Saturday, November 30, 2013

Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2013: MOOCs and Anti-MOOCs (from Hack Education)

Here's a fascinating post by Audrey Watters called Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2013: MOOCs and Anti-MOOCs, from her blog Hack Education  (a personal favorite). It's a thoughtful review of the 'state of the state' regarding MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses).

Take ten minutes to read it - very informative, and full of interesting thoughts and perspective. For one, interesting pivots that seem to be starting for both Coursera and Udacity - more focused on corporate training? In 2012, MOOCs looked upon as a possible 'salvation' for education, now, not so much.  Hmmm... should be an interesting year...

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Making the ELA Shifts Using Technology

Achieve the Core has identified three overarching shifts in the move to the Common Core standards for English/Language Arts.  Having spent the better of three years unpacking the new standards, these shifts indeed spotlight where a teacher should focus instruction.
Go to the Achieve the Core site to read more on "Making the Shift".  

All three remind us of the need to offer more robust content to students so they can build vocabulary, skills (such as inference), and habits (supporting arguments) necessary to develop college and career readiness.

What are these shifts and how can student use of technology address them?  Here are a few ideas:

1. Regular practice with complex text and its academic language
Use Little Bird Tales, Storybird, Voicethread, or Haiku Deck to 1) identify rich vocabulary in close reading and write a new story using it; 2) create a book of poetry on the weather, and 3) write your own textbook on animals, weather, geology, outreach activities.

2. Reading, writing and speaking grounded in evidence from text, both literary and informational
Instead of writing an essay, have students create a digital story based on a script.  Use Popplet to brainstorm/storyboard; Google Apps to write the script; and Comic Creator, Powtoon, GoAnimate! or video to create the final product.

3. Building knowledge through content-rich nonfiction
Non-fiction text can be found on many sites, but be sure to check out Scholastic, Discovery and Digital Public Library.  Also check out Newsela for current event articles that are scaffolded to your students’ lexile numbers.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Geography Awareness Week and the Common Core

The week of November 18, 2013 is Geography Awareness Week, a great opportunity to revisit this critically vital curriculum area.   If I had a favorite subject in elementary school, it was geography.  The study of geography offers an interactive, physical component that appeals to those who need more kinesthetic strategies in the classroom.  Additionally, it provides a real life application in the areas of language arts, science, social studies, and math. 
Geography can easily be assimilated into meeting your ELA Common Core standards.  As teachers, we should address geography in every literature unit we facilitate. 
As a Resource: One often-heard concern for teachers is meeting the recommended percentage of non-fiction in reading.  Why not integrate work that revolves around the different aspects of geography?  National Geographic Education has developed a curriculum that brings fun, informational texts to students, arranged by grade level. 

 As “Other Media”: The ELA standards call for comparisons of written text to other sources of information.  Geography, by nature, offers students the opportunity to use maps, globes, graphs, charts and interactive tools to glean and apply information.

One unit my students completed in 8th grade connected literature to immigration.  To make this topic relevant to them, they tracked the travels of a relative who immigrated to the United States on Google Earth.  They were asked to not only trace the journey, but also embed text and images to the map. 

Through Writing: Include one of the aspects of geography into an argument essay.  Whether it’s a poetry unit on weather, or man’s influence on endangered species, aspects of geography can often apply.  This also provides an opportunity to strengthen and build vocabulary.

As Research: Consider having your students create an infographic on geography topics.  Use  Piktochart to create an interactive poster on the water cycle, ice cap loss, animal habitats, plate tectonics, or landforms.  Creating these posters address both writing and research standards.

How do you integrate geography into reading and writing?  Let us know!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Student Ed Tech Examples Wanted!!!

In the various professional development sessions we do, a repeated request from teachers regarding tech-enabled curriculum is "GIVE US EXAMPLES!" We've provided some in these sessions, and the teacher feedback is often "more please!" Here's a starting list, sorted by subject, to spark ideas for teachers.  We have also included the wonderful examples provided by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology in their Integration Matrix, and also Next Vista for Learning. These are great resources! We want to add to what we've gathered so far.

We need more great student examples! And so, this is a call for your inspiring examples of tech-enabled student work.

Do you have examples of student edtech work you can share? We're looking for videos, electronic cartoons, Google Docs, Prezis, word clouds, blogs, word webs, portfolios... anything of good quality that demonstrates student learning enabled by ed tech.  If you have a lesson plan that goes along with the example, great, but if not, don't worry; often the result can tell the story by itself!

Of course, if it is Common Core-based learning, all the better.

If you are providing a video, PLEASE ensure you've received permission from the students in the video (otherwise, it should not be public anyway, right?). If it's a Google Doc or other student-identifiable piece, please take a screenshot or otherwise obscure any student identifying information.

If you have something good to share, please send details to "info at " (trying to avoid a spam fest, in case you're wondering). Or, you can reply to this post  - whatever works for you.  The details should include:
  • a link or attachment of the student work sample
  • your name and your school
  • student grade and subject
  • a brief 1-2 sentence description of the artifact (including the grade level standard supported)
  • (optional) the lesson plan and/or standards (CCSS or other)  that inspired the work
We will take a quick look to ensure what you're providing passes the requirements noted above, and then post the artifact and other info you provide. 

We're feeling our way here; we're hoping to build a significant repository of examples for teachers- and students - to use as they become more immersed in the capabilities and great outcomes possible with the use of technology in the classroom.

Thanks in advance for your consideration and help! Let's grow this thing!!!!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Mind Maps for Planning, Collaboration and Assessment

Last January I wrote about my students’ favorite brainstorming tool,  Over the year though, a couple other excellent mind map applications have “bubbled up”. 

Mind mapping tools give students the opportunity to gather and manage information.  They are great as a pre-writing tool, a place to gather research, or a means of formative assessment.  Students can add images, video, and links to their notes.  They are easy to use, and can be saved and shared with other learners.  These tools assist students in meeting Common Core standards in both writing and reading.

One easy to use option is Popplet.  This application allows for mapping and adding all sorts of goodies, including images, free drawing, and video.  It can be saved and shared for collaborative use.  Popplet is has both web and tablet options.  The free version allows for 5 maps.  Check out the classroom account for educators.

Another collaborative mind map option is Mindmeister.   This application has a number of additional bells and whistles, including a notes sidebar - great for older learners.  It too has both web-based and tablet versions, and free and educator’s accounts.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

ELA & Tech Integration: Go Big or Go Home?

An observation: teachers sometimes put undo pressure on themselves looking to create complex, long-duration, multiple outcome projects when adding (effective) technology to curriculum. Something to consider - the sweetspot is probably just the opposite:  ongoing, consistent use of technology to augment instruction, and perhaps not the Giant Project from Heck. When done well, project-based, tech-infused big-learning, higher-order thinking projects are awesome. But, it's not the only way, especially if you and/or your students are just getting your feet wet with technology. This certainly holds true in Language Arts. 

Whether students have access to a computer lab of desktops, a cart of Chromebooks, netbooks, iPads, or, dare I say "Android Devices" (gasp), ReadWriteThink is a go-to site. Many of the resources there lend themselves to small to medium sized assignments, some of which (for older kids, anyway) can get done in a class period.

ReadWriteThink also includes lesson plans, professional development, and some interesting 'at home' resources, too. The searchable Student Interactives  has many  fun, engaging, easy to use tools.  Check out Comic Creator, an all-time favorite. It does require Flash, and students need to get 'done' in one sitting to save results for sharing (not necessarily a bad thing...)  Many of the tools include some lesson plan ideas, too, by grade.

For the ipad, here are some great suggestions about apps for the Language Arts classroom.

You can see more resources and ideas about (effectively)  infusing technology into the Language Arts classroom in this post, too.

One last thought...Google Apps for Education is a phenomenal suite of tools. I'll circle back sometime soon with more details about what "GAFE" brings to the student learning table for you and your students.

There are TONS of 'quick hitter' options to apply to the classroom. What are some of YOUR favorites?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Blackboard Math - effective practice app for Android

Just got done doing some testing on a newer app called Blackboard Math. Allegra, our first grade teacher, checked it out as well. We liked the blackboard style - the student is presented with an old-school blackboard with an equation on it; we eventually figured out that the practice page could be adjusted for '1 digit' calculations like 6+2. The addition, subtraction, multiplication and division problems would be valuable practice for students - this would be an effective app up to 4th or 5th grade.  Overall, the interface is clean and easy to use.

 There's also some cool tracking available- it's set up to support multiple users on the same device, and you can look at a calendar to get a historical view of correct answers, and amount of time spent. Some good stuff there. There are some other cool tracking features - one is that screen shots of actual problems - what the students wrote in the 'blackboard' space - can be viewed later.

Once I got my head around the interface - for instance, understanding that I couldn't actually enter the info as I wrote in the slate area (#1 in image below)  - I was good with it.  There's a keyboard that appears (or can be locked 'on') up at the top - once the student writes out their work 'longhand' in the slate area, they type their answer up top (#2 below). It was easy to use. 

No real frills in the app (a good thing, to me). It's designed to focus on actual practice time and getting better at math - no fireworks, no dancing elephants, and it's not a game. It is, simply, an effective way to practice math facts.

If you are looking for an Android app (with no ads!)  that can help students practice math facts, this is a good possibility. There is a free and paid version, too; the free version still has some valuable capabilities. Check it out!