Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Tools to Support Student Inquiry

Inquiry Based Instruction has been an area of study for me for the last couple of years. In my opinion, teaching through inquiry is not only engaging for our students, but develops an essential skill that our kids need to be successful in the 21st century. In this post, I want to share a few of the resources I have been using for the last few years, as well as a few resources that I just learned about. 

Before finding your digital resources to support inquiry in your classroom, I highly recommend reading Trevor MacKenzie's book, Dive Into Inquiry. In his book, MacKenzie walks teachers through the 4 types of student inquiry: Structured, Controlled, Guided, and Free. This process allows educators to understand that inquiry based instruction is not just a free for all approach, but a structured practice.

Wonderopolis - K-6
Image result for wonderopolis

Wonderopolis is a fantastic website that models inquiry for students and teachers. Every topic on Wonderopolis begins with a question, and then follows up with an article that allows students to explore that question. Your students can even submit questions to the Wonderopolis site as well as vote on other questions on the site to be explored next.

The Question Formulation Technique or QFT is a collaborative way for students to work in teams to brainstorm questions based off of a teacher given focus. It teaches students how to prioritize their questions and evaluate the differences between open ended and closed ended questions. The Right Question Institute website is full of resources to make the QFT process a success in your classroom. 

Genius Hour 4 - 12
Genius HourAs students  toward Free Inquiry, the Genius Hour website give students and teachers a structure on how to be successful during a self driven process. The Genius Hour practice is based off of what Google implements with their development team. Giving their employees time to work on self-interest projects that have potential to improve the company, has allowed Google to create many of their popular products. What Genius Hour attempts to do is bring this ideology into your classroom. Giving students the option to choose projects that will have potential to improve their understanding of a concept or pass through a competency.  

Do you have a resource you use for inquiry based instruction? Please share it below!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Keeping Students on Track with Google Tasks

Time management and prioritizing are two huge challenges for students (and some of us educators as well). Schools and teachers use agendas, messaging apps like Remind, Monday Folders; the list goes on and on. We know students need a variety of reminders to keep them on track, but what about tools that teach them these responsibilities for themselves. Is there a tool that already exists that teachers can show students how to become more responsible and learn how to prioritize? I believe there is: The Google Tasks Chrome Extension!

Google Tasks is a part of the Google Universe that is so simple, that it's often overlooked. With connections in Gmail and Google Calendar, Tasks offers a seamless use for your student's studying and workflow.

You may be thinking, "That's great, but my students aren't always in their calendar or checking their email when I need them to be keeping up with class assignments." That is why the Google Tasks Chrome Extension is the perfect solution.

With the Google Tasks Extension, your complete task-list is only a single click away. Like all Chrome Extensions, there is no need to switch tabs to open your calendar or mail to access your list. With easy accessibility, your students can now have a quick place to click and add to their to do list.

What about prioritizing?
Two excellent features about Google Tasks is that they allow your to rearrange your list by clicking and dragging items up and down the list. Tasks also allows you to place due dates that automatically sync to your calendar.

If your school district is a Google Apps for Education district, there isn't an easier way to teach your students (and teachers) task management and prioritizing skills than using the Google Tasks Extension.

Check it out here: Google Tasks Extension

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Using Social Media to Promote Student Voice

One of the most powerful things technology allows for our students, is the ability for student voice to be heard. Many educators who embrace the use of technology in the classroom, are still very leery of talking about social media in the classroom. The negatives of social media usage between students and teachers can be disastrous. However, if used carefully by teachers, social media can be a powerful tool to not only engage our students, but to promote their student voice as well.

DISCLAIMER: Students are not legally allowed to have a social media account if they are under 13 years old. We as educators should not encourage students to use Social Media apps before that age.

This post IS NOT suggesting that teachers connect with current students on their personal social media accounts. All discussion will be about school permitted, classroom/school accounts.

What do you mean by student voice?
To quote Bill Plamer from the Edutopia article Including Student Voice: "The term 'Student Voice' describes how students give their input to what happens within the school and classroom. Our desire is for students to know that their expertise, opinions and ideas are valued in all aspects of school life. Student Voice permeates all levels of our work together, from students participating in small group classroom conversations to students partnering in curriculum design or establishing school norms and policy."

Why promote student learning/voice with social media?
Think about the power that social media tools have brought to our society. For good or bad, people share what they are doing, buying, eating, creating, and so on. In turn others are excited to try and buy the same things that they see posts about. Making an interesting change in our world's marketplace.

What about our classroom "marketplace," the marketplace of learning? If students share their learning the way they do their other daily activities, will that encourage other students to learn? I believe it will.

As equally important, what about those students who don't add much into classroom conversation. This can give them a different outlet. Maybe they feel more comfortable expressing themselves through a creative Instagram post or Tweet about what happened in class as opposed to speaking in front of all of their classmates. This outlet allows for student voice to happen outside the classroom walls.

How is this done with Social Media?

  1. Keep it Optional: Stay away from making posts about learning mandatory. We want this to be an authentic activity for the students, something they want to do. Many may oppose or shy away at first, but it will only take a few trendsetters to get many students on board. Keeping it optional will also avoid issues with any parents who do not want their child to participate. 
  2. Open App Choice: There are so many different tools out there, and it is impossible to keep up with them all. Put the students in the driver's seat of which tool to use. Also, we know that students are into different social media tools than teachers are. Chances are if you ask a kid to post what they learned on Pinterest, they will look at you like you're crazy. 
  3. Create A Classroom Hashtag: Creating a hashtag is pretty easy, you literally just make up a phrase out of letters and numbers only and put a # in front of it! Letter casing doesn't matter, I like to capitalize each word just to make it easier to read, but you don't have to. This could even be a class activity that you allow the students to create with you! 
  4. Feel free to edit and use this poster in your class!
      Access it by clicking Here.
  5.  Give Examples: Just because your students use social media for fun, doesn't mean they will automatically know how to post in a professional manner. Give them a few examples on your classroom Twitter or Instagram account. 
This may seem like a scary step for many teachers to take, but these steps can help you get started on a path to get student involved in owning their learning. The benefits they will receive in learning how to use social media in a responsible manner will only improve their understanding of digital citizenship. Why not give it a try!?