Relationships, Connections, Compassion!
Every student is a person with unique skills, abilities and of course challenges. Unfortunately we don't always see our students, colleagues, family and friends in ways that shines light on their entirety. We see what these individuals allow us to, or we allow ourselves to see. It is incomplete, it is misleading, and it can create obstacles to fostering the meaningful, supportive relationships they need from us.
I have been struggling with finding the words for this post for some time because I have seen first hand some of the outcomes of the struggles students have been forced to deal with. I struggled with the feeling of helplessness and inadequacy to make it better for them. The conversations with some of the students facing difficult issues brought up my own person demons of being picked on and the insecurities that have resulted and shaped my life.
This post has been brewing in side me for years, but has taken me months to complete. I don't know if I will do it justice, but I need to put it out there before I allow the ideas to fade away under the mounting to do lists that fill up life. I felt compelled to write about the struggles facing kids after I was asked to be part of the video below. Unfortunately due to schedule issues, when they filmed it, I wasn't able to be in the final video. I am however honored to have been asked by students.
I have had many of the students in the video in class, and have seen in most cases students being accepting, kind, and generous to other students. I also witness students not being able to see other's point of view and being intolerant of others. I struggle knowing that students have to deal with issues of acceptance, discrimination, bullying to the extent that they feel isolated and in some cases powerless. Students have confided in me personal experiences that as a human being I just want to hold them and tell them everything is going to be okay, but I can't make that promise. They walk the halls and have to deal with their peers who don't all accept their ideas, or values. They go home and have to deal with parents and family situations that would test the resolve of any adult to cope and function. I will not share specifics, but the experiences some of my students have had makes me feel helpless and angry and frustrated and scared for what my own children will endure as they progress not only through school but through life.
At the end of the year our superintendent discussed this video saying he was receiving calls from colleagues asking about this rogue video. My first thought was did they watch it? Did they listen to the words? Why would they think this was anything potentially damaging to a school? Now maybe it's because I don't get those kinds of calls or deal with issues that administrators face that I don't understand, but I see this video as a statement of empowerment. It isn't a statement attacking a school, but rather addressing social issues that aren't unique to my high school.
It took courage for these students to stand up and voice their concerns, issues, and share it for the world to see. They are brave, strong, resilient, young people who deserve respect. They are an inspiration to me because they had the courage to do something I never could. They stood up for themselves, they used their voice to call out those who hurt them and they have made it okay for others to follow suit. I hope you take their message for what it is, a call to action for all of us. Be the Change, create a compassionate, caring, safe environment for our children. Be the refuge from the storm that can erupt in their lives. Build the relationship to show them they matter! I too need to step up and live up to these principles, because they need us!
When Students ask, "How am I doing on this?" You can now easily provide feedback in a number of ways.
The first two I am including via a blog post about useful webtools for providing feedback. I haven't used Kidblog before, and while I use Diigo, I haven't used it in the way I will discuss. The information is paraphrased from the post I read by Mark Barnes Blog is Brilliant-Insane.com
Kidblog like other blogs discussed on this page allows students to share their ideas, reflect on their learning, and enhance their writing. The advantage here is not only the ability to comment on the student's work, but to also be able to choose if the comments are public or private. In my opinion, gives teachers a great opportunity to share positive comments that celebrate the student's work, but also private comments to guide their progress and future endeavors.
I use Diigo almost daily, and know it is a powerful tool for organization. A great feature about this organizational tool is that you are able to share your web resources with others. Diigo has taken this feature a step further by allowing others to comment on the resources you or students have compiled as they are working on their projects. There is also an EDU platform that apparently would turn this into the equivalent of a Learning Management System similar to Schoology, or Edmodo, or My Big Campus.
Although it may have a strange name, this is a great Add-on to Google Docs where you can provide feedback to students via voice comments. You can already provide comments to student work that is shared with you, but now you can add audio comments to provide clearer, more detailed feedback. You open the doc, and click on the Scripts or Add-ons and then search for Kaizena. Once opened, click on text and leave your comments.
Voki is an app that can be downloaded or accessed via the web. This one does take more time to create avatars and record your voice, so let's look at this as a flipped model of feedback. Instead of it being a teacher tool, it could be a student produced response system. I have used Audio boo as a tool to allow some students who sometimes struggle with content to create an audio recording instead of writing a paper. This would add some visual to that process by creating an avatar, or character to go along with the content.
Jing is a screencast tool that you download and are able to create audio/video files to record what you are presenting on your screen. I have had this tool for the last few years and must admit I haven't used it very much because I found Screencast O'Matic which works as a web based tool and is more accessible to students. I tend to error on the side of what is accessible to students to use as examples of technology, even though I think Jing is a great product that I want to explore more.
Students have used Screencast O'Matic on several occasions in my class this year. They are currently using it to narrate with video clips, and visual materials, the most important events of the last 300 years in World History. It is a chance for them to present their ideas in a more dynamic fashion. The ease of use is off the charts. Once on their site, click start recording and away you go. You can change the size of the image that is visible, and even make it full screen if you wish. Click the record button and anything that is visible is seen while you voice over the visual
Voxer is a walkie-talkie type tool. I haven't done much with this, but have seen multiple posts about how awesome it has been for educators to connect. It is a way to verbally communicate which goes beyond the 140 characters of a Twitter post. It is also fairly secure in terms of giving your personal information. You don't give people your actual cell phone number or personal email, but yet can have important conversations with people who could be thousands of miles away. Joe Mazza an administrator in New Jersey has an excellent post about this. Here is a link to his post explaining more about his use of Voxer. Joe Mazza explains Voxer
GAFE OR GOOGLE APPS FOR EDUCATION
Google is attempting to be the dominant provider of technology in schools much like Apple tried decades ago. With finite budgets, and ease of use, GAFE is a viable, useful and practical alternative to the more costly Microsoft software bundle. So on a page dealing with technology, I think it is only fitting that we start with the apps that are going to be used most often.
I am currently working on my certification as a Qualified Google Educator. I am working through the training resources Google has provided. You can begin your journey, or just learn from their instructional videos at Google Training.
Gmail has replace Microsoft Outlook in many school districts and that number is growing. Gmail is not only a useful communication tool, it can also be a hub for managing all things Google. It provides access to your calendar, emails, Drive, and much more. Google has created a synchronous relationship between its applications that allows for more efficiency and better organization.
Aptly named, this is essentially your hard drive, only instead of being on your computer it is now in the cloud. You can also download Drive to your computer and use and access it the same way you would previously have used and managed your files with an internal drive on a computer, or an external flash drive. Drive is your headquarters, it is where all of your files are stored. The cool thing about Drive is it allows you to create a multitude of documents similar to Microsoft Office, as well as convert files from Office to Google and the other way around. It has amazing functionality and ease of use that make it a tremendous asset. Drive also makes sharing, and organizing documents and files easy. You can simply click on a file or even a folder to share that with others. You can control what editing or viewing access those people have all from your Drive.
Flubaroo is a script or Add-on to a Spreadsheet that turns a normal spreadsheet into a self grading quiz. You begin by creating a Form with multiple choice or short response questions. You give the students access to the form through an email, or via your website. Once students have completed the quiz, you take it to create an answer key. Next you go to the corresponding spreadsheet and either add the script for the older version, or with the new sheets, you click on Add-ons and choose Flubaroo. it will walk you through the rest of the process and when you are done, the quiz is graded, and as a bonus, it analyzes the data. This is a tremendous time saver.
Doctopus I had heard about this a few times, and was able to see it demonstrated during an edcamp this year. I think there is great potential here for organizing, distributing and collecting documents. I will admit however that during the presentation, the amount of upfront work seemed daunting, and so thus far I haven't spent much time probing deeper into this script or Add-on. I do have to say that the concept of creating groups, or classes and being able to share information specifically for those groups is a great idea. This tool is an organizational gem and is worth examining.
Chalkup - This is one that I just learned about, and signed up for. I watched the short video below and thought I have to find out how to use it. It seems similar to the overall concept of Doctopus, however it is an Chrome extension instead of an Add-on. What is the difference? Well from what I can gather thus far, it seems like Doctopus has to be added to each individual document, while Chalkup can be accessed as a connected piece to your Google Drive. You can manage any and all documents with Chalkup from your Drive, by accessing Chalkup as you work with your documents to make them part of the class or classes you want to share them with. Again I am still very new to this and need to investigate more to see the pros and cons.
I must admit I feel pretty cool having Google Classroom on my tech page. It is so new that they are still looking for teachers to test it out. I am planning on signing up to be a tester for this upcoming school year. I can't write a review of this one yet because it is still in its infancy, but it is worth noting that Google has seen the market for such a product and has created its own version to compete with the likes of Doctopus and Chalkup. This may even pull some educators from LMS like Edmodo or My Big Campus or others. I will elaborate when I am able to see more of this intriguing product.
I can't say enough about Sites- it is the answer for anyone who ever wanted to have a presence on the web, but didn't want to deal with all the HTML coding. Now there are other platforms such as WIX, Wikis, Blogs such as WordPress and Weebly, but Google Sites is connected to student's school accounts and allows for the creation of more privatized sharing of information and content.
For teachers- I have created a google doc that I inserted a table and use it as a calendar for each unit I teach. This allows students to see the daily activities, assignments, and upcoming projects. They are able to access class materials and submit their assignments.
Substitute materials- ever have the issue of not being able to do all of the things you want because your sub won't have access to your materials? Well I create a sub document where I outline the activities and lessons for the day, and also link the documents, videos, and other resources right on the sub lesson plan. I keep this on my google site, and update it each time that I will be absent. The sub simply goes to my site, clicks on sub resources and has access to any materials they need for the day. I can change or add comments to help the sub throughout the day if necessary.
Google Docs is in many ways just like Microsoft Word, but in other key educational ways, it is way cooler! Both allow you to word process, add images, edit text, make comments on other people's work, etc. There are things that Word can do that Docs can't, but those tend to be the functions that the minority ever use. When I read reviews of technology that is really technical, there always seems to be the emphasis on those high end functionality that again most people never use. So what is so good about Docs for education? First and foremost the most significant difference is the ability to share your documents with other people and simultaneously edit the document. Docs allows you to have up to 50 people at anyone time access the same document. This has been an amazing tool for me as an educator. I can have students collaborate on the same project all being able to contribute to the completion at the same time. They can use a chat function or comments on the side to converse with each other inside the document to help the editing process. Another cool feature is the revision history. This has benefits two fold for education. First, unlike Word, if you accidentally delete something and save the document, or it crashes, it is at times impossible to get the work back. If you delete the file, there is no coming back from that unless you are a member of the IT department, or smarter than I am. With Docs, the revision history is essentially a list of auto saves that Google has made of your document. You are able to go back and revive an earlier version of the document, or just copy and paste the parts you wanted to the newest version. The second benefit as a teacher is to help teachers deal with the issue of individual contributions to a project. The revision history not only shows earlier versions, but it also designates who made contributions and what they actually wrote or added to the project at different times during the completion of the task. This has helped my students delegate work, hold each other accountable, and have conversations that are closely matched to the real world. I could go on and on about Docs, but I hope you will check them out yourself.
This image is an example of what can be done using Drawing in just a few minutes. The annual ISTE conference, or International Society for Technology in Education is held every June, and the past few years I have connected with the educators who are there as well as those who were not at ISTE. This year we created a badge challenge to design your own ID badge for those not at ISTE but learning together on Twitter and Google Plus. I added a few images, QR codes that link to my sites and the final results are above. Drawing is a simple tool that allows you to add images into Docs and other Google applications, or create an image in isolation. Students in my class have used it to create collages, enhance projects, and even as a comic strip to demonstrate their content knowledge. It is a fun and easy to use tool that can be powerful when used in the right setting.
LATEST TECHNOLOGY DISCOVERIES
It is too early to tell how powerful this app can be because I just found out about it in the last few days. From my initial interaction with the app and those who shared 81 Dash, it seems to be a backchannel type app. This maybe similar to Today'smeet.com where students with devices can share ideas during activities, or discussions to allow all to participate. What I could tell from it, was that students have to create a user account to sign in, thus illuminating the anonymity that Today'smeet.com can sometimes foster in a negative way. There are times when anonymity can be a good thing in discussions, but more often, we want students to take ownership for their ideas and work. I am still looking for feedback from other teachers to see how they are using it and their thoughts about ease of use.
I have had this app downloaded for months, but never used it because I don't use a lot of multiple choice questions to assess students, but when I do, I tend to use Google Forms and Flubaroo to grade them. it wasn't until the end of the year that I was looking to wrap up my unit on the Renaissance. Students had researched and presented information about an important person in the Renaissance. I wanted to check their knowledge on the various people and topics we had been studying in a fairly quick manner. Of course my first thought had been to do a form, but the issue is limited computer access. The end of the unit came about the same time as another round of standardized testing was rolling out. So how do you give a quiz to almost 90 students and grade it in minutes? The answer is Quick Key!
Here is a quick break down of the app- You create your quiz and print or provide access to students the way you have always done it. Step 2 download and print copies of the Quick Key Answer Key- can be found on the Quick Key Site. So far just like the old scantron tests. The next steps are what make the app spectacular and worth the time it takes to make it a reality. If you want to analyze the data, and see how well individual students did, as well as how the class did on each question, you have to create classes and add students. The cool thing about the app is it allows you to upload student rosters via an excel document. This takes seconds to upload. Once you have done this, students will be assigned a student ID number that the app will recognize.
So a quick check on our progress, app is downloaded, quiz is written, answer sheet copied, and student roster is made. You are almost ready. You need to make an answer key either online or on the app so when app can grade your quiz. Once this is done, hand out the quiz and tell students to fill out their student ID number, then let the students rock their knowledge and get ready to review the results. Once students complete the quiz it is time to grade. This is where the magic happens. Open the app, select the class and quiz and scan the quizzes using the phone or device's camera. Results are instantaneous and if there is an issue, you can manually enter responses to allow the stats to be calculated for each student.
My own experience found that it wasn't perfect, but it worked very well. I would recommend using this especially when access to computers is limited. Walter Duncan the creator is also a teacher and an amazing resource for any issue you may have with the app. As I mentioned, it didn't work perfectly, but when I had an issue I posted to Walter on Twitter and within minutes he and I were troubleshooting. In the end my issue was solved by reloading chrome.
I haven't used this yet, but much like Quick Key, it is an app that fits the void between no tech and 1:1 computing. Poll EV, Socrative, infuse learning, Quizlet, etc. are all apps that allow you to check student understanding and provide instant feedback to where they are in relation to their peers. They all allow for the potential to show results publicly depending on your purpose. They allow you to poll for understanding, or to use as an exit ticket, or a quiz. They also all require all students to have a device to participate.
Plicker is different, it allows students, all students to actively engage in the activity with no devices. Students are provided a printed sheet with several QR codes. You ask the question, this could be written on a presentation slide, verbal, however you provide the information. Next students hold up the answer sheet with the codes and a webcam or phone camera scans the sheets and compiles the data. There is a short video demonstrating this at Plickers.com. I haven't used this app yet, but wish I had it this year in a BYOD class with few students having access to devices every day.
Technology meets demonstration of knowledge. In the past students have completed tasks for the final that included examination of information that we have covered throughout the course. This was done through a variety of writing assignments. This year I wanted to try something new. Students worked on creating their final video projects that demonstrated their knowledge of events that we weren't able to cover in class.
The twist is they had to do it in a Forrest Gump style video. Students created a timeline of the 10 most important events describing what they were and why they were important by analyzing the lasting legacy of the events. They then created a 5-10 minute video where they showcased their understanding of the events. This video was to include a story similar to Forrest Gump where he recalls his experiences during these incredible historical events. Students were to utilize a video capture software called screencast O'Matic, but other chose other methods. The technology wasn't as important as the final product.
I wanted to include the final products students created in World History. There are some great examples of creativity. We wrapped up the year with presentations of these projects.
This was my first attempt at this activity, so there are some great examples of content and storytelling, some examples of good content, and some that could be better. In the end that is what happens when you attempt new things where students don't have examples to use as a baseline. There is also the issue of time, how much time do you give, for some it seems there is too much time, others, not enough. In the end I enjoyed the activity, and think the students did as well. They were excited to see each other's work.
Final note of the presentations before I forget- To keep them all engaged, I asked everyone to fill out feedback sheets for each video presentation. Students were asked to provide constructive critiques of the work of their peers. I asked them to include at least 3 positive things and 2 areas for improvement. We then shared out these ideas. Sometimes students volunteered, other times I randomly called upon audience members. Each time we discussed the presentation in terms of the rubric I provided for them. It was a powerful piece of learning. Students were provided immediate feedback not only from me, but their peers. They were able to hear what others thought, as well as see their work in relation to that of their classmates. The really cool thing is the students in the audience were in line with my ideas for feedback for the most part. At times they had deeper insights about things they liked, or ways to express their critiques that was meaningful and reflective.
With some tweaks, I will use this lesson again. It may or may not be an end of the year task, but it definitely is a great activity to allow students to create something more meaningful than a MC test.