I am a first year science teacher at Fossil Ridge School. This blog is designed to archive my struggles and successes as I implement new technology into my classroom.
I am a first year science teacher at Fossil Ridge School. This blog is designed to archive my struggles and successes as I implement new technology into my classroom.
The tech tool that I will be analyzing using a facilitator lens is Flipgrid. I have used this phone and computer application twice times in class and it has allowed students to facilitate their own learning and to be personally creative. We used this tool first to create lab safety music videos at the beginning of the school year. I first showed the students a parody music video about lab safety and then encouraged students to create their own skits, music videos, or safety demo that would then be shared with the class. Students most recently created a promotional video/ advertisement for a nutritional bar that they design using their understanding of macromolecules. These videos were then shared with the class as a commercial.
Using this app is user friendly for students because it prompts students through each step in the process and requires only a basic understanding of using the camera feature on either their computer or their laptop. It also directly sends the video to my computer interface, so that I can play the videos for the whole class easily from my computer. This fulfills the facilitator ISTE standards 6b and 6d. The 6b standard is the students will be able to “Manage the use of technology and students learning strategies in digital platforms, virtual environments, hands-on makerspaces or in the field”. The ISTE standard is the students will be able to “Model and nurture creativity and creative expression to communicate ideas, knowledge, or connections”. This method of creating mini commercials gave students the opportunity to be creative and to take personal ownership of their creative real-world application. Students became facilitators of their own experience. This app allows students to start and stop the recording as often as needed, so that they can move and reset new environments/ situations throughout their video advertisement.
Some of the struggles with using this program is that it only worked on the student’s phones once they downloaded the app, and because of computer settings on the school computers the students could only access the camera feature if the program was used through internet explorer. The video can also only last a total of ninety seconds. Since dealing with this time struggle multiple teachers at my school have showed me that once an account is purchased by the teacher they can change the amount of time the video can last.
In the article “Technology alone won’t transform teacher to facilitator” they claim that educational practices can be improved to reach all students by implementing different forms of technology. These technologies used must however be incorporated in a way that enhances student’s learning experience rather than detracts and cause frustration. I found in the article that they rarely specified the struggles related to time, funding, and class sizes. I have found that since most students have access to a phone or a computer and this is a free application that can be used to enhance student experience. Since this is a free app for students and teachers, as well it does not take a lot of time reteaching because the app is similar to the camera feature on most phones. This also incorporated a real application to this assignment that would not have been available without this feature. The article described to role of a teacher as that one of a ring mast who sets up the environment and activities for students to learn and grow on their own. I believe that through the use of this applications, Flipgrid, I became a facilitator, or ring master, to student learning rather than providing direct instruction for learning.
In the class cell biology, genetics, and biotechnology I had the class break into 8 small groups per class period. Each group performed a 1-3 minute skit about an assigned scientist that contributed to our current understanding of germ theory. Students all had to participate in the skit. I had several groups who this was not only out of their comfort zone the idea of performing a skit (acting) in front of their peers caused a significant amount of anxiety. In order to give groups an alternative that would still give the class a visual learning experience about the scientist I gave the option to complete a digital skit instead. Approximately 3 groups chose to use the program Powtoon as a digital program for creating these original skits. Powtoon was a great resource for these students as it allowed them to create digital animations that spoke to the class audibly as well as with text bubbles. Students some students even spoke for their animation, in order to still be present in the skit but not have to actually act, their animation did that for them. There were some limitations in what the animation could do and students had to get creative as to how they were going to show experiments occurring and get all the required information within the programs limitations. This allowed the students to show their best work and fit in with the assignment descriptions by using technology. One thing that we did struggle with was how to get the animation sent to my computer so that it could be displayed for the entire class. This was an issue of other forms of technology and was not specific to the Powtoon software specifically.
At the school I teach at we have a lot of students who have extreme amounts of anxiety and even the smallest change can be debilitating. These students are given very high expectations based on their economic status and can really struggle when pushed too far out of their comfort zone. Throughout the last months we have been trying to push and challenge ourselves as a class. We have talked about times when we should push our limits and take risks and when it is better to use mediums that we know and really demonstrate our strengths. This Powtoon program gave students the option to push themselves, but not too much that they were unable to show their strengths and abilities. This allowed for differentiation for students who excel when they are the center of attention and can act in the class as well as the students who do better when their ideas are generated prior to being in front of the entire class. This also allowed me as educator to meet the ISTE standard of using technology to create, adapt, and personalize learning experiences. I was able to create alternate mediums to fit the assignment expectation and purpose, so that every student in class was given the tools to be successful.
In the articles Smart Tech Use for Equity and Digital Equity: it’s more than just student access they both talked about the difference between just using technology because it is there, and the district spent money on it, and using technology to make sure that every student is successful. I think that the way that Powtoon was used in this instance allowed for equity among all students. If I had either required all groups to perform their skit without the animation, or for all students to use the Powtoon software there would have been groups of students who were not given the same opportunity to present their best work. In this instance students were given an equitable learning environment.
I have another student in my class who has dysgraphia. I noticed it earlier this year in my class and brought it to the attention of our school counselors as well as school psychologists, which started the process of her being recently diagnosed. This student of mine is incredibly smart and more than grasps the content, she is challenging herself to present her understanding in new and creative ways. I have noticed that in my class she often has a lower grade than her knowledge demonstrates because it is very hard to read her handwriting and for her to get her ideas out in the same ways as her peers. Because this is a new diagnosis the school as well as myself has not had sufficient time to find her alternative software that can allow her to communicate and get her ideas out in a way other than orally. We are currently working on an illustration comparing photosynthesis and cellular respiration and I am still trying to find programs that will allow her to complete this assignment in a way that is equitable for this student. I do not think that with this student specifically I am meeting the ISTE standard of accommodating the learner’s differences and needs. I have identified that she is currently not getting an equitable education in my classroom and would like to continue researching more digital programs or software’s that would allow her to communicate her content understanding in a way that best fits her strengths.
1. Description, What happened: I recently had a bad day on Thursday. There were three students who chose to cause a scene in my class because they did not like their grade. I defused the scene by reminding the students that they can always can and talk to me about their grade and defend their work if they feel that they deserved a better grade. However, I was upset the outburst occurred and effected other students in the class, as well as in reflecting on their work I believe I was more than fair when grading. On top of that I also found out that morning that someone had stolen the study guide answer key from the classroom. I also had to talk to a student later that day about whether or not he plagiarized part of a large project that he turned in earlier that week. These three things I allowed to snowball on each other causing me to be more upset than a single event would have caused.
2. Feeling, What were you thinking and feeling?: These three things particularly got to me emotionally because I try and create a culture of mutual respect and trust within my classroom and all of these instances went against the culture of the classroom. I was feeling annoyed that once again these students are causing a scene about a grade when I have procedures in place that allow for them to address their opinions more appropriately. I allow students to advocate for their work and I am available for students every single day to have this conversation and instead these students choose to act like children and throw a fit. I was also feeling disrespected that a student would steal the study guide when I allow them to take picture of the answers, so that they can double check that they are studying the correct information. And on top of that the student who stole the study guide is taking away an educational resource from other students in the class because I only make one copy of the answers. Overall, I was drained that I have put a lot of time into establishing a specific classroom culture and it was overlooked on 3 separate occasions all in one day.
3. Evaluation, What was good and bad about the experience: A good thing about this experience is that it is going to allow me to address again classroom respect and the differences between rights and privileges in the classroom on Monday when address the study guide issue. Another good thing is that I was able to have a one on one conversation with the student I thought plagiarized. It turned out he did not plagiarize, but we did have the opportunity to talk about individual perceptions as well as how to take that into consideration during his next project. I also was able to reflect with my colleagues about how they create rubrics and use them for grading. This gave me great insight into how I can continue to improve my rubrics in the future. What is bad about the experience is that aspects of the classroom culture were clearly disregarded, and we now need to review respectful behavior. This also is going to result in the loss of certain privileges which is going to result in more work for me.
4. Analysis, what sense can you make of this situation: Overall what I am making of this situation is that I cannot assume that just because we have maintained a respectful classroom culture for a quarter that we do not need continuous, consistent reminders to ensure everyone is held accountable. I also was able to determine that I have some wonderful colleagues who are very supportive when having a bad day and are willing to listen and help you grow. I am taking from this experience that leaning on my colleagues is okay and that developing those relationships is crucial to making it though a tuff day.
5. Action Plan, if it arose again what would you do: If this were to arise again I would again rely on my colleagues and be grateful for the relationships and supportive culture we have built between each other. I would also like to work on being mindful when these events snowball on each other. I allowed myself to get emotional and then I prayed and spent time in rest with the lord. It would have been helpful to take a minute and recenter myself before I let my emotions get the best of me.
1. Description, What happened: At the end of each unit I try to create a summative project as well as a test. This is so that if students are not great at either projects or tests they still have the ability to be successful in the class and demonstrate their understanding of the unit. In the last unit the project that students were to create was a choice-based project researching the effects that given disease have on the cell membrane and how things are transported within a cell. Students choose the disease that they would be researching from a predetermined list, they then had 4 options of projects to do. All projects had the same content requirements, the medium however was student choice. They could create a poster, a brochure, a book, a diorama, or a video presentation. Students were then given a week in class to complete the project. Over that week students also completed a student-teacher conference with me in order to get feedback on their project and to check in on their overall success in the class. These conferences are completed each time the students work on a large project, to ensure that I am regularly communicating with each individual student. The focus of the conferences this round was understanding rubrics and how they apply to the way projects are graded.
2. feeling: Overall, when students turned in their projects I was very happy with the majority of the projects and were impressed with the way the students went above and beyond the minimum requirements. Part of their grade was to challenge themselves and take risks. I found that students really embraced this and found new and innovative way to push themselves. There was some project however that could have used some improvement. With the focus being on the rubric I felt that it was more thought out than previous rubrics and that I gave more meaningful feedback as to how students could improve on future projects. I have been trying to provide more feedback, specifically on project so that students can continue to improve and so that they can get used to my thought process when grading and apply that later. I also thought that the challenge section of the rubric was a great addition. In this class I have a wide range of grade levels and student abilities. Having students assess where they pushed themselves to take risks I think really helped the overall quality of every project.
3. Evaluation, What was good and bad about the experience: The good things that happened is that I was more diligent about giving well thought out meaningful feedback that students could use in the future. I also think that it was good to focus on the rubric during student teacher conferences. This emphasis gave students insight into what I consider most when I am grading. The bad thing is that there were some students who still did not understand why they received the grade they did when rubrics were handed back to students. While I think their misunderstanding took place because they had not yet read through the comments and the notes that I had left on the rubric, it is still concerning to me that there was this much confusion.
4. Analysis, what sense can you make of this situation: After handing back the rubric I got some student and peer feedback about how to improve the rubric. I found that there are some sections that students thought were more subjective, and as my students are still learning my expectations when grading this can create some confusion. Some peer teachers suggested adding more clear descriptions by using numbers of times there are errors or adding phrases such as “going above and beyond”. The confusion mostly occurred in my students who regularly do the bare minimum required. For me doing the bare minimum is C work, not A work even if all the requirements are met. This is something that I can explain better in the future. There is also I have found there is a culture created at Fossil that an A is average, not a C. These students are so used to getting A’s just for meeting basic requirements. Therefore, I am fighting an uphill battle having that not be my expectation in class.
5. Conclusion, what else could you have done: Overall, I think that by discussing the rubric in student teacher conferences and emphasizing it throughout the project helped improve the quality of the majority of projects. For those few students however who are still trying to find every way to do as little as possible to get a good grade I need to be more specific and clearer about my expectations. I will do this by including more descriptive language in my rubric, as well as encourage these students to have one on one meetings with me. This way we can talk about how I graded their project and have them identify where exactly they think they deserve more credit. This will hopefully help them identify where improvements can be made and how they can continue to improve for future assignments.
6. Action Plan, if it arose again what would you do: For future rubrics I am going to try and add more descriptive wording and to be clearer with my expectations. For most students by adding the challenge section they did go above and beyond to try and get that A or B. I will add to the student-teacher conference sheet a section about effort, so that students can identify how that plays into their overall grade. I will also continue to meet with the students who want an A for minimal effort in order to demonstrate that in my classroom a C is average, not an A.
I will be evaluating my use of the blackboard discussion board as a form of technology collaboration. I recently used this technology for students to discuss different elements of the vaccine wars. We used this discussion board as a method to begin the conversation that we would later be discussing in the format of a Socratic seminar. This was my first time using the blackboard discussion feature or using online discussions in this class at all. I choose to use this discussion platform because it is the digital classroom program already used in class to house other documents. My intention was to use a platform that students were already familiar with and would not require additional teaching or struggle when implementing a new digital platform. This was also a program that students were already a part of and it therefore did not require myself or my students to sign up for additional programs, not knowing if we would be utilizing digital discussion boards in future units.
Overall, I would say that it was successful, however there were areas of growth for future digital discussions. It was success in that I could easily separate students into the groups that they would later be in when participating in the Socratic seminar. It also allowed students to see who would be in the group during the oral discussion. Students were assigned as homework to post at least 1 question and 2 comments to the discussion board, very few students had trouble creating questions or commenting on the streams already created by their classmates. This platform allowed students to see each other’s comments, to build on previous ideas, and to create streams that may bring up conflicting points. All members of the group could see each other’s comments once submitted by the writer.
One of the challenges that I faced. Creating the discussion board was that I could not tell what students would see unless I asked a student to log on and to attempt to post on the discussion board from their account. I would have been able to troubleshoot some of the issues that did arise if I had a better understanding of how students would be viewing the board from their accounts. The major hurdle that we did overcome was that there were 2 discussion boards one that spanned all my classes and one that was group specific to the groups that I had previously assigned. When instructing students which discussion button to choose and post on turned out to be the board that was accessible to all groups in all classes, not the one where they only saw post by other members of their group. I could not identify which discussion board was the correct one until students from all classes started posting as homework. I now know for the future which board in the correct one to select as well as more advantageous way to set up groups in blackboard that make the discussion board feature easier for students to access. This was a learning experience for me and the student in my class where great at exploring the discussion features from their point of view. Students collaborated with each other as well as with me as to how we can avoid some of these challenges form future discussions.
After the digital and oral discussions about the vaccine wars we had an all class discussion about the differences between an oral and digital discussion. Students identified that digital discussions are great for giving time to process data and allow for time to process your thoughts. While the oral discussion they found more personal and allowed for a better flow of ideas among participants. Students were analyzing how they collaborated in different ways between the oral and digital conversations. In the article The Flipped Classroom: An Opportunity to Engage Millennial Students through Active Learning Strategies they talked about the increased benefits of collaboration when implementing at times a flipped classroom model. From the feedback I got from my students they seemed to think the opposite. They found that with the digital discussion it was impersonal, and they were just posting responses rather than having a true collaboration with their peers. However, with the traditional oral discussion they were more engaged and felt that even when challenging each other’s ideas, they were doing so in a more collaborative manner where ideas and conversation was building on itself in an organic manner. Overall, this was a good tool for incorporating methods of collaboration outside of the classroom, however students preferred to collaborate face to face oral when in class.
Description, What happened: During my last student teacher conference with students during their cell organelle project I asked students if they had any questions or suggestions about the class as a whole. This question was asked with the intent to give students power over their education and to help build community in the classroom. The idea was to start a safe dialogue where students can give suggestions or express concerns about the class. I want students to feel that they have a voice in the classroom and that I want to hear their opinions and feedback.
Feelings, What were you thinking and feeling: I was very excited to hear from students about how they think we could improve our class. I was a little disappointed when only a handful of students had any suggestions or questions. I know that more students than the ones who shared with me have great ideas as to how we can improve out classroom. I was hopeful that by asking students this question in a one on one setting would create a safe space for communication as well as give students an opportunity to have a voice in the classroom. I did address every suggestion that students gave and I think that for the students who did share they feel that they have more of a voice in the classroom.
Evaluation, What was good and bad about the experience: What was good about the experience was that I was able to use student feedback to improve assignments as well as class culture. I could tell from the students who did share that they have an ownership and a voice within the classroom. I was also very happy that all the suggestions were constructive, and students really did want to improve the class. What was bad was that only a small number of students shared their suggestions with me. I would like to find a way to continue to give students a voice and teach them how to advocate for their individual needs, as well as the needs of the class.
Analysis, What sense can you make of this situation: Overall I think that it is good to ask this question weather students have suggestions they would like to share or not. I have now opened the dialogue, so that when students think of things that they need to be successful they will feel welcome to come and have a conversation with me about it. I also intend to continue to ask this question during every student teacher conference, in the hope that students will continue to share their thought and ideas about how to make the classroom a better place. I also think that perhaps students would feel more comfortable giving suggestions if they were able to give them anonymously rather than in a conversation with me. I also think that I could make the question slightly less broad, so that students are thinking about a specific element of the class versus the class as a whole.
Action Plan, If it arose again what would you do: I will be continuing to ask students this question in an attempt to get more feedback and to give students ownership and a voice within the class. I would like to find a way for students to leave suggestions in a more private way. I am thinking of creating a google form where students can anonymously leave suggestions about the class. This is something that I could check weekly and would give students a way to have a voice if they do not feel comfortable talking about the topic with me directly. I am also going to make the question about what suggestions the students have more specific. For example, during my student teacher conferences this week I am going to ask students what suggestions they have for improving the classroom culture. This way students can think about a specific part of class, which will hopefully elicit more student responses.