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I just worked with a class of first and second graders and am so impressed with them on so many levels! This was the second in a series of four visits to the class to focus on digital citizenship topics.

We used elements of two lessons from Common Sense Education. First, we talked about what a “just right” book is. The students clearly have had this discussion with their teachers. “It’s not too hard and not too easy.” “It is like riding a bike on flat ground with a few bumps, but not a steep hill to go up or down.” I asked what they thought a “just right” site or app would look like. Again, great answers. “It needs to be appropriate for kids our age” was one.

8585281546Then we used the stoplight activity from the Staying Safe Online lesson. I read some statements and they told me whether those were not okay for kids their age, be cautious, or okay. They followed up on their own, coloring in a stoplight either red, yellow, or green next to different statements about websites. They helped each other read the statements.

The teacher had added me as a co-teacher in her Google Classroom. Yes, Google Classroom with first and second graders. I created a doc with some of the sites listed in the Sites I Like lesson and used many of the guiding questions in the lesson as well. Using Classroom was a simple way to get that doc to each of them as a resource. They picked one of the sites on the list to evaluate and used the checklist from the lesson to circle a happy or sad face next to each statement. For the most part, they were able to stay focused on evaluating the websites rather than losing themselves in the content offered. We did provide extra time for a little fun play.

They loved today’s activities. I was impressed by their fluency with basic skills on Chromebooks: logging in, accessing their Google Classroom class, clicking on my doc’s link, viewing websites through an evaluative lens, and then properly closing out and shutting down.

 

 

These combined lessons focused on internet safety and information literacy. It is important to lay the foundation on these topics with younger students too. I’m fortunate to work with educators who value digital citizenship at all grade levels.

 

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I saw this recent post via George Couros about how technology can deepen relationships. That goes against the grain of what some people may think. That post reminded me of an activity I’ve done recently with some students around kindness and the strength of our words.

In my work with third and fourth graders this year, we’ve been focusing on the positive. We viewed two videos from Common Sense Education, The Power of Words, and Mindful Messaging. After watching them, we talk about some of the common themes. One thing that always comes up is the fact that when sending digital messages, you can’t see the person’s face or hear their tone of voice.

In small groups or pairs in the room we practice saying the same thing a few times, but changing up the facial expressions and tone of voice. Try it with “Are you coming to my birthday party?” or “I didn’t know that about you.” It’s a lot of fun!

After that, we create pretend text conversations. The students use Google Drawings to create a conversation with someone they really know and that knows them back. As much as they’d like to chat with LeBron James or Taylor Swift, it’s more powerful if it’s someone they interact with on a regular basis.

The students take on both roles in the pretend conversation; themselves and the person they’re chatting with. We also talk about trying hard to make sure someone receiving your text can’t misread what you intended to say. Therefore, for this exercise, we don’t use all caps, text abbreviations, or emojis.

Here are some examples.

The Power of Words -1


 

The Power of Words - 2

 

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I met with our kindergarten teachers earlier this week. We’ve got some changes underway for next year and we met to talk about what that looks like for kindergarten. We’re expanding the use of Chromebooks with first and second graders and dismantling our computer lab. Where does that leave the 6 kindergarten classes? Also joining us was my colleague who does a lot (most!) of the technology integration work at our preK-2 building. She provides amazing knowledge and insight.

The kindergarten team will have access to two carts of shared iPads next year. They’ve had that, but without a computer lab there will be a greater focus on using the iPads. We talked about the apps we have and what else we might potentially want. Then I remembered something that one of our first/second grade colleagues said at a recent gathering. She shared that with all of the flashy new tools, apps, and devices, she chooses to focus on one thing each year and do that one thing well.

do one thing wellWith that in mind we thought about the one thing they might choose to do well for the next school year in terms of technology integration in kindergarten.

After some great dialogue, they decided that they’d use the SeeSaw app, and other apps as well. We focus on apps that help students demonstrate learning and that work well on shared iPads. Was using SeeSaw the one thing? Maybe, but the discussion continued!

We also talked about old checklists we used to have to illustrate basic technology skills (students can log in, open an application, right click, etc.) and how that’s gone by the wayside. Instead, we took a close look at the ISTE Standards for Students. What if we focused on some of those as our one thing?

Keeping our focus on kindergarten students, we discussed the Digital Citizen, Innovative Designer, and Creative Communicator standards and they felt like a good fit. There was agreement that of course they could work on more than that, potentially adding the Global Collaborator standard to the mix. We brainstormed what that might look like for a sample unit of study about plants. Students might take photos of plants in different stages of growth, draw a diagram of a plant with labels, or record a short video explaining the life cycle of a seed, all within SeeSaw and possibly incorporating other apps for creation. Students will demonstrate learning and their work toward those standards and share with one another and parents.

It’s evolving and feeling good. The team of technology integration specialists in my school district have been developing learning targets for the ISTE Student Standards. I’ll be sharing those with our faculty when they’re complete.

These kindergarten teachers are starting with curriculum and then determining how best to integrate technology to support and enhance learning with students. SeeSaw allows them to document, share, and grow a portfolio of their work. This powerful team of kindergarten teachers is on the road to their one thing.

 

 

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I know that the title of my blog is Reflections on Ed Tech, but today I’m taking a moment to reflect as an educator. Renovations to one of our schools begins this summer and it’s the building in which I have an office. This is the end of my 8th year in the role of Technology Integration Specialist, but I also taught first and second grade in this district for 15 years before that.

I’m cleaning and going through things in drawers, bookshelves, and in file cabinets and it’s a wonderful walk down memory lane. I’m viewing the timeline of my life as an educator.

FullSizeRenderI’ve come across an election unit I created while student teaching. I won’t reveal who was running for president that year, but let’s just say there are mimeographed papers in the folder. Notice the issues under discussion; not much has changed.

After that, I taught in Boston at a very special school. Those memories are kept alive through the friendships that remain strong and a well-connected community.

While in graduate school for my Ed.M., I did an internship at Tom Snyder Productions. IMG_3931That’s where I met Peter Reynolds and others with whom I’m still connected. My name is
on one of the teacher’s guides to a product developed there, (proud moment), and I also have other products from TSP that I used while in the classroom. Those are strong and positive memories!

Most of what I’m finding are materials from my teaching days here in Vermont. I have file cabinets full of my resources that I think I’ll be recycling today. It’s a bit emotional, but if I ever needed materials like that, I’d likely use a different path. (OER) So many of these materials are things I created and that are only in hard-copy. Sharing resources with one another has always been important, especially in our digital world.

IFullSizeRender (1)‘ve found scrapbooks given to me by students or whole classes along with many photos. Those students are in college now. In my mind, they remain in first/second grade. There are tidbits of my life scattered around this small space, that give me pause and generate smiles.
Through it all, I’m also thinking of colleagues who are among my closest friends. That’s what happens when you work together over time, building trust, sharing memories, and depending on one another.

This reflection is generating some thoughts about education. Some things never change.

  • It’s still and always should be, about the kids. They come first.
  • Positive relationships with students create community and foster success.
  • The connections we make with colleagues matter, for us and for our students.
  • “Power is gained by sharing knowledge, not hoarding it.” ~ anonymous quote, but a good one. We need to share what we create, share via blogs, and share our reflections.

I’m learning a lot by spending some time looking through my own things. Give it a try.

 

 

 

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As we start the beginning of a new year, I’m often struck by the posts I come across on Twitter. In December, we see the “Best of” lists – best apps of 2016, best posts of 2016, and so  on. Then as we shift to January, we see the “Trends” lists which includes things like “Trends in Education for the New Year” or “Predictions for 2017”.

As an educator, we always know that new things come our way. New initiatives, new ideas, new resources. And we struggle with how to fit it all in. We ponder how we’ll add something new and then consider what we can take off our very full plates.

out-old-in-newAs a Technology Integration Specialist, I come across these posts and wonder. Do we add more apps to the collection on our iPads? If so, do we let go of one or two to make room? When I see lists of the “top Chrome extensions”, do we add more? Do we take away from what we’re using to replace it with something new? How do we know that the new one is better?

I find that I have more questions than answers. I hesitate to add more to our teachers’ plates. I read about new sites, tools, extensions, gadgets, and instead of jumping to incorporate them or pass them along to our teachers, I’ve decided to focus my energy on using what we have, better.

We are fortunate to have access to devices such as iPads and Chromebooks. Along with those comes access to powerful tools that we’re not using to the fullest extent. We can do better with what we have. (That’s not to say we’re doing poorly!) I will still check out what’s new and current, because I have a great PLN and I love to learn, but there’s plenty of room to grow with what we already have. Consider this a resolution. I’m sticking with the ‘old’ while considering the ‘new’.

Want to join me?

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Many readers may be familiar with the Humans of New York, a series that shares interviews with people in New York City. It’s a great way to tell the story of that city from many different points of view.

Here in Vermont, there’s a Twitter handle called @ThisIsVT, where each week, a different Vermont resident shares their story, their view of Vermont, and offers different perspectives of this great state via tweets. The bio for the account changes each week to reflect who is doing the tweeting.

We have a fairly active Twitter hashtag for education and educators in Vermont, #VTed. It’s used for all things education, including tweets from those at meetings and conferences, school or district shares, and as a vehicle for educators to connect and build their PLN. There’s a chat every other Thursday evening at 8 pm EST. We hope educators know that all are welcome, even if you don’t live in Vermont.

ardl1s_0_400x400A new Twitter account, @ThisIsVTEd was born in September, building upon the @ThisIsVT idea and expanding it to education. It was an organic evolution among the facilitators & participants in a #VTed chat last year. Each week, a different school or school district takes the helm and tweets out their story, their happenings, and their point of view of education in Vermont. Thanks to Ned Kirsch (@betavt), Jason Finley (@finleyjd), and The Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education (@innovativeEd) for getting the ball rolling with this great idea!

Last week it was our turn in the Williston, VT schools. While we didn’t capture every element of what happens in our schools or even each teaching team, it provides a nice window into what makes our schools special. Here’s a Storify I put together to showcase last week’s tweets from @ThisIsVTEd, as well as tweets and Instagram shares with our schools’ hashtag #wsdvt.wsd-logo

@ThisIsVTEd has rotated to a new ‘tweeter’ this week. Be sure to check out the bio on Twitter to see who is tweeting! Regardless, it’s a fabulous way to see what’s happening in Vermont Education. We’re back to tweeting from our usual account, @wsdvt.

 

Window photo: Creative Commons/Flickr via James Lee https://flic.kr/p/8mN4qm

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Over the past two weeks, I’ve been asked to work with teachers and students to help introduce Google My Maps. Now that it’s found in My Drive, it’s getting used more often. I’ve always been a fan of maps in general, and we’re starting to see more and more applications for using My Maps.

One teacher is using My Maps to help students see the historical timeline and locations of flight. Students are creating layers for different famous aviators, including the Wright Brothers, Amelia Earhart, and Charles Lindbergh. They’re dropping pins at various locations depicting where events happened in the history of flight for each aviator. then they add extra information in the placemark from text describing the event, to photos and videos.

Another teacher asked me to support students who were excited about their personal travels over the summer. The students had photos from their trip in Drive, so they were able to map out their trip. I’ve never seen fourth grade students so motivated and invested. I have a feeling that they’ll become experts and teach others.

This past week, I had the opportunity to work with faculty from another school for an in-service day. One activity we did revolved around integrating a variety of Google tools. Teachers responded to this form, then saw the data represented in a sheet.

We then imported the sheet into Google My Maps to see our data in a different, visual representation. Here’s the result.

This activity sparked enthusiasm around all of these tools.

Here’s a quick screencast to show how to import data from a sheet into My Maps.

I’m excited to continue using Google My Maps with a variety of students and teachers.

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