Friday, August 29, 2014

Nine Pattern Math Task Cards

Now that I've gotten the hang of creating activity task cards (a huge thank you to my good friend Kristen Wideen),  I've been working on a few that I hope to use with my grade one students this year.  Many of these tasks are not new for me, but the use of these task cards are.  If you think these will be of benefit for you and your students please feel free to download them.   You can find them all here .

Also these task cards can also be modified up for slightly older students but turning them into growing (or shrinking) patterns instead of repeating ones.

Keep checking back. I have created more pattern math task cards since this post was published.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Animal Research Task Cards

I have created some animal research task cards as part of my iTunes U course entitled  Animal Research in a Primary Classroom.  If you are interested in using them with your students feel free to download them here. If you are curious about the course, which is not yet searchable in the iTunes store,  contact me directly for more information.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

My Struggles with "Bump It Up Walls" and "Rubric" Assessment.

I'm a big advocate for personalized learning.  Huge actually which is why I am constantly looking for ways to put students in control of their learning.  When I talk about personalized learning  I don't just mean in the way my students learn but also in the way I assess my students learning.   Yes, they have required "skills" or "content" that they are expect to learn in the year that I have them but how I assess each student is personalized too.  This leads to two common assessment tools that I struggle with "bump it up walls" and "rubric" assessment.

I've had many conversations about "bump it up walls".  To be clear to me a "bump it up" wall is a collection of work samples that show forward progression. Take for example with grade one writing - the first sample may be a simple drawing, the second a drawing with some initial consonant sounds, the third the addition of  more words to accompany the drawing, the next  some sentences, followed by  more detailed sentences, paragraphs etc.  You get the idea - writing samples along a continuum that help a child see where they can go next with their writing.  It's a great way for children to identify where they are writing and where they can head to next. I get that and I love that about "bump it up" walls. Where I struggle with these walls is that I often wonder if they limit  student progress to the way that the wall demonstrates.  As much as we'd all like learning how to write to be a sequential skill is it really?  Does this sequential "bump it up" wall hinder the child from adding more detail, or building stronger character development, or adding voice to his or her writing?  While these items can be part of a "bump it up wall" where would they fit in?  Most things we learn at school are not linear in nature but by creating a "bump it up wall" we are making the learning linear. As much as they help some students are "bump it up" walls hindering others?

The other thing I struggle with is "rubric" assessment.  In fact they drive me crazy!  Now to be clear, I highly value the various criteria that are within a rubric but I struggle with the box format of one. Far too often when I am looking at students work it falls into more than one box.  What I much prefer is a specific list of criteria and I highlight each criterion individually, outside of the box.  If I need a four point rating scale then I rate each separate criterion on its own and so each student sees exactly where they are successful and where they need a bit more help. Like with bump it up walls students gain skills a different rates and it drives me crazy when we assume they will gain specific skills in a specific order. To me that's what the neat  box format rubric tries to show.

What common assessment tools are you struggling with?

Adventures in the Silicon Valley

In my last blog post I wrote a summary of what took place at the Google Teacher Academy (GTA) in Mountain View California.  While the main purpose of this trip to California was to attend GTA, I had an equally great time running around and connecting with many other tech companies in the Silicon Valley.

If you've read this blog for any period of time you know that I often go out of my way to meet people I've connected with on line in face to face opportunities.  That still stands true today.  So when I knew I would be heading to the Silicon Valley for GTA I knew I had to make appointments to meet some app developers in person.

I was fortunate to spend face to face time with the great people from Kodable, EdPuzzle, Duck Duck Moose, Tangible Play, Tynker, Play-i, Remind, and Motion Math.  What I loved best is that each company I met with valued my opinion as an educator and truly wanted to make their products better for teachers and students.  I loved the questions I was asked and the product samples I was shown.  I had no issues saying what was on my mind positive or not so positive because I strongly believe if I want products that will work well for MY students (and of course yours too), then I need to speak up.

For a couple of the companies I loved being a part of their app development process too.  In one instance I was being shown an app in development. I had a few questions and comments to add.  One of my comments sparked some interest and  I was immediately pulled into a brainstorming session  on their giant white board. What a total high! In fact my input directly changed a small part of the app. How cool is that!

I loved the spaces they all work in too.  It makes me believe even more strongly about having flexible learning spaces for my students. I saw a ton of team work as well which again holds well for the way my students learn.  I have no issue with them working together - isn't twenty five teachers better than one?

The one thing I did notice is that ed tech is a young person industry. In most, if not all of my visits , I was the oldest person in the room. Thankfully even though I am older than most in the ed tech industry my enthusiasm for learning and for life helped me at the very least be on par with their youthful energy.

If you aren't familiar with any of the above mentioned products and you're looking to learn a little bit more, please don't hesitate to ask.  They are all great people doing great things for students.

Now I need to figure out how I can get back there.  It was so great being involved.

Oh and if you're wondering I did visit the Apple campus too and even managed to bring home some souvenirs. :-)

Friday, August 8, 2014

Google Teacher Academy

A google sign, one of many around the Google campus.
A few months back I had the pleasure of presenting at the GAFE Summit in West Vancouver.  I've always been curious about these summits as I like using Google products to collaborate and learn with others from around the world.  While at the summit I was talking with some of the crew and they mentioned that Google was taking applications for its teacher academy and suggested that I apply. Being from British Columbia (with some of the tightest privacy laws in North America) and a teacher of grade one students, I wasn't sure if this was really something I should be a part of.  Plus I teach in a 1:1 iPad classroom, and I've never touched a chrome book.  In addition my school district runs from most things Google.  But I love to learn and connect with inspiring educators so I applied.

The application process consisted of a written portion and a short one minute video.  If you're interested here's mine.

To my surprise my application was accepted.  

At first I was invited into  G+ community and things were buzzing.  It was exciting to get to know some of my cohort.  I was thankful I already knew a few of the family from my on line PLN and even more thankful that my good friend Cheryl Steighner was also accepted into the program.    I was also happy to see that Mary Berelson was a K/1 teacher and Roland was a grade two teacher.  In addition I found out that there would be six other Canadians, including Bryson Norrish, from Vancouver.

Android Kit Kat

At ISTE in Atlanta many of the group was there. Because of my nutty schedule I wasn't able to meet everyone during their arranged meeting times but I did get a chance to meet a few at some of the functions I was at. That helped a lot too, making it less of an unknown when I arrived at the Googleplex.

A cute Google Android display inside the main building.

Fast forward to last week, and I arrived in the Silicon Valley.  Having just been in California the week earlier I decided to extend my visit by arriving early, and leaving a few days after the academy.  I was really glad I did, and there will be another blog post about my adventures in the Silicon Valley. I sure loved it there.  But I digress.

Tuesday night fellow GTA MTV14 (that's the Google cohort we are a part of) Caren MacConnell arranged a get together.  Many of us attended and it was great to get to know some of the family a little bit better.  

Wednesday morning I arrived with my awesome roommate Lisa DeLapo in Darren Massa's mini van.  Wow! Darren was the most generous driving host and even entertained us with Frozen and the Lego movie snippets. :-)  Many of us were standing outside the building. I'm certain many were as nervous as I was.  Just after 8 am the doors opened and we were warmly welcomed with a delicious Google breakfast.  Like while in San Diego at the Apple Institute food was never lacking at Google. Heck there were mini kitchens around every corner just in case you needed a snack (or six) between meals.

A Google Chrome plant. :-)
I quickly found out that I was in the green crew. I sat at a table near the front and was joined by others.  Our first task was a team building one using raw spaghetti and marshmallows to create a tower.  We were moving along really well until our base had some issues. It was a good team building though and it was here that I met another Canadian, Sandra Chow from Ontario.

We learned a bit more about the academy and what was in store for us, and saw some demo slams. We talked about moonshot thinking and in small groups we talked about ways we could solve various problems using different google tools..    Then we were then separated into our groups for our first session with our lead learners - fellow Google Certified Teachers.

Android Donut  
My first session was with Lisa Highfill where I learned about Hyper Docs.   This made me smile as only just a week earlier I was learning how to use Keynote to create hyperlinked presentations.  While not the same, Hyper Docs is something I'd love my students (more likely with their big buddies) to create to show/share learning and teach others.  It could even be something we do collaboratively with a class some where else in the world. (Yes, my brain things big!) If you know me at all I'm all about my young learners creating content vs me curating for them. It was fun to explore what Lisa and curated for us and I appreciate that she added a grade one example to the mix.  To get to our session we walked through the building and saw the Googlers busy at work.  It was cool to see their working environment.

Android Cupcake
Then we met as a group again and tried to identify our own problems. We then met in groups to discuss possible solutions to our problems.  

Next was lunch. The group was split into two groups (we were too big to take over one cafeteria) and off we went to one of the many Google cafeterias on campus.  Google ensures that their employees have all their needs meet - food, medical access, dry cleaning, car maintenance etc. Since we were part of the campus for two days we enjoyed the food perk too.

A quick rest after lunch on the Google Campus.
After lunch we heard from three of our cohort members Michelle Triemstra, Jimmy Juianio and Michelle Armstrong. All nine cohort presentations were a highlight for me.

We then had had two more sessions with lead learners.  I had one with  entitled YouTube MTV Video Teaching Awards (VTAs) led by lead learner Wendy Gorton where I learned a ton about YouTube and all the annotating you can do with it.  Jimmy Julianio and I worked closely together and created our video nomination.  Surprisingly we didn't win either but I think we both learned a ton in the process.

Android Honeycomb
My next session was with Cat Flippen, Thinking Inside the Sphere. Here we had some good discussions about how to help others transform their teaching.

We then met up as a group again and learned from three more of our cohort members Lisa DeLapo, Allison Mollica, and Dan Bennett. As I mentioned above I love learning from my cohort members. It's great to peek into their world.

Android Jelly Bean
Next up was the leadership portion of the day.  We covered it in a pretty cool way by playing a leadership version of Minute to Win It.  While I was not chosen to try one of the tasks, I loved watching some of my cohorts be challenged in unique ways. :-)  Of course there was a leadership component too.  Such a fun way to learn, and bust a gut giggling in the process.

Then we learned a bit more about the google community before it was time for our pin/certificate ceremony.  It was perfect timing because this was what my chrome book (which they lent all of us to use for the day) looked like.  It was a long full day of learning.

My Chromebook screen after a long day of learning.
The ceremony was quick and efficient and we each received our ceremonial handshakes, certificate, and pin. We were now officially Google Certified Teachers.

Me with my certificate and pin.
We then celebrated in style with a great meal and more conversation.  Below is a picture of the seven Canadians part of this cohort.  There were two from British Columbia, two from Alberta, and three from Ontario.  While we may have been small in numbers we represented Canada very well.
Team Canada: Jeff, Kylie, Me, Michelle, Roland, Bryson, and Sandra
After dinner many of us explore the Google Campus a bit more. After all it's not every day you're on the Google complex.

Trying out one of a zillion Google bikes on campus.
Me at the famous Google location pin.
A whole bunch the cohort at the Google location pin.
The next day we returned for more learning but first things first our cohort picture. 

 GTA MTV14 photo by Danny Silva
(Bonus points if you can find me.)
We then returned to do this cool table challenge called the Amazing Google Race.  As a team we did tasks, received clues, and did other tasks.  Such fun and I loved the teamwork in action.  While my team didn't win (again) we had a lot of fun in the process.

Next up was our third session of cohort presentations this time by  Susan Herder, Tim O'Connor, and Sandra Chow. Following these presentations we headed to our final two small group workshops.  

Running from the Google Dinosaur.  They like to feed it flamingos.

My first session was called Are You and Iron Chief with John Corippo and Jr Ginex-Orinion . Here we had a task to do, which included a special ingredient. It was a great way to explore Google Presentation while under a time pressure.  I was impressed with what everyone was able to create.

My final small group session was Field Trip: All Aboard the Magic Google Bus with David Theriault and Cory Pavicich.  We played with some pretty cool technology called NFC tags. We searched for these chips, read the clues, and took images to match the clues.  We then all shared our  favourite images.

Android Gingerbread

After our morning break we took a look at our action plans again and how we can be agents for change.  I love this part as someone who is often pushing boundaries I love that Google supports innovation for positive change.  We then had another wonderful lunch.

In the afternoon we had a mini ed camp.  I learned with some other k-2 educators and then learned some tricks with the Nexxus 7 tablet.  At this point our official 'learning' was just about over.  We learned a bit more about what Google in Education is doing with educators and how we can be a part of it.  With final closing remarks our time together was over.

So great to be learning with my #eduparty friend Cheryl.
Well almost over because we still had our trip to the Google Store!

The 48 hours brought passionate inspiring educators together.  At times I felt in over my head as I work in a non Google district  and so much of what others were talking about I am not able to do with my students.  In addition as a grade one teacher I am limited by what my students are capable or doing.  I also strongly believe that my students should be creating their own work so I look at what I learn through their eyes.  Thankfully there is still a ton I can do with Google products that work within the privacy laws of public education in British Columbia.  In fact my action plan is being designed to show others what can be done with Google, even in a non Google environment. If you have any suggestions please send them my way.  

Here's to my new family! I look forward to continually learning and changing the world with you.

It's official!