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.
Through exploration and discovery, teachers are finding ways to use innovative digital pathways to share stories of practice and experience. As learners of today oftentimes visualize the world through nonlinear and hypertext frameworks, digital storytelling offers highly developed and multimodal forms of communication that allow students to reimagine learning and view shared stories as cohesive and interconnected constructions of expression. Literacies, aesthetics, and advanced practices associated with digital storytelling have the potential to positively impact the communicative landscape of our classrooms. With a focus on sharing the stories of pedagogy and of our world, we as educators can harness the power of digital narratives of practice to together transform learning and teaching in our classrooms. As the first post in a three part series of discovery and reflection, we are able to see into education of today through the lens of a teacher, a student, and an educational technology learning manager--all working to create pathways for the construction of knowledge for students.
Through the power of Nearpod and Sway digital storytelling, themes of practice emerge. In these stories of learning, immersive spaces, explored passions, and authentic connections were each drivers for change. Though the pathways were unique, each brought a story of students empowered as knowledge constructors.
Learning spaces of our modern classrooms have transformed to emphasize learner-centered instruction and seamless integrations of digital technologies. Immersed in supportive physical and virtual environments, students are encouraged to create and explore through processes of design thinking, inquiry, and investigation. As a 4th-6th grade special education teacher at Puesta del Sol Elementary in California, Nicholas Clayton structures his instruction around lessons and tools that promote knowledge construction. From Nearpod VRs Virtual Reality Field Trips to building of virtual worlds in Minecraft and Animal Jam to creating collaborative virtual spaces, Nicholas brings students on “educational adventures” to worlds they understand. For him, “students must have an outlet for their voices and be able to tell about their learning from a language they know.” In immersive spaces of the classroom, access and agency is within reach of the learner and the voices of all students can be inspired.
Teachers in classrooms of today are finding ways for students to become the storytellers and builders of their learning paths. Through project-based learning and practices of personalized inquiry, students are provided space and time to thoughtfully develop passions into actionable plans for implementation and execution. These students, engaged in the process of following in passion projects, are analyzing problems of global significance and finding solutions to impact local and world communities. As a middle years student, Karishma Bhagani was challenged to not only identify a question for exploring, but also a question on a subject for which she was personally connected. In her journey to developing a working low-cost water purification system, Karishma was faced with countless challenges and failures. However, with freedom to fail and grow and the encouragement of her teachers and parents, she found that with perseverance and grit and the fuel of passion, she was able to ultimately reach the point of having a viable prototype. Today, as a student at New York University, Karishma is continuing her mission to bring clean water to communities across the world through her Matone de Chiwit organization. As teachers, these are the stories that fuel us--stories of educational practices that support students to take risks and follow in their dreams. For us, these are those moments that can ignite true change, and in the words of Karishma, are the drops that can create a million ripples.
We as teachers are in a constant search for ways to support our students as constructors of knowledge. Supported in immersive environments and engaged in projects that follow in their passions, they have opportunities to develop sincere connections to content to ultimately deepen levels of learning. Meaningful contexts and authentic audiences can propel learning forward and add richness to the learning experience for students in our schools. As an advocate for student voice and integration of technology in instruction, Zac Leonard of Lecanto Middle School works to provide students with real world situations in learning. With purposeful uses of social media and access to global audiences, Zac connects students to the world through stories of literature, history, and technology. He believes that “digital storytelling is just the next iteration of humanity’s need to share stories.” In classrooms like Zac’s, new ideas can take flight and connections to learning can be realized.
Join us next week for Part 2: Students as Innovative Designers. Also, we welcome you to join the conversation and share your classroom stories and Nearpod+Sway experiences on social media with the hashtag #sharedstories.
By Jennifer Williams
In a charged and ignited movement to connect students to learning through inquiry and shared experience, teachers are engaging learners in interactive lessons through use of digital storytelling. Digital storytelling combines the traditional art of shared personal narratives with rich multimedia, such as graphics, images, audio, video, and text. Through a process of thoughtfully and systematically combining multiple modes of expression, teachers can design digital stories to enhance instruction across all content areas and grade levels. With digital stories, instruction can move beyond a basic goal of simply obtaining knowledge by allowing learning to deepen to levels of application, integration, and creation.Nearpod and Sway are two advanced digital creation tools that each provide a balance of structure and creative freedom for users to explore and create cohesive stories. With these interactive, multimedia presentation tools, teachers can use digital stories to capture and share the aesthetic beauty of human experience and diverse perspectives found within our world.
As an instructional tool, Nearpod offers an interactive and engaging platform for teachers to create personalized lessons and digital stories by seamlessly adding slides, images, videos, audio, and web links. Nearpod presentations offered as digital stories can be further developed by adding immersive virtual reality experiences, interactive “Draw It” activities, and collaborative response features, such as polls and open-ended questions. Now, teachers can enhance presentations and digital stories even more with the new integration of Microsoft Sway. Sway offers fully customizable canvases for creation of multimedia digital stories. By leveraging the power of combining these two digital storytelling tools in instructional practice and in learning, teachers have limitless opportunities for creating developed narratives and meaningful digital artifacts. Embedding Sways into Nearpod presentations is as simple as 1, 2, 3:
Step 1: While creating a Nearpod lesson, simply select Add Slide, Add Content, and then you will see the Add Sway option.
Step 2: From here, you will be able to embed a Sway digital story. Nearpod offers a curated collection of beautiful Nearpod-created presentations of stories of our world. Topics include Animals, Countries and Continents, Famous Landmarks, Historical Events, and Figures, and Seasons and Extreme Weather.
Step 3: You can also embed your own personally created Sways into your Nearpod presentation. Current Office 365 account users can access their Sways or create new ones within the Nearpod platform. You can also add the direct web link for your Sway presentation by selecting Add Web Content from the main content creation menu. Once your Sway is selected and added, you are ready to publish and share your Nearpod+Sway digital story experience with a global audience. If Sways are new for you, click here to learn more about Getting Started with Sway.
You can also check out this step-by-step video to learn more:
Nearpod+Sway Digital Stories from our Classrooms:
A 3-Part Series on Shared Stories of Pedagogical Practice
Shared stories of pedagogical practice from classrooms can be powerful messages with the ability to positively impact instruction in schools across the world. Teachers as storytellers can share the narratives of teaching and together can work to reimagine the educational landscape for today and for the future. With a dedicated focus on inquiry and engagement, in this 3-part series we will follow the digital stories of nine individuals in their journeys to each transform the educational experience as told through their personal digital narratives. Join as we examine themes and trends in practice, uncover pathways to engagement, and amplify voices beyond the walls of schools through a month long series using the power of Nearpod and Sway digital stories.
Part 1: Students as Knowledge Constructors
Part 2: Students as Innovative Designers
Part 3: Students as Global Collaborators
Also, we welcome you to join the conversation and share your classroom stories or Nearpod+Sway experiences on social media with the hashtag #sharedstories.
Inspired by #OneSong, my #PLN, and the song Renegades by the incredible X Ambassadors.
I have always had an interesting relationship with rules. As a child, I often sought out rule-based systems, however would quickly find myself working to escape them, or perhaps more accurately put, go beyond them. As a teacher, I found myself compelled to follow each set rule precisely; loyal to a cause, always aiming to do “right” and stay the “course.” The rulebooks within my life offered sanctuary and direction, standards by which I could measure success. They also stirred alive within me a desire to find the unforeseen “loophole.” Alternative paths that led to the unknown. Boundless and bound living together playfully.
Boundless, yet bound.
This past year, equipped with passion and experience, I set out to make a new path. Not one that was traveled more or less, but one that had never been traveled. When faced with any decision, I decided I would trust in my instinct with a conviction that I had not before had. One good step would lead to another, and that next good step would lead to one ahead. For me, the concept of #goodbringsgood would be a guiding message to develop a path of positive growth and direction.
As a connected educator, this year brought the most extraordinary friendships and experiences. Good brings good became a journey and a destination. I learned that working for the future and living in the moment for me can and should co-exist. As the year concluded, reflecting on the months and days and those moments, I realized that with all the steps I had taken over the year, I was only just at the trailhead on the course on which I was set to travel.
So, here I am. My shoes laced up. My gear packed. Ready. But, where does this path lead? As an educator, I believe in education with every part of me. I am honored to be surrounded by a network of inspiring thought leaders that are pushing the boundaries in our profession and making measurable gains towards progress, innovation, and change. Together, I see a charged force that is ignited and readied for the journey. More and more, I see leaders stepping out. Determined and resolute. Admirably purposeful. Eager to make a difference. Looking to a set of rules in a system and continuing to strive for more. A coalition of educators all ready and willing to make it their life’s work to not only get it “right,” but ready to make it “right.”
For so long, the term “renegade” brought for me thoughts of a mutineer or a rebel ready to break rules and fight against them. Me, a person afraid of breaking rules. Could it be conceivable and also acceptable to question the very system that created and in turn was enforcing the rules? Perhaps, with a shift in perspective. What if together as educators we could break ground on a new design for education inspired by hope? Confident, courageous, unwavering. Ready to stand together to change the narrative of a renegade from an outlaw to a valiant pioneer forging a new path. This year I am ready. Ready to stay true to my rule of #goodbringsgood. Ready to take steps one at a time and bravely look at established systems through a fresh lens. Ready to boldly create a new path based on a map with an entirely new set of rules that encourage the bound to be boundless.
Go forth and have no fear.
It’s our time to make a move.
Each day, there are countless opportunities for teachers to share their voices. And, many do. Through sharing within blog posts, professional development sessions, and discussions on social media forums such as Twitter chats, educators find platforms to connect and learn. For me, Twitter chats are spaces to not only grow as an educator, but they are also places that inspire my voice as an individual. In recent weeks, I was impacted in such a special way by a simple invitation, and I found that a "call to join" can have powerful and long-lasting effects.
The evening started out like many. Getting my own children to bed, tidying up the house, and retreating to my computer to check in on messages before reading. After reviewing emails and reading several shared articles, one Tweet in my notifications particularly stood out.
In a lot of ways, this tweet was similar to many that I send and receive in a day. A notification of a chat or of a relevant post of interest. But, in one distinct way, this message was different.
I always take notice of any messages sent by Carol Varsalona. As a like-minded member of my PLN, Carol is a treasured mentor and voice of positive inspiration.
In this message, Carol was inviting me over to the chat she was in. A personal invitation to join.
Though I received the message well into the chat hour, and though I had not scheduled to allot time that evening to commit myself to chats, and though I was unsure of even the topic, I felt compelled to join. Because, as you see, Carol personally asked me to come. And, this instantly ignited my excitement to be a part of the experience!
That evening it didn’t matter that I jumped into a chat that was well under way or that I was joining in with educators from a different state from my own. I was warmly and instantly welcomed into the group. Immediately, after introducing myself in the chat, I was engaged and a part of the discussion. Feeling a little bit transparent, I decided to respond to a tweet with an openness I don’t typically command in chats. As someone wrote about finding the time to blog, I admitted that this was an area of challenge for me. Within moments, others joined in and shared that this too was an area of struggle for them in their lives. With only minutes left in the chat, our small bonded group, with a newly formed allegiance to make time and commit to each other, pledged to together make time to share our voices through blogging and support each other in the process. In less than a quarter of an hour, we created a community. Over the following days, members of our new community, each part of our named #TribeofBloggers, shared posts and projected their voices—some for the very first time! This all leading up to my post here today.
As I reflected on the impact that one small invitation to join had on me as a teacher and a connected educator, I started to consider moments in the classroom. Do students feel this same way in a classroom? How do students feel a sense of belonging? What small, simple moments can amplify the quiet or silent voices in our schools--the students that are on the fringe and feeling just outside a conversation? Is it an unspoken truth that students are members of a community simply by being part of the classroom or are personal invitations to join needed?
I hope to work a little harder to make all students (and educators) feel included and part of the conversation. By sending out more calls to participate, I will look to ensure that each voice is included and represented. Just as Carol sent a special invitation addressed right to me, it is my goal to send out personal messages to students within a class community and to create contexts that empower voices; helping all to find their own paths of sharing and their own tribes to take on the journey of learning!
This blog post is dedicated to Carol Varsalona, the welcoming educators of #NYEdChat, and to our #TribeofBloggers Ben Dickson, Donald Gately, Angela Stockman, Terry Stoufer, Natalie Krayenvenger, and Sara Holm! Looking forward to our second posts in our series coming up in the next two weeks!
Today, with increased focus on use of technology for expression and content creation, traditional definitions of reading, writing, and communication are being redefined to include new digital literacies. Multimodal literacies--the integration of multiple forms of communication and expression--have the potential to transform the meaning of a student’s work. With these digital tools, students can demonstrate their ability to understand, interpret, and discuss by using multiple texts across multiple contexts and multiple modes. Faced with detailed and complex texts across all areas of the curriculum, students must master the ability to read and write like scientists, historians, mathematicians, and world citizens. In an increasingly global and technologically based world that prioritizes effective communication skills, these skills all are critical for the future success of an individual.
Digital tools allow for a transformation of the learning experience and can expand the scope of knowledge in education. These new technologies allow students to engage in all forms of communication—reading, writing, speaking, and listening, and alone have the power to encourage inquiry, critical analysis, and content area literacy. However, when digital tools are combined, the possibilities for learning can be exponential. Here are some ways to combine digital literacy tools in the classroom.
Periscope + Nearpod
• Periscope allows users to broadcast live video with their phones or other devices to connect to the world https://www.periscope.tv
• Nearpod allows users to create interactive presentations that are fun and engaging; learning can be assessed in real-time https://www.nearpod.com
• Perisciope + Nearpod: You can use interactive format of Periscope to connect to the world in a discussion with global classrooms, students, and educators. In your "scope," share your Nearpod presentation and viewers can follow along on their own devices. With interactive features, such as polls, multiple choice questions, and 360Cities Virtual Field Trips, you can have meaningful interactions and real time feedback throughout your presentation. Interested in learning how to combine these two great digital tools? Check out this Nearpod presentation as we take you step-by-step through the process! Also, be sure to use Katch.Me to store your "scope" for replaying in the future!
Skype + Padlet
• Skype offers free videoconferencing for classrooms to connect and chat online. www.skype.com
• Padlet provides a virtual cork board for organizing practically anything, including photos, videos, links, documents, and notes! www.padlet.com
• Skype + Padlet: The possibilities are endless when combining Skype and Padlet during collaboration sessions. For instance, during a Mystery Skype session, students could work together on a Padlet to place clues and answers to help find the location of the other class. Other ideas to use Skype and Padlet together is for student collaboration on a global project, teacher sharing during a videoconferenced professional development session, and student back channeling during a Skype session with an industry expert, notable author, or global leader. Here is an example of a Padlet created during an EdCamp Global session entitled "Go Digital" with Stephan Hughes. In this session, he shared from his location in Rio de Janeiro with an international audience of educators. Teachers and classrooms from around the world were able to add comments and questions throughout his session, and also before and after. http://padlet.com/watstefsmaydov/GoDigital
YouTube + EdPuzzle
• YouTube hosts user-generated videos. www.youtube.com
• EdPuzzle allow teachers to customize videos for use in the classroom www.edpuzzle.com
• YouTube + EdPuzzle: One of my favorite new digital tools is EdPuzzle. EdPuzzle allows teachers to customize videos from the Internet, such as YouTube videos, with features such as Crop (to cut portions of a video), Audio Track (overlay audio over the entire clip), Audio Notes (insert comments to extend the concepts and ideas), and Quiz (add open ended questions, multiple choice questions, and comments to the video clip to assess learning and increase engagement). Here is an example where I took a YouTube video of a podcast lecture with Eoin Lenihan of Germany that is 38 min and 26 seconds and cut it into a clip that is now just over 2 minutes. I add audio notes to interact with you as an audience member and include several questions. You will see how the possibilities for use in the classroom are great when combining EdPuzzle with YouTube for learning!
Sharpening pencils to a perfect point. Checking the spelling of each student’s name to ensure every one is correct. Carefully coloring in the lines of a welcome sign to invite students to their new classroom; a classroom that for students will be a place all new where memories will be made, friendships developed, and life lessons learned. In these beginning weeks of the school year, teachers take care to consider small details; details that that when considered in sum create the experience of “school” in a child’s world. With intentional and thoughtful focus on the needs of each individual student, teachers set out to create a culture of their class. And, in the earliest hours of the first day of the new school year, teachers and students together begin to form the community of their classroom.
In recent days, though faced with the hustle and bustle of back-to-school, I was inspired to reflect on the impact of teaching small. A video launched with the Remind #teachsmall campaign truly demonstrated for me so beautifully the lasting effects of dedicating efforts to the little things when building a culture with students: http://bit.ly/teachsmall_blog Soon, I was considering how so many of today’s teachers are working to extend this community to include a critical member of the learning team: the parent! In small, yet meaningful ways, classroom teachers are beginning the year by fostering #teachsmall moments to welcome parents into the conversation of “school” and learning. Here are some ideas for finding ways to bring #teachsmall to the parents of your classroom.
Back-to-School “Parent-Led” Conferences
Often, first conversations with parents are procedural. Instead of waiting for back-to-school nights, start your relationship with your new parents during Week 1 by offering time to parents to schedule and join you for a 20-minute “Parent-Led Conference.” As opposed to traditional conferences where teachers lead the discussion, encourage parents to share any thoughts, dreams, and concerns for their child. Questions such as “What motivates your child?” and “How can I best support your child’s life passions?” can allow teachers to learn about children through the lens of a parent. More, it is a small way teachers can show that they sincerely care about the interests and needs of the family.
Learn the Names of Your Classroom Parents
A name is a special thing. Teachers understand the importance of referring to students by name and constantly seek out ways to showcase the names of students both in class discussions and also in the classroom environment. By taking time to learn and use parent names, teachers demonstrate that they are invested in parents and that they are treasured members of the classroom community.
Proclaim a Vision of “Parents as Partners”
“Parents as Partners.” Make it your parent/teacher motto. Brand it. Market it. And represent it. Sign messages and notes home as “Your School Partner.” Thank parents personally for their partnership each time you see them. Dedicate a bulletin board to parents and post announcements or exciting updates that are just for them! “Parents as Partners!” Simple, yet so significant!
Sharing of Stories
A common feature of a community is the sharing of stories. Celebrate cultures, interests, or unique talents of parents by inviting them to join for a class discussion. Interested parents that are unable to visit in person can join via videoconferencing with tools such as Skype or Google Hangout. Another idea: develop a Mystery Reader program; guest parents can surprise students and join to share their favorite read aloud story. Finally, consider organizing a parent/student/teacher book club to meet throughout the year. This can demonstrate the importance of reading together and sharing together.
Share Messages of Small Moments
Each day in a classroom is filled with special, small moments of greatness. Noticing that a student always stops to smell the flowers, witnessing a much needed learning breakthrough, seeing an apprehensive student bravely try something new for the first time. Teachers have front row seats for so many small, defining, "star of the show" moments such as these. Showcase, share the positive, and send a message to parents by using the Remind tool. “Just wanted to share…” messages can brighten days and help parents be a part of the community of a class. Because, as we all know, moments like these are too good not to share and celebrate!
As classroom communities of teachers, students, and parents embark on a new school year, we celebrate the moments that are small, yet defining and impactful. The difference-making little things that are extraordinary…and anything but ordinary.
Be sure to share your #teachsmall stories on Twitter and Facebook, and in your schools. To read more about this special initiative and Remind as a tool for connecting the community of your classroom, visit: http://bit.ly/teachsmall_blog.