Thursday, April 30, 2015

Having Fun with Standardized Test Practice...Kahoot!

By:  Rachel Barry

In my math courses, students complete a series of 10 multiple choice questions, based on the PLAN or ACT tests for each standard of our curriculum.  For much of the year, I have used the app Socrative because to engage students in test practice because it provides students with immediate feedback and gives the teacher helpful tools for data analysis.  You can read more about this in my previous blog post.  At this point in the year, however, I felt a need of a change for fourth quarter and also to reengage my students.  Therefore, I decided to make this 10-question activity into a Kahoot!

Kahoot is an easy and quick interactive game for students to play on their iPad or a phone.  I used the quiz feature and made them all multiple choice.   The negative here (though a positive for the kids) is that Kahoot only allows for four answer choices, while all standardized tests provide five answer choices.  The teacher projects the problems from their laptop or iPad, and the students view this screen on their phone or iPad:
I also provided students with a paper copy of the questions to allow them to work out the problems.  In the Kahoot quiz, I randomized the questions, so students never knew which would be next.

After each question is answered by all students, a bar graph shows up.
I use this immediate feedback to go over any question that most students did not get correct.  

After the activity is complete, I am able to download the results into a spreadsheet.  I can then use this data to determine which topics I need to spiral back into the curriculum.

If you have any questions on how to build a Kahoot, please stop on by the Collab Lab or contact me!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Video Reflection

By Mark Heintz

A few weeks ago, I posted on the creation of my first video.  You can read about it here.  I have since created about twenty videos that cover the age of imperialism, WWI, WWII, decolonization movements in India, South Africa, Ghana, and a number of other topics in the 20th century.

I commented on how making the videos made me feel like a historian.  While creating the videos, I have learned so much history. For instance, Chiquita Banana paid known terrorist groups in the 2000s to protect their interests in South America, or the history of the United Fruit Company massacre 
But the process of refining the information and providing visual examples has been challenging and really impactful in the classroom.  I have found when I make the video, I have such a clearer goal of what I want my students to know.  I have struggled with how to cover WORLD HISTORY in a year that is global.  Even if I use the AP standards, they are intentionally open ended to allow teachers to use different examples.  There is so much content, it is impossible to cover all of it in one year.   Having clear goals and information you wish your students to know, makes the class manageable for students and myself.

The students who watched the videos have a much higher retention of the content than from just reading the textbook.  They have visuals of the information.  Although there are great visuals in the textbook, they often skip over them in the reading.  When students see maps, charts, or pictures in the textbook, they are relieved because that means less reading on a page.  Having the images in the videos forces the students to see the visuals. 

Additionally, I created a quiz for each video and now have used the feedback function in Schoology. 
The feedback function on a quiz allows the user to provide instant feedback on why the answer is right or wrong.  Since I am creating these questions, I am providing a quick few words on why the answer choice is wrong. The students who have used it, found it to be a great resource if they comprehend the information.    

I still do not know how I am going to use these videos in the future. I am not sure if it will become the primary homework or just use as a supplement.  The videos take a lot of time to prepare and research, but are quick to make once I have all of the prep work finished. Also, the quizzes take time to make.  The whole process can be time consuming and I advise those wishing to start making videos that they should NOT have the goal of making all of them in one year. 

The students enjoy when I put a superhero or Star Wars character behind me.  They always seem to notice those changes depending on my location of where I film them.  

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Multiply Learning with #EG1to1!

By Kim Miklusak and Linda Ashida

The other day on Twitter someone shared the idea of what if every teacher tweeted one idea or moment from class every day.  Imagine the community building, the collaborative experiences, and the instructional sharing that could go on if each of us could do that!  Think how much we could learn from and be inspired by one another!

As we move to full 1:1 implementation at Elk Grove next year, the Collab Lab is encouraging staff to Tweet resources and examples of learning in their classrooms using the hashtag EG1to1.  The use of the hashtag will allow us to easily search and curate all of these tweets, and we will multiply our opportunities to learn from one another. For example, just today several teachers tweeted out strategies, student samples, and experiences from their classrooms! The use of the hashtag also gives us an opportunity to share and build our connections with parents and communities beyond our school. We're looking forward to continuing to build this momentum for next year.

We enjoy seeing student Tweets, too, about the ways they they are learning with iPads, like this one today from Gillian Guerra. We'll encourage their use of the hashtag EG1to1 as well!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Schoology Quizzes as Bell Ringers

Written by Linda Ashida

A recent visit to Lindsay Bucciarelli's Human Geography class revealed a great way to use Schoology quizzes as a bell-ringer activity to activate prior knowledge before learning new content, or as review before an assessment.  It also reminded me about the collaborative benefits of Professional Learning Teams, since the Human Geography teachers take turns creating and sharing the quizzes with other members of their PLT.  For example, in the lesson I saw, Lindsay was using quizzes that had been created by her colleague Kristen Gierman

In the illustration below, you can see that the students were given three bell-ringer quizzes, and they were directed to complete as many as they could during a 5-8 minute period.  They could do the quizzes in any order (though sometimes the teachers do set the order, and expect mastery on one before moving on to the next), and they were given multiple attempts to repeat each quiz to strive for mastery. These bell-ringer quizzes are a great way for students to get quick practice and immediate feedback. They can move through the quizzes at their own pace, and even repeat the quizzes outside of class, or easily access them if they were absent.

 The visuals below give a couple examples of what the quizzes look like for the students.  If you have other ideas for the ways that you have used the Schoology quizzes, we'd love to hear from you!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Comprehension Checks without Quizzes

By Kim Miklusak

My American Literature students are currently reading The Great Gatsby.  Since we just started, I wanted to do a comprehension check, but I didn't want to give a pen-and-paper quiz, so I decided to try out something that I have heard other people in my department doing.  The students' assignment was to create a visual representation of the main characters and events in chapter 2.  While I suggested apps like PicCollage or a comic book app, students were also free simply to use NoteTaker or Notability.

I wasn't sure how this was going to go.  There are a handful of students in this class who I could tell would scoff at an assignment like this, but I decided to see what would happen.  The scoring was simply based on completion of the major events and characters, not creativity.  Some students, as the one below, only produced one scene, which would receive a limited score, while others showed a progression throughout the whole chapter.

In the end I was happy with how this assignment went.  In a traditional class, we would have spent time talking about plot and characters  to be sure students understood the key events.  What this assignment did, however, was it required all students to take ownership of highlighting the key events and work through it on their own.  I could hear them asking each other questions like, "Why did Tom hit her?" and "How do I know what Myrtle looks like?" or "Whose apartment was it?"  I won't tell you that every student had so much fun, but there certainly was a higher level of engagement than if we were doing a large or even small group assignment for the same chapter.  We will now use this foundation to instead spend time focusing on analysis of the literature than "did you understand."

At the end of the period students uploaded their collage into a Schoology Media Album, so their peers were able to see it.  I projected the album up on the screen and would refresh it to share progress.  We started class the next day by looking at each collage.  Again, this brought up more conversation.  Some students asked, "Why do people keep putting a picture of a car or garage," which let us talk about George Wilson and his situation, etc.  It also let us correct some misreading such as in the first collage above where the student said "Nick bought Myrtle a dog" instead of Tom.  Overall, I was happy with the engagement and outcome of this assignment, and I look forward to working with it later on again in the novel on a more thematic level.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Student Self-Reflection and Goal Setting

By: Rachel Barry

Setting goals, and writing them down, can make a huge impact on success.  According to Forbes, a study was conducted on the 1979 Harvard MBA Program regarding setting and writing down future goals.  It was found that 3% had written down their goals and how they would achieve them, 13% set mental goals, and 84% did not establish any goals.  The study followed up with the same group ten years later, and they found that "The 13% of the class who had goals, but did not write them down was earning twice the amount of the 84% who had no goals.  The 3% who had written goals were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97% of the class combined!"  Now, I know that monetary goals and education goals are not the same, but the precedent still holds true.  Talking about your goals, putting together a reasonable plan of how to achieve these goals, and then writing all this down builds a foundation for future success.  

In my classroom, I have found that taking some time out of the curriculum to set goals can make a huge difference.  Here are some ways that I goal-set with my students:

1)  Beginning of the Year Survey
First, I feel that in order to talk to a student about their future goals, I have to get to know them, learn what they want to accomplish, and build a trusting relationship.  This is a brief survey, looking at all different aspects of a student's life.  I have my students submit it electronically, so that I can quickly reference it at any time.  Another way to get to know your students at the beginning of the year is by having them make an Educreations or ShowMe video, talking through different aspects of themselves.  There are a multitude of ways to get this information, but no matter which you pick, the importance is the same - get to know your students to establish a positive relationship early on in the year.

2)  Post-Quiz Reflection
Our curriculum is made up of quizzes on each standard, as well as a unit test covering 2-4 related standards.  We use this Post-Quiz Reflection document for students to reflect on their work, following a quiz.  Our department follows a standards-based learning model, so we allow students to retake any quiz.  In order to do so, a student must fill out the rubric, using his or her quiz, and then complete the homework problem associated with the incorrect questions.  This process helps me to reiterate the importance of mastering each skill, as all current skills in math will be needed in next year's math course.

3)  Unit Test Self-Reflection & Goal Setting
Following a unit test, I like to mix up how I have my students think about their learning and achievement.  

  • Individual Conferences: We have an online gradebook, which both students and parents can view at any time to see a current summary of a student's grade.  After a unit test, however, I like to print out a paper summary for students.  I find that there is sometimes greater emphasis when they see their grade in this format rather than constantly checking via the Internet.  On the grade printout, I have them write a couple sentences reflecting on their effort and achievement for the prior unit.  Then, they are to set two realistic goals for the upcoming unit.  I meet with each student to ensure that these goals are achievable and that they are aware of all resources available to them, such as my availability, Saturday School and tutoring in the library.  Next time I do this, I will also have them take a screen shot of their goals for them to quickly reference at various times throughout the school year.
  • Google Form:  I love to use technology for students to self-reflect because it saves class time.  This form was used once students already had access to their grades, however, I have also created a Google Form for students to complete following the exam to reflect on their test prior to seeing the grade.  Either way, I have found these that students are very honest with their expected or known achievement based on their efforts throughout the unit.

4)  Goal-Setting in Standardized Testing (EPAS Growth)
Throughout the year, we give our students two benchmark exams to observe their progress in terms of our state standardized testing.  Our freshmen take the PLAN test, our sophomores take the iACT, and the juniors take the ACT.  There are two goal-setting forms that I use with my students, one for my freshmen and one for my juniors.  For most students, this is a motivational tool, to see that they are on track to achieve their EPAS goal (a growth of 3 from EXPLORER to PLAN, 1.5 from PLAN to iACT, and 3.5 from iACT to ACT).  
This year our junior students also took the PARCC test, but due to the uncertainty of the test, we did not make adjustments to our benchmarking plan.  

My biggest struggle with self-reflection and goal setting is time.  I am still playing around with how much time I designate to this, as well as assessing the impact it has on my students.  I love discussing this with others, so feel free to comment or stop down in the Collab Lab!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Student Feedback and Notability

By Mark Heintz

A few weeks ago, Linda Ashida posted on Katie Owen's innovative idea of sharing Notability notes to students.  You can read her post here.  Lately, I have been using this practice to increase student engagement and feedback.   Also, as the school rapidly comes to a end, time is precious.  Using shared notes increases classroom time because students are not spending time copying information from one place to another.  Therefore, more time is spend in the analysis of student work and providing feedback.

I recently used this strategy through a list of topics/terms on the USSR and CCP.  I shared the note with the students, and I asked them to move the information to either category.  They could copy the terms to place under both groupings.  When they finished, students shared their work via AppleTV. This practice enabled the class to go through the answers and provide feedback on their selections.  The entire task took only a few minutes to create and a few minutes for the students to attempt.  The discussion that followed the assignment was rich. Since the activity only took a few minutes, there was time that allowed for students to ask questions on why a term was in a specific category.  At the end, some students had a list of terms they needed to look up for further review.  Next time I do this activity, I will ask the students to use the words to draw comparisons.

Another example of this practice comes from a first year teacher, Kristen Gierman.  To help students writing, Kristen created a note that contained elements of a paragraph.  She wrote one main idea statement that the students located and move to the top of the page.  Then, the students went through all of the other statements to determine which were the best support of the main idea.  The students simply erased the ones that were off topic and moved the ones in support to the order they belonged in the paragraph.

The students shared theirs versions of the paragraph and defended the placement of the statements to the class. It was great to see the students evaluating work and seeing their rationale. Many of the students understood the necessity for clarity in their writing and often cited that as a reason to exclude some pieces of evidence. At the conclusion of the activity, the students wrote their own paragraph.  The writings were some of the strongest I have seen students create in my nine years as a teacher.  It was great to see the students use the structure, clarity, and use of strong evidence from the example in their own writing.   

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sketchnoting and Visual Notetaking

Written by Linda Ashida

In the last few months I have come across Tweets and Blog posts that incorporate Sketchnoting as a way to capture, reflect on, and share learning.

Take this Sketchnote by Sylvia Duckworth on the SAMR Model for example:

 I have read and heard about the SAMR model often, yet this Sketchnote really helps the concept "stick" in my brain.  It confirms, for me, the impact of dual-coding in learning.

As teachers, Sketchnoting can be a great way to take notes, document and share our own learning.  For example, I have enjoyed using my Notability app at professional conferences to take visual notes, with varied colors, embedded photos and annotations. Students can use sketchnoting to demonstrate and share their learning as well; student sketchnotes could serve as a form of assessment.

Since most students at Elk Grove have the Notability app, they are already equipped to begin experimenting with sketchnoting.  But they could also choose from other free apps such as Paper 53, Adobe Ideas, or Brushes.  It would be interesting to offer students a choice of these apps and then the class could review and decide their top choices.

For more information on the "What, How, and Why" of Sketchnoting, check out the resources below:

Do you have examples of how you or your students have used Sketchnoting?  We'd love to hear from you!  Please share in the comments below!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Book Recommendation: 20time Project by Kevin Brookhouser

By Kim Miklusak

This year I have started doing a version of the 20% Time Project in my American Literature classroom.  You can read more about my experiences in this learning process on my other blog: This is Why We Write.  There are also several links on earlier posts that share the documents I provided to my students including background on 20% Time and specific requirements for our project.

I first learned about 20% Time when we attended the ISTE Conference over the summer.  The session hosted by several teachers in this field blew my mind; however, it was a connection I made via Twitter with Joy Kirr that really opened up the amount of resources available.  Through speaking with Joy, I was able to access the many links she has hosted on the Live Binder site, her own personal experiences, and more contacts available through Twitter.  Another resource I leaned heavily on was Tom Driscoll's Flipped History site, which provides not only excellent materials, but also insightful reflection. Much of what I did in my classroom is modeled off the work he has done and shared.

Now there is an excellent new resource available that I highly recommend--not only for teachers consider starting 20% Time in their classroom, but also for those of us who have just started like myself.  There can be a steep learning curve in unveiling this project for the first time.  Kevin Brookhouser's book The 20Time Project: how educators can launch Google's formula for future-ready innovation explores the why and the how of 20% Time from theory to practice including a letter home to parents and example timelines of student projects.  He provides practical steps that are easy to add to your own classroom.  This is a must-have for any teacher thinking about adding a student choice project to the curriculum!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Advising Students to Go Into Teaching: A Do or Don't?

By: Rachel Barry

The other day, I came across this article from Education Week.  The title alone caught my attention: "Don't Become a Teacher: A History."  Don't become a teacher??  Why is an education publication discouraging potential teachers from the education field?  Once I got over my initial opinions and started reading, it all made sense.  In summary, the article reflects upon numerous publications throughout the history of education where young people were discouraged by the general public from the teaching profession for various reasons (low wages, lack of public respect, etc.).  This is nothing new - potential educators need to be passionate about teaching. 

Being truly passionate about what you do brings success.  Success can be measured in a multitude of ways: happiness, knowledge, wealth, etc.  Most educators do not go into teaching for the money or the "summers off".  I believe that most teachers go into the profession because they truly care about student learning and enjoy mentoring children or young adults.  If these are not your main reasons for going into education, the roller coaster ride may be more difficult for you.  Standardized tests change, the population of your school adjusts with each incoming class, resources may be limited, and school goals are altered.  Teachers who are passionate about the profession for the right reasons can withstand these ups and downs.  Some may be even be re-energized!

The article ends with a statement, "And even back in 1947, this was the case - despite the challenges, said one teacher quoted in the New York Times, "It's the grandest work in the world."  Personally, I could not agree more, however, I do believe that an individual has to truly be passionate about teaching to go into the education field.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Historical Twitter Handles?

By Mark Heintz

The strategy below is a post reading strategy that is easy to implement and gets a lot out of the students.  I have posted about how my history classes usually begin with some sort of warm up relating to documents.  Sometimes they are pictures, but usually they are a reading.  You can read more about them here.

Recently, my students read a few short paragraphs on the British East India Company. I wanted to see how much my students understood from the reading.  At the end of the reading they were asked to create a twitter handle about the document and a tweet that showcased their understanding of the passage.  This was the first time I used this strategy and I wasn't sure how it would go.  But it turned out to be pretty great. Some of the examples were pretty hilarious or very informative.
 The great thing about this strategy was the effort and thought the students put into the task.  They were reading the passage over and over again to come up with something good.  As I walked around the class, I saw students go through several drafts to get to one that was worth sharing!  Several drafts! It was suppose to be a simple post reading exercise, but ended up being an exercise in mental gymnastic that students really cared about.  At the end, some examples were shared over AppleTV.   Give it a try yourself, and let me know how it goes!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Spotlight on Collaboration: District 214 ITF / DTC teams

Written by Linda Ashida


Collaboration characterizes our learning in District 214.

At EGHS we collaborate to learn and impact student learning. We collaborate via:

Across District 214 we collaborate to learn and impact student learning. We collaborate via:
  • District Learning Teams 
  • Internal University Courses
  • District Workshop
  • District Institute Days

Today's post will highlight the collaborative learning of one of our District Learning Teams: our  ITF / DTC teams.  These Innovative Learning Teams, one at each of the seven District 214 schools, include an Innovative Technology Facilitator (ITF) and three Division Technology Coaches (DTCs).  We facilitate professional learning in each of our respective schools in various ways, but we also collaborate across schools.  All of the ITF / DTCs teams come together one time each quarter to share our learning with each other.  These meetings often lead to spontaneous, yet meaningful, collaboration across schools that continues throughout the year.

For example, at our last ITF / DTC meeting, D214's Director of Professional Learning and Instructional Technology, Steve Kellner led us in a carrusel activity in which the ITFs rotated to the other schools'  DTC groups to learn about the highlights and successes of their work with teachers. Several schools' DTC teams shared how they implemented Spark Sessions on professional learning days: 3-5 minute presentations during which teachers share a successful learning strategy with their colleagues. These short presentations sparked interest and participation in more in-depth learning activities that followed.

After hearing about the success of the Spark Sessions at the other schools, the Elk Grove ITF / DTC team was inspired, and invited 10 teachers to do Spark Sessions for our Teacher In-Service day on April 6th. The feedback from our staff was so positive that we are already making plans to integrate more spark sessions in our professional learning activities next year.  At this meeting we also re-established the use of our Twitter hashtag #D214ITT (District 214 Innovative Technology Team) to share our work and to strengthen our learning network.

The District ITF / DTC meetings have also inspired cross-school team visits. For example, today I visited the Prospect High School ITF / DTC team.  I enjoyed a visit to DTC Frank Novak's coding class, and conversations with ITF Matt Hamilton and DTC Teri Buczinsky.  I came back to Elk Grove feeling energized with so many new ideas to share with our team.  We discussed ideas to do more cross-school peer observing. We also exchanged examples of how we use social media to build learning networks with our peers and our students.  I showed how we use Blogger to write our Collab Blog, and Teri shared examples of her posts on Medium: "Celebrate Innovative teaching." We discussed ideas to expand our blog posts and learning highlights across the district.

I would like to end this post with highlights of Teri's posts on Medium.  I like to think of them as "Spark sessions" in written form, highlighting the innovative teaching and learning of her colleagues at Prospect: Check them out!

The ITF / DTC teams are looking forward to facilitating even more collaboration across District 214 to multiply our own learning and impact learning for our students. To stay informed about the work of our ITF / DTC teams at all of our schools, remember to follow #D214ITT on Twitter.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Building Community and Inspiring Young Readers

By Linda Ashida

How can you use technology to improve the writing skills of your students AND build community AND inspire young readers and writers?

Just ask Dean Burrier-Sanchis and the students in his Spanish for Heritage Speakers class!

Dean's students wrote and illustrated original children's stories and today they visited Salt Creek Elementary School today to read their stories to students in the dual-language program. Many of the students used iPads to create their work.

Check out the video and photos below to get an idea of how much the high school students enjoyed sharing their work, and how they inspired the young bilingual readers and writers!


To continue sharing and building a learning network, Dean's students will also be setting up academic Twitter accounts.  In the near future you will be able to see more of their work by searching the hashtag #EPHEG.

Have you used technology or social media to engage your students and share with authentic audiences?  We'd love to hear from you!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Energizing the Mid-Career Teacher

By Kim Miklusak

We have all perhaps seen a variation of this chart during our teaching career: phases of first-year teachers' attitude toward teaching.  It makes sense, and it makes new (and veteran!) teachers feel less isolated in their attitudes as the year goes on.  There is a natural progression to things, and it is something we can be conscious of and try to address and prevent.  See this image here:
Graphic from

There has been a lot of talk in the past ten plus years--but again recently--about new teacher retention: its costs, its causes, its remedies.  I think it's vital to have these conversations about new teachers.  However, I think another conversation we need to be having is mid-career teacher retention--or, more specifically, mid-career teacher re-invigoration.

I wonder what the above chart looks like across the span of a career.  I'm sure there are many peaks and valleys for a variety of reasons both internal and external to each individual.  I wonder how we can support mid-career teachers as we do new teachers to help them connect to other educators, to continue to grow as experts in their field, and to help them find new avenues to learn.

One way is for teachers to make those connections on their own whether that be through Twitter, conferences, EdCamps, etc.  I think another way is for teachers to start finding ways to publish their own writing and reflection be that in journals, websites, or their own blog!  Another way is for schools to facilitate this re-invigoration.  This past week our school held Spark Sessions and a Mini-EdCamp at our first In-Service day in addition to the teacher-led sessions held at our Institute Days.  In addition, administrators both in-building and at the district are working with many mid-career and new teachers to branch out into new roles and help guide new and existing initiatives.  I hope that all schools follow this lead and spend their resources in some of these ways as well in order to connect to new and veteran teachers.  While it's true that teachers can hit a groove in mid-career and be left on their own, it's also a time to be sure to find ways to remain energized and constantly reflect and grow!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

What does a letter grade mean?

By: Rachel Barry

Why do we give students grades?  What makes a "B" different from a "C"?  Who decided our grading scale and why?  Why do we have a deadline of a semester -- are students supposed to stop learning or not go back to learn the material prior to semester grades?  I love having discussions regarding these and so many more questions related to grading and assessment.  Sometimes I feel like a kid again always asking "Why?", and I embrace the idea of challenging the system to determine if our motives are for the correct reasons for our current population and demography as education evolves.

Data can be a great resource to drive instruction, if provided and used correctly.  As a math teacher interested in analyzing data, I do this daily, and some of the ways can be seen in this prior blog post.  Another great resource not mentioned in that post is looking at a student's prior grades in math courses.  The key to making this data component useful is to ensure the letter grade reflects student mastery of skills learned in the courses.  This means that behavior and participation cannot be included in the letter grade.  A student receiving an A or a B should tell me that they have demonstrated mastery of most or all standards covered in the curricula.  When participation or behavior is factored into the grade, this skews my understanding of what the students know or don't know.  When grades reflect knowledge of skills, communication of student learning is streamlined to the students, teachers, parents, and counselors.

Our curricula in the Math Department at EGHS is aligned to the ACT College Readiness Standards and split into four levels, based on Marzano's research.  Our district letter grades are awarded as such:
Because we are required to report grades in this way, we have created a grading rubric that aligns our leveled curricula to our districts' letter grades.

Because of these structures, we teachers can use letter grades to accurately determine our students' level of understanding of course standards.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Skilled Workers

By Mark Heintz

On Monday, April 6, 2015, our district had an in-service day.  In the new contract signed last year, our Education Association and District Administration agreed to add an in-service day to the school calendar.  The day's intent was to allow teachers time to digitally convert their curriculum.   The day was great!  In the early stages of planning, I might have been a nay-sayer, but thanks to @Ashida_Linda and @MrsMiklusak, their wisdom prevailed.   In the morning,  spark sessions were given from a variety of staff members on topics from flipped classroom to the use of stop motion videos. The spark sessions flowed to two hours of EdCamp. You can read more about it here.  

Not to change subjects, but recently my history classes finished learning about the industrial revolution.  I can't help but make the connection between the in-service day and industrialization.  No, I am not talking about horrible working conditions or child labor.  I am writing on the needs for educated workers and the development of skilled laborers to work in factories.  People needed to be educated to work the complicated machines and perform a specialized job.

The in-service day showed how teaching has become increasingly skilled.  With the proliferation of technology and the ease of accessing information, teachers are shifting their role. New brain research drives educators to understand what methods work better to maximize learning.  Brain research coupled with new technology, it is hard to stay current with both the brain research and the technology.   The pedagogical techniques to meld these two together are difficult skills to master. The in-service day was great way to allow teachers to see a variety of new techniques and hear the latest brain research on effective teaching.  It was even better because the day allowed for time to development, collaborate, explore and create materials for their classroom from the new understandings they received at the beginning portion of the day.

A final thought: the day reminded my of a scene from Scrubs where two doctors are talking about how hard it is to stay up on the current research and how times have changed.  I have only been teaching for nine years, and the changes are drastic from when I first began.  I am fortunate to be in a school and district that has so many support systems in place to provide the tools and knowledge to become even more specialized and skilled in the art of teaching.  The teachers I work with constantly push me to new understandings of students and different ways to approach the subject matter.  I work in a school where teachers share ideas constantly.  It makes it easier to grow and stay current in a world that is ever changing.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Professional Learning by Teachers for Teachers

by Linda Ashida

Today was a great day of collaborative professional learning at Elk Grove High School! It was an In-Service day intended to give staff time to enhance their knowledge of technology to transform student learning.

To take advantage of this opportunity, our Collab Lab team facilitated Spark Sessions and EdCamp-style workshops, that teachers could opt to join in on, to build connections and multiply our learning.

This portion of the In-Service day was completely teacher-led. The Spark Sessions were led by 10 staff from various disciplines. They each gave a 3-5 minute presentation on an educational technology strategy they use in their classrooms.  These sessions were designed to quickly share many examples, learn, and spark ideas for more in-depth learning in the EdCamp Workshops.

This was the first time we had EdCamp-style workshops at Elk Grove High School, so we first explained the concept of EdCamps. We then invited staff to propose workshops related to interests, passions, or questions they have. They wrote their ideas on PostIt Notes which a team of teachers used to build the schedule. After just ten minutes working on the schedule, we were ready to go!

Check out the schedule of Spark Sessions and EdCamp Workshops in the Google Doc we created and shared with staff with a tiny URL: . We created this doc to not just to share the schedule with staff but resources as well.  You will notice that the EdCamp schedule includes links to separate Google Docs for each Workshop to curate our learning and resources.  Teachers can refer back to the docs to access resources, or learn from the notes on sessions that they did not attend.

We also used #EG1to1 on Twitter to share and curate our learning from the day. Check out this Storify of Tweets to get an even better idea of what our day of learning "looked like": Professional Learning By Teachers for Teachers

Did you participate in the day at EG?
Have you participated in a similar professional learning experience in another school?
Do your have resources or ideas to share?

We'd love your feedback! 

Please leave us comments so that we can extend our learning even more!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Student Choice in Mathematics

By: Rachel Barry

Student choice is a great way to motivate students to learn, engage students in the course content, and allow students to take ownership in the classroom.  There are various ways to provide students with multiple modes of communicating their learning: PowerPoint presentation, storyboard, written essay, etc.  Technology fosters these modalities by providing students with the ability to record their thoughts, expand their knowledge through perusing online resources, and communicate with teachers and peers.

Sometimes providing student choice can be difficult as a teacher.  Aligning the curriculum with standards (whether ACT, PARCC, or College Board), unexpected days off, and students' prior knowledge all come into play when mapping out the scope and sequence of a course curriculum.  These constraints can eliminate the time it takes to effectively evaluate student learning through various modes of their choice.

When it becomes difficult to schedule big picture student choice options, I have tried to find smaller ways for students to take control of their learning in the classroom.  An good example of this is the topic of multiplying binomials.  Back when I was a student, I was only taught the FOIL method in grade school.   Now in teaching this topic myself, I have expanded the number of ways to solve these problems, geared towards the students learning style.  Not every student gets the FOIL Method, especially my visual learners, so I also show them the Box Method.  Our population also has a significant number of English Language Learners, who have previously learned the Long Distribution Method at their prior schools.  A couple years ago, I added another method, geared towards artistic students, that I learned from coworker called the Cresent Moon.  My students will watch these videos, try each method, and determine which way works best for them.

This is just one example of how education is evolving to include student choice.  By giving students various methods to approach problems, they are better equipped with critical thinking skills.  Every student learns differently, so I try to provide them with various paths to reach their understanding of the content .  I have found that students are more likely to pursue problems going forward when they have been able to try different approaches and determine which method works best for them.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Spring Break

By Mark Heintz

Spring break has come and gone.  Here in Chicago it snowed two days and barely got above 30 degrees. At least I got to use my snow blower.  But, that is not the point of this post.  The point is to show the power of spring break.
Spring break can be a time for rejuvenation before the final push of the school year.  It can be a time for students to take a break from the stress of exams and homework.  It is nice to have the students recover and see the last quarter with fresher minds.  They come back a little more willing to learn. However, spring break can be a time for students to get ahead or caught up.

There are forty-two videos John Green created for world history.  They are amazing, and I use them as review for the AP exam.  In Schoology, I have all forty videos posted with a short little quiz that a former student Deanna Duffy helped create last year.  I set a calendar for the students that starts over break to have them watch all the videos by the exam, watching about one a day over the next forty days.  In total, it is over 400 minutes over video.  Several of my students used their spring break to complete ALL the videos.  Every one of them.  I am continually impressed by the amount of time some students put into their work.  Now to be fair, there were some who did not start their videos at all. But many did more than they needed and used their break as a time to get ahead.  When the students finish all their videos, they get a badge in Schoology called the Fault in Our John Green.