Saturday, March 19, 2016

Wax Museum Tech Integration Musings

Friday was the 23rd year for fifth graders at Chattanooga Christian School to have the wax museum. It is an opportunity for students to read a biography book and share the research they have learned about their person of interest. They dress like the person, prepare a brief speech and create a visual to support their learning.

This year students were given the option of creating a tri-fold poster presentation, Google slides presentation or a keynote presentation. Out of 64 students about 20 chose the technology-based presentation model. I worked with these students to help them plan the timing of their presentations to match their speech. I talked to them about the fact that a visual was there to support what they were saying but shouldn't have so much information that it could replace them. We talked about fonts and colors, photo placements, and the difference between good animation and annoying animation. And then the students ran with it. They all did an excellent job! 

Every year they are required to have a "button/bell/switch" that a viewer can press to turn on the wax museum presenter and hear the speech. Some students put time into creating the perfect button, others draw "press here" on a piece of paper and are done with it but these three below stopped me in my tracks:
Do you see their "buttons"? Yes, they found a way to use their iPads to create a button/bell/switch. You see for the first year ever, CCS fifth graders are in a 1:1 environment. They bring their iPads to school with them everyday to support the learning in their classroom. Why did this surprise me? It wasn't on my radar. I didn't know there were bell/buzzer/switches apps on the iPad. I don't even know which student started the trend but it was an epiphany moment for me. 

As an instructional technologist I work hard for technology not to drive a lesson but enhance it. I believe in technology integration as a tool to support the learning environment. I'm fairly vigilant about that but this was a first for me...student driven technology integration in fifth grade! I love the fact that this project gives our students enough flexibility that they can think outside the box to meet the needs put before them. I am encouraged by this first year of technology integration in fifth grade. I can't wait to see what well written rubrics and the power of creative minds will do in the future. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

InstaGrok Research Tool for Students

Last night I took part in twitter chat #TnTechChat that I cohosted with the amazing Julie King (@libtechJules). Our topic for the evening was "Student Research: Curating Information from the Internet." Quite honestly it was a very basic conversation with some important things being discussed but when it was over I was left with the overwhelming thought that most people are muddling through this but we feel overwhelmed with the responsibility of helping digital natives become digital learners. I don't blame anyone, it's an overwhelming task. I see this topic being a springboard for many more thought provoking chats...but I digress.

I want to share with you a tweet that stuck with me from last night:
INSTAGROK! ( As soon as Julie shared this I was like YES! At one point it was a standard go-to for me but for whatever reason it fell out of my toolbox. LibTechJulie is right though, it's an amazing tool...even for fun. Here are the top reasons it could be useful in your classroom:

It's visual. Students input keywords and boom...

Students can see a visual graphic organizer of ideas associated with their search and they then have the ability to make choices by clicking on the media options to decide the path of learning they want to make. Choice!

It can be personalized...

Students can do a search and follow through with information and then pin it for research papers where it can actually be cited for them in their Instagrok journal. It is interactive and academic. Student research can easily be shared with others!

It's easy. Students can use their google accounts to access it. The free version meets needs. It's nonlinear learning. It's cross platform and app based as well!
And definitely worth taking another look at and sharing with your students! Watch this video and dig in! Thanks for the reminder Julie King!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Tyranny of the Urgent vs. Importance of the Expected

But what if it did? What if as a technology coordinator I put more value on putting my things on hold when the teachers, administrators, and students I support needed me most? What if my job was reactionary? What if I put out fires first and worked on the expected as I could?

Everybody loves a hero and at some time or another we have all needed one. We have been in a situation where no matter how hard we try, we just can't figure out what to do. We are stuck. You are probably thinking of a moment in your life right now that looked like that. How did you get out of the situation? Chances are someone with a skill set, tools, or time you didn't have swooped in and saved the day for you. Someone that realized the urgency of your situation and helped. 

As support staff to an entire school I sometimes struggle with the feeling of lack of accomplishment. I have this list of things to get done but a smart board isn't recognizing a computer, an iPad is giving a popup message, or speakers aren't working. While this is just a small portion of what I am here for, solving these issues gives me "tech coach credibility." If I will help in the small stuff with a smile on my face, teachers are much more likely to feel comfortable with me helping them in big stuff. They are much more likely to hear me out. 

But it's my job to find the balance. If all I do is put out fires and save people from their procrastination of not trying things first over and over again, I am enabling them as someone that always needs to be supported. On the other hand, the unexpected happens. It is in this unexpected moment that the rubber meets the road and I am seen as a resource and remembered for future ideas.

The hardest part for me is being everything I am called to be AND staying relevant and forward thinking. I believe a good instructional technologist has to always be aware of what the next thing might be to make a big difference in their school. For me right now that means spending time looking at open educational resources and finding the time to do it. I believe professional development and research opportunities are vital to me being the best instructional technologist I can be. I also know all the knowledge in the world will not be useful to any organization unless I am meeting with teachers, assessing situations, creating opportunities for student growth, and keeping a finger on the pulse of the curriculum direction of my school.