Friday, May 4, 2018

Social Media Learning
As I read the news this week about a girl who went to her prom and was attacked, berated, supported, etc. for the style of dress she chose to where.  I wonder what would be different if we took the time to time to teach social media as part of schools ELA curriculum and not part of what we call digital citizenship.

I know that ELA teachers might disagree with me on this one with the argument of social media is destroying writing. Kids can't write complete sentences and use letters for words etc. While I tend to agree but I also see a different point of view. I have always read, heard, etc. that the English language is a living language
that is is constantly evolving with new words, phrases, and colloquialisms. Social media is just the next evolution of language. Kids have learned to adapt their writing to fit the medium with which they use to communicate.  Instead of chastising kids for adapting a language we should be learning from as to how they do it and how they develop the rules. However that is not what I want to address here in this post. I would much rather address how students are using social media as a communication tool.
Social media is very much in it's infancy and I don't think it will ever be out of its infancy with all the new tools and forms of social media coming out. kids are using it as best they know how to share information with each other for good or for bad. I wonder if it was like that when books, writing, music, etc came out as ways of communication. Did we fight it and say they were going to ruin society? Yet we now use them as not only a form of expression but also as a way to communicate information. We also now teach kids how to use music, writing, etc. as a way to express themselves and how to express themselves properly and effectively. Our efforts are used for good and for bad but we still teach them how to use the tools.

The same goes for social media it is used for good and for bad, yet we often times focus on the bad more so than the good. I pose we should focus on the good and learn how to teach it. If it were part of an ELA curriculum we could leverage it to teach grammar and persuasive versus expository writing. We could help mold new spelling rules ass well as combine old ones with the new. Kids could learn how to express themselves in a positive and effective manner rather than trying to figure out through trial and error on their own. Some say that this is better done as part of a digital citizenship unit where we are teaching them how to be good citizens. The problem is that it is out of context and often times pot on the back burner. It is put on the back burner due to the fact that often times in education we put items like ELA, Science, Math, etc. ahead of other subjects because it is tested. I would argue that if we incorporated the use of social media we could capture student interest and teach what is tested and possibly see better results.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Professional Development: Google classroom Stream & Student tabs

The next post in my Professional Development series is on the Stream & Student tabs in Google classroom.

The Stream Tab

Think of the stream like the Facebook news feed or twitter. It is the primary way of communicating info via classroom. I like to think and describe it as social media
for the classroom. It is a great communication tool for you and your students and allows them to communicate in not only a way they are used too but also in a more collaborative way, which is something employers are looking for.
In the stream you have 4 types of "posts" you can use, announcements, assignments, questions, & reused posts.

The first type of post is an announcement
, which a lot like a typical Facebook post or tweet. It is as its name implies an announcement to the class. You can attach files from your computer, your drive, YouTube, and/or share links. Students and you are able to post comments to announcements which is a great way to teach and encourage collaboration (more about this later). Some teachers use announcements as a way to "hand out" work/assignments as a way to cut down on the amount of emails they get. I primarily use them to update the class on info they may need or find helpful. I also use it as a way to stay in contact when I am out of the classroom physically.
The second type of post is an assignment.
An assignment is just as it sounds an assignment you want students to complete and hand in. As with announcements you can attach files, drive files, YouTube videos, & links. With an assignment you can add more details/instructions as well as due dates & times and attach a grade/score. You can also track who has completed the assignment as well as which ones you have handed back. What I like about the assignment post is that it eliminates the dreaded no name paper. I also like that it assigns a date and time to when students have submitted their work so there is virtually no question about when it was handed in to you.

The third type of post is the question.
A question is simply that a question. You can treat it like an assignment with due dates and attachments as well as instructions. However, a question gives students the ability to type in or select an answer. It is a great way of doing entry or exit tickets as formative assessment. Students can respond to each other as well as see a cumulative summary of responses.

The forth type of post isn't really a post so much as a way to post past assignments, questions, and announcements. It is the reuse post feature. This feature allows you to go back to other classes (both current and archived) and select posts you would like to use in the current class. This is a handy feature to cut down on the about of retyping you do if you teach the same class in the future.

I mentioned that student are able to post comments to posts. Some teachers may find this intimidating or annoying at first but I have found that as with any tool if taught how to use it and manage it, students can use it effectively. I encourage students to post comments as a way of sharing helpful info, asking questions, and looking for advice. It makes the work more social and real life rather than just another boring class. I won't kid you by thinking students don't misuse it and use it as a way to chat. I usually let them do this for a day or two and use it as a teachable moment which helps take the novelty away. You can also mute specific students and turn off the feature all together.

The Student Tab

The student tab is pretty simple and allows you to manage students and guardians. You can add students to classroom by using either a code (easiest) or by inviting them via email. I find using the code to be the simplest way. I simply create an assignment (paper or via Skyward) with directions on how to setup classroom and the class code. Once students setup their classroom correctly the first assignment they see is a setup google classroom assignment that they simply need to mark as done. Although I do know some teachers who invite via email each of their students.

You can also invite guardians by clicking on the 3 dots next to the student name and select invite guardian. There you type in the parent email address and it sends them an email link to sign up. This does not give parents access to the classroom it simply signs them up for email alerts to posts in classroom. You can also send out mass emails to parents and students from the student tab. You can also click on a student's name and see a filtered list of their work as well as scores. 

Instructional Video

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Professional development: Google Classroom setup

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To start off my professional development series I am going to work on showing the tool google classroom.

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Google classroom is a powerful tool that is part of the google apps for education suite that teachers and administrators can use to hep organize assignments, observations, conduct professional development and more. I liken it to social media for the classroom, as it is more a communication tool than what some might call an LMS (Learning Management System) like Blackboard, Schoology, and others. Classroom does not have all the bells and whistles of a true LMS but it is a powerful tool in helping kids learn organization and communication skills.

To start off the Classroom series I show you how to set up classroom as a classroom teacher and how to invite students. Some important things to keep in mind as you start your journey into Google Classroom.

  • When first signing up make sure to sign up as a teacher. If you sign up as a student you don't get access to all the features and to switch your account takes some work
  • There are 2 views, Teacher  & Student. It can be frustrating if you want/need to show students their view
  • Be prepared for an upswing in the amount of email you get.
    • You can manage this in the settings by turning off email notifications
As I mentioned earlier Google Classroom is more a communication tool than a true LMS. It has some features of an LMS like:
  • Assignment distribution and turn in
  • Interactive questions
  • Messaging (Announcements)
  • Google Calendar and Google Drive syncing
However currently some of the features it is lacking are:
  • Linking to an LMS or IMS (information management system) like Skyward
  • One stop shopping for grades, payments, announcements, etc.
  • School and district info
There are numerous ways classroom teachers and administrators can use google class. Here are a few suggestions (please share how you are using it as well):
Classroom Teacher:
  • Classroom homepage
  • Classroom Communications
  • Assignment distribution and collection
  • Formative assessment (questions)
  • Classroom library (about tab)
  • Lesson Planning 
  • Professional development portal
  • Evaluation portal
  • School resource library
  • Staff meeting portal
  • Observation document repository
I am sure there are many more uses to which I can't wait to hear more about. 

Too start off these series I have a video below on how to setup Google Classroom. In future videos I will show you how to utilize the 3 tabs (Stream, Students, About), as well as how to submit feedback.

Professional Development series

One part of this blog is to start a tag/label called professional development. the goal is to start expanding my skills in helping teacher perfect their craft. Under the professional development tab you will find short posts, videos, links, etc. on tools, sites, techniques I use in my practice. I will show how to use them and break down their parts as well as share how I use them in/with my classes.
I want to say as I start this new journey that I am by no means a definitive expert on technology in the classroom. That being said please if you notice things that could be done a different way or are not quite right please share your comments. Also, please please please share how you use the tools I am sharing as more heads are better than one. As my principal says "We are all in this together" and I know that I could use your help in expanding the tool box I use in my teaching craft.

Lastly I want to encourage your suggestions of not only tools you would like me to add to this series but also on how I can improve. I have been doing screencasts in the classroom as part of the "Flipped Classroom" model. I have received some wonderful feedback from my students on how to improve my videos and I hope to get some great feedback from you.

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Sunday, April 1, 2018

Gone but not forgotten

As  you can probably tell I have been gone for awhile but I haven't forgotten about my blog. I will be picking up my blogging work this year in earnest as the summer gets closer and time becomes more free.

A little bit about what I have been up to over the last 5+ years since my last post. I have been working as a middle level Technology/Engineering/Robotics teacher. I have also been working as a technology PD leader for my school and district helping teachers better integrate technology into their practice. Helping teachers perfect their craft through integration is my passion and what I hope to use this blog for moving forward. I also hope to use this blog to have some discussion and discourse about the use of technology and when and where it is appropriate to use technology in the classroom. I also hope to hear from those of you out there about your uses of technology in the classroom as I want to learn from you as well.

Recently our district went 1:1 with Chromebooks. It has been an interesting transition from computer labs to 1:1 computers for every student. I still work in a computer lab but am looking at changing over from a traditional lab to one that enables students to sync up their Chromebooks with an AWS server. I am excited for the possibilities this brings to my classes both in and out of the classroom. Anyone out there currently use AWS or something similar and can give me some feedback or advice or thoughts that would be greatly appreciated.

So before I leave you today I want to sure something I am doing with my classes that is making a difference in getting students to engage with learning how to manage a project. I am doing what is called 20% time. I model it after a story I heard about Google giving their employees 20% of the day to work on a project that they enjoy. We have what we call a late start Monday where we meet with other teachers in our building and/or district to align curriculum, plan out unit and lessons, and other stuff normally relegated to after school or other off times. This is see shortened periods for our kids which amount to about 20% of a students time in my class. I start off the semester with a definition of what 20% time is and then move into a couple of weeks helping students choose a project or skill they would like to focus on. From there I teacher how to use a Gant Project Planner found in Excel to manage their project. Then I let them go on their work for the rest of the semester. Students work on projects ranging from planning a composting project at school, to soccer skill development, to programming, to typing, to vlogs, and much more. This is just my first year at trying this but what I am finding is that kids enjoy the time to focus on their likes/interests and often times what they are doing relate back to what we are learning about in my classes. It also gives me more time to see their passions as well as work with those kids who need a little extra attention/differentiation during the week because if students are done with the lesson or work I have given them for the day then they know to work on their 20% time project. A book you can read (I am just starting it) is called "The 20time project: How educators and parents can launch Google's formula for future-read innovation" by Kevin Brookhouser. I hope to get some more ideas on how to grow and improve this time so kids.

I welcome your feedback and suggestions.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My first video for my flipped class

Attached, linked, embeded in this post is my first video for my flippled classroom. It is rather long and I am already thinking I might cut it down but thinking I might like some feedback before I go and re-record.
I will be using this video to serve 2 purposes. One to introduce to concept of watching videos at home as well as how to take notes while watching the video. After a talk about note taking and introducing the cornell notes format students will watch the video as a class to practice watching a video and taking notes. I will be guideing a discussion around what they think is important and how they know it is important as well as the concept of "pausing" the teacher.

I welcome your feedback and suggestions in the comments. Click on the link below to view the video as it is a little too big for Blogger to handle.

NXT Piece Basics

Saturday, August 4, 2012

New thoughts on teaching

It has been awhile since I have posted to this blog. I have been busy with changing my class structure, room, starting up an FLL team, and most importantly doing some family time. Although no I am on a new adventure that I would like to share and hopefully get some thoughts on as I travel down this road.  Over the next year I will be working on flipping my classroom for my two robotics classes and possibly my tech 1 class.
I have tried something like this in the past with mixed results. I have created video intros to topics and skills students then work on in class watching a video trainer. What I found was that students just went to the video trainer and I still ended up lecturing or doing whole class instruction. I would really like to get away from traditional stand and deliver as I find that I tend to ramble on and on and loose my students. I also find that I am not able to diffrentiate my instruction very well either. Although I am finding that even with flipping/reverse teaching I find that I am still struggling with meeting the needs of my special ed, Ell, 504, etc. students. I am hoping that as I venture down this road that I can get support from you as well as my colleagues.
Ok I am off to do some reading in the book Flip your classroom: Reach every student every day. I look forward to your comments, feedback, and guidence on this "flipping" journey :)