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Thursday, November 15, 2018

A Digital Differentiation Model

This week I am hosting some guest bloggers. This entry is from Danielle Lagnese.

Personalizing learning in my classroom four years ago was challenging. To say the least. Imagine eight red buckets from Dollar Tree filled with binder clipped packets of worksheets. We did the best we could, but humidity curled the papers beyond recognition. Activities were limited to what could fit on a piece of 8X11 white paper. Students were compliant, but the activities were antiquated even if my desire to reach each student where they were was genuine.

In 2015, we moved to having Chromebooks carts in each Social Studies Classroom and using Google Classroom districtwide. My ability to make differentiation manageable, rather than something that would overload me, changed overnight. I was faced with an opportunity to create a system that would reflect the pedagogy I believed in and serve my students without sacrificing my personal style. Creating “learning playlists” have improved ability to differentiate in a digital environment. They’ve given my students choice, voice, an opportunity to reflect on their learning, and an increased growth mindset. They’ve given me a chance to try out new tools, adapt my instruction anytime, and a refuge from red buckets of crumpled worksheets. I’m able to do all of this with Google Forms, Google Sheets, and Google Classroom.

My unit planning starts the creation of a playlist - here’s a PDF of the finish product. I consider which learning activities all students must do within this curriculum. The diversity of my students makes this a small number. Our students’ reading, writing, vocabulary, listening, and technology skills range widely and I want to move all students forward while meeting each exactly where they are. This is not a science and it’s something I hope to improve at every day.

The top part of the Google Sheet contains these required activities. I try to make it as visual as possible and I mix colors and images to help students use the sheet as independently as possible.

In the initial planning phase, I leave a few of these rows blank so that I can use formative assessments to make decision about what activities are necessary for all students as we move through the unit. This should be a living document that I can adjust at any time as I teach real humans whose capacities expand constantly.

The bottom part of the Google Sheet contains individual activities. This is a much larger area of real estate on the sheet, which reflects the percentage of activities are personalized in my 8th grade Social Studies class. This may look different in different subject areas and grade levels.

After I have created categories for the unit, I add individual activities. This can be extensive. One unit can have 15-20 activities in the individual section. The best way to “make it manageable” here is to collaborate with your departments or grade levels. Take advantage of the best resources around you - other educators.

Within each category, there may be different choices - leveled, specific skills, or choices for different interests:

The most important column in the individualized section is the materials section. This is where all the learning lives. Some links prompt students to make copies of activities, or link to directions, flipped videos, Google Forms, or other digital tools. I can pull students to a small group for extra practice at any time and they can track and reflect on that practice in this space.

I leave a spot below this blank canvas for students to write in their goal and the amount of points they’ve earned. I use a formula so the sheet works for kids to automatically track their progress. As we progress through the unit, my kids conference with me constantly. I give them feedback, they use evidence from their work to convince me how many “points” should be earned for each activity.

Goals are set on the first day of the unit using Google Form. Students answer questions like these to evaluate their strengths and calculate a points goal.

The final step is the “assessment conference” I have with students. Students run the conference. Here’s a script for how I model that. They tell me what activities they did, why they chose them, how they used the feedback the got, and why they deserve to have met their goal. If students didn’t meet their goal, we reflect on that together and come up with ways to meet them in the future. Using this method has made personalization manageable for me and I hope that it can help you too!

Danielle Lagnese is a middle school Social Studies teacher in East Windsor, NJ. She has presented at conferences around the state about digital differentiation and using technology to personalize learning. You can follow her @MissLagnese on Twitter.

BookSnaps, Passage Snaps, and a Flex-time PD Model

This week I am hosting some guest bloggers. This entry is from Jerry Schneider who shares a couple of good examples of using a "flex-time PD model."

In an effort to make professional development more flexible and adaptable to the needs of our teachers, our school district is trying something new. Teachers in our school district are able to earn PD hours during the school day that can be applied to the flex-time PD hours. For example, if a classroom teacher spends time planning a project with the library media specialist or instructional technology coach on ways to increase the level of rigor by integrating technology, the planning hours go toward the flex-time PD hours. We have dubbed this as “shoulder partner time” where we are sitting “shoulder to shoulder working together to reach a common good for our students.”

Other examples for flexible PD time include curriculum development with fellow teachers outside of the school day or learning about new web tools from the library media specialist or instructional technology coach during teacher prep periods. Those teachers that fulfill their PD flex-time obligation are able to take the scheduled PD off since they have fulfilled their PD hour requirements. The combination of credit for PD time and collaborative time to learn new software or develop new curriculum/lessons has meant teachers seek out the library media specialist and instructional technology coach often.

The shoulder partner time model helps our teachers who are constantly looking for ways to integrate current technology apps into their curriculum. In meeting with one of our Latin teachers, we discussed ways for students to use technology when evaluating a historical quotation. She decided to do a #PassageSnap adapted from Tara Martin’s “#BookSnaps with Seesaw.”


The concept was based on SnapChat, an app that takes any picture, video, or message you send to followers and makes them available to the receivers for only a short time before it becomes inaccessible. Users can mark up or annotate the message with text, drawing, emojis, images, filters, etc. Since SnapChat is often blocked in schools, Martin used Seesaw to create a #BookSnap, where students promote their books with those same enhancements available on SnapChat using Seesaw.

Instead of using Seesaw, I decided to try using Google Drawing for the #PassageSnap. Students were given a specific Latin quote, and the students were to use those same enhancements available on SnapChat on Google Drawing and Google Docs. The Latin teacher shared with the students through Google Classroom a Google Doc with the instructions and rubric for assessment. The students then added a page break and inserted a Google Drawing onto the Google Doc. They were to define different words of the Latin quote on Drawing using text, drawing, emojis, images, etc. When completed, the students were able to turn in the Google Doc using the Turn In feature of Google Classroom either in the Google Doc or in Google Classroom. The students went above and beyond the teacher’s expectations; she was in awe of the creativity and originality of the students. She said she will be doing this again in the near future. As educators, we need to allow our students to demonstrate their depth of understanding using student-created projects.

One of our freshmen English/Language Arts teacher came to me asking about a mapping tool where students could map out a journey. My suggestion was to use Google’s Tour Creator incorporating Google Street View. Tour Creator uses the Google Street View to drop pins (stops on a trip that shows the view from the street view in the past 1-5 years) along a planned route. The E/LA teacher wanted the students to create their own map of the stops of Odysseus from the novel The Odyssey. Along with views of the stops on the journey, students were able to record audio narration of the journey, using the PLD’s Voice Recorder, and upload to the location of the stop on the journey so students could hear about the significance of this particular stop. Students would then share the link to their tours with the teacher and the rest of the class. Many of the projects were extremely detailed and very well done. This is the fun part of my job...seeing what can students create when given the tools and the time to create something that shows what they know.

About Jerry
For the past three years, Jerry Schneider has worked between a high school and middle school in Fargo, North Dakota, as an instructional technology coach. Prior to that, he worked as the instructional technology coach at the high school level for five years full-time and one year split as a business education classroom teacher and instructional technology coach. 

For his first 17 years in education, Jerry was a business education/software applications teacher. He is a Google Certified Levels 1 and 2 Educator, earned Google Certified Trainer status, is a certified online instructor through Florida Virtual High School, and is an adjunct instructor at North Dakota State University where he teaches online Google Certified Levels 1 and 2 Educator courses. Jerry is a member of ISTE and the NDATL (North Dakota Association of Technology Leaders). As part of his Personal Learning Network (PLN) Jerry frequents Twitter, Google+ Communities, Spigot, Feedly, and Diigo as he feels it is important to stay up to date on new features in web tools, software, and hardware as well as finding and evaluating new products. He blogs at https://fnhtechnologycoach.edublogs.org and enjoys following technology companies, bloggers, administrators, and educators on Twitter https://twitter.com/FNH_Tech_Coach.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Free PD Webinar - Article a Day With ReadWorks

ReadWorks is a free service that I have been writing about for the last few years. It offers free reading lesson plans aligned to standards for all K-12 students. Tomorrow, at 4pm Eastern Time ReadWorks is offering a free webinar on how to use their Article a Day feature in your classroom. The webinar will cover ReadWorks' 10 minute daily routine for building background knowledge building important vocabulary, and building reading stamina. You can register for the webinar right here.

If you cannot make it to tomorrow's webinar, you can watch a recording of a previous webinar on the same topic. That recording is available here or as embedded below.

Article-A-Day Webinar 7.16 from ReadWorks on Vimeo.

CoRubrics - An Add-on to Facilitate Assessment Among Students

This week I am hosting guest posts. This one was authored by Jaume Feliu at the Salas i Xandri High School in Sant Quirze del Vallès, near Barcelona.

More and more rubrics are coming into the classroom for assessment. Rubrics are tools that encourage formative assessment, especially when students use them for self-assessment and peer assessment. But this co-evaluation can be a long and tedious process.

CoRubrics is a free add-on for Google Sheets, developed by a teacher. It is used to assess students (or groups of students) with a rubric and it also allows students to assess other students (co-evaluation).

First, teachers design the rubric they want to use in Google Sheets. Then they add the students' names and their email address (these can be imported from Google Classroom). Once this is done, the add-on will:
  • Create a Google Form with the contents of the rubric. 
  • Send the form to the students by email or simply provide the link to the teacher. 
  • Process the data once the form is filled out (by the students or by the teacher). 
  • Finally, send the results to the students (each student receives only his/her results) with a personalized comment.
The process is detailed below.

Once the add-on is installed, the add-on menu will guide you through the process.

The first step is to create the rubric template. Three sheets will be created where we will have to indicate the rubric, the students and the teachers’ names and emails. You can delete and add aspects and levels.





From here the process is really fast. Using the Corubrics menu the rubric form is created.



Students answer the form with their mobile phone or with their computer and the complement carries out all the calculation in order to obtain the results.



Finally, the rubric of result is sent to each student.



The following video shows the usage process:


Detailed information can be found at the following CoRubrics link and updates are published on the following CoRubrics Twitter account.

Jaume Feliu is a Teacher of Technology at the Salas i Xandri High School in Sant Quirze del Vallès, near Barcelona.

Blog: Tecnocentres
Twitter: @jfeliua

Passionate about education and technological training, I try to take advantage of ICT to improve the organization of the center, to facilitate the methodologies where the student is the main character of his/her learning and to improve the evaluation. In this sense, I have developed some complements (CoRubrics and ImExClass). I am convinced that, in order to improve education, we must constantly rethink what we are doing.

7 Tips for Moving from Decorating to Designing Classrooms

This week I am hosting guest posts. This is a guest post from Dr. Robert Dillon. I have been following Bob's work for the last few years and I am thrilled to host this guest post from him.

The images that we see of many “modern” classroom designs are filled with Pinterest-pretty decorations that aren’t based in the what we know to be brain-friendly learning spaces. Ideally, schools would be taking time to study and design with intention spaces that support excellent learning. Unfortunately, the social pressure to decorate classrooms is strong, and decorating classrooms is an inch deep solution that elicits the dopamine flow that comes with likes on Instagram, Facebook, and Snap. These cute, neat, and fancy solutions rarely equal great learning. As educators, we need to make sure that there is a sync between instructional practices that provide experiential learning, technology tools that support creation, and optimal learning environments. To accomplish this, consider the seven tips below to keep the focus on intentional design.

Know the Verbs
Design requires a human-centered lens that allows you to understand the true purpose of a space. When teachers and leaders know the verbs of their space, they have a deeper level of intentionality. Is your space designed to explore, investigate, and discover? Is your space designed to create, make, and tinker? This clarity makes decoration seem like frosting instead of missional.

Declutter the Parameter
Too many design initiatives move straight to the furniture, but the parameter of the room can have a greater influence on student learning. Posters and clutter can be distracting and lead to less engagement. Students rarely consciously notice the mess, but it impacts their comfort in the space. Having too much in a classroom can limit its flexibility as well. Try removing ten or more items from the space to let it breathe for students and their learning.

Focus on Student Feedback
So many spaces are designed FOR students as opposed to WITH students. Even if students aren’t a part of the initial design, they can be a part of the next iteration. Students need to be asked about the space. What is supporting their learning? What is inhibiting their learning? We often solve for problems that aren’t issues for students, and no matter the age, we have to drive changes into the learning space that are based on feedback.

Create a Maker Culture
If we keep designing makerspaces, isolated from classroom learning, with no plan to close them in lieu of a maker culture, we are building this decade’s computer lab. We need to instead think about creating a culture of making in every classroom. This doesn’t mean that we are putting 3D printers in every classroom, but maybe we are adding cardboard and low-tech creation items in all spaces. Allow students to showcase their learning in a variety of ways. Don’t limit making to space or specific time of the day.

Develop a Color Palette
Research continues to emerge that an intentional color palette enhances learning. Too many spaces look like a bag of skittles exploded with every color of the rainbow represented in the rugs, furniture, and items on the wall. Designers are looking for a base color with a couple of accent colors. Classroom decorators, though, are adding flare and pop, and this rarely helps with the focus or calm of a space.

Provide Choice with Coherence
Twenty-five of anything is the wrong answer. The idea that we would bring 25 yoga balls, 25 pedal bikes, or 25 desks into a modern learning space definitely lacks the level of design that we should be seeking. It is essential that students can choose the seating that meets their learning task and their learning style, but adding neat items to the classroom for novelty will get the undesired effect of students focused on furniture instead of their future.

Mind Brain Research into Space Design
The more decorated classrooms that appear on Instagram and Pinterest as model spaces to pursue for teachers, the more we wander from what we know about best practices in learning. Research may not get us likes and retweets, but it is essential that we are considering the principles of design that promote learning. Only with this information in the forefront of our efforts can we truly build student-friendly spaces.

Dr. Robert Dillon has served as a thought leader in education over the last twenty years as a teacher, principal, and director of innovation. Dr. Dillon has a passion to change the educational landscape by building excellent engaging schools for all students. Dr. Dillon serves on the Leadership Team for Connected Learning, a Saint Louis based organization designed to reshape professional development to meet today's needs. Dr. Dillon has had the opportunity to speak throughout the country at local, state, and national conferences as well as share his thoughts and ideas in a variety of publications. He is the author of four books on best practices in learning, Leading Connected Classrooms Engage, Empower, Energize: Leading Tomorrow's Schools Today, Redesigning Learning Space, and his most recent book on learning space design called The Space: A Guide for Educators.

Dr. Robert Dillon - rdillon25@gmail.com - @drrobertdillon - drrobertdillon.com