Tag Archives: Edtech

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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Tools of the day

In the spirit of open source collaborative design-based experimentation in the service of learning, I want to share the tools I encountered today.

I watched a Webinar about differentiation that discussed how technology can support the need for more individualized approaches, and more specifically what. The presentation was given by two teachers so the suggestions that they make are really practical and you know that they will work.

Some ideas that I have been tossing around recently are using Voicethread for students to create digital stories. This could work well as an alternative assignment in any class. I have most often seen this used with Language Arts, but I also think it can be very powerful in Science and Math.

Googlelittrips has kmz files that can be overlaid into google earth and show the highlights of major works of literature. This seems like a great activity to support the reading of one of the books. Could also be applicable to historical analysis.

Educreations is great for making videos of your lesson, or encouraging students to create videos of their own. This can be used in any classroom and even outside.

animaps is a great way to create interactive informative maps. I love this idea. I have not had a chance to use this much yet and would love to hear how others have used this.

Google search stories is also a fun way for students to engage in a short project that captures the essence of any lesson, story, process. Could be a great way to teach the story arch and have students apply this knowledge.

I also recently found this interactive whiteboard site that is free to use. Although I have yet to really test it.

In the interest of sharing, I would love to hear from others who have used these resources. Also, if there are other tools that people have come across that are useful and you have had success with please feel free to share these as well.

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Travels with Kiera: an educator on the road

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of taking my work on the road. My first stop was The California Charter School’s Association held its annual conference in Sacramento and I lucky enough to get a last minute invitation. Looking over the Conference schedule the night before it was striking how much emphasis was placed on Blended Learning by the programming board. Perhaps this reflects the demand of their constituency, perhaps this is a local representation or perhaps this is demonstrative of a national wave in digital learning.

I had the pleasure of being a part of many interesting discussions and got an in depth view into some specific examples of blended learning approaches. What is fascinating is to realize how broadly the field of education is defining blended learning approaches. For example, there are charter schools that have built their buildings to accommodate a large learning lab. A new elementary school in rural California, Grimmway Academy, has lab space for up to 70 students or so. A team of learning specialists monitor the students progress through a handful of different software programs, pull small groups off the computers to reinforce or re-teach certain concepts, and this team communicates regularly with the classroom teachers to both share data on the students progress and plan upcoming curriculum. This fledgling school approached its design with an idea of blended learning as a pillar around which other decisions were made. Their model cited the previous example of a similar model, Rocketship Education.

Other schools have embraced different aspects of blended learning. For example, Greendot has pulled together a variety of resources that they use to techno-phy the existing curricular structure. Some examples of these are Google apps for education, edmodo, and dropbox. This is similar to the approach that we are exploring at Envision Schools. When I think of the blended learning that we are working to establish it is one that incorporates the affordances of certain new media into an existing physical and curricular structure. Each approach has pros and cons, and is a response to different condition sets.

There were also a plethora of companies and institutions approaching blended learning from a more historical perspective. From what I know the term ‘blended learning’ was first coined to describe distance learning or online learning opportunities that were primarily computer based. Under this particular umbrella there are a wide variety of programs that offer different levels of curriculum, programs that are designed on different approaches to learning, different levels of scaffolding, different levels of technological support. Making educated decisions about which of these are the right fit for your school can be overwhelming. In fact there was a very interesting presentation that touched on the important areas to consider when constructing a rubric and protocol for making these types of decisions for your school community.

Lastly, even the exhibition hall was all a flutter with the accouterments of blending learning environments. Many booths were holding raffles for free ipads, kindles, laptops etc. All of the poster sessions were organized around blended learning. Overall the conference had some interesting points to ponder and exposed me to many companies and organizations that are building and selling blended learning.

Imagine K12 Educator Day

Later in the same week I was invited to attend a bi-yearly event held in Palo Alto. Imagine K12 is an opportunity for new EdTech companies to partner with educators so that the creators and the stakeholders can co-contribute to the development and refinement of new venture. This was an exciting and interesting experience for me.

Firstly, the event was held in a manner similar to a TED Talk. They were punchy and well prepared and got right to the heart of each product. In most cases the person presenting on behalf of the products were the founders or co-founders. This resulted in a really inspired and heartfelt pitch.

Secondly, there was a wide variety of new products and platforms so there was something there for everyone. Prior to the event I had spent sometime on the phone with the founder of Hapara. This New Zealand based company has designed a platform that organizes and manages google apps for education. Really a great product for administrators to look at if the school is using google apps consistently. There were other companies that presented more data management tools that seem really comprehensive and smart, but that I was less drawn to because they were not directly applicable to my current position. I was able to meet and chat with the creators of educreations. This is an exciting tool that one of our math teachers is using to create short videos of his classroom for students to access after class. I have been using educreations to take notes in my statistics class. I can write what the teacher is saying and record the lecture at the same time! Genius.

Lastly, there were two new resources that I feel everyone should spend sometime looking at, so I want to introduce them here. The first is BrainGenie. This site provides instructional tutorials and practice in a variety of Math and Science topics. It is nicely divided into grade levels and is being aligned with Common Core standards. I had a long conversation with the co-founder and he indicated that while he realizes that their platform is very much like Khan Academy, they hope to develop into a tool that is differentiated by the feedback that teachers can provide. So use the site and let them know what you think. The second resource that I saw a lot of potential in is a search engine tool call InstaGrok. This tool can be used to scaffold web-based research in a number of ways. The site organizes information by identifying key vocabulary, by providing a relationship chart for said vocabulary and concepts, by providing images and audio-visual resources, and the most interesting feature is you can adjust the reading level of the resources provided. I can see this search engine being particularly helpful in late elementary and middle school, but I also see how it can be useful even for adults.

All in all both of these experiences have given me many ideas to take back to my schools. I was reminded that it is important to get outside of the classroom every once in a while, to interact and brainstorm with other educators. This process of rejuvenation is essential to being sustainable in ones role, and I believe it is essential to ensuring that the innovations of blended learning approaches continue to cross pollinate and breed.

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