5 Digital Tools to Promote Collaboration

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

Having students collaborate using different digital tools helps build students communication, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Here are five ways to promote collaboration in both a physical and/or virtual classroom space.

Video Ask: It was created for business but teachers can turn anything into a learning opportunity with VideoAsk. Teachers and/or students can pose questions and you can reply back different ways such as with video, audio, or text. It works asynchronous so students can reply back with they have had enough time to process and/or when it is convenient for them.

Wakelet: This application allows teachers and students save, organize and share content from across the web. It can be used multiple ways in the classroom such as co-creating a digital newspaper or newsletter. You can provide your students with a topic and theme such as Ecosystems and students can find current events around that topic and have discussions.

StoriumEdu: StoriumEdu is very unique as it gamifies creative writing. Students get different digital “story cards” that represent different aspects of storytelling and character development. The cards serve as writing prompts, helping students figure out what to write next at each step of the game.

Gimkit: Similar style to Kahoot, Gimkit is a game show for the classroom that requires knowledge, collaboration, and strategy to win. It makes it great for remote learning because each student can play on their own devices

Dotstorming: Have students brainstorm together and vote on their favorite ideas. Last week I collaborated with a teacher to help create their virtual classroom rules/norms together with the students using Dotstorming. The students add cards of what they wanted the rules to be for their virtual classroom and then they voted on the top four rules co-creating their rules together.

I would love to hear your favorite digital tools to promote collaboration in the classroom. Share in the comments!

7 Education Facebook Groups You Should Be Apart Of

“Learning never exhausts the mind.” by Leonardo da Vinci

I love Facebook (FB) groups because you connect with like-minded people who are sharing learnings and ideas that improve your educational craft and practice. Finding FB groups is relatively easy. First type what you are interested in, into your Facebook search bar such as leadership, and then click Groups. A ton of groups will populate, most of the time, groups are closed and you have to send a request to join. Sometimes there is even a “quiz” to make sure people who join the group are there for the right reasons.

Below I have shared my favorite educational FB groups I am apart of. I would love to know which FB groups you love as well; please share in the comments so I can also join those groups too.

Personalized Learning Collaboration: An international group of educators sharing practice and questions around the topic of Personalized Learning/Student Centered Learning.

LIFTEd: Leadership Insights for Transforming Leaders: LIFTEd is a group for change-makers interested in transforming K-12 education. Along with providing actionable advice and insights, this group is a network for school and district stakeholders that exchange ideas & resources and connect with others in K12 education across the country.

Principal Principles Leadership Group: This group is a professional learning network for future and current school leaders. They share ideas and resources every day!

HyperDocs: This is a forum where educators can share thoughts, questions, ideas, resources, and HyperDocs.

Breakout EDU: This is a forum for members of the Breakout EDU community to collaborate, brainstorm, and connect with other educators using Breakout EDU.

Instructional Coaches Connection: This group is for Instructional Coaches as well as other educators who would like to collaborate with coaches.

Standard Based Learning and Grading: Traditional grading practices work against the natural learning process. This group is a forum for discussion surrounding the ideals and implementation of Standards Based Learning and Grading.

Building Empathy with Educators

“The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy.” by Meryl Streep

red-scribble-heart

Empathy is the experience of understanding another person’s thoughts and feelings  from their point of view, rather than your own. An empathy map is a tool that I like to use with teachers to take a human-centered approach when thinking about personalizing students learning.  Originally designed for businesses to think about their customers needs, schools are now using them to think about their students needs. Empathy maps shed light on which problems to solve within your school or classroom through a protocol.

The purpose of an empathy map activity is to empathize with end users, our students. When we better understanding how they think and feel, it will allow us to design classroom practices that work for them. You can create empathy maps several ways but my favorite way is to interview multiple students to gain perspective and truly hear their voice. Example questions for an interview would be:

  • What would make you excited to come to school?
  • Describe a class you feel most successful in and why.
  • How could all teachers help you feel successful?
  • Tell me about a time when you learned to do something really difficult? How did you learn it?
  • What would your ideal learning experience look like?
  • What change do you feel would make the biggest difference in your learning experiences? Why?

Then when I sit down to do an empathy map, I take a blank piece of paper, draw a circle in the middle and then section it off into the four sections below:

  • Said: What are things this student might say in your class?
  • Thought: What are things this student might be thinking while in your class?
  • Did: What are some things this student might be doing in the class?
  • Felt: How might this student feel?

Inside the middle circle I put the students name and then answer the above questions for said student using the data I gained from the interviews. If you don’t have time to do the interviews, that is ok too. You can then walk through this activity and think about what they would say, think etc- just know with this approach you can unintentionally add judgements.

Empathy Maps are a great way to disclose the underlying “why” behind students actions, choices and decisions so we can proactively design for their real needs; not based on what our needs as teachers are. After completing the empathy map activity you can now adjust an upcoming lesson, task, classroom environment etc to address students’ needed. 

Other activities to build educators empathy:

Resources:

Lots of images of doing an empathy map

Google Drawing Empathy Map Template

STARTING WITH STUDENTS: ONE TEACHER’S DESIGN THINKING JOURNEY

EMPATHY MAPPING IN THE TEACHING AND TRAINING CLASSROOM

Working Smarter, Not Harder

“Time is what we want most, but…what we use the worse. ” William Penn

It is always nice to work smarter, not harder so below I am sharing a few tips and tricks that I have learned to help me work smarter, not harder.

  1. Unroll Me:  Connects to your email and you can unroll from subscription emails so you stop getting junk mail.
  2. Google Alerts: Google will send you emails about topics you are interested in and based on the frequency you set. I sent mine for once a day.
  3. Tweetdeck: I use this to schedule out tweets throughout the week, especially #21stedchat reminders.
  4. Google Keep: I use this application multiple times a day because it works on all devices. I use it as my to do list but I also use it to share notes/ideas with others. I love that you can collaborate with it, pin important notes to the top, set reminders etc. It holds my life together. 🙂
  5. Critical List: Each morning I look at my schedule and to-do list. On a sticky note (Google Keep) I pull out all the critically important things I have to get done that day. This allows me to manage my time and prioritize keep tasks.

I would also love to hear your tips and tricks for working smarter not harder.

Conducting Focus Groups in Education

“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” By Bill Gates

Why Use Focus Groups?

Focus groups are a great way to gain consensus or to use for improvement from different stakeholders such as teachers, students and/or parents. Having a set protocol will help the time you are holding the focus group be intentional based on what you are trying to gather feedback on for improvement. 

For example in my classroom, I ran focus groups on obtaining different feedback from projects to  overall class structure. With teachers, I ran focus groups to improve professional development by gaining their insights. With schools from my district I ran a focus group to gather feedback on an initiative to see how I could improve it.

Protocol Notes
Before The Focus Group
  • Outline goal
  • Determine questions* and time limit
  • Define roles:
    • Facilitator
    • Note Taker/Timer
  • Decide on space:
    • comfortable and circle setting
  • Invite participants to the focus group
During The Focus Group
  • Take attendance of who is participating
    • This can be anonymous such as 6 boys and 5 girls.
  • Review guidelines and moderate the session so that everyone gets a chance to speak and no one participant dominates the discussion.**
After The Focus Group
  • Compile all focus group data (if you hold multiple sessions)
  • Review the notes as soon as possible and fill in any gaps while the session is still clear in your mind.
  • Report out findings***

*When generating questions make sure:

  • They are open-ended and not “yes/no”
  • They are short and to the point
  • Max of 10 questions, 5-8 is ideal
  • You should have an opening question and exit question

**Script for Facilitator:

Welcome everyone, our topic is…. The results will be used for…

Guidelines:

  • No right or wrong answers
  • one person speaking at a time as we are recording your answers anonymously
  • You don’t need to agree with others, but you must listen respectfully as others share their views
  • As Facilitator I will help guide the discussion

Examples to help participants expand ideas/thoughts….

  • “Please tell me (more) about that…”?
  • “Could you explain what you mean by…”?
  • “Can you tell me something else about…”?
  • “Could you give me an example of …”?

***Report out findings:

  • Populate exact statements of the participants
  • Descriptive summary
  • In order to have valid data, you need to have at least a few focus groups with the same questions being asked

Questioning Strategies to Build Student Voice

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” By Albert Einstein

questions
One thing in education that has not change over the years is how important questioning is in the classroom. Educational leaders from Aristotle and Socrates to Jay Mctighe and George Couros have all discussed the importance of asking questions, as it is a powerful strategy that works in all grade levels and content areas.

Using questioning strategies allows you to provide opportunities for student voice to be engaged in the classroom.  When using the right questions it…

  • create powerful academic conversations
  • sparks imagination
  • allows students to self-evaluate

It is important to allow time for students to think about the questions you or other students ask. You also want to ask open-ended questions that don’t lead to a “right” answer. I like using Blooms Revised Taxonomy as a starting guide to help with types of questions. Here are a few examples of different questioning levels that promote student voice.

Remembering: (Recall, Identification)

  • Describe…..

Understanding (Selection of facts, explaining)

  • Summarize…

Applying (Use of information)

  • Why is ____ significant?

Analysis (Separating a whole into components)

  • What evidence can you list for …

Evaluation (development of decisions, opinions, judgements etc)

  • What do you think about…

Create (generating new ideas, producing, designing)

  • How could you create or design a new…? Explain your thinking.

Other great question stems I like using:

  • What evidence can you present for/against…
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of …
  • Describe … from the perspective of ….
  • What solutions could you suggest the problem of … why…

More questioning strategy resources:

50 Questions To Help Students Think About What They Think

Asking Questions to Improve Learning

Questions Provoking Critical Thinking

 

 

Toolkit for Encouraging Kindness in the Classroom

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” by Mark Twain

I felt compelled today to do another blog post on choosing to encourage kindness in the classroom even though within the year I wrote one already on Promoting Random Acts of Kindness in the Classroom. I feel this is becoming more and more important in our world today. It is something that is so simple, doesn’t cost money and can be done by everyone. Below I put together a toolkit of resources to help encourage kindness in the classroom.

Projects and Lessons:

The Certified Kind Classroom Challenge  (From the Book Wonder)

Kindness Ninja Challenge

World Kindness Day (Nov. 13th)

Be Kind People Project

The Great Kindness Challenge

Random Acts of Kindness

Books:

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins

How Kind! by Mary Murphy

Harry The Happy Mouse

The Berenstain Bears: Kindness Counts

Kindness Ninja: Recruiting The Team

Kindness Counts: A Story for Teaching Random Acts of Kindness 

I have more books listed on my Random Acts of Kindness blog post.

Videos:

You Never Know Who’s Day You Have Helped

9 Random Acts of Kindness

A 1st Grader’s Act of Kindness Just Restored Our Faith in Humanity

Articles:

The healing power of kindness

The Science of Giving: Why One Act of Kindness is Usually Followed by Another

12 Ways to Promote Kindess in the Classroom

Kindess Collection: How to Guide for the Classroom

Please share in the comments ways that you have spread kindness in your classroom or school.