Define the Problem:
Last year, I found myself in a bind when creating my schedule. Thomson was moving to a 90 minute weekly PLC for all grade levels, and I was tasked with covering students for half of that time. I stared at the daunting content colors in front of me, realizing I had much more scheduled time with students on a weekly basis than I had in the past. At first, I tried to fill the time with a variety of tasks, but they didn’t seem to engage the students. These tasks involved all students working on the same thing, at the same time, with the same technology.
Passion Projects seemed to be the answer, so I decided to try this type of learning out with my 4th-6th graders. As I started to put all the pieces into place, I began to think I was crazy. How was I going to be able to manage a whole grade level that was working on different topics, at different stages in their project, with different technology tools? There was only one way to find out, so I took a risk and went for it.
As with anything new there come successes and challenges. I would have to say that my biggest success was the student engagement. At first, when I told them what we were going to do I didn’t get quite the response I wanted. They were moaning and groaning about having to do another research project. As the year went on I saw a huge change in my students. I rarely had to redirect students because they got to choose what tool to use and the topic they were most passionate about. I also found it to be a great way for students to collaborate with each other. I allowed students to use the following tools to show their learning, but didn’t limit them to these:
My biggest challenge was supporting and giving feedback on all the different projects. When I implement passion projects again this year, I will be very intentional about when and how I give feedback. Check out these resources on giving feedback while facilitating Passion Projects or Genius Hour in the classroom:
One thing I would advise is to have a way to track where students are in their projects because once you get this started they work at different speeds and it is hard to keep up with all of them. Some ideas and tools for how to manage many different projects at once include:
My biggest takeaway from this whole process was that our students needed to be risk takers. So many students were afraid to push the button and try something new because they were afraid they were going to break something. It took many conversations with them about being risk takers for them to finally see that they could do it. As a result of this learning, instead of library orientation this year, I tasked the students with creating a book (Book Creator) or a short video (PowToons) that explains different technology and library expectations. Doing this task pushed them to be risk takers from the moment they walked into the library this year. I know that there will be some growing pains when we begin our passion projects again this year, but that is the BEAUTY of education; you never know if you can do it unless you try!!!
Want More Passion Project Info?
Would you like more resources on starting Passion Projects in the classroom? Check out these articles and books!
John Hattie and Robert Marzano together are like peanut butter and jelly! Like oreos and milk! Like bees and honey! John Hattie released his research on educational strategies and their effect sizes in 2009. Since then he has updated and reworked his research to keep up with changing times. Robert Marzano has been writing books on education for about 25 years related to best-practices and research-based strategies. But where do these 2 giants in the education world agree? And how does technology support all of this?
In an article published by Shaun Killian, the author lists 8 strategies that both Hattie and Marzano agree on. So it would seem that this list should be paid extra attention. This list includes things like “clear focus for the lesson”, “give feedback” and “get students working together”. It would also seem that in 2018, we should elevate how technology can support these 8 powerful strategies.
In the table below you can see the 8 strategies, a brief description of that strategy and some ideas on how technology can support those strategies. Technology can be a powerful tool when combined with research-based teaching! What other tech ideas do you have to support these 8 strategies?
"Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results." ~John Dewey.
Digital discussions have become regular practices in our everyday lives. From text messages and social media posts to blog and YouTube comment streams there are continued learning and sharing opportunities with global connections on a regular basis. Many of us are often hyper-active in daily digital discussions as we connect with friends, family, and world-wide audiences.
As we continue to implement the Jeffco Generations skills and Transform Tasks, digital dialogue and discussion opportunities present engaging opportunities to authentically develop skills and concepts beyond the basic acquisition of facts. Through participation in digital discussions with global audiences we are exposed to the challenges of content application, concept justification, and social understandings in our ever changing world.
The New York Times provides a number of incredible resources to educators and students for elevating digital discussion opportunities that engage learners in relevant and meaningful topics. Through The Learning Network, they began in 2014 with 200 Prompts for Argumentative Writing which grew to 650 Prompts for Argumentative Writing in 2016 and is now over 1000 Writing Prompts for Students in 2018. The prompts are broken up by topic areas such as Social Media and Smartphones, Gender Issues, Dating and Sex, Music, Literature and Art, Being a Teenager, School, Health and Nutrition, Science and Animals, Government and Leadership, Personal Character and Morality, and more. Under each topic is a list of questions that are linked to a short articles followed by more specific questions for students to consider and answer. The list of 650 prompts are also available via a handy PDF for easy access and sharing.
So how does this apply to our daily instruction as educators? Francis Bacon said, "Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man". Reading, writing and discussion are a critical components of our everyday learning and growth processes. As educators we know high quality instruction in any content area or discipline contains regular opportunities for learners to engage in reading, writing, and discussion to further develop critical and creative thinking skills.
Using the resources above, learners can be given a prompt and the associated article to read. Following the reading, learners can engage in a short writing activity to gather thoughts and develop ideas. Learners can then share their thoughts with others and ideas to seek feedback for further development and discussion. Some ideas might include:
Reading, writing and dialogue can and should take place in all disciplines, not just literacy. For example, math teachers can leverage prompts like #327 which centers around a distribution graph of how many A's schools hand out or #289 "Are You Afraid of Math?" and #290 "Do We Need A Better Way To Teach Math?". Science teachers can leverage the wide variety of prompts in Science & Health (1,066-1,146) involving Science and The Environment, Animals and Pets, or Exercise and Health. Art teachers have a vast array to choose from in Arts and Entertainment (75-248). Whichever discipline you teach, there can be resources for you to leverage to support students with engaging in reading, writing, and dialogue.
How will you leverage digital discussions as a way to Transform the Task and support learners with developing the Jeffco Generations skills? The Jeffco Ed Tech team is available to support you in thinking through ways you can leverage reading, writing and discussion with students in your instruction. We would also love to hear from you around how you are already leveraging digital discussions or have done so in the past. We learn a great deal from examples and experience so we invite you to share with us as we continue to grow together.
The Jeffco Ed Tech team is excited to announce our Fall 2018 online book studies.
K-2 can, too! Young children are naturally curious about the world around them. They love to explore and play; in fact, that’s how they learn! The Google Apps for Littles book study will provide educators with ideas on how to get students playing and exploring using the G Suite. Empower your littles and shift your thinking to believe that even the youngest kids can do more with technology!
Interested in learning more about our Jeffco Ed Tech book studies? Want to register? Looking for more professional learning opportunities from our team? Click on the image below for details.
We hope to learn alongside of you this Fall!
August 9th Learning Day
Due to the overwhelming success of this event, we want to make sure that all educators have access to the learning. Attached is a document with the course descriptions and linked presentations!
A huge thank you goes out to Golden High School for hosting our event, as well as events for several other departments in the district. We are very thankful to all of the schools who partner with us throughout the year to help us deliver learning to so many educators!
This year we are excited to share that we have 2 new members joining our Ed Tech team!
Jamie joins the team as a former Jeffco Instructional Coach with a passion for technology. She’s returning to work after taking a year off to spend time with her family. Jamie will serve as a point-of-contact for most of our middle schools this year.
Nick joins us from Aurora Public Schools where he worked in a similar role as Ed Tech and Personalized Learning support for a wide range of schools in the district. We are excited to tap into his great wealth of knowledge and expertise. Nick will serve as a point-of-contact for most of our high schools this year.
A new year also comes with some exciting new transitions for our amazing teammates.
We wish Karrie continued success as she transitions from an Ed Tech Specialist position to a Digital Teacher Librarian position at Deer Creek Middle School. We will certainly miss her many talents on our team and feel fortunate that she will continue to make a difference for the Deer Creek community.
Amanda has accepted a position as a Digital Literacy and Instructional Coach at Thunder Vista P-8 in Adams 12. She spent countless evenings and her summer break working hard to open this brand new school. We wish her the very best in her exciting new adventure!
Rather than support a sub-set of our schools (as she’s done for the past few years), Marnie will be charged with developing a strategic vision for Computer Sciences working in close partnership with schools, central departments, communities, CDE and vendors in shaping this exciting work.
We are excited to welcome Julie back from maternity leave. As an Ed Tech Specialist, she will continue as a point-of-contact for a subset of our elementary schools this year.
Amie will move from a Title I-funded position to one that supports all of Jeffco. She will serve as a point-of-contact for a subset of our elementary schools this year.
Rounding out the Ed Tech team are continuing team members:
"Make something that does a thing." This was the challenge put out to 10th grade students at Golden High School by their teacher, Mr. Gitner. Students were engaged in a very broad PBL. The sky was the limit. Their task was simply to create something that does something.
Gitner said of the task, "If I do not explicitly name a tool for them, at the end they create something that they feel is important. It ended up being a passion project where I just became the coach." The students went out and decided what they wanted to learn and found the right tool for the job. “What you know isn't what is important anymore, it's what you can do," says Gitner. At the very heart of this task was the foundation of student choice.
The results from the students was phenomenal. One student got her artwork on a brochure that fights to end violence against women. Another student created a mockumentary. This student learned a valuable work-life lesson. He says of the leadership within the project,
“What I really learned is how difficult it is get people together without intrinsic motivation. Bringing people together and giving them a task is not enough. It takes true leadership to engage others." This is the essence of The Jeffco Generations skill, Collaboration and Leading by Influence.
Last year, Gitner created a task called "Walk in Someone Else's Shoes". He had students create Trello Boards. A Trello board is a list of lists, filled with cards, used by you and your class. It's a lot more than that, though .Trello has everything you need to organize projects of any size. Open a card and you can add comments, upload file attachments, create checklists, add labels and due dates, and more. Here is a video Andrew made for his students. You can also access his example of a Trello Board here. You can find this lesson on the Bridge to Curriculum in the Teacher Resource Library.
Andrew started his school year by reading Bold School this summer. This book was written by Jeffco parent, Weston Kieschnick .
This book overlays SAMR with Rigor and Relevance. Andrew says he creates experiences for students that span the SAMR model, but spends a fair amount of time creating experiences for students that asks them to Augment. "Students can't always be in Modification. Student experiences should span the range of the SAMR model." The Jeffco Ed Tech Team will be hosting a Bold School Book Study in the Fall. More information coming soon!
So what is next for Gitner's 10th graders? A phone scavenger hunt at the Clyfford Still museum. Students will use their phones to complete tasks around the museum.
It's time to engage your Tweeting skills as we kick off the school year with the first Ed Tech Twitter challenge of 2018! So, grab your coworkers and challenge yourself to get connected and grow your Professional Learning Network!
Here's your Challenge... Should You Choose to Accept it.
Beginning August 15th (the first day of school), log into Twitter each day and complete the following activities, using #JeffcoChat in each of your Tweets. You may also choose to include #JeffcoGenerations or mention us (@JeffcoEdTech), as well.
Jeffco educators who complete all 8 challenges can be entered to win a 3 month premium Pear Deck subscription! Visit this Google Form by midnight on August 27th and upload a screenshot of each of your Tweets! We will draw the winner on the 28th.
Need Help getting STarted?
Last year, we hosted 2 different Twitter challenges to teach educators how to start using Twitter to build their professional learning networks. So, if you are new to Twitter, check out the resources below, before you get started.
You’ve almost made it. It’s the final stretch. And it’s starting to feel a little bit like survivor out here.
We know your plate is full. You’re teaching, grading, and closing up shop. But just as you clean and close out your physical space, don’t forget to clean up your digital space too. Your Google Drive is like a giant filing cabinet. Use the same habits in your digital space as you would in your physical space.
We’ve curated 5 easy ways to help you jump start your Google Drive as you head out the door for summer.
1. Clean Sweep
Does the thought of opening your Google Drive stress you out? Perhaps you’ve got a long list of files that just need to be organized in a folder, but you have no idea where to start. Silence that visual noise by moving all of those files into a folder!
2. Brush up on your Driving skills
Now that you’ve got that cleaned up, start exercising some healthy digital organizational habits. Need a basic lesson on Google Drive? Check out our Google Drive Multimedia Text Set to jump start your Driving skills.
3. Create visual interest
4. DO not Enter
Never go to the “Shared with Me” folder. This folder will never be neat and organized because it is a continual collection of everything that has been shared with you. Looking for something that was shared with you? Just use the Search bar at the top of your Drive. You can click the drop down arrow on the right to narrow your search by file type, specific person, and even owned by you. You can add it to your Drive when you search.
5. Quantum mechanics
Do you need a Doc to live in 2 places? Perhaps you created a math assessment during the PLC’s. This document lives in a shared folder with your team. However, you would also like the document to live in your math content folder. Great news! This IS possible and it’s pretty easy!
Gear up for next year
Looking for more opportunities to learn more about Google Apps and tools? Whether you're listening to a podcast on a road trip, reading by the pool or ready for face-to-face learning, we've got an opportunity for you!
LISTEN: Kasey Bell of Shake Up Learning and Matt Miller from Ditch that Textbook join forces to create a weekly 30ish minute podcast. Google Teacher Tribe provides teachers with practical tips and tricks for using the G Suite and other Google tools for instruction.
WATCH: EDU in 90 is a video series by Google for Education. These short videos provide just in time learning regarding updates, programs and resources. Subscribe today!
READ: Prefer to read for your Professional Learning? The Ed Tech Team has a variety of books to help you get where you want to go. Here are some of our favorites:
ATTEND: There are also a number of face-to-face opportunities for Jeffco employees to learn more about Google. We hope to see you there!
Our school makerspace has all sorts of cool things- robots, Little Bits circuits, Makey-Makey kits, cardboard, old math materials, rubber bands, paper clips, art supplies, yarn for days, and the list goes on. You name it, we have it. The problem is that these materials have sat in the library untouched by many, and tinkered by few. The only purpose this makerspace served was that it was an attractive exhibit for parents considering our school.
I came to realize that we didn’t actually have a makerspace, and all these materials were just a waste of space.
An official definition by Wikipedia says, “A Rube Goldberg machine is a deliberately complex contraption in which a series of devices that perform simple tasks are linked together to produce a domino effect in which activating one device triggers the next device in the sequence. “ After watching this music video, my mind began racing and this was my “ah-ha” moment. We needed Rube Goldberg in our makerspace. I asked the art teacher at my school if he would like to co-facilitate a Rube Goldberg after-school club, and he agreed! This club (for kids in grades 3-6) has pivoted my makerspace into what it actually should be, and is changing the culture of how the kids use this space.
The kids plan backwards, one contraption at a time. It has been hard for the adults to refrain from “jumping in” and solving the problems, so we are practicing the “Yes, And” protocol. What’s been so amazing about this protocol is that the kids come up with solutions that the adults didn’t even see. The kids are driving the inquiry. We’ve done a ton of filming in slow motion so that we can see just where the contraption went wrong. This video is a great example of how filming in slow motion can help pinpoint the problem. In the many times in which the kids failed, the whole group stops to willingly participate in collaborative problem solving. This has been the finest example of failing forward I’ve ever seen.
If you are looking for a way to kickstart your makerspace, Rube Goldberg is your “in!” Our makerspace looks chaotic now, and it’s beautiful. There are tons of resources online, but my advice is to watch a few Youtube videos, and let the kids take it from there!
Back in my high school years, each ELA teacher required that students write a variety of essays. These essays were scored, entered into the grade book, passed back to us for a quick review of our grade, and then saved in our teachers' filing cabinets. At some point, usually in the late spring, the teachers returned all of our essays and asked us to pick the 3 best samples to create a portfolio. I'd make the recommended changes my teacher had listed and hit print -- good enough. Knowing that my teacher was going to be the only one who would be reviewing my work (again) did little to motivate me to think critically and improve my writing. Usually, my score did not change.
"If students are sharing their work with the world, they want it to be good. If they are just sharing it with you, they want it to be good enough." - Rushton Hurley
In my college years, after all my learning had been finished, I was again asked to build a portfolio as the cumulating task. After hours of scrapbooking and collecting artifacts, I had a beautiful 3" binder full of lesson plans, photos, and beautifully designed (and protected) pages only my professor would ever see. My hard work would never be looked at by a future employer or anyone in my industry. Although I was proud of the final product, much of my time felt wasted and little was actually learned by doing this task, with the exception of becoming a better scrapbooker.
If you think back to your educational years, I'd bet you have a similar experience building portfolios to demonstrate learning. Creating a portfolio of student work can be a very beneficial activity for both the student and the intended audience, but how we build them can be better than what I experienced. To do this, we can consider having students create digital portfolios. Essentially, digital portfolios are the same as a traditional portfolio, but what differs is the manner in which the learning is presented. What makes digital portfolios relevant is that they give students the ability to demonstrate growth of learning, skills, and reflection over time to an authentic audience. This authenticity helps build confidence and a sense of achievement for the learner as they share their work with the world. It also encourages them to go beyond "good enough." In secondary years, students can develop a brand or image for who they are as they apply for continuing education and seek employment opportunities.
"Digital portfolios aren’t just a way to archive work—they’re also an excellent vehicle for students to reflect on their growth and learning." - Avra Robinson
3 Types of Digital Portfolios
The Google Infused Classroom, by Holly Clark and Tanya Avrith, outlines 3 different types of digital portfolios that could potentially be created by students in any grade level or subject, as a demonstration of learning. If you haven't read this book, it's a great one to add to your library. Here is a brief synopsis of the different portfolio types:
The Process Portfolio:
The purpose of the process portfolio is to make students' thinking visible by documenting and reflecting on learning. Throughout this process, students create, reflect, receive feedback, and publish. Students' very best work is mixed in with work that shows improvement over time.
The Showcase Portfolio:
The showcase portfolio highlights a student's very best work. This type of a portfolio is an assessment of student learning. The students create and then publish only their final products. The 3" binder portfolio from my college years was an example of a showcase portfolio.
The Hybrid Portfolio:
As you might guess, a hybrid portfolio is a combination of a process and showcase portfolio. In this portfolio, students create, reflect, receive feedback, then select one (or more) of their favorite pieces to share with a global audience. A hybrid portfolio can be a great way to carry learning forward from year to year as a student progresses through grades. My first experience with the high school essays was a hybrid portfolio.
Digital Portfolio Tools
Although there are many options for creating digital portfolios, the new Google Sites and Seesaw are two of our favorite tools for this purpose.
"It sounds a little extreme, but in this day and age, if your work isn't online, it doesn't exist." - Austin Kleon
A few last thoughts...
The purpose of digital portfolios is to create an opportunity to share learning with a larger and more authentic audience. Sometimes this can feel frightening when thinking about student data and privacy. Instead of limiting an audience and locking down a portfolio, consider having students use their first initial and last name, or just a first name, to keep student work global but their identities private. Also, remind students not to share personal information such as their address or phone number on their portfolios.
As you are considering ways to integrate digital portfolios into the student learning experience, it is important to remember that not all artifacts have to be digital. Snapping a photo of a physical piece of evidence, or recording a video of a student speaking, is a great way to allow the physical and digital worlds to collide and create a bigger picture of what a student can do!
Want to Know more?