Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Innovate using Google Slides

My school now has a set of 20 Chromebooks and the teachers are excited to get their hands on them. The lunch and learn sessions I have been part of have been about the general use of Chromebooks and GAFE and they have been with teachers who are interested but not necessarily immersed in the use of the technology. Now that the technology is here I feel the need to go "deep" with some of the tools. The first tool I want to go deep with is Google Slides. Here is the presentation I have put together for our next learning session:

It will be fun to talk about my experience using Slides and provide my colleagues with ideas around the innovative use of the tool. I will also make sure to stress a few things.

1) Pedagogy comes first, technology comes second.

Pedagogy is the driver, technology is the accelerator, and passion is the gas!

2) Google Slides is only ONE of many tools that can be used to offer students a creative/innovative way to meet a learning goal! As teachers become more comfortable with blended learning they will discover that there are many tools that can assist in meeting student needs/goals. Technology, like the Chromebook, can be likened to a Swiss Army Knife. It is a tool that can provide many options to get a job done and to do it right.

3) The best learning that happens is often messy. Plan things out but don't over plan. Take the time to figure things out and enjoy the learning moments!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Demonstrating Understanding in Mathematics using Google Drawing

In Mathematics the students are learning about Time, Temperature, and Money. They recently worked on an activity where they were asked to share their understanding of the passage of time. The purpose of this particular activity was two fold - 1) I wanted the students to share their understanding of time (the basics), and 2) to continue to become familiar with the use of technology to access our D2L site, their Google Drive, and work on their research skills.

Using Google Drawing, I created a graphic organizer for them to use to show their understanding.

As you can see, the organizer isn't anything special. It simply allows the students to have a place to show their friends and I what they think they know about seconds, minutes, hours, and days. The link to this organizer was placed in our D2L site so that students could access it quickly. 

Once they accessed the "master copy", they made a copy of it, deleted my name from the title of the Drawing and added their name. They began adding text and searching the Internet to find pictures that would fit with their text. They also shared their work with me so I could make comments and actually edit the document (working side by side with the student) if needed. 

As they were working on their task I would check in on them and leave comments. I got to see them working on this task in real time, digitally and face to face, providing me with formative assessment of and for learning. Listening to their talk and watching them do the work provided me with great information about what they know/think they know and what I might need to do next to move them forward in their learning. Not a very difficult task, but a good one to gather information about their understanding and provide them with opportunities to use the technology efficiently to benefit their learning.  

Here are some examples of what the students created:

In combination with their graphic organizers, the students talked about their work and their thinking with their classmates and myself. It was a lot of fun watching the students do this activity. They were sufficiently challenged with all the little things they had to do (share their work, make a copy, use the research tool, etc) but at ease with the use of D2L and Google Drawing. When their work was projected for the other students to see they were proud and wanted to talk about what they were doing and why they were doing it. They looked forward to my feedback and were quite receptive to my comments. There were little issues here and there but most of the things that popped up were dealt with by the students themselves, which meant that my time was spent asking questions and providing feedback.

Have you tried anything like this with your students? 
What are your thoughts about the process my students engaged in to show their learning?

Would love to hear what you think. Feel free to leave a comment or connect with me on Twitter, Google +, or email.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Comfort with the Unknown

Over the last few days my students have been using the Chromebooks to explore their GAFE accounts. The only instruction I provided them with was how to create a new Google Drawing and that I wanted them to explore and experiment with Drawing.

As they dove into the task I provided them with, I backed out of sight and observed them. What I heard and saw was astounding. I watched my students log into their GAFE accounts without too much difficulty - and the ones that did struggle (usually a typo with all the numbers they have to input) got help from a classmate.

They all started by creating a new Google Drawing, as I instructed them to do. One student asked if he could share his drawing with me, I said yes. Then others wanted to share their work so he started showing them how to do it. It was exciting to see the students teaching each other - great examples of initiative, leadership, and independence. Then they started telling each other how to do certain things like naming their document, creating shapes, adding colour, using the research feature to embed pictures into their drawing, how to change fonts, and size of fonts, etc. Some students even decided to leave their drawing and create a Google Document! When one student asked another what they were doing, they replied by saying "I'm exploring!". 

With permission to explore, to make mistakes (and deal with them their way), and minimal parameters set for them, the students were in a natural state of inquiry and quite content. As I walked the room and talked to the students I could see and hear the learning that was happening. I could see them building the foundation that will provide them with the ability and confidence needed to take on tasks that will challenge them but ultimately help them build on their knowledge and skills. 

My experience tells me that the students need time to become comfortable with the tools they use to help them learn and demonstrate their learning. Although the students learn how to use engaging and interesting tools quite fast, they still need to familiarize themselves and learn how to troubleshoot. This means that they have to be somewhat comfortable with the unknown and be able to systematically work through obstacles that present themselves. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Bringing the World to my Classroom

My students and I recently completed a great learning activity where they had to identify countries of personal or familial significance and locate them on a map, analyse information relevant
to their investigation, and communicate the results of their inquiry using appropriate vocabulary.

The students had to talk to their parents, grandparents, or other relatives who could provide them with information about a country or two that have personal significance to their family. Students were encouraged to get as much detailed information as possible. After gathering the relevant information the students and I used Google Maps Engine to "go to" the countries (and specific addresses) that were provided.

The time we spent working on our map was a wonderful experience. Here are some of the highlights:

  • each student got the opportunity to share their country of significance with the class - which allowed them to inform the class about how/why what they were sharing with us was significant
  • students got to see, up close and personal, some of the important places that are part of their classmates history
  • students were provided with a perspective of the world that they would not normally be provided with
  • students were engaged and interested in the activity which we completed over several days
  • students had a natural curiosity about the different world locations and analysed the visuals that were presented to them
  • students were open to, and encouraged each other, to share thoughts/ideas about what they were hearing and seeing
  • students got to learn how to use Maps Engine in a way that connects to their lives
  • the world was brought to them - into the classroom - and they were able to manipulate it to benefit their curiosity and learning
  • they loved being able to zoom in and out on the map so that they could see countries from a birds eye view and then zoom right in to a specific location
  • they wanted to play with the different features available on the map (e.g. style, data, labels)
  • they want to revisit the map as we continue to learn about the world and how it connects to our class. They know that they can create different coloured markers so that we can colour code our learning depending on what we are talking about
Please feel free to visit our Map and see the places around the world that mean something to us!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

It's About Progress, Not Perfection

My students learning how to use the Chromebook.

Yesterday my students finally got their hands on the Chromebooks. They were very excited, probably too excited!

Working with a small group, the students learned to do the following:

  • log on to the Chromebook using their GAFE account, 
  • choose a profile picture, 
  • use the Omni box to search for our D2L site
  • go to and bookmark our D2L site
  • zoom in and out to make objects/text on their screen larger and smaller
  • sign out and shut down
By the end of our session the students had accomplished a lot - and I was completely exhausted. Even in a small group situation, there are a lot of things going on and trouble shooting (with students on the computer and those assigned other tasks) always seems to be part of the equation. 

In the middle of what I would refer to as organized chaos, I recalled a quote I had heard earlier - it's about progress, not perfection. 

The beginning stages of preparing students to use the device to assist with critical thinking, creation, and collaboration  involves learning new user names and passwords and the intricacies of the device. The students need to feel comfortable with the tool and have knowledge of common issues that will arise in order to take the focus off of the technology and on to the learning. The comfort and fluency I am referring to comes with practice and experimentation. 

Working away at becoming familiar with the device.

My students last year accomplished many great things with respect to their leaning. It is not fair to compare where my new students are at to where my students last year ended up.

Start up that involves learning how to use a device that has never used before with young children is a tough task. It can be frustrating and discouraging but the key is to focus on practice and progress. Building capacity is never easy but staying the course will lead to amazing things. People who visit my classroom tend to see all the good things - the fruits of our labour, a labour that involves a lot time and emotion. For them to visit and see disarray and confusion would be beneficial to get a feel for what they might expect with a class of 7 year old  children but that isn't what 99% of people want to see and experience.

The purpose of this post is to acknowledge the many difficulties that come with progress and fluency. The pain is short term, the gain is long term. My class and I are in the middle of the "pain" component of our journey but I know that it won't last forever and that is a part of the process that will benefit my students and myself.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Throw a Tablet into the Mix!

One of the amazing things that came out of my time at the Google Teacher Academy was the opportunity to pilot the use of a Nexus tablet with my students. Today was the first day with the tablet in the hands of my students. They showed great interest in using the device and they ended up having a lot of fun.

I started things off by showing them the tablet and giving them a brief introduction on how it works. I used our document camera to project the tablet screen to our white board. When I say brief, I mean it. I showed them the apps they could use, the ones they couldn't use, how to return to the home screen, how to close apps, the volume controls, and the power button.

For its inaugural use, I loaded three math apps - Math Duel: 2 Player Math Game, Math Maniac, and Math vs Undead: Math Workout. I chose to start with math because:

1) it has been my experience that young students require lots of practice when it comes to the basics of addition and subtraction;
2) there tends to be a lot of variety when it comes to basic facts/addition/subtraction regardless of the device/operating system being used.

Another factor that I considered when looking for apps was the fact that I have a lot of 'high energy' boys in my class. It is tough to keep them interested in anything for long periods of time (which tends to be true with many primary aged students) so I wanted to 'hook' them and really get them turned on to the fact that they would be having a lot of fun while working on math basics.

Mission accomplished! They enjoyed playing the games - boys and girls. The feedback they provided me with was quite helpful. Many of the students enjoyed the competitive nature of the games - one game allows you to go head to head with another classmate while the other two apps have time limits. They said that they really had to focus in order to answer questions correctly. They said they had fun and they wanted to continue to have fun. They even said that when they didn't answer questions correctly they would continue to try because they were enjoying themselves. This is key information for me as I continue to get to know my students and plan interesting and engaging activities and experiences for them.

Here is a quick video of two of the students playing Math Duel. They were playing on an easy setting and were quite focused. They played several games and told me after that they would make the math harder next time. You can hear them answering the questions out loud as they work to process the questions as fast as they can. It really is awesome to witness this first hand.

Another student decided he wanted to use the Math vs. UnDead app. I must admit, I wasn't sure about this app because the point of the game is to stop zombies from getting to you by correctly answering addition/subtraction questions. After playing it with my son before introducing it to my students I quickly realized that its cartoon form was harmless and that the students would not be offended by it. This student told me that he liked that he was given multiple choice in answering the questions. He admitted to making lots of errors but that he would improve by playing more often.


In this last video, the student is using the Math Maniac app. This one was voted the 'toughest' by the class. In the bottom left hand corner is a number - the player has to select numbers in the middle of the screen that add up to the number in the bottom left hand corner. There is a timer counting down at the bottom of the screen. The grid of numbers in the center of the screen allows students to get to the answer in a variety of ways.

They called it 'challenging' and said that you really had to think in order to answer the question and beat the timer. One student even said that it involved more than two-three steps to actually get to the answer! I was blown away by the way they were describing this app. Watch the video and pay attention to how the student talks her way through the problem and her reaction when she is wrong and when she is right.

We have had a great start with our Android tablet. The students and I are looking forward to having it mixed in with our Chromebooks. I can already see its positive potential in our classroom community and I look forward to using it to engage my students and meet their particular needs. This is not the first time I have integrated technology like this in my classroom but it is the first time that I am excited at the challenge and opportunities of having only one tablet for my students to use. 

I am excited to be part of this pilot project and can't wait to share our learning with you!  

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Empowering Students One Step At A Time

With the new school year well underway, our classroom walls are decorated with charts that we have created together to support and guide our learning and success. The charts are wonderful artifacts of what we are talking about and our journey thus far. As I looked around the room I wondered how I could have used the digital tools available to me to construct the same artifacts while teaching my students about the tools that they, in due time, will be using to create, communicate, and collaborate.

My wondering and reflection was also sparked by the fantastic work that my son's teacher, +Barbara McCourt, is doing. She had recently shared a Google Presentation that she and her students had created to share their learning about how to engage in doing good research. As I looked through the presentation with my son, I noticed how engaged and excited he would become when talking about certain parts of the presentation. He was providing me with information about the process of the co-creation and the back stories to the learning that was discovered and then recorded.

As a teacher I see this excitement and engagement in my students, but as a father I had not yet seen this in my son with respect to the blended learning that my son is experiencing in his class. The presentation and his excitement and engagement flicked a switch in me and told me that the start of the school year is over - it's time to take the teaching/learning in my class to the next level and provide my students with some digital literacy and further their learning opportunities.

In Social Studies the unit we working on "Heritage and Identity: Changing Family and Community Traditions". We were looking at expectation A3.1 - identify and describe different types of
families. After some discussion and guidance we had created the following chart:

Now that we have identified and described different types of families I asked the students if they wanted to create a digital version of our chart - their response was unanimous yes (they LOVE using the computer and interactive whiteboard)! I told them that we would be using Google Slides/Presentation and that we could focus a little more on how the app works since we did such a good job with the content.

I started by logging into GAFE and going to my drive. The students have already seen me do this many times, but I believe that it is important to provide them with as many opportunities as I can to see me do what they will be doing soon enough. They have also been exposed to Google drive many times because that is where I keep a lot of the things we have been working on in class. They have a familiarity with it and I want to continue to expose them to it as much as I can (gradual release of responsibility).

As we worked together to create a digital version of our chart on different types of families, the students were formally taught how to
  • create a new Google Presentation
  • choose a particular theme for a presentation
  • change font/font size
  • add slides
  • add images
  • create text boxes
  • re-size and align text and images
  • share their work with others
  • the opportunity to create something using technology
As we worked together to create our presentation I could see the same excitement and engagement I witnessed with my son at home. The students love to use the interactive white board and the computer to learn. They assisted in creating the following presentation by physically entering the information and doing the things I mentioned above. This presentation was co-created and all the students that wanted to participate were given the opportunity. 

I look forward to watching their engagement and excitement move to empowerment as they are exposed to the endless possibilities that digital tools and the Internet provide them with. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Journey Begins

I formally introduced my students to GAFE today. They know about the Chromebooks in our classroom and for the last week they have been staring at the charging cart and approaching it as if it holds magical powers. Having experienced and seen the great things that happened last school year, I can't blame them.

They have been asking me everyday if today is the day that they will get their hands on a Chromebook. I am very pleased that they are eager and ready to jump in. They are great models for my colleagues who are still holding back. I am excited about their enthusiasm but I can't let that get me carried away. They require some basic instruction and time to practice in order to be competent and comfortable with what they know.

Today they practised logging in, opening the Chrome browser, doing quick and easy searches using the omnibox, closing tabs/windows, logging off, and then repeating that entire process all over again. I enjoyed watching them practice what I taught them. I collected a lot of data about who was comfortable using the technology, who required enrichment that would provide them with healthy challenges, and who required support to work through the basics that I provided them with.

The next steps will include teaching them how to access and navigate our D2L site. Last year we were 2:1 but this year we will be 1:1. We are still waiting to receive the Chromebooks that will bring us to a 1:1 ratio. Until they arrive the students will work 2:1 which I believe is a great way to start as they support each other as they experiment and play with the technology.

Stay tuned and journey with us as we grow into dynamic and empowered learners!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

"Boom! That just happened" - My Experience at the Google Teacher Academy

David Theriault, one of our many amazing lead learners.
Photo courtesy of Brian Briggs.
My time at the Google Teacher Academy in Mountain View (#gtamtv) was nothing short of amazing. The learning, the people, the food, and the Google campus all contributed to a unique experience that I will not soon forget. Two days of PD went by quick, but the fun isn't over yet. In fact, it has just begun.

Having read about the amazing professional learning I would be part of at the GTA, I thought that I was mentally prepared for the barrage of innovation that I would be immersed in. I am happy to report that 1) it didn't disappoint, and 2) I was still overwhelmed (in a good way) with the learning sessions that were planned for us. 

Without further ado, here are the top ten things that I heard several times, in one form or another, and seem to have "stuck" with me:

1) Challenges can be daunting so it is important to find something that I can connect to within a challenge, something that I am passionate about, and start from that point by taking a risk. 
2) My learning/work space, and that of my students and colleagues is important and requires as much consideration as all of the other things that are considered when working on solving problems.

A panoramic view of Google HQ
3) I need to continue to lead by sharing how I am innovating and the good, bad, and ugly parts that go with it. Show people the beginning, middle, and end of a learning process and the incredible outcomes that can be achieved by stepping out of the 'comfort zone'.

4) Creative leaders find others like themselves, are engaging, and work on sustaining the energy needed to learn. Creative leaders work hard to provide resources and support to sustain the community that they are working with. 

A photo of "Stan", the T-Rex on Campus.
There are flamingoes all over him...Google encourages its employees to have FUN at work. 
5) I need to do what I can to help establish/foster a culture of innovation and a growth mindset - one that focuses on building capacity by iteration (initial learning, improving learning, and trying again until a desired outcome is reached).

6) Get inside other peoples spheres - see things from their perspective and then support them as they start small and establish a growth mindset.

Lunch at one of the campus cafeterias - the food was fresh, flavouful, and unique. 

7) Engage students, empower them, and then ask them to take responsibility for supplementing their education outside of the four walls of the classroom.

8) We live in an interactive world where anyone can acquire knowledge/information - increase focus on higher order skills - for myself, my students, and my colleagues. Technology is not the be all and end all to learning - it exists to influence and augment learning.

Google looks like this all over the place.
9) Perfection is not always required: try something, see what worked and what didn’t work, then adjust based on new learning. It’s a nice learning cycle that ensures action rather than worrying about being perfect.

10) Don't forget about the power of relationships. Rapport and trust can take a team far when working on daunting tasks. People who trust each other are more likely to share their wonderful ideas and take risks!

I noted above that the professional learning was amazing, so how do I describe the people I met and worked with? Amazing times 10! Everyone, including our lead learners and organizers, were kind, passionate, and motivational. Before our arrival, +David Theriault (one of our lead learners and the one who referred to the Canadians as #Maplesyrupedu) suggested to us that we meet and speak with as many people as possible during our time in Mountain View. Boy oh boy, was he right. I took his words to heart and took every opportunity to introduce myself to whoever crossed my path. Everyone else took him seriously as well, as I observed people connecting with others and experienced being approached by many members of the cohort. I am grateful for the ‘risk’ they took in seeking me out and look forward to the collegiality and growth that will most certainly come from the connections that were created at the GTA. I am inspired and honoured to be part of this group of educators.

After reading many of his blog posts and tweets, I finally got to meet David Theriault.
JR Ginex-Orinion (standing) and Jon Corripo (red shirt)
leading us through the "Are You a Google Iron Chef?" session. 

The Teacher Academy wasn't all about work, there was a lot of play as well. We certainly had fun throughout our two days together. There were lots of laughs as we worked together and learned about each other. 

The slide in the main entrance foyer!

One of the many Google bikes around the Mountain View campus. Employees are dropped off on campus and then hop on a bike and get to their particular building/work area. 
Michelle Armstrong and I grabbing a snack from one of the many Micro Kitchens before heading to our next session. Michelle is also CANADIAN!
With a little bit of free time at lunch we decided to have a seat in one of the many outside areas set up for reflection and or collaboration.
Canadian Google Certified Teachers, Mountain View 2014.
Google Teacher Academy, Mountain View, 2014 Cohort. 

With over 70 people in the room, I never felt disconnected from the other participants - it felt tight knit and intimate. Not sure what the secret is, but they should bottle it and sell it.
Speaking of tight knit, in walks +Jaime Casap to sit down and chat with the group. I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to speak to him and get a photo. 
When I found out that I was going to be a participant at the GTA I blogged about it. I commented in a tweet that getting into GTA would be like winning a golden ticket to Willie Wonka's Chocolate Factory. When they finally let me into the "Factory" I made sure to say hello to +Danny Silva, aka Willie Wonka!

Meeting everyone at GTA was special, but meeting Danny Silva, the Director of the Google Teacher Academy was out of this world. 

As I wrap up this post about my experience at the Google Teacher Academy I can't help but reflect on the family that I am now a part of. As a Google Certified Teacher I am recognized as an 
  • Educator with a passion to use innovative technology to improve teaching and learning.
  • A leader with a desire to empower others in my local community and beyond.
  • An ambassador for change, life-long learning, collaboration, equity, and innovation.
My hope is that I will continue the tradition of being open to and supportive of the people who seek me out, just like the GCT's that I have, and continue, to seek out with questions and ideas. I also hope that the people who come into contact with me don't get too upset when they find out that I will be learning as much, or more, from them as they will be from me. 

It's official, certificate, pin, and photo.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Google Teacher Academy

GTA logo created by David Saunders, member of the GTA MTV 2014 cohort.

Wednesday May 21, 2014 - 5:09pm - the day and time that I found out that I was selected to participate in the Google Teacher Academy in Mountain View, California.

It is Tuesday June 3, 2014 and I am just feeling able to put into words the feelings that came over me when I got the news. The Google Teacher Academy (GTA) is a PD experience designed for educators from around the globe to learn how to get the most from innovative technologies.

I have always been interested in technology and in integrating technology into my classroom. It has benefited my learning greatly. Having reaped the benefits of the use of technology to benefit my acquisition/demonstration of knowledge, it is quite natural for me to want to use it with my students to benefit their achievement and success. My experiences and passion for using technology innovatively to engage my students and meet their learning needs has brought me to this point and I couldn't be more pleased.

On May 21st, the day we would be notified if we would be one of the lucky one to be selected, I tweeted to the following:

The excitement was palpable. I wanted to be accepted, but I also knew that I was up against stiff competition. People were sharing their videos and they were GOOD. I'm talking about solid messages regarding innovation and skill. I also watched some of the videos from past GTA applications and quickly realized that some of them are simply amazing. I had doubts, trust me. I also had hope. I also learned a lot about my practice and my philosophy on innovation, teaching, and learning. My tweet when I learned I was selected to attend GTA MTV 2014:

I have been an awesome journey with Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education. I have immersed myself fully and have met great people along the way who share the same passion and perspective about teaching and learning. Via social media, I connected with Google Certified Teachers (educators who have attended a Google Teacher Academy) and sought their advice and counsel about my work and my application to the GTA. I can't say enough about how helpful and supportive they have been. A couple of them know me from face to face PD that I have attended along the way but 98% of them I have never met. This fact did not stop them from acting as critical colleagues. They provided me with insight and opinion about my thinking process and approach.

I look forward to this learning experience and can't wait to share my learning with my regional community. The GCT's I have communicated with have set the bar high and I am up for the challenge of meeting, exceeding, and helping to establish new standards.

Here is the video I created - it is about the journey my students and I have been on. Did I mention that all of it was done using my iPhone? Photos, video, audio, all done on my smart phone.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Using Google Apps to Make Interactive Stories

At this point in the school year my students are quite comfortable with GAFE and are doing a lot on their own time outside of school. In class they are working on meeting learning goals that we have established which means that they are not as "free" to experiment as they wish. As we near the end of the school I want them to continue to stay engaged and focused. One of the culminating tasks that I would like my students to engage in involves creating interactive choose your own adventure stories. This activity would allow my students to incorporate many of the Language literacy skills (reading, writing, media, oral) they have learned this school year as well as the technological skills they have gained & refined, particularly their knowledge around GAFE. I mentioned this to them yesterday and, no word of a lie, they began salivating at the idea! I had to tell them to 'hold their horses' so I could gather some knowledge around this type of work.

By no means is this activity MY idea. I became aware of this innovative activity from +Sylvia Duckworth. Sylvia has experience doing this type of activity with her students and has presented on this topic. She blogged about this and explained how she was inspired by Jonathan Wylie when she read his blog post on the topic.**

Thanks to Sylvia and Jonathan, I have a great starting point where I can read more about the technical aspects of this type of activity so I can support my students. We will establish our learning goal and success criteria so that we know where we are going on our learning journey. With the goal and criteria in place the students will have a focus and context as they create, communicate, and collaborate in order to be successful in meeting their academic goal. All this while having fun and learning how to use technology that provides them with many opportunities that wouldn't normally be available to them.

I look forward to sharing our learning with you in future posts. Stay tuned for what I imagine are going to be some pretty awesome products created by my students! Until then, check out the quick interactive story that I created. 

** This is why it is so important for educators to share what they are doing. Sometimes we feel like no one cares, no one wants to hear about the engaging and innovative work that we are doing. This is not the case. Sharing helps build capacity and provided people with ideas that they can then experience and build on and then share. It is an amazing cycle that benefits everyone. **

June 10 - Update

We recently created our Learning Goal (LG) and Success Criteria (SC) for our interactive stories. Our goal is to create a fictional 'choose your own adventure' story using Google Presentation. Our success criteria involves 1) using our graphic organizer map to create several story lines, 2) explaining (to the teacher and the class) how we came up with our story, 3) identifying the different parts of our story (beginning, middle, end, characters, setting, etc), and 4) using the vocabulary we learned during the creation of our story (e.g. character, setting, plot, etc) as we share our ideas/thoughts.

Here is the graphic organizer map my students and I co-created to help us create our stories:

Together, we came up with ground rules to assist us in being successful in creating our stories. It was their idea to have something to lead them through their FIRST story. They tell me that after they have successfully met the requirements for this activity, they can then create more complicated stories. I agree with them - to a certain degree. Students that require support to meet the standard we set will receive it and students that require enrichment will get that as well. This is a great start and they directed it. 

As a way to organize their stories, they are using recipe cards set up similarly to the organizer you see above so that they don't get confused. Currently, I find myself suggesting that they simplify the stories that they are sharing with me. They are excited and have some great and creative ideas, but I am advising them to hold back in a way, in order to ensure that they don't bite off more than they can chew. In my next update, I hope to have some samples of their stories to share with you and provide you with some more information about how this activity is playing out.

June 25 - Update

Friday, May 16, 2014

The use of Google Drawing to Reserach, Organize, & Present Learning in Social Studies

In Social Studies my students are learning about the Desert, Rain Forest, Mountain, and Arctic regions. We just finished learning about the Desert region and I would like to share what we did and the great learning that took place.

We started off by talking about what we think we know about the desert. The students had a lot to say about the following: lack of water, not much vegetation, lots of sad! After a brief discussion I showed them a brief "Wonder World of Science" video to provide them with some basic information about the desert region. Their task after watching the video was to show what they know by recalling information from the video, searching for information off of the Internet, and adding visuals to support the text that would be included in their organizer.

Together, we created an organizer in Google Drawing:

We chose Google Drawing because it is a nice blank slate to work with where the students have access to the built in research tool and drawing and text tools. This is simply a starting point for the students. It provides them with some structure, but they are free to manipulate the organizer to fit with their intentions.

In my opinion, the Google Drawing app doesn't seem to be utilized as much as it could/should be. +Jennifer Magiera, a leader with respect to innovative use of technology in schools and redefining the (digital) classroom, wrote about "3 Google Apps that Deserve more Love" and Google Drawing is the first one she mentions. If Jennifer Magiera agrees with me, that I must be on to something.

Here are some samples of student work:

This one is not complete...but they are working on it (note that they added a new category at the bottom):

The next step is sharing their work with their classmates (quick presentation) and then moving on to the next region of study.

The engagement and discussion I observed as the students worked on learning about the desert and demonstrating their learning was/is astonishing. They use Chromebooks to access GAFE and resources on Internet to support their learning and demonstration of learning. They do their work with purpose and know that they are responsible for explaining their thinking and the processes they followed to achieve their goal. They use each other as resources to navigate the technology and the information they come across. It is truly a pleasure to be with them on this learning journey.

Blended Learning in Social Studies

In Social Studies we are learning about People and Environments: Global Communities. With our learning goal and success criteria established, the students know what they are working towards and what they need to do along the way to be successful.

We started our learning with a diagnostic activity where the students were told a story about a friend of mine who is Florida. With the cold weather we are experiencing in Kitchener, I made sure to mention that my friend is wearing shorts and that he is participating in activities that we are not able to comfortably do here at the moment. After our story the students were provided with an opportunity to express what they think they know about Florida (prior knowledge) using a RAN chart.

The students really liked doing this activity and many of them provided some fun and interesting information about what they think they know about Florida. Also, the information they provided gave me insight into what they think they know about people’s way of life (e.g. shelter, climate, food, clothing, [animals, and  interesting facts]) in Florida and what they are interested in learning about. With this information I now have a better idea of what the students think they know specifically and generally. For the most part their specific information seems to be accurate but their general knowledge is not accurate. I now have a better direction on what they need to learn in order to identify features of communities around the world and describe how people live and meet their needs.
[May 7 am]

To provide them with some foundational knowledge about the earth we talked about how it is made up of continents and countries. The students used an on-line interactive activity to help them with this content (ELO1300170 in the OERB).

With new and fresh knowledge about the make up of the earth the next task involved "bringing them home" by having the use Google Maps to explore where we live and provide them with the opportunity to zoom in and out to gain a perspective of where we are relative to other communities around the globe. The students enjoyed this and were blown away by the magnitude of the earth and the ability to zoom in and out using the technology we have in the classroom.

The students were explicitly taught the cardinal directions and engaged in some fun activities that gave them opportunities to apply what they had learned. The liked using a compass and had some fun reading maps and creating some too.

We are now at the point where the students will gain a detailed understanding of four specific regions on the Earth (desert, rain forest, arctic, and mountain regions). As they explore these regions, one at a time, they will have the opportunity to use the Google Drawing app as a graphic organizer to gather information about the region we are working on  using the research tool built into the app which will prove beneficial to their learning as they search out information and photos to support their understanding. 

My next blog post will be about the use of Google Drawing to help them with their learning about the desert region....stay tuned!
[May 15 full]

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Develop Ideas, Build Capacity - Make Great Things Happen

Two of my students recently shared their work with me via Google Drive. It is common for my students to share the work that they do in their GAFE accounts, but it is uncommon for these two particular students to want to talk to me about what they did and why they did it.

The top two pieces of work were created in Google Presentation by one of the boys in my class. This particular boy is quite artistic and outspoken. He was excited to share his work with me because he was happy that he was able to 'focus' on something long enough to complete it.

The creation below, also done by a boy in my class, was done in Google Drawing. This student is pretty shy/quiet. When he said he wanted to talk to me about his work I was intrigued.

These boys had 'connected' on their time to talk about what they refer to as the "Super Hero Project". They are both interested in learning to draw, particularly super hero characters.

They told me that Drawing and Presentation are tools that make it easy for them to create what they are interested in. They want to invent their own characters. They tell me that these two Google Apps make it easy for them. They start by using the research tool within the apps to search out images of super hero characters, embed them onto their page, and then use the drawing tools to re-create what they found on the Internet and make adaptations. They tell me that they like to do this using paper and pencil as well but that it is not as easy. They told me that using the apps allows for ease of creation and change.

Their hope is that they will learn how to design their own action characters and use tools such as GAFE to make their ideas come to life. They have ideas and dreams and believe that a positive attitude and an awareness that it will involve a lot of trial and error will lead them to creations that don't yet exist!

In our talk they made a brief reference to the Leprechaun Catcher  (which I recently blogged about as being a pivotal point for me) discussion we had in March, where their classmate provided them with permission, by her example, to explore thoughts and ideas that they are passionate about and excite them. These two students took that discussion to heart and are putting their thoughts and ideas into action using the technology and tools that are available to them, particularly the Chromebook and GAFE.

Isn't this what we want our students to do in order to prepare for their future? Isn't it ideal to start at an early age so that it becomes a natural way of operating? Don't we want our young people to experience failure as learning so that they are not discouraged and paralyzed to act when times are tough? My students are on such an awesome journey and I hope that they continue to permit themselves to develop their ideas and build capacity to think outside the box and iterate in order to make great things happen.

Update - May 15

The "Super Hero Project" has flourished and many of the students have joined in. Here is some of the work...the discussions that are going on are really fantastic!

These are just some examples of what my students are up to. You should hear the conversations being had about the work and the WHY questions being asked. The students are holding each other accountable to stay on task and explain the thinking that is leading to the creations. I didn't think that this initiative, created by two of my students, would grow into a whole class (outside of class time) project!