iste

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.

#ISTE16 Part 2: Highlights & Takeaways

By Rachelle Dene Poth

This post is part two of #ISTE16 reflections from Rachelle. Click here to read part 1: Let’s Talk About Relationships.

Where does one start to describe the highlights from a conference experience like ISTE? The tremendous number and types of events offered during this experience make it a real challenge to focus on only a few here. There are so many wonderful things that you could highlight about the conference. With numerous concurrent events, pulling you in so many directions and with all of the choices, how can you possibly decide on a schedule? It definitely is not an easy task, but it does not have to be difficult either. You just need a little focus.

So how do you focus? Talk to people about some of the “must” events, but also think about what your personal focus might be. What are you hoping to gain from attending ISTE? So many choices. I believe that no matter which option you choose, you can’t be wrong because of the endless opportunities available at a conference of this magnitude.

Planning with #ISTE15 in Mind

Even though I had attended ISTE last year, and had a pretty good idea of what to expect, I don’t know that I was any more prepared. It seems to me, that each day had one event people considered to be a “must attend.” Aside from having this one focal point, the rest of the days were filled quickly with a combination of time spent at the poster sessions, playgrounds, Keynotes, Ignites, and 1 in 3 sessions. Every day was also filled with networking and connecting everywhere: stopping in the Expo hall to grab some swag; hanging out in the Bloggers Cafe and the PLN Lounge; enjoying ice cream and shopping for ISTE wear and books at ISTE Central; and so much more.

With so much to do, I think sometimes it’s better off to not put too much thought into having the “master plan/schedule” because you don’t know who you might meet, what you might find or where you will end up once you enter the convention center. It is so easy to be pulled in so many different directions, so it is always a good idea to have a flexible “plan” of where to start but keep your options open because there’s a whole lot going on out there in the world of ISTE

My #ISTE Highlights

A lot of people come in for the pre-conference events starting on Saturday with Hack Education’s ISTE Unplugged and the Mobile Learning Network’s Mobile Megashare. Both of these offered opportunities for people to meet up with their Twitter friends or “tweeps”, make new connections and do a lot of learning and networking. The great thing about these two events on Saturday is that there are so many diverse topics for discussion and so many people to share and brainstorm ideas with. And nobody says you have to stay at either one for the whole time. Just like the EdCamp “law of two feet”, you can go back and forth whenever you want, because you are in charge of your learning. This is your personalized PD. Enjoy the time to CHOOSE what you what to learn about.

For the Mobile Megashare, there were 24 tables each with a presenter or presenters facilitating a discussion about a topic. Attendees were able to choose a table to join in and could come and go as they wanted, or just move about the room and listen in and participate in a bunch of different conversations, moving around from table to table and idea to idea. .

There were two unconference events attached to ISTE, #HackEd and Teachmeet. #HackEd was much like a traditional Edcamp, and with TeachMeet, you can submit an idea to present on a topic for either a 2, 7 or 20-minute time period. It’s another place to connect and make new friends, and really build up the excitement for the rest of the conference.

Sunday night kicked off officially with the Keynote speech by Dr. Michio Kaku, who questioned whether we are “equipping students for the 1950’s or cultivating future ready learners.” The Balco Theater was packed, and more people gathered in the Bloggers Cafe to spend some time collaborating and to listen in to the Keynote. In the first two days alone there were many opportunities for personalized professional development and learning.

More Highlights

New #ISTE Student Standard: One of the highlights this year was the launch of the newISTE Standards for Students. The updated version was released and includes 7 standards of student statements, with focus on empowering student learners and giving students a voice through technology. There was a lot of excitement and discussion of these new standards and the focus toward student-centered learning.

Keynotes:
The two other inspirational and motivating keynotes were given by Dr. Ruha Benjamin and Michelle Cordy. Both shared experiences and messages that called upon educators to take action to provide opportunities and digital equity for all learners.

#CoffeeEDU: If you’re not an early riser, then get up early and go to #CoffeeEdu. Join in the conversations, get a great start to the day, talk with Alice Keeler and make some new connections.

Parties!: If you don’t normally stay out late, then make sure you get to the Gaggle party or EdTech Karaoke. The Gaggle Party was held at the Denver Athletic Club, multiple levels of nothing but fun and ETK was at the City Hall Events Center. Both of these events are a lot of fun and well attended, so you need to at least make some time to stop in for a bit to find out what the buzz is all about and why so many people are so quick to get those badges and passes to attend.

Hanging at Gaggle: Sean Farnum, Melanie Broder, Bryan Miller, Edward Sun, Katrina Keene & Michael Jaber
Sean Gaillard, Fran Siracusa, Mandy Froehlich and Kahoot!

At #ISTE16, the opportunities for learning came from all directions. Everything and everyone is always moving. Doors opening to sessions, lines crowding the hall, students excitedly sharing their work, drawing you into their poster sessions, and all of the different tables and topics that each of the playgrounds offered. It is hard to pass any one of these opportunities up. And it’s even harder to decide when to stop and when to keep going. It’s variety and connecting that made this learning special.

Planning Ahead: #ISTE17

Now is the time to plan your schedule for #ISTE2017. The location for next year is San Antonio, TX from June 25-28, and now is the time to start planning ahead. Not deciding on where or how you want to spend your time while there, but planning to be there to experience the awesomeness of ISTE and the Connected World. See you in San Antonio!

What are your takways and highlights from #ISTE16? Share in the comments or on Twitter with #TheEduCal!

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

#ISTE16 Takeaways Part 1: Let’s Talk About Relationships

By Rachelle Dene Poth

ISTE Takeaways

Let’s talk about the relationships (part 1 of a series)

Rachelle Dene Poth

ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) is a conference that draws in people from all over the world and all levels of education and technology. With an estimate of close to 20,000 people from 70 countries in attendance, this year’s conference was tremendous. An event so large but yet at times seems so small, when you find yourself running into the same people in different areas of such a large event space. It has so much to offer, that it is hard to do it justice by summarizing or simply writing about one aspect of it.  So I thought I would highlight a few of the biggest takeaways that I had, and ones which I gathered from others.

 

Going to ISTE? What can you expect?
There are a lot of discussions and questions leading up to the conference. For people attending for the first time, the most common questions are: What sessions should I choose? What type of clothing is appropriate? What items should I carry in my bag? What should I expect? What are the “must do” events? and many more questions like this.  Simply put, where do I begin?

I myself was a first-time attendee last year and had absolutely no idea what to expect.  I had been to many different conferences, but none as large as ISTE. I was nervous about not really knowing a lot of people there.  I was fortunate to have just gotten involved with PAECT (Pennsylvania Association for Educational Communications and Technology) and two of the ISTE networks (MLN and Games & Sims).  Being involved with these organizations helped because I knew some people and had some events lined up, but I figured the chances of seeing them with all of our different schedules, were not too likely.

PAECT Friends

IMG_20160626_173826603_TOP-COLLAGE

I tried doing some research, asking questions on social media, reading through and studying the ISTE website to learn as much as I could. I think I studied the program multiple times every day, each week leading up to my travels to Philadelphia. I had a nice schedule planned out, my favorites marked and areas that I wanted to focus on, so it seemed like I was ready to go.  But as I quickly learned last year, and definitely felt the same this year, is that it really doesn’t matter what you decide to do, what schedule you set up to follow, whether or not you know anyone, because no matter what decision you make you can’t go wrong. Honestly. There are no “wrong” or “bad” choices because there are opportunities everywhere. Even if you have a schedule, it is really tough to stick to it. And if you are traveling alone for the first time, don’t worry about being alone. It is a place for building relationships and making connections above anything else. So if you want to learn what ISTE is about let me start by telling you about the relationships and why they matter.

(Photos from #iste2016 Twitter)

(Photo from TechieTeacherTalk @GUAMlovesAT)

 

It starts with relationships: The value of connections

I had to conquer a big fear this year: my fear of flying. Last year, I traveled by Amtrak to Philly, and it was no problem. I don’t mind traveling alone, I use the time to read, participate in Twitter chats, catch up on work, and enjoy the trip.  But this year, preparing to travel to Denver, with my fear of flying, something I have not done in 21 years, was a bit difficult.  I have avoided air travel, preferring to drive or take a train any distance. However with Colorado being a bit far of a drive, bus ride or travel by train, I was not left with much in the way of options. So that meant flying. Fortunately, I had a good friend providing me with the support to help me get to the airport, get on the plane and get to Denver without worry. At least not too much. I just kept thinking about the week ahead.

My support for the travels started with another conference.  Karyn and I met at a Keystone Technology Innovator Summit in Pennsylvania a few years ago. I was also fortunate that at Karyn had another friend traveling with us, Chris, so I had two amazing companions to ease my nerves and it really made a huge difference during the flight and throughout the conference.

Chris Stengel and Karyn Dobda

 

Relationships started through Social Media.  Now aside from the travel, another tremendous part of this experience was a group that originated on Facebook, educators connecting in an ISTE2016 group.  The group then transferred into a Voxer group created and led by Rodney Turner. We communicated in the weeks leading up to ISTE. Lots of conversation, lots of questions and more than anything a ton of inspiration and excitement fueled by the chatter, the shared experiences, the anticipation and even more so, motivation provided by the guidance of our named “Concierge Rodney.”

He started each day with a Vox, a countdown to ISTE, an inspiration and a story.  He brought a bunch of people together, a group of connected educators, who became friends, excited to meet F2F after developing these relationships. Becoming friends through technology. I could hardly wait to meet the members of this group, officially, because we had already learned so much about each other. And we even had t-shirts and stickers made for our group, thanks Mike Jaber.   

(Meeting in Bloggers Cafe, VoxUp)

And at conferences like ISTE, meeting your “Tweeps” and #eduheroes finally F2F is a possibility.  Even though we all feel like we already know each other, after many Twitter chats and social media interactions, it is nice to be together and talk (about technology) without the technology.

Sean Gaillard and Natalie Krayenvenger     (Photo from Katrina Keene)

 

First steps for ISTE

Having these core groups to connect with is something I highly recommend.  All it takes is one or two people and you can build your entire group, so at no point do you feel alone during the conference. One of Rodney’s messages was to be on the lookout for people you notice sitting alone. If you see someone sitting alone, go over and start a conversation, invite people to join you, be welcoming, and it worked. We had our “VoxUp” in the Bloggers Cafe on Sunday before the Keynote, and what a great experience that was.  There were lots of hugs, laughs, smiles and excitement.   This was truly a defining moment.  In looking around, people joined in this group, new connections were made, the excitement and power of this PLN was contagious.  All it took was joining in a group, taking that step and becoming part of something, and having a support system already in place.  Looking around the Bloggers Cafe, there were a lot of small groups of people, gathered to listen to the Keynote, take pictures, make new connections, network and just to absorb everything that was going on. No matter where you looked, you could see the energy and excitement. The energy was so high and it was just the starting point for what would be a phenomenal 3 day event.

 

So, what should your plan be?

Well, maybe the best plan is to not have a plan.  Maybe just have an idea. A focus.  Time goes by so quickly and the choices are so numerous that it can be overwhelming, especially for a first time attendee.  Not everybody can make the same decision about what would be the best session or event to attend. You have to make your own decision and even though there is comfort in going to a session with somebody you know, it is equally if not more beneficial to go your own way, interact with other educators and create new relationships.  You can then come back to that core group with new ideas and new friends, and you never know, it’s such a small world sometimes that you might all know the same people.  And by going to different sessions and different events, there are more stories and experiences to be shared. So the learning possibilities are even greater.  And friends made along the way become part of different groups but connected into one.
Having these different groups really added to the experience.  We shared ideas, attended events together, grabbed early coffees at Coffee Edu, and so much more. Even if you weren’t at ISTE, you could join in virtually and be a part of the ISTE community as well.  The idea behind attending conferences like ISTE is to make new connections, gain new knowledge, to grow professionally, and to explore.  I can’t think of a better way to start doing this than by focusing on relationships. It is where I start each school year and it is where I focus for conferences like ISTE.

(#coffeeEdu, Thanks Craig Yen for Periscoping for #notatiste)

(Mobile Megashare)

 

Share your thoughts and experiences and photos, we would love to hear from you! Next up, focus on some of the ISTE events and takeaways.

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.

Thank you Sarah Thomas @sarahdateechur and @EduMatch #edumatch for the opportunity for this post on August 1, 2016. Logo from Edumatch.com

A couple of reasons why I love summer

Rachelle Dene Poth

I am a teacher and when people find this out, one of the first things they say is “it must be nice to have your summers off.”  Yes, thank you, it is nice to have a more relaxed schedule over the course of the summer break. But in all honesty, I would be fine if I taught year round. And there are a lot of teachers who don’t really have the whole summer “off” because their school operates on a different type of school calendar. And like I said, I love summer, not because it means that I don’t have to go to work. I enjoy being in the classroom and working with students.  I look forward to each day and what it brings. I love the routine, the new challenges each day, and more than anything, working with the students and learning from them. However, the main reason I look forward to the summer is because it is an opportunity to seek out new learning experiences that will enable me to return to my classroom refreshed, with new ideas and hopefully improved skills that will help me to provide the best learning experiences for my students.

Connections

Another great thing about summer is that it is a time to connect with other educators. And I have been fortunate to meet a lot of educators over the past few years, but even more so this summer because I had the opportunity to be involved in several tremendous conferences and learning experiences including Summer Spark, ISTE 2016, and EdCampUSA.  So yes, it is nice to be a teacher and to have those breaks throughout the year and especially during summer, but I bet if you ask some of your friends who are teachers or even if you meet someone new who is a teacher, if they really have their summers “off”, I bet almost all of them will tell you no, and maybe even follow up with a laugh. And here is why.

Summer for educators

Summer is a time for a lot of things. One of the nice things about being in education, in my role as a classroom teacher is that I do have the summers off. But we all know the reality of it is that we don’t really have the time off.  Teachers have time of course for some of the normal summer things like sleeping in late, catching up with friends and family, going on vacations and not worrying about setting the alarm.  But it is also valuable time for teachers to do even more, on a personal and professional basis. Time to think about their practice and take advantage of the opportunities that are out there for professional development and growth. 

Teachers devote most of their time during the school year, focusing on students’ skills and needs, their interests and providing a supportive, positive, meaningful,  engaging learning environment for their students. For some of our students, school is the safe place to be.  Each teacher’s classroom is unique and offers an opportunity for the teacher to create a whole new world, for lack of a better phrase, to immerse their students in learning, to draw them into new experiences and help each student develop their skills, to become reflective, to have choice and voice in their learning. In addition to striving to provide this for our students, we work to be a constant source of support and guidance for each student each day.

And contrary to the “school day schedule”, when the school day ends, these tasks, jobs, responsibilities do not end with the ringing of the bell. We may leave our work on our desk in our classroom, but these other parts of our work continue 24 hours a day every day. The impression that we make on our students and the atmosphere that we create for them, the guidance we provide have an impact that does not end when they leave our classroom nor when they leave the school for the day.  Each student takes something unique away from the classroom when they leave us. Whatever our connection is with each student, the relationships that we build and that continue to grow throughout the year, in some way help each student. There is something created unique to each teacher-student relationship, that forms the foundation for the learning to occur.  We are their teachers, but also their mentors, providing more than just a lesson in the classroom. We don’t just teach. We give ourselves and our support to our students.

And it is exhausting, in a good way. And if you leave your classroom at the end of the day, and you are not exhausted when you get home, then something is wrong.  There is more work to be done.

Our schedules

Teachers put a lot of time in outside of the classroom and that time is not evident to the rest of the world. The hours at night at home or on the weekend grading papers, making parent phone calls, preparing lessons, attending conferences, are not factored into how people view the time and place of the job of the teacher. And I do not see this as negative, it’s just the reality that because school is perceived as an 8 hour day experience, that is where the work ends. And maybe in the past it would be viewed in that way because technology did not exist to enable emails or other collaboration to occur beyond the school day.  But the work involved and the personal investment was and still is the same.

So back to why I love summer

Getting back to some of the reasons I love summer. Each summer gets better and better, and it’s not because I traveled and spent hours on beaches, or to the contrary, kept idle. It is because I have used the time to learn more, to read, to connect, to reflect and to prepare for the next year.  My summer goal is to work so I can start stronger and be better than I was the year before. This summer has been an unbelievable period of growth for me and I knew at the end of the school year that it would be exhausting but a well worth it kind of exhausting.

I have been fortunate to travel to different conferences throughout the country, to confront some fears such as flying and speaking in front of many people, to challenge myself more each day. And no worries, I am enjoying some time sleeping in and also sitting outside on the deck with my cup of coffee, but the computer, a book or a magazine are always there. The Voxer groups I join are part of each day, listening and learning. I use the time I have because I want to learn, to connect, to develop skills so I can be the best teacher and mentor that I can be for my students. I will do whatever it takes to make that happen. And this summer I have met a lot of inspirational role models, leaders in education, Eduheroes, people I have known through Twitter chats,Voxer groups or Google communities. These are things which two years ago I would not have even thought possible. But learning from these different groups and developing a new awareness and new perspectives and facing new challenges, has really given me pause.   To be among some of the great educators and benefit from truly amazing professional development experiences, has served to make me want to use every moment of this summer “break” to take in and learn as much as I can.  Does this sound like you?

My summer recommendations

Some things that I think are important to do in the summer. I think you have to give yourself some freedom and flexibility with your schedule. So that means if you want to go to bed early and get out of bed late, that’s fine. If it means that you then spend the majority of your day working and reading, or doing nothing at all, that’s okay too. You have to make time for friends and family, connect with people that are important and that matter and that maybe throughout the school year you don’t have as many opportunities to spend time with. Once the school year starts, schedules become very hectic. That is the nice thing about being a teacher in some sense, is that your availability is more open in the summer but then again people with year-round jobs aren’t as available as you. You should find conferences or webinars, join in book studies or Voxer groups, or try connecting with some different learning communities. Get involved in a Twitter chat, whatever it is during the school year that just doesn’t seem to fit as part of your routine, make it part of your summer routine.

There are lots of opportunities out there and while there is not time for everything, there can be time for a little bit of everything. So decide what is best for you.  Do you want to be in one Voxer group or join one book study ? Then make that your focus. Or maybe you want to participate in writing tips for a blog or website. It’s up to you, because it is your time to decide how to spend your summer break.

Personally I stay in good practice during the summer because I keep my schedule as chaotic as possible because it’s better prepares me for the school year. The first day or two of summer break I feel a bit out of it because of that absence of routine, the lack of students waiting to hear from me, but I soon develop my summer plan and get started right away.  On Monday.

 

Posted in the Edutopia Community Discussion

If you are looking for new ways to share information, or create a new sign for your classroom, or have students work on a project, then perhaps infographics is what you need.

Infographics are one of many options for presenting information in a vibrant, engaging way. There are many digital tools out there that can be used to create an infographic, and you may know of a few of these tools. If you have not heard of an infographic or you have not yet created one, then I hope I can provide some new information or ideas. And if you have been looking for a way to integrate technology into your classroom, or a quick and easy way to make a slight change in your classroom, then perhaps using one of the great web tools for creating an infographic is just what you need.

An infographic is something that I learned about two summers ago while participating in a weeklong technology conference. I had seen infographics before, but did not know the term and had no knowledge of any of the tools available for creating one. I was anxious to create my own and decided to start the new school year, by creating infographics for each class in place of printing a course syllabus. I used three different tools to create an infographic for each course and then posted them on our class website.

Creating an infographic is quite easy and there are so many templates and options available to include in your work. Making the change from a paper syllabus to an infographic is easy. Simply take the file that you already have and copy and paste your content into one of the many templates that are available, and then have some fun with it. Depending on which web tool you use,  I have used Piktochart, Canva and Smore, you have a variety of choices for the additional icons, images, and more that you can add into your infographic. The possibilities are endless for creating a diverse, vibrant, multi-media, engaging presentation for any kind of use.

So changing from my paper formatted syllabus over into an infographic was the first step that I took. I then decided to take it a few steps further and have my Spanish I students create an infographic to describe themselves. This was something I had them do each year, to practice the beginning vocabulary and to learn about them,  but it was a project usually done on paper. I gave them the choice of a few different tools, and provided my infographics as a model. But I left it up to the students to decide and to explore the options within each of these choices. There were no limits on what they could add into the presentation, nor requirements about which tool they should use. Some students even added some audio and video into their projects, something that cannot be done using the traditional paper format. The best part was how their individuality, interests, and creativity were expressed using infographics.

On a personal level, I enjoy using infographics for creating presentations for graduate course work, book studies, moderating Twitter chats, and even birthday cards and more. It’s a lot of fun to work with these tools and to see what you can create, and even better, what the students create.

** I always give my students choices as to which tool to use, they all have benefits and unique features.  It depends on what works best for our needs.

Suggestions: Piktochart, Visme, Canva, Smore    @piktochart @canva @smorepages

Pikto1

 

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.

IMG_20160629_103429847 (2) (1)

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?

IMG_20160531_131429391

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.