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Monday, December 4, 2017

Chrome Extensions For the Win!



Chrome extensions work only in Chrome and will not work on the Chrome app on an iPad or iPhone
  • F1000 Annotator - Great way to have a place to save useful information and annotate for the future
  • Nimbus Screenshot & Screen Video Recorder - Create screenshots and screen recordings to create how-to's
  • Google Drive - Quick access to your Google Drive from your Chrome Browser
  • Crafty Text - Create easy to read text to share when displaying your screen in a meeting/class time
  • Equatio - Math equation generator
  • Black Menu for Google - Easy access to the Google Apps 
  • InsertLearning - Allows you to create an interactive lessons from any website 
  • Boomerang - Not the repeating video thing on Instagram...Boomerang gives you the ability to post and send things (emails, social media, etc) at a later date and even receive analytics on what you have sent.
  • Google Keep - Part of the Google Suites Apps. Google Keep gives you a way to take notes and you can access it across your devices easily for reference
See the video below to watch me go through each extension and learn more:




To add extensions to your Chrome Toolbar:
  1. Open Chrome
  2. Click the 3 vertical dots in the right hand top corner of your page
  3. Click on "More Tools"
  4. Click on "Extensions" 
  5. Then click on "Get More Extensions" (at the bottom of the page if you have already downloaded any extensions)
After creating the video above I was asked by a teacher how to create voice comments in Google docs. Here is my video on how to use the Chrome Extension "Read & Write for Google Chrome" for inputting voice comments into a Google Doc:




Monday, November 27, 2017

Educators as Learning Catalyst Analysts


Analyst- Educators understand and use data to drive their instruction and support students in achieving their learning goals. Educators:

  • Provide alternative ways for students to demonstrate competency and reflect on their learning using technology.
  • Use technology to design and implement a variety of formative and summative assessments that accommodate learner needs, provide timely feedback to students and inform instruction. 
  • Use assessment data to guide progress and communicate with students, parents and education stakeholders to build student self-direction. (ISTE Standards for Educators, 2016)

As a parent of two daughters that really struggle with test anxiety, I am thankful that technology can often create opportunities for alternative ways to assess. Having students create presentations of their learning allows for alternatives to the traditional formative and summative assessments of "test day." Creating rubrics can both guide students in understanding what they will be responsible for learning as well as creating an upfront knowledge of what will be assessed and how. As a sometimes Type A personality I have a daughter that truly does better on any paper or project if the parameters for expectations and evaluation are laid out clearly. Technology can aid in that.

One of the major efficiencies for technology in the classroom is in relation to digital assessments. Technology used for grading assessment gives faster feedback than ever before. Self-grading assessments, speed graders like in the Canvas LMS, and the ability to see all answers in one place allows educators the opportunity to truly use assessment data to guide their instruction not just to evaluate learning of the instruction.

Digital assessments create a series of data points that can readily be evaluated for individualized purposes. This can mean anything from competency based mastery path individualized learning plans to adjusting whole classroom instruction to best meet the classroom needs for the next day due to assessment results. Digital assessments allow for quick responses to all stakeholders- students, teachers, and parents. If it is in the form of formative assessments, it can show gaps or weaknesses that need more attention before a summative assessment takes place.

In today's world of adaptive software that adjusts to student learning, algorithms can serve the role of analyst for the educator while the educator spends more time in collaborator, designer, and facilitator  roles as learning catalysts described in the ISTE Standards for Educators.


Monday, November 20, 2017

Educators as Learning Catalyst Facilitators


Facilitator- Educators facilitate learning with technology to support student achievement of the ISTE Standards for Students. Educators:

  • Foster a culture where students take ownership of their learning goals and outcomes in both independent and group settings.
  • Manage the use of technology and student learning strategies in digital platforms, virtual learning environments, hands-on makerspaces or in the field.
  • Create learning opportunities that challenge students to use a design process and/or computational thinking to innovate and solve problems.
  • Model and nurture creativity and creative expression to communicate ideas, knowledge or connections. (ISTE Standards for Educators, 2016)
The idea of educators being seen as facilitators of learning is both freeing and frightening. This concept worries some people into thinking that technology will replace teachers. Some individuals feel that the role of a facilitator diminishes the value of the teacher but I strongly disagree. The role of the educator as a facilitator empowers the teacher in ways that are bigger than any individual classroom:
  1. If teachers create learning environments that allows for creativity and voice/choice then students start realizing that education isn't about test taking and being fed but it's about curiosity and constant improvement of ones knowledge base. Mindsets can be changed.
  2. Becoming a facilitator of learning puts the onus of education on the student. The long held notion of education has been that it is the teacher's responsibility for the learning (or lack of learning) taking place in the classroom. By facilitating learning through various forms of instructional delivery both personally and technologically, it becomes more apparent when a student isn't doing their part in the learning process. It also allows the teachers the ability to have "evidence" to support what they see as a lack of effort from students through the use of software that shows the amount of time students are actually putting into their learning. Being a facilitator in this regard actually teaches students how to study and learn based on feedback teachers are getting from well chosen technology platforms.
  3. Becoming a facilitator of learning allows for more relational opportunities in the student's educational career. Research shows us that investing in children personally increases test scores. Becoming a facilitator by embracing tech tools that streamlines some processes and allows educators more time to work with small group and one-on-one experiences with their students. Many fear being seen as facilitators because of being afraid artificial intelligence robots or well written algorithms will replace the role of the teacher. But humanity needs humanity. I am a firm believer that teachers that truly care, have goals for their students, and seek to both empower and mentor will make such a big difference as facilitators of learning. 
When I ask myself and others why I became an educator it mostly boils down wanting to make a difference in the lives of others and having a passion for learning. The role of educators as learning catalyst facilitators will empower me to become more than I have been able to be in lives of individual students. The question is, will we adjust to this remarkable opportunity and look for ways to leverage our educational landscape to create this type of role for our teachers or will we digitize what we know and not take advantage of more opportunities for relational connections with our students?


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Christmas Tech Toy List


 It is the time of year where children are targeted by every toy commercial that comes on. Children start adding toy after toy to their list only because they are being bombarded with messages against your will. But fear not, there are so many choices that parents and grandparents can make that are considered a TOY as well as EDUCATIONAL. Below is a list of potential gifts from my realm of education - STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math). Toys can be fun and educational at the same time. 

Ozobots - Yes! Teach your child how to code a robot. Ozobots are a cost effective way to introduce coding to the physical world. While you don't have to have a device with BIT to make them work having an android or iOS device to download the app takes your opportunities with EVO to the next level. Check out Ozobots for children of any age! 



Dash and Dot - Wonder Workshop makes robotics durable and cost effective for even the youngest child. You will need a device to code with these cute little robots but the 3 app choices gives you opportunities for all age groups to have a little fun with robotics.  

Rocketbook - It's going to seem magical, you are going to say "no way!" but Rocketbooks are a way to digitally store your handwriting and artwork in a reusable notebook. Buy the Rocketbook Wave and when it is full, clear it by putting it in the microwave with a cup of water. Wipe down the Rocketbook Color. The options are endless and the front of your refrigerator will be free of clutter as you keep your keepsakes online!  

Legos - Yes Legos! Nothing new here but the opportunities are endless! Do you have a future architect or a budding engineer, buy that kid some Legos and let the creativity abound. Do you have girls, buy her LOTS of Legos- we need more women in STEAM jobs. Google "Lego Challenges", print off the cards and stand back!

Sign Up for Coding Accounts - There are so many options to teach your child more about coding. What's coding? You might know it as computer programming. The nice thing about this option is that you can use the computer you already have at your house and just create accounts for your child- many options are absolutely free! Check out Scratch, the coding website written by two MIT students. Let them work in code.org and see what they enjoy. Invest in what peeks their interest. There future is computer science. Prep your child now for their future!

Virtual Reality Headset What is virtual reality? VR allows personalized virtual reality opportunities from games to field trips as if you are there in what feels like a total immersive experience. The opportunities are growing every day. Let your child dissect a frog or look at a 3D heart model using something like the Merge Cube below. You can use a phone with the lower cost VR headsets like as Google Cardboard but there are also stand alone VR Headsets like Occulus Rift.
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4Zt3JZejbg

Merge Cube - This is a virtual reality experience you can hold in your hand. It works with both android and iOS phones and gives you a very cost friendly virtual reality option. Play games or view 3D anatomy images. It is a soft spongey cube that won't break easily but gives insight into the future of learning. 

Kanu Computer Kit - Have a future IT person on your hands or an engineer? Let them put a computer together! Learn about the inner workings of a computer and create one by themselves. Is your child a tinker/builder? This is like Legos on steroids for that type of kid. Not only are they building but they are learning how computers work at the same time.

Snap Circuits Jr. - A wonderful cost effective way for children to learn about electricity and the basic properties of electronics. Snap Circuits Junior allows children to create while teaching them the concepts of circuits and how they are a part of things we use every day. 

Arduino Circuitry Kit - Take circuitry to the next level with older children and invest in Arduino kits. These kits include components they can manipulate to create models of all sorts of things. Your future electrical engineer will thank you for this gift!

As you consider the various gifts above, click on the names and it will take you to a link where they are available to be bought. I am not endorsing the companies I've linked to, just trying to give you an option to see costs and availability. What I love about each of these options is that it is more than just a toy. Some of them are training your child how to think logically, some of them will require a design thinking mindset, and some will just cause them to go "hmmm" and then question what they currently know and consider their futures.

As I have mentioned, some require the use of  computer or mobile device to make them work. Please hear me say that research shows that the best learning during computer gaming happens when parents participate with their children. Take 15-20 minutes out of your day a couple days a week and grow your students STEM skills for the future they are going to be living in. Learn with them! I certainly don't know how to do all the things listed here, and that is the beauty of these gift ideas...the possibilities are endless! 




Monday, November 13, 2017

Educators as Learning Catalyst Designers


Designer- Educators design authentic, learner-driven activities and environments that recognize and accommodate learner variability. Educators:

  • Use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.
  • Design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning.
  • Explore and apply instructional design principles to create innovate digital learning environments that engage and support learning.  (ISTE Standards for Educators, 2016)

In today's world, educators no longer have to be tied to a textbook as their source of information. By accessing the internet, teachers now have quick, great connections to information in both a curated and non-curated format. Resources such as open education resources (ck12.org) or a myriad of online information in free or paid form now allow teachers to add both depth and breadth to their teaching by designing opportunities for learning beyond the typical sit and get classroom. 

For instance, through the use of learning management systems teachers can create online classroom modules that allow for personalized learning. Teachers can assign different students different tasks and resources that best meet the individual needs. By creating robust digital learning environments teachers can put more of the onus of time and task onto the student and use their time more effectively in the classroom for small group or one-on-one instruction. 

This standard also sheds light on the concept of authentic activities for our students. As a Learning Catalyst Designer educators should be looking for opportunities to create inquiry-based, problem/project base learning opportunities for their students. Today's technology allows classrooms to have experiences that were not possible 2 decades ago. The ubiquitous nature of information creates ease of access and opportunity in a tech rich environment. Today's educator can design classroom experiences that taps into this information and allows for learner variability as well as voice in choice in their pathways of learning. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Educators as Learning Catalyst Collaborators


Collaborator - Educators dedicate time to collaborate with both colleagues and students to improve practice, discover and share resources and ideas, and solve problems. Educators:

  • Dedicate planning time to collaborate with colleagues to create authentic learning experiences that leverage technology.
  • Collaborate and co-learn with students to discover and use new digital resources and diagnose and troubleshoot technology issues.
  • Use collaborative tools to expand students' authentic, real-world learning experiences by engaging virtually with experts, teams and students, locally and globally.
  • Demonstrate cultural competency when communicating with students, parents and colleagues and interact with them as co-collaborators in student learning.
"Research has shown the power of collaboration in improving educator practice" (Ronfeldt, Farmer, McQueen, & Grissom, 2015). Creating opportunities in the day for students to have authentic learning opportunities while collaborating with myself or others makes learning relevant to our students.  To acknowledge the fact that teachers no longer have to be the "sage on the stage" imparting all knowledge on our students creates a sense of collaborative learning that grows both the teacher and student. Leveraging technology to knock down the walls of our classrooms to multiple viewpoints and experts creates opportunities for all of us to grow in our learning journeys on any topic.  

Last year we had a group of middle school students that would secretly look up information that their teachers shared with them to see if they were "true" or not. What a great opportunity for teachers to allow those challenges in the classroom and grow forward from them with their students. Personally, I can see a future of using iOT devices in classroom for just these types of challenge moments. Siri, Google, or Alexa could share information with all the students at the same time on the challenged topic. This would allow for students to learn how to do better key internet searches together.

Many teachers fear that their students know more about technology than they do and therefore they don't want it in the classroom. What if we harnessed their knowledge by empowering them to diagnose and discover educational technology issues and tools? Last year I had the joy of working with a group of elementary students that chose to be a part of an elementary tech team. This team empowered them to help others in our school with tech issues. See their website here: https://sites.google.com/a/ccsk12.com/ccstechteam/

I am so thankful for the Google Suites for Education that allow me to collaborate with teachers and students in real time through the use of Google Hangouts, Calendars, Docs, Slides, etc. Leveraging digital real-time tools allows for more group projects to enhance the 21st century skills they need for the future. One of my favorite lessons was when a teacher friend of mine that lives in the Philippines stayed up despite the 12 hour difference for a Skype call with seventh graders learning about Eastern Civilization. This teacher's father actually is in the history books in the Philippines because he was a key soldier during the 1989 coup.  What a real world opportunity for our students! Creating learning environments that teach us and our students about cultural identities can be enhanced through the use of technology to understand those cultural differences. 


What I love about this standard is that there is no expectation on a teacher to know know all the answers. The onus is on the teacher to learn along side the student. This creates a culture of teachers as facilitators of learning and gives ownership to the students for their path of learning. In the immortal words of Albert Einstein,  "education is not the learning of facts but the training of the mind to think."


Sunday, October 29, 2017

What is Digital Pedagogy?



Lately my mind has been wrapping itself around how instructional practice has changed due to digital  instruction. I myself have said the words "Pedagogy before technology" hundred of times. But lately I fine myself personally redefining what "best practice" teaching looks like in a classroom rich with technology. What once was pedagogy now seems better defined as digital pedagogy for classrooms with the advantages of easily accessible technology tools. Bear with me as I stumble through this post...my first thought was to google what others see as best practice digital pedagogy but I decided that wasn't being true to myself so I am stumbling through this thought via this blog post and really hope for feedback to flesh this out further.

According to Merriam-Webster pedagogy is defined as "the art, science, or profession of teaching, especially: Education" (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pedagogy). Pedagogy is one of those words that is pulled out when plans don't seem traditionally grounded, rigorously based, or founded on accepted principals of teaching and learning. Teachers learn about pedagogy in their educational training in college and then they are observed in practice while teaching to make sure they are following good pedagogical practices. The thing is, that can be defined differently depending on the school you went to, the training you've received, the results you've seen in the classroom. On top of that, good pedagogy is changing depending on the availability of technology in the classroom. Technology availability is changing what good pedagogy looks like and not taking advantage of the technology opportunities in itself can be poor pedagogy.

So in my mind I have broken up what good digital pedagogy looks like into the following sections:

  • Digital Learning Environments - We spend a lot of time looking at what our classrooms look like (and we should) but technology integrated in the classroom also looks different due to the need to move around the classroom to monitor for off-task behavior. A digital learning environment also means that students have access to resources digitally as well. Learning objectives shouldn't just be written on the board each day but in a Learning Management System that allows students to access if they are absent, behind, need to study, or even to move forward in the curriculum at hand. Good digital pedagogy means that educators are taking advantage of technology to best meet the needs of all students. It means creating a curated list of additional helps for access. It means well planned units that intentionally use helpful technology to engage students in curation, creation, connection, and consumption in this digital age. 
  • Personalized Learning - The educational system we currently know came about during the industrial age when students were grouped by age and ability. These students were all taught the same things, the same way to best get them through the system. Technology allows us better meet the needs of each student due to various opportunities that educational technology can give like the following:
    • Intuitive, smart technology software- adjusts to students' learning and keeps them both engaged and challenged.
    • Blended learning opportunities- creates stations that allows teachers to work in small group/individual settings to better meet the individualized needs of the students
    • Online learning - Creating curriculum that is mostly or totally online allows students to work at their own pace and reach out to facilitating teachers when struggling with concepts or needing to set learning goals
  • Leveraging Data - Today's technology makes formative and summative assessment easier to connect with standards and to measure ongoing competency in student/class/grade level/school growth. This data also helps in the concept of personalized learning. It wasn't always easy to discern what concepts students didn't understand. Now software can do the algorithms for us and create paths to better help teachers and students in learning tasks. For instance, I noticed this September after our elementary students took their NWEA assessment, the software itself assessed the gaps and made suggestions to teachers for each student in regards to what areas of learning might need some scaffolding in place. 
  • Culture of Innovation - Good digital pedagogy means looking for ways to be innovative in the classroom. I have always defined innovation as the intersection where need and passion intercept under an umbrella of creativity. Innovation often happens as that nagging in the back of good educator's heads that keep them up at night. It's wanting to the interactions between students and learning to click for everyone and looking for ways to make that happen. Innovation isn't always digital but it is always disruptive. It's tapping into a growth mindset and looking for better ways to do things. It doesn't mean throwing out the old, it means adopting the contemporary, keeping the classical, and ditching the antiquated. 
  • Empowered Digital Citizen - Digital pedagogy means empowering students to learn how to use technology ethically, safely, and legally. It also means teaching our students how to leverage technology for their learning both now and in their future when they are not in our care. We must teach our students and teachers that we are digital stewards of the world we live in. The concept of stewardship includes both taking (consumption and curation) of information as well as adding value to our digital world (creation and connection). 
I realize these four points are very broad in nature but it is my opinion that a good pedagogy in today's digital landscape must have expectations placed upon them or we can't call it pedagogy at all. Technology changes what pedagogy is because it allows educators to measure, create, empower, and personalize for each student we teach...not the average, not the upper curve, or the lower curve but to everyone. We are in an age of education that the expectations are changing because the ability to both know and teach to the individuals in our classroom is now possible. We must tap into these educational technology tools and digital learning environments to best reach our student's capacity for learning.