Latest Technology Finds

This week I came across two teacher tech tools to use in the classroom.

First of all, I joined The 40 Hour Workweek Club earlier this month; it’s a year long cohort to learn more efficient teaching strategies.  No, I’m not hoping to reduce my hours to 40 hours per week, but I thought it would be helpful to learn more organization tips.  It seems that much of what we learn as teachers is through trial and error.  When I can use professional development to avoid pitfalls and improve my teaching in a collaborative manner, then I’m all in.  In the Club, we are beginning with planning and time management as a means to organize before school begins.  Angela Watson shares great resources to help with this.  What I wanted to find for time management was a paperless structure that I could easily access.  I tried Google Keep, then Google Sheets, then stumbled upon Trello, a software and app to manage tasks.  Guys, I can create task lists for home, school, lesson planning, project based learning, etcetera AND choose participants to join so it’s collaborative in real time.  Yes!  As far as the Workweek Club is concerned, I am receiving great value out of this program already.  The number of resources we are given is outstanding, plus the shared information comes in different formats so you can choose what works best for you.

Then proof that Facebook can sometimes be a valid use of time, I discovered  I already use to manage our multiple reminders for transitions, but I can see using the timer for a quick write, partner discussion, or other use.  I usually use Online-Stopwatch.  However, I prefer that this screen has multiple tools incorporated into one page.  The traffic light could be used as a reminder during BAS assessments or one to one conferences as a visual for when it is appropriate to approach the teacher or not. It could be a gentle reminder for volume control, but I saw another app called Too Noisy that has incentives for volume control that I’m interested in if I have access to Ipads.  Another tool on the screen are the work symbols for volume expectations.  This might be a great visual at the front of the class if the screen is not being used for the lesson/activity.  There are other gadgets on the screen, but I’ve discussed the ones of personal interest.  Overall, I wanted to document this website so I can try it out this coming year.  Hopefully, it will evolve.

I love technology when it’s relevant and makes work easier.  If there is a more effective alternative, then I think we should teach the students to evaluate when and how to use technology.  We’re still in the infant stages of using technology in the classroom so we want to be careful to not use “a square peg in a round hole,” but use the right tool for the right job.

*I want to add this website: because it’s an excellent interactive clock.  You can turn off the time, then check your answer.  I found it earlier this summer.

Making Thinking Visible Chapter 4

I love getting into the nitty gritty or meat of a book.  Now I can explore new routines to use to prompt further thinking and use for assessment!  In chapter 4, you are introduced to 7 new routines.  At our last school, we were already using See, Think, Wonder in response to a visual in math and science as a tool to understand where students are in their understanding or to prompt discussion.  Also, Think, Puzzle, Explore just sounds like an alternative to a KWHL chart.  Zoom In is similar to See, Think, Wonder but focuses on a small piece of an image, then yielding to a larger view.  I think this would be handy as a lesson to show students the value of close reading and reviewing material.  It also gives a different perspective to how you see something.  Chalk Talk is similar to how we opened up new units in our International Baccalaureate program: Ideas?  Connections?  Questions?  These were all valid tools, yet I didn’t feel like it was anything truly new from what I’ve been practicing.

So let’s get to the 3 which I found the most interesting:

3-2-1 Bridge

Here is a quick method to stimulate background knowledge, promote thought, then assess connections/growth.  The idea is that a student provides 3 words, 2 questions, and 1 metaphor/simile in response to a topic, then repeats the same activity after learning more about the concept.  If time, I might would ask students to write a brief explanation and draw a diagram to show their thinking.  At a minimum, I would ask for because to be added to each of the 3 words to deepen the activity and provide a better understanding of what each student is thinking.  Otherwise, you’re just playing word association – I can do this without really knowing what I’m saying.  Because is such a powerful word in education.  I’m always about students writing down their thoughts to practice explaining ideas.  If you’ve ever taught, then you know a student saying the sky is blue because of the angle of the light coming through the atmosphere sounds like he/she has some understanding.  However, when you ask for an explanation you might get something quirky such as, “because the aliens from other planets are shooting rays of light from different places, which planet is shooting rays decides which shades of blue you see or if it’s red,” which means Suzy actually doesn’t understand at all and has access to alien movies at home.  Ah, small moments such as these bring joy to teaching, almost as well as that aha moment by little Suzy.  I’d like to play with this routine several times to see what types of assessment I can gain.

Compass Points

In second grade, we teach interpreting information on a map including orientation and legends.  How fun to tie in the compass points with a method of sharing our ideas.  In this routine, E = Excitement/advantages W = worries/concerns/problems (which leads to action needed), N = needs, and S = stance/opinion.  I see this as a different structure for a concept wheel.  I can imagine using this when researching landforms, considering how people settle according to their environment or considering the concept of saving money.  I think I will tie in the Carousel Kagan structure with this routine for a unit allowing for movement with activation, the revisit the same activity for assessment.

The Explanation Game

This routine allows for a student to look closely at one piece of a larger concept and consider its function or role.  The steps are Name it, Explain it, Give reasons, and give alternate reasons/possibilities.  I like that it is asking for reasons, then asks a student to delve more deeply into possible alternatives.  I will need to really work on modeling this to promote thought beyond the superficial, but it allows for a natural differentiation with infinite growth.  This is an excellent match with open ended projects in science and social studies.  In a way, I think Number Talks provide this type of thinking in math naturally.  Students are describing their observations/steps, explaining them, then discussing alternative perspectives.  I’d like to try this with the program SeeSaw, allowing students to record their thoughts individually or in pairs, then discuss as a class.

Overall, I’m always looking for engaging ways to get my students thinking about their learning and better understand what they know.  I’m excited to implement these ideas in my next job.  I can’t wait to be back into the classroom to try these ideas.