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.