Exciting Times in EdTech: Blended Learning

Once an Early Adopter, Always an Early Adopter…

I am what you call an “early adopter.” I love trying new technologies in my classroom. I am very happy when I get new tech. No, that is an understatement. The day they hung my interactive whiteboard I cried…real tears. When the technology support person surprised me with a Chromebook cart the day we returned from Spring Break, two years ago, I greeted him with a screeched out, “ARE YOU SERIOUS!!!” The moment is now a blur, but I may have hugged him.

I see the value in giving my students opportunities that technology can provide. Anyone who reads this blog also knows that I LOVE anything that helps me to do my job with efficiency. Make it easier and I am on board! Now that I have made the jump from elementary to secondary education, it is even more evident that technology can help us to engage our learners in exciting ways.

Why Blended Learning? Because Time…

As a middle school language arts teacher, I have a wide range of students with varying levels of ability and drive. I serve a large number of students who receive ELL services, students who receive special education services, students who receive varying levels of reading intervention and students who receive no interventions or services beyond my care. Those are very diverse needs. So how does one even begin to meet the needs of such a range of learners? At first glance (as well as glances 2-22) this seems a very daunting task. The key for me has been to work smarter not harder by implementing technology to the greatest advantage.

I heavily rely on the use of blended learning strategies. According to Catlin Tucker, co-author of Blended Learning in Action: A Practical Guide Toward Sustainable Change, blended learning is any combination of face-to-face and online learning. Keeping that in mind, in my classroom, I use technology as a second (and sometimes third and fourth) teacher in and outside of the classroom.

This year, I used rotation models often. Many of my students do not have access to consistent internet access at home. My classroom has 1:1 use of Chrome Books, so I try to use technology often. My class periods are a little less than 50 minutes long. In that time, I can deliver a whole group lesson and two 20 minute rotations or three 15 minute rotations. I can then pull students back together for the last three to five minutes of class. In stations, activities vary greatly. Students may work on follow-up activities related to my whole group lesson or on work that is individualized for their specific needs, be those needs for remedial skills or enrichment skills. Stations may be completely computer-based, jointly taught using teacher and computer, or small groups with a teacher.  They may also receive lessons that pre-teach or front load skills I expect them to learn on their own that I will follow up with later. During rotations, I can also pull students one on one for conferencing or specific individual needs.

Students are able to get some of their instruction directly from me and some from online resources. Using this strategy, I am able to differentiate for all of my learners by providing the opportunity for personalized instruction based on their particular needs, reteach/enrich as needed, teach new content, etc. by incorporating technology as part of my instruction. Blended learning allows me the opportunity to get more bang for my buck by having students complete multiple tasks in a given block. They are always working. They are consistently learning. Blended learning affords me the ability to utilize my limited time with them effectively.

Tools for Delivering Blended Instruction

The best part about using a blended model is the ability to incorporate many tools to engage and inspire learners. The variety of ways students learn and express their understanding in my class helps facilitate engagement. Below I list SOME of the tools that I use in my class. While some are used more often than others, they are all in use regularly in my classroom. (Note: All students regularly use their Google Drive to organize their files and turn in work.)

Hubs/Learning Platforms

  • Google Classroom-learning platform where you can distribute materials digitally and accept completed assignments, have online discussion streams, grade, and give feedback.
  • Blendspace-create lessons/units where all of the resources are grouped for easy access.

Video/Interactive Lesson Delivery

  • Playposit-embed questions into videos to make them less passive, and allow for accountability for the information within the video.
  • Peardeck-online presentation creator that allows you to make interactive presentations with embedded questions, links, and video.

Online Resources

  • MobyMax-online curriculum for grades K-8. Self leveling , tracks data,delivers both instruction and assessment.
  • Canva-graphic creator (make infographics, diagrams, posters, etc.)
  • Screencasts (I used Screencastify)-create video recordings with voice overs
  • Youtube-free video sharing website
  • Vocabulary.com-create a word list, enter text from a book, or use the self leveling activities to practice and expand vocabulary
  • Powtoon– online animated video creator
  • Tagul-word cloud creator

Formative Assessment

  • Nearly all of the above PLUS…
    • Plickers-student response system (ie. clickers)that does not require student devices
    • Kahoot-game show-like assessment tool where creators create the questions and users play the game.
    • Quizziz–game show-like assessment tool where creators create the questions and users play the game.
    • Quizlet-create flashcards and online game based on content

Free (or Low Cost) Websites and Apps for PreK and Kindergarten

 

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Image credit: “Kids with Education Tablet Computers” by Intel Free Press https://flic.kr/p/fvT5PN

A coworker came to me with a specific request:

“Can you create a list of apps I can give parents for my preK and kindergarten students to use at home?”

While curating the list of resources below, I tried to gather resources compatible with Android devices, PCs, and Apple devices. Most are free, a few are under $2.00 to buy. It is by new means an exhaustive source, but does offer a good place to start if you would like to share educational resources with your preprimary and primary students.

Disclaimer: While most do not, some of the apps/links use in app purchases in order to be offered “FREE.” Before allowing your child/student to use a device like a computer, cell phone, or tablet, please remember to turn off in app purchases in your settings if possible, or set your settings so that a password is required to make in app purchases. I can not be held responsible for accidental purchases made by children when using any apps or websites listed below. 

Websites

iPhone/iPad apps

Sight words

Writing and/or Recognizing Letters

Phonemic awareness

General (Shapes, numbers, letters, etc.)

Android Apps for the Google Play Store

Sight Words

Writing and/or Recognizing Letters

Phonemic awareness

General (Shapes, numbers, letters, etc.)

Hopefully this list can be used as a resource for your younger students (or children)!

It’s Not Too Late to Teach Your Students to Code

9259-power-button-on-the-side-of-a-computer-pvThe Hour of Code window may have come and gone, but it isn’t too late to teach your students to code! Coding is computer programming. Students who learn to code learn to write code in computer languages.  This can allow students to do simple tasks like control the movement of a character on a screen, or more complex tasks like creating games and stories. Before I share how to get your students started, let’s discuss WHY you should get your students started.

According to ISTE (The International Society for Technology in Education www.iste.org) “Our nation’s current trajectory points to a lasting digital era, and we’ll need people who can think like software engineers and network architects, whether they are writing an app or solving resource distribution problems in a third-world setting — or doing both at the same time.” -Pat Yongpradit, Should we teach computer science in elementary school?

11073-the-white-house-in-washington-dc-pvPresident Obama’s Computer Science for All Initiative was announced in January 2016 and promotes the teaching of computer science in grades K-12 as a means of readying American students to be, not just consumers of digital technology, but also creators. As educators, we have an opportunity to help our learners problem solve using creativity and innovation. When coding, perseverance is a must and overcoming failure and mistakes are part of the game. This is what our students need. Give your students opportunities to learn to rescue themselves and use mistakes not as obstacles, but opportunities for growth.

So how can you start coding with your students? There are several websites and programs online. I have compiled a list of free resources available online. This is by no means an exhaustive list. Instead, it is a place to start…

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3740-illustration-of-a-yellow-free-sticker-pv

Free to Code Sites

Code.org offers a series of courses that are engaging for students including themed courses using settings and characters from Star Wars, Minecraft, and Frozen. The website even offers guided programs and lesson plans for ways to use code in classrooms without consistent computer access.

Codecademy allows users to learn a variety of computer programming languages in a game-like atmosphere. As a teacher, you can download free computer science lesson plans to get you started!

Code Monster users are able to explore code writing by writing code in one box while the “cute” monster follows the code commands in the adjacent box. Budding programmers are able to explore cause and effect of the codes they write through guiding prompts.

Hackety Hack!  is a place to learn the basics of programming using the Ruby programming language.

ScratchED allows users to program interactive stories, games, simulations, and animations. It has an extensive online community to help answer questions and give advice. Resources are also available at scratched.gse.harvard.edu.

Google CS First is a complete computer science curriculum designed for kids in grade 4-8. The program uses the block-based code, SCRATCH, to engage learners in the coding world. The best part is that it is FREE. Designed to be used as a club, it has the potential to also fit into STEM curricula as well.

Turtle Academy teaches students how to write code in the LOGO computer language. Students are able to create designs and pictures using the programming methods learned during their coursework.

 

Are You Keeping Up? The Evolution of Technology in Education

As an educator embarking on this journey to become a technology facilitator, I wondered about how technology use has changed and evolved over time. I feel that every teacher has the opportunity to infuse the use of technology (read: facilitate) into their curriculum in many ways. Are you the teacher still grasping on to old technologies when newer, more efficient ways of engaging students is at your fingertips? Take a look at “Then vs Now: How Technology in Schools Has Changed Over Time.”

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Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

Is your level of technology proficiency tied to the way teachers incorporated technology in the 1930’s (via movies and television shows)? Even if you use a big, fancy interactive whiteboard, are you using it to its full potential, or are you using it to replace a film projector, overhead projector, or TV screen? Is your interactive whiteboard  just a high tech replacement for the standard whiteboard introduced in the 1960’s or worse…the chalkboard, invented in 1801?

According to Masterofartsinteaching.net, computers for student use became prolific in classrooms in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. SMART boards came about in 1999. Kids were using games for learning on classroom computers in 1985. As educators, we shouldn’t be using technology the same way they did 15-30 YEARS AGO. You. Must. GROW!

So how is technology being used?

Learning-on-the-Go
(Find more at  How Are Students Really Using Mobile Devices on Daily Genius by Katie Dunn)

Through the use of technology we have the opportunity to engage learners in new ways. We can use the technology available in its most basic  ways OR we can make it work for us and our learners. How are you using your interactive whiteboard? Do you need ideas? Here are ways to use technology available in classrooms across the country for more than their most basic capabilities.

Here are a few places to get great ideas for taking technology use, in your classroom, to new heights:

Bingo Game Generators: A Tiny Tech Tidbit with Dahl

Have you ever just needed a BINGO game to use with students? Not one of those generic ones, but one that had content specific words or pictures.  You needed a game that was perfectly suited for the skills or subject you were teaching or differentiated to meet the needs of the students in your care. A colleague posed that question and snapped me into action. When you search “bingo generators” tons come up. This list is just a few that I think are some of the quickest and easiest to use.

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Bingo Score Card Image from http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-image-bingo-score-card-image17846751
  • http://www.eslactivities.com/picturebingo.php Lets you make PICTURE bingo cards. I recommend you save the pictures you would like to use to a file before you start for quick and easy results. Make sure you print in landscape mode for best results.
  • https://bingobaker.com/ Anonymous users can only upoad 30 images in a 24 hour period (per IP address). I think you can print 8 cards free each day. For $14.95 (https://bingobaker.com/account/login/ one time lifetime membership fee) you can make tons of cards for printing or for students to play online.

Flubaroo: A Method to Use Google Forms for Assessment

Over the last few years, I have seen a more widespread use of Google Forms occur. It seems to be the go to method for professional development evaluations. I have also incorporated its use in my classroom for exit tickets on occasion. I have just under 60 students and have found the task of individually scoring students using Google Forms to be a daunting one when percentage scores are needed. In the past, I manually tallied student responses or used the summary of responses feature to get an overall picture of classroom understanding. To individually score 50+ assessments was time-consuming, especially if more than five assessment questions were used.

The grid below shows typical data for a four question assessment taken by 10 students.

spreadsheet of 10 student responses generated by Google Forms
Spreadsheet of ten student responses generated by Google Forms
If I were to use Google Forms to assess more students, with more questions, the task of analyzing the data could become much more tedious and overwhelming. Due to that limitation, I did not use Google Forms for assessment very often this year.

Tonight in class, I learned of a much easier method of gathering data using Google Forms and the prospect of implementing it is promising.  I was so impressed by the Google add-on, Flubaroo, that I feel it warrants sharing with all of you. Flubaroo allows you to score assessments and mine data from the responses with ease.  It allows the program to “grade” for you! Please watch the short video below (created by Lisa Stamper) for a tutorial on how you can use Flubaroo for your own data needs.

When I applied the Flubaroo add-on to the data from the spreadsheet above I was pleasantly surprised by the ease of use.

After downloading the add-on as illustrated in the video, I clicked on “Flubaroo” in the pull down menu and chose my grading options.

Selecting the point values in the Flubaroo window
Selecting my grading option
Then, I chose the answer key I created by completing the Google Form myself and putting in all the correct answers (I called it “Teacher Answer Key.”

Choosing my answer key from the menu of responses
Choosing my answer key
Finally, I clicked on the “grades” tab at the bottom of the sheet and received my students’ scores!

Spreadsheet with percentile scores generated using the Flubaroo add-on for Google Forms
Scores generated by the Flubaroo add-on for Google Forms
Goodbye tedious individual grading, hello efficiency! Within 5 minutes of finishing the assessment, I can have student scores at my fingertips. Anything that makes our jobs easier is worth taking a look at. While this method will not work for student essay responses, there is an option not to score those portions of assessments using Flubaroo (so that they can be individually evaluated). Still, the benefits of using Flubaroo, in my opinion, outweigh the drawbacks. Try it for yourself, and share your opinions. If you come up with an innovative way to use Flubaroo, be sure to share that too!

Plickers: Budget-Friendly Formative Assessment Technology for the Classroom

The use of technology to enhance instruction and engage students in learning is a wonderful thing. Being able to use technology as a means of assessing student understanding and gathering data is part of current trends in the education of today’s learners. A few years ago a wave of student response device (clicker) purchases began at schools around my county.

The devices came in kits of about 18-24 devices with a hub to plug into your computer to act as the receiver for student responses. They were neat…and expensive! Within a year they were obsolete, when new versions that had all of the missing features teachers wanted were rolled out (but far too expensive to buy new sets). Nearly five years later, those kits are rarely used, replaced by apps and bring your own device (BYOD) capabilities in classrooms which allow students to use their smartphones as makeshift clickers.

What do you do if your school does not have individual classroom response devices for students to use or you serve students who do not have smart devices of their own?

In his article, Clickers and Classroom Dynamics, Derek Bruff does a great job explaining the pros and supportive research of using clicker devices in the classroom. However, the cost of said devices is often too high for individual teachers to purchase and outside of the budget of many of today’s schools as well.

A possible solution to this problem comes in the form of an app that I have just learned about called Plickers. Plickers has the potential to be used in place of expensive clicker devices. All that is required is the use of a smart phone or iPad (just ONE) with a camera (there are versions for both Apple and Android) and a set of cards you can print out for student use.

This tweet from @HaleyKayTurner does a great job of explaining the features and highlighting ways to make it work in your classroom:

After watching, I was so impressed, I had to let her know!