Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Back to School Edtech Classroom Checklist, 2015 edition

Here's an article we wrote about the important items to consider to get your edtech program off to a smashing start, published  a few weeks back on Fractus Learning . The orginal post on Fractus Learning can be found here.

Here's the full post, for your reading pleasure. What important items did we miss?

If you can't do ALL of this (very few can), pick the biggest hitters for your classroom or your school, and go for it!

The start of the school year brings with it more than a few ‘gotta-do’s for a classroom teacher. For that matter, if you’re also the designated ed tech “go-to person,” there are a LOT of tasks for you (and the IT team) to consider. With a technology program, ensuring that the various aspects of technology are ready for you, your colleagues and your students could be a huge task. It’s hard to envision all the aspects of tech that you might need to worry about, and if you or the team miss something, it only creates more heartburn and wasted time later.

To help your student-centered tech program get off to a fulfilling start, we have put together this checklist. Most of the items on the list will be important for you to consider. Some of these items will not apply depending on your role, your devices, and the latitude your administration and district allows, of course. In any case, reviewing this list will remind you (and your administration, tech support, teachers and others) of the needs of a highly engaging, fully functioning student-centered classroom.

With Your Administration and IT Team…

  • Confirm your ed tech budget. Hopefully, this was already done last school year.
  • Update your Acceptable Use Policy. Has anything materially changed in your school’s approach? Switching to mobile devices? BYOD? A new take-home program perhaps?
  • Check the mobile carts – are the devices charging? Is the timer working? Are the power supplies working? Do you have a couple of spares?
  • Power outlets: are there enough outlets where the devices (on carts or whatever) will be stored? Has anything changed in your layout (or number of carts or devices) from last year?
  • Device tune-up: update/refresh/re-image your tablets, laptops, and desktops. Add a website launcher like Symbaloo to your class page to make it easier for students to rapidly get to your favorite sites. Add apps to your tablets. Clean them up (don’t use harsh chemicals!), check batteries, and replace missing keys or other malfunctioning items. Do your laptops/desktops need more memory? If so, who’s doing the installation? When will it happen?
  • Tune up/check your Google Apps for Ed (GAFE) policies and settings. New features hit periodically, so take advantage of them! Here is a LONG list of recent updates, to GAFE, Android and iOS apps. For instance, Google Apps admins can now be notified by email of suspicious login attempts. These improvements are happening constantly. Keep abreast of what’s new by signing up for update info from Google here.
  • Confirm equipment storage location(s). Did you buy new laptops or tablets? Do you need a new cart or in-class storage unit? It’s usually not trivial to set up a new device (some are MUCH easier than others but all take time), and new carts can still take hours to get set up just the way you want.
  • Review/create a procedure for “resource” check in/out. This can include carts, labs, cameras, iPads, Chromebooks, you name it. Whatever can be checked out needs to be done so in an organized manner or some chaos will ensue later. Here’s a good Google Form add on called CheckItOut that will help you accomplish this. There are other tools – search around!
In Your Classroom…
  • Create a Tech Boot Camp agenda to train students on application basics; start rollout early.
  • Determine your go-to techie students. Get them to help (before school starts) with the cleanup noted above.
  • Develop your first (or another) ed tech integrated lesson. Try to not just substitute paper and pencil; instead, try to transform your lessons in ways only technology can (student videos, flipped lessons, etc.). Learn more about the levels of technology integration by visiting the Technology is Learning site.
  • Confirm all wireless access points and printers are operational. Have you made any material increases to devices? Does your network have the capacity for the bigger load? Hugely important…
  • Update student lists! Google Apps for Education, Learning Management System (LMS), Student Information System (SIS), online education sites…
  • For online education sites, do you have all usernames and passwords?
  • Ensure document cameras, projectors, etc., are functional. Do you have a spare lamp for the projector(s)?
  • Find your digital cameras. Are they charged? Create a checkout sheet.
  • Develop a brief parent communication about your ed tech plans so they understand its importance. Include something about digital citizenship and home screen behavior. Subscribe to Common Sense Media, which has a WEALTH of tools to help your students grow as digital citizens. Get parents to subscribe as well! Great lessons on appropriate online behavior, copyright/plagiarism, treating all with respect, website and movie ratings, and more!
  • Freshen up your class webpage! Add that Symbaloo link noted above.
For Yourself…

  • Partner up with another teacher to grow your ed tech knowledge and skills.
  • Find a blog that will help you learn more about new tools, tips and techniques. Here are some good choices to start with:
Freetech4teachers - many excellent instructions and info on a multitude of free tools
Edutopia - wide variety of edtech and teaching strategies, tips, how to's
Catlin Tucker – Blended Learning - all about blending tech into a classroom
Alice Keeler – Teacher Tech - many more easy to understand edtech tips and how to's
  •  Add one new application to your tech tool belt. Here are some good, easy choices to add to your repertoire. They each have a “LOW” entry point – you and students can start to use them very quickly and get results FAST.
StoryboardThat – Storyboard and comic creator
Quizlet – Flashcard and study games that engage learners
Padlet – Collaborative whiteboard for brainstorming and planning
Kahoot! – Fast and fun game-based formative assessment. Very easy!
As you can see, there are quite a few things to consider. Do not be discouraged! And remember, it’s never too late. Even if you don’t have time or expertise to work on all the items above, choose the top four or five you CAN manage. They will certainly move you down the path you want to go for your students. Partner up with another competent, engaged teacher like yourself. Divide and conquer! Talk to you administrator, bring this list, and get him or her to provide some additional resources. We are confident, if you take the time to dig in some, you can do it. And your students WILL benefit. And, we know you will have more fun as you see how excited your students are to be in your high-tech classroom with engaging lessons they will enjoy!

Good luck!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Raising Student Trust in the Classroom, guest post M. Stampfl

Here's a guest post from Monica Stampfl, a fabulous Modern Language teacher at Presentation High School (where I also work). It's about an important teacher goal: raising student trust (or lowering the affective filter) to ease students classroom anxiety and worry less about making "mistakes." It's a great read with lots of real-life examples. Many thanks to Monica for sharing this post, which she first posted on LinkedIn here.
What do you do to gain students trust and provide a "safe" place to learn? Please share!      
Like many teachers, I use my summer off to refresh my mind, body and spirit after 10 months of being on a treadmill.  There is no need for me to explain how busy I am during the school year, every teacher is, no matter how long they have been teaching. 
My day starts with a coffee and a browse through social media to catch up with my friends and family from all over the world.  I do not subscribe to a particular newspaper or online material, so I rely on my friends to post articles about world events that they find interesting.  It gives me insight on what is important to them and it nourishes my intellect.
At the beginning of June, I discovered Edutopia.org.  It is a website that gives teachers tips and suggestions on how to be the best educator possible.  Sometimes the articles are based on research, but most of the time, they are good sound advice from experience of being an effective teacher.
Today's article is You're Gonna Hear Me Roar: Overcoming Classroom Stage Fright by Todd Finley.  Every teacher gets stage fright from time to time.  Even after teaching for 22 years, there are days that I still get nervous before class starts.  Many times, external factors are the culprits, but there are ways to overcome a case of stage fright that he mentions in the article.
Finley's  article touches on something else that is so important in the language classroom.
fun and learning image
Probably more important than anything is lowering the affective filter. There are many articles written on the topic and much research conducted, which can be confirmed by personal experience.  Students need to feel like they can trust you and the class before they will risk making mistakes in front of you and their peers.  They must feel comfortable and trust that you are not going to embarrass them or hurt their feelings.  They too get stage fright and the way that you handle it will make all the difference in how they perform in your class.  If you do not make your classroom a "safe" zone for each student, you will lose them forever.

There are many ways to make the classroom a safe zone.  This is by no means an exhaustive list.
1.  Establish routine.  Students appreciate having a classroom routine because they become comfortable in the routine.  They know what to expect and know that there are no bad surprises waiting for them.  My classroom routine starts with hello and then I ask them questions based on their level that they can answer.  In French 1, it might just be how are you?  In upper levels, they might share what they did or what they may have read or saw recently. This gives me a sense of where everyone is that day and brings them into the lesson and our community for the day. It also gives me the opportunity to know my students and have the best rapport possible with them.  I know their likes and dislikes and can relate content to them.  
2.  Share the lesson objectives and map with them.  This way they know what they are responsible for during the lesson.  You don't have to list every activity, but they should know what they are expected to know at the end of class.
3. Make learning fun.  This does not mean that they need to be playing a game every second of the class period, but show that you enjoy your subject matter and they will enjoy it to.  Laughter definitely lowers the affective filter.
4.  Share a little bit of yourself  You have an opportunity to every tidbit of their life, they will find you more relate-able if they know a little bit about you.  I usually share my outside of school interests, movies I have seen, funny things my pets have done or even sometimes use my family members and their pictures in my lessons.  Teaching language makes this possible without crossing that student teacher line.
5.  Reactivate prior knowledge.  Every single lesson can incorporate and review prior knowledge in language classes.  Reactivating or reviewing prior knowledge makes them feel comfortable in knowing that they know something about the lesson on that day.
6. Check for understanding and learning often.  A teacher's repertoire should be full of these.  The importance of checking often is so that you know exactly where each student is with the material.  Do they need more practice or more individualized attention?  If the whole class is struggling than the material needs to be retaught.
7.  Apply content to real life.  I cannot take every single one of my students to a French-speaking country to have them practice vocabulary and grammar.  What i can do is create a French-speaking environment for them.  Once they have enough vocabulary, I expect them to communicate with me and their classmates in French whenever possible.  Even the conversation between activities must be in French.  I speak French 95-100% of the time depending on the level.  I use authentic documents and videos (created for French-speakers) whenever possible.  And most importantly, my students participate in situational simulation activities during and a the end of every chapter and concept.  Global simulation would be ideal but not practical with my current teaching schedule, but I can get close.  These are the activities the students enjoy most. And the content becomes more meaningful.
There are many more techniques to lowering the affective filter. Perhaps the most important factor is that they enjoy your class and look forward to coming each day because they know that they are cared for and will learn something meaningful.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Video of the Year Voting open NOW!

Here's a note that appeared recently in our friend Rushton Hurley's newsletter... Click the link, watch the videos, and please vote now!

We'd love for you to focus a little of your time helping us choose the Videos of the Year for the best submissions from the 2014 contests. Intrigued?

There are thirteen videos across the three strands, and each follows the rule of being no longer than 90 seconds (with up to another 60 seconds for credits). Voting on every strand should in total take less than thirty minutes of your time, and it'll be a half hour that should provide some cool ideas for you.

Why do this? Mainly it's a chance to do what NextVista.org is all about - highlight creative approaches to learning something and celebrating those who put in the work. However, this is also a good opportunity to see what others have done and get some ideas for projects you may do once school starts again in the coming months.

Are you in? If so, click here for the links and the ballot. Please cast your vote by the end of day (US Pacific time) on July 26th. We appreciate the help!

2014 contest images for newsletter
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