Monday, February 17, 2014

Smart Jams math songs playlist on SoundCloud

Here's the playlist of all of our Smart Jams math songs. If you download or share them, please include a link to this page or my Music Creation in the Classroom page.

Degrees of Tech Use in Education

I've been working on this thought for awhile, but the missing piece came from a simply stated insight from Terry Heick in this short interview. He said his advice to teachers regarding tech integration would be:

"Think of it as a learning tool, not a teaching tool."

It's my job to help teachers infuse more technology into their instruction and that is too often hindered by a misunderstanding of terms. It is easy for some teachers to say they integrate technology because they use their interactive whiteboards and students play on Study Island in the lab.

But technology use in education has to be seen as a spectrum, not a yes-no question as to whether a computer is on in the classroom.  I'm sure some of the distinctions I make below would not matter in all schools, but here is the image and terminology I will begin using as I teach teachers.

Of course, my goal is to help every teacher to take the next step toward the innovation end of the spectrum. First, I want them to identify where their instruction would fall on the scale most days using this criteria:
  • Teacher use - The technology is in the teacher's hands and it is essential for her to do her job. Examples - Lesson in PowerPoint projected in front of the room, lesson plans done in a calendar shared with the principal, grading program
  • Student use - Students need to use technology to complete the lesson. Examples - Watch Khan Academy videos at home, find the assignment in Edmodo, read the article in Newsela
  • Integration - This is the important distinction for me because I am working toward integration of content objectives and technology skills. Here students can't complete the lesson without learning a new technology skill. Examples of this could look like student use above, but the difference is the teacher designed the learning so most or all students will use a new tool in a new way to learn a new skill. The step in tech skills has to be small enough that it enhances rather than distracts from the learning of the content.
  • Innovation - Here the teacher is using the technology to design learning experiences no one else has used before. This is exciting, but difficult work. It stems from a high degree of digital literacy in which the teacher thinks creatively with the technology, expressing herself through the blend of her unique personality and broad range of personal experiences.
Two thoughts:
  • Each level is a spectrum as well. There are levels of tech integration and levels of innovation. The idea of what counts as "new" can relate more or less to the teachers and students themselves, the district as a whole or possibly the world.
  • I will be thrilled to have all teachers at the Integration stage. Innovation is vital and I believe passionate teachers will automatically move in that direction. We need innovators leading the way, both in the world at large and within our districts. However, students acquiring appropriate tech skills within the context of content are a lessons is exciting.
If this becomes an effective tool in our district I will follow up with some examples.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Digital Storytelling for Middle School with WeVideo

I created a digital story assignment to introduce WeVideo and we tried it out this week.

It confirmed for me that WeVideo is a great tool for the classroom. This assignment results in a digital slideshow, so we were only uploading photos. I'm not sure how well it will work with video, especially long clips, but I hope to try that out soon.

For now, it is my recommended editor when teachers ask me for a resource to create narrated slideshows.

For our assignment, I took 10 pictures of students in various poses. The students had to arrange at least six of these pictures into some short story in WeVideo. They were required to add a title and end clip as well as captions and some panning and zooming.

Here are the resources for the assignment:

  • The assignment sheet - This includes directions, requirements and links to the tutorials.
  • A shared folder on Google Drive with the pictures - These 10 photos were taken ahead of time.
  • Video Tutorial 1 - This shows how to get started in WeVideo. It shows the basics of the interface, how to upload, arrange, add captions and titles and also how to pan and zoom.  Note:  The tutorial refers to uploading the photos because in our class we didn't store photos in Google Drive. You can upload from Drive or you could save those photos above in a different folder.
  • Video Tutorial 2 - This tutorial shows how to add music and how to publish and share the final video.
This basic assignment lends itself to a lot of modification for different needs. Here are some suggestions:
  • Have the students take their own photos.
  • Have another class take the photos.
  • Instead of using actors in the photos, students could set up action figures or maybe even objects.
  • They could draw the pictures digitally or on paper.
  • Require editing of the photos. For example, speech bubbles could be added.
  • Narrate the story and have students read the dialogue.
If you use this assignment or you have suggestions for other changes I'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Note to Teachers: Consider the quality of your PLN

This is an article I wrote for my district tech newsletter in hopes of getting more teachers to develop their PLN. It could be of value to others, so I posted it here. If you already have a PLN, I'd love to hear your input on this matter so I can help the teachers I work with to see the importance of growing a PLN.

Maybe you've heard teachers talk about their "PLN". Some will suggest everyone needs one. I'd say we all have one already, though PLNs vary in quality. It's important to recognize this, because in all cases they can help or hinder us in doing our best work.

A PLN is a personal learning network. I hear it most often in reference to social networks like Twitter, where professionals follow and contribute their own thoughts among peers and leaders in their fields.

I say everyone has a PLN because we all have a group of people we learn from. Some will talk about "connected educators", but we are all connected to some degree. Whether it's to authors we've read, speakers we listen to at conferences or the other teachers in our buildings, we have a network that shapes how we see our work.

But not all PLNs are equal. For the sake of our students and the profession, we all should evaluate the quality of our PLN. We can do that by asking three simple questions:
  • How does my PLN impacted my professional growth?
  • How many teachers am I regularly connecting with?
  • How often do we connect? 

When measured in those ways, the advantage of technology becomes obvious. In fact, that's why PLN commonly refers to a large tech enabled social network. The most effective tools for the job are obvious.

Those who regularly stay in contact through large social networks will confirm this. The anytime, anyplace nature a dedicated PLN is a lot like hanging out with teachers at a conference whenever you have a spare minute. It grants immediate access to timely answers, a source of collective wisdom, best practices and a perspective of education on a global scale.

If you already use Twitter, Edmodo or some other network as a PLN, I'd encourage you to share contact information with others in your building or across the district.

If you aren't yet a part of a larger network, I suggest taking the time to get started with TwitterIt only takes seconds to sign up.

This Teacher's Guide to Twitter is a good place to start for basic information. Here are two other good posts to start with if you are looking for other teachers to follow:

This is a note to the teachers I work with, but feel free to follow if you care to contribute!
Also, I set up a Twitter account for our district's technology tips or other related communication. Right now the only followers are me and Kevin Honeycutt (and he could split at any minute). So if you've got an account, join in and you'll make a very significant contribution to the number of followers. The account is the same as the title of the newsletter: @lv_tech_connect

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Quotes and thoughts for teachers and leaders

At some point I started turning the things I say regularly at school and my more popular tweets into the little word posters we see plastered all over the internet and social media.  I compiled most of them here, each with a brief thought. 

Please feel free to share or use them as slides or images for presentations. A link to my blog or my profile on Twitter is appreciated. 

One variation on my "play or make something" routine...

the future belongs to those who use technology to create

Here are a few that sum up everything I'm learning from all my "teaching like an artist" thinking. 
stay inspired so you can inspire

stay inspired so you can inspire

Artists dream big and do what it takes to make the dream real. They are motivated by letting their ideas spread and they love to share the ideas with others. School needs more of these people!

teach like an artist

Too often we forget that technology allows us to connect and to do something big now. I know students don't think of it much. They are bombarded with free entertainment instead. The chance to do something big now is why I'm not big on talking about career planning or getting a high paying job someday. 

do something big or play - choose wisely everyday

Change happens a heart at a time and for school, those hearts will mostly be those of the teachers. Let them see us learning.
transform education one teacher at a time

transform education one teacher at a time

This picture that came to mind when I discovered the power of creativity in school. It has received a lot of attention in the years since.
standardized tests versus creativity in school

Technology integration doesn't mean there's a computer on in the room or even that a student is engaged in an activity at a computer. 

We don't often grade on the creativity and it's not on the list of learning objectives. That's fine, but that doesn't mean it's not important in all grades and subjects.
creativity in school is oil in the machine

This is the key to success I always taught my students. 
do your best at what's most important - key to success

It's no wonder the students get bored with school. We all are wired to learn so we can do. Focus on the doing and design it so learning happens. 
learn so we can do something real

This was my most tweeted thought ever. It would be displayed before a learning activity. I designed it for a session for teachers, but any secondary class might benefit from it. I wrote a lot more about it here
ready for learning activity

The only question that matters when working for success. 
big question for success obstacle or excuse

Don't forget it's not about the tools. Let students be amazed with what they can accomplish. 
amaze students with what they can create