Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Virginia Society for Technology in Education Annual Conference

The Virginia Society for Technology in Education's Annual Conference was held last week, December 3-5, 2017 at the Hotel Roanoke in Roanoke, Virginia. If you have not attended a conference at the Hotel Roanoke, try to get there. The conference center and the hotel are beautiful and were decorated for Christmas so it was a special time to be there.

There were so many sessions that applied to integrating technology into teaching and learning. Since we are implementing a 1:1 Chromebook program for grades 5-12 next school year, I focused on GOOGLE Applications.

One of the best sessions I attended was HIDDEN GOOGLE GOODNESS
The presentation introduced us to many shortcuts, Google Apps, tutorials, and teaching strategies that will be useful to any teacher K-12. I encourage you to use this link and take a look at all of the Google Goodness available to you.  I was familiar with some of the Apps, but most were new to me, so this was time well spent.  Add-ons run inside Google Sheets, Docs, Slides, and Forms. All of these Add-ons are available through the Google Marketplace. I've listed the Add-ons here, be sure to view the entire slide presentation for lots of really great Hidden Google Goodness that will be helpful as you begin using Chromebooks with students.

Add-ons for Docs to try are
  • Translate
  • Easy Accents
  • Thesaurus
  • Easy Bib
  • Kaizena
  • Highlighting Tool
  • Orange Slice
  • JoeZoo Express
Add-ons for Sheets
  • Flippity
  • Flubaroo
  • Row Call
  • Add Rows and Columns
Add-ons for Forms
  • Email Responses
  • fromLimiter
  • Form Publisher
  • Choice Eliminator
  • docAppender
  • Form Notifications
Add-ons for Slides
  • Stock Images
  • Audio Player
  • Math Equations
  • Icons
  • Slides Toolbox

Friday, December 1, 2017

Chromebooks in the middle school classroom

I received the good news at the beginning of this school year that I would be receiving a class set of new Chromebooks to teach eighth grade English.  As far as language arts go, eighth grade is the most critical at CHMS in terms of high stakes testing.  Our students are tasked with passing both a writing and reading SOL within the same year.  It is a daunting prospect for both teachers and students.

In the past, the eighth grade English teachers have battled our way into computer labs begging other teachers to please let us use the desktops in the months leading up to our writing test in March.  With the addition of the MyAccess program two years ago, we are now able to assign writing and have it graded in record time making it easier to assign more writing prompts.  It never failed that one or two desktops were often inoperable (for whatever reason) and the unsuspecting student assigned to that machine would be delayed in beginning their assignment.  As months passed, we could almost completely disregard getting into a lab before our May reading SOL test.  The labs were such a precious commodity that we were forced to use archaic paper/pencil methods to practice for testing.

I can't say enough about the amazing things that are happening in my classroom this year with the addition of Chromebooks.  With Erin Ford's help, I have become a teacher who is now delivering 80%-85% of my content through Google Classroom.  I unsurely dipped my toes into the world of Google at the start of our class novel A Long Walk to Water in mid-October.  I teach two collaborative classes this year and a large portion of those students qualify for a read aloud accommodation.  Using the Audacity application, I was able to record each chapter and post it along with PDF files of our daily assigned reading and accompanying comprehension questions.  Google Classroom made it possible for my students to work at their own pace and replay portions of the chapter as needed.  Additionally, I am able to post enrichment activities and supporting videos to deliver content to support novel study and my students are completing all of their assessments via Google Forms.  We are also using MyAccess on a consistent basis and I have been able to assign four prompts this year.  A vast improvement over the one or two that were usually covered before Christmas break while we were relying on stationary computer labs.

My wish is that more teachers would embrace technology and ignore the doubtful inner voice that tells them their classroom curriculum can't be adapted to technology.  In the span of two months, I have changed my classroom focus to become technology driven and my students are responding flawlessly.  Technology is the language our students speak.  Now that I'm speaking their language, the excitement in my classroom is palpable. 

Performance Matters

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