Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Tech Tales: A Technology Journey


 This is a guest post by Debbi Winterroth, a first grade teacher in Franklin Public Schools.

As a veteran teacher, my tech journey has been long.  My college papers were typed on a typewriter.  As a teacher, I remember using ditto machines, checking my mailbox in the office several times a day as that was the way we got messages, and even teachers did not have a computer on their desk.

Before March of 2020, I was good at email.  I had taken a few Google workshops in Franklin but was still not comfortable with the Drive, and I had never made a PowerPoint slide presentation.  So I had a lot to learn to run a Google Meet with my students, to create sign-ups on Signup Genius for small group teaching sessions, check student progress on Epic Books and DreamBox.  I learned to create libraries on Epic, find resources on the internet, and create links to YouTube videos.  During all of this I was supported by various teammates and specialists.  

A huge accomplishment for me was taking photos of each page of a picture book, downloading, snipping and putting them into a slideshow and then recording my voice reading the book using Screencastify.  It took hours because each step was something new I needed to learn.

Public domain image via Paula Piccard
Then the Fall came, and I was expected to teach using Google Classroom.  I had never seen it used, let alone used it myself.  My own motto of "Practice Makes Better and Better" was certainly a guiding theme.  Each step on the learning curve was hard won, but I knew I was demonstrating the grit and determination that I try to instill in my students.  I learned to use Break Out Rooms, make announcements in the Stream, share important information in Classwork, present my screen and actually teach and give feedback to students in the Meeting.

I learned how to use two computers so I could share with both on-line and in-person students.  We were able to continue a loved teaching practice of sharing writing pieces with the class as remote and in-person students took turns using the whiteboard screen to allow all to see and be seen.  We also sang and danced together using the same practice and built community with two groups of students who shared a classroom and a teacher but were never physically in the same place at the same time.

As much as primary education is about reading, writing, and math, it is also about creating a learner.  Developing a love of learning, a sense of determination when things are tough, a confidence that hard work will result in success.  Persistence and problem solving are important qualities that I explicitly model and teach in my classrooms.  In the past I would often do it by reading books with those themes and having class discussions.

This year, however, I modeled for them by being very open and transparent with my own learning struggles.  Students saw me make many attempts to get the technology to do what I had envisioned.  They heard me talk the problem out, and I would listen to them as they offered suggestions. . . . which often worked!  They saw me give myself permission to struggle and patience to learn.  They also saw that I did not give up.  I might have to wait until I could talk with an expert, but then I came back with a solution.  I modeled persistence, perseverance, grit.  I didn’t have to make up scenarios for discussions or read a book to find examples.  I was living it everyday.

Technology will continue to evolve and we will always have new things to learn.  But this year I showed myself and my students that we can adapt, learn, succeed as long as we are invested and willing to be creative problem solvers.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Storydice, Inkblots & More to Get Students' Minds Churning

 Do you want to spur on your students' creativity?

Several tools under the Resources tab at Dave Birss' site can help you do just that.

Storydice (5 or 9 dice versions) can be rolled to generate elements that can be blended into an original story.  Alternatively, the dice roll could be used to help students stretch their thinking to process information through a discussion or writing.  For example, how could they use figurative and literal language to share what they know about Prohibition using the roll shown in the image below?

You could also provide variants such as the students choosing three of the five dice to use in their discussion or writing.  Using the Storydice requires the students to think creatively, providing an opportunity to help cement their understanding and perhaps, even, to have a little bit of fun.

This post by John Meehan further illustrates how you might use Storydice.

Other resources on Briss' site  (Writing Ideas, Inkblot Test, Drawing Prompts, Brain Swap, and Creativity Exercise) can be used similarly.

You may also find some of these tools could be suitable for warm up activities that could be done briefly with a quick share out at the start of a class.

If you use any of these resources with your students, let your FPS DLI team know.  We'd love to hear about it.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Verifying Originality of Student Work

Some teachers have used the digital tool Turn It In to verify originality of student work.  Unfortunately Franklin no longer has a student privacy agreement with Turn It In and it will be unavailable in the future for use with students.  As an alternative, it is recommended that teachers start using the built-in originality report in Google Classroom.  If you are unfamiliar with this feature, please see the resources below and feel free to reach out to the DLI team for further assistance.

Teachers can turn on the plagiarism report in Google Classroom when creating an assignment.

Students will be able to run up to 3 originality reports before turning in their work.


Teacher: Turn on Originality Reports in Google Classroom

Student: Run an Originality Report on your work

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Digital Resources To Enhance Literacy Instruction

 One thing that has been remarkable about this time is the amount of open sharing that educators have done.  From Bitmoji Classrooms to teaching templates, we have embraced the notion of “We are all in this together.” 

In the coming weeks, many schools are returning to a full and in person model of learning. Many of us will be moving away from technology and students will be doing more pencil and paper tasks.  In this post, I have curated templates to support literacy instruction.  These templates are digital, and can be shared easily through Google Classroom. In addition, these can be modified for different grade levels and easily be printed and copied for students to write on or be replicated on an anchor chart.  

Magazine or Book Cover Templates ~

There are so many ways to use these in your literacy instruction.  Students can share elements of a fiction story or traits of the main character as well as share information learned after reading nonfiction

Social Media templates are motivating to students in upper grades, and can be modified for many subjects.  Ditch That Textbook has ready to use templates for creating a/an:

Thursday, March 4, 2021

DLI Launch YouTube Channel

The FPS Digital Learning Integrationist team works to provide resources to the district's teachers.  Our intent is to highlight tools, pedagogical approaches, and skills that allow teachers to enhance student learning and personal productivity through the use of technology.

As a function of that we have launched a YouTube Channel. DLI on YouTube will provide a categorized of DLI created and curated videos. We hope the channel makes video resources more accessible by being categorized in playlists such as Gmail, Google Drive, or productivity.

One feature of the channel will be Tech Tip Tuesday.  Each Tuesday, a different video will highlight a way to integrate technology or introduce a new tech tool or feature.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Reinventing the Reading Journal

 Recently I learned of a way to create a journal which would support teachers pushing out content to the journal pages in real time.  In order to do this, teachers must set up a teacher copy and student copy of the journal.  I have modeled the steps in the short clips below while creating this reading journal to use with a student interest book group who will be  reading The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan.  

Step 1:  Create a teacher template.

  • Create a Google Slideshow with a name to indicate this is your “teacher copy”
  • Format your Slideshow.  I prefer to use the custom setting to make the journal to look like a piece of paper (8.5 x 11)
  • Add multiple BLANK slides . Your slideshow should have enough slides for the entire novel study

Step 2:  Create your student template

  • Create a Google Slideshow with a name to indicate this is your “student copy”
  • Format your Slideshow.  I prefer to use the custom setting to make the journal to look like a piece of paper (8.5 x 11)

Step 3:  Link your slideshows

  • In your teacher copy, highlight ALL slides and click file→ copy
  • Paste all slides into your student copy
  • When prompted, LINK to the slides
Step 4:  Assign to students
  • Before assigning in Google Classroom, you will need to “share” the TEACHER copy with your students.  This assures that your slides will be linked when the ownership changes in Classroom. Students will not open this shared copy.

  • Assign in Google Classroom, choosing make a copy for each student
  • Each student will need their own copy of your slideshow

Step 5:  Update

  • When you are ready to "push out" new content, update the appropriate slide in your teacher copy

  • Students will see an UPDATE button on their copy of the slideshow on the slide that you updated in your teacher copy

Full Video Below

Monday, February 22, 2021

Google Meet Difficulties?


Google Meet Difficulties?

Have you been noticing that your Google Meet view has not been functioning consistently lately?  You’re not alone! 

As Google develops new features in the Google Meet app, some extensions, such as the popular Grid View Extension, can experience disruptions due to incompatibilities with newer versions of the native Google Meet.  In fact, the developer of the Grid View extension has basically retired the extensions and removed it from the webstore.  He has indicated that it is unlikely that the app will be maintained going forward.

The recommendation is for users to uninstall the Grid View Extension. 

Here are some recommendations for using the native Google Meet features to see all of your participants:

  1. Use the tile layout by clicking the three dots on the lower right and selecting the tile view option.

  2. Joining the meeting twice in order to see what you are presenting. Just remember to mute yourself as the second participant.

  3. Use the Ctrl+ and Ctrl- keyboard shortcuts to increase/decrease the tiles on your grid.

If you are longing for features like the ability to cohost google classroom meets or to schedule breakout rooms in advance, then rest assured Google is listening.  Here are some google meet features scheduled for 2021. The road might be bumpy while they develop and role out some of these features, but hopefully it will be worth the wait.

If you will miss the ability to alpha sort your meet participants, feel free to upvote that feature request here.