Sunday, March 31, 2013

Tools and Strategies for Performance Based Education

Two second grade teachers, Jessica Melcher and Michelle Ledue, inspire me to be a great teacher as much as I hope that I inspire them. Recently they taught a session covering Performance Based Education Tools and Strategies during our district inservice day. The strategies they presented include Shared Vision, Code of Cooperation, SOPs, Multi-voting Hot Dot, Fist to Five, and Parking Lot. Please watch the videos at the end of this article to witness how they use some of the strategies in their second grade classrooms.

I also attended another PBE tool session on the same inservice day lead by Amanda Blunda (gr4) and Michelle McPherson (gr3). Two more wonderful teachers in our school district. The take-aways from their session included some strategies that integrated technology into "Keeping PBE Alive". Sometimes we start a strategy in a classroom, but tend to phase out that strategy before giving it a real chance. Just like training a puppy, we need to be persistent for awhile and there will be pay-offs in the end. I am not saying that students are puppies, but rather that we need to continue with the classroom management routines. Once the strategies are established and embedded into the students' routines the classroom atmosphere will be perfect for learning and collaborating. Of course, if the strategies are a flop after consistently trying them for awhile, switch to a new one. One of the ideas presented by Amanda and Michelle is to keep the Code of Cooperation alive by using Class Dojo. Class Dojo is a behavior management system that helps to keep students on-task throughout the school day. Other sites suggested to support PBE learning and differentiation include Tenmarks, Xtramath, Edmodo, Schoology, Khan Academy, Show Me, Educreations, and Evernote.

During both sessions I attended I was concerned about all of the sticky notes that are used throughout the school year in order to "Keep PBE Alive". Therefore, my mission the last couple of days has been to come up with some ideas on how we can encompass even more technology into the PBE tools and strategies. I have yet to test this out with a class, but one thought is to use Popplet for the Parking Lot. Teachers can keep a computer in their classroom signed into a class account and students can add to the Popplet as needed. If a teacher has an iPad, the students can use the Popplet Lite app. The one downfall to this idea if using an iPad, one tablet will need to house the Parking Lot Popplet, so if a teacher does not want students to have access to his/her tablet or does not have an extra iPad, then this solution is not going to work with the free Popplet app.

Because Popplet is not the perfect solution, I decided to investigate further and found an alternative, Listhings. This web based site allows a user to add virtual sticky notes to a cork board. The creator can share their cork board via email, therefore teachers could email the Parking Lot cork board to the students in their class. Then the students would click on the link from the email message and sign in using a password that they share with their teacher. Voila, the students can use the parking lot anytime throughout the school day from either an iPad or a computer. Students will need to remember the password that they use when they sign in the first time in order to work on the Parking Lot Listhing another day. Listhing is a real time cork board. I witnessed the immediate effect as I was adding a note to the board with my iPad on one account while logged into another account on my computer. A student could be in charge of clearing the cork board at the end of the school day so that the class can begin with a fresh parking lot the following day or the classroom teacher could delete the entries as she/he addresses each item. Update: April 25, 2013... Once students are logged in to Listhings, they can click the share button on their iPad while in a browser (the one with the arrow going through the rectangle) and then click add to home screen. Anytime a students accesses Listhing from the button on the home screen they will not have to log in. A class was willing to try Listhing for a parking lot recently and we discovered a few things that needed to be addressed. 1. It is easy to delete someone else's note. 2. It is slightly quirky on the iPad. 3. If students can not receive email outside your domain, you will need to set up permission with your IT person to allow email messages to be received during the time when the teacher shares a Listhing with their class. 4. Listhing is a great place for students to have their own board for reminders and other school work, as it can be accessed from any device anywhere on the internet.

Videos Created by Jessica and Michelle

Multi-Voting Hot Dot from Jessica Melcher on Vimeo.

SOPs from Jessica Melcher on Vimeo.

Fist-to-Five from Jessica Melcher on Vimeo.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Does Technology Foster and Enhance Learning?

Does technology foster and enhance learning? This question seems to be on a lot of educators and administrators' minds these days. It is time to lock down a budget for the following school year... "What should we spend our money on and is technology really worth it?" There are many reasons that the answer is yes, technology is worth the investment. Technology can enhance a child's education tremendously. It does, however, still come down to pedagogy. Just because technology is in a classroom, does not mean that students will excel. However, with the right classroom atmosphere, students will learn at a faster rate than they could have given the situation, a forward thinking teacher with technology vs. the same teacher without the technology.

Third grade students at one of the schools that I work at were struggling with the concept of Cause and Effect. Mrs. Richardson, the classroom teacher, asked me if we could work on that concept during our technology time together. We came up with a plan of having students create an Educreation on their iPads covering Cause and Effect with real life situations and the last slide on the Educreation the students would create a Cause and Effect example from a classroom novel they are reading. OK, a simple activity that could be done with paper and pencil, right? Maybe, but because students could pull pictures from the web, rather than drawing examples, students were able to come up with great visuals quickly and easily. For those that like to draw, students could choose to draw their examples. Learning and applying their understanding of Cause and Effect with technology excited the children, first bonus... Then, when you add the magic of Apple TV, tada... students started sharing their ideas with each other, quickly and easily! Those students that may have been stuck and had no idea what to do or didn't completely understand Cause and Effect, were learning from peers. Before we knew it, the students that were struggling, were sharing their own examples. What could have simply been a substitution activity turned into a full fledged collaboration project of learning and understanding of the concept, Cause and Effect.

Interestingly enough, collaboration can be increased because of technology. Most people would think that personal devices would cause the opposite to occur. But, again, with the right classroom atmosphere students can collaborate on a level that is not possible without technology. Other ways to increase collaboration in classrooms through technology: Google Apps, sites like Edmodo and Schoology, blogging, skyping, and many other free web tools and apps.

A few Cause and Effect Educreation examples from last Friday's lesson:


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Google Domain and YouTube

My school district blocked YouTube until the end of the last school year. Because of that I only used YouTube occasionally when I wanted to post a video quickly on my blog, website, or wiki. Since it was for students and parents to view from home, YouTube was the best option. I also use SchoolTube, TeacherTube, and Vimeo. Now that my district has a Google domain, YouTube is no longer blocked, and YouTube can be tied into your Google account I found I became stuck in a position that may be valuable for others to know about. Since October I have been using YouTube through my school Google account. It was nice because I had a personal YouTube account and a school YouTube account.

Then two days ago, wonderful Richard Byrne, tweeted about one of my articles from this blog. What do you know? All of a sudden there are retweets, tons of hits on my blog, and subscribers to my somewhat new school YouTube channel. So cool!!! Then I realized that I should check to see if I could add another email address to my school YouTube account. That way if I lost my school email address some day, I would have an option to keep posting videos for those who, so excitingly to me, subscribed to my videos. Turns out there is nothing that can be done. If I ever left my district, not that I plan to because I love my job, I would no longer have control of my school YouTube account. I am glad that I figured this out before it was too late and too hard to fix. I am hoping that this post will help those teachers who also have been using YouTube through their school district's Google domain.

I added a video to my school YouTube channel asking people to subscribe to my n13gleason channel and posted a statement in a few different places. I tried to change settings to get rid of the subscribe button. I think that only made it so that subscribers are no longer visible. If anyone else has any other ideas, I would love to hear/read about them and I hope this article helps others from making the same mistake I did. A lot of school districts are moving towards Google domains and for the most part Google Apps can be shared with more than one email address giving it's user the opportunity to control their work and content from other accounts, unfortunately not with YouTube.

Just because I like to post a video or picture with all of my articles, here is my sad and quickly made YouTube video asking viewers to subscribe to my n13gleason channel instead of my school one. Enjoy!!!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Apple TV in Education!?!

When I first heard of a "thing called Apple TV" a couple years ago, I  couldn't even imagine why I would want such a device in my house, let alone my computer labs or teacher's classrooms. Well, that has all changed!!! If a teacher has access to one or more iPads, they want and should have an Apple TV. They are less expensive than outfitting classrooms with interactive whiteboards and are especially more useful in classrooms with 1:1 iPads.

I have been experimenting for approximately a month with Apple TVs located in each of my four labs. For the time being teachers that want to use the Apple TV will need to visit their computer lab, but the plan is to eventually outfit our classrooms with them. What an Apple TV adds to the classroom is flow from one iPad to another seamlessly. We already know that students take pride in their work and to foster that feeling we help them find ways to share their work. With an Apple TV there is no more going up to the dongle and battling the chord to get it plugged in, nor those moments when you turn the iPad just so and the connection becomes loose, "Oh, sorry class, just a minute!" Students can not only share their work with one another, but also their thinking. One more way to encourage collaboration! If you have a class of iPads, next step is an Apple TV. Because they are not all that expensive, $99, your PTO may even be able to purchase one for your classroom.

A quick video to visualize students using an Apple TV.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Easy Graph Creator

A few years ago, when I taught second grade, I used Kids' Zone graph creator with my students. I had forgotten all about the site during the last couple of years until recently a third grade teacher asked me if I knew of a site for making graphs on computers. Then another third grade teacher asked a similar question, but wanting a graph creator app for iPads. I wondered if that wonderful graph making site would work on an iPad and guess what? It worked tremendously well. Therefore, I highly recommend Kids' Zone for all of your graph making needs no matter what device you are using.

If using Kids' Zone on an iPad, the user will want to click on the "Print/Save" tab once the graph is completed, click on download, and once download is touched a new window will open up with the graph displayed. Then the user needs to lightly touch on the graph and hold for a couple seconds and a pop up will appear with "Save Image" or "Copy". This part of the process may have to be tried more than once. Sometimes you need to have the right touch. Lastly, click on "Save Image" and the graph will be loaded into the iPad's Photo Gallery. Now your graph is ready to be used in any application that allows the user to import photos from the iPad's photo gallery.

Thank you Jenna and Paula for joggling my memory.