Digital Storytelling

Stand out Tech Tools for the Classroom

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A typical week entails working with a wide variety of age groups ranging from kindergarten through eighth grade.  Emphasis is placed on creating standards aligned technology experiences that foster collaboration and creativity while cultivating important digital literacy skills. Listed below are stand out tools that I commonly use in the classroom. Not only do these tools represent multiple modes of learning, they have been student approved as engaging ways to demonstrate knowledge.

Productivity/organization

Microsoft Teams, a new interactive, chat based workspace for streamlined digital learning and teaching.

Assessment

Formative– Online tool allowing you to deliver assessments. Student assessment data is displayed in real time and feedback can be provided immediately.

Edpuzzle– Assess students using online videos. Select a video that aligns with your content, annotate the video using text or voiceover, and add a question set. Edpuzzle generates reports based on usage.

Presentation

Sway- Housed in our Office 365 set of applications, Sway allows students to create multimedia presentations.  Using simple drag and drop functions, Sway is appropriate for students in grades 1 and up.

Digital Storytelling

Story Bird– Create online storybooks using Story bird’s library of artwork. Students can collaborate on stories, share them via email, and provide feedback to their peers. Teachers can easily create assignments using Story bird’s planning tools.

Math

Prodigy Game– A curriculum aligned math game geared for students in grades 1-8.  Prodigy provides real time reporting along with embedded in-game formative, diagnostic, and summative assessments.

Cross Curricular

Kidblog– Blogging is being used across the district in all subject areas. Provide students with a platform to communicate, provide and receive feedback from peers, and connect with other classrooms.

Code.org– A full coding curriculum allowing students to practice computer science, math, reading, and science skills. Easy to implement and engaging for students.

Scratch.mit.edu- Allows students to create their own interactive stories, games, and animations. Creations can be easily shared with an online community.

Smart board

Smart Exchange– Ready to use lesson plans and resources for your Smart board.

Digital Skills

Email Exchange- Teach students how to tailor their writing to a target audience.

  • Students are writing to an authentic audience.
  • Students can practice focused writing skills.
  • Students are practicing a real word skill.

 

Voicethread:Starting a New Type of Conversation

One of my favorite cloud based applications is Voicethread, a powerful multimedia tool that connects voice and images. Capabilities include uploading and sharing documents, presentations, images and videos. Each upload is presented on an individual slide and voice comments are then “threaded” in using one of the following options: microphone, webcam, text, phone, or audio file upload. The result is a seamless multimedia creation that is easily shared via e-mail, unique URL, or embed.

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Collaborative possibilities reach beyond a simple comment on an image. Educators can transform a lecture to a real time, online conversation. The comment feature encourages students to offer unique perspectives, leave feedback, and ask questions.

What does it look like in practice?

  • K-5 classrooms can create collaborative online stories.
  • Art classrooms can leave constructive feedback on individual work.
  • Social studies classrooms can conduct an in depth analysis of historical images.
  • Encourage a meaningful conversation about a current event. Guide students through a discussion about a controversial topic, encouraging respectful dialogue.
  • Create visuals that accompany poetry and include narration.
  • Math classroom can create tutorials on techniques and processes.
  • Higher Ed can create tutorials and lectures.

With Voicethread, commenting or offering ideas is not limited to the outspoken or confident student. Comments can be made either in or outside of class using their Voicethread identity. Each comment is represented by a small icon that represents the student.

Voicethread fosters a new type of conversation by providing an innovative multimedia platform that promotes active engagement in the learning process.

Using Tech Tools to Build Fluency

Fluency and comprehension go hand in hand.

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Students who have the ability to read fluently are more likely to comprehend due to the diminished need to labor and decode each word.  In order for students to achieve reading fluency, they must read, and read a lot. So how can we get our students to read?

These four steps, implemented along with technology tools, can foster motivation and build literacy skills.

1. Model– Teachers must model fluent reading to students on a daily basis. For younger students, echo reading is beneficial. Allow students to repeat a short phrase after hearing the teacher read it. Simple recording tools on your classroom mobile device can  provide opportunities for echo reading. Using your tablet’s recording feature, simply record a passage for students to play and echo. Try a Digital Storytelling site such as Storybird. Write stories with your students and read them aloud. Invite a local author or storyteller to read to your class via a Skype session, or even invite older students to read to younger classes through Skype.

Vocaroo is an online voice recording tool that allows the user to record and share audio content via the web.

2. Practice– Allow students ample time to read and reread passages. Using recording tools such as Vocaroo, or Voki, students can record themselves reading a passage and play the audio back to determine errors and words read per minute. Voki allows students to choose an avatar and give it a voice through a simple recording feature. The participatory nature of blogging promotes both reading and writing practice. Students enjoy reading their peers’ posts and providing feedback. Kidblog is an ideal blogging platform for the classroom setting.

3. Help– Teachers must foster self-correction and self-questioning skills by constantly monitoring student reading. Listening to children read should be done in a small group setting, or ideally on a one to one basis. A classroom set of mobile devices allow students to send the teacher audio clips of short read alouds.

4. Motivation– Perhaps the most important component of reading instruction is motivation. Student motivation can be nurtured by allowing opportunities to read material of interest, and listen and read to others. Technology tools can tailor reading instruction to meet individual learning needs and create much needed motivation in the classroom.

  • Use the internet to find specific reading passages. ReadWorks.org is an ideal hub for high interest, leveled reading passages.
  • Use audio and video tools to enable students to read to others and hear themselves read. Voki, Vocaroo, Fotobabble, Blabberize, or Voicethread are easy to use multimedia platforms that can enhance reading instruction.

How To Blog with your Students

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Students love to communicate. Allowing students to share what they are passionate about, reflecting on what they have learned, and what sparks their curiosity  benefits their learning on many levels. Students have come a long way from journaling in a spiral bound notebook or a lock and key diary.

If you are searching for an implementation of technology in your classroom, blogging should be at the top of your list.  Aside from being cross curricular, blogging facilitates meaningful learning and provides students with an authentic audience.

Why should your students be blogging?

  • They can write about what the want to write about. Consider adults in the “real world” who blog and blog successfully. They are not given writing prompts or topics, but simply write from personal inspiration.
  • They develop their writing voice. Many students do not know what strong voice sounds like and often student writing lacks voice. Not only can blog writing develop voice, reading blogs can allow students experience in identifying personality and emotion.
  • Blogging promotes reflection. Students should have the time to reflect on what they have learned. Reflective thinking is critical thinking.
  • With blogging, learning is archived. Blogging over a school year(or longer) allows students to see growth and change in their learning.
  • Blogging allows students to develop a positive digital footprint. Stress the importance developing a positive internet presence.
  • Blogging creates engagement. Students enjoy using this non traditional writing format.

Blogging tips:

  • Determine your district policy on blogging.  Keep in mind that there are blogging platforms that are secure, private, and specifically for classroom use.
  • Allow students ample time to read and comment on blogs. A large part of blogging is being participatory.
  •  Whether it be from classmates, parents, or teachers, students need regular feedback on their posts.
  • Stress the importance of a polished entry. Proofread, proofread, and proofread again.
  • Consider starting with one classroom blog where students can contribute. Allowing each student their own blog from the beginning will prove overwhelming.
  • Utilize safe, secure blogging platforms such as Kidblog or Edublogs.

For younger students:

  • Start a class blog in your k-3 classroom and make it a collaborative effort. Solicit content from your students and write a weekly blog post.
  • Invite older students or parents as guest bloggers on your blog.
  • Blog posts with younger children  should include visuals. The post can be based on a visual accompanied by smaller amounts of text.
  • Promote commenting. Younger students can be guided through the commenting process.

If you are considering implementing blogs in your classroom, there are a host of resources and tools to ensure it is a smooth process. Kidblog offers students an excellent platform to begin the blogging process while allowing them a secure writing environment.  Launching blogging lessons in the classrooms will motivate students to write while fostering authentic learning experiences.

A Guide to Your Digital Footprint

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The age of the internet has allowed for instant information, collaboration, and communication. The internet and its perks have brought forth the need to discuss media safety; specifically googleabilty.  Ask elementary students what would result  if they googled their name and many may not know.

The virtual trail that occurs with the use of social media and other web 2.0 tools  is easily traceable by others. In addition to obvious safety and privacy  issues, this traceability can carry over to potential employers. The permanence of online activity and reputation management go hand in hand. Understanding this connection is the first step towards creating and maintaining a positive virtual identity.

Teaching about your digital footprint should be fostered at an early age. Afterall, safety and privacy are important issues to students who use the internet for many purposes. Here is a general guide for introducing your students to how to develop a positive digital footprint.

1. Define Digital footprint –Commonsensemedia.org offers an effective introductory video to the digital footprint. This video outlines the ease of searchability and the permanence of your online activity.

According to techterms.com, a  digital footprint is a trail of  data you create while using the Internet. It includes the websites you visit, emails you send, and information you submit to online services.

2. In small groups, allow students to discuss:

  • What their digital footprints might reveal based on their online activity.
  • How might their digital footprint affect future opportunities?

3. Allow students to Google their names. Discuss their findings.

4. Discuss some tips on managing your digital identity:

  • Maybe intuitive to some, remind kids never to post anything that they may find embarrassing later.
  • Use extreme caution when posting pictures online.
  • Ensure social media settings are set on private.
  • Do not disclose personal information online. Even emails and private messages are vulnerable to hacking.
  • Do not post anything hurtful to anyone. Inflicting harm through words or threats can have serious consequences.
  • The internet is forever. Information posted online stays online.

Creating a positive online presence:

While it is crucial to proceed with caution on the internet, internet activity should not be viewed as all gloom and doom.The internet and its sharing capabilities allow students to be creative while expressing themselves to a huge audience.  Once students have received some guidance on internet identity, teaching them how to create a positive presence will create internet users who publish and share in meaningful ways.

The Flipped Classroom: Putting Students in the Driver’s Seat

 

What is it?

When presented with the flipped classroom model, educators are somewhat apprehensive about making this pedagogical shift. In order to determine its place in the classroom and its potential effectiveness, it is essential to completely understand what the flipped classroom is and is not.

The flipped classroom does not only center on watching videos. While video learning is a component, the main focus of the flipped classroom is opening up instructional time for meaningful,  engaging, and differentiated learning experiences.

The Flipped Learning Network defines flipped Learning as a “pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter.”

As part of the blended learning process, the flipped classroom challenges students to utilize a variety of multimedia formats to acquire and evaluate information, thus creating a constructionist learning environment.  In a recent study, 47 percent of students in grades 9-12, 39 percent of students in grade 6-8 and 25 percent of students in grades 3-5 responded that they wanted to learn online to control their own learning experience(eduviews). With this is in mind, the combination between traditional face to face learning and online learning components can provide students with the ideal environment to meet their learning goals. Tools that include digital content can contribute to a learning process that is current and meaningful. Educators that use blended learning have commented on the increased amount of available one on one instructional time when online components were used within the lesson. Furthermore, video learning is relevant. Our hyper connected digital natives now use online content as a primary resource when gathering information; making it an essential part of the learning process. “Cashing in” on our students propensity towards online content creates the engagement necessary to cultivate meaningful learning experiences.

What is looks like in practice.

Flipping your classroom includes choosing a lesson, seeking a video that supports the lesson, assigning the video for at home viewing, and using instructional time for activities other than direct lecture.  There are a wide gamut of online video sites such as Youtube, Brainpop, Khan Academy, and Ted ED that offer videos in nearly every content area. The gold standard for flipped classroom videos is Edpuzzle, a tool that allows you to search a wide database of educational videos and personalize them for delivery to your students. Capabilities include, cropping, voiceover, the addition of text annotations and questions. An added plus is the ability to monitor if students watched the video, how many times it was watched, and what sections were re-watched. Also included is the function allowing teachers to review student’s results in the embedded questions.

While creating videos may seem daunting to some educators, it is not necessary to flipping your classroom. There are perks to teacher created videos including personalization for students. Simply said, students enjoy watching teacher created content.  What do teacher created videos actually look like? Mr. Kilcran, an eighth grade science teacher has launched flipped learning in his classroom with much success. Not only are his  videos engaging to his students, he has opened up valuable instructional time for differentiated learning and hands on science activities.

Mr. Kilcran Science – Videos on middle school science topics and practical applications of flipping your classroom.

The educational arena has changed making it vital for educators to reflect on how to achieve effective learning. The shift from being the “sage on the stage” to the “guide on the side” holds more weight now than ever before. The changing needs of our students are significant and adding the flipped learning model to the classroom can foster active engagement in the learning process.

Flipped learning is well worth the attempt.