Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Read Report Lives: the trilogy

Shall we make this journey to get caught up on all my saved Feedly posts a trilogy?  It will probably be more.

We reach the "summer" months with a post by Jacqui over at Ask A Tech Teacher.  Jacqui writes about the 7 Must-have Tools for Ed Conferences.  Now, I love Ed Conferences.  I'm at one right now (CATE).

  • Her first suggestion is a navigation app on your phone.  She suggests WAZE, and I agree, but I would also have a backup like Google Maps.  Depending on the conference, you may need to travel around the city to find your sessions, let alone if you are driving to the conference itself.
  • Her second is to download the conference app if they have one.  I've been to a few conferences that don't have a Sched, and it drives me crazy trying to decide and keep track of possible sessions to attend.  Here is a little personal tip when going to conferences and dealing with the schedule:  Choose multiple options for each session so that if one turns out to be a dud or full, you can go right to another choice instead of searching through the schedule to find something else.
  • Next?  Don't paper and pencil it.  Bring tech that is easily transportable.  My first year at CUE, I brought my laptop for use in the hotel room and my iPad for the sessions.  I no longer bring my iPad and instead bring my Chromebook and only my Chromebook.  If I charge it overnight, I don't (usually) need to charge it during the day.  It's light-weight, and taking notes on a keyboard is easier for me than trying to do it on my iPad.  I have my phone for anything that needs a QR code, but now I won't even need that thanks to different Chrome extensions.
  • Note taking.  Jacqui talks about Evernote and Notability, but I tend to create a shared notes document with my Technology Committee or anyone else that is attending the conference, so we can all add to our resources (and sometimes divide and conquer the sessions).  Nothing works better than Google Docs for that.  In the past, I would create a table of contents, but now I just use the heading functions and the outline tool.
  • Messaging App.  You're basically going to need Twitter.  Most conferences have hashtags that you can use to share and converse about what is happening.  I use Tweet Deck so I can have multiple columns of hashtags open.
  • QR Reader.  Numerous apps you can download for this.
  • Digital Scanner.  She talks about using it for business cards.  I've never used it for that, but I have used it for making copies of receipts for reimbursement.  I use the app Tiny Scanner, on my iPhone.

Heading backward into March, Alice Chen wrote about how sharing on social media helped her become a better educator.  I'm nowhere near as a prolific tweeter and she certainly has more blog cred than I do, but I do agree with her.  Blogging, however sporadic I may be with it, forces me to reflect on what is going on in my teaching.  While I know that some people do read these blog posts, they don't seem to spark conversations (yet?).  As I've gotten more active on Twitter, I find myself building a more robust PLN and creating conversations.  The trick with Twitter is finding the right hashtags so people see what you have to say.

Jumping back to May, and another post by Jacqui, we have a post about using the SAMR Model to direct your technology integration.  I definitely agree with much of what she wrote about.  Her suggestions remind me a little of Catlin Tucker's suggestion about (and I paraphrase) learning to use one tool really well before adding other tools to your box (and then use the ones that you like the best/most in your tool belt).  We have Federal Program Monitoring this year and in our mock assessment, one of the evaluators mentioned how there was a lot of substitution going on by teachers.  Well, of course, there is.  We've only had 1:1 for one grade level for a year.  It is going to take time for many of the more veteran teachers to integrate tech in the classroom beyond what they do on the whiteboard.

I'll stop there.  For today at least.  If you have any blogs that you follow, let me know.  I would love to add them to my Feedly.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Read Report Lives (Part 2)

Continuing on in trying to catch up and be a better blogger, here are a few more articles from my Feedly and my thoughts on them.
Screenshot from Google Classroom

Back in April 2016, Google's Education Blog talked about 4 Ways to Use Polling in Google Classroom.  If you use the Question function on Google Classroom (GC), and choose multiple choice instead of short answer, you can create a way to poll your students without creating a Google Form.  I had forgotten about this since I don't tend to use the question function and instead use Verso for online discussions.  But, I've already set one up for next week to help my 11th graders, who are doing a very big research paper, self-monitor their progress.  The blog also mentioned it's a good way to get student feedback, for exit tickets, and to guide student discussions.

At the end of the same mother, Sylvia Duckworth from EdTechTeam, talked about taking her knowledge of (what was then) GAFE for granted and what she did to make sure to pass the Google Level 2 exam.  She offered 3 Tips to Rock the Google Level 2 EDU Certification.  I'm sure I kept this because it was my plan over the summer to get my Level 2 Certification, but that didn't pan out.  Then my district offered Level 1 Certification courses, but I already had mine and so I asked if Level 2 would be offered.  They said it would be, and it was, but the class in December got cancelled.  It is now in May.  I've gone and checked out some of the training modules, but I haven't had the time to really look at them or the resources our Program Specialist put together.  Maybe I can get some of that done during Spring Break in April (Ha. Then I would have come full circle).  One thing I have done when looking at the modules is I go straight to the Review Quizzes and see what I don't actually know and then study that instead of reading over information that I've already figure out on my own in my usage of the G Suite products.

In May, Jennifer Gonzlez at the Cult of Pedagogy posted (and podcasted) about ways to make better use of Twitter.  She talks about finding your tribe, having conversations, sharing, participating in Twitter chats (mine is #caedchat - though I need to get more involved with it), do research, and communicate with students and parents.  Now, I have my personal twitter, which I use for the first 5 things Jennifer mentions, but I created a school twitter for my students/parents.  I don't get much traction out of the latter, but then again, most of the kids seemed to have moved to SnapChat.

In that same month, Valencia Clay over at Edutopia posted about Intrinsic Motivation vs. Standardized Tests. I think, at the time, I was interested because I had been working on my action research project with my two partners, and a large part of it involved extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.  She'd used a lot from the work of Daniel Pink and his book, Drive (which you should read), but one thing in her article really caught my attention.  One of the questions she says we should have students explore is "How will achieving well on this exam impact me a year from now, five years from now, ten years from now? Now, I'm admittedly biased against any high-stakes standardized testing and think there is too much of it.  I also think there is too much no-little-stakes standardized testing (my 10th graders take 5-6 a year). But, some of these standardized tests can impact a student.  Our 11th-grade students take the SBAC and have the EAP questions attached to it.  That can impact them because - depending on how well they do on the mixture of questions (SBAC and EAP) - it determines whether or not they need to take ERWC or any remedial English or Math courses in college (it essentially replaces placement tests).

I think that's a good plethora for now.  Next time, we'll cover the month of June and maybe more.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Read Report Lives

Since the new semester has begun and both my preps are working on research papers, I have a little more time to be a better blogger.  It will, of course, catch back up to me when these papers are due.

I haven't done a Read Report in a really long time (about a year), but I have been checking up on my Feedly and saving posts.

This will be a nice way to refresh my memory about things.

Going all the way back to October of 2015, Jennifer Gonzales, gave her Big List of Class Discussion Strategies.  She breaks them down by high-prep, low-prep, and ongoing strategies.  Of the high-prep strategies mentioned, my favorite and the one that has basically replaced my attempts at Socratic Seminars is Philosophical Chairs.  I haven't done one in a while, but I plan to do so soon with the anticipation guide for The Joy Luck Club.  I find that anticipation guides are good ways to incorporate Philosophical Chairs.  I usually give them a "worksheet" where they can mark where they stand on a big idea or theme from the novel.  I also usually have them write down why they agree/disagree.  Then, usually the next day, we move about the room and defend our positions, seeing if we can persuade others with our analysis to move on over to our side.

Jacqui Murray also wrote in October of 2015.  Her post was about Let[ting] Student Learn from Failure.  I think this one caught my eye way back when because I completely agree that it is necessary.  I tell my kids all the time that we learn best from our mistakes, but that doesn't seem to deter their fear of failure.  She suggests many things in the post, but the two that stood out to me were her comments on the "Mulligan Rule" and letting students see you fail.  Now, the former is something I offer, but probably not explicitly enough since no one ever takes me up on it.  So, I need to find a way to make it clear that students can resubmit essays or projects to make them better.  The latter is something my students see me do all the time.  It usually appears in the typos of the work I present to them, but it can run the gamut all the way up to a lesson that just totally bombs.

Again back in October 2015, my friend Crystal Kirch talked about the TeachMeet she did with her colleagues.  They "had three 2-minute sessions of teachers sharing something awesome they do in their classes with technology followed by 1-minute of reflection and debriefing with colleagues."  So, each session was probably around 5 minutes, for a total of 15.  I would love to do this with my staff.  I think I'm going to take it to my tech committee and see what they think before I go to the admin to ask for time.

Another Jacqui Murray post (still 2015, but I've moved on up to November at least), talk about what she thinks are the 5 Best Typing Tutors.  The ability to type on a normal keyboard, rather than one on a smart phone, is a skill that is severly lacking in many students.  I honestly feel that we need to bring back some technology course that many schools and districts have done away with.  These skills are especially pertinent with the onslaught of 1:1 programs.

We finally jettison into 206 (February) with a post from EdTechTeam about Google's Revision History.  I love this tool, not only for fixing my own mistakes, but to catch kids who I suspect of plaigarizing their work from another student.  If things go into a document in one fell swoop with minimal entries in the revision history, it stinks of copy and paste.

Going back a month with a post from Jennifer Scott about Living in the Learing Moment.  She talks about when to sit and give synchronous feedback to students and when we roam around the room.  This is something that I think I will always struggle with, but am better at than I was when I started my blended-learning endeavors.  I think if I can get my workload down, I could feel more able to roam around the room than I already am.  I use many different "formulas" to keep myself out on the floor with my students.  Somethings I do the half-and-half:  5 minutes at my desk and then 5 minutes on the floor.  Other times, especially if I'm grading, I do the quota:  After every X number of assignments, I'll get up and roam around the room.

I think I'll leave it there for now.  Maybe in a day or two I can work on getting all caught up.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

OCCUE Techfest 2017

Here is my slide deck for my first conference presentation.  I wanted to do something for those of us that already use Google Classroom.  We don't need to know the basics, but it would be awesome if we could learn some tips and tricks to maximize its usage, right?  This is a live document and I will be adding to it.

The room was pretty packed, so I think I hit on a need that some of this conferences often lack.

If you have any tips or tricks that you would like to share for Google Classroom, please leave a comment.  If you would like me to include it the next time I present on Google Classroom, let me know and I'll give you proper credit.

I also went to three other sessions besides my own.

The first one on an app for the tablets called Argubot Academy by GlassLabs.  It combines gameplay with teaching kids how to discover and identify the correct type of evidence to support their arguments.  Despite the fact it's geared towards middle schoolers, I think my students could find it fun and useful.  I won't really be looking into it any further until it's available on the Chromebook, which is something that they are apparently working on according the to presenter (Laura Compton).

The second was about the classroom management app ClassDojo.  I once signed up for a few years ago, but it seemed a little too elementary school for my students, and maybe it still is in regards to the aesthetic of the icons for the kids.  But, I might give it a try next year.  It had a lot to offer in keeping track of specific behaviors and assigning specific points for those behaviors.  It might do the kids and I well to have certain behaviors be worth more and subtract more for their participation grade.  I particularly liked the suggestion by the presenter, Tracy Edmisten, to use a zero point value to keep track of the number of times a student goes to the restroom.

The last session I went to was about using Hamilton in the classroom.  The biggest takeaway I got from that was finding out about the site Genius.  It's a site where people can read up on annotations about lines in a song, or even add some themselves.  The annotations seem to be really thorough.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

And the Semesters Turn, Turn, Turn

First, I'm nervous/anxious/excited to try my hat as a presenter at the OCCUE Techfest 2017.  I'll share my slide deck with you all after Saturday.  

I am so bad at this blogging thing.  I'm sorry it's been so long, but like any of you teachers know, things get busy.  But with my last final done for the semester and all my grades (pretty much) in, I have a moment to breath and try and reflect on this past semester.

My last post, back in November (shame *clang, clang* shame *clang, clang*), talked about add-ons, including JoeZoo.  Well, since then, JoeZoo has made some changes.  They now have the add-on called JoeZoo Express and they have the web app.  It's still a really useful add-on to use, but you'll have to jump through some hoops (like getting your district to install it to get all the features) to get the full array of features.  I used to use it mostly for its MonkeyChecker, but I find I really like the rubric function a lot.  If you set it up right you can get it to do all the adding to get the score for each essay.  I may move to JoeZoo for the big 11th-grade research project coming up instead of Goobric.

Each year, I feel like I have less and less time than I did the year before.  For next year, I really need to decide what is most important for the students to know (I know, we all say this every year), and take more time.  I need to decide what is and isn't important, and this includes for common assessments.  If I don't think my students really need to know X, then maybe I'll adjust my own copies of assessments and not test for X (or convince my PLC we don't need to include it).
Looking back at my workload this past semester, I need to move forward with assigning deeper, more meaningful assignments.  Again, many of us say this all the time, but it's hard to get myself to do it because I feel so much of a work of literature is meaningful and I want to share all my knowledge with the kids about it.

I also think that when I try and add meaningful assignments (like the Passion Project for my 10th graders and Kid President Blogs for both 10th and 11th), I feel like I'm falling behind the other classes because I have to take time out of the week to do these things that other teachers are not.  That puts some pressure on me to try and catch up.  It kind of makes you feel like a bad teacher if you aren't able to go the same pace as everyone else.  You aren't one, but you sometimes feel like it.

Next year's Poe unit for my 10th graders will include less poetry I think.  I can easily cut out "Ulalume", but I really don't want to give up "Dream Within a Dream".  And, I certainly don't want to cut out "Eldorado", "The Bells" (perfect for talking about sound devices) and "Annabel Lee".  I can't cut out "The Raven" (you can't talk about Poe without reading "The Raven".

If I cut out one of the three short stories, it will probably be "The Black Cat".  Despite its difficulty, I want to continue to do "Murders in the Rue Morgue" because it's a departure from what Poe is known for and the birth of the detective story.  In case you were wondering, the last story is "The Masque of the Red Death", and that is NEVER coming out (ah, symbolism).  I think I might also switch it back to starting with the stories and ending with the poetry.

I'm nearly paperless in my 10th-grade class so just about everything is due through Google Classroom.  I think one of the problems with time that I am having is because the technology has made the students...lazier (for lack of a better term).  If I were to assign a "worksheet" on symbolism in "The Masque of the Red Death" on paper and it was due the next day, students would typically go home and finish whatever they didn't in class and bring it back done the next day.  That is overwhelmingly not so with these kids when an assignment is online.  The majority of students still haven't' finished it the next day in class.  We've had this discussion multiple times and I just have to get better about putting a time on the due date and giving homework cards to those students who don't have it in on time (I will admit that going to blended-learning has negatively affected how I handle homework cards consistently).

My 11th graders, by in large, have the same problem regardless of if it's an online assignment or a paper one (I'm less paperless in this class), but many of them try and use the online aspect of an assignment as an excuse for poor motivation and achievement.

My goals for this semester:

Ease up on my workload.  I don't need to grade every assignment.  
  • Get better with electronic assignments and homework cards.
  • Throw it back to how I used to be as a teacher and come up with more project-based assessments with choice (still have to do the common assessments with 11th grade though).
  • Get more helpful screencast videos done for the students.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Add-Ons Can Save Lives, Or At Least Time

It's been awhile since I've made a post about anything other than Kid President.  It's been a very busy year.  I no longer have to worry about my Master's Degree, but I'm department chair this year and become a site rep for the union.  We also have had a lot of administrative absences for various reasons and a few of us have been picking up some of the slack when we can.

Last week, my Safe School Ambassador "club" hosted an Anti-Bullying Week.  That kept me pretty busy, but that's a kind of busy that is definitely worthwhile.  We got some help from one of the AVID classes and created a "Take What You Need, Give What You Can" board to share

A photo posted by Miss Barron (@missbarronsfhs) on

I'm, as always, behind in my grading.  One thing that helped me so far this year is a Google Doc add-on called JoeZoo.  It's not perfect.  It would be great if you could go from giving grammatical feedback on an assignment, to grading it (using a rubric to give it a grade) instead of having to go back to the start screen.  But, if you use many of the same rubrics for different assignments, it's pretty handy.  I just had to set up my districts narrative rubric once, and now I can use it with multiple assignments.  It saved me a lot of time and it will show the students the areas they need to work on.

It also integrates with your Google Classroom (GC), so you don't need to enter in all your students and assignments.  If you have them in GC, it's there in JoeZoo.  I still suggest edits for mistake students make because the feedback function is not foolproof.

I discovered two new Docs add-ons the other day as well that I'm pretty excited about, though like JoeZoo, they aren't foolproof (apparently, it's nigh on impossible for AIs to identify comma splices).  These two add-ons have similar functions:  proofreading.  One is called GradeProof and the other is Proofread Bot.

GradeProof Screengrab
GradeProof reminds me of Grammarly in function and aesthetic.  I really like it.  It gives statistical information too like how many words, sentences, etc. the paper has.  It also gives a readability score and a "grade level".  The grade level isn't really what most teachers would consider a grade level.  What it is is a number of years it is estimated one would have to be in school in order to underestand the text.  So, my students and I figured out that the higher a readability percentage, the lower the grade level was.

Proofread Bot is interesting in that it explains the error and why it shouldn't be made.  I like that about it because it teaches along with guiding you through corrections that maybe should be made. This tool in particular could assist students in self (and peer) editing. Here's a video to see it in action:

I was a little surprised to hear about the change in name for GAFE to G Suite.  I'm curious how that will affect the Ed Tech world.  For instance, will EdTechTeam rename their GAFESummits?

Friday, October 7, 2016

Kid President #2

Source: Wikimedia
It's actually #3.  Or, it is for my students.  I didn't model blogging for them last time (shame on me).  But since it has been a while from my last post, I decided to do it for them today.  It's not that I haven't had anything to say.  I've just been busy.  I'm sure all of you more than understand that.  I envy those of you who are better blog stewards than I am.

So, this time around, I had my students read #8 in the book:  "Focus on the Awesome."  One thing that I think that is awesome is that my students are blogging.  They don't all particularly enjoy it yet (but they will), but one thing I've noticed about my students over the years, anything that is different = hard = don't want to do it.  Once it becomes easier for them, I anticipate that they will enjoy it.

Another thing that I think is awesome is the fact that one of the authors of the book is now following me on Twitter.  Never thought that one day I would get excited about who was following me on Twitter.  But then again, I never really thought I would be anywhere near active on Twitter either.

I'm hoping that the students will eventually not need the prompts I come up with the help them write their reflections, but here are the prompts they can mix and match for this particular assignment:

  1. Reflect on #8: “Focus on the Awesome”
    1. Do you agree with Brad and Kid President? Should we focus on the awesome?
    2. What might be some benefits on focusing on the awesome?
    3. What might make it difficult to focus on the awesome?
    4. Who is someone in your life that helps you to remember to focus on the awesome?

I do agree with Brad Montague (the one now following me on Twitter) and Robby Novak.  We should focus on the awesome.  It makes you feel better mentally, which will only help you feel better physically.  It's not particularly easy to do, especially if you're predisposed to being negative.  It's going to take practice.

There are some days that will happen where it just seems like nothing is going right.  Those days might make it difficult to focus on the awesome.  But, the fact that you can survive days like that and come out on the other side is pretty awesome if you think about it.

I think Robby Novak himself is a pretty good reminder to focus on the awesome.  I especially feel this way since I've learned that he and his biological sister both have the same "Brittle Bone Disease" and were adopted by the Novaks.  If he can focus on the awesome, I certainly can.  The people who are currently in my life that help me to focus on the awesome are my best friend of 20 years, Christel, and her two boys (her youngest has a smile that can't be called anything other than awesome), and my students.  My students can also make it hard to focus on the awesome, depending on the day and/or period, but the fact that I can be a part of their lives and maybe make a difference for them is absolutely awesome.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Kid President Blog Post

I'm doing a little modeling for my classes today (two of them at least) and writing a blog as they do their first one of the school year.

Over the summer, I began to read Kid President's Guide to Being Awesome.  I thought it would be kind of neat to have my students read and respond to some of the vignettes in the book.  Today, with my 11th graders, I began that journey.

On Sunday, I went to four Barnes and Noble bookstores to get eight paperback copies of the book (one for each group in class).  Yesterday, I started the 11th graders on their blogs.  I helped them get their blogs set up and a draft post for their first blog post, which they are doing right now.

It was really cool to walk around the room and hear the students reading "The True Story of Kid President" to each other.  I'm really hoping they get something out of this.

They can write about whatever the story made them think or feel, but if my 11 years of teaching have taught me anything, it's that you need to have prompts anyways.  So, I came up with two to help those that need a little push:

    1. What reason can you find to dance?
    2. What could you stop complaining about? What could you start celebrating?

Source: WikiMedia
The fact that I had students reading to one another, and reflecting (in writing) during the first week of school without much push back is definitely a reason to dance. I'm kind of known for doing happy dances anyways. When students seem to take to something I took a lot of time to plan out for them, and it seems to go well, it is definitely dance time. I sometimes do it in front of the students too. Other times, I do it in my head.

I could probably stop complaining about how tired I always feel. I should probably go to the doctor and see if there is anything I can do to get a better night's sleep. That would probably help a lot. I could also work up my stamina again and do more walking. That's supposed to help sleep, or so I hear.
I am celebrating, on a small level, the fact that I did pretty well in maintaining my weight loss over the summer. I didn't really lose any more weight, but I was able to keep myself from really gaining any either. I might have even gained some muscle since many people are commenting that it looks like I lost more weight. I could also celebrate the fact that I was born without any debilitating disorders like Kid President was. I had a student a few years ago with "Brittle Bone Disease". I loved his laugh. It was infectious.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The First (Half) Week of School 2016

I didn't sleep in any day, at all, during the summer.  I always woke up in the 6 or 7 o' clock hour. Every. Single. Day.  I find this very unfortunate.

It seems to be a trend that is continuing even after the school year has started because now I'm waking up somewhere in the 5 o' clock hour.

But, it's back to the "grindstone".  Though this grindstone isn't making a lot of noise.  So far, my students are soooooo quiet.  It's kind of disconcerting really.

I'm teaching the same preps this year (English 11 College Prep and English 10 Honors), but they flip flop back and forth between periods, which is kind of annoying and will probably get more so when we start doing different activities.  A minor issue, I know.

So, a post on the Breakout EDU facebook group rolled through in the days before school started from Sally Hoyt about a back to school digital breakout she did with her students.  She gave me permission to modify it, so I did and gave it a try.

Like Sally, I started out with a Google Form student survey.  Once the students were done with the survey and had clicked SUBMIT, there was a link to the 3-lock digital breakout I'd created for them.

Many of the students didn't read the confirmation page and closed the tab, which created some problems, but we navigated through them.

I had clues built into the data validation for each lock.

The first lock was a date lock, and I followed Sally's Breakout and chose Back to School Night.  Ours happen to be on the same night.  Many of the kids thought the clue about going back to school meant that day: the first day of school.  Some kids were getting upset with me because they didn't understand and thought they had to put in the date I gave in the example so they would type the date in the correct format, which of course, didn't work.

I followed Sally's example, to a point, with the directional lock as well and used it to lead them to Google Classroom.  I had given them a sheet with all the codes for all the Apps we would be using in class, which included Classroom.  The clue talked about how if you couldn't find your way, you may need to GOOGLE your way to the CLASSROOM.  Some of the kids picked up on the clue right away, others thought they had to find the coordinates to the school on Google Maps.

Once they were in Classroom, there was an announcement with a link to this document:

Many of the kids figured out the code, but couldn't quite figure out (read:  were not reading the help text for the lock) and were writing out the entire word instead of the first letters.

I'd given the kids a half sheet of paper "introducing" myself and telling them they could find more about me on my website (one of the pages on my site is titled "About Me").  Where the following infographic about myself could be found.  I borrowed this idea too.  I thought it was cute.

If the kids paid close enough attention to what I talked about in note (how many schools I've taught at, how many degrees I have, how many Google certifications I have, and how many colleges I've been to), they would pick up on the numbers and order for the 4-digit lock.

I had one girl figured it out, on accident, by deducing that few meant 3, multiple meant 2 (for her at least; but hey, it worked!), etc. from how I worded my clues.  I might need to be a bit more vague next time.

Once they had all the locks right, they clicked NEXT and that lead them to...

I decided to add a few questions to gauge how students felt about the Digital Breakout.  Here is a sampling of some of the results:

I had a few kids report that they liked nothing about it, but many of them said they liked the challenge, some liked how "sneaky" I was with my clues, and many of them liked the mystery of it.

A lot of the kids realized that the objective was to hit all four of the "Cs": Creativity, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Communication.  Some missed out on the communication part because they were trying to do it alone.

Overall, I think the Breakout was a success.  I think I'm going to do one for The Crucible.  I think I'll do the "old-fashioned" Breakout for that.  I need to find one for a book that has already been done and modify it.  It would make me feel a little more confident in trying it out than if I tried to do one from complete scratch.

The Breakout didn't take up the whole period, so I had a Kahoot all about me and the room ready to go.  The kids really had fun with this one despite the fact that they'd just met me.  I used it to point out where the station for staplers, sharpeners, and a hole punch is; and, how to go about turning in late work or getting their absent work, etc.  Here were my two favorite questions, the first one comes right after a question about whether or not I have a sense of humor:

The next two days, I spent practicing some of the Apps we will be using during the school year with the students.  We used Google Classroom both days as the springboard for the other three.  I really like the new topics feature they added, by the way.

First up was a diagnostics assessment on NoRedInk.  This is an online grammar learning tool that I found out about from Esther Wojcicki when she came to present at our district on Moonshots (bought the book, have the book, haven't read it yet).  Four of the five classes are having the most trouble with connecting clauses with colons and semicolons.  My 4th period needs help there too, but they were having more trouble with active and passive voice.  So, I now know what my first official NoRedInk assignments will be for the students.

Then it was Verso.  I really like Verso.  I discovered it last year during CUE after having a hallway chat with my friend Crystal Kirch before we headed to lunch with another friend.  I could have sworn I blogged about using it last year.  Apparently, I had meant to and never did.  I really love Verso, and the kids seemed to like it last year in the few times we used it.  I plan to pretty much use it for any online class discussions this year.  The students' responses are anonymous to students, but not the teacher.  The kids mentioned how they liked the idea of anonymity because that way they would feel more confident and comfortable responding honestly and thoughtfully knowing that other students don't know what response is theirs, but they can't be mean to each other with impunity since they are accountable to the teacher who can tell who said what.

Here is the video that the students watched for their first "flip" (What Verso calls an activity) that they did as practice.  There was an accompanying question:

Lastly, I introduced them to Actively Learn.  As I blogged about last school year, I really like Actively Learn.  My school is test piloting it with a Team plan for 6 of us, so I get some special goodies this year.  One thing I noticed is that when I sync my Google Classroom classes with it and then create an assignment, it creates a draft for the assignment in my Google Classroom.  That was really cool.  For this practice session with the kids, I chose a current event article from the catalog on music and how it affects the brain.  It has only two questions, which I thought was perfect for practicing.

I was really surprised at how thoughtful and thorough many of the answers were from the students, especially from my 11th graders.  Many of them wrote quite a bit.  They seemed to like when I went over to the computer and started grading their answers and they would get the feedback in front of them already.

A similar product to Actively Learn reached out to me over the summer through Twitter about their product and this blog.  They talked about my readership.  I wasn't aware I had a readership.  Readership are you out there?  Would love to hear from you.

The product is called OwlEyes, and it is certainly worth a look.  Their slogan on their home page is: Read. Annotate. Collaborate.  It's completely free and houses a bunch of readings from the public domain, and they were going to be adding (should have already added at this point) some texts from Project Gutenberg.  It seems really interesting, and if I didn't already have Actively Learn, I'd probably give it a try with my class. But, we are paying for Actively Learn, and I don't want to overwhelm my students with Apps that carry a similar purpose.  I did sign up anyways, just in case.  I like having my username saved.  I also liked how they have some analysis already embedded into their texts.

Here are two short videos that Samantha over at Owl Eyes sent me:

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Nurturing Learning Communities Reflection 7 (the last)

The LAST prompt EVER (can you tell I'm excited to be done?): Are you getting burnt out yet? What is making you feel that way? How can you sustain momentum? After you finish this course will you continue? Why or why not? Have you made any connections to other school districts or universities? What are you learning from them?

I write this as I wait for the opening keynote at ISTE 2016.  So, am I burnt out on connecting with other educators?  Am I burnt out on my Master's program?  Um...yes.

Don't get me wrong.  It's been very enriching to go through this program (there were a few exceptions).  But, I'm ready to be DONE.  It was very hard to balance my education with creating time to enrich my students' education.

I've already talked in previous reflections about the connections, or lack thereof, that I've made.  I won't stop participating in PLNs and getting involved on Twitter and Google+.  Despite Bill Selak's suggestion during today's Ignite session, I'm wary of Snapchat.  I think I'll be a holdout.   I carefully straddle the line between giving to much access to my students of myself and trying to be an innovator. I tend to err on the side of not giving too much access.

I'm sure I'll learn a lot from them in the next few days at ISTE.