Saturday, December 22, 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Creating an Authentic Audience for Students with Social Media

This story starts off with a class project to create a short Public Service Announcement for an anti-bullying campaign. The middle school students in this class created their PSAs and had the option to submit them to this anti-bullying contest. From the 900 submissions, only 7 were chosen as finalists. It just so happens that an 8th grader from my district was a finalist. After watching the "Break the Chains" video, many of us were touched and wanted to share this video with the world. We tweeted the link, posted it to Facebook, and emailed it to friends. When you are doing this, you never know who will end up seeing this. It turns out that someone in my office is friends with Jenna Fischer from the NBC show "The Office". She posted a link to the video on her Twitter page to her 174,948 followers!
Word got out to a local news station, and her story was shared there too! The audience for this student created video was growing exponentially!

As I was reflecting on these chain of events, my mind comes back to the power of social media and how it can create an authentic audience for students. With one simple tweet or Facebook post, student work can be truly shared with the world.

Do you provide your students with an authentic audience? Do you use social media tools to promote student work? Does you class have their own Twitter account where classwork can be shared? Do you allow students to use social media to broadcast their work to an authentic audience?

Not every project will take off like this one but every child deserves a truly authentic audience for their work. Having an authentic audience just might provide that extra bit of motivation for our students.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Are We Just Preaching to the Choir?

I received some good news recently...I had some conference proposals accepted! Anybody who knows me personally understands that I am an introvert. You would think that speaking at a conference and my personality type would not match up but that could not be further from the truth. I thoroughly enjoy speaking to groups, sharing my knowledge and experiences, and participating in a good discussion. There is something energizing about speaking to a group and thus I am excited for the opportunity to do this again this year.

As I have for the past six or seven years, I will be presenting at the Midwest Education Technology Conference (METC) in St. Charles, MO. This is a wonderful conference to attend and the audiences are always receptive to what the presenters have to say. Looking at the sessions for this year, I am excited to attend many sessions and continue my learning journey. I assume most of the conference participants are excited too. They are excited because as fellow users of technology, they see the value that integrating technology has on student learning. As much as having a receptive and supportive audience is great, that is also the problem with technology conferences. We have a large segment of our teachers who are not attending and not hearing our message of technology integration. These teachers could really benefit from attending a conference that is out of their comfort zone. So when I am presenting at METC, am I preaching to the choir? How do we get some new participants to these conferences? How do we share all the ideas, conversations, and resources from the conference to those not attending?

With these questions in mind, I did something different this year. I sent a proposal to a non-technology conference and it was accepted. In March, I will be presenting at the Show-Me Staff Development Conference in Columbia, Missouri. My session is title "Non-Traditional Staff Development in the Digital World". I will be talking with teachers and staff developers about building a PLN through online resources and curating these resources for individualized professional development. I am pretty sure that my session will be different than most of the other sessions, and it is my hope that I can provide a fresh perspective to a new audience. By presenting in a different setting to a different crowd, I will not be preaching to the choir. It is my goal that some of my participants will start their online learning journey after leaving my session. This is my chance to spread the word to a new audience!

This infographic shows how educators are using social media and the work that needs to be done in this area. With this in mind, I find it important to spread the word about the value of technology integration for classroom and professional learning. Presenting at different conferences and bringing new participants to technology conferences is just the beginning. Let's reach out to a new audience and provide a new voice.

What strategies can we use to reach our teaching staff?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Easy Exit Slip Assessment Using Technology

As all of us in the education world know, assessment of student learning is all the buzz. Standardized testing, benchmark testing, and the list goes on and on. For teachers, these types of tests may not contain the data and information they need to make the day to day instructional decisions. The formative assessments that are teacher created seem to have more valuable and immediate impact. One of these formative assessments is the exit slip. For years, teachers have been effectively using exit slips to monitor student learning. They are quick, easy and to the point. The problem with exit slips is the ability to quickly see data trends and to track the results over multiple exit slips. Technology resources can make the exit slip ever more powerful and effective than it is already. In my opinion, the two easiest ways to incorporate technology for exit slips is to use a Google Form or Socrative. After some thought, here is my suggestion on how to use these two resources in the easiest way possible.

Google Form
The first step is to create a generic Google Form. Once you have created a generic form, post a link to it or embed it on your website. Here is an example.

When creating my generic exit slip, the first question asked for the student's name. The other four questions are all text response boxes. By using text response boxes, I can use any type of question. Students can answer with a letter, number, sentence, paragraph, etc. This gives me the freedom to ask any type of question on my exit assessment. By making one generic form, I can use it over and over again.

But how can I use this if my classroom is not a 1:1 environment? Because the form is simply a place to enter the answers, students could answer the questions in a notebook and then transfer their answers to the form when they are done. Students can also enter their answers on their phones (if allowed) or from home because this exit slip is online.

When the students submit their answers, all of the data is collected in a spreadsheet. With all of the answers organized together, the teacher can quickly analyze the data and see if the students understood the concept. Teachers can also quickly see which students need further assistance. When teachers are finished with the data, they can erase it and reuse the form. The data can also be exported Excel if the teacher wants keep the data for further use. By not having to create new forms every time, hopefully this will save teachers time!

Exit slip data feeds into a Google spreadsheet

Another option for using technology to administer exit slip assessments is Socrative. This free, online resource allows teachers to administer assessments through a web interface or with the Socrative student app. After setting up your free account, create a generic exit slip assessment just like in the example above. With Socrative, the first question (the student's name) is automatically created. The teacher needs to only create the generic short answer questions. Once created, this same assessment can be used over and over again saving teachers time!

When it is time to administer the exit slip assessment, the teacher will log into Socrative via the web or through the teacher app. In the quiz based activites section, the teacher will select "Start a Quiz". Socrative does have an exit ticket created but you cannot edit this quiz so I suggest making your own.

Click Start Quiz
After clicking "Start Quiz", select the quiz you would like and then administer it as a student paced quiz. Your exit slip assessment is ready to go.

Students will go to Socrative via the web or the student app. The students will be prompted to enter a room number. When your teacher account is created, you are given one room number that is used for all assessments given with Socrative. Students will now enter the answers to their exit slip assessment. When finished with a question, the students click submit and then will be moved onto the next question.

Socrative student interface
After answering all the questions, students select finish quiz. If students are sharing computers, they can click "Let another student take the quiz". This feature is good for classrooms that are not a 1:1 environment.

Completed Assessment
Once the assessment is completed, the teacher can close the quiz and have the results emailed to them or the results can be downloaded into Excel immediately. Teachers can quickly analyze the data for trends and  to see which students need further instruction.

Both of these resources could make using exit slips and analyzing the data easier for teachers. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

It's Time to Connect

The theme of connecting has been prominent in my work recently. As a district, we rolled out Microsoft Lync to all staff. With Lync, staff are able to connect and collaborate with voice, video, chat, and desktop sharing. As I began meeting with teachers about using Lync, some interesting conversations began to happen.  Ideas for collaborating and connecting classrooms were stretching people's thinking. I look forward to see how Lync will be used to connect in my district.

Yesterday, I participated in a great #edchat about grading and report cards. This is a topic that is being discussed in my district now so the timing could not have been better. It was great to have a Twitter discussion and get viewpoints of others outside of my district. Fresh perspectives and new connections add to my knowledge and thinking.

Last night, I conducted a Personal Learning Networks session. This was the first time that this topic has been formally presented in an official district workshop. Being connected is something I find so important to my work and I only hope I was able to deliver the message about being a connected educator.

All of this has me thinking about how connected or unconnected we are in my district. How do I deliver the message that being connected adds to professional growth? It seems that taking the first step is we are stepping off a cliff into thin air. There is the fear of failure and the unknown. How do we help educators take that first step into the connected world?

For that answer, I will go to my connected world.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Student Goal Setting and Data Tracking with Excel

Last week, I attended a PLC academy in my district. The focus of this day was how do we know when students have learned. So naturally, the discussion was around the topic of assessment. There were many good assessment discussions happening...formative vs. summative, exit slips, etc. As the day was winding down, the discussion moved to how students can play a bigger role and take more responsibility for their learning. Students should be setting their own learning goals based on assessment data but how can they do this?

One of my schools created a drawing of how they would like students to track their assessment scores in math. Their ideas was to break the assessment into the 6 focus areas and have the students record how they did in each focus area. From there, the students could write goals based on their data. I suggested that Excel to track and display the data. Within Excel, I think two different methods could be successful.

The first method is to setup a table and graph ahead of time in Excel. The students would each have their own copy of this file. After each assessment, the students can enter their scores into the table. The graph will automatically update (when creating the graph, I highlighted all the cell in the chart and this is how it automatically updates) and the students can see their progress in each area. From there, students can write their goals based on real data.

Using Excel to Graph Data

The other method is to use color coding and not use a graph. In this example, I setup three categories for the color (0% = red, 50%= yellow, 100%= green). The students would enter their scores and the cells would automatically turn to the appropriate color. If a score was not one of the three listed above, then the cell would be a shade of the closest color (75% turns the cell into a lighter shade of green). After entering scores, students could see which areas are in the red and yellow and write their goals accordingly.

Using Color Coding in Excel
No matter how you are tracking data, get the students involved. Students will become more invested in the process and that should hopefully lead to more learning and achievement. This is just one strategy teachers can use to get students more actively engaged in their learning.

Here is a link to the Excel spreadsheet. Hope you find it helpful.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Electronic Writing Portfolios with Evernote and IPEVO

Everyday, I find myself bookmarking sites and reading tweets, blog posts, etc. about great uses of technology in the classroom. One of the areas I have been paying close attention to is the use of Evernote in the classroom. Evernote and its integration with the IPEVO document camera makes it a powerful combination to be used as an electronic writing portfolio. So how would that work?

First, you would setup individual notebooks for each student in Evernote. To do this, click File and then New Notebook. By setting up a notebook for each student, teachers can share each individual notebook with parents. This makes for great home communication. To share a notebook, right click on the notebook and choose Share Notebook.

Share a Notebook

From there, you can invite parents to view the notebook via email or you choose to make a public link. That link could then be sent to the parents. As you continue to update the portfolio, parents can use the same link to view their child's portfolio. Students could also see their portfolio and look at how they have grown as a writer throughout the year.

Invite viewers or create public link

Once the notebooks are setup in Evernote, it is now time to start adding student work to the electronic portfolio. Images can be captured and inserted into notes within Evernote in a multitude of ways. If you have an IPEVO document camera (for around $70 it is a great deal), then this process is simple because Evernote  integrates into the P2V software that comes with the IPEVO document camera.

Here is how it works:

When in the IPEVO software, you click on the Evernote tab and sign into your Evernote account. Once signed in, you click "Take a snapshot".

Then, snap your picture(s).

Finally, give your note a title, choose the notebook you want to put it in, and click Send to Evernote. You can take multiple pictures and then attach them all to a note.

The IPEVO and Evernote integration makes the process of creating a digital portfolio so much easier. Try it out and let me know what you think!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Creating Infographics in the Elementary Classroom

Infographics are a great way to display information and corresponding data. Ever since seeing a presentation by Kathy Schrock at METC last year, I have been eager to learn more about infographics and how they could be incorporated into the classroom. Creating a quality infographic is a higher order thinking activity. Students have to collect data, research and find corresponding data, bring together these data sources and combine them into one visually appealing infographic. This synthesizing of information makes infographics a high-quality assessment for students.

Being more comfortable with infographics, I started to work on how I could integrate this into the elementary classroom. Infographics could be incorporated into math class when working on graphing, science class when students are reporting data from an experiment, or in any other subject where a lot of data or knowledge needs to be condensed into just the essentials. All of these tasks fit into the elementary classroom curriculum.

With curriculular ties in place, I then started to look for the best programs to use. After looking at online resources such as Piktochart, I actually think Microsoft Publisher and SMART Notebook 11 are great programs for elementary students to use when creating infographics because...

  • They already know how to use them so there is no technology learning curve (this is the case in many of my buildings)
  • each program can export out to image files
  • graphs can be copy and pasted from Excel with ease
  • each program allows students to move and insert objects anywhere on the page
  • both programs have their own clip art to use in addition to images from the web.

Here is a short demonstration for using Microsoft Publisher to create infographics.

Here is a short demonstration for using SMART Notebook 11 to create an infographic.

Infographics seem to be everywhere so it is time to see them in the classroom as well. The benefits of being able to research and collect information and then turn it into an informational graphic, provides students with a real world, higher order thinking task. Give it a try in your classroom today!

Monday, October 15, 2012

From the Golf Course to the Classroom: A Simple Reflection

This past weekend, I had a real learning experience. In the course of 3 days, I played 5 rounds of golf while away on a golf weekend. Golf is a passion of mine and is always a learning experience. This was my first golf weekend and was the most golf I have played in such a short period of time. As I play golf, I am always learning lessons that can be applied to life (and education).

Lesson #1 - Creativity can overcome any obstacle.
Throughout the weekend, I found my golf ball behind a tree, in a bunker where a bad shot would lead to a water ball, and much more. A normal shot just would not do, so I had to be creative by hitting a hooking shot or using my putter out of a bunker (yes that actually happened). The course provides many obstacles but the goal is the same...get the ball in the hole. In education, things are the same way. Students are going to have difficulties and situations that are going to get in their way. They need to learn how to creatively solve their problems so they can reach their goal. The path they take to learning might not be the planned route because certain obstacles just might be in their way. We need to encourage our students to solve their problems by thinking outside the box while seeing the end goal.

Lesson #2 - Failure is going to happen, embrace it and learn from it.
My golfing skills are average at best. I know that I will have some good holes and then I will have some really bad holes too. I embrace the fact that I am going to fail on the golf course. But to improve, I have to embrace my failures and learn from them. By learning from them, I can hope to not make the same mistake twice. This will lead to more success in the future. Learning is the same way. We need to prepare our students for failure, how to cope with it, and how to grow from it. With lessons learned from failure, students can apply this to their future learning and ultimately be more successful. If we do not teach our students how to deal with adversity and failure, we are depriving them of a valuable life lesson.

Lesson #3 - Acknowledge your surroundings and adapt to them for success.
This weekend, golf was played in sunny conditions, in a heavy rain storm, 45 mph winds, and everything in between. We had no control over the elements and so we adjusted to them. If you did not adjust to what was happening around you, you were doomed to not play as well. In education, students deal with different surroundings everyday. Every classroom has a different feel to it, different routines, different peers. To be successful, students need to make subtle adjustments to be successful. The skill of flexibility is something that students need to have for success.

I could go on and on because golf has so many connections to learning and life, so let's get to the is a passion of mine. When you have a passionate about something, you could talk about the subject all day. In the classroom, every subject is not going to be a passion for all students. To make those subjects more interesting, we need to find those connections between our students' passions and the content being learned. Those connections can lead to greater understanding and hopefully more student learning/achievement.

Find those connections today and foster that environment into your classroom. Pretty soon your students might start making connects between their passions and their learning just like I have done with golf and education.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Heart of Tech Integration

Last week was eye opening, enlightening, and thought provoking for me. It all started at a district level technology committee meeting. Our Superintendent came to speak to the committee about his vision for technology usage in our district. There were things that I could not believe I was a good way. To hear the words "game based learning" come from the number one in your district was shocking...again in a good way. Game based learning seems like a forward thinking concept and not something that is mainstream. But to me, this was something minor. It was everything that followed that got my attention.

He then talked about BYOD and all the possibilities it represented. Again, this was great to hear district leaders talk about this but it was not the highlight for me. I became excited when all these buzz words and hot topics came together to talk about student learning. When talking about devices, game based learning, connectedness, etc., he showed that he understood our students and the world in which they live. This world of information at your fingertips and the possibilities of unlimited connections is where our students thrive and where we need to take instruction.

So in the tech committee meeting where we could just strictly talk about the technology, the discussion was brought right back to student learning. That is the heart of technology integration. All of the technology components are important but none are more important than the product of student learning. Student learning should always be the focus with technology just being a component.

I am excited to see where this will go in my district. You beat the drum and keep pushing for change but it takes buy in from the top. It looks like it could be there and I hope we are all ready for some positive change.

I think this video that was shown at the meeting sums things up pretty well.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Blog Posting (weekly)

  • tags: notes notetaking evernote bookmarking

  • tags: games language

  • tags: social studies socialstudies

    • Shows us how we compare to the rest of the world. - post by Clayton Theleman
    • This was an interesting video! It really surprised me what percentages of the world are poor, illiterate and malnourished. - post by Greta
    • This shows the distribution of people on earth and the shocking econmonical gap. - post by Anthony Doouglas
    • I think that this is an interesting video, and it appeals really well to everyones emotions with the pictures, and the music - post by Kelsey
    • A great video that goes over many of the Principles Dr. Wesch has talked about in class. A good source of inspiration as we create our own miniature earth. - post by Nick Timmons
    • A breakdown of what the earth would look like if the population were reduced to 100 people, all while keeping the relative proportions the same as they would be as reported at the start of this century. - post by Matt Warren
    • This video puts life in the US in perspective. - post by Will Richardson
    • Shows what the world would be like if its population was reduced to 100 people. - post by Doug Belshaw
    • miscellaneous source 2 - post by Alisa
    • This website shows a video that demonstrates what the Earth's population would be like if it were reduced to a hundred people, keeping statistical proportions correct.
      While some statistics are purely demographic, others depict the state of literacy, poverty, health and living conditions. For instance, it is shocking that "If you sleep on a bed, keep your clothes in a closet, have electric light, and have a roof over your head, you are richer than 75 of the other people."  Also, just over a dozen people would own a computer and only two or three would have internet. Incredible, but true, the statistics are enhanced with striking images. 
      While this website has a lot of emotional appeal, there facts of it are credible and have an even more profound effect on viewers like myself.  The emotional sympathy for poverty-stricken populations generates income in donations to the site and purchases of the downloadable video, and the money is used to fund the site and small public projects. For me, however, watching the video graphically demonstrated the need to improve living conditions in many paces around the world, as well as the previously assumed, but now obvious, relationship between lack of housing, lack of education, poor health, and financial need.

      - post by Alisa
    • nice avp, like the concept, but a litte weak - post by bvalshaiv
    • Nice way to start a conversation with kids, though. I think it makes a good springboard for introducing globalization. - post by Beth Cullinan
  • tags: common core assessment ipad

  • tags: text

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Let's Get Real About Assessment...and Technology

Before we begin, let me first say that I am not an assessment expert. There are many people who could talk circles around me when it comes to assessment. But I have witnessed many different assessment practices, have been involved in many assessment conversations, and have been through my share of assessment for learning training. These experiences and my own teaching experiences have shaped my opinions on assessment.

For the past two days, I was involved in vendor presentations for assessment systems. These companies, which will remain nameless, all showcased systems that did essentially the same thing. Each system gave us way to test students and get data back on a variety of standards. Some of the technology that was on display was simply awesome! From the easy to use interfaces, to the types of multimedia questions that could be used, to the tracking abilities, and to the types of input devices that could be used, these systems showcased some great assessment technology! As a tech guy, you would think this would be all great but it was not. 

Seeing all the technology and what it could do, just made me reflect on where we are now in terms of assessment. If a system like these are going to succeed, there are going to be changes that have to occur in our everyday practices.

1. Standards replacing letter grades - With assessment systems, the greatest strength is the ability to tie questions to standards. From this, teachers can get the data to see if students are meeting the standards. From this data, teachers can adjust their instruction and truly differentiate to meet the needs of their students. Notice that I have not talked about a percentage or a letter grade. Unfortunately, we still need grades for that grade book so a letter grade can be given at the end of the quarter. Are we ready to make the jump to standards based learning and reporting or will we not take advantage of a new assessment system and just use it to grade tests for us?

2. Teachers as data analysts - When I started teaching, the only data I remember having is the yearly standardized test data. I had my grades from my grade book and my observations, but I did not have the capability to easily collect target data on my students. Now with an assessment system, teachers have assess to tons of reports. To make the most of this system, teachers will need to learn how to pick the best report and interpret the data. These are new roles and we know that change does not come easy. It is a change in practice and an additional responsibility. How are we going to make this work?

3. Teachers as assessment experts - It made me smile during these meetings when I heard some other teachers talking about assessment practices after seeing the presentations. By seeing the possibilities, it caused the participants to reflect on their current assessment practices. I was hearing discussions on formative and summative assessments, what types of assessments were best to be used with an assessment system, etc. With greater assessment and data analysis tools, we as teachers need to become assessment experts to take advantage of the system to get the right data. It is now not good enough to be instructional experts, we need to be assessment experts too.

When it comes down to it, any system we choose is only going to be as good as our assessment practices allow it to be. Are we willing to change and step out of our comfort zone? 

Just like anything else, the technology can be great but it is all in the application. I am excited by the possibilities!


Monday, September 17, 2012

Class Dojo for Report Card Data

I have been hearing more and more about Class Dojo so I figured it was time to take a deeper look at this program. As a classroom management tool, it does a good job of keeping track of positive and negative behaviors. With the accompanying app, you don't have to be tethered to your laptop or interactive whiteboard to track behavior. I can remember many times where I was working with a small group and I had to correct behaviors of other students working independently. With the app, I can quickly record the positive and negative behaviors and get back to teaching my small group.

I have seen teachers apply several strategies when using Class Dojo. Some teachers only give points for positive behaviors and do not record the negative behaviors. They want to focus on the positive. Others give only negative because that is the data they are tracking. Some teachers reset the points after a week so everyone gets a fresh start. Most teachers I have seen do not take advantage of the student and parent connections that are offered through the program. They simply want the data to be their own. No matter how it is used, Class Dojo is a great data collection tool for behavior.

So let's go back to the title of this post...How can Class Dojo be used for report card data?

Here is a sample of a 4th grade report card:

I always struggled with filling in this portion of the report card. With every other section, I had grades as my proof or justification of the grade.For behavior, I usually had to go with my overall thought without any data to back it up. With Class Dojo, I can customize the behaviors to match my report card. This strategy allows me to track data that I can use when filling out the report card.

Here are some screenshots that show how this would look in the Class Dojo web version (left) and the Class Dojo app (right).

Notice that when you are using the app, it does not display long titles. This is something to consider if you are going to use your smartphone to track behavior with Class Dojo. I would recommend using keywords that will display no matter which version you use.

The other strategy I would use is to make the positive and negative behavior titles the same. So in my example, I would input the report card behavior indicators in for both positive and negative behaviors. In this way, my data is aligned to what is reported at the end of the quarter.

I definitely recommend that you check out Class Dojo. Besides the ability to track behavior, Class Dojo is easy to use, has a great interface, and enough reporting features to make it worthwhile.

It is technology that actually works!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Reflections on this week's #edchat

This week was one of those of those weeks that I carved time out of my schedule to participate in #edchat. I kick myself for not doing this every week because when I do, I always come away energized with great ideas. But the question can I take that energy and channel it into real change and progress in my job. As an Instructional Technology Specialist in my district, I have the ability to touch many classrooms.

So how am I going to take the great ideas from this week's #edchat and bring it to my schools.

1. Encourage my teachers to allow their students to be active goal setters.

By allowing students to set and monitor their own goals, the students become more invested in their learning. You are giving them a say and transferring some ownership to them. Goals can be tracked on paper or on a spreadsheet. I like the spreadsheet because progress can be graphed in an easier to see format for the students.

2. Encourage and demonstrate to my teachers how to integrate students' passions into their curriculum.

Students are passionate about things that may or may not fit into the curriculum. When students are passionate about something, they are going to put more effort into that area. Why not tap into those passions? When students are doing writing assignments, allow them to write on a subject matter that is of interest to them...not a topic that is assigned to them. When students are reading independently, allow them greater choice in books. Even when focusing on a specific genre, students can find subject matter that is more interesting to them.

One item I am working on with a 5th grade teacher this year is to build in "passion time" into each week. During their centers, one of the choices is going to be an independent project that will be ongoing and on the subject matter of their choice. The teacher will embed some 21st century skill mini lessons into this time to help the students be more successful and work on these important skill too. I am excited to see how this goes this year.

3. Encourage my teachers to share their passions with their students.

Opening up to your students about your outside interests helps build connections and community. Students feel more at ease and makes the teacher seem more like them. Students will make connections to you and feel more invested into the classroom. Student investment = greater engagement!

I am going to carry the momentum of #edchat forward this week.

How are you going to do the same?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Do We Need Teachers?

The world is changing, kids are changing, schools are inevitably changing too. Technological innovations are commonplace, one after the other. So much learning is available online and through learning systems created by billion dollar corporations. Through all this change, we still have the teacher in the classroom helping students reach their potential. There seems to be a fear that technology will displace teachers for the classroom as budgets shrink. With all this change, is the teacher still needed? After an experience today, I am happy to say YES!

Today I was facilitating a web conferenced math class with 5th grade students connecting to a middle school pre algrebra class. The students could see and hear the teacher through a web camera, see the writing on the SMARTBoard, and could participate through an IM chat and by talking through their microphone. The middle school students could see their 5th grade classmates on the SMARTBoard. So in essense, we had created a real classroom environment for these 5th graders.

All the technology made this experience possible but it would be nothing without the dedication of the teacher. Mr. Kennedy did a great job engaging his distance learners the best that he could without them being physically there and I think this will improve as both parties become more comfortable with the format.

But I still have this lingering question...would these students be better off with a teacher in their location? Every day when I walk into classrooms, I see teachers having those personal conversations that emotionally connect with students. I see the one on one help they provide when a student is struggling. The human connection just cannot be replaced by technology.

So for all my teacher friends who already started school, started school today, or will be starting in the future, THANK YOU for all that you do for our students. No matter what technological advances come in the future, nothing can replace the human connection you provide to our students.

Thank you and have a great school year!


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Bringing Ignite Home

As I followed ISTE 12 from home on Twitter (San Diego seemed so much nicer than 100 degree heat in Missouri), one of the items that got my attention was the Ignite presentations. This was something I had not seen before so when I was reading the tweets about how awesome these sessions were, I wanted to learn more. I like the idea of a fast paced 5 minute presentation with slides changing every 15 seconds. See the example below and go to the 20 minute mark to see an example Ignite presentation by Josh Stumpenhorst (@stumpteacher on twitter).

Want to see some more snippets from Ignite sessions and participant reaction, check out this video.

Of all the things I was learning from ISTE 12 via Twitter, the Ignite presentations were front and center in my mind. I wondered how this concept could be brought back home to the staff and students I work with, as well as other educators in my area.

Could this format be a good way to start a professional development session? - Doing a quick Ignite presentation could setup the learning for today, get my participants excited for the session, and could spark some conversation before we get started.

Could this format be used to get all my teachers that I work with interested in the possibilities of technology in their classroom? - Every year I send out an email to all five of my schools detailing how I could be a resource to them, what technology resources they have access to, etc. Maybe I can do a five minute presentation in the building or I could do the same thing with a video and picture-in-picture so I could do slides and show myself. A video is never as good as in person, but it would be an alternative if I could not get 5 minutes at an early year staff meeting.

Could this format be used by students? - If students were presenting individually or in groups, this format could give them structure and keep their presentations from being stagnant. Students would also have to think critically about what images they need and how it will correspond to their speaking parts.

I like the possibilities but I would to hear what you think. Do you have any other ideas for how the Ignite style presentations could be used? Please leave a comment or contact me on twitter @itechbob 

Friday, June 15, 2012

PLN Video Series: Twitter Hashtags

For this upcoming school year, the Instructional Technology department in my district will be offering the first official training session/workshop on personal learning networks. I am super excited that we are doing this and I look forward to teaching this workshop in the fall. In preparation for this, I am working on creating a set of videos that could be used before, during, and/or after our session. The first video I created was on using Twitter hashtags. Check it out below and give me your feedback so I can improve it before the fall.

I have to thank the members of my PLN for giving me the knowledge to bring PLNs to my district. Everything we are sharing (Twitter, Google Reader, Pinterest, Classroom 2.0, and Educator's PLN)  and teaching others is possible because of the learning I receive from my PLN.

This is technology that actually works!

I would your feedback, so please leave a comment or contact me on twitter @itechbob . 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

PBL: Tech Tools for Survey Data Collection

This summer, I will be teaching a district workshop titled "Designing Technology Infused Project-Based Learning Experience in the Classroom". In this workshop, we put our focus on project based learning and supplement this with technology tools that can help the PBL experience for teachers and students. When looking at the technology tools, one classification of tools is "Survey Tools". Surveys are great for collecting data that can provide real world feedback in a PBL lesson/unit. These are several tools that we intend to highlight.

Survey Tools
1. Microsoft SharePoint - If your district uses Microsoft SharePoint, you may have the ability to use the survey tool. The great asset to using an in-house resource is that you have all the data stored internally. This is great from a security standpoint. The downside is that people outside your active directory cannot take the survey.

2. Google Docs - I think this is the best survey tool that you can use. Anyone can access the survey (using a Google Form) and the results are put into a spreadsheet for you. The creation of a Google form is so simple too.

Just open up and click the create button (You must be signed into your Google Account). Choose "Form" from the drop down menu.

Develop your questions and type them in. You can use a variety of question types such as multiple choice, open response, short text answers, etc. Initially, you have space for two questions. To add more, click the "Add Item" button in the upper left corner. When you are finished, the link at the bottom of the form can be added as a link to a website, to post on a social media site, or email. There is the ability to embed on a web page too.

Information collected from the form feeds directly into a spreadsheet in your Google Doc. 

3. There are also several free survey tools that we will be showing. Both are very similar and give you limited features and survey participants for free. They are free and easy to setup but they do come with some limitations, but will probably be good enough for most applications. 

I am looking forward to teaching this workshop and exploring more tools that can infused in Project-based learning. This is technology that actually works!

If you have additional resources to share or have questions, leave a comment or contact me on twitter @itechbob

Friday, May 25, 2012

Are we pulling the plug on creativity?

As the school year has come to an end, it is the time to reflect on the year. As I was reflecting, one question keeps popping into my mind...Are we pulling the plug on creativity? This question is fresh in my mind after I was fortunate enough to help with an Innovation Day.

Last week, I was fortunate enough to help one of my teachers, Mr. Sinden, with his first Innovation Day. During this Innovation Day, these 5th grade students had the opportunity to choose their topic of study for the day. For several days, Mr. Sinden had prepped his students for this day, conferenced with them, and provided the necessary support needed for this day to be a success.

When I walked into Mr. Sinden's room during the Innovation Day, all the students were hard at work. Students were doing research, creating products, testing paper airplane designs, and just working hard. It was good to see students embracing the concept and to see them working hard at the end of the school year. Unfortunately, I was only able to stay for about the first hour or so. When I left, students were continuing their work and would be presenting it to the class. I was excited to hear about the rest of the day.

Two days later, I had the opportunity to sit and debrief this activity with Mr. Sinden. These debriefing moments seem to never happen and the conversations that follow never materialize. I was happy we were sitting down and discussing the day. This is when I was in for a bit of a surprise. When I left the classroom, the students were working hard and they continued to do so all day. Unfortunately, the end of day presentations we generally not that good. I was really disappointed but eager to talk through this Innovation Day.

After some discussion, we came up with some key areas to focus our attention on in the future.
1. The openness of the task caused issues - As we started talking, we came to the conclusion that many students had a hard time knowing where to start. Never before had they been given this much freedom. These students had almost become programmed to follow the direction of the teacher and to never think about how to approach an open ended task. Choosing a topic and then deciding what to do with that topic was an issue. Most students fell into the trap of research and report back. There was very little extension/application of the learning.

My Takeaway - We need to provide students more opportunities to lead their own learning. Every teacher has to cover curriculum, but can we find ways to allow students choice within that curriculum? If we don't do this, how will students learn to be self starters? We also need to help students take their research and apply it to real world situations.

2. The presentation of the day's learning was uninspiring - This was the biggest issue that Mr. Sinden talked about with the Innovation Day project. Mostly, students did a PowerPoint or just got up and talked in front of the class. It was disappointing that there was not more creativity and more variety in the presentations.

My Takeaway - We need to provide students with more examples of showing/sharing knowledge. Modeling a variety of methods to show learning would help students expand their repertoire. By having a variety of experiences, students may find comfort in several ways to show learning. Giving students choice when creating final products could provide students greater opportunities to be creative and show learning in their preferred method.

So are we pulling the plug on creativity and draining the creative energy from our students? What can we do to keep the creative spirit alive in school? These are questions I will ponder this summer and come back refreshed and ready for next year.

Please share your thoughts/comments below or let's discuss on twitter @itechbob. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

SMART Notebook 11 - Implications for the Classroom

By now many people have downloaded SMART Notebook 11 and posted their personal reviews. I don't want to be redundant, so I am taking a different approach to my review of SMART Notebook 11. Let's take a look at how some of the new features can be applied to your teaching and your students' learning.

The Updated Toolbar

To me, this is the single best improvement in SMART Notebook 11. In previous versions, changing pen colors and line styles was cumbersome. With the new toolbar, all of your options are available when you need them and you don't have to click on another icon. This ease of use has great implications for students. Students will find it easier to create infographics, images, and diagrams on their own. SMART Notebook is such a versatile program to begin with and these ease of use improvements only makes it a better user experience. Even the youngest students should be able to change colors and line styles with ease. I expect to see better looking student products with SMART Notebook 11.

Audio Recorder

Being able to record directly in SMART Notebook takes care of a serious flaw in the previous versions of Notebook. Adding audio interactivity required another program and more file management since you were linking to audio files. In short, not many teachers used linked sound. Now, the ability to record is there and the possibilities for using audio in Notebook lessons can be fully utilized. Teachers could use sound in their SMART Notebook lessons to:
- give directions for a SMARTBoard center activity
- use to provide audio feedback when an answer is selected
- record student narrations for group projects using notebook
- create lessons for a substitute to use that includes your voice for directions and explanations of concepts

Download this example to see some of these examples in action.

Reset Page

I think this could be a forgotten feature of SMART Notebook 11 but it can make SMARTBoard centers work more efficiently. When students are doing a sorting activity with a variety of images or any activity that requires them to mark up pages, it becomes a bigger task to get it ready for the next center group. Now, the students could simply choose Edit and then Reset page. This could always be the last step before leaving a center. No matter how many pages the students have marked up, the lesson can be reset for next group with ease, saving you valuable transition time that can be used for instruction.

                                                 Before Page Reset                                  After Page Reset

By no means is this all that the new Notebook offers, but these features really stood out to me. These tools can be integrated into the classroom with ease and can make using Notebook and the SMARTBoard more efficient. I look forward to the great ideas my teachers will come up with for their classroom.

I am sure this is not the last post for me about SMART Notebook 11. But until then, this is technology that actually works!

Please comment below to share ideas and other uses of these features and many more.