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

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

InnEdCO18 - Personalize Learning

Session 3, Day 2
The fine folks at Beacon Network Schools in Denver Public Schools will walk us through their  process over the last 7 years towards personalizing learning for students.

Slide Deck: tinyurl.com/BNSparty

Essential Elements leading to Personalized Learning:
-Blended Learning -- online & face-to-face learning, smaller groups, differentiated
-Critical Thinking
-Extended Day Opportunities
-Character Development -- measure the positives, focus on positive culture

I'm a big fan of their focus on character development and a strong culture. It's impossible for students to grow if were not focusing on the positive aspects of our students. As a colleague of mine has stated, "You can't grow the mind without first growing the heart."

Knoster Model:
Vision + Skills + Incentives + Resources + Action Plan = Change
-if your missing one of the pieces, it will lead to confusion, frustration, apathy, or negativity

Breakout Sessions:
1) Classroom Redesign
    -giving students choice in where they want to learn
   -allow for the classroom to change from whole group, small group, partners, individual
2) Proficiency Scales
     -give students ability to work at their pace
     -once they show mastery in a standard (multiple different ways to show this) they move to the next "level" or standard
     -gives students choice and autonomy
3) Positive Rewards -- Live School
     -giving online points for positive behaviors around traits
     -app so can "catch" students in the hallways, cafe, outside & give points
     -students have access to their points
     -recognize students with most points every Friday

InnEdCO 2018 - Personalized Professional Learning

Day 2, Session 2: How do we personalized PD for every teacher to meet their needs? We've all sat through mind numbing professional development where a slide deck was read to us word for word for a few hours. It's a terrible learning environment that fosters negativity and apathy. How do we meet our teachers' needs?

EdCamps - an "unconference" where the participants decide the topics and conversations.
1) Participant driven - teacher choice & voice
2) Free & open to all
3) Not planned presentations but organic conversations
4) Rule of 2 feet - leave the session if it doesn't meet your needs

NY Times article about EdCamps

How to organize your own EdCamp? (in building or larger scale)

Roles during EdCamp:
     -start conversations (share experience or have members generate questions)
     -invite participation
     -encourage dialogue & questions
     -if conversation dies out, start a new topic
     -ask questions
     -share ideas, experiences, opinions, resources
     -make connections with other members

How could you use this in a classroom?
-choice boards -- let the students choose presentation tools, teach each other
-book talks -- let students choose books to read, create questions, lead discussions
-comment any other ideas below

InnEdCO18 -- ELL Toolbox

Session 1, Day 2 of InnEdCO 2018. I've often been curious of the best ways to support our English language learners. These are a list of tools, either web browser extensions or websites, that target reading, speaking/listening, writing, and research skills. These tools should give students access to grade level materials while learning the language.

We use Read&Write in our building now so I left that off the lists (it specifically targets reading and speaking/listening skills)

Slide Deck: bit.ly/elltoolbox

Reading Tools:
Scrible  - extension/website - FREE, collaborate using sticky notes, saves websites/pdfs
Mercury Reader - extension -- FREE, removes distractions from websites

Flipgrid - website - FREE, adding stickers/likes/ to video recording created by students, but only 1 grid allowed; PAID, free features + comments on video & more than 1 grid

Language Tool - Doc Add-on - FREE, checks writing for grammar & spelling
SAS Curriculum Pathways Writing Reviser -- Doc Add-on -- FREE, checks writing for passive voice, repeated words, sentence variety, etc.

ReadWorks - Website - FREE, search to find article by grade/lexile level& assign to classes/groups
Choosito - Website - FREE, search engine allowing teachers to choose 4 lexile levels;  PAID, students have access to search engine, citation tool, website readability tool
Rewordify - Website - FREE, simplifies complex text, copy/paste text into website
Simple English Wikipedia - Website -FREE, wikipedia in simple English
Google Docs Explore - Tools menu within Docs - FREE, research & cite within Google Docs

Monday, June 11, 2018

InnEdCO18 -- Gaming your Classroom

Session 4, Day 1: Gamification in your classroom

I've been trying to build in gamification into my tech classroom (and have a few teachers in my building who are curious).


Creating a game:
1) aesthetics
2) story development
3) mechanics
4) What type of tech will you use?

Story Tip:
-Goals, Obstacles, and Conflicts
-Simplicity & Transcendence
-Be consistent and accessible

Examples of Gamification in the classroom:


InnEdCO18 - HyperDocs with DPS Digital Coaches

Session 3 for the first day: learning all about HyperDocs and how to build them to meet our students' needs (or possibly our staff members). I'd love to create a HyperDoc for my staff to help them


Types of HyperDocs:
1) How-to Guide
2) Passive Learning Playlists
3) Project Guide
4) Collaborative Class Research Survey

HyperDoc Skills:
1) Inserting links
2) Linking bookmarks

Types of Files:
-Docs, Slides, Sheets, Drawings

User-friendly styles:
1) tables -- make it user friendly, aesthetically pleasing
    -users should be able to easily find information on your HyperDoc
2) Bitmojis


InnEdCO18 -- PBL with Sarah Thomas

Project Based Learning, Passion Based Learning, Problem Based Learning
Sarah Thomas -- EduMatch
#moonshotthinking - innovation, dream big, choosing make the impossible possible

-add your project topic
-connect with other educators with similar interests, passions
-first 6 steps completed through the Google Form linked above
-the last 6 steps will be emailed to you with a Google Doc attachment

-Fast Friends - tinyurl.com/innedco36questions
-great way to break the ice and get to know new people
-great starting point for teams to find commonality, passions

InnEdCO 2018 Keynote with Sarah Thomas

I'm in beautiful Keystone, CO for #InnEdCO18 and starting the first day with a keynote address from Sarah Thomas (@sarahdateechur). I'll work through the Google Learning Academy today and moving to your Google Academy Workshop from 9:45-11:15.

Keynote: Sarah Thomas
Edumatch creator (among tons of other things she's done 😁)

What is your power?
My power -- communication, sharing my story, connections

How do you use social media to connect with other educators?
-Twitter -- education chats, educational leaders, classrooms, etc.
-Voxer -- walkie talkie app for communicating with teams
    -saved conversations
    -education conversations

3 steps to taking over the world (or at least changing your world):
1) Find your crew -- Personal Learning Family #usetech4good
2) Solve a problem -- spirit influence
     -How do we solve problems within our community? school building?
3) Scale -- spread the love (@digcitkids)
     -advocate for yourself and your students -- give students an outlet to share their voice

Flourishing in education:
1) Culture & environment -- finding your place
2) Connecting/Sharing with other educators -- social media
3) Move on those magical moments -- put it out there and see what people think
     - it could be a project for students, systems for a school - seek criticism and feedback through your Personal Learning Family
     -help others with their challenges: https://padlet.com/sthomasgmu/ofypp7bvqtii

Slide Deck: tinyurl.com/thatpowerinnedco18

Monday, April 30, 2018

DPS Tech Summit - HyperDocs

On Saturday (April 28), I presented at the 2018 DPS Tech Summit on the topic of HyperDocs. I learned everything I know about HyperDocs from the website, https://hyperdocs.co/, and by reading the book, The HyperDoc Handbook. I find them to be an effective way for students to work through the inquiry-based learning method where the entire project (standards, daily goals, rigorous tasks, articles/videos/images, checks for understanding, and reflection) are built into a single document (Google Doc) or slideshow (Google Slides). With a HyperDoc, the project or lesson becomes student driven (less teacher-led), accessible from anywhere with WIFI, and differentiated based on a student's needs. Checks-for-understanding can be built in throughout the HyperDoc, so students can check in with you as they complete certain portions of the document. Also, feedback becomes instantaneous when the HyperDoc is uploaded to the Google Classroom and the teacher can see and comment on the student's work in real time.  Try one of the samples or templates below to try building your own HyperDoc!

Here's a link to my presentation: bit.ly/JAtechsummit

What in the world is a HyperDoc? Definitely the question I receive the most when I mention HyperDocs. It can be difficult to explain, but this video  helped me understand:


  HyperDoc Resources:

HyperDoc Podcasts:

Friday, February 23, 2018

Project Based Learning & HyperDocs

Within my 5th grade technology class, we're working through a project based learning opportunity by designing our own tiny home. I start the project by uploading a HyperDoc to our Google Classroom so each student has a copy.

 A HyperDoc, in this instance, is a Google Doc where students have access to links to helpful websites and can work at their own pace. You can read more about HyperDocs from Jennifer Gonzalez's blog, Cult of Pedagogy.

 I built the HyperDoc so the students are following the engineering process as they work through the project. Each step within the HyperDoc is a step in the engineering process (Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, Improve). To be honest, my HyperDoc isn't the best looking. My students informed me it's difficult to read and follow, so I'll be changing it for next year to be color coded with a better layout.
During the creation step of their tiny homes, my 5th graders used the following tools :

2D floorplan: LucidCharts (one of the many Google Apps)
     -under templates, choose floorplans

3D model: Planner 5D

After using a HyperDoc for this particular project based learning opportunity, I've found it be largely beneficial for students for the following reasons:

1) Student empowerment --  they can work at their pace with plenty of personal choice to make during the process.
2) Feedback Opportunities -- with the HyperDoc living on our Google Classroom, I can leave comments on students work throughout the project. I find it keeps them engaged while allowing me easy ways to check their work.
3) Changing Instruction -- when students need certain instructions or more information, I can add links to articles and videos to help them along the way. It frees me up to move around the classroom for more 1-1 instruction with students.

I have my entire 9 day lesson plans (with differentiation, assessments, exit tickets, etc.) on Teachers Pay Teachers

Thursday, February 8, 2018

InnEdCO 2018

I recently learned of the acceptance of my workshop/presentation for this summer's InnEdCO conference in Keystone, Colorado. Last year, I presented a beginner's workshop for teachers to learn the basics of TinkerCAD, possible 3D printer options, and how to fund a 3D printer through crowd sourcing (Donor's Choose).

I'll change my presentation this year to include an advance level within the workshop. It will still be open to beginners, but I'll have an option within my Google Slide deck for participants to explore the classroom features for TinkerCAD. It now allows teachers to setup classroom accounts, have students easily join the online classroom community, and for teachers to push out specific lessons to students in your online classroom.

I'm not sure when I'll present my workshop, but it will be a 3 hour time slot during the regular conference dates:

Tuesday, June 12--Thursday, June 14

I'm truly grateful to InnEdCO for giving me this opportunity to share and learn.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Ditch Summit w/ Matt Miller

Over winter break, I participated in a completely free, online Professional Development opportunity through Twitter. Matt Miller, of Ditch That Textbook fame, facilitated the PD opportunity, appropriately titled Ditch Summit. It's a 9-day extravaganza where Mr. Miller interviews a different educational leader/thinker/innovator each day, so you tune in for a new hour long session each day. Participants can pick and choose what they wish to learn about and the videos disappear after Dec 31 (sorry, there's always next year!). I "attended" 4 different days and included a reflection of each one below:

1) Tanya Avarith and Holly Clark -- Technology and Pedagogy
    -Co-authors of the educational book, "Google Infused Classroom" (On my reading list)
    -Discussed ways to effectively integrate technology in the classroom
          a) Make thinking visible = students showing their brainstorming through tech -  backchannels, padlets, shared Google Docs, etc
         b) Student voice = tech can help us gauge, in real time, how well students understand a new concept or what questions they may have on that particular subject (think Google Forms, Kahoot, etc). Also, students should have some choice in what and how they learn.
        c) Share student work = as educators, we should be sharing student work beyond the walls of our classroom. I share students' work on our blog. It's amazing to see their faces when someone in another country has viewed their blog post.

2) Eric Curts -- How in the Google did you do that? (Eric is a Google genius)
     -Control Alt Achieve (Eric's amazing blog); YouTube channel
     -Eric Curts' blog is a one-stop shop for anything and everything Google, which includes webinars and ready to use Google lesson plans.

3) Sara Thomas -- How to Learn from a World of Educators
    -the importance of connecting with other educators on social media --  share ideas, feedback, discussions, etc.
    -Twitter chats = great way to join discussions (EduMatch - find educators with same interests)
    -Hashtags to follow = #ISTE, #Ditchbook, #Futureready, #CUE, #EDUMATCH
    -Voxer = instant voice communication for teams (http://www.theedsquad.org/voxer)

4) Matt Miller -- Chromebook Crash Course
    -Author of Ditch that Textbook
    -I learned so much from this session. It's difficult to write about all of the keyboard tricks & commands, but you can find many of them on his YouTube Channel = Ditch that Textbook
    -Follow his podcast = Google Teacher Tribe
   -Here are a few good tips for Google Drawings & Slides:
©Matt Miller (http://ditchthattextbook.com/)