Thursday, November 29, 2018

Self Directed Learning with Amy Jarvis

Recently, Amy Jarvis, 7th grade science teacher, had her students embark on a "self-directed learning" journey with Cell Theory.  As you read, you'll notice that this venture was certainly not in her comfort zone, but her supportive administration and colleagues helped her through the process. 

Teaching a course to 7th graders in the parameter of a semester can be a challenge. Seventh grade Life Science is the first time students encounter a specific branch of the science curriculum. This really hit home, literally, when I looked at my daughter’s end of the semester packet for 10th grade Biology. I saw everything I taught with some additions! It was then that I realized the importance of effective differentiation within my classroom. I have firmly believed an honors block should look much different than my standard block. My standard block should look much different than my collaborative block. Furthermore, all of these blocks should look much different than the same level blocks the semester, or even year, before for that matter. You see, I, like many of you, want learning to occur each second of each minute I spend with my students. I’m not talking about learning based on the lowest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy. I don’t want my students to just grasp at a concept. I want them to grab it, hold it, feel it, see it, examine it, analyze it, relate to it, describe it, connect to it, and never let it go! Don’t worry! I’m unrealistic. I am aware that not all students absorb the material as quickly as others. I realize some even drop the concept, step on it, kick it and even walk away from it. But those are the kids I hope to inspire enough to recover it, brush it off and try again to receive it in the only way his/her brain can.

This desire led me to a recent journey with my 4th Block Honors students. I have to say, the first few weeks with my students were brutal. I honestly did not know how I would relate to them. They are WAY beyond where my academic career was at their age. They were SERIOUS. Once girl even used the word, “prepubescent!” At this point, I knew differentiation was going to be an everyday standard to meet the needs of this group of students. Oh, and did I mention, this happens to be the largest block of my day.

Recently, I asked our gifted teachers, Mrs. Walger and Mr. Uyeda for resources on how to challenge gifted students. We spoke about learning contracts, educational menus, and other types of
Figure A
differentiation. I began doing online research and found some templates. One in particular, “The Self-Directed Learning Project,” seemed easy enough to introduce the following week. I had just started teaching The Cell Theory to my first and second blocks. I decided to teach them in the “same manner as always” approach. However, the fourth block was challenged to “The Self-Directed...” approach to The Cell Theory. In the first rectangle in Figure A, I let the students know the three objectives for the cell theory. In the rectangles that follow, the students had to reflect and respond to explain how they would teach the content to peers and help them reach the comprehension level of the Cell Theory. Once finished, the student signed the project as well as I. The project began that night for homework. For the next two class periods, the students worked individually or as a group researching the Cell Theory and creating a presentation. The presentations began that Friday.

Words cannot express the way I felt watching the first two presentations. The feeling grew with the third, and hasn’t stopped as of yet! The students use technology in a way I never expected from twelve- and thirteen-year-olds. Because of my astonishment, I knew I could not keep what I was seeing to myself. One beautiful part of this whole experience is that I have been afforded the opportunity to brag on my co-workers who played a part in this without knowing it. For example, Mrs. Fleming, the robotics and technology teacher at CHMS, Mrs. Walger who began teaching math to this same group of students last year, setting the bar high for teachers that followed with this particular group of students, and Mr. Uyeda who keeps the bar high with interactive lessons that allow for the technology skills these same students crave! The second, and most beautiful of all, is to watch the excitement with which my “techie babies” present. I watch the class reacting with eagerness, engagement, enjoyment and more as they have learned the Cell Theory through the instruction of their newest classmate instructor day after day. My task as an observer is simple, fill out the Instructor Observation Form I found online and tweaked for this project’s purpose. This form is pictured in Figure B. This is considered the rubric, an out of the box rubric, in a nontraditional sense. The students were shown the rubric ahead of time, as with any rubric, to be aware of the grading criteria. I attach the original Self-Directed Learning Project form filled out prior to the start of the project with the grade filled in at the bottom. 

Figure B 1

Figure B 2

In conclusion, I invited a few leaders of CHPS from the tech center, school board office and CHMS, including the 6th grade science teachers who poured into these same students last school year. I am relying on the leaders to find a different venue where this lesson can be an example of how the 1:1 initiative is being used within the classroom. Without 1:1, I do not believe the project would have been as successful with the steady pace a one semester curriculum demands. Finally, I want to encourage each of you to watch and listen to the students within your classroom walls. Without words, and through simple observation, it is evident how each student approaches learning the content within this school year. It took me eight weeks to build relationships, watch the behavior of each student, converse and ask questions, promote other technology uses, watch whether excitement ensued or boredom before finding the path these students wanted to journey. My challenge to each of you is to do the same. Where will this 1:1 initiative take you and your students? We might not take the same flight, boat, bus, or road, but I promise the view will be priceless!

Amy Jarvis
7th Grade Life Science Teacher, CHMS

Self Directed Learning Contract Template - Google Doc

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Reflecting on 1:1 with Kate Ewalt

The following post was written by Kate Ewalt, 7th grade Life Science teacher and recent recipient of the Virginia Association of Science Teachers VAST Teacher-of-the-Year for Middle School. 

I've been meaning to take time to write about 1:1 in my classroom, but it has taken me entirely too long. Part of the reason is the time I’ve been spending on developing material to use with the Chromebooks. This is a down-side of the integration, the time needed to plan and develop new ways of teaching material. For me, though, the challenge of trying new things is one of the reasons I’m still an educator. I also know the time spent creating video lessons, preparing tech integrated lessons, etc, will be time saved for years down the road. I’ve seen lots of positive impact on students. My grading time has been cut, giving me more time to individually conference with students. And now, one nine-weeks in, I feel I’ve managed to establish a routine and structure that students feel comfortable taking educational risks.

I don’t want to talk about the impact on my students here though. So many beat me to that. Instead, I want to talk about the positive impact on myself as a teacher. Some are obviously positive, while others presented themselves as challenges at first. The latter is my first example. I’ve had various conversations with parents about technology in the classroom, but when a parent related that her child said the Chromebooks could be really confusing, it gave me a pause. We were doing some innovative and fun online activities, but sometimes I hadn’t figure out the best way to show students how to do things. This child is in the first block, and that often happens to be the first block to try new web activities. I could see how learning experiments could be confusing to students. I think I was able to explain to the parents a satisfactory reason for continuing to use Chromebooks for certain activities, and I also think we were able to identify the best way to help him overcome the issues, but it was the first accommodations for technology use I’ve had to develop. Usually, the accommodation is some technology!

I like data. I’ll admit it - I’m one of the people who get excited about SOL breakdowns by topic. I enjoy setting goals based on data, especially when the goals are reached, but even when they aren’t, I always feel I’ve learned something. I feel the speed at which I’m able to collect data is actually timely enough for me to act on it during my instructional design now, thanks to one-to-one computing. And it’s not just dry-technical data like reading levels and test scores. Through online blogging and vlogging (essentially journaling formats), debates on Schoology forums, and Google Forms surveys, I’ve gleaned bits of my students’ personalities far quicker than when I had to find time to go through all the hand-completed surveys. With more opportunities for my students to write, I see the quieter students blooming, which makes me a better teacher connecting with more children. Bonus - I look forward to grading some of the homework! I had students submit designs for the official online classroom banner - used on Google Classroom, Schoology, flipgrid, Voki, and several other sites - every kid submitted a creation and the class voted on their favorite. They had a day to submit votes and could see the results real time. Some were even doing the math to figure out if it was possible for a design to get beaten after a certain number of students had voted for it! My other favorite homework to grade this year were several Flipgrids -- in fact, I think I need to assign another Flipgrid before Thanksgiving so the kids can use the holiday-themed stickers. Flipgrids gave interesting insights into the students' homework environments -- sounds and all. That would never come through on a simple written paragraph.

So the one-to-one is going well overall. There are bumps in the road. Experiments abandoned. Activities deemed not worth completing. Some fizzle with the kids. But there are so many positives, I wasn’t worried when a kid commented the other day “They should call this computer class, not science class, we use the computers so much.” After all, they may never need to know the parts of a cell in their adult life, but they will certainly need to know how to communicate effectively in digital media.

As you continue your journey with Chromebooks and digital learning, please continue to reach out to colleagues and EdTech Coaches! We are all here to create engaging learning environments for our students.

Handy Password Trick

Piotr Kaminski taught me this little trick a few months ago, and I thought it was genius.  

If you have a password that you have a password that you have to change regularly, use a password that you are familiar with but add the month and year in which you will have to change it. That way you will remember your password AND when you will have to change it again!

Saturday, October 20, 2018

1-to-1: Our First Weeks in Review

Our teachers spent the summer months awaiting the day their students would be able to use their Chromebooks for ANY lesson imaginable, not just ones they could schedule carts and labs around. Below secondary teachers reflect on the first few weeks being 1:1.

Colleen Hirn, HS English:

One of my favorite parts of all of my students having Chromebooks and Schoology is the ability to go paperless. While the positive environmental effects are part of this, it is mostly about streamlining my time and efforts with each unit. Every teacher knows how much time we typically spend at the copier machine and lugging massive folders of papers home to grade. When I create a new worksheet now, I create a digital worksheet in Google Docs, upload it to Schoology, and ultimately grade it in Schoology. No more fighting the copier machine (or forgetting to make copies all together...), and no more 300+ sheets of worksheets in my school bag and sprawled all over the couch. When you're a teacher, cutting back in little ways like this make all the difference in our stress levels!

Chris Van Savage, MS Math:

My classroom now has the ability to use technology daily, no more trying to get computer carts or computer labs in advance! Students can self-pace with video notes, small groups can have individual help and advanced students can try challenging IXL problems all at the same time in the classroom. Students are comfortable with Chromebooks, and I am getting there also. In math, having the ability to use a math practice program daily (IXL) with at home practice encouraged, is really helping content understanding.

Amy Avery, HS Math:

I am using less paper in my classroom. I am using a math program called ALEKS. It gives the students immediate feedback on their work. I am able to target students who are struggling faster an am able to spend more one on one time with them. I use Schoology to post notes and hard copies. I am starting to use it to post YouTube instructional videos in my Algebra 1, Part 1 class. This will be helpful for students who are absent. I love using technology in my room. It has made me a better teacher.

Ashley Whitaker, MS SPED/English:

I am really glad we have gone 1:1 this year. So far my classroom has changed for the better because I am able to incorporate technology in my lessons easier than before. Prior to going 1:1, I had to be put on a lab schedule, or borrow Chromebooks, or borrow a laptop cart and return it the same day. Now that each student has a Chromebook, my lessons can span over the course of several days. Also, the availability of Chromebooks has allowed for more learning opportunities compared to last May when Chromebooks and laptops were simply used to play Quizizz or Kahoot as a quiz/test review.

Going 1:1 has put me in a different mindset to take risks and expand on what we already teach in 7th grade. One of the first things I did was create a Google Slides lesson on plot. This is something that I wanted to do in previous years, but with limited Chromebook/laptop accessibility, I was not motivated. I am happy to say the lesson went very well and the students were able to receive immediate feedback from me as they worked. I am now really interested in researching ways to flip the classroom to give the students more power and responsibility for their own learning.

Going 1:1 has had a positive impact on my students. They are willing to work when the Chromebook is involved. With the use of the Chromebooks, they also are able and willing to have private discussions with me regarding their work. I have found that they love feedback and are willing to go back revise their work, which helps the overall learning process. I am interested to see how the year progresses with 1:1 and how much the kids grow and learn as a result. 

Christy Major, HS Social Studies:

My classroom is still changing. I'm working to find a balance between technology, keeping students engaged, and hand writing necessary stuff (I'm old school like that). What I do like is that I can post all notes that we do in class in one place and the students can supplement my notes with their own notes and definitions.
One difference I've notice since going 1:1 is that I use so much less paper! I love not having to copy the notes. Everything is posted. 
Because we are now 1:1, I'm trying (TRYING) to not control every little thing with what we do. In other words, I'm trying to allow the technology to serve as a mediator between me and the students. For example, I give them an assignment and not try to micromanage every little thing. I trust that they can show their learning.   

Chris Martin, MS Math: 

I would say the my class has changed for the better in a way that it does make the students more excited to do the work.

As far as what does my classroom look like now versus last year; I would say they are very similar. The difference being that the students/parents have more opportunities to get the information and take it home with the Chromebooks. This is also an extreme positive!

I have tried to take some risks by putting more of my information out to parents.

Ashley Unger, HS Art:

We use Schoology daily in art 2, 3, 4, & 5. I even have our daily agenda powerpoint uploaded to the front page of each class, so they have access to whatever we are doing in the studio EVEN WHEN THEY ARE ABSENT! The ease and accessibility have genuinely changed the dynamic of the art studio at the high school. Bell-ringers, discussion boards, project assignments, my studio rubrics, peer responses; My students are actively engaged in the learning process every step of the way. It is user-friendly for myself and the students. Schoology has been a ray of pure sunshine.

The hard and time-consuming is definitely on the front-end. However, if you make a rubric in Resources based on specific criteria, all you need to do in the future assignments is add that exact rubric from Resources into the assignment. When you are assessing student work, you simply click on the points the student earned, and Schoology totals it up for you AND when you Save Changes, it INSTANTLY transfers into PowerSchool.

Amy Henry, MS English:

I used Schoology to set up a reading discussion board for my students. They are able to share what they are reading about and respond to each other. I also join in on the fun and discuss what I am reading. I monitor their posts, but let them really have time to discuss the topics of their books.

Google Forms is making tests quicker to grade! I no longer have to use a scantron machine or have printed papers. If you release the students' scores, you can send them their email account. No paper, less clutter!

Lynn Jones, MS Social Studies:

I have found that the Chromebooks have enhanced my classroom. At first, there were some problems, but those are becoming less as the students help work through them. At first, struggling students were using all their energy on just maneuvering within the Chromebook. I have seen growth in almost all the students in this area. I balance the use of the Chromebook with many other activities, assignments, and games. The students are rising to the occasion and becoming quite proficient at Chromebook use.

Kate Garrett, HS Social Studies: 

The one-to-one Chromebook initiative has resulted in a positive shift for my classroom! The students have been more engaged with assignments and have the ability to access classroom materials with a "click of the mouse." The implementation of Schoology and Google Classroom have been great in allowing students to extend their classroom experience at home. With full access, students are able to complete aspects of the curriculum more efficiently. One of the biggest risks I have taken is allowing the students to take more ownership in aspects of their learning. There are many online resources for students to access that enrich the content and go beyond textbook learning. I believe the implementation of technology has promoted my students to use more higher order and critical thinking skills through online enrichment activities and projects.

We are so proud of our CHPS colleagues! Feel free to reach out to any one of us if you have questions or need some inspiration! 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

PD on the Go... In Case You Missed

Our first in"stall"ment of "PD on the go..." hit restrooms in mid October.  If you "missed" here it is!

Friday, October 5, 2018

What's New for the 2018-2019 School Year!

The Office of Technology and Learning has been hard at work all summer to get ready for 1-to-1! 

OTL student workers cleaned, organized, and labeled our in-stock Chromebooks. Also, they opened, labeled, and charged 1,000 Chromebooks that were delivered in July. Finally they organize all the Chromebooks into homeroom classes so that they can be distributed the first week of school.

All students in grades 6-12 will be issued a Chromebook that they will be able to take home to use. Students in 5th grade will be one-to-one also; however, those devices will stay in the classroom.

All K-4 classrooms will receive 6 Chromebooks for student use. These will be great for stations or group projects. Each year OTL will continue to purchase Chromebooks until all students have a one-to-one experience.

We announced that Schoology would be our Learning Management System at the mid-year point. We were excited about the possibilities and opportunities it would provide for students and teachers this school year, and now that 2018-19 is here, we are ecstatic.

Because all 6-12 graders will have a Chromebook to use at school and at home, we wanted to make sure we provided teachers with the easiest way to communicate, grade, and curate content. Our search committee researched several LMS's and finally concluded that Schoology would best fit teachers' needs.

Non-teaching staff member have access to this product as well! Any person who needs to organize training materials or content can benefit from this

WeVideo is a web-based video editing and creation platform. We are very excited about this product! Students and staff (not just teachers) can easily edit videos for all kinds of projects! If you are new to video editing, use the storyboard mode. When you are feeling more comfortable and need more options, use the timeline mode.

In order to get started, simply go to and use "Log in with Google."

Students can download the WeVideo app on their phone to import video they've taken with their phones straight into WeVideo. Also, WeVideo can connect to Google Drive so that users can import video and photos already Google Drive.  Another great feature of WeVideo that isn't typical of video editing is collaboration. Teachers can create groups in which students can collaboratively edit video!

Using ClassLink is a truly exciting step for CHPS. Elementary teachers may be familiar with ClassLink's concept after using Clever, but secondary teachers will find it to be extraordinarily helpful. We were introduced to it by its ability allow students to change their passwords.

What teachers and students are going to find to be a breath of fresh air in a dense digital world is the fact that ClassLink will be a dashboard to the various web applications, programs, and sites we use as a district and even sites you use as an individual. As we continue to build the dashboard, you will find that many of the apps will be single-sign-on, meaning when the students click on the icon, they will be taken directly to the website without having to remember a username or password!

Screenshot of a sample ClassLink dashboard

The Office of Technology and Learning is committed to making 2018-2019 a truly wonderful school year. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you need help with anything!

Since you made it to the end, here's a great Chrome App for your classroom: Zero Noise Classroom -- an elegant classroom timer and noise monitor. 

Friday, September 14, 2018

New Google Chrome Look

Have you notice Google Chrome looking a little different? There's a useful new update that you may want to take advantage of!

Self Directed Learning with Amy Jarvis

Recently, Amy Jarvis, 7th grade science teacher, had her students embark on a "self-directed learning" journey with Cell Theory. ...