Tag Archives: Tech Ed

12 Tech Based Alternative Assessments In Lieu of Book Reports & 5 Paragraph Essays

The ideas presented below are part of a poster session I will be presenting at at the International Literacy Association (ILA) in St. Louis, MI July 17-21, 2015. I always want to encourage my students to read and love reading. At the same time, I am trying out different ways to assess student reading and understanding of a text without a test, essay, or book report. Here are a dozen alternative book assessments that I have used with my own middle school ELA students.

1. Twitter Chats & Cyber Book Clubs- Students hold book discussions on Twitter.

2. Video Trailers – Students create a video trailer about the book and to promote the book to their peers using iMovie.

3. Movie Poster – Use Glogster or BigHugeLabs to create a promotional movie poster.

4. White Board Animation Video – Summarize the book in a creative and visual way.

5. Blog Post Review or Discussion Guide – Students write a review or create a discussion guide and post on a class blog.

6. Instagram Scrapbook – Students create a digital scrapbook of the key events and ideas expressed in the text.

7. Symbaloo or Thinglink Text Set – Have students create a text set (various articles and texts) to support the main idea or theme in the text.

8. Storyboard That – Use animation or storyboard platforms for students to recreate the key elements of the text.

9. Lego Movies – Students can design and film lego versions in key scenes from the text.

10. Prezi Teachers Guide or Lessons – Students can use Prezi or any presentation tool to create a teacher’s guide and design a lesson to teach from the text.

11. Write Book Reviews for Amazon or GoodReads

12. QR Code Key Quotes – Students can design a QR Code Scavenger Hunt throughout the book of key quotes or scenes that support the theme of the text.

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#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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Storytelling, Discussion, & Analysis: Twitter As a Classroom Tool for Middle School Students

This past week ISTE’s Literacy Special Interest Journal published its third issue. I contributed an article on using twitter for book chats with my eighth grade students. I have cut and pasted the article below to share. To check out the entire journal with lots of great articles that address different technologies and literacy I have pasted a link at the bottom of this post.

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In 140 characters or less, meaningful conversations can occur. In my four years of using Twitter as a personal professional development tool, I have learned from amazing people on Twitter and collaborated with many educators around the world in order to improve my teaching and strengthen my students’ learning. As result of my experience in utilizing this social media tool for professional growth and learning, I knew that there was an opportunity for me to share this technology with my students to empower them as readers, writers, and global citizens.

Twitter is a powerful online social media tool that allows people to engaged in conversations and discuss topics that are relevant to their lives. Ninety eight percent of my students are already using social media and have personal computers, tablets, and or mobile devices. Twitter was a technology tool that some were using socially, in addition to Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat. As their teacher, and a person who embraces technology in her classroom, I wanted to show my students how we can utilize Twitter as an educational tool for learning and also promote positive digital citizenship.

It all began when I read a blog post on The Nerdy Book Club blog by young adult author, James Preller in November 2013 on the power of story and how “stories are essential to our lives.”  I was so moved by the blog post, I immediately bought his book Bystander, a fictional story about bullying at a middle school in Long Island.  As a middle school teacher, this topic is pertinent to my teaching and my quest to promote empathy within school culture. As I devoured the book, I realized that I wanted all my students to read Bystander and the power of its story as it relates to our school and culture where bullying is a daily occurrence.  Hence, I assigned Bystander as a required reading for my eighth grade English students for their outside reading requirement.  In addition to reading the book, I wanted to engage my students in authentic discussions about the book and share their responses, connections, and questions about the book.  A huge proponent of Twitter as a professional development tool, I required my students to participate in four Twitter book chats after school hours to address the complex characters and issues raised in the book. Since our lives are so packed with activities, homework and family time, I knew designating a time to a Twitter-based conversation about the book would gain more participants in the outside reading assignment.

My eighth grade students are required to read one outside reading book each quarter and complete an assessment project on the book. My students who are interested in taking Honors classes in High School are required to read two outside reading books each quarter and complete two projects. I offer students a list of recommended titles the beginning of each quarter based on genre (non fiction, graphic novels, memoirs, etc.) or theme (World War II and social injustice texts to align with Social Studies) for students to choose an outside reading book.  Although, bullying is a topic that students are bombarded with in school with special assemblies and Health classes, it was never a topic in our English class readings and discussions. I was so moved by James Preller’s Bystander  and bothered by the covert bullying throughout the school I might see or hear about that I decided that it would be an all grade read for my students. There were a few complaints and groans when I introduced the book as a book about bullying in a middle school. For the most part, the majority of my students enjoyed the book and the Twitter book chat discussions even more.

When I introduced the assignment to my classes I included a reading schedule with set dates for the Twitter chats meetings and a Twitter Permission Letter/ Code of Conduct to be shared with their parents and guardians,  to be signed and returned to me. I organized the Twitter book chats weekly for forty five minutes  for five consecutive weeks to discuss the text, share our thoughts, make connections, and ask questions. I really wanted students to talk with one another about the text, rather than just answer my questions I posted about the book.  The Twitter permission letter to families addressed my intentions and objectives in utilizing Twitter for this assignment. To confirm that parents received and read the letter, I required parents and guardians and my students to sign the letter and return it  to me prior to the first Twitter book chat. Out of ninety-three students, I had over sixty students participating in the Twitter book chats.

The week before our first Twitter book chat I held a meeting after school to introduce Twitter to the students and offer a “how-to” demonstration in setting up a Twitter account and using Twitter. Each student was given a cheat sheet that covered the Dos and Don’ts of Tweeting and explained an anatomy of a Tweet. I recommended students who already had a Twitter account to make a new account specifically for our class project so that I do not have access to their pictures from the weekend parties and other social media sharing they do with their friends. I was clear in reminding students that we were using Twitter for educational purposes and that my own account is for that, I do not share pictures of my family and food or discuss personal matters online.  For me, Twitter is strictly professional and used in a positive manner.

Students used a hashtag to follow the Twitter conversation and be included in the book chat. Google defines a hashtag as “a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic.” Our hashtag was #RMSBystander and with each new book and Twitter chat we included a hashtag that included the book title and “RMS,” the initials of our middle school.  Every time a student tweeted, he or she included the hashtag in their tweet.

Everyone had a voice on Twitter and no one was able to hide during the discussions. During the Twitter book discussions students shared their own stories, made connections, and critically addressed the issue of bullying in our school and society at large.  I was impressed by their honesty and keen awareness.  I did start off the Twitter chat by asking questions for students to respond to throughout the Twitter chat but that always lead to deeper conversations and comments posted by my students responding to one another. The students weren’t just answering the questions that I posed during the Twitter book chat but were also talking with each other in an online environment, supporting and responding to each other’s ideas. I noticed that students who might not talk to each other in class, face to face, were responding to each other online and offering constructive discussions piggy-backing on each other’s ideas. Students learned that a retweet was like a high five, pointing out an insightful comment and students looked forward to me retweeting their comments or looked for one another to retweet in agreement or support. Positive communication was modeled throughout the Twitter discussions.

Student conversations on Twitter weaved in and out of the text with comments and side conversations about our own school. Students admitted that bullying is a huge problem in many schools across across the United States, and our own school is not immune. Social media sometimes becomes a means in which bullying takes place.  But, by facilitating the Twitter chats, I wanted to promote Twitter as a social media tool in a responsible and educational manner.  I was impressed by my students honesty about bullying in our school and shared the archived chat with my school principal and school social worker to highlight the conversations that one teacher and a her students were having about bullying and one book about bullying. My students were excited about the Twitter book discussions and asked for more book discussions online. As one of my students replied at the end of the chat, “This chat allowed me to think of the reading in new ways.”

After the series of Twitter Chats on Bystander, our second Twitter book chat was with the book The Wave by Todd Strasser. Written in 1981, The Wave is based on a true incident that occurred in a high school history class in Palo Alto, California, in 1969. A high school teacher introduces a new “system” into his classroom to promote learning and success and  illustrates how propaganda and peer pressure help Nazism rise in Germany in the 1930s. Students were studying World War II in their Social Studies class and Strasser’s text helps to extend the conversations about injustice and history outside of the classroom. Currently, my students are reading and tweeting about I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Young Reader’s Edition) by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick. With each of the books read and discussed students make connections and judgements across texts, drawing conclusions, and sharing big ideas that surface from reading and conversing about the text. In our Twitter chats the students are engaged and responding to one another. The Twitter book chats help students monitor comprehension, merge their thinking with new ideas, react to, respond to, and often question the information.

Twitter is one digital media tool that can be used effectively for discussing stories and the powerful impact they have on our lives. Twitter also allows space for students to critically discuss topics that are relevant to their lives and share stories,  images, and other links to meaningful texts that address the same topics.  Twitter helps extend classroom discussions outside the classroom and for students to deepen their thinking through tweeting about reading. Through my experiences using Twitter in the classroom, I have been able to capture the “richness” of conversations and the “complexity of experiences” when sharing stories.

 

Twitter Resources for Teachers

Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything Twitter

A Teacher’s Guide to Twitter (Edudemic)

50 Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom via TeachHUB

EDUHACKER’s Teaching with Twitter

To read through the entire ISTE Literacy Special Interest Journal (3rd Issue):

http://literacyspecialinterest.blogspot.com/2015/03/literacyspecialinterest-issue.html

I will be leading a webinar on Twitter in the K12 classroom for ISTE on 3/26 at 4 PM PT.  The webinar is free for ISTE members. To register for the webinar click here.

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Twitter as Storytelling, Discussion, & Analysis Tool in the Classroom

It all began when I read a blog post on The Nerdy Book Club blog by young adult author James Preller in November 2013 on the power of story and how “stories are essential to our lives.”  I was so moved by the blog post, I immediately bought his book Bystander, a fictional story about bullying at one middle school in Long Island.  As a middle school teacher, this topic is pertinent to my teaching and my quest to promote empathy within school culture. As I devoured the book, I realized that I  wanted all my students to read Bystander and the power of its story as it relates to our school and culture where bullying is a daily occurrence.  Hence, I assigned Bystander as a required reading for my eighth grade English students for their outside reading requirement.  Along with reading the book, students were required to participate in four Twitter book chats after school hours to address the complex characters and issues raised in the book.

During the Twitter book discussions students shared their own stories, made connections, and critically addressed the issue of bullying in our school and society at large.  I was impressed by their honesty and keen awareness.  Everyone had a voice on Twitter and no one was able to hide during the discussions.  Students weren’t just answering the questions that I posed during the Twitter book chat but were also talking with each other in an online environment, supporting and responding to each other’s ideas. I noticed that students who might not talk to each other in class, face to face, were responding to each other online and offering constructive discussions piggy-backing on each other’s ideas. Positive communication was modeled throughout the Twitter discussions.

Students admitted that bullying is a huge problem in many schools across across the United States, and our own school is not immune. Social media sometimes becomes a means in which bullying takes place, but by facilitating the Twitter chats I wanted to promote Twitter as a social media tool in a responsible and educational manner.  Parents signed consent forms for their children to participate in the book chats.  My students were excited about the Twitter book discussions and have asked for more.

Twitter is one digital media tool that can be used effectively for discussing stories and the powerful impact they have on our lives. Twitter also allows space for students to critically discuss topics that are relevant to their lives and share stories,  images, pictures, and other links to meaningful texts that address the same topics.  Twitter is a tool to dissect stories and respond in a pedagogical setting. Through my experiences using Twitter in the classroom, I have been able to capture the “richness” of conversations and the “complexity of experiences” when sharing stories.

The next #RMSBystander Twitter Book chat will be Monday January 20, 2014 at 8:15 PM EST.  All are welcome to join.

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Digital Wisdom from Marc Prensky & Richard Byrne

This past week I had the opportunity to attend the Technology Leadership Institute organized by LHRIC.  This ongoing institute brings in some of the heavy hitters (nationally known educational technology experts) when it comes to technology and education from Karl Fisch and Eric Sheninger to Marc Prensky and Richard Byrne.  Below are reflections on lessons learned from the presentations by author Mark Prensky and Free Tech 4 Teachers Blogger, Richard Byrne.

The first thing that Marc Prensky announced to the group was “don’t get fixated on technology in front of us because technology is always changing.”  We talked about technology in terms of Nouns and Verbs. The nouns are the things that we use to teach the skills and action verbs.  For the most part, the verbs, what we want our students to be able to do has not changed dramatically, but what we use to teach (the nouns), has changed.   The question that educators need to ask today is What are the key skills we want to teach our students and are we using the best technology possible? As teachers we need to be flexible to adapt to the new context in which we live and teach in.  And adapting means finding digital wisdom and being digitally wise.  Technology is a foundation and it underlines everything we do, it is a foundation for education today. The goal is to become someone better and educators need to create new and better educational experiences that support this goal.

Richard Byrne spoke about making learning collaborative.  What does a collaborative project look like in your classroom?  Byrne’s expertise is his knowledge of technology applications and programs he writes about on his blog (4 times a day with a goal of 120 posts a month!).  He shared collaborative project ideas using TodaysMeet, a backchannel to extend conversations outside of the classroom, Padlet (formerly Wallwisher), Voicethread, Thinglink, and Socrative.  He also mentioned Wikis as a great tool for collaboration — one of my favorite collaborative tools with my students — and showed us a choose your own adventure video project using youtube which was creative and new. The idea was that there are so many technology applications out there that teachers can use and adapt for teaching and learning.  You have to make it your own and use technology for discovery.

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Technology and Teaching

My students know lots of things when it comes to technology. My colleagues, know a handful of things about technology. We are both immersed in technology, but different technologies. My students carry their cell phones with them all day in school even though the school policy requires them to keep them in their lockers during the school day. As soon as last period ends the hallways are a buzz with students on their phones, texting, talking, gaming, listening to music. Students try to hide their ear-buds and listen to their I-pods during lunch period or when class seems boring to them (more often than not). They spend their nights rushing through homework so they can get online and play games, I-M their friends, watch their favorite TV episodes online or create their own videos.

If our students are immersed in technology then why not utilize these tech tools in the classroom as teaching tools?

Technology in the classroom allows young people to demonstrate their tech savvy skills and apply them in a way that highlights their understanding and learning. Technology allows for creativity, inquiry and collaboration. Students can complete a web quest which emphasizes critical thinking skills and integrates media literacy. Why compete with technology and young people? Rather, use technology to highlight the strengths of young people and help invest them in the material we are teaching.

I strongly believe technology is vital to help students learn best and in turn, for my students to show me their understanding and learning. There is an infinite amount of ways to integrate technology in the classroom. When people asked my how or why I use technology in the classroom I show them what I have done. Then I list the skills we are building when we use technology in the classroom: Connecting to Prior Knowledge, Questioning, Predicting, Inferring, Summarizing, Supporting Claims and Providing Evidence, Synthesizing, Build Vocabulary. Retelling in Our Own Words, Sequencing, Monitor Learning, Foster Sense of Inquiry, Making Real World Connections, Creative Thinking, Collaboration, Listening and Reflecting, and Analyzing.

Books and technology both belong in the classroom. I cannot and would not pick one over the other nor would I be willing to give up either one. If students want to read on their Kindle or other device, I would say, “Go ahead.” As soon as something else emerges I figure ways to blend them into my teaching and classroom practices – mobile surveys, Google Docs, Glogster, Wallwisher, QR codes, the list goes on and on.

Anything to help my students learn best.

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Collaborative Project Ideas

Today I spent the day outside of my classroom and school to participate in a Bureau of Education Workshop titled “Strengthening Content-Area Learning Using Cutting-Edge Technology Projects” taught by Cindy Kendall.  I am always looking out for new ideas that can I translate in my classroom and, in turn, share on this blog and my wikis.  I was surprised by the large amount of information that Cindy shared today and the ever growing amount of tech tools that we can use to enhance content area literacy and critical literacy in our classrooms.

Many of the tech tools that she shared are ones I have previously mentioned in this blog: digital storytelling, podcasts, poll everywhere, xtranormal, wikis, or will soon have my students utilize: glogs and prezis.   You can find links to many of these web 2.0 tools mentioned on my cyberteaching wiki and can see some in action on my classroom wikis. The information Cindy shared that really captured my attention was the collaborative projects that are happening around the world where students are collaborating with students from other schools.  For the past four years that I have been using wikis in my classroom, I have made my wikis protected sites where only the students registered in my classes for the semester can edit and add to the wiki.  Maybe it is time that break down the walls of my wikis and make my wikis more globally interactive and collaborative.

Thus, I am looking into different collaborative projects to join in or create new collaborative projects that blend my content area and classroom objectives.  Some of the places that I have started to look at and think about how I can model the collaborative projects that are already out there include: The Flat Classroom Project, international collaborative projects; for science teachers, the Center for Engineering and Science Education at Stevens Institute of Technology has many science themed collaborative projects from human genetics to the global water sampling project; and  Collaborations Around the Planet is another site for collaborative projects and events.  If you have any ideas for collaborative projects or are currently participating in collaborative projects please share your ideas and experiences in the comments below.

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