Saturday, April 19, 2014

Make, Invent, Play & Earn

In the spirit of the maker movement and VitaLearn's Dynamic Landscape Conference theme Do, Make, & Create, we thought we might build a little experiment involving collaborative, online fun!

Linda McSweeney, VSLA president elect, and school librarian in Stowe, created a Goodreads group around the reading of Invent to Learn, Gary Stager's book.  Gary Stager (@garystager)
and Joyce Valenza (@joycevalenza) are keynoting Dynamic Landscapes this year.

 Check it out:  (description located under announcement for DL)

When we got wind of this, Audrey and I at TIIE thought it would be an interesting experiment to see if anyone participating in this book group might actually want to Make/Do/Create based on the content and themes of the book, in addition to the online discussion.  If so, participants in the book club could not only discuss the book on Goodreads, they could use apps and digital tools to build artifacts and share their learning in multi-modal ways.  And to support and encourage this creative endeavor, why not recognize the learning and collaborating with a digital badge?

We contacted Linda, who was willing to play, so we created a quick DL Reader 2014 badge, to be earned by participating in the:

Dynamic Landscapes Book Club

We built it using WordPress and the BadgeOS plugins.  The goal was to align with the Goodreads book club, and to build in some interactive, social, and gamified elements to see if we could engage with our colleagues prior to attending Dynamic Landscapes. 
Here is the announcement for the badge option in the Goodreads group which currently has 13 members:

In the spirit of taking on Chicago ( and offering a new entry in our own Vermont-grown expanded informal learning options, credentialed via badges, we thought we'd give this a try and see what happens.  The badge, which when earned is portable via Credly, will live on earners' web presence of choice as a "badge" of honor.  I plan to present the results of this experiment on Friday at Dynamic Landscapes during the No Spectators Allowed! session.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Seamless Weaving of Instruction and Assessment

One way I know for sure an app has potential to transform classroom practice is when, with minimal introduction and little prep time, a whole team of teachers adopts it and launches its use.  After a short demonstration of the Nearpod app, all teachers on the 6th Grade Team at Peoples Academy in Morrisville gave it a whirl in each of the content areas, then shared the experience at a faculty meeting; from introduction to application and sharing, all in the span of a few short weeks.

Nearpod allows teachers to shoot out presentations - think Powerpoints made interactive - to their students' iPads.  Content slides can be interspersed with embedded polls, quizzes, and drawing tools for in-the-moment formative assessment. 

Yes, Nearpod turns a stand-and-deliver presentation into an interactive experience, with feedback tools embedded right in the middle of the presentation, viewed and responded to by each student via his or her iPad. 

Teachers see the results in real-time, both in list form and graphically.

The kicker for me is the ability for poll or quiz results or sketches to be shared back to the students in real-time to encourage discussion, clarify misconceptions or elaborate upon a point of interest.  (See Eric Mazur's work at Harvard on student response systems, turn & talk, and peer teaching)

As these teachers quickly realized, Nearpod allows for embedded formative feedback seamlessly woven into instruction. Students interact. Teachers make thinking visible and adjust instruction based on immediate feedback!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Informational text and current events customized to readers' needs

One-size-fits-all has no place in our classrooms, given the ready access we have to digital tools that support differentiation, which is why we welcome any resource built to allow its users control of content based on individual needs and preferences.  

Newsela provides its users with current news articles, each of which is written on multiple levels of text complexity.  Readers select the level best suited to their reading abilities; teachers have access to the article content written on a range of lexile scores to help them differentiate content delivery and instruction.  Newsela declares, "Give your students a new way to climb the staircase of nonfiction reading comprehension, from fourth grade to college-ready."

 InstaGrok is a research tool with search results displayed as a mind map where the "difficulty" level of returned hits is adjustable by the user.  The search results mindmaps of multimedia and text-based resources are customizable and can be shared. Check out this example of InstaGrok being used in an English classroom.


Finally, remember you can drive a Google Search to return hits based on a range of reading levels.  Really!

Want to find more current news resources?  Check out this post from the Learning Never Stops blog, 9 Sources of News for Kids That You May Not Know About

And, as an added bonus for making it this far, a way to extend the news into international waters:

Click on a colored pin to find a link to an online newspaper in that location.

Written in a different language? No problem. Simply select English (or any other language listed) for a Google Translated page.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Augmented Reality - Really?  
Attempting to answer the perennial "bang for the buck" question.

What is it?  A Google Image search's response:

The Horizon Report (not to be confused with the Minority Report)
describes Augmented Reality as the layering of information over a 3D space and speaks to its potential as a learning tool based on its "ability to respond to user input, which confers significant potential for learning and assessment; with it, learners can construct new understanding based on interactions with virtual objects that bring underlying data to life."

and declares...
It has gone from a                                   to...

a tool with tremendous potential

So, how do students construct new understandings in the classroom with augmented reality? 

Ashlie Smith @smithsciencegms blogs about how she used augmented reality to introduce laboratory safety features and equipment.   Erin Klein provides examples of augmenting math homework, supporting literacy instruction, and augmenting Open House bulletin boards in her post  Tons of Classroom Examples Using Augmented Reality with @Aurasma: A Complete How-to Guide. And Mary Howard at Smarticles describes a number of applications to include a Famous Persons Scavenger Hunt activity augmented by video speech bubbles providing clues.  The glue that ties all of these integrated classroom experiences together?  Engagement.

While the Horizon Report sees full adoption of augmented reality not happening for another 4 to 5 years, these intrepid teachers are making the magic happen in the classrooms today. From the report's section titled Relevance for Teaching and Learning:  "Augmented reality has strong potential to provide powerful contextual, in situ learning experiences and serendipitous exploration as well as the discovery of the connected nature of information in the real world."  

Seeing these examples of AR in the classroom, I couldn't help but be intrigued by how these students are experiencing worlds within worlds, the subtexts lurking in the most ordinary places. Even better, they can be the authors of these multiple layers of meaning.  And, frankly its novelty factor simply can't be beat.  

If you are interested in further exploration, I suggest you carve out some time to visit: