Thursday, July 12, 2018

CD with 3D: Culinary Design with 3D Printing


CD with 3D
Culinary Design with 3D Printing

How can we infuse technology into classes that do not see technology as a benefit to their curriculum? Follow me on a journey of discovery as I use CAD and a 3D printer to amp up culinary design of a cake before I attempt to bake!

In today’s world we can now become novices to experts in anything with the help of Youtube, Pinterest and Social Media. With the help of these digital resources I have become a:

Street Sign Creator, Firepit Pergola Builder, Shed Designer, BBQ Transformer and Playroom Architect



Yet there is one thing I have always wanted to be which is easier said than done… a great Dad! Now I know there is no one way a father can become a great dad, but I wanted to create a tradition where my kids would be able to say “I loved it the way dad always…” One tradition I always keep going is to dress up as Santa on Christmas morning for daughter and nieces, just like my grandpa always did. But besides the perfect pillow, there isn't much effort put into this tradition. I wanted to do something more. I wanted to show how much I cared by learning a new skill and making a tradition out of that. I decided to become the baker of my daughters birthday cakes. So off to pinterest I went to find the perfect cake to bake.

As I always emphasize to my students, preparation is key to any new project, or as my grandpa used to say “measure twice, cut once.” With wood and stone preparing and measuring is pretty easy, but with cake a mistake can set you back hours. So I was stuck with deciding how perfectly design my cake before any batter was mixed. At first I started to sketch out my design on paper, but i could not get my vision from my brain to translate over to the blueprint. How could I create a rendering that would best execute my design and vision. The answer was CAD, TinkerCAD to be precise. I would use the 3D design software to design my cake.

The main reason I decided to use TinkerCAD as my medium is the pre-cut shapes already to use for my design. The shapes could be resized to “become” the exact size and shape of the plans I already had available to me in my kitchen. By resizing and stacking the shapes I was able to create an exact replica of what my brain was showing me.

Below is what I was able to create in TinkerCAD using only the size and shapes of pans I had in my Kitchen:


I was then able to print out my design using a Makerbot 3D printer to use as reference during the actual building of the cake. Now I know this seems like a lot of pre-work, but I am an extreme planner and do not mind spending extra time on preparation if it means the final product will be that much better. This is the same mindset we need to ensure is encouraged in our classrooms on a daily basis. It is not always about the final product, but the steps you took to get there. If the project does not turn out the way you wanted, you can always go back to your preparation and determine what you need to fix or do better next go around.

Oh and how did the actual cake turn out? Well it’s not going to win any competitions on Cake Wars, but for a two year olds party and a dad’s attempt made out of love, I think it turned out pretty well:

This activity would fit perfectly in a Home Economics class, or a Culinary class on your campus. To infuse technology into a class which normally would see no use for it is such a SWEET idea!!!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Kahoot! BootCoin

The Kahoot! BootCoin
Think BitCoin but more FUN!


I raved about Kahoot in an earlier post HERE, that Kahoot is the ultimate “Gateway Tech” for classroom teachers. Even the most wary of the bunch can see, when used correctly, the power of gamifying the classroom through competition. Because Kahoot is so easy to use and enticing for teachers I saw a problem begin to emerge… Kahoot resistance.  Now I use resistance here in a few different ways, but all lead to the same problem. You see, in my school I felt like the Scientist Sir Alexander Fleming and his discovery of Penicillin. Penicillin become the wonder cure of its day. The simple introduction of this wonder drug helped to save lives and cured diseases once thought incurable with almost instant results. It became the ultimate weapon against human ailments. My Discovery of Kahoot all those years ago, felt the same way. The simple introduction of Kahoot, helped me cure the diseases of normality in the classroom. It allowed Teachers the ease of implementation and helped teachers see near instant results of student understanding in the classroom. Kahoot started a revolution at our school… and then the resistance emerged.


Penicillin was seen as a cure all for all ailments. So much so that it started to become overused. The drug constant usage in hospitals and prescriptions lead rise to a resistance of the cure, it gave rise to superbugs. In school Kahoot started to run into the same problems. Because of its ease of use, it was being “prescribed” everyday, in every class. This constant use and the students constant exposure to it began to create a resistance in the students, it started to lose its desired effect in the classroom. Students began to say “Kahoot Again?” or “Let’s see how long we can make this game go.” Kahoot targeted programs also began to emerge, such as Kahoot Smasher, Kahoot Hack, and Kahoot Spam. With all these problems roaring their ugly head, I had to ask myself “Is Kahoot Dead?”. I refused to believe it. I would not let my discovery diminish. I couldn’t change the game, but maybe I could change the way the game was played.


From this Kahoot resistance, I envisioned a new kind of game play. One in which I could build upon the competitive nature of my students. One in which students could physically play a part in their success within the game. To bring Kahoot back to its glory, I introduced:
The Kahoot! BootCoin


What is the Kahoot Boot coin? How do you use it? How… Ok Let me explain. The Kahoot Boot game feature is like a wild card during the game. As the students play and compete they may just be a few seconds slower than other students or they may have accidentally clicked the wrong button and selected the wrong answer moving them down the leaderboard. To put them back on top they can play their “Kahoot BootCoin”. When this coin is played I, the teacher, must Boot out the student who is in first place. Now this at first may appear to be mean spirited, but the student getting the boot may choose to play one of their coins to nullify the one being played. This extra competition in the game helped me to re-gamify Kahoot for my students, and bring back the joy of Getting their Kahoot on!


How do the students earn a BootCoin? Well just like the early days of BitCoin, where I gained inspiration for the BootCoin, they have to “mine” or work for it. One way is to win a Classic or Challenge Kahoot game. If you end up on top you earn a BootCoin for use in a future game. To make sure all students have a chance to compete I have many challenge games going on at once, at varying levels of difficulty. Students can also earn a BootCoin by helping another student in class, portraying a random act of kindness on campus, or going above and beyond in a classroom project or presentation. I have not even scratched the surface of all the varying ways students could earn a BootCoin. The coin was designed in TinkerCad, so when I need more, all I do is 3D print more on my trusty MakerBot.


By turning to the BootCoin, the resistance faded and a new era of gameplay emerged in my class. Students began to strategize when, how and if they should play a coin. Students discussed when was the best time to create a coin. Students began to form alliances, which were consistently broken, in order to gain more BootCoin. At one point students talked about selling BootCoin, but i absolutely put a stop to that before it started. Because of this new addition to Kahoot, nore students were willing to help each other in class, stay after to get extra help for understanding, and be overly kind to others outside the classroom. Only time will tell if this new addition will stay immune to resistance, but in the meantime I am enjoying this new currency for learning.  

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Redefining Annotation

Redefining Annotation
Ditch That PDF and Hyper-Annotate

Learning how to read and annotate text is an important skill all our students need to truly understand stories, articles, and *GULP* textbooks. This is a skill which needs to be taught and learned over time to master. The hard reality of the situation is though, most college level texts are now distributed in PDF or other digital formats for our students to manipulate. In the face of this new reality, it has become a necessity to teach our younger students the skills of digital annotation and manipulation. With digital devices we encourage students not to not simply substitute traditional annotated techniques with digital tools, but rather level up their annotation practices to create a redefinition of the entire model. Below we will see how one single PDF can be transformed into a living annotated document with a few simple tricks, tips, and (...).

Your first step is to locate a PDF which you wish to have your students annotate. My favorite site to grab up to date current event articles for any subject and lexicon level is NewsELA. Once in NewsELA  find the article you wish to use and select the “Print Icon”, of course we are only going to digitally print it as a PDF. NewsELA will ask how you would like the article, select “Article Only”. This will redirect you to a chrome PDF “preview” screen where you will select the download icon in the upper right. You now have the PDF of the article which you will then upload to your Google Drive.


Once the PDF article is in your Google Drive, right click on the file, select “Open with” → Google Docs. The PDF with instantly be transformed into an editable Google Document, after a little formating takes place. The article is now ready to be distributed out to our students via Google Classroom. Now we can get to hyping up our annotations.

It’s not paper, Supersize your workspace and Change your Orientation

Hey, this is a digital document! Because of this fact, we are not limited to the confines of a 8.5x11 piece of wood pulp. So let's supersize our workspace. Go to file in the upper right corner of the Google document. Select “Page Setup”. Change the orientation to landscape, then change the paper size to something larger, I like the “Tabloid” option. Your students now have a supersized workspace to annotate like a rockstar.


Split text up with columns and tables

Annotations work best when you have a space to leave your thoughts/notes/comments on the article as you read it. To help with this great strategy why not create a 2 column table. First copy all the text on the document by using “Ctrl+A” then “Ctrl+C”. Now delete all the text, select “Table” on the toolbar and create a 2x1 column table. Now paste the copied text into the left column by using “Ctrl+v”. Now you have your text on the left and a place for your students to write on the right. But wait there's more! Add a 1x1 single box table underneath each section of the text and type “Summary”. Want a third of fourth column? To insert new Column, “Right-Click” in current column, then select “Insert Column Right”. A digital document is malleable, it has no set size, shape or form, make use of its transformational properties! Now you have a space for the students to summarize that portion of the text.

“Talk to the Text” with the Comment tool

One of my favorite strategies when reading an article or text is to “Talk to the Text”. This refers to the reader commenting on what the article is making them think/feel when they read that portion of the text. Statements like “This sentence is confusing” or “I can relate to this scenario by…” . This strategy can be easily done with the comment tool built right into the Google Docs tools. Just highlight the text you want to “Talk” to, you will see a comment icon pop up to the right of the document. Click this icon then type in your comment. Easy Peasy!

Highlight and Group text with Highlighter Add-On

Here is a great way to allow your students to create easy highlights on their document, with each highlight representing a specific task, and then extract them to automatically create a color coded table of those highlights. First, in your Google Doc go to the Add-on option on the toolbar. Select “Get Add-ons” and search for “Highlight Tool”, you want the one as seen in the picture below, then select “Add to Drive”.


Once you have added the tool, it should now appear as an option in your Add-Ons. Open the Highlight Tool, then select Highlighter Library. Here you can select your Highlight colors and label them for whatever purpose you would like such as: “Main Topic”, “Confusing Statement”, “Will be on Test” ect. Select save and then begin to highlight the text. Once you have concluded your highlights, go to the bottom of the highlight tool where it reads “Extract Highlights”l and select “By Color” and extract to “This Document”. The tool will then extract all your highlights and place them in a color coded table at the bottom of your document. Amazing tool to help “collect” your students thoughts for easy reference.

Add relevant images using the “Explore” tool

One of my favorite activities to include in text transformation is the skill of identifying images to support the topics of the text. Google docs has made this process a snap with its embedded “Explore” tool, found in the bottom right corner of any document. This “Explore” tool allows students to research relevant images to the text. After clicking on the “Explore” tool it will automatically search the article text for content, then bring up images it thinks will be relevant. If the images it suggests do not fit what your students have in mind, they can use the search bar at the top of the tool to make another search. To add the image all they need to do is drag and drop it into their favored location on the document. Once brought in, I ask my students to label the image and explain why they brought it in and how it relates to the text.

Add student created images or models with Drawing option

When standard images won’t do, why not insert a drawing. At times I want students to create a visual of the text. This can be a recreation of a item described in the text, a mind map of their thoughts about the text, or a model of the content being described. Students can even bring in an image which they believe is relevant, then label/annotate over this image for a greater impact.

Hyperlink outside learning resources (websites/videos),and leave “Sticky Notes” on these resources.

The “Explore” tool is also a great place to locate supportive texts and articles on the internet to further student knowledge of the article content. Simply click on the “Explore” tool in the bottom right corner and search keywords for related articles and websites. Students can visit the website to expand their knowledge or fact check information found in the article being read. If the website was helpful the students can then hyperlink the website to their text and comment on the reason they found the article helpful. Students can even easily cite the website as a footnote by simply clicking on the icon next to the article link in the explore tool. The citation can be placed in MLA, APA, and chicago format with an easy click of the “Three Dots” next to the web results icon in the explore tool.

An extra step students can take is leaving a “Sticky Note” on the website they visited and leave information behind to review later. This digital sticky note can be place right where the student gathered information they deemed helpful, and leave a note as to why they choose to use it. To use the sticky note, simply install the Google Chrome extension Note Anywhere so it is available in your extension toolbar at the top of your Chrome browser. When your student is on the webpage they click on the “Note Anywhere” extension and a sticky note will pop up. Move the note anywhere on the webpage. This note will now be on this webpage until it is removed by the user.

Create artifacts and Short Video Screencasts of learning with Awesome Screenshot Extension.

How many times have you left a comment or taken notes only to come back to them days later and not know what the heck you were talking about or referring to? Now we can leave short screencast reminders/tutorials for any idea, concept or tool. To unleash this powerful new strategy add the Google Chrome extension “Awesome Screenshot” to your chrome browser. Once it is installed, click on the “Awesome Screenshot” icon in your Chrome extension toolbar. This will bring a dropdown box with many different choices to take a screenshot of your page. If you simply want your students to take a “picture” of a certain portion of a webpage have them select “Capture Selected Area”. This will take a picture of the area of their choice and then annotate over it with ink, highlights or text to create an artifact of learning. This image can now be added to the document in the pictures column of the Google Doc.

This artifact of learning is great, but sometimes you need a visual and narration to remember key points of your learning. When this is the case select “Record my Screen” from the Awesome Screenshot extension menu. This will allow your students to record their screen and voice for up to 30 seconds. Select “Record my Screen”, turn the microphone option on, then select, start recording. This video clip is then saved to the local drive or in Google Drive and can be easily hyperlinked to their document for easy review later.

It’s NOT a Substitution task

Technology is meant to advance our knowledge and leverage the 21st century skills our students will need in college or their next step in life. Simply substituting handwritten notes or annotations, with a digital medium is not acceptable. We must take which is not possible with traditional tools and redefine possible with digital tools. Try one or two strategies in your class to get started, and add more as your students begin to understand their purpose. Some of the tips above are simple, other are a little more complicated, yet all leverage the power of the digital device to make the impossible, possible.


Monday, January 29, 2018

RocketWindow Revolution!

The RocketWindow Revolution
How to take your Rocketbook the next level


I recently presented at an EdTechTeam Summit, At the summit they gave away a notebook called a Rocketbook. Now I’ve heard about these Rocketbooks before but I've never actually had one, so I didn't have a chance to see what it can actually do. I started playing around with it to see what all the fuss was about. Now if you don't know what a Rocketbook is, it's a notebook where you can write traditionally with pencil and then at the very bottom of each page, there is a QR code with some tokens. With these tokens, you can bubble them in and with the Rocketbook app it will scan the traditional written pencil and paper diagrams or notes that you are writing and can send them as a PDF or JPEG to anywhere on the internet. Well, when I say anywhere on the internet I really mean to a cloud service that has a storage such as Microsoft 365  OneDrive, Google Drive, and Dropbox. So I started doodling on the page and configuring the app to link each token to a place where I wanted to send my images/notes I was drawing. To my surprise, instantly once I scanned the image with the app, the drawings and notes that I was taking truly did port right over to my cloud service.  I was amazed and then I started thinking about all the possibilities and opportunities this gave to me and my staff at my school.  I know there are a lot of teachers out there who still love traditional writing. I know there are a lot of teachers out there that want to try technology but don't want to take away from a students opportunity to write in a traditional notebook-style environment.  Rocketbook gives the opportunity of Blended learning to allow students to take notes the way they like best (online or traditional) and still send them over to their cloud service of their choice. These digital documents can then be turned in to Google Classroom or placed on a student portfolio to be viewed by others. This is a great opportunity to allow teachers a chance to try traditional and digital in the same setting. Blended learning at its best.

Now if you know anything about me, of course, I didn't stop there.  To me, developers of apps don't truly see everything their app can do. It's teachers like us that take the app and find a way to bend it, to mold it, to make it fit into our classrooms for each of our students. We hack the apps. With this mindset, I decided to hack the rocketbook. My first step was to figure out what the app was actually on the page. Was the app scanning the entire page or just the tokens? What was causing the app to fulfill its function?  So I searched online for Rocketbook pages and to my surprise rocketbook the company was actually giving away free downloadable PDF pages on its website. On the blog where these Pages were available rocketbook states that it wants to give away these pages because it allows people to test out their app before actually buying a notebook. These pages entice teachers to want to use them and possibly purchase a rocketbook of their own. So I took these pages and began to manipulate them. I placed the jpg version of the Rocketsheet and placed it in Google Draw. I took a white square and placed it over the lined writing space, this making a blank rocketbook page with nothing to write on except a blank page.  I wanted to test to see if this blank canvas would truly allow me to put anything in the middle and allow me to use the app and send it over to my Google Drive, and to my amazement it did.

Through all this, I discovered the only thing you needed to have the rocketbook app work is a solid black border, the QR code, and the tokens. With this new information, I decided why should I stop there? If a blank Rocketpage works on a traditional 8.5 x 11 notepaper, could it work on something bigger? It was from this idea that the rocketboard came to be. I already had large whiteboards that my students use for jigsaws and collaborative learning, so I thought if I could put a black border around the edges and then take the QR codes and enlarge them, could I turn this whiteboard into a rocketboard. I grabbed some black masking tape and taped all the edges around the Whiteboard. I took the QR code and the 7 tokens and I enlarged them up on a piece of paper and printed them. I carefully cut them out and laid them at the bottom of the black border whiteboard. I then wrote something on the whiteboard and then use the app to scan. Once again the app and hack worked flawlessly. I stood back and thought, “This it's something new. This could open up so many possibilities.” This was the rocketboard.


Of course, again I couldn't stop there. How could I? You see a lot of teachers don't have whiteboards pre-cut which they can hand out to their students. Most teachers only have a large whiteboard in front of their class. What if students are doing work on that? How could we allow students to take their work and Rocket it right to their drive? I thought, if a rocketboard works, what would happen if I cut out the entire workable section out? What if I just had a black border and then at the bottom of that frame was the QR code and the tokens? What if I created a window? That's that's where the idea of a RocketWindow was born.  I headed out to the office supply store and bought a 3 pack of 20 by 30 foam boards. I placed a 1 ½  inch black border around the foam board and then placed my exploded QR code and Rocket tokens at the bottom. I then carefully, with a box cutter, cut out all the white around the rocket board creating a window. To make it stay on the whiteboard I placed 4 button magnets on the back.  I placed the window on the classroom whiteboard, wrote in the window space, and amazingly it worked.  From this board, I was left with a medium sized white cut out. I don’t like to be wasteful so I wondered what could I do with this. I measured it and found if I cut it into fourths I'm left with 4 smaller 8 x 11-inch rectangles. I thought I wonder if I could put an inch of the black border around there and they smaller printed QR code with tokens on the bottom. I wonder if that would work. I went to work and this created four RocketWindow minis. These RocketWindow minis can be placed over any student work of any paper they have in class. Now ANY work can be rocketed their Digital Drive and can be placed anywhere in Google Classroom to be turned in or on a website digital portfolio for later use.


As you can see, by this time I was super excited! Something new out of rocketbook. Something new for a teacher to use. Something new that's beneficial to all educators! I thought wait a minute, there could be more. When I looked in the app there was more than just an option for a scanning the image over as a PDF or jpeg. At the very bottom of the app, it gave you the option of creating an animated gif. I thought. I wondered. Could I use this on the whiteboard by writing a small word at the top scan the image, write another word beneath it scan the image, another word scan, another word scan, and then hit send?  To my amazement, it created an animated gif of my work! How awesome is this?!  Now students can show their work on math on the board and have an animated gif when they turn it into you. They can write the problem at the top, step number one, step number, then rocket the animated gif to the drive of their choice, then turn it in to Google Classroom to show their work!





Finally I wondered, could anything be placed in this window? Does it have to be something written? Does it have to be something with the pencil or marker? Or can a 3D object be placed in the RocketWindow? To test my theory, I placed the RocketWindow on the floor and then I placed some 3D objects within the RocketWindow. I scanned it and it worked! I thought this is a great opportunity for littles who can’t fully write yet but can manipulate objects. Thinking of them I placed some foam letters into the RocketWindow and spelled cat, it worked!  I put up the RocketWindow on my whiteboard and put some magnetic letters to spell dog and it worked.  And yes, the animated gif option works on this as well. How cool will it would it be to show these young students spelling out words for the first time in a step-by-step process that is scanned by you in an animated gif? How fun would it be to show this to their parents so the parents can see their child in the act of manipulating objects and spelling out words. I think this would be really cool to see in a K-2 classroom.  

If you're reading this blog and you try some of these ideas or if you make a rocket window and you're trying your students I would love to see it! Try using the rocket window with 360 math! Try using it on your own daily agenda you write on the boar each week. If you try anything I would love to see pictures or to hear your story about what you are doing and how you're transforming your classroom with these new RocketWindow tools. At this point, you might feel excited, but some of you might be thinking how does Rocket book feel about all this?  Well, I was thinking the same thing. I was hoping they wouldn't be upset. I was hoping they wouldn't see that I'm infringing on their app. My answer came in the form of a single tweet which said “Genius. #MindBlown.” So I'll take that as their blessing.  In closing I want you to remember that your classroom is unique, your students are unique, and sometimes the developers of educational technology tools don't see the true power their app can have on your students.  Sometimes you have to bend the app to your will. Sometimes you have to manipulate the app to benefit your students. Sometimes you have to Hack the Apps!


How to make the #RocketWindow. Watch the video, then read the instructions.


Supplies to make a RocketWindow Frame:

Box Cutter

On the 20x30 foam board place a 1 ½ inch black border on the top and sides. Place a 1 inch black border on the bottom. Place your enlarged QR codes and tokens just above the 1 inch black border on the bottom (make sure the tokens are laminated to allow marking and wiping of the tokens.  With the box cutter, cut along the inside of the black border to create a window. On the back of your window, place one button magnet on each corner. Adhere the magnets with zots.


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Raising the Bar


Raising the Bar

Why Digital Device Training Is Needed in Public Education

I started my teaching career as a 20 year old football coach 16 years ago for Alta Sierra Intermediate. I was hired to help out with the offense and defensive lines, setting up drills, and planning our defensive strategies. I loved the 5-4 defense since I played nose guard in high school and believed the pressure would work well at our level. Needless to say, over time, keeping the same defense scheme game-in and game-out just didn’t work. I discovered the importance of preparation, and realized using a defense I loved didn't always work. I discovered my defense needed to change for the offense that lay ahead, not the formation I knew best. I discovered my coaching skills needed to evolve and expand to ideas outside of my comfort zone so that my players had the best possible chance to be competitive.

Let me keep my sports theme going a bit before I get to my point. Hypothetically, let’s say there is a high school track and field coach and they have coached the high jump event for their entire career. They are in fact the best high jump coach in the state, and have produced many top athletes through their instruction. They are approached by a new head coach and asked to also train his/her high jump athletes in the pole vault. For the purpose of this hypothetical, we will say the pole vault is not an event which scores any points for the team. In an effort to get the coach willing to take on this new responsibility, the head coach shows him the side by side description of the “high jump” and the “pole vault” events as seen below:

High Jump: The high jump is a track and field event in which competitors must jump unaided over a horizontal bar placed at measured heights without dislodging it. In its modern most practiced format, a bar is placed between two standards with a crash mat for landing.

Pole Vault: The pole vault  is a track and field event in which competitors must use  a long, flexible pole (which today is usually made either of fiberglass or carbon fiber) as an aid to jump over a horizontal bar placed at measured heights without dislodging it. In its modern most practiced format, a bar is placed between two standards with a crash mat for landing.

The coach insists he/she loves the high jump for its practicality and unaided format. Only human will and skill are needed to do well in the event. The coach explains that with the pole vault, the athlete needs a device to do well, which can distract from the true skill of the athlete. If he/she takes on this other task, he will not have enough time to truly train his athletes in the event that matters and gives the team points in the actual competition. The coach also explains that he has coached the high jump for many years and all his athletes do really well at the end of the year championship meets, so why train them in this new skill? Why change a good thing?

This seems like a very reasonable argument. Why should a seasoned  high jump coach change and try something else? Why train athletes for an event which is not even counted at the schools competitions?  Well, let me put a new spin on this situation. What if the coach was informed that only 11% of his athletes would be competing in the high jump in college and 89% were being asked to compete in the pole vault. On top of this, none of the athletes would be given coaching instructions on how to compete or prepare in their new event. Now do you think the skills gained through high jump would prepare the athletes to compete in pole vault? Sure, some would instinctively adjust to some degree, but without coaching, many would struggle. Because of this, “College Studies” would show that incoming athletes perform better in high jump competitions than pole vaulting competitions. Is this a fair comparison? These are two different events, with very different skills needed to be successful. Yes the event descriptions seem to be similar, but the act itself is very different.

Of course this is an extreme hypothetical situation. No high school track and field program that I know of has a high jump event and not a pole vaulting event. But think about this for a second: if our goal as educators is to prepare our students for what is to come, shouldn’t we include the skills in our everyday instruction to prepare them for this change? If the hypothetical situation above was in fact real, shouldn't the coach be preparing his athletes for the event they will most likely compete in while in college?  Of course by now you are beginning to see where I am going with is post. In college today 89% of our students are using digital devices to complete work, create notes, and communicate with other students and faculty on a daily basis. Most of these students have learned how to use the devices, for better or worse, themselves with no coaching, support, or guidance on best practices. If we know the challenges that lie ahead for our students in college, why do we insist on not truly embracing the digital device in our public K-12 system?

Now I know this is a generalization. There are many schools and lone wolf teachers truly embracing the digital device. But the reality is the vast majority of public K-12 classroom instruction is still paper & pencil, fill in worksheets, and drill-kill-skills practicing. Many teachers feel the digital device becomes a distractor for their instruction and antagonist to their students’ learning. But the digital device IS NOT GOING AWAY. It will always reveal itself outside of your classroom and in the halls of instruction at college institutions.
I say to you now, WE NEED YOU to help our students understand how to take your mastery concepts of reading, writing, and arithmetic and port those over to tools we know our students will be utilizing in college. We need you to get out of your comfort zone and #DitchThatFEAR of change to better help our students succeed once they leave our instruction. If we continue to ignore the device they will be using to learn tomorrow, we are shackling the skills we hoped would empower them today. As with high jump and pole vault, we need to RAISE THE BAR and do what is right for our students.

Now let me address the elephant in the room. Without a doubt, studies have shown handwritten work to be more beneficial to student recall than typed work. I do not refute these studies, but I do wonder “Why?” Why are these the results we are getting? Is it the way the brain works? Is it the tactile feel of the pencil in one's hand? Or is it something else? Maybe it’s because the students have been solely trained to high jump, then asked to pole vault with no instruction. You see, these studies take students who have taken notes using paper-pencil for 10+ years and put them against students who are using a digital device with possibly no educational training. We are asking high jumpers to compete in a completely different event, with a device they must learn how to use on their own. Maybe the reason these studies are so consistent is that K-12 teachers see them and use it as a reason to not allow/use devices in their classroom. This completes a feedback loop, a self-fulfilling prophecy, limiting the use of devices in many K-12 classrooms. I would love to see a study from students who have been properly trained how to use a digital device for 10+ years… hmmm doctorate thesis anyone?

Now I could very well be wrong. After years of testing and studies we may find that indeed, handwritten work is be the best form of learning. Fantastic! But this fact will not detour our students from using their devices to learn. This fact will not reverse the tide. Our students now and forevermore will be using digital devices to communicate, collaborate, create and complete work. So even if the studies show paper and pencil to be best, we STILL need to train our kids on using digital devices in their everyday learning. If we don’t  they will be left to their own devices (pun intended). They will be left to fend for themselves. They will become an athlete without a coach. For this reason, we must train our students how to master their digital devices, even if you yourself do not see an immediate benefit for your class.For this reason, I applaud AVID.

AVID, as many of you know, has a mission to prepare all students for college readiness and success. When AVID noticed the growing number of students utilizing a digital device in college, they had to rethink some of their methods in implementing their strategies.  As a result, AVID has created a Digital Teaching and Learning (DTL) pathway to help students and teachers maximize their strategies through digital means and proper educational training before they set foot on a college campus. This forward thinking approach helps to bridge the learning gap created by the great leap from high school to college.

One final caveat; technology is NOT the savior of education. YOU are. What will have the most powerful impact on your students is your willingness to evolve year after year to be the best teacher you can possibly be; your willingness to see the world changing and your eagerness to change with it; your sensibility to see what our students will be up against and take the challenge head on. We need not to change the way we TEACH our kids, but rather, change the way we REACH our kids. We need to see past the noise, past the studies, and see clearly the path that lies ahead for our students. The digital device is not going away. Our students are not reverting back to paper and pencil. We need to do our best to prepare our students for THEIR future, not our past. We need to truly ask ourselves, “If we know our students will be competing in pole vault in college, would we continue to only train them in high jump?” I hope the answer is no. I hope the answer is clear. I hope you will raise the bar.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

#DitchThatFear

An Essay on Change and Innovation


As an educator I believe that every lesson should come alive and connect with students on a personal level. I also believe that all teachers should have a drive in connecting with their students. It is up to teachers to ignite a spark that is going to catch fire with their audience. Just like a fire needs fuel, oxygen, and heat to create a spark, a teacher needs to test out different combinations of ingredients to catch the interest of their students. For me, technology has been the spark to ignite learning and innovation in my classroom and on my campus. With the inclusions of technology in our everyday lessons, we are being given amazing opportunities to reach the “unreachable” -  to reach those students who have not yet discovered the joy of learning. Our goal is to create a spark and have it spread across not only our campus, but our district, state, and country as well.


As educators we need to be leaders and innovators both in and out of the classroom. Change doesn't come from institutions. Change comes from individuals who buck the system and don’t accept the status quo. When individual teachers take risks, others take notice and a movement begins. Yet change can bring about fear of unknown challenges ahead. When we ditch that fear, anything is possible. We search for and create lessons that allow us to discover the best ways to engage our students, while building upon our high goals and standards year after year. We strive to create student-centered lessons, and where appropriate, integrate technology into the classroom to help limit distractions, as well as motivate and engage our students to learn and create. As an educational technology innovator, I strive to encourage my colleagues to integrate more ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) standards into their direct instruction, which incorporates not only common core standards but also integrates tools, strategies, and ideas to draw students into learning, collaborating, and creating. The implementation of technology is a critical need in the 21st-century classroom, increasing student learning during instruction in the midst of our fast-paced digital world.


In our ever-changing digital society, the modern classroom has become a breeding ground of distractions or boredom for thrill-seeking youngsters. Many classrooms have become a place where students fiend for their digital media fix, only to be told to put their devices away. How can we for a moment believe that because a bell rings our students digital life comes to a pause? These distractions can also arise from the improper implementation of technology by educators, stemming from a lack in professional development practice, and in turn resulting in loss of interest from the students, who then resort to using their own technology during class in improper ways.To limit distractions in our classroom environment, we must present information in ways that will truly engage our students. It’s not about changing the ways we teach our students, it's about changing the ways we REACH our students. Utilizing the tools our students use for communication outside the classroom inside the classroom provides a great opportunity to reach them. This task can prove to be beneficial when realizing each student learns at a different pace and in different ways. We wish to create a non-static environment, rich with ever-changing student options, incorporation of differentiation, and one that encourages a project-based learning/collaborating mindset which our students need. The goal is to have our students  become the creators of content, not just educational consumers. Students need to become so engaged that they can’t  help but to pay attention in class. In this  “living classroom” setting,  information is constantly being supplied to, or discovered by, students through many different mediums, all the while allowing the lesson to be malleable from hour to hour, period to period, and day to day.  These living classrooms create an environment where students do not have the time to become distracted or board. It is up to us as teachers to create an educational space where our students can’t help but become collaborative communicators emboldened by the opportunity to become creative citizens full of curiosity.


In our ever-changing world, it is becoming more and more evident that no student should be utilizing more technology outside the classroom than they are inside of it. We should not be overlooking the strengths that our students have been cultivating since birth. Technology is a known commodity to our digital natives, and to tell them they are not allowed to use it is analogous to tying their hands behind their back. The use of technology in our classrooms can empower teachers to engage and motivate students using the most advanced and appropriate technology the world has to offer, using the tools our students have grown up using. Through the integration of technology we can become a new and different kind of teacher- one who takes problems head-on with a fresh set of eyes, who does not back down from a challenge because they deem the situation to be too hard.  We have become educators privileged with an opportunity to share with many of our students the joy of learning for the first time.


By all means, I am not saying technology is the savior of education. I am also not saying that a completely digital classroom is the answer. What I am saying is that a blended learning classroom is what we should all strive for. I understand the studies that state handwritten notes are shown to provide more memory retention than typed notes, and I agree with the studies. However, I do not believe these studies are completely applicable to all the uses of technology available in classrooms today. We are not talking about a student in solitude typing away as a teacher lectures. We are talking about students collaborating, sharing, communicating, and creating within our classroom walls and beyond. I am saying we should encourage our students to complete a sketchnote by hand, but then UPLOAD those notes to a blog or resource where ALL students can see, learn, and utilize them. I am saying we need to let our students read and highlight an article, but then have them share their thoughts in a digital backchannel, collaboratively create a presentation, then screencast their findings to the class and to the world. By including technology in the way our students learn, we are building a community, opening communication, displaying citizenship and encouraging meaningful social interaction through digital media, exactly the same way our students LIVE their everyday lives. Students now control their own learning. As educators we need to cultivate student differences and allow them to thrive the best way they know how. Technology has changed the world in which our students live, so why can’t it change the classrooms in which they learn?


As educators we need to remember that using multimedia and technology is a great addition to traditional methods, but all technology should be looked at through the goals and achievements you have in mind for your students. Going digital does not mean going 100% paperless. Going digital means to begin to leverage the digital techniques our digital natives are already using outside the classroom walls.  As stated before, studies may show writing notes to be more effective than typing notes, but that is not what we are doing here. In fact, the integration of integrated/manipulatable/hands-on technology use is still in its infancy and studies are just beginning (such as the study HERE). Data is hard to gather based on the many variables at play with technology use, such as the tools being used, who is teaching/implementing the technology in the classroom, and the activity being studied. Blended learning is the best model to look at when implementing technology into the classroom.  Correct use of technology in the classroom allows for the instructor to make the learning more meaningful by allowing their students to interact with the lesson, not just consume it. It allows the students to become creators of content, not just members of a passive audience. When used correctly, technology can become a powerful tool to enhance and empower student growth. Anything new can cause pause in our educational community, but remember - no one ever created change by following the status quo. We need to be leaders in change, but you can’t be a leader if there is no one following you.


Through learning to implement new technologies in the classroom, we can consistently uphold our mission as educators: to be lifelong learners and to prepare our students for tomorrow, not just for today. I consistently try to honor our mission by creating meaningful multimedia videos through apps like EdPuzzle, creating engaging assessments using Kahoot and Quizizz, creating interactive digital labs and presentations allowing collaboration through Formative and Nearpod, enhancing student voice through screencasts or Flipgrid, and Interactive Digital Readers (IDR)/ Interactive Digital Notebooks (IDN) using the power of Google’s GSuite tools, following AVID and ISTE standards. You can even smash them together to create the ultimate APPsmahing lesson, an amalgamation of awesomeness! If you are reading this and are saying to yourself “This seems like a lot of work”, then yes, you are correct. No one ever said making a difference would be easy. Anything worth the time is also worth putting in the effort. Once you start seeing the power of incorporating technology through blended learning lessons, you will never see technology as one more thing to add to your plate. You will begin to see that technology IS the plate! You will no longer see technology as another brick in your lesson, but rather, it becomes the mortar holding the lesson together. I know change is hard, but as educators we have pledged to be lifelong learners. We have pledged to be the best educator we can be, not for awards or accolades, but for the advancement of our students. John Dewey said it best over 100 years ago, “If we continue to teach our students today the same way we did yesterday, we are robbing them of tomorrow.” Change does not mean we are doing anything wrong, it only means we have a chance to do more for our kids. By producing meaningful and engaging experiences for our classes, and through the use of our online collaborative environments, we can continue to provide positive experiences, increasing engagement, motivation, creativity, community and a continued joy of learning in this 21st century.