Less Talk, More Action

Across my facebook feed yet again came the discussion about taking notes by hand versus on a laptop. Like clockwork, every couple of months, one of my facebook friends shares an article that champions note-taking on paper over note-taking on an electronic device. This time, it was from the Washington Post: Why Smart Kids Shouldn’t Use Laptops in Class

This is not news. We’ve known this for a while and the research is really clear: If you are going to sit passively for 50 minutes and listen to a lecture, your best bet for retaining information is writing out notes on paper by hand.

But that’s a lot like saying, “If you have to hand-crank your car before your trip, it’s best to wear gloves, set the emergency brake and hold the choke out.”

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“Scaffold-Blasting” – Differentiation on the Fly

Being able to differentiate assignments in Google Classroom was an oft-requested feature when GClassroom debuted. We know that differentiation done well is one path to creating an equitable learning environment for all of our students.

Google added functionality to Classroom, and currently, you can send different groups of students different assignments in Google Classroom – but when you choose the “right” assignment for each student, you run the risk of giving them too much help.

How about a solution to giving just enough scaffolding that’s quick, easy, and most importantly, instantly responsive to your student’s need in the moment?

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Giving Every Student a Voice in Your Socratic Circle by Leveraging Digital Tools

Socratic Circles are a great way to engage students in a provocative question – students are engaged with the topic, encouraged to think about complex topics with a critical eye, and inspired to explore big ideas.

However, it can be a challenge to give all students a voice in a Socratic Circle that is 30+ students big…there are time, space, and personality constraints that sometimes mean the conversation is dominated by just a few voices.

By leveraging digital tools, you can mitigate these constraints and give all of your students a voice – thus giving all students the opportunity to explore their own thinking as well as their classmate’s.

I recently had the good fortune to be able to spend some time at Wheeling Elementary in 4th and 5th-grade classrooms using Chromebooks in this manner.

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Using Flubaroo to Give Meaningful Feedback to Students

Flubaroo is a google add-on tool for google sheets that will automatically grade submissions based on the criteria that are set by the teacher. It’s an extremely popular add-on. In its first iteration, it was a tool that worked best just with multiple choice or single word text/number questions. Recently it has undergone improvements that make it much more student-centered and teacher-friendly.

You can now “hand-grade” student short answers and leave specific feedback without leaving the window – a huge time-saver for teachers. In addition to that, and even better than that – flubaroo now includes an option to send the quiz/exit slip to your student’s google drive.

Why is this so cool? Because now your students can have the copy of the quiz/exit slip questions, their answers, and your feedback on a single google doc in their drive. No left-behind sheets, no crumpled and thrown in the trash papers. The commenting feature of google docs allows the work to be the start of the conversation, not the end.

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How do we scaffold self-management skills for students?

As an ed tech coach, I am often asked questions about limiting internet access to students. “Can we block youtube?” “Can we block this game site?” “We need to block facebook.” My district has a progressive view on website availability: we recognize that there can be excellent academic and relationship building reasons to leave social media sites accessible by all and we also know that shutting off one game site just means another game site is discovered the next week.

BUT…I can empathize with the questions. It’s understandable that teachers and principals might want limits on availability. Students finding ways to spend their entire class time on youtube searching for music videos instead of researching the Civil War is frustrating – and the least scary thing about open access. Cyber-bullying, violent or sexually graphic images and videos, and child predators on internet sites aimed at children are infinitely more concerning.

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