As teachers and students are gaining confidence and ability with the use of Chromebooks, teaching and learning communication and collaboration beyond the classroom walls can be a challenge to know exactly how to begin. I had a teacher approach me about setting up a project in which she could connect with another classroom across the District as pen pals, and there have been a few classrooms who have worked on some collaborative projects in this way. As teachers look forward to next year, I am offering a Partnership Project to every teacher who wants to participate and will help facilitate the set-up and organization of this project.
The Partnership Project will be organized by grade level and have a writing focus (Writing Standard 10). Participating teachers will meet after school in early September to work with their partners, begin organizing this project, learn how to conduct a Google Hangout, and learn how to set up and manage a shared Google slideshow between two students.
Each partnership will begin with a Mystery Google Hangout session in the classroom. This initial Mystery Hangout will allow each group of students to prepare ten questions, in order to identify with which school/classroom they have been partnered. Then intermediate students will be assigned a Pen Pal in the partner classroom and will share a Google Slideshow as their “postcards” to each other. In the primary classroom, the teachers would share the Google Slideshow and draft their postcards as a whole class. Teachers can either set the purpose for each postcard writing assignment (such as opinion/argumentative/persuasive [Writing Standard 1], informative [Writing Standard 2], or narrative [Writing Standard 3]), and/or they can allow choice for students.
The Partnership Project can be for any length of time that you and your partner classroom teacher agree on, whether it be for a month, a quarter or the entire year. There are other projects/lessons that can expand this partnership, depending upon the breadth and depth you and your partner classroom teacher want to explore. However, I will facilitate the Partnership Project to set you up and then support each partnership as needed.
If you are interested in this Partnership Project, please complete this survey by June 1. I will organize the Project and send a calendar invite for the initial meeting to those who want to participate. I’m looking forward to collaborating with you!
If you like the possibilities of creating interactive lessons using Google Slides and Pear Deck, you will like the advantages of Nearpod too! Nearpod is a shared teacher platform with both free and for purchase interactive lessons that expand students’ horizons through virtual field trips and checks for understanding with immediate feedback for both teachers and students.
Teachers and students can log in with their Google login, simplifying access without having to creating another username and password. Students can also join by a teacher-given CODE.
Click the “Explore Lessons” to see what options are available, using the filters for price point, grade levels, subject areas, and more. For a quick preview of a possible lesson, check out Ancient Egypt. When students access the lesson by using the teacher-given CODE, the teacher then paces the presentation while students see and interact with the projected slide on their own devices. Don’t miss out on the virtual reality experience of the 360 degree panoramic views of the pyramids and inside the tomb of Pharaoh Ramesses IV on slides 2, 9, 14!
Not only can teachers tap into the shared lessons, teachers can also build their own lessons within Nearpod to create an interactive experience, taking direct instruction to a whole new level. Be sure to check in with your instructional or tech coach for support in using this tool effectively.
In Bold School: Old School Widom + New School Technologies = Blended Learning that Works by Weston Kieschnick, a well-used instructional practice is highlighted as a highly effective strategy that can become an enriched experience with the use of technology. Direct instruction (.6 effect size) is most useful when presenting new knowledge, but increasing engagement is a key element to ensuring students actually take in the new knowledge. An add-on for Google Slides called Pear Deck can support teachers with this engagement during direct instruction, but it can also be a way for students to engage their audiences when creating presentations themselves.
Students use a code in order to follow the presentation on their devices, and when a question is presented, they can then interact with the presentation directly on their devices. The teacher can display answer results (without identifying individual students) to provide immediate feedback and/or reteach concepts as needed. For example, at the beginning of a lesson, a teacher can ask students to activate their schema with this slide:
On their devices, students would have the option to use drawing or text tools to list their two ideas on this slide. With a click of a button, a teacher can review individual responses, again without identifying students personally, creating opportunity to formatively assess next steps for the lesson.
Technology can enhance our best practices and make them more engaging for students. Pear Deck elevates direct instruction to a new level by allowing students and teachers to interact in real time. To dive deeper with this tool, be sure to connect with your instructional or tech coach and begin to explore the possibilities.
This requires that all grant-funded technology must be reviewed by the Informational Technology (IT) department before teachers proceed with grant writing, in order to ensure that devices can be supported by the IT department.
Devices and applications such as iPods, iPads, Kindles, Alexa, Echo, and Google Home have potential to positively impact classroom instruction, but unfortunately, our tech support options are limited as managing those devices requires both manpower and bandwidth (access to the Internet). In addition, there are often unintended consequences to the use of some of these tools, such as compromising student data, displaying/presenting inappropriate content, having inadequate security settings, etc. All of these factors must be evaluated by the IT department to help determine if the requested technology can be supported by the District.
This review process is a required step in any grant writing, to include sources such as Great Falls Public Schools Foundation, KRTV’s One Class at a Time, Go Fund Me, Donors Choose, and any other grant options. The review process and guidelines are outlined on the District’s website, under Staff > Technology Resources > Teacher Resources. The IT department (Tech Coaches, IT Director, Support Techs, etc.) is also happy to help in the grant process to help determine what technology is appropriate and supported. Including the IT department in your planning will help ensure the District’s guidelines are followed and potentially improve your chances for a successful experience with grant writing to fund technology.
Let us know how we can support you. Happy grant writing!
You’ve heard the rumors, and you’ve seen the headlines...unfortunately, it is a reality that sometimes our students struggle to make good decisions when using the access given to them through the use of technology. With the ability to share and post with a click of a button, we have to make an intentional effort to teach digital citizenship and hold students accountable for their choices and behaviors online, particularly when using the district’s technology. Where can you start? There are several resources that have been made available for an instructional focus on digital citizenship.
These lesson plans include any relevant websites and student handouts, along with Common Core standards correlated to take an integrated approach when using these lessons. In addition, they also offer some online interactives to illustrate for students the challenges and best options when using technology in a game-like presentation.
Both of these resources offer parent resources to support conversations at home, which helps students understand that digital citizenship is a life skill and not necessarily specific to their learning environment.
If you do have a student who makes poor choices, there are options to temporarily restrict their access to digital resources like Google Drive, in keeping with the Student Acceptable Use And Internet Safety Agreement. All students indicated on their handbook receipts that they have read and agree to these guidelines, so if it becomes necessary to follow through, please feel free to contact me or our IT director.
Being proactive is definitely more preferred than having to be reactive to students’ digital choices. If you’d like support in implementing instruction on digital citizenship, feel free to contact either your instructional or technology coach. We are happy to support your efforts in raising up outstanding citizens in all areas, including the digital realm.
If you’re looking for a creative way to help students focus on the use of dialogue or figurative language in their writing, MakeBeliefsComix might be just the tech tool to engage students with this skill. This comic strip generator has a cast of characters, backgrounds, objects, and onomatopoeia word art choices that help students’ imaginations begin to creatively refine their writing skills.
I’ve created a tutorial video and an example product from a sixth grade lesson on figurative language:
These resources are available for you to use. Be sure to connect with your instructional and/or technology coach for additional support in planning a lesson with this tool.
Great Falls Public Schools has been asked to participate in a survey that addresses the technology use in our district. After reviewing the proposal and its purpose, the Curriculum department felt the results of this survey would help document potential issues and needs not yet identified. This data will help to determine next steps with the current 5 year technology plan.
The proposal description provides an overview of the survey. This survey should take about 15 minutes to complete.
We want your voice to be heard. So please participate. We so appreciate your input and willingness to help our district move forward with technology.
Everyone has their favorite websites they love to use with their students. There are so many options available out on the Internet these days, and new educational websites are being developed all the time. However, as educators in the world of instant access, we have to be mindful of what and how student information is being used on these websites. As a result, Great Falls Public Schools has developed the guidelines described below for using only District-reviewed and approved websites with students to ensure that we are complying with federal laws such as FERPA, CIPA, and COPPA.
To get to these two resources for approved website use, begin at the District’s website, select Staff and then Technology Resources. Click the tab called Web 2.0 Tools, and with a click, you have access to these resources. Bookmarking the Approved List could also be beneficial for a quick reference when considering a new resource. Your instructional and technology coaches are always available to support your lesson planning with these approved tools to promote a successful experience with technology in the classroom
Source: Digital Computer Science. (n.d.) Retrieved November 28, 2017 from https://pixabay.com/en/http-www-digital-computer-science-368146/
It might seem a little early to be talking about it, but it’s coming...Computer Science Education Week. And we want you to participate!
Why is computer science such a big deal? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “computer and information technology occupations [are] projected to grow 13% from 2016-2026, faster than the average for all occupations…[adding] about 546,100 new jobs.” Oh, and did I mention that the median annual wage was $82,860 in May 2016, as compared to the median annual wage for all occupations at only $37,040? Our students’ present and future possibilities are heavily influenced by this realm of technology.
We can engage students with computer science with a motivational, purposeful, and well-supported resource called Code.org. One of their original goals includes improving diversity in computer science (girls and minorities are underrepresented in this field), but they also aim to improve access to computer science by adding this subject to school district curriculum and setting up state policies to support computer science.
Although this site can be used any time and throughout the school year, each year Code.org promotes computer science with one week of Hour of Code, as part of their campaign to improve access for all students. Teachers can sign up to participate in Code.org’s fifth annual international Hour of Code learning event, scheduled for December 4-10, 2017, and foster students’ enthusiasm for computer science. Check out this video from a prior event to see how much students enjoyed their experiences! They also have a how to get started guide, including (believe it or not!) hands-on activities that do not even use devices if computers are not readily available.
Your instructional coaches and/or tech coach are able to support you in participating in this event or getting started beforehand with Code.org, so whether you have had any training or not, this is an event for every teacher and every student, kindergarten through twelfth grade. Let’s get coding!
2016 Median Pay. (n.d.). Retrieved October 25, 2017, from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/home.htm
About Us. (n.d.). Retrieved October 25, 2017, from https://code.org/about
As the school year rolls on, there may be days when you are not in your classroom and need to prepare substitute teacher plans. While we want instruction to continue even when we’re not in the classroom, it can be challenging to determine what resources to leave for the guest teacher, especially digital resources such as PowerPoints, SMART Notebook files, PDFs, etc. In our district, we have at least two ways that digital resources can be shared with guest teachers without breaching security by sharing passwords.
First, classroom teachers need to know is that substitute teachers actually have their own logins for both the desktop computer and PowerSchool. It is not necessary, and strongly discouraged, for teachers to share their passwords. There are protocols in place for both guest teachers and long-term substitutes to provide them access to the necessary systems and applications. And in light of serious security breaches in other school districts, we all need to safeguard our usernames and passwords to prevent these kinds of threats. When writing your sub plans, then, instead of noting “The PowerPoint on my desktop…” simply refer them to one of the two following options to access digital files.
The first option classroom teachers have to share digital resources is through AESOP, our online substitute reservation system. When completing or editing your reservation, you can attach files within the reservation. Video files might be too large, but most other file types will easily attach and be accessible to the guest teacher when accepting the reservation. This is most likely the easiest option for classroom and guest teachers alike.
However, if you have larger file types such as a video prompt, then you will want to use the sub_material folder on our network. Every teacher and guest teacher has access to these folders, which are set up by school level (elementary, middle, and high school), and then by school, and lastly, by teacher. To get to these folders, in your Search, type \\disk\schools and hit enter. The sub_material folder is listed here. Double click your school level, double click your school, and then double click your name to open the folder. If your name does not appear, you have write permissions, so right-click, select New > Folder, and then name it. You can also right-click on your folder and select Send to > Desktop. This would allow you to always have a shortcut directly to this folder on your desktop, in order to click and drag digital resources.
These two options provide your guest teachers with the access they need to digital resources without you having to share passwords, keeping your privacy and access secure. As always, your instructional coaches or I are available to support you if you would like a side-by-side guide in looking at these choices for setting up your guest teacher for success!
I am a technology integration coach for a school district supporting one preschool, fifteen elementary schools, two middle schools, and three high schools. Check here for the latest updates on instructional technology.