Sunday, May 31, 2015

Use Twitter Lists to Connect with Colleagues!

Written by Linda Ashida

Last week my Prospect High School colleague, Teri Buczinsky wrote a great post: Top Three Reasons Teachers Love Twitter.  In this piece she included examples of how her students use Twitter lists to facilitate their research. If you missed it, make sure to check it out!

In this post, I would like to expand on Teri's ideas for using Twitter lists, and share some additional examples of how you can use them to connect with colleagues.  Specifically, I will share several of my own Twitter lists and show you how to subscribe to them.  Whether you are new to Twitter or a long-time user, you might find the lists helpful to connect with more EGHS and District 214 colleagues.  If you are a reader who is not from EGHS or D214, this post might still give you ideas on how to use and create lists to connect with colleagues from your own school and district.

Why lists?

By creating lists, you can easily check, at-a-glance, all the Tweets from your colleagues; the Tweets won't get lost in the shuffle of your long newsfeed.  Organizing Tweets into lists is a powerful way to strengthen our connections; to learn about and share the work of our colleagues and our students.  It is a great way to build community.

I have heard some educators say, "I don't have time for Twitter!"  They imagine having to sift through a long newsfeed of Tweets each day.  But with lists, you really can connect with colleagues in just a few minutes daily!  In those brief minutes, you will learn about the work of your colleagues and students, you might come across a really great resource, and you are bound to be inspired!

Subscribe to Lists!

If you are an Elk Grove High School staff member, and you want to connect with more EGHS staff, clubs, sports, or extracurricular groups, you can subscribe to my list: Elk Grove High School.  Just click on the link to get to my list. On the top left corner you will see the name of the list and and the "Subscribe" icon (screen shot below).  Click on "Subscribe" and you will be immediately connected to more colleagues and EG groups that you can follow.  Click on "List members" (just below the "Subscribe" icon), and you can choose the colleagues whom you wish to follow.  (You can subscribe to a list without following the members.)

If you are interested in connecting with more District 214 colleagues, you can subscribe to my list:
District 214.

Please note! If you are an Elk Grove or District 214 colleague and you find that you are not included in my lists, I would love to add you and connect with you! Please follow me and I'll follow you back, and then add you to the lists!  If I am already following you and accidentally missed you, please message me so I can add you! The more members we add to these two lists, the more we can grow our school and district connections!

Lists can be a great way to follow colleagues who share similar interests, or who teach the same subject.  For example, whenever I follow World Language teachers, I add them to World Language Educators.  That way, if I just want to quickly see the Tweets from these teachers, I can easily do so by checking that specific list.

You can find other interesting lists to subscribe to by checking out the profile pages of people you follow. You will see at the top of their profile pages:  Tweets, Followers, Following, Favorites, and Lists.  Click on their link of lists and, if they have made them public, you will be able to subscribe.

Create Your Own Lists!

As you follow more people, you may want to create your own lists.  It's easy!  When you follow someone, you will notice the settings gear icon to the left (photo below).  Click on the gear and choose, "Add or remove from lists . . . "  The next window will give you the option to "Create a list." You can choose to make the list public or private. Then click on setting gear for each person/group you are following to add them.  As you follow new people, remember to add them to the appropriate lists.

Next steps:  TweetDeck!

Once you get the hang of lists, you can set up TweetDeck. I think TweetDeck looks daunting at first; however, it really is easy to set up. And TweetDeck makes it SO much easier to organize your lists in columns so that you can efficiently check multiple lists at-a-glance.  More on the "how to" in a future post.

For now, I'll share below a screen shot to give you an idea of how I use TweetDeck. I include columns for both lists and hashtags.  For example, you will see columns for my EGHS and D214 lists. This week I added a column to follow all of the tweets of our D214 Graduations by creating a #d214Grad column.  I also have a #EGSR2015 column to follow our Summer Reading Tweets. You can add many, many columns if you wish, and easily scroll across them to check out all the tweets from your favorite categories.

If you want learn more about anything in this post, or anything at all about Twitter, come see us in the Collab Lab! Or contact us at We would LOVE to help you, and grow our learning connections!

If you have ideas to share, please leave us a comment!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Book Recommendation: Teaching with Poverty in Mind

By Kim Miklusak

I've been reading a lot lately...This week's book recommendation is Teaching with Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids' Brains and What Schools Can Do About it by Eric Jensen.

So often we as teachers can get wrapped up in the day-to-day of curriculum and assessment.  Sometimes we can overlook that what happens in the students' home lives--and, in fact, what has happened for their entire lives--plays an enormous role in not only their ability to accomplish the tasks we give them but also in their ability to function in class and process information and emotions.  This book serves as an excellent reminder in both theory and practice.

One of the most interesting concepts to me was the chapter on emotional challenges, stressors, cognitive lags, and health and safety issues and their effects on academics.  Jensen covers the how and why of these effects, but he then offers specific action steps for individual classroom teachers and whole schools.  This includes the graphic below that highlights the idea that while most people are "hardwired" for certain emotions, other emotions like those on either end of the "emotional keyboard" are ones that need to be taught--in this case, at times, by teachers.  This is partnered with the importance of a mindset of change, a concept also echoed in Mindset by Carol Dweck

A graphic from the book
Finally, Jensen closes with a chapter on schoolwide success factors and a chapter on classroom success factors.  At a schoolwide level, he suggests focusing on Support of the Whole Child, Hard Data, Accountability, Relationship Building, and an Enrichment Mindset.  At the classroom level, he focuses on Standards-Based Curriculum and Instruction, Hope Building, Arts/Athletics/Advanced Placement, Retooling of the Operating System, and Engaging Instruction.  He goes into great detail on each of these factors, including suggestions for avoiding common mistakes.

What makes this book so accessible to administrators and teachers alike is not only Jensen's approachable explanations of theories but also the tangible and manageable set of factors for helping to guide entire schools in better teaching students in poverty. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Curriculum Changes-Mastery of Learning

By Mark Heintz

The Elk Grove freshmen human geography team added a document based question curriculum to achieve higher level thinking skills.  Over the last month of school, the team has been testing new ideas through student-centered document based instruction in hopes to get a great understanding of how to move forward next year.  The concepts and skills are driving a focus for next year in human geography centered around four main categories.

Interpreting Texts
Interpreting Charts, Maps, Graphs
·        See each unit plan.
·        Write main ideas to examine and convey complex ideas.
·        Through writing, provide examples to support main ideas.
·        Through writing, analyze details. 
·   State the main idea from texts.
·   Draw evidence from texts to support main ideas.
·   State the main idea of charts, maps, and graphs.
·   Provide evidence from charts, maps or graphs to support the main idea.
One summative multiple choice test per unit.

One summative writing per unit.  Each unit the skills will build upon each other.  The grade will reflect the students overall writing ability at the end of the semester.

One summative interpreting portion per unit as measured by providing the main idea and supporting details for the number of documents listed.  The overall category grade will be reflective of the student’s ability at the end of the semester.
One summative interpreting portion per unit as measured by a multiple-choice test.  The test will cover charts, maps and graphs.  The overall category grade will be reflective of the student’s ability at the end of the semester.
30% of the overall grade
30% of the overall grade
20% of the overall grade
20% of the overall grade

The team came to agreements that the semester grade would reflect student's current ability levels.  From the "testing" period, came a greater understanding of what students were capable of and what we as teachers could do to improve the student's mastery.  Over the semester, the skills would advance, requiring higher level thought processes.  Additionally as the year progresses, increasingly complex passages will be used as their abilities hopefully improve.

The work that we are doing is has been so rejuvenating for me as a teacher as we move towards a place where students are rewarded for mastering content and skills over time.  The students' learning is centered around interpreting texts, charts, maps, and graphs to learn content.  And then writing to express their understanding of content.  It is very powerful and the impact in the classroom leaves students tired from thinking so much.  

Another change is the instruction.  Since the team's focus is centered around a blend of skills and content, the instruction must mirror that.  That subject is for another post.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Guest Post: Adding Value to People

By Joe Bush

In February of 2015, I was fortunate enough to attend the John Maxwell Team Leadership Certification Program.  It was the best professional development I ever experienced, and the knowledge I learned from that conference fundamentally altered they way in which I teach.  The most important pieces of information that I took away from the three-day conference are as follows: 1. The best leaders are those who have the greatest influence, 2. Leaders need to serve, 3. Leaders need to add value to people and 4. Expectations drive beliefs and beliefs drive behavior.

As a teacher, I have always considered myself a leader. However, for much of my career, I was a positional leader.  A positional leader is someone who leads because someone else gave them a position.  An example might be an NFL head coach who was handpicked by the owner, but is unable to influence the players.  That type of teacher rarely has success in the classroom because they use their position to hold it over students.  After hearing John Maxwell (The Number One Leadership Guru in the World) speak, I began to think differently about teaching.  If I were going to truly change the minds and hearts of students and educate them they way that I saw fit, I was going to need to serve them.  The second part was adding value to the lives of the students. 

I would like to explain more on the notion of serving others and adding value through an example.  This year I was blessed with the opportunity to teach a leadership through service course.  What I quickly realized was that my students had great ideas, were already influential in their own circles and they all loved to serve.  After hearing Maxwell speak I realized that instead of pushing my own leadership agenda at the beginning of the year I should have focused on helping each student become more influential using their own strengths.  For some it may have been through public speaking, others it was through organization and still others just needed encouragement.  After coming back from the conference, I quickly changed my agenda in time to help the students succeed in our St. Baldrick’s charity drive.  As I incorporated Maxwell’s ideas, I could quickly see how the students grew in an explosive fashion.  I helped my students enhance what they already did well. 

The final piece to the puzzle was the idea that expectations drive belief and belief drives behavior. Motivational speaker and entrepreneur Paul Martinelli talked about how he overcame stuttering and the fact that he was a high school dropout to build several million-dollar businesses.  Paul said that belief drives behavior.  Therefore, if we think we are stupid, our behaviors are stupid.  However, because expectations drive beliefs, as a teacher it is our job to set expectations for our students to live up to.   When we set those expectations, hold students accountable and provide supports to assist them, students achieve more.

What I found to be the best part of the Maxwell training was the fact that serving and adding value to others is something that can be done regardless of your position. Maxwell says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.”  This is true because leadership is influence.  So, regardless of your position, you can always strive to be more influential, thus becoming a better leader.   Going forward, I will strive to add value to my students right from the start.  Each year will be different based on the different needs of students, but the lessons learned from that conference will forever change the way I think, lead and teach. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Student Voice: Business Incubation & App Creation

This week the CollabLab welcomes guest bloggers Sean and Wendy, both juniors at Elk Grove HS.
Hi, I’m Sean Duffy and I partnered with my classmate, Wendy Rosenquist, to create our business, Údar. Both Wendy and I attend Elk Grove High School. We are part of the brand new EGHS Business Incubator program, which provides us with the resources and determination to create and pursue our business. In this new class, students, such as ourselves, are placed into a supportive environment where they are allowed to create their very own businesses. In its starting year, Elk Grove's Business Incubator program had 14 unique businesses that competed against each other in front of a panel of judges in order to continue on to compete against Wheeling High School's winning business incubator teams.

Údar won first place in Elk Grove High School's "Shark Tank" competition and went forth to face Wheeling's teams in D214's first ever Start Up Showcase. Once again Údar won the competition in a decisive tie between a rivaling businesses from Wheeling High School. From this experience I can say without a doubt that this new class offers a new and unique experience in learning while also bringing forth an exciting opportunity to gain an excellent foothold as a business in the real world! We can say that we will be taking this class once again without a doubt and we look forward to any competitors that are prepared to enter the EGHS business incubator program!
From Udar's website: "We are a mobile game meant for fun and enjoyment! Everyone has a story to tell, and that's where we come in. Check out our promo video below to learn more!"  Follow them on Twitter @Udar!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Library Books on Your iPad!

By Kim Miklusak

As a disclaimer, I've only started playing around with the OverDrive App this past week.  There are so many things I'm still discovering, but it's such an easy app, and it will be great for our Summer Reading books (#EGSR2015) and for reading more throughout the year, so I wanted to share!

OverDrive is a free app that allows you to access books, audio books, and videos from your local library.  It's available for iPhone and iPad (as well as other formats).  It's simple to sign up for an account.  Then you just add your local library or libraries.  In our case, when students search Elk Grove High School, our district libraries come up.  You can check out books using your library card number or ID depending on the library.

The books are searchable by level, by topic, by recommendations, etc.  You can even search for more than one category at once to narrow down your choices.  There's also an extensive section for recommendations based on books you like or have read.  Once you find a book, it's as simple as clicking "borrow" and "download."  Then the books are listed on your bookshelf to read whenever you want.  They can be downloaded or read off the web browser.  If your book is on hold, you just click "hold," and you will receive an email telling you when it's available.  Renewal is simple, too!  Either click "renew" when you receive your 3-day notice.  When you are finished, you click "return book," and it disappears from your bookshelf.  The app also tells you how many more days you have left before your book "expires."  No worries about overdue fees!

Do you have any experiences with OverDrive that you can share?  Leave them in the comments below!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Active Learning through a Scavenger Hunt

By: Rachel Barry

I don't know about you, but I have a few students who get frustrated in their seats.  I can't blame them.  I love that I get to spend each class period walking around while facilitating instruction in my classroom.  This is why every once and a while I create activities that have students move around.  One activity that I have found to be successful is a scavenger hunt.

Here is a Scavenger Hunt that I made for my freshmen to review angle properties and relationships.  I print these pages on cardstock paper and randomly tape them up around the room.  The bottom half of each page is the math problem that the students solve.  Once they have an answer, they look around the room at the top half of each cardstock paper to match their answer with one that is up on the walls.  If they find their answer, they solved the problem correctly, and their next problem is the bottom half of the page with their previous answer.  If their answer is not on another cardstock paper, they check over their work to see where they went wrong.

Typically I assign partners based on student understanding and ability of the topic.  I have found that working in partners gives each student a voice, and also allows me to help struggling students in smaller settings.  To pair up students, I use formative assessment scores to rank the kids highest to lowest.  Then I cut the list in half and match the top student with the student at the top of the second half of the class.  I keep working down the list to create partners, adjusting if I don't feel the personalities of the students will work well together.  I find that this process pairs students that are within a reasonable Zone of Proximal Development from one another.  

Students record their work and answers on this worksheet.  I used to do this prior to students having iPads, and it worked fine.  However, with the integration of technology, students are able to take pictures of the problems graphics and write on the diagram to solve the problem.  I actually observed a pair of students doing this, and now encourage all of my students to do the same.  

So much of our math curriculum is structured.  Bringing in an activity like a Scavenger Hunt fosters learning in an active and engaging way.  I get to see students teaching one another how to solve a problem, thorough discussions on whether or not the answer is positive or negative, and many other enticing conversations amongst my students.  I find it incredibly beneficial in classes that tend to get off task because they focus more on each individual problem in front of them instead of getting overwhelmed with a whole page or packet of practice problems.  

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Student Feedback and Previewing

By Mark Heintz

The 2014-2015 school year focused on literacy and building background knowledge before learning.  In the past few weeks, I allocated considerable amount of class time dedicated to pre-reading.  The objective of the lesson was stated and the skills I hoped they acquire.

To start the lesson, I created a fact cube with words from the up coming reading.  I cut the nine squares and put the students into pairs.  I gave the students seven minutes to attempt the cube.  It was great to see them piece the puzzle together.  The students were so engaged! The students struggled, but I was able to guide them without telling them the answers.  When the students finished, they left the cube on their desks so they would have access to the definitions while reading.
Next, I had the students pick two of the words and predict what the reading will be about.  Here are two examples.  

It was so powerful!  The students received positive praise for their efforts.  When I picked these two students to display their work over AppleTV, they were taken aback by how right they were and the praise I gave them and their fellow students.  

The best part was there wasn't a wrong answer in this process.  The examples above show how students were able to predict what the reading was about.  Even if a student was wrong in their prediction, they were connecting the words and thinking in the process! The reading was short but dense.  As they read, they so much to fall back on because their learning had been activated and received feedback on their understandings of the definitions and predictions.  

Monday, May 18, 2015

Essential Questions: Engage Students in Meaningful Learning and Promote Deep Understanding

Written by Linda Ashida

As the school year draws to a close, many teachers at Elk Grove High School are preparing for Spring and Summer workshops when they will have time to reflect on the year with their Professional Learning Team colleagues and revise their curriculum for the coming year.

Some teams are working on redesigning learning units so that they are framed around Essential Questions. In the Collab Lab we have had conversations with some of these teachers about what really makes a good Essential Question. We have also discussed how can we best design learning experiences framed around those questions in order to engage students in meaningful learning and to help them develop deeper understanding of key concepts and higher-order thinking skills.

Just this weekend I was flipping through the most recent ASCD Professional Development SourceBook and I came across a "sidebar" resource that is a perfect refresher on the characteristics of good Essential Questions.  So I thought it would be a good time to share that resource and a few others to inspire teachers as they prepare for the coming school year.

The Seven Defining Characteristics of a Good Essential Question:

(from the ASCD Professional Development SourceBook, via Essential Questions:  Opening Doors to Student Understanding by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins)
  1. Is open-ended; that is, it typically will not have a single, final and correct answer.
  2. Is thought-provoking and intellectually engaging, often sparking discussion and debate.
  3. Call for higher-order thinking, such as analysis, inference, evaluation, prediction.  It cannot be effectively answered by recall alone.
  4. Points toward important, transferable ideas within (and sometimes across) disciplines.
  5. Raises additional questions and sparks further inquiry.
  6. Requires support and justifiation, not just an answer.
  7. Recurs over time; that is, the question can and should be revisited again and again.

Other helpful resources on Essential Questions:

This site has examples of Essential Questions and varied videos that serve as great resources.

2) ASCD Website:  Excerpts from the the book Essential Questions: Opening Doors to Student Understanding by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins.
This site has examples of Essential Questions by discipline, as well as examples of what is and what is not an Essential Question.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Using iPads and Schoology to explore and share poetry

By Kim Miklusak

Our AP students have reached the end of their exams this week.  They have worked so hard all year--but specifically these past two weeks--to reach this point.  To celebrate we are spending two days in class exploring poetry.

We have scattered poetry throughout the year in our AP Lang curriculum.  We spent another day talking about it on Poem in your Pocket Day.  The directions for yesterday were simple: 1) find a poem or poems you like.  2) Post the link or the poem into a Schoology discussion.  3) Give one sentence explaining why your peers would like it.

I couldn't believe where the students took this.  Some gravitated toward poems they knew.  Some went to Button Poetry, a poetry slam site I have shared with them before.  Some students went out into the hallway to gather around an iPad.  Some students spent a very long time working on writing their own very silly but fun haiku.  Some students paired up and shared ear buds.  Some students went to poems in their native language, wondering whether they should translate it on their own or if they should just settle for Google.

(The formatting looks normal on the iPad.  This is the desktop view.)
But just as importantly, some students started calling across the room to each other to watch this poem or that.  They really got into it--even the students who weren't as on task to start.  There was no assessment attached to it.  The value was that students were able to explore and to experience.  And in the end some students maybe started to like poetry or learn that poetry can be more than the may have thought.  And in the best case some students found some poems that said things that they had thought but hadn't heard anyone express so beautifully before.

Today we will start class by spending time looking through the poems posted in the Schoology discussion, watching some of the videos people shared, and commenting on everyone's posts.  Then we will use that as a foundation to read some Emily Dickinson and John Donne!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Exit Slips and Higher Level Thinking

By Mark Heintz

Higher level thinking in May? You bet! At the end of my lesson on Monday, students wrote four impacts of the Neolithic Revolution.  We did one as a class, then they attempted three in their groups. As an exit slip, students submitted what they thought was their best to an open ended essay question in Schoology.

As I read through them, I found that some students grasped the goal of the lesson and used the document as evidence, while others...needed more time. There was such a wide range of sentences submitted and some students did not submit.  As I was reading, I realized I wanted all students to see the range of writing.   Furthermore, I wanted students to evaluate the writing and rank it as either high, middle, and low quality.

I took student exemplars and I typed them in a note in Notability, then attached the note it to Schoology.  This enabled the students to simply drag or edit the statements.  

The students ranked the statements from high to low and it was great! The students saw student examples from the day before.  They ranked the statements simply by clicking on the statements and moving them to the top if they were the best and the bottom if they were the worst.  As a class we discussed the why they ranked them they way they did.  The students were providing great reasons and rationales for their rankings.  The students who did not submit their statement the previous day were exposed to different quality of statements.  The students received timely feedback that improved their writing.  At the end of the day, the students were asked to complete a similar task with the Second Agricultural Revolution and the statements were significantly stronger.  

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Elk Grove Ciné Student Film Festival

Written by Linda Ashida

If you missed the Elk Grove Film Club's Film Festival this year, make sure to put it on your calendar next year!

The Elk Grove Ciné Student Film Festival was a great event that brought together students from across the District to showcase their creative flimmaking talents. The Film Festival was the vision of Social Science teacher Bruce Janu who founded the club just this year. Bruce wrote a post this week and last week about his use of Vox Vote to engage the audience in voting for the best film. However, I did not want the week to go by without expanding more on this great event as a shout out to Bruce and his students for the countless hours they devoted to such an awesome creative learning experience that involved students, staff and the community across District 214!

Preparation for the Film Festival, held on Saturday, May 9th, was extensive. Many club meetings were devoted to learning about the craft of filmmaking. To inform students, staff and the community about the club activities and film festival, Bruce created a Ciné Student Film Festival website and an Elk Grove Film Club Twitter. The club gained generous funding from community organizations and the Elk grove Parent Teacher Council to support the cost of equipment, filmmaking apps and the Film Festival.

The event itself had all the makings the Oscars! Red carpet photo-ops and interviews with the filmmakers, actors and actresses; a quality panel of judges (including EG's very own John Bottiglieri and Ralph Scalise); student EmCees; an alumni film; an alumni spotlight, a staff film; eleven student films; audience participation to vote for the best film; and, a final awards ceremony with generous prizes including a $100.00 Grand Prize for the best film!  Check out the Ciné Student Film Festival Website to learn more! Don't miss the video of highlight photos from the evening, including this one of Bruce Janu in his Elk Grove green and gold!

And . . . Watch for the date for next year's Ciné Student Film Festival and mark your calendars!

Assigning Roles in Group Work

By: Rachel Barry

When you walk into my classroom, you will see the desks grouped into pods of four desks.  I promote collaboration amongst my students, when students are not taking a summative assessment because I believe that it is important for students to work together to solve problems as well as verbalize their thought processes.  I love when I hear students teaching one another how to start or work through a math problem.  Not only does it help the student in need, but it also reinforces the content knowledge with the student helper.  

Over the course of the year, I have instilled group expectations with my students both academically and behaviorally.  Students are aware of these expectations, however, as we are nearing the end of the school year, I have found that some students are becoming a bit lackadaisical with these expectations.  So today I am going to try something new -- providing students with specific roles within their group work.

Students will be working in their groups on this document.  I will then give each student a role within their groups: facilitator, recorder, checker, and reporter.  The facilitator will keep the group on task and moderate the discussion through this checklist.  All math work and additional notes will be made by the recorder.  The checker will go through the work and answers of the group to make sure that they are correct, and the reporter will report out their answers during the class discussion at the end of the period.  

Prior to beginning I will communicate to my students that I expect each student to fulfill the duties of the specific position.  I will also tell students that they will be evaluated on their efforts in that role.  Upon completion of the activity, students will complete this Google Form to self-assess their efforts, both group and individual.  

Monday, May 11, 2015

VoxVote, Part II

By Bruce Janu

The first annual CinéStudent Film Festival closed its curtain on Saturday night. We highlighted 11 student films, giving out over $200 in awards.  One of the awards was an "Audience Award," voted on by the audience in attendance.

As I mentioned last week, I decided to try VoxVote for the audience voting at the festival.  After setting everything up, I felt pretty confident it was going to work. I didn't even have a back-up plan, which is unusual for me.  I always try to figure out ways in which things can go wrong and, in this case, I either felt confident or simply ran out of time to come up with an alternative.

Luckily, I didn't have to.

When the audience was ready to vote, I decided to start off with a basic polling question just to get the audience ready and logged on.  After displaying the website and pin for VoxVote, I took them to the first question.  The presentation was being fed through Power Point, so I had to "command+tab" to a web browser on the Mac which was already set to go with the my VoxVote account.  I showed them the first question:  "To what upcoming movie are you most looking forward?"

The audience then voted.  I refreshed the screen periodically so the audience could see how it worked and get a near real-time tally.

And, surprisingly, Finding Dory won.

Then it was time to vote on the best film for the audience award.  I hit the next button and told the audience to start voting and that voting would only be open for 5 minutes. But there was one small problem: I had forgotten to hit the "start" button and people started pointing out that they could not vote.  Once that was figured out, the voting started in earnest. For this segment of the voting, I chose not to display the tally* and just "command+tabbed" back into Power Point.  I then went upstairs and logged onto a computer to watch the results.  After five minutes, I saw who had won and quickly printed out a certificate for the winner.

One thing I didn't do was to hit the next button when I was done collecting votes.  If I had done that, I would have been given the option to close the voting and all of the participants would have received a message on their devices:

Overall, VoxVote worked extremely well and I am thinking about ways to use it now in class. I'm even going to use it to collect votes for Film Club elections for officers, film screening choices and for film ratings.

Here are some thoughts about VoxVote and its use:

1. Practice.  Once you set everything up, go into preview mode. Run it off you computer and then try out several devices as if you are a participant.
2. Since VoxVote is web based, it can be used on any device.
3. Data can be collected, archived and sorted.  You can even email voting summaries to participants.
4. It would be nice to embed the VoxVote website directly in Power Point, but our versions for the Mac do not allow this.

Give VoxVote a try.  Remember, it is free for District 214 teachers.  Just make sure you register with a 214 email.

Any questions, just ask.


* I chose not to display the tally because there were some films that did not receive any votes and I didn't want hurt feelings.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Book Recommendation: Mindset by Carol Dweck

By Kim Miklusak

I've just finished reading Mindset: the New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck.  The book is an informative and eye-opening read for everyone, but it's especially insightful for teachers, parents, and students.

The short and overly simplified version is that there are two mindsets: "fixed" and "growth."  The fixed mindset believes people are good/bad at something, that people like/dislike them, that there is success/failure and no possibility to change.  Conversely, growth mindset people learn from each experience.  They see paths and take steps to improve and grow.  In the book Dweck covers several chapters on how these mindsets are demonstrated in business, sports, school, and so on.  She explores situations where a person could think and act differently and provides suggestions for change.

Graphic from the book
This idea of mindset has enormous consequences for our students but also for ourselves as teachers.  We know the student who says "I'm bad at math," "I'm good at writing," and so on.  As I noted in my other blog (shameless plug!), it is imperative that we show students how a growth mindset leads to greater success.  It's equally imperative that we set up our curricula in such a way that students have tangible steps toward this success: feedback via formative assessment.

Additionally, it's important for us to look at our own mindset as teachers: do we feel we are done growing?  Do we look at each opportunity as a way to learn and explore?  Do we assume that we "deserve" success/failure based on our actions?  Do we look at our students that way?  And if not, can we take steps to change?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Reflections from the Anti-Blogger

By: Rachel Barry

At the beginning of second semester, our Instructional Technology Team decided to post daily blogs.  This meant that each of the four of us would write a post one day of the week, and we would collaborate or bring in a guest blogger for the fifth day.  I will readily admit that I was not nearly as excited as the rest of the team with this decision.  What will I write about?  When will I find the time?  Who wants to read what I have to say?  Needless to say, I tip-toed into this new world of blogging with a sense of apprehension.

I decided to first post about what I know, which I now see as "matter of fact" posts.  This is how I introduce content to my students, this is how I assess my students, this is how I use data to drive instruction, etc.  In these posts, I walked teachers through the reasoning behind using a specific technology resource over another, and sometimes provided "how-to" directions to help a teacher just starting with the process.  Eventually I moved into more philosophical education topics, such as the role a teacher plays in the classroom or the meaning of a letter grade.  With the elimination of my self-doubt, I soon found was that I was actually enjoying this process!

Blogging has forced me to reflect on my teaching.  We educators don't always take the time to reflect on our practices because we are caught up in the assessment that needs to be edited, the quizzes that need to be graded, and the parent needs to be contacted.  At first, it felt like another thing to add to my list of things to do, however, now I find myself reflecting over my teaching at odd times.  I use these thoughts, as well as my conversations with coworkers, in brainstorming future blog posts.

I used to believe that I spent a lot of time reflecting on my teaching.  I am an avid runner and spend a lot of time commuting, so I felt that I was taking the appropriate amount of time between these two activities contemplating how my lessons went that day.  I have found, though, that physically writing down my thought processes has had a significant impact on the way I think about my lessons and the modes of implementing curriculum.   I articulate things differently when I am explaining to an audience.  I think about my practices from multiple angles -- I play devil's advocate with myself.  Why did I implement that topic that way?  Was it the best use of time?  Did students learn the content accurately and fully?  Does the app I chose best support my learning goal?  Ultimately, blogging makes me think about why we educators do what we do, and more specifically why I do what I do.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Active Learners

By Mark Heintz

I create a lot of materials for my students to learn such as lecture notes, examples, PowerPoints, quizzes, review materials, videos and a number of other items.  I learn a lot in process of creating these materials, in fact, way more than my students, because I create and they do not.

In my first few years of teaching, I was the sage on the stage.  I lectured and created materials all towards the purpose of students understanding the content.  However, I found that I spent an exuberant amount of time going back over material that I already covered, because the students had poor retention rates of the material.  Even more revealing, the review day had more of an impact on students test grades than the learning that occurred over the entire unit.  The review day put material in their short term memory that was useful on the test the next day.

After reflecting, I found that most of the student learning was passive.  So, I present the Cone of Learning! When students are active in the process, their retention rates increase.

Now, I want my students to be an active participant in the learning process.   The picture below shows one of the learning goals for the first unit our Human Geography class.   Also, it states the skills students will develop in that unit.  The marriage of these two, content and skills, is crucial to learning. It forces the learning process to be based on reading, writing, interpreting, and mainly doing the work. 

After the purpose has been set, the students will manipulate images to one of the categories of the five themes.  Then, the students will write why they think the image belongs in that category.  I should preface this learning progression by stating this will be the students first exposure to the five themes of geography.  I want the students to build their background knowledge through interpreting images and writing out their understanding of that interpretation.  Then, the students will discuss their interpretations in a small group setting, and finally report out as a class.

Normally, I would have lectured to the students on the five themes to first give the students background knowledge.  I would have found images to give the students specific examples and guided them through the themes from my direct instruction.   Now, I love the students being an active participant in their learning.    

All of this background building will lead to the students writing in response to a document based question on the five themes of geography. Along the way, students will have practiced the skills and been given feedback as they learn.  They will write to learn and learn to write at the same time, all while being active participants in the learning process.  

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Blogging as Professional Learning: D214 Highlights!

Written by Linda Ashida

In the Collab Lab, our work is guided first and foremost by our goal to transform learning; learning for students and staff.  We continually strive to foster connections to multiply our learning. Over the course of this year we have been reminded over and over again about the tremendous impact that blogging can have on professional learning.  This post will highlight the impact of our Collab Lab Blog, and will also share the blogs of other colleagues at Elk Grove High School and throughout District 214. Please check them out!  Consider leaving comments for the authors!  If you know other D214 blog authors, please let us know and we'll update this post.

The Collab Blog
Just this morning I received an email from a colleague who was interested in preparing some videos for student learning.  She had heard of the apps ShowMe, Explain Everything, and Educreations.  She wondered which app would be the best.  My initial response was to suggest that she come down to the Collab Lab to talk with us, but then I remembered that one of our teachers, Quinn Loch had written a Guest Post for our Collab Blog that was a review of those very apps!  So, I still invited her to stop by the Collab Lab (we would love to meet with her to learn more about her plans and support her work!), but I directed her to first check out Quinn's Blog post, and then other EG colleagues, like Kirsten Fletcher, Mark Heintz and Christina Barnum, who had also written about their use of those apps.  After this exchange I couldn't help but think about how our Collab Blog has really had an impact on professional learning at EG:  The authors learn through the reflective process of writing the post; the blog serves as a way to document and curate our learning; and, our posts multiply our collaboration and connections with others.

In addition to the example above, there have been many other occasions that colleagues have mentioned to us that they have used the Collab Blog as a resource for their own teaching. For example, after Katie Owen did a Peer Learning Workshop on Using Notability to Engage Students, we wrote a blog post to document and share her work with others.  Several teachers reported to us how happy they were to have that post a guide,  and to implement the same strategies in their own classes.

We look forward to continuing our daily posts to document and multiply learning even more! Moving forward, we would especially like to encourage more guest posts. Guest posts can be written by staff, students and community members. If you have a teaching /learning experience to share, please let us know!

In addition to the Collab Blog, the Collab Lab team considers Twitter to be an important micro-blogging platform to document and share our work, via the Collab Lab Twitter account and the use of the hashtag #EG1to1.  Check them out!

And, we have a challenge for you! If you are hesitant to blog yourself, why not think of Twitter as your first step to blogging. You could set a goal to document and share learning experiences in your classroom with photos and tweets just a few times a week.  It is such an easy and great way to curate your learning experiences with your students for your own reflection. At the end of the year, you'll be happy to scroll through your tweets and see the "year in review." And, if you add #EG1to1 to your tweets you'll be able to share and connect more broadly with students, colleagues, parents and the community!

And, check out these other District 214 Blogs:

This is Why We Write
Blog written by Kim Miklusak,  English Teacher and Department Technology Coach at Elk Grove High School.

Inaugural blog post on "Medium" written by Kristen Gierman,  Social Science Teacher and Coach at Elk Grove High School.

Spotlight on Innovation
A series of weekly posts on "Medium" written by Teresa Buczinsky,  English Teacher and Division Technology Coach at Prospect High School.

Blog written by Jeff Vlk,  Innovative Technology Facilitator at Buffalo Grove High School.

Buffalo Grove HS Learning and Instruction
Blog written by Jill Maraldo, Associate Principal for Instruction at Buffalo Grove High School.

Do you know other D214 bloggers?  Please let us know so we can add them to this post!

Do you have other favorite educational blogs?  Let us know! We'll write another post soon, highlighting some of our favorite blogs from beyond District 214.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Vox Vote for Large Audience Voting

By Bruce Janu

The CinéStudent Film Festival is coming this Saturday with 11 student films from Elk Grove, Prospect and Hersey. As part of the program, each film will be eligible for an “Audience Award.” The audience will get to vote on the film they think is best.

The problem is: how do we conduct that vote?

Of course, the standard is paper and pencil. But this involves manually counting the ballots. We want immediate feedback. I have used several survey apps and websites over the years, such as Survey Monkey, Ballot Bin and Easy Polls.  Most recently, I have used Socrative during large presentations. However, I wanted to try something different—something more like an actual voting app.  One thing was for sure: the digital option was essential and, since most people have phones at least, a film festival can simply be another BYOD event.

That’s when I discovered VoxVote.

VoxVote is a newer company, offering a mobile voting platform in which real-time results can be displayed via a projector or computer. It works on all platforms, from Apple to Android, and was designed specifically for large presentations.

It is free for teachers, too.  And now it is set up so that anyone with a “” email can make a free, unlimited account.

Here’s how it works:

After creating an account, click on the “create a new event” button. Then, write questions that your audience can answer using their devices with appropriate responses.

My event is set now with one question: “Which film of the 2015 CinéStudent Film Festival gets your vote for the "Audience Award?"

When I am ready for the audience to begin voting, they need to take out their device and go to (or use the free app). They will be prompted for a pin number.

After entering the pin number that you give them, this is what they will see:

On my end, I see a graph and a running total of the votes. This graph can be displayed on the projector, giving a real-time vote count. However, you are manually required to hit the refresh button in order to update the results. This is built into the system on purpose, so that early votes do not cause undue influence on the voting during your event.

Once the voting starts, you can refresh the screen periodically to show a running total of the votes. 

VoxVote seems to be very flexible. I can add questions on the fly if needed. I can change the types of questions asked.  How secure is it as a voting platform? I am not sure. According to the website, VoxVote prevents users from voting more than once. But, like anything, I am sure there are work-arounds. However, I have control over how long the voting continues and can cut it off after a certain amount of time. 

Mobile voting is one way to make presentations more engaging by forcing audience participation. As someone who does a lot of forums throughout the year, a quick way to display questions with immediate feedback can add much to a presentation.

I have used Socrative for “quizzes” during forums. But VoxVote may offer something a little more unique for larger gatherings of people.

And, hopefully, this will be the ideal tool for our film festival.

We’ll see on Saturday. Next week I’ll let you know how it all worked and if Vox Vote is worth the time.