Instant Blended Learning with Lesson Paths and Blendspace

While some teachers may be struggling with integrating blended learning (any combination of learning on-site in a classroom with learning online), two web-based tools are making it much easier for teachers to accomplish this merger:  Blendspace and Lesson Paths.

blendspace logo

Blendspace allows for teachers to load content, websites, articles, videos (and a whole lot more) into an embedded, interactive grid that previews each step of a lesson. Each content type is numbered to suggest an order in which students can progress, but they may also explore in whichever order they choose.

Google Drive Basics Blendspace

Here is a Blendspace lesson that I created using Google Drive tutorial videos:

lessonpaths logo

Lesson Paths is more linear in it’s design.  When content is uploaded or links are inserted, they are added in a list that hovers on the left side of the screen.  The first item on the list (in my case, the introductory video to my lesson) is loaded first, and the learner can navigate between content using the arrow at the top of the screen of by clicking on the item in the list.

While Lesson Paths does not support as wide a variety of embedded content, it does allow the creator to insert challenge questions, pop quizzes, or short articles of text on the spot.

Lesson Pathways

Here’s the same Google Drive lesson created on Lesson Paths instead.

Both of these tools make the task of creating a blended learning environment very streamlined and simple for educators of any level.  Try each of them to see exactly how you could use them in your teaching and learning environments, as they both offer strengths and weaknesses.

OETC Day Two – Recap

OETC

Day two of the conference for me had an eerily similar beginning:  Brisk drive into the city, application of scarf/gloves in preparation to walk from the garage, followed by a never-ending screaming of “Holy hashtag it’s cold!” in my mind as I walk to the Convention Center.

My first session was all about blended learning, which was presented by Marcia Kish of DSD Professional Development (@dsdPD).  The workshop-style session featured a lot of useful tools that either I could use in my classes or, more importantly, share with other teachers in my district.  Here’s a link to the applications and websites that were focused on.

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It surprised me how many web 2.0 tools are still unknown to many people in education.  Socrative, Padlet (formerly wallwisher), Today’s Meet, and Voki avatars were all things that I was introduced to years ago (and some of which I have phased out of implementation).

Other more recent offerings were welcome (BlendSpace, ShowMe, ThingLink), and Marcia did a nice job of implementing these tools into her workshop session materials.

 

After meeting up with a former colleague during the keynote, I headed to the session that I was most excited for today:  The LMS Smackdown!

This was a participant-driven session with volunteers promoting their Learning Management System of choice in successive rounds answering the “What, When, Where, Why, and Wish” of their selected LMS.  Blackboard, Schoology, Desire2Learn, Moodle, Edmodo, Google Apps, and (at the last minute) Canvas were all represented.

LMS SmackdownThe session was upbeat and fun, and led to some great discussions with the LMS advocates afterwards.  In my classroom, I have been trying a combination of Edmodo and Google Apps for a one-two punch of communication and collaboration, and wanted to know what other options could work just as well or better.

Christopher Deis (@christopherdeis), who represented Google Apps during the Smackdown, shared with me that he was using Schoology and Google Apps very successfully.  Guess what I researched a bit more after that…

I finished my day with a session titled “Beyond 21st Century Skills,” which was presented by Edward Hill from the Ohio Resource Center.  Expecting to find a session locked and loaded with more tech firepower, I was pleasantly surprised when this was a more “fundamental question” discussion.

Although technology may be a part of what we do, Mr. Hill encouraged us as educators to “be brave enough to fail” when trying new things.  Focusing heavily on incorporating the design process into lesson planning and having students help develop the ways in which they learn, a lot of the undertones were reminiscent of Kevin Honeycutt’s (@kevinhoneycutt) keynote and sessions from Monday.  Mentioning the likes of Sal Khan and Sugata Mitra really drove the student-driven aspect home, and was an uplifting end to my time at EOTC on Tuesday.

There were many other sessions that I would have loved to attend on Tuesday, but it’s just not physically possible to get to them all.  If anyone would like to share their experiences (or presenters, any of your resources and handouts) tweet them @EdTechToolkit and I’ll share some of those in a future post.  Thanks to everyone who made day 2 of EOTC great!

OETC Day One – Afternoon

My first day at the 2014 OETC is coming to a close, and it’s been an overall motivational and uplifting experience.

I can’t praise Kevin Honeycutt enough for his keynote (and his afternoon session that was a continuation of it).  I think his tagline on his website (kevinhoneycutt.org) explains his overall theme the best:

Screenshot 2014-01-27 at 2.09.28 PM

He celebrates the natural curiosity and entrepreneurship of kids, and how we as teachers and/or parents should celebrate these things.  We should encourage students to develop skills and talents that they do well, but also teach them things that may not come as naturally to them.

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More specifically, he repeatedly iterated the idea that students need to be aware of the “digital legacies” they continuously are adding to and modifying as they interact online.   Along with digital literacy and netiquette skills, Kevin offered multiple free resources that are available to teachers and students to develop 21st century skills.  (Link available here to his list of tools and resources)

He is a great advocate for students and their development, and believes that students should be able to utilize their strengths to develop their own creative ideas that they can use to create their own businesses.  While I’m sure his background in art and music may influence this a great deal, it is a mindset that is fresh in the K-12 education realm and is somewhat rare.

Thank you Mr. Honeycutt for encouraging me to continue doing things that challenge students and motivate them to be creative, innovative, and responsible in today’s digital world.

Ohio’s Educational Technology Conference – Day One Preview

OTEC is the third largest state educational technology conference in the country.

Despite the cold and snowy conditions, many people in the education industry will be attending the Ohio Educational Technology Conference this week.  The three-day event will be filled with a plethora of innovative individuals, groups, and companies who are looking to leave their marks on the EdTech industry, and on education in general.  

For those of us who have the opportunity to meet up at OETC, the choice of sessions, workshops, and participant-driven meetups (OETCx) is impressive.  I have a feeling that after registering and going to my first 8:00 session I’ll adjust my plan for the day.

I’ll be attending Monday and Tuesday, and look forward to seeing what other teachers are currently implementing in their classrooms successfully to being back and share with my colleagues.  Hopefully I’ll have a lot to share tomorrow after day one.

A Teacher’s Guide to Social Media

A Teacher’s Guide to Social Media

A great overview of the “dos and don’ts” of social networking for teachers to follow.  While most of this article pertains to things to avoid doing yourself on social networks, points number 5 and 6 are geared towards ways to use social networking in positive ways to encourage, motivate, and communicate with your students.

Edmodo is one of many social networks that are intended primarily for student and teacher communication in an online space.  Edmodo has adopted a visual style very similar to that of facebook, which would allow students who are familiar with its layout to be more comfortable and engaged in communication and collaboration.  Schoology, a hybrid social network/LMS for students and teachers, also has a facebook-esque feel that most users are accustomed to.

As I read through this article, TED Ed was a service that I was not currently familiar with, but extremely excited about upon discovering.  I have tried using other services to easily create content for students to access on their own (Learnist, Khan Academy, other services that I have forgotten the names of) but TED-Ed shows great promise.

Like Khan Academy, TED-Ed allows teachers to assign students videos to watch to teach/reinforce concepts and then answer questions demonstrating mastery.  However, TED-Ed breaks the mold by allowing teachers to create context specific to what they are teaching, and customize the lesson as they see fit (not to mention that Khan Academy primarily focused on Math concepts).

After reading the article, check both of these services out to see how you could implement them in your own classroom.

Freerice.com – Feeding the Hungry, One Question at a Time

Teaching basic vocabulary and math skills to today’s students can be challenging at times, and remediation for students who are struggling can be overwhelming.  One extremely valuable tool available for teachers and students is Freerice.com, a non-profit website that supports the World Food Program.

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Answer a question right, and rice is donated to hungry people. It’s a win-win.

Freerice is a web-based trivia game that has two goals:

  1. Provide education to everyone for free.
  2. Help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free.
Many different subjects of questions are available, most of which being leveled to accommodate any level of learner.

Many different subjects of questions are available, most of which being leveled to accommodate any level of learner.

While this charitable idea on its own is ingenious, it creates an intrinsic reward to those who participate that is very addictive – students always are wanting to answer more questions to keep donating more rice.  Additionally, teachers can create accounts for their students and have them join class groups, where goals can be set and class tallies of rice can be made to see how much rice the entire class has donated over time.

Many different subjects are available to answer questions on, including English vocabulary, basic math skills, geography skills, and foreign languages, with more subjects being added continuously.  What’s more, many of the subjects have the option to change the level of difficulty as you are answering questions, which allows you to individualize this for each student based on his/her needs.

If the content is too easy for the student, the site will gradually increase their level as they answer questions.  If the questions prove to be more challenging, it will alter the difficulty as well.  This is a godsend for teachers who instruct groups of students at varying learning levels, tailoring the activity to meet the needs of all students.

Become a Sensai of Classroom Management with Class Dojo

Class Dojo

Use any device (now even Android compatible!) to manage classroom behavior.

Move over, Mr. Miyagi – Behavior management in the classroom just got an upgrade.  Actually, Class Dojo has been around for a while now, but a recent upgrade has made this easy-to-use app available to Android users as well as iOS.

Class Dojo is a tool that teachers can use to manage both positive and negative behaviors of their students within the classroom.  A teacher sets up his/her classes, decides what positive behaviors will be rewarded, and can begin using the program immediately in the classroom.

Wax on, wax off

Class Dojo works using a point system, where positive behavior exhibited by students is is awarded with a point.  Negative behaviors, on the other hand, result in a student losing a point.  At any given time, a student’s overall behavior breakdown can be accessed and reviewed to summarize how he/she has behaved in class in a given time frame.

When students are awarded points, the teacher can select one or more students (all of which can be done from a tablet, PC, Mac, or smart phone (Android or iOS), and what behavior is being awarded.  If the Class Dojo class screen is projected, the student(s) receiving the reward are instantly recognized in a pop-up on the screen, along with a satisfying chime to let the class know what behavior has been noticed by the teacher.  Alternatively, a teacher could review the points at increments during class, or at the end of each class to recognize students for their positive behaviors.  Additionally, Class Dojo automatically sends out reports to parents each Friday, given that you have entered email addresses for your students beforehand.

In my own experience with 5th graders, I have noticed that Class Dojo does a great job of focusing on the positive behaviors of students, even when negative behaviors are occurring at the same time.  With many reward/punishment systems, the positive and negative consequences are not connected, and many students receive more attention and recognition for doing things “wrong,” although they may be doing many more things “right.”  Class Dojo summarizes both together, and students can receive more attention for the positive decisions they make in the classroom.