Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Self-Analysis for Kids in a Digital World

This post revolves a lot around the idea of project based learning as analysis lends itself well to that environment.  

Often we are pushed to the limits with our pacing guides and testing expectations. We feel we do not have the time to allow kids to analyze their own progress, projects, work, or learning. Consider Bloom’s Taxonomy if you will.  Analysis sits up there at the top looking down upon the memory and understanding skills.  If you think you and your students are just skating around on memory and understanding then pause and think about providing the opportunity for some student self-analysis.  

Digital tools can make student self-analysis super easy and efficient.  First off, if student work is in digital format like Notability, Google Drive, or Kidblog, analyzing work is super easy.  Work can’t get lost and it is easy to track.  Self-analysis can be private, or be used as a conference tool between teacher and student.  

Here are some tools that could be utilized for self analysis by kids.  

  • Evernote App is great for middle and high schoolers.  It syncs up with all of their devices and lets students add in web clips, audio feeds, and share with whomever they choose.  It also builds notebooks so reflections could be easily organized by topic or date.
  • Video journals could be used for students who are super verbal or enjoy recording their thoughts without using the writing process.   This could be as simple as using the camera on an iPad or other tablet and saving it their camera roll.  Videos could be loaded to a private YouTube account playlist that is then shared only to the teacher.  I recommend this workflow only if you have a google domain for students for security reasons.  Students could also use iMovie if they want to add in clips of their work and talk about their thoughts about the project.  
  • Online sticky boards like linoit.com and padlet.com are great ways to create sticky boards with thoughts on a topic.  Apps like Pic Collage also works great for sccrap booking ideas.  Linoit and Padlet can be collaborative boards as well turning analyzing into a small group project.  
Not sure how to guide your students in using self-analysis?  Analyzing is all about breaking something apart.  Try these questions once a project has been completed or something has been published.

  • Analysis of elements
    • What parts worked and what parts did not work for your project?
  • Analysis of relationships
    • Who helped you become more effective in your learning?
  • Analysis of organizational principles
    • Could you have arranged your project differently or used other tools that would have helped guide the project more efficiently?

How often are you analyzing what you teach?  How often do you provide opportunities for students to analyze their learning, a project, or how they accomplished a goal?

Written by, Jenny Krzystowczyk

Blogging as a Tool for Revision- Rethinking Blogging for Kids

We love seeing our students publishing their writing to the world on Kidblog.org or Edublogs.org.  Teachers feel accomplished when their kids are excited about writing.  What’s more motivating than having new and interesting people read what you have written?  I am excited even now as I write this post imaging who will take the time to read what I have written.  I am even more intrigued by who will take the time to leave me a comment.  Blogging is motivating for students, its that simple.  

What if we used student blogging as a revision tool instead of just a publishing tool?  
Teaching students the power of revision can make a good writer great.  What if you did a few writing lessons where the goal was to publish three times for one piece instead of publish and move on?  What would that look like in a classroom?  

I think it would look like a version of Austin’s Butterfly, except in writing.  Imagine it… Partner your class up with another class to form peer editors between students for a few weeks. Set publishing dates loosely so students know when to look for their partner’s posts.  Next, teach your students how to leave positive and constructive comments.  You could focus your writing mini lessons around traits of writing so that students are looking for those elements as they read their partner’s posts.  Teach your students to always leave 2 positive remarks about the post and then add one helpful critique.  

This does two things, it keeps the comments positive and provides explicit ideas for how the piece could be better.  Providing students the opportunity to focus on one piece of writing over a longer period of time, an authentic audience of peers, and providing specific feedback can be a powerful tool to improve writing skills and techniques.  Furthermore, your students would have three digital pieces of writing to reflect upon for self-analysis.  Self-analysis is a great extension opportunity for every student.  

Here are some ideas that comments could center around:

  • Add more details to paint a picture with your words.
  • Set the stage early in your post.
  • Hook the reader with a question, sound effect, or emotion.
  • Include an image that ties to the theme of your post.
  • Elaborate on your ending.

I challenge you to take your student blogging to the next level.  Blogging shouldn’t always be quick and easy for students.  It should allow students the opportunity to spend time improving their writing, by focusing on conventions, voice, art, emotion, and purpose.  Our pacing guides can be overwhelmingly fast.  I believe the best teachers know when to slow down and provide opportunities for students to delve deeper into a project.   

I personally love the Lucy Calkins method of teaching writing as it incorporates effective writing techniques through the use of high quality literature.  You can check out her methods from Columbia University here.  

What's your favorite method for blogging with students?  How do you see revision helping young writers?  Please leave your thoughts below.

Written by, Jenny Krzystowczyk

Monday, September 29, 2014

Eight Tips and Tricks for Using Google Classroom

  1. First time into Google Classroom, but sure to choose teacher. Even if you join classes as a student, you need to be in as a teacher to have teacher rights.  If you accidentally choose student, you will need your domain admin to add you back into the teacher group.

  2. Use Class Code to enroll students and save time.

  3. Use About to provide a quick link to a website, syllabus, a rubric, or something you want them to reference often.If you attach a Google Doc to an assignment, students need to click the assignment title to get to the attached Google Doc.  Using words like, see the attached Google Doc in the assignment description will help students know if a Google Doc is attached.

  4. Students get an e-mail when assignments are posted in Google Classroom.

  1. When making an assignment, you can choose to copy the assignment to multiple classes before you click assign.  Once assigned to one class, you no longer can copy to multiple classes.

  2. The stream with the timestamp is very helpful to share information with students.   Use the stream as a closed back channel environment for students.  Excellent for informal conversations in the classroom.

  3. Google Classroom alphabetizes by first name. If your district uses Power School, you can alpha by first name instead of last. In PowerSchool, go to "Preferences" (under the Power School Gradebook menu in your toolbar).  Go to the tab called "Student" (last one) and use the drop-down menu to choose First Last as your display choice. Now your docs in Google align with the grade book.

  4. On the iPad, save work to the camera roll. In Google Classroom, click add -> upload file -> select the file from photos/camera roll.  Slick and easy.

Written by Ann Feldmann

Friday, September 26, 2014

How to Find Inspiration When It’s Lost

Do you ever feel like you just don’t know what to do next? Do you ever feel like there are so many ways to go and you don’t know which turn to take? Do you ever feel like you won’t get out of the rut you are in, that there just isn’t anything “up there”? You are not alone. Educators are not alone. Executives are not alone. None of us are alone. At some point in your professional career, you have probably felt stuck and you are not the only one that has felt this way. You need to find……..inspiration. But where do you find it? When I feel this way I’m always reminded of the four key places where I find my inspiration.

  • Positive and inspiring colleagues
  • Personalized professional development
  • Clear the highway
  • Remember your reason
Positive and inspiring colleagues

One thing I learned at a very early age was to surround myself with positive people. Those who are change agents. Those who don’t see walls and closed doors but windows that have been left open a crack. They challenge my thinking and support me in my thoughts. They make it their mission to focus on what can be done and not what can’t be done. You walk into a room with them and you can’t help but change your attitude and mood. I like to call this group of people my circle of electricity. If I surround myself with these people I always seem to get a jolt that sends me in the right direction.

Personalized professional development

This is not a terribly new concept but maybe you haven’t tried it yet. What is it? It is the idea of building your PD based on what your needs are as an educator. Think about it as differentiated learning for adults. You find the opportunities to learn, and you pick the content you are interested in exploring. How do you do that? Find a group of blogs to follow that offer ideas, support and guidance. Join a handful of Google+ communities and start learning from others. Create or join a weekly Google+ Hangout with a group of people that want to learn the same thing you do. Turn to Twitter and get involved in some of the many chats that are happening each and every night. You are sure to find one that suits your interests. Find an online class that you can take at your leisure--one that speaks to your interests. Lean on your professional circle to help inspire you. If you don’t have a circle, start building one. And the key to all of this...share, share and share. You never know, you may be the one inspiring others.

Clear the highway

Sometimes we have so many cars on the road that it gets congested and the result is a traffic jam. How do you get out of a traffic jam? With patience and slow driving because that is the only option in that situation. Some of the cars need to take the next exit and get off the highway. Some will need to slow down and move along inch by inch until the traffic clears out. Some will try to blast through the jam and cause an accident, which in turn holds everyone up for a longer amount of time. When you find that you have too many ideas, too many commitments, it is time to slow down and sort through the jam. Some things will have to take an exit until you regroup and are ready to head down the road again. Others will be able to keep moving forward, just at a slower pace. And some, well, they may just have to go to the shop for a while. Take some time to clear the highway every few months---your cars will last a lot longer.

Remember your reason

If you are still feeling stuck, remember your reason. Think about the why...why are you doing this? Think about the students who are relying on you to be your best, so you can bring out their best. Remember the reason you started this journey, remember the ones you’ve helped, remember the ones you haven’t helped and remember why you do what you do----that will help you find your inspiration again. 

Written by Jeanette Carlson

Monday, September 22, 2014

Google Forms & Colorful Updates

With Google forms, grading quizzes and assessments has never been easier!  With the Flubaroo script, you can save yourself hours of grading all with the click of a button!  But sometimes, teachers complain about being locked into a certain format with forms.  Now, you can change all kinds of categories to make your forms look amazing for kids.  
Google has made some great updates in order to customize forms.  You can now completely customize the layout of your Google form by changing images, text color, size, and font, and you can also change the page background.

Follow these suggestions to modify your Google forms.

Once you have entered in all of your questions, images, charts, and etc, click on the “change theme” button.  
This will give you many new options when it comes to the theme.  Scroll down the right side to get a preview of each new theme.  

But wait!  There are even more themes to choose from when you tap the Customize Theme button located on each theme window.  Customizing each theme will give you the option to change the font, colors, and size of your text as well as heading images and background images.  
You have unlimited options for images now.  You could choose one that is provided for you, or you can use a saved Google Images to completely customize your form.  

Lately, I have been digitizing some Pearson weekly reading assessments for our iPad teachers.  I copied the questions into a form.  To get the reading selection onto the form, I retyped it on a Pages document and used shift, command 4 to take a picture of the selection.  Next, I used insert image to add it to the form.  Check out how nice this assessment looks now, and teachers are using Flubaroo to grade their tests.  I often write about inserting color into instruction, and this is just another great way that Google can support learning in the classroom.

Written by, Jenny Krzystowczyk

Friday, September 19, 2014

From Recess to Science in Seconds

As Michelle Klamm’s (@klammlovesmnms) students came in from recess, they were a crabby bunch, as crabby as a mom without her morning coffee.  The older kids had taken command of the basketball and soccer fields, so recess was not as much fun as it should have been for her students.  Mrs. Klamm listened to them carefully and then said in a cheerful voice, “It’s time to learn about some new class guests, our anoles. I made you an iTunes U course to help you discover many interesting things about them.”

Each 3rd grader slipped on headphones, tapped open iTunes U and off they went, independently learning in just seconds.   It was impressive how quickly the students transitioned to science straight from recess.    Each child was sucked into the action, just like an insect drawn into a spider web.  All the recess worries were out of their heads as the anoles took over the iPad screens.  They were hooked.  Once in a while, a small chuckle would erupt from a student as they discovered a funny part in the video.
Listening and learning, this 3rd grader is focused.  

Klamm spices up her documents for the iTunes U course in Pages and converts them to PDF files. Students enjoy the colorful documents which they open in Notability and complete in their handwriting. For this lesson, they worked on science vocabulary and observation notes.  Students naturally choose different colors to write with.   The materials are shared back to Klamm via a shared Google Drive folder.  

Klamm's 3rd graders are learning all about Anoles

Klamm loves delivering the curriculum via iTunes U courses she creates for her 3rd graders because it is an efficient and effective way to craft a media rich learning environment.  Not a moment of golden class time is lost.  The curriculum objectives are clear and students navigate the course independently.  Indeed, this student centered classroom with the iTunes U workflow is a model of self-directed learning that is so engaging students go from recess to science in seconds.     

Written by Ann Feldmann

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Five Sites for Your Tech Toolbox

Are you looking for a few excellent sites to utilize with your students this year? Here are five web based resources that are engaging for students, easy to setup and manage, free, and work well on both tablets and computers.


Are your students writing?  Have them showcase their work on kidblog.  Students experience the joy of writing as they receive comments from others around the world.  Get students into a routine of writing/posting one week and commenting on posts the next.  It may seem a bit elemetnary, but kidblog.org is great for high school students too.

Frontrow is a free web based site for math differentiation that works well for elementary students. It provides teachers lots of data on student progress.  
Khan Academy

Khan Academy is a free web based site that allows teachers or parents to coach students on math topics.  This site makes it easy differentiate math instruction for students and view their data.

Students enjoy a little friendly competition and Kahoot makes it simple to create quizzes and play them as a class!

Give every student a voice by using a back channel! This is a fantastic way to have a class discussion over anything:  a science topic, story, current event, you name it.  Direct students to the URL of your back channel and the fun begins.  Create an account and you can moderate the discussion, see a transcript of the conversations,  and create rooms that last up to even a year!

Written by Ann Feldmann


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Growing your Google Garden: Use Table of Contents for Page Navigation

The Table of Contents is a powerful feature that is often underused in Google Docs.  Why do I love Table of Contents?  I love table of contents because it provides users with a quick way to navigate a Google Doc. Google Docs automatically creates links to different sections in the document when the heading styles are used in conjunction with Table of Contents.   Just a click of the mouse and you zip down the page to the selected section.

Here is an example of the Table of Contents feature used on this Explain Everything handout I co-created with Spanish teacher, Angelica Musil.  Notice how easy it is to go to a specific sections just by clicking the link at the top of the page.  

Here is how to create a Table of Contents on your Google Docs in just four easy steps.

1.  Start a document.  Type in a section name, example Part 1.  
2.  Highlight the text.  Select Normal Text from the toolbar and choose from Heading 1, 2, or 3.

3.  Continue adding section names. Repeat step 2 for each section name.
4.  Go back to the top of the document and choose Insert→ Table of Contents

Enjoy using this feature to make your documents easy to navigate. Did you give it a try? Leave me a comment and share your documents.

Written by Ann Feldmann