Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Month in Review - Heading Home

Good afternoon from an airplane somewhere over upstate New York. I'm my last flight heading from the ISTE 2016 conference. This is also my last flight for a month. June was a fantastically busy month as I had the pleasure and privilege of working with teachers at ten events spread across five states. But now I'm ready to stay home for the next month to play with my dogs, ride my bike, and get ready for the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camps.

As I do on the last day of every month, I have put together a list of the most popular posts of the last 30 days. This month the most popular post was about Google's new grading tool in Google Forms.

Here are this month's most popular posts:
1. Google Forms Can Now Automatically Grade Quizzes Without an Add-on
2. 15 Tools for Teaching History With Technology - A Handout
3. Google Cast for Education Gets Your Students on the Same Page
4. The Best Ways to Use Padlet - Examples from Teachers
5. An Illustrated Mathematics Glossary
6. Three Geography Games Based on Google Maps and Google Earth
7. 7 Blogging Platforms for Teachers Compared and Ranked
8. Click to Spin - A Fun and Free Random Name Picker
9. Ten Good Video Channels for Science Students
10. How to Use the New Version of Padlet

Bring Me To Your School or Conference
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Online  PD Opportunities With Me
Take a look at the online workshops I'm hosting throughout the spring and summer.
Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
BoomWriter provides a fantastic tool for creating writing lessons. 
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards and cartoon stories.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
PrepFactory offers a great place for students to prepare for SAT and ACT tests.
FrontRow offers adaptive online ELA and Math practice activities.  
Teach n Go is a comprehensive platform for teaching online courses.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is hosting host workshops in six cities in the U.S. in the summer.
Buncee offers a great tool for creating visual stories. 

7 Word Summary of ISTE 2016

As the ISTE 2016 conference was winding down yesterday I took one last long walk through the vendor hall. I went up and down every aisle of the expo and at the end I published my summary of the vendor hall in this Tweet:

Now to expand on those points in my Tweet:

1. I counted no less than ten companies offering student data collection and analysis tools. That only accounts for the companies focused entirely on that service. There are many, many other companies touting data collection and analysis as part of a larger service. Those booths seemed to be occupied by school administrators. I didn't see many teachers hanging around those booths.

2. Maker spaces and the Maker movement were all over the ISTE program. The conference program had plenty of workshops and presentations on topics related to the maker movement. There were playground areas set up for people to learn about 3D printers, robotics, and programming. In the vendor hall nearly every 3D printer company and robotics kits company had booths swarming with activity.

3. Google and Samsung had dueling booths featuring virtual reality headsets. I had many discussions with conference goers about virtual reality. The consensus seems to be that we're all fascinated with the possibilities but have concerns about the scalability an long-term use of virtual reality in classrooms.

4. Google, Google, Google. They made some big announcements this week about Forms, Cardboard Expeditions, a new screen sharing app, and an "apps bundling" scheme to sell sets of Chrome apps. Their booth was packed every time that I went into the vendor hall. It was interesting to see many other vendors standing around watching the Google presentations.

5. Damage control products were prominently displayed throughout the ISTE vendor hall. You could find a protective case for just about every tablet, Chromebook, phone, and laptop imaginable. There were also plenty of companies selling network monitoring software and web filtering products designed to protect your school network and or block access to websites.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Three Interesting Studies on Virtual Reality in Education

This week at ISTE 2016 Google and Samsung had large booth displays devoted to virtual reality headsets. The proliferation of virtual reality headsets has been the catalyst for some good conversations about the value of virtual reality in education. Many have wondered if it is a novelty or if could have a meaningful impact on students. I have been a part of those conversations. But as I want to be prepared with good information on the topic, I turned to Google Scholar to see what has been written on the topic of VR in education. The following three papers stood out to me.

Construct3D: a virtual reality application for mathematics and geometry education.

On the usability and likeability of virtual reality games for education: The case of VR-ENGAGE.

Can virtual reality improve anatomy education? A randomised controlled study of a computer‐generated three‐dimensional anatomical ear model.

All three of these studies found that virtual reality was beneficial to students. Each study came to that conclusion in a different context. The first found an improvement in students' comprehension of geometrical concepts. The second found an improvement in students' understanding of geographical concepts and relationships, but only with prior knowledge. And the third study found an improvement in students' understanding of anatomy.

These three studies had small sample sizes and control groups that could probably be categorized as "high achieving, highly engaged" students. Whether or not the outcome of the students linked above will be similar to those of other students is still to be determined. That said, I'm excited to see what happens with virtual reality in K-12 classrooms over the next five years.

Disclosure: Samsung paid for my hotel room during the 2016 ISTE conference. 

5 Features to Look for on Formative in the Fall

Earlier this week at the ISTE 2016 conference I had a nice meeting with the founders of the popular assessment tool, Formative. Formative is hard at work to add new features in time for the new school year in the northern hemisphere. The list of features that they showed me is fifteen deep. Many of those features are focused on data, but some are focused on providing solutions to practical problems that almost every teacher has faced at one time or another while using online assessment tools. These are the five practical Formative features that I'm looking forward to seeing this fall.

  • Send assignments/ quizzes to individual students. 
  • Scheduling a start time and an end time for assignments/ quizzes. 
  • Scheduling a time for the return of quiz scores/ feedback. You'll be able to hold scores until every student has completed the assignment/ quiz. 
  • Students will have a progress meter to show them where they are in a particular quiz/ assignment. 
  • Improved font formatting tools. 

Applications for Education
One of the things that has helped Formative become popular is the "show your work" response option that allows students to draw responses to your questions and prompts. The addition of these new features should only help to make Formative a better tool for gathering formal and informal assessment responses from students.

Connect Your Classroom Through SeeSaw Connected Blogs

On Tuesday morning at the ISTE 2016 conference I sat down with the founder of the popular digital portfolio tool, SeeSaw. He showed me some of updated features of SeeSaw's free product as well as the new analytics options within SeeSaw Plus (a subscription service).

One of the best features of SeeSaw's free service is the classroom blogging component. SeeSaw added the blogging feature in January in response to requests from users. SeeSaw's blogging feature allows you to select artifacts from your students' digital portfolios to feature on your classroom's blog. You can also have students submit written blog posts that you approve before they go live on the blog. The video in this post shows you how to create a blog within SeeSaw.

Applications for Education
Connecting with other classroom blogs is a great way to build an authentic audience for your students' work. SeeSaw put together a spreadsheet of public classroom blogs to help teachers connect their classroom blogs. The spreadsheet includes the Twitter and or Google+ ID of the teacher in charge of each listed blog.

SeeSaw's blog feature includes a "following" option that makes it easy to quickly see when a blog your class is following publishes a new post. The video embedded below demonstrates how to connect and follow a SeeSaw blog.