Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Apps Day - A Great Way to Learn About Apps

This week I am welcoming some guest bloggers. This one is from Phil Strunk. 

I am relatively new to the profession -- this is my fourth year of teaching -- and like most teachers around the country, if I had access to computers, it was often in the form of a cart that was reserved almost every day that I wanted them. Then, on the occasion that I would get it on the day I wanted them, something would occur and I would need to give them up to where they were needed. I longed for the day when I could have my own cart of computers for students. I imagined how incredible it could be to have students use the various technology applications to create and innovate.

Think back to your childhood. Do you remember a Christmas, birthday, or another holiday morning where you can remember looking at presents wrapped up? When you see those presents, can you remember thinking “Yes! I got it!” and with great excitement, you ripped through the wrapping paper and joyfully screamed thanks to the gift giver? I had a similar experience last Spring.

It turns out that wishes do indeed come true. Last Spring, my superintendent announced that our division was going to be launching a 1:1 technology initiative. I can remember jumping up, grabbing my phone to call a colleague, and the feelings of elation that occurred when I told my wife when I got home. I was -- and still am -- incredibly excited about being able to design more learning opportunities to prepare my students for their bright futures.

I consider myself a reflective practitioner. The last thing I wanted to do was to simply force technology into a place where it was not necessary. I wanted technology to be used transformatively not haphazardly. Like anything new, I needed to create a foundation of common knowledge to teach my students about the basics of the technology that I would be implementing, so the focus could then be on the learning instead of on the technology.

Over the summer, I worked intentionally to revamp curriculum, this is not unusual for me, I have never quite figured out how to take a summer “off.” I decided before we dove into content, we would first jump into our essential apps to build foundational understanding for my students. I spent several days designing a hyperdoc to allow for self-paced learning of Canva, Screencastify, Flipgrid, and Powtoon and named the project, “Apps Day.” This experience provided an opportunity for students in my classes to learn the foundational technology skills they would need for the remainder of the year.

What is Apps Day?
I implemented Apps Day at the start of the year, and I contacted my school’s Instructional Technology Resource Teacher (ITRT), Patrick Hausammann, to see if he could co-teach it with me. He spent four days in the classroom with me as we worked with students to design brilliant products. Apps Day was an exciting change to the start of the school year, students used the various apps to design products to allow me get to know each student a bit more; having students create videos about topics they were excited and nervous for the upcoming year, and designing graphics about their interests. This activity allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of my students. In addition, Apps Day allowed students to see early in the year that it is okay to try and fail at something, as long as we learn from those losses and grow as learners in a class where risk-taking is safe and celebrated.

Hold Your Own Apps Day
Apps Day was not only good for my class. It benefited the school as a whole. I have had multiple teachers mention how nice it has been that students understand how to use the applications from Apps Day. My students can do more than fill in bubbles on a scantron; they can create and innovate. If you are interested in bringing Apps Day to your school, you can copy the Google Doc found here.

Phil Strunk is a sixth and seventh grade US History I&II teacher at Johnson-Williams Middle School in Berryville, Virginia. He is an active member of the Twitter community (@MrPStrunk) and the founder of the “Wins and Losses Ed Chat” #waledchat that meets Thursdays at 9 pm ET. He is a podcaster of the Wins and Losses podcast available on iTunes and on his website, philstrunk.com. Phil also hosts the Youtube show, Edusations, where he speaks with teachers from all over about successful practices they implement in their learning environments.

Monday, November 12, 2018

News Aggregators: Professional Development for the Busy Teacher

This week I am welcoming some guest bloggers. This one is from Rebecca Meeder.

Professional development helps expose teachers to new trends in their field and aids them in growing in their profession. However, with the tremendous amount of work teachers already have, is regularly attending professional development sessions even feasible? Online news aggregators can help ease the problem of teachers needing growth in their profession, but having only a limited amount of time to spend on professional development.

What is a news aggregator?
Imagine having your newspaper or magazines delivered to you, but only the articles you want to read show up in your mailbox. Online news aggregators work in a similar way. News aggregators, such as Feedly or News360, are free online sites or apps anyone can sign up for. They organize all the content that interests you into one single webpage for you to browse through. Often these sites contain articles on the latest trends and practices in the subject area or field that you are interested in.

For example, an English teacher can sign up with Feedly using her Google account or Facebook login. She can then either tell Feedly what content she is interested in, such as blog posts from 9th grade English teachers, or what websites she wants to follow, such as Free Technology for Teachers. After that, every time the teacher visits Feedly, the site will display the latest content from these sites that she shared with it.

Think of news aggregators as short bursts of mini-professional development opportunities. Teachers can browse the aggregators at leisure during lunch or right before they leave the classroom to head to their after school meeting, and have the latest news and findings about their specific subject area or grade level. It is as if they attended a professional development seminar, but within a few short minutes.

A few sites I would recommend following for K-12 educators using news aggregators are:
These are great sites to start with, especially if you are new at using news aggregators. They post new content regularly and enable you to stay on top of the latest trends and practices in K-12 education.

How I Use a News Aggregator
About three years ago, I wrote a post on my blog on how I use Feedly to help me stay “in the know” regarding Educational Technology. While working at a university in the College of Education, I was only able to spend a limited amount of time in the K-12 classroom since I had to focus on teaching Educational Technology classes and managing the college’s online Grow-Your-Own program. Therefore, to stay up-to-date on trends and practices within the field of Educational Technology, I used Feedly every day to catch up on articles featuring strategies and tools teachers were currently using in the classroom. My interests at the time were blogs and news sites that featured topics on technology used in the classroom, but also news sites that featured articles on higher education trends.

I also shared with a few of my colleagues my strategy of using news aggregators as a form of professional development. A few of them were in fields other than education. Yet, they also started using news aggregators to read articles within their own field. What is great about news aggregators is the ability to narrow down and specify which topics you are interested in, so that meaningful content appears in your news feed.

Currently, I work at the Bellevue School District in a more administrative capacity. Even though, I am in a K-12 environment, I still have little interaction with teachers or students in the classroom. However, I use a news aggregator to provide myself with an overall view of what technology teachers are currently using in the classroom and what innovative practices are growing in popularity regarding their use. Some of the sites I regularly follow are The Principal of Change, and a blog by Catlin Tucker, a Honors English Teacher in Sonoma County.

News Aggregators as a Professional Development Solution for Overworked Teachers
I am hoping that educators in the K-12 field take the time to use news aggregators and continue with their professional development, even if it is not in an official capacity. Teachers now more than ever are expected to do more work than they are capable. Instead of pushing more work, such as several face-to-face professional development sessions, onto teachers, we could streamline their work and utilize technology, such as using news aggregators. News aggregators will not completely replace face-to-face professional development sessions, but I believe utilizing tools such as news aggregators can help with keeping our teachers in the field and growing at the same time.

Dr. Rebecca Meeder has worked at various companies and organizations including the University of Hawaii, Nintendo, Ellucian, the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, and Northwest University. She is currently an Instructional Technology Designer at the Bellevue School District. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @drmeeder.

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.