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.)

Read Aloud Book Club Idea

April25

This idea popped up today in my inbox from the Connected Classrooms Workshop Google+ Community.

Love it! What a great way to commit yourself to reading out loud everyday in your classroom and to connect with other classes anywhere in the world. It’s such a simple plan using Twitter, too.

Definitely am looking for people who would like to give this one a go OR create our own when the timing is right.

Thoughts?

Google Hangouts – Giving Them a Try with Students!

February28

A few years ago when Skype first came on the scene, I worked with some teachers on collaborations that connected students with that tool. For example, we had students play instruments for each other via the video-conferencing software as well as set up a regular picture book reading session with Kindergartners in our district. It was fun, and the students worked on some great communication skills during the process. For some reason or another, we never really expanded our repertoire, and with full content curriculum plates, these activities dwindled. It just happens.

Therefore, when I started participating in our District’s elementary teacher Advanced Google Study Group this winter  and watched several SimpleK12 webinars on Google Hangouts, I was reminded of all the wonderful experiences of video-conferencing. I decided it was time to have a go with Google’s service and see what we could do.

Sooooo…. I asked a colleague and fellow study group participant to take a risk and join a couple of Google+ Communities with me to get started on the endeavor. (Read my post about Google+ Communities.)  We decided on a Mystery Location “game”. She admittedly was nervous as I asked her to put herself out there. Here is the post that she placed in the Mystery Location Calls Community in order for us to get our feet wet:

We decided to be flexible with grade levels and dates so that we could “match up” with someone more easily. Mrs. P also had discussed with me that she wanted to do the inaugural Hangout with a smaller group of her students, so she chose a reading block. Furthermore, although we would be making a connection through social studies (geography), students would be working on their English Language Arts skills of speaking and listening. We were surprised how quickly, a teacher contacted Mrs. P and was happy to set up a connection between the classes!

In fact, we had had just enough time to do a search for more information regarding the procedures of Mystery Location Hangouts. We found this great resource from a teacher, Paula Naugle, that outlined the basics so that when Mrs. P replied to the Google+ Community teacher who had contacted Mrs. P we were able to propose an agenda. Moreover, we requested a practice session between teachers to make sure that the permanent Hangout link that we had created was going to work. Unfortunately, snow storms messed with the teacher practice plans; however, I had suggested to Mrs. P that I practice with her students via the link as well so that we could give them a “taste” of what it was going to be like to play Twenty Questions and go over behavioral expectations.

From my laptop on my office desk, I was able to model for students how to speak up and make eye contact with the camera. I also was able to give feedback to students regarding their volume and how to take turns speaking to make things less confusing during a Hangout. Mrs. P had armed her students with maps and  the questions from Ms. Naugle’s resource while we practiced. We were able to give them a short trial run and talked about how they would take turns. We worked out a procedure where the questioner remained in the camera seat to act as the answer spokesperson for the group based on the group’s thumbs up/down responses.

On the day of the “real” Hangout, we were fresh off another snow day. Mrs. P sent an email to the connecting classroom teacher requesting that we start 15 minutes later to help with prepping materials. She made sure that her students had dry erase markers in hand to mark up wipe off maps. She also wrote the questions on her whiteboard.

And these strategies ended up being genius! Once the initial glitch of having the connecting class join us in the Hangouts call was resolved, (Our link was set only to allow our district to participate… which we quickly changed… something that we would have discovered if snow had not stopped our practice session with the teacher!) the butterflies dissipated. The connecting teacher was so flexible and friendly, putting us at ease. Students got over their shyness and immediately started asking and answering questions, marking up their maps and making notes on the whiteboard. The logical side conversations among students to figure out the state of this connecting class were authentic and on task! Students carefully were making decisions about next questions to ask, and the excitement between the two classes was electric. During this exchange, I witnessed students really focusing and listening to answers that were being shared via the video-conference. In addition, there was no chaos. Manners were evident. Everyone was on a mission!

Did Mrs. P’s class guess the correct state in the end and review some good fourth grade regions curriculum?

Yes, they did!

Plus they got a whole lot more… in this thirty minute lesson.

Mrs. P definitely wants to do another one, and so do her students! I think the Mystery Location was a good way for us to start with its structure. Now the possibilities are endless. Just to go to the Google Hangouts in Education (For Educators) Community and see for yourself!

Looking for more resources for Google Hangouts?

Hangouts Help Center

Get Started

Hangouts Cheat Sheet

Students as Creators – Collages of Learning & Discovery

January24

Last week, I ran a hands-on workshop for K-2 teachers in my school district. I do not work directly with these teachers, but I did my best to give them ideas of how to think about how students could be creators versus consumers on iPads. The student examples that were showcased during the workshop were from the results of my collaborations with Abbot teachers. I wanted to share this creation work with more people, so I’m posting it on my blog today… perhaps, I little bit of a boast… but I’m proud of our work and hope it will inspire others. I’d also love to gather more ideas. Please comment with your how your students create on iPads!

Students as Creators

Organize with a YouTube Playlist

December20

Video is a great way to grab your students’ attention. The right video can jump start a unit, teach a tricky concept, deepen understanding or serve as a review. Often videos are watched whole class with a classroom discussion following, or a teacher may assign a video in Google Classroom for independent viewing and commenting.

For whatever reason or method that you show videos, the question is “how are you saving and organizing these videos?” Do you often find yourself searching for the videos again or trying to figure out what browser in which you bookmarked them? Wouldn’t it be great if you had them all in one place, categorized, ready to share with students as well as colleagues, no matter what device you are using?

An idea: Make YouTube playlists.

YouTube is one of the most popular video services, and while there is a ton of non-educational material on it, there is equally a lot of good curriculum being shared there as well. It’s so easy to gather the videos that you find on YouTube, too.

You probably already have discovered other people’s playlists on YouTube. Here’s a social studies one:

Here is Google’s step by step directions for creating and maintaining your own playlists.

Now, when you find a great Revolutionary War video, for example, you can add it to your curated Revolutionary War playlist. You won’t lose your videos anymore. They will be kept on a virtual bookshelf filled with videos, and you even will have a single link that you can share these multiple videos with students as a review on an overall topic.

I also envision this as a great way for grade level or subject area teachers to work together in the collection of resources since you can add collaborators to playlists! See below for directions:

So what do you think? I’m curious if you currently use playlists and/or if you see this as a worthwhile endeavor?

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