Tech Tuesday

Finds and Thoughts about Tech Integration

Helping Students Stretch their Concrete Thinking for Online Testing


A popular topic this month at faculty meetings (I’m sure everywhere in the U.S.) is state testing. And especially online testing!

One observation from our fourth grade team that completed the MCAS online last year was the brevity of student responses. It was speculated that the size of text boxes for typing responses may have been a factor. The perceived space that appears on a screen for an answer really can influence an elementary student who is a concrete thinker. Only so much space? Then I guess that’s all I need to write.

In an effort to make student thinking a little more amenable when encountering such a typing space, here are some ideas suggested at our faculty meeting. They all are online writing experiences that let students observe that boxes expand… and that responses do not have to be limited.

  • Make comments on peer’s Google Docs using the commenting boxes.
  • Visit a blog (like another classroom’s) and leave comments with thoughtful responses, really asking questions to trigger a conversation with the post author. (Please ask me if you are looking for a blog… we have several at Abbot that would love visitors!)
  • Fill out a Google Form that has long answer style questions. Reflection or Exit Ticket surveys can be worked into any subject giving students lots of practice opportunities over the course of the year.

While I am not a proponent to teaching to the test, preparing students to become more flexible in their encounters with online testing elements like text answer boxes may eliminate one road block to well developed answers on test day. Plus, the practice suggestions develop so many more skills, such as communication, collaboration and critical thinking!

Have any of your own suggestions? Please let us know below in the comments… feel free to make the box expand with your thoughts. 🙂

posted under Thoughts | 2 Comments »

Video Tutorials for Sharing Resources with Colleagues

I wrote two blog posts this school year with ideas on how to share resources with colleagues: Use the Google Classroom Reuse Post Feature to Share Assignments and Resources with Colleagues and Team Drives – What’s That?

I since have made these ideas into video tutorials for a professional development day in my district. Please check them out here. And of course, if you have questions, comments, more ideas, etc. please let me know!

New Year’s Goals?


Happy 2018!

I know it’s freezing outside… and we’re all a little foggy coming back from vacation…

But got any curriculum goals?

I’d love to hear from you… and brainstorm if digital learning could help you achieve them!

posted under Thoughts | 6 Comments »

Hour of Code Event


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; 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 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.

Google+ Communities Study Group Reflection


Background: a small group of grades 3-5 teachers in my district participated in a study group that allowed us to “play” in a private Google+ Community… we did a series of tasks over 10 weeks that gave us the time to figure out how we could use this Google service in our current positions.

This week, I am sharing my Google+ Communities Study Group Reflection… as always I welcome your thoughts!

My reflection:

Prior to this study group, I had dabbled a little bit in Google+ Communities. My Google Educator Level 1 and 2 training had exposed me to some basics of the service, so I knew it had potential in this era of social media and sharing. I had started looking at what communities were out there and for what people were using them. The service did not seem to be as prolific or popular as Facebook groups. It did mimic some desirable features like other social media services, such as more characters being shared than a Twitter post. (I was an early convert to Twitter and the sharing with educators world-wide, but I never have been able to get my colleagues as interested. I think the stream can be very much like drinking from the fire hose, and it takes quite some time to build up a good professional learning network to follow.) Facebook has always seemed too personal, non-work related for me, and having two accounts to keep my home and school life separate just has seemed like a lot to keep straight. I think others have felt the same as well. I also tried to get something going with a work-related Pinterest group, but again, people did not want to have two accounts to keep things segregated. As we have become more comfortable within our work Google domain, it seems like the timing may be right to harness the power of Google+ Communities since I know people (with whom I work) are not using it personally, and Google+ has the feel of other social media services that have become a way of life.

This study group was a good playground for figuring out how to set up a closed community with parameters. We were able to try out all of the features in a small environment so that the sharing did not become overwhelming. It gave us an opportunity to practice writing helpful posts and comments with each other, but it also allowed us to check out a world of sharing going on beyond our Community “walls”. We then were able to be curators, learning how to bring specific resources/posts from those outside Communities into our special interest group for a more focused share.

It’s been a very positive experience overall interacting with each other. We also have noticed the limitations. There are not as many special interest Communities out there to join in Google+. I’m not discouraged by that fact. That says to me that there is room for growth as more districts are entering Google domains. We need to build these Communities. However, the challenge is getting people to hop into something that is in its beginning stages. Many other social media arenas are running full steam now. In order for Google+ to flourish, more people have to use it. How do we get people to do that?

In my job as a Digital Learning Specialist, I would like to use Google+ as a place to pull together two other great Google services: Classroom and Team Drive. Right now, I can set up a shared folder in Team Drive with specific members and add lots of resources; however, there is no conversation mechanism in that service. It’s merely a place for me to put files. Of course, I can’t forget that I can collaborate on those files in that space with those specific members. I can create resources with these colleagues to be used with other teachers and students. Moreover, that’s where Google Classroom comes in. That’s the delivery system to students. A teacher can be added in to collaborate on the learning assignments within that environment. Again, another great space to share and work with a colleague; yet, I feel the editorial, conversation piece is missing for the educators. There is no virtual place for the teachers to reflect with each other about the student assignments (and face to face is challenging these days). Teachers could be co-teachers off all their colleagues Classrooms to see what’s going on in those rooms; however, realistically, a team of Grade 5 teachers would not want to be teaching members of every other Grade 5 teacher’s Google Classroom. That would be too many places to visit to see and find ideas/resources!

To simplify things, I have recommended setting up a teacher only Classroom in order for the teachers to reuse their posts from their respective Classrooms to the “teacher” Classroom. (Here is a recent blog post.) This set up give the teachers the opportunity to share the files/resources plus the narrative/directions delivered to students in the initial Classroom to one place. Far easier than “co-teaching” in everyone’s Classrooms! Plus, teachers would be able to write comments below the reused posts in this teacher group Classroom. Finally, a place for some reflection/conversation among colleagues!

But that’s only within that team or school. There’s so much more out there. I do think this can go a step further with a Google+ Community. With a Team Drive and a teacher Google Classroom established and linked in the About section of the private Community, the teachers can add more to the discussion and conversation of their work together in the stream of the Community, but they also have the opportunity to share entire posts of resources from other Google+ Communities there. The teachers now have the capabilities of collaborating/creating together in the Team Drive, sharing full views of work delivered to students, AND bringing other educator resources into the mix in one location. It’s one stop sharing. I’m hoping to kick my idea off with a Guided Math or math stations Google+ Community this year.

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