Monday, December 18, 2017

Help kids learn tech skills without teaching tech skills

I have had multiple conversations lately about teaching technology, teaching with technology and learning technology skills. We know a large part of getting comfortable with technology is a result of just using it. Not taking a class, not reading about it but just trying it out. Young people are great at just trying things. Adults are usually a bit more cautious and prefer to acquire some knowledge about the technology before trying it and messing it up. Yesterday's conversation with a co-worker touched on how adults growing up without the immersion in the technology world lack the language and the building blocks that allow for comfort with the tools they must now use. They are required to use tech tools in their job without the time spent learning the basic skills to build upon. When I first started teaching “computer classes” to adults (before the Internet was a household word), I often spent time on terms and definitions, identifying and naming parts of the computer or application components. People sometimes felt this was boring, but without it, I could not continue teaching the class without using words and phrases like “point to this thingy” or “press the button on the big square box”. 

Talking with Ashley, one of our elementary media specialists, recently confirmed by experiences with students. Even though they have grown up with devices and gadgets, students have similar issues as the adults who are trying to get up to speed. Students have spent the time using the tools but they don’t necessarily have the language needed to explain it or build on the skills they have. When being assessed on their tech skills it is quite possible that they know how to do the skill or concept that is requested or referenced, but they don’t realize it because there have never been words put to it in their mind. 

Children learn a lot about their world by adults modeling and verbalizing their daily activities. For example, if while your child is young you go outside to play every day, at some point during the day you probably say “let's go outside to play”. Then you proceed to get ready. You may even talk about getting your jacket and putting shoes on and opening the door. What if you never use the words outside or inside when talking about that activity or while doing it, you just get up and do it in silence or while talking about something else. Later on, when you say “let's go outside to play” the child may have no idea what you are talking about. He knows how to play outside, he can physically get outside but he does not know what you are asking. I recently learned that verbalizing what you are doing while you are doing it is called self-talk in the speech therapy world. It is a key strategy that parents naturally use to interact with their young children and teach them language. It is something I have done for years but didn’t know it had a “name”. 

Self-talk could be a nearly effortless way of helping students learn the language of the technology that they use. If we only focus on learning technology by using it or teaching it specifically as an event, we are missing out on a huge teaching and learning opportunity. Teachers use technology every day. I can’t think of any teacher who does not check their email at least once or project something from their computer each day. What if you verbalized the steps while you were accessing the materials you use during the day or researching an answer to a question that a student posed? Suddenly the technology is not magical but there is a method and some logic to how things work. They could find out that you searched your Google drive for a keyword in the lesson you planned to use to locate and launch the document, or you clicked on the Recent view in your Drive because it makes it really easy to find the file you worked on yesterday. You might explain that you are opening a presentation that you created in SMART Notebook to demonstrate the ideas they are learning about today and that you need to navigate to your folder on the network to open the file that was named “Hooray for Adjectives”. And that the file is easy to find when you sort the files by name in the window by clicking the column header.

I remember doing this narration of steps at home quite often with my first child but I don't recall it as well with the rest of them.  I plan to work on it this year at home for tech related and household tasks.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Choose Your Own Adventure Writing with gSlides

Are your students getting ... distracted... this time of year? Do you need something different to spice up delivery of your stellar course content? Marzano points to student choice as one way to increase engagement in the classroom in his book The Highly Engaged Classroom.1 He goes on to further say creating choices that give students impact on their learning gives you the most bang for your buck. He recommends that choice can be offered in the learning tasks, options for demonstrating learning mastery, and determining goals or behaviors (pp. 14, 101).

One way to practice choice is to leverage the tools in a simple Google Slide to build activities that offer choices through hyperlinks on slides. Generally, slides are linear, one slide after another in a presentation format. Utilizing links to other slides creates a non-linear presentation that gives students practice with choice.

Think of Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books... if you want Timmy to explore the cave, go to page 23, if you want him to return home, go to page 47... You can build Choose-Your-Own-Adventure stories in Google Slides. Students could utilize a story written earlier in the year and collaborate with partners to embed adventure choices in their own stories. Or, you can give students choice on which concepts to explore first; allowing them to more independently navigate the material.

Students could build their own Slide Presentations with hyperlinks to write alternative endings or change a pivotal event in history. See the How-To Guide for steps to create your own non-linear slide presentation. 

What other ways could you use non-linear slides to give students choice in their work?

1. Marzano, Robert J., Debra Pickering, and Tammy Heflebower. The Highly Engaged Classroom. Bloomington, IN: Marzano Research, 2011. Print.

How To Guide:

Friday, April 7, 2017

Improve Learning with Feedback and Digital Assessments

At a recent conference I attended, Wes Kieschnick, an energetic teacher and motivational speaker said, “Technology is awesome! But, teachers are better.” Whoa! That is so true! Good teachers can become better, more engaging, and more efficient with the right types of technology support.

We know that feedback is important for students. When used correctly, feedback has an effect size of 0.73. That means making more than one year’s progress in a school year. Wow!

One of the most effective forms of feedback is a feedback cue. A teacher can get feedback on student learning and give students immediate feedback is to use technology for formative assessments.

Simply using a digitized formative assessment in and of itself is not going to produce the effect size Hattie explains in his meta-analysis research. But what can get you those results is using a digitized formative assessment that cues the students to their misconceptions and successes immediately by exploring the visual representation of the data the form creates.

Google Forms will automatically create graphs from the questions that you create. Google Forms Quizzes will automatically score the quiz and project the correct answers. What discussions can you have with your students around a graph like the one shown to the left?

There are many products that digitize assessments quickly and easily for teachers. Some are game-based, like Kahoot! and others, like Plickers, only require one web-enabled device which is utilized by the teacher to ‘read’ the unique answer cards students hold up to present their answer.

The quick, on-the-spot feedback on performance, along with the deeper thinking and discussion that can be spurred by digital assessment is not the only benefit. Many of these products also have data available for PLC discussions and teachers to utilize later to inform instruction and prepare students for a unit summative assessment.

For a more in-depth tutorial and information about digitzing feedback, see the LTL 21 Challenge: Digital Assessments. Log in with your district username and password.

For further reading about feedback:

What other resources do you use for feedback? Comment below!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Accessing Canvas for Learn, Teach, Lead 21 Challenges

Learn, Teach, Lead 21 technology integration professional development challenges are available at any time through the Canvas learning management system. There are a few ways to access the challenges. You need to navigate to Canvas via the Staff Portal, the Popular Staff Links page or by typing in your browser's address bar. The video below will help you navigate the challenges in Canvas if you need support.

Each challenge includes for parts: Introduction, Tools, Plan and Evidence Submission. Teachers are asked to choose a challenge and explore the Introduction and Tools sections in order to build background knowledge about the challenge and learn about some of the tools available to support the challenge.

Once you are ready, you can submit your plan in the Plan section. Your plan can be very simple as long as it provides enough details that coaches are able to support your needs and understand what you are working on. You can contact Cara (x2587) or Sarah (x2216) at any time in the process for assistance with training, coaching, in-class support or other questions. You can submit a plan at any time, even if you won't be completing the challenge in your classroom right away. You are able (and encouraged) to work with your PLC, team or grade-level partners to complete a challenge, however, each individual teacher must submit his or her plan for support and documentation purposes. Teachers may copy/paste the same plan and/or create a shared Google Document for a plan and submit the same link in Canvas.

After your plan is submitted, but sure to let us know what level and type of support you may need. If you do not need support, continue on with your plan as that unit plays out in your classroom.

If your challenge has a conclusion, you can submit evidence of the challenge once your class has completed the projects and activities associated with it. To do this, go to the Evidence Submission section in Canvas and submit an artifact and/or reflection of the challenge experience. If your challenge is on-going, you may choose the time to submit evidence when it feels like an appropriate point to do so.

Sarah Radcliffe will continue to make rounds at the schools around the district to provide support or training and to answer questions. Many teachers have already begun challenges or submitted plans for their challenges through Canvas. Look for information in your weekly school bulletins from the principal about available when I will be in your building. If there are other times that work for you, please see my Free/Busy calendar and send me and invite (linked below) or reach out via email or phone to connect.

Sarah Radcliffe, Instructional Technology Coach - Free/Busy Calendar

Friday, December 16, 2016

Gone Google Story Builder

The Gone Google Story Builder is an easy way for students to animate their writing by choosing characters and typing story dialogue. Some ideas to utilize this in your classroom:

  • Re-write the dialogue from a recent story to change the outcome or ending
  • A fun way to explain the steps in solving a math problem
  • Explaining a science concept to review for a test (each student could write and submit for different concepts to build a 'library' of the concepts needed to study for the test)
  • Take on the personality/personalities of famous people from history to discuss ideas and feelings around historical events
  • Create dialogue for a mock interview of a famous artist, scientist or inventor; discuss his/her creation or discovery
Here is an example:

There is no need to create an account, however, that means that the students must complete the story in one sitting. I would recommend that students write out their script in another Google Doc and copy/paste it into Story Builder when they are ready to render the video. Google Story Builder creates a unique URL to share the video/story. Students can submit these links in a Google Form Dropbox, via email, or in your learning management system.

This is a great way to stretch your use of Google Docs, Sharing and Collaborating. It would fit in to demonstrate part of the evidence for that Learn, Teach, Lead 21 (LTL 21) Challenge.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Google Calendar Reminders Coming to a Calendar Near You


Coming to a Google Calendar Near You

Over the last few years of helping staff dive into Google for EDU tools, I have heard this sentiment over and over; "I wish the Google Task list had date/time reminders." A reminder feature had been added for the device apps, but was still lacking in the web version.

Yearn no more, those wishes have come true. You can now tap a time slot and select "Reminder".   The new reminders are persistent and carry forward on your calendar until you mark them as done. Check out this post from Google for more details and tips for switching from Tasks to Reminders.  Click here for instructions from Google Help.

The Reminder feature will be rolling out to our domain this week. Give it a try.  It works great with Google Keep too.  More info on that coming soon.

If you have questions about using Reminders or Keep, feel free to contact your Tech Coaches, Cara or Sarah.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Breakout EDU - Can you crack the code and open the box?

There is no doubt that gaming is a hobby sweeping the nation. Places like Tactical Escape 101 in Eau Claire have built a business around locking people in a room loaded with the clues and puzzles to solve to earn the key to escape.

Intriguing to adults and children alike, principals from Tactical Escape 101 can be applied to classrooms as well. Breakout EDU sells ready-made kits and games for teachers to use in the classroom. They also post open-source instructions to create your own kit from a few common items you can get from a local store.  There are ready-made games and templates to create your own.

Students work together to find a variety of hidden clues and puzzles. The puzzles need to be solved in order to find another clue or unlock a lock. Students need to communicate and problem-solve together because the clues are interconnected and often depend on one another.

Collaboration, communication and problem-solving skills are essential for students to continue to be successful in school and beyond school. Using collaborative games, like breakouts, can foster these skills in the classroom.

Teachers have also created their own puzzles or adapted the idea. Students must solve math problems or logic puzzles to earn a key; students must demonstrate practice of a skill recently learned in order to earn the combination to a lock. You could even stretch this out over a unit by using one lock for each concept, skill or standard and having students work together to unlock the box across an entire unit! Think of how curious they will be!

If you want to give this a try, contact Cara or Sarah to get started!