A Department Meeting Success!

Ever have a meeting where you feel the group vibe is a… can’t say World Series win, maybe a Pennant Series win? People are leaving inspired with new ideas and come up to verbally share them with you; that’s what I experienced recently.

Let me explain and I’m hoping this doesn’t come off as a ‘tooting his own horn‘ post. In my position as a teacher resource specialist for technology, I not only support a middle school (6th-8th) but I also support the Math (6th-12th) & Science (6th-12th) departments. I do this with one of my counterparts at the high school, Jessica Verrault. We were approached at the beginning of this school year by the Math Supervisor, Andrea Bean, if we would be interested in facilitating a monthly meeting with the eighth and ninth grade teachers focusing on student engagement in our 1:1 chromebook environment.

“Challenge accepted!”

So Jess and I would design and then meet with Andrea to plan out each month’s department meeting. Our first one was the last week in September. We picked the focus on ‘differentiation techniques’ using a variety of tools.

I’m of the philosophy that you need to experience something before learning how to do it. So we designed a couple of activities where the attendees would be in the role of students going through a lesson and then we would backtrack through the lesson explaining how we intentionally set it up. We went through the “lesson” from start to finish, then explained in reverse order why we did what we did.

We began with three different Google Doc activities (pictured below & clickable with “Force a Copy”). We ‘assigned’ them through our department Google Classroom as an assignment where it made a copy of the Google Doc for each student. Embedded in the Google Doc was a Google Drawing of a possible problem solving strategy. 

We followed this activity up by showcasing how to differentiate resources quickly to students. We utilize a tool, GoGuardian, which assists teachers in Chromebook management. One of the features, the ability to give commands, assists teachers in ‘Opening a Tab’ on student devices. So we shared each of these blog posts:

Selected teachers had a tab open up to one of the above posts. They weren’t told they were going to receive different posts. After a quick skimming of the article, we had them in groups discuss. That’s when many of them realized they received different resources.

We wrapped up our “lesson” with a Verso activity. If you aren’t familiar with Verso, take a gander at this previous post from me. We had the teachers respond to,

That was our lesson! We proceeded to work backwards explaining our intentions. First, Verso was used so we could take advantage of the feature to group responses. As the classroom teacher, we would want to see who would be in our groups for tomorrow’s lesson, to determine who would get different activities/resources.

Then we showed the teachers how to push out the command in GoGuardian to open a tab:

We showed how our Google Doc with an embedded Google Drawing could offer a layer of differentiation by including the drawing or not, all depending on the needs/abilities of the student(s). Our main differentiation strategy demonstrated in our lesson was the ability to assign to individual students in Google Classroom instead of assigning to all:

So there it is, the entire department meeting offering strategies facilitated by technology to differentiate for our students in a math classroom. Andrea (Math Supervisor) gave us some great feedback, praise, and even suggested presenting this at an upcoming NJ Math Teachers conference (might be doing that!). The one thing to keep in mind for next time, we should have explained that we would be going through this lesson at a quick pace. Some of the teachers felt anxiety about not completing the Google Doc math problem or completely reading the blog post in the time allotted. We should have stated, “To respect your time, we will be hurrying through this demo lesson so we can then explain and demonstrate how we setup what you are about to experience.”

What are your thoughts about this department meeting description? I would love to read them in the comments below.

New School Year; New Challenge

I was asked by one of my district’s Special Ed Supervisors to assist with the creation of a means for managing the school’s lost & found. We have a life skills room where the students are going to utilize the lost & found items to practice how to wash (dish washer or laundry) then catalog the items for return to the proper owner.

We came up with the idea of using a Google Form where the students would be able to select some basic answers as well as upload an image of the item.

This data would collect on a Google Sheet where I have setup a bunch of formulas (I’ll break this down later in the post) and a couple of tabs.

The Google Sheet would be embedded on a Google Site that parents and students could go to find their missing item(s). There they would also find the email address & procedure for notifying the life skills students.

Screenshot of CMS Lost & Found Website (click it for live view)

The initial tab in the Google Sheet (FormResponses1[hidden from view]) had several formulas established & maintained using the Google Sheets Add-on, CopyDown. The following are the formulas established:

  • Item number – automatically created item number established when a form is submitted.
    • =ROW(B1)
  • Item number hyperlinked – pulling the item number generated in the previous column to now hyperlink as a mail-to with formatted subject and body. This was an added challenge asked by one of my colleagues, “Wouldn’t it be neat if…” [Kim Lowden]. It actually required me to learn a new formula, ‘concatenate’, from my supervisor, Allan Johnson.
    • =HYPERLINK(CONCATENATE(“mailto:cms-lostfound@wwprsd.org?body=To%20Whom%20It%20May%20Concern,%0A%0AI%20have%20identified%20an%20item%20listed%20on%20your%20site%20which%20belongs%20to%20us.%0A%0AMy%20child’s%20name:%20%0AHomeroom:%20%0AGrade:%20%0AItem%20number:%20%0A%0ASincerely,%0A&subject=CMS%20Lost%20and%20Found%20Item%20Number:%20”,B2),B2)
  • Google Image ID – when the students submit the image as a file in the Google Form, a URL is generated. This URL will not allow the image to be displayed (formula to come). The ID number will be needed for a later formula.
    • =right(F2,LEN(F2)33)
  • New Image URL – using the Google Image ID number collected from a previous column and combining it with a URL recognized for generating an image.
    • =“https://drive.google.com/uc?export=download&id=” & G2
  • Image – displaying the actual image in the cell of the Sheet (pulling from url in New Image URL column).
    • =IMAGE(H2,4,300,300)

Now the biggest problem that I had was with displaying an image at a particular size. Even though the formula for the image was set to 300×300 pixels, when a new row is inserted with Form data, the cell size overwrites any heights to the default. I needed to create a whole new tab (Lost&Found) in the Sheet and hide the FormResponses1 tab. I formatted the first 1,000 cells to the size I want then utilized a formula (=FormResponses1!C3) to pull in this information for each column I wanted to display on the website. ***Update*** Less than a week after posting, Alice Keeler released a post about a script which would change the row height after a Form submit.

The last tab I created was to help with the organizing of the items for the students. I made an ‘Item # / QR Code’ tab. In this sheet, I pull in the generated item number and the image from the previous tab. I create a column where they could type in the student’s name and homeroom where the item should be returned. Finally, I have a QR Code generated based on the item number which the students can print out and attach to the item. The students can scan it when they need to find the correct item to return. I used the formula (=image(“https://chart.googleapis.com/chart?chs=300×300&cht=qr&chl=”&A2)) to auto-generate a QR Code.

Now whenever an item is claimed, they can go into the Sheet and hide the row for that item in the tabs: ‘Lost&Found’ and ‘Item # / QR Code’.

I would love to know your thoughts on this challenging workflow; please leave me a comment below.

I Don’t Normally Do This…

I don’t normally recommend products, but I supported a Kickstarter campaign (later moved to Indiegogo) which I have been quite impressed with. Volta, a magnetic charging cable for all devices is, in my humble opinion, amazing. It has become the last charging cable I will ever need. It is military-grade, branded nylon with magnetic tips for lightning or micro USB. They come in a variety of sizes and colors. I’ve purchased several so I have a cable in my car, at work, and a couple of spots in my home. All of my devices have the magnetic charging adapter in them so I can charge any device with the one cable. Below is a review from YouTube:

I would recommend checking them out! Plus, an added bonus, with the link below you & I get a discount: http://voltacharger.refr.cc/dangallagher

 

Let me know in the comments below what you think…

Presented at a Recent Conference… #EdublogsClub

This post is part of the #EdublogsClub – a group of educators and educational technology enthusiasts that blog around a common theme each week. Simply write a post and share it (via social media w/ #edublogsclub or posting a link as a comment to that topic’s posting on the Edublogger site) to join in, or sign up to receive email reminders of each new prompt. 

Prompt: Write a post about conferences and professional learning.

Here are some possible topics to help get you started:

  • Write a list of the top conferences you want to attend before you retire.
  • Have you presented at an academic conference? If so, write about your presentation and share with everyone!
  • Write about the most inspiring speaker you’ve seen at a conference, and tell about how it impacted your approach to education.
  • Write a post discussing tips for getting the most out of conferences.
  • Write a post about what conferences need to do to continue to be a positive force in education.

Last week (June 27, 2017) myself and a few of my colleagues attended and presented at the South Brunswick Technology and Learning Conference. This is one of the most organized conferences I’ve attended recently. Other than some audio system trouble at lunch, the rest of the day was flawless (in my humble opinion). They take some inspiration from Edcamp, i.e. collaborative session notes and the ‘Rule of Two Feet’. The kickoff keynote was entertaining with a great message on youth leadership opportunities.

I facilitated two sessions, Creating with ThingLink and another on Making Google Forms Work for You. Both sessions had low attendance, but for those there, I believe they found great value, were able to get a little hands-on, came up with some integration ideas, and had all their questions answered. Below are the resources I used in my sessions:

Overall (even though I didn’t win any door prizes), this was a great conference! Plus, as an added bonus and something I think other conferences need to keep in mind, South Brunswick waves your registration and gives you a nice ‘goodie bag’ for being a presenter.

2 Common Homeschooling Challenges And How To Overcome Them

Imagine that you’re a parent who lives in, say, Indiana, and rather than enrolling your young child in a regular school, you’re thinking of homeschooling your child because you’ve read a number of books about it, spoken to a few parents whose children have benefited from it, and have become quite enthused by the whole concept.

How do you go about it, assuming you have the time, interest, and passion for staying on top of academia?

The first thing you should do is enroll in a virtual education website for homeschooling in Indiana, which will be an online public charter that is open to all students who are enrolled in sixth to twelfth grades. The second thing you need to do is to research some of the big challenges of homeschooling that you might face. And the third and final thing you need to do is to get the ball rolling and overcome any of the challenges you’ve been able to identify based on your research.

Challenges of Homeschooling

Your challenges won’t arise from the curriculum, lesson plans, or even your ability to get up to speed on Algebra or remembering how to balance a chemical equation. Instead, your primary challenges will be the types of challenges a project manager might face like scheduling and technology.

Challenge #1: Creating Realistic Schedules

It’s one thing to set up a schedule; it’s another to get everyone in the family to go along with it. Your child may not be in the mood to do what’s on the schedule or your spouse may have family plans that will throw the schedule off course.

Here are some possible solutions:

  1. Learn the mechanics of scheduling.

For instance:

  • ·  You will need to create realistic schedules on what can be achieved in a given time
  • ·  You will need to allot enough time for core subjects, rather than allow your child to spend most of their time on favorite subjects.
  • ·  You will need to allow contingency time for interruptions to the day.
  • ·  You will need to avoid making the schedule too tight, which will make it difficult to sustain in the long run.
  • ·  You will need to create a pace that will help your child complete their curriculum in a timely way.
  • ·  You will need to give your child enough time for hobbies, play, or sports, as well as for spending quality time with family and friends.
  • ·  You will need to give yourself enough of a work-life balance so that you don’t burn out.
  1. Get everyone on board.

A democratic-type family meeting will help minimize family members disrupting the schedule.

  1. Tweak as necessary.

While a schedule may look good in theory, for one reason or another, it may not be realistic. Instead of getting frustrated, tweak the schedule as necessary until it works for everyone and under most circumstances.

Challenge #2: Troubleshooting Technology Issues.

If you aren’t good with computers, smartphones, and tablets, you might find homeschooling challenging. For instance, if you don’t know how to install software or do some basic troubleshooting, you will quickly get frustrated when programs don’t work the way they should or your computer is slow or you accidentally download malware.

As part of homeschooling, you will frequently need to install apps or use online research tools that will help your children to learn and it’s necessary to be comfortable with using technology and know where to get help if you’re having big technical problems.

Here are some possible solutions:

  1. Identify what parts of technology you find difficult, and then find ways to learn how to close the skill gaps.
  2. Get coaching from someone who is good with technology, or, in the worst case scenario, take classes that will help you get the basics down.
  3. What if you’re good with setting up and troubleshooting hardware issues, but don’t have much experience with using certain types of software? For instance, your child may want to use Evernote, Asana, or Microsoft OneNote for organizing all their notes. You will probably be able to find YouTube tutorials on how to use popular software that isn’t always intuitive.

Personal Management and Home Schooling

The most difficult aspects of homeschooling probably aren’t what most people think. They aren’t related to getting on track with the syllabus, finding accredited courses, or sourcing educational materials. Instead, they are related to issues like organization, discipline, and time-management.

2 Video Tool Recs… #EdublogsClub

This post is part of the #EdublogsClub – a group of educators and educational technology enthusiasts that blog around a common theme each week. Simply write a post and share it (via social media w/ #edublogsclub or posting a link as a comment to that topic’s posting on the Edublogger site) to join in, or sign up to receive email reminders of each new prompt. 

Prompt: Write a post about videos and/or that includes a video.

Here are some possible topics to help get you started:

  • Write a post about any topic, but embed a video. Even better if you created the video!
  • Discuss how videos have helped you engage students?
  • How have videos helped you be a better educator?
  • Share a story about a lesson that involves videos and how the students responded in ways you didn’t expect.
  • Create a list of video clips that either provide educator professional development or help create lessons in the classroom.
  • If you find incorporating videos difficult, discuss why you find them challenging.

One tool that I recommend to teachers who find it difficult to incorporate video in the classroom is VideoNot.es. This is a tool which connects with your Google Drive to save your files. The power of VideoNot.es is in the ability to sync your text to the timestamp of the video. As the .gif image (click it to see it in action) below shows, as text is typed, it is timestamped to that moment in the video.

‘How to Start a Movement’ TED Talk

VideoNot.es File (view only)

My second recommendation is for teachers to use EDpuzzle and flip their instruction. EDpuzzle allows you to pause videos for thought points, open response questions, or multiple choice questions. Below is an example to try out.

If you have used or plan on incorporating either of these tools in your teaching, I would love to hear from you in the comments below.