Welcome sticky post

Welcome! Bienvenue!

Welcome to The Curious Creator! This is where you will find over a decade of experience of teaching, trial and error, and creativity that I try to spark in my own students. I believe that teachers should be collaborators, not competitors, and I would like to share my own experience while hearing about what is happening in your classrooms.

The EdTech journey will look different for each person. As a department tech coach and professional development facilitator, I strongly encourage teachers to start somewhere. Start small and build. Don’t overwhelm or compare yourself, which will only hold back your growth mindset.

Not every activity you find here will be “tech’d out.” I want teachers to know that it is acceptable for lessons not to be infused with technology bell-to-bell. Every project doesn’t have to involve so many bells and whistles worthy of an invitation from Google to present at one of their Summits.

I invite you to join me on my personal EdTech journey of trial and error, challenging myself and my students with new all the time. Boredom sparks creativity and innovation. Growth comes through curiosity and experience. What makes you want to be a curious creator?

What you can find here:

  • Resources – Grammar, audio and video, speaking, and EdTech sites.
  • Activities – While the activities are targeted toward World Language teachers, many of the activities and resources can be adapted to any content area.
  • Marker Mic Drop Moments – Curious about the name? Just click here.
  • Weekly blog posts every Wednesday.

Also, follow me on Twitter (@curiouscreator9) to see the latest EdTech practices happening in my classroom!

Tech Tools

Tech Tool Highlight #11: SlidesMania

You are about to become a SlidesManiac. Trust me.

SlidesMania is a website dedicated to beautifully created templates that can be used in Google Slides or PowerPoint. While anybody can find these templates useful, educators cannot get enough of Paula Martínez’s creations. (You can read about Paula, the creator, here.)

“The lack of organization, that we almost all suffered, got me thinking about templates to make the distance learning journey a bit easier.”

Paula is not an educator and does not work in design. She works in a financial department and began Slidesmania to satisfy her creative side after crunching numbers from 9 to 6. Little did she know how much the educational community would welcome her!

“At first, almost every template was for general use, but once I jumped into the Twitterverse and started interacting with so many amazing educators from all over the world, SlidesMania began turning and I started working on templates for education. The ultimate push was given by the pandemic, and seeing myself working remotely for my day job, and having my daughter learning from home at the same time. The lack of organization, that we almost all suffered, got me thinking on templates to make the distance learning journey a bit easier. And the planners were born, along the choice boards, and all the interactive templates.”

I think we can all relate to Paula’s words describing the last several months. I was struck with a profound appreciation for her abundant creativity, support of educators, and attractive templates in a straight-forward, user-friendly forum. Planners, choice boards, interactive games…this is a teacher’s dream. One week with the Digital Notebook with Sections and I feel like my thoughts and plans for the coming year are already more organized.

Image source: http://www.slidesmania.com

Paula provides simple as well as more adventurous styles of templates, pleasing anyone’s tastes. Her website makes it easy to find exactly what you need, categorized under “Business,” “Education,” “Formal,” “Fun,” “Simple,” and “Colors.” She also provides directions in her posts, videos, and on the actual templates. For example, she advises against adding your own slides in the Digital Notebook with Sections and instead duplicating her slides so you do not have to add links. Take her advice! She has thought through every angle.

By Educators, For Educators

The last menu that you’ll see on her site is “By Edu for Edu,” with templates submitted by teachers, varying from planners to vocabulary organizers. Not only is Paula taking requests for templates to create, she is bringing teachers’ templates to her stage, too.

Paula humbly admits that SlidesMania largely fulfills her creative side but, after many donation requests, she set up a Buy Me a Coffee (SlidesMania) account. As a simple thank you, it’s the least we could do as a token of appreciation!

Until next time…

Marker Mic Drop, Marker Mic Drop Moments, Tech Tools

Marker Mic Drop #7: #FlipgridLIVE 2020 – August 1 updates

Image source: FlipgridLIVE 2020

My brain is on fire. I “attended” the Flipgrid LIVE Broadcast (June 29, 2020) Monday night to hear the year’s recap and upcoming updates that left my mind racing hours later. Flipgrid has been my number one go-to EdTech tool for a few years now. What started out as a simple video platform with basic comment feedback to students has now transformed into truly promoting their mission to promote every voice.

The updates come in response to (teacher) feedback, and abundantly so after this remote learning experience. One stop on Twitter and you will witness an overwhelming use of Flipgrid in innovative ways by old and new users in the past three months. Flipgrid’s newest updates will enhance their mission to promote every voice, its creativity and story. So, let’s get to it, everything coming your way August 1, 2020:

  • Boards: Math teachers, this is for you. There will be graph paper backgrounds and more, as well as split-screen recordings (simultaneous videos and white or blackboards)…yes, please and thank you!
  • Creative fonts: Who doesn’t like to express themself via their font of choice?
  • New filters and frames: People love filters. Flipgrid is giving more color gradient options, a privacy filter (Block mode) and frames that make students look like they’re on the local news, among other choices.
  • Stickers: My students found these fun before but now teachers can take advantage of them, too, with new releases every month. The new stickers will come in a variety, such as math symbols, speech bubbles, and GIFs (yes, GIFs).
  • Redesigned view: Topic prompts will be easier to respond to and view, including more screen space and the ability to see which video will play next.
  • Comments: Students will be able to respond to one another’s videos with text and video, and all can be moderated by the teacher. Teachers will also be able to respond via text or video but can also make Comments private or public.
  • Discovery Library Collections can be shared with any Flipgrid educator.
  • The Topic of the Day and Wonder of the Day will kickstart your daily lessons.
  • Partner Pages: Check out Langston League and Made By Dyslexia, Flipgrid’s newest partners.
  • Miscellaneous:
    • The ability to create stand-alone topics for discussion prompts.
    • You can grant access to specific emails, and not just large domains.
    • Adobe Spark integration (yes, they can now be a part of your Topics).
    • Grids will now be called “Groups,” and can be used to access multiple Topics with a single code. You will also be able to easily add a single Topic to multiple Groups. (No more “Duplicate” then wait, go back, repeat…)
    • Quickview: Flipgrid boasts a new, modern look that will make it even easier to navigate videos.

That was a lot. I’ll give you a minute.

Okay, but there is one more thing.

  • Flipgrid Coach:

Flipgrid Coach, the last update to be featured in #FlipgridLIVE, is like the Speech 101 class everyone wishes they could take. (I can still see the podium I dreaded so much on the second floor of the Communications building.) The Flipgrid Coach feature provides immediate feedback, encouraging better speaking. It makes note of all “umms,” “uhs,” “wells,” and general pauses, also tuning into the presenter’s speed. The speaker will receive a report card with a breakdown of categories (“Filler Words,” “Pace,” etc.), and tear drop markers (think Edpuzzle question markers) to indicate at what point these appeared in the video. Can you imagine the potential of this consistently being used every year over the lifetime of a child’s education?

Image source: FlipgridLIVE 2020

In a reluctantly sappy moment, I cannot begin to tell you the joy I have had for the student who was so incredibly shy to never raise a hand in class but found a voice in the Flipgrid platform. Flipgrid has come a long way with a lot of impressive changes, but one thing has remained constant: students feel comfortable in this platform. I have heard pronunciations they would never iterate in a classroom of peers; real stories of how they miss their sister in Africa, that it was her birthday and they were thinking of her on that day that the assignment was due…I never knew how it would open up their world but also open up mine.

The most admirable part of this all is Flipgrid’s continual awareness and willingness to listen to its users. Marker mic drop to you, Flipgrid, for always trying to provide the best platform for every user’s voice.

Food for Thought

Food for thought: Wrapping up remote learning…for now?

Summer 2020. Not exactly the summer we were anticipating when we first envisioned final exams, caps and gowns, and end-of-year celebrations. Most of us have made it through the remote learning process and rounded out one more year, but not with the same sense of finality. The grading deadlines came – the communication all via text, email or Zoom – and then it was done. There was no sitting in a cafeteria with laughter and that end-of-year feeling of accomplishment. There was no talk of summer plans and upcoming travels. So, I don’t know about you, but when the deadline for grades was over, it felt like there should have been more, but there was simply nothing left to do.

If you had to do remote learning all over again, what would you do differently?

These past few months have lent plenty of time for self-reflection. I am a silver lining type of person and am fascinated by how not only education, but also businesses and organizations everywhere have adjusted this spring. I am not promoting all online, all remote learning, but embracing that we have had to confront, adapt, and constantly pivot, inevitably leading us to a new normal. I think that the human element and relationships formed in the classroom are far too important to ever exclude. I cannot help but wonder, though, if we have to repeat distance learning, what would we do differently?

I began the remote learning process with a six-week-old baby and a two year-old. I would say “if you only knew during those Zoom calls,” but now everyone knows because we have all been there. Hopefully there have been more laughs than frustrations and a great story or two to tell later.

Image source: The Dad (Facebook)

If this steep learning curve of an experience has taught us anything before another potential wave, it is to be more prepared for the future. I polled numerous teachers to gauge their comfort level with remote learning and technology, understandably finding all ranges from novice to advanced. Even those adept at organizing their classes with EdTech practices still breathed a heavy sigh of relief on the last day of school. The common denominator among all teachers? “I wish I’d had more training to be prepared for something like this.”

The amount of teachers fearlessly navigating new waters and asking for help was received by an abundance of support. Teachers willingly gave their resources via every platform. Teachers unfamiliar with EdTech practices developed some of the most creative ideas I have ever seen. In essence, the circumstances pushed the educational community to their greater potential, a silver lining, if I say so.

But for now, let’s decompress…

When this all began, I took long runs down the middle of the road just because I knew I could. I had more time at home with my children, even if some days’ saving grace was a humorous meme to which I could relate. The balance of toddler, baby, bottle, and thankfulness for muting audio and video are over. It’s time to unwind. Teachers, take some time for yourselves and regroup before thinking about what learning will look like upon when we return.

In the fall, most of us will reunite with our students in our physical spaces. Teachers are naturals at establishing relationships but have been on overdrive lately to maintain connections with their students. How refreshing will it be to smile, to (air!) high five or fist bump our students once again? Perhaps we should charge our students with the new handshake. What creative ways will they develop to greet each other during this social distance era?

Félicitations, teachers, on a job well done. You not only kept the learning going, but more importantly, you were there for your students. This experience has pushed us to be teachers we may not have realized we were capable of being. How can we apply this in the future? But for now, relax…

Happy summer, everyone!

Marker Mic Drop, Marker Mic Drop Moments, Tech Tools

Marker Mic Drop #6: Matt Miller, author to Tech Like a Pirate (and much more)

Author. Blogger. Podcaster. Educational speaker. Former Spanish teacher. There are many titles that Matt Miller holds, all impressively executed.

In one of the most recent Google Teacher Podcasts, Using Google to Tech Like a Pirate, Kasey Bell (Shake Up Learning author) interviews her co-host, Matt Miller, about his most recent book, Tech Like a Pirate. Inspired by Dave Burgess’s Teach Like a PIRATE, Miller sets out practical ways to use tech in the classroom while, most importantly, creating an experience.

“Don’t just teach a lesson. Create an experience!” -Dave Burgess, author to Teach Like a Pirate

If you are not already a follower of Miller’s Ditch That Textbook site, one click on the Tech Like a Pirate Resources will have you hooked. Click on any of the pictures and you will be taken to a wealth of resources. Miller has always selflessly offered a number of materials to teachers that they can use to create a memorable learning experience. He embraces an attitude that it is more important to try and fail than to not try at all. Try, learn, adjust, repeat. That’s my kind of teacher.

“When they’re having so much fun they don’t even know that they’re learning. That’s the best, right?” -Kasey Bell

The book and website break down memorable learning experiences via the following eight categories:

  • Social Media and Apps
  • Video
  • Games
  • Collaboration
  • Images
  • Exploration
  • Global Communication
  • Storytelling (Bonus chapter on the website!)
Image source: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EWEAZaLWAAU3r4s.jpg

The idea behind the book is to rethink your teaching to create activities that students will enjoy while using technology. In fact, Miller says in the podcast that his message to teachers is to see their assignment through a different lens. For example, could you recreate that writing activity into a social media post? Framing an activity in an appealing way to students will engage them and engrain your lesson that much more. Intentional, meaningful collaboration among you and your students, or from peer to peer, will add an even richer level of engagement. We know, for example, that social media is a huge part of our students’ world. Why not use that to our advantage and meet them at their interests?

In this remote learning era, this book could not have been more timely. In a time when resources are in overdrive to help out during remote learning, it is sometimes difficult to discern which will be the most valuable. I was already a follower of the Ditch That Textbook site. After seeing the book’s accompanying resources, as well as listening to Miller walk through his why for writing the book, I am completely sold. Not only will these ideas help finish the year strong but will also refresh us in the fall. I cannot wait to start flipping through the chapters to start brainstorming how to restructure my lessons. Imagine the storytelling that could come from this spring when we reunite with our students in person?

Tech Tools

Tech Tool Highlight #10: Flipgrid in the Remote Learning Era: Creativity to the Max

What is Flipgrid?

I would venture to guess that when the words “remote learning” are uttered in these recent weeks, “Flipgrid” quickly follows in the conversation. My favorite EdTech tool has likely been added to the top of many other teachers’ lists, too, during this remote learning time. Flipgrid is an extremely user-friendly EdTech tool that promotes social and emotional learning via a video platform that boosts student engagement. For an overview as well as video tutorial, check out my Flipgrid blog post.

Flipgrid not only increases students’ comfort levels when it comes to speaking, but it also provides a plethora of resources for teachers to collaborate on and boost their own creativity. The Flipgrid Disco Library provides ready-made prompts that you can duplicate and make your own. #Gridpals allows for Flipgrid users to connect while the Flipgrid Explorer Series has series of lessons featuring experts that can be directly added into your own grids. There is no shortage of resources!

Remote Learning 2020: Creativity Abounds

The creative uses for Flipgrid surface on a daily basis since remote learning began nationwide. A number of educators are using Flipgrid for the first time and their fresh ideas are Marker Mic Drop worthy. Long-time users are vamping up their normal Flipgrid agenda to reach into students’ homes (aka the new classroom). This post will highlight some ideas that can help you close out the year strong!

Virtual everything: Flipgrid allows for prompts, instructions, rubrics, additional documents needed…almost anything you would need in one centralized area under your topic. The latest Screencastify-like feature captures your screen while recording to more easily flip your lessons. Therefore, you can now virtually have band practice, book talks, show and tell, story retelling, topic presentations…the list goes on. Math and language teachers! Use the whiteboard feature on the bottom row of icons to have students talk out their work as they are completing a problem or writing a sentence.

Emotional check-ins: Many students who find it difficult to speak in class feel comfortable behind the Flipgrid screen. If you want to keep student responses private, check your privacy settings so that only you will see each student’s video and create a weekly check-in topic. I have also been creating check-in videos twice a week. Instead of writing weekly inspirational quotes on my large classroom windows, they are now a part of the selfie at the end of each video. (Insert picture from the row of icons at the bottom of the screen when taking a selfie. Resize and drag it to your liking.)

Weekly inspirational quote: Insert a picture into your selfie at the end of the video.

A new twist on story time: My personal favorite topic is “Confessions of a Fairy Tale Character,” but there is an even more engaging way to hear your students’ imaginations at work. Record an ongoing story by having students respond to each other. This could be in pairs, small groups, or the student could nominate the next student to pick up the story where they left off.

The Masked Singer: This may have been one of the most creative uses I have seen yet. By combining Flipgrid with a HyperDoc, a teacher brought “The Masked Singer” reality t.v. show to the classroom. With the gracious participation of her colleagues, each teacher recorded themselves singing on Flipgrid and placed an emoji over their face. To create the HyperDoc where students place their guesses, grab a screenshot of each singer that is linked to each video. Type “Guess” in each box where students type in a teachers’ names. (Hint: Use the “Make a copy” feature in Google Classroom for each student to have their own answer board.) I have created a sample game board here: “The Masked Singer” (Flipgrid). To make it your own, choose “File –> Make a copy, rename” then replace the images with the screenshots of your teachers’ videos and link their videos to the respective boxes. Voilà!

Just for fun: Whether it is “I Spy” or making your students guess your fib in “Two Truths and a Lie,” incorporate a weekly game that makes students connect in a fun way. I include the “I spy with my little eye” prompt in my video and in written form so that students know how to properly guess in French.

Image source: http://www.twitter.com (@TxTechChick)

“Fliphunts” (aka scavenger hunts): Create a doc that sends your students on a scavenger hunt, whether physically collecting or displaying items alongside a task that displays their knowledge about said item. For example, my students have had to act or draw out and use a sentence with reflexive verbs, correctly corresponding that action to the proper room in the house. (“I brush my teeth in the bathroom.”) Encourage play and creativity with this activity! Check out Kathi K’s Fliphunt guidelines and examples for more ideas.

Image source: http://www.flipgrid.com (Kathi K)

Talent show: Have students showcase their talents from their homes! Students and judges (perhaps other teachers?) can respond to videos with encouraging comments and feedback.

Physical Education class: Many P.E. teachers are using this to display proper ways to perform an exercise or as much as recording a full class students can follow along for their daily workout.

Advice to next year’s class: I am curious to know the advice current students will give to underclassmen. Create a Mixtape of responses and save it for the fall, showcasing your former students’ advice to their peers.

With a matter of a few short weeks of remote learning left in spring 2020, will you join the #FlipgridFever?

Marker Mic Drop, Marker Mic Drop Moments, Tech Tools

Marker Mic Drop #5: Karen Knight, Spanish Teacher and LOTE Department Chair

Image created on Canva.com

My department chair, Karen Knight, and I were discussing assignments for our remote learning experience that could potentially extend through the end of the year. “I want to give them a memory, Padrah. I don’t want to assign them 150 questions that won’t mean anything to them later.”

Exactly.

Karen proposed an idea that I absolutely love and will adopt for my classes in the coming weeks. Her students will be creating a scrapbook about their lives and the world during this global pandemic. The project builds upon itself with new themes or chapters for each week, with flexible expectations of responses written in the target language. Here is a breakdown of themes we brainstormed:

Week 1 – Current events headlines: Students gather current events articles and explain and summarize COVID-19, how it started and has evolved over the weeks. Students could elaborate on how it has specifically affected their community.

Week 2 – Family, activities, and the “New Normal”: Ask students to gather pictures and tell about their family. What are their ages? Jobs? Do they no longer work or work from home because of the pandemic? Most importantly, have your students discuss what their lives are from day-to-day now that they are at home. Have they been on more walks or spent more time with family?

Week 3 – A little humor: The memes, the GIFs, the videos of what people are doing to pass their time during stay-at-home orders are all pulling everyone through this with a smile. Have students recreate their favorites in the target language.

Week 4 – Twenty years from now…: What do students think the world will look like post-pandemic? Will we be more prepared and learn from this experience? Many schools and businesses have had to alter their ways. Will there be an overhaul to how we operate?

Week 5 – Reflection: Give your students an opportunity to express how they are feeling during this time and how it has impacted their lives. I would strongly encourage different mediums in which the students could present. Some are more comfortable with written or spoken words. For others, a drawn picture alleviates the pressure of speaking. Give an outline of reflection questions that can guide the students.

Presentation styles: There are various presentation options that a student can choose from for his or her final product. While we are living by the motto of “Keep it simple” in this teaching era, I believe that the more options you present, the better. Students only need to choose one, but by giving them alternatives, it accounts for their learning style preference as well as resources available to them. I could not possibly list all the resources available but here is a start:

Paper is always an option. Karen Knight proposed to the other Spanish teachers to accept this project at the beginning of next school year for a grade or extra credit.

Flipgrid presents a user-friendly video option. Even if students have a hard copy of their scrapbook, they could bring it to life by narrating it in a video.

Wakelet allows for beautiful digital storytelling, easily allowing students to add current events headlines as well as paragraphs with their own commentary and reflections.

Book Creator, Storyboard That, StoryJumper, Adobe Spark are other creative outlets for digital storytelling.

Google Slides can include text, pictures, videos, and be customized to the student’s taste.

Handwritten, recorded on video, collected into a digital format…no matter which option your student chooses, you gave them choice. Most importantly, though, you gave them a memory.

Food for Thought, Tech Tools

COVID-19: Using Disruption as an Opportunity to Transform Education

Image source: http://www.edutopia.org

COVID-19, corona virus, global pandemic. The year 2020 will be marked by these words when we look back. This event that swept the world disrupted much: our lives, our work, our economic system, and there was no exception made to our educational system.

In a matter of days, schools were forced to consider how to support their students within the possibility of shelter in place circumstances. Online learning became a reality. Even schools in the most ideal situation regarding resources were still overwhelmed with acclimating to virtual classrooms outside of their brick and mortar. Each school or district had their specific challenges. Some that normally provided a safe space and meals could only hand out curbside lunches to those fortunate enough with the transportation means. Others had to determine the number of devices to temporarily loan and how students (and teachers) would obtain them. But everyone affected dealt with the challenge of launching full-time remote learning that would best serve their learners, and in a quick turnaround.

Where we are now.

The response has encompassed a gamut of emotions, and understandably so. Administrators and teachers are needing to make fast, heavy decisions. Parents are suddenly educators. Students who relied on school for food are now less concerned with their academics when they have become full-time babysitters to younger siblings whose parents still work during this crisis.

While uncertainty and anxiety still loom, positivity has been in abundance. Humor to lighten the circumstances is starting to surface. Hop on Twitter and you will see the generous support of teachers reaching out to their students and colleagues. I beamed when seeing a Tweet, “Trying this for the first time!” and wished I could be a fly on the wall to see how schools rolled out their remote learning plan. Digital Innovation Specialists (or your district’s equivalent title) have worked around the clock to answer emails, phone calls, and texts. We are trying to support our learners in this difficult time, but let’s not forget how massive of a transition this is for teachers and families…and well, everyone.

“When faced with a problem, I reframe it as an opportunity.” -Richard Branson

It seems unrealistic to think that the educational system will remain unaffected by the recent massive modifications. I anticipate that the 2020-21 academic school year will look differently for some, but not yet for all. With the start of a school year less than six months away and no clear end in sight of the pandemic, we all may just need to step back, regroup, and take a breath before doing an overhaul of the next academic year.

Considerations for the (near and distant) future

We are all in the same boat.

Many parents and students are worried that their academics will fall behind, that regression should be their biggest concern. Similar asynchronous learning techniques are being practiced across the nation. While the academic situation anywhere may not be the most ideal, we are all in the same boat. Fall 2020 will be a reset for everyone everywhere. Until then, let’s talk about grace for a moment.

“Whatever the platform to keep learning moving forward, we also cannot lose sight of the importance of connecting people.” -Kellie Lauth, CEO of mindSpark Learning

Grace over grades.

There has been no shortage of anxiety in the early launches of nationwide remote learning. Administrators may not have the answers for their teachers. Grading systems are still yet to be determined. Best efforts of delivering devices or even simple workbook packets have been unsuccessful, thus leaving some students unaccounted for and begging even more questions that also remain unanswered. Much is unknown.

Furthermore, teacher, some of your best laid lessons may have had a glitch. Perhaps there have been unforeseen troubles on your end or for the student. Perhaps you did not anticipate certain factors when you bravely launched your new online remote learning tool. But you tried something new, which is honestly a step in the right direction.

Or maybe your students are now full-time babysitters for their younger siblings. Maybe they took a job at the local grocery store – one of the few businesses currently hiring – because their parents are no longer bringing in an income. Your math or history or Spanish lesson is not at the top of their priorities.

Regardless of the situation, much grace should be given across the board to everyone. Use this time as an opportunity to connect in a different way with your students instead of focusing solely on the importance of grades.

It’s time for some deep reflection.

Teachers and administrators should take advantage of this overhaul to reflect on the state of their school and educational philosophies. Are the current measures in place truly supporting students and preparing them for 2030 and beyond? Did your pre-pandemic school structure graduate global citizens who are connected to their community and the world beyond?

Ask yourself: Were your learners making an impact outside of the walls of your classrooms?

The emphasis on global connections across learning is still not completely widespread in schools across the nation. Each year has come with exciting changes in the last decade through the works of educators who saw a stagnant system, realizing that change is inevitable with how the world has evolved. Many schools discuss developing a well-rounded learner, but what does that look like in this era?

Trailblazers among schools encourage their students to not only think outside of the box but to also analyze and evaluate with an empathetic perspective. Pear Deck, Design Thinking, and countless other tools and models encourage creative engagement without ignoring the social-emotional factors always at play. Discussions and chats can be held to include all voices. Flipgrid videos embolden even the shyest learners and build confidence. ePals connects K-12 classrooms across the world. There is an abundance of resources available now to educators than even a mere ten years ago. The stagnant culture of textbooks and worksheets have slowly been making their way out the door. It is still easy, however, to fall into the routine of fulfilling the requisite content and standardized testing preparation, among other duties.

Are we too lost in the standards?

Before I continue, I believe in the value of curriculum standards. I have written and re-written curriculum maps and applied them to my teaching. But I have also seen teachers become so caught up in the minutiae that the standards become overwhelming, sacrificing potential student outcomes.

What if we took a moment to identify our end goal?

Understanding by Design (UbD) is one example of a backwards design approach to lesson planning. Identify the desired results and acceptable evidence that supports this, and avoid aimless activities simply for the sake of covering material. Forego checking all the boxes and instead produce a more well-rounded individual who understands and engages instead of sits and regurgitates. Work backwards and create reasonable, attainable standards that truly assess the students’ skills with rigor and value. The process will have an enormous amount of trial and error on the teacher’s part, but should we not push ourselves to be life-long learners, like we ask of our students?

Most importantly, let’s consider empathy. If a global pandemic doesn’t evoke empathy, then what will? I have always been a huge proponent of project-based learning (PBL) and Design Thinking. I believe every school should have a class devoted to marrying these two concepts to better serve their community. What issues can be addressed within your community and how can they be addressed? The young, innovative minds that sit in our classrooms have answers and ideas that will take you off guard, in a good way. Let them take ownership of their learning. Let them engage. Let them choose. Change your lesson plan model and embrace innovation and creativity that go beyond the pages of the textbook.

Comfort levels

My most interesting conversations with teachers from coast to coast have been about school culture, particularly surrounding EdTech and more progressive pedagogical practices. The comfort and acceptance levels vary greatly, ranging from resistant to all-in, not just among teachers but within their leadership team, as well. I was shocked to hear of some schools whose administrators did not see the value in incorporating technology. How could that still be in this era when people often reach for their technology before their toothbrush?

Online learning is here now, but does not mean that it will become the permanent standard. Nothing can replace the interpersonal relationships that develop among students, students and teachers, and contribute to classroom culture. I cannot imagine my world without the intangible reward of teaching students and the connections made on a daily basis. This temporary model is not going to replace our traditional schools but it has certainly upended how many think education should be.

Until next time…

Marker Mic Drop, Marker Mic Drop Moments

Marker Mic Drop #4: How can I choose?

Created on wordclouds.com

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a Marker Mic Drop (MMD), and now seems no better a moment to do so in light of the COVID-19 global pandemic. In short, a Marker Mic Drop is an opportunity to recognize others for their amazing talents, thoughts – you name it – that they bring to the table.

I hopped on Twitter this past week for the first time in weeks post-baby number two. I had already received an email from Matt at Ditch That Textbook on an abundance of resources. I considered devoting my MMD post to the amazing amount of resources he and his team had displayed for teachers and parents homeschooling during this remote learning time. However, when I continued to scroll through Twitter, I realized I could no longer choose just one person or group to highlight. I was proud to see the first responder-like reaction from teachers in support of their communities. Teachers to teachers or teachers to parents, the outpouring of resources, the sharing of Flipgrid activities, the building of each other up with powerfully supportive comments…we all share one mutual goal: support our students and each other in this new endeavor.

Helpful Resources

While there are a number of resources out there, do not overwhelm yourself. Here are a few of the most concise sites that have surfaced in these early days:

Start with a (simple) plan

  • Plan learning experiences:
    • Project-Based Learning will enrich student learning. Check out PBL Works for an overview.
    • Backward Design (UbD): The concept is simple but often overlooked when lesson planning spirals into the minutiae of required content. Identify your end goal and plan learning experiences.
    • Challenge your students but let them choose: Give your learners an opportunity to explore a topic that matters to them. Is there a community issue that interests them? Charge them with developing a solution. This is a time of flexibility in education, which also means that you may not be working against the same time constraints. Let them choose. Let them explore. Let them dig deeper and make their own (cross-curricular) connections.
  • Ease your load with online assessments: If you aren’t already familiar with EdTech platforms that will grade your assessments for you, it’s time to start exploring. Start with Edpuzzle and Quizizz (Link to my overview: Edpuzzle (The Curious Creator Blog))
  • Easily record your lessons: Use a Google Chrome Extension, such as Screencastify, to post video lessons. Take it a step further and create an assessment with Edpuzzle based on your video.
  • Schools – consider rolling out in phases: This is an overwhelming experience for all parties involved. In light of the day-to-day unknown and the sudden leap into remote learning, consider gently easing into it with a modified schedule that transitions into your school’s norm.
  • Is online learning not an option? Many school districts are in less than ideal situations to ease into a remote learning plan due to lack of resources. While some are handing out curbside lunches every day at schools, they are also loaning devices and coordinating with local internet companies to furnish free internet for the near future. If worksheets and textbooks are your only option, consider Choice Boards and Project-Based Learning to still enrich students with a deeper learning experience.
Image source: https://i.pinimg.com

In short, this is uncharted waters for many. Take a step back to breathe, create, and embrace your inner learner. Whether you are a teacher or a parent-now-educator, just remember: You’ve got this.

Tech Tools

Tech Tool Highlight #9: Quizizz

Image source: play.google.com

What is Quizizz?

Quizizz is a gamified assessment tool that not only engages students but also provides valuable data to teachers. This EdTech tool is extremely user-friendly that comes with two incredibly important features: the ability for the teacher to give individualized attention to each student and reports with student and question data breakdowns.

Quizizz features:

Create your own meme sets.
Image source: http://www.quizizz.com
  • Cost? Nada. Absolutely free.
  • Pre-made quizzes – Like Kahoot and Gimkit, you will be able to search for pre-existing quizzes so as not to start from scratch.
  • Classes: This is a new feature that can be found on the left hand side menu. Teachers can assign games without the need for a code. Students can log in to see assignments, progress reports, and flashcards, to name a few highlights. Teachers can also share updates with parents and connect to Google Classroom directly from the “Classes” menu page. The portfolio of current feedback to students and parents is an invaluable built-in Quizizz quality.
  • Self-paced = more individualized attention – I’m no stranger to Kahoot but when students need a little more one-on-one assistance with questions, Quizizz allows me to float the room. Each student answers at their own speed as opposed to one countdown for the entire class. I can read the frustrated expression on a student’s face or see the red next to their name to know there have been more incorrect than correct answers. Some students will ask for help but many are still too shy. This allows you to address each student’s needs without making them self-conscious.
  • Meme sets – Memes will automatically appear after each question but you do have the option to create your own meme set. Click “Memes” on the left side menu and then “Create New Meme Set.” Name your meme set and choose from the dropdown menu of memes or upload your own picture, then enter your own text. (Don’t forget to click “Save changes.”) The memes are categorized by “correct” or “incorrect” answers. Use the “Show Memes” toggle under Quiz Settings to select your Memeset and show pictures after each question. (Note! The Quiz Settings page will appear after you click the “Play Live” or “Homework” buttons on the quiz page.)
  • Post-quiz data – Each game concludes with specific data on how students performed, displayed in a visually appealing graph of red and green. The graph immediately draws your attention to questions that need to be reviewed in red. If I take a Quizizz for a grade, I can find the student’s percentage score in my reports. I have the ability to hide names and therefore rankings (first place, second place, etc.) during the game. When using Quizizz as a review, an overall percentage bar shows me class accuracy, letting me know as a teacher how well the class is grasping the grammar or vocabulary.
  • Calming (and also seasonal) music – The calming, meditative music that plays while students are working immediately sets the tone for learning once the game has begun. There are also festive tunes for the holidays!

Creative Quizizz uses in the classroom:

  • Check-in – Like many other gamified assessment tools out there, Quizizz will help you to check in on a concept without taking it for a grade. Remember! The live class average bar cues you in on their accuracy.
  • Quick review – For a grade or not! The post-game report gives you that option to have the data later if you need it. Just warn your students to use names that make them identifiable!
  • Homework – Co-founder Deepak Joy Cheenath recommends creating several quizzes with an accompanying Excel sheet that contains all game codes. Encourage students to have more fun while reviewing on their own.
    • Another option! Make one long quiz of review questions. Students can come and go, completing as much as they would like throughout several sittings, all without the need to create a account. Students can resume the game as long as they use the same name as when they previously played.
  • Review stations – Use Quizizz as one of several stations on a review day. This could also help to liven up your lessons in the days right before a long school break.
  • Student-created questions – APPSMASH ALERT! Use Google Forms, Google Sheets, and Quizizz to ease quiz writing. Create a Google Form where students can submit their questions with four possible answers. Export the data to Sheets and upload the data to Quizizz!

I hope this post finds you well and gives you a new trick (or refresher on an old one) for 2020. In the meanwhile…

Tech Tools

“These are a few of my favorite things…”

Ahhh…yes. Cue Julie Andrews. It’s that time of year when, whether you like it or not, holiday music and decorations abound and you just can’t help but have one of those little tunes in your head. (Personally, I’ve been waiting for this season for months.)

In the spirit of music, Favorite Things-themed parties and an end-of-year wrap-up, this post is highlighting some of my favorite tools and how I use them in the classroom. Without further ado…

Flipgrid

Flipgrid has stayed at the top of my list for a few years now. If you are not familiar with this tool, it is a platform that embraces and empowers student voice via individual recordings. Flipgrid embraces what I want to nurture most in my students: finding confidence, expressing their creativity, and positive encouragement among peers to become a more cohesive, accepting, and inclusive community.

While many EdTech tools have become more user-friendly and visually appealing, nothing rivals Flipgrid when it comes to reliability. The glitch-free experience only makes me love it more, especially on days when I switch directions to pick up the pace and promote student creativity. Once again, my many thanks, Flipgrid!

For a detailed overview, see my June 2019 blog post: Flipgrid (The Curious Creator Blog)

Un jour, une question + Un jour, un actu

This collection of videos (available on YouTube or via 1 jour 1 question, France TV’s website) is specifically for French teachers. Young French students submit questions to France TV, who then summarizes a response that are accompanied by appealing animations. The questions range from “How long has Barbie existed?” to “What is terrorism?” prompting rich discussion. It won’t be long until your students are reciting the intro. It’s quite catchy!

Also see 1 jour 1 actu for print resources pertaining to culture and current events at a student reading level.

Class Dojo

While Class Dojo is predominantly used in elementary schools, this EdTech tool changed my speaking world. I assign points based on a student’s oral participation in French or Franglais, or take away points for speaking in English. The sound of a positive “DING!” or overwhelmingly ominous sound often puts students into competition mode, whether with classmates or to reclaim points lost.

Check out my blog post for more detail: Class Dojo (The Curious Creator Blog)

Quizlet

Quizlet has been around for years, with good reason. Many teachers and students use it in its most traditional form – housing vocabulary lists and reviewing flashcards – but let’s take it to the next level.

I have abandoned the textbook for a few years now, meaning that I rely on resources that let my students create and collaborate with ease. I create a collaborative class set where students add their chosen vocabulary based on a brainstorming session of sub-themes. Once the list has been created, I cut up the words for OWL Language-like activities. There are a host of activities within Quizlet itself – tests, smart studying of words consistently missed – and of course, a little fun. My favorite way to Quizlet? Students do a Quizlet Live Relay, with one student facing all devices while their teammates wait their turns on the other side of the table. Once the student has answered, the next person rotates into the game.

Quizizz

Quizizz is another competitive EdTech tool that is extremely user-friendly. My two favorite aspects of Quizizz are my ability to give individualized attention to each student as well as the reports that follow each game. The report provides specific data on how students performed, displayed in a visually appealing graph of red and green. The graph immediately draws your attention to questions that need to be reviewed in red. If I take a Quizizz for a grade, I can find the student’s percentage score in my reports. The students love the memes, and I love the fact that I can walk around to help students as it is self-paced. Oh, and did I mention the calming, meditative music? The tone is immediately set for learning once the game has begun.

Google Images

I love G Suite and how easily everything talks to each other and to other EdTech tools. (For example, post your Padlet directly to Google Classroom under the “Share” menu.) Google Images makes for easy speaking prompts at the beginning of class or for inspirational Chindogu examples. Make sure to censor them before you spontaneously do an image search!

Edpuzzle

Ever wanted to ensure that students watch the entire video and also have accountability questions? Edpuzzle makes that happen. While I’ve come across a few glitches in students being organized into the proper class, the activities you can assign are well worth it. Make sure to add the Google Chrome Extension to directly edit within YouTube!

Here is my blog post for a tutorial and more! Edpuzzle (The Curious Creator Blog)

Wakelet

Organization made easy and efficient. Period. I teach four different levels across seven periods every day. That means I have a lot of different resources coming from various sources. Wakelet allows me to organize my collections so that opening what I need is just one click away.

For a more in-depth look at how to use Wakelet, here is the link to this year’s Tech Tool blog post: Wakelet (The Curious Creator Blog)

Music

Last, but not least, there is music. Whether you are streaming from Spotify or search for a (Francophone) artist on YouTube (always censor it first!), music motivates, makes your students move, and can help center their focus. There are a number of benefits to the brain besides the good spirit it will create in your classroom. Check out my recent post, Learning Through Song (The Curious Creator Blog) for ideas of how to use music in the classroom.

If you are not already on holiday break, you’re almost there! Enjoy the season with family, friends, and I will see you next year!