Saturday, October 18, 2014

Student Talk: Getting Ready for the Online SBAC

I'll be the first to tell you that elementary teachers in my district are feeling a bit stressed out about taking the Smarter Balanced assessment online! While we have not had a standard keyboarding curriculum in the past, we also have a different range of technology available at each elementary school. Some schools have only one computer lab in the library while others have Chromebooks in nearly every classroom and computer labs, as well! Not to mention, this is our first year fully teaching the Common Core standards. We are definitely feeling the pressure and insecurity that surrounds this type of transition and I can't imagine we are the only ones out there!

To help quell fears surrounding the use of an online assessment, as well as to begin identifying the areas of greatest need in relation to basic technology skills, I organized several SBAC trial runs.  Here is some of the feedback we received from students and teachers in a 3rd and 5th grade classroom as it regards to technology literacy. Please note, we did not ask students to focus on the content of the test during the trials.

If you'd like to get a snapshot of your students ability to navigate and interact with the Smarter Balanced assessments, set aside some time and allow students to explore the available practice tests. The short training tests that are available are only 6 questions long and utilize all of the question varieties present on the full practice/official tests. 

Here are some helpful tips from our first trials:
  • Empower students and remove pressure by explaining that is their job to "give the test a test!"
  • Give minimal instructions about the testing interface to get an accurate snapshot of what students know and are able to figure out on their own, then go back and review other features as necessary
  • Show them the pause feature and take them for a short break outside
  • Provide students with index cards to share their thoughts and feelings about the online testing environment and involve them in a discussion afterwards
  • Have an older classroom (that has already done a trial) send tech buddies to younger classrooms to provide extra help/guidance during their trial
  • Don't combine this trial with one that is focused on the content of the test, keep them separate (students should be allowed to write any sentences in the extended response spaces, for example)
I also used ThingLink to create an Interactive Tour of Smarter Balanced Testing Environment the testing environment for teachers to use as an introduction or for students to explore independently.

Remember, technology is meant to be used in the classroom to extend, engage, or enrich learning experiences to promote student growth, not hinder it! While the transition to taking an online assessment may seem oppositional to this guiding principal it is not something we are unable to overcome with careful preparation and implementation. So, start early in your preparations, utilize all of your resources (tech coaches, support staff, etc.), and involve your students in developing a plan for becoming comfortable with technology skills by the testing window! 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Teacher Talk: Whidbey Island Google in Education Summit by AppsEvents

I am thrilled to announce that I have been confirmed to present at the Whidbey Island Google in Education Summit by AppsEvents being held at Coupeville Middle/High School! I received my confirmation e-mail today, along with my badge as a summit speaker.

I invite anyone who is able to join me at the first Google for Education Whidbey Island Summit to be held at Coupeville High School on March 28 - 29, 2015.  Regardless of whether you can join us, a link to my presentations and the schedule is here

This high intensity two day event focuses on deploying, integrating, and using Google Apps for Education and other Google Tools to promote student learning in K-12 and higher education. The program features Google Certified Teachers, Google Apps for Education Certified Trainers, practicing administrators and solution providers.

If you are in the area or able to travel (Whidbey Island is gorgeous!!) you can register now to send teachers, administrators, tech directors/tech support staff, and anyone who is interested in finding out more about leveraging Google tools to support student learning.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Teacher Talk: Starting with iPads in Second Grade! (part 1)

While I have shared some of my personal experiences working with iPads in the classroom, I have finally had my first formal experience serving as a coach to another group of teachers who are new to the integration of iPads! Since I know these individuals are not the only ones just starting out with this technology, I thought I would share some of what we talked about, concerns that were raised, and what our next steps will be.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Talk, Talk, Talk - A New Way of Approaching Posts!

Hi Everyone,

As many of you know I began a new position this year as the Instructional Facilitator of Technology for my district. I've been busy working with K through 12th grade teachers, staff, and students. This has caused my technology exploration and discoveries to live between both the worlds of teachers and that of students. I've had a hard time relating this to my blog and as a result my postings have been sporadic and infrequent!

So, I am doing a bit of a re-organization and will be labeling my posts in a new way! This will allow me to share a broader range of topics, ideas, strategies, and opportunities while allowing you as the reader to differentiate easily between what would be most applicable to you!

Posts will be classified as one of the two (for now) topics below:

  • Teacher Talk: These posts will be oriented toward professional growth for teachers. They might address topics like a great tool for classroom management or scheduling, a tutorial on how to create a resource for students, or an approach that might be useful in tackling technology integration.

  • Student Talk: Posts that start with "Student Talk" will be designed for teachers to use similar to lesson plans or while lesson planning. They are directly related to delivering classroom instruction.
I look forward to being able to post more frequently with these new guidelines in place!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Weekly Tech Blitz Challenges!

Once a week. Thirty minutes. One tool. One goal. Collaborative discussion. Valuable resources. Direct classroom impact. 

These statements describe the Weekly Tech Blitz Challenges that I offer to the staff of Oak Harbor Public Schools as an optional professional development opportunity. They are an interactive way to learn about useful technology tools in the matter of 30 minutes in the comfort of your home! Since they have been so positively received at work, I thought you all would enjoy them, too!

I invite you to take a look at the Weekly Tech Blitz Website! There you will find an agenda of what will be covered in upcoming weeks, as well as all that we have already covered. 

Unfortunately, if you are not a member of our district you will be unable to participate in the Google Groups we are using to discuss and extend our knowledge and application of these tools. But, I invite you to discuss them at any time with me. I will also be sure to cross-post any challenges I find particularly relevant for early childhood educators.