Technology: A Key Component to a Multi-Sensory Approach to Learning

Last year, as I was navigating through the uncharted waters, also known as my first year of teaching, I couldn’t help but notice how limited my knowledge and abilities were on the use of technology in my classroom. About halfway through my first year, I began to use a projector, but pathetically my use of technology ended there. As I went on peer visits in my school, to observe other teachers in my building, I was in awe of the use of technology in some of the classrooms I visited. Students in the middle schools have this amazing resource at the touch of their fingertips, an IPad, and I had no clue how to use it.

At the beginning of this school year, I reviewed different units and lessons from my first year, and I noticed something missing across the board: the use of technology, specifically IPads. This was not okay. I knew I needed to take advantage of the technology available to teachers and students in our district. As I started to think about how I wanted to incorporate technology into my classroom, I knew I wanted to connect the use of technology to the individual styles of learning and instruction present in a special education classroom. As a special educator, I know how beneficial a multi-sensory approach to learning is for students with disabilities. So how can I use technology a means of incorporating a multi-sensory approach to learning in my classroom?

 

The students I teach in my program are auditory, visual, and/or tactile learners. Some of my students benefit from all three approaches, and some students identify only with one learning style. As I get to know my students, I am able to identify how each student learns best, and can then adjust my practice accordingly to fit each student’s needs. However, as a middle school teacher, I know this is not only the time to teach academics and social skills, it is also the time to teach independence. A goal for most of my students is for them to become more responsible in their learning experience. With the technology accessible to students today, it is important for all students, especially those with difficulties in their reading, written expression, organization, etc., to know how to use technology to their advantage.

Students needs to be explicitly taught, and before I can have the expectation that students will use technology to accommodate their multi-sensory approaches to learning, I need to understand myself how this can be done. Through the course of this year, I will be exploring how technology can be used as a multi-sensory approach to learning, specifically for students with disabilities. The more I learn about this amazing resource, the better I will be able to explicitly teach my students on how to use this tool as a complement to their individual learning styles.

Flippin’ Out

Happy December, everyone!

I wanted to write a quick blog post about something I’ve been doing in my classroom to help my students move at their own pace and get me away from the front of the classroom: making videos.

This is something I wanted to do last year, but as with any kind of mastery, it is a slow and tedious process.  Much like this quote by Ira Glass about creativity, I’ve now been teaching long enough to know how far I am from getting really good at my craft. Ah, the burden of knowledge.

Anyway, this year I started making videos to explain concepts in my class.  I use Quicktime Player on my computer to record my screen and voice while I click through a powerpoint, or record myself writing on a paper using my document camera.  I knew if I was going to start doing this, the process would have to be easy, so I did not use programs where I had to do editing or mess with an audio track.

I initially wanted to do this as a way for students to revisit instructions or catch up with the class if they were absent, but I’ve started experimenting with assigning these videos for homework.  So far, the students seem receptive to the idea of learning from a video, and I’m hoping that this will free me up to do more activities with the students, if I’ve already laid the groundwork of a concept through a video.  

Anyway, here’s an example of one of my low-fi and quickly created videos.  You can see why I asked for a USB microphone for the holidays.

Have a good one!

Alex

In the future, when we all live in underground bubble houses.
In the future, when we all live in underground bubble houses.

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.

Are We Forgetting About Multimodal Assessment?

Between midterms, report cards, meetings, and coaching, my time to blog has, unfortunately, been pushed to the back burner. However, my springtime resolution is that I will be much more consistent. I have been thinking about posting about this particular subject for a while and hope that I do the discontent I feel about this topic justice.

Last year after reading The Call of The Wild I was able to incorporate my first real-deal iPad project. Students worked together on Padlet to create a twitter stream that not only summarized the novel but also worked to show character growth and perspective through word and image choice. Student engagement was high and the projects showed student understanding. You can see student work examples as well as an image I created to help share the project with other teachers below.

 

2014 Student Work From the Call of the Wild Twitter Project using Padlet
2014 Student Work From the Call of the Wild Twitter Project using Padlet

 

Hints and Tips to use Padlet as Twitter for Class Projects
Hints and Tips to use Padlet as Twitter for Class Project

New and Improved Year = New and Improved Project?

As we finished up the novel this year I was excited to tweak the project to incorporate more student choice and really use the iPad to its full potential. The students and I collaborated to create a rubric with summarizing expectations as well as synthesis expectations to prove the students understood the character dynamics and could find quotations to support those beliefs. Students had a ton of ideas to prove their understanding of the novel, some wanted to create Snapchat diaries using Explain Everything, others wanted to compile a mix CD that the character might make, and other students wanted to stay with Twitter or Instagram.  I thought the project was going to be awesome.

During one of the days the students were working on the project, I had an unannounced observation from a few administrators. I received immediate feedback that the lesson and the project as a whole was too low on Webb’s DOK. While I definitely understood their point and the cumulative project of the book could have been a more direct synthesis or analytical project, I saw and still see, a lot of value in the creativity of the project as I had it. By giving this creative group project students were able to show their abilities and understanding through multiple modes of authentic assessment. I saw student work that amazed me, and students realized a passion for graphic design like in this project where a student created character cards for an NFL video game.

Sample of Call of The Wild Player Cards that a group of students created for the cumulative project on the novel.

COTW Madden Player Card 3

I tweeted this out and it was retweeted by Explain Everything and over 3,000 people viewed this group’s work. That is the power of technology, the power of authentic and creative assessment. There is still rigor in that, despite that it wasn’t synthesizing multiple non-fiction texts in an essay format. I am all for including more complex texts but we cannot lose authentic, creative, and multimodal assessment in the process.

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).