Tech Tuesday 3.25.14 – Authentic Learning Experiences

At Allendale Columbia School, creating authentic or experiential learning opportunities for our students is one of our top priorities. One of the most difficult aspects with incorporating this shift is the “how.” It can be overwhelming to change how you teach. Even if it’s for one lesson or unit. Below are some resources to help you start.

Bringing Authenticity to the Classroom – This is an excellent post, short and to the point with some realistic ideas on how to integrate project-based learning and authenticity into the classroom. Post written by Andrew Miller via Edutopia.

Free Resources and Tools for “Authentic” Assessment – “New York’s School of the Future shares their assessment plans and rubrics, classroom projects, schedules, web links, and other resources to help you implement “authentic” assessment today.” Via Edutopia.

Also in the library:
“In this practical guide, Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager provide K-12 educators with the how, why, and cool stuff that supports classroom making. The active learner is at the center of the learning process, amplifying the best traditions of progressive education. This book helps educators bring the exciting opportunities of the maker movement to every classroom. Children are natural tinkerers. While school traditionally separates art and science, theory and practice, such divisions are artificial. The real world just doesn’t work that way. Architects are artists. Craftsmen deal in aesthetics, tradition and mathematical precision. There are now multiple pathways to learning what we have always taught and things to do that were unimaginable just a few years ago. The potential range, breadth, power, complexity and beauty of projects has never been greater thanks to the amazing new tools, materials, ingenuity and playfulness you will encounter in this book.”

What might teachers need to consider in order to shift to more Authentic Learning?


Essential iPad skills in our Middle School iPad 1:1 (according to the 7th grade)

IMG_4640After a semester of co-teaching our middle school students in a new class, Digital Literacy, I decided to get some information from the 7th graders. The question: what are essential iPad skills that you need on a daily basis at school? Here is the list.

  • How to use more than app at a time
    • Shortcuts, multitasking gestures
  • Navigating homescreen
    • Organizing apps into folders
  • Typing on a touchscreen device

  • Copy/paste

  • Force shutdown or reset of iPad

  • How to use note taking apps

  • Shutting down iPad

  • iCloud backup/management

  • Taking pictures

  • Screen shots

  • Communication
    • Email
    • Contacts
    • Messages app
  • Settings App – manage settings
    • Set passcode
    • Brightness
    • Screen orientation lock
    • Do Not Disturb
  • Password management

  • Closing apps

  • Using GarageBand
    • Create original music
  • Using Pages
    • Word processing
  • Using Keynote
    • Create presentations
  • Using the Calendar

  • Navigate App store
    • Downloading apps, music & books
    • Update apps
  • Control Center in IOS 7 (slide up)

What other skills do you think are essential? How many of these skills have you mastetered?

How do you use your iPad?

Tech Tuesday, I mean Wednesday – 1.29.14 – Backchannels

This post is co-authored by Allendale Columbia School Librarian Judy Van Alstyne. Make sure to check out her blog Data-Sifting and Bookgerms.

So, I missed Tech Tuesday. Report card writing took up all of my time the last few days, but now I’m back.

One problem we tried to address this year in our Digital Literacy class was how to improve the participation of students who don’t normally contribute verbally. How can we fairly give a student a grade for class participation when we only give them one way to engage in discussions?

What is the point of participation? Is it to check in with students to see what they understand? Is it to provide opportunities for students to voice their thoughts and opinions? Is it to provide fuel for discourse in order to deepen and broaden the class discussion? And then why grade a student’s level of participation? Does the grade work as an incentive? For those who dread speaking up in class, perhaps it is not a strong enough one. Ideally, the discussion topic would be interesting enough and the methods of participation non threatening enough that incentives aren’t even necessary. Certainly there are a number of issues surrounding this topic (please feel free to comment below).

So, we presented this problem to our 7th graders and they all agreed that the current method (raise your hand and speak out) isn’t a great way to get everyone involved in the class discussion. Since our class centers around the appropriate use of technology, we asked the students to try solving the problem using a technology tool (we have an iPad 1:1 program in our middle school). After a full period of research and brainstorming, the students were not making much headway. Judy (my co-teacher) and I decided to give them a few examples of what a backchannel might look like. Here is what we tried:

TodaysMeet – If you haven’t experienced TodaysMeet, it’s a simple tool that can be used in pretty much any environment when you want to encourage people to discuss in a chat format about a presentation as it is going on. It can be used to accompany movies, inspirational talks, class lectures and discussions, just to name a few (feel free to add other ways you have used TodaysMeet in the comments section). Some do find it challenging to follow both the presentation and the comment log concurrently. The kids definitely liked experimenting with TodaysMeet, although there were several off-topic comments. The comments weren’t inappropriate, but they were distracting, and they had the tendency to derail the discussion somewhat. For the most part, TodaysMeet was used as intended and the kids certainly enjoyed it.

Padlet – Padlet is simply a web-based private “wall” where invited participants can post comments in text boxes. When you create the Padlet “wall,” you can customize the look and simplify the url so students can type it in easily. Students can log in and have their names attached to their comments automatically or students can just comment while adding their names as they go. One disadvantage with using Padlet as a real-time discussion tool is the need to refresh the page often to see all the new posts. Also, if several are posted at once, or students don’t refresh often enough, the posts tend to get cluttered and overlap one another. Students again enjoyed trying a different tool and we had some similar issues with silly comments, but overall, they did enjoy using it.

Post-it Notes on the wall – Pretty self explanatory and not tech related. We spread Post-it notes and pencils on the tables and told students to get up and stick them on the wall in front of the classroom. We read them aloud as quickly as possible and tried to relate the discussion around the notes as they were posted. We had far fewer instances of silly comments with regular notes. The kids really loved this and participation was higher than either of the tech tools we tried. It was busy, messy and somewhat loud at times but engagement was very high. And no one could “impersonate” someone else, as they did with the tech tools, so that those silly comments would get attributed to the wrong student.

So we did have issues. Neither of the tech tools were seamless to integrate into the classroom. There were some minor technical glitches, most of it related to student error, which slowed down the process. While both TodaysMeet and Padlet do work on an iPad, they are web-based tools that can be glitchy in a small browser window like an iPad. Using them on a computer is much easier.

We did not find a definitive answer to the problem of how to engage all students in class discussions, but students do agree it is a problem worth solving. Throwing technology at it didn’t fix it. But with more experience, students would get better at using the tech tools more effectively, and once the novelty wore off, more appropriately. So, we wouldn’t abandon the use of tech altogether. And who is to say that the discussion need be limited to class time? Perhaps that is where tech can play the greater role. But without a doubt, finding more ways for students to respond in class discussions beyond the traditional, raise your hand method, is absolutely 100% necessary.

Essential iPad Apps in our Middle School iPad 1:1 (according to the 7th grade)

After a semester of co-teaching our middle school students in a new class, Digital Literacy, I decided to get some information from the 7th graders. The question: what apps are essential to your life and education at school? Here is the list.


Annonymous 7th graders in action, supervised by Ms. Van Alstyne.

Notability – digital note taking app. (price $2.99)*

Box – access to cloud storage. (free)

Pages – word processing/publishing software for iOS. (free with iOS 7)

iMovie – movie editing software. (free with iOS 7)

Gmail – access to student email accounts via Google app. (free)

Google Drive – access to Google Drive cloud storage for editing, collaborating and sharing work. (free)

Keynote – presentation creation software. (free with iOS 7)

Destiny Quest – our library catalog and book reservations. (free)

QR Reader – for scanning QR codes. (free)

Canvas – access to learning management system by Instructure.Canvas (we are currently piloting this LMS in middle school). (free)

Safari – web browsing and research. (free, built into iOS)

GarageBand – music creation and editing. (free with iOS 7)

Blio – book reading app. (free)

Meraki MDM – our mobile device management app, let’s manage the iPads and distribute apps. (free)

Educreations – a simple white board and screen recording presentation app. (free)

Adobe Ideas – for drawing, mind mapping, note taking, annotating pdfs and doodling. (free)

Free Graphing Calculator – self explanatory. (free)

Facetime – video conference and chatting service. (free, built into iOS)

iBooks – book reading app. (free)

Messages formerly iMessage – instant messaging service built into iOS. (free, built into iOS)

App Store – the place where all of the apps come from. 🙂 (free, built into iOS)

The next question I asked: what are essential iPad skills that you need on a daily basis at school? Check back for the answers.

*Many paid apps are eligible for a discount through Apple’s Volume Purchase Program.

I wrote this post originally for the Allendale Columbia School blog –

12 Days of App-mas: Google Drive

In the spirit of the holidays we will bring you 12 Days of App-mas. Each day we will offer an app for education. We will  offer suggestions for how the app can be used in a class. Comment with ways you have used these apps.

Google Drive – Free

App: Google Drive Download from the App Store Cost: Free Description: Google Drive is one safe place for all your stuff. Upload photos, videos, documents, and other files that are important to you, then access what you need wherever you go, on any device. Get going with up to 15GB of storage.

The app I use the most with my classes is Google Drive. Students are able to upload and share files, photos, presentations, and more. If they take photos using their iPad they are able to upload them to Google Drive and access them on a desktop computer by simply logging in with their Google account. They are able to collaborate within a document that is being updated in real time. No waiting for someone to email you the “most recent version” of a project. Right now art and biology students at AC are using Google Drive to collaborate, share, comment, and create a document describing the scientific accomplishments of Dr. Hitomi Mukaibo. Students are able to turn in homework and assignments paper-less-ly using Google Drive. As an advanced user you can even automate the way students turn in their homework using a Google Script called Doctopus.

Tech Tuesday 12.17.13 – Canvas a Learning Management System (LMS)

We are currently investigating different Learning Management Systems (LMSs)  at Allendale Columbia School. The goal it to pilot one in our middle school next school year with school wide adoption during the following year. Many of our middle school teachers have been using the free version an LMS called Canvas this year. The free version of Canvas is not a scaled back version of the product it is the full complete LMS. The paid version provides district administrative functions for managing an entire school of users. You also get some branding controls.

Here is a link to the Canvas YouTube Channel. You can find examples of cool things that other schools and teachers are doing with Canvas.

Brett Eckelson, Canvas K12 Account Manager, provided a short overview and answered questions for our faculty last Thursday via webinar. He also shared some resources for our anyone interested in learning more about getting started with the free version of Canvas. Here are the links he provided.

Up next we will be looking at Haiku Learning.

What LMSs have you tried? What are important features that you would like to see in an LMS? Click here  “What is an LMS” overview video.

7th Grade – S.W.I.M. (Student Work Information Management) Student Perspective

In our Digital Literacy classes 7th graders have been working on two problems.

  1. Getting all students to engage or participate in class discussions.
  2. Homework management.

Students are investigating what works, what doesn’t, and how to incorporate their iPads into a system that helps to solve both problems.

11.30.13, Guest post by 7th grader Nicole:

In Digital Literacy 7, we have been figuring out a solution for putting all our homework assignments in one place, even if the teachers do not have a google calendar. Many fellow students of mine have chosen to simply “copy and paste” the assignments into their calendar everyday. Is this the only solution, or is there something easier? This is what we are trying to figure out. By doing so, we are making it easier to answer the simple, but effective question: What’s tonight’s homework? I like this because it makes it easier to find out what is for homework. I don’t understand why we have to go through the process of copying and pasting the homework for one class every morning, only because we would have to get to the teachers website either way. This doesn’t make it any easier because some teachers change their homework.

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