Friday, September 30, 2016

Start with the Why? - The ISTE Standards

My school district has made the Future Ready District Pledge. My high school has been focused on improving student-centered learning based on the ISTE Standards before we started learning about the Future Ready Initiatives. The Future Ready Initiatives give us another set of resources to learn and grow.

When we talk about student-centered classroom enhanced by technology, we always start with "The Why" before ever considering the "How or How Much".

The new ISTE Standards for Students are a great foundation for "The Why".

I recommend that all educators take a look at the ISTE Standards for Students as they evaluate teaching and learning in their classrooms.

Simon Sinek's TED Talk: How great leaders inspire action is another great place to start thinking about "The Why". 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Reflections on Building a Student-Centered Learning Environment Part II

I am continuing to focus on facilitating a learner-centered classroom enhanced by technology.  I am also trying to limit the amount of  homework for my students. Homework falls in 1 of 2 categories: Optional enrichment and Stuff They Didn't Finish. I suggest they don't spend more than 15 minutes on either on a daily basis. The combination of these two factors has been a challenge for me. 

Recently,  I shared my experience with our first quiz in this post. Long story short, my students struggled on our first open note quiz. We decided to focus on the areas of struggle by narrowing our focus using another collaborative activity.  We retook the quiz a week later. The retakes results showed improvement. We did not see as much improvement across the board as I hoped, but I think it was a step in the right direction.

Here are a few takeaways from this experience. 
  • Students need more practice collaborating. The have a tendency to default to divide and conquer. This is not working for them. They improved on the concepts that they chose to work through. They did not improve much or at all connected to the concepts their partners focused on. 
  • Focusing on everything is too much. Some of the students tried to take on all the concepts without thinking about what they already knew. They admitted they were overwhelmed by the amount of information they needed to know in a reflection question connected to the quiz. 
  • Time becomes a serious concern. Many of the student-centered and collaborative activities have taken longer than even I anticipated. 
Next steps:
  • Checks for collaboration by having students stop and discuss what they learned during the activities. 
  • Formative assessments built by students to challenge and assess their partners' learning.
  • Solve the time issue? Still thinking about this one. 
We are working on a WeVideo collaborative activity connected to climate factors that will be our preparation for our next quiz. I built in the first two bullet points, but I have a feeling that time will still be an issue. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Reflections on Building a Student-Centered Learning Environment

"Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn." - Benjamin Franklin

I am passionately curious about how students learn best. I am always experimenting with new ideas and lessons to challenge my students to own their learning. I do not "teach" my students, I instead I do my best to facilitate learning in a student-centered classroom. 

This year I want to help students adjust to a more student classroom. I decided to start our first major unit on ecology a with this in mind. Instead of starting with direct vocabulary activities, I decided to build the foundation around a field experience to one of our local prairies. We explored the prairie in small groups while engaging the students in building a sense of space about the ecosystem.

We returned to the classroom and began to build a Google+ Collection that connected key concepts from the unit to our exploration of the Prairie. Students were given guidelines and encouraged to collaborate. I circulated the room and clarified and questioned. We checked in with Google form exit slips and a quick Kahoot review / discussion. Students were encouraged to review for a quiz covering the objectives we had been working through. 

Students typically struggle on our first several assessments. The breadth of the material and the depth of many of the questions is not something they have enough experience with. Despite this, I was hopeful that we were ready. The quiz was online and students were encouraged to use the resources they created to help them with the quiz. The only rule was that they could not help each other. The results were not what the students and I hoped for. 

We decided to drop the quiz for now and take a few more days to dig deeper into the concepts on the quiz that were the biggest struggles. I stood my ground and I have not lectured or given them the answers. I instead create several additional collaborative experiences to help the students experience the concepts. These activities allowed for differentiated learning opportunities. Students had options to choose where to focus as they worked through the activities.

My normal practice is to go over the quiz and then we would create opportunities to earn points back. I decided instead to not share the questions and answers. Students will instead receive the same quiz tomorrow. 

My students will still need more time to learn how to use the activities and manage our assessments. We will take our time and grow together as learners. I am both hopeful and nervous that we will show some improvement through this process. 

I will check back in soon to let everyone know how we did on our second go around. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Formative Assessment - Driving Teaching and Learning

Formative assessment, including diagnostic testing, is a range of formal and informal assessment procedures conducted by teachers during the learning process in order to modify teaching and learning activities to improve student attainment.
Do you have a favorite formative assessment best practice, sample, or a favorite formative resource? Please consider sharing in our Google+ Community.
Formative assessments are powerful learning checkpoints for teachers and students. The importance of these assessments has grown in parallel to the growth of student-centered learning in technology-rich classrooms.
Formative assessments must be part of the learning process and can be enhanced with a variety of different #EdTech resources. This post will introduce a variety of formative assessment tools. These tools are essential to help engage students in the learning process. Both teachers and students must use these assessments to evaluate their current understandings and more importantly where they need to go.
Many of these resources have activities & assessments that have already been created. These public assessments can be copied and modified. We recommend taking your time to explore and experiment with some of the public assessments in each of the resources below.
We've categorized some of our favorite formative assessment resources in this document into several categories.
  • Video Formative Assessment Tools
  • Game Based Formative Assessment Tools
  • Presentation Formative Assessment Tools
Learning Activity
1. Explore the resources in our Formative Assessment Google Doc and choose one resource to create an assessment that could be used in your classroom or with teachers.
2. Share an assessment you created in the comments below, in the Google Form below, or in our Google + Formative Assessment Community.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Google Apps for Education Updates

Google Apps for Education has updated a variety of resources this summer. These updates include some great enhancements for teaching and learning.
Here is a quick list of some of the most popular updates for teachers and students. (Click on the links to learn more about each resource.)

1. Google Forms Now Has a Quiz Option
Many of us have used Flubaroo and Superquiz to support assessment with Google Forms over the past several years. Google has now made it even easier to create and grade quizzes using Google Forms.
Teachers can organize the class stream by adding topics to posts, and teachers and students can filter the stream for specific topics.

3. Add Images to Form Question
Teachers can now add images to questions or as multiple choice answers.

4. Google Expeditions Continues to Grow
With over 200 Expeditions available, we’re excited for them to experience these virtual field trips on more devices. Students will soon be able to experience expeditions across multiple devices without the VR Viewer.

5. Google Cast for Education
A new Chrome app that allows students and teachers to share their screens wirelessly from anywhere in the classroom.

6. Google Classroom Email Notifications for Parents and Guardians
Once invited by a teacher, parents and guardians can receive automated daily or weekly email summaries of student work and class announcements.

7. Annotate in the Google Classroom Mobile App
Using annotations, students can complete assignments, sketch out math problems or even create visuals of creative ideas directly on their devices.

8. The New Google Sites
Google sites has been updated. Early adopters can now create sites using the new and improved interface.

9. Training for Google Apps
Interactive training and walkthroughs, right within Google Apps

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