This entry has been testing my writing skills for some time. I’m troubled by how many use social media to speak “At Each Other”, instead of “WITH Each Other”. This has become a common practice, from our country’s leaders (both parties) to those that report the news and celebs from all walks of life. It is very easy to send one’s chest pounding feelings over twitter other such means.
As a lifelong learner and educator, this has brought me to some inner wrestling of emotions. My parents and grandparents taught me to be a good listener. Whether they knew it or not, they were teaching me the art of caring empathy. My grandfather’s quote always made me pause before talking: “No one will know how smart or dumb you are until you open your mouth”. I guess that works with social media too.
It is easy to go down that rabbit hole of criticism and judgment. People somehow feel smarter when being negative, throwing shade on others. Regardless of your political views, there's plenty to be frustrated with our leaders currently. Beyond listening, there is a missing element of asking WHY one feels that way.
So I'm personally choosing the path of going back to listening and speaking WITH empathy. How's that going? Well, it's early, yet refreshing. To share the power of the entire conversation is a challenge. I must throttle back on jumping in with my two cents worth, to better understand what is being said. It is a journey to speak with empathy.
There have been a couple of encounters with people that I care dearly about, who have polar opposite views. Previously I would avoid those views like a plague with those who in the far side of their beliefs. That is definitely not speaking WITH someone. The value of knowing that no one is trying to change others views, but asking WHY with empathy. Speaking at someone takes on a bit of a mob mentality, that most would never endorse.
I truly believe most people in our country will help others in need. Be it face-to-face or other means, regardless of their political views. We all need to cherish this caring skill. Human nature generally wants to see the good in people. Listening with empathy is definitely helping others.
As frustrated as I am with those that loudly speak hurtfully at others, I can do nothing about it. However, I can be a better listener, as I speak WITH my family, friends, students, colleagues or anyone. As we do a better job speaking with each other, maybe others will do the same. Pause before you speak or post.
Each year I like to reflect on the chrome extensions and apps that work well for me. I will share these tools I use routinely, if not daily. Some I have used for years others I just added to my tool box recently. It is amazing how they make my regular teaching life more efficient, effective and sometimes get taken for granted. Here is my list and no prioritized order, just the way they sit on my browser.
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.