Learning as I go: Experiences, reflections, lessons learned

Rachelle Dene Poth @rdene915 #FUTURE4EDU #QUOTES4EDU #THRIVEinEDU

flippedlearning

Digital Tools to Build Communication Skills

Use reflective practice to encourage student relationships!

Posted on Common Sense Education on September 12, 2016

Rachelle Dene Poth

Classroom teacher
Riverview High School
Oakmont, PA
CATEGORIESIn the Classroom

Reflection is part of our practice — it has to be for us to grow as professionals and for our students to be successful. Reflection is an ongoing process; it happens after each class period, at the end of the day, and even in the evening. Reflecting on instructional practices and our interactions with students is important, and we must use this reflection time to plan for the future.

Oftentimes, reflection starts and ends with relationships. How does what we say and do help our students become confident learners and sharers? While the first few weeks of school are normally busy and chaotic, it’s important to take time to build relationships, and the best way to do this is to foster your students’ communication skills.

Talking and technology

There are lots of ways to get students talking to build relationships. Depending on the level you teach, some options might be easier or more feasible than others — but if you want to learn about your students, it might be as easy as creating a Google form and asking some general questions to get an idea of their interests. Immediately, this can lead to more discussion, some laughs, and a lot of learning about each other.

Another idea is to have students participate in a scavenger hunt. There are many digital tools available, such as Klikalu Playerand Social Scavenger. Whether you use a new digital tool or stick with tried-and-true paper activities, creating something that gets all your students involved, connected, and working together will build the engagement and respect needed to sustain positive peer relationships and a positive classroom all year long.

Set up a way to communicate

Teachers want to hear from students. We want students to feel comfortable coming to us for help, asking questions in class, and getting involved in classroom conversations. Unfortunately, many students struggle with speaking out; they become too nervous to answer or feel embarrassed asking a question. To create a feeling of support in the classroom, fostering communication is key. Luckily, many digital tools are available to help build students’ communication skills.

If this sounds like something that could benefit your classroom, try one of the many great messaging tools available: Bloomz,Celly, Voxer, Remind, or any of the dozens of similar apps. Once you feel comfortable with your choice, start thinking about another way you can add to the learning experience in your classroom.

A helpful way to implement these tools is to think about connections — who am I connecting to whom or what, and why? When students have opportunities to work with technology, having a choice in how they learn, are included in the conversation, and are asked for feedback engages and empowers them within the classroom. Start the conversations and keep them going, and soon your classroom will be filled with confident students.

Posted by on September 7, 2016 .

Piktochart is the perfect example of a tool that can be used by anyone for almost anything. You can create flyers, brochures, presentations, and reports. It doesn’t matter what line of work you are in because any of the templates can be used by anybody.

For example, as a teacher, I can create posters for my classroom or presentations for my lessons. I can have my students use Piktochart to create projects for our class. Piktochart can be used for conveying information for professional development, to show evidence of learning, and so much more. I’ve even used it to create a birthday card for a friend. You can download the image, share it, or print it, and they always look amazing.

books-school-field-pencilIn addition, students have a tremendous amount of choice when it comes to creating with Piktochart. Even students who say they are not creative find that their creativity comes out once they get started.

I have some quotations that I plan to incorporate into a poster for my classroom, and by having so many design options within Piktochart, I know I can create something personal, vibrant, and visually engaging for my students. I feel confident that even though I’m not a designer, I can still create something that will stand out and make my students curious about how they might be able to create something similar.

You might think that these ideas won’t work for you because you don’t work in education, marketing, or design. But step back and think about all of the digital tools and resources out there.

While it’s helpful to know what their “intended” purpose is, that doesn’t mean it can’t also fit your specific needs. Sometimes all it takes is some creative thinking (and some trial and error), and you’ll find a way to make it work for you. Once you get started, the ideas keep coming.


Getting Started

It’s all about taking a step back and looking at the picture from a different angle. When I started using Piktochart two years ago, it was my first experience with infographics. I had only recently learned what an “infographic” was.

I really wasn’t sure what to create, so I decided to start with my course syllabus. I copied the content from a Word document, pasted it into the template, and added some different visually engaging images around the text. It was a great way to add some technology to my classroom and to introduce students to the concept and benefit of using infographics for presentations.

Then I realized I could have my students use Piktochart to create projects to tell me about themselves, to talk about their family, and for many other uses where I would have normally just used paper. From there, the ideas just kept coming.

brainstorm-idea-thoughtNot that they were always my own. Often the new ideas were brought on by seeing the work of my students, or I’d be inspired by a conversation with other educators at conferences. My ideas for using infographics in the classroom kept growing.

One of my best ideas came to me recently while I was attending ISTE in Denver. My presentation was about using Piktochart to create infographics and presentations. Our discussion focused on how engaging and interactive these creations can be, and it occurred to me that there’s absolutely no reason why you couldn’t use Piktochart to run a flipped classroom lesson or to lead someone through a process.

Simply choose a template and add your information, and you will have created a lesson for students in which you lead them step-by-step through a lesson in a visually engaging way. You can include your links to websites, embed video in it, add your images, and so much more.


My Classroom Lesson

While I was at ISTE, I began thinking about using Piktochart as a means to provide a flipped or blended learning experience through the use of an infographic.

In order to test the idea of what would be or could be a lesson, I created a lesson with activities in a document as I normally would. Then, I transferred the lesson into one of my favorite Piktochart templates.

I numbered the steps, and I included some of the links and all of the necessary information. I added some icons, changed the backgrounds, and altered the sizes of images and the colors of the backgrounds.

I’m going to test it out with my students and get their thoughts. I plan to have some students use the paper format and others use the infographic in order to gauge their responses to my flipped classroom experiment.

As a teacher, my purpose for creating something like this is to engage my students and provide more for them. I want to give them something visually appealing that adds to their learning experience. The impact that digital tools have on my students is very important to me, and I carefully select tools that will provide the most choices for them and that prove to be more meaningful and beneficial.

globes-school-lantern-learnTaking this concept a step further, I could also flip it again and have the students create their own lesson in the same way that I did. By doing this, students develop leadership skills and are empowered. They gain new perspective as the “teacher”. They get to be creative, and they drive their own learning.

The teacher then becomes the student, and he or she has the opportunity to learn and gain another perspective that will be beneficial to their role in the classroom. There are many options for using infographics like this. You just have to find what works best for you.


Limitless Technology

From a teacher’s perspective, I think that if you are looking for ways to flip your classroom or to make it more interesting and engaging, infographics (particularly ones you can create with Piktochart) are the way to go.

Even if you are not in the educational field, think of the documents that you have to create in your line of work. You can easily paste the information into one of the templates. You can add your own photography or logos, search for new images, add icons, change the font colors or the backgrounds, and so much more. It is very easy to do, and it just takes that first step to get started.

When it comes to technology, I’m starting to think that there really are no limits. There is something out there for everyone to use. And while it may not be apparent at first, give it a little bit of time. If you are not sure where to start, make a birthday card for a friend.

https://magic.piktochart.com/embed/15072511-spainlesson

Using Nearpod in class

I have used Nearpod many times, but during the past few months, I had an opportunity to dive in and see what it can provide for student-led learning. As part of conference presentations, graduate coursework and lessons for my Spanish classes, I have a much greater understanding of its capabilities for instruction and the tremendous features it offers for education. At the end of the school year, after noticing a decrease in student engagement and motivation, I wanted to try some innovative, different methods of instruction.

Technology in our classroom: It has a purpose

Students work with many digital tools and choose how to showcase their learning.  Using technology to provide authentic and meaningful learning experiences leads to an increase in student engagement, motivation, and content mastery. I am invested in providing diverse learning opportunities and look for innovative ways to introduce content and promote student choice.  Students need to do more than just be receptors of information, they need to be creators! After reflecting on my practice and thinking about student needs, I had my students create a project using digital tools typically used by teachers to facilitate a lesson.

The Project

I first used Nearpod to review South American culture and verb tenses.  The virtual field trips were fantastic and the students were much more engaged in the lesson. I then wondered how students would like creating a Nearpod lesson and taking control in the classroom, so I put them up to the challenge! After my students created and facilitated their Nearpod lessons, they had some fantastic feedback about using Nearpod as a tool for both teaching AND learning.

So what did the students say?

“I used Nearpod for a class project about South America, and the amazing virtual tours took my presentation to another level. I consider myself tech-savvy, but I’ve never seen anything like this; I’d recommend Nearpod to anyone wanting a real step-up from Powerpoints, Prezis, or Google Slides!” – Sydney

“As someone who finds technology unnecessary at times, I often do not enjoy using some of the tools I have in the past. Nearpod has really gotten me excited about the possibilities of technology in the classroom! Being able to take an adventure on virtual tours and experience culture first hand is something I have never been able to do before. Nearpod is a great tool for every classroom!”    -Patrick

“Having so many choices for activities to use were educational and fun. Choices make learning more enjoyable for students. It provides more than just listening to a presentation, or watching a video, and not really being held accountable. I recommend Nearpod for other educators and anyone looking for a new way to present information. -Izabel

Learners to leaders

Using Nearpod means that learning is no longer confined to the traditional classroom setting, nor that the “teacher” is the only person providing instruction.  Students were empowered in their learning.  Seeing their transformation from learners to leaders was tremendous. The choice was theirs.

Students teaching a Nearpod lesson 1

Students teaching a Nearpod lesson 2

Students working on projects in class 1

There are a lot of ways that teachers can involve students in conversations both in and outside of class.  Students sometimes have fear of responding in class.  Sometimes it is the fear of being wrong, there is that fear of speaking in public, and it can also be simply that some students prefer not to speak in class.  But as teachers, we have to make sure that we provide diverse ways for all students to contribute and to do so in a way which is comfortable and can help to build student confidence.  Finding one’s voice and being comfortable in using it, are important in today’s classrooms.

The helpful aspect of technology in this scenario, is that communication, conversations and collaboration can happen and take various formats, because of technology. In my classroom, I can tell when I ask a question, whether it be the lack of students eager to respond, or just by observing the physical reactions to the question being posed, that many students have some aversion to responding in class.  Whether this happens as a result of the hesitancy of speaking out in front of others or the fear of not knowing the right answer or perhaps something else entirely, it’s sometimes difficult to encourage the students to speak and share what they are thinking, feeling and express true opinions. Even as a teacher, at times, answering in front of others, sharing my thoughts or perspective can feel uncomfortable and has made me nervous as well.  Even as a teacher, I sometimes become nervous when I am in a similar situation. There’s that fear having the wrong answer or of saying something that might not be well received, cause a bigger discussion or even create an argument.

But regardless, we need to involve students in class discussions and ask questions, and there are many ways that this can be done.  Using some of the tools out there can help to share ideas, expand learning, and maybe even more importantly, enable the students to feel more comfortable in the classroom.

How can technology help in this area?  Is there a purpose?

Teachers want to know what students are thinking, to understand their learning and needs, we have to ask questions, and it is critical to help them feel more secure in responding both in and outside of class.  One way to do this is by using a digital tool that can offer these securities and provide opportunities for students to really express their thoughts and feelings. In this regard, I believe the technology does truly have a purpose because it can serve to give students a voice and in a comfortable way, where otherwise students may be apprehensive about expressing themselves.

I am not saying that technology should be used as a substitute for having students speak in class or for courses in which public speaking is part of the requirement.  Developing the ability and confidence to stand up and speak out in front of others and to voice one’s opinion are important skills and characteristics that students need to develop in classrooms today, to be prepared for their future. And if use technology to replace this, then we also take away a part of the learning process and the risk taking that is involved in developing these public speaking and independent skills, which leads to us doing a disservice to our students and to ourselves.So maybe offering some alternatives for how students can express themselves would be a good way to start.

Some options

Depending on the type of question or the feedback we want from the students, there are many tools such as SurveyMonkey, Responster, TodaysMeet, Socrative or Riddle. A tool like GoSoapBox can be used for a variety of question.  Even using some game based tools like Quizizz or Kahoot! also provide options for having students respond to questions and reflections.

Teachers can review the answers and then use it as a way to start a new discussion in class. Answers can be shared anonymously, and of course some students will acknowledge that you are reading their answer, but this can also help to boost confidence and create more comfort in the classroom for all students.

Some other options are for using things like Wikis or blogs, or another tool for backchannel discussions, to have students respond and collaborate on different topics.

If students create their own blog, their responses can be kept private and this has been a very beneficial tool in my classroom which helped students to practice their content area skills, in a way that is more comfortable, through which I can give them personalized feedback and also learn more about them in the process. A Wiki can also be a good way to have students collaborate if they are working in small groups.

It all comes down to what type of conversation, the questions or discussion we are hoping to involve the students in. Do we want something that is more open-ended? Do we want students to think about something and then respond later, once class is over? These are some of the reasons why technology can help, and also can enable teachers to offer a more blended or flipped learning experience in the classroom. Just because the bell rings and class is over for the day, our conversations don’t have to end.  We can discuss, ask questions, provide feedback after the class is over. We need student feedback we want learning to be meaningful and students to feel comfortable.  The use of these tools are helpful for students to express their ideas, we can learn more about what they want to do, what they can do and what they need help with.

These are some of the reasons why I think technology has a real purpose. It helps to expedite the process by delivering real live results so that we can give feedback to the students when they need it. We can use these tools to encourage students to share thoughts and answer questions, and to feel more comfortable in doing so.

Thank you Visme for the opportunity to share this and involve my students in this blog post.

How to Use Narrated Presentations With Voice Overs in the Classroom

image: http://blog.visme.co/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/AudioHeader.png

Projects are one way that teachers can assess students throughout the year. Regardless of the theme, students have a lot of opportunities today to complete their projects using a variety of presentation formats. They have more options for showing what they have learned and how they can apply the material covered in class.

With each passing school year, the options available to students increases, enabling each student to find and work with a digital tool that is personalized to them because it meets their interests and needs, and also their comfort level with technology.

While using tools such as Microsoft Word or a standard PowerPoint to create reports and presentations provides students with a foundation for learning technology skills, taking their knowledge of these formats and applying them to new technology tools can maximize their learning in many critical areas.

Audio11

Depending on the type of project or assignment that a student must complete, tools such as Visme offer many options to users who want to create any type of project or presentation with a single multi-tool that integrates multimedia and many other visual elements. As a foreign language teacher, for example, I often want students to include an audio component to their project so that I can assess their speaking skills.

A recent example of this is a project I assigned to Spanish III students which entailed describing the life and work of an artist. The project required a certain amount of vocabulary to assess their Spanish language skills, but it also had to include images or video and an audio narration with their comments on the project.

Whereas in the past, they may have needed to use two separate digital tools to do this, depending on their choice, they can now rely on Visme to create their projects with all of these elements in one presentation.

There are many choices as to the type of format, whether it be an infographic, flyer or a presentation. Each of these have options to include multimedia and many other choices for audio, video, and other visual representations. With the new updates, these choices are even greater than they were for our prior student projects.

There are a lot of tools available which integrate various components, enabling students to record audio or upload audio files into their presentation, but these often require multiple steps, or specific formats, and in some cases may require advanced knowledge of technology.

However, with the recent addition of Visme’s new audio feature, students only need to look to this one tool to create their presentations. They can add their voice-over directly into their project with just a few clicks.

RELATED: How to Create a Narrated Presentation With Voice Over Using Visme

 

Ideas for Using Narrated Presentations

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There are tons of possibilities for using audio in presentations. As a teacher, I can create lessons for my students, with instructions on each slide, to guide them through the presentation. This is a great option for students who are absent from class or who would like to revisit a specific lesson.

I can also teach a lesson and explain grammar, vocabulary, culture, or any topic we are covering in class, and easily add the recording to the slide, making it easier for the students to follow along. The potential for this is huge, especially in flipped classrooms, or blended learning environments.

Anyone who creates a presentation, regardless of whether it is for use in an educational setting, can take advantage of the audio component of Visme, to really add that something extra to the presentation.

CostaRica8

It can be a recording of one’s own voice, or it can be other audio that has been added in from the library or uploaded from another source. There really are a lot of possibilities for enhancing anyone’s presentation.

 

What Can Students Do With This?

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Students were excited to use Visme’s audio feature for recording voice overs and creating narrated infographics and presentations for our class. Some of the students shared their opinions of Visme’s audio feature.

Ellie: “The audio feature makes it easier to explain your work more in depth when you don’t want to have too many words on the screen, or simply want to describe an image.”

Alexa: “With voice overs, it’s easier to include all of your information and faster than reading slides word for word. It would be a lot easier to present it to people because I could take my time and make sure that my pronunciations were right rather than having to speak in front of people from memory. It’s really easy to use, and it made my presentation more interesting.”

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From a student’s point of view, presenting information to classmates can be a bit scary, and rather than speaking while displaying the presentation, the students can pre-record their information, and let the presentation run on its own.

This is a great way to help students gain confidence in the classroom and keep comfort levels in check. It is also a great way to have presentations available for sharing with peers and for use as a resource for future classes. Teachers can benefit by being able to record their own lessons, but students benefit by having everything they need to create highly visual and engaging multimedia presentations.

image: http://blog.visme.co/wp-content/themes/blog/img/pei1.png

image: http://blog.visme.co/wp-content/themes/blog/img/pei4.png

Visme simplifies presenting and storytelling for you and your team.

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About the Author

 

Thank you @Kidblog for publishing my recent post on how to start blogging with your students.  Great way to start off the new school year.

Getting Started: Tips for launching a successful class blog

Enthusiastic Students Showcase Kidblog

Summer is full of opportunities for reflecting, learning, and planning. Teachers and students have the ability to review the past year and develop goals for both the summer and the upcoming school year.  While summer gives teachers a chance to unwind and relax, it is often used as a time for exploration and preparation for the new year.

During their time off, many teachers participate in professional development events, become involved in learning communities, and look for new ways to engage their students in the classroom.  I am no different. This summer I had many opportunities to connect with other educators and discuss ideas for increasing engagement in students’ learning and blogging became a common topic. I welcomed these conversations as I have seen first hand the positive results blogging has had on my students.  These discussions revolved around questions about getting students started, privacy, the best use of blogs in the classroom, and how to create new ideas and keep students motivated to blog in and out of the classroom. I was always happy to offer my advice. I created this post in hopes of sharing what I learned from these discussions with a wider audience.

The benefits to student blogging are endless. If you are looking for something new to try with your students, to get them talking, and to learn about your students, I highly recommend blogging as a way to start this new school year.

If you are not familiar with classroom blogging, I suggest setting up your “class URL” first – select a theme, familiarize yourself with the settings, features and how students will create their accounts and log-in.  Additionally, by setting up an account as a student in your class you can better understand the student experience and be prepared to answer any questions. Once everything is ready for real students, creating a handout to explain the use of blogging for your class, listing your expectations and some guidelines, and encouraging creativity in the process, is a great way to start the blogging conversation.

I have tried various methods to getting students started in our class blog. Regardless of the method you choose, it is always worth while to start with a conversation regarding your class blog. Talk about what students will write, when they will use the blog, who will be reading their posts, etc. Getting students excited about the options for post styles, fonts, and the wide audience they can reach in the process is helpful in driving motivation to write.

One option to get students started writing in class is through the use of prompt responses. I started small by instructing students how to join the class and having them begin responding to my posts with meaningful discussion points. If you have time in class to do this, facilitate as the students create their account, personalize their page and begin writing. Eventually students will feel comfortable and excited about creating their own ideas for writing.

Another successful way to get students blogging is to start with what they know – pen and paper. Try providing a prompt and having students write a response on paper, as they had done in the past. This is a great way to ensure students learn to evaluate their work and self-correct. It also reinforces that the true value in blogging is to feel comfortable and confident in expressing one’s ideas and using it as a means for personal growth. Once the students have written their responses, you can ask them create their Kidblog student account and use their writing as the first entry.  By having the first draft, and then entering it as a blog post, students have the opportunity to think, reflect and work on their skills.

Either option provides a great starting point. I recommend that you base your decisions for your class blogging on your students and what will be the most beneficial to your classroom.

Getting students excited about blogging only takes that first step. It is a continuous work in progress.  We are all involved in ongoing learning, and by being learners ourselves, we can help our students to take risks, accept challenges, reflect, and grow. And, through the process, we learn about each other, reinforcing the value of relationship building and support in the classroom.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I am a Spanish Teacher at Riverview Junior Senior High School in Oakmont, PA. I am also an attorney and earned my Juris Doctor Degree from Duquesne University School of Law and recently received the Master’s Degree in Instructional Technology from Duquesne. I enjoy presenting at conferences on technology and learning more ways to benefit student learning. I am 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, I am 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. I enjoy blogging and writing for Kidblog and I am always looking for new learning opportunities to benefit my students. You can connect with me on Twitter @rdene915.

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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After recent technology showcases, finishing up an independent study focused on Student engagement, motivation and social presence, I wanted to learn more about what students want and what they need to do well.  Taking the digital tools we had used, with me leading the lesson, I put it in their hands to create and lead.  It was an exciting opportunity, as the year was winding down, to keep motivated and try new things, but to give choices for all.  Here is the second part of a series of stories, with student reflections.

 

Interactive Video Lessons:  EDpuzzle

Rachelle Dene Poth: I am a Spanish and French Teacher and I look for ways to include student voice, choice, and leadership when finding the right materials for every student. With the help of some students, we worked with EDpuzzle as part of a new learning adventure, I wanted to empower students to become more than learners in the classroom. I wanted them to lead the class and develop these critical skills and have choices.

Choosing EDpuzzle

EDpuzzle is a tool that I have been increasingly interested in using with my students, to add to our video experiences and find new ways to engage them more in and out of class.  As the school year started to wind down, I found myself wanting to try some new methods of instruction with my students.  We have used a variety of digital tools to complete assessments, have discussions, create projects, collaborate on class wikis and more.  The benefits have been tremendous.  Students have improved their Spanish language skills by creating a more authentic and meaningful representation of what they know and can do with the material by having a choice in tools. This personalization  meets their interests and needs and helps to motivate them.  

Motivation for trying new things in the classroom

One of my main goals is to work to find creative and innovative ways to introduce content in my classroom and above all, to make sure that students have choices and feel valued and supported in the classroom.  Giving choices for how to show their learning, leads to a more beneficial and personalized experience for all students and even myself.  If each student chooses something different, this promotes more meaningful and unique learning experiences, and builds vital technology skills in the process. Opportunities like this lead to many benefits.   

So who benefits from these new, interactive and flipped experiences?

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We all do. Teachers and students benefit because not only have we all reinforced our knowledge of the content material, (Spanish language and culture in our case), we are learning about new tools, and maybe even more importantly, about each other.  

Giving choices is a risk.  With so many options available, it is not possible to know everything about each tool and its benefits.  So as teachers, we have to learn as much as we can, and then relinquish some control to our students.  They need to have the chance to explore, create, and share.  Give them the opportunity to do more than simply produce the same product as the other students, because they are not the same.  Let them become the “creators” and the leaders in the classroom.  Let them take on a more active role and see how this promotes engagement, curiosity and motivation within them.

Putting the plan into action

With these new reflective thoughts, I began a new venture into having students select from diverse tools, which are typically used by teachers for delivering content, and had them create and teach a lesson.  I thought this could be a bit risky, but would also be beneficial for many reasons.  It seemed like an interesting twist to try, especially at the end of the year, and I wanted to see if and how it was of benefit.

Why make the change to student created lessons

Accountability.  In education, there is a lot of accountability.   Both teachers and students are accountable for learning and classroom involvement, as well as many other responsibilities.  In my classroom, I use a variety of learning activities and offer choices of tools to help the students to learn.  I often tell the students that it is like having a room full of toys, find one and try it, if you like it, keep it.  If you don’t then select something else, because the idea is for it to be something that is beneficial and meaningful to you. No matter what you do, use each as a learning opportunity and a chance to reflect and grow.

Videos for learning

One area I rely on for helping students is the use of videos. In the past, I would assign the videos to be viewed outside of class, flipping the learning environment, and hope the students watched the videos as instructed, but without any real way to know.  Sometimes we would discuss the video or I would have them complete an in class activity, ways to hold students accountable for watching the video.  But students could skip through the video, gathering only the highlights, and get by with just enough information to complete the activity, or without watching the video, could learn the information elsewhere.  So the problem remained student accountability.

 

That is before tools like EDpuzzle which enable the creation of interactive video lessons with analytics to show who watched, analyzing their responses to questions and much more. Without having tools like EDpuzzle, assigning students to watch a video alone does not promote accountability and is not quite as engaging, nor is it interactive.  Students are less likely to really focus on the material.  

How else can videos be used?

We use a variety of videos to enhance our learning in the classroom and I have spent time this year, creating more interactive lessons, to hold the students accountable.  I also started wondering how the students would like being the creators, more active and interactive, rather than passive in their learning, and using these traditionally considered “teacher” resources to produce an assessment or a project and let them lead in the classroom.  

I am thrilled with how this new approach has gone. While I may think that it went well and was very helpful, what matters more to me is what do the students think?  I make it clear that I do not want to waste their time and would not assign something that I did not truly believe was beneficial. This is my hope, but I rely on the honest feedback of students, to reflect and move forward.

 

So what do the students have to say?   

Three of my 10th grade, Spanish III students reflect on their experience with EDpuzzle.

Adam: I had been struggling to find a good web source to meet my needs for entertainment as well as my education in the classroom and EDpuzzle is a great way to meet both of these needs.  When I faced the challenge of preparing a lesson to teach to my Spanish 3 class, I honestly didn’t know where to start.  I first tried some other resources that we had used but they really weren’t getting the message across like I wanted. Then Mrs. Poth recommended a new tool by the name of EDpuzzle to me and my reaction was

“Edpuzzle? Mrs. Poth this is a Spanish project, not a puzzle!”
“Just try it out!” She said.
So I went home that night, and after thinking it through, I again began my Spanish project.  I started with another source and was still disappointed in my product.  Finally I decided to give EDPuzzle a chance. By the time the loading bar hit 100 percent and that page loaded up I knew I found the perfect tool for not only this project but many more to come!

EDpuzzle was a fantastic way for me to use my sports video and transform it into something completely unique with a few easy changes. And for future projects, I will never have the issue of handing out papers with the questions. I can simply tell my “class” to pull out their mobile devices and answer the questions that I have integrated into my video. There are so many options for a user to enjoy and learn from the features that EDpuzzle has to offer! Thank you for providing the tool to not only teach my Spanish 3 class but to have them enjoy  as well.

BEN: I used EDpuzzle for a class project. The first time I saw EDpuzzle was in class and I thought it had a pretty interesting concept. So, when we were assigned a project for the camping unit, I decided to try EDpuzzle.

I created a lesson for my classmates by adding comments and questions to a camping video I found online. I found that EDpuzzle was easy to use and that it was a new fun way to make a class project that could be used as an interactive lesson. I especially enjoyed the many features EDpuzzle offers such as the being able to crop the video, make an audio recording over the video, and being able to make different types of questions. I felt that EDpuzzle impacted me in that it gave me a new way to present a topic and a more fun way to create projects and relay information. EDpuzzle is a fun and different digital tool to use that can be a great tool for learning.

EDpuzzle

 

A student who participated in the lessons of Adam and Ben said: “ By having all of the different choices of tools to use for our project made it easier to find something that I was interested in and comfortable with.  The activities included in their video lessons were educational and fun,  and made learning more enjoyable for the students. It provides more than just watching a video and not really being held accountable for paying attention. You had to pay attention in order to answer the questions.   I would recommend EDpuzzle to anyone looking for a new way to present information, in any setting.”

 

In the end

It is all about giving the students choices and allowing them the opportunity to try new things, lead the class and develop their content area skills, as well as many other critical 21st century skills.  EDpuzzle and the other tools,  provided an opportunity for students to take on a new role, to build their comfort level, and to learn new ways of integrating technology and having fun in the process.  They were the teachers and we all were the learners. 

Showing how to use EDpuzzle in class.  IMG_20160601_105253829

 Toward the end of this past school year, I noticed a quick decline in homework completion, student progress and motivation. I knew that it had been a very busy final few weeks full of testing, athletic events, and much more, and thought that I should work on ways to engage the students more, try some new things in class, and finish the year strong. So I used that time to test out some new tools, offer some new opportunities and different choices to the students. I found myself allowing for more spontaneity in our learning, taking a few more risks, and asking the students for more input into what they wanted to do and how they wanted to learn. It became part of my “staying strong till the finish” experiment, which included mixing up the seating arrangements, giving students opportunities to teach class, choosing how to show what they had learned and more. With positive responses, I then shifted to another area which concerned me and that was homework.
Do we need to assign homework?
As a student, I always had homework and it was always the same as everyone else. We did worksheets, or outlined chapters, or had some other task. When I first started teaching, I found myself teaching similar to how I had been taught. Homework was assigned to my students on most days, and on most days it was the same. For a very long time I did not see any problem with this, I was using the homework to assess the students and give them the practice they needed to master the content. But as part of my professional development and interest in trying new methods and focusing more on student needs, I realized that it does not have to be the same. So I shifted my focus to evaluating the types and the frequency of homework assignments that I was giving to my students.
Over the past few years, I have changed my thinking, looking for ways to move away from those “one size fits all” assignments and aim toward providing more personalized, authentic assignments for my students. Some other reasons are that students can possibly find answers online, or worse, copy the homework. And as a language teacher, I also wanted to find ways to discourage students from using online translators. These experiences, along with feeling a bit frustrated about the homework not being completed, led me to really try some new methods at the end of the year. And have led me to really think about what types of homework I will have for the upcoming year. It is an ongoing learning process. Some areas that I have been reflecting on are: the types of assessments used in my classroom, my different groups of students, the frequency of their homework completion, and even more closely, a look at the individual students within each of the classes. 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 what I am assigning truly has value and is helping to build their skills, or is it simply busy work.
Questions I asked myself I have been thinking about a few areas of my teaching. What are the types of materials use in class? Have I been using the same resources each year with each class? Was I assigning the same homework to each class? There are times when I had used the same worksheet, or a test over the years. Not because I was lazy, but rather, because it was a quick assessment to use or I believed it was the best way to provide the students with practice. But I have been working to find something that would work best for and help the students. And I have realized that it is more than taking a look at each individual class, it means really developing an understanding of the needs of each individual student. What helps them to learn the best? What do our students want and need from us?
An experiment
I do believe in the value of homework and I know that students today have a lot of homework each day. Homework is one of the ways to help students to practice and evaluate what they know, what they don’t know and how they can improve. It is one of many ways teachers can assess students and learn about their needs, provide instruction and valuable feedback. To change things a bit, I decided to make things more personal and have the students decide what they could do for homework.
I assigned each student to be the teacher for the next class period. The students were working in pairs and their homework was to come to class the next day with a lesson to teach. It could be something tangible such as a worksheet or could be a website, a video, a game, or any other resource. I was fine with whatever they chose as long as they could use it in class and more importantly, that they could teach their partner. I thought this would be a great way for the students to have more meaningful learning and also build relationships and collaborative learning skills. And in the process, also see there was more than one teacher in the room.
The results
During the lessons, I interacted with each group to see the lessons they prepared. Students had created worksheets, written notes, brought flashcards, had games and videos and more. A few even created a 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 was nervous about doing this, about not having clear expectations, and leaving it up to the students. It was a risk. But it went very well and I was impressed with how creative they were, their level of engagement, and the variety of “homework” that had been done.
The student responses
I value student input and regularly engage them in informal conversations because I want to know their thoughts. Did they learn? Was this an effective way to practice? It was a very positive experience and the end result was that the students became teachers, the learning was more personal, they felt valued, and it was meaningful and beneficial to their learning experiences. 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 up some control to the students is not always easy, but in doing this, it opened up more opportunities for facilitating their learning, providing more individualized instruction and continuing to build those relationships which are the foundation of education. I still have some time before the new school year and I am looking forward to trying more ideas like this, which give students more control and provide diverse learning opportunities.
There are a lot of great tools out there and students really like having choices in the classroom and learning new ways to use technology that helps them to develop their language skills.

Technology Helps Students Avoid the “Summer Slide”

Published on CoSN: The Consortium for School Networking

Chrysanthemum

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

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