In order to learn about character traits, motivations, and analysis, my students spend time creating fake Facebook profiles for their favorite book or movie characters.
This will be part three of what has turned into an unintentional and unofficial series of posts on BYOD in the classroom. The first post mainly focuses on lessons learned during a BYOD pre-pilot, while the second post lists the top ten apps for BYOD.
Now that our state testing is done for the year, we are officially in the homestretch. So, this is when I reflect upon what has worked and what has not, and start to think about how I would roll out BYOD for the next school year. Here is a preliminary BYOD timeline, which I will use for my homeroom and possibly when collaborating with other educators within the district.
In my classroom we are all about explicit strategies, not just for reading comprehension but also when it comes to writing. Reading and writing strategies are taught early on in the school year, and then we continuously spiral them throughout the year as students dive deeper and deeper into how to leverage them effectively. This approach to teaching and learning provides everyone with a common language, which helps in stimulating collaboration amongst students and a positive classroom culture. (This method is even more beneficial when the same strategies are utilized across multiple classrooms and grade levels.)
Awhile back I was looking for a strategy that could help my students with open-ended responses to texts, and I came up with iAsc (a play on iPod, iPhone, iPad, etc.):
For approximately the past five months, my fourth graders and I have been pre-piloting BYOD for our district. While our findings are detailed in an earlier post, here is a list of what I consider to be the must-have apps for BYOD (as opposed to apps that I might consider to be “the best” in general).
With the Common Core State Standards staring everyone in the face, many districts are left scrambling to either (1) purchase “Common Core certified” materials or (2) adapt their old materials for the Common Core. In general, I prefer the latter. Simply purchasing a new series could most likely lead to teachers “doing the same thing” but with new materials, treating the series as if it is the curriculum when it is just a tool or resource. Furthermore, it is obvious that publishers have rushed their products to market in an effort to cash in on the new standards. (I’m surprised that our cafeteria milk has yet to be Common Core approved.)
When rolling out Common Core professional development in a subject such as Language Arts, it could be advantageous to focus on the current series, as this is where most teachers are comfortable. Then, discuss how to reinvent the series in order to meet the needs of the Common Core and higher-order thinking.
At a recent building-based professional development session, we took the following steps:
Any conversation involving technology and education must involve Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in one way or another. BYOD is becoming increasingly popular as it allows for school districts to “meet students where they are” in a way that is financially advantageous. In short, students are allowed to bring their devices (iPads, iPods, Android tablets, etc.) to school, connect them to a safe and secure network, and leverage their technology for educational purposes.
This year, my district has begun the process of implementing BYOD in what is being called a pre-pilot, and my students and I were delighted when we got the call to be the first classroom in the entire district to have the honor. While working with my students remains my main priority, it is also my duty to set the stage for teachers and students who will be a part of BYOD classrooms in the future. (Next year, the “real” pilot will begin with volunteer teachers from grades 5 and up.)
As a result, here is a quick snapshot of what I have learned (and some of my ideas that have been reinforced) throughout or BYOD pre-pilot:
When I first started teaching about six years ago, one of the biggest mistakes I made was believing that reading comprehension did not consist of much more than reading texts and then answering follow-up questions. Then, everything changed when I read Mosaic of Thought by Ellin Oliver Keene and Susan Zimmermann, followed by Strategies That Work by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis. Now, all of my reading comprehension instruction is encompassed by the essential question, “How can I understand while I am reading?” In other words, it is what great readers do while they are reading that makes them great. This teaching relies heavily on student metacognition and the explicit strategies of monitoring comprehension, activating and connecting to background knowledge, questioning, visualizing, inferring, determining importance in text, and summarizing and synthesizing information. (It is also my firm belief that students should be consistently using these strategies from first grade through high school.)
I am always looking for unique ways to leverage different technologies in order to teach these explicit strategies, and to help in deepening student understanding of what they read. A few weeks ago, I decided to use the augmented reality iOS app, colAR Mix, to teach the strategy of visualizing through a writing workshop. ColAR Mix is an app that literally brings drawings to life! Through the app’s official website, the user can print out coloring pages. Then, when the app’s camera is focused on the printed page, the drawing pops out of the page and animates. It is really one of those things that has to be seen to be believed.
1. Approach Technology with a Backwards Design
When creating an instructional unit, start with the technology. There will be points in time during your teaching career when you will think that you have found the next great program, website, or app that you just have to use with your students. You can encounter these resources by collaborating with other teachers, by browsing the Internet, or when checking your RSS or Twitter feed. Instead of starting backwards from what you want the students to know, start with the technology and make everything else “fit.” However, if you cannot find a valuable use for the technology in your classroom, do not try to cram a square peg into a round hole.
This past weekend I attended EdcampNYC, at The School at Columbia University in New York City. After hearing promotion for the event at last month’s Edscape Conference, I decided to make the trip. This journey meant heading into Brooklyn straight from my Pennsylvania elementary school on Friday, and then getting up early Saturday morning to take car service up to Columbia.
This was my third Edcamp, but the first one at which I led a discussion. (An Edcamp consists of discussions or conversations, and not presentations. In other words, it is the facilitator’s job to get everyone talking around a topic, rather than standing up in the front of the room as the expert.) In the past, I simply wanted to experience what the Edcamp model had to offer. However, now that I have led my first Edcamp discussion, I will feel more comfortable in doing the same throughout the future, including at Edcamp New Jersey on November 23rd.
Last week, despite coming down with a sore throat and a possible fever, I managed to role out of bed early Saturday morning and travel with one of my colleagues to the Edscape conference at Eric Sheninger’s New New Milford High School in New Milford, New Jersey. Last year, after attending the same conference, this was one that I did not want to skip. Although, I was disappointed as I missed out on conducting a presentation as I procrastinated on my proposal and ended up overlooking the deadline. Next year, this will not happen!