Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Power of Google Docs

I had a great conversation with Aaron Farnsworth, Solon High School language arts teacher, about the role that technology plays in his teaching life.  Mr. Farnsworth and I discussed the ebbs and flows of working with technology in an educational environment.  One area of technology that has altered his teaching “1000%” is the use of Google Docs.  Mr. Farnsworth has some great recommendations about how he has embedded Google Docs in his classroom to enhance the learning environment.

  • Collaboration Teacher and Student.  Since Google Docs can be shared with multiple people, Mr. Farnsworth has students share documents with him.  This allows him the ability to jump into their work at any time and add comments on the side to give students feedback during the writing process.  The student can use this like a checklist for revising their work and as a way to have a digital conversation with their teacher.

  • Collaboration between Students.  Mr. Farnsworth hosts students' discussions in Google Docs.  From the examples that he shared with me, it was a great place for students to share their ideas and work on strengthening their writing skills.  He uses the revision history to observe different students’ contributions to the discussion document.

  • Fighting Plagiarism.  It seems to be a hard hurdle for students to overcome that they simply cannot copy and paste what they find on the web directly into their work.  Mr. Farnsworth has found that it’s best to not deny this instinct, but facilitate it.  When students are working on papers and they find research they would like to use, he encourages them to copy and paste it into their working document, but then highlight the original source and paraphrase underneath. Check out these examples:

A very simple but powerful way to confront the plagiarism issue in a way to help students to understand how they can grow their writing.

- Contribution from Amber Bridge, Grant Wood AEA Technology Consultant. Want to share what is going on in your class or collaborate on a technology project?  Feel to to contact me

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Foundations of Music Amped Up with Tech

Singers in a choir have a lot that they have to balance.  They need to have good tone, great posture, nerves of steel and project their voices in tune.  It’s never too early to start practicing those basic elements and Mrs. Lyons is getting the Solon Elementary students off to a great start.

In Mrs. Lyons’ class, she is able to take advantage of Pearson’s online interactive music curriculum.  The great part of this curriculum, besides the amazing fact that the curriculum is tied and aligned to core standards and resources, it has a library of songs that can be modified to fit an individual class’ needs.  She can change the key and tempo of the song, plus she can isolate sections of the song, so that students can practice specific sections of the song.  As the song plays, the sheet music is displayed through the projector, and each note and word are highlighted as they come up in the song to help students follow along. Pre-recorded voices can be turned on and off to assist students when they are first learning a song.  

Check out how it looks in action, with a toe-tapping, twist song:

The addition of the online curriculum has helped students to be free of trying to balance songbooks and allows them to hands-free and heads up to start to model that good singer’s posture.  The isolation of music allows Mrs. Lyons to be able to offer lots of solo practice and gives her the opportunity to truly listen to their performances.  Singing a solo with a microphone can be pretty intimidating, but over ½ of the class that I visited tried out solos, with lots of peer encouragement, “you got this!” and round of applause to support every singer’s effort.  

The elementary students are practicing for upcoming concerts which begin at the end of March - Check the school calendar so you don’t miss out!

- Contribution from Amber Bridge, Grant Wood AEA Technology Consultant. Want to share what is going on in your class or collaborate on a technology project?  Feel to to contact me

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Elements of a Mimio Lesson

I recently had the opportunity to check in with 1st grade teacher, Hilary Gerk.  Ms. Gerk does a lot of great things with technology, but I was very curious about how she utilizes an overlooked resource in the many classrooms, her Mimio.  A Mimio turns an ordinary whiteboard into an interactive whiteboard where students can manipulate objects and write using a special pen.  I was able to observe a math lesson where Ms. Gerk integrated the Mimio in a practical way that enhanced learning for her students.  

The way in which Ms. Gerk organized the lesson had specific elements that could easily be brought into any classroom with a Mimio.

  1. Bring Them Together.  The downside of the board is that it is stationary in the room.  But, Ms. Gerk had her students gather round the board making it easier for her students not only to see, but also to be in close proximity to the board to be able to allow students to interact with the board easily.  Also, it reduced travel time for students to the board keeping the lesson moving along.
  2. Practice of Social Skills.  Using an interactive whiteboard gives students the opportunity to practice some basic social skills that are important at any grade level like collaborating with others and turn taking.  
  3. Make it Visual.  Mimio allows teachers to make a lesson visual which can be difficult sometimes for the subject of math. In this lesson, students viewed digital models of ones to help them with their number sense.  Instead of having individual sets for students to work with, the whole class had a digital set that was viewable by everyone.  This can help to guide and focus students during the lesson in a way that was not possible before.
  4. Build Student Confidence. Several different examples were utilized during the lesson, which allowed almost all of the students to participate at the Mimio.  And students wanted to participate - it was awesome to see all of the hands in the air!  It was a great motivator and allowed the students to get hands-on with the digital model.  Students were able to work with the ones model as a group to help deepen their understanding.  As they gained knowledge from the group, they gain confidence as they move towards independent practice.
  5. Integrate Formative Assessment.  After the students worked through several examples, Ms. Gerk had the students head back to their desks for a few minutes to test out their new knowledge on their own.  This quick and easy check gave Ms. Gerk some insight on what the students were able to get out of the lesson. She also had the students return one last time to the Mimio to see how students were able to apply all that they have learned to an extension problem which built on the practice.
  6. Use Your Resources.  One reason that the Mimio can sometimes be overlooked is the amount of time it takes to create a lesson.  Ms. Gerk took an already generated lesson from the math curriculum and made it into a her own hybrid lesson.  She used what was available to her and deepened it with small modifications it make it fit better for her students’ use.  There are pre-made Mimio lessons available on the Mimio exchange or you can convert different interactive whiteboard lessons to Mimio.

- Contribution from Amber Bridge, Grant Wood AEA Technology Consultant. Want to share what is going on in your class or collaborate on a technology project?  Feel to to contact me

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Maybe you can judge a book by its trailer!

During the first semester of the 2014-2015, Dawn Posekany's Anatomy and Physiology students each selected a book to read independently and discuss with the class throughout the term. They then researched the topic of their books and created book trailers using the tool of their choice.

Watch them and you will probably find one you want to read!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Creating Harmony with Music and Technology

If you think you know what happens in a choir class at Solon High School, think again. Technology has rerouted the path of choir classes for the future.  I thank the choir teacher, Joel Foreman, for sharing with me some of the amazing experiences that are available for Solon Choir students.  Going digital in the vocal music department at Solon High is proving to offer students experiences that go far beyond the typical choir environment.  

In a choir, every voice lends itself to the harmony of the group.  Each voice is important to the overall sound of the choir.  Technology has made it easier to examine the different sections of the choir to be able to isolate and compare the sopranos and altos for example.  Watch how this video technology allows Mr. Foreman to isolate and hear individual student performances who are singing in a large group.

Mr. Foreman blends technology into his teaching as seamlessly as the voices of his choir blend together to create harmony.  Aside from the powerful impact of creating choral recordings, technology is also used to help students learn music.  For students that would like to opportunity to slow down a fast song they are learning, they use an app with an interesting name, the Amazing Slow Downer.  Using this app, students have the ability to repeat any section of music, change up the speed to either slow down or speed up the song to be able to understand the music in a whole new way.  
Going digital has also allowed the Choir Department to catalogue students’ performances. Using these archived performances, students can create an individual album of their vocal work over their four years of high school.  It creates a whole new perspective on a student portfolio.  Being able to walk out of high school with an album, amazing!  #solonstrong

- Contribution from Amber Bridge, Grant Wood AEA Technology Consultant. Want to share what is going on in your class or collaborate on a technology project?  Feel to to contact me