Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Safe for Prep...Week 2 Podcast:: The Power of Inquiry and Poetry

Episode 2 of our "Safe for Work Podcast has me discussing Inquiry, and Sean reading a lovely poem! 

I was inspired by the great work of our South View and Valley View Middle School 8th grade staff on incorporating Inquiry in their instruction, as well as Project Lead the Way Engineering teacher, Jodi Ramirez, who had her kids sifting dirt to learn about composition. This focus on inquiry has continued to evolve, after some great professional development from Diana Laufenberg a few years ago!

Earlier that day, I saw a great article noting that fostering curiousity in students can have a huge impact on closing our acheivement gap with low income students. Incorporating inquiry in instruction can be a great way to make that happen! 
Sean and I are having a blast recording these sessions. It really is an extension of the great conversations we have when we get together in the office. We hope it is meaningful for you. If you have suggestions for upcoming topics, please let us know!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Sometimes I Have to be the Fun Police...

Fun Police PictureYesterday, I had two instances where I had to be the "Fun Police," in my role as Digital Learning Specialist. It is not a role that I rellish, as philosophically, I want our staff and students to have an authentic experience as possible and utilize tools that may be of benefit to their learning. However there are times, when for safety or due to missuse of a tool, I have to put on the hat and shades...
Case #1
The first instance was when I got a request for a group of 5th grade students to use Prezi as a presentation tool. Now Prezi may not be as popular as it was a few years ago, and some folks wish they had kept their "Classic" tools and format, but it still offers a nice way to make non-linear presentations.
However, for elementary educators, there is another component that makes Prezi problematic: their Terms of ServiceGiven this restriction, unless the student has been held back 3 years, odds are the 5th graders will not be able to use Prezi for their presentation.
What to me is interesting, is that when Prezi first came out, they were even more restrictive!
Fortunately, the kids have options, and if they want to make it non-linear, they can create navigation on Google Slides.
Edina Approved Tools

We have created this site as a resource for staff to know the age restrictions and recommendations for most common Web tools. In many instances, the sites require teachers to get parent permission prior to having students sign into the site. Even sites that are popular with elementary teachers, like Flipgrid, require parent permission for students under the age of 18!

In a perfect world, organizations like the International Society for Technology in Education, ISTE would require vendors to include the age restrictions of their products in promotional materials. Currently, few vendors do this, leaving it to educators to read the "fine print." If they are truly committed to digital citizenship, ISTE should mandate that vendors at their conference give full disclosure. 

Case #2
The second case of me putting on the Fun Police persona came last night. One of my colleagues sent me a direct message sharing this thread from Kathryn Byers, an AP World History Teacher from California. A quick look at her blog shows that she is a generous teacher, who is working hard to make connections with her students. She in the thread below, she talks about using Instagram Stories as a way to help her students prepare for the AP exam. 

Byars does a great job here, articulating how and why she utilizes the tool and the modeling she is doing for her students. She is helping them learn about proper use of social media AND connecting with her students around World History. My colleague wanted to know my thoughts, and whether this was something he could pursue based on our policies?

Up until about a month ago, Instagram was open on our network for students. While Byars is using the tool effectively as an educator, unfortunately, it was not being used that way by students in my district. My colleague, Jack Salaski, put together this presentation for our Technology Advisory Team that illustrates the distraction Instagram had become. Ultimately the group, made up of parents, teachers, students and administrators, chose to block Instagram on our network.

Fortunately for my teaching colleague, there are alternative options. Many of my colleagues use Twitter in a similar way that Byars uses Instagram. Erik Anderson is a great example of that...

For a more "walled garden" approach, especially for younger students, our learning management system, Schoology includes a built in Media Album that can be added to courses. It can act in a similar fashion to Instagram, with the added benefit that posts can be moderated. Granted it is not as authentic as Instagram, nor is it as accessible for students, but it is an option. Here is a quick video demonstrating the process.

It's not always easy being the "Fun Police," but it is a necessary one to make sure that terms of use are being followed to protect student privacy and that the tools we use enhance learning and don't distract from it.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Speaking of Podcasting...

Last month, I shared about some work I was doing around Student Podcasting (Giving Students Voice & Choice Through Podcasting). This month, my colleague, Sean Beaverson and I are launching our own podcast!

Safe for Prep is a short but sweet look at the great things we see in our roles in Edina Public Schools. As the name implies, it is something you can listen to, in the background during your prep!

Below is Episode 1! We highlight some great work the 8th grade teachers at South View Middle School shared with staff last week, and Sean's efforts to help some students. Have a listen!

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Giving Students Voice and Choice through Podcasting

This February, I shared with staff the value of giving students pathways in how they demonstrate learning by creating podcasts. I was inspired by an ISTE presentation by Rabbi Michael Cohen and Jeff Bradbury last summer, and a presentation that Glen Irvin Flores gave in November. 

A few staff were interested and so I put together this presentation for students.

I shared how I still remember my 6th grade project where I recorded myself as a 12 year old in Moscow, and my dad interviewed me to demonstrate what life was like in the Soviet Union. (Yes, I'm that old! The collar above gives it away! In addition, I cannot remember any of the multiple choice tests I took to demonstrate learning...) 
I also shared with students that NPR was sponsoring a Student Podcast Challenge, inviting students to ask their teachers to submit their audio file that spoke to one of the following prompts:

  1. Tell us a story about your school or community: about something that happened there — recently or in the past — that your audience should know about.
  2. What is a moment in history that all students should learn about?
  3. Show us both sides of a debate about an issue that's important to you.
  4. What do you want to change about the world? What's a big change that you want to make in the future?
  5. Explain something to us that kids understand and grown-ups don't.
On Friday, March 15, the world awoke to the news of the horrific attacks at the mosques in New Zealand. 

I was feeling pretty down after I heard the news. The rise of hate and extremism left me feeling not very hopefull for our world. Then I received an e-mail from my colleague Laura Mestler. She shared that one of her students, Rahael, had chosen to complete the podcast challenge and that she just submitted it. I decided to take a moment to listen. I invite you to do the same...

I was blown away! This 6th grader so elequently shared her hopes, dreams and ideas for eradicating hate that it immediately made me realize that there IS HOPE! Kudos to Rahael, kudos to NPR and kudos to Laura for taking a chance on giving her students voice and choice in how they share their learning! Podcasts provide authentic opportunities for students to share their learning outside the walls of the classroom. It is another example of how school doesn't just prepare students for real life, it is real life!

Friday, March 1, 2019

My Thoughts on Digital Learning Day 2019

So yesterday was Digital Learning Day. In the past, I have shared how we have celebrated it in Edina (Of course most of the post was aggregated from a tool that no longer exists....sigh!)
Well, yesterday, I saw this tweet from Schoology and so I thought I'd share my thoughts...

Here goes...