There are so many great digital teaching tools to pick from for my classroom instruction. Some have so many features that make learning better for students. Of course, the tool can be simple and effective. That is what I landed on today.
Tab Scissors and Tab Glue are such tools. I've been extending my monitor screen for years, posting the lesson agenda, learning examples, etc. Even with the extended screen, I find myself toggling between multiple tabs during a typical class. Tab Scissors fixed that problem.
The most recent usage was having the lesson agenda on half and our concept notes for the seminar on the other half. This option makes so much sense, due to the students completing their assignments at different rates of speed. From there the student can still see the next agenda item on the screen. Each learner feels empowered to work at the pace fitting their learning profile.
In the world of personalized learning, the split screen has been nothing short of amazing. For a typical notes session, the student can choose seminar or independent. The seminar lesson with me is using half of the screen for live notes. The independent learning choice can work ahead or join seminar as needed, for all the information is right in front of them. When the lesson is over, I can click Tab Glue to return to a full-screen option.
The only setback with scissors and glue is bringing them back together when using 3 screens. Tab Glue brings ALL of your tabs back to one Chrome browser. I never lose anything, yet I can have many tabs open at any moment of teaching. So I’m careful when I use this tool.
If a basic split screen isn't enough, I have used Tab Resize. This Chrome Extension can do a half/half split, thirds and even quarters. I have used this a few time when I need just one more screen to assist students. Why not four sections when I need to share four sections of content. Finally, add the site Classroomscreen.com for even more functionality. It runs light with timer, clock, calendar, noise monitoring and much more. So much simple power in easy to use tools.
There are many review tech tools to prepare students for quizzes and tests. In most cases the class is definitely motivated to use these tools, especially when there is some sort of competitive Finish Line. I use three online review learning tools to prepare my classes for their science vocabulary quizzes and concept tests. They are Kahoot, Quizizz, and Quizlet.
For over 2 years I have used Kahoot in my classroom. It is very straightforward and it doesn't matter what the content is, students love to play it and engage in it's game. The nice thing about using this review method, is that it's very fast pace and you can build it into the end of your learnings time together. I use it in single classic Mode as well as table mode, where there's peer to peer collaboration before answering. I've recently started to use it as a homework tool that I assign in Google Classroom.
The one thing that gets challenging with using Kahoot, is the faster students click, the higher the score, if it’s the right answer. “Quick Clicking” is definitely a challenge with those extremely competitive students. Sometimes students overlook the review content that we are hoping to drive home, in hopes of the top score.
A few months ago I started using Quizizz, recommended by a colleague down the hallway. She said it would fit perfectly in my science classroom to reinforce standards and prepare students for the concept test. The teacher setup was extremely easy and moving my content from my final assessment to this practice review tool went very smooth.
One the the best features about Quizizz, is the ability to track scores of specific questions, as well as overall class effectiveness. We do a classroom game where each individual answers their random questions compiling the overall data. I can review each student on their overall effectiveness as a review assignment. Students love using Quizizz.
I've used Quizlet for the longest amount of time to help students learn key vocabulary words to set the foundation for each chapter. From the beginning, Quizlet had so many different options for students to use to study, such as flash cards, write the answer, spell the term, take a test and even matching. Students love to use Quizlet to prepare for our vocabulary tests.
This year I noticed that Quizlet added a study feature called Quizlet Live. So like Kahoot and Quizizz, Quizlet has a competitive component. However, this review method is simply amazing. Once students enter the code to start Quizlet Live the fun in learning begins. I start the game, and Quizlet then shuffles the students to group them with three or four other students in the classroom, creating their learning teams. They collaborate to enter the correct answer, competing to be the first team to answer all of their questions.
The really cool part of Quizlet Live is how it levels the playing field socially in the classroom. Once I hit shuffle mode, students look at their screen to find the other two or three people that they have on their team. There's no time to look for my friend they want to be with or someone they don't want on their team. Groups come together in such a beautiful fashion allowing all ability levels to participate. Each student has their screen open, physically coming together at a table to compete. The class just can't get enough of this review game as well as how they meet other people on their Learning Journey. By the way, they score higher on their vocabulary quizzes.
Over the past three years I've been using video more and more for students to share their learning. From basic camera recording to using screencastify, to my YouTube channel where I try to give families a window into our classroom. It’s definitely powerful to share video recordings, editing and producing with my students.
This multimedia tool has become part of my routine, expanding my video use because students are excited and motivated to use it. Students are more engaged and motivated, giving their best effort. Also, through the use of this tool the students are able to show me different ways to demonstrate their learning of challenging standards or concepts. My first big project was 3 years ago, having students use video to demonstrate their understanding of buoyancy, density and average density. The class did an amazing job and their summative test scores improved dramatically on the same assessment given the previous three years.
Fast forward to December 2017, when I'm at a Flipgrid Live networking event at their Minneapolis location. I had heard little bits and pieces about Flipgrid, but never used it myself. The networking event was extremely impressive and so fun to meet the people behind the scenes at this amazing company. I was so impressed that I went back to my classroom the next day and started using Flipgrid free version.
What has happened since that early December event? Well, I was able to transition to Flipgrid, doing just about everything that I had been doing with other video sharing tools. The difference was that Flipgrid is so very easy to use for all and kids love it. In addition, I love the student voice sharing with each other. This is extremely empowering, building a new level of learning ownership.
Lab reports and our student video newsletter are two regular Flipgrid assignments. Science lab reports are an essential process connecting key vocabulary, standards based concepts and connecting to the experiment. Students analyze the science data and report questions, then share via Flipgrid. My 11 and 12 year olds struggle to choose the right words in their paper copy lab report, regardless of achievement status in the class. Flipgrid has opened an excited door of student reflections and peer-to-peer sharing of challenging science concepts.
I have students create our video newsletter once a month. What is so nice about using Flipgrid for our newsletter is the ability to set recording time limits so students have to be efficient, not rambling, and being able to use their own device to record their segment. From my video newsletter grid I can easily download our clips, edit and produce a final copy. I have been able to cut the editing time in half from what it took before. Then all the final cuts and even the outtakes are there for us to review, reflect on and even laugh a bit.
I'm always impressed when a tool does exactly what it's supposed to do the very first time. Flipgrid is that learning tool. It is super intuitive for both teacher and students to use. Flipgrid free version offers teachers most of what they’ll need. However, I highly recommend the premium version which offers unlimited grids, easy organization and gives more flexibility to engage students to share their learning.
Personalized learning and student choice are spouting in our district. The pure concept is extremely exciting and scary compared to the practices we have delivered for many years. At the core, I really like looking at what is effective in our classrooms and adding student options to get there.
I’ve been building the student choice options. The early choice lessons of the school year were simply “Choice A” or “Choice B”, whatever the A or B was. 6th graders are still 11/12 years old, loving the chance to choose, but needing to be taught the process. This is all built around the question “What choice is best for your learning?”. This is very challenging since friends are often more important than academics.
So here we are in mid-November rolling out a full blown student choice project. We are combining Science and Social Studies. Science has been working on motion via calculating speed and average speed. In Social Studies our state’s fur trade is the unit of study. I had loosely attempted to connect my Science with Minnesota History in the past. This project would be so much more.
The speed concept would be the underlying standard, divided into two part. Driving from our school to the location of a historical fur trading post. Travel would be using current, modern means and requiring 3 stops on the way. Students would calculate moving speed and average speed with their stops.
The return trip back to our school would be in 1804, the peak of the fur trade in our state. They had to research the limitations of traveling during that era, with no roads and travel progress which was limited to daylight hours. Being able to travel just 30-40 miles a day created a much more challenging math equation for a 300 plus mile journey on horseback.
We used Google MyMaps as our tool to draw each route. I have used this tool in and out of class often. It is a bit of an acquired taste, but students found their way just fine. There are definitely many ways to display their route, with stops and all of the data points needed for calculations.
Beyond traveling in the day of the fur trade, the social studies learning required pinning locations of key trading posts around Lake Superior. Students could clearly see the great effort traders endured moving from post to post. In addition, they learned the importance of those locations to sustain their exchange businesses to survive. Most students made this a completely different layer in MyMaps.
Project participation options included working alone or with another student. In my experience, when student learning choice is given, groups of three are not as effective. From the beginning you could see and feel the learning energy. There were obvious waves of excitement flowing, as student found their virtual journey. Students clearly embraced having the option to take any route of their choice, as long as they could calculate their speed.
Students hit the mark for both subjects, with excitement and a sense of accomplishment. Don’t get me wrong, there were presentations that are still emerging and needing some serious attention. Even when there were presentation accuracy errors, most student caught the mistake and could verbally fix on the spot. I appreciate that part of the project, which is more like real-life projects. We often don’t hit the mark the first time, but fix it and at learning generally sticks beyond the deadline.
We are in the process of learning how to work together and to do collaborative labs in our 6th grade middle school experience. Our subject is physical science and we are in our motion chapter. The emphasis is calculating speed and average speed. There of course the basic “Distance over Time equals Speed” to calculate average speed.
Using the new Google sites, forms, spreadsheet and YouTube, we are able to achieve all of that in an interactive lab website. I used a YouTube video clip from the University of Hawaii marching band to calculate how fast the members were moving across the field for their halftime show. There are many videos of this type to use in an interactive website. I chose this one due to it ease of observing how the band members moved across the yard lines creating their half time entertainment.
In the video I selected, the band created a stick figure football player, that would march down the field and finally kicking a football field goal, with the cheer team holding this large pigskin. Though the video is seven or eight years old, it is still a work of science beauty. The stick figure football player they created took two full steps and a third to kick the football. Our assignment was to calculate their average yards per second for each of the step as well as measuring the average speed for the center of the body.
The initial class reaction to the video was amazement. Then it was time to get to work and start counting the yard lines that they that the band crossed. Next was to bring the element of time into each step to calculate the average speed. Students watched and re-watch the video to try to get it just right. When finished collected and calculating their data it time to enter in a user-friendly Google form. The form and video were laid out side-by-side on the lab website.
A simple submit moved the lab table data to the spreadsheet, just below the video and the Google data entry form. Analyzing the lab data easy, whether in a large or small group. The students could compare their data with that of the other lab tables in this class, as well as all my other classes that did the same lab. If there was an error in data entry or calculation, the lab table could easily re-enter as needed and learning from those other data points that were entered. All of this happening in real-time in each class.
In summary I felt this lab was a success. It promoted lab table collaboration, as well as table to table and even class to class. The new Google sites was so easy to create this lab, inserting the form, the results spreadsheet, and YouTube video. In addition, students not in class that day could do the lab from home or from a remote location as needed, still having the ability to collaborate digitally.