Thursday, December 19, 2013

Newsela and SpeakIt!

This week, I had the chance to work with Ruth’s English class.  This class had a dozen fun-filled and very active 6th grade students and they were ready to learn.  What Ruth and I had chatted about was working on standard number two:  “determining central ideas or themes of a text and analyzing their development.”  The question was, how to engage the students and then track their progress.  The answer--use Newsela.  If you haven’t checked out, you need to.  Newsela is an awesome free site that makes current events a reading adventure.  As a teacher, you register, get a code and the rest is like frosting on top of a cake.  Teachers have the ability to assign articles to students and then track progress according to six common core standards.  Students have the ability to change the lexiles, so they can read at a level that is more suited to their ability and quizzes are geared to test reading comprehension.

But wait, we did one more great thing.  Some of Ruth’s students struggle with reading.  So, enter Google Chrome Extensions.  First, we made sure that each student installed SpeakIt! as one of their extensions along with Google Dictionary.  Then we modeled how to use Newsela with SpeakIt! and the dictionary.  We read an article as a class, took the four question quiz, reviewed the quiz and then set out to enroll each student with an account of their own.  The students were ready for the challenge and they loved it!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Flipping Instruction for the Classroom at Schroeder Middle School

It is time to feature all of the great things that are happening at Schroeder Middle School with our PSLD 1:1 initiative.  Arne Duncan, the US Secretary of Education has said, "I applaud districts that are expanding technology. It's so important. However, it's important to note that technology isn't about replacing teachers. It's about pairing technology with great educators to meet the needs of all kids."

Today, I had the good fortune to observe our 6th grade music teacher, Amy Rogers, as she flipped instruction in her classroom.  She used screencast-o-matic ( to record detailed videos for her students to log into the school server.  Recording and automating this process allowed her to be free for curricular questions related to the assignments her students were given and she was able to move around the classroom and answer student questions as needed.  Furthermore, she used a playlist within YouTube and her GAFE account to organize these videos for student use.

Now that her students know where to go to find her videos, Ms. Rogers has flipped her instruction and allowed her teaching to continue beyond her classroom.  As I observed her classroom, I saw students going to Ms. Roger’s YouTube Channel, find the videos they needed to watch and then continue with the task at hand.  Certainly, Ms. Rogers is also demonstrating Marzano design elements under Domain 1 as she incorporates screencast-o-matic into her classroom routine.  She is impacting student achievement by establishing and maintaining consistent and reviewable classroom procedures.  By posting the procedure for logging onto the school server, Ms. Rogers is providing a method for reviewing and revisiting this task as often as any student needs that information.  She is also providing resources and guidance at the click of a button.

In the video below, you can see how Ms. Rogers is displaying what the students will see when they go to her playlist within YouTube.

Hats off to Amy Rogers!!  

Monday, October 7, 2013

If I were a specialist.....

Lately, I have really been working to leverage the technology for myself and students.  What is out there that will help our students work smarter and learn more?  How can we leverage their netbooks in their favor?  We don't have ipads; but they have a great device in their hand and how can we best use that to learn?

I have turned to Chrome Extensions.  Right now, I love Chrome extensions and what they can do. I know that there are great Chrome Apps too; but one thing at a time.  Patience, young grasshopper. These are my favorite extensions...from the student side and teacher side.

First of all, what is an extension?

So, let's take a peek at my favorite extensions!

If I were a specialist--actually, any classroom teacher can benefit from these extensions.....

Save Text to Google Drive
This Chrome extension helps you save web text content to your Google Drive.

Read&Write for Google:
This is a must have extension.  You can use the free service or the premium service for 30 days.  I wish that our district could afford the premium service.  The free service has some very useful tools: picture dictionary, read aloud ability, dual highlighting and more.

Allows you to annotate on a webpage and save your document as a png file.

Google Dictionary:
Be sure to set your options to allow for audio cues.

This is a great extension for editing pictures.

Converts Text to Speech on a website.  Pick the one that works best for you and your students.

This is a great extension; but it isn't working for me right now.  Announcify will read text from a website and also gray out the material that isn't being read.

Evernote Clearly:
Converts text on a website to a single page and then allows a student to write and annotate on the page.

Evernote Web Clipper:
I like this for helping students store websites for information.  A very easy tool that will aid with organization.

For Teachers:
As an instructor, I use all of the extensions listed above.  However, I use these two extensions all the time and I think that students would benefit from them as well--right now, they are my extra set of eyes and I haven’t shown these to my students. You will need to determine this for yourself.

Turn off the Lights:
This extension allows you to darken everything but the video.  A great little tool.

You can observe when a document that has been shared with you is modified.  A great tool to observe from afar and give you eyes in the back of your head.

When using Chrome, also be sure to teach your students how to pin tabs and how to quickly bookmark their tabs that are open.  All in all, there are a lot of great tools out there that can help you leverage time.  Who knows, you might get five spare minutes to yourself and with that spare time, you can find another great extension that will help you and your students!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Reflecting, learning, and creating; all aspects of the GTA Action Plan

In December, 2012, I had the opportunity to participate in some of the best professional training of my career.  Having both of my feet firmly planted in the third quarter of my career, I can say that without a doubt that the Google Teacher Academy impacted my life in many wonderful and positive ways.

The official training was two days long; but the unofficial training has been much longer.  One of these days, I know that I am going to see an Oompa Loompa walk in front of me.  I say this because the training and the experience seemed to be to good to be true.  It seemed like Willy Wonka himself conjured everything up and guided the placement of keys issues with his own hands.

What are the best things about Google Teacher Academy:

  • Positive atmosphere
  • Can-do attitude
  • Nuts and Bolts Training
  • Collegial Networking
  • Interaction to Google Officiondos
  • Action Plan

My action plan included creating a site called EdTechSlam with Lori, Ashley, Danielle, and Jenny Magiera.  The purpose of EdTechSlam is have a site where people can watch quick--less than 120 seconds--videos regarding technical topics.  These topics can be pedagogical in nature; "How you can use in Class" to instructional; "Uploading a video to YouTube."

In my opinion, the Action Plan is key for the Google Teacher Academy.  It keeps you involved with something larger than yourself and because of the collegial component, it requires that you keep your GTA network alive.  

While EdTechSlam is "still under construction," we use Google Hangout to keep things going and discuss topics of concern.  Our goal is to create more video content and tag wisely so the site is friendly to search and use.

I have really enjoyed this aspect of our work and I have learned so much from the ladies that I am working with.  Once again, another great impact of the action plan component.  We are hoping to have the site public by sometime this Fall.  Until then, we will continue to work on creating video content, tagging wisely, learning from each other, and hanging out together when we have questions/issues.