The Power of Great Teachers!

February 19, 2018

By: Beth Hatlen co-author of the k-2 NOW Classrooms: lessons for enhancing teaching and learning through technology book

Working in a 1:1 District and having my own children that attend the same district gives me the unique opportunity to celebrate when teachers have incorporated authentic and natural integration of technology in a meaningful way through education.  

Last week, our family sat down to watch the opening ceremony of the 2018 Olympics.  My children were amazed with what what they saw.  Their excitement was partly due to what they had been learning in school.  My first grader came home telling me all about bobsledding and the rules of skeleton.  I looked at him in shock as I said, “Where did you learn that?”  At school, of course was his answer.  All week he had been studying and reading online and in print all about the Olympics.  Additionally, my third grader had been doing the same thing.  Of course learning about the Olympics was great, but that wasn’t what really impressed me.  

As we sat watching the Olympics, my daughter sat on her iPad.  I asked her to put it away and watch the Olympics with us (I figured she was watching KidsTube), but I was pleasantly surprised when she told me that she was creating a presentation for her class about the Olympics.  I knew this was something she was capable of, but when she was creating a presentation as the Olympics played on in the background, I was a proud mommy and delighted at what my child had been taught by her teacher.  She also didn’t stop there.  She immediately shared the presentation with us and also emailed her teach that Friday night to ask her if she could present it to the class.  With delight, she presented that Monday as the introduction to a unit about the Olympics.

What this example showed me, was that what my daughter is learning in her classroom, is #NOWClassrooms approved.  She took interest in a topic, learned how to research, created a Powerpoint presentation, learned new information and presented it to her class.  Her sense of pride was huge and her excitement to present what she created was genuine.  

This is what we hope will happen in all classrooms across America.  The ability to create and share learning with peers.  The ability to deepen knowledge of a subject and share it with others.  When students are taught how to use technology in a meaningful way, that is what they will do, both at home and at school, and hopefully in their future as a contributing member of society.  I am so thrilled that my children have teachers that uphold all the NOWClassroom ideals.  I feel lucky!  Keep up the good work teachers!
Here is presentation my daughter created (not perfect-but kid work she was proud of!):  https://drive.google.com/open?id=1LEEwgQ87B9XV9dxHm1d87fgj-TlsULtO

@MrsHatlen

The Use or Abuse of Chromebooks in Classrooms

This fantastic blog post by Andy Losik has been bothering me all week because it made me think deeply about my work with schools, and the real work that is ahead of all of us in edtech!

This report by the company Go Guardian has me really worried about the use of Chromebooks in the classroom but I don’t think this problem is limited to Chromebooks I think IF we could look at data across all student devices I think these trends would continue.

To quote Andy “In short a huge amount of Chromebook use is being spent on educationally questionable video games, low-level assessments, and YouTube with the two highest trending websites for over 5,000,000 learners (after G Suite for Education) being CoolMath Games and Renaissance Learning, the parent company to Accelerated Reader and other assessments.”

I’m right there ranting with you Andy especially when you hit a very sore spot of mine about creativity when you said “Zero sites for creativity are listed in the study. We know fewer kids are getting to create with Keynote, iMovie, and GarageBand due to device choice, but it doesn’t look like they’re getting many chances to use any of the Chrome-based alternatives to these apps either. No Soundtrap. No Canva. No WeVideo. No Pixlr. No Emaze.

Creativity is so important and being able to convey a concept in multimedia is a skill all industries are demanding now. A local school board president was asking me about what’s next in edtech and the discussion led to content creation. He holds a high-up position with a multi-national company that creates automobile interiors and he agreed.”

Again, I agree with Andy and the school board president, we have a ton of work to do in the world of edtech. When our team of 27 co-authors was writing our #NOWclassrooms series of books I had to constantly remind them of the real current reality in schools where technology devices are being used for low-level tasks and often just to keep kids busy.

I know my co-authors did not believe me during the writing and editing process, BUT that is because I picked some of the greatest teachers to join my NOW team. These teachers are not the ones on Cool Math Games or “drilling and killing” using digital worksheets. Instead, their students are creating, building, and sharing their work beyond the walls of the classroom. Check out our #NOWclassrooms Twitter feed to see their student artifacts.

Our series of five books are based on the ISTE standards and a big focus is on the 4C’s of communicating, collaborating, creating, and critical thinking as students use the digital tools to demonstrate their learning and as I like to say “get it out the door”. One thing each of our team did is we did not focus on specific devices, we wrote the lessons for teachers regardless of the devices they have. Use the technology you have for higher level thinking, problem-solving, group work to solve real-world problems.

Andy your rants have inspired me to keep working on the shift to create, build, and share student products with whatever device you have. I know it is possible because my dynamic team wrote five books about what IS possible using technology in the classroom. Help us get the word out there!

#ThanksAndy

Meg Ormiston

Author, Teacher, Mom

@megormi

11 Reasons Every Classroom Needs a Learning Management System

Integrating technology calls for a lot of shifts in thinking. One shift is the workflow between teacher and students. The bin for papers on the counter isn’t going to allow students to share their digital creations. A digital rich classroom needs an organized way to communicate in a digital environment. A learning management system (LMS) is the answer.  Even without a device for every student, this can still be the digital hub for the classroom. 

What is an LMS?

Think of a learning management system or LMS as the digital hub for your classroom. Some standard features on most LMS platforms are posting assignments and resources, discussion boards, the ability for students to submit work, and parent access.  Some more robust systems may include a grade book, student portfolios, and data management. The use of an LMS may vary by grade level, but all grades can find features that are beneficial to students and parents from Kindergarten through College.

Why do I need an LMS?

  1. Create a smooth workflow in a digital environment- Teachers are able to post assignments and discussions for students to have all the resources they need. Students can turn in work in an organized manner.
  2. Share resources with students- Videos, graphic organizers, and any other tools or resources can be saved to the LMS for students to refer to as needed.
  3. Make content accessible to all students – Anchor charts, for example, are usually hung in one place in the room. If the teacher snaps a picture of the chart and puts it in the LMS, all students can use it while they work.
  4. Organize content for students- Content from many different programs can be centralized into one location.
  5. Differentiate activities easily- Activities can be individualized or students can be put into groups that allow for the differentiation of activities. 
  6. Create self-paced learning- When students are finished with an activity, they now have access to the materials to move on to the next task at their own pace.
  7. Easy feedback- Assignments can be annotated and the feedback and comments can go directly back to the students. 
  8. Student Portfolios – It allows students to organize their learning in portfolios that can be used to show the progression of learning.
  9. Parent Communication- Parents can access the platform to support their child in learning.
  10. Collect data- An LMS helps track qualitative data by keeping the students’ work in one place. 
  11. Teach Digital Citizenship – Students can use online discussions and share their learning with the class is an environment that is safe and overseen by the teachers.

Which one do I use?

Some school districts or buildings choose to use the same LMS with all teachers to develop consistency for students and parents. Even if an LMS is not provided by the school, there are many free versions that teachers can use with students. Here are a few systems, but many more exist. Check out a variety of them and see which system best fits the needs of your classroom.

PowerSchool Learning

Otus

Schoology

Google Classroom

Moodle

Canvas

No matter which one you choose, a learning management system will get the digital environment of your classroom running smooth.

 

Jenny Lehotsky

Retelling through Code!

Using technology in a meaningful way is the key to success in the classroom.  As a former kindergarten teacher and the current reading specialist, it is so very important to use technology in an authentic way that meets the needs of students and their learning targets.

In our book, Now Classroom: K-2, we lay out how to move from basic coding with online apps and websites (such as Code.org),  to unplugged coding (without a device), and then coding with coding toys such as Bee-bots, Ozo-bots, Sphero or Puzzlets.  These toys allow  for coding through play.

Recently, our school librarian and resident technology specialist, Sandy Kampman, had the students retell a story using the  .  She had been working with the first grade students on a unit about Robert Munsch.  She had read and introduced many books by Robert Munsch.  The culminating activity was coding Bee-bots to land on parts of the story and retell it as the Bee-bots moved.

Working in small collaborative groups, different stories were given to each group to retell.  Students had to work collaboratively to determine the proper coding sequence to make the Bee-bot move appropriately.  Then the students had to also retell the story as the Bee-bot moved.  What a powerful retelling lesson!  Mrs. Kampman seamlessly taught coding through the use of authentic text that was meaningful to the students.  

Activities such as this example create a powerful lesson for the students.   Lessons such as this help them to internalize both literacy and technology.  I hope you will take some time to try this lesson with your students!  Please share anything you do with us at #nowclassrooms on Twitter so we can see how you are integrating technology with learning in your classroom.

Beth Hatlen

Author Now Classrooms K-2

Reading Specialist

@MrsHatlen

 

Technology’s Place in Early Childhood

Parents everywhere debate this topic. Teachers debate it. Policy makers and pediatricians debate it.  The American Academy of Pediatrics current recommendation focuses on quality of screen time and discussions that families and teachers have around digital media. According to the APP, “For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.” They also suggest creating a digital media plan for your family (and classroom).

So what does this mean for early childhood educators and parents of young children?  We have amazing tech tools and vast information at our fingertips.  Pair these with high interest activities and engaging conversations and we have some EXCELLENT instruction!

In EC and the primary grades, students have so many questions about the world around them. Inquiry-based learning, driven by student’s questions and wonderings, can help students develop a working relationship with technology as a tool.  In the NOW Classrooms K-2 book, the first lessons help teach your students how to successfully navigate a device, and then how to work with project or problem based learning AKA inquiry learning. With your guidance, we can help students become technology literate, then fluent, and finally innovative all from their inquiries.

Our job then is to be digital media mentors. Digital media – digital books, articles, tweets, comments, pictures, videos – are all consumed daily by our students both at home and at school.  If we help our students develop a healthy digital media relationship, they can truly use it as a tool for expanding their understanding of the world around them.

Does technology have a place in early childhood? Yes! As digital media mentors, NOW we can give our students the skills and strategies they need to navigate tech.

Kirstin McGinnis

NOW Classrooms K-2 Author

Literacy Coach

Top Ten Tangible Tech Toys for 2018

Visitors to my classroom always wanted to know more about the tools and toys that the kids were learning with.  Now, in the STEAM Lab at our school, visitors still beg the question, “What IS that? Where did you get it?” The list is always changing, but here are some of my favorite tangible tech toys for 2018.

Original Hexbugs are hours – seriously HOURS – of fun! They are teeny tiny battery operated toys that move and bounce off of surfaces.  Give your students a challenge of building a path for them to get from point A to point B or fashion a chariot for them to see how much they could pull. There are also a ton of new versions that I haven’t gotten my hands on but look great! Check them out in the complete Hexbug store.

Osmo MindRacers are all the rage right now. Who doesn’t want to race cars down a ramp? Think those card racing arcade games now on your device with some Matchbox cars. Osmo has done a really nice job of adding products from their original Words, Numbers, and Tangrams.  There are now coding games and an iPhone base in the Osmo store.

Osmo Coding Jam and Coding Awbie are tangible coding blocks that link to the free corresponding Osmo apps and help students explore computational thinking.  It’s a fun challenge to get the right sequence of code to make the game functional.  

BeeBot An oldie, but goodie, BeeBot now has a BlueBot that is Bluetooth enabled. Early coders program the BeeBot arrows to get the robot to move.  Create a map of your classroom or city and code the BeeBot to take a tour!

Puzzlets takes a puzzle board and pieces with simple code and brings an app to life.  Students can sit together around one tablet or iPad and discuss how to get the characters around the app.  I love this one for centers.  Guide students to slow down and listen to each others ideas and ways to problem solve.

Cubetto A Montessori approved, tangible coding toy, Cubetto offers young learners the opportunity to explore coding and computational thinking. It is rather pricey, but worth the investment if you have a strong need in EC.

Robot Engineer combines reading and building a robot. Some students want to dive right in an build, others like to gain the background knowledge through the story before they do so.  There is no wrong way!

Jumbo Gears brings a Lego-esque experience to working with gears.  Students can build varying levels of gear systems on an interlocking board.  A great center activity and powerful inquiry learning experience.

Circuit Maze is a logic puzzle and another I haven’t been able to play with yet but I am pretty excited about it. A little more primary friendly than Snap Circuits (another good product) and teaches circuitry that can be expanded on in sequential lessons.

Sphero keeps adding on to its fleet of robots with increasingly easier to use models.  With the new mini Sphero, you can test out its robotics with your class without making a huge investment.  At our tech night this was one of the most popular stations!

Adult supervision required! Well, not really, but should be a consideration for all of these games.  Why? Because the conversation about tech tools helps students gain purpose and deeper understanding of the tools they use.  As with any tech tool, have a conversation with your students as they play and learn helps to deepen everyone’s understanding!

Some of these tools have been used in the NOW Classrooms K-2 book – check it out!

Kirstin McGinnis

NOW Classrooms K-2 Author

Literacy Coach

All Five Books Have Been Published!

Time to celebrate, all the #NOW Classrooms books have arrived! I spent the morning yesterday racing around to deliver the 9-12 books to three high schools in the Chicago area. Once the books arrived each of the schools did some type of surprise for my five co-authors. It was so fun to watch Twitter to see the surprises. Here are a few pictures. 

Coding

In honor of Hour of Code, one of our former 6th grade students blogged about their coding experience in health.

For my science project, I coded on Scratch Jr. In my project, there were two girls talking to each-other about carbohydrates. They went from a bedroom to the kitchen to eating pasta. Today, I will tell you how to code projects like that.

  1. Download the app Scratch Jr. It’s free!
  2. Open the app, press the “home” button and then press the blue plus button to create a new project.
  3. The first character (the character/s will be the things that you code) that will pop up is an orange cat. If you don’t want the cat as a character, hold down on the picture of the cat at the left side of the screen until the picture starts wobbling. Then you press the red “X” to get rid of it.
  4. You can also pick additional characters or objects to code. Just click on the blue plus sign on the left side and pick the character or object you want. If you don’t like the color, you can press the paintbrush symbol on the character’s picture and color it however you want.
  5. If you have multiple characters, press on the character you want to code at that time and then start. If you only have one, the same thing happens but you only have one person to code. Once you’re finished coding one character, you can go onto the next character.
  6. To start your coding sequence, put the character you are coding in the position you want by touching their picture in the middle of the screen and dragging them to the position. Next, go to the yellow section near the bottom of the screen. Click on the button and five different buttons will pop up. There will be: a green flag, a person with a finger, a mirror image of a person, a letter and a letter being sent. The easiest way to start is to drag the one with the green flag.
  7. Pick the color button at the bottom of the screen that you want to use. Follow the instructions below for that color group. Just drag the blocks you want into the coding section for the character you want animated. Put the blocks in the order you want them played.         

Blue– Movements

There will be 8 different blocks to pick from. The order they go in (from left to right) is: Move Right, Move Left, Move Up, Move Down, Turn Right, Turn Left, Hop and Back To Original Position.

Purple– Talking and disappearing

There are 6 different blocks to pick from.  The order they go in (from left to right) is: Talk, Enlarge, Shrink, Normal Size, Disappear and Appear.                             

Green– Creates your own noise/sound

There are 2 different blocks to pick from. The order they go in (from left to right) is: Pop Sound and Record Your Own Sound. For Record Your own Sound, click on the block, and press the red button that pops up to start recording. To stop recording, click the checkmark. If you do not like that sound after you record it, press and hold that block and a red X should pop up. Click on that X and the sound should delete.

Orange– Waiting, speed, repeating and grouping coding blocks

There are 4 different blocks to pick from. The order they go in (from left to right) is: Wait/How Long to Wait For, Stop, Speed and Group Blocks/ Repeating Sequences. To repeat sequences, put the blocks that you want repeated into the “middle puzzle piece area”. Then, set the number to the amount of times you want that sequence repeated.

Red– Repeating and ending “scenes”.

There will be a minimum of 2 blocks to pick from here. If you have multiple pages, those will pop up here too! The order they go in (from left to right) is: End and Repeat Scene. The following might not always pop up, since they only apply if you have multiple pages. The order would go Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4. However, one block won’t be there. It will be the one of the page you are coding on at the moment. Regardless, those blocks mean to go straight to that page.

  1. Also, if you want to add text to your project, click the button with letters on it in the top middle section of the screen. Type whatever you want to, then you can change the size and color of the text. If you want to delete the text, you can press and hold the words on the screen and press the red X that pops up.
  2. If you want to share your AMAZING coding project with friends, click on the yellow tab in the top right corner. You can also rename your project here.

Happy Coding!

Written by: Julia, former 6th grade student

Posted by: Whitney Cavanagh, 6th grade teacher @MrsCavanagh8                      & Janice Conboy, kindergarten teacher and former 6th grade teacher @Mrs_Conboy

NOW Classrooms at Learning Forward 2017 in Orlando

I’m thrilled to present a session with co-authors Dr. Jamie Reilly and Cathy Fisher next week in Orlando Florida. This is the first presentation about the NOW Classrooms book series and we are excited to share what we learned on the journey! Learning Forward is a fantastic organization focused on the best practices for professional learning in education. Follow the excitement on Twitter!

This is the session we will be presenting Monday afternoon from 2:30-4:30.

1411 — Excellent Teaching Everyday Showcased on the District Hashtag

Ramp up content on your social media channels! Hear how a district team, nurturing a culture of continuous improvement, created collaborative classrooms purposefully using technology for teaching and learning. Hear how a districtwide hashtag, #D60Learns, empowers staff to share excellent teaching and learning every day. Leave this session with your district’s plan for successfully celebrating teaching and learning in your community.