Zigazoo: Start Creating Today!

I have been recommending Zigazoo to many of my educator friends lately because of all of the wonderful opportunities available for having students engage in more authentic and meaningful learning opportunities by creating their own videos! I learned about Zigazoo about two months ago and have had fun checking out the videos being submitted by kids! 

When people ask me what Zigazoo is, I explain that it has been compared to popular social media tools such as Instagram and TikTok. Because of the similarity, this means that students feel more comfortable with the user experience and are more likely to enjoy the learning process on Zigazoo. It also is a good way to help students build their digital citizenship skills and become involved in more active learning and be creative!

What is Zigazoo?

Zigazoo is a free video sharing app that gives students the chance to create a short video in response to daily prompts and other activities. Teachers have been using it to provide students with a different way to share their learning and explore new ideas.  It is easy to get started with Zigazoo and find some prompts to assign to a class or to create your own.

Each video created can be up to a length of 30 seconds. There will be daily featured projects and the Zigazoo app gives kids a fun way to think about and try new things. It is a good way for parents to be more involved in learning with their kids. Creating their own videos also helps students to develop their understanding of privacy and social networks. Teachers can also record responses to student videos. 

Beyond the prompts that teachers can create, Zigazoo also gives families and teachers access to many prompts provided from a variety of educator channels that are now available. With these channels, we have the ability to share video-based responses to projects and interactive media from museums, zoos, educators, children’s musicians, and education organizations. In a recent article by TechCrunch, Zigazoo was referred to as the “future of remote learning.” There are so many possibilities for creating videos during remote and hybrid learning and exploring the new channels is a great way to start.

Through the addition of channels, there are many new possibilities for students to learn from global organizations! Check out the channels that have been added so far and stay tuned for new channels that will be added!

Some of the educator channels available

Zigazoo is an app that can be used to offer new and more engaging ways for students to share what they are learning in creative ways. Teachers and parents can find daily projects to explore or search through the hundreds of other projects available.  I also recommend checking out their Twitter feed and follow @GetZigazoo to see the videos and challenges being shared!

Explore the #dailyzigazoo to get started quickly. Here is one example, which was Kira Willey’s first project, “What is something kind you’ve done for someone?”

Many different topics to choose from!

In Zigazoo, there are challenges that offer kids a chance to explore and then create a video to talk about what they learned. It can also be a great option for project-based learning types of activities. What an opportunity to spark curiosity for learning and increase student engagement.

What do students think?

Here are some comments from educators about their experience trying out Zigazoo. 

“I love the energy behind it and the energy it brings out in my students!”

“My 2nd graders said it looked like Tik Tok (how 7-8 year olds know this, I do NOT know, lol).”

“The other video creation app that I have been using with my students in Spanish is Flipgrid. As I discussed the app with students this week, they hands down prefer to use Zigazoo for my assignments. They couldn’t adequately articulate why, but it basically comes down to the fact that Zigazoo feels more like TikTok or social media, which then makes it more fun.” (high school teacher)

A prompt for describing the weather

Zigazoo is free and educators can create their own classroom projects or choose from those available. Zigazoo is now offering a free premium account for educators, use the code ZPremium and sign up by October 31st. Parents can join in the global Zigazoo community. 

And join in Zigazoo’s Costume Contest! The contest is the first of several Halloween activities Zigazoo will host from now through October 31st. Other virtual activities will include haunted house tours, decorating jack-o-lanterns and telling Halloween jokes.

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here.

Looking for a new book to read? Many stories from educators, two student chapters, and a student-designed cover for In Other Words.

Find these available at bit.ly/Pothbooks  

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What’s Your Green Sauce?

Guest post By Brent Coley, @brentcoley

Principal, Alta Murrieta Elementary School, Murrieta, CA

#EduInfluence

Most people have a favorite restaurant. Ask 20 people to identify their favorite and you may get 20 different answers. Some may name a fine steakhouse like Ruth’s Chris or Morton’s. Fans of sushi might select as their favorite a local establishment serving up this Japanese delicacy. Ask a small child to name his or her favorite and you may get McDonald’s or Little Caesar’s as the answer. To each his own.

What about me? What’s my favorite restaurant? If you hadn’t already read the title of this blog post, the answer may have surprised you. My favorite? El Pollo Loco.

That’s right. El Pollo Loco.

Seriously, Brent? El Pollo Loco? Out of all the restaurants you could choose, your favorite is a drive-thru fast food restaurant serving a variety of inexpensive chicken meals? That’s right. El Pollo Loco.

I love this restaurant. It’s affordable. It’s relatively healthy when compared to other fast food options that serve up only burgers and fries. And there’s a location only a mile down the road from my school. I’m not ashamed to say I order lunch here multiple times a week. I get the same thing every time. A $5 Pollo Bowl Combo with flour tortillas and a large tropical iced tea. Mmmm. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

But it’s not the taste of the food that keeps me coming back, though I do enjoy the combination of chicken, beans, and rice. It’s not the value either, though being able to fill my stomach for under six bucks is a fact my budget definitely appreciates. And it’s not the comfortable ambience I used to enjoy before COVID-19 forced the closure of all restaurant dining rooms in my community. So what is it? What pulls me to this restaurant like the Millennium Falcon caught in the Death Star’s tractor beam? (You’re welcome, Star Wars fans.)

It’s the avocado salsa, what I affectionately call “green sauce.” I absolutely love it. Seriously, can’t get enough. It’s flavorful with just the right amount of kick. I could drink it like water (which I actually did one time to win a bet, but that’s another story). I love smothering each bite in this liquid slice of heaven.

If I hit the drive-thru and discover upon returning to the office they forgot to put my green sauce in the bag, my mood turns grumpy. The birds stop singing, and the day seems darker. The meal just isn’t the same. I go to El Pollo Loco for the avocado salsa. I go for the green sauce. If the restaurant stopped serving it, I can honestly say I wouldn’t eat there as frequently as I do. I’m not sure I would go at all. It’s that important to me.

​It’s salsa for crying out loud. A side dish. No, it’s not even a side dish. A condiment. It’s a condiment, something extra the restaurant gives away for free, but it’s what keeps me coming back over and over. And over.

So let’s tie this into education. Ladies and gentlemen, my question to you is this — “What’s your green sauce?”

What is that extra something that keeps your students wanting to come back to your classroom, to your school? What is it that, figuratively speaking, makes their mouths water when they think about getting to spend time with you?

While this question focuses on the “extra,” let me be clear. The main dishes we serve in our classrooms, lessons in reading, writing, math, or whatever subject you teach, are important. Very, very important. It’s imperative we provide our students with rigorous opportunities for learning, that we fill their “stomachs” with nutritious “food.” But my point is this — the main dish may not be what gets your students up in the morning. It may be that something extra you provide, that cherry on top. It may be the green sauce.

So I ask you once again, “What’s your green sauce?”

  • It may be your smiling face that greets students each day when they enter your classroom or the front gate of your school.
  • It may be the high five, fist bump, or hug at the door each morning (current physical distancing restrictions aside).
  • It may be the smelly stickers you put on your students’ exams when they do well. That’s right. A smelly sticker may be making a student’s day, may be what he or she is looking forward to. And this is not just limited to the elementary grades.
  • It may be the instrumental music you play in the background as students are working, or the upbeat music you have playing in the room as students enter each day.
  • It may be the corny dad jokes you tell every day. You know, the ones at which the students outwardly roll their eyes, but inwardly look forward to hearing.
  • It may be the class Instagram account you created to share the great things taking place in your classroom. Or maybe you’re on TikTok, creating funny videos, making you “cool” in your students’ eyes.

In the grand scheme of things, these are all actions or gestures that could be considered small. These may not have been the things upon which your professors focused when you were studying to be a teacher. But that doesn’t mean they can’t and don’t make a big difference in the lives of those we serve. Don’t underestimate the power of the little things, because more often than we may think, it’s that little something extra, that green sauce, that our students are thirsting for and what keeps them coming back for more.

​What’s your green sauce?


Want to hear more? I devoted an entire chapter of my book Stories of EduInfluence to the topic of how small actions can make a big impact. Click/tap here to listen to the Audible version of “Chapter 8: The Power of the Little Things.”

If you’d like to purchase a copy of the book, available in paperback, Kindle, and audio versions, head over to Amazon.

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here.

Looking for a new book to read? Many stories from educators, two student chapters, and a student-designed cover for In Other Words.

Find these available at bit.ly/Pothbooks  

************ Also check out my THRIVEinEDU Podcast Here!

Join my weekly show on Wednesdays at 4pm EST on Learningrevolution.com THRIVEinEDU  Join the group here

8 Virtual Reality Tools to Go Around the World

As a Spanish teacher, I am always interested in finding innovative ways to teach in my classroom and to create learning opportunities that do more than to engage students solely with the content material. Over the past few years, I have started to bring different tools for learning into my classroom, some of which pushed me outside of my comfort zone as a teacher. One area that has led to greater student engagement and has been well received by my students is the use of augmented and virtual reality.

For many teachers, the idea of using these types of tools in our classroom bring questions, such as how much time do I need to learn how to use them and what are the benefits? Fortunately, getting started with many of these tools is quite easy as there are resources available to use as tutorials. The tools offer ready-made lessons or examples to start with, and of course, our students learn so fast that we can quickly learn from them. I often say that we just need to know enough to make sure that we are aware of any issues with access, and of course, we have knowledge of the safety or security issues. We must also understand how we plan to use it, focusing on the why behind wanting to do so, but then we should leave it up to our students to take it beyond that point.

As for benefits, using tools for AR and VR helps educators create innovative learning spaces and transform “how” and “where” students are learning. With different AR/VR tools available, we give students the power to explore objects or places, control their learning and connect with the content in ways that textbooks and videos cannot provide. Students can now travel around the world, to another country, underwater or into outer space, using these tools and doing so right from their classroom.

8 Tools to Try

Here are eight different tools to explore that I think can be very beneficial for student learning and promote student engagement. Getting started with these will help educators implement some digital tools into the classroom without taking too much time to get started.

  1. Google Expeditions
    The app is free and can be downloaded from Google Play or the App Store. Google Expeditions offers more than 100 augmented reality and 800 virtual reality tours which students can use to explore careers, visit famous landmarks and locations. They can even use it to find out more about global initiatives. Through the roles of Guide and Explorer, teachers and students can engage with the content in a more immersive way that connects students more closely with the spaces they are viewing, which promotes curiosity. Another option is Tour Creator to create a tour specific to student interests or to have students create their own tour to share. Tours are easy to create and share and provide a more authentic way to connect students with places they are studying.
  2. Google Earth
    Google Earth enables teachers and students to explore places around the world and even zoom in for a closer look in 360 via Street View. For schools that have access to HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, Google Earth VR makes it possible to walk or even fly around the locations and explore more closely.
  3. Nearpod
    Nearpod offers a library full of lessons in VR and the ability to quickly create lessons that have 3D objects and VR field trips included. Tools like Nearpod help to engage students in a more active learning experience while also providing multiple ways for teachers to assess student learning. It is easier now to take students on trips around the world right from within the classroom at any time.
  4. 360 Cities
    360 Cities offers interactive panoramic photos and more than 2,400 videos to select from to use in the classroom.
  5. Unimersiv
    Through Unimersiv, educators can find VR experiences for students ranging from exploring space, human anatomy, or places like Stonehenge, Athens, the International Space Station and more. Unimersiv can be downloaded with lessons available for students. New lessons are added every few months.
  6. Sites in VR
    Sites in VR is an app available for download on Android and iOS devices. Locations can be searched based on type including nature, parks, museums, towers and more. Users can choose to explore through the device or with a headset.
  7. 360-Degree YouTube Videos
    YouTube offers 360-degree videos which can be a good way to hook students at the start of a lesson. There are so many choices available; one of the first ones that I watched was Lions 360. Videos that were filmed in 360 will provide a better experience.
  8. Curated X Kai
    Curated X Kai has featured VR field trips available for experiences such as hurricanes, looking at dinosaurs, the solar system, the human body and many others focused on locations or historical events or places. New field trips are added weekly.

Making the Choice

There are many benefits of using VR in the classroom. In my own experience, it provides students with space where they can take more ownership in learning and creates an opportunity for students to build global knowledge, and explore different ideas and perspectives. We can also use VR as a way to connect our students with classrooms and experts from around the world and build more than content and technology skills. We can also help students develop empathy as they learn about cultures and places different from their own.

There are a lot of options out there to choose from, it is about promoting student choice and helping students to do more than consume content, but to actively engage in learning and even become the creators.

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here.

Looking for a new book to read? Many stories from educators, two student chapters, and a student-designed cover for In Other Words.

Find these available at bit.ly/Pothbooks  

Buncee for engaging learning opportunities!

We are a few weeks into the new school year and for many educators, it has been an interesting start to the year. Whether in physical classroom spaces or in a hybrid or distance learning environment, our focus at the start of the year is on building relationships and engaging students in learning. The challenge this year for many is  creating the right spaces to build those relationships when we are not together in our physical classrooms.  Buncee provides so many possibilities for doing just this.

Introductions

I can create with Buncee and engage my students in opportunities to not only create and engage more in learning, but provide a way that they can feel connected to each other if we cannot be together in the same physical space.  A great place to start is exploring the Ideas Lab. There are great templates available to choose from that work well for the beginning of the year and a back to school theme, or for some ice breakers to build relationships that are so important. 

Check out some of these recent additions to Buncee templates for having students express themselves by creating an acrostic poem or a virtual locker.  These are great options to have students create a Buncee to introduce themselves to their teacher and to their classmates!

(this one was shared by Buncee)

(drag and drop items into your virtual locker)

Using Microsoft Teams or Google Classroom, it makes it really easy to share these with students. For global collaboration, create a Buncee board to post all of the amazing student creations. With project-based learning, my students have been able to connect with students in Argentina and Spain and share a little bit about their experiences as students and what life is like here in the United States.  With all the options available for creating within Buncee, it’s fun for students to be able to create something that represents who they are and even to have the option to include audio or video to really get to know each other.  Being able to collaborate like this is quite valuable regardless of where learning is happening but definitely beneficial as many schools are working with hybrid and distance learning. It helps students to feel more connected to their classmates and their teachers and also to be able to connect on a global scale which is important for all students. 

Teach a Lesson

One of my favorite ways to use Buncee is to create lessons to share with my students. One of the first ones that I did was to teach about digital citizenship and it was easy to create something using all of the different options available within the media library and to give students an opportunity then create their own buncee to share what they had learned. 

Set up class expectations for virtual learning

Explore the templates and create something like this fast and make it your own by selecting from the more than 35,000 choices available in the media library! 

Ready-made templates and new topics

Something else that I’ve always loved about using Buncee is that it integrates with other tools that we use in my classroom. With this new partnership with Flipgrid,  there are even more ways to use these tools together to provide more opportunities for students to build essential skills. You can find pre-made Buncee templates available in the discovery library focused on topics like social emotional learning, goal-setting and schedulers and organizers.  Check out all of the choices today!

One of the things I love the most about using Buncee is that there is always support available. Whether you connect with the Buncee team through the different social media platforms, or make connections with educators from around the world through Twitter or Facebook, there are so many ways to learn and grow as educators. And even more importantly,  to bring new opportunities to our students. If you need some quick resources on different topics, check out all of the many options available at their Buncee help desk.

Looking for more ideas?  See what the Buncee Ambassadors are up to! Explore the 66 ideas for using Buncee from Maria Jose Giavedoni.  Did you catch the Creative Beginnings event at the beginning of August? Three days of sessions and so many topics and ideas.  Catch the recordings here.

Coming up:

Don’t miss out on the new idea o’clock with Buncee starting September 16th happening live on Facebook at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.  First up was Shannon Miller and Amy Storer is on the 23rd! Be sure to tune in to learn new ideas from Buncee educators!

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Find more in the Back to School Resources Kit

Check out the videos available here.

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here.

Looking for a new book to read? Many stories from educators, two student chapters, and a student-designed cover for In Other Words.

Find these available at bit.ly/Pothbooks  

 Also check out my THRIVEinEDU Podcast Here!

Join my weekly show on Wednesdays at 4pm EST on Learningrevolution.com THRIVEinEDU  Join the group here

6 Must Haves for School Districts to be Successful in Remote and Hybrid Learning

Guest post by Stephanie Burroughs (@BurroughsEDk12)

For this school year to be successful, we have to take the 40,000 foot view and make sure we have the systems and structures in place to help all students, teachers, administrators, and community members work together to support student learning. 

Whether your district is beginning the school year fully in-person, remotely, or in a hybrid learning model, there were clear concerns over approaches to emergency learning in the spring that we should be fixing no matter what school will look like for your district. Below are six ideas that K-12 districts should be planning for: 

1. Train your students to LEARN online 

It’s not just about technology training. We should be prioritizing executive functioning in the same way that we are prioritizing learning padlet and flipgrid. What we got wrong in emergency learning is creating a massive tech learning curve for our students. Over-stimulating students with log-ins to platforms instead of focusing on student-centered discourse, consistent workflows, and modes of communication would be a mistake moving forward. 

Learning online requires more initiative and better time management. In a US News article for college students they discuss the need for improved communication and self-discipline in order for students to be successful in an online environment. K-12 schools are beginning to acknowledge their role in on-boarding students, with one district releasing plans that prioritize student training prior to shifting to fully remote.

Advice: Give students a learning coach, a teacher in the building that checks in with them each week to assist with managing their assignments and advise them on communication with their teachers.  

2. Have Open House early and virtually

​Supporting student on-boarding is only the first step in ensuring a smooth roll-out of learning expectations. We must remember that families are partners in learning and get them in the loop early. When emergency learning rolled out, parents were overwhelmed with taking on their child’s learning and it doesn’t have to be that way. 

Parents need to know how this is all going to work. Answering these questions for parents at an early open house will help parents act as allies in learning:

  • How can I prepare my child for an online class? 
  • How will teachers communicate expectations and how can I stay in the loop on my child’s learning?
  • When will I be able to check-in with teachers on my child’s progress?
  • What is a reasonable amount of time for asynchronous work?
  • What strategies can I support my child with in communicating with teachers and knowing when/how to get help?

Advice: Give parents a cheatsheet newsletter that clearly defines workflows and expectations for their child, including the technology students will need to be using and all the ways their child can get support. 

3. Train your teachers to teach online 

I earned a doctorate online at the University of Southern California and we used 3 tech tools: G-Suite, a Learner Management System, and Zoom. My classes were engaging, rich discussions with clear expectations for learning. There is no reason why we should be exhausting our teachers with learning every technology platform they can get their hands on. Instead, we should be focusing our professional learning time on modeling online pedagogy and creating workflows that maximize engagement while minimizing the technology learning curve. 

In my post on learning online, I highlight the need for student-friendly online learning and identify the following action items for teachers:

  • Front-load student learning – Let asynchronous work act as a springboard for live class discussions
  • Begin class with a quick check for understanding – Keep it simple and let students warm-up to engaging in an online environment
  • Prepare templates for group work ahead of time – It will help students focus and help teachers keep track of the progress of small group work
  • Share your slides, make your expectations clear – It helps your students focus and aids them in processing important information
  • Make caring a part of your routine – Let checking in on how your students are feeling be a routine in your classroom

​Advice: Give teachers permission to keep technology tools simple, support them with distance learning pedagogy first.  

​4. Embrace virtual parent conferences 

It was always bizarre to me that a common practice for parent-teacher conferences was a 15 minute time slot in the middle of your workday. Virtual parent teacher conferences will enable more families to engage in conferences, but it will also allow districts to schedule time for conferences with more flexibility. But let’s not stop there, let’s look for opportunities to engage with families and make sure that there are consistent feedback loops to support a successful school year for our students:

  • Open up PTA meetings to have consistent opportunities for parents to ask questions
  • Have time slots for parent-teacher conferences throughout the year so that teachers have the time set aside to support families
  • Hold coffee hours with families to offer support with technology and support with navigating their child’s learning experience

Advice: Plan for opportunities to engage with families and communicate them consistently so that every parent feels connected to their child’s school.

5. Focus on consistent communication

School districts all around me have communicated throughout the summer months on their plans for the fall, opened up family forums to ensure that all voices were heard and that districts could account for feedback, and truly spent a significant amount of time on developing out plans for opening school buildings in compliance with state guidelines. It’s been great, students and parents need to know what to expect and when to expect it.

As we kick off the school year, that same steady communication must happen within the classroom and within school buildings. As a parent, I hope to see the following:

  • A clear schedule of how and when assignments will be communicated
  • Consistent meeting times for each of my kid’s classes, communicated at the start of the year and consistent throughout
  • Consistent time for extra help and support for students so that we can plan for it in our day
  • Consistent communication on grades and progress in each of my kid’s classes

Advice: Parents should be added as viewers to google classrooms to help with communication and grade books should be kept open.

6. Embrace professional learning communities 

Teachers need time and they need us to honor that. Professional Learning Communities, or teachers meeting intentionally to co-plan curriculum, instruction, and assessment, must be a top priority for school districts developing their schedules for the upcoming year. PLC time is sacred and should be intentionally scheduled so that not a single one of our teachers feels isolated in their efforts to provide the best possible learning opportunities for their students. 

That being said, collaboration on building materials and resources must be a priority in PLC time and we all need to embrace teamwork over autonomy. That last bit is hard, but our students deserve a consistent learning experience in the upcoming year and we can only accomplish that by being intentionally collaborative in our creation of student learning experiences. 

Advice: Teachers should talk as a team about what they can commit to building together and where they need breathing room to add their own personal touches. Asynchronous materials may be the best place to start for building common ground.

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here.

Looking for a new book to read? Many stories from educators, two student chapters, and a student-designed cover for In Other Words.

Find these available at bit.ly/Pothbooks  

 Also check out my THRIVEinEDU Podcast Here!

Join my weekly show on Wednesdays at 4pm EST on Learningrevolution.com THRIVEinEDU  Join the group here

Game based learning

Guest post post by Brigid Duncan, Educator, Creator, & Blogger

Shaking up learning by bringing retro games to class lessons!

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If you have been teaching for a couple years now, you would be asked by many students to play Kahoot! Or just mention the word Kahoot! and kids await eagerly to hear the elevator music playing in the background as they enter the game code to join your game. So, our students love to play games. Who doesn’t? There is an old Finnish saying that goes like this:

“Those things you learn with JOY

You will not forget easily!”

So why use game-based learning? Many reasons come to mind, however the most significant one is that students work harder when they are given a choice, autonomy, and they are in an audience being observed by their peers. In other words, they like a challenge and want to win. So, knowing this and building games into your instruction accomplishes that and so much more. Many of our students are Gen Z’s, and research has proven that this generation loves challenges, they love independence and relish having a voice in their learning outcomes. Theory behind game- based learning is that we are taking the motivational aspects of a game and applying it our lessons for assessment, while kids are having fun. 

As we move into the start of this ever-pivoting school year, our instruction has to keep up with modifications as our classroom changes, whether we are online,  face to face instruction or hybrid. The problem teachers face with this type of instruction, lies in with our assessments and the integrity of them. Are my students truly understanding the essential questions as outlined at the start of the lesson? Are they using Professor Google (my favorite word for searching google for answers) to my assessments? Should I even have assessments and just go strictly to project based assessments. Well I am here to say you can have online assessments using game-based learning. 

Who wouldn’t want to play an old-fashioned Trivial Pursuit board game? A favorite for many and can be used to assess for key terms or conceptual thinking on a unit lesson. Have them play in teams, assign points and give them badges that they can proudly display. Have a “Battle Royale” with review or test bank questions. Want to take it a step back in our time capsule, do you remember Four Corners a game still played in and out the classroom. Well you can simulate the same idea but on a board game and in, an online classroom. Let’s say you are teaching themes in a novel read that the class just wrapped up. You can ask students to identify themes on opposite side of the four corners. Example, revenge in one corner and opposite side “compassion” You can give them a blank card with 4 squares and play Pictionary, another retro board game. You can pose the same questions but this time you say to your students use icons to represent the themes and place in opposing squares. Sites like The Noun Project or AutoDraw are all free. And of course, I couldn’t write a blog post on game-based learning and not mention Monopoly. I have seen many teachers get creative by incorporating unit lessons using a Monopoly style board, guiding students through asynchronous lessons from START to FINISH. 

I hope this post on game based learning will encourage you to Level Up, on your lesson plans and incorporate games in your classroom learning assessments. Many teachers will be starting a new year with students you have never met in person. I have read many of your comments on social media asking how to build classroom community when we have never met and will continue online. Then this is one of the best solutions available now, to ease your concerns. By having games included in your lesson plans, you will begin building online classroom student relationships. Have fun this school year and remember that Old Finnish saying when developing and designing your lesson plans: “Kids remember best when they are having fun!” 

Brigid Duncan, Educator, Creator, & Blogger

Brigid Duncan is an AP Econ/Business instructor teaching high school in Hollywood, Florida. Originally from the Caribbean, she pursued a career in advertising and Marketing before transitioning to teaching. She is Mom to three wonderful and energetic teenagers and enjoys being creative, especially in graphic design. Favorite quote: “You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not’?” – George Bernard Shaw.

Follow her educational journey at @MsBDuncan

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here.

Looking for a new book to read? Many stories from educators, two student chapters, and a student-designed cover for In Other Words.

Find these available at bit.ly/Pothbooks  

************ Also check out my THRIVEinEDU Podcast Here!

Join my weekly show on Wednesdays at 4pm EST on Learningrevolution.com THRIVEinEDU  Join the group here

Game based learning versus Gamification.

Guest post by Brigid Duncan @MsBDuncan

There is a difference? So, what is it?

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As many teachers head back out to instruction with many fears and anxiety of the unknown to come this school year, I am happy to share that being on lockdown for many months, there was a silver lining in it for me.  And that was being able to attend many online professional training programs for free, in places I would have to travel too to get to those conferences. Extremely fortunate to connect with many amazing and talented curriculum and instructional educators. At one of these online PDs I met @Sarahdateechur from Microsoft and Cue #GETA sessions on Steps to gamify your instructional approach to classes. 

In this session, stark differences were drawn between the two instructional teaching tools. Whoa! Who knew that they were different? Gamifying as she stated has been around for many decades. We all remember the excitement when we got back a test and there was a “red star “on your paper. This meant you got 90% or higher. And if you got the “golden” star you aced the test with a perfect score of 100%. Today in education, this is not the best way to assess or motivate student learning outcomes, however this was a primitive way of introducing gamification into the class lesson. Badges for merit rings a bell? 

Gamification takes your class lesson and uses themes to create excitement, engagement and innate motivation to get the lesson assignments completed while having educational fun. Students can work in teams by choosing a token player, mascot or game piece for their team identification, and then complete lesson stations/group activities. Along the way they collect a stamp for each completed activity. And all if all stamps on score card are filled in, congratulations you have earned your first badge.  Challenges can be created to mimic standards from DOK levels of 1 to the highest level of rigor difficulty, an instructor wants to make the lesson. Differentiation is also evidenced by having groups from low level challenges to high level, still actively participating in the game and completing the lesson essential question or objective successfully. 

The super talented @MeehanEDU author of EDrenaline Rush has designed many thematic and challenging gamified lessons that you too as a teacher can see and feel the excitement invested to want to complete this game and get that prize. Gamification can be built on current or “pop” themes. The game of Thrones, Harry Potter and use the Houses as game token or player. Teachers have used creative writing interwoven by way of mini stories, as they developed these gamified lessons. Stories that when included add more excitement as students read instructions to get to that prize. 

Another great Gamification Master, as I like to refer to him is @MrMatera. A middle school social studies teacher who use his curriculum to create the gamification themes. Teachers can design themes based loosely on pop culture movies retro movies such as Indiana Jones, Star Wars, or more current ones such as Stranger Things or Game of Thrones. Most important element that makes gamification works, is having a challenge adding some element of danger/ depth defying or “must save the day” to complete a mission.  Thus, class teams work together to defeat the “bad guys” to earn that badge of honor.  Added bonus: classroom community and relationships are forged. 

So the question becomes where does a teacher begin. How much will this cost me? I highly recommend starting on a Tuesday night visiting Twitter. The instructional coaches and mentors mentioned in this post, who are all great people to follow. Most have Tuesday or Wednesday chats based on how to start gamification in class. What practices have worked. Some teachers even share lessons that you can re-mix with credit to that teacher, so that you can practice or build into your curriculum instruction. Unfamiliar with what are popular movies?  This is the best time to get to know your students. Have them share what are movies or tv shows are they watching now. Build from them and see how much more they connect and build a relationship with you, as you used movies that they shared with in class, in a lesson. Bonus points with students: if you know they struggle with a math concept like say fractions but used a movie theme they like…and designed fraction lesson based on that theme, chances are you have them engaged already to trying your lesson. A win-win for everyone. 

I hope this post has inspired you to rethink and want to try incorporating gamification into your lesson plans.  Start simple maybe with your syllabus or classroom expectations and then assess how it worked with your students.  Do come back to the second part of this post, which is centered more on game-based instruction, creating games the old school style. Retro!   Until then happy learning teacher friends!

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Guest Post: Culturally Responsive Teaching

Guest post by Chris Orlando @Dr_ChrisOrlando

When COVID-19 struck in the spring, it forced an unprecedented portion of our country’s schools to suspend brick-and-mortar instruction. Teachers were thrown into distance teaching—referred to by many as “crisis teaching”— with little preparation. It was like trying to build a plane while flying it.

The crisis has exposed societal inequities impacting our students’ daily lives including food deficits, inadequate health care—including mental health care, issues with housing stability, and insufficient access to the internet.

This fall, to ensure that I’m meeting the needs of my marginalized students even as I shift to a new learning environment, I plan on creating a culturally responsive digital classroom, one that can provide a space where students feel welcomed and valued. Culturally responsive instruction centers on building the learning capacity of all students. According to Zaretta Hammond, author of Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, “There is a focus on leveraging the affective and the cognitive scaffolding that students bring with them.”

Here are three ways in which I plan to implement culturally responsive teaching this year:

Building Relationships

The single greatest investment teachers can make is to build relationships with their students. Relationships boost motivation, create safe spaces for learning, build new pathways for learning, and improve student behavior. The question, of course, is how can I build relationships with students who I might never see in person?

First, I plan to master the soft start to class in order to ease students into our learning environment each day. Though often thought of as an elementary school strategy, my middle schoolers respond well to soft starts. It allows time for students to transition and to re-engage their mental muscles with a short game, puzzle, brainteaser, reading, or interesting “Would You Rather” question. Be cognizant that typical icebreakers like, “What I did this summer” may leave children with nothing positive to share and create a social hierarchy of who had the most impressive summer break. Instead, pose questions like, “Imagine your best day ever. What would happen?” or “If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?” Taking even ten minutes to check-in with students at the beginning of class each day is vital because high-trust, low-stress environments can help marginalized students effectively process and retain learned information. Additionally, I plan to do the following to build relationships and increase connectedness virtually:

  • Learn my students’ names promptly and use them as much as possible. As a teacher who often mispronounces my students’ names, I’ll assign students to create a short video in which they pronounce their name so that I can reference it.
  • Ask for student feedback regularly through an ungraded video or Google Form known as “Friday Feedback”
  • Host informal office hours that will encourage one-on-one communication
  • Collect and share virtual notes of gratitude and appreciation

Be a Personal Trainer of Students’ Cognitive Development

As a teacher who is preparing for Round 2 of distance teaching this fall, much of the success or failure of this upcoming school year will depend on my students’ ability to work independently. In order to foster this independence, I will be providing students who are dependent learners with cognitive routines and tools that will help them organize their thinking and process content. Consistently using a regular set of prompts in all assignments helps students internalize cognitive routines so that they can use them when I’m not around. After all, isn’t the goal of education to help students become lifelong learners who can marshal their critical thinking skills long after they’ve left the classroom? Internalizing cognitive routines will help expand the learning capacity of students who have been historically marginalized and work to dismantle dominant narratives about students of color.

Make It a Game, Make It Social, Make It a Story

Each day students walk into our classrooms (or this year, log in to our classrooms) armed with their own learning tools, but too often teachers fail to use them to maximize student learning. Students’ culture can inform us whether they learn best on their own or by collaborating with others. In a distance learning context, students are often given packets and assigned independent projects, which serve independent learners, but are a detriment to communal learners. For example, diverse students who come from oral traditions, might benefit from activities that require social interaction, physical manipulation of content, or narrative. In other words: make it a game, make it social, or make it a story. Utilizing breakout features in Zoom and apps like Jamboard, Flipgrid, and Socrative can help engage communal learners. However, it’s important to remember that culturally responsive teaching isn’t simply a set of strategies. It’s consistently mirroring students’ cultural learning styles and tools.

My job is to be responsive to students’ individual and collective lived experiences, and in particular this year, their experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic. That will require me to integrate my students’ cultural learning tools into my pedagogy and be a warm demander of their cognitive development. But above all, this year will be about relationships. Creating a learning partnership that encourages my students to take ownership of their learning has always been important, but this year it will be paramount to address gaps in learning outcomes between diverse students and their white counterparts. Through robust reflection of my own pedagogy and the adoption of culturally responsive teaching practices, I plan to make learning exciting and joyful for my students so that they’ll be motivated to take ownership of their own learning. Students will be seen. They’ll be heard. They’ll be loved. And we’ll make it through this school year together.

Gonzalez, J. (2017, September 10). Culturally Responsive Teaching: 4 Misconceptions. Cult of Pedagogy. https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/culturally-responsive-misconceptions/

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Guest Post: SEL

This post was written by the Eduporium team, Andy Larmand and Laura Kennedy.  Opinions/products mentioned are from Eduporium. This is not sponsored content.

As many teachers know, the upcoming school year is going to be challenging from an academic, mental, and emotional standpoint. Thankfully, there is a reliable form of pedagogy that can benefit both teachers and students as they return to school whether it’s in person, through remote learning, or as part of a hybrid model. For school leaders who see creating new relationships with students and making them feel comfortable after their worlds were flipped upside down in the spring as a top priority, social-emotional learning is going to be crucial.

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While a teacher, I was introduced to social and emotional learning, which is more commonly known as SEL. This pedagogy is one that I found to be extremely important while educating diverse sets of students – even in the pre-pandemic days. In the classroom, students learn different intellectual skills, but much of that learning is affected by their social and emotional characteristics.

As leaders plan a safe return to school, many of them have already considered the mental states their students and teachers might be in and the fact that some of them may have been through trauma while in isolation. In order for them to return to the regular academic experiences they had before schools closed, their mental states will first need to be addressed.

SEL helps students focus on acquiring and effectively applying the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. As unfortunate as it is, many students may need to start developing these characteristics from at or near the beginning when they return to school.

To that end, the five main categories of social and emotional learning are:

  1.   Self-Awareness
  2.   Self-Management
  3.   Social Awareness
  4.   Relationship Skills
  5.   Responsible Decision Making

Realist educators know it will be tough for students to simply slide back into their classroom routines. There is a unique complexity to every student and just being in the same classroom does not mean they’re all in the same place emotionally. It may even be one of the first times some of them have been outside their home. It’s impossible for teachers to generalize them since each student is going to come back to school having gone through something different.

To help my students grow and learn, I truly needed to understand them and I feel this is going to be huge once the year begins. Setting aside some time blocks in the first couple weeks can be instrumental in understanding each student’s state of mind and how both SEL and academic instruction should be presented to them. The actions we see on the surface are not always indicative of the whole story.

Was one student not participating in remote learning because he or she had no desire to do so, or was it because of an accessibility issue we didn’t know about? Was another saying they couldn’t do something because they didn’t feel like it or because they lacked a clear understanding without in-person guidance? Many students likely had different distance learning experiences and teachers can, upon returning to school, make SEL a focus to ensure nobody feels like they’re behind.

So, how can teachers leverage the potential of SEL in instruction and these five areas while getting back to teaching core subjects? Maker education is a technological and creative learning revolution that utilizes SEL and helps students strengthen skills like responsibility, decision making, teamwork, creative thinking, problem solving, and relationship building as they use their heads, hearts, and hands to learn.

Combining MakerEd and SEL can prompt a shift in classroom atmosphere and enable students to reconnect with the learning they knew before schools closed since it emphasizes active learning rather than passive consumption. Students are free to be creative, collaborate, and learn from both mistakes and successes. They’re also able to discover how the emotions they’re feeling – good or bad – can be expressed creatively through MakerEd projects and experiences.

MakerEd experiences help students improve their cognition, engagement, and emotional connections to projects at the same time. In the eyes of the Eduporium team, there are three main components to social and emotional learning (the 3 H’s): Head, heart, and hands and, if educators can connect the actions of all of these body parts upon returning to school, they’ll be able to create more meaningful experiences for students.

In order to learn, students’ heads need to be engaged in the content and their brains need to be picking up on key concepts. They also benefit from having their hands involved, which is often done through the incorporation of maker tools. When their hands are working like their heads are, the relationship between the two body parts is established and engagement and creativity spike through doing and inventing.

When their hearts are involved too – when students truly care about what it is they’re building, making, or discovering and an authentic connection is built – they’ll be able to realize the importance in the values they’re learning and rebuild relationships with peers at the same time, ultimately completing the connection between their heads, hands, and hearts as they return to the classroom, creating hands-on experiences they’ve missed for the last few months.

To learn more about how the Eduporium team can help teachers incorporate SEL, MakerEd, and STEM in the classroom, visit their website.

 

 

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Versatile Tools for Blended Learning

Posted originally on DefinedSTEM: Ideas for some AR/VR for Blended Learning

Years ago when I started to use more technology in the classroom, I thought that by having students watch videos at home, rather than in class, I would be “flipping” the classroom. Fortunately, I learned quickly that I was not, and made some changes to implement blended learning instead. As part of my ongoing reflection, I continue to think about the many changes that I have made and the tools that have helped me to create a more authentic and engaging learning experience for my students. There are so many tools available, and we always want to first consider the “why” behind using them and also think about the purpose and how versatile the tools can be. Learning opportunities for students are everywhere and the best part of having so many choices is that it promotes student agency. Students can find something that meets their interests and needs, and that offer more meaningful ways to engage with the content. Choices will lead to purposeful learning experiences for students.

Sometimes it is fun and beneficial to try unconventional tools or methods, to immerse students more in learning and do things differently than what they have become accustomed to. Making a change to thttps://www.definedstem.com/blog/versatile-tools-for-blended-learning/he traditional style and structure of the classroom can feel uncomfortable at first, but giving students more control in designing their learning is worth it. The flexibility of these tools enables learning to happen anywhere and at any time, based on the student’s or school schedule, which help to foster a blended learning environment. Here are a few ideas to immerse students in learning.

Augmented/Virtual Reality

One of the biggest areas of growth in education has been the use of Augmented and Virtual Reality in the classroom. In  my own classroom we have used a variety of tools and students have enjoyed the time exploring new tools and definitely different ways to learn. The idea of teaching by using tools for AR or VR can  seem challenging, but it really can be quite simple to add it into the course and there are tons of resources available. I recommend exploring the resources shared by Jaime Donally on all things related to Augmented and Virtual Reality in education.

These tools can offer more powerful ways to immerse students in learning, to “travel” and “explore” places and things more closely. Students can create, problem solve, become more curious and experience something unique through the use of these tools, which enable learning to happen beyond the classroom walls and involve students in more collaborative experiences.

Tools to try:

  1. 3DBear: A newer platform that enables students to add objects into their space and then narrate a story in augmented reality. Teachers are able to create a class account and can choose from the lessons available for grades 1-6 and up, in content areas including ELA, Math, Social Studies, Science, and also STEAM-related topics. Each lesson includes links to reading materials, timelines, and also worksheets. Teachers can sign up for a free trial.
  2. CoSpaces:  A tool for creating “spaces” where students can tell a story, create a game to represent their learning in a more authentic and meaningful way. Students can work together on projects and design a more immersive story together. Working together helps students to develop their  digital citizenship skills as well as promote social emotional learning skills. An engaging way to reinforce content by having students design spaces they can then “walk” through in virtual reality.
  3. Metaverse: An augmented reality tool that teachers can use to create assessments with or have students design an interactive “experience” full of choices in characters, GIFS, 360 images, themed objects and more. There are “experiences” available and it is easy to get started by  watching the tutorial videos from Metaverse. Students can create their own experiences and share them with classmates and teachers can create more engaging review activities for students.
  4. Shapes 3D Geometry:  An app that gives students and teachers a more interactive way to explore core concepts of geometry and that can help students discover 2D and 3D shapes in an augmented reality experience. Using a Merge cube, students can examine 3D shapes by holding the solids in their hands, manipulating them and being able to more closely understand the core concepts of geometry.

Learning beyond  the classroom: Virtual Field Trips

It is important for students to experience learning and explore the world, beyond the limits of the classroom time and space. While we can’t easily take students to  faraway places,there are different tools that make these “trips” possible. The right tools bring in a world of learning for our students, enabling them to closely look at a location rather than by simply watching videos or looking at pictures in a book. We can even connect students with  other classrooms and experts around the world by using one of these options in our classes. Many of these tools are easy to get started with and some even have lessons available, which makes the lack of time factor, not an issue.

Tools to Try:

  1. Google Expeditions: By using Google Expeditions, teachers can “guide” students in faraway lands or have them closely view an object in Augmented reality. All that is required is the App, and then students need to be on the same wifi as teachers in order to “explore” in the classroom. Teachers can choose from more than 100 objects in augmented reality and 800 virtual tours to travel around the world. Each tour includes a script with guiding questions and enrichment activities, all easily accessible by downloading them to a device.
  2. Skype: Years ago, connecting with other classrooms took a lot of time to plan, working with different schedules and access to the right technology. Now through tools like Skype, students andteachers can connect with anyone in the world. By joining the Microsoft community, teachers can connect with other classrooms and create connections for students to communicate by using Skype or for more fun and pushing the critical thinking, collaboration and problem-solving skills, try using Mystery Skype.

Tools for anywhere learning

With blended learning, students have the online component as well as the traditional in-class instruction. One type of blended learning involves the use of stations. By using some of these tools, especially if access to devices is an issue, students can participate in station rotations and learn in multiple ways. The best part is that these tools are accessible when convenient for students as well.

  1. Nearpod: A favorite because it is such a versatile tool that offers a lot of options for how to have students interact with the content, and even go on virtual reality tours and explore 3D shapes. Some of the activities you can include are polls, open-ended responses, matching pairs, for a few and also including content such as BBC videos, PhET simulations and more recently, a Desmos graphing calculator. A tool to enhance instruction whether in or out of the classroom, and one which students can use to create their own lessons to share.
  2. Buncee: Students can create multimedia presentations that include a variety of items such as animations, emojis, 360 images, and web content including videos that can be embedded into the presentation. Teachers can create a lesson using Buncee by adding videos, audio, including hyperlinks and sharing one link with students, that leads to multiple other activities.
  3. Quizizz: A game based learning tool that can be used for instruction, both in and out of class, or for students to create their own games as more authentic practice. Quizizz has thousands of games available in the library and recently added a student log-in that enables students to track their progress and gives them access to prior games played so they can always go back and review. Having this available to students makes it more personalized because students can get extra practice whenever they need it.
  4. Kahoot!: Challenges with Kahoot have become quite popular. Teachers can “challenge” students to participate in a game as a way to practice the content or review for an assessment. Students can even challenge each other by sharing games and codes, which makes it good for peer collaboration and building the social emotional learning skills.
  5. Synth: A podcasting  tool that can be used to have students respond to questions, participate in a conversation by responding to a prompt or a “thread.” A thread is a string of responses in a conversation. Creating with Synth is easy and simply by recording a prompt that can also include a video, teachers can promote communication and student discussion beyond the school day. Teachers can then listen to all student responses as a podcast.

Finding new tools to explore is  always fun, especially when we have students create with them and share their work with classmates. We learn more about their interests and needs and they have a more personalized experience.

These tools have made  an impact on my students this year and I have seen a lot of benefits by offering students a variety of tools to choose from. Creating a more interactive classroom experience and expanding the where, when and how students learn, leads to more of a blended learning  approach. It is important to show students that learning can happen anywhere and give them the tools to make that possible.

 

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