Thursday, September 22, 2016

MSDSC Communities

The Power of Choice

There has been a movement in education over the power of choice. Some call it "Genius Hour" or "twenty percent time" depending on which book/article you have read on the subject. It all came from a concept Google implemented with their employees. They have a block of time where they can explore and create freely on a project. It is powerful to give people choice. 

I was a firm believer in the power of choice in the mid to late 2000s when I was still teaching fourth grade. Many teachers in my school were implementing the workshop model. It always amazed me when I would get a new student from another school district that looked at me in shock when I told them they could read or write about whatever they wanted. I just wanted evidence of their growth as I conferred with them or read their blog. Suddenly reading and writing became more meaningful to the student. Instead of me dictating what they had to do, I was delivering content and strategies in the midst of their own interest. The students had choice in what they read or wrote. I merely pulled the skills from their work.

The podcast that inspired this post is by Tom Whitby on the #EdChat radio show titled: What Makes Professional Development Useful? It really drove me to thinking about a different approach to providing learning opportunities. I do try to differentiate and personalize learning experiences, but through this podcast I realized that I am still trying to drive much of it instead of allowing others to take on a leadership role. I need to allow people to work together toward a common goal. I need to provide more choice. I need to provide more opportunity to lead discussion and drive change.

MSDSC Communities

What I'm going to implement is the idea that teachers would be able to create a topic of interest that they want to pursue in their career. The assumption will be that since I'm the one launching this opportunity, it must be technology oriented. That's not the case at all! A form, linked for my staff here, has been sent to all MSDSC teachers that would be interested in a collaborative online space (Google Plus Community) to share research, plan, and implement awesome adventures in their classroom. In this space, they can share links to resources, videos, images, and bounce ideas off of one another. Collaboration with convenience.

I'm going to include the possibility of earning professional growth points in this endeavor. Teachers can apply for professional growth points by filling out a reflection form and returning it back to me. This requires that they implement their learning experience to the classroom as evidence is required. Of course, part of that requirement is that they share their reflection with their group. This allows for further critiquing and discussion from peers. Who better to get ideas from than the experts right within our own reach? (Listen to some great thoughts about teacher leaders in this podcast.)

Final Thoughts...

My hope is that MSDSC Communities will provide teachers with the convenience and collaboration they crave. For those of you that are teachers, please give your input on the topic. Do you think this will be an effective way to grow professionally? To those of you that are in similar positions as myself, have you ever attempted something like this before? What worked? What didn't? I'm looking for feedback!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Chrome App Builder


The Metropolitan School District of Steuben County is a full 1:1 Chromebook program. It has been quite a transition this year as kindergarten through second-grade students had iPads the previous year. The main difficulty of the process has been the streamlined user experience with the iPad. As far as availability of content for young learners is concerned, the iPad still reigns supreme. So one of my tasks has been thinking of ways that I can streamline the experience on a Chromebook as much as possible for my k-2 folks via the Google Admin Console. 

One idea I have tried is utilizing Symbaloo as a starting page for each grade level. I do this by adding a startup page in the Device Management settings. I also turned on the "home button" so that students can get back to the page at any time by tapping on it. (Believe it or not, the home button is off by default.) I add items to the Symbaloo pages items per teacher request, but I am noticing that this also causes confusion between what is available as a Chrome App and what is available on Symbaloo. So the big question is: Can you make websites that are not in the Chrome Webstore appear as apps on a Chromebook? 

Chrome App Builder

After doing some research, I found that indeed I can make websites appear as apps. I did this through some guides I had found from Google. It took a lot of time and effort to roll out one app for students, so I found a shortcut with the Chrome App Builder. This tool does all of the coding for you. The only additional thing you'll have to add to it is your own custom icon. 

So what does this mean for teachers? Not much unless you have access to the Google Admin Console or have access to developer mode on your Chromebook. This post is primarily for those that have the ability to push out content to Chromebooks. So this is to let teachers know that it is possible. 

What does this mean for Google Admins? You can push out custom website apps through your domain, and some time can be saved with the Chrome App Builder.

Here is what you will need:
  1. Access to the Google Admin Console
  2. An image editor for custom sized icons (Google Drawings)
  3. Chrome App Builder
  4. Developer mode in Chrome
  5. A Developer Dashboard account
I apologize for the length of this video, but there are quite a few steps. I attempted to cut out as much as possible. 

Streamlining the Process Even More

This is quite a bit of work if you need to create several apps. It isn't my full-time job to maintain our Chrome Devices. I still need to train teachers and students and find and develop resources for them. So my idea is to recruit the High Tech Hornets (Angola High School student tech team), to create the app, and download the packaged app ready to go. That way all I have to do is upload it to the Developer Dashboard and push out as a Domain App in the Google Admin Console. Sounds like a great job for the High Tech Hornets!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Hyperdoc Slides

The Cart Before the Horse...

Ever get a few steps ahead of yourself? Sure, teachers do it all the time. We often jump into a new activity and miss a few steps here an there that were essential to the learning experience. We backtrack and learn from those experiences and adjust accordingly the next time we try the activity. Well, I did just that. 

When I think of things to post or create for my teachers, it usually comes from training or mere conversations in the hallway. I then write the idea as a draft on my blog so that I can remember to work on it later. Earlier in the summer I held some training sessions on the topic of hyperdocs. While planning for those training sessions, I had created a resource on different ways to create hyperdocs in Google Slides. Of course, I wrote it as a draft and it has sat in my list of drafts since June. Whoops! I recently posted about "The Indestructible Hyperdoc" using Google Slides and Google Drawings. That's when I realized that I hadn't shared my hyperdocs in Slides resource to those that were not able to participate in my summer training. Now it is officially shared at the bottom of this post. I hope you find it to be helpful.

Why Hyperdocs in Slides?

Using a Slides presentation as a hyperdoc provides some advantages over a Google Doc. Most of it pertains to the fact that items are easily manevuered using drag-and-drop. It also gives a distinct space for students to respond as you can give each student a slide to start the building process. In my Slides presentation below, I demonstrate three different ways to utilize Slides as a hyperdoc. 
  1. Interactive - Teachers can create an interactive slideshow so that users can click on graphics, text, or shapes to lead to other pieces of information throughout the slide presentation. It is non-linear. The Slides are not intended for students to respond, but to consume information by choice. It is much like when a student visits a website full of links, videos, and text resource. The difference is that the teacher designed it and Slides are much easier to create than a website. A great example of this type of hyperdoc is my slides presentation below or this ABC activity (not created by me).
  2. Response - Teachers can also create linear learning experiences including video, text, and directions with space for student response. In Google Classroom, you would set up the slides as each student getting a copy so that they can not only receive the content, but insert their own response. Here is a great example of one covering biomes
  3. Collaborative - When creating collaborative experiences for students, Google reigns supreme. If you provide these opportunities within a Google Doc, setting up a table is necessary to reduce the amount of conflict over space. In a Slides presentation, each student can have their own slide. This works great for the teacher as all responses are in one slide deck. Teachers can assign sets of slides to groups of students or assign a slide for each student individually. Allow students to use the comment feature (ctrl+alt+m) to highlight responses on their peer's slides. I have a template linked in my interactive slide deck below. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Comic Slips Revisited!

What's a Comic Slip?

It is a comic, it is an exit slip, it is a comic slip! I created a post earlier in 2016 about the idea behind the comic slip. I love the idea of gathering data at the end of a lesson. It allows you to measure student learning and comfort level on a topic or skill. This allows the teacher to create differentiated/personalized learning experiences for students and also provides valuable data for teacher reflection. What better way to find out how well a lesson went than to have students fill out a quick thought about the learning experience?

I've had the opportunity to present the concept of Comic Slips to teachers numerous times both within my district and at area conferences. Usually when presenting to teachers, I spend more time focusing on Google Drawings than on the comic portion as I want teachers to know all the functions and features of Google Drawings so that it can be used for much more than just a quick comic builder. However, when I visit a class, it is very much focused on the comic process. There is a lot a person can do with Google Drawings. Keeping a specific focus one project at a time works much better for young minds.

Comic Slips Revisited?

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Mrs. Davis' fourth grade. She attended one of my comic slips training sessions over the summer.. Mrs. Davis wanted to get her students all set up and rolling so she could create a fun opportunity for students to share their learning. So now that I've had a few opportunities to actually demonstrate my idea to a few classes, here are my tips:

  1. Create a single folder for their comics in Google Drive. We name our folder "my comics" so that it would be easily identifiable. Do this first so that students can save their pictures directly to the folder on their Chromebooks.
  2. Have students create three pictures with I specifically have the students find the "comic book" filter when they use this site and they take a picture demonstrating three different modes of learning:
    • "I got it!" A happy face and a thumb up.
    • "So-so" A facial expression that shows they kind of understand, but need more help.
    • "No way!" A sad face with a thumb pointing down.
  3. Make an assignment for them in Google Classroom to "create" a Google Drawing. You want an exit slip to be fast. So have them create it straight from Google classroom instead of them creating the drawing from Drive and uploading it. 
  4. Show the students how to upload one of their pictures straight from Drive, add a speech bubble, and customize the text and speech bubble just a little. There are so many options in Google Drawings, that students could spend forever adjusting and editing.
  5. Show students that they merely need to close out of their Google Drawing tab to return to classroom. The "turn in" button should be there waiting for them. No additional uploads are necessary.
  6. Set up a second assignment for an actual comic slip run. The goal of exit slips is to get information from students without taking a ton of class time. It isn't a full reflection. So I set the time limit for this example on what they learned about creating a comic slip to just five minutes. Out of 25 students, 22 were able to create a drawing, upload their image, annotate it, and turn it into classroom. That isn't too bad for a group of fourth graders that had never used Google Drawings prior to my visit. 

The Results

Mrs. Davis is ready to launch a comic slip whenever she wants quick feedback on a lesson. All she needs to do is create the assignment in Google Classroom and they will do the rest. No need to revisit Webcamtoy to take new pictures. They will use the ones they have saved in their Google Drive folder. 

Check out the fun we had in my video below: