Language B Final Exam Review

When I brainstormed with the Language B department (Arabic & French) about how they could meaningfully integrate technology (SAMR prof development), they were eager to talk about the (quickly approaching) end of the year. Reviewing with students can be frustrating for both students and teachers. They wanted a way to put the responsibility of the review on their students while also engaging them. Although we came up with several ideas, they were most intrigued by Popplet (some of them had already seen it) and two of our French teachers (MYP & DP) gave it a try.

The teachers signed up for free Popplet accounts. For homework, the students signed up for accounts. Amel, the DP French teacher, created a popplet for each unit. She then created popples for grammar, vocabulary, and sub-topics. Once the structure was set, she invited students to the popplet. It was the students’ responsibility to fill in the popplet with grammer concepts, vocabulary words and sub-topics.
Tronc commun  Relations sociales

The middle school MYP teacher also used Popplet in a similar way with her students.

It was fun to hear the oohs and aahs from the students when I added a popple from the desktop and it showed up on their screens. The teachers liked that their students could collaborate and that each popple automatically included the creator’s name. Although only the creator can edit a popple, the teachers liked the comment function to help guide students. The ease of adding students to popplets was beneficial for the teachers. The ability to share links to popplets (on their class Edmodo pages) and create images was incredibly useful. The biggest negative? We’re an iPad school – the fully functional free website is flash-based and the app (with ability to collaborate) costs money. Also, you can only create a limited number of popplets (easily solved by saving the image when done and deleting the popplet).

Although this isn’t a “redefined” use of technology, the ability to simultaneously collaborate on a brainstorm with students gives it more oomph than “substitution.” It was a little taster for our teachers and hopefully they’ll be able to build on their experiences next year.

Medieval Medley – a MYP Humanities Summative

In April, our two 8th grade MYP Humanities teachers approached us to collaborate on their upcoming summative. Students were able to pick a person, place or event, do research and then present their information to the class in a variety of ways. The teachers had already given students options for steps 1 to 3s. It took many meetings to come to a mutual understanding of what they wanted from us and how technology integration might look throughout the process. My biggest concern was that we keep the summative as inquiry based as possible (following what they had already created). I wasn’t a big fan of giving them a list of technology options with examples for each – I wanted students to be creative, not me. We ended up coming up with a variety of ways that students could use technology to create presentations from step 3. When I was contemplating the list, I made sure to start with the task (step 3) and then create a list of technology options.

Each tech coach took a couple class sections and attended three of their work sessions (after their research was complete). During the first session, we introduced a couple of the technology options.My goal was to focus on technology tools that they probably hadn’t seen or used before and talk about the task.

For the next 3 class periods, I circulated the room asking students how they had chosen to present (step 3) and giving advice/tech help where needed. Although there were still many students who simply used a PowerPoint or Keynote to give a lecture, there were a few who had some really great products. My favorite non-tech project was a medical time capsule. The student went all out and was completely committed to his project: he introduced it by saying he found this box while on vacation in Italy. It was quite creative!

Some of my favorite projects (using technology):

Overall, the project was further proof to me of how much work we “tech¬†integrators” have to do to help people (students and teachers alike) understand the power of meaningful integration. I am not impressed by Keynotes with distracting transitions – what does this do to make a project BETTER, to increase learning? We need to get away from the flashy and encourage quality based in¬†curriculum¬†and pedogogy. It also struck me (again) that students have no concept for copyright. I used my COETAIL learning to talk to students about using images that they are allowed to use as I circulated the room. Next year I would suggest that a short lesson on copyright and creative commons is done before students start researching. Since the only criterion that was being assessed was D (Communicating) I would also suggest doing more with that – what makes good presentations, how can students best communicate their learning? Christina and I even thought the MYP Design Cycle might be able to be used ūüôā

This was a good learning experience for me and I look forward to seeing what happens with the project next year!

Looking for input from all of YOU!

This has been a really interesting year as a Technology Coach in our school. It’s the first year the school has had a position like this. There are 3 of us in the position (2 a married couple, 1 not a certified teacher). We don’t have a job description. The school is attempting to go 1:1 with iPads…I could go on.

After working with some teachers and approaching in it different ways, things have come to a point where we need to figure some stuff out. That’s where I’d be forever grateful if you’d chime in! In any way you’d like (comment, tweet, email, etc), could you please respond to any or all of these questions? This is a rather hastily written plea so anything else you’d like to contribute would be wonderful. MERCI bien in advance!

Do you have¬†technology¬†coaches (instructional technology specialists, technology integration coaches…whatever you’d like to call it) in your school? (Why?)

What does their job look like? What responsibilities do they have? (Why?)

Are they certified teachers or support staff? (Why?)

Are they considered admin/leaders or teachers? (Why?)

Do they influence teachers or give them what they ask for? (Why?)

Please share any knowledge or resources you have! I’m eager to help mold this position into what is best for the teachers and school. THANK YOU!

A Reflection on Tech Integration – Grade 1

A couple weeks ago a 1st grade teacher emailed us wanting to discuss how she could use the iPad in her lessons. I was the only tech coach available so I invited her up to the office. When I asked her about her objectives, she explained that she wanted the students to create word-webs to brainstorm for a story and then write their stories (individually). She wanted to give those with the iPads the option of using the iPad to brainstorm and create their stories. The two apps on our iPads that might be simple enough for 1st graders to create stories are Explain Everything and Keynote. We decided that my first session with the students would be to “teach” them how to use Explain Everything through the creation of their word-webs. I would then go back into the classroom a second time to help them create their stories.

Session 1 Reflection:
Jeff¬†came with me to help teach the 10 students with iPads how to use Explain Everything. While we were with the iPad students, the teacher was in another part of the classroom with the rest of the students. Students without iPads were given a paper template to create their mind-maps. Students using Explain Everything had to create their own shapes before starting their brainstorm. It didn’t go quite as smoothly as one would have hoped.

After class, Jeff and I discussed how we could have done it differently. We knew we couldn’t just teach 1st grade students how to use Explain Everything through direct instruction. BUT the students were quite distracted by the technology. Many of them created great brainstorms, others never got past the stage of drawing their shapes. Looking back on it I would have changed several things:
*all students start with the classroom teacher to talk about brainstorming and create a class mind-map.
*all students make their first draft of their mind-map on paper using the teacher-created template.
*students with iPads then re-create their mind-maps using Explain Everything (with assistance from tech coaches).

Does this process take longer than without using technology? Yes. Is using technology making their stories better in the end? Maybe. That’s a big maybe and depends a lot on how the students use Explain Everything. When I was in the classroom my lesson plans involving students using technology usually took longer so students could become comfortable with the technology (device, app, etc). But the ultimate goal was to save time in the long-run and end with a better product and a deeper understanding of the concept. In revising this 1st grade lesson, students would be repeating the process of creating their mind-map (once on paper, once in the iPad). Maybe students would revise their paper draft when creating the iPad draft, allowing them to think of better ideas. The major purpose of the second draft would be getting them comfortable with Explain Everything so that they could then use the app to create their stories.

Session 2 Reflection:
Jeff and I went back into the classroom today to continue helping the students use their iPads to create stories. We thought we would mostly be helping them transfer their ideas into stories however the majority of the hour that we were there was a continuation of creating their word-webs. Once again students were distracted by the technology. By the end of the hour, most of the students with iPads had moved on to turning their ideas into stories. We weren’t exactly sure what the stories were supposed to look like, so we had students add slides to their Explain Everything word-web and write 1 sentence per slide.

After leaving the classroom Jeff and I began immediately debriefing and reflecting on the project and instruction. Did the technology cause the students to create better projects? No. The projects were of equal quality, if not worse, to what the students using paper created. Does this project still have potential to create something better? Maybe. After the students have finished their stories (with 1 sentence per slide), they could use the record feature of Explain Everything to make a product that the other students would not be able to make. Students would then have original stories (writing), with their own narration (reading) and the videos would be able to be shared with other students and parents. Is this possible in a 1st grade classroom? Maybe…with lots of¬†practice¬†and patience!

As technology coaches we need to make sure that we are always encouraging our teachers to use technology when appropriate. It is a TOOL that should be used when it is the BEST tool for the job. If paper and pencil are the best tools for the project…that’s okay! There is a fine line between quality technology¬†integration and superfluous technology integration.

Getting back in the swing of things!

Wow it’s been a long time since I posted anything! 2013 had a great start – we were home in MI for Christmas & the New Year and my sister, Abby, came back to Kuwait with us! She is substitute teaching for the semester and just signed a contract to come back next year to teach Pre-K. We’re pretty excited to have a little bit of home here ūüôā

One of our biggest challenges as technology coaches this year has been getting teachers on board and actively incorporating technology in their classrooms. There have been a lot of ups and downs with our 1:1 iPad initiative and I don’t think teachers really know what to think – should they invest their time or is it all going to be for naught? Students currently have to pay a fee to acquire a school iPad and gain access to the wireless network. We’re not exactly sure on the numbers but somewhere around 40% of our student body (~2000 students PreK-12) have iPads. This presents many obvious logistical problems for classroom teachers.

As a tech coaches, we’re trying to decide where to focus this¬†semester¬† Last semester we offered Professional Development after school on Mondays. Although our turnout was good at first, the numbers slowly diminished. We set up a website, but we’re not really sure if our staff actually uses it. Plus we’re still trying to figure out the dynamics of working in a 3-person team.

For the most part our job this semester has become more individualized. The principals sent out an email for us and we’ve appeared at a couple meetings, but we’re trying the let-them-come-to-us method. We don’t want to offer PD that teachers don’t want or won’t come to. But we DO want to support our staff. We’ve been encouraging teachers to give students choice for assignments and allow them to use the iPads. Teachers (individually and in small groups) have started coming to us more to help them plan units & lessons, create their class websites or blogs and support them in the classroom during lessons.

Whenever I get frustrated or down I just try to remember that this is a growing year. I wasn’t involved in the process until we arrived in August (and I’m not always consulted now) so we all just have to work with what we’ve been given. We have some students with iPads which isn’t the ideal 1:1 ratio however it’s much better than most other schools in Kuwait (who don’t even have wi-fi). I’m looking forward to seeing how everything turns out in the next couple years ūüôā

Reflector Update:
We’re still in the testing phase of this project. The 5 elementary teachers that are using the app aren’t having great success. We know that it’s not our network or the app itself (I have success using the app on my 2012 laptop connected to the school wireless) or the wireless adapters (we bought & installed 2 new ones with no success). We now think that it might have something to do with the computers that teachers are using (low RAM, etc). We’ll be continuing to investigate during the next couple months!

Some fun events coming up this Spring:
*Jeff and I will be starting our masters with COETAIL on February 4th
*Abby, Jeff and I will be traveling to Greece at the end of February for a long weekend (National Liberation)
*My brother and his girlfriend are coming to visit us in March for their Spring Break
*The three of us will also be traveling to Thailand and attending NESA in April (Jeff is presenting!)

If you’d like to read more about our lives outside of school, feel free to check out our other blog. ūüôā

An Update: @ReflectorApp

As I mentioned in a previous post we bought a Reflector (formally Reflection) license for each of our teachers. In that post I laid out some issues. Here are my updates to how things have been going!

*We are rolling out Reflector slowly. I chose the first 5 teachers from elementary based on who I’ve worked with and after talking to the principal. We have one teacher in each grade (1-5) testing out Reflector.
*Before teachers could use the app, I met individually with each of them to show them how it worked. They have to connect to the wireless (instead of wired), open the program (it runs in the background), activate mirroring using AirPlay on their iPad…et voila! I showed them how to change the settings (white or black frame) and set a password (a MUST!).
*I created a Google doc for teachers to share their experiences with Reflector. They are busy people and don’t have time to meet weekly so I thought this would be a great use for Google Apps ūüôā Although you can’t see them (this is a copy), I add comments when teachers share their experiences.

As you can see our biggest problem right now is the glitchy mirroring. We are doing some¬†experimenting¬†to figure out which piece of the puzzle is causing this (app, wireless network, computer, wireless card…). When I use my new Lenovo laptop on the school network I have no issues. Teachers, however, are having issues (same network, different computer). My scientific brain tells me that this could be pointing to the wireless card. We bought two new cards (one internal, the other a USB) for the grade 4 & 5 teachers to test out.

(From my previous post) Some issues we’ve already encountered:
*All computers using reflection will show up on AirPlay on the iPad (if there are 100 computers with Reflection, you will be able to see and choose from all 100).¬†Update: So far this hasn’t been a problem (we only have 5 running). When I met with each teacher, I taught them to exit the Reflector¬†application¬†and disconnect from the wireless when they¬†weren’t¬†actively¬†using it. Even when we roll this out to more teachers, I doubt all 170 will need to use the app at the same time.
*We are running Windows 7 32-bit Professional. When Reflector is installed & authenticated on the admin profile, it is not authenticated on a teacher profile (prompts you to enter license serial code again). Update: After contacting the support team, they gave us the step-by-step for setting up Reflector on each computer so that anyone who logs in can access the app. I have been INCREDIBLY impressed with their customer service. They are quick to respond when I ask for help and are keeping track of my blog & Twitter to make sure everything is going well.

I’d love to hear about other schools that are the implementing Reflector App! Are you having any issues? What is your hardware/wireless network like?

Note: I did not receive any compensation for this review. Just my honest opinion & experience.