Thursday, December 18, 2014

Collab Lab Housewarming Party

Many thanks to all of the administrators, teachers, staff, guests, and students who stopped by today! We look forward to working with you in our new space!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Quick iPad Classroom Management Tips During Class: Tip 1

Today the CollabLab welcomes Rachel Barry, Mark Heintz, and Kim Miklusak--Department Technology Coaches and teachers at Elk Grove HS.  This is the first in a series of blog posts on this topic!  Please leave a comment if you have more suggestions or ideas!

Tip #1: Build a Routine 
It is important to have a well defined, clear structure with set expectations and classroom procedures.  While these are all elements of good teaching with or without technology, sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves of some good steps to help manage behaviors. Students do best with a consistent routine.  There are obviously many ways to set effective routines.  The ones below are just a few suggestions!

One option to establish routines is to start every class by having all students go to Schoology (or other LMS) and look at the agenda for the day.  This provides a clear centering activity to draw together everyone’s attention.  Starting with your LMS each day forces students to get out their iPad every day.  The question of “Are we using the iPad today?”  is never asked because you have set the expectation that they will use it every single day.  Then either close the iPad or go to the appropriate files if you are using technology that day.  Even use it on the day of an exam!  You can start off with students checking the agenda to clarify or remind them they have an assessment that day.

Another option is to set a dynamic for the week or topic.  For instance, on the first day of a new topic, the students go to Schoology and download the topic’s warm-up document.  From then on, students will always open up the blue warm-up document in Notability to start each class.  Color-coding this document helps the teacher to visually see that all students are working on the correct document at the beginning of class.  Upon completion of the warm-up, students go to the Checklist in Schoology.  This is a great option to guide students through the steps that they need to complete for the day, week, or topic while also keeping them accountable for the material.

Some additional suggestions include limiting the number of apps or documents that students use with a period or course.  Also be sure to model good behavior by keeping your own electronic devices away!  If we expect them to be off Twitter for the period, we should be, too!  Finally, set up a routine to close class.  This could be looping back to the opening agenda for the day or an exit slip--digital or otherwise.  This helps prevent students from packing up early and helps close out the objective for the class that day.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Gamification of the classroom

Today the CollabLab welcomes Katie Owen, special education teacher at Elk Grove.  She can be reached @MsKatieOwen
I got an original Nintendo when I was 2. My dad bought me a Sesame Street game along with Blades of Steel. Now, years later, there are two things I know really well: my letters and how hockey is played.

I hear all of the time that kids these days do not go outside as much as they should and that video games teach them violence and bad behaviors. Educators and parents discuss how the flashes from the screen and fast paced movements are what cause students to have short attention spans and ADHD to be on the rise.

I hear all this, and yet I cannot help but think about all I learned from playing video games: 
  • Video games teach sequences, strategy, problem solving and logic.
  • Unlike passive activities (like TV), video games keep the mind active and alert.
  • Your hand-eye coordination, fine motor, spatial, and accuracy skills improve. You make decisions faster and think quicker. 
  • You become really good at multi-tasking and following/searching for multiple objectives.
  •  Video games got me (and students I know) reading more. Trust me. There are a lot of instructions on those screens.
  •  You learn to follow instructions (after you read them). 
  • You learn to plan ahead, manage resources (never run out of Mana), and spend your money wisely (as we have all learned when we have no more money for a Kevlar + Helmet).
  •  Which pretty much means you are learning some reading and math (sshhhhh don't tell the kids).
  •  And the one I like the most? You learn perseverance. The number one thing video games taught me is no matter how many times you need to try a level, you do not stop until you accomplish your goal.
For even more benefits and negative effects of video games, check out this site.

So now that I am a teacher, what does this all mean? This means that I am super excited about a new idea sweeping education: Gamification. Gamification is the idea of using game-related elements in non-game situations--for example, using things like levels, points, badges, and achievements in the classroom or your personal life.

This should have been our wedding cake.

We see this a lot already in our day-to-day lives. Foursquare is an app that lets you check-in to places and receive badges and points to compete with your friends. LoseIt is a weight-loss app that helps you set goals and gives you badge for accomplishments (like minutes working out, eating vegetables, etc). is a website that helps you track your finances and gives you an achievement bar for savings goals. Duolingo is a website/app that teaches you languages through a gamification experience (it is really fun).

To get a quick start on gamification, try apps like ClassDojo (for behavior mangagement), Flashcards [⁛] (for vocabulary acquisition), or Socrative (for quizzes) to jumpstart gamification in your classroom!

To learn more and chat with other educators, try using the hashtag #gamification along with #edchat, #edtechchat, or #ipaded on Twitter.

For a fun infographic, visit:
An interesting TEDEd video:
4 Ways to Bring Gamification into Your Classroom:

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Three Quick iPad Classroom Management Tips Before Class Begins

Today the CollabLab welcomes Rachel Barry, Mark Heintz, and Kim Mikusak--Department Technology Coaches and teachers at Elk Grove HS.
  1. Want to know if your students are on the right document at a quick glance? Color code the documents to visually see where they are!  

    1. Tired of students losing documents and spending the whole day looking through old files?  Do they keep saying things like “I don’t have it” or “You never gave it to me”? Label the documents in an organized manner!

    1. Is too much time lost when transitioning from one worksheet to another?  Do students struggle flipping back and forth between two documents?  Merge documents to maximize class time!

      Do you have other suggestions on classroom management before class begins?  Post a comment below and share!

    Thursday, December 4, 2014

    A Student Perspective on Using Twitter in an Academic Setting

    Today the CollabLab welcomes Arely M., a senior at Elk Grove.  She can be reached through her class hashtag #EGLTS

    I was introduced to Twitter through my Leadership Through Service Class with Mr. Bush, and I love using my professional account for various reasons. Mrs. Ashida, both an innovative technology facilitator and a world language educator, kindly helped my class realize how important our digital presence is and showed us how to use our account as a networking resource. The more one builds up their digital identity positively, the more opportunities one will have in the long-run. Personally, I enjoy using Twitter because I can link it with my extracurricular interests and share my achievements or those of others I admire. Currently, I tweet every time I create a new blog post, wish to reach out to my Best Buddies club, find something interesting for my French class, and want to connect with my Leadership class. I look forward to continuing my use of Twitter and finding new passions, mentors, and inspirations.

    Tuesday, December 2, 2014

    Combining technology and AP standards

    Today the CollabLab welcomes guest blogger Kirsten Fletcher, a French teacher at Elk Grove.  She can be reached @MmeFletch

    One of the standards for the new AP French test requires students to listen to authentic texts. While searching for comprehensible texts this summer during an AP conference, I came across a project created by an elementary teacher in France called “Photo de classe."

    This project contains several videos interviewing elementary students on a variety of topics: their families, immigration, languages they speak, racism and what it means to be “French.” In addition, each student created their own video talking about themselves. It seemed to me this fit in perfectly with the AP theme “QuĂȘte de soi,” or Personal and Public Identities.

    So the question became, how to use this amazing resource in class? We began by listening to the videos posted on the site. Since it is authentic language (not created for Americans), students were exposed to grammatical structures and vocabulary that they would not otherwise have seen. After watching parts in class, students went home and watched videos to see what individual French students had to say about themselves. The next day, they summarized what they had seen in small groups. We brainstormed what elements we had seen in the videos that we could use to talk about ourselves.

    Then I assigned a video self-portrait. We took the elements that we had determined constituted “identity” and students had to include many of them in their project. First, they made a PicCollage as a starting point for their self-portrait. Then, they wrote out their presentation in a Google Doc and gave me permission to edit. After revising based on my suggestions, they recorded their 2 minute self-portraits. I gave them the option to use apps such as ShowMe, Educreations and Explain Everything. I also graded them based on the AP rubric, so they had to pay attention to vocabulary, grammar, formal register, sentence structure, and organization.

    So far, the videos have turned out to be amazing. I’m thinking about posting them in some kind of public format just like the teacher whose classroom we observed did.