Friday, February 14, 2014

Guest Blog: Competition in the classroom?

Ever play Bingo with a bunch of middle schoolers? Big fan of board games? Competition can bring out the best...or worst in some people. Why not bring that mentality to formative assessments!

At West High School, a web-based game response system was introduced last month called Kahoot. It is a free website that allows users to design, create, and play quiz-style games. It awards points based on time and correct answers; showing the leaders after each question and are accessible with any device (iPhone, Android, iPad, Chromebook, or any computer) that has wifi.

Why would you want to use this tool? Games increase engagement, motivation, and participation. And its fun!

So how does it work...first, it takes about 30 seconds to sign up for an account (at

Then, you can start designing your first Kahoot using multiple choice questions. The number of answer choices can be adjusted; you can even include a picture or video to ask a question about. For each question, you can adjust the amount of time that is given to answer it. 20-30 seconds is usually plenty...and it will advance once every player has answered it. Once you are done with creating all of the questions (recommended 10-15 questions at a time), you will be able to play the quiz (or open it at a later time and play it). It will generate a game pin that students will use to access it on their device (at, they will enter the pin and create a username (Remind students that it will be displayed throughout the game so it should be first name and last initial or school appropriate. Another helpful hint is to have the students keep their device “active,” not letting the phone/iPad go to sleep or it kicks them out of the game).

From the student perspective, they will see the question being projected on the screen from the teacher and the answer choices with corresponding shapes. On their device, they will only see the shapes and that is what they will use to answer the questions.

As the teacher, you will still control the tempo of the game. It will time the individual questions. After each question, it will show the correct answer and allow the teacher to advance to the next question when ready; this allows for feedback and discussion on the correct vs. incorrect answers.

At the end of the game, the winner is announced! In addition, students are able to rate the quiz/game. And teachers are able to download the results in a spreadsheet (each players name, their scores and which questions they answered correct/incorrect).

After sharing a quick presentation to my staff, we played a version that featured questions about faculty members. By the third question, the competition was heating up and people were actively involved! I have never seen so much energy at a faculty meeting before! All over a quiz/game!

Since sharing this with the staff, many staff members have incorporated it in their classes; some using the bring your own device option or even working in pairs or teams. The feedback they have shared has been positive and exciting. Spanish, Art, and Business classes have been using it for reviewing topics. Biology students even created their own to be used in class when sharing out information!

Its relatively quick and easy to use and can be a powerful tool for your assessment toolbox!
Try it!

-Mollie Heilberger, Technology Integration Coach, West High School

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Our Teachers Are Gaining Speed

I am constantly amazed at how quickly things can change.

There was a time when the adoption of Google Apps drew significant critique.  There was a time when the selection of the iPad as the primary learning tool for Waukesha One was challenged.  There was a time when even the suggestion of using Blackboard found a room of disbelieving faces.  None of these "times" were very long ago.

Things are changing.

Nearly every day I get a lead on some small use of technology that signals a change in the way our kids are experiencing school.  I regularly hear from enthusiastic teachers who have turned the corner and see how these tools can change the way their students show what they know.  I ofen am asked "what if" questions from educators who have learned what the technology is capable of, and are wondering how to extend those capabilities.

In Malcolm Gladwell's book, The Tipping Point, Gladwell explores how changes are made and how individual actions and small movements grow to trends.  All of Gladwell's wisdom and insight boils down into some very simple realizations.  One key quote from the book suggests to me exactly how we have moved so quickly in our adoption of technology in the School District of Waukesha.

"There are exceptional people out there who are capable of starting epidemics. 

The reality is that we lay claim to some pretty amazing educators in our district -- many, many amazing educators.  It is the thoughtfulness, creativity, and risk taking that these people are willing to commit to our students, to their professional learning, and to their practice that is making this change happen.  

With that said, we have not reached the tipping point where these techniques, practices and opportunities are not common place.  To get there, we all have an opportunity to start listening to those new ideas and practices.  We have an opportunity to start emulating these practices, especially if they will enhance our experience and/or the experience of our students.  We all have an opportunity to begin to engage in learning from each other and improving our practice as a result!

Dig in.  There are amazing things happening around us.  It is an amazing time to be an educator, and an amazing time to be in Waukesha.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Moving Beyond Substitution: Innovative Use of Book Creator Climbs SAMR Ladder

If somebody promises gains in student achievement as a result of the purchase of 1:1 computing devices or of introducing an app in your district/classroom, it's fair to say they may not fully understand why these devices are being introduced into the learning environment.  However, when a teacher shares an educationally relevant, SAMR climbing use of that same tool or app, pay attention. Student achievement is likely to follow!
Recently a teacher in my district, Emily Hernandez, shared one way she uses the Book Creator app for iOS that pointed to an educationally relevant, instructionally appropriate use of the app.  If you are not familiar with Book Creator, it is a way to develop interactive, multimedia-incorporating ebooks/iBooks on the iPad.  It is a simple, easy-to-use app that could very easily be overestimated due to its apparent simplicity.
Ms. Hernandez, though, saw the potential in the tool because she dared to think differently about how her students would utilize the app to demonstate knowledge in her foreign language classroom.
Foreign language students need to demonstrate a wide variety of language acquisition skills, measured primarily through their ability to write and speak the language.  This is traditionally assessed via written works and through the use of conversation and oral presentation with classmates and instructors.  
In Ms. Hernandez's application of the Book Creator app, she was able to utilize these two assessment techniques to demonstrate the students' knowledge to date.  Through the use of written text in the eBooks students created, as well as through the ability to record audio and place audio files into the eBook (a feature built into Book Creator), Ms. Hernandez achieved Substitution by having students do something they had always done, only now using technology to do it.
She climbed the SAMR ladder another rung, though, through the meaningful incorporation of audio, images, and written text into a singular demonstration of learning.  Using the medium of a "published" eBook as their palette, students were being asked to provide written text, were asked to record and supplement that written text with an audio version of that text, and were able to incorporate meaningful images that supported the key themes and messages of their eBook.  Here the teacher was taking advantage of the benefits of the technology built into the Book Creator app, as well as the student's pre-conceived notion of a more professional level of communication in a published book, to gain efficiency and to add authenticity to the demonstration of learning.  This is clear evidence that Ms. Hernandez had now achieved Augmentation on the SAMR ladder in her use of Book Creator.
As we move into Modification, it is important to understand that the key focus must be on how the teacher changes the lesson design or demonstration of learning to take advantage of the functionality and efficiency the technology provides.  Ms. Hernandez decided to make student reflection a key component of this project, allowing students to continually reflect on their "performance" based upon teacher feedback to inform their future learning.  In her lesson design, she allowed students to return to the eBook to make changes prior to final publication. 
The stroke of genius that Ms. Hernandez conjured was in using AirDrop and/or Google Drive (both export functions are natively available in the Book Creator app), functions that allowed the student to share the "draft" of their eBook with the teacher, as well as the audio recording function of the Book Creator app, to provide that feedback.  As students shared the draft of their eBook with the teacher, the teacher reviewed it on her iPad in the Book Creator app, added a page for audio feedback in which she spoke her feedback to students, shared it back with students using the same AirDrop/Google Drive method the student selected, and then allowed them to continue working. While that feedback could have just as easily been spoken to the students in class, the ability to use Google Drive and audio record provided four key advantages.  

  • The students could work on the rough draft of the eBook at any time and "turn in" that draft as soon as they were finished.  Ms. Hernandez could do the same with the feedback.  This creates an ability to provide just-in-time feedback to students as they meet natural finish points, not just on a once-size-fits-all, pre-determined collection date.
  • The feedback was recorded, meaning that both the students and Ms. Hernandez had a record of the feedback provided.  This becomes valuable to the students as they make suggested changes and alter their final product, and it becomes valuable to the teacher as a way of measuring growth from previous iterations of a similar work product.
  • Through the drafting process, Ms. Hernandez reinforces the concept that language acquisition is about a process of learning and growing, not a unit of study that is explored and then completed or forgotten.
  • Students create a lasting product that demonstrates their understanding at a given point in time.  This can be posted to an electronic portfolio, shared at conferences, or later revisited and revised as the students grow in their language acquisition.

Ms. Hernandez's work should be applauded, as it is an incredible reminder that the simplest of tools, used in meaningful, thoughtful, and creative ways, can really transform the way that our students perceive and experience the journey of learning.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Waukesha One Core Apps

One of the keys to success to Waukesha One will be/was the strategic selection of “Core Apps”  These Core Apps met a multitude of criteria when we looked at adopting a set of apps for all teachers and all students in the School District of Waukesha.  The Core Apps are intended to be apps that can work with students in all classes and ages in a K-12 environment.

One of the most important aspects of the core apps includes the ability to connect to Google Drive.  Google Apps for Education are one of the key components to efficient and quality technology integration and for a simplified workflow.  In selecting core apps for students and teachers, a connection to Google Drive is a critical attribute. 

Each app that is offered in Apple’s App Store also has age requirements.  These requirements give parents and schools and idea on the appropriateness of an app as it relates to age of the user (student). A key tenet of Waukesha One is encouraging our families to partner with us as it relates to the use and selection of technology. As professionals we must pay close attention to details such as age appropriateness of apps/resources selected, as it sends a clear message to our families that we are aware of what is in their son/daughter's best interest technologically.

Finally, we as educators need to be very aware of students and creating accounts for apps.  The Core Apps for Waukesha One DO NOT demand that students create any new account.  If students need to sign into an account the hope is that they can use their district issued Google Apps for Education account. This is both for convenience and for the security of a student's personal information.

So what gives?  Why are you writing this post now?

Waukesha One is bringing on several new schools during the month’s of February and March.  It is important that parents, administrators, teachers, and students at these newly added schools understand the mission of Waukesha One, and that educators at our existing Waukesha One schools continue to hold to recognize and hold true to the mission to increase student learning in an environment that is technology rich, but that the emphasis is on student skills and creation.  Becoming reliant on Apps is not the goal, but allowing for a more personalized approach to education that demands student show what they know and learn becomes the emphasis and focus.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

New SDW Blog with an Elementary Focus from Blair Staff

We love to see people sharing their journey with others.  It is the truest form of professional growth and meaningful collaboration one can experience.  Blogging is one method of sharing that journey and the lessons learned along the way.  Whenever we hear about another SDW teacher or team of teachers, as is the case today, sharing their thoughts with the world, we love to be able to pass that along and help them grow their audience (and give our readers another place to find SDW specific teacher practices).

Some friends from Blair Elementary shared their newest blogging ventures with us today.  Here is their announcement.  We encourage you to follow them and add it to your list of resources.

Innovative Friends & Colleagues!

Our Blair 40/40 Project Team of Garrett Sheskey, Alyssa Szybist Lynn Rice & I are pleased to launch a new venture for you!

We have created a blog & Twitter to update you on some of the latest tech tools and also some instructional practices that we find effective for integrating innovative strategies. With a ton of resources out there, I'm sure you're thinking "this is just one more" - and you would be correct.

HOWEVER, with our awesome collaboration of educators at different grade levels, points in their career, and even specialized subject areas between math, music, literacy, bilingual education and technology integration, it's a great start to find resources to engage YOUR learners in any classroom!

Please follow us at our blog and on Twitter, and comment/dialogue with us about any questions, reflections, or other feedback you might have!

@WeTech4You (Twitter)

Tracy Garon
Music Teacher
Blair Elementary