Chopped Challenge, Blended Learning

One of my goals for this year is to become more transparent about my own personal growth. In my role as a developer of professional development, I often try to think of ways educators can explore and reflect on their own learning especially in regards to blended learning.

Along with my passion of learning, I also have a love of food. One of my favorite shows is Chopped which can be found on the Food Network. Chefs compete against each other to create a dish using mystery ingredients found in a basket. This got me thinking about how we could add an element of fun to professional development.

In one of our workshops we asked participants to be transparent about their learning, we asked them to create a blog to share ideas and reflect on their experiences. One of the requirements is to write a post about blended learning, but with a bit of a Chopped twist. We asked participants to use items from a mystery basket we provided (see picture) to write a blog post describing what blended learning means to them using all of the “ingredients” from the basket.

Last week I had the opportunity to listen to a keynote from the Global Read Aloud creator Pernille Ripp. One of the big take-aways for me was to do the homework you assign to students, to see what works and what doesn’t. So with that in mind, here is my attempt at doing my own homework.

Blended Learning, Recipe for Success

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Mystery Basket Items: Marshmallow, Legos, sunglasses, string and pencil

When I’m asked what blended learning means to me, I think about the importance of building on what you are already doing in the classroom. Similar to Legos, we start with our basic blocks, the things that have stood up over time. We don’t throw things out that are working, but think about how you might modify or change things that are challenging and are not working for our students.

There will always be traditional ways of teaching that work best, just replacing a pencil with a device doesn’t change the learning, using a device doesn’t mean the experience is any better.

Blended learning also challenges us to be pliable, think of a marshmallow, sometimes you will try an activity and it will go well, but at times you may need to manipulate and change that activity- make a Smore! For those students that need a challenge, push them to think deeper.

Finally, blended learning challenges us to make learning applicable and authentic. How can we string together all of our content areas and experiences in a way that has students deepening their own thinking as well as challenging other’s ideas?

Blended learning is a journey, sometimes things will be messy, but in thinking about how blended learning is personalizing and supporting all students, I have to say, the future is so bright, I think I might need to wear shades.

 

 

 

New Year’s Resolution

Create your own Bitmoji by visiting https://goo.gl/ugZtPL .

One of my resolutions for this new year is to write and share. It has been a year since my last post, so as you can surmise this whole resolution thing doesn’t always pan out for me, but if given the choice of “give up cupcakes” or “write” I will definitely be writing more, I’ll probably be eating a cupcake while doing it.

When working with educators I get asked frequently about how I keep current on all the changes in the world of educational technology. My answer is always, “It’s my job and I have time”.

Most teachers can barely eat lunch during the day, let alone search the web for resources. As a teacher I could never find time to learn about..well anything! When I wasn’t in my classroom I was preparing for being in my classroom.

I loved teaching, but decided I really wanted to work and learn from other educators. As a blended learning coach, I have an opportunity to see how teachers are using technology to change learning. It’s amazing what students are creating and how teachers are changing the traditional classroom landscape.

One set of tools I can’t live without is Google G Suite (formerly known as Google Apps for Education).  Below you will find a presentation with a correlating handbook on different ways to use Google products in the classroom.  In each of these items I have added screenshots and ways you can use Google products in your classroom. You will also find resources from other bloggers and educators who I think do a great job of sharing.  I hope you will find this useful and as always let me know what you think. Happy New Year!

Click here for copy of the handbook that supports this presentation.

Not a Box, Resolution

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Happy New Year! Hopefully, you have had some time to relax and are ready to head back to school.  In thinking about the past year I had the chance to reflect on some  of the great things I’ve seen from local educators. Below is an article I wrote for the MACUL Journal. If you haven’t heard of MACUL, this is a non profit organization that supports teachers in the effective use of technology. Check out their website for resources and information on their yearly conference.

Every April, the Jackson County ISD Ed Tech team hosts the Connected Educator Un/Conference. It’s an incredible opportunity for educators to get together to learn from the unique classroom experiences each has to offer. During the morning kickoff, I had the honor of talking with participants about a book I had recently read to my son called, It’s Not a Box by Antoinette Portis. The book is centered on thinking about seemingly ordinary things in an imaginative or innovative way – what might be a box to one person can be something very different to someone else, it’s all a matter of perspective. In the story, the main character is repeatedly told he is sitting in a box, standing in a box, or wearing a box, but to this he repeatedly responds, “It’s not a box.” To him, it is a rocket ship, a racecar, or a mountaintop he has reached. Throughout the event I was struck by the number of educators who create magic in their classrooms – those teachers who think about things differently, those “not a box” thinkers; teachers who face obstacles and challenges, yet can engage and enhance learning with what they have been given.

For example, I had the incredible experience of building my own Brush Bot thanks to Micheal Mendvinsky, a music teacher from the Bloomfield Hills school district. A brush bot consists of a toothbrush head, a watch battery, pager motor and wires. The idea is to get your bot to move in one direction. This is an activity that he has used in his own classroom to inspire and engage his students. Mendvinsky gives no direction for creating brush bots, but allows his students to play, ask questions, and explore. Students work together to create their own bot, which will then race against other bots in the classroom. This opportunity to work together effectively builds lasting relationships in his classroom and teaches the importance of failure and redesign, and the technology is neither cutting-edge nor expensive. Interested in creating your own bot? Check out these instructions from PBS Kids.

It wasn’t only educators sharing ideas Joanne VanRaden brought her Manchester fourth grade students to teach all of us how to build our own green screen videos, and they had the room full of teachers completely energized! Do-ink is an iPad app that allows you to easily design videos using images with live video or make an animated video. Students presented on how they used Do-Ink to produce their own how-to videos. Along with green screen videos, students shared their electronic books designed with the app Book Creator. Book Creator allows students to invent E-books that can be shared with others or saved as a PDF. VanRaden’s students took pride in sharing their knowledge with the adults in the room and made sure we played and created.

With a new year upon us, I challenge you to think about what is your “not a box?” Think about the tools you have in your classroom or in your building. How might you utilize what you have available to create opportunities for learning? What will your students see in a different light? Instead of thinking outside the box, think about what types of possibilities that a box can hold. Remember it’s not about the technology, but the learning.

Auto Creating Letters using Google Forms and Autocrat

A numbeunnamedr of schools are sending home “caught you” notes. These notes let parents know when a student was caught doing something good, some examples might be helping others or showing leadership.  Most of the time these slips are filled out and sent home in the student’s backpack where they live in a dark, sometimes a wet (eww) place until they get thrown away. The obvious problem with sending home a paper copy  is that it doesn’t always get seen by the intended recipient.

So, that got me thinking about a Google add-on that I had used years ago and forgotten, Autocrat.  This add-on allows you to create a form where submissions can populate a Google Doc. For example, in the case of the “caught you note” a teacher could fill out a form by selecting a list of behaviors and a letter to parents is automatically generated through autocrat. Not only could you use this with for student behavior, but you could create missing library book lists or create lesson plans.  Click this link for more examples from Jessica Johnston at Synergyse.

Below is a video showing how to set up Autocrat, as always I would love to hear your feedback and how you are using this tool.

Beginning to Blend

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Ever want to embed a document easily on a website? What about write your own book and share it online? Scribd is a free service that allows you easily to upload a document and share it in book form. Simply upload your document from your computer, Dropbox or Google Drive and Scribd. does the rest.  Not only can you share your writing you can also see how many people have viewed your document and get feedback.  Create your classroom handbook and embed it on your website for parents or have students create ebooks they can share with an authentic audience. Below is an example of how I uploaded a PDF to Scribd and turned it into an ebook, the process was super simple and it was free.

My Scribd. Example

Blended learning can mean many different things, but the fact is a number of teachers are blending in their classrooms and not even realizing it.  Combining face to face instruction with online learning to provide rich learning opportunities for students is really what blended learning is all about.  There are so many tools you can use with students to provide instruction beyond the classroom and the restraints of time. Because there are so many tools it can be hard to determine which you should use, recently I have created a blended learning handbook to outline what I think to be the best resources.  I wanted to share this book with all of you as a guide for starting your adventure in blending.  Its nothing fancy, but you may find it useful.  Let me know what you think.

Beyond the Classroom, Skyping With Students

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As an instructional technology consultant I have the opportunity to see first hand how teachers are collaborating in their classrooms. I get to see lessons in action, the things that go well, the things that don’t go well, and the things that make educators cringe when it comes to using technology with students.

One of the biggest challenges with technology is the ease of use. As a teacher, it can feel like technology is one more thing to add to an already overflowing plate.  Who wants to run around trying to figure out how to log everyone into their accounts?  What if there aren’t enough devices?  These questions can dissuade, even the most seasoned educator, from implementing technology.

So what is a good option for a teacher who wants to collaborate beyond the four classroom walls, but doesn’t want the hassle of multiple accounts and devices? Is there a tool that you can use right away without having to spend hours learning how to use it?  Why yes, yes there is! By using a free tool called Skype you can have your students connect with other classrooms around the globe, you can ask professionals to speak about careers, or invite guest readers to read a book virtually.  Students can hear and see speakers they may not have had access to in the past due to distance or funding. Students can ask questions and can share ideas or how about connecting with another classroom virtually? Skype is surprisingly easy to use and best of all it’s free.

To connect on Skype for your lesson you will need to create a Skype account at www.skype.com and  a webcam on your computer or device. If you don’t have a built in web camera you can purchase them online for as little as $10.  That’s it, you are ready to Skype. Still feeling a bit hesitant? Click here for how to set up your account.

Looking for other classrooms to collaborate with? Check out Mystery Skype where students from two different locations attempt to identify where the other classroom is located based on given clues his isn’t just for geography –you could create a book club where students discuss books they are reading in the classroom, or for the younger students you could play guessing games where students use clues to identify a mystery object. Other classrooms have teamed up on a science experiment…you get the picture…the possibilities are endless!

There are classrooms everyday, everywhere looking for a Skype partners.  If you are using Twitter, follow the hashtag #mysteryskype to find classrooms looking to connect or you can access education.skype.com to find lessons and other educators interested in classroom partnerships.Want to bring an author into your classroom? Check out this website for a list of authors that will Skype with your classroom for free broken down by grade level.

As always, I would love to hear about your Skyping ideas or experiences.  Please feel free to leave a comment!

Screen Shot 2014-05-22 at 10.35.58 AMOver the past few weeks I have been thinking about how difficult it was as a teacher to find and implement technology tools.  I would hear about wonderful online resources I could use with my students, but finding time to implement and think of ways to fit it into my curriculum was a daunting task. As an Educational Technology Specialist, I have time to research and think about how teachers might utilize some of these resources, the past couple of weeks I have been working on creating technology projects that align with the Common Core and are practical for teachers.  I haven’t been at this long, and my plan is to create content K-5, but I wanted to get your feedback and see if these lessons might be useful. The link below will take you to my Tackk Boards for Kindergarten, if you haven’t checked out Tackk I highly recommend this tool. Please take a look and let me know what you think, as always I would love to hear how you are using technology in your classroom.

https://tackk.com/board/@staceyschuh