Flipping an English Class: The Benefits of Technology and Time

Initial Thoughts

I don’t spend much time on Twitter, so I felt a little out of my comfort zone when I initially explored flipped classrooms, but I bet that is how students feel when they initially enter a flipped classroom themselves. When I took part in the live chat on Twitter this Monday about the flipped class and then explored other resources I found there, I realized that there was much more to flipping a class than I had originally realized. The theme of this live flip chat was about how flipping class can affect mental health for both students and teachers. While the concept of addressing mental health in education was not new, I had never spent so much time reflecting on one pedagogical practice’s potential to affect mental health in the classroom. Teachers shared ideas and resources about mental health and many other facets of creating a flipped classroom as well. The point of flipping your classroom is giving your students and yourself the time and space to focus on different types of activities and elements of learning as opposed to lecture alone. This new freedom allows teachers to spend more time on mental health, PBL, other inquiry projects, deeper discussions, and many other activities that may not have been available otherwise.

woman using a smartphone while fronting a macbook pro and black ipad
Photo by picjumbo.com on Pexels.com

Using Videos as Benefits of Flipped Classrooms

One of the main concepts people associate with flipped classrooms is videos. Often, teachers record their own lectures or find existing ones online to watch for homework and then come to class to practice and dig deeper into the content and skills. According to this Forbes article, one of the main benefits of using videos as lectures outside of class is that students learn at their own pace (Gobry, 2012). One prominent flipped classroom teacher, Crystal Kirch, quotes Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams as asking in her book, “What is the best use of face to face time you have with your students?” (2016, p. 7). Instead of forcing the students to listen to the information at the same speed and with limited opportunities for questions or follow up inquiry, a flipped classroom allows students to take control of their time to learn the content and also frees up teacher time in class to help students learn in more engaged ways. Once she flipped her classroom, Kirch writes that “class time was focused on them and not on me as the master of knowledge…focused on active learning…and focused on higher-order thinking” (2016, p. 18). With all of these benefits in mind, one educator and former critic of using videos for flipped instruction writes, “So, it is about the video, but only in the sense that it allows the teacher to explore other methods of interacting with students within the context of the class” (Brian, 2016). Videos or any other medium that allows students to control their own learning on their own time while also engaging better during class is ideal. Catlin Tucker, educator and writer, on her website elaborates:

Today’s students have more access to information and resources beyond the classroom than any prior generation. They can jump online and watch a video tutorial to learn how to do something that interests them. They can explore the globe with Google Earth, go on a virtual tour of the Louvre or the MoMA, or tinker, build, and create in the comfort of their homes. Is this learning less valuable than the learning that happens in a classroom? I would argue this self-directed learning is in many ways more powerful for kids because they decide how they will learn, what they will learn, and when they will learn (Tucker, 2018).

So students cannot just work with information and content in the same ways that they have in previous decades, because not only is what available different, but their interests and passions have evolved.

night television tv video
Photo by Tookapic on Pexels.com

My Own Videos

In my own classroom, I have used videos and online lessons in a blended way (not exactly flipped) by providing my lectures in video form to view in a learning center, and then having students practice the concepts in other learning centers where I can answer questions and help students instead of actually delivering content during class. In the very first video I ever made, the audio quality of my laptop was terrible, but I didn’t have time to re-record or come up with a backup plan. The students asked me if I recorded underwater, or lived with a den of bats, because it was so terrible. I also only knew of Screencast-omatic to record videos at the time, which is certainly a fine tool. Since then, I have gotten a nice microphone I use and I like using the Record features in Microsoft Powerpoint and other tools. I either upload the videos to private online databases or just to Youtube where I can link it in my course, online agenda, or use it in another source to add questions.

Youtube videos are the easiest form to upload and manage. Here is a video about how to write the Expository Essay I assign my 9th graders, here is one about Finding Credible Sources, Author’s Style, and themes in The Crucible.

I also really like using Nearpod to embed images, questions, and videos that I can then use to monitor how well the students interacted with the content. Here is a link to a background Nearpods I just made for The Secret Life of Bees and here is one for To Kill a Mockingbird. I plan on using these at the beginning of a literature circle unit for those two novels. Students choose one novel which they want to read, and I will have them browse through the content to answer the questions.

Another source I like using is Playposit, which lets me use others’ videos as well as my own to include questions throughout the video to check student comprehension along the way. I can combine other people’s videos with questions and notes such as this Playposit about Using Transitions, Romeo and Juliet background information, Irony, and Point of View.

action adult aperture blur
Photo by Terje Sollie on Pexels.com

Flipping Class: Other Technological Considerations

In her article on flipping the classroom without videos, Sydney Johnson explains how in one teacher’s class, she flipped her classroom by asking students to try out coding problems ahead of time, and then reflect on the process and learn more information in person (Johnson, 2018). Instead of always focusing on assigning videos, she wanted teachers to realize that they can flip their classrooms in other ways as well. For example, Holly Welham writes on The Guardian that, “The idea is that students learn new content outside the classroom (usually online) and then tackle assignments in lessons, giving teachers more time to help students with aspects they don’t understand” (Welham, 2014). While students could watch videos, they could also perform webquests, do interviews, and participate in inquiry that they unpack during class.

In one tweet during the live session on Monday, Angela Barnett shared an online survey about student feelings she does every morning during class. Flipping her classroom allows her to spend more time in class sharing their feelings and opinions.

When browsing through The Flipped Learning 3.0 Magazine, I found Catherine Nickerson.  In her study based on her own experiences with flipping the classroom in her 2018 paper, she notes that while just spending time online doesn’t help students by itself, allowing them occasions online to improve their interaction, production and reflection do help students (Nickerson, 2018, p. 72). Outside of class or during class students should be interacting, producing, and reflecting to get the best benefit of technology.

notes macbook study conference
Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

Final Thoughts on Flipping

In the future, I want to continue using videos to partially flip my class, but I should spend more time considering how I use the class time I save by assigning the video lectures and activities. I would like to incorporate more PBL, inquiry, and student choice with the extra time we have in class so my students have more autonomy over not only the timeline of their learning but also how and what they learn. I think that when teachers can make their classroom flipped in a way that works for them, it is more fun for the teachers (lecturing to a group of high school students is less fun than it sounds), and it is more fun for the students. Plus students are more engaged and learn how to become better learners and students! While assigning videos for homework can be overwhelming to some students, deciding how flipping the classroom works for you and your students seems to have great benefits. Let me know if you have tried Nearpod, Playposit, or any other resource to make your classroom more flipped than it was previously!

 

References

Barnett, A. (2018, July 17). Tweet. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/MrsBarnett_Tchr/status/1019014516804239361

Brian. (2016, July 20). Maybe it IS About the Video…  Retrieved from https://flippedlearning.org/syndicated/maybe-it-is-about-the-video/

Kirch, C. (2016). Flipping With Kirch: The Ups and Downs from Inside My Flipped Classroom: Crystal Kirch, Jason Bretzmann: 9780692661901: Amazon.com: Books. Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/Flipping-Kirch-Inside-Flipped-Classroom/dp/0692661905

Gobry, P. (2012, December 11). What Is The Flipped Classroom Model And Why Is It Amazing? (With Infographic). Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/pascalemmanuelgobry/2012/12/11/what-is-the-flipped-classroom-model-and-why-is-it-amazing-with-infographic/#6f25e98f50bf

Homepage. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://flr.flglobal.org/

Johnson, S. (2018, May 30). A Case For Flipping Learning-Without Videos – EdSurge News. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2018-05-24-a-case-for-flipping-learning-without-videos

Nickerson, C. (2018). Mobile and multidimensional: Flipping the business English classroom. Retrieved from https://www.esptodayjournal.org/pdf/current_issue/june_2018/Catherine_Nickerson_full_text.pdf

Tucker, C. (2018, February 01). Learning Beyond the Classroom.  Retrieved from https://catlintucker.com/2018/02/learning-beyond-the-classroom/?platform=hootsuite

Welham, H. (2014, March 30). Flipped learning: Benefits, challenges and best practice – live chat. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2014/mar/30/flipped-learning-benefits-challenges-best-practice-live-chat

Advertisements

Using a Back Channel to Give Students a Voice

Using Social Networking in Schools

group hand fist bump
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Students often feel more comfortable sharing their ideas online than they do in person. When trying different kinds of discussions, online discussions typically allow the greatest number of students to participate. So, trying to use a back channel in the classroom can allow students who otherwise may not do so, to share ideas and questions about the class. This type of social media site is “a private back channel that can be used as a collaborative means for discussing and documenting classroom interactions” (Dembo and Bellow, 2013, p. 95). Teachers should harness the power of social networking sites to engage students in the classrooms, because they already use them outside of school. One student notes that: “Among teens, that amounts to about 9 hours a week on social networking activities, compared to about 10 hours a week watching TV” (National School Boards Association, n.d.). Students are more and more regularly spending time on social networking sites to talk about what is on their mind, build individual profiles, and create and share content. The same study also notes that “[m]ore than one in five online students (21 percent) say they post comments on message boards every day; four out of 10 (41 percent) say they do so at least once a week,” so students enjoy talking online.

The Benefits of Social Networking

With that statistic in mind, it makes sense to use online discussions such as a backchannel in the classroom. For example, one student, Justin Lansink says in the article “Speaking Up in Class, Silently, Using Social Media,” “When you type something down, it’s a lot easier to say what I feel” (Gabriel, 2011).  If a back channel allows a student to share their opinions and have their voice heard who otherwise would be silent, it is worth considering.

abstract art blur bright
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Another reason to use a back channel is that it allows the teacher to model and monitor proper netiquette online. Many parents, teachers, and administrators fear that students partake in too many negative interactions online, so by using a back channel as a teachable moment, students will get into the habit of treating others with respect online as well. One study notes that, “Many log on daily to their social network pages and these have become spaces where much of the social activity of teen life is echoed and amplified—in both good and bad ways” (Lenhart, Madden, Smith, Purcell, Zickuhr, and Rainie, 2011, p. 1) so it is important to help students be a part of the good side of the internet. The same study records that, “44% say they saw such [cruel] behavior ‘only once in a while’” (Lenhart, Madden, Smith, Purcell, Zickuhr, and Rainie, 2011, p. 1). So even though cruel behavior may not actually happen as often as we assume, it is still important to teach students about how to talk online.

Making a Back Channel

I first explored Today’s Meet to make a back channel for some of my lessons, but I got this message:

today

Then I googled back channel websites and came across Chatzy. There are many other sites to play around with and see what works for you and your students, but I liked the privacy and administrator options in Chatzy. One way I would use a back channel this fall when I teach American Literature to 11th graders, is to use it for a discussion when we watch the movie version of The Crucible towards the beginning of the semester. After reading each act, we watch the act in movie form to see the artistic choices and characterization on film. The back channel would allow us to talk about these choices during the movie while also considering the plot and characters overall in the play. I start the conversation with, “As we watch The Crucible, here are two questions for you to reflect on and discuss. 1) How is the movie different from the play? How is it a different experience for you? 2) Should John Proctor be admired or condemned?” But I can post additional questions throughout the lesson. Here is the Back channel for The Crucible I set up with Chatzy.

chat

Another idea for a back channel is to create one during a lesson where students are moving around to learning centers or stations, but you want to maintain a consistent dialogue with the class. For American Literature, we begin the semester with Native American stories, Immigration tales, and instances where culture clashes. During my lesson on the clash of cultures based on immigration, I have a station with a nonfiction article about “Culture and Conflict,” for them to compare the Sherman Alexie’s, “The Absolutely True Story of a Part-time Indian,” a station about biological warfare, a station to read “Of Plymouth Plantation,” and a station to watch a video about the history of this time period.  I could have a back channel going throughout the class for students to answer questions about culture, immigration, and share their own questions and thoughts on the topics.

Using these ideas for back channels will help students engage better with the material while collaborating with their peers and speaking politely online.

 

References

Dembo, S., & Bellow, A. (2013). Untangling the Web. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Gabriel, T. (2011, May 12). Speaking Up in Class, Silently, Using Social Media. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/13/education/13social.html?pagewanted=all

Lenhart, A., Madden, M., Smith, A., Purcell, K., Zickuhr, K., & Rainie, L. (2011, November 09). Teens, kindness and cruelty on social network sites. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2011/11/09/teens-kindness-and-cruelty-on-social-network-sites/

National School Boards Association. (n.d.) Creating & connecting: Research and guidelines on online social and educational networking. Retrieved from https://cdn-files.nsba.org/s3fs-public/reports/CREATING-CONNECTING-Research-and-Guidelines-on-Online-Social-and-Educational-Networking.pdf?uWboUuaGF3I1xHt6.Vlnq4D9HnfutHyF

Social Studies Gets Social: Interview about Mobile Phones

Introduction

Dayna Walger has been teaching social studies in Virginia for the last 11 years. She is currently a gifted specialist and resource teacher for Colonial Heights Public Schools, and three years ago was teacher of the year. I sat down with her to listen to her experiences with using mobile phones in the classroom. She has used phones for mostly games and projects, and had good engagement with her students. The worst situation was one student’s phone was broken, so she thinks that key to using phones is having a strict and consistent protocol between all teachers and throughout the year. Now that her school has Chromebooks, she prefers to use those.

access adult blur business
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Interview – Click HERE for the Video Interview!

  1. Describe how you used mobile devices in your classroom.
    1. I have used mobile devices a few different ways in the classroom.  I have used them for online learning review games such as Kahoot or quizzes.  Students have also used mobile devices to record and upload pictures or videos for PBL projects.  
  2. What challenges did you have to work through to make that happen? For example, did you have to get parent and administration approval?
    1. Before students were given Chromebooks, we would sent out a permission slip written by the school that explained when cell phones were allowed to be used.  The letter stated that the phones were only allowed when a teacher was using them for instructional purpose. The phones could only be used as stated by the teacher.  When students were done, phones were to be turned off and in the locker. This policy was also in the student handbook.
  3. How did using mobile phones increase engagement and student learning?
    1. Cell phones helped to engage students because students could work in teams or even one to one on response system games such as Kahoot.  Students could also collaborate on projects to create videos and upload them to google classroom.
  4. What would you do differently in the future? What did you learn through this experience?
    1. As long as students were aware of when and how they could use the cell phones, there was relatively no problems with this practice.  There was one student who broke his cell phone. I prefer if students are given a Chromebook purchased by the school but if this is not available, cell phones are a great alternative.
  5. Do you think administrators should encourage teachers to use phones in schools?
    1. If there are no Chromebooks or other computers available for students, the use of cell phones should be encouraged.  The district should make sure to have the policy for cell phones in a student handbook that parents and students need to sign and agree to.
  6. Should more teachers work to incorporate mobile phones?
    1. Yes, as long as the cell phone policy is written out and the policy is followed

Reflection

With her middle schoolers, Mrs. Walger has found success with mobile devices with her students, especially in terms of engagement. It sounds like the students enjoy using their phones, and they are easier to use than logging into computers. When introducing a short game, they worked well for her classroom. I never considered the fact that students could break each other’s phones. When they use their laptops and they get broken, the school will send an invoice home but they will fix it themselves right away. For a phone, the parents would need to figure it out on their own and may be frustrated. Students would need to know up front that they are using their phones at their own responsibility.

She noted that she only used them until she got her Chromebooks, so I wonder if she found the Chromebooks to do pretty much the same tasks as the cell phones but in a more professional fashion. That is how I often felt in my own classroom as well. I think it may be fun to use phones for certain games or offer it as an alternative on a big project, but otherwise in a 1:1 school, I still think laptops are the most powerful tool for students.

My Ideal Classroom: Learning Centers and Learning Centered

Introduction

While most schools choose the same white, cinderblock walls and lines of desks, the physical layout and design of a space has been proven to make a positive or negative difference on student learning. Even studies into hospitals and other types of larger spaces, including schools, shows a positive correlation with improved design and overall health and satisfaction. For example, one paper published in the journal Building and the Environment, found that: “classroom design could be attributed to a 25% impact, positive or negative, on a student’s progress over the course of an academic year. The difference between the best- and worst-designed classrooms covered in the study? A full year’s worth of academic progress” (Vanhemert, 2013). If a full year’s worth of academic progress is at stake, it is worth the time and focus of educators to make classrooms positive learning environments.

 

Current Work space

I received new desks last year, so at least they are homogenous. The space is a fairly large rectangle, and I like to use a combination of whole class, small group, and independent activities often throughout class. I put my desks into four groups of eight, generally facing the front board, but with the right and left group facing in towards the center. These represent a media station for videos and online content, a partner station for more independent reading work where you can ask a partner for help, a keystone station for study skills and test prep, and a collaborative station for group activities. It has worked well over the past few years to allow me to see and help all students, while also assigning and moving groups efficiently throughout stations and activities. Pardon these pictures since our floors haven’t been waxed yet so all of my cords, bins, decorations, etc are supposed to be off any movable surface and are thus jammed in the back.

original

Redesigned Work space

I chose to focus on a few small changes that would improve the feel and flow of my classroom. I opened the blinds to allow natural light, added some rugs to soften the room, and most importantly arranged the stations into more collaborative ways and obviously separate ways. The media station is the same since students normally just watch videos there. I added a rug to center and soften that area.

new 1

The partner station has the desks grouped by a partner and an improved reading nook.

new 2

The keystone station can still be used for test prep but is more collaborative for games, flashcards, or discussions.

new 3

The collaborative station has two groups of four desks so that students don’t need to constantly move chairs to work with their groups.

new 4

Ideal Redesigned Workspace

If I had $1000 to add even more to my classroom, I would add some touches to make the space more comfortable and student-friendly. I would buy better curtains that could be shut to block out all light when watching video on the big screen, but could stay open to consistently let in light. I would also put two or more lamps around the room to vary the light source. I would buy more furniture for the reading nook in the back corner such as four smaller chairs and a rug for the area. I would also buy better extension cords that could be fastened so that they are always in a readily accessed location. Finally, I would paint one or more of the walls a neutral shade, such as a mint blue. In a dream world, I would also add some more interesting seating so that students could still sit and work on realistic tables, but they wouldn’t always have the same size and layout. A great example of a high school classroom (there are so many for elementary school but some of my students are just too tall for the kinds of chairs they show for elementary school) is from The Teal Paperclip, listed below. She found and made her own differently sized tables, added more color and light sources, and made the space useful but also comfortable. My ideal room would be more like this one.

classroooomcllassclasrooommmclass

Reflection on Design and its Impact on Learning

  • Learning centers
    • My main focus on redesign was the stations and learning centers for my students to work on a variety of topics around the room instead of just facing the teacher. One educator, David Rickert on his website, notes that, “You want to keep kids moving around the classroom. Many studies have shown that kids learn better when they are up and moving around” (Rickert, 2017). Using learning centers allows students to move between activities and to access necessary materials. Rickert also adds that, “I like to post activities around the classroom on the walls, usually using QR Codes that linked to the task” (Rickert, 2017). His focus is making the space work for your educational goals for students.
    • Another educator specializing in English, Brynn Allison, also adds on her site that she uses learning centers to get students to open books, annotate, find real world connections, be creative, conference with each other, and watch videos. (Allison, 2016). She also uses them to review skills, first day of school activities, preview the text, play with timelines, and perform independent and group (Allison, 2016). Her focus is using space to get students up and moving, instead of just sitting and listening to the teacher all day long.
  • Technology
    • In other countries such as Denmark, teachers go beyond stations within the classroom to learning zones throughout the school where students can work on a variety of activities with help from teachers along the way. Jenkin writes that, “Copenhagen, Denmark, is famously known as the school without classrooms. The 1,000 plus students, aged 16 to 19, study in the open plan building’s numerous “learning zones”. According to headteacher, Allan Kjær Andersen, the architects designed the school to fit with the ethos of mixing 50% teacher-led learning with 50% independent student-centred learning” (Jenkin, 2015). Jenkin also adds that new learning spaces also require new uses of digital technology. He says that “Digital technology has been one of the most powerful agents of change in how societies around the world work and live in the 21st century…The way we learn must therefore adapt to ensure students are equipped with the skills needed to thrive as adults now and in the future” (Jenkin, 2015).
  • Visual Noise
    • Other than just the learning centers, light and color (and other types of visual noise) were also a focus because while they do not allow for specific activities, they make a difference for student well-being and focus. For example, one article adds that, “Classrooms that are painted with color, lighted with full-spectrum lighting, and devoid of visual noise result in improved academic performance and decreased disruptive, off-task behavior” (The Science of Classroom Design, 2015). So removing unnecessary posters and bulletin boards gets rid of some visual noise that can distract students’ focus. Varying the color of the walls with paint, adding lamps and natural lights can also help students’ eyes to get less fatigued throughout the day, and help keep them focused on learning.
  • Student Happiness
    • While teachers want students to feel positive about their school experience, their happiness is not always our first concern. However, improving our students’ moods makes them more willing to listen, think, collaborate, and learn. Norman says, “when you’re happy- what we call positive valence-you squirt dopamine into the prefrontal lobes, which makes you a breadth-first problem solver, you’re more susceptible to interruption; you do out-of-the-box thinking” (2009). In order to improve creativity, I can make sure that the colors, textures, and feelings of my classroom help make students happy.

 By making students feel comfortable, valued, and ready to work in the classroom, they will not only be more productive but will also be happier in school.

 

References:

Allison, B. (2016, June 17). Using Stations to Engage Secondary Students: 3 Ways to Incorporate Movement Into Learning. Retrieved from https://www.theliterarymaven.com/2016/06/learning-centers.html

Jenkin, M. (2015, February 11). Inside the schools that dare to break with traditional teaching. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2015/feb/11/schools-students-traditional-teaching

Krisanna. (2018). Welcome to C2. Retrieved from http://www.thetealpaperclip.com/p/my-classroom.html

Norman, D. (2009, March 9). The three ways that good design makes you happy. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlQEoJaLQRA

Rickert, D. (2018, May 17). Learning Stations In Secondary ELA Classrooms. Retrieved from http://davidrickert.com/2017/06/06/learning-stations-secondary-ela-classrooms/

The Science of Classroom Design [Infographic]. (2015, October 05). Retrieved from https://rossieronline.usc.edu/science-of-classroom-design-infographic/

VanHemert, K. (2013, January 18). Study Shows How Classroom Design Affects Student Learning. Retrieved from https://www.fastcodesign.com/1671627/study-shows-how-classroom-design-affects-student-learning

Cellphones as Tools for Creation

access adult blur businessMy school district as a general rule that students should not have their phones out during class, other than by teacher discretion. They may have them in the hallways or during lunch, but they are fronted upon during class. My school is 1:1, and I have extension cords all around the room to make sure that my students have constant access to their laptops. For the past two years, my 9th graders have been provided with touchscreen laptops that are portable, the screens bend all the way down so you can use it like a tablet, and they are reasonably fast and reliable. With all that in mind, I didn’t see cell phones as being necessary or even wanted in my classroom. The looming desire of snapchatting seemed too present in my students’ minds regardless.

However, today I made this digital story about becoming a teacher based on my life entirely on my cell phone, which is a similar style phone must of my students already own or have access to. It took me less time than it did to make my original video in Adobe Spark, but I was also already familiar with the program which does make a difference.

Last semester, I used Adobe Spark to task my students with creating a Public Service Announcement  based on one of the two literature circle books they read during the previous few weeks in class. They had to determine a theme from the novel, and then create the video supporting that theme with evidence from the novel itself, other books or movies, and the news. They got excited about the project (although not excited about recording narration), and while there were some glitches with saving and accessing the program, it went smoothly overall. Offering them the ability to find images, record video and narration, and put it all together in the Adobe Spark app like I did today might make it even more smooth.

While I’m not sure I am in a place where I would feel comfortable mandating that all of my students use their phones for a similar project, I could offer it as an option to students who feel frustrated with their laptops and prefer to work on their phones. They would appreciate the flexibility and choice, and I know that phones can do the job just as well as our laptops can.

Evaluating Online Resources for Education

I looked at Richard Byrne’s blog first, since I also had to learn about him and his blog for another course this week. Then I glanced through Kathy Schrock’s tech tool guide and found the layout so much more easy to manage. The tools are listed, linked, and categorized. A little description of each one would help me choose where to begin, but the layout is easy to search through quickly. I searched for Web 2.0 tools that would allow my students to create assignments and projects in a fairly short amount of time. I already have several large projects built into my 9th grade course, but I could include many smaller ones throughout a unit which would allow them to be more creative and visual with their learning and writing.

  1. Pixteller – I first clicked on Pixteller which is a site that allows you to create posters, ads, cards, and more. I liked how you can create an accounting using your Google account, which made signing in simple. It would be easy for students to create accounts and navigate, and the site itself is clean and visually appealing.
    1. I played around with designing a card, and since I started my design using a pre-existing template, had a rough draft done in minutes. The options are clearly laid out for choices in what types of projects to make, what templates are available to begin, and what your options are for editing and designing your project.
    2. One way I could use this site with my students is to have them design cards for characters of a book from another character’s point of view. In the screen shot, I began a design for Daisy from Jay Gatsby on her birthday based on The Great Gatsby. I would also ask the students to include a back or second page of their card with a longer note for the character.
    3. Another idea would be to have students create an ad for their persuasive argument which introduces their topic and adds a mood for their persuasive speeches. The ad would be in the background during the speech, or at least on a first slide of a presentation. pix
  2. MindMaps– My students do a fair amount of writing (essays and shorter forms of writing) so a virtual tool to help them brainstorm and plan out their work would be helpful, especially for my visual students. MindMaps was cool in that I did not have to make an account at all, and I could get right to creating. The text boxes are easy to type into, and the offshoots are simply to create, move, and even copy and paste. I found the saving feature in MindMaps and to my computer easy, but I kept wanting to save them right into my Googledrive instead. I emailed the developers with my question about saving, the ability to collaborate, and to use a mindmap as a template or worksheet for students.
    1. You could ask students to create a Mindmap as a brainstorming technique before an essay, with a minimum number of topics relating to their main topic choice.
    2. You could assign students a theme or controversial idea and ask them to create a mindmap of support from a text, or pro and con ideas about the controversy. mind
  3. WeVideo– I wanted to look into Capzles, which Dembo and Bellow describe as, “a refreshingly unique take on timeline creation that goes far beyond what you may have seen previously” (2013, p. 154), but I couldn’t even get the website to load, so then I went to play around with Pixton but I couldn’t actually find it in my copy of Untangling the Web. I must have an old version (it’s 2013) or something. I even signed into the eBook version to look for it and StoryboardThat but didn’t see them. uJam I couldn’t imagine using with my students, ClassDojo I am familiar with and know I won’t use, and Padlet and Easel.ly I have already used with my students. Upon an initial inquiry, WeVideo seems to be primarily useful as a paid application. Logging in and creating an account was not too bad once I realized it was possible to get a free account. I started making a video right away, and I like the multiple lines of media components which is easier to navigate than MovieMaker. I also like how you can record audio and upload your own images and videos fairly easily. I kept trying to include elements from the paid version, and WeVideo was quick to note when I did and ask me if I want to upgrade. I wish the free version only showed you the elements available to you, since I can’t imagine my school paying for an account for all students and teachers. I didn’t watch as many tutorials as I really should have, so although it didn’t take me too long to begin a little video, I felt slightly frustrated with the application. Storyboard mode seems like it would be helpful, and I believe that you can collaborate on videos with others which would be great. However, I like MovieMaker which all my students have and know how to use, and I also started using Adobe Spark for really short, easy videos such as public service announcements this past year. Here is the short Transcendentalism Video I made when I played around with this resource.
    1. One idea for using this resource with students would be to have them create a video on an author or time period and then use those as openers for a unit. The students would need to do their own research, plan out their video and collect the resources, and then put it all together with recorded audio.
    2. Another idea is that I could use WeVideo to create an introduction to a unit by including initial questions, images, and thoughts to get my students into the topics. we

Three Tools, Infinite Options

Listed below are three tools that I played around with this week to determine how I could use them personally as well as in my classroom. I tried Bit.ly for a url shortener, Deliv.r to create QR codes, and the bookmarklet The Printlimintator to clean up articles for printing. Read my thoughts on these tools and how you could use them below! Comment if you have any experience with these, or if there is something similar you like better!

URL shortening: Bit.ly

  • Results- I found Bit.ly overall to be a great, easy tool. I first plugged in my blog for Wilkes, kristensoperblog.wordpress.com and it was shorted to https://bit.ly/2KRdVEV. That didn’t seem to be more memorable, so I tried a Padlet board (which you can change the url in Padlet, I know, but I was just experimenting) which went from https://padlet.com/kristen_barnett/k0cn6chdrc9e to https://bit.ly/2lUBtOg which was nicer, and then I could edit it to read bit.ly/artinnight which was the best yet. I also made one for a MLA format citation creator that my students like to use, but never remember where to find it. I shorted that url to http://bit.ly/citationcreator which is helpful!
  • Personal Use- Sending my sisters or mom to websites in person or in text would be simpler, especially if we are planning a party and want to reference a few specific websites over and over. I could personalize the bit.ly urls for that specific party and maybe even number the sites so we could remember four or five bit.ly’s at once. I could use this to share links to educational articles or resources that I want teachers in my department or on my team to check out. If I don’t want to email the link, or I just want it to be memorable, the url shortener will help.
  • Professional Use- Even though I link everything we do to a vitual online agenda, sometimes students want to use a source that I did not go over on that exact day, and then they have to try to search for it in the previous agendas or my Canvas course. Having a few of our most useful websites written down on a side board via their shortened urls would help the students to find what they want fast. Wasting time in class and trying to find resources can be frustrating, but this would help.

 

QR Codes:  Deliv.r

  • Results- r was easy to sign up for, and after searching around for how to begin making QR codes for a minute, I figured out the process. The free version does not include many extra features, and the settings of the simple QR codes are little confusing, but if you literally only want to create black and white QR codes that link to a website, it is quick and easy.
  • Personal Use- I created two QR codes in just a moment in preparation for my planned evening today. My husband and I moved in with my parents last week during a transition to his new job until we find our own house in a new location. With all the hassle of moving, setting up a storage facility, reorganizing our possessions, and learning to coexist, we wanted to thank my parents for all their efforts. We are serving shrimp dish for dinner, pictured below, and since my parents both love cooking and finding good recipes, I created a QR code that links to the blog I found the recipe from. IMG_7987
  • Then, my husband and I will try out a new song we have been working on for guitar and cello, and I made a QR code that links to the official music video for information on the song, band, and lyrics. Other ideas for QR codes in my personal life would be to create them for a party that has different stations or pairings, so that as guests mingle, they could learn more about the culture of a dish, or the history of an interesting song. IMG_7988
  • Professional Use- In the classroom, there are tons of ways to use QR codes. Lately, less and less of my students have a QR code reader app downloaded to their phones, so accessing them can be a hassle (although I think many phones allow you to just take a picture and it automatically loads the link). In the past, I have created a webquest-style gallery walk as a background activity to a novel unit. I linked historical information, famous images, and videos through QR codes to station numbers, other images, and questions. The students would write down their guesses to questions, and then the actual answer based on the QR code link. Another cool use I have seen is in an art gallery in my school. When the students presented their final projects via a gallery in the main entrance way, they also had to create a video or write a paper explaining their creative choices. They discussed their inspirations, methods, and challenges in the process. The students then submitted the link to their video or paper into a QR code that was physically posted by their piece of art and name. When you went to the gallery, you could scan the QR codes to hear the artist’s rationale.

 

Bookmarklets: Printliminator

  • Results- Dragging the bookmarklet to my Chrome dashboard took only a moment, and I didn’t have to create an account to start using. You just click on the titles and images that you do not want to include in a printed form, and the bookmarklet gets rid of them, leaving your article or whatever resource you are trying to print in a clean and easy to read layout.
  • Personal Use- In my personal life, I could clean up recipes, articles, instructions, or anything else I want to use with my family and friends that otherwise may be littered with ads and suggestions to other articles.
  • Professional Use- The best application for this bookmarklet is to clean up articles and stories that I want my students to read. Printing out articles or short stories with too many ads and other distractions makes reading the article difficult, especially for students who have a hard time focusing anyway. By removing the distractions, the students can focus on the article in peace while also having room to add annotations.

    imaage
    A screen shot of the original article which I asked my 9th graders to read this spring.
imaggge
The same article, cleaned up with The Printliminator to get rid of the ‘white noise’ around the article.