Friday, July 31, 2015

Creating Curriculets with Students

Cheryl Morris asked me if students can create their own curriculets, embedding questions and quizzes inside a text. Her plan: have students work in groups or as individuals to create their own curriculets and share them with other students to read and answer the questions/quizzes-- like a suped-up literature circle! What a great idea to promote higher level thinking!

Screenshot of the opening of A Tale of Two Cities in Curriculet
However, student accounts and teacher accounts function differently in Curriculet, so while students can embed their own annotations in a text, they cannot add a layer of their own questions and quizzes.  But Cheryl's question got me thinking, and I have a workaround solution: set-up a couple of fake-teacher accounts where students can take turns creating curriculets.

Initially, I thought setting up one account for all students to access would work, but the security features will not allow multiple, simultaneous logins on the same account. Each fake-teacher account will need to have its own email address (running out of addresses to use, check out GMail's plus feature). I do NOT recommend each student creating his/her own fake-teacher account for managerial reasons. It would be too difficult to monitor 30 or 130 individual teacher accounts. The teacher should set up the fake-teacher account(s) prior to giving access to the students so that students can focus on creating/editing the curriculets and not be delayed or confused by set-up procedures.

Why wouldn't I want to give my students access to my teacher account on Curriculet?  Wouldn't that be easier?  My teacher account includes performance data from current and previous years.  I do not want students accessing the teacher dashboard.  The fake-teacher accounts are created so that they can access the curriculet-editor feature. The fake-teacher account will not have any active classes tied to it. As I outline in the steps below, students will share with the teacher the created curriculets and the teacher will assign the reading of the created-curriculets through his/her real teacher account that has groups and classes already set-up.

The Steps for Students-Created Curriculets:

  1. The teacher creates the fake-teacher class accounts for students to use.
  2. In the fake-teacher accounts, go to Curriculet's STORE and select the titles for which you want students to create curriculets, or in the LIBRARY upload a Google Doc or Word Document students will use to create the curriculet. Name each curriculet appropriately.
  3. State the ground rules and objectives for usage and give students the username and password for the fake-teacher class accounts.
  4. Students log in to Curriculet on the fake-teacher accounts and select the text(s) from the LIBRARY. I envision students creating curriculets for short stories, poetry, or excerpts of lengthy texts.  Multiple curriculets can be created for the same text.
  5. Students embed their annotations, questions, and quizzes in the text.
  6. When finished, the students SHARE the created-curriculet with the teacher by emailing the link (or to keep a record of the created-curriculets in the teacher's files, have students copy/paste the link to a Google Form/ Spreadsheet or LMS assignment). 
  7. The teacher (in his/her real teacher account) adds the created-curriculets to his/her LIBRARY and assigns them to the class to read.
  8. The teacher (in his/her real teacher account) monitors the students' reading of the created curiculets, checking for accuracy and (if he/she so chooses) shares with the creators the readers' performance data.

Want to see this process in action?  Watch the screencast below...

Thinking this through from a lesson-planning and implementation point of view, the teacher could provide the students with the specific guidelines for how many questions, annotations, and quizzes to embed. Or the teacher could let the students run free and have a reflective discussion after the curriculets are created where students analyze and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their creations. I like giving minimal directions so that I do not stifle student creativity and have an opportunity for metacognitive analysis, but the teacher can make that call. Users can make many versions of a curriculet layer for one text, so students could be creating curriculets for the same text at the same time. I suggest following a specific naming convention so that each curriculet version can be differentiated: Year Pd Group Name.  Example: 2015 Pd2 GroupA.

Keep in mind that many texts in the Curriculet Store come with the layer of questions, quizzes, and annotations already created, and tech-savvy students will be able to find them. So, I would make sure to have a clear purpose and objective for the student-created curriculets that goes beyond the assessment of comprehension. 

Thinking about time constraints, I do not recommend having students create their own curriculet for a lengthy novel unless the teacher is dividing the class up with each group focused on a specific section of the novel.  Again, each student or group should make his/her/its own curriculet layer starting at the assigned section (the teacher creates the curriculets for each section ahead of time). Do not try having all students working in the same curriculet at the same time. It won't work.

In order for this process to work, I recommend that the teacher monitors all accounts and does the set-up work ahead of time.  If students are focused on the task of creating the curriculets, there should be little room for shenanigans.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

They NAILED it!

Making the rounds on the interwebs this week is Key & Peele's Comedy Central skit, Teaching Center, where they pose the question, "What if Teachers Were Treated Like Pro Athletes?"

Key & Peele totally NAILED it.

Yeah it is Comedy Central, so of course it will be funny, but what makes this video stand out is in the nuances and details.  I know very little about Key & Peele, other than they are a TV show, but I can tell they know teachers and the teaching profession.  While it would be nice to be treated like professional athletes who garner special attention and million dollar salaries, how Key & Peele chose to satirize Sports Center highlights the fact that teachers are not in the teaching profession for the notoriety or riches.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Social Media & Collaborative Relationships #EdTechBridge

This week #EdTechBridge via a #slowchat on Twitter is discussing...

What role does social media have in developing collaborative relationships?

My first answer is that social media provides the venue for people to get connected.  Twitter without a doubt is my number one tool for finding people to talk to about educational topics.  While the 140 characters is limiting, Twitter is where we start to talk and the conversations are later expanded via email or in Voxer groups.  I don't know how I collaborated before Twitter and Voxer. Being a connected educator to the ever-flowing stream keeps me energized and constantly thinking, "What if...?" because I know there is someone out there on Twitter and Voxer who will help me answer that question.  

Thinking about other social media tools, Facebook is primarily where I connect with family and local educators, but little collaboration takes place. But Facebook is a good place to share, share, share! Although, Kate Messner & company's Teachers Write online summer camp through a closed Facebook group is sparking creative writing for teachers. And while I haven't used Instagram much for educational purposes, it too is primarily for documenting and sharing. YouTube, like Instagram, is an area to showcase collaboration, but not necessarily kindle it.  And while Pinterest will keep me occupied for hours pinning things, I wonder how it could be better suited for collaboration instead of mere archiving.

Follow Kate B.'s board Teaching on Pinterest.

So to get the collaborative connections going and see how Pinterest can foster collaboration, I have a task for you! Pick something from my Teaching Board and in the comments to this post reply with an idea of how we can make the item better.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Another solution: Tracking Formative Standards-Based Student Performance

In discussions with Lindsay Stephenson, another ELA teacher who is implementing standards-based learning with her students, we've been trying to figure out methods for efficiently tracking student progress and alignment with the standards. Neither one of us is keen on the look of spreadsheets. Neither one of us wants to use another learning management system. Also, we don't have to create the standards-based tasks if we can use tools that generate and score tasks for us. We love Google Forms, so why not stick with what we know and love?

To track formative student learning and alignment with the standards, I created this Google Form:

My students will be completing practice (aka formative) standards-based learning tasks in Curriculet and Edmodo. Every Curriculet text has questions tagged with a Common Core ELA Standard and each Curriculet-USA Today news article is tagged with one specific standard.  With the Curriculet-USA Today subscription, my students can select the articles to read and enter in their scores on the above Google Form.  With Edmodo Snapshot, I can select specific standards and a number of questions for students to answers. Students can then enter in their scores on the Google Form shown above. While I can see the students' performance in the teacher dashboard for both Curriculet and Edmodo Snapshot, I want my students to take responsibility for their learning. So, by having the students enter in their scores and reflect on the assignment, they are learning accountability and practicing metacognitive thinking. The formative learning scores will not go into my district gradebook.  I want the students to realize that the process of learning is important whether or not a score is factored into their marking period grade. The summative data will be entered on a separate Google Form and I will figure out a way to translate that data for my district gradebook.

To recap, here is my workflow for tracking standards-based learning with my freshmen:
  1. Students complete formative learning tasks in Curriculet and Edmodo.
  2. Students enter in their scores on the formative tracking form.
  3. I analyze the data and assign retakes as needed.
  4. Students retake formative learning tasks.
  5. Students enter new scores on the formative tracking form.
  6. To document mastery of specific standards, students complete the summative tracking form and submit links to artifacts that demonstrate mastery of the standards. 
  7. I analyze the data and assign additional standards-based tasks throughout the rest of the course.
  8. I can use a mail merge add-on to generate reports of student performance for parents and administrators.
What do you think?  Think this will work? 

One Solution for Tracking Standards Based Learning

I wrote yesterday about my experience with standards-based learning/grading and solicited my readers to submit their templates and tools for tracking student progress.  My edubuddy Tom Driscoll, master of mastery learning, shared some resources with me via Twitter.

I took a look at Jumprope and Mastery Connect, but I'm concerned about making more work for myself by using other platforms (as well as the cost!).  I want to work smarter, not harder, and not be like Alice falling down the rabbit hole learning a new and managing a new-to-me assessment platform. I already use Edmodo, Google Classroom, Curriculet, and my district's gradebook program Genesis. I don't want another platform.  And I took a look at Tom's spreadsheets: WOW!  Prior to Google Classroom, Tom would have each of his students create a copy and share it back with him.  I could adapt Tom's spreadsheets and have Google Classroom create an editable copy for each student to fill out throughout the marking period.  More on this to come....

This got me thinking:  what if I devise a way that students self-evaluate themselves and provide evidence of meeting the standards? My students are trained to peer and self-evaluate using Google Forms, so why can't I adapt that process so that students will make a standards-based portfolio that documents how they have met the Common Core ELA Standards?

If students are doing the data entry, I can save myself time and ensure that they are part of the process.  Here is my thought:  What if I create a Google Form for students to select the standard and provide a link to the artifact that meets that standard?  My high school is a Google Apps for Education school, so my students are completing their tasks predominately in Google Drive.  As long as their learning outcomes live on the web, they can provide a link to the item.  The Google Form will be used for the entire school year and all entries will be located on one spreadsheet that I can sort.

So here is the form I created to track students' summative outcomes in meeting the Common Core ELA Standards:

On the spreadsheet of responses, I could use "Summary of Responses" to see the auto-generated pie charts and graphs of data or I can color the spreadsheet to analyze the data. Other subject area teachers could use this same method to track summative student performance.  What do you think?  

Monday, July 27, 2015

Standards Based Grading & Learning

After connecting at #flipcon15 with Hassan and Amanda, I was invited to join the SBL Mini PLN Voxer group to discuss all things related to standards-based learning/grading as I contemplate making the shift from traditional grades to the SGB model. Why, might you ask? Because I am dissatisfied with the 100-point scale and ABCDF grading systems.  I do not feel as if the traditional model of grading provides an accurate depiction of student performance.  Grades should not be the focus of learning. Grades are a symbol of student performance.

There, I said it.  I have slandered the traditional grading system.

Listening to educators like Rick Wormeli discuss how a zero on a student's assignment destroys the student's average on the 100-point scale when the 100-point scale is so heavily weighted on the bottom confirms my discontent with the system. My district uses the following grading scale for marking period grades and assignment percentages in addition to a points-based grading method:

A = 100-92
B = 91-83
C = 82-74
D = 73-70
F = 69-0

Students earn points for completing assignments and their marking period grade is calculated by dividing the number of points earned by the total points possible and then converting the decimal to a percentage on the 100-point scale. Some teachers will also weigh specific assignment types which complicate the grade calculation.

How is completing 70% of something almost failing? When does someone do zero work? And what really is the difference between 98% and 97%  or 82% and 83% overall?  How can educators accurately assess and symbolize student performance?

The SBL Mini PLN Voxer group discussed some of these issues in a Google Hangout today....

All of this has me thinking about HOW to manage and assess via a standards-based model.  My experience with tracking SBL/SBG is limited.  I've written up specific lessons, benchmark assessments, and culminating assessments that are tagged with Common Core ELA Standards, and I've created a 12-week SBL curriculum unit for my most recent graduate class. When my students read via Curriculet, questions are tagged with specific Common Core ELA Standards. I also have students complete Edmodo Snapshots that target specific ELA Common Core Standards.

This is a 12-week standards based unit plan I created based on the theme of leadership and legacy.

From a lesson and unit planning standpoint, I'm good, but I lack a method for tracking student progress via the standards throughout the marking period and school year.  I use Edmodo's Progress area to track assignments turn in via Edmodo as a working-gradebook with some of the assignment scores transferred to my district gradebook.  While the Edmodo Progress area is sufficient for managing online assignments, I don't have one spot where I can collate alignment with the standards. I want to create some sort of Google Form and Spreadsheet to track the standards assessed because I don't want to put the formative data in my district gradebook. I'd like the standards-based data to guide me in lesson planning and authentically assessing students' skills.  The spreadsheet should provide me with a big picture view of student performance and assignments.

I also wonder about using a specific rubric for standards-based assignments. Hassan, Amanda, and others assess using a 4-point rubric:

4 = Exemplary
3 = Proficient
2 = Approaches the Standard
1 = Does not meet standard

This scaled rubric is similar to my OSU rubric:

O = Outstanding 100%
S =  Satisfactory 87%
U = Unsatisfactory 74%

I do not give half scores: students are outstanding or they are not. I will not enable students with a false sense of accomplishment by protecting their egos with a S+.

When the 4 point rubric is used for a culminating PASS/FAIL grade for the marking period, it is easy to use this rubric for each standards-based assignment, but when I try to fit this into a numeric-points-grading system that my district uses, I'm stumped. I could use the 4 point or OSU rubrics to track formative learning. Formative assessment shouldn't be put in the summative gradebook, but I do need a way to track student progress and monitor their performance overall. I'm also thinking about how I can modify my peer evaluation rubrics for standards-based grading. I want a way to see the big picture of standards based learning in one spot.

If you have any ideas on how to manage the collection of data for standards-based learning or have a template you wouldn't mind sharing, please share in the comments!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Have You Done Your Summer Reading?

Whenever I run into students during the summer months, I always ask them, "Have you done your summer reading yet?"  As an English teacher, it is an obligatory question.  But summer reading doesn't have to be a chore or a snore.

Summertime is my opportunity to catch up on my reading.  As much as I like to read for entertainment, I can't squeeze it in during the school year. I've become a binge reader: devouring 100s of pages in a single sitting during holidays, breaks, and summer.  Two Christmases ago, I finished the first Game of Thrones book in 24 hours because I could not put it down.  This summer I'm binging on the escapism of historical fiction and sci-fi/fantasy.

So far this summer I've read...

On my list of texts to read...

When it comes to reading professional texts, on my list are...

If I keep up my current pace of finishing a book ever 2-3 days, I should be able to cross off the titles on my list during the last month of my summer break.  When I shared the titles I've read this summer via Facebook, my husband (who is not a reader) jokingly asked if I read, The Housekeeper.  I have not!  Nor have I read the other books in the series: The Laundress and Dishwasher Diaries. There isn't any time to clean when I have so many books to read! 

What books are on your list?  Please comment with your suggestions for fiction and nonfiction texts-- keep me reading so I can avoid cleaning!

All non-Honors track students are assigned to read the same book per grade during the summer.  The titles were selected based on budgetary constraints. We have some copies that can be checked out by students and all of the titles can be read online via a free digital text or thru Curriculet's platform. On the first full school day, all students take a test on their assigned title and the score goes in the gradebook. Over years of trying to find the best way to manage a summer reading program, this was the easiest and least painful method.  But, does summer reading have to be painful for students?

As the only 9th grade Honors English teacher in my district, I have complete control over the summer reading assignment and strategically assign texts and activities for completion.  I purposely chose texts that would engage the students and align with concepts taught throughout the upcoming school year (see my Writing Map and Reading Map). My students read J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, Clive Barker's Abarat, and the school-assigned reading of John Steinbeck's The Pearl. Students are given paperback copies of Hobbit and Abarat, but are tasked with accessing a digital version of The Pearl.  Abarat and Hobbit balance each other: both a long epic texts that follow Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey steps, one with a female protagonist and the other feature a male protagonist.  While reading, students are to keep a reader's response chart, noting their observations and connections to the text.  I do not give a set number or length of entries because I want to see what the students will give me.  When we return to school, students will take a quiz on each of the titles to check for understanding and I will award them completion points for the chart.  We use the summer reading titles as a basis for learning about literary analysis and mentor texts for creative writing throughout the first marking period.

In addition to the fiction texts, my Honors students are also taking part in Curriculet's and USA Today's Summer Reading Challenge.  Students are to select at least 10 articles (I assigned them at least 10, but they can read more than that number if they want to win prizes) and answer the questions embedded in the text.  Each article is tagged with one Common Core Curriculum Standard and contains 3-4 questions that check for understanding using the lens of the standard.  Before my students ever set foot in my classroom, I am getting to know them as they show me when, how, what they are reading in Curriculet.  I can track their progress, see what articles they selected, and monitor their performance. I can see who is a procrastinator and who is an overachiever. I can use the data to create lessons that will bolster their weaknesses and meet their interests.  Students are motivated to read can also win prizes: folks who read at least 3 articles in a day are entered into the daily drawing to win a pair of Beats Headphones; those who read 3 articles a day for a number of days during a week are entered in a weekly drawing for an Apple Watch.  And there are district prizes too! One of my incoming freshmen won one of the daily prizes last week:

All of this makes me wonder about the value of summer reading.  Is it for pleasure? Is it for an assignment? Is it to win prizes? I'm curious to know how you or your district handles summer reading. Let us know in the comments!

Friday, July 24, 2015

BattleDeck-- Presentation Game #flipcon15

I learned about Battle Deck at #flipcon15 during a hilarious segment where participants gave an off-the-cuff-presentation on the theme of Flipping the Prom using a never-before-seen-but-preselected-by-the-game-master slide deck. You'll have to view the archives of #flipcon15 to get the jokes (#nooksandcrannies), but seriously this is a really neat activity. Each player has 2 mins to give a presentation on  pre-decided theme using a never before seen slidedeck. Then the class votes on who gave the best presentation.

Battle Deck is also known as PowerPoint Karaoke and similar to PechaKutcha both of which I have no experience in doing. So I wonder how to bring this in to my classroom.  Thanks to Stacy and Ken for resources below.

I envision BattleDeck as a review activity for a unit or as an activity during our mini-unit on speeches.  During our American Dream Unit, my freshmen read Of Mice and Men and  The Declaration of Independence and read/view Obama's 2nd Inaugural Address, Steve Job's 2005 commencement speech at Stanford, and Ashton Kutcher's 2013 acceptance speech at the Teen Choice Awards in Curriculet.  For each text, we discuss how the American Dream is defined and how the characters/speaker achieved the dream.  We also, in the case of the speeches and historical documents, examine the rhetoric and structure of the speech and how the speech/document was tailored to a specific audience.  I could incorporate Battle Deck as a way for my students to practice public speaking. While Battle Deck could devolve into a rip-roaring roll on the floor laughing moment, we could also use it to practice the delivery of a serious speech on a specific theme.

What ideas do you have for including Battle Deck in your class? Comment and let us know!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Puppets, you say?

My edubuddies Sam Patterson and Cheryl Morris were featured in an Edutopia article, "6 Reasons Why Puppets Will Change Your Classroom Forever."  I've known about Sam and Cheryl's puppet proclivity for years and have listened attentively as they shared their experiences with puppets  in the classroom. I recognize the sound pedagogy and rationale for using puppets with elementary and middle school students. As a high school teacher, I'll be honest, I'm a bit skeptical about making and using puppets with my high school kids.  They already think what we do is nuts, so puppets... I don't know... but I am willing to explore the notion.  If it will help my students, I am for it.

I have never made a puppet before, so under Cheryl and Andrew's tutelage at #Flipcon15, I embraced my inner child and jumped at the change to make my own.  Here's what I experienced:

  • Making puppets is good for eye-hand coordination, fine motor skills, and spatial understanding as I sewed, cut, and glued the materials. I also thought about safety as I tried not to burn myself repeatedly with the hot glue gun.
  • Making puppets helps with socialization.  Akin to a quilting circle, the group of us at #Flipcon15 chatted away as we sewed and glued.  I had to wait patiently for my turn with the glue gun or the scissors.  When I didn't understand how to attach the mouth to the body, I asked for help and clarification.  
  • Making puppets gets me thinking about character and identity as I selected from the supplies and made purposeful selections concerning color and shape of the parts of the puppet. What will the gender of my puppet be? Will it be humanoid or animalistic? Will it have a happy or grumpy personality?  Is the puppet a representation of me or will it have its own identity?
As you can see from the pictures we had quite a good time making our puppets.

When I came home from Flipcon15, my daughters were immediately enthralled with my puppet named Gertie.  My youngest daughter who is in 2nd grade got Gertie talking right away and they became fast friends. Whereas my oldest daughter who is going into 4th grade is a voracious reader, my youngest daughter who is going into 2nd grade hasn't become a bookworm yet.  I wonder if there is a bit of delay because we didn't realize she needed glasses until she was going into kindergarten--while she is an excellent talker and a smart cookie, reading has been a weakness. I mentioned to my youngest daughter that she could read books with Gertie and even use the Kindle Fire to make videos with Gertie. And with that quick mention, magic started to happen....

Not only did both my daughters start making movies and reading with Gertie, they then asked if they could make their own puppets. So one trip to the local Michael's and a ridiculously hot-stay-indoors-summer day later, we were covering our kitchen island with puppet materials and trying to not run with scissors or burn ourselves with glue.

I was impressed with my oldest daughter's dexterity as she sewed her puppet's body.  My youngest surprised me with her clear design.  We chatted, took breaks, and I tried to not to burn myself with the hot glue gun.  What I learned during the first time I made my puppet was reinforced as my daughters made their puppets. The result was a black with blue spots puppy puppet made by my youngest and a blue bird puppet made by my oldest daughter.

Meet Spot and Gooney Bird

"So, puppets, you say?"  In the elementary and middle school classroom, the puppets can be a vehicle for practicing fine motor skills and, after the puppet has been created, the puppet can be a form of inspiration for storytelling or having a buddy to read with.  In the high school classroom, I'm thinking the puppets can be a vehicle for getting students involved with peer instruction and working with younger grades.What if the high school students made puppets and wrote children's books that were read to an elementary class? What if the high school students taught the elementary students to make their own puppets?  I'm also thinking I could incorporate puppet making into my freshmen classes' Create a Hero Project in the Fall or as part of our study of  the myth and George Bernard Shaw's play, Pygmalion, in the Spring. Pygmalion centers on the themes of identity and control: are we who we are because we were made or molded by someone else? The same question can be applied to the puppets. I wonder how else I can use puppets with my students....

So, puppets, I say!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Class Dojo GROUPS!

I'm very excited for Class Dojo's announcement introducing the group feature to the platform!  As a teacher who has struggled with how to assess class participation and continually tweak how to manage group's workflow, now I have my answer!

I am very conscious about purposeful use of technology.  I will not use a tool because it is bright and shiny.  I envision using Class Dojo specifically for days that my students are working in groups, and I want to make sure my freshmen are staying on track and to reward the ones who don't need nudges in the right direction. When we are creating life-size Of Mice and Men characters for our Crime Scene Investigation project and my students are working in the room and hallway, I can use Class Dojo Groups to alert both students and parents to their collaborative work habits.  When we do peer evaluation of writing assignments, I can reward students who demonstrate exemplary evaluation skills.  I love the positive reinforcement focus that Class Dojo provides and the ability to keep both parents and students aware of student behavior while students are working instead of waiting for progress report time or the end of the marking period. So often the focus is on negative behavior as teachers call home or send an email. I greatly enjoy the ability to spotlight the POSITIVE!

Thank you Class Dojo for listening to teachers and continually making improvements!  This reciprocal relationship exemplifies the the importance of teachers and edtech companies working together (reinforces teachers to keep talking because we know that you are listening!).

Take a look at Class Dojo's site for more info on Class Dojo Groups....

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Collaboration & Community

The word "collaboration" is thrown around so much that it should be the center square on a bingo board.  Not that I am denouncing or mocking collaboration, on the contrary, I believe in the power of collaboration and think we can take systemic approach whether collaborating with folks across the country or the hallway.

What is the impetus for collaboration?  I often think about what motivates people to do things. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is always floating around in my brain. If I'm hungry, my stomach needs to be filled, I am motivated to eat. If I'm confused by something, I'm motivated to ask a question and seek answers.  If I don't know how to do something, I am motivated to find people to teach me. As a swim coach, I constantly think about motivating my swimmers through tough workouts or difficult meets.  As a classroom teacher, I think about fostering intrinsic motivation in my students.  As a colleague part of a large professional network, I see motivated folks abuzz with activity.  I realized the impetus and motivation for anything in life comes down to one simple thing: fulfilling a need. Collaboration won't work if you don't feel the need for it to occur.

The first step with any collaboration is to find people to work with (duh!) and the purpose of the collaboration. Serendipitously, I've connected with like-minded folks on Twitter via #flipclass and we've collaborated on numerous projects: research projects, writing groups, and overall curriculum. We discussed community building during last night's #flipclass chat.  The Flipped Learning Community is the most collaborative group of folks I have ever met and this got me thinking about why that was so:

I think the #flipclass folks collaborate so well because we all have recognized a need to change. We weren't satisfied with how we were teaching and felt the need to evolve. I'm greatly over simplifying things in my response above and in this post, but part of the lack of collaboration locally may be due to others not having a need to change or understanding how to change. If there isn't a need, why do it?

About 10 years year ago, I collaborated with two other English teachers in my hall to craft a freshmen curriculum that would lay the groundwork for prepping students for the NJ-HSPA exam taken in 11th grade.  The power of that paper-based collaboration was seen in our exemplary test scores (I know that isn't the only measure of success, but prior to the great digital data era we are in now, those scores were important). We saw a need and fulfilled it with collaboration.  Now that HSPA is gone and PARCC is king (for now), we are recognizing the in-house need to collaborate and prep our students again.  While I do collaborate with individual colleagues on lessons, I wish a standardized test wasn't our primary extrinsic motivation for large-scale collaboration. I want to collaborate so that we can be #BetterTogether-- the sum of all of our parts creating something greater than the whole.

Throughout the 2014-15 school year, I was able to collaborate at home with a new to my district English teacher who also taught senior English next door to one of the classrooms I used this year.  My traveling schedule dictated that we collaborate online via email and Google Drive, creating lessons for the new-to-both-of-us senior English prep.  Having taught senior English only for the first time 2 years ago, I did not feel like an expert in my craft and welcomed her ideas.  We had similar teaching styles and enjoyed working digitally. Our collaboration was born out of a need to strengthen our understanding of the texts we were teaching to better engage our students.  I greatly appreciated our collaboration and hope it will continue when I'm on the other side of the building teaching freshmen full time again.

So as we are moving more and more towards paperless learning, I have been thinking about how to craft a digital curriculum-- house all of those lessons and materials I create with colleagues.  I presented on the technical aspects of collaboration for curriculum design at NCTE's Conference on English Leadership (CEL) in November 2014. While I've evolved many of my classroom activities and resources to a digital format, there has been little digital collaboration on a departmental level--other than emailing Word files back and forth or keeping an inventory of books via Google Sheets--with my colleagues in my building.  The objective of my CEL session was to give other ELA educators easy to use tools and strategies for creating, sharing, and housing an archive of digital resources particular to their curriculum.

After looking through the slides below, I'd love to read about your strategies for collaboration. Heck, we could collaborate about collaboration!

Am I thinking too much out of the box?

Do you have a better way?

Monday, July 20, 2015

Session Formats & The Grade Divide #flipcon15

Lindsay Cole and I led a session at #Flipcon15 on the great divide between grades and learning, entitled "The Grade Divide"  (get the pun?).  When we first wrote up our proposal for this session, we envisioned small group / roundtable discussions where participants shared their opinions and best practices with getting students to focus more on learning and less on the grades.  When we learned that we were a featured session held in the large lecture hall being streamed to the virtual audience, we recognized that our original session format needed to shift.

When my students write, I constantly have them focusing on the Task, Audience, and Purpose (TAP) of the writing: What are you writing? Who are you writing for? Why are you writing this?  The same questions apply to giving presentations.  What are you presenting? Who are you presenting to? Why are you presenting? The answers to the TAP questions will drive the session format.

Lindsay and I knew that we did not want a "sit and get" type session, nor could roundtable discussions work in a lecture hall of static seating with a virtual audience viewing the live action in the room. We decided to try a talkshow style format: pose a question to the group, poll the physical and virtual audience for their general reaction, share our specific stories, and have audience members volunteer to share their stories as well.

The greatest fear for the talkshow style session is that no one will show up and no one will participate.  As you can see from some of the tweets, people showed up AND participated. If you view the archive of our session, you'll see me dashing about with the handheld mic.

In order to engage our audience, we took a different approach with our slidedeck, as well the session format. When thinking about how to design your slide deck, answering the TAP questions will determine the type of format for your session.

Lindsay and I realized that this session couldn't be "death by PowerPoint" with gobs of information on the slides. So to spark participants, each slide had a meme and guiding question.  We were purposeful in our selection of memes--the meme had to work with the guiding question and be school appropriate.  Additionally, to give us something to talk about and engage the audience, we added in polls and discussed the results. So the gist of our format was: poll audience, tell our stories, view the poll results, and have audience members tell their stories. By asking a poll we could have everyone participate and then focus in on specific folks to share their stories. What was the purpose of our session?  Get people talking!  We couldn't get them talking if we were having them read slides full of information.

Reflecting on the session, I think it went very well, although it was a bit rushed at the end.  We could easily have stretched this 60 minute session into 90 minutes without editing the slidedeck. And as evident from the tweet below from flipped learning pioneer and band leader Aaron Sams, the virtual audience was having a very lively discussion.  Our moderator, Dan Spencer, did a great job keeping Lindsay and I informed about the virtual audience, even stating at one point the stream was flowing so fast he could barely keep up. I'd like to figure out a better way--other than on Twitter-- for the virtual attendees to interact with the physical audience in the room. It would be cool to somehow have them share their stories via GHO during the session.

If you were in the audience for this session, what did you think?  Anything Lindsay and I could have done differently/better?

Whether or you were there or not, how do you create conference sessions that engage the audience?

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Clicking with Cliques at Conferences #Flipcon15 #ISTE2015 #ECET2

We've been having a discussion in the newly formed #Flipcon15 Continued Voxer group about how to get new attendees more comfortable and connected at the conference. Check out Jason Bretzmann's blog post and Christina Roy's post on this subject too.  Attending large conferences is an overwhelming experience:  so many sessions, so many people, so many places!  I would not recommend STARTING to form a Professional Learning Network when attending a conference for the first time.  In order to have a connected experience at a conference, the connections need to be made before I ever set foot on site.

I did not learn about ISTE, ECET2, or Flipcon from an advertisement online or in a mailer. I am not motivated to attend the conferences because of the glossy pictures or catchy graphics.  I am motivated to attend conferences because of the PEOPLE.

Having an insatiable hunger to learn, I first dove into the professional education pool through Twitter.  The very first conference I "attended" (ok, lurked via Twitter) was the 2012 State of Now #140 conference in New York City. Happening upon the link to the live stream of Chris Lehmann's keynote, I was captivated. I was even more enthralled as I realized folks were talking about the conference through Twitter.  It was here the I first connected with Cheryl Morris and Andrew Thomasson who were also lurking online. Discovering we have similar educational mindsets, they connected me to the #flipclass chat.  Having found the #flipclass chat, I discovered #Flipcon and attended virtually in 2013 which then led to attending in person at #Flipcon14 and #Flipcon15.  The #flipclass chat also connected me and many others to Jason Bretzmann who crowdsourced us as contributing authors for the book Flipping 2.0.  Say what?! Yup, thanks to a Twitter chat, I'm a published author.

When I attended #Flipcon14, I had a list of people I "knew" through Twitter and #flipclass who I couldn't wait to meet in person.  The experience is akin to online dating:  connect online, then meet in person.  At #Flipcon14, there was no awkwardness or trepidation because, unlike folks who may misrepresent themselves on online dating sites, who we are online is who we are in person.  There was and still is no need to misrepresent ourselves online. Meeting Shai, Carla, and Lindsay for the first time face to face at #Flipcon15 was not an awkward experience because we already connected throughout the year via the #flipclass chat.

As Crystal Kirch and others stated, attending #Flipcon is like attending a family reunion. And while I want to form new connections with new attendees I have never connected with before, I am just so thrilled to see face to face the online folks who I've already "met" and who "get me" and understand me.

Keep in mind, my connections have grown with conference I attend. So in my first iteration of attending #Flipcon13 virtually, I really only knew Cheryl and Andrew, but at #Flipcon14 I connected with more people, and at #Flipcon15, I connected with even more people as evident by all the selfies I took (see all the pictures here).  My connections have grown exponentially each year. Also, the connections I've made have encouraged me to not only attend conferences but also to present at them. I'm no longer a passive attendee, but an active participant. My confidence and comfort level has increased the more I've interacted.

I've also learned not take for granted the connections at home.  In 2012, I happened upon a tweet sent by Kyle Calderwood who was calling for proposals for #TeachMeetNJ.  So ecstatic that there was a local conference, I signed up to present and started talking to him via Twitter. 
When I read the above tweet, I thought, "Oh! She must be reading my blog!" How else would this wife of a guy from Twitter know that I do "amazing stuff" with my students?!  Well, I started poking around through Twitter profiles and realized, (insert Homer Simpson "duh-oh!"), that Kyle's wife TEACHES IN MY DISTRICT.  Talk about slap to the forehead and lesson in humility.

Long story short, Liz and I threw together a session at the 2012 TeachMeetNJ on Edmodo and it went so well that we continued to present together at local edcamps and decided to submit a proposal to present at Edmodocon in the summer of 2013. Presenting at Edmodocon 2013 connected us to Edmodo staff who then encouraged us to submit our session, "Classroom Gymnastics: Using Edmodo to Flip and Blend your Class," to present at ISTE 2014 in Atlanta.

Presenting at ISTE 2014 was not an overwhelming experience because I had Liz and Kyle showing me the ropes of attending a big conference.  We carved out our niches in the vast ISTE landscape as the folks we knew from Twitter met up in Blogger's Cafe and the New Attendee Lounge areas.  If it weren't for my conference buddy, Liz Calderwood, and the #eduawesome folks of Twitter, ISTE 2014 would not have been such an amazing experience that influenced me to present at ISTE 2015.

It is also through Twitter that I connected with the indomitable Barry Saide who, long story short, crowdsourced a bunch of New Jersey educators to create the NJPAECET2 convening in September 2014 and later invited us to the national ECET2 convening in New Orleans in October 2014. It was Barry's ability to see our strengths and talents and bring together the group to connect us to the greater ECET2 network.  We are in the final stages of planning the 2015 NJPAECET2 convening to get other local educators connected.  Because Barry paid it forward to me to attend ECET2 in 2014, I paid it forward to my colleague Kim who I knew needed to be elevated and celebrated and nominated her to attend the 2015 ECET2 convening in Seattle.  Whereas I knew people prior to attending, Kim did not and was new to Twitter. So while she was in Seattle and I was on the road at #Flipcon15, I texted and tweeted her with missions to go find specific Twitter people who I knew were also at ECET2.

The point I'm trying to make is that I primarily use conferences to solidify and strengthen relationships. I do connect with new folks, but most of those new connections are because the new person is connected to someone I already know from Twitter.  So my advice, get connected before ever setting foot on site at a conference.

To recap how I make large conferences feel small:

  1. Get on Twitter and find folks who help you grow as an educator. Through them you will make new connections.
  2. Find a conference buddy who has attended the event previously and either travel together or plan to meet up.
  3. Follow the conference hashtag, follow folks who are tweeting, start an online conversation, then find out where folks are meeting up face to face. If your Twitter handle is written on your badge, folks will realize who you are from Twitter and you won't need to break the ice face to face ("Oh, YOU'RE  @____, I follow you!"). 
  4. Keep tweeting and keep attending conferences to expand your circles of friends.
  5. Find ways to pay it forward and bring new folks into the fold.

And as a final note, if you are wondering how to take the first step, click on all the hyperlinks to people's Twitter profiles in this post to expand your PLN and consider the words of Saint Augustine below...

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Link to Posts in Edmodo

Every post in Edmodo has an unique URL.  Grabbing the link to a post in Edmodo is a simple process as shown in the video below.

Why would you want to grab a link to a post?  This is an easy way to track student participation in a group.  Rather than trying to tally up how many times a student posted or replied in a group, create an assignment where the student turns in the links to either the posts they created or replied to.  I use this method to keep track of participation in our Scribe City writing group.

If you notice in the above assignments, the students are posting their writing/replies publicly to the group AND turning in a 5-10 sentence reflection on the process which only I will read.  This step helps to build metacognitive thinking skills. Using this process of turning in a link to a post saves me time with assessing student participation and keeps the students writing.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Remind-- Class Announcements & Benedictions

Remind has been a very useful tool for keeping my parents and students up to date on class announcements.  The one-direction text messaging makes it easy for me to blast out class room changes, reminders to study, or general messages.

My senior students especially appreciated the text messages I sent the night of their prom. Many came in to class the following Monday after prom and said, "I got your text, Mrs. Baker. We behaved ourselves."

This small gesture of sending a text to let them know I cared and was worried about their safety and well-being helped to solidify our working relationship in the classroom.  When students know teachers care about them as people, students will work harder for their teachers.This got me thinking, now that my seniors have graduated and my former freshmen are growing up and will someday leave the nest, how can I let them know that I still think about them?

At the end of every year I've been teaching, I give my students a parting gift of thoughtfulness.  I create business-size cards that on each have an inspirational quote.  I find the quotes on the internet, paste them into a Word doc, play with the fonts, print, laminate, and cut the pages down to business-size cards.  On the last day before exams, I walk around the room and with the cards facing down, ask each student to pick a card. They keep the card putting it in their wallet, phone case, sock drawer, etc. The cards have a funny way of finding the right person-- granted this is akin to reading one's horoscope in the newspaper, but I play up the magic of the card and make sincere statements, "Oh!  That quote is soooo good for you! ... Wow, that one is spot on!" I also create a stack of cards for my swim team before each big meet.  Former students and swimmers will stop by and visit to say HI and let me know, "I still have my cards!"

So this got me thinking, what if I combined the two?  What if I still do the quote cards, but now have a digital version too?  I could repurpose Remind to text out an inspirational quote once a day, twice a week, holidays.... whenever! I can do the same thing on Twitter or Instagram, but I want the messages to go to my students (and whoever else wants to follow) without having all the other issues with social media.  I don't have to worry about following/friending students.  The messages are one directional and, as long as I send them appropriately, there should be no issue.

So, if you would like to receive a sometime daily, sometime weekly, whenever inspirational thought, subscribe to my KBaker's Benedictions group on Remind following the directions below.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Creating Student Community Writing Spaces

Using Kidblog, I tried blogging with my students during the 2013-14 school year, and while they did fine writing, we struggled with finding an authentic audience to comment on the 130 individual blogs.  I wanted to generate traffic with #comments4kids, but my district was very leery of having student writing set free in the wilds of the internet.  I understood the administrations skepticism and kept my students in a walled garden.  So our blogs became nothing more than online journals.

I know there are teachers and classes out there who are very successful at blogging, but for me it just could not continue outside of the classroom.  Quadblogging with other classes was out because I couldn't guarantee consistent access to computers for my students.  I entered the 2014-15 school year with PARCC looming and defeatist attitude towards blogging with my students.

But I did spy a certain kind of hope: my ELAFlip Voxer group is ever the wealth of ideas and support. And I asked the group if they would be willing to create an Edmodo writing group. Sticking with the theme of gamification for one of the teachers, we named the group Scribe City.  In this group, students post drafts of their work and receive feedback from students. The group is very organic. Teachers assign tasks as they align with their lesson plans. We don't have a set schedule for posting writing or giving feedback, and even when PARCC acquired all technology in my building, we could keep participating in Scribe City because students could access Edmodo on the phones or at home.

In Scribe City, students post writing as either part of the Edmodo Note or an attached Google Doc any time, and anyone in the group can comment. We encourage the students to comment on content, grammar, diction, style etc by providing constructive criticism--something that will make the writing better and not just confirm (ie "good job!")--even suggesting resources that would help. We also tell the writers that they are to provide an explanation of the task/assignment and state what they specifically would like feedback on or help with. We want students to engage in a conversation with the others about writing. General digital citizenship rules apply as students demonstrate collegial communication skills. Teachers monitor the group to make sure everyone is appropriate. To make sure the group is active, we let each other know when our students are posting assignments.

Scribe City has also become a haven for my artistic, introverted students, with one student making it her writing residence. Maddy was an Honors student in my 8th period 2013-14 freshmen class. Gifted writer, she was painfully shy and never spoke up in class. When I started Scribe City in 2014-15, I sought Maddy out in the halls and told her about the group. Giving her the join code, I encouraged her to jump in and share her writing even though she was no longer a freshmen. Without any additional prompting, Maddy posted her poetry and short stories.  She engage in conversations with the other students without trepidation.

Maddy's identity has been protected by a disguise. 

No matter what tools we share or strategies we devise, as educators we are constantly seeking out what works for our students and ourselves.  While blogging didn't quite work as well as I hoped, Scribe City has been success.  If you are interested in join the group, please contact me.  I also welcome any comments on how you've implemented blogging or created other places for students to write for an audience.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

#ISTE2015 Peer Evaluation & a BAM Radio Interview

So, this happened.....  Jon Bergmann, flipclass pioneer, interviewed me about my peer evaluation techniques at ISTE.

How did that happen???  Well, after chatting about what I do during lunch with Jon Bergmann, Aaron Sams, and Crystal Kirch, Jon says, "I need to interview you right now for my radio show!"  Say, what?!  I didn't even have time to process his statement.  Next thing I know, Jon finds a quiet spot, whips out his phone and starts recording and asking me questions. You can listen to the podcast of the interview with Jon Bergmann here.

That was on Sunday. On Tuesday, I presented my ISTE session, "Best Practices & Digital Tools for Feedback, Assessment, & Evaluation," to a packed room. No open seats and folks were even sitting on the floor!

To learn how/why I got started with peer evaluation, read this.

Since my student teaching days, I've been refining my peer evaluation process, and with Google Apps for Education, the process has become paperless. Google Classroom makes it easy to manage the workflow. Keep in mind, the following steps take place over the course of a week or so. Students get their writing evaluated by classmates, and then the writers evaluate their evaluators. The objectives of this process are centered on fostering a community of writers and having a dialogue about student work. Students are engaging in an analytical, reflective, and metacognitive process.

  1. Create an assignment in Google Classroom for students to turn in their writing.
  2. Create a Google Form for the peer evaluation.  I use a combination of rubrics: checklist of requirements, numerical qualities, and Outstanding/Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (OSU) to assess quality. 
  3. Share the writing pieces with the class. Classroom will automatically put all student work in to an assignment folder which you can share with the class. I prefer to set the permissions to "Anyone with link can COMMENT." When you change the folder settings, it will change every document in the folder to match the sharing permissions of the folder. 
  4. Create an announcement where you provide the link to the shared folder and the Google Form for evaluation. Students open folder, select essays to read and evaluate on the Google Form. I encourage students to do at least 5 different evaluations. 
  5. Create another Classroom assignment for analyzing the evaluations. I create a template Google Doc with guiding questions and have Classroom create a copy for each student and I attach the master spreadsheet for the students to copy/paste their particular data. Students analyze their data and agree/disagree with the itemized evaluations as well as the whole evaluation. They must provide evidence to support their agreement/disagreement with the evaluations. 
  6. Create another Google Form for the Evaluation of the Evaluator.  Writers will fill out the form providing their evaluator with feedback on the quality of the evaluation. I've also used the Autocrat add-on to auto deliver the feedback to a Google Doc for each evaluator instead of doing the next step. 
  7. Create another Classroom assignment for analyzing the evaluation of the evaluator with another Google Doc template (again set it so Classroom generates a copy for each student to edit) and the link to the spreadsheet attached. Students copy/paste their corresponding data on to their Google Doc and analyze/reflect on how well they evaluated their classmates.

Throughout this entire process, I am monitoring the students and checking the spreadsheets.  If I see something out of joint (someone isn't pulling his/her weight), I will speak directly to the student and provide redirection.  Students are also allowed to talk to one another while working on the evaluations. I keep an ear on the conversations and will jump in as needed.

So I know this process is an overwhelming amount to digest at once.  I do not do all of this right away.  I scaffold the process and gradually ease students into this. Here is my instructional design:

Marking period 1: Foster an open community by getting students accustomed to sharing their work.  Everything from worksheets to quick writes is shared with a neighbor.  I also have students post their finished work to our Share Our Work small group and Scribe City group in Edmodo (more on the Edmodo groups in another blog post).  We do quick peer evaluation activities on paper to start and by the end of the marking period use Google Forms. We have discussions on how to evaluate each other's work with students writing self-evaluations. No formal evaluations of the evaluator just yet.

Marking period 2: We maintain our open community, but the writing tasks and peer evaluations have increased in complexity and length. We no longer use paper to evaluate, everything is on Google forms.  Students still complete self-evaluations and begin to use Google Forms to evaluate the evaluator.

Marking period 3: Pull it all together!  Students engage in the entire process completing formal evaluations of writing tasks and the evaluators. Everything is on Google Forms and in Classroom.

Marking period 4: Continue. Continue. Continue.  As a final project, students write up a final self-reflection as a writer and evaluator examining their growth through out the entire year.

So that is it in a nutshell.  Did I lose you through all of this?  Need clarification?  PLEASE, share and let me know what you do with your students.  I am continually tweaking this process, so I value your contributions!