Thursday, September 15, 2016

Screencastify Still my Favorite Tool

If you have never used this one, then try it... Seriously, open a new tab and search for screencastify.  Find the link that is in the chrome webstore and install this extension (just a suggestion, but it is up to you).  Once you have done that, try to record something.  It is going to ask to set up the camera and microphone and ask where you want things saved.  I chose my google drive so I can share the videos with my students.  If you do this, understand that screencastify with hide all recordings in a folder called, wait for it...screencastify.

So you are good to go now?  Good.  How many of you nodded at or spoke to the computer?  Caught!

What does this little film strip in the upper right hand corner do?  It records your computer screen and your voice.  That is it.  Big whoop, right. Wrong.  Lets check out the things that you can do with this little ditty.

Lesson Ideas:

  1. Read Aloud or Document Analysis - Rather than having students read silently, have them read aloud so they can hear their fluency and practice or, if your students are older, give them a piece of complex text and have them record their annotations and rationale for their annotations.
  2. Presentation Videos - while nothing is more exciting than hearing the same, or similar presentations for all your classes over the course of a week, have your students record their presentations and turn them in for a grade every time, then call 5 students up to present each time.  Over the course of a grading period make sure each student presents.
  3. Anything on the internet! 
    1. My Maps: showing the journey of a hero, explaining the geography of a country, Plate tectonics, battles of a war, migrations of people, can I stop now and you figure some out.
    2. Cultural Institute: significance and historical connection of photos and artwork, cultural significance and time period influence of artwork, yada yada yada.
    3. Public Data Explorer:  Talk about points in the moving graphs that tell a story.  Connect the data to the story.
    4. Desmos: Explain how the graph comes from the equation or how it connects to real world problems.
    5. Sheets: Use the "show all formulas" toggle switch to have students explain their formulas and the order of operations inside the cell.  Have students give multiple answers and methods of typing an equation in sheets.
    6. Docs, Drawings, Webpages:  Screencast something there.
    7. There are literally Billions of things, I am going to stop now.  Leave a comment if you want more, I am happy to figure something out for another subject.

Benefits of Using Screencastify:

  1. Students who are afraid of presenting will thank you, but they will still be required to communicate through the video of their presentation.  
  2. There is no editing feature in Screencatify.  Students who are not good with the language will take 15 tries to get the word pronunciation correct, but when they are proud of their pronunciation of the words, then they will turn in the video
  3. Time.  It literally takes 30 seconds to make a 30 second video.
  4. Requires students to tell what they understand and not regurgitate what you have told them.
  5. You know your students voices.  Even if they got the information from somewhere else, they still need to speak it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

What is the big idea behing the 4C's?

Are we missing the big picture?

Growing up in California, I enjoyed going to the beach.  During the summer I rarely saw my parents as I would wake up early, go to the beach, come home for dinner, and get to bed early so I could wake up and do it again the next day.  While I was at the beach I would paddle, dive, stand, and turn.  It was the best time ever.

There are many ways to do the 4 activities that I did at the beach.  In fact they could be done in a pool if you wanted to.  Some of you got the point, I grew up surfing.  It is possible to understand how people could read this and have missed the point.  When we think of the 4C's (communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity) there are many ways to do them, but what are we actually talking about doing?

All he did was paddle, stand, and turn! Wasn't it amazing how he did though?

What is the big picture?
Design thinking.  If you have ever read or experienced design thinking, you have seen how it encapsulates the 4C's.  If not, then I recommend learning more about design thinking.

My point is step back and look at the cards on the table, in my example there are 4 (paddling, diving, standing, and turning).  These 4 activities can be done in such a way that is horribly boring and in no way innovative or intriguing, or they can be done in such a way as to produce the experience of surfing which, if you have done it, you understand the thrill.

In the realm on the 4 C's, it is possible to embed these in your class like a checklist.  Yes, everyday my students talk, there is work together time, there is problem solving time (worksheet), and there is creativity time (playdough).  The day is a success because I did all the 4C's, but it sucked for kids and did it increase their learning?  When these are done in such a way that the students themselves become innovators, that is where the design thinking element comes into play.

What is design thinking?

I would not say that I am an authority on that.  Reason being is that I would not want to dilute the things that I have heard and experienced.  What I can give you is how it applies to me, but please read, watch, and learn for yourself as it will inspire you in your own way.
I am the Interim Director of EdTech in my district.  My job focuses on getting teachers to transform their classes with the technology that is available to them.  In the past 2 years, we have placed 27,000 chromebooks in the classrooms and trained every teacher who has a chromebook cart in their class.  We have trained them on tools to collaborate, communicate, and create in their classes with their students.  We discuss SAMR and redefining the classroom through the use of technology.  We have limited the number of programs that we have taught as the sheer number of programs did not help us reach our goal of reaching and inspiring more teachers.  We have focused on a few programs and student creation.  If students are creating, truly innovating and making something new, then they need to be communicating, collaborating, and thinking critically.

So how does SAMR fit into Design Thinking?

It doesn't necessarily.  If technology is involved, we tend to ask how much autonomy do students have?  How much of what they do can be done without technology?  Are students reaching out beyond their physical limitations and looking to the internet for other authoritative sources, professionals, authors, etc.  What are students doing, creating, or being allowed to produce?  These are all things that the lens of the  SAMR model affords evaluation.

If SAMR is the WHAT, then design thinking is the HOW and the WHY.  How are students going through the creation process.  Why do they feel the need to do reach out to a professional, another source, etc.?  The are doing this because they are in the process of design.  They are asking questions depending upon where they are in the process.  SAMR is great as it is a reflective piece, answer the question, Are we innovating, but the design thinking process answer the question of how and why are students asking questions and pursuing answers to those questions.  I still hold that creation has a process that allows students to authentically communicate, collaborate, and think critically.  The design thinking process is an amazing model of how students and teachers can go through the creation process.

Have I missed the big idea?  

As I look back now and learn more about design thinking as a frame for how to get students creating I think that I understood the big picture, I needed a more concrete method of explaining it.  Does that mean that I have failed? Yes. Does that mean I am actively engaging in design thinking? Yes.  I am constantly learning and that is OK.

So what are the next steps? My team and I have gone out and talked to teachers, observed what they are doing, and gotten an idea of what they want and need.  From there we are going to redefine the integration problem we have and the work to brainstorm, select, prototype, and test solutions to the problem.  This will not be a quick, clean, or simple process.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Don't Forget about the Data

Formative Assessment, Summative Assessment, turn-in ration of assignments, zeroes, behavior, calls home, referrals, tardies, absences, etc.  There is data about your student popping out your ears.  Are you listening to it?

For many teachers, school has started and you are staring down back to school night.  Parent attendance may or may not be high at these events, but those who show up may wonder if there kid needs a tutor, what does their angel need to do to be successful, and what can they do to help their pride-&-joy succeed in your class.

It is possible that you have answers.  Ones that you have had canned for years, but are they the right ones?  With the amount of technology integration, you inevitably have data on your students.  You know how they write, when they do their assignments, how they do on formative assessments, what are their strengths, and what are their weaknesses.  Use the data to drive these discussions.

Not all data is quantitative.  When I collected data and completed my dissertation, this was the hardest thing for me to understand.  I had a bachelor's degree in chemistry, if it is not a number, then it didn't matter (not really).  You have many different kinds of data about your students, use these data points.  Inevitably, you have collected them while talking with your class.  Does the student make eye contact?  Does the student answer questions with the voice inflection of question?  Sure you may have data on the scores on tests, quizzes, and exit tickets?

Data is not something to be feared.  I love data because I have learned that I often get the following questions:

  1. Is what you are doing working?
  2. How do you know?
I can only answer this question with data.

Imagine that your principal asked you those two questions. What would your answer be?  How could you give them data?  What pieces of data have you collected?

Why are people afraid of data?  Data can tell you if what you are doing is not working.  That may be scary for some, but there are limits to data.  Make sure that you always put your data in context.  Use it to help you write a story, do not let the data be the only thing that makes up the story.  Give it context, faces, and make sure that you get (and give) the entire picture of what the data is helping to tell you.

Why do I bring this up? If there is no expectation of looking at data, then you have time to get comfortable with it.  If you are expected to collect data to rationalize what you are doing, then make sure your data is not just a set of numbers and charts, make sure it is a story.  

How do you get data if you think you have none?  Count the number of times kids speak in class, give a formative assessment through a google form so you can track the data (do this over several days to see improvement).  Talk to students about what they understand and what they do not understand and look for patterns.  Time yourself while you teach and measure engagement with anecdotal evidence or formative assessment.

What are you doing in class?  Is it working?  How do you know?

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Is not being innovative actually innovative?

Innovation is a word that is often misunderstood.  It does not mean being up to date on all the newest programs.  If you don't know it all, then you can still be innovative.  The trick is how you use what you do know.

I have seen posts about the 50 best programs out there and I have seen people share amazing resources.  I love that there are people out there who are always chasing the next thing.  I think it is a great thing... for them, but not for me.  Does that mean that I am not innovative?  No.

That is something that I have had to convince myself over the past 2 years.  Here is my context.  For the past 2 years I have been either the secondary EdTech TOSA (Teacher On Special Assignment) or the interim Director of EdTech for a LARGE school district.  That being said, if there is a program that I would like to implement in schools or see used widely, with fidelity, there are 2400 teacher who need to be trained in said program.

For the context where I work, I am done chasing shiny objects (programs that seem cool for a bit).  I have found a set of programs that I could use to teach a different type of lesson each of the 185 days of the school year.  Does it mean that I am not innovative for limiting myself?  I don't think that it does.  Sir Ken Robinson would say that I am a "divergent thinker."  Some might call me creative, some lazy, and others would say that I am vanilla.  The negative of the descriptions would only apply if you have never seen how I use the programs.

I use the following programs:

  1. Google Slides
  2. Google Sheets
  3. Google Forms
  4. Google Docs
  5. Screencastify
  6. Awesome Screenshot
That is all. As you can probably guess, my district has invested in chromebooks.  I know that there are other programs out there, but I have found a set of programs that I use.  Do I know others, of course.  Could I integrate them in the classroom, if I wanted.  Am I short-changing any student if I only use these programs, No!  In fact, I would say that by giving them choice to use other programs, but not supporting them, I am encouraging a growth mindset.

Why am I writing this post?  Who cares what programs you use.  I would bet that I can engage students, get them to learn to high levels on the Depth of Knowledge scale, and I can get them to create and think critically.  Most importantly, I can get them to enjoy doing it.

Do you have to spend hours upon hours finding the right program, no.  The ones I use are merely collaborative forms of the programs I used through college (powerpoint, excel, and docs) and a picture and video creator.  Innovation is not knowing the next, latest, and greatest app or program.  Innovation is finding a way to use the things that you know to get students to learn deeply and enjoy themselves while they do it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Digital Citizenship: Set the bar high

I was in a meeting today and was comforted when a member of the team remarked that what was expected was not good enough.  We are a school district that expects the best.  Make sure that we set the bar high.
Image result for pole vault

I couldn't agree more, but then I started to think about digital citizenship.  Are we setting the bar high?  Think about your implementation, are you implementing digital citizenship to make sure students stay safe and don't plagiarize or is the goal to empower students to create and innovate?

I do not think that there is a school district out there that merely hopes that their students don't get into trouble.  I have taught in several areas, some good and some REALLY bad, but I expected that my students did more than just... not bad.  If your district is one who believes, as it should, that your students are the future, that your students are the next generation of entrepreneurs, creators, innovators, decision makers, and leaders, then that is what your digital citizenship curriculum should show.

Rather than just having students learn the digital citizenship standards, empower them to create the world they want to lead.

In a recent meeting with Sue Thotz, of, I began to rethink digital citizenship.  If you think of digital citizenship as citizenship, then it is merely making the right decisions.  However, integrating SAMR with citizenship, how can technology redefine the way that we look at actions (both online and physical actions)?  Rather than make a good decision, how can technology amplify that decision to change a school culture, start a movement in the school, trend positivity, and encourage others to do the same?

There is so much more to digital citizenship than just a set of rules.

  • don't plagiarize
  • don't cyber-bully
  • etc.
Rather than "don't plagiarism", are we teaching students the rights that they have when they create something.  Have we shown them how to assign creative common rights to their work?

Rather than "don't cyber-bully", have we shown them how to make a movement public through the use of social media and to create the world that they want to live in?  If we rope in collaboration, then students are communicating, collaborating, thinking critically, and creating a movement.  That's the 4C's in case you were looking for a connection to standards.

I feel that the rest of the curriculum is shifting from a teach students content to teach students how to create with the use of the information embedded in the standards.  Why not take the same approach and, rather than just having students learn the digital citizenship standards, empower them to create the world they want to lead?

If we are truly teaching the future leaders of tomorrow, why not teach them to lead a world they helped create.  This is done through the ethical use of technology, through the use of digital citizenship.  By setting the bar high, we are expecting this rather than hoping that it may happen.