Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Certifications -- Pursuing Excellence

At the start of the school year, I sent out a survey asking if any staff had any of the following certifications:

  • Google Certified Educator Level 1
  • Google Certified Educator Level 2
  • Google for Education Trainer
  • Google Certified Innovator
  • Nearpod Pionear
  • Apple Teacher
  • Peardeck Inspearational Teacher
  • Kahoot! Certified (I didn't ask about this one, but I'm adding it to the list)
I didn't ask just to be nosy. I asked because I wanted to find out where our in-district experts are! These certifications are all related to tools that many of us use fairly regularly in our classrooms with our kids. These tools make learning more engaging and meaningful for our students. It makes sense that if you really have a good grasp for how to use a tool successfully that you should get some snaps for that. That's why these certifications exist!

Teachers often wonder why they should bother to pursue these kinds of certifications. The most obvious answer is growth! You grow as an educator which in turn helps your students grow as learners!

Over the next few weeks, I thought I would highlight all the different certifications mentioned above, especially since so many people expressed interest in so many of them on the survey! Maybe by learning about each one you can find a certification that is right for you and the kids in your class! And if there are a bunch of us who want to pursue certifications, we can work together!

Next week: Google Certified Educator Level 1 certification!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Quick Google Classroom Info

If you started a new Google Classroom recently, then you are seeing the great new version of it! It is so much easier to navigate, much more intuitive, don't you think? If you are recycling an old Google Classroom from last year, you might have noticed it looks a little different and you're probably not happy about that.
What you see if you are reusing an old Google Classroom.

What you see if you are using the new Google Classroom.

In the new Google Classroom, the Stream tab is the place for you to make announcements; the Classwork tab is where you can post assignments or questions; and the People tab puts all your students and teachers for that classroom in one spot (which is also where you can find the class code, manually add students, and invite other teachers).

In the old Google Classroom, you can still add an announcement, assignment, or question to the Stream, and you can find all your students and teachers for that classroom under the People tab. But you'll have to go into Settings to get a class code for students to join.

My suggestion for anyone who is interested is to archive your old Google Classrooms and start fresh with the new ones. You can still reuse posts from archived classrooms, so you aren't losing everything you've used previously. Plus kids won't get confused if they are part of more than one classroom and there are two different versions being used.

Need help getting started with Google Classroom? Need a refresher? You know who to call :-)

Got a cool Google Classroom tip to share? Post it in the comments section here and I'll come see you so you can pick a Google sticker or an emoji sticker!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Do You Have #ChannahonPride?

Another year, another bunch of blog posts! I get to combine my two favorite things: education and writing! As I was moving to my new digs at TRS, I realized that it has been a while since I talked about the stickers we still have for teachers here in CSD 17! Maybe you've got loads of them from when we started this a few years ago; maybe you only have a couple. But do you have them all? I invite you to check out the document here to see what stickers we have available for YOU! Maybe you're able to get some of them now that we are in year 2 of being 1:1. Maybe you're new to the district and want to gussy up your Chromebook. If you've worked hard for a sticker, please click here to share the sticker you want and share what you've been doing, too!

Have an idea for another sticker we can offer to teachers? Add it in the comments -- that will get you your choice of a Google or emoji sticker! If we end up using your idea, you'll get ANOTHER Google or emoji sticker!

You're never too old to show off what you learn or what you do. And you're never too old for stickers!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

New Gmail Update

Maybe you heard on the news last week that there was an update to Gmail. This is the first significant update to Gmail since 2011, and it's pretty cool! To get started, all you have to do is click on the Settings cog and select "Try the New Gmail." Choose the Default view and voila! Your inbox will transform in front of your eyes!

Some of the features I personally love include the following:

  • Inline view of message attachments -- this means I don;t have to open an email to get to the attachment; I can directly open the attachment from the list of messages in my inbox.
  • Inline delete -- if there is an email I don't need, I can just move my mouse to the right edge of the message and click on the trash can to delete it.
  • Auto reply -- on some email messages, you may see some auto-reply choices: just click the response you want and then click send!
  • Calendar, Keep, and Tasks on the same page -- so handy to be able to have an email message open and right there in the same tab be able to open my calendar to add an event, Keep to make a note, or Tasks to add to my to-do list!
  • Snooze -- well, I love the IDEA of snoozing an email (essentially marking that email to come back and tug you on the metaphorical sleeve as a reminder to deal with that message); I say I love the idea because it is only available if you use Conversation View for your inbox (which I don't).
Try it out, see what you think! To help you, I found this great overview video put together by another Google for Education Certified Trainer. Watch it to see the new Gmail in action!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Cool Tool Alert -- Flipgrid

I've heard a lot recently about this cool online tool called Flipgrid, so I had to check it out. I was not disappointed!

In a nutshell, Flipgrid allows students to create short videos of themselves. The interface is reminiscent of Snapchat because they can create a selfie with fun stickers or drawings. It also references Instagram in the way that students can react and respond to each others' videos. The interface is super easy for students to use -- they can create a video in literally a couple of minutes. You as the teacher have control over the visibility of the video, too. Each grid, topic, and video generates its own flip code -- no one can see the items without that flip code.

Most teachers who have raved about Flipgrid have mentioned its usefulness as a formative assessment tool. This would make a terrific exit ticket or quick check of understanding about a topic discussed in class. It could also be useful as a documentation of re-learning. Let's say a student doesn't fully understand the water cycle on an assessment. Rather than create a whole new assessment, you could meet with the student and ask him to explain the water cycle to you. But this makes some teachers nervous -- they really like to have the documentation or tangible evidence of learning. Enter Flipgrid. You could have a topic on a grid called (something clever!), "Play It Again!" where students can submit their videos explaining what they have now learned, like the water cycle. Those videos do not have to be shared publicly, and you now have the evidence you feel comfortable gathering to show that student's mastery.

Flipgrid could also be a great way to introduce kids to public speaking in a less threatening way. Have them start with a short video that only you see; provide feedback (try to speak a little louder; try to have more eye contact by looking at the camera more). Do another video that gets shared; allow student reactions and feedback.

Why not have a discussion about a character in a novel (Do you think the ending of the novel Fahrenheit 451 is happy or sad? Why?), explain a concept (What were some of the causes of the Revolutionary War?), do a demonstration (the proper way to do a push up), solve a problem (solve for x in the equation 10 - x = 6, explaining what you are doing along the way), do review (assign each student a vocabulary word to make a video about before an assessment), or facilitate discussion (Is climate change real, in your opinion?).

Want to give Flipgrid a try? If so, please share with me what you do -- I'd love to see how you use it in your classroom. Anxious to tackle it on your own? Get in touch; I'll come sit next to you and get you started!

Here are some resources for you:

Flipgrid's resources page

Step by step guide to using Flipgrid

P.S. Flipgrid works on iPads, too, and mobile phones! There's even an app!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

It's Not Easy Being 1:1

I had a grand plan to do a post this week on the cool tool Flipgrid, but at this late time (9:35 PM Wednesday night after getting home from the charity volleyball game), I got inspired instead to write a post that comes as a response of sorts to Jeremy's email today about blocking websites.

We all anticipated that being in a 1:1 environment, we would be facing kids being off task on their Chromebooks. And we were correct. I know I have talked all year long with teachers who get frustrated with kids being on their Chromebooks when they're not supposed to be, being on websites they aren't supposed to be, or playing games when they should be working (among other off-task behaviors). None of this means the kids are bad or that the access to the technology is bad. This is just an expected consequence of a connected generation having access to a technology device all day. But that isn't much comfort when we are exhausted after a day of racing around the room trying to keep kids focused on the task they should be focused on while online. It sure would be easy if we could just keep the kids off all the unnecessary, time-wasting websites. But as we all read in the email, that isn't going to happen mostly because it can't. There are millions of websites out there that the kids don't need to be on during school hours -- it would be impossible to block them all. Some teachers have inquired about monitoring software, but that has been nixed, too, since that solution can be quite costly. So that leaves us with the task of having to manage a sometimes frustrating situation.

So I'd like to offer some ideas for how to do this. I'm certainly not holding myself up as some sort of classroom management expert, but I did face this problem regularly when I taught computers. So here are some things I did and some things inspired by what I did:

  • If you can't beat 'em, give 'em what they want -- sort of. Kids always wanted to play games, so I added a page to my class website with pre-approved games they were allowed to play when they had down time. Most of them were somehow academically based (word games, math games, trivia, strategy games). They may not be Roblox or Fortnite, but they're an option. Once the kids had games they knew they could play, controlling their access to games became much more manageable.
  • Use proximity. Walk around the room often. Kids who are off task will quickly scramble to close a tab as you approach. They are good at giving themselves away like that :-) If you suspect a kid has been somewhere they don;t belong online, you are completely within your rights to grab the Chromebook and open a new tab, then right click on the tab to select "Reopen Closed Tab" to see what they scrambled to close so fast. Once kids know you will be doing this, they will be less likely to be off task because they're going to get found out.
  • Use really close proximity. If a student is consistently off task, have that student come sit right by you to do his or her work. This is an easy way to keep a close eye on the student.
  • Use direction. If you feel the problem is really rampant, for the task the kids are working on, have them rearrange their desks so all their screens are facing the same direction. Now you can stand behind them so you can see all screens at once.
  • Subtract. There is nothing wrong with having kids put their Chromebooks on a shelf somewhere in the room when they don't need them. They don;t have to remain on kids' desks where they can prove too great a temptation for some students.
  • Make the call. For kids who are frequent flyers, don't hesitate to talk with your building principal for guidance or reach out to parents to help you reinforce the message that the Chomebooks are learning tools, not toys.
Hopefully, some of these ideas will work for you and your students as we head into the last weeks of school, a time where both kids and adults find themselves easily distracted. I'd love for you to share your thoughts on this as well as any strategies you use that you'd be willing to share. I'd love to give away some more Google or Google emoji stickers to 3 more people this week :-)

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Let's See How Far We've Come

When I started this position in the 2013-2014 school year, we each had a laptop in our classrooms and each building had a cart of around a dozen or so iPads to share. That was a daunting year -- apps were being requested and added in a flurry. Principals were breaking their budgets paying for apps. Teachers were having to get creative with ways to schedule the iPads for their classes, and then even more creative how to use the iPads with their kids. I also came around that year and hung up blue papers in different places in all of the buildings that look like the one in this article.

Yes, I was already trying to encourage you to work on finding ways to integrate technology instead of just use it -- with a few iPads you only could get your hands on occasionally! Call me a dreamer :-)

But here we are, five years later, and look how far we've come! Back in 2013-2014, we were all starry-eyed dreamers fantasizing about teaching in a school district that was one-to-one, imagining all the amazing ways we could transform the learning experiences happening in our classrooms. And now that dream is a reality!

But it is worth doing a reality self-check on where we are individually with technology integration versus simply using technology.

How purposeful is tech use in your classroom?
Who uses technology more in your class -- you or your students?
Is technology used by the students to produce things or to learn things?
Is technology used for higher-order thinking tasks or lower-order thinking tasks (here's an idea how to check this -- can the kids Google the answers to the things they need to learn? If so, that's lower order.)?
Do kids use the available technology alone or for collaboration more?

These are just some questions to ponder, based on the concepts shared on the chart referenced in the above link.

(And just for fun, here's the music video for the song that inspired the title of my post this week.)

So, how far have you come? I challenge you to be open and honest. Technology integration doesn't happen overnight, and this is our first year being one-to-one, after all, so no one is expected to be an expert in technology integration!

Care to share? I'd love to have your comments on this post. Where are you at? What are your goals? What strides have you made? Please share -- and as an added incentive, I will hold a raffle for some fun goodies for anyone who actually COMMENTS on the post (not responds via email -- actually COMMENTS below). I just got some cool Google stickers and some Google emoji stickers, too. So my plan is to have one person from each building win their choice of Google sticker or emoji sticker simply by leaving a comment that addresses the topic of this post.