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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

QR Codes for Class Night Sign Ups?



One of the things I'm quickly learning as an instructional technologist is that teaching parents how to use technology you are using in the classroom eases their mind a bit and gives them a sense of understanding. In our elementary school we use QR codes quite a bit to help students easily access information, websites, and videos as part of their learning and sharing.

As I started thinking on this, I decided why not introduce parents to QR codes on the first day of school? Our teachers have sign up sheets outside their doors each year for our PTO to access for volunteers as well as the teachers themselves. What if instead of a pencil hanging there, there were QR codes that linked to a sign up on Sign Up Genius? I use the free version of Sign Up Genius and I love it because it is real time for whoever has the sign in credentials, it has pre-made templates to help in whatever type of sign up you are trying to do!  Here is a how-to video on creating QR codes for yourself:

So here are a few things I think would be neat to use QR codes for school:
  • Teacher introductions. Create a quick video of yourself with fun facts about you and post it outside your classroom door. 
  • Instructions. Busy teaching a small group in a rotation? Create a QR code for the other groups so the students can hear you giving them instructions for each rotation when they get there.
  • Weekly updates. Create QR codes that are dynamic (can change to a new place) and do your weekly reminders and updates.
  • Student sharing. Have students create QR codes to link to something they have created regarding their learning and post them outside in your hallway as a gallery of learning.
  • At the front door. Create a QR code that tells visitors where they are and what the process is for entering and visiting at the school.
  • At various places on campus. New cool building or football stadium? Create a QR code for telling others about the pride you have in these things and how it will be used for the betterment of your students. Both home team and visitors will be able to learn more about your school. 
  • Sports teams. Put a dynamic QR code on your school t-shirts that links to your roster and season stats. 


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Wonderful Ways to Make Educational Graphics

Created with Canva

Canva - I love Canva so much that one day I tweeted about it and a stranger said, "Wow, are you getting paid by Canva? If not you should be!" Canva allows me to quickly make graphics for the top of handouts, for blog posts, for Twitter posts, for creating business cards, etc and I don't have to be a great graphic artist to do it because of all the templates. I have always used the free version of Canva, although I will say that is getting harder to do as it seems harder to find free graphic options on their platform but I do it! Create your free account today and give the things you create a more polished, professional look. The graphic above was created with Canva.

Typorama - Do you often take photos using your iPhone or iPad and want to turn them into a graphic? I do. I could always upload them to Canva but Typorama has become my recent "go to" when creating graphics from photos on my phone. They also have an endless free supply of stock photos that are easy to search by keyword that allows me to make inspirational graphics for my instagram edu account https://www.instagram.com/juliedavisedu/

Google Draw - Looking for a way to create diagrams and charts? Google draw is the bomb diggity! With a grid on your blank canvas and the ability to constantly save and backup to your Google Suites accounts, Google Draw is a natural for creating things like school maps, seating charts, scientific method steps, etc.

Red Stamp -
Made with Red Stamp
I will be honest, I didn't even know there was a website for Red Stamp until I started this blog post. I've always used the iOs app to create my personalized cards. Red Stamp is a great way to send a thank you note digitally to students and families, create party invitations, encourage someone, etc. Are you in a 1:1 environment? Imagine yourself daily affirming a student through a personalized Red Stamp card. Everyone loves "mail"!

Created with CariCartoon
CariCartoon - Most of the things I use are free but I just couldn't resist this iOs app for $1.99. You upload or take a photo of your face and it turns it into a cartoon. I've used it to create buzz for speaking events and as a way to create safe versions of students on the web that protects them.

Sticky AI - I haven't used this iOS app yet except to play with it but I see if becoming part of my graphic arsenal. Tony Vincent (learninghand.com) recently shared about it on Instagram. It allows you to turn selfies into stickers that you can upload to messaging platforms or save them and use them anywhere. what I like is the fact that the app automatically detects the background of the photo and cuts it away...something that takes forever to do in the past.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Tech Connecting With Next Year's Students



As a student, I remember getting letters in the mail in the summer from my next grade level teacher. I remember thinking "No, not yet!" but I also remember liking the fact that he or she reached out to me. With the advent of technology, it's even easier to reach out to your future students. Here are three ways to start working on your classroom culture, learn about your students, and introduce your students (and maybe even yourself) to some classroom edtech tools that you will be implementing in the school year.


  • SeeSaw is a great student driven digital platform that allows students to upload content to share with you, their class, and even their families. Create a free account, share the class codes with the families, set the settings where you have to ok anything before it's posted and have the students do things like:
    • Tell you how to pronounce their first and last name via a handwritten drawing of their name with voice over
    • Tell you something fun they have done this summer via a photo upload
    • Tell you one thing they want you to know about them via video
  • Flipgrid is another way to have students use video to share something with you, think of it like the Brady Bunch opening. Check out this flipgrid I made to introduce the tool to some of my teachers this past school year https://flipgrid.com/1448e8  Perhaps you could use flipgrid this summer to:
    • Introduce one of your first units and ask students to share one thing they already know about the theme (pre-test)
    • Get with your grade level teachers or out of classroom teachers and introduce yourselves this way to the entire grade level
    • Ask students to dress as a character of a book they have read this summer and do a quick book talk.
  • Google Classroom Are you a Google Suites school? What a great way to create an "assignment" in Google Classroom and have students learn the basics of class communication and organization that is associated with all things googly!
While each of these things reach out to your future students, it also quite possibly reaches out to their parents as well. Introducing these tools to both students and parents at the same time creates an opportunity for parents to learn about the tools right off the bat! Don't require your students to participate...but if they want to, keep it up and start your relational learning of the students and families you are going to have the pleasure of working with ASAP. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

My #ISTE17 Takeaways



Rachelle and myself
Traveling alone to ISTE this year gave me lots of time alone with my thoughts and my learning. Meeting up with my friend Rachelle Poth on the last day led to one of my greatest moments of reflection. When we talked about the things we had done during the week it was very different from each other. Rachelle presented multiple times (and I must say she's amazing at sharing her classroom stories) and I was there as an attendee only.
For me, that moment was a realization that ISTE meets needs in many different ways for many different personality types. It's easy to get lost in the crowd if that is what you want or to be in the middle of everything learning AND social. I was "all in" for learning this week and here are my takeaways to learning more about:


  • Google Applied Digital Skills- Yes, I did stand in a 30 minute line for a 30 minute session to learn more about Google's new Applied Digital Skills curriculum.
     A free, stand alone curriculum that can be found at https://www.cs-first.com/en/apps. Our school recently started looking at the scope and sequence of digital skills we want our students to have by the time they graduate from our school. What I love about this curriculum is that many of these skills could be mastered with these very relevant curriculum ideas that 13+ year old students would both enjoy doing and benefit from. 
  • Snapping, Gramming, and Scoping Your Way to Engagement-  
    Shaelynn, Steven, and myself
                              
      Educators Steven Anderson (@web20classroom) and Shaelynn Farnsworth (@shfarnsworth) created an interactive learning opportunity that challenged me in how to reach students, teachers, families, and constituencies with the use of social media. I've often used social media to share the story of our school using the hashtag #ccslearns but I'll be honest, I think my assumed audience was almost always my professional learning network. I am currently reflecting on how I can use it more to reach broader in my own school community. Steven's sharing of data shows a window of opportunity to reach our families and share our stories in a platform that will be looked at. As most schools can attest, the percentage of emails sent and read by families is small. Why not meet them where they already are looking? And as I've heard often but don't know who said it, "someone is going to tell your story, shouldn't it be you?" 
  • Big news from Wonder Workshop: Challenge Cards- Dash and Dot are some of our favorite  robots to introduce robotics to preschool and elementary students. What a great opportunity to meet Charlotte this week- she's the creator of the new "Challenge Cards: K-5 Learn to Code Starter Pack" that hit the market in September. I had a little look at the cards and can't wait to add them to our curriculum. These cards "meet both CSTA and ISTE standards are aligned with Code.org's Computer Science Fundamentals series." (store.makewonder.com)
    Charlotte of Wonder Workshop 
  • Creating Interactive Professional Development Opportunities- This idea has been growing in my head since Edcamp Gigcity but attending a session by Michele Eaton solidified in my head how I want to do this. I plan to introduce one tool every 2 months to our teachers (I'm working on curating those tools now) via an interactive introduction that they can access at any time. My hope is that in the two months the teachers will try the tool in their own classrooms.
Obviously there were tons of learning moments at ISTE for me both in and out of the conference center, it's like learning from a firehose, but these are the top things I am excited about!





Thursday, June 1, 2017

Digital Tools to Mobilize a Community to a Goal




Today, as I was looking over the scope and sequence that ISTE has put out as plausible technology integration standards to support the ISTE student standards I found myself stuck on one standard and feeling the weight of the pros and cons stacking up equally on both sides of my brain as I wrestled with this idea: "Use digital tools such as blogs, websites and social media to crowdsource, crowdfund and mobilize a community toward a goal."

On one side I immediately swiped it under the doormat when the words "crowdsource" and "crowdfund" appeared. Why is this a skill that a graduate of our school must need to know? When I see those words I think of begging to support a cause for funds. And then the rumination began. I asked myself these questions:

  • Why is the standard there?
  • If we don't do it are we creating a disadvantage to our students?
  • Is this about exposure? integration? or even more...stewardship?
  • Are we just called to teach students how to navigate the internet or are we called to teach them how to add value to it as well?
  • As I forward think, is the internet always about taking or are we to give as well? Every click we make is monitored by an algorithm that learns us. How can I use that for good?
These questions led me to think about my own life. Do I crowdsource? Have I ever sought to crowdfund for a greater goal? YES on both accounts. I use social media to share the things I've learned via blogs to help others, I've asked people to join me at educational events like Edcamp Gig City and CoffeeEDU, I've asked people to support me in my JDRF walks to find a cure for type 1 diabetes, and more recently I've reached out to an entire city to help me find my lost dog. I've done this using social media, blogging, and various websites. 

I realized I am the epitome of this statement but the question that continues to ruminate in my head...should it be a REQUIRED skill? I don't like the terms "crowdsource" or "crowdfund" but I think there is value in the meaning of the statement. As I look at my job as an instructional technologist I see this as a way to use technology for a greater good. It definitely doesn't have to be to the extent I utilize it but if at my christian school it is a goal to graduate stewards of this world then technology and the internet can't just be seen as something to consume but also something to make better through our usage. The words "value added" come to mind. According to the dictionary value added means:

noun
ECONOMICS
  1. 1.
    the amount by which the value of an article is increased at each stage of its production, exclusive of initial costs.
adjective
  1. 1.
    (of goods) having features added to a basic line or model for which the buyer is prepared to pay extra.

Are we as educators truly teaching our students to add value to the digital world if we don't embrace mediums to do this? Even more, in a christian school setting aren't we called to it? Maybe I'm digging too deep and creating comparisons that only work in my head. But if all we do is take, learn, discern, and lurk are we becoming true stewards? As a steward we are responsible "for taking care of something, to arrange and keep in order in a way that glorifies God." Does this just mean personal intake? In our world that values collaboration and growing together I believe it means not just becoming fat babies off all the information on the internet but also exercising our right and responsibility to add to that environment as well.

I do struggle with the wording of the statement because I don't think crowdfunding is a particular skill that every student needs to know but I look at two instances in my life where crowdsourcing made a huge difference to me.

  • In 2010 after a very hurtful attack through the use of social media on myself and my donut business, a friend and educator, Jennifer Rimback, created a community support page for me on Facebook that helped me through a terrible week in my life due to poor digital citizenship skills of the masses in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
  • Just this year after losing my dog for a week, she was returned back to us due to a bombarding of social media and websites being shared over 500 times by people I did and didn't know. 

These were life changers. Is this a skill that should be taught is the question that keeps running in my mind?  Is this just something people should do if they want to but not be expected? I'll be honest, until today I thought so but as I have thought and rethought on this today and reflected on how much negativity we see on the internet, my mind has changed. Perhaps it is time to model appropriate and value-added internet opportunities to bring it to the forefront in today's world. Should it be crowdsourced? I don't know...but I do believe the power of the internet can be seen better through this choice. To experience the positive benefits of crowdsourcing exposure is a beautiful thing, take it from someone that has also received the opposite because of a donut named "Obama." 

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Power of Caring Educators

I'll be honest, it's easy to become jaded in education. New initiatives, students that don't seem to care, parents that question everything you do, not being respected in your field...it's easy to allow the stresses of day to day make you forget what made you want to go into education to begin with.

But then there are educators that are different. Ones that both value the relationships with their students and see the challenges of everyday as purposeful. I've seen many of those teachers over the years but in the last couple of weeks I have experienced two educators that truly challenge me to be more like them, to look at being an educator as missional.

As my role has changed over the last few years and I spend less time in contact with students I have less chance to be relational with them. But because of the two people I am about to share with you I want to make sure I am not overlooking those opportunities to be a caring educator.

The first person I want to share about I have never even met in person. Principal Todd Jackson of Sequoyah High School in Soddy Daisy, Tennessee has a heart for students. He leads a school that gives a student a "hands on" education. Many of these students haven't succeeded in the traditional academic setting for a variety of reasons but they can leave Sequoyah equipped to either go straight into a career or further their education. While I have never met Mr. Jackson, I have seen his heart for students. Last Saturday, my nephew Tanner graduated from Sequoyah High School. As Mr. Jackson stood up to speak to those graduates he was obviously overwhelmed with emotion in that moment. He couldn't hide it. As one person yelled from the audience while he was trying to hold back his emotions before continuing on in his speech, "that's a man who cares!" It was evident in that moment but it was also evident to me because this man had been investing in Tanner regularly. He had invited him to his farm and had Tanner work with him, hand in hand. He made a difference in Tanner's life. Tanner left for basic training on Monday and Mr. Jackson played a huge role in getting Tanner to that place. He is an educator that values the importance of relationships.

Secondly, is a teacher that retired from Chattanooga Christian School and someone I had the honor of working with for many years. Not only was she a co-worker, she was a teacher and tutor to my oldest child. Mrs. Pat Wilson was always a relational third grade teacher. Teaching was more than an 8-3 job to her. She would attend baseball games, recitals, and special events of her students often throughout the year. She always invited the students to her house for a party each year. She saw teaching as being in a covenant with the children she taught. She valued them in and out of the classroom. Last night, my youngest daughter got home from her senior trip to find a stack of graduation congratulation cards on the counter. In that stack was a sweet note from Pat Wilson encouraging Kendall for her future and congratulating her for her progress. What makes this unique? Pat wasn't even Kendall's third grade teacher. But she was Tanner's. And she has already asked for his address to send him a message while he is in the Army. This is what relational education looks like- even from a retired teacher.

I want to be more like these two people. I am a very passionate instructional technologist and I want all students to feel like a success in their educational endeavors. I do believe educational technology has the ability to help teachers better meet individual student needs. But the truth of the matter is, no matter how automated and effective edtech becomes there is NOTHING that will replace the power of caring educators. So to all of you that model this daily, thank you. For those of you that know there is room for improvement, like myself, take up the challenge with me. I am thankful for educators like these two that show me how I can better myself in an area where I hadn't even realized I was lacking.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Future of Education...and the role edtech will play


Sometimes I feel like I know things other people just don't get. I know that sounds vain, but this has nothing to do with my intelligence and more to do with what I do for a living. I'm an instructional technologist and anyone in my position worth a grain of salt has to be aware of what is down the pike...and I know, or at least I have an inkling. And I'll admit it both excites me and scares me.

Yesterday morning before heading to the Tennessee STEM Innovation Summit that I am currently attending, I sat in on a meeting where we announced to our middle school that we were going to pilot the LMS Canvas for next year. Let me just say that they are a great group of educators that have a strong sense of adaptability that is amazing. I believe it has a lot to do with the fact they are teaching middle schoolers that want to be treated like children one minute and adults the next!

One of the questions that was asked was "Why not Google Classroom?" and quite honestly for some of our teachers I do believe it would be the best solution for what they are currently doing. But here is the part where I feel like I am "in the know." Education is not going to remain in it's current state. The digital revolution is happening. Integrating technology will no longer look like presenting with a visual that might even be locked down on all the 1:1 devices. Digital revolution means meeting individual student needs with more feedback.

The last few years of tech integration have been messy. That is definitely no lie. The tool has been there and edtech company's have raced to create platforms to meet classroom needs. Some have done it well and some resoundingly have not. School's have adopted, adapted, trashed, and rethought the process of education over and over again. At our school we have looked in the framework of what is antiquated, what is classic and should be kept, and what contemporary way can we do education better?

I believe we are going to see major changes in formative assessments and I believe that schools will have to adapt to them because they will be game changers. This morning I saw this:

Zoomi, a performance optimization data analytics company, and Canvas by Instructure today announced a partnership that integrates Zoomi's powerful predictive and prescriptive analytic tools with Instructure's innovative and award-winning learning platform. This new relationship will empower educators to greatly enhance learning and increase student achievement and proficiency.
Central to the partnership is the analysis of behavior patterns, based on Zoomi's existing algorithms and analytics, that can predict learning outcomes with greater accuracy and adapt pathways.  These insights paired with Canvas, an adaptable and customizable state-of-the-art LMS for K-12 schools and higher education institutions, will provide students with personalized learning programs that can immediately impact achievement gaps. Zoomi's analysis of cognitive, motivational and behavioral data allows real-time, automated, AI-based personalization of content for a truly individualized learning experience.
"Learning institutions choose Canvas for its flexibility and ease of use. And now with the addition of Zoomi analytics, content developers and educators will be able to tailor learning to the preferences of each student," said Caroline Brant, Director of Client Success at Zoomi.  "By providing content based on the specific strengths and needs of individual students, educators are able to maximize student comprehension and engagement."
"The partnership with Zoomi allows us to provide our customers with deeper, actionable insights into student performance," said Melissa Loble, Vice President of Partnerships and Platform at Instructure. "This enhancement to Canvas will provide the online learning community with new ways to improve teaching and learning."
As schools, we must decide what disciplines this will impact in our classrooms. We must decide how far will we allow AI (artificial intelligence) into the educational setting and more importantly into our world. Boundaries need to be placed by our culture to make sure it is morally and ethically used but that being said, the next step in logic branching questions is an exciting time. 
I love that education is working towards personalization so that we can meet all students' needs. This is the future of education. To what extent remains to be seen. Technology will always be a tool but it also has the ability to be a medium of learning itself. How are educational institutions going to leverage this in a way that benefits the relational aspect of education that is key to creating lifelong learners?