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.

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.

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

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.

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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

 

 

8 Things I Learned My First Year Of Teaching With Project-Based Learning

8 Things I Learned My First Year Of Teaching With Project-Based Learning

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8 Things I Learned My First Year Of Teaching With Project-Based Learning

by Rachelle Dene Poth

My first year of teaching with project-based learning provided as much learning for me as it did my students.

Each year when I head back to my classroom in the fall, I have many ideas of new methods, new tools, and some changes that I want to make in my classes. These changes and ideas are the result of attending summer conferences, reading new books, and maybe the most helpful, student feedback that I review over the summer.

The biggest change I wanted to make this year was to have my students really engage in Project-Based Learning.

Interested in PBL support? Contact TeachThought Professional Development today! 

1. It’s not ‘doing projects.”

My students have completed many projects over the years, and I honestly thought they were doing “PBL”, but after the summer I finally realized that it was not authentic PBL. I was simply having students learn by completing projects. Coming to this realization allowed me to find resources to learn how to implement authentic PBL into my classroom.

If you are feeling the same as I did, don’t worry. There are the resources, tools, and shifts in thinking that can help you on your way.

See also: The Difference Between Projects And Project-Based Learning

2. Students–and parents–need to understand the process.

To get started, I sought out resources that I had learned about over the summer.

I learned that there are several different methods of doing PBL. The theme can be something created by the teacher, independently chosen by the students, or a combination of something in between. Because I had decided to implement PBL with my Spanish 3 and 4, I decided to follow an independent method, enabling students to pursue something of personal interest. The opportunity for students to have choices through more independent learning, leads to a more meaningful experience, a few of the great benefits of PBL.

The opportunity for students to have choices through more independent learning, leads to a more meaningful experience,  a few of the great benefits of PBL. This is difficult without students–and parents!–understanding how PBL works so they can buy-in, support, and believe in this ‘long-tail’ approach to learning.

3. The right technology can make all the difference.

I started by explaining the purpose of doing PBL, what I hoped would be the benefits of doing this in Spanish 3 and 4, and using the resources I found, shared the PBL elements with the students. I wanted to make sure they understood the process, as much as possible, from the start. I knew it would be a learning experience for all of us, requiring ongoing reflection and feedback.

In our classes, we use a few digital tools which help open up opportunities for communication and collaboration. We use Edmodo for our classroom website, messaging apps (Celly and Voxer), and have also used tools such as Kidblog for blogging and writing reflections, and Recap and Flipgrid for video responses.

4. Developing quality Essential Questions takes practice.

I did my best to explain how to create an Essential Question (what TeachThought Professional Development calls ‘Driving Questions’), referring to resources I had found, as well as some books and educators for advice. I had struggled with crafting my own “Essential questions” in the past during curriculum writing and I knew this was an area that I also needed to work on.

What I learned is that Essential Questions are not answered with a yes or no, and answers are not easily found through a Google search. Essential questions will help students to become more curious, to seek more information, and in the process, develop their skills for problem-solving and critical thinking.

Essential questions drive the learning.

Last summer, I had read the book Pure Genius, by Don Wettrick, and had the opportunity to meet him during the Summer Spark Conference in Milwaukee. I also read a few other PBL books including  Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide, by Suzie Boss and Jane Krauss, and Dive Into Inquiry by Trevor MacKenzie.

Once we started, the students had many questions, and I answered as best as I could. However, because this was a new experience for me as well, I sought additional help.  Don Wettrick spoke to my students through a Skype call and later in the fall, Ross Cooper spoke with my students about crafting their Essential questions. Another great resource I consulted over was  Hacking Project-Based Learning book by Ross Cooper and Erin Murphy.

See also: Using The QFT To Drive Inquiry In Project-Based Learning

5. Project-based learning is a team-effort.

We have gone through this twice so far this year, and are now focused on one final PBL theme. It has been a tremendous learning experience for my students and I have learned so much from them. We have covered many new topics related to culture, language, sports, family and traditions.

The students enjoy having the chance to be in the lead, to drive their own learning, and have become more reflective on their work and on this PBL process. I did make mistakes and continue to work on improving each time we do this. The availability of these PBL resources to guide teachers and students and other educators who offer support along the way has made all of the difference.

The most powerful part of this has been the feedback from my students. I asked for the positives, the negatives, what could be different, how could I help more, and they were honest and offered such great information.

6. Project-based learning empowers students.

What I have learned is that it really does benefit students and the teachers to offer these project-based learning experiences for students, to find out about their passions and interests. We learn more about them and from them through their PBL. Having students take over the classroom and present their information opened up so many new learning opportunities for everyone. This is truly a great way to see students empowered in their learning.

Overall, the students are pleased about the work they have done, the progress they have taken and are excited about this next phase. We reviewed the feedback, did a little bit more research, and had some planning conversations.

7. Project-based learning forces students to see learning differently.

We need to create opportunities for students to pursue their interests when they learn. In order to prepare them for the real world, we should provide learning opportunities which connect them with other people, perspectives, and experiences.

The most difficult part for my students at the start of this was thinking about how they were going to present their information, and I kept telling them to work through the research part, gather their information first. I reminded them often to focus on the “what and why” part, and that the final product form would become more apparent as they progressed.

8. Patience is key.

I am pleased with having started PBL this year and I encourage other educators to consider implementing PBL in their classrooms. Yes, there can implementation dip. And without communication with students and parents and even our own colleagues, progress can be slow.

PBL is, however, a different approach to learning. It acknowledges that the school year is a marathon, not a series of sprints. It allows students to design and create and publish and reflect on and revise ideas, and this all takes time. Patience, then, is a critical characteristic of any successful–and sane!–project-based learning teacher! Given time, you’ll eventually help the students see the impact it has had on their learning.

 

Social Media: Oh goodness…Voxer: Did somebody just say 10-4?

This is the next post in my series about Social Media and the different tools available for learning and connecting. I was wrong about Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn….and now Voxer. WOW!

I think that this might be one of my favorites, even though it is difficult for me to make any kind of decision when given more than 1 option. But the thing about Voxer is that it enables live communication between anyone and anywhere. It absolutely fascinates me and I am wowed each day by the many ways it can be used.

Why am I such a fan? Well honestly, maybe a part of this is because I had a real set of walkie talkies and was amazed that you could talk into it and somebody, somewhere else could hear and answer you right back.  When I was 13, I remember trying out the set in my parents’ car and talking to someone that ended up living a few streets away.  Michele and I became great friends and it amazes me to this day that I met someone by using the Walkie-Talkie,way back then in 1984. Who knew what the possibilities would be for today, using Voxer, is amazing.

I remember having a set of them sometime in the late 1990’s and using them at the mall, thinking it was the coolest thing ever. (I know, there were probably cell phones, I did not have one yet, they were still in the big bags or attached in cars).

Learning about Voxer

But my first experience with Voxer was becoming involved in a group preparing for ISTE in Denver last summer. How did I find out about this? Ironic moment. You might laugh but it was through a Facebook group. An interesting series of events. Sometimes we question what if? What if I had made a different choice? What if I didn’t go in that direction  and in this case what if I had never created a Facebook account? Still can’t believe that I am asking myself that question.

There are still many things between then and now that would be so different. I would have found less classmates for high school reunions, I wouldn’t know about friends who’ve moved away from or back into the area. Connecting with family and friends, seeing pictures and sharing news would happen a lot less often. So the crazy thing is that the one account I was so hesitant to get, led me to become involved with all of these different social media platforms and build my connections even more. So very wrong I was. 

Adding on Voxer: There was a Facebook group for people attending ISTE 2016, and someone (Rodney Turner, @techyturner) started a Voxer group. I had no clue what it was but I joined it and at the time I was on a basic account, but upgraded to the PRO account, which is nice because if you send a message and you want to recall it, you can. How many times do you wish you could say something over?  Once again, it did not take too long to see the tremendous value in this form of communication as well. Being able to ask a question and have someone answer you immediately, a person who may be on the other side of the world and talking to you live is tremendous. Seeing the green light up that indicates they are talking live is amazing.

Now people might think “well it’s not that much different than talking to somebody on the phone.”  And that is partially true, you are having a conversation or could have a conversation just as you would on the phone, however the difference is if you have a question and you make that phone call, that person may not answer right away, if at all. Being part of a Voxer group, there are many people available to answer instantly while we pose the question. Unlike a phone call, it goes out to many people, leading to many responses and perspectives immediately. 

Some uses

Voxer has been a great platform for leading and participating in a book study, which might sound a little bit different when you think about how traditional book studies occur. It is a great way to connect with others for a book talk. I have been able to connect with so many more educators through Voxer which  has led to more connecting on those other social media platforms, yes Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn. The ability to listen and learn anywhere at anytime is unbelievable.

With my students, it has been a tremendous way to listen to their PBL ideas and help them brainstorm, for them to ask questions when needed and for them to form their own groups.  They love the capabilities of using Voxer for education and fun!

If you don’t yet have Voxer, try it out. There are so many groups full of conversation, inspiration and motivation and definitely fun! If you want some ideas, let me know.  There are groups for connecting Educators, learning about Snapchat!, Breakouts, LeadupChat and so many more.  Connect with me on Voxer, I am @rdene915

 

Thanks for reading!voxer

Social media: Wrong about the learning potential

This is the third part of a series on how I learned the value of social media platforms for becoming connected and professional development.  I was wrong.

LinkedIn

I have not been on the job search. I did not have an account with LinkedIn. If I were  seeking employment, I would go directly to classified ads or employment websites. As for LinkedIn, I had heard of it, but I had never used it. Last year I had several people ask me why I did not have an account, and honestly I really didn’t want another account with more notifications. I had not considered using it since I thought it was simply for people who were actively looking for employment or who were recruiters.

While all that is true and it is a platform and a means for people looking for and posting employment information. It is really quite a professional community similar to the other platforms for people to share information, to learn, grow and connect with one another. I think that depending on who you are, what you do and what you need, you could decide to have accounts with each of these platforms I have mentioned, or simply choose one of them and try it out for a period of time. You might really be surprised at what it adds to your personal and professional life. Constant stream of information available, learning potential and power for becoming more connected.

LinkedIn differs from the others in that even if you are not actively looking for employment, it is a way to display your professional appearance/ persona and show people what it is that you do, share your interests, highlight your skills, for a few uses. But beyond these “postings”, it is also a way for people to support you because they endorse you for these skills. I have been in conversations with mixed viewpoints on these features, but I guess the thing to remember is that not everyone will find the same value, benefit for these, the important thing is that there are choices available for people to make their own decisions about what works best for them .

To create an account or not….

Now some people have accounts with all three of these and the way they interact with each of them varies, depending on role/profession in society, you may be very active and share your information freely. Or you may be more private and use each one of these in a different manner. It’s just about choice and preferences. But what I like is that with any of these you can share with others who you are and what you are about. And maybe more importantly, you are available for supporting and adding to conversations, communities and more.

I enjoy having options available as a professional, finding the right balance between all of these can be tricky, but better to have choices than not. 🙂

 

Next up…Walkie Talkie??

voxer

Rachelle Dene Poth

Another social media “risk”: Wrong again

This is the second part of my posts sharing how I was wrong about the value of Social Media for professional learning

So enter Twitter, the “twitterverse”. I was really wrong about this one and as a very reflective person, if I am mistaken, I will readily admit when I am wrong. And I will also take a step back and think about why I was wrong. For Twitter, I had no idea what was out there in the Twitterverse. I really knew nothing about anything related to Twitter.

I have had a Twitter account for probably 10 years, an account that was created only because a family member sent me a link, which required a Twitter account in order to see the post. I used my regular email address (original AOL by the way) and joined Twitter. I think I looked at it a few times for a week and then 5 years went by, never again looking at Twitter.

It wasn’t until the summer of 2014, when I was leading a session at a technology Summit, when someone tweeted about my session, to what they thought was my Twitter account. So I decided to create an account in that username and I have been actively involved in Twitter more or less ever since.

I had the misconception that it was only for celebrities. But I decided to look into it a bit more. I really didn’t know how it worked but I came across a Twitter chat one night and I started to connect with a few people from North Carolina and Tennessee. That was my start toward becoming a more connected educator and seeing the true value in Twitter. I added additional Twitter chats to my weekly activities and looked forward to the interactions with the new friends that I had made.

Shortly before ISTE 2015, I learned about “tweetdeck”. I had no idea what that meant, and I did not ask because I figured that it was something that I should know if I was using Twitter. I think I googled it. Before Tweetdeck, I used one window, with 1 chat and flipped back and forth between each chat window. To say it was a bit difficult at times is an understatement. I decided to try Tweetdeck, during my train ride to ISTE, multitasking by reading my Teach like a Pirate, involved in a Saturday chat with Tweetdeck and amazed at what was happening. It hit me. The power of communication and technology. In and of itself the fact of sitting on a train, reading a book with Wi-Fi access to enable me to use my computer, engage in multiple tasks, communicating with people around the country and world, at any point in the day during the travels. When you stop and think about it, it’s so amazing what we are capable of today. And with these two social media platforms alone, (ones which I adamantly avoided), the possibilities for learning, connecting, and so much more happen instantly anytime and anywhere. But that’s just my view of it and people may not see the value in having accounts with these or may prefer to stay away from social media. And it may not be for everyone, but I’ve learned that you can’t really say that you don’t like something or that you hate something, until you at least give it a try. And you certainly can’t go based on what somebody else says. While I greatly value the opinion of others, and can and have in the past been swayed because of someone else’s opinion, I really try to think about what is best for me. As an educator, I think about what is best for my students. I might love a certain digital tool but if it’s not going to benefit my students,  I won’t just throw it out there and say have fun with it. And that’s what I’m saying about Facebook and Twitter. As a start, either of these would be something that might surprise you in terms of the benefits personally and/or professionally. And again, I admit that I was wrong.  Lessons learned about Facebook and Twitter: Educational value is huge and learning to write concisely is an acquired skill.