All Students Deserve a Voice

In every classroom, we teach many students including those less comfortable sharing in a group setting. When we have whole group or even small group discussions, how do we plan for those introverts who aren’t so comfortable in those conversations? How do we give those students a loud voice when we know they have one?

Often technology can provide the perfect outlet for our true introverts. It can give them a voice and a place to participate loudly in our classrooms. Here are a few of my favorite tools for such conversations.

  1. Today’s Meet: this provides a Twitter-like back channel for students. The teacher quickly and effortlessly sets up the “room.” Students get into the room (no login required) by following the link, typing in their name, and answering the question provided by the teacher. OR the teacher uses it as a parking lot space for questions throughout the class. Either way, quieter students find their voice.
  2. Spiral.ac: this has several functions but one is a wall where teachers can create a question (one on each wall) and students can answer the question. In this space, teachers can send the answer back to a particular student if he/she has not answered it completely or needs more detail. The teacher can organize several walls so that throughout a class period, the teacher could move from one to another as the teaching continues. This way the conversation or reflection moves from space to space.
  3. Padlet: similar to Spiral.ac in the wall function except it only has one wall per URL. Although in padlet, students can not only have conversations, but they can also upload videos, pictures, and documents to the wall to then share with one another. Great conversations!

So, if your students aren’t 13 and you’re not using individual social media accounts, these are some good ways to get them talking to one another throughout a class  period or across classes. See what you think!

PBL-Technology Junction

pbl

project-based-learning-tech-junction

Student Driven

As an educator one characteristic that I want to instill in students is the ability to problem solve and fail forward as they connect with the world. So often we find ourselves giving students answers, or if we don’t give them the answers, we lead them right there because we have a correct answer in mind. So what are some ways we can break this cycle? How can teach to get our students to be the thinkers and the ones who problem solve?

Here are a few ideas and tools:

Use the Question Formulation Technique. This allows students to work in groups and create and answer their own questions throughout a project. It’s powerful! I have them do it in a Google Doc or Microsoft Word (with sharing on) so that they can collaborate together as each group creates questions. This way groups can see one another’s thinking.

TES Teach Blendspace is a playlist that is easily created because it connects to your computer, YouTube, Google Drive, or the web. You can easily drag and drop resources into it. By strategically placing some assessments for students to determine what they do and don’t know, learning can be put into their hands to decide which assignments to do. You put a variety of choices for learning so that if they prefer learning through watching videos, those are there; if they prefer learning through games, they have that option. If they prefer reading articles, you’ve pulled those in too! A great way to personalized learning and allow student-driven learning.

Blogging! Whether it’s WordPress, Weebly, Blogger, or Kidblog, giving our students a voice to share their learning, connect in an authentic way with the world, and learn digital citizenship in context is important.

If you’re looking for something a little different and new, take a look at Adobe Spark. You have three options: create a web page, a video, or a social media post. In Adobe Spark are sharing options which allow students to go public.

Just a few ways to begin to go beyond the classroom and have students consider the world as they consider what they want to learn and how they create to make it happen.

 

Student Ownership. For Real.

Student ownership. I’ve watched my student tech team develop into this amazing group over the past year. Last year, I had a vision that I wanted to come to fruition; but even with that I couldn’t have imagined what it would become, what we would become in one short year.

Let’s go back to the beginning. I put out applications for students who were interested. I work in a middle schools, so there are sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. I simply wanted students who had some interest in technology, being a team, advocating for their school, and promoting through social media. Students joined for one or all of these reasons.

Soon after joining last year, ten of my eighth graders joined four other middle schools to be inspired by iSchool Initiative and create a three-year plan for our school. They set their sights high. They came together as a team and became leaders. Some of the initiatives they wanted our team to do included the following:

  1.  teach teachers and students more about technology; we are a 1:1 iPad school and they felt this was a need
  2. open media center in the mornings for students

Empowerment has become our middle name. Maybe our first. Students led app speed dating where they taught apps to teachers. Our student “my iPad has an issue” Google doc went to their iPads, so that they could be first on the scene before it went to our local IT. They did team building through activities like building virtual computers. Currently a few of them are trying to get a budget to build the computer for real!

The project that has generated the most excitement is their modern-day technology lab created in a room from a broken down computer lab. They created the floor plan. They  worked with me to determine what we needed to purchase for it. As a result, they own this lab.

These are middle schoolers who feel pride in what they do every day. They have a purpose in coming to school and are quick to tell me what they need and advocate for it.

Now that is real life. That is what school should be.

 

Marketing Our Schools

I have been working to grow as an educator and grow my school in this area throughout the past year. In today’s world I cannot help but think that we must take advantage of social media to effectively market our schools in the positive light that they deserve. By tweeting, blogging, and using a variety of other apps we can quickly share with parents what is happening in the classroom almost in live time. Parents are able to share in their children’s experience. We have to capitalize on this.  Here are a few that I have started using; please share what you are using in your school.

Twitter: I tweet what is happening in classes, events to come, and live from events. I have made the decision to have two different twitter accounts. I use one for my “home account” and as my PLN and other things. The other one I use exclusively to tweet as a school administrator. Not everyone does it this way, but this is what is working for me.
Yapp: I post the school calendar on this free app; parents can download it and have access to the school calendar from their phone
SchoolCollabo: This is a private blogging site that parents from our school created, but they market it all over; it allows teachers to blog to about their classrooms as well as post their volunteer needs so that parents can sign up right there; then our front desk PA has access to that and pulls the volunteer list each morning to know who is allowed in the building; our principal blogs to teachers and only they can see that blog; she blogs to the community and they can see that blog; it’s nice because this is private so posting pictures isn’t an issue for some parents.

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