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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Rose/Bud/Thorn and Design Thinking

Ever feel like Acronym Based Education (ABE) is taking over?   It can lead you to trouble.  Especially when they can mean two different things, like saying LMS.  Do you mean a Learning Management System or a Library Media Specialist? Oy vey.

ABE aside, be patient in today's entry, as we'll end with a great feedback technique called Rose/Bud/Thorn.  But first, some context.

Project Based Learning (PBL) is something I've always wanted to explore and learn more about, so I was excited when our district announced some PD opportunities through the Buck Institute this summer.   Like many things in education, PBL often blends and overlaps with other strategies and modes of learning.  For example, personalization pairs nicely with PBL, as does another: Design Thinking (DT).

I won't presume to lay out the intricacies of Design Thinking in a short blog entry; I'm very much an early novice in learning it myself.  (This Design Thinking toolkit might be a good place to start.)  A few months ago, our Curriculum Assessment Coordinator Susan Dugle and the Southside Elementary Instructional Coach Robyn Marcum went to a PD on Design Thinking, based on a framework created by Stanford University's Here's a basic overview they learned from the PD and shared on how DT approaches a problem that needs a solution:
  1. Gaining Empathy.  Research the topic, and if possible, interview the person who has a need.  Dig deeper by asking clarifying questions to gain a deeper understanding.
  2. Reframe the problem.  Determine the true needs of the person/problematical situation, and develop insights from what you've experienced in your research, interview, or brainstorming. Define a problem statement: "______ (Name) needs a way to ______ (user's need).  Unexpectedly, __________ (insight)."
  3. Ideate.  Create solutions to test.  Don't be afraid to think outside the box. Go wild. Reflect.
  4. Iterate Based on Feedback. After reflecting, try to create a new and the most viable solution.
  5. Build and Test.  Make the "final" product and apply it. At the end of the process, reflect what worked and what could be improved.
It is the necessary context of DT that leads to the heart of today's entry: the Rose/Bud/Thorn strategy. (RBT). Although it pairs nicely with DT and PBL, it is a great way to get/give feedback that would be helpful in any context.  First, let Dr. Lisa Palmieri discuss RBT in this two minute video:

As Dr. Palmieri said, RBT can take about 10 minutes of class time and is more about "gut reactions" to how things went; it is NOT meant to be a time for finding solutions. (In the Design Thinking overview above, RBT would fit best in step 3 and the first half of step 4.)

The great thing about Rose/Bud/Thorn is that it is just fine in an analog environment.  All you need is three different colored Post-Its and a surface to stick them to.  However, if you want to consider digital alternatives that might be more permanent, interactive, and/or engaging, here are some ideas:

  • Use three different PollEverywhere polls (one Rose, one Bud, one Thorn) where students can respond via texting or the web. As an added bonus, create a word cloud with each poll (for example, a Wordle) to see if there are any commonly occurring words or phrases.  You can easily do a word cloud within PollEverywhere; here are some directions how.
  • Use Padlet to post responses.  This is probably the closest digital equivalent to the analog version of Post-Its on a wall. You may make three clear sections on the "board" and make sure to follow a consistent color scheme for each post.  The URLs to Padlets can easily be shared to others, and can stay put to look at later.
  • Do Post-Its the old fashioned way, but you or a student can capture the data with an iPad or iPhone with the Post-It Plus app.  You can take a picture of up to 50 Post-Its (works best if they are square), digitally group them in "boards" as you see fit, and share.  You can even export the finished boards in several formats, such as PPT or PDF. (The app is free but you can get additional tools ["Editor's Kit"] for an in-app purchase of $1.99. )

Good luck on improving feedback!

Special thanks to Mary Cantwell for writing the original article on RBT,  and the 1/7/15 tweet by Wicked Decent Learning (Dan Ryder, Jeff Bailey) that brought my attention to Ms. Cantwell's text.

Note 4/29/15:  After publishing this entry, I got the name of the people behind Susan and Robyn's Design Thinking PD discussed above: at Stanford University.  The link is now inserted above.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

TUIT: Melissa Young, Wright Elementary

One more full week at Painted Stone Elementary!  Time truly does fly after spring break.  As I near the end of my embedded tours -- my last three week stint will be at Simpsonville Elementary starting on May 4 -- I realize that the hardest thing is often finding time to loop back and check how things are going at schools I have previously visited.

It had been several weeks since I had visited Wright Elementary, so I recently emailed out to Wright staff to see how edtech integration is going.  One of the responses led to the Q & A below, and a well-deserved #ShelbyTUITshoutout for Melissa Young, a fourth grade teacher who specializes in math and word work.  In particular, her discussion of using edtech to differentiate led to some interesting anecdotes and insights.

Melissa, introduce yourself to our readers.  How long have you taught at Wright? Where did your learning of integrating edtech begin?

I have taught at Wright since 1998 after graduating from the University of Kentucky. I think my initial integration of edtech began when I applied for the Intelligent Classroom. I do recall not having to order Vis a Vis Markers and transparencies and being elated that I could show student thinking and work under the document camera. I was one of the first recipients or first group of teachers to receive the equipment and really just began to implement and use whatever I could get my hands on from additional PDs, blogs, and peers. I am also following your blog!

Tell us about some of the ways you are integrating technology this year.
One of the things that I have done is create the “Menu” of Activities to differentiate instruction from your training on ELL and Differentiation.  To be more specific, I created a Fraction/Decimal Centers Menu based upon students who had and had not mastered the standards from our fraction unit. There were several students who needed to work towards mastery of three different fraction standards. As well, we were in the middle of our decimal unit. Therefore, the centers that I created focused on the following by trying to incorporate the usage of the MacBook Airs, iPads, and digital cameras. Students were given the opportunity to play two games focused on comparing decimals and fraction/decimal equivalencies. Since I didn’t have enough iPads, I recorded the instructions and modeled how to play the game on my RCA SmallWonder cameras. Then, when or if students had questions or needed to see the game modeled, they could watch the short video clip. I wanted to put the video clips on the iPads but I couldn’t guarantee that I would have the same iPads checked out each day.

For two additional  centers, using the MacBooks, I created a template in which students watched video clips on the standards. One standard focused on students being able to multiply fractions, and I had them watch a short “music” video on the procedures for multiplying fractions. It had a very catchy melody that several were singing. (I was trying to hit those auditory and kinesthetic learners.) There were several links and websites that the students could access like to complete the paper practice in their notebook, type in the answer, and receive immediate feedback. I used several different websites like Khan Academy to help provide the additional instruction and practice. The students enjoyed the centers and having the option to go to a variety of different stations based upon their needs. 

I had one student that went to one of the centers who had met mastery so I was a bit confused on why she was there. However, after conferring with her (mastery was set as 8 out of 10 questions correct) she stated that she felt that because she only met mastery by answering 8/10 instead of 9/10 or 10/10, she needed to practice that standard some more to make sure she had it. It was eye opening to me because had I assigned students to go to particular centers based on simply meeting mastery, I wouldn’t have had her rotate to that station. It was an “aha” moment for me that if I give the responsibility of learning to the students (and don’t carry all of the workload) that they will make those decisions to ensure that they understand the content. 

Glad to hear how edtech is making differentiation easier!  In what ways did you try differentiation before technology?

To differentiate before integrating technology, I still used the workshop model and attempted to address as many multiple intelligences and trying to accommodate every subgroup or population in my classroom. However, I would go through and explain each center or activity in depth and model which took a great deal of time when not all students would rotate to that station. However, I think when that aha moment hit was when I could use just one device for a group to view or browse websites such as Math Playground or Khan Academy that would provide students with sample problems that they could work out in their notebook that I could check when monitoring. The students liked the immediate feedback of the websites and the “hint” buttons to get them started. In addition, when introducing games focused on helping students develop their understanding of the content or to practice in a “fun” way, I would have to review the instructions or intervene and model again. However, by creating videos, students could watch the game being modeled without me being pulled to that group. You really hooked me in with the endless possibilities of how I can incorporate the few devices we have without having that desired one to one ratio of each student having a device. Therefore, when you focused on "these are the things that you can do with just one device," you encouraged me to think outside the box of how I could use one device per group or center/station activity. I really felt like there were several of "me” in the room and that students were engaged in learning. 

I'm flattered and happy that I could help. What edtech tools are you looking forward to using in the near future?

I am really looking forward to those edtech tools that are going to allow me to formatively assess students, collect data, and make those instructional decisions during instruction instead of assessing at the end of the lesson, etc. I use a great deal of student self-assessments during the lesson; however, my students and I don’t always agree on whether or not they “have mastered the standard." I think something like using Plickers embedded into the lesson is going to help improve instruction and monitor student understanding. 

Thank you, Melissa, and congratulations!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


In Shelby County, we are eager to begin a digital conversion of our classrooms. What will our brick-and-mortar schools look like in the future, and in what ways will our students critically interact with media different than the passive modes of the past?

Having just completed reading Michael B. Horn and Heather Staker's excellent book Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools, I certainly have flipped and blended learning on the brain. In a previous entry, I offered a checklist for things to consider when pursuing a flipped classroom.  Today, I want to offer a specific tool that would help with any blended digital environment: EDpuzzle.  This website allows a teacher to grab an online video (or upload their own) and add assessment questions and text information at chosen time-stamped moments in the video.  The teacher creates a class which has a unique code (you can have multiple classes).  Students use the class code when registering in order to get to their assigned videos.  You can use your email, Google, or Edmodo credentials to create your EDpuzzle account. The students' answers will be viewable in a teacher dashboard and you can give them feedback; a report can also be run of your class's submissions.

As a short introduction to what EDpuzzle is and how it works, please watch the following video:

How could you use it?  Even just doing a multiple choice assessment will never be the same after doing a "EDpuzzle video quiz." Of course, open response questions enable students to actively use critical and high-order thinking skills.  In a flipped experience, you could use content videos and questions to pre-assess where the students are in order to better work with them when they come to class.  Oh, and no worries about whether the students watched the video.  You'll know because they answered the questions, and since they can't fast forward the first time they watch it, you know they had to see it at least once in real time.  (For reinforcement, students can rewatch a video after answering questions as many times as they like.)

Downsides?   Since the playing of EDpuzzle videos necessitate headphones or an individual space away from others, an in-class use of the tool will either require 1:1 devices or possibly a lab station rotation model.

Have you used EDpuzzle in your classroom?  What did you think?  Have you used similar tools?  How can you envision using it in your classroom?  Leave your Comments below.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

TUIT: Julia Lyles, James Morgan, Colby Wilmoth, and an entire high school

Happy April Fool's!  As the days count down to spring break and the end of my embedded tour at Heritage Elementary (Painted Stone, I'll see you Monday the 13th!), I wanted to squeeze out one more Edtech Elixirs entry.

Looking over my latest blog posts, I realized that I haven't given a #ShelbyTUITshoutout recently. Luckily, I have several reasons to do so today.

Julia Lyles is a new 3rd grade teacher here at Heritage. Last week, she asked me to help co-teach her class and we used Nearpod in a work station setting.  (You can read more about Nearpod in a previous entry.)  Ms. Lyles reminded me that even if you have only a few devices, Nearpod can be useful in a rotational station format.  I was glad to see her integrating Nearpod in a lesson with such young students, and happy to help teach in her classroom.

James Ray Morgan is Heritage's music teacher.  He already had an interest in edtech before I arrived, but after our consultation, he is now in the process of creating a YouTube channel of helpful videos for his students.  For example, Mr. Morgan wants to create tutorials for next year's classes to learn to play a recorder (or use the videos for extra practice, support, and enrichment).  In addition, he is creating a website as a launching platform for his class; you can view it here. He's well on his way to flipping and blending his instruction! (Note: if you want help recording directly on YouTube with your webcam, check out one of my how-to videos below.)

Today I observed Colby Wilmoth with her second graders.  What was impressive was not just the edtech tools themselves (a SMART board interactive clock activity, a document camera to demonstrate drawing a clock face, and so on), but how seamlessly she moved from one to another.  In addition, Ms. Wilmoth reminded me of the need for balancing your tools.  Her students drew large clock faces onto their desks with dry-erase markers, then practiced in pairs putting the correct hour and minute hand for a list of times.  Of course, there are digital equivalents you could do for this, but the tactile analog nature of drawing on a desk has its own benefits for engagement and learning.

Last but not least, I have a historic shoutout to give: to an entire school! At Martha Layne Collins High School,  Instructional Coaches Jennifer Cox and Tracy Huelsman (along with the enthusiastic encouragement of principal John Leeper) gave their staff a Twitter challenge this week. Using the hashtag #TitanStrong (created by Mr. Leeper), Ms. Cox and Huelsman have asked teachers to tweet every day, once a day, all week long.

The results have been fantastic and it has been very fun to follow the hashtag.   In some cases, teachers are tweeting for the very first time.  Good job, Collins!

A well deserved shoutout to MLC, Ms. Wilmoth, Mr. Morgan, and Ms. Lyles! Enjoy your spring break and the mild weather.