Honored to have Education Director, Paul Hutson, of Night Zookeeper share in this guest post. Be sure to catch my earlier reviews of Night Zookeeper HERE and HERE.
By Paul Hutson
Can gamification improve writing skills? Yes of course! You might expect us to say that, as the creators of nightzookeeper.com, a website that uses elements of gamification to inspire and motivate children to write.
However, we realise that there needs to be a good balance as too much gamification can distort the goals of writing and take the emphasis away from the excitement of writing itself, and cause the student to become focused on the reward, rather than the content. It’s important that gamification isn’t used as a gimmick but as a tool to promote genuinely good writing.
Richard Byrne, the Edtech blogger has said “For students who have a generally negative view of school and have become accustomed to grading practices that detract points for not doing something, a gamification of writing could feel better. Rather than seeing that they didn’t use 'x' number of vocabulary words correctly they could see it as “I scored 500 points” for using 'x' number of words correctly. ”
In this way, gamifying writing is only used in the positive sense, providing rewards for work and not punishment for any mistakes, which could have a negative effect on student’s motivation. That is a concept we have tried to adhere to as we have developed nightzookeeper.com and its gamified elements.
Let’s examine the gamification techniques we use in nightzookeeper.com.
First of all, nightzookeeper.com rewards the amount of writing a student produces. The more writing a student produces, the higher up in a school league ranking they go. On their own profile, they also have a Night Zookeeper ranking, starting as a “recruit” with the goal of eventually becoming a “legend."
Depending on the class and students, teachers can use the ranking system to instil competitiveness in their classes to encourage more and more writing. All classes in the school can be linked together in this school league in an intra-school competition, which can help to inspire more writing.
This gamifying tool of rewarding how much a student writes, is also in use in our biggest competition “World Creative Writing Month,” that runs every March. In this case, a class’s word total is counted over the month and featured in a ranking system containing classes all over the world.
We are always inundated with feedback from teachers about this particular gamifying of writing, which has a great effect on the motivation to write and sees students writing in the morning before school and after school to help their class climb up the rankings!
Crucially all of the writing that students produce has to be “published” by the teacher, meaning the teacher can control the word count of each student and make sure the quality of writing meets a standard they have decided upon.
Alongside gamifying writing by rewarding how much a student writes, we also reward the variety of writing that a student does. Nightzookeeper.com automatically gives awards to students depending on the type of writing a student has written on the website. For example, students can get the “Poem Award” if they write a poem, or a “newspaper” award when they write a newspaper article. We also have rewards for students who edit their work, or comment and give feedback on another student’s work.
These awards once collected give students “orbs” (our in-game currency), which can be used to grow their Night Zoo’s and power up their animals in an RPG style game. So this gamification of writing is not just encouraging quantity, but the variety of writing a student produces.
The sense of satisfaction of earning awards (much like in regular games), really helps the motivation of students to keep on producing writing on nightzookeeper.com throughout the year.
If you have experiences or opinions about the gamification of writing, please do comment below!
Be sure to follow the team at Night Zookeeper on Twitter at @nightzookeeper. I'm also excited to connect with them live in Chicago at IDEAcon 2020! Message me if you have plans to head that way, too!
Last month, I loved taking a deep dive into Night Zookeeper in my review [click HERE to read more] to learn how the interactive, online platform engages students in literacy and creative writing through 👾 gamification, 🌐 global collaboration, and 💻 digital citizenship (ALL my favorite things in one!). As I shared out on social media and with my PLN, I heard from so many other global educators just as excited as me and who were finding many ways to use Night Zookeeper with their elementary students.
We asked educators to share more on what makes Night Zookeeper such a hit in the classroom. Here is what I found out:
Brittany Seibert, Grade 2 teacher, Surrey Public School, North Dakota:
We log in as a whole class the first time. After that, it is one of the Language Arts stations for the students after they get their work done!
Melisa Hayes, Grade 2 teacher, Avery Elementary, Ohio:
We use all aspects: from the varieties of writing, grammar games, battling, reading lite, and more!
Melisa Dodd, Grade 5 teacher, Ozark Middle School, Missouri:
Night Zookeeper basically houses of all of their work for the year. I use the site to create lessons to reinforce what I am doing in the classroom. Another way I use NZ is to have my students to go on to read others’ writing and leave comments. We practice how to give constructive feedback and model good writing in our feedback. This helps them read as writers and readers.
Lisa Wiegand, Grade 3 teacher, Eastlawn Elementary, Indiana:
I use the website as a creative writing opportunity for my students. Almost daily students are on the site. I also taken advantage of the lessons as an assessment to monitor my students' progress.
Audrey Lash, Grade 2 teacher, New Britton Elementary, Indiana:
It's done during our RTI intervention time for students who are not normally doing interventions during that time. They also do it sometimes after morning work is done by choice.
Brittany Seibert, Grade 2 teacher, Surrey Public School, North Dakota:
It is put into our daily Language Arts stations as a choice when finished with work.
Sherry Willis, Grade 3 teacher, Tupelo Schools, Mississippi:
I use Night Zookeeper in my centers. The students beg to use Night Zookeeper. Some of them also work on the program at home.
Lisa Wiegand, Grade 3 teacher, Eastlawn Elementary, Indiana:
We use Night Zookeeper for our free write assignments, and it is a daily choice on the board for when students finish other work. I also use it as a beginning-of-the-day assignment once a week.
Melisa Hayes, Grade 2 teacher, Avery Elementary, Ohio:
My students moan and groan when it is time to stop. On days when we have inside recess, they even continue writing! Even the most reluctant writer now LOVES to write! HUGE impact in the BEST way!
Matt Peebles, Grade 4 teacher, Forest Elementary, Illinois:
My class wrote over 250,000 words last year! Night Zookeeper has been a complete gamechanger to support students to be motivated, engaged, and excited to write and share their stories!
Melisa Dodd, Grade 5 teacher, Ozark Middle School, Missouri:
They love getting feedback from others, not just their teacher. They know they have a much bigger audience to write for.
Dianne Coffey, Grade 4 teacher, Tuttle Intermediate, Oklahoma:Students improved in all areas of writing! They love it; they talk about it outside of class and with their parents.
Thanks to Dianne, Melisa D, Matt, Melisa H., Lisa, Sherry, Brittany, and Audrey for sharing your thoughts and to Ms. Hayes’ class for sharing photos of learning in action! Much appreciation to the team at Night Zookeeper for offering a free trial for any educators interested in jumping in → http://bit.ly/nzkwriting.
Be sure to follow the fantastic adventures of Team Nightzookeeper on Twitter at @nightzookeeper and follow along as they travel from London to the United States for their School Tour! 🇬🇧 --> 🇺🇸
New to Night Zookeeper? Click here for a free 14-day trial: http://bit.ly/nzkwriting !
Several years ago, I read about an ed-tech team of former educators in London who were working to connect children to literacy and creative writing with their online learning platform they called Night Zookeeper. As I learned more about their approach--which emphasized connections to a student’s imagination, to global classrooms, and to best standards of practice--I was hooked!
Over the years, I have loved getting to know this great (and fun) team at Night Zookeeper and their work! From their engaging, gamified global writing competitions that involve 1,000s of schools from all around the world to their home-to-school programs that move writing past the classroom walls to involve parents and caregivers, Night Zookeeper is working to make sure developing literacy and writing are lifelong and life-wide skills we can prioritize with our students!
If Night Zookeeper is new to you, I’d love to introduce you to their special online world of magical animals and literacy games that guides learners to play with vocabulary, ask and answer big, open-ended questions, and practice, practice, practice writing!
Creative writing: GAMIFIED!
Through immersive storytelling and smart technology, Night Zookeeper engages elementary students into writing adventures to develop both skills and motivation. Teachers can choose from 1,000s of interactive lessons from across the curriculum (with alignment to Common Core, UK National Standards, and IB Standards). Students are able to have customized experiences with differentiation of challenges and age- and level-appropriate content.
The core Night Zookeeper activities include:
Student writing with Night Zookeeper is automatically assessed and recorded (LOVE this!). The teacher dashboard provides insights and suggested comments for students--this saves teachers time and helps to get immediate, personalized feedback back over to students. The writing tool also provides students with vocabulary suggestions for their stories along with objectives and helpful tips.
Students can produce work to be published on the class blog--a great space for providing an authentic audience and giving writing meaning and purpose. Feedback on published work can come from peers, teachers, and even teachers from other countries--which takes me to the next point (and one close to my heart!).
Create global connections
Students from all around the world are joining in Night Zookeeper each day sharing their ideas based on their interests across genres and styles. Students as authors can publish work for their global peers, and students as readers can read and provide feedback right back to them.
And, beyond the daily student-to-student writing connections, I love the Night Zookeeper global writing competitions offered throughout the year. With tickers of numbers of words that go into the millions, the competitions offer celebrations of writing and of world literacy--so fantastic!
Connections to home
Recognizing the importance of home-to-school connections particularly at the elementary level, I have always appreciated the emphasis Night Zookeeper places on parents and writing at home. Teachers can easily and safely share writing with parents (Night Zookeeper characters have even been known to pop up and leave comments to parents!), and the online platform provides options for unique lessons to be completed at school or at home. Home programs are also available for parents who are searching for home solutions for instruction and practice. Students, parents, teachers--all working together to develop a love of writing!
It has been wonderful to get to know Night Zookeeper over the past few years, and I am excited about some new plans coming up in the next few months!
Looking forward to hearing your ideas on ways to use Night Zookeeper with elementary students! Give it a go by jumping in here http://bit.ly/nzkwriting and please share your thoughts and feedback by tagging me in on Twitter (@JenWilliamsEdu). Be sure to follow the team at Night Zookeeper as well on Twitter at @NightZookeeper and their hashtag #NZKWriters.
In recent years, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have been two areas that have fascinated me; they have also been two areas that have intimidated me a bit. As a literacy specialist turned college professor, I immediately can see the benefits of AR and VR for storytelling, research, presentations, and so much more, but I often have found myself wondering where and how to jump in.
This month, I learned from some edu-friends about 3DBear, an educational app that allows students to explore the world around them with AR. Heading over to the 3DBear Twitter page, I read a tweet: “With AR, VR, and 3D printing, our digital world is becoming more 3-dimensional. Schools need to be on top of this change.”
And, with that, I knew I needed to be on top of this change as well! So, on this beautiful May weekend morning, I decided to take a walk in my neighborhood to get to know 3DBear and create some immersive stories along the way!
Stop 1: My back porch
AR Story (Narrative): Dancing in the Sunshine with a New Friend
By heading over the 3DBear website, I was able to request a free 30-day teacher trial. With my account set up and app downloaded from the Apple App Store [also available in the Google Play Store], I jumped right in. Right away, I found out that I could complete challenges and earn badges (I am all about badges!). These challenges are designed to teach the different features of 3DBear and are a great way to try it out.
The first challenge I accepted before taking off on my learning walk was building a dream team. The selection of models on 3DBear allowed me to pick from a range of characters, including a clown, a fairy, a robot, and a skeleton. I selected the cute little gnome (perfect for my backyard) and recorded him as he danced on the chair next to me. Prompts guided me to take photos and videos when I was ready.
Bonus: I also couldn’t pass up the Floss Dance Challenge (just like wanting to learn more about AR, the Floss Dance has also been on my list to learn -- so this was a win-win).
This first experience with 3DBear showed me some great ways to engage students into interactive storytelling to bring their ideas to life. I love the ability to customize and record as well! After meeting the gnome and watching him play in different areas of my backyard, it was time for my neighborhood walk to create some new AR stories.
Stop 2: Nearby street
AR Story (Informative/Persuasive): Create a Sustainable Neighborhood
On the next stop of my walk, I took a break on a nearby street to use AR to take my neighborhood into the future. As our world seeks out sustainable solutions that are good for people and planet, I decided to add some AR elements to my street to make it more environmentally-friendly. In my neighborhood-of-the-future creation, I was able to add in a bike and bike rack on the street corner, solar panels on my neighbor’s house, a rideshare car, and a few electric bikes parked on a driveway. Perfect!
In the classroom, I would love to see my students prepare an informative or persuasive essay and use 3DBear-created AR videos to support their ideas -- allowing for deeper meaning, creativity, and fun!
Stop 3: Neighborhood fishing docks
AR Story (Expository): Protecting the Local Waters
My final stop along my learning walk was our neighborhood fishing dock. Looking out onto the Gulf of Mexico intracoastal waters, I looked to the 3DBear app along with a Google search to determine the native plants and animals to add to my AR scene: bird: seagull, plant: bird-of-paradise. Though I wanted to add in an otter and a crocodile, my online search and background knowledge placed these as fresh-water animals (not a fit for the Gulf of Mexico), so instead, I added an AR poster to the wall of the dock.
In the classroom as an extension activity, I could invite students to create digital or physical posters with facts about saltwater marine animals or ideas to protect the local waters. Cross-platform and cross-curricular activities always make for some really impactful learning!
So, what did I learn today on my learning walk?
Learning new technology doesn’t need to be intimidating or confided to the walls of the classroom. With AR learning activities and tools like 3DBear, you and your students can explore the world, share perspectives, meaningfully seek out solutions to problems at local and global levels, and create spaces for critical-thinking and fun collaboration.
As I continue my journey to learn more about AR, I’d love to hear from you! Please share your ideas for using AR and 3DBear (free 30-day teacher trial HERE) in the classroom in Comments or on Twitter including @3DBearOfficial and the hashtag #3DBearAR. Looking forward to learning from you!
By Sean Gaillard and Jennifer Williams
A renaissance for kindness has surfaced within the last few years as a vital component of a schoolhouse’s culture. Educators in classrooms all around the world are finding ways to slow things down a bit and take notice of acts of kindness and goodwill -- prioritizing relationships and making memories together along the way.
Fred Rogers, children’s broadcasting icon, promoted kindness for 31 seasons in a simple and sincere way on the television masterpiece, “Mister Rogers Neighborhood.” In honor of Mr. Rogers, the state of Pennsylvania has designated May 23 (the 143rd day of the calendar year) as #143DayinPA. This stands as a tribute to homestate hero, Fred Rogers, and his favorite number. “143” is numeric code for “I Love You.” We thought it would be fitting to extend the 143 culture of kindness to education with the #143DayEdu hashtag.
Using the #143DayEdu hashtag, we are encouraging all educators to share examples of kindness happening on May 23. To join in on the fun, simply use #143DayEdu to promote acts of kindness and compassion happening in the schoolhouse. You are also invited to join us this Thursday, May 23 at 8:30 - 9:00 p.m. EDT for a special Twitter Chat where we intend to promote positivity and celebrate the enduring legacy of Fred Rogers.
Here are the questions and times for Thursday night’s Twitter chat. To join, simply head over to Twitter by clicking HERE at 8:30pm ET and watch for the Qs from @smgaillard and @JenWilliamsEdu.
Q1: Thinking back to Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, what are some of your fondest memories of the show? (8:35 pm ET)
Q2: What lessons can we learn from Mr. Rogers that we can apply to the classroom? (8:40 pm ET)
Q3: How did you promote kindness in your school recently? (8:47pm ET)
Q4: What are some ways we can finish the school year promoting kindness with our school communities? (8:53 pm ET)
Pass it on
As we prepare for #143DayEdu and the #143DayEdu Twitter chat, we invite you to consider this quote on kindness from Mr. Rogers along with these related resources. Please feel free to share the invitation for a Day of Kindness -- pass it on! We look forward to this special week and the opportunity to celebrate you -- just for being you!
Imagine what our real neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person.
Student-Centered: By Design. A New Way to Think about Educator Conferences. The #ISBLbD conversation continues...
These days, conferences for educators seem to be on the right track in starting to understand that, as teachers, we need our learning to be directly connected to the learning of our students. Sitting in session rooms in distant conference centers far from our classrooms and our students is a bit risky--creating more space for making assumptions as opposed to making connections. With an understanding of the value, need, and importance of representative student voice, conferences now are finding ways to get kids into the conversations--and, particularly into the ones where big questions are being asked and ones where big decisions are being made.
Learning by Design, a learning event that is said to be less of a conference and more of “a point in a learner’s journey,” is certainly the best I have seen to date. During this three-day experience that takes place biennially at the International School of Brussels in Belgium, students are invited into the conversation with educators at every point --- and not as an afterthought, but by design.
Here are four ways I found students at that center followed by five LbD takeaways from Adi, a 6th grade student at ISB.
Photo Credits: ISBLbD Student Journalism Team
1. At the center through their perspectives.
As I arrived at the International School of Brussels, I was greeted in the Chateau, the white-as-snow 170-year old building that serves as the entrance into the 40-acre campus situated in the Forêt de Soignes. In the very first moments, I sensed that the students in brightly colored shirts that read “What should school be for? Ask me!” would be my partners in learning for the next several days.
My first stop was the Logistics Meeting in the Middle School Collaboration Room to meet the other seven Invited Guests (no keynote speakers by design) and our two student hosts. One of our hosts, 10th grade student Emily, invited us to join her for a private tour of the elementary, middle, and high school buildings to help us to get to know the school. She shared her experiences, her worries, her joys, and her passions. She told of her work around creating healthy body images at ISB with her LbD project #NoNorm. Later, Emily would tell a room of 500 her vision of what school should be for. She would also inspire us to challenge our own assumptions and intended messages when she reflected so articulately on a world that told her she “could be anything”--a message she said that as a younger child she heard and interpreted as “you need to beeverything.”
Just before the welcome ceremony and our first panel discussion “A Call to Action: What Does it Mean to Re-Imagine School?” Marial, a 12th grade student and our second student host, joined in. With images of peace painted on her cheeks, she apologized for missing our morning meeting, but then went onto share that she had just come from the city center where she had joined with thousands of other students in the Brussels#ClimateStrike student demonstration--a march she had been participating in every Thursday morning for the past several weeks.
Along with Marial and Emily and global innovators Ewan McIntosh, Katie Martin, Cornelius Minor, Rebecca Bell,Niall de Búrca, Ed Bice, and Mathilde Dratwa, we set out with 500 others to dive deep into the question of “What should school be for?”--through panel discussions, workshopping, film clip provocations and conversation, inquiry, and connection--we aimed to figure it out together.
2. At the center through their ideas.
Alongside the planning for the educator journey at #ISBLbD, classroom teachers and administrators had been prepping with students for months for their student journey. Following an application process, students in mixed-age teams organized around new ideas and innovation for a prototyping project. These Student Agency Teams came to LbD with a concept and, over the three-days, worked through phases of inspiration, ideation, and pitch. As Invited Guests, we met with the teams to offer feedback, mentorship, and counsel. LbD attendees were encouraged to visit teams in the library or cafeteria between sessions to help encourage and also prompt new thinking. On Day 3, with ideas focused and “elevator pitches” set to go, the students hosted a poster session to showcase their work and celebrate transitioning to the next stage of implementation.
3. At the center through their creativity and stories.
The power of stories and storytelling was a major theme of sessions and conversations at LbD, and the students were not only part of the story of LbD, but they were also the storytellers. Each day, student performers inspired us with their songs. Student sketchnoters --having been coached during the week by professional graphic recorder Taryl Hansen-- joined for sessions to capture and synthesize shared ideas. A team of student journalists joined with the school’s marketing directors to tell the story through video, photos, and interviews. They took over Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and the school website, and they created montage videos for the audience each day. The Humans of ISB project zoomed in on the lives of individual attendees, and these kids for sure captured my heart and spoke my language of media literacy!
During the days together at LbD, the flow of ideas continued as students shared thoughts and specific feedback on stickies on walls of photo portraits of all attendees. We finished up on Day 3 with a Conversation with Student Agency Teams, giving them an opportunity to voice what they would like to see in school. And, as you can see from reading this thread of tweets from the school leaders and faculty here on the right, the journey to keep students at the center of learning by design is one that continues on.
Interested in joining the global conversation on re-imagining school and education? Check out @IntSchBrussels and the hashtag #ISBLbD on Twitter, and be sure to follow these innovative educators that are continuing to push thinking and practice:
Front load concepts. Establish foundational knowledge. Make connections. Plant some seeds of inspiration. All instructional practices we as educators work to weave in prior to the start of a lesson with our students. In our classrooms, we seem to recognize the great power that "laying the groundwork" can have to support deeper and more personal understandings of new ideas, but how often are we applying this to our own learning as adults? When designing learning experiences for educators, are we building in that extra intentional pause -- the time that allows teachers to catch their breathe, come prepared, and become present and in the moment of learning?
For the team at the International School of Brussels (ISB) organizing the Learning by Design conference (14-16 February), that start of the conversation was one that they were dedicated to cultivating and contextualizing well before the day that everyone was set to arrive onsite.
By leveraging innovative communication technologies, educators in the ISB Learning by Design community were invited to join in for an #ISBLbD Twitter chat. Held weeks before the February event in Brussels, educators from around the globe came together for a 30-minute inspired online conversation to begin exploring the question of "What should school be for?" And, true to ISB's mission of "Everyone included. Everyone challenged. Everyone successful." the chat welcomed in not only expected attendees, but also anyone from anywhere who was interested in jumping into the discussion on re-imagining school and learning.
For me, the chat served as that perfect pause -- a moment for us each to reflect on current conditions, to begin thinking on questions we hoped to explore together, and to have a few "nice-to-meet-you, see-you-in-Belgium" moments as we all looked ahead to when we would be together in person.
Here are a few of my personal take-aways from the #ISBLbD chat:
#1: Educators love being with other educators!
60 minute countdown. 30 minute countdown. 10 minute countdown. The excitement leading up to the chat was contagious! From Belgium to England to Singapore to Chicago, educators from everywhere it seemed were joining in and gearing up to chat. And, regardless if they were on the campus of ISB joining for the live Tweet-Up ("Twitter chat meet up") or if they were countries away joining from a train or a classroom or, like me, from home (with just my laptop and two puppies), it was evident that there was excitement around the idea of togetherness. Educators just love being with other educators!
#2: Educators want students in the conversation.
As we dove into answering big questions in our chat around "What should school be for?" it seemed we all knew right away that what we needed to help us work toward our collective answer was really less about "what we needed" and more about "who we needed"--students! As André Henry, IB teacher at ISB shared, "The opportunity to have students help shape the curriculum needs to happen."
#4: Change is here.
As chat participant Benoit Pernechele expressed in the #ISBLbD chat, "Change is happening." Sometimes slow and sometimes lightning fast (and, oftentimes messy)--change is here, and it is now. We recognized that change is a process--one that will require us to take inventory and together determine how we can keep and build on what is working and move away from what is not.
#5: This was only just the start to the conversation...
...and, we have LOTS more questions to think on. With bags packed and my mind filled with "sticky note reminders" for exploring with my new #ISBLbD friends, I am set to fly out tomorrow and ready to immerse myself in the moment with 500 other dreamers and doers at Learning by Design. Yes, I am ready to break down and tackle this feels-oh-so-big-to-me question of "What should school be for?" Get ready to see what we come up with!
Follow all the learning and sharing from the Learning by Design 2019 Conference by joining on Twitter with the hashtag #ISBLbD. For more information on Learning by Design and the work of the International School of Brussels, visit https://www.isb.be and follow on Twitter at @IntSchBrussels.
I felt I mastered the art of the “teacher pause” early on. Pose a question or a new idea and then wait. Sometimes seconds, sometimes longer. Maybe only a moment in time— perhaps just long enough for words to travel through the air to fall upon listening ears and ready minds. If you are a teacher, you know there is much to be understood within this pause. Seeing connections being created; the fusing of concepts from past experiences to new thoughts. Spaces for certainty and uncertainty to co-exist. Stillness that offers support for continuation on a path or need for a new direction—or maybe even retracing steps once more. The “teacher pause” for me became one of my most essential instructional practices.
Outside of classroom walls, though, stopping mid-thought, mid-sentence, mid-action has never been quite my style. “Head down” on tasks; all set to create and complete. Checklists checked and ready to keep on. Led by intention, reflection, and a constant curiosity for “what’s up next.” Always stretching higher and seeking depth and resolve.
Always stretching higher and seeking depth and resolve. I’ve thought often on this--the concepts of “higher” and “deeper” as my destinations. Two forces working in synchrony or in opposition? This question, however, may be unanswerable for me. My resolve--to find a pause.
Not a hard stop or a break. Not a time for reflection or redirection. But instead, a settled hold to take in my surroundings and allow for awareness of all that is good and right (and maybe things that may not be so good or so right).
And, here I sit.
Thinking on a lifetime of aiming and acting and shooting for the stars, that in this moment, I am actually precisely where I want to be.
A space of much certainty and still some uncertainty.
And, as motion calms, I realize this place is one new to me. No longer am I seeking where to head next, but instead it is more how can I stay right where I am and do better, do deeper.
This year, my hope is to take hold of each moment. To embrace this time, this opportunity, this space where no longer am I concerned with “next” and “higher,” but instead “here” and “more complete.” Through this awareness and in moments of pause in days and months ahead, there are many things I hope to see…here are a few:
Pause…to seek out whimsy.
Recently an Instagram post for plaid shirts grabbed my attention. And, though I love a good, comfy plaid shirt, it was an unexpected connection made between classic books that intrigued me. Similar color palettes of the two--shirts and books--were the links drawn between them. These two typically distinct items bound together through whimsical and unconventional connections. This year, I will pause to seek out whimsy---find lines and pathways to connect the disconnected.
Pause…to celebrate human experience.
It is interesting what you notice when you move past looking to truly seeing. This past year, I have followed my #oneword2017 to be intentional in celebrating and honoring human experience. As I have begun my “daily pause” rituals, I am starting to see that I am not alone. A juice container. A cereal box. Spaces looking to pull people into good by a focus on the human experience. As our world becomes “busier” and “noisier,” I hope to pause and have eyes wide open to opportunities in front of me that connect me more (and more deeply) to those I love and cherish.
Minute Maid #DoingGood Campaign
Cheerios #GoodGoesRound Campaign
Pause…to ensure we are fixing what needs to be fixed.
Right before the new year, as I was leaving from a school visit to head to the airport, I waited and waited for my Uber driver—probably at least 15 minutes. The time waiting--that years ago would have felt normal--in today’s times of instant gratification felt like forever. My driver never ended up coming, and I, in a new city uncertain of clear directions, started to feel a little nervous. So, I requested a new driver, and he arrived in what felt like moments. Greeted with one of those smiles that just instantly draws you in and lets you know “all will be well,” I was now back on course. John and I were instant friends. A retired assistant principal, husband to the love of his life, and father of five. A man of great experience and, for sure for me, great impact. For our probably 40-minute drive, he shared funny stories and sad ones. Moments of pride and some of regret. And, as our time together was coming to an end, he said—in a way for me that was almost like reading the last page of a wonderful book—“We did a lot of work.” (referring to educators of “his time”) “We did a lot of work and fixed a lot of things. But, you know, I look back now and think we probably fixed a lot of things that probably weren’t really broken.” This year, I hope John’s words stay with me, and I can pause, think not of “missed rides,” but more of the ride we are on, and be sure, be really sure, that what I am working to fix really needs fixing.
Pause…to look into the eyes of my children.
As a teacher that tries to see the world through a global lens, I very much have always viewed all the world’s children as my own. Beyond the students in my classroom, it is my school of students, my community of students, my world of students that I hope to somehow wrap my arms around and lift up and support. Years ago, the kindergarten teacher to all my own three children said to me—teacher/mom to teacher/mom—be sure that when you are caring for all the kids in your classroom not to forget to care first for your own. As moms that are teachers we are multi-tasking ninjas! This year in the moments I am with my own children, I want to pause--really more stop—look into their eyes, listen more than hear, and hold tight to each and every second.
2016 #oneword: BOUNDLESS
2017 #oneword: INTENTIONAL
2018 #oneword: PAUSE
Across grades and content areas. For engagement, assessment, and crowd sourcing ideas. Our month-long journey exploring ways teachers are creatively using Nearpod’s Collaborate! in classrooms across our country has returned us back to “home.” And, one thing is quite certain--teachers are a remarkable bunch! Each day in our schools, they are seeking out ways to connect students meaningfully to concepts, and they are purposefully using resources to inspire students to think “beyond the page” and invent their own learning. Collaborate! as an interactive virtual discussion board has already brought limitless possibilities to instruction, and one of the very best parts has been seeing the ways all students in a class can feel part of a conversation. Ready to put Collaborate! into practice with your students? As we unpack ideas shared along our journey, here are eight extraordinary examples of ways teachers are putting Collaborate! into action:
1. Six Word Stories
Six Word Stories are short, short stories that encourage young writers to succinctly organize thoughts and ideas. With an aim of being concise and direct, the messages often center on topics that evoke deep emotion, humor, or insight. This week, Courtney Kofeldt, a K-12 Educational Technology Director and fellow Nearpod PioNear, shared on Six Word Stories in a Bite Size PD session at her school in West Chester, Pennsylvania. With a focus on digital storytelling, teachers were invited to create their own six word stories using Spark Post from Adobe, and then they shared their finished creations with the group using Nearpod Collaborate!. In real time, teachers were able to see the shared examples and discuss ideas! How creative! LINK to ClassBoard.
2. Teaching Future Teachers
So often, transformational change in education starts with how we prepare our pre-service teachers. Following this, many university programs today are placing dedicated efforts on infusing meaningful learning with new age technologies into all college of education courses. Integration specialist and PioNear Laurie Guyonput this into practice with students at Skidmore College in New York by sharing and modeling high-quality edtech tools in her own instruction. This week, Laurie was able to share on Nearpod with Junior block students in a workshop on integrating technology into literacy lessons. Students were able to see the great ways Nearpod interactive features can encourage engagement and communication of ideas, and then they got to jump in by using Collaborate! to share authentically on ways they felt Nearpod could be used with students in their future classrooms. Check out all their amazing ideas: LINK to ClassBoard. Especially love this shared idea: if you introduce a new topic you can use the poll to gauge students' background knowledge on the topic and then have them share to the class. What a wonderful way to bring in the voice of each student.
3. A World of Ideas
Each year, teachers of the world join together to connect students around selections of stories in the Global Read Aloud project. The world becomes a classroom as students engage in lessons with international classes to discuss and analyze text collaboratively. As a Grade 3 teacher in Ontario, Canada, PioNear Vickie Morgado was eager to bring the conversation on her class readings of The BFG to a larger audience using the new Collaborate! feature of Nearpod. To extend the conversation out to the world, she shared her Nearpod lesson code on Twitter and invited teachers within her PLN to join in on a prediction activity with their students. Over several days, students from near and far shared ideas and posted what they anticipated would happen in the next chapter of the book. Such a wonderful example of students working together beyond classroom walls! Check out the shared ClassBoard HERE.
4. Virtual Team Teaching
Fourth grade teachers, Rachel Thomas and Steven Lamb (better known on Twitter as Collaborative Genius), are reinventing the concept of “team teaching!” Each week, the two Albuquerque, New Mexico teachers come together in what they have termed Virtual Team Teaching (VTT), and, though at schools eight miles apart, they join with their classes using videoconferencing, a variety of technology tools, and innovative teaching practices to engage their together 50 students in interactions and inspired lessons. Use of Collaborate! has enabled their students to document and share on understandings of rocks, circuits, and even their personal learning environments. This past week, the classes joined in a science lesson where each group simultaneously examined a human heart. Videoconferenced conversation was supported with the Collaborate! discussion board which also served to inform learning as a reflection and assessment tool. Such a WOW! Learn more about their extraordinary journey on their website, and be sure to catch their upcoming TEDx Talk where audience members will too be joining on a Collaborate! board!
5. Making Time for Reflection Adds Up
For years and years, learning to count and add money has been a staple lesson in early elementary—but, with Collaborate!, 2nd grade teacher Gabrielle Cinelli found a way to make it not only engaging and collaborative for her students, but also reflective to extend learning. Gabrielle’s young students were able to seek out evidence and document knowledge on the interactive discussion board, and then were encouraged to make deeper connections to concepts through self-evaluations and shared personal reflections on the process of counting. The class also used DrawIt, Nearpod’s version of an interactive whiteboard, in a counting money activity which was then captured in a graphic collage that was sent right to Gabrielle’s email inbox! How fun!
6. Digital Citizens Get Social
In addition to having access to the Common Sense Media K-12 Digital Citizenship Curriculum in the Nearpod Content Library, California Tech Coach and PioNear Joe Marquez is finding innovative ways to engage his middle school students in discussions on social media etiquette and the importance of cultivating a positive digital footprint for college and career readiness. In his classes, students participate in Twitter EdUniversity and receive their “Twitter Learner’s Permit.” This semester, Joe and his students were able to use Collaborate! during their lessons to share their ideas as they selected their “handles.” Click here to view his ClassBoard, and be sure to follow Joe on Twitter and Periscope at @JoeMarquez70 to learn about all his great ideas on empowering students with technology!
7. Self-Assessment: Español Style
As a Nearpod Certified Educator and PioNear, Foreign Language teacher Rachelle Poth uses the Nearpod platform throughout the day in her Spanish classes in all forms of language study—reading, writing, listening, and speaking. In recent weeks, Rachelle has incorporated the new Collaborate! feature into class lessons with activities such as photo scavenger hunts in cultural studies, open-ended sharing of foods, dishes, and recipes common to Mexico, and reflective lessons on language use. For one Collaborate! lesson, she asked students to engage in a self-assessment exercise that had them considering areas in which they may need additional help. To guide them further, areas of focus were indicated as verbs, grammar, and vocabulary. Check out the ClassBoard to see how her students were also able to reflect on others’ responses with the heart icons. Rachelle shared that in addition to self-assessments, a benefit for her as a teacher is the ability to delete or reinstate answers as needed. Truly fantastic!
8. Little Learners and Big Elephants
Collaborate! can be an effective learning tool for students both old and young. Kindergarten students in Kali Kopka's class were able to jump into a cross-curricular literacy/science lesson in their non-fiction unit called "All About Elephants." To gauge background understandings before the daily lesson, Kali welcomed her little learners to each add one fact about elephants using Collaborate!. Next, the kindergarteners watched a video and then did a reflection activity using DrawIt. For Kali, the data obtained and recorded in the Teacher Report was instrumental in guiding her next lessons. And, how precious are these responses:
With Collaborate! now available for all teachers, the journey really is just beginning! Please share ways you are using Nearpod and Collaborate! with your students by sharing your ClassBoards and photos on social media! Happy collaborating!
Special thanks to all the amazing teachers and students that kindly shared their learning this month! Celebrating you all each and every day!
Where have we been? This month we are taking virtual visits to classrooms around the country and discovering ways teachers are putting the new Nearpod Collaborate! feature into action to support learners. Last week, it was great to meet up with Global Studies Teacher, Amber McCormick, to learn how she uses this interactive discussion board with her elementary students. Her top uses: student shared responses with photos and crowdsourced ideas! With two more weeks in our journey, we decided to follow Amber’s lead in crowd sourced ideas and invited teachers in our PLN to help map out our route by sharing their interests:
Where to next? To answer this question, we looked to Twitter to ask teachers their interests in using the new Nearpod Collaborate! feature in their own classrooms. Educators from around the world cast their votes and almost 60% indicated student engagement as the #1 way they wanted to use Collaborate!! So, through a lens of seeking ideas for engagement, we were off to “visit” classrooms. This week, we were able to catch up with three amazing educators using Collaborate! to increase engagement in classrooms, and we found three unique pathways for use! In a true choose-your-own-adventure style of planning, here are three ways you can bring Nearpod Collaborate! to your students:
Path #1: Collaborate! + VR
Teachers looking to engage students in immersive learning experiences are finding ways to combine the virtual discussion board of Collaborate! with Nearpod VR virtual reality lessons. To see this in action, we caught up with Kristen Brooks and her 1st & 2nd grade students at Woodstock Elementary School in Woodstock, Georgia. Kristen, a K-5 iPad Lab Technology Teacher, often uses the Ready-to-Teach Interactive VR Lessons from the Nearpod Content Library. After downloading the Patriotic Landmarks pre-created lesson to her own personal library, she was then able to add in the interactive Collaborate! activity. Next, it was time to put it into practice with her students. Joining into the live lesson on their own devices, each of Kristen's early elementary students "traveled" across the U.S. to locate and take screen captures of favorite national symbols. Love seeing students so engaged in learning in these videos:
To bring her young students back from VR field trips, Kristen shared that she uses a 5-4-3-2-1 countdown with a double clap at the end to get them quickly seated with iPads on laps and hands on floor! Brilliant way to support students to have success with tech tools! Next up, students were guided to add their favorite images to the Collaborate! discussion board. "It was super fun to look at the Collaborate! board as it filled up and it naturally encouraged a group discussion about the locations we visited and why they are important. The students loved it!" For these students, learning was extended past consuming information to creation of knowledge through a process of research, evidencing, and reflection. Students were able to discuss observations and then vote with the heart icons to select a favorite class U.S. symbol. Learning was not only engaging, but was their own.
[Click HERE to view ClassBoard]
Path #2: Collaborate! + WebQuests
Jumping from elementary to middle school, we head to "visit" Ed Finney and his 6th and 7th grade social studies students at Maple Hill Middle School in Schodack, New York. Ed, both a Nearpod PioNear and Nearpod Certified Educator, often custom creates Nearpod lessons to engage his classes in learning of history, geography, and cultural studies. Ed shared several ways he is using the new Collaborate! feature with WebQuests in instruction. Nearpod's weblink feature allows teachers to connect students to sites automatically--so, no need to take time for students to search for sites or type in domain names. Here are three ways Ed engaged his students in learning this week:
[Click HERE and HERE to view ClassBoards]
Path #3: Collaborate! + Discussion
One of the greatest parts of Nearpod is that it is an effective tool for learners at all levels. Michelle Moore, a District Resource Teacher for the Educational Leadership and Professional Development department in Hillsborough County Schools works to always model effective uses of technology in her PD sessions with teachers. This week, Michelle joined a group of high school science teachers in a professional development session on Increasing Student Engagement in Classrooms (wow, what perfect timing for the new Collaborate! feature to be released). Throughout the session, teachers participated in peer discussions to brainstorm ideas to answer the question "What does engagement look and sound like in a science classroom?" Groups and individuals were then able to post ideas forum-style with the Collaborate! discussion boards which, then in turn, inspired further inquiry and conversation. A favorite idea from the group centered on use of the discussion board with students in Socratic seminars: inner circles of students engaging in discussion with outside circles documenting ideas on the Collaborate! board.Looking forward to trying this idea myself!
[Click HERE to view ClassBoard]
Special thanks to Kristen, Ed, Michelle, and their classes for sharing with us this week and for always inspiring engagement in our schools!
Next week we visit more classes to see Collaborate! in action. Excited to share new ways students and teachers are connecting learning!