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Teaching Essential Skills with Digital Tools - Beaufort

Page history last edited by Bill 8 years, 9 months ago

Teaching Essential Skills with Digital Tools - Beaufort County Schools


Direct link to this resource collection:  http://bit.ly/BeaufortApril14


Dropbox folder with all materials shared in this workshop: http://bit.ly/BeaufortTiG2014  


You know what the iGeneration looks like in your classroom: iGeners are plugged in, having inherited a world with almost universal access to the Internet. Earbuds hang from backpacks, and cell phones are stuffed in pockets. Text messaging has replaced telephone calls, streaming video has replaced waiting for television shows to start, Wii has replaced Atari, digital photography has replaced film, and cable Internet has replaced dial-up modems.


But iGeners aren’t always the best students. Working quickly instead of carefully, they “info-snack” their way through class, flitting from instant experience to instant experience. Reading deeply, considering multiple perspectives, and interacting meaningfully with others -- the kind of higher order skills emphasized in the Common Core State Standards -- are pushed aside in a race for instant gratification.


Moving learning forward, then, begins by introducing teachers to ways digital tools can be used to encourage higher-order thinking and innovative instruction across the curriculum. Today’s students can be inspired by technology to ponder, imagine, reflect, analyze, memorize, recite, and create—but only after we build a bridge between what they know about new tools and what we know about good teaching -- a process introduced by full time classroom teacher Bill Ferriter in this one day workshop.





Handouts for Today's Workshop

Session Handouts (PDF)


This link connects to a PDF version of every handout that participants will explore during this workshop.  It is HIGHLY recommended that participants print a hard-copy of this file out to use during our time together.  While every handout is posted electronically in this session wiki, navigating the hard-copy can be easier than navigating the wiki for many participants.



Slides for Today's Workshop

Session Slides


While session presenter Bill Ferriter doesn't spend a ton of time working through slides in his presentations, participants can download the slides for today's workshop by clicking on the link above. 




Tech Tools that Make TEACHERS More Efficient


Sometimes, the first step towards learning more about helping STUDENTS to use digital tools to make their lives more efficient is finding tools that can make YOUR life more efficient.  When teachers use digital tools to be more effective in their professional work, they are far more likely to be convinced of the importance of helping students to find digital tools worth embracing.  


In this portion of the workshop, we will (1). discuss the common practices that consume the time of classroom teachers and (2). look at two tools that can help teachers to save time while tackling those common tasks.



Introductory Activity:  Why Don't We Formatively Assess More Frequently?


One of the core practices in classrooms where students make the most learning gains is formative assessment.  Bob Marzano's research has shown that timely and directive feedback is the second most important school-level factor for improving student achievement.  John Hattie argues that "the simplest prescription for improving education must be dollops of feedback."  And Mike Mattos believes that until we get to a point where mastery is tracked by student and standard, we have no real chance of effectively intervening on behalf of struggling students.  Spend a few minutes thinking about the role that formative assessment plays in your classroom and/or school by answering the questions below with your table partners:


Questions to consider:


  • How frequently are students in your classroom/school given timely and directive feedback about their progress towards mastering essential skills?  What are the challenges that make providing timely and directive feedback to students difficult in your classroom/school? 
  • How effectively are teachers tracking progress towards mastery of essential skills by student and by standard in your school?  What are the challenges that make tracking progress by student and standard difficult in your classroom/school?
  • Are teachers on your learning team or in your school generally open to the notion of formative assessment?  If giving timely and directive feedback was doable, would teachers embrace the practice? 



Tracking Student Progress with Mastery Connect and Reading Bear




Developed by a team of former educators, Mastery Connect's goal is to make formative assessment -- measuring progress by student and by standard in a timely fashion -- doable.  The free version of the tool allows teachers to create, administer, score, record and report the results of 10 question assessments that are tied either to state standards or to the Common Core in minutes using nothing more than the webcam of your computer.  


Many early elementary teachers in Bill's technology workshops find Reading Bear to be useful for similar purposes.  Designed to help students learn the basic phonic skills that go along with reading, Reading Bear also provides chances for students to take quizzes and for teachers to track student progress towards mastery.  



Analyzing the Difficulty of Text with Lexile.com



Designed to help teachers quickly and accurately evaluate the complexity of the text that students are being asked to tackle in class, the Lexile Analyzer at Lexile.com allows users to upload reading passages that are automatically scanned and scored for difficulty.  With Lexile.com, teachers can efficiently identify text that provides the kind of challenge necessary for meeting the new expectations defined by the Common Core State Standards.



Tailoring Nonfiction Text by Reading Level



One of the challenges that session presenter Bill Ferriter has when it comes to integrating nonfiction reading passages into his classroom instruction is finding leveled passages about the same topic that his students can study.  That's the exact challenge that the Newsela website is working to address.  Newsela staffers grab articles about high interest current event stories and rewrite them at different lexile levels, making it possible for classroom teachers to easily provide appropriately challenging text to every student in their classroom. 




Tech Tools that Make STUDENTS More Efficient


One of the simplest truths that students and teachers in today's digital world need to embrace is that access to MORE information doesn't automatically make learning easier.  While students are only ever a few short clicks away from thousands of resources connected to any topic, successful learners need to learn to sift and sort their way through those resources efficiently and effectively.  Otherwise, they end up spinning their intellectual wheels simply trying to access new ideas.  


In this portion of the workshop, we will (1). discuss the ways that students CURRENTLY search the web and (2). examine two tools that can help students to become more efficient and effective at searching the web.  



Introductory Activity: Thinking Metaphorically about Search Practices


Participant worksheets:

(Word Doc) (PDF)


Given the important role that the Internet plays as an information source in today’s world, one of the most important skills for students to master is searching the web efficiently and effectively.  Before we explore tools that can improve student search skills, spend a few minutes working with partners to describe the ways that the students in your classroom CURRENTLY search the web.  Use the handout linked above to guide your collaborative thinking.  



Exploring Google's Reading Level Feature 


One of the greatest challenges for student researchers is finding resources that are at an appropriate reading level.  That's where Google's Reading Level feature comes in.  With just two clicks, Google will automatically sort search results into basic, intermediate and advanced categories. Teaching students to use the Reading Level feature can help them to quickly find content that they can actually read -- which will help them to be more independent, successful readers.  To learn more about the Reading Level Feature, consider exploring this video: 




InstaGrok Can Help Student Researchers find Starting Points


One of the greatest challenges that student researchers have is finding starting points when working on projects.  Because they lack background knowledge on many of the topics that they are studying, they simply can't formulate effective searches in popular search engines.  The result is the helpless hunting and clicking -- called 'fortuitous searching' - that you see when students are working on the computer. 


To help students search more efficiently, introduce them to Instagrok:


Instagrok - Instagrok is a tool that will automatically generate an interactive web for any topic that can point student researchers to related topics.  What makes it especially valuable is users are connected to external links on the topic that can be sorted by reading level.  Instagrok also automatically generates a glossary for important terms related to the topic of study. This handout can be used to introduce students to InstaGrok.




Teaching the CCSS with Tech Tools


One of session presenter Bill Ferriter's current passions is developing tech-driven learning experiences centered around the Common Core.  In this portion of the workshop, we will (1). deconstruct a few Common Core State Standards to identify the skills that students are expected to master, (2). examine the role that two free #edtech tools can play in introducing students to those skills and (3). evaluate two student work products created using those tools.


Introductory Activity: What Skills DOES the CCSS Expect Students to Master?


Participant worksheets:


Scoop.it Standards Deconstruction

(pdf)  (doc)


VoiceThread Standards Deconstruction



In her upcoming book, Literacy and the Common Core: Recipes for Action (Jossey-Bass, 2014), Sarah Tantillo recommends that teachers work through a systematic process to deconstruct the Common Core State Standards.  Deconstructing the standards, Tantillo argues, can help teachers to better understand the skills that students are expected to master and to develop a clear language for communicating those standards to the kids in their classrooms.  The steps detailed in the handouts linked above – drawn from Tantillo’s process (http://bit.ly/1bcEonz) – can help you to begin unpacking the standards that you are responsible for teaching, which is a critical first step towards identifying digital tools that might be worth embracing.



Teaching Students to Evaluate Reasoning using Scoop.it






Regardless of grade level, mastering the literacy objectives outlined in the Common Core State Standards for History and the Sciences depends to a large extent on a student's ability to identify the differences between facts, opinions and reasoned judgments in a text and to identify places where authors support their core positions with convincing evidence.  Developing these skills in students requires a TON of practice.  Students need to read nonfiction text with a critical eye time-and-again before these dispositions become second nature.  


Scoop.it -- a service that allows users to curate public collections of weblinks around individual topics -- is a digital tool that session presenter Bill Ferriter is using to give students multiple opportunities to evaluate the reasoning that authors use to take stands on controversial topics.   What makes Scoop.it unique is that it automatically searches for new content that users might want to add to their public collections and then makes adding that content -- along with a short written description of why it is worth believing -- easy. 


Recently, two of Bill's students used this handout to create a public collection of resources related to the New York City soda ban and to the costs of space exploration.  Notice that Bill's students posted a short annotation to every resource, explaining both the author's position and the rationale for adding that resource to their public collection.  Bill wrote about his experience with Scoop.it in the classroom here.




Teaching Students about Speaking and Listening Using VoiceThread




One of the keys to creating highly engaged classrooms is giving students opportunities to wrestle with key ideas together.  Not only are today's students driven by opportunities to interact with one another socially, but social interactions allow students to refine and polish their positions on controversial topics -- skills emphasized in the Common Core Speaking and Listening Standards.  "An important focus of the speaking and listening standards is academic discussion," argue the authors of the Common Core.  "Formal presentations are one important way such talk occurs, but so is the more informal discussion that takes place as students collaborate to answer questions, build understanding and solve problems."


In session presenter Bill Ferriter's classroom, wrestling with key ideas together and learning more about the role that reasoned discourse and academic discussion can play in society starts and ends with VoiceThread.


VoiceThread - VoiceThread is a simple tool for creating asynchronous conversations built around a wide range of digital content.  With just a few clicks, teachers can have their students working together to think about quotes, images and videos connected to the controversial issues that they are studying.  Need an example of what VoiceThread conversations can look like in action?  Then check out this  student VoiceThread conversation titled Why Do People Hate.  Use the handout titled VoiceThread in Action to guide your reflections.


The following handouts can help you to structure more effective VoiceThread conversations in your classroom:


Previewing an Asynchronous Conversation (pdf)- According to the Common Core State Standards, successful participation in conversations depends on coming to conversations prepared to make contributions.  This handout -- which is designed to be used by students BEFORE they jump into asynchronous conversations -- can help to make that preparation easy.  It asks students to identify strands of conversation that they agree with, disagree with, and are excited by.  


Commenting in an Asynchronous Conversation (doc) (download PDF here) - Teaching students about thoughtful discourse starts by introducing them to the kinds of actions that effective participants take to move collaborative conversations forward.  This handout details four different types of comments that students can add to asynchronous conversations.


Reflecting on an Asynchronous Conversation (pdf) - It is important for students to recognize that learning from a collaborative conversation doesn't end as soon as the conversation is over.  Instead, effective participants in collaborative conversations are constantly reflecting on the thoughts and ideas shared by peers -- a practice reinforced by this handout.  


Scoring Student Participation in Asynchronous Conversations (pdf) - While session presenter Bill Ferriter NEVER grades student participation in classroom conversations, this rubric outlines key indicators that can be used by teachers who ARE interested in rating the work that their kids are doing in asynchronous spaces.  



Final Reflections: SWOT Analysis on Integrating Technology into Instruction

(doc)  (pdf)


Let’s take a few minutes to reflect on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that you will face when working to integrate technology into YOUR classroom practices and/or the classroom practices of the teachers that you are currently working with.  Use the template linked above to guide your thinking.  Then, work with partners to answer the following questions:


  • Did members of your reflective group identify any strengths and/or opportunities that you hadn't considered?  Are those strengths and/or opportunities available to you?  Are they strengths and/or opportunities that you can cultivate? 
  • Are there any common patterns in the weaknesses and/or threats that members of your reflective group anticipate facing as they work to integrate technology into their classroom practice?  Can you identify potential solutions to any of those weaknesses and/or threats?   
  • Whose support will you want and/or need in order to successfully move forward with your efforts to integrate technology into your classroom practice?  Are they already on board?  How will getting them on board make integrating technology into your classroom practice easier?





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