“The way a team works as a whole determines success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.” - Babe Ruth
We all know Babe Ruth is talking about the great American sport of baseball in this quote, but the same could easily be said about Jeffco Public Schools. Our district is filled with so many key players: thoughtful teachers, amazing administrators and second-to-none staff members; however, unless we are all working #BetterTogether, then we aren’t meeting our potential worth.
When it comes to solving district-level technology problems, it truly takes a diverse team of players to make sure we are meeting the needs of our superstars: our students. Some of Ed Tech's closest team players in this work are our colleagues in IT. Every day Ed Tech and IT partner together to ensure that students are at the center of every technology-based decision.
Simply put, “Learning happens better when we work together.” - Tracy Dorland.
10 Ways your Jeffco Ed tech and IT Teams are #BetterTogether
Share your #JEffcoBetterTogether STory
We would love for you to share your success stories of how your school, Jeffco Ed Tech, and Jeffco IT have worked to be #JeffcoBetterTogether! Submit your story below or share your ideas on our social media accounts! Be sure to use the #JEFFCOBetterTogether hashtag and tag @JeffcoEd Tech @JeffcoIT and @TeamJeffco!
This blog post is by Tracy Peronard, a math teacher at Dakota Ridge High School. She has had a fascinating career track and shares some amazing insights into how Book Creator can be used for creative instruction and to set examples for students when using Jeffco Digital Tools.
Tracy has been teaching in Jeffco for nine years, eight of which have been at Dakota Ridge. She is from Atlanta, GA. and has a BS in Management from Georgia Tech. Tracy also completed a post-baccalaureate program at Georgia State University in Secondary Mathematics Education and is working to finish her Masters in Mathematics in the fall. Tracy and her husband moved to Littleton, CO. in 1998 where she was a stay at home mom for the first few years. In 2001, she went to work for the Lakewood Police Department as an Investigative Technician. She then left the LPD in 2010 and returned to the classroom. Her son graduated from Dakota Ridge in 2011 and her daughter graduated from Lakewood High School in 2014. She likes to run, play soccer, and go to the gym.
Tracy currently teaches trigonometry and Integrated Math 3. The Math 3 class is comprised entirely of juniors who are working on a math Capstone Project to fulfill the new graduation requirement. Tracy uses technology almost everyday in her math classroom. Thank you Tracy for sharing your expertise with us!
Dakota Ridge High School went 1:1 three years ago. I was excited that my students would each have a device of their own. I dove head first into the technology pool. Despite a lot of groaning from my geometry students, I had them use Geogebra for many tasks that once had been paper and pencil lessons and activities. By the end of the first six weeks, most students were able to successfully use the technology that I presented to them. Through Google Classroom, I provided links to various resources for my students. Since Chromebooks were new for both myself and my students, there were some bumps along the way. My students let me know what was good and more importantly what was bad.
This school year, I started teaching Trigonometry. The school has a set of books that the students can use in the classroom but the students cannot take the textbooks home. I saw students taking pictures of problem sets from the book. They did not take pictures of any of the examples, definitions, or formulas. I also noticed that students rarely used the textbook if they had access to the material electronically.
Nick Steinmetz (Jeffco Ed Tech Specialist) and our DTL Robin Luster, did professional development training at the start of this school year that included a brief overview of the new digital tools that were available throughout Jeffco. Book Creator was one of those tools. Initially, I was not interested. Nick used the example of English teachers using Book Creator; and I thought how fun it would be to have my math students write pages of a math book. From that "aha" moment came a spark. What if I wrote a book for my students?
Trigonometry is a one semester class. The first unit covers some topics that I taught my Honors Geometry students. I knew that I had some electronic resources that I wanted to share with my students; so I decided that I would write a book for this first unit. I worried that the book might flop, but I had not invested a lot of time writing a book covering only one unit. I decided not to start Unit 2 until I had feedback from the students.
The best part about writing an eBook is that you can include links to Geogebra activities, Khan Academy practice problems, and my own videos showing how to do select problems. The other advantage to putting all the resources into a book was that students did not have to search Google Classroom to find one old video or link. I watched a YouTube video to learn more about how to use Book Creator, then I started writing.
This is a snapshot from the Unit 1 book. It has a link to a Geogebra activity and an example video about Coterminal Angles.
Like all new tools, there was a learning curve. I clicked on every button to see what would happen. Sometimes, I discovered things by accident. The first few pages were slow, but by the time I had written the material for the first lesson, I felt fairly competent. I was hooked. I worked on the book on and off for a few days before school started. Once it was complete, I was proud of myself.
It did not matter how enamored I was of the Trigonometry Unit 1 book, because the true test was whether or not the students found value in it. I put a link to the book on Google Classroom and told the students that it was there. Not only did the book contain the Google Slides presentation that I would use in class but it had so much more, including homework for each lesson. Below is the Google Classroom post I showed my students when I introduced them to the book.
When it was time for the first test, the book became a valued resource to some of the students. I knew that some students would not use it, but my hope was that a few students would. Much to my delight, I had students ask if I was going to write a book for the next unit. That was all I wanted to hear. You can see the Unit 1 book here.
Since the first book, I have written one for each unit of Trigonometry and they have been easy to revise. The students like the interactivity of the book and students who want to work ahead now have a resource available so they can be self-paced. I use the same language when I talk in class as what is written. The two biggest sells for writing an eBook are that I am not trying to fit my way of teaching to a textbook that is 20 years old; and that I am presenting material to my students in a format that is tailored to their way of learning.
A trend on the rise as we go 1:1
making the why tangible
Planning and hosting the event
The tech committee met and created a plan for offering a variety of sessions in an evening setting at school. We surveyed the staff to see who could/would present and who would be willing to be a “roamer/helper” in each room to provide help through this process. With the help of the district Ed Tech team and Chris Paschke - Executive Director of Data Privacy and security, we provided a night full of opportunities for parents to learn how their kids are learning digitally. We had the library open throughout the night as a “Genius Bar” to provide on-demand help with their own technology, questions/answers, etc.
The evening was then split into two sessions with multiple options during each session - Google Classroom 101, Advanced Google Classroom, SeeSaw, Digital Wellness, and Data Privacy and Security (presentation not available).
Reflections after the event
We had families fill out an "exit ticket" before they left the event.
Looking at our feedback, here are some suggestions our families gave us to increase attendance next year:
Some of our own ideas for next time:
Ed Tech's Family Technology university cohort
At Governor’s Ranch Elementary, the Digital Teacher Librarian, Rachel McKenzie has been using WeVideo with several groups of students. Recently, Ms. McKenzie had her 2nd grade WIN group use WeVideo to explain their understanding of severe weather.
They started with hurricane research, coming up with some guiding questions together about what they would need to know to do a weather broadcast (wind speed, common locations, etc) and then she had the kids look through library books and resources she sent them in Google Classroom to research. They organized with thinking maps. They used the research to build their script for the video, trying to put realistic facts into the video that were inspired by their research. They watched weather forecasts on YouTube so that they could try and use similar vernacular, such as "back to you in the studio!"
Ms. McKenzie and the students wrote the script together with the students dictating what they wanted to say. They did a lot of table reads and practiced the script everyday for about a week.
Kids decided what props they needed and then started filming! The students learned about using a green screen and determined what backgrounds were needed in order to make the video look authentic. Once they were ready, Ms. Mackenzie filmed each student in front of a green screen.
Using a Green Screen
After filming, students were able to collaborate on the video and decide what they wanted their post production video to look like. Ms. McKenzie, with student input, edited the video, added transitions and captions and then had the students give their critiques. Once the students chimed in, the video was completed. Finally, the group showed it to their classmates and community so they could see their learning. This lesson was a great way to show how WeVideo can be used to help synthesize learning and allow students to show their understanding through their own creations. The students stated that they loved having choice in their project. They got to decide what to research and how to create the video. They said it was fun, engaging, and even though it was a lot of work, they really learned a great deal. One student said that it was really cool to come to WIN and they were so excited to share with friends and family.
Channel 189 News Severe Weather report
One of the district provided digital tools this year is Seesaw. This is a powerful tool that allows students to demonstrate their learning through drawing, voice recording, taking videos/pictures and so much more. Teachers gain insight to student understanding instantly. Families can also see their child’s work and communicate directly to the school.
Students in this class also use the recording/video features to share their thinking and learning. Emily finds student recordings the most exciting feature of Seesaw, “I like how I can tell what students are thinking one by one. I can watch their videos at a later time and make adjustments to instruction and developing groups.I do this on an almost daily basis to pull groups for phonics differentiated lessons.”
Within Seesaw, students also share videos and comment on one another’s work. Another feature that Emily has found helpful is the Seesaw Digital Citizenship printable posters. “I teach students how to give purposeful comments that are specific to work. They can give positive feedback or comments using the sentence starters I found on Seesaw.”
Emily and her 2nd grade team will be using the Seesaw Drawing feature to Create and Reflect as a tool for their IEG in which students share their learning at a DOK 2 or above. They are currently solving math problems and verbally explaining their thinking.
When asked where teachers could start, Emily’s advice was, “Don’t be intimidated, start small with the Activity Library to get your feet wet. You can work up to creating your own activities.”
Julie Carlson (the DTL at Deane) stated, "Deane teachers are excited to utilize Seesaw in instruction with students. The built in features of video, audio, and text allow our students to demonstrate their thinking and creativity. We are excited that it allows students to be producers with an authentic audience. Emily has been using Seesaw with students to deepen their understanding of content and digital citizenship. Her willingness to support our staff in co-leading PD is an example of her collaborative nature and leadership."
extend your thoughts & learning on seesaw...
This is not just an elementary/primary tool. Secondary classroom can use Seesaw too. Checkout this video to see the possibilities! Consider getting families connected to your class and print out invites for upcoming conferences by watching this video. The Jeffco EdTech team has put together this text set to help you learn independently or feel free to reach out to your EdTech specialist for school-based learning or questions.
One of the Eight Core Tools Jeffco EdTech is supporting this year is Soundtrap, a robust yet simple-to-use audio recording and editing app for grades 3-5. This post will explore why podcasting is a great project to pursue with your students, regardless of content area, and how to get started with your first project! We’ll also check in with a couple teachers in Jeffco already using podcasting to great effect in their own classrooms.
Podcasts have exploded in popularity over the past few years. Everyone from media conglomerates to best-selling authors to stand up comedians to news outlets have found a new voice through podcasting. Interested in History? There are podcasts for that! True crime? News? Music? Trivia? There are podcasts for all that too! Simply put: a podcast is an audio file covering a given topic. More established podcasts are published on a regular schedule such as weekly, monthly, etc. But often, podcasts are created and published as a stand-alone/one-time event.
“What do I need in order to get started?” - Less than you think! Most podcasts can be made with only a quiet space and a Chromebook. A good-quality microphone and some headphones are nice additions, but not necessary.
“How many people do I need to create a podcast?” - It is absolutely possible to have students create individual podcasts, however, the workflow and format of a podcast lends itself to a small group as well. NPR has a great “Getting Started with Podcasts” page that describes some of the roles students may play in podcasting. Keep in mind you can combine these or assign more than one person to the same role, depending on your assignment or class format.
Helpful hint: Being mindful in how you assign students to roles (perhaps your producer is also your editor on a project) may save you some headaches around classroom management down the line! For instance, some roles might be busier during the beginning of the project. How can the editor be helpful during that point in the workflow? Can they assist in research?
“OK, what do we talk about?” - Anything that is genuine to your content area! In math class, it may revolve around how students solved a difficult problem. In Science, perhaps it’s a debrief of an experiment they recently completed. In English, maybe it’s an opportunity to practice storytelling or creating a skit.
NPR offers a variety of prompts for podcast topics that can work in different content areas…
But how does it connect to content?
ALL of the Jeffco Generations Skills can be grown and practiced with a student-created podcasting project!
Podcasting in action
There are a number of teachers in Jeffco already working with students to create podcasts about the world around them. Here are a couple teachers making podcasts work for their content!
Andrea Pless at Kyffin Elementary has successfully integrated podcasting into a few different standards-aligned projects over the past two years.
Her students practiced reading fluency by creating short podcasts for younger students at Kyffin, reading picture books and creating their own turn-the-page tone. Students in other classrooms can then read along with their own book at a later time. Talk about a 21st Century book buddy system!
A group project she’s used involves students reading short stories (before creating the podcast) and using the podcast to discuss their personal connections to the stories. She houses all these student achievements on her website, The Plessroom. On her website, you’ll also find notecatchers and rubrics she’s used with her students.
In addition, each year, Ms. Pless works with a small group of students to serve as her website and Soundtrap experts. They support other students in their learning and teach their classmates about the features and uses of Soundtrap.
When asked about her biggest piece of advice for teachers who are thinking about diving in, she says “Go for it!” She explains most students are more native to technology in some form or another and besides the Soundtrap Intro video (linked below) and some basics of where to find which capabilities, students are quick to latch on to the workings of Soundtrap, as long as they have a product they are working toward. Don’t worry that you need all the answers!
John Swartz at Moore Middle School regularly publishes a Podcast with his 6th graders. This podcast is entering its second year and discusses upcoming community events and features interviews with teachers, students and other community members from the Pomona articulation area.
Here's a link to the Pomona Area Podcast page! Happy listening!
There are countless resources available for teachers to get their students started. As Soundtrap is the supported audio recording app for Jeffco, here are a couple links to get you going!
Soundtrap Crash Course
Soundtrap Lesson Plans
Other websites and resources...
NPR’s A Guide for Students (Getting Started with Podcasting)
Lesson plan to create a podcast from Rosen Digital
Project Audio: Teaching Students How to Produce Their Own Products
When I was asked to write a post for Jeffco Ed Tech blog, I was stymied. Education technology is a huge topic. It’s complicated, demonized, canonized, hotly debated, and full of strife & potential. Finally, after six or seven digital wads of paper, I’ve settled on discussing how I rolled out 1:web Chromebooks for my freshman classes this year. It’s timely, and I hope it proves helpful.
First of all, mad props to Pomona’s administration and our campus IT staff. It all starts there. Without a clear and shared vision of what technology will look like and a commitment to goals we set out to achieve by using it, the results would be confusing to everyone involved. Our tech gurus, Matt Daniels and Judy Sims, have been great at keeping our campus focused and practical about everything from how to track each device to which apps make the most sense for teachers to use. They are absolutely central to the success of the roll-out of over 700 (!) Chromebooks (and chargers and cords and screen protectors and id tags and Velcro strips and screen cleaner cloths and styluses and...et al) for our 9th & 10th grade Panthers. I shudder to think how absolutely chaotic this initiative could have turned out, and I’m so appreciative of their strong leadership from the beginning.
So that’s the Big Picture. As for incorporating this technology into our daily classroom environment, I am still a novice. I still ask the Annoying Question of the Day to Matt and Judy and have impractical requests that are met with “You really don’t want to do that, Clint”. “Why not?” And then he patiently explains the Why Not. I’m moving in the right direction, though, and zealously embracing the feel-good-It’s-OK cliche of our times: failing forward. A LOT. My students laugh at me when my “app-tempts” explode. We all laugh together, though, because I’ve found that true humility and vulnerability sometimes creates powerful community. It’s better than the option of playing the immutable sage on the stage, a role that would last, at most, a few measly seconds, and quickly scuttle any vestige of ethos I do have. They teach me more than I could ever figure out myself, and at 1/10 of the time, and they feel powerful when they teach the teacher. I like that. Empowering kids is fun. It’s a rush. Often, when you give That One Troublemaker a Chromebook and a purpose, they are transformed...just like the task they’re working on.
One last thing. At the end of the year, Nick Steinmetz, who I’m sure you know or, if you don’t, you should, challenged us to write a letter about how it went--the inaugural mass Chromebooking. I did that, then ended up writing an alternate version addressed to this year’s students. The letter is friendly yet informative, and includes memes, hyperlinks, footnotes, and other elements that they will run into on digital platforms. Joining our Google Classroom and reading and responding to that letter was their first assignment of the year. Once they join the Classroom, they also have access to the GDoc that I use everyday in class. Even if they’re absent, they get a good idea of what went on during their absence. Here’s a screenshot of (a portion of) that document:
Regarding technology, it’s going well. The kids are excited and potentially a bit intimidated. They see the potential inherent in the system. Even if they are not used to seeing it that way, they recognize their tech as a catalyst to learning and maybe even prosperity. The responsibility they have with that makes them feel like an adult.
Twenty-six years ago, when I first started teaching, “technology” meant the new-fangled electric pencil sharpener that was bolted to a desk. It’s safe to say a few things have changed since then. Heck, we don’t even really need pencil sharpeners. But I still have one. My students still use it. If you need it, it’s right over there by the door, next to the Chromebook cart and the Cell Hotel phone holder.
Happy teaching, everyone!
Teacher, Pomona High School
This post is brought to us by Abby Smith, a Math teacher at Pomona High School. Abby has been working with her students and technology integration this year to Transform Student Tasks. Abby shares here an incredible example of how she is working to make learning relevant for students as she seeks to provide them expanded opportunities to develop the Jeffco Generations skills through math and technology. We are grateful to Abby for sharing her expertise and learning as she seeks to make learning with digital tools purposeful for her students.
“When are we ever going to use this?” As a high school math teacher, I despise this question. Let me rephrase, I used to despise this question. Now I see it as a challenge. Students are living in a different world than most of us in the education profession experienced as high school students. These kiddos have a powerful device within reach most moments of the day that can answer questions with a quick Google search. Today's students do not see the value in having information readily stored in the back of their brain because it is stored in their phone. As an educator, I have seen it as my role to help students realize how the information we cover in the classroom can help them make decisions instead of answer questions. This is how my accommodated algebra classroom transformed into a medieval war zone during our unit on graphing parabolas.
Let’s rewind to my first few years in the classroom. My students completed worksheets, occasionally used tools like Plickers or Desmos, and then completed a test. We did fine on standardized assessments, yet every year, students are retaught some of the same material from years before and the lower students act like they’ve never seen the stuff before. I began asking a similar question as my kids were asking: Why am I teaching this material? I became unmotivated to continue the fight to convince struggling kids that the material was important when I didn’t believe in it’s value for my students who struggled the most.
To aid in the transition with 1:1 devices as a new pilot program at Pomona High School, I was apart of a cohort lead by EdTech Specialist Nick Steinmetz. Nick challenged the members of the group to take risks and learn with their students. We were charged with Transforming the Task in our classroom in new ways that were not available before the chromebooks were assigned to our students. I decided to transform the unit on graphing parabolas. My goal was to leave the unit with students being able to answer the question: “How can graphing parabolas help me make decisions?”
The idea of recreating medieval warfare came to me while researching parabola PBL’s. The path of an object catapulted follows a parabola. We started to build catapults out of popsicle sticks, rubber bands, clothes pins and more. Once we learned the basics of graphing parabolas in various forms, we started our project of bombing enemy ships just as Hannibal did with snake bombs during the Punic War. (Pause now and research it!)
Students filmed the flight of their catapult with their phones (here is a video example), used Webpaint to find exact points the object flew and imported a screenshot of the flight of the object into Desmos. For the majority of my students who didn’t know how to take a screenshot, this was challenging but they began to see how valuable their new devices could be. At this point, they utilized their knowledge of the equations of quadratics and how the parabola is graphed to create the equation that best represents the flight of their catapult.
Now we were ready to put their project to the test. Students were tasked with bombing an enemy ship that was approaching a cliff. The cliff (desk) was a given height (27 inches). The students had to decide how far away the ship (saucepan) needed to be in order to bomb it within 3 attempts by using the graph of their parabola. Once finished, students reflected on the main question: How can graphing parabolas help me make decisions? Best of all, this project was a quiz score which assessed if the students understood how to write the equation of parabolas and determined if students could use the graph to decide the distance a ship needed to be off shore before bombing the ship.
There were parts of this project that made us want to scream. To my one group who had to re-film the flight of their catapult 5 times, I think you can agree with this last statement! There were parts of this project that made us laugh and cheer. My students were flabbergasted when their prediction was accurate when attempting the final bombing. Students who were unsuccessful asked to try again in order to be more accurate. Most importantly, this project sparked energetic mathematical conversations with my students. I have found that students are more likely to give an honest effort if they can see the curriculum come to life beyond a worksheet. While there are aspects of the project that I will change for next year, I can safely say that taking the risk with a group of tough students was a challenge that I will try more often! Here is a link for the student directions to the project.
A journey Begins
The 2018-2019 school year began a little differently for some teachers in the Pomona Articulation area. Elementary teachers in first and fifth grade partnered with the district to implement a 1:1 Chromebook program in their classrooms. Preparing for a new school year comes with some butterflies and many to-do lists. Additionally, our partner teachers embraced a growth mindset to use technology to transform the task with their students in their very own 1:1 classrooms. Teachers from Little, Parr, Warder and Weber Elementary are on a journey to provide learning experiences that prepare students to thrive in a digitally connected world. We are excited to capture their story and share it with others.
Starting with the "Why", not the device
Our beliefs drive our practice. Before unpacking devices, we need to unpack our school's underlying beliefs about teaching and learning with technology. Writing a school belief statement can help staff articulate the impact of going 1:1.
A common element of writing a belief statement is collaboration. Having multiple voices in the process can help build efficacy and ownership.
Resources which helped the Pomona area schools develop their "why" included:
Building a Roadmap
Communication & Partnerships
In order to open communication channels with families, each school sent home an informational letter and invitation to a family night. The open house was created in collaboration by the Digital Teacher Librarians at the four schools to be proactive to community needs. The event was held before devices were handed-out to students. A common Google Form was created to capture questions and concerns. The feedback helped create Frequently Asked Questions which was posted for families after the event. A goal of the evening was to strengthen the partnerships between families and schools.
Expectations and Digital citizenship
Preparing students to make smart choices online is a priority when going 1:1. Direct instruction and on-going conversations about these 6 topics are available for K-12 students in the Common Sense Media curriculum.
Pedagogy: Professional Learning Plan
"The Learning Labs effectively introduce new tools for teaching. [The facilitator] is intentional about supporting us in this learning by modeling how technology can be intentionally integrated to transform our classrooms rather than just as a shiny, new gadget. I always come away from our Learning Labs with tons of new ideas - maybe not things I will implement the next day just for the sake of it, but ideas that have changed entire units of instruction to be more meaningful and that ask students to think and work in new ways." 5th grade teacher
Transforming the Task
The Journey Continues...
Each school continues to engage in continuous learning and reflections about their 1:1 implementation and growth. We are thankful for the school partnerships and for their willingness to share their story with others!
Innovation ACCELERATION Funds in Action: Evergreen High School is Transforming the Task with 3D Printers
Brent Olyowski had a vision for Transforming the Task in Physics. So he submitted his idea for an Innovation Fund and was awarded funds to purchase 2D and 3D printers. Brent's idea is the epitome of Transforming the Task. In Brent's own words, "In an effort to make physics fun and engaging, we want our students to design, build, then use those creations to perform physics experiments using 2D laser cutters and 3D printers."
Matt Cormier, Evergreen area principal, notes, "This will help prepare students for emerging careers that are going to be part of their future. The possibilities that are created seem limitless. Evergreen's teachers are so strong and Mr. O does amazing work and he is also planning to partner with some superstars in his building. He will have the support of an excellent digital teacher librarian and tech staff. This is a great team to make the investment powerful, however, everyone will be in awe of what the students create."
Making the innovation Come to Life in the Classroom
Brent was happy to share his plans to implement his 3D printers in the classroom. Here are some highlights from his Innovation Acceleration Fund application:
"First semester is about Newtonian Physics and we try to relate it to driving since almost all of our physics students are beginning drivers. The vision is the students design cars to perform simple experiments with. We would start with basics like velocity, acceleration, stopping distance, and inertia; and then get more complex with momentum, impulse, friction, collisions, energy transfer, and circuits. We can even convert the cars to solar cars near the end of the school year. The idea would be to modify their creations to make it more complex as we get into the more complex ideas. The evolution would go from cars they send down a ramp all the way to cars with solar powered with sensors on them. "