Plickers (technology for formative assessment)

Today I had the opportunity to teach @allosamson how to use Plickers. This post has been sitting in my drafts folder since ISTE2015 so I thought it was a good chance to pull it out!

At first glance, Plickers doesn’t look like much; it’s an online quiz platform where students use printed Plickers to buzz in their responses. I was first introduced to the idea by @jmattmiller at ISTE2016 when he included them throughout the presentation. You bet I was more engaged when I knew there would be questions throughout! The concept is simple but the resulting information on classroom learning is invaluable!

 

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The platform provides for rich formative assessment. Many teachers use exit cards at the end of a lesson to quickly assess students for their understanding and that’s how I used them in my classroom. The key to an exit ticket being that it can be filled out in a minute and can quickly be assessed for understanding.

The beauty of Plickers is that it is all of that without a pile of paper at the end of a lesson to go through. It’s anonymous to students as they answer. As the teacher scans, students can see themselves appear on screen as having responded but they don’t see how each student responded. The teacher only on the scanning device sees a quick flash of red (incorrect) or green (correct). Afterwards, the teacher may return to answers and see which students have responded correctly to each question and it allows targeted teaching in subsequent lessons.

In addition, I have used Plickers to have students write questions for one another. This takes some skill on their part to craft a good question and to predict some of the mistakes that might be made to find multiple choice answers.

The advantage of Plickers over other digital buzz in devices is price. Printed Plickers are free (while there is a paid option for more durable printed targets). Since my classroom uses relatively little in terms of photocopies, I consider a set of Plickers extremely reasonably priced.

Would love to hear how you’re using Plickers!

Engaging Every Reader Through Multiliteracies: audiobooks, talk-to-text, and video… Oh my…

When I meet a parent for the first time they want to know: can my kid read, write, do math, and get along with other kids? I outline for parents how we use Daily 5 literacy strategies in our class room and students interact with text I many ways every week. In order to be a reader a students needs to read A LOT! In order to be a writer a student needs to write A LOT!

One of my first goals is for every child to love reading, writing, and creating. If they’re not hooked on the amazingness inside text they’ll never see the value in working with it for work or play.

When I suggest multi-literaticies and adaptive technology I am often met with some resistance but here’s my personal experience: I blog on my phone 90% of the time. I dictate to notes while driving a 60 minute or longer commute. I listen to audio books. I read, highlight, annotate, collaborate, create for my masters class mostly on mobile devices. The future is already here. When I signed up for an online masters degree I committed to not printing any of the 100+ pages per week we were assigned to read. I do it all on my tablet and I’m going to argue that most of what readers consume is not actually printed.

Multi-literacies are for every learner not just struggling learners! Knowing how to engage with a story told orally is as important as reading a text. Reading a novel is as important as watching a documentary.

My classroom goal for every student is for them to experience success with text, but I think we need to be aware that text space is changing for kids. I used to pour over newspapers, to borrow stacks of books from the library and to fill piles of notebooks that were destined to be novels (don’t count me out on this one yet 😉

Audiobooks

But we need to be aware that students do not interact with text the way learners did 30 years ago. It is not static. It’s full of hyperlinks, it talks, it interacts. Multiliteracies allow an access point for every student; students who are struggling readers can access texts that would be too difficult to read but that they understand when spoken. They are capable of inferring, connecting, recounting, and otherwise interacting with this text. Students who struggle to read a long text often readily engage with audio books.

Short videos

Creating video responses is another important multiliteracy. It takes a great deal of patience and practice for students to create video representations they are happy with. Students repeat, provide and respond to feedback, revise, and perfect. Video has been a powerful tool in immersion as it allows students to hear themselves speak.

Long videos

Responding by creating is an important multi-literacy for children; when they know their creation will be consumed and enjoyed by others it gives them purpose. Create a book trailer, a puppet show, or an Explain Everything video.

Talk typing

Siri does a lot of my typing these days. I’m a commuter and spend roughly 90minutes per day in my car. This time is precious and I get frustrated when it’s lost but this blog post was composed while driving. Of course I came back later to edit, hyperlink and add photos but the brainstorming and first draft were spoken. For me this is still not a natural form of writing. I still compose quietly and then speak outloud, much like having a phone conversation with Siri, I guess.

Picture rich content

Ebooks arean accessible source of content and web reading takes up much of our time for text consumption. Readers need to know how to handle a text that is rich with images, titles, subtitles, and hyperlinks. What students interact with is no longer a static document and knowing how to interact with it is no less a literacy than knowing how to read a book. Don’t believe me? Head over to Reddit as see how long it takes you to figure out how to access the content you’re looking for.

Web forms

I recently filled out an application for something that I might fill you in on later (or I might not, ’cause that’s the way I roll and it’s my blog) and it required me to do some pretty deep thinking. I completed it on my mobile device. While adults might balk at completing work on such a small space, it’s not foreign to students and the ability to interact with online content is important. Have students create a plicker quiz, use google forms.
To borrow a phrase from Thomas King, an influential writer for me, “the truth about story is story is all we are.” Multiliteracies allow for mutiple entry points for every student to find a way to interact with story and to make their story known.

I would love your ideas on how you integrate multiliteracies in your classrooms!

Make the walls talk

   

This “little” project actually took a lot of time to put together and the end result is the culmination of a great deal of student effort.

The final project brings together a unit’s worth of study in science and art. We started building French vocabulary in September with a science PWIM. This really is one of my favourite ways, especially in immersion, to help students build subject-specific vocabulary. It gives them a purpose for learning new vocabulary and provides an entry point for every child.

Through out the unit we referred back to our board.

I chose Abby Diamond as an artist study simply because she is an artist whose work I admire and whose techniques work on many levels. Her work appears simple but is actually technically difficult.

The art portion of our work started with two-minute sketches where each student was invited to look for the shapes within an animal photograph and to spend only two minutes sketching it. This work was personal. I told students that they would not be required to share with anyone. While I believe that feedback makes work better, I also believe that it’s important to have time to create without the pressure of sharing that work. Sometimes we need the freedom to just create for ourselves. The work pictured below is shared with student permission. 

    

   
   
After two-minute sketches, we did a five minute sketch of one animal followed by a viewing of Austin’s Butterfly and a discussion about how to provide specific, actionable feedback in the form of two stars and a wish.

   
   
Students created two drafts of the same animal. We spent a great deal of time with CPAWS and at Bow Habitat station discussing animal needs, where our chosen animal might fall on the endangered list and how we might help improve the security of our chosen animal.

  
Students then engaged in further study of Abby Diamond’s use of colour and colour theory and and watercolour techniques and, after creating multiple drafts of their drawings, they painted. The paintings were finally inked.
    

   
 After inking, students reflected on their work and recorded a video in the studio. On a personal note, the studio is a work in progress in my classroom. I think this is an excellent way to get students talking and creating in a second language but there is always a balance between the need for teacher supervision and the need for students to record in a quiet place. We have a pop-up studio that is simply a trifold where students post the materials they need to record.

  

In as much as possible, this work is managed by students. They do the final recording, write the final script and help each other with negotiation of meaning in the second language. I have been enormously impressed with student willingness to create multiple drafts. They watch themselves on video and resize they have missed information or want to improve pronunciation or fluidity and they have another go.

For the purposes of this project, I took the video off the iPad and put video together with image using the desktop computer for the sake of time. The process took me about an hour to upload.

The final product is a bulletin board that is scannable. Using a school iPad, students can scan the art work in the hallway and start a video, extending the learning beyond our four walls.

My goal is to have students create individual tags that will be laid over the art to create feedback loops for learners who will be able to scan and hear the feedback from their peers.

Lessons from this project: students ended up filming one another with screen rotation locked so all of our videos ended up being upside down and had to be fixed in post production. The technical aspects of video production need to serve the learning outcomes and I’m certain this is an aspect students will now check before filming! Thanks to @boyerclay and @mrsmaley for coming to our rescue on Twitter when I couldn’t resolve it on my own 😉 My PLN totally rocks!
   

Mind: blown

How do I even begin to consolidate my learning over the past three days? There is Just. So. Much. My mind is left feeling completely full.

You know that amazing feeling of being amongst your tribe? That.

Probably the most valuable part of the conference is the people. Reconnecting with former colleagues, growing my PLN, meeting presenters, watching kids own their learning. I feel like I thought I was a techie teacher before attending the conference. I used to work in a classroom where I had the luxury of 1:1 access 100% of the time and it was good but I now feel like I know so much more. I got some confirmation that I’m on the right track, but there is still so much growing to do.

There were so many times when I had to stop someone and ask them to clarify the vocabulary they were using… So many acronyms, and platforms, and software, and hardware… Oh my…. But this was a place where it was ok to do that and I never once was made to feel dumb for asking a question.

A wise colleague, @shafinad, said before I left home to concentrate on learning one thing and to focus my efforts there. Thank goodness for that. Her advice kept steering me in the right direction every time I walked into a playground or a poster session and didn’t know where to look. There is a ton of money to be spent in the expo and the pace of technological change is overwhelming, but I feel that not being able to drop money on every cool new gadget forces us to be more creative and to make something better in the end.

I really used my technological tools as a learner in addition to being a teacher. I photographed, Evernoted, Skitched, Tweeted, and blogged. I am left with so many tools to learn and to try.

For me, ISTE has been not only about technology integration, but also about making for learning, student engagement, and iterative design in classrooms.

I am leaving ISTE with a ton of great ideas and knowing that my classroom next year will be something I have never tried before. This is an idea that really occurred to me last night as I was attempting to fall asleep: I ask my students to try all the time and expect them to make mistakes but to try again, but I don’t often allow myself the liberty of failure. The next school year will look different, and I’m not sure what it will look like in the end. I know my students will learn. I am certain that I will learn, too.

Over the coming weeks I will put some ideas together for what that might look like and look forward to sharing the results with you!

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How can I use technology in my classroom: Googledocs

These days I have been challenged to integrate technology in a classroom where I am not in charge of all of the technology. In the past, I have run a one-to-one classroom and found it easy to integrate technology all day long everyday. Now that I am sharing with the school and have to very deliberately book technology time for my students, it has changed the way we use it.

I have recently begun using GAFE with my students and with some other groups around the school. With my students in third grade, I found that it was easy to integrate by training up a few students and then using them as my “expert” students to get everyone going.

I find that Googledocs is one of the easiest places for my students to work, as they then have immediate access to their documents at home. In addition, I ask that my students share documents with me when they are ready to for teacher feedback. I can use the comment function in the student document and provide students with an immediate, just-in-time, mini-lesson related to their work and they are able to integrate the feedback immediately without having to copy out their entire document a second time.

This has been a good way to interact with students and I feel that it has improved the quality of their work.

 

The wonder wall

The wonder wall came about quite by accident one day. To be honest, open house was coming up so I hastily threw a hand-made “tableau de découvertes” poster up on the blank bulletin board, not knowing really what I had in mind but knowing that I wanted it to be an organic place for students to ask questions and share answers.

Then after parent night, the board was left alone until we went outside to observe the soundscape around our school. When we came back in we discussed what we had observed with all of our senses. One of the students remarked that she had seen pussy willows. My teaching partner noted that it was impossible for pussy willows to be out because it was the wrong season.

This was the question that constructivists seek: that moment where a learner’s understanding is challenged and the paradigm is forced to shift. I was just so happy to see the moment come so organically.

If it was impossible, how had our student made such an observation? The next time we went outside we looked for pussy willows… And sure enough they were there. Not because they were ripe and had opened on their own but because students had stripped them off the branches and had dropped them on the ground. We took one of the stripped branches and stuck it up on our bulletin board. Next, the questions started to come fast and furious: what would happen to the plant if all of the pussy willows were stripped off? Would birds eat them? Immediately, we needed a place to organize our questions. I stuck up three large sheets of paper for “my questions”, “what I think I know”, things I have learned” and the side of the board was reserved for “ideas that turned out to be mistaken”.

As the weeks passed, students were welcome to add questions and to add answers they thought they already knew. The wonder wall has been quiet over the last few days, but we are ready to give it another boost next week when we begin some student-lead research. My assistant principal @shafinad has shared the brilliant app aurasma with me and I’m so excited to have the students start creating videos that link directly from the wonder wall to videos of their learning! In the past I have created similar “off the wall” projects that linked from QR codes, but I think the Aurasma will be much more dynamic and students will be more inclined to scan one another’s work.

I would love to guide students to linking their work from last year on animals to their research this year. I think it would show them that the work they do never has to be entirely left in the past. In addition, it takes the work out of the four walls of the classroom and into the up-and-coming-learning-commons.

More to come!

How can I use technology in my classroom: blogs

I have used edublogs for some time now with lots of success. I like that it meets the CBEs tools 2.0 guidelines (this is key!) as everything can be locked down and moderated by me with lots of freedom for students. There is an app, which makes it easy for students to access. There is a cost for the pro version ($39 for a single classroom with a max of 50 blogs or a bulk upgrade that works out to about $8 per classroom), but I consider one of the costs of doing business. I have always allowed myself a certain budget for classroom extras like smelly stickers, coloured sticky notes, etc… whatever makes it fun to be in my classroom, but have recently begun to allocate my personal budget to technology-based expenses, like blogs. Our Calgary Public students also have the option to blog using D2L, which I think could be fairly easy, but requires students to log in, adding a small layer of complication for young students, but also adding a layer of security.

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Students have quickly developed the habits of good bloggers. They visit often. I often use blogs as enrichment work, where students who are “done early” can go and write. In grade one, we use them often for sentence writing using dictée words. In grade four I used them for movie and book reviews, book reflections, and word work.

My students have developed the habit of taking pictures of work that cannot be recorded otherwise (for example, building with shapes) and posting to their blogs. This way students can mark up their work and tag it so that they can easily find it and reflect on it later.

Students have the ability to read and post on other students’ work, which requires some pre-teaching around good Internet citizenship, but even after all these years, I have never had a student post an inappropriate comment.

My tips:

1. use a common login name and password and make it as short as possible especially for young learners.

2. Set up the edublogs app on your ipad and plug in all student names so that when they go to login all they have to do is find their name and click on it.

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3. Name blogs with a common name and link all blogs from your class page. This way students can easily find each other’s blogs.

4. Don’t force it. If you have students who are reluctant to blog you can’t force them to share. My feeling is that we need to respect the feelings of students who feel self-concious about sharing. In the past, I have had these students keep a paper journal when their peers were blogging on the computer or to have them blog, but to lock their page with a different password that was only known to me and her parents.

5. Decide how you want to use the blogs. I have a class blog, which students are welcome to post on, and individual student blogs, which students tend to use most often.

6. Use the blogs OFTEN! I have found that by sharing the fact that I blog, blogging often with students, and frequently sharing their blogs in class, students have become excited about their blogs. It is a way to make their learning explicit and they enjoy sharing.

But aren’t I just making extra work for myself?

I think it’s true that what you do in your classroom must follow your own personal interests and students tend to adapt from year to year. There are teachers who love music and students spend a year learning through music, there are teachers who love art and students spend a year learning through art. Technology is no different. Students in my classroom tend to get an immersion in technology for a year but it’s no different that any other creative extension in our classrooms. It allows students to speak, to photograph, to make movies and to express their learning in ways other than pencil and paper. I find moderating blogs and providing feedback no different than when I sit down at my desk with a basket full of journals and a purple pen (I love my purple pen!) except that I know my students are more likely to read the feedback and questions written on their blog and making edits and revisions becomes simple.

Moderation generally takes me a few minutes per week for comments and the same amount of time I spend marking journals per week. I have everything tied to my own smart devices and tend to moderate “as I find the time”… a few minutes after school, recess time, a few minutes before school.

With blogs, students know they have an audience and I find the quality of their work tends to improve as they know they are being read.

I generally use the blogs for the year I am with students and leave them open to my students for the year following. Most students lose interest in their blogs after leaving my classroom, but there are always a couple who continue to publish without prompting.

I personally blog at the value of wonder to share ideas and keep a record of my “good” ideas. I don’t know about you, but the last time I changed classrooms I moved 10 large Rubbermaid totes. Which is ridiculous. Time to start keeping a digital record of what works and what doesn’t. I love that my posts can be tagged for easy finding later on. Looking for a quick idea to throw in a math centre? I just have to look at my tags.

Excellent examples of teachers using blogs in primary schools include Kathy Cassidy and Danielle Maley.

Catching Up

I not sure where to begin today… I’m so very excited about the work I have been doing with some colleagues over the past weeks and it’s hard to compress my thinking into one coherent paragraph. I have recently moved into a grade one classroom after five years of teaching in grade four. I LOVE it. Many days I feel like I actually get paid to play. The difference in technical abilities from grade 4 to grade 1 is significant; I actually laughed out loud when I took my students to the lab for the first time and many of them jabbed at the computer monitor, so familiar were they with tablets that they were unable to differentiate between the tablet and the laptop computer! “No, no,” I said, “Drag the mouse across the screen.” So they did. Literally.

*Facepalm*

Ok… back up… So… what have I been able to do with my students? I have one who blogs regularly, (note this content is password protected, as required by my school board) inserting her own photos and writing on her own. This is such a powerful enrichment tool and I would so much like to use it as a regular tool in my classroom that I have a very hard time restraining myself from spending my own money to buy a pod of iPads. I have another student who has begun blogging on her own and will soon introduce it to some others.

We have recently instituted our own genius hour, where students may share their own “genius”. This may mean reading something they wrote, sharing something they found interesting, 

In the past I have worked with maekers 1Legoson, who was a resident expert in my classroom. It’s sometimes hard for teachers to relinquish the role of “expert”. We are used to being “knowers” and not accustomed to the role of guiding students in finding their own answers. Legoson’s blog is an example of what an older child can do when allowed to roam with technology.

My mentors are Daniele Maley who does fantastic things with young children and technology. I also began my career with the very talented Cathy Cassidy, who I began on Project Lighthouse with, too many years ago to count. Both work with young children and technology. While our challenge in an immersion school is slightly different, I believe our students have the same ability to create and share.

A More Effective Teacher

I took a leap today and had my students begin working on Evernote to keep a journal. I am posting the results here even though the result is not as polished as I would like.

I think that Evernote notebooks have the potential to be an education game changer. As I previously noted on Twitter, I had a student with organizational challenges begin using Evernote about two weeks ago. Here, he is able to store pictures of organizers, record audio responses to some work, and write a journal that is generally of higher quality because the iPad is pointing out his mistakes to him (it has been interesting to watch him work – I can here him say “Oh! That’s how you spell (fill in the blank)? I didn’t know that!)

When he was away for a couple of days, I put his missing work directly into his Evernote and he was able to access everything directly from home.

Today’s work was writing a journal. While I would like to get better at doing this, today was a first step. Ten students wrote their journals in Evernote and I was able to access their work from my desk on my iPad. I recorded feedback for them using Explain Everything and sent them a copy back that they can watch and use to make corrections to their work.

I think this will be a powerful tool for students as I can have a virtual 2 minute meeting with each student after they are already gone for the day and make improvements to their work.

Apps I Love

Finally, I got the Reflection app installed and working. Really great stuff here. I can have students work in their groups on their iPads and three clicks brings up a dock with a “share” option on it. The students choose that and the computer hooked to the projector will mirror the iPad, sharing whatever they do on their screen at their desk.

Evernote, again, is awesome. I have started using it with a student who has trouble getting organized and so far it’s been like night and day. No more papers to go missing. No more “I left it at home on the kitchen counter”. We also had enormous success with this student’s writing today. He was able to photograph the organizer and write on it with Skitch and save it to his Evernote.

eclicker has an updated app for $14 and I splurged. It’s much streamlined over the old version and a great way to have students review. I had groups of students use the “host” version (eclicker presentation) to write multiple choice, true and false, and open question questions that they will share with peers at the next science lesson. The app, brilliantly, allows users to bring in image files and is so easy to figure out I had kids up and running in minutes. The “audience” version (free) allows students to buzz in their answers all at the same time (class review) or at their own pace (could see using this for quizzes).

A colleague showed me sock puppets, and we’re going to try it Friday with our reading buddies. Looking forward to sharing our results with you!

Also, I have lately recommitted to using my SMARTboard everyday in a meaningful way and have had good success this week. More on that later!