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.
WeVideo is one of the core digital tools for staff and students in Jeffco this year. As a result, students and staff have access to a wide range of opportunities to engage in deeper learning activities that personalize and authenticate learning through film and multimedia. Getting started with WeVideo is fairly straight forward and there are plenty of resources such as the WeVideo MMTS to help you get started. (Click on the image below to open the MMTS and start exploring.) However, getting started with using film creation and WeVideo for authentic tasks can be a little more challenging. Here we hope to provide a few ideas and inspirations to help you get started.
Capturing and creating videos as part of instruction can seem daunting at first however, it's doesn't need to be a complicated process. One approach is to begin with photo stories. Challenging students to capture or collect photos that tell a specific story and compiling those photos together with a narrative or background music allows us to practice compiling stories and using video editing tools. Photo stories can be about academic content such as a historical time period, scientific or mathematical processes, or about how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. They can also be about personal things such as our daily journey to school or our family history. Everyone has different perspectives so our photo stories can be shared to deepen the learning and understandings.
One of the biggest challenges to using technology in classrooms is to ensure it is not a distraction from the larger goals of learning and content mastery. A great way to begin addressing these challenges is to empower students to lead their own learning. As students gain foundational understandings of content, they can be challenged with application of the content and creating products to share their learning and additional understandings. For example in mathematics, we often ask students to memorize key facts and processes but seldom challenge them with application and sharing of the learning. We can empower students to lead their learning by asking them to look for examples in their lives where they can apply the content they're learning and capture those applications to tell their stories. With this challenge, students gain deeper understandings of why content is needed and ways in which it fits into their worlds. Students can then share their creative stories of content application with each other, another class, or students at another school, which leads to deeper learning of the content.
One of the essential skills across many content areas involves the ability to effectively conduct research and compile our findings so we can form argumentative or persuasive claims. As humans, we regularly find ourselves in situations where multiple views are represented and the need to understand and respond respectfully to others is a foundational aspect of any democracy. As students conduct research and capture evidence that supports their claims, they can put together short films with photos or video clips to support their stance. When sharing with each other, students have access to practice listening and summarizing skills that lead can lead to civic and global engagement or the continued development of communication skills necessary to succeed in settings beyond the classroom.
Teachers are experts at creating links between outcomes and learning which drives us all to the continuous search for new ideas and strategies. Here are a few tips to consider as you begin to design learning opportunities involving film and multimedia:
Back in July, Teach Thought published a short piece on 6 Powerful Strategies for Deeper Learning in Your Classroom by Dr. Monica Martinez who is one of the leading experts on deeper learning. These 6 strategies are a great way to get students engaged in learning that involves their passions and interests. Film creation can be used in a variety of ways to implement and achieve all 6 strategies. As students are challenged to create films demonstrating their knowledge and understandings, they are provided additional opportunities to share their learning. Not every film needs to be publicly shared, there might be some short films that are simple reflections allowing us to go back and revisit some of the learnings we gained. Think of them more as selfie videos that are for the purpose of journaling or compiling a personal narrative. Ultimately, remembering the last strategy of "Making Technology the Servant, Not the Master" will help us leverage the power of film in more ways. As we use technology to capture and tell stories rather than consume them, we will be the masters of the digital tools we use and the time in front of a screen will have far greater purpose and outcomes.
Looking for more ideas on how to use film in your instruction? The WeVideo blog is a great place to find ideas and examples.
Make any Google Slide Presentation Interactive with Pear Deck
Pear Deck is an online tool that provides formative assessment in real time. It's web-based so it works on any device. Teachers are able to check for understanding in their classroom through a variety of question types. When teachers use Pear Deck they are able to adapt instruction based on student understanding and students can receive feedback in real time.
How Does Pear Deck Work?
Pear Deck is an Add-on that works with Google Slides so it is easy to use! We have automatically added it for you in Google Slides! To utilize Pear Deck, you can create a new Google Slides presentation or add Pear Deck to an existing presentation. Once you've opened the Pear Deck Add-on, you can create your own questions or use the Template Library.
Pear Deck Math Templates
Get Started with Pear Deck
Here are some great ways to start using Pear Deck in your classroom:
Formative Assessment with Pear Deck
Pear Deck is designed so that all students are engaged in the learning. Students answer questions in real time and teachers are able to give quick, immediate feedback to the students. Teachers can see who is answering and able to project student responses that are anonymous. Through the teacher dashboard, teachers can see each student's responses. Teachers can even add a question on the fly to help alleviate misconceptions or get additional information from the class. At the end of the session, teachers are able to publish student takeaways. These takeaways are sent to the students and the teachers.
Present With Pear Deck
After creating your slides or adding your questions, it's time to present. Make sure to use the green present with Pear Deck Button. When you Present with Pear Deck, your students will join your class with a code and your lesson can get underway. Pear Deck is a great tool to get students and staff engaged in their learning. Being a Google Add-on allows anyone to create a Pear Deck slide presentation. Contact your Ed Tech Specialist or your Digital Teach Librarian to get started using Pear Deck.
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.
From Teacher tool to a universal OPPORTUNITY
What is Whiteboarding?
Whiteboarding allows for the creation and spreading of ideas for a variety of learners. It can be a blank canvas with a variety of pens, shapes, texts, and backgrounds allowing for open ended creation and sketchnoting. It can be a place where student teams collaborate on tasks and learning or a slide deck designed by a teacher for students to demonstrate a skills. The options are endless.
Today a variety of web based tools are also available for teachers. Web based tools have the advantage of not being tied to a particular device. Most are free and can be use on PCs, Chromebooks or iPads. Some examples are Google Jamboard and Kami.
Finally, many classrooms still have an interactive display of some kind. It might be a Smartboard, Epson Interactive Projector, or a Mimio Panel. Each panel has a coordinating installed software (some have costs) that allow for the creation of files that can be used for whole group direct instruction or small group practice that can be saved and reused.
Whiteboarding today is a space for learners and educators to process and demonstrate learning. The possibilities are endless! As spaces are redesigned or upgraded in schools, explore what might be the best projection display using this self guided projection solution tool. Also reach out to your Ed Tech Specialist and ITSS to help think through future plans.
Stephanie is a first grade teacher at Foster Elementary, a Title I school in the Arvada Area. She has graciously penned this blog as a way to share her learning around how she has integrated STEM to transform the learning experience for primary students.
Follow Stephanie on Twitter @STEMphanieTime for more inspiring ideas!
Empathy Inspires Change
My love of STEM came about a couple of years ago. I was in my 11th year teaching, and it was the first time in my career that I was actually considering leaving the profession. I was unhappy, and my passion was gone; how could my students learn if I wasn’t passionate?
Everything changed during a school technology committee meeting when I was tasked with figuring out why teachers were not using our 3D printer. There was just one problem…I had no idea how to use a 3D printer. My school was, and is, a STEM school, but we were still in the very beginning stages of trying to figure out what that meant.
Ideas Create a Path Forward
I started little by little. First, I taught myself how to use the printer; then how to print something. Finally, I tried creating my own model to print. Everyday I was a little bit happier. It was fun, and I started including students in my learning process. We learned how to fail together and succeed together. It was a long and slow process, and I had a lot of help from Jacquie Adkins, a Jeffco TOSA who specializes in science. We found a program called Maker’s Empire that made creating and printing 3D models easy for first graders to use! Students’ behavior improved because they were engaged and motivated to design and print their own models.
Prototyping the Student Experience
I figured if changing the student task through 3D printing was working so well, maybe I should try adding other STEM-related tasks to my students’ learning experience. Through code.org, I learned coding and then taught my students how to code. The more I learned, the more I integrated it into my classroom. As a result, my students’ were more engaged and their behavior continued to improve. Students learned that failure is a part of the learning process and started using it to fix their mistakes. I also noticed that they were much more willing to take risks because they knew that our classroom was a safe place, whether their answers were right or wrong.
Flash forward to my class today; it looks a lot different than it did a few years ago, and my passion for teaching is back! At the beginning of this journey, I would use technology just because I wanted to see how it works. Now I choose digital tools that match my lessons' learning objectives. Students are held accountable with apps like Showbie and Pear Deck. They use the 3D printer for creating beginning of the year nametags, bringing characters to life, and designing products to sell for our economics unit. Our bulletin boards come to life with Augmented Reality, which shows our work and enhances our goals. Even when we aren’t using our iPads, our STEM philosophy always remains: we strive for learning from our failures, adjusting our thinking when something isn’t working, and using collaboration to help us see tasks from a different angle.
Testing our TEaching
STEM is changing the landscape of our teaching in a good way. It allows us to are create an environment where students can learn and fail forward without fear of receiving bad grades. It gives choice to students and encourages them to learn real-world skills that they will be able to transfer to jobs they will have in the future. Teachers can weave STEM into every content area and grade level. It's is not just a subject, it is how I teach and how my students learn. As educators, we need to take a risk to transform the task and continue to better adapt our teaching. STEM changed how I taught and I became a better teacher because of that.
Digital annotations are not new to the realms of technology and education. Digital annotation tools continue to be available and ever changing. The power of digital annotations rests with the user and their abilities to capture their thinking, as well as, share it with others. In K-12 classrooms, digital annotations can be a great tool that empowers learners to begin capturing their thoughts and ideas leading to artifacts of learning which demonstrate understandings. Digital annotations can also be a great source for digital/e-portfolios allowing learners to reflect on their growth and development.
Why use digital Annotations?
Why should digital annotations be a part of every classroom and learning environment? Reading, writing, speaking, and listening are all fundamental components of learning which lead to critical thinking and digital annotations have the ability to cover all four areas. Digital annotations empower us as learners to engage with text, capture our thoughts, share with others, and gain insights from others thinking. Writing is a great way to process our thinking and allows us to begin identifying the process to where our thinking is going. When we digitally annotate and begin to share those annotations in collaborative spaces, our annotations become the center of collaborative dialogue and learning in which we grow collectively. When we begin to learn about annotating for learning, collaborative spaces for sharing and engaging in digital discussion opens doors to understand annotation strategies and processes from other learners with more annotation experience.
Getting started with Digital Annotations
Where and how to begin using digital annotation tools can be daunting and intimidating however, there are a few simple tools that can empower us as learners to get started on the journey. The comment feature in Google is one of the simplest ways to get started. The feature is available on Google Docs, Slides, Sheets, Drawings and a few other tools in the G-Suite. It is even now available on any file housed in Google Drive. Comments can be added to PDF's, images, MS Word documents and more when stored in Google Drive. A simple highlight of targeted text or information allows a user to capture thinking and share thoughts collaboratively.
If you're looking for a more robust tool with increased options, Kami is a great selection. Kami has paid versions with additional features however, the free version has plenty of options that are perfect for learners to get started annotating digitally. Highlighting, underlining, and strikethroughs (in a variety of colors) are all available at no charge. Additional features include adding text, comments, and drawing shapes. Under a 14-day free trial when you begin your account you'll have access to drawing, text to speech and a few other advanced options to try them out. Collaborative annotations with Kami are a breeze and users can save their annotated files in Google Drive if need be. It also works well with Google Classroom.
Digital annotations can occur on web-based material as well. Hypothes.is is a great option to consider for annotating web sites. Hypothes.is is entirely free to all users for all features. The tool was originally created for medical professionals who were collaborating around medical journal readings to increase learning and growth. Hypothes.is requires a login which is fairly simple and free to set up. Users can highlight information on websites and even add annotations (notes) which appear in a side bar. Annotations can be public, private, or in collaborative groups. Tagging annotations is offered as an advanced feature at no charge as well for users to quickly access collaborative discussions or topics. Annotations appear to users when visiting websites while the Hypothes.is extension is enabled.
Digital annotations can be highly beneficial to us as educators along with our students. Collaboration is now easier than ever with access to new technologies and the tools shared above work just as well for adults as they do for kids. Curating and sharing resources saves us all time and energy and digital annotations can be a quick way for us to collaborate across schools, districts, states, and more. How are you thinking about using digital annotations whether for your professional practice or during instruction with students? We'd love to hear your thoughts using the comment section of this post and look forward to learning more about how you are transforming tasks through digital annotations.
BY GUEST BLOGGER Christopher Brannon Church
Brannon Church is a technology teacher at Carmody Middle School. He has been a teacher in Jeffco for 19 Years. For the first 18 years, Mr. Church taught 6th Grade and this year has joined the Carmody team as their Robotics Teacher. Here he shares how he is making impacts in student lives through the development of Jeffco Generations. Mr. Church provides some great examples of how students learn with technology and ways teachers can access resources to begin integrating technology that engages students in creative learning opportunities.
I have always felt the need to incorporate technology into my day. I realized early in my career that very few things can improve student engagement like introducing a new tool or program. However, this usually only works if the teacher is as excited to explore new opportunities with their students. Fortunately, opportunities are much easier to come by nowadays because of the availability of chromebooks and free software. 95% of the curriculum we are exploring at our middle school comes from free programs that coexist with student Google logins. The Jeffco Ed Tech team is extremely supportive, and has equipment/resources for teachers to borrow to show their administration how important purposeful play can be in learning.
With all the free resources out there that appeal to the STEAM driven teacher, there is no excuse for not trying to implement computer science into some aspect of their day. Most educational apps use the Google Identity Platform which eliminates the burden of student login problems. I feel that Jeffco is headed in the right direction when it comes to preparing students for a successful future.
Demonstrating how to use Makey Makey & Scratch:
An Exit Ticket Using Makey Makey. Students were given the opportunity to create a project using Makey Makey and Scratch. I wanted them to see that they are limited only by their imagination. One on my administrators came to me looking for ways to make exit tickets more engaging and relevant. With student input, we created our interactive exit ticket using Makey Makey and Scratch. It was a huge success, and students immediately tried to jump on the “aluminum foil switch” idea for their own projects.
Jeffco Generations Skills:
These are examples of using technology as a tool to develop Self Direction and Personal Responsibility as well as Communication skills from Jeffco Generations. As an initial activity with Makey Makey, students were to research their favorite childhood song, find the sheet music, create a piano in Scratch, and use the controller from Makey Makey to recreate their song. The most amazing part of this activity is that students completed this project with very little guidance. Students relied on each other to figure out how to fix bugs in their program to make their music selection work.
How do I get access? - I am extremely fortunate to have 1:1 chromebooks in all of my Robotics classes, and nowadays there are hundreds of reputable websites that are available at no cost. Many of the hands on materials that I rely on have come from my own pocket, or were funded through the Donors Choose website. Any student can learn to code!
Funding is out there - After borrowing Makey Makey kits from Jeffco Ed Tech I decided that I had to have a set for my class to take our scratch lessons to the next level. Believe it or not, it was fairly simple to acquire the funds needed for a Makey Makey kit. Donors Choose and Google’s CS First are practically giving away money to teachers that complete a few simple activities with their class.
Skill Application Across Content Areas:
One of the favorite parts of my job is giving students an opportunity to show off what they have learned in Robotics/Coding and using those skills in other content areas. An example this year is a 6th grader who decided to retell the entire story of Maniac Magee using Scratch by taking her character on a journey through the story. It was amazing! This clearly demonstrates proficiency in computer science as well as a deep meaningful comprehension of a novel in literacy.
Below are just a few activities where application of the following Jeffco Generations Skills were imperative to complete the activity. As students completed these activities, they developed these Jeffco Generations Skills:
Sphero Bridge Build: Students were to demonstrate Critical and Creative Thinking along with Communication skills as they used the Engineer Design Process to research, design and build a bridge with drinking straws. Bridges needed to support the weight of a Sphero and span over 50 centimeters.
Friday Fly Day: During this activity, students were to research ramp design and create their own ramp to support the weight and acceleration of Sphero. This activity supports Collaboration and Leading by Influence.
Sphero Battle Tanks (captured with a 360 Camera): Students demonstrate Agility and Adaptability during their Sphero Battle Bots competition. Students used the Engineer Design Process to create “tanks” for their Spheros.
Merge Opportunities: During our introduction to 3D design, students were able to use Merge Cubes and AR/VR Goggles to check their 3D Prints. Instead of wasting printer filament, we are able to upload our designs to Object Loader and see if there are any flaws to our design. Students demonstrate Self Direction and Personal Responsibility as they create their own designs using Tinkercad, view their design in Augmented Reality, and print a clean final project.
In conclusion, I would urge all educators who are interested in integrating tech into the classroom to join Twitter. I have found so many creative educators on Twitter that share an endless number of incredible projects or ideas. Feel free to follow me @MrChurch (shameless plug) and make some connections with teachers all over the world that are passionate about integrating technology into their classrooms.
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!
"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.