Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Why Do We Give Homework?

by Kirsten Fletcher

As a project for the District 214 Mentor Program, I recently sent out a survey to my school to find out what teachers really think about homework. The process alone of writing this survey was an educational one. I had the chance to collaborate with Rebecca Castro, a colleague at Wheeling who was doing a similar project. I also got feedback from several peers and administrators before sending out the questions. Their comments and corrections were incredibly helpful as I approached this touchy subject.

My goal in conducting this survey was to see if there was a general consensus about homework in our building. The following are some of the questions I asked:

  • What is the main purpose of your homework?
  • What type of homework do you usually give?
  • What percentage does homework occupy in your overall grade?
  • How often do you give homework?
  • How much time should it take students to complete your homework?
  • What percentage actually complete it on time?
  • Why do you think some students do not complete homework?
  • What are the consequences in your class for not completing homework?

As teachers, we all believe that what we do in the classroom is worthwhile and beneficial to learning. If not, we wouldn't be doing it. However, it seems that just within our building there is a wide range of perceptions about the benefits of homework. I received 78 responses from EGHS staff which were fairly evenly divided among divisions. Forty-eight percent of responses were from teachers of Honors or AP courses. Here are some of the results of my survey:

How long should it take students to complete your homework?

Most teachers reported that they offer students opportunities to earn credit for late work. When asked about the reason that most students do not complete homework, the most popular response was that our school culture makes it acceptable not to turn work in on time. Teachers also recognized that students' time constraints and lack of interest contribute to low completion rates. Some teachers (almost 20%) say that their colleagues assign too much homework and that this impacts students' ability to complete work for other classes.

The final question of the survey was an open-ended one. I wanted to know if teachers had any suggestions for improving the homework completion rate at our school. I was surprised at how many people took the time to give thoughtful responses. Some expressed frustration. Others talked about all the time commitments and other challenges that our students face outside of class. Many talked about the idea that students often don't do homework when they don't see the reason or purpose behind it. There seemed to be two major fields of thought. A significant group of teachers say that we need to assign credit (points) to homework and enforce strict deadlines in order for students to take it seriously. Another group of teachers say that homework must be clearly linked to assessments and that students will complete it (even without earning credit for it) if they see the purpose / value in it.

While this was only an informal survey, I hope that this exercise can be used to spark some meaningful discussions in the future about the purpose and relevance of homework to our students' learning. As I move into Summer, I am carefully reconsidering the role of homework in my own classes for the 2016-17 school year.

Friday, May 27, 2016

It's Yearbook Distribution Day!

Written by Linda Ashida

Finally the day has come!  After a full year of hard work--decision-making (on design, theme, layout), collaboration, interviewing, taking photos, managing deadlines, writing copy, designing, problem-solving--it is Yearbook Distribution Day! It is a day that Lisa Martineau and her Flashmob, along with all of the EG staff and students, have been eagerly awaiting! 

In anticipation of this exciting day, I had the chance to visit Lisa Martineau's Yearbook class and talk her students to learn more about what really goes into creating the final product.  There is so much more that goes into creating a yearbook than meets the eye.

I enjoyed learning how students take such care to plan a book that will really capture the essence of our school.  So much goes into creating and publishing a yearbook that several students told me that the class has been one of their best and most challenging.

Michella told me that Yearbook is one of her most challenging classes.  She said that is such an awesome class because:  "It has a little bit of everything. You learn social skills, interviewing, writing, computer skills, photography and technical skills. It's like a bunch of components of all the classes in school combined into one class. You learn stress management, time management, people skills."  Mariana concurred with her thoughts, as did all of the students with whom I spoke.

I enjoyed chatting with Denise and Pedro to learn how they decide the theme, layout, colors, and all the elements that will unify the entire theme of the book

Amairani and Ayleen shared how they use Photoshop to work on the graphic design.

Each member takes ownership of certain pages, but all must collaborate as a team to make the final product come together and capture the year at Elk Grove High School.

Students are excited to get their first look at the 2015-2016 EGHS Yearbook!


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Executive Functioning Skills

Executive Functioning Skills
by: Katie Winstead

A couple years ago I participated in an Executive Functioning Skills workshop that discussed interventions and tips that can be done at home and at school to help students. In this workshop we discussed some essential things that I think could benefit us all to know.

What are executive functioning skills? To put it simply, executive functioning skills are things like organization, time management, etc. It is the ability to manage what is around you in order to achieve a goal.

  • Managing time in the morning to brush your teeth, get dressed, eat breakfast and get school things ready in order to make the bus on time.
  • Planning out what you need to do a research project and how it will look before you start.
  • Planning what to pack before going on a trip.
How it affects learning and daily life:
  • Initiating tasks
  • Keeping track of time
  • Finishing work on time
  • Asking for help
  • Being organized

When you think about it, we use skills like these every day in our lives: as learners, workers and members of the community. The skill of keeping track of time is necessary in school when you have 10 minutes to finish an activity before lunch, at a job when your boss says something is due by the end of the day, or in daily life when you only have so much time to run an errand.

As a special education teacher, I work with students on these skills when students have major deficits that impact their learning and future goals. At Elk Grove High School, we even have an Executive Functioning class for our students in special education to help prepare them for life and what's to come. But is it just those students who really need the help?

This past Monday at our Elk Grove Lead Learners meeting, the English department started to talk about a variety of students who were struggling to organize and time-manage their school work and lives. We realized that from instructional to AP classrooms, students across the board were not being explicitly taught these executive functioning skills which was greatly impacting their academics as well as their ability to manage activities outside of school (jobs, clubs, activities, sports, relationships).

As a school, we have helped our students in special education as well as the Freshman class during Freshman First Days. Our thought: how do we continue to help students, especially those that are overbooked with classes and activities?

A little more about Executive Functioning Skills:

Graphic of 8 Key Executive Functions

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Student Perspective on Summer Reading

By Mark Heintz

At the beginning of May, Elk Grove kicked off summer reading with a school-wide initiative of trying to read a million minutes. You can read about the kick off here. We are nearing the end of that venture, and I asked a few of my first period freshmen on their thoughts. Here are two different student opinions on the million minutes of reading.

Summer Reading Choice: We Were Here by Matt De La Peña
By Nelson Alcantar

In my opinion, I think that reading the summer reading book is a very good thing. I like summer reading because I can start my mind for the day by slowly reading. When I say it slowly starts my mind, I mean that I usually feel sleepy and tired when I don't read. I feel that I can't focus. But by reading it starts my mind by feeding it words and thoughts slowly. Also I like reading the summer reading book at school because I don't read outside of school. I don't even know what's a book outside of school. So I think reading at school helps me finish the book and work faster.

Also, I love summer reading at school because my book is very good. I love my book because it has so much suspense and action. My book is about how a kid named Miguel took bad decisions which lead him to where he his right now. He has to go through many things in order to leave from there and he is also having many problems.

In all honesty, I think every school should start by reading a book for 10 min every day so they can learn more and get closer to books then iPods, iPhones, and other distractions.

Summer Reading Choice: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau
By Reyna Shino 

I enjoy summer reading because it starts my day off less stressful. Knowing that I have time in the morning to just relax and read a book is great. I don't have to worry about jumping right into today's agenda. Reading is a great way to expand your vocabulary. I also enjoy the book I am currently reading called The Testing. It is a great book for students who enjoyed books such as The Hunger Games series and Divergent. I definitely encourage people to read this book.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Book Recommendation: Cultivating Social Justice Teachers

By Kim Miklusak

I recently finished reading the book Cultivating Social Justice Teachers.  The subtitle highlights the focus of the book: "How Teacher Educators Have Helped Students Overcome Cognitive Bottlenecks and Learn Critical Social Justice Concepts."  The text is a series of academic articles focusing on different "bottlenecks," which the Introduction defines as "a sort of collective comprehension backup that occurs when educators struggle to facilitate effective learning around a foundational concept or competence--what Meyer and Land (2003) have called 'threshold concepts'" (Gorski, Osei-Kofi, Zenkov, and Sapp). 

Teachers and pre-service teachers may experience any one or more of these "bottlenecks," which potentially limit their understanding, instruction, or effectiveness.  Some of the topics include heteronormativity, deficit thinking, white privilege, immigration as a humanitarian issue, and meritocracy.  Each author shares background on their topic, personal experiences in their own lives or in their teaching, examples with students, lessons and activities, and additional resources.

It is vital for each of us as educators to understand how our own backgrounds and identities affect our teaching.  While I don't think this book is the one to pick up to start this reflection in our own lives and careers, I can't stress enough that I think it's important for all teachers and pre-service teachers to read, explore, and reflect upon these topics.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Lead Learners Wrap-Up

By The Collab Lab Team

Today we had the final Lead Learners meeting of the school year.  We started off by activating prior knowledge and sharing our successes this year:

We then had a series of lesson demonstrations.  The first was from Grove Junior High teachers Tracy Groark and Kerry Frazier who shared the evolution of how they communicate learning targets with their students and new and more intentional ways they connect instruction and assessments more to those learning targets. They both included examples of how they use Google Forms, and even Kahoot to engage students and better understand gaps in their understanding.

Leslie Guimon then shared the evolution of learning targets on the Spanish team.  She shared how the courses were once aligned thematically, then grammatically, and so on.  After discussing at length and agreeing on Enduring Understandings for all levels of Spanish, they developed clear learning targets for each level.


The final demonstration was from Tom Boczar.   He discussed how students in Physics classes reflect on their assessments and objectives, using a rubric to determine understanding.  Was there a disconnect or misconception about what they knew?  Was there uncertainty--a lack of confidence or guessing?  Or was there mastery.  The reflection is student-directed, and Tom noticed how important it was to students when he almost skipped the process after a recent unit.  The students objected and insisted he not skip it!


Following the lesson demonstrations, teachers engaged in a self assessment activity.  Each participant was asked to bring an assessment they currently use.  Using the self-assessment checklist below, teachers individually assessed the method they were using, where their targets fell, and if their assessment met four conditions for a quality assessment. The group then shared out their "A-Ha" moments about their own assessments, and plans for next steps.

This final EGLLT wrapped up with a year-end evaluation and time for teachers to collaborate in course-alike teams to continue conversations about their next steps. Feedback from staff on the evaluation will be used to plan future professional learning experiences.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Inter-District Collaboration

By The Collab Lab Team:

Yesterday a team from Bremen HS came to visit the Collab Lab after participating in our webinar on "Collaborating to Learn" hosted by the Illinois Principals Association and EdLeaders Network last month.  This team of administrators and teachers is looking to expand their peer observation, professional development, and teacher leader opportunities and were interested in asking questions about how Elk Grove's Collab Lab formed and evolved.

We are thankful for the Bremen team for coming to visit us, and we look forward to the opportunity to continue to work with, visit them, and learn from them across districts as well!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Self-Assessment and Science Skill Tracking

written by Quinn Loch

A few days ago, Kim Miklusak provoked some great conversations in the Collab Lab about how we have students self-assess and how we can get students to better understand their current skill set. You can read her previous blog post about cognitive bias and how people can incorrectly evaluate themselves when it comes to knowledge or skills.

Mark Heintz recently shared his approach with self-assessment and skills tracking using Schoology's many features. The goal is to have students assess themselves and allow them to compare their assessment to the teacher's assessment. This can help close the cognitive bias gap that students often have and it can give students a better understanding of what skills they might need more attention on, even if they didn't realize it.

I have this same goal when it comes to self-assessment of science skills, however I plan to implement this strategy on paper throughout the year. In biology, we typically have a lab for each unit that gives a chance to provide formative feedback, and we have lab practicals that act as a more formal summative assessment of lab skills that we have been developing. To help track progress, I drafted a skills tracker that I will have my students will use.
Students will assess themselves only on the skills that we have been developing with a rubric that helps guide them. This rubric will be attached to the lab that they turn in.
After a student submits their lab, I will use the same rubric with a different color pen so students can see their assessment next to mine along with any comments I may have left. This information will then be logged in their tracker. By the time a lab practical comes around, students will have feedback from previous labs and can help focus their energy and attention on certain skills that they maybe didn't realize they struggled with.

I'm hoping that these tools will guide students into a better understanding of their own learning and progress. Along with getting a better sense of where they stand, it should also help students target the specific skills that they need to continue to develop.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Using Schoology to have Students Self-Assess

By Mark Heintz

A few days ago Kim Miklusak came in to the Collablab and had an idea!  She wanted to have students become better at self-assessing their ability level in writing.  You can read about it here.  She wanted students to have a greater awareness of what they are good at and what they need help with.  Even more, she wanted a way to see the student self-assessment next to the teacher's assessment to see which students scores are not on par with their actual ability level. A teacher can easily create a rubric in Schoology and assess the students ability level.  But it is time consuming to compile all of the student self-assessment data and record it next to the teacher's assessment score. 

As of right now, a student cannot self-assess using a Schoology rubric.  However, there is a workaround that I believe will allow students to self-assess and have teacher's easily see if students are close to assessing their ability levels in relation to the teacher's feedback.

The first step in this process is to create standards!  I created two in a new category entitled "writing." I wanted to test this out, so I created a thesis standard and evidence standard.
To have students self-assess on these custom learning objectives, I created a multiple choice quiz. To have the mastery of these objectives show in Schoology, you must place the quiz in a graded category. 

I made two questions in the quiz.  One question was for the thesis and one question was for the evidence.  I made four available answer choices to mimic the traditional four point rubric.  To reinforce the criteria for each point on the rubric, you could embed the rubric in the question. Or, you could embed the criteria for each point on the rubric in the answer choices. Either way, this step will help or reinforce student understanding  of the difference between the four points on the rubric, and lead to improved reliability in student self-assessment. 

For the question, I made all of the choices the correct answer.  Then the student will mark ALL of the levels they feel they are competent at.  So, if a student feels they are at a level three competency, the student would mark choices one through three.

You will need to allow partial credit.  And in the box next to grading, put four points.  This will allow for Schoology to record that the student marked only some of the choices and not code the question as 100% incorrect.

I then added the learning objectives to the question. For the thesis question, you only want to add the thesis learning objective. When finished, click create.

The quiz is for the students to self-assess and you to see what the student feels his or her competency level is.  If you want to compare your assessment to the students, then you will need to create a rubric. 

For this rubric, I added two criteria, thesis and evidence.  I added my two custom learning objectives to the rubric.  You can do this by clicking on the learning objectives at the bottom.  When you add a learning objective, it will automatically place four criteria for the grading scale. You could be as specific as you wanted in each of the criteria. 

When you click on the learning objectives Schoology will direct you to all available learning objectives.  You can add all of your custom learning objectives at one time that you have already created. 

Add the rubric to an assignment.  When creating the assignment it is imperative that you place the writing in a category and attach the rubric.  If it is not graded it will not go into the mastery report.  Have students submit their writing. 

Then, grade their writing using the rubric.  Once you submit a score for the writing, then you will be able to go into the mastery reports and see your score compared to the students. 

When you click on mastery in Schoology, you will see your learning objectives.  One should be thesis, or whatever you named yours.  If you did it correctly, and students have taken the quiz and you have graded their assignments, there should a percentage for your students.  Next to the students score, there should be a little superscript with the number two. 

If you click on thesis, it will expand the category to show all of the assignments coded with the learning objective.  In this case, there should be two.  The assignment titled "Writing" was the student submission and the assignment titled "Writing Trial" was the teacher's score.  I can clearly see that a student self-assessed at a level three out of four since his or her score was 75%.  My score was 100%.  So there is a disconnect in the student's self-assessment and the teachers. 

If you just hover over the two on the previous screen it will pop up the two scores. 


Although this is a somewhat complicated way to compare scores, it can be a great way to record their self-assessment.  It is an easy way to compile a lot of data and store it in one spot centered around learning objectives.  Most importantly, it is a powerful way to engage students in self-reflection on their own learning.  AND a way to dialogue with students in a meaningful and targeted to improving on very specific learning objectives.  Conversations can be centered around disconnect and misunderstanding of what mastery even is. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Peer Editing: When You Don't Know What You Don't Know

A few weeks ago, as my students were heavily working on sample analysis, writing, and peer analysis in preparation for our AP English exam, I was listening to an episode of This American Life.  The topic was “In Defense of Ignorance."  One of the acts focused on what is called the Dunning-Kruger Effect, a cognitive bias that says that someone with low skills frequently mistakenly over-evaluates themselves in certain areas (which is basically all of us at some time).  Conversely, people with high skills frequently under-evaluate themselves because they assume they can't be that much stronger than everyone else.

This made me think about how my students were doing in their peer- and self-evaluations.  Peer editing circles, for example, are sometimes only as effective as the peers’ ability to provide reliable, valuable, specific, skills-based feedback.  Each year my students focus on using rubric skills to give this feedback to their peers.  As the year comes to a close and we look at more AP holistic scoring guide anchor papers, I ask them to put a 1-9 score on the top of the peer’s page, so each student will have 3 scores.  I then ask them to score their own paper: either by circling the score they agree with or by disagreeing with their peers and writing their own scores.  I also ask them to resolve among their group any essay for which a score differs by more than 2 points, asking them to return to the anchor papers as their guide.

But that got me thinking: there will always be those of us who don’t know what we don’t know.  In this setting, in addition to what we already do, how can we refine our instruction or provide different experiences to help all students more accurately self-assess and then take clear steps to improve, reflecting upon how and why they did so, so they can write a better paper next time.  I know, million dollar teacher question, right?

As it turns out, when you’re in the CollabLab, these are things your peers either jump in to help discuss with you, or, in this case, were already working through as well!  In the next couple of days we share Quinn’s pen-and-paper take on it in Biology and Mark Heintz’s digital ideas via Schoology

Please share any ideas you have in how to have students be better at self-assessing their skill ability level!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Education Blogs for Summer Reading

Written by Linda Ashida

This week a TeachThought blog post came across my Twitter feed that I found myself re-reading and thinking about how well it captured some key concepts that show how teaching is different today than it used to be: TeachThought: A Diagram of Pedagogy in the 21st-Century

Reading the TeachThought blog reminded me how inspiring it can be to take time each week to read various education blogs. Of course, there are so many great blogs, but so little time. But, as summer approaches, and gives us more time to catch up on educational reading, I thought I would share the Teach100 list of Education blogs.

Some of my favorites on the list include: MindShift, Edutopia, and the Principal of Change.

Of course, this very Collab Blog is also on our list of favorites! Do you have favorite blogs, or an inspiring post you have come across lately? Please share! 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

A Way to Review

By Mark Heintz

I have tried many different ways to make reviewing effective.  In the last few weeks in AP World I try to give as many practice exams as I can to the students. One of the best ways to review is looking through old tests. The questions are challenging and going through them can really impact their ability to perform on the exam.  However, it takes a lot of time to complete the practice example, and then it takes minimally a day to go over the exam.

So, I broke the exam into five parts.  While this may seem incredibly simple to many of you who already do it, it really changed the effectiveness of the use of the practice exam.  Last week I gave one part in class each day.  I gave the students the same amount of time each day.  I gave them test taking strategies each day to focus on.  While going over the answers, the class discussed how effective each strategy worked.  The next day continued to reinforce the strategy.

It was a great way to get the students to "buy-in" to taking a short test every day.  Especially since the questions are so complicated, going over 12 questions a day is much more manageable to go into the complexities than spending the entire period.  Since the process only took 20 minutes, the rest of the day was free to work on other deficits.  Students who missed a day did not miss all of the test prep.  Students who were there every day did not get burnt out.  It was very positive and led to great discussions about the test.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

"Math Teachers Don't Read!"

By: Rachel Barry

"Very funny, Ms. Barry.  Math teachers don't read!" 

This was a comment made by one of my students in response to a new campaign at EGHS.  At the beginning of second semester, some English teachers decided to start promoting reading in our building by having any staff member post a sign outside their room or office displaying what book he or she is reading.

As a reader myself, I was taken aback by this student's comment that math teachers don't read.  I understand their logic, however, as I never get the opportunity to have discussions with my students about what they are currently reading.  Honestly, I have always been jealous of the other content areas that get to read essays students have written about their lives or create discussions with students picking sides on a topic.  Not that I don't build relationships with my students and get to know their personalities and interests outside of the classroom, but I have learned a great deal more about a student when talking with English teachers about some of the powerful essays that a student has written.

Therefore, I decided to make it my mission to read all of the books on the summer reading list, prior to our Summer Reading Kick-Off.  As mentioned in the blog post, ten minutes of each day in the month of May would be dedicated to reading through Stop, Drop, and Read.  By reading all books on the summer reading list, I could then throughout the class period, I engage in short discussions with my students about the book he or she is reading, it's themes, and how it relates to real life - essentially engaging students in content from another discipline.  In my other classes, many students carry the book with them and leave it on their desk, so I can still foster a conversation with them regarding the book they are reading.   

Not only are these conversations helping to strengthen my understanding of my students, but the books themselves have given me more insight into what our students go through outside of school.  The Summer Reading Committee chose a range of books that all center around the theme of Overcoming Obstacles.  These books, both fiction and non-fiction, helped me to gain perspective of some issues that our students are working through that I can't personally relate because I haven't experienced them myself.  

As a math teacher, it is also really cool to see my students in a different light - some love to read and others struggle.  I'm so used to focusing on their strengths and weaknesses in our math content, that sometimes I lose perspective of their skills outside of class.  I also find it to be a powerful message for students to understand that reading is lifelong skill, regardless of what content you find most interesting.  As a teacher in general, however, it has been really awesome to hear students say "Aw man, already?" when the bell rings for the ten minutes of reading to end.  

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

More Personalized Learning Connections with Voxer

Written by Linda Ashida

Voxer . . . What is voxer?

That is a question I had a year or so ago when I came across educators on Twitter sharing how great it was to connect on Voxer.  I was intrigued, learning that it was a Walkie Talkie app for team communication, but never really took steps to try it.

And then, at the iEngage Berywn conference, I unexpectedly got started on Voxer, so I thought I'd share my experience. I met some educators at the conference with whom I enjoyed sharing ideas with throughout the day.  At the end of the day we wanted to keep in touch and when we were talking about exchanging contact information, one of my new friends, Mary, said, "Are you on Voxer?  Let's form a group!"

So, we did!  Those of us who who weren't on Voxer quickly went to the app store and downloaded the app. Mary created our new Voxer group, we all joined, and since then we have kept in touch and continued to share ideas. I find myself getting excited to receive notifications and learning with my new virtual PLC!  Just today, Mary sent a voice message and photo to share her excitement at getting a new Breakout EDU box!  Though I have only just started to use Voxer, I can see why people like it.  It's not just because of the virtual connection (after all, we can do that with Twitter, email, text messages etc), but because, since it is a walkie talkie app, you can her each other's voices. I could hear the excitement in Mary's voice! For me, that has added to the feeling of connection and getting to know each other better. 

And, now, in continued communication with Mary, our group can learn more about Breakout EDU!

There are many ways to connect with others and learn, and it can be hard to keep up with everything, but Voxer has been a new way I have enjoyed staying connected with educators who are continuing to inspire me, long after the iEngage conference ended!

To learn more about how educators use Voxer, to connect with both colleagues and students, check out the links below:

Have you used Voxer?  Share your experience!  Want to give it a try?  Come see us in the Collab Lab!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Student Voice in Professional Learning

Written by Linda Ashida

This year, more than in previous years, the Collab Lab has invited students to join us in our professional learning experiences.  For example: for Parent Teacher Nights we have invited students to showcase examples of learning with technology; on in-service days we have asked students to present spark sessions to staff; and, for our Teaming on Tuesdays (ten-minute class visits with optional follow-up workshops) we have invited students to join us and share examples of how their teachers use Schoology.

The more we include students, the more we realize the impact of including their voice, and the more we realize we should include students more often!

Each and every student connection gives us an opportunity to learn from their unique perspectives; we gain new insight to reflect on and revise our practice. For some specific examples of how student voice impacted our professional learning, check out this previous blog post, Teaming on Tuesdays: Next Steps with Schoology.

Another way we include student voice during professional learning is during visits to classes.
A recent example is from last Friday when the Collab Lab hosted a site visit for the Midwest Apple Distinguished Schools Showcase. Educators from area schools and staff from Apple had the opportunity to visit 5 different classrooms. In all of those classes we had the opportunity to walk around and talk to students, and in a few classes teachers paused their instruction for 5-10 minutes for student demonstrations and Q and A with students.  Students shared examples of how they collaborate and do peer editing with Schoology Media Albums, how they can work at their own pace to master learning with Schoology quizzes, how they use presentation tools and video creation tools to demonstrate their learning and publish their work, and how they share their work beyond EG via social media.

We'd like to give a shout out to Christina Barnum, Joe Bush, Carmen Ruiz, Mark Heintz, and Amy Burke -- and their students! -- for so willingly opening their classrooms to our visitors.

This week we will be visiting Lisa Martineau's Yearbook class to learn from her students about how they develop skills in creative thinking, problem solving, collaboration and teamwork, and leadership.  Look for a blog post on that soon!

Do you have student work you would like to share and showcase?  Do you have ideas for including student voice in professional learning experiences?  We'd LOVE to hear from you!

Leave us a comment, email us (CollabLab@d214.org), or stop by the Collab Lab!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Brainstorming in the Digital World

by Kirsten Fletcher

The following is a brief overview of different ways to use technology to brainstorm with your students. Most of these ideas came out of collaboration with my wonderful district PLC. As always, a big thank you to Sara Kahle-Ruiz for sharing her discoveries.

Schoology: Discussions
  • If Schoology is already your LMS, this is a great way to brainstorm. Students don't need to learn a new app or log in to a new site. 
  • Simply click on "Add Material" and select the "Discussion" feature. Then you can create a discussion question and add images or links, if desired.
  • Students can respond to ideas with praise or suggestions for improvement.
  • The teacher can adjust the settings to either allow students to view all responses or mandate that they post an idea before they view other responses.
  • There is also a "Like" feature so students can select their favorite idea.
  • In this discussion, I had students find unique advertisements for food products in French. They posted a link or an image with a brief explanation. Then classmates commented on the ads.
Discussions allow students to post images, links, and text. They can "like" and respond to posts.

Schoology:  Media Albums
  • Again, if you are already using Schoology, students will have easy access to this feature.
  • Simply click on "Add Material" and select the "Media Album" feature. You can give your album a title and upload your own images.
  • Items need to be in a student's camera roll in order to be uploaded from an iOS device.
  • Since you can not set a due date on a media album, you may not want to hide this in a folder. It is easier if it is readily visible to students.
  • In a media album, students can upload photos, infographics, and videos. 
  • I often have students upload video projects (from Adobe Voice or iMove) to an album. Since the album is visible to the entire class, I then have them watch a few examples and ask follow-up questions of their classmates.
  • In this example, I had students search for an image of what they believed to be the biggest global challenge. They gave their image a title. Then they maintained a conversation with a partner defending why their global challenge was the most significant. The media in this case was a springboard for conversation.
Media album allows students to post images. In the browser version, they can also comment on each others' posts.

  • This site is great if you want to get all the ideas out before anyone has the chance to criticize. The leader controls the amount of time that participants can create "cards", or post ideas. He/She then closes the board and participants can vote on their favorite ideas. Here is a how-to video for Candor.
  • I think this might work best for professional collaboration, or teams trying to collaborate from different locations and on different schedules. Once the board is closed, all participants receive an email with a list of proposed ideas to vote on.
  • Participants will need to register for a free account with Candor before they can join the brainstorm.
Participants create "cards" with ideas for a project, etc. Then when brainstorming phase is over, others can vote or comment on their favorite ideas at candor.com

This is by far my favorite because it combines images, captions, comments, and voting. Plus, it is web-based so it works on both tablets and computers!

How to get started:
  • The teacher must create a free account, but students only need a link to participate. 
  • Create a board by adding ideas, images, or uploading from Pinterest. 
  • Invite participants by email or posting a link on your LMS. (Students do not need an account.) 
  • Students can click a dot to vote on an idea or concept. They can also post pictures and comment on ideas.
  • The teacher can lock the board in order to reclaim students' attention. The teacher can also rank ideas by votes and move ideas around to re-order them. 
  • The comment feature allows students to practice writing with targeted vocabulary or grammar, justifying their choices. 
  • This is similar to Schoology media albums, but students can see each others' comments and vote on their favorites.
  • There is also a chat feature that the teacher can turn on or off.
You can duplicate any board to use it with different classes. It's good to keep a template because kids can edit the content.

Students can vote, add comments, or add their own images. You can also enable the chat feature.

Tips for Dotstorming:
  • If accessing on an iPad, this works best in Puffin. 
  • Create a template that you DON'T share. Then duplicate it for each class so they don't change your original. 
For more detailed information on how Sara Kahle-Ruiz at RMHS used Dotstorming to engage students in discussion and writing, check out this amazing blog post by Ann Syverson Bullis.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Getting Meaningful Feedback From Students

Written by Quinn Loch

Some of the best feedback related to my teaching and tools that I use in the classroom has come from my students. In the past, I have used short half-sheet questionnaires or surveys to get feedback from my students. This has always proved to be beneficial, but I feel that I get the most honest feedback from anonymous google forms. Because students know that their handwriting and name are not tied to their response, they are more likely to share their honest thoughts and comments.  

For instance, when I first started to use ClassKick for warm ups, the overwhelming response in class seemed to be negative and included a lot of groaning and eye-rolling, but several students mentioned later, through a survey, that they thought the warm ups were very helpful for their learning and wanted to do more.

Most recently, I asked my APES students about their preparation for the AP test and based on the responses have some changes in mind for next year.

Some of the questions I asked my APES students while the test was still fresh in their minds.
Google forms also provides nice visuals, such as graphs and pie charts, to help get a more global summary of responses. The results are also saved as long as you keep the form in your google drive.

Asking students for feedback gets you an array of responses - some that are well thought out, some that are brutally honest, some that don't help, and some that you might disagree with. As a whole, it's a process that I have found to be incredibly insightful and one that I will continue to use.