Thursday, July 30, 2015

15 Ways to Use Remind

The Remind app has become one of the four legs on my table. I don't want to even talk about managing a classroom without it. There's just so much you can do to connect your students. 


I'm sure this list is not exhaustive, but here are 15 of the ways I regularly use Remind. 

1. Schedule a Message

For a classroom teacher, being able to plan a few lessons and schedule reminders in one sitting is a godsend. 

We are often distracted by the moment-to-moment issues that need some sort of immediate attention, so being able to automate messages is a load off our back.


2. Ask a Question

How powerful is it to ask a question that encourages thought for even 30 seconds outside of school? It doesn't work miracles. But when I ask students about what they learned last class, they jump to respond.


3. Assign a Video for Homework

"Why do I need to send a video in a message? My students should know to check my YouTube channel," said a teacher I hope my kids never have.

You can teach them to check your website or YouTube channel. You can even expect them to subscribe to a playlist. But kids communicate one way: text messages.

Include a short link in a message for the 60 percent of students who don't think about your class much when they walk out your door.

Wow! I'm getting really honest.


4. Receive Student Responses 

You've sent a message. Now what? 

If your students have the app, they can respond by sending a message, link, image, or all of the above with Chat. 


"But I can't force my students to install the app." Of course you can't. But you can remind them that the app will keep your  messages off their text message app. The rest of the smartphone users installed the app when we started using Chat to collect lesson content from students in lieu of my slide presentations. 

More honesty: Teenagers feel sad when the only text messages they reviewed all weekend were a couple of mass reminders from their teacher. 

5. Share an Image

This one is my favorite. I would often take pics of the blackboard, tack wall, or chart paper to share what we did in class. It's great from students who missed, and it's easy for me with the Remind app.

Send a map, famous painting, cartoon, or photo an artifact along with a thought-provoking statement or question. I once shared an image of a trainer teaching a baby dolphin to swim.

Hey! Who said it always needs to be about the content?

6. Multiple Choice

Use Stamps to collect responses with the app. For ABCD, assign the , ✓, X, and ?


7. Crowdsource

Why introduce a concept with teacher material? Students can send images, links, and text to you with Chat. Display the student contributions for discussion about what is and is not relevant to the new concept. 

This activity requires special care to support student confidence as they take risks, and it is so powerful because it mirrors how we most often learn.

8. Reflect 

The best homework assignments are designed to promote reflection on what students learned at school. They can write their thoughts in a journal to share in class or as a period review. 


9. Share a Link

This is my second favorite thing you can do with Remind. Use s link shortener to save characters, and share sites, a video, or something from Google Drive.

10. Personalize Learning 

Think about how lesson planning changes when teachers have homework responses before class begins. Instead of waiting to look at student work after the lesson, the homework can inform the lesson, making it a formative assessment that saves precious instruction time.

11. Digital Citizenship

My students text. They use Twitter and a variety of group texting apps, depending on their click. We can't watch over every move our kids make, but we can model appropriate use of text communication. 

Consider length, word choice, and reason for sending a message. No one wants to read a message that's too long or doesn't have the information they need. Most importantly, emotionally charged messages are dangerous.

Talk about this with your students. It could save them from shame on social media or an unprofessional email. 

12. True / False

Like the multiple choice questions, use the Stamps feature on the Remind app to ask T / F. The X and ✓ work great.


13. Tweet a Message

Sharing student work with parents? Why not share with the world? Or perhaps some of your students prefer to receive messages on Twitter. 

Tweet a message with a few clicks.


14. Exit Ticket

This one is up there with my other favorites. Sometimes a one-sentence summary or 3-2-1 response sent with Chat is all you need to know where your students are before the next class. 

Sharing images and text is a good way to differenciate. Include a link to a source, and we've assessed three learning targets.

15. Manage Deadlines

After using Remind for two years, I've learned that different students benefit from messages at different times. This is something that I fish for at the beginning of the year so that when I assign bigger projects I have an idea about how many deadline reminders to schedule and what times during the day produce the best results.



Please comment to share how you use the app. 

Video Chat in Seconds with appear.in

It's a lot of work organizing your resume, applying for jobs, and doing interviews. It's even harder to do it from a distance. So when I heard from two schools in Massachusetts that were willing to video conference, I was ecstatic.


Last week, I was in Texas presenting at a technology conference and loading our moving truck. Although I was pleased to hear that I got the two video interviews, I was put off when I found out that one of them would use a new app that I had never heard about.

"Not another app!" At what point do we draw the line and say, "We have all that we need." 

My curiosity was far more powerful than my frustration, so I had to check it out. It was called appear.in and it was amazing.

1. Go to https://appear.in



2. Claim Your URL

Add your personal touch by securing a custom URL. It's quick, easy to share, and professional.  


3. Invite People

Up to eight people can join in video conversation.


4. Lock Room

Don't want unexpected visitors? Lock your room so those seeking to chat have to knock to gain entrance.


5. Followers

Although it is not required, appear.in allows users to follow your room.



6. Room Keys

This is another useful features if you wish to control who can enter your room. It's as simple as entering email addresses into a list of room key holders.


7. Chat

A chat feature is something I always look for in a digit tool. Although there are other chat tools we could use, it's important that all users have the same opportunities to communicate.


8. Use the App

The app works great. I actually used it for an interview while looking for a job this summer.

9. Send Invites

As long as the invitee has an Internet connection and a camera and microphone, there shouldn't be much trouble clicking on an invite waiting for them in their inbox.

10. Screen Share

The ability to share your screen is a must for video conferencing. I love the way Google Hangouts works and thought appear.in would be similar.

The only difference – and it could be my device (Chromebook) – is that you can't share a tab within the same browser window as the appear.in. No problem. Just open the tab in a new window to make it available for sceenshare. 



Thursday, July 16, 2015

10 Timesavers for Managing Teacher Site Content

It would be nice to skip booting a computer to add content to your website, right? Or how about adding a video with your smartphone while waiting for a meeting to start? It's all in how you build the site.



I'm a teacher with young kids at home, so my time is limited. One way I save time is by finding ways to manage online content with my phone.

Every one of the following examples of rich content can be updated with a smart mobile device.

1. Remind Widget

Communication is key. That's why I embed a widget with Remind messages on the home page of my class content sites. The widgets can be found on the list in the upper right under your username.  


2. Twitter Widget

These widgets can be found in settings. You can make a variety of widgets to embed into your site. The one below is a current events list for my students.

We use Twitter for current events because it's the most up to date source for news (or almost any information). Plus, it can be easily customized.


3. YouTube Playlist

Making a playlist in YouTube is a piece of cake with the mobile app. Touch the plus sign (+) in the upper right and select or create a playlist. Copy the playlist embed code on the full version of YouTube (see GIF below), and paste it in your html editor. 




4. Pinterest Widget

If you haven't thought about searching Pinterest for teaching resources, you're missing out on more handpicked materials than you'll ever need. The benefit of Pinterest over searching Google is the value people with similar interests have already placed on resources.

The widget is great because your students don't need an account to access the materials.  

Follow Kevin's board Instructional Strategies and Technology on Pinterest.

5. Google Calendar

It's short work to manage several calendars from your smartphone or tablet. Use it to schedule due dates and assignments without booting your computer. Certain apps or devices allow you to add URLs and attachments, but those options are not consistent across platforms.


6. Slideshow (Google Slides)

Year after year, teachers refine their slide presentations with better content and instruction. Embed a Google slide presentation on your site and it will reflect the updates as you make them in Slides, which can be made with the mobile app.


7. Blog RSS

I used to have a blog for assignments. It was the easiest way to provide up-to-date information with attachments, links, videos, slides, and detailed explanations. If we didn't start using Google classroom, we would still use the blog. Students liked that they could access it with their smart devices.


8. Drive Folder

This is one of the quickest ways to share content. I usually link an image of a folder to the Drive folder. Just add files to the folder with the Drive app, and your website will reflect the update. 


Crowdsource

9. Padlet and Today's Meet

For receiving information or assignments fromstudents, Padlet and Today's Meet are really convenient if the content is safe to be public. We used Today's Meet to submit current events homework and Padlet to turn in group projects 
10. Quizlet

You can embed a single deck on your website if you would prefer users to stay on your site. Otherwise, sharing a link to a folder of decks is a lot less work and can be updated with the mobile app.




Tuesday, July 14, 2015

5 Steps to Crowdsourcing with the Drive App

Let's not act like much is learned by taking notes to a speaker presenting their slides. Sure, we can be inspired, but the amount of facts and knowledge that we walk away with is limited. That's, of course, unless we're involved in the exploration of the content as we learn – the key to engagement.


One of the ways I learned to engage my students is by having them make the slide presentations. The problem was that we needed the slides at the beginning of the unit, not the middle or end.

The other problem was that it took too much time. We solved both by using Google Drive, following these steps. 

1. Make and Share a Folder 

Label the folder according to the lesson or unit and class so students can find it quickly and without question. Make sure that the folder is shared via link with the editing option.


2. Find Images

Ask students to find images that interest them and relate to the topic. It's more important that they explore the topic or problem based what catches their eye before what is most accurate. This is because of the simple fact that we are emotional before we are logical. Embrace it in the learning process.


3. Drop Images in the Folder

The great thing about this activity is that you can do it with mobile devices. Open the folder and add the images from the device. It's that simple.    


4. Name the Images Accordingly

Like an English teacher demanding a specific heading on every paper handed in, the images must follow a naming convention. That part is up to you. I would write in on the board and keep it simple.

The alpha-numeric sorting in Drive will ensure that all of the images are grouped in the folder. The contributor's name is automatic, as is the date, so don't worry much about those details (image below).


5. Present the Images 

Who needs PowerPoint? When you open an image in the app (or full version), the slideshow viewer makes for a clean presentation tool. 


Bonus

Don't stop at pics, cartoons, and memes. Students can write a one-sentence summary, for example, and take screenshot to upload in the Drive folder. 

Remind them to crop it to maximize the text size. The image below was done with Google Keep, but docs, pages, or anything that types on a mobile device will work.



Saturday, July 11, 2015

4 EdTech Tools that Win Wars

Managing a classroom is like going to war. Okay, it's not that bad. I mean, there are critical needs that must be met for success.


A successful army needs four things: (1) Communication, (2) Supply, (3) Movement, and (4) Engage the Target – or at least that's a heuristic I teach my history students.

I'm not a war supporter. Who is? But I admire the regimentation of the military to the extent that it doesn't inhibit my students' imaginations.

Here's the battle we try to win everyday. But first, a bit of reconnaissance with our favorite search engine.

Recon

Google Search can expose our kids to the vast amount of information the worldwide web holds for the curious and productive. The problem is that we often don't access much beyond our "backyards."

A lot of people know the basics, like using quotation marks and commas with keywords. But what about using filters, like "site:"? Or using different top-level domains to access Google results for other countries?

Here's a post about routines for searching the Web. "6 Classroom Routines to Search Like a Ninja"

1. Communication


Kids like to text. In fact, text messaging is the most used app among smartphone users, according to pewinternet.org

Remind is the app to use. While maintaining phone number privacy, students and teachers (parents too!) can send and receive messages in a variety of ways, which is critical if you plan to achieve every mission objective without leaving anyone behind. 

Take a look at these resources.

2. Supply


Quizlet can be used for more than vocabulary. Try using it to organize concepts or things that need to be categorized. Most importantly, it's easy to grab a short link to send via Remind.

Other features include:

  • Share to social media or email.
  • Add images to card decks.
  • Choose from a variety of print options.
  • Import word lists and definitions.
  • Export to quizzes to Moodle (using GIFT format and a few tricks).
  • Auto-define.
  • Sign in with Google account (like all four apps on the list).
  •  ... and more.

Try "Collaborative Card Decks with Quizlet."

At this point some readers are thinking, "Why apps? Why not an LMS?" 
More than 85 percent of my students use their phones for connecting with people and learning. Why would I interrupt that routine? For those students who don't have smartphones, they often have other mobile devices or choose to use a computer. 
3. Movement


Google Drive is the most efficient way to move documents. Whether you're using it to access your files anywhere (with Internet), share and receive files with folders, or using it as the back end of a website, you won't find a more affordable and reliable cloud computing platform.

Let's talk moving ideas in a classroom setting. Students can add information to one class doc – using tables to delineate typing space – or add an image to a folder where the teacher can display all of them as a slide show. Who needs PowerPoint, anymore?  

Here are 10 Google Drive Hacks for Education.

4. Engage the Target


Verso App is the best platform for developing student voice. It's designed to flow with the critical thinking process and safeguards individual identity. The anonymity the app provides allows users to focus on the ideas, which is important when students are struggling with understanding the content and their personalities.

Like in an ESL classroom, all learners have to cope with an affective filter – the wall we place between the input and ourselves when the conditions produce anxiety amid low self-esteem or lacking motivation. More on that another time.  

Here are 15 Ways to Use Verso App.

Mission Completion!

Did we hit the target? Will we have to organize another mission? We ask the same questions when we review formative and summative assessment data.

If you're still turned off by the association with military and war, the original title was "4 Apps I Can't Live Without." Perhaps that one was better suited for my audience, but thinking about managing a classroom according to the four needs of an army was more fun for me.

Monday, July 6, 2015

10 Ways to Manage Cellphones in the Classroom

The chatter about cellphones or no cellphones needs to be redirected toward a conversation about classroom management. These devices are foreign to many educators (not really) and challenge the way we've always done it.


Try some of these strategies, and ask yourself if your decision is what's best for you or your students. 

1. Don't Put Them Away

Powering down is not what you want for students. Put them to work. The students are only on their phones because the way they're being taught isn't the way they want to learn. Give them something better to do or they'll find it on their own. 

2. Place Face Down

When I taught middle school percussion, it was hard to keep the fidgety little drummers quiet while I gave directions. My assistant band director came in one day and said, "Place the sticks on the stand and take three steps back." It worked perfectly. 

Placing the phone face down conveys that phones are acceptable when used at the right time.

3. Ask Questions to be Researched

We use our phones to look up information everyday. Why should it be any different in school? The great thing about using phones to research in school is that you'll get ten different sources in one minute that could lead to a discussion on evaluating sources.

Sure, Joey and Sue will finish early so they can sneak a Snapchat (or whatever they do). This is not much different than students finishing early and passing notes, doing work for another class, or chatting with a neighbor. It's not the phone's fault (see number 9).

4. Use Learning Apps 

If students have smartphones, they should be expected to use them for learning. Let's think about this. If they don't use their phones in a formal setting, they won't develop professional digital literacy skills. They won't have the social and emotional connection between their device and formalized work.

It's not too much to require them to have four apps on their phone. In fact, get their parents involved and the circle of stakeholders is complete.

My must-use apps are Remind, Google Drive, Quizlet, and Verso.

5. Encourage Parents to Try the Apps

Don't stop at explaining to parents about the apps their kids are using. Ask them to install them on their cellphones. Involving parents means they are included in their child's education. They want that and deserve it, too.  

6. The Basket

Our campus policy says that I can turn a student's phone into the office. That means they have to pay to get it back.

I don't like touching student property, so they place it in the basket when they don't heed the warning. Students can have their phone back when they need it for the lesson or at the end of class.

But I can count on one hand how many times this has happened in three years.

7. Say What You Mean, Don't Be Mean

If you treat anyone like they're not good enough, they will eventually realize that they can succeed at controlling your emotions through their misbehavior. Put away the ax you're trying to grind and remind yourself about how amazing your students are and that they are still kids.

They'll respect you for it, especially if they test you several times before holiday break and you maintain your composure with every response. You just might change someone's life.

8. Remind Students Who You Are

I've had to tell students over and over that although we do things a certain way in our class, they have to respect the ways of the other teachers and not throw it in their face that "Mr. Zahner lets us use our phones."

Coach them on those conversations. Ask them to try saying things like, "If we were allowed to use our phones to search Google, we could then share our responses on the board." I've learned that teachers who are resistant to hi-tech are more comfortable when the finished product is completed using low-tech.

It only takes one story from one individual who persuaded another teacher to let them use their phones before their respect for your rules becomes solidified. It's not the rules they respect. It's you!

9. Tell Tale Look

Students have a particular set of mannerisms that go with sneaking an unsanctioned use of devices. They look up and down and try to not look up and down by positioning their heads at a weird angle and moving their eyes as little as possible.

I can feel it when they do this. It's easy if you're paying attention. The important thing to remember is to not hassle them (see number 7). Let them reveal their poker face – if they have one.

10. Phones Do Not Distract 

I loath the looks people give me when I'm on my phone – perhaps reading or communicating with someone important, like my Mom. Why is it any different than reading a book? Or writing in a notebook?

People make it different. We are terrible self-regulators when it comes to mobile device use. Where do you think kids learned to walk and text? Adults are the worse offenders.

Be an upstander by modeling appropriate use of your smartphone, but please do not be negative about it. Address the behavior, not the device. 

Also read, "10 Reasons to Allow Cellphones in Classrooms." 

Resources (Very Good Resources)





Sunday, July 5, 2015

Off the Grid: Mixing Up HiTech and LowTech

The WiFi is down, again! "How do they expect me to use these digital tools if the network isn't working?" I've thought this on many occasions. Eventually, I was reminded that it's not the tool that makes it happen.


Make a new tool, or use and old one like paper. It loads really fast (once everyone has a piece). But enough with the tongue in cheek.

I prefer a mixture of paper and digital technology, regardless of the Internet connection. But this doesn't mean we share information differently. We place likes on paper and post to the walls of our classroom.

Don't underestimate the power of paper.


Here are a couple spaces we use in our classroom. Subscribe to my YouTube channel for more to come.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

15 Ways to Use Verso App

My first impression of Verso was that it would be a great way to introduce a lesson cycle. But as my students and I worked with the app, I realized that it can do so much more.


Here's a list of activities that support building authentic literacy skills. But first, a quick note on establishing expectations for responses and comments.


1. Visual Analysis

Analyzing images is a critical skill. It exercises a learner's ability to make observations and connect new information to prior knowledge. 

Provide a link to an image in Google Drive or Images and prompt learners to describe what they see and to explain what makes them say that. This sounds simple (because it is), but it's powerful. 


2. Text Summarization

Using evidence to support understanding is key to comprehension and constructing arguments.

Link a reading selection in the content area (at the top), and prompt learners to share a short part that interests them. Require that they share the location of their choice so the class (or group) can refer back to it during discussion. 

The nature of a text summarization is to build meaning in whatever order learners choose. Therefore, it's important that the activity leader points out connections to the main ideas. 

3. Inquiry-Based Learning

Whether it's a quote, image, or question – to name a few examples – prompt learners to write three (or more) questions that come to mind as they begin to understand the content piece. Each question should be a single response, which means each learner will respond at least three times. 

Make sure to establish an expectation for commentary. For example, I often require students to find between four and six responses to "like." This keeps the data accurate when determining which questions are most helpful.    

Take the data a step further by downloading a CSV to edit in Google Sheets as a class.  

4. Plus / Delta

Classrooms run on routines. Plus / Delta is a thinking routine my class uses to provide a structure for commenting on work shared by other classmates. 

It's another simple yet powerful strategy. Find one thing you like and explain why. Then, find one thing you would change and explain how and why.

This strategy exercises cooperation and a sense of proactive feedback that people can be so good at yet often choose otherwise. 


5. Jig Saw

Split up the paragraphs or sections of a selected text and require learners to summarize their section and explain how it relates to a bigger problem the lesson addresses.

As learners finish their response, they can comment by making connections between the part they read and the parts they did not. It's a great opportunity to request clarification, as well. Remind them to be specific about where the information can be found in the text.

6. "Yes, and ... "

This is another commentary routine – as opposed to "Yes, but ..." When learners use this stem, they end up building the conversation regardless of the discrepancies.


7. Identifying Similarities and Differences 

This high-yield strategy has been proven many times over from Sesame Street to Marzano. It's how we situate new knowledge in relation to what we already know.

It's important to make the response debatable. If the activity is to compare the interests of two characters, respondents will complete that part before including which interest was most critical to the development of each character.


8. Responsible Use

In a sense, Verso app is a simulation that allows us to train learners to respond to problems with an audience in wait, not unlike social media or an open discussion during a business meeting.

Everyone has made a post or two that they regret, right? What if our kids and colleagues develop a decorum that transfers to reading critically, writing responses to emails, and making useful and respectful social media contributions?

In the hands of a good teacher, Verso app can facilitate awareness of ethical behavior, which is something we all want for our kids.

9. Thesis Statements 

I start this process by instructing my students to write one sentence summaries that contain certain analytical components, such as one similarity and one difference or one continuity and one change. I don't even mention thesis statements until they're writing them according to the criteria in the standards.   

10. Not Brainstorming

Brainstorming inhibits thinking and creativity when it's done in a call-out fashion. Verso app is initially a quiet activity, so it provides thinking time that's not distracted by people talking and throwing out ideas.

What's more, the respondent anonymity takes away the potential for personal judgement, supporting the learner to safely take risks with their ideas and beliefs.

11. KWL at Once 

What do you know? What do you want to know? What did you learn?

The first two questions are usually in anticipation of a lesson, while the last one is a reflection. That's still a great way to do this activity. But think about how much more a group of learners can grow when all of the responses to these questions are available for discussion. 

12. "I used to think ... "

This is probably my favorite reflection stem because it adds a sense of evolution to the learning process. Usually the commentary is light on an activity like this one, so I require one comment and between four and six likes, which can be given to comments, as well.  

13. Think Global, Act Local

We want to save the world. Well, at least we talk about it a lot. What if learners researched the most important global issue and shared how the problem exists in our "backyard?" If kids are hungry in Africa or malnourished in Asia, where is that happening in your own city?

Responses could include a summary of the issue and a short proposal as to where the class could start to address the issue. Perhaps an issue with the most engagement from the group could become the topic of discussion for a service project. 

14. Evaluating Progress 

Learners can see their progress report and revisit the activities to see specific work that received more engagement and compare it to work that received less.

The new activity could require learners to respond with a summary of their analysis and evaluation, including a goal for improvement. Commentary may focus on establishing patterns of progress.  

15. Revisiting Activities

Looking back at activities that were completed at the beginning of a lesson cycle, or even months ago, allows learners to see how much they've improved. We did this at the end of the year to reflect on the semester.

My students found a lot of unanswered questions in the commentary, so that was our mission: answer the questions. They got right to work – searching google, asking neighbors, and reviewing other work they completed in class.

Why Verso? 

When we learn in an environment that allows us to document our thoughts in an atmosphere devoid of personal judgement, we can see the strength of our work in a social context. Verso points learners to the quality responses, allowing them to find their voice and grow more confident as contributors.