Marco Polo – For When your Kids Leave Home

Within a few months of this past September, all 3 of our teenagers moved out of the house- one to Sweden, one to Australia, and one to university 2 hours down the highway. Of course, Social Media somehow makes this a little easier than when we moved away from home back in the 1990s and you planned to call every second Sunday at 8pm… and could only afford to talk for 10 minutes.

We started out connecting with a clan-wide What’s App chat, as not every kid had a data plan, and you can What’s App any time you had airport wifi, for example. This was a good way to keep everyone in the loop.

Then there was the Instagram ‘story’ issue. The kids would almost only post to their Instagram stories (with a 24-hour shelf life) instead of their stream (more permanent); this was problematic as their mother, and certainly their grandmother, missed lots of their updates as we are less indentured to social media and often missed the 24-hour window. A plea to post to the stream instead was not even entertained, as apparently that would be too spammy. Who knew.

We still use What’s App, but a few months in, one of our babes suggested that Marco Polo would be more efficient during her limited wifi availability. None of the rest of us knew what Marco Polo was, nor were we excited to have yet another Social Media account. So what is Marco Polo, anyway, you ask? I’ve heard some describe it as a “video walkie-talkie”, which I guess is mostly how we use it. We have our family connected in a chat. At any time, a family member can open the chat, press play and record an update, or flip the camera to show what interesting place or city they are exploring. At first the girls used it when there was some fantastic place they wanted to show us. Then mom and dad realized we could leverage it to keep the home fires burning….supper at Grandma’s house….cutting down the trees in the front yard… camping at a favourite spot, sans kids…planting the garden without any child labour…. Turns out the kids enjoyed the moments from home too, and our university son even started showing off the gourmet meals he was bbqing and his trips to the local farmers market.

Marco Polo – highly recommended when your kids move away.

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Tips for Managing Breakout Boxes

One of the great things I get to do is an Instructional Coach is to manage our District set of Breakout Boxes. We ordered a standard 6-box class set from breakoutedu.com.

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Standard 6-box set from Breakout Edu

When a school or class wants to use the boxes, we have them choose from the list of our prepared games, or if time permits, we ‘prepare’ a new game for them, especially if it is a topic that we think will get re-used.  Typically we start out with a game from the ever-expanding BreakoutEdu library, but we often find that the games need to be modified to better fit a 6-box than a 1-box format.  And we’ve found that some types of clues just don’t work great – so we modify those.

Our mission has been to make Breakout Edu a fun and stress-free learning experience for our teachers too. As such, we reset all of the locks, print, cut out and laminate all of the required clues, and bring the ready-to-use game to the classroom. Then, due to the driving distance in our rural district, we most often facilitate the game so that the teacher and Education Assistants can play along with their students.  This often means “re-setting” the game for several classes in one day.  To facilitate this, we’d like to share several tips and tricks that make it possible to quickly reset and easily keep track of materials.

When your Breakout Box Class set first arrives…

  1. Use 6 different coloured dots (like the kind the librarian might use on the spine of her books) to categorize EVERYTHING.  We chose 6 distinct colours: blue, green, yellow, orange, purple, and grey.  Put these dots on EVERYTHING: large box, small box, hasp, each type of lock, ESPECIALLY THE KEY, flashlight, USB, UltraViolet lens, the Hint Cards, the box of the question card deck. Screen Shot 2019-04-09 at 10.19.52 PM
  2. Save the little zipper baggies that items like the hasp and 3 and 4 digit locks come in. When you unpack the extra rings for the multi-lock (eg. shapes, numbers, colours, extra letters, etc), put each of these into a separate little Ziploc bag and put one of those coloured dots on each bag.  This might seem silly now, but it sure helps speed things up when it comes time to change the locks or makes it easier if you are only using a few boxes at a time.
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    Multi-lock pieces -store in separate colour-coded baggies
  4. Store all of the colour-dot-coded extra lock parts (eg. extra keys, the multi-lock pieces not in use, the USBs, the glasses, etc.) in a small, sturdy box (a tackle box works great) that you can keep close at hand if you travel with your set of boxes.

Some Extras to Buy…

  1. We went to Home Depot and bought some different multi-directional locks; in this way, you can use a letter clue, a colour/shape clue AND a directional clue.  I’d advise you to buydirectional lock image a few extra right away to save yourself a trip to the store. I won’t tell you how many of these I’ve gone through, but there is essentially no cracking these if you mess up the reprogramming.  At approximately $8-10 a piece, they are worth the investment, as they allow for some really cool clues, and with this version of a directional lock, you can use more than five directions.
  2. Buy extra UV flashlights.  We found that within a year, all of the original Breakout Flashlights had stopped working, due to a variety of issues.  We’ve always ordered more from Amazon as I can’t seem to find them at any local stores. I’d recommend buying more than you think you’ll need.
  3. A set (or two) of dry-erase markers that stays with the Breakout kit. At first, we just borrowed from the classrooms we went to, but keeping about a dozen markers (with the coloured dots) in a baggie with your Breakout supplies makes life easier.
  4. Always have extra batteries on hand for the UV flashlight.
  5. Keep a roll of masking tape with the Breakout Box set.  There are often posters that need to be taped to the walls.

When you Get the Game Materials Ready…

  1. If laminating is an option at all, LAMINATE all of the pieces.  We’ve used some of our game materials for over two dozen plays.  Students write all over the clues with dry erase markers and we just wipe them off and reuse them.
  2. If you are able to laminate, hopefully, you are also able to splurge and print in colour!
  3. Print each set of clues on coloured paper that matches the coloured dots on the boxes/locks. We find that light pastel-coloured paper works best; although it’s not a perfect match with our dot colours, it makes reading the clues easier than strongly hued paper.    Breakout Coloured Clues per envelopeWhy bother with the coloured paper clues? You only have to find a stray white paper clue a time or two, and then have to search through each set of clues to find which one it goes with to realize the colour coded paper makes a lot of sense.
  4. Be sure to use the “invisible UV pen” BEFORE you laminate.
  5. breakout-envelope-colours.jpg

    Colour code and laminate the envelopes

  6. We store our coloured paper clues in separate envelopes with, yes, a colour-coded dot.   Why separate envelopes? This has worked well when we end up doing single-box games, or 3 boxes each of two different games, for example.  Each envelope is also titled with the name of the game.
  7. Use a seventh envelope of the same size and label it “BOSS ENVELOPE”. In this envelope, store the following: your white paper originals; the set-up instructions for the game (including lock codes and how to solve each puzzle); any single game pieces, such as a poster that gets hung in the classroom;
  8. Use a really big envelope to store all of the other envelopes. Label this big one with the name of the game, the appropriate grade level(s), and any important reminders, such as “each group needs an iPad” breakout-envelopes-1-6.jpg
  9. If possible, LAMINATE ALL OF THE ENVELOPES.  Any good elementary teacher knows that this is a thing, but for those of us from high school, it’s a very important thing to learn….do it for your Breakout envelopes.

 

 

Packing Up After the Game…

  1.  Always collect and store the “Hint” cards separately. If they get swept into one of the envelopes along with the clues, it can be a long time before you find them again.
  2.  If you know you will be using the ‘same game’ the next time the boxes are used, go ahead and reconnect the locks, however…
  3. If you next will be needing to set the locks to a different game, pack up by leaving the locks unlocked and putting them inside the small box, inside the big box of their matching colour.
  4. I’ve started to leave a generic “We Broke Out sign” permanently in every box. To help me distinguish it from all of the others, I printed this one on legal sized paper so it is easy to identify and return to each large box when packing up.

Modifications that We Frequently Make to Breakout Edu published games…

  1. Issue: Many published games hide a clue “behind a poster”, or have an invisible ink clue written on a poster that all teams are to use.  This is a big game-breaker: as soon as one group finds the clue, all other groups usually notice it and no longer have to work at solving it
    1. Solutions:  Sometimes the fix to this issue is simply to leave a copy of the poster as a clue with each individual group
  2. Issue:  Too many “poster on the wall” clues.  One wall/poster clue is almost too many!  Here’s why: the students who are really into the game are off at the posters trying to solve the clue – this results in a student or two who are left at (or choose to stay) at home-base, often aimlessly trying to hack the locks. With the others off trying to solve the poster puzzles, there really is very little team-work or collaboration happening.
    1. Solutions: As above, make a copy of each poster and leave a copy for each group to solve together.
  3. Issue: Hiding the key. The keys are little and easily lost.
    1. Solution:  Create a game-related image that fits onto a quarter-sized sheet of paper.  Tape the key to this laminated, and ultimately, colour-coded sheet of paper and then hide it.  Students then realize that they are looking for a paper colour that matches the rest of the clues: the key is less likely to get lost, and the students are more likely to “find” the correct key for their box.
  4. Issue: Hiding anything.  In a multi-box game,  you have to hide everything x 6.  This can quickly become a disaster as clues that you thought were out in the open disappear.
    • Solutions:  Hide clues in groups. For example, if 3 items need to be found, hide one colour-coded item from each group on a book-shelf; hide the second colour coded item from each group under the teacher’s desk, etc.
      • Take a picture of the location where you hid each item or grouping; trust me on this one.
      • At the beginning of the game, tell students to “hunt” for any clues with hands behind their back – looking with only their eyes.  If they use their hands, they will start moving items around, even though you’ve told them the items are in plain view.  Once they start rearranging items in the search process, the items that you hid in plain view are now inadvertently hidden beneath something.

Other random tips…

  1.  Print (and laminate if possible, a class set worth of the various “We Broke Out” celebration signs.  If you include the We Almost Broke out signs, put them on a slightly different coloured paper such as grey or beige so that they are easy to distinguish.
  2.  It is easy to suggest that early finishers discuss the questions on the Breakout cards. Interestingly, this never seems to take long enough, especially if you are trying to have the other groups solve to complete. To remedy this, we have started to have groups record their answers to a few of the Breakout prompts on FlipGrid. This seems to keep them occupied for longer.

Big Kids building Breakout Games for Little Kids

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A great way to get the attention of junior high school boys – locks and boxes!

Teachers at Burdett School really seem to love Breakout Edu.  By the end of our second year as Instructional Coaches, we will have run at least seven of our different Breakout Games at this school, with each grade level having had between two and four different Breakout experiences. It has been fascinating to watch how the group work skills and perseverance levels have changed as students experience another new Breakout Mystery for the third or fourth time.

As a result of this growing Breakout expertise, it was not surprising to be asked to come along-side rookie teacher, Ms. R, as she endeavoured to host a “Breakout” option class. She has her seventh-grade science students for an option “CTF”  course and needed a project/topic. Her initial idea was that the seventh-grade science students would create a Breakout game related to the Building Materials Unit in her third-grade science class. Although the students in both grades had experienced Breakout Box challenges, Ms. R. had not, so I agreed to come out to her school as often as I could to help, as long as she fully understood that this project would be messy!

There has been a winding road of analyzing, planning, prototyping, testing, remodelling and offering feedback to peers as this project has progressed. As students are less accustomed to providing feedback that is kind, helpful and specific, this step near the end of the project is a challenge in itself, yet it has been powerful to watch students want to modify their own puzzles after testing the puzzle of a different group.

So, here we are in the testing phase.  This is really one of the “messy” parts of a project like this, especially since we have a real audience of third graders, not only at this school but potentially across our school district!

We will certainly update once the locks are on the boxes and the third graders have had a go!

Connecting Virtual Rural Classrooms with PearDeck

In our southern Alberta rural school district we have many very small schools. Sometimes there are only three or four, or even one or two students in a grade level. In primary and elementary levels the solution is triple graded classrooms, however, this is less practical or realistic once students hit junior high. One solution that our district has employed is the development of a robust video conferencing network, supported by reliable technology.

While our division has been connecting classrooms via video conferencing for over a dozen years, the supporting technology has changed and sometimes outpaced the technology that our teachers are using. In the early days of video conferencing teacher assistants would fax and/or email student assignments back-and-forth to the teacher to be marked. Of course, this was time-consuming, and the time it took to digitize these paper products added to the length of time students waited for projects and assignments to be marked and returned. As technology has become more 1 to 1 it is important that our teachers shift from the fax and email mentality to using the many tools that are now available to not only make accessing work easier, but also more engaging.

Our ninth grade video conference math teacher is located in one of our larger centres but teaches math to four different school sites, each with 1 to 5 students.

Math 9 via Video Conference

5 sites are joined via video conference for Math 9

Each group of students is assisted by an Education Assistant (EA) who helps with the content on site, as well as the logistics of getting materials back-and-forth. Despite the support, it is still a challenge to keep students on task and to help them as much as they need. To alleviate this, we have been working together to come up with solutions for this teacher and one of the very best has been in the form of Pear Deck.

The Video Conferencing Pear Deck Revolution

The teacher pushes her Google Slides lesson out to the students and they join the Pear Deck session on an iPad. As they work through the lessons, she can watch in real time as students respond to questions.

Pear Deck real time

The video conference teacher using Pear Deck can see thumbnails as each student answers questions in real time – from 5 different sites.

Unlike some other platforms of this nature, students do not have to press submit to send their work. This is very important in this situation because the teacher can see who is stalling, off task, or struggling. After the modelling portion of the lesson, the teacher turns the lesson setting to “student-paced” so students are able to work through remaining questions/slides at their own pace, while the teacher can move between slides to support individual students.

At the end of the lesson, the teacher publishes “student take-aways” – a premium feature – which automatically puts a Google Doc copy of all notes/slides and a copy of the student responses into a Pear Deck folder in each student’s Google Drive, organized by lesson date and title. The teacher also has a copy of this document for each student so she can use portions of it for individual assessment if desired.

Other video conference classes in our district have also been using Pear Deck, but since they are humanities-based, students can type many of their responses on Chromebooks. Trying to have students type Math just to use Pear Deck would be a deal breaker, so we have found enough iPads (sometimes old ones) to allow each student to use a stylus + iPad to “write” their math. This has taken some getting used to, but it is becoming more normal. We have solved the issue of “not enough writing space” by increasing the custom slide length in Google Slides – this allows the students to scroll down to continue their answer, something they can’t do when the lesson is on a standard-sized slide.

Of course, there will be ‘bad internet days’ when a cloud-based technology like Pear Deck just doesn’t work.  Fortunately, there is always pencil and paper as a backup!

Takeaways from District Wide FlipGrid Book study

Back in November of this school year, we decided to bridge the 29 000 square km of our rural school district with some virtual PD in the form of a first-ever PRSD8 FlipGrid Book Study. flipgrid-700x403 Midway through the study as we paused for Christmas break, we were experiencing some great successes and some sure signs of disconnect.

Despite initial excitement, in many ways, this experiment in virtual Professional Development was somewhat disappointing if you consider some of the statistics:

  • by the end of the study right before our February break, only two of the original 16 participants had completed almost all of the suggested posts
  • about a quarter of the group did not get past Chapter 1
  • by the time we broke for Christmas, less than 40% of participants were still responding.Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 6.31.22 PM

However, our feedback suggests that it is feasible to try again:

  • We had 13% completion, but whenever I watch a Seth Godin interview, he often mentions that only 5-10 % of people actually complete online courses.  So, I guess that we should see our 13% completion as positive!
  • Over 85% would try a FlipGrid book study again or recommend it to a colleague
  • 90% found the FlipGrid format easy to use and also appreciated not having to drive
  • 70% enjoyed “talking” their responses instead of having to write them

But when we match the reality of the completion data with the post-survey feedback, it is obvious that we do need to make some changes.  Here are some of the most commonly repeated suggestions from participants:

  • We should start with an “in person” get together to help everyone feel more comfortable with each other
  • YES to some sort of regular email or Remind reminder just before responses are due
  • We should remind members who do not like to see themselves on video that they can just put a picture of their cat, dog, pile of marking  etc. in front of the camera, thus just providing us with audio
  • We should post our chapter discussion prompts further in advance

Since these are all do-able suggestions, perhaps we will try again!

 

 

 

FlipGrid #GridGuide #FieldNotes

Flipgrid+LogoFlipGrid is one of edtech’s most versatile tools, as its super user-friendliness applies from kindergarten to university to professional meetings and beyond. I’ve had the opportunity to use FlipGrid in many different educational settings:

  • in my own high school Social Studies classrooms  (I often make FlipGrid one of several ‘options’ for high school students)
  • as an Instructional Coach, one of my favourite parts of my job is introducing teachers to the fabulous flexibility that is Flipgrid.  One way we do this has teachers use FlipGrid to reflect on their learning after we have hosted a Professional Development session. Usually, Flipgrid is new to them and they are a little bit shy about the ‘on camera’ part, but by the time they leave, they are interested in using FlipGrid TOMORROW in their classes. So then I have an opportunity to…
  • provide support for teachers when they use FlipGrid for the first time in their classes; we have many ELL classrooms, and the teachers were over the moon when they started to use FlipGrid to give a voice to students as young as first grade
  • at our Distance Learning School, as the mode through which Language Arts students submit their oral assignments. What an improvement over previous methods – students are much more likely to submit oral assignments so I feel that I get to know them a bit better.
  • in a college Educational Technology course that I taught for pre-service teachers – when FlipGrid was new, I knew that I had to add it to the syllabus for the ‘video’ week in my course; see a sample topic from the course in the Disco Library
  • helping our video-conference teachers use FlipGrid to connect their stScreen Shot 2019-02-23 at 7.34.08 PMudents between remote campuses
  • as a method of bringing teachers together asynchronously to participate in District Wide professional book studies across 300+ Screen Shot 2019-02-23 at 7.39.25 PM.pngkm in our rural school division (check out this link to topic in FlipGrid’s Disco Library)
  • providing alternative ways of furthering our staff professional learning after hosting a Google Summit

Flipgrid sketchnote.jpg

FlipGrid is excellent at sharing resources to help  train and inspire others:

FlipGrid is so amazing at sharing and crowdsourcing their resources that I barely need to create my own, but here are a few that I’ve put together to support my teachers and students:

And some tips for making FlipGrid easier to use in your classroom:

  • Shy students?? 
    • Let them start out by just recording their voice – let the video capture a book cover or a blank page
    • Keep the topic moderation “on” – that way you can see the student videos, but classmates will not be able to see each other’s videos – a “safe” way to start. Introduce students to the new My FlipGrid feature so that they can see all of their videos, including those that are moderated
    • design FlipGrid tasks such as scavenger hunts where students can record a list of objects, using the rear-facing camera instead of showing their own face
  • Young students?? Set up a center or station with an iPad and have them all record on the same device; the first few times they will need adult guidance, but after some practice, they will be able to click that green button and go!
  • Need to simplify video project playback??  Students can upload previously recorded videos to a FlipGrid topic, allowing them to easily be viewed one after the other for a class viewing party FlipHunt_Flipgrid_101_KozmaAnn_Kerszi-01
  • Scavenger Hunt??  Make it quick and easy with a FlipGrid #Fliphunt! Have participants use the rear-facing camera and “pause” the video while they collect all of the “objects”
  • Absent Students??  If you have a student that has been out of class for an extended period of time, use FlipGrid to record and send encouraging messages from classmates
  • Time Zone Constraints?? Ever try to Skype with a class on the other side of the world? Maybe not, because the ‘timing’ often just does not work.  Subvert the time zone curse by having classes communicate internationally using FlipGrid.
  • Teaching Alberta Grade 2 or 4 Social Studies??  Use #GridPals to find and connect with other classes in the communities or provinces that you studyScreen Shot 2019-02-23 at 6.58.45 PM

Flipgrid+Fever#FlipGridFever is what you catch when you love FlipGrid and are happy to share it with others.

With a little bit of training, you can submit applications to earn Certifications like the ones I have below. It usually involves a fair bit of work, but the learning is worth it.  Check out the video that I created for my Level 2 FlipGrid Certified Educator badge.

 

There are lots of webinars and Twitter chats to participate in and increase your knowledge of using FlipGrid.  certificate-Flipgrid + Formative Assessment

As you can see from the map below, Canada could use some FlipGrid #GridGuides, so hopefully this blog as my #GridGuide #FieldNotes will do the trick!

Screen Shot 2019-02-23 at 7.03.30 PM

 

2 Min Tech Tip: Adding a Bookmark to your Chrome Browser

As our district teachers spend more time on their new Chromebooks, as opposed to the desktops that we have used for so long, finding their way to oft-used sites has sometimes been a challenge.

Many have a series of click-paths that they go through to reach sites they use daily.  But there is a better way! Whenever I get a chance, I teach my colleagues how to bookmark those sites they use frequently.

Here is a 2-minute tech tip that leads you through how to create bookmarks in your Chrome browser and even organize your bookmarks into folders on your bookmark bar.

Success! Google for Education Certified Trainer

Sweet relief!  I will admit that I literally did a dance of joy when this email flashed across my iPad img_3899screen in the middle of leading a Virtual Reality session on bugs and insects with a grade 2 science class!

After a lengthy application process, I have been chosen as a Google for Education Certified Educator.  The application involved 6 hurdles:

Why bother? Here are some of the benefits:

  • access to more Google training
  • early access to some of Google’s new product launches
  • connections for collaborating with and learning from a community of other Google trainers
  • a listing in the Google for Education Directory, which could lead to some additional opportunities to share Google tools

Tech Tip – Deleting a Class in Google Classroom

If you are like many teachers, you have a few ‘junk’ Classes from when you were first learning and experimenting with Google Classroom. Or perhaps you just have classes you no longer need.  And if you are one of those teachers who like to have a neat and orderly Google universe, you’ve tried to delete those classes, only to find that you can only seem to Archive them.

Deleting Class in Google ClassroomFortunately, there is now a way to delete those unwanted classes.  Click here for video instructions.

  1. You start with the thumbnail of the class you want to delete and, using the 3 vertical dots in the top right, you first must choose “Archive”.
  2. Next, click the 3 vertical ‘hotdogs’ in the top left of Classroom screen, and on the pop-up panel, scroll all the way down and click “Archived Classes”.
  3. On the thumbnail that you just archived, click the 3 vertical dots again, and this time you will be able to “Delete” the class permanently.

Some reminders:

  • Any class assignments or student assignments that were created in that class will still exist in the “Classroom” folder in Google Drive. If you also wanted to delete those, you would have to go to the “Classroom” in Google Drive and delete the folder that had the same name as the class you just deleted.  (If you’ve learned about Google Classroom from me, I would have had you make that folder a colour, and had you label that folder “Google Classroom -Don’t Save Here”).
  • If you have thumbnails of classes that you have joined as a student, click the 3 vertical dots in the top right corner and select “Unenroll”.  Students cannot, of course, delete a class.

Click here for video instructions.

Tech Tip: Choosing the perfect Google Expedition

The Google Expedition library of available VR (Virtual Reality) and AR (Augmented Reality) tours just keeps expanding and getting better and better. Despite that, it can still be a challenge to find the right VR tour to fit your curriculum. Here are a few things that can happen:

  • The title sounds perfect…but the tour doesn’t live up to the title.  For example, there are “war-related” tours, but often they are just visits to memorial markers. (Fortunately, there have been some great war “re-creations” added lately.)
  • You search for a keyword like “hearing” and get nothing related to the ear. Then you search “ear” and get dozens of hits, but give up after the first seventy-five results have nothing to do with the ear.  Finally, you think of the word “auditory” and get 2 perfect hits.
  • The cover image of the tour is exactly what you are looking for, but the scenes inside are all museum exhibits that are not zoomed in enough to carefully examine and stir student excitement.
  • The first scene of the tour is exactly what you are looking for, but the rest are not quite right, or the info is way too complex for the level of your students.

You certainly want to avoid making these discoveries while you have a class full of students connected to your chosen expedition as “explorers”! Therefore, it is super important that you fully view all of the scenes of the tour that you are considering, making note of any that you would ‘skip’.

Watch this video to help you navigate the “tour picking” process.

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