We got badges, yes we do, We got badges, how bout you?

Badging in Schoology is one of my favorite features.  You can use them as a reward, use them for gamifying a course, you can even use them to mark the completion of something. You are also not limited to what you use.  

Schoology has several designs to choose from, but you can also import any image and use it.  Oh you thought it was just images you could change? Oh no you have different shape colors and you can change the color of the trim.   

These badges have been a springboard for two really awesome things in my district.  

1. We use the badges to represent PD  courses teachers have completed in Schoology.  This way at the end of the year we know what to give them CEU's for - or fill out the forms for them to send off.   This year, because we were in our second year, I had one of those "ah ha" moments.  We decided to color code our badges.   Last years badges we outlined in black and this year's in hot pink. I am thinking the pretty green for next year. This way no one is double dipping and it makes it easier to keep up with.  

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2. The second big idea brought on by badging is "why not turn the Schoology badges we made into physical badges?" Teachers love recognition and getting CEU's is awesome, but why not let something in Schoology be represented outside of the LMS?  This coming year we will be getting badges printed for different level of achievement, certifications, etc.. Here are some of the ones we are going to use - Nearpod Certified Educator, Schoology Champion, Apple Certified, etc..  With this we are also gamifying our PD. So we have come of with Schoology Level Badges for completing certain courses we have created.  

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We are pretty excited about what is down the road and it all started with badges.  

Keys to Successful Blended Learning

I am a firm believer in the middle ground. I always think that there needs to be balance and that is no different for my views on using technology in the classroom.

I love how much technology offers in way of changing how we do things in the classroom, but I do not believe it should be an all or nothing.  I honestly believe that truly effective classrooms blend the use of technology and traditional teaching methods.  As long as everything is student-centered there is no limit on what students and teachers together can accomplish.  Here are my 4 Keys to have a successful blended learning environment:

1. Curriculum First

Teachers should never look at their tools first.  This isn't about what you have access to it is about what are you teaching. What standards are you covering and what do the students need to learn?  Once you have determined what you are teaching,  you can now look at the tools in your tool box. 

2. Look at what you are teaching? 

Once you have laid out your roadmap of what you are teaching/covering, now let's look at how you are going to teach it?  Technology offers so many opportunities to teach anything. It can bring experiences to students that they probably would not get otherwise.  You have to ask how is it best taught?  This is one of the reasons I love blended learning.  Most things need to be taught in multiple ways. Technology goes hand in hand with differentiation and most things that you teach will not be presented in just one way.  You can have lessons that use traditional and technology all at the same time, hence the word blended. 

3. Know your audience 

So you went to a conference or read a blog and saw some amazing new ideas and want to try them out.  You have looked at what you are teaching and think, yep this will fit perfect. Now the question is, will it work with your class?  Is it age appropriate? Do you have the devices?  Is is Spring or right before a holiday? Will it engage them more or create more chaos? A lot of this depends on your classroom management. If you are great at classroom management, integrating technology will not effect it either way.  If you have a really rough class or they are just struggling right now, will it help focus them or cause problems. You as the teacher are the expert of your classroom and will know those answers. 

4. Does it enhance?

When I have integrated technology and created blended lessons, it most always enhances my lessons tenfold.   With blended learning, that is exactly what technology should do.  Create your lessons and set your roadmap, now how can I make this so much better?  With blended learning you could teach a traditional lesson and then use the technology component for extension activities, reteaching or just practice.   Now we have some differentiation.  There are some teachers that utilize flipped classrooms where the lesson is taught via technology and then they use more traditional methods for reinforcement, practice and intervention when needed.   Looking at enhancing your lessons doesn't come with a script, you have to look at the content and the kids. It is taking that lesson and really pulling your kids in.  

 

Blended learning is one of the best ways to really begin to integrate technology into your class. You may be asking, "why would I want to do that?".  I am not saying that technology will solve all of your problems and answer all of your questions, but I do know that it gives students a level of engagement and interactivity that are just not possible in a traditional non-technology classroom.  

                 

 

 

The Power of Using Formative Assessments with Special Populations

Formative Assessments can be a powerful tool of gathering essential data on students of special populations.  Many times our special education, MTSS and ELL students have a lot of anxiety during traditional assessments. They may struggle getting the information back to the teacher in a specific format.  Luckily there are so many wonderful tools out there that are used as formative assessments that gather really good data. 

So instead of just getting a “temperature” on how students are doing  with a standard or objective, why couldn’t we use that same data as part of our grade or mastery level?  Answer is, we can.   So many of these tools often feel more like activities or games, but in reality are gathering data.  

For example, think about Quizizz, Kahoot or even Quizlet Live, students are answering questions but are getting assessed in the process.  In my opinion Quizizz gives you the best reports on students, but you can get data from all 3.   If students are doing what they consider "playing" sometimes it takes the anxiety away of getting it right.  You may see that the students know or have retained more than you thought. 

There are also tools like Edpuzzle and Nearpod that teachers can embed polls, questions and quizzes into. This may not seem as "fun" but it doesn't have the same pressure attached as an actual test.  

There are so many great products out there that can be integrated into the classroom, that you can gather relevant data on.  Sometimes we need to look past paper and pencil to really find out what the student knows. 

The Constant in Ed Tech - Everything Changes

Anyone in education knows that the only thing that is constant is that everything changes. This is only year 2 for me as an Instructional Tech Coach, so I am by no means an expert.  Although I am new I am picking up a thing or two along my way.  

When I started out I started sharing everything I learned with my teaches. Not that this was a bad thing, but I am trying to work smarter not harder. Now I spend time focusing on tools that cover a multitude of tasks or things.  That way when teachers "master it" they have something that does a lot for them instead of "tool hopping".  Our motto in the district "One tool at a time".  Basically we want our teachers to pick up one or two tools and really learn them before adding on.  Ed Tech can get very overwhelming and this is a good rule of thumb.  

Now, not only are we focusing in on multi-use tools, I am noticing that the more a tool does for you the more evolved it becomes.  Some of my favorite tools, are constantly adding on.  The funniest thing happened just the other day, I am in the middle of a training and saw a brand new feature added in.  Although I was surprised, it is actually what I have come to expect from these awesome companies. 

I truly believe the best Ed Tech companies are constantly getting feedback and adding/evolving.  They are not "one trick ponies" but tools that help teachers in multitude of ways.  

Here are some of my favorite "Go To" tools:

Schoology

Nearpod

Brainpop

Quizlet

Kahoot and Quizizz are very similiar and only really let you quiz your students, but they are constantly adding components and features to how they test. 

The "I Do, We Do, You Do" of Schoology

As we rolled out our 1:1 initiative last year, we also rolled out a brand new LMS at the same time.  As we got into the thick of things we realized one of the biggest complaints about learning both the devices and LMS is that there just wasn't enough time.  Since I am not that far removed from the classroom, I totally remember that feeling.  So how can I help make this easier on them and show them how awesome the LMS is at the same time???? Then I remembered one of my favorite teaching strategies "I Do, We Do, You Do".  In all honesty, we had a "They Do" in there as well.  So as an instructional coach, this is what it looked like:

1. Find a group of teachers willing to meet with you and be your "guinea pigs". Find out what the teachers are currently doing. What kinds of tests, projects assignments are you doing?  What is something you do over and over and over again? Can I replicate it in Schoology easily? What information are the teachers gathering from the activities? Would it save time and still be as effective? Can they use it next year or even again this year? 

2. Now begin the creation.  Make a couple of examples that the teachers can use immediately.  Show them how to use what  you have made. Get feedback - trouble shoot things that went wrong and build off of what went great. 

3. Now build something together that they can use.  Cross your fingers that they now pick up the ball and roll with it. Follow up periodically. 

We did this with elementary teachers and had some great success.   Spelling tests were are go-to for diving in. Teachers LOVED that idea!!!! Kindergarten teachers now are using true/false tests instead of flashcard identification for sounds, letters, and numbers.  I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.   Teachers are often like students and change is hard.  Since I invested in them and was there, they were much more willing to jump on this Schoology Train!! 

 

 

 

 

It's A Community

So I am so very blessed to have been chosen to be one of the Nearpod Pionears.  Not only do I love Nearpod, but I also got to spend an entire weekend with other professionals who love it as well.  Josh did an amazing job of putting everything together and presenting an amazing conference/meeting.  There are so many different things we could focus on but my biggest take away was the people.  

It all started when Josh created a facebook group.  People started coordinating sharing rides and meeting at the airport to ride to the hotel together.  Wait.. you do realize a lot of these people are complete strangers?  It continued on with various posts about where people were so others can join them.  I found myself following it and walking up to a complete stranger and yet calling her by name and chatting it up. I am the only that upon reflection that might not be normal? It was like although most everyone was coming alone, no one wanted anyone to feel alone. 

The next two days were filled with fun activities (totally got you out of your comfort zone), break out sessions, product information, and amazing connections being made.  The staff and founders have such passion for not only Nearpod but the people it most effects, the students. You could tell all through out the room that everyone in there cared. During breaks and meals you constantly heard chatter about what do you do? How do you do.... What do you use? will you share with me?  Of course you heard social conversations because everyone was making genuine connections, but the majority of the time on a weekend no less, people were talking about their jobs and their passion for helping each other and their students.  

I should also note that I constantly heard statements about how Nearpod was evolving, because they were listening to us.  You know, I believe them.  I am so proud to be a member of this amazing group of professionals.  I just hope that one day I can help someone as much as I was helped this weekend.  

Nearpod said the focus this year is community and you know what? That is exactly what it is!!   

Blended Learning - Why you need it and who should do it.

So our district just booked Chalkable again to come in and do blended learning training with our elementary teachers. Now you may be asking yourself, don't you teach the teachers how to use technology? Why yes I do, but I will cover that in a minute.   

If you are going to bring technology into the district and get devices into student's hands, here are my top reasons why you need specific blended learning training. 

1. Technology can not just be a toy, teachers have to be taught how to use it with curriculum. Curriculum has to be the focus. 

2. Notice the title says blended.  I believe blended is the best route to go.  This means it isn't all books or all technology, it is a marriage of both.  I have heard the term Technology Infusion and I believe that sums it up the best.  Technology is infused into the classroom and has just become a tool to use. 

3. Sometime teachers need training on how to integrate, not just show how to use a new tool, app or website.  If teachers don't understand how to incorporate it, how effective will it really be? 

Now to the question - Why can't you just do it?  

First this is only for those that might have the funds to do this. Our district has funds that has to be used on outside sources. Since it has to be delegated that way and technology one to one was rolling out, this is the route we took. 

1. My partner and I are fully capable and have trained teachers, but sometimes teachers listen up when it is an oustide person. 

2. Outside perspectives are never a bad thing. 

3. Let someone who does this all the time come and show you their tools and tricks.  A lot of my time is spent helping teachers, and their time is spent finding new stuff. I say it is a win win. 

 

We bring in Chalkable because we love their PD model of model for the teacher, give them protected time to create and then go into their class and work side by side with them. 

Quizlet Live - Not just for students

So last week we brought in teachers from each building across the district to work on Schoology.  We now have a PLC Facilitator that focuses on Schoology.  We decided to see how much they knew but in a fun way.   We all know that teachers get tired of the same old - same old traditional trainings.  I decided we haven't really focused in on Quizlet live and it is such a fun and engaging tool.  Teachers were not thrilled with having to get up and move around, but once they got going, they started having a blast. Here are my top reasons for loving Quizlet Live -

1. Turns review into a game

2. Randomly chooses teams

3. Makes students get out of their comfort zone and interact with everyone

4. Due to the set up (only one person on the team has the right answer) everyone has to participate. 

5. After the students have played it, they learn that once you miss a question it starts them back over. So my 6th reason is that it reinforces taking your time to correctly answer the questions. 

 

Using a LMS for School Clubs, Teams and Groups

So I was recently talked into coaching again.  This is something I thought I had given up.  Since I have been teaching our district how to use our LMS - Schoology, I thought I had better practice what I preached.  Turns out it is as great as I thought it was. 

I post our calendar of events, share forms and update.  All the parents who have gotten the app are wearing it out!!!. They love the ease and convenience of it.  It is especially beneficial to me because I am not on campus everyday.  I knew this tool would be helpful but it seriously has made my life 10 times easier.  All I had to do was announce I was creating a Tennis Group on Schoology and that all my info was there and BAM - we have set the tone and procedure.  

I know teachers/coaches love remind101 and I think it is a good tool, but focusing everyone towards schoology not only allowed me to remind people of things but share events and forms as well.  

As a side note PARENTS LOVE SCHOOLOGY!!! More on our parent roll out later. 

Learning From Our Mistakes

So as the new year started to gear up, the other ITC and I were really excited to roll out the Schoology Gradebook.  We waited until the first full week of school and visited all the schools to show them how to use the gradebook.  The gradebook is really user friendly and very similar to what we are currently using. Since we are using an LMS this would actually reduce the work load for the teachers who are actively using it.  

BOY were we wrong.  NEVER again will we introduce anything new that early.  Teachers do not like change.  It has taken us almost a month to work out the kinks.  The problem is I am the more reserved of the two ITC's and my partner is more the leap and see what happens.  We may have should have done more looking than leaping.  We have taken ownership of our mess ups and have basically gone door to door around the district to fix everyone. I think that went a long way with admin and teachers. 

We are starting to have more and more say that they like it, but it has taken so much to get here. 

Now how do we relay all of the info/details about the gradebook  to everyone else and them actually receive it? That is the new challenge we are facing head on.  

Tips For Teachers Who Are Tech Resistant

We all know who those teachers are who say that the old way works and they are not changing or have you heard, " I was taught that way and it worked for me so..."?  Everyone in education immediately had a face or name that came to mind.   As a instructional technology coach, part of my job is trying to get those teachers on board. Our district went to a 1:1 model, so we need everyone on the same train.  

While working with teachers and trying to understand my reluctant teachers, I have noticed 3 commonalities.  

1. Lack of Knowledge or Understanding

Many teachers don't understand how the technology will fit into their classroom. How does it work? How will they use it? How will the kids react? What will the students try to get away with?  Many more questions have come up.  A couple of ways we are trying to help with the lack of knowledge.

     * Training, training and more training

     * Part of that training has to be modeling - show them how it is used

     * Listening - listen to what you are actually being asked, not what you think they are asking

     *Examples- Make sure you have examples that are relevant to what they teach

2. Fear

Most of the teachers who pushed back, after getting to work with them some you could see that one of the obstacles is fear.  They are afraid they wont understand or they wont be able to do it.  The number one thing we have done is offer support.  We model tools,  then help them create something for their class.  The last component is that we go into their classes and do side by side with them. We are there and just having someone else in the room seems to make teachers more willing to try.  If someone can't be with them when they are trying we get them a "tech buddy teacher". These are teachers in the building that are more tech savvy and are willing to work with the reluctant teachers. We also try to make sure they are close in proximity to each other, that way the teachers know the support is close by. 

3. Small Steps

Last but not least we encourage small steps. In our trainings we only show a couple of tools.  Then we have the teachers pick only one to begin with. Many times teachers go to trainings or are shown several tools at once and they feel as though they have to learn them all.  We preach - one at a time.  Our rule of thumb is to use one new tool until you are comfortable and only then will we show you another and repeat the process. It has amazed me to see the relief on teachers faces when we say it and they know we mean it.  One website or App is much easier to tackle than three or four. 

We all know there will still be teachers that be reluctant and some will all out refuse.  Luckily they are in the minority.  With patience, understanding and support, you may be amazed at what your teachers will begin to try. In the end it is worth it because the children are the ones getting the benefit. 

My Top 3 Educational Game-Based Sites

There is nothing that will ever replace good teaching!!! Now with that said, looking for new strategies and tools is never a bad thing. Do you know how many millions and millions the "free game apps" make each year?   People are spending tons on getting "extra lives" or "tools" to reach the next level.  We, as a culture get so competitive with not only others, but ourselves. This is a list with a short description of some of my favorite sites that uses some type of "game" to either assess or reinforce students. I also too much of anything isn't good, so these are just tools to throw in to change it up or to hook students. 

 

Quizizz

Quizizz is a self-paced game site.  There are tons of pre-made quizzes already loaded into the library.  It also allows you to create your own. One feature that it has that others may not, is combining of quizzes.  There is a live version and it can be assigned as homework.  It has the ranking feature and the funniest memes that pop up after each question depending on how the student answers. As a teacher you can have control on most everything, the time, memes or no memes, etc..  

 

A new feature recently out  - Quizizz in other languages. Now our foreign language arts teachers can use it as well with out having to create everything from scratch.  If you haven't looked at this one you should. 

Kahoot

Students seem to love the competitive part of Kahoot. This is played as a whole class.  Teacher have the questions and question choices on the board and the students just have 4 color choices that they pick.  There are tons of pre-made quizzes that you can edit, but you cannot merge two quizzes together. You can also make your own. Kahoot ranks students after each question, but you can turn that off.  You can edit just about all of the settings in Kahoot, including the time on the question to how you want to give points.  One of the great things about Kahoot is that it is always coming in out with new features. Every couple of weeks there is a post on Twitter about a new feature coming.  I  like Kahoot because it is really engaging and often the students forget they are actually doing academic work. 

 

Quizlet

Many of you have probably heard of Quizlet, because it has been around a while. Quizlet started out as basically online flashcards.  They had some pretty cool features back then.  I used Quizlet years ago for helping my students review for tests because the flashcards can be audible. I had many students with reading disabilities and I loved that the cards could be read to them.  I re-discovered Quizlet more recently and it has added some amazing, fun new features.  Now you still have the flashcard sets.  There a a ton of "decks" already made that you can use and alter. You can also create your own.  There are now games that students can play and there are different modes.  There is a review mode, testing mode, etc.. I only use the free version but one of our teachers has the paid account and she says it will give her information about how long her students were on etc.. The newest feature is absolutely amazing!!! I actually played it with a huge group at AETC.  It uses whatever deck you want, then student use the code they are given to sign in.  Quizlet then randomizes the students into groups.. Here is the best part - They HAVE to work together.  When the question appears not everyone in the group has the right answer.  So they have to talk and look at each others screens to get it right.  I have seen adults and students play and it was so much fun to watch. I love that these websites are always upping their game!!! 

Project -Based Learning - It Helps Everyone

Teachers for so long have used only a couple of different tools to assess student learning. Now there are many new ways to actually collect data from students. Using tests as the only source of data isn't relevant anymore and honestly may not give you a good picture of what the student knows. 

Effective teachers often are collecting data all day long. It could be through quick formative assessments or simply just watching the students work.  With the integration of technology teachers and students both have endless opportunities to either collect or share their knowledge.  My background is in special education, so I am constantly thinking about how technology can help our struggling learners.  The more I have learned, the more I have realized that effective use of technology in the classroom naturally lends itself to differentiation.  

Every teachers has different learners in their classroom. Some may be excellent writers, some excellent readers and some are really creative. This is where project-based learning comes in.  Projects can be used with groups, where the students can lean on each others strengths.  Student A may be really good at summarizing, but struggles with theory application. Student B may really understand the topic but has a really hard time expressing themselves in written form. If these two students were to work together they could lean on each other.  

I often think of a former student of mine that was really creative and when we had conversations about topics, rather than reading or taking notes this student had some really good insight. I would have never know it, had I not worked with him individually and had those conversations. Back then technology was not as prevalent so we did not have easy access. I think about all the tools that I know about now and what he could have done with them. It may have been a complete game-changer.  

I know that students cannot create graphics for a state test submission, but couldn't we assess some of what they know in other ways?  Given the option students could pick a project they felt good about.  If it isn't English class, does every assignment have to be a paper or writing assignment? I know it is important, but there are other important skills that can be gained and used completing another project.  Yes we should practice writing and reading, but every once in a while couldn't we change it up? Maybe give choices? Like choose a paper, powerpoint, or infographic (Canva or Piktochart). Students would be required to cover the same amount of information they would be sharing it in a way that interests them, which means more participation.   

I truly believe effective teachers can glean important data off every day occurrences in the classroom. Project-Based activities gives every student a time to shine and the more a student can shine the better chance we have of reaching and growing them. 

 

The New PD Model

As we work with students more and more we realize that the "sit and get" model is not the most effective way to reach this generation.  Students need to be a part of their learning experience. The are so used to immediate responses that lecturing and testing may not reach a good portion of school-age children.  So if we are changing the model of the classroom, why wouldn't we re-evaluate how we are doing PD?  Now I have been to some really great trainings where I just listened to a speaker and got a lot out of it, but unless I chose the topic to listen to, more times than not I am in my world after about 15 minutes.  My district tried the "watch videos" model and it could have been how it was rolled out but for about 95% of the teachers in the district it was an epic fail. Now I did get some good ideas from what I saw, but the format was all wrong for how we, as a district, were using it. 

This year I help roll out online PD in our district. We made short lessons that included videos and assignments.  Now the assignments were not difficult and it was usually to produce a product that the teachers would use. On many of the courses we gave a face-to-face introduction, which seemed to help. This was an improvement over what we had been doing, but still was not having the desired impact.  As an ITC (Instructional Technology Coach) my goal is no different than a classroom teacher's. I want to impact the teaching and learning in the classroom.  

Fast forward a couple of months and in walks i21zone by Chalkable.  Now I did an earlier blog about going through this training and how much I liked it, but I had no idea the impact it had on our teachers and the way we would do PD from now on.   All of our trainings and even presentations have followed the model of  - Model - Explain - Create Product. Teachers are eating this up!!! They love the fact they get to see how something works then have protected time to create something for their students. Even if it is an hour session after school, we are sticking with this model.  We have gone up over from .4% of teachers participating in voluntary PD to over 40 in teacher participation in PD.  We are getting to roll out summer Tech Camp and from our preliminary numbers this is going to increase dramatically.  

If we do not think "sit and get" works with students, I am not sure why we think it is the most effect for adults. Teachers as much as students want to be engaged in the learning process. I mean who doesn't? 

Quizlet Live

So I have been a pan of Quizlet for several years. When I was a special education teacher we would use this website to help students study vocabulary, because it had the "audible" option.  Now over the years Quizlet has made many improvements and additions. By far one of the things that my teachers are eating up is Quizlet Live.  Quizlet Live uses gasification, but takes it up one more notch..It randomizes the student groups for you and the students just about have no other choice than to work together.  I am definitely adding Quizlet to my tool box as a top ten!! 

NEARPOD

Nearpod is the best ever!!! So I saw this tool presented by two different presenters, but until I got in an played with it I had no idea.   I had seen it presented and they talked more about finding pre-made presentations.  NO NO NO, that is most definitely not the best part. You can drop any powerpoint into Nearpod.  I love the fact that you control the pace and it is interactive. Now the students are engaged in the learning process. Oh the the VR field trips are really cool.  This is something our district is looking at buying.   This is a tool that will work from K-12 in any subject area.  

MECA - The people are the best part

So MECA  - Mississippi Educational Computing Association was my first go round with attending and presenting at a educational tech conference.  

I took away at least one thing from each session I attended. I think I did pretty well on my hands-on presentation.  My goal is give everyone new tips to leave with and give them things to look at when they got home.  I am almost positive I did both.  

Now my all time favorite part - the PEOPLE!!  I learned more from talking to others than I did in any session.  I learned new tips from vendors on products we already had. Saw some money saving products and got some great swag.  The other tech people in the state who do what I do were AMAZING people. Everyone was so free with their ideas and we all just stood around and openly shared ideas.  I left with the feeling, that I am not on this island alone and not only are others on this island, but they are the helpful kind.  I brought back so many ideas!!! 

 

Moral of the story: Meet others and have conversations. You never know what the person standing beside you knows.