Wednesday, April 22, 2015

We Know We Have to Change. What Will You Do Next?


My Experience at #gafesummit

I had the fortunate opportunity to present at this weekend’s Google Summit in Kitchener. My session was the usual – pedagogy, assessment, marking and coding. I call it “the usual” but it is never delivered the same twice. This time around I even added four new slides thirty minutes before time was up. You can download them here: http://brianaspinall.com/?page_id=66. But isn’t that education? Self-reflection, tweaks from feedback, adjusting to different audiences. I was short on time, but confident with my content.

In the true EdCamp form, we had a matrix of sessions happening in parallel in multiple rooms. You can review the sessions here:

http://on.gafesummit.com/2015/sessions

I learned quite a bit on the technological front about Google Apps that I didn’t know before. I re-connected with old friends and even made some new ones.

However, there was something different this weekend. A kind of buzz and energy I haven’t felt at a tech conference before. It may have just been the Spring like weather, but I think it was something more.

In attendance there were students. There were teachers. There were principals. There was also MoE folk. It didn’t matter who you spoke to or what session you went to – the underlying idea of change seemed consistent. As educators we know we have to change and we know why.



It won’t be easy, but that’s OK. The question is how.

What matters most is what we do next.



What will you do next? If you attended this weekend as a participant, I encourage you to share back at your school. Send an email. Write a blog post. Host an after school session. Like George Couros says “a teacher chooses to live in isolation in this connected world.” Sharing has become incredibly easy. Don’t isolate yourself.

I learned about EdPuzzle for diagnostic assessment and I look forward to sharing it on Monday’s PLC and Tuesday’s TLLP sessions. I am sharing how to use the app for assessment for learning – not the app itself – and I think there is a big difference. Pedagogy before technology.



What will you share?

Go outside and play. It’s beautiful… Thanks Poppa for getting me through another one.


Brian Aspinall is an intermediate public school teacher in Chatham, Ontario. As a Computer Science graduate from the University of Windsor, he also develops web applications for the educational community in order to further the progression of 21st century teaching. He is a firm believer in progressive education and when not teaching, coaching sports or developing software, you can find him knee deep in a long afternoon of retro gaming or lost in social media collaborating with others.

Follow him on twitter: @mraspinall

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Why Forward Movement Matters



By Kyle Pace
Reblogged from Learning is Leading

Kyle Pace is a valued member of the extended EdTechTeam and an Instructional Technology Specialist from Lees Summit, MO






If you think about the staggering amount of edtech services out there, coupled with the numerous types of devices, it can feel pretty overwhelming to most people. We go to edcamps, conferences, webinars, etc. and get filled up with so many new ideas and resources but we don’t know where to start. Have you ever had either of these feelings?

Looking at it through the workshop facilitator/presenter lens, I’m just not into trying to cover 60 tools in 60 minutes or whatever other catchy title there is for it. That’s just not my style. I think we (leaders, presenters, etc.) need to keep this in mind when sharing with the intent of moving teachers forward with technology integration. The last thing I ever want to do is see someone get overwhelmed with too many choices. I will tell people this that I’m meeting with or presenting to on whatever the topic may be; especially if our time together is pretty limited. I’ve seen the look on teachers’ faces that shows their brain has been flooded and they don’t know what to do next. Like I said, there’s so many options out there for us and our students. I’d rather only share 3 ideas with you to dive into and pick from, and you try 1 of them and get really good at it. The old adage of ‘less is more’ most definitely rings true with technology integration.

Even so, when trying to get teachers to focus their learning with incorporating technology, there is often an unnecessary urgency. Here are some of the commonalities I’ve heard teachers say:

“I want to try this, this, and this and have my students using all of them within the next week.” (too much at once)

“Yeah but Mr. ‘teacher down the hall’ is having his students using Hangouts, coding, and robotics.” (feeling the need to compete)

“I’m only doing ____ right now in my class, which I know isn’t much.” (feeling that what they’re doing is inadequate)

Here’s how I always respond to these type of statements: the point is not to see how fast you can move forward, or how many new ideas you can move forward with at once, the point is to just move forward! Forward movement matters! If you’re embracing new ideas by trying them, refining them, and trying them again then don’t discredit yourself. You’re in a learner first mindset and that is huge!

I decided to explore my creative side again by using Canva (my newest learning adventure) to recreate a quote that I love to share with teachers I’m speaking to. I tried to find the original source of the quote but all I could turn up was that the author is ‘unknown’.





To learn more about an upcoming summit, register for an EdTechTeam Summit featuring Google for Education in your region, or contact EdTechTeam about custom professional development and organizational change coaching.

EdTechTeam is a California Benefit Corporation and global network of educational technologists dedicated to improving the world’s education systems using the best technology and learning principles available. EdTechTeam produces Future Ready Schools summits and custom professional development for teachers and school leaders around the globe.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Shut the Front Door! Digital Differentiation With Google Forms



Shut the Front Door!

Yes, You Can Differentiate With Google Forms!

This post was inspired by a comment I received during my “Digital Differentiation with Google Apps,” session at the Texas Google Summit in Brenham, Texas. Michael Ogg, aka @PrincipalOgg, shouted, “Shut the front door,” when I showed how to use branching in Google forms. Thanks, Michael for one of the best comments I’ve ever had during a presentation!

How to Use Branching in Google Forms:

By “branching,” I am referring to the option in Google forms to, “go to page based on answer.” You may or may not have noticed this little check box when creating a Google form. This little box can make a big difference, and can offer ways to use Google forms to differentiate for students.



By utilizing the, “go to page based on answer,” feature, respondents can be given different questions based on how they answer. For instance, if a student answers incorrectly, they can be taken to a review video and be given the chance to answer the question again. Here is a short example of a Google Drive quiz to demonstrate this idea. (Click here to see the Google Drive Quiz example, below are just images.)



Google Drive Quiz Example Question

I designed this quiz as a review example for Google Drive. If respondents answer incorrectly, as indicated in this image, they will then be taken to a review page with a tutorial. Then they will be asked to answer the question again, as seen in the image below.


Google Drive Quiz Example Question

How To Insert Page Breaks in a Google Form:

The key to making this work is to create a page break after each question. You can only choose another page once other pages have been created. But once you get this pattern down, it is very easy to do. Google Forms is probably the easiest of all the Google Apps.

The possibilities of this feature for formative assessment are endless. Questions could progress and get more advanced for students who need more of a challenge. This is a great idea for review before an exam.

You could also use Google Forms as a “choose your own adventure,” type of activity. I hope to have an example of this soon. The gears are turning! Be sure to check out my other Google resources for educators.

How could you use this feature in your classroom?



Shake Up Learning by Kasey Bell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Based on a work at www.shakeuplearning.com

- See more at: http://www.shakeuplearning.com/blog/shut-the-front-door-digital-differentiation-with-google-forms#sthash.vyisCXk3.dpuf



To learn more about an upcoming summit, register for an EdTechTeam Summit featuring Google for Education in your region, or contact EdTechTeam about custom professional development and organizational change coaching.

EdTechTeam is a California Benefit Corporation and global network of educational technologists dedicated to improving the world’s education systems using the best technology and learning principles available. EdTechTeam produces Future Ready Schools summits and custom professional development for teachers and school leaders around the globe.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Twitter is Not Just for Text Anymore - Say Hello to Livestreaming via Periscope


Twitter’s new Periscope app has quickly become one of the most buzzed about new apps out there.

The new app allows people to live stream what ever they want, from news stories to unexciting events like two dogs playing...which was just being streamed and had 184 viewers.

Where did this idea come from? Twitter states...

"What if you could see through the eyes of a protester in Ukraine? Or watch the sunrise from a hot air balloon in Cappadocia? It may sound crazy, but we wanted to build the closest thing to teleportation. While there are many ways to discover events and places, we realized there is no better way to experience a place right now than through live video. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but live video can take you someplace and show you around."

Because of its fledgling status - most of the streams being posted right now are a bit mundane as people begin to experiment with what could be. Right now on periscope there are haircuts, walking dogs, getting ice cream and some crazy experiments.

But how might Periscope be useful in the classroom?
One has to remember that this goes live to the public so be very careful about getting permission and showing actual student faces.

Here are five ideas that might allow students to use this effectively in the classroom:

1. Broadcast lessons for those students who might not be able to attend because they are sick or away from school.

2. Broadcast plays and performances happening at school for parents who can not attend due to other obligations.

3. Broadcast students doing work/projects in class for parents to see - this could help spark conversations at dinner and allow parents to see the culture of the classroom.

4. Allow students to broadcast their speeches or steam questions to help them find people who might be able to offer a better answer.

5. Give students a soap box to broadcast their speeches, learning or ideas.

Today, I watched one teacher live stream a call for comments on blogs her students were doing - and she walked around showing her students writing the blogs. Kudos to her for being an early adopter.

Since oral language is a really important skill to develop - periscope just might be the global audience some students needs to articulately broadcast their ideas and questions.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Periscope...it could be an interesting journey!




To learn more about an upcoming summit, register for an EdTechTeam Summit featuring Google for Education in your region, or contact EdTechTeam about custom professional development and organizational change coaching.

EdTechTeam is a California Benefit Corporation and global network of educational technologists dedicated to improving the world’s education systems using the best technology and learning principles available. EdTechTeam produces Future Ready Schools summits and custom professional development for teachers and school leaders around the globe.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Why (And How) Teachers Should Have a Backchannel in the Classroom

What is a backchannel you ask?

A backchannel is a conversation that takes place alongside an activity or event. In most cases, this happens using a digital or mobile device. There are many different ways you can backchannel. You could use Twitter, Today’s Meet, or Google Moderator just to name a few. Having a backchannel is a great way to open up a conversation to all students in class and expand on any discussion.

Benefits of a Backchannel


  • It can provide quieter students with a place to ask questions without having to raise their hand in class.
  • Teachers can share resources such as videos, photos, helpful links, and answers to questions about the subject without having to stop the flow of learning.
  • It can supplement and enhance classroom discussions.
  • Allows students who rarely raise a hand to express themselves via a medium they find completely engaging.
  • Allows students to use their mobile devices in an information, oriented way.

Twitter As A Backchannel

After attending conferences, and experiencing the power of a backchannel on Twitter, I liked the idea so much that I set out to do it in my classroom. What happened next was beyond my wildest imagination. Adding Twitter to our reading of The Outsiders turned into an impactful experience. What evolved were some of the richest conversations that I had ever experienced while reading this  book. Here is how it unfolded:

Picking the Hashtag

Before I could begin, I had to decide on a hashtag. With social media – Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc – hashtags (the # symbol) mark keywords or topics as a way to categorize messages. In order to do this activity, I had to choose a hashtag that no one else was using so that we could categorize our conversation and separate out our backchannel tweets from the rest of the world’s conversation.

Since #Outsiders150 was an open hashtag, and made sense as a categorization of our book, it was time to begin. First, I gave a simple lesson on Twitter and hashtags to my students. The lesson was quick because 85% of my students were already on Twitter. However, to ensure that I reached all learners, I put together a supplemental YouTube playlist that I had curated on the basics of twitter for those who needed additional help. Along with explaining hashtags, my Twitter lesson included a look at the anatomy of a tweet to help fill in the gaps that students inevitably had about effective tweeting.
Lessons in Digital Citizenship

Before jumping into the Twittersphere, we needed to do some digital citizenship front loading. Together we came up with ten criteria for effective tweeting and “norms” that we thought would keep the conversation on task and focused. This lesson in acceptable use, had to be done collaboratively to get student buy-in on friendly tweeting, which it did. Due to this part of the lesson, there were not really any problems in this activity associated with inappropriate tweets.
Reading and Tweeting

After the lessons in Twitter and digital citizenship, it was time to read The Outsiders. As we began reading the book, students were allowed to use their phones to tweet about the reading. Students without phones, used a computer. Here is a sample of one of the tweets that fueled a complete redesign of our understanding of the book’s theme and our sharing of ideas.The Outsiders, it is about social interactions and bridging the gap between people – based on differences. So when one student tweeted #don’tjudge, It was a powerful indication that they were getting the theme of the book.



The Retweet Effect

The student, Dillion, tweeted something pretty personal and that was retweeted over 250 times, which is social media’s way of showing that everyone involved agreed with his message and were most likely empathetic and understood the story. His tweet helped all of us in the class to get to know him better – and the theme of the book – in an entirely different way than a simple class discussion would have allowed us in the past. Since that student rarely spoke up in class, this was an eye opening experience for all of us. Tweeting gave him a voice he had not used in class before. The experience fueled a rich discussion on twitter and intangibly gave the other students permission to go deeper and to say things they might not have – without that sacrificial-like tweet. From that point on, I watched as kids commented on ideas they might otherwise not have, and got chills watching students being completely immersed in the message of the book, so they could tweet more effectively and creatively about it. It was almost magical.

Next time you wonder if Twitter might be right for the classroom, remember this unexpected story. Think of the voices you might get to hear when you give all students the tool to have a voice – and backchanneling might be the perfect tool to let that happen in your classroom.

The Connected Student Series: This post first appeared on Edudemic on April 15, 2014


To learn more about an upcoming summit, register for an EdTechTeam Summit featuring Google for Education in your region, or contact EdTechTeam about custom professional development and organizational change coaching.

EdTechTeam is a California Benefit Corporation and global network of educational technologists dedicated to improving the world’s education systems using the best technology and learning principles available. EdTechTeam produces Future Ready Schools summits and custom professional development for teachers and school leaders around the globe.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

What Happens When We Give Students a Voice?


It was a historic week for the Tech Sherpas. Thanks to EdTechTeam, four students from central Maine joined me for educational opportunities across Alberta, Canada. The students presented to over 1,000 educators from around Edmonton.


(and won the Demo Slam :)


The week in Alberta, Canada was capped off with an energetic Student Summit at Black Gold Regional School District in LeDuc. One hundred and fifty students coded, animated, modded, taught, learned and and engaged in a learning experience like none other.

The event culminated with a group of little wizards creating a district wide student tech team website. Collaboratively, students researched domain names, designed logos, and built a custom website for their school board with links, resources, and lots of selfies!

The whole thing can be found at www.studentmagic.org



I was amazed at how quickly that one idea, forty-five minutes and thirty amazing students could take the building blocks of a transformational project that will help teachers, give back to the community and ultimately provide a platform for all the students to learn.


So, what are you waiting for - go get started!! Ask the EdTechTeam how you can bring an extraordinary student learning experience like this to your district.




To learn more about an upcoming summit, register for an EdTechTeam Summit featuring Google for Education in your region, or contact EdTechTeam about custom professional development and organizational change coaching.

EdTechTeam is a California Benefit Corporation and global network of educational technologists dedicated to improving the world’s education systems using the best technology and learning principles available. EdTechTeam produces Future Ready Schools summits and custom professional development for teachers and school leaders around the globe.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Lesson Checklist



Guest Post by Rushton Hurley
 Keynoter for all EdTechTeam Summits




At the Solano Summit (California) in February, I presented a session called, "Making Your School Something Special." A new buddy from that gathering, Dan Shane of the Hanna Boys Center (http://www.hannacenter.org/), challenged me to take the ideas I was presenting about memorable learning and success, and with them provide a checklist that allows a teacher to think through how a lesson rates on the scale I provided.

Here's the scale we discussed:

* powerfully memorable

* generally effective

* weak, but easy

* waste of time

As I see it, we should aim for pushing all of what we do into the top two categories, with the distinction between the middle two being the operative piece. I wasn't working to come up with STHAA (Something That Has An Acronym), but rather to put something together that allows one to tie one's lessons to the success of the school as a whole.

Below are five ideas. I was tempted to include two negatives, but instead I'll separate them out and start with them as the points of departure:
* The activity/lesson isn't simply a reward for good behavior.

* The activity/lesson doesn't simply require people to listen and take notes.


That established, here's my shot at a checklist:



* The activity/lesson prompts students to grapple with related ideas and find connections to other learning.

* The activity/lesson is more about students figuring something out, and less about applying a formula.

* The activity/lesson allows students to use individual talents and creativity to describe and build on their insights with what is taught.

* The activity/lesson involves a level of learning that both teacher and student would agree has meaningfully advanced the student's understanding.

* The activity/lesson has an outcome that would make for a compelling case as to why parents would choose the school for their children.


What do you think? I'm sure I've left off important thoughts, and would welcome your input on what needs to be added to the list or the points of departure.



To learn more about an upcoming summit, register for an EdTechTeam Summit featuring Google for Education in your region, or contact EdTechTeam about custom professional development and organizational change coaching.

EdTechTeam is a California Benefit Corporation and global network of educational technologists dedicated to improving the world’s education systems using the best technology and learning principles available. EdTechTeam produces Future Ready Schools summits and custom professional development for teachers and school leaders around the globe.