Technological Vocabulary

In the middle of the year, I embarked on a (short) journey, with students, to determine what methods of learning vocabulary were most effective. I wanted to reinvigorate my understanding of tech as a tool for engagement and learning in the way that @edtechteacher21 and the T21 Program had talked about. (Tech as tool- Tool List – One of my favorite resources.) We started with all of the technology I could possibly integrate, and whittled our way down to old school flash cards, no iPads allowed. (Disclaimer: This is NOT some peer-reviewed longitudinal study, but I do think it’s interesting…and for a teacher as researcher study, I don’t think it’s half bad.)

Method

Every week for three weeks, students learned five new words focused on their usage within the context of The Call of The Wild. I wanted to minimize the variables with the words, I figured limiting the number of words the students were expected to learn might help that.

Each week students worked with the words and technology in different ways.

Week 1Words on Quizlet, group work on words in context with photos in notability Call of the Wild Vocabulary 1 Student Work

Week 2– Words on Quizlet Only

Week 3– Words on hard copy notecards only!

Results

GIF of Ron Swanson making angry face while the camera zooms in.So, first of all, the students struggled with the vocabulary. I’m not necessarily proud of that fact, but that’s just the way things are at times, particularly in 7th grade. (Despite having only 5 words a week we still couldn’t beat 70% average on the summative quiz.)

 

Bar graph that shows student score percentages are higher when there was more technology in week 1 and progressively lower weeks 2 and 3 as we used less technology.
Average scores for the Socrative Quiz by Week.

All students took a self-paced 8 question multiple-choice Socrative quiz on three consecutive Fridays.   There were 72, 67, and 70 students involved in the Socrative quiz respectively and the results are shown in the most simplistic bar graph imaginable to the left. (I still needed help from multiple roommates, in particular, @ZavaskiMD ).  The descending numbers show how student scores decreased as I removed technology from the equation.

 

Conclusions

I have a lot of thoughts, on this preliminary data, and I probably should have continued this study longer, with fewer variables, so that I could have more conclusive evidence. I do think that the data does help to show that when students engage more fully (read: authentically) with words (or really anything academic) they are more likely to retain the information. In this case, it is hard to tell if the group work or the actual technological actions of filling out a graphic organizer with web images was more useful.  I like to think that it was a combination.  The students were able to talk out their understanding of the word using the graphic organizer in notability as well as insert photographs they found on the internet (or in the example above that they drew) that represent the definition.  This personalization of the vocabulary words through notability was the crucial piece, and the Quizlet was a nice addition for students to continue studying.

The conclusion that I came to here, is not that technology use increases student scores, but that authentically integrated technology that increases student discussion and engagement with the material is effective. Technology is not the beginning or the end; it’s a tool to help drive student engagement, and therefore learning.

Embrace the Future

As we enter into the “home stretch” of the school year, I thought I would share a few reflections on the research I have done this year.

A quick reminder for readers: I am a U.S. History teacher at Waltham High School and my research this year has been a qualitative analysis of technology integration in a classroom with no direct 1:1 technology. I have attempted to analyze the struggles, realities, and triumphs of embracing 21st century skills in a classroom with 20th century technology.

As mentioned above, I have attempted to integrate as much technology as possible into a classroom that has inconsistent access to 1:1 technology. The technology-based projects, assignments, and lessons that I created have primarily taken place in the four labs (three computer, and one iPad) in my school.

Part one of progress report I completed reflecting on my research question.
Part one of a “Penultimate” progress report I completed reflecting on my research question.

For the most part, I have been able integrate technology into my classes at least once each month. However, I have found it difficult to maintain an integrated classroom throughout the school year. Although applications have allowed me to sprinkle in technology, I am far from a place that is a truly integrated or “flipped” classroom.

As I reflect on the past year, I find it difficult to isolate just one or two reasons that I was unable to fully integrate technology into my classroom. I know that one of the reasons is that technology in my school is limited and in high demand. This leads to a race to secure coveted lab reservations. So, the lessons where I am able to fully integrate technology are only those which I am able to foresee weeks in advance and book space accordingly. For instance, I planned ahead to have my classes complete the Touchcast assignment and Paperless Research Papers. However, this advanced planning rules out spontaneity. If three days prior to a classroom lesson, I have a stroke of genius about a great way to integrate technology, I won’t be able to make it happen because the lab will already be booked.

The lack of 1:1 technology also limits my ability to give formative and summative assessments online. I have found this to be restrictive. For instance, if I did have regular access to 1:1 technology for my students, I would have been able to use Socrative, Poll Everything, and other similar applications more efficiently. (Aside: since most students have their own cell phones, I contemplated having students use them to access apps like the aforementioned. However, after some thought, I decided against it.)

Part two of my progress report. I reflected on a few successes and failures.
Part two of my progress report. I reflected on a few successes and failures.

Furthermore, it has been difficult to maintain a flow of lessons that embrace technology integration throughout the school year. I have struggled with the conflicting demands placed upon me as a high school teacher. Teachers are required to cover certain content by particular dates, as bookmarked by required student assessments. This demands a certain amount of teacher-centered learning. At the same time, however, teachers are encouraged to “flip” our classrooms and engage in student centered learned.

The assessments mandated by our school and state, remain traditional and primarily factual tests. For instance, this year I have been responsible for administrating four in-class writing assignments, a midterm, and a final. These are six assessments that took away from classroom time or interrupted the flow of a unit I was teaching. I am not saying that these assessments are worthless. But, in my opinion, they do not measure or give students credit for the skills and ideas learned through innovative, technology integrated lessons. Thus is life, but it hinders creativity.

I feel that we can never truly embrace 21st century learning as long as we continue to employ 20th century assessments. I believe this to be a fundamental problem facing education.

Despite these challenges, I do think I had a fair measure of success with integrating technology this school year. Although I felt restricted in my ability to secure lab time, I discovered useful apps like Google Forms, Google Classroom, and Remind. These apps allowed me to push my U.S. History students to use technology outside of school, for homework assignments. (I chronicled my trials with these apps in previous blog posts). Despite the challenge of sustained use, Google Forms and Google Classroom helped to transform a lot of my teaching this year.

Part three of my brainstorm where I reflected on the tension I felt this year as I attempted to integrate technology.
Part three of my progress report where I reflected on the tension I felt this year as I attempted to integrate technology.

Furthermore, at when point when I was able to plan far into the future, my Honor’s Level U.S. History II students completed projects solely using Touchcast. Touchcast allowed my students to participate in a “flipped classroom” while creating projects about a Cold War unit that in previous years, I had taught in traditional ways.

In the end, I have achieved one of my major goals for this assignment: next year, I will have at least two classes of tenth graders that come to my classroom with 1:1 iPads. I am sure there will be structural barriers to navigate, but I am excited to think of new ways to use this technology next year.

Moving forward, I have a few tools in my belt with some of the apps I tried and found success with this year. I have some interesting ideas about how to use iPads for formative assessments. Most importantly, however, I have a new way of thinking about my teaching. I maintain my ultimate goal of achieving a more technologically integrated classroom. I’m not there yet, but I’ll get there one day.

Paperless Research Papers

It’s March… which means we have entered the “Heartbreak Hill” section of the teaching marathon. Not only this month mark the longest stretch of uninterrupted teaching all year, it also marks the point where I embark on the yearly task of teaching research papers.

The month of March consists of me teaching students: why we cite sources, how to research with scholarly sources from peer reviewed databases, how to write introductions, why Wikipedia is not an approved source. And of course, how to capitalize letters… Just kidding on the last one.

In all seriousness, writing research papers with high school students can be frustrating because so much of what humanities teachers do during the writing process is antiquated. Students simply don’t understand the purpose of writing research papers. I think most students believe we are simply trying to make them jump through hoops. “Cite that source!” “Double space that paper!” “Size 12 Times New Roman Font!” These are actual quotes from a nightmare I had a few nights ago!

This is a copy of an assignment I provide to my U.S. History II Honors students. It describes details of the assignment and the requirements of the paper.

As a history teacher at Waltham High, teaching research papers has always been the Wild West. The only requirement placed on teachers is that we have students write a research paper at some point during the year. The assignment itself depends on the teacher. I usually write a traditional research paper with my students.

This month’s blog post illustrates my attempts to utilize Google Classroom and Google Docs in an effort for students to complete research papers without actual paper. I attempted to rely solely on these online platforms for the writing, submission, and grading of papers. Not a radical idea by any means, but also one I had not yet tried.

A screenshot of the first page you see when you enter a Google Classroom. It displays the active classes you have. A screenshot of a few assignments I posted on Google Classroom.

Google Classroom is an application featured through the Google Suite and it is offered strictly to teachers. There is no surprise in the name, it offers an online classroom similar to online platforms like Edmodo. Since Waltham High School (WHS) provides all students with a google account students simply have to log in to their Google Account to access the Classroom application. Students must use their WHS account to access Google Classroom, they would be denied access if they attempted to log in with a home account.

Once students log in, they can join a teacher’s classroom by entering a password that is provided by the teacher. Once inside the

More Google Classroom assignments. classroom, an email is sent to students whenever a new assignment is created by their teacher or when their teacher has returned or graded one of their assignments.

For the teacher, Google Classroom serves as a place to post assignments. Assignments can be anything from a discussion question that asks students to post a response, to an essay that needs to have a document attached.

Over the course of this year, I have used Google Classroom for small formative assessments. This allowed me to familiarize my students with the application, so that we wouldn’t have logistical problems when we depended on it later in the year.  The early use of Google Classroom was building towards my larger goal for the month of March: to use Google Classroom as the sole platform for interacting with students’ work while they wrote traditional research projects.

A PDF attachment of a reading and questions posted on my Google Classroom.

Throughout the year, I have created many different types of assignments for my students to complete in our Google Classroom. The first week of school my students posted answers to discussion questions, and followed links to surveys about themselves. Later in the year, students completed extra credit readings and attached answers to questions. Students also were able to access links to Google Form quizzes (mentioned in an earlier post).

This year I told students that I was not accepting hard copies of their research paper. I know this may seem like a radical move, but I think going paperless makes complete sense. It cuts out excuses about printers and allows students to turn in assignments from any device. Therefore, students were to type their research papers in Google Docs and submit them through Google Classroom. Throughout the month of March, I posted assignments that asked students to attach segments of their research project as we progressed to the final copy. In the end, each student attached a draft of their paper as well as a final, edited copy.

Unsurprisingly, I have really enjoyed using Google Classroom. For one, it has allowed me to go almost completely paperless. Instead of having students flood me with paper, I have electronic copies that I can edit and grade online through Google Docs. Students can see the changes or suggestions I have made and decide whether to reject or accept them.

A paper I edited and made comments on in Google Docs.Another paper I edited and made comments on in Google Docs.

More importantly, I find myself grading electronic rough drafts and final copies much faster than paper copies. Therefore, I am saving precious time. Furthermore, I can post students grades as soon as I am done grading and send them an email notification letting them know that I have finished reviewing their paper.

Overall, I think using Google Classroom for project submission andA screenshot of the screen a teacher sees while grading on Google Classroom. Google Docs for essay writing is a no brainer. I think the only drawback to Google Classroom is that sometimes students are stumped by its interface. I have had a few students unsure of where to post on the Google Classroom, so they simply email me the paper. It is a small frustration, but one I can handle.

In sum, I recommend going paperless and using Google Classroom and Google Docs to write traditional research papers. I think it saves time, cuts out excuses about printer and computer problems, and prevents students from losing papers or forgetting to save their papers. And of course, the trees will thank you!

 

Touchcast: A New Look for the Screencast

For this month’s experiment in technological integration, I attempted to use a fairly new app called Touchcast. I chose to employ this application after learning about it in a course I took last summer. I liked the functionality and uses of the app. So, over the past few weeks, my students and I have been experimenting with this new app in an effort to “semi flip” my classroom.

Touchcast is new take on screencasting. For those of you that have used Explain Everything, you will be familiar with the idea of screencasting. Simply put, screencasting is when a user records their actions on their computer screen, creating a step by step video. Touchcast takes this idea to a different level. Instead of recording one’s computer screen, Touchcast allows its user to record their iPad screen. Moreover, Touchcast allows users to video record themselves or video record other individuals. While recording, or after recording is finished, the user can overlay images, more video, text, maps, and pretty much any other web based visual representation.

This is extremely useful for the classroom teacher, because once a Touchcast is finished, it can be viewed by members of the class. The reason Touchcast is so appealing is that students not only learn from making the project, but they can then view classmates’ projects and manipulate the images, watch embedded video, play with maps, games and any other vApps. (TouchCast vApps are actually just interactive web pages added on top of video. Usually, videos exist in their own box on web pages). Therefore, a finished Touchcast is more than just a static video; it is an interactive experience. The better the Touchcast is made, the more there is for the viewer to learn and do.

If all this sounds sort of complicated, it’s because it kind of is. The app is certainly a new way of thinking about technology, and there is a steep learning curve for students. Therefore, I knew I would have to give my students ample time to work on their Touchcast projects. I chose major events of the Early Cold War as the topics that my students would be covering. Therefore, my students would be building Touchcasts about the Early Cold War in place of the lessons that I would normally teach on the subject. This is the “semi flipped” classroom I mentioned earlier.

After explaining the uses of Touchcast to my students, and how it is different from a regular documentary, we embarked on a day of experimenting with the app in our school’s iPad lab. As you may recall, I am attempting to integrate technology in a classroom that does not have 1:1 technology. Therefore, lab time is essential. For the first day, students were instructed to play around on the app. A few students made goofy videos about cats and cute babies, etc.

Microsoft Word Version of the Project: Touchcast Project

I thought that the next day would be best spent researching appropriate, scholarly sources and having students write scripts to use when broadcasting their Touchcasts. I think these are important skills for juniors in high school to be able to effectively demonstrate. Accordingly, we spent the next two classes in computer labs, not to be confused iPad labs. Students researched their topics on history databases and began scripting and blocking their Touchcasts.

After these two classes, we returned to the iPad lab. I planned to give students three class periods to complete their Touchcasts, and on the fourth day, we would watch and manipulate the Touchcasts for an entire period.

The first two days of our iPad lab time went well. Students were still researching, finding vApps, and beginning the process of taping their Touchcasts. There were a lot of mistakes made, videos lost, iPads that ran out of battery, and problems that my students and I had to brainstorm how to fix (more on this in the next paragraph). Nevertheless, on the whole, the process was going smoothly.

As I mentioned, there were many unforeseen problems that we had to figure out. One of the biggest challenges was how to save student projects that were created on iPads that they did not own. One of my biggest fears was that students would work on the communal iPads only to have their projects deleted or the iPad they were working on disappear overnight. To avoid this potential issue, I had to find a way for students to upload their Touchcasts to the “cloud.” While my students were taping and scripting, I spent an entire period searching Touchcast for a solution.

I discovered a solution which proves that the fine people at Touchcast had thought about groups like mine that do not have 1:1 technology. Touchcast allows students to create their own Touchcast channels. Each of my student groups created one of these channels with a unique username and password. Each day when students entered the iPad lab, they would log in to their channel. After working on their Touchcasts, students would then upload their updated video to the cloud. After uploading their video, they are given a code by Touchcast that allows the user to pull the video down from the cloud to any iPad. This process allowed us to feel confident that student projects would still be there when we returned to the lab the next day.

Then, external events interrupted the momentum we had created. We had two, back to back snow days during classes where lab time was scheduled. Consequently, my due date was pushed back and we had a serious time crunch, because I wanted to finish the project before winter break. When we returned to school after the snow days, I gave my students two additional class periods to finish their projects. I explained that any additional work beyond those days would have to be done on their own time.

It was at this point that some of the pitfalls of the Touchcast App were exposed. Students began having difficulty uploading images and videos because of our school’s web filter. (I always joke that we are like Communist China). Other students were losing segments of their video or having difficulty understanding how to use the editing tools for Touchcast. That being said, I think many of these problems are ones that you have to expect when you are using new technology.

Shockingly, one student expressed to me that they wished they had simply written a research paper instead. I told the student not to worry, because we will be doing that next month!

After seven lab periods, students were finally finishing their projects. We had a few final hiccups were students had difficulty uploading their completed videos to their channels. However, by the last lab day, I had all of the completed Touchcasts.

In the end, I was satisfied with the final products. I have to give my students credit for creating a project using an application that was completely new to them. My students navigated a big learning curve, largely on their own, where they had to tape, edit, and imbed images and clips into a video. Impressively, they successfully did all of this and with only a few complaints.

The final projects all have issues. Some are not edited together tightly enough, and others lack a coherent story or do not include enough vApps. However, I think each video displays different strengths of the Touchcast app and the student groups that made them. Some Touchcasts use a lot of images and video clips, while others are more like documentary style videos. In the end, students provided solid content and varied videos. I think that they also enjoyed tapping into their creative side to present on the Historical event they had researched. I would definitely use this app again in the future. Furthermore, I can now say that I know how to use it.

Check out the finished videos below!

Truman Doctrine & Marshall Plan

Berlin Blockade & Berlin Airlift

Korean War

NATO & Warsaw Pact

Massive Retaliation & Brinkmanship

Duck & Cover – Civil Defense in the Nuclear Age

U2 Incident

 

Remind 101: Remember to Remind

After a frustrating morning with one of my U.S. History II courses, I began to brainstorm ways to increase my students’ achievement. One of the ongoing problems I was having with that particular class was homework completion.

This doesn’t just mean that students weren’t completing worksheets or short-term assignments at home. This encompasses all forms of work that should be done outside of the classroom. Short-term assignments, long-term projects, and studying for tests and quizzes were all lacking. This was reflected on both formative and summative assessments. Although students were coming to class and participating, not much was being done at home and this took a toll on their grades. This posed a significant, but all too well known problem.

I ruminated about the problem for most of the day and brainstormed ways that I could help my students complete work at home. However, I couldn’t come up with any solution short of following students home and haranguing them to do their work. When I was teaching this class the next day, I asked about their lack of homework completion. A few students expressed that they had every intention of doing their work, but would forget about the assignments when they got home. The rest of class was silent or avoided my gaze.

It was at this point that I realized it may be time to put to use an app I learned about in 2014. In an effort to improve the amount of homework completed by one of my U.S. History courses, I turned to using the “Remind” app. Remind allows a teacher to communicate with a class through a third party messenger service. In essence, Remind allows a teacher to send information directly to a student’s mobile phone, tablet, or computer from their own device. The important part about Remind is that it keeps the phone number of both the student and teacher confidential. This allows for safe direct communication without the fear of the student or teacher abusing the knowledge of the other’s mobile phone number.

I then explained the concept of the app to my class. At first, my students lacked enthusiasm, but some of them eventually warmed up to it. Originally, due to a lack of proper explanation, I think my students thought I was going to be texting them to remember assignments. I had to explain to them all the concept of the app and the way it allowed all involved to keep their privacy.

After I got students on board with the concept of the app, I began the sign up process.  First, I had to download the Remind app for my iPad and create my class. There are then a few ways that students can begin using Remind. Students can text a number and message that is provided by the teacher or download the app to their mobile device to enroll in the teacher’s class. Both of these methods allow the student to receive messages from the teacher.

Remind App

Since my students do not have school issued 1:1 technology, only those with mobile phones or personal iPads can participate in the use of the Remind app. This is a downside, but there is not much I can do about it. Back to the process, I also used my desktop pc to print out handouts that explain Remind and how to sign up (see image below). It seemed as though many students signed up right when I handed out the sign up leaflet. I thought we were off and rolling!

Sign Up 1

When class ended that day, I went into the Remind app to check on how many of my students had signed up. To my dismay, only two students had done so! I had spent the last fifteen minutes of class explaining the app and setting it up. My students had seemed on board, and I thought they would be relieved to get reminders about their assignments. I guess I was wrong. At this point, I decided to wait another day to see if my students would sign up over night… I got one more student by the next morning.

Sign Up 2

The next day, I confronted my class about why they had not signed up. I got varying answers, but it seemed like some students were wary about getting reminders, and others simply weren’t interested. I got a few more students to sign up that morning after I explained the concept again. However, I certainly couldn’t force the rest of my students to sign up. It was at this point that I accepted the fact that the app was not very popular with my class and that I wasn’t going to be able to get all of them to embrace it. I contemplated contacting parents for support, but I eventually decided against it. I imagined trying to explain to parents how Remind functioned, and shuddered at the thought of having to explain all of the nuances multiple times. Right or wrong, I ultimately decided against it.

At this point, I decided that since some students wanted to receive reminders, it was worth using the app with them. Over the next few weeks, my small cadre of students and I experimented using Remind.

It didn’t go well.

The reason why is slightly embarrassing, and foolish. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember to send the reminders. I would write a note in my lesson plan book, and set reminders in my mobile phone, but I still couldn’t seem to send the reminders out.

Don’t get me wrong, I was able to send a few. These reminders told students to complete their homework or study for a test.

Reminder 1

However, nine times out of ten, I would completely forget. I know this seems odd, but after a day of teaching, lesson planning, grading, and dealing with other school responsibilities, when I got home, reminding students to do their homework was the last thing on my mind. I would be cooking dinner, catching up with my spouse, watching a favorite TV show, or reading a book.

Reminder 2

Remind typically didn’t enter my mind. Maybe this says something about my ability to separate work and personal life (a healthy ability I think). In full disclosure, this whole blog post has been written with the intent of sharing this message: I DON’T WANT TO USE REMIND! Phew, I feel so much better. I had to get that off my chest. This app, although wonderfully made, well meaning, and valuable, is not for me.

My students will have to use their agenda books, personal reminders, and my reminders in class to remember to do their work at home (GASP!). Furthermore, I’m not sure that it should be my job to remind students in the evening that they must complete work.

I literally can’t go home with my students to make sure they complete work, and maybe that is a good thing. I think two important skills that should be learned in high school are organization and responsibility. Students must learn ways that they can remember to do assignments or tasks. There will come a time in their lives where teachers and parents won’t be there to hold their hands.

Moreover, maybe some of my students don’t want to be reminded or don’t want to complete their assignments. I will do all I can to motivate my students and teach them the skills they need to be a successful in my class. However, I can’t make them do their homework. I’ll cajole them, beg, plead, bribe them with candy, but this experiment taught me that I’m not going to force students to remember to complete their work.

In conclusion, Remind may be a helpful tool for some people and in certain instances. For example my coworker and I use it with a History Club we co-lead, and it is great way to remind students of meetings and events. However, it is not an app I want to employ on a day-to-day basis as a way to remind students to complete their homework.

Reflecting on the Multimodal: Classwork 1/5/16

One common practice of ELA teachers in our district (and I assume in many others) is to have students look at various examples of writing and grade that writing in relation to some type of rubric or scale. Generally, it is represented in the form of an Open Response assignment. In these situations a student is provided with a prompt and the student writes a response that makes a claim, stance, or opinion, and supports that assertion using evidence from the text(s) at hand. In 8th grade we do this a lot, and it is usually done by handing out a packet of writing samples and having students score that packet. In turn students use what they learned for scoring the samples to better their own writing, addressing the same prompt as a rewrite of their original work. While I do like the physical process of scoring, I have always struggled how to exactly incorporate tech into this common classroom activity.

I decided to see if I could somehow get students to do their analysis and reflection on some writing samples using Explain Everything via their iPads. Then, I would ask them to create a “smashed” video in iMovie that showed a collection of their responses to the writing samples. My students sit in table groups of 4-5, so I figured that if I gave each student a sample, they could individually reflect on these separate writing samples, and then compile their reflections in a final video that would move through all writing samples. In order to get a better perspective on this process and to see if the tech would help aid their understanding of the texts at hand, I invited Lucy Clerkin to come in to my classroom to help videotape and reflect on the process.

So, the lesson happened on January 5th and students had previously written an Open Response the night before that asked them to explain how language is a barrier to communication in a poem called “Elena” by Pat Mora and the vignette “No Speak English” from The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, our primary classroom text at this time. This is what students saw on the board when they walked into the classroom on that day. And this is what they saw on Google Classroom, which is my favorite way to collect assignments and post instructions/classroom materials. Overall, the directions asked students to split up 4-5 responses among themselves, pull in the PDF of the response into Explain Everything, along with the accompanying rubric, then analyze, score, and reflect on the samples. When they were each done, one member of the group would compile the videos, while the rest began to work on their rewrite of the open response.

During the lesson the only whole class instruction that I provided was to read over the rubric and directions very quickly. While I did move around the classroom providing feedback and some clarification, I had put up samples of what their videos should look like and how to properly put PDFs into Explain Everything, so students had very few questions about what they should be doing. Here are some stills from the videos Lucy and I took:

What was great about the lesson was that students seemed immediately engaged. They quickly read the 4-5 samples and began discussing. Then, once they knew which sample was the one that they were responsible for, they split from one another and got busy analyzing their samples in Explain Everything. Watching the videos, most of them just show me walking around saying a few things to students while they primarily “talk to” the texts in front of them. Some students broke from their group and used their headphones to get better audio or asked one another questions about how to get certain features of Explain Everything to work. After my instruction, the majority of the class time for students is spent in relatively deep engagement with the text and rubric. Lucy and I both felt that Explain Everything was effective in getting the students to make meaningful analysis of the samples. Most groups were able to turn in complete videos by the end of the period and get to work on their rewrite. If they were not turned in during the period, due to processing/upload time in Explain Everything or Google Drive, groups made sure to get it done by the end of the day. Every single group turned in one by the end of the day.

It was easy to understand what I thought about the tech in this activity, but I also wanted students to let me know how they thought it went. Therefore, I created a survey for students to complete about the activity, as well as allowing students to be interviewed about this classwork for extra credit points. The survey can be seen here: “2015 – 2016 Student Survey #1 – Google Drive”.

Overall, students felt that this process of using Explain Everything in order to critique the writing samples was beneficial to helping them understand how to complete the Open Response rewrite. In fact, 83% of students felt that it made them think more deeply about the samples and their own writing. Many students said that they really like rereading in Explain Everything because it helps them “catch” their grammar mistakes and realize when their wording doesn’t necessarily make sense. The amount of positive responses I received was great, especially since I was unsure about what students would think. Here are some samples of the feedback I received from students (click to see full images):

I definitely plan on completing similar activities, video taping, and asking students to give me some feedback on how the tech may or may not help them with a classroom activity. Besides hopefully improving access and increasing the depth of knowledge to the CCSS, I will hopefully better develop my own metacognitive skills about my practices, as well as developing meta skills in my own students. It is clear that my students are willing to reflect on our classroom experiences, and they appreciate that I am asking them their opinions in order to make my own practice better. I have been videoing a lot, and I think they are finally getting warmed up to the idea.

Big thanks to Lucy for helping me with this one.

 

Multimodal Teaching Strategies

Hey, I’m Brian Campbell, and this is my 3rd full year teaching English at the McDevitt Middle School. Since last year’s complete 1:1 iPad initiative at our school I have used technology to engage my students in disciplinary content by offering a multimodal approach to standard, print-based texts. Tasks have led to the creation of new media artifacts like video collages and multimedia interpretations, created both by individual students and student groups, with all media stemming from analysis and extension of the original text. This approach has allowed my students to access their digital literacies from outside of school and bring them directly into my classroom, seemingly using them to add additional meaning to print-based texts. For example, here is a Digital Interpretation exemplar I made for a vignette from The House on Mango Street:

MANGO – Digital Interpretation – 1080p

While this certainly appeals to the senses of sight and hearing, it is not exactly clear in what ways these multimodal teaching strategies have made students’ access to print-based texts clearer. Even though students are clearly engaged and making meaning from having access to multimodal approaches, it is not particularly clear how students may be accessing the Common Core State Standards through these approaches. What I really want to have is an articulated list or explanation of exactly what these strategies add to students’ meaning. Moreover, the multimodal approach is currently unlike the ways in which student learning will be measured by the state via standardized tests. Although there is room for digital presentations and interpretation in the CCSS – for the most part most standardized assessments are based primarily on print-based literary and informational texts. Therefore, these thoughts got me thinking more about students overall approaches to text and their access to the standards. In what ways are multimodal approaches helping them to access the CCSS? Do students feel that they are getting life-worthy skills from our multimodal exercises? In what ways are students able to process text that may not be just in print? Here is an illustration of my thinking:

New-Mind-Map_4po4jqx6

So, my final question is In what ways do multimodal teaching strategies aid students in their comprehension and analysis of print-based texts? From this, I hope to gather data that merges the perspectives of my students and my own. I am not sure if this question will remain the same throughout the whole project. However, I do know that I need to start collecting some data.