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An Unexpected Skill~Thinking Differently

After visiting with a 4th grade teacher, I left with a few interesting thoughts. The teacher was showing me how one of her students professed to using 28 different apps to create one project. The end project was an iMovie and sure enough this student had a ton of different ways that he had made his images.  He used everything from Pic Collage to Notability, Telegami and Chatter Pix.  The video itself was nothing short of a montage of images that expressed his ideas and understanding of the topic.  What was interesting is the evidence of being able to tackle a project and think differently about it.  

When students first start using iPads and their task is to create an iMovie, often times students will save google images and then throw those into a storyboard. What this student did and many others like him in his class was to create their own images. Not only did he create his own drawings and images but he used a ton of different apps to do so. I can appreciate this on a couple different levels.  

One, is that I myself sometimes become frustrated when I am trying to find an image that expresses my idea.  I have begun drawing what I want instead.  I use apps like Notability, Explain Everything, and Paper 53 to create my drawings.  Even though I am sure my artwork isn’t perfect, I know it’s mine and I don’t have to worry about copyright laws.  

Second, I love that kids who are immersed in iPad technology are developing the skills to think differently about how to complete a task. No longer are they tied to paper, pencil and crayons.  They have a tool to create anything they can imagine to express their understanding and ideas.  Thier only limitation is their imagination. The world needs individuals who can look at a project from all different angles and experiment with a variety of tools to complete a task.  

And third, these kids are learning from each other because they are all doing something different. The expectation that assignments must look the same upon completion has been turned upside down with effective technology, pedagogy, and tools. No longer does everyone’s work look the same, and no longer is the evaluation of a task a percentage or letter grade. Whether you have iPads or are a BYOD environment, attempt to create lessons that allow for creativity.  

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Created by me with Paper 53!

If you open the door to the possibilities of student expressing their understanding in a multitude of ways you will be amazed at what they will come up with.  

Written by Jennifer Krzystowczyk

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5 Tools to Get Your Presence On

imagesEducators of today face many challenges.  Students live in a face-paced, information- saturated world.  How do educators keep kids engaged, informed, and connected?  Creating your own digital presence as a teacher is key to answering this question.  

If you aren’t sure where to start here are 5 tools that can increase your digital presence.

Blogging

Blogging is an excellent way to tell the story of your classroom.  There are many platforms that work for a classroom blog.  We love blogger, wordpress, or edublogs.  Blogger is connected to your Google account if you have one.  Some teachers find that with blogging they do not need a website. Great sites for educators are Edublogs, Blogger, WordPress, and Kidblog.  

Check out these class blogs for inspiration.  

http://icanipadinthirdgrade.blogspot.com

http://mrsevonsthirdgrade.blogspot.com

http://garywoodsblog.blogspot.com

http://thunderamericanhistory.blogspot.com

Periscope

Real time streaming within the Twitter app is a powerful tool.  Participating in Periscope as a watcher or a videographer is a great way to increase your digital presence.  @PreriscopeEdu is being tapped as a Twitter account for educators to follow.  You can bring the world into your classroom with Periscope and provide unique, real-time learning.  Like any app turn on your notifications for Periscope and see what is trending immediately.

Twitter

Twitter is being overtaken by educators!  Use Twitter for yourself professionally to connect with other educators and ideas.  It can take a while to fine tune your professional learning network, but once you have a solid foundation of people to follow, Twitter becomes invaluable. You can use Twitter for your class by creating your own class hashtag.  Simply choose a word and tell your kids what it is, like #mrssmithclass and use it for class discussions.  

Instagram

Now more than ever kids are into instagram.  This generation has been dubbed, the most photographed generation ever.  Kids use photos to express emotion, status, and experiences.  Use instagram as a way to showcase student work, literary themes, science experiments, field trips and more.  Remember, you can set the privacy settings so that only certain people can see your instagram feed.  This is helpful for teachers wanting to only have their students see what is posted.  

YouTube Channel

Create playlists on content that supports your teaching and require students to watch those videos prior to coming to class to increase intervention time and group work.  YouTube channels and playlists are great, because you can add to them throughout the year in order to curate content.  

A Website

Teacher websites provide important links and information to students.  We like Weebly and Google sites.  Both platforms are free and easy to use.  Here are some great teacher websites to check out.  

http://thesimssite.weebly.com

https://sites.google.com/a/bpsne.net/bobier/

http://mrtoellelifescience.weebly.com

https://sites.google.com/a/bpsne.net/team-explorers/home

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How Educational Leaders Can Support a Growth Mindset

From Edutopia.org
Edutopia.org

Educational leaders give lip service to a concept called growth mindset.  It is brought up in PD sessions and teacher assessments.  There is even a hashtag, #growthmindset, that is on Twitter.

Growth is defined as, the process of developing.  Mindset is defined as the established set of attitudes.  So growth mindset must mean to develop your attitudes, right?

How can leaders facilitate a growth mindset from a set of teachers within a district?  First, leaders must examine their own set of attitudes and take responsibility for their own growth.  Growing attitudes takes time and conscious work.  It doesn’t happen overnight and certain behaviors can help facilitate growth among educators.  Consider these five steps that leaders can embrace when moving people to different attitudes about learning in the classroom.

Model a growth mindset

As a leader, try new tools, read relevant books, and engage in critical conversations about growth.  Talk about what you are reading, share new skills you are learning, or tweet out content you find valuable to your own learning.  Use the hashtag #growthmindset in your tweets to reach an interested audience.  If you aren’t learning something new, how can you expect others that you mentor to do the same?

Support risk-taking

If an educator comes to you with an idea, be a good listener.  Too often fear guides decisions.  The what if’s and worries get in the way.  Instead, attempt to provide whatever support the teacher needs to make their ideas come to fruition. Who knows? You might learn something new in the process.

Focus on passion in the classroom and not the tests

It is a true statement that tests receive the most attention within the classroom despite the grade level. Let’s move away from testing as an end all and go with passion for learning instead. After all, if students don’t love learning, what is the point of school?  Passion is where its at and genius hour is one great way to kick off some passionate learning in the classroom.  Conversations needs to shift from, “What does your data look like?”  to “What are your students engaged in learning about right now?”

Provide opportunities for growth 

Seek out learning opportunities for teachers that might spark their passion for learning.  Be open to ideas for conferences, twitter chats, MOOCs and collaboration.  Provide interesting and engaging literature for teachers like Teach Like a Pirate or The Relevant Educator.

Allow teachers to take responsibility for their own learning.

Instead of providing professional development that is a sit and get model, provide more engaging and transformative PD in the form of collaborative spaces, big ideas, and teacher leaders.  Professional development can and should be differentiated. We love using Google communities, Twitter, and Google docs for collaborative work spaces.

The gift of time is also critical for effective professional development. Learning can take the form of many different avenues and leaders should be open to all of them.

I love this post from Steve Anderson about creativity and a crisis in leadership. He states that “we all need to ensure kids have opportunities to learn, reflect, grow and follow their passions, through learning.”  I believe educators have the same need and I believe educational leaders have the responsibility to support, model, and facilitate this need.  Maybe then our lip service to a growth mindset can come to fruition.

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About Me

I’m finally back in the south!  I’ve traveled around for a while and am so glad to be back home in the south techin’ it up!  With 20 years in education and several of those in instructional technology I love impacting student learning, empowering teachers with instructional technology, and advocating for best practices in schools.  Previous Apple Foundations Trainer and Google Apps for Education Trainer, I am a lover of all things Apple, creativity, public speaking, and being a connected educator.

Teaching accredited online education technology courses at www.edcelerate.org.
Connect with me on Twitter at @jennyktechin.

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Why Students Should Learn in Real Time

Learning in real time simply means that students are engaged in tools, people, and instructional guidance in real time. Routine activities such as grading completed papers, class discussions after reading text, or writing a research paper do not provide real time learning.

Real time learning connects students to the world with real people and provides authentic learning that could not otherwise be achieved.  When providing real time learning activities, you will discover that your students might be motivated to produce higher quality work because they have witnessed real world activities and made real world connections.

Furthermore, you can expand their audience by publishing reactions and discussion to the world via Twitter, YouTube, or a Padlet.

Many of our students miss opportunities to participate in a positive online presence. Employing these tools is a great way to demonstrate a constructive online presence that enhances the world in which they live.

Here are three tools that can help you bring real time learning into your classroom.

Periscope Live Streaming to the World

With over 10 million active Periscope accounts and the equivalent of 40 years of videos watched a day, this tool is worth leveraging with students and educators.  Odds are your middle school and high school students have spent hours watching real time videos from across the globe.

Periscope is viewed on any device and through its app for both iOS and Android users.  Periscope has the ability to bring real world experiences like Museum tours, foreign travel experiences, rare bird watching, and other adventures that many students will never have the opportunities in which to participate.  Periscope has started a hashtag for education called #PeriscopeEDU.  If you follow that hashtag on your Tweetdeck or Twitter feed you will have direct access to live streaming that may or may not support the standards you are teaching.  

Users need an account that can be quickly created under their Twitter umbrella.  Viewers can ask the “streamer” real time questions that get answered immediately and tap the screen to add hearts that lets the videographer know that what they are streaming is liked.

Imagine live streaming real world events that can engage students in analytical discussions.  Consider the mass immigration of refugees to the coast of Europe due to the Syrian war.  It’s impossible to imagine the chaos this event is causing, but to see those people crammed into a small boat and the lack of humanity they are experiencing- imagine the class discussions and possible actions your students might be inspired to take.

To read more about Periscope live streaming, check out @tonyvincent ‘s infographic.

Google Hangouts

Connected Classrooms on Google+

Another great tool is Google Hangouts. I’ve blogged a lot about Google Hangouts and how we’ve used them in the classroom. I cannot stress how effective this tool can be when you need to invite experts into your room, hold a group meeting, or experience a virtual field trip.

Today I saw a post in the Connected Classrooms Google+ Community.  It was a sixth grade social studies teacher requesting to hangout with a sixth grade class in Rome. It just so happens that I have a cousin who teaches in Rome, so if course I got them connected. The platform also hosts virtual field trips that your class can sign up to “attend”. With Google Hangouts you can screen share, invite up to 15 different groups or individuals, and even record the hangout as an “on air” hangout to refer to in the future.

Google Docs

It might seem simple, but Google Docs can be utilized as a real-time learning tool.  Research papers, narratives, or any other created documented becomes a real-time learning experience in Google Docs.  Simply have your students share their doc with you and monitor their progress by posting comments that serve as guiding questions to push their thinking deeper.  Students relate this experience to “having my teacher with me all the time.”  Create your lessons that allow you to become the guide on the side and let your students go. You sit back and monitor their work with feedback, resources, and comments.

I have seen this work magic in classrooms and teachers are amazing at how quiet and productive their rooms becomes.  Does it seem like too much to monitor up to 28 or 30 docs at a time?  Simply create collaborative documents and students produce together to limit your role.  Or use peer editors to guide each other along.  You will be amazed at the higher quality of work your students can produce when immediate feedback is provided.

LMS

5 REASONS TO SWITCH TO GOOGLE CLASSROOM

I often get asked, “Why should I use Google Classroom?”  Teachers that have been using a different learning management system or LMS, want to have a good reason to switch.  Within Google Apps for Education, or GAFE, teachers have access to Google Classroom.

Here are five reasons why Google Classroom can be an invaluable tool for teaching within a GAFE system.

  1. Google Classroom automatically creates folders within your drive.  “I have docs from kids everywhere in my Drive!” This from many teachers who jump into Google Docs with kids. Unfortunately, Drive does not automatically organize all those shared documents.  You have to keep up with it.  But within GAFE, your Drive will automatically create folders that match your classrooms.
  2. Google Classroom keeps assignments organized.
    Within google Classroom you can create an entire lesson to share with your students. You can insert directions, descriptions, links, and resources all within one post.
  3. Google Classroom provides a platform for immediate feedback and progress monitoring.  
    When you create an assignment in Google Classroom, you can opt to have a doc as view only, make a copy for each student, or as a shared document.  The copies and the collaborative docs provide the platform for teachers to monitor work, provide immediate feedback, and guide the quality of work.  Assignment grades are posted within the classroom as well.

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4.  Google Classroom encourages online discussions in a closed and secure environment.  
In Classroom, you can now add a question. This opens up a class discussion within your classroom for your students. This could be used to voice opinions about topics or it could be used as a quick assessment tool to get a quick snapshot of your students’ understanding on a subject.  This is also an excellent way for students to learn from each other or see a different point of view. This was added to Classroom in October 2015.

5.  Google Classroom provides a stream of posts, assignments, and discussions available to your students 24/7.  
Share a doc, a link, a video, an image or post a question within your stream to make it available to your students. The beauty of Google is that all a student needs is internet access, making learning available at any time.

Google will attest to the fact, that Classroom is not an official Learning Management System, however it is close and once you try it and become ingrained in it you will see the beauty of it.
If you are working within a GAFE environment and you are using a separate LMS, consider switching to Classroom to make life within Google much more streamlined. Google Classroom holds everything is all in one place making your Drive super organized, student communication simplified, and confusion dismantled.
My favorite resource for learning even more about Google Classroom is from Alice Keeler.  You can read more about Google Classroom and along with tips and tricks here.