I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t like Canvas when it was first introduced. I couldn’t imagine how I was going to use Canvas in an effective way with my first graders. As the administrators in my district continued to push Canvas, I felt the urgency to begin using it more in my classroom. I wanted to find a way to use it to better my students, not to do it just to cross off another thing on my to-do list. That’s when I discovered the media recorder in Canvas!
The media recorder has changed how I view and use Canvas in my classroom.
Did you know that you can use the media recorder to record yourself asking questions in a quiz? Did you know you can record a video of yourself teaching a lesson? Did you know you can use the media recorder to record a read aloud for your students? Did you know students can use the media recorder to submit assignments and discussion posts?
The media recorder has endless possibilities! It has allowed me to create meaningful content for my students, which they can work through independently. Even my struggling readers can be successful, because the media recorder allows me to read everything to them.
My students also use the media recorder. Students are required to record themselves each week reading a list of high-frequency and phonics words from the week. All I have to do is create an assignment that allows media submissions. Students then use an iPad, or laptop with a camera, to record themselves reading. This allows me to do one-on-one assessments, while still meeting with all of my reading groups! I can then go back and watch the videos at home, on my prep, or after school to grade them. This has taken time away from assessments and given it back to instructional time. And, to top it all off, students love it, too!
Today's thoughts come to us from Ms. Brittany Reid. Brittany teaches 1st grade at Richmond Community Schools.
If you ever watch young children write you can typically tell what the teacher has focused on recently in instruction. For example students have started to notice that dialogue in the books the teacher reads aloud is a good way to show characters’ feelings. All the sudden their writing includes dialogue, lots of dialogue. Sometimes so much so it’s hard to follow the plot. And sometimes it is not even used conventionally making it difficult to understand the dialogue itself. The over use and misuse of this new learning is also taking attention away from previous mastered skills such as developing a clear plot and effective use of conventions like capitalization and punctuation.
Some might the ask “Why would we allow students to try something new when it causes their work to get worse?”. I would answer “Because it’s a must!”. We must allow them to make attempts and provide feedback. We must expect students to evaluate and refine their new learning until it they are capable of adding dialogue effectively without that work getting in the way of what they previously had control of.
We introduce other techniques or ways to show characters feelings. The cycle starts again. It is through the attempts and approximations they learn and refine new techniques that make the work better or more effective.
Eventually they have multiple tools and techniques to choose from when they need to show characters feelings in their writing. They have learned options and what they do with them matters in creating the desired outcome in their writing.
This cycle is one I find myself in as I utilize technology through the work I do with students and adults. I hear about or observe others using a new-to-me approach or tech tool. Some I learn to use but haven’t applied yet. Others I’ve learned enough to utilize in real ways. I sometimes misuse them or over use them. I get feedback from my mentors and I reflect until I figure out my most effective use of the tool or approach.
Once I feel comfortable with a few new approaches or tools I’m ready to learn more. Building my knowledge about these tools allows me to have a collection to choose from that I feel comfortable using and that bring the desired experience and outcome for the group(s) I’m working with.
My goal has always been to put the learning at the focus. As I have come to understand more about tech tools and techniques I have expanded not only my knowledge of the tools but more importantly what these tools allow me to do to engage, enhance, and extend learners that I couldn’t do before. Most recently through Next Gen Cadre’ work I have been introduced to the Triple E Framework developed by Liz Kolb at the University of Michigan. I appreciate a framework and questions that guide me in working in the most effective ways.
As I continue to build my knowledge of tech tools and techniques I also have a framework to help me focus on what I do with them, which is what matters more.
Today’s post comes to you from Ms. Cynthia Kirk. Cynthia is currently serving as district instructional coach focusing on the literacy skills and growth of RCS Learners K-8 (and occasionally ventures into the 9th -12th world). She earned her undergraduate degree at Berea College and taught for one year in Kentucky before moving back to Richmond where she has spent her teaching career. She has been blessed with many opportunities to continue her professional learning and extend her knowledge including certifications in Reading Recovery and as a Literacy Collaborative Coordinator through Perdue University and a Master’s degree in Elementary Education through Ball State University.
I’ve never viewed myself as a trailblazer, yet I often found myself sticking up for the underdog. As the push for 1:1 technology for students loomed on the horizon, the wheels turned on how this would impact my students with hearing impairments. Would this be another barrier for them to overcome? Would their frustration of learning increase? How would their voices be heard? After all, this population is few, but their ideas are just as important. The decision to be part of Cadre 3.0 was a leap of faith. I was motivated to learn more about the platform chosen for students/staff to use in hopes of limiting the barriers that going 1:1 might create.
Universal Design to Learning (UDL) was not new information for me. The use of UDL to design instruction for students-all students-certainly limited barriers. ISTE Standards for Teachers was new information. At first glance, I thought….another hoop for teachers to jump through and be accountable. Then the phrase “equitable access” captured my attention. Equitable Access defined by ISTE as “Robust and reliable access to current and emerging technologies and digital resources, with connectivity for all students, including those with special needs, teachers, staff and school leaders.” Robust instruction was a focus point for our district to pursue 1:1 technology. The design of our courses with UDL and ISTE standards were not separate pieces, but a collaborative building block making instruction meaningful through a variety of methods. Students were given choice in how to demonstrate their knowledge through assignments using videos, text box submissions, discussions and small group collaborations. A side effect of being in the Cadre was the relationships that deepened with a cohort of professions across a variety of backgrounds. Through collaboration and discussions, ideas to consider were shared and individual growth increased as I applied the skills my cohort members shared.
In a few short months, as I designed my courses, everything was viewed through the lens of UDL. Where did I allow for student choice? Was content provided in three various ways? Were the videos captioned or interpreted for my students who sign? My progress wasn’t Earth-shattering quick, but with each redesign my students’ access was equitable. As I work in the classroom, I am always listening to those inquiring minds sharing questions that would extend their learning. We had more e-Learning days due to weather this year than in previous years. It allowed for some student-led exploration on those questions asked in the classroom that extended their learning. It was meaningful and engaging. They reported back on their findings using FlipGrid. Their recordings were shared with their Speech Therapist to provide data on their speech goals. As the students progress through middle school, presentations will increase. Allowing them the opportunity to “practice” using video media before standing in front of peers can help them build confidence in their abilities. In a few cases, I could see students request a video submission to the instructor for grading rather than standing in front of their peers. I am still trying to find a caption option for videos. Once I find it, I will share!
Mrs. Brenda Leddington teaches students who are Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing in the Richmond Community Schools. She has taught for 21 years. She received her Bachelor of Science and Master’s Degree from Ball State University. She lives in Lynn, Indiana with her husband, Russ, two sons, Lee, a freshman at Purdue Polytechnic and Aidan, a junior high student at Northeastern. The boys’ activities have filled her free time with Boy Scouts, 4H, band and Bible Study. When not participating with the boys’ activities, she enjoys reading, quilting and being active with church activities and raising baby goats.
Every year, as educators, we are expected to incorporate the new “thing”. Sometimes it’s how we approach certain criteria. Sometimes it’s a new program we need to use in the classroom. We fall in love with it but before the year ends... we are aware that the expectation will change the following year. After years of vocabulary approaches, technology changes, and behavioral goal adjustments, Canvas was introduced. I was completely against it. I was already teaching a program that used a separate piece of technology and wasn’t sure how I was going to incorporate ONE MORE THING.
I don’t have an “ah-ha” moment when Canvas changed how I run my classroom. I just know the more I grumpily worked through the tools and incorporated it within my classroom, the easier it became. I realized that this program is really designed to make my life easier. I took advantage of the aspect of having students turn in assignments via online. It helped cut down the loads of papers I was taking home weekly to grade. Even though I used Canvas more in my classroom, I still wasn’t USING Canvas, if that makes sense.
I began this school year with an open mind. I told myself that whatever opportunity was given, I was going to take it and really learn how to use Canvas. Obviously, it wasn’t going away so it was time to jump in with both feet. I made the decision to join the Cadre. Though at times I have been apprehensive, I can officially say I am absolutely obsessed with Canvas. I figured out within the first month of school how to transition my reading course completely into Canvas. I adjusted my expectations for students, I created documents, pages, buttons, and found the perfect flow that was accessible for my students. The way my reading course looked, everyone assumed my math course looked the same, but my students knew better.
My students joke to this day how both courses looked like two different teachers ran them. Reading was bright, accessible, and designed with their needs in mind. Math had no cover page, I would add an assignment because of eLearning, other than that we never used it. I figured I was thriving with Canvas because I mastered it for one of my courses. But that wasn’t the case. It was time for change once again. I was challenged to redesign an assignment, I chose to redesign an entire course instead.
Here enters QUIZZES.NEXT.
We had a brief run-down of the new feature Canvas was offering and I took it from there. I redesigned my course by using quizzes next during rotations in a math intervention lab. It provides a variety of ways to assess students than just providing multiple choice or essay questions. It makes them really think through the steps they need to take to solve the problems in front of them. Students are given the opportunity to apply what they have learned from small group and practice the skill immediately due to the way I utilize Quizzes Next. This feature has effectively improved how stations are implemented within my classroom.
Incorporating Quizzes Next within my math lab, students have thrived within their learning. Students are showing growth in small group and in their individualized learning. When asked if they would rather go back to our old ways, every single one of my students say no! So, I have only one more thing to say; Thank you Next!
Today's thoughts come to us from Miss Kristen Scheer. Kristen is a 7/8 grade Interventionist at Dennis Intermediate School. She has been a classroom teacher for 6 years. Outside of her classroom, she organizes the Washington DC trip for Richmond 8th graders. Kristen and her fiancé, along with their children, live in Indiana. In Kristen’s spare time, she enjoys reading, running, fishing, and spending time with family.
Why this matters when it comes to our students
We know that in today’s classroom it is more important than ever to build relationships with our students. Positive student/teacher relationships are the key to student success. This can be a daunting task when you see over a 100 kids a day. However, what if I told you I have a surefire way for you to interact with every student every day?
The answer - Google Forms. Google Forms is free and easy; two things teachers seem to like. After viewing a Ditch That Textbook video featuring Ken Shelton, I was determined to find a way to check in daily with my students. I created a simple Google Form that my students respond to first thing when they enter my class. A link to the form is provided on the home page of their Canvas courses. Their responses are recorded on a spreadsheet and they are identified by their email address. I try to glance at the spreadsheet right after taking attendance for the day. This way I can take the pulse of the classroom. The majority of the kids respond with “happy”, but it is the occasional “sad”, “sick”, or “angry” that makes the form valuable. After a couple weeks I felt I needed to offer more to those kids. I added a question asking if there was anything I could do for them. I have been able to meet a few needs in doing this. Yes, there are those days when I can’t get to the form until after the school day is over. However, I still find the information useful as I can see trends in certain kids. There have been a couple instances when I have forwarded worrisome information to our counselor.
Please consider doing some form of check in with your students. I found Google Forms to be easy and useful, but find what works for you. I have included a video showing how my Google Form is set up in my Canvas courses.
Google Form Daily Check In
Today's thoughts come to us from Ms. Stephanie Lunsford. Stephanie is a 6th grade English and Social Studies teacher at Dennis Intermediate. She is in her second year in this role. Previously, she was a reading interventionist at Dennis. Stephanie graduated from Indiana University East with a Bachelor’s degree in elementary education. She resides in Liberty, Indiana with her children (Baylee and Zachary), dogs (Arnold and Shiloh), and cat (George). Stephanie enjoys traveling when she gets the chance.
It’s 3:00 and you just had an exhausting day with your students. You are tired, your room and desk are a mess, and you have to go the bathroom. For the next 45 minutes you have to attend “professional development” that seems more like a staff meeting, than how you are going to grow as an educator. The meeting room is quiet and full of teachers trying to catch up on endless emails. As the meeting begins, you slouch in your seat thinking about the papers you have to grade, lesson plans, and the parents you have to call. In the background you will hear about one more thing you just don’t have time to do or something that simply doesn’t apply to you.
Unfortunately, this is how a lot of building level professional developments run. The last several months I have been exploring the practice of “Personalized Professional Development”. Teachers are more responsive to a PD that is practical to their instructional needs. Educators are relentless in trying to find new ways that meet the academic needs of their students. It is important that teachers have opportunities to build on their strengths and seek out opportunities to grow professionally.
The first step to developing Personalized PD is to assess your current PD program and evaluate if it is meeting the needs of your staff. In buildings mixed with veteran and rookie teachers, it’s unlikely that single topic PD sessions are allowing your teachers to grow in their craft. Does the PD allow all teachers equal opportunity to grow? Are all teachers actively engaged during PD? These are a few questions to ask.
The next step is to survey your staff on their interests and expertise. In each building there are experts in many different realms. After analyzing the data from the survey, approach your “expert” teachers and ask if they would be interested in leading a PD. Teachers may be matched up based upon the results of the survey, or you can have teachers sign up for sessions.
Then, give your “expert” teachers time to prep for the PD. These teachers will need as much advance notice as possible. In addition to being given the responsibility of their classroom, now you are asking them to prepare a PD for their peers. Without giving adequate time to prepare, you are not setting yourself up for success.
On the day of the PD, it is important that you have a variety of topics for teachers to choose from. It might also be useful to have some of the presentations recorded. Teachers might want to attend several different sessions, but because of time, space, access, restraints, etc. they may not be able to. By posting the video in a public forum, teachers will have the opportunity to view them. It will also provide participants a resource to reference if they have questions later on. Another alternative is to have short 15 -30min sessions that teachers can rotate through. This will allow them an opportunity to attend multiple sessions.
Following the PD, it is important for presenters to provide support following the PD. Many of us have attended PD that we are excited about, and leave feeling excited about how we can implement this new strategy in our classroom. Often what happens is we get back into our rut and get back into the daily grind and put the “new thing” on the back burner. Follow-up support is vital! This support can be provided by the presenter themselves, utilizing an academic coach, or gaining help from others who attended the same PD.
Successful schools have teachers who are actively seeking opportunities to grow professionally so their students can grow academically. By allowing teachers choices on how they grow and providing them the resources and opportunities, accelerated professional growth is likely to occur. Just as important as the choice is, the follow-up is also vital. Support systems need to be planned and made accessible to teachers. We need to trust our educators to know their needs. Personalized Professional Development allows teachers to grow in their craft and provides an opportunity for teacher leaders to share their expertise.
Today's thoughts come to us from Mr. Adam Scott. Adam is the academic coach at Dennis Intermediate School. He has been a classroom teacher for 18 years and recently made the move to a coaching position. Adam has presented at local, state, national, and international PD’s regarding best practices in STEM instruction. Adam and his wife April, along with their two daughters (Ali and Bailey) live in Indiana. In Adams spare time, he enjoys being involved in his church, riding motorcycles, fishing, and spending time with family.
Shelly Ragains and I went to the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) conference in January. One of the sessions we went to was using speech to text technology to enhance writing. While we were both familiar with S-T and use it to varying degrees, the session provided some interesting insight for everyday application. The presenters (Amber Rowland and Sean Smith from the University of Kansas and Min Wook Oh and Kavita Rao of University of Hawaii at Manoa) provided information about use in the elementary level vs high school level. Students at the elementary level were more apt to just jump in and get technology(iPad) and take it to a quiet area in the classroom. The high school students showed more reluctance with just jumping into the activity. The theory was that the high school students had other strategies for writing along with the classroom structure not having as many places to go in the classroom.
As someone who uses Speech to Text with my students, I understand the difficulties of having enough places to have students use Speech to Text. I have sent many students into the hall with an iPad or their phone to capture their ideas. Flexibility of space is vital for student success. During the workshop, the presenters recounted that students were able to get past the typical writing difficulties of how to spell things or searching for just the right word. Those students who say “I don’t know what to write” can be encouraged to just start talking about the topic and realize they have more to say than they thought!
Shelly and I will be implementing more speech-to-text sessions with our students over the rest of this semester, so look for more information as to how it is working (or not) in a furure post.
Sheila Lefresne is a native of Pennsylvania but has lived in Maine, Virginia, Florida, and currently resides in Indiana. She has been involved in education for the past 25 years in various settings and grade levels including work as an Educational American Sign Language Interpreter. Sheila earned her B.S. of Education from Juniata College, Huntingdon, PA and M.Ed. Reading from Saint Leo University, Saint Leo, Florida.
LARGE CLASS SIZE AND TEACHER EFFICIENCY: How one music teacher uses technology to save time and stay organized
As an orchestra teacher, I want my classes to have a lot of students because I want to attract as many students as I can to learn to play an instrument. With growing class sizes each year, I’ve found the best way to keep sane is to stay as organized as possible. Seeing almost 50 students at a time has forced me to get creative with how I collect information and conduct assessments. One of my favorite tools for doing this is through forms – either Google or Office 365.
One way I use forms is for quick checks for understanding. Because the form will automatically populate a spreadsheet with each student’s answer, it’s a quick and easy way to see which students are getting it and which students need some extra help. I will often use a form in place of a paper exit ticket or bell-ringer. I always link or embed the form in a place that is obvious, such as on the students’ Canvas homepage, to make this process quick and effortless.
Another way I use forms is in place of peer and self-evaluation rubrics. I use peer and self-evaluation rubrics often to gauge how well students are working together in groups and how they are viewing their own progress. I also use peer evaluation rubrics when students are doing a blind audition for a solo part so that students may vote and perform anonymously. I used to have students fill these out on paper and go through each one individually to gather data. By putting these rubrics into a form and having students fill out electronically, it now takes me no time at all to look though the responses as the data is instantly available for interpretation.
My classroom is organized into sections based on which instrument a student plays: violin, viola, cellos, bass, piano, harp, etc. For efficiency purposes, I put one student in charge of each of these sections and it works out to about 10 students per student leader. On extremely hectic days when I have students meet in sections rather than as a whole group, I have my student leaders help with attendance by filling out a form online to tell me who was present, who came late, and who did not show up at all. When students are rehearsing as whole group it is easy for me to take attendance because they have assigned seats, but when they are spread out or sitting in different places it’s almost impossible for me to determine who is present. It would take me the first 10 minutes of class just to take attendance! The attendance form and student leaders have really solved this problem for me. I always pick responsible students with good attendance and I train them to do small jobs for me to maximize the limited amount of class time we have together. A form is a quick efficiency solution that allows me to gather information about the whole class from just a few responsible students.
I’ve tried my best to identify tasks that eat up my valuable plan time and my even more valuable class time with students and think of ways to make those things more efficient. By creating forms for students to fill out electronically that will quickly populate data I’ve saved time. The more time I save by not doing menial data collection tasks, the more time I can spend analyzing that data and figuring out what my students need. If I’m not spending 10 minutes taking attendance, I’m spending those 10 minutes building relationships, giving feedback, answering questions, and teaching children. By becoming more efficient, I’ve become a better teacher.
Today's thoughts come to us from Ms. Lauren Gruber. Lauren is the Director of Orchestras for Richmond Community Schools in Richmond, Indiana. She teaches students in grades 6-12 to play string instruments. In her free time she enjoys playing cello and taking her therapy dog, Delilah, to visit local hospitals.
When I entered the cadre, I had one main goal. I wanted to begin teaching the students I have now instead of continuing to teach the students that I had when I began my teaching career, nearly fifteen years ago. I want my classroom to feel relevant and the math that we learn to be relevant and I want the way that math is introduced and practiced to feel authentic. I have started using some tools in my classroom this year that have helped push me towards meeting my goal. Prior to being introduced to new technology tools, I tended to use technology only as an afterthought or as an electronic worksheet. Some of the tools that I have used work well with all disciplines while others are more math content focused. I hope you find value in some of the programs I have tried.
EdPuzzle has been a life saver in gaining valuable classroom time. With EdPuzzle, I can make a video (or use one that already exists) and insert question slides in the video. This allows me to give some instruction and force my students to interact with the content before being able to move on. If students are asked to complete an EdPuzzle assignment in the classroom, then I am free to move among my students to answer questions and provide one on one instruction. I have found it freeing to be able to keep my class moving forward on a topic and still have the classroom time to check in with each of my students. Students tend to enjoy this kind of lesson since they can move at their own pace and rewatch sections that they didn’t understand. Students, overall, prefer to have instructor created videos instead of “boring” videos that I find on a topic. Both have their merit and value. I have also found EdPuzzle to be a good way to introduce new material on our district E-Learning Days as students have verbal and visual instructions and check points along the way.
Flipgrid is not a new concept, nor is Flipgrid exceptionally groundbreaking, but for me, my first use of Flipgrid was eye opening. I used Flipgrid as a formative assessment check on a new topic. I asked my students to explain everything they knew about a newly introduced topic in 90 seconds or less. I was shocked at the quality of content displayed with the videos. Students complained about having to video themselves, but the tasked made students really think about the topic and plan a strategy for discussing the content in a confined space. I was overjoyed to see how much my students understood after only a little instruction. I am positive that I could have had my students write a short statement about the topic, but I don’t think I would have had the same deep thinking displayed in their responses.
Desmos is a graphing site. My students actually introduced me to the desmos calculator and showed me some of the graphing applications imbedded within the program. My students use desmos like a graphing calculator; however, I have found the program to have many more uses. I have created and found desmos classroom activities. Classroom activities are essentially a collection of interactive slides that are topically connected. I have used desmos during an algebra inquiry lesson where students explored parallel and perpendicular lines and I used desmos as a way for pre-calculus students to explore polynomials. Desmos is very subject focused, but with the ability to add sliders to various parts of equations, allows teachers to have a dynamic visual for some of the more complex mathematical topics within the curriculum.
There are so many hidden gems that exist and I have only scratched the surface in learning about and trying programs with my students. Every time I try a new program, present a topic in a new way, or ask my students to respond a little differently, I step closer to my goal of teaching the student that walks into my classroom in 2019. I am excited to continuing to meet my students where they are and trying more and more new tools with them.
Today’s thoughts come to us from Mrs. Lori Dilworth. Lori is a math teacher at Richmond High School in Richmond, Indiana. She teaches students grades 9-12, currently focusing on algebra and calculus topics, but she has taught students from first grade through college. When she is not teaching, Lori enjoys being with her husband of 10 years and their four year old twin daughters, volunteering at her church, and listening to audio books on her long commutes.
To some, Canvas is just another tool we have been required to incorporate into our classroom. To me, Canvas has been another way to engage students, check for understand and help introduce other tools into my classroom.
My Canvas journey began during the 2015-2016 school year. I had attended a half day training in the Spring of 2015, and kind of jumped in head first. I began to set up my classroom page, had my students participate in their first discussion, and soon began creating short assignments and quizzes. Before I knew it I was asked to present at our district’s technology professional development in January with our elementary elearning specialist. I did not think I was experienced in Canvas, and was not sure what I could offer to other elementary school teachers. However, during that 40 minutes I was able to share some ideas with teachers who were nervous about this thing called Canvas and help them start slowly in their our Canvas journey. Many left feeling less panicked and after attending other sessions, I was eager to try new things in my classroom.
Over the last three years Canvas has become an integral part of my classroom. I still start out each year similar to my first year; setting up my classroom page, having my students take a profile picture, and participating in a discussion. They quickly become engage, excited and want to do more. Students have enjoyed using the Canvas app to “write on” pdf assignments and submitting them. Canvas also allows me to share external tools like Flipgrid, Padlet and Nearpod to my classroom. It has kind of become a “hub” for students especially since we are using more laptop computers than iPads. Each year I try to incorporate something new into my classroom. This year I have started recording spelling tests for my various groups, giving video feedback to students, and started to use Quizzes.next to give my students more variety when doing skill checks.
My Canvas experiences have not only assisted students, but their parents as well. Many parents are unsure how it works, or how to view their child’s assignments. I have provided short tutorials for parents in order to help them view assignments, lessons I have recorded for them to view at home or how to complete elearning day assignments. I also rely on my students to be the experts at home and teach their parents. They are comfortable to navigate their way around Canvas and are quick to help each other.
I know my journey is relatively new and on-going. I enjoy learning new tricks and secrets to Canvas and then sharing them with my colleagues and students. It has pushed me as a teacher in many ways, opened doors for new opportunities and enhanced the learning in my classroom.
Today's thoughts come to us from Ms. Rebecca Lafuze. Rebecca teaches 3rd grade at Charles Elementary School. She has taught in various classroom settings over the last 17 years, but Third grade is her favorite. Rebecca and her husband, along with their two young daughters, live in Indiana. She enjoys traveling, the beach, rooting on the Purdue Boilermakers, yoga and dance parties at home with her daughters.