Monday, September 19, 2016

GoNoodle Brain Breaks, Many Possiblities

Have you ever tried GoNoodle's videos and games to help keep your students moving inside the classroom? These desk-side movement activities geared towards K-5 classrooms are selected and projected by the teacher from the GoNoodle website. Sign up as a teacher at, fill in some information and then choose your class "Champ". Champs are the primary motivation system in GoNoodle. Every time you play an activity with your students, you help grow your Champ. When you grow a Champ completely, you get to choose a new one to grow. (For more info about Champs click here). There are over 200 GoNoodle videos to choose from. 

Here is how to find the right activity for you:

  • Explore: Explore is the default view after clicking the Play button from the champ page, featuring the newest and featured GoNoodle activities. Use this page to see what's new, what's coming soon, and to find activities you may not have played before.
  • Channels: GoNoodle is like a music collection – think of channels as artists! If you know you want to dance with Zumba Kids, you can go straight to the Zumba Kids channel.
  • Categories: Think of Categories as genres. To see all the dancing videos, for example, head to the “Guided Dancing” category. A variety of genres makes it easy to find the right video for your classroom’s energy level.
  • Search: Searching GoNoodle is super easy. Simply type in keywords to see all the videos that match. Try “mindfulness,” “Pop See Ko,” or even “2 minutes” for videos around a certain length. Perhaps a 10+ minute video for that indoor recess?

Quick Subject Transitions 

In the Explore view search for videos and activities by duration. Grab a 1 minute clip and wiggle your way into the next subject area. I thoroughly enjoy Awesome Sauce's "Dance like this Dude". Silly dance moves everyone can get into to get the blood flowing for the next part of the day. 

Here are some highly recommended options for your next GoNoodle Adventure:
(You'll need to already have signed up to view these channels and categories)

  1. Testing: Calming category.  Ease anxiety with several calming, stress-reducing activities.
  2. Indoor Recess: Mega-mixes. Longer GoNoodle videos for the times you’re stuck inside.
  3. Mindfulness: Think About It. A series of positive, one-minute reflections, perfect for morning meeting.
  4. Great for the active: Koo Koo Kanga Roo. Awesome beats, hilarious dance moves.
  5. Special needs favorite: Mr. Catman. Emphasis on coordination and concentration.
  6. Sluggish afternoons: Zumba Kids. Dance your way back to life!
  7. Bouncing-off-the-walls energy: Free movement category. A group of videos that let students get the wiggles out.
  8. Older grades: Fresh Start Fitness.  Seriously intense workouts!
  9. Younger Grades: Maximo. Simple stretching moves, led by a silly monkey.
  10. Celebration: Guided Dancing category. Pick a dance-along, and go to town

Read more about the features and specifics or GoNoodle here. How are you GoNoodling in your class?

Thursday, September 8, 2016

An Interview With Shannon Pasma Part Two

An Interview With Shannon Pasma Part Two

I recently sat down with Shannon Pasma at Cafe Bicyclette for a chat about everything grade two and educational technology. Here is part two of an abridged version of our chat. Don’t forget to read part one!

A Little Bit About Shannon
Shannon teaches in the Elk Island School Division and is going into her fourth year of teaching grade two (her favourite grade). She has also taught grade one and five. Her school is one-to-one Chromebooks grades two to six. She also has five iPads in her class and access to sign out a whole cart of iPads as needed. You can find her on Google+ and on Twitter as @ShannonPasma. She is also the co-author of an e-book for grade two social studies which she created as a part of her masters in Educational Technology in Elementary Education.

What apps or technology tools do you use? Are there any that you use for specific projects?
Anytime an app has dual application (like being able to record your voice), I like that.  If I can use it across the subject areas, I’m good with it, rather than a one-off app. Some of the tools I use all the time are:
    • I especially love Google Slides. I like to use it for pretty much anything from How To writing to Non Fiction writing to Timelines. I like to use Screencastify to have voice connected to work if images are just included.
    • Or any recordable whiteboard app. Again, great for anything you want the students to explain a process or thought. I like this especially for math. My students create problems and then solve them recording their work and voice.
    • Great for digital posters or scavenger hunts in 2D shapes and 3D objects. Lends itself well to labelling.
    • Great for social studies, too. Students can make a poster about the community.
  • Popplet for mind maps.
    • We often turn a story into a script. PuppetPals is used as a choice to act out the script if students don't want to perform in front of the class. I also like to have the students do a Bug Talk Show and interview various creatures in science. I love to see their creativity come out.
  • Seesaw (but you can’t upload from Google Drive)
  • Google Classroom is an absolute must in my room!
    • During the first weeks of school we create iMovie trailers to show/teach/reinforce classroom routines. My students like to also use the DoInk Green Screen app to integrate with iMovie.
You made an e-book. Do you still make them?

They take forever. You have to find images you can use. You have to write your own content. You have to cite all of your stuff. You have to record each of your voice sections and then put it in the book. Each of the widgets we had, most of them were from third party sites so you had to download them and then upload them. Saving it on the Mac (iBooks Author) and then trying it on your iPad. The hardest part was finding a site to hold it and share it out so people could download it. It is so huge to download it so it takes forever. It’s a lot of work.
After we made the first one, I saw how successful it was with my students.  That’s when I had a student with a learning disability, so I couldn’t take that away from her. So I just had to do them.  It would take me a whole Saturday and Sunday to make them. But now that they are done, they’re done. However I have noticed a couple of the videos are missing because they are not on YouTube anymore. So now it’s about going back and fixing them. Then re-downloading and re-uploading them again.

You can download them here: Exploring Iqaluit, Meteghan, and Saskatoon

You had a five week student teacher this year. How prepared did you feel they were edtech-wise?
Very unprepared.

I want to make a course or workshop for preservice teachers to learn how to use technology. I would open up my classroom to them. They could come in and observe some tools and see what there is. In the course/workshop we’d talk about the tools and how to use them. They would have to create lessons to go with the technology so they actually feel prepared. Most preservice teachers have no educational technology skills.

If you had to interview someone for division one educational technology. Who would you pick?
You know who I really want to sit down with? Catherine D off Twitter. We had really great conversations at the ERLC Educational Technology Innovation Summit. I would love to sit down with her for the whole day.

Last question for you, what are your hopes for educational technology in the future in your classroom? Alberta? Canada? Globally?

If kids don’t learn some technology skills, like coding,  I can only imagine 2025! They are going to have to have these skills. I feel if you don’t start teaching them these things they are going to be behind and unprepared. I feel that if teachers don’t get on board with the current educational technologies they are going to be even further behind and then you are doing a disservice to your students. This [phone] is your life. Literally you can do everything on here and you don’t need anything else. I hope that teachers catch on.

It [the future] is going to be kids coming with greater skills and expected to do a lot more but connect globally. I  feel like it is no longer about working in the isolation of your classroom. I feel that Global Read Aloud is the start of zero barriers. You are going to be learning from each other.   

The flexible seating movement is on the cutting edge of - you don’t need to learn in “this” way, you can learn in your own way. I feel like there is going to be more individualized learning. I think desks and rows are by-gone things now.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

I would like to thank Shannon for an extremely enjoyable chat through an epic thunderstorm.

Check back for the October interview with Alicia Kuzio.

related blog posts:

Thursday, September 1, 2016

An Interview With Shannon Pasma Part One

Perspective From The Park

I recently sat down with Shannon Pasma at Cafe Bicyclette for a chat about everything grade two and educational technology. We chatted for almost three hours! So here is part one (of two) of an abridged version of our chat.

A Little Bit About Shannon

Shannon teaches in the Elk Island School Division and is going into her fourth year of teaching grade two (her favourite grade). She has also taught grade one and five. Her school is one-to-one Chromebooks grades two to six. She has five iPads in her class and access to sign out a whole cart of iPads as needed. You can find her on Google+ and on Twitter as @ShannonPasma (and her class account is @misspasmasclass). She is the co-author of an e-book for grade two social studies which she created as a part of her Masters in Educational Technology in Elementary Education. You may have read her blog Elementary Elements or you may have seen her on TV last year.

The Interview

Ideally, what technology skills should students have before coming into grade two?

It would be great if they knew how to log onto a Chromebook already. I would really like if they knew how to use some basic iPad apps such as Explain Everything or how to record something; that would be huge. I use PicCollage a lot, so it would be great if they knew how to insert a picture or be able to do some typing.

Where do you get your educational technology ideas?
Shannon Pasma at ERLC's 2016 
Educational Technology Innovation 
Summit with Christine Quong and 
Karla Holt.

I brainstorm with Karla Holt and Christine Quong; we text each other a lot. I talk with the techie people at school. Online, sometimes I go on Twitter to get ideas but I never really tweet about them. Seeing some of your stuff that you did. Or out of my own brain or from ideas that students have. 

When using my e-book with the students I see how they have become really comfortable with the technologies used in it. We made it so the apps were repeated over and over again so the students get really comfortable with them. So my students have become really comfortable saying “can I do this and do this for it”, so lots of it [edtech ideas] comes from them bringing it up.

What hashtags do you follow on Twitter?

I follow:

What type of technology do you use in your school?

We have iPads, Chromebooks, SMARTBoards and webcams. Like you, I personally got an ozobot. I got a grant for MakerSpace stuff. We are starting a MakerSpace in the fall. My Dot and Dash is coming at some point this summer. I also got the Bits Box. Then there is a tricaster that we are sharing with another school for school announcements. 

So you have iPads and Chromebooks in your class. If you had to keep one and get rid of the other, which of the two would you keep?

Oh. I use both ALL the time. Well, the Chromebook apps are getting a lot better than they used to be, so I’ll say Chromebooks. 

Based on your response to the question above, why would you keep that technology?

Chromebooks are easier for inquiry. I love Read and Write for Google and it’s harder to access on an Apple device. It is easier to access to save and store things on a Chromebook than an iPad.

You might be too young for this question to apply to you but how has technology changed how you teach?

Oh lots! They were installing SMARTBoards the first month of my first teaching contract. It [a SMARTBoard] went from wow to meh. Now I use it as my whiteboard pretty much and to project things off my computer. So I think it [educational technology] has gone from engaging kids up here [on the SMARTBoard] to now you have to actually change your teaching and tailor it so the kids can be successful so it’s not everybody is doing the same thing. Technology has changed teaching so that everyone can do “it”, whatever “it” is. They can choose how to be successful and use technology, or not.

In my classroom, if I partner them up, they are really good at socializing using technology. If I partner them up with a paper activity, not so much because they are not sharing the same thing. There is more conversation when they are on technology whereas they hunker down with a piece of paper and keep to themselves.

I had a student with a learning disability two years ago. She was very tech savvy. She was reading well below grade level. She wouldn’t write anything down because she couldn’t. She would say “can you film me now” and she would talk off the top of her head and it was fabulous. She knew her stuff. If you told her to write it down on a piece of paper she wouldn’t have known her stuff because she wouldn’t have been able to get it out. Technology levels the playing field.

How do you decide what is worthwhile for students to learn through technology, given literacy and skill challenges in grade two?

I do Daily Five. When students are listening to reading they might use technology like Epic!. Sometimes they would do word work on the iPads. I do not have them do free writing on the Chromebook or that much literacy stuff with technology. They need to sit and talk with each other and they still need to do a print book. So during literacy time, honestly, it was not much technology when we were reading or writing. When we did projects or research then they would use technology.

Check back next week for part two of my interview with Shannon. 

related blog posts:

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Reflection: Hacking Education, 10 Quick Fixes For Every School

Hacking Education

This summer I read Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes For Every School. It is by Mark Barnes and Jennifer Gonzalez. It is a part of the Hack Learning Series books. The books offer to help educators "solve big problems with simple ideas."

The book has ten "hacks". Think of these hacks as unique workarounds to problems many teachers deal with. However, the fixes are informal and teacher driven so not bound by paperwork requirements or top-down formulas of how to accomplish the changes. They typically do not involve a huge investment of money (usually no money at all). Each chapter looks at a school problem (such as large amounts of time spent at staff meetings) and then shares a potential solution/hack (such as meeting in the cloud) as well as a suggested implementation plan and how to deal with push back, deadlines and accountability. 

Not all the hacks are related to technology. As this is a technology blog, I am only going to share my reflections on the tech hacks (that said I love the ideas behind the Marigold Committee and The Book Nook).

The book is a quick read. Not only is it a short book, 134 pages, but it is written almost conversationally. As the authors themselves state, the book is: "light on research and statistics and heavy on practical advice." 

Each hack/chapter follows the same formula. First the problem is identified. Second a "hack" is outlined. Next the authors propose a way you could start the hack right away (What You Can Do Tomorrow). Then the authors layout a blueprint for full implementation. As changing an established way of doing things can be challenging for some teachers and administrators, the authors also provided suggestions for overcoming pushback. Finally they provide real world examples of the hack in action.

HACK ONE: Meet In The Cloud

Summary: This hack suggests that schools replace face-to-face staff meetings with backchannel (online) conversations and shared folders (in the cloud). And yes it addresses the worry of people simply not participating or "attending" in these meetings. The hack basically has the meeting items stored on documents in the cloud that are organized in shared folders of some kind, like Google Drive. One folder would house items important for all staff, but then you could have separate or sub folders for subgroups as not all issues/items apply to all staff. In addition to this, an asynchronous dialogue could take place in a backchannel such as Google Hangouts (they recommend Voxer). The authors give suggestions of how to monitor these "meetings" and how to set and  supervise deadlines and accountability.

Why do all of this? To free up teachers' time. It allows teachers/staff to participate in the conversations/decisions they need to be a part of but disregard the content that does not apply to them that is typically included in staff meetings in a time effective way.

Reflection: I just finished working at a small school for the past three years. I think in schools where there is a small staff a blended version of this hack might work. Our staff meetings were social as well as work and people LIKED the time together. However, I believe they would also have been supportive of shorter meetings if some items could be deal with "in the cloud". I think the larger the school, the more successful the hack. In EPSB collaboration between schools is common. I like how the authors have suggested setting up the "meeting" structure with folders, sub folders and a backchannel. I wished I had this hack last year for my cross-school collaboration. I like the backchannel aspect, as I think we naturally revert to email and having different "channels" for different topics is much more effective. I will definitely use this hack in some fashion this year.

Related blog post: Collaborate!

HACK FIVE: Student Tech Gurus

Summary: Student Tech Gurus is a hack that is meant to address the problem of not enough tech support for teachers/classrooms. The Gurus are students who should be trained to not only solve small-scale tech problems but also do some training as well. The hack has students getting pulled out of class to help with IT issues, so they suggest selecting students who have good academic records. This hack makes me think of Kern Kelley and the Tech Sherpas (who have their own book out). 

ReflectionAs an elementary teacher who has run a technology club in some form for the past seven years, I agree with the authors when they state "fifth and sixth graders are certainly mature enough to not only learn how to solve basic tech problems, but also to conduct trainings." However, at the elementary level I do not agree that only students with good academic records need only apply. 

The hacks in the book are not prescriptive, rather the message is find what works for you and here are some suggestions to get started. In my own practice, one of the things I found helpful when Smartboards were still relatively new was to have two tech clubs. One for lower elementary and one for upper elementary. Each class in the school had one-two students represented. We would meet over lunch (for the younger students sometimes recess was enough) and I would teach students some common issues and workarounds/solutions. I also would do some training with the older students based on the needs identified by the teachers. 

These lunch time sessions were supported with hard copy "tech tips" in each class. The tips were pinned near the teacher computer to be used by both the teacher and tech club students. You can imagine how helpful this was when a supply teacher was present and dealing with technology issues! When classroom specific issues arose, I would pull the two tech students to work with them to find the solution. I found having tech support built into each classroom extremely effective and did not require students to be pulled from class. 

HACK SEVEN: The In-Class Flip

Summary: This hack is for those teachers who want to try a flipped classroom but are concerned about what will actually be accomplished at home (if you are not familiar with what is involved in a flipped classroom, check out this infographic). Essentially this hack is blended learning. Instead of students watching a video at home to prepare them for next day's lesson they watch the video in class. Most division one teachers will have no problem trying this hack as it uses centres. The teacher divides students into groups. Then the teacher creates centre activities. There should be one more centre than there are groups of students. So if you have four groups, you will need five centres. Students watch the instructional video at one centre. The following centre the students work with the teacher to apply the concept from the video. The remaining centres should be independent work. 

ReflectionI am a fan of this hack and as a teacher I found myself moving in this direction more and more. Each chapter in the book has a section called "overcoming pushback". For this hack one of the issues they identify is "I don't have time to make my own videos". Video creation IS time consuming and not always necessary as you may find what you need on YouTube. However as someone who has made their own videos, I can say that it IS worth it. The authors give good advice in this area: "Give yourself permission to create 'good enough' videos."

Related blog posts: Flipping the Grade One Classroom and Technology As My E.A.

HACK NINE: The Glass Classroom

Summary: This hack is all about using social media with your class. The goal of this hack is to open your classroom to the world, especially parents. Hack seven (The In-Class Flip) and nine work really well together if you put the videos you use (teacher made or not) on a platform parents and students can access at home.  The book has some good steps to follow if you are interested in making this leap but are not sure how. 
    Step 1: Choose a platform 
                  (I highly recommend a classroom Twitter account for division one teachers)
    Step 2: Define your content
                  (I highly recommend that students are involved in this process eventually)
    Step 3: Set guidelines
    Step 4: Educate stakeholders 
    Step 5: Secure permissions
    Step 6: Start sharing 
    Step 7: Be vigilant
    Step 8: Expand (to other platforms)

ReflectionI think as we continue use social media as a society that we NEED to use it in our classrooms. Not only does using social media in our classrooms embrace how students learn and share their learning but also to teaches them how to do so responsibly.  We need to include students in the decisions around privacy and teach them how to make safe social media decisions. For me, in the younger grades using social media is more about bringing the world to your classroom than it is opening up your classroom to the world. If this is something your are interested in, I suggest reading Kathy Cassidy's blog, Primary Preoccupation, or book, Connected From the Start: Global Learning in the Primary Classroom.

Related blog posts: Share What Is Happening In Your Class Instantly... Use Instagram! and What I Learned About Using Twitter In Class This Year

HACK TEN: The 360 Spreadsheet

SummaryThe authors call this hack The 360 Spreadsheet. I called it student learning profiles. Regardless of what you call it, the hack is meant to help a teacher truly see students for who they are and help teachers develop strong relationships with students as well as academically plan for them. The hack has teachers put data about students in a spreadsheet (Word, Excel, Docs, Sheets or even paper) so that you have information about students in one easy to access place.

ReflectionI basically did this hack a few years ago. I surveyed students and families with a multiple intelligence survey. As well, I always asks students about their favourite things as a first day of school activity, which I also added to their profiles. I put in pre-assessment information and any special needs information as well. So as I was reading this chapter I was nodding but in the back of my mind I was like "this is all well and good but..." and then the authors finished my thought for me: 

Their solution for this push back statement is to look at the spreadsheet regularly. Which I think anyone who has created these knows they should do.  I definitely found using a student profile chart useful at the beginning of the year to help me really get a sense of the students in my class. It also gave me a sense of what the class as a whole needed, too. I am not sure I have figured out how to make it a part of my daily, weekly or even monthly practice. It is like flossing. I know I need to do it regularly. I see the benefits when I do. The challenge is how to make it a regular routine in a busy work week.

Related blog post: Student Profile Template

HACK ELEVEN (AKA MY HACK): Affordable Professional Reading

No, there is no eleventh hack in the book! If after reading this blog post you feel you would like to read the whole book, you can order it onlineThere is an online preview of the book available as well. 

However, if you are like me, I started hesitating about purchasing all the professional development books I wanted to read. The cost starts to add up quickly! So MY HACK is for teachers to use their local union's library.  If you are like me and like to highlight and write in your books, you can sign books out of a library to preview (read a few chapters) a book before purchasing. 

I checked this book out of the Alberta Teachers Association (ATA) Library. You can sign out books for a month. If needed, they are loaned by mail and you can return the book via mail (ATA provides return postage, too).