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

Risk Takers – Susan Bost and Her Bad Tech Mojo

Susan Bost, Spanish I teacher at Lebanon Junior High, is always looking for ways for her students to be able to practice their burgeoning language skills. Since students are in the initial phases of language acquisition, they are often shy with their language sharing and feel intimidated when attempting to speak in front of other students. Knowing this, Susan wants to give her students opportunities to practice their language skills in as many ways possible. I send out regular suggestions to the staff here in Lebanon about innovative ways to use GSuite tools or other apps like Flipgrid and Pear Deck. Sue reads these suggestions and her mind starts racing with potential ideas for how to implement them in her classroom. However, Sue is a possessor of very bad tech mojo. Like, very bad. Very, very, very bad. Sometimes you come across a person in life who just has really bad tech mojo. You know that person; nothing ever works the way it is supposed to. Apps won’t open, programs won’t run, projectors just randomly shut off. There is no rhyme or reason for these things happening, it is just bad tech mojo and Sue is infected with it!

Even knowing this, Susan still wants to use edtech tools to give her students the best learning opportunities and that is why she is my featured risk taker this week. She is willing to try something new, even though the chance that it will go horribly wrong is always present.

One of the first big activities we tried was using Flipgrid for a formative assessment activity. As part of her program assessment, Sue gives the students prompts that they orally respond to in Spanish. In the past, this formative assessment activity has eaten up a lot of her class time since she has to sit with each student to give them the prompts and then listen to their responses. We used Flipgrid to create an assessment platform where she recorded the prompts as a grid topic and allowed the students to Flipgrid their responses. I believe that this took a lot of the pressure off since students could take time to collect their thoughts, rehearse what they wanted to say, and then record themselves without worrying about other students hearing them. She was also able to whittle down the amount of class time that she gave up for the assessment process using this method. Now, we did run into a few issues with the bad tech mojo and there were a couple of frantic emails from her the morning she began the assessment process, but if you ask her, I think she would say it was a great success! She has gone on and continued to use Flipgrid for other speaking activities and is using the private feedback option to respond directly to students and coach them on their language acquisition.

Another activity that we took on was creating opportunities for students to practice their Spanish writing skills through digital collaboration. Knowing that in order to be competitive in a global job market students are going to need to be able to collaborate with a person that they might never see face-to-face, Sue came up with an idea for the students to have “silent conversations” on a digital platform. She created a group work assignment for the students on a Google Doc. Using Google Classroom, she assigned the Doc to a group leader who then added his or her group members as collaborators. The students had to complete the assignment together, but they were not allowed to speak in class. They had to use the “comments” feature in Docs to discuss the work to be done and then collaboratively make the changes before turning their completed project back in through Classroom. Sue was able to monitor the work they were doing through Classroom and also use the comments feature to give the students just-in-time support and lead them forward on their projects. All in Spanish, of course. She tweeted a small snippet of this activity- check it out here.

There have been many other activities that we have tried, including animating Google Slides to illustrate Spanish vocabulary, teaching the students how to use Screencastify to annotate their digital work, and most recently using Pear Deck to give students photo prompts to respond to with appropriate forms of tener. This activity not only forced her students to think creatively, it also gave them an opportunity to anonymously share their writing. Sue was able to lead a class discussion based on their responses, leaving the students with a much better understanding of the concept.  Have all of these edtech based activities gone off without a hitch? Not even close. But, she keeps trying and we keep finding successes!

Step out of your comfort zone and be a risk taker. It might be a little scary, but if you start with sound pedagogy and teaching methods, the lesson will stand up even if the tech does not.

 

 

Posted in Cool Tools, G-Suite for Education, Google Forms

Use the Magic of Google Forms to Differentiate Instruction and Assessment!

We have all probably experienced Google Forms in their most common, er, form. District admins love to use them for PD planning or information gathering. Teachers love to use them as quizzes, quick exit tickets, surveys or ways to get contact information from parents. LuLaRoe sellers love to use them to take all of my money. Typically, the Forms you have interacted with before have been designed in a linear fashion where the user starts with the first question and works their way through until all questions have been answered and the submit button is the final option. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

But, what if I told you that every student does not have to answer every question you have in a Form? Would your mind be blown if I told you that you could customize your Form to guide students through an activity that levels itself for their specific skill level? Would you kick your heels in glee if I told you that you can create a Form that allows students to review important concepts if they get a question wrong? Or a Form that allows students to engage in challenge or enrichment activities while freeing you up to work with students that need more assistance? All of these things are possible with the magic of Google Forms. Read on to discover how you can use the magic of sections to create Forms of Awesomeness!

Case Study for Forms of Awesomeness:

The students have learned a new math skill and I want to be sure that they have ample opportunities to master the skill or try out the skill in new situations. To do this, I create a Form where the first question asks the students to reflect on their comfort level with the unit we just finished.

Question on Google Form that shows four levels of comfort with unit material

Based on how they answer the first question, they will be directed to a specific section of my Form.

Section View

Within each section, I build activities that have the students complete leveled practice or enrichment activities. Within these sections, the students will find videos, tutorials or other resources that will help them as they work through questions that, based on how they answer, will allow the student to move forward or repeat the learning activity until they are able to get the question right.

 

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While students are working independently, I can pull individuals or small groups of students that have either indicated they need help or are not making any progress on their section of the Form. If students have overestimated or underestimated their skill level, they can always start over by going back to the Form and selecting a different response to the first question. As they work, the Form is collecting data to show their progress and instead of standing in the front of the room, I now have the freedom to meet the students where they are as they work independently.

If my Google Fu is strong and I am so inclined, I can even set the sections to loop the student to the other sections I have created. If they cruise through one of the easier sections, I can have the student advance to a more complex section with a simple click of a button. Or, if they continue to get answers wrong, I can set the Form to have them wind up in the guided practice section. Sections allow for so many possibilities!

Building Your Magical Form of Awesomeness

To create a nonlinear Form, you will need to use the “Sections” feature. This feature is located on the quick menu the scrolls along the right side of the screen as you are building your Form. shows a Google Form with the section icon highlighted

Sections are essentially self-contained content and question sets. When I am creating a multi-section Form, I like to build each section as if it were going to be given to the students by itself. I find it easiest to build each of my sections first and then set up the navigation later once I have created the content I want my students to interact with. Here is a quick video that gives a basic overview of how working with sections in Forms works.

I used a math lesson and a funny little cheese activity for my Forms, but really, there are so many ways that you can use these with your students. Science lab activities, social studies lessons about government types, choose your own adventure style writing and reading activities. Can you think of ways that you would like to use the magic of Forms in your classroom?

 

Posted in Cool Tools, G-Suite for Education, Student Creation

Students as Creators in a Digital Space

Learning is more than listening and writing down correct answers on a worksheet or test. Learning is when students take concepts in, turn them this way and that, look at them from all angles and remix them with concepts already discovered, and then create something new as they construct new knowledge for themselves. Students need to be more than consumers, they need to be creators. They also need the opportunity to share their creations with a larger audience which allows their creations to be more meaningful and authentic. If you want to give your students some opportunities to create in a digital space with Chromebooks as their platform, try out one of these awesome edtech tools.

Google-Drawing Google Drawings: An often overlooked and definitely underused program in G Suite is Google Drawings. Drawings gives the user a blank canvas that, just like every other application in the Google product line, allows for creativity and collaboration. At its most basic, Drawings acts as a desktop publisher. Start with a blank canvas, add text and images, then download or share. Drawings can be downloaded as a PDF, png, or jpg. Drawings can also be published directly to the web! As a creation tool, the possibilities are endless, but here are a few suggestions:

  • Students create diagrams during lab work
  • Students create an infographic to showcase understanding of a concept
  • Students create a Drawing that explains their process and thinking about a math problem
  • Students use Drawings and Google Maps to teach about historical or geographical concepts
  • Students create a poster for projects like the science fair – look at my amazingly awesome example!

    science fair poster

bookcreatoriconBook Creator for Chrome: Book Creator bills itself as “the simplest way to create and share ebooks in your classroom.” The program runs as a Chrome app and students (or teachers) can combine text, images, audio, and video to create a media-rich book that is hosted online and can be shared with other students, teachers, parents, and communities. The creation tools are very easy to use and making high-quality pages is a cinch even for the youngest user. The camera and microphone features allow the creator to add personal images and narration of their text.  Creators are able to link to their Google Drives and pull content directly into their ebook, which allows for app smashing where students create content with other tools and then bring the content in from where it is stored in Google Drive. There is also a feature that allows for a Google image search (the best part is that the search will only bring back images labeled for reuse). When it is time to share, the book can be published online, downloaded as an epub, or printed.

Of course, a natural use of Book Creator would be to write and publish stories and poetry books. However, it can be used by your students to create a wide variety of products like nonfiction text, research journals, or how-to manuals. If you want to see how other teachers have used Book Creator, check out this Pinterest Board or look at the book below.

powtoon

Powtoon: Powtoon is an animated story builder that allows students to create engaging explainer videos on a wide range of topics. By using storyboards or templates along with items and sounds from an extensive library, students can create a professional looking video that will wow even the most critical teacher. Concept explanation and idea sharing take a brand new path while students learn design elements and video editing techniques. Instead of having every student get up in front of the classroom and read from their notes, have them create a Powtoon, post the link to it in a shared space like Padlet or Google Slides and then have students interact with the videos. You could even have the creator of the video create an exit ticket that students need to complete after they have watched the video selections.

Here are a few examples of concept videos created by students:

There are a multitude of creation options out there on the interwebs. These three just happen to be some of my personal favorites. Introduce these to your students or allow them to go and search out one of their own. The point is to get them creating. Let them show you what they know in new and innovative ways instead of ending every unit with a paper and pencil test or a worksheet.

Posted in Cool Tools, G-Suite for Education, Google Keep

Google Keep – The Gift That Keeps on Giving the Whole Year: Part Two: Students

In a previous post, I extolled the virtues of using Google Keep to get yourself organized and Keep an eye towards the future. This post is going to focus on how your students can use Google Keep to become organized rock stars that can conquer the world! I am a big fan of Keep and would use Keep with my students to help them become more organized, manage homework or other tasks, research and curate content, collaborate, capture quick thoughts and work, and create images or grab photos of important (or not so important) materials. That is a lot of responsibility to put on one little app, but I know Keep can handle it!

Personal Organization – Checkboxes, Reminders, Color-Coding and the Search Feature:

When a student creates a new note, they have the option to show checkboxes. This is a perfect way for students to create a to-do list for that independent project they are working on. In addition to the checkboxes, Keep allows the user to create a reminder. For those students that have a hard time remembering to follow timelines or to attend to due dates that are rapidly approaching, these reminders will help keep them on track.

Google Keep note with checkboxes showing
Create Checkboxes to Organize Tasks and Mark Items as Completed
Google Keep showing the reminder menu
Teach students to set reminders so that they don’t forget about the task at hand

Keep notes can be color-coded and labeled for easy organization and retrieval. If you have students using Keep as a research tool or as a way to curate content for school activities or passion projects, labels and color-coding will be invaluable. Keep is completely searchable by color (and type, label, things and people)! Category labels can be created when a new note is made or from the Keep notepad.

Search by Type or LabelSearch by Person or Color

Research/Curation of Content – Color Coding, Labels, Save to Keep extension and Keep Notepad in Docs:

How have your students curated their research materials in the past? I am willing to take a gamble and say that there is a lot of copying and pasting going on. Students either copy and paste the text from the source or just go even more basic and copy and paste the URL into a Google Doc because they are totally going to refer to it later. Then when they go to actually write their paper or create their projects, organizing their research in any sort of meaningful way can be challenging. With Keep and the Save to Keep extension, students can find resources online, click on the extension to save the source and immediately add a label to the newly created note. Once the note has been created, students can then color-code it by topic, research paper, class, etc. By dragging and dropping or pinning them, students can organize their research into a meaningful pattern. When they are ready to begin writing or creating, they can open their Keep notes right in Google Docs or Slides and either use them as a guide or drop their notes directly into their Doc or Slide.

Note Taking and Text Annotation:

Students can use Keep to take class notes. Once they have written the note, it follows them everywhere their device does! Even better, they can use the picture tool in Keep to snap a photo of anything you have written on your board or passed out in class. They can add their own thoughts and understanding to your words. Once they have their notes created, they can share their notes in order to crowdsource class concepts for the most amazing study session ever!

Speaking of the photo-taking tool in Keep, one of the coolest features is the ability to take a photo of text and then use the “Grab Image Text” option to turn that photo into editable text. Imagine the text annotation goodness your students will now be capable of.

Capture Image Text
Grab Image Text

Once the text has been converted, students can annotate on the note or copy the text directly into a Google Doc. Or they can use the Notepad tool to bring the text in while they are creating and need to quote source material. This is a great option for teachers who want students annotating text since the teacher can create the Keep note and share it with their students to interact with.

Drawing and Voice Tool:

Drawing
This drawing of awesomeness was created with the Keep mobile app.

While this is only available through the mobile app, enough students have their own phones that I believe these tools are worth mentioning. The Draw tool allows the user to create a drawing as a note. Once the drawing has been created, that drawing can then be dropped right into a Google Doc or Slide. For those students that have an artistic eye or a need for an image they can’t find anywhere else, this draw feature comes in pretty handy. Unfortunately for me, my drawings skills are pretty weak.

As for the voice tool, students can record their thoughts, much like the television lawyers and therapist from yesteryear. Not only does Keep transcribe their words for them, it also keeps the audio file for playback. This is great for students to take notes on the fly (think of those field trips to the museum or zoo that we all love to take – student sees an amazing work of art or fancy animal; opens up Keep; snaps a photo and records an audio clip about their impressions).

The student uses for Google Keep are wide and varied and I would bet dollars to donuts that your students could come up with a million different uses for this highly accessible and totally free tool. What do you think your students will do with Keep? What do you want them to do with Keep? Add your ideas in the comments!

 

 

 

Posted in Cool Tools, G-Suite for Education, Google Keep

Google Keep – The Gift That Keeps on Giving the Whole Year – Part One: Teacher

If you haven’t discovered Google Keep yet I am about to give you the best gift ever! Keep has been hanging around for some time but it has had some recent updates that make it indispensable for you and your students.

At the most basic level, Google Keep is a note-taking app. Users create sticky notes of information that can be color-coded and tagged for easy grouping. Notes can be pinned to the top, created as a checklist, and include links, images, and even drawings. Keep also has a search function that allows the user to quickly locate notes in the notepad.

Here is a quick look at my Google Keep:

Snapshot of Keep - Pinned
Pinned Posts on Keep
Keep - Other
The Finest Google Keep In All The Land

App FinderTo access Google Keep, simply go to keep.google.com or use your app finder to pull it up. If this is the first time you are accessing Google Keep, you might need to click on the “More” option to find it. Remember, these icons can be dragged and dropped so that you can easily reorganize them to meet your needs. However, Google Keep doesn’t only live on the web since you can find the Google Keep app for both Android and Apple platforms in the App Store or the Google Play store. Keep synchronizes across all of your devices, so if you add a note on your phone, you will immediately see the note across platforms.

Virtual Sticky Notes of Awesomeness:

Google Keep allows you to create a wide variety of sticky notes for all of your needs:

  • Regular old notes with a headline and a body – but in color!
  • Checklists – I love “to-do” lists and Keep makes all of my organizational dreams come true!
  • Image-based – take a picture or use an already saved image and then write your ideas all over it!
  • Free-hand drawing – No image to match your awesomeness? Draw your own!
  • Audio – (Only found in the Android or Apple app) – Have a lot to say but your fingers are too tired to type? Speak your thoughts right into Keep. The best part? It transcribes your speech to text and saves the original audio file.
  • Location-based reminders – Walk into the door at school and get an automatic reminder to do whatever that thing was that you couldn’t remember to do last time.
  • Share the love – All Keep notes can be shared with collaborators. Every collaborator has the right to view and edit your note of awesomeness.

Applications of Awesomeness:

The question you are probably asking is, “why is this the best gift ever?” The answer to that is very simple; Google Keep has become fully integrated with G-Suite for Edu applications. That means, aside from creating the most spectacular sticky notes ever, you can begin using them for teaching and learning. Your Google Keep notepad will now show up as a tool in Docs, Drawings and Slides. Anything that you have created or saved in Keep is now an item that you can drag and drop into your current project. Look at the new level of productivity you are bringing to your work!

Open Keep
Find the Keep notepad under the “Tools’ menu
Adding from Keep
Adding content from Keep

This process includes any images that you might have saved to Keep, even if they are hand drawn. My artistic abilities are not the best, but I can now add the most poorly drawn heart into anything I want!

Adding Images
Adding Content to Slides

Practical Applications for Use:

  • Feedback/Comments – if you find you are giving the same feedback on a consistent basis, write it in Keep so that you can drag and drop it into student work.
  • Store/share links you use frequently but don’t necessarily want to bookmark.
  • Take a snapshot of any board work or diagrams you drew throughout your lesson so that you have them for later (not all of us have interactive whiteboards, you know).
  • Teacher collaboration – instead of dumping all of your content into a shared Doc, create shared Keep notes. These are really easy to organize and place into a Doc once you are ready to start working on the final product
  • Teacher created materials like diagrams, drawings or playlists can be created in Keep and then inserted into multiple Docs, Slides or Drawings.
  • Research and resource gathering – I used to use Diigo to capture and collect resources or curate content that I needed for teaching and while I still find it to be a valuable tool, Keep allows me to capture resources and then bring them right into a Google Doc or Slide (with the appropriate citations, of course).
  • Save to Keep extension – Found something on the web that you want to save for later? Use the Save to Keep extension to not only save the resource but annotate and tag it for later use.
Save to Keep
Save to Keep Extension

Google Keep is an excellent tool to add to your edtech arsenal and will help to streamline your life in many ways. This article focuses explicitly on teacher use of Keep, but the applications for student use are numerous. My next blog post will focus on how students can use Keep, so stay tuned!

 

Posted in Blended Learning, Cool Tools

Formative = EdTech Tool of Awesomeness

As educators, we know (hopefully we know, please say that we know) that we should be using formative assessments to drive the learning in our classes. Formative assessments are assessments for learning, providing the teacher with important information on how to adjust the learning experiences in the classroom in order to meet the learners where they are. When formative assessments are used on a regular basis the teacher discovers where they should provide instruction and/or alternative pathways to ensure that students are mastering the learning targets and objectives throughout the course of study. This is in direct contrast to waiting until the end of a unit and summatively assessing students only to realize that they were not truly learning or applying content. When formative assessments are given, you know right away if a student has not gained mastery of the skill and can then provide additional or alternative opportunities to learn. Using formative assessments to create a responsive teaching and learning environment is something that every teacher should strive to do. Some popular ways to formatively assess include exit slips, self-reflection opportunities, use of Google Forms, Kahoots, Quizizz or other game platforms. The problem with these formative types are that you still have to wait until the student turns in their work to see where they are in their understanding of the concept. (Click here for more on formative assessments).

Wouldn’t it be great if you had a way to see how students were performing on a learning task as they were working? Guess what?!?! When you use an amazing tool called Formative, you can!

Formative is an online program that bills itself as a classroom response builder designed to track and accelerate student growth. Using a host of Formative tools, teachers can create media-rich assignments or assessments that allow students to respond through traditional means like multiple choice, short/long answer and true/false, or by showing what they know using drawing and creation tools. What sets Formative apart from many of its counterparts is that the teacher can see what the students are doing in real time and can give immediate feedback digitally through Formative or in person as the student is working in the classroom. You no longer have to wait until the lesson or skill practice has ended to give your students valuable and meaningful feedback. As students interact with the content, you can immediately see where struggles and successes are happening and create new and responsive learning opportunities for them. Here is a brief video that gives a nice overview of Formative in action.

Formative is free for teachers and students to use. A free account with Formative is pretty robust and offers question and content creation tools that make any edtech fan giggle with delight. A Formative can include images, videos, text, diagrams, and even allows for a direct embed from other third-party tech tools like Flipgrid, Padlet and Edpuzzle. There is a feature that allows the creator to upload a PDF or Doc and have the students write right on it. (This is limited to 20 pages per month on the free account.) Sharing a Formative is a cinch with the Google Classroom integration, and the student response view is a thing of beauty!

The whole reason to use Formative is because of how you can interact with students as they are working, but the build tools are easy to use and extremely accessible to teachers. When creating a Formative, a teacher can choose to make an assignment, benchmark, classwork, do now/warm-up or exit slip. Question options for the free account include multiple choice, multiple selection, short answer, essay, true or false, and my favorite, show your work. When creating the Formative, the teacher has the ability to indicate correct answers and assign point values if the activity is being completed for a grade. Watch this short video to see the different question and response types.

Giving immediate feedback to students through the dashboard is an easy task. Once the assignment has gone live, you can see and interact with student work. If you see a student making an error or struggling with a task, you can immediately intervene and provide feedback digitally or pull the student and work with them one-on-one before they even have a chance to leave your classroom.

live-responses-grade

Any feedback that you give to the student shows up immediately on their screen! Instead of finding your carefully created feedback tossed carelessly in the garbage (or left on the floor), you know that students will see your amazing words of wisdom right there on their screen.

Formative also has a nice tracking feature. You can see how students do on individual activities and track their work over multiple assignments. There is also a standards option where you can link standards to specific questions. Did the student just get lucky and answer something correctly, or do they actually have a handle on the material? Now you can tell by tracking the trending data over time.

track

If this post has sparked your interest and you want to learn more, mosey on over to www.goformative.com. They recently launched a new community page where educators just like you can collaborate, share, learn and grow. If you are a Lebanon City Schools employee and would like some coaching time with me, just shoot me an email and we can get started. As you can see by my amazing video, I am a Formative expert… 😉

Caveat: As you try new tools in your classroom, remember, it is crucial that you include your stakeholders and onboard your students. A quick letter or email home to parents to let them know what tool you are using and why is a great way to head off any concerns. Don’t forget that many of our families learned in traditional school settings and view programs like Formative and EdPuzzle as a negative because they mistakenly believe that you are not teaching and are just having their kids watch videos or work on computers all day. Be sure to explain that you are using these tools in order to give their children a more personalized and targeted learning experience. Students also need to know the purpose of a new tool, as well as an overview of how to actually use it!

Posted in Blended Learning, Teacher Feature

Teacher Feature – Beth Mele and offering students voice and choice in a blended learning environment

I am a frequent visitor to Bowman Primary School (in Lebanon, Ohio for those of you that aren’t local), and every time I pass by the art room, I find myself stopping just to enjoy a few moments of the scene in front of me. Students are all engaged in their work, awesome products are being created and crafted, and everything is running like a well-oiled machine. Beth Mele, the art teacher at Bowman, has created an impressive blended learning environment for her students by utilizing six classroom iPads and some Google tools. The way she teaches her subject is truly an art and the techniques that she uses can be easily lifted and recreated in any other subject area.

empty art classroom
The Calm Before the Storm!

Blended Learning is an educational pedagogy that combines traditional teacher-led instruction with a digital component that gives students some control over time, place, path or pace. In order to provide an integrated learning experience, what happens in the classroom informs the activities or materials that live in a digital space and vice versa. Some popular methods of blended learning include flipped classrooms and rotation models. (For more on blended learning, visit this resource from the Christensen Institute.)

The big question is, how did an art teacher, who serves – with limited technology – about 200 grade 1-2 students a day create a blended environment for her students? Well, read on to find out!

On the morning that I arrived, Beth told me that she had just introduced the students to collage making the day before. She explained that the way she runs her classroom is that she uses the concept of studios. Once she has introduced her students to a specific technique, it now becomes an option for them to choose from to create a project using any of the techniques that they have already learned. By the time I visited in mid-October, she had introduced four different art techniques to her students with plans to begin fiber techniques next week.

picture of studio options: drawing, collage, painting, sculpture
Students can select from any of the open studios during their class time.

Beth said that she felt a few of the students needed to see the technique again, so she was going to start the day with a mini-lesson review of how to create a collage. Using her document camera, she quickly modeled for the students how to cut and arrange paper to create a scene and then told them to go ahead and get started on a project of their choosing. With zero fuss and surprisingly little chaos, all of the students immediately got to work. The beauty of it all was that each kid was working on a project of their choosing at their own pace! As I circulated around the room, I saw students painting, drawing, sculpting and making collages.

students creating sculpturesstudents drawing

What turns this classroom into a blended one is the way that Beth has created accessibility to skill videos for the students. Scattered around the room are QR codes. When a student needs to learn or revisit a technique, they simply grab one of the six classroom iPads and scan a QR code. It brings them to an instructional video created by Beth. Students have the ability to watch, pause and then rewatch short videos for the chosen skill. This allows them to move at their own pace, and since they can select any of the projects that are listed in the open studios, they are given voice and choice. Beth has created a learning targets wall where the QR codes can be found by all students. One of the most beneficial parts of this is that by creating these instructional videos, she has freed herself to work with students on a more individual basis. Instead of answering the same question over and over again, she can redirect them to the appropriate QR code and free herself to work one-on-one with those students that need it.

bulls eyes and qr codes on a wall.
QR codes can be found aligned with the learning targets for the unit.
QR Codes for watercolor technique
Students can scan any of these QR codes to watch a tutorial video. Try it yourself!

To make sure that students are getting ample practice with each skill, Beth has created a way for the student to chart their progress. Each student has a tracking sheet where they simply color in the cart with the color of the technique that was used. At a glance, Beth is able to quickly see if a student is on track, if they have only focused on one task and need to expand their skill set, or if they aren’t keeping an appropriate pace for learning.

graph showing weeks, artists and technique
Students track their work and practice from each technique

To showcase (or prove) that they have grown and learned each skill, students are required to write an artist’s statement on each completed piece. They are then given the chance to upload their completed work to a website called Artsonia. Artsonia is an online portal where teachers and schools can curate student work in a museum-style setting. By using Artsonia, Beth has given her students a platform or stage to share their work with the world (or just their families…guess I got a little ahead of myself.) Look at this photo story of one of my little friends. He is taking his sculpture to completion, writing his artist’s statement and uploading it to Artsonia for his parents to view.

Since Beth sees 200 hundred students a day, she felt that it was important to be able to quickly monitor student work in a digital format. To do this, she has created a Google Form that she uses on her iPad. It allows her to circulate through the room, stopping at random students, and collecting data on how they are doing in her class on any given day. She has even set up her Form so that she can take a picture of their work and upload it through the Form. While this helps make report card time easier, it also helps her make sure she is meeting the needs of each student since she can see her data in spreadsheet view.

Google Form on iPad
Beth is quickly able to spot check and assess student progress.

I cannot stress enough how wonderful my experience in Beth’s art classroom was. She has created a well-oiled machine. Students are able to work on projects that inspire and excite them and by using technology she is freed up to meet her students where they are. She does all this with a document camera and six classroom iPads. Beth uses an iPad to record her videos and then either places them directly on Youtube or right into her Google Drive for easy sharing. Her students know exactly what is expected of them, and she has even figured out a way to make clean-up a breeze. Beth has an old iPod sitting near her desk that she has programmed with musical alarms to go off about 5 minutes before the end of the class period. Students hear that music and they know it is time to clean-up! No more of that frantic rush to put things away once somebody notices that the time has come to an end.

Now, just imagine if you took her techniques and put them in your own classroom? Tricky math problems? Lab instructions? Repeating the same grammar instructions over and over again? Try creating short tutorial videos (or finding them in places like Khan Academy), create a QR code and place it either in your classroom or on their actual papers and see how much more independent they become! Every technique that Beth uses can be something you use in your own classroom. There are even websites like Artsonia that allow students to share their work outside of the four walls of your classroom. (Seesaw and Class Dojo are names you are probably most familiar with.) If you ever get a chance to watch Beth Mele in action, I highly recommend you do. Her classroom feels like a magical place and the kids don’t even realize they are learning!

 

Posted in Cool Tools

BrainPOP Will Blow Your Mind!

When I was still in the classroom, BrainPOP was a great resource for me to be able to show a short video illustrating a concept. The kids loved it, but to be honest, I used it more as a reward or to fill up free time than as an actual teaching tool. I kind of drifted away from BrainPOP and hadn’t really explored it all until just last week when somebody said to me, “Hey, have you seen all of the cool things that BrainPOP can do?” Intrigued, I signed in using my district G-suite for Education credentials and my mind was blown at the amazing lessons, student response options, and concept packaging that is available.  

If you haven’t checked out BrainPOP in awhile, I highly recommend that you give it a second glance, especially since the district has provided each teacher and student with a full subscription!

Features:

G-Suite Sign In:  No need to remember usernames and passwords. G-Suite Login ScreenTeachers and students can simply sign into BrainPOP with their G-Suite credentials. A click quick and you are in!

 

My Classes/Google Classroom Integration: BrainPOP allows you to sync your current Google Classrooms with their system. This sync will pull your Classroom roster and make it easy for you to see individual student progress on any assignments you create within BrainPOP. The My Classes tab shows detailed progress for each student. You can view where they currently are on an assignment, how they have done on any of the items already completed and interact with student work in spreadsheet form. If you want, you can download scores and progress records as an Excel file (don’t worry, you can turn it into a Google Sheet once you upload it to your Google Drive).

Assignment Builder: Instead of just giving your students one video clip to watch, you can create an entire package of learning opportunities. Each video clip has predesigned activities. If you want your students to explore a concept and then apply it, simply select from any (or all) of the activities and have BrainPOP package and deliver them. You can then use the My Classes tab to monitor success and struggles. Assignment Builder

Quiz Mixer

Movie Quiz/Mixer Quiz/Quiz Builder: Each BrainPOP movie comes with a movie quiz, but you also have the ability to create your own quiz. When you use the Mixer tool, you can write your own quiz questions or choose from a bank of questions already written. 

Make-a-Map: Take concept mapping to new heights with this tool. Students can make meaningful connections as they create graphics based on the video concepts by using BrainPOP images, keywords, and movie clips.

Make-a-Movie: Students and teachers love the concept of movie cremake a movieation. Usually, we are searching for tools that students can use to create their own movie, and now you don’t have to look any further than BrainPOP. This extremely robust tool allows not just students to create, teachers can create as well! Click on the image to see some videos created by BrainPOP users!

Creative Coding: Have you been thinking about offering coding opportunities in your classroom? BrainPOP has decided to capitalize on this new focus on coding and STEAM opportunities by developing their own in-house coding activities! Don’t know how to code? Don’t worry, all the resources you and your students need are right at your fingertips!

BrainPOP Challenge: BrainPOP’s auto-graded Challenge feature now accompanies more than 100 topics, from Edgar Allen Poe and Plate Tectonics to Copernicus and Stocks & Shares!  These playful activities challenge students to put their critical thinking skills to the test in fun, interactive ways while seamlessly enabling teachers to assess what their class knows. Each BrainPOP Challenge is a set of topical activities emphasizing cognitive skills including concept mapping, diagram labeling, matching, text highlighting, multiple response, sequencing, and Venn diagramming. Source

Games: So many games! So many fun concepts! So many linked lesson ideas! What a great way to help make learning fun. These aren’t just games for students to waste time on; they are directly linked to content and standards. Each game even has an aligned lesson plan to extend the learning beyond the game situation. Students can create their own games as well!

Newsela: BrainPOP has taken the work out of finding resources for you by including Newsela articles right in the assignment builder.

FYI: Need your students to dig a little deeper? Assign an FYI sheet as part of student work. The FYI link provides vocabulary, quirky information, real-life examples, and possibly even a comic strip!

FYI

Teacher Resources: BrainPOP is not expecting teachers to just create assignments and have the students experience the concepts only in a digital environment. Every concept in BrainPOP includes lesson ideas, printable resources, and additional ways to explore in the classroom with teacher-led instruction or activities.

What are you waiting for?

I am just amazed at all of the resources you have right at your fingertips! And before you decide that BrainPOP isn’t right for the age of your students, know that you can toggle back and forth between BrainPOP and BrainPOP Jr. With the combined forces of these programs, any teacher from Pre-K to 12th grade should be able to find materials for their students!

If you are interested in getting started with BrainPOP and like to learn on your own, check out the beginner’s guide at https://educators.brainpop.com/.

If you are interested but would like to have a little one-on-one coaching, feel free to contact me and schedule a collaboration time. Believe me, BrainPOP has something for everyone and you won’t be disappointed.

Posted in Cool Tools

Explore Math with Desmos

I am going to let you all in on a little secret. You see, math and I…well, we just don’t have a very good relationship. In fact, you might say that we broke up a long time ago and have just never been able to reconcile. I am relatively certain math hates me, and believe me, the feeling is mutual.

Fortunately for me, in my recent years, I have come across a few teachers that not only love math, but are advocates for their subject and got me excited about the way they teach and the tools that they use. Anderson High School math teacher, Kristen Fouss (@fouss) and Trailblazer and Turpin High School math teacher Ben Schulcz (@BSchulcz) are masters of their crafts and both of them use edtech tools to reach all of their learners. If you want to learn about blended learning, using tech to differentiate, and dynamic classrooms full of FUN math (I can’t believe I just said that), then follow these people on Twitter!

In particular, Kristen introduced me to Desmos. Desmos bills itself as “the next generation of graphing calculator.” They also claim: “Desmos wants to help every student learn math and love learning math. But “every student” is a lot of students so we create digital math tools and let the Internet take them to anyone who wants them.” Wait a minute…love math? Like, for real and true? That is exactly what Desmos aims to do through their interactive activities that focus on math concepts like conics, expressions, functions, quadratics, inequalities and a bunch of other math stuff that I don’t understand.

Desmos has a library of activities that teachers can draw from for use in their own classrooms. Activities are easily shared out by creating a class code, and student responses are recorded for the teacher to view.

Here is an activity I assigned myself on Parabolas:

Parabole

Yes, I know my math is wrong. I don’t even know what a Parabola even is. No matter though, because as I am working through this problem, my teacher sees this in her dashboard:

Teacher Dashboard

When I get stuck, my teacher can see where I am stuck and swoop in to save the day! Please, somebody, swoop in and save the day!

The activities are varied, fun, and truly explore the pedagogy and application of math. Desmos is not just limited to high school students. The platform is designed to be accessible to all learners and when you explore concepts and modules, the brains at Desmos have notes and postscripts that help you to identify which activities are appropriate for different grade levels or different types of learners. Lessons are marked as “Introduction,” “Development,” “Practice,” and “Application.” If you are unable to find an activity for your concept, you can even create your own using the Desmos tools.

Desmos has great teacher tools to help you, as an educator, understand the concepts and the best way to work through the activity by providing a teacher guide for each Desmos activity.

One exciting thing that you need to know about Desmos is that it is completely free! There are no hidden costs, no upcharges, and no desire to pinch your wallets since Desmos is paid for by partnerships with textbook companies and other organizations.

Another thing that you need to know is that the Desmos calculator runs seamlessly on any platform. You can add it as a Chrome app, an iOS app, or run it on your android. The calculator has also been chosen to be the calculator provided to Ohio students when they take the AIR test this school year (read the notice here), so the more exposure you can give your students to this amazing tool, the better!

Desmos Calculator
Desmos calculator as it appears in the Chrome app.

There is already a community built around Desmos, and if you do a Twitter search using Desmos as a keyword, you will see how math teachers all over America are implementing this tool in their classrooms. Why don’t you take the risk and join them! You won’t regret it!

 

 

 

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!