Our district changed our professional development/faculty meeting model this year. We’ve always set aside an hour on Tuesday afternoons for faculty meetings. But this year, our students are released an hour earlier every Tuesday than on all other days, allowing for a 2-hour block of professional development time. We no longer have a smattering of in-service days throughout the year as a result.
Last week, I was scheduled to facilitate one hour and our math coordinator, Caitlin Bianchi (@CaitlinBianchi), was scheduled to facilitate the other hour with our third and fourth grade teachers. We decided to join forces and model integration ourselves.
The overall goal was to re-introduce some digital tools that students can use to tell math stories or explain their math thinking. I say re-introduce because it’s one of my goals, as seen in this post, to use what we have, better. The first digital tool we used was GoogleCast so that we could project from a Chromebook rather than the desktop connected to the projector. This was a great way for teachers to see the ease of this process and get ideas for how and why students might share their work.
We revisited Voicethread (we have a school subscription), Screencastify (all students have the lite version as an extension), and Explain Everything (on iPads) as tools that might be used to tell math stories or demonstrate learning. We had examples of student work and examples of each tool being used in this manner. Teachers that have used these tools were asked to share examples as well.
Teachers were given a large amount of time to delve into one of these tools and try it out themselves. Near the end of the meeting, they were asked to share their thoughts and reflect using Recap. We shared the finished Recap with the whole group so that teachers could see the summary of videos they created.
There was a lot of math talk during this meeting. Teachers were engaged for the whole two hours, had hands-on time, reflection time, and time for collaboration. I’ve had a number of people share what they’ve done in their classes as a result of this time. There was positive feedback at the end about the meeting, excitement about integrating these tools, and enthusiastic response about the productive use of time. All in all, technology and math integrated well and was modeled for and with teachers.
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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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A Powerful Example of a Middle School Integrated Project
In recognition of Digital Citizenship Week, I’m sharing an example of an activity that one of our teachers implemented with her students, with her permission. The teacher, Joy Peterson (@petersonjoy) teaches fifth and sixth grade language arts. She has four classes with a total of 87 students.
Joy spent the first month of school focusing on this project. She later reflected that it was a great way to get students comfortable with their Chromebooks, and it also integrated quite a bit of language arts! I really like how this project incorporated collaboration, the use of Google Docs as graphic organizers, and integrated a variety of digital tools, including Digital Driver’s License.
Joy explains the process she used for this project in these slides:
After her students finished their work, they presented their own slides to third and fourth grade classes working in pairs. This was extremely motivating. Joy noted that only 2 out of 87 students were not ready to share on the presentation day, which is quite remarkable.
Student Project Example:
(My favorite part – the So What slides! Why does it matter? Why is this important? Why do we need to know this?)
I was able to observe these presentations and was struck by each student’s knowledge and comfort level with the whole topic of Digital Citizenship, as well as the third/fourth graders’ engagement level.
One of the teachers of a third/fourth grade class asked his students to reflect on their learning after the presentations. It was remarkable to see this list.
Thank you to Joy, her students, as well as the third/fourth grade teachers and their students.
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After filling out the form multiple times earlier this year to bring the Google Expeditions Pilot Project to our school and getting multiple responses that they weren’t coming to Vermont, that finally changed. We were honored to have the opportunity to engage our students with Expeditions at the end of April.
Throughout the course of that day, 15 of our educators and their students traveled to the Himalayas, the Galapagos Islands, National Parks, Monuments, under the sea to coral reefs, and explored careers in STEM to name a few.
Teachers were happy to guide students on these expeditions that so closely connected with and supported the learning that was already happening in the classroom. Since then, I’ve heard both students and teachers referring to it, taking it further, and repeatedly stopping to tell me that it was a valuable day.
One Humanities teacher, Lauren Wesnak, works with 7th and 8th graders, had approached me even before this came to be a reality (yes, that’s a pun) about obtaining some cardboard viewers for another virtual reality (VR) project. We ran it by our principals and got the nod to move forward. We purchased eight Cardboard viewers and when they arrived, I recruited some students to help assemble them. They told me that this was the best thing we’ve ever done in our school.
Here’s a quote from Lauren about this experience:
As each student put the Google Cardboard to their face and the video began, you could see a smile stretch across each student’s face! This happened with every single student. Students were also saying “WOAH!” or “NO WAY!” while watching. There were also a few moments when students actually waved back to scuba divers they saw or reached out to touch the elephant or giraffe that was in the video. These reactions alone made the experience not only worth it, but alerted me to how powerful of a teaching tool Google Cardboard really, truly is. To see students reacting with such true emotion to a learning experience is something you hope to have happen in every class, but unfortunately due to time restraints or curriculum needs this can’t always happen. Google Cardboard is allowing you to create these emotionally charged and connected learning experiences EVEN IF you have limited time. Today we used Discovery Channel VR to view a video of endangered species in their habitats in order for us to gain a greater understanding of their environment and their life. This is in direct connection to our Endangered Places Project which is our final project for our Global Geography Unit.
I observed the students as they saw elephants up close and saw them physically jump back when it seemed like they were too close!
Lauren gave her students this prompt: How did using a VR experience change or enhance the way you feel about the importance of protecting endangered environments and animals?
Here are some of their responses:
It was cool cause I could see what things looked like close up. If you have only ever seen pictures then this really helps your understanding process of how they act in their natural environment.
Using the VR headset you really realize how amazing and how special these animals are which you can’t experience anywhere else besides actually going there. It gave me a new perspective on these animals.
It just made me think like wow, now I know what it’s like to have these In the same environment as these endangered species. I notice how the Rhinos tusk was cut off. These animals were so beautiful now I really want to help protecting them.
Whilst I was watching VR I realized what these environments really are like. How bare they can look and how the animals have to survive. Its really cool showing all these different animals and how they interact with people who aren’t harming them. They all act peaceful and kind towards the human.
Next steps… we hope to make our own 360 videos to view using the Cardboard viewers!
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As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I have the wonderful opportunity to work with small groups of third and fourth graders on a rotating basis throughout the year. We focus on various topics under the realm of digital citizenship. We meet once a week for 6 weeks.
During the first 4 weeks, we learn about the topics of:
- Keeping Private Information Private
- Strong Passwords
- Copyright and Giving Credit
- Cyberbullying and the Power of Words
I use a variety of materials with students, the bulk of which from Common Sense Media. The final two weeks are devoted to creating a product to help others learn and get some tips about these topics. Earlier this year, groups used BookCreator and HaikuDeck on iPads to create a product.
Most recently, we use AdobeVoice to share our stories about Digital Citizenship. Each student made their own story, and then I used WeVideo to string them all together into one video for each group. The stories have become more powerful and serious as the year progressed.
Here’s one example.
I welcome your thoughts and feedback, as always.
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Posted in collaboration, connected, integration, pln, teaching, tech, tagged connected, integration, new, themeweek, tools on January 19, 2015|
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We are making plans for our annual Theme Week which takes place the third week of February. I’ve written about Theme Week in the past here.
This year’s theme is Connected Cultures Through Wellness. That seems to encompass many ideas, almost too many! In the workshop that the tech integration team offers, we like to offer something inspiring, fun, and that hopefully will filter back into the classrooms and influence teachers and students to try new things that enhance learning.
Last year we did that with the Aurasma app and augmented reality. The year before that, iPads were fairly new in our school and we offered a workshop around digital photography using various apps. Both were successful in getting students excited and they transferred that excitement back to their classrooms.
So, this year’s brainstorm is now upon us. We will have 4 groups a day for 4 days. Students in each group will come to work with us twice. One group comes at the same time on Monday and Tuesday, and then another group on Wednesday and Thursday. That’s a total of about 2.5 hours to get something accomplished. By the end of the week, we’ll have worked with about 200 students.
Please help us- we’d like to use the power of our networks to get ideas. What ‘new-ish’ technology tools can we use to address the theme, while having it not feel like traditional school work? Students love Theme Week because it’s a break from the normal routine; the workshops provide opportunity to do something fun and different.
Feel free to help us with the brainstorm in the comments below or on this Padlet. Your input is greatly appreciated!
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I’ve had quite a few conversations recently about writing and technology at the elementary level. Some teachers feel that it’s not developmentally appropriate. Many of us are using the Lucy Calkins’ Writing Workshop materials, and there’s either no mention or very little mention of integrating technology into that model. These concerns are definitely valid, especially for me as a past primary level teacher. I don’t think we need to scrap using pencil and paper to teach learners how to write. However, as much as I honor these perspectives, we need to push through and find ways to provide some opportunities for our students.
This past summer, I worked with primary-level educators in a course and we focused specifically on this topic. Lo and behold, a few months later, all of the teachers have found ways to weave in digital tools in support of the writing process. Some have delved into Kidblog, others are introducing the tools in Google Drive, and others are using various iPad apps. This is all happening with students at the K-2 level! Yes, they can!
Last week I attended the VermontFest conference in lovely Killington, Vermont. It was sponsored by Vita-Learn, our ISTE affiliate. I did a presentation on the topic of writing and technology at the elementary level. It was well-received. I’m sharing the site I put together for the presentation here. There are many resources, ideas, and examples there for you to peruse.
One component of the class and the presentation was to build a repository of ideas collectively. I borrowed Tom Barrett’s (@tombarrett) idea for the Interesting Ways series and have created our own Interesting Ways to Integrate Technology into Writing at the Elementary Level. Feel free to add to it.
I encourage educators to use these resources and let me know how things evolve. Writing permeates most of what we do; let’s make it engaging and powerful.
Comments and ideas are more than welcome!
Image created by me at canva.com
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