Whose Choice is it Anyway?

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Photo by Letizia Bordoni on Unsplash

I had a moment today. It was kind of big.

I like giving my students feedback forms. I use them a lot! I use them in the beginning of the year, after big projects, check-in times, and at the end of the year.  I like the feedback and the information that these check-ins provide. One of the questions I asked my students at the beginning of this year was, “What is one thing Mrs. Finger can do to improve your experience in this class?” Kids responded with several, “Nothing, Mrs. Finger is great!”, (which is lovely. I could stop looking at the others and rest on my laurels)- “More coding,” “Learn more tools,” and “More freedom.” There were other similar responses, all of which I have tried to incorporate into class so that my students would feel more engaged and empowered. Thankfully, no one said, “she can leave us alone to do as we will.”

The end of the year we do a big project that basically lasts from April until the end of May and in the past, this has been a coding project. I love to teach the kids coding and this end-of-year project has been a highlight (for me).

The children have learned about several ancient civilizations and using Tynker, they share their learning about three of the five civilizations. This year I have decided to make a change: I decided I would let them choose which digital storytelling tool they would like to use share their learning. They will all have the same initial content from which to work: the GRAPES of the civilizations (Geography, Religion, Achievements, Politics, Economy, Social Structures) as that is the lens through which they studied, and from there they can choose their storytelling tool and go. This year they have used Google Slides, Animoto, Tynker, and MySimpleShow. Since Adobe Spark just became available as an edu tool, I won’t have time to introduce it for this year but will definitely add it next school year.

The introductory class went off without a hitch. Kids were excited about the project and eager to get started drafting their outline. They loved the idea of having a choice to use one of the tools they used this year. I figured with choice, they would choose something they felt comfortable and skilled using and therefore would be more engaged in the project (this is not to say that the previous years’ students using Tynker as their sole option were not engaged- they definitely loved the project, but it was easier for some than others).

So today I had the first group of students ready to get started and I was excited to  hear their choices.

Until I started to hear their choices.

Until many of them said they wanted to use Google Slides.

Not that there is anything wrong with Slides. There is not!

I guess I was just expecting them to go another route. Animoto or My Simple Show. Or Tynker since I know a lot of the students like to code.

And so I asked them why they were making the choice they were. I figured it best to hear their reasoning.

  • No text limits (like in Animoto and My Simple Show)
  • Freedom to be creative with text boxes, shapes, arrows
  • Easy to manipulate
  • Limitless images and creativity

OK. I took some deep breaths. I reminded them that they should choose something that will highlight their creativity and skills and not choose the easy way out. Perhaps I was trying to sway them into making a different selection.

That is where the big moment came for me.

I gave them a CHOICE. They made it. I have to live with it.

I suppose one cannot give a choice unless one is ready to hear the answer.

And, one cannot give a choice hoping to hear an answer.

I still have two more classes to introduce this project and I have two more classes to get myself ready to hear their choices.

I can do this.

 

 

 

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When Opportunity Comes Knocking . . .

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“Teachers open doors, but you must enter by yourself” ~Chinese Proverb

 

When I was trying to come up with a title for this post, I thought about what kinds of things I was sharing. I realized that much of it, while presented as tips, tools, and readings, are really opportunities. Opportunities for our own learning, opportunities for our students’ learning, and opportunities to try something new.

Opportunity #1

I am excited that the Innovator’s Mindset Massive Open Online Course or #IMMOOC for short, is offering another opportunity for us to learn together as it is coming back for round 4. Whereas rounds 1-3 revolved around the reading and discussing of Couros‘ fantastic, thought-provoking book, The Innovator’s Mindset, this round includes two additional books to choose from: Katie Martin’s, Learner-Centered Innovation and A.J. Juliani and John Spencer‘s Empower. I loved participating in the previous round and looked forward to each week’s live video session as well as the weekly Twitter chat. If you would like to learn more about the previous round, you can read about it here.  This is a learning opportunity you will not want to miss.

Opportunity #2

This next opportunity is for World Language Teachers. Eric Curts always has great resources to share and this is no different. In his post, he shares 5 tools for increasing your students’ fluency with the target language including one that you probably had not thought to use this way. One of my colleagues has been using Google Hangouts with her students and she loves the authenticity of the conversations.

Opportunity #3

Equally as fantastic is this opportunity from Shake Up Learning to enhance your teaching life:  50 apps/sites that integrate with Google Classroom. As many of you know and can attest, Google Classroom makes your workflow that much smoother with your students. Having apps that integrate with Google Classroom makes using those sites even easier with their share to classroom option. I have personally used the Flipgrid, PBS Learning Media, Padlet, Nearpod,and Screencastify, as well as the Share to Google Classroom extension (which anyone who is using Classroom should immediately install) and find the integration to be seamless. It is really as easy as click, share, choose class, done!

Opportunity #4

While browsing the above post, I saw an opportunity to learn about a new resource and clicked on a site I had not heard of before– Open Ed. Open Ed is resources for teachers and students K-12 including videos, assessments, homework, lesson plans, interactives, and more. You can search by key word, grade, type of resource, standard, or school subject. Once you get your results, you can then share them with your students by printing or sharing to Google Classroom. If you create your free account, then you can create a class and assign things to your students individually, in groups, or as a whole class (similar to your options for assignments in Google Classroom). Your teacher dashboard shows you what you have assigned, what your students complete, how they did, and then offers specific additional resources for each student for each question they need more help with which you can then assign to those students. Talk about differentiation! Pop over to Open Ed to check out what they have to offer; you will not be disappointed!

Opportunity #5

This last site is an opportunity to engage your reluctant or struggling readers. A few weeks ago I heard about this next site and am excited to share it. Storyshares is a site dedicated to pairing books with struggling or disengaged readers that are compelling, age appropriate, and at the same time, are at their reading level. You can read about StoryShares here. What is great about Storyshares is it’s interactivity. You can search by interest level (late elementary through post high school), reading level (Fountas and Pinnell), or grade level (K-5). These are books written specifically to address the need for high interest and relevant books for those whose reading level is not the same as their age and maturity level. It’s really a win-win for everyone involved.

photo credit: PMillera4 Two Doors via photopin (license)

First Grade Tech Support Positions Wanted

IMG_0772The most exciting thing is happening in first grade. I have students who are asking to take on the daily role of tech support for their table group. Kids who are actually getting upset if they cannot be tech support. Students who otherwise have not put themselves in a leadership position.

Let me back up for a moment to explain. This class has recently started “glogging” using eduglogster. It has been about five days since we began so the children are becoming quite adept at making their way through the school server and folders to get to the eduglogster shortcut. It amazes me on a regular basis how well these first grade students can follow the several-step directions, many without even needing to look at the board. It should be no surprise to me since last year’s first graders did the same thing, but it still makes my eyes water when the teacher and I talk about how great they are doing.

So we have been creating glogs over the last week and having the time devoted to this is definitely making it easier for both the teachers and the students. I find, not surprisingly, that the frequency of use correlates with the subsequent ease of use.

The other day the idea of tech support came up when one student was helping another edit some text on their glog. I mentioned that perhaps that student would like to be their tech support table captain and help out their classmates as needed. One after the other, children from other tables were volunteering for this position until we had a set of support for both that day and the next. These students went to each child at their table to be sure that they were saving and logging out properly and did this with such an air of authority and responsibility; they were Tech Support after all.

Each time I go into the class, the students are already signed up to be the tech support for the day and they take this title very seriously, checking in with their classmates to see if they need help.

This is not the first time that students have helped each other. Usually when I work with a student on something, it becomes their responsibility to teach the next person. If a students figures something out, they share that with their neighbors. The only difference between these two situations is that I gave what they were doing a title and they owned it.

Why do I share this with you? If first grade students can do this, certainly older students can do this as well. We should be utilizing these students to empower them and to acknowledge their changing role in the classroom– as contributing members in an ever-changing classroom context.