Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Digitized Problem Solving: Screencastify to Justify

3rd Grade students at Hatfield and Beck Elementary broke down the walls to their classrooms to virtually collaborate with one another to display, explain, and justify multiplication and division strategies to solve word problems. Students were challenged to accurately articulate his/her reasoning as to the why and how they know the answer and methods for arriving at an answer were accurate and reasonable. By using Northwest ISD’s math department’s success criteria for a justification. This opportunity inspired students to provide specific and vital feedback in a supportive role using Screencastify.

3rd Grade teachers, Carrie Denton (Hatfield Elementary) and Dan Flank (Beck Elementary) attended a Curriculum Preview hosted by Northwest ISD’s Math Instructional Coaches. The idea for this learning experience derived from a district math PLC. The focus for the meeting was about teaching students how to provide strong justifications, which could only be the result of a common understanding and definition of what a justification is and looks like using a common rubric. Mrs. Denton, Mr. Flank, and their table mates discussed how one of the activities they participated in would be very beneficial to their students. Shortly after discussing interest, Mr. Flank and Mrs. Denton determined a math word problem for students to complete, then established a timeline for completion to send the work to other campus. Students then received work from a different campus, analyzed it, and provided feedback using Screencastify. These products were all shared in a folder on Google Drive. Once received, students viewed the work of the other campus, discussed glows and grows, and then recorded feedback on Screencastify.

Throughout the year Mrs. Denton’s and Mr. Flank’s students have provided verbal feedback to their classmates. Screencastify was transformational because it allowed them to take their feedback tools to the next level by allowing them to share with students not even in the room! Mrs. Denton believes Screencastify helped her learners hear their feedback and see their body language when sharing, causing them to deeply analyze their feedback skills. Screencastify also allowed for self-reflection and class reflection empowering students to see their growth and abilities shine through this process. Mrs. Denton loves how this tool allows the students to interact with the work on screen. Not only are they recording their voice, but they can manipulate things on the screen for the viewer to see. This allows the viewer to see specifically what the students were analyzing and providing feedback for.

Mr. Flank’s believes Kami can be an incredible tool for children to use for a problem solving block problem. Like on paper, you can show your thinking, it just happens to be electronic and can be shared with a wider range of people. He also believes Screencastify is very versatile because students can record themselves or the desktop to provide visual and audio tutorials and presentations.

Mr. Flank and Mrs. Denton both have goals to continue digital problem solving by empowering their learners to share their work beyond the walls of the classrooms. Both educators are working on refining digital problem solving opportunities for the upcoming year. Mr. Flank and Mrs. Denton believe it is crucial for students to go through the problem solving process and justification, but also believe it can be done in an innovative way.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Giving Students the "Keys" to Engage

Many adults falsely assume that the current generation of students is lacking any sort of work ethic, loyalty, or desire for learning independence. Some mistakenly stereotype an entire generation of students as full of apathy and an inability to think critically or engage with a world outside of social media. What many fail to see is that we are educating a generation of individuals who may have more intrinsic motivation than we realize. The challenge we face is not how to teach students these qualities but to find ways to bring them out in our students and give them opportunities to apply the necessary thinking to content as they learn to grow and develop the skills we desire to see.

In her 2011 BarnardCollege commencement address, Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, encouraged graduates to, “…find something that stirs your passion, a job that matters to you and matters to others. It is the ultimate luxury to combine passion and contribution. It's also a very clear path to happiness.” The students we work with each and every day have a real desire to do just that. A 2017Harvard Business Review article quoted one student as saying, I would rather make nothing and love going to work every day than make a ton of money and hate going to work every day.” This mentality seems more common among current students and when classroom teachers create purposeful opportunities for those students to help guide them through curriculum, we allow for true “student-driven” instruction that puts the learner behind the wheel and dials into passions, in turn, fueling that intrinsic motivation for learning. Many times, observing the work of academy students at Northwest ISD is the ultimate example of student-driven instruction and is an incredible opportunity for students to spark passions and develop innovative ideas that they are encouraged to pursue as part of academic course work.

In his first year at Eaton High School, Canaan, a Business Management and Entrepreneurship Academy student, was brainstorming for a Junior Achievement Company idea and had a desire to do something that had a “real effect on the world” or solved a real-world problem. He also happened to read an article about human sugar intake and how it was linked to diabetes, cancer, and other health problems. As Canaan continued his research, he watched a documentary on the topic, which spurred him to begin tracking his own sugar intake for about a week. He started tracking it on paper and saw that his own sugar intake far exceeded the amount recommended. His research supported that this was not uncommon and Canaan's very startling discovery prompted him to think about how important is was for people to understand and be aware of this issue. Through his research and continued tracking, Canaan’s interest in this area grew and he wondered if there was an easier way for people to track their own sugar intake. He found few apps and tools online to help and even researched some of the major personal health trackers. While looking at some of the more widely used digital trackers, he found that their primary function was to count calories and fat and that most of them grossly underestimated grams of sugar in foods he consumed. Canaan knew there must be a way to create something to meet this increasing need and started looking for courses at school that would help him pursue this new found interest.

Canaan eventually signed up for William Gilbert’s web applications course where he could acquire basic knowledge for coding and building apps on his own. Mr. Gilbert recalled Canaan approaching him about one of the course assignments and asking to incorporate his ideas for sugar tracking. Mr. Gilbert said that “He changed the assignment when he came to me about his research and asked me to allow him to do something different and more complicated.” Gilbert allowed Canaan the opportunity to pursue his area of interest and Canaan turned it into Bloom, an app for sugar intake tracking

Canaan has since continued to update and work on his app and has an entire notebook, or journal, for ideas he plans to incorporate. He did say that he was a bit disappointed that there were only so many courses he could fit into his schedule to advance his desire to code and develop apps. However, Canaan continues to record suggestions from classmates and gathers outside feedback to help him continue developing ideas for evolving his app. He plans to develop this web based application that can also be accessed from a computer or a smart phone and wants to incorporate a variety of convenient features in the future to help with more accurate tracking of sugar intake.

Without the opportunity provided in our BME academy to creatively think about societal needs and possible business ventures and without the willingness of Mr. Gilbert to hand over the “keys” to learning to his students, Canaan’s idea would not have come to fruition. It’s his personal drive to make a difference and the willingness of Canaan's teachers to facilitate and open up this opportunity that drove Canaan to conceptualize his "passion project" while also learning useful and relevant academic skills.

Mr. Gilbert’s web applications course also allowed three other innovative students an opportunity to develop tools that not only met a course requirement, but also addressed a need in the Eaton UIL community. Nate and two of his peers, Devon and Nate, are part of the Eaton UIL computer science team. While at competitions, they noticed that results were usually printed on a single 8½ x 11 sheet of paper and posted on a wall in the school cafeteria for a bunch of students to crowd around and try to decipher. They felt that this method of sharing competition results was much “more difficult than it should be” and they worked together to develop an app that works with current University InterscholasticLeague (UIL) event tabulation procedures for electronically communicating competition results

The app was deployed at an Eaton UIL competition last year and worked incredibly well for electronic dissemination of news updates and scores and efficiently communicated rounds and results to all students and coaches. Nate said that he liked how the app “alleviated a disconnect between scorers and competitors.” It worked so well that these students decided to add in speech event tabulation to the app for the 2018 Eaton UIL tournament. The feedback from their endeavor was all positive and noted how well these students served a legitimate need in the school community.

Another group of students who utilize passions and skills acquired through academic course study can be found in Eaton High School’s Book Club, sponsored by the EHS Library Media Center. Crystal and Jasmine are prominent book club members and say they joined book club because they school helped them to acquire a love for reading and they wanted to connect with friends who also loved to read. Jasmine, specifically, appreciated that Mrs. Sarah Thomasson took an interest in her, as a new student who was previously home-schooled, and showed her that she could reach out to others in the group by joining book club and getting involved with the YouTube channel, called "ISBN Thinking," produced by its members.

The channel was started after members students, who had an interest in other online book reviews, realized that they had all the skills and resources necessary to produce something similar, and according to Crystal, “We knew we could do it better.” The students worked with Mrs. Thomasson to utilize library resources for recording of online book talks and originally used a back room in the EHS library for producing and editing of their videos, which they learned to do with the knowledge gained in several of their classes and with the help of Mrs. Thomasson. The EHS Book Club meets during lunch shifts or Eagle Time to film and they have produced video reviews of books available through the Eaton High School Library. These students also make an effort to cover all of the North Texas “Battle of the Books” texts and involve all twenty-two members of book club in reviewing books and filming talks.

The group is currently not posting new videos because they are in need of a new location for filming and hope to find a suitable and accessible location at EHS very soon as they have plans to increase filming on a more regular basis and to organize the group with a set schedule and structure that they believe will provide added online and library traffic. These students love being able to share their own passions for reading, critical analysis, and video production through this very relevant educational outlet that is meant to strike a love for reading in other EHS students.

Obviously, there are an innumerable amount of opportunities for students at NISD to find and pursue individual passions through academic study. Allowing students to take control of those opportunities and push themselves forward are what will empower and motivate them to positively engage with and change their community. These students are part of a generation described by many adjectives but apathetic, disengaged, and lazy should not be part of them. This generation is motivated to go above and beyond in pursuit of things that are important to improving the world around them if educators will only help them to engage in content in ways that interest them. With an amazing wealth of tools to help students access those opportunities and fuel the desire to do more than consume technology and resources they can create in ways that will permanently benefit the world.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Readers turned Vloggers

The practice of having students recommend books to their classmates is no new idea, however Kindergarten teacher, Jenny Stokes, recently decided to take this tried and true method and make it more engaging through the use of technology.

On any typical day, visitors can stop by Mrs. Stokes’ class during literacy block and find students actively engaged in a variety of tasks designed to increase fluency and ignite an excitement for reading. One of the most popular activities has quickly become the class book recommendations vlog. During this activity, students are either making book recommendations or browsing through their classmate’s videos in search of a recommendation matching their interests.

When a student is ready to make a recommendation, they use the iPad to record a video explaining why they would recommend the book. With support from their teacher, the video is uploaded to Google Drive and added to the class vlog created in Google Sites. Videos are organized by genre and kept up to date by Mrs. Stokes. Students are anxious to share about books they love! Zanelly said, “I like recommending books so my friends can read them and I like seeing what books my friends like to read so I can read them again.” 

Students acting as consumers of the vlog, have been trained to independently login to a Chromebook using a QR code. Once active on their profile, students are able to access the class vlog easily through a link in Google Classroom. Students spend a few minutes watching their classmate’s videos before settling on a book. The latest featured books are displayed in a center so students can quickly locate them and begin reading. Their sweet grins and excited nature is evidence this practice is working wonders to build a love of literacy. Yahel shared, “I like it because you can see the other people’s books.” 

Mrs. Stokes believes the activity provides students the “opportunity to use something other than tablets and an app.” She feels the process of working with the vlog “ is making them more independent and teaching them to solve problems.” 

While the plan was for students to develop and grow, Mrs. Stokes found that she did too. In the original planning session with her Instructional Technologist, Jenny first hoped to develop and maintain a class blog. Once she saw how easy the platform was, she took it a step further and invited students to be not only consumers of the vlog, but also producers. It wasn’t long before students were taking videos on iPads and using QR codes to login to the Chromebooks independently. In the future, Mrs. Stokes envisions turning the vlog over to her students and allowing them to manage and organize their own videos. 

This lesson is a perfect example of the learning that can unfold when a teacher is willing to take risks and learn alongside their students. The motto at Prairie View Elementary this year is “Move Mountains” and boy are these tiny tots learning what it means to put caution to the wind and tackle even daunting tasks!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Text Features and Digital Magazines

Text structure refers to how the information within a written text is organized. This strategy helps students understand that a text might present a main idea and details; a cause and then its effects; and/or different views of a topic. Students in Mrs. Brittain’s class, at Nance Elementary, were asked to pick a research topic of their choice. Once they picked their topic they spent several days researching using different library databases, websites, and books with reliable information over their topic. Once they had enough information, they wrote three articles using 3 different text structures: chronological order/sequencing, compare/contrast, and problem/solution.  

After revising and editing their articles they were given a choice of how to present them. The culminating, summative activity, students chose was to create digital magazines using a tool called Canva.  In Canva, students combined the different text features and graphics to add to the reader’s understanding of their topic. This is where they had the most fun.

Aahana stated, “I liked this project because it was really fun. Using Canva there are a lot more things that you can add to your project such as different layouts, pictures, and graphics. You have more freedom than you would if you had created a magazine using construction paper and it allows you to show off your creativity.  I enjoyed researching and learning about snow leopards.”

3-5, 5th Grade, Canva, ELA, English, K-12, Nance Elementary, Paige Brittain, writing voice, Writing,

“I think doing this project on Canva was better than using paper because it allows your reader to visualize your topic.  You can also add a lot more features using the technology that you would not have been able to do if you had just used paper and pencil.” said Sophia

Caroline said, “I enjoyed doing this project because it allowed you to have multiple varieties and styles of your magazine because we used Canva. For example, you can match your layout and graphics to the topic of your magazine. Canva gives you the freedom to make it look the way you want it to look.”

This type of learning project integrated several of the ISTE Standards which are so important for the empowered learner.   
  • Digital Citizen Students recognize the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal and ethical.
  •  Knowledge Constructor Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.
  • Innovative Designer Students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions.
  • . 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.
  • Global Collaborator Students use digital tools to broaden their perspectives and enrich their learning by collaborating with others and working effectively in teams locally and globally.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Pixel Art is "Completely Awesome"

Pixel Art has quickly grown in popularity, again. There are apps and websites galore when you do a search in an app store or online. Mrs. Pickett at Beck Elementary knew pixelation would be something fun for her GATES students to explore, while equipping them with valuable knowledge of Google Sheets. She was also excited about the opportunity it would create for curriculum enrichment and the extensions in the classroom were plentiful. Before trying their hand at pixel art, students first began to learn about its history. Of course, the biggest buy in for many of her students was learning that the ever so popular classics, Super Mario Bros and Zelda, utilized pixelation. To quote William, a student in her class, "it is completely awesome!"

As an introductory activity, Mrs. Pickett shared a template with students in Google Classroom. This template was created in Google Sheets and exposed students to conditional formatting. Their excitement was instant as they discovered that the empty template would soon contain a piece of their own creative art. Using these templated Google Sheets, it quickly became something that could serve as extension to the learning happening in math. Thinking about recent learning regarding fractions and decimals, students could be prompted to create a picture that was ⅓ green or .1 white. The possibilities were endless. This kind of higher level thinking merged their mathematical learning with creativity and problem solving. 

Their exploration and creativity continued, as a design challenge was issued. After listening to the book, The Big Orange Splot, students had the opportunity to discuss perspective and how it’s different for everyone. Their challenge was to design a house that was completely unique. Students were asked to consider what it would look like and to have it be a reflection of their own personality and dreams. Step one was to draft their pixel house on graph paper. This allowed students the opportunity to think through their color choices and refine their pixel design skills before moving it to Google Sheets.

Having experienced the formatted Google Sheet template Mrs. Pickett provided at the beginning of their study, students had knowledge of the process. It was then time for them to learn how to format a sheet that would support their house design. Students were encouraged to watch this tutorial video to gain knowledge on the process of conditional formatting. It was important that their template and color pallet matched the design they drafted. Of course, lots of problem solving and creativity took place as students worked on making it just right. Designs with curved lines were a welcomed challenge.

For many, this process became something they enjoyed doing. It was not uncommon to find students fully engaged in the conditional formatting and pixel art process during any free time they had. Rainy days, which meant indoor recess, were welcomed because they could pull out their Chromebook and continue working on their design. Drew said he enjoyed learning about pixel art because, “there was no limit to my imagination."

Mallory found the tasks to be fun and inspiring. She is hopeful they will have more time to explore and create again soon. And she’s not alone. Several students extended their newfound knowledge of conditional formatting and decided to create their own server of games. William, one student who contributed to the game, said the most challenging part was, “the color formatting, because if we got a single thing wrong it would fail."Learning to work collaboratively and problem solve through the tough times made this a task they will never forget.

One of the coolest parts of this process for Mrs. Pickett was the level of engagement and problem solving her students experienced. She saw value in learning about Google Sheets and knows this early exposure will certainly pay off in the real world for her students


Monday, April 23, 2018

There are Actually Three Sides to Every Story!

6th grade students at Tidwell MS will not forget this year's triangle unit! This unit was not only informative, but also hands on and  engaging. Students started the unit by learning how to use Geogebra to create triangles. Then, students created a product of their choice (book, comic strip, brochure, etc.) that would allow them to share their learning of triangles with others. Another neat aspect of this project was that students learned how to construct and build triangles from other students. Students in the 6th GT math class created video screencasts showing how to use Geogera and how to create triangles with the correct angles. They compiled their videos on a Padlet wall that was shared with the rest of the 6th grade math classes.

Taidghen, Taylor, Elijah, and Yaleiza from Mrs. Lahit's class got a lot out of this project. "I really enjoyed creating the triangles on Geogebra," said Yaleiza. "I learned that triangles are more than just a shape with three sides. There are many different types of triangles, but you only know the type based on the angle sizes. I also learned that you can not have two obtuse angles within a triangle, or two right angles." This project made students think about triangle properties during creation. Elijah points out, "The most difficult part of the project was making the equilateral triangle in Geogebra because you had to make sure to get all of the sides the same."

Creating Specific Triangles in Geogebra
Taylor and Taidghen loved the choice and creation aspect of the project. Taidghen comments, "I liked making my project stand out. I came up with statements for my book that would help others understand triangles in kid friendly words." Taidghen enjoyed Book Creator as his creation platform because it gave him plenty of options such as inserting images and shapes, as well as choosing specific fonts, backgrounds, and colors. Taidghen even utilized the drawing feature to point out matching and opposing angles within his book.

Projects were turned in on a Padlet wall, which allowed students to see each other's work. "I enjoyed seeing how other students used Book Creator differently than I did," said Taidghen. Yaleiza added, "I enjoyed looking at the Powtoons that some of my other classmates created. The Padlet helped us see all of the ways that we could have shared our knowledge."

All four of these students agreed that next year's 6th graders should complete this project. Taylor mentions, "Next year's class should do this project because it's a chance to be creative while learning." Elijah concludes,"This is a great project because you really learn about all of the triangles and the theorems."

Student Created Tutorials for Using Geogebra:
Made with Padlet

Student ISTE Standards:
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.

  • 6a:Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.
  • 6c: Students communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using a variety of digital objects such as visualizationsmodels or simulations.
  • 6d: Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.

Empowered Learner: Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences.

  • 1c: Students use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

All Things Seesaw

Mrs. Anderson’s 2nd grade class are Seesaw natives. They use Seesaw for many reasons throughout their day. Whether they are creating their own problems and solving each others work, presenting to their peers and family, doing teacher created activities, celebration their hard work, or communicating with their parents, it is all done within the Seesaw platform. If you ask them they tell you what they like about using Seesaw, here is what they say. “You are able to show your work to your parents even if they are not there to see it. Just press the record button to record your work! It is easy to record your work progress.”

Here is Mrs. Anderson telling us the 5 ways her class uses Seesaw the most:
Student created problems: I love to use Seesaw for students to create a problems, post, and have parents and students solve their work. This is great for formative assessments and really fun for the students. You can see that the parent viewed it, liked it, and even solved it! Students can leave audio comments or type a comment to their peers.

Presentations: Using Seesaw for presentations is great for you and parents! I love it because it gives the students opportunity to start their presentation over, they love helping each other on recording, and the parents can see their presentation. It is also saves classroom presentation time!

Teacher created activities: We LOVE doing Seesaw activities in my classroom! Sometimes, the students ask for me to create an activity. I can do it quickly and in the moment, I just use pic collage to create it on my phone and then post it. You can create things for them to read, label, draw on, etc.!

Celebrations: We also have a celebrations folder where we post fun pictures and events! The kids love celebrating themselves and seeing their peers hard work as well.

Parent communication: Parents and I love the announcement feature on Seesaw! It is so quick and easy from my phone, you can see which parents view it, and it goes right to their phone on the app with a notification! You can also separately message each parent privately! My parents love this features for quick reminders about their child, ride changes, etc. It is easy for them to go right to the app!

Walking in Mrs. Anderson’s class you can tell that her kids are familiar with this process and love all of the ways Seesaw has transformed their learning.