Friday, February 10, 2017

Using ReCap for exit and entrance tickets

Lately, my staff professional development has been focused on differentiated instruction and tools we can use in the classroom to check for understanding. There have been lists and lists of tools presented to the staff and being that I am quite a tech person, I decided to check a few of them out.  One of them was incredibly interesting to me because of the method of submission.   Recap  allows kids to record their response instead of doing it written.  It gives teachers a chance to see facial expressions, hear vocal reactions and get kids who struggle writing a chance to talk.  It is simple to use as well.

First, create an account and use Google+ as the method of logging in. Once in, create classes and then create recaps.  They can be simple and quick.  It doesn't take much time.  After the recap is done, assign it to the class and let the kids do the rest.  This is a fantastic idea for a foreign language teacher because kids can do a quick response for the teacher.   Sometimes, kids are afraid to speak in public, but knowing that only the teacher will hear them can put them at ease for sure.  

I like this program, a lot.  It's free, which makes it even better.  I highly recommend it as a tool for checks for understanding or even for a quick response in a foreign language.  It's easy to get started.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Teaching the Value of a book

It seems that each year, while I wait for budget money to come in, I have a few weeks to spend roaming the stacks and searching for some outdated and irrelevant books to weed.  I decided this semester as I did my annual purge that I would spend a lot of time training my library media class how to evaluate titles and help determine if they should be weeded or kept.

We spent a long time talking about weeding and why we do it.  I get a lot of criticism from our teachers each time I weed because "There are so many good books here" or "How can you be in a library and want to get rid of books"   The fact of the matter is, a library has to be weeded.  If it isn't the reputation of the library decreases rapidly.  When patrons, no matter what the age, come to a library with 500 books about the same topic, it makes it difficult to locate that one book that is needed.  When there are 25 books on a topic and 20 of them are old, musty and unappealing, the patron will just walk on by and not check it out.   The ultimate goal of a school library (and any library) is to appeal to the reader and offer materials in which the reader has interest, in which the reader finds value.  Materials need to be current, appealing and foster a love of reading. 

I did a good bit of research before I had the kids start. I made a sketchnote (it was my first sketchnote attempt so it was a little messy.) about the things I found on the CREW site from Texas State Libraries.  I felt their information met my needs best and the manual answered all of my questions.  I shared this with the kids and we talked about the notes.  I wanted them to stop and think before they recommended a title for weeding.  I found after a few tries, they caught on and were quickly moving through the different sections we have.  We talked about needs, a lot.   Mostly because a past teacher required his students to have 5 books for his research paper so I held on to a large number of irrelevant and outdated books because they met the topics.  It wasn't good for the collection, but it supported curriculum and that is a rationale that needs to be considered. 

When this teacher left the profession, I decided to spend a lot of time evaluating the books he requested me to keep and determine how many really needed to stay.  This is where the kids came in.  I decided to do an epub with topics we have available to assist teachers and students with research papers.  The kids were charged with sorting the books to the topics and generating lists which included title, author and copyright date.   After they made these lists, I asked them to look at each book and decide if we had enough about the topic and if they were relevant for the current need.  I also asked them to check online sources to see if there were items out there we could guide teachers and students to as well.  I was so impressed by their involvement and the outcome.

I spoke to my students about several important aspects of a collection, I told them to ask questions about each book they handle.   How is the appearance?  How is the content?  Is it used often/ has it circulated in awhile?  Do we have more books that are newer about the same topic?  Can you find the information in a database?  For some things, I showed them how to check online for eBooks.  We talked a great deal about public domain and The Gutenberg Project.  We talked as well about age of the book and if the materials inside are still important today.   It was one of the best discussions I have ever had in a class.  The kids were engaged and excited.  They were focused and had ownership in the library.  I was very impressed by the thoughts they had about Health topics and Science topics.  Before we even conversed about age, they were talking to me.  "Mrs. Wells, this book is about history of diseases, so I think it is good because it is historical."  "Mrs. Wells, this one is about AIDS but it was written about 10 years ago and I think the disease is different now."  This was AMAZING!  The kids were using some higher order thinking to come up with their conclusions.  It was exciting.

One of my students is an avid nonfiction sports reader.  He always hits the Biography section and chooses a book about someone famous who does sports.  I knew, as soon as I saw him on my roster that he was the one to weed that section.  And I was right!  He and I met as he was weeding and he questioned a lot of things.  He knows the clientele at our school. he knows what kids are interested in reading and he spent so much time thinking about the books.   We ended up cleaning a lot of the books out because most of them were old, about topics that no one cared about anymore and many were too simple for them.  (I work with grades 6-12 students and many of the books were 4-6 only.) This was a great lesson and the conversation between us was fantastic.  We ended up weeding most of the books in the section, but, it let me know we needed to add more in that area about more current people.  The student was then asked to generate a list of potential topics that kids would enjoy, since nonfiction sports is a hot commodity at the library. 

*Please note, while I did have my students take part in the process, the ultimate decision was mine.  I looked the books over, I checked them in the computer and evaluated them myself, but, I let them guide the process.  I let them help with the process. I must admit, they were spot on with all of their decisions.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Nearpod: Free interactive classroom

Are you looking for a way to change up your lessons a little?  Do you use PowerPoint and maybe files that relate?  Using a site like Nearpod makes it very easy to upload a presentation and embed files within so students can follow along and complete the tasks at hand.

Nearpod is free, but premium access gives you the capabilities of embedding links and websites.  I was able to get a free month of Gold level so I spent some time building activities I know I would use during that time.

One of the things I like about the site is the capability of adding activities along the way.  It's very cool to have a presentation and then stick a few questions in to check for understanding.  It is easy to use and the adding content part is included with the free version.  This is a fantastic add-in.  I love the ability to do quick checks for understanding along the way.  The outcome is placed into a report so you can review immediately to see what needs retaught or what is understood.   This is a huge bang for the buck!

I think this is a great tool to try for new instruction or if you are doing a flipped class.  (A live code is offered if it is full class, or a student paced option is available if kids are doing a flipped lesson.)  They can do the checks for understanding a long the way.   It's fantastic and definitely worth looking at.

Friday, December 30, 2016

From the Archives: Diving into Technology

As the winter break ends for many of us, it is time to get back into the grind and start a second semester (or in come cases, trimesters).  Some of us are currently One to One, but some might have a district that is piloting for the second semester or  are starting a program.  I have been a part of a district that has one to one for five years now and the tips below are things to think about as you make that transition. 
  1. Technology shouldn’t be used as a replacement for instruction.  It should merely be a tool to help you.  Don’t plan lessons around the technology, sometimes, you can get better results as a human leader than as a tech leader.   Kids love technology, but there isn’t always a need to have it.  If you can teach a lesson the traditional way do it.  Just because you have technology doesn’t mean you have to use it all of the time.
  2.   Spend some time using a tool.  Before you implement something, use it yourself.  Don’t assume kids know how to do something, you must teach them to use the tool.  When you know the tool, you can help the kids use it better.  
  3. Don’t use a ton of tools, focus on a few that work.  Overwhelming kids with a dozen tools for projects will make them despise using technology.  Stick with a few that you know work for the projects you are doing and use them.  Some tools can be used for many different things with great success.
  4. Find sites that you can refer to for help.  There are a lot of great blogs out there that provide readers with hundreds of tips, tricks and sites that can be used for education.  Spend a little time checking them.  I was told once by a very smart edtech blogger to spend just a little time each day to check out stuff.  Don’t spend hours working on this, just a little time is all you need.  
  5.  Get a twitter account.  Twitter is the best place to find technology tools and tips.  There are thousands of edtech specialists out there who can help you find what you need. Follow them, they will all offer great things.

All in all, jumping into a One to One environment can be done very simply with preparation.