Thursday, January 29, 2015

Guest Blogger: CCS Curriculum Coach-Allison Barham "Can Technology HelpStudents Gain Confidence in Math?"

This year we organized our fifth grade math classes by ability.  We felt that this would make a great difference for the struggling students.  However, this setting created frustration for students and the teacher.  Since the entire class struggled in math, students weren’t able to work independently with success because they didn’t understand what they were working on.  Also, the teacher felt that teaching a whole group lesson was not effective because there were so many students who couldn’t understand the material.  The teacher and I began thinking about how we could structure the classroom to create a successful environment. The teacher decided that all math instruction needed to be done in small groups.  The main concern with teaching in small groups was what were students going to do while the teacher was occupied.  We, along with the technology coach, researched flipped classrooms.  The station rotation flipped classroom model was selected to pilot because it was a better fit for an elementary classroom setting and would allow us to accomplish our goals.

Khan Academy was selected as one of the rotations because of its ability to help students with skills needing remediation and currently being taught, the technology feature that grabs student attention, and the videos available for students to watch repetitively to help them gain understanding.  Even though Khan was proving itself to be effective, there was a resource needed for another rotation.  We researched again to find resources that focused on math facts in a gaming platform because this is a main deficit in students that struggle in math.  We chose Aleks because it allows students to work on addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.  Once students mastered a certain number of facts, they were able to play a game which caused them to work harder on becoming accurate in their facts.

Both of these rotations have been implemented for about ten weeks.  Parapros were hired to assist students at these rotations to keep them on track and support them when they are having difficulty. Data has been gathered weekly to make recommendations on the skills students need and to check on the progress of student mastery and effectiveness of this model.  Students are continuing to grasp concepts in skills being taught currently.  The teacher has seen enormous success in teaching students in small groups.  

One piece of data that illustrates success in this model, is from Aleks.  Students have been practicing their math facts daily using the Aleks app on the ipad.  Students have gained an average of 10% in their multiplication  and 30% in division facts from the start of this model ten weeks ago!  

With this tremendous gain, student confidence has soared.  Students feel more confident in their ability to solve math problems.  They are asking more questions when they don’t understand.  This increase in confidence is attributed to the technology resource used in this station rotation model.  We are thinking about making these resources available to other grade levels next year to increase math understanding but more importantly build confidence in math.

I believe that if a student has confidence in something, they will more than likely succeed because they believe they can do it.  If schools would focus on building confidence first instead of stressing the importance of mastering all the math standards, students would perform better which leads to mastery in math skills and concepts.  A lot of money and effort isn’t needed to build a student’s confidence.  These simple apps enhanced a classroom setting and boosted student’s attitude towards math that can last a lifetime!

Allison Barham is the curriculum coach at Chattanooga Christian Lower School.  She is a child of God, wife, mom, and lover of education.  She taught in Hamilton County for 12 years.  A graduate of Emory & Henry College, she pursues effective education for students.  

Monday, January 19, 2015

Ten Things Elementary Students Should Know about Tech by 5th grade

This list is in no particular order and is definitely based on my humble opinion. That being said, if I teach your goal is to teach all these things from a Christian perspective.

1. Touch typing keyboarding. Elementary students should be typing at least 20 words per minute at the end of fifth grade. That is the minimum speed where typing is faster than writing. We have devoted time in the curriculum for this but curriculum time is limited. If you're a parent, find a free online typing test and check your child's speed. If they are below 20wpm, use a free resource to help them reach this speed, is a good choice.

2. Troubleshooting. By the end of fifth grade, your child should have a thought bank of resources when things don't go right when using technology. For instance: how to refresh a web page, what to do look for if you can't log onto something using their user names and passwords, what to do when a bluetooth keyboard won't respond. These are all skills that will help them in life. It is our tendency to take a device out of their hands, fix it, and hand it back. We should be teaching our students how to critically think and solve their own problems.

3. Digital citizenship. The minimum age requirement for many social media sites is 13 years old. Most fifth graders have not yet reached that age. Therefore, it is the perfect time to teach students about digital citizenship issues regarding social media, bullying, online etiquette, safety, and communication skills.

4. Device basics. Every student should have the following basic knowledge of their device of choice:
  • Power on/off
  • Adjust volume up/down/mute
  • Select appropriate WiFi network
  • Log in to school email account
  • Plug in headphones
  • Open web-browser to access internet
  • Take a picture
  • Take a video
  • Switch between front- and rear-facing cameras
  • Bookmark a website & add shortcut to home screen
  • Take a screenshot
  • Access photos and videos on device
5. Citing. Students should know how to give credit where credit is due. Using a citing website (such as Noodlebib), a fifth grader should be able to collect the information needed from websites, books, or photos and enter it into the appropriate form to create a reference page.

6. Toolbelt of presentation options. Due to various projects through their elementary school years, fifth graders should have a variety of presentation tools that they feel comfortable with when asked to present information. This includes but not limited to: Google docs, Google Slides, Keynote, Pages, DoInk Green Screen, Tellagami, Explain Everything, Idea Sketch, Visualize.

7. How to do a proper Internet search. Fifth grade students should be taught the virtues and shortcomings of doing a Google search and how to best use Google for their educational benefit. Students should know how to use age-appropriate search engines for research projects including but not limited to: Ebsco-host research engines, encyclopedias, children friendly websites, etc.

8. How to collaborate using technology. Students should learn how to use websites/apps such as Google docs to share information with each other and teachers via both comments and adding straight to a shared document itself both while sitting together and separate.

9. Use technology to organize their learning. Students should be able to use technology tools such as Google drive to set up folders to store information "in the cloud" for easy access for learning, Notability to take notes from lectures, and have the ability to take photos of things for future studying opportunities.

10. The perils of misuse and multitasking and how it affects them individually. Fifth graders should be taught about their digital rights and responsibilities regarding both personal and educational perspectives. They should be shown how multitasking affects them and be given appropriate aid to help them discern how technology can benefit or distract from their learning.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

My One Word: The power of "LET'S"

After thinking for a few weeks about the #oneword concept being talked about so much on Twitter, etc. I have been self-reflecting a lot lately trying to dig deeper and ascertain what I needed to do to be better at what I do. As an instructional technologist, I work with others on a regular basis- other faculty, other students, other parents. This year I am looking for ways to improve my collaboration efforts with these people. My word is "Let's." There is power in numbers, strength in togetherness, growth in unity. 

According to Ecclesiastes 4:12, "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." I want to use that concept to help others, to help myself, and to help my school.

One of my greatest joys in what I do is seeing others smile when what they are doing with technology works, or when they gain a concept they didn't know before, or when they see the benefit of some type of technology for their classroom. It is very easy in my position to say "Now do this, then do that, call me if you need any help" but for the timid or reluctant technology users, that is often overwhelming. This year I will be more purposeful in saying "Then WE will do this...this is what I will do, this is what you will do, and together, this is what will happen." The word "Let's" tells those I work with that we are in this together, all on the same team, trying to find what benefits our students the most. "Let's" tells them that we are a team working together for the greater good.

If as a technology coach I am approachable and available, I am seen as an asset to have in the classroom, not a nuisance or "one more thing to do." My desire this year is to become as much of a team player as possible. I want to show my belief in collaboration- to give and take, lead and learn, listen and be heard- all within a supportive culture of forgiveness when we fail each other and excitement when we see each other succeed.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Guest Blogger Kent Davis: "For What Are We Preparing?"

When asking for guest bloggers, I decided to reach beyond the academia world and into the business world. Since I happen to live with a business owner I asked him if he would share with the educational society what he sees as an important message from his standpoint. The following is the blog of Kent Davis entitled "For What Are We Preparing?"

I have been a business owner/manager for over 25 years, and I daily help organizations
implement technology successfully. One of the challenges is being able to find and hire
employees who understand, not only the technology, but it’s practical application in everyday

I remember when fax machines came into vogue. I talked to people about being able to send
documents across the country in a matter of minutes. I talked about how that would affect their
ability to get and use information more quickly than their competitors, cost saving of overnight
services, etc. They have now pretty much been replaced by email, but the argument holds true.
Those who figured out useful ways to implement that new technology took a step ahead. Those
who didn’t fell behind.

Technologies will change constantly. I have witnessed that. From a world where an electric
typewriter was cutting edge to a world where you can wear a computer on your wrist, it is how
we make use of the tech that differentiates us. The technologies we find so fascinating or
challenging or controversial today, will go the way of the typewriter and the fax machine.
What I, and many others, are looking for in an employee, are critical thinking skills. The ability
to evaluate a situation and use the tools available to influence it. Someone who mastered the
fax machine, does not have a marketable skill today. Someone who understands how to use all
available resources to convey information accurately, quickly, and effectively does.
I don’t have a punch list of how to prepare students. I am not sure that it should have changed
a lot. Just like my business. We do exactly the same thing we did over 50 years ago. We
help businesses implement current technology in ways that increase their effectiveness and
profitability. We have to not get sidetracked by the technology, but stay focused on how to utilize it to our advantage.

--Kent Davis is the wife of Julie Davis, the mother of Jessica and Kendall- his greatest assets. He is also the owner of ACT Business Machines, Inc., ACT Print Division, and Chattanooga's Julie Darling Donuts. He was born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee with a brief stint living in Athens, Georgia while attending The University of Georgia to receive his degree in Business Management. He believes in the idea of local businesses and has been a part of one his whole life, as his father was the former president and owner of ACT Business Machines, Inc. as well. He enjoys mentoring small business owners to give back to his community and he also serves on the board of directors for Chattanooga Community Kitchen.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Digital Citizenship Guest Post from STEM Principal Tony Donen

Earlier this month I asked some of my twitter PLN to guest blog for me regarding education. When deciding who to ask, Dr. Tony Donen was one of the tops on my list after visiting his STEM school at Chattanooga State College this school year. What immediately caught my attention when visiting their school was how trusting they were that their students were using technology appropriately and that their students were rising to the occasion and using technology correctly.  I then asked Dr. Donen to share how his school addresses digital citizenship for my blog.

This is the link to his blog on digital citizenship at the STEM School of Chattanooga: Dr. Tony Donen has worked for the past twelve years as a high school principal.  Originally born in South Africa, Tony grew up in Canada and then the United States, where he graduated from high school in New Jersey.  Tony received a bachelor's degree in engineering from Virginia Tech University, a master's degree in teaching from East Tennessee State University, and his doctorate degree in educational leadership from Trevecca Nazarene University.
Tony has worked as a teacher, coach, and administrator for the past 19 years in education.  His leadership has resulted in school recognition on Newsweek's list of top public high schools, mutiple years of 96% plus school graduation rates, and a standards-based implementation for ACT that resulted in two to three point schoolwide gains on the ACT assessment.  He is the lead author for the book Grades Don't Matter: Using Assessment to Measure True Learning and co-author for The Grades Game, an article published in the educational leadership magazine Principal Leadership. Tony is the founding principal for STEM School Chattanooga and is committed to helping improve STEM education in the southeast region of the country. 

I greatly appreciate his willingness to share with me and my followers how they address digital citizenship at the STEM School of Chattanooga. Stay tuned for more Guest Bloggers here!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

What Obama Taught Me About Digital Citizenship

The beginning: It started off with a simple tweet...On July 24, 2013 I innocently tweeted these two tweets inviting the President of the United State of America, Barack Obama, to visit my donut shop while he was coming to Chattanooga, Tennessee:

The results: While coming back from a technology conference in Atlanta, I was contacted by a local news reporter asking me if I would be willing to be interviewed about Chattanoooga's Julie Darling Donuts idea to create and name a donut after the President in honor of him coming to town. I said, "Yes!" In the video interview (which apparently is no longer available in archives) I said that it wasn't a political stance, it was honoring the office of the Presidency. I then discussed that I came up with the flavor, a chocolate donut with salted caramel icing, based on researching what President Obama's favorite flavor of candy was- salted caramel chocolates. At the most it was a 3 minute interview that set off a flurry of events that left me sick in bed for 3 full days.

And so I digress: Being in Atlanta for the three days leading up to my interview, I had no idea that a large portion of our elected officials in our city were taking the stand not to attend the President's speech at Amazon in Chattanooga. I had no idea that the subject was a ripe petri dish full of dissension and animosity. I was a small business owner of a young company thinking I could get some free publicity while honoring the office of the presidency. 

There were a few things the public didn't know about me: 
1. My political affiliation.
2. My more prominent role as an Instructional Technologist, not a donut maker.
3. My people pleasing nature.
4. My desire to not live a drama-filled life.
5. Basically anything about me as a person, period.

As soon as the interview was broadcast and posted on the website of the local station, as well as on their Facebook page, the craziness began. As someone that isn't interviewed on TV that often, the event went from a feeling of "pride" in thinking I might have helped our shop be recognized in the community a bit (although pride isn't really the right word, maybe the word is more like accomplished) to feeling a sense of dread, remorse, anxiety, and overwhelmedness. Over two simple twitter posts inviting the President to my donut shop? Yes.

Immediately, both the donut shop and myself were publicly ridiculed and attacked. I was attacked from every angle imaginable:
  •  First off by the republicans that wrote all over social media that they would never set foot in my shop again because of my choice, and man were they vocal. (Did I mention I didn't even vote for Obama?)
  •  Next there was a group that attacked me for my "money grubbing ways" by taking advantage of him coming to town for free publicity. (Obviously none of those people have ever been small business owners and haven't learned how hard it is to get a new business off the ground. According to Bloomberg, 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first 18 months. That's 80%, folks.) 
  • The one that rubbed me the worst, that my choice of flavor was a RACIAL thing because I chose a chocolate donut. I won't chase the rabbit down this trail but suffice it to say, I have never ever been accused of being racists before in my life.
The first day all this started happening I tried to defend myself but for every statement I made, someone out there misinterpreted it or it was just more fuel for the conversation. I had friends that actually tried to come to my rescue- posting positive things amongst all the negativity and even creating a Facebook event to show support for the donut shop and me. 

I was scared. I feared my very innocent desire to have the President come to my donut shop was going to close the doors of Chattanooga's Julie Darling Donuts forever. Now you may see this as extreme but let me just share SOME (a small percentage) of the comments I dealt with after the idea went NATIONAL not just on the Chattanooga local news networks:
Click on the link below and read the comments that are associated with it (but beware, they are NOT g-rated)

or this one: (same warning regarding to language).

So what did this Edutechie Donut Shop owner learn: THE VALUE OF TEACHING DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP! There is a lot of speculation out there that the term "Digital Citizenship" is just the latest educational buzz word but I believe in the need and I have lived it out. The digital world has allowed us to voice our opinions to the universe with a click of a device. In the past, if people had disagreed with a business owner, they might have written a letter to the editor of a local newspaper, they might have "called in" to a talk show to voice their concerns, they might have called or written a business owner BUT it would not have caused a bandwagon of responses in most cases. 

Today's society has to be taught the ramification of abusing social media and the Internet. We as educators, business owners, parents, church leaders, all have a responsibility to walk thru the field and glean the best and the worst examples and share it with our students, employees, children, etc. I spent two days throwing up in a toilet when I was able to get out of bed because of the hurtful, harmful words that were hurled at me for 3 full days. I also felt the outpouring of support from friends, acquaintances, and strangers that saw what was going on and felt it was an injustice. 

As an educator, I stand firm on the fact that we need to teach children to respect the office of the Presidency and to pledge allegiance to their country regardless of the political views of the current person in charge. Never in a million years did I think I would become my own greatest lesson to share with students on Digital Citizenship regarding digital communication, digital etiquette, digital rights and responsibilities, and digital security. Within this one event in my life, I have been given a platform to discuss 4 of the 9 elements of digital citizenship: ( If you are interested in me speaking to your students about this or looking for more information on Digital Citizenship, please contact me. I am passionate about this.

On an ending note: That was the best money making week the donut shop has ever had. We still make the donut- sans the name's just labeled "salted caramel chocolate donut" and it is still one of our best sellers. We are still open and we love all our customers.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Classroom Management Tips for the Technology Rich Classroom

In January of last year I wrote a blog that got a lot of attention because it gave some classroom management tips that I share with teachers when I lead professional development opportunities. When meeting and listening to classroom teachers I sense and hear their frustration with misuse of technology being a major problem they deal with daily. I hear many teachers so frustrated with the misuse that they wish they didn't have to deal with it; to these teachers, the classroom disruption makes the positives of technology "not worth it" in their eyes. 

Here are some things that need to be looked at and can be changed to help teachers have a more positive experience with technology integration. I have found these through trial and error of my own and from sitting in on other teachers'  classes as they lead lessons:

  1. Classroom teachers that don't establish "acceptable use practice" in the classroom well from the beginning or who don't manage accountability of misuse consistently have more troubles longterm. Spending the first few days discussing and setting parameters for usage is imperative.
  2. Keywords are not used to help the teachers not slow down their instruction time. For instance, using the words: "Flat, Flip, Close, Close apps" on a consistent bases allows students to quickly follow instructions without repeating what you want over and over again. For me, I start saying "This lesson is almost over, when I count down from 5 you are to have all your apps closed out and your iPads flipped and flat." My students know this is coming and what is expected because I use the same terms every time I teach them. 
  3. Teachers are not moving around the classroom for monitoring purposes. Movement=Accountability. If a student has no idea if I might walk pass them while I teach, they are less likely to be off-task. A teacher moving around not only keeps the student from a glazed over look because their focus can move, but it can also provide the shy student a voice because the proximity of the teacher to that student gives them courage to speak.
  4. There is nothing wrong with addressing the potential off-task moment when you are about to share something important as a teacher. If I say, "all eyes on me" and all eyes aren't immediately on me for the instructions, then I often say, "ok then, flip or close your devices until these instructions are over." In this case, they have learned that they lost a privilege because they didn't immediately respond and that helps in the future.
  5. For the first couple of weeks of school, remind your students that no apps or browser windows other than the ones they should be using during THAT classroom session should be open. As a teacher if you think a student is off task, walk by and double click their home button and look for open apps on a tablet or phone device. If they are on a laptop or Chromebook, look for open tabs. This doesn't have to slow down your teaching. 
  6. IF you see a student off task, just take up the device and place it on your desk. If they are using it to take notes, have some paper and a pencil immediately available to them in a place in the room that you can just point to. A disruption should always be a bigger headache to the student than to you as a teacher. 
  7. If you have a student that seems to be prone to being off task, ask them to turn their notifications off and give them jobs to do during a classroom discussion if they seem to be wandering. For instance, "Julie, we are discussing pine trees. Can you please go to Encyclopedia Britannica and find what pines are indigenous to our state?" This student is now an active participant in the discussion but using their ability to multitask for your benefit.
  8. Students are allowed to hold and access their devices however they want to. For the most part, unless students are sitting in the floor, I do not allow students to put their devices in their laps. 85% of the time I see a student trying to be off-task, they move their device either closer to them or in their laps. I require students to keep their devices at desk level.
  9. Desk placement can greatly effect your ability to monitor and feel confident that your students are on task. If you students are working in groups, move their desks close to each other and in small groupings so you can observe all devices easily as you move around. If you tend to be a lecturer, create an alley "stage" with two rows of desks facing you so that you can easily see each student as you teach and move along the alley. If you have a student that appears to be off task, ask them to lay their device "flat" during the class time if they are using a tablet device. This is a little bit harder to detect and manage using a laptop device though.
  10. Vary the way you teach- Technology allows you to have access to the world! Rethink your lesson plans to best utilize the technology. If all your students use technology for is to read an e-book or take notes, technology will always just seem like a disrupter to you. Ask a tech coach to help you figure out ways to better use the tools for a lesson that could use a little "UMPH."
  11.  Being a strict disciplinarian regarding technology does not mean you aren't a fun or good teacher. It means that expectations are there. Be honest with your students, discuss with them why you have the rules you have. Have them dialogue with you about ways that might help them be less distracted. Remember that you have a responsibility for teaching them good digital citizenship skills. Every moment is a teachable moment, every teacher should be teaching their students how to harness and expand the power in their hands in productive ways.