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”…
If you wouldn’t allow the excuse, don’t offer it as your own.
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.
ReadTheory is a literacy tool which tailors itself to the student’s individual performance in reading. It selects a passage and questions for the student at random from the pool of available quizzes at the student’s level:
Students “choose a level to start.” My students were not aware that it meant “grade level” and some assumed they would start on “level 1”. After completing a passage that was entirely too easy, it quickly adjusted for them.
The video references how it adapts to a student’s performance as they go. Here’s how:
▲ Level up: If a student performs outstandingly on the quiz (score 90% or more), then the quiz is never shown again and the level increases by one.
► Level unchanged: If the student passes this quiz (score between 70% and 89%), it is never shown again and the student remains at the same current grade level of reading.
▼ Level down: If the student performs poorly on the quiz (score 69% or less), then the quiz is replaced into the pool of available quizzes and the level decreases by one.
The teacher receives data charts and progress reports which are interactive and intuitive. The class average, student start level, current level, average level, and number of tests completed are all shown.
I especially like that students get immediate feedback on the questions they get right and wrong, and that for incorrect passages, they can click to get the “explanation behind the answer”.
There are several ways ReadTheory could be improved:
Being able to upload a csv file would have been really nice, although entering students’ names one at a time didn’t take too long.
I would have really appreciated an easy pdf download by class that has the website, default password, and each students’ username in rows to cut apart for easier distribution.
I have some parents who would love a parent log in, similar to what Edmodo, Class Dojo, and Class Charts have, so that they could see their child’s ongoing progress.
Some of my students have noted it’s a lot like Study Island (which many of them had in Elementary school) but without the fun gaming/reward part.
Study Island costs money and I appreciate that Read Theory is free. It does keep “points” in some fashion, but I’m unclear how these are obtained and what they represent. They do not appear to be attached to badges or any type of reward within the actual web App outside of the statement of “You now have X many points.” As I learn more, I may look to how I can reward them “outside the screen” in my classroom.
There’s no “stop”. Our students are trained to look for the stop sign when testing. These passages keep going on until a student chooses or a teacher tells them to stop. Choosing how many passages to do (or a time limit) and having a “stop” pop up would be a nice option.
These suggested improvements aside, I really like ReadTheory so for its ease of use, intuitive data, and personalization for students.
One of my earliest posts (Volume #7) was about how to use technology to its maximum advantage in the classroom. I’ve sometimes been referred to an “early adopter” (one who starts using a product or technology as soon as it becomes available) because I like trying new tools as soon as I hear about them. However, the term “Early Adoption” seemed antiquated to me when talking about EdTech. I looked it up, and in fact the term originates from the technology adoption life-cycle originally published in 1957.
I think a better term might be “Early Adaptation” as one is”adapting” to how things will eventually be for all, rather than “adopting” something unusual, different, or foreign. Adoption is a concise process, where adaptation is ongoing. Am I just debating semantics here, or does someone else see my point?
And what even is technology? Both Alan Kay and Sir Ken Robinson have been quoted as saying technology is: “Nothing invented before you were born.”
So, to my current sixth grade students, that would be nothing invented before 2004. This means they see laptops, hybrid cars, iPods, camera phones, DVR or Tivo, and the internet as just regular normalcy, not technology. Our using them in the classroom would be analogous to when your teachers used television in the ’70s or ’80s: flashy and fun, but not novel or new.
First of all, I can’t imagine the technology available in 1982 wasn’t more of a handicap than a shortcut. But anyway…
If you asked the students in your classroom about movies and special effects (or FX as they may spell it) they would think it synonymous with computers, CGI, and so on. There wouldn’t even be a line of distinction.
The video is long (30 minutes), but as with any flipped lesson, it provides the benefit of being able to pause, skip, or come back to it as needed. Plus, the focus is free technology tools to collect student data so you spend less time grading, so in the end you will get your 30 minutes back, I promise! 🙂
Care to share your experience or planned use for any of these tools?
I screencasted this presentation and have shared it below. The original 50-minute presentation has been boiled the down to just over 20 minutes, but as with any flipped lesson, it provides the benefit of being able to pause, re-watch, or rewind. I hope others find it useful. I plan to share the other presentation, “Simplifying a Teacher’s Life: Free Technology Tools for Assessment” soon.
Care to share your experience or planned use for any of these tools?
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!