Give Teachers Time to Discover and Integrate Technology in the Classroom

 

Our school has embraced the integration of technology as a key component to enhance the learning experience. We went from 120 Chromebooks to over 1600 Chromebooks in about one year and when you include our computer labs, we are at a 1:3 device to student ratio. While this shift in instructional resources has been promising one of the greatest needs of our teachers has been the ever-limited resource, time. Despite ongoing support and cohort meetings, teachers need and want the time to discover and integrate technology in the classroom.

Here is the video that set the tone for the day:

With the generous support of our administration, we recently had two release days for our teachers who have a class set of Chromebooks. This professional development opportunity was exactly what teachers needed. Teachers spent the day thinking about “What does technology make possible?” and creating a “playground” experience where we looked at platforms from the student and teacher perspective, the possibilities Google Cardboard creates, and ultimately, thought about how we can integrate technology in our lessons/units that will be transformative based on the SAMR model.

C6BN3o5UwAA2Lu4
It is important to have experts throughout the staff.
google cardboard.jpg
Teachers using Google Cardboard

Some reflections from the day:

“Today was very helpful. It did not feel overwhelming and, in fact, it was inspiring because I can see all of these new possibilities for my classroom.”

“Wow, I learned so much today.”

“This is exactly what I needed. Having the opportunity to work with my colleagues and share what we are doing helps me see how I can do this in my classroom.”

Takeaways from these Release Days:

  1. We all need time to press pause, slow down and explore possibilities without having to worry about our giant “To-do” lists.
  2. By giving teachers time to discover and integrate technology in the classroom you help to create capacity with these teachers. I am a part-time EdTech Coordinator for my site and I am the only one in this position. As much as I want to support all my teachers, logistically, it can be a challenge. That is why it is important to have “Experts” throughout the staff who can help support their colleagues in their departments or near their classroom. Like all things in education, it takes a village.
  3. Teachers are learners and sometimes we forget that. We get caught up in the “business” of working in education and forget about the art of teaching. If we are going to expect all teachers to be innovative, engaging, and current in their work we need to give them the time to refine their practice. Professional development is one of the first things to go or remain limited in order to save money but, it is a crucial aspect for improving as a practitioner.

Share your experience with professional development or ideas for future trainings in the comments below!

Tear Down the Four Walls of the Classroom: Video Conferencing is Not Just for Business

 

C4UsQzZUYAAwFgo.jpgWhen I was a high school student, the extent of technology we were connected to was a Cingular cell phone with the game “Snake” (it’s was super cool), AOL Instant Messenger, and 3-5 classroom computers with the oh-so-powerful Netscape web browser. The tech tools we had available to us were merely for productivity and publishing and did not have the capability of worldwide engagement. Students today live in a world surrounded by social media, super-fast Wi-Fi networks, and the infinite depository of information: the internet. The power of the internet coupled with improvements in technology equipment has created a new opportunity for students to be engaged in the learning process: video conferencing.

Typically, when someone hears about video conferencing they assume it refers to members of Corporate America sitting around a conference table talking to someone on a screen. While they are not wrong with this assumption, video conferencing is not just for business! Video conferencing can be one of the most powerful tools educators can use in schools. By tearing down the four walls of the classroom, teachers and students are now able to connect with other classrooms from around the world in real time. Additionally, video conferencing allows for teachers to connect with and bring in to the classroom guest speakers even if the individual cannot physically be in the room. Think about how powerful it is for students to have authentic audiences to ask questions and share their learning.

Just recently, my high school partnered up with a local elementary school to video conference using FreeConferenceCall.com. A 9th grade Spanish class was partnered with a 3rd grade Dual Immersion class and our Spanish Translation class was partnered with a 5th grade Dual Immersion class. Video conferencing using FreeConferenceCall.com allowed for students at both levels to authentically engage in conversations, in real time, using the language skills they have been practicing. The elementary school students were able to get to know the high school students better and the high school students were challenged to show their competency alongside the very skilled elementary school students. Think about how powerful and relevant the learning is when the task reflects real-life experiences.

Use video conferencing to create authentic, real-world situations for your students. Technology is meant to help make our lives more efficient and to provide us with new opportunities. There is so much more educators can do when we expand the learning beyond for walls and we bring the world to our students and our students to the world.

Turn Your Classroom into a Game!

 

Game Based Learning and Gamification are ever increasing buzzwords in the education world. It’s important to note that they are not synonyms and reflect different forms of pedagogy. Game Based Learning is using a game for students to experience content in a fun, interactive way. For example, using Kahoot! to review for an assessment creates a fun, interactive and competitive experience for students to review material; but, it’s still a review. Gamification is the act of creating a classroom experience that uses gaming structures to immerse students in an ongoing learning experience.  The purpose behind both of these systems is to help motivate students to strive for their best. A major outcome of Gamification is the change in philosophy that students should work towards mastery and as they improve they earn more points, level up and their level reflects their current ability.

I have incorporated both Game Based Learning and Gamification (mainly Gamification) for the last four years and believe the classroom experience it creates is how we should be thinking about education. With Gamification, you are creating a gaming experience for your students to experience your class by incorporating gaming structuring into the learning experience. These structures include avatars, leaderboards, ongoing challenges and quests, referring to points as XP (experience points), opportunities for Award XP (extra points – extra credit), and ultimately some sort of story that helps students understand why they are “playing.”

Here is how I gamified my AP United States History (APUSH) Class:

The Story:

Avatars and the Leaderboard:

What makes Gamification great is the reliance on student choice. One of the simplest but important ways students personalize this experience is by creating their avatar. This is their “code name” or “player name” that represents them and no one else knows who they are. Students always get creative with this and it helps give us some insight into what they like. You can go digital and use different platforms that allow students to also create a visual Avatar. Platforms like Edmodo are great with this.

cngsazzuaaiksws

The leaderboard is where students see their level as well as how they are doing in the game compared to the other players. I also had level names connect to the content in to inspire students to be aware of these terms.

Challenges and Quests:

This is essentially the typical assignments in your class. You do not need to completely change what you have done in the past but try to incorporate them into the story. Why are they writing the essay? Should the assignment by individual or can they work as a team to accomplish the quest? One of my favorite things to do is to create special challenges that are time-sensitive. Whenever I would travel, I would find historical locations and create a quick “Where Am I?” video. I would post these videos on Friday afternoon and students had until Sunday evening to answer correctly for 1 Award XP. Be creative and have fun with these!

XP

Remember, Gamification is about creating a gaming experience for students and a big part of this is language. In my class, students earn experience points (XP) as well as earn extra points (Award XP) for bonus tasks. We don’t use the term points because in our game you earn XP. The biggest change, as well as mindset shift, is how students earn XP. In a traditional grading system, students start with 100% and their grade slowly lowers as more assignments are added and the overall average keeps changing. This is not how games work. In a game, you start with 0 XP and as you successfully accomplish tasks you earn more XP and increase your level. This means that on day one, all my students start with a 0% (an F grade), until they start earning XP. This is a huge shock for students at first, but quickly they start to realize that in this system, we only focus on improvement and growth. No matter how poorly a student does on an assignment, since they are earning some points, their grade will increase. No longer do they see a lowered grade due to less mastery than expected; they simply did not raise their level as much as they could have if they mastered the tasked better. The key is to continually remind students AND parents about the philosophy behind this system.

The best part about Gamification is that you get to be creative and have fun! If this seems overwhelming, start small with game based activities and then work up to incorporating these ideas. You will see more motivated and engaged students as well as a renewed energy in your own teaching.

 

Share your thoughts and classroom experiences in the comments below!

Google Classroom Just Got Better!

I have been using Google Classroom for many years and love the seamless integration with everything Google. The platform has greatly changed the way in which my classroom runs because of the efficiency it creates. However, there was one area of Google that was always missing, groups. I started my teaching career using Edmodo and it’s also a great platform (a post for another day). When Google Classroom came out it made more sense for me to adopt it since I was doing everything GSuite (originally GAFE). However, I quickly missed the ability to group my students digitally in Google Classroom like I was able to do in Edmodo. Student grouping is extremely powerful when differentiating, creating student centered classrooms, as well as managing student work.

The day has come that Google Classroom allows for grouping! Well, sort of…

Now, you can post announcements, assign work, and ask questions to specific students. This is a major step for Google’s learning management system and a win for teachers. Google Classroom now allows teachers to continue their differentiation and grouping by giving individual students or groups the work that pertains to them instead of posting multiple assignments that some students will not complete. This new feature also creates a more accurate reflection of work completion.

How to use this new feature in your classroom:

  1. Jigsaw assignments – assign parts of a larger task to certain students so that they can work on the specific task at hand. All group work will be turned in to you via classroom but only the work pertinent to the specific students will be visible to them.
  2. Assign work based on ability – in a differentiated classroom, you have students who are advanced, on target, below target and everywhere in between. You now can assign the work specific to the ability of the student, creating a more efficient distribution of the work assignment.
  3. Assign different assessments – as part of your differentiated classroom you need to assess different things. Now, you can assign separate Google Forms or other formative/summative assessment tools/tasks to specific students to target their monitoring needs.
  4. Assign extra practice to specific students – instead of posting extension work to the entire class and confusing students, you can now target those who need it.
  5. Assign work based on interest – you can provide different learning experiences to students based on their learning style(s) and/or interest. Now, simply assign individual students and they are ready to go!

This is a big step in the right direction from Google! It would be nice to have groups already made and stored (like it is in Edmodo) so that the teacher can post to a group as well as individuals.

Keep providing Google feedback, they do listen. If you have other ways you are using this resource in your room, share in the comments section!