Thursday, June 4, 2015

Lest Week in Tech - Technology Innovation

This is one of my favorite teachers, and this boat school is an innovative solution to a seasonal problem. One might wonder why we don't have these innovative schools in America. Probably the same reason we don't go out back and teach in the dirt with sticks. we just don't have to. Schools are designed to maximize the teaching we do. Could there be a better design, possibly, but not for the teaching we do currently.

Technology is thought of as a disrupter in education because it comes into the design we already have and makes it possible to change. Many people see this change as computers teaching students. it isn't.
For about 100 years there has been a belief among behaviorists that if we could build a smart enough machine, that it could take the place of a teacher. Many believe and have believed that computers will fill that role.

Tools like Plato have been around for about 40 years and they haven't disrupted schools. Actually, it has been assimilated. Massive online courses were going to disrupt education. The year of the MOOC was 2012. It was the ultimate school choice. It hasn’t disrupted higher education. Instead is seems to be morphing into a college prep for connected students, at least in America. It has been assimilated and is coming to high school.

The reason these tools have not disrupted education is because they don't actually make any changes in education. When we look at technology in education if we are looking at completely upending our entire system we are looking for too much. The change, the disruption, is more subtle.

The real disruption with technology in education is the ability to transform traditional education. The R in SAMR. The "goal directed transformation" in the Arizona Technology Integration Matrix. Some would go so far as to say it is a transfer of power from teacher to student. I would say it is taking the responsibility of learning off of the shoulders of the teacher and putting it squarely onto the shoulders of the students.

edit - I realize the title might be a bit misleading as this post was written to be a follow up to a notification to the teachers I work with that my position has been eliminated. Thus my last week in tech with them

Friday, May 22, 2015

My Week in Tech - Success Story

Good Advice

  "Learn a new skill, take a break." Advice from the longest-serving teacher in her building. "Kids need a bit of down time to process the skill they just learned, don’t force them to practice over and over until they hate it."   The Freshman English class is almost finished with Romeo and Juliet. From my 30 minutes in the class it seems the students have done:
  • Active reading
  • Guided questions,
  • Discussions (online and offline)
  • A movie,
Can we cover this play from any different angle? Maybe they need a Google survey? Seriously, they were better at decoding Shakespeare than me.   I created a list of tech tools to use in the classroom, I know it seems long, but it is barely a fraction of the stuff created for teachers. Please, take a look.

Success story

  Almost three years ago when I started this job. One of my first mistakes was telling a teacher she was using technology wrong. The next day her principal called and gave me an earful.   Luckily for me, she asked for some help putting spelling words on the web. We talked about options and ended up meeting every week after school talking technology and education.   Each week she had a list of questions and we usually never got past the third question, getting sidetracked not by the technology, but by how it integrates with teaching. She is now the proud owner of a grade level website designed to enhance learning. More importantly she is more comfortable trying new things in her classroom.   This week she introduced a tech tool to her building staff. She didn’t teach the tool, she taught a lesson using the tool.
Picture of computer, laminated card, and worksheet 
I love the combination of tools to meet all needs   
Way back when she was asking the computer to teach, afraid to interact too much with a tool she didn't understand. Today she teaches using technology. Is she a computer expert and able to fix your computer? No, she is a teacher who uses technology as a tool.   I seem to have a bit of dust in my eye now. Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend.

Friday, May 8, 2015

My Week in Tech Integration - Discussion

Classroom Action

The school year is coming quickly to an end. I’m trying to get some summer thoughts moving. One of the things I want to do is get an idea of how comfortable teachers are with the actual tech skills you need as a classroom teacher. I’ll probably send out a survey soon, I’m waiting for the boss to approve it.

The other thing I need to do is get an idea of what sort of PD you might want to come to over the summer and when best to present them. Please let me know in the comments or via email, but I also have this on my survey.

I was watching some students take a practice test earlier this week. They were using technology (phones mostly because they were juniors and seniors and didn’t have Chromebooks). What if we combined Padlet (Middle school teachers had a lot of fun learning and playing with this tool, 6th grade, 7th grade, Exploratory) with a phone or screen capture tools on a computer, to solve the practice problems and post them to a Padlet for discussion.

The discussion should not be about who is right, but how elegant is the solution? Why would you choose one method of solving the problem over an other? Etc…. A lot of the stuff I saw on the internet this week had this theme of a debate or discussion. For an example, using math debate in classroom

I remember a blog post years ago about using bell ringers to create a debate. The teacher would collect bell ringers on index cards and grab one that was wrong (not telling who it was of course) and put it on the overhead and discuss why or what thinking could have led to the wrong answer and how to correct it.

Today without an overhead I might ask students to put the answer on a Padlet or document camera anonymously and then pick one to discuss. I’m seeing more and more centers, maybe I just wasn’t paying attention before. The devices are one of the centers. See this one girl. She is concentrating intensely. This activity is writing practice so no you can’t substitute with technology.

These other kids, not so much. 

This is a good lesson, that is why I choose to feature it. It is great to bring in leveled work for practice, but we can do intense creation on the computer as well. Yes there is a tech hurdle. We can work through it, we should work through it. If we never ask our students to do intense creative work on the computer we are short-changing our students and ourselves as teachers.

From the Web

We think we know how we learn, but there is a lot of undiscovered territory out there.
One thing we do is attempt to find patterns so we can do things automatically, without thinking. Like riding a bike.
What if you changed what it means to ride a bike?

As I was watching this a 3rd grader says, “I saw you watching Smarter Everyday. … I’m subscribed” Be warned you'll have to be smart if she's in your classroom next year.

It turns out that there is an #etcoaches chat. I’ll have to try to participate next month. here is the storify from last week. I really wanted to point out a few highlights.
  1. Most coaches estimate that only 5% to 15% of our teachers actually implement what we introduce.
  2. While superficially introducing a lot of apps in a short period of time is popular, no one thinks it is a good strategy. Instead we need to carve out time to let teachers play and practice using apps in actual lessons. Then we need time for the coach to follow-up, and create individual goals for each teacher.
  3. Trudacot is a great way to look at your current lesson and determine how well technology (or learning) is integrated.
Finally, Google Education on Air, two full days of speakers on education. An all-star cast including, Michelle Obama, Michael Fullan, LeVar Burton, and others.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

My Week in Tech - Formative Assessment

Classroom Action

Several teachers have been using during RTI. A great way to get that math practice in while working with a small group.
All of these researched based help usually say something like students who put in 75 minutes a day have shown improvement in math. Well if you practice 75 minutes a day on math of course you are going to get better. That isn't to say the program is not useful, just that it is not trans-formative. It is a tried and true practice with just a bit of an edge because the work adapts to the level of the student instantaneously.

There are of course many similar programs out there, depending on what you want at a teacher could determine the tool you use. However, all should have at least some way to sign in and track the students, so that we know if they are actually learning or not.

Put your favorite tool in the comments or go to this survey and put it there. Some of my favorites are:

Presentations to students - getting interactive

Wouldn't it be nice to integrate formative assessment into your regular teaching? I know it’s easy a quick half sheet of paper and boom an exit slip. But then you have to grade everything and what if they didn't understand the first thing you said and so were lost for the entire class period.
Some folks will create a quick Google form (like the one above, you can add videos as well) then use something like flubaroo to automatically grade it. The problem is that is still separating the discussion from the assessment.

Enter the web app Blendspace. It is a product one of the elementary teachers showed me Wednesday. It is a very simple way to add content and make quick multiple choice quizzes. Students don’t need an email to sign up so it is appropriate for the elementary crowd.

However, the questions are limited to multiple choice and sometimes you want students to be able to write or draw and answer. So here is a list of a few similar tools. NearpodPearDeckSocrativeSmartBoard clickersClassflow, and Junoed.

Of course the middle school teachers noticed the educreations app. Similar to the Show Me app and the Doceri app (more of a presentation tool). All of these are iPad apps which require an iPad and a way to get the iPad onto your projector, which can be done with Air Server.

Stuff from the web

Portfolio defense to graduate high school
From Envision academy charter schools.
Cool blog I found two great posts.

Most people will like and probably use the first one right away, but the second one is great for technology. When you start asking “How do I create curriculum with multiple ways to learn the same content?” My mind goes immediately to technology. I might share one way to learn content in class and then offer a couple of youtube videos on my web site for further help. So when students don’t quite get what I explained in class they don't have to rewatch my same lecture a million times and hope it finally sinks in, they can watch alternative explanations and hopefully one of those sticks.

Cool kindergarten classroom 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Maine Township High School Visit

A visit to Maine Township High Schools. This was an interesting visit with myself and several staff members from Downers Grove. Maine Township has three high schools of over 2,000 students each. Each high school is startlingly different in its mix of students.
We started the morning early in the administration office. Dr. Thiele, the Assistant Superintendent of Technology and Learning, was happy to answer questions. As it turns out their students are required to pay for books. Two years ago when chromebooks really hit the market a lot of textbooks were up for renewal. The choice seems simple in hindsight, though they took their time and made sure to ask all stakeholders what they thought. Instead of buying new expensive physical textbooks they bought cheaper digital versions and chromebooks.
Those first version chromebooks were pretty fragile, but they changed plans right away and dropped the neoprene sleeves to buy durable cases for the devices. As a result their incidents of broken machines stayed low.
 I was happy to spend most of my day with the technology manager from Maine West, Neil Charlet.  The structure of the department was very impressive. I won’t explain the entire technology department structure because I didn't get into that, but the single school structure was strong. The technology manager seemed to be the bridge between technology and education.
Entrance of the Chrome Depot at Maine West
There he is way in the back

 Under him were the tech support crew who managed the trouble tickets and the chrome depot (we’ll get into that later). He also worked very closely with the instructional coaches. Instructional coaches aren't tech people, they are half time teachers and half time coaches. While it wasn't a requirement to be a tech person, they were all 21st century teachers and were comfortable incorporating technology into their lessons. There was about one coach per 40 teachers, plus one per department who is a full time as a teacher, but worked extra as an instructional coach. Instructional coaches meet with all teachers three times formally and as often as people needed informally.
  Chrome Depot 5 
 Mr. Charlet met with the coaches to plan out the big technology instruction during the year. These would be the monthly in depth trainings on one particular project. These trainings would last half a day and teachers would get subs to free them up for learning. Then on Tuesdays he does a tech lunch n’ learn. Teaching a tool for use in the classroom.
  Chrome Depot 2
The Chrome Depot is a cool looking (Thanks Mr. Charlet for the pictures), repair center for the chromebooks. There is one staff member assigned to manage the Depot, but the students do most of the work. If someone is having trouble with their chromebook they can stop in the Depot at anytime. If the problem can’t be fixed in 5 minutes they can check out a loaner chromebook (through the library system so it is as simple as checking out a book). The student crew can then examine and fix the chromebook, this is also the same system they use if the chromebook battery is dead, you get a loaner for a few hours and the staff charges your chromebook. No questions asked, at least most of the time.
  Chrome Depot 1 (1)
This process also works well if the student has a broken chromebook, but needs to save up a bit of money to do repairs. Parts are fairly cheap and they don’t charge for labor, but sometimes a student needs to check out a loaner chromebook for a short period of time until they save up enough to pay for necessary repairs. Students do not get to take loaners home so there is an incentive to get their own device repaired.
  Chrome Depot 3 
 I also met with three teachers during the day. I asked again and again how they got their teachers so on board with the program. I guess it really boiled down to support and expectations. They did mention that the many of the biggests resistors before they started the program are now it’s biggest defenders.
 According to the site D 207 has created for information about their program teachers had a strong preparation in instruction before going chromebook in their classrooms.

  Teacher Readiness:

Overall I was impressed with the structure and support represented by Maine Township’s program. It seems to me the hardware and infrastructure, though complicated, is actually the easy part. The hard part it getting support to the teachers in such a manner that they don’t feel over burdened and are willing to make the necessary changes in their classrooms. Once they start doing that, it seems they become a programs biggest supporters.  

Friday, April 17, 2015

This Week in Tech - Writing and Games

Last Friday I visited a Maine Township High School. I didn't have time to write about my week. I'll put a reflection on what I learned there early next week. Today some classroom stuff from last week and this.


Working with letters and fluency in writing seems to be the theme. Not long drawn out essays, but the very beginning. How do our interactions with letters and numbers influence our learning. I love how this kindergarten teacher not only organizes her ipads by letter, but she went through the trouble of making individual backgrounds for each ipad.
  the letter N   

Then there is this student working with numbers in three different ways - at the same time.

I’ve seen a couple of teachers teaching handwriting. Wouldn't it be nice to bring it back on a computer? Here’s how Might be a fun project for extension or fun way to practice handwriting. If you name everyone's personal font on a classroom computer they could write reports in their own handwriting. Finally, of course there is a long essay, but wait it isn’t. These older students were making alphabet books. A letter with a sentence and a picture, researched online and written on a Word document.
  Collaborative working

Stuff from the web:

Game based learning. At first it meant answering questions in some sort of competitive electronic worksheet. We still see it a lot. It isn't learning, it’s practice. Ask your kids how to cheat, if there is learning going on that’s what they learn. The nice thing is it is possible to pretest students and track their scores so they are at least working on problems in their wheelhouse. Next, we had a game reward system. Level up and stuff. Learning is more like a scavenger hunt. Fun, but can easily devolve into just another reward system. With prepackaged tasks and such it still doesn’t have much student input. On the other hand people are taking into account easier entry points and motivation. Think Angry Birds, a game with no instructions but gets harder and adds new challenges along the way. Now if we could harness that process for teaching multiplication or something that would be awesome. Perhaps, Angry Birds led us to games that are intentionally made to feel more like games and less like academics. Problem based learning for the gamer set. Included with these games are commercial games that were not created for the education market, but have found a niche, like minecraft. The difficulty here is connecting to formal learning. Games built for the educational market start with a standard and try to teach. It often makes the learning boring. Consumer games start with a story, they know they have to hook a person and make them want to come back. Their problem is connecting to formal learning usually doesn't happen, at least without help. Just like technology in general, it isn’t about what technology you use, but how you use it. There is a place for educational games that teach to standards, or more correctly let students practice. On the other hand there is also a place for games that allow students to explore and play in less formal ways. There is no one right way to use technology or games in the classroom.

Three great articles on games in the classroom  

Speaking of projects vs practice

The work for some projects takes less time than the actual creation of the vehicle to present it. This often happens in school. Sometimes by design. The time spent working and the organization helps students understand the connections between the different parts. A visual and tactical clue of how things are connected. So why is it in the technology world we don’t expect students to create. Instead we spoon feed them information and practice. Think of technology as the Swiss Army Knife of classroom tools. You can cut, paste, copy, color, write, share, or just about anything you can do hands on. Stop trying to figure out the tech and start trying to figure out how to make something.

Monday, April 6, 2015

My Week in Tech Integration 4/3/2015

I love when teachers change school from, "maybe someday I'll be able to do that", to "I can do that, I might even be able to do better". 

Some of the art teachers in the district use Art Sonia (artwork created from kids around the world can be shared and enjoyed by everyone). It can be a lot of extra work, but also has some advantages. Here we see one of our great art teaches showing students how to connect clay together. 
Last year when doing a similar project she would show students pictures of clay gargoyles to stimulate ideas. This year she also searched gargoyles on ArtSonia and used shared student work with her students. The conversation changed from, "I'll probably never make a gargoyle in real life", to "I can make something like that."

The skills learned in Art are of course transferable. The facility to use pens and other tools in art help us to concentrate more on what we are writing and less on how to write. As we practice coloring, drawing, writing letters, words, and finally sentences all of these skills combine to form writing. A higher level skills that allows us to think. 

While everyone knows that art is useful in education, it is very hard to quantify just how important, The science of learning is slowly evolving. The research is slow and often disregarded as lacking in rigor. 

The gold standard in research is generally considered a double blind study or a large and representative population. Think of a large drug study where thousands of volunteers of various ages and backgrounds who all have the same ailment. Half the people take the drug being tested and half take a placebo and nobody knows who gets what until after the test is completed. The results are carefully considered and written about, then completely different groups do a similar studies. Finally, if they all get the same or similar results we can say this drug works. 

Education is not like that. No two teachers are the same, even if they are asked to read a script exactly the same there are so many variables, like; class size, testing schedules, home life, nutrition, personality, mix of students, etc... that the results almost always end up as inconclusive or a very small effect, over time. At least that has been my impression as I periodically check in on the What Works Clearinghouse

That doesn't stop research of course. Lately (past 10 years or so) there seems to have been more of a push to look at underlying human functions and design learning based on that "brain" research. This isn't new really, B. F skinner built and sold learning machines in the late 50's and early 60's and he wasn't the first to think of it. According to Audrey Watters many of the technology revolutionaries today are just repeating these past mistakes. 

All that being said and done, there are some generalities we can say about effective teaching. 

  1. When students care about an activity they do better. 
  2. When we create we are more involved and tend to learn more
  3. We put more effort when we know our peers are going to be looking at our work
    1. Parents and teachers don't count
  4. There is a zone of proximal development ( Lev Vygotsky ).
     If the activity is too easy we don't learn anything, but if it is too hard we give up before getting the chance to learn. 
    1. This has less to do with the material and more to do with how it is presented and supported. We regularly present language arts, science, and sometimes math at appropriate levels for students.

What does this mean in the classroom? Here are three examples from this week. 

Some student work I found on the copier. 

When students ask about us, and they always do, don't be afraid to share. I have no picture, but I walked into a classroom on Wednesday and the teacher was cutting up grapefruit she brought back from Florida, which led to a quick impromptu lesson on fractions. 

Use technology to help create not practice. On Thursday at the middle school we talked about using Google Presentation to create vocabulary lists. 

Try this method of creating flashcards. (Can be individual, small group, or whole class)

  1. Students create one slide with the word
  2. Students create a second slide with a picture and definition
  3. Put a cool transition between the slides
  4. Put a cool transition before the definition comes up (so the picture is kind of like a clue)
Students can search the web for the picture or they could use Google Draw to create the picture, or even draw the picture by hand and upload it to the slide.

After this activity is done students who need extra practice can be asked to upload the best definitions and pictures to your favorite flashcard web 2.0 tool. So that everyone can use them to study and quiz each other.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

My Week in Tech Integration - Spring Break

It  is Spring Break in our school district so no visiting classrooms for me. Instead I’m preparing presentations and researching.

I read this article and thought it would be a thought provoker for teachers coming back to school. It is long and a bit rough at first, I think the author missed the opportunity to truly define why we need good teachers in the digital age, but with some help perhaps we can get there.

The Deconstruction of the K-12 Teacher — The Atlantic (My annotated version

I’ll start with the end, “There is a profound difference between a local expert teacher using the Internet and all its resources to supplement and improve his or her lessons, and a teacher facilitating the educational plans of massive organizations.”

Often tech companies and privateers try to hype the cost savings, which is code for getting rid of expensive teachers. What they fail to realize is it has been possible to record the best teachers and deliver the recording to students for well over 50 years. It has also been possible to have students take quizzes and tests on that material. I myself took a telecourse for credit at community college way back in 1986. The newness isn’t the delivery of content or grading of tests, it’s the ability of teacher to be there with the content.

[Teachers are] “shifting from content expert to curriculum facilitator”, but not really. Yes we can bring content in from the best, most interesting teachers, but that doesn’t mean we sit back and manage behavior in the classroom. The best classroom teacher can now switch from the time consuming task of delivering content or grading tests, to working with small groups or individuals. Helping students make sense of the content.

“Teachers like me are uploading onto the web tens of thousands of lesson plans and videos that are then being consolidated and curated by various organizations” This is a good thing. The more we share our lessons, the less for profit companies can charge fees for decent lesson plans. Skip Teachers Pay Teachers and go to a union shop like

Next the author shares some great examples of how edtech companies are taking the labor out of preparing for teaching. It is almost like the traditional teaching job is being split into two or even four jobs, curriculum/subject matter expert and presentation/facilitator. As long as we don’t try to change the job of teacher into reader of scripts or security guard who forces students to sit still and be quiet during the canned lesson it is alright.

    Listen Current, a website that curates the best of public radio, including current events, and offers the three- to five-minute clips alongside a full set of lesson plans and worksheets.

    I found Edmodo. … I signed up just to see what it was all about. Within five minutes, I found a great lesson…

    Activate Instruction is already creating a free and open online tool that is "similar to Wikipedia" and will "help put resources and curriculum in one place that any teacher can use."

    "I don’t ever write my own lesson plans anymore.” ... the materials are usually inexpensive or free; are extremely well made; and often include worksheets, videos, assessments, and links to other resources. Time and money savers. I don’t have to write the lessons and I don’t have to let a textbook dictate my lessons. I can even get rid of textbooks if I find enough lessons with resources.

His conclusion, that I shared earlier, mirrors mine.

There is a profound difference between a local expert teacher using the Internet and all its resources to supplement and improve his or her lessons, and a teacher facilitating the educational plans of massive organizations.

Bonus - tech tools for use in the classroom

  1.     Google Forms
  2.     Socrative
  3.     Plickers
  4.     Twitter
  5.     Geddit
  6.     PollEverywhere
  7.     ExitTicket
  8.     VoiceThread
  9.     lino
  10.     Padlet

Friday, March 20, 2015

My Week in Tech Integration 3/20/15

I get to see less and less each week, I think because I get busier with individual teachers. a special thank you to Mrs. Kallieras for inviting me to teach a couple of fun lessons on Scratch.

Kids teach each other
It doesn't matter whether I’m in a high school classroom or middle school, or even elementary school. Kids are always leaning over and helping each other quietly.

I spent some one on one time with an English teacher and we discussed some google add-ons, apps, extensions that might be useful in her classroom


My draftback video
Classroom practice
I also spent some time talking about Google Classroom and HaikuLearning. Some topics I think I will be spending a lot more time on  in the coming weeks. As more technology enters the classroom and teachers find more innovative ways of using that technology we need the tools that support us.

Google Classroom is great for assigning and collecting work, but is kind of limited after that.

HaikuLearning, is a true learning management system. It allows us to transform our classrooms in ways that allows teachers to differentiate, extend, and re-mediate as needed.

Nothing of course is a single silver bullet to fix everything, but knowing what the tools are and what they can do is the first step.

Friday, March 13, 2015

My Week in Tech Integration 3/13/2015

Question of the day

Question of the day - What would you do for a student who consistently failed to do work in school or homework, yet always had a good excuse?
Please answer in the comments. 

 State Projects

Students in 4th grade had some fun projects last week, but they weren't finished in time to share.

I listened to a few classroom discussions over the last couple of weeks. It was interesting seeing how students and teachers naturally pulled information from outside of class to relate to the books. A few high school students even discussed with former students, which led me to wonder what would happen if online discussions were opened up to former students or across classes?

This leads me into this great article on 5 Highly Effective Teaching Practices, from edutopia. 

  1. Teacher Clarity
  2. Classroom Discussion
  3. Feedback
  4. Formative Assessment
  5. Metacognitive Strategies

When we talk about technology in the classroom, we aren’t talking about replacing the teacher or the content with a shiny electronic device. What we are talking about is taking these effective practices and making them possible. 

How Technology Helps with Effective Teaching Practices

1.    Teacher Clarity
Learning goals and explicit criteria for success are not just posted on the classroom whiteboard, but live on the classroom page where students and parents can refer back to it over the corse of the unit.
2.    Classroom Discussion
How can we extend the discussion beyond the classroom? Open the discussion across classrooms? Create smaller discussions, small groups can keep a record of what they discussed. Small groups can share with each other final points.
3.    Feedback
Teachers can leave voice or written feedback on google documents. Teachers can read and comment on online discussions. Self grading quizzes are very common across several platforms. It is even possible to create video quizzes. There are of course hundreds of computer learning programs that will tell students if they are right or wrong, but useful feedback is teacher driven and usually personal.
4.    Formative Assessment
Quick self graded quizzes, Kahoot, electronic check ins, anything that replaces the 30 half sheets of paper we used to grade. When reviewing answers for a test create a poll for each study guide question and submit live on the projector and discuss each question. Gauging understanding with Socrative or a quick poll.
5.    Meta Cognitive Strategies

When we find ways to put more of our content online on a learning management system what is to stop students from working ahead, especially if the learning goals and criteria for success are clear? If students continue to move beyond the class it becomes easy to allow them to create an individualized learning objectives. When they create this within the learning management system it becomes possible for teachers and parents to monitor progress. 

The Case Against Technology in the Classroom

I both agree and disagree with this article. I agree that teaching students to use technology is not the purpose of technology in schools. I disagree that technology is not a useful tool. It is all nice for wealthy tech leaders to fixate on social aspects of learning especially when the kids they are socializing with are the kids of other silicon valley tech leaders, but for the rest of us technology, used correctly, can eliminate barriers of distance and time. 

Resources from Teachers and Classrooms

Girls and code 

Google drawings graphic organizers

 socrative - A great way collect students thoughts. 

 URL shortner Shortens long URLs and makes a quick QR code. 

 Are you looking for EdTech stuff? A great resource is edshelf.

 Rubistar - for creating rubrics 



Can you imagine doing this in LA class to get the elements of a story. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

My Week in Tech Integration 3/6/2015

I spent a lot of time in extracurricular classrooms this week, one teacher spent the first 5 or 10 minutes of class just asking students about what they were doing what they accomplished in other classes and clubs. Obviously she did it a lot because they were ready and willing to share and some of the comments were updates from previous weeks. When they got to work though it was all business.

Posture was mentioned a couple of times lately. I love how some of the elementary classrooms have big rubber bands under some desks so kids aren’t constantly tapping their feet. And last week at the ICE conference a participant brought up the Alexander Technique for Musicians and how slouching actually takes more energy than sitting up straight. Because if you relax you just fall to the floor.

I read The History of the Future of Education from Audrey Watters

My thought for the day. What is the difference between an overhead projector and an SMARTboard?

I used to use in my classroom and I know a few teachers at the high school also use it. It is a great tool for communication with students and parents. We know it’s working when students are complaining that some teachers use it too much. If you have students who are constantly missing assignments being able to send a group text to students and their parents without sharing phone numbers is awesome. Plus you can schedule texts for an optimum time. I always sent mine around dinner time.

Do you know about the Camscanner app? Some teachers like everything to be electronic so they can annotate and keep a copy in their google drive or Haiku dropbox. Some students prefer to write by hand. Camscanner allows you to take a picture of a piece of paper and turn it into a PDF and upload it to your Google Drive. Now that the first draft is written and feedback given the second draft can be typed.

I’ve been showing off Learning Management Systems to the middle school teachers. No one has said it is required, but I have always thought it was an invaluable tool for putting responsibility for learning onto the shoulders of the students. And as we are almost one to one in the middle school I would almost consider it necessary.

The power of a LMS in the classroom is not for the low students, or for the recalcitrant students, it is for the smartest and hardest working students. The student who takes decent notes, does all assignments, and has decent grades. The student who could be moving faster and works independently, but waits patiently for the entire class. This isn’t even a gifted student, just an average student with a good work ethic.

When this type of student is given an LMS they can work at their own pace, usually slightly faster than average, and still take time to explore topics of greater interest. When they get stuck they won’t be so far ahead that they are stuck alone and have to wait weeks for the rest of the class to catch up. Maybe even a regular conference with the teacher will be all they need, because certainly they won’t spend months working alone, maybe just one unit they are more independent than another. At any rate the teacher is checking progress reports and formative assignments regularly so they know what the student is doing and how well they are progressing.

Meanwhile the teacher still teaches class as normal, but has time to work with smaller groups of students. They in turn move faster because they have more teacher time and more individual instruction.

How does it work?

Students who show evidence of independent learning can do more in the classroom on their own leaving the teacher more time to work with students who are not as independent. Formative assessments like self grading practice quizzes or video quizzes with educannon or EdTed can be assigned for homework, or as bell ringers. This quick formative assessment shows they have a strong grasp of the concept and then can choose to do some independent or small group work in the classroom. While the teacher can spend more time with other students. It becomes possible for students to move at their own pace and/or get more in depth learning on a concept without extreme burden on the teacher.

An LMS can help with that recalcitrant student also. If your content is online it removes the excuse of “I was absent” or “I missed that lesson”. If the homework is online students can never forget it. If the discussion is online (at least partially) everyone can participate. If parents have accounts they can always stay up to date with what is happening in class. If alternative content (youtube, Kahn Academy, LearnZillion, Alex, etc...) is made available students can choose to learn in the way most suitable to them. Shared notes and other resources can be attached to each unit. As they say you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink, but we can take away excuses.

Finally, an LMS is great for the future. Digital projects and portfolios can be linked to students and brought with them to high school. The classroom walls are in effect removed. Students can learn when they are most comfortable learning, they can come back and revisit (ok they won’t), they can..., well it’s a tool, it won’t create utopia in your classroom, but it can help.

We looked at four learning management systems. They are:

HaikuLearning is great and several teachers use the free version. Some teachers even ask why we all aren’t using it.

Google Classroom is free. To be honest it isn’t a classroom. It is more like a place to assign and collect work. It syncs great with Google Drive (obviously) and can be used in conjunction with another LMS just for assignments.

Schoology is kind of like the facebook interface. It has it’s own calendar. you can create courses and groups, send messages, and add resources. The app center allows you to bring in web 2.0 functionality into your classroom. Like Backchannel Chat, or TurnItIn. There may be an extra cost for some apps.

Edomodo is very similar to Schoology. It is free and you can add apps, many of which are extra. You can also easily create quizzes and add resources. It also possible to connect to google Drive.

Fun in the classroom

Counting with counters and the iPad

A mystery of missing chocolates.

More counting, which bag has more? Put your guesses in the comments.


Smartboard being used for attendance

Students gathering information online

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And some students playing with static electricity