Innovating Classroom Instruction

Kahoot! – Who Knew Quizzes Could Be Such Fun?

Kahoot Logo

I love being introduced to products that immediately spark excitement in both teachers and students. Kahoot!  is one of those products that hooked me the moment Holly Clark had us play it at a recent GAFE Summit. Any device with a browser and internet connection can access this free, game based website which allows users to create quizzes, polls and surveys or search through a plethora of ready-made Kahoots in the public database.

Kahoot!  can be used as a formative assessment tool by creating quizzes that give students options to demonstrate their understanding of a concept.  Once the quiz is complete, teachers have the ability to download results to a computer and even save to Google Drive to analyze when time allows. The quizzes have the option to create multiple choice or true/false questions, while discussions and surveys only allow for multiple choice options. Students can even create a free, under 16 account and build quizzes as a way to review, demonstrate understanding, etc.

Student created Kahoot to review for a science test.

Student created Kahoot to review for a science test.

What I love most about Kahoot is that once the activity starts, the site controls the students’ screens as the game progresses. Students are able to easily follow along with the game as they work to be the fastest to respond with the correct answer.  The height of excitement reaches near breaking point as students are shown the leaderboard between questions and their true competitive spirit comes out.  This is also true of adults when they participate during PD days.  We are what we teach, right?

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One of my favorite student created questions and picture clues 🙂

Get Organized with Pocket!

pocket

After constantly being teased by multiple IT guys, teachers, my husband and finally students for the insane amount of tabs open on not one, but two of my browsers, I decided that I needed to get organized (again) and find a place to store all of the cool links that I stumble upon.  My excuse had always been that I had a lot of research to do for teachers, which is why I often had 50+ tabs open. Deep down I knew that half of those tabs would not be viewed again for some time, but I still resisted the urge to close or bookmark them.  I’m not sure what my aversion is with bookmarking, but it’s something that I could never quite get on board with.

Pocket is a great website/app, which allows users to save links to articles, videos, pdf’s and more to Pocket.  There are so many things that I love about this storage system, but what really sold me was the way that all of the saved items are beautifully displayed. I’m very much a visual person, so to only have lists of links was never beneficial to me.  Below is a sneak peak at what my Pocket looks like and a few more reasons why I love it.  Enjoy!

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More Reasons to Love Pocket

  • Easily access your Pocket on multiple devices – Mac, iPad, iPhone, etc.
  • Add Pocket as an extension to your Chrome Browser to quickly, “save to pocket”.
  • Create Tags within your Pocket to get even more organized.
  • Share Pocket links via email, Twitter, Facebook and more!

Blogging With Purpose

One topic that has been fresh on the mind lately is the idea of engaging students to write through a blog platform.  I realize that blogging isn’t exactly innovative in this day and age, but to a lot of kids it’s just enough motivation to begin to express themselves in front of an authentic digital audience, while choosing what they want to write about to add to their digital footprint.

Though blogging could and should be used for a number of different reasons, below are a few ideas to get started.  A lot of our students are using KidBlog and Blogger, but with the abundant number of options to choose from, there’s no reason not to get your class blogging, today!

 This 3rd Grade Class Blogging Connections from Novels

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5th Grade Students Practicing Poetry

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Increase Student Interest in Non Fiction Text with DOGO News

dogo news

For those unfamiliar with DOGO News , let me be the first to introduce you to this wonderful resource.  After discovering this website, which is now available in the App Store, I immediately introduced it to my students.  It didn’t take long for them to fall in love with it as much as I had.  Over the years, I’ve used it for many different purposes and noticed such an increase in non-fiction comprehension.  Once students had a choice of what article they were going to read about, they were hooked.   They also loved the many features that DOGO News  has to offer, such as videos, vocabulary, geography link and more.  The website is constantly making improvements including adding Common Core connected lessons to most of the articles.  One of the best parts about this website is that it is FREE! Teachers can use as many or as little of the resources that they want, though I recommend creating a free account and getting your class signed up as well.  Below are a few quick ideas for how to take this resource and run with it.

  • Give students choice! Let them choose an article and do whatever you would have had them do with an article that you were going to give them anyway.
  • Incorporate Padlet to create an interactive wall for students to share ideas.  Students can pick an article and then…
    • Post link and construct a quick summary
    • Argumentative writing – debate the main idea of the article
    • Persuasion – convince classmates to read the article or be swayed towards the author’s point of view
  • Practice commenting skills –   Students can choose an article and post a comment focusing on some aspect of the article.
  • Focus on current events – Kids love to read about what’s happening in the world.  The best part about current event articles on DOGO News is that they can use the geography link to see where in the world the event is taking place.
  • Write Reviews – Jazz up writing and show students how to construct and publish critical reviews of books and movies!
  • Science Connection – Not only can kids read articles about inventions, phenomenons and more, but often they can watch videos of scientists being interviewed or the giant, undiscovered species that the article was focusing on.

If you’d like more ideas, just leave me a comment or message me on Twitter!

App Speed Dating

Looking for an idea for a parent night or even PD for teachers? If so, you may want to give “App Speed Dating” a whirl.

Though it has nothing to do with dating, the idea behind this works like speed dating, where attendees rotate between quick, 3 minute demonstrations on an individual app.  I stumbled on the idea after a daily dose of Twitter browsing, when Ms. Jennie Magiera tweeted that she organized this event for a teacher training day in her district.  Immediately, I was drawn to the idea of students teaching teachers and knew that I needed to give it a try.  So, a few weeks later, when a team of teachers asked me for advice on what to do for an open house,  I knew I had to put App Speed Dating to the test.

We pretty much whipped this together in 24 hours, but it was still a giant success!  The kids were such great performers,  parents were very engaged and teachers were delighted that they did not have to stand in the front of the room and “talk at” parents all night.

For further detailed information, please see my website ,which outlines exactly how we set up the evening.

The Whole Crew
 

Notability App

Top 5 Classroom Apps I Love

Mo’ apps = Mo’ problems

The quicker a teacher realizes that more apps are not necessarily the answer, the better. I had to learn this lesson the hard way last year, after being sucked into the endless monster known as the App Store. I even went so far as to go “Google crazy”, wildly searching for “The Best Apps for Education” and “Top 50 Apps Every Educator Should Have”.  No teacher should ever have 50 apps.  Ever.  I tell all of my teachers to focus on one app a week that they want to really use to the fullest of its ability and then integrate that app into as much as you can throughout the week.

I’ve narrowed down my top five apps, that I know I would not want to live without.  Check them out and have fun!

Explain Everything

This app is a screen casting app (which means it will record voice and movement) that can at the very least, be used as an interactive whiteboard.  Explain Everything has the ability to import pictures, videos, PDF’s, Pages, Keynote documents and more.  I used this app last year for quick, formative or extended formal assessments.  Students would demonstrate their ability to solve, justify and defend a math problem, they would import pictures of a science experiment and narrate their results vs. their hypothesis and they would also import PDF’s to annotate over and demonstrate skills such as fluency, fact vs. opinion identification and so many more that I could never name in this small post.

  Subtext

Subtext is a new app that I really wish would have been available last year, to use in my classroom.  This app provides teachers with the ability to turn any book, article or document into interactive text.  You can even find articles from places like DOGO NewsNewsela or Time for Kids and assign them directly to your students through Subtext.   Teachers can embed discussion questions, quizzes and assignments DIRECTLY into text!  From what I’ve seen so far, students absolutely love posting on assignments and waiting for classmates to comment.  Great way to get kids engaged in reading and to differentiate for leveled reading! Great blog post about it, here.

iMovie

Hollywood, beware! Kids are film making and to be honest, some of them are pretty good.  There are so many ways that my students and I used iMovie, that I’m sure this won’t be the last time I blog about this app.  One of my favorite features of iMovie is the movie trailer which my students used a lot to demonstrate understanding of story elements and to create book trailers enticing others to read the book that they enjoyed.   This app is so user friendly, that we even created iMovies with our first grade and pre-school buddies!

Notability

Notability is a wonderful note taking and annotation app that most of my students used as their go to digital notebook.  They loved the ability to upload and import any document or picture directly into their note. A lot of my students loved the organization feature of Notability, which is similar to Evernote (another fave) and they were able to organize their notebooks by subject, while each note was time stamped and easy to title.  The ability to take quick voice notes is an added bonus!

Schoology

Schoology is another app that I wish I would have known about, last year.  As far as a learning management system was concerned, I was blown away by Edmodo, which took care of our class’ needs at the time. However, now that I have found Schoology, I feel I have seen the light! Schoology is very user friendly and allows students to easily access their assignments, quizzes, tests, grades and discussions.  The process of turning in assignments or saving documents in the “Resource” folder, is so streamlined and possible from almost any app.  Schoology is free, but schools can also purchase licenses for more bonus features.

Change the Look, Change Attitudes

With simple changes in your classroom environment, your can go from boring old 20th century, to exciting new 21st century in a flash!  OK, maybe not a flash, but soon enough.  My first couple of steps were simple; get rid of everything that made my classroom look like a classroom. I envisioned a space where I would be comfortable working all day. No textbooks (though I kept my novels on a shelf), no educational posters on the walls, no desks and minimal paper.  Handcrafted whiteboard tables replaced desks (whiteboard paint is a great alternative, as well), dry erase markers and erasable pens replaced pencils (goodbye annoying pencil sharpener), word processing and presentation apps replaced paper and student work replaced the useless educational posters that none of my kids ever looked at, anyways.  Adding lamps, comfy couches and chairs, bean bags and pillows were a finishing touch.

Students FELT different when they walked into my room. They began to relax, become less stressed and more focused on their work.  I know this because I had multiple students (and teachers) tell me this within the first couple of weeks of school. Creating multiple student work spaces naturally lends itself to focusing on student creation and exploration, rather than stand and deliver teaching models.  Whiteboard and desks should not be the focus of your classroom, the students should.  I am fully aware of the fact that I cannot quantify the effectiveness of this classroom environment change, but I truly believe that it led to student success throughout the year. 

Student Work Area

This comfortable work space allowed students to work on independent tasks without distractions.
My school used Apple TV's connected to TV's and we also connected SMART doc cams to the TVs.

My school used Apple TV’s connected to TV’s and we also connected SMART doc cams to the TVs.

 

Here is a panoramic view of my classroom set up.

Here is a panoramic view of my classroom set up.

Another Comfy Work Area

Another Comfy Work Area

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My Unconventional Desk Area

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Shared Supplies on Shelves Frees Up Space for Students.

Yet Another Comfy Work Area

Yet Another Comfy Work Area

My teammate's whiteboard tables with book caddies.

Former Teammate’s Whiteboard Tables with Book Caddies.

Whiteboard Tables

Not only do whiteboard tables allow for students to display their work, but it’s also fun to write students messages and notes!

Whiteboard Tables

Whiteboard Table Side View

Classroom Overview

My Old Classroom With the New Teacher’s Finishing Touches.

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My Former Teammate’s Classroom Overview

Here’s 30 iPads, Now Go! Prepping to Go 1:1 With iPads

Sometimes it feels like even the greatest of gifts come with strings attached. I can speak from experience when I say that having your biggest digital wish come true, will definitely come with an emotional roller coaster.  Even with my extensive tech knowledge, I still could not fully visualize what a 1:1 classroom would look like at the beginning of my iPad pilot year.  To be honest, I hadn’t given it much thought at all until I realized that school was starting in two weeks and decided that I should probably start planning.  One thing that I was confident about, was the curriculum and standards that I had been teaching for years.  Being comfortable with this, I was able to take baby steps in digitizing all of my content and slowly figuring out ways to incorporate all of the great tools that the iPad had to offer. I recommend starting simply, such as turning paper assignments into digital PDF’s and and then evolving from there.

Suggestions for Preparing to Go 1:1

  1. Create a Classroom Website    I believe that having a class website that is separate from a LMS site, is essential.  This allows for communication between students and parents that don’t necessarily have to do with daily instruction.  I used Wikispaces because I found it easy to use and students utilized it as a blog/discussion board, as well.  This was also a place where I kept homework, classroom expectations, important links, etc.  Check out my “old” one, here – Mrs. Lewis’ Class Wiki
  2. Get Comfy with a LMS -NOW!   A classroom Learning Management System is going to allow you to organize your daily classroom instruction and provide a way to transport work to and from students.  Last year, I used Edmodo, but this year I have been encouraging my teachers to use Schoology because I think it’s even more user friendly. Either site/app makes it simple for any educator to enter the world of 21st century learning.  Having the ability to produce online tests, quizzes, assignments, polls and blogs will give students a new way to collaborate, communicate and demonstrate their learning. Here is a great Schoology Resource to start your year.
  3. Make a Plan to Teach Digital Citizenship It imperative that teachers take the lead in educating young minds with how to behave appropriately, respectfully and responsibly in the digital world. I can’t tell recall how many times I’ve heard “Students already know what they’re doing with technology.” or “Kids learn so much through video games and texting.”  No, they don’t.  At all. While navigating technology and the web may come naturally to them, they definitley do not know how to be safe and smart using these tools.  Throughout the year, I would find a few minutes a day, or a small window of time per week, to teach mini lessons geared towards proactively educating students on what it means to be a digital native.  Common Sense Media has really been a great resource for me and it even has a full K-12 curriculum that requires minimal planning! This is another great resource from Edudemic
  4. Don’t Go App Crazy!   I recently read an article which indicated that all of the apps that you need should fit onto one screen. I don’t necessarily agree with that 100%, but I do see the point.  A lot of apps are overrated and the App Store can be very overwhelming. Most teachers that I’ve talked to think the the iPad is purely a device to “practice apps”.  No, nowhere in the Common Core standards is “app practice” listed.  Rather than focusing on subject specific apps, focus on the skill or task you want kids to demonstrate such as writing (I used Pages), presenting (I used Keynote), filming (I used iMovie), demonstrating or explaining (Explain Everything).  Most apps can be used to create and explore a variety of products and subjects. My top three favorite (at the moment) are Subtext, Explain Everything and iMovie.  These three apps can be used to read digitally, interact with text, create screen and podcasts, and film videos, skits and movie trailers.   I plan to post more about these apps in an upcoming blog. Quixey is a great search engine to find apps and is way easier to navigate than the App Store.

    My "Go To" Apps.

    My “Go To” Apps.

  5. Work Flow/Cloud Storage  Being that students are going to be creating a plethora of items such as drawings, writings, videos and photos, they are going to need a common place to organize and store everything as well as allow for collaboration and peer feedback. Three of my favorites are Evernote, Google Drive and Dropbox.  All are accessible via the web and/or a mobile device app.
  6. Plan a Back to School Parent Meeting  The students will already be excited about the idea of having their very own iPad. The parents, however, may have a few more reservations.  I strongly urge all 1:1 classrooms to host a parent night to get the parents on board for all of the great things you have planned for the year. Below are some suggestions for what to cover at the meeting.

    • Have student iPads available for parents to use during the meeting
    • Feel free to begin with data supporting 1:1 iPad usage in the classroom.
    • Highlight the positive aspects of letting the students take these devices home – personalized homework, flipped classroom models which allows teachers to spend more 1:1 time with each student, communication between teachers and students beyond the classroom and school day, more support for struggling students at home via FaceTime, class websites, online tutorials and apps, allowing students more time to work on assignments at their own pace, etc.
    • Give a mini tutorial for parents who are not familiar with the iOS, more support when they feel comfortable? You may want to do this once a quarter?
    • Walk them through how to set up Apple ID’s and how to connect to their home wi-fi networks.
    • If there is any extra time and if you are ready for this, it would be great to show the parents Schoology or Edmodo so they know where to find their childs’ grades, assignments, missing assignments, upcoming test/quizzes, etc.
    • It may also be worth noting that if the Pilot and iPads are brand new, whether the district purchased it or not, Apple provides a free resource that parents can access though Apple Care for tech support and basic software needs. This may really come in handy when those iPads start going home and parents need answers, fast.

Survive the First Week of iPad Madness!

The stress of that first craaaaazy week is still fresh in my mind. Probably because I just survived it, again, less than a month ago.  On top of the millions of other things that you have to do and remember, you also need to teach the kiddies about their new iPads that they’ll be using all year.  Here’s my advice.  Relax.  Don’t freak out.  Everything will be fine and you don’t have to cram everything into one week.  In fact, exploration and learning with and about the iPad should be ongoing.  That being said, if you’d like to keep kids on task, hold them accountable and really put them in the driver’s seat of their education, I suggest you check out the following tips ASAP.

Steps to a Successful Start to iPad Implementation

  1. Let Them Play   I know this may really freak some teachers out, but it’s the best first piece of advice I can give.  Let’s be honest, if someone handed you a shiny new toy, wouldn’t you want nothing more than to explore before you are told what to do with it?
  2. Set Firm Expectations   I’m talking FIRM and consistent expectations.  Make sure you absolutely scare the you-know- what out of them, before they start walking around dangling that $500 device over toilets.  My expectations were so strict that other kids ratted each other out and also reminded each other to pick their iPads off the ground before I had a chance to reprimand them.  Using verbal cues such as, “hands up” or “iPads off and over” may help kids focus and recognize when it’s appropriate to be using the iPad.  Create your own signals or sayings when you want to get the kids’ attention.
  3. Review AUA Form/User Agreement    It’s only fair that students know exactly what they can and can’t do with the iPad. They should also know what the consequences will be if their device is lost, stolen or damaged.  As boring as it was, my kids actually thanked me for going over those documents (word by word) so that they knew what was expected.  A good idea may be to number each iPad (which your IT department may have already done), so kids can easily identify whose iPad is whose.
  4. Digital Citizenship Basics    While I strongly feel that teaching Digital Citizenship should be ongoing (see next post), teaching basic expectations should begin on day 1.  I always start by telling the kids that taking pictures/videos of others without their permission is not OK, since that’s the first thing they will want to do.  You could even make this a part of a team building activity. They really need to know that you truly do trust them to be a responsible, respectful and educated digital native.  Looking for a great D.C. resource? Common Sense Media is the best I’ve found.
  5. Creatively “Teach” iOS   I’m not saying that I didn’t explicitly show them where a few components were and what a few simple multitasking gestures looked like, but it’s fun when the kids explore these things on their own. One idea may be to create an “iPad Scavenger Hunt”. In fact, have the kids create the scavenger hunt! Teaching is the highest form of knowledge, so let them get up there and present how to take screen shots, close apps and focus the camera.  Here’s a quick Cheat Sheet
  6. Get Kids (and Yourself!) Organized   This may need to wait until Week 2, but I always preferred to get the kids organized as soon as possible.   Beginning with yourself, find a Cloud app to keep yourself organized and store items such as student log in information, checklists for AUA forms, student iPad passcodes, lesson plans, etc.  My favorite Mac/iPad/iPhone app for this Evernote.  Students also need to get organized, so have them create a passcode, set up email accounts (district permitting) and create organized folders in note taking apps such as Evernote  or Notability. *Notability is great because it can act as a PDF annotator, as well.  To avoid (or minimize) future headaches- in addition to creating subject notebooks, I suggest having the kids create a “Private Information” folder, which stores usernames and passwords for all of their app and website log ins. They will refer to these.  Often. Make a habit of directing them to this folder and being responsible for maintaining it, rather than looking the info up yourself.
  7. Learn to Let Go of Control   This is a tough one to swallow, I know.  However, we educators truly need to understand that we a.) can’t control everything and b.) it’s not about us.  When was the last time that you were completely on task (100% of the time) during a staff development training or meeting? Kids will be distracted and talking to each other. For sure. The thing is, much of that distraction leads to a new idea or discovery and a lot of the talking involves supporting classmates and offering ideas.

1:1 iPads; One Wild and Crazy Journey

The day I was asked to be on a “special” district technology committee, I was less than thrilled.  To be honest, sometimes it felt like being a little more tech savvy than many of your peers, had its disadvantages.   As I contemplated the idea of volunteering for yet another bunch of meetings,  I had no idea about the positive impact our little committee would have on our classrooms, our students and the district as whole.

After first meeting with district leaders, we began to realize the gravity of what we were about to embark on.  Our tiny group was tasked with creating a 1:1 iPad Proposal to present to the Board of Education.  Aside from that small feat, we were also asked if we would consider being the ones to pilot going 1:1 in our classrooms.  Umm, yes please!  Once the bureaucratic tape was removed, our hardworking group of educators began a new school year with three 5th grade classrooms and one team of 8th graders piloting a 1:1 program.

To say that beginning the year was a breeze, would be a big fat fib.  This huge undertaking required a lot more than a few teachers and an iPad dream.  Our IT department hurried to get the iPads ordered, configured and in the hands of the students as soon as they could, which was not until halfway through the first month.  This came as quite a blow to the pilot teachers who had worked all summer on completely redesigning their classrooms and their methods of teaching.  However, once the students got those iPads in their itty-bitty hands, we knew we were on the cusp of something epic.

I, for one, could tell right away that this shiny new tool immediately piqued the kids’ interest.  As we began using the iPad on a daily basis to communicate, record, document, present, store, create and explore, it was clear that together, we were revolutionizing the way teaching and learning was meant to be. Whole worlds of endless possibilities were opening up before our eyes.  Differentiation? No problem! Paper? Who needs it! Student engagement and motivation? You betcha! In fact, at all time highs!

If I sound a bit dramatic here, that is my intent.  I cannot stress how much of an impact having 1:1 devices in my classroom had. Throughout this site, I hope to not only lure educators into thinking about implementing 1:1 devices in the classroom, but to also rock worlds by providing tips, ideas and best practices to support teachers who are experiencing the same wild and crazy year that I was fortunate to have been a part of.