OnCUE

Author - Kristina Allison

Learning like Fortnite

Person working on their phone at their home office desk

A student is sitting at his desk, face down in his lap, eyes engaged in something on his phone screen. No, he’s likely not texting. He’s probably playing Fortnite, the most popular game of its kind, a third-person cooperative, base-defense game. He’s completely tuned out all round him and doesn’t even notice you standing by his side. How can we utilize this kind of passion in the classroom? If you’re like me, you are always looking for ways to engage students even half as much as their favorite video game. How can we make learning as fun? How can our content be the subject for which a student is clamoring to get to his screen? One way is to create our own games.

While there are plenty of online games students can play, often we find the content is general or not exactly aligned with the standards we are trying to teach. This list of ways to create your own games from Free Technology for Teachers, by Richard Byrne might just be a great solution to add even more fun to your lessons. Plus, summer is the perfect time to explore. Check them out and share out any games you’ve create. Let’s make the classroom the next Fortnite!

Forgetting ISTE

Woman writing in notebook

As I settled in to relax this holiday week, I thought it was a good time to look back and reflect on the #ISTE18 or rather for me, the #NotatISTE experience. I read lots of Twitter posts during the conference, gathered some great inspiration, but like anything else, most has already been forgotten. I mean, it’s summer. Unless I write it down, these amazing ideas are not going to find their way into my classroom this August.

 

Luckily, as I was catching up on my my blog reading, I came across Steve Wick’s (@WickedEdTech) post on his site, Know Your Why. Not only does he offer his own reflection, but has many links to Google awesomeness! Check it out here.

 

And don’t forget to write those ideas down! As you’re learning over these warm months, whether it’s from conferences, posts, books, or Twitter chats, find a way to gather your own thoughts: start a blog, create a Google Doc, add to your Google Keep, or do what I do–write those ideas down on paper. I actually have a composition book specifically for this purpose. Let’s not lose amazing edu-nuggets to the summer abyss.

Finding the Balance of Technology

Woman checking phone

I’m a digital junkie. I have a phone full of apps, a browser full of extensions, and a device in my hand, on my lap and on my arm. Of course, the one thing I love about summer as an educator are the times where I don’t even look at a screen. Finding that balance of when to put down the device is something adults struggle with, but as educators we are called to teach students to do the same. I find this extremely difficult.

 

Reading this blog last week by Cal Newport really had me thinking. Is using tech to balance our tech habits the answer? My watch tells me when I need to stand, move and even take deep breaths. Is this what we want for the future? Is this how we teach and learn self control?

 

Read Cal Newport’s blog here. Do you think tech is the answer to teach us to put the tech down?

The Dilemma of Being a Teacher Leader

Teacher in front of board

As I sit in my living room, trying to press out the FOMO of #notatISTE18, my mind keeps drifting back to the place I flounder as a leader and classroom teacher. Being a Lead Learner for CUE means I get invited to deliver sessions to educators around California for events that districts and other organizations hold. These are paid gigs that offer me the opportunity to share my successes with other educators, as well as learn new concepts and innovative pedagogy right alongside them. As a classroom teacher, these experiences help other educators, but also facilitate my own growth. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to leave the classroom to do this.

Many educators feel this same push and pull. Tom Rademacher, an author, presenter and classroom teacher, wrote a blog this spring that really hit home with me. I have been thinking about it since and felt it was worth sharing. I see it as a real problem with our current system. Take a moment and read his thoughts in: It’s Damn Near Impossible to Be a Teacher-Leader and Still Teach. Is it possible there is a better way?

Feedback: No Time Turner Needed

Pocket Watch

I have been teaching English for a long time. A very long time. I have spent hours writing feedback, inking up student drafts with corrections as a service and gift to my students. I kid, but really, I just want them to succeed. I want them to think about where they can grow as writers and spend time considering suggestions. Most of the time, though, my students just shove their papers into the abyss of their backpacks, feeding the zippered monster of never to be be seen again assignments. Why? Because I handed those papers back with a grade.

This year was going to be different. I was going to get better at giving students feedback. I have read many articles and blog posts that referenced Butler’s study that showed  students who received comments alone demonstrated the greatest improvement (Butler, 1988), and Hattie’s study that showed student self-assessment/self-grading has the greatest impact on student learning  (Hattie, 2012). Only how was I going to get students to actually READ and DO something with the feedback? Then last June, I read Cult of Pedagogy’s post on Delaying the Grade: How to Get Students to Read Feedback by Kristy Louden. Suddenly, I had a “No, DUH,” moment. Why hadn’t I thought of this before?

Collecting the Best Draft

First trimester my students were tasked with writing an original Hero’s Journey story. They wrote (and wrote and wrote) until some had over 40 pages (double spaced). They really got into it. We went through all of my “normal” ways of teaching: brainstorming, mini lessons, sharing and revising in writing groups, and when they were finally ready to collect, instead of calling it a “Final” draft,  I simply called it their best draft. “Best draft due on Friday.”

Streamlining Feedback

Being  an 8th grade teacher, unless I had one of Hermione Granger’s Time Turners, it is impossible to find the time to give extensive feedback to every student. Instead, I created a Doc with all the comments I could possibly make to an 8th grade student on a narrative. I started with looking at the rubric, then added as I was reading stories. Under each comment, I added a link to a video, website or blog post that could reteach the concept. This way, as I came across an issue in a student essay, I would simply add a comment on the document and paste the already prepared comment with the reteaching tool. I have also seen the idea of using Google Keep to house your comments. Another great tool is the Ed Tech Team’s Google extension CheckMark. However you decide, curating a list of common comments is the way to go.

Feedback without Grades

As I was reading each narrative, I wrote down a rubric score for my purposes, only. No grade was shared with the student. I simply returned the writing and asked each to revise before resubmitting. When I looked at the stories a second time, I simply looked at the grade I had given the narrative in my notes and clicked “See Changes” in Google Docs.  No need to read the whole thing again! This made the process so much faster and efficient.

As Expected 

It happened just as I hoped. Students paid attention to my feedback! Not knowing their grades made all the difference. Not all did as good of a job as I had hoped. Some only fixed the areas I made specific suggestions and not where I made general statements. That is definitely something to work on next time.

Growth Opportunities

I did find that my grade book was sparse. I had a parent ask me why I hadn’t entered any grades in such a long time. I really have no idea how to solve this issue, or even if it really is an issue. My students were learning during the process, and I didn’t want to stop them to assess, simply for a grade in the grade book.

I would also like to develop a more extensive Doc of curated resources so I could create individual playlists for each student based on what each needs to revise. I am hoping to work on that list going forward, with some help from my network of colleagues across the nation.

In a perfect world, I would be able to sit down with each student and conference on each piece of writing many times during the process. The reality is, that takes time, the most valuable and scarce resource of my classroom. For now, I’ll work on improving this process. I am sold.

Ease the Pain of #NOTATISTE18

Puzzle Piece Missing

As most of you know, ISTE (The International Society for Technology in Education) holds a huge conference every year in a different city in the United States. Educators and vendors from all over the world gather and nerd out on the latest in education technology. This year Chicago holds the honor. Unfortunately, most of us have to watch from home, jealous of learning along side great thinkers and deep dish pizza. We hope for any crumbs of innovation that make it on to Twitter. The FOMO isn’t just a fear. It’s real. Those of us at home are missing out and it hurts.

Thankfully, to ease the pain and fill the emptiness, edublogger has put together a great list of ways that you CAN follow along at home. Time to wipe the envious tears and read all the means you can be part of the learning. Plan your virtual trip now! Watch a Cubs game, make an Italian beef sandwich, and get ready. ISTE is only a week away.

Read the blog, written by Kathleen Morris here.

Confessions of a ClipArt Junkie

Blurred flowers on the ground

If you follow Ryan O’Donnell (aka creativeedtech) on Twitter, or around town like I do, small pieces of brilliance seem to drop from the sky. That’s mostly because he has a way of taking new tools or tech ideas and creating practical ways to use them in the classroom. He’s also a pretty tall guy so his ideas tend to fall on normal humans like rain. Lately, O’Donnell has been creating these amazing graphics of listicles, (what the internet calls writing in the form of a list). Not only is this idea a great way to disseminate ideas to fellow educators online, it’s also a great template to use with students. I am definitely incorporating some graphic listicles next year in my classroom. Of course, O’Donnell is quite the Jedi Master of templates. Check out his website for more awesome ideas.

A few weeks ago, one of O’Donnell’s listicles caught my eye. His tweet read:

Confessions of a Clip Art junkie: I LOVED clip art. Tried to find the perfect image & even bought those mega-pack CD’s. Finally kicked that habit though. Now it’s all about photos & graphics.

Therefore, on behalf of Ryan O’Donnell, I am here to urge you to STOP using clip art!  Here are the tools he has suggested to use to shift your addiction to something more contemporary and relevant.

List of Image Sites

  1. The Noun Project— Icons are the answer for your latest projects and the Noun Project will provide you over a million for free. Simply sign up, search and download as Creative Commons. (Royalty Free requires a paid membership). I even found some really cool Star Wars icons! Credit is embedded in the icon already.
  2. Flaticon–Much like the Noun Project, this site is about the icons, but it groups icons into packs. Therefore, if you are working on a project, you have a set of icons all downloaded that go together. Download for free with attribution, just like Noun Project.
  3. No Backs— This site offers high resolution images in PNG format. No need to sign up. Free to use as long as proper credit and a link to the site is given.
  4. Pixabay–One of my favorite sites for stock photos. Over 1.4 million. Each image designates the licensing. Most are labeled Creative Commons, with no attribution needed.
  5. Freepik–This is a large search engine of free vector designs (which is graphic designer talk for computer images). Not all are free, but many are, only requiring attribution. No sign in required. Just search, find one that’s free and download.
  6. Unsplash–Supported by a large community of photographers, this site allows you to download beautiful images. They ask that you credit the photographers only out of appreciation and for the photographers to gain exposure. Absolutely stunning images!

    Trees an

    Photo by Kalen Emsley on Unsplash

  7. Pexels–Thousands of free stock photos that are completely licensed as Creative Commons. No attribution required. When you download, they offer ways to say thank you to the photographer: add a link, follow him/her on Instagram, or embed the citation. Another site I could spend hours looking for the perfect picture!

Adding images effectively to your projects gets results. Consider using one of these sites. O’Donnell also suggests busting out your camera or simply taking out your phone and snapping your own pictures. Those images are always free.

Now that you have been educated in all the great FREE sites out there, it is time to break up with your clip art. Snip it out of your life. It is far more picturesque on the other side. Join the revolution.

Be sure to follow Ryan O’Donnell on Twitter @creativeedtech and check out his website at creativeedtech.com.

Don’t Forget to Take Care of You

Book and sunglasses

As the school year winds down and summer break begins, many educators use the time to read books on new strategies to improve student learning, attend conferences to connect with others in our field and spend hours on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest looking for ways to change up the classroom for the new year. Educators are natural learners. We can’t stop.

This articleTeachers: Summer Reading to Cultivate Your Emotional Resiliencepublished on Edutopia by Elena Aguilar, got me thinking about how important it is to do something this summer that will renew me as a person, not just a teacher. So choose something that will renew yourself for the coming year. Aguilar has put together a great collection of books to do just that. What will you do this summer to make sure you are emotionally ready to tackle a new year? Don’t forget to take care of you.

 

Thank You, Mrs. Shaw

Thank you CUE

We all love to be recognized for the impact we have on learning, whether it’s students in our classrooms or adults in a professional development setting. Here at CUE, we are no different. We received this letter from Mrs. Shaw, who, through Donors Choose was able to make it this year to Spring CUE. If you have had the chance to attend the annual event, you will probably find yourself nodding along as you read.

This letter also reminds us of the lengths dedicated teachers will go to find good professional development. Many of us shell out our own money or ask for help though sites like Donors Choose. We know that growing as an educator means constantly stretching ourselves to learn more.

Thank you, Mrs. Shaw for not just saying thank you, but for recognizing your need to be refreshed through learning. CUE thanks you and the thousands of educators who make the pilgrimage to our events to improve classroom practices and student learning. Because of you, innovation will continue to be a priority for our schools.

Dear CUE Board of Directors,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn so much valuable information to take back to my school with me. I learned about several new websites/apps, some new ways of using technology that I had heard about, and was able to do some networking. I feel like I have upped my knowledge on new technology which is important to me and my craft!

The highlight of the event was the learning! I was amazed by how phenomenal the speakers and presenters were. I honestly didn’t leave any sessions early due to disappointment. I have been to conferences in the past that have left me disappointed because the topics weren’t interesting. I actually had a challenging time narrowing down which sessions to go to because so many sounded interesting! I want to go to CUE every single year now!

Something that I learned and plan to implement (when returning from maternity leave) is Nearpod. Nearpod is essentially an interactive slide deck. Another thing that my team and I plan to create is choice boards. We see this being useful in many academic areas, but we plan on starting with choice board homework.

Thanks again for your financial help. I am so thankful for the opportunity to attend amazing CUE!

With gratitude,

Mrs. Shaw

 

Coaching is not just for the New Teacher

Coach

The traditional model of coaching in education has always focused on supporting new teachers. This assumes, of course, that the rest of us who have been in the classroom for years are not in need of growth and improvement. In this recent article, published by the ASCD, Kim Greene suggests that every teacher deserves a coach. Instructional support should not be focused on deficits, but the idea of growth as an opportunity. The culture of coaching needs to change. Teaching is not something that you master, but something that is constantly evolving. Building relationships with educators of all levels and giving opportunities to reflect and collaborate, coaches can make huge differences. As Jessica Johnson, principal of Dodgeland Elementary School in Juneau, Wisconsin, states, “Sometimes it’s easy to think my best teachers don’t need me in their rooms. But if you want to grow your other teachers to be like your best teachers, you need to get into the minds of your best teachers.”

Isn’t it time to change our culture of coaching? Read this eye opening article here.