Posted in Collaboration, Creation, Demonstration, Differentiation, Digital Pedagogy, Technology

The 4 Essential Questions and Their Digital Resources

What are the 4 essential questions in the collaborative team process?

  • What do you want your students to know and be able to do?
  • How will you know if they’ve learned it?
  • What will you do if they don’t?
  • What will you do if they do?

These are the questions essential for collaborative teams. Where does digital learning fit within these questions?

Digital learning is embedded within each of the questions. It supports the learning process, provides the data, and gives means to the learning.

As we look at the standards and plan what we want our students to know and be able to do, digital resources like Nearpod provide means of engagement and interest in the lessons. Resources like Flipgrid and Padlet provide student voice. Resources like Explain Everything and Book Creator allow students demonstrate their learning. Resources like Showbie allow students to differentiate the format of their answers on everyday work. Resources like those that GSuite provides allow students to work collaboratively on a variety of products, share their products in teams and with the teacher. There are so many resources available for students to demonstrate what they know and are able to do!

How will you know if they’ve learned it? Nearpod provides on the spot feedback on how students are understanding the material during instruction. KahootSocrative and Zipgrade provide immediate formative feedback. For performance assessments, Google SlidesKeynotePowerPointExplain EverythingiMovieBook Creator and Padlet are student-friendly tools that allow for students to demonstrate their understanding in more creative, individualized ways.

What will you do if they didn’t learn the material? In the secondary world, there are deadlines: learning outcomes by specific times. How is this addressed without falling behind? Digital resources provide a different means to address this. iMovieEdPuzzleBlendspace, are a few means to provide supplementary instruction. ZipGrade and Socrative provide easy means to re-assess students. The LMS of your choice provides a place to house those supportive resources.

What will I do if they do know the material? This is the time for students to lend their voice and choice to demonstrate that learning! Have your students create the learning experiences by choosing a tool or combination of tools to explain what they know.

It’s all about the right tool for the learning experience. Sometimes it’s print, sometimes it’s digital, sometimes it might even be the student’s choice.

Posted in Innovation, Shift, Technology

Reflection, A Critical Tool for an Innovative Educator

Reflection is something vital to our development as educators, yet so easily dropped from our practice. The urgencies of the day can easily overshadow that moment to pause, breathe, and reflect. Those the reflective moments, however, are the moments from which we can truly grow.

Reflection isn’t a new practice in education, but it is a key practice of an innovative educator (Courcos 48). John Dewey described reflection as “behavior which involves active, persistent, and careful consideration of any belief or practice in light of the grounds that support it and the future consequences to which it leads” (qtd in Canning 18). A reflective educator asks him/herself questions like: What worked? What didn’t work? What would I change? What questions do I have moving forward? (Courcos 57). The process provides the educator with a view into what went well, what didn’t, why the lesson went well or didn’t, and the foundation which to make adjustments as necessary.

Talking about the importance of reflection is one thing, but what tool to use is another discussion. Choose a tool, which you’re comfortable using. I’ve used so many different tools over the years: paper (Leutchturm and Lemome are my favorites), apps (Day One is my favorite), blogs, and bullet journals. The tools isn’t what’s important, it’s the process. The process needs to be a regular process. Make the time, make it a habit.

Reflective practice is a key characteristic of an innovative educator, but student lesson reflection is also a powerful tool. I would add that a reflective educator asks his or her students the following questions: What worked? What didn’t work? What did you learn? What did you thing the goal was? What do you need me to know? What questions do you have? I had my students reflect as an exit ticket each day. It was quick, but powerful. I started with a paper form and moved later to a Google form when our school went 1:1. These were private, individual reflections where every student had a voice and provided me with daily insight as to the success of our daily goals and where we needed additional help.

If reflective practice has been around for so long, what makes it innovative? It’s innovative because it asks the necessary questions in order for innovation to happen. It helps us to answer these key questions: Would I want to be a learner in my own classroom? What is best for this student? What is this student’s passion? What are some ways we can create a true learning community? How does this work for our students? (Courcos 40).

Moving forward as an innovative educator can begin with a practice of daily reflection.

 

Resources

Posted in 21st Century Skills, iPads, Technology

New Devices, New Problems

Adding a device into the classroom is like Christmas for the students; there’s excitement, adventure, curiosity and ultimately distraction from the learning goal of the day.

I thought I had prepared for that. I thought I had our first days with the iPad well-planned, anticipating student reaction and guiding it. The reactions 30 young, eager, curious minds, however, can’t always be predicted. It’s a language class, so we began by reviewing and practicing iPad-related vocabulary in the target language. I want my students to be able to talk about their “tool” in the target language, to maintain that focus in the classroom. We then distributed the iPads and practiced using the iPad vocabulary in context: functions, placement, actions, etc. We then did our first assignment with the iPad.

Our first iPad assignment involved students videotaping themselves practicing a dialog. We had been working on the related vocabulary in class, adding the related skills, and were then practicing it all in context. Students were to record themselves. listen to themselves and edit or redo as necessary until they were proud of their final product. My hope was for students to upload their videos to their shared Google Drive folders  (a topic for another post). There was so much technical need during the period, that I decided to have them Airdrop their videos instead. Airdrop is fast and convenient for the students. A couple more steps for me, but easier for them. They loved it – too much!

Let’s talk about Airdrop and other technical difficulties. Deep breaths. 30 Students all asking for my help at once. It often doesn’t matter how many times you say and write the directions, there are so many questions students have! Problem solving, even in this generation, wasn’t one of the strengths this group had. My name was called from all directions of the classroom minute after minute. It wasn’t even because students had problems with how to film – experience with their phones made them fairly adept at this. Most issues revolved around not being able to login to Google Drive, hence the switch to Airdrop (before deploying the iPads, students had gone to their District assigned Google Drive accounts and set up shared folders for the class). The main issue was that students hadn’t logged into our District network, so of course the sharing wasn’t working. A number of iPads were defaulting the an incorrect network that kept logging them out of the District network. Logging in was part of the directions, but the thrill of the new “toy” distracted students from those directions. That meant I was caught going from student to student, from one side of the classroom to the other, “fixing”  issues that shouldn’t have been issues. In the meantime, students had discovered the “fun” of Airdrop and begun Airdropping Photo Booth pictures of themselves.

Did students get their assignment done? Did they enjoy this format? Have they asked to do it again? Yes. Yes to all of that. For me, however, it was an exhausting experience. After stepping back I could see that just because they are having fun, doesn’t mean the students aren’t learning. Even though they were Airdropping and using Photo Booth apart from the assignment, they were still learning how the device worked and sharing their knowledge with each other.

Maybe I’m too hard on myself. A part of myself thinks perhaps I should have gone the opposite direction and not planned anything and watched where students would take themselves.  Ultimately I still think that students need to be guided towards the appropriate doors. That’s part of their digital education. I believe we have an obligation to guide students through the digital craze. Planning is the key.  Anticipating student reaction and actions is also important.

Maybe my experience will help someone else in their journey into a 1:1 program. Maybe my continued experiences will also help.

Posted in 21st Century Skills, iPads, Shift, Technology

New Directions: 1st Steps in a 1:1 Program

I’ve taken a break for some time now, not writing in either of my blogs.  It’s time for that to change.

Things do not change; we change.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), Walden (1970)

The school I am a part of is one of the SILT Strand schools, Schools of Innovative Learning Through Technology, in our District. Despite the unfortunate name, these schools have some great potential for 21st Century education, their goal most simple stated in the title: innovative learning, using technology. These school have finally taken a huge step forward – initiating a 1:1 program.

So, one might imagine that a strand of school charged with innovative learning through technology would have gone down this road earlier, but not necessarily. The more recent downturn in our national economy put us back a few steps. With things appearing to be improving, our District had many more urgencies to take care of first. Still, this direction was not lost and here we are!

Our journey is just beginning. First there needed to be the choice of platform. What kind of device will we use? Selfishly, I was thrilled not to have been in those discussions; they were difficult and fused with emotions. In the end, for many reasons, we went with iPads.  Being a member of the church of Apple, I was personally thrilled, though I saw many of the virtues of the other top choices. If you ever get the opportunity to go down this road, be prepared: this may be the most difficult part of your journey!

Today was the first of many trainings. So much material to cover! We went over everything from basic skills, to District devices vs. personal devices, to insurance, to parent and student responsibility agreements. There are so many factors to consider in this process! I’m just introducing the road this blog is now going down. I’m looking forward to sharing every bit of this one step at a time: the logistics, the apps, the device, the colleagues, the learning, the successes, the failures, and everything else.

I am thankful for all the others who have gone down this road before us and have been willing to share their own experiences. We have benefited from your efforts, I know. Hopefully, through what I share here, others may be gain from our experience as well. That’s one of the compliments a teacher can receive, right? Having others benefit and learn from your experience?

Posted in 21st Century Skills, Technology

The Blame Game

Where should the blame lay?

I walked into my pod office to quickly drop of my lunch dishes before my next group of students walked into the room. A colleague had walked into the office just before me.  He sat down and began to talk about what he just “stirred up.”  To be fair, I only had a moment and I didn’t stay for the entire conversation, but I heard enough to become concerned. Yes, it bothered me, and yes, I am concerned.

What my colleague was talking about was our building’s drop in standardized test scores – across the board. Yes, that’s concerning for a number of reasons: the drop itself, what this means for our school accountability-wise, statistics in general, the general discussion regarding standardized tests, and where he is placing the blame. My colleague is placing the blame for our drop in scores on what he calls “too much time spent programming” and not reading and writing.

What he is referring to is the use of tech tools in the building and more specifically wikis.

Wow. In my brief moments in the office, I was able to add that there has been discussion about this one particular class of students since before we ever received them as students. That is something within the scores that really needs to be looked at – not just one 10th grade class to another, but this 10th grade class longitudinally.  Blaming tech, and those teachers that i]employ tech tools, however, isn’t the answer and it was difficult to hear.

I’m hoping to use this as an aha moment in my own technology trainings: technology should be tools seamlessly integrated into the educational experience, they are not toys and not the product.

It does take some initial time to train students in how to use a tool, but that’s not programming. At one point it took time to teach students how to use a word processing program, but now it is second nature to most of them. Technology tools can be like that as well: give them the proper training, and students will be able to use those tools in ways that we may not be able to imagine.

Using technology tools is not a replacement for reading and writing. Using technology tools just brings students to the information faster and allows them to collaborate in ways that they weren’t able to at an earlier point.  Using technology tools in the classroom is teaching them how to approach the workforce that they will be walking into. They key is to be using them as tools, seamlessly integrated into the instructional environment, ones that foster skills development.

Standardized testing may or may not be catching up to 21st Century learning and workforce, but that’s a different discussion entirely.

Posted in Technology, World Languages

Back to School = Back to Tech

The next school year is about to begin. While sad to say good-bye to the summer vacation, it’s still exciting to see what the new year will bring.  Before our students walk through our classroom doors, there’s a good deal of front-end preparation and planning that we all do. Struggling with technology is not something that anyone looks forward to at this time.  Here are some tips to avoid some of those struggles and help us along the way:

  1. At the beginning of the year don’t try every tech tool that you might have read about or someone told you about. Pick something you feel confident that you’ll use. When you and your students are comfortable using that tool, then try adding something else.
  2. Practice using any tech tool before you plan on using it in the classroom. You never know what problems you might encounter: blocked sites, incompatible software, login issues, tool too complicated for age-level of the user.
  3. Remember that not only are you teaching your respective target language, but you need to teach your students how to use the tool as well.
    1. When working with a new tool that you plan on using for performance assessments, introduce that tool in a smaller assignment to give them experience.
    2. We want the language to be the product, not the technology. We don’t want them to fail because of complications with that technology.
  4. Integrate technology in your lesson planning process, not as an occasional activity.
  5. Some students don’t have the same access to the internet and other tech tools at home. Make sure that there is enough class time available to get these types of assignments done at school.
  6. Technology should always remain a tool and support instruction, not a toy and not the focus of instruction itself. Before using one, ask yourself how this helps your students meet your learning targets.
  7. Always have a backup plan. Technology can sometimes fail. Having a backup plan can save the day and prevent loss of instructional time.
  8. Have a web site. Use what your school provides or try out Google (free). Use this as a place to keep parents informed: Standards, learning targets, unit overviews, important dates, your schedule, links to other sites, policies, class newsletter, etc.
  9. Develop a personal learning network (PLN). Use twitter! There are so many teachers using twitter as professional development and collaboration tool. You’ll be able to learn, ask questions, and share with fellow educators all over the world! Search for the following world language related hashtags: #flteach, #langchat. There are more, but these can get you started. Visit https://twitter.com.
  10. Find educational blogs to follow. These can provide ideas and inspiration. Here are some ideas:
    1. http://mmeduckworth.blogspot.com
    2. http://langwitches.org/blog/
    3. http://zachary-jones.com/zambombazo/
    4. http://community.actfl.org/ACTFL/Blogs/ViewBlogs/
    5. http://teacherbootcamp.edublogs.org/
    6. http://marisaconstantinides.edublogs.org/
    7. http://languagesresources.wordpress.com/
    8. http://deutschlich.wordpress.com/

Why might you put this time and effort into something that’s not the target language or culture itself? Because this is where our students are today. This is the culture in which they are growing up. This is their language and we need to speak it as well. Not only will we identify more with our students, but we can benefit from the world of technology. World language teachers are often isolated (singletons) in their respective buildings. Technology can bring us connections like never before. Through these connections we can become stronger, better informed, and never really alone.

 

 

Posted in 21st Century Skills, Technology

What’s this all about?

21st Century Learning is quite the catch-phrase these days.  We see it in mission statements, we read it in articles, we hear it around the water cooler.  When we have it thrust into our faces, it is usually accompanied by some form of technology that we “need” to learn which our students probably mastered last year. Don’t get me wrong, I love techie toys and tools. (My husband calls me an iNerd, lovingly.) But it doesn’t help us professionally to throw some “new” pieces of technology at us, make us learn them, and expect us to use them when they are really just expensive toys.  That’s assuming that our District can even afford gadget-styled toys for the classroom!

What we need today are tools to help us bring our students through this century and into the next.  The gadgets we have today will be obsolete soon enough, but learning won’t. Gadget can certainly be terrific tools in the classroom – as long as they are tools to further the learning experience and not the point in themselves of it.

This blog is here to share, learn, collaborate, and reflect on just that:  what does the 21st century learning experience look like and where do I fit in with it.  Let’s get sharing!