"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.
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?
Have you ever found yourself doodling during faculty meetings? During guest speakers? During professional development? If so, you understand how engaging the kinesthetic portions of your brain can help you focus and remember the content you are attempting to learn, but why is that? "It turns out that various forms of doodling have all kinds of benefits for our brains. Doodling is actually a form of mnemonics, connecting images with information and significantly increasing our ability to remember what we’ve learned. In a 2009 study published in Applied Cognitive Psychology, 40 participants were asked to listen to an extremely boring recorded telephone conversation. Half of them were instructed to doodle as they listened, and half were given no such instructions. At the conclusion of the study, people who doodled remembered 29 percent more information than their counterparts who did not doodle." (Education Week)
What's a Sketchnote?
A sketchnote varies from a doodle in that the images are purposefully related to the content that the listener is absorbing and sense making. Sketchnotes are a way to take notes, as well as a method to allow for creative expression. To be a successful sketchnoter, you do not need to have artistic skills, but you do have to be willing to practice synthesizing ideas using symbols, figures, text and icons.
Consider how some students might greatly benefit from sketchnoting as they listen in the classroom. How can you use sketchnoting to have students demonstrate learning after watching a video or listening to a lecture, guest speaker, audio book or podcast? How can sketchnoting engage the brain for some students in the way 2-column notes and graphic organizers cannot?
Get to Sketchin' - How do I get started?
Some sketchnoters prefer to sketch with ink and paper, while others prefer to sketch digitally. If you are interested in sketching digitally, you might want to check out the Procreate for iPad app (approved for Jeffco), as well as the Musemee stylus or the Paper by Fifty-three stylus.
Although this equipment works well for many teachers to begin their sketchnoting journey, it is often outside of the price range for a typical classroom. To get your students sketchnoting, consider allowing the physical and digital words to collide. Encourage students to show what they've learned and how they have made connections by sketching on paper with pencil or ink. Using a mobile device, have students capture their sketch with the camera or a scanner app. These images can be uploaded to any of the G Suite tools, Google Classroom, Schoology, Google Sites, and more.
Interested in learning how Sylvia Duckworth does her digital sketchnotes? See the video below!
The Sketchnote Challenge
Thursday, January 11th, is World Sketchnote Day #SNDay2018!
We challenge you to try creating your own sketchnote showcasing a bit of new learning! Share your sketchnote with @JeffcoEdTech on Twitter. Don't forget to add the hashtag #SNDay2018, as well. We also encourage you to get your students sketchnoting in the classroom as a way to sense-make new content and make connections.
Video is an ever evolving form of educational technology; however more often than not, the way educators have used video in their classrooms has not evolved quite as quickly. One component of video tools that you should get on board with is live streaming or broadcasting. A live broadcast takes the components of a regular recorded broadcast, but adds the capability of interacting with your audience in real time, easily sharing your videos with very little lag time, and allowing you to save your broadcast for others to view later.
Reflection is a crucial element of modern pedagogical systems. Today’s educational practices place a high importance on the ability for students to self-assess and build meta-cognition through reflection. Using Schoology for this task makes this work easy for both the students and teacher. Using digital journals, students can journal on their own device, on a classroom device or from home.
Building individual discussion threads only one time for each student using Schoology discussions is an easy way to support this practice. The following presentation identifies 4 easy steps to set this up.
Are you ready to start your students in digital journaling? Ask your school Digital Teacher Librarian or Educational Technology Specialist for support in getting started.
Isn’t it time you started creating e-newsletters? Watch this video and, you will learn how to use Google Slides to create striking and informative newsletters that can be displayed on your classroom website (using Google Sites) or shared via a link using email. Be prepared to learn techniques that will:
Link to video: How to Create Classroom Newsletters using Google Slides
Do you use Google Slides with your learners? Do you want to be able to honor your participants questions, without stopping the flow of the presentation? Do you want your participants to be able to communicate with each other and with the presenter to discuss the learning and to answer each others questions? If you answered yes to any of these questions, the new Google Slides Q and A feature might be just what you are looking for!
Google Slides Q and A is available on all slide decks when the user is ready to begin presenting their slides to an audience. When this feature is enabled, a separate browser window will open, in which participants can pose questions or leave comments to both the presenter and other participants. They may do this using their name or in anonymous mode. Additionally, participants may escalate or deescalate a comment or question, raising it to the top of the list, so that it's not missed by the presenter.
View the presentation below to learn how to set up Google Slides Q and A in your next Google Slides presentation and give your learners a new avenue to communicate!
While you were away enjoying your summer, Google Classroom came out with brand new feature that allows both teachers and students to annotate PDF's and JPG's using the Google Classroom mobile app. Previously, students and teachers would need to have another app, such as Notability, to annotate documents.
Annotation tools within Google Classroom include the eraser, pen, marker, highlighter, and text tool. Using these options, Students can use the annotation feature to draw, sketch, notate, and write out their thinking. Check out the presentation below to learn how to use the annotation features within classroom!
sticky note overload???
This is an excellent tool to use for creating digital sticky notes. It is a clean, user-friendly interface. It only takes one click to write a note, upload a picture or create a to-do list through the web interface or through the mobile app. It’s as simple as tapping the note text field, and then start typing.
Google Keep allows you to color-code your notes and lists so you can easily categorize and find them.
What is the "backchannel":
The backchannel is a digital conversation that runs concurrently in a face-to-face interaction. For example, adults might turn to Twitter to join a digital conversation while watching a presidential debate or an awards ceremony. Where as, we might ask our students to engage in a literature discussion while listening to a read aloud or analyze information during a geography lecture. A range of tools can be used to facilitate this exchange. When working with students, Schoology, Padlet, and Today's Meet are all quick and easy tools which can be used to hold backchannel discussions in order to engage all your students in digital conversations that increase engagement, provide spaces for DOK questioning, and build a digital footprint of thinking and learning.