Tech Tuesday

Finds and Thoughts about Tech Integration

Helping Students Stretch their Concrete Thinking for Online Testing

January30

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. 🙂

Video Tutorials for Sharing Resources with Colleagues

January16
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?

January2

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!

by posted under Thoughts | tagged under ,  |  6 Comments »    

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 is  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!

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.

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