The Argument for using Google Classroom with Digital Immigrants, Digital Natives

Digital Native? Digital Immigrant? What is that? As teachers, we often tell our students to break down the words we don’t know and to piece together using context clues. Most of us educators will look at the digital and understand that it refers to a technology in some capacity or more likely the computer. But how does being a native or immigrant fit into this picture? Great question! Natives are people who are residents who live in a certain area. Immigrants as we know travel from one place to another. This is also in the very true in the world of technology we live in today. In Marc Prensky’s article “Digital Native, Digital Immigrant”, he discusses the world we live in through the lens of digital literacy and knowledge of technology.

Prensky talks of “digital natives” today as the net generation or digital generation – Kindergartners through college who have grown up with everything digital – Internet, TV, computers, computer applications, digital music players, video games, etc. “Our students today are all “native speakers” of the digital language of computers, video games, and the Internet” (Prensky, p. 1). Prenksy discusses how technology has infiltrated all aspects of our lives and instead of purposely leaving out technology or having it become a baby sitter, using it to deepen and further learning is essential for students to be prepared for 21st-century learning.

Prensky goes on to discuss who are we that did not grow up with this digital technology? As time has passed, people who have seen technology come into our everyday lives and have seen it take over our daily life are known as digital Immigrants. Prensky says “Those of us who were not born into the digital world but have, at some later point in our lives,  become fascinated by and adopted many or most aspects of the new technology“ (Prensky, p. 1-2). Our students feel the same way about technology. The fascination of what the possibilities are boundless when our students enter the cyber world. We as immigrants have to be more understanding that technology is here to stay and to keep our kids engaged and prepared we have to mold and adapt to our students, not for them to mold and adapt to us.

As we move into and through the early parts of the 21st century, it is essential that we as teachers bring technology into the classroom and give our students opportunities for them to use technology the correct way and how it correlates with college and career readiness.

Starting a new school year is the perfect time to implement Google Classroom into your classroom. It allows you to cover the importance of routines and expectations around technology in your classroom and to stress the importance of how to become responsible digital citizens. With that being said, here are five easy ways to implement Google Classroom into your daily teaching assignments and activities to improve your classroom instruction and engagement when starting the new school year.

 

  • Posting questions for simple quick writes

 

unnamed1This is an essential first for the digital immigrant. By posting questions or simple prompts through the question tool, it gives your classroom a chance to open the door to technology and see what amazing opportunities can happen through learning through this media. By posting a simple question or prompt online, students can: practice typing, get familiar with the keys, learn to navigate the computer to go to google classroom, and finally, how to post something that positively contributes to a learning environment.

As students get comfortable posting their answers, you can then allow them to respond to other students in the classroom to promote the sharing of ideas and learning how to give proper feedback to their peers.Untitled 3

This is important because students then feel their work has value and has meaning and purpose. This will take time to practice with norms and expectations, but students do enjoy responding and learning how to engage in discourse on a digital platform. It is a great opportunity to teach them real work life skills on how to communicate with peers in acting in a professional setting. This will transfer to other forms as they grow and mature (or at least we can hope).

 

  • Posting math word problems and students explaining thinking

 

unnamed 4This is another great introductory tool for teachers to have students use math with technology. This is also great support around SBAC (hint hint)! Post a general word problem and have students explain their thinking about how they solved it. Start off simple with number sense or easy addition or subtraction problems that students can generally explain with their words. Not only will students feel confident in answering questions, but they will learn how to use proper vocabulary in explaining their thinking. With the shift in math being more explanatory rather wrote notation, it’s important to build in simple activities to show students and have them practice how to explain their thinking, which translates into college and career applications later.

 

  • Announcements – links and general news

 

We all get sent links throughout the year to give our students and or parents to take for feedback. Google Classroom is a great way to push these links instead of writing them on the board or trying to type the right link!

To do this, click on the giant plus sign in the lower right corner.unnamed 5

Click on the announcement option, and then you may type your instructions or note for what you want your students to do.unnamed 7

From there, copy the link you need to use and insert into the link option in classroom. By doing so, it will automatically take students to the survey/website/video you need them to go to without worrying about typing the wrong link in the URL bar. Plus, this saves time in making sure all students can get to the right website quickly and effectively. This also helps with instruction if you want students to read online articles or go to a certain website like ST math, Starfall, etc.

These are just a few ways teachers who are digital immigrants can acclimate to the 21st century in the classroom. As always, make technology work for you, not the other way around!

Teaching Math In the Digital Age: The Debate and More Resources (Part 2)

My experience with intertwining technology into my Math curriculum has been a roller coaster. Initially, 5 years ago, the attempt to combine the two knocked me down and out more than Mike Tyson in his prime. Once the initial problems occurred I felt like throwing in the towel but I knew if I could use tech with Math my lessons, student engagement, time management, and data collection would all be improved if I stuck with it.

Now, five years later, I have a system that is working for me and my population of students. I know that there are naysayers out there that are totally against anything tech in a math class besides a calculator, but I can say from my experience that student growth and achievement have gone up in my classes since I introduced tech into the game. My students are not always locked into a screen and there is always a time to put pencil to paper, or expos to whiteboards. What I am trying to get across is that there are powerful tools that technology can provide educators and I believe it is our duty to teach our students how to use them correctly so they can implement them in their college or career choices.

There have been many studies regarding tech with math and the overall consensus is that technology should be used to bolster learning. Researchers have stated that the key to being successful is to get accustomed to the programs and be educated on what you are exposing your math students to, so they can have success with the tech. There are downsides to using tech like distracted students and cheating, but the benefits far outweigh the cons according to research.

Picture of student working on a computer.

Students use Tinkercad to design 3D objects and models.

On that note, I am going to give you, the reader, a few more programs that are extremely effective when it comes to student engagement and technological skill. The first being Tinkercad, which is a student friendly version of Autodesk (design program). This program allows students to create 3 dimensional objects and can be used for geometry but also for engineering purposes. Tinkercad is used best when the teacher has a 3d printer because student ideas can come to forwishen over the course of a day of printing. I have used Tinkercad to teach area, angles, and volume for different shapes.Perfect cubes, cube roots and finding square roots could also be taught with the program as long as you take the time to create an assignment that includes Tinkercad. If the students have a google account they can save their designs in the cloud and upload them into google classroom with a few clicks of a button because it is a cloud based program. There are tutorials for the students and teachers on the site, and the best part of the program is that it is another free resource. The skills that students learn in Tinkercad can be used for jobs of the future and enable students to creatively engineer.


The next program is mainly for students to obtain vocabulary terms in a fun and creative way. It is called Flocabulary. Flocabulary is a website that creates rap music based on many different subjects and topics. My students enjoy the music and seem to retain more of the terms than traditional ways of teaching vocabulary in Math and any other subject. The students will usually watch a music video, do a few exercises based on the video, take a quiz, and then create their own rap using the vocabulary they used. This program is also synced with Google Classroom, so adding students and classes is as simple as a few clicks of the mouse. The only issue with this program is that it is not free. There are individual, school, and district plans that can be bought and are definitely worth the price.

Implementing these two programs will get your students more engaged and subsequently give them tools that can be used for their entire lives. Whether it be designing a new logo, car, a shape, or making music with a program, the students will definitely be better off going forward in their education with skills that are applicable to the real world. In this day and age being creative and collaborative are highly valuable in the work world and I believe we as educators should use the tools that will enable students to attain these skills rather than stifling their creativity with the same old curriculum.

Teaching Math In the Digital Age: The Resources (Part 1)

Teaching Math in this age requires a lot of technical skills when it comes to creating and implementing curriculum. Luckily there are many programs out there that can guide you on your path to teaching Math in this day and age. In this blog I will give you a quick rundown of the tools I use with my students as we go from paper and pencil to stylus and screen.

The first and most interesting website to me, which is incredibly interactive, is Desmos. Desmos is geared towards most standards from 6th grade to college calculus. It can double as a graphing calculator and the best part is that it is totally free.There are interactive activities that students can give feedback in anonymity, manipulate graphs, and even play games with. You as the teacher, can easily connect this program and activities through google classroom or many other mediums by creating a class code, copying it, and pasting it into a link in Google Classroom.

This leads me into the next program/programs that I use daily which are Gsuite, (formerly known as Google Apps For Education). The main program that I use to give access to websites and information to my students is Google Classroom. It is very easy to set up and can generate class lists for all of the programs I am mentioning in these blogs. To assess my students I use Google Forms which can allow teachers to insert answer keys into the assessments so students can get instant feedback. It also frees up time for teachers because Forms will do the grading for you. There are always new features coming out, most recently the screen lock feature which will lock the screen as seen in Smarter Balanced and MAP assessments. You can also import grades from Forms into your Google Classroom if you do chose to use Google Classroom’s grading system.

This leads me into Google Sheets which can be used as grade sheets all the way to creating graphs of students’ data. Students and teachers should get familiar with Sheets because it can save massive amounts of time for teachers and gives students a tool to use in their future endeavors. I mainly use it for data analysis of assessments and to post grades in Google Classroom. The students use it to collect, organize, and display data with graphs and tables. I will introduce Sheets to them once we have gone over general statistical analysis tools and how we derive them. Once they know how they work, I will show them that they can compute what would take them 20 minutes into 1 minute. This saves time for the students and allows them to get a better grasp on the story the statistics are displaying.

The beautiful part about Gsuite is that a student can create a spreadsheet and insert it into Google Docs or Google Slides with a few clicks of the mouse. The student can display data in a presentation with a pie, bar, and many other types of graphs of their choosing. The students can all work on these platforms together through sharing them with other classmates, which allows collaboration to be done anywhere, anytime, very easily. Once the students are done with their assignments or presentations all it takes is a couple clicks of the mouse to turn them in to me in Google Classroom.

In part two of my blog I will go over more online platforms that go deeper into Math and Science which can easily be posted into Google Classroom for easy access. If you start with a few of these programs mentioned above, it will not only save you, the teacher time, but it will save the students frustration by making collaboration and access to materials extremely easy.

Top 5 FREE educational websites every teacher should be using in their classroom

It amazes me how time has flown so quickly in my career as an educator, but what I find most fascinating is the leap technology has taken in the past 8 years. Eight years ago, I thought the most innovative tech in the classroom was Accelerated Math published by Renaissance Place. Back then, you needed a lot of hardware and scantrons to use the software. Reams of paper were used to print out practice problems (poor trees!).

But as we enter 2019, the amount of technology students have access to both at home and school is quite remarkable. From Chromebooks, Ipads, Ipods, Iphones, tablets with Android software to Android devices, students and families do have access to a lot of technology. The graduating senior class of 2019 was born in 2000. The kindergarten class that just entered the 2018 school year was born in 2013. We as educators have to shift our mindset to teach and train our kids around technology in becoming positive, proactive “digital citizens.”

The purpose of this blog is to encourage teachers to use technology not only as a reward for good behavior during free time to play games. We as educators have to start seeing Chromebooks and tablets in our classrooms as equitable tools to help advance our students educational abilities and see computer applications as a means of “customizing” our students’ education so they can maximize their full potential.

The top 5 FREE educational websites that I am recommending are engaging and will promote a love of learning in your classroom through the use of technology.


5: Nitro Type

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Nitro Type is a typing practice website that allows students to strengthen their typing skills by competing with one another. As students press the correct keys typing, students cars increase in speed. Student feedback from previous classes and my current class love to compete against each other and it is quite engaging. This is valuable for teachers to promote a love for typing, but practicing typing in the correct way. It forces students to practice correctly to increase their speed.  With Nitro Type, students practice typing about passages that are educational and can learn interesting facts. Students have an option to purchase a membership to customize cars, buy options for their cars, and alter the appearance of their car. This could create a great classroom activity for all students to better themselves and to practice true 21st century skills.


4: Prodigy

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This is a great way for students to practice math problems and to target content specific skills that are also engaging at the same time. Prodigy also keeps track of student success and tracks areas where students struggle, which is relevant data for you to pull small groups to do mini math lessons for students who all struggle with the same concepts. Great website for student engagement and data collection to drive your math lessons!


3: Khan Academy

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Khan Academy is not only a great resource for teachers but a great spiral/on grade level support for students as well. With a little time, teachers can sync their google classroom accounts to Khan Academy and assign assignments to students based off of academic needs and MAP scores. If teachers are using Eureka Math/Engage New York, Khan Academy has a section devoted to on grade level support that pairs well with the lessons along with practice problems that students can earn badges and points to advance and change their avatar. Great website to foster a love of math and much-needed math support.

2: Epic

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Epic is probably one of the more engaging websites I have come across that students really love. Students have access to an online library at school with countless books, read-to-me books, audiobooks and educational videos that students will gravitate and spend hours on. I have used this in 3 different classrooms and all kids love the ability to read books and choose different types of books. The only drawback to this program is they can only access it for free at school, but parents can pay $8 a month for their students to enjoy access at home. This is a huge selling point at conferences to encourage reading. On the educator side, you can assign books and make quizzes on books online for your students to take and track the data of how well they are doing.

1: Google Classroom

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By far the most game-changing application personally for me in my classrooms I have taught in the last 3 years. Google Classroom is essential for the 21st-century teacher and for students to be exposed to technology that will be seen in high school and in the college classroom. Classroom allows teachers numerous ways to optimize lesson planning and create class work for students without always running to the copier and duplicating worksheets throughout the year. It also allows teachers to build in the perfect scaffolds to optimize instruction for the most advanced students to students who need the most support. Classroom, in my opinion, is the ultimate game changer in a 21st-century classroom, especially because it is able to be downloaded as an app on all devices and makes it easier even for parents to track student work and build a strong school to home relationship.

I hope this encourages teachers to incorporate more technology into the classroom. It is crucial in the times we live in that we optimize technology to prepare students for the 21st-century world that is around us and that is truly evolving every day.

Number Talks

“My students struggle with number sense.”

“I have students that don’t know their basic facts.”

“The students in my classroom lack the ability to reason about math problems.”

Common phrases heard in math classrooms. I have said them when I was teaching and I hear them now all too often in professional development sessions. But why? Why are our students not grasping these skills under our guidance? What are students missing? Our teachers are implementing the standards, providing engaging lessons, and reinforcing skills all throughout the year. What else can be done? But alas I have the answer!

Number talks. Short math conversations where students solve problems in ways that are meaningful to them. Little to no prep on the part of the teacher, with a huge return from students! You read that right, little to NO PREP on the part of the teacher. Why wouldn’t you try it?

Number talks, developed in the early 1990’s, have recently resurfaced with the shift of implementing the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics. The CA Math Framework references them as a strategy for increasing math discourse in the classroom and supporting the 8 Mathematical Practices that are foundational for learning in the CCSS. The Framework says, “the problems in a number talk are designed to elicit specific strategies that focus on number relationships and number theory. Students are given problems in either a whole- or small-group setting and are expected to mentally solve them accurately, efficiently, and flexibly. By sharing and defending their solutions and strategies, students have the opportunity to collectively reason about numbers while building connections to key conceptual ideas in mathematics.” (CDE, 2016) Implemented routinely for about 10 minutes a session, number talks have shown to increase students mathematical abilities to think flexibly, examine errors, identify misconceptions, and solve computation problems. All in all showing a strong understanding of number sense, fluency with math facts, and the ability reason about math without struggle.

numbertalk

But, don’t just take my word for it, hear from Sherry Parish, the author of Number Talks. Listen as she describes the process and its success. Consider watching students engage in at all grade levels. Dive in and take a look at the Number Talk resources linked in your SUSD Unit of Study resources; all available as Google Slide presentations (NO PREP) and chunked in a variety of skill sets.   And, finally ask for support or a demo in your classroom by reaching out to your site Instructional Coach or me, Angela Pilcher, at the Curriculum Department.

Ten minutes a day will change your phrases to

“My students are strong in their number sense!”

“I have students that know their basic facts!”

“The students in my classroom have the ability to reason about math problems!”

Desmos in the Classroom

I would like you to go to www.student.desmos.com and type in the class code: D7YNE5.  This card sort will help students convert between fractions, decimals, and percents.  In addition, students will visualize these representations using an area model.

This card sort is just one type of interactive activity that teachers can find or create on their own to engage students through the use of this online application. Not only can teachers get students to be more engaged but teachers can monitor and control the flow of the lesson from their dashboard. Teachers can see in real time what students are doing on the activity. This is not just a high quality graphing/scientific calculator! Of course, we do want our students to know the ins and outs of this calculator tool since it is the one used on the CAASPP (SBAC Exam). To get a teacher account, go to www.teacher.desmos.com To use the calculator, go to www.desmos.com And, it’s all FREE!!!

ren2Okay, a little background on my journey. This is my second year playing with this online application. I was exploring it last year and used it here and there with what I could find online to supplement lessons in my classroom. I did not learn how to create my own activities. I found it extremely limiting but wanted more because I saw the potential of such a program. This year, I went to my second training at the annual ETC Conference in Stanislaus. I took the wrong class because it was meant for 5th grade and I teach high school. However, I did gain lots by getting resources to libraries created by other educators for Desmos! I was excited about that. Still, it did not satiate my need to create my own activities. Finally, I went to another training that same day that was meant for high school or intermediate level. Once the instructor directed us that way, I continued. He did not give time for going beyond but I dived in and continued and played with all the tools till I finally understood what I needed in order to start creating. I created my first activity and I was so excited to bring it back to my classroom.

Ren1I went back to my classroom and I implemented lesson after lesson ranging from basic warm-up activities to two days in-depth analysis that had my students creating, modeling, and analyzing all in the program. Students were highly engaged, even the ones that try to get away with not doing work. Browse through the teacher page and tools and you will find many interactive, fun, and enriching activities for your students that are common core aligned.

I came across not just an application, it became a pedagogy. This is a dynamic resource that we can utilize to meet the needs of our students from many different backgrounds. The pictures below are my students’ answers and work. I have students with special needs and students who are newcomers to the USA as well. It is amazing to see the progress they have achieved this year just by reading their reflections.  Take a chance and take that leap. Discover. Ignite that fire in your students that captures their minds and makes them want to learn again. Do something different. I teach high school math but you can make anything yours, you just have to put in time and love.

Here are some screenshots of what my students worked on from my teacher dashboard. I anonymized everyone so they are all famous mathematicians for the day! 😊

 

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Using WeVideo in the Classroom

There are many reasons why students should be allowed to use video in the classroom. In this blog, I will focus on five.

Independent, active learning

One of the greatest ways to gauge students’ understanding is to let them demonstrate a concept in their own words. When they create videos, students are able to work independently to clarify a topic in ways that can be appreciated and understood by their fellow classmates. To put it plainly: they learn by doing which increases their retention rate. If a student is able to explain math concepts with audio, visuals, Serpa Quoteand text in a video they created, they will most likely retain far more information than if they had simply written down the definition.

Differentiated instruction

Video demonstrations allow students to work at a level they are comfortable with. Even students whose skills are still progressing can create a memorable video they can be proud of. More advanced students are able to focus on creating a video that is more complex linguistically and visually. Lessons that allow students to create videos also provide opportunities for ELL and RSP students, who may have difficulty when producing written assignments, express themselves visually and audibly in a video.

Real world application

When students see the purpose and reason for acquiring a new skill, they tend to work harder. A teacher may assign a lesson where the student is asked to illustrate a poem. Students will welcome the chance to apply their acquired video skills in other ways outside of school by gathering video and audio outside of the classroom. Knowing they are learning a skill that will allow them to create a video for YouTube that may develop into a much sought after job skill in their future after they graduate may motivate them to focus on classwork during the school day.

Student engagement

Student engagement will increase when students use real-world applications when creating their video projects. The benefits of this are that engaged students tend to disrupt class less frequently, as well as participate more in lessons. They also retain what they’ve learned far longer than students who do not see value or meaning in what they are learning.

Peer collaboration

Many video lessons are often created as group projects and offer students a chance to work with and help their fellow students complete the task. Learning to problem solve when working collaboratively is a skill that will be much needed in the future. Finally, technology assignments, like creating a WeVideo, will help support equity among all students, since students who understand and are proficient with technology can help students who do not have the same skill set.