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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

Teaching Online - What Does it Take?

This week I am hosting guest blog posts. This one is from Nik Peachey. I have been following Nik's work for many years and I was flattered that he wanted to guest post on my little blog.

As the market for online tutoring and particularly for online English lessons continues to grow at rapid pace, it seems inevitable that eventually all teachers will be expected to be able to deliver some elements of their classes online.

This can be intimidating, especially for the less tech savvy teacher, but developing this ability isn’t so difficult and if you can overcome some of the technical obstacles there are many advantages to be able to teach online, not least the fact that, in many cases, you don’t have to leave home to do it and you can have more flexibility to fit your classes around your own schedule.


So what do you need to get started?
Firstly, you’ll need a laptop with a good quality headset and a webcam. Nowadays, the kind of headset you get with the average smartphone will usually be good enough for the job. Don’t be tempted to use the speakers built in to your laptop or desktop computer, this will cause echo for your students and won’t make you a popular teacher.

The next thing you need is a good broadband internet connection. If your home connection struggles, then there are a few things you can do to help it along. Plugging in with an ethernet cable rather than wifi can help, as can rebooting your computer before you start a class and ensuring that you don’t have other browser windows or programs open which could be sucking up your connection in the background.

Once you have the equipment side of things sorted you also need to find a suitable place to do it. This needs to be quiet, well lit and have a suitable looking background. Remember, your students are going to be able to see the room you are in, so make sure you don’t have your washing hanging up in the background. It’s also best to have a light behind your computer screen rather than behind you. This will ensure that you don’t appear as a silhouette. If you have a strong light that’s directional, try to bounce the light off of a wall and onto your face so that it lights your face without dazzling you.

When you set up your webcam try to make sure it is on eye level with your face and you look directly towards it. This will help you make eye contact with your students and also ensure that they aren’t looking up your nose or just the top of your head. Ideally they should be able to see from above your head and down to your elbows. This will give you a reasonable space to work in and help them understand some of the non verbal elements of communication.

One of the hardest challenges most teachers have when moving from the physical classroom to the online classroom, is the lack of visual space. In the classroom we have lots of space to move around play with the proximity to our students, mime, make exaggerated gestures and generally move around. In the online classroom, you are ‘trapped’ within the visual space that your webcam offers. This is limiting, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t still use the space. Practice in front of the camera and see what the best distance away is to give yourself a bit more space. See how you can use hand gestures within that space. Examine the impact that moving in closer to the camera can have, or putting your hands closer to the camera. In time you can develop a whole new repertoire body language and communication gestures.

The other things you need are a platform for the delivery of you courses and some content to deliver. I have been working with the iTeach.world platform for some time and I find it has lots of great features such as document sharing, so that you and students can work on things like Google docs collaboratively, in the classroom. The ability to sync video across the class so that you can watch video from YouTube during the online classes, and it also provides an LMS with content creation tools so you can build in asynchronous elements to your courses for independent study or flipping your online classroom.

The last problem is content. You can’t simply grab a copy of your course book and scan it to use online as that would be violation of copyright, so you may find you have to create your own. I’ve done this using Genially. This is a great tool for creating all kinds of dynamic web-based content. This is an example of one of the lessons I developed using it.



Well, I hope this helps you to get started on your online teaching route and that you enjoy picking up some new skills along the way.

Nik Peachey is an award winning materials writer and course developer. He has been involved in education since 1992 and delivers conference presentations and workshops for teachers all over the world. He also co-founded PeacheyPublications Ltd where he publishes and shares a range of teacher development ebooks and digital classroom materials.