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