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

statesymbols.jpg statesymbols.jpg

And some students playing with static electricity