Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Google Teacher Academy

GTA logo created by David Saunders, member of the GTA MTV 2014 cohort.

Wednesday May 21, 2014 - 5:09pm - the day and time that I found out that I was selected to participate in the Google Teacher Academy in Mountain View, California.

It is Tuesday June 3, 2014 and I am just feeling able to put into words the feelings that came over me when I got the news. The Google Teacher Academy (GTA) is a PD experience designed for educators from around the globe to learn how to get the most from innovative technologies.

I have always been interested in technology and in integrating technology into my classroom. It has benefited my learning greatly. Having reaped the benefits of the use of technology to benefit my acquisition/demonstration of knowledge, it is quite natural for me to want to use it with my students to benefit their achievement and success. My experiences and passion for using technology innovatively to engage my students and meet their learning needs has brought me to this point and I couldn't be more pleased.

On May 21st, the day we would be notified if we would be one of the lucky one to be selected, I tweeted to the following:


The excitement was palpable. I wanted to be accepted, but I also knew that I was up against stiff competition. People were sharing their videos and they were GOOD. I'm talking about solid messages regarding innovation and skill. I also watched some of the videos from past GTA applications and quickly realized that some of them are simply amazing. I had doubts, trust me. I also had hope. I also learned a lot about my practice and my philosophy on innovation, teaching, and learning. My tweet when I learned I was selected to attend GTA MTV 2014:



I have been an awesome journey with Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education. I have immersed myself fully and have met great people along the way who share the same passion and perspective about teaching and learning. Via social media, I connected with Google Certified Teachers (educators who have attended a Google Teacher Academy) and sought their advice and counsel about my work and my application to the GTA. I can't say enough about how helpful and supportive they have been. A couple of them know me from face to face PD that I have attended along the way but 98% of them I have never met. This fact did not stop them from acting as critical colleagues. They provided me with insight and opinion about my thinking process and approach.

I look forward to this learning experience and can't wait to share my learning with my regional community. The GCT's I have communicated with have set the bar high and I am up for the challenge of meeting, exceeding, and helping to establish new standards.

Here is the video I created - it is about the journey my students and I have been on. Did I mention that all of it was done using my iPhone? Photos, video, audio, all done on my smart phone.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Using Google Apps to Make Interactive Stories

At this point in the school year my students are quite comfortable with GAFE and are doing a lot on their own time outside of school. In class they are working on meeting learning goals that we have established which means that they are not as "free" to experiment as they wish. As we near the end of the school I want them to continue to stay engaged and focused. One of the culminating tasks that I would like my students to engage in involves creating interactive choose your own adventure stories. This activity would allow my students to incorporate many of the Language literacy skills (reading, writing, media, oral) they have learned this school year as well as the technological skills they have gained & refined, particularly their knowledge around GAFE. I mentioned this to them yesterday and, no word of a lie, they began salivating at the idea! I had to tell them to 'hold their horses' so I could gather some knowledge around this type of work.

By no means is this activity MY idea. I became aware of this innovative activity from +Sylvia Duckworth. Sylvia has experience doing this type of activity with her students and has presented on this topic. She blogged about this and explained how she was inspired by Jonathan Wylie when she read his blog post on the topic.**

Thanks to Sylvia and Jonathan, I have a great starting point where I can read more about the technical aspects of this type of activity so I can support my students. We will establish our learning goal and success criteria so that we know where we are going on our learning journey. With the goal and criteria in place the students will have a focus and context as they create, communicate, and collaborate in order to be successful in meeting their academic goal. All this while having fun and learning how to use technology that provides them with many opportunities that wouldn't normally be available to them.

I look forward to sharing our learning with you in future posts. Stay tuned for what I imagine are going to be some pretty awesome products created by my students! Until then, check out the quick interactive story that I created. 






** This is why it is so important for educators to share what they are doing. Sometimes we feel like no one cares, no one wants to hear about the engaging and innovative work that we are doing. This is not the case. Sharing helps build capacity and provided people with ideas that they can then experience and build on and then share. It is an amazing cycle that benefits everyone. **

June 10 - Update

We recently created our Learning Goal (LG) and Success Criteria (SC) for our interactive stories. Our goal is to create a fictional 'choose your own adventure' story using Google Presentation. Our success criteria involves 1) using our graphic organizer map to create several story lines, 2) explaining (to the teacher and the class) how we came up with our story, 3) identifying the different parts of our story (beginning, middle, end, characters, setting, etc), and 4) using the vocabulary we learned during the creation of our story (e.g. character, setting, plot, etc) as we share our ideas/thoughts.





Here is the graphic organizer map my students and I co-created to help us create our stories:





Together, we came up with ground rules to assist us in being successful in creating our stories. It was their idea to have something to lead them through their FIRST story. They tell me that after they have successfully met the requirements for this activity, they can then create more complicated stories. I agree with them - to a certain degree. Students that require support to meet the standard we set will receive it and students that require enrichment will get that as well. This is a great start and they directed it. 

As a way to organize their stories, they are using recipe cards set up similarly to the organizer you see above so that they don't get confused. Currently, I find myself suggesting that they simplify the stories that they are sharing with me. They are excited and have some great and creative ideas, but I am advising them to hold back in a way, in order to ensure that they don't bite off more than they can chew. In my next update, I hope to have some samples of their stories to share with you and provide you with some more information about how this activity is playing out.





June 25 - Update















Friday, May 16, 2014

The use of Google Drawing to Reserach, Organize, & Present Learning in Social Studies

In Social Studies my students are learning about the Desert, Rain Forest, Mountain, and Arctic regions. We just finished learning about the Desert region and I would like to share what we did and the great learning that took place.

We started off by talking about what we think we know about the desert. The students had a lot to say about the following: lack of water, not much vegetation, lots of sad! After a brief discussion I showed them a brief "Wonder World of Science" video to provide them with some basic information about the desert region. Their task after watching the video was to show what they know by recalling information from the video, searching for information off of the Internet, and adding visuals to support the text that would be included in their organizer.

Together, we created an organizer in Google Drawing:


We chose Google Drawing because it is a nice blank slate to work with where the students have access to the built in research tool and drawing and text tools. This is simply a starting point for the students. It provides them with some structure, but they are free to manipulate the organizer to fit with their intentions.

In my opinion, the Google Drawing app doesn't seem to be utilized as much as it could/should be. +Jennifer Magiera, a leader with respect to innovative use of technology in schools and redefining the (digital) classroom, wrote about "3 Google Apps that Deserve more Love" and Google Drawing is the first one she mentions. If Jennifer Magiera agrees with me, that I must be on to something.

Here are some samples of student work:


This one is not complete...but they are working on it (note that they added a new category at the bottom):


The next step is sharing their work with their classmates (quick presentation) and then moving on to the next region of study.

The engagement and discussion I observed as the students worked on learning about the desert and demonstrating their learning was/is astonishing. They use Chromebooks to access GAFE and resources on Internet to support their learning and demonstration of learning. They do their work with purpose and know that they are responsible for explaining their thinking and the processes they followed to achieve their goal. They use each other as resources to navigate the technology and the information they come across. It is truly a pleasure to be with them on this learning journey.

Blended Learning in Social Studies

In Social Studies we are learning about People and Environments: Global Communities. With our learning goal and success criteria established, the students know what they are working towards and what they need to do along the way to be successful.



We started our learning with a diagnostic activity where the students were told a story about a friend of mine who is Florida. With the cold weather we are experiencing in Kitchener, I made sure to mention that my friend is wearing shorts and that he is participating in activities that we are not able to comfortably do here at the moment. After our story the students were provided with an opportunity to express what they think they know about Florida (prior knowledge) using a RAN chart.



The students really liked doing this activity and many of them provided some fun and interesting information about what they think they know about Florida. Also, the information they provided gave me insight into what they think they know about people’s way of life (e.g. shelter, climate, food, clothing, [animals, and  interesting facts]) in Florida and what they are interested in learning about. With this information I now have a better idea of what the students think they know specifically and generally. For the most part their specific information seems to be accurate but their general knowledge is not accurate. I now have a better direction on what they need to learn in order to identify features of communities around the world and describe how people live and meet their needs.
[May 7 am]

To provide them with some foundational knowledge about the earth we talked about how it is made up of continents and countries. The students used an on-line interactive activity to help them with this content (ELO1300170 in the OERB).



With new and fresh knowledge about the make up of the earth the next task involved "bringing them home" by having the use Google Maps to explore where we live and provide them with the opportunity to zoom in and out to gain a perspective of where we are relative to other communities around the globe. The students enjoyed this and were blown away by the magnitude of the earth and the ability to zoom in and out using the technology we have in the classroom.

The students were explicitly taught the cardinal directions and engaged in some fun activities that gave them opportunities to apply what they had learned. The liked using a compass and had some fun reading maps and creating some too.

We are now at the point where the students will gain a detailed understanding of four specific regions on the Earth (desert, rain forest, arctic, and mountain regions). As they explore these regions, one at a time, they will have the opportunity to use the Google Drawing app as a graphic organizer to gather information about the region we are working on  using the research tool built into the app which will prove beneficial to their learning as they search out information and photos to support their understanding. 

My next blog post will be about the use of Google Drawing to help them with their learning about the desert region....stay tuned!
[May 15 full]

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Develop Ideas, Build Capacity - Make Great Things Happen

Two of my students recently shared their work with me via Google Drive. It is common for my students to share the work that they do in their GAFE accounts, but it is uncommon for these two particular students to want to talk to me about what they did and why they did it.




The top two pieces of work were created in Google Presentation by one of the boys in my class. This particular boy is quite artistic and outspoken. He was excited to share his work with me because he was happy that he was able to 'focus' on something long enough to complete it.

The creation below, also done by a boy in my class, was done in Google Drawing. This student is pretty shy/quiet. When he said he wanted to talk to me about his work I was intrigued.


These boys had 'connected' on their time to talk about what they refer to as the "Super Hero Project". They are both interested in learning to draw, particularly super hero characters.

They told me that Drawing and Presentation are tools that make it easy for them to create what they are interested in. They want to invent their own characters. They tell me that these two Google Apps make it easy for them. They start by using the research tool within the apps to search out images of super hero characters, embed them onto their page, and then use the drawing tools to re-create what they found on the Internet and make adaptations. They tell me that they like to do this using paper and pencil as well but that it is not as easy. They told me that using the apps allows for ease of creation and change.

Their hope is that they will learn how to design their own action characters and use tools such as GAFE to make their ideas come to life. They have ideas and dreams and believe that a positive attitude and an awareness that it will involve a lot of trial and error will lead them to creations that don't yet exist!

In our talk they made a brief reference to the Leprechaun Catcher  (which I recently blogged about as being a pivotal point for me) discussion we had in March, where their classmate provided them with permission, by her example, to explore thoughts and ideas that they are passionate about and excite them. These two students took that discussion to heart and are putting their thoughts and ideas into action using the technology and tools that are available to them, particularly the Chromebook and GAFE.

Isn't this what we want our students to do in order to prepare for their future? Isn't it ideal to start at an early age so that it becomes a natural way of operating? Don't we want our young people to experience failure as learning so that they are not discouraged and paralyzed to act when times are tough? My students are on such an awesome journey and I hope that they continue to permit themselves to develop their ideas and build capacity to think outside the box and iterate in order to make great things happen.

Update - May 15

The "Super Hero Project" has flourished and many of the students have joined in. Here is some of the work...the discussions that are going on are really fantastic!





These are just some examples of what my students are up to. You should hear the conversations being had about the work and the WHY questions being asked. The students are holding each other accountable to stay on task and explain the thinking that is leading to the creations. I didn't think that this initiative, created by two of my students, would grow into a whole class (outside of class time) project!




Thursday, May 8, 2014

My "To the Moon" Moment

I recently read +Jonathan So's blog post about his "To the Moon" story which he reflected on and wrote about because of +Doug Peterson's blog post entitled "To the Moon with Google" - in which Doug showed the following video and then challenged educators to tell their "To the Moon" story - the one that really sticks out as a pivotal point for them. 


I have had several "To the Moon" moments in my career but the one that really sticks happened this school year....and I blogged about it in March. The reason why it really stands out, aside from it being a recent one, is because it was a powerful moment of "moonshot thinking" where my 7 year old student had captivated my attention and that of her classmates with her idea and the thinking process behind it. 

I really believe that it is paramount to dream big and provide my students with opportunities to explore their ideas and feel safe to share them. Google Apps for Education and the use of the Chromebooks in my classroom have helped to facilitate this attitude in my students and build their capacity to think big and express their thoughts/ideas/dreams that one day will be a reality!

What has been your "To the Moon" moment? I would love it if you shared yours!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Breaking Down the Walls of our Classroom: Using Technology to Change the Face of Teaching & Learning

My students and I had a great experience today that really demonstrates how we are getting passed the four walls of our classroom to learn in new and exciting ways. Why haven't I written/reflected on this before? It never moved me like it did today.

In Social Studies we are talking about communities around the world and are about to start discussing and exploring characteristics/features of different regions. Using Google Maps we were acquiring a perspective of our Earth as the students zoomed in and out of different parts of the Earth. All of a sudden I received a message from +Nando Alves - a grade 2 teacher in Brazil. I had met Nando last week in the Connected Classrooms Community and he was touching base with me because we would like to have a hangout so his students can learn a bit about our community and my students can learn a bit about their community.


As I am sharing this with my students, we find Brazil on the map and then they proceed to zoom in to find Nando's location: Brasilia. In a matter of seconds the students locate where Nando and his students live and immediately zoom in to see what it looks like over there (via the white board projector). They immediately notice a huge soccer stadium Brazil National Stadium) and instruct me to ask Nando how close they are to the stadium. Nando informs us that they are about 45 minutes away from the stadium. 




The excitement in my class was off the chart as THEY were now leading this learning experience as I raced to type out the questions they had about the climate, food, clothing, and activities that Brazilians in that area engage in. Nando didn't have too much time to chat with us today but he provided my students with enough information to satisfy them for the moment. 

Nando got my email address and sent us what he calls a classroom 'card' - a fantastic way to visually introduce us to his class.


You might be wondering what the big deal is about this experience that my students and I had today. The big deal is that we are aware of, and open to, using the technology we have to innovative and benefit our learning in fun and interesting ways. There is no substitute for the motivation and engagement I saw in my students today. In fact, the plans I had for them today had to be adapted to fit what THEY wanted to do and around what THEY wanted to learn. Make no mistake, their agenda still fit with our learning goal - which is always what we are working towards - but THEY were leading me and their knowledge and interest in reaching beyond our classroom and country to make their learning real is where they are at. 

The culture they have created in our classroom community is about establishing goals and working to meet them in dynamic ways. It is OK to make mistakes, you just try again and try something different. It is OK to talk about your dreams and ideas because that is the first step to creating things and doing things that have not been created or done before. They use technology (Chromebooks, GAFE, digital resources) to break down barriers and do things otherwise not possible. They know that learning is not about answers, but about thinking and working with others in ways that will lead them to success - which is different for each of my students.

For the remainder of our time in Social Studies the students ended up using the Chromebooks to examine Brazil - its physical features - and compared it to Ontario's physical features. As I walked the room and talked to my students about what they were doing I was exhilarated. The same type of exhilaration I experience when my mind is blown at a really good conference (e.g. GAFE Summit, ECOO, etc).

Today it was about leveraging technology to learn about communities around the world - by connecting, in real time, with a native of Brazil and exploring where he lives then comparing it to where we live. They are really excited about connecting with Nando's class to learn about how grade 2 students live over there and to teach them how we live over here.

We connected our Chromebook to our projector, accessed Google + to reach out to people via the 'Connected Classrooms' community, and used Google Maps to explore the earth. Take the time to be open to, and explore, the impact technology can have to change the face of teaching and learning.