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 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.  

Mini - Tech Camp - Train The Trainer

We decided to make the most our investment into i21Zone Training. The other ITC and I trained SS and Sci Teachers in the middle schools and trained the 5th grade teachers, using the same model we had just seen.  Now next step.. How do we get at least a piece of this information to everyone else?  Ahh now we have Mini-Tech Camp on the first day back from Christmas Break.  We picked people who had recently been trained and they lead 50 sessions on their favorite tool they had picked up.    We had 68 sessions (A and B) between two campuses.  Part of the model we emphasized was Model - Explain - Help Create.  Teachers love the fact they get to see a tool modeled and then get time to create something for them to use in their own class.  

Reviews were mixed on the sessions, but overall HUGE success.   Have the teachers step out of their comfort zones was harder on some than others.  Also getting teachers to try new tools was difficult for some, but in the end teachers who had not been trained learned about 2 new practical tech tools they could use in their class. 

Some of our biggest hits - 



Bingo Baker

Prodigy Game - otherwise known as Math Crack

Read Write 

Schoology Basics 

Go Formative 

Staff Christmas Party and Kahoot

So since I now work out of central office, I participate in the CO Christmas part. Each department has to come up with a fun activity to do.  So technically I am under curriculum and instruction, so they looked to the other ITC and I to come up with an activity.  So we did we pick?? Well something with their smartphones.. hahaha 


Let's just say watching these adults battle over a Christmas Kahoot was HILARIOUS!!! We even won a prize for the best activity.. 

Chatter Pix Kids

LOVE this App.  The students take a picture of something - it could be themselves, something they have drawn, etc.. Then they record their voice talking about it.  The students could have written some sentences they are reading, or just going off the cuff.  The kids love this!! They love to see themselves or their creations talking!!! 


Ok so during the training there were a couple of new tools I learned about that I am LOVING. Quizizz is a lot like Cahoot, but can be done individually.  Quizizz can also be assigned as homework. It will still rank them but the rank will change as students complete the quiz.  It is game-based as well and has these really funny memes after each question depending on if the student got it right or not.  I always like a new tool that has a sense of humor :)

Shout Outs/App of the Week

So I think, and remember I am relatively new to blogging, that I will also use this blog to either give shout outs to either amazing products that I have found, teachers who are doing amazing things or just write about a new app or website I am using or showing my peeps.  

This week I am loving Kahoot!!!! Kids of all ages are absolutely eating it up!!! What I cannot wait to do is to try it with the itty bitty's.  Can we use it to do sight words? Addition facts? Colors?  I will post an update once I know more. 

Update - why yes you can and kids absolutely love it!!! Rock on Kahoot and Rock on K teachers at NHE for being willing to try it out. 



So the district not only decided to roll out 1:1 with MacBooks this year, we also rolled out an LMS. Our district chose Schoology.  In theory this is going to become a teacher's new best friend.  The teachers we have using it are LOVING it.  The fact that there is more work on the front in -the first time- and so much less on the back- is AMAZING.  The options on how to use it are endless, it truly is mind-boggling. The other ITC and I have decided to put all PD on there as well.  This will serve 2 purposed: 1. Go ahead and push the teachers into using it and 2. Give teachers easy access to information and PD.  As one would guess some have loved and embraced the idea, while others look at us as though we have snakes crawling out of our heads. 

So far I am loving it.  I am just a little overwhelmed trying to understand all the features, and then decide what to go and show the teachers.  Macs and Schoology can be a lot to swallow at one time.  Here is hoping that my partner do a good job of easing everyone into it...