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Posts Tagged ‘Technology’

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.

screenshot-2017-01-27-at-2-32-48-pmTeachers 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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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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I have the amazing opportunity to facilitate a meeting 4-5 times a year with our PreK-2 faculty. I thought I’d share what we did yesterday. Some of this stemmed from an observation in both of our schools that sometimes teachers ask students to do tasks that they themselves can’t do or haven’t tried. Plus, we’ll be adding Chromebooks to the mix at our PreK-2 building next year and it was time to highlight a few things that our youngest students might do with Google Apps. It resembled one of those “9 Things Teachers Should Be Able to do with GAFE” posts that I’ve seen, but I designed this one myself.

Teachers were asked to join a Google Classroom for the meeting, mostly as a way to distribute the doc to them, but also to model using Classroom. We talked later about how it helps to organize things in Drive; something that the teachers might find useful in the future.

Once they joined the Classroom, they each got a copy of a doc with directions and a Tic Tac Toe board. Here’s a link to a copy of the doc. The board looked like this:

GAFE for PreK-2

As you can see on the doc, teachers were asked to make Tic Tac Toe by completing at least 3 of the tasks. They needed to change the background color of the cell to indicate which tasks were completed. Underlined elements above took them to other links, sheets, drawings, etc that were collaborative. (not linked on the copy provided here)

There was a lot of energy in the room (we were in a computer lab) and a quick visual assessment showed everyone on task. There were not doing other work or things of a personal nature which is often the case at faculty meetings. Yay!

Near the end of our time together, we not only shared, but also completed surveys for one another that had been created, and provided the process for how things were accomplished. With Google Apps, there’s often more than one way to do things.

Finally, the group helped me by playing guinea pig while we tried out a new tool I had read about earlier in the week from Richard Byrne via Practical Ed Tech. It’s called dotstorming. Not only did teachers share thoughts on how they might move forward with ideas generated during our time together, but they also ‘voted’ on the ones they felt they’d actually try themselves. It was a great exit card. Here’s a link to the final board that was completed, ranked by votes.

All in all, we packed in a lot, but it was a very positive gathering, generated practical ideas that could be put into motion right away, and provided respite from work on report cards.

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This year’s effort in our two schools for the Hour of Code surpassed last year’s. Thanks to the support and energy of a number of adults in our buildings, more of our students were exposed to plugged and unplugged activities!

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In the Allen Brook library, Denise set up a grid and engaged students in a physical coding activity.

robot turtlesWith our enrichment STEAM teacher, Julie, students programmed BeeBots and also played Robot Turtles, a fabulous board game to build coding skills.

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Special thanks to Linda for supporting the effort both in the computer lab with the Minecraft code.org activity and in kindergarten classrooms with Daisy the Dinosaur on the iPads.

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One of our kindergarten teachers, Sharon, invited parents to come in after the students had already been introduced to coding. They kept it going throughout the rest of the week and plan to continue those efforts. Here’s her blog post about the week.

 

 

 

 


 

Over at Williston Central School, many of our third/fourth grade students had support from Colin, an 8th grader. Our school requires that all 8th graders complete an 8th Grade Challenge, a capstone project. Colin’s focus was on Hour of Code and helping younger students get on board. Both he and Sagui worked with most of the 3rd/4th grade classes.

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Colin K Helps Out - Dec 2015

Colin K Helps Out – Dec 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the WCS library, Ellen set up Drop In and Code times, along with coaches to support fellow students.

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Many of our middle school teams incorporated the Hour of Code last week and others continue this week. Thanks to Sterling, Swift, and Full House for getting on board!

IMG_2327       sterling1

Leah, our Design/Tech educator hosted an arcade at the end of the week for other adults and classrooms to visit. Throughout the trimester, students were coding using Scratch to create games. Then they used any materials (and they were varied!) to create controllers for the games, and finally they utilized Makey-Makeys to connect the two.

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In addition, 10 of our middle school girls were treated to a Hangout with Marguerite Dibble, founder of Game Theory, a Vermont company. They asked questions, learned about her path, and got a glimpse of real life. Here’s a link to the recording of the Hangout. A special thanks to Lucie deLaBruere for her help in making this happen.

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Of course, the work and fun continues Beyond the Code. Students and teachers are inspired and motivated. We’re hearing that it’s extending at home too! Thank you to everyone that made this possible.

I’ve put these photos, along with many more, together in a short video to showcase some of the highlights from last week. I know it doesn’t capture everything and everyone, but it’s a glimpse into the wonderful events that transpired.

 

 

 

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I recently had a conversation with our District Leader (the administrator with whom I work) about why we use technology in schools. We realized that it is important to have those reasons at the tip of our tongues, especially during budget season in our town. Rather than the two of us developing the list, we asked faculty and staff for their input. We got great responses! We looked through them for common themes and narrowed it down to 7 big ideas.

I’m sharing our list here – hoping for feedback on the wording (For example, is ‘digital tools’ the best term?) and the content. Do you have suggestions or thoughts on what else might be added to this list? We wanted to keep it short and sweet and as jargon-free as possible so that any member of our town or community would understand them. Do you think we’ve accomplished that?

reasons for tech

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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!

writing techLast 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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Post 28 on the TeachThought 30-Day Blogging ChallengeYour thoughts: Should Technology drive the curriculum or vice versa?


The answer to this is simple, the curriculum and learning come first. Technology, like pencils or any other tool, supports, enhances, and makes some of the learning possible. It engages students in new ways, adds various “21st century skills” like collaboration, communication, problem-solving, and critical thinking to make the learning go deeper. 

This week the teachers in our schools are taking time away from their classrooms to plan together with their teaching teams. Each team has a half day to begin their planning on integrated units of study – whether those are project-based, problem-based, passion-based, or place-based (I call these the PBLs). The administration has set aside this time for teachers to integrate Common Core standards and Next Generation Science Standards. It’s also an opportunity for me to listen in and offer suggestions and ideas about technology integration in these units of study. But it’s the curriculum that comes first in all aspects of the planning. I’ll likely blog about the progress over the course of this school year.

In light of yesterday’s post about using weekends to explore new tools, I created a very short wideo about today’s prompt. Richard Byrne, at the wonderful Free Tech 4 Teachers site, shared this resource recently and I thought I’d give it a try.

 

 

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