Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Devices are not a distraction

Teaching in a 1:1 environment is truly a great opportunity for both you and your students. It allows for immediate access to the most recent information, endless opportunities for students to create and demonstrate their understanding of the concepts, as well as personalizing the learning for your students. However, I am often hearing that the devices are becoming a distraction. Students become off task and are on websites or apps that are either inappropriate or unwanted at the time. The first instinct for the teacher is to take the device away. However, it is a learning tool, just as a paper, pencil, and book are learning tools. We certainly do not take those away from our students. We deal with the behavior, redirect students to get back on task and reinforce to use the device appropriately. So, over the break, I took an opportunity to read a book called Classroom Management in the Digital Age: Effective Practices for Technology-Rich Learning Spaces by Heather Dowd and Pat Green. I want to highlight some of the simple, but great strategies suggested by the book. However, I truly recommend you read this for yourself. But, before I share these strategies I do want to make a disclaimer. Just as you teach your students classroom procedures and expectations through a “Teach-Practice-Reinforce” model, it is imperative you do this when it comes to the digital practices too. It is not safe to assume students will understand or follow the first time you teach it.

Teach well-defined and clear technology procedures just as you would other procedures to decrease behavior issues. 
  • Establish a clear “attention-getting” signal. You may have one that you use while students are working on paper/pencil activities and may be able to use the same one. When it comes to devices, you will want to establish
    • earbuds/headphones off
    • screens not visible (clam-shut, 45-degree angle)
    • hands-off devices
    • have students make eye-contact
  • Establish expectations when it comes to the device use and care in your classroom.
    • If you have a classroom set model - how will students access and transport within the classroom? I suggest you assign a device to each student.
    • If your school has adopted the take-home model, devices should always remain in the case and also be zipped when moving around the classroom.
    • Also, consider where students should place a device when it is not being used (where on their desk).
  • When students enter the classroom, have a “bell-ringer” or “Do Now” activity to immediately engage your students.
    • This allows you to take care of attendance or other issues that arise at the beginning of the class while students are immediately getting focused on your content.
    • If this is something new, remember to “Teach-Practice-Reinforce” for a week or two to establish this new routine.
  • Just as you'd never give your students downtime or free time to do as they please in your classroom, it shouldn't be given on Chromebooks. Free time leads to distraction or misbehavior. Create a list of extension activities that are acceptable and appropriate to complete for early finishers.
    • Ensure you add specific instructions and expectations for the tasks to decrease the chances of students getting off task.
    • The more authentic and meaningful the tasks are, the more likely it will be that your students remain engaged and on task.
  • Set expectations, boundaries and support structures.
    • Review the RUP/AUP set by the district/school. This can be the basis for your classroom expectations/rules that can then be referred to if a challenge/unwanted behavior occurs.
    • I would also suggest you display the rules in your classroom for reference.
  • When students are working on the devices, be sure you are up and walking around checking the work with students. Students are less likely to get off task if they see you moving about.
    • A time saver and helpful strategy could be having all links and websites available in one location, such as a Google Doc.
    • Display a timer on the board to inform students of how much time they have remaining for the task.
  • Please do not think you must know everything there is to know about the website, app or software. Technology is ever-changing and it is difficult to keep up with it all.
    • Promote problem-solving skills to get the students to critically think about the technical issues they could be having. Ask the students questions - what have you already tried, what might you try, who could you ask, prompting them to explore the issue.
    • You could also try the “Ask 3 before me” rule and have students collaboratively work on the problem.
There are so many more strategies within this book to help you manage a 1:1 classroom, including managing projects, partnering with parents and digital citizenship. This post was intended to focus on the culture you can begin building to ensure the devices are a critical learning tool in the learning and instruction and provide some quick strategies to address some of those challenges that cause the technology to be viewed as a distraction. It may take time, in the beginning, to establish each of these new procedures and expectations, and then periodically practice and reinforce. However, it will save time in the end with less off-task or undesirable behaviors when it comes to device use in your classroom.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Igniting Student Learning Through the Use of WeVideo

When you hear the 4 C’s, you may naturally think of creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication. With a focus on creativity, WeVideo, an online video editing site, has developed the 4 C’s of Planning for Creativity. The idea is to help students narrow down their thoughts and choices by scaffolding them throughout the video creation process. Let’s take a look at what these 4 C’s are, and how they impact the creativity of the students that sit in our classrooms every day.

Why are we doing this? Students ask this quite frequently as we live in a world where students are often questioning the relatedness of classroom content to their reality. In preparing to create videos using WeVideo, students should first begin with the purpose of their creation. Is there a problem to solve? A personal story to tell? What emotion should the viewers feel when they press play? The use of a storyboard where students can lay out their thoughts and ideas comes into play here. Provide students with a paper or digital copy to allow them to map out their storyline during these early stages of creation. Delving into why their work would be valuable to the intended audience sets a clear purpose for their creation.

Students truly want to be successful and that begins with clear expectations and guidelines from their teachers. When assigning projects that will be created with WeVideo, consider providing students with a guide or rubric of what the end product should include. Depending on the level of the students, this could be as simple or complex as needed. Be cautious in providing too many examples. This could stifle the creativity of some students or cause them to duplicate what was shown. Providing checkpoints throughout the process is valuable for both the teacher and the student. Ongoing feedback helps the students stay aligned with the provided criteria, and helps the teacher gauge the progress before project completion.

Images, video, sound effects, music, and documents are all the types of files that are compatible with WeVideo. Considering that these options are available, students should do upfront research and curation to find the optimal media to include in their project. Because of the variation of compatible file types, students can opt to record an experience firsthand or provide content from the WeVideo Essentials library. The library is full of media that is safe to use which aligns with positive digital citizenship skills. WeVideo connects seamlessly with Google Drive which gives students the ability to pull in files for screen recording or voiceover. Planning what to do with content is the bulk of any project.

I’m sure that most classroom teachers can agree that WeVideo project creation takes time. That time must be well thought out and planned so that students have ample time to be successful. Another thing to consider is access to outside resources. Within a one-to-one classroom, students have the ability to gather input, resources and other information from all over the world. Giving students this opportunity requires teachers and students to be innovative in their thinking. What resources do your students have access to and what are the other possibilities within reach?

The 4 C’s of Planning for Creativity gives the most flexible structure to student creation within WeVideo. When teachers use WeVideo as a tool to support other areas of learning, students are able to connect to the world around them and create high-quality videos. With thoughtful planning, students are able to create pretty powerful projects that show just how creative they really are!

Friday, November 22, 2019

Hour of Code - December 9-15

Hour of Code

“The 'Hour of Code™' is a nationwide initiative by Computer Science Education Week [] and [] to introduce millions of students to one hour of computer science and computer programming.” During the week of December 9-15, schools all over the world will be devoting at least 1 hour for students to problem solve, critically think and use their creative skills...building 21st Century foundational skills. 

Here is a great graphic telling WHY coding is important for every student, Kindergarten through 12th grade.
10 reasons to teach coding

We recently worked with elementary level principals introducing them to Scratch -  and Ozobots. We chose the activity "Code with Anna and Elsa" to explore the concept of angles in math. We designed a storytelling literacy activity with the Ozobots. Debriefing after the activity, Principals' conversations revolved around almost every single one of these reasons coding is critical for our students that are listed in the graphic. We encouraged our Principals to go back to their school, plan a great week with their Technology and Learning Coach for their school to promote computer science and coding. 

If you are reading this and do not have a Technology and Learning Coach at your school, here is a list of resources matched with grade-level appropriateness that could help you start your journey. If you do not have experience with coding, there are coding programs/websites that teach the students through video and application during the hour of code. I think it would be great if you sat with your students trying the coding activity with them. Anyone can learn to code, at any age. 

Type of coding
Block coding
Block coding
Python/Java Script
Core levels are free
Block Coding
Java Script
Python/Java/HTML coding
Free trial
Block coding
HTML, CSS, JavaScript
HTML, CSS, Python, JavaSCript
Free courses
JavaScript, Python,
JavaScript, HTML, CSS

If you have a great, "free" resource that you use with your students and is not listed on this chart, please leave a comment below. We want to add it to our list to be sure it is up to date. 

Sunday, November 3, 2019

I love❤ these two new features in Google Drive, the new Priority homepage and Workspaces. Google is always adding things to increase your productivity.  I am always accessing the same files over and over again, so much so, I have bookmarked them. Unfortunately, the more I bookmark file the less screen real-estate I have in my Bookmark bar.  In swoops Google Priority homepage and Workspaces to the rescue.

Through machine learning, Google will list files on a new Priority homepage.  The files listed are presented in a carousel and the files presented here on the Priority homepage are files that have been recently edited, commented on or have had a share request.  You will see a preview of the file and what action has taken place on that file. This saves time on searching and locating files that are used by you in your My Drive or a Shared Drive you are a member of for quick access.

Google Priority is great but Workspaces is even better.  Drive will automatically suggest Workspaces to group files you access frequently.  You can also create your own Workspaces to easily group files you access around a related topic, like PD presentations, curriculum-related materials for class or weekly meeting agendas for quick access.  Whatever the need is you can create a Workspace to group those files for quick retrieval. 

Give these two new features, Priority homepage and Workspaces in Google Drive a whirl.  Now in a meeting, I can quickly locate a file and not have to weed through a search or navigate through a bunch of folders to find a file with the information I need.  Googles Priority homepage and Workspaces has saved me time and screen real-estate and for sure. To learn more click here Work smarter with the new Priority page in Drive.

Devices are not a distraction

Teaching in a 1:1 environment is truly a great opportunity for both you and your students. It allows for immediate access to the most recent...