Tag Archives: tech tools

The Great Thanksgiving Listen

Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching; it’s my personal fave because it celebrates reflection…and food, of course! At Thanksgiving, I’m reminded to reflect on the year that has passed and remember all of the things for which I am thankful. At this point in my life, most of those things have to do with the exceptional relationships I am fortunate enough to have. Yet, it can also a difficult holiday, particularly for some of our students who may be dealing with trauma in their lives. Still, we hope we can support all members of our school family and help them connect to someone of significance.

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So, when I came across The Great Thanksgiving Listen (TGTL), it seemed there would be something for everyone. Sponsored by StoryCorps, “…this is a national education project that empowers…students to connect with an elder [neighbor, friend, loved one] over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and record an interview, [which can] be entered into the StoryCorps archive in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.”

Although TGTL officially targets high school students, I noticed in samples of interviews taken from the StoryCorps Podcast (after the inaugural TGTL of 2015), interviewers ages ranged as young as 13. Participants download the StoryCorps App for free on iTunes (iPhone) or Google Play (Android) and register as a user. They will use the app to record and potentially upload the interview.

A Teacher Toolkit outlining the project, its guidelines, Common Core aligned lesson plans (intended for grades 9-12) and more is available on the website. The toolkit also includes variations for students under 13 who may not be granted permission to use the app or for those who may not have access to a smartphone.

The whole process, downloading and getting comfortable with the app, choosing questions (a bank is available) and practicing interview skills can be done in or out of Screen Shot 2016-11-07 at 9.51.04 PM.pngclass (or a hybrid) in a matter of days, and the interview itself can range from 5-40 minutes. If it doesn’t happen for Thanksgiving, no biggie. Nothing says it has to. Interviews can occur any time. TGTL just happens to be a community effort.

All in all, the idea behind The Great Thanksgiving Listen is brilliant! We are ever the consumers of information, but we tend to think only experts in the field (whatever that is) have the right to contribute information. What a great opportunity to provide an authentic audience for students and to encourage their contributions to the vast internet bank of knowledge we all access on a regular basis.

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Plickers: An Engaging Formative Assessment Tool

I was at a Digital Technology workshop earlier in the week, and I was pleased to hear the presenter talk about technology as a vehicle through which to engage students and support learning, not as a learning outcome itself. In fact, a mantra we heard frequently throughout the morning really hit home for me: It’s not about tech; it’s about learning.”

It's not about the tech; it's about the learning.

It’s not about the tech; it’s about the learning.

I can’t remember the first time I was introduced to Plickers, but I do remember the first time I actively used it; that was just a few weeks ago, as we were introducing Professional Learning Teams to three of our middle school staffs that would be collaborating across school sites. Plickers is a formative assessment tech tool. Using Plickers to pose questions and record live responses would both engage our “students” and support their learning, just what we’d hope could be replicated by teachers in their own classes. The tech tool simply enhanced what we might have done with paper and pencil. But, the more opportunities we have to purposefully and effectively integrate technology for students, the more opportunities we have for buy-in from various stakeholders.

This tool is free, easy to prep, and effective. It can be used in any content area to “take the temperature” of a class on their understanding of a concept, their perception of a theory, or their progress on a task, for example. It has its limits; you can’t ask a constructed response question with it and have a means for quick feedback, but it has a place in the assessment toolbox.

Click on the video below to get a feel for what Plickers is and how it works, then try it for yourself! After you do, drop us a note in the “Leave a Reply” box below this post, so we can all benefit from your pilot!

Two Tools: Screencasts & Rewordify

I came home Thursday all jazzed from the day, and my husband asked what was up (as if I don’t always come home jazzed from the day). “I just created my first Screencast about this online tool called Rewordify!” I answered enthusiastically. Reminiscent of Jimmy Fallon’s tween character, Sara (with no “h” cuz h’s are Ew!), he replied, “Screencast? Never heard of it,” or something like that. (Aside: I fully suggest you check out Jimmy Fallon’s skit, EW! on your own). So, you won’t be in the same bind as my husband, keep reading!

About Screencasting: A BIG shout-out to Venisha Bahr, our new District K-8 Media Specialist, who introduced Screencasting to me through one she created to teach me how to share my CCSS Literacy Symbaloo. Upon further inquiry, she showed me how use the tool, and created “How To” Screencast (see below) for you! Fortunately, we teachers each have access to QuickTime on our new Apple MacBook Air which allows us to make and share simple Screencasts. There are several other apps out there, both free and not, like Jing and Camtasia, but they would require you to submit a Tech Ticket or to contact Tech Support to have them downloaded onto your laptop.

So, why Screencast? Probably the main use of Screencasting is for tutorials. As I was reminded while planning a recent professional development presentation, it’s good to deliver material to our students in multiple formats (linguistic and non-linguistic). Screencasts are short (around 3 min) instructional clips that teach us how to do something on the computer…so if you’re trying to show the class how to access something on Google Drive or how to use library resources or how to use an online tool, you can Screencast it!

I’ve also been researching how Screencasting can be a powerful tool for feedback (remember that high-yield instructional strategy I blogged about a couple weeks ago?). You could try having students submit an assignment electronically and then Screencast your response. You can highlight specific parts for audio/visual feedback. I know what you’re thinking: how will my students ever be able to access that feedback when our computer labs are lacking accessibility, and they don’t all have access at home? I wish I had a good and consistent answer for you, but creative solutions must be available. Tap me to help if you’re interested in exploring this line of Screencasting. I’m a big believer that two heads (especially with open minds) are better than one!

On Rewordify: Way back at the beginning of this post, I mentioned I tried my own Screencast about a tool I learned about called Rewordify. Basically, Rewordify is a web tool whose main feature allows you to enter text manually or through the copy/paste function, then click a button, thereby simplifying the text by providing synonyms for difficult/unfamiliar words. It doesn’t fully change the Lexile of a piece of text because sometimes simplifying means adding more words to explain a complex meaning. Check out my “How To Rewordify” Screencast below:

Rewordify could be a great tool to use to differentiate instruction for individual students or small groups. Sometimes the tool provides more than one option for simplifying, so I’d recommend skimming the changed text before handing it off to students. Still, it’s a time saver and provides a FREE service that may allow you to reach more of your students.