Duane Garrett – Video Productions

Inside Mr. Duane Garrett’s class at the Conyers Middle School Center for Technology Education, students are buzzing about the history of television.  Mr. Garrett encourages students to bring and use their own devices to collaborate on and create presentations on a variety of topics.  Students are given the freedom to select from digital tools that fit their learning styles and interests.

Our History of Broadcasting project tracked the progress of broadcast technology starting with newspapers in the 1700s and ending with our current technology.  I have another project coming, “The Future of Broadcasting”, where the students will have to research new and emerging technologies and create a similar presentation.

Take a look at some of the these outstanding student projects below.

Video by T. Mondragon – The History of Broadcasting

Prezi by Z. Tucker – History of Broadcasting

 

Experimenting with Flipped PD

The PD process has been a thorn in my side for many years. I am always thinking about ways to make the learning experience more interactive and meaningful for my teachers. I’ve read books and participated in webinars on how to energize PD. I’m currently going through a coaching program to gain even more insight on working with teachers. I’ve scoured the internet over the past few years on ways to take the “boring” out of PD. And like so many of the teachers I work with, I’ve become much smarter about what works and what doesn’t in PD – but my “students” remain disengaged and frustrated.

It’s not that I don’t want to change. But the process of training is a challenge, especially in a school building. I hear what others are saying about best practices and ways to improve, but my reality is a lot different. My sessions often get “bumped” for more pressing needs like state testing, schoolwide intitiatives, mixups with the PD calendar for the month…and while I recognize that things happen, it creates an atmosphere of only training on “need to know” info like posting grades, gathering test data, and the latest district software instead of doing and sharing the fun things I want to do like technology coaching, collaborating on projects, and co-teaching classes.

After lots of experimentation and a few epic fails, I think I’ve stumbled upon a possible win for next year. I plan to “flip” our technology staff development by providing our staff with an online platformtrampoline-trick-jumping-boy-salto-bounce-flip

I have built a Digital Learning PD website using Weebly. (I’ll talk more about why I chose that in a later post). It’s still a work in progress, but I think it will allow for the flexibility we need to get the “meat” of our topics ahead of time so that we can use PD time for “dessert”.

After creating the frame for my site, I began with our first lesson called OneNote 101. I created a simple lesson online – an intro, an online tutorial, and 3 tasks – and required the teachers to respond in our OneNote Staff Notebook (read more about that in this post). Here’s what I’ve learned so far –

  • Provide clear instructions. The first time I sent out the info in a generalized email, I was so excited to see their progress. I checked that staff notebook every hour, eager to see the waves of genius and inspiration that my PD had inspired. Day One – nothing. Day Two – nothing. I realized later that since the OneNote link was first, most teachers stopped reading there and once they opened it, were confused about what to do next. My instructions made perfect sense to me, but they were written from the instructor’s point of view – not the participants.
  • Teachers need a “why”. The most common feedback I received went something like this: “I know a little about OneNote. I’ve always thought of it as something you use to plan vacations, or do stuff at home. I’m trying to understand how this fits with my classes.” To help with this, I added a Why? Section to each tutorial along with estimated times and the general overview. I’m hoping that this will help with the big picture so that they can move forward with actually completing the assignment.
  • Spell out the expectations.   If there’s no reason to do it, it won’t get done. This is true for kids, and as I found out, for teachers as well. I had to explain they wouldn’t get credit for attending that week’s PD session until they finished the task. I’m hoping this will encourage them to get it done.

I’m sure I’ll have more lessons as we complete this experiment. Have you tried “flipping” your professional development? How’s it working for ya?

OneNote Staff Notebook – Lessons Learned, Part 1

In this post, I shared my attempt at using the OneNote Staff Notebook for technology professional development.  The experience was an eye opener for me, mostly because there were a few logistical issues that I hadn’t thought about.  As I reviewed last week’s experiences, I made notes on a few ways to tweak the process going forward.  Here’s what I found – use what you can and toss the rest!

    • Start with a face to face session.  Instead of simply sending out an email that pointed teachers to the task in their OneNote Staff Notebook,  I should have had a whole group session showing teachers what to do, then allow those who are independent learners to complete the tasks at their own pace.  Teachers didn’t know how to get to their notebooks any other way except from my email and once they deleted it, they were lost.  So funny how many teachers responded with “What’s due?!”  when I sent out deadline reminder.
    • Modify tabs before you share.  When you open the notebook, the sections you see are Welcome, the Collaboration Space, and Content Library.  Each of those have generic info created by Microsoft, and it’s not obvious where teachers should look for their own content.  I streamlined the info so it was a little less confusing.
    • Add explanation of tabs and sections.  I went in and modified tab names and created a page in Welcome section that explained each item they saw across the top, as well as the tabs in their own notebooks.  (See my example below) I also put tip on how to see sections that were not showing up.

onenote sample

    • Create a few generic comments and modify as needed.  It was easy to personalize when only handful had completed session, but became harder to do when 50 – 60 had completed assignments!  I was able to copy and paste my generic comment and make changes, which saved me a tone of time.  I also found these really cute QR Codes by Heather Kaiser on Teachers Pay Teachers to use.
    • History feature is even more awesome than I thought!  I panicked for a second when I started thinking about how to monitor the completion of multi-level tasks by the 50+ teachers whom I had made users of the notebook.  Thank goodness for History!  Not only does it allow me to decide the timeframe in which I need to review changes, but it places the name of all users who have made modifications in bold text.  It even bolds the section of their individual notebook they worked on!Well, there you have it.  I’m sure there are many other things I haven’t even come across yet, but I’ll gladly share as I go.  What lessons have you learned using OneNote Staff Notebooks?Happy Tech-ing!

iPad – How to Make It Read the Text To You

iPad – How to Make It Read the Text To You

This is a wonderful post from iGameMom on how to use one of the assistive technology features on the iPhone/iPad.  I used it last night with my daughter while she read one of her Fancy Nancy books on my iPad so it would pronounce the words that gave her trouble, and so that she could hear certain sentences read fluently for her.  You can buy books that will read aloud to your child but if they are like my daughter, they would rather try it for themselves first.   Great for reluctant or struggling readers and FREE with your device!

Happy Teaching!

OneNote for Learning Support

In a previous post, I mentioned the use of OneNote as a tool for helping students manage classwork.   Since that time, I have been able to work with several teachers in implementing the use of OneNote with their students.  One of these classes is a self-contained class for students with learning disabilities.  This teacher is responsible for the case management and instruction of all self-contained students in grades 6-12 (yes, you read that correctly!).  Needless to say, this presents a major challenge for her when it comes to providing quality instruction for all of her students.  We met to discuss ways that she could leverage the technology she has in her room to assist her with managing all that she is responsible for on a daily basis, and she selected OneNote as one of the options. Her use of this tool far exceeded my expectations.  Below is her first-hand account of that experience, as well as a few words from one of her students.  Happy Teaching!

“In teaching students with various needs, disabilities, and accommodations, I strive to find a way to keep their interest in class. Each year, administration pushes the use of technology in classes, but I am not the typical technology person.

I have always utilized classroom notebooks, but it has gotten increasingly difficult to keep up with the lessons, assignments, and other materials for the multiple grade levels and subject areas I teach. I have students that find organization to be a difficult task; students that think “writing” is hard because of physical/occupational therapy deficits…there was just one problem after the next.

When introduced to OneNote, I thought it would be great to have my students complete some activities on it. They enjoyed being on the computer. They were excited to type and even draw things instead of writing. Soon, this once in a while thing turned into using it daily, for every subject. I am able to add information (notes, grades, comments) in real time, while students are actively working on the page! Their work is in one place. Instructions are easy to get to. I am even able to embed links directly on their pages to cut down on extra internet surfing. When I want to add a new subject area, it’s as simple as clicking “new”.

My students are able to access it easily and they enjoy the feel of working independently while still having one on one assistance. I see what they are doing from my desk, sitting next to them, or even in another classroom in the building. OneNote is an awesome and easy way to use technology in the classroom!” – Learning Support Teacher and Case Manager

“I like this because you can go back and see what you did. U can look (at what) the teacher put on there.” – Student

The Road to 1:1 – Rules for the Homefront

There is a ton of research out there about the 1:1 initiative, in which students are issued devices by their school district in order to enhance learning.  Our district began hinting at this change several years ago and as I began to take a look at all the research, I have to admit to being extremely overwhelmed.  If it’s a ginormous (what a fun-sounding word!) idea for me as a veteran educator, I can only imagine what it will do to the minds of our parents.  So I have decided to chronicle our adventure and share the ups, downs, and realities of this experience here.  Look for periodic posts on this topic in the coming months.

 

My hubby and I have discussed the idea of our 4th and 5th graders bringing home devices, and frankly, we have quite a few concerns.  I can’t get them to put their shoes in their room or remember where they put their library books (this marks the 3rd year we have paid lost book fees!).  A device?  Pretty scary stuff.  This made me think about a few ground rules that we need to put in place at home, so I thought I’d share them here – use what you can and toss the rest!

 

Rule #1 – Device stays in a designated place.

Our house has been known to occasionally ingest items with no warning – socks, DVDs, library books…so having a place set aside for certain items has been essential in the survival of our stuff.  I have a small case with shelves near the rear entrance of our home for stray shoes and papers that need to be signed and returned to school.  This will probably be the resting place for any device and all of the pieces parts that go with them.  That way, we save time looking for things in the morning and always know where they are.

Rule #2 – Device stays away from little sister.

I love my tiny human (a.k.a. Buddy), but she can do an incredible amount of damage in a short amount of time.  So she will not be allowed to touch the devices her sissies bring home.  Ever.  Not even when she pushes out that bottom lip and fills those big, brown eyes full of tears – we all have to stay strong.

Rule #3 – Device does not travel with us.

We are constantly on the go – like, our home is more of a rest stop on most days than anything else.  Whether it’s a quick trip to the store or a trek to church service somewhere, I’m going to insist that they leave their school-issued devices home.  (Sometimes the car gets a little hungry for our stuff too!)

Rule #4 – Device stays away from the dinner table.

I’ve seen it happen and done it myself – the classic E.W.T. (Eating While Typing).  It makes for sticky, nasty keys and screens that spread germs and bacteria from person to person…definitely keeping these away from food or drink of any kind.

I’m sure we’ll think of many more as we roll along, but these are the Big 4.  Are your kids brining devices home from school this year?  What rules have you put in place on the homefront?

Helping Students Manage Classwork

“I can’t find it.”  “You didn’t give that to us, Mrs. Harvey!”  Can I get another copy?”  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard these and about a hundred other excuses when asking students to take out a handout I gave them in a previous class.

Managing their materials is actually a life skill for students.  (Think about the mail nook [messy pilethat most of us have in our homes, and you’ll see what I mean.)  Students are notorious for being disorganized.  In fact, most adults have the same problem. According to keyorganization.com, “43% of Americans categorize themselves as disorganized, and 21% have missed vital work deadlines. Nearly half say disorganization causes them to work late at least 2 or times each week.”

You can use these tips to help set your students up for success.

  • Plan ahead – Think about what you may want your students to keep.  Will you be giving out handouts that they’ll need to refer back to later?  Are you going to have students create foldables (student-created graphic organizers) which they’ll need for remembering vocabulary or math strategies?  Do you tend to sketch items or write things on the board for students to copy?  Try to anticipate the many ways that you will be sharing and/or requiring your students to manage information, and then think about how they will need to keep up with those items.  For example, flash cards and foldables may require pockets in the binder/folder.

laptop      Handouts that are on your computer could be shared electronically with students via a flash drive or shared network on your school’s server.  Electronic notebooks are also a great idea, but remember that students will have to be provided with a means to access them during class if needed.

  • Brainstorm your supply list – Based on the types of information your students will need for class, create a supply list.  You want to be sure and get this to students as soon as possible, either as part of the list your school sends before school starts  or on your teacher website.  Are you willing to provide supplies?  If not, try to keep the supply list generic and allow for flexibility.  Insisting on fuschia colored plastic folders with prongs and pockets may result in a huge amount of frustration for you, the students, and the parents who end up driving to every Wal-Mart within a 50 mile radius of their home to find them…  (Sorry – I was having a flashback – I’m back now!)
  • Create and teach a procedure to manage notes – Procedures aren’t just for elementary school.  Assuming that your middle and high school students know how to manage their materials could be a big mistake.  Spending a few days at the beginning of the year on this can save you lots of time later in the year from recopying and redistributing items.  Be sure to clearly define your expectations for the notebook.  Provide students with a simple rubric so they’ll know what each section should contain.  This example of a Physics Lab Notebook shows not only what the teacher requires, but what a page in the notebook should look like.  I also like Barbara Robeson’s Pinterest on Reader’s Notebooks.   You can modify this to fit your grade level and subject area.  These Pinterest Establish a periodic notebook check, or tie the notebook into the grades for added accountability.  Decide if the materials can go home, or if you’d rather students keep them at school.  Prepare for storage of notebooks kept in class, and teach students how to retrieve them at the beginning of class and return them before they leave.
  • Create a sample notebook – This should be created based on your rubric.  Having a sample will allow your students to have a visual of what you’re looking for and cut down on misconceptions.

laptopIt could be a hard copy or an electronic version like those used in OneNote  a Microsoft program that allows you to maintain your ideas in virtual notebooks.  You set up a notebook, and assign tabs with page inserts just like you would in a real notebook.  Read this article to learn more about setting up a new notebook in One Note –

  • Teach note taking skills – You can model note taking for classwork, for tests/exams, etc  while teaching your lesson.  Simple think aloud statements like, “This is something I would write down to help me remember (fill in the blank)” can serve as verbal cues for students who aren’t sure what to capture.  Be sure to provide examples for different learning styles.  In the book Differentiated Literacy Strategies for Student Growth and Achievement (Corwin Press, 2005), authors Gayle Gregory and Lin Kuzmich cite these research-based summarizing and note taking strategies that resulted in 34% percentile gains on standardized tests:
    • mind maps
    •  concept webs,
    • jigsaw activities
    •  reciprocal teaching, and
    • templates/advance organizers.

laptop Websites like Edutopia and  teAchnology are great places to learn more about these.

(BTW, I initially entitled this post “Helping Students Manage their Notebooks” but when I started researching  tips online,  approximately 90% of them were about managing laptops!  Boy, have times changed!)

Happy Teaching!