Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Introducing SAMR: Planning & Reflecting Classroom Technology Usage

As the 2017 school year comes to an end, its a time of reflection for classroom teachers. A mixture of projects, activities, and events from August to May come to mind. Hopefully for most teachers and students remembering an engaging activity that utilized technology in the classroom is part of that mixture.

During this reflection, what tool do teachers have to help them reflect upon this tech usage? The answer to that question: The SAMR Instructional Model. The SAMR Model points out the 4 categories of how technology can be utilized for students. The interesting aspect of this model, is that it differs from other educational criteria tools. The "high level" of SAMR, does not equate to a DOK level 4 or the highest level of Bloom's. Instead, the model brings an awareness that there are different levels of how technology can be used to support learning in the classroom.

The following presentation is a simple introduction to the SAMR Model that I was able to present to a group of educators. There is a task card activity included to practice identifying these levels. Feel free to share with your fellow educators.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Facilitate Online Discussions with Backchannel Tools

There are many Learning Management Systems out there, such as Google Classroom and Seesaw, that allow teachers to post information and questions. In return, students can make comments when prompted by the teacher. While this can be an engaging piece, it still doesn't feel very conversational. This is where using a Backchannel chat can be used facilitate discussions between your students either in the classroom or from a distance.

I know what you may be thinking... "Did he just say chat? As in a chat-room?" Yes chat rooms can have negative connotations with them, but when used correctly in an educational setting, they can be a safe discussion alternative. Two backchannel sites that I am going to suggest allow the teacher to create a virtual room that can only be accessed with a specific link shared by a teacher. This means that you have total control of who has access, keeping your students safe.

Why should I try a backchannel discussion with my students?
First and foremost I am not saying that these discussions should replace verbal discussions you have with your students. Giving students the opportunity to collect their thoughts and speak them verbally is a skill that is different then typing them out on a screen. However, occasionally using a backchannel has an advantage as well. These virtual rooms allow a teacher to save/print the conversations had with students. This gives the teacher a record of student participation within a content conversation, as well as leaves a record of the students understanding.

There are many backchannel sites out there, but two that I have used are TodaysMeet and Chatzy.

TodaysMeet is an easy to set up and use virtual chat room geared for classroom usage. After logging in, which it does allow you to login with Google, you are sent to a simple dashboard to set up as many rooms as you like.

After setting your room up, all you need to do is share the link with your students, and your class is ready to have a discussion. At the end of your discussion, you may save/print the transcript.

Chatzy doesn't advertise itself as an education site quite as much as TodaysMeet, however several of it's safety features make it great to use in your classroom.

You can add a password to the chat along with allowing or blocking several features for users. Chatzy also allows them to embed YouTube Videos or Internet Images if they wish. This could allow for some creative answers. These are features that could be turned on or off.

The beauty in these and other backchannel tools is the simplicity to them. These tools allow the students to focus on the conversation and not get too wrapped up in the bells and whistles that they are used to seeing in social media.

If you have a backchannel that you like to use, please add it to the comments below!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Presentation Tools that Ignite Student Creativity

I am an educator who is constantly in search for tools that promote student creation over student consumption. For years PowerPoint, Prezi, and Google Slides have been the "go to" presentation tools that allow for some student creation in the classroom. At times, many teachers and students look for something different to use, something a little more engaging for their audience.

There are many free online presentation tools out there, but I am going to highlight a couple that your students can use to create with.

Adobe Spark
Example of a Adobe Spark Web Story
Spark offers 3 different presentation types: Social Media Posts, Web Stories (similar to a PowerPoint), and Videos. All three types are simple for students to use. Students can search for media and information without having to leave the application. This allows for a more efficient presentation development time. At the end of the presentation, all of the photos are automatically cited. For students wanting a professional looking product, Adobe Spark is an amazing option.

Buncee Edu

Buncee is a fun and simple tool for students to create engaging presentations. The platform is set up like PowerPoint/Google Slides but caters to kids more creative side. As with Adobe Spark, backgrounds, pictures, animations, stamps, and several other media types can all be searched and found within the app.

Buncee's click, drag, and search options are simple to use for all learners.