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!

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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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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.

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!

Trying Something New: District Wide Virtual Flipgrid Book Study

Our Prairie Rose School District is a geographically vast space in southeastern Alberta covering over 29,000 square kilometres. It borders Montana in the south and Saskatchewan in the east. Our central office is located somewhat centrally, yet when teachers assemble for meetings they travel from schools located over 2 hours from the north and almost 2 hours from the south-west. So, as you might imagine, gathering teachers for professional development is a challenge.

Fortunately, it is 2018  and it is time that we started to better leverage all of the amazing access that we have to digital technology.  Many of our small, remote schools connect students via video-conferenced classes, but it seems we are generally less likely to connect virtually as educators.  To remedy that, my fellow Instructional Coach and I decided that we would try to provide valuable PD that didn’t require travel. By what magic you ask? We are attempting some district-wide book studies using Flipgrid as our platform.  Some of our participants are already using Flipgrid in their classes or school, and some will be catching #FlipGridFever for the first time.

We are featuring two books that align with our district goals of Deeper Learning and Literacy.  Participants will have approximately 2 weeks to read a chapter/section and respond to their choice of discussion questions. Then, to make it a ‘conversation’, they have an additional week to ‘respond to’ the musings of at least two other educators on that same chapter.

 

Have you read the books and want to join the conversation? Our participants include teachers and administrators from primary to high school!

Out of district? Go to flipgrid.com and use this guest code to check out the conversation about Disciplinary Literacy: a8d729a2

In PRSD8? Click here to check out and/or join our Flipgrid discussion on Disciplinary Literacy (or join code fea160)    or here for Learning That Lasts (or join code 4171a7)

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Using Blogs as a Reflection Platform to Deepen Learning

A classroom or school-wide blogging platform is a great tool for having students reflect on their learning. The beauty is that it can be used in ANY subject area, and perhaps is even more powerful in subjects where students don’t traditionally “write” in class.  Scaffold the reflective process for students by providing a list of possible questions that probe into their learning process.

For younger students – use SeeSaw or Fresh Grade –   While many elementary classrooms use Edublogs, other popular options for younger learners include platforms like SeeSaw or FreshGrade.  These sites facilitate parent views more easily, and provide easier access to including video for pre-readers and writers. Check out a SeeSaw overview here (grade 1 class)

Check out these student examples. Notice how the learning is deepened and extended as students reflect on their process.

1. In Foods Class: Appetizer

Student Reflection: For an appetizer we made Beet, Goat Cheese, Arugula Salad with a vinaigrette as a dressing. This salad stimulates the taste buds and therefore is a great choice for an appetizer. It altogether is very colorfuland flavourful.

This salad has a variety of shapes, from the thin sliced apples to the long cut red onion and even further with the crumble of the goat cheese and the unique shape of the arugula leaves. The texture also varies in this appetizer. The red onions are crunchy along with the apples while the goat cheese is smooth and melts in the mouth. The vinaigrette coats the salad and gives the dish extended flavor and shiny appearance. The salad has many colors within it. The bright red of the beets contrasts with the green of the arugula leaves. Red and green are complimentary colors and brighten the dish altogether. The clean bright white of the goat cheese contrasts with the other garnish, craisins which is a dark red. A variety of sizes are also incorporated into this dish. The leafy arugula, the sliced apple, and the crunchy pecans all help bring balance to the dish. With the contrast in texture, shape, size and color this salad is a great example of an appetizer.

If I were to make this salad again I would add less of the vinaigrette to the salad as it was drowning in it. I would also think ahead and plan the plating so that more of the toppings for the salad are visible on the plate. One thing I would keep the same is the placement of the beets. I placed them directly on top of the arugula leaves which allowed the other garnishes to stay clean and free of the red beet juice which would dye them.

2. At the culmination of a semester-long Current Events Project

Student Reflection: I learned about multiple events that I was not even aware that they had occurred. First of all, China and the United States have a well rounded relationship with many trials and tribulations. They are not always the best of friends to one another and can be focusing on their own national interests at times. However, China and the United Sates have a very important and on going tie to one another. Trade between the two is so vast that China is the second largest trading partner next to Canada. The relationship is beneficial to both and that is why it is still and will continue to be a fulfilling relationship. One thing that I was unaware of was that NATO accidentally bombed the Chinese Embassy building while bombing Serbians that were in Kosovo. This was a substantial event for this relationship.

I definitely learned much more about the world than I did before. Before this project, I was unaware of the significant impact that international relations have on each country and even further how it affects those around them. Taiwan, for example, was something that I was familiar with but I was unaware of the depth of the issue. Because of the project I can tell others about what I have learned and further explain the controversial relationship between the US and China.

Despite me learning a widespread of events that occurred between two nations I found that after numerous amounts of research it appeared to be a continuous spectrum of the same issues. Trade between these two countries was one of the main necessities for the relation and other than that there was not much to the relation. Learning about the history was interesting but if I could have switched I would have preferred a more impactful and possibly devastating topic to explore. These issues although information can be harder to find, would be more interesting to me. If I could have switched I would have taken that opportunity.

Some of the biggest challenges for me was not necessarily finding the information needed but finding the benefits and draw backs that came with the relationship. I myself did not fully understand the relationship even after researching it because there was numerous opinions about it. I was unsure which to believe. Citing my information came easy to me and I found that part of the project time consuming but easily done. I was hardly ever stressed over this project and I believe that is because i took time almost every weekend to do a little bit of the work and when the checkpoint came I was already finished.

To finish, my project is obviously an on going issue/relationship and therefore much will change. I will most likely still hear about the issue/relationship but wont go as far as researching it on my own. I learned vast amounts of information about events that occurred in the world and between the United States and China than I probably ever would have with this project. Therefore, it was a great way to help students learn more about the world and some of the issues that are arising and those that are continuing.

 

3. After a group project in Psychology Class

 Student Reflection:  I think the most enjoyable part of this project was being able to come up with different ideas and using that to our advantage. For example, we chose to make the project funny and a bit goofy, but at the same time still taking into consideration it needs to be professional as well. I believe one thing my group did really great on is coming together and deciding which aspect is our best qualities to work on, in order to get the project done. The part of the project I am most proud of is how well the project came together. Saying that, sadly we did not decide to dress up. However, it still turned out very well and my group still shares laughs while reading this. Some of the challenges my group faced was being able to focus and not being able to contribute enough. Since our project was so small it was hard for everyone to have something to do at all times. I enjoyed working in a group because this was a huge task, and I found it really cool how we got to pick our own and communicate our ideas effectively.

Creating VR via Video Conference

I’ve just pressed SUBMIT on the 2nd of 2 Google Expeditions tours that I created with some Grade 7 students for Google Expeditions #LoveWhereYouLive BETA tour creating project.  This project was fascinating for me on many levels, but over the past two days of finishing up the project, I’ve been reminded of the power of technology to leverage learning in rural areas. beta process 2

The setting: The class that was joining me in this adventure is made up of grade seven students in two locations taught via video conferencing. To drive directly from one school to the other takes about 1.5 hours. If I drive to either school from my location it takes about an hour.  In total there are about 12 students: seven at one site and five at the other. These two groups usually only see each other via video screen so there was lots of excitement last week when we all joined together on an overnight adventure to take 360-degree camera footage and supporting regular pictures at some sites of cultural and historic significance in southern Alberta. Our school division has a set of Virtual Reality viewers and we use Google Expeditions extensively; we are excited to be able to create some Alberta content and hope that it will be published for others to use.

The marvels of technology: So after the field trip, we have the task of working to do the hard work of scripting and processing pictures and moving all of the pieces into the tour creator. All of this separated by great distances. This is where the marvel that is Google comes in. We had all twelve students working in eight documents where they were scripting and adding links to pictures. The Social Studies teacher and I, from different sites, were able to check in and provide guidance to all students. Additionally, all three sites were connected by video conference. It did take some work to get all students into the required incognito Chrome browser and then logged into the @dryeraseacademy.net account to actually create in the tour creator. The first day, of course, was the hardest, as logging into something new always is, but it was easier on subsequent days. It was a great lesson in resilience for students as we had some tour creator crashes along the way and work had to be re-done.