digitalteach

teaching with the tools of a digital world


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Google Apps for Education: Calendar

Google Calendar allows for greater connections to my students and parents of my students. It is also a great tool that allows me to chronicle what happens in my class on a day to day basis. I have a separate Google calendar set up for each of my courses (Physics, Chemistry, Earth Science, and Astronomy). On each calendar I place a description of what we will be covering and the activities we will be completing in class. I also have the ability to attach documents, links or other information for quick access for my student. I typically attach this information to a different section or my classroom website, but the option is there and can be very useful.

I invite all of my parents to subscribe to my Google Calendars which allows them to view what we are doing in class at any time. My calendars are also available to any that may have interest; administrators, other teachers, etc. Now that all of my students have their iPads (as of last week) I am going to help them to subscribe to my calendars. This gives them direct access on the iPads or anywhe they might access their Google Calendar (phone, laptop, home, etc).

Google calendar is just one more way that Google Apps for Education helps my students and I to be more connected and be able to spend our precious time focused on learning.

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Google Apps for Education: Blogger

I have had many people ask me how I use Google Apps for Education (GAFE) in my classroom, I have also started providing more trainings for teachers and it is helpful for me to have down in writing the benefits and uses of GAFE. I am planning a series of posts on the different ways GAFE are used in my classroom and district.

Blogger

I wanted to start with my student’s blogger accounts. I have daily journals in each of my classes (Physics, Chemistry, Earth Science and Astronomy). I used to use paper notebook journals. I didn’t notice the lines waiting for collecting notebooks and the extra time it took for students to grab their forgotten notebooks, I did notice the 70 pounds of notebooks I took home every couple weeks, the long hours grading and counting journal entries. My students now have 1:1 iPads, thanks to a counseling grant and a committed district. This has made blogs an even better opportunity, with the roll-out of iPads many of my students have been using classroom laptops for their blogs this first few weeks of the year. The boot-up time difference between an iPad and a laptop is immediately obvious, with iPads we are wasting much less time waiting for technology and even making up for lost time if we were using paper.

I am able to subscribe to each student’s blog in my Google Reader and instantly follow their progress on their journals each day. I no longer have to carry the journals home, I can grade from any computer and in any situation. An additional benefit is my students love seeing comments on their blogs and watching their page views go up.

I am hoping to implement some additional outside commenting for my students on each other’s blogs and try to bring other people in to see their blogs, like their parents and other stakeholders.


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Make a Connection Goal 10

Google Teacher Academy was great! It was great to be in Australia, but even better to be able to connect and become a part of such a resourceful group of education leaders. I was able to connect with a number of new Google Certified Teachers, past and present, and meet, in person, a number of others In my PLN. Though GTA was fast and furious I felt like I gained a number of new ideas and uses for Google products in my classes. Most importantly, however, it was a crucial example of of how to facilitate and share Google products with other educators.

I hope to be able to take what I learned from the experience and share it with other educators to help them inspire them to try new things in their classroom. I already have three PD’s planned on Google Apps for Education and it is great to have an amazing example to follow and from which to learn.


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What is that? QR Codes in the Library…

I have been working on this project for a few months now. There have been a few technical and logistical challenges to overcome but it is finally ready for the Grand Opening. Working with my school librarian we have been able to add student-written reviews to in house library books and make them accessible to students on the web and (probably more importantly) on their cellphones. We have done this using QR codes.

A couple of months back our library adopted a new cataloging system from Follett Software Company; Destiny Library Management. The most exciting thing I heard about the new cataloging system was the ability for students to write their own reviews of books in the library. I instantly saw this as a great opportunity to make the library a more collaborative and connected space.

After one quick discussion my librarian was completely on board and excited for this new challenge and opportunity. It took a little experimentation and prodding to get the first students to write reviews but we are off and running with a handful of reviews written which are linked to QR codes that have been pasted to the inside covers of the books.

This goes “live” to the rest of the district this week but I have been talking with other staff members to brainstorm some ideas to promote this among the students.

  • Chocolate – The librarian will be offering a small treat to students who write a review for a book. Can’t go wrong there…

  • Advertisement – We’ve already hung a poster about QR codes in the library but we’ll be making additional efforts to let students know what is happening and get them involved.
  • Integration – I’ve got multiple english and reading teachers who are making plans to integrate book reviews into their curriculum and more specifically integrate their classes with the library on new and different ways.
  • Education – All of my students know what QR codes are and how they work, but that is about it in the school population. Part of this process will be sharing this tool with other students and teachers.

Hopefully this is the beginning of a new implementation of new technology in the larger school community. If you have more ideas of how we could expand or improve this please leave a comment!


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A Teacher Tech Program that Works!

I’ve previously discussed my districts Digital Educators program (Digital Educator Leadership Training – DELT) here. I wanted to discuss some more about how it works in our district, some of its most redeeming qualities and some opportunities it has opened up.

Basically how DELT works is each year teachers are allowed to apply to join a DELT cohort by completing an application or letter of interest which details how they currently use technology in their classroom and how they would like to use it in the future with the addition of particular tools. Teachers are selected by a committee which includes the school principals, district tech rep and a few other administrators. I was selected to be part of the third (and final) cohort. This brought the total number of DELT members in our district to 20 (about 25% of our district on a whole).

Selected DELT members were given a fairly significant sum of grant money ($5,000+) to  use as they wish for tech for their classroom. Along with additional

money to attend an edtech conference of their choice (however, cohorts usually attend one conference together, this year cohort two is attending ISTE). Teachers make a three year commitment to DELT along with a commitment to share and instruct each other and other district staff and faculty on the technologies they implement in their classes. As part of the grant reporting process, teachers also conduct research on student learning gains and how they are influenced by the use of technology.

What I like best about this model:

  1. Teacher’s choose – teachers select technology tools they want. To me this greatly increases the likelihood that the tools will be implemented on a regular basis. Tech support may hate it but when the teachers learn it their worries/suffering decrease dramatically.
  2. Teacher’s become the experts – with teachers selecting their own tools they can easily become the only one in their building or district that has that tool. This requires them to become experts with that tool and the pedagogy behind it. They don’t usually want to wait for someone to come teach them how to use it and jump in to figure it out. They chose it so they learn it.
  3. Teacher’s share it – teachers share their expertise. We have regular staff collaboration days where DELT members offer mini-workshops on their chosen tool, software, resources, etc. Again, the teachers own the knowledge and share it. I have recently started a district technology sharing blog (goingdigitalhscsd@blogger.com) to better facilitate this. We have also begun hosting other districts interested in our successes with implementing this program.

This final point has led to some new opportunities for me. Since I was accepted to attend the Google Teacher Academy (GTA) in Sydney coming up in April I have been looking for opportunities to share the experiences and expertise I have and will gain. Through DELT, GTA, hosting other districts and my involvement with the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation (KSTF) I will be providing two and a half days of training and professional development for ten teachers at the Big Piney schools in a neighboring school district this summer. This is a great opportunity to expand my opportunities to grow professionally and share what I am so interested in and passionate about.

I am looking forward to the great learning and growing opportunities ahead!


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Accepted to Google Teacher Academy in Sydney!

Good News! I have been accepted to attend the Google Teacher Academy (GTA) in Sydney, Australia! I can’t tell you how excited I am for this opportunity to work with other great educators and innovators who will be attending and already a part of the Google Certified Teacher family. This is the first international Google Teacher Academy and the first to focus on “education leaders.” (If you are interested in watching my application video you can find it here or at the bottom of this post!)

Source (www.kstf.org)

Right after the excitement sunk in I started looking for a way to get the money to attend. Luckily, I am part of another great organization; the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation (KSTF). “KSTF advocates for new teachers and the teaching profession by supporting beginning high school science and mathematics teachers on the path to becoming expert instructors and teacher leaders” (www.kstf.org). KSTF has been a great motivator and builder of my teaching career; it has helped me accomplish things in a very short time that I would have expected to take many years on my own. I have been granted a leadership grant from KSTF which includes funding to attend Google Teacher Academy. The leadership grant will also help me achieve the requirements of GTA:

  • Develop a “Personal Action Plan.”
  • Lead at least three local professional development activities over the course of 12 months.
  • Successfully deploy one school on to Google Apps for Education.
  • Actively participate in the Google Certified Teacher Online Community.
  • Share the impact of their work with other Google Certified Teachers through an end-of-year reflection (http://goo.gl/nRqw).

I have made plans to provide a 2-day professional development on “Google Apps in Education” for my own district this summer as well as a 2 1/2 day professional development for a neighboring district. I will also help this neighboring district in their effort to begin implementing Google Apps for Education in to the learning in their classrooms. KSTF has provided support for travel and lodging for GTA and the summer professional development activities, along with stipends for ten teachers who attend the summer events. I’m excited about these opportunities and chances to grow as an education leader in my district and state. I hope to continue to add to these opportunities in the future!


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The Search for Student Feedback in a Paperless Classroom

My second post about using technology to increase and enhance student engagement is about providing prompt and regular feedback. I have struggled for a few months on how to provide meaningful feedback to students. Since going paperless I have lost the “normal” mode of feedback; writing a few notes on a paper or test and handing it back with my fingers crossed that it meets their eyes before the bottom of the recycling bin.

Without this standard medium I have tried and failed at a few of my first ideas. I tried sending emails to each student, but this quickly became laborious and tiresome. I tried using my Dragon Dictation iPhone app to transcribe and the email feedback, but that was barely more effective than email.I tried using my voice recorder and emailing it to students, but that wasn’t a good fit either. I considered a Google Doc for each student, but decided most students wouldn’t remember or take the time to visit the doc. After sitting on the idea, I decided that I have worked hard to get students to regularly check and read their emails and I didn’t want to add a different mode of delivery that would detract from this. I finally settled on Google Wave.

At first, I was reluctant to pick up and use a tool that already has its end in sight and only the promise that it “will continue into 2011.” Yet, I decided to jump in and give it a shot. I set up a Wave between each student and myself and have used this each time I grade an assignment or need to provide a student with feedback. I spent part of a day to introduce my students to Wave and ensure that they had email reports enabled.

Now, for the reasons I am sticking with Wave for student feedback for the time being.

  1. It provides a very streamlined interface – I can quickly search and find the wave for the student I am looking for and send their feedback with a minimum amount of clicks and typing.
  2. Wave provides a simple record of feedback – Students or myself can quickly and easily review prior feedback and comments between myself and other students.
  3. Its connection with email – As mentioned before my students have their new Wave reports forwarded to their emails, but Wave also keeps my inbox less cluttered. I can choose to have a report of all Wave updates hourly or daily which keeps unnecessary traffic at a minimum, especially when students are usually just recognizing that they have received feedback.
  4. Allows for quick review of student comments and questions – All new updates by students are easily reviewed as new comments and questions are posted with the option to transition between new Wave updates.

I will continue to evaluate Wave as a method for providing effective student feedback. If you have questions or suggestions please leave them here.


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Technology and Engagement

This year I have been focusing on the following professional growth goal “Use technology to increase and enhance student engagement in and out of the classroom.” I recently came upon a research report on using Twitter to increase engagement. This article has helped to add more focus in my efforts to increase and enhance engagement in classroom through the use of technology. This article outlined the following components of engagement in the classroom; student to faculty contact, cooperation and collaboration among students, active learning, prompt feedback, emphasizing time on task, communicating high expectations, and respecting diversity.

I have added this new focus and direction to my efforts to increase student engagement. I will be looking for ways to highlight each component of engagement and the technologies I can use to help enhance these activities in my classroom. The first area I am going to focus on is prompt feedback. I have previously discussed my efforts to teach paperless in my classroom. While this is going very well and I am enjoying I feel I may have lost some of the more obvious ways and medium for providing feedback to students. I know at time this method wasn’t very prompt (I think going paperless has improved this), but I don’t have something physical to give back to the students. I don’t think students (very often anyway) paid much attention to their returned feedback (except maybe their scores on tests). I am looking for an effective method for providing student feedback. I am open to non-traditional methods and schedules for providing feedback. Maybe not for every assignment, only as students need feedback, or different media.

I keep looking until I find something that will work…


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Step Out of Your Comfort Zone: 30 Goals (#5,6 & 7)

Student Attendance from a Friday (student names erased)

I spent the time to go and update all of my online profiles (at least those I could remember having). It was interesting to see what outdated information I had on there. I was also impressed with all of the ways to link them all together and connect them with each other. These seem like powerful tools for networking that I am not currently using! I also joined a few new networks that I hope will prove valuable, one is a new Facebook fan page. I’m looking to keep this goal going and add a few more “professional” items to some of my more commonly used profiles.

I set up Google Alerts for my name, blog url, and usernames. It is always a little interesting to see some of the things that end up getting sent my way with my first name being London. It both provides a powerful net of diversions and noise if someone is trying to find information on me. I guess it just means I have to do more to make positive things more visible.

My goal for “Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone” is to adopt paperless Fridays. I did this Friday and it went pretty well. I emailed each student their assignments and they were able to have continual access to them there. I haven’t decided if Google Docs would be a better alternative (less likely to get deleted) or if I will stick with email. I would like to get my students more in the practice of checking their emails regularly so that I can use it as a more viable way of contacting them outside of the classroom. Hopefully paperless Fridays will help. “Paperless Friday” also helped with another unique aspect of our school. We are a rural Wyoming school with a small (~220) but very active student body and students can need to travel great distances for sporting academic, and club activities. This usually makes Fridays a very sparse day at the school. I regularly adjust my teaching plans throughout the week as I figure out the numbers of students that will be absent on Friday, luckily the district is considering a 4 1/2 day week. If managed properly I think this could greatly help both teachers and students. Anyway, paperless Friday made it so I could assign  and notify students of their work while they were absent. I’m looking forward to using this more in the future, in fact I would love to go entirely digital with my students but I currently don’t feel like the computers I have in my classroom would allow for this. I proposed a classroom set of iPads to my Technology Integration Facilitator, she said she would look in to it… stay tuned! (with your fingers crossed…)


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Using Poll Everywhere in the Classroom

Every wondered what everyone in your class or meeting was thinking about a topic, but never felt you could get a good feel for what they were thinking because only a few attendees would answer your questions? You might think to use a classroom response system or “clicker,” but what if you don’t have the money for a system? I’ve actually been using two methods. I have a classroom response system and regularly use my classroom response system, ActiveInspire from Promethean but I also use a free-ish service known as Poll Everywhere. I say free-ish because it is free for up to 30 responses per question, so for most school classrooms this is perfect. If you are looking to poll larger audiences there is a fee attached.

I like both systems, Poll Everywhere and my hardware based Promethean system. However, there is something about Poll Everywhere that makes it more accessible to more students and more teachers. Students typically respond using a text message, however there are options to respond via the Poll Everywhere website via a question specific URL or through services such as Twitter or various smartphones. Poll Everywhere also allows for questions to be integrated into a PowerPoint or Keynote presentation with responses pulled live from PollEverywhere’s website (or they can be viewed live on the website.)

The questions are easy to set up and manage and the instructions for replying to questions are relatively easy to understand (you wouldn’t think you would have to explain texting to teenagers but they have messed it up a few times!) Each question has a unique keyword so responses end up where they are supposed to go. There are multiple types of questions MC, text, etc. There are also several different formats for showing student responses (the one shown here is the standard setting.)

Here are a few ways I have been using them in my classes (and one video example.)

–          I use daily journals in each of my classes and I typically only call on a few students to share their responses (using the Class Cards iPhone App to randomly select students and track their participation points for journals), but on days that I want to see what everyone has answered I use Poll Everywhere. It is quicker than getting out and setting up the classroom clickers if we aren’t using them that day.

–          I used Poll Everywhere before I got text response clickers. If I had a question somewhere in the lesson I would let students respond using Poll Everywhere.

–          One use I really like is having students give responses to questions or ask their own questions about reading assignments or the like OUTSIDE of class. Every teacher has been there when you’ve given an assignment and on the following day ask, “Do you have any questions?” and you only get blank stares or one word responses. This way students respond while they are reading, it has helped to get more thoughtful responses and more meaningful questions.

I am looking for a few more ways to use this service in my classes. Again, one of my major goals is to use technology like this to connect with students outside of the classroom and at the point where learning or questions happen, even though I am not physically present.

Any suggestions about how else to use this tool?