Thursday, December 18, 2014

Global Contexts With VersoApp

We have Google, Quizlet, and now Trivia Crack, so finding facts and practicing to remember is easy and fun. So, what are doing about questioning and developing argument to keep pace with the world of immediate feedback that our youth has come to enjoy and demand?

Last year, I tried VersoApp. It's a learning tool with a simple format that supports learning content through challenges and engagement. It starts with a content piece, followed by a provocative prompt, and finishes with student response and discussion that includes a number of ways to contribute through helpfuls (i.e., like, maybe, flag).

The best part is that the students experience anonymity throughout the discussion. It becomes about the ideas, not the person. Try it. Click the link above or below for more information.

What Does Engagement Look Like?

When a VersoApp activity is designed well, it looks like students reading, thinking, writing, contemplating, evaluating, proving, supporting, agreeing, disagreeing, considering, and holding classmates accountable for keeping the discussion academic.

I could see engagement becoming one of those words that rarely receives definition yet is thrown around by educators as if we are all in agreement about what it means. Although it includes items from the laundry list above, engagement means students are putting themselves into the work, into the learning, and into the class. It's evident by the personal investment present in what they make and share.

VersoApp facilitates engagement by design. You'll see, if you try it.

MYP Global Contexts For Questioning Strategies

It's time for me to take it to the next level by using VersoApp for a lesson activity that we will do consistently in the spring semester. I decided to start with my sophomores. These classes are IB Middle Years Programme world history. They are proficient with VersoApp and will do well using it to conduct global context discussions.

Here's a few ideas I'm working with to put the learning in the hands of my students. It's organized by global context. "Students learn best," according to IB, "when their learning experiences have context and are connected to their lives ..."



Global Context: Identities and Relationships
Who am I? Who are we?

Content: The students read a short selection from The Travels of Ibn Battuta. It's about his time spent with the sultan of Mali. This selection raises questions about how we present ourselves, how we are treated by others, and how outsiders are treated when faced with vulnerability. Sounds perfect for teenagers, right?

Provocation: Why are we friendly?
When writing a question or prompt, think about stuff that interests and challenges your students but can be related to the content. I'll set the response on VersoApp to 2 per student and ask the students to respond to the question one time with their general ideas about the value in friendliness and another with a response that draws on examples from the reading selection.

When students finish, they respond to other students by commenting or simply clicking in agreement or concern. When the time is right, I'll project the student view of the responses, which displays all of the responses without compromising anonymity. 





Global Context: Orientations in Space and Time
Where and when?

Content: Video with an image a Fertile Crescent map and about 5 minutes of me comparing how location impacted the development of early civilizations in Egypt and Mesopotamia.

Provocation: Think about how where you live (or have lived) has impacted how you have grown as an individual. Relate your experience to either Egypt or Mesopotamia. Remember to provide your reason for relating to one or the other.

I want the students to connect with their own roots as they learn about the nature of the foundations of civilization, such as Egypt and Mesopotamia. Since we have already done this unit, my students will do this during our AP exam review.

Video: http://youtu.be/lvzHu_w97hI





Global Context: Scientific and Technical Innovation
How do we understand the world in which we live?

Content: This reading is about the development of the camel saddle and its hand in facilitating movement in the Trans-Saharan trade network. Before the response provocation is introduced, I ask the students a few questions to prime them for the reading and their responses.

Provocation: Respond with an issue traders would face crossing the Sahara and relate it to an example of your ability to move from place to place sans bicycle or automobile (or whatever primary mode of transportation).

An extension during this discussion might be to ask questions about ship designs in the historical period of study or perhaps other trade routes and trade goods. 


The difference between using VersoApp and not is evident in those students who participate because they feel safe from detrimental judgments. You'll see students come to life, sharing ideas.

Thanks for reading. 



Thursday, December 11, 2014

4 Apps You Can Sign Up With Google

Teachers need another thing to do like a dog needs a cat's tail. What we do need, however, are tools that make the work we do more efficient. And I don't think you'll find anyone who disagrees.

One of the things that drives me crazy is having too many users and passwords. Since Google Apps For Education (GAFE) has become more popular, many educational web tools and apps have provided account setup and log in access through your Google accounts.

As long as you are logged in to your Google account, you can enjoy one-click access to many apps and tools. Here's four of my favorites that I use almost everyday.

Remind
Most students communicate regularly through text messages. Remind provides users a way to send mass messages to groups without losing phone number confidentiality. Messages can be scheduled, attachments (and links) can be included, and an RSS feed is available to be posted on a teacher website for easy access or for those few without text messaging on their phones.

Be careful to not over do it, though. There is a happy medium between effective communication and so much that you're ignored.

Quizlet
Building background is critical to the success of every classroom. I started making card decks on Quizlet to help students study vocabulary. Now, I use it for any set of facts I need them to learn.

The study and practice tools are helpful and engaging for students, while the assessment making tools are convenient for teachers. Plus, many of the card decks that you might need have often been created by others.

Play with it a little. You will be pleasantly surprised about one feature or another. If you still like print materials, check out the print options.

Pocket
This app allows teachers who use a lot of articles from the Internet to keep a version in one place. If you have the Chrome extension in your browser, it's as simple as clicking the button in the upper right.

One of my favorite features includes being able to tag an article for organization. I use the mobile app more often than not and like to tag my articles based on the unit of study.

I also like that the articles are saved as a text-only version without ads and extra site clutter (on my iPhone). This is helpful when printing or mirroring my iOS device to the projector screen.

Padlet
My students do a lot of sharing through paper posts, either to a tack board, sticky note, or dry erase. Padlet is basically a digital version of a tack board, only this one allows students to add links, images, and experience viewing as a group.

A transcript can be downloaded as a PDF for formative assessment, and each wall an be shared via link or embedded into a website.  

Try these apps and extensions. I only shared a few of the features, so play around a bit without having to make another account (you'll see). They might facilitate a classroom routine more efficiently than otherwise.