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Posts Tagged ‘Technology’

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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Once again, I’ve slipped and have stopped blogging for a while. Fear not, there’s a lot spinning in my head for various reasons and I hope to blog more often to get it out of my head and perhaps get some input from my PLN.

Last year we did some great work at a Northwest regional meeting for Vita-Learn, our state’s ISTE affiliate. We focused on the WHY of EdTech and generated some great ideas to help guide our work. We used ideas from Simon Sinek’s TED Talk about starting with the WHY. I recently attended Vita-Learn’s fall conference, VermontFest and was again reminded of our WHY. Many presenters alluded to it during their sessions.

At the same time, we are making some changes in my school and our district. Our supervisory union became a consolidated district this summer and along with that comes a consolidated technology budget. That filters down to the school level as we try to get a better handle on many aspects, including purchases for online subscriptions.

In a document that will be shared with the School Board this week, I saw this quote about technology in our schools:

“Students create, share, connect and learn using digital tools, which provide opportunities that did not exist before, expanding the school beyond its physical walls.”

That matches my WHY; I believe that we have the technology in our schools to enhance and support learning by creating, collaborating, thinking critically and solving problems, and communicating, among many other things. My thinking aligns with the newly updated ISTE standards for Students and for Educators.

 

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But at the same time, I’m finding that we’re paying for more and more online subscriptions for services and sites that seem like online workbooks. I realize that some of our students need additional supports for their educational programs, and am pondering many questions:

  • How many of these tools do we need?
  • How many math and literacy drill & skill sites?
  • How many of them duplicate our efforts?
  • What’s the decision-making process look like? Who is making the decisions?
  • What systems are in place? How can we improve these systems?
  • How do we ensure that our decisions match our WHY?

I am in the process of inventorying our online subscriptions with this in mind, as well as other topics that came up at VermontFest, including student data privacy, adherence to COPPA, and cost. But the focus on the educational value and WHY comes first.

I welcome thoughts about how others are organizing their online subscriptions and keeping things focused on their WHY.

 

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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.

Benoit

 

 

 

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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.

starwars

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.

dibble

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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