Thursday, January 29, 2015

Learnin', Bloggin' and Makin' Videos

Recently, in the discussion board of my Differentiated Instruction class, we talked about different ways to teach students and ways for students to show understanding.  Much of the class focuses on student learning styles and as we talk about our own hangups in terms of learning.  

I run participants in the class through a discussion of what learning styles mean for students.  In doing so, we talk about how not all students are alike.  You will have some who are visual learners, others auditory, and some kinesthetic.  If you follow Gardner's train of thought, it can be more complex than that, but in either case, if you focus solely on an auditory means of teaching (standard lecture), you're going to lose more than half of your audience as your visual learners can't picture what you're saying and your kinesthetic learners - well let's just say they're itching to get out of their seat and out of the room!

To get teachers in the mode of understanding the impact, I have them take a Learning Style Quiz to see where they lie on the spectrum of learning.  Try these for yourself and your class:

After they take one or more quizzes to assess their style, I ask teachers to reflect on their own learning (what life was like in high school for them) and how they feel this impacts their teaching style.  As they do so, they start to see how some kids could easily be left behind (no that was not an NCLB reference) in the process of presenting content.  This quickly gets us onto the discussion of student work.  We discuss the use of  video content to present work in new ways that allow a bit of auditory and visual content. By creating your own content on video, you can flip your classroom and save time for other tasks such as projects and labs.  Take it one step further and get your kids to create content of their own -  a kinesthetic learners paradise!

Try these free and cheap tools to start creating your own content:

In order to know that your students understand what is being taught, you need to assess them.  Now don't get me wrong, I'm all in favor of a simple Multiple Choice test that can be auto-scored by a  computer, but let's face it - to gauge true understanding, kids need to show us.  So why not lend them a hand and let them collaborate!  Use the tools above to help them in creating content to show understanding.  Use a Rubric to grade the process.  

But sometimes, regardless of how content is presented, some students never understand on their own.  IF they stay within their silos, they soon become frustrated.  This is why collaboration is so important.   Collaboration is key in assisting with understanding, but also fostering creativity and generating new ideas.  By placing students into groups and stations, you can create an atmosphere that allows for true collaboration.  
  • Group work and stations - Get students to work toward assessing content, checking for mistakes, applying understanding by creating their own journals - but have them do it in groups that rotate through stations.  As students move through each station, they can work as a group to comment and correct material at each station.    When they move through stations as a group, they not only benefit from the work of their own group, but the ones who have rotated through the station before them, as they begin to dissect comments and corrections made by others.  
If you don't have the time, but you have the technology, have your students work in collaboration outside of the classroom in a Discussion Forum.  Discussion Forums are great for vetting new ideas, Q&A sessions, help with homework, or just simple project collaboration.  Here are a few resources to help you get started:

Discussion Boards:
  • Today's Meet - If you'd like a simple backchannel style discussion thread that students can interact with in realtime, Today's Meet is a great free option.  You can setup a web link for them to access, and you can choose how long you want it to stay open.  You also have the ability to download a copy of the discussion to print.  
  • Piazza - - Great for Q&A style discussion between instructor and students.
  • Google Classroom - Must be a Google Apps for Education district to use this - Use this tool to do a whole host of things, including the ability to comment and post questions.
  • Google Docs as a Discussion Tool - Google Drive/Docs is a free tool, so why not use a Google Doc as a discussion tool.  Watch this video to learn tips!

Finally, there is no greater way to get kids to show understanding than writing.  Blogs can help.  If you want to call it journaling, you can call it that too, but in either case, the very act of writing gets students to hash out their ideas and thoughts.  Assign students activities that they have to blog about.  One great way to do this is to have kids create technical instructions.  Give them the task of explaining a concept such as math or scientific procedure in such a way that their English teacher can understand it - and do it on a blog or discussion forum.  This idea came from a workshop on literacy integration in our school.  Wonderful idea!
What does all of this have to do with learning styles?  That's where we started, right!  Well, as a kid, one of the things I always hated was taking tests.  And creating dioramas - don't even get me started.  I was the type of kid that would blow it on a test, but I could always write a great essay (that may not always be evident here).  I hated making dioramas or cell projects in science, but I could make a mean poster!  A student's learning style has a great deal to do with their strengths.  Some kids are very musical/rhythmic, so why not allow them to show understanding by writing a poem, song, or dance.  Others are very visual, so whay not allow them to use that to create visuals that teach others through use of a cartoon.  

Allowing students to play to their strengths seems very simple, but many teachers don't want the complexity of grading  a hundred different projects.  My answer is to go back to rubrics.  Design a simple rubric around the concepts/standards you want students to focus on in the lesson.  Then use those key points to grade their project - not on creativity or pieces such as number of slides in a powerpoint, but their ability to relay content in such a way that others can understand it!  

So what if you receive a myriad of different projects, in all sorts of media formats! Allowing students to use their creativity means they will have more fun with it and possibly learn something in the process.  Think about this - what are your most memorable projects from school?  Were they the ones that allowed you more freedom to create in your own way, or were they the ones that forced you to do the same thing everyone else did?  

Now go with that thought and teach your kids!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Google Tutorials

As our district gathers steam in implementing Google Apps, we are in the midst of creating opportunities for training.  One of the best ways of providing valuable information to our teachers is through the use of short video tutorials.  With that in mind, I have started creating a series of Tiny Tutorials which I am sharing in this post for anyone interested.

Sharing a Google Doc

Sharing a Folder in Google Drive

The third video of the series is a little different from the rest, as I am experimenting with WeVideo, an add on to  Google Chrome.  For those interested in Google Chrome Apps,  you can get WeVideo here.

Uploading Files from iPad to Google Drive

Chrome Apps, Extensions, and Themes

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Technology Trends and the Implications for Teachers

This article is probably overdue, as we are already more than halfway through 2014. But as the school year is still fairly new, I thought it was worth addressing. As educators know already, the past five to ten years have created a sizable shift in technology, instruction, and the way students learn.  As we have moved from an era of flip phones to carrying around small computers in our pockets, it is clear now more than ever, that technology changes have given us the ability to teach in ways we have never been able to before.

The difficulty is that we are also thrust in an age of confusion.  There are so many new ways of integrating technology that the educational environment has become chaotic.  Which new technology should schools buy?  What trends do we listen to? Do teachers abandon old practice for something they are unfamiliar with only to find it doesn't work?

The key thing teachers and schools need to remember is that change should not be something that is rushed into.  We need to take advantage of the experience of others and the vast amount of research that has been done in terms of educational technology.  A big fear is that technology is replacing teachers.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Although technology has changed, students will still need teachers as a guide, facilitator, and purveyor of learning. Not all of our students are technologically savvy or are as advanced as others in terms of content. Rather, technology now affords us the ability to differentiate education in ways that allows us to cater to the needs of all learners.

All this being said, I am using this soap box to pass on a few key information sources that can be valuable to teachers and administrators:

  • New Media Consortium Horizon Report  - This yearly report defines up and coming trends in technology for the next 1-10 years and the impact those changes will have on teachers, teaching, and education.  Pay particular attention to page 6 covering teacher roles and page 32 covering important developments in technology for schools. 

  • Edutopia - Technology Integration - The George Lucas Foundation funds this website which focuses on providing best practices for educators. This specific link covers all articles on Technology Integration in the classroom.  Everything from Differentiated Instruction to The Flipped Classroom can be found here. 

  • Google Educators of Oklahoma - Facebook - this facebook page was set up for teachers in our district to stay apprised of new changes to Google Apps for Education as we make the shift to Google. It was expanded to the state to allow anyone to keep on top of Google updates. Articles are curated from many sites around the globe. 

  • Edudemic - This site provides articles covering many different topics in education, most of which are related to technology integration. 

  • Sandite Exchange - PLCs - this in district site was developed for our teachers to share and exchange ideas. The PLC page, still in its infancy, is growing as we add more resources. If prompted to login, choose login as a guest. 

Hopefully these resources help you and your fellow teachers in finding valuable resources regarding technology integration. As trends change, use these resources to stay on top of things.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Have Student Response Clickers Been Replaced?

This question is actually not a new one.  Clickers have been in decline in recent years as online options have changed.  But the topic came up recently as I worked with a few teachers in setting up a classroom for use with student response clickers.  The question came up as to whether student response systems were worth the time or if mobile solutions were better.

For those of you that may or may not remember, for years, eInstruction, Renaissance Learning, and Smart Response among others, flooded the market with Student Response Systems.  These systems consisted of a computer program in which the teacher could create and deploy test and review questions that students could respond to using hand held clickers.  Of course this was not a new idea as it had been around for years.  These companies had just gotten into the business of perfecting and selling the idea, which was a good one.

Flash forward a few years, and teachers started to see the emergence of free options that allowed students to use mobile devices to respond and interact with classroom content.  Some of the following may ring a bell:

Now Google has gotten into the mix in several ways.

Google Forms - You can use Google Forms as an effective quiz or testing tool by adding on a few Scripts or AddOns.  Create a Form and instead of form or survey questions, use test questions.  As students fill in your form, responses are collected in a Google Sheet.  Add-ons such as Flubaroo and SuperQuiz can be used to grade the results.

Google Chrome Apps - The Chrome Store has a whole host of Apps that can be used for student response, including Socrative TeacherSocrative Student , Nearpod , ExitTicket, and  VirtualClicker.  While some of these require that you have a teacher account, many of them are free.

What does this mean to the classroom teacher who can't afford to buy an expensive set of clickers?  If you are in a school that has gone 1:1, or you have a checkout lab or iPad cart, these online solutions allow you to create and deploy tests in your classroom for free.  Free is definitely good in my book.  Plus if you use Google Forms, you could create quizzes or exit ticket questions to go with videos for the Flipped Classroom.

Whatever situation you are in, we are now in an educational age where free technology is closer to our grasp than ever.  Make use of it in any way you can to further your educational goals.  Just remember that technology is the tool, not the main focus.  We need to work hard as educators to help students learn that there are several tools out there to help them achieve their goals.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Build Your PLC by Putting the Internet to Work For You

Recently while teaching an online class on Differentiated Instruction, I found that many of the teachers involved in the class had gotten the fire in them and were excited about finding resources and implementing DI in their classroom.  Rather than let them leave the class with no path to keep them going, I put together this list of resources the help them find what they needed.  

The emphasis I placed on the end of the course was for them to build their Professional Learning Community.  Finding the resources to help students starts with building a Professional Learning Community.  There are tons of resources out there and it can be daunting.  My solution is to put social media to work!  Here are a few places on Social Media to start:

There are other tools you can use to gather your newly found resources in one place so they are easier to digest.  Some of these tools, I have shared in previous articles, while others are new.  I hope you find them useful:  

  • ScoopIt! - This tool lets you choose topics and websites so you can digest all those articles out there on the topics you are interested in.
  • Flipboard - Similar to ScoopIt, you can gather twitter feeds, facebook pages, magazine articles and websites into a magazine style resource so you can put all your interests in one place.
  • IFTTT - When sharing what you have found, you can use If This Then That (IFTTT) to put recipes together that make your life easier.  For instance, if you post a resource on YouTube, you can have IFTTT automatically let your fellow teachers know on Twitter.  If a new article pops up on twitter with the topic "iPad Tips", you can have an email sent to you.
  • - turn your twitter feed into a paper that publishes daily, then have an email sent to you so you can read all your favorite resources like a newspaper.
Finally, if you've never used these resources before, here are a few websites dedicated to making the teaching profession better
  • Edutopia - The George Lucas Foundation has a vested interest in helping teachers learn and grow to help students.  Visit their site, or create a free account so you can keep up with trends in education.
  • Edudemic - This site provides resources for teachers and students with the goal of infusing technology into the classroom.  Check this article out on their site to start

Saturday, September 13, 2014

We've Gone Google!

This week, teachers in our district received their Teacher Login for Google Apps for Education.  When I teach classes on Google Drive and Google Apps, I often get skeptics who aren't sure why they would take the plunge.  Many just don't want to let go of the things they have traditionally relied on.  With that, here are a few reasons I give for the switch:

  • You can go paperless - Google Drive and Google Classroom let open up the possibility of pushing assignments out to students in the form of a link to a Google Doc, which students can copy and then fill in.  Then they can resubmit the lesson for grading.  Plus, inside Google Drive, you can comment on student work and share it back with them in real time, meaning they can receive feedback immediately - with no need to wait on papers to be passed back.

  • No more flash drives! - I used to carry around a small case that held all of my flash drives so I would always have my documents with me.  But with Google Drive, you can have all of your files with you as long as you have access to the internet.  That means on a computer, your phone, your tablet - anywhere!  But often people say, "what happens if the internet goes down?"  If you download Google Drive to your computer, your files are synced from the web to your computer - so you have a backup!

  • Publish your files to the web! - If you have presentations that you use in class or in meetings, you can publish your Google Slide presentation to the web or embed it on your Google Site.  Then any changes you make in the future will be available on your site and with others you have shared in real time.

  • Collaboration - By sharing a doc, you can work from anywhere at any time with others in real time.  

  • Put Google Drive to work for you - There are tons of Add Ons and Scripts that allow you to put Google to work for you. For instance, in our Virtual Academy program,  I have a form that I use for enrollment.  Our counselors fill the form to let me know what courses our online students need.  Once the counselor submits the form entry, a script called Autocrat automatically merges their selections with a document that is emailed to me!  

In an effort to help our teachers understand the world of possibilities this opens up to them, I am also publishing a few links I have found to be helpful with Google Apps and Google Drive.

For more tips and ideas from the web, follow me on our Google Educators of Oklahoma page on Facebook - Google Educators of Oklahoma

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Google Apps for Teachers

Recently, our district decided to make the switch to become a Google Apps for Education (GAFE) school.  We are in the middle of the transition and are slowly adding teachers to our district account, one site at a time.  This transition has made things simpler for me, and the discussion that I have had with several teachers has gotten them in the mode of thinking about how Google could be leveraged to making their lives easier too.

The difficulty I have had is helping them understand just why they should use Google Apps.  The biggest and best answer I can give is that Google allows the following:

  • Free Cloud Storage - 15GB for a Free user, 30GB for a GAFE Teacher
  • Access to Google Drive
  • Real Time collaboration - share docs and collaborate from anywhere at anytime with an Internet Connection
  • Google Docs - word processing in the cloud
  • Google Forms - for quizzes and tests
  • Google Sheets - for collecting and sharing data
  • Google Slides - convert your PowerPoints into slides and access them from anywhere.
To help our teachers learn how to use these apps, I have created a few tutorial videos that I wanted to share with everyone.  

Google:  An Introduction

Google Docs

Google Forms

Google Slides

Beyond these videos, there are several links that will help new users keep up with Google News:

Google Gooru -
Google Educators - Sand Springs -
The Official Google Blog -

Hopefully the videos and the links will help you as you Go Google!

Dropbox and the Paperless Classroom

For teachers that want to go to a paperless classroom, the one drawback is finding a free solution that allows you to distribute work and still collect work without complication.  Many teachers have a dropbox account and have created public folders so that students can submit work.  The problem with this is that students can see everyone else's work, which leads to problems with academic integrity, cheating, and plagiarism.

Today, I ran across a great solution that will help teachers using Dropbox.  This tool is called Jotform.  If you go to, you can create a form that allows students to submit assignments to your dropbox account.  Its pretty simple as long as you already have an existing dropbox account and you use the link above.


To get started, you'll first need to go to to create an account.  Then, follow the instructions below to create your dropbox form.

  1. Go to  
  2. Click the "Create a Dropbox Form" button.
  3. You'll be asked to login to your Dropbox account and link it to Jotform.
  4. After linking the two accounts, you'll get a link and an Embed code you can use to post your form online. 
  5. A form template has already been created, so all you need to do is click Next when prompted.  
  6. After the process is complete, close the popup window and go to My Forms.  You can see and edit your form at any time.

After you create your form, you can always go back to Jotform and find your Embed Code and URL for sharing.  You can also edit this form to include collect other information such as Class Period, Grade, etc....  If you click the Integration button, you can also integrate other services besides dropbox.  

Once your Dropbox account and your Jotform account are linked, you will see a new folder in your Dropbox account called "JotForm to Dropbox".  You'll want to test our your new form for the first time after creating it.  

This is a great alternative if you are not a Google Apps for Education school and you are a religious dropbox user.  My suggestion would be to create a separate dropbox account apart from your personal one that is used only for your classroom.  Then start collecting student work!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Resources Every Teacher Needs to Know About...

One of the biggest complaints I hear from teachers is that they just don't have enough time in the day to grade papers, commit to extra duties, attend workshops, or search the web for professional learning opportunities.  And I have to say that I agree - it is very hard to fit all of that into a busy schedule.  But one big things that has helped me  this year, is that our school district has joined SimpleK12.  

In terms of professional growth, it takes a great deal of time and many don't have that time, but the question that keeps nagging is whether or not you want to...

* Learn about the latest technologies helping other teachers excel?
* Join discussions with other educators about implementing new standards? 
* Stay in tune with what matters most in today's schools?
* Feel up-to-speed on the "latest and greatest" strategies and tools? 

All these questions are important to our roles as teachers.  Finding all of these things is a huge task, and SImpleK12 makes it a little easier by putting it all in one community.

If you answered YES to any of the above, join me inside the hottest education resource: SimpleK12’s Teacher Learning Community.

==> Create a FREE Basic Membership Today.

SimpleK12, the leading provider of 21st century teacher professional development, brings the fun, energy, and excitement back into learning.

200,000+ educators from around the world have access to SimpleK12's PD resources, information, and training ... and you can too!

Take learning into your own hands and explore the fastest-growing social network and Professional Development community for educators...

==> Create a FREE Basic Membership.

I look forward to seeing you inside the Community!

Friday, July 18, 2014

QR Codes and Back to School

It's a little soon to be talking about the first day of school, I guess, but a class I taught today got my mind going about back to school.  In a class on QR Codes, we were discussing the different ways that QR codes can be used in the classroom.  When you take into consideration that mobile devices can open up so many options for learning, QR codes seem an obvious pathway to providing tips, hints, or answers to frequently asked questions.  But as we talked it became evident that one clear cut solution for back to school is to provide a QR code for new students and parents.  That QR code could be a link to:
  • your syllabus
  • a supply list
  • an introductory video
  • a guided tour of the school/classroom
In order to create your own code and provide access to these and other pieces of information, you need to keep a few things in mind.  

First, where will you store your information?
  • Google Drive - Store documents and slideshows in your cloud based account.  Just make sure that in your sharing options you have set your document so that it can be viewed by anyone with the link.  Click Share and change "who has access" to "anyone with the link".
  • YouTube - Any video that you create for tours or introductions to your parents and students can be stored on your YouTube channel.  Just copy the link to share.  
Second, how can you create your QR Code?  Make sure you copy your link from the item you want to link back to from your code, then go create a code on one of these sites.  
Third, before you post your QR code on your website or print it off and post on your classroom door, make sure you use a QR Code scanner to test your code:

Finally, make sure when you print off  your code or post it, you do the following:
  • Let users know what information is being shared (i.e., Syllabus, supply list, Meet the Teacher Video)
  • Provide users with a link to a QR Scanner if they don't have one.
  • Print or post it large enough that it is easily seen and easy to scan.
Here's an example of a QR Code linked to a Back to School Doc:

QR Code
When you create your code, post it on your door so that parents and students can scan it during schedule pick up or meet the teacher day prior to the start of school.  If you do this, you have the satisfaction of knowing that your students will have easy access to a supply list prior to the first day of school.  Plus, your parents will love you for getting this out of the way early!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Trouble finding resources? Look no further than Social Media!

While looking through twitter today I ran across this resource: Technology Resources For Teachers - This link provides a list of resource guides for several great current topics in educational technology. But while looking through it, the thought ran across my mind how social media has made gathering resources so much easier than just a few years ago.

Prior to Twitter and Facebook, the search on the Internet for resources was tough if you didn't know where to look- even tougher before the advent of the Internet. But in the few short years since social media has taken hold (Facebook was born in 2004, Twitter was born in 2006) there have been several apps created to help in gathering resources.

Here is a short list of places to make your research easier:

Twitter - create an account and follow your favorite educational organizations. Search for others to follow by looking under educational hashtags - Hashtags from Cybraryman

Facebook- create an account on FB and do the same as above.

Hootsuite - download this app for your mobile device and access all your social media news feeds from one place.

Flipboard- follow your favorite topics from RSS feeds to social media. Create a magazine to archive your favorite articles and share it with others.

ScoopIt- similar to Flipboard, follow your favorite topics and sources. Create your own archive and share it.

Evernote - another app/service to gather your thoughts all in one place.

The great thing about all of these links is that their services are accessible from your mobile device. If you haven't jumped into social media yet, then what better reason than to make your search for ideas and resources a little easier. Start today!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, July 07, 2014

The Best iPad Apps for Teachers

Link to Updated Version of this Article

Looking for a few good apps to use in your classroom?  Here is a short list of apps for iOS devices and some for Android.  Thanks to the ladies at SimpleK12 at #ISTE2014 for sharing these:

Spelling city -  - vocabulary, spelling lists, free activities

Science 360- - this app offers streaming video on a wide array of science topics.
History pin-!/geo:51.6,0.05/zoom:7/  - Teachers can use this site/app to pin pictures and information related to historical topics.

Wunderlist -  - manage your to-do list.

Project Noah-  or - tool to document and explore wildlife.

Virtual tour - Library of Congress - - Take a virtual tour of the Library of Congress.

iTunesU - Download the app or visit the link for more information on virtual courses from a wide range of K-12, Colleges, or Universities.

Quizlet - or - create and deploy quizzes on the app or online.

Kindle - - You don’t need a kindle to take advantage of the Amazon service.  Download the app for your iPad.  

Evernote - This note taking app allows you to curate topics from anywhere. - or

Zite - This curation tool lets you gather articles from your favorite web news sources -

Sockpuppets - This app lets you create your own sock puppet videos with backgrounds, scenery, and yes, sock puppets- - Look up any word, root word, synonym, name it. or

Space images - images and videos of stars, planets, and space.  From NASA -

Sphere 360 -  Explore or create 360∘ moments with this app using panoramic photos.

Bloomberg app - Math and Finance app by Bloomberg -

Khan academy - video tutorials on educational topics - or

History maps - Interactive Maps of the world for iPad.

Stack the states - Learn the 50 states and their place on the map -

Simple K12 app - Stay in Touch with SimpleK12 PD on your iPad -

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Gamification and Learning

In the past several weeks, I have been working with a team of teachers to discuss the concept of gamification. Basically, the idea is that rather than stick to the traditional design of a classroom, you 'gamify' your classroom by creating challenges, choice, and rewards. This may sound like a monumental undertaking, but it really isn't. Some people hear the term and assume that they would need to create an app or computer software and turn their entire course into a game. Don't think that teachers/software companies/designers have not already done this. Its a concept that has been around for a while. But there are subtle ways that your syllabus and classroom can be tweaked to instill motivation in your student by turning your lessons into quests or challenges.

As I have already said, gamification can be simple...if you start small. Douglas Kiang, a teacher from the Punahou School in Honolulu Hawaii ( points out that you first need to know your learners. He suggests using the Bartle Test App to determine what kind of gamers your students are. Once you know this, it will help tremendously in understanding where their strengths lie as workers/learners/gamers. (See my notes from his session at #iste2014). From here you can better understand how to group your students for class projects. But I am getting ahead of myself, as you wouldn't really want to call them projects.

The next thing you would want to do is to create a climate shift in your classroom. No longer will you think of your class as one of assignments, quizzes, tests, and projects. Change the mentality to one in which there is a path of quests students need to achieve in order to reach the outcome or goal of your class. The ultimate outcome is learning, but we will call it their reward. Some assignments (quests) will be required paths to the desired outcome (winning the game), but others will be challenges that can be rewarded through extra credit or badges. Grades can still be awarded, but once this shift in mentality occurs, and you realign their thinking about the class, motivation changes - achievement becomes a competition.

Beyond this though, there are several other aspects to gamification that were mentioned throughout the conference that are worth bringing up. One is that while you can create required quests, and additional extra credit challenges, your kids should be able to choose their own path to learning. This was a concept mentioned by Kiang, as well as another attendee I met named Alice Keeler, a Professor of Teacher Education at Fresno State. Both mention the 'choose your own path' concept, but in different ways. For instance, Kiang mentions setting up different career major paths that students could follow through the learning process. Each student may have a different focus due to their career pathway, but each would learn the same basic concepts required to achieve the goal of the game (class). Keeler states that her syllabus for her course is structured in the sense that students must achieve a specific set of outcomes, but open ended in the sense that each student may take a different path to reach that desired outcome.

Think of the above paragraph this way - in games like Skyrim and World of Warcraft, gamers take on different roles with different strengths. Each role requires that the gamer approach the game in a different way.

While all this may seem like a lot to swallow, it is definitely an approach to learning that is worth looking at. While listening to each of these educators talk, I could tell that each is passionate about what they do, and their students are motivated to succeed. How do I digest all this? I see it this way. The next move for any educator in gamifying the classroom is to do as Keeler says, which is to start small. Pick one aspect of gamification and implement it in your classroom. Here are a few tips to start:

1. Choice - give your students more choice in how they achieve outcomes. Give them the ability to create through different modalities - videos, game simulations, posters, plays, speeches, comic strips - but dont limit them. Just grade them on a rubric, lying out specific objectives with badges or rewards for achieving those objectives.

2. Terminology - alter the climate of your class by changing the terminology associated with learning. Assignments become quests, extra credit becomes a challenge, and grades are now badges or rewards.

3. Flipped Back Chat - this is for all you flipped classroom people and it is a suggestion given by Kiang in his presentation. Games will often use a program or channel on the internet to chat with one another while gaming. If you are flipping your classroom, tell your students that they must watch the videos you post as homework, but challenge them to login at the same time and create a chat room of sorts using a website such as Today's Meet to create a backchannel where students can ask questions as they watch. It makes the learning process more interactive and extends learning beyond the walls of the school in a new way.

Like I said, I am just in the beginning stages of discussing this with our Gamification team, so I am as new to this as anyone. But if you're like me, you welcome any discussion or group of resources to help you find the answers. That being said, thanks for reading this, good luck, and don't forget to check out my notes from the ISTE session I attended with Kiang and the link to Keeler's website.

Google Docs - Notes from Kiang Session

Alice Keeler

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Are you a runner or a rider?

One of the most outstanding presentations I have been to so far at the ISTE 2014 conference was a vendor sponsored session featuring Ron Clark (The Essential 55, Ron Clark Academy). Not only is he a great motivational speaker, but he walks the walk. When he talks about being passionate as an educator, he puts into practice the very things he asks educators to do. This is evident when he talks, but it is also evident when you watch his students, which were there for the session as well. His students preached and practiced his rules.

But this post is not about his specific tips for educators so much as the start of his message, which pointed out that there are 4 kinds of teachers in a school.

Runners - those who show up early, stay late, and never stop going. Full of ideas and always ready to jump in.

Joggers - think they are runners, have a few great ideas that they do every year, and are always passionate about those things.

Walkers - feel as if they are dragged along and usually do so while complaining.

Riders - those who sit by and complain, usually about how the system affects them.

Now, I wouldn't want to guess which one of these I am, and wouldn't begin to label others as being one or the other, but what I took away from this session is that no matter where you fall, you can be a Runner. Yes, we all see these people in our buildings and we get a little tired of seeing them, hearing them, and if we really want to admit it, may be a little jealous of them, but we all can be a Runner. Part of the reason Runners bother some teachers is that on some level they are worried that Runners (and their administrators) will expect them to do the same things they are doing. Ron pointed out that it doesn't have to be that way. He doesn't expect teachers at his school to rap or stand on the desks and dance (although he did all of this in his presentation). He just wants them to be passionate and happy about what they do.

So what is the point of this article, and what is his point in his presentation. Ron points out that when students in his school are asked, they say they want teachers who are happy about what they do, genuine in really wanting to know about the students, and are pleasant to be around. Teachers who are willing to try new things, but be OK with making mistakes.

After hearing Ron talk today, there are three things that I would like all of our faculty members to take away:

1. I have always been one of those people that likes to try new things, but usually when there is limited room for risk. But as I have grown as an educator, I have found that the only way to get out of my comfort zone is to realize that there will be mistakes and there will be risk. So don't worry about failure - just get out and try. Even the most successful people are fearful of change, but they try.

2. Be happy about what you do - and if you're not, fake it until you make it! Kids can pick up on negativity and it creates a negative response. You will get more out of your kids if you show respect first and a firm hand in your expectations. If you put forth a pleasant atmosphere and respectful attitude, your kids will respond. Trust me!

3. Embrace change. This one may be the hardest for some people. But think of it this way. You know the old question, "You're on a desert island. If you could eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?" If you've ever answered this question, or posed it to someone else, you know that the catch is that no matter how much you love that food, it will quickly get old and you will get tired of it and welcome a little change. That is the important thing to remember. Students get tired of the same old thing. This analogy doesn't mean that you constantly have to change how you present your content. But what I am getting to is that we as a society have been teaching kids the same way for nearly 100 years. But all the while, society and technology have changed around us, while we have changed very little. It is time for us to embrace the tools that are around us. Students crave the ability to use in the classroom, the tools they use every day.

All that being said, I don't want anyone to read this and take it as a criticism, but more as a self assessment. Where do you fall on the scale? Are you a runner or rider? Do you embrace change, or fear change? Do you dread coming to work, or look forward to it? Think on that for a moment as you enjoy your summer and plan for next year. How will the next school year be different for you?

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Monday, June 30, 2014

BYOT! Why Wait?

One thing I have picked up from ISTE is that we, along with many other districts around us, are still very far behind in the implementation phase of many technology trends. With the type and number of technology tools available to us and our students, we have the capability to employ a vast array of apps, web tools, and social media tools for the purpose of learning. What's holding us back?

WiFi? Nope. As we speak our district is working hard to beef up our infrastructure so that wireless access is not an issue. For the past year or so, we have had wifi in most rooms of our secondary buildings and in select locations in our primary buildings. At the start of the school year, the entire district should see a vast improvement in connectivity.

Access to technology? Nope. Many of our buildings have access to at least one iPad cart or at the minimum a computer lab that can be used to infuse technology into our daily lessons. Many teachers are a bit leary of checking them out (iPads) due to student use or misuse, while still others are looking for that one way that iPads can be easily integrated. Others are a bit nervous about a technology they are not sure of. But in addition to district owned technology, our kids bring many tools to the table. They have iPods, iPhones, and Android phones. These could be employed for BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology).

Access to apps/tools? This one is also a no! There are so many free tools available on the web today, that there is simply no reason not to try them. Whether your are looking for a curation tool that helps you keep track of all the lesson plan ideas you find, or a tool to help you in your science lab, there are tons. Check out these tools from the ISTE conference. If the QR Codes are hard to scan, just google the titles of the apps. These just represent a small number of apps available for math.

What is holding us back? Ourselves. We are the guilty party. The tools and infrastructure are there. We just need to implement instead of talk about it. Many of us, myself included, will use the excuse that we just don't have time. Or the excuse that we just don't have a lesson that can be centered around technology. With this, there are two things to remember:

One - time is relative. You have to think of all the free time/wasted time that we have throughout the day. If you already have one of these devices (iPad, iPhone, Android Phone, Chrome book), you already have the means, you just need to use some of your wasted time to explore.

Two - technology should not be the focus of your lessons. It should be the tool to get you where you need to be. Whenever you have a lesson in which you find yourself saying, "I wish there were an easier way", that is the jumping off point for you to start exploring. Look for apps or ask someone if there is a tool that exists to get you there. BYOT allows us to use devices as calculators, graphing tools, writing tools (blogs, discussions), research tools, curation tools, data gathering tools, translators, cameras, recorders, art tools, document cameras, student response devices...the list goes on! For every time you wish you had a Smartboard, student response set of clickers, or document camera, guess what! An iPad can do all of those things.

So as you start the new school year, start thinking of how you can employ BYOT in your class, or think about how that iPad cart might benefit you. Start asking questions of your peers and don't be embarrassed. We all have to start somewhere.

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