digitalteach

teaching with the tools of a digital world


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Goal 11: Ask, Perhaps You’ll Receive, iPads and Conference Fridays

My 18 month old son playing on my iPad

This goal has been a long time coming. I came up with the idea for this goal way back when I started the 30 Goals Challenge (and it has taken me much longer to get to this point than I expected, but soldier on!). The item I have decided to ask for is a classroom set of iPads. I have my own iPad and really enjoy it. I also think that I could leverage the power of the iPad in my classroom in valuable ways. The biggest thing my students complain about is the log in time for our laptops (partially the laptops fault, partially the nature of the beast). Turns out my Technology Integration Facilitator has had the same plan as I have. We are definitely getting a classroom set of iPads to test out, one for the middle school and one for the high school. However, we are writing a grant for 1-to-1 iPads for all students in the high school. This would be a big commitment and a big undertaking. It would be coupled with virtual machines to make up for the “missing Apps.” For my science class this would include LoggerPro (a program for analyzing student collected data).

The second item in this goal that I have asked for has to do with a change in the schools schedule for next year. As mentioned previously we are a small rural district where a majority of the student body participates in athletics and other extra-curricular activities which regularly takes them out of the classroom, especially on Fridays. Due to this, the district is moving to a 4 1/2 day school week. That 1/2 day is the point of this post. It has been decided that there will be no progression of content because of the number of students out of class. Which left us with about 28 minutes in each class to not do much other than review. This led our principal to ask for ideas from the staff.

A group of teachers and I, built the idea of “Conference Fridays” (the name may not stick around…). The idea is that Fridays will become much more like a conference (think also of Google’s 20% time). Staff will propose and present cross-curricular extension activities, not tied to a specific course or grade level. Students will be able to choose which “conferences” they attend and will have a month to attend the proposed conference. Each conference will culminate with a student product and a student presentation, the venue can vary from the school board, a local company, science fair, art show, etc. There are many teachers and students very excited about this idea (including me)! The best thing that as a first year teacher I have had the opportunity to spearhead this effort because of a administrator and staff members who are able to rely on each other and open to each others’ ideas.

I am presenting this idea to staff members tomorrow morning, I will also embed a copy of the presentation which explains the idea in greater detail. Wish me luck!

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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…