Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Peer Observation Day at Elk Grove High School!

Written collaboratively by the ITF / DTC Team:  Linda Ashida, Rachel Barry, Mark Heintz, Kirsten Fletcher, Quinn Loch, Kim Miklusak and Katie Winstead

Today the Collab Lab hosted a new variation on the Elk Grove High School tradition of peer observing, that started five years ago. (To learn more about the history of Peer Observation Groups at EG, check out this Google slide presentation.) On this  Peer Observation Day we offered opportunities to visit classes every period of the day. Though the format has changed this year, the goal is the same: To provide ongoing, collaborative, and personalized professional learning opportunities to colleagues from across disciplines.

To inform staff about this professional learning opportunity, we messaged them the week before via Twitter and email using the infographic above. Without the need to RSVP, interested staff were invited to meet in the Collab Lab, during any period they had Conference or time free. Each period we went as a group to visit two different classrooms for about ten minutes.

Following the class visits, the groups returned to the Collab Lab to share applications, ideas, questions, and next steps related to our own work with students.  We wrote notes on the Collab Lab white board wall to hold our thinking. It was great to see how the ideas grew as the day progressed. And even the notes themselves, not just the observations, sparked new ideas, as teachers could see what people had written from the periods before them.  One of the DTCs who came in to the Collab Lab at the end of the day said, "Oh my gosh! There are so many great ideas on the wall since I left 5th period!"

The observations sparked many great conversations about connections across disciplines and applications to our own classes.  The class visits even inspired same-day applications of ideas! For example, Kristen Guth was inspired 2nd hour by observing Mark Heintz' use of Google Docs to have groups of students collaborate to analyze sources related to the learning goals (Each student group worked on a on a single class-shared Google Doc, so after the activity, each group could see the work of the other groups).  By the end of third hour, Kristen dropped by the Collab Lab to share how she had already adapted Mark's idea to use in her English classes 4th hour!

An important point that came up in conversation each period was the need to remember that our focus is always on learning, and implementing technology according the student learning goals and our readiness for next steps. That is, just because we are a 1:1 school doesn't mean our lessons should be driven by technology.  Some lessons we saw today would be considered "low-tech" and yet they were engaging, sometimes "hands-on," offering students time to think aloud, process learning with peers, make their learning visible and get immediate feedback. For example,  in one lesson students collaborated and used string and paper labels to represent the great lakes and sustainability.

At the same time, we need to recognize and be open to learning about the ways that technology can, indeed, transform learning; learning experiences that couldn't be accomplished without technology. For example, today we say lessons that included: targeted and immediate feedback with Schoology Rubrics; collaboration, peer-feedback, and differentiated learning with Google Docs and BaiBoard; and, messaging authors via Social Media, in hopes of getting feedback directly from the source!

Another point that came up in our post-observation conversations was that with all the sparks of ideas we shared today, we should not put pressure on ourselves to do too much.  It is important to strike balance, with an open mind to see and hear new ideas, and be inspired by them, and at then filter out the the next steps that make sense for each of us and our students.  Furthermore, as several teachers mentioned, there is so much value in simply getting to know the work or our peers and our students -- what learning looks like -- in other classes.  Even students throughout the day commented how interesting it was to see teachers learning together in their classes.  Both staff and students were very open to having the peer observers wander around their classes and talk to the students about their work. We have so much to learn from the students too!

In addition to documenting our learning on the Collab Lab white board walls, the ITF / DTC team also created a shared Google Doc to take notes each period. The doc includes a chart with the names of teachers who have Conference each period (so we would could anticipate who might join us, and to follow-up to share our ideas). The chart also contains links to a note doc for each period which will also facilitate our future connections and next steps for learning.

Several teachers identified next steps they planned to take and they made arrangements to meet with DTCs in the Collab Lab. For example, one teacher plans to explore ways to engage students with Notability. He'll meet with a DTC tomorrow, try the ideas out in his classes, and then report back to us in the Collab Lab to let us know how it worked, and to share his example with others.  This is just one example of the many ways that professional learning multiplies through our peer collaboration in the Collab Lab.

Today's observations inspired some good suggestions from teachers related to next steps for Collab Lab support of our professional learning. For example, one suggestion was to have themed Learning Labs, like "Notability Day" or "Baiboard Day," where any period of the day teachers could drop by the Collab Lab to explore ways to engage students, build collaboration, increase peer-feedback and student-ownership of learning, and give immediate and targeted feedback with one specific app.  Staff could share examples with each other and have time to "play."

As one of our DTCs tweeted at the end of the day, it was a very informative --and FUN! -- day of learning together. To get more of an idea of what our day "looked like," check out tweets at #214Learns and #EG1to1.   For some highlights of the days Tweets, check out this Storify.

We would like to give a big shout out to staff who welcomed colleagues to their classes:

1st Period: K. Fletcher - AP French, K. Miklusak - AP English Language
2nd Period: M. Heintz - Human Geography, K. Miklusak - AP English Language
3rd Period: Q. Loch - AP Environmental Science, B. Kale - Written & Oral Communication
4th Period: R. Barry - Honors Geometry, D. Saken - AP Psychology
5th Period: Q. Loch - AP Environmental Science, K. Fletcher - French 4
6th Period: M. Heintz - World History, T. Boczar - Physics
7th Period: M. Heintz - World History, C. Mullaney - Advanced Algebra
8th Period: B. Kale - Written & Oral Communication, C. Cirrincione - Human Geography

Also, a big thank you to all the staff who joined us on these class visits.  We had from one to seven peer observers each period! We are looking forward to ongoing collaboration -- continued ways we will Connect - Learn - Share -- to strengthen our interdisciplinary professional learning networks even more, with our colleagues at Elk Grove High School, and in District 214 and beyond!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Educational Uses of Infographics

By: Rachel Barry, Chris Cirrincione, Bonnie Kale, Midge SnowIzabella Wnek, and Katie Winstead

Infographics are visual aids in the form of diagrams, charts, etc. used to summarize information. These are particularly beneficial to students who are visual learners.  There are countless ways to use infographics in the classroom, such as course syllabii, pre-teaching a topic, review of key concepts, and announcements.  Here are some powerful examples of using infographics in education:

1. Syllabii
Infographics are a great way to spice up your syllabus and the first few days of class.  Often times syllabi are long with a ton of information that students/parents will need throughout the year.  An infographic is a great way to summarize the most important information in a visually appealing graphic.   During the first week, when Chris Cirrincione went through the syllabus, he used the infographic instead.  Chris then posted the infographic to his Schoology course and referred back at various times, including Open House.

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 12.14.50 PM.png    Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 2.31.01 PM.png

Infographics not only summarize important information, but also appeal to more visual learners, who often lose interest quickly when reading through a long, and often boring, syllabus.  English Language Learners, and students with learning disabilities and other special needs, also appreciate a more interactive and engaging alternative to the traditional syllabus.  When using the infographic, Izabella Wnek noticed a marked increase in students who are willing to volunteer to read aloud in front of the class.  The simplified language, short pieces of text, and visual aids, promote understanding in all students.  In addition to reviewing the infographic in place of reading through a syllabus and posting it to Schoology, Izabella also created a poster of the infographic for the classroom that will be available for students to refer to all year long.

ALCSyllabus.jpg WOCSyllabus.jpg

2.  Portfolio or Biography
As a case manager, Katie Winstead used to conference with all of her students at the beginning of the year and hand them a letter to keep and share with their parents. Out of the 20+ students she case manages, she would only have 1-2 of them in my classes, so the letter provided a great way for them to get to know her, where to find her, and what she was there for. The letter would often get lost, and students would ask her throughout the year when they could come to see her (either during the day or after school).  Last year, she started sending it in an email - but it was still so much information for students to read, process, and remember. This year she decided to make an infographic to send out to all her students and parents when she conferenced with them.  It's been great because students star the email (for easy access), have her picture on it (which is especially helpful for students who have difficulties with eye contact and remembering faces), and the information is much more visual and accessible to students.

3.  Review of Key Topics
Infographics can be used to succinctly display key formulas, relationships, or
concepts for students.  The visual aspect of it helps students to categorize relationships or view a hierarchy of ideas.  Rachel Barry uses the example below as a review guide for exponents, providing students with both a rule and an example in a simple graphic.

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 2.25.19 PM.png

4. Announcements
An announcement can be made more visually appealing through the use of an infographic maker.  Some provide free layouts that can be edited quickly to spice up a simple announcement.  Here are examples that Katie Owen, Linda Ashida, and Rachel Barry created to announce professional development opportunities with our staff.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 5.07.32 PM.png

How do you make an infographic?
There are a series of online sites devoted to infographics for the most novice to the more advanced.  Many of these sites, such as PiktoChart, have a series of pre-made infographics that you can manipulate.  If you are more adventitious you can start from scratch and create your own, but they are as easy to make as designing a powerpoint slide.

Easel.ly is another website that provides vhemes (visual themes) and templates to create infographics. Users can upload files and manipulate their visuals to their liking.  Furthermore, users are able to check out public visuals that have already been created for inspiration, and even create groups that a whole team/PLC can join.  This way, visuals created by any group member can be used by the entire team.  However, if you are the only one who has jumped on the infographic boat (for now), you can easily provide a shareable link to interested parties.

Please feel free to stop by the Collab Lab if you would like some help in creating an infographic!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Schoology Checklists as Formative Assessment

By Kim Miklusak

Schoology checklists are not new on this blog: you can read more on how different subjects have used them here!  This year, Matt Snow & I are using them to differentiate instruction and provide immediate feedback for students at the AP level.

The sequence goes like this: Students take a pre-reading quiz on vocabulary from the text, using context clues and roots to determine the meaning of 5 words.  They have 3 opportunities to take the quiz in order to get 100.  This will then unlock the text, which students will annotate and submit, receiving quick feedback on a 4-point scale.  They then take a 10-question comprehension quiz, participate in a discussion in which they write a sample thesis (again using a 4-point scale).  Finally they are able to unlock the AP writing/analysis assignment, which targets individual writing skills.  None of these steps is graded!  They are the foundational skills required to reach higher level understanding, so students receive self-, peer-, and teacher-provided formative feedback before moving on. 
This example is not set up as a checklist because we are modelling it for students first.
The next assignment will be a linear checklist feature.
We have multiple goals for this set-up: 1) we hope to catch each student where s/he needs the most support, 2) we hope to provide immediate feedback on targeted skills, and 3) we hope to allow students who do not need as much support the opportunity to push themselves farther than they may have been able to in a traditional classroom set-up.

In pre-1:1 years, I had students fill out an excel print out, noting what score they received on the 4-point scale for each writing skill [more information on that can be found here].  But now with Schoology, if I can mark assignments as "graded" even if they are formative, I am able to see a running tally of how each student scored on each individual writing skill.  Now not only do students get quicker, targeted feedback on individual skills, but they can see their own development over time, thus making revisions and conferencing more effective and efficient.

This screen shot is set to display our "writing" rubrics/skills.
I can also change the view to "reading" or grammar rubrics/skills
You'll see in the sample above that there are some things I need to work out: for example, how to label each assignment.  Nevertheless, I'm excited to work with these features for this upcoming year!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Understanding by Design, Feedback and Empathy

What does Understanding by Design, Feedback, and Empathy have to do with each other? Well, they are three core principles that Grant Wiggins believes in and Jay McTighe talked about in his blog post, "Three Lessons for Teachers from Grant Wiggins."
Lesson #1 is to always keep the end in mind. This goes back to discussing Understanding by Design - which is not just backwards design, but really focuses on having specific goals that have appropriate assessments and instruction. This really ties in well with our discussions on Standards Based Grading and Assessment for Learning. Making sure students know the goals are and how to achieve mastery is a huge part of helping them keep the end in mind, as well.
Lesson #2 is that feedback is key to successful learning and performance. If students know what the goals are and how to achieve mastery, the next thing they need to know is where they are at and how to move forward. This is why feedback is vital in the process of learning. McTighe also points out that teachers need to receive feedback (or formative assessement information) in order to know where to guide students. This could even be quick things like exit slips, polls, or a thumbs up/thumbs down activity to gauge learning.

Lesson #3 is to have empathy for your students. I feel that this is one of the most important things to consider, and actually what all of our actions stem from. If we can understand that our students are novices, and realize how we felt when we were a novice at something, it is easier to have empathy for students and create a learning environment that supports them. Some school districts in Illinois are having new staff members shadow a student for a day (after a teacher tried it and Wiggins wrote about it here). When you realize what students go through sitting in classes all day and listening, it makes engagement a lot more important in designing lessons.

Members of EGLLT discussing the article during Monday's meeting.

If you thought about a workshop, conference or meeting you have attended - what would you have done differently to make it more engaging?

I thought about this recently and decided that the meetings and conferences I enjoy are the ones that have specific goals. I know what I'm going to learn, the different parts we are going through, and can follow along the path with the presenter/organizer. I also know exactly how to assess if I've learned what I need to, or that I have accomplished specific goals set out for the meeting (Lesson #1). I realized that I like to know how I'm doing and if I'm not on the right track, how to get back where I need to be. It's so frustrating to have someone look at your work and say, "You kind of got it - you're almost there," and then just walk away (Lesson #2). All of this helps me realize that this is exactly what my students are going through and what they need to be successful (Lesson #3).

We will miss you, Grant Wiggins, and appreciate all the wisdom you have left behind.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Technology and Literacy: What is the impact?

Written by Linda Ashida

On our district's non-attendance day, I had some time to catch up on my professional reading, and I came across a piece published yesterday by NPREd, "How TV Can Make Kids Better Readers"

The article summarizes key points of a book publisshed this week:  Tap, Click and Read, by Lisa Guernsey and Michael Levine.  For example: 

1) Digital content can have a positive impact in a two-pronged approach to developing literacy.

2)  The need to address media literacy and critical literacy in conjunction with traditional literacy that has always addressed reading, writing, speaking and listening. 

3) There are assets in both the language and culture of low-income Hispanic-Latino families related to digital media for learning purposes.

This thought-provoking read, would be a great discussion starter in professional learning groups - for teachers of any discipline and any level - who are grappling with the question that opens the article: "Is technology the best thing that ever happened to education? Or a silent killer of children's attention spans and love of learning."

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Using Flipboard for reading in the classroom

by Kirsten Fletcher

I've had a lot of conversations with staff members recently about how to get students reading in the content area. One of the ideas that came up was to let students explore Flipboard.

Flipboard is a great app to encourage reading because students can search multiple sources for articles on a particular topic. For example, if you want your students to read something about technology, they can search under that tab and browse snapshots of articles (and sometimes videos) from a variety of magazines, newspapers and websites. If a student wants to read more, there is a link that takes them to the full original article. It is also possible to follow others' boards or to tweet links directly from the app.

If students create an account, they can select the topics that most interest them so that those come up first. As a teacher, you could require them to include your subject in those preferences (economy, recipes, fashion, art, etc.) Searching by topic is a time saver and may bring students to resources they might not find by searching through Google. One teacher at our school is using this app to encourage his students to read about current events.

As a language teacher, my favorite feature is that students can choose their International Content Guide in preferences. I have my French students set it to France so that their menu and all related articles and videos pop up in French. This way they have exposure to authentic written and spoken sources.

Have any other engaging ways to get students interested in reading? We'd love to hear from you in the Collab Lab!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Multiplying Learning

Yesterday we had a very special opportunity to do some cool things at Elk Grove High School. Normally on Thursday mornings, educators have time between 7:40-9:00am to meet with PLTs. Yesterday, as Linda described in her previous blog post, we had a "Late, Late Start" which allowed us to have an extra hour of time to learn together!

With this extra time, we decided to get everyone together from some staff-led professional development. The morning started off with a wide variety of Spark Sessions - from mastery learning and peer tutoring, to modeling and scaffolding for learners of all types in a variety of settings. We learned about how these ideas impacted learning and, in some cases, the technology used to make the impact even greater. Each Spark Session was 3-5 minutes - and one session was even live on Periscope!

From there, staff members had the opportunity to learn more about the different Spark Sessions by meeting the presenter and colleagues in different rooms for an informal Learning Lab. It was great to see all the ideas being passed around. The presenters did a great job sparking interest (which then inspired everyone to join a room of their choosing) and then the entire staff was able to talk about different ways to implement the ideas and further ways to improve them.

Colleagues gathering to talk about Visible Learning.
One session I went to was with Adam Clayton, who talked about how important it is to increase language skills in math classes. He wanted to make learning visible by having students talk about their reasoning while solving math problems. To do this, he used Schoology to push out example problems that students opened in Notability. Once in Notability, students then recorded themselves talking about the problems while they solved them (see image below). These recording and notes can then be turned back into Schoology by sharing it as a note (a strategy I thought of last year - to find out more click here).

The most amazing thing about the session was that one teacher posed a question:
If I wanted to respond and write back to the student, could I then send the note to them with my voice and notes added?
Nobody really knew.. I suggested possibly sending it back in an email, but a second later Kim told us that you can drop back assignments to students in Schoology, so why not a note? Next thing you know everyone is playing around in Notability and sure enough - it worked! We practiced adding on additional audio recordings in Notability while drawing - that worked as well! It was amazing to see everyone working together to come up with a great new idea and multiplying learning. I learned something great that I would never have known if we hadn't had all those resources in one room together. So thank you to all my amazing colleagues for the great learning opportunity!

We would love to hear about your experiences with Spark Sessions, the Learning Labs, or any cool professional development opportunities you have been a part of and why they were so enjoyable =)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Building a Culture of Learning: A Day of Spark Sessions and Learning Labs

by Linda Ashida

Today the Collab Lab hosted Spark Sessions and Learning Labs for all staff during an extended late start Thursday morning.

It was a great morning of professional learning and interdisciplinary collaboration with 8 Spark Sessions (~five minutes each) followed by 2 informal Learning Labs (twenty-five minutes each).

We shared the schedule with staff via this Google Doc.  Our goal for the morning was to spark learning that would continue long after the day was over.  To faciliate future learning, we decided to make the doc editable during the morning and we invited all staff attending to add resources in the far right column of the document.

Feedback from the morning has been very positive. Staff indicated that they enjoyed the variety of the spark sessions and opportunity to learn and explore new ideas with colleagues from so many different departments in the Learning Labs. Also, many noted how the Learning Lab sessions demonstrated the rich interdisciplinary culture of learning at Elk Grove High School that continues to grow. A Spanish teacher commented how she enjoyed collaborating with a Science teacher and two music teachers to experimenting with audio assignments in Schoology! To get a better idea of what our day looked like and sounded like, check out highlights from Twitter curated in this Storify.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Cognitive Coaching®

This year I got two new roles as part of my job: Division Technology Coach and Mentor. Both roles allow me to get to know new people, learn from my peers, and use my time to help  staff members here at EG move down the path of new learning.

As part of these new roles, I took a workshop this summer that involved Cognitive Coaching®. The idea behind coaching is that when someone comes to you with stress, problem, or something they are working on - our initial thought is to help them out and give them possible solutions. Studies have actually shown that when you give someone solutions, they only use them about 5% of the time.

If, however, you use Cognitive Coaching® to help guide them towards their own solutions, they are more likely to feel better about the problem and know how to get there.

I am definitely no expert yet, but it has been a lot of fun coaching my colleagues this year instead of always trying to pull something out of my bag of tricks. Oh - there are times people ask me how to do X, Y and Z on Schoology or Notability. For those times, I just sit down with them and play around in the programs. When they come to me with lessons that did not go perfectly or students they are struggling to differentiate for, however, I am trying to spend my time listening and asking questions to really see what they need and where they struggle before helping to guide them to their own answer that will improve everyone's learning.

It's amazing what people will talk to you about and the remarkable ideas they will come up with when you listen =)

To learn more about Cognitive Coaching®, head over to the website where they have many resources. A great example of the work we did is this chart describing the differences between Cognitive Coaching®, Collaborating, Consulting and Evaluating found in the article "Cognitive Coaching® in Retrospect - Why It Persists."


Using Quizlet for Vocab Mastery

By Quinn Loch

Both my biology and AP Environmental Science classes have several important terms and concepts throughout each unit. Without a basic understanding of these terms, it's not possible for students to answer deeper level questions that require making connections, application, and problem solving.

One of the tools that I like to use for vocabulary is Quizlet. Quizlet is free, although a $24.99/year teacher account offers some more powerful features that I would argue are worth the money. It is available both on a web browser and on the iPad. Similar to flash cards, Quizlet offers several ways for students to practice their understanding of key terms in more interactive ways.

After making an account, students can join a class that you have set up on Quizlet and can study from "sets" or groups of vocabulary words that you have prepared. Words in a set can be studied as traditional flash cards or students can play a variety of games to help master a set of words.

My favorite part about Quizlet is the ability to see what kinds of terms students are struggling with. You can also (with the paid teacher subscription) see which students have studied a set and how they studied the set.

This feedback allows me to target specific terms and concepts that my students are struggling with in warm-ups and closers. It is also very easy for a student or teacher to "star" and isolate specific terms to study that might need more attention. Quizlet itself can also be great just as a warm up or closer.

Quizlet has a huge amount of shared sets that can be used as well, so creation form the ground up may not be necessary. For instance, sets for the APES textbook we use are readily available from other teachers and can be transferred to your classes. 

While Quizlet is just one of several apps that help with vocabulary, I find it to be one that gives me feedback that can help me modify my instruction to help students reach mastery of key terms and vocab.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Social Media for Leading and Learning

Written collaboratively by the Collab Lab's ITF / DTC team 

Social media has a significant impact on the engagement, influence, and connections students can make in their educational and professional lives.  

Linda Ashida presented the countless benefits of using social media to the students of Joe Bush's Leadership Through Service class. In this slide presentation, she first addressed the importance of being responsible digital citizens, and she shared examples of how students can protect their digital presence, or their digital tattoo. Linda emphasized the ways that students can build a positive digital presence to create connections with others, to learn, and to create future opportunities related to their academic and professional interests, as well as their passions. 

After the brief presentation on digital citizenship, students created a professional Twitter account.  Linda shared the importance of determining a simple and succinct - yet professional - Twitter handle and profile, in order to facilitate meaningful connections and learning opportunities. 

Linda also gave examples of how to tweet meaningful content so students can share their work with a broader audience, and how they could also think of Twitter as a micro-blog allowing them to document their experiences throughout the year.  Storify can be used to curate a sampling of tweets related to a common theme or event.  Here is an example of a Storify of tweets from Joe Bush that reflects the experience of EGLTS during the first weeks of school. Staff and students can do the same for any of their courses. If students and staff tweet routinely, they can easily build a portfolio of their experiences to reflect upon and share with others.

After establishing their Twitter accounts, students set up their own blogs on Blogger. These blogs will give students an avenue to share their thoughts and experiences in their leadership class throughout the year.

Using these tools will give students an opportunity to share their work with an authentic audience, build a collaborative learning network, receive feedback, and extend their learning in meaningful ways beyond the classroom. Furthermore, they will grow their a positive digital presence in ways that will inevitably lead to academic and professional opportunities long after they graduate from Elk Grove. 

Please watch for the students' Tweets and Blogger posts this year by following their class hashtag: #EGLTS.  Just as Linda encouraged them to engage with others, we hope you will engage with them to encourage them in their academic and professional pursuits!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Establishing Mastery Culture

By Kim Miklusak

This year the English Department has rolled out common expectations for all grades and levels.  We hope that these agreed upon norms will create consistency in mastery and rigor for all students.

1.  Common Weights & Categories:  30% Writing, 30% Reading, 30% Grammar, 10% Habits of Work (sophomores and juniors; freshmen and seniors have adjusted percentages for an "oral communications" category).  This shifts the focus to a more standards-based learning approach.  Teachers and students will be cognizant of what category or categories each assignment goes into.  For example, if a writing assignment is scored in writing and grammar, the students should be aware in advance of how and why the assignment is being scored in each area.  This reporting will also allow parents, students, and teachers to be able to clearly identify areas of strength and weakness.  Previously categories were designated as "major assignments" or "writing" but the effect was that it muddled together skills that did not accurately report out in grade form.

2.   Revisions: Every major essay requires two revisions for the first semester.  This will instill in students, again, the continuing importance of multiple drafts as well as mastery culture.  The first grade will be a completion grade and will be reviewed by a peer, a tutor, the author, or a teacher--at the discretion of the teacher.  The students should then ideally write a brief reflection, summarizing what and how they will revise, thus requiring students to be conscious of their writing.  By the second semester, the requirements change where students who receive a D or F are required to revise, but students who receive A, B, or C have an option to do so.  This focus shifts in order to aid the students in AP who will now be required to write a timed, graded essay on the AP exam in May.

3.  Habits of Work: This is a debated topic; however, the consensus was to remove "on time" points from major assignment grades. Again, this practice muddled what the grades meant and how parents and students understood them.  Now, for example, it's clear that a student can write a quality essay but struggles with completing work on time.  Additionally, the habits of work points serve as a placeholder to demonstrate that a student has completed a first draft even if a second draft is still pending.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

7 Reasons to Give Up Control to Your Students

by Mark Heintz

A few years ago I observed Linda Ashida changing the dynamic of her classroom by having students display all of the class materials through AirPlay. She relinquished control to the students and saw tremendous benefits.  Over the last year, I moved to a similar organization of the classroom and have seen the following:

1. Pacing. Students broadcasting over AirPlay changes the instruction pace to that of the student.  If a student displays any material from the class, they control the pace.  This way, I do not move too quickly through the information.  It forces me to have a student highlight the objective, open the reading, display the link, fill out the worksheet, or write the summary statement.  Having students display via AirPlay provides another layer of protection that further ensures all students are where they should be and are keeping up with the pace of the lesson.

2. Student examples.  Having students display everything over AirPlay provides live student examples of work.  Students become comfortable quickly with showing their work.  Providing their examples to the entire class provides instant feedback for their entire class!  What once was a one-on-one conversation, now benefits the whole class.  In a few minutes, I can evaluate several student's work in a timely fashion that benefits everyone.

3. A Safe Environment Focused on Learning.  If students display materials instead of the teacher, it rapidly creates an environment focused on the students' understanding of skills and content.  Students begin to feel comfortable sharing their work with the class.  They actually desire it, because it directly helps them get better at whatever you are working on.  Students know they can fail or be wrong at something because they will get the help they need to learn it.

4. Inclusion. A quiet student can have a loud presence through displaying via AirPlay.  An off task student can now be redirected through displaying the notes, writing down the summary, or displaying the materials to the entire class.  The student remains on task while displaying the information.

5. Students have all the materials.  When students display the course content, they have access to all of the materials.  As a teacher, I put up everything on Schoology.  For them to display everything, the course has to be logically laid out for each students to access the materials.  At the end of the lesson, they know where all of the learning materials were and often have them downloaded on their device.

6. Student Centered.  To have students display the materials, I plan on more student centered learning.  It forces me to create lessons that involve the students heavily and provides feedback to them constantly.  The lesson structure is developed with lots of checks for understanding that are centered around students displaying their work to the entire class.

7.  Freedom. Not being at my computer frees me to be with students. If I am not moving to the computer to change a PowerPoint, click on a link, pull up a reading, or anything else, I can be with the students.  I move around and see what they are doing instead of spending time at my desk. It minimizing my transitions as a teacher.  When students pull up the materials, I can be engaging students.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Five Things I Learned In The Colablab

During the first eight days of school, I intentionally went to the collablab each day to connect with one of the DTC’s.  Below is a summary of all of the things I have learned from my meetings:

1.    Does it increase student learning?
I asked Mark Heintz to help me “jazz” up a worksheet that I was making.  We talked about formatting, layout and font color.  Then after a few minutes, Mark asked if the new images would increase student learning.  I answered by saying “probably not.”  Mark then asked, why I was worried about spending so much more time designing something that won’t increase student learning. What I took away from that is a lesson I had learned years ago.  The lesson was this: Don’t spend too much time working outside your strength zone.  My strengths are far from anything artistic, and because I can make a halfway decent looking worksheet that will get the job done, spending time trying to do something to make it look too much better is not time well spent.

2.    Students will internalize information more when they share it with each other.
Kirsten Fletcher and I got on the subject of my son’s dual language school.  She pointed out that if he were really going to understand Spanish, it would require him to use it with his friends.  Friends create a special motivation that teachers and parents can’t necessarily replicate.   I took that same idea into my leadership class.  If students are going to practice being leaders, there needs to be a social incentive.  Rather than just hearing the lessons from me, students need to practice their leadership skills with one another. 

3.    Linking Schoology accounts
Quinn Loch showed me how to link Schoology accounts so when I add an assignment to one class, it automatically adds it to another class. This saved me so much time. 

4.    Storify
If you are looking to take all of your twitter hash tags and move them into one succinct location, use Storify.  This will help tell the story of a class, or a topic or any other idea.  It is quick, easy and effective.  

5.    We work with great people
As the year quickly settles in, don’t forget that we work with some amazing people.  I have found that I can learn so much from my colleagues by just asking questions.  Open up a dialog and see what happens. I did not intend to learn any of the previous four points, but they naturally evolved by stopping by the CollabLab.  Check it out, and see what you can learn.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Getting to Know You

By: Rachel Barry

My classroom and curricula are set up that my students collaborate everyday in my class.  In order to effectively collaborate with one another, they need to both feel comfortable within their groups and feel comfortable asking me for help when needed.  Therefore, they need to get to know each other and me!  In this blogpost, I am going to share with you a few ways that I have my students get to know one another.  Please comment with additional suggestions that you use in your classrooms!

1)  First Day of Class
On the first day of class, I had students in a seating chart, with name cards (notecard folded in half) telling each student where to sit.  As they are sitting down, I ask students to adjust their name on the card, if they have a nickname, and then write down any special needs on the inside of the card (ie: sit in the front of class).

Next, I had a few different ways for students introduce themselves to their groups and then to the rest of class.  First, I have this slide show up.  Once all students have made it to the classroom, I jump to the second slide:

This is a quick way for students to break barriers within their groups right away.  I walk around and listen to what the students are sharing with one another.  Then, I share a bit about myself, as I feel students are more comfortable when that have some insight into who I am as a person outside of school.  Following my introduction, I have all students go around the room and share a "favorite".  Each students' name card as their name written in one of three colors: green, purple, or red.  This slide tells each student which "favorite" to share with the class:

Sometimes I have to prod students to share, but most of the time students are eager to share.  

Finally, I have students download this Who Am I? worksheet from Schoology and complete it in Notability.  This assignment is two-fold: I get to know my students, and students get acquainted/reaqcuainted with using technology (using Notability, adding pictures to a note, submitting an assignment, etc.)

2)  Question of the Day
Everyday that we don't have an assessment in class, I ask students a "fun" question.  This year, I am using the Updates feature in Schoology.  

It's a quick attention-catcher right when the bell rings, and takes students less than 30 seconds to answer, and we all mutually learn more about one another in the process.

3)  Handshakes
In the past, I have made new seating charts every unit, however, I feel that some students become complacent in their spots.  This year, I am going to switch seats every two weeks.   On the first day of a new seating chart, I have students introduce themselves, shake hands, and provide some type of fun fact (birthday month, dream job, favorite fruit, etc.).  

Throughout the year, I use different methods to group students that also allow students to get to know one another.  Whether they are lining up by shoe size or grouped by their favorite fast food restaurant, I hope that they are becoming more comfortable with their peers, which I hope will lead to more collaboration.  Please comment with any additional methods you use in class to get to know your students and provide them with opportunities to get to know one another!