Teacher Showcase: Interactive Video Instruction with Anna Drake-Kotz

Leave 20th century TV behind with Anna Drake-Kotz and Edpuzzle interactive video instruction!

We may have grown up on television, but our students are growing up on YouTube. And while that may seem a difference with little significance, it’s not. The video content on YouTube is more diverse, portable, and functional than television broadcast. It often comes in short chunks, and those chunks serve a specific user purpose. Search and recommendations serve content based on viewer characteristics much more responsively than television. YouTube is truly television for a different age, and as we grew up expecting audio-visual stimulation in our world, our student expect that and so much more.

Enter Arbor Hills teacher Anna Drake-Kotz. Anna teaches sixth grade science, and she has been a strong user and advocate of interactive video instruction through the platform of Edpuzzle. You may have attended her professional development session in October of 2016, and if you did, you’ll be familiar with the lesson she’s running on this late start Wednesday in December. On this day, Anna’s students are continuing their study of matter, with particular attention to pure substances, mixtures, and their qualities. But, rather than lecturing or reading from a textbook, the students are learning the concepts through interactive videos Anna has created in Edpuzzle.

Anna’s sixth grade learning targets

Here’s how it goes: Anna finds instructional video content that she likes. Today, she is using short videos from Crash Course Kids. She uploads those videos to Edpuzzle, which enables her to create questions embedded in the video themselves. Then, she shares those videos with her students through Google Classroom. The students log in and watch the video. At planned points of the video, the playback stops and Anna’s question appears. The student must answer before moving on. Results from these quiz questions flow directly to Anna’s teacher dashboard in Edpuzzle, where she can see results, reset videos for students, and plan for further instruction.

EdPuzzle Dash.png
The Edpuzzle dashboard here shows assigned videos and their progress in completion by students.

But why do this instead of a traditional lecture and discussion? After all, those traditional approaches, with the right teacher, can be dynamic, engaging performances that capture students’ attention. But, the approach Anna is developing here will not only meet her students in a learning mode with which they feel comfortable, but will also fuel further instructional change. Anna could assign the videos for homework to create a flipped classroom approach. Instead of assigning students traditional text reading at home, an Edpuzzle video could be assigned. Students could then report to class ready to explore the concepts actively, and Anna could use the results of the Edpuzzle quizzes to modify her instruction. Moving direct instruction to this mode offers other benefits as well. Absent or homebound students would not miss out on direct instruction. Also, all students are required to engage themselves with active thinking during the instruction. Interactive quizzes and the Internet technology that serves them provide such clear and flexible benefits that they should be considered vital tools in any modern teacher’s tool box.

Especially when the resource is so simple to use for both the teacher and the students. Edpuzzle integrates with Google Classroom, so classes can be created through importing from Classroom and videos can be posted directly back to the Classroom. Teachers can search for publicly shared videos on Edpuzzle, curating material rather than creating it. Videos can be created through sourcing YouTube content, which is vast and valuable. Teachers can customize content as well, even including their own voice over (as Anna once did to clarify one of the video’s discussions of states of matter, a topic net broached until next chapter).

Anna guides her students through the simple Edpuzzle login process.

Today, the students are seeing the benefits. As they complete three interactive videos of approximately three minutes each, they work at their own pace, sometimes disappearing silently into the work, at other times collaborating with peers. All the while, Anna floats around the room, helping students as needed and monitoring completion. The dashboard fills the Smartboard in the front of the classroom, so Anna can monitor progress at a glance. This instruction finishes quickly, which is perfect for the shortened period today, but it leaves students ready for the applied lab practice with chemical reactions scheduled for next week.

The work Anna is doing here today may seem simple, but its impact is huge. Developing interactive video content like this gives students more control over resources for learning while maintaining Anna’s guidance. In the YouTube age, it just makes sense.

Linked Resources

Anna’s PD Session Page from the Sylvania October Inservice


Edpuzzle YouTube Channel

Also, search for Anna’s videos on Edpuzzle

Teacher Showcase: Achieve-Driven Science with Sibert, Root, and Nedrow

Read about how Kaitlin Sibert, Connie Root, and Lynn Nedrow brough differentiated literacy into their science classrooms for leaf identification and deep sea exploration!

As Sylvania students and teachers coasted into the last week of school before spring break, you could almost hear the collective sigh of relief gathering for release. But, as plans for spending that break drowned out thoughts of anything else from almost everyone, McCord’s Kaitlin Sibert and Connie Root and Timberstone’s Lynn Nedrow were thinking about the most creative ways to merge science, technology, and literacy. The result? Two of the best examples of Achieve3000-based lessons seen this year.

Kaitlin, having modeled authentic Achieve lesson planning before, was perusing its articles for inspiration when she came across “What’s that Tree? A New Way to See,” a report on Columbia University’s LeafSnap, an app that identifies tree species by image. Kaitlin’s sixth grade science students were learning binomial classification at the time, so she discussed the article with fellow sixth grade teacher Connie Root and developed a tech-enhanced lesson that focused on science standards with embedded literacy practice.

Kaitlin Sibert’s students read the Achieve3000 article and answer questions on a separate worksheet.

And it worked beautifully. Students were told in advance to bring their iPhones or iPads to class (Sorry, Google fans; the app is not available for Android) and Kaitlin and Connie instructed them to begin the download first thing. While the download progressed, students read the article individually and answered two assessment questions on an accompanying paper worksheet. Afterward, students were organized by groups (with at least one member successfully downloading LeafSnap) and set loose on stations set up around the room. Each station provided a sample leaf on a white piece of paper, ready for photographing. Students snapped the picture through LeafSnap, which provided three possible trees for identification. The students discussed the possibilities as a group and defended their choice on which one it actually was.

Kaitlin Sibert’s students read the Achieve3000 article and answer questions on a separate worksheet.

So what did the students think? “They loved it. They absolutely loved it,” said Connie. “They wanted to do it more the next day.” Connie noted some challenges she and Kaitlin experienced with the lesson (No Android option; dead leaves as specimens due to the season), but she was eager to try it again, regardless. Most importantly, she told the story of one student who then downloaded a bird identification app that performed a comparable task. “And we’re working with all the domains, so he was extending what we were doing,” Connie notes. In her mind and Kaitlin’s the lesson was a simple success, and McCord Principal Amanda Ogren agreed. After watching the lesson in action, Amanda wrote in her weekly newsletter that the lesson was “the true definition of infusing technology and differentiation!”

More student collaborate on leaf identification.

But that magic was not just happening at McCord. Lynn Nedrow was accomplishing the same exemplary teaching in her seventh grade science class at Timberstone. Lynn’s students were studying biomes, and she was able to use Achieve’s article “A Strange World, Right Here on Earth” to develop a lesson that included group collaboration, individual reading differentiation, independent research, and informal presentation.

Lynn Nedrow’s students collaborate.

The Achieve article explores biomes in the deep seas and the data released from scientists that had conducted a ten-year census of the life found there. In reading the article, Lynn saw an opportunity to reinforce her students’ understanding of the general concept of a biome as well as the characteristics of specific biomes. It was an opportunity that led to students filling their last class period before break with discussion and poster-making.

For the lesson, students gathered into five groups, but began by reading the article individually. Then, they answered one question regarding the science concepts, but each group received a different question, such as group 5’s question: “What are the characteristics of a saltwater (marine) biome?” Students collaborated on an answer to this question on the accompanying paper worksheet. The group split into individuals again for the next task, Internet research, where they answered that question again with support from a reliable online source. Next, as a group, students compiled their new answers and supporting citations on a single poster to be displayed throughout Lynn’s classroom. The final result was a gallery of information that displayed exhaustive and well-researched answered to the biome questions.

A student searches for extra information to add to the Achieve information.

Lynn was doing quite a lot with this lesson in integrating science standards, technology, and literacy, but one of the most interesting literacy techniques she wove into the lesson was stretch. Stretch happens when a student reads a text at their proficiency level, but then moves onto a text exploring the same subject at a higher level. Once grounded in the content at their proficiency level, they should be better able to read the text at a higher level. The students that read about biomes at a fourth grade level, for instance, would be better prepared for reading about biomes from an Internet source written at a ninth grade level. Lynn provided students with that support so they could not only master the science concepts, but master more challenging reading material presenting those concepts as well.

Like Kaitlin and Connie, Lynn felt that the lesson went well. Already having adopted Achieve before the biome lesson, she feels more comfortable than the average teacher in using it, and her lesson’s ability to use the differentiation resource in an engaging and effective instruction, not merely as a break from real work, showed that. All three teachers continue to lead an ever-growing core of teachers in Sylvania Schools that creatively own differentiated, standards-based instruction with innovative technological resources. And from watching them teach these masterful lessons, you’d think there was nothing to it!

Lynn’s students report on their research through a poster display.

Teacher Showcase: Finding the Science in Achieve3000 with Kaitlin Sibert

See how Kaitlin Sibert and Connie Root used Achieve3000 to create an engaging lesson in scientific inquiry!

As Achieve3000 has spread across our district, students and teachers have given mixed feedback. At the outset, teachers loved the idea of differentiated reading materials. Now, some are unsure about how interesting the resource is, and yes, some students are groaning a bit when they are told that they’re working with Achieve3000. But, not in Kaitlin Sibert’s sixth grade science class at McCord. In room 34, decked out with colorful rubber ducks, engaging science posters, and painted ceiling tiles, students are talking over their Chromebooks to each other, raising their hands as presentation audience members, writing copiously on paper, and laughing. So what’s different here?

Let’s rewind to find out. Kaitlin works closely to co-plan with fellow sixth grade science teacher Connie Root, and both teachers hesitated before jumping into Achieve. They did not want to sit their students in front of Chromebooks, silently plugging through the formula of steps that the service offers. This is certainly possible, and Kaitlin and Connie could have done this to satisfy the monthly Achieve requirement, but they did not feel comfortable with it. Instead, they developed a plan to use Achieve to support the science standards they’re teaching on their own terms, not on Achieve’s.

Sibert Class 4
Typically silent Achieve3000 work with no collaboration

Here’s how. They chose four articles that featured scientific studies and scheduled them for two days. On the first day, students would be grouped by threes or fours and assigned an article. Each group member would read the article by himself or herself, and at a differentiated reading level, of course. Then, without proceeding to the next Achieve step, students would start talking with their group members. The discussion would be framed by a paper worksheet that listed steps of scientific inquiry, from question and hypothesis to conclusion and sharing. The group members would discuss how the scientists in the article followed each step of the scientific method. In some articles, this was pretty obvious. In other articles, the students had to creatively infer how the scientists followed each step. Each student wrote notes in the worksheet for each step. On the second day, students would give informal presentations to share their information with the rest of the class. Since each article was read by two groups, the presentations were managed by both groups, and the teacher would bounce question and answer off both.

Sibert Class 1
Kaitlin’s students raising hands during concept review.

The soundness of this plan was obvious in Kaitlin’s class during second period, the first run. Students grabbed Chromebooks, logged into Achieve, accepted their worksheets, and received instructions quickly and easily. Kaitlin managed a review of the process of scientific inquiry, passing out “Caught Beeing Good!” slips to students with answers. Primed with the review, students dove into their articles, and the room silenced for about eight minutes. But, with a cue from Kaitlin, that silence ended as the groups joined to discuss the scientific study in the article and complete the worksheet. The first item, “Identify the question. Think about the purpose of the study,” came quickly to the groups, giving them valuable momentum to tackle the hypothesis question. Quickly, the class took on the character of authentic, collaborative learning.

Sibert Class 3
A student asks Kaitlin for help.

Students were talking to each other comfortably, their energies flowing into answers on the page. Disagreements arose and were settled in group, or with help from Kaitlin. Students talked around their Chromebooks, but then referred back to the information on the screen. More often than not, students would nudge themselves closer together to point to the same screen in discussion over the article’s information. On the pages, words built into phrases that built into sentences. Denise Diguglielmo, Kaitlin’s para for the period, noted how much more writing the students were producing than usual. Students tried answers, checked them with Kaitlin at times, and at times were sent back to the group to try again. Some, like Braden, could be seen walking again to Kaitlin. “This is better. This is better. Fifth time’s the charm!” The entire class was a mass of sixth grade energy on task and happy about it. The time flew.

Sibert Class 3
Students collaborating on understanding the science in the article

On leaving for the day, student Gavin observed how much better an approach to Achieve this lesson was. As he said, “Instead of having to answer all these questions, you get to take stuff from the article and put it into your own words, instead of what the computer wants you to put in.”

The next day, Kaitlin asked student groups to approach the front and answer her questions about the material on the worksheet. One group would answer and Kaitlin would turn to the next for agreement or rebuttal. Both were heard. The audience members heard about the studies from articles they had not read, and many were intrigued by the idea of experiments in weightlessness or the life cycle of cicadas. They joined the discussion. Kaitlin was standing by to make sure that each point was brought back to the core concept: scientific inquiry.

Over these two days, Kaitlin and Connie demonstrated the creative risk-taking that leads to brilliant and engaging lessons, and their students felt it. A resource like Achieve3000 is truly magic. The opportunity to level common readings for every student, allowing them to join a conversation without being left behind, is unprecedented. Its additional resources are impressive as well. But for all that, the resource is still just a piece of software. It takes the added magic of a teacher to unlock its power and make it a benefit to students. Kaitlin and Connie did that, and for two periods, every student could tackle both literacy and science tailored to their level and supported by peers.

. . . and that deserves a McCord clap. One, two, three . . . CLAP!

TS Sequence Slide-Sibert

Explore these links and information for more!

Scan of Worksheet with Student Example

List of Articles Used

  • “Burning Wood: Bad for the Planet?”
  • “Not to Bug You . . .”
  • “Foxes, Fires, and Cats–Oh My!”
  • “A Year on the ISS”

SDL Article on Achieve3000 Instructional Strategies