Tech Tuesday

Finds and Thoughts about Tech Integration

BrainPOP – Have You Checked it Out Lately?

March19

Allow me to take a poll…

How many people have used the movies at BrainPOP?

(I’m sure there are a generous show of hands…)

How many people have used the quiz that follows the movie?

(Again, I’m sure there are quite a few hands out there…)

How many of you are using BrainPOP for science and social studies?

(Yup, those hands are still up…)

For ELA and math?

(Oh, down go some hands…)

And how many of you have differentiated instruction using BrainPOP?

(OK… I will bet that there are far fewer hands now…)

I just wrapped up facilitating a BrainPOP study group. Our focus was on meeting the needs of diverse learners. If you haven’t taken a good look at BrainPOP lately, run right now and do so!

The school district I am in has a subscription that gives us access to BrainPOP, BrainPOP, Jr. and BrainPOP ELL. After being in this study group, we fully are aware of all the good stuff that we have been missing in BrainPOP and BrainPOP, Jr. (we did not explore ELL)… and definitely are taking advantage from this point.

First, get a My BrainPOP account. If your school has a subscription, there’s a code for you to use. We have connected our G-Suite with BrainPOP, so teachers easily can create classes in My BrainPOP. What does that mean?

When a student goes to BrainPOP or BrainPOP, Jr., s/he can log in, receive assignments and submit them directly to the teacher. These assignments can be: watching movies, taking quizzes, creating concept maps (Make-a-Map), composing their own movies (Make-a-Movie)… and this is only the beginning… NewsELA, Primary Source, Activity, Graphic Organizer, Vocabulary, or Related Reading also are BrainPOP features… and if you are using BrainPOP, Jr., students can be assigned Word Play, Draw About It, Activity, Write About It, or Talk About It.

Quizzes can be redesigned and modified by teachers. Templates for concept maps can be shared with supports as needed. Actually, different versions of assignments can be made and shared with specific members of the class.

I haven’t even mentioned SnapThought yet or the game features like Sortify that really get students thinking and digging deep as well as reflect on their learning.

Below are my initial thoughts about SnapThought that I wrote during the study group:

SnapThought is a real game changer. I always am promoting student reflection, and I was totally unaware that BrainPOP had that feature available! The fact that students are playing a learning game is motivating for many, but I always question whether students are even understanding why they are playing. Sometimes they seem to be ignoring informational pop-ups and just clicking away with no real purpose or thought. I can see how having students stop and take a photo with SnapThought of where they are and explaining their thinking or rationale at that point of the game will keep them focused. I can see having students identify what they have learned at that point of the game being very valuable and reinforcing to skills and concepts they are acquiring.

The bottom line: there is great depth to BrainPOP and BrainPOP, Jr. with so many possibilities beyond simply watching movies whole class. With so many avenues to take and customizations to make in this service, there truly is a way to engage all learners. I also see the service as a wonderful formative assessment, giving teachers real time data to inform their instruction in small groups.

If you have access to this tool, I definitely recommend you start exploring! I’d love hear any of your favorite things about BrainPOP.

Disclaimer: I am not a BrainPOP Certified Educator (although I work with two!) nor am I receiving anything from BrainPOP. I just like spreading good stuff.

Managing Responsibilities

December4

Taking ownership of shared devices can be tricky. Often, teachers want to keep things flexible and do not assign specific devices from a cart or charging station. That way students can take what is available when the learning objective calls for a digital service. Being in Google or using an online site makes this practice very easy as students can access their accounts and work from any device.

However, there is something to be said for being assigned a device. You clearly are responsible for that device. The school community knows who the exact users are, and when issues arise, it is easier to address them.

Last week, I saw an interesting practice in a grade 3 classroom that kept things flexible, instilled ownership and reminded students about their responsible use promises that they made at the beginning of the school year.

Mrs. Mulholland had her students take their technology licenses (that every student in the school has the opportunity to earn during a responsible use agreement review with an assessment) and used them as placeholders.

In other words, when a student went to use a device, s/he would go to the folder containing the licenses (which is kept on the classroom charging station) and physically put that license into the now empty slot of the classroom station or in a hallway cart.

Here is a photo that I snapped of a cart in the hallway:

I think this action is helpful in several ways:

  • Devices are returned to the correct places. There is no figuring out the slot labels during clean up.
  • Identifying who has a particular device is easy. Students, themselves, can check who has a taken a device.
  • Students constantly are reminded about their agreement to use the digital equipment and Internet responsibly. The symbolism of the license is concrete and applied.

I’m wondering what others think of this management system?

Hour of Code Event

December12

On December 7, each grade level of our school spent an hour coding. Why did we take time out of our jam packed curriculum to gather in the cafeteria and go through tutorials? Because we can’t have our students only be consumers…We need to be fostering creators for this ever expanding digital world.

Computer Science is a subject that historically was for a select few, the engineering-minded. However, that thinking has changed. We left the read-only web behind and catapulted into the read-write web (2.0) in the first decade of the 2000’s. Blogging, YouTube video uploading, Tweeting and Facebooking a.k.a. social media gave anyone the chance to make his/her voice and ideas heard as well as connect people beyond walls and borders, around the globe. This evolution coupled with the “there’s an app for that” phenomena and the development of iPods, iPads, tablets and Smartphones that are mini-computers at our fingertips that address almost every want and need has made it a necessity for students to comprehend that these devices are not magical and should not be taken for granted. There is a language of coding that makes the programs that run these devices and services, and there is a crucial need in the workforce to understand the basics of that language. It’s no longer for a select few.

We have no idea what the future jobs will be, but it’s a safe bet that technology will be involved.

Even if you are not convinced that everyone should know how to code, perhaps, you can agree with the important skills it cultivates:

  • problem solving
  • critical thinking
  • collaboration/team work
  • to name a few…

It was an amazing event last Thursday. Every hour a new group of 120 students entered our cafeteria. Over the week, they had watched some promotional videos about coding from Code.org; discussed some basic vocabulary during morning meetings; chosen a coding tutorial; and planned a programming pair partnership with another classmate. The atmosphere was electric as they opened up their Chromebooks at the cue of ready, set, code! Sure it was noisy, but so productive as students jumped into their Code.org activities looking to complete tasks. Did they know they were learning so many skills? Probably not… in that moment. They were excited, engaged and motivated for the challenges that were being asked of them.

I’m hoping that this event was a spark for our students to continue to learn more about coding on his/her own. I also want to encourage us to fuel that fire with coding stations at school. The Massachusetts Digital Learning and Computer Science Framework (2016) vision states, ‘The abilities to effectively use and create technology to solve complex problems are the new and essential literacy skills of the twenty-first century.’

Here is a picture of the “calm before the storm”!

Here are quotes from students:

I welcome your thoughts about coding in school.

Massachusetts Digital Literacy and Computer Science (DLCS) Curriculum Framework

May30

I took some time today to review the Massachusetts Digital Literacy and Computer Science (DLCS) Curriculum Framework.

I know at this point in the year, many teachers have full plates wrapping up their school years. I get that you probably don’t have the time or energy (perhaps, if we’re really being honest here- even the desire!) to read a Framework. So here’s a very, quick run down…

This Framework created in June 2016 takes a critical leap from the past, recognizing that students most be both consumers (users) AND creators in our global community when it comes to technology. The four Strands are Computing and Society, Digital Tools and Collaboration, Computing Systems, and Computational Thinking. The Framework outlines a real balance with understanding the impact of technology and one’s responsibilities as a  digital citizen while still getting the nuts & bolts. A key emphasis also is on students being problem solvers.

How will this weave into the rest of our curriculum? That’s where some thoughtful investigation needs to take place. The progressive skills should not be out of context or add-ons.

I am looking forward to my work on the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s DLCS Implementation Panel that begins tomorrow. I’m sure there will be plenty of good conversation there as well as with my district colleagues over the next year. Stay tuned.

Here’s the Spark You May Have Been Looking For! Update

November8

If you have tried to use Adobe Spark, you probably have encountered a student log-in conundrum. The user guide states that children under the age of 13 are not allowed to create their own Adobe ID and so they will need to sign in with an account created by and supervised by a teacher or parent.

Originally, I thought we were fine with our student Google accounts… sadly, I was wrong. If we try to create accounts with our GAFE accounts, students still are prompted to supply a birth date. It seemed like we would be able to circumvent this age requirement as we were using District supervised emails, but that was not the case. A misinterpretation on my part, I admit. Wanting to model good digital citizenship (not lying about our age!), I had to do some thinking about what the user guide was implying…

First Solution: create a generic Gmail account. This Gmail is used to create an account at Adobe Spark. Essentially, it is a class account that all students will use. Since the Gmail is supervised and controlled by the teacher, the teacher’s birth date (or year of the school’s creation) may be used for the creation.

The tricky part to this solution: Can a whole class log into this one Adobe account simulataneously and create a Post, Page or Video? We started to try this solution out with a few of us adults, making a new Video project at the same time. It seemed to work. We thought it may be prudent to either stagger the students as they began the initial save of each “file” as to not crash the account. The classroom teacher I am working with on this inaugural project even agreed to make the files ahead of time so that students would just access/open the files as they all logged in.

However, not wanting to waste valuable student learning time if everything went awry, I started to investigate another solution…

#2: Use the old Gmail hack trick to create student accounts. (Thanks to my colleague, Marianne Butterline, for reminding me about this one as I haven’t used it in years. The reason? Our individual student Google accounts with so much access to Google services.) In a nutshell, the Gmail hack is that you create a Gmail account and then add +1, +2, +3, etc. to the address when you sign up for a service.

Hypothetical example: the original account is MsSandersonsClass@gmail.com. Therefore, when I go to Adobe Spark, I create an Adobe ID by setting up a teacher demo account with MsSandersonsClass@gmail.com. When asked about the birth date, I can supply my own. From there, I would proceed to create more accounts for each student in the following manner: MsSandersonsClass+1@gmail.com, MsSandersonsClass+2@gmail.com, MsSandersonsClass+3@gmail.com, etc. until I had enough accounts. All of these accounts would receive their notifications to the original MsSandersonsClass@gmail.com email address that I am monitoring. I would be able to access them all, and they were created by a supervising teacher (satisfying the Adobe user guide).

Overall, an important reminder in all of this: keep an eye on what your students are doing. No great tool replaces the watchful eyes and guidance of a teacher!

I would love to hear your thoughts on any of our trials and tribulations.

Oh, and here’s Mrs. P’s example for her students.

And some by her students:

Learning objective: Demonstrate how a character has changed over the course of a story.

That was always our guiding light.  To quote Monica Burns, ‘Tasks before apps!’

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