Vol.#58: 30 EdTech Tools in 13 Minutes

Our Technology Facilitator Luke Miles recently offered a “30 Tech Tools in 30 Minutes” session at our school. I was familiar with some of these technology options and others I’ve been trying out since. I asked him if he’d “film it to flip it” and was thrilled when he did. I love being able to reference it (“what was that great one he said that…?”) and thought some of my readers would enjoy it as well. I’m grateful he’s agreed to let me share it with you from his blog coolhandED thoughts.

Bonus: He got it down to about 13 1/2 minutes…and these tools are all FREE!

Check it out:

VOL.#57: Open Letter to Senator Tillman [GUEST POST]

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Image Credit: flickr user theparadigmshifter

We have discussed the North Carolina General Assembly’s systematic dismantling of NC education from our unacceptable frozen salaries which rank us dead-last nationally over the last decade to the growing mass exodus of NC teachers. 

Are we being heard?

Senator Jerry Tillman [R] is the chair of the Educator Effectiveness and Compensation Task Force. They meet again tomorrow, Monday, April 14th to make their recommendations to the NCGA.

Please contact him and have your voice heard.

One of the great educators from my digital PLN, Pam Lilley, has done just that. She forwarded me her letter, and when asked agreed to let me share it here with you.
~          ~          ~          ~          ~          ~          ~
Senator Tillman,

I am a school library media specialist in Cornelius, North Carolina. I have always had a keen interest in politics in general, though lately my interest has become more focused in the area of educational policy because, obviously, those decisions affect my career, my children’s education, and my bank account.  

As a citizen and mother in North Carolina, I am gravely concerned about the rapid exodus of teachers leaving North Carolina for higher pay in other states.  While I recognize that there are highly qualified teachers such as myself (all “accomplished/distinguished” per this year’s evaluation) who consider North Carolina their home and teaching their calling and refuse to wave the white flag, I completely understand why teachers are leaving at higher rates.  Last summer, in my frustration with the legislation that was passed removing teacher tenure and once again denying teachers a cost-of-living adjustment or step increase, I started a blog to archive teacher resignation letters:  www.resignnc.org Obviously, most teachers don’t go out in a blaze of glory like this and instead leave quietly, not to burn any bridges in case the situation ever does improve here.  But for those brave teachers willing to speak up about why they were leaving, I wanted to create something of a time capsule to the period in which we find ourselves.

Recently, I began thinking about how much this moratorium on teacher pay is costing teachers out of their paychecks.  I appreciate that people such as yourself are trying to come up with a system that you believe teachers such as myself (accomplished/distinguished) will prefer because there is the opportunity to earn more.  I saw from Mr. Baxter’s presentation last week at the task force (via Twitter) that the current salary schedule is over 100 years old.  Indeed, something that old justifies a closer examination of its relevance to the profession of teaching in the 21st century.  The question I keep coming back to is this: if we were to poll every school’s “teacher of the year” or those teachers who got the highest performance evaluation at each school, what would they say?  Obviously, they’re the ones who stand most to benefit from a new pay structure that recognizes and rewards their work.  Yet, I am friends with hundreds (literally) of teachers, many of whom HAVE been teachers of the year at their school and nobody is interested in a model that pays some teachers more than others based on performance and it boils down to the argument I’m sure you’ve heard before: effective school-wide teaching depends on collaboration.  When only so many teachers or a certain percentage of teachers can qualify for the higher pay, that creates a competitive atmosphere.  And if the state were to say that there are no caps and that any teacher who meets or exceeds a proscribed set of criteria gets additional pay, it’s quite likely we would see a replay of the ABC bonuses wherein the criteria was met but the money wasn’t there.  And that gets to the core of the issue: just as legislators clearly do not trust us to do our jobs, we do not trust them to pay what is promised.  You can see this playing out now with the 25% contracts.  Only the first year of the 4-year contract bonuses are funded.  Teachers do not trust that the money will be there beyond that. (Though, obviously, our concerns about those contracts run deeper than the lack of funding).

In the meantime, teachers are making less many than they did 5 years ago.  In fact, I took the time to create a blog post about this a few weeks ago and it’s generated quite a bit of traffic so far: resignnc.org/five-steps-back  I wanted to share it with you.  I am a teacher with 14 years of experience.  I have a master’s degree (required for my position) and national board certification (an experience which truly did make me a better teacher).  I am making $2560 less than a teacher with my EXACT credentials did in 2008.  Over the past five years, I have lost a total of approximately $15,000.  That’s the cost of a new economy car.  That’s a year and a half of tuition at my son’s preschool.  That would pay for 4 years of the Duke TIP camps that my daughter qualifies for but cannot attend because we can’t afford it.

I recognize that these numbers are based on the salary schedule that you and others feel is antiquated but right now it’s the only pay structure we have.  And it’s the salary schedule we agreed to when we signed our contracts years ago.  We have held up our end of the bargain but the state has not.  We recognize that in 2008 the state entered a deep recession and when our pay was frozen the first year, most of us were grateful not to have been furloughed.  But this year when the state cut revenue that could have been used to help teachers in order to instead help the wealthy and corporations, the trust between teachers and legislators hit an all-time low.  And that is why any proposal for a hastily-prepared new salary structure will not be well-received by teachers: we have lost faith that the legislators are doing what’s best for us or for our students. What would it take to open our minds and hearts to something new?  An act of good faith on part of the state to restore our step increases and get our base pay up to the national average.  Then we will know their money is where their mouth is when they say they value education.

Until then, I will continue to collect resignation letters and hope that enough qualified teachers remain to prepare my own children for the future.

Sincerely,

Pam Lilley
Cornelius, NC

Vol.#56: Forgive Me EdTech for I Have Sinned

I’ve claimed that a tech tool should lead to new thinking. However, perhaps this was somewhat hypocritical, because before I can wrap my head around a new tool for the first time, I need a familiar jumping-off place.

This past month I taught a short story I’ve taught many times before (“Rikki Tikki Tavi“) and used several characterization graphic organizers which I’ve used before (linked below). They provided the context with which we explored nine technology tools. However, in what has been described as a cardinal sin of tech in education, these tools did not necessarily provide a new perspective or process for students in thinking about the content, in this case the characters.

Pragmatically, when I throw a new tool at them (or in this case nine) I choose to start with an assignment with which I am familiar because I want to navigate only so many new unknowns at once. Judge me if you must, and feel free to admonish me in the comments.

In groups, students linked the work on a group padlet and provided me with the valuable feedback on each tool in the +/- data charts pictured and summarized below.

Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 5.37.02 PMvs. Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 5.37.28 PM

20140302-184015.jpgStudents had an option of either of these word cloud tools to display character traits for various characters from “Rikki Tikki Tavi”. Here are the recurring themes in their +/- chart sticky notes.

Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 5.37.02 PM

Positives:

  • easy to use/simple
  • no account required
  • make important words larger by typing them multiple times
  • the “undo” button
  • cool fonts/colors/designs
  • worked with JAWS (screen reader for my blind student)

Negatives:

  • couldn’t save image easily
  • hard to post created image to padlet
  • didn’t get to choose colors
  • limited color schemes
  • update/install/Java issues
  • time taken to enter text

Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 5.37.28 PM

RTTPositives:

  • able to shape the words
  • saves easily
  • color/font selection
  • easy to navigate

Negatives:

  • Limited font selection
  • difficult to use
  • had difficulty saving

Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 5.44.08 PMvs. Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 5.45.40 PM

20140302-184045.jpgStudents had two choices for displaying a Character Traits Map for the main character of Rikki Tikki. Overwhelmingly, students chose bubbl.us, which means I have very little data on gliffy.

Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 5.44.08 PM

Positives:

  • formatting/customizing options (bubble color, text, size…)
  • good controls & no lag
  • efficient & easy to use
  • neat & organized
  • “I liked it because it saved [my work] every 2 minutes.”

Negatives:

  • Hard to organize
  • Bulky and awkward
  • Hard to add a bubble, connect a bubble, paste a URL…
  • “Easy to mess up on!”

Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 5.45.40 PM

Positives:

  • “I liked how Gliffy was an open field”

Negatives:

  • Kids who tried it said, “Gliffy was glitchy”.

The slogan stuck. :(

Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 5.59.45 PMvs. Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 6.00.16 PM vs. Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 6.00.32 PM

20140302-184100.jpgStudents chose two characters and completed two Character Quadrilateral with their choice(s) from these three tools.

Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 5.59.45 PM

Positives:

  • “I like it because it was easy to use. It was all organized. You can change the color of the nodes.”
  • “I liked [it] because you get to move everything and when you click something it adds a leg for you to type. It’s also easy to use and creative.”

Negatives:

  • “very confusing at first”
  • “I couldn’t access it at home.”
  • “I didn’t use this tool because it wasn’t working and I couldn’t figure it out.”

Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 6.00.16 PM

Positives:

  • “Very fast, fun, and easy to use”
  • “It was really easy and simple to use. I was able to complete my project quickly and efficiently. It was fun to use and I thought it worked extremely well.”
  • “I liked spiderscribe, it let you add dates, pictures, and maps. It was interesting.”

Negatives:

  • “I didn’t like that I had to sign up with an email and I couldn’t get arrows to the main box.”
  • “The only thing I disliked was that when you tried to print, it would be small to see.”
  • “It wouldn’t go full screen. The text was small.”

Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 6.00.32 PM

Positive:

“I like that you can log in and save your work automatically.”

Negative:

“I didn’t like that it was acting up when I was working on it Monday. I had to copy it and then it let me edit it.

Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 6.10.29 PM vs. Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 6.10.05 PM

20140302-184116.jpgStudents completed an Open Compare & Contrast Chart of two characters using one of these two mind mapping tools. Creately was heavily favored over mind42.

Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 6.10.29 PM

Positive:

“I liked Mind42 because it was easy to use.”

Negative:

“I did not like mind42 because I could not move and place things where I wanted.”

Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 6.10.05 PM     

Positives:

  • “What I liked was that they have different colors and shapes and you could make the presentation more inviting for an audience.”
  • Easy to use; great layout
  • “I liked that creately was able to save my work easily and efficiently.”

Negatives:

  • Sign up to use, and pay for most features
  • Hard to link my finished work.
  • “I didn’t like that it was difficulty to create new boxes and there wasn’t a color variety.”
  • “I didn’t like how I couldn’t get the bubbles to show up and make the map.”
  • “I did not like the text. When you would type, it would be font 2 and you could not change it until you were done, and then you had to highlight and re-highlight it a lot!”
  • “I did not like how long it took to enter my info.”

And by the way…I did not only throw new tech tools at the students. My favorite was the one I tried out myself to score these projects:

forallrubrics.com

Vol.#55: Is the NC Goal “First in Teacher Flight”?

It may be only be six weeks after New Year’s, but already both the state of North Carolina and Wake County have grave concerns about filling the needed teaching positions for next school year.

And so they should.

North Carolina often fills positions from teachers in states like Ohio and New York where turnover is low and teachers can’t find positions. However, with no more pay for advanced degrees in NC, most of those candidates will likely no longer be coming here anymore.

Besides needing to attract teachers, there’s the issue of teacher turnover. NCDPI was concerned enough about this very issue to send a report to the General Assembly. You can read the whole report here, but I’ve compiled a few highlights:


easel.ly

You’ll notice it’s not just that more teachers are leaving, but that more and more tenured, experienced teachers are leaving. The mentors of the beginning teachers. The department chairs. The leadership team members. The teachers any principal needs upon which to build a school.

The concerns the data raise are only the tip of the iceberg for what I feel is impending, based on my front-row view from the classroom trenches.

TeacherXing

For example, of significant note but not yet reflected in this report is the fact that in Wake County alone, the number of teachers who have left specifically to teach in another state have already doubled so far this year from this data last year.

And…it’s still only February.

Also consider this year so far this blog has included:

None of these facts are reflected in the reported data. Yet.

And then, this week a teacher raise for only new teachers was proposed. This conversation, which I’ve been given permission to share with you, should give you some insight into the morale and mindset of North Carolina’s teacher leaders:

facebook quit FINAL

These are some of the best educators in North Carolina classrooms from all over the state. And although I can personally vouch for their exceptionalism as educators, I am certain these sentiments are not exceptional. Conversations like this one are happening on every facebook wall and in every teacher lounge in the state.

Yes, indeed…they should be gravely concerned about the mass exodus coming North Carolina’s way.

first in flight

Vol.#54: The Pupil Paradox

A search on the web shows a teacher has for many reasons to teach despite it all.

mantraI have always tried to operate under this theory: The harder a child is on you as the teacher, the more s/he needs you to be good at your job.

Like little Julie*? Who you could throw the textbook into the room and leave, and 180 days later, she’d have completed all the work? Yeah. She doesn’t need you. I mean, you love her in spite of this fact. After all, she’s wonderful! And hopefully, she will learn more with your guidance that she would have without it. But, still… You are not a crucial adult in the journey to success in her life.

dandelion-16656_640
Image Credit: Pixabay User beeki

That one (ten? thirty?) who drives you crazy? Who doesn’t know social cues? Who doesn’t appropriately respond to authority figures? Who won’t pick up a pencil, let alone complete assignments, without your constant prodding?

He needs you.  In fact, he has little chance without you.

And there lies an interesting paradox: The harder they make your job, the more important your job is for them. The more crucial you are as the teacher.

The harder a child is to teach, the more he or she needs you.

I sometimes chant this little mantra when I am so frustrated with those most difficult students.

What core beliefs to you remind yourself of as you teach that help you?

 
 
 
 
*Julie is used here as the name of that sweet little (usually female) student whom teaching is an effortless joy. This is not based on any specific, actual Julie.

Vol.#53: Ten Ways Teachers are Soooo Not Doctors OR Surgeons

So, a colleague wrote this really insightful piece last week about whether educators are more like:

  • Doctors: trying to cure things that have societal causes of which most are out of their control

~or~

  • Surgeons: acting with precision and purpose to achieve an end and required to review outcome data to better inform future practices.

I can’t recap it and do it justice, so please read it.

Go on. I’ll wait.

 

Good stuff, right?

Anyway, usually I’d eat this kind of comparative metaphorical analysis up with a spoon. As some who follow this blog may know, I’ve discussed similar concepts myself.

However, I surprised myself by reacting in an entirely different, non-serious way. Perhaps it’s due to the current state of education, particularly in my own state of North Carolina, where we have to laugh or we’d cry, but my husband and I just kept riffing (and laughing) on all the ways teachers are soooo not either of these professions.

I thought others may also get a chuckle from what we came up with…and maybe add a few more in the comments.

So, I present to you:

Ten Ways Teachers are Soooo NOT Doctors or Surgeons

  • Our. Paychecks.

You knew it was coming. Let’s just get it out of the way, shall we? I made an infographic on easel.ly to see what the difference was in my own city.

I was curious.

  • Credibility. Even in the face of death of a loved one, “I did everything I could.” actually means something coming from a surgeon.
  • Concrete data. A heart attack presents like a heart attack and cancer is treated like cancer, regardless of a patient’s ability, motivation, or intelligence. This makes quite a difference if you are expected to act on the information with the certainty and confidence demanded of all three professions.
  • Help. Doctors and surgeons have nurses. Physician’s assistants.  EMTs. Those people that check you in and out. Orderlies…etc.  A very small, ever-shrinking percentage of teachers have teachers’ assistants. (And anyone who thinks they don’t desperately need them should come teach a class of 24 kindergarteners solo.)
  • Teachers can’t excise a tumor of laziness or ignorance…though a girl can dream, can’t she?
  • Doctors don’t have to write plans for a substitute doctor to try to see all the patients in their care in a day. They can simply reschedule their appointments for the day if they’re out. (Actually, someone else probably does that for them.)
  • Please show me the surgeon who has 35 people on operating tables…at once.
  • Rarely is a patient unconscious on the table and still able to hurl obscenities at the surgeon or threaten them with bodily harm. (Of course, I’m just guessing.)
  • I’m pretty sure there are very few doctors  buying their own tongue depressors out-of-pocket.
  • No one ever criticizes a doctor or surgeon for the appointment not being engaging or entertaining enough.

What’d I miss?

Vol.#51: Edtech in Images

For this week’s post, I’d like to share a few images with quotes in relation to my thinking on #edtech. I’ve talked about my passion for integrating technology from free iPad Apps for the ELA classroom to my list of tech tools for this upcoming yearI’ve also said technology is the power tool of education, and if you have a leaky pipe but grab a hammer, you are missing the point. A tool is only as good as the user.

I saw this picture via a tweet from Zach Snow which makes a similar point brilliantly:

 

This brilliant tweet from the brilliant Josh Stumpenhorst explained how too many teachers have this attitude surrounding technology integration:

 

At first glance, it would look like these two images might be poking fun at those that use educational technology at all, but really it’s about using it correctly. Here’s a wonderful list about this very concept by the radical Bill Ferriter:

 

Even if one weren’t inclined to use technology in the classroom, its use is required in several Common Core standards. So…What makes technology an effective power tool? How does one know if s/he is using it “correctly”? Is there a litmus test? I pondered this question and came up with:

New Tech

 

What do you believe makes a technology tool “flash over substance” versus a valuable classroom tool?

Vol.#50: Shades of TSV

To both commemorate the new year and celebrate fifty posts on Teaching Speaks Volumes, I have updated the layout and look of the blog. The header features artwork from a very talented colleague, Lynda Boltz. Her talents can be reached at lynda313@aol.com.

I love using word clouds (via Tagxedo or Wordle) with students. I have created them for short stories we will study or using students’ own writing. A word cloud sizes words to highlight their frequencies of occurrence within the writing.

The following word cloud is of the first fifty Volumes of TSV. It provides a snapshot of this blog’s discussion over the past 20 months:

TSV2013Does something stand out to you in this word cloud? Please let me know in the comments…

Vol.#49: 14 Classroom Tech Tools for 2014

2014keyboardAs we prepare to enter 2014, I’ve been reflecting on what technology tools have served my students well in 2013 and which tools are on my list to add to my repertoire moving forward in the new year.

The Present: My favorites from 2013

1. EdmodoI love this Facebook-like environment where my class continues online after the bell rings. The mark of a good tool: I continue to find new ways to incorporate it regularly.

2. PreziHaving students create a Prezi is so much more engaging than a PowerPoint. Embedding video and pictures is simple. Also, students share the link with me on a wiki or via email and presentation day does not involve lots of hunting for files on flash drives.

3. EducreationsEducreations is my favorite app for students to create something to show off on my Apple TV in the classroom. It is intuitive and has more capabilities than “Show Me”, such as inserting text.

4. Dropbox: I can easily store, share, and access any kind of data from anywhere with the easy-to-use and free Dropbox service.

5. DropItToMe: Any size file can be submitted into my Dropbox, which means I can have students turn in work electronically. While some suggest Google Drive replaces these two together, I don’t see dropping them just yet. They are very convenient and I’m comfortable with them.

6. Actively Learn A free online e-reader that bills itself as “able to transform reading for your students by empowering teachers to reach students inside a digital text”. I have used their questions as well as embedded my own, and the ability to track mastery of common core standards is a nice feature.

7. Subtext: An iPad app very similar to Actively Learn, it has the advantage of requested texts being made available in the same day.

8. Screencast-o-Matic: I regularly use this for creating quick videos I want to place on YouTube and/or Edmodo for a flipped lesson. I haven’t found a tool more simple or more free.

9. Pic Collage: I had students use this app to create a collage related to a story, insert text to state the theme, and save as an image on the camera roll of the iPad which they shared on the Apple TV. I’ve tried several apps for this assignment and this one is simple, intuitive, and free.

The Future: Tools I plan to explore in 2014

10. EvernoteThis tool has been on my list to conquer for quite some time. It’s openness and flexibility has been somewhat intimidating when deciding how best to set it up. As I understand it, one can organize notes (scans and documents) into notebooks and tag items for easy retrieval. I have been seeking the wisdom of Andy Traub and Daniel Gold and their podcast “The Productive Life Show” for how to get started.

11. SocrativeI have not used Socrative, and since I have both a clicker system in class and use Edmodo out of class, I have not been sure where its capabilities would best suit my class’s needs. However, it tops so many Edtech lists I would really like to give it a go this year.

12. Teachers Pay TeachersI have found some wonderful resources there and have been encouraged by this guy that my materials would do well there. He’s brilliant, so I tend to listen to what he says.

The Past: One tool I used in 2013 I definitely won’t be using in 2014

13. GlogsterPart Glog, part poster; in November I had my students complete their “One Pager” assignments on a short story using this tool. I wanted to like it. I really did. However, it was glitchy and cumbersome. Students got lost in the bells and whistles instead of content. It was not intuitive. And it’s not free. I will not be revisiting this tool.

Past, Present, & Future: One tool that belongs on all lists

14. Google Apps: These encompass so much that I am forever learning new uses. I often use google forms and love the grading capability of Flubaroo. I have not (yet) used  Hangouts in the classroom and have always wanted to try Amy Mayer’s method for video grading writing in Google Docs since the day I read it. I found this presentation on the web on 40 uses of Google Apps in the classroom that includes both things I’ve tried and things I’d never even considered. Google Apps are destined to be ubiquitous in modern classrooms.

What are your favorite tech tools that should be on my list?

Writing Volumes About Teaching Whist Learning Volumes About Teaching

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