Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Student-Centered Learning - HyperDocs and Formative Assessments

I still talk too much in class, but I don't talk nearly as much as I used to. I am no longer the ultimate source of knowledge in my classroom. In fact, there are days when my students don't need me at all. 

I am still learning how to be a better facilitator of learning, but there are two essentials in my 1 to 1 student-centered classroom.

  • HyperDocs
    HyperDocs are digital lessons that you give to students for engaging, inquiry-based learning; but beware, they can easily be a digital worksheet depending on the lesson design and content you include.
  • Formative Assessment 
    The goal of formative assessment is to monitor student learning to provide ongoing feedback that can be used by instructors to improve their teaching and by students to improve their learning. More specifically, formative assessments: 
    • help students identify their strengths and weaknesses and target areas that need work
    • help faculty recognize where students are struggling and address problems immediately
HyperDoc Resources
"Thank you for the amazing worksheet!" - Said No Kid Ever
The best HyperDocs provide students with a framework for engagement and encourage exploration. They are not simply a set of links and questions. A well organized HyperDoc should support collaboration, communication, critical thinking, creativity, curiosity, choice, connections, and citizenship.  My best HyperDocs blend the digital collaboration and communication with face to face interactions between students. I know I've done well when students are asking each other and me about concepts and content. 
Formative Assessment Resources
"We learn by doing!" - Aristotle
Formative assessments are powerful learning checkpoints for teachers and students. Formative assessments are part of the learning process and can be enhanced with a variety of different #EdTech resources. The best assessments lead to class discussions that clarify and enhance understanding.
I also use many of my summative assessments as formative assessments. I do this by allowing students to access digital resources, work together, and providing reflective questions as part of the assessment. I believe that no test should be the end, so I also typically allow retakes.

Learn more about Formative Assessment

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Google Classroom Updates and Resources

Google Classroom is a great workflow solution from Google Apps for Education. It is important to understand that Google Classroom is not a traditional website that can be fully customized. Google classroom is also not a full-featured Learning Management System for teachers and students.

Why Google Classroom?

  • Classroom allows teachers to post announcements, assignments, ask questions, share resources, and create a calendar of due dates in a secure online location. 
  • Google Classroom is an essential tool to support collaboration, communication, and digital workflow connected to Google Apps for Education. 
  • Classroom helps teachers and students stay organized in a digital workspace. 
  • Classroom helps teachers communicate with parents using Guardian Summaries. 
  • Google Classroom continues to grow and evolved to better support teachers and students. 
Google Classroom continues to add new features. Most recently, Google added the ability to differentiate learning by assigning activities to individual students or the whole class. Teachers have been able to receive notifications when assignments are turned in before the due date, recent updates now include notifications for late assignments. Google Classroom has also recently enhanced the ability of teachers to communicate with parents using Guardian Summaries.
New Feature Post from Google: New Google Classroom features make it easier to learn, teach, manage and build
Here are our top 10 Tips for Google Classroom users. Additional resources and tutorials are included at the end of this post.

Google Classroom Essential Tip 1: Teacher and Student Views
It is important to understand both the teacher and student view of Google Classroom. Teachers signing into Classroom for the first time should sign-up as a teacher. Teachers can create sample classes and invite other teachers as students. This will help teachers to better understand the student view. Google Classroom also creates a Google Drive folder for both teachers and students.

Google Classroom Essential Tip 2: Assignment Options
Google Classroom supports different sharing options and it is important to understand the different Sharing Options in Google Drive before venturing too deeply in Google Classroom. Teachers also have the ability to assign an activity to all students or differentiate the distribution by choosing students or groups of students.

Google Classroom Essential Tip 3: Workflow
Understanding the workflow of distributing and collecting assignments for both the student and the teacher is essential.  Learn more about workflow with this Google Classroom Workflow Explanation

Google Classroom Essential Tip 4: Share to Classroom Extension
The Share to Classroom Extension allows teachers to share websites directly to Google Classroom or directly with students.

Google Classroom Essential Tip 5: About Section
The ‘About’ section of Classroom is the place to share resources and links that students will use frequently. This is a great place to organize frequently used digital resources without losing them in the stream.

Google Classroom Essential Tip 6: Archiving Classes
When ending or starting a new year or semester, it is best practice is to archive last year’s classes to preserve the class materials, any assignments, and any postings to the class stream. Reusing an existing class with new students can be a confusing experience. You can still access the old class files in the Classroom Google Drive Folder, but the archived classes are moved to a separate area to help you keep your current classes organized. An archived class can still be viewed by you and the students in the class. Posts can be copied from archived classes. However, when the class is archived, you can't edit or add anything to the class until you restore it. Additional Resource: Archive a Class Tutorial

Google Classroom Tip 7: File Naming Convention 
Google Classroom will keep the Google Drive name of the attached file. If the option of giving a copy to each student is used, then the student’s name will be added to the end of the document. Consistency in naming is an essential to help keep teachers and students organized. Try to use the same name for the drive file, classroom assignment post, and your grade book entry. Additional Resource: Alice Keeler’s Naming Conventions for Google Classroom

Google Classroom Tip 8: Assigning Work, Topics, and Scheduling Posts 
Teachers can assign posts to specific students top allow for differentiation. Google Classroom allows teachers to organize post by topic. Students and teachers can then sort post by topics. Additionally, teachers can post in the stream immediately or schedule a post for a future day and time. Additional Resource: Organizing Your Class Stream Help

Google Classroom Tip 9: Grading
Google Classroom creates a Google Drive (Called Classroom - It can be renamed.) folder for assignments created. Use these folders to quickly review and grade assignments turned in by students. You can view them in progress or after they have been turned in.

Google Classroom Tip 10: Discussion Questions, Exit Slips, and Formative Assessment.
Google Classroom allows teachers to post short-answer or multiple choice questions. Teachers have the ability to allow students to see each other's responses so this feature can be used to for classroom discussions. Additional Resource: Google Help: Create a question


Learn more:



Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Inspiration & Engagement - The Lesson Hook

David Burgess is a pirate teacher. One of the reasons he connects pirates to teaching is the well-known fact that "Pirates have hooks!" David recently shared some great ideas while speaking at the Ditch That Textbook Digital Summit. One of my takeaways was that I need to remember that even in a learner-centered 1 to 1 classroom, the "hook" is still important!
Anticipatory sets: A brief activity or event at the beginning of the lesson that effectively engages students' attention and focuses their thoughts on the learning objective. (via Google) 
Learning objectives brief statements that describe what students will be expected to learn by the end of school year, course, unit, lesson, project, or class period. (via Google)
My questions for everyone who reads this post: Is it enough to simply explain to students what they will be doing without convincing them why they should be curious? How do you enhance engagement in yoru classroom?

Most teachers have had some preservice training in the importance of the "anticipatory set" or "hook" to engage students in a topic or lesson. Teachers also understand the importance of sharing learning objectives with students.  There is a great deal of research that connects successful student learning to students knowing in advance what they are going to learn. 

When I visit classrooms as an instructional coach, I frequently see the learning objectives front and center. Students know what they should be doing and how they should be doing it. This is great and I the students are often immediately able to start thinking about the learning. 


What I don't see as often is a clear "hook". I think many teachers get so focused on making sure the students have an understanding of the objectives for the day that the "hook" get's lost. In the rush to get stuff done, we often focus more on the how than on the why. The lesson hook gets lost or forgotten. 

After watching David Burgess, I rewatched the Unpacking Formative Assessment YouTube video by Dylan Williams. Dylan wonders if a lessons objectives really do much good if the kids are not interested in the questions. He suggests that a good "twist" may be essential to students engaging in the lesson objectives. I could not agree more.

Dylan's video and a deep dive into lesson hooks with my PLN inspired me to start placing a greater emphasis on some "twists" or hooks. I need to make it a priority to some creative hooks in the future to help engage my students in the objectives. 


I am inspired to remember that it is not enough to have great objectives. These do not lead to engagement. Students need to connect to the activity, before they can be inspired to learn and explore. A good lesson hook can help engage students. Here are a few of my ideas to hook my students: 

Hook #1

Get my students talking about what they know using an online assessment tool like Kahoot or Quizlet Live to connect students to the content or concepts of the day. I've seen some incredible formative assessments that use quotes connected to the learning objectives. 

Hook #2
Start with a short video from YouTube or TEDEd that connects to the learning objectives in a unique way. I'm not talking about a video that just explains the content. I am looking for a video that makes the students think about how the video connects to the objectives.

Hook #3
Explore an interactive website. For example, use Time.com's Logo Quiz to connect students to a lesson focused on consumption, advertising, or . . . . ?


Hook #4
Find something visual to get the students thinking. For example, Use the Thrillist post about Abandoned Places in the Midwest to connect students to a research project, succession, or . . . ?


Hook #5
Use a digital tool like Remind,  Padlet, or Google Classroom to ask the students a thought-provoking question the night before to get the thinking started. David Burgess calls this "preheating the grill!"


How do you hook students to encourage engagement? Please share your thoughts and ideas  below!