Tag Archives: edtech

Day 5: Strategies for Working Together

This is the fifth post in a series about launching the use of the app Book Creator in a kindergarten classroom.  You can read the first three posts by clicking on the links below.

Today’s blog post is written by guest blogger Laura Meehan.  Laura is an Instructional Digital Age Learning Coach with a specialty in math and science. You can follow her on Twitter @LauraMeehan04


IMG_5198.JPGNext up in the “Katie & Laura are overwhelmed by kindergarteners” series…Strategies for Working Together!

We’ve been noticing over the past four days that our kindergarten friends are so excited to work on their devices that they are forgetting the basic rules of working with a friend kindly. Sometimes it’s just instinct for a five or six-year-old to grab an iPad from their partner and hurt a heart along the way so we felt like today was the day to bring back some reminders about collaborating on our devices.

We started with an anchor chart with three strategies for working together:
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We shared each strategy and then provided some dramatic interpretation of the strategy, performed by me and Katie. While the kids were quick to point out that we weren’t actually making a book on our screen during our performance, they were also quick to pick out that we were being kind, making compromises, and sharing. Before leaving the rug, each set of partners chose a strategy for working together and then head out to their iPads to get started.

The students found so much value in their work today. Their partnerships created a system of checks and balances that provided some needed accountability in this process. They identified the features of their science books that were missing because they were focused on what they would do when it was their turn. Also, Katie stopped them for a mid workshop teaching point to share her own science book about chicks. This check-in prompted the students to push their own thinking by adding audio buttons when they couldn’t express themselves effectively enough through writing, and to vary the size and quantity of photos for different purposes. To wrap up, we had kids complete a short Google Form to reflect on their work and choose the working together strategy that was their favorite using the stick figures from our anchor chart. So far, they like “talk & type” the most.

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My super favorite part was when some little guys who struggled earlier this week with partner work found comfort in the structures provided. The “stop, think, agree” strategy gave them the right to say, “We are arguing too much and we should stop touching our iPad and talk it out.” The “talk & type” strategy gave them permission to speak up to help with spelling and creativity. The “I do, you do” strategy gave them each a chance to have their voice heard 100% without the partner squashing their thoughts.

We’re going home this weekend feeling like a million dollars. P.S. Kindergarten teachers deserve a triple salary, a personal massage therapist, and bottomless Starbucks.IMG_5184.JPG

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Days 3 & 4: Interview A Friend


This is the fourth post in a series about launching the use of the app Book Creator in a kindergarten classroom.  You can read the first three posts by clicking on the links below.

During planning we thought that a great way to get the kids going would be to have them interview each other.  We wanted them to have an opportunity to talk about and connect with learning that they were already doing and to share some questions they had.  This was also a way to get them into book creator before their was much action with the chicks.

Day 3

I did a simple illustrated chart to try and support their efforts.  We discussed a few guidelines for contents and agreed that each student should say three things they knew about chicks and one to two things they wondered.  Our send off directions were “Think, Practice, Record,” and we chanted it a few times together before partners went off to their working spaces.  We also discussed what it meant to be professional so that they could elevate the quality of their work.

The recording was a bit bumpy at first as it was the first time they had recorded another student.  They found themselves rerecording a lot because their initial attempt was too quiet or focused on someone’s feet.

This is my terrible chart.  Luckily Kindergartners are very forgiving.

The most exciting part of Day 3 was that one of the eggs started to crack!  The students gathered close looking at the crack and trying to take a picture for their book.

The first egg begins to hatch
Students work as a team to edit a page in their book.

Day 4

Several students still needed to record by day 4 and we also wanted them to go back and look at their work to see if they had done what we had decided on.  Laura typed up this little editing checklist for teams to use as they went back and reviewed their videos.  Many students found that they had said three things they knew but forgot to share a wonder.  To avoid frustration we suggested they just make a second video on their page with their questions.  This was also a helpful strategy for students who were struggling to get the whole thing done in one sitting.

A checklist for video revision.

By the end of day 4 most students had completed their videos, revised their covers, and were excited to see that some of the chicks had hatched!  Just in time for us to get some content for our book.

The first hatched chicks!  Complete with decorations for the box.

We identified two areas to go next; partner work and content.  Partner skills were getting rusty at this point and we found ourselves mediating a lot of disagreements.  On the other hand we also felt like it was important that they begin to use their knowledge of nonfiction features to get some meaty content in their books.  We discussed it with the teachers and they agreed that the social stuff needed to come first.  So we were left wondering…what strategies could kindergartners use to help them work together?

Come back tomorrow for a guest post by Laura Meehan, iDal Coach and my daily work buddy.  She will be blogging about Day 5: Strategies for Working Together.

I’ve Been to the Other Side

Have you ever watched a presenter and thought to yourself, yes that’s a great idea BUT… What follows is never good.  Fill in the blank; not with my students, I don’t have time, we don’t have devices. When I present I love to show real work from the classroom.  Students in action, photos, student work, and videos that kids have made.  I select these carefully to represent students of all learning abilities.  I never show just the “smartest” students.  That’s not authentic.  Yet there has never been a time when I haven’t looked at evaluations and seen the accusing phrase that goes something like “but my students are English Language Learners, or have IEP’s, or are low income.”  My students were all of these things.  The work you saw, the clips you viewed were low income students and students with IEPs, students with no label who still struggled, students somewhere in the middle, and yes sometimes the more accomplished.  I’m not kidding I’m really not.  


But that’s not why I’m writing this post.  I’m writing because I want to address the other comment.   The comment that went something like “How can I do this without 1 to 1 iPads?”  These comments were much more prevalent.  They were from naysayers to teachers who really did want to start tomorrow but just couldn’t wrap their minds around how to make it work with what they had.  I’m writing this post to tell you I’ve been to the other side.


Last year I left my classroom, 30 ipads, and ten years worth of books and furniture grants to a very lovely teacher.  Now my job is to coach people in literacy and technology and lots of things in between.  Next year they will all have iPads but this year…yuck.  Shared carts of old netbooks that take forever to boot up and even longer to log in.  Missing keys, odd trackpads, unfamiliar programs.  No shiny iPads, no quick fixes.  I’m living in the other side.  I’ve seen your BUT. I get it.


And yes it’s hard, it’s challenging some days and sometimes I see in the eyes of teachers that they want to give up and go back.  But then they see their students light up and give a little more, and help each other out, and do something amazing. Then they learn something new and feel that spark, that fire again! I’ve been to the other side and we aren’t letting it stop us.  We can do it!  You can do it!  Let’s just try.

iPad Friends for Early Learners

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 2.55.03 PMHow do we ensure that our littlest learners are equipped to use technology in a meaningful way?  We go slow to go fast!  I’m very pleased to share this document with you, created by myself and a group of fellow instructional digital age learning coaches. (kindred spirits, overall geniuses, and great people)

The concept came to use as we were working on another document to help teachers roll out the year.  Where were the lessons for our youngest learners?  Hey, these are people who need to learn how to sit on the carpet.  Giving them a $600 device takes a little preparation.  So iPad Friends was born.  A short sweet document with a teaching point and an image of a student modeling.  Our hope is that teachers will take the teaching point and make it their own, then take a photo of their own students modeling these great habits.

Please share, enjoy, and make it your own.




Tweets As A Nonfiction Text Feature

Earlier today I was looking for resources on extreme weather for one of my teacher teams and stumbled on this article.  Below is a screenshot or you can click the link to read the entire thing.

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It gave me pause for thought because it’s peppered with embedded Tweets like the one in the image below.  Now this is nothing new to me as an adult reader and a Twitter user.  But I wondered how many students would recognize this new type of nonfiction text feature and know how to approach it.  What might we want students to consider when they encounter an embedded tweet in an article?

Perhaps that there has been a shift in author?  Therefore a possible shift in validity.

How do we look at the source and decide if it’s reputable?  Is this an expert in the field like a weather person?  Is this someone who is giving us a “from the scene” perspective?

What image literacy skills might students need to interpret, connect, and synthesize the tweets with the body of the article?

We’d love for you to share your experiences if you’ve tried using any articles with embedded tweets with your students.

The Value of Screencasting

Building on our recent digital artifacts discussion I thought we might take a minute to look at the value of using screen casting in the classroom.  When I first learned about screen casting my initial thought was “what a great tool to use in math!”  I began to create quick tutorials for students to help them learn concepts and strategies.  These were shared on our website so that any student (or parent) who needed to could access them.  I would use QR codes on class charts to provide quick access to certain tutorials and make the charts come alive.  And all of these things were great, but…

I was starting to feel like my own little Khan academy.  Sure it was personalized to our curriculum and the learning we were doing directly in class.  But I  couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that this was a tool that should be in the hands of STUDENTS!

You see, unless you can sit and watch kids solve and think through problems there are essential pieces of information that you miss.  I would look at papers and see erasure marks, sometimes down to holes in the paper, and wonder what process had taken place to get the student to the end goal.  Where was their understanding breaking down?   If they caught a mistake in their process how and why and when?  I thought perhaps if I could get them screen casting that I would have answers to these questions and I could be a better math teacher.  In the end, I was right.

Let’s look at an example of a screen cast from a former student of mine.  In this screencast she is doing something that we call an “interactive” screencast.  This is where the student is creating the screen cast for an audience and is tasked with engaging the audience to solve the problem, then provide an explanation as to the correct answer.  It’s one of the many formats we brainstormed as a class so that students understood that screen casting is not just a digital quiz to be turned into the teacher, but that we often have different purposes and audiences for creating them.

As you watch think:

  • What does this student already know?  What is she able to do?
  • What questions do you have about her process?  What do you assume she had done mentally that we don’t see?
  • What evidence do you see that she understands the concept?  At what level does she understand it?  (Is there evidence that her understanding goes beyond just being able to apply an algorithm?)
  • What feedback would you give this student about her screencast?  About her math process?
  • What are some next steps for this student?

We’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments!


Making Digital Artifacts Work: Part 3

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This is the third post in a series about making digital artifacts of student learning work for you as a teacher.  In this series we will discuss the types of digital artifacts we collect, how we manage them, and what to do with all of those great pieces of evidence of student learning.  You can read the first post in this series here and the second post on ideas for managing artifacts here.

We’ve been exploring using digital artifacts in the classroom.  So here are three simple ideas for getting your students started with digital artifacts tomorrow!

  1. Snapshot and Reflection: Ask students to take a picture of a work product that you would like to have them reflect on.  Then incorporate this into a reflection artifact by annotating directly on the image  (Skitch) or adding some writing (Pages/Keynote/Google Drive) or spoken reflection (Sonic Pics).  Students might save this and add to it over the course of a unit or during the week.  Or perhaps they share with you immediately for a goal setting conference.
  2. Video Reflection: Using a built in recording program and camera ask students to stop by the reflection book and share something they learned today.  If you have multiple devices students can work on a rotating basis.  If you only have one then set up a quick recording booth and have students cycle through during the day or week.  You might ask them to talk for two minutes about how they applied a reading strategy during independent reading, reflect on their observations from a science experiment, or share a portion of writing where they accomplished a goal.
  3. Padlet Exit Ticket: You know we couldn’t leave Padlet out of this one!  It’s such an easy and versatile tool.  Ask kids to take a few minutes to share a new piece of learning, lingering question, or even record a quick video right into the padlet.  You can guide students with a specific question or leave it more open ended.

We’d love to continue in this series.  But what questions do YOU have?  Leave us a question or burning issue in the comments and we’ll work your needs into our next post.  : ) 

Making Digital Artifacts Work: Part 1

This is the first post in a series about making digital artifacts of student learning work for you as a teacher.  In this series we will discuss the types of digital artifacts we collect, how we manage them, and what to do with all of those great pieces of evidence of student learning.

A student shares important elements of their book club book using a digital tool
A student shares important elements of their book club book using a digital tool

What is a digital artifact?

Digital artifacts can be photos, notes, student projects, blog posts, Tweets and just about anything that students create using digital tools.  They comprise a mixture of student created and teacher documented artifacts of learning over the course of the year.

Digital artifacts are great supplements, in some cases replacements, to traditional artifacts that we collect in the classroom because they add elements that we wouldn’t have otherwise been able to capture.  For example, teachers often collect student notebooks to read through writing, gather evidence about skills learned and applied, and check on the sheer volume of work that kids are doing.  Digital artifacts can add student voice and reflection to this.

Instead of attempting to confer with every kid we can capture their voices and thinking through the use of technology tools.  We can ask kids to create reflection presentations or portfolios of digital work using screen shots and simple apps like Keynote, SonicPics, or iMovie.  Essentially digital artifacts give us more information than we have ever had about our learners.

We capture snapshots of kids at work and use these to make our record keeping rich and reflective.
We capture snapshots of kids at work and use these to make our record keeping rich and reflective.

How do I begin collecting digital artifacts?

I like to the start the year with something simple like capturing photos of students at work and a few notes about the photo in my Evernote account.  A notebook for each student holds these notes, snippets of conversations, and other work samples over the course of the year.  This is a tool for me to learn more about my kids and to use for reflection when planning.

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This anchor chart appears in our new book Amplify: Digital Teaching and Learning in the the K-5 Classroom

With students it’s important to discuss what archiving is. We give kids examples of the types of work they might want to collect over time.  We discuss how each of these items can be used for reflection on ourselves as learners.  We also make time for this process, reminding students at the end of a lesson to capture a snapshot of learning from the day or to tag a post with a special tag like “learning” or “archive” so that they can easily find it later.  At the end of a unit or quarter we set aside time to review these artifacts, reflect on learning and growth, set goals, and share with peers and parents.

What types of digital artifacts are the most important to collect?

Although going digital as a teacher has its benefits I believe that the most important artifacts are those that students have created.  These might be video diaries/blogs of students sharing learning, short projects or work samples, specific blog posts, exit tickets, or other student created work.

A student prepares images for an audio reflection on reading strategies.
A student prepares images for an audio reflection on reading strategies.

We encourage students to collect a variety of samples across subject areas and those that best showcase their growth as a learner.  Times when they can pinpoint how, when, and why  they met goals and showed growth.

We empower kids by giving them the ownership over their learning and reflection process through these digital artifacts and set up structures to help students catapult themselves to success.  These structures include student checklists, goal setting sheets, and conferences.

A student shares a screenshot demonstrating their ability to model and use numbers to solve a math problem. This image is saved for reflection at the end of the unit.
A student shares a screenshot demonstrating their ability to model and use numbers to solve a math problem. This image is saved for reflection at the end of the unit.

Check back on Friday for our next post in this series on managing student digital artifacts.  We’ll talk about how to handle all of the new work that you have available to you.

It’s Monday: What are You Reading Teacher Edition

Looking for a fun project that builds reading community and sets the tone for connected learning throughout the school year?  Then join the It’s Monday: What Are You Reading project!

After watching teachers post book reviews to Twitter each Monday using the hashtag #IMWAYR, we decided to take this practice to our students. Each Monday across the school year our kiddos shared their reading lives and embraced the pop culture selfie fad by posting a book “shelfie” and a short book review to a Padlet wall (for more ideas on using Padlet in the classroom, read Katie’s post on social media) . This collaborative wall served as a visual book recommendation chart that was accessible to all students. It laid the foundation for a strong reading community as this weekly routine reinforced the belief that “we are readers.” It also provided me rich data about student reading lives, interests, and their ability to read, write and view to learn. Most importantly, it provided an authentic audience for book reviews as students built voice and celebrated their reading with each other.

Once we saw the impact this had on our students and across our school, we opened the #IMWAYR project to classrooms around the world. From Kuala Lumpur to Vancouver, to Stockholm and D.C. we talked titles and shared our reading lives. Initially, our students noticed the different titles that kids were reading, but after a short period of time, they began to notice similarities and commonalities between countries and classrooms.  When kids observed that students in Singapore were also reading Wonder, or that learners in Detroit liked Babymouse just like they did, it fostered the idea of connected learning.  Many teachers partnered students virtually from different classrooms who had a shared interest or wanted to learn about a book from a peer. Kids found onscreen reading buddies or even sometimes that one other person who shared their reading passion; along the way they built understanding that we are all members of the global learning community.

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I shared this project at a number of conferences this summer and just last week the amazing @MrDulberger tweeted me his book shelfie which spurred the idea for the Teacher Edition It’s Monday: What are You Reading project.  We know that mentor text matters. We use books in reading, writing and math workshop to set an example or fuel ideas for what kids might do independently.  We need to extend this mentor text model into our technology workshop and help kids envision the possibilities. We have the awesome opportunity to show them what connected learning looks like and sounds like, so let’s do it!

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We invite you to join the #IMWAYR project and post a book shelfie and a review to this Padlet wall. Please make sure to share your location in addition to the review so we can track posts with our students.  We hope this project introduces you to a few new titles and serves as a resource you can use to build a reading community and habits for living across the school year.  Happy reading friends!   

Updated August 25, 2015: Want to learn more about It’s Monday: What are You Reading? Check out @MentorTexts blog that features a special #KidLit post each week. It’s a great way to learn about new titles and model connected learning and networking with your students. #IMWAYR

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Try it Tomorrow: One Little Word

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I first heard of One Little Word over at Two Writing Teachers.  What a wonderfully simple way to focus your energy for the year.  No messy resolutions, just one little word.

So I thought: why not try it with students?

I started by pulling a variety of exemplars and popping them into my favorite tool…Padlet.  This visual layout worked great in helping students see the variety of words and the visual/artistic element of the project.

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As they viewed it we talked about what we noticed and some things that we wanted to keep in mind as we made our choice.  I asked students to view the Padlet through two lenses.  1) word choice and 2) design elements.  Then students got to work, here is a photo of their hard work!


They attacked this project with gusto.  (I’m sure it was sounding better than revising those pesky feature articles.)  Students used both traditional and digital tools to create their words.  Then they each took a picture or screenshot, posted it to their blog, and wrote a bit about why the chose the word that they did.

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It’s tempting to over schoolify things sometimes so I didn’t set any expectation for their writing other than to explain why you chose the word you did.  I took a big step back on this and just allowed students to do things however they wanted because I was hoping to encourage creativity and excitement.  By making the one little word their own and not a “project for school” I hope they take it to heart and use it to help make 2015 an amazing year.

It’s not too late for you and your students to find your one little word for the year!  Will you try it tomorrow and let us know how it goes? 

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