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Sunday, November 11, 2018

Creating a Digital Culture

This week I am welcoming some guest bloggers. This one is from Clint Winter and Chuck Bell.

As a School Superintendent and as a District Technology Coordinator we both are often asked “How and why did your district decide to go 1:1?.” Our school district has been 1:1 in some form or fashion for a number of years. Initially funded through a grant through the University of Georgia we were able to give Windows devices to students in the 11th and 12th grade. As the grant ended and expenses began to mount and as Google established a strong presence in K-12 education it became clear that we needed to make a commitment to Google Chromebooks. We were able to fund our Chromebook initiative through money collected from a special local option sales tax. Also, it helps us meet the state of Georgia’s mandate for 100% online state required testing.

When we made the commitment to Chromebooks we also are making a commitment to collaboration and creation. We wanted to connect our students and teachers with both curriculum and new opportunities. Actually, that is a big reason we decided to get Chromebooks! Our Chromebooks booted up faster, we have unlimited storage, and we are able to collaborate in real time all the time. Students are also able to access their documents offline. Keeping with the theme of collaboration and creation We wanted to alleviate fears by letting teachers know that from a District prospective. We knew they will have both success and failures with the new devices in their classroom. We also wanted to remove barriers by offering tools such from Texthelp and GoGuardian. Also, we wanted to make sure that we were using best practices and have worked with AmplifedIT to maximize our Google Admin Console.

For Professional Development our school district embraces the SAMR model. It is important that our students Chromebooks are being used intentionally. We offer personalized paths for our teachers to learn and lead about using technology for more than substitution. Some of our teachers go through Google Certification, others attend Edcamps, we are promoting building our own Personalized Learning Networks.. Our administrators are offering teachers to choose professional learning in the building and also encouraging their teachers to screencast new things that they have learned. We tweet the good things we are doing in our classroom and use the hashtag #Bluewayondisplay to expand our audience and learn from educators across our region, nation, and world. We are continuing to build a culture that supports Every student Every Day and know that this cannot be accomplished without the support of our students, community, teachers, technology staff, and administrators. Building a dynamic culture that encourages risk taking and embracing new styles of learning is truly a team effort.

Chuck Bell is the Superintendent of the Elbert County School District. You can follow Chuck on twitter @Chuck_Bell_

Clint Winter is the Instructional Technology Coordinator for the Elbert County School District. You can follow him on Twitter @ClintWinter. Clint is the author of TheFridayTechTip which is updated every Friday during the school year. You can listen to the Edtechrewind podcast he co-hosts with Dr. Lee Green.

Edji - A Great Tool for Literacy and Critical Thinking

This week I am welcoming some guest bloggers. This one is from Eric Hills.

As a tech coach, I love spending time trying to find tools that are easy to use, can enhance student learning, and are engaging for students. Edji checks all three of those boxes for me. I’ve learned about so many amazing tools and strategies from Richard Byrne and I want to return the favor to him and his readers by sharing a little about this amazing tool. And because Edji was created in my home state of Minnesota, I take a little extra pride in sharing my love for it. I hope after reading this post, you will give Edji a try with your students!

What is it?
Edji is a unique, collaborative annotation tool that works on any device. Students and teachers can highlight portions of text and leave either emoji comments or text comments. They can also place a hotspot on a picture and leave a comment. It sounds simple, but there are endless ways it can be used.

One key feature of Edji is called “Heat Vision.” Teachers can toggle Heat Vision on or off. When you turn Heat Vision on, all highlights and comments will appear for all students to see. Text that has been highlighted by students will appear in colors ranging from yellow to dark red depending on how many students highlighted that area. Most teachers will likely leave the Heat Vision feature off until students have had time to highlight and comment. Once they are done, you can turn on Heat Vision to show common highlights and comments.



Why use it?
Edji can be used in many ways and it is incredibly easy to get started. If you have an article, diagram, chart, image, or text of any kind, you can have an interactive lesson ready in minutes. And by giving students a place to make their own highlights and comments, you are allowing every voice in the classroom to be heard. Using Edji will enhance the face-to-face discussions that your students have in class.

Here are just a few ways you could use Edji in your class:

  • Identify the main idea and supporting details in an article using highlights. Click on Heat Vision so students see whether they highlighted the correct portion of the text.
  • Examine a historical artifact or political cartoon image and have students make comments on their observations.
  • Read a primary source document in social studies and have students highlight key vocabulary that they don’t know. Have students share the task of finding synonyms to help decipher the text.
  • Create an emoji chart with your students that represents what you are looking for in the text. For example, cause and effect. Students could use a raindrop to represent cause and an umbrella to represent effect. Having students identify the best emojis to use activates their critical thinking skills in an engaging way.

How do I get started?
Creating a reading for students to complete is very easy. You can copy and paste text from other sources such as Newsela, CommitLit, The Tween Tribune, Project Gutenberg, or any other preferred source of texts. You can also upload PDFs or images. To set up your first reading, check out the video below.


Once you have created a reading, students access the reading by entering a code at edji.it. They can sign in as a guest or create an account (Google sign-in available). You can also create reading groups, which lets you duplicate a reading and use a unique code for each small reading group. This is especially helpful if you use the same text for 30 (or 150) students as it might be difficult to navigate the comments and highlights.

Disclosure: I have received stickers and magnets from Edji. I also received two Edji Hero licenses for teachers at my school to pilot its use.

Biography: Eric Hills is a Digital Learning Coach from Shakopee Public Schools in Minnesota. You can find his blog posts and those of his amazing colleagues at techtools.shakopee.k12.mn.us and you can connect with him on Twitter @MrEricHills.

My Party PBL - Technology and Project Based Learning

This week I am welcoming some guest bloggers. This one is from Debbie Carona.

The PBL, My Party Election, originally written by Mike Kaechele, became a part of the U.S. History curriculum for 8th graders at St. John’s Episcopal School Dallas during the Presidential Election of 2016. Students worked in groups with politically like-minded teammates to create new and unique political third parties by developing a platform, creating a logo, writing a slogan and building a website. At the time, St. John’s was the only middle school to join this nationwide competition where the party of the winning presidential candidate submitted its website which is judged by other students across the United States. Over the past two years, as most good PBLs tend to do,” My Party Election” morphed into simply “My Party” with a stronger focus on the actual third parties formed in the process rather than the election of an individual from one of the third parties as president.

The current My Party PBL is now a fundraising event where each party conducts extensive research on various aspects of the role of third parties in American politics as well as four assigned current issues that are to be built into the planks of the platform. The required issues include healthcare, immigration, gun control, and energy. Each party member plays an important role in creating the party and planning the event. Students take on the roles of Director of Fundraising, Media Coordinator, Branding Coordinator, Webmaster and Steering Committee Chairperson.

Using Word documents shared on One Drive, students work simultaneously on the creation of their platforms. The Fundraising Director spends time editing and researching the planks of the platform while the Branding Coordinator works on designing the logo to match the party’s ideology. Many of the logos are developed digitally on iPads using apps such as Canva or Notability. Each logo is revised and reimaged until it is satisfactory enough to be sent on to the Webmaster who uploads it on the Home Page of the website. The Branding Coordinator has the option to create a trifold brochure using PowerPoint to hand out to potential donors at the final presentation. To read about the logo process of one student Branding Coordinator, click here.

While the Branding Coordinator is working through iterations for the logo, the Media Coordinator creates the storyboard and develops ideas for shooting the political party commercial. Students take advantage of the school’s green screen using the app Do Ink. Final edits and tweaks are made using iMovie. Click here to see one of the most successful commercials this year that was created using the iStopMotion app with colorful caramal-flavored M&Ms. Each group submits the completed advertisement to Webmasters for display on the party’s website.

Webmasters use Wix.com to develop the party websites. Each website is required to have color and font choices that fit the branding of the party. Student webmasters work diligently to develop a template for showcasing the work of the other students. Each site contains pictures and bios of party members, the platform, commercial, logo, moto and bibliography for each party.

For the final presentation, each party creates a PowerPoint that explains the platform and showcases the work of the party. A panel of entrepreneurs, educators and parents are invited to view the presentation as “donors”. Each donor is given a hypothetical $10,000 and can split their contributions between the three parties in any amounts they choose. At the final Fundraising Event, students handout their brochures and give-away items. Students create items such as magnetic party badges and coasters using their logos and party names using the GlowForge, a laser engraver.

The My Party PBL allows students to work with peers in an open collaborative environment. They have the opportunity to practice strategies learned in lessons on civil discourse as they discuss current event issues. They have an opportunity to use their personal strengths and talents to create their political parties and develop the poise and self-assurance to present to an authentic audience.

LeAnne Wyatt is the 8th grade US History and the 8th grade Speech teacher at St. John’s Episcopal School in Dallas, Texas. She also serves as the Grade Level Leader and as the Service Learning Coordinator. For several years she has collaborated with Debbie Carona on numerous project based learning units. Ms. Carona is the Technology Integration Specialist and PBL Coach at St. John’s. To learn about more PBL, go to Ms. Carona’s blog or check out her Twitter feed @DebbieCarona.