“The Summer Slide” and avoiding it

Technology Helps Students Avoid the “Summer Slide”

Published on CoSN: The Consortium for School Networking

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Summer slide refers to a decrease or loss of academic skills over the summer break. As summer goes by, if students do not actively engage in learning experiences, the progress they had made throughout the school year will not only decrease, it can actually regress.

Avoiding this “summer slide” is easy if strategies are in place to help students stay fresh until the next school year. This is where digital tools and technology can step in and help students be ready for the start of the new school year.

Ways to avoid the slide

There are many digital options for helping students avoid this summer slide. With the rise of technology, students have access to diverse tools with many options for providing these learning extensions.  Students have choices when given opportunities for practice and this will help them to return to school better prepared.

Regardless of the content area or level taught, teachers can recommend some great tools and apps that can easily be used by students to practice over the summer. Technology enables students to learn anytime and anywhere, so time conflicts are no longer a problem. It just requires students to set aside time to interact with these resources, and it can also be a good way to help students take ownership of their learning and even have fun in the process.

As a foreign language teacher and member of several professional committees on educational technology, I am always looking for new online platforms and strategies to stay connected with my students.

In my classes, we use Edmodo, a platform that allows teachers to share resources and connect with parents and administrators, and Celly, a platform that uses social media to help students, teachers and others connect and communicate. I can post links to resources using either of these throughout the summer, if I want to send students an activity to complete to practice the verbs or vocabulary, or if I find a new website or resource that I think they will enjoy.

Students have assignments and activities posted on Edmodo; for instance, they might be asked to complete a game of Quizizz or use Quizlet study cards, or to do something like write a blog post about their summer vacation, or to find some authentic resources and share them with the class.

My students also use the Duolingo app on their devices and can use this as a way to stay fresh and have fun learning and reviewing the language, on their own schedule and wherever they are at the time.  I remind them to set aside a certain amount of time each week to review their skills.

For blogs, I use Kidblog, a platform that is secure and allows students to build their own pages and post blogs.

And when students go on vacation, I ask them to use their travels as an opportunity to engage in conversations with Spanish speakers.

Other ideas include using tools such as an LMS or a collaborative class website, and a messaging tool for communication, to help students and teachers stay connected over the summer. Digital tools can be shared and students can ask for help and have access to additional resources when needed. Maintaining a connection over the summer can keep students engaged and continue to foster those important student-teacher connections.

There are many opportunities available to help students stay involved and even build their skills over the summer. It just takes a little bit of investigating to find beneficial resources and setting aside the time to explore the many options available.

Rachelle Dene Poth teaches French and Spanish at Riverview Junior-Senior High School in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. She holds a law degree and Masters in Instructional Technology from Duquesne University.

– See more at: http://www.cosn.org/blog/technology-helps-students-avoid-%E2%80%9Csummer-slide%E2%80%9D#sthash.4p03rkG8.dpuf

The Summer Spark experience

Thanks Adam Schoenbart  and The EduCal for the opportunity to share what a great event this was for everyone.

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The Summer Spark Experience

By Rachelle Dene Poth

What is the Summer Spark? In the words of lead organizer, Chuck Taft, it’s a conference with the goal to “set the the stage for all participants to innovate, collaborate, and connectate (Chuck’s word) and set the stage for exciting summer PD, renewed enthusiasm in the profession of teaching, and get fired up for their best ever year of teaching.” I can tell you that the Summer Spark delivered all of this and much more.

The Summer Spark was held at the University School of Milwaukee on June 13-14, 2016. I discovered the event through Twitter, and I am excited to share my Summer Spark experience from this year’s event.

A Great Start to Summer

If you are looking for a great way to kick off your summer learning, I highly recommend joining Summer Spark next year! Mark the dates on your calendar now: June 12th – 13th, 2017. Learn more about the event here and start planning your trip. No matter where you live, traveling to USM is well worth it!

It was two days full of learning opportunities which included keynotes, networking time, tracked sessions, workshops, unconferences, fabulous food and a ton of fun. The days included presentations led by authors including George Couros, Jason Bretzmann, Kenny Bosch, Shelley Burgess, Don Wettrick, Julie Smith, Michael Matera, Matt Miller, and Quinn Rollins. Each day kicked off with a fabulous keynote speech, inspiring all of those present to seek more opportunities for themselves and for their students and calling on all education professionals to take action and expand their learning possibilities. #USMSpark was trending, and Twitter was full of inspiring posts and pics to share the experience with those in attendance and people everywhere. Check out the Twitter feed for quotes, pics, and inspiration.

Summer Spark 2016 Begins!

It started with a welcome breakfast, which was fantastic, and time to meet and greet. For me, it was the opportunity to finally meet a friend in person and learn together in the same place, rather than learning virtually, as we had for the past few years. For many, it was an opportunity to reconnect with friends from last year’s conference, to meet “tweeps” face to face, and to make new friends as well. For everyone, it was the start of what would be an inspiring and invigorating two days of learning and growth. No matter where you looked, people were engaged in conversations, smiling, laughing, taking photos, posting tweets and having a lot of fun together.

The Summer Spark conference had sessions organized into strands for learning which would help attendees to select a particular learning topic and find sessions most relevant in their area of interest. There were so many opportunities for networking and personalized learning with the great offering of presentations, so many in fact it made it hard to narrow down to just one choice for each time slot. However, with so many opportunities to sit down and talk with one another, plus the availability of presentations and collaborative notes through the conference site, there were alternate methods of gaining new knowledge and ideas, even if you couldn’t attend all the sessions you wanted at the same time.

And at the end of Day 1, there were 25 teams racing against the clock in a Spark Treasure hunt, frantically trying to solve various puzzles and tasks, engage in “tomfoolery” to unlock the box. Congratulations to Team Typewriter! A thrilling end to the first day, fueled by innovation, collaboration, and “connectating.”

Day 2 was no different, kicking it off with another motivating keynote by Don Wettrick, with the message to “accept the challenge: I don’t care if you teach 20 years, just don’t teach the same year 20 times.” The keynote was followed by “unconferences” in the traditional EdCamp style, and attendees were called on to come to the front and pitch a session (which also gave you some extra tickets for those great raffle prizes). There were a lot of great topics ranging from alternate assessments to Google Classroom, infographics and interactive lessons, gamification, elementary apps, creating an innovative genius hour, getting started with Twitter, and so much more.

There were additional presentations before and after another tremendous lunch buffet, some trivia games and the day was rounded out with 90 minute workshops allowing for a deeper dive into the morning’s topics. It was a fantastic two day learning experience that drew to a close on Tuesday afternoon with the raffle and announcement of the dates for next year’s Summer Spark.

My Takeaways

It was such a phenomenal event, led by the host Chuck Taft and his team who provided everything and more that you could possibly want. The welcome, the students helping the attendees, the tech support, the staff and everyone at the school made this a truly outstanding experience for everyone. There were lots of highlights throughout the two days, new connections made, friends meeting face to face finally, and lots of fun and excitement.

I am thankful to have had the opportunity to attend Summer Spark and be able to share some of my knowledge, but more importantly, to meet and learn from so many others. The trip from Pittsburgh was well worth it and I look forward to attending again next year. Conferences like this connect people, enable Twitter friends to meet face-to-face, or to make new friends and to walk away at the start of summer with some new ideas and new directions to go. I’m thankful to have left energized and excited for the future.

Thanks Chuck Taft and all of the Summer Spark conference planners for a truly amazing opportunity and I am honored to have been able to be a part of this experience.

Thoughts from Attendees

Here are some thoughts from other participants about their Summer Spark experience:

  • “The atmosphere was electric” (Nick Davis)
  • My brain won’t stop thinking about all of the amazing ideas I got from #USMSpark. I dreamt about it last night! (Neelie Barthenheier)
  • “Already going through withdrawals after a 7 hour drive home, missing the magic, excitement, and connectedness of the conference. I know the magic of being around so many teacher authors/ entrepreneurs was empowering“ (Dean Meyer)
  • “I was blown away by @USMSpark! Thank you so much for an amazing 2 days of learning and growing!” (Rebecca Gauthier)
  • “You knocked it out of the park! #USMSpark was a fabulous conference!” (Tisha Richmond)
  • “Truly humbling experience to be surrounded by so many passionate, visionary educators. I wouldn’t miss #USMSpark” (Brian Durst)
  • “Can’t say enough about the hard work, dedication, positive, encouraging, energizing nature of the the heart & soul of #USMSpark “ (Jason Bretzmann)
  • “A big thank you to a terrific host @Chucktaft at #USMSpark. So many new friends, ideas, and passion as a result” (Mike Jaber)
  • “So much learning and working together…this is what it’s about. Getting better so WE can make education better!” (Brit Francis)
  • “Wanted to make sure I told you how awesome #USMSpark was & loved meeting you in person! I’m excited about coming back next year :)” (Mandy Froehlich)
  • “Thank you for your passion, commitment, enthusiasm, & humor. Thanks for igniting the spark” (Yau-Jau Ku)
Learning Together Finally!
Thanks #usmspark!

Rachelle Dene Poth is a Spanish Teacher at Riverview Junior Senior High School in Oakmont, PA. She is also an attorney and earned her Juris Doctor Degree from Duquesne University School of Law and Master’s Degree in Instructional Technology from Duquesne. Rachelle enjoys presenting at conferences on technology and learning more ways to benefit student learning. She serves as the Communications Chair for the ISTE Mobile Learning Network, a Member at Large for Games & Sims, and is the PAECT Historian. Additionally, Rachelle is a Common Sense Media Educator, Amazon Educator, WeVideo Ambassador, Edmodo Certified Trainer and also participates in several other networks. She enjoys blogging and writing for Kidblog and is always looking for new learning opportunities to benefit my students. Connect with Rachelle on Twitter @rdene915.

New challenge in my classroom: Interactive Lessons

A New Challenge For My Classroom: Creating Interactive Video Lessons

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A New Challenge For My Classroom: Creating Interactive Video Lessons

Thank you Terry Heick and TeachThought for posting this on June 27, 2016

In my prior blog posts, I talked a lot about taking steps into integrating some type of technology into your classroom. I started with some general ideas about what you might consider and questions you might ask yourself to determine what might benefit your classroom.  Thinking about the best ways to help your students is the first step, and also an important way to focus on what you can do that will also benefit your practice as a teacher.

The underlying premise is that all involved have to take some sort of a risk. The teacher has to risk trying something different and new that perhaps is way off from the traditional practice of their classroom or perhaps it’s just a minor change in how they deliver instruction, with a learning target in mind. The students have to take a risk because they are the ones that will be using this new technology.  They will be trying a new tool, creating a project with a new presentation style, communicating and collaborating outside of the traditional classroom. And maybe even more importantly, stepping outside their comfort zone.

So it comes down to not only a change in thinking but also a willingness to expand one’s comfort zone and through collaboration, work on building something that can lead to many benefits for students and teachers in the learning environment.

The reason I decided on this topic is that while I have been talking about things I’ve been using in my classroom and how I got started, I also decided that I needed to branch out and try some new methods of delivering instruction. And even more important than my own risk in trying these things was the risk in getting the feedback from the students and learning what the impact was on them as well.

One of the things I love most about Twitter chats and reading blogs is that you get a lot of great ideas and feedback and I very much value the perspective of others.  So when trying something new in my classroom, I truly want to know what the students think about it. Did they like it? Did they have problems accessing it? Did it enhance their learning or did it take away from something that would have been more beneficial? In other words,  could it have been considered a total waste of valuable learning time.

Getting Started

A few months ago I decided to try Educanon (now Playposit). I have wanted to try it for a while, and since it was available as an app with Edmodo, I definitely wanted to try it with a group of my students. Over the past few years, I have been using some tools to flip my classroom and provide more blended learning experiences for my students.

In doing this, I also wanted a way to make them accountable for the activities that I was having them do outside of class. Without specific interactive tools, it can be difficult, aside from actually giving students a test or other assessment, to have proof that they watched a video; this was a risk for me.

I’m fortunate that my students are interested in learning new things and tolerant of the fact that I like to try new tools in our classroom and work to find a variety of engaging ways to help them learn. Playposit is integrated with several different Learning Management Systems, making that part easier.

I decided to take a small step and have Spanish II try it out first,  chose a YouTube video and created a lesson. There were some initial glitches, most of which occurred because students did not follow my instructions and I had to troubleshoot, however the feedback was very positive and the students really enjoyed it. Another area which was challenging for me was that I would not necessarily be able to answer their questions, because it was new to me as well.

I had researched and learned as much as I could before assigning the first “bulb” which is a lesson.  Other concerns I had were whether it would it be accessible to the students, would it indeed benefit their learning and how would they respond to yet another new tool.  My goal was to find another way to connect the learning and engage students, and even more, transform their roles from learners to leaders in the classroom.

How Does It Work?

It is very user friendly to create your own “bulb.”  You can select your video from YouTube, Vimeo, SchoolTube, TeacherTube, and Google Drive, and simply paste the URL into your lesson.  You then can add a variety of questions, discussion, audio, images, equations and more for your lesson, even explanations and descriptions. Once you are finished, assign the lesson and the students can begin.

There are a lot of choices for analytics to see how the students are progressing, their answer selections, see if any questions were skipped or that students found confusing, and look for trends across the class. Several ways to share the lesson, either by having students sign up, upload a roster, or have it integrated with your LMS.  There are diverse ways to create the lessons that will help to engage your students more and deliver lessons which provide more personalized learning experiences and give you the means to provide feedback to the students.

I have encouraged students to create presentations using tools like this, because I think it really helps them to learn the material, they can personalize it, it is interactive, they build on their technology skills, and they can see what it is like to be the teacher, to have the power to drive the learning in the classroom. Feeling valued and having input into the classroom, engages students more and enhances the learning opportunities for all.

As the teacher, I take part in their lesson and enjoy learning from them as well.

 

Conclusion

The nice thing about Playposit is that there are premade “bulbs” or public lessons already available, so if you don’t have a lot of time right now to build your own, take a look at what is already made and try it in your classroom. Talk to your students and see how they like it and how it impacts your learning environment.

There is nothing wrong with trying it out and seeing what others have done. Sharing leads to new ideas and it is all part of the growth process. The important thing is to just start somewhere, start small, and work your way up.  It may go really well and it may not go as hoped, but it is an opportunity to learn, expand skills and involve students in the process.

What students can gain from blogging

Thanks to Edutopia for this recent post on June 20, 2016

Blogging

As a foreign language teacher, I constantly look for new, engaging ways for students to work on their reading, writing, speaking and listening skills in and outside of the classroom.  It is also very important to me that they develop confidence in expressing themselves with the language.  Confidence is sometimes an issue because of the fear students have of making a mistake, either writing something incorrectly, or pronouncing a word wrong. The fear exists and often it causes students to be more hesitant before responding and not participate as much.   The fear of mistakes is not something that is specific to students.  Teachers have this same fear, as do all people.  I have noticed more this year, than in prior years, that students struggle with this and as a result, it limits their learning potential.  So I have worked on finding ways to encourage them to use the language and be creative, and to leave that fear behind.

I took some opportunities to ask students why they did not answer a question on an assignment or a test, or respond in class, and before hearing their response, I already knew what they would say.   They “figured it would be wrong” or they “didn’t know the whole answer” so they left it blank or did not complete the assignment.  Sometimes the students would even write on their papers that they were wrong, or would draw a big X or a frown next to a response.

Seeing these responses, or hearing their reactions, made me want to find ways to help build their confidence levels and to keep them learning.   I tried encouraging them to speak more in class, emphasized that it was more important to try and express themselves and create with the language, rather than worry about being wrong.  I thought that by providing opportunities for them to choose a topic, to know that they were not being graded based on perfect grammar, but rather receiving points for having made the effort and created with the language.  The way to do this was through blogging.

Blogging helps students develop content area skills and confidence

I thought that blogging would be a good way for the students to have a more meaningful and personalized learning experience because they could choose a topic and write about something that they wanted to.  While I emphasized the importance of using the related vocabulary and verbs, I also made it clear that I was more concerned with them using the language, expressing their ideas, and then taking time to look at mistakes and learn from them. Reading their blogs was a great way for me to focus on their individual needs but also to learn more about each student.  It is helpful as a teacher to understand where the students are coming from, what their interests are, and their learning styles, and blogging is a very beneficial method to accomplish these tasks.

Some students initially were not in favor of blogging and at times, seemed almost pained at the idea of having to “blog”, however it is really not any different than filling in a worksheet or making up sentences for class.  It took a little time, but in the end, many students enjoyed blogging and made their blog posts a very creative and personal space, but also were able to look at their growth over the course of the year, and see the progress that they had made.   Blogging is a great tool  for practicing language skills and many others, but also a way to look back and see how you have improved.   The ease of sharing ideas and creating with the language, plus the increase in confidence, are some of the reasons why I think blogging is beneficial for any student or teacher, but also why it will be a practice which continues in my classroom next school year.

Thinking about Improving Homework

Thanks Terry Heick and TeachThought for publishing this recent post on June 20, 2016.

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The end of the school year can be challenging with so many changes occurring: the weather, spring sports, weeks of standardized testing, field trips and other activities lead to oftentimes, chaotic schedules.  These changes can decrease motivation in students and in some cases, teachers as well, and result in a feeling that the school year is over before it really is.

I notice this gradual transformation each year, and do my best to mix things up, to keep learning going, and to stay strong until the end.  This year seemed to be a more challenging year, although I cannot pinpoint why, but as I mentioned in my prior post, I decided to do something about it. I made the decision to try some new methods, reevaluate how I have been doing things in my classroom, and what could I be doing better.

The last grading period has been a time to test out some new tools, give students new opportunities, more choices and be a little less structured, allowing for some spontaneity in our learning.  So as part of my “staying strong till the finish”, after mixing up the seating arrangements and receiving positive responses, I shifted my focus to a new area:  Homework

What Is Homework, Anyway?

Recently I have been giving a lot of thought to homework.  My focus has been on really looking at the types and the frequency of assignments I give.  Over the past few years, I have changed my thinking and tried to move away from a “one size fits all” assignment and move toward a more personalized, authentic assignment.  There have been several reasons for this change in thought.

Hearing from other educators at conferences, input from my students, and as a language teacher, also having to find ways to avoid student use of translators for assignments. These experiences, in addition to a little frustration from homework not being completed, have led me to really try some new methods in this area.

Some of the areas I considered when thinking about homework were: the types of assessments I use in my classroom, my students, the frequency of homework completion, the type of homework, and even more closely, a look at the individuals within each group of students that I am teaching.  My goal is to continue to reflect on whether or not the type of instruction and the strategies I am using, are beneficial to them and if the homework I assign truly has value and builds their skills, or is it just busy work. A lot of the discussion out there now is about getting rid of homework assignments and traditional grading.

Why I Decided To Do Something Different

I have been teaching foreign languages for almost 20 years, and I notice how quickly time has passed, when I find myself teaching a concept and I feel like I just taught the same thing the day before. This “déjà vu” experience leads me to think about the progress I am making with the curriculum in the current school year, and how I have paced my instruction throughout the year. But what I have come to realize more this year than any other, is that it should not be the goal to be at the same point at the same time each year. In my mind, that simply should not be how it goes.

I think a lot of people consider teaching as a profession in which the same plans are used, lessons are taught at the same pace, the same assignments and tests are given each year. If we truly did that, then the profession of teaching would seem to be a rather easy and predictable one. However, that is not the way it is.

I had a conversation with someone that thought teachers simply used the same exact materials each year, with each class, and that teaching was a really easy profession.  This conversation bothered me, and the last part about it being “easy” really hit me. So this inspired me to think about my teaching practice.  What materials I was I using in class? How was I providing instruction for my students and was I using the same resources each year with each class?  Had I been doing the same thing in my classroom every year?  Did I simply pull out a folder to make copies or open up a computer to reprint what I had used each of the 19 years prior to this one?

Honestly, sometimes yes. I had. I had used the same worksheet, or a document for a part of a test over the years.  I hadn’t done this because I was lazy.  In some cases it was for providing a quick activity or assessment, and others it was because I thought the materials were valuable and would help the students to learn.

Thinking About Homework In Your Classroom

Ask yourself these same questions.  What do you come up with?  If you have been doing the same thing, then maybe it is time to make a few changes.  Think about what would work best for and help your students.  This means more than just looking at each individual class, it means really looking at the needs of each individual student.  To do this requires that we get to know our students, and to know our students means we have to build relationships and understand where they’re coming from and what they’re interested in doing in class.

What helps them to learn the best?  What do they want and need from us?  So I decided to use this as an opportunity to take a bit of a risk and try some new methods during this final grading period. It made sense because then I could really think about it over the summer and start fresh in the fall.

The first homework experiment

Students have a lot of homework and I do believe in the value of homework.  It is the way we help students to practice and figure out what they know and what they don’t know and how they can become better. It is one of many ways teachers can assess students and learn about their needs, provide instruction and valuable feedback.  But I’ve changed my thinking about homework.  I used to think that I had to give students homework every day.  And I also thought that homework had to be the same for each student and each class. In part, my methods were a result of the experience I had as a high school student.  I decided to change the daily homework assignments and make things more personal,  let the students determine for themselves what they could do for homework, and have choices.

Just as a start, I assigned each student to be the teacher for the next class period.   With a partner for example, we are working on the past tense in Spanish and in pairs, I let the students decide which verb tense they would like to teach their partner.  The homework was to simply come to class the next day with a way to teach their partner the verbs.  I said it could be something tangible in the form of a worksheet or any activity that they found, a website, a video, a game, or another resource. It really did not matter to me as long as whatever they had they could use in class and they could teach.

I believed that in the process the students would learn more and also develop collaborative learning skills.

What Did The Students Think?

While they taught, I moved around to interact with each group to see what it was they had prepared. There were worksheets found online, worksheets that students created, handwritten pages of notes, flashcards, some had found websites with games and others had found videos or had created a Kahoot or Quizizz game for their partner to play. But what was most important was that they sought out resources, they had an opportunity to teach someone else and their homework was personalized not only for them, but also for other students. It went well and they were enjoying it and learning.

I will admit that I was nervous about doing this.  Not requiring a specific form or product for each student to show in class, and being open to any format the students brought in, was very different. It was a risk. But I was amazed at how creative they were, how engaged each group was, and the variety of “homework” that had been done.

Student feedback is very important for me and I value their input and regularly engage them in informal conversations or will have them complete a survey.  I want to know their thoughts. What did they like?  What did they not like?  Did they learn? Was this an effective way to practice the material we were covering in class?  We spent two days doing this first assignment, so each person could teach.  And then I had them switch groups, and teach again.  The end result was that students were teachers, the learning was personal, they were engaged, felt valued, and the experience was meaningful and beneficial to their learning.

It is a risk and when you don’t necessarily have the whole plan set out, and you just kind of go with it, you might be surprised at the results.  Giving the students control, seeing their interactions, and knowing that this homework was the type that was beneficial to each of them, encouraged me to continue to find new ways to give more classroom control to the students.  Giving up some control is not always easy, but in doing this, it opens up more opportunities for facilitating learning, providing individualized instruction and building those relationships which are the foundation of education.

Using Technology To Help Students Lead Their Own Learning

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Using Technology To Help Students Lead Their Own Learning

 

by Rachelle Dene Poth

Technology provides ways for students to learn anywhere and at any time, and affords the possibility of providing learning at a pace that is comfortable for each student.

Teachers can teach students from inside the traditional classroom, “the brick-and-mortar” as it is called, or from other places anywhere around the world. Lessons can be pre-recorded and shared or streamed live, and students can access these types of tools at any time and refer back to them as needed. The availability of tools which lend themselves to more interaction between the teacher and the students–and the content can continue, in the mind of the student, to grow.

There are many options available and the best part is that with so many choices, it is possible to find something that meets the needs of each class and each student. Using digital tools provides more differentiation and personalized learning, and can provide opportunities for the students to take on the role of teachers and to create their own lesson and lead. Students can create with these tools and share lessons with the class, thereby increasing the resources available to all students. Or simply use the opportunity to become the creator, as a way to help them learn the material in a more meaningful and authentic way.

They Can Learn Anytime, Anywhere

The use of technology can mean that learning is no longer confined to the traditional time and setting of the classroom. In this way, it opens up the learning environment to anytime, anywhere–and at a pace that is comfortable for the students as well.

Teachers and students can access so many resources to teach the content and to help understand and then apply the knowledge they have gained. And when students are given choices in how to show what they have learned, they are more likely to be engaged and excited for learning. They will feel valued, and the lesson and learning will be more meaningful because it has been made personal to them. Given support, students can find resources that meet their needs, and teachers can also use these resources to find out what the student needs are.

With the multiple ways to assess students using digital tools today, teachers can have the data instantly, through live results, and can provide feedback to students when they need it the most. Students can take this information and then build on their own skills, and when they can’t or choose not to, you know where to start when helping them and their families growing as master learners.

It Give Them Choices

The timing and quality of learning feedback is critical for growth to happen. Students can also make choices about what types of activities they want to use and therefore are more empowered in their learning and can self-direct. If you give some of the control and leave the decision making to students to choose how to show what they have learned, or let them design their own homework assignment, they have the chance to be more empowered, and build momentum that can endure after the unit is over.

Giving students opportunities to work with each other and take on a new role, such as that of a teacher, enables you to also provide more one-on-one feedback. Teachers can become more of a facilitator and move around the classroom and learn more about the students and their needs, and also build relationships in the process. Relationships are key to student growth, and choice can be a significant boost here.

It Can Help Them Find Resources More Relevant To Them

One of the advantages of digital tools is that it can make some things more accessible; anytime, anywhere access to information, past work, groups, experts, and more are not the only benefit of technology. The resources and materials have more of an opportunity to stay up-to-date, and there are many so choices that each student can find something that is relevant to them.

 

Using Technology To Help Students Lead Their Own Learning; adapted image attribution flickr user sparkfunelectronics

Listening to Student Voices: Piktochart

This is a story done about one of my students, after working with Piktochart and participating in their user story last year, thought hearing from students about the benefits of Piktochart and other tools in the classroom.  Thank you to Jacqueline Jensen and Piktochart for this great post, originally posted on Medium. 

User Story: Students Using Piktochart

In this user story, we talk with Dana Grover, a high school student in Pittsburgh, about how she uses Piktochart inside and outside the classroom, why she thinks visual storytelling is important for her generation, and her favorite EdTech tools.

The fast pace of technology advancement is affecting students outside andinside the classroom. At Piktochart, we often talk to teachers about how they are using Piktochart in the classroom. Uses range from creating a new visual take of the traditional syllabus to utilizing one of our 500 templates to quickly turn text-based material into engaging visuals for the classroom.

But we felt like we were missing an important voice in the conversation. What do students think about Piktochart? Do they think that visual storytelling is a trend that will stick for their generation?

Meet Dana Grover

Dana Grover lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and is a student at Riverview High School.

“I am a theatre enthusiast who is involved with the marching and concert bands, orchestra, and chorus, along with the Spanish, drama, cinema, and Model United Nations clubs at Riverview,” she told me. “If someone were to look for me outside of school, they would find me in the kitchen, listening to my extensive music collection, or just relaxing.”

Dana first learned about Piktochart about a year ago. In fact, a big part of her discovery of Piktochart was thanks to her Spanish teacher, Rachelle Poth, who we profiled recently in our video user story series. Check out how Rachelle uses Piktochart in her classroom. Video on Youtube of User Story

Piktochart User Story — Rachelle Poth

“Technology is a big part of our Spanish curriculum,” said Dana. “We find new and interesting ways to use it, and showcase our knowledge through it. When I started taking Spanish, all of our projects had to be created using some sort of digital presentation application.”

Dana said when Ms. Poth discovered Piktochart as a tool for students to use to create their presentations, she was quick to share it with all of her students, “as she is prone to do with all great tools,” recalled Dana.

Dana said the way class projects are set up leads students to use new websites each time something is created. “So when I had already used Visme, Sway,Glogster, and others, I decided to try Piktochart,” she said.

“What made me want to explore Piktochart more was when my peers presented in class and I saw how organized and aesthetically pleasing their projects were,” Dana said.

When she thought about what she and her peers needed in an EdTech tool, Dana pointed to one must-have:

“We need to be able to express ourselves in creative ways. Piktochart lends itself to this perfectly,” said Dana.

“Everyone wants technology to be fast and easy to use,” she continued. “Teenagers want lots of choices when creating projects, because we are our own projects, and we want to be able to have choices and create ourselves in creative ways.”

Dana’s Work on Piktochart

When I asked Dana to share her favorite project on Piktochart with me, she was quick to point to an infographic she made about one of her favorite shows — HBO’s The Leftovers.

“Piktochart was the perfect tool to use for this project,” she said. “The Leftoversis such a good, well thought-out, creative show, and I needed a website that was going to be able to do it justice. I was really pleased with all of the options I had when making this project. I felt like I was able to create exactly what I had envisioned it to be, which is not the case for a lot of tools.”

Dana’s Tips and Tricks for Using Piktochart

Dana knows what’s it’s like being new to using Piktochart, so I was curious to hear some of her tips and tricks for newbies.

“The first thing I would show them would be text features, photo options, and background choices,” she said. “Not only are those the basics to creating an infographic, but Piktochart does a really nice job of making these features accessible, easy to use, and extensive in their range of creativity.”

Dana said that when she first started making infographics, she wanted to make the visual longer. The problem, she recalled, was that she couldn’t figure out how to add blocks to build on to her visual.

“It probably took me a good 10 minutes before I realized that when I had a block selected, in the upper left hand corner was a button to add more blocks,” she said. “And below, there is the option to re-size them, which is really helpful.”

For those who are new to using Piktochart, this is what Dana is talking about. This is how to add more blocks!

Dana told me she loves how many symbols, shapes, and colors can be put into visuals she creates using Piktochart.

“Lots of applications have options, but not nearly as many as Piktochart for creative purposes,” she said. “My presentations don’t have to be dry when I use Piktochart. Whatever I envision for my project, odds are I can create it with Piktochart.”

Dana’s Favorite EdTech Tools

When she’s not creating on Piktochart, Dana said she loves using Storybird. Storybird lets anyone make visual stories in seconds. The team curates artwork from illustrators and animators around the world and inspires writers of any age to turn those images into fresh stories.

“Storybird is another great website because it is fun to use and really simple,” said Dana. “I love that people are able to write their own stories and use professional artwork to accompany it. The best part is that you can order your story as a hard or soft cover book. Everyone who worked on it is cited — the author, the illustrator, and the website.”

Another tool in Dana’s toolbox is Sway. Sway, a digital storytelling app, was recently released by Microsoft and is part of Microsoft Office.

“Sway’s layout is very interesting, with options to make a beautiful cover page and online poster-style infographics,” explained Dana. “There are a lot of options on Sway when it comes to pictures, so when I created mine, I only used images from the website, which was really helpful to save time and citation effort.”


Looking for more ways to utilize Piktochart to make students excited in the classroom? Or maybe you’re looking for ways you can use infographics to make your next school assignment shine? Take a look at how teachers and students alike are using Piktochart in the classroom!

Student voices, learners become leaders

Empowering Students To Find The Best Resources For Them

May 23, 2016  – Shared on the Formative Community Forum

By Guest Author Rachelle Dene Poth

HS French and Spanish Teacher Rachelle Dene Poth argues for more student voice, choice, and leadership when finding the right materials for every student. One of her students, Cassy, a 9th grader in Spanish I, reflects on what she’s learned from that experience.

Resources Are Everywhere: Where Do We Start?

Teachers work hard to find diverse resources to help students learn. Supplemental materials can be found in textbooks and other resources, through a quick search online or implementation of teacher-created or student-made materials.  An online search will result in a tremendous list of resources which includes webpages, images, documents, videos, and other media formats for a teacher to choose from. It seems simple enough, but it really isn’t quite that simple.  The challenge is finding the right resource for each student.  Being able to do this requires more than just conducting a simple online search. It requires that we truly know our students and understand their needs. Students do not all respond the same way when it comes to learning and feedback and developing these relationships will help teachers to provide the best learning opportunities.  Finding something that will enable each student to have an opportunity to grow, receive personal feedback, to experience learning multiple ways, is something that teachers strive to provide for their student.

Choosing Tech Tools For Students Is A Good Starting Point…But What’s The Next Step?

Technology offers many ways for teachers to differentiate instruction through digital tools. The number of tools and the features available changes every day. Finding something that works for everyone may take a little bit of time, and it involves some risk taking, flexibility and reflection to truly find what works best for each student.  And while teachers are good at determining what might work best for their students, it is important to hear from the students themselves.  Asking the students directly what helps them to learn better, stay engaged, and feel challenged will enable teachers to differentiate instruction and provide appropriate opportunities for all students.  Student voice in how they learn and their opinion of tools used in the classroom offers the teacher valuable information and different perspectives.  So it is worthwhile to take the time to investigate some tools, ask the students to try new things and then see what they think.

Rachelle's students drawing a watermelon with our "Show Your Work" drawing tool!

Rachelle’s students drawing a watermelon with our “Show Your Work” drawing tool!

Give Them Choices And Let Them Lead

So I wanted to know, what do students get from the choices they are given? Does it make a difference?  What helps the students to learn?  A few years ago I started giving the students different options for how to complete a project or an assignment. Other times,  rather than assigning a worksheet for  homework, they had other options such as creating a game, participating in a classroom discussion online, or even the use of blogging, all which made learning more personalized and meaningful for each student. I value the feedback that I receive from the students and when I try something new, I always want to know what they think of it. In order to learn more about student needs, I decided to have one of my students become the teacher, create a lesson using Formative, and share their thoughts about the new experience and the benefits.

Student Perspective On Edtech: Cassy Becomes The Teacher

Cassie getting ready to show tech tools that help her learning "catapult".

Cassie getting ready to show tech tools that help her learning “catapult”.

Cassy: I believe technology is an important part of learning and is a great asset to teachers and to students. Technology allows students to have the freedom to choose how to do projects, homework assignments or other classroom activities. This freedom allows students to thrive and do the best they can. I know that I love the process of finding a new website, game, project or teaching tool that I can use to help my learning catapult. It is also fun to explore the possibilities of technology and what it offers me. I can be creative and innovative. Classes which integrate technology are completely different than those which do not, because they provide more opportunities for students to learn.
Formative is a great example of the infinite possibilities technology can offer students and teachers.Documents, websites, pictures, questions and drawings are integrated into this program which allows for differentiation and creativity in various ways. Also, many people can participate in one formative assignment. The teacher or creator of the formative can see individual responses and work with the student one on one and provide personal feedback. Formative creates an effective learning experience while keeping a fun atmosphere.
On May 16th, 2016, I participated with other students in the PAECT (Pennsylvania Association for Educational Communications and Technology) student technology showcase, where students from Pennsylvania showed how they use technology to its fullest potential. I made my own Formative and allowed others to try it, and highlighted all of the different uses and how effective it is for education. I enjoyed sharing how a digital tool like Formative can provide different learning activities, enhance how students learn and how teachers can teach.

"Formative is a great example of the infinite possibilities technology can offer students and teachers."- Cassie

“Formative is a great example of the infinite possibilities technology can offer students and teachers.”- Cassie

Why Having Tech Available In The Classroom Matters

I feel that making students turn off their phones or computers is not fair and is not smart choice. Teachers do that for their benefit, not for the students. The current  generation of students is extremely involved and knowledgeable about technology. If all teachers could dive into the world of technology and understand its importance, significance and benefits, and then take the time to explore new ways to integrate some technology into class, it would make a huge difference in a student’s learning experience. I don’t know why more teachers don’t use technology to teach because it is a way to get the students more involved in the learning material.

What Do Students Want?

I want teachers to empower, engage and inspire me. I want teachers to give me the freedom to be creative while I am learning. I want teachers to make learning relevant to my time, and my life experience. Technology is the way to do that, to get students involved. It allows me to have my own voice and learn in the way that is best for me. I do not want to be held back from the infinite possibilities that technology offers any longer.

Student Voices: Listen To What They Say

Rachelle: It is clear that students have opinions about technology and its benefits.  Having choices in how to learn, being exposed to different learning tools and styles, and receiving feedback are all benefits of technology integration and ones which positively impact students.  When they have opportunities to work with technology and choose how they learn, including them in the conversation and asking for feedback empowers students even more. Since students are the group most affected by the technology used in the classroom, we need to hear what they have to say.