Archive for the ‘Teaching and Technology’ Category

Top 5 Takeaways from the iLearn Conference

March 5, 2018

iLearn icon

As is my habit, anytime I attend a conference I share out my top takeaways/learnings. The iLearn Collaborative Conference was held in Denver last month. Here are my top five takeaways, based on my experience and interests.

1. Authentic Video
I often recommend that teachers/facilitators create and post personal “selfie” videos to introduce modules in their online courses.  Jessica Glynn from Denver Online High School took this concept and modeled three crucial elements in her video.  First, she was authentic.  Her video was direct and unedited.  The minor flaws gave it an authentic feel-not rehearsed or perfect.  Secondly the video gave the students the impression that she was “present” in the moment and in the course.  Videos like these are essential in maintaining instructor presence throughout an online course.  Thirdly, in something that surprised me, she not only modeled self-reflection but also lifelong learning as she shared a discovery she had learned in a PD session she attended.  With Jessica’s permission, you too can see the video example here.

2. Close Reading Tools
Jessica Glynn also shared her online approach to close readings-a protocol that is very popular with my literacy friends. Students are given three choices on how to participate: Join teacher-led small group in person, join teacher-led small group via Zoom,or read independently and use the tool Nowcomment. This was the first time I had seen NowComment.  It looks like a fantastic tool to facilitate discussion around a text.  I know this is something you could do in Google Docs, but NowComment has additional features such as giving you a quick count of the comments.

3.  The Science of Online Learning
When I saw, in advance, the presentation deck from Erika Twani and Bryan Goodwin I quickly changed my schedule and headed to their room.  I wasn’t disappointed.  The core of their message is this four step process:
1.     Interest -What do I know, What do I want to know?
2.    Research -Searching for and processing information
3.    Develop Skills -Exercises, Problem solving, Creativity
4.    Relating -How can I apply this to my life
I had some time to work with Joy Schnabel, an English teacher and I came up with this possible sequence for her students:
Have students choose a place to go on vacation.
Research the location.
Vet sources on the internet-what is valid info?
Create a brochure (or a video, audio, essay, letter) to convince their parents to take them there.
Using this sequence, students get a chance to create an alternative assessment and flex their online/multimedia skills.  It’s a win-win!

4.  Innovator Keynote
Catlin Tucker delivered the keynote on day two of the conference. Catlin has kids ditch traditional notebooks and instead document their learning with photos, videos, and writing online. She believes in creating an authentic audience for her students, connecting them with community member panels for large scale projects.  They ask the tough questions of the students.  When students know there is an actual audience, it is a powerful incentive. Her kids also go to TEDEdClubs and produce TED talks. This is a teacher who is not afraid to take risks, challenge and trust her students. She is definitely someone to follow. You can find her on Twitter @Catlin_Tucker

5.  Edcamp 2.0
Jeri Crispe, Chastity Stringer, and Dodi Schrader are from the Thompson School District. They were excited by attending an Edcamp (as I have been) and decided to roll out a localized version to their teachers. First they generated topics by surveying the teachers.
They produced a video to explain the Edcamp process. They listened and planned with educators with Edcamp experience.  Via email, flyers, and face-to-face interactions, they recruited presenters/facilitators. Finally, they designed an online session board and provided space and food. They call it 2.0 because it is their second iteration. They made sure there was a facilitator for each session, someone with a little bit of expertise.
And, in something that makes me very happy, they leverage Schoology for sharing the session materials.  I believe everyone who has Schoology should do this for conferences and professional development, even when it’s face-to-face.
Their new design for PD includes:
Outcomes determined by the learner
Teachers share expertise
Learn something new
Apply the new learning
Evidence-based reflection to inform practice and next steps

Well, that’s my roundup of the iLearn Conference in Denver. I’ve made myself a promise to submit a proposal to present next year at this and several other conferences. I’ll let you know how that goes. I hop you get to attend some conferences and share your learning as well.

Taking Off with RocketBook

February 2, 2018

Screen Shot 2018-02-02 at 11.17.39 AMI’ve really revved up my year without paper/printing with the purchase of a Rocketbook.  It is rapidly allowing me to leave paper behind. This quick promo video gives you the idea behind the innovation:

I’ve been using it for a month now and have found no downsides.  It has been scanning and erasing flawlessly and everyone seems interested in it when I use it in front of them. The book costs between 20 and 30 dollars, but the app is free.  I’ve set it up to send material to my work email, personal email, work Google folder and my team’s Slack channel.  By purchasing the larger format book, I can also scan paper documents in an instant.  I’ve scanned documents, notes and even objects!  This is a major game-changer for anyone wanted to save paper like me and my team.  We’re thinking about giving them out as gifts to teachers and leaders!  Here’s the process:

I set up my scan destinations.

destination assignment

I decide what I want to scan.

Handwritten erasable notes, scribed with a “Frixion” pen:

notes taken

A three-dimensional object:

3d object to scan

or even a document (not obscuring the destination choices at the bottom:

document to scan

I open the free app on my smartphone and take a photo.  It automatically goes to all the locations I’ve selected with checkmarks:

destinations selected

Voila!  It’s arrived at its destinations!

So,  what do you think?  Any questions?  Are you using a Rocketbook?

Schoology Tool Tip

January 26, 2018

contactI wanted to take a quick diversion from my Year Without Paper theme to share a valuable tool tip in Schoology.  Ironically, the tool is called ToolTip.  Perhaps its generic name is why I forgot about it 😦

When composing a page in Schoology you can add clarifications or definitions to words by using this useful tool.  Here is what it looks like in action:

tooltip in word sonnet

Here are the steps to use it for yourself:

  1. Create a page in your Schoology course, make sure you are in editing mode.
  2. After entering text, find the word you want to define or clarify.
  3. Select the word by clicking and dragging over it.
  4. Click on “Insert Media”.                                                                                                                      tooltip pulldown
  5. At the bottom of this list, click on “ToolTip”  (it may look grayed out, but it is active).
  6. In the pop up window type the text you want to appear as a definition/clarification.       tooltip checkbox
  7. Click on the checkbox.  You’re done!

Happy Schoologizing everyone!

The Year of No Paper Starts

January 19, 2018

printer-37270_640I announced to my team about my plan to go for a year without using paper.  More specifically, not printing anything.  But wherever I can go without paper at all or use only hard recycled paper, I will do so.  My team members have surprised me with their enthusiasm and support.  On my birthday they wrapped a gift for me in recycled post-it notes.

gift pakcage wrapped in used paper

They also surprised me with this sign:

Dee w no paper sign


My next steps in the year of no paper include:

  • Blogging here with my progress, tips and observations.
  • Leveraging the No Paper Tribe that I’m forming at DPS and using the books Tribes and Switch for strategies.
  • Using high tech, low tech, and no tech solutions.

See you next time on this paperless wordpress!

Open to New Webinar Tools

September 14, 2017

ZoomLogoSmallIn my career I’ve tried to keep myself tool agnostic-not sticking to a single tool in my software box.  When it comes to webinars it’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Adobe Connect for all its professional features.  But this year I’ve been using two other webinar platforms for certain situation- Zoom and Big Blue Button.  I’ll share my experiences with them here.

Big Blue Button is the webinar tool that comes with our current LMS-Schoology.  I like the fact that it’s available to everyone who logs in and they can run as many webinars as they like.  I think it’s particularly useful for teachers to use as office hours or help sessions for their students.  It has a fairly intuitive interface.  The main drawbacks that I see are 1. In our version, recordings only last for 7 days and 2. The screenshare function has too many hurdles for most users to overcome (clunky plugins).

I’ve used Zoom webinars in several different settings.  For a large scale meeting with almost 200 principals we bought a large webinar subscription.  For smaller meetings, 8-20 people, I’ve used their (mostly) free meeting version.  It has an intuitive interface and pretty good audio and video quality.  In particular I like the phone call in numbers that attendees can use for audio only.  I also really like how attendees can adjust the windows/frames to personalize their experience.  The main drawbacks is that it doesn’t let me load and share files ahead of time like the way I setup a lobby room in Adobe Connect.  I hope to figure out a workaround in Zoom for this function.

So, with these additional tools now at my disposal I meet with people planning webinars and discuss their specific needs/objectives.  After that needs assessment I will choose/recommend the webinar tool that best fits the wishes of the users and try not to play favorites.

Top Five Takeaways from Schoology Next 2017 Conference

August 17, 2017

Schoology Next BadgeAs most of you know, after I attend a conference I share my top takeaways.  I was very fortunate to attend the Schoology Next Conference in Chicago this summer.  Here are my top five discoveries:

1. Great tips on Gamification in PD

Jared Lopatin led a session with more tips than I could imagine.  Having us join the gaming in his course we first were divided into teams by responding to an Egg Sort Quiz in Schoology.  Based on our question response, we were placed on a team with a unique name.  Design tips from Jared include:

  • Using teams helps keep a social element that tempers individual competition
  • Use the word “challenge” instead of “assignment”
  • Go big with points, think 100’s for any activity, more points means more excitement
  • Create a video intro to each challenge
  • Use individual and team leaderboards
  • Don’t display who is on which team so that participant and to instruct with each other to find out
  • Award bonus points for activities like the discussion boards.
  • The weekly discussion boards became extremely active due to fun questions/challenges.

Given Jared’s advice, I may gamify one of my future courses.

2. How to prevent students from eluding the post first before reading other posts restriction.

A good control feature to elicit original posts on a discussion board is to set them so that students must post first before seeing the posts of fellow classmates.  I learned that students were eluding this by posting anything(even a single word), reading others, and then deleting their initial post.  To prevent students from doing this, set the discussion board so that students can’t edit/delete their posts, and let them know about this additional accountability setting, so that they’re not surprised by any consequences.

3. Using Schoology during F2F workshops

Throughout the conference we referenced a Schoology course that contained folders for every session.  This was a great way to find/share/save resources and save a lot of paper too! Folders contained slide presentations (Google Slides), links, videos and handouts.  In addition to just storage/reference, presenters also used the poll features to do live polling of the audience, and discussion boards for ideation, sharing, and questions that could be answered afterward in followups after the conference.  I’m still participating in some of the discussion boards weeks after the end of the conference!  I highly recommend everyone create a Schoology course for every face-to-face workshop you facilitate.  AT DPS we’re doing this for an upcoming professional development day where I’m giving a workshop.  I have a folder ready for all my material and activities.

4. Adult Learning Theory Applied in PD

Gina Harman and Rachel Gorton gave great examples of how they design blended courses.  They focus on the Why-telling what the benefits will be for teachers and their students.  They model adult learning principles by letting teacher choose their own path, including cohort collaboration and sustaining their course over nine months.  They’re fond of using simulations that put the learners at risk in situations.  Then they learn through feedback (automated in the simulation) and in the end receive digital badges and certificates to reward their achievement.  You should know that I’m a fan of digital badges/microcredentials.

5. Back Channel app 

I’m a strong believer in the power of backchannel chats, and was so happy to find this app.  You can find it by going to your home page in Schoology and looking on the left for App Center.  Click on this and scroll down, find Backchannel app and add it to your courses. It will say “starting at $15” but educators can get a FREE account.  This app solves the problem of how and where to host real time chat and get backchannel discussions going.  What I really like about this app is not only does it fully integrate with Schoology, but it also has K-12 friendly features of teacher moderations, profanity filter, upvoting, teacher pinning, search and teacher locks.

Gifs in a Jiffy

June 9, 2017

gif-iconTo support an upcoming streaming event I needed to create a gif. (Let’s not digress into a debate on how to pronounce gif.)  Denver Public Schools has a commitment box that is made available at all large culture-building events.  Since this upcoming event will be solely online I came up with an idea to make a virtual commitment box to interact with.

First, I needed to create a gif showing someone dropping a commitment card into the box.  I searched for gif creators that could do the job for free and with the least amount of hassle.  I tried, Imgflip and  with the latter winning out for ease of use.  I shot a four photo sequence of my coworker, Anna, dropping a commitment card into the box.  When I uploaded the images to the interface was intuitive and simple.   Although all I had to do was upload and reorder the images, there were multiple choices available to me: resizing, animation speed, repeats, and even the option to add music. In about a minute total working time, I had my gif downloaded.

My next task was to create the Google form and add it to the top.  Google forms is becoming more and more open to customization.  I chose a blank form, changed the color to match the card Anna holds in the animation and then uploaded the gif to the description area of the form.  You can take a look at the finished product here:

I think this is going to work out pretty well for the event.  What do you think?  What is your favorite gif maker?

Cool Quiz Feature in Google Forms

May 22, 2017

google forms iconRecently I had a request to create a check for understanding quiz at the end of a screencast.  Leveraging my updated Camtasia software with interactive hotspots, I was able to add a link to a Google form.  I chose Google forms to ease the access and share reporting with a group of people who would need to see the data.

This was my first time using the quiz features in Google forms and I found the process to be fairly straightforward and intuitive to setup. After opening a form and creating some questions.  Click on the gear icon (settings) to bring up this menu.  Choose Quizzes and toggle the swtich to “make this a quiz”

quiz settings screenshot

Full instructions are here.

Here are some tips from my experience:

  • Don’t forget, after creating your form/quiz to share it with the “send” button, rather than your editing link.
  • Always let users see if they were correct or not.
  • Add some language to the bottom of the form such as “After submitting, click on ‘view your accuracy/score’ to see how you performed.”
  • Even if tallying points isn’t crucial to your quiz, add points anyway to give people an idea of how well they performed and it adds a dimension of gamification.
  • Consider giving detailed feedback when someone answers incorrectly.

Are you using Google forms for quizzes/checks for understanding?  I’d love to hear your examples too.

Top 5 Takeaways from CBOL 2017

May 12, 2017

CBOL 2017 logoAfter attending any conference I try to share my top takeaways.  Here are my top five from the Conference on Blended and Online Learning (CBOL)  held this year in Colorado.

1.  Personalized Learning in Jefferson County:  Students have control over the pace and path of their learning in the Virtual Academy.  Despite it’s name implying a 100% online experience, there are face-to-face days with tutoring, guidance and enrichment.  This makes me think that the metastudy done years ago by the Department of Education is still valid-Blended (hybrid) course delivery is the best of both worlds.

2.  DIY Personalized PD discoveries: The smartest person in the room is the room (crowdsourcing, leveraging everyone as experts).   The best PD is developed by teachers for teachers.  Take a look at their presentation here.   During this hands-on, group-sourced session, we came up with these ideas.  Besides this being an engaging session and producing group notes and artifacts, I loved the fact that they walked the talk.  I don’t know why more PD sessions don’t leverage google docs for collaborative notes.

3.  From that session, I proposed this metaphor to describe personalized learning:  Drinking from a water fountain as opposed to a firehose:  water fountain personalized learning metaphorI think the metaphor works pretty well.

4.  Becky Nusbaum gave a captivating, interactive presentation where she both showed how Twitter could be used to cultivate PLN (Personal Learning Network)s for teachers, while at the same time we tweeted to each other and added ideas to the session.  I thought that this was a good way to have participants dive right in to the tool being discussed.  Two good resources she shared were  Twitter for Teachers, Chatting and Best Practices  and the Directory of Ed Chats.  It’s on my to-do list to develop a workshop for teachers on developing PLNs.

5.  The keynote speaker, Tom Vander Ark, shared his 18 tips for student-centered learning.  Tom talked about many of these tips as “must do’s” such as: Every student should work on publicly publishing something (as a team) HS level.  Every student should have work-based learning…work-study at Christo Rey for an example.  “High school kids can change the world right here right now.  Let’s give them the skills to live and succeed in this complex world.”   These are powerful ideas and his enthusiasm for them is contagious.   Here is a link to his presentation.  I highly recommend looking at his list.

Getting to the (foam)Core

January 13, 2017

microphone-blue-lightSomeone was throwing out a very large piece of foamcore and, as I’m in K-12 budget world, I grabbed it for re-use.  The first purpose I used it for was as a light reflector for video and photography shoots.  Then a new need arose.  Our English Learning Acquisition (ELA) office asked me to make an audio recording of 4 narrators who would act out a screencast sequence.  I already had microphones and a usb audio mixer, but I knew that I needed some separation from each microphone during the live recording.  I grabbed the oversize piece of foamcore, cut it in half,  and made two slits in the center, just going halfway up the edge.foamcoreslits8x5

I then slid them together to form a +plus sign and set it on the table.  I placed microphones at each corner and proceeded with the recording of the narration track. foamcore-dividers-8x5

You can take a look/listen here to evaluate the results.

The only thing I would do in the future for this type of setup is to get an even larger piece of foamcore.  This one was originally 3′ x 4′  before I cut it into two pieces.  I might have even added some sound absorbing material to the sides.  But in any case, I’m ready for next time.

I hope this quick tip helps you if you ever need to make a low-budget audio recording of multiple voices.

Always innovating and problem-solving, Paul.