Monday, November 11, 2019

Bringing Seesaw to Secondary: Why Seesaw isn't just for Elementary classrooms

Bringing Seesaw to Secondary: Why Seesaw isn't just for Elementary classrooms

As a platform, Seesaw lets students blend pictures, video, voice-over, annotation tools, and external resources. It can be a powerful platform for both creation and reflection. Typically, Seesaw is used by elementary educators because it caters to kids -- it’s icon heavy, makes providing voice and video instructions easy, and because it is web-based, is easily accessed on Chromebooks. Secondary teachers, don’t stop reading yet… 

Middle School teacher Kristy Fair at Gene Pike Middle School is engaging her 6th-grade students through Seesaw. For Veterans Day and as a part of their nonfiction unit, she had her students read an article from Wonderopolis and then create a presentation about what they learned. Beginning with a lesson from Seesaw’s Activity library, which is filled with pre-created activities for K-12 for all contents, Mrs. Fair modified the assignment and instructions to better meet her students' needs. She added voice instructions and asked her students to make personal connections to Veterans day before sharing their research with the class.

What I love about this lesson is that she asks her students to reflect, make connections, and create a resource to share with their classmates all based on what they read. A lesson like this is flexible -- it can easily be made more or less challenging depending on the article linked in and on the level of critical thinking students are being asked to show in their evidence of learning. She modified the task to meet her students' needs. Regardless, Seesaw and Google Slides are simply the tools through which Mrs. Fair assigned and assessed student's comprehension and learning. 

I observed her classes using Seesaw and witnessed first-hand how excited and engaged her middle schoolers were while using Seesaw. They loved sharing their work so that their classmates could see it, and were quick to leave each other positive feedback on what they shared. They were eager to participate -- one student went so far as to respond to the Veterans Day assignment from home the morning before class, sharing a video reflection about how his great-great-grandfather was a veteran.

As a former-high-school-teacher-turned-Instructional-Coach, I had admittedly written this tool off as an elementary-only resource, but working with secondary teachers and students in Seesaw quickly showed me how useful this platform can be for meeting the needs of students of all ages and ability. At its core, Seesaw is a platform for sharing and curating work, for synthesizing thinking and evidence of learning in one easy-to-use and easy-to-share place. As an added bonus it seamlessly integrates with Google Classroom, which many secondary teachers are already using. Seesaw creates choice and flexibility in how students share their learning. Whether asking students to snap a picture of their journal, annotate and reflect on what they wrote or asking students to upload their lab data and reflect on the implications of their scientific findings using videos, Seesaw can amplify the reflections and learning that happens in secondary classrooms. 

Below are a few pre-created secondary Seesaw lessons for various contents that can all be found in the Activity Library. How will you use Seesaw in your secondary classroom?

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Leading the Way...One Newscast at a Time!

There is nothing more powerful in the realm of education than the voice of our students. Allowing students to deeply root themselves into the culture of a school by sharing what they are passionate about, enables the school culture to thrive. Prairie View Elementary school does just that with their Leader Vision crew. What started as a club sponsored by a Northwest ISD Education Foundation (NEF) grant in 2018, has grown into a pivotal communication tool for the school.

Every single day, the Leader Vision team, championed by Mrs. Tiffany Dold and Mrs. Jennifer Casey, Prairie View Elementary’s Library Media Specialist and GATES teacher, respectively, sets the tone for great learning through the broadcasting of their completely student-driven newscast. Leader Vision brings the news daily to the kids at our school and keeps them informed of events and opportunities happening on our campus. Teachers come to the team with special announcements or segments to add in. Mrs. Dold believes this program benefits PVE by giving students and teachers ownership of school announcements, making this a relevant source of information for the campus. Mrs. Casey shares that they constantly talk about the habits as part of our Leader Vision group, as expectations to uphold in the classroom, as well as brainstorming ideas for the segment about LIM. Students create content to teach the 8 Habits of Leader in Me on the announcements such as providing examples how to live the Habits, hand motions, and reminders about each habit.

Because of this illustrious morning announcement crew, in one week PVE was able to increase campus DI enrollment by 500%. To ensure that everyone has their voice heard on campus, the team also includes a Language of the Week segment where the Dual Language Hawk Leaders teach the campus Spanish phrases. During Hispanic Heritage month, 2nd – 5th grade Dual Language students created more culture and historical awareness by researching and preparing a report on an important Hispanic person.

So how does this well-oiled machine function so that everyone has the opportunity to listen to the newscast during their Hawk Huddle? Students were divided into teams of broadcasters and given one day of the week to plan and broadcast. The students were given a template to use to plan the broadcasts. Then they collect the information needed (lunch menus, birthdays, campus news, and Habit of the week, etc.) and brainstorm ideas for specific segments. This 9 weeks we are really challenging the kids to draw on their own LIM experiences to add to the broadcast. There are two cameramen/producers that are responsible for setting up the mic, preparing the recording area, using the recording software, editing, and uploading the final broadcast. This process starts with these students preparing the iPad for filming and ensuring that they have created the background image. This year the Leader Vision is using DoInk, a greenscreen app, that allows their students to have full control over what the newscast looks like. The producers record their video, apply the desired background, and export the video to YouTube. The final step of the process is to upload the video directly into the Google Site that is shared across the entire campus. This process seems intense, does it not? The amazing fact is that this group functions so well that all of this happens within the span of about 15 minutes before the final bell rings to start the day of learning. That is efficiency at its finest.

When asked about future goals for the Leader Vision Program, Mrs. Casey and Mrs. Dold shared the following aspirations. Casey expressed that, “We would like to involve more kids in the news broadcast. In the spring, we will hold auditions again to rebuild and train a new crew for our departing 5th graders. Flipgrid helped us to determine a student’s on screen presence and a google form let us know about the applicants and their interest in Leader Vision.” Dold added, “We also have a long term goal of live announcements and a short term goal of pre-recording everyday.”

When we asked these young newscasters what they enjoy about the Leader Vision program the most, one student shared that, “He enjoyed being part of a team that was beneficial to the school and being able to film on the iPad.” Another student shared that her favorite part was “recording and being able to tell students about the lunch menu and birthdays.”

Though this writer may be signing off for now, one thing is for certain; the Leader Vision crew will continue to deliver the news and drive the Prairie View Hawks forward toward success.   

Check out some of their broadcasts below!


Monday, October 28, 2019

Building Collaboration, Creativity, and Critical Thinking One Block at a Time

Third grade educator Cathy Baker partnered with Cox Elementary Librarian Jamie Jensen to design a video game that determines Harriet Tubman's greatest achievement. Before students were able to create the video game Cathy designed a variety of inquiry based learning experiences in the classroom about Harriet Tubman to ensure students understood the content first. Jamie then offered Bloxels as a way for students to demonstrate their understanding of Harriet Tubman. This tool allowed the students to plan and design visuals that would come to life in the form of a video game re-enactment of important events in Harriet Tubman's life.

Before jumping right in with technology students planned a storyboard on paper with their group that focused on the character, the time period, and the trials of this historical figure. Then, students had to determine each group member's role by deciding which group member specialized in creating the character, background, and additional props and animations. All students had an active role in participating with this project but the most successful groups had high-functioning teams who were able to work together and think critically to create their finished product. Finally, one team was selected as an Expo 2019 submission and then also selected by the campus for their learning experience to be showcased at Expo 2019. The girls presented the project to families and guests who played their game and discovered firsthand how their learning guided their creation.

Clara Love Elementary GATES educatory, Kristy Schluter decided Bloxels was the perfect platform for her second grade story writing project. Students took the time to create and plan their characters, setting, and plot for their story before they turned it into a video game. Next, Kristy reached out to her campus Instructional Technologist, Jillian Phillips, to learn more about Bloxels. Jillian had seen the experience the student at Cox Elementary designed and she put Kristy in contact with the Cox Elementary gurus!! She set up a time for Clara Love’s second grade students to Zoom with Cox Elementary’s third grade experts. The third graders were able their peers in 2nd grade how to use Bloxels. Jillian also set up a Flipgrid where our Clara Love and Cox Elementary students could ask and answer questions virtually throughout the unit.

Kristy’s second grade GATES students loved every second of the design process involved with Bloxes and believed this was a wonderful learning experience!  Designing video games through Bloxesl is fun for the students and relatively easy for them to use. Students were 100% engaged and learned a lot by trial and error. Bloxels has endless options for creating intricate rooms and pathways for students who want to go above and beyond. Mrs. Schluter believes these types of learning experiences are important because they provide opportunities for students to be in control of creating the content and sharing it with an authentic audience. Students loved having so much creative freedom and the ability to see their ideas come to life in their very own video games. Both of these projects integrated elements of coding, ELA, math, and STEM into a totally student-centered PBL that combines imagination, creativity, critical thinking, technology, and problem-solving skills as they design a video game.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Esports: More Than Just Fun and Games

Einstein said, “Education is not the learning of facts, but training the mind to think.” Teaching
students how to think and how to succeed helps develop those “soft skills” we all frequently hear about as students transition out of formal education. These time tested skills are not just another educational trend or revolving initiative. Characteristics like communication, integrity, empathy, professionalism, time management, responsibility, teamwork, and critical thinking are things that contribute to our social and emotional development and they are what helps us, as humans, to be able to successfully adapt to a variety of situations. What many educators differ on is how to go about facilitating the development of these skills and characteristics in our students.

One way to develop these skills is in the growing realm of esports. It is a relevant place that can not only support Social Emotional Learning initiatives, but it can also facilitate many of those soft skills we want students to gain. In fact, the mission of the North America Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF) is “to provide opportunities for ALL students to use esports as a platform to acquire critical communication, collaboration, and problem solving skills needed to thrive and work in life.” Esports does not just facilitate gamers getting together to play video games, but alternatively, it ensures “that ALL students possess the knowledge and skills needed to be society’s game changers: educated, productive, and empathetic individuals.”

Mr. Fidel Sanchez, a science teacher at V.R. Eaton High School, is leading the charge to establish Eaton’s very own esports club. To the inexperienced gamer, this new club seems like a fun break for students from the regular grind of a traditional learning environment. However, it is way more than it appears on the surface. Esports is projected to become a billion dollar industry in the next year and not just due to hosted events that resemble what you might see at the Super Bowl or World Cup Soccer. Esports has the potential to help a large number of students access college through NCAA scholarship opportunities and related career paths. The Eaton esports group meets twice a week to practice and develop a very complex and impressive skill set. The goal is to build a team that can compete interscholastically for large scale academic recognition, scholarships, and career opportunities.

Michael, a sophomore on Eaton’s team, explains that he loves to participate not only to have fun but also to have the opportunity to be competitive at something he enjoys. He and his teammates, Andy and Larry, feel that esports helps them to develop better communication skills. Parker, a junior orchestra student, agreed that participating in esports has helped him to “be more social” and build the skills necessary to positively interact with others. Kameron, a sophomore team member, agreed and explained that the communication students learn through esports is different than most socialization and in order to be successful, one has to be able to “stay calm during competition and communicate professionally with their teammates to build trust.” He pointed out that “unprofessional communication does not help teammates to believe in your ability to deal with challenges,” which is important for a team to be successful. Beau is a freshman student on the team who says that there is no place for students to “be toxic or to fight with other players.” All the students agreed that participating in esports encourages them “to stay on top of their grades and to prioritize” because maintaining the level of skill needed for competition takes at least an hour or two of practice each night.

These Eaton students hope to see this activity grow larger among younger audiences here at EHS and across the country. They recommend that for anyone interested in getting involved in esports to “just start playing.” They suggest spending time learning about various roles, different strategies, and “champions” (characters) in games like League of Legends or Super Smash Bros. and to work to develop the style of play for their role and “champion.” These students also suggest finding adults like Mr. Sanchez , who are just as passionate about gaming to help them organize and advocate for resources and opportunities necessary for their club’s growth.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Comprehending WILD Literature

Back to school in the FALL at Justin Elementary is all about policies, procedures, routines, and setting expectations with students.  One of the goals for 5th-grade teachers Ms. Haley Donaldson and Mrs. Becky Carlson is for students to take risks and try new things to enhance their reading comprehension. With that goal, both teachers are committed to incorporating relevant technology into her lessons to help students reach their goals across multiple literary elements.  After finishing the read-aloud Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, students were given the choice to produce a technology-infused product that represented: Theme, Character, Comparing, Setting, and Plot.

Emma N. from Mrs. Donaldson’s class really enjoyed making the WILD Wordcloud project.  She stated, “ I liked doing this project digitally because I got to be creative to choose my own words, design my own colors, and I chose a plane as the background. I found my idea to make the flipbook on Youtube.”

3-5, Becky Carlson, Canva, Chromebooks, ELA, google docs, Google Drawings, Hailey Donaldson, Justin Elementary, literacy, Literary Elements, Reading, Voice and Choice, WeVideo, Writing,

Students were challenged to capture the essence of the novel and give the reader a good idea of what the book was about.  In this novel, thirteen-year-old Brian is flying on a bush plane when the pilot suddenly has a heart attack and dies. Brian manages to keep the plane level until it crashes into a lake in the Canadian wilderness. Brian survives the crash, but that was just the beginning. Characters in many novels go on adventures and through their journeys teach the reader much about life and themselves. Below are more projects that follow Brian’s WILD  journey into the wilderness. Students used their Chromebooks and were given the choice of four types of tools to elaborate on their literary elements: Google Draw, Canva, Adobe Spark, and Wordcloud.  

In this video, Seth L. from Mrs. Carlson's class wanted to publish a video about what the WILD Canadian setting looked like to him after reading the book. Click here to view

Cameron L. said, “My favorite part was typing my paper in Google Docs since I have bad handwriting. I am really proud when I get my papers typed up, they look professional.”

Emory H. from Ms. Donaldson’s class chose to show the reader about the WILD setting of the book by using Google Draw.
3-5, Reading, Literacy, Goals, Becky Carlson, Hailey Donaldson, Justin Elementary, Google Docs, Google Draw, Canva, WeVideo, Writing, Creative, Expo, Voice and Choice

Brady T. from Mrs. Carlson’s class showed voice and choice by producing a WILD monthly newscast in WeVideo about the book. To show his creative side he even interviewed his teacher as if she had the main character Brian in her class.  To watch the video - click here

Haley B. from Ms. Donaldson’s class used Canva to entice readers to come to visit WILD Hatchet by creating a magazine about the book. Click here to view the project.

These projects are showcased on the board outside the classroom in the hallway for all visitors to see. Also, they will be submitted to our district's learning showcase event EXPO in February.  More information can be found at  In closing, students demonstrated content-specific skills. This project utilized technology in a way that enabled students to demonstrate how they have empowered learners and creative communicators, crucial skills for being future-ready. (ISTE Student Standards)

Monday, October 7, 2019

Ozobots for the WIN!

Over the last year, Beck Elementary has been building its inventory to kick off and launch a campus STEAM Lab. As an extension of the classroom, this lab allows students and teachers to make cross curriculum connections and extend their thinking in the areas of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics. The most popular additions to the lab have been the LittleBits, Keva Planks, and Ozobots.

The Ozobots, specifically, have been kid tested and teacher approved as a way to promote critical thinking and problem solving. These codable robots can inspire students to design a path using color coded markers that demonstrate, imitate, represent, or even illustrate a particular concept. The sky's the limit with these tiny bots. Teachers have collaborated with the campus Library Media Specialist, Jenny Martin, and one of the campus GATES teachers, Shelly Moses, to design rich learning opportunities focused on content across grade levels.

Bulleted below are just some of the innovative ways the Ozobots have been integrated into classrooms over the last year:

For more lesson inspiration check out the Ozobot lesson library portal and follow the Beck Elementary STEAM Lab on Twitter. Happy coding!

Sunday, September 29, 2019

You've DOT to Read This Book!

We love reading at Hughes Elementary! With a campus and district focus on literacy, 5th grade ELA teachers decided to create a platform for students to recap, rate, and review books they were reading. This idea came up during “Dot Day” when students were learning that they can leave a mark and inspire others in the process. Teachers wanted students to be able to recommend books to their classmates and inspire them to pass their love of specific books on to others in the class. 

Writing about books and recommending them to others was a skill that these students got to learn throughout the process. Mrs. Covarelli points out, “Some students didn’t understand the difference between writing a book blurb and a review.  We got the chance to model how to write a book blurb to hook the reader versus writing a review. We’re continually teaching students how to give specific text details to support a review rather than just writing 'it was fun, funny, or enjoyable.’”  Mrs. Covarelli adds, “ I love seeing which books my students have felt impacted by in their independent reading time. I enjoyed seeing my students give a book 4/5 stars rather than 5, but still highly recommend it.” 
Mrs. Bass adds, “Students were excited to create a review of the book they had read and share it with a wider audience than their class. It allowed them to express their opinion and encourage others to read.”

Teyla, McKenna, and Addie were three students that were particularly excited about writing reviews and reading reviews from others. “The One and Only Ivan is a book that I feel should get more attention than it does,” said Teyla. “This book made me feel lots of emotions such as sadness, loss, excitement, surprise, and joy. The cover doesn’t show what the book is really about." She noted, "It may look like a picture book for first or second grade, but it’s actually great for fourth or fifth graders. Writing a blurb and review helped me share these details with others.” 

McKenna read “Because of Mr. Terupt.” She admits, “It took me a while to get into the book, but then it got very intense. I loved the author’s craft. I also noticed that the main character switches between having a growth and fixed mindset.” It was neat hearing how McKenna was able to relate her learning from school to the characters in her book and how she developed empathy for each character their situation. 

When asked about reading reviews from classmates, Addie claimed, “Lots of people in our class want to read a book called ‘Pax.’ I was drawn to the review by Veronica. Her blurb described how the book was about the fox and a boy who get separated and their journey of getting back together. She said it was really emotional. When I read her rating, I could tell she was being very honest. I want to read the book even more after reading her review.”

Teyla and McKenna gave their books a five star rating while Addie gave her book a 4. She claimed, “I gave my book a 4 because, you can get confused at times. Multiple languages are used in the book along with multiple scenes. It is very descriptive and makes me feel like I’m part of the story.” Students learned how to separate their opinion from fact. “I learned to be honest about my experience in the review. To think deeper about how to get other readers to read my book. You don’t want to leave spoilers, but it helps to have a big question or a hook to get them excited,” says Addie. McKenna adds, “In our writing right now, we’re learning about going deeper with our words. I tried to leave a cliff hanger, so that others would read my book.”

All in all, this project truly did get students talking about books! Mrs. Brewton claims, “When students were looking for books the other day in our classroom library, I heard them pointing out books that they had seen on the Padlet. They were checking out their friend’s recommendations! It was exciting to see my students engaged in their book selection rather than having them come to me because they couldn’t find anything they liked.” Addie also mentioned, “I think our class talks more about books when we’re doing book reviews. The talk has died down a bit, so I think it’s time to write another review. My friend Abby told me that she read my review and liked it. I was happy that she took the time to tell me that she wants to read my book, 'Resistance' because of my review.” 

It will be fun to see who students get to share their book recaps and reviews with. Mrs. Alvis, the Hughes librarian has plans to showcase specific student reviews by their corresponding books in the library. This will allow students to read reviews from other students when they are choosing what they want to read.

Student ISTE Standard - Creative Communicator: 
Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.
  • 6D: Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.