Extending learning w/ global collaboration – Middle School Art

One of my favorite things as a coach is to work with a teacher and then see them take the initiative. Last year as part of my COETAIL final project I collaborated with our middle school art teacher (Lindsay) to create a unit based around photography using the Design Cycle. One of the most powerful pieces of the unit (IMHO) was the connection we made with Brian & Yuko of Photohoku. As part of their inquiring & analyzing, students created questions for Brian & Yuko. We then did a Google Hangout with them and the students were able to talk to them in real-time. The students loved it.

Fast-forward 4 months to the current school year. Lindsay approached me for details on how to use Google Hangouts to connect with an expert. The students were learning about the Volumes of Design and she had arranged for a collaboration with Jodi Harvey-Brown (Statement of Inquiry: Our interpretation through time and space facilitates change.). We decided on a Hangout On Air so that students could re-watch the discussion whenever they needed to. I didn’t do any of the planning – just the technical details to help it be a success for the students. [Luckily I had presented on Google Hangouts in Michigan this summer and had some resources readily available. Google Hangouts On Air can be tricky!]

Lindsay arranged with the other 8th grade teachers so that all of her students could be in the classroom for this special event. Students created questions in advance and Lindsay sent them to Jodi so she had a heads-up. During the hangout, students asked her questions in order to help them create their own book sculptures. The event was yet another reminder of how meaningful & powerful it can be to connect our students to experts around the world. Teachers no longer need to be the sage on the stage – they simply need to help students safely connect to other people who have knowledge or skills of value.

[If I had to do it over again, the only thing I would change is discussing the norms of this type of activity with students before beginning. Many of the students had never been involved in something like this and weren’t really sure how to act. I also think it would have been helpful to explain a few features of Hangouts prior to starting.]

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Tracking Counseling Services with Google Forms

Last semester, our middle school counselor (Kit) asked for some advice on how she might best use technology to keep track of her time throughout the year. I suggested she create a custom Google Form. She did some brainstorming about what kind of data she would want and then we met to create her form.

Kit added 2 icons to her iPad – one linked to the form, a second linked to the results. Every time she provided a service she documented it by filling out the form.

Yesterday I met with her to walk her through analyzing the data.

First, we sorted the data on the Results tab by column. We copied and pasted the relevant data into a new sheet (one sheet for each category). We used the sum function to total the minutes she had spent on each service/category. Once each of the categories had been totaled, we created a new sheet with only the totals. We used this simplified data table to create a pie chart.

It was incredibly eye-opening for Kitr to see this data. She was not pleased that she had spent so much of her time in meetings (as opposed to working with students).

She did admit that although she had been diligent in documenting her time October through December, she did fall off the wagon in January (and completely stopped in March). She did feel as though the data she did collect was a good snapshot and could be extrapolated. She wanted advice for how she might be more consistent next year. We came up with a few ideas:

  • chunk her time by setting aside 5-10 minutes twice a day to fill out the form (instead of after every service).
  • put a copy of the pie chart on her wall so that she remembered how rewarding it was to see the data at the end of the year.

Kit does not see herself as tech-savvy…but I think the way she is using Google Forms is pretty awesome! It takes her time to learn, but she is eager to make her life easier and always appreciative. I love working with colleagues like that! She was also the brains behind the allowing grade 5 & 6 Buddies to communicate over the summer. I hope she keeps the challenges coming 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 🙂

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

Grade 5 Transition & Experimenting

Even though we are a school of only ~2000 students, we still have three separate divisions. Our middle and high school are (literally) on top of each other but our elementary school is a separate building. Our middle school counselor has created a Buddy Program to help the grade 5 students transition from elementary to middle school. Each Grade 5 student is paired with a grade 6 “Buddy.” I think this is a great idea so when she approached me to help her brainstorm ways for the students to be in touch over the summer, I was all-in!

Our middle and high schools started using Edmodo this year. We have our own school domain and many teachers have been effectively using it to communicate with their students. Since the grade 5 students will need an Edmodo account for next year, we decided that it would be better to use a platform that they will need next year instead of having them sign up for something they will only use once. The counselor set up an Edmodo group and gave the group code to the grade 6 students (who immediately started posting, welcoming their buddies). Over the summer, she will monitor the group to make sure that students are being kind and respectful to each other.

Edmodo buddy group

Getting the grade 5 students signed up with a slightly bigger challenge. Edmodo does not allow you to batch sign-up students. We wanted students to have the responsibility and experience of signing themselves up. Not all students have a device at school. SO…I downloaded the free 30-day trial of Camtasia and did a little messing around. I had never made a screen-cast before but it only took me two tries to get what I wanted (although I went incognito the first time, I forgot to remove the bookmarks bar). Camtasia was super easy to use and I really liked exploring! I just wish it wasn’t quite so expensive. 😉

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