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Monday, October 27, 2014

Yosemite and a presentation update

Hope everyone had a wonderful fall break!

Over the weekend, two exciting things occurred.  The first was EdCampKY in Bardstown.  I'll be writing a separate post about my experience later this week.

My second experience involved updating my MacBook Air's OS to Yosemite.  This free update is in your App Store.  I was worried about how well it would work on our school network, but so far it's blazing along just fine.

NOTE 10/27/14 2:29 PM:  One of our teachers informed me that if you upgrade to Yosemite you cannot run Notebook software anymore for your SMART Board (it requires Notebook '14, which we don't have).  IF YOU USE YOUR MACBOOK TO RUN YOUR SMARTBOARD, DO NOT INSTALL YOSEMITE.

Some quick tips before you download and install Yosemite:

  • Do NOT install Yosemite if you are having other issues that still need to be resolved, such as spinning pinwheels of death, constant keychain requests, no admin rights, etc.  I recommend resolving those first.
  • It is a HUGE update of several gigabytes; this will take a half hour or more to download and install. If you can, do it on your home network outside of school, and make sure you have your MacBook Air plugged in so you don't drain your battery or lose power in the middle of the update.
  • While there are no obvious differences at first, the look of the OS is cleaner and brighter, and there are definitely a few things ramped up under the hood.  I updated my MacBook Air Tips presentation to reflect some of these changes of appearance and ability.  You can click here or view below:

Monday, October 20, 2014

TUIT: Janice Bullard, CCE

Ms. Bullard facilitates while students take turns posing questions to their "mystery class."

Janice Bullard of Clear Creek Elementary is, relatively speaking, a new teacher.  This has not hampered her ability to be a teacher who uses integrated technology in her classroom.  I was very impressed to see her class in a Google+ Hangout video chat with students in New York.   When I learned this wasn't even the first time she's had a video chat, I knew I had to interview her for Edtech Elixirs.

In a side note, Janice's son was a student of mine just a few years ago.  Small world!

Share your story!  Where did your learning of edtech begin?

This is my fourth year teaching, and I’ve been at Clear Creek for 3 of those years. I guess my learning of edtech began the summer before my KTIP year. I volunteered at a science and math camp for 4th and 5th grade students at U of L. We introduced kids to digital storytelling, which also meant I was introduced to it. I used some of those tools the following year, which was my first year teaching. I also used Voicethread for the first time that year; my students loved it and I found it added layers of learning to what was a fairly typical classroom activity. Students wrote a short piece titled “What I am most afraid of” and then recorded it on Voicethread. This required them to practice reading it many times, which they didn’t mind because they got to record their voice and share with the class. I realized how kids could be motivated by the technology. So that is what seals the deal for me - extra layers of learning plus motivation.

Tell us about using Skype and Google+ Hangouts in the classroom.  How did it begin?  How did you find teachers to telecommunicate? How have integrating these tools impacted the learning of your students?

I read a book by Pernille Ripp this summer- Passionate Learners- Giving our Classrooms Back to Students. Through her book and blog I learned about the Global Read Aloud project, in which students from around the world read the same books and connect with each other over them. My class is participating, and through the teachers and classrooms we have connected with I learned about using Skype and Google Hangouts. I first connected with the teachers over Edmodo; we have since set up class blogs so that our students can talk about the books. We did a "mystery Skype" which was great fun. We have also shared via Padlet.

Pictures taken by the Student Photographer, one of the roles in the project.

My kids have completely embraced every part of the project. They loved the Skype and Google Hangout. It was planned so that the kids took ownership as much as possible. They had roles as questioners, answerers, greeters, map experts, etc. They propose discussion questions and decide which ones are strong enough to put on Edmodo, and are working at writing thoughtful responses. Reading, writing, speaking, listening, thinking - it’s all there!

What other edtech tools are some of your favorites?

Right now, Edmodo is one of my favorites. I also continue to use Voicethread. Animoto is great for producing short videos. Padlet is very cool for sharing thoughts about pretty much anything.

What tools have you heard about recently that you are looking forward to trying out?

My teacher friend in Canada shared, where people respond to prompts and share creative writing. I’d like to introduce that to my kids.

Any advice for teachers wanting to integrate edtech?

Just jump in, pick something, and try it. Most of the time there is a fairly short learning curve; sometimes you can even let the kids just figure it out for you! I would also say be prepared to love it and learn as much as your kids!

Ms. Bullard, thanks for taking the time, and you certainly deserve your #ShelbyTUITshoutout.

For those interested in connecting with other Skype teachers, check out Skype in the Classroom.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Power of Positive Social Media #StartsWithUs

All the negative things about social media is what usually hits the airwaves and the mediasphere.  It's true that people can use Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and the like in inappropriate ways.  But the same could be said of cars, or other forms of technology.  We cannot respond to new media merely with fear.   If we want to show young people the power of our 21st century world, we have to show them positive models and how to become responsible leaders for change.

Next week is Kentucky Safe Schools Week.  While Shelby and other counties are out for fall break during this time, perhaps we can embrace the spirit of this year's theme to stand up against cyberbullying when we return.  Better yet, we can be inspired by something started at one St. Louis school and is quickly becoming a trending topic on Twitter and an Internet meme.

As often is the truth about human kindness, the act is simple yet profound.  A student or staff member uses a sharpie to write a short positive message on a clothespin.  The person then gives it to someone, who must "post and pass" it on: post a picture of the clothespin using social media with the hashtag #StartsWithUs before giving it to another person so the cycle can repeat.  That's it.  And yet, that's everything.

Here are some Tweets that capture the idea:

The idea has even spread to the St. Louis Rams:

How can we be leaders against negativity and cyberbullying?  How can we fight the dark with light?

Spread positivity online and off, speak out against cyberbullying. #StartsWithUs

You have to start somewhere.  One positive pinned message at a time.

(Note: if you are reading this on email or a mobile device, you may not be able to see the several embedded pictures above.  Please visit the site to see them.)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Playing Discovery Education videos on the MacBook Air

At the beginning of the school year, a teacher from Southside Elementary pointed out to me that she could no longer watch certain videos from Discovery Education on her MacBook Air without installing a paid plugin.  Since the MacBook is THE computer for each classroom in SSE, this posed a problem.  After all, the resources on the site are vast, and it would be a shame to go from Windows to Mac just to lose access to what used to be free, content-rich videos.

I had a moment today to reach out via a Kentucky District Technology Coordinator listserv to share my issue, and Cynthia Warner (from KET) was kind enough to provide a walkthrough and some screenshots on how to fix this.

It turns out the solution is as simple as adjusting a few settings to enable either streaming or downloading in a way the Mac can decipher.  See the video I made below:

(video link: plug in to buy, or even install! I hope that helps.

TUIT: Yasmine Fleming, Collins HS

Just a few short years ago, Yasmine Fleming and I were teaching colleagues at South Oldham High School.  She was there for a short time, but I remember being impressed by her ability to not only teach content but develop an instant rapport with students.  I was sad to see her take a position in Shelby County.

And now, the wheel turns. Knowing that Ms. Fleming was teaching at Collins, I couldn't wait to observe her classroom.  Boy, she did not disappoint.  Yasmine has a class set of MacBook Airs embedded all year long that she is using with multiple classes.  If you have any doubt how transformative teaching will be next year as our 1:1 initiative begins, watching her for an hour will convince you.

Ms. Fleming pauses a Kahoot for a mini-lesson, while students bask in the glow of MacBook Airs.

Ms. Fleming was kind enough to accept my offer of an interview.  So without further ado, here's our Q & A.

Yasmine, introduce yourself to our readers!  

This school year began my third year as a teacher and my second at Collins. I teach 8th and 9th grade math, specifically 8th Grade Math, Algebra I and Geometry. Teaching is a second career for me; I spent five years in telecommunications prior to pursuing a career in education. My first interaction with edtech was while working on my BS at UofL, I was taking a Criminology course online over the summer. I loved the freedom. Around this time LMS’s [Learning Management Systems] became very popular, specifically Blackboard and what I most liked about Blackboard was having everything all in one place, assignments, teacher contact and grades. While working on my MAT I had the privilege of having an amazing technology professor who challenged me and allowed me to try new things as a student. My passion for edtech integration as a teacher actually stemmed coming from my prior life in telecommunications where we were always connected and ever changing, to the somewhat archaic traditional methods of education. I am constantly asking questions, researching and trying out new things. Once I find a tool or resource I look for similar tools, comparison reviews and how they are currently being used in other classrooms. I also pester my peers about the awesome tech they are including in their classrooms. Twitter is my new friend for all things #edtech although I still have yet to participate in any chats. I faithfully follow Kathy Schrock and Adam Watson (of course). Kathy was the keynote speaker at my first edtech conference.

How have you used your MacBook Airs to create a blended learning environment in your classroom?

Last Spring when I began thinking about what I would want my blended learning classroom to look, feel, sound like I had one primary goal I wanted to accomplish, to give all my students exactly what they needed when they needed it. So I set out to design a structure that would allow students to move at their own pace all while having a hand in how they demonstrated understanding of the content. I came across the Concept Checklists from Brian Hill and I loved how it allowed me to meet the students where they were and gave them options for which tasks they completed. I decided to design my Algebra I classes with these ideas in mind. Currently my students go through self-paced lessons with differentiated tasks. They watch a video or participate in a mini lesson with me, take notes, complete a basic practice activity and then choose from other tasks (sometimes optional, sometimes mandatory) that may have to be completed with a partner, group or alone. Once they have completed these “prerequisite” activities they can take their concept quiz. Once mastered, they move on to the next concept. If they do not master the quiz they must have a consultation with me and complete at least one remediation activity. Then once they are confident in the concept they reassess to show mastery on the quiz. The MacBook Airs allow the daily differentiation of lesson delivery, tasks and assessments at the pace my students are most comfortable at with structure and guidance from me. Students have time if they need it but those students who are ready to move can do that as well.

One of the ways you manage those self-paced lessons and differentiated tasks is your use of Canvas by Instructure, a LMS (Learning Management System).  How has it impacted your students' learning?  

Canvas currently houses our concept/Learning Target quizzes, common used website links, announcements/notifications, and shared discussions/surveys for my Algebra I class. In the beginning it was the hub for ALL of our materials, documents, videos, practice, quizzes, everything. I have since moved the day-to-day materials into Trello in an effort to track the daily completion/in progress tasks of my students, but the questions banks in Canvas are a huge time-saver for my transitional Standards Based Grading classroom. I am able to create a bank of questions that their quizzes pull from and when they go to reassess (if necessary) they receive a different set of similar questions.
For my other classes, I’m beginning to use Canvas to house materials for students who are absent and additional resource/practice materials for students who may need the extra assistance.

Ms. Fleming's students use old tech (mini-whiteboards) and new tech (Canvas on Macbook Airs).

What other edtech tools are some of your favorites?

I am currently loving Trello, TenMarks, and Kahoot!.

Trello is currently my best friend and the main reason is my students like it and it became a huge solution to my progress monitoring problem. I use Trello (which is not marketed as an educational resource at all) to layout the materials for each concept/level in my self-paced Algebra I class. Each student has their own board which has a list for each Concept which includes cards with each video, practice file, task, and quiz link attached. There is also an in progress list titled “What I’m doing for Classwork/Homework” and a completed list titled “FINISHED”. What I love most about Trello is there is a time/date stamp for every action. So when my students move a card to the Homework/Classwork list and then to the Finished list, I can see if they are on track to hit, exceed or miss a concept deadline. My students love it because it is very intuitive, easy to use and visually appealing. They like the act of “moving” a task to the “Finished” list. They said they feel a sense of accomplishment.

This is my second year using TenMarks and what I love the most are the hints and videos offered with each problem. I understand the importance of practicing a math concept for homework but what makes me most apprehensive is the reality that one of my students could get home and not know how to complete a problem and become frustrated with the process, the content and even the class. TenMarks helps to alleviate some of my anxiety and theirs. It also helps that TenMarks is successfully aligned to the CCSS.

Kahoot! is a favorite in my classroom for the same reasons it is in everyone else’s classroom… The kids LOVE IT!! It is also very easy to setup for quick assessments and reviews. In the near future I hope to have them create their own Kahoot! to demonstrate what’s important from a unit and then play against other classes.

What tools have you heard about recently that you are wanting to try out for the first time? 

I’m looking forward to designing and implementing content using Geogebra. It’s free, which is always a plus and I’m very intrigued by some of the lessons that are already created so I can’t wait to create my own. I also would like to try Explore Learning’s Gizmos. It’s not a free resource which limits my investigations but I think it has so much potential in the blended classroom. Lastly, Flipgrid is currently on my radar. Teaching math usually results in written responses to demonstrate understanding but the verbal response is invaluable and requires a different level of understanding to demonstrate mastery. I’m hoping to implement this resource regularly later this school year.

Any advice you would like to share with other teachers wanting to integrate edtech?

First I would say, research, research, research. When I come across a neat tool, resource, etc. I immediately google it and check out their website but what I’m really looking for are reviews and other similar/comparable resources. That allows me to decide if I like it, love it or want to try another one. Next, try it out for yourself. I always create a teacher account and a student account (usually multiple) to test out the features. It doesn’t eliminate all of the hiccups you may come across once you implement in your classroom but it will eliminate some and also allow you to anticipate some other unpredictable events. Next, begin with the end in mind. I’m not really one for tossing around buzz phrases but it’s true. I always start with a main goal or problem and then look for a tech tool to assist. If I want a fun way to review or formatively assess then my main goal is FUN, which is how I stumbled upon Kahoot. I have other mediums to practice content but they are often not as engaging and fun as Kahoot!. Simply put, my students like it so I use it because it's FUN and I’m ok with that! If I want my students to demonstrate knowledge of the content in a non-traditional way then I research with that main goal, insert FlipGrid or Blendspace. There are times that I am introduced to a tool and I look for ways to integrate it in my classroom but, more often than not, I am simply in search of a solution or alternate to what I’ve been doing. Finally, flip the switch to “work in progress” and enjoy the ride. Be unafraid and unashamed to try whatever has been occupying your dreams. Not everything will play out the way you planned but the successes you’ll experience will make every fall worth it! 

Yasmine Fleming, thank you again for your time, and you absolutely deserve a #ShelbyTUITshoutout!