Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Robots to the Rescue! - A Virtual Tournament


COVID-19 forced many events to either be cancelled or postponed over this past year. The Northwest ISD Instructional Technology team did not want students to miss out on showcasing their learning as in the previous 9 years. This year, we got creative and hosted a virtual edition of EXPO 2021 with the fitting theme “Coming Together as One.” In conjunction with the traditional EXPO event, the past 3 years, we have hosted a face to face district wide robotics tournament sponsored by the Northwest Education Foundation. COVID also forced our tournament to be reinvented to a VIRTUAL robotics edition. 

With the goal of inspiring younger students to pursue engineering in high school, the competition challenges were developed in a pre-COVID world for the VEX and Mindstorm EV3 robots. The challenges were based on real life scenarios and were designed to be judged as a face-to-face tournament by the REACH Robotics teams at Eaton High School with their sponsor, Mr. William Gilbert. Ms. Rene Egle, an Instructional Technologist in Northwest ISD, who leads an annual TechnoCamp and the Robotics Competition at our district EXPO, took two months to tweak the format to a virtual robotics edition. This challenge was differentiated for the younger grades using the Ozobots and Dash robots.

Natalie Spann, Library Media Specialist, at Lance Thompson Elementary stated, "The whole process sets students up for success and discovery. It was truly inspiring to see student curiosity and wonder contribute to such amazingly authentic products and learning outcomes. We can’t wait for next year!"

Robotics, STEAM, K-8, NISD, Engineering, Elementry, Secondary, Cross-Curricular, Virtual, Rene' Egle, William Gilbert

"I really liked this years remote format to the robotics competition. The real world problem gave students connections to how robotics and STEM projects can prepare them for future careers. We had 3rd through 5th graders involved with three different robots. The format this year allowed me to observe teams and see our learners grow in their technical thinking. I also feel this process gave teams more time and depth to their teamwork skill development.  I do think the project had many layers outside of just building a robot. Students had to take notes and reflect on their thinking. Teams had to do lots of problem solving using coding to meet the set parameters of the challenge," said Sara Jones, Library Media Specialist at Justin Elementary. 

Katie Delgado, 3rd grade sponsor from Sendera Ranch Elementary stated, "It was so fun watching the team work together to problem solve and beat challenges.  I loved watching them cheer each other on."

The NISD IT team has gotten such good feedback from both the sponsors and students! They are loving the challenges and we will be repeating this format again next year.

The Houston Deluge tournament synopsis: Hurricane Gilbo has flooded Houston, downing power lines, stranding citizens, and littering the city with debris.  Robots are sent into this dangerous environment to clean up the mess, control the flood waters, and save the humans.   

This type of STEAM competition has inspired 75 teams both elementary and middle school students to learn coding, engineering, and collaborative problem-solving in a real-world disaster scenario. Other elements of the project include an engineering design website, self-scoring rubrics, peer evaluations, and judges interviews that transform this project into a cross-curricular STEAM challenge where students and learn future-ready skills, work with technology, and become more effective communicators in a rigorous and relevant student-driven project environment. 

Andy from the Sendera Ranch team stated, "While working on this project, I learned I am good at persevering because when I couldn't get this one pencil I kept trying and trying then, I finally got the pencil.  Another reason is that when the robot got stuck I finally got it free!"

Fourth grade students Karsyn and Kenly from Lance Thompson said, "What at fun experience, getting to know new people and figuring out how the technology works while making it your own." "This was a fun, and creative experience, deigning cityscapes, but also a challenging one, learning to build a robot; we learned that teamwork is the best way to succeed." 

"Robotics and the tasks of this tournament are profoundly challenging every step of the way, yet students love the rigor and enthusiastically seek out the knowledge they need to achieve mastery.  This is a STEAM education activity with higher level learning that combines with creativity!" said Mrs. Shelia Greene, PLTW educator, from Adams Middle School.   

“Robotics just may be the most perfect instructional approach currently available. It offers classroom activities that teach high-value STEM content as well as opportunities to powerfully address ELA Common Core Standards. In fact, there are connections to robotics across the full spectrum of the curriculum. Robotics is also a highly effective way to foster essential work skills like collaboration, problem solving and project management."  Mark Gura writes in a blog post from Edutopia

Campus entries for the virtual tournament were due May 7, 2021.  The REACH Robotics team from Eaton High School are in the process of judging all the videos and engineering design websites.  View NISD Post Here 

We would like to thank our awards sponsors again this year.  The Northwest ISD Education Foundation.  

Monday, May 3, 2021

Elevating Student Learning with Technology Integration Academy

Goodbye one-size-fits-all lesson! See ya to an old mindset of technology use automatically equaling a higher level learning experience! 

HELLO personalized, needs-based & interests-based, choice-filled, differentiatedself-paced instruction! Technology Integration Academy meets teachers, administrators, and librarians where they are with technology integration and provides tangible resources and intentional modeling to elevate experiences for their unique learners. 

"But I'm already using technology in my classroom. Can I be exempt?" One of the best parts of TIA is that it is structured to grow EVERY learner from their current experience as choice is embedded in every module to provide a meaningful and tailored PD. Rather than providing a skills-based checklist where everyone meets the same end-goal, in this growth-mindset course, there is no technology proficiency ceiling, so the sky is the limit with possibilities that meet individual comfort levels. 

A primary goal of TIA is to highlight that technology usage itself does not elevate the learning experience; rather, it focuses on what students are being asked to do with the technology. Listing ideas on a Google Doc might have it's place in the lesson cycle, but are there also opportunities to publish to a larger audience, digitally collaborate outside the walls of the classroom, choose a personalized path or product, or create using higher level thinking? Focusing on the cognitive demand of the task helps to shift the focus from "Does this lesson have an element of technology" to "How can I pick the right technology platform to meet the intended learning goal?" 

The course content is structured around digital learning platforms we support in Northwest ISD, such as Learning Management Systems by grade level and the suite of apps in Google Workspace, accompanied by high impact instructional practices, like collaboration, creation, critical thinking, choice, reflection, and goal setting which are modeled in the course design and supported by participation requirements.

Take a look at some examples to explore the original prompt for various modules paired with unique creations and perspectives that develop as a result of choice, ownership, and collaboration.

To solidify new learning and identify actions steps moving forward, participants have a variety reflection opportunities in final module. Here are a few takeaways from the Spring 2021 TIA Cohort:
  • I have really liked exploring the different opportunities for choice and differentiation throughout this course. It has been nice to be able to pick according to my learning level and not have to be able to review things I have already learned. Another aspect I have enjoyed from this course is being able to be reflective and set goals on how I want to grow in the future. I want to try to incorporate more technology especially with goal setting and student choice. - Elementary Interventionist
  • Opportunities for Choice and Differentiation - I've come to realize that technology can play a significant role in the efficiency of differentiation. Meaningful Technology Integration - Technology is more than just assigning a google doc for the students to complete and submit. It can be collaborative and used to help students connect and enhance their learning. -7th Grade Science Teacher
  • I thought it was important to review SAMR and take a reflective look at the technology integration that I currently use in the classroom. I noticed that most technology I use is on the lower end of SAMR, so I've set a goal of looking at the technology use that allows for even more learning involvement for the students. My goals for moving forward also include being more productive with technology use in the classroom (like using the iPad to be more mobile and keep track of student progress), and for parent communication. -5th Grade ELA/SS Teacher
  • I will say that there are SO many options when it comes to technology use in the classroom. I was amazed at how many choices we have as teachers that are made available to us. My biggest plan is to use the technology to engage my students with presentations. I also want to really start using the IPAD for Doceri so I can walk around my room more. - High School CTE Teacher

Ready to take your technology integration to the next level? 

Enroll in the Summer 2021 TIA cohort today! The course content is available June 1st - August 8th, 2021.

For more information, visit these Technology Proficiency FAQs.

At Northwest ISD, we believe technology enables us to extend our reach and become more effective, relevant, and connected educators. We strive to use technology as a tool that engages our students at high cognitive levels, and this course is designed to reflect that philosophy in every way. This is important because NISD educators are expected to design, implement, and assess learning experiences to engage students and prepare them to be competitive and successful in a global marketplace.

Monday, April 26, 2021

How Technology and Social Emotional Learning Can Go Hand-in-hand

Imagine... standing at the entrance of a classroom feeling calm, yet full of energy at the same time. That’s how I feel when I go into the first grade class of Ms. Olson. It is clear through her classroom culture how much she cares about her students.  Students and teachers in Northwest ISD are exposed to Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). Since remote learning started and has remained in certain classes for the whole year, it has been imperative that teachers find ways to connect with their students no matter the obstacles they face. Technology and SEL were used effectively by Ms. Olson, so that students never felt left out of the learning environment. 

Let's take a look at what Ms. Olson had to say about how she incorporates technology and SEL into her classroom culture and daily routine. 

Fun Friday Check-ins

Virtual students do not get a lot of free time to interact with their peers, so at the end of each school day I allow my students a few minutes of “share time” to simply chat with their classmates.  Early on, I realized some students were monopolizing this time and not allowing all students to feel heard. To remedy this somewhat, I created a “Check-In Friday” Flipgrid group. Each Friday I present the students with a different, fun prompt for them to make a short response video for in Flipgrid.  Then, with the time they normally use for “share time” they are encouraged to go view and comment on their peers’ videos. Many great connections have been made this way because they are able to learn about each other & find similarities.


What zone are you in today with feedback and questions

When everyone was remote, our team altered a quick Seesaw attendance activity to fit our SEL needs. As the lone remote teacher for the grade level, I have kept it up every day! My daily Seesaw attendance activity is a multi-purposeful activity.  It helps me keep track of student presence/attendance in Seesaw for the day. Possibly more importantly though, it tells me how students are feeling and the emotional state they are starting their day in. At Peterson we have learned a lot about the Zones of Regulation. Each day students drag their “mustang icon” to the zone they feel like they are in each morning. Green means they are happy and ready to learn. However, if students drag their icon to blue, yellow, or red it means they are feeling off for some reason that day.  This gives me the opportunity to comment and ask why they may be feeling a certain way & how they’re going to try to move themselves into the green zone.  The personal feedback and attention alone, is sometimes enough to help make their day a little better. The activity opens up communication, helps students learn more about self-regulation, and makes me aware of anything that needs my attention: all in about 30 seconds! 

Filling Buckets with Compliments

For special occasions (and sometimes for none at all!), I like to let my students interact in ways out of our routine. One of my favorite things to do is to have them compliment each other.  They’ve had the opportunity to do this several times throughout the year. At Christmas my room mom spent time in our zoom having each student compliment the others and creating ornaments for them.  I wanted to find a way to do something similar for Valentine’s Day, except digitally! I ended up Using Jamboard! I used fun valentines jar images and put each student’s name on a different one, creating several pages on 1 Jamboard. Students then had the opportunity to go write a compliment on each page, for each classmate.  When they were done, students had a Valentines card with a sweet message from all of their classmates. It was fun for them to realize that even in zoom, they are noticed and admired. We’ve done similar activities since!

Brag Tags- Positive Reinforcement 

I am a firm believer in positive reinforcement in the classroom.  As a primary teacher, though, this is usually played out with tangible rewards.  I thought about how I could transfer this belief into my digital classroom.  I had previously used brag tag cards with students.  I decided these would be the best option for remote learners. My students earn digital brag tags for all sorts of occasions.  We have weekly goals that range from zoom manners to remembering to use conventions. They earn brag tags for winning kahoot games, jumping up Lexia levels, participation, holidays, etc.  Their brag tags are housed in Seesaw and the images are simply cut and pasted or uploaded into the post. Once students fill up a brag tag page they earn a special prize that I drop at their doorstep after school. Students have really taken to this system and the motivation to earn the brag tags may be just as strong as it is to earn the prize! 

In all classrooms, students should leave with a sense of uplifted pride in themselves. The way Ms. Olson uses technology and Social Emotional Learning to help her students fill their buckets is remarkable. Everyone needs someone in their life to believe in them, these kids at Peterson Elementary have that in Ms. Olson!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Spring Bingo Challenge: Highlighting the Heroes

The amount of technology available to teachers can feel overwhelming. It seems like a new tool is released each week, making it hard for anyone -- let alone the busy teacher -- to keep up. But when it boils down, we know that technology itself isn’t necessarily innovative or meaningful on its own. Rather, we need teachers who intentionally implement that technology in their lessons and classrooms for the most impactful learning to happen. It's also true that teachers need time with tech tools to explore and implement, to try and try again.

In an effort to help teachers sift through the barrage of technology tools and templates available to them, NISD's Instructional Technology team hosts an annual Spring Bingo Challenge (happening in 2021 from April 1-30). Throughout this time teachers, K-12 and throughout the district are challenged with a fun way to explore instructional technology tools (new and old) at their own pace and when it makes sense for them.

A major benefit to this challenge happening during the Spring semester is that school is still in session. Meaning, instead of bookmarking a bunch of exciting ideas during a Summer PD that we someday hope to use (we’ve all been this person), educators are able to implement their ideas with students in the moment, as they learn, and when they have the support of their team and instructional technologist should they need it. After all, there is research enough to support the fact that effective job-embedded professional development can have a positive impact on teacher practice. However, between breaks, benchmarks, standardized tests, and end-of-year celebrations it shouldn't come as a surprise that the Spring semester is also a wildly busy time of year for teachers.

And yet...

At the time of writing this, we are already halfway through this year's challenge and well into the Spring semester. Teachers are asked, as a part of the challenge, to share their learning on Twitter using the hashtag #NISDITBingo.

Teachers have too much on their plates.

They are teaching in a pandemic.

They are tripping over their to-do lists.

And yet, that hashtag is filled with teacher heroes.

#NISDITBingo is filled with dedicated educators who are committed to prioritizing their professional growth for the sake of their students. It's filled with those who are courageous enough to try something new, and who are determined enough to try it now -- today -- when it will impact these learners. That hashtag is filled with teachers who are learning by doing and who are sharing their successes.

The thing is -- change is hard. Pushing yourself to learn something new, especially while those around you talk about things coming to an end, is hard. So, yes. These teachers are heroes who deserve to be celebrated.

Highlighting the Heroes

Below are only a few "hero highlights" from the Spring Bingo Challenge. See all of the shared successes at #NISDITBingo.

Engaging Hooks with "Mystery Reveals" 

As educators, we know the importance of grasping our learners early on in a lesson or unit. Creating a little mystery around a topic is a great way to get hook students and get them excited about their learning. When teaching her students how to compare fractions, Mrs. Kemper used a “Mystery Reveal” activity in Seesaw where students used a magnifying glass to reveal the fractions as they learn and work to solve the problems.

If you don’t use Seesaw, don’t sweat it! Mrs. Herrera used a similar Jamboard template to engage her students in problem-solving and to review the math concepts they were working on.

Problem-Solving and Communication: Flipgrid

Mrs. Robbins creatively combined a Google document and QR codes with Flipgrid, a platform for video responses complete with a whiteboard. She cleverly created a problem-solving “flip escape”. For this task, students had to solve each math problem, scan the cooresponding QR code, and then entering a code word so they could share how they solved each problem in Flipgrid before they could unlock the next one.

Not only did she design an engaging, gamified learning experience for her students, but by integrating Flipgrid at each step, students were empowered with a voice and recognized for their success in learning, where they could both showcase and share their learning to an authentic audience of their classmates. Even better, because of her intentional planning students could collaboratively learn from one another along the way. 

In Mrs. Waddell's class, students were given the chance to lead a discussion through Doceri, an app for mobile educators. Not only did Mrs. Waddell's intentional use of this tool foster classroom communication and individual reflection, but it gave students a chance to practice leadership while learning.

Assessment: Jamboard

Mrs. Mogg wisely tweaked a pre-made KWL template from Canva to use as the background in an interactive Google Jamboard. By moving the KWL graphic from a static Canva to the interactive Jamboard, she elevated the task. Students were engaged on a platform that let them collaboratively share their thinking. 

Feedback: Bitmoji, Canva, Seesaw, & Autocrat

Feedback is a critical part of learning and should be timely, relevant, and specific. In a creative twist, Mrs. Weiss designed her own “digital stickers” in Canva using her Bitmoji. She then used her digital stickers to provide her learners with visual feedback in Seesaw. Similarly, Mrs. Washam took that idea a step further, using the audio tool to provide her students with verbal feedback that accompanied the sticker.  


Critical feedback is important to learning, but positive feedback can go a long way in building relationships with students and parents. Using a Google Sheets Add-on called Autocrat, Mrs. Moggs was able to quickly and efficiently send home personalized, positive notes for each of her students. This is such a powerful way to easily celebrate students and communicate with parents while saving on time.

Review: Flippity!

Mrs. Janese created an interactive game to help her students review their sight words using one of the templates provided on Flippity, which offers a variety of templates to easily turn a Google Spreadsheet into engaging activities. Then, she was able to easily and seamlessly link to the game through a Seesaw Activity so that her little learners could easily navigate to and participate in their learning task. 


Interested in exploring more? Want to put these ideas to use in your own classroom? 

Northwest ISD’s BINGO Challenge is running from April 1-30, 2021. Anyone can play and participants can start learning at any time during the challenge. Get your own BINGO board here

Monday, April 12, 2021

Classroom Management with a "Consistent" Impact

In Scholastic’s Teacher Magazine, Harry K. and Rosemary T. Wong, explain that, “A well-managed classroom is perhaps even more important to students than to teachers because it gives them a sense of security.” Consistent expectations and procedures give children opportunities to develop habits, self-awareness, and to take ownership for their own decisions; they develop a routine for living. In 2018, the University of Georgia reported that adolescents with predictable routines showed lower levels of stress hormones, were more likely to continue positive habits into adulthood, and also were less likely to develop negative habits like alcohol and drugs.

While the postive impacts of classroom predictability and consistency on children is not news to most educators, trying to maintain those elements in a remote or partially remote setting can be very challenging. When the classroom structure was flipped on its head due to Covid, many Northwest ISD educators knew the foundational importance of consistency and found creative ways to establish new norms in a mostly digital classroom environment. These practices have been carried through emergency remote learning and are being implemented as an ongoing practice that allows students to develop habits and empowers them to take charge of their own learning.

Chisholm Trail Middle School’s Yari Kemp implemented a functional Bitmoji classroom in her Pre-Algebra classes early in the school year. She provided links to the frequently needed resources and course information. Mrs. Kemp evolved this concept into a week-at-a-glance agenda for her students that she now embeds weekly into her Moodle page. This regularly updated Google Slide deck contains descriptions and links to everything done in class and allows students the opportunity to use that resource to plan their schedules, review concepts and assignments, and to take responsibility for the lessons by accessing the resource independently in the digital classroom environment.

Lashaumbe Jernigan, an Algebraic Reasoning teacher at V. R. Eaton High School, uses a week-at-a-glance calendar as well but in addition, she provides an easy to read Google document for her remote students where she records everything done each day. A parent of one of Mrs. Jernigan’s students said, “Mrs. Jernigan is fabulous! She posts everything my son needs right at the top of her Moodle page so that it’s the first thing you see. My student and I can easily see what he needs to do throughout the week and how he should prepare for his quizzes, scheduled on Fridays. Students can use the Daily Lessons chart to go back and look at work they are missing in order to help them stay on top of their own work.”

Many NISD teachers have adopted methods for helping to empower students to have more independence in managing their learning. Teachers frequently put their own twists on these strategies and they use everything from Google Slides to newsletters to automatic emails as a means to help put the responsibility of learning in the hands of their students.

 Amanda DeSimone, a Spanish teacher at V.R. Eaton High School said, “I know they are looking at it because one day I forgot to post it and that was the first thing they asked for so that they could plan ahead for the week...They’re becoming better time managers and these resources help to answer the frequent question of ‘What are we doing today?’” These strategies will carry over with students outside of their digital classroom environment and help them to be successful long after they finish these courses. The time management and organization skills students are developing as a result of these methods impact students in ways that students, parents, and teachers all appreciate. They help to build a rhythm and “routine for living” that can be applied in many aspects life.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

EnRICHed in the Writing Process!


What if you had a million dollars to help America? How would you spend it? Money talks and we can not wait for you to hear from our writers. 

Progressivism is a new unit for NISD 5th graders. Instructional Technology joined forces with ELA coaches Kelli Palmer and Laura Maunsell to make this year’s Progressivism DBQ not only digital, but interactive. The use of Pear Deck and Jamboard allowed for meaningful class dialogue, collaboration, critical thinking, and published communication for both in person and remote learners. Mrs. Rebone’s 5th grade remote class including students from Nance, Lakeview, and Seven Hills along with Mrs. Sprowls in person class at Granger Elementary share their experience. 

Collaboration and Critical Thinking: Jamboard Hook

Mrs. Sprowls In Person Jamboard Work
Mrs. Rebone's Remote Jamboard Work

The unit unit began by capturing student’s attention and allowing them to explore major problems in our country. Task #2 of the hook states, “Pick one problem and explain how solving this one problem would help in solving the remaining six.” This hook was eye opening for students. Jamboard allowed them to discuss and take notes with their partner, whether in break out rooms or in class. Groups brainstormed ideas and thought critically together about problems they would explore later in the unit. Jamboard allowed Mrs. Sprowls and Mrs. Rebone to see each group’s responses in real time. With tools like Jamboard and Pear Deck, students are held accountable to have a response. In fact, remote learner Imanmachi pointed out, “I like the technology we used because it’s not a big worksheet you have to complete. With technology, we had to have an answer for each question. It helped us not get behind.” 

Individual Note Taking: Marking Up Our Text in Pear Deck

Annotating in Pear Deck

It’s important that students connect with texts. Both Mrs. Sprowls and Mrs. Rebone modeled for students as they read the background essay titled, “Where will you put your Million Dollars?” Pear Deck allows students to use annotation tools to mark up their essay for close reading. Additionally, teachers have the ability to toggle between teacher and student paced mode. When modeling, teacher paced mode was used, however, It will be important for students to be able to go back to the document as they progress through the unit to look at their notes and annotations. 

Comprehension: Exploring Documents A-D in Pear Deck

Pear Deck Teacher View During Self-Paced Time

Within the Pear Deck slides, students explored four different documents. These documents covered forestation, child labor, women’s suffrage, and food safety. 

Remote learners explained “We really liked exploring the different problems because it helped us learn about the past. Imanmachi  comments, “I thought way back when, America was perfect, but it definitely was not.” Narrowing the focus and exploring each document stirred up different passions for each student, which was helpful as they started thinking about where they would put their million dollars. 

With Pear Deck, teachers have the ability to comment on individual student responses anytime throughout the unit. They can see which slide each student is on to best know who needs support. Teachers can also toggle to teacher paced mode to lock screens, project anonymous responses, and discuss important topics as a class. Imanmachi adds, “Mrs. Rebone shared some of my responses for the class to see. Sometimes we will say thank you so others know the answer was ours, but sometimes we like to keep quiet.”

Communication: Bucketing and Drafting Our Write in Pear Deck

Mrs. Rebone Projecting Student Responses on Pear Deck

Once the research was done, each student chose where they would put their money. With Pear Deck, each student was held accountable to mapping out their write and choosing their three topics. Mrs. Rebone chose to project anonymous responses and chat about the different paths students in her class had chosen.

Grace explains, “I have a short memory span. Having the Pear Deck slides has helped me organize my thoughts, especially when I get ready to write.” 

Students learned to support their topics with research, They knew everyone would have different essays based on where they decided to put their money. Madeleine from Mrs. Sprowls class mentioned, “My table partner wanted women’s suffrage, but I thought food safety was most important.” However, Elijah and his table partner both chose food safety to be their number one priority. 

Communication: Published Letters to Aunt Bessie

Sample Letters from Mrs. Sprowls In Person Class and Mrs. Rebone's Remote Class

The unit culminated with the students sharing their voice in a final letter to Aunt Bessie explaining and justifying where they would put their money. 

A Big Success

All in all, this unit was a success both for in person and remote learners in NISD. Remote learners in Mrs. Rebone’s class have learned “we all have different opinions. Sharing our thoughts on Pear Deck has taught us to respect different opinions and relate to the opinions that are the same.” Madeleine from Mrs. Sprowls class comments, “I think next year’s 5th graders should do this unit because we didn’t understand the history of America and I bet they don’t either. We learned about history, but also got to provide our own opinions on how to make it better.” Remote learner Grace adds, “I love the mix of working all together, being in groups, and getting time to work alone.” Both Mrs. Sprowls and Mrs. Rebone have done a great job allowing for self-paced learning, teacher led lessons, and student led discussion. This unit was a great example of gradual release and engagement in the writing process.  

Monday, March 29, 2021

What's Your Number?: A Mysterious Zoom Experience

With a full year under our belts of learning in a Covid world, we have seen so much growth in our classrooms across the district regarding the integration of technology in new, and exciting ways. We’re seeing technology being leveraged to move learning forward. It’s being used to connect us with learners outside the four walls of our classrooms. It’s presenting opportunities that may not have been considered prior to the pivot we made last Spring. The challenges of this pandemic have been great…but the outcomes of those challenges are worth talking about and celebrating. 

One tool many of us gravitated towards at the beginning of the pandemic was Zoom. Zoom allowed us to reach our learners remotely. It allowed connection when we were all in isolation. It allowed our teachers to check in with their students to support both academic and social emotional needs. Even after our buildings opened back up, we still had a great number of students and teachers using Zoom to connect for remote instruction. Zoom has been an integral part of the successes over the last year. 

Most recently, we have had teachers leverage Zoom to connect their students with students across the district and with students in a neighboring district. An educator from Denton ISD posted on Twitter that she was seeking to connect with another class in another district for a Mystery Number Zoom. The professional learning network (PLN) that Twitter provides is incredible. This was absolutely an experience I knew some of my educators would be interested in. Zoom was used to host a Mystery Number experience in Mrs. Janese’s Kindergarten classroom, connecting her students with students at E.P. Rayzor Elementary. 

During the Mystery Number Zoom, Mrs. Janese’s students were tasked with guessing a number between 1-100 by asking the other class yes or no questions about their mystery number. This included questions like: Is your number even? Is your number greater than 50? Does your number have a five in the ones place? After asking the question and receiving the answer from the other class, students marked their hundreds chart accordingly. The other class then asked their yes/no question. Each group used the questions and answers, their hundreds chart, and their knowledge of numbers to guess the other class’ mystery number. 

“The Mystery zoom was so fun! The kiddos love asking questions and trying to solve the mystery number. They also enjoyed keeping their number a mystery and answering the questions. Mrs. Janese and her students really enjoyed this experience. She said, “It was great to see both classes cheering each other when they solved the mystery numbers. It was wonderful connecting to another class especially now, and we would love to do this again!” Coleman and Braxton, two students in her class agreed, saying, “We loved this and want to do it again.”

Another Mystery Number Zoom took place between two remote classrooms within the district. Mrs. Mogg and Mrs. Thomas, both 2nd grade remote educators in Northwest ISD, were excited to partner their students with each other. This partnership allowed students from nine different campuses to connect via Zoom. For Lyla, it Mrs. Mogg’s class that part of the experience was especially exciting. “I would like to do this again because it was really fun to meet new people from different schools where they are learning some of the same things.” 

During this experience, students were assigned in groups to breakout rooms, where they took turns sharing their screen to reveal clues about their Mystery Number. Students used Pear Deck and Seesaw to share their clues, while the other students used critical thinking and their knowledge of numbers to guess the mystery number. Mrs. Mogg, Mrs. Thomas, and building principals Mrs. Bunch & Mrs. Oster were able to pop between breakout rooms to interact with all students. “I was thrilled to do this Mystery Number Zoom with another remote class”, Mrs. Mogg explains. “It was such a cool opportunity for my students to take ownership of their learning by creating their very own clues to identify a number! They loved getting to share them and connect with students from different campuses.”

If you are interested in partnering with another teacher in our district to create an opportunity like this, reach out to your campus Instructional Technologist for support.