Making Digital Artifacts Work: Part 3

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This is the third post in a series about making digital artifacts of student learning work for you as a teacher.  In this series we will discuss the types of digital artifacts we collect, how we manage them, and what to do with all of those great pieces of evidence of student learning.  You can read the first post in this series here and the second post on ideas for managing artifacts here.

We’ve been exploring using digital artifacts in the classroom.  So here are three simple ideas for getting your students started with digital artifacts tomorrow!

  1. Snapshot and Reflection: Ask students to take a picture of a work product that you would like to have them reflect on.  Then incorporate this into a reflection artifact by annotating directly on the image  (Skitch) or adding some writing (Pages/Keynote/Google Drive) or spoken reflection (Sonic Pics).  Students might save this and add to it over the course of a unit or during the week.  Or perhaps they share with you immediately for a goal setting conference.
  2. Video Reflection: Using a built in recording program and camera ask students to stop by the reflection book and share something they learned today.  If you have multiple devices students can work on a rotating basis.  If you only have one then set up a quick recording booth and have students cycle through during the day or week.  You might ask them to talk for two minutes about how they applied a reading strategy during independent reading, reflect on their observations from a science experiment, or share a portion of writing where they accomplished a goal.
  3. Padlet Exit Ticket: You know we couldn’t leave Padlet out of this one!  It’s such an easy and versatile tool.  Ask kids to take a few minutes to share a new piece of learning, lingering question, or even record a quick video right into the padlet.  You can guide students with a specific question or leave it more open ended.

We’d love to continue in this series.  But what questions do YOU have?  Leave us a question or burning issue in the comments and we’ll work your needs into our next post.  : ) 

Making Digital Artifacts Work: Part 2

This is the second post in a series about making digital artifacts of student learning work for you as a teacher.  In this series we will discuss the types of digital artifacts we collect, how we manage them, and what to do with all of those great pieces of evidence of student learning.  You can read the first post in this series here.

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A student uses Pic Collage to share their top ten favorite books with classmates and Twitter buddies.

What do I do with all of these digital work samples!?!?!

Unless you are an organizational wizard you probably already have some stacks of papers collecting in a basket or on a table somewhere.  It’s only September!  Digital artifacts are fantastic but what can we do when we have an inbox full of video responses to view instead of a stack of written responses to read?  Digital artifacts can and will often take more time to review, especially at the beginning when you are thoughtfully thinking through how you want to integrate them.  However, you don’t have to give up all of your time to devote to these artifacts.

  1. Impose time limits: Students can and will record a five to ten minute video if you let them.  Teaching kids how to create a media response is key.  We model for them, demonstrate how to plan (or not in some cases) and show how we are mindful of time. In the example below we see a student’s third attempt at creating a short and to the point video that captured her most essential questions from a short video the class had watched.  The process of limiting herself forced her to narrow her thinking to the most essential pieces to share with the teacher and class.  Additional questions were kept in her notebook and revisited when time allowed.
  1. Reflect on the task: If students are struggling with time limits we sit back and reflect on the task that we’ve asked them to complete.  What did we hope to accomplish?  What did we hope that students would learn or demonstrate?  I’ve left more than one class session thinking “that should have been done in 20 minutes, why did it take 50 and some kids still need more time?”  There is a time and a place for using technology as a reflective tool.  As you learn more about how and why you want to use these strategies reflect, reflect, reflect.  What opportunities provide the most information for you and benefit to students.
  2. Spot Check: Lucy Calkins once said that if she was able to sit down and read everything that her students wrote then they weren’t writing enough.  I will confess.  I do not always look at every single video, every single time.  There are situations in which we might spot check the class for overall understanding or focus in on a core group of students who we identified as possibly needing more support during a conference or lesson.  Yes you want to try and look at as much student work as possible, but you also have to be realistic.
  3. Engage Students in Self & Peer-Reflection: We teach students self reflection skills and partner feedback skills to help support kids when we can’t always be present.  This feedback is an essential part of the learning cycle as they work with and support each other on everything from giving effective video book talks to math strategies used in a screencast.

    A student uses a photo annotating app to self-reflect using a checklist the class brainstormed together on the whiteboard.
    A student uses a photo annotating app to self-reflect using a checklist the class brainstormed together on the whiteboard.

We all know teaching is a balancing act.  Hopefully, at the end of the day, we can find a system that works well for us and our students.  Remember, kids need to own the learning.  So teaching them to take on part of these responsibilities is both effective for you and them!

Check back next week for our next post in this series.  Three ideas for digital artifacts you can try tomorrow!

Making Digital Artifacts Work: Part 1

This is the first post in a series about making digital artifacts of student learning work for you as a teacher.  In this series we will discuss the types of digital artifacts we collect, how we manage them, and what to do with all of those great pieces of evidence of student learning.

A student shares important elements of their book club book using a digital tool
A student shares important elements of their book club book using a digital tool

What is a digital artifact?

Digital artifacts can be photos, notes, student projects, blog posts, Tweets and just about anything that students create using digital tools.  They comprise a mixture of student created and teacher documented artifacts of learning over the course of the year.

Digital artifacts are great supplements, in some cases replacements, to traditional artifacts that we collect in the classroom because they add elements that we wouldn’t have otherwise been able to capture.  For example, teachers often collect student notebooks to read through writing, gather evidence about skills learned and applied, and check on the sheer volume of work that kids are doing.  Digital artifacts can add student voice and reflection to this.

Instead of attempting to confer with every kid we can capture their voices and thinking through the use of technology tools.  We can ask kids to create reflection presentations or portfolios of digital work using screen shots and simple apps like Keynote, SonicPics, or iMovie.  Essentially digital artifacts give us more information than we have ever had about our learners.

We capture snapshots of kids at work and use these to make our record keeping rich and reflective.
We capture snapshots of kids at work and use these to make our record keeping rich and reflective.

How do I begin collecting digital artifacts?

I like to the start the year with something simple like capturing photos of students at work and a few notes about the photo in my Evernote account.  A notebook for each student holds these notes, snippets of conversations, and other work samples over the course of the year.  This is a tool for me to learn more about my kids and to use for reflection when planning.

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This anchor chart appears in our new book Amplify: Digital Teaching and Learning in the the K-5 Classroom

With students it’s important to discuss what archiving is. We give kids examples of the types of work they might want to collect over time.  We discuss how each of these items can be used for reflection on ourselves as learners.  We also make time for this process, reminding students at the end of a lesson to capture a snapshot of learning from the day or to tag a post with a special tag like “learning” or “archive” so that they can easily find it later.  At the end of a unit or quarter we set aside time to review these artifacts, reflect on learning and growth, set goals, and share with peers and parents.

What types of digital artifacts are the most important to collect?

Although going digital as a teacher has its benefits I believe that the most important artifacts are those that students have created.  These might be video diaries/blogs of students sharing learning, short projects or work samples, specific blog posts, exit tickets, or other student created work.

A student prepares images for an audio reflection on reading strategies.
A student prepares images for an audio reflection on reading strategies.

We encourage students to collect a variety of samples across subject areas and those that best showcase their growth as a learner.  Times when they can pinpoint how, when, and why  they met goals and showed growth.

We empower kids by giving them the ownership over their learning and reflection process through these digital artifacts and set up structures to help students catapult themselves to success.  These structures include student checklists, goal setting sheets, and conferences.

A student shares a screenshot demonstrating their ability to model and use numbers to solve a math problem. This image is saved for reflection at the end of the unit.
A student shares a screenshot demonstrating their ability to model and use numbers to solve a math problem. This image is saved for reflection at the end of the unit.

Check back on Friday for our next post in this series on managing student digital artifacts.  We’ll talk about how to handle all of the new work that you have available to you.

It’s Monday: What are You Reading Teacher Edition

Looking for a fun project that builds reading community and sets the tone for connected learning throughout the school year?  Then join the It’s Monday: What Are You Reading project!

After watching teachers post book reviews to Twitter each Monday using the hashtag #IMWAYR, we decided to take this practice to our students. Each Monday across the school year our kiddos shared their reading lives and embraced the pop culture selfie fad by posting a book “shelfie” and a short book review to a Padlet wall (for more ideas on using Padlet in the classroom, read Katie’s post on social media) . This collaborative wall served as a visual book recommendation chart that was accessible to all students. It laid the foundation for a strong reading community as this weekly routine reinforced the belief that “we are readers.” It also provided me rich data about student reading lives, interests, and their ability to read, write and view to learn. Most importantly, it provided an authentic audience for book reviews as students built voice and celebrated their reading with each other.

Once we saw the impact this had on our students and across our school, we opened the #IMWAYR project to classrooms around the world. From Kuala Lumpur to Vancouver, to Stockholm and D.C. we talked titles and shared our reading lives. Initially, our students noticed the different titles that kids were reading, but after a short period of time, they began to notice similarities and commonalities between countries and classrooms.  When kids observed that students in Singapore were also reading Wonder, or that learners in Detroit liked Babymouse just like they did, it fostered the idea of connected learning.  Many teachers partnered students virtually from different classrooms who had a shared interest or wanted to learn about a book from a peer. Kids found onscreen reading buddies or even sometimes that one other person who shared their reading passion; along the way they built understanding that we are all members of the global learning community.

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I shared this project at a number of conferences this summer and just last week the amazing @MrDulberger tweeted me his book shelfie which spurred the idea for the Teacher Edition It’s Monday: What are You Reading project.  We know that mentor text matters. We use books in reading, writing and math workshop to set an example or fuel ideas for what kids might do independently.  We need to extend this mentor text model into our technology workshop and help kids envision the possibilities. We have the awesome opportunity to show them what connected learning looks like and sounds like, so let’s do it!

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We invite you to join the #IMWAYR project and post a book shelfie and a review to this Padlet wall. Please make sure to share your location in addition to the review so we can track posts with our students.  We hope this project introduces you to a few new titles and serves as a resource you can use to build a reading community and habits for living across the school year.  Happy reading friends!   

Updated August 25, 2015: Want to learn more about It’s Monday: What are You Reading? Check out @MentorTexts blog that features a special #KidLit post each week. It’s a great way to learn about new titles and model connected learning and networking with your students. #IMWAYR

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The Top 8

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I’m blogging from the International Literacy Association conference today!  I always love a great meeting of the minds.  Yesterday Kristin and I presented on Building Literacy Communities in the classroom.  It was a fun session filled with great energy and an amazing twitter stream thanks to all of the connected educators! (I’m looking at you Chris Lehman!)

We are huge advocates for choosing the right tools and using them well with our students.  You don’t need pages and pages of apps and websites to use with kids.  You really only need a few good core ones that you can use all the time across the day.  Of course everyone always wants to know what our top tools are.  So here are my top 8:

Kidblog:  My favorite blogging platform for primary and intermediate students based on ease of use and security settings.  Blogging in the classroom is a game changer as long as we remember that the point of a blog is to honor authorship and connect kids with an authentic audience for their work.

Padlet: The number one tool for visual collaboration, sharing, creating, reflecting, and almost anything you want to do.  If you haven’t tried out Padlet yet you need to!  It’s easy to use, free, and extremely versatile.  For example last year I had students keep a record of every book that they read over the course of the year using a Padlet instead of a reading log.  Students chose how much information to include (if any) and shared their reading lives with each other and our Twitter buddies using the power of technology.

Explain Everything/Screen chomp: I use these two interchangeably.  Screen Chomp brings a nice simplicity to screen casting whereas Explain Everything offers myriad possibilities and options.  These screen casting apps are amazing for math but can be used as reflective pieces in writing or portfolio tools across the year.

Today’s Meet: Another free and easy to use tool.  Fantastic for getting responses for the entire class and facilitating small group digital discussions.  The 140 character limit forces students to be succinct and to have back and forth discussion instead of just posting all of their thinking without considering others ideas.

Sonic Pics: A simple to use app where students select a series of images and then swipe between them as they talk.  We use this for students to share questions about images related to a unit of study, reflect on digital discussions, create presentations about new learning, and more!

iMovie: Reflection movies, book trailers, and sometimes just plain creative fun.  Students love to use iMovie to create multimedia presentations for the classroom.  Our favorite use is for students to archive a learning process over a series of days or weeks and then put the images, reflections, and ideas into an iMovie as an end of project reflection piece.

Book Creator: Students as authors, it can’t get any better than that.  This app has become a mainstay in my classroom over the years as a go to way for students to gather their thinking, publish written work, collaborate on projects, and more.  Students create ebooks on the simple to use interface that include text, images, audio, and video.  Books can be turned into PDF files, ebooks, and even videos.

Google Drive: This nuts and bolts tool has changed the way that I interact with my writers and how students collaborate.  From whole-class collaborative documents, to digital teacher feedback on writing, to student organization and work flow.  Google Drive is a great multi-purpose tool for education.

Over the years tools make their way into and out of my top eight.  For example Edmodo used to be at the top of my list but has dropped out in the last year.  It’s a tool I still use with students, but for some reason last year’s class found a lot more synergy having conversations on Today’s Meet.  Then there are tools like Skitch, a photo annotating app which I’ve just begun to dip my toe into more and more.  This app has great possibilities as it works well with with other apps, but hasn’t quiet made it into that “most essential” category just yet.

For more about how we use these and other technology tools with students check out our new book Amplify: Digital Teaching and Learning in the K-5 Classroom.

Have You Tried To Slice?

Every March I participate in the Slice of Life challenge created and hosted by Two Writing Teachers.  It’s been a great push for me as a creative writer over the years, with some years being more successful than others.  Last year I started it with my students and am continuing it with this years class.  They often find it challenging and exhausting but exciting and energizing at the same time.

As part of this daily writing I write with them and follow the model that the fine ladies at Two Writing Teachers have set by inviting kids to try different things in their writing each day.  Sometimes it’s experimenting with a new format, other times it’s about honing their craft as writers.  Along with the “writing” lessons I’m also teaching lessons on digital communities (like how to leave thoughtful comments) and the ins and outs of using Kidblog. (We even get a few lessons in HTML coding thanks to Kidblog’s app)

Here are some thoughts from last year’s class.

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Since this year I wrote my first slice about the coffee shop where Kristin and I write our books I thought I’d share it with you.  (This is reposted from my personal Slice of Life blog.)

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The Kitchen Table

For the past year I’ve been spending most Saturday mornings at a little coffee shop on Damen Ave. with my writing partner Kristin.  Over the months our newest book has been taking shape fueled by massive amounts of coffee (what else?), the smell of bacon smoke in the air, occasional 80’s power ballads, and the general feeling that we’re trying to make a difference in the world.

Most of these mornings were spent on a big green leather couch stationed at the back of the room.  An ideal place for writing, people watching, and generally overseeing the goings on of the coffee shop.  One recent morning I walked in to find that the couch had been moved.

My first thought was “what the heck? why did they move the couch?”

My second thought was “what is in its place?!?”  There in the back of the room hogging the space that our beloved couch had once lived in was a retro reddish orange kitchen table.  I glared at it in disgust and distrust.

Our beloved green home had been moved to the front of the coffee shop, right in the middle of the chaos and was now joined by another couch.  It was an overall unwelcome change.  Now chaos abounded around us, other people invaded our space, and our writing mojo was thrown by the constant din of the door banging shut.

“The music is too loud.”

“The light is all wrong.”

“There’s a draft here.”

“It’s too far from the outlet.”

The next week I felt anxious walking in the door.  I trudged slowly to the back of the coffee shop and set my bag down tentatively on the table.  I unpacked slowly, hesitantly as if the table might blow up at any minute.  As I set up my computer I ran my fingers over the tacky laminate surface noting the old coffee stains, the scratches along the edge.  This table had history.  This table had a story to tell.  It was then that I thought perhaps it was fate, that this table was put here for a purpose.  A storytelling table for two storytellers.

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If you’re interested in finding out more visit Two Writing Teachers.  It’s never to late to get started!

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Try It Tomorrow: Online Safety with Image Stamping

Processed with RookieBlogging and providing my students an authentic audience of their peers and the world has been one of the most significant practices I’ve employed in the last few years.   As we’ve nurtured young bloggers we’ve made a commitment to our students and their families to keep kids safe online as they share their thinking and learning with the world.

We do that in a number of ways, but one practice we employ is to never post a child’s name and image in the same context. This is a simple way to add a layer of security to work that students share online. We teach this to kids as young as kindergarten and model safe sharing practices from day one. As we engage in conversations about what is shared online, who has access to work and how long it “stays” online, we lay a foundation for digital citizenship that we build upon across the years.

A number of blogging platforms that are available to students have a place for kids to display a picture of themself as the author of the blog. For developing readers and writers this image helps students quickly sort and locate their classmates’ blog. For older learners this image is another piece that signals the blog belongs to them. Many classrooms design their own avatars using an avatar creation tool like Gravatar or Voki. I prefer to invite students to create their own avatars using a simple drawing tool.

First, have students take a selfie. Then import the photo into a drawing app like Doodle Buddy or Drawing Pad. Both apps have the option to use a photo from the camera roll as a background image or piece of paper. Once the child’s photo is set as the paper, teach students to use it as a coloring sheet and select crayons, markers or colored pencils to draw over their image. Sometimes referred to as image stamping, this practice invites students to represent a likeness of themselves while also protecting their true identity. More so, it invites our kids to create–and when students are creating learning is personalized and differentiated, and most importantly, fun!

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This 3rd grade student created an avatar for his blog site using Drawing Pad.

Once we’ve taught kids how to create an avatar and use photos as coloring pages they can transfer this practice across the curriculum as they represent their work and the work of others in this protected fashion. Students can use famous pieces of art, favorite book characters and photos they’ve shot in class as background templates for their drawings.

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A student avatar is displayed when the child leaves a comment on Kidblog.
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A first grader creates an image of herself that she posts to her blog titled, “A gift to my mother.” Note how her real eyes show through the drawing (kinda creepy!).
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An excited student wants to share about her loose tooth online, but recognizes she should not post a photo of herself to her blog. Here, she uses Drawing Pad to cover her face but shows and labels her loose tooth.

In one simple lesson we engage students in creation, representation and digital citizenship. Best of all, its easy and fun so try it tomorrow and let us know what you think!

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Try it Tomorrow: One Little Word

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I first heard of One Little Word over at Two Writing Teachers.  What a wonderfully simple way to focus your energy for the year.  No messy resolutions, just one little word.

So I thought: why not try it with students?

I started by pulling a variety of exemplars and popping them into my favorite tool…Padlet.  This visual layout worked great in helping students see the variety of words and the visual/artistic element of the project.

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As they viewed it we talked about what we noticed and some things that we wanted to keep in mind as we made our choice.  I asked students to view the Padlet through two lenses.  1) word choice and 2) design elements.  Then students got to work, here is a photo of their hard work!

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They attacked this project with gusto.  (I’m sure it was sounding better than revising those pesky feature articles.)  Students used both traditional and digital tools to create their words.  Then they each took a picture or screenshot, posted it to their blog, and wrote a bit about why the chose the word that they did.

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It’s tempting to over schoolify things sometimes so I didn’t set any expectation for their writing other than to explain why you chose the word you did.  I took a big step back on this and just allowed students to do things however they wanted because I was hoping to encourage creativity and excitement.  By making the one little word their own and not a “project for school” I hope they take it to heart and use it to help make 2015 an amazing year.

It’s not too late for you and your students to find your one little word for the year!  Will you try it tomorrow and let us know how it goes? 

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Try It Tomorrow Follow-up: It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?

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Such an exciting response on Twitter to the first Try It Tomorrow post! Thanks to all who shared this idea with friends and colleagues. A number of teachers took the Try It Tomorrow challenge and tested this practice in their classrooms. Several were gracious enough to share snapshots of their Padlet with us.  Take a look at how these teachers used Padlet to build a book buzz by clicking on the image:

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Many thanks to the following classrooms for sharing your thinking with us: @msclancysclass, @mslsclass, @mscassidysclass, @Burley5th302, @team4chapman, @edisongradeone, @MrsLaffin4, @skogstad_class

Please tell your students that we love learning from them!  Readers, make sure to add these teachers and students to your PLN! Connecting helps us all become better educators.

I look forward to hearing from other classrooms who Try It Tomorrow. As always, thanks for sharing your learning with us!

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Try It! Tomorrow: It’s Monday, what are you reading?

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Try It! Tomorrow is a new series of posts that we’re launching on the blog. The idea behind the Try It! series is that it’s EASY. Think: quick read, minimal prep and an immediate #Eduwin for students! Tune in as we share new tools or reimagine how to use familiar tools to amplify student thinking. 

It’s Monday: What are you reading?

A number of years ago, I saw people tweeting about, “It’s Monday, what are you reading?” I quickly realized that transferring this question to my students was a perfect way to start the week. Over the years we answered this question in many formats as students blogged, tweeted and backchanneled about their reading lives nearly every Monday across the the school year.

As this practice endures, recently I’ve been using the website Padlet.com as a small group activity to for students to post what they are reading each Monday. Padlet is a digital bulletin board that invites student interaction by simply double clicking on the wall to leave a post. Each week students share a #BookSelfie of their “right now” book and tell a little bit about the title they are reading.

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This Padlet reading wall serves as my status of class at the start of the week; quickly, I can view it to keep abreast of what my students are reading. It invites students to summarize and synthesize their current book and provides a platform to discuss their reading lives. When we embed this wall on a classroom website, students use the Padlet to obtain new book reviews. We layer interaction as students use the Padlet to write, read, and study images to gain information about the titles shared by their peers. Frequent posts and multiple recommendations for titles create what Donalyn Miller refers to as a “book buzz” as students celebrate, recommend and inspire their friends to read the books they love.

So as we gear up for the last Monday of 2014, see if you can find a way to incorporate Padlet into your day and ask your students, “What are you reading?”

It’s fun. It’s easy. You should Try It! Tomorrow.