Sunday, March 31, 2013

Homework 2.0: can Tech Transform HWK?

As I am preparing for this week's Pedagogy and Technology chat (#patue) I am thinking a great deal about homework in my own life as a student and as a teacher.

Before I engage in a narrative ramble here is the official promo info for Tuesday:

#PATUE Chat April 2 @ 5PST/ 8est topic Homework 2.0 with @Drjolly @Wikibrains and @RickWormeli

I should invite my parents onto this chat as they would have some great insights on how quickly homework can become "the homework fight. "

As a student I typically refused to do homework I already understood.  This was frustrating to everyone in my life as it created a large disparity between ability and grades.  In my middle school years I would fail the first part of each school year because I would not engage in the review work.  Once I joined the ranks of teachers  my attitude about homework didn't change, but I found myself feeling pushed around by expectations of HWK from students, admin and parents.
In my school I have 150 minutes a week of classtime with my students, assuming there isn't a special schedule.  This means I can feel the pressure of "not enough time" pretty quickly.
I have worked to innovate the roll of homework in my class and some weeks it works and others, well not as much.  English teachers typically give reading homework, and then have to figure out how to run the class in a way that accounts for those that did not read.  This creates frustration.  Going into this week's #patue chat I hope we can uncover some good guiding principles for the best use of out of class time.
Honestly my interest in "flipping" my classroom is about finding the tools to create critical change in how my instructional time is used.  I am not an all or nothing flipper; I am a teacher shopping for tools to keep my students engaged and learning.

What do I want from my Homework? (a rough list)
1. I want it to be paperless, filed in the RIGHT spot in the cloud before class begins.
2. I want it to support and extend student learning
3. I don't want it to need "correcting and scoring

The conversation is already going
Join us Tuesday 5pst/8est for #patue chat

  I hope you will join the discussion on Tuesday.  Everything you do as a teacher has the potential to change the world. Everything.

POSTSCRIPT: the chat was awesome here is a link to the storify

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Flipping your class with Cheryl and Karl from the Flipped Learning Journal

In this presentation Cheryl and Karl share their adventures in flipping.  This should be required viewing for all teachers before they flip.

Part One

Part Two


This session was awesome and just the tip of the iceberg when it come to the knowledge that lives on the Flipped Learning Journal.

Becoming a Connected Educator, Building your PLN



This is a full recording I made of the presentation for SVCUE13.  Please let me know if you need the slides on their own and I will figure out how to upload those.  The session was awesome.  Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Presentation Deck for SVCUE "My blogging life"

Presentation Deck for SVCUE "My blogging life"

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Flipping the Writer's conference with a Livescribe Echo Pen


This is a second in a series of blog posts looking specifically at flipping the writer's conference.  In this post I use the Livescribe Echo pen.  The echo is Livescribe's wired pen and the output of the pen is a flash-dependent (foreshadowing music)  audio-embedded PDF

The Fact:
Simply stated, writers get to be better writers through conferences.  Direct knowledgable response to writing is an absolute game changer.

The Pedagogy Problem: With a 150 minutes of class time a week, I cannot conference with kids in class and still keep the class moving forward.
So I either need to move the conference process out of class time, or I need to create a way to keep the class moving forward while I conference with students.

Echo Pen on Livescribe sticky notes
I have been trying to address the second problem for years, group activities, work stations, independent reading.  These have met with some success, but I still struggled to deliver a quality writing conference.  One of the issues is privacy.  Writing is a major point of vulnerability, and conferencing with a audience of your peers is a nightmare for most kids.

(if you aren't sure about my ideas with writing and the ego, I refer you back to Catcher in The Rye, chapter one.)

The Tech Tool: Livescribe Echo smart pen, and Livescribe sticky notes.  The echo smartpen is the most affordable smart pen in the Livescribe family. It records audio and links it to a document with an image of the handwriting on the Livescribe paper.  This creates a note with a playable audio track.  
When using this to respond to students I like to use the Livescribe sticky notes.  Each page of Livescribe paper (no matter the size) has it's own file name.  Because I want to send the response to only one student, the sticky notes help me do so without using an entire notebook.
For this response (Julius Caesar  essay draft) I focused on an overal impression of their draft and specific ideas for revision.  The draft was scored for completion, so there was no score on these responses.
The pen creates a number of different file formats, a pencast (audio-embedded PDF), a static PDF with no sound, or an MP4 file with no image of the handwriting.  For this response I exported the notes into google drive, set permission to "anyone with link" and inserted the link into the comments section of our LMS specific inbox. (the same place they turned in the essay).
File names by Livescribe

The Time:
Initially the time was great on this.  The "shortcuts" provided by the smartpen allowed me to tell the file to auto-loud into google drive.
As soon as I realized the students were having access issues, these time savings quickly evaporated.
The key to Livescribe's success with teachers is a total lack of post-processing needed.  Once you have to manually send files in multiple formats, the value of the tool diminishes.

Feedback:
"I can't read that"
"This doesn't make sense"
"What am I supposed to do with this?"
"Since I can't play your feedback file I need an extension"
"Bob couldn't download his file, so I assumed mine was broken too."



The Problem (s): 
1.The response files were not as accessible as I hoped.  Following the link, got the students to the file in google drive, but the file won't play in google drive, the students have to download it.  This was not intuitive to the students.  Once the students downloaded the file, many using macs had serious issues accessing the file.  They were prompted to update adobe flash and even after that it did not play.
To solve this I exported the file (again) as an MP4 and emailed it to students.  Although I know several awesome teachers using voice memo to respond to student writing, I was trying for a mix of visual and audio.
2. the notes made my handwriting lok worse! (and that takes doing) As you can see in the note above there are large stay lines from the ends of words to the beginning of others.  Apparently I was operating in the threshold of "the pen isn't inking, but the computer inside of the pen thinks it is."


Adjustments:
1. Access is a killer, if the file isn't both easy to create and simple to click and play it is not going to work in my class.  While I love the echo pen for many things (just starting to podcast with it), I think the "Sky" wifi pen, which houses all notes in Evernote and exports in an HTML5 format may be a better match for access.
2. Lift the pen farther from the paper while writing.


Monday, March 18, 2013

Flipping in English: Screencasting a conference

The Fact:
Simply stated, writers get to be better writers through conferences.  Direct knowledgable response to writing is an absolute game changer.

The Pedagogy Problem: With a 150 minutes of class time a week, I cannot conference with kids in class and still keep the class moving forward.
So I either need to move the conference process out of class time, or I need to create a way to keep the class moving forward while I conference with students.

I have been trying to address the second problem for years, group activities, work stations, independent reading.  These have met with some success, but I still struggled to deliver a quality writing conference.  One of the issues is privacy.  Writing is a major point of vulnerability, and conferencing with a audience of your peers is a nightmare for most kids.

(if you aren't sure about my ideas with writing and the ego, I refer you back to Catcher in The Rye, chapter one.)


The Tech Tool: Quicktime.
There are many screencasting options out there, some of my favorite are created by TechSmith, but for this session I used Quicktime on my Mac book Pro, as it is part of the software suite on the computer when it ships.
I was surprised that Quicktime now allows you to make movies, so surprised that I didn't know anything about it until I was searching online for screen cast tools and someone had posted about Quicktime's new feature.
A screen cast combines a live image of your computer desktop and your microphone's audio.  In the example below I have a digital copy of the paper open and I also have a doc cam window open.  The doc cam is capture notes I was making with a livescribe pen.  (This was a redundancy measure, I hate doing real work with brand new tools without a backup.)

The Time:
Each video took 6-8 minutes to film, maybe one minute to export, and another minute to upload.  8-10 minutes per paper is pretty good, but I was reading the papers live on film.

Feedback:
The students said that watching the video was less stressful than sitting next to me in conference and more useful than written response. My students also admitted they skipped to the end to see the score and then watched the whole video.


The Problem with the video:
This is only 1/2 of the process.  I did follow up with many of the students after they viewed the video, but I worry that some needed conversations might not have happened.  If I compare this process to not conferencing it is a clear win. . . but person to person is still the best.  At this point I think screencasting is a good idea, but my version is still too long, both on the creation end and the consumer end.


Adjustments:
1. Pre-read essays and screen cast summative comments.
2. Have Students create video responses.