Vol.#95: New Rule

I’ve written many times about the importance of educational technology the tools that can differentiate for students, engage them, and provide data for teachers.

However, it’s not imperative that a teacher be an expert in #edtech. Like our students, there’s a range of abilities and circumstances. Also like our students, what makes the biggest difference is the approach, the attitude, the  willingness to learn

And I have to say, teachers are oftentimes the worst learners. It amazes me when teachers offer up excuses they would never allow a student to give them.

We are months away from 2016. Being a tech expert is not required, but ignoring educational technology is no longer an option. It’s in the standards. It’s part of your job.

Make. An. Effort.

So, borrowing the concept from Bill Maher’s segment of the same title: “New Rule”…

New Rule:

If you wouldn’t allow the excuse, don’t offer it as your own.

Tech Rules

/soapbox

I feel better. :)

Vol.#94: Five Google Tools that Rule at School

It’s been a great start to the school year for me in my busy year-round world (which starts in July), but I am afraid I have ignored TSV nation in the hustle and bustle. This year, my county (finally) rolled out Google Accounts for the students. I thought I’d apologize for my absence by compiling and sharing the resources I’ve found helpful in making the most of Google in my Classroom.

First, if you aren’t already using Google Forms to create and then Flubaroo to grade your assessments, you owe it to your free time to do so. This second-grade teacher has created a pretty comprehensive video on using Google Forms. She’s creating a parent survey instead of a student assessment, but the principle is the same. I also like that she included instruction on how to use QR Stuff and the link shortener bitly to make sharing the Google Form with your students super simple. Once you know how to create forms and share them with your students for them to complete, your next step is Flubaroo:

I’ve had students complete homework questions on the bus on their phone by going to the Google Form link. I;ve had 17 different novels, and students scanned the correct QR code to get to the test for their novel, making handing out tests for that many different books simple. From assignments large to small, Google Forms + Flubaroo rules.

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Because of our student Google Accounts, I set up Google Classroom this year instead of continuing my use of Edmodo. Here’s a quick overview about its features:

I especially like the ability to create a frame for a written assignment and digitally “hand it out” to every student’s Google Drive. When reviewing, I like suggesting edits so they can see where to correct it, and commenting on text as well.

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I’ve started using Doctopus and Goobrics with Google Classroom. Doctopus pulls all your Google Classroom submitted assignments into one spreadsheet and Goobrics pulls in your rubric for easy assessment. I found this tutorial helpful:

The completed rubric pastes below the essay in the same google doc, so feedback is automatically and paperlessly “handed out”. I used roobrix.com to create a percentage for the gradebook.

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So…. here are the Five Google Tools at RULE at School. Did I mention they are all free?

  • Google Forms + Flubaroo
  • Google Classroom
  • Doctopus + Goobrics.

Have love for one of these tools or another to add?

Please share in the comments!

Vol.#93: Grade Scale Changes

NC has decided to roll out the ten-point grading scale one grade level at a time in high schools. As I understand it, the new grade scale will start with this year’s freshman and move up with that class over the next four years. There was an unsuccessful petition to apply this to all high schoolers at once, and many made great points in the comments. For example, I’m also not sure how our gradebook software will handle an elective class with freshmen and a juniors in it.

horizontal-477492_1280Thankfully, at least in my county, middle schools are all adopting the ten-point scale all grades at once this 2015-16 school year. It is not proving to be a simple software switch for us, either. Also, it will take some retraining of the brain for myself. My schools used to the 10-point scale until 4th grade, when we moved from the northeast to the south. Therefore, I have used the 7-point scale as a student and then teacher for almost 30 years. (That seems impossible, but I did the math twice.)

I am excited for the more simplistic scale. I also feel it’s more fair to our NC high schoolers applying to colleges, especially schools out of state.

In order to help fellow-teachers set up their classrooms this year, I am throwing a “GRADE SCALE SALE”  in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store this week from July 21, 2015 to July 24, 2015. All of my 4 FOOT GRADE SCALE POSTERS are on sale these days.

Links for those interested are below.

**10 Point** 4 FOOT Grade Scale POSTERS in My Store:
Warm Stripes & Cool Patterned Letters
Teal Grunge Coordinated Stripes & Smudged Dots
Teal Grunge Coordinated Diamonds & Smudged Dots
Psychedelic Swirls
Mint Retro Splash
Mint Retro & Cherry Swirl
Delicious Dots Motif
Fire & Cool Flair

 **7 Point** 4 FOOT Grade Scale POSTERS in My Store:
Jewel-Toned Chevron
Spring Paisley

Thank you for looking!

If you have a theme in your classroom that needs a different look, contact me.  :)

Vol.#92: ISTE 2015 Presentation Screencast [CROSSPOST]

ISTEMy last two posts on Teaching Speaks Volumes have been about the steps to convert student-completed Google Forms to WordPress blog posts and why I use it in my classroom for Independent Reading.

This technology process was developed with my colleague and friend Paul Cancellieri (@mrscienceteach and scriptedspontaneity.com).

We were fortunate enough to present at #ISTE2015 in a Snapshot format on Tuesday afternoon and a Poster Presentation on Wednesday morning about it.

We had lots of positive feedback, and screencasted our ISTE 2015 Presentation to be able to share it with our wonderful, extensive digital PLNs.

 

Check it out here:

 

Related Posts:

Vol. #91: *How* I Turned Independent Reading into Interactive Blogging [Crosspost]

For the discussion on *WHY* I Turned Independent Reading into Interactive Blogging, read that post here.

The first step for me in creating a custom technology tool that met my needs was to know Paul Cancellieri. Luckily, if you don’t, he has explained the process in detail on his blog Scripted Spontaneity and I am crossposting it here for my readers. The process we have developed is the basis for our two presentations this week at ISTE.



1. Create a blog: The video below illustrates the simplest method (in my opinion) using the free WordPress.com service.  Edublogs is a hosted version of WordPress that is specifically designed for classrooms, but you need their “Pro” level paid service to activate the “post by email” feature that makes this process much simpler.  So, I recommend going to WordPress.com as a free alternative.  After creating the blog, you can customize the site to include a school or district logo, or just tweak the colors to make it more appealing.  Note: Any blogging platform that supports the “post by email” feature will work for this purpose.


2. Create a form: The video below demonstrates how to use Google Docs to create a form that collects the information that you find important.  Keep in mind that some of the collected information will be used to generate the blog post, but other information (e.g., student identifying details) can be kept off the blog and only viewable by the teacher for the purposes of assessment.  Feel free to start with my template, but be sure to go to the File menu and Save a Copy before editing it.


3. Use a plugin to convert the submitted form into an email message: Here I explain how I used formMule to perform this function, including the important step of matching the format that WordPress.com accepts in their Post by Email feature.


4. Create a submission page on the blog: The final step is to embed the Google Form on a page of the WordPress.com site that is password protected so that only your students can submit blog entries.  You can moderate all entries so that no unauthorized submissions get published as blog posts.


Tips and Troubleshooting

  • If the blog posts are not showing up on your blog, start by checking that the form is saving information.  Do this by looking at your Responses spreadsheet in Google Docs.  If entries are found there that are not posted on the blog, move on to the next bullet.
  • Next, go to the Dashboard for your WordPress.com blog and go to the All Posts area.  Check to see if the posts are sitting in Draft form or otherwise waiting to be published.  You may need to tweak the language in the formMule template to get the blog posts to be published automatically.
  • Be aware that the author of the post will be you.  The blog post author’s name will match the name of the WordPress.com account that activated Post by Email.  You may want to adjust the official name on that account to look more like “Student Blogger” or something similar.

Vol. #90: Why I Turned Independent Reading into Interactive Blogging

blog-684748_1280I started Teaching Speaks Volumes in June 3 years ago. Each year in June, I’ve updated the look of the blog and reflected upon its impact as a powerful catalyst for growth and change.

Blogging – writing with a real-world audience – has become an important staple in my reflective practice as an educator, but also in my instruction.  Besides authoring this professional blog about teaching, my students blog about the books they choose to read independently. Reading and writing for real purpose with an open reflection and engagement of ideas with an audience of peers is as powerful for students as it is for professionals.

My students write reviews of books they chose to read on the class Reading Blog. I’d tried many different approaches to independent reading over the years, from traditional book reports and presentations, to book talks and reading logs.  These are very typical of any English Language Arts (ELA) classroom, though I’d always designed my own reading logs, project menus and rubrics. However, for the last several school years my students’ blogging has had a powerful impact for my classroom independent reading.

Publishing independent reading reviews has made my students’ analysis of their reading interactive and authentic in several ways. First, when written on paper as a reading log or project and submitted only to me, spelling and punctuation sometimes seemed an afterthought. However, when published in front of their peers and the world, most students make a genuine and concerted effort to apply conventional spelling and grammatical rules, showing their best work. This has changed the dynamic of my students as viewing themselves as “published writers”.

The “search” option allows visitors to the Blog to search titles, authors, topics, and even friends’ names to see what they are reading. (Students often post comments to each other about the reviews, although this is optional.) Because middle schoolers are social by nature, the ability to see what their friends are reading and reviewing is a powerful motivating force to read.


Several authors have contacted my students about the reviews about their novels by posting a comment directly to the students on the blog. For example, the 2014 Newbery Award winner Kate DiCamillo responded this past November to one of my very own students!  No doubt googling their own book title, authors arrived at my students’ reviews and felt compelled to reach out to the young adults who reviewed their works. For all these reasons, this Independent Reading Blog is the very definition of interactive and authentic work by a middle schooler.Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 11.43.01 AM

To reap these benefits and make the switch to paperless book reviews shared to the world, I used the free and open source blogging tool “Wordpress” and I created a blog for my students. The structure of the submission form creates the post. Drop-down menu choices become where each review appears in the blog’s menu. (image) Anyone visiting the site can search all “fantasy” reviews or all “five star” reviews written by my students. The same book may appear in the five star reviews for one student, but another student’s review of the same book might appear with the three-star reviews, if that is how each child rated the book.Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 1.17.42 PM

Students can easily research what their peers are reading, and even use that information as a point of inspiration for what to read next. All of the reasons stated make reading interactive with their peers and this social aspect is very important to young adolescents. By designing this blog for my students “from the ground up”, creating a product similar to Shelfari or Goodreads but with my students’ specific needs in mind, it has revolutionized my instruction.

My ever-techie colleague Paul Cancellieri (@mrscienceteach) who blogs over at Scripted Spontaneity was instrumental in my setting up this interactive blog. He has created a how-to step-by-step guide on his blog.

Vol.#89: Pondering Interactive Notebooks

As a year-round school teacher, I still have a month of school left whilst also planning my next school year’s start. My students take the state standardized tests next week but my new year starts in July. Some in year round call it the “bend” (beginning + end), others the “clopening”. It’s always a crazy time.

This week, teachers at my school need to post their supply lists for next year’s students and for the first time in fifteen years, I think I will not be asking for that 1″ binder and five tab dividers. I will be asking only for one marble-top composition book and Elmer’s glue.

Interactive Reading Literature Notebooks ~ Literary Elements for Common Core 4-8 by Erin Cobb @ TpT
Interactive Reading Literature Notebooks ~ Literary Elements for Common Core 4-8 by I’m Lovin’ Lit @ TpT

I am considering using Erin Cobb’s interactive notebooks for my students next year.

Since becoming part of the TpT community, I’ve become a huge fan from afar of Erin Cobb whose TpT store,  blog,  and Facebook Page  are all titled “I’m Lovin’ Lit.”  A fellow 6th grade language arts teacher, she is able to create student engagement and interactivity where I have not: using paper.

Digital student engagement and interaction? Sure, I’m your girl. My students interact on Edmodo, collect group efforts in Padlet, and get instant feedback on their reading in ReadTheory. They complete questions on a story by scanning color-coded QR codes I’ve created on QRStuff to arrive at a Google doc which, when completed, are scored and results are emailed to students with Flubaroo. Need iPad apps for language arts? How about FREE iPad apps for language arts?  No problem.

But my notebooks… Well, I rarely “give notes”, and if so it’s usually a flipped lesson. However, the real usefulness of the notebook I ask my students keep for my language arts class? Dubious at best.

I initially considered going completely paperless. While I could do that, I think some students are tactile and need some “tangibility”. Also, parents often expect something they can touch, see, and feel that students are completing and for reference to help their child study. (And I don’t issue the literature textbook.) Creating a custom permanent reference is appealing.

In addition, I like the division this gives me. If it’s something they need for reference (content, test goals, logins, etc.) it becomes part of the interactive notebook. If it’s work generated by way of practicing a skill, its completed in a google doc, with an App, on the Edmodo wall, etc.

notebook-738794_1280

Hard-copy content.

Paperless practice.

Both interactive.

…I like it.

This is especially an important decision for me, as it’s not only a shift from old habits, but material management it such an issue in sixth grade. Students come from the elementary school “classroom with a cubby” and have to now travel to multiple classrooms and deal with lockers. Asking students to have different binders per class means they always forget or have the wrong one at home or in class. One big binder with everything it it is hard to organize. My students have had the most luck with large Case-it binders, but they’re too expensive to require in my opinion. Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 2.30.25 PM

Come July, we’ll see how it goes.

How do you use interactive notebooks, technology, and/or other tools to help students stay organized? Please place your tips and tricks in the comments!

Vol.#88: A New Principal Wish List

I am in my fifteenth year of teaching. In that time, I have had eight principals, including two interim principals. That current, eighth principal, who just hired me this school year, has been named a high-school principal in a neighboring county.

girl-619689_1280Part of the process in my county of employment is for the area superintendent to come and speak with the staff about their wishes for the new principal before they begin interviews. I’ve attended four of these meetings before. Each one has been distinctly different, but also had some recurring themes.

The Media Specialist at my school wrote the following about what she wants in a principal. She posted it on her blog, The Keeper of All Wisdom, Folly, and Knowledge, and also allowed me to share it here with you.

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What I want in a future principal

I want a principal who will take the time to understand and truly appreciate the culture of positive learning that has been created at our middle school.

I want a principal who loves middle schoolers with all their quirkiness and hormonal energy.

I want a principal who listens to her students when they want to share a problem or concern, or just updates about what television show they watched last night.

I want a principal who lets her teachers take risks, allowing her teachers to try innovative instruction.

I want a principal who empowers her teachers to take on leadership roles and who supports their professional growth.

I want a principal who is well respected in the community, who makes connections with parents and business leaders.

I want a principal who is a teacher leader first and foremost, never forgetting what it takes to do the hard stuff of teaching on a daily basis.

I want a principal who stands up for her teachers and students when the time comes.

I want a principal who listens to her teachers when they have a concern or a problem or a solution or they just want to share some personal news.

I want a principal who is seen on the campus, in the classroom, in the media center, in the cafeteria, on the athletic field.

I want a principal who implements strong teaching and learning programs that will impact student achievement.

I want a principal who makes the most of her dollars, imploring sound financial abilities to effectively and efficiently provide the materials and resources to run our school.

I want a principal who recognizes, appreciates, and supports all levels of learners from special needs students to academically gifted students.

I want a principal who understands and can effectively assess the data to make important instructional decisions and support successful teaching practices.

I want a principal who is honest, tenacious, caring, professional, vibrant, personable, organized, savvy, accountable, objective, and positive.  I want a principal who is “real”.

I want a principal who is a cheerleader, recognizing teacher and staff professional achievements and student academic, behavior, and athletic achievements.

I want a principal who communicates her expectations to her teachers, students, and parents.

I want a principal who asks questions.

I want a principal who realizes that this is “our” school – it belongs to all of us– the staff, students, parents and community — and we are all vested in our future.

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Here’s to number nine being all this and more.

Something you’d add? Please post it in the comments.

Vol.#87: Thoughts On “I Will Not Let An Exam Result Decide My Fate”

I really love kinetic typography, and if the video is about education, all the better.

So I came upon this video this week:

I sent it to about a half-dozen other educators to see their take, because I really wrestled with the message.

On one hand, I really relate to the message that 17-year-old Suli Breaks passionately delivers, refusing to be reduced to a number on a test. I’ve written in both prose and poetic forms that students are “more than a score”. The insanity over standardized testing was even featured on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. (You should really watch if you didn’t catch it, and if you’re not offended by some salty language.)

Anyway, back to Mr. Suli Breaks. I found much of what he said to be powerful, relatable, and certainly fair.

And yet…

There seemed to be a hint of devaluing academics in general; a playing down of the importance of one’s education, which made me uncomfortable. Several of the teachers I sent it to felt the same.

I posed this question: How does he show he values education, if he understandably does not value the testing, and that’s all he’s known education to be? How do we expect him to separate the two?

The conversation that ensued had me thinking deeper about this and how it relates to educators. I think it is similar to the crux of the problem those of us opposing the current state of standardized testing face:

  • How do we demonstrate our willingness for accountability when it has become synonymous with standardized testing?
  • How do teachers convince the powers-that-be that we value criticism, but not uninformed critics?
  • How do we explain that we value high standards, but not high stakes?

Vol.#86: Facebook vs. Twitter 

From colleagues to family, some have asked why I use both Facebook and Twitter. What is the need for two different social media venues? How much can I possibly have to say?

While there is no one way to use any digital tool, for me there is a stark difference between how I use Facebook and how I use Twitter. Simply put: Facebook is personal, and Twitter is professional. This again is certainly not the only way they could be used, but it is the way that has worked for me. I find myself often explaining how my use differs using a metaphor, and some have told me the analogy helps them. I’ve described it here in case it helps you or perhaps someone you know.

pool-115850_1280Facebook is your own personal swimming pool. You decide who is allowed to come and socialize and swim. You need to monitor your settings to know who is able to see into the windows of your establishment. You can mark people as “close friends” to follow them as a VIP and keep in closer contact with them. Your resort style might be an intimate gathering, a large vacation spot with many friends and family, or a wild spring break party hot spot. It’s a social time, fun with friends and family. And while you can’t control the conversation of all your ‘guests’, you can decide whom to invite.

niagara-218591_1280Twitter is the social media Niagara Falls. There is no controlling the deluge of information and tweets that flood the stream of social media on Twitter. You can choose who to follow, and people can choose to follow you, but essentially it’s a free-flowing river of information and you are simply targeting which ‘water’ you are more likely to sip.

When I want some ideas in the classroom, I search the key word or appropriate hashtag (#). I won’t catch everything in that topic or every tweet from someone I follow (unless they tag me in it with my @teachingspeaks name or direct message me). I just fill my cup as needed, and send out other links, images, and tidbits that I think may quench someone else’s thirst.

Cybraryman has a list of all educational chats. Following a chat is much like a chat-room of the 1990s about that topic. Following a chat is a great introduction to Twitter, since it has a structure and time parameters. It’s also a great way to find people to follow who are interested in similar topics. Of course, education is far from the only topic in Twitter. From politics to crafts, famous tv shows to obscure books, whatever your passion, there’s a feed and folks to follow.

tl,dr: Facebook is learning what’s going on in the lives of people I know, and Twitter is learning about topics I’m interested in, mostly from people I don’t.

I’ve recently added a Teaching Speaks Volumes Facebook page, which is a huge departure from the approach I’ve used for years described here. It’s an experiment still unfolding.

How do you use Social Media?

Writing Volumes About Teaching Whist Learning Volumes About Teaching

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