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!
Welcome back to our month long blog series visiting incredible schools across our country and highlighting great ways teachers are engaging students and positively impacting learning. Last week, we learned about the newest Nearpod feature Collaborate!. Offering immediate benefits for classrooms, including student engagement, crowdsourced ideas, and formative feedback for teachers, Collaborate! brings an interactive discussion board to Nearpod lessons. Over the next three weeks, we will “travel” across the country to meet some extraordinary teachers and their students to learn new ways they are putting Collaborate! into practice.
Our journey takes us first to Ridgeview Global Studies Academy in Davenport, Florida. Here we meet K-5 Global Studies Teacher, Ms. Amber McCormick. Amber is known by many for her amazing sketchnoting talents and her ability to infuse technology meaningfully into instruction to create fun and interactive lessons for her students. With collaboration being a major focus in her classes, Amber always is seeking out ways to bring her students together through inquiry, exploration, and cooperation. After learning about Nearpod’s new interactive discussion board, Collaborate!, Amber was ready to jump in!
Lesson 1: Identifying and Counting Canadian Currency
Audience: K-5 Students
Nearpod Collaborate! Objective: Student Sharing of Responses/Photos
Studying Canada this year, Amber’s objective this week was to introduce Canadian coins to her students. I caught up with Amber as she was preparing by both creating an interactive Nearpod lesson and cutting out many, many laminated Canadian “coins.” Check out her amazing Nearpod lesson where she not only incorporate Collaborate!, but also explicit vocabulary instruction, real images, related videos, and interactive Nearpod features, like DrawIt and Memory Test.
For Amber and her students, learning is always connected. In this lesson, Amber brought together the interactive Nearpod lesson, direct instruction, group work, and hands-on learning experiences to maximize understanding of concepts. To help her students identify and understand how to add the Canadian coins, Amber started with a guided lesson paired with the Nearpod presentation introducing new concepts. Next, the students worked in small groups to find ways to make 50¢ with the cutout coins. Once they found their solutions, they used their devices to take photos. Returning to their Nearpod lessons and the Collaborate! slide, students added their photos and ideas and submitted their responses. To finish up, Amber engaged them all in a reflection activity where the students evaluated the responses of their peers and indicated with the heart icons ones they felt were correctly solved. According to Amber, "Collaborate! is an amazing way for students to see that there is more than one solution to a problem." In addition, she expressed "they were able to see how others thought or solved a scenario." [Click here to view the Class Board]
Lesson 2: Study of Canadian Sports: Focus on Curling
Audience: K-5 Students
Nearpod Collaborate! Objective: Crowdsourced Responses
For part two of the study of Canada in Amber's classes this past week, she created a lesson focused on the study of Canadian sports. After sharing on popular Canadian sports through a discussion around her Nearpod presentation that was both projected up on the class screen and also out on individual student devices, the students played tabletop-versions of curling (and, Amber brilliantly connected back to previously learned information from the coin lesson by using real coins as the "rocks").
More ideas Amber has for using Collaborate! in the future:
• Color scavenger hunt, in French
• Writing your name in Inuktitut (Inuit)
• Brainstorming for ideas
• Posing opinion questions about current events
• Creating a gallery of finished projects for classmates to evaluate
Special thanks to Amber and her students! Be sure to connect with Amber on Twitter at @EdtechAmber.
And, to keep the learning going...check out other ideas from the field from more PLN friends!
Join us all month long as we continue our journey! Excited to see where Collaborate! takes us next!
With students. With teachers. In classrooms. And beyond. In education today, educators are constantly seeking out ways to bring collaboration to learning experiences. Seeing the benefits of project-based learning and cooperative lessons that encourage teamwork and shared perspectives, teachers more and more are finding ways to engage students in the discussion of learning at every point of the process. This understanding paired with the seamless integration of new technologies in many classroom environments is sending teachers looking for digital options for bringing voice and choice (Note: you’ll see me say this again soon 😄) into lessons.
Enter Nearpod’s new feature Collaborate!! (Fun fact: Collaborate! has an exclamation point in its name—my guess on why is because it brings that much WOW!). Following a great lineup of newly released features in most recent months, like Nearpod VR, Nearpod 3D, and integration of Microsoft Sway, the new Collaborate! feature brings a wonderful solution for teachers looking to add an interactive discussion board to their Nearpod live lessons.
Easy as 1-2-3
To add Collaborate! to your Nearpod lessons, all you simply need to do is follow these three steps:
Step #1: Add Collaborate! to your Nearpod lesson by selecting Add Slide --> Add Activity --> Collaborate! (so love seeing any feature marked as 🆕! For a teacher, that equals FUN!🎉)
Step #2: Next, select your Style from the five options and enter topic + description. Corkboard, chalkboard, sketchpad! Love them all!
Step #3: Launch your lesson and engage your students in a discussion! The opportunities for interaction are truly endless!
Though it was only just released this month, as a Nearpod PioNear I have been able to test out Collaborate! while it was in beta form. Instantly, I was able to see immediate benefits for the classroom. Offering students an opportunity to share in both voice and choice (there are those great words again), Collaborate! for me was the integrated solution I had been waiting for! Here are some of the immediate benefits I have seen:
Nearpod has always been my go-to tool for engaging all students in learning. With Collaborate!, students now have a safe forum inviting them to share in ways they each learn best. Students can document knowledge through evidencing in the form of shared written responses, images, links, or photos. Everyone is a contributor and all are collaborators.
Crowd Sourced Ideas
Different from other platforms I have used in the past, Collaborate! allows for crowd sourced ideas within the feature. Students are able to indicate their preference for certain responses by simply clicking on the heart icon. Teachers then are able to sort boards based on number of likes—they also have the ability to delete comments (here’s where many teachers say “Oh, phew!”). For activities involving decision making, this practice allows every voice to play a part in selection (i.e. back to that great word “choice”) of task or outcome. Fantastic! 💙💙
With the rise of teachers seeing extraordinary value in formative assessments in instruction, this was one area I found right away that would be of tremendous benefit to teachers. The Teacher Reports within the Nearpod platform have always proven valuable for me as an educator providing the ability to record and review assessment data. Capturing information on engagement, accuracy, and opinion, Nearpod allows me to see analytics both at a class-level and individual student-level. Responses with the Collaborate! tool now extend to allowing for both open-ended and multimodal feedback combined. As an educator, I am able to review this information and use it to guide future instruction or to identify areas of interest or areas for growth.
Beyond all these great benefits, Collaborate! allows ME to collaborate! I can share the boards with customized links, via email, or on social media. Perfect option for teachers looking to share with administrators or as part of Professional Learning Communities within their schools or departments. All so amazing!
Over the next month, I am excited to share examples of ways teachers are using Collaborate! in their classrooms. Watch for Field Notes: Nearpod’s Collaborate! in Action blog series coming up each week in February! And, please share on how you are using Collaborate! in learning by tagging me on Twitter at @JenWilliamsEdu! Happy Collaborating!
Educational conferences bring great opportunities for learning through keynotes, workshops, sessions, and poster presentations. Beyond the formal learning experiences, the exhibitor hall is always a favorite place for educators to network and explore. Each year at the Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) in Orlando, Florida, I am always eager to take ideas from the booths and the vendors and to find ways to apply the innovative practices of startup companies to classrooms and instruction. This year’s FETC conference was no exception. And, actually, this year perhaps even more than ideas on innovative uses of space, what I was left with was ideas on purposeful and inventive formats for sharing. Here are my top five lessons I learned from the exhibitor floor and ways to apply to the classroom for students:
#1: Pick-Your-Path to Learning
In the classroom, I always love offering menus of options for students to select their own paths to learning. Similar to a choose-your-own-adventure framework, the Nearpod team brought this concept to the exhibitor hall with a pick-your-path-style of sharing. Educators looking to take a peek and just learn the basics were able to visit and take a #SpinToWin for a chance at winning some great prizes for the classroom and also an opportunity to learn a little about the platform. As a second option, I sat in on one of the small group sessions where educators could join in interactive guided lessons to discover more and have an opportunity to ask questions. Alternatively, educators ready to learn about customized options for their schools could schedule 1:1 sessions with members of the Nearpod team to find out about solutions to meet their specific needs. With at least three pathways to learning, educators were able to personalize experiences based on time, scheduling, interests, and needs. I’d love to see this model carry over to classrooms more often! And, if teachers can get students lining up the way educators were in line at the Nearpod booth, we will know we are on the right “path” to learning!
#2: All Spaces are Spaces for Learning
Learning at FETC is everywhere! Energized conversations in coffee lines, inspired discussions at café tables. People buzzing through exhibitor hall rows filled with ideas ready to take back to schools and classrooms. For me, one of my favorite take-aways from the week came about from learning in an unconventional space. I first learned about Caribu, an innovative literacy app that allows parents/teachers to read and draw remotely with children through video and shared screens, on Twitter several weeks before FETC. After connecting with co-founders online, we decided a meeting at the conference was definitely in order, and as all spaces at FETC are spaces for learning, we figured a designated spot on a hallway floor was an ideal place for us to connect. Knowing I was searching for “Max in red glasses,” I quickly found my new friends, co-founders Alvaro and Maxeme, and with devices in hand we were ready to get to talking! In 30 minutes, I was able to learn all about their journey in creating Caribu and about ways families and schools could use the app to connect in shared literacy experiences. This type of learning and sharing moment truly examples the idea that for learning to be impactful and powerful, schools don’t necessarily need high levels of tech integration or perfectly designed learning spaces. All you really need is an engaged and inspired discussion with maybe a little bit of tech to support. Hopeful in 2017 we start seeing teachers and students taking learning to all spaces. Expected and unexpected. Physical and virtual. Because for me, those hallway conversations sometimes are the most powerful!
#3: Bring FUN to Learning
It isn’t surprising at all to me that Ami with Peekapak brought me a lesson for the classroom from the exhibitor floor. Peekapak, a social emotional learning platform, always brings joy to learning through their beautifully illustrated stories and their adorable characters. FETC attendees were able to become part of the fun as they learned about Peekapak throughout the week and “met” some of the 12 characters through the magic of fun, impromptu photo shoots that were also shared on Twitter. Whether posing with “Leo,” the adorable peace-keeping hedgehog, or the imaginative “Cody,” teachers were all smiles and, of course, quite inventive in their poses. For me, I got to pose with “Saffron”—a sweet little skunk that loves both cooking and chemistry. Perfect combo! Ami, one of the co-founders, also spent time with educators inviting them to share their ideas on ways to design the “world” that is developing within Peekapak. Invitations both to have fun and to share. What a wonderful way to think about teaching.
#4: Interact in Environments
My next lesson learned from the FETC exhibitor hall is one I am always seeking out. As I shared in my piece on startup culture with Edutopia, I see extraordinary benefit in bringing concepts of innovation and design seen in the startup world of edtech into education. The vendor hall is always a favorite place to gather ideas, and at this year’s FETC, three of my favorite booths perfectly demonstrated ways to invite educators to interact with the learning environment. Without even needing spoken words, the Sphero booth did a wonderful job at welcoming attendees passing by to join in play. With a beautifully built structure designated for learning and sharing, the Sphero “room” was always packed! Nearby, the MCSquares booth similarly welcomed educators to creatively “leave their mark” by adding drawings/ideas to the interactive panel board. Another favorite was the Gumdropbooth. The team did such a fantastic job showcasing their device cases in an open environment that seemed to naturally bring in teachers eager for hands-on learning. All these booths and so many others captured the concept that the learning environment is key in education. Prepared environments that are purposeful and practical—without distractions and narrowed specifically to the learning objective. Oh, and I love those casters on the Gumdrop booth tables. Brilliant hack for the classroom!
#5: Selfies. Enough Said!
4 Guiding Principles for Early Learning & Technology Integration: Review of Official DOE Policy Brief
As Peekapak founder, Ami Shah, and I set out to create an immersive and interactive session for our upcoming FETC presentation “Trending Topics in Early Literacy: Practices and Tools for the Early Childhood Classroom,” we sought ways to share relevant, research-based information that could guide practice and instruction for early childhood educators. In our work in early childhood education, literacy, social-emotional learning, and educational technology, we look to frameworks and guidance based on evidence from the field of education.
In October of 2016, in response to increased use of technology with early learners, the United States Department of Education in partnership with the United States Department of Health and Human Services published the Early Learning and Educational Technology Policy Brief. As teachers are faced with the need to make decisions on growing amounts of emerging technologies available for young students, including educational apps, digital books, interactive software, and games, this brief offers four primary guiding principles for use of technology with early learners are provided.
Guiding Principle #1: Technology---when used appropriately---can be a tool for learning.
According to the DOE, developmentally appropriate use of technology can be beneficial to young children. As technology enables students to extend learning beyond the walls of their classrooms and homes, it can offer experiences that before were nearly impossible. Recommendations for use include:
Guiding Principle #2: Technology should be used to increase access to learning opportunities for all children.
Today in education, the topics of access and opportunity for all students are growing concerns for educators and policy makers. Technology also enables access to a world beyond one’s own community and can provide culturally responsive learning experiences for students. The DOE brief indicates multiple activities that can be incorporated into instruction with early learners to help connect different communities and close the digital use divide:
In recent years, technology has brought considerable focus to importance of building the home-school connection, particularly for early learners. As a third guiding principle, the DOE recommends use of technology to help build and strengthen relationships between educators and families. Though it is not recommended for technology to replace meaningful face-to-face communications, the brief specified several areas where use of technology can help bridge physical divides between home and school:
Guiding Principle #4: Technology is more effective for learning when adults and peers interact or co-view with young children.
With any instructional tool, proper guidance and instruction from an adult or knowledgeable peer is critical for effective use. Interactive discussions with authentic connections to real-world experiences can bring technologies to life for young learners. Within the brief, the DOE recommends that parents and educators use interactions before, during, and after use of technology to personalize learning for the early childhood learner. The following examples were offered:
In efforts to help educators and parents be well-informed on integration of technology to support young learners, the DOE brief further provides an evidence base and call to action for researchers seeking ways to advance current understandings within the field. To review the entire brief, please visit https://tech.ed.gov/earlylearning/.
We hope you are able to join us at FETC as we further examine the guiding principles offered by the DOE brief in relation to practice and pedagogy in early childhood classrooms:
FETC, Orlando, Florida
Trending Topics in Early Literacy: Practices and Tools for the Early Childhood Classroom
Presenters: Ami Shah & Jennifer Williams
Also, please look to join us at the final FETC #CoffeeEdu on Friday, January 27th at 8-9am as the conversation continues! Click HERE for more info & registration.
United States Department of Education & United States Department of
Health and Human Services. (2016). Early learning and educational
technology brief. Retrieved from: https://tech.ed.gov/earlylearning/
Last semester in one of my courses with my higher ed students, amidst the hustle and bustle of final projects, exam preparations, and approaching holidays, and during one of our final classes, we paused. We simply stopped mid-lesson--practically mid-sentence--and paused. Searching for stillness in hurried moments such as these can be challenging, but, noticing the need to bring calmness and sanctuary, we quieted apprehension with first discussion and then silence. Computers and books and stacks of papers were removed from our tables, and we found ourselves in a conversation on our “whys.” Why did they each choose this profession of education? What made each of these extraordinary college students select this path that we as current educators know is full of great challenge but even greater reward? As each shared and unpacked emotions and ideas, we again paused. Through sharing and returning to a fundamental purpose that defined our “whys,” we found ourselves moving to feelings of calm certainty. Though we could have quickly returned to our lessons and needed preparations, in that moment it was completely clear that nothing was more important than somehow capturing that emotion. For the rest of our class that day, my students worked to record their feelings and perspectives. Private letters written from their current day selves to their future "practicing teacher" selves were then sealed and tucked away in folders.
After over 20 years in education, I so wish I had a letter reminding me of my initial reasons for becoming a teacher. I am quite sure even then I wanted simply to make a difference. The possibility of impacting positive change through children, providing safe space for inquiry and wonder and exploration of thought, building community through shared stories and collective experience. A letter that could serve as reminder to “see the forest for the trees,” but also take notice of each of those trees along the trail. As I have reflected on this and returned to thinking of all my loops and detours in my journey as an educator, I find resolve in my “why” that has always guided me both as a professional and as a person.
This year, as I set out on 2017, I am determined to keep hold of that same calm certainty that my own students discovered that day in our class. In a world that sometimes gets distracted with reform and reinvention, I am going to work to return to the basics of education by making each decision in response to the question “what is best for students and our world?” Free of jargon or distractions of a sometimes “noisy space,” this year I choose to be intentional. And, though I may be without a guidebook or a letter reminding me of my why, I can hold strongly to what fuels my passions as a teacher and to what simply makes me me.
You in a Pie Chart? I'd love to see what makes you "you!" Please share your #oneword2017 or #MeinaPieChart journey! Thanks to Buncee for providing such a beautiful platform for creation and community!
With increased interest in models of learning that emphasize learner-centered instruction and the construction of deep understandings of the world, teachers and students are seeking out practices that move learning past walls of classrooms and that harness the power of the global experience. Digital age technologies not only are allowing for students to develop an awareness of global issues, but they are actually enabling students to access the world and work together to address and solve problems of local and global significance. By developing these cultural frameworks, global-ready students are able to investigate communities and participate as world citizens--developing key soft skills of grit, empathy, problem solving, and perspective taking. More, our students empowered as global collaborators are finding authentic ways to create, question, and communicate in multiple formats and for multiple purposes.
As part of a three-part series on empowering students in the process of learning, pathways to connect students to the world were discovered and explored through a collection of three digital stories as shared through Nearpod and Sway technologies. From a virtual handshake to the development of work to impact our world through social good, you are invited to add to these classroom stories and empower our world of students as global collaborators.
The start of any relationship can begin with a handshake. For Technology Coach Billy Spicer, Mystery Skype’s are the perfect type of virtual introductions. Currently working with teachers and students in the Lake Zurich Community Unit School District 95 in suburban Chicago, Billy finds that opportunities like Mystery Skype calls are great ways to help teachers to get started on becoming globally connected classrooms. With Mystery Skypes, students use multiple forms of communication, including listening, speaking, reading, and writing, and are able to apply geography knowledge, map skills, and questioning techniques to locate partner classrooms. After the initial calls, his classrooms keep the learning going by participating in shared writing experiences, collaborative science investigations, and social media messaging on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. By moving beyond textbook understandings of our world, teachers and students like in Billy’s schools can reimagine the definition of “classmate” with new friends of the world.
Once students form connections with classmates of the world, they can leverage technologies to connect in shared experiences and inspired discussions. Courtney Kofeldt, a Supervisor of Educational Technology at PA Leadership Charter School in West Chester, Pennsylvania, works with students in cyber and blended learning environments. Her teachers and students work to make connections with international audiences through a process of searching for and sharing in knowledge. Courtney’s students connect as part of global teams in activities such as collaborative literacy projects. As “ePals,” students in global groups study short stories, work on collaborative writings, and apply digital citizenship skills. Through these real-world experiences, Courtney finds that her students are able to discover their passions and find their voices. And, by hearing how others from around the world respond to stories, her students are able to better understand new perspectives and see life through additional lenses. Following her experiences as a global and digital educator, Courtney believes teachers should model the importance of being a global collaborator by stepping out of comfort zones and creating connections themselves.
With growing availability of sophisticated digital tools in education, teachers today have access to cutting edge resources for bringing students to the world and bringing the world to students. Virtual explorations and rich multimedia features can allow students to be a part of immersive worlds that before were not easily accessible. Nearpod VR Field Trips allow students to go on virtual reality adventures to world destinations. Students can “dive” into underwater coral reefs, can become museum docents at The Louvre, or can brave the aboriginal Jenolan caves in Australia—with Nearpod VR, the world is literally wide open. The newly releasedNearpod 3D objects also extends the interactive experience of Nearpod lessons giving students access to 360º views of amazing locations in our world today and in worlds of the past. Through these modern forms of learning, teachers can create opportunities for students for meaning making and narrative construction through shared perspective and shared experience.
With developing understandings of our world and access to stories of distant communities, students can move beyond passive participation to actively contribute through projects of purpose and passion. Charged to make a positive impact in our world, students can interact and work together to examine ways to give back and make a difference in the lives of others—and the difference is without a doubt not determined by age. Seven-year-old Mia Clayton is dedicated to carrying out her dream to “change the world.” Mia, a second grade student in Victorville, CA at the Endeavor School of Exploration, is the founder of Mia’s Boxes of Love charity where she raises funds and collects toys and other items for homeless families. Mia was first inspired to make a difference after seeing a homeless child in her neighborhood several years ago. Soon after, she saw Kid President speak about his Socktober Program, and knew she needed to be involved. Over the past two years, Mia and her organization have collected almost 10,000 pairs of socks, and for this year’s campaign, she is hoping to collect over 12,000 pairs. Though little in size, she is big in impact. Her advice to anyone who wants to help people—just go do it!
Work for Social Good
As students begin to connect to distant areas and diverse global cultures, issues of our world will quickly become real in oftentimes very personal and powerful ways. As teachers, we have an extraordinary responsibility to create pathways for our students to engage in work for social good. Classrooms offer spaces for conversation of equity, access, awareness, and equality through the eyes of our students. Inspired discussions can progress into dedicated efforts to bring peace through education with students empowered as knowledge constructors, innovative designers, and global collaborators. With shared stories of our world as the start, our students can inspire the needed change and good to spark a "future of great!”
For more information on how to donate socks to Mia’s Boxes of Love and support her efforts to collect 12,000 pairs of socks, please visit: https://miasboxesoflove.org.
Educators seeking projects for social good can explore topics as offered by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals at https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs.
Please join the conversation and share your classroom stories and Nearpod+Sway experiences on social media with the hashtag #sharedstories.
This is the second post in a three part series on shared stories of pedagogical practice. Storytelling in the form of Nearpod+Sway is combined with reflections and discussion on empowering students as innovative designers in the classroom.
Three shared stories. Three powerful messages. One common theme.
Let's meet our storytellers.
Jennifer Casa-Todd is the Teacher-Librarian at Cardinal Carter, an IB World School in Aurora, Ontario. Prior to this role, she was the Literacy Consultant for the York Catholic District School Board and one of the lead learners in a district-wide initiative to build 21st century competencies using technology. Jennifer is currently writing a book, set to be released in Spring 2017 by Dave Burgess Consulting, which builds upon the idea of empowering students to become Digital Leaders using social media. She is passionate about connecting students to each other and to the world. She is also a student and most importantly a wife and a mom to two amazing teens!
Kolsten Keene is a 7th grade student with a passion for gaming and designing his own learning. When he isn’t building worlds in Minecraft or creating YouTube videos in his home production studio, Kolsten can be found playing with his pets or playing drums. He often creates, builds, and explores with his awesome dad, his super-techie mom, Dr. Katrina Keene, and his fun-loving sister, Kaleena. He dreams of working one day for Mojang, the creators of Minecraft, and a highlight for him this year was presenting at ISTE 2016 and then meeting Vu Boi, COO of Mojang. How cool!
Joe Young is a Math and STEAM Coach/ Teacher on Special Assignment in Palo Alto Unified School District in Palo Alto, California. His many roles in education prior to this position have included teaching first, second, and fifth grades and serving as a grade level team lead, math lead teacher, technology lead teacher, and STEAM Inquiry Team member. Joe is passionate about empowering students, promoting student voice, and fostering life skills in children. With all of these experiences, he has found that education is his true passion, and each day for him is an opportunity to encourage wonder, discovery, and exploration of thought.
Now, time for some questions! Joe and Jennifer join me as we think about practice as educators and ways to best support our students as innovative designers.
Jen: Joe, with all your rich experiences in the classroom, how have you used digital storytelling to bring the stories of our world to life for your students?
Joe: The use of digital storytelling is a powerful and essential way for teachers to engage their students in this digital age. Communication is richer through storytelling and students definitely have instant buy-in and engagement when it's done in a digital form. The key part in this process is for purposeful and clear objectives and pedagogy in the teacher. No amount of digital tools can be as successful without the good teacher, the colleagues and coaches that support the good teacher, and the positive and supportive class and school culture of that good teacher.
Jen: Jennifer, you work with so many teachers and students to empower their voices through the sharing of stories of our world. What role does digital storytelling play in teaching and learning for you?
Jennifer Casa-Todd: Digital Storytelling provides a differentiated approach for students to demonstrate their learning. It is a way for students to demonstrate not just their understanding of concepts and ideas, but to be able to use creativity and critical thinking to relay that understanding in a way that is meaningful to them and transparent to the teacher. Best of all, unlike a test or essay, digital stories can be shared so that others might benefit as well.
Jen: Over the course of this blog series sharing about pedagogical practice and shared stories of the classroom, I have seen how combining digital tools can really enhance the quality and power of digital stories--totally loving Nearpod+Sway used together! What experiences have you had with these tools?
Jennifer Casa-Todd: This was my first Sway! Loved its simplicity and intuitiveness!
Joe: I've enjoyed using Nearpod in professional development sessions. I wish I had the opportunity to use Nearpod when I was in the classroom, however I am definitely enjoying the privilege of my position as an instructional coach sharing the features and benefits of Nearpod. My most recent experience with Nearpod was co-facilitating an EdtechTeacher summer workshop with Sabba Quidwai (@askMsQ) where she demonstrated features of Nearpod that I didn't know. It was incredible to receive professional development while delivering professional development.
Jen: As innovative designers in the classroom, I see students as architects of their learning--the definition of student extending to include inventor, maker, explorer. How do you find that we as teachers can best see our students as curious questioners?
Joe: Listen to student voice, focus on standards AND let go of "traditional units," be flexible, engage in professional development, make mistakes, fail and recover, reflect and celebrate, lean on your colleagues and PLN, ask for help, believe in yourself, and in difficult times, listen to your students.
Jennifer: Just try it! Think about what your learning goals are and ask yourself and your students, "Who might help us to learn this better?" and "How can we share this learning with others?" You don't have to be an expert; learning together is often the best way to begin your journey.
Students as knowledge constructors and as innovative designers. Teachers as facilitators and sharers of stories. Join us next week for Part 3: Students as Global Collaborators. Also, we welcome you to join the conversation and share your classroom stories and Nearpod+Sway experiences on social media with the hashtag #sharedstories.