Thursday, November 20, 2014

Allowing for Student Choice in a Physical Education Classroom

Today the CollabLab welcomes Anthony Furman, a physical education teacher at Elk Grove.  He can be reached @Coach_Furman.
The "Get it Done Your Way Workouts" are designed to let students take control of how workouts are accomplished during class.  The template guides them with what exercises to complete.  It is broken down into small segments to perform at one time and then the students decide how to navigate the workout during the time allowed.  Each version of the workout introduces new exercises or builds on different ways to accomplish exercises from previous workouts.  Kids can work alone or in small groups.  The teacher can give small points of focus based on how well parts of the class work independently.  It lends itself to students taking leaderships roles within class.  It also allows for students of all different ability levels to complete portions of the routine as they are able, challenging everyone from the beginner to the advanced within a class.  There are many benefits to this format, but the primary focus is aimed at helping students understand how to design and implement their own exercise programs.

Here is an example of one "get it done your way"

Do you have examples of ways that you offer student choice in your curriculum?  We would love to hear from you in the comments!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Increase Motivation and Classroom Time with Online Quizzes

Today the CollabLab welcomes Mark Heintz, a history teacher and Department Technology Coach at Elk Grove.  He can be reached @HistoryHeintz

I started using online quizzes several years ago to increase motivation for reading and free up classroom time.  I first utilized a Classroom Response System. The school had a set of 32 clickers that only a few people were using, so I checked them out for the rest of the year. I typically used them as a bell ringer.  I wrote questions from homework or previous days’ material.  The questions served as a way for me to see how many of the students in the class knew the information instantly.  Students thought learning was “sick” because it was fun to see who “buzzed” in first.  But, for me, the best part was the instant feedback.  The clickers turned into an opportunity for everyone to see what they knew.  The questions let the class go over distracters, get immediate feedback, and ask questions in a low-stakes environment.   Today, the easiest way to mimic this structure would be Socrative.

Classroom Response System "clickers"

Over time, other teachers started using the clickers. Because I couldn’t guarantee I would have them, I moved on. Lesson learned about technology.  You have to have it readily available for teachers to use it and learn it. So, I moved to Moodle quizzes.  I liked Moodle because it was free and always available.  I used the Moodle quizzes in hopes of motivating students while reading. The first few reading quizzes were pure comprehension questions.  They were low-level learning targets that the students should have understood from the reading.  It turned out that kids didn’t have to read that closely to get them right.  To adapt to their crafty ways of getting out of reading, the questions became more analytical and required students to read closely.  Here is a sample question:

Moodle Quiz

I liked the quizzes because they helped slower or more careful readers have time to read and take the quiz on their own time.  The problem is a lot of students didn’t have access to a computer or the Internet.  So I typically allowed one weekend and a full school week to complete the quiz and the reading. I wanted the students to see the quizzes as a learning tool instead of punitive.  To ensure this, I gave the student four retakes and eventually put page numbers for each question. I put the page numbers because I wanted the students to know it came from the reading and in hopes to get them to read those pages.  Over time, it became easier for the students to do the work instead of cheating off their friends.  The cool thing about most online quizzes is you can see when they take it and how long it took them.  If a quiz was averaging around 45 minutes to take and a kid took it in 90 seconds, I could call that student out.  Big brother working for me! I have only had to do this a few times in the past four years. Some students did take the test with others, so they could talk it through with one another.  I only saw this as a positive because students were talking about READING.  

An unintended consequence of using the online quizzes was students emailing me throughout the week with questions from the quiz.  They CITED--actually cited--textual information as to why they thought they were correct!  It was very encouraging to see students citing evidence to back up their thought process.  I do not care if it was for points; they were using information in a meaningful way.

How did I use the quiz?  Well, after the students completed the quiz, I saw commonly missed questions.  I could go over the most missed questions or have students go over them in class.  Now that our school has iPads, this has become a lot easier to do in the classroom. A huge bonus is the quizzes freed classroom time because I did not need to quiz as often in class.

I have since moved on to Schoology, and I was able to migrate my Moodle Quizzes over.  I like Schoology for online quizzes because of the student completion option.  I used the feature to get students to complete them before tests.  Any time I can make education compulsory, I do.   If they do not finish the online quiz, whether it’s a vocabulary or reading quiz, they cannot take the test in class.  This gets me away from the question, “is this for points?” It is for learning, and you have to do it!  I used this to show students their readiness in the subject.  If they know it, it doesn’t take long.  If they don’t know it, try it again or go back over the material so you do!

Schoology Quiz
Essays are another way I used quizzes.  I put a quiz before an essay prompt.  Once the students pass the quiz, the essay prompt became available.  You do not have to grade the quiz or put it in for points in the grade book. The essay was what you cared about, and the quiz will help them with the content for the essay.

Parents and guardians seem to really like the online quizzes. At parent teacher conferences, I showed parents the quizzes and how many times their son or daughter took them.  Parents liked that their kid got to retake it until they get it right.  Some were very impressed with the time their son or daughter was putting into the course.

If you have information you want students to know, online quizzes might be a great way to get students to demonstrate it and free up class time. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Impact of Social Media in the Classroom

Today the CollabLab welcomes Joe Bush, a teacher in the Social Studies department at Elk Grove.  Joe can be reached @josephdbush

I was never too fond of the term "social media."  I felt like it was a waste of time or something people did just to see others “like” pictures that were posted.  My perspective changed a great deal when social media avenues such as Twitter and Blogspot were presented in a new and interesting way. At the beginning of my Leadership Through Service Class, Linda Ashida came in and discussed digital leadership and digital footprints. These terms were foreign to me in the first place, but I quickly saw the powerful nature of blogging and tweeting. 

The first step we took in developing a digital footprint for both my students and myself was creating professional twitter accounts. These were to be used to help students connect with teachers, leaders, and each other as a forum to discuss topics with leadership or curate what they have done throughout the year. 
Although it has only been two months, my students and myself have made huge strides in chronicling our successes in class through Twitter (#EGLTS).  In addition, we have all made connections with leaders in the business community who have led us down avenues of positive leadership and growth.  The connections have expanded our worldviews and have helped us to grow into better people and leaders. 

In addition to Twitter, we have also used Blogspot to archive our class successes.  Every other week, students are given a topic to Blog about.  We have the benefit of reading each other’s blogs and commenting on them. This gives the students an authentic audience to share ideas with.  Overall I am very pleased with the use of social media in my class. Students have taken it seriously, we have connected with outside resources that we did not even know existed, and have grown as leaders. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Blended Teaching and Learning Strategies in a 1:1 Classroom

Today the CollabLab welcomes guest bloggers Amanda Baran and Dawn Ferencz.  Amanda, a Special Education teacher at Elk Grove, can be reached @MrsABaran.  Dawn, an English teacher at Elk Grove, can be reached @Dawn_Ferencz.

Hello colleagues!  We are (fairly) new users to the iPad this year with our 1:1 pilot for junior students in Prep American Lit & Comp.  When asked to discuss how we utilize iPads in the classroom, we were happy to share.  

For us, a mix of technology and more traditional teaching and learning strategies in the classroom seem to work best, especially with struggling learners.  Below is an outline of a lesson we did earlier this year that utilized traditional, hands-on, and technological devices to support learning and provide our students with a “Day in the Life of a Puritan” experience (prior to our reading of The Crucible).

First, students reviewed the basics of Puritan living with a standard PowerPoint we created to highlight key elements.  Students too notes (using good ol' fashioned pen and paper) about the main ideas regarding Puritan life including naming, clothing, church ideals, free time, meals, homes, and punishments.
Next, we had several volunteers from each class dress up in clothing from the time period (long,dark outfits, hats for men, handkerchiefs for women, etc.), practice certain free time duties (knitting and tending to the animals and farm), partake in a common meal (bread, cheese, dried meat), and get arrested (thank to class guests Sean Berens & Rip) and receive a typical punishment (the stocks).

Once any student who wanted to had a turn partaking in the activities, students were assessed on what they learned.  They were able to use the notes they took from the PowerPoint, what they saw and did in class, and anything they remembered from our discussion to create a Pic Collage (iPad app) showcasing pictures and descriptions of what they learned about the Puritans.     
The combination of reinforcing the material with a PowerPoint, hands-on experiences, and technology allowed us to reach all students.  With varied learning styles, we tried to ensure that each student had the opportunity to understand, process, and show that they comprehended the day’s lesson.

We find that most days our lessons consist of one activity that utilizes the iPad and at least one or more that do not.  For example, we may read an act from The Crucible in class and then have the students respond to a discussion question online using their iPads.  Or we run a presentation via the Nearpod application that asks for responses from students while presenting information (answer a question, draw a picture, vote on a response, etc.) and then review what we have learned using a whole-class discussion face-to-face.  We were nervous about the wide array of applications and how we were going to turn ours into a virtual classroom, but the truth is that a combination of technology and traditional, non-technological methods of teaching work best for our classes.
For us, a little goes a long way; we like to strike a balance in class and always have a back-up plan depending on students’ needs that day

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Student's Perspective on Blogging for Class

Today the CollabLab welcomes guest blogger Katie D., a senior at Elk Grove HS.  Her work, along with the work of her classmates, can be found through the hashtag #EGLTS

This year I started a blog for my leadership class to blog about various topics we learn in class such as growth and service as well as different experiences I have had.  At first, I didn't really understand why I was doing it or what purpose it had, but as I kept blogging, I have found it to be a unique resource to use as a student. For one, it is easier to share with my teacher and other students different ideas I have and reflections on what we do in class because anyone can have easy access to view my blog rather than just turning in papers that no one gets to see.  This ability to share our opinions through blogging helps a lot when we have to collaborate for different projects and lessons.  Along with that people outside of just our class can see what we blog including other teachers and administrators who can then see what we are learning about and what we do to branch ideas off and feel more connected as a school. My blog even got republished by a website, which shows just how far our thoughts can go on the internet and can influence others.  I've learned a lot since starting my blog, and I encourage other students to try it out.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Interactive Whiteboards and Student-made Videos: A Review

Today the CollabLab welcomes guest blogger Quinn Loch, a Science teacher at Elk Grove HS.  He can be reached @Mr_Loch_EGHS

Interactive whiteboards on the iPad provide a way for you to record your voice and writing so they can be watched later. This can be great for providing notes to your students both inside and outside of class. Conversely, students can also use interactive whiteboards to explain and share their understanding of a topic related to your content. This provides a unique way for students to retain information and concepts--we all know the best way to remember something is to teach/explain it to someone!

Lots of options are available, and there is no “perfect” option. Below is my list of pros and cons for the more popular interactive whiteboards available on the App Store. By no means is this a complete list. Your best bet is to try them out yourself.

Explain Everything ($2.99)

- Very powerful – Lots of export and import features
- Lets you edit videos during and after being made – great for when you make mistakes!

- Takes a long time to encode a video (Encoding is done on the iPad.  A 3 minute video may take 5 minutes to encode)
- Not free

ShowMe (Free)

- Easy to share videos – Great for student made videos
- Very easy to use
- Mp4 versions of your videos can be downloaded from their website

- Cannot zoom in while writing/recording
- Videos can’t be sent directly to YouTube

Educreations (Free + In App Purchases)

- Lots of shared videos from other teachers
- Very easy to use

- Lots of features require a “Pro” account. (Unlimited number of videos, video file exporting)
- Can’t record a multipage document
- Can’t zoom in while writing/recording

bContext (Free + In App Purchases)

- Lets you move between multi-page documents without breaking up the recording

- $0.99 per video to mp4 (however videos can be downloaded after being uploaded to YouTube for free)
- Posts to YouTube can take very long (videos are encoded on their end, not on the iPad)

In my opinion, Explain Everything is the best overall option and is worth the money. Otherwise, I think ShowMe is the best free option. The reason I point out the ability to convert to mp4 is that having the raw video file gives you freedom to post it in lots of places and is more “futureproof” in the sense that it’s not associated with an app/service that might not be around forever.

I have used Explain Everything for my video notes, ShowMe for student created videos, and bContext for making video keys for ACT benchmarks.

Ultimately it all comes down to personal preference and your end goal. I hope some of this information helps! Thanks for reading!