It's been a while since I created a post on the blog, as I've been focusing my efforts on Technology Tips each week for our teachers here in Brandon. I thought I'd do an update about some of the ideas out teachers here have been focusing on.
Reflection and Making Thinking Visible have been two areas where teachers have been transforming learning by integrating technology. Using tools like SeeSaw and the commenting features of Google Docs, teachers have been asking students to dig deep and share the thinking that's going on in their head. This has helped teachers discover potential misunderstandings. It also lets teachers see extensions of student thinking like never before.
We just had our Film Festival! Here's an Popplet about the process our students went through:
A fourth and fifth grade teacher both approached me about working with poetry in a digital way. By this time, both of their classes had used slides and docs quite a bit. We worked on using Google Drawings as a way to add mood and feeling to their published pieces.
Google Drawings has some unique features that allows for the easy combination of interesting fonts, images, and colors. The recolor tool was really useful in that it allowed students to think about how color can impact the way people feel when they read your poem. Publishing poems this way added a unique layer that allowed students to really let their creativity shine. It was fun to watch students discover how language and visual aesthetic can come together to create something different than either on their own.
I'm excited to see and share some student examples of publishing poetry this way. Some students event talked about creating a collage with all of the final poetry images.
At the last meeting of the Oakland County EdTech leadership team we ran through a BreakoutEDU scenario. It was a ton of fun, and we really had to work together as a team to make it work.
It's a concept based on breakout rooms, which are rooms that you have to break out of by figuring out a series of puzzles. BreakoutEDU takes adds an academic twist. Players still have to work together using real problem solving skills, but there is some good academic content added in too. Puzzles that address different topics are available on the BreakoutEDU website. You can even make your own puzzle and submit it.
What was most exciting is that I got to take a kit home to use with students back in Brandon. Last night, I piloted the first activity at home with my wife Betsy. She really enjoyed it, but she agreed that working with a team would have made it even better. I can't wait to run some staff members through it next week and see it rolled into classrooms soon!
I love when the conversation goes, "Well, I've never done this before, but I think it could be great..."
and the teacher says- "Sure!"
In first grade we used SeeSaw to do some thinking around visualization. They've been reading aloud the Secret Zoo, and well narrated story with lots of description. Classrooms regularly use the record and draw tool to explain concepts or math problems. I haven't seen it used this way yet. It's pretty neat to see a sort of second by second look into what a child is visualizing, and given the limited time, it seems like students prioritize what they think is the most important.
Our writing coach gave me some feedback around having students use the picture and video to do some writing about reading. She thought it could help students dig a little deeper while writing about their reading. I'm excited to see the future of this activity and how it changes and gets better.
Our district has started a new initiative to have all teachers keep a classroom website. The idea is to streamline and make consistent the ways that our teachers communicate with families. This should be really nice for families, especially families with lots of kids (and lots of different teachers!)
I'm taking the opportunity to introduce some digital badging to our staff. The idea is that teachers can earn some digital badges for doing new things with technology or instruction. By taking some risks or trying something out, teachers get a little kudos in the form of a small badge. These badges can be proudly displayed on their websites. It's a no pressure, no obligation roll out, but I would like to see teachers have something to display while they're doing some lifelong learning.
I've created a few badges using Canva. Canva is a neat graphic design tool. It makes my badges look super cool. Just check out that Bridges App Super User badge! I just use the logo template, and it's about the right size in my opinion for badges. There are some other badging backpacks and the like out there, but I think the badges will also keep teachers invested in their websites. So for now, we're just using them as images.
I'm excited, and I hope the staff gets excited too. I think it's great when teachers share with students and families that every day they are learning right along with the kids.
Lights! Camera! Action!
Movie Making Club has started for our 4th -6th graders here in Brandon. They are already on a role doing some serious movie work. This week we started collaboratively working on Scripts using Google Docs and lessons from Learnzillion. We started learning filming and editing techniques using the incredible film-making tool that is the iPad. We've even started doing some great drama lessons from Beat by Beat, a website I found that has fun drama games for kids.
There is nothing like seeing students creatively work together to design a movie. You can see their passions come through, and watch them work through challenges. Having a product that's so professional at the end really motivates them to work hard and persevere. I'm very excited to see the iPad and iMovie in the hands of our 4th-6th grade students. They are able to record, edit, splice, and enhance their movies very intuitively with the device. Mr. Phillips is basically an iMovie pro with his long history of making HAWK Talk videos.
We're just getting started, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the groups work together, using tools that allow them to take their thinking and turn it into a reality.
A tool I've used in the past, but only really recently started digging into is Quizizz. Quizizz is a fun assessment tool that has a signature of using Memes to keep kids engaged. It has great potential for giving feedback to your whole class. I was in a classroom recently where we used Quizizz. It gives you some quick data about questions that kids have mastered and concepts that are students still need practice with. What we did is stop, do a quick lesson about the most missed questions, then retook the assessment. Quizizz jumbles questions and answers which is really nice for reassessing. You can immediately see who did better because of the reteaching, and those who may need additional support or intervention after the second go around.
I think there is some great potential for doing this regularly as a way to quickly assess specific small topics in classrooms. Quizizz works well on tablets and Chromebooks.
"Something that technology allows for is a really easy way to practice skills. Although using technology for ONLY drill and practice is definitely not a good thing, using it for quick bursts of practice can be really beneficial to learners.
Imagine anything you used flashcards to practice before. Technology can enhance that kind of practice with things like progress monitoring, content connections, and even gamification. It's probably not great to look for a site or tool that imitates flashcards exactly, I can't imagine any benefit to it besides maybe ease of setting up or not losing the cards. If you can add some progress monitoring that allows for goal setting, now we're talking.
A popular site among our elementary math teachers is Xtramath.org. It's a site with a very straightforward goal- to make math facts practice better. From their about page:
"Our goal is to develop effective, efficient, adaptive, and intrinsically rewarding supplemental math activities."
It adds goal setting, challenges, progress monitoring, and some game elements to math facts practice. What I like about it too is that it isn't too flashy. The math is there and it's hard work, but rewarding. Kids can work on all four operations and test in to their "just right" practice level. It's a tool our teachers really enjoy, and a great example of how a practice website should be.
One of the neat things about working in Google Docs is the unique “web” feel of it. Some teachers here BFIS have been experimenting with writer’s notebooks in Google Docs. It’s fun to have access to a log of edits, great content, and web resources that can be linked right within.
Students can quickly pull in pictures and resources from the web, and teachers can add in anchor charts or links to videos. It creates a very flexible multimedia rich experience for our writers. It also offers a unique way for a student to access resources. Often students keep things in folders that live at school in their desk. Now, having access to their reference materials (like anchor charts) through hyperlinks in their documents, students can access those resources from anywhere with an internet connection.
It’s also a huge benefit for students to become familiar with organizing resources on digital platforms. As they begin to link resources themselves, they’ll become more familiar with how the web works, and even begin some foundational website building skills.
Instructional Technology Coach