Creating vs. Consuming: #IMMOOC Week 3

I am doing my best to take part in #IMMOOC Season 2 : a world-wide digital book study based on The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros. It is week 3 with a “short blog” challenge.

School vs LearningI believe that there certainly is a danger as we implement technology into our classrooms that we fall into the CONSUMER trap.  So many apps, especially it seems for younger learners, are what I would call CONSUMER apps.  Students have access to a variety of apps where they play games to help them practice reading, writing skills, math skills, geography skills. They are fun and engaging for a time, but kind of like the TV/iPad as babysitter idea.

I teach an edtech college course to pre-service teachers and I try to expose them to tech tools that they can use with their students to CREATE. It is these CREATING tools that really move our classrooms from school to learning.  When you give kids a device to capture their learning in picture format, video format, digital poster format, meme format, book snap format, etc., the wheels start turning and all sorts of wonderfully creative divergent thinking can pour forth.

That’s what learning looks like.

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Better Last Than Never

There was a curious announcement at our staff meeting earlier this month:

In 2017, our high school had finally gotten a Twitter account.

I’m most curious to know why now, after all this time?   In our smallish rural school division, we are the largest school, but the last to join Twitter.twitter

It isn’t that Twitter has been taboo in our school division.  Many of our district administrators have Twitter accounts that they occasionally use, and most every other traditional school in our division has had a Twitter presence for some time. We have schools in our division with only a few dozen students yet they have posted hundreds of tweets over the past several years, providing a window for the wider world into the activities and rhythms of their learning communities. Over half of our teaching staff have Twitter accounts, and about a third of our staff are at least occasional tweeters, or have had periods of avid Twitter use.

I stopped advocating for a school Twitter account fairly early on, even though for me, Twitter has been the most incredible source of professional learning.  Twitter has profoundly shaped many of the methods and technologies that I use in my classroom. Yet, it was evident early on that our administrators, who are mostly non-Twitter users, did not see the same learning and sharing power that could exist for teachers in the educational Twitter-verse.  Perhaps it seemed like one more complicated to-do list item, especially in the earlier days when school presence in social media places was still seen as risky or debatable.

In the early days of Twitter, many schools jumped to create accounts as a potential means of communicating with the adults in their school community.  In most cases, this didn’t prove to be effective as there were too few parents who used Twitter for anything other than following the school, so it wasn’t a very effective method of reaching parents.

Essentially however, Twitter has become a great mode of free advertising for schools, and a way to stay connected with community and even alumni.Schools have gone from advertising meeting dates (or anything else time sensitive), to celebrating learning and building community: sports results, art work in the hallways,  field trips, guest speakers, progress on building projects, a window into assemblies, class activities….

Facebook can do many of these things as well, and our school has had a Facebook account for a few years now. Our Facebook account is a disseminator of information – events, and dates and places and times.

Hopefully our Twitter space will become a place of celebrating learning and the evidence of events and things that happen inside the walls of our school. Slowly, but surely.

Being Reflective: #IMMOOC Week 2

I am doing my best to take part in #IMMOOC Season 2 : a world-wide digital book study based on The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros. It is week 2.

As I ponder the Innovator’s Mindset graphic below trying to decide which characteristic I most exemplify in my teaching/ learning environment, I am drawn to #3 “risk taker”.  Just for curiosity,  I decide to go back through my blog archives to see what I chose in #IMMOOC Season 1 back in September. Turns out I chose the same characteristic and wrote the post “Risk Taking And Resilience Cycle” IMMOOC Week 28-characteristics-of-the-innovators-mindset

Looking back, since then I had an opportunity to take somewhat of a risk when I was asked to pilot the use of Chromebooks in our school division.  It wasn’t really difficult to say yes to the opportunity of having a set of 30 Chromebooks stationed in my classroom. It wasn’t difficult to say yes, since Chromebooks aren’t “new technology” but are actually commonplace in many learning environments.

So the Chromebooks aren’t a big “risk-taking” effort, but I did stretch myself in a pledge to reflectively blog about the process. (See #8- Reflective!)  The timing was terrible as my semester was a crazy busy one and it was December, yet looking back from even a few months on, writing about the implementation process has been valuable. When I go back and re-read, I notice that I had captured initial thoughts and reactions that I had already forgotten about. Our district technology guys have used the posts to adjust and refine the technology from the division office end. I’m not sure if my principal actually read the posts, but because I had so systematically thought about the Chromebooks and the implementation process, I was quickly able to sell him on why it would be a good idea to go ahead and buy more Chromebooks to replace some of our dying technology.

So, my take-away: risk-taking, even in moderation, is amplified when you take the time to think and write reflectively about the process.

Chromebooks: Google vs. Office365-Priniting and “Handheld” access

Hooray for printing!  Our division office team has had me do some testing with printing from the Chromebooks and it seems like they have chosen/implemented an effective system.  From a student user standpoint, Google takes this one again, as there are just fewer “clicks” to get a document printed.  Having student print capability is so important for humanities classes where students benefit greatly from having a paper version to use for revising and editing (especially when they don’t have to wait in line for the teacher to print it!)

In our current environment there is one advantage to having students use Office 365, at least at this point. Currently when a student begins a project or essay in a Google Doc with our Division login they cannot complete out of class on their iPad or cell phone, as our current settings do not allow us access to the Division’s Google environment on a handheld device.  On the other hand, students can access their essays on their hand held device using the Office 365 login or apps.  This has delayed some students from my Google test group from finishing an assignment as quickly as they might have otherwise because they have to physically come to my class to use a Chromebook or be at home or school on a desktop to finish their assignments.  I’ve noticed it as a teacher because I have been able to read/mark/comment on student work done in Office 365 from my iPad and Android phone,  but I cannot login to our .prrd8.ca Google account on those same devices due to “restrictions”.

So, for the time being, Office 365 scores in the cross-platform category. However, I do have hope that at some point our overworked Division Office Technology staff who are trying to implement Chromebooks and learn the world of all things Google will at some point have time to tackle this issue. I fully empathize with the fact that handheld device access is probably not a current high priority in the Chromebook rollout that our division is envisioning, and they have done amazing work so far in this Chromebook/Google world that is unfamiliar territory to them.

Besides, Office 365 had to have an advantage sooner or later!

Trying Something New: a “Blind” Kahoot

Today I got to try two new things in class that I’ve been waiting to give a whirl for a long time: Google Classroom and a “Blind” Kahoot.

I’ve been using Kahoots from getkahoot.com for 2 or 3 years now to reinforce and review concepts that my classes have covered.  Now there aren’t many things that make high school students audibly cheer, but this actually happens – out loud!- when I ask them to pull out or pick up a device and load kahoot.it. kahoot

About a year ago, Kahoot introduced a new idea called a “blind” Kahoot, where you essentially build the LEARNING into the Kahoot. Students go in “blind”, not knowing anything about the topic, and by the end, have mastered a new concept.  Check out this video description.

So for the past year I’ve been scratching at ideas for building a blind kahoot for one of my classes.  Building regular kahoots is super simple, but a blind kahoot takes a plan and creativity and conceptualization.  This semester, as I am re-imagining a grade 10 Social Studies course for at-risk learners, I finally found a place to try my hand at my first blind kahoot.  The objective at the end was to have students be able to differentiate between the following social studies basic concepts: economic, political, environmental, and social. Click here to check out my first blind kahoot.

So today we actually played the game.  My initial plan was to have students summarize their learning in their interactive notebooks after the Kahoot, but about 3 questions in, I realized that a blind kahoot would easily let us fill in this summary idea chart about each term during the game!  Even the most reluctant note takers quickly filled out their charts so that they would be ready to go before I launched the next question!  By the end of the activity the class had a decent understanding of some new terms, key words and examples for each term, and had had fun playing a “game”.  This type of activity and engagement is super important for these at risk learners, many who claim to “hate Social Studies”.

Blind kahooting….tough creation process for a teacher’s brain, but worth it in the learning dividends for students!  Have YOU tried Kahoot? Blind kahoot?

 

Chromebooks: New Life for Old Mice

This bin of old mice has been sitting neglected on top of our old lap top cart for years. The old laptops (netbooks) are only used in the most desperate of circumstances, and this old collection of cast off mice likely hasn’t been touched in over a year.

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Old mice get new life

At the end of the semester, we used the Chromebooks for a research project with a presentation done in either Powerpoint online (Period 4) or Google Slides (Period 5). When students were ready to put images into their presentations, very few could get the Chromebook track pad to cooperate.  I myself, could barely get an image loaded using the Chromebook track pad.

Luckily, I remembered that there existed an old bin of mice, and was able to track them down.  This was an instant solution to our picture problem, and almost all students chose to plug a mouse into the USB port to continue.  Since then, some students have even chosen to add a mouse to their Chromebook even when they are doing assignments that basically require typing.

Thanks for whomever had the foresight to imagine that this bin of old mice might still have some usefulness!

Chromebooks and the Substitute Teacher

I did something with my sub plans recently that I would not have dreamed of doing in the past few years: I had my students type important in-class essay exams with the “portable technology” with a substitute teacher.

Chromebooks are so reliable that I took this risk.  I would NEVER have left a sub with this task a month ago when we had to rely on using Office 365 on the iPads.

There were a few steps I took to help this process go more smoothly.

  1. I had the class (who had not yet used the Chromebooks for writing an essay) totally set up their new document the day before. We named it and shared it, so that all they would have to do is open Office 365 and start typing.
  2. I created step by step visual instructions on the SMART board for the next day when students would have to find their way back to the document.

I was pretty confident this would work and it did! Every single student successfully completed their document. (One exception was a student that I have in another class who was absent on the set up day; he chose to use Google Docs as that is what his other class was using to type and share with me.)

Not only that, but because students had shared their documents, I was able to mark all of their essays online before the end of Christmas break without having to travel to school to get their work.

Chromebooks: Google vs. Office365 Round 2

At the end of my first step in the Google vs 365 experiment, I noted the next step would be how easily we could get back to our documents.  In the iPad/Office 365 environment that we’ve been trying to make fly for the past two years, it was always uncertain if a student would be able to get back into their account the next day to continue their work.

Turns out, both systems fared fairly well. In our Chromebook environment, we have one login that connects us to both accounts.  So once students have logged into a machine, when they open anything Google, or even press the Office 365 login link from our Division website, they get that personal greeting indicating that they are already logged in.  After all of the repeated login issues we’ve had with 365 on the iPads, this discovery of login ease made some students giddy!

Beyond that, Google was more straight forward. As we only have a Google docs icon on the homepage tray, as soon as they press that, they go straight to thumbnails  of the documents they’ve created . One click and they are back to work.  The 365 login, on the  other hand, takes them to a clump of twenty icons, from which they have to choose Word.  Once they’ve clicked on Word, the ‘new document’ prompt is prominent, and some had a tough time locating their existing document from the side bar.

At this point we are unable to print from the  Chrome books, which means that someone has to print the documents from a desktop.  Google wins in the printing department, too. When I click on the shared document, I can fix font, spacing or labelling issues immediately, and then print. In 365, I have to click on an “edit” button which downloads the document in order to make any font, spacing or labelling changes. After I click the print button, I then have to click again to open the PDF that it creates.  Those extra clicks aren’t a big deal when printing an individual document, but become more time consuming over 20 to 30 papers.

The day ended with a telling sign about the Chromebook environment. We were about to write a controversial response paragraph-on paper in our novel study booklet- after finishing the novel Of Mice and Men.  One brash student just got up and said, “I need a Chromebook.” Following this, four other students picked a Chromebook from the charging station, logged on (to Google, which this class had used the previous day) and began typing. A fifth student sat down with a Chromebook, started to login, then put it back, as the login, document naming and sharing was “too much hassle when I don’t have to.”  This never crossed their mind as a desireable option when the iPads with 365 were available, but just made natural sense in the Chromebook/Google environment.

Chromebooks: Office 365 vs Google Experiment #1

edublogs-2k7t2ct-1oe30zfIn the first week of the Chromebooks, any writing assignments I had students do were completed within our Edublogs Digital Portfolio environment.

Today I ended up with an experiment. Since the Chromebooks are conveniently sitting in my classroom, I had my English students use them for a fairly short writing assignment. Previously this year, I have had them do any writing less than an essay in length  on paper, rather than go through the torture (for both myself and the students) of trying to login to Word in Office 365 on the iPads.

In the first class, I had them try and use Word through Office 365.  When I had tested this, I thought that the login would be accomplished through an icon on the login screen. However in class today, this was not the case, so I had immediate chaos. Fortunately, I was a quick thinker today and quickly diverted them to the Office 365 Student login link available through the PRSD home page which was staring at them in the Chrome browser.  Looking back, ALL students were able to successfully login to Office 365 without any error messages –that is a first for my classes. Once in Word (which we have used several times in class on the iPads, so there was some level of familiarity) we named the document and wrote a title in the document. Word is very ‘finicky’ and it doesn’t take much for a student to end up with a new document, or in an offline or different version. Eventually students got to composing, but overall it was still somewhat chaotic getting set up to write in a tool that they have already used several times!

Since I teach the same class in back to back periods, I sometimes do some experimenting. After the non-slick use of Office 365, I quickly decided an experiment was in order!

google docThere is a Google Docs icon on the bottom of the login screen on the new Chromebooks. In the next class, we tried Google Docs, which the majority of student have NOT used before. Of course it is a beautiful thing that they are already logged into Google through the Chromebooks, so they were all quickly in a Google Doc. The document naming and titling was much more efficiently accomplished that it was in Word. I also had time to have the students share the document with me –this process is exceedingly more straightforward in Docs than Word, and was successfully accomplished without glitches, even though the students had to type my whole email address (ie. it didn’t auto populate).

For today’s experiment, Google Docs wins hands down!  It is just so much more simple and straight forward.  I know that the Google experiment was successful by the lack of whining which often happens when students experience something “new”.  Google Docs was so slick that it didn’t even feel new or different.

The next experiment will be how much effort it takes to find and retrieve and finish the documents that we began typing. Stay tuned for a “Round 2” update….

Chromebooks: 1 week in

The PRRD Chomebook pilot has been underway for 1 whole week. The students have been eager to use them, and with the exception of a few perennial whiners, they are enjoying their speed and keyboards.  Most students are choosing to use the Chromebooks over their phones for paragraph length writing, when given the choice.  And if nothing else, they are learning their login/email addresses, which previously many had not bothered to commit to memory!

Here are the quick take-aways from the first week.

  1. They take a bit longer to distribute and return.
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New Chromebook Pilot -machines have arrived

Because of the “plug-in” nature of the cart, and the “log-in” process, there have been a few times in the past week that I passed on having the students do a quick digital activity using the Chromebooks, and instead did a paper or oral version, that might not have been quite as effective, but was less time consuming.

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EBHS iPad cart

I’ve become very accustomed to our iPad “cart”. The little cart wheels into the classroom, the students quickly and easily grab an iPad, and can instantly get onto an app. When they are done, they can easily slip the iPad back into the cart on their way out the door while holding their binders or backpacks. This system works so well because we have a wonderful librarian who charges them up every few days. img_1229Ms. Anton has truly been a key to the successful use of iPads in our EBHS classrooms over the past 2 or 3 years.  I’m using the Chromebooks almost every class right now because they are conveniently housed in my classroom right now (and I’ve spent the past few years developing all sorts of digital games, reviews, writing activities,etc.).

However, I’m not sure that I would be as likely to haul the big Chromebook cart to my class for the quick type of quiz/review activities I’ve developed for iPad use.  I’ve already adopted the practice of having students leave the machines on the desks for the next set of users to avoid the time-consuming distribution/return aspect.

2. At this point, they take a bit longer to use.

I discovered in a phone conversation with one of our Digital Technology personnel today, that the Google /Chrome operating system is very new for everyone in the office, so it will be a while before they are able to tweek the machines in ways that will improve classroom convenience/student usability, such as:

  • icons to apps/sites so we don’t have to type addresses into the browser and search for the sites (such as Socrative.com, Spiral.ac, Edublogs.org,  Getkahoot.com)
  • a quick access button to Office 365
  • a QR Code reader (ideally accessed by an icon!) to read QR codes already incorporated into paper lessons

3. We will have to wait a while for some features in our PRRD environment:

  • print capabilities – Apparently print capability is a costly aspect. For high school machines that will primarily be used by many teachers to word process essays, print capability is something we really have our fingers crossed for.
  • Google Classroom – I thought that this would be one of the features that I would be able to test-drive right away. Turns out we have to wait for a fair bit of background work to be accomplished before we will have access.