Tag Archives: new media tools

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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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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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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Envision Participates in Digital Learning

As part of a national project in Digital Learning, Envision is rolling out the Spring Exhibition project that focuses on inquiry in teaching and learning within a digital environment. In efforts to innovate within the current educational structure, teachers around the nation are committing to thinking critically about teaching and learning, with a dedication to finding deliberate and relevant ways to integrate new media tools.

Our path towards understanding how to design meaningful and useful changes to classroom practices began with the introduction of the Chromebook. Some specifics about implementation are discussed in this article, which addresses many of the issues and successes found working with the Chromebooks in the classroom. Just to highlight some of the expereinces that are common between the authors experience and ours are:

  •  Students quickly adjust to working in the cloud, they appreciate being able to have constant and almost immediate access to their work.
  • The ease of set-up, security, monitoring, ‘back end’ type stuff is by and large appreciated by all.
  • Lack of Java is problematic.

The Chromebook has allowed us to envision a new way of engaging our students. We have been prototyping different ways to structure our Algebra I class. The foundation for our design is a model for blended learning. We have developed classroom practices in which students are working individually on modules in Khan Academy. We have reduced direct instruction and emphasized small group instruction to allow students to move more independently through the curriculum thus enabling the teacher to provide more targeted instruction.

The students have adjusted to these methods and I spent some time with them in class today. While sitting at one of the small tables, trying to muster all the knowledge I once had about Algebra in order to offer assistance, some salient points came out in conversation.

  1. Students get frustrated when Khan Academy takes away their streak because they got one wrong answer.

I had a chance to talk to three students about this issue. Two of the students spoke about it as though it happened to others in the class more than it happened to them. They both expressed that in the beginning, when working on concepts that were more familiar, they had used this feature as an opportunity to learn from their mistakes. However, now that they were progressing to more complicated math, they found that they were frustrated that they were not getting feedback. The third student I spoke with simply indicated that it annoyed him and the when he did his work on paper, he could go back and fix his answers.

I asked all three students why they thought Khan Academy was designed in this way? If they were creating this platform what would be a reason to make it so that you had to go back to the beginning? Only one student was able to articulate a hypothesis that extended beyond their own experience. This student proposed that it could be a way to make sure students really know the math.

I was struck by how deeply this frustration impacts the students, even the high performers. It seems to me that there are many ways to address this: some of the student suggestions include,

  • Only take away part of the streak
  • Have the student show their process and identify inaccuracy
  • Give one wrong answer free
  • Have them do 10, identify wrong answers, reassign problems
  1. Students struggle to learn or feel confident getting answers to their questions from the video tutorials.

The students are more likely to ask a peer or stand in line to ask the teacher. In an effort to avoid ruining their streak, they will get the next 10 problems, solve them on paper, ask for answers to be corrected, then input them into Khan Academy. This creates a backlog of students who need work checked, so much so that the teacher struggles to deliver small group instruction. It seems there are two ways to address this.

  • Build confidence in learning independently, asking peers for help first, checking ones work
  • Creating our own video sources

The first of these is a longer process that will take years and a village. The second of these is the focus of our Exhibition project.

The Upside Down Exhibition Roll-out

In today’s classes students got the first glimpse of the project overview. They learned about the Essential Questions, the process, the major benchmarks, and the final product. I sat in class and was able to capture their responses:

Two students talked to each other about how cool it is going to be to test their audience members after teaching, especially if it is their parents. One student asked if it is going to be hard. One student asked if she was going to be able to choose the concept she will be teaching. Another student asked if they would be working in a group or working independently.

In general there is a sense of excitement and anticipation.

Stay tuned for more details on how students progress through the learning trajectory.

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