Using Google Tour Builder in the Classroom

Whenever I have mentioned using Google Tour Builder in the classroom, I almost always get one of three responses; I love that program, what is it, or (after I explain what it is) my kids wouldn’t be able to use it because I am not “tech savvy” enough to teach them. To those of you using and loving the program, I say congratulations! Teachers who have never heard of the program, this is the blog for you! For the naysayers, I say read to the end and click on the links to see what students can create when given the opportunity. I would like to also state for the record, I am by no means the Google Tour Builder Guru, but I do love to learn alongside my students and hope you will too after reading this.

So what is Tour Builder? Tour Builder uses Google Earth technology and allows you to add a sequence of locations on a map that users can click through like they’re going on a tour. You can upload up to 25 photos and YouTube videos to go along with each stop on the tour. You can also add a description and links to additional resources for each location that you add. When users view the Tour, they will click “next” on the tour to be taken to the next point on the map.

How can I use it in my classroom? I’m so glad you asked! Here are five examples of authentic student-created projects.

Image of a student Google tour

My Future University


My dream Vacation



Italy


Ieoh Ming Pei Biography

Students were told to research how to create a tour after a very short lesson from me on the basics. They were given a project  description and rubric and went at it! Tour Builder would be great in social studies classes, ELA classes, science, math…the sky’s the limit!  Don’t worry, the kids will help guide you through it!

Cloud Computing & Collaboration Services

collaboration

By Austin Cushman

There are many cloud computing and real-time collaboration services to choose from. Here at Stockton Unified, we primarily use G Suite or Office 365. These two are probably the more well known, however, there are a few other options to choose from. Most of my adult students have never used any real-time collaboration services which have become more and more popular in the education and business world. These platforms are a requirement for any competitive company or agency. Companies have seen a 15% – 20% increase in their revenue using one of these services. Companies that use them see an advantage over their competition simply because they can get more done. So, in no particular order, here are some well known and lesser known cloud computing and collaboration services.

431075-zoho-logoZoho offers a suite of apps to create online documents, spreadsheets, presentations and databases, with great sharing features. You can invite others to view or edit documents and also create groups. Similar to Google Docs, you can publish any doc to your blog or website and make any document public. Zoho creates a URL and RSS feed for every public document that is updated when a change is made. You can also chat live with others making it easy to communicate while editing a document together in real time. Also, you can check older versions of the document.

g-suiteG Suite has apps for creating documents, spreadsheets and presentations. They also share features allowing you to effectively collaborate in real-time. You can also post the document to a blog or website and have any changes updated. G Suite is also being used more and more in the private sector. Verizon Communications Inc, Nielsen Holdings Plc and Colgate-Palmolive Co. have brought about 250,000 workers to G Suite during the last year and a half, along with many school districts.

etherpad-logo                                                                                          Etherpad is an open source online editing program that allows collaboration in real-time of plain text documents. It includes a chat room and shows color coded edits. Users are also able to save older versions of the same document. Etherpad is good for group brainstorming sessions in real-time. It also lets you import and export Word, PDF, Plain Text and web documents. Students at Stanford Law School use it  and programmers like to customize Etherpad to suit their needs.

office_365_logoOffice 365 is a subscription based Microsoft Office suite available online. It has cloud-based software for businesses, such as hosted Exchange Server, Skype for Business Server, and SharePoint. Subscribers can collaborate with other users by using their Microsoft Office Online account. “70% of Fortune 500 companies have purchased Office 365 within the last year.” Companies such as Shell Oil, Air France, and Lilly Pharmaceuticals use Office 365. Stockton Unified has Office 365 available to district employees via the “staff” section of the homepage.

ce75b1a100012e9db79597098cf6785bThinkFree is a suite of online apps like Zoho and Google Docs. You can use the web version or install it to work offline. Thinkfree allows you to do everything just like the Microsoft Office suite with great sharing tools. Each document works with Microsoft Office and if the person you’re working with doesn’t have it, they can view documents with the ThinkFree viewer. Also, you get 1 GB of storage online for your documents.

Other Services:

So, there are a few. Here at Stockton Unified, we have been trained in and primarily use the G Suite apps and work in the Google Drive environment. Being aware of other services is valuable for our students and staff. We should be knowledgeable in the uses of real-time collaboration suites to prepare our students for careers in the 21st century.

Future Engineers

Project Lead the Way logo.

By Peter Gallegos and Veronica Torres

Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth grade students at Harrison School in Stockton, CA  are off to a running start for their engineering future. Students in Mrs. Merriam’s PLTW Design and Modeling class learn by quickly understanding the importance of an engineering notebook to document and capture their ideas.

Image of students showing their work.

Students working early in the design process.

Students are introduced to the design process in order to help solve problems and understand how their ideas can influence the creativity process of their group and others.

Image of a team of students

Students work in groups and follow the design process from idea to prototype.

One important aspect of this class is students’ discovery of engineering and how the items that are invented within this process can help the populace as a whole. For example, the creation of a prosthetic device and a toy that will help a student with cerebral palsy gives students a greater appreciation of what a special needs student endures on a daily basis.

The academic language that students use during this process would seem unbelievable for students this age.  One can see groups working hard together to solve their design process challenges and coming up with solutions to attain a final product.  This process forces the students to “think outside of the box.” Higher order thinking abounds in this class.

Image of student working.

Students use industry standard 3D modeling software, such as Sketchup Pro and Geogebra

Merriam’s students use industry standard 3D modeling software, such as Sketchup Pro and Geogebra, to create a virtual image of their designs and produce a portfolio to showcase their creative solutions.

When students show proficiency in the modeling software, and are able to complete the design process from paper to virtual image, they will have the opportunity to print their final product using the school’s 3D printer.

Technology Integration Matrix (Part I)

TIM

Characteristics of the Learning Environment

Previously, I discussed what TPaCK is and how it should affect our teaching. I delineated the acronym stands for Technology, Pedagogy and Content Knowledge in my previous post. You can read my blog post here. Twenty or thirty years ago, long before the explosion of technology in education, teachers worked at perfecting their craft or pedagogy along with their mastery of subject area content knowledge. TPaCK gives educators an overview of technology integration in relation to content and pedagogical knowledge. What it does NOT do is delineate how educators are to achieve TPaCK or what it should ‘look like.’ In writing about TPaCK, I frequently found another acronym that intrigued me…SAMR, or Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition.

While examining SAMR, I discovered the Technology Integration Matrix or TIM! I like the simplicity of the SAMR acronym, but it is not as detailed as the Technology Integration Matrix. This two-part blog post will explain the Technology Integration Matrix. It is a five-by-five matrix, the columns comprising levels of technology integration and the rows comprising the characteristics of the learning environment. Since, we can all relate to the learning environment, and it is probably the easiest, I will examine the Characteristics of the Learning Environment first. However, let me provide a little background.

Diagram of levels of technology integration.The Technology Integration Matrix (TIM) was developed by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology (FCIT) at the University of Central Florida. It was established in 1982, working for over 30 years with educators in integrating technology into curriculum. The Florida Center for Instructional Technology developed the matrix as a guide for the convoluted task of evaluating technology integration within classrooms. The matrix affords common language for comprehensive pedagogical technology integration by all actors within the learning environment as well as their ancillaries. This theoretical framework is based on the constructivist theory of learning being an active, constructive and thereby continually evolving process, as well as an educator’s best practices. The matrix was originally established between 2003-2006, with a second version completed in 2010-2011. In this most current version the descriptions of the matrix were revised and even expanded with video references in Language, Science, Math and Social Sciences. Even background, what is the Technology Integration Matrix (TIM)?

As mentioned earlier it is a five-by-five matrix delineating the Levels of Technology Integration and the Characteristics of the Learning Environment. In this blog post I am going to focus on the Characteristics of the Learning Environment. Each row of the TIM constitutes a characteristic of the learning environment. Every level of the learning environment then ascends through increasing levels of technology integration. These five Characteristics of the Learning Environment are: Active Learning, Collaborative Learning, Constructive Learning, Authentic Learning and Goal-directed Learning. Let’s investigate each level in isolationcharacteristics_intro_title

Active Learning occurs when students are actively engaged in using technology as a tool rather than passively receiving information from the technology (Florida Center for Instructional Technology, 2018). This characteristic then climbs through five different levels of integration: Entry, Adoption, Adaptation, Infusion and Transformation. In Active Entry students are passively receiving information, similar to watching a video. Next is the Active Adoption Level in which students are using tools but in a conventional and procedural manner, much like writing an essay on Google Docs or Microsoft Word. This is followed by the Active Adaptation Level whereby students still have a conventional use of tool, but now there is some choice and exploration by students. This is similar to making a presentation, regardless of the modality. Near the top is the Active Infusion Level where students conduct regular, self-directed use and choice of tools. Finally, the Active Transformation Level, occurs when students use technology tools extensively in an unconventional way. This might be similar to students doing a green screen video as an on-site news reporter.

Collaborative Learning occurs when students use technology tools to collaborate with others rather than working individually at all times (Florida Center for Instructional Technology, 2018). At the Entry level, Collaborative Entry, students use tools individually. No collaboration among classmates occurs. During Collaborative Adoption, students are using technology tools in a conventional way, but collaboratively, such as a classmate editing a document. Collaborative Adaptation occurs when there is student choice and exploration collaboratively. An example might be, students deciding which application to utilize and then working together to complete it. Collaborative Infusion is regular use and choice of tools when collaborating. Finally, Collaborative Transformation is working together with peers as well as outside resources in a manner not possible without technology. For example, participating in a book study with another class within their district OR someplace else in the United States.

Constructive Learning commences when students use technology in connecting new information with their own information rather than just passively receiving the information. During Constructive Entry information is just delivered to students, and nothing more. Constructive Adoption is when technology use is guided for conventional knowledge building. This would similar to watching a video. Constructive Adaptation is similar to Constructive Adoption, but now technology use by students is independent and there is a little student choice and exploration. Constructive Infusion is where the change really occurs. During Infusion students are regularly using technology of their choice to maintain, acquire and build  knowledge. Finally in Constructive Transformation is where the change really occurs. Here students build knowledge extensively through an unconventional use of technology.

The easiest way to explain Authentic Learning is relevance. This is when students use technology tools to interact with learning activities in the world outside the classroom instructional setting. A prime example of this would be Problem Based Learning or PBL. Authentic Entry level learning is unrelated to the world outside the classroom door. It is important to note students may find this boring. Change begins to take place in the Adoption Level where there is guided use of technology tool and activities with some relevance to the outside world. Authentic Adaptation displays students choice and exploration using technology independently in some way connected to their lives. This might be observed whens students write to the mayor about the homeless problem. Authentic Infusion Learning is when students now take adaptation to a new lever, using technology on a regular basis in a meaningful activity. Last, but not least, Authentic Transformational Learning in which students use technology in a local or global context innovatively for higher order thinking and learning.

Finally, is Goal-Directed Learning where students use their technology tools to set goals, plan activities, monitor their progress and then evaluate the results NOT complete assignments with no type of reflection. Goal-Directed at the Entry Level directions are given and the instructor performs step-by-step task monitoring. Goal-Directed Adoption is the normal policy and procedural use of tools to plan and monitor goals. This might be similar to using Google calendar for setting due dates and see what is coming up. Goal-Directed Adaptation, occurs when students have some choice and exploration and use tools in a purposeful way to meet their goals. This may be like using Google hangouts to converse with team members. A flexible and integrated use of technology tools to plan and monitor progress towards goals is visible in Goal-Directed Infusion Learning. Lastly, students using technology extensively to plan as well as monitor progress is within Goal-Directed Transformational Level.

Each one of the five Characteristics of a Learning Environment progresses through each Level of Technology Integration. As mentioned briefly earlier these are the Entry, Adoption, Adaptation, Infusion and Transformation Levels. In Part II, I will delineate each of the Levels and how they relate to each of the Characteristics. Below I have included a diagram of Technology Integration Matrix for your viewing. Earlier I had review TPaCK and what it was as well as SAMR. As you can now see TPaCK is a concept between Technology, Content and Pedagogy. SAMR is brief explanation of technology and how to go about integrating it. The Technology Integration Matrix (TIM) is a comprehensive and detailed matrix of technology integration and the learning environments. We will dig deeper into the matrix next time.

All images and content used with the permission of the Florida Center for Instructional Technology at the University of South Florida.

Coding for Kindergarteners? Absolutely!

By Maridee Stanley

America 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.code1

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 here  or you can sign up for free teacher account for an easy K lesson here. Google will send teachers a free kit to be used with their online material, click here. Even if you supplement with other programs, Code.org is indispensable as it has the most resources and an easy-to-navigate website. From there you can watch videos (Course A for age 4-7 ), 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 .

Students working with robots.

Students work with blue-bots, robots that the kids can program!

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 Bee-Bot, a small robot that is programmed with directional arrows on its back. Kinders doing Code.org offline coding for P.E. Tip: Don’t try this on a windy day. Using the directional cards that come with BeeBots and Blue-Bots, kindergarteners write a line of code. Using direction keys, students program BeeBots and Blue-Bots to spell CVC words or order numbers. Bee-Bot and BlueBot programming was a big hit at STEAM Night and Literacy Night at Kennedy. Even some parents got hooked!

Image of student and laptop.

“Look, Ma, I’m programming!”

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 Was 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.

Coding a Minecraft game is a good incentive to finish ST Math and is an alternative for students who have completed work early. If you have never coded, try some super simple kindergarten block coding on the following Google Doodle celebrating 50 years of children’s coding. https://www.google.com/doodles/celebrating-50-years-of-kids-coding And please, get your students coding. You might inspire the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.

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.