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Posts Tagged ‘tools’

Last week I attended the Dynamic Landscapes conference here in Vermont. While there, I noticed that many of the offerings I was interested in related to three big themes, Personalized Learning, Proficiency-Based Learning, and Makerspaces. It was intriguing to see how different presenters were approaching each of these topics in their own way and I’m thankful that they were sharing with a wider audience.

One presentation I attended referred to 3 pillars of personalized learning. That stuck with me and I’ve been grappling with this 3 pillars idea ever since. In this post, I’ll share some of the ideas spinning around in my head around reporting, management, and personalized learning. For now, those are MY three pillars. My thoughts are predominantly focused on the digital tools for each pillar, not as much the philosophy or ideals behind each of them.

3 pillars (1)

Reporting on Proficiencies

We’ve begun the shift toward proficiency-based learning and reporting as a result of Act 77 in Vermont and our own desire to make that shift. Here in our district, we have adopted JumpRope as our proficiency-based reporting system. We’re finishing our first year utilizing JumpRope in my school and there have been some growing pains, but we’re making progress and adjustments. Some teachers have shifted pedagogy to incorporate learning targets, providing students with multiple opportunities to meet the learning targets, and how best and when to report out on formative and summative assessments. What some of our teachers are still struggling with is work completion and student accountability. That’s not the purpose of JumpRope. Questions I have for them include: How many parents or students need this information? Is there another way to share this information with those that need it most? How else can we help our middle school students build their independent work habits?

Learning Management Systems

I work in one of the few districts in our area that don’t utilize a full-blown learning management system (LMS). The high school my school feeds into uses Moodle, but as a district, we’re on the hunt for an LMS that will best meet our needs. The primary issue we face so far, is that many LMSs have a gradebook at the center and many of those gradebooks are not proficiency-based. We don’t want to go backward and are strongly committed to proficiency-based learning and reporting. The few examples we’ve seen thus far provide many other features we’re looking for, but the gradebook gets in the way. An LMS might be the solution to where teachers can communicate about work completion to students and parents, share course materials and resources, and more, but how do we ensure that it’s not all tied into the gradebook? We do have many teachers using Google Classroom, but that’s not a ‘full-blown’ LMS. Suggestions?

Personalized Learning

In Vermont, Act 77 has changed the landscape of education by requiring that we incorporate Personalized Learning into our systems. Along with that, students in grades 7-12 (and some below that) have their own Personalized Learning Plan. We’re finishing our second full year of implementation and are on our second digital tool to document that process. This year, most of our middle school students have a Google site to house their goals, reflections, and artifacts that demonstrate how they’re working toward their goals. The conundrum we face now is the shift from the old Google Sites to the new Google Sites. When the old Sites “depreciate“, will we truly be able to transition existing sites to the new version? There are other options for PLPs available to us. LiFT and Protean (still in beta, but due to be released soon), are both appealing, but do we want to shift in September, to a third tool in three years? But won’t we have to do that anyway given that the old Sites will retire and we may need to move everything to the new Sites? Thoughts?

My focus, as stated above, is on the right digital tool for the job. At this point, we’re committed to JumpRope, but are still exploring what’s best for the other columns. It doesn’t appear that there’s one tool to meet all of our needs, but do we need three?

I truly welcome input and suggestions. 

 

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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.

theme weekThis 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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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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3 Go-To Sites

Post 26 of the Teach Thought 30-Day Blogging ChallengeWhat are your 3 favorite go-to sites for help/tips/resources in your teaching?


 

No hesitation here, these are by far my top 3 go-to tools!

twitterTwitter:  As I wrote about in this post, Twitter is a huge part of my PLN. I learn from others, gather resources, connect, and share. This past summer while at ISTE, I heard someone say that if it were possible to break down Twitter users by profession, educators would represent the largest group. I am not surprised by that fact. (myth?) There are educators at every level, subject area, and area of expertise sharing and connecting with one another on Twitter. Rather than follow individual blogs, I follow people on Twitter who provide links to new posts. The education chats provide connections with others with whom I reflect on my practice, create new collaborative projects, and professional development in its best form, (Feel free to click on Twitter in my tags and view other posts on this topic)

google plusGoogle+: Some people are surprised at this one. People question whether or not anyone is using Google+. The resounding answer is YES – lots of educators! I have joined a number of communities on Google+ that provide similar resources and connections as Twitter. If you are a Technology Integration Specialist like me, check out the Instructional Technology Integrators & Coaches Community, or the Technology Integration Specialist Think Tank Community. If you’re a classroom teacher, this is one of my favorites – the Connected Classrooms Workshop Community or the Mystery Hangout Community.

 

diigoDiigo: I use Diigo to collect resources, save posts, and then access them again when needed. I have the Diigo extension installed in Chrome, and have also installed the tool on my iPad. I go to Diigo all day long, to save things I come across on Twitter and/or Google+ as well as to retrieve things I’ve save. I create a Tech News every few weeks as a resource for our educators. It’s simple to gather the recent articles and posts that I want to share by going to Diigo and searching for my TechNews tag. When teachers ask me if I know of resources about a particular topic, I immediately go to Diigo to see what I’ve already saved that I can then pass along. This tool is a life-saver and time-saver for me. And I’m not even sharing about the ‘social bookmarking’ capabilities!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Post 13 on the 30-Day Blogging ChallengeName the top tech tools that you use on a consistent basis in the classroom and rank them in order of their effectiveness, in your opinion.


tools “A successful tool is one that was used to do something undreamt of by its author.” – Stephen C. Johnson

The larger challenge here is that nowhere in the above prompt does it give me an idea of how many top tech tools I can list!

I’ll go for 3 that I use professionally and 3 that I recommend using with students.

Professionally:

1. Google tools: Email, Calendars, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Maps, Drawing, Google+, and Sites. There are more tools than that – but those I use on a daily basis. I haven’t used Office products in many years. When you can collaborate and access your things from anywhere, why use anything else?

2. Twitter- I joined Twitter in the fall of 2008. That’s 6 years ago! I’d say I began to see the power and use of Twitter about a year later and haven’t looked back. It’s the place where educators connect, share, support one another, stretch each other’s thinking, and get resources – all whenever you want it. I feel very fortunate to have my PLN.

3. Diigo – I use Diigo to save and share anything I find on the web. I have Twitter and Diigo connected so that anything I favorite on Twitter automatically saves to Diigo. I save many links each day and then have access to all of my resources anytime from anywhere. Plus, I can use the social side of it to see what others are saving and sharing, use Groups to collect collaboratively, and offer what I’ve shared to others.

With Students:

1. Common Sense Media: I value the work that went into designing their Digital Citizenship Scope and Sequence and highly recommend these resources to all educators. I’ve also used and am again using the Digital Passport site (and app) with students. Graphite is a fabulous tool where resources have been evaluated and vetted by other educators. Thank you Common Sense Media, for all you do to support educators, students, and parents.

2. Google tools, again: Having a Google Apps for Education domain has contributed to a big shift in the way we teach and the way we integrate technology. These tools enable students to use technology as a tool to support learning, rather than starting with the tech and trying to go from there. Collaboration and sharing has impacted the amount of printing as students turn their work in digitally. Google Classroom is just getting underway, but already I’m hearing excitement and enthusiasm from the teachers using it.

3. I use a variety of iPads apps with students to encourage them to share their learning with others. We offer choice and students decide on the best app to meet their needs. Some of these might include: iMovie, Haiku Deck, Book Creator, or Explain Everything. Those apps would be at the top of my list for that purpose.

I look forward to reading the 13th post that other bloggers have shared to get their perspective on top tech tools.


 Image: creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by katerha: http://flickr.com/photos/katerha/5746905652

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