As we go forward in education from COVID-19 (season 1!), we need to use teaching strategies and tools that will bounce seamlessly between in-person and virtual learning.
Furthermore, in our digital spaces we need to employ tools that encourage maximum connection: teacher to student, student to content and student to student. If a tech tool can facilitate all of these connections well, it warrants consideration.
Padlet warrants a consideration in our blended classrooms for several reasons:
Access considerations: 1. It is as useful face to face as in a digital environment; 2. It requires no student login, making it very quick to use; 3. the teacher can customize the link name, making it easier if students need to type the link; 4. it generates its own QR code for more easy access
Uses: 1. Successful synchronous digital sessions have students connect with their work and with each other. For example, the teacher suggests a quick activity and students post – opinions, pictures, etc- quickly in a place where others can see the work as it comes in; 2. Padlet allows users to quickly post the following: text, image, web link, live audio, live video, and even drawings! This diverse list is where it rises above similar apps. And… 3. Teachers can allow a variety of feedback options from peers: comments, likes, and votes, thus increasing collaboration and connection; 4. The Padlet can be used during synchronous instruction, or the same Padlet activity can spill into the asynchronous learning time as well. Consider these options for the ultimate digital gallery walk!
Comparison to Similar Tools
Flipgrid – my colleagues all know that Flipgrid is one of my favourite things, but there are times when I would choose Padlet. Padlet allows quick sharing of text, web links and drawings. While you can do all of those to some extent in Flipgrid, it has to be from within a video. Padlet lets you record a video, just like Flipgrid – peers can type comments in response on Padlet. There are fewer steps to posting a quick check in or response on Padlet. A Padlet board can be viewed all at once, allowing it to be a place where a teacher could post a library of web links or resources.
Wakelet- Wakelet wins in the library/curation/resource-sharing-from-a-teacher category, but I would go with Padlet to quickly collect resources from students. Padlet is quicker to access with a single link or QR code, and once a student posts their item, it is easier to write a text description than in Wakelet. Padlet and Wakelet offer similar viewing options – list, grid, etc and the teacher can reorganize use in either. Because Padlet doesn’t create thumbnails of its posts, longer posts can make a Padlet board unruly to organize.
It’s now been 2 or 3 weeks since the final episode of Tech Tips in 20 – a district-wide (and beyond!) 20 minute-ish tech tip session Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11 am that started soon after “COVID season”. This was yet another idea for delivering Professional Development to our very geographically distant school district.
In the past few years that I’ve been a district-wide Instructional Coach, we’ve tried out several models of offering virtual PD to circumvent the complexities of travel and time. You can read about some of the other things we’ve tried ~ each with their own highlights and varying degree of success. Why does it seem so hard to entice some colleagues into learning?
First we tried a district-wide bookstudy using Flipgrid; here is the original idea and mid-way musings and final take-aways. It’s so hard to get it right! Flipgrid bookstudy was awesome for some, but some quit participating because they didn’t like to be on video.
Then there was the district wide book study that we tried with Padlet – you can take a video, do audio or type – something for everyone. The format was a bit overwhelming and folks only typed- quite short responses that were difficult to generate conversation from/between. And, COVID happened before we could finish the book. As most of our participants were administrators, a book-study was no longer very high on the priority list as everyone pivoted to create a new normal!
And we went out on what seemed like a big limb with, the year-long district-wide PD Bingo which just ended 2 weeks ago. It was SO awesome to see how some teachers became so involved with learning risk-taking. Checking out their final artifact submissions was really motivating. But, by the end of the year, less than 10% of our staff made a submission to claim their “PD time” prizes. Is that successful?
And then there was the shorter book-like study that started rolling in February, but got cut short by COVID.
So then there was Tech Tips in 20. As I provide lots of technology assistance in my role as Instructional Coach, I was very busy helping teachers get their “sails open” during the first month of COVID (mid March to mid April). Our district colleagues did an excellent job of shifting to remote learning, and many were already meeting with students 2 or 3 days after shut down.
Why? What I noticed during that month was that there was such a range of questions about what I’ll call “support technology” – not the big lifters like Google Classroom or Seesaw (although this was where MOST questions came from!), but a wide variety of tools to enhance what teachers would do in those spaces. By mid April, teachers seemed to have time to catch a breath, and it also seemed like they were interested in the “shared experience” – what was working, or not working, for others.
How? Since it seemed like I was answering the same questions over and over, or repeating suggestions for certain tools or ways to use them, and making how-to videos almost daily, we brought those factors into conjunction for a twice weekly “tech tip coffee break” – Tech Tips in 20. We sent out a survey to help determine frequency, time of day and days of the week and a check list of possible tools, compiled the data…. and launched.
The format. In the end, we did two ‘shows’ a week via Google Meet for 9 weeks – 18 episodes in all. Anyone could attend – teachers, administrators, Education Assistants, or teachers from other districts. We set up a website with an advance “tool/tip” schedule and after each session I posted the mini-lesson slide deck and the session recording (usually!) in a Google Classroom – which felt a little more private for the folks who had attended the Meet. After a few episodes, I also wrote a brief mini-lesson blog post with links by request of educators in near-by districts who couldn’t access our Google Classroom. Check out the topic “Launch Pad” here.
By in-person attendance metrics, Tech Tips in 20 wasn’t a raging success. There were rarely over a dozen people in attendance; in fact, one week it was just me and Rebecca, the perfect-attender!
But, each episode was fun. There weren’t any times that I left feeling that the session had been a complete flop! People how had time conflicts contacted me often for reminders on how to access the recordings in Google Classroom. The episode mini-lessons posted on my blog continue to get occasional hits. I have a nicely polished library of quick tech-tip mini-lessons that I can use into the future!
Perhaps one of the nicest outcomes was the great camaraderie that developed between regular attenders who taught at schools hundreds of kms apart and had never met in person.
A few weeks in, I was really quite convinced that one could deliver a quality synchronous technology experience PD. This led to larger, hour-long PD sessions for our district on the big tools: Google Classroom, Seesaw and Flipgrid. Attendance at these far exceeded numbers that would have participated in in-person sessions offered at our central office. As such, I think that our far-flung teaching staff are now much more comfortable attending a virtual PD session and as a result, efforts to offer virtual/digital PD in the future will be far more successful than such attempts pre-COVID.
You have to start somewhere. Cathy, my co-coach and I, have talked about delivering virtual after school PD for two years already. But, there always seemed to be some reason that it wouldn’t fly. Tech Tips in 20 just “jumped out of the nest” – and it flew pretty well. So at this point, the plan in the fall will be to actually deliver that long dreamed of after-school PD, using the proven Tech in 20 model.
I am starting to accept (or concede?) that delivering far-reaching, impactful PD is just very difficult. There are teachers who are passionate about learning more about teaching and how to better craft and deliver learning experiences for students; and then there are teachers who aren’t interested in learning more about teaching. One of these group is larger than the other and without an external pressure or motivator will be stuck there. There might be a group in the middle, but it isn’t very large. But there IS a group of teachers who are intrinsically motivated to learn and improve, and this group is worth it. So even if numbers are low, if the learning and sharing is rich and rewarding, it is worth it for those who want to grow.
Watering the seeds in the fertile ground is more productive that watering seeds sitting on the pavement.
I’ve written here often about the different Professional Development plans that I’ve been hatching, often involving district-wide book studies with limited success. Yet, I keep trying! This current nugget of an idea has been in the back of my planning brain for over a year – an optional, after-school drop in PD or tech tool session on a specifically scheduled topic.
The concept: During COVID19 Remote Learning, teachers are on a variety of schedules. Yet it is not unrealistic to believe that teachers should get a “coffee break” while they are working from home, even if they never get the equivalent as an actual break while they are working at school. So, how about a working-learning-coffee break? Here’s the plan:
a quick overview of a tech tip or a tech tool, or maybe even a function of a tech tool
20 minutes – get in, get out
hands on playing and learning
say “Hi” to an on-line community, maybe develop an online PLN
takeaway a mini-slide deck with the basic links
The debut will be when my district returns from Easter Break – first run will be on Tuesday, April 21 at 11:00am MST.
Check out the schedule at www.bit.ly/tech20sched. Here are some of the Tools & Tips that I think we will cover:
Seesaw is hands down one of the BEST tech tools available for remote learning. From the expansive Activity Library to the ease with which even young children can independently add photo and video content, teachers with Seesaw are thankful for a platform that checks so many of the remote learning boxes.
But….as the student (and teacher) Journal streams fill up with content, I’ve had more and more teachers ask about “What to do with all of the stuff?” or “How can we find the things we are looking for?” or “What if something is in the wrong place?”
Tips and Tricks for Finding Items in Seesaw
1. Turn on “Show Add to Folders” for Students – this setting is found in your Class Settings wrench. This setting will force students to assign their work to a folder when they submit their work – you can tell them which folder(s) to tap in the instructions if needed. If they forget or mess it up, they can (or you can) easily fix it. This video shows STUDENTS how to use folders:
2. Create a “Teacher Material” Folder. When the teacher posts an assignment to the journal stream, consider creating and assigning to a folder called “Teacher Material” or something similar. This way, students can always tap on the Teacher Material folder to make sure that they haven’t missed anything from you.
3. Do you share your class with a co-teacher? Or with an Education Assistant? Check out this video for instructions on how to only view and approve the material in YOUR folder, while leaving the material for your co-teacher unapproved.
4. Teach students to access their past work by clicking their folders. If students click the folder beside their name on the right hand side of the screen, a list of all class folders will appear, such as Math, Science, etc. If a student then clicks on the Math folder, all of their Math submissions will appear from newest to oldest.
5. For younger students, add Emojis for Folders. 📚Reading. ➕Math. 🎵Music. ⛹Phys Ed. 🌡Science. 🌎Social Studies
6. Consider a “Best of”, or “Portfolio” folder. Because items can be in more than one folder, students can assign an item to a subject area, but they could also add it to a folder that is collecting their BEST work for a Parent Conference night or an End of Year Show Case. Even better, all of the items in a folder can be printed to a single .pdf file with the click of a single button, so this would be a great way to send home a paper version of portfolio as a year end souvenir of learning.
7. Use the “Private Folders” for notes that students can’t see. This feature is only available in Seesaw Plus and Seesaw for Schools. It is especially useful if there are co-teachers in a class. Teachers can communicate their private notes, updates or concerns about a student with other teachers who they may not always have time to connect with face to face. See instructions here.
8. Use folders for the power of the printable PDF that is generated. If students created an art project for a Valentines Day display, having each student only save this one item to a Valentines folder would mean that you could print all items with one single click. Some teachers even create a “Print Folder”. When the desired items are printed, they remove the Print Folder label from the item and the Print Folder is empty until it is needed again.
9. Some of you had parents that continued to submit student work via the Family App instead of getting connected with a Home Learning Code. If you want the material to go forward with the student and their Learning Journal, you have to transfer the items from the “Inbox” to the Journal Stream. Begin by going into your inbox and choosing the item. Click the item again to open it further, revealing 3 dots in the bottom left for a photo. Chose “Save” or, even more efficiently “Share”. Take the link that is generated and use it to “Add” a new item in the student’s journal – you can add a text or voice caption. If the item is a video, you can right click for a non-Seesaw menu that will give you a “save item as” option. Save it and “Add” and “upload” the item into the student’s Journal.
How to Organize Teacher Activities in Seesaw
In March 2020, Seesaw increased the number of items that a teacher can have in their Activity Library to 1000! Whether those are items that you have ❤️’d from other Seesaw teachers, or items that you have created yourself, that is a lot of items to have in a big unorganized pile – the kind of thing that drives lots of teachers CRAZY! Some solutions….
10. Just like you search the big Community Activity Library, search your own Activity Library using the sorting/filtering pulldowns to sort by grade and subject area; go further by typing a specific word (integers, thermometer, butterfly, etc.) into the search bar and your related lessons will be shown. And for some teachers, this still isn’t organized enough, so…
11. Teachers can organize their Activity Library into Collections – Math, Science, Special Occasions, etc. This feature feels a bit “hidden”, so watch the video below to learn how to organize your material into Collections. You can even put items into more than 1 Collection, but you have to do that in a separate step.
12. Update: Unfortunately, once you have sent an Activity out to students (and forgotten to set it up with a folder), there is no way to update the folder setting for each copy of that student activity en masse.
Think of it like a photocopier. If you make 20 copies of an original and distribute the copies to your students, if you make a change afterward to your original, it does not affect the paper that is already in the students hands. You would have to take a pen to each of those 20 student papers and make the change – same thing in Seesaw; you would have to change the folder settings for each individual assignment.
This video explains that process, and how to add the forgotten Folder Label to your Teacher Activity so that it is ready to go for next time.
Lots of teachers have recently jumped (or been thrown?) into using Google Classroom. During March 2020 this may have happened with very little training, and with little access to colleagues down the hall to call on for support.
Purpose: Provide 10 Google Classroom tips and short demo videos that will help Google Classroom run more smoothly for you and your students.
1. Solution for Adding Photos to Google Classroom. This is an especially big issue for parents of younger students who have to try and help their kids get photos into Google Classroom. It is not nearly as easy to add photos as it is on other platforms like Seesaw or Class Dojo. But there is a way that has brought a huge sigh of relief to many parents: since you take the photos on your phone, add photos through the Google Classroom app on your phone! Do note that while this also works for video, videos will take a long time to upload – use Flipgrid for video submissions instead.
2. Notification Overload. Whether you are a regular teacher or are a Classroom Education Assistant or an administrator who has been added as a co-teacher to several classes, you may feel especially over run with notifications in your email inbox. The setting for this one is tricky to find, so the video will help out with this. Do note that students will also stop reading notifications if they get so many, so show them how to adjust this setting as well. These settings need to be adjusted on an individual user level and do not apply globally to all people connected to a class.
3. Organize with Topics in Classwork. Teach your students to skip “Stream” and go straight to the Classwork Tab. In the Classwork Tab, new teachers often don’t realize that they can create Topics to organize materials, which roughly equate to folders. Create new Topics with the “Create” button in Classwork, or add a new topic when you create a new item. Topics can be moved around by dragging them up and down in the Classwork stream, or using the “Move up/down” feature found under the 3 dots on the top right.
4. Bookmark your Classwork Tab. Use the quick video tutorial below for a refresh on how to place a SHORT CUT or a bookmark on your Google Chrome bookmark bar. You can bookmark each of your frequently used Google Classrooms, and change the bookmarks every semester. Make it even better by bookmarking the Classwork page – this is the best trick for landing on the Classwork page instead of the Stream, so you will want to teach this to your students too!
5. Manage or “Turn Down” the Stream. Teachers new to Classroom often get frustrated with organization, because the Stream is the first thing they see – it populates by most recent and has limited ability to move or organize items. Coach your students to start in the Classwork Tab where work can be organized by Topics and moved around easily (see #3). To make the Stream less confusing, I recommend using the “Hide Notifications” setting – this removes everything but Announcements from your Stream.
6. Set Video Link to Start at a Specific Time. Videos are a life saver for remote learning, whether we use videos that we make or content that we find on YouTube. If you don’t have time to remake or edit your videos, use these tricks for videos that come from YouTube. This video will show how to have video links automatically start at a certain time – works great in Google Classroom and Google Slides.
7. Google Classroom – Guardian Invites. When a guardian accepts their Google Classroom invite, they can choose daily or weekly updates IF they have a google account. If they don’t have a google email/account, they will only receive the update weekly. Guardian updates include a list of missing work, upcoming work (based on due date) and class activity – they cannot actually get into Classroom to see their student’s work. Parents can unsubscribe anytime at the bottom of the update email.
8. “Marking” a PDF. This is certainly one of the most frequently asked questions: “How can I write on the students work so I don’t have to spend so much time typing comments”. 1. use an iPad and the Google Classroom app. It allows you to annotate on those .PDF files before you return them to the students. 2. install a PDF reader/modifier like Kami or the PDF extension for TextHelp’s Read and Write.
9. Differentiate when assigning. When you post anything in Google Classroom – assignment, material, quiz – the default as you are creating is set to “All Students”. But, if you click the little arrow beside “All Students” (look toward the top right) you can choose the specific students who should receive that item. This is great for those of you with multi-grade classrooms, for those of you running Book Clubs, a team with different practice groups – the possibilities are endless!
10. Delete a Class in Google Classroom. Have you made some practice Classrooms that are taking up space on your dashboard? You probably have figured out how to archive them to get them out of the way – find out how to delete them entirely! Do be sure that you won’t ever want to copy any of the material from them. If you might ever want to copy some of the assignments, just archive, don’t delete.
11. Integrate with other favourite tools. Use the power of Google Classroom as it integrates with so many other great tools. Many can send a link directly to Classroom: Flipgrid, Screencastify, Quizlet,… Many others allow you to pull your Google Classroom student list into their tool: Quill, CommonLit,
12. Bookmark the Classwork Page for your Classroom. Save yourself some clicks and stop having to click through the Steam page. This video from Kasey Bell @ShakeUpLearning shows you the steps.
Home Room teachers who are with the kids for the “business of the day” but no course work?
If so, you may have debated whether or not these folks should a) create their own classes, or, b) especially if you have the premium Seesaw for School, should they be a co-teacher with a homeroom class?
If you have wondered about how you will be able to sort through all of the work in a shared classroom, here is a brilliant solution as explained by Seesaw’s wonderful Angela Gadkey.
The lists of resources that every person and tech company is pushing out in an effort to help provide choice and guidance during this world changing #COVID19 crisis is wonderfully overwhelming. Here’s one more list.
A list of 20 great ways to use Flipgrid to connect (during a crisis or anytime!)
Great ways to create and maintain connection:
“Cafeteria” Grid to let the kids share jokes & talk (via @MrsDoherty_13)
#Fliphuntsfor a bunch of subjects/topics via (@kerszi) – click the pull down arrow for 13 possible topics; copy the grid, or have your students join the “Great Global Remote Learning Fliphunt”
A super easy way for the teacher to share a morning message
post birthday messages or songs for the birthday kid of the day
“tough times don’t last, but tough people do” –> have students share to an “I’m thankful for…” grid (#Thankful Thursday)
Have a pet or stuffed animal parade day grid (but limit it to 30 seconds!)
Celebrate Virtual School Spirit Days – crazy sock day – colour day – PJ day – messy hair day – western day – beach day – superhero day; use a 15 second video limit; create a highlight reel for the end of the day and/or have a prize draw for participants
Have Digital Dance Party; dancers could be kids, families, stuffies, pets! (via @kirstneill3)
Have a 1-minute Talent Show
Great ways to continue reading:
Teacher Read Aloud– a new book or chapter every day – just like carpet time! Be sure to turn on captions!
How about a different staff member every day reading a different bedtime story (via @BASDFtHill)
Connect with staff with a virtual book club – but of course the wine should be in a coffee mug!
Student book talks – what they are currently reading and why others should read it next
Great ways to have fun learning across subjects:
Have a music class “masked singer” Karaoke contest – a 1 minute song with an emoji covering your face – prizes for the winner (via @drmcclard)
Here are some activities for investigating the fascinating world of VR and AR in #EDTS325.
Download the app to your phone or tablet to explore the ever-expanding library. While the ultimate experience is with a VR headset, you can also lead expeditions with iPads; in fact, iPads are much better for the AR Expeditions.
Drop “Peg Man” onto Google Street View and 3-D walk the streets or halls of cities or museums. But even more powerful, use this FREE tool to capture your own 360 degree photos to add to VR creation tools like Google Tour Creator or RoundMe.
Find a favourite location on campus. In the Street View App, click the camera icon in the lower right corner and click all of the grey dots to stitch together a 360 degree image. Publish to the web or share privately to your instructor.
Google Spotlight Stories
We will invesitgate in the App and with the VR headsets. My favourites are Sonaria and Buggy Night.
Youtube versions. You can watch these versions of SpotLight Stories from your browser; be sure to try and “pull around” the screen with your finger or mouse – some are 3D.
Google Tour Creator
A summary of the tools from this post! Check out this link to see a quick example of how easily a 360 Google Expedition can be made using a 360 image taken with Google Street View.
The easiest – Flipgrid AR
With a single click and ‘batch printing’, you can print Flipgrid QR codes which allow Flipgrid videos to be viewed in Augmented Reality.
Catchy Words VR App
Simple but addicting. Free download. Read about some ideas for differentiation here.
This one is constantly improving. This can really change how we deal with our increasing number of students and families who do not have English as a first language. Super useful in your personal life if you are a traveller.
Download the Google Translate App and try it out by switching your settings to the language listed below the text. You may be blown away, like I was, as it instantly scans a pretty close translation. This AR (Augmented Reality) instant translation feature works for 27 of the more than 100 languages in the Google Translate library.
The Google Translate app (Android and iOS) currently supports:
more than 100 languages (103 as of February 2020)
can propose translations for 37 languages via photo
32 languages via voice in “conversation mode”,
27 languages via live video imagery in “augmented reality mode”
I’ve been playing with lots of new AR & VR tools lately as I’m simultaneously participating two learning opportunities that both revolve around AR and VR in Education.
A simple tool that I keep coming back to is Catchy Words AR App.
It’s a very simple premise, but here are some things that keep me coming back.
1. It is a very physical game -you must be on your feet and moving in order to play. You start by popping a bubble that floats around in your room. When the bubble pops, it releases letters into the air above a set of boxes where you place the letters (let’s call it a ‘word tray’) after you “catch” them with the iPad – kind of like catching a butterfly in a net.
2. It taps into your knowledge of how words are made. If you want to get technical, you could say that it calls on a student to think about vowel placement, vowel blends, consonant blends, graphemes, etc. When you catch a letter you have to decide which spot in the word it is most likely to go. If you get it in the correct spot, you get a thumbs up. If you don’t get thumbs up, the letter can sit there until you replace it with a different one. A timer keeps track of time, so it is advantageous to the player to consider where the letter will most likely go, instead of just trying to place it in each box until achieving thumbs up.
3. There are very few instructions and it is easy and intuitive to use. Perhaps a downfall is that it doesn’t seem to have a reset to “easy words” button, so as students progress they might end up, with long words they can’t read. It seems that you can hit the refresh button over and over until you get back to a word with 4 letters. (If someone has a solution to this, please let me know!)
4. This app could used for a literacy center. Here are some ideas about making it into a reading station with some accountability.