part? Seesaw is free for teachers and families! The free Seesaw account allows the teacher to have up to three Seesaw classes and 100 activities in use. Of course, if you fall in love with Seesaw, there are upgraded options that give you even more of the good stuff.

To get started with Seesaw, go to seesaw.me and create a free account. Or, if you want to try out Seesaw Plus for 30 days, click on this link before you create your account. One of the awesome things about Seesaw is their PD program where you can be a self-directed learner by using their “Help” center. In fact, here is their “Get Started” guide. They also have an amazing PD in your PJs program to help you learn at your own pace.

What are you waiting for? School is starting and your students are ready to share their voices! Make Seesaw a part of your classroom this year.

 

 

Posted in #onenewthing, Creating Accessibility, Google Classroom, Student Creation, Teacher Workflow

Spend Your Summer Trying #OneNewThing

It is almost time for summer break, where all teachers stop working and spend the summer working on their tans while they sip frosty beverages by the pool!

HAHAHAHAHAHA….excuse me for a second. I think I might have just laughed so hard that I peed a little.

This summer, like every summer, most of us are going to spend significant time on our teaching craft. Self-directed learning, grad classes, conferences, seminars, professional books, team plannings, curriculum overhauls; you name it, we are doing it.

My district is hosting a Twitter challenge where teachers are encouraged to tweet about one new thing they are working on this summer. This new thing can be something for school or something personal. For example, my #onenewthing on a personal level is I am going to try running a mile…without dying. On a professional level, my #onenewthing is attending ISTE for the first time to hopefully learn more about using edtech to personalize learning. When you think about what you want your classroom to be like next year, what one new thing are you going to focus on this summer? Can I make some suggestions?

Master Teacher and Student Workflow in the Classroom

If you haven’t yet embraced it, make learning how to use Google Classroom your #onenewthing. Google Classroom provides you with the ability to create a well-defined workflow for yourself and your students. Get yourself organized. Get your students organized. Make it the one-stop-shop for your students. Use it as a place where students can create, collaborate and share. One of my favorite ways to use Google Classroom is as a way to give timely feedback to students. A great resource to help you get started is 50 Things You Can Do with Google Classroom by Alice Keeler and Libbi Miller.Image result for 50 things you can do with google classroom

If you aren’t the book-buying type, check out the Google Classroom section of www.alickeeler.com or the Google Classroom section of the Shake Up Learning website.

Increase Student Engagement and Amplify Student Voice

Have you been acting as the “sage on the stage” in your classroom? Does all information run through you and you direct access to content while controlling the pace with which students interact with said content and show mastery? Do your students all show mastery in the exact same way and either turn in identical answers on assessments or projects that are almost identical to each other? If you are ready to start giving students ownership of their learning and a choice in how they show what they know, then make your #onenewthing all about student empowerment and student agency through voice and choice in the classroom.

Sure, you can use Google Classroom to pass out and collect assignments and you can use other Google tools to provide lecture notes and guided learning opportunities, but if you become more innovative and embrace learning in a digitally rich environment, Google Classroom and other GSuite for Edu apps can have a profound impact on student learning. Instead of just having your students write a paper, why not give them a choice of tools to use to either create an infographic, a video, a presentation or any other way they might decide best allows them to show their learning? Perhaps your students will combine Google Draw and Screencastify to explain their mathematical thinking and create a visual of the problem they are solving. Or maybe your students will use Google tools to collaborate with other students in the next classroom, the next city or the next state.

To get started with this #onenewthing, check out one of these three awesome books (click on each cover for more information):

Image result for google infused classroom

Image result for 50 things to go further with google classroom

Image result for google apps for littles

 

Package Lessons to Allow for Choice, Pace, and Place

Are you ready to take that increased student engagement and amplified student voice and kick it up a notch? Are you ready to be a “guide on the side” and give students the ability to learn at their own pace and perhaps even in their own place? If so, then make HyperDocs your #onenewthing. HyperDocs are lesson designing for the 21st-century classroom because it removes the teacher from the front of the room and creates opportunities for the students to engage with content in a way that forces them to move from consumption to creation. The tenants of a HyperDoc require a student to engage, explore, explain, apply, share and reflect on their learning. Since the lesson is packaged in a digital format (which means that you can give students a choice in how they access content), it allows the teacher to remove themselves from the front of the room and assist students on an individual basis as they work through the HyperDoc. And since students are not bound by a traditional lecture session, they are able to work at their own pace, often in their own place, seeking out assistance as needed. To learn more about HyperDocs, check out the official website, https://hyperdocs.co/ or explore the HyperDocs Facebook group to interact with other teachers on this HyperDoc journey. There is also an awesome book that will walk you through the philosophy and creation of Hyperdocs.

The HyperDoc Handbook: Digital Lesson Design Using Google Apps by [Highfill, Lisa, Hilton, Kelly, Landis, Sarah]

Gives Students a Platform to Share and Celebrate Their Awesomeness

We live in a Youtube world where people have become millionaires by sharing videos of the most mundane aspects of their lives.  I cannot even count the number of times I have seen my kids watching videos of other kids play video games, playing with slime, unwrapping boxes or sharing their thoughts and beliefs about any random topic that pops into their minds. Our students want to be heard. They want to leave a footprint and they want to see what their peers are up to. Not only do kids want to see each other, but their parents want to be able to see what they are doing as well. That is why learning how to use social platforms like Flipgrid or Seesaw might be a great #onenewthing.

Image result for flipgrid iconFlipgrid bills itself as a place for students to go to share ideas and learn together. Give your students a prompt. Give your students a place to share. Allow them to be creative and express themselves as individuals. Spark discussion and find opportunities to share with other Flipgrid classes from around the globe! Or, keep your discussions personal and give students a chance to speak directly to you without other distractions. Check it out and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Image result for seesaw icon Seesaw is is a student-driven digital portfolio that empowers students to independently document what they are learning at school. The family of each student has the opportunity to connect with the Seesaw classroom to see videos, pictures, and the awesome work of their very own child.

What Should Your One New Thing Be?

I know that trying new things in the classroom can be daunting and intimidating, but never forget that your students are trying something new every single day at school. Spending the summer as a learner is an amazing way to connect with your students. If you try out any one of these new things, or any new thing for that matter,  you are modeling risk-taking and growth mindset for your students. Be a learner! Be a risk taker! Try out just #onenewthing this summer that will help turn your fall classroom into a place where learners feel engaged and empowered.

 

 

Posted in Creating Accessibility, Feedback, Google Classroom, Teacher Workflow

Feedback of Awesomeness in Google Classroom

Giving feedback to students is an essential part of teaching. Back in the dark ages, before tools like Google Classroom had been invented, I taught language arts. I would collect assignments and then spend my entire weekend giving students meaningful and useful feedback on their writing. Oh, the suggestions I made! The wit with which I dispensed my wisdom in the margins of their papers! I was certain that this valuable feedback would change the course of their work and lead them to be the Pulitzer Prize winners of the future! Of course, when I handed it back to them, all of my meaningful and useful feedback would wind up in the recycling bin with no one ever looking at it, fueling my eternal rage. But, you know, bygones…

In the past, it seemed that most of my feedback was after-the-fact feedback. Students were already done with their work and the feedback I was giving was no longer meaningful. Since the students had already received a grade on their work they felt that they were done with the assignment and were not willing to dig back into it. The feedback would have been worthwhile if I could have offered it while the students were working, but short of cramming more writing conferences into my already packed class period, I struggled to give the feedback in a timely fashion. Fast forward to 2018 and a little tool (Google Classroom) and her useful friends (private comments, Screencastify and Google Keep). Feedback no longer has to be scribbled in the margins of student work with the hopes that students will read it and do something with it, I can now reach the students while they are working and guide them in their work even if I don’t have the opportunity to speak with them face to face. Providing students with digital feedback as they work creates more personalized learning for students.

Private Comments: Google Classroom has a neat little feature where you can send private comments to individual students. To do this, simply open up the view of student work and click on the individual student. A private comment box will be below their work attachments.

Private comment in Google Classroom

The student will get an email notifying them of the comment and when they click the blue reply button, they will be taken directly to the assignment. You can have an entire conversation with the student about their assignment via private comments.

The important thing to remember with this is to create comments while the student is still working and not after they have already turned in the assignment. Once that assignment is turned in, the student counts it as done and any feedback you give will be wasted. With this in mind, it is a good idea to not give students a grade on their work until after they have attended to any feedback.

Private Comments and Video Feedback: Sometimes you really want to dig into the work of a student and just leaving a few sentences is not enough. To do this, I like to use a program like Screencastify in conjunction with the private comment feature. When I want to give more detailed feedback, I open the student’s work, open Screencastify, record my screen and voice while I give feedback and then share the link to the video in the private comments. The student can then access the video and see/hear the feedback while they revisit their work.

Here is an example of how to create this type of feedback:

Once I have created the video, I simply grab the link to the video (which is now housed in my Drive in a folder called “Screencastify”) and place the link in the private comment section for the student.

Google Keep, Screencastify and Private Comments: I am a huge fan of Google Keep and feel like it is the best-kept secret in the Googleverse. I have written a few blog posts about the awesomeness of Keep. Check them out here. If you find that you are giving the same feedback over and over, creating that feedback in Keep notes will help streamline your workflow. You can easily open up the Keep notepad in Docs, Slides and Drawings and copy and paste the feedback from the Keep note into a comment dialog to quickly give feedback. You can even include links to mini-lessons or videos to help the student understand the concept they are struggling with. An even fancier idea is to combine the Google Keep feedback with video feedback. By doing this, you are not only giving them solid and concrete visual feedback via Keep, you are also giving them verbal feedback. I don’t know about you, but it seems like students pay a lot more attention to what I say than to what I write.

No matter how you slice it, Classroom makes it easier for you to give meaningful feedback to your students before they finish an assignment. I’m not going to lie and say that it will save you a ton of time. In fact, once you start using private comments, your email is going to blow up. One of my favorite edtech gurus, Alice Keeler, has written an excellent post on how to manage the private comment workflow and email explosion. Rather than try to recreate her awesomeness, here is the link to her original post: My Respond to Private Comments in Google Classroom Workflow. Her suggestions will help save a lot of headaches and keep you from just deleting your email app and heading for the hills.

Inspire your students to revisit their work. Inspire your students to dig back in and make their work better. Do this by giving them meaningful feedback.

 

 

 

Posted in Cool Tools, Creating Accessibility, Teacher Feature

Teacher Feature – Risk Takers – Roxana King

Risk taking in education is nothing new. For centuries, teachers have been willing to push the envelope, leap over obstacles and climb any mountain in the name of reaching our learners and making school meaningful for all students. As educational technology has begun to change the landscape of our schools, some teachers have charged ahead and jumped in with both feet, but others are slowly testing the waters and learning how to work outside of their comfort zone. These teachers consider themselves to not be very techy and in many cases, would call themselves technophobes. These are the teachers I want to celebrate! They are taking risks, putting themselves out there, and doing things that scare them. And they are doing all of this because they want to engage and empower their students!

With this series, I am going to feature different Lebanon City School teachers that are working outside of their comfort zones and taking big risks for their students. First up, Roxana King:

Roxana King – Family and Consumer Science Teacher

Roxana, a long-time teacher at Lebanon High School, is one or two years away from retirement. Her course load this year is foods, careers and consumer economics. I especially love working with her on cooking days and have had more than my fair share of fudge when I go to visit her. Roxana first reached out to me because she wanted to get a better handle on managing her Google Drive, her email, and just general computer processes.

During one of our work sessions, Roxana began to talk about how she really wanted to find a better way to engage her learners. She was looking for digital opportunities that would get students to participate in their own learning and would allow them to show what they know throughout the learning experience, not just at the very end. Roxana also wanted her students to have access to course information from anywhere so that they could review concepts whenever they needed, not just during the time they were in the four walls of her classroom.

After looking at the many different edtech tools available, Roxana settled on Edpuzzle and Quizlet.

EdPuzzle:

When I worked with Roxana, she told me about video content that she shares with her students. This video content is really well done and has fantastic and applicable information, but she knows that when she shows the videos in class, the students tend to tune out and not really internalize or engage with the information. When she discovered Edpuzzle, she immediately felt that this tool could be a game changer for her. With a little bit of practice and a lot of patience, Roxana learned how to use the voice over and quiz features in the program. She now feels that her students are much more engaged with the content since they know that there will be checks for understanding scattered throughout the videos. The feature that allows students to rewatch video portions over again until they understand the concept is an especially powerful learning tool. In addition, students that were absent in class (or students that just need a little review) can access the videos from their personal devices at any time of the day or night.

Quizlet:

Roxana’s use of Quizlet is really exciting. Students are taking concepts covered in class and creating their own flashcards. Once they have created their own, they crowdsource them and share them with the entire class. As a group, they go over the flashcards and pick the ones that they feel best illustrates and defines the concept. Then, using the quiz and game features in Quizlet, the students play games and take quizzes over the concepts. Since the students have to create the flashcards and identify which cards best illustrate a concept, they are taking ownership of the material taught in class. It is no longer Roxana handing them the answers and hoping they take the time to learn it. They are engaging and creating, which is the fastest path to understanding.

I am so proud of the work that Roxana is doing and how she is pushing herself. When I say that Roxana is not a techy teacher, I am not exaggerating by any stretch of the imagination. It takes a lot of hard work and patience for her to figure out how to use these programs, but she is sticking with it because she wants ways to have her students engage more authentically with the material she is presenting in class. And for somebody who is nearing the end of their career to jump in with both feet and take these kinds of risks, I think she is amazing!

 

 

Posted in Creating Accessibility

Meaningful Onboarding When Using Tech in the Classroom

I started my teaching career back in the dark ages of 1996 and stayed in the classroom until the end of 2007 when I moved into the library/media center. Those first few days of school were always a wonderful flurry of activity where I would introduce myself, meet the kids, but most importantly, give them glimpses of how things in the classroom needed to work in order to create a positive experience for everybody. You know, things like: where assignments needed to be turned in; where to find supplies; where to find additional copies of class materials; how to keep track of individual progress; classroom roles and responsibilities; how our classroom economy would work; how to be a good classroom citizen; and most crucially, how to be excused to go to the bathroom! By the time we hit the middle of the first quarter, my classroom would run like a well-oiled machine and students were largely independent and able to function in the environment we had created together. Whenever a new student arrived, the kids would demonstrate their knowledge by teaching the new student the ropes.

Our classrooms of today have added a technology element that has big impacts on our classroom communities. Living in a technology-rich classroom has changed the landscape, but have we given any thought to how to introduce our students to these tools and how to best use them to keep our classes running like that well-oiled machine? When you walk into any classroom these days, the automatic assumption usually made is that every single child in that room has more tech knowledge and skills than the average adult. Teachers believe that all we need to do is hand our students a device and they are off and running. I suppose that is true if we are asking the students to use Snapchat, post on Instagram or create a playlist on Spotify. However, if we want them to use their devices for teaching and learning, there is a good chance that they need to be onboarded into our classroom’s digital environment.

Think about your experience as an educator. When you adopted an LMS like Schoology or Canvas or began using a content delivery system like Google Classroom, you probably (hopefully) received some sort of professional development to help get you started. Even if it wasn’t anything official from your school or district, you most likely watched the introductory training videos or read the quick start guide offered by the programs themselves. Now, look back to the first time you had your students work inside one of these systems. Did you talk to them about what to expect when they are working within the system? Did you walk them through the steps necessary to log in? Did you show them how to access the content you are sharing? Turn in their assignments? Add it as a favorite to their browser? Did you have any discussions about digital citizenship and your expectations for how each student should represent themselves in a digital environment? If you haven’t had these discussions with the students, I am not sure they know how to live in the digital space you are using. Just like you needed a little guidance to get started, so do your students. I am not advocating for long drawn out sessions of direct training, but the first few times that you have assignments in Classroom or in your LMS, walk students through access, creation and turn-in options so that they know how to effectively interact with the environment. When you see students writing “Heyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy everybody, I am so crazy!” on your Classroom stream, think about how you can discuss appropriate sharing in a digital space.

My district is a Google district and I spend a lot of time in different classrooms with students. The funny thing about our students these days is that they are able to figure out how to use just about any flashy tool that they stumble across, but if I ask them to create a Slide or Doc, there is a pause and students scatter to create in a weird variety of ways. I have watched students Google the words ‘Slides’ or ‘Docs’ and then randomly click on whichever search result is at the top of the list, even if it isn’t a Google product. When we are working on something on one day and I want them to access it on another day, they aren’t entirely sure where to find it. It has become apparent to me that I need to onboard these students by quickly showing them how to access their Google apps via the app finder (we call it the ‘waffle’), how to navigate to Google Drive, how to create folders in Drive and how to create within the folders for easy access at a later date. These are not all stand-alone lessons that take a bulk of the class time. Rather, these skills are what I show them when I model the set-up and routines expected in my class. They are not limited in their choice of creation tool, but at the very least, I know that they know how to organize their creations and share them with me.

When you create a digital environment for your students to live in, onboard them by defining:

  1. How to access the environment:
    1. How do they login? Username and password?
    2. Can they access it from home?
  2. Digital citizenship expectations:
    1. Are they free to comment and express themselves in the environment?
    2. What are expectations for interacting with peers?
    3. When digital media is created, how are images found and used and how are citations displayed?
    4. What external sites are ok for use in the digital environment?
  3. Workflow:
    1. How do students access assignments?
    2. How do students turn in assignments (share vs dropbox vs “turn in” features)
    3. Will your assignments be posted on a calendar or should students look in another location?
    4. If you are using Clasroom, are students expected to mark their assignments “done” even if they have turned in a physical copy instead of a digital copy?
    5. When you are collaborating and giving feedback on student work before it reaches the final form, how will that workflow be managed?
  4. Communication:
    1. Let the students (and parents) know how you will communicate with them digitally. Will you be using the announcement feature in Classroom or Schoology? Will you use an app like Remind?
    2. Let them know how feedback will be delivered to them for different assignments. Should they look in the private comments in Classroom, comments within a Google Doc or Slide, video links, handwritten on sticky notes? If they know what they are looking for, it will be easier for them to interact with your feedback.
    3. If you give grades, where will the students see the grades? On the assignment? In the Schoology grade book? On ProgressBook? Written on the top of a paper?

In my mind, these are the essentials your students need to know in order to be properly onboarded into your digital learning space. Just like you take some time at the beginning of the year to discuss how to leave the room to go to the bathroom and that your students should call you Queen of Awesomeness (just me?!?), you should spend some time making sure they are comfortable and prepared to learn in both a physical and digital space.

How do you onboard your students? What essentials did I miss? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments!

 

Posted in Cool Tools, Creating Accessibility, G-Suite for Education, Teacher Feature

Teacher Feature – Kat McAndrews and her Digital Portfolios

Kat McAndrews, a sixth-grade science teacher at Berry Intermediate, has decided to throw caution to the wind and jump headfirst into new ways for her students to show themselves as learners and scientists. We had a quick discussion one day about this, and next thing I knew, she had turned her ideas into reality and is using Google Slides and Team Drive with her students as they create digital portfolios to showcase all their learning and growth this year!

I decided that I wanted to see all of this in action and scheduled some time to visit with her and her awesome students. When I first entered her classroom, I could feel the thrum of energy from the kids.

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 They were getting ready to head outside with their soil kits, and even though it was close to 92 degrees, the students were excited to be out in the field. This was day two of their soil quadrant work, and the students were using their interactive science notebooks to record data on the experiments they were conducting. As they were working, Kat walked amongst them, snapping photos and discussing their procedures and results. As the class drew to an end, she began uploading the images to Team Drive so that the students would be able to access them tomorrow in class when they continued working with their digital portfolios.

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I made a second visit later in the day to see a class that was a little further along with this project. These students had finished their lab work and were now ready to show what they knew by creating short skits or presentations about the topic. I watched a newscast, a rap, a scientific demonstration of techniques used, and some very awkward kids hiding behind posters! Kat recorded all of these presentations with her trusty iPhone, and just like she did with the images, uploaded them to the corresponding Team Drives for her students to access.

The next time I was in the room, it was an inside work day (Thank goodness, as the heat was slowly killing me). I circulated around to get a good look at what the students were creating. Since their photos were already in Team Drive, students were able to quickly get to work grabbing images to add to their Slides presentation. Kat gave them free reign to showcase themselves as learners and to share their data. She simply asked them to not select a bold background image because that might interfere with their data and their images.

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The students now have a digital portfolio that showcases who they are as learners and sciAACDC236-062B-4BE1-BCF6-0F895348C06F.JPGentists. Not only can they show their teacher this, they can also share this with family members or other students. Using Slides makes this uniquely portable, and this sixth-grade portfolio can now follow them through their entire school career and even beyond if they decide to make a copy of their school Drive when they go out into the big, exciting world! I am so pleased that Kat has taken this sort of risk and figured out all the pieces necessary to make this a success. She has done a great job troubleshooting any issues that have come up, and even though this was her first time using some of this tech, she has created a vibrant learning community with her students.

Their portfolios are a work in progress that they will continue to add to all year. Here are a few examples (I have removed some Slides to protect privacy)

 

Here are the nuts and bolts of how Kat accomplishes these student created and designed portfolios.

  1. Using the new Team Drive feature in Google Drive, Kat created a Team Drive for each of her science classes. She then added her students to the corresponding Team Drive
  2. Each student created their own Slides presentation that will be used as a working portfolio for the school year and shared it with Kat.
  3. While students are working as scientists, she takes pictures of them in the field. She also records them giving their group presentations. These presentations are designed by the students to show what they have learned in a new and creative way.
  4. Using the Drive app on her phone, she then uploads the pictures and videos to the Team Drive so that students can then add them to their own portfolios.

Using technology in her classroom has opened the door for Kat’s students to create and show their learning all while putting their personal stamp on their work. She could have done something similar with just paper and pencil, but being able to quickly add images, videos, and creative elements to a digital portfolio that can be shared on a global platform brought this activity to a higher level. It isn’t about replacing a paper portfolio with a digital one, it is about the ability of the students to create and share with other people inside and outside of the four walls of their classroom. Good edtech doesn’t replace an activity, it allows you to do something that would be impossible without the tech. This is a perfect example of doing something Kat couldn’t have done before!

I know many of you are doing equally awesome things in your classroom. I would love to hear about what you are doing and spread the good word. Please contact me if you want to share your awesomeness with the world!

Posted in Cool Tools, Creating Accessibility

Collaborative Spaces with Padlet

As much as I love the collaborative tools in GSuite for Edu, sometimes they just don’t meet my needs when it comes to collaborative brainstorming, problem-solving, quick project sharing, or a place for students to have an online discussion about topics being covered in class. What tool can I use to create this sort of open sharing environment for my students? Why, Padlet, of course!

Have you ever attended a professional development class or meeting where there were large pieces of white paper on the wall and you were given sticky notes with which to go about the room and add your ideas or answer questions? Padlet is basically that, but better!  This free program (with paid upgrades available) allows you to create an online bulletin/white board where people can collaborate, share ideas, contribute resources, and share digital materials like links, docs, and videos! Padlet can be as private or as public as you want, and users can access your Padlet from a Chromebook, computer, phone, or tablet. As long as they have access to the internet, they have access to your Padlet. Students will not have to create an account so Padlets can be quickly and easily accessed and used without disrupting the flow of your class. And for that teacher in you that just wants everything to look “pretty” or “cute,” Padlet has beautiful and fun backgrounds to keep your collaborative space from being too plain.

Want to see it in action? Check out my Padlet and add your ideas about how you would rule the world!

Made with Padlet

Now that you can see it in action, just think of the possibilities! Here are a few of the ideas I came up with:

  • Bell ringer activity – ask a question to get the kids accessing prior knowledge or preparing their brains for learning new content
  • Brainstorming – instead of writing out all of the students’ ideas by hand on your whiteboard or poster paper, have them add their own ideas to your Padlet
  • Question/Answer – create a problem and have students share their answers here. This would be especially useful in a math classroom. Have students post their answers and explain their thinking
  • Group work – have students working in groups create their own Padlets to share their resources with each other. Or, create a class Padlet and have students share resources with their classmates across periods/bells
  • Exit Ticket – what did your students learn today and how will you expand on it for your next lesson?
  • Hypothesis and Results – make your science lab an open forum and let the students share their thinking before and after the lab along with their results
  • Guided research – create a Padlet with all of the links and materials you want your students to use for a project
  • Primary Source – sometimes primary sources are difficult to find, but you could curate a collection of them by providing links to them on a Padlet
  • Book Talks – instead of book reports, students can share a picture of their book and a quick explanation of why others should read it

These are just a few quick suggestions to get your brain thinking. If you do a quick Google or Twitter search, you will see that the possibilities are endless!

To get started with Padlet, simply go to www.padlet.com and sign up for an account. I recommend that all new users check out the Padlet Tour when they begin. Of course, I am here to guide you through and if you would rather have some personal training, just let me know!