Saturday, October 31, 2015

7 Steps to Supporting Learning with Quizlet

Her eyes welled and my heart broke. Just the mention of the word can set off test anxiety for some of my students. This time, the save came in the form of a compromise through technology. She agreed to review the vocabulary on Quizlet and take a practice test.


The next morning, she couldn't wait to tell me how well she did on her practice quiz. I checked out the practice tracking, and her classroom experience that day was everything you could want from a teenager struggling with a fleeting self-esteem – the kind that turns the world dark every chance it gets.

Why Quizlet?

I have always loved Quizlet. It's great for printing card sorts, quizzes, and digital study aids. I've even used it in lieu of a slide presentation. The app works great on all devices, and it's easy to share decks, folders, and track progress in classes.

Then, I discovered that you can record your own voice for 30 seconds each card. Making videos has been the way to flip classes for many years now, but this is much quicker. Plus, try making a quiz automatically from a video or a card sort.

Here's what I do.

1. Make a Deck

You can make a deck from scratch or search Quizlet for one that meets your needs. I often search first because there's usually something that may only need a few taken away or a few added to be complete.


2. Import Terms

Take your old vocabulary lists or quizzes and import the terms. It saves time, and the site guides you through the process by design.


3. Auto Define

Here's another time saver. Once you've spent the 15 seconds it takes to import your list of terms, click the auto define search icon on the far right to select a definition that works for your students. You can still edit the one you choose, and make sure the languages are set for the term and definition.


4. Add Images

The image option is great in the classroom and for homework. Sometines I use the deck in lieu of a slide presentation because the images switch to full screen when you click on them.


5. Record Narration

The text can be read automatically by a programmed voice. You can also record your own voice up to 30 seconds. I like this feature because it gives me the ability to remind students about the context of the word they are learning. The possibilities with this feature are very exciting. It's not complicated. Play with it.


6. Share the Deck

Quizlet let's you share directly to social media, Google Classroom, a Quizlet folder, or class on Quizlet. I use the classes and folders because the users will know where to find the decks.


7. Track Student Progress

This is the best. When students practice on Quizlet, the data is tracked for each student, game, and individual term. I often start a class with a review of the class summary. The terms are grouped and listed by achievement. Think about what this can do for learners who need to develop a sense of priority. It's great immediate feedback.



Saturday, October 24, 2015

Flip Your Class with Flipagram

Who has time to make a video for each lesson? For most flipped classrooms, it takes about three years to make all of the videos you'll need. That was true until I started using Flipagram. 

Okay, it's not the best quality, but I can make a video with images and voice narration with my phone. From the time I choose the images and record the narration to the upload directly to YouTube, a 5 to 10 minute video takes 15  minutes.

Here's what I do.

1. Make a New Flipagram


2. Add Images or Video




3. Establish a Sequence


4. Record Narration


5. Finalize the Video


6. Share Your Video


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Follows and Clicks: Putting a Number on Engagement

My students found my Twitter account. It's not like I was hiding it. I just didn't want to endorse some of the unhealthy behaviors social media can draw from the most innocent users.

"Wow! Check out how many followers he has."



My first thought was, "Yes, and I follow many people, too." Instead, I held back because the students seemed like they were having a productive conversation without my interference.

"Wait! Look at all of the retweets."

This time, I asked what was more important: How many followers? or How much engagement? It got me thinking about YouTube and ad sales and all kinds of decisions we make because of the chance to be accepted by lots of people.

The class discussion went into some current events and digital citizenship best practices, but I kept reminding the students about the importance of quality engagement over quantity of clicks and likes.

Here's what I came up with for reflecting on my social media journey and best practices.

1. Notifications are off on my phone. 

It became too much to resist, even when it was out of sight. At first, a quick peek seemed harmless, but it soon became a burgeoning distraction.

Now, I engage with others on social media and email when I set aside time to give them quality time. Even then, it's hard to connect deeply on every idea, mention, comment, or interesting article.

2. Connecting with people through conversation is more powerful than clicks.

This was the message I hoped my students would take away. I believe that they can be taught social norms embedded in reflections-type discussions like the one on social media described above. Perhaps they make it a goal to talk with a particular few people at a social engagement or about certain topics rather than bouncing around to catch everyone's ear – even for a fleeting moment.

3. Be yourself. 

Isn't that what this post is about? I want my students to be themselves in person and online. 

I've learned that people want to read about my experience using a learning tool – even if they already know how to use it – simply to gain another perspective. I'm the same way. We collect our tricks of the trade pieces at a time from practitioners, which is why so many educators love social media like Twitter.

4. Your Voice Matters!

Todd Nesloney (@techninjatodd) and George Couros (@gcouros), among others, talk about how important it is to tell your stories and to encourage our students to do the same. Maybe our stories are similar to other people's, and that's the beauty of sharing the story. It gives people a chance to relate to one another.

5. Show your work.

People want to see what others do. This could be lesson plans, a video for instruction, photos of student work samples, or a reflection video. Long or short, the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the things classroom walls block from view. The Internet and all of the tools we have can flatten those walls.

6. Be honest.

Why wouldn't we be, right? What I mean here is that it's okay to tell a story about time when things did not go so well. In fact, I read those stories to the end. Why? Because I want that person to win. I want to win. I want my students to win. And the inroad to success is honesty, always!

7. Use hashtags.

Grouping information and labeling it appropriately is one of those skills my students develop during their time with me. It helps organize and focus information for something as academic as a thesis statement or as recreational as an opinion a new movie #NoMoreSequels. 

8. Participate in Twitter Chats.

This is a great place to find people who are like you and others who challenge you. Either way, you are likely to grow from the variety of perspectives.

9. If you like it, share it!

A lot of content is free these days. I think we owe it to the creators and potential consumers to share good content. In fact, the more we share good content, te better the search engines become at giving good content priority.

10. Be friendly. 

You're never too important to respond to someone's comment or follow a fellow educator, musician, engineer, or whatever you are.

Why Twitter?

This post was spurred by a conversation about Twitter. It got me thinking about how Twitter allows users to share bits of information that guide people on their path. 

It being that time of year, I couldn't help but make the correlation to birds flying south for the winter in V formation. Scientists believe the formation shares updraft and therefore conserving energy during the long flight. 

If even in draft form, share with others if only for the chance that our journey may do more with the energy we conserve.  

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Supporting ELLs with Google Apps

It's been three years since teaching sheltered English language learners, and I often think about how different the experience would be with the digital tools I currently use. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to tutor an ELL over the summer and got to try some things.


We started off with some pre-assessment and reading activities. It was through identification of trouble words that we found Google Translate and Images to be helpful tools. 

Here's what we did.

Google Translate

Finding the right word can be tough. Although bilingual dictionaries are very useful, using Google Translate and thinking critically about the results can increase the benefit of translation. But these are skills that students still need to learn under the guidance of a good teacher because, as we know, literal translations can be problematic.

The student was preparing for his fourth attempt at an engineering license exam. When we went through some of the content, he understood the concepts very well. Reading for understanding was his struggle.

Here's our process that ultimately helped him to move beyond his affective filter.
  1. Select a chunk of content for the learner to analyze for troubling or unfamiliar words (any words, not just content-related), and underline or otherwise mark them for study.
  2. The learner then writes a prediction for what he thinks each word means.
  3. Use Google Translate to look up the words and discuss the different possibilities in the primary language. This is an opportunity for the student to teach the teacher, which is critical for building a healthy atmosphere for learning. This conversation should be misty English, of course.
  4. Prompt the learner to use context clues from the selected chunk to determine the meaning of the English word.
Most discussions will lead to an understanding of the word. For the words that are really tough or unfamiliar, incorporate Google Images.


Google Images

Maybe the learner is close to understanding the context of a word and is still unsure. Teach them to routinely look up the word on google Images to make a visual connection with the context they may already understand. 


Using Google Images like this is a great way to move toward not needing to translate for understanding.

More Tools


Consider other tools that support ELLs. Perhaps it's an extension or a tool within an app that makes learning content in English more accessible. 

Chrome extension Speak It! 

Quizlet reads it to you and allows teachers to record their voice for each card. Students like hearing their teacher's voice. 

Google Docs and the ability for live commenting. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

10 Tips About Google Forms for Learning

One of the things teachers do best is collecting evidence. We survey students about their knowledge and use the results to provide feedback to students as well as make adjustments to instruction.


Google Forms is a great way to do this efficiently. Here are 10 things to consider.

1. Multiple choice

Before you get discouraged by the labor involved in transferring your questions from a perfectly good document format, consider this trick. 

Copy all of the answer choices at once and paste them into the first "option." You'll find that the hard breaks are acknowledged and Forms will separate them automatically.


2. Written response

Why shuffle through papers or bring stacks home when you can grade student work on Google Sheets?


3. Scale

This tool is great for reflection. A simple question to gather data about student confidence can give you insight into the emotional experience of your students.  

4. Grid

Need to sort a long list of attributes among a few categories? I often use the grid item for identifying cause and effect, fact and opinion, or making rubrics. 


5. List of Traits

Use the checklist item for collect data for lab reports or characteristics of landforms, to name a couple. This would provide data to analyze for similarities and differences. 

Part of the exercise may be to have students make their own checklist based on a bit research and some predictions.

6. Image Analysis

Add an image to the form. Follow it up with questions that guide analysis. The debrief could include projecting the results (in sheets) on the screen.


7. Video Response

Flipping your classroom? Forms is a great way to gather responses to video guide questions. The video can be embedded in the form as easy as an image.


8. Flubaroo

I've tried several ways to quickly collect student responses. Forms is the best way, and Flubaroo is a great add on to Sheets that will grade the responses. 

The steps are few and simple. Try it out.


9. Change the Theme

I like to add an image to the header. It gets us all mentally prepared to address the topics.


10. Collect Questions

It's impossible to learn without asking questions. Use Forms to collect your students' thought process so the inquiry can be accessed for instruction.

Once you and your students get comfortable with this, an entire unit could be guided by student questions. In other words, they will come up with the pattern instead taking a handout from the teacher.