Posts tagged ‘Technology’

New Technology Tools for the New School Year

“And now let us welcome the new year, full of things that never were.” By Rainer Maria Rilke

With the start of a new school year, I wanted to share some technology tools that may help you this year in your classroom.

  1. PDF Candy: It is a website that converts PDFs into lots of different formats!
  2. INSERTLEARNING: This chrome extension allows you to take any page on the Internet and turn it into a lesson by highlighting text and adding notes etc. You can even embed your own questions that students can answer right on the page. Check out this video to show you how it works.
  3. Kahoot! I know this one is an “oldie” but there is a feature not many teachers know or utilize which is TEAM Mode. When using team mode there is a pause after each question before a response can be submitted. During that pause, teams can discuss the answer choices then submit a response. This is a great way to build collaboration, critical thinking and communication skills within your classroom.
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Why “App Smashing” is Opening up a World of Creativity for School Kids

“What is Apple, after all? Apple is about people who think ‘outside the box,’ people who want to use computers to help them change the world, to help them create things that make a difference, and not just to get a job done.” By Steve Jobs

Guest Post by Fe Cowan from Palmetto High School, Williamston, South Carolina

Being a student in a higher-poverty district doesn’t mean pupils get a compromised education, just as wealthier students aren’t guaranteed success. How to engage students is up to teachers and while lavish budgets are never unwanted, there are many ways we can use ingenuity to give any student a more enriching experience. Of course, this assumes the teacher is also engaged and doesn’t believe classes should only involve pulling pages out of a standard workbook.

I’ve been teaching for 28 years. Currently, I teach world geography to ninth graders at Palmetto High School, which is located in Williamston, South Carolina near Greenville, South Carolina in the piedmont area of Anderson School District 1.. Even though our district is at 49% poverty while Palmetto sits at close to 60% poverty, our district administrators have put us ahead of the curve when it comes to technology. All students from primary to high school have some form of one-to-one technology. As a teacher, I wanted my students to experience the things that kids in a wealthier district would encounter and I’m delighted to say that not only is this currently the case, but my students are actually ahead of other students in some important ways.

I’ve been using “app smashing” with my students, which is a phrase coined by a teacher who found that after using iPads in the classroom for some time, one application never seemed like enough to achieve a satisfactory outcome. In app smashing, two or more apps are used to create content, delivering several positive results like getting more out of the software, improving the teaching experience, increasing student engagement, encouraging collaboration and, best of all, promoting creative thinking.

Get out of the rut….

Effective teaching mandates not being afraid to try something new in the classroom. Many teachers criticize the kids for spending so much of their time on video games and TV, which automatically turns these areas into a negative. This is the wrong attitude because finding a way to reflect student interests prevents boredom in class and can lead to more enlightened learning that will stick with pupils. And there’s the powerful side benefit of reducing or eliminating behavior problems.

Every year that I’ve taught World Geography, I’ve given an assignment in which students create a restaurant located in some other part of the world. Earlier, we used Microsoft apps like PowerPoint and Word to develop flyers and other details and a few years ago when we had iPads, I had students create commercials for their restaurant. Our school/district recently switched to Chromebooks so initially, I was concerned that I wouldn’t have the familiar applications like iMovie that had been working for me on the Apple platform. I need not have worried. After some online searching, I found WeVideo and Soundtrap for the Chromebook. One of the added bonuses of both software was the collaborative aspects that allow students to work together in groups on the same assignment, which wasn’t possible with iMovie. As educators, we are required to teach our students 21st century skills like collaboration.
As a teacher, I’ve long been committed to developing my own materials rather than using workbook sheets so I make everything my students write on in class like a crossword puzzle or something else myself. But I needed a tool to help me fulfill my longtime goal of adding music creation to my restaurant commercial assignment. This is what brought me to use app smashing.

While WeVideo has downloadable music, this didn’t support my educational goal of enhancing their learning and the innovation process. That’s why I chose Soundtrap, which is an online music and recording studio that lets my kids add music to their commercial. For example, when we study Latin America, their commercial is for an imaginary Latin American restaurant and creating Latin-style music could be part of their commercial. Soundtrap is an intuitive, easy-to-use tool but there are still students who resist or are a bit frightened of technology so I made the music part of the assignment an extra-credit project for those interested. The results were impressive. Many students jumped right in and some created music that was so good that I wasn’t sure if they made it on their own or pulled it off a video. Fortunately, they did it all themselves.

Having taught kids in wealthier and poorer districts, it was disheartening for me to see how the wealthier kids I taught were mainly using their electronic devices just for typing while my students in Palmetto are far ahead of them in app smashing – it promotes creativity and collaboration. We have another assignment coming up — we’re in Europe now — in which they’ll pretend they’re going to two concerts by different artists. They have to find tourist sites they’d visit and they can create and add music and some narration for extra credit.

I’ve been taking every opportunity to play with music with my students because along with collaboration, creativity is a 21st century skill that people need. But, I try to ground these activities in key life lessons, so I tell my students that these creative skills they’re learning are something that might earn them money, too. Knowing how to develop videos with music or develop flyers are skills that are desirable in the real world.
Like anyone, kids can be a bit apprehensive when faced with something they’ve never done before, but the process of learning and producing good results is a powerful teaching tool. Whether its app smashing, making a pretend commercial for an overseas restaurant or learning how to collaborate, the journey is enriching.

Unfortunately, some teachers resist learning new things, too, but I believe stepping out of your comfort zone not only prevents boredom for everyone but can create the pride in achievement that gives educators as well as their students a more engaged, happy life.

Digital Writing in the Classroom

“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.” By E. L. Doctorow

Digital technologies are a great way to enable communication, collaboration and help teachers design authentic tasks for their students. Here are a few of my favorite apps that you can incorporate digital writing into the classroom.

iOs Apps: (Free)

WriteReader 

Day One Journal

Pages

Paid: MyScript Nebo 

Web-based:

G Suite

Evernote

Bookcreator

 

 

Going Beyond Presentation: 5 Ways to Create Using Google Slides

“Passion is one great force that unleashes creativity, because if you’re passionate about something, then you’re more willing to take risks.” By Yo-Yo Ma

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Often times educators use Google Slides to present information but you can do so much more with Google slides. Here are ten ways to use Google Slides where students can be creative.

  1. Comic Strips: Have students create comic strips to show what they know or their creativity by using Google Slides. To create a comic strip:
    • Background: Add a background by right clicking and changing color or add an image as a background. (If you add an image, remember to send it to the back)
    • Characters: Insert images and/or objects (use PNG’s for their transparency)
    • Speech Bubbles: Add speech or though bubbles by inserting shapes and then callouts. (Double click on bubble to add text)
    • Animations: Use this feature to add or take away characters or objects to the slides.
    • Transitions: Use this feature to make it feel like you are moving from one slide to the next. (Click on the slide and then change transition)
    • Word Art: Use this feature to add excitement and onomatopoeia
  2. Creating books: Have students create story books to show what they know about a topic. Once they complete it they can publish it for an authentic audience. There are lots of ways you can do this such as publish to the web, as a pdf or print and bind it. You can also use screencastify extensions and have the students record themselves reading it which the creates a library of audible books. You can also add an extra challenge by having students create chose their own adventure too.
  3. Interactive Journal: Create an interactive journal that students can use when incorporating a self paced learning experience. It is a great way to hold students accountable along with making sure they master the content. To create an interactive journal in slides.
    • Start by clicking on a new slide show
    • Click on file and go to page set up
    • Customize the sizing to 8 x 9.75 inches (This makes slides look like a journal page)
    • Then add your content you want the students to complete and the questions/tasks you want them to complete.
    • Tip: Force students to make a copy by changing the url from edit to copy.
  4. Stop-Motion Animation: Have students create stop-motion animation movies. To do this with Google slides use the take a photo feature. Then publish to the web with the auto-advance feature.
  5. Vocabulary Notecards: Have students create their own vocabulary note cards. Set the criteria expectations and then allow them to peer review others notecards for feedback.
    • Students define vocabulary words
    • Insert images to help them remember the word
    • Students can change slide background color to correspond to topic or unit.

Great sites for creative common images to use for the above ideas: 

https://openclipart.org

https://thenounproject.com 

http://www.publicdomainpictures.net

 

 

 

Assessing Your Technology Integration

“The technology itself is not transformative. It’s the school, the pedagogy, that is transformative.” – Tanya Byron

I am in schools and classrooms daily and too often I see the misuse of how technology should be used. Often times I hear Principals or teachers sat, yes we are using technology, see how this teacher is using ______ (fill in blank with website or tool) but the students are not using anything. Or I see technology beginning used as – lack of a better term – “babysitter”. They will tell me how they use Dreambox or Compass Learning etc as a station or something students can do after they finish their classwork.

tech

Technology should be used to transform the classroom and school to allow fo authentic, real world application. Technology should be supporting the curriculum goals, and helping the students to effectively reach their learning goals.

Here are some questions to help you asses yourself to see how you or your school are integrating technology. Rate yourself by using the scale, zero we don’t do this or 5 we do this with fidelity, in all _______ subjects (if you are a teacher) or classrooms (if you have a school perspective).

  1. Are digital resources being utilized with purpose?
  2. Are teachers/administration modeling for students/teachers using transformative technology in their classroom/school?
  3. Do assignments provide opportunities for creativity and critical thinking?
  4. Do students own their own learning? Do they have choice in what tool they use or product they create?
  5. Do students use technology to create authentic products that are for authentic audiences to show their understanding of learning outcomes?

20 – 25 Score: You are showing mastery with using technology to transform learning. Ask yourself, “How can I contribute in helping others integrate technology to transform learning?” Use this as your next step to empower others.

10 – 20 Score: You are on your way with using technology to transform learning. Look at your lowest score for the questions and ask yourself what can I do to make this better?

0 – 10 Score: You are starting your journey in implementing technology into your school or classroom. Take a look at the first question and see how you can improve in this area. If you did well on this question, then look at the next question as the question go in order of transformation. Only select one question to improve upon to not overwhelm yourself or anyone at your school.

Other resources and ideas to help you integrate technology into your classroom:

Previous blog posts on integrating technology

The 4 Stages of EdTech – The SAMR Model for Technology Integration

TPACK 

Creating Google Slide Templates

“Design is how you make your first impression with your consumers. Make sure it is a lasting one.” By Jay Samit

Tired of using the same old templates. Why not create your own! Below I give you step by step directions so you can create your own Google Slide templates in only a few minutes. Make them for your classroom, meetings or professional developments!

  1. Start by opening a new Google presentation and choose the “Simple Light” template.
  2. Decide what image/design you want for your template. For example, I am creating a template for a Google Training I am doing; so I am going to use the colors of Google as my background!
    • Tip: I like creating my images/designs in Google Drawing as it is FREE. Once I finish my image/design then I click on File, Download As, PNG. I can then later upload the image for my background.
  3. In your Google Slide template, click on View and then “Master”.
  4. Then click on rename at the top of the slide and name it based on what fits best for you. 
  5. Next click on the master slide and background. Here you can choose your color or upload the background you created from Google Drawing.
    • Tip: If you would like to change the fonts, this is a good time to do it because you will only have to change it in the Master slide verse changing each slide.
  6. To exit, click on the X in the top right corner and you are done!!

My Master Google Slide Template

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Creating a F2F Self-Paced Professional Learning Experience

“Being a student is easy. Learning requires actual work.” by William Crawford

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Recently my team and I challenged ourselves to create a face to face, self-paced professional learning experience. Why? For two reasons, we wanted to show how we take risks, like we are asking of the educators we support and also because from what we knew it had never been done before yet it mirrors a personalized learning classroom.

We first decided on what our objectives would be for the learning experience; as this allowed for us to backwards design our content. Our objectives were:

  • Teachers would be able to gain knowledge about personalized learning environments through active learning
  • Teachers would be able to identify the differences between game-based learning, gamification and how they can also fit together through a modeled experience.

We then designed content such as the why behind game based learning and gamification. After we finished all the content pieces we went back and added the fun! Our theme was “Let the Games Begin…” and we created different missions that highlighted our different content objectives. We created a Hyperdoc to host our content into missions. Each mission allowed participants to earn points (and level up) which created the gamification portion of the learning experience. Our missions were: 

Mission 1: Entering the UnKnown – During this time they learned how the learning experience was set up and what to expect. They also completed a self assessment to see what type of gamer they were.

Mission 2: Understanding the Why: During this mission the participants learned about game based and gamification learning.

Mission 3: Mission Control Station: During this mission, participants experienced four different game based learning activities which had content about personalized learning.

Mission 4: Transformation: During this mission the participants self reflected on how they could use the things they learned and apply it to their classroom.

We transformed the room into the different mission stations with balloons and signs to guide them. We played mission control music throughout the professional learning experience as we facilitated if there was any questions.

The participants LOVED the training, as we did as well. It was a lot of front loading but during the training it was smooth sailing! We will do this again but we will make a few tweaks. One tweak would be during mission three, some of the games would also review the content from mission two verse only being personalized learning content. The second tweak would be to set up mission two away from the music because it was hard for the participants without ear-buds to hear the video content.

We look forward to making more self paced, professional learning experiences and we hope you do as well. It not only models what you want to see in the classroom but it also allows participants to critical thinking, communicate, collaborate and self-reflect.

 

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