At the onset of this experiment, I suspected that the answer to my “is using technology more engaging” question would be affirmative. But the data suggests that it is a vibrant, enthusiastic, resounding “wahoooooo!” from my students. I have shown them myriad tools in the Google suite with which we have accomplished all sorts of feats. They have puzzled through creating Google drawings without many directions, they have created and taken surveys, they have inserted images, they have conquered the Google classroom. But most of all, they have written. Much like I am doing now, they have composed on the keyboard happily tapping away at their desks. I see them actively working. I see them able to switch from screen to trade book, searching for quotes, and back to screen. But the most exciting to see is the data here collected from our Google Form:
Will They Surprise Me?
The next piece of data to collect, though, will be the pièce de résistance (I wonder whether my students might use the read/write tools to look that little french number up! — because THEY CAN!). The “end of year” assessment piece in which I will ask them to hand write and then type two pieces of writing. I will be asking students to do this in a week or so, as they are pretty fried from standardized testing.
Next Year Will be a Breeze!
On that testing note, after this experience of closely observing students working (and working diligently!) using the Chromebooks, I am no longer anxious about what they can accomplish online next year when they are asked to compose on a keyboard rather than with a #2 pencil.
On Thursday, October 20th, Liz Homan and I attended the MassCUE/M.A.S.S. Technology Conference at Gillette stadium. This was my first time attending the annual techie conference, and I must say, it did not disappoint. Liz and I presented about our work with the Waltham Integration Network (WIN Project) during one of the break out sessions and took advantage of attending other break out sessions led by teachers and technology specialists as well.
I had an amazing time at the conference. I figured I would share a little bit about what I experienced there as well as what Liz and I spoke about about during our presentation.
Here is a running diary of my MassCUE day:
7:35 AM: Arrive at Gillette Stadium, I am way too early. There are like five cars in the parking lot. I decide to play around on my phone and act like I am doing something important until more people arrive and I deem it suitable to enter the conference. Also, this is the closest I have ever parked to Gillette Stadium in my life.
7:45 AM: Time to check-in to the conference. They have a high tech system that scans a QR code on your phone and then prints out your name tag. I was wowed, but then again, my school was built in 1967. It doesn’t take all that much to impress me. After a long escalator ride, I end up on the main floor where they have the technology exhibitions.
7:50 AM: I wander around looking at all the technology offerings. Right away, it becomes apparent to me that education has become a serious market for technology companies. Everyone from Apple to Google has a table or leads a breakout session at MassCue.
8:15 AM: I realize that the conference is spread out throughout the entirety of Gillette Stadium. A quick analysis of the schedule tells me that Liz and I will be presenting in a luxury box… I quickly realize this will be the only way I ever set foot in a luxury box…
8:30 AM: It is time for the keynote speakers. There are a bunch of people lined up to talk about the importance of technology integration. The highlight is a speech given by a ten year old child prodigy, Collin Keegan. He talks about the gamification of education, teaching students at their level, and engaging students with fun activities. Collin has an interactive slide show where he displays his many passion projects: building a treehouse, starring in a “kid science” web series, building science projects, and flying a plane! Yes, I said flying a plane. Beyond making me feel quite inadequate (what have you done today?), he made many good points about the need for education to be entertaining and engaging. That being said, if I had a little more space here, I would push back on Collin’s line of thought for many reasons. I don’t think that learning should always be fun, because life isn’t always fun. However, I can leave that discussion for another day. Collin still kicked butt!
9:15 AM: I peel away from the larger group in search of a breakout session. I must say that I wasn’t overly impressed with the selection designed for teachers. In many ways, I think this conference is geared more toward administrators that want to buy new toys to their districts (more power to them). Like many conferences I have attended, I think this conference suffered from some less informative presenters. The first breakout session I attend is about using technology in a history classroom. The presenter simply lists websites they have used with their district. I leave halfway through this particular presentation, because I felt like I am not learning anything new. Upon exiting the room, I realize there are no other sessions that I want to attend, so I go back in with my tail between my legs.
10:45 AM: I attend a breakout session about maximizing productivity by using all the tools within Google Suite. I think this one will be right up my alley, because I frequently use Google Suite with my classes. This presenter is must better than the first, but much of what they talk about has little relevance to my classroom. First of all, the presenter starts with the premise that teachers/administrators receive hundreds of emails a day. I don’t know about other teachers out there, but I don’t receive that many daily emails to which I have to respond. Also, I am extremely Type A when it comes to my inbox, so I try to clear out emails after I complete them. This presenter does offer a good idea, however, about creating draft emails that you can reuse to send parents updates about their students. It seems so obvious in hindsight, but having a few stock emails would definitely speed up the process.
12:00 PM: At this point, Liz and I meet up in our luxury box to run through our presentation, and connect her computer to the AV system. The MassCue technology specialists are incredibly helpful by providing us with the appropriate adapters. As we set up, a few spectators arrive for our presentation. Almost immediately, we realize that Liz has connections with one of the people in the audience, Nicole Hart. Nicole is the Instructional Technology Specialist at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. Making connections is one of the best things about MassCue, and a key to teaching and integrating technology. After our presentation, Nicole followed me on Twitter, and now we share lesson ideas and have Twitter conversations about technology integration.
12:20 PM: We begin our presentation a little late, because we end up having fewer people in our audience than we would have liked. This was quite unfortunate, because Liz did a great job putting together an excellent talk. Oddly enough, however, I end up knowing two people in our audience. One attendee is a former assistant superintendent for Waltham Public Schools (Alec Wyeth), and the other is a principal from Dedham (Jim Forrest). I found it funny that three people connected to WHS serendipitously ended up attending our presentation.
12:30 PM: Liz begins our presentation and talks about the importance of making technology integration accessible to all teachers in a school. Through her doctoral studies, Liz discovered that teachers often feel disconnected from technology integration or from teachers that are especially good at integrating technology. The WIN Project was the genesis of Liz’s research. Her goal is to demystify technology integration by creating cohorts of teachers that research and blog about technology. This will create a network of core teachers that can share discoveries, vent, and model technology integration. Liz’s goal is for the core network to grow within a school until it becomes the new normal. That being said, I think Liz hopes that our network can grow beyond Waltham, to other districts in neighboring towns.
12:50 PM: I share my part of the project with the audience. I talk about my research goal (see previous posts), and my successes and struggles throughout the process. I talked about what I’ve learned, and the importance of the project for me. The main point I make is that being involved in the WIN Project held me accountable. I had to come up with ideas for integrating technology because I had to blog and create videos. This lit a fire underneath me to come up with new ways to integrate technology. I need that kind of motivation.
1:20 PM: Liz and I finish our presentation, and we head to lunch with our new friend Nicole Hart. As we walk to lunch, we hear blaring hip hop music. Nicole explains to us that this type of loud music was playing the day before as well. It turns out that the Patriots are practicing on their practice field and simulating crowd noise by playing loud music. Without thinking, I pull out my cell phone to get a picture of my favorite football team. It never occurs to me that this is a bad idea…. Until I am yelled at by Patriot personnel. They explain to me that what I am doing is prohibited. After I delete the image, I have to prove to said Patriot personnel that my phone is void of images or video. The Patriots are protective of their practices and of keeping their playbook secret. I assume they didn’t want me to tape anything that could be intercepted by rival teams. I would never do this, but I guess the Patriots feel like they have to be extra careful. After all, they would know…. 😉
1:35 PM: Liz, Nicole, and I eat lunch from a picked over MassCUE buffet (It just so happens that our breakout session was in the middle of lunch… thanks scheduling folks), and chat about technology integration. I meet a few people from universities that offer technology courses and degrees. Maybe there is one in my future?
2:00 PM: The day ends for Liz and I so we go our separate ways. Time to sit in the famous traffic that plagues Gillette Stadium’s surrounding highways.
In the end, I had a great experience at MassCue. Although the presentations I attended were not as informative as I had hoped, I enjoyed presenting and making connections with technology specialists. I think it is important for teachers to get out and see what other schools are doing, and this was a step in that direction for me. I hope to attend this conference again in the future. Maybe next time Liz and I can present to a larger audience, because I think we had a lot of valuable things to say about technology integration.
I am embarking on my second year of the Waltham Integration Network (WIN) project, and I am now the master of technology… just kidding. If this is your first time reading my blog, then you may be unfamiliar with my research question from the last year. Let me catch you up.
As I entered the WIN project last year, I was frustrated with the technological limitations of my classroom. As a teacher of sophomores and juniors, I was a year away from having students who brought 1:1 technology into the classroom with them. Waltham Public Schools has been slowly working toward 1:1 technology, providing middle school students with iPads that they then bring to the high school with them. Therefore, I made it my mission to integrate technology into my classroom as much as possible, given the access limitations.
My research question became centered around the struggle to integrate technology into a classroom where all of the technology was external. I had to sign up for computer and iPad labs or my students had to access technology at home.
Overall, I feel I was pretty successful last year. I introduced many of my students to Google Classroom, and embraced all aspects of the Google Suite: Slides, Sheets, Forms, and Docs. For example, my students completed paperless research papers. In addition, I had my students create screencasts with an app called Touchcast. Lastly, I practiced using Remind with my students (I didn’t like it…shhh, don’t tell anyone).
As I mentioned in my first ever post, part of my research question was spurred by fear. I always want to be on the cutting edge of pedagogical techniques. I fear being left behind when the rest of the profession moves on to different teaching styles and techniques. So, I intentionally created a goal that would push me out of my comfort zone.
Now in year two of my research, I was fortunate to welcome a sophomore class with 1:1 iPads into my classroom this fall. Therefore, I am now straddling both worlds. I have two classes of students with 1:1 technology and three without. Needless to say, next year will see all of my classes with 1:1 technology.
Hence, my goal for this year is to increase the use of technology with my sophomore class. I will continue in the same manner as last year with my juniors. I want to start out the year by substituting and augmenting my use of paper by using apps like Google Form to produce Exit and Entrance tickets. Hopefully this will allow me to speed up my grading and allow me to provide more efficient feedback to my students.
However, as the year progresses, I want to think about more sophisticated ways to use the 1:1 technology my sophomores have. Yes, I’m talking the SAMR model, for all of you technological folks (Liz Homan is doing a little dance). I want to modify and redefine what I do. I want to enhance student learning and begin to approach and embrace more Project Based Learning.
Tune back in here each month to see how my goal plays out!
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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 and 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!
According to Gizmodo’s Jamie Condliffe the most common passwords of 2014 were “123456” and “password.” After spending the last month attempting to use Google Forms with my students I can understand why the general public uses these simple passwords. I think it boils down to one undeniable fact; people struggle with remembering passwords. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that students have trouble remembering their passwords for any and all online log ins required for their school work.
By far the biggest frustration that I have had over the past month involves my students’ inability to remember their Google account password. At this point, I would think this would be a pretty simple task. I assume most classes are using the full package that the Google Suite provides to schools. However, students really have trouble with password recall. Maybe this is due to the relatively new use of technology at the high school. Maybe there is a disease affecting the short-term memory of America’s youth. I’m not sure, I’m not a doctor.
Password problems aside, I have had a lot of success implementing Google Forms in my U.S. History classes. I have used them across all classes and levels. However, I have only really used them as formative assessments, comprehension checks, and small quizzes.
For those of you unfamiliar with Google Forms, it is an application that is a part of the Google Suite. Google Forms on their most basic level act as information collectors. Similar to polling applications like Survey Monkey and Poll Everywhere, anyone can type in the specific link for the form or survey you created and complete it. A Google Form will collect all the data for you and organize it in a Google Sheet (Google’s version of Microsoft Excel). The creator of the form can then analyze the information. One nice aspect of using a Google Form over other applications is that it was created to sync up with your Google Drive where it stores all incoming information on the “cloud”. Furthermore, if your school has the full Google Suite, your Google Form can be made accessible to students in your network only. They have to log in to their Google Account to access your Google Form, and their name and information is automatically recorded.
Google Forms can be used to collect student contact information, gauge mood or comprehension right after an activity, as formative assessments, or on a more complex level, allow students to create their own “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories. See the attached article for eighty other uses of Google Forms.
As you may recall, I’m the guy attempting to research the best ways to integrate technology in a classroom that has no 1:1 technology. Therefore, I am attempting to use any and all technology that students have. Since our society currently delivers infants with cell phones in hand, I figured that I would begin by trying to use the technology that most students bring to class, and have at home.
The one downside to this approach is that not all students have cell phones with the capability to access the Internet. However, I have found that all students have access to a cell phone, tablet, computer, or can use our library after school to complete a Google Form that I have created.
As stated above, I have most commonly used Google Forms to create small assessments that students can take outside of class. I have often used these assessments as quiz grades or simple comprehension checks. Thus far, I have created Google Forms that covered topics ranging from the Great Depression and the Dustbowl, concepts pertaining to the Constitution of the United States, and I made a very specific multiple choice quiz about the life of Lowell Mill Girls.
The first Google Form I created asked students to analyze major concepts of the Constitution. Being my first attempt at using this technology, I hadn’t really thought of how I would grade or analyze this assignment. Therefore, I simply went through the information on Google Sheets and marked correct answers in Green, confused answers in Yellow, and incorrect answers in Red. This process took forever, and left me wondering how I would use Google Forms if it took this long to analyze all the information.
As it turns out, there are ways to set rules in Google Sheets that will apply a color scheme like the one above automatically. However, I learned about an add-on to Google Sheets through an Edtechteacher course I was taking. The add-on is called Flubaroo (I know, odd). Furthermore, when you sign up for this add-on it seems a little sketchy. Don’t worry it is completely legitimate. Feel free to agree to anything they ask (it is an add-on built for teachers, after all). Once you add Flubaroo to your Google Sheets you can activate it to grade all of your assignments for you. As currently constituted, it is best used for grading multiple choice and simple fill-in assignments. However, you can add the scoring value for open response questions on your own, and these items will blend into the students overall score.
Flubaroo has made grading Google Forms a breeze, and I think that I will make Google Forms a consistent part of my class. I like the flexibility that using Google Forms gives to my classroom. Now I can spend less time worrying about fitting in an extra quiz or “Exit Ticket,” and I can assign comprehension tasks for homework. This opens up classroom time for other student-centered and self-directed activities. With the current wave of district determined measures, standardized tests, midterms, and finals, this is a welcomed assessment that can be completed at home. Furthermore, the grading is incredibly easy.
The main downside to this approach is that students have to be motivated to complete the Google Form at home, which is not always the easiest task in some classes. Also, students can access the Internet or classmates as they answer Google Forms. I, for one, have no problem with this, because if I can write strong questions that ask students to analyze images and text or write reflective and evaluative prose, then cheating isn’t really applicable.
In the end, Google Forms have been a great addition to my classroom, which suffers from no official 1:1 technology connection. I highly recommend giving them a try in your classroom. Whether you use them for quick formative assessments or for students to make creative storybooks. In the next few months, I hope to use a more student-centered approach with Google Forms. Check back in here to see how it goes!