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! :-)