Sunday, May 7, 2017

How to Become an EdTechTeam Summit Presenter

Last weekend I had the privilege of presenting at my third EdtechTeam Summit.  As an educator, you may know of these as GAFE Summits (#gafesummit). GAFE stands for Google Apps For Education. Since Google has rebranded their apps as the GSuite for Education there's not a sweet acronym that can be used anymore. The Edtech team has had to rebrand their summit name as well (#edtechteam).
I attended my first summit in the fall of 2015 at Monarch High School in Boulder, CO. This is where I learned about OrangeSlice, ActivelyLearn, Symbaloo, and so much more.  I also learned, I had a wealth of knowledge to share myself.  There are things I have learned in my classroom from trial and error.  I am able to share these ideas with others via my blog, Twitter, TeacherspayTeachers, and at summits.
How does one become a presenter?

  • First, if you've never attended a summit, I would recommend attending one.  Get to know the format of the sessions and enjoy a weekend of learning among your edtechie tribe!   Check out the EdtechTeam website to find a Google, iPad, or Apple summit near you.
  • Next, think about your passions and expertise.  Then, apply!  What's the worst that could happen? They don't chose your session? Everyone gets told no at some point. It doesn't mean you don't know what you're doing. It means you may need to revamp, rethink, then reapply.

I have heard from colleagues, "I have nothing new or groundbreaking to present."
I have presented twice about using graphic novels in the classroom and once about tips and tricks for grading in docs and forms.
Here's what I have learned:

1) There's always going to be someone who comes to your session who is just learning to embrace technology in the classroom or is willing to try new things.  You are the expert in the room for the time being.
2) Give time for exploration. It's just like being in your classroom, if your group suddenly is into the material and talking with one another and sharing ideas, you've done your job!
The first time I presented about graphic novels I was guilty of too much talk.  For my second presentation about grading with Google extensions I shared out ideas and let people try things. My feedback was much better.  For my third presentation the EdtechTeam selected my graphic novel presentation again. This time I was able to build in more time to play with extensions such as Bitmoji and websites such as Pixton.

Here are my slide show presentations and documents to give you ideas.

I'm not a professional speaker by any means, but I do feel like I'm finding my voice.  I get better each time I have the opportunity to share. Don't be afraid to share your knowledge.  I hope you find this advice helpful. Enjoy your next summit!
English Middle School Mania

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Yearbook Layouts a "Design Thinking" Challenge

Hello Readers,
As I've mentioned. This year I have been part of an innovator cohort in my district. In January (yeah, I've been a blogging slacker) we were asked to create a "Design Thinking" challenge. This was our 2nd challenge in the Future Classroom Cohort. As a group we learned about John Spencer’s Design Challenge and the Launch Cycle.  

There are five phases of the design process: Discovery, Interpretation, Ideation, Experimentation,  and Evolution. How can this be used with students? Even more so, how can I use this in my classroom?

This challenge was a little trickier for me because I have a student teacher this semester. She was just starting the argument writing unit that she fully designed and created, so I didn't want to come back from my cohort meeting and say, "Hey, I need my classes back for a couple days to try something."
Instead, I created a Design Challenge for my middle school yearbook class.  We meet each day at the end of the day for 30 minutes.  This year I had two returning yearbook staff members (8th graders) and 23 new staff members. With such a huge turnaround, I found that students were lacking many of the design elements required for creating a quality yearbook.  We have used the tutorials in the yearbook software, however, using the LAUNCH cycle gave students the ability to see the elements being manipulated on a page.

Here is my Layout Design Challenge activity.

I had the students manipulating paper and gluing.  I felt like this was old school yearbook creation instead of innovation.  However, my students were really excited to work in groups to discuss and create new layouts using this “mystery folder” full of materials.  One student asked, "Why didn't we do this at the beginning of the year. I responded that I simply hadn't thought of it. We will however definitely start next year with this process. Originally I had planned on the students somehow connecting their layouts to our theme. However students were struggling with that concept because the mystery folders just contained random images, headlines, body text, and captions. None of these even related to each other, let alone a theme. I took that requirement out. For the launch, we posted the layouts around the room. Students gave each other really amazing feedback and suggestions to improve the layout before I even had to.

I spoke with a colleague and voiced that I was afraid I was doing this assignment incorrectly.  It didn’t seem innovative.  She said, it seemed like good teaching practices.  Are we sometimes confusing best practices with innovation because it doesn’t happen across the board?  It was hard to align standards to this because we used no technology at all.  This leads to another argument. It doesn’t have to use technology to be innovative. We defined Innovation at the beginning of our cohort. We’re doing something in a new way, or looking at something differently.

So, there it is. This challenge once again helped me to reflect on my teaching. There are practices that I have gotten away from because they didn't include technology such as creating foldables or pop-ups to learn story elements or find theme. The students loved cutting and pasting, they loved creating when I did these activities. This challenge was a reminder that just because I teach in a one-to-one classroom not everything innovative or creative has to revolve around the iPad. Students should and need to explore a variety of mediums. I'm going to work to do a better job of finding the right tools for the job instead of trying to make one tool fit every job!

Thanks for reading!


English Middle School Mania

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

"Trip of a Lifetime" Applying November's Transformational Six to a Research Project

The last time I blogged it was about using VR in the classroom, taking virtual lit trips. I mentioned the all encompassing project that I was working on with my math teaching partner, Mrs. Welch.
I created a “Trip of a Lifetime” research unit about five years ago, but it needed revamping. My math partner had a "Road Trip" project which we thought we could bring together. This year Mrs. Welch and I were able to put our combined project into play. We were able to collaborate and have our students research and create their journeys around the world.  
I have also been part of an innovator cohort in my district, and we were asked to create a unit that answers the 6 transformational questions by Alan November:
  1. Did the assignment build capacity for critical thinking on the web?
  2. Did the assignment develop new lines of inquiry?
  3. Are there opportunities for students to make their thinking visible?
  4. Are there opportunities to broaden the perspective of the conversation with authentic audiences from around the world?
  5. Is there an opportunity for students to create a contribution (purposeful work)?
  6. Does the assignment demo “best in the world” examples of content and skill?
This cohort assignment really made me think about transforming the thinking of my students. I once heard during a conference, don't ask students a question they can Google. With so many pieces involved in this project and the ability to choose the delivery method students could Google pieces of the information required, however, they could not Google their final product. They had to sift through information to fulfill the expectations of this project.
November's Transformational Six go beyond SAMR when it comes to technology and innovation. This lead to a great discussion with a colleague who also teaches in a one to one iPad classroom. There will always be days when you are the S, substituting an online document for a paper document. I don't believe a teacher can be at the highest level of SAMR or can fulfill all six transformations in innovation on a daily basis. There will always be days when as a teacher you must be the "sage on the stage." I think the key take-away is don't be the direct lesson teacher each and every day. Be the "guide on the side" much of the time. I actually try to apply SAMR to each unit as a gradual release method. We use to hear, "I do, We do, You do" all the time to have students demonstrate proficiency. Substitution very much applies to the direct instruction lesson the "I Do." The Augmentation part connects to the "We do." The tech may be the tool, perhaps we are on a google doc or a reading program where I can interact directly with you. Modification and Redefinition come into play as the "You Do." If you are a teacher utilizing technology your units of learning should always end with the students taking ownership of their learning and demonstrating this.
One of the articles I read about the six transformational questions stated that many teachers believe they are at the Redefinition level, but can not apply a project to the six questions. Trying to apply all six questions to a project takes time and you may have to look at what you have always done in a new way.
I believe our combined ELA/Math research project does answer, or comes close to answering, these six questions. Here's what I got:

  1. The assignment did build capacity for critical thinking on the web by requiring students to research population, primary language, climate, terrain, three attractions to visit with prices included, a hotel, and the distance traveled in this location.  The first four can easily be found with a google search.  The part that makes the students think critically is finding the hotel, attractions, cost, and distance.  This requires students to utilize an attraction’s website, sometimes translating it to find cost. Students also had to convert foreign currency and measurement. In math class students had to calculate gas mileage for a rental car, money required for hotels and food. Students were applying math to their researched locations seeing how algebra will in-fact play a larger role in their life than they believe it will.
  2. The assignment developed new lines of inquiry by requiring students to choose a location, then finding out more about it.  Sometimes students would choose a location such as France for the Eiffel Tower or China for the Great Wall, but they would know nothing else about the country or what city to visit.  The research would build upon itself as students learned more about their chosen locations.
  3. Students were making their thinking visible throughout this entire project by mapping their locations, mapping their travels within a location and choosing a variety of ways to present their research. Students also had to explain their decisions for choosing a rental car based on their math.
  4. Students were able to edit errors and post their final slides and their reflection of the unit on their blogs. For their presentations other classes, admin, and teachers were invited in to listen to presentations and evaluate. In the future we would like to open this up to the social studies teacher to incorporate the appropriate standards and further connect cross-curricular content.I’m not sure how to bring this into the global community more than we are.
  5. Students were able to create a travel itinerary.  Many said they would like to actually take their trip or at least part of it some day. Students were also tasked with presenting three of their locations in a way to inform others of their “journey” such as posts on social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest (real or fake). Other methods of presentation included blogging, podcasts, travel films, commercials, and Google Maps tours.  
  6. This does demonstrate “best in the world” examples of this type of learning. We searched through for examples and linked many in our document for the students, however we couldn’t find anything that was as comprehensive as our requirements. Here are a few great examples of student work and curriculum connections found on the internet before our project: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.
Here are some student examples to show how the students created HyperSlides to share their research findings and trip planning:

Students Examples:

I found this assignment challenging and rewarding. I definitely plan on revising my thematic units again this summer and working to apply these six transformational questions to my final projects. I hope this has inspired someone, anyone!

Thanks for reading! To make your life easier, purchase my "Trip of a Lifetime" project or my full Around the World in Eighty Days unit. Check out my Teachers pay Teachers store for lots more!


English Middle School Mania

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Using VR to Take a Digital Field Trip

Hello Fellow Educators!
I am so excited to update you all with this quarters learning and new activities! This quarter we read Around the World in Eighty Days.  Last year was my first time ever reading and teaching the novel.  I blogged about it last year in January.

Because I knew how I wanted to change the unit with prereading strategies and our postreading project, I could get more into the novel with my students.  This quarter has been great! I will be the first to admit, AW80D is not my all time favorite novel. It starts off slow and the vocabulary is very difficult. I use several strategies to help my lower level readers. First, all assignments are on Actively Learn. With Actively Learn I have a built in chunking strategy.  I don't want 10 questions on a study guide for a chapter when I can build in 2 to 3 questions throughout the chapter and instantly see who is reading and who is comprehending.  Next, I had the audio from Lit2Go for those who needed to hear it as well. I love this site because it also provides the text with the audio! The third tool I use for differentiation is the graphic novel. I have two NonEnglish Proficient, or NEP, students in my classes. The chunking on AL was too much, and the audio moved too fast, but they were both able to translate and participate in class activities using the graphic novel!

Check out a few of these end of the novel blogs to see how the students liked and anaylzed the novel!

While we were reading I continued to build and strengthen my "Discovering" worksheets from last year allowing the students to journey through LondonIndia, and Japan as Phileas Fogg was.  This year I built in VR!

My colleague Mrs. Jeffrey wrote a Donor's Choose grant for a set of 10 Google Cardboards.  I have been itching to borrow them!  I ran into some problems with them at first.  For instance, I wanted to do a Google Expedition, but I needed 10 devices on our school network, also my iPad would not load the expeditions as an instructor.  I had about three students in each class volunteer their phones for the hour. We couldn't get two of them onto the wifi and one was too old to download the cardboard app.

In the end I split my class into stations with their "Discovering" worksheets and their "Trip of a Lifetime" planning.  This way groups could move and work.  I had two stations set up with the volunteer phones that did work.  Two phones were my phone and my old Galaxy s4 on the school network.  Because I couldn't fully connect to Google Expeditions, I found a couple really wonderful VR 360ยบ videos showing the locations such as the Taj Mahal, and Tokyo, Japan.  I also put two phones onto Google Streetview through Google Cardboard. One was set for Westminster Abbey in London and the other for the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.

For these two days of working, researching, and exploring in their stations my students couldn't wait until it was their turn to try the Cardboards.  I had students who had seen Oculus Rift in the Verizon store or the Playstation VR, but they knew they couldn't afford it. They hadn't experience VR before.

For one group my student, Stephen, grabbed the cardboard and could not believe it! He was walking around the classroom as he visited the Taj Mahal and said to his group members, "Please, don't make me come back to reality. I want to stay here on the other side of the world!"

The classes were so engaged with their cardboard device as they walked around. I overheard so many excited comments!
"It feels like I'm there."
"Whoa, that's a big church."
"I've always dreamed of being on the Eiffel Tower! I can't believe it's so big!"
"Where else can we go with these?!"

For our second day of work stations I had more students show up with the cardboard app and Streetview downloaded. They told me their parents said they could use their data just for the class period.  I did what I could to quickly search up locations listed in the novel:  London,  Suez, Yokohama, San Francisco, Omaha.  For most classes, I was able to put one Cardboard per group, 7 all together!  In my first hour I had a student show up with his Samsung Gear VR headset.  He asked if he could run the groups in the hallway and show them what his does such as go on a rollercoaster.  I told him he'd miss out on the research time with his group, and this student who is usually disengaged, pulled up his slides presentation on his iPad, and it was mostly done!  He did extra work on it, knowing I would say no if he didn't have work done!  I let him become the teacher in the hallway pulling groups one at a time for a rollercoaster ride.  Did it fit with the novel? No, but the students were trying out new things. They learned that from Phileas Fogg and Passepartout in the novel, of course!

My math teaching partner Mrs. Welch and I sat down and fully created our "Trip of a Lifetime" research project upon completing the novel.  This project will have to be a completely separate blog because it has been amazing!   As the students are working on their "Trip of a Lifetime" projects they are thinking about their VR experiences.  I have a couple who want to search on Streetview and Youtube for VR activities to build into their presentations.  I overheard one saying, "I need to see if there's a VR video for this location in China." Another wants to present to a small group her planned adventures to swim with dolphins.

Ideally every classroom, team, or building would have this set of Google Expeditions from Best Buy with the devices linked to the school network. This way a teacher wouldn't be relying on student phones or data plans. Something I'm thinking of doing is possibly sending a letter home to parents requesting that old phone in the drawer. As long as it's a smartphone that can run the apps, I can use it.  However, many teachers need permissions first to put other devices on the school wifi. If you are an educator, talk with your tech person about it or possibly bring in a mobile hotspot!

I believe this is the next level of exploration for literature and social studies virtual field trips, science experiments, perhaps even math exploration. Students can now look at things and experience them in a different way.  VR devices are already helping to save lives!  Think of the experiences that educators can create with VR in the classroom!

Are you using VR in your classroom?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments or through Twitter!

Thank you for reading,
Andi Adams
English Middle School Mania

Monday, November 21, 2016

I'm a PBS Kid and a PBS Teacher!

Morning fellow educators.  Over the past couple months I've had the opportunity to give several different presentations to my peers and colleagues.  I decided I'm going to share out that information on here as well.  So, not in any order, I'm starting with my Tech Thursday presentation to my staff over PBSlearningmedia.

As an adult, when you think back to your first "digital" learning experiences they probably have something to do with a TV and PBS.  I think about Sesame Street and how much I loved Big Bird as a kid.  I remember that we went to Sesame Street Live, and I had books on record (yes, I'm that old). It was a treat when we watched PBS in school in kindergarten and first grade!

As a parent I have never minded having Elmo occasionally sing to my children.  For a period of time my daughter was way into Super Why also.  I couldn't argue with a show that taught morals, values, and problem solving skills!  PBS has always been a go to for educational programming.

It's no wonder PBS makes such great educational content for the classroom also, but not everyone knows about it! Part of my Colorado PBS Digital Lead Teacher responsibilities is sharing the content with my staff.  That's the thing about the PBS content, it's free! So, they don't spend a lot of money on advertising.  That's our job as the lead teachers!

I had a really great time presenting on a Tech Thursday to my staff! Tech Thursdays happen once a month at our school.  These are admin meetings with a focus on technology.  I asked if I could present the PBS website, PBSlearningmedia, and content available because in this case, an email wouldn't be sufficient. I had about 40 minutes to present to each group of 6th, 7th, and 8th core teachers, and 20 minutes to present to enrichment teachers.  I did some of the legwork beforehand of searching the PBSlearningmedia site for content geared toward the standards I knew my colleagues would be covering.

For the presentation I just made a quick Google Slides presentation. On the slides I linked my doc of New PBS Content. Not all of the content on PBSlearningmedia is made by PBS, content may be housed on PBS and also it's original site.  The thing that makes it PBS trustworthy is that the content and videos are vetted by PBS educators to ensure that it is appropriate for specific age levels.  This takes the guess work and time out of Youtube and Google searches!

In the past I have seen Tech Thursdays go down the drain.  Sometimes our staff isn't very interested in what is being presented, and they let the presenter know by completely tuning out and focusing on grading, lesson planning, and checking emails.  I know this because I am also guilty of such behavior. I was prepared to be tuned out, but I didn't get that reaction!  The first group I presented to was 8th grade.  I was about 15 minutes into presenting when one of the teachers said, "Hey Janine, did you see this?"  I suddenly realized that they were all on and searching the content!  Yay!  So, I did what I always want other presenters to do. I stopped talking. I told them I would let them search the content, they had my slides for reference, and I'd be able to answer questions whenever!  This was pretty much the same reaction from 6th and 7th grade as well.

I helped teachers work through the Lesson Builder and Puzzle Builder.  I told them what I love the most is that the videos are easily downloadable.  They can be embedded into other systems such as Google Classroom, Edpuzzle, even PowerPoint. A science teacher on my team liked that she could use the Lesson Builder and give the students the Assignment Code instead of having them log in a create accounts.  One of the 6th grade iPad teachers tested the Puzzle Builder out to make sure it would work on the iPad and didn't require flash.

Enrichment teachers were a tougher audience, but I found small successes as the PE teachers were finding useful lessons for their next health unit.  Our drama teacher loved the videos taken from actual plays showing stage cues and commentary.  Our communications teacher does a lot with debate and elections, so he said he's already used the site to teach about the electoral college and the debate system.

Overall, I felt it was a successful presentation.  The next day I was actually thanked three times by teachers for sharing the site.  They were excited about all of the content and the fact that it was FREE! One teacher said, "I'm not an iPad teacher, so I usually feel like Tech Thursday doesn't apply to me, but this was content that I could actually download and use. I don't need the computer lab to stream a video, but I could give students the link to complete something at home without much prep time."

I believe that fully explains why sometimes technology isn't implemented in the classrooms. It's not just teachers, everyone is afraid of changing the way they do things, especially if it's never been wrong. To switch to a fully integrated tech class means changing the way you teach. A lot of teachers ask, how much work it is to switch everything over and try something new?  The key is to try something here and there instead of trying to make everything different.  My staff really loved the PBSlearningmedia content because they could teach the content they've always taught in a new way. That makes change less scary.

Thank you for reading.  Please check out the PBS site. Comment below or Tweet at me with questions or your favorite content from the site!

English Middle School Mania

Friday, October 21, 2016

A Blog About Blogging

I have been blogging about my teaching irregularly for over a year now.  I never know what I'm going to blog about until I want to blog about it, hence the very irregular posts.  So, I was hesitant when I sat in a GAFE session lead by Chris Moore.  He shared his classroom blogs with us and discussed the global audience that blogs opened for students.  I still felt unsure. How would I connect it to content? What about grading? How would I monitor it? These questions all ran through my mind. I was curious though and started to read more about student blogs. I read a couple articles from Ditch That Textbook. These two really stuck, "My Plea for Public Student Blogging" and "20 Ideas for Solid Student Blogging." Of course, it also really helped that my teaching partner, LaDonna, was on fire!  She always is! She had a plan in place to set our students up with blogs and get each of them going!  Without her I wouldn't have been able to make the leap to having student blogs!  Thank you! Thank you, Mrs. Welch!
So, the students had blogs, now what?  What were they going to blog about?  I needed something to get us going.  My previous school used Lucy Calkins Writer's Workshop, and Companion Books is part of the informative writing unit. For the past two years I have had students create companion novels related to choice reading.  Here are some examples that I show the students: The Girl Who Was on FireFrozen: The Essential GuideEnder's World: Fresh Perspectives on the SF Classic Ender's Game. This year I wanted to start with something similar and still give students choices, but I also wanted to encourage them to read, read, read!  I created Lit-opoly and had students choose a genre to start, then as they read books they moved around the board and completed chance cards. Reading mulitple books or harder books was not the grade, I did not want to punish slower readers or lower level readers.  The grade was their blog. Like the companion novel they were supposed to choose a focus for a post such as character development, conflict, setting, theme, etc.  We blogged every two weeks. Brennan and Autumn really nailed our focus with their first blogs about conflicts and character development!

I had planned on having students blog three times during the six week unit. However, my plan changed when I taught a mini unit focusing on setting, character development, foreshadowing and mood.  This is my Three Day Horror Story Unit.   This is a mini unit that I created and left for a sub a few years back. The students read Duffy's Jacket by Bruce Coville and Three Skeleton Key by George G. Toudouze, then they write their own scary stories using these texts as mentor texts.  We were wrapping up our semester, and the students were supposed to post their third Lit-opoly blog post, but my classes kept asking if they could have time to expand their stories and post those.  MY STUDENTS WANTED WRITING TIME! I couldn't say no to that. So, they wrote their own scary stories.  They focused on developing characters and settings, they focused on foreshadowing and setting an eerie mood in their writing.

The next thing I've learned about my students blogging is that they wanted time to read each other's blogs and other students.  I found this out by having my students read an article by Kayla Delzer, "Three Reasons Students Should Own Your Classroom's Twitter and Instagram Accounts." I posted this article into my Activelylearn and asked my students what they thought about blogging, and if they wanted to have a class Twitter account.  For my first question, "How can we improve our blogs so they are communicating what you feel is important?  What would you change or do differently?"  Stephen J. said, "I would make it so that we could have a day when we read the blogs of other classrooms and schools. This is important because we might get new ideas and vocabulary as well as reading other blogs and getting our blogs read by other people."  Baylea L. was so honest that it made me laugh, "In my blog, I try to put it into a kid my age's perspective, and I try to keep it fun and not hard to read. Because that's what school is. Fun. Sure, work stinks majorly and grades are total butts, but school is supposed to be a fun place to learn and be with your friends. And I find that trying to make our classroom blogs fun (while also getting the point across) is important." Next I asked, "What is your opinion of having a class Twitter or Instagram account along with our blogs?  Be detailed and specific.  Thanks!"  I got some great answers that really got me thinking. Audrey L.  was honest in her hesitation to add something else, "I think it would be cool but it is just too much. I don't think it is really  necessary. We already do blogs which are cool and I don't think we should do them (Twitter)." Alex E. looked at it as a skill building tool, "I think having a Twitter or Instagram account along with a blog is productive and helpful because kids get a chance to explain and interact with the material they are learning, and are going to be more prepared for the real world when they grow up because they will have experience with presenting and instructing others."  Overall, I don't know if I'm ready to create a class Twitter account and hand over the reigns yet, but I'm optimistic for maybe building it in to second semester!

Because they asked for it, I gave my students a chance to read each other's blogs.  A few of their favorites from the comments I heard in class were: Alex's "The Van"; Sean's "The Legend of Eneron's Soul"; and Gabriella's "The Vacation From Reality".  I had two students try out new forms of writing for this project check out Daisy's "Ms. Mildred" written in journal form and Josh's "Home Alone, the Scary Story" written as a poem!

Two more amazing learning moments happened when the students were reading each other's blogs.  One student explained to his classmates how to check their traffic.  Suddenly I heard students exclaiming, "Someone in India read mine!"  "I  have people from France!" "Ten people read mine today!" The second experience was one of those moments that really gets your emotions going. In my 7th hr. we have two student who are non English proficient.  One student speaks Mandarin, the other speaks Vietnamese.  They can't even communicate with each other!  These two often sit in the back with our wonderful paraprofessional translating text and using graphic organizers on their own.  On our blog reading day I asked 7th hour to please check theirs out as well.  The translation is often difficult and incorrect at times, each student is proficient in writing in her first language and uses Google Translate to switch the work to English.  Here's an example of Ziren's. I asked the girls to go ahead and comment in their first language on the other students' blogs. The rest of the class could use translate for once. During blog reading time I had a student come up to me. He was really excited because he had gone into his blog and used Google Translate to translate his scary story in both Vietnamese and Chinese. Here is Jack's post. His original English version had errors in it, so the translation might have been even more difficult, but I encouraged him to let Ziren and Hoang know that they should check his out.  He showed it to Ziren and her eyes lit up!  She said, "OH!" and started reading from his iPad. Suddenly a few other students wanted to translate theirs and share also. This was the first time the students really started to understand how much more work their non-English speaking classmates put into our class just to understand our lessons on a daily basis! I loved it!

As we talk about our global community I also give the students time during warm-ups to check out other class blogs.  Chris told us about #comments4kids at the GAFE summit and I have used that to find other classroom blogs to connect with.  One that we connected with through Twitter is Mr Boylen's 7th and 8th grade classes. My students saw a lot of freedom in his student's blog posts. That's the next thing we discussed.  I told them I didn't have to grade every blog post. We could definitely have free blog warm-ups where they could just post!

As we begin our second quarter I'm so excited to continue blogging in our classroom.  Hopefully it will inspire me to blog more often!  Then I won't have so much to say!  Head to our iPad team website to see our student blogs.

Thanks for reading,
English Middle School Mania

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Preparing Teachers for 21st Century Teaching

I just posted a yearlong ABC Research Book project on my TPT.
This is a yearlong project that I taught to my 7th graders six years ago in Nebraska.  I liked the idea of giving choice and scaffolding the writing throughout the year instead of a one quarter 10 page research paper that many students plagiarized to get through. The lesson I posted is revamped for 2016, not 2010, yet it's still for the more traditional classroom. I know that is where most teachers still live. I get it, change can be scary.  This can be for a classroom that is full of tech, or no tech.

For my iPad classroom I would like to set this project up on individual blogs. The students could add labels to their assignments each week in order for me to easily find them and grade them.  Right now, we were told to put blogs on hold until our tech coordinator could get everything set up with state and federal laws such as FERPA and other acronyms I can't remember. This means I'll start the students out with Google Docs for the assignments. When we get the blog up we can copy and paste.

When we get held up by tech laws or issues, I always think about how simple it is to run a non-tech class.  You have a book, paper, pencil and sometimes a computer lab.  But, that's never been my teaching goal.  I've always wanted to be the teacher who prepares students for real world technology. What I'm realizing is that many teachers are not prepared to teach students real world technology themselves.

I have a student teacher this year.  She is very excited about teaching an iPad class.  Over these first few weeks she has been introduced to Schoology, Google Docs, Slides, Forms, and QR codes.  She said she now can't imagine not teaching from a tablet with the ability to move around the classroom.  We started talking about her courses.  I asked her, what technology has your program prepared you to use in your teaching.  Her answer was overhead projectors, smart boards, PowerPoint.

Why are we teaching new teachers to use old tools?

I am very interested and would love to see an #edchat or comments about this.  How can schools move forward with technology when they might only have a handful of teachers on staff willing to embrace it?

My student teacher mentioned an assignment where they had to create a lesson and present it to their class.  She said they worked in partners. They could use any of the technology in the classroom.  Her and her partner chose to use the overhead projector.  My question is, why?  In the twelve years that I have been teaching, I think I have used one maybe ten times.  My first classroom was equipped with a Smartboard during my first year of teaching. I haven't had an overhead since then.  That was over a decade ago! Seriously, let's burn those bulbs out, and get rid of overhead projectors, FAST!

Then, there's the Smartboard.  I will totally admit when I first got mine. I loved it.  It projected everything on my computer. I could take a screen shot of the notes we went over in class.  I could make each day's presentation on a Smartdeck, and I could add in interactive things such as moving or disappearing shapes and games. I had novel study games where you threw a koosh ball at the board to select a review question.  However, I have realized in the past few years with my iPad and Apple TV that having an interactive whiteboard is great, but you are limited to the front of the classroom, and there is only one front of the classroom.

My current iPad classroom has a projector on a card with an Apple TV. I can point this cart at any wall.  I switch it up pretty often by just swinging the cart to a different wall, and I can moved all around my classroom as I teach. I can have students take over the Apple TV with their iPads to show a video, presentation, or just an example of the work they're doing.  I'm not worried that the students are playing games while I'm teaching because I don't have to face them from the board anymore.

Schools might say that an iPad classroom with Apple TVs is not in the budget. This technology could be done with a Chromecast for a fraction of the price of an Apple TV.  My school has several Chromebook carts for the non iPad teachers. I often think of how my daily lessons are on Google Slides.  Anyone running a Google Classroom could easily project from a Chromebook or a Galaxy tablet for a fraction of the price of an iPad classroom.

This brings up the final technology that my student teacher mentioned, PowerPoint.  I know that Google Slides is very similar to PowerPoint, so I'm not saying don't make slide shows.  What I am saying is, why are we still using save to a hard drive static technology when we live in a cloud based world?  I don't know how many times I have heard people say, "So, do I have to send you the updated copy now?" when we are on a Google Doc.  No, you don't have to, it's already updated for all of us. You don't even have to push a save button.  It did that already, instantly.  My student teacher is so funny.  She called it "Nifty" because she could share a Slides presentation with me, and I was able to edit and update instantly.  Shouldn't something this simple be standard practice for all college students by now?  I would have killed to have this technology in 2001 when the computer lab literally shut down as I was typing up an eight page final for a class and hadn't pressed save in over an hour.

Google isn't the only program working from the cloud now. Microsoft is pushing their Office 365 cloud based technology to districts in town.  In my opinion, right now, it's not as seamless as the Google products, but it's a step in the right direction for districts that haven't gone Google yet.

I have had the opportunity to attend two GAFE (Google Apps for Education) summits in the past year, ISTE 2016, a PBS leadership summit, and I presented at GAFE last month.  I'm in my twelfth year of teaching, and I'm realizing I am more prepared to teach 21st century learners than many of the new college graduates.  Why is that? Or, am I wrong?  To be fair, I am only basing this on the one program I have seen here in Colorado Springs. What else is happening at colleges around the country?

Let me know. I truly am interested!
As always, thank you for reading!

English Middle School Mania