Monday, September 30, 2013

Converting Us and Them

Google in Education recently had a great Hangout titled, "Designing Curriculum to Engage Students with Technology." This came at a great time.  I was just having the conversation with some colleagues about our conversion process and how we would soon be working with teachers to do some design work.

Five panelists shared their ideas in the presentation, and each had a different role in their district, from an assistant principal to a director of technology.  Their schools were in different stages of 1 to 1 plans, and each rolled their plans out in different ways.

Through the video, I came out with several ideas worth sharing:

As we move forward and transform our curriculum, we can include the technology as a source to learn from and not just a substitute for another "paper and pencil" method of accomplishing a task.  Our lessons should not center around the device, but what we want students to accomplish.

We should work to allow students to use more higher order thinking skills.  How does access to the technology allow us to do more Project Based Learning and hit the four C's - Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Creativity?

Collaboration is huge!  It is one of the top skills employers look for.  What is one of the biggest reasons young adults lose jobs? The inability to work with others!

We need to MODEL!  Leadership needs to use the digital skills and methods of communication we want our students to use.  This will encourage teachers to use the same.  Have a guest administrator or teacher come and demonstrate or partner up for a lesson!  You never know what they'll say unless you ask!

We are all learning!  This is not a process that just goes to our students.  We are learning how to teach, teaching students how to learn, and how we can teach ourselves using technology.

You don't have to be a "techy" teacher!  Good practice comes from good teaching.  We're just adding a different way of doing things that teachers do already and including some skills necessary for students today.

Eventually, the technology will just become the way we do things.  It won't stay new for long.

Take on what you can handle.  Progress is progress!  Trying to do it all at once will be impossible, cause frustration, and will cause burnout.

Our rooms can become less centered on the teacher and more so on the student. We have tools to meet students where they are at and provide individualized learning.  The teacher becomes more of a facilitator than a leader.

As we move forward, what other areas of our schools will undergo a conversion?  How will our learning spaces be able to change?  Is a classroom filled with rows of desks going to remain the design of choice? Check out this BOLD move by a second grade teacher,  mentioned in these two articles! And see her blog, Kleinsperation. (She has a nice post on Chromebooks too!)

Ditching the Desks
Foster Productivity and Creativity

Its Not About the Device!

Last spring, Google in Education did a week long program that focused on Innovative Chromebook Teachers.  Each day they had a Hangout featuring teachers of specific subjects and how they used Chromebooks to enhance students learning in their classrooms.  It was a great series to watch.  Thankfully, they are all recorded and available to view on the Google in Education YouTube Channel.

After I watched them there was one things very clear- these were not commercials promoting Chromebooks!  They were showing all types of tools you could use available to anyone with the Internet.  The device didn't matter!  Also, so many of these ideas could be used in other subjects.  It was worth watching them all to see what similar ideas could be used in other classes as well.

Here are all the videos with a list of  the tools discussed by the teachers.

Before you grab some popcorn you may want to take a look at this AWESOME resource created by Richland School District Two in South Carolina.  They have created a wonderfully organized tool list.  It is definitely worth bookmarking!


Monday, May 6th-  Mathematics  (recording)
·  Wix (free website builder) - use it as a summative assessment
·  Quia & Quizlet - students can use these for quizzes & review
·  Illustrative Math - complex tasks instead of just 'drill & practice'; also ties into different state/Common Core standards
·  Desmos - online graphing calculator - use it in linear relations unit, also great for plotting circles (and can do it more easily than other graphic calculators per the math teachers!)
·  Manga High - uses gaming for learning math; students can earn badges and you can compete against different schools (Webb City used it for 'integer reviews')
·  Awesome Screenshot -  capture screenshots of kids' works and annotate them.  
·  Geogebra & Geogebra Tube (resources from lots of teachers with little lessons)
·  Lucid Charts with math vocabulary words - have to connect the words, the more connections the better (e.g. 'trapezoid' connected to 'shapes')
· - quick way to make quizzes and submit homework
·  Schoology - LMS that also gives analytics for quizzes so you can target which students need help on certain concepts (and you can create your own questions, where Kahn academy already has them created for you)
·  Kahn Academy
·  Youtube - bring in movies with math problems' in it, and solve them in class
·  Daum Equation Editor - allows you to use math symbols on the Chromebook (Schoology also allows this; or you can save something as a PDF)

Tuesday, May 7th - Science (recording)
·  Google Drawing - incorporate pictures and words
·  Google Forms - allows students to give their peers feedback on their projects
· - gives a blank screen where students can post 'stickies' and answer eachothers' questions
·  Google Spreadsheets - organize lab data and use graphs
·  Google Sites - created Sites for different elements (Chemistry)
·  Study Stack & Quizlet - for learning vocabulary
·  Edcanvas - start with a blank canvas, and you can add pictures, videos, text, etc.
·  Glogster - create posters
·  Create your own 20% project -- watch a clip of a video (October Sky), allow students to pick what they're interested in (e.g. mining, rockets, etc.), and then they can start doing research
·  Google presentations - insert images and label body parts, etc.
·  Study Island, Study Jams
·  Evernote - save all lesson plans in this app
·  Vine - can take short videos (like one on the intestinal system), upload them and share with social networking sites

Wednesday, May 8th - Social Studies & Foreign Language  (recording)
·  Google Calendar - sync calendars for students with assignment due dates
·  Prezi - create presentations
·  Popplet - online mind mapping tools
·  Thinglink - take an image and attach tags to the image (e.g. picture of the globe, and annotate parts of that picture)
·  Go Animate
· - make online flyers to create arguments
·  Storybird - create a book to create an argument
·  Animoto - tie text and pictures together
·  [teacher productivity] Doctopus
·  [teacher productivity] Goobric - Chrome extension that pop-ups a rubric over a Google Doc so teacher can grade the work and the grades feed into a Spreadsheet
· - create historical timelines from a Google spreadsheet
·  Wevideo & Youtube - create videos
·  Soundcloud - create podcast of "Radio broadcast" from the 20s
·  TodaysMeet - can create your own chat room, messages limited to 140 characters (like Twitter), students can ask questions and share answers. 
·  Twitter - students assume identities of historical figures and tweet as of they were them;  then they have 'Twitter wars' where they pit characters against each other (e.g. Charles Darwin vs Elizabeth Cady Stanton)
·  Comic Life - comic program
·  Bit Strips - can create avatars for students

Thursday, May 9th - Special Education (recording)
·  Google Dictionary - enables student to define a word on a website and pronounces the word for the students
·  Voice search (on - students can say a word and it will help them spell it  
·  Google Voice - use it to text parents to schedule Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings; and use it for students to call and leave a voicemail to record themselves reading aloud
·  Google URL shortener - makes it easier for students instead of typing entire site
·  One tab - condenses all tabs into one window and saves memory on Chromebook
·  Google Keep - help kids keep track of their tasks
·  Google Chat - keeping in touch with students after school
·  Google Sheets - kids can give feedback on other students' speeches/interviews to keep them engaged; teacher can watch kids add their feedback to make sure they're on task
·  CodeAcademy & Scratch - teach coding to students and the teacher doesn't have to be a coder him/herself
·  Socrative Teacher - able to create quizzes for exit tickets;  also can create a game out of it so students race each other and see who gets the most correct answers the most quickly
·  Quiz using Gmail subject lines -- one of the teachers on the Hangout created this! Creates a game out of quizzes
·  Spelling City
·  Brainpop
·  Voice Comments in Google Docs - allows teachers to highlight text and give a voice comment instead of typing it
·  Flubaroo 

Friday, May 10th - Language Arts (recording)
·  Youtube - create public service announcements and edit on Youtube
·  Google Voice - younger students use the landline at school to call Google voice and record themselves reading outloud.  Then the teacher can refer back to the original text and make notes for them.
· - can use it for infographics and paste in sources
·  Google forms - for surveys of students' interests
·  Edublog - every student has their own blog and can write on whatever topic interests them
·  NoRedInk - create assignments and quizzes that are grammar-based.  The questions also relate to students' interests (e.g. Justin Bieber; Modern Family)
·  WeVideo - teachers love it even more than iMovie because it's not device dependent; also more collaborative than iMovie
·  Google Sites - ePortfolios
·  Snapchat & Twitter - send out poems via these social media channels
·  Typing Club
·  eBooks that are accessible via their schools' library

·  Blabberize - upload a picture and have it talk; use in language arts to pick a character from a book and give a report on that character

Monday, September 23, 2013

It Finally Arrived!

That's right!  The day finally got here.  Marshalltown had its first full day of professional development.  While normally this day may be scheduled with informative meetings, group work, or some team planning several teachers got some hands on experience with what is to come this year.

Our 7-12 grade science teachers had a full day of new material.  Their morning was spent at our High School Library getting a refresher Google Training from AEA 267's Kay Schmalen and "experimenting" with the soon to be used Chromebooks themselves.  This was the first time that so many of the devices would be pulled out from their carts and used besides enrolling the devices several weeks before.  Nothing could go wrong, and everything would go perfect, right?  Generally speaking it went great.  Besides some of those hard to understand or try to explain situations things worked well.  Teachers got some great practice with the Chrome browser, sharing files, creating Google + profiles, having hangouts, and just getting familiar with the Chromebooks and how they worked.  The science teachers' day was topped off with an afternoon of learning about  They had an opportunity to see how the site worked, begin creating class rosters, and explore the resources the site had to offer.

3rd and 4th grade teachers had quite the experience as well in the afternoon.  This was the first day this year most of the group got to be together at once.  It was also their first training using Google Apps for Education. They enjoyed themselves and the Hangout section of the training was definitely a hit.  Soon, email notifications were blowing up everyone's inbox as circles were being formed and PLNs were being established.

In the end, we were able to create a nice list of questions to follow up with and share back out to teachers.  It was great to get their insight, to see how things worked, and to hear them discuss how they may handle instruction later this year.

As the day was over and it was time to digest I had to remind myself something.  It is so easy to get stuck on the vision of our classrooms full of students using technology, having a high interest level, collaborating, completing lessons where they are problem solving, using higher order thinking skills, publishing their work, and pushing their limits.  While I am sure I will see that vision, and thinking about it is exciting, I need to remember that getting there is a process.  We'll get there, but we need to take one step at a time.  There will be challenges and problems along the way.  We need to keep our mind open.  Instead of roadblocks they may just be changes in thinking or how we handle business.

For now, we can keep exploring resources.  What units or activities can I modify to bring in technology and challenge students?

What learning do I as a teachers still need?  For some, its experience with the Chrome browser and becoming familiar with how it works.  Here's some resources.

60 Chrome Apps and Extensions
Top 12 Google Chrome Extensions That Enhance Student Learning
Google Chrome Blog

If we are placing Chromebooks in our classrooms we have some reasons in mind - one of those being improving our 21st Century Skills.  Marshalltown Schools found an excellent resource to help develop those skills and monitor growth.  We have next generation assessments coming such as Smarter Balanced and without digital literacy skills students will not be prepared for an online test.

Very soon all students in grades 4 - 8 will be taking the 21st Century Skills Assessment.  This assessment is aligned to all 24 of the ISTE NETS-S standards and gives four levels of proficiency based on the results. The full reports that are offered on the district, school, teacher, class, and student levels will allow us to identify learning gaps and use EasyTech lessons to build the skills in the specific areas we need.   Giving a post test at a later date will allow us to see the growth we've made and also find the areas that are still challenging us.

Besides skills, we'll be able to handle the topic of online safety.  Students will be able to learn digital citizenship, and how to use social networks safely, protect personal information, and prevent cyber bullying.  All the skills can be revisited as students grow, and presented at their appropriate level.

It is also worth mentioning the other classroom curriculum resources has to offer.  It will support classrooms with direct instruction videos, multimedia resources, interactive learning tools, and virtual labs - all aligned to the Common Core. Teachers can take advantage of the lesson planning tools to help deliver content to the students in their classes.  As teachers gather their resources they can start creating district curriculum.

Read this article for more on's place in the Marshalltown Community School District.

Here are a couple reviews on
Tech & Learning

Getting the Edge on Online and Blended Learning

"Going Google" and handing out some Chromebooks is a lot of fun, but will not do anything all alone for our students and their learning.  To help us, Marshalltown Schools are using some online resources, one of which is Edgenuity to allow online and blended learning opportunities.

Edgenuity  (formally e2020) has an expansive course catalog that features research-based core and elective content.  Courses can also be customized to align to the plans of a school or district.  Both Core Curriculum and Credit Recovery courses are offered along with Higher Education and Career and Technical Education.  Edgenuity offers rigorous, standards based instruction and includes interactive tools to support learning.  Multimedia and real world applications help ensure students build the knowledge and skills necessary.  Teachers can monitor student engagement, progress and achievement, can customize content for each student, and have tools necessary to communicate with their students.

Check out The Edge - Edgenuity's very own blog featuring ideas for success for students, teachers, schools, and districts to have success and meet their academic goals.  My favorite recent post goes right with the idea I started this post with - An iPad Alone Does Not Make an Instructional Program.  I suppose the thought goes for Chromebooks too!

It all starts with a plan...

The mission of the Marshalltown Community School District is to nurture students to become intellectually and personally empowered for citizenship in a changing world.  

Last Spring, Marshalltown Community School District took the next step in fulfilling that mission and shared a plan that would result in a major change in Marshalltown Schools.  A Digital Conversion Plan was announced that would involve allowing all students individual access to technology by the end of 2016.  Doing so would support a belief in the district's Strategic Action Plan that "Technology must be an important learning tool for all students and staff" and an action of part of that plan to "Ensure student and staff access to technology necessary for increased academic achievement." The first, and very important, part of this plan was to upgrade the district's network.  The core network was upgraded to a fiber optic network and then a dense wireless network was put in place in all schools.

Next, the device.  With all sorts of options out there, Marshalltown chose to go with the Samsung Chromebook, powered by Google.  With the district's recent decision to join Google Apps for Education it made a great choice.  They are light, thin, have a decent battery life, and are capable of doing the tasks our students need to do.  They will serve the purpose well of bringing online resources into our classrooms. Unfamiliar with the Chromebook and the Chrome OS?  Check out these videos.

So when will students get them?

Beginning second semester of this school year students in grades 7 - 12 science classrooms will be able to start using the devices along with students in grades 3 and 4.  Waiting to roll out the devices until second semester will seem like a lifetime for many of us, but it will allow us to get prepared and offer teachers some professional development on how to use the Chromebooks with students.

Speaking of how to use Chromebooks in Education, check out this post from Richard Byrne showing 30 ideas for using Chromebooks in Education.

Another thing about using Google products - they offer tons of resources.  Check them out!
Lesson Plan Search
Understanding YouTube and Digital Citizenship
K-12 Guide to Going Google
Google Apps For Education Deployment Guide
32 Ways to Use Google Apps in the Classroom
Education on Air
Google in Education YouTube Channel