Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Follow a student... what might you find?

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! :-)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Cloning Yourself with Camtasia Studio

Who's got time to come to skills based training without a clear model of how it could be used in the classroom? Certainly, not teachers! Teachers, at times, come to technology skills training without a clear notion of how the skill might be applied for teaching and learning. They are interested in the technology, but haven't had time to even learn what the tool might do for them. And, some times, teachers may hold a vague idea of  a hot topic such as "flipped learning," "blended learning," etc. but if the training doesn't provide concrete examples that fit their
comfort zone, they leave not knowing how to implement. We all need models and for some the training might be their first introduction! Very understandable given all that teachers are responsible for doing - at least in our district!

It is also possible that there are additional skills required to be able to put the training into practice that they need to add to their "toolbox." One tool leads to the next and while none are enormous additions, they do require some knowledge - such as where to even find the tool! :-) This training is certainly a poster child for that!

This Camtasia training is enhanced by also showing Google Docs and QR Codes! My hope is that this post will help some teachers solve some of those challenges. This is my most recent attempt to help bridge the gaps and model an approach (where technology is a tool) from start to finish.

This is also an attempt to take a face-to-face training and digitize it so learners can sit in their" jammies" or in the car (passengers only, please) and be supported in their learning.

WARNING: This is only ONE example. There are many variables that can change and it is in no way intended to be "the way!" In fact, I invite you to share the tools you have used and the way you have "smashed" them together to create something of value for your classroom.

The idea started one day when Donald Burken and I were talking about ways to model literacy in the science classroom. He shared some examples that he had, and I presented a session at the Literacy Conference using those ideas. when I started toying around with making an introductory Camtasia class that was more relevant from teachers, I thought I'd stay in the science classroom building off my experience.

So, here are three videos that walk you through the the creation of an independent science workstation. It begins with cloning the teacher by recording the directions for the workstation. This frees up the class time that would have been used to give students the directions and also allows for students to hear the directions more than once if needed, since it is a multi-step process.

After recording the workstation directions, as well as editing and producing the recording in Camtasia, the next step is to create QR codes for students to access the directions. Also, you create QR codes for the videos they are to watch and the Google Doc on which they will collaboratively share their thinking.

This first video describes the workstation and shares the information you need to actually record the directions.

Here is an example of the actual recording:

Next, is a video that walks you through the editing and producing process in Camtasia Studio.

And, lastly, is the video on how to create the QR codes!

How might you take this example and build on it? Please reply with your ideas!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Automating the Peer Critique Process with autoCrat

This past spring, I was fortunate to connect with Amanda Breland at Northbrook HS, a 10th grade ELA teacher. She was grappling with how to increase student engagement and decided to try a project-based learning unit with her 10th graders. She allowed me to come in and brainstorm through the process. We both learned a lot during the unit.

One of the biggest challenges proved to be student academic conversations. Amanda really wanted to get her students sharing ideas and offering feedback to one another. She quickly realized that it was a process that she would need to start earlier in the year.

During the first peer critique, not only were students struggling with the thought and communication processes, but they were also struggling with the paperwork. Students were completing feedback forms, quickly showing them to the student in need of feedback, but then filing them in the paper tray for Amanda to have evidence of conversation and to ensure students had the feedback the next day. Some students though, were willing to work on their projects after class, but didn't have access to the feedback.

I had heard about autoCrat and thought this might be just the project to try it. We made a peer feedback rubric using Google Forms and had the feedback sent to all parties involved - the "critiquee:", the "critiquer" and Amanda had the submission spreadsheet with links to the pdfs there. Watch this video to learn how we did it!

Don't want to watch the video? Here are the steps:
  1. Create the Google Document (using your rubric)
  2. Create the Google Form (using your Google Document and/or rubric)
  3. Set up the autoCrat script to run
  4. Have students complete the Google Form
We are both looking forward to working together in the fall to improve student communication and can see lots of opportunities to use autoCrat!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Generating LOTS of QR codes is easy in Google Spreadsheets!

Do you even NEED to create lots of QR codes for self-checking workstations, scavenger hunts, bulletin boards, etc? Jeanette did! Google spreadsheets made it so easy! We used a formula to generate columns of QR codes that then can be easily printed and used! Jeanette laminated the codes on this cute owl stationary and had a self-checking multiplication workstation in no time!
The formula is:

=image("https://chart.googleapis.com/chart?chs=150x150&cht=qr&chl=" & B2)

(when the information you what the QR code to disclose is in cell B2). Don't have the information in cell B2? You can change the formula to look to any cell you want!

Need more information than just access to the formula? Watch this brief video that walks you through the entire process that Jeanette used! I think you'll find using Google spreadsheets to generate your QR codes a real time saver!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Driving Questions and PBL

Today, my friend Amanda Breland sent me a link to Andrew Miller's blog post on How to Write Effective Driving Questions for Project-Based Learning. Amanda is an amazing educator who has taken this year to dig deep into her practice and is striving to provide authentic ways to engage students in their learning. (More to come on her soon!) She saw an opportunity for her students, as she puts it, "a cool way for kids to practice academic language and effective questioning" through the use of the Tubric. While my friend, Carrie feels the Tubric is a little gimmicky (I can see where she is coming from.), I like the "Framing Words" a LOT because I find them very inviting and inclusive!
I've been "thinkering" (thanks, Sara) about questioning for the past year or so having spent a great deal of time with Sara Wilkie who is a master "questioneer" and thinker. She has really helped me to examine my practice and is probably responsible for me even attempting this post.

I took a few moments and read his post and really liked it too. So much so, that I decided to look for some other posts (He refers to the next one he was going to write at the end, but I haven't found it yet.) and found another one, Getting Started with Project-Based Learning (Hint: Don't Go Crazy). Here, Andrew does a terrific job of listing some of the "pitfalls" teachers can fall into when attempting PBL. I have worked with a number of teachers who create projects thinking they were engaging students in problem-based learning. So, if you're thinking you also fall into that hole, take a look at his post.

I have been very hesitant of posting resources about project-based learning because I try to avoid big labels. Maybe it is because I have seen the labels misused, maybe I am fearful of them, maybe it is because there is lots of good teaching that happens without labels, I don't know. However, I have enjoyed the time I have taken on this short journey this morning, and hope that you have found some resources here that might be helpful for you!

For more on questioning, visit http://balancedtech.wikispaces.com/Questioning and http://www.fno.org/nov97/toolkit.html

Also, just purchased Making Thinking Visible and can barely wait to start!

What are your thoughts/experiences with developing thoughtful questions? Got additional resources? Share them!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Managing your data transition: Google Drive and Chrome Sync

Last night, I was still thinking about how we could help teachers with their data migration from their old teacher laptop to their new one. Thanks, Cathy Roth at Woodview! Here are some tips!

Chrome Sync:
We spent some this after their training setting up Chrome Sync for her. I realized that teachers first thought is to sign in to Chrome on their new laptops which is what Cathy did. However, in order to have anything to "sync" she needed to sign into Chrome on her old laptop first, click Yes, to sync the data, and THEN sign into the new laptop.

Google Drive and MS Office (and more):
While teachers can use the Data Migration Tool to transfer their files and folders from their old laptop, I have heard a few say they wish they hadn't done it because it brings everything over - even some junk they didn't want. Another option for teachers is to create a folder, drag their desired files and folders into that one and then up to their SAN folder and then drag it down to their new computer.

Cathy actually uses her personal folders in Outlook to store emails with important attachments. She was terribly concerned about losing them. We imported her data file (personal folders) while I was there and she was a very happy camper! As I was leaving though, I suggested she consider just transferring those files to her Google Drive. Then, she would have access to them no matter where she was, no worries at VPN or setting up Outlook on another computer. She WOULD have to open all the emails and download the attachments, but if she Installed Drive to her desktop, then she could just drag everything into here Google Drive.

When you do download drive to your desktop, you'll log into your Google Apps account and a Google Drive shortcut will appear on your Desktop as well as in your folder structure in File Explorer.

Every time you connect to a network, your Google Drive will sync and your files will be updated. You aren't limited to only Google files either! You can also save your MS Office files, your pictures, your flipcharts, etc. to Google Drive.

This video from Google Gooru  provides a quick explanation of how to save your MS Office files to Drive.