I had a conversation with a 5th grade student this week who couldn't quit talking about something that happened in her room that day. I heard things like..."We talked to students from Alaska." "Their school has a volcano behind it." "Do you know how far Alaska is from us?" And then a few days later, I heard, "That Alaskan community was started by Russian immigrants." What is going on that is generating that much excitement? Mrs. Griffin's 5th grade classroom is extending learning beyond their walls by participating in Mystery Skypes. The following information was written by Mrs. Eva Griffin to explain just what a Mystery Skype is.
A Mystery Skype is a game created by teachers where two classrooms connect on Skype via the internet from anywhere in the world and try to guess each other's location by asking strategic yes or no questions. Students use maps, atlases, Google Earth, etc to try to locate the other class before they are discovered. This is a student led activity where they must work together to be successful. Students have roles (or jobs) for each Mystery Skype. This activity builds critical thinking and cooperative learning skills, public speaking skills as well as geography skills. It is engaging and fun. We learn things about other schools. We also learn things about the other school's weather, land features, different time zones and about their school day and class size. Once we guess a location, we then Google their town and school to learn more about them. Our goal is to visit all 50 states this year! We are creating documents in our Drive with the information we learn from our Skypes and googling the schools we visit. Then we are going to create a ThingLink map of the places we have Skyped! We have also shared book talks with other classes. We have visited these 23 states this year.
If you want to learn more about this and other things going on in Mrs. Griffin's classroom, she is offering technology professional development this summer. Click on the links below for a complete list all technology sessions that will be offered in our district this summer. Registration opens tomorrow, April 15!
Technology Sessions - Kristy Graham/Dana Lane
Technology Sessions - Eva Griffin
After Spring Break, we all start dreaming about summer...sleeping late, enjoying the outdoors, vacationing, checking something off our bucket list (I think it’s time to try ziplining.) I have so many plans for Summer 2016!
One of the things that we, as educators, always have to fit into our summer plans is professional development. Kristy and I are excited to offer six technology sessions this summer. We are also excited to use one of the hottest trends in learning - badges! Participants will have the opportunity in all of our sessions to apply what they learn through hands-on tasks and earn badges (or brag tags) as challenges are completed.
We definitely wanted to offer a Google session and a web resource session because those things are so dynamic. We also felt like it was important to design a session around the Chromebook and all of the things that make it unique and powerful. If you or your students use Chromebooks, this session is tailor made for you.
Below are the descriptions for the sessions that we will offer this year. All sessions will be in the Rivercrest Elementary Computer Lab. Use your shoebox account to register (http://crowleys.crsc.k12.ar.us/shoebox). These sessions are open to anyone in our co-op area, so register quickly. (Registration opens April 15.) They fill up fast!
You can click HERE for the printable version of the sessions.
Google: The Old, The New, The “Oh, Yeah”!
June 7 8:30-3:30 - Session 281789
June 15 8:30-3:30 - Session 281790
If there is one thing we know about Google applications, it’s that they are always evolving. This session will take a look at some of the tried and true features of GAFE that educators and students love, some of our favorite new updates, and the changes that have us saying…”Oh, Yeah!”.
The Chromebook Craze: What’s the fuss about?
June 8 8:30-3:30 - Session 281794
June 16 8:30-3:30 - Session 281796
Have you heard the buzz about Chromebooks and wondered what the fuss is about? Or do you have Chromebooks in your school and want to make sure you use them to their fullest potential? Whether you are already caught up in the Chromebook craze or still exploring what Chromebooks have to offer, you don’t want to miss this session. Participants will spend the day exploring the device and what makes it unique, learning the advantages of using a Chromebook and some pitfalls to avoid, and discovering the possibilities this device can bring to your classroom.
June 14 8:30-3:30 - Session 281800
June 20 8:30-3:30 - Session 281801
What is a smackdown? A smackdown is a sharing of websites, tools, or technology tricks found to be useful. What makes it fun? The person sharing is given only two minutes to convince participants that her tool is the best one for the job. Watch as the facilitators describe common classroom tasks, go toe to toe to showcase their favorite applications to complete that task, and give the participants time to explore each app and vote on their favorites.
As custom has it, we are always excited to have older students work with younger ones to impart knowledge that can only be gained with age and experience. Mrs. Sarah Imler, second grade math teacher, recently flipped this idea on its head by having her little students teach the big students.
Mrs. Imler’s students are learning math through gamification. Gamification is basically using the motivational parts of games, such as points, rewards, and ranking, in a non-game situation. It is all about increasing engagement and motivating students to learn. She introduced the web based math game Prodigy to her second graders and it was a hit. Prodigy is a role playing game that gamifies the many math skills needed to be successful in first through eighth grade - and the magic word is free! Students are motivated to practice math skills on their levels. Teachers are provided with real-time reporting along with built in formative, diagnostic and summative assessment. Teachers will also appreciate the personalized approach in which Prodigy evaluates students to begin closing gaps in understanding and move them toward deeper understanding. If students are working on specific skills during class, teachers can also choose to assign those skills to reinforce the teaching.
Mrs. Imler loved the way her students interacted with the game based program and wanted to share with other classrooms. Mrs. Griffin invited the second graders to teach her fifth graders how to get started with Prodigy. The second grade students helped the older students set up accounts, work through problem solving, and set out on quests on Prodigy Island. Prodigies answered questions and battled monsters along with the help of their pets. The littles not only shared their knowledge with the bigs, but proved that it isn’t necessary to know it all - just be willing to share your experience and excitement.
Interim assessments, classroom assessments, summative assessments... One thing is for sure. We have lots of assessments. Our elementary recently completed its first round of ACT Aspire interim assessments, and grades 7-10 are scheduled over the next couple of weeks. Now is a great time to remind you of the resources available to learn more about the tests and the available reports.
ACT Aspire Overview:
Below is a quick comparison of the two types of periodic assessments:
More information on Periodic Assessments can be found here: http://www.livebinders.com/play/play/1851411# Check out the Resources for Periodics tab.
Our walk in the PARCC is over, and it is now time to “Aspire”. Spring testing will look different this year with all juniors taking the “real ACT” on March 1 and all 3rd-10th grade students taking the ACT Aspire (April 11-May 16). Both assessments will be administered online.
A few high level facts about Aspire:
In December our technology department started planning for online testing. We have our obvious testing goals - to ensure that our infrastructure and devices are test-ready (and in our district that equates to about 850 devices), to install and test caching servers, and to assist our counselors with data uploads and assessment logistics. In addition, Kristy and I have taken some time to focus on the instructional side of the assessment and have accumulated some resources about navigating the online platform and familiarizing ourselves with test content and design. You can find those resources at http://lightbulblearningblog.weebly.com. Click on Assessments and then Teacher Resources. You can also go directly to the ACT Aspire Teacher Resources page here - http://goo.gl/BQ3dwQ.
To feel prepared for an assessment, it is important to not only know the content but to also understand how that content will be tested (types of questions, number of questions, time limits, etc. ). Add the online component on top of that, and it is also important we minimize any uncertainty students have about navigating the assessment platform. The more we know about a test, the more comfortable we feel.
Two of the best resources for digging into the test design and the online platform are Testing in Arkansas and the Student Sandbox. Also, as part of the ACT Aspire assessment package, the state purchased periodic assessments which we have the opportunity to use - interim and classroom. Each school will decide how and when to use those.
Let our technology department know if you need help with anything….we aspire to help you in any way we can. (I couldn’t resist.)
“My Chromebook has a virus!” This is a common phrase I hear from students. I never panic, because I know it is nearly impossible for a Chromebook to actually get a virus. Most viruses come through installs. Chromebooks do not allow you to install any programs because most everything is web based. It is also important to note that Google releases updates to Chrome OS often. These updates include new features and securities that protect the device.
With that said, sometimes a Chromebook may act as if it has a virus. This is the time to consider malicious extensions. It is important to understand how Chrome extensions work. To keep it basic, a Chrome extension can be used with any web page. Some extensions begin to go to work as soon as you open a page, while others wait patiently for you to click on them. If an extension that has malicious intentions has been added to Chrome, it can wreak havoc on a Chromebook. Malicious extensions can sometimes come in the form of games, themes, or music/video downloaders. They can be stopped by simply deleting them. Follow the steps below to clean up Chrome extensions.
When would I need to delete Chrome extensions?
How to delete Chrome extensions:
Apps, extensions, and browser themes support
I think it is safe to say Rivercrest School District has “gone Google”. Our staff and students have embraced Google as a platform. Our district has enabled us to put a device in the hands of every 4th-12th grade student. We are definitely connected and equipped. And it’s no secret that most of our students love technology. It’s no secret that I love technology. It opens up a world of opportunities.
When I was in high school, Mrs. Key’s research projects meant having to make several trips to the library, search through dated encyclopedias and magazines, and write information on those little index cards. Now, current information is at my fingertips anywhere, anytime. And let’s not talk about that torturous bibliography page. Do you know how many times I retyped those because my comma or period was in the wrong place. Where was easybib or bibme when I needed them?
I learned to type on an electric typewriter with correction tape as my only way to hide any slip up I made from the well trained eyes of Mrs. Byford. The thought back then of being able to use something like Google Docs to write, edit, and share my work would have been mind blowing.
I remember the day I received my Old Man and the Sea reflection paper back from a state-wide competition with an honorable mention award attached to it. Counting Mrs. Key who assigned it, Mrs. Byford and Mrs. Pounders who critiqued it for spelling and grammar errors, my mom who read it because of its obvious journalistic qualities (ok...out of parental duty), and the five judges who read it, a total of nine people read that essay. The idea that some day something I wrote could be instantly shared with anyone in the world through a simple tweet or post just wasn’t in the realm of my imagination.
We thought it was great when the teacher rolled that big, ugly cart with the TV into the room so we could watch an educational video or even an occasional movie...finally a break from worksheets, chalkboard notes, and lectures. Today, our students create their own movies with phones and computers and edit them with far better special effects than the first Star Wars movie I watched. We stream movies and video clips to our devices without even thinking about it...and get frustrated when it stalls or buffers.
To think I could learn anything I wanted by watching a simple YouTube video or taking a MOOC (massive open online course) makes me wonder how different things might have been. Would I have taken advantage of those things or gotten caught up in social media, crazy cat videos, and Candy Crush.
In my lifetime, technology has definitely been a game changer. But technology in education is not a silver bullet It cannot be an add-on, baby sitter, or gimmick and say that it is “engaging students”. It is simply a tool - granted, a very powerful one but not necessarily the right tool for every task. Choose the right tool for the job. If we keep our focus on sound pedagogy and learning, the impact technology can have in our district is endless.
Google Fun Facts:
Users in our domain have created
Other interesting statistics:
And just who are our top users?
We worked with each group of students during center time to model the activity. Students read the sight words and scanned the QR codes to check their work. Picture instructions were displayed to remind students of the process in case they needed assistance.
Just think of the QR code possibilities!
Resources for creating a QR vocabulary center:
Have you ever heard of Edcamp or maybe the word “unconference"? An edcamp is basically a gathering of people who have the desire and passion to learn in an open environment. Sessions are not planned until the morning of the event, and everyone in the a session has a voice. To be simplistic, think of it as a coffee shop type conversation about a particular subject. Where that conversation goes depends on who is in the room.
I was first introduced to the idea by a fellow educator I follow on Twitter. When I found out there was a technology edcamp forming within driving distance, I encouraged a couple of colleagues to attend with me and set out on a Saturday to see what it was all about.
This is what I discovered. There was no high-paid keynote speaker and definitely no death by powerpoint. The whole atmosphere was relaxed and conversational from the moment we walked in. There was a huge board with sticky notes close by. The board was divided into sessions times and room numbers. We were encouraged to think of a topic we wanted to know more about or that we knew something about, write down the topic, and stick it on the board in one of the session slots. If we chose to do this, we “owned” that session...which meant nothing more than we started the conversation.
It was the most amazing day of learning because every session was exactly what we made it. Conversation flowed freely. There were no stuffy, prepared presentations - everyone contributed and took control of their own learning.
I knew this was a great model that I wanted to share, and I am extremely thankful for an administration that allowed us creative freedom in designing this opportunity. The impromptu sessions are a little intimidating at first, so the "unconference" idea morphed into a mini technology conference. Our staff was given opportunities to volunteer (ahead of time) to lead sessions on topics of their choosing. Kristy Graham and I organized the event with several priorities in mind.
We called the event Technology Show and Share. After a brief opening session with instructions and encouragement, everyone was able to choose three sessions from a list of topics. We had 18 staff members step up to lead sessions, and based on the conversations we heard and exit tickets we read - “This really provoked thinking!”, “I loved this format.”, “...great day of learning” - the day was a success!
Dana Lane is a Technology Coordinator, and Kristy Graham is an Instructional Technology Specialist - both at Rivercrest School District. They are passionate about technology and learning and enjoy sharing this passion with teachers and students.