Wednesday, February 26, 2014

week 5/6 1:1 iPad rollout- To differentiate

Living in Vermont means making amends for educational productivity when a perfect snowstorm blankets the state. Students and teachers embrace the cold powder while it lasts. We ski, we snowboard, we play hard. No wonder that 16 Olympians are from Vermont.  At school we gained one actual snow day and then a week of residual effects as smiling, exhausted populations loped through the doors. Now we are on our winter break. Week 5 merged into week 6 of my experience with a 1:1 iPad rollout but not without sound accomplishment.

Smart Technology- Students no longer groan when I request their weekly download of additional apps. I offhandedly created a metaphor to explain I need them to access a variety of apps.  Imagine the iPad as a "dumb" robot. Each application that we add to it gives it a function like a brain. We are the masters building the brain of this device. Instead of playing games, we need to control the games, control the applications. We make it a "smart" technology.

The Roll of Master-  A roll students seem to accept the roll through experimentation with apps like Stencyl, Scratch and GamePress. I am out of my comfort zone so I turn lessons over to my husband/ tech integrationist.  He assured me opportunities for game design during winter break directing me to a webpage he had ready to guide beginners through the gaming process.  Content wise, my world history students are studying philosophers of the Age of Enlightenment. We use the basis of 18th century theories to examine contemporary issues that students are already urgent to discuss and explore.  After the winter break we will use a conversation rubric to prepare a variety of Salon style conversations performed for peers. Blending visionary philosophies of Voltaire, Locke and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin with game theorists like Jane McGonigal and James Paul Gee has immediate appeal for gamers. Students are so used to gaming that being in charge of designing a game is quite new to them. I never thought that I would be the first to suggest this to them. 

Immediate Response lends to better discourse- Quizzes are posted through our Haiku platform which student take multiple times, on their own time, with only highest scores recorded. This week I introduced the app, Socrative. I preloaded a multiple choice questionnaire meant to separate student responses relative to their political affinities: radical, liberal, conservative, reactionary.  Students click on the app and enter the room number assigned to my account, and begin answering questions at the start of class. It is so easy to process results and present them as a spreadsheet for examination. I present political ideologies as a spectrum and project the results along the spectrum. I take time to answer or engage each student's opinion regarding the outcomes. Cognizant of classroom management with a need to break away from the iPad, we close them down, engage in physical activity, then a reading from a tangible text. Over reliance on one technology just as over reliance on one textbook is not conducive to differentiated learning. The class comes full circle back to discourse comparing political platforms to ideology. Feeling impulsive I type up one Socrative exit ticket- What idea is worth fighting for? Students were spurred to answer and view results. The gambit of "love, freedom, guns, ur mom"... ended class on a happy note.  

I have underestimated the appeal of game shows.  My husband urged me to check out the gamified assessment tool through The site allows me to access publicly shared quizzes or create my own.  Set up for my own current news quiz took 30 minutes. I downloaded images and hit launch. Instructions cued me to display the game room number and offer lobby music while students prepared for game play.  iPads become instant response systems once they entered through their browser and choose their displayed nickname. Students opted to compete individually or as teams. The surface of the iPad displays brightly colored multiple choice buttons. My screen displays the countdown timer, the leader board for quickest, correct response and of course, the lobby music.  Students had so much fun racing each other to get onto the leader board shrieking and yelling loud enough to draw a perturbed math teacher into the room with a request to keep it down. While I am in the experimental stage with Kahoot it is possible to download the quiz data and track team/ individual results over time. I can't wait to explore the shared quizzes and share my own. 

Notability- I sing its praise weekly but Storyme adds that je ne sais quoi.  I have changed assignment structures to depend on review and synthesis of notes. Ideally we spiral back to our notes throughout the year affirming or changing how we think. It was especially useful to return to notability and collected images when I asked students to illustrate comparative studies of world leadership. I introduced Storyme as a perfect app for illustrating a point in a storyboard. It turns photos into comic book sketches. It allows for  simple, short captions and bubbles for dialogue. I had to share this app with a few teachers who responded by sending me Storyme emails instead of the usual typed text.  It has been awhile since I have enjoyed playful banter with colleagues.  Take a selfie, add a message and end with a bubble(dramatic), " noooooo! Swoon! Not another faculty meeting!"

An educational shift is taking place in the 1:1 iPad classroom. Students arrive each day for the most part with notebooks open, writing utensils ready. The notebook is their iPad, the utensil. A finger or stylus. Total homework completion is on the rise, not one student has lost a single assignment and I'm working with various students individually or collaboratively by choice. And here's a real thriller for high school teachers...I'm observing students reading. The access to choice readings based on thematic research has led to students spending class time reading deliberately. And they pause to summarize for me their readings.  One student, absorbed in the biography of Che Guevara, was unaware that class had ended.  His final assessment piece was handed in later than other students but I couldn't penalize him with a late work grade in good faith.  I had to give him more time. Guess what? He wasn't reading from wikipedia.  I give students the option to default to wikipedia if the video links, trusted sites and academic databases supplied are too difficult or lacking in intrigue. The librarians have helped create accessible pathways to academic databases. We routinely model use of databases comparative to search engines. Choice and ease of access is compelling. My nonchalance and persistent expectation for comparative review of more than one source edges students towards exploration of the myriad of perspectives on the internet.  While I am happy to have vacation time to enjoy the last days of Vermont winter I must admit, I can not wait to get back to the classroom.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Week 4 - 1:1 iPad rollout- Digital Learning Day

Did you know that  it was Digital Learning Day nationwide?  PBS offered a fantastic opportunity to connect educators.  I stepped up my enthusiasm for digital learning by telling students to SMASH APPS! and tweeted class totals (#dlday).  Smashing immediately connotes images of destruction but according to my twitter community it simply means using more than one app to create something digital.  My students had opportunities to using sketching apps with text apps, work flow apps with platform apps and as an added incentive, would be allowed to use class time for gaming or bonus points on past assessment scores. Guess which incentive won out?

Our school launched our Follow Your Dreams project during DLD week. Every week a senior or alumni of has the opportunity to present their work towards a dream, TED Talk style in our library media center.  During a 20 minute advisory time students voluntarily choose to attend a variety of club activities, conferences or down time.  We kicked off the FYD project with a senior who, last semester, lived abroad in Ecuador. She will finish her senior year riding a bike cross-country. The library was packed, standing room only. We recorded the presentation and tweeted it out from our school Twitter feed.  Students attending filled out paper exit tickets highlighting their own dreams. I threw together a 6 second Vine stop-motion video posted to Twitter with immediate retweets.  Making a Vine video has been a goal of mine for some time. I can't believe how easy it was to learn.

Four weeks into a 1:1 iPad rollout and my iGeners are developing a work flow.  "Patience grasshopper" is an idiom constant in my mind as I navigate the small changes in my teaching/ management style. I am learning that it is not wise to build lessons limiting and controlling students' choice of apps. I avoid design one app lessons- ie Book Builder lesson or a Thinglink project. Instead, I incorporate apps as classroom routines that build towards CCSS (Common Core State Standards). Just as we learn vocabulary every day, we now learn how apps provide choices in learning. Bill Ferriter (@Bill Ferriter) reminded me in a recent tweet, "iGeners aren't always the best students. Working quickly instead of carefully, they 'info-snack' their way through class flitting from instant experience to instant experience."  They push aside meaningful learning.

This is why I am convinced that veteran teachers should embrace technology with fervor instead of reluctance. They know how to engage and differentiate meaningful lessons for a variety of learners therefore technology can assist in this process. Keeping this in mind, I made the focus this week on sharing and sending work instead of incorporating new apps.  Since students were at different stages finishing their creative pieces from the previous week it actually worked well to differentiate with a checklist of assignments and tasks published in PowerSchool. I rotated through the room conversing with individuals in regards to work completion, final edits and guidance through the options for handing in work replacing the whole class lecture. I taught students how to change creations from a variety of apps to pdf, to download google drive for saving all assignments and how to attach them to a Haiku Learning platform. It is so important not to allow students the option of emailing assignments, email can become cumbersome.

By the weeks end students were ready to move onto evaluation & analysis tasks. Merely creating a research project encourages synthesis of knowledge but I needed to assess students on analytical thinking. I offered three choices for comparative analysis of world leaders posted on our Haiku Learning wiki. By reviewing each other's work online and conversing with one another in class, students could choose to create a comparative evaluation tool, or they could write an essay, or they could write a letter to a real world leader. I posted the assignment expectations on Haiku and again, rotated through the classroom acknowledging choices each individual would make. Options included work produced on iPad or paper or with other technologies.

There were times in class that I caught students gaming as I rotated throughout the room. Our school does have a iPad removal process and I did have to use this with two students whose gaming addictions became quite apparent. Most students could be convinced to set personal goals for task achievement and their own gaming incentives.  I actually had an opportunity to enjoying some of their gaming suggestions. I know that Dumb Ways To Die is not a deep nor analytical game but it was easy for me to navigate much to the delight of the students.  It is worthwhile to discuss gaming strategies with students who have so much to say and share.  In fact, gamification will be a future focus of the iPad rollout.  For now, I end my evenings experimenting with more apps, Storyme, Instagrok and Socrative are on my mind.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Favorite links

Just a quick push for some blog favorites. I'm so busy watching the Olympics and tweeting at the same time, I really can't focus on anything else!  Vermont has a number of athletes attending and several of them are from my area in the northern region. Even better, I coached and hovered behind coaches who worked with these athletes since they were in elementary school. I basically grew up, learning to be a better educator because of these kids and my fellow coaches. 

This is a blog by my husband and 1998 Olympian, Marc Gilberston. His focus is still on skiing. He is currently racing in the Canadian Ski Marathon. But he also makes time to meet with a colleague and librarian each week to help our school keep a heads up on tech changes.
Check out: 
Weekly Geek

This girl started as a fantastic high school runner but quickly became much more. She went to Burke Academy, was coached by Matt Whitcomb and they went on in ski racing. He is currently the  US team coach at the. Olympics!   

I watched the Opening Ceremonies, started tweeting and following skiers. Liz Stephen was my first choice.  Her blog is beautiful. The pictures make me feel like... an Olympian!

What a great week for a senior at our high school to share her story with the younger grades. Olympian effort shows up in many places. Anytime someone is striving to be swifter, smarter, stronger, deserves a podium.  This student spent a year raising $13,000.00 to live for a semester in Ecuador as a student in a sustainable development program. And now she prepares to bike across the US.  She gave our school a TED TAlk style Question and Answer presentation in the comfort of our library. Check her world out.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Week 2- rollout iPads- 1:1 With Aggregators

Week 2 of my focus on technology.  "Chilly" in Vermont means starting each day with -20 temperatures. Head colds are circulating through the school and a surprise Lock Down drill happened right in the middle of a well planned lesson.  No worries.  My students huddled into a dark corner of my classroom during the lockdown with their iPads in absolute quiet.  Each student was gaming or texting like crazy. I took a selfie and forwarded it to the principal.
Last week I introduced lessons to accommodate  Luddites and iPad enthusiasts and this week was dedicated to keeping routines. I really need the transition towards technology to be smooth or learning will be set aside for entertainment value only. Notability is my go to workflow application for downloading and editing class notes. Each day, students followed the same work flow using various templates that I designed or chose- vocabulary organizers, CLOZE activities and reading comprehension charts. In Notability you can download the same template over and over to add to a note, building a word bank or a file on a particular subject. It was worthwhile to give students time for mastery, learning to utilize the text box, the text tool and the drawing tools.  I try to increase student capabilities for blending text with illustration to increase text connections. Some students concentrated on adding details and colors to their sketches or finding images to copy/paste.  There is more enthusiasm for sharing and presenting student work on what used to pass as mundane task.

Student pace varied quite a bit. Luckily I had a second classroom routine already set up. I put QR codes around the room, under tables, on windows and walls. Scanning a QR gives students static or interactive links to information.  It is a timesaver. Never again do I have to spell out the letter combination of a a URL or tell students how to search the internet for a particular item. In this case, they all accessed the same historic map image. Students who were ahead could spend time downloading the QR reader app, students who were behind could have the colored map emailed from another student. The accompanying questions were based on the analysis, not the coloring.  For my AP World History students, I tape a QR code to the classroom entrance and pen the date on the paper to keep track of itineraries for absentees. The daily itinerary and immediate access to class materials is a powerful motivator. Curiosity draws students towards the scan of this odd black/white code and the discovery of carefully selected activities effectively catches the attention of procrastinators. No one likes to be left behind.

Technology has added value to activities that used to be considered insignificant. I never could get away with worksheet activities because there used to be a reliance on me as the director of the task. Management of the 1:1 classroom takes a ton of planning but it releases students to work at their pace,relying on itineraries not teachers. Students naturally are quite excited to share and aid their peers. Conversations are richer. With this in mind I launched the use of agrrogrator applications, Feedly and Flipboard.

Aggregators present a selection of blogs, tags or searches or they allow you to personalize your choices. Instead of following the news presented by one source I require students to follow three sources. Flipboard allows students to follow stories and to flip them into a magazine, Feedly organizes the sources for easy access, eliminating the need for single searches. Students set their app up with a news category adding- al Jazeera and the BBC. They also added a news source of their own choice. Class time was used for perusing headlines and settling on a analyzing two different versions of a story. It was great to hear them share headlines out loud and then compare story details. Each student used my paper template to record their analysis to be reviewed later. The real understanding of the news comes from the conversations that fill the classroom

Time flew by.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Week 3- rollout 1:1ipads- interactive notebooks

Week 1- experiment
Week 2- establish workflow
Week 3-create

 The transition to a 1:1 digital classroom has become a means for lessons designed around common goals and outcomes set by both students and teachers. Cram cards are a strategy for organization and are just one example of a classroom practice that digital technology can't replace. Students requested an opportunity to create a cram card for the midterms so I saved the remnants of some; it fascinates me to look at the details and differences all have with one goal in common.  Each card above is an individual work, not copied, not shared representing the needs and abilities of each learner.  By responding to student requests for cram cards I saw how effort and review help assuage exam anxieties.  
Student evaluation does not necessarily have to happen only in a digital classroom.  But an evaluation application that yields instant compilation of answers makes response immediate and therefore infinitely of greater value. Student surveys yielded requests for CLOZE activities and word bank study guides. iPads and Notability allow me to set these up as a folder and as an interactive notebook. Students can refer to their gathered research in order to compare and contrast or critique or synthesize their knowledge (address standards of the Common Core). 

Mid term results confirmed that students were confused about how governments develop over time. Starting the new semester with this area of content allowed me to take one step backwards address misconstrued ideas about the rise of parliament in Stuart England. I balanced teaching content that I deemed important with content that they could choose to invest interest in.  Wondering aloud about models of leadership and legacy helped students develop perspectives of Absolute rule as compared to current media views of heads of state.  One thing that the internet is abundant in is perspective.

With student "buy in" and input acknowledged I could turn attentions to creation applications.  new iPad applications that synthesize their findings in a creative way.  And they express their analysis through the design of playing cards, baseball cards. A manipulated image on the front and stats on the back. They copy and paste an image but use applications to manipulate and change the image. First, it's a lesson in copyright violations. We can't copy anything and call it our own. To change the image I introduced the simple screen capture technique of holding down the power button and the home button at the same time. Then editing, cropping etc can be done from the camera.  Most students are familiar with Picollage but hadn't considered using Sketchpad, drawing tools in Notabilty and Pages.  I showed them a simple example of a drawing I had made in Sketchpad. 10 minutes 

For obvious reason's my lack of artistic ability inspired them.
 My husband, the visionary school leader behind the rollout, confirmed  that giving students choices for applications and time to experiment is why students are happy and therefore, working quickly. When each card is complete it will be added to their Notability subject folder and they will have a great example of an interactive notebook that is organized, colorful and creative. Some students did create fantastic works on paper which will be great for the hall display. I plan on adding QR codes to the hall for access to the digital works as well. Already students are discussing how they will create a similar interactive notebooks for their independent self studies