Monday, July 6, 2015

Connecting to Build Literacy

More from ISTE 2015! With our district focus on literacy, I was excited to find a number of online opportunities in the poster sessions for our students to connect and be a part of global community of learners. I plan to offer this information at the Elementary Literacy Conference in August as well.

100 Word Challenge
Creative Writing for Children under 16
Created by Julia Skinner, retired Head Teacher

Each week, a writing prompt is posted. It may be a picture or a series of words. Students can use up to 100 words to write a creative piece. **The piece is posted to a class or student blog and then linked to the 100 Word Challenge blog. Each challenge is typically posted on Sunday and stays open until the following Saturday.

Currently you do need a class or student blog, but it appears that this requirement is changing in September. Waiting for more information from Julia, but I think it would be best to have your own.
The 100 Word Challenge has a "team" of adults from across the world who have volunteered to comment each week on a given set of entries. To ensure capacity, each school participating must provide at least one commentator.

**Beginning September, you will no long need your own class or student blogs but will be posting (copy/paste from your own if you want both) to NightZookeeper site.

5 Sentence Challenge
Creative Writing for Younger Writers (and Struggling Writers)

Aimed at assisting younger students or those who might struggle with 100 words, the prompts are thematic and the link is up for 2 weeks giving students more time for posting and discussion. the 5 sentences can be a list or a piece of prose.

Blogging Is Writing
Susan Davis @suludavis

Susan and her teammates have jumped into student blogging. Each ones has tweaked the format/process. All their resources can be found on their blog. Susan's goal was to have students see writing and blogging as one and the same. She alternates traditional assignments with free posts. Assignments included an :About Me" post, a persuasive piece, an infographic/book trailer, and a review (selections for "Bloggy Awards").

TwitterTale
https://twitter.com/6_avenuetech
Shannon Wentworth

I didn't get a change to actually meet Shannon, but I picked up her card at a poster session. Looking
at her resources, she uses her Twitter account to post challenges. Students can reply to the post and/or there are hashtags. Cool idea, but still working through how to manage in your classroom of little ones... maybe a classroom account?

Interactive E-Literature: via Digital annotation and Multimedia Storytelling
Alli Gubanich @alligub
Ali uploads plain text versions of novels they are reading (when available) in class to a Google Docs shared folder. Each night, students complete mandatory annotation activities within the appropriate folders. She feels these activities help her students make connections between the text they are reading and the outside world, collaborate with one another, and develop their communication skills. Visit her website to see examples and video tutorials.

Need help developing or "tweaking" any of these ideas to implement in your classroom? Contact me and comment below! Would love to hear your ideas!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Experience the World in your Classroom with Google!

I had the great fortune to visit the Google for Education booth at ISTE 2015 on Tuesday in time to experience Rich Kiker's presentation. In case you don't know, he is a Google Master! While he didn't share everything here, his website complete with Symbaloo is full of Google related resources.

Inspired by the tools he shared, I have created this Symbaloo that spotlights the tools he did share but not all (so you don't get lost).



Beginning in the upper left are links related to location and mapping:

  • Google Maps - a no-brainer but just in case....
  • Google Maps for EDU - Click on the resources tab to find a collection of video tutorials for Google Maps and Google Earth
  • Street View - Stunning photography will transport you and your students to places far and wide! Explore world landmarks and discover natural wonders through 360-degree images! Street View is going away in August. Here's the info on where it's going!
  • Tour Builder - You can create your own story using Tour Builder! Think about... a personal narrative, plotting movement in a novel or historical event! This could be a really great project for your students as well as for you. It allows you to create Google Earth type projects using your web browser. Here's a YouTube tutorial. Only bummer - You must use a different browser than Chrome as Chrome no longer supports the Google Earth plug-in. Hopefully, that will change in the future!
  • Google Maps - Smarty Pins - This fun and interactive game tests players' trivia AND geography knowledge! Could be a fun and easy starter or end of class activity! 
  • GeoGuesser - Click Single Player mode and you're off! You'll be in street View somewhere in the world. Look around. Use any information available and figure out where you are. Click on the map and place the marker where you think you are. Click the Make a Guess button!
In the middle:
  • TREKS - Join the Google team as they trek the wonders of the world! Each trek is unique with videos, 360 degree panoramas and more! Meet chimpanzees in Gombe National Park. Hike the Grand Canyon. How might you set your students loose here?
  • Connected Classrooms - Bringing field trips into classrooms via Google+. You need to join the Connected Classrooms Community on Google+ to learn about the opportunities.
  • Expeditions - Google's latest EDU project. Click the Learn More button to request an expedition for your classroom. Scroll down and learn about Google Cardboard, More to come!
  • Google Cultural Institute - Discover exhibits and collections from museums around the world. You can even create your own collections and share them. Think of how you might use this to share specific pieces/works with your students! Below are links to the specific categories of works:
    • Art Project - Explore works of art and exhibitions. Virtual tours available as well.
    • Historic Moments - View exhibitions of the stories behind historic moments in our history.
    • World Wonders - Experience the wonders of the modern and ancient world.

Lower left corner:

  • Constitute - Explore the world's constitutions to read, search and compare. Talk about primary sources!
  • Google New Archive - Search for web news content until the year 2003. 
  • Google Lit Trips - Tracing the movement of characters from literature, Google Lit Trips are designed to encourage higher level thinking skills and  make real-world connections. They work with Google Earth. Be sure to look at the information on the right sidebar.
  • Google Books - Search here for free books and books for purchase.
  • Music Timeline - See how artists and genres have gained and dropped in popularity over the decades and more!

Super Bonus! Build with Chrome - As a mom who loved Legos as a kid and invested in lots with my own children (and looking forward to my granddaughter and I building together in the future), here's a digital platform! what's not to like!. Click Start Building and go! Or, select Build Academy to be challenged! Enter the World of Build to see what others have built. You can too!

How might these tools be used for learning in K-12? Share your thinking! Please comment and share! Together we can grow and learn!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Summer reading for inspiration!

Wait! Summer is already half over! I can't believe I haven't already shared some books I'm really diggin' these days. If you're looking for some inspiration to motivate you and prompt you try some new strategies in your schools/classrooms, then give one or all of these a shot!

My most favorite read of the Spring (probably of the past few years) was #EdJourney by Grant Lichtman. (I need help enunciating his last name as I was corrected by a friend of his at ISTE, but anyone who knows me knows it was unintentional.) I'm REALLY into his work and so inspired by the book!

Grant drove across/around the country visiting schools and interviewed more than 600 teachers, admins, students and parents asking them questions like:

  • What does innovation mean to you?
  • How has your school changed to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world?
  • What do we really need to teach and learn in schools, and how are you doing that?
He unfolds their responses and his learnings into three parts: Roadblocks, Blazing the Trail and the Road Ahead. Each chapter begins with a journal entry, his ponderings and experiences on the road which were fun to read. I thought here, wow, he is a great storyteller. I really enjoyed his voice.

The story of our challenges (and I say "our" because even though he didn't visit SBISD, we are along on the same journey) provide you a lens into how others are making paths around and through challenges. For me, Grant's stories confirmed the importance of being a community of learners and the key role of leadership (at the campus level), You'll read about many different approaches schools are taking which might give you some jumping off points to get started.

In the last few chapters, Grant challenges us to think differently through a variety of models and strategies for the future of learning and how we need to think forward (probably not actually grasping everything through those words).

When I started thinking about the "What ifs" in my world, what if we approached technology at the district level in a way that provides a level of resources yet allows for each school to create their own plan (for learning). Still trying to figure out how we can support innovative practices in meaningful ways.

This is definitely a book that I will reread and return to often over the coming year. It challenges my thinking!

The book I'm currently reading (about halfway through my first read) is Creating cultures of thinking: The 8 Forces We Must Master to Truly Transform Our Schools by Ron Ritchhart.

To me, this book will give you the tools to effectively innovate and create a community of learners! We're actually blogging about the book here.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

ISTE 2015 - Reflecting and actions!

As I flew home from ISTE 2015, I began to wonder how I could possibly share everything I had heard and experienced over the three days I was there.

  • I saw many exciting examples of ways teachers are developing literacy skills, personalizing learning, encouraging coding and robotics, and more in their classrooms.
  • I saw new and "re-experienced" several Google tools that can really help you take your kids places and experience them as never before.
  • I heard some strategies for helping us question and challenge our practices to help push our students' thinking.
  • I listened as really thoughtful educators shared their thinking and findings on schooling and factors they have found that impact implementation and ultimately student learning.

The list could go on and on.... I started thinking my head would explode as it filled with ideas of ways to share everything with you... bubbling up like the clouds as we zeroed in on Houston.

So, stay tuned for posts... coming soon!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Where did the year go?

It's hard to believe that I last posted on this blog back in October. A lot has happened since then. Here are some brief highlights of my journey:

To begin, I did follow a student at one of our high schools for an entire day in November. See previous post. It reminded me a great deal of my high school experience back in the 70s. From Algebra, to Study Hall, Economics, Science, English and History, the experience was much the same. We all sat in our desks (in rows), teacher presented a lesson or activity, we were allowed to work in pairs/groups at some point during the class (possibly even physically move when the class was big enough to allow for it), The biggest change from the 70s was the use of an ActivBoard or a projector
by a few of his teachers. But, it was used mainly as an overhead or movie projector would have been back in the day. The technology that was used by the students during the course of the day:
  • a graphing calculator in Algebra, and
  • their phones in Economics to look up their stock prices which were then relayed to the teachers to put into a spreadsheet, and
  • Kahoot was displayed on the ActivBoard in History to review for a quiz given during the period. (I took the quiz and made an A having never been in the class before that day. I didn't major in history, trust me!)
Conclusion: For the most part, we all have a similar experience. AND, what we know is, what we know. As Grant Lichtman points out in #EDJourney
"In order to change our schools, we have to "paint the picture" of what a learning ecosystem looks like. This means exposing our educators in person and virtually to the many, many brushfires of classroom and organizational innovation that are burning in this country... Then we need to provide the resources - most critically, time - for them to retool their professional skill set and gain comfort with the learning ecosystem as opposed to the learning assembly line."

In the fall, we also began exploring the potential for a 1:1 in our district. It is time to refresh the classroom devices, and it was determined the had the money to purchase a Chromebook for every 3rd - 12th grader. We spent he fall and winter researching district implementations far and wide and made several determinations:
  • consider purchasing a Learning Management System beforehand or at the time as others who didn't were doing so now,
  • expectation (and it appears true) that there is more ownership/responsibility for the device when each student is responsible for own,
  • a keyboard is crucial for production,
  • need for campus technical support,
  • need for extensive teaching & learning support (see Grant Lichtman quote above),
  • deploy by grade levels, to have the opportunity to really change the day, not just a 45-55 minute segment of it,
  • campus leadership is the driving force of a successful transformation.
The more we learned, the greater the focus because on our goals for teaching & learning and less about the device. We know that we want to change what happens in our classrooms - see above. We need to make schools more relevant and more reflective of what is happening outside of them. We see it is an "all-in" proposition in order to succeed.

Knowing where we are as a district, we decided to create an application process for those campuses who are interested in making such a shift. We have plans to select between 3-5 campuses (supporting any more than that isn't currently feasible), and 10 campuses applied. However, with a shift in leadership at the district (our new superintendent was named last week), the project is currently "under further discussion,"

As of this post, we are going to RFP for a learning management system.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Follow a student... what might you find?

http://davidwees.com/content/20-things-every-teacher-should-do
Following a student is something that has been on my to-do list ever since David Wees shared his 20 things every teacher should do graphic. In fact, today WAS the day, but other projects have gotten in the way (rescheduled in 2 weeks). The list has many terrific practices that we all should consider. In my role as an EdTech facilitator I found the practice of actually following a student through an entire day one that could be rather informative on actual practices as we look at models for technology in classrooms and how teachers and students actually use devices for learning.

Today I ran across this te@chthought post! Posted by Grant Wiggins, it is the account of a veteran HS teacher who just became a Coach in her building. It is rather informative and is potentially something very similar to what I may experience in one of our classrooms. In takeaway #2, I was struck by the following:


I think about some of the practices we advoacted for in the past and how capabilities and technologies have changed. We encouraged the use of ActivBoards in classrooms. Could we possibly have left our teachers believing that they should stop there?  Were there more resources devoted to that initiative than any that has occurred since? I'm wondering....

In Takeaway #3, I realized that we have changed some of our practices and do not offer all-day EdTech trainings anymore because of the very observation made in the post:


How do we provide time for students to question, to pause, to reflect? How might we come together to consider the student experience. Should we follow our students? I'm wondering...

I encourage you to read the post! Might we see similar results in our schools? What questions might we ask? How might we change the school day? Are there steps we can take to broaden our perspective of our students and create a better experience for them? I'm wondering... and hoping to conduct this exercise and encourage you to do the same!




Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Google Forms upgrades are a real winner!

Recently, Google  made a BUNCH of upgrades to Google Forms. In addition, in Spring Branch, we finally have all students and teachers in the same domain - which also improved what we can do with Forms! Let's take a quick look at what these changes mean for you in classrooms!

Form Settings
With moving everyone into same domain, we can now collect the GAFE Username of the person logged into the form. If you recall, in the past, we always added a Name field because this feature was unavailable to us! So, as a teacher, you at least know who is logged in and responding to the form.

A new feature from Google allows us to limit each users to one response which can be handy. For example, last year one of our high schools wanted to use Google Forms for the selection of their Homecoming Court but we couldn't limit each student to one vote. Now, we can! No more worry about stuffing the ballot box!

And lastly, from the Form Settings at the top you can also select to Shuffle question order which again, is another great feature for a teacher when using Google Forms as a quizzing tool.

Enhanced Themes
As any avid Google Forms user has known, the themes available for user in Forms were very limited. well now, not only are there lots of new themes from which to choose, but you can also customize and add your own images to Google Forms. Watch this brief video from Google Gooru: Customize themes in Google Forms for a quick glimpse into the feature!





Embedding YouTube Videos
Think how cool it would be to actually insert your instructional video into a Google Form and then ask your students questions based on the video!

Create a Google From. Then go to Insert in the menu and select video. Either search YouTube or enter the URL you have already copied and pasted to the clipboard. Click Select.

Then, you can title the video. Add a caption and align the video as desired. Click Done.

Now, create questions based on the video! How easy is that?

Got other Google Forms features you like! Share them here!


Who will come with me?

Last night I was on Connected Learning's Connected K-6 Educators: Supporting Openly Networked Learning webinar listening to and questioning @SimplySuzy, @MrsWideen, @benschersten on their practice. It was a wonderful conversation that has me reaching out this morning to find a teacher in
Spring Branch who is interested in becoming a connected educator - someone who sees the value and finds the time to connect his/her classroom with other classrooms around the world! Last night, each educator shared how they struggle with finding the time, but how the benefits for their students far outweigh the challenges!

I also believe that connecting our students with others can be encouraging, engaging and enriching! Do you remember penpals? I remember we waited for months to get our letters back from Iceland (I think the connection was a student, Ingmar, who was living here for a few years.) and how excited we were as we read them and how we couldn't wait to write back! I don't think I asked my teacher how many paragraphs my letter needed to be! We wrote, and wrote...

Today, with technologies, not only can we write to them, we can write with them! And, we don't need to wait months to receive their feedback, but only minutes or hours! We can even peer into each other's classrooms and see the similarities and differences. We can challenge each other's thinking, create together and grow in our learning!

As Annie Mitchell shared in a Google+ post yesterday, she questions whether technology has really made us more antisocial as she shared a similar image.

Some great ideas I left with last night to help get us going:

  • Use Twitter to find and make connections.
  • Use our natural connections with parents and community to gather information and contribute to the class! Create a parent "commenter"club to provide feedback on student posts! Have travelling parents use Google+ Hangouts or Skype to conduct "field" experiments with your class!
  • Have your class decide together if they want to participate in a global project to get their buy-in.
  • Use a Google Form for students to submit blog posts if you're no ready to add them as authors. Use their submission as a talking point on appropriateness, grammar, punctuation (depending on your objective)
  • Get into Quad-Blogging to support each blogger with feedback on their writing.
  • Try the TeachersFirst XW1W (Across the World Once a Week) Project 
So who will step out of their comfort zone and come on this journey with me? I'm willing to commit some time working with you 1:1! Let's get together, open your door and explore the world! It really is out there waiting! :-)