Tuesday, December 12, 2017

#TIES17 K-2 IDEA Lab

My wonderful colleague Donna and I are proud to be presenting at the TIES conference this year!  Our IDEA (Imagine, Design, Explore, Ask) Lab is in its first full year of implementation, and we are excited to share what we have learned so far.  We are also looking to engage in conversations with others about this work!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Hour of Code 2017

Computer Science Education Week starts on Monday, December 4, and with that comes the Hour of Code! I am excited that our schools will once again be participating in this world wide event.

What is the Hour of Code?

“The 'Hour of Code™' is a nationwide initiative by Computer Science Education Week [csedweek.org] and Code.org [code.org] to introduce millions of students to one hour of computer science and computer programming.” The Hour of Code Challenge started in 2013 and since then millions of people have participated.

Why is Coding Important?

Our world is increasingly influenced by computers and technology.  In almost any career, using technology is an essential skill.  Beyond that, the ability to create something new or improve upon existing technology, is a skill that employers are looking for. Coding skills are valuable in almost any profession, not just in technology fields.  Learning to code is really learning to problem solve.  We all want our students to be problem solvers, so why not give them a little extra practice?

What will Teachers Do?

The most challenging thing for teachers will be to carve time out of their already busy day to include some time for kids to code.  The goal is to have kids spend an hour TOTAL throughout the week, NOT an hour per day!  This works out to about 12 minutes per day, so coding could be morning work or part of morning meeting.  It could also be part of choice time or a center for the week.  Teachers will need to choose which program they want their students to use there are several great options.  There are many great options for every grade level. In the presentation below, I have linked several resources to help guide you through the week.

What will Students Do?

Students will work through the different levels of whatever program you decide to have them use. They will work with each other to problem solve, share their strategies and most importantly they will get the opportunity to learn some coding!

What will your students create using their coding skills?

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Tech Tuesday-Google Classroom

If your students have Google accounts you should be using Google Classroom to help simplify how you create assignments, provide feedback and communicate with your students.  Google Classroom is simple, user friendly, and can make your digital organization a breeze.

Image result for google classroom

Five Reasons To Love Google Classroom

1. Organization

When you create an assignment in Classroom it creates a folder in your Google Drive with the same title as your assignment.  Within that folder you will find all of your students' work for that assignment, and the best part is their name is in title! No more "no name" papers! As the teacher you can access their work either by going through Google Classroom or in your Drive.  Students will also see a folder for your class, and all of their assignments will automatically be saved to this folder.

2. Templates

It is often challenging to get students to format a Doc or Slides Presentation exactly how you want them to.  When students are not proficient in their keyboarding skills, and they are just learning how to navigate Google Apps, it is nice to be able to give them a template to work on.  You can create Doc, Slide, Drawing or Sheet with the formatting set how you want it, and Google Classroom can make a copy for each student. No more "share, make a copy, share back"!  This way students can focus on the content of their work rather than spending time adjusting margins.

3. Differentiation

Earlier this fall, Google Classroom added the option to send assignments to specific students. This is a huge step forward in the ability to differentiate!  Since students do not see each other's assignments or work, you can now easily give assignments with different directions, expectations, or content while preserving student privacy. 

4. Reusing Posts

The creators of Google Classroom understand that teachers spend lots of time creating assignments for their students, so they built in the Reuse Post option.  This allows you to reuse an assignment from a previous year or from a different class. You can make necessary tweaks to the assignment and change the due date.

5. Planning Ahead

Another fairly new feature is the ability to save drafts of posts, and to schedule when things are posted for students to see. This is nice for projects or assessments that you know you will use throughout the year.  You can set them up ahead of time and push them out to students when you are ready.

If you are looking to get started with Google Classroom, check out the tutorials below or contact me to help you get started!

Setting up and adding students

Tips and Tricks

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Activities Feature in Seesaw

Seesaw released a major update a few weeks ago adding "Activities" to their platform. 

Seesaw is always thinking about young students and the ability to differentiate.  The activities feature allows teachers to assign tasks to their whole class, small groups, or individual students.  They have included the option to add icons in the student directions, as well as a tool to record audio directions for students to follow.

Teachers can provide students with an example of the work that is expected and a template to work on.  They can also tag the activity with a certain skill, and place it in a specific folder to help keep things organized.  Finally, there are some activities already built in the Seesaw library which can easily be shared with students or customized.

This new feature can help with workflow for teachers and students, and gives families more information about the context of their student's work.

Interested in learning more about activities? Check out the resources below!

As always feel free to comment or contact me for more information!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Tech Tuesday-Google's Applied Digital Skills Curriculum

I've noticed something interesting over the last few years.  We often say that our students are digital natives, and they just "get" technology.  While I believe this is true to some extent, I think there is more to the story. I would argue that the students I see in our K-5 buildings are very good at navigating devices, they can play games, message their friends, and oh boy can they mess with the settings on a device! 😉 However, I do see many kids struggle when it come to using technology to learn a concept or to show their learning.  I think there is a big difference between being able to use technology for fun and being able to use technology to be productive. 

It seems like Google also noticed this trend.  Over the last few years, they have been developing a curriculum to "teach digital literacy through practical projects."  Google's Applied Digital Skills Curriculum is free, engaging, and easy for educators and students to use.

The curriculum is intended for middle and high school students, and they recently added college and continuing education lessons.  Even though the target audience is older students, I believe with the proper amount of scaffolding 3rd-5th graders can successfully complete some of the projects.

Last spring, a few of our 3rd grade classes tried out the first lesson and it went well!  The first lesson is titled If-Then Adventure Stories, and below you can see the outline of the lesson.
There are 4 different activities in this lesson.  However, since this one is the first lesson in the curriculum, the first activity is simply an introduction to Google.  The last activity is always a reflection on the project.

Each activity includes tutorial videos that walk students through the steps of using Google Apps to collaborate with each other and create their story.  Given the age of our students it might be better to modify some of the directions.  For example, the videos instruct students to open a new document and share it with their group members.  You may want to set this up ahead of time through Google Classroom so that you can also access their work if needed.

The narrators in the videos do a nice job of explaining the objectives for each section, providing examples, and giving clear directions of what to do next.

Ideally this would be completely self-guided and the teacher would only need to check in with students periodically throughout the process. This would be great way for students to use their WIN time purposefully if they are not in an intervention group.   Or it would be a project that students could work on over a long period of time when they complete their other work in class.

Where to Start

There are several lessons in the curriculum, but I believe that a few would be good for 3rd-5th grade students.

If-Then Adventure Stories
Students write a choose your own adventure story, and create links to lead the reader through the story.

Plan an Event
Students plan and advertise and event.  They create a logo, a flyer, and a website to promote their event.

Plan and Budget
Students research and make decisions about long term spending, contract, and loans.  *High level math skills required. 

These lessons give students a chance to create projects that they can be proud of, and it gives them the confidence to apply those skills in other situations.  The hope is that by providing students with the opportunity to learn these skills at an early age, they will be more prepared to navigate our digital world.  We need our future leaders to do more than chat with their friends and play games, we need them to use the power of technology to make an impact on the world!

As always, feel free to comment below or reach out to me if you want to get your students started on these lesson!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Tech Tuesday-Mystery Skype

I got a lot of great feedback from last week's Tech Tuesday post about Seesaw Connected Blogs, so I wanted to continue on the the theme of connecting classrooms through technology.

When I first heard of Mystery Skype a few years ago, my initial thought was that it would be great to incorporate it into geography units, especially in 2nd grade and 4th grade where U.S. geography is a focus in our standards.  But as I started to learn more about how the game works, I realized that Mystery Skype is about so much more than geography.  It encourages critical thinking, collaboration and communication which are all things we want our kids practicing in our classrooms everyday regardless of the content area.  The other great thing about playing Mystery Skype is that it really is not a huge time commitment.   Depending on a lot of variables, a typical call can last anywhere from 15-30 minutes.

How it works

  • You call another class on Skype.  You as the teacher will have arranged the time and day with the teacher from the other class, so you will know where they are located, but it is important NOT to share this information with your students. 
  • The classes take turns asking yes or no questions to try to narrow down where the other class might be.  For younger students it is vital that you spend some time discussing questions that are broad (Does your state border another country?) vs. specific (Does your state start with an A?).  Also, you will want to avoid questions that don't have a clear yes or no answer (Is it cold where you live?).
  • Your class also has to be prepared to answer questions from the other class.  It would be good to review some basic information about your state prior to expecting kids to answer questions. For example, here in Minnesota we have a tough time answering the question, "Is your state west (or east) or the Mississippi River?" Since the Mississippi River starts in our state this is tricky.  In all the classes I've been in, we've said that we are west of the Mississippi since it runs along our eastern border.   
  • After both classes have guessed where the other class is, it is nice if you can schedule a little time for sharing facts about your own state or community.  This can be as simple as the name of your school/town, how many students are in your school, your mascot, what your hot lunch is for today, the temperature outside, etc. You can also have your class do some research ahead of time and share facts about your state such as state bird, flower, animal etc., the highest and lowest recorded temperatures, or some unique facts about your area.


Figuring out how to structure your class during a call can be a bit overwhelming.  While working with some 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade teachers over the past year, we have come up with this plan:

It certainly isn't perfect, and every class is different so you may need to change up some of the roles to make it work for your students.

It is also important to provide your students with a variety of maps.  For older students you could give them some links to online maps, and/or show them how to navigate Google Maps, but we found that for younger students having paper maps works well.  Students can also use this website to "cross off" states they have eliminated.  Here is a folder with some maps and other resources we have used.


Mystery Skype is not limited to just figuring out the state the other class is from.  Students can also try to guess the exact city or school the other class is located.  This is much more time consuming and is probably best to do after you have some practice playing Mystery Skype.  Another option is to play Mystery Number.  In this game each class selects a number and tries to guess the number of the other class.  This is a great game for developing number sense. If you are short on time, or can't find anyone to connect with, but still want to play a game, you can play the 5 Clue Challenge. These are pre-recorded videos where the person gives hints as to where they are.  Students have to guess where in the world the person is in just 5 clues.

Mystery Skype is a fun engaging game that you and your students will love!  If you would like some help getting started or want to talk with a colleague who has done it before, please reach out!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Tech Tuesday-Seesaw Blogs

I am starting my third year in my position as a tech integration coach, and I love my job!  I get to work with all of our amazing K-5 teachers, and be a part of the awesome experiences they create for their student and families using technology.  However, there are times when I miss having my own group of kids to work with.  Watching our teachers and students participate in the Global Read Aloud this year has made me a little jealous of our classroom teachers!  There are so many great ways that we can connect our students to others using technology, but the one that has stuck out to me lately is Seesaw Connected Blogs.
Image result for seesaw connected blogs

Seesaw all by itself is kind of life changing.  If you are not using it in your classroom already, I highly recommend it!  It is the easiest way for students to share their work with an authentic audience (their classmates and families).  Not to mention you as the teacher can see and hear student thinking in ways that are impossible using a traditional paper journal. 

The blog feature in Seesaw takes this authentic audience to a whole new level.  From your teacher account you can connect your blog with other classroom blogs in your school or around the world.  Students can post their work to the blog, and get feedback from peers in their own class or other classes.  They can also see other students' work and make comments.  This whole process might seem trivial, but think of the message we are sending to our students when we do this:

1. Your thoughts are important and others want to hear what you have to say.  This can be so empowering for all learners, but especially those who may lack confidence in their ability.
2. Other people in other places share your thinking, or they have have a different perspective/option.  The can be a great teachable moment about culture and about how we all have similarities and differences, and that's what makes this world great. 
3. When posting online, it is important to think about your digital footprint.  This can be tricky to teach unless we give students a place to practice being safe and respectful online.  Check out this AWESOME presentation on teaching kids how to comment from @Mrssmithop220.

The best part of this is that it is EASY, safe and appropriate for our young students. Everything that goes to the blog is moderated, so all the work and comments come to you for approval.  If you are looking for a classroom to connect with, check out this shared document where teachers add their blog information.  You can also add yours so that others can find your class and connect with you!

It can be scary when you start to open up your classroom to the outside world, you want to keep your kids safe online, and you want to make sure that the tool you choose doesn't require hours and hours of maintenance on your part.   In my option, Seesaw Blogs are the best way to create connections outside of your classroom.  If you are looking for a tool for the Global Read Aloud or just looking to connect with other classes somewhere else in the world, you should definitely give Seesaw Blogs a try!

Check out the two videos below to get started, and as always feel free to comments below or contact me with questions.  

Getting Started With Seesaw Blogs

How to Connect to Other Blogs

Please note: this video is a little outdated.  The interface looks a little different, but all the features are still the same.