Author: Craig Steenstra

Spring Tech Ideas

Jacaranda tree in bloom

It is the season of testing, which means many of us are experiencing reduced access to tech. It is also likely that students are starting to get a bit squirmier than normal, and creativity may be needed to engage them meaningfully. Here are some ideas to consider – all of which can be accomplished with minimal devices:

1.) Visit explore.org and search “nest” or “birth”. You can easily find a live cam view of animals with their young (or soon to be young). This could be used for a writing prompt, exploration of geography, measurement, and much more. Plus, all it takes is a computer and a projector.

2.) Take a picture a day of a growing plant (or anything going through a spring transformation) and then combine the images into a looping GIF file using makeagif.com. The images could be taken using a classroom computer with webcam, a student or teacher phone, or even a regular old digital camera. You could store the images in a shared folder for people to access when they have the opportunity to create the GIF.

3.) Record students doing stuff – audio or video of students speaking written work, enacting a scene, debating a point, or explaining a concept. For audio, you might try using Vocaroo.com, which will work on any Chromebook or computer with a microphone. For video, you can save space on your device by uploading it to Google Drive (see this guide for simple recording) where you can share it immediately.

No matter how you record, students will be moving and likely taking it a little more seriously because others may hear or see it. It may be a little tricky keeping everyone on task, but it is not impossible.

As always, Ron, Andrew, and I are here to help you plan and/or implement these and any other ed tech ideas you may have. Contact us at edtech@kentisd.org

Digital Text Sources and Tools

Digital Text Sources and Tools

Many teachers express that they are overwhelmed by the tools and services that one can use to find and interact with digital texts. As part of our study session in Kent ISD’s Literacy Coaches Network, Andrew and I have facilitated investigations into some of the options that we feel have the most value to educators and students. Here is some of what we uncovered:

First, we really like Diigo, especially when used as a Google Chrome extension. When added, users can highlight and make notes on any webpage or PDF, and it’s all stored in a user’s library in a way that can be shared. It also has an outliner tool and a groups function, both of which can be used for many purposes. Tip: make sure you access the education upgrade to get more features.

We also looked at a number of platforms and sources for texts. See below for some basic details about the ones we chose.

    • Newsela / Newsela Elementary
      • Allows choice of non-fiction articles with option for different Lexile level for each article
      • Access articles by link without logins or set up a class
      • Helpful cross-text features like Issues and Text Sets
      • Users can annotate text but teacher can’t see annotations w/o paid model
      • Assessment questions available (more complex and varied than Teen/Tween Tribune)
      • They try to lure you into their paid model – comparison of free vs paid
    • Teen/Tween Tribune
      • Allows choice of non-fiction articles with option for different Lexile level for each article
      • Access articles by link without logins or set up a class (You can see student results w/ login)
      • Assessment questions included with login (mostly simple recall questions)
      • Provides a commenting option that allows students from everywhere to post comments on articles and reply to each other.
      • Student can access articles, take quizzes, and post comments without teacher assigning
    • Mel.org/books
      • Some great options for finding and exploring texts
        1. Bookflix (Read and listen to texts)
        2. NoveList (find books by interest, lexile, and more) No full text.
        3. eBook Collection / eBook k-8 Collection
        4. Gale PowerPack (magazines & more)
    • ReadWorks
      • Large library of articles searchable by lexile, skill, and other filters w/ audio option for some K-5 content
      • Questions, strategies, and much more available
      • Requires downloading or printing texts and sharing w/ students
      • Digital ReadWorks
        1. Requires logins for teacher and students
        2. Students can annotate texts, which are visible by teacher
        3. Allows teacher to assign and track quiz results
        4. Students can’t alter Lexile level but teacher can assign articles to specific students to differentiate
        5. Questions are fairly low level but provide feedback for students
        6. No way for students to select articles on their own

Yes, that’s a long list, and there is more to explore no doubt. Hopefully this helped you determine what might be best for you. If you have other ideas to share, please add them in the comments.

Assistechknow Roundup

Assistechknow Roundup

In case you missed Assistechknow last week, or if you have no idea what it is, this is a roundup of Kent ISD’s two day conference on assistive technology and Universal Design for Learning. Ron Houtman, Kindy Segovia, and a host of others once again organized everything, and hundreds of educators from many places came to share and learn.

One key point to keep in mind: assistive tech can help everyone, not just those for whom targeted supports are designed. Take a look at these links to see if there is anything you can use in your work.

August Ed Tech Workshops

workshop features

This is a reminder that the Ed Tech team at Kent ISD is offering a number of August workshops so that teachers can build and develop for the upcoming year. Of course, we will be keeping things fun and flexible. Check out the lineup below – dates and links with details & registration are included. Contact us with any questions.

  • Digital Course Workshop (Build a Course in 3 Hours) ~ Led by Craig Steenstra
  • Build for Blended Learning Workshop ~ Led by Kent ISD’s Ed Tech Team
    • August 25 (registration) Choose morning, afternoon, or both.

Kent ISD Summer Ed Tech Workshops

image of workshop icons

Kent ISD is offering a number of ed tech workshops this summer so that teachers can build and develop for the upcoming year. Of course, we will be keeping things fun and flexible. Check out the lineup below – dates and links with details & registration are included. Contact us with any questions.

  • Google Drive (Don’t Let Your Google Drive You Crazy) ~ Led by Ron Houtman
  • Build for Blended Learning Workshop ~ Led by Kent ISD’s Ed Tech Team
    • August 25 (registration) Choose morning, afternoon, or both.

Presentation Interaction

Interactive presentation tools are useful for engaging audiences and can be used in many ways. As with all things, educators should be aware of the features as well as consider whether or not it is the best tool for the job.

Many of you have likely heard about Google Slides’ recent Q and A feature update. If not, you can image about Q and A featurego to this overview from Richard Byrne. Basically, Q and A allows a presenter to invite audience members to submit questions or comments and then vote those up or down. The presenter can then respond as needed or use the archived record for follow up.

One thing I discovered with Andrew is that a presenter cannot delete a comment, and students have the option to post anonymously. You can see the potential for trouble there. Using this feature could be a good opportunity to have conversations with students about the purpose and expectations around digital interaction, and it is probably best to be aware of what may occur when you give it a whirl with students.

As always, I encourage people to think about the potential value of an instructional choice. Is it worth the time needed for students to pull out devices and enter the link? Is a slideshow the best option for your objective? Are there other ways for students to inquire and interact? These are questions to consider. I’m not saying don’t do it, I’m just saying that we should be intentional about it.

Another tool that offers a similar feature is GoSoapBoxand it provides additional ways for a presenter/class facilitator to engage an audience meaningfully as well. Whatever is chosen, it should result in a deeper learning experience, and it shouldn’t be cumbersome, time-consuming, or distracting. If you have examples of what is working for you, please share with us and others.

Edify Adds New Features

Edify Adds New Features

Edify, the learning platform developed by Kent ISD and Kickstand, has recently added some new elements that will help teachers better ascertain student understanding.

One change is the addition of highlighting and matching question types. Highlighting requires students to highlight portions of text passages, very similarly to M-STEP and other “next generation” question types. Matching questions provide options for grouping multiple items within categories, and they include multi-select functions as well. Both of these allow teachers to require an explanation and add to a suite of question types that make it more difficult for students to bluff their way through an assessment. As has always been the case, all questions in Edify can be aligned to standards.

Other recent additions include enhanced organization or user resources, an improved assessment generator page, and improvements with grading workflow. See more about recent updates to get the full details.

Edify is free to use for all Kent County public schools, and you can contact us if you want more information. For those outside Kent County, contact Kickstand at this link. Wherever you are, keep striving to know as much as you can about students’ learning and support them accordingly.