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!?

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.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Digital Tools for Flipping Your Classroom

This post originally appeared on The FETC: Future of EdTech Insiders Blog

At FETC, I was delighted to attend a session by high school foreign language teacher Rachelle Dene Poth titled, Flipping Classrooms: Trading Spaces and Places Digital Tools and Ideas to Empower Students. During the session Rachelle gave attendees several resources for flipping learning for students.
However, before those digital tools were given, Ms. Poth set the stage for the why she wanted flipped learning for her students. She explained that she had a need to connect students to her classroom resources no matter their location. If a student is absent or forgets a textbook at school, they can still access the content/resources to stay current with the students in class.
Another aspect of Rachelle’s presentation was explaining the importance of putting the students in the driver’s seat. She gave examples of how she has students create their own presentations, quizzes, infographics, and more. Ms. Poth even discussed the benefits of using these student made digital projects as resources for other students to learn from. This made me think of the SAMR model and how transformative learning can be for our students when they have the flexibility to choose a tool that lets them display or explain their thinking. Rachelle’s suggestion for this was to take small steps: “pick a class to try something with, set parameters and have students create their own.”
Rachelle had many wonderful tools to share. As you look over the following list, it is important to remember to start small. Pick one or two that sound interesting, and try them out. It is easy to get overwhelmed with all of the tools out there, so take small steps for success. Ms. Poth’s presentation and handouts will also be linked in this article as well.
Now, on to the tools!
Tes Teach with Blendspace: A building tool that allows teachers to curate content for lesson delivery packages. Websites, powerpoints, Google Docs, YouTube Videos, and more all in one convenient location for your students. All of these resources can inserted right through the Blendspace search bar, or connecting your own accounts. Simple quizzes can also be created. No more multiple tabs from several links, just one clean lesson flow. The lessons can be shared several ways: a classroom in Blendspace, Google Classroom, or any other method of link sharing. Works on all devices.
Today’s Meet: A backchannel tool that allows for written conversations between teachers and students. The beauty of this tool is that it allows for a full transcript to be saved and printed. This helps keep a log of everything that was discussed in the session. An excellent tool for teachers to use during virtual office hours for students.
QuizizzSimilar to Kahoot, quizizz is a fun competitive way for students to take a quiz. In Quizizz, quiz questions are actually on the screen of the device, not just the screen in the front of the room. This allows for a quiz to be a homework assignment as well. As discussed above, having students create a Quizizz themselves based off of the content in your classroom can be a great way where students can be creators not just consumers with their devices.
Nearpod: A lesson delivery system that gives the teacher control of the student’s screen. Think of sharing a Powerpoint file or Google Slide with your students, but being in control of when the slides change on their screen. Nearpod also allows for interactive questioning, where student answers can be anonymously shared with classmates.
Formative: A student response system allows for multiple question types to be asked. Students can answer questions by multiple choice, drawing, short answer, and more.
Educreations & Explain Everything: Two very similar student explanation tools. Just as their titles imply, students create (by hand or typing) and record their voice to explain their thinking. These can be powerful tools for meta-cognition in and out of the classroom.
EdPuzzle: A student response video tool that allows teachers to bring in YouTube or other videos and add questions to them. These questions are added during the video so as the student watches, it will pause and ask the question.
Buncee: A presentation tool with creative interactive elements. Buncee allows you to add animated characters, videos, and voice over to each slide that you are working on. As with Educreations/Explain Everything, a child can use the voice over to explain the content that they place on each slide.
There were other resources shared by Ms. Poth at the workshop and below you will find the links for them. She is also on twitter, and is well worth the follow! @rdene915