Saturday, December 29, 2018

Common Sense Education - A One-Stop Shop for Digital Literacy for Parents, Educators and Organizations

Common Sense Education is a non-profit organization with a mission to help us all understand our relationship with the daily bombardment of media in our lives. As the website is chock-full of ideas and resources this post is a mere drop-in-the-bucket overview of the learning available at Common Sense Education. For parents, schools, organizations and individuals this is a bottomless pit of knowledge.

We’ll approach it with an overview of resources in each of the tabs. Also have a look at the wealth of videos on the Common Sense YouTube channel that provides tips and tools for educators. (and don’t forget the Donate button in the top right!)

At the top left you’ll find three tabs, For Parents, For Educators, and For Advocates. For Parents will take you to TV & Movies, Books, Apps and Games, and Advice for Parents. These include reviews and the Common Sense approval seal for honorable mentions. Teachers can find resources for promoting Digital Citizenship, positive Educational Technology, as well as professional development. The For Advocates tab will provide you with resources, and news that with help educators (and their students) to take action for positive and healthy engagement with media. This is all grounded in research that demonstrates the level of effort Common Sense is putting into giving users the most up-to-date information on how we engage with media.

There are other tabs in the banner dedicated to educators.

Digital Citizenship provides lessons for teachers, games and interactive tools for kids, resources for engaging parents and downloadable classroom posters. There are tutorials for curriculum content, as well as toolkits for: Social & Emotional Learning, News & Media Literacy, Digital Citizenship, Internet Safety, Anti-Cyberbullying, and Gender and Digital Life.

EdTech Reviews & Resources has a wealth of resources in the recommended apps and edtech tools, teacher-created lesson plans, as well as tips for teachers using technology in the classroom. There is also a video library about digital tools, best teaching practices, and technology integration.

Professional Development includes a one-hour tutorial on Common Sense Digital Citizenship curriculum, and the Common Sense Educator program. Both provide a certificate upon completion. There is a commitment to become a Common Sense Educator, which opens you up to the Common Sense community. The deadline for 2019 is June 30, so get started. You’ll also find monthly webinars, expert advice, a video library, and case studies of schools successfully implementing digital citizenship programs.

Recognition & Community recognizes individual educators, schools, and entire districts for efforts towards “lead[ing] responsible and effective tech use in your school communities and build your practice along the way.” There is information on the Common Sense Ambassador program and how to become one.

The Common Sense Privacy Initiative is a “coordinated effort to evaluate edtech tools, protect student privacy, and build in safety and security from the start.” It’s better said from the Common Sense website:
  • Privacy Evaluations - Common Sense evaluates popular edtech apps using a broad range of legal requirements and best practices for data privacy. We focus on the core concerns of safety, privacy, security, and compliance.
  • Information Security Primer - Great for district and school technology leaders, this toolkit is for those looking to learn more about evaluating the information security practices of educational software.
  • Privacy Questions - Make sense of a vendor's terms of service with this question set that helps educators and administrators come to decisions based on their specific school and district policies.

As a final word, I highly recommend technology coaches and administrators have a careful and deliberate look at Common Sense Education as a vehicle for improving digital literacy in schools and at home.

Footnote: for further reading that will benefit educators and parents, read “Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital World” by Devorah Heitner. Here is my review of the book.

Google Forms in the Classroom: How-To Slides Deck & Animation Tutorial

By now, anyone working with G Suite for Education knows Google Forms and likely uses them in class. This post is to introduce a “How-To” Slides deck with animations. The deck can be copied and modified and is intended to be used as an extended-length workshop on using Google Forms in the classroom. However, for anyone interested in getting deeper into Google Forms, maximizing the app in (and out of) the classroom, this may be a useful tool for you. Note the first slides that have some links to practical ideas for using Forms in the classroom. Feel free to make copies and modify to suit your needs.

The Slides deck includes:

Getting Started - Ideas
Build Your Form Part 1: Framework
Build Your Form Part 2: Add Content
Send and Embed Forms in Web Pages
Access and View Responses
Make Your Form a Quiz
Force a Correct Answer
Using Add-ons
Independent Learning

Note that one can click links in the Table of Contents for easier navigation of the deck. Click here or on the image below access the Slides deck.

Click the image to access the Slides deck.

Good luck making Forms an effective learning tool in your classroom!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Why Whiteboards Are Awesome!

I dearly miss having whiteboard walls in my classroom. They were cheap, thin whiteboards installed on the walls turning dead space into active pods of discussion and collaboration. (and with so much space, sometimes work from a number of classes could be left over time for reflection and/or revision) Back in the day I could have students spread out in small groups sharing ideas in small groups that could be confidently shared out as we went through a variety of brainstorming, planning, analytical, and peer review activities. The monotony of ‘desk life’ was broken. So what was I to do when I found myself without my beloved whiteboard walls? 

The nearest dollar store saved the day - the kind that has large, but portable whiteboards for 10 dollars. Though not like the seemingly endless space of a whiteboard wall, my classes could do the same activities, read around the room. One unplanned bonus was the mobility of our new whiteboards - students could step out into the hallways, cafeteria, and the nearby playground if the younger students weren’t outside. 

Here are some of the activities I and my colleagues have done that were enhanced with whiteboards. 

Any subject - Creating a definition for a concepts, processes, etc. Students continued on with developing their definition by doing further research. 

Any subject - Taking notes from video. Students watched three different videos on the same topic and then determined what were the consistencies and inconsistencies with the content of each video.

Elementary Math - Addition and subtraction with game pieces. One of our Grade 1 teachers had students use a worksheet with whiteboards and small animal pieces to do the math problems, visually. 

Debate - Four corners debate. In this activity, students were given a controversial prompt and had to choose one of four ‘corners’ (options) in the room. Strongly agree, Agree, Disagree, or Strongly Disagree. Students with similar opinions could discuss their views and write them down to present their group thinking. This activity is great for the timid. They feel safe that others share their opinion, and can refer to the whiteboard when called upon to speak. 

Economics - Determining market forces in a Hawaiian vacation. Students were taught the economic concepts, and given a scenario for application. Note that they had a graph and text to explain their thinking.

History - Analyzing a primary source for the origin, purpose, content, value, and limitations. Each group was given a different primary source from the same topic of study and then presented. 

History - Writing the key ideas for one group topic in a jigsaw activity. Jigsaws are a common activity in all subjects, but having reference to the whiteboard was useful for students to discuss and record their thinking before going back to their initial group. 

History - For and Against Arguments. Why drop the atomic bomb? Students were given the two perspectives to research and later present. In the future, I may have students research the implications for the countries involved. (in particular the USA, Japan, Russia)

Social Studies / Individuals & Societies - Video recording script prompter. Students had prepared an election campaign commercial. With a 60-second time limit, one or two whiteboards was enough for each group. Moreover, they learned to use whiteboards as cue cards rather than reading a memorized script, helping students practice being succinct as well as presenting a prepared ‘script’ more naturally. 

Saturday, December 22, 2018

A YouTube Slides Deck Tutorial with Animated Gifs: Reach Out to Your Audience with an Engaging YouTube Channel, Branding & Community Building

The Google Slides deck associated with this post can be found here: For further learning I highly recommend that teachers read Patrick Green’s “50 Ways to Use YouTube in the Classroom” (available via the EdTech Team Press and Amazon)

Educators are keen to leverage YouTube for teaching and learning but frequently rely on videos for homework, flipped learning, as a tool for classroom discussion, and curating their course videos via playlists. These are of course all fantastic uses of the platform. But I often hear that educators want to create their own YouTube channel but with little time to learn how to do it. You can learn to create a channel with your own teacher or student-made videos. It will take time!

This Slides deck is a step-by-step guide for how to set up your channel, with some of my personal (though not authoritative) suggestions for developing your channel. While it does not get deep into details of registering as a Google Partner and setting up AdSense, it is a starting point. If you can get through this process you will already have the tools to take your channel further by creating a community and monetization. (if your channel becomes even moderately popular why not make a few dollars in the process?) Feel free to add questions and/or suggestions in the comments section below.

To access the Slides deck click this link or the image above.

Keep in mind that YouTube has reinstated its “Editor” feature and will be redeveloping this and other features of the platform in over 2019. There is plenty to be excited about for the teacher yearning to create a channel that works for their students and wider PLN.

Note: The end of the Slides deck has links to further learning via the YouTube Creator Academy and other offerings from YouTube. Have a look and get a great channel started!

Further reading:

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

This is a new post on storytelling platform, Sutori. What does Sutori look like and what does it do? See the embedded videos below.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Sutori Makes Digital Storytelling Fun and Interactive!

It’s human nature to tell stories. We do it every day without realizing it. Explaining your weekend, what you on a vacation, how you feel about the news...and those stories connect us to each other. This post is about an online storytelling tool I wish I found years ago, called Sutori.

Humans used oral traditions before we had the written word. It’s a part of us. I teach History, where telling and sharing stories is a part of my daily life. But even as a teacher of History I believe that stories are not only for the English and Social Studies classrooms. Sutori allows students to develop our ability to tell stories and learn what makes a good story: we remember what makes us emotional, what piques our interests, and what drives us to think and act. We forget the boring. So what does Sutori look like and what does it do?

Creating a “sutori” is easy.  You begin by In creating the story you automatically have an introduction. Simply click the “+” button. The user can embed text, images, audio, and video. Additionally, forums with discussion prompts can be added. For more interactivity with the content, multiple choice and drag-and-drop quizzes can be added. For the quizzes, feedback can also be added so students don’t simply get a “correct” or “incorrect” response. The quizzes are a good tool for the user to check for understanding. Basic formatting of text can be done - bolding, italics, and bullets. New headings can be added to separate ideas, concepts, processes, and dates/time periods. I like the “Did you know?” feature - adding a little spice to pique the interests of the reader.

Sutori also has a great resource called “Guiding Packs” with examples of how specific subject-area teachers are using Sutori, so students and teachers can see that it’s not just for Social Studies. Something else I really like are the "10-minute Tasks" within Guiding Pack units. Have a look at the activities in this unit on Exploration. (

Students and teachers can work as collaborators on a story. Teachers can create classes and invite students. Sharing the story is simple through Google Classroom, Google+, Twitter, Facebook, or a direct link. Sutori can be embedded as well.

Something else I appreciate about Sutori is that from the beginning image, media used, and at the end of every story, there is a section for text that encourages identifying your sources. (so the developers of Sutori recognize that users of their product should practice academic honesty)

Rights That We Demanded (the civil rights movement in America)
Life Under Mao Zedong: China's Cultural Revolution 1966–1976
The Pro-Democracy Movement in China

There is a free trial period, so think about what stories you want to tell and then sign up. Think you have a good “Sutori”? The editor chooses some stories to highlight, so make it good! Want to go deeper with the tool? Like many online tools and apps, Sutori has the Sutori Academy, where educators can become Sutori Storytellers. I like that distinction much more than “...Certified Educator” because it states what you are doing - telling stories. And you’ll get a free subscription that includes all of the features.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

TED-Ed Clubs: A Perfect Marriage of Student Voice and Public Speaking Skills

“What would you say if the world was listening?” TED-Ed is much more than the great videos we see on YouTube. Over the last several years, through the TED-Ed Clubs initiative, the TED organization has emerged a champion of student voice and of learning thoughtful, creative public speaking. Do you love TED Talks? Do you emphasize public speaking skills in your classroom? Do you want to initiate or revamp a club that amplifies student voice? This is for you! If you're interested in starting a club after reading, get in touch and note the links below with tools for creating a great slides deck with Slide Hunter and SlidesCarnival, and more TED-Ed ideas!

Why would this benefit your students? (not to mention you, the teacher!) TED-Ed is a thoughtfully planned program for club leaders/advisors, which runs on a “club cycle”, now in over 100 countries worldwide. Once accepted as a club, leaders/advisors receive access to a series of 13 “Explorations” that serve as lesson frameworks to be completed in a single cycle (up to 12 months). But TED-Ed understands that a cookie-cutter curriculum doesn’t work for all schools or students, so the curriculum is simply available as a guide. Essentially, the program is a guide club to assist club members in developing their "idea worth spreading". Along with the guide, access to a Leader Resources database is provided.

The explorations take students through a process of identifying their passions and thinking much more deeply about what makes them passionate about those interests and developing a TED-Ed Talk that shares one passion in such a way that the audience is pulled in and engaged. Topics can be anything under the sun. Over time, as students determine and fine-tune their talk, they learn to use images and props to get their ideas across to an audience. Towards the end of the process, they learn the finer points of producing a TED-Ed event, including lights, sound, and scheduling. *Note: expect to have a video conference check-in with a TED-Ed rep to see how you are doing at some point during the process.

When the process ends (more detail below), and your club has hosted an event and your TED-Ed Talks have been recorded, the videos are uploaded to the TED-Ed database for review for the TED-Ed YouTube Channel, giving your students the ultimate opportunity to reach a truly wide and authentic audience. But that’s not all!

What are some other special features of TED-Ed Clubs? There is huge added value within the program itself. 

Connect Weeks. Although you can contact other clubs from around the world and set up your own ‘club connect’, TED-Ed also has Connect Weeks that bring like-minded clubs together to share ideas.

TED-Ed Weekend. Your students could be chosen to attend the annual TED-Ed Weekend in New York City to meet students from clubs around the world and present on the official TED stage at TED Headquarters.

TED-Ed Newsletter & Blog. You will receive a regular e-newsletter highlighting what’s new in TED-Ed, featured TED-Ed animations and lessons, student Talks, and other ways to grow your club and connect with others.

TED-Ed Facebook Access. Yes, TED-Ed is on Facebook. And it’s a brilliant resource for connecting with club leaders to share ideas, receive advice, and celebrate your club’s successes!

So what’s the process of getting your own TED-Ed Club off the ground? It’s not difficult at all, but there are some steps. The program supports students ages 8-18, in any part of the world (club leaders can also be students age 13 or over, and advisors can also be non-teachers connected to a school). To begin, you should read through the TED-Ed Clubs website and the information packet to get an idea of how the program works. Then...
  • Apply and receive an email with ‘next steps’. This includes further familiarizing yourself with the program and participation in a Video Conference Orientation with a TED-Ed rep. Expect other club leaders to join. This is done with every new cycle. *Note: give yourself some time, as there may not be a meeting directly after your application, so start the process early.
  • Recruit club members and get consent forms signed and uploaded within a month of acceptance as a club. Whether you recruit club members before or after this is your choice, but your students will be required to have parents sign a Participation & Media Release form. The consent forms must be uploaded to TED-Ed. *Note: videos of students under the age of 13 will NOT be uploaded to the TED-Ed YouTube Channel.
  • Begin your cycle but plan a timeline. Try to get through the explorations, and modify as you see fit, keeping in mind that you’ll be expected to record the Talks, whether through an official school TED-Ed Club event or a simple recording.
  • Practice, practice, practice the Talks! (and perhaps, practice a little more) 
  • Hold an event and record the videos. The production doesn’t have to be high quality like an official TED-Ed production. 
  • Get the videos uploaded and go through the end-of-cycle checklist provided by TED-Ed.
  • Reflect, celebrate, make plans to grow your club!

How did my students and I fare through our first cycle? I’m quite certain that our club is the first for an international school in Japan, with only one other Japan-based club leader to ask advice. This made the online communities important to get ideas and support. We had students in Grade 5 as well as Grades 9-11, so we had to split the groups and have two separate clubs, with a final event together. (though we’ve decided to have two separate events next year, anticipating growth in membership)

Another challenge we faced was the school schedule. International schools have a LOT going on, and a LOT of unexpected interruptions to the schedule, leaving us sometimes not meeting for a few weeks at a time. This required extending our initially planned cycle length, which was as easy as an email to TED-Ed.

Seeking authentic feedback was a hurdle easily overcome by app smashing. We took practice videos, uploaded them to Flipgrid with no names (ie) Grade 9 Student 1, linked to a Google Form (for feedback). The Flipgrid link was sent out on Twitter, to my Flipgrid community, and other communities of educators asking them and their students to view the Talks and give feedback via the anonymous Google Form. We sought feedback from other TED-Ed clubs. Feedback was limited but more than just teacher or club member feedback.

From a teacher-advisor perspective, the challenge was helping students develop their ideas in a much deeper and more focused way, something most have not had the opportunity to do. Think about it. How often can a student prepare a presentation entirely on anything they want to share, with the time dedicated to perfecting it? To guide students through this process without getting your own ideas into their Talks is a challenge. Students experienced moments of ‘writer’s block’, but part of the process is developing strategies to deal with frustration as they stretch their thinking. There was also the inevitable procrastination and some necessary prodding to get better research completed, though having club meetings suddenly canceled for prolonged periods of time contributed to this.

Overall, I’m proud of our first club cycle and was thrilled that students want to return to the club (a few already planning their next Talk and how they can mentor new members). Have a look at a few of our TED-Ed Talks, already hosted on the TED-Ed Clubs YouTube Channel:

Regaining our creative confidence

Hope and dreams in conflict zones
I'll go for the career I want (and I'm a girl!)

So go ahead and start your school’s first TED-Ed Club. You won’t regret it!

Useful Resources

Slide Hunter: 4000+ free PowerPoint templates for a range of uses
SlidesCarnival: PPT and Google Slides templates
TED-Ed Clubs online
TED-Ed Clubs information packet
TED-Ed Blog 
TED-Ed Clubs on YouTube
TED-Ed Clubs on Facebook

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Learn To Code: Resources for Your Coding Program (for every classroom teacher!)

*This post is inspired by Code in Every Class, an EdTechTeam Press publication written by author-educators Kevin Brookhouser and Ria Megnin. You can read my overview of the book. The resources below are not comprehensive, and I have added some of my own. See the resource section of the book for much more. For teachers interested in learning to code themselves, or for the very keen student, check out these resources. A Google Docs version of this post is available.

But first, a rationale...

Why Code? Jason Wik, of Maker Toolset, sums it up nicely. "Students should leverage technology, not just consume information. We want students to change how they think of themselves, becoming active digital creators of the physical world around them." This is at the heart of how coding will empower young people. See Jason in a TED Talk on the maker movement in schools, with Gabriel Wilkes, and how to get a project started. In our conversation, Jason also suggested that simple definitions are incomplete, saying that “code is the underlying language that connects everything around us. Schools should be teaching the importance of code beyond just apps and games, to open their eyes to the revolution of physical computing, robotics, IoT, and digital fabrication happening all around them.”

How Do I Get Started? When starting your own coding program, be it a club or in your own class, take some time to have a look through the different options available to you. There are many choices for developing a program, be it using a single curriculum/lesson guide on offer, or a blend that works for your club. Consider exploring the different programs with your students if age-appropriate. These coding programs are not just for educators. Parents can also work with their children at home, learning how to code together - a great family activity!

You may want to begin your journey with Google’s introductory level, self-paced course Computational Thinking for Educators to give yourself a foundation in some of the concepts involved with coding, such as, exploring algorithms, finding patterns, developing algorithms, and applying computational thinking to a lesson plan developed by you. However, each of the programs below will have online guidance.

Free & Paid Coding Programs Resources, Descriptions and Links

CS First by Google. CS First is a free program that increases student access and exposure to computer science (CS) education through after-school, in-school, and summer programs. All clubs are run by teachers and/or community volunteers.”

Consider following up or extending learning with Exploring Computational Thinking (ECT), “a curated collection of lesson plans, videos, and other resources on computational thinking (CT)”. It builds upon CS First.

Swift Coding by Apple. "Swift is a robust and intuitive programming language created by Apple for building apps for iOS, Mac, Apple TV, and Apple Watch. It’s designed to give developers more freedom than ever. Swift is easy to use and open source, so anyone with an idea can create something incredible." Free, but you will need a newer version of iPad. is from the organizers of Hour of Code and a fully recognized 501c non-profit organization. Free curricula for ES, MS and HS are offered, with additional resources in tutorial videos, an online support community, and regional partners. Students can learn alone or in a classroom environment. Have a look at the additional 20-hour, age-appropriate courses from Code is also an advocate for social justice, reaching out to all communities. There is even a feature to find third-party resources and local computer science classes or clubs. (it says “US only” but when I searched Nova Scotia, Canada I found three)

CoderDojo. A “global network of free computer programming clubs for young people.” Anyone aged 7 - 17 can join and attend a Dojo and learn to code. These are brick and mortar clubs with adults acting as mentors. Some equipment is necessary, but the resources are free.

Code Monkey. A “fun and educational game environment where students learn to code in a real programming language, no previous experience needed.” Has a course ready to follow and is based on games.

Girls Who Code is “a national non-profit organization dedicated to closing the gender gap in technology.”

Python is an open source programming language that is widely used for website, web apps, and scientific computing. (see this 4-minute YouTube video explaining Python)  Python provides a beginners guide.

Pencil Code. An open source “collaborative programming site for drawing art, playing music, and creating games. It is also a place to experiment with mathematical functions, geometry, graphing, web pages, simulations, and algorithms. Programs are open for all to see and copy.” Has an online guide, discussion forum, and tutorials. Includes an online guide and teacher’s manual.

Scratch. With this MIT program, students can “code their own interactive stories, animations, and games. In the process, they learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively — essential skills for everyone in today’s society.” Scratch is a widely popular coding program used in schools, museums, and community centers. Includes tips and curriculum guides. Teacher accounts can be made for students. See this TED Talk on Scratch.

Hopscotch. A programming software that is easy to learn for kids, giving them a foundation in coding. Has video tutorials, a coding curriculum, and support forum. Free for iPhone and iPad.

Lightbot. Children solve puzzles using programming logic. Ages 4-8 and 9 and up. Has a variety of devices to work with.

Monster Coding. Incorporates math and shapes, with lessons in vocabulary essential to programming. Has a keyboarding piece and tutorial videos.

And for a bit of play...

Code Academy wants to change the face of education, acknowledging that curriculum today doesn’t reflect the economy. Courses are varied, including making websites, JavaScript, HTML, CSS and much more.

Have fun directly from the landing page of Code Monster. Just follow the instructions in the monster’s speech bubble as you move along. A quick introduction to code.

Play with the Chrome Music Lab, an open source platform which employs coding as children explore how music works.

Paid Resources (some with Bots or Boards)

RaspberryPi. Small, single-board “low-cost, high-performance computers that people use to learn, solve problems and have fun.” It includes outreach and education to help more people access computing and digital making, with some free resources.

Sphero. Incorporates robotics and technology with collaborative STEAM activities. The “world's first app-enabled robotic ball and a sophisticated companion for your smartphone or tablet. Learn, play, and explore with this awesome robot.” Includes other robots like Spiderman and BB-8 from Star Wars. Students learn to code the movements of the robots and guide them with their devices.

Cubetto "is a cross-curricular early learning resource that helps young learners develop coding skills, problem-solving, communication, and creativity through adventure and hands-on play.” Includes user manuals, lessons plans, and tutorials.

Code Avengers. Includes lesson plans, teacher training, gamified learning and projects for the “real world”. Has courses in HTML & CSS, Python, Web Development, Design, and more. Kids learn to build apps, games, and websites. Camps are hosted all over the world.

Code Monster. Curriculum and courses. “CodeMonster is about fundamental. Without fundamental we cannot build anything upon it. Our curriculum always start with the basic and will quickly accelerate to the required level. Kids coding must have the element of fun.”

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

"50 Ways to Use YouTube in the Classroom" by Patrick Green: For the Beginner or the YouTube Ninja

(purchase from the EdTechTeam Press or Amazon)

Even teachers that feel they are a YouTube-savvy (as I do about myself) should read "50 Ways to Use YouTube in the Classroom". The structure of the book takes you from 'beginner to ninja'. It can be read in small chunks for those seeking a slow pace, or you can bounce around for those looking to get better at certain aspects of YouTube. Something we can all benefit from is the many, many examples of how YouTube can be leveraged to enhance student learning, student voice, and communication. Patrick Green's writing style, while witty and humourous, is an honest assessment of what YouTube can do and challenges educators may experience, depending on their teaching context. To this, Green provides plausible solutions to those challenges along with sound advice on a variety of areas such as student motivation, parental understanding, and copyright infringement. I found myself taking notes on what I would do to improve my YouTube channels and use of YouTube with my students. "50 Ways to Use YouTube in the Classroom" includes screenshots and web links via QR codes, providing increased understanding of the topics in the book. Additionally, Green has developed a series of YouTube tutorials to accompany the book.

The book has a logical flow, beginning with YouTube and general benefits of having video in the classroom, such as showing an experiment you can’t do yourself, or visiting a place too far away. He guides us through simple things that many of us don’t yet do as a habit, such as using playlists for our classes and subscribing to the best channels. Moreover, Green explains how we can find the “good stuff” using filters. He shows us how to curate videos in a way that is logical for us and our students (something I am doing more diligently since reading the book). Playlists can support differentiation as well, by creating specialize playlists. Ever thought of that? I didn’t. He discusses using defaults built in YouTube, as well as other features such as the closed captioning/subtitles and speeds.

Green continues on with other classroom applications such as embedding in Forms and Slides to flip our classroom. How about making photo slideshows of your students in action? How about recording your lesson explanation on YouTube to make life easy on your substitute (and be sure that the lesson gets explained how you intended)? Perhaps needless to say, privacy is an important part of the book.

If you really want to get deep into YouTube, Green touches on how to setup your channel with Channel Art, a channel trailer, and other settings (like a custom URL). Green explains how to use Creator Studio to help you get the most out of your channel, for those who want to be more serious about managing videos and reaching out to an audience beyond your classroom. YouTube Live and recording/editing with mobile apps.

This is an extremely useful book for classroom teachers, and I would argue school administrators seeking to improve their school's use of YouTube. I thought I was a YouTube ninja before I read this book. I stand corrected!

Find Patrick Green at:

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Make Your Daily Review More Engaging, Interesting, and Relevant with Student Voice Activities

Make Your Daily Review More Engaging, Interesting, and Relevant with Student Voice Activities

My daily review was becoming stagnant, and I didn’t even realize it, probably because I was too focused on the next area of study, rather than properly reinforcing what was just learned. Yet, it’s amazing how a small amount of deliberate focus and effort can turn an important daily practice, such as reviewing previous learning, into a valuable exercise that reinforces much more than the last lesson, but also enhances student voice and supports differentiation. So, I did a little experiment in all of my classes. Each day that I felt review was appropriate I tried to employ a new strategy that was completely student-centered, but teacher-directed. This allowed me to “fill in the gaps” of information that students could not recall, or identify misunderstandings. The additional application that I hadn’t considered, and admittedly stumbled upon, was to include a range of learning skills in each activity (“Approaches To Learning”, for the IB teachers out there). I even found myself shortening longer activities to suit daily review. This addition is now deliberate and the only extra time it takes is to glance at my ATL document. My students have responded well, and I believe our review is more relevant, allows for additional practice and application, and students are far more engaged. We don’t have to review every day, and the teacher can determine how long or how deep to go, based on student feedback. This little “experiment” came after reading “Making Your Teaching Something Special: 50 Simple Ways to Become a Better Teacher” by Rushton Hurley (purchase from EdTechTeam Press or Amazon, and feel free to read my review of the book) 

I’m confident teachers from K-12 and university will find something of use in this list that can apply to your subject and practice. With this, please keep in mind that I teach History and Individuals & Societies, so this is the context of my examples. I like to have students write or think independently before moving on to the safety of sharing to a partner or small group - put the onus on everyone to think. Note that each example below has students thinking and discussing before the teacher “fills in the gaps” or corrects misunderstandings. Additionally, note the asterisk (*) when I am highlighting some method of using pairs, groups, or an ATL. 

The teacher decides upon the length of the time spent reviewing. 

Use Relevant Images. Project a slide with one or more images (photos, political cartoons, etc). Ask students to choose one or two, of the images and independently make a few short notes on how it relates to what was studied the day before. Allow students to speak to a partner or small group. Get them to make one point each at a time to provide equity. 

Draw an Image, Process, Diagram. Rather than posting some process you’ve reviewed, have students recall it on their own. Compare it with that of others in the class, and after a brief discussion the elicitation the teacher can show the correct process. 

Use Quotes. If relevant, project a list of quotes that relate to the topic. Ask students to choose one or two, and independently make a few short notes on how it relates to what was studied the day before. 

Use Images and Text. Project a mix of text (such as primary source documents, quotes, newspaper headlines) and images (such as a photograph, a chart, diagram, propaganda poster). Ask students to choose one or two, of the images and independently make a few short notes on how it relates to what was studied the day before. 

Find Images or Text. Have students do a quick web search to find images that relate to a topic, such as a propaganda poster or map (or a piece of text). In pairs or small groups, each taking turns, students explain how their image relates to the prior learning. *This is also an opportunity to remind students of copyright infringement but adding an extra layer - use the advanced Google Search tool to find copyright free images, or a website such as Flickr. 

Summarize In Groups. Have students take two minutes to discuss the key points of the previous learning (don’t allow them to take notes if you want to include the listening ATL below). Then, the 
*Encourage active listening. Let the students know that one person in each group will rotate and paraphrase the discussion for the next group (you’ll have to assign numbers to students and choose the number that rotates).

Word, Phrase, Sentence, 50-Word Statement. Have students independently write a word, a phrase, and a sentence that are all relative to the previous learning. Put the students in small groups to share their ideas. Next, they use their collective ideas to create a 50-word statement. The statement MUST include one idea from each individual. *This promotes collaborative learning, compromise, and inclusion. 

Write & Ask Questions. Have students independently write questions *Students can practice questioning techniques, such as writing one factual, one conceptual, and one debatable question. After writing the questions, have students move around the room spending 30-45 seconds at a time with each person they “meet” (which should be enough time to ask and answer two questions, or give longer time for conceptual and debatable questions). 

Write a Definition. Give students a list of vocabulary or concepts and have them independently write a definition for one or more. Next, in pairs or groups, students can work in groups or pairs to work together to make one definition to share out. *Why not raise the bar? Assign one concept or term to a group to define. Then, each group rotates around the room making additions and suggestions. When the group is back to their original definition they can choose to make revisions or not. This could be a long activity or could lead to a discussion about the process of refining writing and ideas. 

Wagon Wheels. Students write independently based on a teacher prompt. Next, students sit in chairs so that there is an inner circle, and an outer circle of chairs facing each other. The conversations should be one-to-one. Student share one idea at a time each, for equity. See the School Reform Initiative example to better understand this approach.

Compare Short Pieces of Relevant (but new) Writing. Choose a couple of short pieces of writing that relate to the previous learning, but from differing perspectives or approaches. Require that they identify how it relates to the prior learning, as well as highlight the key point or points. Students share with a partner. *This is an opportunity to practice finding the main ideas as well as identifying perspectives. This activity could also be done as a jigsaw. 

Take a Poll. You could use an online poll or some other form of polling to get student opinions on prior learning, leading to a discussion on the topic. Online apps such as Mentimeter, Plickers, Kahoot, Quizziz, Poll Everywhere, or Socrative would work well. Have a look at this Menitmeter poll (Go to and use the code 465182 to see an example student view - you’ll have to make an account to see the teacher view, which you can determine; for this example “Menti” I’ve chosen a spidergraph).

Use Photos/Images of People Doing Things. Have students relate the action taking place in the images to what was learned. 

Use Short Video to Compare. Choose a short video that relates to what has been studied and ask them to explain the connection to the previous learning. For example, a short clip of one dictator that will likely have similarities to a dictator you’ve just studied). *This allows students to practice compare and contrast.

Use a Map To Review. Have students look at a map to review something History or an event. This can be done in pairs or small groups and presented to the class.

Use a Graph to Review. Show a variety of graphs or charts to review previous learning. Students work independently before sharing with a partner or group. 

Have a little fun sometimes…

Play Quizziz or Kahoot. If you’re working with vocabulary or topics with a lot of visuals, it doesn’t take much time to construct a fun online game. Time at the end of class? Do the game again to see if the review at the beginning sticks (you’ll be surprised). I personally like the analytics format in Quizziz. Try this one on globalization terms and concepts my students enjoyed. 

Write a Headline, Obituary, Love Letter, Haiku, a Rap (you get the idea). Put students in small groups or pairs to write something creative that reflects what you want them to review. 

Mime It. Have students work in groups to use a little drama and mime an aspect of what was studies the day before. Consider giving a different task to each group and see if they could communicate it effectively to the other groups. Conversely, give the same task to all and determine which group provided more clarity and why. 

Play Paper Scissors Rock. When reviewing something that has one or more perspectives students move around the room with a notepad playing Paper Scissors Rock. The winner gives one perspective of their choice, while the other offers an opposing or different perspective (of course, this can be done to review when there may have been a lot to remember, or a wide are of interpretations, though you’ll want to figure out the winner’s task and the loser’s task or the game is pointless).