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.

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.)

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.

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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