After ten years of teaching English language arts at Southview High School and three years at McCord Junior High School, Alex is the first digital instruction specialist for Sylvania Schools. He moves from building to building helping teachers reach and engage their students through digital learning.
AP teachers, take notice! Rich digital support is here!
What is it?
Albert.io is a repository of test prep resources for AP, ACT, and more. Through it, students complete practice exercises aligned to those standardized tests and receive feedback on strengths and weaknesses. Albert.io has also begun including materials for regular class units that can support teachers’ digital instruction.
How can I use it?
The primary purpose of Albert.io is test preparation. The site will provide rich feedback for students and teachers, enabling teachers to make curricular decisions based on data-identified strengths and weaknesses. Students can even use it on their own to practice for their tests, even when a teacher is not actively using it in class.
Who’s using it?
AP teachers at Southview and Northview are using this resource.
Are you or someone you know using this? Notify us, and we’ll post your or their name here as a building expert! Email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out this video tutorial for Albert.io and/or use the support materials below.
Come on in to see learn the basics of Chromebooks and start to use your device like an expert.
Sure, it may seem a bit obvious, but do you know all there is to know about Chromebooks and how teachers and students use them in Sylvania Schools? Check out this visually-enhanced guide to explore everything from care and maintenance to keyboard shortcuts. The guide is designed in Google Slides, so for the best experience, open it fullscreen.
See how two teachers at McCord Junior High are using digital technology to connect their students to the world outside.
Each Chromebook in the classroom is a window. Teachers and students can use those windows to look into art galleries around the world, observe animals in the wild and in the zoo in real time, and even walk along the plaza outside the Taj Mahal. But, more importantly, those windows can connect us with each other. Technologies that take advantage of Internet connectivity have cropped up in recent years to become household names, with Skype and FaceTime leading the pack. These apps allow us to talk with each other without the separation of audio-only discussion. We can see each other, in pairs or in groups, and react to body language, facial expression, and more.
In Sylvania Schools, teachers are beginning to take advantage of this technology through Skype and Hangouts, Google’s video communication platform. Packaged with everything else in our Google accounts, Hangouts is easily accessible and simple to set up. What these programs are doing in our classrooms is impressive.
Take the example of Kate Strausbaugh, McCord GATE teacher, and her eighth grade class. Students had read Joelle Charbonneau’s dystopian novel The Testing, and Kate wanted them to connect with the literature as an individually created work on a more intimate level. So, she contacted Charbonneau and asked if the author would be willing to talk to her students about the creative process involved in writing a novel. Charbonneau, who enjoys meeting and talking with her young adults fans, readily agreed. All that was left was set up.
This is where Skype came in. Kate set up her account in Skype and requested to be friends with Charbonneau. They scheduled a time, and Kate arranged for all of her eighth grade students to gather in class for the discussion, meaning that some were excused from other classes. Kate needed to make sure everyone could see and hear each other, so she secured a webcam, microphone, and speakers to enable the Smartboard to feature Charbonneau. Students would see her on the Smartboard and she would see them as a group.
At the same time Kate and I were setting up and testing the connection, she sent a form to her students to solicit questions in advance. She received over one hundred questions, from “How are you today?” to “What was your hardest scene to write in The Testing?” to “If you could tell your younger self anything when you started writing, what would it be?” The class was set and ready.
On the day of the discussion, Kate called Charbonneau through Skype, just as simply as one would make a phone call. The author picked up, framed by a Christmas tree and decked out in red. The cheer of the scene was matched by her exuberant and genuine nature, which made each student smile. The rest of the class period was spent in comfortable and enlightening conversation as Charbonneau told the story of her development as an author and answered the students’ questions. Through that conversation, she explored the challenges she faced with early rejection, noting that she “got really good at it.” She made the students laugh when in describing her first novel she noted, “I wanted to make people cry, but the only thing that people would cry about was all the hours they wasted by reading this book.”
The activity succeeded beautifully, and in doing so, the technology disappeared. Students, teacher, and author soon forgot about the Internet-based technology connecting them and immersed themselves in the connection, an opportunity for students to explore literature in a manner rarely done in classrooms.
Just as rare was the success accomplished through Google Hangouts in Marla Pawlowicz’s sixth grade English classroom, also at McCord. One of Marla’s students, Brenden Behan, was staying home while undergoing chemotherapy, so he was looking at weeks of being separated from his class. Before leaving, he had done the work for a Great Americans research project and presentation. Unfortunately, his absence would prevent him from presenting the work, and he very much wanted to present his work.
Marla thought that a solution must exist to Brenden’s problem, so she asked for help with a distance connection. Just like Kate, she worked with me on gathering hardware necessary to turn her classroom desktop into a audio/video connection, and we tested the connection with Brenden in advance. The process was simple: Marla logged into Google Hangouts through her school account and invited Brenden to a hangout session through his account. Brenden accepted and the connection was made. He could see and hear us, and we could do the same. In fact, with the connecting computer being the Smartboard computer, Brenden’s image was larger than life on the big screen in front.
Two days later, that larger than life image greeted students in second period. Brenden’s peers were overjoyed to see their friend back “in” class; each one waved and said hello. After the happy greeting, the class got to work. Brenden shared his screen with Marla, which meant that the Smartboard displayed what he was seeing on his Chromebook at home. In that way, he was able to display his Google Slides presentation, advance through the slides, and speak his part. The students in the class watched the presentation in virtually the same way they would have had Brenden presented in person. At the end, they applauded with quite a bit more vigor than a standard presentation would have earned. Brenden’s pride was obvious.
And that may have been the end of the story, but Brenden had one more surprise in store. When asked whether he wanted to keep the connection open to participate in the class, he readily agreed. He was able to hang out for the rest of that period and he has continued to do so for most class periods since. Marla and Brenden’s peers have come to see Brenden’s distance connection as commonplace now, and they love that they miss their friend just a little bit less.
Two stories at McCord Junior High School, two successes for simple digital technology connecting students to others. As Marla notes, “This is truly an exceptional (and easy to use) educational tool that is easy to use in any classroom!”As these tools become more familiar and comfortable in our classrooms, they disappear and the windows they open connect our students to a world that has become increasingly smaller.
Come in and learn a bit about Google’s Education Training Center, where teachers learn tricks and best practices.
Google is pretty committed to education. After all, they give educators and students free access to a wide range of tools and unlimited storage. But, their support for schools does not stop there. Google for Education has established their Training Center, where teachers can complete units and lessons to learn digital instruction tricks and best practices. The center is structured in two basic sections: “Fundamentals” and “Advanced,” with each section featuring menus of lessons for easy browsing. Lessons will give web resources and video tutorials to explore topics, with self-check quizzes closing each. Topics range from basic understanding of Google apps up to advanced practices with data analysis, digital conferencing, and more. So, whether you’re a true novice or a teacher leader, you’ll find something to explore and learn. Check it out!
Check out how students are beginning their exploration of the new Google Sites in French!
Anyone who knows anything knows that a world language program does not simply acquaint its students with an unfamiliar language. The teachers of Spanish, German, French, and Chinese in Sylvania Schools take their students on virtual (and sometimes actual) explorations of world cultures, histories, and geographies. They help students feel what it’s like to roam the countryside of Castilla-Leon or visit the waterfall at Saut d’Eau. That dimension makes world language education truly rich. But, the ever-apparent fact that we live in Northwest Ohio, with limited opportunities to visit these faraway countrysides provides world language teachers with a recurring challenge. How can they bring their students to those distant regions of the world without actually going there?
Of course, technology has been providing answers to this question for generations, and recent developments in Internet technology have brought a variety of opportunities to world language teachers. From Google initiatives like StreetView Treks and Cardboard to simple video conferencing tools like Hangouts and Skype to interactive websites, new or improved tools exist to make the world a little smaller and acquaint Sylvania students with their cousins in distant lands.
Claudia Fischer, Northview French teacher, is using some of those simple tools to help her students explore the geography of French-speaking nations. Claudia has taken the newly-revamped Google Sites and guided her students through the creation of their own showcase websites for the island communities of Haiti, St. Martin, St. Barthelemy, and Guadeloupe. On the websites, students posted images, videos, and descriptions of geographical and cultural characteristics of their chosen island nation, but the sites provided expanded opportunities as well. Students used pages in their sites to demonstrate their grasp of vocabulary and reflexive verbs. Students received a grading rubric and explored a model example site produced by Claudia. Through in and out of class work, they developed the sites and shared them for fellow students to peer review.
Last year, Claudia’s students created paper brochures to explore their chosen island, but Claudia notes that “You can add so much more to show what you have learned than in a brochure.” The sites created by her students represent a small step in terms of web design, but they have jumped miles ahead of the paper brochure stage. Many of Claudia’s students had never built a website before, and even more had not yet experimented with the new Google Sites. Now, with this initial experience, students are ready to continue in multimedia web design, allowing them to explore their world in ways that paper never could offer.
Check this out to hear about Katherine Jensen, Northview math teacher, adminstering semester exams in Edcite for better AIR test prep.
PARCC and AIR tests have caused their due portion of stress and anxiety for all of us, but after years of adjustment, they’ve also led to some noticeable instructional changes in our classrooms. One such change, which Sylvania teachers are adjusting to more and more every day, is the implementation of digital tests and quizzes. Going digital allows students to become used to completing challenging work on a Chromebook. But, of course, that only really helps them prepare for AIR tests if the digital activities push past the traditional multiple-choice model of assessment. Assessments that include drag and drop items, graphing tools, sentence select interactions, and more are necessary to really prepare students for the tests. Google Forms doesn’t do the trick, and the rest of the free and premium digital landscape is pretty scant.
But, Katherine Jensen, math teacher at Northview High School, is figuring out how to solve that problem and give her students digital assessment experience. This past semester, Katherine developed her exams for her Algebra I and College Prep Math students through Edcite, the free digital assessment platform that offers nearly seventy different digital question types, many of which are explicitly aligned to AIR, PARCC, and Smarter Balanced state tests. She used three to four different question types per exam to give her students a variety of interaction with math tasks. So, this year, instead of bubbling in Scantron sheets, students were clicking mice. Instead of drawing with pencil on graph paper, they were plotting points and dragging lines on digital coordinate planes. The impact ranged from null to huge.
On the null end, Katherine did not notice any appreciable difference in grade results. Students were demonstrating the same sorts of mastery they demonstrated on paper exams. In the middling range, Katherine was grateful to avoid fussing with Scantrons, both in organization and grading. She and her students received instant feedback on structured response items, and Katherine also had instant access to detailed and user friendly grade reports. The tests were also much simpler to modify in the case of errors or improvements; changes are instantly available to students with no worries about returning to the photocopier or announcing changes. On the huge end, students were interacting with the same digital tools they will use when facing their AIR tests in March and April, but they weren’t doing it in some detached, artificial test preparation environment. They were doing it in the course of regular instruction, a seamless approach to state test prep.
Katherine is excited to continue with digital assessments through Edcite, and she’s already developing more. While she admits that the learning curve for Edcite content development may seem steep, once question types are learned, creation become simple. She’s interested in learning from some minor problems with the exam (like students using the x for multiplication instead of the x for variables in the equation editor) and adding more writing activities. Whatever course her work may take, one thing’s for sure. Her students will walk into a testing room better prepared to succeed than many of their peers around the state.
Check out the AIR and ACT resources developed by the district for the 2017 testing cycle.
Click on the images below to access the independent websites developed to support teachers in preparing their students for the AIR and ACT tests in 2017. These resources were developed by and for secondary teachers and explored at the January 26th late start resource workshops.
Our new digital playground makes student video easier than ever before. Check out how two Northview teachers are doing it!
This post is rich with links for extra help and examples. Check ‘em out!
If you want your students to explore a topic through research, fully examining the issue from a number of perspectives and addressing diverse questions, you assign a research report, right? Or maybe, a presentation? Sure, those approaches are straightforward and familiar. They’ve also become a bit outdated. The research report, as traditionally assigned, lacks multimedia components. The presentation, as traditionally executed, lacks audience engagement. Neither takes advantage of the tools available to students in our current technological landscape.
That’s why Health teacher Tracy Donnelly and Zoology teacher Kristen Ireland, both teaching at Northview High School, have opted out of the traditional approach and opted into student video production. Their students have presented research on topics within the curricula through short video documentaries that make use of interviews, narration, titles and images, clipped YouTube content, dramatic re-enactments, and more to mimic a television documentary style. That style has been developed and refined over generations, but the tools at the students’ disposal are pretty new. Students use WeVideo, a free, web-based video editor, to assemble and arrange content produced by themselves and/or captured from the Internet. They use their smartphones to stage and record interviews and dramatizations. They capture images in simple manners and rip YouTube content with more sophisticated approaches. They use WeVideo tools to create captions, titles, and more.
The result? Let’s look at Tracy Donnelly’s health class first. Here, students gather into groups to explore a chosen topic in the curriculum, such as nutrition or bullying. They conduct research to develop a written script. The script then leads them in the creation and cultivation of video content (as well as a formal research paper that Tracy requires). Some students come to the task with more experience and lead the group in the video execution; others learn fast from their guidance. All work on their smartphones and Chromebooks, discussing the content and the video development as they go. The result? Some videos are whimsical and inject their topic with a dose of humor. Many, such as this one, feature students exploring the issue in the context of their own school community. Others go for serious inspection of emotional issues. Often, students mix fact-bearing title images with dramatizations of those facts. The execution is varied, but each video showcases the play of students in a medium that they enjoy playing with.
The same goes for Kristen Ireland’s students in Zoology. This year, Kristen assigned a video project in lieu of a final exam. Make no mistake, the assignment was rigorous, but like Tracy’s Health project, students explore video development as their means of expression. Through documentaries on octopi, red scorpions, sea anemones, and more, students record voice-over narration, create titles, edit video, and insert images to answer the research questions asked in the assignment. Each video is an effort to address each requirement of the grading rubric and demonstrate the ability to engage in scientific discourse on animals.
Students have been recording videos to satisfy class project requirements since video cameras became inexpensive enough for schools to buy. So, in a sense, nothing is new here. And, when examining these videos, you may see that students are a bit rough in their video production skills. But step back a check this out in perspective. Now, each student has access to video camera technology at virtually every moment, and all of the footage from that equipment is incredibly portable and flexible. Now, a library of unimaginable hours of video content lie at students fingertips, ready for cutting and integration. Now, cloud technology enables portable collaboration and presentation. None of those current qualities was true even five years ago in our schools. As teachers begin to understand these facts and encourage their students to play with the possibilities, new media of expression will emerge to complement traditional approaches to assessment. As students increasingly face these challenges, their ability to communicate with the semantics and syntax of video will blossom. It’s a colorful, dynamic world of sound and vision. And it’s just ahead.