Having used a few different LMS packages over the last few years, I thought it was time to bring back allowing students to academically comment on material. I chose to do this with my 5th grade science class, which has been using the NGSS all year long. I have been piloting a blended and flipped curriculum with them since the start of September. Since viewing lessons I have created for them in Blendspace is business as usual, I planned a period for them to dig deeper into the lesson itself, leaving detailed comments for each informational slide. The results, have been great. Students had extremely targeted responses to each slide, which were all organized by subtopic. As the commenting continued, we decided to see how many comments both 5th grade classes could collect altogether. Prior to trying this out, students would review for a unit test – creating review documents on Google Classroom. As a change of pace, this worked extremely well. In the past, students were normally conditioned to leave simple feedback, sporadically referencing class material.
In 45 minutes of class, students had amassed 176 comments. On their own, they found the “help requests” button – signaling slides that they wanted to review. At the end of the class, I had decided to frame their commenting as a way to earn extra credit on the unit test that would follow the next day. If you would like to try this, I would suggest creating a Blendspace account. The best way to start using this for students, is to have them review for a test. It sets the purpose and focus for targeting their interactions initially with the program. Expand on this by pairing it with your own curated learning material.
A collection of images from our interview along with write up. Click to enlarge!
Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to show what I do at my school with 3D printing. Check out the write up and attached video for more information. The interview was conducted for CEI (Center for Educational Innovation. PICCS is supported by the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF), which is granted from the U.S. Department of Education. The interview was conducted during a project my 5th and 6th grade students were working on. The students were designing New York City landmarks, with a process from sketch to model. Scholars needed to visualize their designs first using Google Draw to obtain the basic geometric shapes necessary for their models. Using these basic sketches, students began to model their creations using Tinkercad to great results. The process of the initial design workflow greatly influenced the creation of models that were possible to print using our Makerbot Replicator 2. After our class, we sat down for an interview were we expanded on our vision and student work. This project was the culmination of a year and a half of work with a new graphic design program piloted at my school. Leveraging free web based applications, we were able to significantly cut down on the startup cost to get the program going.
Click to see each stage of the project!
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As my work continues on implementing the Next Generation Science Standards for my 5th grade classes, we have been examining the cause of seasons. Students are supposed to have the understanding that with the Earth changing position relative to the Sun, it will receive different amounts of sunlight based on the tilt of the axis. To illustrate this, I set forth to have students take data for various points over 12 months. Students used the amount of daylight we received in New York City for each month. My lesson had to continue to provide a science background while teaching these 5th graders the basic navigation of a spreadsheet. To accomplish this, I used Google Classroom to provide students with an assignment that had my lesson in it. I also, provided a copy of a custom spreadsheet I created for the assignment. Students were easily able to input the data for themselves, while creating some very interesting graphs. To add some basic functions into the spreadsheets, I had them take the average amount of daylight for each month based off of the 7 days they provided amounts for. This illustrated a strong correlation between the direct amount of sunlight we received in the city to the changing months leading to the seasons.
This lesson was great for taking students to the next level in terms of a challenge. Much of the Next Generation Science Standards require students to represent their learning with a model or graph. There really is no simpler way than to use Google Classroom. By creating this assignment as a Google Classroom assignment, students were kept directly into the classroom workflow that they have been working with for the past month. Besides the new teaching towards using spreadsheets, they were not thrown for a loop here. To them it was a new way to demonstrate that they understood what they were learning.
Today, I found myself looking back on my teaching expirences. I started as a general educator in elementary school. Since I decided to expand into educational technoogy a few years ago – my teaching world has expanded so much. During a planning period today, I found myself replacing Chromebook screens. There is certainly never a dull moment being a Teacher/Educational Technology Specialist.
ChromeTimeLapse from thinkedtech on Vimeo.
My initial reactions to first using Google Classroom were mixed at best. The majority of my LMS experience has been centered around using Edmodo as a platform for any blended content that I would personally make. WIth the latest tweaks and updates to Classroom, a few issues have been since addressed. My main concern focused on the ability to turn off the student chat function. I still think the interface and document workflow is a tad counter intuitive for younger students (mostly 5th graders), but enough has been done to make it a powerful tool used in the right manner. I like the fact that students using Google Classroom can take them to the level of how we as adults use cloud computing. Edmodo was a bit to childish for my liking and perhaps even my 8th graders liking. Student engagement and interaction levels with Classroom give them the sense that they are working on document creation with a purpose. I have used Classroom extensively with my 5th grade science class as we started our first year with the Next Generation Science Standards. The document integration and creation capabilities of Classroom pair well with a curriculum that teachers need to curate such as the NGSS. As an avid user of Blendspace, I have found the best way to blend Classroom is to create my own documents for students to read. These documents parallel our class notes. I also keep a master Blendspace of our current unit, which in turn, I attach to any assignments they are working on for that given unit. Going even further, pairing Classroom with voice over or screencasts will definitely increase the capability of blending your classroom. While Google Classroom is not shaking up the world of ed tech, it is providing a clean and reliable blended learning platform (if you as a teacher subscribe to being a content creator and curator). I have enjoyed my time with Classroom as I integrate it with younger students. Classroom lends it self to an excellent workflow that students should get acclimated to at earlier ages in academia. If you are a teacher that liked Edmodo, check out Classroom. The change takes a few assignments for both teacher and student to become acclimated to, but it will benefit students in the end.
Recently, I have completed my unit on Westward Expansion as a review for my 8th graders. We decided to make the complete unit have a huge technological influence. We started with using America Story of Us: Westward as an overview of what the unit would be about, followed by a discussion. It was able to get the scholars attention at the beginning and keep it throughout the unit. The next day Christopher Brignola told me about a program called blendspace to use. It was a more interactive technological tool that could enhance lessons. It worked perfectly for when we talked about all the land acquisitions. It allowed to showcase true emotion and why we moved west, the reasons behind it. After that we played the video game Oregon Trail to showcase what the journey West was like. The highlight of the unit had to be the following day. We again used blendspace to show what happened to the people/animals of the West. With this technological tool we were able to show the highs of moving West like the Mormons escaping persecution as well as the lows with the removal of the Native Americans. Speeches, videos, artwork that we found really helped the scholars to get an all encompassing understanding of the content. What was accomplished by using this tool helped the scholars to achieve something no textbook could really do. At the end, we asked the students to create their own blendspace on whether or not Manifest Destiny was justified. The end results were outstanding. The students were able to replicate their feelings and emotions on the screen. Showcasing what they believed and why they believed this. Overall, I was extremely happy with the technology we used for this lesson.