Monday, December 4, 2017

Student Portfolios

As a music teacher, I have always struggled with assessing student performance standards like singing and playing instruments. Don't get me wrong, I do it every single day. Usually, I take anecdotal notes while everyone is working together.  Individually assessing students takes a lot of time and what are the other children supposed to do while I individually assess? The music room has no desks, no independent books, and, frankly, it's hard to be monitoring others while trying to give your complete attention to the student you are assessing.  Because of this, student portfolios have always been interesting to me but I have never really mastered how to make it work without a ton of additional things for me to do.


Class Dojo is a well known website used to help support teachers in classroom management.  It allows teachers to encourage important skills and communicate with families through messages, updates and photos. But along with all the great features that come with helping students be behaviorally aware and accountable, Class Dojo has a way to help with creating student portfolios for assessment too.

Within Class Dojo, each class has a "story" which allows you to post things for all connected parents in the class to see. Each student also has an individual "story" which allows things to be posted for just their family to see. Or for you to view for the purposes of assessment! A perfect, already organized and created by someone else, spot to record student performances!
I have just began to mess around with this feature but it requires no additional sign in for students and teachers or students can add things to their wall. Here is an example from second grade in which students were practicing creating their own rhythms with a new note, the half note. I traveled around and took a quick video of each student clapping and saying the rhythm they composed. It was a quick post by hitting one button and then it was available for both families and myself to view.

Our school uses Class Dojo quite a bit, so I love that kids already know how it works and could, just as easily as I can, add things in their own "story" or portfolio.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Carrie Driscoll

I am Carrie Driscoll- I am in the midst of my 7th year of teaching 4th grade at Bethesda. Along the way through those 7 years the landscape of education has greatly shifted, including the use of technology tools in and around instruction. When I toured Bethesda as a part of my interview, there was one portable Smartboard in the 4th grade pod that the teacher and students were using while skillfully trying to dance around the giant cords anchoring the board to an outlet.  If you walked through Bethesda today, you would see kiddos sailing, unanchored, around the open concept pods with their iPads in a 1:1 environment.

I have been fortunate to be a part of Bethesda and along for this journey from the lonely, anchored Smartboard to untethered iPads in the hands of ALL. I LOVE using technology tools in instruction and for kiddos to create meaning to their own learning. I am usually the first one that will jump at the chance to start using a new tech tool and enjoy working with colleagues to improve our practices together.
Carrie Driscoll
4th Grade  Bethesda Elementary 

As with any road there have been peaks and valleys, twists and turns and frustration and celebration. The road of “instructional technology” is no different.  It can feel like the speed limitless autobahn where there is movement on all sides at an insane pace .  Sometimes you’re just holding on for dear life, sometimes you’re cruising in your own lane and then sometimes you need to pull over to make sure you’re taking the right path. I hope to contribute to the learning  by sharing celebrations and setbacks along my “Journey to Modification!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Connecting Students Across the Atlantic

I was so excited to use technology in my classroom to expose my students to another culture.  With November 13-17 being International Education Week, I wanted to give my students an International experience.  Two years ago I hosted Valeria, an exchange student from Italy.  What a perfect connection to make with my students.  Valeria and I set up a time to Skype with my class to teach them about Italy.   

Valeria talking about the differences between Italy and the United States
She presented information to the students about what it is like in Italy.  She described schools, common foods, climate, and different cities. The students thought it was pretty awesome to be talking to someone all the way across the Atlantic Ocean and that here it was 10:30 am, and it was 5:30 in Italy!  

A few examples from Valeria's presentation
We talked afterwards how the information we learned connected to our Geography Unit.  The students had to explain which of the 5 themes we gained information about.  

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Recording in GarageBand

If you weren't lucky enough to attend Brian Yearling's session during our August PD, you may not be aware but...

is an app that EVERYONE can use!

GarageBand could help you....
  • Add a song or a soundtrack to Book Creator projects
  • Perform written text
  • Read and record non-fiction texts for others to listen to
  • Create a listening library for students
  • Create a soundtrack for a live presentation or an iMovie
  • Add an audio portion to a “museum” walk
  • Create book reviews/podcasts

Jennifer Guckenberger and I are currently working to combine our expertise to help fourth grade students create their own podcasts. So far, we have started small. In my music classroom, students learned how to record themselves singing a song we had already been working on. Students will be able to use this skill to record themselves speaking in Jennifer's room. 

Once students have mastered this beginning step, students can add other musical sounds (sound effects, pre-recorded loops and music made with the instruments available in GarageBand) which will help them to complete a full podcast that sounds like a radio show, or maybe even better! 

This, like all great ideas, is a work in progress.....

If you are interested in trying some recording along with us, I created this quick guide to help students get started.

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!