Google Slides

Google Slides may be great for presentations, but it is also a great teaching tool when parent-teacher conference time comes around. I took it upon myself to conduct student-led conferences with the help of….. Drum roll, please… Google Slides.

I created this template with possible measures in the speaker notes for students to follow along. I also provided a student led conference sample for students to refer to, in case they need some ideas.

I provide my students 10-15 minutes to fill in each slide according to the criteria on the  template. By doing so, students are taking the responsibility to input their scores, strengths, weakness, and setting goals. Aren’t we all working on reflecting and goal setting?  Students were able to be creative by adding a personal photo and style when designing their Google Slide. Students took responsibility for their conference, and I saw a large turnout of parents who showed up. Don’t get me wrong, there were those few parents that didn’t come, but no problem. The slide presentation format made it easy for those students to conduct phone conferences or the presentation can be easily printed out to be sent home, it is up to your discretion.

Image of a student and parent at a conference

Using Google Slides, students are able to lead parent-teacher conferences.

As with anything, when you invest your time during the beginning stages it goes smoothly when it’s ready to be executed. Here were some of my observation from the first parent-teacher conference:

  1. Parents were attentive
  2. Students were excited to share
  3. Students encouraged parents to come to see their Slides presentation
  4. I was a facilitator of learning rather than being the guardian of knowledge
  5. Parent, teachers, and students walked away feeling positive

Note: I did not go over any behavior during the conference, all conferences were data-driven.  

We are moving toward 1-to-1 devices district-wide. Let’s move forward with making the technology and home connection.

If you feel you need some more clarification and help with Google Slides, no problem. Come to my December 19th PD at Adams, and I can support you.  Email me at mtsou@stocktonusd.net, and I would be happy to provide a screencast video instructions based on your needs.






TPACK: Finding the solution to the “wicked” problem of teaching with technology

The concept of TPACK (Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge) has definitely left a strong  impression on me as a teacher. It sums up the entire Education process in one acronym: TPACK or Total PACKage. This one acronym gives us a comprehensive view of the entire educative process. We live in a world full of choices today. This is true for the field of Education as well. Be it “what we teach,” “how we teach,” “what technology we use for teaching,” what context we are teaching in,” or “how our students learn”: all this is ever changing and dynamic in today’s world.

We talk about technology today, but the technology was always present in our classrooms. The blackboard that we used in our classes for so long, was a technology. But slowly technology evolved and took a shape that we are used to in the present time. How we use this for effective teaching of the concepts that we want our students to learn is the “wicked question” that we as teachers answer almost every day in our classrooms.

Untitled drawing (3)Teachers must know and understand the subjects they teach, including knowledge of central facts, concepts, theories and procedures within a given field, along with a knowledge of pedagogical strategies that involve various elements of student learning, classroom management, lesson plan development, and implementation, and student evaluation.

I agree with Dr. Mishra when he says that technology changes:

 

  • How we teach. (Pedagogy)
  • What we Teach. (Content)
  • The context in which teaching/learning happens.

 

We as teachers unconsciously make these decisions every day: what to teach, how to teach and what to use to make learning easier for our students. The concept of TPACK is new to me but I feel that I have been applying this every day during my classes. But now it does get me to think consciously about these decisions and has given me a deeper insight into the process of using technology for better teaching and effective learning.

Image of students working on Chromebooks.

Today classrooms have more technology than ever before. Using it effectively is the challenge teachers face.

Today we have technology at our disposal which is a big advantage. I have been using technology such as Chromebooks, projector, internet access for students, and students’ own devices in my own classroom along with different pedagogical strategies such as group discussions, brainstorming, Socratic seminars, think pair share, and peer review, to name a few. We can now teach using methods which were not even conceivable earlier. For example, while students work on an independent reading activity for my class, I create a google doc and share it with my students. Students are required to respond to the prompt presented to them in the doc and others can join in and comment or ask questions or give answers. This engages students in online discussion and even students who hesitate to speak in front of others join in the online discussion.

My high school classes are composed of adolescent students from multicultural backgrounds. Engaging adolescents in classwork and maintaining their focus and attention is a challenge. Most of them don’t have English as their mother tongue. Some of the students are proficient with all four English language skills; others are still developing all or some of those skills. Most students struggle with writing skills. But I also have students who are good at writing but struggle with speaking skills. So different backgrounds, different previous experiences, and different skill levels, all these lead to different student needs. This makes teaching challenging and when you meet these needs it is really satisfying.

TPACK has given me a fresh insight into how we are unconsciously making decisions and using technology for effective teaching and learning in today’s classrooms. TPACK definitely has an impact on these decisions when I make them for my classes. One thing that I always have in mind is that technology is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Whenever I use technology, I think of its utility for that particular content, and its compatibility with the pedagogical strategies that I am using, keeping in mind the context and environment of my classroom.

Dr. Mishra has also brought focus on the idea of using creativity in making everyday teaching effective. Most technological tools we use (Office software, Blogs, etc.) are not designed for teachers, and we have to find creative ways of using them for educational purposes. I also try to find more creative and more useful ways in which I can use technology in my classroom. For this, I make use of our collaboration time and the PLC meetings that we have at school and also search for new avenues online.

I totally agree with the following three things:

  • Teaching with technology is a wicked problem.
  • Wicked problems require creative solutions that are novel, effective and whole.
  • Teachers are the designers of the total package.

Quality teaching is the transformation of the content. It is the act of learning to think in a disciplined manner. Technology gives us new opportunities to connect with the content and use new pedagogical strategies to pass the content to our students. The Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge (TPACK) has given me the knowledge that is needed to effectively integrate technology in my classroom. It has also given me an understanding of the complex interactions between the various knowledge components. These interactions happen differently across diverse contexts, and thus there is no one perfect way of teaching and integrating technology in our classrooms.

We as teachers need to apply technology creatively and productively by recognizing when technology can assist or impede the achievement of a goal, and to continually adapt to changes in technology. When technology is effectively applied in the educational field, we reach a stage that Dr. Mishra called “dynamic equilibrium”. This means that “a change in any one of the factors has to be compensated by changes in the others,” to make teaching and learning, engaging and effective.

Coding for Kindergarteners? Absolutely!

By Maridee Stanley

Image of student working on a computerAmerica is short on computer programmers.  Currently, tech companies are recruiting programmers from India, not by choice but by necessity.  Don’t we want our own SUSD students to get these high paying tech jobs so we can finally break generational poverty?  This can happen if we start our students coding early. How early? High school? Middle school? Intermediate grades? Kindergarten is not too soon.  For the past 5 years, my kinders at Kennedy Elementary have successfully learned the basics of block programming and began to think of themselves as the programmers and tech entrepreneurs of the future.  Students have fun and the parents love it!

“But”, you ask, “ I’m not a programmer.  How can I teach coding?” Don’t worry. Coding isn’t as hard as you think.  If I can do it, anyone can do it. Trust me on this. All the instructional work is done for us by Code.org, Tynker, PLTW, or Google, and the beginning lessons are designed for pre-readers.  Why wouldn’t any teacher want to do this?

You have several options to get your students started on coding.  The best known is Code.org, developer of Hour of Code. If your school has Project Lead the Way you have the PLTW computer science module.  Tynker has some free content, or you can sign up for free teacher account for an easy K lesson. Google will send teachers a free kit to be used with their online material.

Even if you supplement with other programs, Code.org is indispensable as it has the most resources and has an easy-to-navigate website.  From there you can watch videos, go to the student courses , visit the educator section and create your account, peruse lesson plans, or print out offline material. If you and your colleagues want an enjoyable Saturday,  attend a Code.org Computer Science Fundamentals PD, learn some tricks and pick up some swag. Or, take the online PD.

If you don’t have time for all this, simply take your class straight to an Hour of Code classic, Angry Birds, and start coding!

I recommend starting offline.  I use Code.org’s “Move It” for PE and PLTW as a center activity.  Ozobots are a popular way to teach the concept of programming. But my students’ favorite offline activity is the BeeBot, a small robot that is programmed with directional arrows on its back

After the offline warm-ups, students should do Code.org’s Course A followed by Angry Birds and Minecraft on Hour of Code.  Some may progress on to Star Wars or Moana, although you may have to tell students the objective …get scrap metal in Star Wars and fish in Moana.  I don’t recommend Frozen for kinders as this requires knowledge of angles. Many kinders begin to have difficulty when they get to loops, but with patience, persistence and careful counting they can overcome difficulties. Remind students that “fail” means first attempt in learning something awesome.

If you have never coded, try some super simple kindergarten block coding on the following Google Doodle celebrating 50 years of children’s coding.

And please, get your students coding.  You might inspire the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.

Education for the iGeneration

If we define today’s world in one word, it would be “change.” The 21st century is truly an age of change and if the education system does not change according to today’s needs, it is sure to collapse. As pointed out by Sir Ken Robinson, a creativity expert, we have to “change paradigms” in order to cater to the educational needs of the 21st century. For this reason, I think most of the countries today are thinking of reforming their public education system. Educating tomorrow’s children, with yesterday’s methods is not at all a good idea.It is true that a change in our education system is the need of the hour.

A quote from the article.

 The reason for this need may be the economic efficiency of our students or the ability to be a global citizen who still has a hold on his/her cultural roots. The iGeneration is the first American generation to be born, almost literally, with a smartphone in hand. Today, our children are flooded with information coming to them through technology. They have access to endless information at their fingertips. We, as educators, can use this for our advantage or this can actually become a distraction for our students and a problem for us. It is due to this, that more and more schools are shifting their curriculum and methods to incorporate technology and media in everyday instructions.

Some schools are providing technology and some schools are following the “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) policy for this. According to Project Tomorrow’s annual Speak Up survey, fifty-eight percent of high school students in a national survey said they use their own mobile devices for learning in school, and 47 percent of teachers in the survey reported that their students have regular access to mobile devices in their classrooms. Along with this, most of the schools also provide chromebooks, ipads or some other device with wi-fi connectivity from the school, for most of the core classes, and students can use these on a daily basis in the class.

Due to this, digital literacy has become very important for all of us. As Eric Sheninger pointed out in his article, The Need for Digital Literacy, “although technology enables students to access more information in much less time, it does not always foster learning. Teaching digital literacy helps to manage all of the benefits of technology while helping students understand how to safely weed through the vast amounts of information online.”

 

This vast amount of information online is the number one distraction for our students these days because they find it interesting and engaging as compared to the traditional and “boring” class work. We need to make our lessons more challenging and engaging for today’s generation. Otherwise, we will and we are losing our students to the more magnetic digital world of technology. This has been rightly pointed out by Marc Prensky in his article, “Engage me or Enrage me.” The students who are truly self-motivated are rare in today’s classrooms. We usually have students who go through the motions and think that they know how to manipulate school work, to get a good grade or we have students who “tune us out” because we fail to engage them and their senses in the class work. Technology can come to the teacher’s rescue here. It can make the lesson not only more interesting, but also challenging enough for our students to perform to the best of their abilities.

But this brings up another problem and I have personally faced this in my class and this problem is of digital equity. Forty-seven percent of surveyed school and district technology leaders said digital equity and students’ out-of-school internet access are among their most challenging issues. “Today, as many as 7 in 10 teachers, assign homework that requires access to the internet and broadband,” said Jessica Rosenworcel, FCC Commissioner, at the Congressional briefing. I am also one such high school teacher. But we need to remember that as many as 1 in 3 households in this country do not subscribe to broadband and this leads to what is called the ‘homework gap.’ I have students come to me and say that they could not finish the homework because they do not have access to the internet or a computer at home. To tackle this problem, I give more time and opportunity to my students to work on these assignments in the class, using the school chromebooks and assign homework which can be completed without the use of technology. This can be an example of using “Blended learning,” and it is showing positive results like the forty-five percent of surveyed districts, where blended learning programs are showing positive results.

Online and blended learning can increase self-directed learning even outside of the classroom, foster divergent thinking and creativity as well as develop and maintain trusted collaboration among students. Collaboration fosters learning, innovation, and development. According to Burns, Crow, and Becker, “collaboration spurs innovation because bringing together groups of people who have different ideas, approaches, experiences, and areas of expertise creates a fertile environment for generating new concepts and methods.”

We need to stop alienating our children from who they actually are and what they are actually interested in. We need to use their interests and capacities to challenge them to improve, learn and innovate. The “factory line” system of school can only create a generation of students who are clearly uninterested and find school boring and irrelevant. This will keep reinforcing our idea of “Fictitious ADHD epidemic” that we think is responsible for our students’ lack of interest and ultimate “failure” at school.

Using technology, along with divergent thinking and creativity, is one of the most important 21st-century skills that our students must have. For developing this skill, we should be using technology more and more in our classrooms for challenging our students’ capacities and engaging them in the process of learning. For this educators should become more digitally literate themselves and then use this knowledge for the benefit of the students of the iGeneration.

A Few Modest Goals

drizin3

Welcome to my first blog for SUSD Site Tech Cadre (STC). I have been tasked with keeping a blog as a member of the STC and I have been struggling with what to contribute. I am embarking on new adventures in technology and looking for destinations unknown. I am just getting started on this adventure and feel that I really have a great deal to learn and very little to share. I have set a few modest goals for myself this year:

  •       Tech up my ELD classes.
  •       Retool my Graphic Design Pathway to better meet industry standards
  •       Create collaboration opportunities among the CTE (Career and Technology Education)  and core teachers.
  •       Build lasting bonds between middle schools and high schools.
  •       Strengthen CTSOs across the district

drizin2

My first goal is to introduce more technology into the ELD curriculum. I noticed almost immediately that my ELD students were disengaged and bored when interacting with the curriculum; if you are not engaged, you are not learning. My first adaptation was to incorporate Google Drive, Google Classroom and Google Docs for Joint Construction Paragraphs (JCP). JCP involves students working together as a class to construct a paragraph on a topic about which they have just learned; students dictate while the teacher writes out what they say on chart paper.  The process allows students to contribute what they have learned without the pressure of writing alone. It works well if you are not a member of the legibility challenged (I am the in the Hall of Fame), and if your students are not timid when it comes to participation (A persistent challenge in any class but even more acute in ELD). A quote from the textAs a replacement for writing on chart paper I started to use Google Applications for the JCP activity. I created a folder in Google Drive, a shared link which I posted to Google Classroom and then added a Google Document in the folder for students to enter in their contributions. This allows the students to add without having to raise their hand and be singled out. Students’ contributions appear on the document as they type, each having their own color allowing the instructor to see who is participating. Additionally, the instructor can see who is logged in and contributing at the top of the page. I went from about 20% participation to about 90% participation. Students edited as we discussed, correcting spelling and grammar for each other, shifting sentences up or down for continuity and adding ideas freely. When we debriefed after the lesson they unanimously agreed that it was a great deal more fun than watching me writing their ideas out. It was the first time in the class that the majority of students had been genuinely engaged and participating all year. I am now looking for the next upgrade.

Here Is Where You Come In

As I embark on each one of these goals, the first improving the ELD experience, I will share the journey and look to you, the reader, to help direct my course. I would like to hear how you apply technology in your classes or about the challenges you are facing that might be solved by applying technology. Please email me at Doctor.Izzn@gmail.com and I will share your contributions (anonymously if requested), questions and potential solutions here on the blog. I may not be able to find all of the answers but perhaps we can solve them together.

Let the adventure begin,

Dr. Izzn

Titanoboa: Giant Snake From Earth’s Past

With all the hype right now with Megalodon Sharks (Meg), Prehistoric Dinosaurs (Jurassic Park), even the Predator films are dealing with evolution and (future) fossils. My kids this month took a step back as well. We took a step back in time, nearly 65 million years back!

This past summer I was lucky enough to receive a travel grant to attend a conference at the University of Florida Natural History Museum’s @iDigFossils Teacher Program. There we learned about incorporating fossils with our current 3D printers into the subject matter across all educational domains. We learned how to blend NGSS into CCSS, and include engineering, art, reading, and even PE into lessons about Earth from millions of years ago. We went panning for shark teeth, digging for miniature horse bones, and even got to touch the well-documented find-of-a-lifetime, Titanoboa vertebrae.

Image of 3D printed fossils

These students are working with the 3D fossils they printed.

Now, my 10-year-olds were more interested in what did it eat (full crocodiles), how did it catch its prey (asphyxiation), and how big was it really? To help answer that last question, we created our own PBL units that were published by the department. My class used the vertebrae template, the scanned image(s) of the fossilized bone found by UofF professors in Columbia, and worked in groups to design ‘the most efficient way to print them on our printers.’ Students worked in groups using computer assisted drafting (CAD) software, TinkerCad, to complete their tasks. They used math measurements to try and minimize supports (these are tree-like structures a 3D printer uses on overhangs, to keep the shape of the object you are printing). The problem with supports is that is wastes your printer filament (the plastic it prints with). So the kids finally managed to design a print that contained two bones on one printing plate, with minimized supports, and settings that allowed us to print twice a day, on each printer.

an image of students doing a compare and contrast activity with their printed fossils.

Students do a compare and contrast activity with their printed fossils.

The kids had fun working together towards a common goal. After about a week we had 45 vertebrae finally printed. We took some white yarn and our fossils and went out to the playground. I wanted the kids to really understand how long this snake was. We measured out 45 feet of yarn, and at about every 12 inches, a student tied their individual fossil onto the main string. It was quite the site to seek the shock, and terror, in some of their faces when they realized the size of this monster. We did a wiggle activity and the kids followed me around on the blacktop as we slithered back and forth as a snake playing follow the leader. Back in the classroom, we worked with units of distance and converted everything from millimeters, centimeters, inches, feet, and yards. We hit standards on standards and we weren’t trying too hard.

We finished up our Titanoboa Week with a ‘chat with a scientist’ interview with the awesome Ms. Jeanette Pirlo, representing Florida Museum Of Natural History, Vertebrate Paleontology Department! She gave kids a great glimpse into the fields of science and paleontology. We learned some new facts about Titanoboa, and she helped motivate some of my little girls to think about maybe one day going into a field of science and STEM. They are SO very excited to each be taking home their very own full sized Titanoboa 3D printed fossil!

a picture of students showing off their 3D printed fossils!

Students show off their 3D printed fossils!

Titanoboa might have been from Earth’s past, but with today’s technology, it is fueling the curiosity of kids from today. Check out the @FossilProject for plenty of 3D Printed fossils, lesson plans, and tips and tricks alike.

Cheers!

What is My Argument?

by Melody Swars

Teachers should participate in professional development because not only does it train you in new strategies but the time at professional development sessions allow teachers with similar growth areas to collaborate.

I sat in an amazing train with Karin deVarennes on a recent Saturday that was focused on how to get students to write an argument. I walked away with not only knowledge that Karin provided but also that of the colleagues that were at the training. We want our students to be successful in collaboration with each other to help build language and content knowledge. This also creates students that are college and career ready. During the training she showed us many ways to get student to collaborate, whether it is for the purpose of writing an argument or in one of the many aspects of student learning.

As a group of teachers that all have varying  years of experience, we got to collaboratively developed a list of ‘getting to know you’ activities that we do in our class. Some teachers had students write a letter about themselves, while another teacher mentioned that in her letter she has students write their future goals. She said this is important because she can incorporate this into her teaching strategy. Some strategies that were collected were:

4 corners
Fish bowl
Equity circles
Shares and celebrations
Quotes of the day with student reflections
Team Building games
Boggle

As a group of educators that were learning, we didn’t just watch a PowerPoint presentation;  we became collaborators through different strategies. One strategy that I really like was a silent debate. One student needs to write their opinion and the other student then responds by writing back their side of the argument. It was intense because you want to respond quickly but you have to take the time to write out your thoughts. I think this could be incorporated into a google doc where two students can write possibly from different classrooms.

Quote from textAn argument debate topic was “should a student have to be passing their classes in order to get their driver’s license.” The room was split in two sides; pro and con. Each side then got into small groups of three and had to discuss ones reasons why we felt this way. After that, the representative of that triad group had to share with the other side. The guidelines were set that we need to listen while one person gives their opinion. After both sides had time to share we returned to our groups and had to develop a rebuttal as to why we do not agree with something from the other side. We were also provided sentence frames to follow to help guide the conversation. While teaching it is so important to have a universal design for learning so that you can meet the needs of all your students.

Another fun strategy I felt was very beneficial for all ages was the 7 chair countdown. You can use any number but the idea is you can count out so many chairs and then stop at the last chair and find a brand new partner. You then get to share, after you share your partner paraphrases what you said. It could be used for ELD students to build language and background knowledge, or to have a better way to access the curriculum in a way that is taught to them at their peers language level.

While I could continue with every aspect I learned that day these were my biggest takeaways. I felt like I have added to my teachers toolbelt of skills as well as meet many teachers in our district with a wealth of knowledge. I would think to give thanks to Karin deVarennes for giving such an interactive professional development.