Monday, April 24, 2017

A Digitized Novel Study

Third graders at Beck Elementary recently completed their reading of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo. Throughout the reading of this novel, students were tasked with maintaining a digital notebook that would document their discussions, experiences, and learning. 

Students responded to the text in a variety of ways. Getting to know the key characters in the book provided students with the opportunity to analyze character traits that could be supported with text evidence. Beckett, in Mrs. Bell’s class, said, “using different apps, like the whiteboard app, helped us have evidence for our thoughts and allows us show response in pictures and drawing.” Digital tools, such as, the Aww App and Tagul were introduced to students as a way for them to share their thinking about the novel’s characters. 

Mrs. Phillips’ student, Wyatt, felt challenged throughout his work on his digital notebook and his Recap responses. “The most challenging part of our digital novel study was the questions were really tricky and you had to really think and deeply analyze the novel to understand it.” Responding to their reading verbally, using Recap, encouraged students to think deeply about their responses. It was especially empowering for their voices to be heard by their peers as they shared their recorded responses.

An extension menu was also provided to students to access throughout the study. This menu provided students with choice as they responded to their reading in a variety of ways. Support for completing the tasks on the extension menu was provided by the teachers via Screencastify. Instructional videos created by the teacher allowed students to work independently, at their own pace. The extension menu exposed students to new tech tools and provided differentiated learning experiences to students based on their strengths and needs.

On any given day, throughout the novel study, students within their classrooms could be found working on projects of their choice in response to their reading using Buncee, Google Docs, Google Slides and a variety of other digital tools. With choices on the extension menu such as: creating a personal intriguing word wall from each chapter, keeping a summary journal from their reading, publishing a “must read” newspaper article and designing a digital poster to represent a character, it was no surprise that student engagement was through the roof. 

As their reading of the novel came to a close, students had choice again in their final product. Options included creating a book trailer, writing a reader’s theater script or creating an interview with the main character, Edward. These risk-free tasks provided students with a platform to create and collaborate on their learning from the novel study. Some of these tools used to complete these projects were Animoto, DoInk and Canva. Students added their final product as a slide to their digital journal. 

Loseli, also in Mrs. Bell’s classroom, found this project to be good preparation for future learning. “The digital notebook enhanced my learning by introducing me to new websites that can help me with more of my extension projects or more of my learning throughout the year.”

Additional student notebooks can be viewed HERE.

Monday, April 17, 2017

From Note Taking to Site Creating

Students work on their Science Sites
Tidwell Middle School 6th grade students are taking ownership of their learning as web designers in science. Mr. Anderson and Mr. Tate's classes were asked to create their own Google Site recapping learning from the year. This process allowed students to reflect on learned information, organize their thoughts within pages/sub pages, make their learning visual with pictures and GIFs, and share with others. Using a list of topics from the year, students got to choose which topics they wanted to explore in more detail. 

Two students, Yune and Kayla, learned a lot throughout this process and went above and beyond to make their site unique and effective. Yune points out, "I’ve learned a lot more about energy during this unit, because I have had to do my own research. It has opened my mind up to things that I haven’t thought about before." Kayla adds, “This was really fun because I got to learn how to design a website while I was reviewing the science I had learned." She adds, "I love keeping things organized, so this project helped me do that."

One aspect that both of these students learned was how to organize information in an effective way. Kayla states, "I had never heard of sub pages before. Sub pages are really helpful when you have a lot of information to put together." Students also learned about the importance of visuals and the impact that they can have. Mr. Anderson sent a Google Slides template to students to encourage them to identify types of energy and include a GIF or image that would show that specific energy type. "The GIFs are important for energy types because you can actually see the motion," claims Kayla.

When asked what was unique about their site, Yune responded, "I included a Google Form in my website for visitors to quiz themselves. At first I just listed questions, but during this project, Mr. Tate showed me how to create a Google Form." Kayla's site is unique in that she created it to look like a school yearbook. She even disguised her definitions page to resemble student quotes.

Designing a website requires research, organized thinking, visual learning, and allows students to personalize their work. "The plan is for students to take these sites with them as a living document that they can easily access, even after this year," stated Mr. Tate. He added, "I would have liked for students to leave each other feedback and expand their audience." Mr. Anderson showed the students how to add a feedback form to their site, so that they can start helping each other during the process later in the year. The Google Sites that have been created are only the beginning for these students!

Check out a few more student examples here: 
Student ISTE Standards:

  • 1b: Students build networks and customize their learning environments in ways that support the learning process.
  • 3c: Students communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using a variety of digital objects such as visualizationsmodels or simulations.
  • 6b: Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.
  • 6cStudents communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using a variety of digital objects such as visualizationsmodels or simulations.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Digital Learning Can Be a Zoo!

Students at Northwest ISD's STEM Academy recently finished an extensive project across two classes to research, design, and create a functional zoo habitat for a specific type of animal.  Students who were enrolled in both Mrs. Goodwin's Biology class and Mrs. Garrett's Intro to Engineering and Design class used their knowledge from both subjects to informatively create their habitats.

Initial Hand Drawn Plans
Austin, a student who worked on the Elephant Habitat Project, said that "the design part of the project had multiple steps.  The first plans were hand drawn and then scanned in so we had a copy of them.  Then I used inventor to create the digital model of the habitat."  Inventor is a 3D modeling program that offers professional-grade 3D mechanical design, documentation, and product simulation tools.  Student's in Mrs. Garrett's class use Inventor for numerous projects throughout the year, including this one.  "I started by creating a general shape of the habitat, then cut into it with features like stairs, rails, and trees," said Austin.

The project had many parts other than the actual modeling aspect.  Students had to research many aspects of their chosen animal's living needs and incorporate those into their design.  Factors such as natural habitat, environmental niche, food web, behavior, adaptations, and limiting resources were all considered.  Groups created folders in Google Drive to share and collaborate on their project portfolios while completing their research.   "My favorite part of the project was designing the zoo habitat so it resembled a real habitat," said student Marla, who worked on the Harpy Eagle Habitat Project.  "We discovered things during our research that changed out initial designs.  For example, two harpy eagles in the wild occupy an area of over 20 square miles and they typically nest at a specific height.  Because of this, we had to change our initial design which wasn't large or high enough."

Austin agreed with Marla, saying that "concepts for our design were created over and over, including many drafts as we did research."  But not only animal factors had to be taken into account when creating their zoo habitat, as they had to ensure that designs accounted for humans visiting as well. "For example, the [Americans with Disabilities Act] requires that all stairs be between 30 and 50 degree elevation, so we had to take that into account as well," said Austin.
Elephant Habitat Final Project Portfolio
This project incorporated technology for in-depth research as well as informed design using cutting edge modeling software, allowing students to explore multiple facets of what it takes to create a real zoo habitat.  If you'd like to examine some of the projects in more detail, check out the links below!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Going from STAAR... to ROCK STAAR

Mr. Martin’s 4th grade ELA class were in final preparation mode for the STAAR Writing test. They played a revising and editing Kahoot game.  “I wanted them to be able to have a fun way of showing what they have learned throughout the year, while helping to relieve some stress for the upcoming assessment." After the game was finished, he charged the students with sharing their feelings about their level of preparedness for the upcoming state test.  

Mr. Martin's Blog
Earlier in the year, they set up individual student Blogs using Blogger to define a space where students could share what they have learned, showcase reading responses and writing tasks, and to simply be able to express their feelings with school.  His initial intentions with the blog were to allow for  students to communicate with one another using a different platform to challenge each other’s thinking.

The task was to have each student search for a meme, picture, or emoji to represent how they were feeling before the test.  From there, students had to justify why they chose the picture they did.  Mr. Martin pushed them further to then make a comment on another friend's blog.  The catch with this is they knew the commenting expectations were to a) share something you enjoyed with the blog, and b) pose a higher-order-thinking question to the original blogger. This is the fuel to the in-depth conversation fire.

Students immediately took to their Chromebooks.  Some students were not sure what a meme was by name, but when they researched what it is and saw some examples, they knew exactly what to do.  This process was a completely student-driven as Mr. Martin was able to simply listen to students helping others and was able to even join in the online conversations.  

Zion was one student who really made the most of this experience. The thoughts that came out of her mind were completely mind-blowing.  She was a pivotal force when it came to driving the conversations.  Every blog I would read, she had already been to and commented with some fascinating questions.  For those students that were struggling with part B of the commenting criteria, she directed them to the wall of questions.  

Mr. Martin has taken the Bloom’s leveled planning question stems and adapted them to become a resource to enhance the level of discourse in his classroom.  Students were able to truly reflect on their peers thoughts by using this resource to their advantage.

"Through blogging, I have seen an increase of student participation, especially with the usually timid students.  With the ones who typically don’t like to respond in front of others, they feel completely open to sharing their thoughts from behind their screen.  In order to make this such a success, we had to build the culture of respecting other’s opinions and really embracing our online character through our digital citizenship lessons.  It is really powerful to see that this avenue of discussion has really allowed me to reach ALL students as it enables those who don’t feel like they have a voice, to shine." -Jeremy Martin

Monday, March 27, 2017

SPARKing Connections with Neurological Diseases

During a study of the Nervous System, students in Karen Lawson's Anatomy and Physiology class used Adobe Spark Page to compose a narrative that highlights a person who suffers from a neurological disease or condition from a provided list. It was suggested that the student's detail their project about someone they know or can interview in real life in order to connect their learning to a real world example; if no contact existed, students also had the option to research someone in the public eye who suffered from the disease or condition.

Check out these examples:

Adobe Spark enabled students to tell a story detailing many facets of the disease or condition such as the definition, history, treatment, rehabilitation, and prognosis. By composing a narrative instead of a scientific explanation, students were able to reach higher levels of Bloom's Taxonomy by researching or interviewing an individual, then applying their learning through the creation a new product within Adobe Spark. Furthermore, students were given a wide variety of choice with just enough parameters designated by their teacher; with the required criteria provided, students created various detailed narratives that let them detail new learning within a framework of creative freedom.

To share their narratives and learn about other neurological diseases or conditions, Mrs. Lawson had the students turn in their work via a QR code so that it could be creatively displayed on a Standards Based Bulletin Board as shown in the image above.  

ISTE Standards:
3A: Students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits.
6C: Students communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using a variety of digital objects such as visualizationsmodels or simulations.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Students Teaching Students

According to instructional technology Guru Alice Keeler, "The person doing the work is the person doing the learning." At the end of the day, are you tired or are your students?  Yari Kemp, math teacher at Chisholm Trail Middle School, makes sure she sends her kids home each day exhausted from learning!  As a math teacher, Mrs. Kemp works tirelessly to provide students opportunities to think deeply and reflect on their learning.  Recently, students and teacher traded roles when students were asked to create “How-To” style tutorials teaching a classmate about Volume.

7th grade PreAP and 8th grade On-Level classes studied Volume for several weeks.  At the conclusion of the unit, students were challenged with the task of utilizing a digital tool to create a tutorial for classmates still struggling with the topic.  Students could choose from Canva, Google Draw, WeVideo, Adobe Spark, or Piktochart to complete the assignment.  Since students were encouraged to select their own tool, this project allowed for limitless creativity, evident in the completed products.  Take a look at a few examples below.

Kasey, an 8th grade student in Mrs. Kemp’s class, transferred to CTMS from another district and says he is enjoying math so much more.  He shared he loves the technology integration and working on his Chromebook in math helps keep him engaged.  Kasey used Piktochart to create the tutorial anchor chart shown below.

In this activity, students were empowered by the opportunity to be instructional leaders to their fellow classmates.  According to the ISTE standards, 21st Century learners should “contribute to the learning of others.”  In this powerful classroom example, Mrs. Kemp’s students learned a valuable lesson in communication, collaboration, and supporting others.  

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Fit for the FUTURE

Professional coaches have long been using innovative technology to train athletes. Mobile devices now make it possible for anyone to access these kinds of tools at a fraction or even free of cost and with much greater ease.  Fifth-grade students in Coach Bates' and Coach Bossert's PE class at Justin Elementary, were asked to develop fitness videos using the new student issued Chromebooks.

Ella stated, "We enjoyed being able to pick our groups because they were good partners.  Everyone got along which enabled us to get a 100% for a grade."  "The project began by researching information to distinguish the differences between aerobic and anaerobic activities, cardio and core exercises, so we could personalize the workouts," said Aleigh.

Before the Chromebooks arrived, students would customize their workouts in PE to an iOS App call SWORKIT. SWORKIT is your own personal iPad app, trainer.  You simply select the part of the body you want to exercise and by choosing from over 20 pre-built workouts, you can personalize your activities. "Staying healthy allows you to do many other things you enjoy in your life," said Bethany. 

Ella collaborated with her group using Google Docs and came up with a checklist to share the plan for the project.  PE teachers are advocating the push to use more technology in the classroom and it is great to see that more resources and opportunities are opening up to them. The students Bethany, Ella, Kimora, and Aleigh did an outstanding job not only developing their own personal workout videos, but they even developed some activities that could help those who needed modifications due to injury or pregnancy.

3-5, 5th Grade, Chromebooks, Collaboration, iPad, Justin Elementary, PE, Video, Workout,
The students used the application called WeVideo to produce their videos to share. The coaches gave the students a rubric and choice.  The project turned out so well it was chosen to be showcased at TechnoExpo 2017. Coach Bates asked Kimora, " How did using the technology make it easier to do this type of project?"  Kimora stated, “I am a technology person and I really enjoyed using the Chromebook and iPad.  It was easier to make sure our form was correct for the exercise.”  Their finished workout video is below.