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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Transforming Learning Through Student Content Creation

This week I am hosting some guest bloggers. This is a guest post from Adam Schoenbart.

Students must create. That’s my big epiphany this year. Learning is better, more fun, and more memorable when you make something that lasts.

I used to spend hours carefully grading and commenting on student work, only to have my feedback lost in the black hole of their backpacks. Sure, my students left class with new learning and skills, but my comments were left crumpled and ignored, and my assessments lost meaning. In the past two years, a lot has changed in my classroom because I realized the transformative power of Google Apps for Education. With Google Communities, students could now participate in conversations that extended beyond the classroom and period. Classes could research, share, write, and revise seamlessly. Students’ learning was in their own hands; instead of the Jedi master instructing young padawans, we learned together.

I thought this would solve my earlier woes, but somehow Google Drive’s organization didn’t work for some students. Instead of losing the work in their backpacks, they misplaced untitled documents, ignored online comments, or even worse, moved files to Trash. I knew I had a problem that technology alone couldn’t solve. Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.” I knew I had do better to engage students in the process of learning and make the products matter, in and out of my classroom.

Inspired by ideas like project based learning and #20Time, I decided to take a stand against “Google-able questions.” Instead of students only finding information and curating content, they needed to create the learning for themselves. Our students live in a world of Web 2.0, social media, and content creation, and I needed to bring this into their learning.

And together, we did. Halfway through this school year, I explained that we will no longer produce work that is forgettable and can be left in a backpack. Instead, we will create content that we can be proud of, will remember, and will help each other learn. I wanted to push students to develop more meaningful and diverse skills to prepare them for their futures by creating work that matters to them. To do this, we needed to produce for an audience; all learning was now public to the world. Suddenly, the learning was visible, the technology was more purposeful and complex, and class was more fun. Students’ work wasn’t hidden in their notebooks, but shared, produced, and even live-streamed, like the argument videos below.



It was a big and challenging shift at first. I gave my students self-directed time and freedom to play with and practice a variety a Web 2.0 tools, which they used to present a synthesis argument assignment. Then, they applied these skills to book review projects, creating audio or visual book reviews and trailers. I had more fun watching these than anything else this year. Find all of the results here with some highlights in Yoo Shin’s infographic, Elliot’s EMaze, and Gabby’s Divergent trailer (below), which made me laugh.


In my classroom, creation is the future. Students are learning more, developing new skills, and having more fun. It also forced me to step back and put the trust in my students’ hands. And so far, most rose to the challenge. As we end the school year, students are wrapping up #20Time Projects, which I hope will celebrate the success of student choice, voice, and creation. Reflecting back, I look towards summer with pride, hope, and excitement for the positive impact that creation has brought to my students’ learning. And I can’t wait to do better next year.

Adam Schoenbart is a high school English teacher, Google Education Trainer, and EdD candidate in Educational Leadership. He teaches grades 10-12 in a 1:1 Chromebook classroom at Ossining High School in Westchester County, NY. His work and teaching focuses on best practices of educational technology for active student-centered learning and engagement. Adam received the 2014 LHRIC Teacher Pioneer Award and is a frequent conference presenter in the NY/NJ area. He is the co-creator of the crowdsourced #edtech events calendar, EdTechCalNYNJ, and he blogs about his work and teaching at The SchoenBlog. Connect with Adam on Twitter @MrSchoenbart to continue the conversation.

Teaching Mathematics With a Surface Pro Tablet

This week I am hosting some guest bloggers. This is a guest post from Bryan Davis.

For the last 6 years I have done all of my teaching on a tablet Windows PC. I have really liked using the tool for these reasons. I can have a digital copy of all of my lessons sync to all of my computers and be instantly searchable. Since my lesson was already digital I could easily upload it to my website. I could use any computer program (graphing utilities, geometric or algebraic drawing utilities, Excel, and more) in my lesson seamlessly.

But up until last year there was a drawback. I could never leave my podium for a couple of reasons. First, the computer did not have a way to wirelessly stream the video output to the projector. Also, the computer was not small enough to just pick up and walk around with using only one hand.

One of the best things about technology is how the tools we use are constantly changing. Last year I updated my school computer to a Surface Pro 2. The portability of this computer is incredible! I was inspired to look into ways of untethering myself from my podium. I originally used the software program AirParrot to send the video to my Apple TV. And while that solution was good, it was rather processor intensive and would drain the battery pretty quickly. Just recently I started using a Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter, which Windows 8 natively supports (the streaming stick uses the Miracast wireless streaming protocol). This setup has a much smaller drain on my battery which means more time away from my podium!

So now I walk around the classroom and have the ability to project anything I want on my screen. I use the camera to show student work directly from the desk of the student. I give my lesson from the front, middle and back of the class, sitting down anywhere to do my thing. I can quickly show any computer tool to help explain a concept. This tool has helped me be a better teacher.


Additional Resources:
Tablet PC List
Examples of Posted Lessons


About Bryan: I am a teacher of math, physics, and engineering at Healdsburg High School in beautiful Northern California. I have been teaching for 10 years. I have also had jobs as a software engineer and a test engineer. But my passion is education. I have really been trying to take elements of play and bring it into my classroom. Watch children play… they will try something, they might fail, but they fail safely. And then they try something else. And they will keep trying until they are successful. Isn’t that also what we want to see in our classrooms? I like to believe that this addition of play in my classroom is visible and making a difference for students.

Reaching Across Global Borders to Create with Technology!

This week I am hosting some guest bloggers. This is a guest post from Heidi Samuelson.

One of my goals this year was to integrate more technology into my second grade curriculum and reach beyond the walls of my classroom. I believe students need to learn how to engage and interact with technology, not just “play a game” on the computer. I want my students to become “global learners”.

One way we were able to accomplish this goal was to create eBooks to share with our families and other classes around the world. Using the BookCreator App, we combined art projects with research and writing about Laurel Burch to create an informational ebook. BookCreator is a wonderful app that makes creating professional looking eBooks simple and fun. Students took pictures of their art projects to upload into the BookCreator app. They were able to type and add color to the pages within the app to create engaging pages to share their learning. You can download a copy of our story in the iBook Store. BookCreator provides a free version of the app so you can try it out BEFORE you buy it which is always a bonus in my eyes!

Another project we participated in involved Collaborative Writing with Global Connections. We paired with Mrs. Ladd’s class (located in North Carolina) to collaborate and create a fractured fairy tale story using technology to connect the two classes! After each class spent some time studying the elements of fairy tale stories, students logged into Google Docs on their devices and began typing a story together to create a fractured fairy tale. With so many students typing at the same time, we quickly decided to add another element of collaboration into the mix and introduced the group to Voxer. Students were so excited to be “talking in real time” with their writing partners using Voxer. This app helped the group decide on characters, settings, and plot elements. As they took turns typing out their story, they were able to see what each student was writing and ask questions to help guide them in their story creation.

As Mrs. Ladd’s class dove into their testing schedule, I had the “authors” from my room, choose classmates to help them color backgrounds and make pictures to illustrate the story from the collaborative writing sessions. Using our TurboScan app, we were able to upload images of the art into BookCreator and design another ebook to share with our collaborative friends in North Carolina, families, and classes around the world. You can download one of our stories from the iTunes store today! Cinderella and the Big Bad Wolf, Little Red, and Goldilocks and the Three Pigs Plus the Big Bad Wolf.

Join Mrs. Ladd (@BevLadd) to see what collaborative projects you can help create on #2ndChat Twitter Chat for second grade teachers. Using Twitter as part of my PLN has helped me to achieve my goal of integrating more technology into my curriculum this year. I can’t wait to try some more projects in the future!

My name is Heidi Samuelson and it is a great pleasure to be guest blogging on Free Technology for Teachers today! I’m a second grade teacher in Tennessee who LOVES to integrate technology into my classroom and Richard’s blog has introduced me to TONS of resources!! You can read about some of my activities and techie ventures on my teaching blog: Mrs. Samuelson’s Swamp Frogs. Thanks for reading along with me today! I hope you’ll “hop” over to the Swamp and check out some more ways we use technology in the room! I also share activities on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!

Organizing Descriptive Feedback with Google Forms

This week I am hosting some guest bloggers. This is a guest post from Kim Pollishuke.

Providing quality descriptive feedback is a significant part of day-to-day assessment practice. It was only a few years ago when I wrote these comments by hand. When report card time came around, it was difficult to generate comments that reflected student improvement and achievement because once I handed back their work, I no longer had access to previously generated feedback.

Later, I began to type my feedback and print off copies for my students. This gave me a soft copy but I found it tedious jumping from one word document to another to find the right information for a report card comment.

This year I found the solution!

By creating a Google Form to record students’ descriptive feedback for each subject, every single comment is in one spreadsheet and I can simply sort the sheet or filter it by name to see only one child’s feedback. This is unbelievably helpful when generating strengths and next steps for report card comments.

This is a sample of a Google Form I fill out each time I give my students descriptive feedback in reading. I type comments in their assignment and then quickly copy and paste them into this form.

The data collected in the Google Form automatically filters into a Google Spreadsheet.
Click image to view full size.

NOTE: I do not give students a level each time I provide them with descriptive feedback but sometimes I appreciate seeing the level in my own notes for formative assessment purposes. I intentionally select the checkbox question type so that I can select more than one level to show a range of ability.

As I prepare to write my report cards, I simply sort the spreadsheet so all the feedback for each student is grouped together.



For step-by-step instructions, visit How To Organize Descriptive Feedback with Google Forms.

In this document, I also explain how you can filter the spreadsheet to only see one child’s feedback. This is ideal for parent-teacher conferences.

Below is a screencast that shows the process I go through using Google Forms to organize my students’ descriptive feedback.


TIP from the screencast: Go to the Chrome Store and add the Tab Resize and Tab Glue extensions. One click evenly splits your screen so you can copy comments and paste them into your forms easily. One more click puts the tabs back together. I love these extensions and my students love them too!

With a Google Form for each subject, you’ll still be visiting multiple spreadsheets though. You can make your life even easier by linking all the forms to different tabs in the same spreadsheet. Visit How to Link Descriptive Feedback Forms to One Master Spreadsheet for step-by-step instructions or you can watch the screencast below.


If you’d like a head start, visit Links to Make a Copy of Google Forms for Descriptive Feedback. Click on the links and you’ll be prompted to make a copy of the spreadsheet. Change the name of the spreadsheet. In the Form drop down menu, click on Edit form and you’ll have access to the Google Form. Adapt it as needed.

Before you know it, all of your descriptive feedback will be at your fingertips!

As an elementary teacher for the past 12 years in the York Region District School Board, Kim has found that using a wide range of technology has proven to be an exciting tool when working with all learners. She is a Certified Google Educator and an Authorized Google Education Trainer. She has led numerous workshops on the integration of GAFE, most recently at EdTech Team’s Ontario Summit featuring Google Apps for Education. She sincerely believes that the purposeful integration of technology is the key to increased student engagement and improved student achievement. Along with Trevor Krikst and Wahid Khan, Kim publishes the EdTech blog InquireandInspire.ca, an online hub exploring the vast potential in the nexus where technology and education converge. She can be reached at kpollishuke@gmail.com, @KimPollishuke and +KimPollishuke.