Thursday, February 28, 2013

Communicate Differently With Tackk

Finding ways for kids to communicate information can be a bit of a challenge. Its easy to fall into the Power Point or Prezi track. Or even easier to not offer up any technology opportunities at all. There are loads of great creation/presentation tools out there. Voicethread, Google Sites, Animoto just to name a few are some of the creative ways in the past I've covered. 

But I am always on the look out for something new and easy to use. And I think I might have found that. 


Ok. So its similar to Glogster (which many people love) but in my opinion, much, much better. And I think it will continue to do so. 

What is Tackk

It is a really elegant way to display information. 

When you land on the website you get a blank Tackk you can start working with share, no login required.

The instructions are pretty simple: 

You have an editor on the right side that allows you to manipulate colors, fonts, backgrounds and tags. Again, we still haven't logged in yet. And everything is happening in the web browser. 

You click on a space you want to edit. In the header section you can title your Tackk and put in any other information needed. There are also options to add more sections, like pictures, text boxes and other media like embeds and videos. 

The idea here is you can have multiple types of elements in a presentation of information. It's still pretty linear but the options to customize how information is presented are really endless. 

Once complete you have a URL at the top that you can share your Tackk with the world. First you have to preview and share (that locks it down so other can't edit). 

The downside is your Tackk expires after 7 days if you don't create it under an account and you have to be 13 to create an account. But with the account you can customize your URLs, edit multiple Tackks and they never expire. 

Again, its not designed for K12. But it could be adapted for use in the classroom. And hopefully the creators will make an EDU space similar to other services that allow for account management by teachers and the ability for students under 13 to have accounts. 

So check out Tackk (and follow them on Twitter @tackk_it). At the very least it could be a great way to do some flipped faculty stuff or curate information for sharing. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Finally, Something Good On The Radio

It was said long ago that video killed the radio star. I dunno anything about that. But, radio (ok, podcasts) are alive and well. And lucky for you there are several good ones out there to listen to online or download on the go.

I want to highlight 2 new ones. It is a little self-serving as I am the host of one and a commentator on another but I hope you will look at the content and see some value there.

Edtech Radio-My first shot at my own show. We talk about everything in the world of #edtech. The first 3 episodes focused in on the popularity of flipping the classroom and why some (myself included) don't exactly think it's the right way to go. I also did a show on how to get more out of educational technology conferences. We've got several shows coming up on topics ranging from is free always best to keeping information safe. And you can always tweet me your show ideas. @web20classroom

Edchat Radio-This is the radio home of #edchat. Each week we break down each chat and talk about the conversation. It's a great way to catch up with what we've been talking about on each chat and you can hear the opinions of the founders and moderators too.

None of this would be possible with out the BAM Radio Network. They have tons of shows and segments related to a wide variety of educational topics. Definitely check out all their offerings.

photo credit: Brandon Christopher Warren via photopin cc

Monday, February 11, 2013

Why Formative Assessments Matter

This is a follow-up/prequel to my post on the tools you can use to formatively assess students. Definitely check out that post too. 

Back in my first year, I was teaching a unit on the parts of the Periodic Table. The students needed to know where they could identify elements that were typically metals, non-metals, gases and be able to identify elements based on their Atomic number among other tasks. At the time, I believed I was doing exactly what my standards said I had to. My students needed to know the organizational structure of the Periodic Table and by golly they were gonna know. 

So for a week, I stood in the front of the room while students furiously wrote down every word that came out of my mouth. Atomic number, Lanthanide Series, electrons. I could see at the end of each day confusion on their face but I chalked that up to their needing to go home and review their notes so they would "get it." No need for me to change what I was doing. They needed to catch up. 

At the end of the week was the big assessment. I was pretty proud of myself. I had imparted all sorts of Periodic Table knowledge on my students and now we were going to see them shine with it came time to recall all that information. That weekend I got the biggest wakeup call of my, then brief, educational career. Most could not recall a single thing. Some got an answer here or there but for the most part, there were no bright spots from this assessment. 

After the anger at my students subsided, I looked inward. What could I have done differently? There had to be a better way than letting my students get all the way to the end of a unit of study to have them not know anything. 

Formative assessments changed my classroom. 

That look of confusion on my students faces was a clear sign I needed to step back and look at what I was doing and how I was teaching. Had I used some kind of formative assessment I wouldn't have needed the summative at end, nor would my students have gotten to the point of utter confusion. 

Formative assessments are simply little gauges or indicators of how students are progressing towards a learning goal. It could be anything from a simple conversation to something like a clickers or response via a website. It is the formative assessments throughout learning that give us the indication we are headed down the right path with our learning or whether we should take a right turn to get back on track. The use of the formative assessments help teachers understand where their students are and, more importantly, where their teaching is. Had I used formative assessments, I would not have had to take another week breaking things down with the Periodic Table. I could made my adjustments along the way. 

How can you use formative assessments today? Simple!

1) Ticket out the door-One of the first things I did was put sticky notes on every student's desk. at the end of class they had a chance to summarize what we did that day and ask any questions they wanted. They could put their name on it or could remain anonymous. Either way I had a good indication of whether my students got it or didn't. And I could make those on-the-fly adjustments for the next class or for the next day. Now we have virtual sticky notes like on Wallwisher and LinoIt that make this process that much easier. 

2) Real-Time Feedback- I can make those on-the-fly changes by using a real-time feedback program like UnderstoodIt. By having students simply answer "Understand" or "Confused" at various times of class, you gain that valuable feedback needed to make changes to the learning. You don't have to wait until tomorrow. And you can better understand the learning needs of your students to customize the learning environment to them. 

Whether you use something at the end of class or during or both, formative assessments can change your understanding of your students and yourself. After our disaster unit on the Periodic Table, I used formative assessments in my classroom everyday and never again did we have a repeat of that week. Over time the students felt comfortable enough to tell me when they really didn't like the learning style I was using or that they enjoyed a particular way I presented the content. I had a better grasp on the learning my students were doing and they had a better grasp on the content. It was a definite win-win. 

How have you used formative assessments? Leave some insight below. 

photo credit: Benjamin Chun via photopin cc

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Administrator PR Machine

It seems like everywhere we turn, education is under the microscope. From members of Congress to the mother next door, everyone has an opinion on education. What we should do and how we should do it. And, to me at least, the focus is on the negative. "This is what's wrong." "Why aren't these test scores better?" "What was that teacher thinking?" 

But as someone who spends a lot of time walking the hallways and seeing kids in the classroom, there is so much good out there. I see kids doing amazing things everyday that we can share with our school community, our parents and the world. 

It's all about Public Relations. 

And while we might not think of a school needing a PR rep., its true now more than ever. The world needs to see whats happening behind those walls. The job of PR in our schools can be all our responsibility. However, there is really one person, who is well suited that we can turn to to be our PR Machine. 

The Principal.

Look at any celebrity and you might think of PR as a full-time job. For the Principal, it doesn't have to be. You walk the halls everyday and see great things. More often than not you have that powerful device, the mobile phone, you carry with us everywhere. Why not put it to use for more than just email and capture the moments during the day that can help tell your story. And doing that is easier than you think. 

Twitter-I have been advocating the use of Twitter in the classroom and for professional growth for a while now but even easier than that, it can be used by the administrator to tweet about Ms. Smith's Kindergarteners and their weather project or to tell the community about the service project the seniors did. In 140 characters you can change the way people see inside the building and give valuable insight into the good things. 

Facebook-We usually see Facebook as a place to like our game show  or store but it can be a great place to share stories from the classrooms. The principal could post photos, videos, firsthand accounts of sports stories, academic bowl victories (or defeats) and special moments. This could also be a place to invite kids and the community to share their thoughts as well. 

Instagram-With the power of our phones in our pocket, we can capture and share those moments in our day that are fun, special or just plain awesome. The Principal PR Machine can capture those moments with the flick of an app and share then with the world. 

Blogs-While a great place for reflection the blog can be a way to capture, day-by-day, week-by-week, the stories we see when we walk around our buildings. But one of the neatest projects I've seen is a school that invites, everyday, a teacher, student or staff member to share a moment of learning they remember that had an impact on them. What a great idea! Sharing with the community and being open about our learning can help change the conversation. 

Youtube-Take a look at the front page of Youtube and you will see videos there that you just have to scratch your head and wonder "who watches this stuff?" Take some video, instantly upload and you share those moments that matter and help shape the story that your school tells. 

It doesn't take a lot of skill or time to share your story. All it takes is getting out, walking around and looking for the good moments to share with the world. 

photo credit: kk+ via photopin cc