Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Online/In-person Collaboration - STEP 2 (Blended Learning Environments)

As I mentioned in my previous posts, my goal for the next several months consists of creating a step-by-step instructional eBook describing my journey to creating a blended learning environment. In my last post, I discussed the numerous ways to develop an online classroom, or Learning Management System, for students using Schoology, Google Classroom, or a website builder like Wordpress. It's important to use these platforms to have students share their collaborative process with one another.

Why collaborate?

In my mind, collaborating within a peer group is the catalyst for deep, critical thinking and problem solving. It's a skill students will use throughout their life. According to Sarah D. Sparks in her article in Education week, "The ability to collaborate with others has become one of the most sought-after skills in both education and the workplace." It's important for students to learn how to effectively collaborate face-to-face, but an online platform provides an opportunity to make their learning visible. Each student has the opportunity to respond and have their voice shared. They can document their discussions online to reference on a later date to write an essay, create a presentation, study for an exam, or just to further their exploration on a topic.

How should students collaborate?

1) Schoology/Google Classroom --  discussion forums

-Schoology has a discussion platform which allows teachers to post a question while students post responses. I typically give students a chance to discuss together (see 10 minute feedback system) and than give a written response to the question online. The students can access this online discussion at any time, which is where the real power lies.

-Google Classroom has an "Ask a Question" feature to incorporate online discussions. Again, I use this primarily as a way for students to make their thinking visible to others and provide a way to document their thinking/brainstorming for later use.

2) 10 minute peer-peer feedback conversations

 I've used the following system to help students give one another feedback on projects, ideas, or assignments and also to teach students how to effectively communicate and collaborate (we often assume students know how to collaborate).  We use this system, designed by AJ Juliani & John Spencer, to give students an opportunity for face-to-face interactions.

10 minute feedback system

Partner A
Partner B
0- 2
Elevator Pitch
Describe your idea,
plan, or product
2 - 4
Answer clarifying
Ask clarifying 
4 - 6

Listen to the feedback 
without interrupting
Provide specific 
critical &
affirmative feedback
6 - 8
Paraphrase what 
you heard
Listen and clarify
8 - 10
Next Steps
Create next steps
Help guide next steps
©️Empower, John Spencer & A.J. Juliani

3) Back Channels

Back channels provide students an opportunity to post questions during a presentation, video, or lecture. It works as an interactive "parking lot" for students' ideas, thoughts, and questions without interrupting the presenter. Here are few I've used in the past:

-Back Channel Chat -- a free chat room where anyone can join for free with a code.
-Google Slides Q&A feature -- while students are following your Google Slides presentation, they can ask questions or share ideas
-Google Docs -- I've used a blank Google Docs, shared with all my students, to ask questions or share ideas in the background

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Student empowered, blended learning environment - STEP 1 - LMS

Many posts, books, or articles about education tend to lean towards the big picture. They want to ask why and discuss large issues. I appreciate these resources as they provide me an opportunity to think about my practice and why my work affects students, but I'm often left asking myself how. How do I implement these large ideas? How do I find the time to create a plan to utilize these ideas? The aim for this particular series of articles is to help with the how. I'm striving to provide educators with a step-by-step implementation plan to create a student empowered, blended learning environment.

By blended learning environment, I'm referring to a classroom where the instruction happens face-to-face and online. The students can access the class materials from any computer with internet, turn in assignments, reference schedules, review discussions, and track their progress towards standards. The power with an online classroom environment lies in the students' accessibility from anywhere, the teacher's ability to personalize instruction for each student, provide feedback as students work through assignments online, and as a communication tool to the student's parent(s)/guardian(s). 

The first step in creating a blended learning environment is choosing a Learning Management System (LMS). An LMS is a web-based tool used to implement an online course. For K-12 educators, an LMS provides us the opportunity to have a blended learning environment where students can access the "classroom" from any computer with internet access. There are an overwhelming amount of choices available for educators. The point is to make sure it fits your needs. I want one that is easy to use (for me and my students), free, and allows easy communication to parents. Here are a few options I would recommend:

1) Schoology (free because my district pays for it) 

PRO: Schoology allows for easy parent communication, gradebook, assignment feedback, Google App integration, discussions, and individual/group assignments.
CONS: Have to pay for the best features

     **I have collected a resources to help you get started with Schoology**


2) Google Classroom (all my students have Google Accounts) 

PRO: Sends an automatic, weekly email to parent(s) with upcoming assignments, completed assignments (with scores), and missing assignments. Assignment feedback, individual/group assignments.
CON: Doesn't have a gradebook

**I have collected a resources to help you get started with Classroom**


3) Wordpress (or any other free website builder)   

It's really up to you which website builder you choose to use. Many of them have become easy enough to use without needing any coding experience. It's a great place to start every class with objectives, links, assignments, but the students won't have the ability to turn in assignments through the free site.

**I have collected a resources to help you get started with Wordpress**

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

My blended learning environment

Six years ago, I became the technology teacher and librarian for a ECE-5 elementary school. The move from middle school caught me by surprise. I wasn't prepared for the needs of my younger students and teaching students the skills to access new technology became a daunting task. I failed often. It was frustrating to scramble around the room to view each student's issues with their individual computers. Many days ended in exhaustion and defeat. I desperately needed a solution to teaching technology (or any content for that matter). Over the last six years, I developed ways to teach students of any age through the following steps of blended learning. I'll devote my next several blog posts revealing all the listed steps below to teach effectively within a blended learning environment. Each post is meant to be a "how-to" guide through the blended learning process so one can become more comfortable with the process.

Steps to an EFFECTIVE blended learning environment:

1) Learning Management System

2) Online/In-person Collaboration

3) Direct Instruction w/ screencasts based on feedback cycles (matched with aggressive monitoring)

4) Online checks for understanding

5) Online feedback; face-to-face feedback cycles

6) Differentiation through online groups (via LMS), scaffolded tasks, student voice and choice

7) Inquiry based lessons

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

InnEdCO18 - Reflecting on a great conference

Last week I attended the Innovative Education Colorado Conference (InnEdCO) in Keystone, CO. Throughout my four days, I spent most of my time learning about personalized professional development, online tools to support students, and STEAM activities. I also presented on Wednesday afternoon about 3D printing and the use of TinkerCAD for students to create 3D objects.

I used this blog to take notes about my experience. Here's a break down of my notes:

Personalized PD:
1) Sarah Thomas Keynote & Workshop during the morning of Day 1 (@sarahdateechur)
2) Session 2, Day 2: Personalized Professional Development using the EdCamp model
3) Personalized Learning with the Beacon Network in DPS for the 2nd session of Day 2
4) Personalized PD -- planning tools for all levels and types of teachers

Online Tools:
1) HyperDocs with the Denver Public Schools Digital Coaches during Day 1
2) Gamifying your Classroom during my final session of Day 1
3) ELL Toolbox - finding tools to assist our English Language Learners for the first session of Day 2
4) Shark Tank Tools -- a fantastic set of tools within one website built by Candy McGregor and Megan McQuinn

-STEAM with Eric Carle -- I love the idea of using picture books and STEAM activities

Also, on Wednesday, June 13, I offered a 2 hour workshop during the conference. I've linked my presentation below:

InnEdCO Workshop 2018

Thursday, June 14, 2018

InnEdCO18 - Personalized PD

Creating ways to reach all staff in the professional development opportunities offered in your building. I love the idea of personalizing PD. Every teacher has experienced a terrible PD presentation so we really need to be creating opportunities for each staff member to decide what they need and when they need it. With an online personal learning network, teachers can feel supported and have their PD needs met, but many of them don't know how to create this PLN. This is where my position as the tech teacher/librarian can help them discover tools like social media, YouTube playlists, blogs, pinterest, etc to build a toolbox for their personal professional development.

Slide Deck: https://bit.ly/2kYDUyW


Extraordinaires Design Studio Pro

PD planning:

I loved the planning templates. We all know these types of teachers who are reluctant to change their practice and in their defense, it's scary to take a chance in an environment that emphasizes high stakes testing and heavy-handed teacher evaluations. That being said, it's imperative we can continue to grow our own practice and help our colleagues do the same. These planning templates help us think through some of the road blocks we might encounter in our building when colleagues experience anxiety around change.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

InnEdCO18 - Shark Tank Tools

 The talented Candy McGregor and Megan McQuinn built an incredible bank of tools on their Google Site (linked below). Here are some of the ones I was able to find.

Google Site of Tools:

1) I viewed the Live Webcams tools:
-great way to show students actual locations around the world
-show kids live animals
-virtual field trips

2) PDFCandy
-This tool just changed my life!
-Allows you to do anything you ever wanted to do to a PDF: convert, edit, rearrange, etc.

3) TakingIT Global
-Connect students to global issues like human rights, environment, poverty, education, etc.
-Students have access to a global community & resources to begin to solve the problem

InnEdCO18 - STEAM with Eric Carle

Session 1, Day 3: STEAM activities with the books of Eric Carle. I will have a new class next year for each grade level (elementary school) where the students can choose their elective on Wednesdays for 9 week quarters. Essentially it's a 9 day course. I'm having the students complete STEAM challenges on these days and setting these activities to Eric Carle's famous books works perfectly (I'm also a librarian 😁). I love the idea of connecting STEAM activities to their favorite books or books that they choose.

Shared Google Drive folder of resources: bit.ly/steamcarle

Hungry Caterpillar:
1) build a caterpillar - set constraints on size & weight
     -build cocoon to hold caterpillar - materials =
     -hang cocoon
2) Bloxels Game
     -caterpillar has to grow and change into a butterfly
     -has to have one of the food for coins
     -has to have an enemy
     -background must have Eric Carle signature Smiling Sun

The Very Busy Spider
1) Sketch a Web
     -Dash and Sketch Kit to draw spider web or use Lego connectors
    -pipe cleaners to make Dash a spider
    -works with app or Chromebooks

The Very Quiet Cricket
1) Makey Makey and Scratch
    -design an activity based on the story
    -could be a game or an animation
2) Little Bits Project
     -create a chirping cricket or a character that lights up
     -make sure to setup expectations for students to work with circuits

The Very Lonely Firefly
1) Light up firefly
    -little Bits circuits to build a firefly
    -play do and paper to make firefly
    -power, slide dimmer, pulse, wire, bright LED for circuit
2) Chibitronics Firefly
   -construction paper, copper tape, LED sticker, coin cell battery, binder clip, simple circuit template

The Very Clumsy Click Beetle
1) Flip your Beetle
    -make flipping beetles
    -cut oval shape from paper or card stock
    -glue clothes pin to backside & bottom of beetle
    -keep track of landings & try different shapes & sizes