Virtual Field Trips

Traditional Field trips are great, but they do have their drawbacks.  Maybe you don’t like the long bus ride. Maybe you have difficulty getting enough chaperones to volunteer or maybe traditional field trips are just too costly.  Virtual field trips are a great way to bring the world to your students without the hassle of a real field trip.

One of the best resources for virtual field trips that I know of is PORTS: Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students.  PORTS is run by the California State Parks and their rangers.  The park rangers will do a video conference with your class that provides real time, two-way communication.  The ranger can answer students’ questions and present a multimedia, live lesson to the students on a topic related to one of the state parks.  The students can interact with the park ranger as if they were right there, even though they are miles away.

Some of the PORTS topic include:

To prepare your class for the video conference, PORTS provides lesson plans, digital videos, digital images, and other media materials on the PORTS website.  All you need is a computer or tablet with a camera, a projector, and a high speed internet connection. PORTS is completely free, high quality, and are constantly adding new topics.  

To get started, go to the PORTS website  and check out the descriptions of the different topic (called Units of Study).  Then fill out the registration form to request a particular topic and date you would like to schedule the video conference.  The ranger or coordinator will get back to you by phone or email. Make your request early in the year, because spots fill up quickly.

Another resource for virtual field trips is the Microsoft Community Skype in the Classroom Virtual Field Trips.  It is also free, is set up similar to PORTS, and uses Skype to do the video conferences.  You do need to set up a username and password to sign in to the site. It has virtual field trips from all over the world.

Lastly California State Parks has partnered with Google to create an experience similar to street view on Google Maps for many state park trails and beaches called Google Trekker.  They did this by mounting a 3D camera to a backpack and walking the trails. This provides a self-guided way to see nature at our state parks without leaving your classroom. Check out all the locations available at this website.  This is also free, but is not interactive with a ranger and is not in real time.

I hope this gives you some ideas of ways you can use technology to bring the world into your classroom and provide an engaging, memorable learning experience for your students.

Working Smart Not Hard Using Screencastify

Ever had the experience of explaining how to do something to students so many times that you abbreviate the steps to the point of ineffectiveness? I am a little ashamed to admit that in my 20 years of teaching, I have noticed I sometimes have grown to assume students already come in with certain skills. This leads to more work on my part in the long run because I find myself repeating and reteaching when I could work smarter, not harder. Let me introduce Screencastify.

Screencastify is an extension you can find in the Chrome Webstore and is used to create screencasts. A screen-cast is a digital recording of a computer screen’s output, which is also known as a video screen capture, often containing audio narration. The most common way I have used Screencastify in my classroom is to create instructional videos either made by me for my students or for my students made by my students. These videos enable students to learn at their own pace, whenever and wherever they prefer.

There are other uses for this extension. Follow this link to see the many ways you can use Screencastify in your classroom.

How to get Screencastify:

  • Make sure you are logged in to chrome (if you are on a chromebook, you are on chrome)
  • Chrome Web Store
  • Search for Screencastify (in the extensions area)
  • Enable extension
  • Allow camera access (it also allows the audio)
  • Choose to save to Drive
  • Choose last choice (with nothing written on it)

To begin recording:

  • Click the extension
  • Click Record Desktop
  • It will “count down” so you know when to start talking
  • Start moving the mouse and TALK
  • Click Stop Sharing
  • NAME THE SCREENCAST

Want your image on the screen as well?

  • Start Screencastify
  • Turn on “Embed Webcam” you CAN choose which corner your image belongs
  • The first few times you may WANT to have the preview on, for me it is distracting and I end up watching myself
  • Record Desktop
  • Talk and move mouse
  • Click Stop Sharing
  • Name the Screencast

Done Recording?

  • NAME IT!
  • It is saved in your Google Drive
  • Depending on the length of the video, it may take a few minutes
  • How do my students see it? Share it with them, put it in Google Classroom, download then upload to YouTube

Here are some example videos my students have made (Sorry but these are student work, so you must be logged into your Stockton Unified Google account to view these videos):

Student video (Yocelyn Chavez, 7th grade, “Using ST Math”)


Student video (Velencia Cromwell, 7th grade, “Using Prodigy”)


Student video (Jocelyn Arredondo, 8th grade, “How to Log Into Google Doc.”) (With an interesting interpretation of how to do a book report!)


Student video (Bryan Gonzalez and Kevontay Makinsey, 7th grade, “How to Log into Khan Academy)


 

Student video (Katia Martinez and Jazlyn Rios-Fox, 8th grade, “How to Build a Paper Box.”)

Thanks for reading, and I hope this helps in some way in your classroom!

Using tech to promote equity: technology equalizer

Technology can be used to level the playing field for learning. You may ask how can this be? Imagine a classroom where all students receive personalized learning plans that support their learning styles and social-emotional needs.25733957In the book, “For White Folks that Teach in the Hood …and the rest of Y’all too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education,” Dr. Edmin states, “ The technology alone was not enough to engage them. What they cared about was how it was being used.” Below I will list a few uses for technology that can engage urban youth by creating the cosmopolitan effect which is a feature of Reality Pedagogy.

  • Design a digital scavenger hunt related to the content being taught. Components: a powerful driving question, a quick assignment for students to complete and a short lecture.
  • If your district and students age allow: Use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or another social netting site as a platform to share homework assignments with classmates, plan school activities, or create profiles dedicated to topics being taught. Create a Facebook, Twitter, etc. that highlights your class name, homework assignments, members of the class, books being read, links to Youtube videos related to classroom content. You can invite experts on the field of study to join the discussions.
  • To teach students these same skills with actually joining an internet-based social media group use the following ideas. A Twitter board can be created in your classroom. This is equivalent to a Twitter timeline. Students will need to create a handle. The process begins with students writing their handle on a paper tent that is placed on their desk for all to see. Next, the teacher sends tweets about what is currently being discussed in the class to one student using their handle. When someone has been tweeted they have to come up to the Twitter board and respond. A person cannot be tweeted more than 5 times. Students must answer the question and then ask someone else a question. If they don’t have an answer, they must ask a question about what they don’t understand. All questions must relate to the main hashtag( topic) set by the teacher and the beginning of the activity. This event ends when the teacher writes a closing Tweet.

Social media is a powerful engaging teaching tool. In order for students to see it as a tool for learning, teachers should teach this skill. If we don’t Dr. Edmin states,” …as a result of excluding social media from schools is that students then infer that these platforms are completely unrelated to learning.”

Emdin, C. (2017). For white folks who teach in the hood – and the rest of yall too: Reality pedagogy and urban education. Boston: Beacon Press.

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.