Tag Archives: classroom

3 Ways to Use Google Classroom Outside of the Classroom!

Google Classroom is finally available – outside of the classroom! Previously, you could only use Google Classroom if you were a G-Suite for Education user and within your own domain. This new flexibility provides some great opportunities for use outside of your own classroom. Here are NUMBER ideas of how you can use Google Classroom, outside of the classroom.

Disseminating & Collecting Data from Organizations you Lead

Google Classroom

Courtesy of Google Blog

Whether you’re an educational technology specialist, a topic specialist, or head up a cos-play group, Google Classroom can be a great way to organize and collect information. For example, if you head up the Parents Organization of your children’s school, you can use Google Classroom to disseminate the updated bylaws for review, comment, and/or edit. If you are leading a professional development workshop on AP Spanish, you can collect videos or written documents using Google Classroom’s “assignments” feature.

Organizing Groups & Consortia

If you lead an educational consortium (e.g. AP Chinese Teachers or Educational Technology), Google Classroom is a great and easy way to create a closed system for discussion and collaboration. This is a great way to collaborate with professionals at other institutions or organizations.

Organizing & Collaborating on Projects with Disparate Contributors

You don’t have to be a teacher to appreciate the power of collaboration. If you are working on a project that requires you to engage users throughout the community, then Google Classroom is a great way to bring it all together. For example, if you are organizing a charity walk, you can use Google Classroom to seek feedback on your marketing (sharing posters and flyers for review, edit, and/or comment), collect multi-media resources that you have delegated to other volunteers, and engage in asynchronous discussions in a walled group.

There are numerous ways to use Google Classroom outside of the classroom. Anytime that you need to readily organize a community, disseminate or collect media, or create a walled community, it’s a great resource to explore!

Three Tips for Managing a Classroom with Devices

This is reblogged from my post at Daily Genius.

When adopting technology in the classroom, one of the key concerns for educators is classroom management. Often, they believe that with devices come three options:

  1. Ban devices outright (Good luck!)
  2. Lock them down
  3. Open your classroom up to the Wild Wild West!

However, I have found that many traditional methods of classroom management readily translate to a technologically rich curriculum – with some modification.

RESTRUCTURE THE CLASSROOM

Most of us teach in “traditionally” structured classrooms – the teacher is in front and the students sit in rows looking at the teacher. However, this is a poor setup when students are using devices. With screens faced away, it’s easy for students to give into temptation and get off task. After all, the teacher can’t see what they are doing.

Moving away from a teacher-centered learning space and building on a student-centered learning environment is an important shift that often involves switching up your physical classroom setup. Having students work in pods or other creative, flexible learning spaces helps you to keep a more effective eye on the class. Don Orth shows how to Hack Your Classroom in this video about the Hillbrook School’s iLab.

At Eanes ISD in Texas, Carl Hooker addresses the power of a flexible learning environment in his post “The Obituary of the Student Desk.” After deploying devices, he quickly realized that the physical learning space needed to adapt to the new technologies.

A more student-centered learning space then lends itself to a more student-centric teaching style. Instead of lecturing at the front of the room, move around the classroom while students collaborate and create. If you notice that students quickly close a window or switch an app, then you can have a quick conversation with that child. Matt Scully from Providence Day School also suggests that you keep an eye out for “iPad eyes;” that look students get when they are off track or zone out and need to be brought back into the lesson/activity. These behaviors and corrections are similar to what teachers have done throughout time when students are passing notes, whispering, or doing other work during class.

DEVICE CUES

Cell phones are a popular tool in the classroom today. At the same time, they are used for 21st century note passing and can become a concern for academic dishonesty. In my classes, if we are using cell phones for quick reference look ups or a buzzer activity (using Socrative or Kahoot!), my policy is that cell phones stay in front of the student, face down on the desk, unless they are actively being used. Students are then less likely to give into that Pavlovian response to the text message buzz when the device is in front of them. Also, having to reach for it ensures that you, the teacher, notice their actions and confirm that they are on task.

Sometimes, it’s not appropriate to use a device at all! During quizzes and tests, I collect cell phones and put them in a basket. I don’t want good judgment to give way to temptation. Additionally, we sometimes put tech away because it has become a distraction or even an deterrent to the learning activity. I believe that class culture is the most important aspect of the school community. If technology is interfering with our community, it goes away. Since I know my classes and their unique dynamic, I can adapt based on the circumstances.

How you approach technology use in your classroom should not be “one-size fits all.” You know your classes, their personalities, and your culture. Shift your policies on a case-by-case basis; choose a solution that works for your individual class and activity

CHANGE YOUR VIEW OF DEVICES

If you want to effectively employ laptops, tablets, and smartphones, you must shift your view of the device. We often see these tools as extensions of long established technology: they are word processors and communication tools. However, today’s devices are far more robust and significant! View them as portable creation, consumption, collaboration, reference, and organizational tools.

Too often, we see these tools only as consumption devices – nothing more than glorified eReaders or Internet research tools. However, they can also be used as powerful creation devices that allow students to demonstrate their understanding in a variety of different ways. Instead of having students do traditional tasks (that are limited in their ability to collaborate and share) such as type out a response or make PowerPoints to give in-class presentations, a student can capture video and images on their phone, edit them using an app like iMovie or MovieMaker, and share it to the world via YouTube.

I love to use phones in my class as a buzzer system for bell ringers or review games. Using PollEverywhere, I can create moderated back channels or use flexible questions to check for understanding. Kahoot! is another popular platform because students compete against one another for points, and if they exit the app (to check a text message for example), they are locked out.

By shifting your learning space, adjusting your observation methods, and tweaking your lessons, you will not only limit distractions created by devices, but also build a more robust, 21st century classroom. The great thing about the internet is that it can help you with building these type of lessons. For more ideas, check out the resources on Edutopia and EdTechTeacher.

Looking to learn more integrating technology into your classrooms? Join EdTechTeacher this February 9-11 for their 2nd annual iPad Summit in San Diego. They will also offer Summer Workshops in cities across the US beginning in June.

Why you Should or Should Not Adopt new Technology in your Classroom

Parklands_College_MAC_in_ClassroomI have a reputation for being “techy,” that is absolutely true. I am an early adopter. I like to play and experiment with new tools. However, people are often surprised to hear that my classes are not “all tech all the time.” I have a more hybrid classroom – sometimes we use tech and sometimes it’s all about paper and pencil.

The reality is that I advocate a model of adoption that is about enabling the teacher and students in promoting learning. You do this by assessing the tools you need in your learning environment. The definition of a tool is 1. a) a device that aids in accomplishing a task and b) something (as an instrument or apparatus) used in performing an operation or necessary in the practice of a vocation or profession. As such, it is imperative to asses whether or a particular tool (hardware, software, etc.) will aid or hinder your teaching goals and objectives.

Before I adopt any type of new technology, I ask myself these questions:

  1. Does it make my life easier somehow (save time, save space, save energy)?
  2. Is it easy to use (my students and I are both too busy to invest a lot of time in a new tool)?
  3. Does it make the learning better?

If this answer is not “yes” to at least one of these questions, then I will not adopt the tool and I cannot advocate that my peers adopt it either. Our time is precious and our objectives are important. Educators and students simply cannot waste time and energy on ineffective tools.

One of my greatest concerns in the field is using technology for the sake of using technology. We watch schools around us adopting 1:1 programs or BYOD initiatives, see our colleagues employing neat or cool looking assignments, or heck, we kind of want that new iPad (not entirely sure why but it look pretty darn awesome). It’s easy to feel left behind and to get pulled into this realm without actually planning to use these new tools. That is dangerous ground for educators, administrators, and students. Technology tools are expensive and may not work for your educational environment. Therefore, go back to those three questions and really analyze. Ask yourself, will this help with my teaching and the students’ learning, or would a piece of paper be far easier and better? You pick the tools that best work for you.

Blogging in the Classroom

I’ve been toying for a while (a few years now) with the idea of having my students blog. There are plusses and minuses to this idea (some unique to me and others common to all educators). I’d be interested in other peoples’ considerations and thoughts.

So, why do I want my students blogging? I like the idea of collective thoughts and ideas in a single place that the class and I can access. I feel like blogging can replace homework assignments that I currently have, the traditional “answer this question or write a reflection on this idea and turn it in.” Not only is it wasteful in terms of paper, but (due to my peripatetic nature being sans classroom), it lends to more frequent “lost” assignments (I’ll put it in quotes as this is an easy claim to lob at me) and allows for very little reflection or consensus. And having them email or dropbox them to me doesn’t really solve the issue as, well, have you had 90 kids emailing you their assignments (all entitled “homework”) over a series of a few days? Trust me, it’s a nightmare – especially when you don’t have ready access to a printer.

What I would like to do is provide them a safe space where they can write up their thoughts, synopses, answers to critical questions and then respond to the work of their classmates. I feel that not only would this give them the traditional reading/writing/analysis exercise, but also give them a ‘safe’ place to learn to read and constructively critique their classmates’ work (a much needed lesson in Digital Citizenship).

So, a few potential problems, hiccups, and issues that I see for me – many educators have other speed bumps.

  • No classroom sets of computers. I’m a floating teacher and most of my rooms do not have a classroom set of computers. Out of five classrooms that I had last year, only one had a true class set.
  • Heavy filtering. My school has a heavy filtering system. I’m sure that our amazing technology administrator would be willing to work with me, but this would require a lot of work on both our ends.
  • Addressing parent concerns about their child being online. I was surprised last year that I had a few students who were not permitted online in their homes without a parent present. While I understand the parents’ motivation, this can be a problem for homework.
  • Students can only do this exercise from a stable location (home or school). A lot of our students participate in sports or extra-curriculars and (during their sports season for example) are not at home until 9 or 10pm. Homework is usually done on the go – on the bus to/from a game, in a hallway waiting for an activity to begin, and so on.
  • Student “buy in.” Believe it or not, teenagers are not always as excited about their education as I am. I find it shocking that they are not as interested in History or ancient peoples as me – I mean, it can’t mean that I’m a nerd can it? Surely not… Students don’t always ‘buy in’ (at least initially) to what we are trying to convey to them and don’t always respond to a rational argument. Shenanigans. Think of all the times you called your Biology teacher’s homework “stupid” or questioned how you would use your grasp of analogies in the real world?

So, I’ve identified a few of the potential problems and now I have plans on how to tackle them:

  • Because of the limited classroom time, most blogging activity would have to be limited to homework time. Other classroom activities, computer lab time would have to be booked well in advance. This will require a lot more planning on my part.
  • Meeting with the tech administrators and outline my exact needs.
  • Educating parents about what their children will be doing online and how their privacy will be protected (e.g. blogs set to ‘private’)
  • Limiting blogging to a regular, weekly activity that students can plan in advance – e.g. every Wednesday your blog entries on ‘xxx’ topic will be due and three meaningful responses to your classmates’ work due every Friday.
  • In terms of student ‘buy in,’ all I can do I think is explain to them what we’re doing and why and show them the products of their work. I think I need to accept that this won’t be an overnight thing.

Tools – what are the best blogging tools (hosting and writing) for students? I’ve been examining this quite a bit. Key features: multiple authorship, privacy settings, and ease-of-use.

WordPress – Clearly I like WordPress (as I host my blog here). I like that it has an iOS and Android application (even though they’re not the best). Also, the UI is excellent. Also, I can have 35 users per blog for free ($29.97 a year after that). If I set up one class per blog, this is more than enough. If I want some cross-class platform, then I can talk to my administration about the $30/year. Heck, we would spend more money printing their homework. I can also set blogs to private.

EduBlogs – I’ve played around with EduBlogs but am not the biggest fan of their UI. Still, the fact that they are entirely devoted to an educational platform helps in terms of weeding out potentially problematic blogs (considered graphic, adult, etc). They also have extensive privacy features and do not require email addresses to create a blog (key for those teachers who have students under 13). However, you do not have the management features that you find in WordPress unless you have the paid features. To see an outline of the features and cost, click here.

Blogger – As blogger is tied in with Google, there are a lot of benefits and draw-backs here. One it is tied in with your Google account. This can be an issue with privacy. However, it can also be immensely convenient in terms of tie-in with your Google Reader, YouTube account, etc. Blogger also has free Team Blogging, highly conducive to a class blog feature. Also, you can set your blog to private.

So, these are my thoughts right now in a nutshell. Still toying with it and may not implement it – or may do it with one class as an experiment…. I think that there is a lot you can do with it but there are a lot of obstacles to overcome. Right now, it’s still an idea and a toy…

Added on: Here is another great post about How to Organize a Class Blog (to help manage the logistics).