Monday, May 23, 2016

Student Technology Geniuses

Today, Senora Stewart's Spanish I students at West Ashley High School worked on their family naming project.  The standard project was to create a poster of their imaginary family tree with photos of their imaginary family members and Spanish naming to go with each one.  For example, a student might choose a picture of Johnny Depp as her father, and his picture would be labeled Mi padre es Johnny Depp.  Without technology, this poster project usually takes two 45 minute periods.

As a member of the Digital Learning Cohort, Senora Stewart shares a cart of iPads with another cohort member.  Wanting to digitize this project, Senora Stewart decided to use the iPads.  Using either Keynote or Google Slides, the students were given requirements to create their family tree with the same titles and pictures AND a 2 descriptive sentences in Spanish.  At this point, the project is purely substitution/augmentation on the SAMR chart, so Senora Stewart and I worked to add something new to the project.

Because foreign language standards require heavy duty communication activities, we wanted to work in a verbal recording of the presentation.  To solve this request, we decided the students could insert their slides into iMovie and then record the words on the slide for each slide.  Now, we are at modification in the SAMR model.

On the day of the project launch, I met with 1/3 of the class in a quiet space to teach them how to use iMovie.  It took approximately 25 minutes to go over how to personalize  a Google Slide show, take and insert a screen shot, add an audio recording, lengthen or shorten the picture to match the recording, add transitions, and more.

Once the training was complete, that first group became the "iMovie Geniuses" for the class.  Upon returning to the class, each Genius took on two trainees and trained them on iMovie.

Here are some pictures of the high school iMovie Geniuses training their classmates.  The students were not told to stand and teach, but some chose to.

Grammar and Writing Differentiation

For differentiation in the ELA classroom, No Red Ink is a godsend.  First offered through Edmodo as an app, it is migrating completely to its website on June 30, 2016.  See the company announcement below.

As you may have heard, NoRedInk will no longer integrate with Edmodo starting June 30, 2016. On that date, we will transition your account to the NoRedInk website. Your data and classes will travel with you, and the site will look and behave just as it always has. The only change is that you will begin logging in at
 rather than through an Edmodo app.
On June 30, we will send instructions to this email address. If you’d like to use a different address, please launch the NoRedInk app and go to your settings page. 
You can learn more about the change here
. Also feel free to reach out with questions. 
Thanks for all that you do,
The NoRedInk Team

If you haven't already been using No Red Ink, now is the time to go to their website and set up an account.   This app offers grammar practice with parts of speech, sentences, commas, parallel structure, MLA citations and more.  This app could take you from 3rd grade through college.

If diagramming sentences did not excite you, try No Red Ink on for size.  It just might surprise you.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Organizing Thoughts Through Voice

As an English teacher, I saw my job as teaching people to think well and write well.  The thinking was not nearly as difficult as the writing portion, and after leaving the classroom to coach teachers on how to effectively integrate technology into the classroom, I realize that writing was just a byproduct of what my real job was: to teach people how to communicate effectively.  Writing was just one way to effectively communicate.

With technology becoming ubiquitous in our personal, professional, and now educational lives, we have so many opportunities to communicate; learning how to communicate effectively is becoming more important than ever with the organization of ideas and the quality of speech and text being the main focus.

If organization of ideas is one of the big three factors, why does written text take precedence over spoken word?  Perhaps it has been that way because writing is permanent and digital writing is searchable.  However, things have changed.  Now, video is streaming live through Facebook and it is searchable on YouTube.  Audio is also more prominent and is also searchable.  While writing used to be more permanent, it is now just as temporary as audio and video because most of it is saved digitally.  So then, why are we still focused on writing as the apex of communication?

Organizing ideas for verbal communication such as a speech or a podcast is just as challenging as the written word save the grammatical hangups.  For our more verbal students, organizing thoughts for speech might even be a stepping stone to better writing because the student will process the information in a way that is his strength.  Just as with scaffolding, this could scaffold for a hesitant writer.  Check out this slidedeck with instructions for how to prepare for a speech.

That's where podcasting comes in.  Podcasting is much like a radio broadcast.  There are no images or written text.  Everything is recorded in audio form.  Some great examples can be found in iTunes and on StoryCorps.Org  1100+ of which have been shared on  There are free audio apps available on all mobile devices from regular phones, to smartphones, to tablets.  Apple or Android - it doesn't matter.

Apps and Websites
For Apple users, the Voice Record Pro App is free and powerful.  Among the many features it offers, it allows you to import and export from Google Drive, offers editing, and saves into multiple formats.  The age  label is 4+ which means it is easy enough for kindergarteners to use.

For Chromebook users, is a simple, web-based voice recorder that offers a simple record, pause, and stop dashboard.  The recording is saved on Vocaroo's servers for 2-3 months and then is deleted.  It offers the user a link that can be copied and pasted to share with others.  I love this app for simple checking for understanding especially for the younger children who can speak more easily than write.  I have used this successfully with students as low as first grade.

The world is changing, and the good news is that it now offers us many new ways to interact and assess our students.  Check out podcasting for a new and different experience.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Critical Thinking and Collaboration Through Mystery Skype

Have you been wondering how you can foster critical thinking and collaboration on a much larger scale than just within the four walls of your classroom?  If you've answered "yes" to this question, you might be wondering how to do this.  One answer: Mystery Skype!  Mystery Skype is a way to connect with another classroom in another school, state or country.  Most teachers find partner teachers through Twitter, where connections are made during Twitter chats or just with a quick tweet asking for interest.  Most of the time, the ultimate goal is to guess, using questioning, where each other are located.  However, there are variations on this. (see page 51-52 of the linked page for variations.)

At Ashley River Creative Arts Elementary, Mr. Carrington's 4th grade class participated in their first Mystery Skype just this week with a sixth grade class in Kansas.  A shared Google Document was created where Mr. Carrington's students could add possible questions and also list the answers to the questions that were asked.  Students used Google Maps on their iPads as well as atlases to help support their search.  Students were only allowed to ask "Yes" or "No" questions to narrow down their search.  As the Skype progressed, students went from asking questions such as "Are you in the United States?" to "Are you one of the 13 original colonies?" to "Are you North of Myrtle Beach?"  They began to realize how specific they needed to be to get useful information.  Kudos to Mr. Carrington for providing this engaging, authentic learning opportunity!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Up Next: Changing Tides - Take 1

How exciting are tides and currents?  Very exciting when you have an awesome 5th grade teacher and a set of Chromebooks.  Students in Keith Pridgen and Francine Brewer's 5th grade science classes are researching tides and presenting their information in various formats.  They are working both independently and collaboratively to complete the task.

To prepare technically for the unit, all users installed the Screencastify extension from the Google Web Store.  This was done whole class and was completed within 5 minutes.  According to the Google Web Store, "Screencastify is a simple video screen capture software (aka. screencast recorder) for Chrome. It is able to record all screen activity inside a tab, including audio. Just press record and the content of your tab is recorded. So you can easily create a screencast for video tutorials, record presentations, etc. (Learn more here). Students were directed to explore the app and then were walked through some settings to make sure it will properly download and save into Google Drive. These settings will differ based on your school's filter settings, whether you are a GAFE school, and whether students are using Google Drive.

The unit began with a rubric for their presentation which provided voice and choice: choose your group partners, choose additional information to share, and choose the format of the final presentation.  Instruction began with a brief overview of the most common terms the students needed to know.  Because the teachers were using this unit as a jigsaw in which students will learn from one another, they provided the students with questions to be answered.  The students completed their research independently and then collaborated to create the final presentation.

Students were given the options to present live with a slideshow (Slides), verbally through a recording (Vocaroo), or in YouTube fashion (Screencastify). Not surprisingly, this generation who cut their teeth on YouTube videos unanimously chose to do screen cast presentations.

Because the students worked at their own pace, each group progressed to different stages at different times.  A group of boys was ready to attempt the screencast using Screencastify.  They wanted to be the stars of the show, so they set up their Screencastify settings using the CAM tab with the built in microphone and the built in camera turned on.

After getting the webcam lined up properly, the boys started their first take few takes.  See the video below.

After watching the preview, the students came up with the idea to use a second Chromebook to run as a teleprompter, so they wouldn't be looking at their paper while recording.  To complete this, the students were shown Google Docs and shared a file with one another.  The next step is to complete the teleprompter file and then practice and record again.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Kicking off 2016!

Happy New Year!  The 2015-2016 school year is filling up with wonderful work on mobile devices!  The Tech ICs would like to share some of the great things we have seen in the DLC classrooms.

Teachers have been using both Edmodo and Google Classroom as workflow solutions.  In Edmodo, teachers are using Moby Max for differentiated learning in math and ELA.   In both Google Classroom and Edmodo, students are having online discussions, creating reading response journals and book reviews, and collaborating with their peers.  Students are using mobile devices to work in the Apple apps, such as Pages, Keynote, and iMovie to "show what they know."  The Google apps, such as Docs, Sheets, and Slides, have been used across all school levels to promote the 4 Cs: creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication.  We have seen elementary students screen casting using Educreations and Screencastify!  Elementary through highschool students have been demonstrating their learning through podcasts using Voice Recorder Pro on iPads and Vocaroo on Chromebooks.  There are even some teachers that are dabbling in the implementation of blended learning and flipped classrooms.

We are looking forward to seeing the amazing things DLC teachers and students create on their mobile devices in the new year!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Digital Campfire Celebration - Successful Sharing Out!

In January of 2015, CCSD embarked on its first Digital Learning Cohort in an effort to guide teachers along their journey of the 1:1 classroom.  The cohort included 167 teachers from 46 schools broken into 12 cohorts.  On May 21, 2015, after only 5 months of exploring the 1:1 classroom, digital learning cohort teachers came together en masse to foster learning and growth among themselves.  Celebrating successes and gleaning tips and tricks from one another, the group enjoyed a well-earned day of fellowship and fun focused on improving and mastering the use of 1:1 devices in the classroom.  The day included a morning of “unconferencing” followed by lunch and teacher showcases where 10 teachers presented, sharing their experiences and escapades from the previous 5 months.  

20150521_091111 copy.jpg

The Un-conference

The word “un-conference” was new to most of us, but it is a word few of us will forget.  Rooms were labeled by topic and session, and teachers chose the rooms that interested them most.  Rooms were organized to facilitate small group, round-table discussions.  At first teachers were hesitant, not having any direction besides “Feel free to discuss the topic,” but once they started, the communication and collaboration filled the room with a chaotic but constructive clamor.  

Topics included exploring and sharing apps; SAMR and its role in lesson planning; 21st century skills and the 4Cs: creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking; classroom management and SOPs; digital workflow solutions; student ownership of learning; and rubrics to guide learning and assessment. Teachers shared, asked and answered questions, brainstormed, problem-solved, scribbled notes, shared links, and swapped names for future contact.  Enlivened by the camaraderie and opportunity to give to and receive from colleagues, teachers left excited for the coming school year.

Apps that received multiple shout outs include Google Classroom, Edmodo, Moby Max, Book Creator, A Web Whiteboard App, Kahoot!, Socrative, Nearpod, Storyboard That, Chatterpix, and Google Docs.  Conspicuously absent were the drill-and-kill apps that many teachers initially seek out in a condition that has come to be known in some circles as “App Happy.”  While skill apps definitely have their place at the foundational level, creation apps won over most teachers as they stretched students to the upper levels of critical thinking: application, evaluation, creation.

Teacher Showcase

After lunch the Campfire wrapped up with teacher presentations spanning elementary, middle and high school levels, iPads and chromebooks.  Shout outs to the 8 presenters: Julie Bullard, Ft. Johnson; Megan Orchard, Ft. Johnson Middle; Tammi Wilson, Military Magnet Academy; Shalea Griggs, James Island Middle; EC Setser, Laurel Hill Primary; Tammy Curtis, Ladson Elementary; Virginia Broadway, West Ashley High School; Ashley Barnes, Oakland Elementary; Jason Brisini, Wando High School; Christina Allegretto, Wando High School.

Sharing their flaws and foibles first, teachers laughed over their missteps and misconceptions  such as thinking there would be an app for the parts of the content the teacher and students didn’t find “particularly sexy.”  The wisdom that emerged is that “no app can teach better than the teacher”, and creation apps such as Pages, Keynote, Google Docs, Google Slides, Storyboard That and Nearpod are the apps to focus on because they enable the students to use their knowledge to create.

The teachers quickly moved on to the triumphs and accomplishments of their students.  4Cs -- creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking -- were front and center in most presentations.  Student work samples amazed the audience, and the energy and optimism were infectious.  A low-achieving second grader found a way to share her learning and move closer to working on grade level. Hesitant writers were writing with enthusiasm.  High schoolers were awake, attentive, and communicative - no small feat in the classroom!  This sharing of accomplishments sowed seeds of hope in the hearts of all the teachers struggling to bring students up to and beyond grade level.

20150521_135545 copy.jpg 20150521_140901 copy.jpg

Next Steps
Surveying customers is invaluable for planning, growth, and success.  After surveying the DLC participants, the following factors emerged as most helpful:
  • 98% - monthly cohort meetings to debrief and plan for next steps
  • 96% - cohort meeting topics to focus on in the classroom
  • 95% - connecting with other teachers through the monthly meetings
  • 100% - digital resources shared during meetings and through technology coaches
  • 99% - dedicated Technology Instructional Coach for job-embedded professional development
Connecting with other teachers and having support are invaluable for educators.  As we move on to Phase 2 of the DLC, we look forward to supporting our DLC teachers as they become Digital Leader Teachers.  

Thank you to all who participated and continue to give us their trust along this journey to success for all students.  Have a safe and restful summer.  We’ll see you in August!