Friday, December 30, 2016

Maximizing Google Search Part 1 - The Basics

I’ve decided to blog on the Google Powersearching course, a free online course that is self-paced. This post begins with the basics.

The point is to give short summaries of the course with useful links and links to the videos Google provides. If you want to jump ahead and get go directly to many of the Search features you can access this work-in-progress Google Slides deck, entitled “Google Search: Foster Independent Learners & Search Like a Ninja”. It is based on Google Search workshops I have facilitated and continues to evolve. The goal is to learn how to use Google Search with maximum efficiency. As Google states, you will “Hone your searching skills by solving complex search challenges alongside peers from around the world in this online class.” The skills you will learn here will give educators the tools needed to foster your students’ independent research skills.

These are search strategies to help the “searcher” zero in on the information they are seeking. They allow us to navigate the web much faster and more efficiently. On a non-US Google search page you can get “back to” by clicking a link in the bottom left corner, or by typing I’m starting with 1.2, the first “lesson” following the introduction.

Part 1: Starting with the Basics

Basically, when we do a search on Google, the engine gives us the results of the Google index, not the web. Google “fetches” the pages with software programs called “spiders” and follows the links connected to those pages. The importance of a page is rated by the number of pages linked to it. Essentially, the software asks questions about your search using your keywords.

Choosing the best words will give you the best results.

  • Use effective keywords
  • Put yourself in the mindset of the author
  • Think about what words you want to SEE in your search results
  • Use appropriate word choice (don’t use slang unless you’re looking for slang-related answers)
  • You’ll notice that the narrower you search, the fewer results you have

Word Order (video)
What are the factors that impact an efficient search? The words and the order count. Capitalization, spelling and special characters USUALLY don’t matter. Some do. Here is the “nutshell”.

  • A % sign at the front will be disregarded
  • Articles such as “a”, “the” will impact a search (the course video uses the samples “a who”, “the who” and “who”, which will give you “Horton Hears a Who”, the band “The Who”, and “The World Health Organization”, respectively
  • Some symbols / characters that will be recognized are ones such as “C#” in music, and “#hashtag”
  • Symbols for currencies aren’t usually recognized

This is a neat feature, which I think will be useful in seeking History images to reinforce teaching. In the bottom left of an image search there are colours that we can use to help find the context of the image. This set of colour boxes is called the “paint chip selector”.

If I’m searching for a WW1 period photo I may choose the black and white search function; I may choose “white” to get a white background.   
  • Colours carry an implied context, such as an old photo, or desert sand, or blue skies
  • Colour filtering is an effective tool to find the images you want, and get a wider variety
  • When choosing diagrams, graphs from a search query, use the white background to narrow down the options
  • Choose the “visually similar” link to narrow
  • Choose “similar link” to get similar-looking images

This feature isn’t new to a computer, but it is brilliant. I can see its use when searching through lengthy, archived historical sources that are online. The feature allows you to narrow your search of a page to a single word, jumping down to the word. Safari, Firefox and Chrome all have different “formats” but essentially they offer similar features to make your search faster.

  • Mac: Command + F
  • Windows: Control + F

Monday, December 26, 2016

Dive Into Inquiry: Book Overview (Trevor MacKenzie, 2016)

Dive Into Inquiry (2016)
by Trevor MacKenzie (purchase from the EdTechTeam Press)

dive-into-inquiry.jpg*As I’ve explored this book and written this post, I noticed that this post has the appearance of a summary, which is not the intention. I’ve noted pages of the book to get a deeper understanding of the author’s message and in particular online spaces to go in order to see his detailed (and useful) examples. I encourage teachers keen to “dive” into inquiry more deeply to purchase the book and look at the many, many, many authentic examples provided by the author.

Trevor MacKenzie brings teachers a straightforward, well structured book that offers strategies to bring inquiry based learning to your classroom. It’s a no-nonsense guide that doesn’t pretend that teachers and students aren’t challenged to create authentic, personal learning in schools. MacKenzie is a teacher writing for teachers, and is sharing a fundamental core of his own teaching practice, littering the book with wonderful real-life examples to support his ideas. (have a QR code reader app on your device to access some of the samples) The author also recognizes that we all have curriculum expectations we need to cover, and that knowledge that must be attained. How do we create this environment and meet expectations? This book gives us a powerful example. MacKenzie gives explanations of inquiry and inquiry based learning, discusses his “three big goals”, and gets into the model for the year. He explains the Types of Student Inquiry: Structured, Controlled, Guided, and Free Inquiry. He also discusses the Understanding by Design framework. I like the creative quality of the graphics MacKenzie designed for this, a departure from the often text-heavy, table-style graphic organizers we see. (yes, a couple are table-like, but visually appealing) This review is a synopsis of the book, with my personal thoughts in italics.

I. Setting Up Your Class for Success
The first several chapters touch on introducing your students to the inquiry approach and empowering them to have a say in the curriculum. But it starts with the teacher’s goals:

  • Flipping the control of classroom learning to the student
  • Developing a trusting environment early on
  • Unpacking the inquiry model with students

A key point is that “relationships (come) first”, making that connection with all students. Needless to say, this builds the trust necessary to take risks and dig deeper.

II. Student Agency
In the early days of the school year MacKenzie works with his students to develop the curriculum for the course. I don’t think the suggestion is to have students build the course, but be more empowered to choose approaches to learning (ie) activities, and content, such as readings or videos that might be used. Some curriculums offer far more flexibility than others.
I like the idea of giving students some measure of ownership over the course outline. I will try this in our second semester this year, as we get into the Japanese History section of the course. I’ll modify it to ensure they take skills and historical investigation terms and concepts into account. This is how he does it:

  • A student survey (Google Form, perhaps?) similar to a learning survey that you would connect to visible learning models. See p.14-15.
  • Students present their course design and explain the what and why behind their thinking.
  • Discussion leads to a public document or poster for reference.

The teacher takes on several roles - teacher, coach, facilitator and more. Modelling these roles shows students the kind of teacher they can expect for the year. MacKenzie actively asks students to explain what good teaching looks like. This is good modeling of risk-taking, and he provides a long list of very telling student comments (p.18-19), such as,

  • Be passionate about the subject, students, and the school
  • Friendly but not a pushover
  • Connect with all students
  • Understand student learning and how different students learn in different ways
  • Provide many ways for students to demonstrate understanding

He adds this list to the course syllabus, and shares their thoughts with faculty in an effort to get their collective voice “out there” to an authentic audience.

MacKenzie follows this with an activity in which students watch a video on a real-life project in which students use the inquiry model. In pairs, they critique the benefits and drawbacks to the approach -  a great collaborative, critical thinking activity. The ideas are referenced as he unpacks the Types of Student Inquiry. (P.24-26 has some sample comments of student thinking)

III. Types of Student Inquiry (overview)
The graphic designed by MacKenzie explains it all, but here is a synopsis, which is also chronological. It makes sense to me that this order would foster greatest success. Students who have experience with IBL can be a valuable resource in helping others understand the process and strategies.

  • Structured inquiry - The teacher provides the essential question, the resources and activities. Students deepen their understanding of how to create an essential question, choose good resources, conduct research, create learning evidence, and create a learning artefact. But the teacher has control and does a lot of leading.

  • Controlled inquiry - Several essential questions are provided for students to tackle. There is a greater variety of resources, but students complete a common task. More choice is given, but the teacher still has greater control over the learning.

  • Guided inquiry - The teacher provides the essential question, or a small set of questions, and students seek their own resources to complete research and choose their own method of demonstrating learning. You can see this gives the learner a greater amount of autonomy.

  • Free inquiry - This is the deepest level, where the student is free to construct the essential question (or questions?), determine what resources will satisfy quality task completion, “customize” evidence of learning through a performance task they determine. This would clearly take a lot of conference time, as students need to be supported in their learning.


Makenzie acknowledges that there is “must-know” content before the free inquiry is attempted. I would add that there are skills that have to be at a certain level of competency as well. I also liked that he brings Understanding by Design into the conversation, explaining why he feels it supports the inquiry model by seeking the end results (and performance task) and evidence of learning. He then gives series of examples for teachers to follow and basic structure to plan an inquiry unit. (see p.35-40)

IV. The Inquiry Process
MacKenzie looks at free inquiry more closely, acknowledging the process that gets them there. (explained above) This stage requires a lot of planning and front loading by the teacher to ensure that there is some guidance so that students can be successful. He lays out a 7-step process he’s developed (and uses; see the graphic on p.42). We’ve seen a variety of iterations of the inquiry process. The rest of the book outlines this 7-step process, which I’ll very briefly summarize below.

1. The Four Pillars of Inquiry.

(i) At the heart of the “Exploring a Passion” pillar is acknowledging that students have talents and interests outside of the class. (that we don’t often see in the class) These are areas (at differing levels based on age) in which students likely have background knowledge and have fostered an interest in. They are set for success because of this. Page 50 has a long list of question prompts of identifying your passion, such as “What motivates you?”, “What engages you?” and “What makes you feel awesome about yourself?”

He furthers this by showing videos of young people explaining their passions in some way, such as Caine’s Arcade.

MacKenzie acknowledges that we must teach certain curriculum that he refers to as “must-know information”, determined by government curriculums. He also points out that inquiry only will lead to an unbalance. I agree. Another important point is that passions are discovered. I myself developed a passion for soccer because my parents forced me into something after quitting Boys Scouts. I think we have to create opportunities for children to explore and not be concerned if it doesn’t become a burning passion. I never expect that all of my students will enjoy my social studies classes, though I do hope that they will come to appreciate the subject and understand its relevance to their lives. (speaking of goals)

(ii) “Aim for a Goal.” In this pilar students have to think about their future. What is it they aspire to be, or in the least, learn more about? The have to think about how to do this, such as read through resources, conduct interviews, or job shadow. The teacher interviews students. MacKenzie gives a list of questions he asks (p.55-56). The interviews help inform how the Free Inquiry unit is approached. (see Eli from p.56) In my current situation this would be quite difficult - not a cop-out, but a reality. Easily done for an elementary teacher, but even finding time in the first month outside of class to meet each of my 80 students would be tough due to their schedules and bus times. An online Google Form would work, but be impersonal and not allow for the one-to-one contact and asking the inevitable questions that arise. I’m thinking to start with only my Grade 8s - 46 students, and in SEM 2.  

(iii) The “Delve Into Your Curiosities” pillar gives students an opportunity to jump into a topic they are curious about but may not have had the opportunity to explore. As we follow curriculum there may be areas that students want to learn more about, or perhaps there is something not in the curriculum that they hope to explore more. MacKenzie has used curiosity journal and provides students with prompts to help them identify what they may be curious about. He discusses they kinds of questions one can ask. (questioning techniques and asking good questions is another area of my own teaching practice I’m making efforts to improve) You can see his examples p.60-61. Like many teachers, he uses TED and YouTube videos, or newspaper articles, etc, to assist understanding, but in this case to demonstrate other people’s curiosity. He follows these with class discussions on why these people were curious and where their curiosities led them. (see p.63)

(iv) And finally, the pillar “Take On a New Challenge” is all about a personal challenge. It can be local or global in nature. It can have an end-goal of self-improvement or one for the community. MacKenzie begins with group challenges. He facilities small-group challenges with a variety of activities based on his passion for educational technology, such as Breakout EDU, makerspace challenges, or 3-D design. (check out Tinkercad) Realizing that students want to do good deeds and have an impact on others, he also provides long term group challenges. (see p.67 for a description of a literacy project his students undertook) Another example can be seen by a student Ethan, who really dug deep for his Free Inquiry, a challenging project he continued into post-graduation. An important key to this example is how the teacher was flexible in the students learning, and how he leveraged technology to see that the student, Ethan, could succeed in his project. Very cool indeed.


2. Creating an Essential Question. This follows the introduction to the Four Pillars of Inquiry. It begins with a broad topic that after some exploration and refining becomes an essential question on a more focused topic. Keep in mind that this has to be cultivated over the course of the school year. I recommend reading a couple of books about helping students develop good questions. One I am using this year is “Questioning for Classroom Discussion: Purposeful Speaking, Engaged Listening, Deep Thinking” by ASCD, and another I intend to pick up soon, “Now That's a Good Question! How to Promote Cognitive Rigor Through Classroom Questioning”. Perhaps the strategies in either of these books may help. When students define their topic they begin exploring resources, again with the assistance of a media / library specialist. The teacher and specialist collaborate to pull up resources after students have defined their topic choices. (MacKenzie suggests three resources ready per student, but by this time in the year students should have a good understanding of the library databases as well and have some measure of independence - it really depends on the topic) Have a look at some suggested reading on p.75. These could help a teacher guide students to narrowing their question. He suggests that strong essential questions have certain elements. One is to see that students develop an open-ended essential question. It has to be broad. This allows for deeper analysis. (which we also do in historical inquiries - I’m a Social Studies teacher) The question should reflect the level of the course (or higher) - a student in Grade 9 will have a different kind of question than a senior. Finally, in the course of interviewing students MacKenzie asks students why their question is meaningful to them. This makes total sense, considering it is free inquiry! He begins by helping students develop their question with some strategies for developing a question. (see p.77-79)

3. Create Your Free Inquiry Proposal. The idea here is to use backward design to guide students in the next stages of the process, with another kid-friendly (and teacher-friendly) graphic on p.81. It begins with a close connection to the last section, creating an essential question. (i) The student sells the idea to the teacher, demonstrating why it is intrinsically motivating. In my experience, not only the question but the resources also change as the inquiry goes on - this is natural. (ii) The student determines what method they will use to demonstrate their learning - the “authentic piece”. MacKenzie points out that a digital element doesn’t disappear easily. I’ll add that digital material is easy to share with the world, making the audience wider and truly authentic. (iii) Students identify the resources they will use for success, and (iv) identify goals for the inquiry. (v) Students identify how they will document the learning process - the evidence, and (vi) create a plan. (see p.87-88 for a sample plan with modifications) All of the above leads into a consideration for time frame and a meeting with the teacher - the “pitch”. See the example on p.90.

Another crucial point made is that the Free Inquiry must meet course requirements, and include proof that they have. MacKenzie gives examples of the “authentic piece” on p.92, basically presentation styles students may choose to attempt. Students must also plan to publicly display their work in some form - read more below.


4. Begin to Explore and Research & Collect Learning Evidence. This is a straightforward step in the Free Inquiry process, but MacKenzie brings a reminder of methods to reduce student anxiety. (let’s face it - it’s a big project) See what his students’ experiences are with using an inquiry journal and periodic check-ins, from p.97. He also clearly appreciates the value of our school media-library specialists.

5. Create Your Authentic Piece. This should be a piece that demonstrates understanding of the essential question, what the student has learned, and ideally inspire and interest others. Using backwards design to plan the piece will help students with the process, and include a connection to course objectives. (again, a critical part of the process) Something that strengthens the process is self-assessment. MacKenzie goes through the steps the teacher and student can follow together in developing a self-assessment rubric that satisfies course requirements and maintains student motivation. This includes a consideration of consultation with professionals outside the school. (p.105-107) The following section gives ideas for refining the piece and developing it in a way that is engaging for the audience AND the student. See the examples on P.110-111.  

6. Public Display of Understanding. The is the culmination of the course and the Free Inquiry project. MacKenzie gives suggestions for how students (and the teacher) can display their work in such a way that it reaches the school community, and potentially beyond. In general, he refers to an Inquiry Open House, with “inquiry stations”, and the forms it can take. (p.114-117) It includes students taking viewers along their learning journey from the start of the essential question to an inquiry statement - why they chose their topic. They create a reflection that goes on a class YouTube channel with a QR code in the gallery - a great idea. Moreover, MacKenzie also has a strategy for having extremely shy students to publicly display in comfortable setting.

The “Public Display of Understanding” is a critical piece of the puzzle for myself. I have suggested holding a “Social Studies Fair” in the past, but to no avail. School calendars are packed, though I truly believe such a project can be flexible and not disrupt a school calendar, and Trevor MacKenzie reinforces this with the suggestions made in “Dive Into Inquiry”. Perhaps I have to work on my own sales pitch.

Works Cited
MacKenzie, Trevor. Dive Into Inquiry: amplify learning and empower student voice. Irvine,
California: EdTechTeam Press, 2016. Print.

Other publications referenced in this post:
Walsh, Jackie A., and Beth D. Sattes. Questioning for Classroom Discussion: purposeful
speaking, engaged listening, deep thinking. Alexandria, Virginia, USA: ASCD, 2015.

Francis, Erik M. Now that's a good question! How to promote cognitive rigor through classroom
questioning. Alexandria, Virginia: ASCD, 2016. Print.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Establishing a Culture of Academic Honesty for Students AND Teachers

Reinforcing that it feels good to be honest is huge, so keeping a positive spin is always good.  I feel that developing a healthy culture of citation is about getting students to reflect deeply on how they feel about someone stealing their ideas, or taking credit for someone else’s ideas in school. Getting over the laziness - and academic dishonesty, I think, mostly comes from...laziness.

It also has to be a concerted effort and supported across the board - all faculty reinforcing the same positive attitude toward citation. Something I’ve done in my Technology Coach role (50% of my portfolio), as well as in my classes, is teach Chrome extensions such as ‘Cite This For Me’ and “Apogee’, which makes online citations really easy. (note: I reinforce the need to review the citation and check that there aren’t any errors - extensions aren’t perfect.) Schools need to have a continuous discussion with regard to academic honesty. I am a 50% History / Social Studies teacher, so this is an inherent part of my teaching, though I would argue it applies to everything across the learning spectrum. We bring students into the library to help them learn to use the online and paper sources, but in classes we have to continue to reinforce a positive attitude towards citation. It takes a bit of effort, too. Since formatting changes in MLA almost yearly, I’ve created a sample sheet that students can use as a guide, but done so on Google Docs so I can make quick changes and keep it online without students having to download a new document. Feel free to copy / comment on errors on the sample above. Having a clear reference point in a document I created has helped my students - no websites with a lot of text and / or advertisements. It's clear, we used it from the very beginning of the school year, and it's all or nothing - cite it all or you're making a mistake. We also have to be clear that working in groups requires action and contribution to receive credit for the final product. (slightly different from the theme of this post, but certainly related)

What are some other strategies?

  • Have activities in which students read about intellectual property being stolen, using real life situations to catch their attention. (I suggest music and film pirating, but also literary theft)
  • Think of activities that require students to identify the differences in citation styles, and / or "find the errors" in sample Works Cited.
  • Check out this contest by Next Vista for Learning. It’s an NPO that has video contests for students (and teachers), with a focus on creating video tutorials that follow strict citation guidelines. My students in Middle School love it. Here’s a sample from last year. (about 90 seconds) We're participating again this year and like last year, it was a valuable exercise, especially in the beginning of the year to set the standard.

Not only a problem for students, but also for teachers...

Read this short article, "Plagiarism Isn't Just an Issue for Students" by Deborah K. Reed. Reed’s article makes me think of us as teachers who need to sit with students in situations like the one mentioned in the article, in which two students decide that since the citations won't be checked it's not a big deal to flub one. We need to continue the discussions on copyright laws. We need to have frequent and frank discussions with students about doing the right thing, but we have to do so as educators as well. There is another anecdote in the article in which teachers committed the same act. So, as professionals, should a teacher be required to report a colleague practicing academic dishonesty, particularly when presenting publicly? I’ve made a much more concerted approach to my own citations in worksheets I assign. I don’t copy and paste anyway, but I am much more diligent in providing sources of content for my sheets and websites. I think we need to model in this way. When educators are dishonest I believe they have to be called out (especially if they’re getting paid!); academic dishonesty by educators undermines the values we teach. I do admittedly have a softer spot for youth, who need to be guided, not ambushed, but not for educators.

*This post originates from an IB workshop reading noted above.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Digital Distractions Just Another Kind of Distraction
*Reflections from 'Digital distraction in the modern classroom' By Paul Barnwell.

Articles such as this are always a welcome reminder of issues related to classroom management, but I can't help come back to the same conclusion: young people (and often adults at faculty meetings) will find ways to distract themselves when they are not engaged, or downright bored. Certainly, we have to learn to deal with boredom and disinterest from a young age, but I can't help but feel that devices in the classroom are just another potential distraction. We used to write and pass notes around the class, or put a comic inside a textbook. You get the idea. According to a study in the article, 66-86% of college students were doing some kind of social engagement with their phones during class. Now we remember passing those notes on paper.

I appreciate comments on multi-tasking. My view comes from something I read a while ago. Multi-tasking is essentially dividing up your time, thus spending less attention on each task. When I write a song or play soccer I am completely focused on the tasks. They require it, but I'm also completely engaged. Can school work be the same? Perhaps not, as we can't expect every individual to be completely interested in every subject or activity in school. I appreciate Barnwell's frustration - do we limit screen / device time in order to maximize concentration, which suggests maximizing learning? I wonder. Perhaps we need to be very focused and vigilant while we use tools, and be cognizant of the usefulness or appropriateness of the tools we use for a task or learning outcome. Perhaps we need to be much more focused on device-based tasks, designing lessons more carefully, not to mention clearly demonstrating the value and relevance of tasks to students. Learning outcomes have to be the driving force behind the technology. Maybe we're shifting gears too quickly during a lesson. I do find that if a school has short, blocked periods there is a tendency to rush to cover the planned material and the point is often missed. This is because there is little time to absorb what's happening before the bell suddenly rings.

Getting back to the smartphone part of the discussion, one concern in my school is that, being in an earthquake-prone country, our students need to have their phones close by in the event of an earthquake. (as we witnessed in 2011 in Japan - phone lines were down, but social networking sites proved invaluable to reach loved ones and confirm safety) Smartphones are certainly a great tool for managing learning. (using calendars for scheduling and reminders for instance, not to mention Google Drive's smartphone apps such as Google Classroom) Don't forget the photo/video features and the plethora of quiz and other kinds of learning apps. Quizlet has activities for the student trying to squeeze in a little review on the bus or train. Regardless, phones are here to stay in the hands of our school's students, and most likely in the classrooms.

Like Barnwell, I'm sure to have technology-free lessons. Or will I? Since we use iPads and laptop devices, and Google as platforms (and I'll mention that some schools use Edmodo and Moodle), these tools are used effectively when used to facilitate learning rather than drive "content". Educators need to monitor the use of devices in class as they would have paper passing. Not as easy perhaps, but it's a necessary part of a 21st century teacher's skill set.

*reposted from a previous blog post, but updated on date of post.

Paul Barnwell. "Digital distraction in the modern classroom | SmartBrief." Web. 25 Nov. 2016. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Classroom Management in the Digital Age: Effective Practices for Technology-Rich Learning Spaces (2016)

Classroom Management in the Digital Age: Effective Practices for Technology-Rich Learning Spaces (2016)

by Heather Dowd and Patrick Green (purchase from the EdTechTeam Press)

51wR9jwnfML.jpgSomething I really enjoyed about this book is the emphasis that it’s not about classroom discipline, and acknowledges that student behaviour hasn’t really changed all that much. The nature of classrooms has. The focus is teaching in the 1:1 environment, or in environments where kids are connected. The book is broken down into four general parts: Classroom Procedures, Classroom Rules and Expectations, Teaching Tips & Strategies, and Partnering with Parents - and it tends to lend itself as a reference. The authors do suggest it be placed on the shelf and pulled out from time to time. The table of contents is thoughtfully written in clear topics. I’m not going to repeat all of these, but rather highlight some of what I feel are interesting points from each. My personal thoughts are in italics.

I. Classroom Procedures
Students juggle a variety of procedures. (in my mind, we tend to forget that as adults - our students see several of us in one day, and we all have varying expectations and approaches to teaching)

  • Well defined procedures use time efficiently = more learning time
  • Teach the procedure, practice it, monitor / correct / reinforce, and review when necessary

Calling students to attention is something done with or without devices.

  • Begin when eye contact with everyone has been made
  • Students have their hands off devices, not visible to the student (or as I do, they are closed or faced down)
  • No earbuds
  • Adopt a signal, practice it, use it consistently. I tend to use the same expression, such as “Alright, let’s go for it”, which means “begin the task”. (see p.5 of the book for ideas)

Collecting student work is also a constant, but now there are a variety of methods and formats when doing it online. This makes it tricky at times.

  • Blogs or Learning Management Systems (LMS) such as Google Classroom allow submissions to be timestamped, which helps (p.lists several of the more common LMS)
  • Submissions can be electronic through Google Forms or shared spreadsheets, for example, or the more cumbersome email

Communicating the day’s agenda and homework was a nice topic to see, as I do this each day. I post what we are “learning, doing, and homework” - a Visible Learning approach. I don’t post it in classroom but rather project it on the board. I’m thinking I should do both. (homework is posted, but not the activity / lesson objectives, however)

What students do when they walk in the room also sets the tone. (if you have your own room; teachers move in my current school) A well-managed class has students who know what to do and are ready. This could be sitting with books or devices out, or even a regular activity to warm up. This can be done digitally with an accessible slideshow or clear instructions for students to begin working straight away. (freeing up the teacher to take attendance, do housekeeping) See p.12 for an example. The authors suggest a warm up activity as a method for taking attendance. (ie) an online quizzing tool, such as a review of a homework reading. Work not done can also be proof of being absent. (though in my class sometimes students neglect to “submit” a digital worksheet)

Shared devices in a school can be an issue, in terms of teaching students to protect their account login, determining where work is to be saved, and accounts that may also require a login. (as with iPad apps) Chromebooks and iPads are making this easier. I’d suggest that developing a responsible culture is necessary.

Extension activities would be something I think are easily done digitally - there’s so much out there. The extension activity would have to be engaging and relevant. Let’s face it, students have other work they want to be doing if they “finish early” - an unfortunate truth. The authors note activities such as writing, composing, gaming, artwork, and they note giving some options that won’t lead to sloppy work and time wasting. See a list of suggestions on p.17.

Another area the authors touch on are file naming conventions. This can save or waste a lot of your time. They correctly point out that file naming conventions are more and more being generated for the teacher and student through the LMS. (ie) Google Classroom copies of docs for all students. However, sometimes it is the case that there needs to be a file-naming system. This also teaches organizational skills to students.

Although I have by accident, not design, developed paperless classrooms, printing needs have to be addressed, though I feel this depends on the school. I would argue more paper is used with 1:1 environments, but believe it will change as more and more teachers learn to assess in the cloud. Schools need to develop a when, where and how to protocol for printing. And I’ll add, a protocol that strengthens environmental stewardship.

II. Classroom Rules and Expectations
This section begin with a school culture discussion related to acceptable use / digital citizenship policies. These can be the basis for your school and classroom. Some thoughts I appreciate:

  • Only set the rules you intend to enforce
  • Don’t let techno panic set in (ie) don’t freak out and ban devices when a couple of students are off task - we used to pass notes 30 years ago, so deal with it more rationally) I’d suggest setting the rules and enforcing positive work habits in the classroom
  • Battery life management is another issue discussed, so schools must decide whether (1) there is there charging allowed, (2) no school charging, or (3) a device sign out system. My current school has the sign out system, and it is at times a burden on human resources. Shared device classrooms certainly need charging stations.

Caring for one’s device is also a major issue. Some students do, and some don’t. (not to mention teachers. This has to be taught, and part of the school culture. I’ve thought of doing a “Be Nice to Your Device” campaign at my school. See a list of suggestions on p.25, along with the Be Prepared To Learn school habit noted on p.26.

No audio spaces may be necessary when students are doing homework when in quiet areas, or areas in which others may be distracted. (so get them in the habit of carrying earbuds in their schoolbags)

Poster campaigns are a good way to promote the rules and expectations, and if enforced, should lead to good overall habits in the school culture of device care and digital citizenship. (see p.27-30 or download some ideas here from the EdTechTeam)

Digital citizenship is certainly an ongoing topic of discussion and discourse in schools and hopefully at home and the authors make the all-important point that we were doing this before we had devices in classrooms. It has to be integrated across the curriculum. Resources are abundant. (see Common Sense Education for grade appropriate lesson places and resources)

I used to do a kind of Boot Camp at the American School in Japan for Grade 9 students (paired with a learning habits session) in which we discussed digital footprints, security, privacy, and acceptable use policies. These can include handling of devices, care for devices, etc. (see p.32-34) A great suggestion (which we did not do) is to include parents in the process.

My students often say they can multi-task, but we know any time we do more than one thing at once our attention is divided. Distraction is always going to be an issue in managing a classroom - digital tools are simply another distraction. The authors discuss research behind music and that if it is to be played instrumentals are best, and more likely classical music will provide the mood students claim they want to be in. I need to have a clear discussion with my students with regard to distractions and managing distraction as independent learners. This would be a good collaborative, reflective and community activity, one in which they can develop strategies to deal with distraction. (we do discuss this, but only in clips and phrases) The authors describe strategies such as closing apps and tbs, disconnecting from wifi, locking students to an app (this would be in a controlled device environment), and thankfully mention developing engaging lessons. Imagine that!

III. Teaching Tips & Strategies
This is a section that I feel can apply in the connected or “disconnected” class. They include personalized learning approaches and engaging lesosns, but here is a list of strategies / considerations that may be applied to a unit, lesson, or activity.

  • Room arrangement
  • When the teacher should be at the front back or center (as in the middle of the room - I’d love this mobility if we had the space)
  • Pods, pairs and groups along with a limit to the number of devices to be used (I made this mistake today by forgetting to tell groups of four to use only one device, I myself distracted momentarily, and only later noticed there was less discussion and more non-verbal collaboration on a shared document - which was not my intended approach)
  • Seating assignments (see p.43)
  • Page 46 highlights activities for higher-order thinking (webquests), tech for creation (art, film, music), deeper learning of “how things work”, choice, personal connections

Dealing with tech questions is inevitably going to be an issue in schools. Some have tech coaches, IT experts, student tech teams. They point out that teachers need to know their primary role is to help students learn, and point to the tech support or opportunities to develop tech support in schools. (ie) student tech teams, technology coaches, IT support, technology “hubs” in a school. Teacher can scan the room and ask students for help. I am quite surprised how often a teacher will not know how to do something, that has often been taught or put in a tutorial, but will not ask a student in the room and instantly call “tech support”. (I teach as well and often am in class or a meeting) I do sometimes give students a tech challenge and require them to figure it out together. Usually someone in the class figures it out. However, I do make sure I know what to do, so this may not be the best example!

Managing projects is a topic that comes up, suggesting that there be multiple technology roles, especially when working in groups. (this is if technology is needed in the project) Pages 52-55 discuss how to manage tech-dependent projects, including research skills and questioning techniques, which are very important. See p.55 for “Guidelines for Online Sharing”.

Pages 56-60 discuss choosing the appropriate tools, as well as note-taking.

IV. Partnering with Parents
At the moment it’s safe to safe most parents today in 2016 haven’t grown up in a digital classroom environment, nor grew up with social media, and thus have a difficult time understanding the current classroom environment. Unsurprisingly, the Dowd and Green suggest strong communication is a key to a successful partnership. They suggest communication tools such as (and I see this in our elementary school frequently):

  • Newsletters
  • Social media posts
  • Open house days

In terms of communication strategies, discussions on:

  • Why digital devices and why the ones that are being chosen
  • Sharing classroom expectations with parents
  • Sharing access to assessment data (via tools such as Net Classroom, Power School, etc)
  • Share classroom activities with parents explaining how the devices are being used (this has me thinking it would be good to have parents be given the opportunity to do a device-based activity with their children, for fun, on the weekend, but one that is related to the subject being studied)
  • Discuss with parents strategies for working with their children at home: when can the device be used for school, and when used for play, when to charge it, etc

Further resources are near the back. (websites, books, ISTE standards)