Friday, 7 July 2017

What my kids think about using digital tools

As term two draws to a close, it has been a great opportunity to gather feedback from my students. Along with my surveys about my teaching, I also wanted to find out my classes perspective on using digital tools.  This has been a massive change compared to how they had learnt in their previous classrooms.  I use digital tools on a daily basis, and not just Google Apps for Education (such as Docs, Drawing, Slides).  While I love teaching using digital tools, I wanted to know what my kids actually thought about it.

Digital tools vs. traditional Think-Pair-Share



I have spoken previously about the affordances of digital tools, compared to the traditional and verbal Think-Pair-Share approach. I have always believed that they increase engagement and participation, as they help students to feel comfortable and willing to share their ideas.  I also believe the quality of responses is higher. My own opinion on digital tools vs traditional T-P-S proved to be the same as my learners.  I posed the question: Do you prefer sharing ideas verbally, or with digital tools? Out of the 16 students who took part in the survey, 15 said they preferred digital tools, while one student said he liked both.

Here is what they had to say about why they prefer digital tools:

Because it is better

Because it's easy to use and it's really fun

because it  is faster and because half of the class don't even share there ideas verbally.

Because we can share our ideas and  I like the word clouds.

Because I can see everyone answer.

because I don't like writing on paper

because it easy and a little bit fast.

Sometimes I like doing it on both.

Because it helps us with our learning 

I like Nearpod because it helps us answer questions on what we learn and you get to write as many words as you can.

because it's good for us to learn 

I like nearpod because it shows your Ideas on the screen.

I like using it because we share our ideas with the whole class.

I like mentimeter because It has lots of things and its fun.

Because you can write more sentences.


Creating DLOs


As Glen Innes School is a part of the Manaiakalani cluster, our pedagogy is Learn, Create, Share.  I wanted to focus on the 'create' aspect, and discover how my students really felt about it. After students have learnt something, they use any app they like to create a 'Digital Learning Object' (DLO).

Essentially, a DLO is something that is created by the student to show their understanding.  A way that it is explained to students is that it can be used to teach somebody else.  Therefore, a DLO needs to be clear and easy to understand.

Again, I used a likert scale to find out whether they liked creating DLOs for reading, writing and maths. I wasn't surprised with the responses I received:

Overall, students enjoy creating DLOs to show their learning


It is pretty clear that my learners love to create DLOs about maths.  My class was relatively new to the concept of creating a DLO, so I initially focussed on creating DLOs in maths.  Now that they are experienced with creating DLOs for maths, my class absolutely loves it.  They are always engaged, and their DLOs are becoming more detailed and articulate.

While the response towards creating DLOs for writing and reading is still mostly positive, there are students who either don't like it, or feel impartial.  In an effort to boost their enthusiasm, I am working on introducing new tools for learners to use. I wonder whether their lack of exposure to creating DLOs in reading and writing has contributed to some of the students not enjoying it.  I am hoping that over time the students will enjoy creating DLOs in reading and writing as much as they do in maths. 



Students perspective on using digital tools

I used likert scales to determine how students felt about the commonly used digital tools in our classroom. Here are the results:



Class favourites

The most common favourite digital app was Kahoot, followed by Google Apps (Docs, Drawings and Slides) and Canva.  Some students chose more than one favourite, which is why there is more than 16 responses. To help make sure these really are my students favourites, next time I would list all the digital tools we have used to help learners pick a favourite. There is a possibility that the students choose these apps because they were spoken about and used in the last two weeks. 


Here is what they had to say about their favourite apps and why...

Read theory because when you are done read you can answer the questions 

google doc,google drawing,and more

Collaborative Problem solving

Cause it's fun playing on kahot! and plus learning from you  mistake.

kahoot because it cool

Kahoot, quizizz and canva

Quizzes because you don't have to wait for the teacher to press Next like on Kahoot. 

Canva because you can create your own posters 

I like kahoot because it's fun and it is also helpful

I like using them for work because they're easy to use.

I like DLO because it helps us what we did for maths.

Kahoot because we want to win so it motivates us to read the question carefully and be fast to answer it. Nearpod because I think it helps me understand that it doesn't matter if I get a question wrong, because I'm not the only one who got it wrong. Canva because I get to be creative and make inforgraphics.

youtube and because you can play music and a movie

I like mentimeter because its fun 

Kahoot because you can play games and learning games.

Notes:

  • When students mentioned DLOs I counted this as GAFE because they mostly use Google Drawings and Slides to show their learning.
  • I have copied and pasted the responses exactly how they were written - hence the typos and grammar issues.

Least favourites


Here are my students responses to their least favourite digital tools:

ANSWERGARDEN because it doesn't let us write lots 

Nothing

nothing I like all the digital apps that we use.

Nothing

Socrative because it dose not have funny meme's like quizizz.

Kahoot because you have to wait for the teacher to press Next.

Answer garden because you can only use 40 letters or 20

Mentimeter because I don't like how it is created. 

none because I like them all.

I don't have one.

none

play store because you can download games 

Answer garden all you got to do is write the answer for the question and the words get bigger  

Answergarden because you can only write like 40-60 letters


While the majority of students said they don't have a least favourite digital tool, the next most common response was AnswerGarden.  I think this is interesting because their reasons is one of the reasons why I personally like AnswerGarden.  Because of the word limit, AnswerGarden forces respondents to be succinct.  This can be a challenge for students.

Summing it up


It is great to see that the response to digital tools is mostly positive.  Digital tools help to increase student engagement, as they are more willing to share ideas and collaborate on tasks. My survey has also shown that the class prefers using digital tools over traditional verbal methods of sharing and collaboration.  I will continue to expose my learners to new and exciting digital tools, as I think this will help them to become more comfortable with using them.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Mid-year reflection

Where has the time gone?! It is crazy to think that we are half-way through the school year.  With the end of term two quickly approaching, it has been a good time to reflect on how it has been going.  

I created a Google Form to gain insight into the feelings and opinions of my learners.  I stressed the importance of my students taking their time and answering the questions as honestly as possible.  I explained that the purpose of the survey was to see what was working well in room six and what I could do better. It was very important that my kids felt comfortable to be completely honest. There is always room for improvement! 


The feedback I received was really heart-warming.  When asked the question Do you like being in room 6? the students had to rate between 1 and 5 (1 being no, and 5 being yes).  It was awesome to see that the general consensus was that my students enjoyed being in the class.  This question was followed by Why do you/ do you NOT like being in room 6? I did this because I wanted to know why my students liked or didn't like being in room 6.

Here are some of their responses: 

 I like being ing room 6 because we always learn new stuff everyday.

Because it is cool and I got a cool teacher...


I like being in room 6 because I have lots of friends and I learn more


It depends on what we do.


I do like being in room 6 because miss tries to make learning fun. She makes it so that we want to learn and no one is forcing us to learn.


We learn a lot of things 


because my teachers kind and I learn lots of things


I like room 6 because Miss D makes learning fun 


because we hardly get free time


I like room 6 because we can talk about our feeling about each other. Room 6 is the best classroom ever. Give things a go. 


I like being in Rm6 because I got a awesome teacher that helps me learn and achieve my goals now and for the future. 


I am so glad that my learners feel that learning is fun in room 6.  This is something I am always trying to keep in mind when planning. At the start of the year, most of my learners were well below national standard. This had meant that I have needed to be creative in my approach to teaching the class. I had wanted my class to be engaged and to enjoy learning. I love that many of my students feel they are learning heaps in my class. 


Another firm belief I have is that in order for kids to learn, they need to feel happy and safe (because who wants to learn in a class where they are miserable and uncomfortable?). I think the responses clearly show that I have created a safe, happy and positive classroom environment. This makes me incredibly happy. It is something I have continuously worked on throughout the year.  Whenever the wheels started to fall off, we would revisit the key ideas of discipline, collaboration and kindness. We also celebrate shift and small victories. I have chosen to focus on shift rather than national standards, and as a result I have seen my students confidence and self-efficacy rise. I believe these things have made a huge impact on my students - academically, socially and emotionally.


The responses in blue are the two students who rated 3 on the first question.  The student that said it depends on what he does is one of my top students.  This makes me wonder whether he is possibly bored/not challenged enough.  I am going to have a discussion with him so I can figure out what he would like from me.


Reading, writing and maths in room 6



I wanted to discover my students attitudes towards reading, writing and maths.  I asked them a series of questions, with likert scales and open-ended questions. As you can see, the majority of my class loves maths, and feels okay about reading and writing.  


I also asked my learners what they liked, didn't like and what I could do differently for reading, writing and maths.  The responses were mostly positive.  The main negatives I got was that they hate sitting on the floor for maths, and a lot of my students don't really like writing.  With respect to writing, I think I need to be a bit more innovative.

Here is the link to the survey results.


What's working well

  • Students feel safe and happy in room 6
  • Room 6 loves learning maths
  • lots of accelerated shift in achievement - yay!
  • An increase in self-efficacy and confidence in students learning and ability
  • Students enjoy using digital tools to help them learn (blog post coming soon)


What's next?


From the feedback I have recieved from my class I have formulated a few questions which will help to refine and improve my teaching


  • How can I use digital tools to increase engagement and understanding in writing?
  • How can I help to excite my learners about reading and writing? 
  • How can I engage one of my high achievers?
  • How can I continue to accelerate my learners achievement in maths?
  • How can I make sure that my use of digital tools and lessons are deliberate and effective? 

The past two terms have been challenging but so incredibly rewarding.  It is so great to be a part of my learners growth and development.  We have come a long way from day one and I am very proud of the effort that every student has put into their learning.  I am looking forward to seeing what the next half of the year brings!

Parting words from my learners...


Finish this sentence: I want Miss D to know....



I want to do basketball sometimes when we go out for PE.

that I love being in her class

that we like spending time with Miss D

"that I want to do more fitness and I don't like writing. sorry miss"

do fitness in the morning 

i don't wanna move classes because i like it in this class

How I love this class

What I am doing

i hate writing

she is the best teacher

That she is the best teacher ever off my life.

I want Miss D to know that she is the best and funny teacher I've ever had.

I want Miss D to know that no matter what she picks for next term for the class I support her 100%.

Battle of the Presentation Apps: Mentimeter vs Nearpod

I have been using Nearpod and Mentimeter religiously since I discovered them earlier in the year. At first, I leaned more towards Nearpod, mainly because it is free.  Unfortunately, the free version of Mentimeter only allows for up to 3 questions. Because of this, Nearpod became my first port of call.  However, I loved the word-cloud and scale features.

Recently I bit the bullet and a purchased a one-year subscription for Mentimeter. I am so glad that I did.  Now I feel like I can more accurately compare Mentimeter and Nearpod.  These are my thoughts about what sets Mentimeter and Nearpod apart from each other.


Mentimeter


Scale questions 



You can use this scale questions to gauge opinions or understandings of students. Mentimeter displays an average score (the circle) as well as the distribution of votes (just above the line). I find this to be a great visual way to show students responses.



Word clouds



I am a big fan of word clouds.  While I will always love AnswerGarden, I also love that Mentimeter also has a word cloud feature. It became really frustrating when I would create a presentation in Nearpod, but would really want to have a word cloud.  Word clouds are useful when you want learners to share and notice commonalities amongst student responses.




Rewindable


Downloaded report from Nearpod... not the greatest for some purposes
This is ultimately what drove me to purchase Mentimeter.  Sometimes we would have amazing lessons using Nearpod, but I wouldn't be able to capture those moments.  If I didn't take a screenshot of the results right then and there, the responses would be lost.  You can download a report, however it mostly displays participation rates.  The reports are not something you could use as a display or share with your class for later reference.


With Mentimeter, you can download each activity as a jpeg. You can also download the entire presentation as an Excel document or a PDF  I have often created shared folders in Google with all the downloaded jpegs from our lesson.  This has been helpful as this makes the learning rewindable.  Students are able to revisit the learning and see their responses. Students can also enter the code at a later date, and submit results.


Nearpod


Draw it


Draw it is an activity where students can annotate an image you upload.  Students can highlight, draw and add text.  I have found this to be very useful in both writing and math activities.  I use it for punctuation activities, paragraph correction and filling in the blank activities.


Collaborate



If you like platforms like Padlet and LinoIt, you will like the collaborate activity on Nearpod.   Students can add text as well as images onto a platform that closely resembles Padlet.  Students can also 'like' other peoples ideas, which they love.





Students opinion


I asked my class to rate the digital apps we use out of 5 (1 being no; 5 yes).  Here is what they had to say about Mentimeter and Nearpod:

 As you can see they are basically the same, although there is a slight preference for Nearpod. The graphs also show that majority of my class enjoys using these presentation tools, with only two students rating 1 and 2 for both Mentimeter and Nearpod.



So, what is the best?


It is pretty hard to choose between Nearpod and Mentimeter.  While they are both presentation apps, they can be used for different purposes.  I think Nearpod should have better download options, as I would like to be able to print off and display some of the awesome work we do on Nearpod. For Mentimeter, I think they should include a function similar to the Draw it activity on Mentimeter.  The only reason why I would choose Mentimeter over Nearpod is because of their options for downloading presentation results.


Overall, I couldn't recommend these presentation tools more highly.  They increase engagement and participation, compared to the traditional verbal Think-Pair-Share model. Both tools help students to feel comfortable and willing to share their ideas.  I also think the quality of ideas is a lot better.  This could be because they are talking more time to think and compose their responses.  Using these tools take longer than TPS, but you get a lot more out of your learners.



Saturday, 24 June 2017

Getting kids hyped about blogging: an update

A few weeks ago we looked at our blog stats and our global audiences.  Since then, my learners have become more interested in sharing their learning on their blogs. I really wanted to capture and keep their enthusiasm, so I have made a display for the room. 


1000 club


My kids were really excited to see their blog views as well as the countries. I decided to encourage this attitude, as well as a little competition.  I started off with just the '1000 club' - for students who have 1000 blog views or more. Since some of my students have only just got blogs, I decided to also include a '500 club'. I want my learners to feel proud of their blog views and celebrate their global audience.  


Top bloggers


I also wanted to encourage my learners to regularly post high quality blog posts.  I decided to run a weekly competition, using a tally system.  Every time a student posts a high quality blog post, they get one point.  The top blogger of the week gets a prize.  I have enlisted the help of 3 students to check the blog posts and record the points. My helpers check that the blog post clearly explains their learning, how they went and what they can do to improve. My helpers also check that the blog posts make sense. It has also been helpful to have helpers, as it can be hard to check every blog post before it is posted.

Infographics

At the bottom of the display I have included the students infographics about their global audience.

How it's going

Even though I have just started using this blog display, my learners are already so keen to get sharing their learning. In fact, after explaining how the top bloggers competition works, something crazy happened.  The bell went for morning tea, and no one moved.  Every student stayed and completed their blog posts. And it kept happening throughout the week.  Personally, I think a little extrinsic motivation can work wonders. When students write a blog post they are summarising, evaluating and reflecting on their learning. Even if they are motivated by the idea of a prize, they are still summarising, evaluating and reflecting on their learning, which I think is awesome. 

Next steps

I am hoping that my students enthusiasm towards blogging will continue.  It is important that I continue to stress the importance of quality blog posts, where students summarise, evaluate and reflect. I would like my learners to write more detail in their blog posts that is more than "I need to try harder".   I would like my learners to be more specific as this will help them to understand their next steps in learning.





Thursday, 22 June 2017

Getting real about meanness

Over the last couple of weeks I had noticed a change in some of my students behaviour. There has been some unkind comments towards other classmates and bad sportsmanship happening. While this change in behaviour was in its beginning stages, I decided to do something about it ASAP before it got worse. Here is what happened!

Wordcloud of 'mean' words


Word cloud created on Tagul
I know my learners are awesome and good kids, so I wanted to shock them and make them reflect on their words and actions. First up, I displayed a word cloud on the SMART board.  I got them to have a long, hard look at the words. Then, I asked if any of the words could be used to describe themselves. A lot of them said yes. We talked about the fact that these were mean and negative words. Then I told them that I actually created the word cloud based on what I was seeing in the classroom. My students looked a mixture of shock and guilt. I asked them whether they felt proud of those words, obviously nobody was.  I also reinforced the point that I believed my students were good, kind kids and that it was important that they understood how their actions and words affect others.


Creating a not-so-pretty picture

Next up, we had a look at the mean things that were being said in our classroom. Sticky-notes and felts were handed out. I asked the class to write down all the 'mean' things that have been said about them. For this one instance, I allowed them to also record swears, except with asterisks instead. I understand that it may be controversial to do so, but I felt it was needed as I wanted to be real with the kids and I wanted them to see all the mean things on paper.


I was surprised by how open my students were when it came to writing and sharing their sticky notes. Some students were okay with putting their own up, while others preferred me to come around and take them. My whiteboard quickly filled up with sticky notes. It did not paint a pretty picture. Again, the students reflected on what was up on the whiteboard. I read most of them outloud, which shocked the class. Then I asked them to put their hand up if someone in our class had said some of the mean things to them. All but one student put their hand up.

Consequences of meanness


Next, we used AnswerGarden to answer the question How does it feel when people say mean things?  AnswerGarden was a great tool to use for this particular activity because we could see common thoughts/feelings the class feel as a result of meanness. Again, we talked a lot about the ideas shared on the sticky notes and the direct consequences they had on our classmates. I reiterated that sometimes people don't mean to hurt other people, but it is important to realise how words and actions can affect people. I also reminded them that I knew that they are better than this, and that knowing effect of words/actions will help them to make better choices.

Stepping up and taking action

Following all the heavy stuff, I wanted to turn the mood around. I chose to talk about being a bystander vs stepping up and looking out for our classmates. I chose to use this particular YouTube clip because it had a few powerful messages, as well as an array of famous people that the students would know. My class was able to take away the key messages that were in the clip. While they understood the power of their negative words, they also realised the power they had to help someone in need of a friend.



Lastly we used Mentimeter to so share our ideas about what we could do to ensure we are being kind. I decided to make a connection to my initial  'mean' wordcloud, by asking my learners to share how they want to be remembered/described. Next students came up with ideas in response to the question: What can you do to make sure you are being a kind person. The class came up with heaps of ideas (64 to be exact) and we had a discussion about most of them. The mood had changed and the class was positive. I could really tell that they were thinking carefully about what they could do to be a kind person. Lastsly, students shared their ideas about why it is important to be kind.  They used what they had learnt from the lesson to come up with some serious ideas. 



Summing it up

I was very pleased with how this lesson went because it did have the potential to go wrong.  My students showed maturity, empathy and understanding throughout the lesson. I was relieved that my class was open and willing to participate in the lesson.  I understand that it took courage to share the mean things being said, as well as how it affects them. But it also meant that the learning was more powerful, as everyone was serious and honest. Talking about mean words and the effect it has on people seemed to strike a chord with class.  It was important to use a lot of wait time, as I wanted to make sure my learners were thinking about the seriousness of our lesson. It was equally important for me to turn it around into positives, by reminding them that I knew they were good kids and that it was up to them to make it right.  


Sunday, 28 May 2017

Student blogging: getting kids hyped about their global audience

I have been thinking about ways to encourage and motivate my learners to share their learning on their blogs.  This is something that is expected in Manaiakalani, however I feel that my learners are not really interested in it.  We have learnt about what to include in a blog post as well as writing blog comments. Now I have turned my focus on helping my learners to want to share their learning on their blogs (rather than me telling them).


Click here to view the Google Drawing that was used for this lesson

The motivator

A student at another Manaiakalani school received a comment from a famous author.
Before we started looking at our blog statistics we discussed the idea of a 'global audience'.  To motivate my learners, I shared with them a blog post from an ex-student from another school.  In her blog, she wrote about a recipe that was inspired from a book she had read. The author actually found her blog post and commented on it! This was a powerful way to illustrate that sharing your learning online can be exciting and gives you a global audience. We also discussed the importance of sharing enough detail in your blog post and using labels, as this helps people to discover posts.

Looking at our stats


First, we all had a look at our statistics. I had my own blogger dashboard up on the SMART board, and asked students to figure out where they could find out how many blog views they have. I was surprised with how pleased they were with how many views they had. We discussed that the more we shared, the more views we would get, as well as reiterating the importance of quality blog posts with labels.

Next, I asked them to see if they could figure out where to find out which countries the viewers were from.  After some investigating, learners hopped onto the Audience section and were surprised with the results. The students exclaimed over the countries. Some had visitors from more than 6 different countries.

Infographic time

Now that the learners were feeling motivated and proud of their blog statistics, it was time to share it on their blog. I decided to introduce the class to creating Infographics.  When we learnt about Infographics in the MDTA, I had created one about my global audience (read about it here). I used my infographic as a model of how they could present their statistics. My learners loved the look of the infographic and were eager to begin creating their own.  We used Canva, as I have found it to be easy to use and very effective. I also like how you can upload your own images for free on Canva, which is something that you can't do on other infographic creators.


Angel's blog post

Sione's infographic






































Summing it up

I was a little nervous to introduce a new way to create a DLO, however this was the perfect opportunity.  The students loved using Canva, and some grasped the concept of using less text and symbols better than others.  This is something I can continue to work on. The class was really engaged in this lesson and they loved seeing their statistics. I do think they felt pretty empowered and motivated. I am hoping this will motivate them to want to share their learning (instead of me always telling them to). Stay tuned!

I also decided to create an updated infographic about my global audience, enjoy!



Using YouTube & Google Docs to Teach Recount Writing

For writing this term, our main focus is on Recounts.  I am trying to make my lessons more engaging and meaningful for my learners.  After using YouTube for poetry & learning about acceptance, I decided to use videos as inspiration for recount writing.

We have covered the language features used in recounts and we have learnt the acronym TREE to remember the structure of a recount. So this week we have narrowed our focus to the first paragraph of a recount - the 'Reveal' paragraph.

I chose to break my teaching down like this as I have found that the majority of my class struggles with writing. My thinking is that breaking down a recount into more manageable chunks will allow them to have a deeper understanding of each section. I also choose to break up my class into two groups.   This is because I want to make sure everyone is participating in the sessions.  Oftentimes, certain learners will share and contribute while others will remain quiet.

This week we used Google Docs and YouTube to learn more about the 'Reveal' Paragraph.  To start with we discussed the key components of a reveal paragraph - a hook to grab the reader's attention and the 5ws. Then we had a go at identifying the Ws and the hook in an exemplar paragraph.

First up, a vlog!


click here go to group 1's collaborative Google Doc
Then, we turned to the interesting bit! We used Google Docs as an online form of a modelling book.  Each student had their Chromebook and editing rights.  First we had a go at writing a reveal paragraph as a class.  I chose to use a vlog about her first bungy jumping experience.  We watched the first minute and discussed what we saw. We brainstormed as many answers to the 5ws as we could.  Then, we worked together to write our paragraph. Lastly, we added our 'hook'. After sharing each other's 'hooks' we combined the best ones and added to the beginning of our paragraph.

click here go to group 2's collaborative Google Doc

The Present: pair paragraphs


Next the students worked in pairs to write another 'Reveal' paragraph. I chose to use The Present. I felt that the students would find it easier to write about The Present because we have already used The Present to learn about acceptance (& more). Since we were only focussing on a 'Reveal' paragraph, we only used the first 30 seconds. Again, the pairs brainstormed 5ws and then began writing their paragraphs. I decided to get my students to choose the Ws that they felt was important with setting the scene.  I have found that sometimes recounts can get a little boring, as there is too much focus on addressing all the Ws (ie On the 21st of June on a cold afternoon, I was playing PlayStation... boring!). Instead, we chose fewer Ws and also elaborated on some of  ideas.



Going it alone



Lastly, students had a go at writing their own Reveal paragraphs. I was able to get up to this with G1 but am planning on finishing this lesson with G2 next week.  I was pleased with the quality of the paragraphs.  Students were also adding in interesting hooks, which helped to grab the reader's attention.




Pair/individual follow up task


The follow up task was Revealing Paragraphs. This involved a number of steps.  First, students had to unpack a reveal paragraph by identifying the Ws. Next, they added in an interesting title.  Lastly they found ways to improve the paragraphs by making them more interesting by adding in a hook and some extra description.









Summing it up

Overall I am pleased with how this went.  Both groups were able to create some interesting reveal paragraphs.  I think using YouTube really helped, especially with my lower writers. It was also important that the students planned out the Ws before writing their paragraphs.

Using Google Docs was useful as all students could collaborate on the same document during our guided writing session.  I had the Doc projected up on the SMART board, so was able to discuss the paragraphs as well as address any errors. It will also be something that we will be able to return to, unlike writing on whiteboards that will disappear after the lesson.

I did notice that my class struggles with correctly using dialogue.  I will work on this next week before I continue onto teaching the 'Events' section of a recount.

Wherever possible, I will definitely be using Google Docs as a form of modelling books as well as using YouTube to help students in writing.