I was working with teachers this past year and we were discussing formative assessment for their students. I started to put together some examples using Google Forms. I was excited about what I had put together using images and videos as the prompt and text for answers. The teachers put the examples through their paces and quickly came back with their assessment. They didn't share my enthusiasm. They liked the concept, but didn't like the fact that the answers had to be words. They work with Kindergarten students who at the beginning of the year can't read and thus written answers don't meet the students educational needs. They asked if we could use images as the answers. At that time I had to regrettably answer no.
I had to deal with this setback for a bit before I remembered Alice Keeler tweeting out that if you want a feature, have a question, etc. that you should contact Google because they listen. Well I thought about this for a bit and decided, well what do I have to lose? So I took a couple of minutes and sent a feature request to Google.
About two days ago I saw some people posting about the new feature in Google Forms. Then I received an email from Google - see below. I think this is awesome! Google really does listen to people and takes their ideas for features and turns them into reality. And that creates opportunities for amazing learning opportunities.
So what can you do with picture choices? Let your imagination be your guide. My first thought was to have students identify Letter Sounds using images of fruit or animals or common objects as choices. Or which of the following objects doesn't belong which of these is not like the others? What about identifying shapes, colors, etc. You might be asking what about the students who can't read like my original issue. You could work through the activity as a class projecting the question while students are answering on their computers. You could set up the form to have sections so that students would answer one question at a time and not be distracted by other images or questions. You could create audio or video directions that students would click on to provide the question and instructions. These are just a few ideas that come to mind I will add more as I work with this new tool. I am still in the Holy Cow this is Incredible phase.
Here is a great playlist of Google Form Tutorials from Richard Byrne He has a blog FreeTechnology4Teachers site that has amazing resources that I go to regularly to learn new resources.
This week I had the privilege to work with a group of educators in a course called Communication and Collaborating with Google Tools through UWGB. I was asked to take over the course at the end of June and was given the syllabus to use as my guide. I spent the next few weeks creating the assignments and daily tasks that would guide us. I wanted the course to be self paced and put together a number of activities that participants could choose from. Here is the site if you are interested in seeing my vision - gg.gg/TechVenture. I asked the participants to complete and submit three tasks under each tool.
I went into the class thinking all teachers would have experience with Google Apps for Education. I thought they would have experience creating and working in Docs, their Drive, and likely Slides. I quickly found out that the level of experience and comfort level varied greatly. I had some students who had never created anything with Google Apps.
I wish I could say that everything went perfectly, that I did an awesome job inspiring these educators and they had no struggles with learning or using the technology. Unfortunately that isn't the case. There were struggles, there were moments of frustration and there were moment of failure. The reality of learning new skills, especially technology comes with failure. There were lots of questions being asked, most I could answer, but sometimes they wanted to do something so specific that while it could be done it would involve a level of complexity they weren't ready for. It taught me many lessons in how to provide instruction, to listen to these learners as both individuals and as a group. It gave me numerous moments to take pause and reflect. I also saw that same behavior with many of my students. I saw them think about how they could use the technology, contemplate ways to infuse it, or whether a different technology like Microsoft would be easier and more appropriate for them. I experienced their anxiety, their struggle to explore something new. Some dipped their toes in and others jumped in the deep end.
The struggles I witnessed this week remind me how important building relationships and trust are. I spent a lot of time working with these educators individually getting to know them and listening to their needs. I also incorporated a number of activities to help the entire group get to know each other. These activities had little to do with technology, but I think they made a huge difference in how well the course went, especially when the students had time of struggle and frustration.
I have to be completely honest here that I haven't looked at the products students have submitted beyond what they showed me while working on them in class. I don't think I need to see the final products of their labor to comment on the triumphs of the class.
I witnessed the journey of these educators as both a group and more importantly as individuals. I saw the student who had never created a Google Doc create a Site showcasing her work for the week. She also created a page of her awesome creations in a world beyond education. She quilts, creates stained class, and welds yard art to name a few. She brought in examples of her work and showcased a page of images on her portfolio site. She came in now knowing how the tools would fit her unique teaching circumstances to creating numerous lesson activities with a multitude of classes.
I worked with another teacher who took a Choose Your Own Adventure Google Form Template I created and built her own lesson for her 2nd grade students. She is going to create a writing prompt for her students that will allow them to choose which path their take and which story ending their friends wrote they wish to read.
An Admin in the class left thinking about how he could use QR codes to revamp his beginning of the year PD sessions. And most importantly I heard many ideas about how to provide students with a variety of opportunities to use their voice in the learning experiences.
The week was a bit of a roller coaster ride as we navigated our way through the learning process. In the end I am ecstatic to see the progress and final products of my students. I can't wait to sit down to make some tweaks to it and work with the next group of students.
I am just days removed from my first ICE conference and have come away with a number of lessons. One of the first things is that ICE is an amazing conference loaded with great sessions and incredible educators. It was a great experience and I am looking forward to returning to ICE again next year. The sessions were filled with amazing takeaways presented by passionate educators sharing some of the great things they are doing with students. I learned about ways to offer Professional Development, creating videos, gamification,
One of the highlights include a guided tour of the resort with keynote speaker, the amazing Adam Bellow. It was an opportunity that happened by chance but more importantly because he is an phenomenal individual who is incredibly down to earth. ICE provided opportunities to spend some real quality time with some really big name educators because it is an intimate venue jam packed with educational awesomeness.
Another cool experience was Steve Dembo's session on MEMEs. It was entertaining and filled with many examples of how to use MEMEs for classroom activities. You can have students present their understanding of a topic using a MEME, a fake tweet, or other short text visual. There were many examples that stood out in his session, but what I will take away from that session was his interaction with his son who was in the front row during his session. Earlier in the day his son presented a session with him. This father son connection in learning made me think about the possibilities to connect with my daughters in creating learning activities.
1. Authentic Learning is Key
I have been a proponent of having students complete tasks for audiences beyond the classroom teacher for years. After attending the session on authentic learning by Tracy Crowley @tracycrowley77 I was inspired by what was truly possible in terms of authentic learning. A couple key points she made were that authentic learning is not creating tasks for parents or another class in your school. Authentic learning is about solving a problem a real world problem. She provided a few examples from her own experience. One of those was elementary students creating PSA video about an issue they were having with their playground. They wrote, directed, and edited the video asking their superintendent to add more wood chips to their playground so their classroom would be a clean safe learning environment. This stood out because the kids were completely engaged and in the end they were successful. Learning needs to be meaningful, authentic and based on things that matter to students.
2. Technology needs to be used purposefully
Tech is a tool and implementing tech into a lesson will not automatically make it better. This may seem strange advice especially at a tech conference but this message resonated throughout many sessions I attended. Technology should not be something that we simply check a box to say we used it. Instead it should be purposefully implemented to enhance best practices. During the lesson planning process we need to have a vision for what we want students to do and how they will show mastery. While I am a huge proponent of technology, I am a champion for engaging students in the learning process even if that means there is no technology involved. I want to see best teaching practices utilized regardless. With that said, we need to continue to assist teachers with their growth in the use of technology. I attended a great session called Techventure where the two presenters created a game based strategy to provide teachers with individualized tech PD offerings. Teachers can do training modules when it fits their schedule and earn badges and certificates when completed. The layout of their site and their vision is inspiring. I am already working on ideas for how to implement this in our district.
3. No matter how many times you interact with someone or hear about a topic there are still learning opportunities.
I don't think this is a new idea for most of us. I am sure there are times when you reread a text, watch a video, or talk to someone about a topic on a second or third occasion. My revelation came when sitting in a gamification session with Michael Matera. He and I first connected a couple years ago and have connected via Twitter more times than I can count. We have been at edcamps and even co-presented a session at one. I have attended multiple sessions on gamification he has presented as well. It was during his mini-games session this past week that I realized that no matter how many times I hear or talk with Michael about gamification I continue to learn. The more we explore a topic the more knowledge we extract about the topic. This is not only a lesson for us on our own quest for knowledge, but should be used to guide our instruction of students. We need to provide students multiple opportunities to engage in important learning. Learning focused on skills such as creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, creation, and inquiry.
4. Not being the smartest person in the room is awesome!
ICE is a conference loaded with phenomenal educators who are extremely knowledgeable and are true leaders of change in education. When attending an event like this I quickly realized I had no chance of being the smartest person in the room. What a freeing feeling. Unlike the feeling we sometimes experience in front of students who have a plethora of questions where we may think we need to know everything. At ICE, I felt no pressure to have all the answers. I found that I could ask questions and best of all I was able to learn and learn from some of the most amazing educators all in one place. I got to turn off my teacher hat and put on my student hat.
5. Teachers are fun!
This conference was a blast. The opportunities to learn were incalculable. I have outlined a few of those already. One of the most significant lessons is that Teachers are truly a fun group of people to hang out with. I got to know colleagues in ways I wouldn't normally in the confines of a school setting. I was able to connect with and learn about members of my PLN that I had previously only known via social media. The true lesson is to let your personality shine through in your classroom! Teachers wear many hats and we sometimes have to take off the hats that get in the way of letting others see more of who we are.
6. Get up early- the plumbers come early and water is good.
The final take away is all about preparation. My colleague and I were able to stay off site with a relative of his. One thing that we overlooked was that the plumbers were coming early on Friday morning. We woke to the sound of the plumbers beginning their work on the water pipes. What we quickly realized is to do the work they needed to shut off the water. This resulted in our lack of water to complete the most important morning ritual the ever popular shower. So ICE was a great experience even with a little hiccup in the adventure.
Thanks to all those who organized, presented and attended ICE. It was something I won't soon forget and appreciate all the connections I made.
While at ISTE earlier this summer I went to a number of social events with co-workers, colleagues and just amazing people in general. Over the course of the five days in ISTE, we had opportunities to connect with so many people. I talked education, technology, and where to get the best Philly Cheesesteak in town. I have to admit if we didn’t find the best it wasn’t from lack of trying. My doctor would frown at my dietary choices. To the point, I was presented an opportunity to attend an amazing conference with thousands of passionate educators and there were so many choices I had to make each and everyday. Each would determine how my experience would unfold and what I would be able to take away from this opportunity. I could write about the laundry list of takeaways from ISTE, but I wanted to focus on one simple idea that stuck with me. Shut up and Dance!
A group of educators found ourselves at a social gathering where karaoke was rocking so loud we heard it from down the street. When we got there, a few in the group immediately signed up to sing. That is not something I do because I know I can’t sing. However I made the choice to dance- to get out on the floor and have fun. I knew there could be cameras there - this could be posted- this could be embarrassing- I danced in front of coworkers when I wouldn't do this in front of family members at a wedding. What is the difference between the two situations? I made a choice. Simple as that I made the decision to have fun, to dance to be part of something bigger than myself. I took the cues from those around me that this was a safe place to "let my hair down" and dance.
Listening to a great IGNITE presentation, and yes I might reference this a few times because I am thoroughly impressed by this young educator I have been able to work with over the past year, Jon Spike @Mr_JSpike. In his presentation he references the idea of being wild and crazy for the kids. To do things that are a little different and wild. This is an area in my life both in and outside of the classroom that I struggle with. Many times I put on my teacher suit that confined me to the persona of a professional. Now I am not saying that being a professional is negative, but in my case it meant building a wall between myself and my students. While I think we all have a border to maintain proper relationships, my wall was too often too tall and too think. Picture the Great Wall of China. It didn't allow me to show my students who I really am. I am someone who can relate to the quiet kid in the back of the room who knew the answer but was afraid to draw attention to themselves. I relate to the student who feels overwhelmed in math class but is afraid to ask questions because they don't want to feel stupid. I connect to the person who could be the class clown and someone who at times takes risks.
I was all of these people at the same time and yet only show my students one snapshot of me. Unfortunately, early in my career, I never took off my teacher suit in front of my students. I continued to let this wall stand between us. In the last ten years, but more honestly the last five or six I really began to make the transformation from my old rigid teacher suit to more of a leisure suit. A more flexible, hip, (at least I hope) and honest presentation of who I am. I am still a work in progress, but I am continuing to make the decision to connect with my students, get to know them, build relationships and grow.
I made the choice to dance. I hope you will too!
This year brought about BYOD in our classrooms, and so I decided to embrace this new opportunity. I will admit that I was a little nervous, and still am about the potential risks, but I have just completed my lesson on the FISHBOWL and am excited at the results. So you should be asking, what is the FISHBOWL, well before the year began I was looking for music for my classroom, and I have blogged about that already, so to the point, I stumbled upon the song, Welcome to the Fishbowl, by Kenny Chesney. I had never heard it before, but after listening to it, I realized there was a ready made lesson to begin my year.
This week I attempted something new with the students. We collaborated on a policy to implement BYOD into the classroom. My hook that really grabbed their attention occurred on the second day of the discussion when I took away all of their devices and told them this will be a no technology zone. It was interesting to observe the varied reactions. I told them that there were too many problems associated with the use of the technology in class to be worth the few opportunities to use them in a positive manner. I did give them the final chance to change my mind. They worked on creating a list of potential uses, and the ideas were amazing. They thought about using it to set up homework or important reminders. They could use it to collaborate on projects, look up information to help them complete tasks. They thought about the potential for contact, and even suggested using skype for students who were sick or absent a day to keep caught up with the class.
As the discussion continued over the next couple of days, I did have a few instances that happened in class that were used as great examples of reasons why we need to have a policy of expectations. Some students' behaviors exemplified the potential misuse of the technology, now no serious issues of concern happened, but they were great demonstrations of behaviors that we needed to address.
The students took this process very seriously, and were engaged in earning their devices in the classroom. I am very happy to say that we created a policy for use.
The basic principles of the policy are as follows:
The use of the device is at the discretion of the instructor who should be asked for permission to use the device during class. In this, the students should explain exactly how they will use the device during class time unless directed to use it in a particular way by the instructor.
Taking pictures may be allowed if the following conditions are followed:
Ask the person(s) in the photo for their permission, explain the purpose of the image, show them the end result, and do not alter the picture from what has been agreed upon by those in the image.
Students thought using images to take notes, for their portfolio, or of activities and tasks would be appropriate use of taking pictures, and the use of sharing them for their educational portfolios would be acceptable use.
Texting is strongly discouraged as it creates a distraction to the student and potentially other students and classrooms. The exception was if contacting a parent or an absent classmate were necessary for school related purposed as decided by the instructor.
I plan on using the devices as part of the class. There are multiple ways students can utilize these devices from taking notes, looking up information sharing answers and ideas, communication, and increasing engagement that I think the benefits from using these in a sound educational manner is too great to pass up.
The final aspect of the policy is the enforcement. Students have agreed to first abide by the rules, second help support others in following the rules by encouraging those who are not following the rules to stop those practices, and they are willing to accept losing the privilege of using the device if they refuse to follow the policy they created.