Monday, March 2, 2015

Thank You Bloggers and Readers!

Thank you to all of the wonderful bloggers who shared resources in our 2015 Digital Learning Month blog and to all the readers who joined us in our Digital Learning Month journey. Hopefully you all found at least one resource that you've been able to try in your classroom. Please continue to visit the blog and comment about how you are using these different resources. Be sure to connect with us through our website and social media and check out the other Digital Learning Month and Day events that Indiana is sponsoring.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Minecraft in the 21st Century Classroom

Our blogger for the last day of Indiana's Digital Learning Month blog is Amy Heath, 6th grade teacher at Yorktown Middle School.

I am always observing and questioning my students to inform my teaching.  I evaluate my lessons and assignments based on students' needs and interests.  Over the last couple of years, I became aware of my students love for Minecraft and interviewed students to learn more about the game.

After playing Minecraft and watching students play Minecraft, I realized that Minecraft is a powerful, learning tool.  At first, I feared gaming would control my classroom, but I was wrong.  My students worked harder and longer on research projects because students were not only engaged, they were addicted.

Over time, many students utilized Minecraft to prove learning.  For example, in Minecraft, students created a library where they stored "books" in a treasure chest for research-based assignments.  Students also created museums to explain various concepts such as how a Greek God or Goddess connected to a constellation to recreating villages from the Middle Ages, and when we studied pirates, students created pirate ships filled with biographical information about their pirate of choice.  We have even used Minecraft on virtual field trips.  For instance, we "virtually"  discovered Africa and learned that we could save baby elephants if we created them on Minecraft and posted a picture on Twitter with the #elegram on Nature.org.  When students choose the Minecraft option for an assignment, I have observed that they spend additional evenings and week-ends to create.  I am always impressed with Minecraft projects and thrilled that my students love to work.

Before we begin a project, students and I discuss the criteria for the project and create a rubric.  I conference with each student at project's end to determine if they met the requirements.  To my surprise, students always surpass the requirements showing standard-mastery over multiple standards.  After these experiences, I determined that Minecraft allows teachers to open the gates of creativity and connect the game with various content area literacy and writing standards across the curriculum.  How will you use Minecraft in your 21st century classroom?

Share these example projects with your students.





Friday, February 27, 2015

"Failure to Signal..."

Our blogger today is Eric Sieferman, Principal at Cascade Middle School in the Mill Creek Community School Corporation.

Find out how Google Sites MAY get you out of a citation for a traffic violation!


I have experienced countless sleepless nights in my administrative career when I inexplicably awoke in the middle of the night and began to ponder all that was required for me to do in order to prepare for the day, plan for the next big school event, or organize myself to facilitate professional development with our teachers.  The more I thought about these issues at some ungodly hour the faster my brain would shift gears into a rate and pace that would make Usain Bolt take notice.  Because everything I needed to sort out my work-related thoughts was on my work computer, the only solution when these thoughts limited my visit with the Sandman was to crawl out of bed, prepare myself for my day, and head into the office.

One of these sleepless nights was on a cold evening in November of 2009.  I awoke around 2:00 a.m. and was headed toward my office around 2:45 a.m. wearing a shirt and tie with my lunch riding next to me in the passenger seat.  On my 25 minute commute to work I travel through a very small town with one main intersection where the liquor store, bank, local mechanic, and the "F-O-O store" (the "D" fell off years ago) are all located.  I stopped at the 4-way stop sign and proceeded one block south where I connect with a county road that takes me to my school.  At approximately 3:00 a.m. I apparently failed to turn on my turn signal as I merged on to that county road.  I became aware of my oversight when a Sheriff's Deputy who was hidden from my immediate view noticed and informed me when he pulled me over a mile after I completed my turn.

There I was at 3:00 a.m., in professional dress during a driving rain storm on my way to work and pulled over for "failure to signal.”  It took some serious negotiating skill on my behalf to convince the officer that I was the principal at the local middle school, and I was heading in to work at that hour. I'm positive that he did not believe my story initially.  After running my license and checking my plates and after a few minutes of rain-drenched conversation, he let me go with a verbal warning.

With Google Drive you no longer have to worry about how to access files that may be on your work machine or stored within your local intranet when you are not on campus.  With Google Sites, those creative thoughts and ideas that awaken you at 2:30 in the morning are just a Chrome click away and available to you from the comfort of your own living room!  Google Sites has become my "go to" tool in order to present information, collect work/ideas, curate content, facilitate professional development, share resources, and organize projects.  When your work is complete all you have to do is share a single link or URL address with your audience, and they have access to view or edit the content. 

The purpose of this blog entry is to share with you how Google Sites have helped frame much of the professional development my teachers and I have experienced on our journey to becoming digital leaders.  Perhaps more importantly, Google Sites will help you avoid getting pulled over by law enforcement officials at 3:00 a.m. for "failure to signal" while you are on your way to work!  Here is how…

  • Google Sites has significantly decreased the need to meet with staff or send all of those "reminder" e-mails.  The teachers at my school know that MOST things they want or need to know are going to be displayed on our Staff Site. They check it daily as they check their e-mail.

  • One of the best examples illustrating the collaborative power of Google Sites is in our collection of digital and flipped lessons. The intent of these exercises (repeated in February of 2014, in May of 2014, in September of 2014, again in January of 2015) were to encourage teachers to try new tech tools and explore how technology could be used to engage and enhance the teaching and learning process. Teachers created, implemented, and facilitated digital lessons and documented their experiences in these sites.

  • In May of 2014 about 90% of my staff were not Twitter users. I wanted them to set up an account and explore how powerful Twitter can be as a personalized professional learning community.  I just knew that if I could get them to see the value that they would become as hooked on Twitter as I was.  We only conducted our "Two Tweets to Share" activity a couple of times because follow up conversation with my staff demonstrated to me that they "got it" and were well on their way to becoming regular Twitter users.
  • The Google Chrome Store is one of my favorite sites.  There are thousands of tips and tools that will enhance your productivity or they way you teach and the way your students learn.  Visiting the Chrome Store is like shopping at your favorite retail store with a huge gift card in hand!  In order to acquaint our teachers with the resources available in the Chrome Store, we created this site entitled "Chrome Store Shopping" which corresponded with a PD experience in March of 2014.  We decided to repeat the activity in February of 2015 with an updated collection of our favorite discoveries.
  • Google Sites can also be used as a way to curate content.  A handful of our teachers read Flipping Your Classroom by Johathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams in the winter of 2014.  This book served as a guide for our teachers who conducted several PD sessions with our staff in the spring and fall of 2015.  Here is a collection of flipped classroom resources that was used as part of one of those PD sessions.
  • We have used Google Sites too as a reflective experience to collect our emerging philosophies of technology integration in August of 2014.  The idea behind this activity was to challenge teachers to begin thinking about who they are as digital leaders and instructors.
  • We participate in an experience once per month we call "Instructional Rounds.”  The idea is to get teachers to visit their colleagues' classrooms and provide their colleague with some constructive and positive feedback relating to some specific component of the RISE Rubric. Here is a Google Site that was used to facilitate our Instructional Rounds in January of 2015.
  • My building became a 1:1 Chromebook building in October of 2014.  Prior to that date, the decision to "go" 1:1 was made in September of 2013 and a committee selected the Chromebook as the device in January of 2014.  Here is a site we produced in order to introduce the Chromebook to our school community.
  • Because our students all now have their own devices, we decided to use that to our advantage and eliminate reading the daily announcements over the school's public address system as part of our daily routine.  Students have all bookmarked the Daily Announcements and check it frequently each week.  This student site contains a few other student oriented tools such as a collection of Chromebook Resources to help them learn about their devices.  
  • Google Sites can be used as a presentation tool.  The advantage provided by Sites is that you can provide attendees with the URL in a follow up e-mail or on a business card, and they have access the content in your presentation long after the presentation concludes.  Here is a presentation that a colleague and I provided to a group of Butler University aspiring principals in the fall of 2014, and here is a presentation a team and I distributed at an Indiana e-Learning conference in the summer of 2014.
  • Google Sites could almost be used as a Learning Management System (LMS) to facilitate learning.  I took an online class offered from Five Star Technology Solutions in the fall of 2014 that was just fantastic!   I was afraid that I would not have access to the course content and resources once I completed the course.  So, I began collecting all of the content presented in the course that was available online for my future reference.  The layout of this site resembles chapters in a book which corresponded with the modules in the course which was entitled, "The Leadership Mindset" (this link will illustrate my meaning).
  • A second example of Google Sites as an LMS is presented in this middle school language arts site.  The site was created to guide students through reading the novel The Giver including resources, videos, audio readings, and related assignments.
  • My final example is a work in progress and will continue through the spring of 2015. Chromebooks were introduced to students in grades 5-8 in October of 2014.  Students in grades 9-12 will be issued Chromebooks in August of 2015.  We decided that it would be beneficial to essentially begin vertically aligning technology skills students had from grade level to grade level.  For example, we wanted to help the 9th grade teachers prepare for their Chromebook student launch by illustrating what it was exactly that our 8th grade students knew.  If 8th grade students were all proficient in a web tool like Socrative, we wanted the 9th grade teachers to be aware.  Likewise, our 6th grade teachers wanted to know what their incoming students were exposed to as 5th graders.  This site is a collaborative effort to identify which tech skills were introduced, are emerging, and have been mastered by our students from one grade to the next.

I hope this entry has provided you with some insight on the versatility of  Google Sites and how it can be used for professional development.  If you are a Google Sites enthusiast like me and have additional ideas on how the tool can be used, I'd love to hear about them!  

Until then, don't forget those turn signals!


Creating a Google Site is not much more challenging than typing a document.  Google Sites is free within your Google Apps for Education suite and requires no HTML programming knowledge or skill.  It comes with similar collaborative options as most other Google products do.  And, it is easy to insert any GAFE created artifact (such as Docs, Slides, Calendars, Sheets, Forms, etc.) or any image stored in your Google Drive directly into the Google Site.

If you'd like to learn more about Google Sites and how to get started with making your own site, check out some of these resources:

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Igniting Innovation, Invention, and Inquisitiveness through Raspberry Pi

Today’s blogger is Stacey Schmidt, Superintendent of the Porter Township School Corporation in Valparaiso, Indiana.

As a child, there was little I loved more than finding things around the house and inventing a new game, finding a new use for an object, or investigating something I found in nature.

Regularly I had the opportunity in school to do the same thing—take a found object and create something new from it. I am thankful for those hard working teachers that ignited my need to innovate, invent, and be inquisitive about the world. Although my days in school are long ago, our students experience these same needs. It is important for schools to continue to consider how to provide experiences for students that nurture that need for exploration and creativity. Have you watched what Sir Ken Robinson has to say on the matter?

 Sir Ken Robinson: How Schools Kill Creativity

While there are several ways that teachers incorporate innovation, invention, and inquisitiveness into their instruction, one that I have been reading about lately (and hearing about from my awesome technology crew!) is called Raspberry Pi.  In a nutshell, this is an extremely low cost computer ($35—additional components needed to make it functional) which can browse the internet and do what a traditional computer does but also allows students to learn basic coding languages, work in digital creation, and learn the basics of how computers work allowing them to invent.

Schools have been utilizing this little device to create an open environment allowing students to do some pretty amazing things! Students have worked on creating weather stations, creating video games based on literature,  using it to engineer projects and inventions,  building robots utilizing 3D printers,  inventing dog feeding systems,  and designing plant care systems just to name a few. You can even utilize the Raspberry Pi with Minecraft.

Additionally, there are many resources available to help schools learn how to utilize a Raspberry Pi in whatever setting might be appropriate. They have developed teach, learn, and make resources which provide great starting points for schools.  There are also free professional development resources  though the company or available on YouTube in case you’re like me and need help getting started.

I have just begun my exploration into this tool.

This is the first model of Raspberry Pi which my tech team has purchased.

There is a lot of learning left for me—and discovery about how best to unleash interested students to innovate, invent, and be inquisitive about it. As I believe it is essential to be a learning leader--this particular device pushes me outside of my comfort zone which I like.  What I most certainly know is that if I put this in the hands of students they will be fast to figure it out—while I’m still watching a YouTube video on how to make this thing work!

Raspberry Pi is just one tool to ignite the minds of our greatest treasures, our students. What activities have you done lately to achieve the same goal of igniting innovation, invention, and inquisitiveness?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Time-Lapse INeLearn Instagram Takeover

Today's blogger, Lance Yoder is a Technology Integration Specialist for East Noble School Corporation.

When East Noble found out about the INeLearn Instagram Takeover, we were quick to volunteer as it provided quite an opportunity to display students using technology to transform their learning experience. It was exciting as students were using their iPads to create fun responses with apps such as Chatterpix and Shadow Puppet, and I could document the entire experience using PicPac on my Android phone. Instagram only allows for 15 second videos, but creating a time-lapse allowed for the recording of an entire lesson within the time constraint. My opportunity to share took place on February 10th.

I’ve been encouraging my primary grade teachers to utilize their iPads by having students record book reviews with Shadow Puppet and have a class collection in Google Drive. Back in my days of being a 4th-grade teacher, it consumed a lot of time for students to create and share book reviews. Having each student that shared stand in front of the class when it was time to present is not efficient. With the implementation of the iPad, everyone can share in the experience simultaneously. We are using Google Drive to upload items to a shared folder. However, I’ve used other resources, such as Padlet.com in the same manner.

Here are some fun samples my first graders at Rome City Elementary produced during my time working with them:



I wanted to document my working with students, but who really wants to watch a 20-30 minute video of me teaching? (That and you only get 15 seconds on Instagram.) PicPac is a free app for Android that will create stop-motion and time-lapse videos. I purchased the “pro features” to get a better-exported product. The free version only allows a resolution up to 360p verses 1080p for the pro features. Here is how it works:

 

The first class I worked with was Ms. Zolman’s first grade at Rome City Elementary. The students were very curious as to why I was setting up my phone in the back of the room before launching my lesson. Using time-lapse would obviously be a fun way to give parents a glimpse into the classroom. Students would be fully capable of creating these experiences for the teacher.


Mrs. Huelsenbeck is the Media Specialist at Rome City. She read a book about Penguins aloud to the students and wanted a way for them to record facts and opinions.. I decided to record the event and help the students as they work with their iPads.


Time-lapse videos are a lot of fun, and the community enjoyed watching them as I was able to post the links to the school district’s social media accounts. Though my day to participate in the INeLearn Instagram Takeover is through, I am still using PicPac in the classroom as a means to give a glimpse of the learning taking place. You can see an example from Wayne Center Elementary where I worked with Mrs. Kuehnert’s kindergarten class using Hello Crayon, Chatterpix, and Google Drive. Primary students are so much fun!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Google+ Community of Readers

Today's blogger is Susan Drumm, Instructional Technology Coach with Hamilton Southeastern School. As you're reading about how you could use Google Communities with your students,  consider joining an Online Community of Practice.

Fact #1: Independent reading is an important way to learn and grow–even when one is a high school senior.

Fact #2: High school seniors (not to mention nearly all other teenagers) love to communicate through social media.


Senior English teacher Jennifer Jacobs recently decided to take advantage of Fact #2 (her students' love of social media) to foster Fact #1 (independent reading). Continually struck by the time and effort her students expended to read and write on social media, Mrs. Jacobs decided that it was time to harness that energy for learning--by purposefully inviting social media into her classroom. Thus was born what has become the successful and expanding HSE Google Community of Readers.


Taking advantage of our district’s Google Apps for Education (GAFE) status, Jacobs created an 'invitation only' Google+ Community and posted the prompt, What Are You Reading? In order to work out any account issues on the front end, Jacobs scheduled a computer lab and rolled out the project during class one day. Before the day was over, each senior English student had joined the Google+ Community using their school account, understood site navigation, and had written his/her first post!


Students now have ongoing participation requirements in the Google+ Community throughout the semester. They write book reviews, and share other thoughts about what they are personally reading. Much like customers at Amazon, students can rate the books they’ve read, recommending them (or not) to peers as they see fit. To organize the Community, Jacobs has created LABELS (like tags or folders) for specific literature genres. It's easy for students to choose the type of book they most enjoy, and then scan reviews for titles they'd like to read next. Community conversation often springs up over a title, often led by quieter students who would rarely speak up in class.


Already, this Google Community of Readers has expanded, as other senior English classes in the school have joined the group as well. The idea of using social media for curricular purposes is catching on! What other curricular applications might there be for Google + Communities? How else might educators harness the power of this digital tool to deepen and extend student learning?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Making Writing Matter with KidBlog

So here's the thing: You aren't going to hit it out of the park every time.  This is one lesson I have learned from blogging.  My first blogs are always amazing and funny and interesting and memorable.  And then... they aren't.

This is just one reason kids should blog.  In the land of As and 100s and passing scores and just-good-enoughs, blogging is a great place where kids can shine and learn that is OK not to shine every time.


Blogging is a great place to model and practice risk and failure.  And reflection. I could write for days about how great blogging is for kids, but let me just list a few reasons:

1. Taking Risks: it's scary to put yourself and your thoughts out there.  My husband guest blogged for me and was so nervous because he "never put anything on the internet before."

2. Writer's Workshop: blog posts aren't stagnant.  They can be updates, edited and republished.  Because of this, blogging is a great support for Writer's Workshop.  Students have a bank of stories and writing pieces they have started (because no writing is every finished) and not matter the mini-lesson can retrieve, edit, revise and renew any piece of writing.

3. Blogging=Audience=Motivation+Authenticity: There is that school of thought that if students are doing something for a teacher, they want it to be good enough, but if they are doing it for an audience, they want it to be good. I was using KidBlog.org to blog with students and when it was time to write, the room went silent.  The teacher was amazed, "They are really into this!"  When kids know someone is going to read and care about their words, it gives a whole new purpose to writing.

4. Commenting: commenting is hard.  Whether you are taking an online class or commenting on a blog, finding what to say can be stressful.  Blogging allows students to practice this. How many of you have blogged and are bummed because no one comments on your blog?  Trust me; it's not because we don't want to.  It's because we are not sure how to do it without agreeing numbly or hurting feelings.  Teaching kids to politely, respectfully and meaningfully disagree is powerful and useful!


This brings me to KidBlog.org.  A wonderful platform for blogging.  I use it with elementary students and high school students.  It is easy to use and safe. Here's a quick How-To by Adam Bellow:



It can be as simple as publishing a post or as complex as using HTML to embed media.  When your kids write, for whom are they writing?  Who else might care about what they have to say?  Kids say amazing things.  They deserve to be heard and deserve authenticity is their writing.  We would expect the same, wouldn't we?

Resources:

Fighting Writing: Getting Started with KidBlog
Blogging? It's Elementary, My Dear Watson!
Student How-To
One More How-To
5 Reasons Your Students Should Blog
Why Students Should Blog

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Remind: Because We Need All the Help We Can Get!

Our blogger today is Andrea Tinkey, 7th Grade Social Studies Teacher at Danville Community Middle School.

IMG_0268.JPG

How many times have you heard, "I didn't know we had homework!" or "I forgot to do my homework," as an excuse from students?  As a middle school teacher, this is something we hear all the time!  As much as we work to help kids keep organized and be responsible, once and a while it's just going to happen... they forget!

As a parent, how many times have you heard from your son or daughter, "We don't have any homework!" or the infamous, "I don't know," when asked what they did at school that day?  My daughter is only 4 and she already does this with me!

If this is something you struggle with, then do I have a program for you!  Remind (formerly Remind101) is a great program that allows teachers to communicate regularly with students AND parents about what is going on in the classroom.  Basically, you type up a message about homework, class projects, deadlines, tests, events, daily announcements, etc, and it sends a one way message by text or by email to anyone who has signed up for your class.  The great part is that it can be used on any platform, iOS, Android or even from your computer.

Signing up is super easy, and once you do, you will be prompted to set up a class.  Once you have chosen a name for your classes, they will give you an invitation code to give to students and parents so they can sign up for your class.  Signing up is up to them!   Messages do not come directly from your personal email or phone number so there are no worries about privacy!

You can schedule messages to send whenever you need them to. I usually set my messages up in the morning and have them send at about 4pm, when kids are just getting home.

With each message you can also attach a picture, document or voice clip that you want them to see/hear.  Users who have the app can also reply to messages with symbols to indicate they have seen it, or maybe have a question about it.

Parents that have signed up for my classes rave about how this program has helped them stay on top of what's going on and what homework students should have to work on, and students like it because it comes in a format they are used to using anyway!

Don't take my word for it, check it out for yourself!  Go to Remind.com or check out the app today!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Geddit? Got it? Good!

Today's blogger is Shelley Coover, an Instructional Coach with Noblesville Schools.

http://letsgeddit.com/

Geddit? Got it! Good! 
One of the key components to effective instruction is formative assessment. And, as a former special ed teacher, I was constantly using checks for understanding as a way to inform my instruction for students. It was a necessity.

Although I believe most teachers share my viewpoint about the important role formative data has in classroom instruction, it seems in the “hustle and bustle” of the daily grind, this part of instruction often gets overlooked.

We are all familiar with the common check for understanding strategies such as “thumbs up/thumbs down,” think-pair-share and graphic organizers, but we need tools that provide us with more specific and personal student data in order to have a real impact on classroom effectiveness. Still need convincing?

Why Formative Assessment? 
Formative assessment with appropriate feedback is the most powerful moderator in the enhancement of achievement (Hattie & Timperley, 2007). Formative assessment helps teachers identify the current state of learners’ knowledge and skills; make changes in instruction so that students meet with success; create appropriate lessons, activities, and groupings; and inform students about their progress to help them set goals (Ainsworth & Viegut, 2006, p. 23).

Teachers can use results of formative assessments to adjust their teaching strategies and match students with appropriate materials and learning conditions. Information gained from formative assessment can help a teacher determine
(1) how to group students,
(2) whether students need alternative materials,
(3) how much time to allocate to specific learning activities,
(4) which concepts need to be re-taught to specific students, and
(5) which students are ready to advance.

Luckily, there are now many digital tools that allow teachers to collect this vital data--especially if you are in a 1:1 environment.

As an instructional coach, I have used and introduced several different tools to classroom teachers, but I believe without a doubt that Geddit is the best tool out of all of them. Here are three reasons I place it at the top of the list:

#1. Ease of use
Geddit is a web-based tool that can be easily introduced to students. The picture below shows the simple, clean screen which is so easy for students to understand. As a teacher presents a concept or skill in class, he/she can pause at any point and ask students to “Check in” using their device. Once students have all checked in, the teacher will see a summary of how all students in the class are understanding by looking at the quick, easy to see graph displayed on the teacher’s device. This data makes it so easy for a teacher to decide whether or not to do some more practice problems or re-group students according to their level of understanding for different activities.


#2. Options for Interaction
If you want to go deeper into what students are understanding, Geddit gives you the option to create questions, polls, and quizzes ahead of time for students to complete. As you move through the lesson, all of the responses submitted by students are compiled and provided to the teacher in PDF format. Don’t have time to plan questions but thought of something “in the moment” you want to ask? Geddit allows you to ask a quick question verbally and still capture the digital data from students.


And, one of the best things about Geddit is that it allows for private feedback between students and teachers. The “Raise your Hand” feature allows students to raise a digital hand which is displayed only on the teacher screen. The teacher can then make a decision about the best way to answer this student--would it be best to move near that student and casually ask if anyone needs help? or would it be best to have a private text conversation? This feature promotes student engagement and individual student feedback.


#3. Beautiful Data 
At the end of each Geddit lesson, data is collected in a report for the teacher, comprised of easy-to-understand graphs and charts. There is even a place for a personal reflection from the teacher which can be saved alongside the student data. Some teachers add their thoughts after analyzing the student data and then save them together as one document. These PDF forms can be submitted to administrators to show evidence teachers are reflecting on their practice and using data to inform instruction, which is a key component in the teacher evaluation process.


What have you got to lose? Give it a try! Here’s a video that will guide you through the setup process:

If you’re up for a challenge, try using Geddit for week and see what impact it can have on your instruction!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Google Classroom: Helping Teachers go Paperless

Our blog post today is by Laura Lee, 5th Grade Teacher at Chapelwood Elementary School in MSD of Wayne Township.

As teachers, we all know too well the overwhelming feeling we get when that stack of papers starts to pile up and the essays need graded.

With Google Classroom, these will be feelings of the past. Google Classroom is everything a teacher could want to assign, manage, edit, grade, and collect assignments from your students quickly, easily, and efficiently.

Check out this overview of Google Classroom. At the end it says, "Coming Soon," but it is already here!


Students love it because everything is organized in one place. Teachers love it because you easily create anything in Drive and have Google Classroom make a copy for each student with their name in the title. No paper copies, paper jams, or time wasted at the copy machine! Teachers can also post announcements, links to other websites, or helpful videos. Students can comment with questions or helpful tips. The teacher can collaborate with students through Classroom just as they would through Drive, but students no longer have to share it with you. The teacher’s shared folder is no longer a long messy list.

Teachers can assign due dates, and when students are finished, all they have to do is click on “Turn In”. Then, teachers see a list of who has turned each assignment in and who hasn’t. If you think the student has room for improvement, you can push it back to them with comments, have the student fix it, and turn it in again.

Feedback for students is important to their learning, and with Classroom, students can share their work with peers for collaboration. You as the teacher can also provide instant feedback while your students are working. All of this is paperless and organized.

Google Classroom is even easy to set up! Once you set up your Classroom, you will have a unique classroom code. Students just have to type this in to join. So, you don’t have to worry about typing individual student names.

I encourage you to create your first Google Classroom today!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Wheels on the Bot Go Round and Round: Programming in Primary

Today's blogger is Sara Hunter. Sara is STEM Coach at Union Elementary School in Zionsville Community Schools.

In December 2013, the Hour of Code took the world by storm- including my own students!  I facilitated The Hour of Code tutorials with all of my 1st through 4th grade classes and we loved every moment of it.  The Hour of Code was the perfect precursor to our embedded robotics experience for 3rd and 4th grade students with Lego NXT Mindstorms, and 2nd grade students with Lego WeDo.  Having taught robotics for several years now, I was struck with the comprehension of my youngest learners during the Hour of Code Angry Birds tutorial and it made me realize that these first graders could certainly program robots, too!  The Bee Bot has turned out to be a great starter robot for this primary age group!

The Bee Bot is a great little robot that is very user-friendly for young children.  I first met Bee Bot at the ISTE conference in San Antonio and had the chance to explore how it works.  Using the keys on the top of the bot, students program simple direction commands by pressing the buttons in the desired sequence.  Bee Bot's eyes light up and it makes sounds as it completes the program, my students often view this as a celebration of their programming skills.  Programming the Bee Bot requires students to think sequentially as well as spatially.  The spatial awareness of Bee Bot's perspective always provides for great teachable moments and student problem solving conversations.  

The Bee Bots can drive on almost any surface, which is great to be able to make custom mats or mazes.  We have been using the Bee Bot mats available for purchase on the Bee Bot website, but you certainly can make your own!  You can check out my Robotics board on Pinterest for Bee Bot resources and printable mats, maps and cards.   


Currently, my Kindergarten students are exploring with Bee Bots, learning how to program around obstacles to get their Bee Bot back to the hive.  We are also learning how to notate our program with pencil and paper by writing down the sequence of the arrow keys.
There are great curricular connections for the classroom as well, like putting sight words, numbers, math facts, or picture/word content cards under the Bee Bot mat. Students could roll a die to determine how many spaces to program the Bee bot, as well as notate their program.  There is also a free Bee Bot app for iOS which simulates the Bee Bot in a challenge-based game, great for kindergarten and primary students.



First graders have been doing more complex programming with a little more student ownership.  In the Bee Bot Name Game, students place their name card anywhere they chose on the mat.  Then, they to program their Bee Bot to drive to the names on the mat in alphabetical order.  Finally, students notate their final program in their STEM notebook using the arrow symbols on the Bee Bot.  


The big project for first graders this year is designing a Bee Bot town and sending their Bee Bots on an adventure.  This is a collaborative project with a team of 4-5 students establishing the road through their town and then adding businesses.  Students are then writing a narrative of their Bee Bot's  adventure through the town, as well as notating their programming sequence.  Finally, students are recording the Bee Bot actually traveling their program through town to create an iMovie to share. This project is a great synthesis of so many first grade skills across the curriculum.  My students have taken so much ownership of this project because of the choices they have had along the way.  Those choices have been successful through setting clear expectations and a scaffolded Bee Bot experience. We also have frequent conversations and check-ins about teamwork, and what it looks and sounds like to collaborate with a partner or a group. 


That's what I love about robotics at any age level.  Inevitably during this experience, I hear students exclaim, "I failed, it didn't work!"  Oh, failure is such an opportunity! Failure is even respectable.  These are students learning the basics of programming, they haven't failed, it's been a FAIL: First Attempt In Learning.  We don't give up, we ask for help, we work together, because the success of overcoming the challenge and programming the robot is seriously worth it.  Sometimes the lessons learned from robots are about so much more than technology.  



Make sure to follow our Bee Bot Adventures and connect with us @UnionSTEM on Twitter! 


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

How Connected is Your School?

Our blogger today is Theresa Shafer, Online Community Manager with New Tech Network.

We often hear the phrase:
“The quality of your education shouldn’t be determined by your zip code”

In honor of digital learning month, I am adapting this to:
“The quality of your school internet connection shouldn’t be determined by your zip code!”

I was fortunate enough to be a part of a forward-thinking school corporation who almost 10 years ago began preparing and budgeting for today’s almost all online environment. We do know from reports like The Speak Up Ed Report that this just isn’t the case across our country and across our state. Teachers and students are being handcuffed from accessing resources due to slow, insufficient bandwidth.

Why? In many cases it is just straight up due to dollars and cents. Bandwidth is expensive. Schools who can afford it have a ton of it, schools who can’t afford it plod along at practically dial up speed.

Just a few weeks ago during #PBLChat we had more students chat with us than ever before, the topic was “digital equity”. Students were concerned on two fronts, one that their school had super slow bandwidth and two, lack of connectivity at home.

Students said both were frustrating for several reasons examples they gave:
  • During state online testing, all other online work is halted so bandwidth is only dedicated to testing. 
  • Teachers telling them to go to McDonald’s if they need to connect to do homework or to the library. (Students said this is no good because they don’t have a ride to get there and some live in the country or two faraway to walk.) 
  • Doing HW on a phone is really tricky when it is their only device. 
  • Many have friends who are in other districts who have access to “really cool” programs, classes, college courses etc…that they don’t due to bandwidth or lack of home access.
So what can YOU do about it? The first thing is to learn about it, don’t just leave that word, “bandwidth” to your IT department. Here are a few resources where you can check out the bandwidth available in your school.

Education Superhighway
School Speed Test
Speak Up Ed

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Why Kahoot it?

Our blogger today is Maria Esterline, a 6th Grade Teacher at Westfield Intermediate School in Westfield Washington Schools.

On a recent professional development session that my school district provided for 5th-8th grade Science and Social Studies teachers, our Literacy Instructional Coach Mrs. Amber Van Den Berg and Director of Professional Development and Assessments, Lynn Schemel shared an amazing and interactive tool with us as a way to help us bring awareness to our students about understanding of Root/Base in all subject areas.  Through the interactive tool of Kahoot.it our team of teachers were incredibly engaged in the competitiveness (in a fun way) that this tool has to offer.  I found it to be easily implemented back into my content area in the my classroom in so many different ways.  I hope that you will find great use for this as well.  There are Public Kahoot games that has already been created and you can adapt to the questions to personalize for your own.

I have use the Kahoot.it as a review game for our Solar System chapter test.  Kahoot can be compared to that other quick assessment tool such as Socrative and PollEverywhere.  The twist to Kahoot is that the students do not have the question displayed on their personalize screen.  The students has to look on the projector screen/interactivewhiteboard to see the question.  Once they see the questions and the answer choices, they select the options that is displayed on their screen.  The sky is the limit with the various options that you can do in ensure the check of understanding for an upcoming assessment in your class.  This is a tool that can be use for elementary to high school.  This is not a brand new shiny tool but a tool that engages the students in a fun atmosphere.  Each time the teacher get the game started, Kahoot.it give the players for the game a game pin.   This game pin changes all the time.  Once the students received the game pin, they enter the game room and give themselves a nickname.  The way the game is set up is that you provide x amount of time for the students to answer the question and the person/team that answer the question the fastest get the most points.  The students absolutely LOVE LOVE <3 this incredible tool.  I had several students that were so inspired by this tool that they created an account for themselves, and created a review game for class presentation to engaged their peers.  Some students even practiced by facetime their friends so that they can play the game on their own.  It is a WIN-WIN-WIN for all stakeholders.

Our generation of students are so intrigued by the novelty of technology.  Why not allow them to OWN their Learning in this digital world.   Alan November wrote a book called Who Owns the Learning?   An incredible book that has really inspired me to discover ways to help guide students toward taking ownership of their learning #LOYO (Learn. On. Your. Own).   Our digital natives has the information of knowledge at their fingertips.  Why not inspire the students to make discovery that will help them appreciate the learning process.  I cannot say enough great things that has came out of this incredible tool.  This tool has created higher level of engagement and developed the problem solvers of the world in this digital age.  I hope you will find incredible uses as you consider utilizing this tool  in your environment.  If you have discovered other way to implement this tool, please tweet me @learnwithmaria

Thank you for reading this post.  Below are some pics of the students in my classroom playing a review game via Kahoot.it.   One other detail about this is that if you want to create or search for your own game, you need to go to the following link https://getkahoot.com/  but when the students or participants want to play the game, they go to https://kahoot.it/#/.  Please tweet me @learnwithmaria if you have any questions.  Go Kahoot!!!!  How are you going to Kahoot.it in your environment?  Please share!!! Westfield <3 Kahoot.   Special thanks to our district Instructional Literacy Coach Amber Van Den Berg, and Director of Professional Development and Assessment Lynn Schemel.  Thanks to you two for inspiring us to be better educators for our students.




Monday, February 16, 2015

Green Screen Technology Across the Curriculum

Today's blog is written by Libby Ritchie, Business, Marketing, and Information Technology Teacher at Wapahani High School, Liberty-Perry Community School Corporation.

Two years ago, I decided to make a career change and move from high school counselor back to the classroom. I taught for 10 years and was a school counselor for 9 years. Being away from the classroom for 9 years meant that a lot had changed in the business/technology arena. Instead of counting credits and worrying myself to pieces about students’ academic achievements, I found myself worrying about our website and changes that needed to be made as we were representing our school and community through this medium. I have spent many hours learning software and trying to figure out how things work. Once we got some updated software and I had some awesome students to assist with the website, we started our journey on updating the site.

One of our goals for the website was to get more people to visit and see what good things are happening at our schools. I showed my students some videos on YouTube of what some schools were doing with school news shows. After a lot of discussion, we decided to do a show we call “WapWeekly” where we can showcase current school news, a student of the week, a feature teacher, and a fun “Minute to Win It” type of game to get students, parents, community members and even Alumni to watch.

I researched what could make this show look good to our audience and decided to try a green screen app called Veescope Live. We covered one wall with green construction paper, taught ourselves how to use the app, and off we went! We got some positive feedback from Alumni from all over the US and have worked hard to make the show better each episode.

Veescope Live is a very simple app to use. You simply pick your background image or video, upload it to the app, and within a few clicks on the iPad, we can create an atmosphere where kids are in a hurricane, checking out the tunnel where Princess Diana was killed in a car accident, or hanging out on a beach while never leaving the classroom of Wapahani HS.

I have implemented this app into some of my other courses as well, which has led to students of all ages installing the app and coming down to my room to create videos or pictures for projects in other classes. I have been able to do some team teaching and the excitement of this simple app has even led to our administrators creating a welcome video to our schools and corporation, where we can show off what our students are actually doing in classes and in our school.

CLICK HERE to view this year's WapWeekly shows, using our green screen and Veescope Live app.

 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Socrative - Using Data Effectively and Easily

Today's blogger is Leslie Lantz. Leslie is an English teacher at Angola High School in MSD Steuben County Schools.

One free tool many in my district have come to use frequently and love is Socrative.com. I’m still not 100% sure how to pronounce it – is it So-CRAT-ive or SOCK-ra-tive ? - either way (tomato/tomahto) it’s a fantastic tool all teachers can and should be utilizing.

In this day and age of data collection and data evaluation, Socrative can be a teacher’s best friend. This tool not only allows immediate data feedback but can be used as both a formative and/or summative assessment tool. And, let’s be honest - anything that grades assignments for us is a godsend.

This site also has the benefit of using just one classroom code that always stays the same (once they log in with the code – it will be remembered). Or, if you’re not in a 1:1 school, you can just leave the code on the board. No need to create student log-ins and passwords that they will inevitably forget anyway.

Pros of using Socrative:
  1. Create a Quiz - You can use multiple choice, true/false, and/or short answer questions. You can choose various options for these quizzes - students can go at their own pace, you can take the quiz “together” at the teacher’s pace (which would be great if you were using it as a formative assessment so you could gain data and then discuss/re-teach as you go through the questions), students can receive immediate feedback on their answers, and you can also decide to shuffle answer choices and/or question order to avoid cheating. 
  2. Exit Slips - no more need to cut out a bunch of tiny pieces of paper to hand out at the end of class. Exit Slips can now be done online without a lot of prep time to create it or to “grade” it. 
  3. Space Race - This allows you to team up students in your class to take a quiz together. This would be great for reviewing before a test or even reviewing after reading a new topic or new chapter.

  4. You can save your quizzes, share your quizzes, import quizzes from other teachers and even import quizzes from Excel. 
 And, most importantly -
  1. The feedback/data is immediate - this info can be downloaded, printed, saved and/or just viewed on screen….This is ideal if using it as a formative assessment - you can immediately and easily see what students are understanding and what needs to be reviewed/re-taught. Even as a summative, it’s a specific indicator of what was understood and what was not and quickly provides data for where to continue from that point on. I love the graphics of the reports - it not only gives you the students' individual scores but also the percentage of students who got each individual question correct - very helpful in planning future lessons as well as assessing student knowledge or skills.
If you need more info on how to set up Socrative or have other questions, refer to the user guide: Socrative User Guide  

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Flipping Your Class with Sophia.org

Today's blogger is Alissa Smith, third grade teacher at Hoosier Academy.

I have been adopting the flipped classroom model and making it my own for several years. I have made YouTube videos and sent them as support, additional resources to send to students struggling on a topic, or to review information. This year I have started grow and use the flipped model more for its intended purposes; using Sophia.org has been a key resource in this process.

Not only does Sophia.org offer free professional development for the flipped model and other tech tools, sometimes they'll send you a t-shirt and certificate upon completion. Sophia.org also houses your flipped lessons in a user friendly way.

This year, I have started using the flipped model to introduce  new topics to my students. We call it the 'BIG idea' for for the week. Students are asked to watch the video, visit other optional resources if needed and take the short quiz for practice before coming to class on Monday and as many times as needed throughout the week. This helps students obtain new information at home and allows us to move straight to practice during class time (as opposed to completing practice at home for homework). Time spent with students can now help them focus on applying their knowledge. I have done this in a kindergarten classroom with ABC videos and songs to help them practice at home and in third grade with comprehension strategies. You can create a classroom on Sophia and manage it or simply use it to house your lessons with more explanation than a video alone.

When you are finished with your tutorial, you will be able to create a code to embed the tutorial on your class website to house all of your flipped lessons in one place for your families.


To see examples of my flipped lessons, check out my class webpage: http://misssmithha.weebly.com/flipped-lessons.html

Remember to make the flipped model support what you need in the classroom from additional support, help with Study Island topics, or extra practice to prepping students for the upcoming week.

Happy Flipping! 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Connect Classes to the World with Skype and Google Hangouts

Today's blog post is from Matt Miller, a high school Spanish teacher from Turkey Run High School in Marshall, IN. Find him at his blog at DitchThatTextbook.com or on Twitter at @jmattmiller.

Last winter, there were several Mondays when my high school students would mob me in the hallway as I came in the school.

This was far from the norm for me. Usually, they give me a quick head nod or a smile in the hallway before school (if I was lucky!).

But on several Mondays last winter, they stopped me on the way to my classroom. They almost grabbed me by the arm in excitement.

What in the world would motivate high school kids to be excited about class on a Monday morning?

Global connections. They were meeting peers from halfway around the world.

For several weeks last winter, my Spanish III students at Turkey Run High School (Marshall, IN) got to interact virtually with English-learning students in Valencia, Spain. I met their teacher through the Skype Education forums (http://education.skype.com) and we worked together to come up with a plan to help our students interact. Some ideas were:

  • Starting with a Mystery Skype activity, where each class asked each other yes/no questions to pinpoint where in the world geographically the other class was (more on this soon)
  • Connecting pairs of Indiana students with pairs of Spanish students to meet in Skype video sessions and discuss pre-determined conversation topics
  • Asking and answering questions between classes via shared Google Documents (i.e. Indiana students ask Spanish students a question and Spanish students answer in a shared document)
  • Leaving each other recorded video messages (limited to three minutes on Skype) and responding with video message to the original class
The experience was not without its hiccups! Our first Skype session didn't happen at all because my school's Internet firewall blocked certain parts of Skype. When our sessions started, the students were uncomfortable meeting new people and speaking in a foreign language, so the quality of their conversations wasn't as good as I had hoped. Some practice and familiarity helped that by the end.

When we concluded our final meeting with the students in Spain, my students had some extra confidence that they had communicated with real, live kids from another Spanish-speaking country.

The communication piece, however, was not the greatest take-away. In these Skype sessions, my students got to meet kids their age and saw first-hand how similar they were. Both were interested in fashion. Both liked to make each other laugh. Both asked similar questions and had similar interests. My students realized that these kids from Spain that spoke Spanish were just people, just like them. That realization is something they would have never come to from activities in a textbook.

Many of my students will live their entire lives in our small, rural, agriculture-based community and will not travel outside the United States, let alone outside the Midwest. Stereotypes about Spanish speakers in our community are generally negative and often aren't based on real relationships with real people they know. Maybe activities like this will help to break down stereotypes in our community.

Here's a video of my own students explaining what they liked about Skyping with Spain:




The sky is the limit for classroom activities with Skype and Google Hangouts (Google's version of Skype).
A Mystery Skype activity is a great first step into the world of global video chats. Here's some information:
Has your class read a book? If the author is still alive, there's always a chance that he/she will meet with your class via video chat. That also goes for experts in your content area, artists, scientists, astronauts, researchers, college professors, even athletes and celebrities. You never know until you ask!

There are lots of options for finding a partner class for activities on Skype:
  • Skype Education (create a lesson saying what you'd like to do OR find a lesson you'd like to participate in): http://education.skype.com.
  • Twitter: Send a tweet asking if anyone would like to connect classrooms via Skype. Use the #MysterySkype hashtag if you want a Mystery Skype OR use any content-area-specific hashtag (i.e. #engchat for English, #kinderchat for kindergarten, etc.). Those hashtags can be found at bit.ly/officialchatlist.
  • Google Plus community: Mystery Location Calls
  • Colleagues, family and friends: Spread the word about what you'd like to do.

How could you use Skype or Google Hangouts in your classroom? Why do you think it would be worthwhile to use? Or what concerns you about trying it? Leave a comment below!