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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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!

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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

2 min Tech Tip – Use Google Keep to Extract Text from Images

Google Keep is one of my favourite parts of the Google world.  I often can’t help myself but to do a quick “Keep-show” for groups or teachers that I am working with, or even in conversation with friends.  Keep is so powerful because you can flip from phone to desktop to iPad, from personal to work account SO seamlessly.

In this Tech-Tip video, we look at how to extract text (typeface works better than handwriting) from any image.  Imagine taking a picture of a poster or even a page in a book, and being able to extract the text so that it becomes editable – without any special programs.  That’s Google Keep’s “Grab text” feature.

Watch it now!

Trying Something New: The iWorld

Just over a year ago I got a new job in my school district as an Instructional Coach. As Instructional Coaches were a new role in our district, my Instructional Coach partner and I had the good fortune to get new laptops instead of hand-me-downs from the previous position-holder. In fact, we were even given a choice about the type of machine that we wanted.

At the time, I was also teaching a night class for preservice teachers at our local college. This was an Ed tech class and so students had all types of devices including Macs and they needed to use them for all sorts of technical “Edtechy” tasks, not just word processing. Generally, I thought that I was less able to help my Mac-owning students as I could only do basic navigation and thus less problem-solving. So after some deliberation, I decided that I would be a brave girl and take the opportunity to learn about using a MacBook by using one myself. After all, it’s good to learn new things.

It has been just over a year now that I have been a MacBook user. My history is certainly in the Android and PC world, so this new device required some new learning. I watched some YouTube videos, I asked some friends when I was really stuck, and slowly, I got the hang of doing things the Mac way. Fortunately, I forced myself to experience a similar learning curve a few years ago when our school district informed us that we would be using iPads instead of Chromebooks for in-classroom devices. I saved up and bought an iPad so that I could plan and test learning activities for my classes on our new school set of 20 iPads. This earlier foray into the iWorld, including doing lots of online training to receive “Apple Teacher” status, img_0344 helped shrink the learning curve when my MacBook arrived.

Like many people, I would say that there are things I like better about both the PC World and the Mac World. But what I do like, is the fact that I have essentially become bi-lingual, or dual-device-competent, or whatever the official word may be. Of course, I often find myself “Controlling” or “Commanding” on the wrong keyboard, but that’s a quick fix with a head shake. It has become second nature to locate and navigate files and programs in both worlds. As an Instructional Coach, this is certainly helpful, although most of our district devices are PCs and Chromebooks.

To fully complete my Mac integration, last January the Instructional Coaches finally received phones – new iPhone 8s along with other Central Office personnel. Having previously only ever owned and loved Android mobile devices, this was another change. But now, a year later, this is just another platform where I have become bi-lingual.
It’s good to learn new things.

One Step Closer to Google Certified Trainer Status!

Sweet Relief! I passed the Google for Education Trainer Skills Assessment! This 25 question multiple choice test is one of six hurdles that one needs to surmount to APPLY for Google Certified Trainer Status.  Even though I carefully completed and then reviewed the Google Trainer Course (another hurdle) offered on the Google Training Website, I still was quite worried as soon as I was a few questions into the test – there must have been a few rocks that I didn’t look under!

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Fortunately, I have already passed two other tests in the form of my Google Educator Level 1 and Level 2 certifications (accounting for two more of the six hurdles).   Now the final two hurdles remain:  finish off my 3-minute trainer video (which already has about 18 failed takes!) and submit the detailed application, complete with many links and “evidence” of skills.

Onward!

Teacher Flipgrid Book Study: Mid-way Musings

It’s a fascinating thing, this district-wide teacher Flipgrid Book study. My instructional coach counter-part, Cathy, and I are leading two different book studies with parallel methodologies, dates, etc…

This is Disciplinary Literacy

This is Disciplinary Literacy

Learning that Lasts

Learning that Lasts

The statistics to date:

  • We are at the halfway mark this week, focusing on the third of six chapters.
  • Between the two studies, there have been over 100 videos posted
  • The 100 videos have been viewed over 1000 times.

In past book studies that I’ve chaperoned, I’ve learned that, by the end, there will be some members who fall by the wayside – some who are just too busy, and others who just aren’t digging the book enough to contribute regularly.

This virtual experience is interesting in that the ‘wayside’ seems to have come more quickly! On one hand, we have several educators who are totally invested – they are meeting the suggested deadlines and adding rich video reflections to the posts of their colleagues. When I’ve seen them in person, they make a point of telling me how much they are enjoying this virtual book study experience. On the other end of the spectrum, we have some educators who have contributed only one out of four initial response videos required to date, and maybe one or two of the eight responses to colleagues that should have taken place by now.

Cathy and I are struggling to determine what constitutes an appropriate number of “reminders”.  As teachers signed up, we assured them that they could go at their own pace if necessary, and if they missed some weeks, they could just jump back in and continue. This flexible method has certainly been the pattern for a few teachers, but there still are those others who haven’t seemed to get off the ground.  So, what are some of the possible reasons?

  • it was report card season these past few weeks for elementary and junior high teachers, and those tend to be the ones who we’ve heard from less often – do we chalk this up to poor timing?
  • should we be sending a reminder every time that we approach a deadline? Our initial plan was to present a detailed schedule at startup so teachers could keep track of their own dates – is that too much to ask a busy teacher? do they just need a quick email or text to bump them into action?
  • is our timeline too tight? We’ve allowed two weeks to read each chapter. Before the next chapter deadline approaches, we’ve hoped that teachers have listened to and responded to the musings of their book study colleagues – are we asking too much in too short of a time frame?
  • after mid-December, we have a full month off for Christmas – will some teachers use this time to catch up and post a few responses that they’ve missed? or will that extra time just push the whole book study idea further from mind?
  • does this virtual landscape offer too little accountability? is it just too easy to “not do” if you don’t have to walk past someone in the hall the next day and explain why you haven’t ‘done your homework’?

Stay tuned for more musings as this experiment progresses! If you have theories, please comment!