Monday, April 7, 2014

Moving from a Linear to a Dynamic State: Blended Learning via GAFE 2.0

The start of Lent provided a great blended learning opportunity for myself and my students. Using our Learning Management Site (LMS), the students were provided with instructions and links to engage in answering the following question:

What will you do during Lent to show that you are sorry and that you want to become a better person?

Before the students went into the LMS and started working on their task, we had discussions on what Lent is and what Jesus experienced throughout the 40 days before Easter. Within the structure of this task the students were taught how to leave helpful comments/feedback on the work of their classmates

Once a foundation for the topic was established I took them through what they would be experiencing via the LMS. In the LMS I had embedded a YouTube video (stop, pause, and start at their leisure, watch as many times as they require) about Jesus in the desert, a Google Form to collect information about what they were able to take away from the video (different question types), and a link to the Google Document where they would paste the link to their work (sharing, collaborating, communication, creation) so that their classmates would be able to access their work (addressing the question above) and provide comments (descriptive feedback from me and others).

Here are screenshots of the layout within the LMS:

YouTube video
The video was a great way to hook them into our topic and provides them the ability to stop and start it as they wish. They also have the ability to watch it more than once if they feel they need to do so. Moreover, it provides us the opportunity to address some of the curriculum expectations in Media Literacy.

Google Form used to collect the understanding of my students.
With the Form embedded the students don't have to leave the page where the video is playing. The first two questions are KU questions that will meet some of my students where they are at and the next two questions are higher order questions that will meet other students where they are at. Using a Form allows me to collect their understanding immediately (formative assessment) which allows me to check in with students right away about their understanding. There were a few students that needed my support and I was able to provide it to them as soon as they submitted their information. It was a great way to work with those that required some remediation right away before proceeding. The students that required enrichment were able to have their needs met by moving forward into the Google Apps.

Students could now use any Google App (Docs, Form, Draw, Presentation, Spreadsheet) to begin working on the question posed to them.

The students then decided what Google App they wanted to use to answer the question. Once they knew how they wanted to proceed they copied the link of their work page and pasted it into the shared Google document that is listed at the bottom of our LMS page. Here is what it looked like once students had filled it in:

It is important to note that the students have also shared their work with me. I can go into their work with unfettered access to make comments and edit. The links in the Google document above are set with the "comments only" permission. By only providing commenting rights to their classmates it minimizes the risk that work will be erased or manipulated. Erasing and manipulating people's work is not the norm in my class, but it does teach the students how to set specific permissions around the use of their work and it teaches them to decide what permissions they choose based on what they want their audience to do with their work. 

As students are finishing up on their task they begin to refer to the Google Document in order to comment on the work of others. Here are a couple of examples (Google Presentation for the first and second one and the use of Google Draw for the third one) of what this looks like:

As you can see, the students make the work their own and engage in doing some really neat things as they work on the task at hand. They take pride in their work and it is an understatement to say that they enjoy creating, collaborating, and communicating with respect to their work. The feedback portion was a "bump up" for us and I would like to keep working on that with them. Now that they and I have had experience using the GAFE suite of apps I would like them to use what they need to meet the expectations set out for them in our learning goals and success criteria. Students always have the option of using whatever they need to accomplish their task - it is not limited to the use of the technology. More often than not, they will use the technology and when asked why they tend to tell me it is because they have greater opportunity to do things that they wouldn't be able to do with pencil and paper and other mediums.

They are well on their way and continue to amaze me with what they are doing via the blended learning model we are using. The ability for me to get to their work and provide them with instant feedback is quite valuable for everyone involved.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to connect with me via email, Twitter, Google +, or by simply leaving a comment for me below.

Learning and Leading: My Experience at the EdTech Team Ontario Summit Featuring Google For Education

This weekend I attended the Google for Education Ontario Summit here in Kitchener. I can describe it using one word: AWESOME. My time was spent 1) meeting people who are part of my professional learning on Social Media (Twitter and Google +), 2) catching up with people I already know, 3) learning new ways of using GAFE to benefit my practice and the achievement of my students, and 4) sharing the learning journey that my students and I have been on. 

It is so great to connect with people who have impacted me personally and professionally in one way or another. If it weren't for my learning networks on Twitter and Google + I would have missed out on connecting with such passionate and innovative educators who are on the same path as myself - to grow in knowledge and skill to impact the staff and students that surround them. Surrounded by +Ferdinand Krauss+Jonathan So+Scott Monahan+Helder Tavares+Tanya Avrith+Julie Millan+Sylvia Duckworth+Michelle Booth+Joe Sisco+Molly Schroeder+Michael Wacker, +Michelle Cordy, and many others - I was in excellent company and took advantage of the experience.

Here is a great example of one of the many tweets that demonstrates the care and collegiality of the people that I have met and that I hope my colleagues will meet:

Sylvia Duckworth - Google Certified Teacher from Toronto
The learning was great - but the sharing was fun and worthwhile as well. It felt so good to give back to the community that has given so much to me. +Ferdinand Krauss and I co-presented "Key Strategies for the Successful Implementation of Chromebooks & Google Apps for Education in Your School Board". Ferdinand did a wonderful job of taking people through the work that goes into making sure things are in place and set up for teachers and students to be able to use the technology and digital resources seamlessly. I shared the work my grade 2 students and I have been able to do because of ALL the work that happens outside of the schools and classrooms. Here is the link to the presentation:

Photo of Ferdinand starting the presentation.
After a couple of sessions it was my turn but this time I wasn't with Ferdinand, I had one of my students join me to present "Getting Going with Student use of Google Apps for Education: Chromebooks in the Hands of Grade 2 Students". We took people through our blended learning journey. We demonstrated how the technology and the apps have provided the grade 2's with opportunities to blend their learning and become more creative and collaborative. We talked about how we eased into the Google suite of apps in order to benefit my professional practice and student achievement. We provided examples of how students have used Documents, Draw, Form, Spreadsheet, and Presentation to demonstrate the innovation and excitement that Google apps can bring to any class. It was such an honour to be able to speak about our experience and I am grateful that my student and her parents joined us and were so open to the idea. Here is the link to my presentation:

About to start! Photo taken by +Jonathan So 

One of my students and I presenting. Photo taken by +Jonathan So 

People attending the presentation. Photo taken by +Julie Millan 
I had many people talk to me before (anticipation) and after (eyes wide open to what can be accomplished) about my presentation. There was a lot of curiosity about how GAFE and the technology could be used with such young children. These people were definitely curios and interested, but were unsure and a little scared about how to start it up and what it might look like. I too was scared when I started - and still to this day I am frightened by the unknown but I know that on the other side of my fear is success. Whether the outcome is or isn't what I expect, there is learning to be had and the learning and iteration is what builds us up and allows us to continue to try new things and share our experiences. 

I was honoured to have +Julie Millan (Google Certified Teacher - Toronto District School Board) attend my session. I was happy to have her join us because she was included in my presentation and I wanted her to hear about the influence her work had on me and my practice. It was her presentation in October 2013 at the ECOO conference that really motivated me to get going with GAFE. She would be presenting "Examine the Power of Google Apps throughout the Inquiry Process" on Day 2 of the Summit and I was looking forward to learning more from her.

On Day 2 of the Summit I learned that I wasn't going to be able to physically make it to Julie's session. I had to settle for the tweets and G+ posts that would be made public for people to attend in a 'virtual' format. As time was drawing near to her presentation I learned that it would be streamed via Google Hangout and I would get to attend without actually being in the classroom with her and the other participants! Talk about icing on the cake. I was still going to see and be part of the presentation because of people like +Julie Millan and +Scott Monahan (who I believe had something to do with the technical aspects of the Hangout). 

Part of Julie's presentation
Julie had told me that she would be referencing me in her presentation but I was unsure of the details. It was great to see that she was sharing my reaction and subsequent experiences because of her presentation in the Fall. She spoke about the importance of sharing our learning and experiences so that others can benefit and do the same in turn. If we make this part of our practice than others can benefit and then they can benefit others. The sharing grows and ultimately we all build capacity around our interests - ultimately benefiting the students in our classrooms that will lead our world. It was a great message to provide her audience before she talked about Inquiry and GAFE.

My excitement got the better of me. Thank you Heather for tweeting me back and to Scott for letting Julie know that I was watching.
Julie during her presentation.
When I wasn't presenting and connecting with other motivated educators I was learning about Google Forms, Google Draw, Flipping a Classroom via GAFE, Chrome tips/tricks, and the power of Technology and GAFE to enable students to create, collaborate, communicate, innovate, and lead. There is something for everyone - beginner to advanced level presentations on many topics. More often than not, the major problem at these conferences is that you can't physically be at more than one session at a time!!

As my School Board continues to implement the deployment of Chromebooks and GAFE across our system, there is no doubt in my mind that my colleagues and their students will soon experience the increase in capacity, engagement, and achievement for all involved. I look forward to having many more of my colleagues join me at future Google for Education Summits to connect with others, share our learning, as well as acquire new learning that we will bring back to our system.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to tweet me, connect via Google +, send me an email, and/or comment below. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Leperchaun Catcher

One of my students shared her Google Draw creation with me this morning. She created The Leprechaun Catcher. With her permission, I showed the class what she made in order to talk about and model how to provide constructive feedback. What happened next was a delight for me and an eye opening experience for them.

As I spoke to them about providing constructive feedback, one of the students made a comment about the likelihood that something like this would ever work, let alone be made. Another student responded by saying that people probably made the same comments about Google Glass but it exists and that they got to try them out and think about all the positive things it could be used for. Another student commented about self-driving cars and that they exist.

This led to a great discussion about creativity, imagination, risk taking, making mistakes, and how normal it is to fail and then try again. One of the students connected this discussion to my mantra about the importance of failure - that great learning can come from the challenges we encounter when we work towards finding solutions to problems we are faced with.

This discussion seemed to reach my students and I believe it is because they had a great example in front of them that came from their peer and not from me. It's almost like the Leprechaun Catcher gives them permission to take their thoughts and ideas to another level, one that allows them to move forward with what they envision their future to look like. 

They Leprechaun Catcher seems like a silly idea at first, but no more sillier than wearing a computer on your head that is now known as Google Glass. They got the point and now I am looking forward to the wonderful ideas they have for their future.

Have you had a similar experience? What do you do to foster/support the creative flow in your students? I would love to hear your thoughts about my experience today.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Future is here: Google Glass

Tom speaking to my students about Google Glass.
My students got to see and try Google Glass earlier this week. Tom Emrich, a Glass Explorer in Toronto, visited our classroom and introduced my students and I to Glass. Google Glass is "wearable computer with an optical head-mounted display (OHMD) that is being developed by Google in the Project Glass research and development project" ( The experience was simply fantastic. The students were on the edge of their seats the entire presentation! Tom's talk was engaging and developmentally appropriate - so much so that my Principal, +Rodney Eckert, wondered whether Tom had any formal teacher training. 

Tom explained what Glass is and the ins and outs of the device. He touched upon the benefits of Glass and how he thinks wearable technology is part of our lives at this time and the role it will play in the future.

After his talk and demonstrations he allowed each student to try on the Glass and test it out. Some students told Glass to take a photo and some told Glass to take video. Nevertheless, their reactions seemed to be the same each time - amazement at what they could do with simple voice commands and the ability to wear a computer.

Google Glass.
One after the other, the look on their faces when they activated the device was priceless. It was amazing to see them engage with a technology that they had read about and watched on YouTube. 

Prior to this experience, Google Glass was viewed as something beyond their reach, something that they would not get to see or interact with any time soon. Their interest and fascination with Glass and 'futuristic' technology is what motivated me to connect with Tom over Twitter. In fact, the tweet was made with my students in an effort to demonstrate how connected and accessible our society has become.

Tweet to and from Tom Emrich.
Tom was more than happy to work out a plan to visit us and I can't thank him enough for the service and modelling he has provided my students. With his help and expertise my students have seen that anything is possible and that the only limits placed upon their dreams and imaginations are the ones they place on themselves. 

My students have been stretching themselves and transforming the way they learn this year. The Blended Learning model, GAFE, and the Chromebooks have led them on a trajectory where creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking are welcome and have become the norm. 

I too have been experiencing the same thing with my teaching and my professional learning. As Tom spoke to my students I thought about the uses Glass would have in my classroom. I thought about how students could use them and how I could use them. Although the possibilities are endless, let me share some of my thinking with you.

In the hands of students, I can visualize Glass capturing what they see, say, and how they interact with each other as they go about their daily learning. Imagine being able to view and hear what a student experiences as they work on tasks assigned to them. Not only would we be privy to such data but the student would benefit from it as well. Think of the reflection that they could experience by watching and hearing themselves as they process a problem or situation that had been captured via Glass.

Trying on Glass.
From a teacher's perspective, Glass could also provide many benefits. With Glass I too could capture audio and video of student learning - assessment for learning. I could provide my assessments to parents instantly via email giving them information on what I see and suggestions for next steps at home for remediation or enrichment. The ability to connect with parents/colleagues using a 'hangout' (like Skype) would be a valuable tool to capture/show real time learning as I move around the room supporting students. I can also see how Glass would free up my hands as I multi task in the room. I can imagine taking audio notes and things of that nature as I go about the every day multi tasking in the classroom.

If I can come up with ways to leverage this technology in my classroom within a matter of minutes I am certain that more time and networking would produce creative and practical uses for Glass in schools. 

Have you experienced Google Glass? Do you have any ideas about how Glass could be used in a classroom to benefit students and teachers? I would love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to contact me me via email, Twitter, Google +, or by leaving a comment for me here.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Teaching is the Key - Technology is the Tool - Success is the Outcome

Our project, "Success for all Students: 21st Century Teaching/Learning using Chromebooks & A Blended Learning Model", is adding a richness to our learning. This experience is proving to be a transformative one and there is no doubt in my mind that the technology is fostering innovation and creativity, among other things.

Nevertheless, the technology is only one part of the equation. +Jaime Casap does a great job of illustrating the importance of technology but that on its own it is not the key ingredient to success for students:

“Technology is not the silver bullet. Great education is the silver bullet. Technology is there to support and enable great education...We have to continuously ask how we can use technology to innovate in learning, because if we don’t then all we’re doing is potentially taking bad elements of education and making them faster and more efficient.”

When I talk to people about our project they often tell me that they would love to have this type of technology in the hands of their students. When I start talking to them about what I am doing with the technology their enthusiasm seems to deflate. They tell me that it sounds like more work is being added to an already full plate. I don't perceive it the same way they do and it is probably because I am truly passionate about the work we are doing and the positive results that are coming from it now and in the future.

In combination with the technology (allowing for the creation and completion of new tasks previously inconceivable), good teaching (incorporating such things as learning goals, success criteria, anchor charts, and manipulatives) and rich tasks provide students with opportunities to acquire and practice 21st Century skills (collaboration, critical thinking, communication, creativity) that are essential to success at school and in an ever changing world.

The following photos are good examples of what is happening in our classroom around the teaching and technology that is transforming professional practice and student learning.

Learning goals and success criteria are created so students know exactly what they are working towards and what they need to do to be successful. These charts are important and have become common place in our classroom. 
Anchor charts are used as a point of reference for students providing them with key information, processes, procedures, and/or strategies. 

Work area where students are using a variety of tools (manipulatives, paper & pencil, and Chromebooks) to support their learning in Mathematics.

A student using Google Draw to 1) illustrate the structure she created (a tall structure), 2) a photograph of a tall structure, 3) and some text explaining what she has done.   
The students working collaboratively using all of the tools to complete their assigned task.
If you have any questions or comments I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me me via email, Twitter, Google +, or by leaving a comment for me here.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Work After The Work: GAFE Outside of Instructional Time

My students have been using Google Apps for Education on their own time to create, communicate, collaborate, teach, and continue the work they start in class. I recently overheard them talking about sharing their work with each other to simply share what they are up to and in some circumstances, to collaborate. Simply fantastic.

Student reflects on the Lego movie she recently saw by using the Draw app to draw some characters.

A student works on a "Diamonds" project because that is what he is interested in.

Two students write me a note during indoor recess.

Google Draw app used to write/draw about good times with friends.

Letter written to me from a student who is at home sick. She is also working on an assignment that was started in class.

Parent wrote me note to let me know that her daughter helped her create a Google Document for her work.

My students tell me that they like using GAFE because they can 

"write without using paper, it's free (open with lots of possibilities [images, research, colours, shapes, etc] - you can do different things with it, you can use your imagination with it and you just don't have to write, you can do what you want". 

They have moved past using GAFE exclusively at school. They seem to really like using the apps and are constantly digging deeper within the apps to make the most out of their experience! With this type of interest and motivation the sky is the limit and I am quite excited to see how high my students will go. 

If you have any questions or comments I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me me via email, Twitter, Google +, or by leaving a comment for me here.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Creating Surveys & Bar Graphs in Mathematics using Google Forms and Spreadsheets

In our last unit of Mathematics (Data Management) the students learned how to conduct a survey, create a bar graph, and analyse a data set (collected data in a graph format). We created our learning goal and success criteria and made anchor charts for the students to refer to.

After learning some of the basics the students engaged in a paper-pencil activity in order to create their own survey. Once they had a good handle on the 'ins and outs' of what it means to create a survey and conduct one, they were taught how to use Google Form to create a digital/on-line survey. Via whole-group instruction we dove into Google Form and created a survey together. This provided the students with an opportunity to see how a survey is created in the Form application. The students were then given the opportunity to use Form to create their own surveys.

Here is a screenshot of my Google drive as students share their work with me. As the students are working on their Chromebooks I am logged in my drive and it is projected on the white board. I see their work in real time, help them troubleshoot, and use their work as examples/models for the class.

After the students created their survey, they posted the link to their survey in a Google Document that I had embedded into our LMS. Students had to copy their survey link and then log into the LMS in order to get to our shared Google Document so they could paste their site address in a table. When the table was completely filled in the students started to systematically do each survey and provided their classmates with "data". Here is a screenshot of the Google document - student names on the left and the link to their survey on the right:

By embedding the Google Document into our LMS and having the students place their information in one place we were able to save a lot of time and heartache by not having to type out long URL addresses for each of the 9 surveys they would complete.

Having collected a significant amount of data, the students then used Google Spreadsheet to create a bar graph. They entered their data into the spreadsheet and then used the data to create a bar graph.

Google Spreadsheet provided the students with many challenges. There is a lot going on in this app and I would say that it is the most difficult to work with. The students who really understood what graphs are and how they are used did well with Spreadsheet. The students who experienced difficulty with the concept experienced some difficulty within the app. Nevertheless, the group ended up doing well overall. 

Spreadsheet 'pushed' my students and that 'push' provided me with insight into how my students pace themselves and deal with cognitively challenging opportunities. It was neat to observe and I am pleased to report that no one gave up. Lots of questions were asked and a lot of troubleshooting occurred.  

The students told me that they really liked the task at the end of this unit. There is no doubt in my mind that the enjoyment they experienced was linked to how much control they had in customizing their survey and graph. The students continue to demonstrate a high level of engagement and motivation when their learning is blended and they appear to have become quite skilled in the use of the Chromebook and the suite of Google Apps.

If you have any questions or comments I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me me via email, Twitter, Google +, or by leaving a comment for me here.