Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Mr. LeBrun's 11 Homework

I connected with Ross LeBrun via Twitter this past year and met face to face at TeachMeetNJ 2013. Ross is an ELA supervisor and an awesome #NJED educator. I greatly value his opinion and use him as a sounding board for some of my crazy ideas. He has commissioned me and 10 others to complete a 4-part blog post as a way for us to connect and share. Here we go!

Part 1: 11 Facts about Me

  1. My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. 
  2. Despite being an extrovert online, I'm an introvert in person. Online, I like the ability to interact when I want and through a portal that keeps everyone literally at arms length. Despite being an introvert, I have no problem with public speaking. Put me in front of a crowd and I will keep on talking.
  3. I have a very loud voice. Others have stating hearing me teach from across the building. My husband has to constantly remind me that I'm not on the pool deck at home.
  4. I have a fear of falling.  I like heights, but only if I am secure and can have a white-knuckled hold on something. Dangle my feet and I'm done.
  5. I teach at my high school alma mater.
  6. I was taught how to swim by my mom, who was also my summer swim coach. I never swam for a high school team (we didn't have one then) or for a Y team (couldn't afford it), and I walked on to my college team, which I captained my senior year.
  7. With help from administration and fellow coaches, I started the swim team at my high school in 2000. In more ways than one, the Girls Varsity Swim Team is my dream team.
  8. I like to drive fast.  I would seriously try being a racecar driver if given the opportunity.
  9. My favorite color is green-- especially the green of the marsh in late Spring.
  10. I like to garden. My specialties are marigolds, petunias, and tomatoes. 
  11. My grandma, step-grandma, and I all share the same birthday.

Part 2:  11 Questions from Mr. LeBrun:
  1. What would you do with a lottery win of $50,000?  I would figure out how to invest/save it to make more money later on.  A good chunk would be used for my daughters' education, and I'd like to stash the rest away for a "rainy day."
  2. What was the first thing you read that you remember loving? I have always been a reader, and I remember my parents and siblings always bringing books with us wherever we went. I can't remember much of specific books I read when I was little, but I do remember the first book that got me hooked on sci-fi/fantasy: My dad gave me a copy of Anne McCaffrey's Dragonsong when I was in middle school, and after reading about Menolly and her fire lizards, I devoured any and every Pern book by Anne McCaffrey. I was enthralled with the world of Pern.
  3. Diving - Sky or Scuba? Scuba!  Put me in water, not the air! (See #4 above!)
  4. What is your favorite season? Summer and Fall. Living at the beach, I love summer, but I also love the beginning of Fall and the start of a new school year. 
  5. Would you move for a job? I would consider moving IF it was the right fit for me and my family, and it would have to be a very cool place for a cool job. It took us 5 years to buy our current house-- we refused to settle! 
  6. Have you monetized your blog? Do you plan to? I haven't monetized my blog yet, but I would seriously consider it. How much do bloggers make? 
  7. Are you a cat or a dog person? There can be only one! DOG!!!!!!!!!  (See title of this blog)
  8. Pick one musical instrument to learn now that you're an adult. Why that one? Cello. I love classical music and grew up playing the piano and clarinet. I haven't played in years.  My piano skills have since transferred to the computer keyboard-- I can type very fast!
  9. To where did you fly on your first flight? Does anything about the experience stand out as significant? First flight was senior trip to Orlando, Florida when I was in high school. Nothing very significant--thank heavens when there were 100s of high school students on a plane.  I've only flown a handful of times in the 20 years since: California (twice), Florida (4 times, during college for winter swim training), Dominican Republic (once), Colorado (once).  I usually drive where ever I need to go.  I like the adventure of flying-- just not the cost. 
  10. Do you play video games? If not, WHY? If yes, which system/games? I grew up playing Nintendo.  I fondly remember one Christmas staying up very late trying to learn how to play Super Mario Bros-- everytime we wanted a character to jump we'd lift our hands/controller. We have a Wii now, but I haven't played it much lately.  I've been playing some games on my phone/iPad (Candy Crush, Plants v. Zombies 2).  I like play as a form of distraction when I need to take a few minutes and zone out.  
  11. What was the first CD you ever bought? Do you still have it? Oh boy. I have no idea. I remember buying U2 bootlegs on the boardwalk in Seaside. Ordering free CDs from that company that would send you a new one every month... 

Part 3:  Nominate Other Bloggers
Every blogger listed below is on my must-read list-- and my partner in crime WOULD BE on my must-read list if she blogged more (here's to getting you going, Liz!) :-D 

Part 4: Questions for those I nominated to answer

  1. What is your favorite type of cookie?
  2. As a cook, what is your signature dish?
  3. What was your best Christmas/Birthday/Holiday gift ever (either given to you or you gave to someone else)? 
  4. Why was that the best gift ever?
  5. What is your favorite tech tool?
  6. Oxford comma, necessary or superfluous? 
  7. What is your favorite book?
  8. If you could have 3 wishes, what would they be?
  9. If you were to name one piece of clothing that describes you, what would you say?
  10. Would you rather visit the world 100 years into the past or 100 years into the future?
  11. What's the kindest act you have ever seen done (either to/by you or another)?

For those I nominated, now it is your turn!

1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.

2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.

3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.

4. List 11 bloggers after you write this.  

5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated.  Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Create Certificates with Autocrat

Autocrat is a versatile mail merge script created by Andrew Stillman that can be used to generate and send documents to recipients.  You can send letters, assignments, grades & commentslesson plans, and more with Autocrat. Big thanks to Cheryl Morris for teaching me about Autocrat for assignment delivery!

General Steps:
1. Create master template Google document that includes the mail merge tags: <<  >>
2. Create Google Form for entering the information that will be merged.
3. Install and run the script on the response spreadsheet.

For teachers, sports teams, clubs, and administrators, Autocrat can be used to create and send certificates as needed. With just a few minutes of set-up, you can have a method for quickly generating certificates and have a record of all items organized on a spreadsheet.

Think of all the ways you could use this to promote positive interactions and recognize accomplishments!

  • Perfect Attendance 
  • Honor Roll Certificate
  • Free Homework Pass
  • Athlete of the Week 
  • Student of the Week 
Share your ideas!!!!

I created a screencast demonstrating the process for certificate creation.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

#CEL13: Connections

I couldn't afford the cost of attending the entire NCTE conference this year in Boston, but I was able to attend and present at the Conference on English Leadership, an intimate conference tied to the main NCTE event that was held November 24-26.

The 2013 CEL convention focused on the theme of Transformative Literary Leadership and Learning, and my session was STOP BLEEDING RED INK: Using Paper and Online tools to assist in evaluating student work. I'm very passionate about changing the perception of English teachers as red pen wielding warriors. English teachers should not be lugging home piles of papers to red pen and spending 20+ hours outside of school grading student work. Available technology AND teaching strategies can empower students to create better products better than any red mark on a paper. I'm very grateful to Heather Rocco and the CEL leadership for the opportunity to share my thoughts how on to transform literacy learning in the classroom with people who can effect change in their districts.

Celebrity Sightings & Twitter

Twitter has become such an integrated part of my professional learning. Sharing resources, working out issues, and conversing on Twitter with like minded individuals has propelled my teaching practices.  On more than one occasion, I was called "prolific" in reference to my tweeting habits during the conference-- if they only knew. One of the highlights for connecting via Twitter is being able to meet tweeps in person, face to face. 

There were quite a few people at the conference who I did not recognize until they mentioned their Twitter handle.  One such moment occurred with Colette Benett:  it wasn't until I saw her Twitter handle @teachcmb56 that I realized I follow her on Twitter and regularly read her blog. "OH! You're Used Books in Class! I love your blog!"  was my immediate response when I connected with her and fellow teacher Stephanie Pixley during #CEL's social hour.  Nothing beats discussing Odysseus, Frankenstein, and Pygmalion over a class of Cabernet. 

Colette made an interesting point in one of the sessions (please forgive my paraphrasing): Teachers are always doing dress rehearsals; we are never actually performing a final show. Every period we teach is just a dress rehearsal at best, and if we are lucky to teach the same prep, we can perform it multiple times with the 3rd showing probably the most successful. I think she is right! I wonder, how can teachers be on stage for a final performance? Evaluating teachers' performances via the Danielson model isn't the answer. I also wonder, why do teachers need to be on stage? Why not let the students "steal the show"? Let the teacher be the stage director or set designer-- more thoughts on this for another blog post.

Another moment was during the lunch keynote session, where I sat at a table with fellow educators Meenoo Rami, Amy Baskin, Kate Roberts, Maggie Roberts, Chris Lehman, and others: catching sight of @teachkate written on a name badge, I exclaimed, "OH! YOU'RE @TEACHKATE! I follow you! I'm @KtBkr4!" Once our Twitter handles were shared, we realized that we already "knew" each other. 

#CEL's keynote line-up was jammed packed with Twitter-celebs, amazing educators who cut the edge. Eric Sheninger touted the importance of being connected in his conference opening keynote. Troy Hick's keynote on digital writing resonated with me for it focused on what I am trying to do with my students: get them writing more and for an authentic audience. I carted around my copy of Hick's Crafting Digital Writing hoping to catch an autograph.  Donalyn Miller's keynote on fostering life-long readers was funny, smart, engaging. Meenoo Rami's keynote on connecting with her students and empowering their learning through relevant projects. I want to be in class with all of these people!

One of many highlights for the conference was sitting with Meenoo Rami, Kate Roberts, Maggie Roberts, and Chris Lehman during lunch and unintentionally twitter-bombing Donalyn Miller's keynote. We realized rather quickly that the noise we heard emanating from the podium was her phone vibrating every time she received a tweet. We couldn't stop tweeting because her speech was relevant and inspiring, and needed to be shared.

One session really got me thinking about writing instruction. Erika Bogdany's Breaking Down Walls: how to break down the walls of a classroom for inclusive learning among staff and students.  By changing the mindset and having staff model independent reading and participate in an Educator's Editing Workshop, student accountability, connections, and performance are increased.

The Educator's Editing Workshop is simple: invite other staff members from other subject areas to sit with students and conference about their writing.  Amazing concept. Erika is to be commended on her ability to pull this off. She really got me thinking about how I could bring this to my school.

If you've read my other blog posts about grading writing, I harp on this issue: writing is never finished.  Erika made this point in session.

So why do we mislead students by labeling it as "final"?

Another highlight was bumping into Penny Kittle and getting her to follow me on Twitter. 

I have some reading to do: I picked up copies of Penny Kittle's Book Love, Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild.  While I have had a hand in crafting the curriculum, I'd like to see what else I can do with my students besides whole novel instruction for reading. While I didn't grab it YET, I'm also enamored with Chris Lehman and Kate and Maggie Roberts' concept of Falling in Love with Close Reading. Their session got me thinking about how much close reading I do with my students (A LOT). Really, we don't need to close read everything in class. It does take up a lot of time and I can always sense the moments when my students have had enough. So putting Kittle's and Miller's ideas into practice with this notion of selective close reading, I wonder how I can restructure my class so that reading is more student centered and authentic.

Really, CEL could be renamed Connecting English Leaders because this conference was more than just sharing ideas about the future of ELA in schools or sharing progressive projects in conference session.  This conference promotes collaboration and connections. I have so much more to process and write about this conference-- probably another 10 blog posts, but to sum it up for now, take a look at these two tweets:

To see ALL of the tweets from #CEL13 search Twitter or try drinking from this firehose of a stream.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Animoby: Animated Learning for Anybody

For those of you looking for a whiteboard video creation tool to use on any tablet,  check out Animoby.

Android App

Apple App

Similar to other whiteboard screencast tools, Animoby lets users create multipaged screencasted videos.

Take a look at this demonstration from Animoby:

  • Use on Apple or Android devices
  • Variety of tools and colors
  • Connects to Dropbox
  • Import PDF's from email or Dropbox
  • Able to insert images
  • Able to zoom in and out
  • Save as compact files
  • Share and email projects
  • Various background templates
  • Share to Facebook, Twitter, Google+

New users will appreciate the extensive video tutorial menu on Animoby's website. The videos are easy to understand and demonstrate use of the app. While the interface is intuitive and easy to navigate, having the tutorials available is a positive. Also, visit Animoby's homepage to view what other users have created.

Students could use Animoby to demonstrate understanding of concepts taught in class. Imagine screencasts of students solving equations-- talk about showing your work! Students could also demonstrate active reading skills by recording themselves talking through reading a text on a PDF or picture taken of an excerpt from a book. Music and Math teachers will appreciate the preloaded backgrounds available: from blank sheet music to various styles of graph paper, subject area teachers will easily be able to create screencasts to use in their classes.   I'm partial to the white lined paper background, as you will see in this example I created: http://www.animoby.com/a/3214

I used the Animoby app on my iPad to create this screencast of the literary device, Personification. I did a quick Google search for images, saved them in my camera roll, and added them to the presentation, cropping the images as needed. Animoby's save feature allows me to start a project, save it unfinished, and return to as needed before recording and publishing it to the web.

Recording was simple, and the quality is excellent. I really like that I was able to zoom in and out of each image while recording. You'll hear my dog Charlie barking at the neighborhood cat in the background, but I can still be easily heard over the noise. I could have deleted it and re-recorded the audio, but I chose not to for the sake of demonstration. After the final product is published, I emailed it to rmyself to generate a URL from which I can get the embed code or share to Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. The embed code could also be used for adding the Animoby projects to blogs or Edmodo posts. 

What I would like to see is Animboy be able to connect to Google Drive.  I use Google Drive more so than Dropbox, and having this option would be a major plus. It would also be nice to have the option to include background music. While Animoby works great on tablets, I wonder if a paired down version could be available for smartphones. Teaching in a BYOD district with most of the students using smartphones, having a screencasting tool for a smartphone would be an asset.

Animoby is versatile and easy, and I'll be sure to recommend it to colleagues and students.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

#DogChat Brody at Work

I haven't posted much recently about Brody and decided it was time to share some recent pictures from school.  Brody is in his 8th year as a therapy dog, and whether it is greeting visitors during my morning hall duty or sleeping while I teach, he is right at home. We even get our yearbook picture taken together. He has become such a fixture over the years that most people greet him instead of me. I really can't complain knowing that he makes the lives of the students and staff just a bit happier everyday. To read how we got started therapy-dogging in school, read this post.

Enjoy the pictures!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tab Scissors & Glue: Extensions for Chrome Use

Tab Scissors and Tab Glue are two extensions to use for quickly splitting your tabbed browser windows into groups and "gluing" browser windows back together. As a teacher who has to transfer grades from my Edmodo gradebook to my district gradebook, both extensions save me time minimizing and sizing windows. Anything that I need to do using split screens can be done more efficiently with Tab Scissors and Tab Glue.

Check them out:

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Voki: A Tool for Bringing Characters to Life

Voki is a free web 2.0 tool used to create talking avatars.  Characters can be customized to look like historical figures, animals, cartoons, and even one's self. For a fee, users can join Voki Classroom for more access to options and the ability to control privacy settings. Vokis are limited to 60 second recordings of either a user's voice or a computer generated voice, so I use Voki for quick assignments or part of a larger project.

Creating a Voki is very easy and can be done quickly. Even in the free version there are a plethora of options and characters to choose from. Users can change the background image and customize the look of the stock characters. Publishing Vokis is easy too and users can publish directly to sites as well as copy/paste a hyperlink or embed code.

My 9th grade Honors students incorporated Voki as part of their Create a Hero Project, creating a profile of their hero character and give him/her life using Voki. Students provided an overview or teaser for their hero's journey stories and published the Vokis on their student blog pages by embedding the Voki into their Hero Stories. I was able to show my students how to embed in HTML without having to go over the basics of coding-- something I have yet to learn. Students also shared their Voki with others in their Edmodo small groups.

Here are some examples from my students. Click on the PLAY icon in the bottom left corner of each one to hear a preview of their stories.

 My students could also create Vokis of characters explaining concepts taught in class or summarizing chapters in a novel. World Language teachers could use Voki for recording students speaking short passages. History teachers could have students bring historical figures to life. Voki is an easy to use and versatile classroom tool for any subject area. For other lesson ideas, visit Voki's Lesson Plan Page.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Tell Me All About it with Tellagami

Tellagami is a mobile app that lets users create a short animated video using any mobile device. This is a cool tool for BYOD students and teachers to use for animated project videos.

In three easy steps, users create a "Gami" animated avatar by customizing their character, selecting a background image, adding dialogue, and sharing it. Once you have the app, there is no account log in information to worry about.  Students and the teacher could share devices to use Tellagami.

Sharing Created Gamis

While not having to worry about log in information is a plus and sharing is easy, there is not currently a way to see a library of the Gamis one makes when in the app. Once a Gami is created, select share via email to grab the URL hyperlink or save in the camera roll/ video/Tellagami folder of a device. Teachers could have students turn in their Gami by submitting the URL on a class Google form or turning the URL in via an assignment on Edmodo. Students could also embed the Gami in a digital portfolio such as a Google Site or a blog. While archiving created Gamis via email isn't ideal, I can't complain when considering the cost (FREE) and ease of use.

If you are having trouble locating the embed code, first send yourself the URL via sharing through email. Go to your email, then click on the URL and return to the Gami created. Click on the share icon in the upper right corner and the embed code will appear. I don't know why the embed code doesn't automatically appear in the app, but I'm hopeful that the Tellagami developers will remedy this soon.

Ideas for Use

For use in the classroom, students could take a picture of a project with their mobile device and upload the picture as their background image.  Adding dialogue students could record their voice or type in text that explains their project. The student could then share the link to the Gami via email, Twitter, Facebook, or copy/pasting the link to a learning management system such as Edmodo. An embed code is also provided for posting the Gami to a blog.

Tellagmi could be used for mini-virtual field trips. Students could search and select a background image of a location significant to the content being studied and record a message about the location.

For #flipclass teachers, Tellagami for quick delivery of content. Upload a picture of a diagram, equation, or any other pictorial information and record a Gami explaining the concept then share.

This easy to use tool has a plethora of uses for the classroom. From classroom presentations to delivery of content, Tellagami will allow students and teachers to tell viewers all about any concept.

Here are two examples I made: one has a computer generated voice with an uploaded background and the other has a Tellagmi provided background using my voice for the avatar. You can customize and select the options that fit your project.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The SUM of an Amazing Summer

This summer has been amazing, revitalizing, evolutionary, and ... and ... and... for my professional development. I could have written 20 posts about the events this summer, but I had no time to write! So, I will just sum it all up here.... I'm still having trouble slowing down my brain to get the thoughts on this page. Stop me in the hall, catch me on Edmodo, tweet to me, and I will just start gushing out of control.

Between attending FlipCon 2013, EdcampHome, EdmodoCon 2013, Google Apps Training & TeachMeetNJ, working with the Gobstopper folks, AND having the release of my first ever contribution-to-a-third-party-published-book (Flipping 2.0) AND meeting face to face with some amazing folks from my PLN, I couldn't have asked for a better summer.  Seriously.

When I look at how much I have evolved as a professional educator in the past year, I am astounded at the exponential rate at which I have learned so much from the talented educators I've had the pleasure of collaborating and interacting with on Twitter, Edmodo, and this blog. Sounds redundant, "professional educator," but really it isn't--everything I have been doing has been outside of the classroom, yet still grounded in my teaching practice.

I constantly get asked, "When do you sleep? How do you have time for all of this?" I make time because I love it, and I honestly go to bed at 10 pm every night.

Hey Edmodo Users, Are Your Groups Secure?

With the start of the school year off to a running start, it is important to address some key items that will insure success of your groups and prevent some not so nice things from occurring. I'm an avid Edmodo with Edmodo serving as the hub of my virtual classroom, but I learned a valuable lesson two weeks ago concerning the security of my groups and the trustworthiness of my students.

As an Edtech advocate, I'm always willing to try out new tools and I'm adamant about teaching digital citizenship. My students learn long before they enter my classroom what is appropriate online behavior, but I'm guilty of being too trusting and assuming that my students know one basic rule about digital citizenship: don't share passwords, or in the case of Edmodo, group codes.

Two weeks ago, one of my student shared the code to one of my Edmodo groups with his friend. This friend decided it would be funny to make a fake Edmodo account, join my group, and post very inappropriate items to my class. Edmodo Support was lightning fast in deleting the offensive postings and disabling the fake account, but some parents and students saw the items. Long story short, Edmodo Support traced the fake account to an IP address used by a real student, and my administration was able to suspend the student for breaking the district's acceptable use policy. While this story has somewhat of a happy ending with the perpetrator getting caught and punished, the inappropriate posting could have been prevented by me with just two quick clicks in Edmodo group settings.

Please heed my advice and make sure your groups are secure. By locking group codes and moderating posts, we can make sure that one bad apple won't spoil the entire barrel. To learn how, view this quick screencast. In less than one minute, you can prevent inappropriate use.

Friday, August 30, 2013

EdmodoCon 2013 Guest Post #7: L. Neumann from SWEDEN!

Guest post #7 is from Lotta Neumann, a teacher of Swedish and English language and language arts at Falkenbergs gymnasieskola in Falkenberg, Sweden, instructing 16-19 year old students. The school has been 1:1 since 2010, and Lotta is fortunate enough to be able to work with the finding and implementation of digital resources and best practices. Lotta has been using Edmodo since May 2012, and really appreciates "the global teachers' lounge" that Edmodo creates. 

Here is her recap of Edmodocon 2013:

In Sweden Edmodo Con started at 4pm. I had already declined one party invitation and told my family that I would be indisposed during the evening.  I hadn’t really bothered to look at the program, partly because even if my English is good, I still find it hard coping with the special lingo from the various curricula. I have started to get my head around the British school system and think I might understand what the Common Core is, and Stibaly Johnson’s talk about how to use Edmodo definitely inspired me anyway.

The program seemed more airy than last year - there was time to make cups of coffee and my husband even managed to time dinner, not in the lunch break (that would have been at 10pm, Swedish time) but in between Patrick Fogarty and the Classroom Gymnastics. I missed the first couple of minutes of that and dropped in on the two very wise ladies Kate Baker and Liz Calderwood juggling the BOYD, blended learning and flipping, aided by Edmodo.

I never tweeted much, but these guys kept delivering one-liners that I’m considering printing and putting up on my office walls, and I wanted the few people that for some reason follow me to hear!

At about midnight, when Kevyn Klein did a brilliant run-through of my favourite Edmodo functions, I felt like it was time to call it a day, and a brilliant PD day it had been! I even said my thank yous and goodbyes in the backchannel group on Edmodo, and got some friendly waves back. But then I was just slightly curious about the Digital Citizenship talk, and got stuck in the interesting discussion. It got me thinking about how I could make use of the mentoring time when I get a new class this year...

Bijal Damani was amazingly inspiring! Her talk would restore the faith in humanity for most people; Yes, kids CAN do amazing things, and love to help others. Not every school may have the same support from the students’ parents, but we should certainly not hesitate to encourage and believe in the ability of young people to complete complex projects. And I was wide awake again.

Anna Davila’s thoughts on building leadership skills in the classroom was well in line with my own, and I found myself not nodding off, but nodding in agreement to everything she said. But now my contacts was really almost falling out of my eyes and I decisively closed my laptop, after saying good night.

Feeling I was missing out a bit, I crept into my bedroom, thinking about all the lovely people I had met and chatted with during the evening; learning so much and getting so much inspiration. I was already longing for the next EdmodoCon. And the participation badge....

And I had finally seen the point of Twitter!


Next year, I’m going to host a EdmodoCon party! With nibbles.

I connected with Lotta via Twitter during EdmodoCon, and, as you can see, good teaching and effective learning practices are universal, no matter the language spoken. 

Thank you, Lotta! 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

EdmodoCon 2013 Guest Post #6: L. Butler

Guest post #6 is submitted by Lisa Butler, a middle school Spanish and Social Studies teacher in Hershey, PA. Lisa has been using Edmodo for 2.5 years and hosted an EdmodoCon viewing party, and "enjoyed both learning from the passionate speakers and the parallel discussions we had because of the sessions." In addition to creating Animoto videos, Lisa is active on Twitter (@SrtaLisa), writes about educational technology topics on her blog, and enjoys attending educational conferences.  Lisa and I were lucky to connect during EdCamp Philly this past Spring!

Check out Lisa's Animoto video on EdmodoCon 2013


EdmodoCon 2013 Guest Post #5: J. Karabinas

Guest post #5 is written by Jaclyn Karabinas, a 3rd and 4th grade looping teacher from Hampton Falls, NH. Jaclyn started using Edmodo 1.5 years ago and has been busy getting other staff members on board. According to Jaclyn, "The possibilities with Edmodo are endless.  This was my first ever post about Edmodo, reflecting on what I started to notice about how it joined my students together and helped students to communicate..." As you read, think about how Edmodo can fuel your classroom.


Can you think of a time when you had a question? Of course you can—
Can you think of a time when you had a question but:
A. Couldn’t get a word in edgewise
B. Weren’t quite sure how to word it
C. Thought someone might judge you
D. You actually didn’t have one- but now you do- and it is too late!!!
Questioning.  Hands-down the most important skill that will further our learning at any given point in time, yet some learners may have barriers.  Consider the pace of thinking among learners in your classroom.  Teachers know that students need “wait time” and while that can be challenging to remember sometimes, wait time is only one management strategy.  We can have students turn and talk, we can have them journal their current thinking and questioning- but what if the question happens at home? Or interrupts the creative process during an assignment? Asking parents is not always helpful, no matter how willing and intelligent they may be, because the parents were not in the class that day- they have not been read-in on the experiential details!
For us as humans, thoughts can appear and disappear in seconds, no matter our age. Young learners do not necessarily have all the access and all the tools that we have.  So let’s give them what they need. Read the following plea of questions, and pause to absorb the imagery it provides:
Mrs. K I am stuck writing about the adveture from the point- of- view of [Sacajawea] . I have no clue I really have no clue. I guest that I have writers block. What should I do about it . I wiil try to thing about what I can do about it. I don’t what I should now. Should I justdo or not. Should I holed off from it or not. I have no clue what to do . Can you please help me please.
A handful of very important things have happened:
First, she is clearly trying to do her best, yet feels stuck, so she aims her question to a trusted source.  Second, she thought to USE that source, or was encouraged to-and did-despite struggles with writing. (This probably took her 10 minutes to write.) Third, she didn’t have to cry to a parent to get them to write a note, just to hand it to me the next day with a defeated look.  Finally, and most importantly, she could get it off her chest so that the next morning I could greet her and say, “Hey! I got your message.  Let me help you later today during Writer’s Workshop.” I mean, it’s one assignment and it’s about the learning, wherever it happens!
How does this happen?
Edmodo is a Social Learning Platform- think secure Facebook for classes/schools  Carefully instructing students how to use this platform is key.  Knowing that is a learning tool for communication and information sharing is central to its success.  Creating a space where teachers and learners can share information in an asynchronous (without time constraints) environment allows process time for ALL. Whether you are the student that is still gaining the confidence to speak up or the student who process at a much slower pace than your peers, you get the benefit of sharing your thinking in your time. Of course, establishing guidelines for appropriate use is extremely important, especially so students and teachers have an understanding about the platform’s purpose and that you will not be sitting at your computer all night at the students’ disposal! The nuts and bolts of use are for another day- today I want to talk about the power it hands to kids by placing this tool in their kit.
What else?
A few students have posted questions on the weekend, and perhaps I didn’t see them until Monday, but again- I can still let them know that they have been heard.  The few kids on my mind would not necessarily remember the question come Monday morning, for a variety of reasons.  But posting it to me on Edmodo gets it in print and in my hands- no strong memory needed! Students with anxiety? This helps in numerous ways!  Another student began to find links that enhanced our study of Biographies.  He was able to post these so others could benefit.  When one girl accessed these sites, she was extremely thankful to the fellow student.  I replied, “I am so glad you like information sharing!” She responds, “I don’t just like it, I LOVE it!”
I can post sites for all students to access and catalog in personal libraries called “backpacks” but most importantly I can directly and privately post sites and information to differentiate for individuals. No more asking, “What was that site?” or wondering “I think I typed it in wrong!”  However, individuals with “student status” can only post to the whole class.  The latter is a feature that is really important for security and teacher monitoring. During an intense class project, I was able to post a poll asking if they felt prepared to move forward, which gave me clear information about their perception of confidence.  Edmodo became a home base, teaching us as a class its power for the remainder of the year.
Not all of my students are into it.  And that is the best part, because that makes it truly a differentiated tool. We still have a lot to learn, but for now, I will add it to my toolkit.
                                                                                                                               *question mark image retrieved from likeable.com
*Edmodo logo retrieved from edmodo.com

If you would like to contribute and share a EdmodoCon 2013 post, please submit!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

EdmodoCon 2013 Guest Post #4: D. Easterling

Our fourth guest blog post is written by Dara Easterling, a Catholic elementary school teacher from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dara has been teaching for almost 14 years and loves helping young children to learn about and use technology in a productive and creative way.

Hello all,

I want to share one experience in particular while watching an EdmodoCon session online.  The one experience was with a session called "Classroom Gymnastics"presented by Kate and Liz.  First, let me just say the presenters were phenomenal.  Second, the resources provided in the presentation and in the folders associated with the Edmodo group are very easy to understand and will help me in my flipping.

Lastly, that there is not just a one size fit all model to communication, collaboration, and instruction within learning.  It takes flexibility and a willingness to attempt new things in order to move forward.

When you think of gymnastics, particularly women's gymnastics there are the following elements.  I am using these elements to outline what I got from watching and listening to the session.

-  preparation is key (lesson template along with timing of lesson; gathering of resources)
-  student participation is key no matter how limited it may be
-  working technology is important

-  Edmodo
-  equipment (iPad, laptop, etc.)
-  classroom or other learning environment
-  apps or Web 2.0 tools

-  built in assessment tool with Edmodo
-  ability to complete a skill in the routine

Completion of Skill 
-  video clips or other presentation to show what was learned and how growth came about
-  collaboration

All of these things I plan to meld together during the upcoming school year and hopefully end up with my students and I earning a perfect "10" for our routine.

Thank you, Dara, for attending EdmodoCon 2013 and the compliments! I anticipate the you and your students will be Olympians in the sport of learning!

You can read about Dara's adventures in elementary education on her blog, Kontemporary Kreations. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

EdmodoCon Guest Post #3: M.Valois

Our third guest post comes from Megan Valois, a high school History/English teacher in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Megan is the guest moderator on the Canadian Ed Chat (#cdnedchat) on Twitter who enjoys expanding her PLN and learning about new tech tools to improve her teaching and class experience. Here is Megan's recap of EdmodoCon 2013.

On Tuesday, I participated in a virtual conference - a professional learning opportunity - called #Edmodocon. It was presented by the good people over at the #Edmodo app/website. 

If you aren't familiar, Edmodo is a social learning platform for schools, often called the "Facebook" for schools because its format is similar. Edmodo has many advantages for many reasons. It's a great, safe place for teachers and students to connect; students can post questions, submit assignments, create projects, access notes, join discussion groups, and much more.  Students need access codes to join a class so it's secure and safe. Check it out: www.edmodo.com

#Edmodocon provided educators with the chance to 'virtually' participate in a full day conference to learn more about the amazing ways to utilize Edmodo for classroom learning and success. More than 20,000 educators globally tuned in! There were several sessions throughout the day by presenters on a range of topics, including digital citizenship, project based learning, "flipping" the classroom, building leadership capacity and more! 

Some of my take-aways from the sessions were:

1 - Using Edmodo for literature circles
2 - Ways to teach students how to be better digital citizens
3 - New apps (compatible with Edmodo) to try - ie: Explain Everything
4- Re-emphasis on what I already knew about how amazing project based learning is
5- Flipping the classroom

Patrick Fogarty's session: Access, Engagement, and Equality with Edmodo was one of my favourites. Loved his "30 second lesson" ideas, where students can create a video in "30 seconds" about a key concept. This is a great way to teach the skill of summarizing main ideas! You can build on this by having students string together a series of related '30 second lessons' too! 

He also reminded us about the core philosophy of differentiated instruction - my biggest passion. He shared: "It's professional malpractice giving kids work they can't access in multiple ways". To meet the needs of all learners, we must give opportunities for choice! 

Flipping the classroom/BYOD by Kate Baker and Liz Calderwood was another gem. The idea of classroom flipping is "a form of blended learning in which students watch lectures online and work on problem sets with other students in class. This approach allows teachers to spend more time interacting with students instead of lecturing. This is also known as backwards classroomreverse instructionflipping the classroom and reverse teaching."[1][2] 

I am already a huge proponent of BYOD and am very intrigued by flipping the classroom. It's definitely something I'd like to try, even for just a few lessons, to see how it works. The advantages are so very clear - that more time spent actually working out problems in class with teacher support will benefit the students. My fear, of course, is that the 'homework' of watching the lesson won't be done and then the in-class time would be wasted. Does anyone have suggestions for me or guidance about this? Would love your feedback because I am really keen on trying this if I can wrap my head around how to make it work! The ladies in this session were engaging and passionate; it was a great watch! 

One of the more powerful moments of the day was Sheryl Sandberg's virtual address as part of the Lean In organization. She reminds us that we are "teaching future leaders". Her talk was about gender stereotypes in leadership and what we can do to promote leadership among young girls and women.  Check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tk0Gq00LHMc

Thank you #Edmodo for a great conference! I already look forward to next year!

Thank YOU, Megan for your recap! 

You can connect with Megan and read about her academic adventures at her blog

If you would like to contribute and share a EdmodoCon 2013 post, please submit!