Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Teaching Myself to Help Others Learn

It wasn't too long ago when I became interested in recording my screen in order to share information with other people. People have asked questions about the work that my students are doing and the process I follow in implementing a learning activity with my students. I find that it is always best to show people, to take them through the process, but this is not always possible. This is where software like Screencastify can be a powerful tool to answer peoples questions by using audio and video to answer their questions.

"Screencastify is a simple video screen capture software (aka. screencast recorder) for Chrome. It is able to record all screen activity inside a tab, including audio. Just press record and the content of your tab is recorded. So you can easily create a screencast for video tutorials, record presentations etc." (http://goo.gl/R0y346)

My colleague +Heather Poje-Fascinato and I have been talking about the use of Google Forms with our students. Heather and I don't work together so it is quite difficult to connect. She is new to GAFE and the Chromebook so it is important that I meet her where she is at in her learning journey. I decided to make a quick video introducing her to Google Forms. Here is the brief intro I provided her with:
Shortly after this screencast I was talking to +Tracy Durocher-George (we work together at the same school) about Forms and she had similar questions to Heather. I have shared the video with her and now she would like to use it to train other teachers at school on the basics of Google Form.

I am quite pleased to be able to share such information with my colleagues. I am excited about the capacity they are building around the use of the Chromebook and GAFE to benefit their practice and the achievement of their students.

Late last week I received an email from one of my parents informing me that her child would be away from school until after the weekend. She wanted to know if there was any work he could do at home. I wrote back and provided her with direction but there was confusion with what I wanted her child to do with Google Drawings. Here was another perfect opportunity to use Screencastify to provide audio and visual instruction. Here is what I provided her with:

Here is what he created, at home:
I know that screen capture is not a new way of providing people with information but my ability to use in the context of what I do is. I have learned a lot about a variety of topics by watching YouTube videos of people who have recorded their screen activity to benefit the learning of others. I have already helped out a couple of colleagues and a parent by using screen capture software. 

My successful experiences motivate me to continue to build my capacity around the power & possibilities of this type of communication, and share what I learn so that I can help others build their capacity.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Reading and Writing using Google Presentation

In Writing my students are putting the final touches on their procedural writing. 
Their learning goal involves writing a text that tells a reader how to do something. To be successful in meeting the goal they have to be able to describe what procedural writing is, as well as provide examples. They have to write their own procedural text on paper and in Google Presentation. They have to explain what they wrote about and why they chose the particular topic. Last but not least, they will share their writing by presenting it to the class.

With a road map established we started looking at different procedural texts and we even chose a couple to follow to see if we could actually do/create what the text said we could do/create.

We followed procedures to draw a pigeon and make a dragon puppet. The students had a lot of fun and were engaged in their learning. Some students struggled to follow the procedures as they were laid out. It was a great opportunity for me to see who would/could stick to following each instruction, in the order they were presented in the text.

Other students followed the procedures and even added details and made modifications AFTER they had followed the procedures in the text.

It was now time for us to decide what needed to be included in their procedural writing. We decided that it would be good to have a title, list of materials, and five steps for people to follow. 

Initially, the students wanted to create a recipe book of our favourite recipes. We were going to create and publish a digital classroom cookbook! The students changed their minds about this and we decided to open things up and allow them more freedom in writing about what they were more interested in.

We created a list of ideas and then the students were given a graphic organizer to guide them through the process (title, materials, 5 step instructions).

This is what it looked like and sounded like as my students worked on meeting their goal:

I am very proud of my students. Nothing pleases me more than to see them focused on their learning and customizing it to make it their own.

In Reading we were learning how to make inferences. Our goal was to make inferences using schema (prior learning/background info/knowledge) and clues from a text. The success criteria involved writing an inference without using a template, using appropriate language when talking about inferences (text, schema, etc), demonstrating what an inference is (e.g. could refer to the anchor chart), and talking about their inference and explaining their reasons for it.

A graphic organizer was used initially to help the students keep information from their schema separated from the clues from the text. I modelled the process for them and then we did some together. After lots of practice the students worked on making inferences without me. I observed them as they supported each other in using the template to write good inferences. The students wanted to use Presentation to showcase their final product, an inference about Frosty the Snowman. The students enjoy using Google Presentation to create their summative work. Select this link to see their combined efforts.

At the Google for Education Ontario Summit that I recently attended and presented at, many people asked me about formative assessment. The great thing about using Google Draw, Presentation, and other apps to create artifacts that help demonstrate learning is that a lot of thinking, communication, application, knowledge/understanding, and collaboration goes into them. From start to finish, the students are providing me with data about what they know (and don't know), how they are applying it, the connections they make to previous learning, how they work with others, how they solve problems and deal with ambiguity, and their thinking process throughout. As they present me with all of the formative data they are essentially guiding me in what I need to provide them with in order to be successful when they meet with me to talk about their summative work. Some students require enrichment and some re-teaching of concepts learned along the way. I won't consider any of their work to be summative until they formally meet with me to present and talk about their work/creation (thinking processes and understandings).   

As you can see, the technology is really providing my students with opportunities to create, collaborate, and communicate. Google Apps for Education and the Chromebook are fantastic tools that are allowing my students to take their learning to another level. All of the students are interested and engaged in using the technology because it's fun and helps meet their needs. They are finding success, improving their achievement, and having a lot of fun doing so!

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to connect with me via email, Twitter, Google +, or by simply leaving a comment for me below.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Moving from a Linear to a Dynamic State: Blended Learning via GAFE 2.0

The start of Lent provided a great blended learning opportunity for myself and my students. Using our Learning Management Site (LMS), the students were provided with instructions and links to engage in answering the following question:

What will you do during Lent to show that you are sorry and that you want to become a better person?

Before the students went into the LMS and started working on their task, we had discussions on what Lent is and what Jesus experienced throughout the 40 days before Easter. Within the structure of this task the students were taught how to leave helpful comments/feedback on the work of their classmates

Once a foundation for the topic was established I took them through what they would be experiencing via the LMS. In the LMS I had embedded a YouTube video (stop, pause, and start at their leisure, watch as many times as they require) about Jesus in the desert, a Google Form to collect information about what they were able to take away from the video (different question types), and a link to the Google Document where they would paste the link to their work (sharing, collaborating, communication, creation) so that their classmates would be able to access their work (addressing the question above) and provide comments (descriptive feedback from me and others).

Here are screenshots of the layout within the LMS:

YouTube video
The video was a great way to hook them into our topic and provides them the ability to stop and start it as they wish. They also have the ability to watch it more than once if they feel they need to do so. Moreover, it provides us the opportunity to address some of the curriculum expectations in Media Literacy.

Google Form used to collect the understanding of my students.
With the Form embedded the students don't have to leave the page where the video is playing. The first two questions are KU questions that will meet some of my students where they are at and the next two questions are higher order questions that will meet other students where they are at. Using a Form allows me to collect their understanding immediately (formative assessment) which allows me to check in with students right away about their understanding. There were a few students that needed my support and I was able to provide it to them as soon as they submitted their information. It was a great way to work with those that required some remediation right away before proceeding. The students that required enrichment were able to have their needs met by moving forward into the Google Apps.

Students could now use any Google App (Docs, Form, Draw, Presentation, Spreadsheet) to begin working on the question posed to them.

The students then decided what Google App they wanted to use to answer the question. Once they knew how they wanted to proceed they copied the link of their work page and pasted it into the shared Google document that is listed at the bottom of our LMS page. Here is what it looked like once students had filled it in:

It is important to note that the students have also shared their work with me. I can go into their work with unfettered access to make comments and edit. The links in the Google document above are set with the "comments only" permission. By only providing commenting rights to their classmates it minimizes the risk that work will be erased or manipulated. Erasing and manipulating people's work is not the norm in my class, but it does teach the students how to set specific permissions around the use of their work and it teaches them to decide what permissions they choose based on what they want their audience to do with their work. 

As students are finishing up on their task they begin to refer to the Google Document in order to comment on the work of others. Here are a couple of examples (Google Presentation for the first and second one and the use of Google Draw for the third one) of what this looks like:

As you can see, the students make the work their own and engage in doing some really neat things as they work on the task at hand. They take pride in their work and it is an understatement to say that they enjoy creating, collaborating, and communicating with respect to their work. The feedback portion was a "bump up" for us and I would like to keep working on that with them. Now that they and I have had experience using the GAFE suite of apps I would like them to use what they need to meet the expectations set out for them in our learning goals and success criteria. Students always have the option of using whatever they need to accomplish their task - it is not limited to the use of the technology. More often than not, they will use the technology and when asked why they tend to tell me it is because they have greater opportunity to do things that they wouldn't be able to do with pencil and paper and other mediums.

They are well on their way and continue to amaze me with what they are doing via the blended learning model we are using. The ability for me to get to their work and provide them with instant feedback is quite valuable for everyone involved.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to connect with me via email, Twitter, Google +, or by simply leaving a comment for me below.

Learning and Leading: My Experience at the EdTech Team Ontario Summit Featuring Google For Education

This weekend I attended the Google for Education Ontario Summit here in Kitchener. I can describe it using one word: AWESOME. My time was spent 1) meeting people who are part of my professional learning on Social Media (Twitter and Google +), 2) catching up with people I already know, 3) learning new ways of using GAFE to benefit my practice and the achievement of my students, and 4) sharing the learning journey that my students and I have been on. 

It is so great to connect with people who have impacted me personally and professionally in one way or another. If it weren't for my learning networks on Twitter and Google + I would have missed out on connecting with such passionate and innovative educators who are on the same path as myself - to grow in knowledge and skill to impact the staff and students that surround them. Surrounded by +Ferdinand Krauss+Jonathan So+Scott Monahan+Helder Tavares+Tanya Avrith+Julie Millan+Sylvia Duckworth+Michelle Booth+Joe Sisco+Molly Schroeder+Michael Wacker, +Michelle Cordy, and many others - I was in excellent company and took advantage of the experience.

Here is a great example of one of the many tweets that demonstrates the care and collegiality of the people that I have met and that I hope my colleagues will meet:

Sylvia Duckworth - Google Certified Teacher from Toronto
The learning was great - but the sharing was fun and worthwhile as well. It felt so good to give back to the community that has given so much to me. +Ferdinand Krauss and I co-presented "Key Strategies for the Successful Implementation of Chromebooks & Google Apps for Education in Your School Board". Ferdinand did a wonderful job of taking people through the work that goes into making sure things are in place and set up for teachers and students to be able to use the technology and digital resources seamlessly. I shared the work my grade 2 students and I have been able to do because of ALL the work that happens outside of the schools and classrooms. Here is the link to the presentation: goo.gl/r95qY2

Photo of Ferdinand starting the presentation.
After a couple of sessions it was my turn but this time I wasn't with Ferdinand, I had one of my students join me to present "Getting Going with Student use of Google Apps for Education: Chromebooks in the Hands of Grade 2 Students". We took people through our blended learning journey. We demonstrated how the technology and the apps have provided the grade 2's with opportunities to blend their learning and become more creative and collaborative. We talked about how we eased into the Google suite of apps in order to benefit my professional practice and student achievement. We provided examples of how students have used Documents, Draw, Form, Spreadsheet, and Presentation to demonstrate the innovation and excitement that Google apps can bring to any class. It was such an honour to be able to speak about our experience and I am grateful that my student and her parents joined us and were so open to the idea. Here is the link to my presentation: http://goo.gl/wC0RSG

About to start! Photo taken by +Jonathan So 

One of my students and I presenting. Photo taken by +Jonathan So 

People attending the presentation. Photo taken by +Julie Millan 
I had many people talk to me before (anticipation) and after (eyes wide open to what can be accomplished) about my presentation. There was a lot of curiosity about how GAFE and the technology could be used with such young children. These people were definitely curios and interested, but were unsure and a little scared about how to start it up and what it might look like. I too was scared when I started - and still to this day I am frightened by the unknown but I know that on the other side of my fear is success. Whether the outcome is or isn't what I expect, there is learning to be had and the learning and iteration is what builds us up and allows us to continue to try new things and share our experiences. 

I was honoured to have +Julie Millan (Google Certified Teacher - Toronto District School Board) attend my session. I was happy to have her join us because she was included in my presentation and I wanted her to hear about the influence her work had on me and my practice. It was her presentation in October 2013 at the ECOO conference that really motivated me to get going with GAFE. She would be presenting "Examine the Power of Google Apps throughout the Inquiry Process" on Day 2 of the Summit and I was looking forward to learning more from her.

On Day 2 of the Summit I learned that I wasn't going to be able to physically make it to Julie's session. I had to settle for the tweets and G+ posts that would be made public for people to attend in a 'virtual' format. As time was drawing near to her presentation I learned that it would be streamed via Google Hangout and I would get to attend without actually being in the classroom with her and the other participants! Talk about icing on the cake. I was still going to see and be part of the presentation because of people like +Julie Millan and +Scott Monahan (who I believe had something to do with the technical aspects of the Hangout). 

Part of Julie's presentation
Julie had told me that she would be referencing me in her presentation but I was unsure of the details. It was great to see that she was sharing my reaction and subsequent experiences because of her presentation in the Fall. She spoke about the importance of sharing our learning and experiences so that others can benefit and do the same in turn. If we make this part of our practice than others can benefit and then they can benefit others. The sharing grows and ultimately we all build capacity around our interests - ultimately benefiting the students in our classrooms that will lead our world. It was a great message to provide her audience before she talked about Inquiry and GAFE.

My excitement got the better of me. Thank you Heather for tweeting me back and to Scott for letting Julie know that I was watching.
Julie during her presentation.
When I wasn't presenting and connecting with other motivated educators I was learning about Google Forms, Google Draw, Flipping a Classroom via GAFE, Chrome tips/tricks, and the power of Technology and GAFE to enable students to create, collaborate, communicate, innovate, and lead. There is something for everyone - beginner to advanced level presentations on many topics. More often than not, the major problem at these conferences is that you can't physically be at more than one session at a time!!

As my School Board continues to implement the deployment of Chromebooks and GAFE across our system, there is no doubt in my mind that my colleagues and their students will soon experience the increase in capacity, engagement, and achievement for all involved. I look forward to having many more of my colleagues join me at future Google for Education Summits to connect with others, share our learning, as well as acquire new learning that we will bring back to our system.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to tweet me, connect via Google +, send me an email, and/or comment below.