Monday, April 24, 2017

Grade 11 Students Create Amazing Graphic Novels with iPads, Book Creator & Notability

View full graphic novel on The Russian Revolution
I’m often amazed at the talent of our students. Their artistic ability is no exception. Our students' creativity is evident in the artwork I see in the hallways, showcases and classrooms throughout our schools. Earlier this year, eleventh grade general English students at Minnetonka High School read Persepolis, a graphic novel autobiography by Marjane Satrapi about growing up during the Islamic revolution in the 1980s. After reading it, the students were given two choices to create their own graphic novel with a collaborative group. The results are awesome!
View full graphic novel on the Weimar Republic
For this project, students worked in collaborative groups and each group member was responsible for two pages individually or the group members chose to work on their pages together. You can see the full assignment description for this task here. Students used a storyboard for planning their projects and each individual completed a self-reflection afterwards. The project was designed by English teachers David Adams, Jordan Cushing, Mary Hedstrom and Judy Thomas as part of their PLC (Professional Learning Community). Students were given two options from which to choose for the topic of their graphic novel. Students could either:
Create a graphic novel based on a revolution that took place outside of the United States before 1970. Students had to pick a revolution, research it, and tell the story of an important event during the revolution in their graphic novel. (Three examples are pictured and linked in this post.)
Create a graphic novel that explores the connections between the challenges faced by a girl living in the United States and a girl living in Iran after 2010. Students researched women’s issues in Iran and America after 2010 and had to tell the story of both girls, comparing and contrasting their experiences in their graphic novel.
View full graphic novel on the French Revolution
One of the teachers, David Adams, told me he was very impressed by the work students did. He explained that students really enjoyed being able to be creative with the project. They used a variety of apps for illustrations. Many used Notability to make the pictures and then drop them into Book Creator. David explained that students felt that Book Creator was very useful for setting up the frames, pages, captions, and speech bubbles, but it didn’t have very many drawing tools. So many of them set up all of the frames in Book Creator first and then went to Notability to illustrate their pictures. This app smash project is a great example of many dimensions on the Minnetonka Framework for Teaching and Learning: collaboration, communication, use of technology, authentic and real world learning, creativity and more. It's also a great example of using iPads and the apps on them to showcase learning in meaningful, deeper ways.
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      Monday, April 17, 2017

      Technology Speed Dating Professional Development

      Last week at the monthly high school staff meeting, the entire hour was dedicated as  an opportunity to reflect and share second semester work with colleagues from other departments. To coordinate this sharing time, the three high school instructional technology coaches organized a "speed dating" event. In January, all 180 high school teachers were asked to create an engagement commitment for second semester. The commitments ranged from using technology (Desmos, Quizlet Live, EdPuzzle, etc.) to more traditional strategies such as fist to five, movement, and collaborative grouping. Commitments didn't need to be related to technology, but many were. 

      Staff worked on these commitments, implemented them with their students over the past four months, and shared their progress and results with department colleagues at the February and March department meetings. Some worked and met with one of the technology instructional coaches individually. All teachers shared their commitment and the results in the form of an initial and follow up post on a Padlet wall. The Padlets were linked in a high school teacher collaborative Schoology course so everyone could see one another’s work and results. 

      The speed dating event was set up as a time for teachers to share their results cross departmentally. The instructional technology coaches had tables of 16 set up in a large multipurpose room with seats labeled by subject areas. Staff sat down, met their initial “date” and each shared their commitment, technology tool, and results with one another. Then after two minutes, they rotated around their table, sitting across from a new “date” and repeating the task. Teachers repeated this two more times. Then the table picked one overall teacher’s goal to share with the whole group. 

      This was a great culminating event for the high school staff. By using the time before school, no subs were required for everyone to meet and share with one another. The importance of the goal setting and technology was made clear by dedicating an entire monthly staff meeting to this topic. Staff shared a wide variety of tools and techniques they had tried. I sat in on “dates” and heard teachers explain how they had used Schoology rubrics and GarageBand, Classkick and Peardeck. By hearing these short summaries, staff were able to learn about a wide variety of tools from others outside their department in a short period of time. Afterwards, there was a lot of positive feedback received regarding the event and the opportunity to share across departments.

      Prior to the August teacher workshops, the technology coaches worked with administrators to create a building goal focused on technology integration. At the August "Tech Boot Camp" they asked teachers to be intentional, take appropriate risks, and model a learning/growth mindset with technology integration in classrooms. After the “date” concluded, teachers also spent time reflecting with a partner on this goal and talking about their progress. The teachers near me talked about the importance of trying something new with technology even if they weren’t confident in doing so and letting the students know up front that it was something new. This willingness and mindset among the teachers was great to hear, and is just what we hope all of our staff will believe when it comes to integrating technology in the future.

      Much of the energy in the spring at high school focuses on AP and IB testing, the end of the school year and graduation. It can be easy to give in to the spring wind-down, and this was a great way to get teachers excited and geared up for the rest of the year. Having teachers leave a staff meeting energized and wanting to try something new in the next few weeks was a definite win!

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      Monday, April 10, 2017

      Parenting in the Digital Age: Finding a Healthy Balance (Webinar Recording)

      In our continued efforts to inform and educate parents about ways to help their children learn to use technology positively and have a healthy balance in their use of technology, we held a lunch hour webinar last week. We have done this in the past and found it to be an effective way to reach a large number of busy parents. Over 300 parents signed up in the first couple of days we advertised it. Not all ended up watching it live, but all who did sign up received a recording of it afterwards to watch. We'll also post it on our website for anyone to see. This webinar format is becoming more common for parents who want the information but can't fit an evening meeting into their schedule. We have run webinars in the past for programs about topics such as class registration and our VANTAGE business internship program. These, too, have been popular and recordings have been watched by many who did not attend the face to face meeting.  

      For this webinar, Parenting in the Digital Age: Finding a Healthy BalanceI was joined by Mathew Meyers, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist from Traverse Counseling. I've known Mathew for a few years now as part of our District Digital Health & Wellness Committee. Mathew has such great insight and advice for parents about dealing with kids and technology, and he even counsels and helps young people with video game addiction. Both of us are parents ourselves and figuring out how to raise kids in this high tech world we all live in today. 

      I'm always learning things from Mathew, and during this webinar I asked him questions about a number of topics, including addiction, attention and advice for consequences when rules around technology aren't followed. I often receive questions from parents who are divorced about how to enforce rules when parents have different beliefs, and he had some great advice. We also asked those registering to submit questions ahead of time and received about 60 questions which we grouped into six areas and addressed during the webinar: Screen Time & Balance, Attention & Focus, Addiction, Parenting & Modeling, Monitoring & Filtering, and Age Recommendations. You can watch the 54 minute recording here. 

      During the webinar parents submitted another 25 questions which we tried to answer. We sent out a survey afterwards and asked parents to let us know future topics of interest. You can see the results from our survey pictured (24 responses so far). Feedback about the webinar itself is pictured below. Because of such positive results and so many people asking us to do another session, we are planning a second webinar in a few weeks (on May 10). I'll post this second webinar recording afterwards on this blog. During our next webinar we plan to include a live video with a webcam to make it more than just an audio file with some slides. 
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      Monday, April 3, 2017

      Why Does Higher Ed = Lower Tech? Will Colleges & Universities Catch Up to K-12 Tech Integration?

      Last week I took time off to visit colleges in New England with my oldest daughter, a high school junior. She has looked at schools close to home as well but is also interested in going to school in the Northeast. We attended overview programs and went on tours at seven different campuses in five states at public, private, and an ivy league school. It sounds like a lot of traveling, but since states are small in the Northeast you can easily drive between them in an hour or two.

      I thoroughly enjoyed the time with my daughter and doubt I'll ever have another week with just her on a trip. We had a lot of time to talk, drove around five additional campuses, stopped at area sites, skied in Vermont, and went to some Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives, a favorite way to experience new restaurants. This is an exciting time for us as parents--exciting to think about the next chapter in our daughter's future--as well as scary to think about her leaving home and how we will pay for it!  The programs I heard about, campus life in general, dining options, recreational facilities, and many of the buildings we toured were amazing and made me want to go back to college myself! There are even apps now to let you know when your dorm's washer or dryer is available or how long the line is at the coffee shop!

      Most of the schools we toured had one or more newer facilities that were designed with collaborative workspaces in mind and flexible furniture. This was good to see. It's promising that these latest best practices in teaching and learning are being incorporated in higher ed, too. It did seem to be pretty rare and for the most part, limited to newer buildings and not the normal setup for most buildings with classrooms we toured.

      A typical classroom with desks in rows.
      The projector was in use for a PPT lecture.
      Most students had a device on so I took a picture.
      One of the most surprising things to me was the traditional looking classrooms with rows of desks or anchored seats and tables in lecture halls, and lots of chalkboards! I haven't seen a chalkboard in our schools for a long time, yet they are still in use in higher ed! I did see dry erase whiteboards and often saw classrooms with projectors and a screen that could be pulled down. We saw very few projectors turned on during classes in session as we walked through buildings. Even more surprising was the number of students who I saw with paper notebooks, pens and no technology on their desk. It wasn't banned--many students had a device, but not everyone. There were a few classrooms where every student had a device in use, but that seemed rare. Overall, it seemed like it wasn't necessary for many classes. Two schools mentioned using a student response "clicker" system, although both said professors varied in their use of them and one guide said it was just to take attendance in the large lecture halls.

      I know that you can learn with paper and pencil, and I also know that a lot of school is still lecture-based. I realize that I didn't see every classroom or spend time attending classes to understand exactly what was being taught. I don't know what had happened before we walked by or would happen afterwards. Yet a lot can be learned on a walk-through that is pretty telling of the classroom learning environment, patterns, and normal/typical use. I found it shocking how absent technology was in the teaching and learning at the colleges and universities we toured. I have heard similar stories from former Minnetonka grads and some college age relatives: our use of technology in K-12 education is above and beyond what many post secondary students experience.

      When I asked our student guides questions about whether their professors assigned and collected work electronically, I learned that most of the schools do use a learning management system. I heard comments from students that some professors only post their syllabus while some stated that professors use it quite extensively. One of the schools we toured had networked printers with a line of students who scanned their ID to pick up a paper they had sent to be printed. Other guides spoke about cost of printing per page or paper budget allotted to each student, which gave me a sense that things are still pretty paper based in much of the post secondary world. At one university, the guide mentioned that all papers had to be submitted to an anti-plagiarism service, so that at least sounded a bit more promising! However, I didn't hear about assignments other than tests, written essays and papers.

      Again, I realize that I didn't sit in on full classes and don't know all of what is taking place beyond the glimpses I saw walking by classrooms, but the sight of so many classrooms with little to no technology in use left me with the impression that there's not much that would fall beyond the basic levels of technology integration on the SAMR scale or our Minnetonka Framework for Teaching and Learning. I had hoped to see students creating things, lively interacting with one another and engaged in learning, harnessing the power of technology to enhance and accelerate learning... I teach online courses for teachers working on their master's degrees through Saint Mary's University of Minnesota, and we do a lot with technology at a much higher level than I saw while touring face to face campuses. 

      While I'm excited to see what my daughter decides and where the next steps of life lead her, I hope that her college won't be a step backwards in use of technology for learning. I know there will be some amazing opportunities she gets to experience through technology after high school. I just hope it will be happening more frequently than we saw last week--enough so that on future tours and walk throughs with my younger kids, I will be impressed with the technology, too! 

      On a related note: A while back Patrick Larkin posted some comments on his blog about his son during the college search and quoted Frank Bruni's book, Where You Go Is Not Who You Will Be. It's well worth a read.