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Teacher to Teacher: Does technology in the classroom help? Ask the students.

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This post was written by Rachelle Dene Poth and Sean, a student in one of her Spanish classes. Rachelle teaches French, Spanish, and STEAM at Riverview Junior-Senior High School in Pennsylvania. 

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Quizlet Live: An instant hit in my classroom

The availability of technology, and especially of digital tools like Quizlet, have opened up tremendous possibilities for classrooms today. Because of the diverse tools available, teachers now have new ways to deliver content both in and out of the classroom, and students have more engaging and personalized ways to learn.

Quizlet is something I have used in my classroom for the past few years in many different ways. I have used it in class to play Quizlet Live, to give students time to use the activities to review while I work with them individually, and to play games like Gravity on the Smartboard. Toward the end of last school year, I was able to beta test Quizlet Live, their newest collaborative in-class game, with my Spanish II class. It was an instant hit. Once we figured out how to play the game (which was easy), it became a great way to practice the vocabulary and verbs. It also created more opportunities for students to work with and learn from their peers, and build those vital classroom relationships that form a positive classroom culture. (To learn more about how to play Quizlet Live, check out my previous post on this topic.)

How to know when the technology has a purpose: Ask the students

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Sean, an 11th grader in my Spanish courses, has been an advocate for the use of technology at school. He recently led a presentation for an edtech conference, TRETC (Three Rivers Education and Technology Conference) and chose to present on Quizlet Live. He explained the purpose of the game, highlighted how to play, and led a game with those present — many of whom were playing for the first time. Sean had great, first-hand information to share and, coming from a student, the benefit of using Quizlet Live in the classroom was clear to everyone.

In Sean’s own words

Quizlet has a purpose when it comes to studying or just having fun. For example, in my Spanish II class, we used Quizlet for studying outside of class or to create cards for homework, and then when we met again as a class, we would play Quizlet Live and it would be fun for everyone. It is a tool that can be used multiple ways for school and work. An example of using it outside of school is when we were coming home from the PAECT student technology showcase. We were bored during the bus ride, so Mrs. Poth asked us if we wanted to play and we said sure.

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At the time we didn’t know any topics that could be played on Quizlet Live except for school topics, but we were introduced to some of the other topics that could played. We struggled with some of the TV trivia, which dated back to the 1950s, but we worked as a team and won the game. This activity showed our group that there were a variety of things that could be done using Quizlet Live.

This school year, I have already created a Quizlet Live that my class has played and everyone loved it. I will continue to create more Quizlets to use and help out the class, and to also have a fun time at home. We will be presenting a session during our state technology conference, PETE&C, and in addition to the student showcase, we will take over a full session and teach teachers about these tools. The students will once again be the leaders and engage the attendees with Quizlet Live.

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.

Encouraging Creativity and Innovative Designs

Students Share Their Stories

By Rachelle Dene Poth

 

Thank you Storyboard That for the opportunity to share our story!
Find this and other great teacher resources in our Education Blog!

Storyboard That is a tool which offers many opportunities, not only for education, but for anyone looking to share information, tell a story, or produce a product in a more visually engaging way. It is a very authentic tool that promotes critical thinking, communication, and creativity. It fosters innovation in designing and empowers students in the learning process. Students take control of how they show what they have learned and can now do with the material, in their own personal way. Each of these opportunities help to promote the integration of the new ISTE Student Standards.

By using Storyboard That, students are able to select from so many templates with diverse options for themes, backgrounds, characters, text, props, and more. The tool applies to any level and any content area quite easily. It offers so much, that providing students with opportunities to express themselves and apply their learning in a unique way that is more meaningful, is easily done.

Some Options for Classroom Use of Storyboard That

There are so many possibilities for having students complete a project with Storyboard That. Teachers can use one of the many lesson plans available to implement with their classes. Whether you teach History, English, Foreign Languages and more, Storyboard That is a great option to provide to students, it will appeal to students because of the variety of options available to express creativity and promote student choice and voice.

Deciding how to best use digital tools can be challenging at times, but a good place to start is to hear directly from the students. Involving the students in the classroom decisions and then asking for reflections on their experience with using the tool helps educators to understand if and how technology is enhancing their learning process. Asking students to share the ease of creating with it, how it enhances or amplifies their learning and in general, what their perspective is about this particular tool, are important to include in teaching practice.

Students as Advocates

Several of my students have used and become advocates for the use of Storyboard That and share the impact it has had on providing more meaningful learning for them and their classmates. Celaine and Emma have created with it and produced visually engaging projects that have enhanced their learning.

Celaine has used this tool for many projects as well as for conference presentations over the past few years. She has become an advocate for its use, for teaching others how to use it at conferences and at school, and serving as a role model for other students with a positive message of the benefits of technology for learning. Here are her thoughts on why you should try Storyboard That and what you can expect from its for learning in your classroom:

Before I started using Storyboard That, my school assignments were rather dull. I tried to put my own personal touches into every slideshow presentation that I made, but after a while it got boring just typing text onto a slide, adding photos and animations etc. When I found Storyboard That, my educational mindset flipped 180 degrees. Now I could finally have some say in my assignments and showcase my personality by creating something that showed exactly what I pictured in my mind. Plus, I actually enjoyed doing my school work again because there were so many ways that I could personalize my assignment. I could choose characters and make them look any way I wanted them to. I could even choose from a variety of backgrounds that date from medieval times to mythical times to the present. That is what I love about Storyboard That: it allows anyone to create a visually appealing presentation in a unique format that will engage students in their learning and allow teachers to learn about/from their students.

In Spanish 3, students were to create a project using chapter vocabulary related to the medical field and had the task of telling a story, using any tool for their project creation. Emma has also participated in several technology showcases and is an advocate for having choices in project tools and how beneficial these tools can be for learning. Emma decided to use Storyboard That to create her medical story, selecting from the diverse backgrounds to really bring her story to life. Emma shares her thoughts on Storyboard That:

Storyboard That has given me the opportunity to truly personalize and create projects exactly the way I would like. It has endless possibilities for creativity and imagination. I really enjoyed using Storyboard That because it enabled me to put so many different things into the medical project. I was able to type anything into the search box and get back some great options, that were exactly what I was looking for. For example, I searched the word “pumpkin” and I got back multiple pictures of pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns so I was able to have choices and find the perfect picture. I found Storyboard That to be the perfect choice for the medical project because, as with most of our projects, this one did not require too many specifics. The requirements were mostly just to be creative and have fun as long as we use the proper vocabulary and verb conjugations.

I have noticed that other web tools do not offer the same amount of options that Storyboard That does for project and presentation making. Some other web tools seem to be limited in the offerings for backgrounds and templates that you can use. Also, I have noticed that it can be a little confusing and difficult to understand some of these other tools. With Storyboard That, it is very easy and simple to figure out how to put in your own backgrounds, characters, images, animations, etc. Storyboard That has made project making a lot more fun.

This is a post by Jacqueline Jensen, following our Blab interview talking edtech in the classroom.  Thanks for this post and the opportunity Jacqueline and Piktochart!

Talking EdTech with Teachers

As Piktochart’s Community Evangelist, fostering community among our 5-million-strong user base is one of my primary goals. As I wrote after first joining, my role here on the Piktochart team focuses on interacting with our users at every level — from live events around the world and conference talks to jumping onto the latest up and coming social platform to chat with Piktochart users.

So far, we’ve tried a number of new initiatives. We think it’s important to share valuable content with not only our user community, but with startups, designers, educators, and marketers all across the globe. When we tried out Blab, we picked an awesome guest and gathered community questions to chat about.

Back in June, we went looking for educators to join us to discuss more about how to bring technology into the classroom. Education technology, also known simply as EdTech, refers to the creation and use of software and hardware intended to bring technology to education.

This segment of the technology world has heated up thanks to investment from organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the United States government, and even tech venture capital investment firms like Andreessen Horowitz. In fact, in just the first half of 2015, private investors alone poured $2.5 billion into EdTech companies — leading to the creation of countless technologies for classrooms around the world.

Here at Piktochart, our team was thrilled to hear we were recently honored in the American Association of School Librarian’s 2016 Best Websites for Teaching and Learning. Educators have been using Piktochart in their classrooms since we launched in 2012, and we couldn’t be more pleased to know we are making a difference in the minds of students around the world.

To get the skinny on what’s going on in classrooms when it comes to EdTech — from best practices and challenges to favorite tools and privacy policies — we brought in two Piktochart users who are making a big impact by bringing technology into their school. For the first time, we had two guests on our Blab,Rachelle Poth and Mary Ottenwess.

Rachelle is a foreign language teacher at Riverview Junior-Senior High School in Oakmont, PA. She enjoys using technology in the classroom and finding ways for students to have more choices in their learning. She has presented at several technology conferences in Pennsylvania and at ISTE in Denver this past June.

Mary has been in education for 25 years. She started out in a public high school library and is now the Instructional Technology Specialist at Catholic Central High School in Grand Rapids, MI. She was the one that didn’t step back when they asked for volunteers to run the computer lab and thus her adventures in EdTech began!


What is your biggest pain point with your school’s current EdTech setup?

Rachelle said her biggest complaint when it comes to EdTech tools, which is shared by other teachers she talks to, is the fact that things sometimes don’t go as planned with technology.

“Best case scenario doesn’t always happen when it comes to technology,” she said. “You have to be prepared for the little bumps that come along the way.”

Mary echoed Rachelle’s thoughts about technology being unpredictable. She also added that limited professional development time for teachers is another hurdle when it comes to her school’s EdTech setup.

“An hour once a month just isn’t enough time,” said Mary. “Students come in an hour late and we have a meeting with all teachers at the school. Teachers will go around and talk about what they are using in their classrooms, discuss a particular tool, or discuss a method. Because we are trying to cover so much in a single hour, hitting everyone’s skill and comfort level as well as giving them time to try the tool often means a lot of 1:1 follow-up.”

“As a workaround for time, we have teachers create tutorials to view prior to the professional development sessions,” noted K-12 EdTech coordinatorCourtney Kofeldt in the chat.

What opportunities are given to kids through EdTech and how can teachers learn to embrace them?

Mary said EdTech really expands a student’s world. They can collaborate and share with not only each other, but with experts in the field. Students can use project-based learning and inquiry-learning, and they can use and develop real-world skills for college or a career. For teachers, Mary thinks technology makes things simpler.

Rachelle agreed. She believes the opportunities provided by technology are tremendous.

“Technology provides opportunities to students to allow them to show what they have learned and to use a tool that is meaningful to them. Without the technology, they wouldn’t have been as engaged,” she said. “I don’t use technology for the sake of using it, but rather as a way to increase opportunities.”

When given a choice of tools to utilize on their projects, Rachelle finds students talk to their friends about the learning curve of each software. Students work together, collaborate, and learn from each other about how to use technology.

What’s the best thing technology has allowed you to do in your school that you couldn’t have done otherwise?

Mary shared an example from her school, Catholic Central High School in Grand Rapids, MI. Using technology, a French teacher was able to bring in a video feed from a classroom in Canada. The American students communicate in French to sharpen their skills, and they’re also able to learn more about the other students culturally.

“Students are not only collaborating with the students in another country, but those next to them in their classroom too,” explained Mary. “It’s fun to watch the collaboration.”

Rachelle says that technology has allowed her to continue the conversation with students after class time ends. She found more and more that her students had questions once they got home and started working on their homework or projects, and technology allowed her to be available to them during those key moments.

“It really bothered me that when class ended, that would stop their learning process in a sense,” she said. “I use technology to bridge that disconnect. I use messaging to help.”

Do you as the teacher (or your school) assess the privacy and security of a tool before letting students try it?

Rachelle said she pays close attention to privacy and security settings before bringing a tool into the classroom. She does this by creating an account on her own and reviewing the settings herself. Rachelle also sends home a notice to parents at the beginning of the year informing them of the tools that will be used in the classroom.

She also relies on the thoughts of other teachers, and she noted these sites and communities as her go-to sources:

  • Common Sense Graphite, a community of educators who take the guesswork out of finding innovative ways to use technology in the classroom;
  • EdShelf, a socially-curated discovery engine of websites, mobile apps, desktop programs, and electronic products for teaching and learning;
  • EdCamp, an organic, participant-driven professional learning experience led by a community created by educators, for educators.

Mary added that her school has a tech team on staff who will verify security before launching a new tool in the classroom. First, they start with a pilot program and monitor progress while the new EdTech tool is being tested in the classroom. During that pilot, they will be on the lookout for glitches or security holes.

Which tool/platform/methodology has been the biggest hit in your classroom and why?

Rachelle, Mary, and participants in the chat were excited to share their favorite EdTech tools! Check out the list below:

What are 3 most important skills kids have gained in your classroom thanks to technology?

Everyone agreed that more collaboration and creativity is taking place in the classroom thanks to technology.

“I have noticed students really develop the 6C’s — Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Creativity, Character, and Citizenship — when tech is integrated,” said Courtney Kofeldt in the chat.

Rachelle added she often notices that projects from her students go above and beyond her expectations. “Technology gives them that voice to speak out and be part of something when otherwise they wouldn’t have been,” she said.

Mary says teachers have benefitted from technology as a way to improve their skills, too. She notices more collaboration happening between teachers and growth of their professional networks thanks to technology making it easier to work together.

Thanks to technology, both students and teachers alike are building up their confidence. “It’s ok to have something not work,” explained Mary. “Technology allows students to take the lead. Teachers aren’t always the one with all the knowledge.”

Mary also touched on her school’s Digital Citizenship Course, which is an ever-changing movement to educate students on the proper use of technology — when to use it (or leave it behind) and best practices.

“I teach motion graphics at UCLA, and it is wonderful to see what the students create once they understand the tools,” added Eric Rosner in the chat.

How can teachers improve their tech skills in order to make classes more interactive and multimedia oriented?

Rachelle’s advice is simple:

“Just pick something and start it!” she said. “Really. You don’t know if it’ll work for you until you try it. Pick something small and give it a try.”

She suggested teachers consider learning new tools alongside students. Rather than a teacher-driven project, why not try a student-driven project? She found her students enjoy it, and as a teacher, it keeps her fresh. Use the challenge of a new tool as a learning lesson for both the students and the educator.

“Not everything is going to work, and that’s ok,” added Mary. “We teach our kids to learn from failure, and we need to do the same.”

Mary advised teachers to expand their professional network to get to know other educators. Social channels are a great way to do this — and Mary specifically suggested getting involved in Twitter chats. For a comprehensive list of Twitter chats all about education, check out this list Mary shared with us on the Blab!

What are your recommendations for someone who is just starting to use technology in the classroom, and may be a bit hesitant?

Rachelle suggested focusing on one area in your classroom you can try to improve using technology. Give a new EdTech tool a shot, use it minimally, and be patient with getting comfortable with it.

Mary suggested finding another educator who is using technology you’d like to try and simply watching them use the tool in their classroom. Finding a tech mentor is key to getting comfortable!

How can tech help all students to be engaged, to reach each student?

If students are on different levels, Mary said EdTech tools can help bridge that gap. She particularly likes Khan Academy for this purpose. She also suggested putting up a rubric for an assignment, but allowing students to choose their technology tool to complete the project.

“Students are not all the same,” added Rachelle. “By giving them choice with technology tools, you’ll see they can create anything they desire, and you learn more about them as individuals. When the choices are given and nothing is set in stone, it pays off.”


The team at Piktochart had a blast during our Blab with Rachelle Poth and Mary Ottenwess! Thanks to both of them for stopping by! If you’re interested in learning more about how Piktochart can help out in your classroom, check out a few more of our EdTech posts!

This post originally appeared on Piktochart’s blog here.

I tried Recap at the end of the year and really enjoyed what it offered.   I appreciate the opportunity to have my experience shared on Recap.

Posted on July 20, 2016Posted in Guest Post

Student voice is very important in education today. Teachers benefit greatly by understanding what the students’ needs and interests are, their backgrounds and other experiences they bring with them to the classroom. Students participate in so many diverse learning experiences aimed at providing the best practice through multi-modal instructional methods, to personalize instruction, drive student learning and to provide the resources and support necessary for student success. And while the teacher may believe that each learning experience they provide is valuable and will benefit the students’ growth in the class, it is critical to seek input from the students themselves to really understand the impact these methods have on their learning.

Involving students in conversations can happen in many mediums. With all of the digital tools available today, there are endless possibilities available for substituting the traditional face-to-face conversations or having students write some type of a response such as a self-reflection in class. Having students reflect on a particular learning experience or participate in a discussion after class, are valuable opportunities for teachers as well to learn more about the students and to continue building those vital relationships. Including students in the planning and gathering input from them benefits the learning environment tremendously and there are many ways to do this. I found a new method of encouraging students to share their thoughts this year, through Recap.

Deciding to Try Recap

Toward the end of the school year, I wanted to try some new tools in the classroom, to keep students engaged and motivated through the end of the year. I thought that trying out some new ideas would work well at this time, because I could use the information to reflect and plan over the summer. I came across Recap and was very interested in trying it out with my students.
I was initially unsure of whether it would be easy to implement into my classroom, or even how I would use it, but as with all things, sometimes you have to just take a chance and see how it works out. So I did just that and created a class for my students using Recap. The first time I logged in and created a video in which I asked the students to share their thoughts about some of the projects we had done, some of the tools that we had used, and any other insight that they wanted to provide to me. I explained how Recap would work and set up my recording for them. It was very easy to use and to set up. More important, students were excited about this new experience and felt comfortable in sharing their ideas.

Ideas for Using Recap

There are many uses for Recap in and outside of the classroom to have students respond to a prompt, have a debate on a topic, use it for a speaking assessment, and many more possibilities depending on content and grade level taught. But one of the biggest benefits I think it provides is a comfortable way for students to connect with their teachers and to honestly share their ideas, thoughts or reflections. Students are often afraid to speak up, we all are, and having a tool which enables the assessment or reflection to be done in the comfort of one’s own home or place, is very beneficial.
After the first time my students completed the assignment, watching their responses compiled into a daily reel, several things were clear. I could see that they were comfortable, which was very important to me, especially when trying something new like Recap. I also appreciated the fact that they took the risk to share their ideas and provided honest evaluations of my teaching and their classroom experiences. And I really like that I was able to give them feedback as well following their video responses.

The Foreign Language Classroom

As a foreign language teacher, I can use this in my classroom to have students complete speaking assessments, discuss topics we are working on in class, whether it be a work of art or particular reading, and they can give their honest opinions in a more comfortable, safer environment for expressing themselves. It is also quite useful for students to do a reflection of my instruction or of their own skills, interests and needs in the classroom. The nice thing is that either way, teachers and students can learn about each other, and grow from the feedback given.

I was very excited after this initial experience with Recap and so I tried it with several of my other classes. The response was all positive and I know that I will use it a lot more in the upcoming school year to have students complete speaking assessments, have discussions and more activities like these. But more than these uses, it is a way for me to better understand their needs and to learn more about them in the process. A way to continue building the vital relationships that help to build a positive, supportive classroom environment.

There are many ways to use Recap in the classroom but also as part of professional development, conference presentations and much more.

About Rachelle Dene Poth

She 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 recently received the Master’s Degree in Instructional Technology from Duquesne. She enjoys presenting at conferences on technology and learning more ways to benefit student learning. She is the Communications Chair for the ISTE Mobile Learning Network, a Member at Large for Games & Sims, the Innovation Resources Co-Chair for the Teacher Education Network and the PAECT Historian. Additionally, She is proud to be involved in several communities including being a Common Sense Media Educator, Amazon Inspire Educator, WeVideo Ambassador, Edmodo Certified Trainer, Nearpod Certified Educator and also participate in several other networks. She enjoys blogging and writing for Kidblog and is always looking for new learning opportunities to benefit my students. You can connect with her on Twitter @rdene915.

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