6 Digital Tools To Engage Students

 Original Post Published on Teach Thought May 22, 2017, few updates added

 

Are you looking for some new ways to get students engaged this school year?

Here are 6 tools that I had found to be quite helpful as this school year winds down. More importantly, these are also some of the student favorites, in no particular order.

 

Flipgrid

Flipgrid is another video response tool that offers ways for students and teachers to interact with a variety of discussion topics. You start by creating a “grid” and then adding a “topic.” There have been some major updates and new features added to Flipgrid this summer. Longer recording length, stickers, gifs, integrations and more. Be sure to check it out!

A grid in my case is one of my Spanish classes.  Students go to the grid to see new topics which are posted for discussion and then record a response and even reply to classmates.

I have used Flipgrid as a way for students to reflect on their project-based learning, and for basic speaking assessments with my Spanish 1 and 2 students, where I can listen to their pronunciation and provide feedback. Flipgrid is also a way to connect students with other classrooms or even professionals in different fields, to connect with real-world applications of the content material.

Some additional features include the ability to give a rating to the response, read the transcript, provide written feedback which can then be emailed to each respondent, as long as an email address has been provided.

When setting up the topic, there are options for recording a video prompt, adding additional details in writing, and then customizing the topic based on whether or not other people can see the responses. You can freeze a topic, so new responses cannot be recorded but all prior responses can be viewed.

There are other features such as tracking the number of views, likes, and comments. Flipgrid is available on Chromebooks, iOS and Android devices and can also be embedded into an LMS or other websites. It is another tool that is easy to set up and might just be what you are looking for, especially at the end of the year,  to have students provide feedback on the course, to offer some information to help with the summer reflection.

 

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Recap 2.0

Recap 2.0 is a Question and Answer platform available on Chromebooks, iPads, iPhones and Android devices, which can be implemented right away and is easy to use. Recap enables teachers and students to ask questions, share a reflection, and provides a comfortable way for students to communicate their thoughts. Recap also had many new updates this summer and is a great way to spark curiosity in students and to help students learn ways of asking questions and seeking more independent learning.

Students can submit questions and receive direct feedback from the teacher, parents can receive feedback by email through Recap, and there are many other features available for assessment and classroom management. Recently Recap added another feature to its platform by introducing ‘Journeys.’

In a Recap Journey, teachers create a multi-step path for students. It starts with a 60-second video and then the learning path, which leads to more independent learning and can also be a great way to differentiate instruction. As an end to the “Journey”, students can share their information or create a presentation.

In my experience with the Journeys, I had students explore Spanish-speaking countries and included different links for them to explore more based on their own interests.

It was very easy to create my own Journey and there are also many Journeys available to try through the Recap Discover.

2016 Pioneer Badge

Kahoot!

By now, you’ve likely heard of Kahoot! Especially last week when CHALLENGES came out after a period of Beta testing following discussions at ISTE in San Antonio. I was fortunate to be one of the testers and Challenges are great for having students practice the content and even for fun with family and friends.

Kahoot! is great for assessments and having a game based learning element added to your classroom. It can even be used for professional development or family fun. Kahoot! offers many quizzes in the public library which can be duplicated and then edited to make your own.

When playing, it also has added new features for auto advancing, playing in ” ghost mode ” which enables players to try and beat their first score. ‘Jumble,’ which is one of the most recent additions has proved to be a lot of fun and very beneficial for learning.

In Jumble, you create a question and each of the four colored tiles becomes part of the response. When the question appears on the board, the squares on the board are shown but the order is “jumbled.” Players must then slide the squares into the right order to either spell the word, properly form the sentence, or answer the question.

As a foreign language teacher, this has been quite beneficial for having students practice their spelling as well as for reinforcing proper word order for sentence structure in Spanish. Playing with Jumble mode has livened up the classroom because it is something different to try and the students are always excited about trying new things.

Setting up a game played in Jumble mode, or encouraging students to create games as a review, will add to classroom resources and be more authentic practice for the students.

Buncee

Buncee is a multimedia presentation tool which can be used to create interactive presentations, cards, signs and other engaging visuals.  (see recent post on new Buncee features, and look into Buncee Classroom)

There are many new items added to their library and some additional features, including the ability to use it for assessment. I have enjoyed testing out Buncee with my students. It is easy to create with Buncee, you can add multiple items o n to the canvas and move them around very easily. Teachers can create lessons with assessments through the classroom edition.

But what is most exciting about Buncee is that it offers many ways for students to be creative and more engaged in learning by creating something authentic, as there are thousands of items that you can add to bring it to life and make it your own.

Students can design Buncees for any class and will have the opportunity to create more authentic work which represents what they can do with the language material we have covered. Creating will be a lot of fun for students and teachers. And great for doing a Twitter Chat too! Lots of great templates.

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Telegraph

Telegraph is a very easy site to publish a stand-alone web page, which can be used to create a sign, a newsletter, a journal entry, or anything as an alternative format to pen and paper or using a Word or Google Document.

It is simple to use: type in the website, add a title to it, your name and add some pictures or links to other websites and once you’re finished, you publish it and it provides you with a web address. You can easily share that link with anyone.

My students created a site to tell about a favorite trip, one to talk about sports and favorite athletes, and another some even made Mother’s Day pages and then printed them. If you’re looking for a way to have students practice simple writing skills and do so in a more digital way, I’d recommend trying Telegraph. No log-in is required and it’s very easy to use.

Quizizz

Quizziz is a fun assessment tool that continues to add more features, which makes obtaining feedback from students and providing feedback to them much easier. Some of the newer features include receiving a daily report of the Quizizz summary and being able to send parents the results of a student’s Quizizz game. (See new Quizizz features)

The daily summary report shows the number of Quizizz games used, number of responses, percentage correct as well as additional information. It’s nice to be able to have that data available so quickly. There is also the option to email the data directly to parents, which is great especially for communicating student progress and in a timely manner.

Quizizz is another tool which is easy to implement, you simply create your own by adding your own questions or search from the public Quizizz available and drag in the questions you want and then edit them according to your preferences.

Other benefits include the ability to either play it live or assign it as “practice” or homework. You can store your Quizizz games into Collections to find them easily, quickly build games and it has a much improved UI, and it was pretty good to begin with.

And if you create the Quizizz and do not have enough time for students to finish, no worries because when students use the same login and pin number, they can pick up right where they left off in the game.

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CoSpacesEdu

CoSpacesEdu: Opening up new learning worlds 

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I have always been a fan of technology and any time I learn about a new tool, I go straight to the computer if time allows, create an account and start trying to figure it out on my own.  Or if I don’t have time, I will add it to my seemingly never-ending list of tools that I want to check out. Last summer, I came across CoSpaces. I had no idea what to expect other than knowing that the purpose was for creating and experiencing a virtual learning environment. I created an account, looked at the gallery of what was available, and tried to figure out exactly how to create my own 3D space.

I am the type of learner who would rather struggle and figure things out on my own first. I think it is better as a teacher, to work through those struggles so that we can better help our students. If I’ve exhausted all of my efforts, then I will look for a help section or connect with other educators that I know have experience using the tool. Sometimes even simply posting a question on Twitter, or searching YouTube for helpful videos, will give the answers that I need. However with CoSpaces, I was determined to work through it on my own because as soon as I started trying it, I knew right away that it was something I would want to use in my new STEAM Emerging Technology course for the upcoming school year. And while I greatly enjoy  learning from the students, I also enjoy being there to watch the student responses as they begin to figure things out on their own and have those “aha” moments when they realize that they’ve uncovered exactly how to do something. Better yet is when they share this knowledge with their peers and also teach me new things to do with what we are working on.

 

My plans for using CoSpacesEdu were uncertain at the time, because I knew virtual reality was a topic that I wanted to cover in my class. My course is focused on STEAM and Emerging Tech. I had plans to help students develop some vital technology skills, starting with learning about digital citizenship and then adding on new tech skills as we progressed.  I knew that many students did not have much experience creating with anything other than Microsoft Word or PowerPoint, if even these two. I also wanted to know the different possibilities for using CoSpaces in the classroom, so I spent some time looking at the gallery, I joined the community on Facebook and reached out to the CoSpaces team to see what additional information I could find. But while doing all of this I did manage to create my own project in which I added many random items and had a lot of fun creating. I was truly amazed at what I was able to do within my own “space”. The ideas started flowing for how I could use this in my STEAM course and also with my foreign language classes. I could foresee students who had to create items such as biomes or do a book report, or a science project using CoSpaces as a way to represent these by building their own space and environment to represent the story they were trying to recreate or to tell. Talk about creativity, imagination, innovation and critical thinking, and more all in one tool.

 

As with my other projects this year with my STEAM course, I wanted to find a way to connect using this tool for our class with a learning target or project for another class. There are so many possibilities. While waiting for some feedback, I decided to offer a few different options for students to choose from after looking through the gallery. Consulting a friend of mine who is outstanding in the field of AR/VR, Jaime Donally, (@JaimeDonally) who gave me some really fantastic ideas for creating with CoSpaces. I was also fortunate to have a conversation with Manuela, who provided a lot of insight into the new features that CoSpaces would be offering. There are updates sent regularly with details about the new features and links to sample projects and helpful videos.  

So if you have not yet checked out CoSpacesEdu, I recommend that you do because I guarantee that you will find it has applicability for something in your classroom. And it is a tool that will further engage students in their learning. Once they have created their own project, they can then immerse themselves in their own environment with the use of the app on the iPad or installing it on their phone and having a headset to walk through their own environment. How cool is that!

 

So for our first project in STEAM, I asked students to create three scenes in which they either told a story about a TV show, a movie or a book that they had read, or create a different type of a living space, or come up with their own focus, as long as they included the required number of elements into their project. Once they were finished, I had them share their link on a Padlet, so that all projects could be accessible and that students could take turns walking through each other’s environment. The students were excited and amazed at what they were doing. While looking at the gallery and playing some of the games were fun, being able to create their own space, walk through it and explore on their own was way better, according to several of my students.

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There are some new features with CoSpaces and I’m sure the changes will continue to come. I recommend that you check it out and think about something that you may be teaching in your class or a project coming up in which students could create a virtual space. Using CoSpaces will really open up your learning environment and immerse students in authentic experiences, increase student engagement and I believe add to motivation the students have for learning and taking some risks and being up to the challenge of figuring out exactly how things work. And hopefully the next time they have project rather than wanting to create in PowerPoint or with Google Slides, they will think of CoSpaces Edu as the perfect way to represent what they know and can do with the material

Building Skills with App Smashing: Buncee, Padlet and now new Buncee Boards!!

Buncee

There are a lot of great digital tools that promote student creativity and choice and give students an opportunity to learn about each other in the process. Two tools that have worked well together for this purpose are Buncee and Padlet. Using these together promotes student creativity, provides more authentic and meaningful ways for students to share backgrounds and introduce themselves to classmates. It builds digital citizenship and technology skills by teaching students how to interact in a virtual space. It promotes communication and collaboration through the sharing of projects and opens the ability to engage in conversation through the commenting feature on Padlet.

 

When students start the school year, learning about classroom procedures and becoming familiar with their peers are important activities. Teachers go about these procedures in different ways, some even choosing to dive right into the content material and to open up opportunities for these typical procedures on a daily basis. The past few years I have tried to get students to interact more at the start of the year, share who they are, their experiences, their interests and have them set some goals as well. I try to do so with variety of icebreakers or other activities like surveys or classroom games to get the conversations started. However, this year I plan to have students share their information by creating a visual representation. Students will be able to choose from the library of thousands of images, props, icons, animations and more in Buncee to tell their story. The requirement will be that they use very little in terms of text and rather choose the images, animations and even videos to tell their story. I also hope that it creates a way for students to share some learning goals they may have or things they wish their teacher knew.

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Before the advancements in technology and the increase in types and number of tools available, sharing these creations required either printing or sending through email or storing on a flash drive. But with collaborative tools such as Padlet, it has been very simple to not only share the information quickly but to embed a Buncee project right onto the Padlet so it is fully visible to everyone instantly. By doing this, students have gained new knowledge of technology, developed peer relationships, teachers learn about the students, the students will learn about each other, and it will start the conversations going. By using imagery rather than so many words, students will be able to see some commonalities in the classroom which will help to drive the development of a classroom culture.

Besides the learning potential in this, I think it is a lot of fun and highly engaging for students to create and to see what their classmates have created. I would not be setting a good example if I myself did not create a Buncee and add it into the group. Students need to learn about their teachers as much as the teachers need to learn about the students. I’ve heard the quote and read the quote of Teddy Roosevelt many times “Children do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  This couldn’t be truer, so we need to learn about our students and show that we care about them and their success.

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Combining Buncee and Padlet

Throughout this app smashing (when two tools are used in conjunction to create and present a product), students enhance their skills in many areas. In terms of the ISTE Student Standards, all seven are addressed in completing these activities. The main one addressed is 6, Creative Communicator. Students have a choice and their voice is represented in creating their Buncee. But in the process of creating, they become Global Collaborators because by posting it on Padlet, others can view their work and comment. They are Empowered Learners because they have choice and voice in their learning experiences. Computational Thinkers because they are deciding how to present the information in the Buncee, Innovative designers choosing from the thousands of features available in the library to put into their own creation. Digital Citizens because they are learning to respect others’ work and to publish and post responsibly. For some students, this will be the first time they are really interacting with digital tools and so it will be perhaps a big learning curve. However, everyone will be doing the same thing and there will be comfort in this which will help student confidence to increase. I promote student empowerment and it will be a good way to set up the classroom culture and to help students gain some new skills moving forward.

FETCpresentation

New Buncee Boards! Announced today!

Today is an exciting day for Buncee and the many users of Buncee. The newest feature, Buncee boards, provide a great way to gather resources in one place, open up communication and collaboration, and share ideas with others in and out of the classroom. There are a lot of great ideas for using #BunceeBoards in the classroom, so be sure to check out this post: 10 ways to use Buncee Boards to see some of the ways Buncee Boards can be used in the classroom. There are a lof of great ways to use these in the classroom, and even better, students can have fun sharing, commenting and posting reactions to the boards.

There are many possibilities for using Buncee in the classroom and the nice thing about it, the best thing about it, is that it promotes choice and authentic creations for students and teachers and anyone. It is a skill that students can learn and can share with their families which will open up more learning opportunities beyond the school setting and move it into the community and beyond.

 

Storytelling with Kidblog

Previously Published on MARCH 9, 2017   Kidblog

hands-hand-book-readingBlogging helps develop critical skills students need. In addition to working on necessary skills for communication and mastering grammar, blogging boosts creativity, increases confidence in expressing thoughts and ideas, and encourages authenticity when students write with purpose. Blogging for increased social interaction in the classroom will also lead to a more positive learning environment and help students develop critical peer relationships and collaboration skills.

The prompts

I have focused on transforming my classroom from “teacher centered” to “student-centered” and, as a result, created a student-driven learning environment. Moving the direction of your classroom in this way can help students emerge from learners to leaders and become more aware of their strengths and weaknesses in writing. Writing prompts are often discouraged in blogging – hindering student creativity. However, there are ways to design prompts that increase student engagement, lead to more authentic and meaningful learning, and provide an opportunity for students to be in charge of their learning.

It is important to offer a varietyof prompts to reinforce student choice and voice in the classroom. Additionally, prompts that include a picture lead to a variety of creative and authentic responses, while also giving students ownership in learning. Not to mention, it is a fun way to practice their writing skills.

Something new I tried this year, in an effort to open up more options for student choice and authentic and meaningful learning, was to design a “let’s tell a story” prompt. My goal was to help students build their vocabulary and refine their writing skills by learning and applying new words outside of our textbook chapter theme. To do this, students in Spanish II read a short Spanish book and while reading, they were tasked with creating a list of unfamiliar vocabulary words in each chapter. These lists would become their personal “dictionary” of (ideally) 50 – 60 words. I wanted them to select words that they did not understand and incorporate these words within their stories. This provided an authentic method for the students to create with the language and practice their writing skills.

Co-creating a story

I decided to have students participate in writing a collaborative story. Using a theme similar to the reader, which was a story involving a student who solved a crime and helped to capture a thief, each student was to select a certain number of their words, and create a story of their own. Once a story had been created, we selected another student to continue the story using different words from their vocabulary “bank”. In the process, I would read each of the posts, provide feedback and keep my own lists of some of the most commonly selected words, so that I could later use these additional words for building vocabulary.

This was a fun way for students to collaborate with their peers and make learning more meaningful through their own choice and voice. It enabled students to work together, to provide support and to keep each other focused on the writing task. After all, collaborative skills are so important, especially for building vital classroom relationships and social interactions.

Overall, this activity was an engaging way for students to practice the language, increase opportunities to show their language skills, all while being the main driver in their learning. Giving students the chance to demonstrate what they know, in their own way, amplifies their learning and connects them with the subject content in a more personalized, meaningful way.

Kidblog

Wrong about the value of Social Media: Snapchat!

 

SNAPAs part of my ongoing realization that there is a lot of value in social media, especially for education, I had to acknowledge that Snapchat has more to offer than what I originally thought. I will be honest, I never really understood how Snapchat worked and thought it was something that only teenagers used, offering little more than fast  disappearing messages with funny pictures. I did not try to find anything out about it at all. I did not have an account or want one (same story as all of those other accounts I now have), but a friend (Chris Stengel) encouraged me to create an account so that he could send me some snaps or whatever they’re called.

I tried to give it some effort and explore. Fortunately because I learned about Voxer, through Facebook (this is rough), I joined a Snapchat! team through Voxer  (thank you Christy Cate). The team was set up to help others learn about using Snapchat, but I was still having difficulty. I could figure out how to take pictures and how to add on to them but I struggled with how to add contacts, open messages and reply. I even asked some of my students to help me out earlier this year, and maybe it was something with my phone, it is an Android which causes people to gasp sometimes, but even the students at one point could not point me in the right direction.

 

It was not until I learned about “book snaps” that I could see what a fun tool this could be in the educational world. When it comes to homework or practice, finding ways for students to do something that is authentic, fun and engaging can be challenging. Even though social media tools can be considered a distraction, especially in the classroom, when we find unique ways to use them for educational purposes, it makes a tremendous difference. The most interesting way I found was to use #booksnaps a la Tara Martin. (@taramartinedu) When I learned of this use I thought it was really quite cool, what a fun way to have students share their takeaways, find a quote or share anything while reading and then add some kind of a note or text to it and then share it with the rest of the class. Each student adding their own personal touch and using something that can make their learning more meaningful because it is connecting a tool they are familiar with and giving them the opportunity to use it for education and to have fun learning. A great way for teachers to learn more about their students based on each students’ booksnaps. (I got some #booksnaps with #spanishsnaps Spanish Booksnaps )

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Another great resource is the book Social Leadia by Jennifer Casa Todd (@jcasatodd) in which she shares different ways to use Snapchat in the classroom. Having these tools available, following the #booksnaps on Twitter and reading the ideas shared by Jennifer about integrating social media into the classroom and how to do so, expands the ways for students and teachers to learn.

I enjoy trying these tools, especially when I realize that I was so wrong about the value of them. As for Snapchat, I was quite pleased with myself when I did my first book snap and shared it with Rodney Turner (@techyturner) who I met through social media (Facebook and Voxer), and connected through those accounts that I had no interest in creating but I’m so thankful that I have today. My friends Mandy Froehlich (@Froehlichm) and Tisha Richmond (@Tishrich) have been encouraging me to join in the Sing Off with our Snapchat group. However, I am not much of a singer, so I have enjoyed recording random videos and changing the sound of my voice. But I have enjoyed listening to Rodney, Mandy and Tisha sing great songs and maybe, I might try it soon since I have been pretty actively using Snapchat for 24 hours as of now. I would rather sing with friends, Jaime Donally (@JaimeDonally) and Claudio Zavala (@ClaudioZavalaJr) with the #singasong on Flipgrid to have their support like at ISTE, but I may try the Snapchat Sing Off soon.

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#singasong

 

So once again I was wrong about social media. Now I see some of the ways that these tools can be brought into the classroom to expand learning opportunities for students and teachers, and really open up authentic ways for students to show what they know and can do with the material they are learning.

If you want some ideas for using Snapchat, check out Twitter, yes I said Twitter, another social media platform and the hashtag #booksnaps to see some great ideas and have some fun. Why not start the year having students use Snapchat to introduce themselves? Or share a fun fact or summer experience using Snapchat! I still have a lot to learn!

And for the record, they got me to sing, inspiration from their singing and the help of Lady Gaga, Sugarland, Pearl Jam, oh goodness 🙂 Thankfully the videos disappear….right?

 

And finally Periscope – up next!

 

3 Ways to Implement Blended Learning In The Classroom

 

3 Ways to Implement Blended Learning In The Classroom

By Rachelle Dene Poth

Best practices for blending or flipping your classroom are hot topics of discussion in education today. Much of the discussion focuses on finding clear definitions of what these terms mean and the benefit to classrooms.

There are many resources and ways to educate yourself on this topic available including a diverse selection of books and blogs (such as the book Blended by Michael B. Horn and Heather Staker, and of course the Getting Smart blog) related to the topic, reaching out to colleagues or members of your PLN or attending conferences such as FETC, ISTE, state edtech conferences, edcamps and other professional development experiences.

All of these are great for finding examples, vignettes, templates, suggested tools and ideas. But even with all of these options, sometimes it is more valuable to take a risk and try something out on your own. The outcomes will not always be the same for each teacher, classroom or student, but it’s at least worth a try.

There are different models for implementing blended learning, and the method used will vary depending on your classroom. I recommend starting with one method–if you see positive effects, that you have more time to collaborate in class and your students are more engaged then continue. If not, then use this opportunity as a way to learn more about your students and their needs. As teachers, we need to constantly reflect on our methods and encourage self-assessment with our students, all part of learning and growing together. Getting started can take some risk and exploration, and definitely time.

Here are some different ways to use technology to “blend” or “flip” learning that in my experience have worked well. These tools can offer innovative or creative learning methods in your classroom, opening up the time and space for where and when the learning occurs.

1. Flipping and Blending with Videos

In the past when I heard “flipped classroom” I thought that meant simply assigning a video for students to watch. It can be, as it was originally considered the traditional way of flipping the classroom, but there has to be follow-up, accountability and more than just simply assigning a video. How will we know what the students gained from the experience?

The benefit of having students watch a video outside of class is that it reserves the class time for discussion and peer collaboration, and moves the teacher to more of a facilitator in the classroom. There are video tools such as EDpuzzle and PlayPosit, through which students interact with the video.

By responding to questions throughout, they are held accountable for the material and can show what they are learning. The teacher has instant feedback and can better understand how the students are learning and provide more personalized instruction. Either of these tools are great for the teacher to create lessons, but also provide the opportunity for students to create lessons that can be shared with other students.

In my experience, these tools have both provided a lot of authentic learning, problem-solving, critical thinking and collaboration. More importantly, they create an opportunity for students to move from learners to leaders, and from consumers to creators in the classroom. This is one of our main goals as teachers–to provide opportunities which empower students to take more control and drive their own learning. These leadership opportunities also help the students to feel valued because of the work that they are doing. There are sample lessons or “bulbs” available, so try one of from the library, and see how it works in your classroom.

2. Game Based Learning and “Practice” as Homework Alternatives

Perhaps you want students to simply play a game or have some practice beyond the school day. There are lots of options available, some of which enable students to create and share their games as well.

A few of these that you are probably familiar with are Kahoot, Quizizz and Quizlet. Creating a game with any of these three apps is simple. There are many public games and Quizlet flashcards available to choose from, and it is simple to create your own or for students to create something to share with the class. You can use these to differentiate homework and have students create something more personalized and beneficial for their own learning, and then share these new resources with other students and classes.

It’s another great opportunity to understand student needs because of the types of questions they design and the vocabulary they choose to include. Another bonus is that using something like Quizizz means students can complete it anywhere.

3. Discussion Beyond the School Day and Space

There are tools available for having students brainstorm, discuss topics or write reflections which can be accessed at any time and from any place.  For example, Padlet is a “virtual wall” where teachers can post discussion questions, ask students to brainstorm, post project links and more. It is a quick and easy way to connect students and expand where and when learning occurs. Take the posts and use them as discussion starters in the next class.

Wikispaces can also be used in the same way. Create a Wiki for students to build profile pages, share information and respond to discussion threads. The idea is that students can do some of these activities outside of the classroom period, and then teachers can plan activities which provide opportunities to engage students with their peers.

Even though all of these involve technology at some level, they are interactive tools to engage students, to expand and “flatten the walls” of the classroom and offer students an opportunity to do more than just sit and learn; to become more actively involved, giving them a voice and choice, through more authentic learning.

By giving the students a chance to do more than absorb information, but instead to create, design and think critically, we not only give them the knowledge to be successful, we encourage them to create their own path to success. And hopefully, in the process, they learn to better self-assess and reflect, both of which are critical skills they’ll need for success in school and in their careers.

Rachelle Dene Poth is a Foreign Language and STEAM Teacher at Riverview Junior/Senior High in Oakmont, PA. Follow her on Twitter at @rdene915

10 EdTech Tools for Encouraging Classroom Collaboration

Thank you Getting Smart for the opportunity to be a Guest Author for this post.

10 EdTech Tools for Encouraging Classroom Collaboration

By Rachelle Dene Poth

Today’s technology offers so many options for educators and students that deciding on where to begin can be overwhelming. To get started, think about one new approach that could be the catalyst for positive change in your classroom. In looking at your learning environment, what could benefit your students the most?

How do you find tools to help meet your needs? Resources are everywhere: books, blogs, social media like Twitter chats, Voxer groups, your PLN, or even conferences, EdCamps and similar professional development opportunities. But even with all of these resources available, it still comes down to taking a risk and trying something new.

Here are some helpful and versatile technology tools to easily and quickly integrate into your classroom and help meet your needs.

Discussion Tools: Get Them Talking

Teachers need to hear from students, and we know that asking questions or calling on students to discuss a topic can often make them nervous. When students, or anyone, develop that feeling of “being on the spot”, it can become more difficult to encourage students to share what they are thinking, what they are feeling and what their true opinions are. This is where digital tools can provide security and opportunities for students to express themselves. Technology has a true purpose. Students still need to develop an ability and gain confidence to speak in class, but these tools can help by providing a comfortable way for students to develop their voice and express themselves.

Depending on the type of question or discussion format you want for your classroom, there are many tools available that can help.

  1. SurveyMonkey is a good way to ask a variety of questions, find out what students are thinking, use it for a quick formative assessment, and many other possibilities. I have used it to find out how students prepared for tests, what areas they need help with, and even for voting for club officers and planning trips. You have the results quickly and can provide feedback instantly, to plan your next steps in class. It can be a different way to find out about your students and their needs.
  2. TodaysMeet is a backchannel tool that can be used in or out of class, as a way for students to contribute to a discussion or ask questions. It can also be used to provide “office hours” online, for students to ask questions beyond the school day. There are many possible uses for this tool, and setting it up is easy.
  3. GoSoapBox is a response tool that can be used to ask a variety of questions without students having to create accounts. Students simply need an “event code” provided by the teacher to access the activities available. GoSoapBox can be used for polls, discussion questions, quizzes and more, and provides a fast way to assess students or to simply learn more about them and their thoughts.
  4. Recap is a video response tool, where students can respond to a prompt and all responses are compiled into a “daily reel” for teachers to view and provide feedback. Students can respond from anywhere and feel comfortable in sharing their thoughts using this tool.

These are just four of the many options—sometimes it just takes a bit of research. Asking the students for new ways to use the tools you have already been using in class can also be helpful.

Communication Through Collaboration

There are many options which promote student collaboration and enhance writing skills and student voice.

5) Blogging: Through blogging, teachers can provide support for students and help them to gain confidence in writing and speaking. We have used Kidblog to complete many writing tasks and creative writing assignments.

6) Wikispaces: A Wiki has worked really well in our classes for having students collaborate on a topic, create a discussion page, and set it up to inform on a topic, to list just a few examples. We created a wiki on Spanish art and also created our own travel agency.

7) Padlet: Padlet is a “virtual wall” which promotes collaboration, communication, creativity and more because of its versatility. Students can write a response to a discussion question, add resources for a collaborative class project, work in small groups, use it for brainstorming or connect with other students and classrooms throughout the world.

Using digital tools in this way is great because the discussions don’t have to end when class does. These tools give ways to get students talking, share their ideas, so that we can help them grow.

Creating presentations and telling a story

A few options for having students present information in a visual way with options for multimedia include the following:

8) Buncee is a web based tool that can be used for creating presentations, interactive lessons and more, with many options for including different characters, fonts, animations, video and more.

9) Piktochart is a tool for creating infographics, social media flyers, engaging presentations and more. Students have created menus, self-descriptions, movie and tv advertisements, recipe presentations and much more.

10) Visme is a “drag and drop” tool that is easy to use for creating infographics, reports, different presentations and more. It has a library full of images, charts and more, making it easy for users to create exactly what they need.

What are the benefits of these tools?

Each of these tools promote more personalized and meaningful learning for students. These tools can be used to enhance, amplify and facilitate deeper and more authentic learning . Using technology just for the sake of using it doesn’t make sense. But using it to help students find their voice, learn what they want to do, what they can do and what they need help with, does makes sense. Purpose.

For more, see:

Rachelle Dene Poth is a Foreign Language and STEAM Teacher at Riverview Junior Senior High in Oakmont, PA. Follow her on Twitter at @rdene915.

Quizizz and ZipQuiz: Fun ways to learn!

 

Ever since I had the opportunity to talk to the creators of Quizizz in January of 2016, I have been fascinated by how hard they work and appreciate how active they are in continuing to seek feedback from educators.
Quizizz began in 2015, the idea of Ankit and Deepak, who wanted to create a learning tool that would help students and teachers in the classroom. I remember that first conversation. Hearing their story was so inspiring, knowing how hard they worked to achieve success, not giving up, really emphasizes the importance of working through challenges, setting goals, reflecting and to keep moving forward when you believe in something like they did. They did not give up but rather worked harder. 


I had the chance to meet them face to face at ISTE in Denver last summer. I really enjoyed the conversation and seeing people learning about Quizizz for the first time. We have kept in touch, they send updates and announcements about new features on a regular basis and I have been fortunate enough to be included in some of the testing and conversations. My students even had some fun creating their own memes to be used in our games, imagine their surprise when I added some of theirs into our game the first time. 

ISTE 2017

Photo from #ISTE17 Twitter feed


If you have not yet tried Quizizz, I recommend giving it a try for some additional ways to engage your students in learning and provide more opportunities for practicing the material. In addition to reinforcing the content material, students will definitely have a lot of fun in the process. The benefits of Quizizz are that not only can you play it live in class, it can be assigned for practice and students can redo the Quizizz game for extra practice and preparation whenever they want. Students can start a game and continue later as long as they use the same join code and user name, which makes it really beneficial for having the opportunity to learn anywhere and anytime, regardless of their schedule.

I caught up with the Quizizz team again this year at ISTE in San Antonio, before the conference officially kicked off and I was excited to learn about their newest app which is called ZipQuiz. I definitely enjoyed playing it, although I did not do so well and felt really bad when I was told at what grade level the questions were. I will not share that information now. But you can’t always remember everything, can you? Or maybe there is a way. This is what ZipQuiz can help you do!

So here is how ZipQuiz works:


Quizizz itself is a great way to review in the classroom and even use the games as an assessment for quick feedback for the students and for you to plan your next steps. And now, with the new app ZipQuiz, students are able to continue practicing and even compete against friends and others, on various school subjects whenever and wherever they want.


ZipQuiz is easy to use. Once students have the app, they simply need to select their appropriate grade level from 1st through 12th grade and choose one of the subjects that are currently available: math, science, English, history, geography, or even select the “fun” subject.​ A​ll​ of​ the content ​in ZipQuiz​  is created by teachers  and curated by editors at Quizizz.
Once the subject is selected, a quiz will be generated with a 60 second timer that the students can then start to play. Once the game ends, they have an option to challenge someone to try the same quiz and beat their score.​ Students can play these “s​olo” games and then​ share the​ games​ as challenges to friends​ ​or​ they can play​ in a ​ “Versus” mode where ​they will be pair​ed​ with other students from around the world.​ As for safety, I have been told there is no​t a ​way for students to communicate with each other through the app​ and so it is safe to play.
They showed me a few of the games and some of the features of ZipQuiz. I had a lot of fun playing it and trying to figure out the correct answers was not always easy, as the subjects were ones that I had studied many years ago. I look forward to trying this with my students and sharing it with colleagues and who knows maybe even challenging a few friends myself. But I think I should probably practice first to see if I need to practice on my subject knowledge

Currently it is available as an app for the iOS systems and they are of course working on the Android app, which I am sure will come out soon.

ZipQuiz

​As for Quizizz, some of the other great features ​are that Quizizz integrates with Google classroom, it has great ​d​ata ​t​racking​,​ teachers can look at reports ​and quickly understand which questions were answered incorrectly by all ​students and they can also look at each student’s response​, question by ​question. ​Reports are saved, making it easy to go back in and check the ​results. There is also the option to ​s​end an email to parents with the student’s’ ​results from the ​Quizizz, which is a great way to keep that communication open with parents and share the assessment data.

Quizizzmeme2

Another fun meme, thanks Quizizz 🙂



For added fun, Quizizz also offers memes​,​ question timers, ​music and the ​option of including a l​eaderboard​,​ all of which can be turn​ed​ on or off by the teacher, depending on their preferences.
Not a lot of time to create a game?  No worries. There are thousands of public Quizizz games available, and creating a game is quite easy with the “search” feature. You can quickly create a game by gathering questions and adapting them to your specific content or changing the choices by using the search and pulling questions from the various public games available.

 

If you are looking for a new tool to start the school year with that provides some different options for learning and fun, try Quizizz. And if you have some fun ways to play or ideas to share, let me know, or contact Quizizz directly. They will be happy to hear from you!

Thanks Quizizz for making the meme for me!

Thanks Quizizz for making the meme for me!

Quizizz1

 

My takeaways from ISTE 2017 part I: Relationships and Networking

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Hard to believe that I have been back home almost two weeks since ISTE. The conference seemed to fly by this year and I am still trying to process my thoughts and reflect on what my takeaways are for this experience. I initially get stuck on thinking how do I begin to describe the awesome learning experience of ISTE? The anticipation of such a tremendous event and what it involves can be overwhelming. There are so many benefits of attending ISTE: the opportunity to spend time in the same space with Twitterverse/Twittersphere and Voxer friends, meet up with one’s PLN, to have so many choices for learning opportunities, networking, social events, are just a few of the possibilities. But where to begin and how to find balance? That is always the question.

 

I’ll admit that as my departure for San Antonio approached, I was full of anticipation and excitement, but also a bit anxious and nervous all mixed up in one.  Without even realizing, I had created quite a busy schedule for myself this year, even though I had planned to set out to have a lot of time to explore.  I simply kept adding things to my schedule, trying to make sure to have time to see everyone and figured I would get a better look at everything, a few days before leaving.  For my personalized professional development, I had not looked at the schedule too much, but I knew of some areas that I really wanted to grow in, and I was excited to connect with my friend Jaime Donally, who I consider to be an expert in AR/VR and many other areas, and definitely wanted to learn from her.

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I was very excited to connect with the Edumatch family, to finally connect with people I have come to know well over the past year through the Tweet and Talks, Edusnap books and Voxer discussions. We met at a luncheon on Sunday afternoon, celebrated the launch of the Edumatch cookbook and even did some carpool karaoke while heading back in the Uber to catch the Ignite talks. It was great to see Jaime’s and Kerry Gallagher’s Ignites on Sunday afternoon, and hear from so many educators and students about what they were doing in and out of the classroom.

It was an opportunity to reconnect with friends from FETC and meet others face to face, for the first time. For me, as the conference approached, it seemed more about finding time to connect with my friends and making sure to have time for those conversations in person that we don’t often have time for, rather than focusing on sessions and planning my schedule. 

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One part of the ISTE experience that I was thrilled about was the opportunity to present with two of my good friends, Rodney Turner and Mandy Froehlich during the conference. Knowing that we would be sharing our work together and interacting with others was a high point for me. The bonus of having that definite period of time set aside to spend with them, especially after we had such a great time in Orlando at FETC (also with Jaime!). Rodney and I presented at the Mobile Learning Network Megashare on Saturday (which I almost missed because of late flights), and the three of us presented at the Monday poster session and during the ISTE  Teacher Education Network Playground on Wednesday.  It was a really great experience to share with them and I enjoyed learning from them.

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Fun on the Riverwalk

I am very appreciative of the opportunities I have through being involved with several of the ISTE communities, PAECT, Edumatch, and the chance to meet up with friends and other “PioNears” and “Ambassadors” from some of the different edtech companies that I am involved in. Being able to run into so many friends on the Riverwalk, take some selfies, was phenomenal. The social events and time for networking were the highlights of this year. Starting with Saturday night at the Participate event, there was a lot of time to connect with friends and meet some for the first time F2F. And I am thankful to my PAECT friends for inviting me to have dinner with them, and for their willingness to put up with my shenanigans at times. 

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The experience this year was quite the change from two years ago when I attended my first ISTE conference in Philadelphia. I knew a few people but the experience then does not compare to the way it was this year. Having made more connections over the past two years, especially through these different ISTE and PAECT learning communities and the group of educators I have met through Edumatch.  Being able to walk and run into friends along the way and be pulled in an entirely different direction was so much fun.  We even ran into some of our friends from Peekapak along the Riverwalk! 

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Three very different ISTE experiences and I can’t say that I prefer or recommend one over the other, because just like preparing for ISTE, what works best for me will not necessarily work best for somebody else. We each come in with our own expectations and leave with different, unique experiences. I think the common factor is looking back on the relationships and the people that we interacted with. Whether through the connections made in a Voxer group, a Twitter chat or through email, having even a quick moment to interact with those people (and take a selfie) is tremendous. Thank you ISTE!

Next post: Learning opportunities and things to consider

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Thanks Edmodo for teaching me about Instagram

Wrong again!  This is the next in the series of posts about how I was wrong about the value of Social Media.

Instagram

I really did not have any understanding about Instagram. I thought it was just another place for posting photos, although very vibrant ones, enhanced with filters and more. I had an account, one which I created at some point, but had not really used. I just didn’t understand it.

My account had a few photos, nothing too exciting, but it somehow was enough to get a few followers. I am not even sure how people found my account and I did not know anything about the settings, there was just no time investment on my part to learn about it.

I had not checked it in a long time and the one day I did, I noticed that several students were now following me. I couldn’t imagine why they would want to follow my account, especially since it was really quite boring. I actually did not even know my own user name. There were maybe 3 photos, and they were not too interesting or vibrant.  I also was surprised that they were able to follow me, but then again, I had not really checked into anything about it, especially the settings. So this made me curious to learn more about it, starting with the settings.

Well, after I changed my username…a few times, I still did not really have intentions to use it, as I already had several other accounts and did not have extra time to post on another site. But then one day, I was selected to carry the Edmodo EdTech baton.  I am an Edmodo Ambassador and I enjoy doing activities which share the uses of Edmodo, especially because it has brought about so many positive changes for my classroom and opened up tremendous learning opportunities for the students.  I did not know what “carrying the baton” meant.  But, it turned out that I had to post photos on Instagram throughout the day I carried the baton.

So this was my purpose for using Instagram and I admit that I had to ask the students exactly how to post things. I did not have a clue! But that is okay because as much as I enjoy learning new things and sharing the information with students, it is so much better to learn from them. There are so many benefits. One, because I can see them engaged at a different level and two, it gives them a different perspective in the classroom, one in which they are the leaders.  You can sense their excitement when they are the ones teaching about something they use and understand.

My use of Instagram was short, only for that Edmodo time period of one day, however, I do enjoy seeing the posts of others, the different filters, and truly appreciate the ability to share information and photos so quickly. I have since posted some photos, and sort of figured out the collages, but I prefer to see the posts of friends.  It is still not something that I use on a regular basis, but I admit, I was again wrong about the value of another social media platform.

I am trying to stay connected through Instagram. I do appreciate the opportunity to stay connected with  friends and family. But there is this whole other side to the use of Instagram which I really did not know. Instagram can also be used for educational purposes, not something that I had thought of aside from when I carried the Edmodo baton.  However, I am currently reading “Social Leadia” by Jennifer Casa-Todd @JCasaTodd and just read about some really fantastic, educational uses of Instagram for all levels of students, kindergarten through high school, and so I think I need to give it a try this year. I just need to think about the ways to use it that would be the most beneficial for students.

But before that, I need to remember what my user name is.

Next up…Snapchat…I have no idea how to use it. But, I am fascinated by #booksnaps thank you Tara Martin @TaraMartinEDU