Simplifying Life. Simplifying Assessments

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Google Forms

Google forms are one of my favorite tools to make our lives simpler. If I need information, it goes into a form. If I want feedback –it goes into a form. This tool more than any other has allowed me to use so much less paper in my job. I’ve gone from being the queen of piles to super organized because everything curates into excel spreadsheets, graphs, and charts that are easily accessible in Google Drive.

As a teacher, forms gives you so many options. Think, tickets out the door, tickets, in the door, quizzes, and formal summatives. I want the teachers I work with to get technology to do the grading for them if it’s possible. Yes, we do projects and assessments where it isn’t, but if it is, have the technology do it for you! Forms also allows for branching so if a question is missed, it can direct students to the next question you want them to go to.

As a ticket in the door you can have quick data as to where students need to go that day; or, even better, teach students to use the to make decisions about what they need to learn based on that formative data. IDEAL personalized learning. Once students have that information they know they need to sit in the teacher’s group or go to station X, for example.

Go Formative

Another of our favorite assessment tools is Go Formative. The teacher easily creates an assessment. Then this tool allows the teacher to watch a dashboard as students are completing the assessment. Teachers can be circulating around the room as students complete it; or even teaching a small group while another group of students in the class are completing the assessment. It is also one of the most robust online assessments I’ve seen. It has drawing options (yay math teachers) and short response options.

Quizziz

Another favorite of students and teachers is Quizziz. This allows students to work at their own pace while teachers can show a leader board on the front board. This is in contrast to Kahoot! where everyone waits after each question for the entire class. It’s simple in Quizziz for teachers to create assessments, gather data, and use that data for instruction. The students love the memes that appear after each question. It’s the little things, right?

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PBL-Technology Junction

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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.

 

School Versus Learning #IMMOOC Why is there a Difference

As I continue along on this journey of learning, this journey of reading The Innovator’s Mindset with oh, 2,000 of my closest friends, there are a few points that are sticking with me today. Sometime George puts the words into my brain so much better than I can say them.

  1. School teaches compliance. Learning is about challenging perceived norms. (102)

To me this is a solid reason school might need to be tweaked. If school doesn’t equal learning at every level, well….are we doing it as well as we can be? AND are we doing it for the students of today? Better yet, how can we make these one and the same? How can we stop making school be about teaching compliance and get students able to challenge the status quo? Are we ready for that?

I certainly don’t have all the answers but today I watched a science teacher begin her lesson with students determining the questions. She presented an opportunity and they posed the questions they needed answered in order to learn what had happened in that situation.

2.  School is about giving you information. Learning is about making your own connections. (102)

Even in the framework of a curriculum, we have leeway; students can build on their connection to information.

I am watching books come alive for our middle school students as they make choices in what they read for maybe the first time as part of their learning. They are excited about it and engaged in books.

When teachers are gifted at helping students uncover knowledge rather than being wrapped up in covering material, it all comes alive for them.

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.

 

Building a School from the Ground Up: Part II #IMMOOC

I started this blog post about three years ago, addressing the idea that we often do what we’ve always done without reflecting on the WHY. We tend to go about our daily business and not stop to consider what if?

What if we changed the schedule?

What if we got rid of this furniture?

What if we got to the root of why students misbehave rather than giving them consequences to change behavior?

What if school was relevant to life?

So many what ifs.

What if the school schedules were changed so that subjects were no longer taught in isolation? Think real world. I’m not just talking elementary kindergarten, either. We know that we need connections for learning to stick. By making connections across content, students learn in a way that is relevant and authentic. Learning feels meaningful and has connections to the world. Project-based learning is one powerful way this might be done.

What if we took the time to understand our students deeply?As educators we often operate in a reactionary way. A student does something we don’t agree with: check or consequence. It happens again –> more severe consequence. And so the story goes. On a given day,  the same students receive consequences over and over. What does this tell us? Are those consequences effective?

OR

We walk by a primary classroom with that dreaded stoplight or card system. By the end of the first month of school, what have those students learned? Often a tracked system where the red kids are quickly labeled, and they themselves find it difficult to change who they are after September. I have often had students tell me, “I am red.” What an awful thing for a five-year-old to believe. Why is he given the label? Because he is excited about school and can’t contain that excitement? By taking time to get to the root of students’ issues, we can properly handle them.

Now, we also must be sure that there are even issues there. Excitement and wanting to stand…. not issues for a five-year-old child!

If I am rebuilding school, my school is engaging. So that busy little 5-year-old from the above example. He won’t be sitting in a desk. There won’t be desks for him to sit in. Before being hired, every staff member will follow the path of a students all day in a traditional school, so that never becomes our school. Our kids will learn through projects and singing and dancing and authentic learning.

They will be outside learning. Recess will be recess. Several times a day. Not moderated by adults. It will involve problem solving by students.

And homework. Nope.

Until we consider ideas we haven’t before, can we really take our education to the next step?

Breaking Out #IMMOOC

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Today I spent time doing breakouts with sixth grade classes. For those who aren’t familiar, think breakout rooms but on a smaller scale.

Students work in small groups with clues tied to given content. In today’s breakout, the content was tied to Gary Paulsen novels and adventures. Once the groups solved the clues, they could attempt at the locks which are either directional, numerical, or word.

Students must use clues, collaboration, problem solving, and content knowledge to solve the clues that will unlock the box.

This is an exciting and new way for students to learn and demonstrate learning. It is the 4Cs (collaboration, communication, critical thinking, creativity) pulled into content in different ways.

I was taken aback when one student asked for the point of as we were debriefing after the break out. So I threw it back at the class; I took a deep breath, wondering if anyone had gotten it. I knew we hadn’t wasted our time. I had watched them work together; have great discourse; use their brains in new ways. BUT had they?

Deep breath. One student responded: we have to collaborate.

Ahhhh. Yes.

Another: we have to work together.

Yes, you do.

We have to look up information on our iPads. Figure it out.

That is true.

They had gotten it. Learning. Wrapped up in a new package.

They got it!

Purpose of School #IMMOOC

The purpose of education is simple and complex. It is simple because we must prepare our students for the world they will graduate into. This is complex because this world is ever-changing. It isn’t the factory line driven world of the 1900’s that our Prussian-style education system is still preparing our students for.

Because of this, we must make some drastic changes to our classrooms and schools to meet our students where they are and prepare them for the unknowns that the world brings.

We know that many careers that our students will choose post-graduation have not even been thought of yet. The best thing that we can do for them is to make students good at learning; good at thinking; good at problem solving; and most of all, good at relating to others. These are the skills that are important in this century.

In this century we can Google any fact or any calculation faster than we can retrieve it from our head. With critical thinking skills students can figure out how to access information and the accuracy of the information that they’re accessing.

The innovation that we most need is open-mindedness to imagine the unimaginable. To recreate schools and get away from low-level trivial knowledge into deeper levels of thinking.

To embrace this change, I try to model it. As an instructional coach, I meet people at their level of comfort and show them how a tool or strategy can enhance learning in their classroom. It is my responsibility to take them from where they are to a place they might not realize even exists: slowly and within their comfort zone.

 

G*O*A*L*S

As each year begins, I make new goals. New resolutions for the school year. What will this year bring? I am in a new, exciting position this year, so it is certainly easy to make a laundry list of goals —so many that I could never achieve them all. When I consider what the major focus would be, I think they come down to the following:

  1. Working with teachers and administrators to create an engaging, student-centered environment where technology helps transform students’ learning in meaningful ways. This is a big one that is where I will spend most of my time. Through modeling, co-teaching, conferring, and learning together, I hope to move toward this goal.
  2. Keeping a healthy balance. Somehow this always is a goal of mine that is rarely achieved. Since I can never get enough of reading professional literature, watching podcasts and webcasts, Voxing, blogging, for me like many of you, balance does not come easily. I can read, write, communicate late into the night neglecting other things that I enjoy much less.
  3. Continue to model risk-taking and growth. Through the above I hope to model to those around me the mindset of being open-minded and ready to try new things even when they might make us nervous.

For now I will keep it simple at that.

What are you looking forward to in the new school year? What are your GOALS?

The Lives that our Students Live

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CC0 1.0 Universal

Real life is often the opposite of school, but does it have to be? What if school learning mirrored the skills that students need for life rather than being something so vastly different?

That would take some real change in our current school structure. New tables and new technologies do not make a twenty-first century school (ugh, how I dislike that term). Making the shift from our teachers covering material to students uncovering material is certainly a daunting one at times. It seems like we have been talking about integrating the subjects and students learning through the process of PBL for so long and yet, it is taking us in the world of education a long time to roll out these concepts.

I look forward to continuing the forward momentum in education of making our schools look more like life –the life where they live, so that learning is authentic and students enjoy the process of creating, thinking, and problem solving.

A Place to Reflect & Ruminate

Catina: teaching, learning, leading, creating

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