Welcome to Jennie Magiera's Technology in Education Blog:

Redefining the (digital) Classroom

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Somebody That You Should All Know: Vol #1

Now that my role has changed to "Digital Learning Coordinator" from "Princess 5th Grade Math Teacher Ninja", I am often feeling guilty about sharing my work and stories. While I still have the honor of working with kids on a semi-regular basis - through a student tech leadership team and co-teaching or modeling lessons for colleagues - I am no longer a "classroom teacher." Therefore, I find it my civic duty to use this blog not only to share what I learn as I work with my 26 schools, their teachers and students - but also to share the direct work of the teachers themselves.

As such - this is a first of a series I hope to start called "Somebody That You Should All Know" (feel free to sing that to the tune of "Somebody that I Used To Know"). In this series I will be featuring some of the amazing and inspiring educators with whom I have the pleasure of working. My evil plan - that they have yet to learn - is to eventually get them to guest blog. Some may, some may not - either way, these are all great minds, voices and collaborators that you should know. Think of this as a Twitter #FollowFriday that exceeds the 140 character limit :).

First up:
Autumn Laidler
3rd/4th Grade Science Teacher
A.K.A., Empress Science Teacher Jedi
Chicago, IL

Autumn is exactly the kind of colleague with whom you want to collaborate. She's a walking, talking personification of creative commons / open source - that is, she believes that ideas are worth sharing, and should be equal opportunity. She is always reminding me that PLCs or organizations - even the ones you need to apply to be a part of - should never be exclusionary - but inclusive and generous with their learning.

Moreover, Autumn isn't one to rest of her laurels. Although she was an innovator well before gaining iPads in her classroom, she spent her first year of 1:1 iPad use redefining her practice and pushing herself (not to mention all of her colleagues) to rethink teaching and learning. Then this year -- when she could have easily said, "I got this people - watch and learn" -- she instead came to me as well as her other colleagues to brainstorm new ways to come up with new and exciting ideas to challenge her pedagogy.

Autumn's commitment to innovation is amazing, but is equally matched by her commitment to work with the highest needs communities in our city. Students who are marginalized and thus often difficult to reach are often neglected by shining stars like Ms. Laidler. However Autumn - like many of the other colleagues I will write about in this series - doesn't shy away. Instead she makes it her mission to work with these communities to truly make a difference.

If you're an educator looking for new and inventive ways to use mobile devices (such as the iPad), please take a moment to check out her blog and follow her on Twitter. (Note: She is an amazing follow - her tweets are not only thoughtful, but she does a great job of curating information on this site... something that I strive to be better at. Moreover, she is one to start dialogues and discussions using this tool rather than simply sending out 140 character quips, commentaries or retweets.)

Thanks, Autumn, for always being an inspiration to me, and for doing the work you do. You rock, my friend.

And that's a wrap on Somebody That You Should Know, Volume #1. Stay tuned for more highlights on amazing educators right here. Same bat time, same bat channel.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sorry Edmodo... Switching to Schoology


Dear Edmodo,

I'm switching to Schoology. I'm so sorry... I appreciate all you've done for me, and I'll never forget you. And, unlike the Taylor Swift song - we might just get back together if you change/update. But right now Schoology has so much to offer me that you don't: easier workflow, advanced quiz and discussion features, a clean layout.... I hope we can still be friends.



Post Update: Wrote this post on 2-24-2013 with more info on Schoology vs. Edmodo...

For the past 2 years I've been an avid user of Edmodo - a web-based learning management system (LMS). I've relied on it it for everything from managing learning environments for my 4th and 5th graders to supporting my graduate students in the university classes I'm teaching.

However there were some downsides: the "wall" or "newsfeed" became cumbersome. Its cluttered interface made it difficult for my students - whether 9 or 29 years old - to find assignments, messages and quizzes. Additionally there was the age-old iPad issue of workflow. How would students turn in the digital creations made on their iPads? Thanks to iOS 6.0.1, iPad users can now attach videos and photos from their photo roll to websites by clicking on "file" icons (the same icon that would access your hard drive folders on a computer). Another great update: users can also open content from one app (such as PagesKeynote or Numbers) in another app (such as Edmodo or Schoology) -- see the photos above. This was amazing for turning in work! However, in Edmodo, this work is simply saved into the student's "backpack" and they must go through a few more steps to actually submit it. As such, the workflow was awkward for many students with processing issues/delays and they became frustrated.

Furthermore, you couldn't file share in the opposite direction through the Edmodo app. For example, if I sent my student a PDF of a graphic organizer through an Edmodo assignment, they couldn't then open it into another app. There was no "open in" or "share" button available when it was previewed. If I wanted them to open the document or PDF, I had to go through the web interface.

Finally I decided to give Schoology - another web-based LMS - another try. I had experimented with this site when it first came out - just a few months after Edmodo's release - but found it confusing to use and too expensive (they originally charged for some features that were free on Edmodo). However on this most recent go-around, I noticed that not only are all the features I need free, but also found that there are more features than Edmodo. I've been experimenting using it with some groups of students and sharing it with the teachers whom I coach. Today I was working with colleague Linsey Rose, and found that Schoology may just be the answer to many of my iPad needs! Below are some brief findings:

  • Workflow Solutions! Schoology offers a free solution to turning in digital content from an iPad that is easy to use! Like the Edmodo app, the Schoology app allows students/participants in a course to submit Pages docs, Keynote presentations, Numbers spreadsheets, PDFs, videos, pictures and more. However, when they open the Keynote, doc, PDF or spreadsheet in Schoology it allows them to directly submit it as an assignment. One-step submission! Amazing! So imagine: Kids can create a Keynote and easily turn it in to an assignment on Schoology. Then the teacher can open it on his/her desktop, give feedback and give it a grade if need be. 
  • Advanced Quiz Features! I can embed video and pictures into a quiz. Not just thumbnails or a link to a video or picture, but actual videos and actual pictures. I don't need to upload to a library first - I can attach a video or picture as an answer choice or part of the question directly from my hard drive on my computer. Wow. I've always dreamed of differentiating assessments with multimedia, and now I can! 
  • Cleaner interface! There isn't a cluttered news feed when kids log in. They can see recent activity, but then they click on their course and immediately they can see a clean, simple list of their assignments, quizzes, discussions, etc. (See photo above)
There are more great features such as course analytics (see which students logged in when), advanced discussion features (grade discussions as assignments, see who commented when in a timeline, allow students to directly reply to one another), and the ability to take attendance. I have just begun digging into this alternate LMS, but thus far like what I see.

Some downsides to Schoology:
  • You can't create small groups within a class/course nor can you send assignments to groups students. (However, you can send assignments to individuals.) We are getting around this by creating assignments named "Group 1 Polygon sort" and "Group 2 Polygon screencast" etc. and empowering kids to click on their group's assignment. 
  • When you get to the district level - i.e., you want an entire district to use Schoology - it begins to charge and can get costly. I haven't encountered this myself, but in speaking with colleagues, I have heard this is a barrier.
For a quick overview of the Schoology iPad app, including some of the features above, check out this video. Also this is a great post on the Schoology app updates and features.

To others using Edmodo and/or Schoology - what do you think? How do these two learning management systems weigh in for you?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Student Created iBooks!

As we've been exploring how to use iBooks Author for teachers to created differentiated digital content, we've begun to wonder how this could be used as a student creation tool. We have many classrooms with 1:1 iPads, but each room only has one MacBook or iMac (the only devices that run iBooks Author). However, we've started to experiment with aggregating student digital creations from their iPads and using iBooks Author to put them together.

This video is an example from a 4th grade classroom with whom I work. They are learning about elements of extended response (I know - not the most exciting topic. Hoping to move towards more exciting content next time!) and as such are practicing different aspects of responding to questions. In this segment, they are thinking about text evidence.

The students began by reading a short text. Then they responded to a prompt by finding evidence from the text (using Edmodo). Then they filmed each other's metacognition - that is, they filmed a partner talking about their own thinking when answering the question. Finally, student volunteers stayed after class to put the iBook together. Our hope is to replicate this process with more student-driven topics (i.e., a CBL or PBL unit) and make the iBooks Author jobs embedded into school-time.

Have you been using iBooks Author with students? If so, please share your stories below!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

We're Getting Google Scripty in Here!

For those of you who have begun using Google Forms in your classrooms and schools, you have probably found that they are a great way to collect data. From room reservations to formative assessments, forms offer a plethora of supports as an educator. Want to take it up a notch? Enter Scripts. Scripts are amazing add-ons that you can install into a spreadsheet to automate your life. From auto-scheduling in your calendar via a form to auto-grading an assessment to auto-handing out and sharing a document, scripts can make your life oh-so-much easier.

Tonight I had the pleasure of doing a Google Hangout on the Air with Liz Castillo from Hawaii, Angie Kalthoff from Minnesota and Jay Atwood from Singapore. We shared about four of our favorite scripts:

  • FormEmailer: Send email from a form
  • Autocrat: Create PDFs and Google Docs from a form
  • FormMule: Send out emails, voice messages, texts and calendar invites through a form
  • Doctopus: Create copies of Google Docs, Presentations and Spreadsheets - then share them out with students/teachers
Andrew Stillman - the author of many of these scripts - has a great site to learn more about how to use these (and more) scripts in case our Hangout video wasn't detailed enough: youpd.org.

If that's not enough Script love for you, here's an early holiday gift: Jay has an amazing site chock full of script info, graphics and tips. I highly encourage you to check it out: sandbox.atwoodphoto.com.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Registration Now Open! PLAYDATE13

PLAYDATE13 - the conference that was born at 10,000 feet (see this post to learn more about that) is now open for registration! Also, thanks to Boston-based educator Tracy Sockalosky's go-getter attitude, we've added on a second city to the event! As such, PLAYDATE will be now be occurring simultaneously in both Chicago and Boston.

Click here to register for either location - and register soon! This event is limited to the first 150 participants.

Read below for more info:
A new kind of conference. 
No presenters. No agendas. Just playing.
Explore the things you've never had time to explore. 
Saturday, February 9, 2013

This is a new kind of conference. Think about the last time you attended an EdTech PD, conference or other professional learning event. Oftentimes, we leave full of new knowledge and a list overflowing with new apps, programs and skills to try out. However, once we return to "the real world" many of us lack the time and support to actually try out all of these new tools. 

PLAYDATE13 is a space for us to come together and collaboratively explore these tools we've always wanted to learn more about. The concept is to invite educators from around the area to join together on one day, sit in a room for a few hours and just play. They will collaborate to learn about EdTech apps, programs and tools with one another. There are no presenters in the room, no experts and no agenda. Simply time to play, tinker, and explore. 

There will be a Google Doc circulated a month before the event for colleagues and fellow educators to fill in with tips, tricks and links to help support the exploration during the PLAYDATE sessions, but that's it! Join us on Saturday, February 9th to rediscover playtime.