Leanna's Blog

Summer of Me-Learning

posted May 18, 2012, 3:55 PM by Leanna K Johnson

The summer of Me-Learning has begun, and I’ve chosen my accessories: comfortable clothing, thermal drink container, and my tablet. Summer of Me-Learning apparel

I love my students, I really do! But the excitement of having my own schedule is hard to deny. I value the summertime for my personal learning trek into technology.  The school year is a mad scramble to remain current while providing technology practices and tools for the students. When summer peeks on the horizon, I start itemizing a list of topics and activities I want to pursue. Here are a few:

Moodle’s updated LMS (v2.2), which provides some new features not found in our current version at school. All of our new high school courses have to be designed and uploaded, teachers have to be trained in its use, and ePortfolios must set up for enrolled students. The new version is mobile friendly and promises to be our salvation in the transition to tablet-and-paperless classrooms. Check out MoodleShare for classrooms you can join. There's even one to teach you about using Moodle!

Apps for Droid and iPad tablets are incredibly diverse and available for all kinds of educational uses. My job is to find as many resources as possible for educators.

FlippedTextbook offers a new kind of LMS/CMS. Built with Drupal, the new design is interactive with formative assessments built right into the textbook pages and the integrated rubrics are flexible for author design. It looks promising and my initial FTb will be for the staff to learn proven technology practices and current tools.

Google Docs For Teachers

posted May 3, 2012, 7:21 PM by Leanna K Johnson   [ updated May 3, 2012, 7:29 PM ]

Every so often, you come across a resource so useful, so time-saving, that you must share it. The particular resource that Docs integrates is one of the most time-saving I've seen. Let me set you up.

I was running through my G+ network reading new posts when I saw a share by a fellow educator Richard Byrne. You may have seen several links to his work spread among this site. Richard is Google certified, tremendously resourceful and a great "sharer." 

Richard posted a resource that he created, Google Docs for Teachers 2012, and in his resource he gives detailed instruction on a script tool that will grade surveys once all the assessments are completed and submitted to the spreadsheet. The tool is Fubaroo.

This was a timely find for me because I had just created an 80-question test of irregular verbs. Since my assessment was summative, feedback to students was unnecessary because their course learning was at an end. I set the questions up on Google Docs as a Form survey, gave them the link, and they submitted their answers. Then I used Fubaroo as an add-on to grade. Boom, all three grade levels were done in about one minute! Try it out if your're already using Google Docs to assess.

Google Sketchup

posted Apr 14, 2012, 4:05 PM by Leanna K Johnson

I've been using Sketchup for several years with middle school students. This year I decided to implement it with lower grades just to see if they could:
  1. grasp the math concepts
  2. use the tools
  3. explore successfully (only facilitation--using Help, provided by Google)
Guess what? Great results! Examine these two videos that 5th grade students made in just a few classroom experiences of free exploration. I asked them to view some tutorials. Then we discussed the differences between 2D and 3D models: "Were any of them able to create 3D models?" After more discussion, I narrowed it down to a few students that really demonstrated great exploration from the tutorials. They demonstrated on the whiteboard, while video screen-capturing, what they learned on their own. So, when you watch these videos remember that there was NO classroom instruction. There were provided resources. The students not only did this in a short period of time, they did it under the duress of a peer audience and video capture, simultaneously. While you watch them, look for the vocabulary that Sketchup provides with the tools used as they are used. They are learning about midpoint, endpoint, and all kinds of technology, mathematical, and engineering terminologies. Not from a dry lecture I give but during formative, constructive learning.

What do you think? Are you smarter than a 5th grader? One thing I've discovered as an EdTech teacher--5th graders can use any tool that I can use. And sometimes they can use it much better than I. 

FlippedTextbook--deeper learning, paperless

posted Apr 2, 2012, 8:49 PM by Leanna K Johnson   [ updated Apr 2, 2012, 8:57 PM ]

Ed Tech is in a strange and wonderful place right now. We've witnessed open-course and resource sharing around the globe. Textbook companies are alert to the changes going on and they're scrambling to give K12 educators digital resources for flipped classrooms. The question is, can they keep up? Or will they become increasingly an option that schools consider when providing content?

It's cool to see a start-up like FlippedTextbook with its heart in the right place. Developer Kieran has thought deeply about learning and he's on the right track: learning comes from formative assessments and feedback, knowing that most learners don't 'get it' the first time. The platform he is creating lets educators write ebooks and use a built-in assessment feature to continue feedback for the students that need more practice / application of concepts as they work. He also is planning a rubric design that can be used for cognitives across the board. What he's designing is like a mutant CMS/LMS textbook/workbook that reports to the author on user progress. For experienced educators, this type of available autonomous format is refreshing.

Confused? I encourage you to take a look at what's possible. FlippedTextbook takes learning to a new and different level. 

Farmington Readers Update

posted Feb 25, 2012, 8:30 AM by Leanna K Johnson   [ updated Apr 1, 2012, 8:04 AM ]

Here at St. Paul we are in the depths of documenting all the blogging activity while visiting area schools for interviews. Now that we are nearing deadline of our CyberFair project (read my previous blog for background), here's how we'll use the Farmington Readers project activity:

Our 8th grade students have been distributed throughout the age groups. If they weren't within their own age group (obviously, most weren't), then their only activity/job was to make comments on bloggers' posts. Their current task is to grab screenshots of blogs or comments as examples of the project activity. As we near our 2-week deadline to submit the project narrative, we are in a flurry of activity to capture screenshots of the "community" that blog sites create. We are allowed to continue work on our project website the entire month of March, but now is when we have to begin gathering up all our resources, images, and content.

Here is a great resource concerning the legalities of blogging with students titled Legal Guide for Bloggers that's been shared with the educators involved in our project.

Common threads we've gathered at our interviews are:
  • It would be great if more classroom teachers at schools would use this, because there are computers in the classroom and blogging could be a daily/weekly activity.
  • It would be great if first names could be used (we're using non-gender, anonymous names). 
  • Reading books lets them use technology in a way other students are not (it's more grownup to have an online presence). 
  • Students feel they are part of a (reading) community.
  • They are exposed to books they might not have noticed or thought would be interesting.
  • It's improving their writing skills because they are required to polish (teacher approval) before publication. Yes, students are acknowledging this! Woo-hoo!!
To address some of those thoughts, it really would be great if classroom teachers embrace this! With most buildings having hundreds of kids, this would be necessary to expand the community and take the burden off the librarian of approving so many blogs and comments daily. We hope to transition next year to this for more student participation.

Students are engaged with the technology. I have younger students come in often to blog when they have classroom free time. Some are discovering that their writing draws comments in positive ways. Older students are reflecting on what good writing entails. They feel comfortable in the community of readers, which in turn gives them personal confidence. I saw 2 boys high-five each other recently during an interview because one of them made an incredibly thoughtful response to one of our questions, and his friend liked it. It was really cool to see their support of each other. I love that they appreciate each others' input in a culture that over-emphasizes looks, physical ability, and pretty much a lot of things that are not academic. This is a niche for the students that are not drawn to those things. 

What do my 8th graders gain from this? It's developing their understanding of online presence, legalities from that presence, citation of work, reading and writing skills, documentation of primary sources, perspective of multiple persons through a community activity, tolerance, collaboration skills, and a myriad of NETS-S students need as they become part of a global society through technology. I couldn't be prouder of their work or happier that I get to share the moment with them. 

Here's a resource to get you started with student blogging: 8 Tips For Blogging with Students from Edudemic.

Blog image:
Ainslie, Dodie. jan7.jpg. January 2010. Pics4Learning. 25 Feb 2012 <http://pics.tech4learning.com>

Simple Booklet--simple, indeed!

posted Feb 11, 2012, 9:51 AM by Leanna K Johnson   [ updated Feb 11, 2012, 9:51 AM ]

I spent my Saturday morning learning how to use a new tool  for my language classes and I'm pretty happy with the results! We are currently studying sentence diagramming and some students are struggling with the concept. Sentence diagrams are difficult without a great previously-laid foundation in the parts of speech. So, I set out to find a better way to contain the information so that it looks like a book. Simple Booklet makes it fairly easy to accomplish.

You can use this tool across a huge variety of Internet landscapes. It adapts to mobile devices like tablets and phones. It can be emailed, shared, embedded; you name it, Simple Booklet can probably do it.

I needed a tool in the cloud to supplement our main resource, my language website. Using Simple Booklet fits in easily as a gadget to Google Sites. It's free with ads (not annoying ads, either) but the cost per year is only $20, which is cheap. I bit and purchased.

There is also login availability for students with Google Apps. This means that my students can login with their Google accounts and build their own booklets. As always, application is the best way to learn, so now I'm envisioning how we can use this in our curriculum. I'll need another Saturday...

Time-saving Tablets

posted Feb 4, 2012, 9:10 PM by Leanna K Johnson   [ updated Feb 4, 2012, 9:20 PM ]

I'll refrain from gushing about tablets as tools for students. Instead, I'll examine how readily tablets streamline my job as a teacher. Here's a scenario from my vocabulary course:

Twice a week, students are assessed on a vocabulary unit. On Wednesdays, they log their homework answers into an interactive Hot Potatoes short answer quiz. As I roam the room, they can ask me for some assistance, and the interactive file also gives them feedback with every question they answer. As they finish, they raise their hands to indicate they are ready to have their grade recorded. My tablet in hand and logged into the school's gradebook portal, I immediately record their grade, which a parent can access as soon as I update the grades with one finger push. 

Some students come to class unprepared. They automatically sit apart to study. As they work, I send an email to their parent to notify them of unpreparedness, and I log in a zero that can be overwritten when they do complete the work. There is no post-it note to myself to do it later when I'm sitting at a computer. I can stand at their shoulder and send the email immediately while I give them assistance. 

If I taught science, I can imagine that tablets would be essential in evaluating lab work. Visit a group at work, record their success or make a note for re-assessment, or pull up a demonstration video with support resources for examination.

Rather than access a table of student eportfolio links, I can visit each student to discuss and advise them on their work. The student can make changes and I can record it immediately. No notes to self. No checking the work later. It's hands-on, immediate evaluation that saves me from making errors, forgetting or misplacing work, and no worries of whether or not problems are addressed timely. 

One of the biggest difficulties facing us as teachers is the time factor. Why it's taken me from June, when I received the tablet as a gift, until December when I began using it this way to realize that I can cut several steps from my daily work, I can't explain. The tablet is replacing my computer when it comes to assessing tasks and group work. I have had to adjust from using my tablet for personal interests to using it as a tool that can give me more time for personal interests. And then I can use it for that as well!

Flipping the High School Classroom

posted Dec 31, 2011, 7:07 AM by Leanna K Johnson   [ updated Jan 7, 2012, 7:55 AM ]

We're working on it. 

You can say that we're thinking outside the box, we are exploring possibilities, or that we just want to do something different. But really, what we're hoping to do is transform our approach to education by introducing the flipped classroom. For further understanding, also check out The Flipped Class: Myth vs. Reality.

If you look at that text link above (go ahead), it's obvious the effect it can have. At our school, we continuously have our students moving towards this, the flipped classroom. Technology begins in first grade. We don't neglect the traditional. We supplement it. If you fast forward to our middle school, however, you'll see the definitive tools we implement to reach this goal: Google Apps for Education, constructive projects, blogging, integration of powerful 2.0 tools, ePortfolios, and global collaboration. Students progress decisively towards a personalized learning experience--one in which they learn cooperative teamwork, a necessary skill for the job market. 

But there's more to it than that.

We now are approaching a time when we have to consider the new high school and how we'll continue on this path. Have you looked at Khan Academy and YouTube lately? Several years ago I made my own instructional videos, and it was very time consuming. Why would we make our own now when there is an endless supply of tremendous instructional videos on hand? These are videos that are more polished than any I would make, they deliver the same message I would deliver (and better), and they are available simply by embedding or sharing the link. Resources are not a problem for a flipped classroom and they are largely free. 

Let's consider costs. Textbooks are not necessary; technology is. The building we're in is already wired, so no extras there. We can do away with paper, notebooks, binders, pencils, erasers, and markers for the most part (mathematics will require some tweaking). Our preference is to use tablets, not laptops, and this is the main cost we must consider. By next fall, the costs of current tablets should be lower and reasonable. When you consider that this is the main tool a student will need, it's actually a cheaper route than the traditional. 

And let's consider size. We will be a small high school and this works in our favor. Teachers can be trained effectively to use this model and there will be continued support, either f2f or through our portal. Students will receive more one-on-one in their curriculum applications, which is the most effective instruction. They will be engaged, develop their online presence, and create a personalized learning experience to last a lifetime.

Individuality and responsibility are the main components to the model. Student ePortfolios will be created for all four years and can be used for college application, which is the future projection. Consider how effective this could be: fill out a university application and provide links to your growth as a student, your personal experience in learning. It's sure to make an impression and set you apart as an applicant. 

We're working on it. And it becomes more enticing as the new year rolls around.

CK-12's FlexBook Platform

posted Dec 28, 2011, 6:12 PM by Leanna K Johnson   [ updated Dec 28, 2011, 6:19 PM ]

Looking for a way to take your curriculum to digital format? Look no further, the answer is at FlexBook. I made an account at CK12 and checked out their library of free curriculum resources. Granted, CK12 is focused on establishing a Creative Commons collaborative environment for the STEM program, one that's designed to supplement science, technology, engineering, and math. But don't let that limit you. 

A FlexBook account allows you to create your own library, write your own chapters, or simply download the chapters you want and add them to the textbook you download or create. There are teacher and student editions with basic information, but you can embed or link images and videos from multiple sources to make the curriculum reflect the standards to cover.

The FlexBook platform gives you the freedom to publish the information in the digital formats of web page, eReader or PDF. If you're using BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) in the classroom, this would make it applicable across the board. 

Here's why we need to adopt this type of platform: it's free and it's customizable. I can gather all the varying resources I use for my lessons and keep those resources updated. With all the educational material available in video format, it makes this platform a simple edit to keep it updated to share with students and teachers.

I'm currently working on a middle school grammar and mechanics FlexBook, which will be built from my GAFE presentations in class this year. Student work is added for examples in the chapters and, of course, students are given ownership of their property. While the task is a bit daunting, it's nice to know that the work is shared in enough available formats to keep it fresh and current with today's technology. 

2012 CyberFair Contest

posted Dec 4, 2011, 9:03 PM by Leanna K Johnson

Who are the Farmington Readers? This is a blog site at Kidblog.org, developed by my 8th grade class for their 2012 CyberFair project. Global SchoolNet's sponsored contest, an international contest we've participated in since 2003, encourages students to have an impact on their community. The class decided to open up a blog site for young readers so students from all elementary and middle schools in the community could write about books they love and books they're currently reading. There are four groups: 1 & 2, 3 & 4, 5 & 6, and 7 & 8. One group in particular has been very busy--the 3 & 4 group. In that group, there have been 35 blogs and 119 comments for the month of November!

The role of the 8th grade class is to monitor and facilitate conversations from the blogs. For example, when a blogger posts about a book, the job of our students is to ask questions or comment about the writing, especially if it is brief. They are encouraging continuing conversation about a topic the blogger enjoys, and they are helping guide writing and reading conventions and standards to further help the participating community.

The Kidblog site is private for now, but plans are to make the blogs public as the school year draws to an end. By then, there should be ample posts and comments for viewers. All the participants have user names that don't identify gender or any personal information. Each building has assigned letters to designate their students, and teachers moderate by approving blogs and comments. This prevents any type of inappropriate behavior and protects all students as they engage in conversations about what they're reading. They can understand reviewing and blogging best by application, which is what this project provides.

As the school year unfolds, my students will have multiple activities to document: blogs by members, comments by members, trends in student reading, and interviews with participants. All these will culminate in a website they are preparing to demonstrate exactly what their impact has been on the local community. What is most exciting for me to witness is the upsurge of genuine interest to support their peer groups and reading as well. 

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