The librarian went to Algebra I class today, and I learned so much! Not only am I now solid on identifying inequalities on the coordinate plane, but I also understand much more about the importance of technology tools applied in authentic learning experiences.
As the campus Library Media Specialist, I am extremely lucky to have such powerful professional and personal relationships with faculty across all content areas. Technology integration is scary and make-me-want-to-pull-my-hair-out frustrating at times. Our professional relationships are an integral lifeline when seeking to innovate any instructional context–but especially when integrating technology.
Our principal began the year with three very specific instructional expectations for our campus:
1) Engage students in learning.
2) Seek to integrate technology in instruction.
3) Design lessons using the VESTED format (a sheltered instructional model developed by the Kolak Group)
As a campus and as individual teams we’ve faced many obstacles to meeting these goals–especially with technology integration. These barriers seem to stem–ironically– from technology, in particular our infrastructure’s capacity to support wireless connectivity for 30+ devices in a classroom and our very tightly-woven internet filtering software. When faced with these barriers, many teachers understandably quit. Those who are adaptive and responsive to these barriers, often find the support and creative solutions they need to innovate instruction through professional relationships and collaboration.
One such collaboration that has taught me tremendously has been with our Math Department Chair and Coach. Wendi and I share a platform of trust, which is paramount in any professional relationship. She and I also share like-mindedness when it comes to engaging students in learning. We have different levels of comfort and experience with technology integration, which allows for a dynamic relationship. I know next to nothing about math and instructional methods for teaching math to teenagers; she feels that she knows next to nothing about using technology when teaching math to teenagers–our collaboration is founded on reciprocal teaching and learning from one another as colleagues.
Wendi’s spark of innovation appeared in one of her own children’s Language Arts assignments that came home one day. The teacher had used QR codes to teach students about synonyms and antonyms. Wendi was so impressed with the basic premise of the assignment and her experience as a parent supporting her young learner through the assignment, that she made immediate connections for adapting it for an upcoming lesson with her Algebra I team.
She showed me the assignment–a simple table with 9 QR codes that linked to a website students used to respond to the prompt. We started by talking about her content goals for her Algebra I studnets first.
Whenever I collaborate with teachers on integrating technology with learning, I ALWAYS start with the content and expected learning outcomes. Integrating technology is not about finding ways to use iPads or QR codes in the classroom, but rather integrating technology is about identifying what tool best supports students’ learning in a given context. (p.s., sometimes the solution has nothing to do with technology!)
Wendi’s goal for her students: Identify inequalities on coordinate planes.
How would students demonstrate this skill to her? By correctly identifying a shaded graph with it’s symbol.
I heartily agreed that QR codes could be an effective tool to support students with these goals.
Wendi worked over a weekend to collect images of shaded graphs, and then we sat together to put the assignment together, which involved troubleshooting certain technological barriers.
Barrier 1: QR codes needed to link to images; however, Google Images as well as photo hosting sites such as Flickr and Tumblr are blocked by our filter. We needed a place to house the photos online that students could access through our network.
Solution: We created a folder in Google Drive, uploaded the images to the folder, changed the sharing permissions for the entire folder so that anyone within the district’s Google domain could access the link, and then used the shared links for the images to create QR codes.
Creating the assignment once we had all the images took about 20 minutes. I then showed Wendi how she could make a copy of the assignment’s Google Doc to use as a template for future assignments, saving her time in the future with formatting.
Wendi shared the assignment through Google Drive with her Algebra I team and scheduled the cart of iPads for each teacher.
We were excited to see how students and teachers responded to the activity.
The day of the assignment, Wendi and one of her teachers came to me with our next unforeseen barrier.
Barrier 2: When using the QR scanner on the iPad with the devices connected to the student wi-fi network, the links were blocked–even though they linked to the district’s own Google Drive (exasperated sigh). Wendi and her teacher could have given up then and there. We had less than 20 minutes to find a solution.
One of the most important traits of a 21st Century teacher and learner is the ability to adapt and problem solve.
Solution: …I may have found a loophole to the wi-fi issue, which I cannot entirely disclose…let’s just say I applied a little creative compliance to find a network solution…
I asked the first teacher to try the activity with students if I could stay and help support her and her students. That way I could be available to trouble shoot anymore barriers or obstacles that may arise. Since we were using the district’s Google Drive domain, it was necessary for one student to log in to Google Drive the first time they scanned a code, which they adapted to very easily.
The QR activity followed a quick introduction, which drew upon students’ prior knowledge of inequality symbols. The teacher displayed a visual with four coordinate graphs and their corresponding symbol and asked students to talk to their partner about what they noticed.
As I walked through rows of students observing, I heard responses such as “if you notice where the lines are located …” and “in general, when the shaded area is beneath the line…” By inviting students to note patterns first, the teacher placed the learning experience in the hands of students rather than delivering content knowledge. What I really appreciated about this was how natural it came to students. You could tell by their willingness and openness to share their thinking out loud that this type of discourse was a regular part of their classroom experience.
She then asked them what they noticed, “Why are these two lines dashed and these two solid?” By utilizing higher-level questions to guide them to justify their responses, the teacher drew upon students’ ability to think metacognitively. Learning was happening at higher levels before technology was even introduced.
Students then received directions for the QR activity, and I walked them through scanning and identifying the first coordinate graph to ensure all devices were working appropriately and students felt successful using the iPads as a learning device.
The teacher and I walked around, actively supporting students if they had any issues with the QR code or device, and observing students’ conversations with their partners as they scanned and worked together to determine the correct symbol. The initial visual remained on the board for students to use as a key.
All students were engaged in the activity as academic discourse flowed throughout the room. As partners completed the assignment, I reminded them to check to make sure they signed out of Google Drive on the devices and cleared the scanning history in the QR reader app. I chatted informally with groups of students about their reactions to the assignment. All but one student reported that they felt they understood more about inequalities on coordinate planes after using the iPads than if we had provided the images of the graphs on the paper. The one student who didn’t feel this way said that the experience would have been the same for her without the iPads. All students reported that they felt confident in identifying the correct symbol for an inequality and commented on how fun class was that day.
Learning did not stop when the devices were dark. Even when the activity was over, I heard pairs talking about the graphs they had discussed. One pair in particular was pointing to different QR codes, recalling the differences and similarities between the graphs they linked to and the inequality symbol they recorded. Even though the visual was no longer in front of them on the screen, it was painted on their mind because of their experience with the learning task. When looking at a QR code, they still saw the graph it represented.
Without the collaboration of the team, my relationship with Wendi, the Department Chair, and the adaptability and resiliency of the classroom teacher, this lesson may have never been actualized.
How can we ensure that teachers have the collaborative relationships and support they need in order to experiment with new technologies and innovate learning for their students?
Tapping into the natural curiosities of our students with apps to explore information
The advent of mobile devices like iPads and smart phones have ushered in a new heightened era of information for our 21st Century students. With a swipe of a fingertip, endless amounts of information become available to us instantaneously as it streams 24/7 through our devices and into our lives . Access to information at this rate is a double-edged sword: At times a bombardment of messages, information can clutter our lives, leading to increased habits of multi-tasking, and letting go of a critical stance to information in favor of “more” stuff. On the other hand, we now have access to perspectives, events, societies, phenomena, and knowledge from around the globe. Such knowledge adds to our cultural and intellectual wealth when applied in creative ways.
For our students, Google is the main portal to the world of information. As a self-professed Google-lover, I understand the power of an advanced search engine. Do my students? Well…we’re working on that. Rather than sending students to “Google it,” I’d like to suggest a handful of apps designed for the iPad that foster academic exploration of topics, inquiries, and contexts appropriate for all content area learning. These apps utilize multiple modes of media to enhance and engage. Articles, videos, and resources are easily shared through the app feature, allowing for easy adaptation for BYOD projects where students may access the information from personal devices, including laptops, desktops, and mobile devices. I suggest utilizing these tools when introducing new topics or units to students. In a Flipped or VESTED classroom, these tools fit well into initial previewing and building background knowledge.
The following iTunes apps allow students the opportunity to explore a myriad of topics and content areas, engaging them through authentic connections to the world around them and utilizing mobile technology to access information in rapid time:
According to Apple, iTunes U is the world’s largest collection of free educational content. Users can access courses from the world’s leading universities. In addition to participating in a course through readings downloaded into iBook, videos, assignments, and podcasts, students can also select from over 500,000 free lectures, videos, and podcasts. Teachers may utilize iTunes U as a tool to introduce a new concept or unit. For example, students may view a demonstration of a heat engine as an introduction to thermodynamics for an upcoming physics unit. Professor David Hoxley of La Trobe University has an entire classical physics course in iTunes U complete with video demonstrations and podcasts.
Other contributors to iTunes U include:
- Cambridge University
- Harvard University
- Library of Congress
- Oxford University
Khan Academy’s popularity is largely due to its simple, direct, and concrete illustrations of difficult subjects and complex concepts. Like iTunes U, students can subscribe to courses to continue their exploration into a specific discipline, topic, or skill.
These resources are valuable tools to provide students with opportunities to explore content related topics whether in a flipped, blended, or traditional classroom. Inviting them to explore these resources through their own curiosities supports their natural learning tendencies, allowing for a personalized learning experience. As online learning platforms continue to expand and evolve, soon, public education will need to consider how best to meet the needs of learners who can feasibly enroll him or herself in a free online course and master the content on their own through their own devices rather than the traditional educational setting. Public institutions have begun to integrate iTunes U courses into a traditional setting by creating unique courses for students to enroll in for a personalized experience.
But, it’s about baby steps and becoming comfortable with the sheer amount of information available, learning to control and manage the continual stream, and then become producers of solutions and innovations. iTunes U, Khan, and TED are leading facilitators of information collection and production.
Google Earth: More than “Miss, I can see my house!”
I remember when I first learned about Google Earth. My students and I were fascinated by typing in our street address and zoom in so we could distinguish the roof of our school and then even the fence line of our backyards! A view of our own little world and community from space provided us with a new perspective into how we related to the world around us.
When I was really on fire about Google Earth, I would pull it up, type in the name of a city or address or continent and display it for my classes to help them understand the geographical context of a story or author we were studying. This was high-tech stuff for me as an English teacher.
But, Google Earth goes far beyond “you are here.” Did you know that Google Earth has features such as push pins, narration, tours, recording, annotation, embedding media, and so much more?! Check out the video to see some of the basic features while navigating in Google Earth.
For a hands-on experience, go to Tour of Google Earth’s features.
Of course, Google Earth is much, much more than merely zooming in and out to find landmarks. Below is a list of popular tools in GE and how they can be used in the classroom (borrowed from Google Earth’s Education Resources):
Fly to the Sky: With Sky in Google Earth your students can explore Hubble telescope images, check out current astronomical events, study the proportions of different planets, measure their size, and observe the relative brightness of stars. You’ll capture the wonder of the universe without leaving your classroom. Learn More! Easy
View Historical Imagery: With the timeslider, view historical imagery to study the construction process of large buildings such as sports stadiums. You can also see how communities have developed by comparing the city layout of past and present. Learn More! Easy
View 3D Buildings :With 3D buildings Google Earth students have entire city landscapes at their finger tips. They can explore specific skyscrapers, public landmarks, famous ancient architecture, and even study city planning techniques and trends. With Google SketchUp students can recreate entire ancient cities within Earth. Learn More! Average
Draw and Measure: Discover the world’s tallest building or the world’s highest mountain peak by using the ruler tool to measure skyscrapers and mountains. You can mark off specific regions you have studied, or want to come back to using the polygon tool. Learn More! Average
Create a Tour: Students can create customized tours to share with their classmates. For example, they can build context around a novel by creating a tour of all the places mentioned in the book. Or, they can make a tour to highlight all the major rain-forests effected by deforestation. Learn More! Average
Google does a terrific job supporting educators and integrating Google tools into instruction. If you are curious about how Google Earth could be incorporated into your content area, check out the Projects for My Subject page.
Google Lit Trips
As an English teacher and librarian, I am particularly excited about Google Lit Trips! Teachers and students can browse the many Google Lit Trip tours already created to explore the geographical locations and landmarks in their favorite stories.
Here is a tour featuring the mythological and present day locations of The Odyssey. To view the tour, you will first need to download Google Earth and then download the kmz (Google Earth extension file name) for The Odyssey. Trust me–it is well worth the two clicks it takes to view it! The tour includes a 3D map of the locations along Odysseus’ journey, excerpts from the epic, photos, tour guides with facts and further details about each landmark, and more!
Not only can teachers and students browse the many Lit Trips already created, but they can create them as well for their favorite stories! For more video tutorials on creating Google Lit Trips check out YouTube and Vimeo!
Google Earth is also available as an app for a smart device, allowing students to view and create projects using their personal devices. Perhaps a Google Lit Trip or similar resource might make for a great Flipped classroom introduction or “View” in VESTED!
So let’s hear it! How could Google Earth be used in your content area?
Tech Tuesday: The Flipped Classroom
(heads-up to the new buzz word coming down the pipe)
Are you flippin’ kidding me?! Yet another buzz-word, topic of discussion for faculty meetings, initiatives, seeds, pilots…they just never end do they 🙂 Nor should they!
I, too, tired of the endless onslaught of programs, anachronisms, and pilots, but let’s keep some perspective and remember that the business of education cannot become static. It is in our best interest to continue reflecting, examining, and being critical of the practices and tools we bring to our students. Do they truly represent the demands and learning styles of a digitally-savvy generation?
Today I present you with a little nugget of an idea that a few of you have already started to nibble at: the flipped classroom.
Here’s some food for thought:
Don’t you just love infographics?! They make blogging so easy 🙂
Is this idea entirely revolutionary and unique? No, there are many other names and variations out there (front-loading, anticipation guides, schema theory, VESTED). What might be novel to some folks is the idea of employing technology as a tool to do these things. The infographic touts some impressive (and hard-to-believe) statistics for one flipped school. I’d be very curious to see this tried in one class for one week. My Big Campus is a terrific fit for this approach with the extensive Library resources, ability to upload YouTube videos, and learning tools such as discussions, chats, and assignment.
Heck, I’ll even pitch in and help gather resources and organize the content into MBC! Take me up on it, seriously, let’s see what happens just for one week…
For dessert, visit Khan Academy, and take a little test drive for some possible videos you could use as part of a flip:
I even grabbed one for the electoral college to re-post just to tickle your taste buds…
Tech Tuesday: GoAnimate and Sock Puppets
What obstacles, limitations, or surprises did you encounter?
What are the benefits to using applications and web 2.0 tools for animation?
- engages students in the learning process as they synthesize content into a digital story
- supports collaboration between students through the writing process: brainstorming, story-boarding, drafting, revising, publishing
- a task with an identified audience of their peers, other students, YouTube, etc. provides relevance along with rigor
We’d love to hear your thoughts regarding possible extensions and adaptations of this project in your content area! Feel free to leave any questions or thoughts for Mme. Morgan as well.
Tech Tuesday (again…late, by 6 days! oy vey…): Socrative.com
My apologies for my tardiness. Last week, I was able to demonstrate a fantastic mobile app and website that allows teachers to create response activities for students. The fifty or so teachers who sat in on my demonstration were so very patient with my technology flubs and mishaps. I promised to be more organized in my blog post, so here it goes!