Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Was it the students who learned from this or me?

The other day we were working on our Passion Projects in #digcit and two of the students were talking about whether we have learned anything in our class this year.  The conversation went something like this:

Student 1: "She hasn't taught us anything in this class"
Student 2: "Really?  I feel like I've learned more in the this class than any other class in high school.  I feel like I can actually use this stuff in my actual life."
Student 1: "Yeah, but she isn't up in front teaching us every day"
Student 2: "That's exactly why I think this class has been so great for me.  Not only does she mix traditional teaching, but she also lets us explore and learn on our own.  You know she isn't going to be around your entire life to show you how to do everything, right?"
Student 1: "yeah, but"

I had planned to do the following exercise anyway, but thought I would seize the moment and ask the students to help me with the task now.

I asked the students if we could put a list together of all the skills we have acquired this semester.  I literally had no idea what was about to unfold.  I was thinking 5 minutes and we will have our list.  What ensured was 34 minutes of conversation that resulted in a list of 72 NEW skills we learned this semester.  I was even impressed with the end list!

As the students signed out of their Chromebooks and the two students who were talking previously continued talking, this is what I overheard:

Student 1: "Yikes! Did you realize we learned that much this semester?"
Student 2: "Actually, I felt like I had what Murat calls a learning concussion almost every day in here"
Student 1: "I guess I've never been in a class that was so individualized and relevant."

The bell rings and they walk out of the room.

At first, I was very excited about the last part of the conversation.  Then, I had an overwhelming sense of sadness that students today are not having that same feeling in all of their classes.  I model my love of learning every day for the students, whether it be participating in Twitter chats (they claim I "blow up their feed with my learning"), sharing books I've read or resources I've found and they know I get so energized when I learn.  I am disheartened that they do not have that same joy of learning in school.

When do they lose their joy of learning?  When do they become so complacent about their knowledge acquisition that they couldn't care less?

As I walked to my next class and dreaded the fact that I had to work on test prep for the quarterly assessments, I realized that when we started testing the heck out of them, it fundamentally assassinated their love of learning.

But that's a conversation for another blog, another day.

BTW... here is a sampling of the skills they learned.  I put a sampling of them into a Google Form as an exit survey assessment of how they felt about all of those skills.  We are, after all, data based.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Using @padlet in US History

If you live in NYS, you know that we must prepare our students for the Regent's Exam in June.  This is a gateway exam because in order to graduate, you must pass this test.  For those unfamiliar with the test, it contains 50 multiple choice questions, a thematic essay, 10-14 documents and a corresponding DBQ.

As we hone our skills in writing essays and analyzing documents, I was looking for a different way that would help the students prepare for a thematic essay on the reform movements.  As I thought about my end goals:
The students will be able to:
1. Discuss one major goal of the movement
2. Describe one action taken by an individual, an organization, or the government in an attempt to achieve this goal
3. Evaluate the extent to which this goal was achieved.
4. Show collaboration in comparing/contrasting two reformers.

I thought about the best way to achieve this so that it was beneficial for all the students in the class to see what their classmates discovered about the reformers and how they compared and contrasted them.

I decided that a @padlet would be a virtual collaboration tool that would be conducive for curating the information as well as housing the videos of the student collaboration.  The students were able to post the required information about their reformer, look critically at their peer's posts and determine who would be a logical comparison.  After that, they were to use any type of screencasting extension/app on the Chromebook to record their conversations.

The student's not only completed the required tasks, they went above and beyond!  Great work!!

The discussions about the reformers were rich with detail and analysis.  The fact that they had to choose their partner based on the reformer that person had was also a process of analysis.   The collaboration was collaboration that had to happen in order to make the end product successful.  It was not something that was a divide and conquer "collaboration".

Here are two samples of the Voice Thread (you have to have an account to view them)



Here is the @padlet link: http://padlet.com/meapgov/i276mo8pyk2a

The students commented that this really helped them study the information for the essay as well as learn about much more than just their one reformer.

Tech skills used in this lesson:
Google Docs
Voice Thread or Screencastify

Friday, January 9, 2015

Apps and Extensions I ACTUALLY use every day.

If you are like me, you gravitate towards anything that says Top 10 Apps/Extensions or Try These!  I love discovering new apps and extensions.  Anything that makes my workflow easier or will allow my students to experience something differently or transform the learning experience for a struggling student is speaking my language.

The problem is, with all the apps and extensions I've downloaded, there got to be no url bar on which I could navigate Chrome.

Here's the list of the apps and extensions I use just about every day.

1. Snagit.  I use this so many times a day I would be lost without it.  Not only can you use it to capture and image or a math equation, you can screencast from it.

2. Extensity.  This allows you to manage your extensions.  It will give you a list of your extensions so you can enable or disable the ones that you are going to use or not use.  It is a pain to uninstall an extension, so managing them is the only way I can keep all of the ones I have downloaded.

3. Readability.  This allows me to do several things.  It allows me to clean up webpages for those students that struggle with the distractions that most webpages have on the sides.  If you put it together with TLDR (Too Long Didn't Read) (BTW.. when you put two apps or extensions together it's called app smashing), I can then change the length of the article to a short, medium or long summary for our struggling readers.

4. Save to Drive.  I cannot overemphasize how handy this extension is.  For example, I was reading the #gafechat archives the day after the fast and furious chat trying to review the treasure trove of resources.  When I found something I liked, I just clicked Save to Drive and magically everything winds up in my Drive.  This is especially handy when I am finding resources for my #digcit course!

5. Tab Scissors and Tab Glue.  Although my desktop has two monitors, clearly my Chrome Book does not.  These extensions will separate two tabs so you can work on them simultaneously and then glue them back into one tab when you are done.  Seems simple, but very handy.

6. Tab Cloud.  I use this literally every day.  In my #flipclass AP Gov, I use #classdojo to keep track of participation.  I have 34 kids in that class, so I divided them up into color groups (red, green, orange, etc).  I opened all of the color groups in #classdojo and then clicked tab cloud.  That saves that set of tabs so that no matter what I am doing on my Chrome Book the next day, I click on the extension and it opens a new browsing session with just those tabs.  That alone saves me at least 10 minutes everyday, and every minute counts!

7. One Tab.  This one has been a lifesaver!  I don't know about you, but I find myself in the midst of the day with about 20 tabs open.  One Tab allows you to condense all your tabs into a list.  If you are doing research for example, you can click One Tab and then save the list of what are essentially now bookmarks and name it for whatever you are researching.  This also is helpful if you are trying to put a webquest together.  You could put a longer list of tabs together for the students who need a challenge and are able to sort through more information and a shorter list together for the students who struggle with too much information.

8. Ginger. I am actually using Ginger as I write this.  It highlights in blue the errors in spelling and grammar for you and then suggests a more grammatically correct way to state it (or what the correct spelling is).  Helpful and fewer clicks than alt+click to figure out if you have errors.

9. Goo.gl URL Shortener: I use this everyday also.  Whether it is shortening a URL or creating a QR code for extension activities, this makes it very easy to create and insert it into a document, etc.

10. Explain and Send Screenshots: This allows you to annotate a screenshot when a screenshot needs some explaining or if you are inserting it with directions into a document.  Very handy!

There are literally a zillion extensions, but these are the ones I use everyday.  I hope you found it helpful!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

#digcit Coming to a School Near You

In an ideal world, we would be integrating all of the principles of good #digcit PreK - 12 and beyond, but let's be honest.  We aren't.

After attending a Digital Leadership conference where I had the honor of hearing +Eric Sheninger speak about the role #digcit plays in our future, I had one of those lightbulb moments we always talk about.  On the 90 minute drive home, I started to think about what it would mean to bring a #digcit course to our high school and how we could squeeze it in considering we just experienced the worst economic time in our district's history that saw 100 positions eliminated.  I anticipated it would be a tough sell, so I started to do some research.

In my research, I came across the Common Sense ( +Common Sense Education) curriculum and knew that would be my starting point.  I dug around for about two weeks and put my plan together and got my ducks in a row as I made an appointment with @mehsprincipal to make the case for the creation of a new class.

I was about 3 minutes into the case for the course when he stopped me.  My heart sank as he said "Let me get this straight.. You want a course..." As my heart sank and my head fell, he surprised me and said "YES!! We need a course like that!"  The rest, they say is history.

This year, as I've blogged about, we have had so many amazing experiences from examining our #digitalfootprint to increasing our #digital #literacy to learning what labeled for reuse means that one day we brainstormed a list of the skills we've learned thus far.  This was about a month ago and only about 3 months into the course.  We came up with 62 skills just off the top of our heads!  Holy crow!

As the course is winding down (it's a semester course) and we are putting the final touches on our Passion Projects and Parent Tip videos, the students wanted to share all that they have learned and persuade other school districts to start a #digcit course for their students in the hopes that it would eventually trickle down so it was K-12.

Here are a couple of the submissions.  I think they did a superb job of persuading! What do you think??

https://www.smore.com/7fx5z​ Thanks to @davidverrastro for this one!

http://goo.gl/Dk2UAD Thanks to @hannahmcgoff for this one!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

App Smackdown in #digcit class

As I dove deeper into our Digital Literacy Unit in #digcit class, I sat up at 1:30 in the morning and said YES! I so want to do an App Smash in class.  I've been to many #edcamps, and finally had the courage to participate in the appsmack down after the third one and knew just how valuable the process and the product were to both my personal and professional learning.

After I mulled over how the students would react to participating in an App Smash, I decided to take the plunge.  What's the worst that could happen?  A little whining.  No worries, I got this!

As I suspected, there was no whining, there was a competition to see claim apps and extensions before anyone else could.  We created a Google Slides presentation so the students could work on it at the same time and from anywhere they chose to.

The criteria for the assignment was basically the same as an #edcamp.  Show us an app or extension that you think will be useful to us as we work our way through the rest of the school year.  It has to have applicability beyond just this class and you have 2 minutes to present it.

I prepared a Google Sheets survey so the class could answer three questions for each presenter.
1. Was this presentation helpful to you?
2. Do you see applicability for this app/extension?
3. Is this the winner?

The winner of the Smackdown (based on the students voting) would receive a $20 gift card to Dunkin Donuts.  I'm not sure how your town is with Dunkin, but that is like gold in our town.

The day of the Smackdown, the Superintendent and my Principal participated in the audience voting.  As a side note, this was the Superintendent's first experience with Google Sheets and the survey and he was blown away that I could put the survey together in a matter of minutes and find the results in a matter of seconds.

Anyway.. back to the day of the Smackdown.  The students brought their A game and I learned a ton that day about apps and extensions that I didn't know about and ones that I had forgotten about.  It was fast paced learning and everyone was ohhhhhhing and ahhhhhhing.  Even though they have the Google Slides presentation, they were trying to download apps and extensions as they learned about from the presentations.

When we finished the Smackdown, several of my students commented that they now understand what I mean when I say I get a learning concussion when I'm at an #edcamp.  I'll take that as a success!!

BTW... the winner of the Smackdown is a student who struggles in school and you should have seen the smile on his face and how he was walking on cloud 9 for the rest of that week.  It gave him an extra source reinforcing that he can do this and that if he applies himself, he can work magic.  I tell him this on a regular basis, but I really believe that until the student experiences the success for himself on a regular basis, it is tough (by the time they reach high school) to undo all of the negative experiences they have had in school thus far.

I've included the Google Slides presentation (http://goo.gl/B8JRgD) and plan to use it as I present apps and extensions at our upcoming #edcamp.

*All images are either cited or labeled for reuse (another digital literacy skill)

Digital Literacy in #digcit class

As we started our Digital Literacy Unit in #digcit, I knew the basic skills I wanted the students to demonstrate but knew it could be bigger and better than my original plan.  (What plan can't be bigger and better??).

After participating in a Twitter chat (at this point, I have no idea which one since I participate in so many of them each week) and came across Google a day.  It intrigued me and so I thought we would try it out in class.  The students took to it like a fish to water.  They didn't really realize the purpose behind it was to make their Google searches more efficient and to increase their digital literacy skills.  They just saw a challenge and wanted in!

I had them create a Google Doc in the folder that is shared with me so they could keep track each day how many of the questions (there are 3) they could get through in the first 5 minutes of class each day.  The first day we tried it out we had 15 minute periods because of a 2 hour delay and an assembly schedule, so I let them play the whole 15 minutes.  After that, I set the timer for 5 minutes as soon as the bell rings.  Students who had previously strolled in as soon as the bell rang were rushing to get to class so they could add precious seconds to the 5 minute search time.  In the Google Doc each day, they had to put the date and then the number of questions they completed that day.  The goal was to get to a steady diet of 3 questions answered successfully each day.

Several students who are whizzes at this sort of thing anyway were to a steady diet of 3 by the end of the first week.  The weaker students struggled, but eventually got there also.

The most amazing thing that came out of this was the conversations that happened when the students were trying to answer the questions.  Often overheard were the following:

"What's a more efficient way to say...."

"What's a synonym for..."

"Could we try..."

"What have you tried already?  How could we make that a better search?"

"What does that word mean?"

The collaborative conversations and learning that came out of this seemingly miniscule activity exceeded my expectations.  Once again, the students proved that I underestimated them.  Improving their digital literacy is not just a goal of mine and the course, but it is also one of theirs.  They are constantly asking me what else they can learn.

I have heard from many parents (via email, phone and F2F conversations) that this course is their son/daughter's favorite class because they are constantly learning and learning skills they know are applicable.