Have you ever agreed to do something only to wonder later, why did they ask me? Recently I was asked to co-present on technology resources for a group of curriculum leaders. My co-presenter had great technology skills. What would I add to the mix? I decided to start with John Hattie’s work on visible learning. My goal would be to share some technology resources that could be paired with influences that recorded a high effect. Here’s what I found and included in my part of the presentation.
As stated in Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, research on strategies for struggling students shows computer- assisted instruction contributes to the learning of at-risk students because it is nonjudgmental and motivational, provides frequent and immediate feedback, and can individualize learning to meet students’ needs. Technology can help teachers develop assessment-capable learners. Technology provides teachers with access to resources that can help them to identify and refine standards and objectives. It also helps students to organize, clarify, and communicate learning objectives. Educators can create Google Forms for students to assess their learning on a checklist. Student ePortfolios created with tools such as Evernote, LiveBinder, Weebly, or Seesaw can also engage students in self-assessment.
Feedback includes feedback to students as well as from students in terms of what students know, what they understand, and when they have misconceptions. Technology is especially effective when it comes to providing this kind of feedback. Games and simulations, for example, allow teachers and students to get near-instantaneous feedback during the learning process. That allows for immediate redirection. Socrative, Kahoot, Educreation and Explain Everything are just a few of the tech tools that can provide effective feedback.
Another of Hattie’s influences that has a great effect size is reciprocal teaching. This type of teaching operates around the principles of predicting, questioning, clarifying and summarizing. Technology tools can be used here as well. One example is EdPuzzle; you load a video from the web, add your voice and questions within the video and enable self-paced learning. Another resource is Actively Learn where teachers are allowed to use pre-loaded texts or import their own texts and embedded questions or reflections in the texts.
Though the three topics covered have a positive effect size, educators must remember that not every website or app is appropriate for students at all grade levels. Teachers need to have researched the app well enough to know if it will be appropriate for their particular students. Learning outcomes should always be the first thing addressed when deciding to include technology in instruction. Remember the assignment, not the tool or device decides the level of rigor.
The classroom’s climate and the motivation that the students have for using technology play a big part in use of different technologies in the classroom. If a teacher is comfortable with the technology, then the classroom will be more technology savvy and students will be more open to try new things.
Recently we have been hearing a lot in education about “aligning our systems.” Sounds good, but how do we define alignment? How to achieve alignment? Are there technology tools at our disposal to get alignment?
The California Department of Education, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Education and representatives of Future Ready Schools, hosted a webinar on this very topic. We were told that we have to align all of our systems, but there are so many systems in education. It’s like drinking out of a fire hose! The webinar tried to paint a path to alignment for a school and/or district, and the system they recommended to align all of the different systems is called “The Coherence Framework.”
In his book Coherence: The Right Drivers in Action for Schools, Districts, and Systems, Michael Fullan has created a mental model for aligning everything from our Single Plans, to LCAP plans, district goals, schools goals and everything in between. After reading about alignment for years and watching the CDE webinar, it became apparent to me that aligning our systems was absolutely critical to the success of any educational organization. But I also understood that even using a framework such as Coherence left the user juggling a lot of balls in the air. For example, After ensuring that your organization is aligned with the Feds, the State and your local institutions, you still have to align all of the elements of your school—in my case a high school.
Mr. Fullan speaks about every entity on campus needing to do four things:
Focus its direction
Cultivate collaborative cultures
Deepen the learning at all levels.
Each of those topics comes with a set of elements that need to be addressed. As I sat in my office one day trying to map it out I realized that I did not have the tools necessary to organize the task.
As I started to research how other schools and businesses organized and tracked their progress I stumbled across a resource that is common yet unfamiliar to many of us in education: project management tools. Project management portals in and of themselves are straightforward and fairly simple to use. But they are capable of building upon themselves and mapping out incredibly detailed plans. When comparing my old SMART goal sheet to project management plans, it is like comparing two dimensional drawings to three dimensional virtual tours. Let me provide an example from our school.
Using the Fullan Coherence Framework one is asked to look at any initiative in two major ways from the start. The first asks you to ensure that the initiative, whatever it is, aligns with your Single Plan, District LCAP, District Strategic Goals and School Goals. If it doesn’t, it is not a priority and should not be taken on school-wide. Second, if it does align, consider how it will address each of the four areas.
Focusing direction—everyone in the organization must know the purpose of the initiative, the impact if the goal is achieved, be clear in the plan and understand the need for change.
Cultivating collaborative cultures—the initiative must be taken on collaboratively. An organization must have a collaborative culture that can pick up the initiative and run with it.
Securing accountability—how will the staff develop internal accountability around reaching the goals and what is the external accountability from the outside.
Deepening learning—we have to learn about the initiative and acquire the skills and content necessary to implement it.
If all of that feels overwhelming you are not alone. This is where the project management portal comes into play. On our campus we wanted to strengthen our formative assessment and remediate struggling students during class time instead of referring them to after school programs. We created a project around formative assessment for remediation. The next step in the project management process is to define your team. Everyone on the team has a log in to the online portal. When they log in they can see a lot of information. But the two most critical pieces of information are: the progress of each project they are a part of, and the parts of the plan they are responsible for with deadlines. This has the ability to focus everything you are working on and put it on one, simple dashboard.
The first project box under the topic was the first section of the Coherence Framework, Focusing Direction. We detailed the data that identified this as a school-wide problem. We stated the purpose of the initiative. Then we defined the measurable goals we needed to achieve. We then addressed how we would achieve the change, what change strategy we would use. Every member of the team has access to this project box.
With each element of the Coherence Framework we created a project box. In each box, the necessary elements to complete the project are listed. For example, under “Capacity Building” we identified the training we needed to send our teachers to. Then each administrator was assigned a task. They were responsible for working with the departments they supervised and finding two teachers to attend each training. They were given a deadline for each. As principal, I could sit in my office and see the task being completed. As each administrator checked their task complete the progress bar for that task got closer and closer to being 100% complete. For some tasks multiple people are responsible for completing it.
For Clarity of Learning Goals we had planned a presentation. Different members of the team had different parts they were responsible for. Our Google Drive integrates with our Project Management tool, Trello. The presentation was in this project box and everyone on that particular part of the project could work on it in real time together. As they completed their part they would check the completion box and we all could view how close the presentation was to being completed.
In our management meetings we bring up the school project dashboard. The first thing we do in our meeting is run through all of the projects and check on their status. This allows the whole team to see the whole picture of what we are working on and how it all aligns. The power of the project management portal is in its plethora of tools. A good project management tool syncs with tools such as Google Docs and your calendar. It has messaging in it to discuss shared tasks. It is a storehouse for all related documents and media. It will also have a variety of permission levels that are very granular. And the final feature is the ability to transfer tasks. We use the project management portal to do annual tasks like build our master schedule. If a new person needs to take over the task you can just insert them in the project and now they have a checklist of what the job entails. In an industry that does not cross train, this feature is crucial.
Education has always had an overwhelming amount of information and projects to manage. But now we are being asked to align all of them in our overall system. Project management portals are what some organizations are using to make sense of it all. I would suggest picking a very small project and giving it a try with different products to see which one works for you. Once you find one that fits your culture show it to your team and bring order to your lives.
Like many educators who are also mothers, I dreamed of reading to my children every night before bed. I saw myself reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, gently tucking them in, and watching them drift off to join Aslan in Narnia. I managed to fulfill that dream when they were small and loved picture books. Yet somewhere around the time my eldest wanted a more challenging reading experience than The Very Quiet Cricket, I realized nightly reading was a road block. What with homework and nightly routines, I just couldn’t do it!
So, I turned to my smartphone. I found two apps I really liked. One was the for-pay site Audible.com which, like so many Amazon products, offers a wide range of books to choose from for adults and children. The other site I chose was Overdrive.com which allowed us to connect through our local library card to a wealth of free audiobooks, e-books and movies.
I downloaded Beverly Cleary’s collection of Henry and Ribsy to my phone. One particularly hot afternoon in the car, when my brood was fighting and my internal temperature was starting to rise, I turned it on. Magic happened! They listened. In fact, when we got home, we sat in the driveway listening because they did not want the story to stop. They were like camels crossing the desert to an oasis. They drank deeply. I knew we were on the right track.
As research has taught us, listening to adult readers builds in a child the value of becoming a successful reader. It allows children to learn how to read at a natural pace and grows the enjoyment of listening to spoken words of a story. If we think of oral comprehension as the foundation of the development of reading and vocabulary, then it is easy to see how listening and reading comprehension are interlinked.
In the primary grades a student’s maximum level of reading comprehension is predicated on the child’s level of listening comprehension. Students exposed to stories with increased vocabulary will inevitably have a greater depth of knowledge and more developed academic vocabulary. Keith Stanovich has described the so-called “Matthew effects” in reading—the wider the variety of reading, the more cumulative the child’s vocabulary and early acquisition of reading skills become, while the child not exposed to the cognitive exercise of tiered vocabulary can have gaps in her schema and will likely become a poor reader.
The beauty of online stories is that no longer am I the gatekeeper of reading more complex text. At any time, my daughters can pick up a tablet, pop on their headphones and listen to stories unfold. The tablet becomes more than a screen to watch a movie or play a game; it becomes a way to connect with the library. With the current additions to Overdrive.com, children can enjoy hearing the story read aloud while following the text on screen. While reviewing one particular Star Wars story, I noted how the inclusion of John William’s theme music, the rich voice of the narrator and high interest text invited the reader to become enthusiastic for the story. Our smart devices become living books that unlock the reader’s imagination.
“Books Fall Open
Books fall open,
you fall in,
you’ve never been.
not once heard before,
Reach world through world,
through door on door.
keys to things,
locked up beyond
True books will venture,
Dare you out,
across the gloom,
to you in need
Who hanker for
a book to read.”
Have you been in a quandary about how to present data about your school or district? Do you worry that your stakeholders will be overwhelmed with so much data they will not be able to see the big picture? You may want to think about creating an infographic to tell your story.
Communicating the story to your stakeholders may be easier and certainly more engaging if you can do it graphically. Building an infographic is a lot like writing a press release. Once you have all the research and data at your fingertips, determine the most compelling headline for the story you want to tell. Create a hierarchy with your data. What is the main idea and what are the supporting details?
Next, choose a template and build a frame for your story. Each of the online infographic tools has a number of templates that you can use and adapt for telling your story. If your story is a comparison and contrast there are templates that work well for that purpose. Maybe your story is linear and you want to choose a template that follows a timeline. Whichever format you choose, this is the step that will provide the structure for your infographic.
Next, you get to become a graphic designer. Your template will come with a basic layout, colors, and design elements. However you can add, change or remove anything on the template. There are options for adding pictures, graphs, charts, weblinks, or embedding video. In fact, there are so many options you may want to take some time to see what other people have created or watch some video tutorials that most of the online sites have created to support their tool.
Your first one will take awhile.
Be prepared to spend some time planning the layout. On my first attempt, I built the infographic as I went along and I spent a lot of time redoing and moving things around which was a pretty tedious process. The first infographic I created took many hours and I did not think I would ever do another, but once it was done and I began using it, the positive feedback inspired me to try another.
Initially you should take your infographic out for a test drive and share it with only a few individuals who can give you feedback. Allow time for revisions and then make it public to your stakeholders. The beauty is your infographic lives on the web and you can continue to update and make changes.
Google forms have a variety of uses. You can do surveys, gather important data, or create quizzes, just to name a few. Recently, I have discovered an add-on for Google forms that increases the power of forms. This add-on is called Choice Eliminator. Imagine the possibilities when you can have choices that disappear once each person submitting the form has selected one of the options. My first thought for use would be for parent/teacher conferences. You want to give parents the option of selecting their time, but you also want options to disappear once they have selected one. The Choice Eliminator add-on is your best friend for turning this possibility into a reality. Brian Gray’s YouTube video gives you the best example of how it works and walks you through the steps to accomplish it on your own.
Once you have watched the video to see how it is done, follow these basic steps.
Install the Choice Eliminator add-on to your Google form
Create your form including the multiple choice options for each question.
Click on Add-ons (Make sure you are in your Google form).
Click on Get Add-ons.
Search for Choice Eliminator.
Install the Choice Eliminator Add-on.
Click on Add-on – Choice Eliminator – Start
A dialogue box appears on the right hand side of the screen.
After the question list loads, click on the question you want to eliminate choices on.
Your form is now ready to go!
But WAIT!, there’s more
As shown in the video, you can now allow multiple selections/restrictions for different options within the form. For example, if you want three 8 o’clock slots, but only one 3 o’clock slot, you can do that!
Create your questions in the usual way
Open Choice Eliminator dialogue box on the right
Click to eliminate choices
Then click on choice options
Now you can set the number of options available for each answer within your multiple choice list that you provided in your form.
The Choice Eliminator add-on for Google forms truly transforms your educational practices and opens up an unlimited number of possibilities for educators when creating forms that need limited selected options at times. Please share in comments how you might use the choice eliminator add-on and how it might most benefit you! As I always say, it’s not what you know, but what you share.