Lots of Bang for Your Buck

8700093610Being an educator on Twitter is a daily learning adventure. Each day I find something new to read, try, think about, and share. It is what makes me feel connected to both my virtual and my local pln. It is also part of what motivates me to continue learning.

This week I have four great things to share. While four sounds like a small number, each of the four has hours worth of learning included. It’s a lot of bang for your buck!

The first is an article from one of my favorite thought leaders, Alan November. I have shared many thoughts from previous articles and with each one, I find myself questioning, reflecting, thinking, and rethinking. This article is no different. “Crafting a Vision for the $1,ooo Pencil” challenges us to hold a mirror up to our use of technology and ask ourselves several questions, one of which is, “are we applying new tools to do old work.”  This article is about transformation- using technology to transform teaching and learning, “What have we never done before that technology uniquely enables to enhance teaching and learning?” November offers a framework of six questions that will help educators decide if technology has brought a transformative value to instruction. As always, Alan November gives us a lot to think about.

The next article is from another favorite, the oft-mentioned Alice Keeler. This time it is a guest post on Keeler’s site from another fantastic educator, Shaelynn Farnsworth. In this post Farnsworth suggests six alternatives to traditional reading logs that you can begin using with your students right now that offer your students different ways to engage, celebrate, connect, and share what they are reading.

Speaking of reading, last week the amazing 5th grade teacher Paul Solarz tweeted this link to a video library from the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. If you have ever been to the reading and writing project in person, you know how exciting this is. If you have never been to the TCRWP, then you also know how exciting this is. When I was a self-contained classroom teacher, Lucy Calkins was one of my teaching idols. I read her books, attended her summer workshops, and implemented the reading and writing workshops. I can still remember hearing her speak and asking if as adults, when we finish reading a book, look over to our partner, friend, or spouse and say, “I loved that book so much I am going to make a diorama.” This library of videos is a treasure trove of learning for anyone who implements or wants to implement the reading and writing workshops in their classroom. What you will see are 59 videos and 17 collections of Kindergarten through 8th grade reading and writing videos. These are actual teachers in actual classrooms teaching mini-lessons, doing pre-conferences, and more. There is some serious professional development in this collection! By the way, the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project site is also an incredible resource for educators, students, and families. Just check out the resource and clearinghouse pages to see what I mean.

Last, in terms of collections, this next series of videos put out by Rich Kiker of Kiker Learning, gives you everything you need to get started, use effectively, and feel confident and competent about using Google Classroom. There are 21 step-by-step videos that can take you from “novice to master in no time” so you can begin, or enhance your use of this incredible- and -keeps -getting -better workflow tool from GSuites.

“Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally”

Hello friends! Thank you for stopping by to read about some great sites and tools. Please be sure to read to the end to see how you can get access to THOUSANDS of FREE e-books that you can use with your class. Trust me, you will want to start using this one right away.

First is a very lovely story about everyone’s favorite S word- Stress. It is a metaphorical story about how we can approach stress. I think you will enjoy it. Coincidentally, in the online course I am spending time with, I am reading about stress and stressors. In a nutshell, we all need a balance of stress and non-stress in our lives; if we reach a tipping point that moves us toward the negative (wherein we shut down, close down, are not open to new ideas or change) we need to find a way back by seeking ways of renewing ourselves (yoga, meditation, exercise, spending time with loved ones, giving back to others, etc). It is only through the restorative process of renewal will we be open to new ideas, more creative, and able to move towards our goals. Interestingly, a recent article by Dr. Robert Brooks (if you have never heard or read his work, he is fantastic. Visit his site linked above to hear some of his talks on resilience) talks about stress and mindsets. It will complement and validate the lovely story very well. 

Next is something very cool. I saw it on Twitter this afternoon (where else!) and I think it has a real place in the classroom. It’s called Periscope and it’s an app that allows one to broadcast a live-feed of themselves and what is around them. When used for good like @JudyArzt used it for today (and not like the girl in Florida who thought it would be a bright idea to share her post-party joy ride), this app can offer amazing opportunities to share learning with others. So, how can you use it? Well, first idea that comes to my mind is virtual field trips. You all go on great learning adventures- why not broadcast these to your Twitter followers & other classrooms who might not be able to go to Gettysburg, Ellis Island, the Chesapeake Bay, or the Insectarium! Let them learn along with you. Invite others to view your makerspace I-day inventions, or share your Painted Lady butterfly habitat. I think there are many possibilities to use this app AND to incorporate proper digital citizenship/positive digital footprint lessons at the same time.

By the way, if I have not recently told you about the power of Twitter, I have been remiss. I sent a tweet (a couple actually between Friday and Monday) looking for a class to do a virtual debate with our debate club. The response has been overwhelming and very kind. There have been over a dozen retweets, half dozen favorites. And a few teachers and edutopia bloggers who personally messaged me letting me know they are either trying to find a class in their school or are offering to help if I don’t find a class which, as of about 20 minutes ago, I did!! If you are not using Twitter as a personal learning network, please let me show you to the Kool Aid. 

OK, so here is another very useful idea that I saw via Edutopia and it is about Flipped Learning. Flipped Learning is when you share information with the students via either a video that you create about the lesson, or a video someone else creates, or share information with students about the lesson before they come to the class so that they have a little knowledge ahead of time and you can go deeper during class time. Well this article talks about ways to best do this, and shares an example of a video that the teacher and author of this article used with his 4th grade students prior to the first day of school. Why I think this particular video idea is a great one is that it introduced his students to him and his classroom and some of the first day procedures before they came to school. To me, this is a great way to reduce and alleviate some first day jitters. If nothing else, it gives the students a taste of the type and styles of learning to come.

Here is another great tool that you can use with your class starting today. It’s called Educanon and it is very similar to Zaption and Edupuzzle in that it allows you to create, borrow, use, edit, and share interactive educational videos with your students in order to Flip or formatively assess your students. While you can easily create your own “bulbs” which is what these learning videos are called, you can also choose to use a premade bulb like this one on multiplication and division using modeling. (while this teacher does not specifically call it “bar modeling” it is what he is demonstrating when he shows how to solve this problem), or this one on division as repeated subtraction or this one on fractions and decimals. 

While I was watching videos on Educanon, I found that there is a great site for  video math lessons called Math Antics that I think regardless if you use them to create interactive videos, they would be a great resource for homework help and reinforcing the lessons you are teaching like Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally PEMDAS or this one on long division.

Lastly, here is a site that you are going to LOVE. It’s called Zing and it offers thousands of free ebooks of popular trade books for you and your students from PK-high school to read simultaneously while allowing each student the ability to annotate and highlight, check the built-in dictionary for unfamiliar words, and you to assign books by topic, subject, theme, lexile reading level, guided reading level, and more. Take a look at Richard Byrne’s short video tour of Zing, then sign up. It’s FREE! Want to personalize your Zing and get a few extra options— for $10 for the year, you can select and assign different books to one, some, or all of your students rather than everyone reading the same book. 

Enjoy!