#ISTE2015 Tech SmackDown & TakeAway

I have just arrived home after attending the ISTE (International Society for Technology Education) annual Convention. The conference is an incredible opportunity for teachers, administrators, and anyone working in technology and education to see amazing speakers, innovative technology for the classroom, collaborate and be inspired. Below is a list of all the super cool technology tools that were shared (new and old). I have organized them according to the Common Core Standards to help think about how to use them in the classroom. The key idea of the conference is that it is not about the tech tool but building relationships, engaging students, teaching skills that will help students think deeply and succeed.

Reading & Writing

Reading Closely:

ThinkCerca – Reading & Writing Tool

The Learning Network – The New York Times

TED Talks

Actively Learn – Reading & Annotation Tool

Wonderopolis – Reading & Research Tool

Buncee – A Writing and Creation Tool

Comprehension:

Popplet – Storyboarding & Semantic Maps

Pixton – Storyboard & Animation Tool

Wordle – Word Generator

Tricider – Collaborative Polling Tool

Summarize:

iMovie Book Trailers

Big Huge Labs – Create Movie Poster

Twitter – Conversation Tool

Padlet – Collect Student Responses

Analyze:

Socrative – Polling Tool

Easel_ly – Create Infographics

Evernote – Curation and Writing Tool

Edmodo – Collaborating, Communication, & Curration Tool

Trello – Visual Organization Tool

Speaking & Listening – Presenting Tools to Build and Present Knowledge

Prezi – Digital Presentation Tool

HaikuDeck – Digital Presentation Tool

Animoto – Movie Making Tool

Glogster -Digital Posters

MovieMaker – Create Movies

PowToon  – Animation Tool

GoogleDocs – Collaborative Writing & Individual Writing

Google Slides – Google’s Power Point

Smore – Digital Newsletters

PodBean – Podcasting

ThingLink – Visual Curating Tool

Gamification

Classcraft – Game Platform

Kahoot! – Easy Polling & Assessment Tool

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To Grade or Not to Grade Genius Hour

I recently received the following email from a parent:

Dear Dr. Haiken,
I wanted to send you an email regarding the substantial Genius Project just completed this semester.  The project assigned was very ambitious, and very welcomed by XXXX. She jumped at the opportunity to delve independently into a task of her interest and choosing.  This was not an easy task; it was one that required tremendous planning and tenacity. I must admit that, at first, I was wary of the ambitious project XXXX envisioned, but she rose to the occasion. She made a timeline, sketched (and re-sketched) the designs . . .  She documented her work all along the way, and created the trifold board presentation and brought it to school along with all of her finished designs–and all on time!

I attended the parents reception and saw that a wide variety of projects were presented with varying degrees of difficulty. While I understand that it is a difficult task to grade projects of varying scope, I do not think that it is fair not to grade them at all when some of the students dedicated so much time, energy and passion to the assignment. I think that XXXX’s grade should reflect the high caliber of her work.  I am sympathetic to the grading challenge this project presents, but it was assigned, and XXXX’s GPA should be indicative of a wonderful project completed. As a teacher, you rightly encouraged the students to reach for more, and I applaud you for doing so and for stepping outside the box.  Those who responded and took on the challenge should be recognized and rewarded.

*     *     *     *     *     *

Is a grade a reward? Does everything completed in school have to have a letter or numerical grade? What does a grade really show and mean to teachers, parents, and students?

These are questions that I have been thinking about over and over again as I rethink another school year. I decided not to grade my students’ genius hour projects this semester. Genius Hour is about allowing students to take learning in their own hands and as I wrote back to this parent, The genius hour project is a project that lets students make choices and take the lead in their own learning.  Not everything that students complete in school is nor should be graded with a number or letter.  The purpose of the genius hour project is for students to excel in an area of personal interest without the fear of failure.

I do have my students complete self reflections and plan out monthly goals for their genius hour project. I do not grade these items either, but these reflections and plans help me to support my students in their genius hour quest.  I have yet to have a student tell me they are disappointed that their project is not being graded. Rather, I want to encourage students to pursue their passions, accept challenges and failures, and at the same time be motivated by personal interests rather than a stamp, sticker, check mark, letter or number.

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Genius Hour Wrap-Up, Reflections, & Revisions

This is the second year that I have instituted Genius Hour in my classroom. Every Friday students have one period to explore, learn, create, discover, research a topic that interests them. The only conditions are that student’s choose a topic that is researchable and will “make an impact on the community” with their topic of choice, no matter how small the impact.

Genius Hour stems from Google’s 20% time. One of the perks employees at the Googleplex get is 20% of their time to work on a special project.  One well known product that has come out of this incentive program is Gmail.

To end Genius Hour this June I held a Genius Hour and Passion Project Expo inviting students and parents to view all the great projects students worked on during the 20 week spring semester. There are so many ways students can share what they learned: a Presentation, Prezi, Video, TED Talk, and or Booklet. I was so impressed that more than a dozen parents attended the Expo and were inspired and impressed by all the projects.

Genius Hour has inspired by students in so many ways. Some students created blogs, others started a book drive or helped those who are less fortunate, students created products and some even are pursuing trademarking their Genius Hour idea. Topics addressed music, art, writing, science, the environment, fashion, animation, and people’s prejudices. I am amazed by the hard work that my students put into their projects and yet, there are some students who did not use the time to their benefit.

I am still thinking up ways to hold students accountable to our weekly genius hour class time. Asking students to write weekly reflections, when I have 95 students is too much. I am thinking of creating a Genius Hour classroom blog and each student writes a monthly blog post reflecting on their process at that moment.

Grading is a challenge too, I do not want to grade the product, rather evaluate the process. I am rethinking the rubric to include a section on “use of class time.” 20% of student’s evaluation will focus on the use of class time. For students who use class time for socializing and do the majority of their presentation preparation at home, they could not get higher than an 80 out of 100.  But then should I be grading genius hour at all?

I did ask students to grade themselves in a written reflection on their work and successes in Genius Hour, I was so surprised how many of my students who I felt worked diligently and successfully gave themselves grades of B or lower and students who I observed doing little work during Genius Hour class time game themselves an A.

Teaching is a reflective process. From one semester to the other, one year to the next, I am always rethinking and re-examining my practices, tools, and techniques to better support my students as learners.

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Give More HUGS: Building a Culture of Caring Through Collaborative PBL

Have you ever thought about getting students actively involved to promote literacy in the community and around the world? This past school year I partnered with the global nonprofit organization Give More HUGS  in a year long Project-Based Service Learning (PBSL) initiative. My partnership with Give More HUGS helped my students  to become advocates for quality education, civic engagement, creativity, collaboration, and social change. Students participated in multiple projects from twitter chats, book drives, and research projects throughout the school year with this amazing organization and its awesome team to promote literacy.

Give More HUGS is a 501(c)3 non profit organization  with a mission to provide students in need with school supplies, books with inspirational messages, art supplies, extracurricular activity scholarships, mentorships, and encouragement to inspire a lifelong love for learning, reading, and creativity.

Twitter Book Chats

My students read at least one outside reading book each marking period. Each quarter I offered one book title for students to read in a book club setting, which meets on Twitter after school hours to discuss the book. Moved by Malala Yousafzai’s campaign for equality education among all people and the collaboration with Give More HUGS, I selected Malala’s autobiography for the first Twitter book chat of the school year because of Malala’s positive impact on the world and the idea that anyone can make a difference to help make the world a better place. I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Young Reader’s Edition) by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick offers insight into Malala’s strength and courage to promote equality education for young women in Pakistan and around the world. The Twitter book chats helped engage students in authentic discussions about the book and share their responses, connections, and questions.

Students  participated in four Twitter Book Chats to address the complex issues raised in each book. Because Give More HUGS strives to promote equality education, I invited the HUGS Ambassadors and Give More HUGS members in the Twitter Book Chats because of the shared interests and goals of equality education for all. This experience gave students an opportunity to use social media to participate in a 21st century book club and social movement to make this world a better place.

Genius Hour  “Shark Tank” Project Pitches

Every Friday in my classroom is Genius Hour. Genius Hour in the classroom was inspired by Google’s 20% time, where employees at Google get is 20% of their time to work on a special project.  Once a week students have one class period to explore, learn, create, discover, and research a topic that interests them. The only conditions are that students choose a topic that is researchable and will “have a positive impact on the community,” no matter how big or small it may be.  At the end of each semester, students share what they have learned in a presentation of their choice and how their work has made an impact.

Once students selected their Genius Hour project, I required students to design an elevator pitch to explain their passion and project interests. Students took two weeks to craft their pitches.  I invited Give More HUGS founder and director, Chris McGilvery and a few of the HUGS Ambassadors into my classroom for students to present their Genius Hour elevator pitches in a “Shark Tank” style setting. Eight lucky projects were selected as “Brilliant Ideas” or “Social Change  Makers” by the HUGS representatives.  The eight “winners” were highlighted on the Give More HUGS blog and offered a wider audience to promote their social action Genius Projects.  You can Read more about this collaboration on the Give More HUGS blog.

Book Drive

Impressed by many of the projects students created, Chris encouraged students to participate in Give More HUGS as Ambassadors. Two students pursued that role and are official Ambassadors for GMH planning projects and raising awareness. One student in particular combined her Genius Hour project with GMH and organized a book drive throughout the school. She and a friend collected nearly 1,000 books during the month of May. Each book will be inscribed with a personal message and sent to schools and organizations that lack resources. In addition to the book drive, the students created campaign called S.P.A.R.K. (Spread Passion and Reading Knowledge)and designed tee shirts to raise awareness and money for schools in need. In designing the project my student stated, “We chose this project because we believe that books are a key learning tool and also to spread our love of learning. We both value our education and the opportunities we have.  We want to spread our passion for reading and learning to others.  We decided the best way to “ignite their spark” was to motivate them by giving them books.”

SPARK

Click here to purchase a t-shirt and support Give More HUGS.

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What Do You Want to Be Known For? . . . An End of the Year Activity

Towards the last two months of the school year many teachers ask their students to reflect on what they learned, students begin to go through their work deciding what is their best work, what needs to be revised, and what can be recycled. Portfolios are presented and final essays are turned in. Teachers ask students to fill out questionnaires and write reflections across contents and grade levels. What if there was another way to present reflections and go beyond what was learned in the past school year?

Back in 2007 Oprah Winfrey had Dr. Randy Pausch on her show to present a lecture he gave to students and faculty at Carnegie Mellon. Dr. Pausch was a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA), who was diagnosed with terminal cancer and only a few months to live. In keeping with tradition of college professors retiring, he gave his last lecture. This incredibly moving presentation was passed around the internet and later turned into a book.

If you had one last lecture to give, what would it be?

Rather than have students write a one page reflection or complete a questionnaire, what if you asked them to present their last lecture to the class sharing the most important lessons they have learned in their lifetime?

First, I show my students Dr. Pausch’s last lecture (the short version in class and if you are flipping your classroom, give them the longer version to watch at home. Have students take notes on the lecture to help them jot down key ideas and insightful comments they can share with their classmates.

Then, students reflect on the lecture. This can be completed in written or discussion format.  Guiding questions include:

· What words of wisdom will you take from Randy Pausch as you embark on a future path and life?

· Which of his “life lessons” impact you the most right now? Explain your response.

· What are your dominant personality components based on the Array Interactive Inventory* and what is your reaction to your score on the survey? How does this influence your own aspirations?

*Dr. Pausch mentions during his lecture about personality traits and asks whether a person is a Tigger, Eeyore, or Winnie the Pooh. These personality characteristics are consistent with the Array Interactive Inventory. Tigger is Connection, Winnie the Pooh is Harmony, Rabbit is Production, and Eeyore is Status Quo. The inventory is a great tool for personal reflection or even as a tool for differentiation and group work.

After students view, reflect, and discuss Dr. Pausch’s lecture as a model, they begin to craft their own.

Below are some of the Common Core Standards students are using while completing this assignment.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.8.2 – Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to supporting ideas; provide an objective summary of the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.3 – Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.3.A – Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and point of view and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally and logically.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.4 – Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.
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Think Tac Toe Reading Response

The Common Core Standards identify reading competency for students and teachers (based on the Academic Literacy Skills Test (ALST) as someone “capable of proficient, close, and critical reading that reflects, wide, deep, and thoughtful engagement with a range of high quality, complex informational and literary texts.” Students and teachers must demonstrate “command of evidence found in texts and use cogent reasoning to analyze and synthesize information, and structure for a given task, purpose, and audience.” (NY State Education Department, 2014)

 

I have implemented an article of the week with my 8th grade students. I adopted this reading strategy from Kelly Gallagher, to help my students practice reading and read a wider array of texts to build world knowledge. Students are to read a selected article each week and show evidence of their reading by marking up the text. After reading, students are to write a response to the article using our Google Classroom. The reading response is a multi-paragraphed reflection that shows his or her understanding of the text. To tackle the Common Core reading skills I have created a Think Tac Toe response activity to help scaffold how to respond to a text. Students are to complete THREE squares. They must complete a Tic-Tac-Toe, either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. Students must go in a straight line; a student cannot just choose any three random squares. Students are practicing the Common Core reading skills, build prior knowledge and knowledge about the world.

 

Determine what the text says explicitly Make logical inferences based on textual evidence Draw conclusions based on textual evidence
Determine the central ideas or themes of the text and analyze the development of the central ideas or themes of the text Free

Choice

Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of the text
Interpret words and phrases as they are used in the text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings Analyze how specific word choices shape meaning and tone in the text Determine the author’s attitude, opinion, or point of view and Assess how point of view and purpose shape the content and style of the text
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Concerning Character & Reputation: Character Analysis Activity

“Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”

— George RR Martin, A Game of Thrones

Stories drive us. Characters and conflict drive stories. When teaching literature we want students to see dynamic characters for their complexity and understand their evolution throughout the story. When starting a new text with my students, the exposition has lots of great detail that can offer insight into the characters wants, needs, fears, and beliefs.

To help my students look closer at the characters in Shakespeare’s MidSummer Night’s Dream, students complete a two day character analysis/interpretation small group activity.  Each group receives an envelope with the directions, character survey, and character questionnaire. In addition, I also include a photocopied passage of the text with detailed information or dialogue from the character to use for interpretation and a graphic novel version of the passage. Students work together to complete the survey and questionnaire. Students go back into the text to find additional information and textual evidence to support their claims. At the end of day two, students are to produce:

  1. A brief, creative introduction about the character (a poem, interview, or improv)
  1. A mention of key passages or individual text that are central to understanding the character’s identity (wants, fears, values, and beliefs)
  1. An artistic representation of the character

This activity can be utilized with any text for character analysis purposes. I have included the activity and directions below for my followers and fans.

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All Depends On the Skin Your Living In: Building Text Sets & World Knowledge

This past March I attended the Long Island Language Arts Council Spring Conference and was able to sit in a great session on Writing About Reading. Kate Gerson, a senior Regents Research Fellow for Educator Engagement and the Common Core of NYSED,  presented the shifts in writing demanded by the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts/Literacy; specifically how the Common Core writing connects to volume of text read, knowledge about the world and knowledge of words.  She mentioned that writing equals expertise and expertise is informed by language (vocabulary) and knowledge. Vocabulary is built through a person’s knowledge of the world. The more a person knows about something, they can read about it, begin to make sense of it, and acquire knowledge and vocabulary about it.

Not knowing words on a page is debilitating and slows a reader down. For ELLs and students with disabilities this can be a even harder challenge. Thus, if we want students to be strong readers with world knowledge and robust vocabulary, teachers need to expose students to information about the world and have the language to discuss it that is accessible to our students diverse needs. Consuming information about the world works best in chunks. Language and vocabulary is acquired over time. A steady growth of knowledge comes with daily reading, writing, and speaking. Teachers can use text sets and build their own text sets that are accessible and consumable for their students. These text sets can also help build student knowledge about the world and expose them to rich information.

Here is a text set that I have started to compile on race and racism in connection with all the racially driven police brutality present in the news. The text set includes a music video, poetry, and a short film that can then be paired with current newspaper articles and young adult novels. The key is that I am continually build text sets around the literature my students are reading and additional domain knowledge.

Poem “BLINK YOUR EYES” by Sekou Sundiata

I was on my way to see my woman
but the Law said I was on my way
thru a red light red light red light
and if you saw my woman
you could understand,
I was just being a man.
It wasn’t about no light
it was about my ride
and if you saw my ride
you could dig that too, you dig?
Sunroof stereo radio black leather
bucket seats sit low you know,
the body’s cool, but the tires are worn.
Ride when the hard time come, ride
when they’re gone, in other words
the light was green.

I could wake up in the morning
without a warning
and my world could change:
blink your eyes.
All depends, all depends on the skin,
all depends on the skin you’re living in

Up to the window comes the Law
with his hand on his gun
what’s up? what’s happening?
I said I guess
that’s when I really broke the law.
He said a routine, step out the car
a routine, assume the position.
Put your hands up in the air
you know the routine, like you just don’t care.
License and registration.
Deep was the night and the light
from the North Star on the car door, deja vu
we’ve been through this before,
why did you stop me?
Somebody had to stop you.
I watch the news, you always lose.
You’re unreliable, that’s undeniable.
This is serious, you could be dangerous.

I could wake up in the morning
without a warning
and my world could change:
blink your eyes.
All depends, all depends on the skin,
all depends on the skin you’re living in

New York City, they got laws
can’t no bruthas drive outdoors,
in certain neighborhoods, on particular streets
near and around certain types of people.
They got laws.
All depends, all depends on the skin,
all depends on the skin you’re living in.

French Rapper Stromae’s Music Video “Papaoutai”

KWA HERI MANDIMA – Short French Film/Memoir (Can Connect with other texts related to Violence in Sudan & Rwanda such as Linda Sue Park’s Long Walk to Water)

New York Times Articles “Thoughts on Race in American, a Backdrop to Ferguson” by Nicholas Kristof 11/25/2014

“Is Everyone a Little Bit Racist” by Nicholas Kristof 8/27/2014

To find out more about the National Text Set Project or attend one of their training programs, check out their website.

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Writing Lessons from Rolling Stone & Buzzfeed’s Faux Pas

Rolling Stone Magazine retracted an article it published about a gang rape at a fraternity at UVA last month for “numerous flaws and errors in the reporting.” The online magazine Buzzfeed recently took down older posts because of “a lack of journalistic standards.” These egregious errors on the part of these popular online and in print media can be used as lessons to teach writing to our students.  Students need models to help understand what to do and not to do when it comes to writing.

1. Check the Facts – The biggest issue with the Rolling Stone article is that the facts were “incorrect.” As a writer, one loses all credibility without accurate and factual evidence to support one’s claim. Make sure evidence (examples, statistics, and testimony) comes from reliable and credible sources.

2. Not All Evidence is Equal – Some evidence is stronger than other evidence. Choose the strongest evidence that is going to support the claim. Make sure that all information and support material shared holds it’s weight.

3. Author’s Purpose – Is the author trying to persuade, inform, or entertain? Identify the author’s purpose to understand the intention of the essay. The intention helps identify meaning. Know one’s intention before starting to write.

4. Everything is Slanted – There is no such thing as an unbiased perspective. Everything has bias, things are left out, omitted, or silenced. As a writer one needs to be aware of one’s biases and be upfront about them for the reader. Help the reader uncover the slant, offer counter claims within argumentative papers.

5. Learn From Other’s Mistakes – The wonderful thing about writing is that one can edit and revise to make writing better, stronger, clearer, and more concise. Look at models and exemplars to know what is effective and what is not.

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Delight, Wisdom, and Illumination: Poetry Activities for All Ages

“The only thing that can save the world is the reclaiming of the awareness of the world. That is what poetry does.”

— Allen Ginsberg

Poetry is a multifaceted tool that can provide students opportunities to reflect on literature, content area subjects, or their own feelings, while increasing their understanding of the material being covered within classroom instruction. Poetry supports  language and reading development. Poetry brings aesthetic connections to topics and provides a personal relationship with content material. Robert Frost once wrote, “a poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom.” (1973)  Sharing poetry with our students offers both delight and insight of the power of words.

Here are a few different types of poems that fit into any content area classroom for reading and writing.

An ODE is a poem in praise of the ordinary things in life. The ode was originally a Greek form of dramatic poetry. Some odes follow a specific rhyme scheme and stanza pattern, but it is not necessary. Think about having your students write an ode for a specific time or event in history, a scientific concept, or an ode to celebrate a famous mathematician.

A BIOPOEM or a histopoem provides students with the opportunity to create a biographical or historical summary about a topic or person. Each line of a biopoem or histopoem has a prescribed focus which guides students to summarize the information from a variety of perspectives. Biopoem and histopoems are great to use in social studies, science, and with literature.

Students can write HAIKU based on visual images for a unit on the environment or create haiku about something they are studying in your content area. Haiku are 17 syllable poems that are usually about nature and don’t rhyme. Haiku are three lines that follow 5-7-5 form.

Poet and educator, Georgia Heard, writes “Anger is a tremendous source of creativity.” In social studies class students can examine the poetry written about the past wars. Sidney Keyes, a British poet, wrote about WWII. Both Wilfrid Gibson and Siegfried Sassoon fought in the front lines during WWI and later wrote poems about the war.

Without using any words, only sounds create a musical poem or SOUND POEM. Have students write a sound poem about their mother. Then, go around the room and have people read aloud their sound poem

A FOUND POEM is shaped from a collection of words or phrases found in one text. A found poem may be created by students after a test has been read, in part or in whole. To create a found poem, readers select and combined memorable words and phrases from a text to create or “find” a poem. Annie Dilliard’s Mornings Like This is a collection of found poems to share with others. Whether students use a textbook, article, or a piece of literature, a found poem helps to understand the text deeply and make meaning.

SAY IT BUT DON’T REALLY SAY IT POEM In Eve Merriam’s poem New Love she expresses love without ever using the word love. How then do we know that she is talking about love? Have you students write a love poem (or a poem about anything) without saying or using the word it’s about.

New Love
by Eve Merriam

I am telling my hands
not to blossom into roses

I am telling my feet
not to turn into birds
and fly over rooftops

and I am putting a hat on my head
so the flaming meteors
in my hair
will hardly show.

RESPONDING TO POETRY As students listen to a poem being read aloud, have students make a list of the things that “snap, crackle, and pop in their ears . . . words, sounds, rhythms, and phrases. Students can draw a picture (realistic or abstract) of whatever the poem is saying. Maybe the poem reminds you of a song or the sound of a specific musical instrument. Students can describe the sounds and songs. Describe a memory or person the poem might evoke. Does the poem remind you of something? Make a connection. Or just respond to the poem in any way you wish.

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