Play Games – Learn Stuff! (Kahoot and Quizlet)

When I was a student, some of my favourite classes were the ones where the teacher played games with us. Bingo, 7-Up, spelling bees, Jeopardy – I loved all of them. Fast forward a few years and guess what? My students love playing games, too. Even better? If I choose the games correctly, they end up learning without even realizing it! Even even better? There’s some awesome technology to help me do this! Today, let’s have a look at Kahoot and Quizlet.

I was introduced to Kahoot a few years ago at a conference and I loved it right away. First off, it’s free. Really free – not freemium free (you know – the kind of site where the basic stuff is free but the really cool stuff costs money?) Secondly, with Kahoot, I am the only person in the class who needs an account. As an intermediate teacher, I want to keep the number of accounts my students have to a reasonable number, so this also makes me happy.

So…how does it work? Once you’ve created your teacher account, you can build your first “kahoot” by creating a multiple choice “quiz” for your students. Or, you can choose a kahoot that someone else has built! Once you have the kahoot you want, project your device and start the game. Your kids can play individually (on any internet enabled device) or in teams (one device per team). They go to kahoot.it, enter the code you’re given and then sign in with their first name.

kahoot
The question and answers show up on the teacher’s device – the kids choose a colour-coded answer.

Your computer will project the question, with 4 colour-coded possible answers. The kid’s devices will just show the four colour choices. As quickly as they can, they choose the correct answer and lock in their choice. When the time is up, the screen will show the correct choice as well as the top scorers (based on a combination of speed and correct answer). And it’s on to the next question!

You can access the results afterwards, if you want. I don’t tend to use Kahoot as actual assessment but more as a way to practice what we’re learning, so I don’t use the assessment side of the site.

Recently Kahoot added the ability to assign Kahoots as homework. I haven’t used this feature yet, but it looks promising. Here’s a blog post from Kahoot that explains it.

My kids love to play Kahoot. They get super excited and motivated. The only criticism I have is that the timed aspect of it can be intimidating for some students.

On to Quizlet. Quizlet has a large variety of applications, from flashcards to a collaborative classroom game. The base version is free and the upgraded version is $35 USD a year. I have the free version and it works fine for me.

Using Quizlet, you can create flashcards for your class, or use sets that have already been created by other teachers. Once you’ve created the basic flashcards, Quizlet automatically create 7 different ways that students can quiz themselves on the material, as well as a Quizlet Live game. You can create a class on Quizlet and invite your students to be a part of it or you can just send students a link to your quizlet and they can use it without signing up for anything. There is even an ability to add the Quizlet to your Google Classroom (I haven’t tried this yet but it looks like it works well!)

All of the applications of Quizlet are great but the one your kids will likely enjoy the most is Quizlet Live. When you use Quizlet Live, students go to www.quizlet.live, enter a code you give them and then enter their names. Quizlet will put them into random teams. (You need more than 4 kids to play). Kids then need to move and sit together in their teams and the game can begin. In the game, each student has some but not all of the information needed, so the students need to work together to be the first team to reach 12 correct answers. Getting a wrong answer resets your team’s score to 0, so students really have to collaborate and communicate.

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The teacher’s device shows team progress!

 

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Each student has some of the answers, but only one student in each group has the right answer to any given question.

Students can play on any internet enabled device. The teacher’s device shows team progress. One of the things I like about Quizlet is the flexibility. I can create a French vocabulary Study Set and my kids can use it independently to study their vocab in a variety of ways but they can also use it collaboratively to play a game in class. And by the way….playing Quizlet Live uses a number of the Core Competencies! (just sayin’!)

Playing games in class can be both fun and educational! Enjoy!

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Using Google Forms for Quizzes!

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Happy New Year everyone!

My last blog post was about using Google Forms to track student reading. I recently launched it with my own students and it’s going really well!

Google Forms is basically a spreadsheet. It can be used for all the regular spreadsheet things – tracking expenses, creating budgets – even wedding planning! But it can be used for other things, too!

Aside from the aforementioned Reading Tracker, you could use forms as a questionnaire or survey for parents or students. Our district Pro-D committee uses it as a way to gather information for upcoming events. Here’s a link to an awesome slide deck by Graham Attwell, outlining 79 interesting ways to use Google Forms!

And….drum roll please….you can also use Google Forms as a way to give and mark tests, too! Yep, you heard me right…forms will even mark the tests if you set them up right!

Here’s a great video showing you the basics:

So, if you give frequent quizzes in your classroom, or you are looking for a different way to do exit tickets, maybe you’ll consider giving Google Forms a try? Next week’s post will highlight a number of other sites and apps that can be used for in class quizzes and games. Enjoy!

Using Google Forms to Track Reading

dr suess readingOkay, so since this is the last post before Christmas (and therefore the last post of this calendar year) it should probably be a light post, full of fluff. After all, we’re all pretty tired and ready for a break.

However, I know that once the decorations are put away, the last cookie has been eaten and New Year’s Resolutions are made, some of us will start thinking about the next part of the school year and what we want to do better. And since I don’t plan to blog over the break, I thought I’d put this (somewhat) serious post up today.

importance of reading, infographic.jpg

I know that my students who read regularly have a better vocabulary and grasp of how the English language works. Knowing this, I want to do a better job of encouraging them to read and of tracking their reading. In the past, I’ve tried paper “home reading” journals – great in primary, not so effective in Grade 7! I’ve tried having the kids report out in class while I enter their reading on a spreadsheet, and while the kids (and the data nerd in me) like the idea of the spreadsheet, it took too much time out of our class and so was abandoned.

Then, about a month ago, I saw mention somewhere of using Google Forms to track reading. BINGO! Kids could self report like they do in the home reading journal, but they could do it online, which is way cooler when you’re 12! And, if I set it up correctly, I would get a spreadsheet with some great data I could use to track reading and know which students needed further encouragement.

For those who have not heard of it, Google Forms can be used for everything from student questionnaires to self-grading quizzes. And, as it turns out, a cool way to track reading habits! Forms is one of the tools we have in GSuite for Education – if you’ve never used it you should really give it a try!

To create my form, I started by thinking about what I wanted to track. Student name, date, name of book and pages read. Those seem like obvious things to include. I realized that I also wanted to track what genre of book they were reading, as many of my students seem to get entrenched in reading just one type of book. I want them to branch out. Finally, I decided I would like them to give a one sentence synopsis of what they read.

Once I knew what I wanted to put in the form, it was fairly easy to create the form. You will find Google Forms in your Drive (click the blue New button and then More – the icon for Forms is purple).  Here is a written explanation of how to create a form and here is a video that explains it:

Here is a link to the form I created for my students.

If you decide to try this, you can share the form out several ways. You’ll need to make sure you get things set up properly. In Settings (the small gear icon), make sure you have unchecked “Restrict to West Vancouver Board of Education Users.” Also, make sure you have unchecked “Limit to 1 Response”. Then make sure you Save.

Once you have done that, you can click the Send button. To get the link, click on the little link icon and copy the link. You can now send this out to your families via email or put the link on the About page of your Google Classroom.

As students start filling in the Google form, you will start getting responses. If you go to your original form, you will see there is a spot where you can see the responses.

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If you click on the word RESPONSES you can look at the responses in a variety of ways. One of them is a spreadsheet, like this:

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Hopefully you found this useful! Look for a future post on using Google Forms for quizzes. Have a safe, happy and restful break. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and I’ll see you in 2018!

Fantastic Field Trips!

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Last week I got to go on 5 awesome field trips! Sounds unbelievable, right? I mean, that’s like one field trip every day! I went to Paris, the International Space Station, a Caribbean coral reef, a sewer treatment plant and I even flew past Jupiter! Seriously, can you imagine the paperwork for these field trips?!

Yeah….by now you’ve likely realized that I didn’t actually physically go to these places. However, I did get to see all of these by using the Google Expeditions Education Kit.

Our district recently decided to dip into the virtual world by getting a class Google Expeditions Education Kit that includes a teacher tablet with which to control the expeditions (there are hundreds of expeditions to choose from on the app), a dedicated wifi router, 30 sturdy plastic goggles and 30 student devices to go into the goggles. This kit is living at one of our schools for the year. Teachers and students in the school have been tasked with the enviable job of learning how to use the kit and thinking of ways that the expeditions can be used to enhance and expand student learning and inquiry.

I’ve had a couple of chances to try the goggles and expeditions app out in the company of other adults, so when the school asked me to come and support teachers on the first day they formally introduced the kit to students, I jumped at the chance. Who wouldn’t?

When I arrived at the school library, Mr. Blackburn, the vice-principal, had already prepped and set out all of the goggles. He figures it took about a half an hour, so this is something teachers will have to build into their time. We both agreed that perhaps the set-up will get quicker as it becomes more familiar.

Mr. Blackburn’s Grade ⅘ class was the first class to use the goggles. They entered the library calmly, but  anticipation was bubbling just below their quiet facade! We went over a few rules, like stay seated so you don’t crash into anyone and keep the wristband around your wrist, so you don’t drop the goggles. Once the introductory talk was done, the kids picked up the goggles, held them to their faces and…….MAGIC! They couldn’t have been more excited or animated about what they were seeing. “There’s the Eiffel Tower!” screamed one student. “Are we in Paris? Coooool!” Everyone started to chatter excitedly while they looked up down and around, pointing out things they were seeing.

From the teacher tablet, Mr. Blackburn was able to guide them to look at certain things by having an arrow point them out. He was also able to pause their view and show them another view of Paris, like the Champs Elysees. On his teacher tablet, Google Expeditions provided him with information about what the kids were seeing as well as guiding questions he could ask the students.

After visiting Paris, Mr. Blackburn guided the students through an activity where they wrote down “thick” questions they had about what they had seen. After a few shares out, we were off to outer space, where we explored the International Space station before having a look at the Great Eye of Jupiter. Students excitedly shared what they already knew about what we were seeing – “That eye is really a storm,” one told me proudly. “I learned about it last year!” They also had LOTS of great questions – far more than they would have had if we had just looked at pictures of Jupiter from a book or website.

Our last field trip was to a sewage processing plant – ewww, gross! We learned about what happens when we flush the toilet. There were lots of predictable reactions, and based on the twinkle in Mr. Blackburn’s eyes, I’m pretty sure the inner Grade 5 boy in him picked this field trip out just for it’s “yuck” factor, even though he tried to stay serious as he explained what the students were seeing.

Ending the class was relatively easy. Mr. Blackburn was able to turn off all the images directly from his tablet. Once he did that, there was nothing left to see and the students sadly put their goggles down and headed back to class.

When the next class arrived, their teacher was a bit nervous about guiding the field trips, as it was her first time, so I helped by taking over the reins. We started by visiting fish and coral in the Caribbean, followed by a quick trip to Paris before we zoomed out of the atmosphere and into space (as this wasn’t my class, I avoided the sewage treatment plant!) I found the teacher tablet very easy and intuitive to use and the only tech issue we had was one student device that just needed a quick restart as it had lost connectivity. The students in this class were just as excited as the ones in Mr. Blackburn’s class and the library was filled with enthusiastic chatter. There were loads of great observations and heaps of interesting questions being asked, both about the places we saw and the goggles themselves. I would judge the first launch of the Google Expeditions kit a huge success!

VR is still in its early stages. With Google Expeditions, we’re looking at still images, although we can see an almost 360 degree view of the image. However, as with other tech, I am sure that the functionality and “wow” factor will continue to improve, while the cost will likely come down. I know there will be lots of creative educators out there who think of interesting and inventive ways to use VR to enhance student learning and spur investigation into new topics (I hope at some point I get to be one of those people!)

While we’re not yet at the point where we can experience Star Trek-ian (is that even a word?) holodeck adventures, VR is currently being used to train pilots, surgeons and other high-risk professionals. I have no doubt that there will come a day when we look back to these VR headsets with the same nostalgia we now reserve for mimeograph machines and slide projectors. But for now, I have to say, the Google Expedition kits are pretty cool. Pretty cutting edge. If you get a chance to go on a VR field trip, make sure you say yes!

Is It Winter Break Yet?

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Image from Pixabay

School here in BC goes right until December 22nd this year! For those of us in the classroom, that last week is going to be a delicate balancing act between giving kids enough learning to keep them busy and engaged while still understanding that many of them will be tired from festivities and all hyped up while waiting for the break to start. There are bound to be a few tears in many classrooms – it’s been a long haul since Labour Day!

So here then, for your (and their) pleasure, are some online things to keep you all going. Enjoy!

Do You Wanna Build A Snowman? (Google Slides)

This is a great activity to do as a launch for writing! For primary students, they could work as a class by having the teacher project his or her Google slide onto the screen and then choosing items collaboratively. Then they could draw their version of the snowman and write about what they made! Intermediate students could all create their own snowman and then write a small story or descriptive paragraph. You could collect them all on one big Google slidedeck! It would also be good in a secondary ELL class, as students could use the snowman as a way to build English vocabulary. And hey, who doesn’t like building a snowman? Huge thanks to Eric Curts from Control Alt Achieve – one of the most prolific bloggers out there!

Seasonal Digital Breakouts

Last month I wrote a post about digital breakouts. Here are two that are more applicable to this season! Gingerbread Man Loose In The School is based on a children’s book. In this one, Santa Is Lost – can you follow the clues to solve the breakout? If you teach older kids, why not use this as a great time to let them explore writing their own digital breakouts? There are lots of hints and how-tos on my previous blog post!

The 12 Days of Techie Christmas

As much fun as it might be to get a partridge, I’m not sure where I’d put the pear tree! I’d much rather get a Roomba robot to do my chores….wouldn’t you? In fact, here is my version of the 12 days song…2017 techie style!

  • 12 DJI drones
  • 11 Go Pro 6s
  • 10 Sphero R2-D2s
  • 9 VR Headsets
  • 8 Beats Earphones
  • 7 Apple Watches
  • 6 Google Homes
  • 5 iPhone Xs
  • 4 Amazon Echos
  • 3 Nintendo Switches
  • 2 Fitbit Altas
  • And a Roomba to do my chores!

If I were a Math teacher, which I am not, I would turn this into a before Christmas lesson on math, taxes and consumerism. Hey…wait a minute…maybe I can anyway!

You can approach this several ways. Bring in flyers from tech stores and let the kids figure out their own list and add up the cost of the items. How much would the 12 days cost? And what if you had to add taxes? Or, you could do the same thing using my list. There’s still plenty of choice in my list…after all, I am pretty sure Beats make more than one type of headphones!

Here is a set of Google Sheets you can use to help the kids figure this all out! They go from very basic, where the kids have to enter everything themselves and then do the math themselves (or learn how to use a formula!) to ones where the formulas are all set up and kids just have to plug in the price of the item. As my organization does not yet allow making templates, please make sure you make a copy of this for your own drive before you start playing with any of the sheets! And by the way….I’m leaving the consumerism part of the lesson up to you!

Kickin’ It Old School!

Sometimes, in all the hustle and bustle of the season, the last thing we want in our classroom is noisy technology. We’d rather put on some quiet Christmas music and do tech-less activities, like these:

Hopefully you find something in here to help you and your students make it through those final days before winter break!

PS – This week is HOUR OF CODE week – stop reading this blog and start coding!

 

Hour of Code Is Almost Here!

Question: What happens every year in the month of December and is loved by children all over the world?

Answer: Hour of Code week! (Bet I fooled you, huh?)

In all seriousness, December 4th through 10th is the annual Hour of Code week, celebrated at schools and rec centres all over the world. (Don’t believe me? Check out this map!)

Every year the team at Hour of Code outdoes itself in presenting entertaining yet challenging activities designed to give students from preschool to Grade 12 a chance to explore different aspects of coding and computational thinking. This year is no different!

I had actually thought I might go through and try all of this year’s activities so I could really give you my opinion on the ones to try. Ha! What was I thinking? But the ones that I did try were great!

You can check out the activities here. You can search for activities based on the age of your students, the devices you’re using and the students’ previous coding experience. Most activities are designed to provide about an hour’s worth of engagement, although this will depend a bit on your students! The activities use a variety of coding “languages” from block based coding to text based coding like JavaScript, Python, CoffeeScript (an easier version of JavaScript) and Apple’s Swift. There are even a bunch of new unplugged activities if you scroll right to the bottom.

Along with lots of new activities, the Hour of Code website now includes a whole bunch of activities you could do with robots and circuits!

December is a busy month in any school. Report cards, sports tournaments, holiday festivities, crazy weather and busy personal schedules can leave all of us (students and teachers) feeling a little frazzled. Why not take an hour long break from it all and try some coding with your students?

“Unplugged” Coding Activities

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This is Kaylee’s code she wrote for her Partner Robot!

This year, Hour of Code week takes place December 4 to 10th. For those who have not yet heard of Hour of Code week, it was started by Hadi Partovi and his team in 2013 with a goal of encouraging more students to try their hands at computer coding and see how much fun it can be. The Hour of Code website has a ton of great coding puzzles and activities for kids to do and most of them are available all year long!

However, the reality is that we don’t all have access to devices in our classrooms and even when we do, it’s winter weather time here in BC and you never know when the power or wifi might go out due to storms. Not to mention, some days you’d just rather go old-school! Luckily, there are lots of great “un-plugged” (no device) activities you can do with your students! NOTE: I have personally tried all of the following activities with students. There are lots of other activities you could find, but I only feel comfortable recommending something I’ve actually tried (and liked!).

Partner Robots

This is one of my favourite activities and I’ve used it with Kindergarten to Grade 9 students – all successfully! I’ve even seen kids out playing it in the playground at recess – how cool is that!? Here are the instructions.

Getting Loopy

There’s a big long explanation for this one on the Hour of Code website. I’ve taught it exactly to their lesson plan and I’ve also taught it spontaneously without much pre-planning. Both work. The amount of time you spend on this will depend on the age of your kids – the younger they are, the more often you will do this. Older kids usually get it quite quickly. Here are the Hour of Code instructions.

If, Then, Else Simon Says

This one works for teaching conditionals. I thought only the younger kids would like it, but my Grade 7s had fun playing last year. With most ages, it helps to use flow charts or write instructions on the board as the game gets more complicated. Once the kids are used to playing as a class, let them break up into smaller groups and take turns leading! Here are the instructions for this one.

Conditionals With Cards

All you need for this one is a deck of cards. Kids love the challenge of this game and you can modify the rules from very basic to quite complex, depending on the skill and age of your students. This one is great for mental math and kids will often ask to play it on their own, so be prepared to have extra sets of cards around! I’ve done this one with Grades 2 to 8. Kindies and ones might need extra help, or maybe make the deck of cards simpler by taking out the face cards and two of the suits. Here’s how to play.

Graph Paper Programming

I LOVE this one! Again, I have used it with younger students (Grade 2 is as young as I’ve gone with this one and with older and I just make it more complicated as the kids get older. This one does take a little prep, as it makes it easier for the kids if you can give them graph paper or pre-made grids. As the kids get older and more experienced, introduce bigger designs/images and add colour to the code. If you Google “pixel art” or “pixel art grid”, you’ll get some neat ideas for older kids. Another place for inspiration is cross-stitch images! Here are the instructions.

Binary Bracelets / Binary Dance

Binary Bracelets is great to do with younger students (K to 3) and Binary Dance would be better with older kids. In both cases, you need to spend a bit of time talking about what binary means with regards to computers! If you’re not sure, check out this explanation. It’s not all-encompassing but it’s a good start!

For Binary Bracelets, show kids the binary alphabet. Give them a piece of string and access to beads of two colours or two kinds of pasta they can put on the string and have them code their initials. Here are the full instructions.

For Binary Dance, put kids in groups of 3 or 4 and give each group a simple, 3 character word like “cat”. Show them the binary alphabet and have them figure out how to “dance” the word, using two motions (one for white/on and one for black/off). After they’ve practiced, have them “dance” their word to the rest of the class and see if other kids can figure it out.

Coding Cups

Are your kids in love with cup stacking? Do they like the Cup Song? Then try Coding Cups. All you need is a bunch of plastic cups. I must admit, I have only done this activity with Grade 6 and 7 students, so I am not sure how it would go with little ones. Check it out here.

Relay Programming

This one is basically Graph Paper programming turned competitive! I’ve had great fun doing this with intermediate students but have not done it with littles, as I worry that they would get stressed out by the “panicky” nature of it. Look here.

I know there are tons of other unplugged activities out there, but these are the ones I’ve tried and used. If you have one you like, I’d love to hear about it! Post it in the comments or email me at cwilson@wvschools.ca. Enjoy!

The Argument for Computational Thinking

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Halloween is packed away, Christmas looms on the horizon, report cards are consuming way too much time…all of which means it is almost one of my favourite weeks of the year: Hour of Code week!

This year Hour of Code officially runs from December 4th to 10th. Last year our teachers and administrators worked really hard to ensure that students in all grades and across all of our schools got a chance to try one or two coding activities during Hour of Code week. I hope we do even better this year and for the next several weeks my blog posts will be dedicated to helping teachers prepare for Hour of Code in their classroom.

However, in any discussion about coding, I think it is important to start off by discussing Computational Thinking. Computational Thinking is the basis for all coding. More importantly, it provides a great base for problem solving in any arena of life, from getting dressed for the snow to building a gingerbread house to completing a school project.

At its heart, Computational Thinking involves breaking a problem down into its parts, deciding which parts are important and which aren’t, looking for patterns that can help solve the problem and then creating a series of steps to solve the problem. These steps are called Decomposition, Abstraction, Pattern Recognition and Creating an Algorithm. Let’s try using them.

So, you’re 6 years old. It’s just snowed all night and all morning, and the problem you want to solve is “how to get outside as quickly as possible once the recess bell rings.”

Using Decomposition, you might realize that the parts of the problem are: getting my snowsuit on, getting my boots on, getting my school shoes off, getting my hat on, getting my mittens on, eating my snack, getting in line, getting my toboggan and pushing my chair in.

Using Abstraction, you think that maybe your snack is not that important. After all, you can eat it at lunch, right? From past experience, you know that forgetting to push your chair in means the teacher will call you back, so you’d better make sure not to forget that step!

If you look for Patterns, you will hopefully see that you need to take your school shoe off before putting your boot on, and you need to do that twice – once for each foot! Can you spot any other patterns?

Once you’ve broken down the problem, taken out the parts that aren’t important and looked for patterns that might help you get out the door more quickly, you are going to make a plan (an Algorithm) for solving the problem! It might look like this:

  • Push in chair
  • Take off school shoes, put on snow boots (left foot then right)
  • Pull on snow suit
  • Add hat
  • Add mittens
  • Get toboggan
  • Line up

Once you have carried out your Algorithm (run the program), you can see if it worked. Maybe you should have put on your snowsuit before your boots? This is an important step and it’s called “De-bugging” – find the “glitch” in your algorithm or plan, fix it and then test the plan again! (Anyone recognize the design cycle here?!)

Now, I realize that this is a very simple look at computational thinking, but I use it to show that even very young children can be taught the necessary skills to become computational thinkers. And the great news is that if we start teaching them these skills when they’re little, it will become second nature as they get older and the problems become bigger and more impactful.

As a teacher, you don’t need to know anything about computer coding to teach Computational Thinking. In fact, you probably do some of it already! Here are ways you can encourage these skills, regardless of the age you teach.

  1. Think Out Loud – Explain your own thinking to your students and show them how you solve problems. Work through the steps of CT together on a relevant problem.
  2. Use Flow Charts – Flow charts are a great visual way to illustrate CT. You can create flowcharts about regular daily activities like lunch procedures and keep them up in the room for kids to refer to.
  3. Use Real World Models – The first time I give my students an independent project, I map out a timeline and plan for completion on the whiteboard with them. We break the project down into its steps and decide on a plan for how to get everything done on time.

And finally, as a thank you gift for hanging in until the end of this post, here are 5 Computational Thinking posters I created. Feel free to make copies to use in your classroom! Computational Thinking (1)

6 Steps to Digital Sanity

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So….I started prepping for this week’s blog post by thinking of some cool websites and apps I could recommend for you. Which in turn got me thinking about the absolute plethora of cool ed tech tools that exist. Which then led me to panic about which ones I should choose – there are so many! Which led to me thinking “how can I possibly know them all – what if I am missing some great ones?” Which led me to a complaint I often hear from teachers. You know…the one that goes like this: “Technology is always changing and there are always new things to learn – how can I possibly be expected to keep up with it all? The minute I think I’ve learned how to use something you/they/the man change it again and I have to relearn! Why bother? It’s driving me insane!”

Well, here are my 6 steps to digital sanity. (Yeah, I know most self-help sites have 10 to 12 steps, but I have marking to do and I want to catch the next episode of “Stranger Things”, so you’re getting the condensed version!)

Step One – Relax!

I hear you! Technology is constantly changing – how can we keep up? Well…put on a pot of tea and some comfy clothes, take a few self-regulating breaths and repeat after me “not even the tech gurus can keep up with it all…I’ll be okay…om mani pedi, om mani pedi…” Repeat this chant while drinking the tea and gently stretching.

Now, let’s be clear – the above mantra does not let you off the hook from using educational technology, it just gives you permission to not worry about keeping ahead of the curve.

Step Two – Baby Steps

You know the saying “go big or go home?” I think it should be “go small and stay sane”! We’ve already established that you’ll never get ahead. So instead, give yourself permission to take small steps. Choose one ed tech goal for this term or even this year. Learn to use Fresh Grade, build your PLN by trying Twitter, learn iMovie with your students so that they have another way of presenting their learning. Get comfortable with the tool/app/site you’ve chosen…and then make sure you don’t skip Step Three!

Step Three – Attitude Adjusting

Okay, so I may lose a few of you here….but…I need to say it….lose the ‘tude, dude! I remember the complaints and hair tearing that happened here a few years ago when we switched from Microsoft Word to Google Docs. Oh, the angst! I’m pretty sure some people were convinced Beelzebub (if not Larry Page and Sergey Brin) himself was involved. Nope…it’s just technology feeding its need to reinvent and improve! So….relax (Step One), go small (Step Two) and adopt a growth attitude (def. the positive attitude that accompanies a growth mindset). Be willing to learn – isn’t that what we expect from our kids? And by the way, don’t use getting older as an excuse – the more you exercise your brain, the younger you stay! Still with me? On to Step Four!

Step Four – PLN, SLN and “Google It”

Does iMovie look different after the latest iOS update? Are you a little stressed by this or other ed tech changes? Well, use your PLN (Personal Learning Network)! Approach a colleague who seems more confident and ask them for help. Offer to bring them a coffee or a Christmas orange in exchange for their time. PLN not available? Are you in the middle of class when you realize you need ed tech help? Well then, turn to your SLN (Student Learning Network). Don’t be afraid to admit that you’re not quite sure which button sends the work to Google Drive (or whatever you’re struggling with). Ask the kids! It goes something like this: “so, now that we’re finished with this, we’re going to upload it to Google Drive. Does anyone here know how to do that step?” Chances are the kids will fall all over themselves trying to show you. Don’t be afraid to show them that you’re a learner, too! And if none of that helps….Google it! Seriously, you can learn how to do just about anything by googling it and chances are that someone else has had the same problem you are having and has posted their solution online!

Step Five – Be Mindful, Young Padawan!

Okay, so I will admit to being a total Star Wars nut as well as a bit of a tech nerd (surprise!). But I’m also the first to admit that, while technology is an awesome tool and can be a real game-changer in some situations, it’s also not always the best answer to the question. Make sure you choose the right, or appropriate, tool for the job. Giving a vocab test? Why go online – paper and pencil work well enough. Creating French vocab flash-cards for your class? Use an online tool or app so your kids can access them when not at school.

Test a tool/site/app out, ask other educators for advice (there’s that PLN again!) and use your time and efforts mindfully. If the digital tool is going to make life easier or give students an opportunity they can’t get by going old-school, then consider trying it. Remember, since we’re following Step Two, you don’t have to try doing it all. But you also can’t ignore ed-tech, so be mindful of what you put your time in to!

Step Six – Look for Joy

Let’s face it, teaching can be a tough job! But it’s also rewarding and that keeps us going. Finding joy in the time you spend at school and in the things you do with your students is an important way to feed your soul. Okay….I know you’re thinking I’ve gone off the deep end…what does this have to do with the crazy pace of technology and school? Simple. Find a way to have joy in the technology you use (yep, right about now those of you who are using technology to write report cards are thinking very evil thoughts towards me!) Hear me out. You might not love the app BookCreator as much as I do, but you can’t deny the excitement in the eyes of your Kindergarten student as they show off the electronic book about penguins that they created on the app. Coding not your thing? That’s cool. Find joy in the fact that that quiet little girl in your class is suddenly getting attention from the other students as they ask her for help debugging their code.

I hope these six steps have helped you (re)gain some of your digital sanity. I’m off to mark French tests while watching Eleven and her friends battle scary creatures in the Upside Down!

 

Another Side of TED

By now, pretty much everyone has heard of TED – Ideas Worth Spreading. Started as a one-off event in 1984, TED was to be a conference where speakers talked about ideas in Technology, Entertainment and Design. People began to share videos of the talks and before long TED became a viral internet sensation. TED talks continue to be held yearly and they’re joined by independently run, smaller TEDx events from all around the world.

Many teachers have seen TED talks (like the classic Sir Ken Robinson talk) during Pro-D events. Some have even been lucky enough to attend an event like our own TEDxWestVancouverED (videos from this year’s event have just come out – just sayin’….) And many educators have shown TED or TEDx videos to their students.

But how many of you have heard of TED-Ed(Lessons Worth Sharing)? Launched in 2012, TED-Ed was created with the intent of supporting educators with lessons based on TED and TEDx talks as well as sparking curiosity in learners of all ages.

TED-Ed provides teachers and students with a number of great resources. You can search through TED-Ed Originals (animated shorts based on a wide variety of topics and concepts), TED-Ed lessons (developed by a variety of experts and educators) and TED-Ed Selects (lessons based on videos, developed by educators and vetted by TED-Ed staff). On top of this, there are resources to help anyone develop their own personal TED-Ed lessons.

While I have not yet created any of my own lessons on the TED-Ed site, I have used a number of their videos with my students. One of my favourites is What Makes a Hero?, all about the hero’s journey. It’s a great language arts video. But I’m sure everyone who uses the site has a favourite! Are you interested in dinosaurs? Basketball and Math (Mr. Meldrum…) Ancient Egyptian mummies? The concept of pi?

Videos come with questions and discussion starters, as well as ways to dig deeper into the concept covered. Become a member for free. You can save talks for later, track lessons and become part of a world-wide education community.

And since today is Halloween, check out Dracula (vampire meets copyright) and Frankenstein (a ghost story written by a teenager) or learn a bit about superstitions. BOO!!