Thursday, June 4, 2015

Individual Blog Post FINAL

Individual Blog

Inspired Writing (14-15) was just as challenging as ever.  

This being my second cohort, I was just as happy with the results:

Challenging thinking,
Emerging tools,
Best practice.

Isn’t it ironic that despite all of the learning that I’ve discussed tonight that I’m still typing this reflection into a blog?

No WallWisher or Padlet post, no Wikispace or Google Site, no Kaizena audio recording or Movenote/Google Hangout movie;

just a blog post.


I guess,

the words have to do the talking.

January: Kaizena to Movenote to Google Hangout Evolution

January: Kaizena to Movenote to Google Hangout Evolution

Early this year we, in the Inspired Writing cohort, were exposed to a variety of ways for students to collaborate with each other using a variety of tools.

We were early adopters of Kaizena (which is a free app that give students a way to provide audio feedback to each via their Google account access) and were happy with the initial result.  Students and teachers were using it with success.  One problem in my view was that the student had to create a Kaizena account, then open documents up using the Kaizena app.  If a student (or teacher for that matter) wanted to share the audio recording with a person who did not have an account with Kaizena, then the listener would not be able to connect to the recording.  We therefore searched for other alternatives.

Dana L. introduced us to Movenote (a free app that connects to Google accounts where the owner can bring up their document, highlight certain parts and record webcam video with audio).  What made a difference for us is the fact that the account owner has access to a copyable url address when their recording is completed as well as a repository of their recordings that is saved online.  Students were able to share links with each other in real time, paste recording urls into shared Google Sheets for group projects and send links to their parents/other teachers within e-mail.  The only problem that we’ve faced is an echo-ridden/garbled small band of time during recordings that we think is related to either the connection speed of the internet or the recording machine itself.  Despite these problems most students chose Movenote over Kaizena and the teachers at our grade level followed suit; we “resorted” to recording a few of our Professional Learning Community and Grade Level meetings so that everyone could participate, then review the recordings later for clarification.

As professionals, we now are moving towards using Google Hangouts as a way to collaborate further online.  While Movenote seems to work best when the recordings are limited to 30-second to one-minute blocks of time, Google Hangouts do not degrade in quality for 30-45 minutes, maybe even longer.  

We’ve experimented with pre-recording standardized content, full lessons (for constructive/lesson study feedback), and explanations for parents regarding student-created strong command examples of state standards.

This summer I am presenting our best thinking around Google Hangouts at our state technology in education conference.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

November: Online Assessment Reflection

November: Online Assessment Reflection

Our team has been cobbling together assessments to not only assess our student’s understanding of Common Core State Standards in literacy, but to also prepare them for the format of the test.

We started the year distributing paper packets of texts that were designed to take three days to comprehend. Students were expected to use their highlighters to mark the text using Notice and Note signposts, then explain their thinking in caption form.

Pros:  Standardized reading passages for entire grade level, concrete evidence of student understanding
Cons:  Paper intensive, time intensive for teacher to make a packet of copies for each student at grade level for three classes, difficult for students to manage returned work, and difficult to give realtime feedback and/or score so many packets daily by the teacher.

We then advanced to creating a Google Site for assessments.  One person would retype the reading passage, the team or one person would draft questions aligned to the state standard and finally another person would create a Google Form with the agreed questions which were aligned by State Standard.

Pros:  Standardized passages for the grade level that were at or above grade level, questions aligned to State Standards, passages/assessments can be tweaked and/or reused next year, results can be examined by multiple teachers at multiple times right away or after the fact.
Cons:  Teacher time to retype an entire passage, students getting timed out of form before submitting their response, formatting of Google Site not consistent teacher-to-teacher or assessment to assessment, viewable screensize an issue for students if two items are embedded on page, scrolling down on embedded passages and/or embedded Google Forms can be an issue for students.

Finally we learned that another school was using an app called CamScanner for their reading passages, then inserting a link to the .pdf file on either a Google Site or Google Doc for assessments.  We also decided to focus assessment on certain “biggest bang for the buck” standards instead of trying to assess each standard every month.

Pros:  Standardized passages for the grade level that were at or above grade level, questions aligned to State Standards, passages/assessments can be tweaked and/or reused next year, results were examined by multiple teachers at multiple times right away or after the fact, formulas were created to organize responses on Google Sheets to make it easier to determine student command of standards
Cons:  Blurry images either from low level of webcam or photographer when the pdf is created, wavy images when the image is opened, no numbering of each line in a passage, page numbers that are referred to in lesson do not appear in images, unsure of copyright conflict.

We will start off the year scanning in the reading passages that we made copies of in 14-15, and "tweaking" our assessments by standards in order to create needs-based student groups.

October: Skype Reflection

October: Skype Reflection

Skype was working well for our real-time needs, but lacked in some areas.

-Students appreciated using Skype with us if they were absent and already had an account at home on a reliable machine.
-My students seemed to enjoy earning a badge for either Skyping into class or helping a teammate who was absent with Skype from our classroom.

There is a consistent need for some type of video conferencing feature at my instructional level!

-Recordings were never archived, so teacher review of a lesson or a student seeking to clarify directions were not options.
-Connection lag/drops either on my end or the student end could be frustrating.
-Inappropriate solicitations via the chat window occurred before school one morning while my computer was connecting with a parent’s account that their teenager happened to be using.

A safer, more secure connection with students outside of the classroom is needed.

Goggle Hangouts were then discussed by Dana L. as an alternative.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Beyond Gamification?

Beyond Badges: Why Gamify?

Although I have successfully utilized badges with students for a few years now, I’m finding that there is a growing number of detractors out there that concerned about the effect gamifying a classroom has on intrinsic motivation.

I originally started my badge program after taking time to reflect on what motivates boys in the real world to help them persevere through extended rigorous tasks.  Because I had some history as a Boy Scout, I remembered how I revered the older Scouts during our Courts of Honor:  Boys explaining/showing off their merit badge collections on sashes draped over their shoulders like bandoliers or hanging off of their belts like bowie knives.

Even grown men were bringing their sashes in to show Scouts in the troop what skills they had learned while they were active!

The competitive nature to demonstrate individual uniqueness that is innate in human beings will always prevail, but so will creativity and innovation.  

When a child is able to celebrate a skill that they have mastered while also targeting peer and/or adult mentors in areas they have a desire to grow in, I believe educators are heading down the correct path.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Building the Plane While We Fly It

Building the Plane While We’re Flying It

I love attending tech conferences, but usually after the first day I feel like the workers in the plane in the video above and that we, as teachers/professionals in the field, expect the passengers (students and parents) to ignore the beta-tested chaos swirling around them.

If I have a difficult time overlooking the unfinished product, how can I assume the public is able to?

It seems like I expend so much energy trying to assemble something behind the scenes, out of the public eye/away from my professional digital footprint, that by the time I arrive at an acceptable level of comfort the completed product is obsolete.

I struggle within these moments.