Reimagining A “Classroom” – A Global Collaborative Project

What is a Global Collaborative Project?

A global collaborative project is a project that students work together on, either during the process, or share between different communities to come up with a final product. 

In “5 Ways to Inspire St…

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Culminating Passion Project: A Global Collaboration with Field Experts

Throughout this semester in our EDTC 6103 course, my cohort members and I worked to complete global collaborative projects. For my project, my 4/5 students completed a culminating passion project, where they selected a topic of interest, researched that topic and generated interview questions for experts, conducted interviews with field experts, designed final products, and…

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Personalized Learning Enhanced Through App Smashing with Flipgrid

Inquiry Question: How can technology coaches collaborate with educators and use digital tools to develop personalized learning environments for their students? As I navigate through the current teaching environment of remote learning, and as I begin to reflect on the beginning of a new school year in the fall, I am thinking about how educators…

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Redesigning Math Courses for Distance Learning

Nearpod  Nearpod is an ingenious platform that allows teachers to create tech-infused lessons. I believe Nearpod can help teachers deliver quality instruction during distance learning that is also fun and engaging for students. You can find Nearpod online or by downloading the free app. There are synchronous and asynchronous options for teaching. On their website, Nearpod advertises: “Easily synchronize and control live lessons across all student devices. Seamlessly use your favorite web conferencing platform for distance learning settings.” However, there is also the option for asynchronous lessons that can be assigned to students so that they can access them anytime and anywhere. Perhaps you’ve also been trying to figure out how you can still differentiate to meet your diverse student needs? It would be easy to assign individual lessons to students after you have tailored the content to accommodate your student. Keep reading to learn more about this awesome tech tool.  What Makes Nearpod Stand Out in the Crowd  With Nearpod it is possible to find or create interactive lessons in minutes. In your lessons, you can embed videos, quizzes, polls, sways, Phet simulations, FlipGrid discussions, and mini slideshows (just to name a few!). There are various ways to keep students engaged during the lesson by allowing them to actively participate. For example, you can include interactive whiteboards for students to participate by drawing or showing their work. Or add virtual field trips to your lesson so that students can “experience” real-world examples and see places from around the world. You can also record your own voice over each slide or activity so that it feels like the presentation is happening right in your classroom. The audio recording tool is a great way to give students directions, encouragement, and support as they move through your asynchronous lesson. Another helpful feature is the ability to embed a website right onto a slide. That way students don’t have to go anywhere else to do their work. When you go to that slide in your lesson it will automatically load that webpage and students can interact with it just like they normally would online. Nearpod has great tools that you can use as formative assessments throughout your lesson, such as quizzes, polls, and the student draw tool. You can monitor student work on your teacher dashboard and give students timely feedback. If you choose to assess student’s learning by giving a quiz, they will be automatically graded for you and analytics provided. Creating Lessons  “Upload and tech-enhance your existing materials or customize over 7,500 pre-made, standards-aligned lessons for all K-12 subjects.” Nearpod.com When creating Nearpod lessons you can use your own Powerpoint, Google slides, or PDFs as the basis for your instruction. After uploading your files, customize your lesson by inserting videos, interactive polls, or quick quizzes to keep students engaged and assess understanding.  Another really cool feature for Google users is to use their new Google slide add-on feature. After installing this add-on in Chrome, you can use the Nearpod tools while working in your Google slide presentation. All of the changes will sync automatically with your Nearpod lesson. If you don’t feel like designing your own lesson, feel free to scan the thousands of premade lessons and edit it to fit your needs. Another bonus for teachers is assignments can be integrated with your Learning Management System whether you use Google classroom, Microsoft Teams, Schoology, or other various platforms.  Nearpod Activities  “Classroom communities stay connected with collaborative activities and formative assessments like virtual reality, polls, collaborate boards, and game-based quizzes delivered through one seamless learning experience.” Nearpod.com Nearpod has a range of activities designed to increase student engagement.  Collaborate: Students are prompted with a question and they can respond with text or pictures. It is a great way to conduct a live discussion or brainstorming session.  Time to Climb: A gamified quiz. Start by adding your own question and a picture if you’d like. Next, fill in the multiple-choice answers or use images (great for pre-readers). One bonus is their additional options for older math students, such as the use of exponents or square roots. Teachers can set questions on a timer or easily edit their work by dragging questions or multiple choice answers around to rearrange. I found it very user friendly. However, the biggest drawback is that it is only multiple-choice questions, instead of having a range of choices like true/false or extended response.  Bell Ringer Writing Prompts: Teachers can write a prompt and include an optional reference image or timer. You can allow students to submit text or audio recordings. I thought the audio recordings were really cool, especially for young students who have a hard time typing or for accessibility for other students who need additional support.  Polls: Survey your students and receive feedback instantly. You can display the results for your class, choosing to either show or hide student names for privacy. This would be a great way for students to self-assess and provide teachers with quick feedback on who they need to pull and re-teach. More resources: There are other resources available for teachers include engaging Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) lessons or brain breaks. If you want to try out Nearpod with your students check out their youtube channel, sign up for a webinar training, or access their collection of free pre-recorded webinars to watch on your own time.   Redesigning Your Math Course with Nearpod We are all on a steep learning curve as we dive into distance learning. However, I think we’d all agree that traditional teaching methods are not as effective in a digital learning environment. Therefore, it is time to change it up! I watched this video from Edutopia on a highschool in Washington D.C. that had thrown out lecture-based teaching and replaced it with a self-paced, mastery-based approach to learning. I thought this flexibility would lend itself well to distance learning. Therefore, I started to brainstorm how Nearpod could be used to design an engaging, individualized digital learning environment for students that also allowed for student collaboration. Here’s my proposal: Online Instruction  Teachers design asynchronous Nearpod lessons they students can access and complete at their own pace. This seems like it would lend well to a distance learning environment since every family’s schedule is different.  Students participate in answering questions throughout the lesson with the “Draw it” tool. This is a great way for teachers to check for understanding and catch misconceptions quickly.  Since the lesson is not live, students can pause and rewatch parts as needed. When done, students will be required to complete a task to show mastery. Teachers can schedule “office hours” or collaboration time throughout the week for students to ask questions and work through questions together synchronously. Mastery-Based Grading Students progress to the next lesson when they demonstrate mastery. This part must be done independently by the students.   There are lots of fun tech tools that can be embedded in Nearpod lessons for students to show mastery. For example, teachers can use Nearpod’s own quiz feature or embed a Flip Grid discussion page for students to record videos explaining how they solved the problem. Or teachers can embed any website! For instance, check out Explain Everything. They have a digital whiteboard that allows students to demonstrate a problem and record audio. Or they could also complete a quick quiz on Quizlet or do an online Google form as an exit ticket.  Teachers can schedule one-on-one reteach sessions with students if needed and then students can try to demonstrate mastery again. This is possible because there are no live lectures-  the daily synchronous “classtime” becomes live sessions working with students. Critical Questions: Q: How do you effectively differentiate?  Perhaps teachers can create different Nearpod lessons for below, at level, and above grade level learners? However, this does seem like a large amount of work for teachers to create. Another option could be to let high students work through the “at level” lessons and then have an extension project for them to do. Q: Is there a cut off at some point so that you can move on to the next math chapter?  I recognize teachers may run into a problem with this mode of learning if students don’t participate or struggle with managing their self-paced lessons. One idea I had was to create a student pacing guide that students can refer to in order to gauge if they are doing a good job staying on top of their lessons (i.e. by the end of week two complete 4 lessons). Just like in a Gen. Ed. classroom, we will always have students that struggle with different concepts. I would encourage teachers to reteach concepts to students and allow them to repeat lessons until the end of the chapter. If they only completed 3 out of the 6 lessons, they would receive a grade for the standards covered and they would receive a “no mark” for the content they did not cover.  Q: How can we involve more collaboration for students?  I think we need more contact and community activities besides live office hours where students can ask questions and work through problems together. I love the idea of having an end of the chapter collaborative performance task where students have to use all the skills they’ve learned from the chapter to solve a real-world problem or authentic task. But at this point, I’m not sure what that looks like with social-distancing. I’d love to hear any ideas you may have.  Helping Staff Implement Nearpod I watched Nearpod’s webinar on “Implementing, Training and Supporting Teachers with NearPod”. They had some great suggestions for getting Nearpod off the ground at your school.  Start by modeling Nearpod for your staff during your professional development session. Then they can see the product through the lens of a student. This directly ties in with ISTE Coaching standard 4d: Model the use of instructional design principles with educators to create effective digital learning environments. Try and engage teachers the same way you want to engage students. Let them experience how fun it is to go on a virtual field trip or see how engaged learners are when using the“Draw it” tool. This will help teachers buy-in. Try and hook their attention at the beginning of the Nearpod lesson. Show a video or a funny meme. Ask “How do you feel today about this training?” and let teachers respond with the Draw It tool, Take a virtual field trip to the beach and talk about what you’re going to do for your summer vacation.  Use the Collaborate activity to pose an open-ended question or do a poll to ask staff if they are familiar with Nearpod.  Gage the direction of your training by getting live feedback from interactive activities. Use a poll in the middle of the training on which Nearpod activities they want training on since you don’t have time to cover them all. Could use Collaborate at the end to brainstorm ways teachers can use Nearpod in their classroom.  The objectives of your training should not just be to teach them about Nearpod, but also to motivate them to try using new technology. They are equally important!  Give teachers time to use Nearpod and begin to develop a lesson for math or their specific content area. Be available to help when needed or give feedback.  Create a Nearpod Planning Resource for teachers to use when creating a lesson.  Besides the webinar, Nearpod has other resources Digital Learning Coaches can use when introducing this tool to staff including a free Nearpod training lesson, facilitator guide, and audience checklist.  I’d love to hear about your experiences using Nearpod or your thoughts on individualized digital learning environments for students. Please comment below. Resources Basye, D. (2018, January 24). Personalized vs. Differentiated vs. Individualized Learning. Edutopia. Retrieved from: https://www.iste.org/explore/Education-leadership/Personalized-vs.-differentiated-vs.-individualized-learning Edutopia. (2019, May 9). A Student-Centered Model of Blended Learning [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrR-KIoggf4 Implementing, Training and Supporting Teachers with NearPod [Webinar]l Nearpod. Retrieved from: https://nearpod.com/blog/resources/#instructionalVideo ISTE…

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The Power of a Podcast

Ever wonder what it would be like if sharks had legs?  How about if it was possible to teach science through silly songs?  Or where you can hear music from the Jelly of the Month Club and the Boogers?  Then you need to check out podcasts. From exploring little-known moments in history to discussing questions like “Is it okay to fight bullies?”, podcasts will get you thinking, laughing, and questioning. Why podcasts should be a part of every classroom: Podcasts are a great way to give students voice and empower them to creatively share what they’re learning about. They can become a summative performance task for virtually every subject. For example, students can use podcasts to publish their narrative writing stories or explain a hypothesis they tested in science. Or their podcast can connect with social studies standards as students work in small groups to bring to life a moment in history and then explain the cause and effect. Not only can podcasts connect to learning standards, but they are also a great way to build a classroom community and help students practice being part of a team. Consider starting a classroom podcast where students co-author episodes synthesizing what they are learning into bite-size audio segments or have students discuss social topics such as “Is it ever okay to cheat?” or “What is safe information to share online?” By assigning different roles to your students such as hosts, producers, editors, recording technicians, etc. everyone can participate.  I think podcasts are so alluring because they give students an authentic audience. Matt Miller, the well-known author of Ditch That Textbook, comments that sometimes students do not produce their best work when they know their teacher will be the only person who views it. Podcasts give our students a real audience from all over the world. “What if they (our students) knew that people they knew – and people they’d never meet – were benefitting from their work? (Miller, 2018). They would be more motivated to do their very best. However, before posting student work it is always wise to check what your school’s student privacy policies are.  Podcasts are a powerful tool to use in our classroom to foster 21st-century skills, such as creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication. “Our world is craving smart, responsible problem solvers and critical thinkers” (Miller, 2018). Matt Miller (2018) argues that we’re missing a piece of the puzzle if we raise children who can problem solve but can’t articulate their vision. We need to spend the time NOW helping our students develop their communication skills. Podcasts are a great opportunity to do just that. The New York Times (2020) also emphasizes podcasts “offer an engaging way for teachers to merge project-based learning with digital media analysis and production skills.” They also provide students with the chance to work on their computational thinking skills. They can work on decomposition by breaking down their podcasts into smaller audio segments to record, edit, or rearrange. They also will use abstraction when writing their scripts and determining what information is needed and what is not. I hope you can see why podcasts are worth your time.  They…  Give students voice and an authentic audience Encourage creativity, collaborating, critical thinking and communication  Empower students to demonstrate learning in a creative way Foster classroom community  Help students develop digital literacy skills  Critical Questions: Some teachers might worry that creating podcasts are too much work and will take up too much classroom time to produce. If you’re feeling that way I would encourage you to check out Anchor, a podcasting recording app below. The app was super easy- even kindergarteners could do it. Plus, remember that you’re giving up classroom time to teach your students other skills and concepts besides just the academic standards – such as being a good teammate and effectively communicating ideas. Those skills are needed to be successful in any job. They are worth our time and our students need guidance in those areas too.  I also wondered if kids would be engaged? Will they be excited and motivated to make podcasts? Our students are stimulated by screens all day long, so I questioned how they would feel about auditory learning and production. I say try it out and see! Every year you have different students with varying interests. One year the kids might not take to it, and the next year it could be a home-run!  I personally think a change in scenery would do them good. Perhaps by exposing them to podcasts written for children it will peak their interests and get their creative juices flowing (see the end of the blog post for recommended podcasts). Recording Tools: So you’re now excited to try podcasting in your classroom, but where do you begin? When looking online, I found a variety of options for recording podcasts. Below are reviews of my top 3.  Anchor  Created by Spotify. Free mobile app or web tool.  An account is needed to create podcast episodes. You can collaborate with others at the same time or people can send voice messages for you to include in your podcast. Anchor has user-friendly tools that allow you to trim segments and also add transitions, sound effects, and background music. There are no storage limits – that means unlimited student projects! Podcasts can be published to multiple platforms, such as iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, and more.  It is important to note that the terms of use for Anchor are 13+. So younger students will need to be supervised by a teacher.  Another thing teachers should know is that there is a wide variety of content on the Anchor app of other podcasts that have been produced by people around the world. Some of these episodes are inappropriate for the classroom. It is easy to record without listening to other shows, but these boundaries should be explained to the kids.  Sound Trap  “Soundtrap is an online, collaborative music workstation that can edit and record vocals and instruments” (NPR, 2020).  Soundtrap is also a great platform for creating podcasts as well. Sound Trap is web-based so there is no installation required. Soundtrap for Education was specifically created for teachers. It allows educators to integrate Soundtrap with the LMS of their choice, create and distribute assignments, and view student projects. Student projects are saved to the cloud which allows students to access their work from different devices or at home. Sound Trap gives students more in-depth audio recording and editing capabilities but is easy to learn on their user-friendly platform. One great capability of Sound Trap is that they will generate a transcription of your podcast. By editing the text, it will also edit the audio. It’s a quick and easy way to delete parts you don’t need or rearrange your recorded audio. The transcripts are published with the podcast which is a great feature for schools so that we can be equitable and support all learners.  They also have a large database of sound effects and background music to choose from.  Another great feature is that Sound Trap is designed for people to collaborate from around the world. Invite people to join your recording session by sending a link- they do not need their own sound trap account.  Podcasts are published to Spotify. First 90 days free for teachers! Soundtrap’s Youtube account has quick tutorial videos for music and podcast creation. Audacity  A free and popular recording and editing tool. You will need to download the software onto your laptop. Audacity allows audio recording and editing on your laptop (Windows and Mac users). With Audacity, students can record directly with their laptop’s microphone or use an external one.  Audacity has basic tools for beginners but also more advanced features for those students who have some experience creating podcasts.  You can export files in various formats However, I did not find it as user-friendly or visually appealing as Anchor or Sound Trap. I think students would need to watch tutorial videos like this one, or be trained on the software before using it.  Podcasts For Kids: Before sitting down to create podcasts with your students, I encourage you to check out some examples from the links below. There are so many creative, whacky, and thought-provoking podcasts out there for kids. By listening, students can study common characteristics and also determine what styles they want to recreate. https://www.weareteachers.com/best-podcasts-for-kids/ https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/10-must-listen-podcasts-for-tweens-and-teens https://www.fatherly.com/play/the-best-podcasts-for-kids/ Other Resources For Teachers: NPR’s Teaching Podcasting: Curriculum Guide NPR’s Podcast Guide for Students  I’d love to hear how you have used podcasts in your classroom. What is your favorite platform or tool? Comment below! Resources Anchor. (2018, August 16). Anchor: The Easiest Way to Start a Podcast [Video]. YouTube. Common Sense Education. (n. d.). 10 Must-Listen Podcasts for Tweens and Teens. Common Sense Education. Retrieved from  Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/10-must-listen-podcasts-for-tweens-and-teens  Common Sense Education. (n. d.). Best Podcast Apps and Websites for Students. Common Sense Education. Retrieved from https://www.commonsense.org/education/top-picks/best-podcast-apps-and-websites-for-students Fatherly. (2020, April 23). The Best Podcasts for Kids That Adults Will Like Too. Fatherly. Retrieved from https://www.fatherly.com/play/the-best-podcasts-for-kids/ Gonchar, M., Hicks, J., & Winnick, L. (2020, April 14). Project Audio: Teaching Students How to Produce Their Own Podcasts. NY Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/19/learning/lesson-plans/project-audio-teaching-students-how-to-produce-their-own-podcasts.html Kokias, M. (n. d.). 26 Best Podcasts for Students in Elementary, Middle, and High School. We Are Teachers. Retrieved from https://www.weareteachers.com/best-podcasts-for-kids/  Miller, M. (2018, February 28). Why your students need a podcast: How to do it fast and free. Ditch That Textbook. Retrieved from https://ditchthattextbook.com/why-your-students-need-a-podcast-how-to-do-it-fast-and-free/ NPR. (2020, February 21). A Studio At Your Fingertips: 5 Apps Teachers Are Using To Make Student Podcasts. NPR. Retreived from https://www.npr.org/2020/02/21/807372536/a-studio-at-your-fingertips-5-apps-teachers-are-using-to-make-student-podcasts  Soundtrap for Education. (2019, May 14). Storytelling in your classroom with Soundtrap [Video]. YouTube.  Transverse Audio. (2018, April 11). How To Use Audacity For Beginners (2018) – V 2.1.2 [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAMAmeWMr7I

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Cultivating Community, Fostering Empathy, & Enriching Learning with Podcasting

  ‘https://anchor.fm/cory-cummings Inquiry Question: How can educators use technology to enrich project-based learning, foster empathy, and cultivate a collaborative community that inspires others? Community.  Empathy. Authentic, meaningful learning. As educators, these are things that we are constantly looking to model, foster, and strengthen in our classrooms. Right now in remote learning, these are also components…

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Tools for Analyzing Formative Assessments

Have you ever considered the amount of time it takes to hand out, collect, grade, and analyze formative assessments and then use results to meaningfully plan for daily math lessons? I know this is one of those pieces of teaching that I don’t exactly look forward to. It is exhausting to plan time for exit tickets and then grade them DAILY in order to have information to help guide your next day of instruction. I have been pondering this task for a while now, and it has led me to questioning my methods of formative assessment surrounding math.  Using ISTE Educator Standard 5: Design, and ISTE Educator Standard 7: Analyst, I came up with a guiding question to help lead me on my quest for a digital tool that can help me design, and analyze my students’ formative assessments in a meaningful way, with a quicker pace.  “What digital tools can I use to quickly assess math understanding while also allowing for self-assessment?” Let’s lead with the standards: While searching, I found 3 great tools that all serve slightly different purposes.  Edulastic  Edulastic is a great tool that helps give a more formal formative (or summative) assessment. My favorite part of this tool is that it has an abundance of pre-made assessments that are matched to curriculum and standards. My district uses Eureka for math curriculum, and there are pre-loaded tests for every topic, mid-module assessments, and end of module assessments for every grade and every module. Also, the majority of assessments are graded by themselves (the more extended problems have a small piece that need to be graded by the teacher). This tool is wonderful! It even creates color-coded pie charts representing the students who were below standard, near standard, and met standard.  While Edulastic is amazing for more formal assessing matters, it wasn’t necessarily what I was looking for when searching for a tool to help with the day-to-day exit ticket matter… my search continues! Flubaroo  The next tool I wanted to learn more about was Flubaroo. This is a free extension that you add to Chrome. You can create self graded tests made on Google Forms and help formatting for assessments as well. I have had great success with Flubaroo on creating templates for my students, along with creating student info sheets that have been taken by parents on Google Forms and then reformatted to a Google Doc in a more user-friendly model. Flubaroo is a fantastic tool, and I know that the practical uses for education are abundant.  To use Flubaroo, you must have all students (or whomever your users are) complete their Google Form prior to submitting a template and using the Google Sheet data. Looking for more great info on Flubaroo? Here is a how-to link for all things Flubaroo: here. While this may not be a con for your usage, I am looking for a tool that immediately gives me feedback.  I continued to search for a tool that could give me immediate formative assessment data and it led me next to Socrative.  Socrative Socrative has a free version and a pro-version. I focused on the free version. On the non-paid version there are 4 main features: Quiz, Space Race, Exit Ticket, and Quick Question.  Using “Quiz” you can either create a new quiz or import a quiz using a shared code that another user has created. These can be organized by folder, and can be as long as you please.  On “Space Race” you can use a quiz, with altered settings, to use on space race. Here is a great video that shows you the steps to launch a space race and then also shows you the student display. Here’s the video: Next, “Exit Ticket”, which to my knowledge is a pre-formatted set of 3 questions. The first asking how well you understood the material in that day’s lesson. The second asking what you learned, and enabling a short answer response ability. And the last question, “Please answer the teacher’s question”.  The last option, “Quick Question”. Here you can set up a multiple choice, true/false, or short answer response for students. For the free version, it shows you results immediately, however you cannot change the options on the tool (you would have to display it for the students using a different tool, or writing the question and answer on the board).  I am most interested in Socrative for my daily formative assessment tool. I can see myself using the quick question tool throughout the lesson (even outside of a math lesson) to gauge a quick understanding, while using the exit ticket function for students to self assess. I would use that last question opportunity to add a problem to the board for students to solve and respond using Socrative. This would help me to immediately have them give me a rating of understanding for the lesson, a short answer for them to explain in words what they felt they learned about that day, and also an immediate response to a problem.  While Socrative may not be useful for teachers who would like a more in-depth, self grading quiz, or an assessment that has been pre-loaded and matched to standards, it is perfect for a quick check-in with students.  I would love to hear what you use for your formative assessments and quick student assessments! Comment below! References AMLE – Association for Middle Level Education. (n.d.). 8 Digital Formative Assessment Tools to Improve Motivation. Retrieved from https://www.amle.org/BrowsebyTopic/WhatsNew/WNDet/TabId/270/ArtMID/888/ArticleID/675/8-Digital-Formative-Assessment-Tools-to-Improve-Motivation.aspx Davis, V. (2017, May 8). Fantastic, Fast Formative Assessment Tools. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/5-fast-formative-assessment-tools-vicki-davis Flubaroo Overview. (n.d.). Retrieved May 2020, from http://www.flubaroo.com/flubaroo-user-guide Free Formative Assessment Tools for Teachers. (n.d.). Retrieved May 2020, from https://edulastic.com/teachers/ K-12. (n.d.). Retrieved May 2020, from https://socrative.com/k-12/ Top Tech Tools for Formative Assessment. (2020, January 30). Retrieved from https://www.commonsense.org/education/top-picks/top-tech-tools-for-formative-assessment

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The C’s of Distance Learning

Exploring Best Practices This worldwide pandemic has pushed millions of teachers and students into the realm of distance learning. While the concept of distance learning is not new, it is for many of us and it offers a new set of challenges that differ from classroom instruction. So today I would like to explore the question together: What are best practices of distance learning? My principal has asked me to lead a professional development session on this very topic. And my first thought was “Me? I don’t feel equipped.” I wouldn’t want to stand and lecture as the “expert”- I am by no means the expert on distance learning. So similar to a student-centric classroom, my plan is to facilitate a conversation with our staff. That way teachers can share their own successes and challenges, research various perspectives together, brainstorm solutions, and walk away excited to try something new. So I invite YOU today to be part of the conversation. I would love to hear what you have learned so far as you have transitioned to a distance learning environment. We are stronger together. Communication We must communicate clearly, consistently, and with a common channel. If we use too many platforms (email, class website, shared google doc, texts via Remind, etc.) we will confuse our students and parents and things will start falling through the cracks. Therefore, it would be beneficial for your school’s leadership team to decide on teacher expectations for how to communicate (i.e. will everyone use Microsoft Teams or Google classroom) and how often they are expected to communicate with students and parents (having scheduled class times or office hours to answer questions). Having expectations for staff will help streamline the process of distance learning for families with multiple kids. In addition, the uniformity of platforms will help the technology department support teachers and will hopefully give teachers enough direction for them to feel comfortable and confident in moving forward. There are two types of communication: asynchronous and synchronous. Asynchronous: people can access and join in the conversation whenever it is convenient. Teachers can give directions, share announcements, or post pre-recorded lessons via email or their current Learning Management System (LMS). Likewise, students and parents know how to reach out to the teacher if they have any questions or concerns. Synchronous: people are together in a virtual space chatting at the same time. The benefits of synchronous conversation are being able to have an open dialogue, students can participate and ask timely questions, teachers can gauge understanding and correct misconceptions, and classroom community can more quickly be built. This can be done via text-based conversations or online video conferencing. Text-Based ConversationsLearning Management Systems (LMS) have built-in ways to have secure and ongoing conversations with your students. Whether your school uses Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, or a different LMS like Schoology or Blackboard, teachers can use these platforms to communicate with students in an online discussion board. Another alternative option to consider is using YoTeach to have a backchannel discussion with your class or small group. Video conferencingBecause of Covid19, many video conferencing tools have been made available to schools. Some of the most common are Zoom, Google Hangouts Meet, and Microsoft Teams. While each platform has small differences and pitfalls, they each do a nice job of bringing people together. However, it is important you seek permission from your principal and/or district before using any of these tools since they may violate your school’s privacy policies. I think it would be beneficial to teach video conferencing expectations and etiquette to your students since this is likely a new experience for them. The following poster can be used to set expectations with older students. There are a lot of other resources out there on video conferencing etiquette. Here are a few you might find helpful. Instructional YouTube video for younger students Zoom etiquette guide to share with families Zoom checklist for primary grades Teaching audience etiquette to older elementary students How have you taught expectations and etiquette to your students?  What forms of communication have been the most successful for you?  Community and Belonging Experienced teachers have an arsenal of ice-breakers and get to know you games to do at the beginning of the school year to help build community. However, how does one go about establishing a community online? I think teachers should treat the shift to distance learning like you would the beginning of the school year. Take the time to establish relationships and routines before digging deep into learning. Here are a couple of suggestions on how to establish a community of learners and help everyone feel like they belong. Together create a digital community agreement. This could be especially effective with older students as they brainstorm together a set of shared norms such as agreeing to attend synchronous events or how to give constructive feedback to one another. With little kids, it can be beneficial to go over do’s and don’ts of online learning. For example, do not talk over each other during the classroom Zoom call. By taking the time to discuss and agree on how to act online it will pave the way to a smoother online experience.  Get to know each other and establish trusting relationships. Take time to do “Show and Tell” with your primary students or have older children answer ice breaker questions such as “What are you most proud of?” or “What are your highs and lows of last week?” By taking the time to connect and listen, students build empathy towards each other and a sense of belonging. I would encourage teachers to participate as well.  Encourage students to work together. Set up a group discussion feed for students to be able to talk and ask each other questions. Or have students become the teachers and have them show how they solved a math problem via video and post it on the class page. Lastly, design assignments that partner students together to view each other’s work and give feedback.  How have you created community online?  Creating One way we can empower our students during distance learning is by giving them a choice in how they demonstrate their knowledge. Allowing them choice gives them autonomy and control over their learning and encourages them to be creative and critical thinkers. The technology options out there are endless, so try and rotate through tech options that meet diverse learner preferences or create a choice menu for students to choose from (if you’ve never heard of choice menus before check out John Spencer’s blog).  Tech tools that connect to learning preferences A couple items to keep in mind: When choosing apps or creation-tools consider which ones are user and kid-friendly. If you have a hard time learning how to navigate it, your kids will too! You need to keep things simple since you won’t be able to walk them through how to use the app face-to-face.  Remember pedagogy first, technology second. We don’t want to get wrapped up in the use of technology and forget what matters. Carefully test and select tools that will help students demonstrate their mastery of learning goals. Or skip the technology altogether and use other creative ways students can show their learning (posters, sketches, 3-d models, etc.) If you are a teacher who doesn’t feel confident with your digital literacy, try and master one or two new tech tools to start off with. Don’t try and tackle all the coolest latest apps. Work on developing your tech skills at your own pace and take pride in your growth. How do you give students autonomy and choice in their learning?  How do you give your students the opportunity to be creative? What are your favorite tech tools? Collaboration and Connecting Students have been thrust into distance learning (just like us) and are missing the opportunity to socialize and work with others. No longer can they turn and talk to a partner or work in a group to solve a problem. Imagine how hard this is for our extroverted kids who thrive off of social interactions, or the kid who academically struggles and therefore benefits from the support that comes from learning alongside his or her peers.  I would challenge you to try and still give them opportunities to work with others:  To brainstorm and bounce ideas off of each other  To explain and justify their thinking To give each other constructive feedback To collaborate on a project We can also add more authenticity to their work by connecting with other classrooms in order to give them a range of audiences. Find classes to work with by networking on Twitter or Facebook. Also, try your best to connect one-on-one with your students. I’ve heard that this personal connection can be a game-changer. Consider choosing one or two modes of communication (email, video messages, comments on shared documents, etc.) and stick to them. You could also hand-write cards or invite small groups to have lunch with you via video-conferencing. How can you give students the opportunity to work together? Are there collaborative websites or apps that you have used and liked?  How have you fostered your personal relationship with students? What impact has it had?  Content Several BIG questions have surfaced for me in regards to how we teach via distance learning. As I started to research and dig deeper I realized that this blog post was turning into a novel. Therefore, I think I will save the “Content” portion for another post. That way I can give myself the time and space to research these questions more thoroughly. Please look over the questions below, digest them, and let me know your thoughts.  How do we effectively teach via distance learning? What changes do we need to make to our lessons, delivery, and assessments compared to how we normally teach?  What are different ways we can deliver our lessons (i.e. video, audio, readings, interactive experiences such as NearPod)? How do we differentiate for our diverse learners? How do we meet the needs of our students with IEPs/504 plans? How can we include trauma-informed practices that support students during a crisis? How can we include Social Emotional Learning (SEL) lessons into our instruction? General Tips To close I thought I would share some tips Jennifer Gonzalez talks about in her popular blog Cult of Pedagogy: Keep home responsibilities in mind. Be flexible with deadlines and show extra grace knowing that this is a big transition for families as they work out a new routine that balances learning, physical exercise, chores, and parents still themselves working. Especially if they are juggling multiple kid’s schoolwork and synchronous events. Less is more.  Prioritize social interactions. You don’t have to use 100% of your time for teaching. Allowing students the time and place to share about their feelings, laugh together, and just interact with their peers can be much more valuable for their emotional and mental health than learning how to count to 5 or identify a paragraph’s main idea. We need to keep in mind the mental and emotional toll large-scale social isolation is having on us all and know those other academic skills will come with time.  Keep. Things. Simple. Limit the platforms you are using for distributing information and keep messages to a minimum. “Give parents and students one place to look for all important information, and that “place” will be clean, simple, easy to navigate, and updated regularly so everyone can count on the information being current (Gonzalez, 2020). I feel like we’ve just started to uncover the tip of the iceberg as we try and answer the question “What are best practices for distance learning?”. I strongly believe we need to focus on communication, community, giving students autonomy with choice, collaboration, and of course content. There is not a one-size-fits-all or correct way to do distance learning. Educators will have to thoughtfully, by trial and error, design a system that works for them and their students. And above all…

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Enhancing Assessments to Drive Instruction with Pear Deck

Inquiry Question: How can educators use technology to enhance assessment design, allowing for increased student engagement, a differentiated learner experience, and effective data-collection, to drive their instruction? Remote learning has provided me with an intentional opportunity to critically reflect on the assessments I use with my students and evaluate how they can best be used…

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Building and Engaging in Meaningful Professional Learning Communities with Twitter

Inquiry Question: How can educators build and engage in a professional learning community that shares best practices, inspires others with innovative ideas, and supports members in participating in a variety of levels?  Professional learning communities are a vital component to providing educators with professional growth, support, and inspiration. I am always curious to learn from…

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