Where to go next…

In a whirlwind first half of the school year, I have found myself doing exactly what I said I hoped to avoid in my first post: resort back to standard teaching methods and techniques. So far I believe I have a lot of room for improvement in terms of incorporating technology in a more meaningful way in my classroom. My students have worked on a project where they utilized ChatterPix, Explain Everything, and Padlet, but other than this example, technology use has been reserved for Kahoot review games and the online textbook. This is not what I had envisioned at the start of the year, but I am starting to figure out ways to engage the students with technology.

My goal/research question for the year is to investigate how technology can enhance student understanding of primary source documents. My approach at the beginning of the year was to introduce my standard pen and paper strategies for analyzing primary sources. This includes the SOAPS method (Speaker Occasions Audience Purpose Subject Bias) and annotation as a way of engaging with a source. As students have written essays for Document-Based Questions and have encountered more varied primary sources, I am beginning to investigate ways to analyze primary sources through the use of technology.

The first step in this next phase was to conduct surveys to gauge student comfort with technology and whether or not they would prefer to use technology to analyze primary sources. The results for my surveys conducted in my classes are below:

These results show me that most of my students are very noncommittal when it comes to primary sources, but they do feel as though they learn a lot about history through the use of primary sources. These results also show me that many students “agree” that they would benefit from using more technology and online resources in class. This was very telling for me and shows me that I need to be truly intentional with my methods and how I incorporate technology in the classroom. I know I need to avoid simply digitizing my current teaching practices and go beyond to better promote student engagement with and understanding of primary sources.

In this process I am currently gathering various tools and technological methods for students to analyze primary sources. One tool that has become of particular interest for me is the Read and Write tool from Google. We completed a professional development workshop utilizing this tool, and I believe that it would be very beneficial for my students as a method of analyzing sources in my classroom. One benefit that I love about this tool is how students can collaborate, annotate, and highlight on the same document.

My plan moving forward is to be intentional about researching and implementing these strategies over February vacation. I am looking forward to taking the time over the break to plan activities and lessons around this increased use of technology with the focus on how these strategies can be implemented in a meaningful way. As the year progresses, it will be vital for me to make sure to not lose track of my long-term goal of improving understanding of primary sources in my history classroom, and I know it starts with a lot of work on the front end in making sure the structures are in place for the students to be successful. I am up for the challenge!

Virtual Field Trips and Student Tour Guides

After reflecting on my research topic and question this year, I think that focusing on primary sources has helped to increase both student understanding and engagement in my social studies class. I believe that students had a deeper understanding of the content being taught in class, which therefore helped to improve student engagement and class discussions. Students learned the process and importance of analyzing primary sources with the support of technology. This analysis helped create lessons that required students to critically think and synthesize information.

Last week I asked my students to complete a Google Form to get feedback from my students about primary sources. When asked how students felt analyzing primary sources at the beginning of the school year on a scale of 1-5, 66.3% of my students responded a score of 3. When asked how students felt about analyzing primary sources now 100% of students responded with a score of either a 4 or 5. I was encouraged to see that my students now felt more comfortable reading and analyzing primary sources.
IMG_2410 (2)I also received feedback that my student’s favorite primary source we looked at this year was Hammurabi’s Code. I agree with my students as these laws provide a shock value when learning what the laws were in ancient Babylon. This was an example of a primary source encouraging student engagement and interest in the content we are learning about.

Nearpod has been my main use of technology to help roll out the analysis of primary sources. This application allowed students to zoom in on images and it allowed me to focus on key points of a primary source. Nearpod allows you to share student work with the rest of the class. One student commented on the primary source survey “I like when you share my answer with the class.” In addition, I have really enjoyed sharing the Nearpod field trip with my students this year. This new feature on Nearpod allows students to virtually travel to the areas we are learning about in class. My students loved this feature! When teaching about the Parthenon, what could be better than taking a virtual field trip to the Parthenon itself? Here is a picture of a student enjoying the field trip. Field trip (1)One student wrote “the field trips are awesome because it feels like you are really at the spot we are learning about and you can see all around it.” Below is a picture of my students on a field trip to the Parthenon.

Next year, I would like to explore the use of Google Maps and Google Tours in my classroom. I am most interested in exploring Google Tours because this application will allow students to be the tour guides of the ancient cities we are learning about in class. Google Tours provides both visuals and an area for students to add a description. I plan to create a project using this application next year. Stay tuned to receive your own personal tour of ancient history!

Students on a virtual field trip to the Parthenon using the application Nearpod.
Students on a virtual field trip to the Parthenon using the application Nearpod.

 

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.

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.

 

Tick Tock Tech

Is the time worth it?

My name is Tom Farley, and I am a third year 7th grade English teacher at Kennedy Middle School in Waltham. As I embark upon my second full year with 1:1 iPad integration in my classroom I am constantly trying to improve and streamline my practice. After the first year of full 1:1 iPad integration at Kennedy, I spent the summer pondering how could I better establish routines and set high expectations to engage and push all of my students further. I began modifying and changing lesson plans to better integrate the use of technology, and as I did I came across more and more questions every day. Loads of these questions answered on blogs and through seminars with @edtechteacher21 and the T21 program. However, one question came nearly every day, and despite many Internet searches, I have yet to find an adequate, comprehensive answer.

“Is taking time to create audio/visual projects worth the cost of instructional time?”

My data driven inquiry project will focus on this dilemma and discuss the pros and cons of using technologically integrated audio/visual projects in the classroom. How much time is too much time? When do visually appealing projects trump graphic organizers to prove knowledge of content? Why would my students even spend time trying to find a .png file when they could just have a poorly cropped .jpeg in Explain Everything?  You can see an illustration of my project outline, (with less questions) which I created on Paper53 (one of my favorite drawing apps) below.

WIN Inquiry Project Outline
WIN Inquiry Project Outline

By focusing this study specifically on teaching recurring content and using data driven assessment to continuously modify and adapt my integration practices, I hope to improve student-learning outcomes. In this way, I plan on having comprehensive data to show the importance of integrating authentic audio and visual technology based assignments into today’s classroom.  I hope that this, first of all makes sense; second, would be useful to you and your own instructional practices; third, although this might be a stretch, will be interesting to read. I look forward to posting extended updates here monthly. However, if you are looking for rough draft, 140 character-confined updates please follow my twitter (@hashtagfarley) (also because my follower count is incredibly depressing).

Mr. Robot

My name is Michael DiLuzio, I am a history teacher, and my biggest fear is that one day I won’t have a job because a robot will replace me. In my most pessimistic moments, I think I will be the final generation of an extinct species: the human teacher. If I am being truly retrospective, I think this fear comes out of an acknowledgment that I am at a teaching crossroads. I’m entering my seventh year as a social studies teacher, and I think I am beginning to enter my prime as an educator (hopefully an extended prime).

However, while I am honing my craft, new technologies and innovations continue to pop up that challenge the treasure trove of lessons and pedagogy that I have built as an educator. The bedrock of what I do is beginning to crumble. The stories I tell, the lectures I give, the readings I discuss, the movie clips I play, and the discussions I facilitate already seem as though they are from a bygone era. The style of teaching I grew up with is beginning to go extinct!

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t get up and lecture everyday. I cultivate lessons with primary sources, my students debate important issues, jigsaw difficult readings, “save the last word for me,” “take stands,” walk around imaginary museums, and complete enough exit and entrance tickets to fill the Grand Canyon. They don’t, however, own their education, they don’t drive their own learning through inquiry, they don’t complete project based education, and they are not experiencing a flipped classroom.

Teacher jargon aside. It has become apparent to me over the last few years that the role of the teacher is changing. The teacher is no longer expected to be the “sage on the stage”, but to be a facilitator or a learning partner. At the moment, I am not sure if I completely accept this change nor am I sure that this dichotomy will continue. I’m conflicted about abandoning a lot of the ways that I grew up learning, because I still see a lot of value in teacher centered learning. There is nothing quite like listening to an expert.

However, I do realize that there must be a balance struck to satisfy competing masters: inquiry based learning, 21st century skills, content expectations, and standardized tests. Similarly, I realize I need to evolve as an educator or I will be left in the past. The future of education is ahead of me, and I don’t want to be a twenty-nine year old educator that refuses to adapt. I want to embrace the use of technology and the changing role of the educator.

Furthermore, next year, my tenth grade students will enter my classroom as a part of a growing part of Waltham’s 1:1 technology initiative. These students will have been using iPads as a resource for three straight years. This both excites and terrifies me. This excites me, because I will be able to use this technology to approach my teaching in a multitude of new ways. As currently constituted, when I want my students to have access to a computer or 1:1 device, I need to sign-up for space in one of the many overbooked labs at my school. Although, it is possible to sign-out these rooms when one schedules far enough in advance. The long range planning it takes to secure a lab lacks the spontaneity of transforming a lesson that you are planning on using tomorrow.

In addition, the use of a lab every once in awhile is not the same as truly integrating technology into my classroom. This is why I joined the Waltham Integration Network. I want to work with my colleagues to develop ways that I can more fully integrate technology into my classroom. However, I am still somewhat weary about the entire situation. I want to strike a balance between complete technological integration, project based education, and teacher cultivated lessons that are sometimes (gasp) teacher centered. I think there is a place in education for all of these different types of learning.

Therefore, over the next year I will be trying to answer the following research question: How can I teach 21st century skills and integrate technology into a classroom that does not have consistent access to 1:1 technology?

 

Brainstorm

The above bubbl.us displays a brainstorming session I had when I was flushing out my research question (click to enlarge). 

 

Although this question doesn’t exactly prepare me for dealing with next year’s 1:1 initiative. It does push me to think about ways to change my teaching. Over the next year, I will blog here about my attempts to integrate technology, my triumphs and my many struggles. Tune back in next month to see my progress.