We’ve all had those moments, those days, those classes when we’re thankful if our students are just compliant. We all hope for that engaged and empowered class, but there are those days where things can just get crazy! Shorter weeks, bad weather, late starts, alternative schedules, test days, and spring fever can take a toll on student engagement and productivity. How about shaking things up a bit?
Consider a redesign or a reboot to keep students engaged and empower their learning. Check out these ideas:
Easy to use Tools:
Recently I came across an article titled, “50 Ways Google Can Help You Become A Better Teacher.” One of my passions surrounds all things Googley, so initially I was caught up in all of the amazing ideas shared in the article. It wasn’t until I considered sharing this that I noticed the title: 50 Ways Google Can Help You Become a Better Teacher.
Let me say this - teachers are amazing! All the time, energy, emotions, and resources that we put into our content, planning, classes and individual students is beyond what people outside the profession can understand. Google doesn’t make you a better teacher. It is a tool. Teachers are the architects creating the environments that empower students in their learning. Google resources support those amazing things you bring into the learning environment.
Beyond the title, what does the article have to share? Here are some of my favorite ideas:
50 Ways Google Can Help You Become a Better Teacher
Have you seen those illustrations depicting various concepts in journals, magazines or online? Those are Sketchnotes! While some might call these doodles, they are really so much more. A sketchnote is a visual representation of a topic that requires listening and synthesis of information.
What is the process? One description calls the process “circular breathing”: listening, synthesizing and visualizing (Berman). It’s about transforming what you hear into a visual piece of communication, structuring that understanding, giving a hierarchy to the concepts and synthesizing the information. It’s an individual, personal experience that isn’t about being an artist.
What do I need? Most avid sketchnoters agree that there are certain elements of a sketchnote: text, containers (shapes), connectors (lines and arrows), and icons (stick people, smileys, etc.). As you become more comfortable, try adding shading and color. Of course, you’ll need a medium. Blank paper and a comfortable writing utensil are the best places to start. Is there an app for that? Of course! Pair a stylus with an app like Notability*, Penultimate*, Paper by 53, Inkflow, Procreate, Sketchbook Express, or Autodesk Sketchbook*. Digital or paper, it’s really about what is most comfortable for the user.
Why sketchnote at all? Sketchnoting is personal and expressive experience which encourages the note-taker to interact with the material in new and different ways. The note-taker is engaged, making connections to the material and “adding some joy” to their notes (Irgens). Research has found that as a learning strategy, it can help learners “organize and integrate their knowledge and ultimately be transformative.” It can also provide “teachers with windows into students’ thinking” as well as being a means for peers to “share knowledge, discovery and understanding” (Davis).
What can I do now? Start with me! This is an area of growth for me, one that I’m diving into and cultivating. Take it easy and try some templates from the Sketch50.org resources page or join me in 50 Days of Sketches promoting a growth mindset with educators. Follow the hashtag #Sketch50 on twitter to see what others are sharing.
What can I do next week? Want to try bringing this into your classroom? Start by allowing students to sketchnote as they take notes in class. Encourage them to share or present their notes. Students are often really proud of these notes! Check out this Social Studies example or include students in the 50 Days of Sketches challenge.
What can I do next month? Assign sketchnotes to your class. Have students share their notes in an ALEC* forum, using the Remind* app, posting in Schoology*, or uploading to a class Padlet*. Did your students use pen and paper instead of an app? No problem! Have them take a picture and upload their sketchnote from the camera.
Some additional thoughts on sketchnoting. This is a brief introduction to sketchnoting. There are books, websites, podcasts and YouTube playlists devoted to this. This is about trying something different and engaging using digital tools or a combination of traditional and digital. There are sketchnoters that have turned this into a hobby and have preferences regarding type of paper, brand of pens, apps and stylus. Don’t let them keep you from trying! If you’re ready for more, explore some of the sites and videos linked here for more information.
A few of my favorite Sketchnote links:
Empowering Student LearningAt one point in time, having a compliant classroom was what the teacher hoped to maintain. We grew from that to striving for a classroom where students were engaged with the content. The shift we're hoping for today is a student who is empowered: empowered with the knowledge and skills to pursue their own learning (Couros, The Innovator's Mindset).
How do you dive deeper into this shift? Check out the resources attached to this newsletter. George Couros book, The Innovator's Mindset is a great resource. His blog post on this topic might be a good place to start. John Spencer's video, "The Shift from Engaging Students to Empowering Learners" is a great introduction to this shift. Silvia Duckworth's Sketchnote is a glimpse into the student-empowered classroom.
Take a look. Reflect (always a good practice). Take a dip into the deep end.
At the end of every week my students pulled out their iPads and they wrote. They opened up blogs that they created, designed and personalized, and they shared their stories. They wrote about what they learned that day or that week; they shared thoughts about the lessons or topics; they added images to support their thoughts; they responded to specific questions about what they were learning and they shared overall thoughts. This recurring assignment appeared in our LMS, but it was part of our class culture. We were learning together through this regular process of writing and reflecting.
Telling the story of our learning is a powerful means of processing and sharing that learning. Students construct meaning and apply prior knowledge to their new learning during this process of reflection (Costa). This process helps students to see the significance in what they’re doing, process what went well and what needs to change; and pause to think critically about the content (Alrubail). It’s Google-proof.
We may be well aware of the benefits of reflection, putting that into practice can be something different. Which tool do I use? How often do I have the students do this? How do I assess this process? These are very real questions that need to be considered before you start the process.
The habit of reflecting is what brings about that metacognitive process, so regular practice is key. The means depends on you, your practice, your available resources and your class culture. Paper and pencil are of course an option. That wasn’t an option for me because I wanted students to be able to include images and audio (plus I didn’t want to carry them), but that was my class. Blog and Vlogs are are popular options. Google Sites, Weebly, Edublogs are all good resources for that. Flipgrid is newer on the playing field and provides a platform for students to really exercise their voice. Padlet has added a number of new features to allow students to draw, video, take pictures, add audio and type directly into Padlet. Google Docs or Slides are additional possibilities, too. What tools works best for you? Which tools fits best in your classroom culture?
What do you have students write and reflect on? What questions do I ask? What stories should they tell? Here are some resources to help:
How do I evaluate these pieces? Here are some rubric examples to help you get started:
Future Ready is an effort intended to bring about digital learning opportunities designed to prepare students for college, career and citizenship. It provides a framework, resources, training and support. Districts that sign the Future Ready pledge "commit to foster and lead a culture of digital learning in their districts" (Dept. of Education). Academy School District 20 is one of those districts.
What does this mean for the classroom teacher? Much of what happens in this effort is behind the scenes in support of our students and the learning experience. To support districts committed to this effort, Future Ready Schools has a created number of programs:
At the heart of Future Ready Schools is a Framework. The framework consists of 7 gears focused around Personalized Student Learning:
At Pine Creek High School we've already taken a number of steps down this road. We have improved our infrastructure; we have established common planning for much of our staff; we have a path to determine if digital resources ensure our student's data privacy; we are developing assessment literacy and digital leaders; our professional learning weaves together our site plan with department needs; and, we are working though our assessment process and honors project. We're already taking great steps forward to be Future Ready and we're just beginning!
These last weeks of the semester before winter break move so fast! There seems to be so much to do: managing grades, final exams and keeping students engaged. In addition to an extra cup of coffee or two, we can all use a few tips as we move forward toward the end of the semester.
Let’s look at some tips and suggestions gathered from the sources listed below.
Keeping students engaged:
Maintaining your own sanity:
Student Voice is a powerful tool to increase student engagement. We see the benefits when students are engaged: they “demonstrate internal motivation, self efficacy, and a desire for mastery” (Guthrie qtd in Davis). This is key to personalized learning and the Future Ready framework.
Allowing for Student Voice is scary for both student and teacher. We begin constructing a “journey of us.” This co-constructing of knowledge isn’t easy or comfortable. It might mean sometimes saying “I don’t know” (Alber). Better yet, it could lead to us saying, “let’s find out together.”
How do we frame this co-construction of knowledge? Here are some ideas adapted and modified from Alber, McCarthy and myself:
What tools are available to facilitate this?
This isn’t an easy part of the journey. It’s messy and can be unpredictable, but the results are worth it!
Now that our school year is in full-swing, it’s a good time to reflect on how you’re managing all those devices in your classroom. No matter what type of device you’re using or seeing in your classroom, it’s good to regularly reinforce your expectations regarding technology:
Ideas for routines with devices:
As you go through your day, watch for the signs of distraction:
Redirect as you notice distraction:
Don’t become outraged when students are initially distracted. Redirect and give them the opportunity to reconnect with you and the task at hand.
Remember, everyday is a new day to start, practice and reinforce expectations
Teaching in a 1:1 environment will involve all of these aspects of teaching. And while you can get by having students use technology simply as a substitute for what they would otherwise do on paper (read, write, work on math problems), there is a much larger world of discovery and creativity now at their fingertips. – iPad Bootcamp for Teachers
As a School of Innovative Learning and Technology, our Site Plan calls for innovative, technology-embedded programs and experiences for our students. Does that mean that everything we do needs to be surrounded with technology? When is digital the right choice?
The use of digital resources in instruction needs to support best instructional practices, further your learning target, and promote deeper learning. We have amazing digital resources literally at our fingertips every class period, but not to use merely because they’re present.
Digital resources do have the ability to increase personalization, aid in differentiation, provide immediate formative feedback, increase engagement, and provide access to authentic materials (VanderArk & Schneider). Research shows that digital learning can increase achievement by as much as a grade level (Anderson). Thoughtful implementation is essential (Schapiro) in the planning process for this to occur. Merely using the technology without monitoring student use does not increase student achievement (Jacob). Our instruction has to be founded in best instructional practices. Technology shouldn’t replace the teacher, the standards or the learning targets.
As we move forward on our 1:1 journey, consider the instructional practices you are using. Is there a digital alternative? Is that alternative a substitution? Does that substitution offer additional possibilities for differentiation and application? Does that alternative actively engage students in the learning process? Does that alternative encourage collaboration? Does it encourage students to build upon prior knowledge? Does it provide for an authentic experience? Will you receive timely formative feedback through its use? Is it an additional activity or something embedded into your lesson?
Do you need help answering these questions or knowing what possibilities we have? Let’s work together with your collaborative teams to explore the possibilities.
I am a Digital Learning Coach by title, but lifelong learner by practice. An Apple Teacher, Google Certified Educator and Microsoft Innovative Educator, my goal is to assist educators in investigating, exploring, and investigating resources to embed in their instruction. I also hope to be a part of their journey toward an innovative and transformative practice that empowers learners and strengthens their own craftsmanship. I spends my free time with my family, my dogs and a good cup of coffee.