Tag Archives: Classroom Practices

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. 🙂

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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.#26: Student App Evaluations

After delving headlong into the wonderful world of ELA instruction on the iPad and Apple TV in my classroom, I decided to turn things over to my students and see what their creativity yielded. I reviewed my compiled list of 26 free Apps for ELA and came up with six Apps in which I was most interested to start: AudioBoo, Educreations, Idea Sketch, MindMeister, Subtext, and Zoodle Comics. (Check out some of those links for more information on using each App in the classroom.)

groupI gave them the first two pages of this iPad App Evaluation worksheet I created (photocopied front/back) in order to collect their findings. At first, students spent time just “playing around” to learn what the apps did. The first chart allowed them to jot down notes during this discovery period. “Oh! How’d you get it to import a picture of a page from the novel?” “How were you able to annotate the book cover?”

Continue reading Vol.#26: Student App Evaluations