Category Archives: Individualized Learning

Imagine K-12 Educator Day

It has become a lovely fall tradition to attend the product kick-off for the most recent round of Imagine K-12 start up companies. I always love this afternoon of events. It is exciting to see the newest in educational innovations, some of which have not even been fully constructed yet. It is also refreshing to see so many educators, from a wide range of backgrounds and settings, rubbing elbows with the product designers and inventors (often the same people).

I also love to sit down and write this blog post. It is a point of pride for me that I am able to provide feedback to the aspiring edtechers on my first impressions of their products, how I plan to integrate them into teaching and learning situations, what potential I see for truly changing education for the better, and sometimes what I feel would make this product more useful to me, the teachers I work with and the students we serve.

First up was EDpuzzle, a group from Barcelona. I had the pleasure of seeing EDpuzzle in more embryonic stages and providing the founder with some comments on feedback, as well as ideas for refining and improving. We had a great discussion about the Flipped Classroom model, about Blended Learning, and about how technology can support learning. It was clear to me from his passionate stories about his students that he truly loved being in the classroom. EDpuzzle is designed so that teachers everywhere can take advantage of the plethora of video tutorials that exist, and make that they can make sure that the video is still perfect for what they are teaching. Many teachers would like to assign a video tutorial for homework, so that students can preview material or get extra help, but finding the exact right video can be tough, and making the video can be time consuming. EDpuzzle allows users to edit existing videos, crop what is not needed, record over the original sound so that movies can be dubbed into any language or students can simply hear the familiarity of their teacher’s voice, and teachers can insert questions along the way. I see great potential in EDpuzzle. For our teachers who are using a blended learning approach I see them being able to easily provide differentiation by inserting different questions into the videos. Additionally, those teachers using mrbarrette.com (for more on this tool read my previous post) to organize their courses online can upload these videos and students can access these whenever they need to and work at their own pace. And lastly, for the past few years students have been using Upside Down Academy to showcase their own video tutorials, a rich project that has connected students learning in mathematics across the years as the new 9th graders get to watch the now 10th and 11th graders videos. I think that using EDpuzzle as one step in the editing process will allows students to really reflect on what helps them learn, and how to recreate this for others.

One of the other groups that caught my attention was netclick. This product presents a very simple concept that I think enhances the educational experience. Now even though I know that using powerpoint slides and the stand-and-deliver method of teaching, there are times when this is most effective and appropriate. Not only that, but our students must learn how to given succinct and powerful presentations, and modeling what this looks like is a part of that process. So, what netclick does is enhance the educational potential of this instructional practice. This is achieved by allowing your audience members to log in from their own web-enabled device and follow along with your slides. Firstly, just this feature is great for any students with visual impairments or attention challenges. And it doesn’t stop there!!! Netclick has developed a system wherein the audience can click on the slides, netclick then aggregates the responses and then reveals a ‘heat map’ of what the group is thinking. For example, we were shown a slide of a cell (at least, I think it was a cell) and we were asked to identify the mitochondria. Once the aggregate of everyone else’s clicks showed up, I actually learned where the mitochondria is! And it doesn’t stop there, because any biology teacher would want to know that I had no clue, right? Well netclick can do this for you too. The back end provides a simple spreadsheet of how your participants responded, if students log in then this is attached to their information, and with a quick scan the teacher can see who the outliers are. Netclick has a fine product, I get the feeling they have been at this start up stage for longer than some of the other teams, so this is not a free product.

Another interesting idea was Class Central. This site proposes to aggregate MOOCs from a variety of sources, including the big providers such as Udacity and Coursera, so that users can find and attend a variety of courses. This seems like a very useful tool and I look forward to its completion.

From down under geddit brought us a unique take on the ‘check-for-understanding.’ Rather than always having kids answer a pretty low level question about the content, really the only type of question that a teacher can ask that can be answered quickly, geddit suggests having the students rate their confidence on the subject matter. While this, of course, got many scoffs from the back of the room about the absurdity of leaving it up to students, the presenter was not naïve about this reticence on the part of adults and he simply stated that kids get better with practice. I like this idea. Of course this would not be the only source of data in the room. The teacher would have to use other ways of checking whether kids are moving along or stuck on a concept. But I really like the idea of involving the students in being metacognitive about their own learning, and instilling the practice of reflection and honest self-assessment. This routine can only lead to more thoughtful learners, learners who think about how they learn and whether they are learning at this moment in time.

Here are my quick mentions:

I also love the idea of Kodable, an app for kids that introduces them to the fundamentals of computer programming. I would like to download it for myself!! As well as our schools ipads, of course, and see if students are interested in learning more.

Classroom IQ was interesting. They tackled the problem of grading, specifically, written answers. This is a challenge for teachers, and will only become more intensive as we move towards Common Core and teachers must prepare students for these types of non-multiple choice questions. However, the solution was a little lack luster. The idea is that teachers scan all of the paper results and upload them to the IQ system. Then the teacher can select the part of the page where the answer is, and the IQ system will replicate this selection across all scanned pages. This produces a number of small screenshot looking boxes where the answers are, and teachers can click and grade. Supposedly it saves time, and I am sure once all the stuff is scanned and uploaded and selected, it would be faster than flipping through paper, but all the scanning and selecting takes time too, not to mention dealing with all the other people who need to use the school’s scanner. What would be great is if they had developed a system that could use handwriting recognition to read and grade the selected answers. That would truly be a time saver!

Finally, Front Row presented a math app the focused on providing differentiated math practice, using Common Core standards. This is built for 1st-5th graders, I believe, so there wont readily be wide spread use in my teaching context. However, there are some students who are really struggling with math and this may be the perfect thing. Additionally, I am very curious to learn what common core math means to them. This is such a nebulous new thing that each new product or assessment, for better or worse, will end up defining what we mean by common core in some way.

In summary, I want to thank Imagine K-12 for bringing us all together, for the tasty snacks and adult beverages. It is not very often that teachers get to feel like experts with other adults, as so much of their days are spent with the students. This is a great way to honor the teacher’s know-how, to build collaborative relationships between the designers and the classroom, and to insist that the newest Edtech products are as relevant as they claim to be. Thank you!

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Kick off for 2012-2013 school year

The new school year is officially underway and, despite a delayed start, the Blended Learning programs and my coaching schedule is up and running. I spent the first two weeks of school helping our tech department get our Chromebook carts ready and in classrooms. Due to an overwhelming number of orders (note to self, order Chromebooks in February if possible) our order arrived on the first day of school. To make matters even more complicated they all arrived at our Support Office in Oakland in giant piles.

photo taken with photosynth

So I sifted through them all and organized them into piles for each site, arranged for their transportation, unpacked boxes, charged them, turned them on, enrolled them into our domain, tagged them, inventoried them, carted them etc… All this set up is nothing in comparison to that of a macbook cart, for example, but it is still a significant number of days work.

Envision School is embarking on two new ventures this year. We are expanding the use of Chromebooks in Algebra I classes to all four sites.

Metropolitan Arts and Technology High School – known as Metro, in San Francisco

City Arts and Technology High School – known as CAT, in San Francisco

Impact Academy – known as IA, in Hayward

Envision Academy – known as EA, in Oakland

We are using a Flexlab model at two of our schools (Metro and CAT) for language classes, credit recovery, and extension classes. We are also continuing to work with our highest need students individually to provide blended learning opportunities through integrating technology with the general education curriculum. My role as Blended Learning Coach is to support the teachers in implementing these programs, continue to monitor the effectiveness of the each program and, of course, write about it.

Our efforts are unified in that we are focused on individualized and differentiated pathways to success within the structure of A-G requirements and standards aligned courses. We strongly believe that all students will experiences success when given appropriate opportunities and tools. An important part of this equation is using technology as both a tool and thus an opportunity to access individualized and differentiated learning experiences. I look forward to sharing these experiences with you over the coming school year as I write about what is working and what is difficult. I always welcome suggestions, comments and feedback as I learn from active engagement with my audience.

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Wrapping up the year.

The end of the school year has come and gone and in the calm after the storm I find myself reflecting upon how our projects have faired. I also realized that in the frenzy of the last weeks of school I failed to post my final thoughts about Upside Down Exhibition at Impact Academy. As the student were rapidly prototyping on their lessons and the teachers were prepping for final reflections, I was working on finding funding for next year. The Gates Foundation has kindly extended its interest in Blended Learning and is continuing to support brick and mortar schools, like Envision, find innovative ways to bring Blended Learning into more traditional models. The process of preparing and revising a grant is something that is new to me and I am so grateful to our superintendent and our head of development for the collaboration and persistence that they both displayed. This was by no means an isolated or individual effort. And it is certainly a testament to the power of bringing the different expertise of an organization together in pursuit of one goal.

Thank you Gates for the opportunity to continue what we believe to be transformative work; both for us organizationally and for the students we serve.

And speaking of those student… I went to Impact academy in the last week of school. I was actually there on the day of graduation and saw many of my previous students walk. That is always a tear jerker.

The 9th grade students were busily finishing up their video reflections so they could make it to the hall on time. In conversations with a few of the students and the teacher I could clearly see that the impact of providing and receiving structured peer feedback was turning out to be very positive. The teacher had led the whole class through the process of determining feedback, and then emphasized the difference and importance of warm and cool feedback. These distinctions are ones that the adults at Envision Schools use frequently in our protocols for working on a variety of projects. It is amazing to see how this skill has now been introduced at all levels and connects staff and students as humans and agents of teaching and learning.

After engaging in this process in groups, and filling out rubrics on each others work, the students logged on to Upside Down Academy and publicly reviewed their peers lessons, the evidence of this is something I encourage the readers to check out for themselves.

The project iterations has convinced me that this process is one that provides multiple layers of learning. Students clearly explore their own strengths and challenges as teachers and learners, this process provides new ways to practice and prepare material, and its an authentic avenue for students to practice their multi-media talents. My hope is that next years Algebra I teachers will draw on this years tutorials as part of their instructional tool kits, and that students will continue to share their learnings with each other and the world.

In closing, please stay tuned for our final posts about using ipads. The two week end of year project was exciting and gave us a glimpse of how this tool can change the learning space. And lastly, have a wonderful summer.

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ipads in math class!

Last week the 9th grade students at City Arts and Technology (fondly known as CAT), which is one of the two Envision Schools in San Francisco, were able to use ipads in their last math classes of the year. Due to the tireless work of our Senior Director of Technology we were able to benefit from  a loan program that Apple has. Their rep just dropped them off and our math teacher was able to start right away (well it was almost that simple). Luckily the math teacher at CAT has been working hard all year to incorporate technology in his teaching practice and was ready to take full advantage of the loan.

When I went to visit the students were working on graphing and exploring how all of the elements of the equation impact the end result. Their first task was to create graphs that looked the same as the samples provided. Once they had visually matched the graphs they then noted the different values for x, y, and a. For this they were using an online graphing calculator called Desmos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After this they were asked to use at least three different equations at once. This prompted many of the students creativity and ingenuity. A couple of students used simple line and circle equations to create a picture. ” its a plate, some chopsticks and a…meatball” she exclaimed. I think this got other students thinking outside of the box, I saw kites, flowers, and a baseball. Some students went to the samples to see how other shapes are made, and even copied or changed these equations to better understand how they changed the image. One pair of students wanted to have a filled shape and did so by making multiple lines that seemed to blend together. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This website offered students a more hands on opportunity to engage with the graph, by allowing them to adjust all aspects, by making it possible for them to play and move and experiment. One student called me over because he, and I will use his words ” am lost in my graph”. He had gotten so deep into the manipulation and moving that he could not locate where x and y intersect. Luckily there is a button to bring you home. I asked him what he was working on and he said that he was following the two lines he had created, “they just kept going”. I flippantly said they would keep going forever and never touch, and he looked at me in a way that I am having a hard time describing. I realized that even though he knew this (someone told him, his teacher taught him, he memorized it) he had not experienced it until now. It was made real for him in that moment.

So, apart from testing the ipads in algebra I, we are going to be using them for the next two weeks in what we refer to as “workshops.” This is a time when each teacher creates a larger project that the students can engage with, and students select which project they want to work on. So stay tuned for more exciting stories and more learning.

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