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.)

An Idea for Sharing, Collecting & Organizing Links From Socrative (or Anywhere)

February13

At a PLC meeting this winter, group members were talking about not reinventing the wheel with Socrative quizzes that they had created in math. In Socrative, there is the ability to share a quiz to an email address; therefore, the team was beginning the process of sending each other these quiz links.

While I love the idea of sharing these resources, I was envisioning a possible nightmare for them: overflowing inboxes full of emails with these links that would have to be addressed and organized. The emails would come in randomly, too, as people shared new quizzes throughout the year. I’m also assuming that the sender would have to enter each person’s email address every time.

An idea that I proposed to streamline this whole process was the creation of a Google Form. Every time a PLC member wanted to share a Socrative quiz, she would copy the quiz link and then enter it into a Google Form that would organize the information into a Google Sheet that all PLC members could access. Members now could go to this Sheet to get the quiz links. Additionally, a member could set up individual notifications for the Sheet by going into the Tools menu as shown below:

Notifications would keep them from forgetting to check the Sheet for the latest links.

There also is another advantage to collecting and organizing these links via a Form: more specific details about the quiz can be included and archived that are not options in the Socrative sharing method.

For example, subject area and topic may be collected along with the link. Then when a teacher visits the Sheet for ideas, it is clear what the quizzes assess. There also is a place for notes on the Form for any other specifics about the quiz, such as titles, targeted audience, modifications, etc. The Sheet would be able to be sorted by subject area and topic for easy retrieval of all quizzes in that area and/or topic.

Here is an example Form from my Guided Math PLC.

We are all doing so many great things… how are you sharing, collecting and organizing them?

Noodle Tools with Google Docs

February6

I have been assisting a colleague recently on having students meet a science objective, specifically for space exploration. The students have completed research and have been walking through the steps of how to cite  sources and make a Works Cited List online that will be included in a student choice final project. We have used NoodleTools once again at our school, but needed to figure out the navigation of using the service with our Google accounts. I documented our managerial findings in the following screencasts.  I decided to share them this week via this blog in hopes that they may help others who are teaching the important work of citing sources. These videos are rough, but I love the spirit of working with a teacher to figure something and then documenting it via video as a reference… as we all need those reminders, and even copious notes don’t always give us the full picture.

How to export a NoodleTools Works Cited List to Google Docs

How to cite an image in NoodleTools

I’m sure there are many more things that could be captured via video.  NoodleTools has some of their own resources here that answer many how-to questions, like using it for the first time through G-Suite. Of course, I am happy to help, too.

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!

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