Sunday, November 9, 2014

Edcamp: Wheel Decide When We Get There!

I attended my very first Edcamp this weekend with #edcampkc  at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art. The day was packed full of fun with engaging sessions to attend! The organizers of the event were absolutely amazing (Kyle Pace, Laura Gilchrist, Mimi Jones Lachi are just a few that stand out along countless others)!

As a first time Edcamper, here's what I did...I jumped right into the action and signed up to moderate a session! Seriously, I had no idea what the expectations were of a moderator, but I figured someone attending my session would guide me if need be!

Session Title:  Wheel Decide When We Get There! (Topics on Differentiating Instruction)


Wheel Topics:
I made catchy (cheesy) titles for the wheel to capture audience interest.  Here are what the topics stood for:
  1. Tiers in Your Bucket = Tiered Assignments
  2. Horton Hears = Student Voice
  3. Eeny Meeny Miny Mo = Student Choice
  4. Reality Checks = Formative Assessments
  5. A Magic Wand = Descriptive Feedback
  6. To the Retest & Beyond = Reassessing Student Understanding
Session Format:
The wheel was projected for audience members to see.  The audience also joined a back channel via Today's Meet to share questions, comments and/or ideas for each topic.  Since there were close to 40 members in the audience we quickly created small groups for topic discussions.  I ran a timer for 5 minutes and then audience members shared out questions or ideas.  At one point Steven Shaw requested we spend more time on Student Voice by talking about Genius Hour ideas!

I loved how easily the conversations flowed from one topic to the next.  I also was impressed by the groups willingness to take off in another direction and come back full circle to the topic at hand.  The Wheel Decide When We Get There format can easily be applied to any number of topics.  If you like what you see, please feel free to add the Wheel to your next Edcamp or PD experience and insert your own topics!

Voting With Your Feet:
What is empowering about Edcamp is that individuals can hop from session to session.  This means that during my session individuals came and went as they chose.  I learned that, as the moderator, it is important to know you can't take it personal when people come and go from your session. Instead, honor and celebrate the organic learning occurring for each individual.  This is only possible due to the open Edcamp format!

If you have yet to attend an Edcamp. What are you waiting for? Get in there! Try it out! It almost feels like camp from childhood with everyone supporting one another and having fun!  I promise you will grow leaps and bounds by jumping in to the Edcamp pool, not to mention you will meet amazing individuals to help keep you a float!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Anchor Activities via the Digital Playground

An anchor activity is a differentiated learning tool available to students once the intended class lesson is complete.  These activities are meant to tie to the curriculum and support the learning goals for the unit.  Anchor activities offer students extended learning opportunities to reinforce what they should Know, Understand and be able to Do (KUD).

Back in the day, anchor activities may have been displayed on a classroom bulletin board in folders housing worksheet practice and (if the students were lucky) tactile learning games.  Fortunately, the 1:1 classroom now offers a whole new look.  While pencil paper activities have their place and tactile games can still spike interest, game based learning, gamification and digital or online textbook resources also offer a vast array of options for anchor activities.

Here are a few ideas to welcome your anchor activities to the digital playground:

Digital Playlists

Consider having a "Digital Playlist" that houses the anchor activities for the learning goals.  You can arrange them any way you choose!  Here are some platforms great for creating your digital playlists:
  • Create hyperlinks and/or games and activities via any of the following platforms.  
    • Google docs and/or Google Spreadsheets
    • Wikispaces (Create a space by units for anchor activities)
    • Livebinder (Create a binder with folders for each unit)
    • Symbaloo (Create a Symbaloo board of urls)
    • Padlet (Create a Padlet wall for each unit)
    • Blendspace (Create a Blendspace of activities by unit)
    • Socrative (Create your own activities for students to access)
    • Quia (Search for teacher made activities and/or make your own)
    • QuizletStudyBlue (Search for already made flashcards or make your own, but both site turns cards into practice with games/activities)
    • Memrise (A shoutout for my fellow world language teachers. This site is great! You can create a course, find a course and/or have students create their own courses by units!)
  • Embed a table of your hyperlinked playlist into class blog and/or website. Below is an example:
Social Media & Back Channels for KUDs
Many social media sites can serve as a dual role for back channels.  First here are a few social media sites that are perfect

  • EdmodoGoogle Communities (Share playlists and/or pose questions for students to show off KUDs by posting to the community)
  • Twitter (Let students show what they KUD in 140 characters or less! Add this to a playlist)
  • Tagboard (Create a class hashtag that students can show off their KUD via any social media platform using your class hashtag. This site then collects all responses using that hashtag and collects them onto one online Tagboard)

Back channels are an interesting way to let students extend their learning time.  Consider having a parking lot of questions to get the students thinking about the learning goals for the unit.  This would be ideal for several students or more ready for extended learning time as the more the merrier in this platform.  When creating questions for the back channel you may want to offer questions that push students beyond simple yes/no responses and encourages conversations about the learning targets. Here are a few sites to use:

  • Backchannel (While this does cost money, it is relatively cheap at $15 per month.)
  • Today's Meet (Pose questions for each unit for students to respond to throughout the unit)
  • Tweetdeck (Use the scheduling feature to push out questions, videos or links for students to comment on)
These are just a few ideas for you to toss your anchor activities into the digital playground!  At the front of a unit, let your students know where to find the anchor activities.  Every minute counts! It is up to you, the teacher, to encourage students to stay "anchored" in learning from bell to bell. Help students find the value in filling every minute of class with activities that support their learning! When you see a student wrap up a lesson direct him/her to your digital playlist for the unit.  Student voice and choice makes all the difference in students guiding their own learning. Let them choose which activities to play and/or work on.  Let them offer new activities to add to the digital playlist or even allow them to develop their own games to support the learning goals!  The more activities and encouragement you provide your students the more you will begin to see them guide their own learning using anchor activities.