#MACUL17: Creativity and Play

AARI Literacy & Technology Notes from the Classroom
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Photos from the conference. Click the image to enlarge it.

My head is still reeling after attending the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning (MACUL) conference, which took place in mid-March in Detroit. The conference, for those who haven’t attended, is “one of the Midwest’s largest educational technology conferences with 5000+ educators from across Michigan, the region, and Canada,” according to the conference website.

While there, I witnessed two days of inspiring technology ideas, three amazing keynote speeches, and 10 thought-provoking sessions.

Not to mention all of the students and teachers demonstrating some really cool technology. I attended sessions on creating a Makerspace, using technology in a reading workshop, and looking at YouTube videos as a genre of storytelling.

For those who weren’t able to make it, here are some of the major takeaways.

#MACUL17 Keynote Takeaways

#1: Ken Robinson. Sir Ken Robinson, an author and expert on creativity, reminded us that children are inherently creative. Schools should be cultivating creativity through personalization. At the same time, teachers need to connect with and customize learning for each student.

#2: Jane McGonigal. McGonigal, a game designer and the author of Reality is Broken, argued the importance of gaming techniques. Being playful and employing gaming techniques in education, she said, creates super empowered, hopeful individuals.

#3: Jennie Magiera. Magiera is, among other roles, the Chief Technology Officer of Des Plaines School District 62, in Illinois. Taking risks in education, she said, is one of the most important things teachers can do for their students.

The Maker Movement and AARI

I’m new to the maker movement, but after attending my first session, I knew that I wanted to start implementing a maker-mentality in all of my classrooms, and especially with my struggling readers in AARI, the Adolescent Accelerated Reading Initiative.

AARI teachers want our students to:

  • Take risks in reading and thinking
  • Find patterns in text structure
  • Be creative in their representations of text
  • See themselves as readers
  • Feel like they’re a part of a community
  • Approach new texts with a critical stance

In AARI, we also believe that it’s the process that matters–over the end results and even content.

Everything I’ve heard and read about the maker movement, so far, tells me that I’ve got to start including this kind of playful tinkering in my AARI classes. Maker education, if you’re unfamiliar with the term, uses “a wide variety of hands-on activities (such as building, computer programming, and sewing) to support academic learning and the development of a mindset that values playfulness and experimentation, growth and iteration, and collaboration and community,” according to a blog on Education Week.

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Materials set up for building a car to race on a track at MACUL.

Maker education benefits students’ creativity, problem-solving abilities, and personal identities. One white paper concluded that “the most salient benefits of maker-centered learning for young people have to do with developing a sense of self and a sense of community that empower them to engage with and shape the designed dimension of their world.”

That really resonated with me. It sounded just like that which AARI strives to do for struggling readers, with any informational text that comes across their desk or device.

There’s a lot to consider when starting up a Makerspace. Here are a few of the things I’m thinking about right now:

  • How can I learn more about Makerspaces and how to integrate them into my classroom?
  • How will I fund materials and technology/equipment?
  • How will I organize and set up my materials and classroom to truly embrace the “openness” of a Makerspace?
  • How can I best connect this to my curriculum?
  • How will I protect my Makerspace, once created?

There are those that scoff at the maker movement, calling it just another fad and no better than art classes or drama clubs. And there are those of us that scoff at those people that would dismiss anything so creative and fun and enjoyable.

But if I took away anything from the MACUL keynotes, it was that being playful and creative is super important to children’s ability to learn, adapt, and grow as human beings.

So, in the spirit of taking a risk, let’s start making! If you have any ideas or suggestions for my Makerspace journey, please post on social media or in the comments below.

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My first attempt at tinkering with Strawbees building kits.

Caroline Thompson (@TeacherThompson) taught middle school ELA for twelve years in Lake Orion before becoming a stay-at-home mom. She supports AARI teachers for Oakland Schools as an independent literacy consultant in the areas of digital media, professional development, and non-fiction resources. Caroline is a Reading and Writing Workshop advocate, a 2008 Oakland Writing Project Teacher Consultant, and a 2009 Oakland County Outstanding Teacher of the Year Nominee. She has a BA in English from Michigan State University and a Masters in the Art of Teaching Reading from Oakland University. She lives in Berkley, Michigan with her husband and their three year old daughter.

 

A Nanobot of Sugar

Notes from the Classroom

shutterstock_116283283Our annual return-to-school professional development this year was a lovely buffet of technology-themed mini-workshops to help us navigate the ever-expanding realm of ed tech. The PD was well received, and it also got me thinking.  

I’ve never been a technology skeptic, nor does technology make me uneasy.  That being said, I’ve also rarely been the type to let any particular app or site or device really transform my classroom in any particular way. I adore Google Classroom and the entire suite of Google work tools (Docs, Slides, etc.), but I still think of them as supplements to my normal curriculum and pedagogy, as opposed to transformative additions (though Google Docs comes close with regard to writers workshops).  

A Nanobot of Sugar

Lately, though, I’ve started to realize that tiny doses of technology here and there have a pretty transformative impact on how we help our kids. I’m not offering this up as a revelation, but it’s worth thinking about what kids need in an English class and how we deliver it to them. Virtual and augmented reality are knocking at the door–Pokemon and PlayStation have already invited them in!–so we’d do well to think about what roles technology has performed well in inside our classrooms.

I’d encourage you to slow down your busy lesson planning routine to take similar stock of how and where you’re implementing technology.

To Infinity and Beyond: Traditional Assessments

Here are a few tech forays I’ve made into advanced approaches to very traditional English stuff.

Reading comprehension. My old failing in this arena was my continual insistence that students demonstrate their comprehension in written form. As I began to trust graded discussions more, I discovered how many students actually had a rather robust knowledge of the texts we were reading. These students, though, lacked the writing sophistication to express that knowledge in the only way I had been allowing them to.  

Oh, the irony, technology, you sly dog! It turns out, given a “safe space” where kids are typing (also known as “writing”) to each other–instead of to me–they suddenly reveal that very sophistication in their writing that I had found lacking.  

Technology is the key. In class I’m really fond of GoSoapBox, which allows for things like instant polling in addition to longer responses. It will also provide a printable transcript of any conversation the class produces. Google Classroom has similar features, but apps with a polling feature allow for some very interesting on-the-spot data: turns out kids get pretty honest when they’re provided a formative (absolutely key) and anonymous virtual space to share their thoughts.

Writing Feedback

I’ve written at length about the joys of audio feedback, which I began exploring last year using turnitin.com. This year I may explore other apps that provide kids a verbal walkthrough of their writing. My frustration has been that technology in this case was only addressing one side of the process–it’s great that I can talk to kids about their final product, but it seems almost MORE important for them to talk to ME.

toplogo2xEnter “Flipgrid,” a new app I discovered at a conference recently (thanks, AssisTechKnow!) that allows students to respond to a prompt with 90 seconds of video. If I can give them three minutes of summary about what I thought of their writing, it seems reasonable that they could give me half that amount in reflection on some area of the rubric I ask them to consider more closely. We’ll see how this turns out, but I’m surmising that speaking into a camera lens might have a sobering effect that traditional forms of reflection (“Fill out this self-reflection sheet–and be honest!”) simply do not.  

Exit Slips

Exit slips involve a bit more application of the same technology I’ve mentioned above, at least for now. I think Join.Me will play a role here too, eventually, allowing my students to share to the classroom’s center screen right from their seats. For now, though, I’m looking at smaller ways to gather fast, impactful formative data from my kids.

Right now it’s mostly online discussion or polling spaces, but there are apps out there that will allow kids to, say, take a photo of a page in their book and then annotate it with a drawing tool before submitting it to me on their way out the door. Imagine the usefulness of snippets of focused annotation from a struggling reader in response to a question–without having to photocopy a thing!

Like I said–nothing groundbreaking. Worth thinking about though: Are you using technology to fill gaps or to rethink failures…or are you just using it because it’s all the rage? I, for one, welcome our robot overlords…but that’s because I feel pretty good about all the toys they’ve brought.

Michael Ziegler

Michael Ziegler (@ZigThinks) is a Content Area Leader and teacher at Novi High School.  This is his 15th year in the classroom. He teaches 11th Grade English and IB Theory of Knowledge. He also coaches JV Girls Soccer and has spent time as a Creative Writing Club sponsor, Poetry Slam team coach, AdvancEd Chair, and Boys JV Soccer Coach. He did his undergraduate work at the University of Michigan, majoring in English, and earned his Masters in Administration from Michigan State University.  

A Virtual Conference on Data Literacy

Critical Literacy Notes from the Classroom Oakland Writing Project Professional Learning
Virtual PD on my patio

Virtual PD on my patio

One day over the summer, I was scrolling through Twitter and saw a post for the 4T Virtual Conference on Data Literacy.  As someone who has presented at the 4T Virtual Conference on Digital Writing, I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t heard of the data literacy arm–and it was coming up in two days! I quickly clicked the link and signed myself up, ready for two days’ worth of virtual PD about teaching students data literacy, and which I could access from my patio.

If you’ve never attended a virtual conference, they tend to work like this: once you sign up, you are sent a link to a virtual room, which you enter a few minutes before the session is slated to begin. Generally, there is some kind of introductory task that allows people to get to know one another. This task also allows a moderator to introduce the presenter and troubleshoot along the way.

Whatever the presenter is talking about is the main reason people attend the session. But the running chat (which move so fast!) among all of the participants often yield tons of great, practical ideas for teachers, too.

The Info on Infographics

I attended multiple sessions, on topics ranging from an introduction to data literacy, to data literacy in the content areas, to action research in the classroom. For this conference, I was most looking forward to the sessions about data visualization and infographics, though. I’ve dabbled with making infographics and have always wanted to have students create them, but I was never sure how to go about doing that, because I didn’t feel that I had a design background.

As the presenters were speaking, something that one of them said really struck me: think of an infographic like an argumentative essay.  The infographic itself is the overall argument. The images, design, and information are the evidence and reasons.

Thinking about infographics in this way was like a light bulb going off in my head. Writing arguments with supporting evidence is something students are well versed in, and moving from a traditional essay to a different argumentative form seemed like a great next step.

Get Visual

visualize this In addition to seeing infographics in a new light, I also learned, from participants in the chat, about two books that would expand my understanding of data visualizations. The books are Visualize This: The FlowingData Guide to Design, Visualization, and Statistics and Data Points: Visualization that Means Something, both by Nathan Yau. While the books are sometimes heavy on programming language, they greatly enhanced my understanding of how data might be visualized, and why you might visualize a particular data set. They also offered tons of practical (and often free) resources for visualizing data.

As I was reading these books over the summer, I had planned on using with students what I learned. But now that I have moved into the role of curriculum coordinator, I know this learning will be very applicable to my new work.

Screenshot 2014-09-26 at 12.44.07 PMJianna Taylor (@JiannaTaylor) is the ELA/SS Curriculum Coordinator for the West Bloomfield School District.  Prior to this role, she was a middle school ELA and Title 1 teacher.  She is a MiELA Network Summer Institute facilitator and member of the OWP Core Leadership Team.  Jianna earned her bachelor’s degree from Oakland University and her master’s degree from the University of Michigan.  She also writes reviews of children’s books and young adult novels for the magazine School Library Connection.

Workshop: To Go Digital…or Not?

Literacy & Technology Notes from the Classroom Oakland Writing Project

shutterstock_211771828At the end of the year, teachers must officially reflect on their teaching and the impact that it had on kids. Now, this is not to say that teachers don’t reflect throughout the year and observe the impact they have on their students, but it is hard to avoid this question at the end of the year. So, I took out my neatly labeled evaluation folder and looked at my goals. My district requires that I write 3 goals that align with curriculum standards, but also with our district goals. We write these in the SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely) goal format. While, I’m a methodical and organized person, I realized quickly that my projected outcomes turned out very differently than I expected. Additionally, my actual student outcomes produced additional questions I need to consider.

Knowing the importance of our district’s technology goal and my own desire to incorporate technology into my teaching practice, I set a goal to create digital Reading/Writing notebooks. In an earlier post, I wrote about my school introducing 1:1 iPads as part of the 1:world project . My plan, subsidized by a small district grant, was to offer students the same notebook experience we used in a workshop classroom, but in a digital format. I researched and realized that Evernote had a sister app that uses styluses for writing rather than a keyboard. With the purchase of Evernote Premium, I could also share out whole notebooks with users, like my students. I thought that this would be a good option for kids.

shutterstock_196017134Still, this brings up an issue I’m still pondering: I believe that in order to consider work truly digital it must be transformed technology–not able to be created without technology. Clearly, we were already doing this notebook work before technology, so how did this digital version help to accomplish my goal? My students and I quickly realized that styluses leave many things to be desired, and we knew that simply putting this work in an online notebook versus a regular notebook wasn’t enhancing the writing process so much. So, I was on my way to creating a digital reading/writing notebook as my goal stated, but at this point, I had to alter the the attainable part of this goal.

As an open-minded and reflective educator, I realized we needed to shift our use of this wonderful tool. As we did this work, I had paper/pencil versions of assignments, notebook tape-ins, examples, etc. available for students to use if they chose to, but I also had opportunities for digital versions, such as an electronic peer review or generating maps. I have to admit that this dual opportunity was more for my benefit in case the digital version didn’t work (if students were unable to load a file or to work collaboratively).

Along with this shift and my first questions, I set a second goal to use a digital notebook to enhance collaborative feedback between students and between teacher and students. By setting this additional goal, there was now a purpose for the online work that could professionally enhance my practice and the reading and writing of my kids. My students and I quickly transferred to all digital reading and writing work. It was user-friendly, and I thought it was important for students to learn how to use technology in a positive way and in a way that could grow their reading and writing skills.

shutterstock_186259448Then, I found myself with a day of digital mishaps that opened the opportunity for students to choose how they organized and crafted their work. I punted quickly with paper copies of the work or the choice for students to create their own page of notes and examples rather than using my digital versions. Students made their choices, and we moved forward with learning for the day. The next day, with all technology working, a student inquired if I had any paper copies like yesterday. This simple question gave me pause. I was embarrassed. I used to be so proud of the choices I provided the students in my classroom, and even more proud when they found their niche and created something that was special to them. I also used to cherish the beauty and variety that students brought to their notebooks – they had my lesson labels and tape-in notes, but they had doodles that added beauty to their pages and colors that shone through the typed notes, as well as messy, but purposeful writing. Now, the beautiful handwriting scripts are gone as are the doodles in the page margins. Their work is still unique in their content and their work is still special to who they are as writers, but it looks very uniform. When I paused, I realized that I also missed my colorful handwritten pages and the little anecdotes from kids that I would add. I got so caught up in using the technology because it was my goal that I forgot about being the teacher that I was.

Admittedly, I couldn’t say that the shift was all bad. I also had to stop and consider if any of the digital work was good for kids, and I realized some significant outcomes.

  • Students received more direct, consistent feedback from me than they had in the past.
  • Students had a record of the feedback notes rather than just verbal notes they had to remember.
  • I also realized that they now had opportunities to read the work of students who weren’t in their class. With shared folders on Google Drive, students could see, read, and comment across class sections.
  • I was also able to offer more short, consistent feedback pieces between students, which students even began requesting.
  • Also, students were able to easily research online.
  • And they increased their audience beyond our school classroom due to online publishing opportunities.

shutterstock_31745713As I reflect at the end of the year, I recall what a mentor said to me–that with older students like mine, I could let them choose. She suggested a short research project where kids choose a way to do their writing work as I offer them options and teach about how writing in different genres requires different tools. I know now that my projected outcomes differed from my goal statements because we had to find the right tools for our needs. While I did accomplish my goal – incorporating a digital reading/writing notebook into students’ practice, I am left with my second question: what is a workshop teacher to do without paper notebooks? And I am still thinking about how digital work can enhance the reading/writing workshop in my classroom.

pic 2Amy Gurney is an 8th grade Language Arts teacher for Bloomfield Hills School District. She was a facilitator for the release of the MAISA units of study. She has studied, researched, and practiced reading and writing workshop through Oakland Schools, The Teacher’s College, and action research projects. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Education at Central Michigan University and a Master’s in Educational Administration at Michigan State University.

Literacy & Technology Design Studio

REGISTER

Grade Level(s): 3-12

shutterstock_200694248Description:

Maybe you’re a tech savvy teacher who needs time to explore and plan new ways of infusing technology into your literacy-based instruction. Or maybe you’re just embarking on the tech integration journey to make it part of your literacy instruction. Either way, you’re welcome at the Lit & Tech Design Studio. During each three-hour session, educators will spend the first hour learning about integrating technology into a specific area of literacy-focused instruction (see specifics below). The final two hours of the session are an opportunity for educators to explore tools and plan their own literacy-focused projects and lessons with the support of Oakland Schools consultants and teacher leaders. These projects and lessons may or may not connect to the workshop’s instructional focus for that day. The goal of the Design Studio is to support literacy educators in the tech-related teaching and learning they want to do.

 SCECHs: pending

Who Should Attend?: ELA, Social Studies and Science teachers interested in how technology can facilitate effective student literacy practices. Grade level teams and departments are encouraged to attend together.

Topics, Dates & Time: 

There are four sessions offered.  You may register for one, some, or all of the sessions.

shutterstock_51940792All sessions are 1:00pm – 4:15 pm

Session 1 (Tuesday, October 6): Instructional Focus: Formative Assessment Tools for Literacy Instruction

Session 2 (Tuesday, December 1):  Instructional Focus: Digital Writing Workshop

Session 3 (Tuesday, February 2):  Instructional Focus: Digital Reading Practices & Tools

Session 4 (Tuesday, March 29) : Instructional Focus: Research – Online Student Inquiry & Production


Presenter(s):
Delia DeCourcy

Location: Oakland Schools

Event Contact : Kim Adragna, kim.adragna@oakland.k12.mi.us, 248.209.2195

 

 

Podcast #15: Student Data, Mining of This Data, and Implications

Podcasts

The ability to collect and store vast amounts of information on students has increasingly become easier and cheaper. At its best, this information can be used to support students. At its worst, the information can be used against students, often without their knowledge. This information can be stored and manipulated forever.

In this podcast, Chris Gilliard, Hugh CulikDaniel Hoops and Jason Almerigi provide an insightful and interesting discussion on this issue.

Links to sites mentioned in the podcast:

This podcast is also on iTunes.