Tech Tuesday

Finds and Thoughts about Tech Integration

Snow Days & Distance Learning

March27

Snow…

That’s become a dirty word in a lot of school systems.

Granted, we all love a random day off, but after too many, you suddenly realize that the school year will continue well into that period of time when students (and staff) shift into “summer vacation brain”, making instruction not so effective.

Many districts have tried Blizzard Bags (with and without success) to keep student learning from being interrupted on snow days. There are many reasons why such an endeavor may or may not work, from student resources and support at home to the structure and quality of the activities created.

My district has investigated the possibility of making up some of our snow days this school year with “Distance Learning Days”. Essentially, students would make up a specific snow day by completing a certain number of assignments (based on a developmentally appropriate number of minutes) that correspond with the missed day. Since we are looking at this from the perspective of making up days and want to make this endeavor family-friendly, students would be given a two week window to complete that Distance Learning Day’s assignments at home on their own schedule.

I was very excited to talk with a colleague this morning who had started thinking about this proposal. She had started a folder in Google with a Doc dedicated to each Distance Learning Day. She has given permission for you to peek at what she’s drafting here! (Thank you, Ms. Anderson!)

What you will notice is that she is developing a workflow for herself and colleagues to collaborate on building these Distance Learning Days as well as for students to complete assignments that address specific learning objectives in an efficient, clear manner using digital tools and services.

For example, this folder can be shared with all the members of her teaching team, including specialists. Let’s say that her students missed music class or strings class, that specialist will be able to type in an assignment on the chart she created for that day. That way when she links this Google Doc in her Google Classroom, students will have the expected work all in one place for easy access. Furthermore, many of her grade level team is teaching the same content at the same time as she is. Therefore, they will be able to work together on the creation of high quality assignments in this space and then make a copy of the Doc to tailor to that specific classroom’s schedule for the snow day that is being made up.

Ms. Anderson and I also talked about how familiar subscription services such as DreamBox, BrainPOP and Typing Club may be utilized by students at home with directed assignments. For example, the teacher may make a short term assigned focus in DreamBox that addresses that snow day’s math learning standard/lesson. The teacher can access the results of the work right in the dashboard of the program, proving that the work was completed and what next instructional steps the teacher can take with that student. In BrainPOP, students can be instructed to watch a movie in a content area like science or social studies and take the built-in quiz. The student can fill out a Google Form that reflects on the learning as well. The Form can be “generic” so that it may be used for lots of topics at BrainPOP and other future Distance Learning Days. The Form’s results will be submitted to the teacher and archived via a Google Sheet, demonstrating learning and holding students accountable for the work. (Of course, a teacher even could sign up for My BrainPOP for more great services and feedback opportunities!) In Typing Club, a teacher can make specific assignments as well or just indicate a set number of minutes for keyboarding practice. The service logs all of the work that students complete in order to check expectations and see progress right on the teacher dashboard.

And there are so many more Google apps and non-Google services that could be harnessed in the creation of authentic activities that meet student learning objectives. Plus, the opportunity to “flip classrooms” with teacher instructional videos… and differentiating and personalizing the assignments so that all students can get what they need and feel successful

I think we really could take control of these Distance Learning Days and craft them into wonderful opportunities for advancing student learning and teaching practices.

(Disclaimer: We all understand that if there is no power or access at a student’s home or even the local library that these outlined digital activities would not be able to take place. For synchronous Distance Learning Snow Days, alternate plans and materials would need to be ready for students or more time allotted for the completion. Making up days with the two week grace period gives us a lot more wiggle room for digital devices and services to be available and operational.)

An Idea for Sharing, Collecting & Organizing Links From Socrative (or Anywhere)

February13

At a PLC meeting this winter, group members were talking about not reinventing the wheel with Socrative quizzes that they had created in math. In Socrative, there is the ability to share a quiz to an email address; therefore, the team was beginning the process of sending each other these quiz links.

While I love the idea of sharing these resources, I was envisioning a possible nightmare for them: overflowing inboxes full of emails with these links that would have to be addressed and organized. The emails would come in randomly, too, as people shared new quizzes throughout the year. I’m also assuming that the sender would have to enter each person’s email address every time.

An idea that I proposed to streamline this whole process was the creation of a Google Form. Every time a PLC member wanted to share a Socrative quiz, she would copy the quiz link and then enter it into a Google Form that would organize the information into a Google Sheet that all PLC members could access. Members now could go to this Sheet to get the quiz links. Additionally, a member could set up individual notifications for the Sheet by going into the Tools menu as shown below:

Notifications would keep them from forgetting to check the Sheet for the latest links.

There also is another advantage to collecting and organizing these links via a Form: more specific details about the quiz can be included and archived that are not options in the Socrative sharing method.

For example, subject area and topic may be collected along with the link. Then when a teacher visits the Sheet for ideas, it is clear what the quizzes assess. There also is a place for notes on the Form for any other specifics about the quiz, such as titles, targeted audience, modifications, etc. The Sheet would be able to be sorted by subject area and topic for easy retrieval of all quizzes in that area and/or topic.

Here is an example Form from my Guided Math PLC.

We are all doing so many great things… how are you sharing, collecting and organizing them?

Explanation Station

December19

Looking for a worthwhile station during Guided Math? How about one that is an excellent formative assessment that makes student mathematical thinking visible and helps you determine next steps in small group instruction? And what if this same station worked for any math topic/concept?

Look no further… what you need is an Explanation Station.

What does it entail?

Using the Explain Everything app on the iPad, students record solving a problem or explaining a concept designed by the teacher. Students think out loud during the process; and, therefore, the app captures a much fuller picture about what a student knows. When a student solves a problem on a piece of paper a teacher misses out on so much. Even if a student writes every step, it’s often not clear if the student really understands the concept or methodology employed. Is the student just regurgitating steps without comprehension of them? Moreover, did the student just get lucky with the final answer? By adding the narration layer, a student can demonstrate key vocabulary as well as articulate knowledge of strategies. Plus, at the station, students are encouraged not to strive for perfection and even admit if there’s confusion or a mistake has been made. They are told not to erase, but cross out and explain why they know there is a mistake. It’s important for students to know the purpose of the station is for the teacher to find out what s/he knows, and from there, the teacher will know how to help a student progress and get better in his/her math learning. Whenever I explain the purpose to students I can see a sense of relief in their faces, and they are ready to give the station a try.

Here isĀ  a direction sheet developed for a grade four classroom that I have been supporting. (It can be used with any grade level.) In addition, here are the guiding questions that never change at the station. The only change is the problem or concept that the teacher puts on a small piece of paper or an index card (easily differentiated for students).

Ready to see an example? Please take a moment to check out this student’s recent work created at the station, showing an equivalent fraction for 1/2.

I’d love to help you set up a similar station in your classroom during Guided Math. Just let me know!

posted under Assessment, Math | 2 Comments »

Science is IN!

October31

In 2015, Meghan McCrorey and I had an idea… let’s figure out how to take the trend of interactive notebooks from messy & time consuming to more practical & engaging in her classroom in order to achieve her science learning objectives. We wrote an Innovative Grant proposal for the Westford Education Foundation and were awarded funding to give it a go! Last year, Mrs. McCrorey and I implemented the project and were so pleased with the results that we presented at the 2017 MassCUE Conference this month.

Here is our presentation with lots of resources! And the beauty of the whole thing… any subject, not just science can be addressed. All you need is an iPad station and the Book Creator app… both of which every classroom at Abbot has!

I hope you can take a moment to check our work out! I’d love to answer any questions that you may have.

Reflection on Managing a Station or Center

March28

I have been assisting in a grade 3 classroom every Friday for the past month. My job: train students how to go through the steps of an iPad math creation station. The goals: 1) the current math student learning objective and 2) independence!

In reflecting on my time in there, I think it has been successful, and many students have achieved the goal of working on their own… and here’s why:

  1. We took the time to set expectations and to show students the process step by step. There were no assumptions that the students just should know what to do. They were shown slowly, and those that completed steps quickly became helpers.
  2. Students were empowered. Not only did we ask students who caught on quickly to be helpers, when appropriate I would be flexible and give a next step tutorial to them. Once they completed the steps, I asked them to lead the overall demonstration when other students were ready. This modeled what should be happening at the station: help each other out without doing it for someone as well as seek out friends or “experts” if you are struggling.
  3. The creation task was broken down into logical steps with a checklist so that students could keep track of their progress. Furthermore, a direction sheet for a specific app was available as a support to remind students of details. These resources have been excellent ways for me and the teacher to redirect students who come to us with questions. (Did you look at your checklist? Can the answer be found on the direction sheet?)
  4. The classroom teacher created an example each week. She showed this example to students as a part of her preview of each of the stations in the room. This preview gave students an opportunity to see expectations and ask questions like they would any of the other stations before actually being at the station. The heads-up is great for relieving anxious students, too!
  5. The teacher gave time during the week for students to do a little prep work, if necessary, such as cutting out shapes, jotting down notes, etc. so that they had the necessary materials at the station. Creating on the fly is an important skill; however, it was bogging down the station.
  6. Coordinating with support teachers to be available to work at the station with specific students has helped a lot. Students who struggle with multiple steps and reading are having their needs met, and we have found that they now are shifting toward more moments of independence at the station.
  7. The teacher did her own prepping for the station. Taking time to consult with me about any adjustments with a focus on keeping it as consistent as possible, learning how to make copies in her Google Drive in her math folder, making a physical binder for students to keep the direction sheets, having clipboards out with the latest check list and thinking about the best groupings of students to visit the station first have been extremely beneficial to the success of the station.
  8. The procedures and apps used have remained the same each week. I talked with the teacher about how the technology was not the focus. Finding a good app(s) and sticking with them was crucial. The only thing necessary to change was the objective each week. Some worry that the students will become bored. Nope… we haven’t seen that yet. A consistent workflow with no hang-ups about procedures and learning new apps is demonstrating what the students know in math. This aspect is very important for those students who struggle with multiple steps and reading, making the acquisition of the routine much easier. The station is math formative assessment at its best!

I’m sure there are many more things that haven’t even been realized yet. I am very encouraged by what I am seeing in this classroom. I feel like I am more of a coach at the station now, identifying kid’s specific procedural areas of weakness and clearing up confusion so they can get on the right course.

I hope my thoughts are useful as teachers work on setting up guided math and stations in their classrooms. Please share any of your own experiences in the comments!

BTW- this is the iPad workflow (for those who are curious):

  • Plan and create four talking avatars about the math learning objective using Chatterpix Kids.
  • Put the four videos into a media collage using PicPlayPost.
  • Share your media collage to the teacher’s assignment in Google Classroom.

A big congratulations to Mrs. Kelly and her students for an awesome job in getting this Station Rotation Model to work so well!

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