Ways to Enhance Reading and Writing Workshop with Technology

Our school recently made the switch to Columbia University’s Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. Although Stephanie and I received some surface level training on the project in our previous school, this has been the first time that we have been asked to follow the program with a high level of fidelity.

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Like with any program, there are ways to improve outcomes by looking at how best to use technology to maximize learning. We’re all about looking at traditional teaching practices and seeing how they can be improved. The following are some of the things that we have tried in our classrooms to facilitate 21st century learning experiences within the Reading and Writing Workshop model.

Use online forums and chat rooms for class discussions, teacher and peer feedback, and ratings

Class discussions can happen in many ways. When the program asks for reading and writing partners to turn and talk about their thoughts, students can also do so in an online forum. The tool that you use doesn’t matter: This could be on Seesaw, Flipgrid, EasyBlog, Edmodo. . . whatever! I use Moodle for forums, because I find it to be very customizable, but you can have kids discussing on almost any platform. Again, it’s not about the tool, it’s about the learning.

There are inherent benefits to having discussions online. Instead of always communicating in informal language, as is the case with “turn and talk” in class, students are forced to use formalized language. There is a record of what they have said, and teachers can see it, give feedback on which terms they are using correctly, and can have students go back and edit their ideas for clarity. Students can continue the conversation at home, alone or with their parents, and you can always go back to the conversations during your conferencing, which is much harder to do with traditional “turn and talk”.

Use online multimedia journals with links, videos, photos, audio, drawings, table of contents, dictionary and thesaurus

I am a fan of both paper/pencil journals as well as multimedia online journals. While the benefits of the paper/pencil journal are well known, it is sometimes effective to give students the chance to write or write about their reading in an online journal.

In my students’ wiki journals, they are able to create new pages whenever, wherever they feel like. This creates great situations where they can [[link]] to a new page (for example, a character page), and then fill in their ideas there. If they need inspiration for character development, setting, or anything visual, they can pull up images from online and stick them in their journal. If they need to create a quick sketch, they just insert a drawing into their journal, and can move it around as they wish without feeling that they are getting in the way of their writing. When I provide them with materials from the program, they can link to these materials, refer to them, and annotate the parts that they feel they need to work on. By just clicking on a word, they can look up new words in online dictionaries and thesauruses and build their vocabulary . . the multimedia journal creates learning experiences that wouldn’t otherwise be possible with a 100% paper/pencil workshop.

Give assessments with feedback, rubrics, checklists, infographics, memes, pictures, video, inline editing

I find the assessments in the Reading and Writing Project to be easily convertible into online resources. For the beginning of the year reading assessment, I put all of the questions into an online assignment, and had kids take the test.

After the kids took the assessment, the data came back to me organized by student and question type. I was then able to give students feedback to enhance their learning. I did this in the form of inline editing, inserting the rubrics right into their answers, and providing checklists, infographics, memes, and links to previous discussions and journal entries that they had made. After I helped one student with a certain problem – using pictures, videos, or whatever – I was able to use that same teacher-created resource to help the next student that had the very same problems.

The point is, with technology you can link up all of the resources that you and your students have created – assessments, discussions, journals, rubrics, glossaries, etc –  at any time, so that students are not only making digital connections, but connections in their craniums as well.

Make the Heinemann resources accessible to students online

Instead of printing everything that I’m provided in the Reading and Writing Project from the Heinemann online resources – the sticky notes, the reading logs, the anchor charts, the exemplars, etc – I put them on my class website and into student hands. It saves a tree, and it helps students engage with the materials by actually using them in various ways.

Why not just project the resources? I find that projecting these resources without putting them up on my online courseroom makes it so that I become the “keeper of all resources”. I believe in a student-driven classroom, where information is accessible to all, parents included. By putting the resources up onto our Moodle page, students can not only access them anytime they want, but they can manipulate the content, insert it where they want, and ask questions and post comments about it.

Go nuts combining apps, web tools, social media and productivity tools!

There is so much out there that can help kids think and remove potential barriers for learning the content required in the Reading and Writing Project. I’ve written before about some of my favorite tech tools for getting kids writing, but I really recommend that you go sit on your couch with your device in hand, and explore the unlimited possibilities that exist out there.

Even if the Reading and Writing Project doesn’t explicitly say that you should or could use technology, that doesn’t make it wrong to take advantage of the best tools at your disposal. For me, technology is ubiquitous in the learning process, and learning is non-linear.

So, have kids record podcasts and watch their speaking and listening skills grow as they engage with the Reading and Writing workshop. Put up a green screen in your classroom, and explore the possibilities this has for student learning and engagement. I also believe that learning should be shared and public, and with technology this is possible. Have kids share out their reading and writing on blogs, social media, and e-mail. Get parents engaging with the Reading and Writing Project from their phone.

There are so many ways to make this program more dynamic and better for the learner. So if you’re like me and new to the Columbia University’s Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, keep at it. I know I will!


Thanks for coming back again and again to educationrickshaw.com, a website by Stephanie and Zach Groshell. Feel free to comment below!

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5 Traditional Teaching Practices Enhanced By Technology

For those of you that regularly follow educationrickshaw.com – by the way, we just celebrated our one year anniversary with our most views ever! – you’ll know that we talk a lot about blended learning environments. As I’ve discussed in earlier posts, there is no point in going digital if it is simply a digital substitution of what you always do. These tips will enhance your traditional teaching practices.

Digitize your daily schedule

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I used to write the order of my lessons on the whiteboard everyday before class started. I definitely didn’t do it as creatively as this guy. The kids didn’t tend to read it unless I read it to them, and it wasted a good portion of my whiteboard space.

Instead of doing that now, I use padlet to write up my lessons and part of our morning meeting consists of students looking at the schedules on their iPads. I’ve made a conscious effort to democratize the process so that students have a say in the order, or even the activity, of each class period. I try to change the role of who can edit the schedule every month so that a different student is in charge of getting this ready for our class.

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With padlet, I can include links to different activities (cmd + k) and provide pictures, quotes, memes, tweets, and videos to enrich their schedule with multi-media. It is also always online, right at the front of their BLE courseroom, so parents can check in whenever they want and see what we’re doing at any moment.

Digitize student planners

In the past I’ve used paper planners that students would schlep around everyday with a lot of other wasteful paper resources. Despite my every effort to get the kids to open it, including getting a parent signature every night, I wasn’t so sure how much it helped them keep up with their school responsibilities.

While I’ve used Homework.io in the past, as well as the planners on various BLE platforms such as Edmodo, Moodle, or whatever else, this year we’ve been using the “reminders app” that is native to IOS for my 1:1 iPad classroom. As I’ve argued before, the point is not which technology to use but how the technology is being used.

Students are taking advantage of their digital planner by setting alarms for their responsibilities, getting notifications well in advance for things that are coming up and by using hyperlinks to the various resources that I want them to have access to at home.

Digitize Textbooks

If you have the choice to go with an e-book or go with paper copies during your school’s next round of purchases, go with the digital version. Finding free digital versions is another option. Even if the version of the textbook is not built to be interactive (aka it’s a .PDF), you can make it interactive.

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For my math book, for example, I use .PDF resources combined with the app, Notability. This way, students can annotate directly onto the .PDF with text, drawings, and their own voices. They can easily cut/paste or screenshot parts of their math into other apps, including Explain Everything or Seesaw (see Teacher Toolkit for Seesaw), and manipulate the math in even more ways. Once any resource is digital, you can have students engaging with the material in so many more ways – Green screen? Youtube Channel? Twitter? How about good ol’ AirDrop? The possibilities are endless, unlike the paper version that ends the moment you start writing on it.

Digitize Learning Journals

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While there are many great platforms for student journaling – Class Dojo, Seesaw, and FlipGrid to name a few that I’ve used – I’ve been getting into the idea of the wiki as a journal of late. The possibilities for a wiki (think Wikipedia) are endless, and they provide ways for students to engage in more complex technology skills, such as simple html, embeds, hyperlinking, and much more. I currently use the Moodle wiki for both my reading and writing journals, and it has been such a sight to see these kids creating page after page of learning.

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Putting something online from paper to digital doesn’t make it an authentic learning experience, or a learning experience at all. It just becomes a formality for you and for the student. What makes a digital learning journal so much more effective than the paper/pencil version is the inclusion of multimedia, and the possibilities for peer and teacher feedback. When thoughts are contained in a paper journal, they stay locked there inside the classroom overnight and over the weekend. The only way for students to comment on each other’s learning is by passing around the journals and marking on them. Teachers spend an enormous amount of time saying the exact same thing on 25 – 30 journals instead of using digital features such as immediate and automatic feedback, or copy and paste. Help in the form of student exemplars, rubrics, memes and infographics can be easily shared between all in your learning environment through a digital learning journal.

Digitize Class Communication Channels

All of the students in my class have an e-mail address which they use to contact their teachers and their parents when the need arises. This has cut down immensely on confusion over homework, after school pick ups, and other responsibilities that students have at school.

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In addition to e-mail, I make sure that students have ways to socialize with one another in a safe way, such as with an instant messaging system or chat app. Students often solve their own problems (“When are basketball tryouts?) instead of relying on teachers and parents to do it for them.

When students share their learning with one another, that learning may also be filtered into various public channels such as Twitter and YouTube. This way, I’m not writing a newsletter every week about what we did because there is a student-updated feed of learning going on in our class that parents follow.


We at educationrickshaw.com sincerely hope that you enjoyed this article about traditional teaching practices that can be enhanced by technology. While it is clear that any one of these five tips can be misused so that learning is not maximized, we hope that there was enough included in the article to steer you towards something that you are comfortable trying out in the coming weeks.

Keep coming back to educationrickshaw.com, a website and blog about international teaching.

 

 

What Does a 21st Century Classroom Look, Sound, and Feel Like?

Part of a technology coach’s role these days is to convince teachers that their job description has changed. The industrial model of education is well past its expiration date, and the generation of students born today are going to graduate into a world that will look completely different than our own. In order to train 20th century teachers to reach the conceptual understandings required for 21st century education, school leaders and tech coaches need to focus on describing what this could be.

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This article tries to describe how I imagine the 21C classroom and I will try to integrate theory on 21C pedagogy throughout. Edutopia’s 10 signs of a 21st century classroom is a good read, as well this tech4learning’s article. To describe the 21st century here, I’ll divide it up into three categories: What can it potentially look like, sound like, and feel like?

What does the 21st Century-Ready Classroom Look Like?

Imagine what the workplace looks like at one of the more hip startups near you. Is it rows of desks and dividing walls? Is everyone sitting in silence? I was surprised to not see Seattle – the city of my university – in the top five on this Fortune list for startup activity in 2016:

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What I picture is couches, colors, and bright lighting that facilitate the collaboration between professionals. I see devices, headsets, and outlets. Take a look at some of the Google campuses that I googled below:

Clearly these two photos have a very contemporary look, but what’s more important is that the space signals to the professionals at work that their knowledge and skills are better harnessed when shared spontaneously and collaboratively. Every part of the space is purpose-built, and there are fewer barriers between inside spaces and outside spaces than what you’d find in a traditional workspace.

In my classroom (above), the setup has changed many times to fit the purpose of the unit, the activity, or the dynamic of the students in my class. We’ve had weeks of free inquiry where students worked without walls, and once we just needed to read and learn in a fort:

What does the 21st Century-Ready Classroom Sound Like?

I’ve talked before about how noisy classrooms are overrated in my article on growing up the child of a Deaf mom and teacher.  My Twitter Feed is always full of teachers and administrators professing a “new” messy and noisy style of learning. Now, while my classroom will become extremely loud when they put on a cardboard arcade with coded games, or a in the heat of a good debate, you can also find my entire class sitting around with headphones while diligently completing a project.

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From CBC slideshow on 21st Century Jobs

Take a look at the photo above. These “custom implant organ designers”, one of the newest jobs popping up in the world our children are graduating into, are all working mostly in silence. However, there are multiple points of contact for face-to-face interaction; They are not limited in their ability to turn and interact with one another. The point is that sometimes students need quiet time to think, and other times, they just need to dump ice on each other and figure out how things freeze (see below). There are many ways to learn, and it is a teacher’s job to figure out the pedagogy that best matches the circumstance.

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My students making a mess at our class Science Fair

Is my class loud? Sometimes. When they are quiet, is it because I have demanded compliance and they are passively listening to me? Not usually. Perhaps they are fully concentrating as they practice something, or are preparing in silence to teach others. It might be because they are writing, or communicating with others on social media or in our online courseroom, and the language-use is intense, but not loud.

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In general, I try to use what we know about retention, such as the pyramid above, to plan and evaluate how my classroom looks and sounds. Now, onto the touchy-feely stuff.

What does the 21st Century-Ready Classroom Feel Like?

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Via http://www.hrreview.co.uk/

It’s time to face the facts that many of the jobs of today will be gone tomorrow (See: 15 jobs that will be gone in 10 years) – this is just the way of the world. According to some, 47 percent of jobs will disappear over the next 25 years. Computers will simply be able to do things more cheaply and effectively than humans.

The students of today will be designing those computers. This is why, in the classroom of the 21st century, technology should feel ubiquitous; It is just as much a part of learning as pencil and paper and it is omnipresent. I constantly work to hone my technology skills (on my couch while watching T.V.), and I fully embrace the technology that I have available at my school.

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One setup I’ve had in my class – students partnered elbow-to-elbow, teacher is “guide on the side”, students can connect to Apple TV for sharing what’s on their screens

The 21st century-ready classroom feels democratic, and behaves much like a democracy. 21st century skills (see below) cannot be developed in an entirely top-down, authoritarian environment. I don’t imagine that the workplace of the future will behave that way either – remember which jobs are disappearing, and which are being created.

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Companies today want our kids to graduate having mastered the 4Cs of critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity. A child should feel like their ideas matter in their classroom, much like a professional should feel valued for their ideas in the workplace of the future. It is important to give your class back to your students so that they gain the necessary confidence and perseverance to pursue and communicate their ideas when they enter their future careers. If it were up to me, I’d make it a school-wide rule that every child should have access to snacks, drinks, and bathrooms and should be able to choose their clothes. But alas, that sounds like a whole ‘nother article.


 

I hope you enjoyed my thoughts and links that try to describe the 21st century classroom. Be sure to follow me on Twitter, check out more about us, and keep coming back to educationrickshaw.com for more teaching ideas in motion.

Podcasts are Great Way to Develop Speaking and Listening

If you’ve ever checked out our Friends of Educationrickshaw.com page, you may have seen mention of my best friend Jim Stewart Allen’s ongoing podcast project, Historiography!. While the content is geared towards adults, we were able to collaborate on an episode that made it into my classroom:

 

 

In the episode, Jim makes a call out to all of my kids in Sudan, which immediately blew their minds when I showed it to them in class. He then goes into his typical dissection of a media piece, this time being the Phases of Matter episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy, which my students had just watched in preparation for this surprise event. The listen not only led to a lot of laughs and conversation about the science, but it intrigued my Year 5’s  to the point that they wanted to record their own podcasts!

Recording the Podcasts

Like a piece of writing, there are both linear and non-linear ways of arriving at a published podcast. For brainstorming, the kids and I love Inspiration, and I made sure to have students practice with partners or small audiences before they launched into the publishing stage. For the actual recording, I had students create a cover photo and then record their voice over it using Seesaw.

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Thanks @MrsGadtke for the poster!

See Also: 5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Seesaw, which has been retweeted a few times by Seesaw themselves

Learning Potential

Almost all of the students felt that they needed a few shots to actually get it right, and it was wonderful to watch students struggle to produce the exact words they needed to convey meaning. One of the biggest hurdles that some students had to jump was filling airtime with entertaining banter and commentary. Many at first experienced a sort of podcast stage fright that forced them to scrap their recording and start over again. In one outlying case, a student had to switch over to recording in iMovie so that they could edit out the long pauses that kept making it into his final recording.

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The more that I think about the potential learning that can occur from planning and recording podcasts, the more I want to get going on another unit that includes them as a learning engagement. As you can see from the below photo, most of my kids’ podcasts would be considered “segments”, but I am sure there is room for the other two methods  as well. Interviews especially sound cool.

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Photo: https://coschedule.com/blog/how-to-start-a-podcast/

As we connected our Seesaw blogs to a class outside of Sudan, the students also can learn how to promote their podcasts to reach a larger audience, how to provoke and stimulate thinking from others, and how to keep the conversation going in the comments. The parents in my classes have been very engaged with all of our online tools, so their podcasts could be the source of discussion at the dinner table, thereby extending the learning into the home. If you’re looking for ways to meet speaking and listening standards, podcasts might be the way to go.


What do you think? We at educationrickshaw.com appreciate the feedback that you leave in the comments area below, and we always respond.

Thanks for visiting!

 

The Power of Digital Manipulatives

I wanted to share this Infographic by MIND Research Institute today, as it confirms some of my experiences with digital manipulatives in my classroom. My biggest takeaway from the infographic is the idea that you can scaffold the concepts by first starting with physical manipulatives (we do learn with our bodies!), and then transitioning to digital manipulatives to “improve transferability of math concepts”, and then finally representing the concepts with numbers and symbols.

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This webapp allows students to see money with the number blocks of their amounts – from mathlearningcenter.org

In my class, I created an elink of digital manipulatives so that students can have most of the digital manipulatives from mathlearningcenter.org at their disposal. You can download all of these tools as apps, but I found that the webapps were almost just as functional (downloading takes up precious storage on student iPads!). I very much followed a scaffolding strategy similar to what the infographic describes.

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I created an e-link on my Moodle course with links to all of the webapps. For more on elink, see Easy-Peasy Way to Give Great Links to Students)

Good teachers use everything that they have at their disposal, and don’t get caught up in searching for silver bullets. There is a place for physical manipulatives in the 21C classroom, as well as a place for digital ones.

Thank you for visiting educationrickshaw.com! Enjoy!


Digital Manipulatives Infographic

Courtesy of MIND Research Institute. 


What do you think about the role of digital manipulatives? Comment below!

5 KeyBoard Shortcuts Every Teacher Needs

The connected teacher of the 21st century has a need for speed. The following are 5 MacBook keyboard shortcuts that I find that I use everyday to get the job done for my class.

#1 Emoji Keyboard

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Command + Control, Space Bar

The emoji keyboard shortcut not only allows teachers to communicate with students in fun ways as they learn to use social media, but it also serves a number of purposes throughout  my lessons – from arrows, checkmarks, to any symbol, really.

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I even use the emoji shortcut to make the play buttons on my videos (WordPress doesn’t let me embed videos unless I pay mo’).

#2 Link

Link

Command + K

If you’re like me, you’re always wanting to give kids great links to great content, fast. I am constantly sending e-mails to students, commenting on forums and social media, and creating web pages on our LMS that require quick links. The link shortcut may be the most used keyboard shortcut in my teaching repertoire.

#3 Screen Shot

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Command + Control + Shift + 4

While you may have known that Command + Shift + 4 saves custom sized screenshots to your desktop (useful for many sites), did you know that you can save your screenshot to your clipboard with just the addition of one more key stroke?

I use this shortcut whenever I want to quickly paste a moment from a website onto almost any web page, textbox, or e-mail. I also quite often end up using the markup tool or Preview to make a few annotations before sharing my screenshots with my students.

#4 Switch Between Applications

Change applications

Command + Tab or ~

As teachers are constantly changing between applications and programs during lessons, this is one of those shortcuts that can make transitions easier and increase student attention and engagement. Press Q while holding the command key and you will quit whatever application you’re currently highlighting.

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This shortcut is also one of the most natural feeling of the macbook shortcuts, and one that I definitely miss when switching to other devices. As we are a 1:1 iPad school, the students can do the same thing with a double-click to their home button, but I’m not how many mac users regularly switch between applications in this convenient way.

#5 Undo

Link

Command + Z

An oldie, but a goodie! I make mistakes, and I make them a lot while I’m teaching. I sometimes wonder if the pioneers of the shortcut knew this when they designated the last letter of the alphabet and the first letter of my name to be the undo shortcut. If you’re not comfortable teaching with technology, I hope that you take this small piece of advice: Don’t worry about screwing up. There is always a way to undo what’s been done. Don’t be more afraid of mistakes than your students. And don’t be afraid to play around with edtech at school or on your couch. If you mess up, just push Command + Z!

Keep coming back to educationrickshaw.com, and be sure to follow us on Twitter.

First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth - TeachersPayTeachers.com

Why Students Need HelpDesk Too.

Most schools have a HelpDesk system for faculty to get help in a number of ways. My school has one such system, and I am constantly using when I need assistance with maintenance or our school’s IT systems. The reasons for using these HelpDesk systems are obvious: They are a way to organize and timestamp requests based on urgency, location, and other factors that are not possible with a direct e-mail. HelpDesk makes it so that complicated tasks aren’t forgotten, and that nobody can cut in line.

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It recently dawned on me that students and teachers need a similar system for their classrooms. My students are constantly asking for help, but that help is usually poorly recorded and responded to. Requests for help get forgotten, and the loudest, pushiest students are able to cut in line. Using the Moodle Reservations Activity (Also check out: How can Moodle be used in Elementary?), I put together a HelpDesk system for math that has really worked for my students.

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Check out this video for more info:  https://youtu.be/PhsIvwTPFl4

How does it work?

At different times during math, I have students enter into the Math HelpDesk to indicate their needs in a simple note. They are effectively “reserving” a spot on the carpet with me. I take a look at all of their requests and group them according to what they need help in. As a result, my ability to group students by need has been streamlined, and students that are not being helped are always busy working instead of waiting.

HelpDesks for Everything!

I love that these HelpDesks give students agency and voice in their classroom. I am always trying to give my classroom “back to my students”, and this puts the onus to learn and problem-solve their gaps in understanding on the students. So far I have made HelpDesks for math, writing conferences, and for checking in with me about goal-setting after student-led conferences.

Can you think of any more uses for HelpDesk in your classroom? How might you put one together using your school’s LMS and available tools? Comment below, follow me on Twitter, and keep coming back to educationrickshaw.com!

The Couch Potato Approach to Educational Technology

Don’t wait for your school to develop your tech skills. Settle into your couch and educate yourself!

I’ve talked before about how teachers need to be given the opportunity to play around with edtech tools in order to be able to envision how they could be used in a classroom. The same goes with students. This could be called edtech sandboxing.

The problem is that not a lot of schools are willing to make time for this extremely important professional development. I’m talking about a faculty meeting entirely dedicated to edtech, and in which the only directions given are a list of apps to play around with. If you’re ever feeling like your school hasn’t developed you enough, I have a solution for you: The Couch Potato Approach to Educational Technology.

What is the Couch Potato Approach?

The Couch Potato Approach is a poorly guarded, super un-secret methodology dating back to the origins of computers. Before teachers were expected by their districts to integrate technology into their lessons, those few teachers that saw value in maximizing learning with technology simply had to other choice but to teach themselves. This involved digging around in handbooks and manuals for dummies, and consulting face-to-face with other like-minded tech teachers.

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As technology has changed from desktop to mobile, and answers to any query can be found in a simple Google search, teachers no longer have to go to tech conferences or resort to digging through outdated manuals. And because many schools nowadays provide their teachers with the same devices that they provide their students, passionate 21C teachers can now simply sit on their couches and create their own edtech sandbox opportunities as they watch T.V. and listen to music.

Where to go to find my answers (while sitting on my couch)?

1. Google and Youtube

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21st Century DIY Professional Development

Most any tech-related question can be found by making a simple Google or Youtube Search. 9 times out of 10 I end up clicking on the first thing that pops up at the top of my search, and it ends up leading me to the right answer. The step-by-step instructional videos that exist out there on Youtube for various edtech questions are particularly useful when you are trying to set up something complex. I usually split-screen the video and my sandbox area (or have the video running on my MacBook while messing around on my iPad) and follow the instructions until I get the desired results.

While I have always found Google and Youtube searches to be the best way to go, I understand that there can be skepticism over this method if you haven’t tried it out yourself. Before you submit another HelpDesk request to your school’s IT department, try Googling your question exactly how it appears in your head. If you remove your fear of clicking into various forums and instructional resources, you’ll very soon find what you’re looking for with a simple Google Search.

2. Twitter and Facebook

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If you’re a teacher and you’re not on Twitter, you really should be. I get probably more than half of my ideas from my Twitter Professional Learning Community (#PLN), and it makes me feel like I am constantly connected to the most current ideas. I treat my Twitter as an education-only center for communicating ideas and networking. It is where I post all of these educationrickshaw.com articles, and where I get into a ton of education-related arguments.

While personally, I treat my Facebook as a personal repository of pictures and comments about life, there are a lot of great Facebook pages out there that I do follow (check out and join Shamelessly Self-promoting Educators). Both Twitter and Facebook are critical for helping me figure out edtech issues and to keep up with the most current uses that teachers have found for various technologies.

3. The Edtech Company’s HelpDesk

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Simply asking a question directly to the creator of the software is surprisingly helpful

If you’re having trouble with a certain tool, just ask the company themselves for help. I’ve found the folks at elink.io and seesaw.me to be particularly helpful. They respond back to any dumb little question I have, and will usually humor me when I suggest a new feature for a future update of their product.

4. Online Forums

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Pretty old-school, I know, but I have found many of my answers to very specific questions about teaching elementary school students with Moodle on the Moodle.org page. If I can’t find what I’m looking for by using, again, Google, I simply start a new discussion and typically I get my question answered within 48 hours or so. And because of the (sometimes) dynamic nature of discussion forums, I end up asking other unrelated questions and getting those answered as well!

5. The App Profile on Your Device

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Notice the couch.

Many schools nowadays provide teachers with a device loaded full of great learning apps and software. Take some time on your couch to familiarize yourself with everything on there. You wouldn’t neglect to bone up on your subject’s required reading, so why would you skip learning about all of the apps that your school is arming you with? While on your couch, be creative. Be fearless. Click into apps that you’ve never checked out before. Add apps based on recommendations from Twitter and Facebook and try those out. Test them out in class and share the results on social media, and in your next faculty meeting. You’ll be an expert in no time!

I hope you enjoyed this and other articles on educationrickshaw.com. Once you’ve gotten your own Twitter (see #2 on this list), be sure to follow me, and check out Stephanie’s Teachers Pay Teachers.

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5 Quick Projects That Make Use of Green Screen

It might come as a surprise to some teachers that all it takes to replicate the green screen effects that we all see in the movies and on the news is a free green screen app and some green butcher paper.

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Green Screen and filming station with tripod in the back corner, next to my DIY idea wall (also white butcher paper)

Once I put up my own DIY green screen in my classroom, my students didn’t have much trouble thinking of fun ways to incorporate it into their lessons and projects. Here are five fun ways to get your students learning and creating with green screen.

#1 Make your own pokemon cards

For the unit Who We Are students began by taking a personality quiz and identifying the traits and “color” that corresponded with their personality type. They then created a pokemon card on mypokecard.com and chose the two traits that best represented them as their attacks. They also identified which color they would have most trouble working with, which led to great conversations about personality clashes at school and in the workplace.

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#2 For Photo Booths and Photo competitions

While student-led conferences are ultimately about learning, that doesn’t mean that they have to be boring. Our students set up a photo booth and showed their parents how it worked before snapping a quick pic in front of their chosen background. They made sure to raid the drama room’s stash of costumes before the event!

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We also had an elementary-wide photo competition during reading week that took advantage of our kids’ savviness with the green screen.

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#3 Make Yourself into an Ordered Pair (Graphing)

One thing that new users to green screen might not know is that with most green screen apps you can play with the size of the photos and even add several actors into the mix. For this mini-project, students took a picture of themselves in front of the green screen, added graph paper as the background and then plotted themselves and their friends into ordered pairs during math.

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#4 For Music Videos and Rap Battles

For one learning engagement this year, students had to use their research papers on a colonial superpower to create rap lyrics. They then put their rap lyrics to a beat using GarageBand. Finally, they took their recorded audio track and created music videos, which of course got enhanced by the use of green screen. It was a fun way to get kids writing, combining and using technology effectively, and blending the disciplines of music, social studies, and language arts.

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#5 Anytime you need the perfect background

For one of our units, students were inquiring about leadership styles. This led to a three day sequence where students experienced what their classroom would look like when transformed into one of the three main leadership styles: Autocratic, Democratic, and Laissez-Faire. Of course, I loved playing the autocratic leader, and in addition to having students sing songs about me and portray me in the history books in a positive light, students created these propaganda pieces – autocratic rule of law with pleasant backgrounds – to share with their parents on Seesaw, who were eager to hear how the day went.

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For any prospective employer, no children were damaged during the staging of these photos, for the record 😅

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I hope these give you some great ideas for how to use green screen to add a fun and engaging element to your classroom. Keep coming back to educationrickshaw.com, and check out Stephanie’s Teachers Pay Teachers.

A Different Kind of Student-Led Conference

Student-led conferences are all the rage right now, and rightfully so. They provide another opportunity for students to take control of their learning. The thing is, before public, shared, nonlinear digital portfolios, it made a ton of sense to bring parents into the classroom just so they could flip through the pages of their child’s paper portfolio. However, when this model began to be applied to digital portfolios (we use Seesaw), which constantly update parents on new submissions and comments via their phones, I started wondering why we were having these student-led conferences in the first place. After all, the parents had already viewed all of their child’s selected pieces!

This year, I wanted to help the students to make the most out of their student-led conference experience. Here’s what I did.

Students Shared Their Digital Portfolios

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Even though presenting the portfolio isn’t what it used to be due to the fact that every parent has seen almost every piece on their phones, it was still valuable to have parents and students sitting down and talking about the process that went into these learning experiences. My class labeled their portfolio work with a special tab in Seesaw (See 5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Seesaw) so that they could filter out pieces that they didn’t want to share, and choose what was most important to share during the student-led conferences.

Students Shared Their Goals

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After students sketchnoted two short term goals for the rest of this year, they did a live drawing of their sketchnotes by recording them into stop motion videos using imotion. These were then shared onto their portfolios, but they were also displayed on an “Our Goals” display during the student-led conferences. Since the conferences, we’ve spread out the sketchnotes a bit on this “Idea Wall” (made from chart paper and plywood to cover the windows), and students have been reflecting on their goals with marker. This has led to some glorious conversations about goal-setting, the most interesting of which has been with my student that chose to give up all unhealthy foods for the rest of the school year!

Students Shared Their Peers’ Compliments

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On their desks (mine are all against the walls to make room for learning) students taped a poster with all of the compliments that their classmates had given them just a few days prior. Revisiting these with the parents was one of the joys of this year’s student-led conferences. I’ve written before about this activity, which I call “Cannon Ball”, where students choose their favorite compliment and shout it as loud as they can outside in “private” as the rest of us listen in.

Students Took Pictures of Their Families in a Green Screen Photobooth

While student-led conferences are ultimately about learning, that doesn’t mean that they have to be boring. Our students set up a green screen (all it takes is green chart paper) and showed their parents how it worked before snapping a quick pic in front of their chosen background. They made sure to raid the drama room’s stash of costumes before the event!

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Students Live-Tweeted the Event

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In my class, we mostly use Seesaw as our main social media platform, but we also use Twitter to connect with a global audience. Afterall, it’s how we found and connected our pen pals to our Seesaw blogs! For the student-led conferences, I borrowed another projector (my first was used to display our Moodle-based BLE) and used Wallrus, a nifty Twitter wall tool that shows all of the tweets as they come in during your event. While my students are not allowed their own Twitter accounts, their iPads are connected to our class Twitter account, and they were able to easily tweet their photos from the camera app and see them appear on this screen. All of the photos in this educationrickshaw.com post were tweeted by students to our school’s hashtag during student-led conferences.

What do you think? Could you use some of these ideas for your next conferences? Please feel free to comment below and keep coming back to educationrickshaw.com!

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