Monday, February 26, 2018

K-12 School Years: The Opportune Time to Learn Digital Balance

Image source
When speaking with parents I have often emphasized the need for kids to learn to use technology and manage distractions during their K-12 years before they leave home as independent adults. The alternative--holding back the use of technology without parents and teachers present as guides and mentors--ultimately will hurt youth and ill prepare them for their future. I know that for some, banning the use of technology that could be a source of distraction so you don't have to deal with it seems like an easier option up front. However, the effects of doing so are worse in the long term. Basically you are robbing the student of years of experience and opportunity to practice how to use technology and balance its role in their lives.

I have read news stories of college students who spend their time on social media during class because they don’t know how to balance and focus their time and attention. Prevented from using it in their K-12 years, either through bans or lack of access, they head out into the "real world" on their own unexperienced and unprepared for managing their time, distraction, entertainment and personal use of technology in the workplace or higher education. Recently a colleague with a college aged daughter relayed a story about her classmates watching Netflix during lectures. His daughter realized that these students are literally paying hundreds of dollars per class to sit and watch Netflix episodes.

For today’s students as well as adults, this also means balancing distractions that come with access to technology available on pretty much any device used. The lines between use of technology for work and play for adults, or school and play for kids are ever more blurred. Texting, Snapchat, Instagram, video games, and more can be seen simultaneously while trying to focus on work or school. Learning to balance this is essential for success as an adult, but necessary to learn well before then.

Recently when speaking with a parent he mentioned that learning this balance should all come before high school, since high school is the time where grades are official and count on a student's transcript. As early as freshman year, grades can determine one’s future opportunities. Grades prior to that for the most part don’t really have such an effect, so it is a better time to make mistakes that might result in a poor grade. With this in mind, the elementary and middle school years are therefore the opportune times to work on mastering the skills needed to focus on tasks and set aside disruptions to have them in place for high school and beyond. I’d rather have my own children learn this as they are forming their study habits and learning to manage their smartphone and technology access with adult guidance than graduate without these important skills.

In the past I’ve written about the benefits of a gradual release for kids when it comes to using technology. Learn more about the best time to get a smartphone, when to start social media, help kids prevent FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), prevent distractions, be a digital mentor and more below: 

Monday, February 19, 2018

14 Popular Tech Tools to Increase Student Learning & Engagement

Last Wednesday in place of a regularly scheduled monthly staff meeting, all of our high school teachers spent that time in instructional technology staff development. The teachers each learned about additional technology tools they could use with their students. There were fourteen sessions offered for 45 minutes, each led by a different teacher, and all instructors were all colleagues of the attendees. They called these classes "Tech Mini-Sessions."

Each of the fourteen mini-session descriptions are below. Teachers signed up ahead of time and received CEUs for their time spent learning. All staff were expected to participate as this was in place of a staff meeting. Our three high school instructional technology coaches 
Ben, Darren and Jason each led sessions and organized this event.

QuestioningResearch shows that teachers ask hundreds of questions per day. How can we get the most “bang for our buck” in regards to questioning and discussion? How can we use this strategy as a tool for student engagement? For when we use content to engage students, learning occurs. Join us as we discuss the characteristics of a high quality question and ways in which we can incorporate them into our daily lessons. Various discussion techniques and technology tools will be highlighted such as Answer Garden and Padlet. Please bring an upcoming lesson or unit that you are wanting to focus on.
QuizizzLooking for another fun way to review? Quizziz is a multi-player game that students can join with a game code and play on their own. What's great about Quizziz is that students get questions on their individual devices instead of on the SmartBoard, and can move through the questions at their own pace. This feature eliminates students signing out due to boredom or because they're "not winning." Quizziz gives teachers valuable data that they can use to review common misconceptions with students right after the game is over. The ease of creating Quizziz games is only a few clicks away if you already have a completed quiz!
Class KickClasskick allows students to complete assignments and get help instantly from their teacher and peers. Students self-pace on assignments with their iPads, while teachers can write notes for all students to see or give tailored feedback to individual students. This is great is great way to replace short paper pencil quizzes, as well as, a "first five" or "last five" activity. Bring a lesson or idea to create and share your own ClassKick.
Book CreatorBook Creator is an app that allows the user to create fully interactive ebooks. Students can create comics, photo journals, learning logs, lab reports, etc. With Book Creator, students can incorporate video, audio, images, and text to create a polished, professional product suitable for sharing. Students can also collaborate with one another and create group, or classroom, eBooks. In this session, we will look at the features of Book Creator, as well as options for collaboration and publication. During this session you will be creating a book specific to your content area or interest.
Schoology Quizzes & Question BanksAre you looking for a way to increase the academic integrity of multiple choice or free response tests, make grading easier, and get better information to inform instruction once the tests are completed? This session will cover: 1. The construction of question banks that can populate randomized Schoology quizzes. 2. Creating a test code to limit access to to assessments. and 3. Using the view by question option in results to inform instruction.
FlipGridVideo-based responses made easy and fun! Meet your students where they're at. Selfie videos, what more can we say? Flipgrid is a tool that allows students to post responses to your questions, topics, or discussions in short video clips and share them on grids. Students can then watch one another’s clips and respond. You can use their responses in assessments or use them to build community and relationships. The concept may not new, but the elegance and ease of the tool is. Try it out if you want to introduce a new tech tool with a minimal learning curve for both you and your students. You will have the opportunity to create and be ready to run a Flipgrid for your own class.
PearDeck (Google Addon)Breathe some new life into an older tool. Rethink how PearDeck can fit into your classroom teaching routines. This session will highlight how to use the Google Slides PearDeck addon that allows teachers to add interactive questions to any Google Slide presentation. Allowing you to ask questions during instruction and quickly get insights into how well your students understand the information. Even if you have used, or already been using Pear Deck, join us to learn new features and develop a PearDeck lesson to use with students.
Digital Card SortsIf you use card sort activities in your classroom and are tired of envelopes full (or partially full) of cards in your desk, try turning them digital. In this session, you'll learn how to create and facilitate card sorts with students using Desmos. Never have an incomplete set again as the activities are stored and managed using your Google login. Bring a set of terms or images for students to sort in an upcoming lesson. We will create and share our card sorts!
CoggleStudents can collaborate on mindmaps together using Coggle. Coggle is a step up from Popplet, as it allows students to work on the same concept map in real time using their Google accounts. Students can personalize their maps and share with their teachers, reflect it on the classroom computer to share with the class, or copy the link to share their Coggle with anyone! This session will introduce you to Coggle and show you how it can be used for an inquiry based project in the natural sciences or a group project in social sciences. Learn how you can make Coggle work for your classroom! Come with a lesson idea for which a mindmap would enhance your content.
Video Discussion BoardsUtilizing student designed videos for discussion boards and formative assessments. In this session you will be introduced to examples and opportunities of how teachers are currently utilizing video to advance student learning to the upper levels of the framework. We will discuss how to enhance Schoology's capabilities with video. By the end of the session teachers will have developed a formative assessment utilizing video.
EdPuzzle (Pro Version)EdPuzzle is a way to have your students reflect on a video while they are watching it. If you want them to watch a video on their own and ensure that they watch it, you can create an EdPuzzle. It's great for homework, when you have a reserve, or if the content is a topic that works better as individual reflection rather than whole class. You can add audio comments in case there's anything you want them to pay particular attention to. You can also create true/false, multiple choice, and short answer questions. Videos can be clipped and copied.
DoInkGreen Screen provides a way to create green screen videos and images on your iPad. The app lets you combine photos and videos from the camera roll with live images from your iPad’s camera. This app emphasizes ease-of-use and simplicity allowing students to tell a story, explain an idea, and express themselves in truly creative and unique ways. Bring a lesson for which green screen might allow for student creativity in your content.
Google Docs Assignment App in SchoologyIf you've ever wanted to check on a student's essay progress or aren't sure which students actually opened up the document you sent them, then you'll want to use the Google Assignment app in Schoology. The Google Assignments app further integrates Google Docs into Schoology. Once you set a Schoology assignment as a Google Assignment, it will make a copy of the assignment for each student, with you as the owner of the document. It allows you to view student progress on a document without asking them to share permissions. The workflow for students is simplified and turning in assignments is as simple as clicking on a "Submit Assignment" button in Schoology.
QuizletMany students are already using Quizlet flashcards to study terms and concepts and many subject areas have lots of Quizlet decks already created and ready to go. This session will look at creating and searching for Quizlet decks and using some of the more interactive features like Quizlet Live and the new Quizlet diagrams. Have a lesson idea for which Quizlet could increase student engagement and critical thinking.

This process of ongoing learning, sharing, dialog, reflection and colleague observation is one of the keys to our success and growth of our 1:1 program. You can learn more about our it, iPads, and use of technology for learning in the additional r
elated posts below:

Monday, February 12, 2018

Apple iPad/iPhone Guided Access & Restrictions Available for Teachers & Parents

Three years ago I wrote about Apple's Restrictions as a great option for a Quick & Easy Cell Phone Web Filter for Kids. Restrictions allow users of iPhones or iPads (or the teacher or parents of users) to limit the ratings on apps, movies, TV shows, block explicit lyrics on Apple music and podcasts, prevent app installs and/or deletions, block apps, limit adult content on websites, and block certain websites. Restrictions are something I think all parents should have in place if their child has an iPhone or iPad. For Android users, start here.

In Minnetonka, we have already set Restrictions in place for our students on their school issued iPads through our MDM (Mobile Device Manager). Minnetonka school iPads also have school filtering software in place blocking access to inappropriate sites regardless of whether the device is at school or off campus. In addition to the built-in filtering on students’ iPads, teachers and/or parents of grade 6-12 students may also consider using additional Restrictions, including blocking websites such as YouTube if necessary.

YouTube has many educational videos and teachers use it regularly for instruction. Blocking YouTube prevents a student from accessing these resources, completing homework and learning. Many things can be both entertaining and educational. While teachers work with students about appropriate and responsible use of tools like YouTube, the District also encourages parents to help guide their children in exploring this aspect of technology, as navigating such sites is becoming a necessary skill for their future. The District's position is that restricting access to YouTube should only be used temporarily with a goal of getting students back to managing it without restrictions and balancing their use of the tool for entertainment with the need to complete homework in a timely manner. View our instructions on setting up Restrictions.

Another option available to students and parents is to use Guided Access. Guided Access temporarily limits iPad use to a specific app or allows teachers and/or parents to set up time limits for iPad/iPhone use. View instructions on Guided Access.

Related posts and information:

        Monday, February 5, 2018

        Student Led Innovation Through Human Centered Design

        A while ago I wrote about our school district's new method of strategic planning--we have a crowdsourced idea hunt. To do this, we use a software program called
        Spigit to post ideas to our colleagues, who in turn can comment, question, and vote on each idea. Ideas are fleshed out, further developed and tested and range from small ideas that are easy to implement to big ideas that require extensive work and funding. Big ideas have included our Vantage programTonkaOnlineMinnetonka Science Research Center and Tonka Codes program. Numerous smaller ideas have started from this process as well such as moving school picture day to be the same day as open house before school begins and another to flip parent curriculum night with teacher presentations as videos online. 

        Over the past six years of this innovation work, we have incorporated Human Centered Design in the process. We begin with empathy, working to imagine the needs and feelings of those whom the idea and/or change will help. Then we brainstorm ideas and mock ups or prototypes, talking through the possibilities and solving for potential problems. Finally, the idea is tested and revised in the implementation phase. 

        Students' ideation around problems and
        opportunities to solve at school.
        As part of her quarter long STEM Class, teacher Sara Hunt taught her students this human centered design process. Students learned to identify a problem and use empathy to identify possible problems and opportunities. They then worked on brainstorming possible solutions. As you can see in the video, the students looked at an issue affecting all of their classmates: the impact of homework. They used empathy and ideation, and then used the same software that our staff use for our innovation idea hunt to vote on ideas. This helped them find the main themes and areas of interest as they worked on possible solutions to lessen the impact of homework. 

        You can read more about this innovation process, some of the past ideas that have been developed, and some related reflections below: