Thursday, October 12, 2017

The First 6 Weeks of School

In the music room, I have students for 6 consecutive years. Rethinking and reinventing how to teach expectations at the beginning of the year can be a challenge since many students feel like they already know what to do....

I was brainstorming some ideas with my colleague from Rose Glen when she shared an idea about creating iMovie trailers to teach different routines. This was just the inspiration I needed! What could be better than not teaching expectations over and over again? Having the students do it themselves!

Although I was certain that this plan worked for me, I also needed to make sure it worked for my students. I chose to have my 5th graders be the "music room experts.  I found a fantastic iMovie trailer planning resource created by Tony Vincent that helped students focus their ideas, and plan the text and pictures/videos needed to complete their trailer. We finished by having a gallery walk of all the different videos that were created.

Did they turn out to be everything I dreamed of? No....not all of them (turns out it is really fun to show what NOT to do)....BUT students were engaged! They had fun! And everyone reviewed, discussed, and created something they were proud of. Check out of few of the videos I may be able to use for teachable moments that happen throughout the year:

The new year has started and we're already to a halt!

The objective is: I can problem solve when something goes wrong.

My class by this time has already been exploring: Explain Everything, Google Classroom, Showbie, Razzkids, Dreambox, Google Doc, etc. With this said, it does not make us any less frustrated when the ipad does not cooperate. At the beginning of this journey, I would drop everything I was doing to fix the problem. I would literally bring learning to a halt! 

I have changed my thinking on this. The truth is in life things do not always happen as planned. We have to adapt or modify those plans to continue our work and make progress. This is a lesson that can easily be applied to technology. When my students come to me during group instruction and ask to have their tech hiccup fixed, I turn them away. I remind them that they have to problem solve. 

We have discussed in class the various things we can do when my ipad in not working or is not charged. Our learning does not and should not STOP because of our ipads.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Make them the experts!


At the beginning of the third trimester, I had no idea that my team partner was going to be gone for our last field trip. You may ask: It's a field trip, where's the problem? This particular field trip was a bus tour about the history of Waukesha. It is a celebration about what we have learned. 
Screenshot from our co-created iBook on the history of Waukesha.

This teacher always led the tour, providing the rich history found in Waukesha. Students would follow the tour utilizing an iBook that the students helped us to create using iBook Author.

Here is where I had my problem occur. I had never led this tour on my own and I was more than nervous!

iBook Author

Screenshot from our co-created
Blackboard course where student 
work and available resources are brought together.
At first, I decided not to worry about the tour. Students had a few weeks of research before they were ready to participate in the tour. The previous year we had work extensively on uploading materials into our BB9 course. 

When I say extensively, I mean hours. We put together all of our articles, videos, links, and book titles. Then, we spent a few afternoons uploading these resources into a pre-selected list of questions.

If there is so much work, why did we do it? The truth is that like in many other areas in teaching, there were very few resources. Getting a copy of an original historical document to each student was not easy. We loved the idea of having BB9 warehouse to collect, organize, and distribute the resources. It is a way for all of our kids to see all of the resources, take them home with them, and access them any time they like. And when you are ready for it, adaptive release (a feature in Blackboard that includes rules about when students can see specific content) can make sure your students get just enough material. 

Problem Solved!

Students explore Prairie Home Cemetery as part of their
historical tour of Waukesha.
After students began their research, I became more and more concerned with the tour.

Then, I had one of those "lightbulb" moments. Students were already researching the material I would be summing up. Why not have them lead the tour?

Stops on the Waukesha History tour outlined in the iBook
students helped to create.
And they did. The students led the bus tour, stepping up to speak at "their stop" on the historical tour of Waukesha.  They spoke with authority and enthusiasm -- this was their area of expertise.

The truth is that this ended up being one of the most memorable tours, I have ever planned. 

Students not only summarized their learning for me to assess, but they now had the responsibility to be the experts. It brought everything together. Students were able to see their classmates learning and celebrate beside them!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Prescription for May Headaches: Technology


It's May, which means "Get ready to not see your juniors!"

Below is an update that I sent out to the governance board, WAHP teachers, and professionals in the beginning of May. It tells the general story of what was going on in my PLTW class called 'Medical Interventions.'

As we get into the busy month of May, Waukesha Academy of Health Professional juniors find themselves increasingly busy with AP exams, field trips, forums, and an overall hectic nature as their year comes to an end. Because of this along with preparing students for an increase in responsibility, we enter a completely self-paced unit in Medical Interventions looking into designing alternative treatments for cancer.
Similar to online portions of college classes, we will be utilizing technology via BB9 and Google Apps to complete this unit. ​BB9 will act as a means for students not only to receive direction and information, but a place for them to complete formative check ins in the form of conclusion questions and discussion boards. Students will showcase their collaboration skills through this self-paced unit via Google Classroom and Google Slides. The entire unit will culminate in a scientific poster presentation where they research a nanotechnology, connect it with a specific cancer case study, create a treatment plan that follows ethical board regulations, and present their plan to their classmates.
This flexibility of pace allows students to practice their higher executive processing skills as they must schedule their time and effort properly as they are in and out of class frequently during this busy May schedule.

What isn't seen in this update is just how successful this unit was because of my work with technology. I attempted this self-paced, free-flowing class structure last year, but I saw a wide variety of challenges and successes amongst the different types of learners. This year, though, I saw many more successes than failures! Some of my work included:
  • Adaptive release on BB9, pushing students towards work completion in order to gain access to the next step
  • Better formatting of the online pages, alluring student interest in the most simple yet psychological way
  • Test questions on BB9 serving as formative practice instead of conclusion questions they would answer in their notebooks, which I would never see. This also allowed me to grade and give feedback immediately upon submission.
  • Discussion blogs between their classmates on topics throughout the unit
  • Collaborative work with Google Slides
All of this made my expectations crystal clear as students progressed on their own pace throughout the unit, and as my post implies, it was the best medicine for that May Headache!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Adventures in Thoughtful Logs

Along with my SLO for 3rd grade students, I decided to adapt the idea of thoughtful logs into the music room.  I had been to a session at the Waukesha One conference presented by the specialists at Bethesda in which they used Google Docs. This session really got me thinking about how I could make this work in my own classroom. I decided to use Book Creator as I felt that this app allowed students more options and tools to organize their thinking and record their learning. We worked together to document their learning using writing, drawings, photos, recordings, and screen shots from other apps like Brain Pop.  Students are also super savvy with this app!

Getting started was pretty easy. I created a simple template based off a note value worksheet I had used with students in the past as a "Vocabulary" section and then added the oh so important "My Thinking" section by just labeling empty entry pages not knowing what we might need to add as the year progressed. Then, I  Airdropped it to my students.

By the end of the year, the thoughtful logs were an awesome collection of their learning. Take a look at some samples of their work:
Students were able to screenshot their work from the Brain Pop writing activity to add to their "My Thinking" section

Students took pictures of measures they created. They were asked to think about what time signature they were composing in and then had to choose the one they wanted to play in our drum circle.

A view of our vocabulary section

Students created a new rhythm based off a song called "Tennessee".
How would we get our state to fit into a song written in 4/4 time?
How do you know your solution would work?

Monday, May 22, 2017

Kahoot! ... well gesundheit (bless you)

To those of you who are reading these wonderful reflections of goals that I have set for myself in my new role as model tech classroom, I thank you. I appreciate having an audience that I know is going through the same journey as I am during these last crazy weeks of school. With only 12 days closing in on the last day, I am looking for ways to engage my students even more now since they are becoming restless.

 My next goal that I am reflecting on came about when I went to a Waukesha One session one year that dealt with a neat little site called Kahoot! This session looked intriguing to me because it was so interactive for the students. It allowed them to instantly receive feedback on their answer, and me to see who still needed to work on a certain skill. However, like many of us at the beginning of the year, that plan quickly took a back burner to all the academic things I needed to accomplish. Little did I know that those academics could be easily incorporated into Kahoot!, but in an awesome game-based way.

 Speed forward to this past week when I actually used Kahoot! in my Literacy classes. I wanted to do word study with them, but not with them cutting stuff out that results in scraps everywhere (no good for a type A person).  ;-) Yes, I understand the importance of paper and pencil at times when students need to engage in that. However, this word study allowed me to combine so many skills that I had already taught but wanted to review with them. I was so excited to have found Kahoots related to the early literacy skills I wanted to review. With my Kahoot! set and ready to go off we went to review our word study skills. Even with preparation and warning, the students were still obsessed that it was a game and there was a winner. I guess my words meant nothing to them when I said I didn't turn off the points because I didn't know how at the time. Well, lesson learned for sure those points students can get really hinder their learning. I now know (after the third time) that the points need to be turned off before we start playing.

 If you are looking for an interactive and game-0based learning opportunity for your students, I highly recommend Kahoot! It's so easy to search for Kahoots that are already created you just have to tweak to your needs to create your own. The website is very user friendly and hopefully this blog inspires you to try it out. I used it with my K/1 students, however there are so many options for older students. I see so much potential in using this that I even considered having my high flyers who need extension to create a quiz of their own to use on other students. Kahoot! is a limitless resource that be used in so many creative ways. Just try it!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Wow!  What a year it has been.  Since the beginning of the year, I have been developing my knowledge around a new content and thinking about ways to deliver it that incorporates technology, allows for student independence and provides built-in collaboration for students.  Through various trials, mistakes and wins, we have worked out a system that is a win-win for students and teacher, and the results of student surveys throughout the year indicate that students are becoming increasingly receptive to this style of learning here at Horning.  

During the beginning of the year, I sent out a survey that asked students about their level of engagement in class, with the content and if they liked how the technology was being used in the class.  During the very first survey, about half of students considered themselves somewhat engaged in the content, most did not like how technology was being used and many felt like they were not interested in the content of world geography.  After changing to a hybrid model where students have ownership over the content, how they present their learning, the chance to talk to others and to have a dialogue with other students and teacher, the increase in engagement has been dramatic.  

In our most recent survey, only ten percent of students disagreed or strongly disagreed that they were not engaged in their learning.  That means about 90 percent of students felt some level of engagement and a similar number enjoyed the hybrid station model.  Students gave feedback that they enjoyed working with others, creating something by applying their knowledge and having opportunities to think outside of the box.  These skills will certainly come in handy and will make our students college and career ready after high school.  

After thinking through all of this information, I decided with our district technology coordinator that it was important to have some baseline data to determine if there was a real difference in the results of hybrid learning.  Turns out, there is a major difference.  Most students in a more traditional classroom felt much more neutral in terms of engagement and in terms of how they felt about their ownership in the classroom.  

As I continue this work next year, I believe that what we are doing will make an impact on student outcomes, and we can only continue to improve and refine what is happening.