Classroom Tools and Activities that Foster Future-Ready Skills

Originally published on DefinedSTEM 

There are so many different ways to get our students involved in learning with the use of technology. When we leverage the technology properly, there really are no limits to the number of resources and the possibilities to enhance and extend the learning that we can set up for our students and for ourselves. Whether you are an educator with a lot of experience using technology or just beginning, the benefit of these different tools is that it does not take much more than setting up an account to get started. But the more important benefit is that by using these different tools, it gives our students a more authentic and engaging way to share their ideas, to think critically, to problem-solve, and to collaborate. We enable students to apply their learning in a way that is more authentic and meaningful to their respective needs and interests.

While it is great to have so many choices available, it can be challenging to filter through everything to find exactly what you’re looking for. Fortunately, many of these tools offer multiple uses, beyond the traditional purpose for which they were created. Sometimes it comes down to being creative and trying some of the tools yourself, and possibly even asking students for their ideas. We always need to be purposeful when choosing technology for our students. Think first about the “why” behind wanting to include a new tool in your class. What will it enable the students to do differently and how will it promote student learning? We want to build student skills, create innovative ways to learn and prepare for the future.

Preparing for the future

We will not know exactly what the future of learning or work will hold for students,  but I do believe that they will need these essential skills regardless of what they ultimately end up doing. Because of this, I am always looking for new or different ways to build communication and collaboration skills and promote creativity in learning. I want to help students to build their confidence, to explore and do work which is purposeful for them. With these options, students can get started regardless of their level of comfort with technology, and as a result, they will become more confident in learning, and connect better with the content because they had a choice. We need to promote student agency in learning.

Some of the best ways that I have noticed for engaging students in more discussion, to think differently about learning and to share their ideas, is by using tools that promote independent thinking as well as peer collaboration. We create opportunities and enable students to broaden their perspective, and ideally, broaden their perspective beyond their school and community, by helping them to become more globally aware.

Here are some quick ideas for tools and activities that can build student skills in the content area as well as fostering the development of vital future-ready skills.

Some options: Blogging, podcasting, multimedia presentations without the “presentation,” creating a tour and sketchnoting.These might seem to be a little bit different than traditional activities, but the potential with each of these I believe is at the core of the format of these options.

  1. Blogging offers students a comfortable way to write, share, read and learn. There are so many benefits of blogging and sometimes the greatest benefits are those personal to each individual student. Blogging is a great way for students to develop the critical skills they need for learning today. It helps students to become more creative, to feel more confident in expressing their thoughts and ideas, and promotes authentic writing when students write with purpose. It can also help to further develop relationships by promoting collaborations between teacher and students, and students with students, when we read the blogs and provide feedback.
  2. Podcasting offers students a way to build speaking skills that can tie into future opportunities where public speaking might be a requirement. With the new tool Synth, we can create more opportunities for students to share their learning using a platform that goes beyond a simple podcasting tool. Create a series of “Synths” which give students a different explanation or offer tips for students to follow as they are completing an assignment or working on a project. For teachers, it is helpful for posting a discussion question for students to respond to beyond the school day and to create a new point of discussion for the next class. How fun would it be to have your own class podcast or create a podcast that can be shared within and beyond the school? Students could explore careers and the community  by setting up interviews with different student groups or teachers and then share the story of what’s happening in the classroom and school community.
  3. Multimedia “presentations” For students who need to create a presentation that involves a variety of media formats and information, the idea of doing the research and putting everything together into a presentation tool could be time-consuming and possibly overwhelming for some. However, when using a tool like Wakelet, students can simply place or curate all of the resources for their project into one “Wake” and then share the link with their teacher,  who can then create one class Wake where all the materials are accessible. It helps students to gather their information and to store it in one digital space and can also serve as a digital portfolio for students as they progress through school.
  4. Sketchnoting: It is not always about technology, as some students may not enjoy using technology to create a project, especially if they prefer creating something on their own. Sketchnoting has a lot of potential, especially for conveying a lot of information in a visually engaging way. Some students retain content better by creating a visual representation. Sketchnoting can be done with paper and markers, or it can be done using any of the apps available for creating a sketchnote.

There should be opportunities for students to engage in more real-world experiences, where they can assess needs in their community and brainstorm ways to offer services that will be beneficial for others

Using any of these different formats for showing their learning, students not only become more skilled at working independently and building confidence, but also in collaborating with their peers and working with other adults besides their teacher. We promote digital citizenship and help our students to develop their online presence and practice the responsible use of digital tools for learning. What are some different ways you have your students communicate, collaborate and create?

 

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COVID-19 & Education:

Guest post by Shelly Vohra: See the prior posts in the series.

The shift to “emergency online learning” in the last month or so has created some discussions and debates about what ‘school’ will look like once we do return. Depending on the structure and demographics of the school (e.g., K-5, middle school, high school etc), how will students and teachers return to ensure everyone is safe? Will there be a staggered schedule? In other words will we have students rotating through school for half days or full days to maintain physical distancing rules? Will each class be split in half and desks spaced out 2m/6ft with everyone wearing a mask and then sanitizing their space when the class/day is done? For example, in middle school, will we see half of the Grade 6s come into school in the morning and the other half in the afternoons 2- 3 times a week? Will grades 7s and 8s come in the other days and the rest of the time is being supplemented by virtual learning? And what are the implications for daycare, babysitting and parents work schedules depending on their work situation? Will teachers move from class to class instead of the students to minimize contact between individuals? If students are coming in for half days, what does that look like in terms of mathematics, language, social studies, science, and subjects like art, phys-ed, music, etc? There are so many factors to consider in terms of our kids returning to school and still ensuring their safety. Will we even return at all depending on what unfolds over the next few months? Many experts are talking about the fear of a second wave of COVID-19 cases if we ease restrictions too soon as well as the regular flu season later this year that will cause many to get sick. Or another scenario could be that we stagger students back into schools in September (or whenever your school year starts) to meet each other and build community and then in October, move to virtual learning. Again, there is so much to think about moving forward and the truth is we don’t really know what will happen because it all depends on what will happen over the next three months in terms of how the coronavirus is contained or how it might cause a second wave of infections. For now, it’s a wait and see situation.

The shift has also created discussion about more permanent changes to the future of education. I have seen teachers and various other stakeholders talk about some of the ‘permanent’ changes they would like to see as a result of this pandemic. While some of these ideas are good and can move education in a positive direction, some of the ideas need to be considered carefully due to several factors (e.g, developmental levels of students, equity, etc). Based on what I have heard and discussed with a variety of students, parents, and educators, here are five changes I would like to see:

1. Focus on Wellness & SEL: this pandemic has brought to light the importance of wellness and mental health. Many of our students are going through a range of emotions, which includes, fear, anxiety, and sadness. There are many reasons our kids are feeling this way and some of those reasons are: (a) they are missing their friends, (b) they are missing the regular routine of school, (c) their parents are front line workers, (d) they might have lost a loved one, (e) they are stuck in an abusive household, (f) they are bored, (g) they are stressed about school work and meeting deadlines set by teachers (which is another issue in itself!). According to CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning), “Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” They identify five core competencies (self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making). Research has demonstrated that when there is a focus on SEL, there are positive changes in behaviour (e.g., attendance, classroom behaviour, etc) and academic achievement (https://casel.org/what-is-sel/). This pandemic has demonstrated that we need to invest more resources and time in this area. Students need to learn how to manage emotions when challenges and difficulties arise, which is currently happening due to the impact of the coronavirus. They need to identify their emotions and have a range of strategies to deal with these feelings, which might help them build a positive relationship with themselves and others. This pandemic has also brought to light the importance of play. As I’ve mentioned in my other posts, many parents/guardians are talking about how they are spending more time with their kids engaged in a variety of activities (e.g., cooking, baking, sewing, talking, playing board games, gardening etc), which has helped their relationships with their children. Perhaps there is something to be learned here. Should the school day be shorter, placing an equal or more important focus on SEL and play? If many parents are going to continue to work from home due to the shift in thinking in terms of what work now looks like, should we be re-thinking what school looks like? Again, these are all questions that came up during my conversations with parents, friends, and educators that I’ve had the privilege of having over the last few weeks. Our kids these days, in my opinion, are over-scheduled. Between school/homework and all the extra-curricular activities, children these days are overloaded. It seems they just don’t have time to just be kids! I think we can all agree that we don’t want them to hate learning; we want them to be excited about learning and new ideas. We want them to be thoughtful, and kind and compassionate and curious. But to be happy, we can’t and shouldn’t overload them. Do we really want to take away their present for whatever the future may hold? I believe somewhere along the way, we forgot that we need to be educating the whole child. In the recent past, there has been way too much emphasis placed on exams, grades, and standardized test scores, that we have forgotten we need to teach to the heart. We need to be placing more emphasis on teaching habits of mind, relationships, ethics, and morals.  What about bringing in the community to support student learning? I truly believe we have lost the community aspect of educating our children. As the saying goes, “It truly takes a village”.  We need to get back to working with our community members and organizations in order to educate the whole child.

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(www.casel.org)

2. Focus on personalized learning:  this pandemic should also bring to light the need for personalized and individualized learning. Learning needs to be student-centered and not teacher-centered; in other words a focus on learning over teaching. Learning should be approached from an inquiry stance (big idea and driving questions) with a social justice & equity lens. This approach is linked to student wellness & SEL – students learning in a manner in which empathy and other habits of mind are developed as well as digital citizenship skills. We need to move away from traditional worksheets and teaching methods as well as busy work to more authentic learning. Information is everywhere; it’s pretty much at the end of your arm and we need to be asking questions of our students that require critical thinking, evaluating, judging, synthesizing, and constructing, just to name a few. If you can Google an answer to a question, it’s not a good question. This kind of learning means we need to move away from exams, which usually test knowledge & facts and not on understanding, thinking, and application to more ‘projects’ and assignments that are choice-based. It also means we move away from using textbooks (yes, I still see teachers using this as the sole source of information and there are reasons behind this, which I will talk about in another blog post), and teacher ‘lectures’ where students sit and take notes; in other words students are not passive recipients but they take control of their learning and become active members of their learning. This type of learning just might fit nicely with shorter and staggered school days, especially in middle and high schools. Students would come into school to participate and host seminars, focus groups, and discussion with their teachers and classmates on their learning tasks and learning journey; then they might spend some time in the LLC (Library Learning Commons) or go home to continue their learning and complete their work. They need to be provided with opportunities to access learning in a manner that suits them. This type of learning model not only lends itself to students focusing on deeper learning and less on tests and exams but it also builds time for students to focus on their passions and interests, more time for play, and their well-being. For this to be successful, we need to re-examine the curriculum so that it is more flexible and there is a focus on skills and not content. We would also need to focus on digital literacy skills – we have all heard the term “digital natives” but our students are not digital natives. Yes, they were “born with technology” and they might know how to use tech tools like social media for personal reasons but they still require a lot of support on how to use technology for learning purposes (one example is teachers conveying to me that most students don’t know basic online etiquette when talking to their teachers and peers online). They not only need to learn how to collaborate online but they need to learn to use tech responsibly and in ways which deepen and extend their learning. Of course, this blended model will require parameters in terms of teacher availability and students’ schedules. Teachers can not be expected to be available 24/7 and students learn and complete their work at different times. And as always, privacy and security issues need to be maintained in this type of environment (more to come on this). We also need to look at equity in terms of this type of model to work. As I’ve said before, “equity is an institutional commitment, it’s not a band-aid strategy we use when needed.”  How are we getting devices into the hands of every student? How are we ensuring they have strong internet/wi-fi connections? In order to close the achievement gap, we need to start by closing both the engagement gap and the opportunity gap.

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3.Assessment and Evaluation: related to personalized learning, we need to rethink how we assess and evaluate students. We need to move away from “unit tests” and exams, which only seem to test knowledge and not understanding of the material. These types of assessment do not for the most part, develop student skills in critical thinking and other higher order skills. We need to look at providing more descriptive feedback based on learning goals and success criteria (and know the difference between success criteria and task requirements) and moving away from assigning grades; we know research has indicated that when we provide a grade with descriptive feedback, students only focus on the grade and not the feedback the teacher provided and when teachers provide only descriptive feedback, learning is enhanced. For example, students are given descriptive feedback on a writing piece and given the opportunity to improve on their next draft and subsequent drafts based on just descriptive feedback. This type of assessment shifts the focus from achievement to learning. I know grades are a contentious issue in education because of the implications related to higher education but I honestly don’t remember the last time an employer asked me for my transcript during an interview. They want to see what skills I bring to the role and how I can contribute to the team as a whole to improve the organization’s mission and vision. If we are to give grades, then let’s sit side by side with the student and negotiate a grade based on all their work and effort throughout the learning experience (e.g. not just after two drafts of a writing piece). And in the age of technology, let’s ensure all students have an online portfolio and some sort of online presence in the form of a blog and/or website. And let’s please get rid of standardized testing; not only is it not necessary but it’s harmful and negatively impacts students well being and we all know it is not a true reflection of what a student knows and understands.

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4.Conferences: We also need to rethink educational conferences (or all conferences for that matter). Conferences have either been postponed or cancelled for the foreseeable future due to the pandemic. I know several conferences have opted for an online version of what should have been their face to face conference and I believe this is something we need to examine more closely. Costs to attend a conference has become astronomical. From registration fees to hotels and from flights to food, attending even one conference can take a significant bite out of anyone’s budget (a very small percentage of educators get their expenses covered by their district or school). And even when we get past the pandemic, flying may never be the same. So why not move towards more online conferences where educators can attend live sessions as well as pre-recorded sessions from the comfort of their home? If you must, charge a minimum fee to cover any costs based on the platform(s) you are using. And organizations can archive these sessions and have a repository available for everyone to access at any time.

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5.Teacher Professional Learning: last but certainly not least, let’s rethink teacher professional learning (PL). I’ve always believed that teacher PL needs to be  personalized, differentiated, and self paced. Teachers should be able to choose their own PL based on their goals, experiences, and background knowledge. This makes the learning more meaningful for teachers if they are allowed to pursue their own interests and passions related to education in the form of action research, collaborative inquiry cycles, etc. I believe the quote/image below says it all in terms of my beliefs for teacher PL. Let’s use an LMS (Learning Management System) like Brightspace to enhance teacher PL where teachers are learning from and with each other across districts – technology gives us the power and opportunity to learn with teachers from around the world so why not connect with teachers from different schools around the world to enhance and positively impact our practice? Why not use these PL opportunities to create learning experiences with these teachers for your students that incorporate social justice and equity mindsets (as mentioned in my bit about personalized learning? Let’s start putting PL back into the hands of educators.

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It will be interesting to see what education looks like when we do return and if any of these five points will be examined and explored further to not only enhance and improve education but also ensuring we keep students at the centre of it all.

I will be writing in more detail about each of these five points in upcoming blog posts but for the next few weeks, I am going to shift to writing about some other topics in education 🙂

 

 

**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  

 

Reaching out and Sciencing

As I am getting ready for STEAM Night at Lawton Chiles Elementary School, I am faced with a familiar conundrum: what do I wear that will make me look professional and scientist-like and also fun and approachable? Which begs the question-what DOES a scientist look like?

I settle on a blue dress with zebras and look outside my window. Ah, Rainesville! As I sit in traffic, my friends/fellow scientists frantically text me about the traffic conditions. “Step 1 to doing outreach: Show up early.” I’m surprised when I am greeted by a full parking lot. Gosh, those kids must be ready to learn about science!

Alberto Lopez, the School Outreach Coordinator, has everything set up and introduces me to my volunteers who will help me out tonight. Turns out, I’m a bat biologist and will show people how to make flashlights using popsicle sticks, copper wire, batteries and bulbs. Because flashlights are important. Especially in the field. (Always carry three headlamps-one on your head, one around your neck and one in your pocket because you never know when the batteries will run out in a deep, dark cave but that’s a story for another day).

Station 4. Make a flashlight-Tools used in science.

As I arranged the brightly colored bulbs on my table, nothing could have prepared me for the number of people who showed up at Station 4. The kids could barely contain their excitement with popsicle sticks in hand, ready to make a flashlight. It’s a truly humbling experience when you try to interact with several little humans all at once, while trying to make each one enjoy their time at your station.

This brings me to “Step 2 for doing outreach: Learn how to improvise.” The school band seemed to match the tempo of the people showing up as they played a fast tune. Due to the sheer number of people that showed up (350+), Alberto helped us modify the flashlights so that we could make them a tad faster.

Towards the end of the evening, we headed up to the stage to have a panel discussion. Alberto introduced us to the audience who quietly lined up with their questions. Kids will ask you anything under the sun and they clearly keep up with current events. They ask hard hitting questions and it’s okay to not know all the answers. “Step 3: I don’t know all the answers.” It’s why I love doing science.

Alberto Lopez, Molly Selba, Aditi Jayarajan, Allison Bordini, Eve Rowland and Sarah McGrath-Blaser.

“Step 4: Love what you do.” My favorite question came from a little boy who asked why we got into science. I love that I get to work in the collections at the museum. I like the fact that each specimen holds a special story and that I get to share it with people.

Cabinets full of interesting specimens in the Mammalogy Division at the Florida Museum.

This brings me to “Step 5: Have fun.” I appreciate the fact that so many parents brought their kids to an after school program on a Tuesday night. You need that support to fall in love with science. I have so much fun doing outreach events, it is truly what keeps me going!

**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  

Why Making Time for Reflection Matters: 5 Ideas to Try

Some recent ideas I have shared, by @rdene915

Reflection is an important act that regardless of your profession or role, is something that we all need to take part in regularly. On a daily basis, the interactions we have, the actions we take, and the decisions we make, likely have an impact on someone else, ourselves, or otherwise that we may never be aware of. Personally, reflecting was not something that I had always done. As a student in high school and growing up, I had a diary that I wrote in quite often, which at the time, I didn’t realize that I was in fact reflecting. But looking back now, that’s exactly what I was doing.

As a teacher, for many of my beginning years, mentors would ask for my thoughts on a lesson that I had taught or my principals would discuss their observations with me and ask me to reflect on my lesson. Whether it was to reflect on the choice in the activities I had used in my lesson or they offered additional questions in order to help me think through my methods and set new goals. But other than those experiences, reflecting was not something that I could say I did on a regular basis. I was not intentional about it and did not fully realize the importance of doing so for many years.

Why We Must Practice Reflection

In order to bring our best selves into our classrooms each day, we must evaluate our own practice and use a reflective process to grow professionally. We also need to help our students develop these skills and because of our role, it is important that we model reflection and provide different ways for our students to reflect as well. Not only will we help them build their skills, become self-aware and develop a greater understanding of their interests and needs, but we will also provide them with learning experiences that will benefit them in the future regardless of where their education takes them or which careers they pursue later on in life. Doing this will also help us continue to engage in the practice ourselves, and enable us to reflect with our students by asking for their feedback and working on goals together. However, not everyone feels comfortable expressing themselves in the same way, which is why it’s important to have different options available for engaging in the practice of reflection.

Here are some ways that you can incorporate reflection in your daily practice as well as include it as part of the work you do with students and colleagues. There is an idea here that can match your interests, needs and even time and place constraints,

  1. Old-fashioned pen and paper. Take time to jot down thoughts at certain periods throughout the day. For some people, trying to remember to write notes down throughout the day can be overwhelming, so instead pick a specific point in the day where it can become part of your routine. Grab a notepad or a special journal that you use, anything that makes sense to you. Make the effort to write down at least one thing or a few things each day and then the next day review your thoughts. See what you could change, if you want to change anything and how you can improve a little bit from the prior day. I used this practice with my students years ago, as a daily journal entry in Spanish and gave them questions to consider as prompts. It can also be a good practice to include in your daily activities.
  2. Blogging has become a great outlet for many educators to share the work they’re doing in their classroom, to express challenges or frustrations, or share positive thoughts or anything in between. Incorporating blogging into the classroom is also good for students for many reasons beyond just simply enhancing their writing and literacy skills. By using digital tools for this purpose, we can also promote peer collaboration, digital citizenship skills and it helps to build a solid online presence. Students can build their reflective skills with their peers and develop communication skills and better understand the importance and power of feedback.
  3. Podcasting can also be effective for reflection. Create your own podcast and invite people to listen to your thoughts, respond in a thread or simply create a podcast just for your own purpose of listening and reviewing. There are many free tools out there to use including Anchor and Synth, and who knows, it just might be something that you decide to pursue on a more regular basis and share with other educators in your PLN.
  4. Voxer is a walkie-talkie messaging app that can be used for anything ranging from recording voice memos for yourself, participating in synchronous or asynchronous discussions, connecting with other educators from around the world. It can be used for participating in a book study, having a topic and engaging with colleagues about specific discussion points and reflecting together. Voxer makes it easier to “think out loud” and then be able to process your thoughts. It is also a convenient way to communicate to meet everybody’s schedule and location. Students in my classes have also used it for their project-based learning to share ideas with me and to reflect on the work they have done and to ask questions and feedback.
  5. Videos. There are a lot of options out there for recording oneself while teaching, Swivl, as well as some online web applications that school districts can use. Although it can feel uncomfortable, especially watching yourself teach, it’s really good to be able to analyze your teaching practices, evaluate your rate of speech, how well you explained ideas, the involvement of your students, and many more important components of teaching. Having a video recording of a lesson or lessons that you’ve taught, are great ways to reflect because it gives you the chance to go back and really focus on key parts of your lesson delivery. You can also use these videos to share with a supportive group and use as a way to give one another feedback

Reflecting is important for all of us because it’s how we evaluate our actions. We can explore who we are, whether looking at the qualities and traits that we convey to others, our behaviors and how we interact with other people. It’s important that we continue to understand ourselves and to work on bringing our best selves to our families every day and to those with whom we work. When we work on this together, we will have it become a regular part of our daily practice and will continue to grow. We will also empower our students and those we lead with this powerful practice for personal and professional growth.

 

**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  

A focus on Learning… in a “Remote World”

Guest post by: Whittney Smith, Ed.D. (@whittneysmith_) is the Principal at Mineola High School. You can follow the work done by our amazing students and teachers by following us at @mineolahs on both Twitter and Instagram.

In high schools across New York State there is always talk of the Regents Exam. This exam has been the focus of teachers since 1878 when the first high school exams were given. On April 6, 2020, that changed… at least for the time being. 

Now what?  I think we now have the unique opportunity to focus on learning, not the test anymore.  While we rely solely on remote learning opportunities… our ability to leverage technology will certainly accelerate our ability to focus on student agency. Some cynics will say that without a Regents Exam, the students will not be motivated anymore, they’re going to “check out.” I don’t think so. Instead, I believe we need to seize this opportunity and engage our students.  Remember that first and foremost we teach students, then we teach content… and remember, children are naturally curious, want to make connections, and desire learning things that are relevant to them; things that are real. 

When we were thrust into this remote world as we walked out of our schools on March 13, 2020,  I sent an email to the faculty. I will never forget that email. Along with a remote learning planning guide, I sent teachers my phone numbers and those of my assistant principals’, so they could reach us at any time.  I wanted them to know that we cared about them as people first; we cared about their social and emotional well being just as we wanted them to care for our students and their families.

In the educational world we hear a lot about “Maslow before Blooms;” in other words, we need to take into account the hierarchy of human needs before the hierarchy of human learning. 

Next, I asked our educators to reflect on remote learning and consider the following while they focused on what remote learning would look like in their ‘new’ classrooms.

  • Emphasize Choice – allowing students to choose how they demonstrate their learning will increase completion and help them navigate misconceptions
  • Emphasize Learning and Not Grades – when students are not concerned about “the grade,” they are more likely to learn the material on their own, rather than “collaborating” with others (unless that is what you intend them to do). 
  • Direct All Student & Teacher Tech Related Issues to Bonnie and Katie (they are our Coordinators of Information Technology (CITs) and can do just about anything… and know who to reach out to when they can’t)).
  • Last but not least (for now) —> If you are having difficulty reaching a student (e.g. they are not responding) please reach out to our mental health team. They are counseling students and are ready to assist in any way possible.

Never did I think that I would be writing this post on April 30, 2020 (30 days into an extended school closure) telling you that the Regents exams have been canceled. 

Now is the time to tap into student interests and passions.

Now is the time to focus on strengths.

​Now is the time to give choice.

Now is the time to leverage creation tools. Whether it is a product to create or a problem to solve, allow students to determine how they demonstrate and share their learning. 

Now is the time to shift the paradigm  as we are  not going to take high stakes, multiple choice tests! Let’s do what we’ve always wanted to do… make learning fun!

 

Bloom’s Taxonomy graphic taken from: https://mylearningnetwork.com/blooming-as-a-learner/ 

 

**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  

 

Guest Post: 5 Ways to Empower Your Students with OneNote

Guest Post by: Jeni Long & Sallee Clark, @salleeclark @Jlo731 @Jenallee1

Instructional Technologists from Eagle Mountain Saginaw ISD, Ft Worth, TX

#Jenallee #MIEExpert #MicrosoftEDU #Onederful

https://linktr.ee/thejenalleeshow

As you probably know by now, #Jenallee LOVES OneNote! We feel it is one of the best educational technology applications for our students for many reasons. (Check out the original post here).

  1. When we look at using technology, we do not look at the technology first and then decide what to teach… We look at what our learning objective is and then we select an application to fit our goals. Because OneNote offers a vast amount of educational benefits, we like suggesting it for teachers to utilize. Through using OneNote, teachers can help their students master their learning objectives first, while also utilizing one application versus a new app each week.
  2. One phrase we use a lot with teachers is to “Select an educational technology application and own it”. Meaning, don’t get overwhelmed with all of the different applications available, yet select one and learn how to use it in your classroom well. Own that one app and then move on to another when you are ready.
  3. With OneNote, students have the opportunity to learn through research based strategies including the ability to:
    • Justify their work both verbally and through writing
    • See worked examples in action
    • Listen to direct instruction or videos of instruction
    • Collaborate with their peers
    • Receive timely feedback from their teachers
    • And so much more

All of this is great but the real question is how? Here are 5 ways we use OneNote to empower our students.

#1 Student Portfolios

Student portfolios offer students the ability to create products, evaluate their creations, revise their products, and curate their best work throughout the year. It allows the students time to reflect upon their growth, set goals and truly see the evidence, purpose, & benefit of their learning. Read this blog post to see step by step directions on how to create and implement student portfolios in the K-3 classroom.

#2 Worked Examples

Recently we ran across a great article online written by Shaun Killian, “8 Strategies Robert Marzano & John Hattie Agree On” We really enjoyed reading this article because it showed the strategies both researchers found in their study of how students learn. One of the strategies both agreed upon was utilizing direct instruction.

Robert Marzano claims, “It is important to explicitly teach your students,” while Hattie says, “Direct Instruction involves explicitly teaching a carefully sequenced curriculum. And, it has built-in cumulative practice.” Hattie also highlighted the power of giving students worked examples.

OneNote makes it easy for teachers to implement this strategy into their daily instruction.

Here’s How:

  • Teachers can directly teach their students specific content from OneNote. It is an infinite white board! It goes on and on and on. The draw feature offers teachers ease in writing content (space pen is our favorite), highlighting content to be learned, and it automatically saves and updates in student notebooks or shared OneNotes! Boom! You just provided your students with class notes so that they can refer back to your content at any time.
  • We love the replay feature. Work out a math problem, label a diagram, fill in the blanks, and students can “replay” those steps at a later time. Once class is over and students want to review the content taught, they can simply click on View > Replay and see the steps replayed as many times as needed!! Did you catch that? As many times as needed! This is powerful and empowering for students! Check it out in action below

Replay ink strokes in OneNote for Windows 10

  • Don’t want to write? No problem! OneNote allows you to insert a printout of any PDF, Word, or image into OneNote. Why is this beneficial? Well, now students can follow along and make their own notes, highlight, and learn as you directly tell them the content to be learned with examples of what to do and what not to do.
  • According to Sebastian Waack and his Visible Learning chart of Hattie’s strategies, video review of lessons has a .88 effect size! Wow! This is also a way to provide examples for students that explicitly teach the content. OneNote makes it easy to embed YouTube videos into your pages! Simply copy the link and paste it in the page. All students can view the video in your OneNote.

#3 OneNote Breakouts

Looking for a way to help your students engage in problem solving and bring a slightly competitive gaming aspect into learning? Try using a OneNote Breakout! In the same article mentioned above by Shaun Killian, “8 Strategies Robert Marzano & John Hattie Agree On” It is also mentioned that both Marzano and Hattie both agree that problem solving and collaboration are high yield strategies. OneNote Breakouts offer students the ability to engage in solving relative problems in a collaborative way. This allows students to apply their knowledge of concepts to solve problems. “They also agree that inter-group competition can increase the effect of cooperative learning even more.” Breakouts are the way to go!

How does it work?

Students work together to “Breakout or escape” a series of challenges all housed in a OneNote. We complete this by locking pages in a OneNote and students reveal the lock combinations through completing various challenges utilizing their knowledge of concepts. Find out more about how we create and use breakouts with our students in this blog post.

#4 Feedback

We also know from Visible Learning that offering feedback has .70 effect size! Wow! OneNote offers teachers a powerful and meaningful way to give feedback to students. While students are working on content, teachers can access and see their progress. We want to offer our students feedback during the entirety of their work, not just at the end of a project. OneNote allows teachers to see student progress in real time, leave feedback throughout the process, and truly impact learning.

#5 Differentiation

OneNote offers teachers ease in differentiating content and providing accommodations for students. With the ability to distribute pages, teachers can distribute specific content to specific students, groups, or the entire class. That means you can distribute articles to groups of students according to reading level, or chunk assignments for certain students, or provide graphic organizers to specific students, etc. This allows the teacher the ability to scaffold instruction for their students strategically and with ease.

Not only can I send out individualized assignments, I can also empower my students with access to content. Students that may struggle with reading, writing, have dyslexia or ADHD, etc. are empowered by the learning tools that are built in to OneNote! According to Visible Learning, we see that when students with learning needs utilize technology, the effect size is 0.57. Utilizing OneNote with these students is a great way to empower them to be able to access content on their own, read on their own, and to write on their own. Let’s just say… they own their learning. We think Mike Tholfsen, Microsoft Product Manager, says it best!

OneNote Learning Tools are non-stigmatizing, mainstream, built in, and free.

So what are Learning Tools? These are tools built into Microsoft OneNote, Word, Forms, and many other partner companies. See the list of partner companies below

These tools include:

Immersive Reader – Reads any typed text, PDF, or word documents to the students!

Features include:

  • Human like recorded voices in both male and female
  • Reading speed settings
  • Customization for background color
  • Font options
  • Grammar options
  • Line focus
  • Picture dictionary
  • Translates a word or the entire document into over 80 different languages (yes, it still reads many of these languages!)
  • https://youtu.be/3n5emMEm3

Check out these click by click tutorials by MicrosoftEDU!

Want to see how we use Microsoft OneNote to offer our students audio tests? Check out this Jenallee blog post.

Recently we shared all of these ways and more on an episode of Ditch That Textbook with Matt Miller and Holly Clark. Watch the episode to learn more.

https://youtu.be/HopiR25ZlH8

 

**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  

 

Guest post: Teachers have earned the benefit of the doubt

Be patient during the COVID-19 pandemic

As schools throughout the nation close for the remainder of the year, take a minute to consider what this will mean for thousands of teachers who are doing their best to educate our children. School leaders and local officials are scrambling to “flatten the curve” of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is our top priority, and as we retrofit our education system on the fly to meet the needs of millions of students, we ask for your patience and understanding.

Schools are not designed to adapt quickly

Be kind to teachers who are on the front lines navigating school closures in an education system that is, like so many institutions, incapable of meeting the demands placed upon it by the outbreak. At best, the expectations for most teachers right now are loosely defined by school leaders. Many teachers are trying to patch together inadequate distance learning programs without guidance. This is not the time for parents to use social media platforms to compare teachers or to publicly complain about a teacher who is slow to adapt. Our nation’s teachers have earned the benefit of the doubt, so please show some grace if you are irritated.
During normal times, school districts take several months, even years, to institute changes in curriculum and instructional methods. Expecting teachers to do this at a high level, with no time to prepare, during a national emergency is ridiculous. If you feel the need to share feedback with an educator, consider what would be helpful before you hit send. Negativity toward a teacher at this time will bruise deeply and could limit the creativity of teachers trying their best to meet student needs. A measured tone is imperative if you feel discouraged as a parent and wish to share your frustration. Trust me, teachers wish they could meet the needs of every student and family they serve.

More than the internet

Connecting and teaching students in a distance-learning environment is not akin to a teacher simply jumping online and presenting academic material to students. Conducting meaningful virtual instruction requires dedicated professional coaching for staff, and it also requires significant training and practice for students and families. Most teachers have never been expected to integrate remote learning into their curriculum. The instinctive knowledge teachers have spent their respective careers amassing has a vastly different application online, and most educators have never been trained to deliver robust instruction in that format. In addition, the inequity of student access to technology and broadband internet service is woven into the challenge of teaching students remotely.

Teachers are pros at building relationships

Teachers are well versed in building relationships with students so be grateful for the teachers who are trying to maintain their connection to students. This connection — virtual or in-person — is critical for academic and social-emotional growth. Our best educators specialize in making those human connections and they are experts at molding positive relationships, devoting their talent to create a culture of learning, and contributing to the school culture. Those indelible skills for expressing care and demonstrating a commanding presence may translate online for some teachers, but it is unfair to expect it to happen naturally.

Teachers are stuck waiting

Many of our teachers can’t share with you that they are at the whim of school leaders and state mandates that are not always communicated to them effectively. While teachers are on the front lines of most communication with parents and students, they are not always armed with the information parents seek. Your child’s teacher understands your concerns about assessments and grades, your child falling behind and your desire to have access to more resources. Teachers are trying to be flexible and they do not want to throw their school leaders under the bus by voicing their misgivings to you and fueling the anxiety parents are feeling.

Uncertainty and sadness

Educators lament the loss of the celebrations, getting that last high five, hug or final word of encouragement to students. Teachers have been working hard to get your child to the finish line, and in a career that has always included clear beginnings and ends each school year, this new reality is bewildering. Many educators are helping their own children cope with the loss of a traditional school year while they also cope with the same reality as a professional. Not being able to grieve the loss of the school year together is tough on the children and the adults who serve them. Teachers wonder if their current efforts are making much of an impact on students. In some cases, only a handful of students are still connected to school and that is disheartening. Teachers are used to receiving regular feedback from students and adjusting their teaching strategies accordingly.

Moving forward

The best thing you can do to help teachers is to unite with them and let them know you appreciate them. If you feel the need to share your concerns about school district policies and local programs, reach out to school leaders. Our educators are committed to serving all children and we know that we’re in this together. Teachers and school leaders throughout the country care deeply about the health, safety, and engagement of their students. Right now our teachers need your support.

**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  

10 Steps to Create Green-Screen Videos for Remote Learning

Guest Post by Allie Beldin @alliebeldin

I have always wondered how teachers on Youtube create videos that look so FANCY! I did some digging and found that several of these instructional videos use greenscreens. Green-screens are used to remove the background behind videos so you can replace it with another screen!

Why should you consider creating a green-screen video for your students?

If you want to show practice problems behind you, talk alongside a PowerPoint presentation, or add a picture of your classroom in the background to make students feel as if they are still learning in your school, consider trying the green-screen video method!
I recommend making your videos SHORT and ENGAGING. Try to shoot for making your video under 5 minutes long. Shorter videos will increase engagement and students will be more likely to watch all the way through.

10 Steps to Create a Green-Screen Video

Step 1: Buy a green screen. You can buy a fancy one online on Amazon OR you can do the cheap version like I did. I bought two yards of green, non-reflective fabric from JoAnn Fabrics craft store.
My grand total? A whopping $9.15.

Step 2: Tape or push pin the fabric in a well-lit room. Find some floor lamps or lights in your house to make sure there are no shadows behind you when you stand in front of the green screen. You do not want shadows because it will lower the quality of yourself on your video.

Step 3: Use your personal device, an iPad, or a video camera to take a test video to make sure your lighting is working. I did a test video just to see where the best place to stand was in the frame.
[Please excuse the dance party.]

Step 4: Figure out which lesson you want to teach. Teach your lesson in front of the green screen. Refer to examples from a PowerPoint that you have used in your classroom or create new examples. It is okay if you mess up! Don’t stop the video, just keep recording and start over.

Step 5: Decide what you want the background of your video to look like. Open up Google slides and put up notes or practice problems that you want to pop up behind you in the video. This is the important part. Use Screencastify or another screen recording app to record the presentation of your Google slides. This video will be the video that is played in the background while you are talking!

Notes created by 6th Grade SIMS Science team: John Goldberg, Kimberly Wahus, & Brook Andrews

Step 6: Open up a video editing app. I highly recommend using iMovie because it is extremely user-friendly for editing purposes. Drag both videos to the top of the screen.

Step 7: Drag down the background video first. This is important. Then, drag the green screen video and place it on top of the background clip.

Step 8: Click on the green screen clip. On the top right panel, click on the drop down menu that says “cutaway.” Select the “green/blue screen” option from the drop down menu.

Step 9: Edit the green screen clip during the parts that you may have misspoke or messed up. Add music at the beginning or end if you want to make your presentation more engaging.

Step 10: Watch the video and if you are happy with the final result, click the share button on the top right of the screen. Select “file,” “next,” and “save” to your desktop. It will take a little while to download. Once it has dowloaded, you can upload your video to Youtube and share the link with your students!

I hope this helps some of you during the remote learning process.
Please reach out to me here or on Twitter if you have any questions or ideas about creating green-screen videos for your content.

@MrsBeldin

**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  

Connecting Students through Buncee

Leveraging  the right tools for remote learning

By Rachelle Dene Poth, Spanish and STEAM Teacher, @Rdene915

One of the things that I love the most about ​Buncee is that it can be used in so many different ways, not only for instruction in our classrooms but also in life. I have used Buncee to create cards for family and friends, personal business cards, graphics for Twitter chats and webinars, quote graphics for my books, invitations, and more. When I decide to use digital tools in my classroom, I want students to practice the content in a more authentic and engaging way, while developing skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity that can be transferred to their future. In using digital tools like Buncee, my hope is that they will also use them in other classes, for personal use, and will share them with family too.

 

Buncee is more than just a creation tool, it is a supportive educator network that is invested in fostering connections, expressing kindness and gratitude. There have been  many initiatives for classrooms and families around the world to join in, most recently Hugs for Heroes. This is an amazing project worked on by Kristina Holzweiss, Barbie Monty and Amy Storer. Learn more about itand create your own!

Why Buncee?

Now with the shift to remote learning and educators looking for ways to connect with students and provide authentic and meaningful learning opportunities, I have been recommending Buncee more. As a multimedia creation tool, it offers so many possibilities for educators of any  content area or grade level, and provides resources for students, families and educators to get started right away. For ideas, check out some of the  Coffee Talks!

Finding time to explore new resources can be a challenge because our lives as educators become quite busy and we may find ourselves lacking in time to really explore a variety of options for use in our classroom. With the sudden transition to remote instruction, this is another one of the reasons that I recommend and choose Buncee and appreciate the team’s investment in providing exactly what educators, students and their families need. It truly has become a go to multi-purpose platform that can do so much, that I feel pretty comfortable in saying that the possibilities really are endless when it comes to creation with Buncee.

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Fostering the SEL skills and making connections

At the start of each school year and throughout the year, I focus my efforts on student relationships, learning about my students and also providing opportunities for them to learn about one another. In the past I have done this by using activities in our classroom such as ice breakers or having students work together on different review games and other in class collaborations like that. Earlier this year I created a project for students to learn about the Spanish language and culture and also to engage more in learning about one another. I came up with a project focused on using the “About Me” template in Buncee. I wanted students to share who they were and create one slide to show this using words, animations, stickers, and other add-ins. My hope was that by looking at each student’s slide, we would understand one another better and relate to each other based on similarities and differences.

I also thought this would be a good opportunity for them to choose and learn a little about a place where Spanish is spoken and create an “About_(​country​)_____” to share that information with the rest of the class. But I also realize that there are many students who are visual learners like me and I wanted to encourage students to be able to quickly look at and process information and represent it in a different way. Rather than simply restating the same content, push them to apply it at a higher level or find a different way to demonstrate an understanding of a concept.

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I also wanted students to choose a Spanish speaking country and I placed a limit on the number of actual words they could use because I wanted them to represent what they had learned about the place that had chosen using the Buncee features. The topics they had to include were: languages spoken, school subjects, foods, activities, and other information like that that they could display using Buncee.

How did it go?

It was a fun activity and I learned so much about them and they learned about each other and what life is like in countries where Spanish is spoken. We shared them on a Buncee board ​which made it easy to access and created a colorful display of students and their creativity. Students shared their slides and gave a brief description in Spanish about themselves and made connections with their classmates. We had good conversations exchanging our likes, dislikes, and learning about our backgrounds.

For the second slide, students were able to get a quick glimpse of different Spanish-speaking countries and begin to understand the culture of some of the places they would be studying. It was fun that they could only include 3D objects, animations, stickers or emojis, to represent the information for each country. So for visual learners, being able to choose the right object to use to share this information made the learning stick a little bit more. Students who enjoy creating but not drawing really enjoyed the activity.

A recent feature is the ability for students to comment and give feedback on the boards. This is a great way to encourage online student interaction whether through comments or emojis!

nullOne other feature that I thought was important to share with students was the new Immersive Reader and how it works. We enjoyed looking at all of the capabilities with it and using Buncee for learning!  Check out the video to learn more here!

Check out  the information from Buncee for Remote Learning and everything you need to get started here.  Want to learn more about  Buncee? Sign up for their live webinars happening each day, Monday through Friday  at 12:00 and 3:00 pm EST. Sign up 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  

How I Created a Podcast PD for Teachers

Guest post by Laura Cahill @engageducate

I’m always looking for ways to innovate professional development. Teachers are busy people and sometimes those after-school, face-to-face sessions just aren’t doable. I actually prefer PD that comes to me…webinars, Twitter chats, blog posts, podcasts…so I ran with that and created a podcast PD for the teachers in my district. Think book club, only with podcast episodes and online discussions. This was really simple to set up, especially because we are a G Suite for Education district but this could be done in other platforms as well. To get this running, I:

  1. Posted a sign-up to my district (this could be done at any level; district/school/grade-level/etc.)
  2. Created a Google Form with links to 20 episodes for participants to vote on (I chose all Cult of Pedagogy episodes for this initial session because I am familiar with the high quality of them but episodes could be from any/many podcasts.)
  3. Chose the top five episodes and created a Google Classroom with the link to one episode per “assignment”.
  4. Added open-ended discussion questions (What resonates for you? What do you agree/disagree with? How can you see this working in your own setting?)
  5. Set two-week “due dates” for each episode.
  6. Sat back and watched amazing conversation unfold…I didn’t really sit back, I participated, BUT I was shocked at how rich and thoughtful the conversation was!

Some logistics:

  • I offered 2 professional development hours for each week (10 total), assuming that listening takes about an hour and posting/commenting takes another hour.
  • We require that our PD participants demonstrate learning through some type of product, so we are going to create reflection videos at the end.

The participants are already asking for additional sessions and I’m thinking that participants could make suggestions for podcast episodes in the future! Such a simple solution to creating accessible and relevant PD for educators!

 

************ Check out my THRIVEinEDU PodcastHere!

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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