Update on #oneword2023 #author

With one week left to go before our Spring Break, I am so ready for some down time. This past week, I found out that I was needed to substitute for the two weeks until Spring Break for one of our teachers and got the opportunity to spend 2 1/2 days teaching in a fourth grade classroom. It has been a long time since I was a classroom teacher and to say it was an adjustment was an understatement, but so far, it has absolutely been a reminder of how hard elementary classroom teachers work and reaffirmed my commitment to supporting my teachers.

As Spring Break approaches, I am also excited to be attending and presenting at my first ASCD conference in Washington DC. It is nice to be able to go to a conference that is in "my backyard." I will be presenting 2 sessions there and facilitating one of the first ASCD playgrounds. 

To conclude this update, my #oneword2024, #author,  continues to be a guiding force for me this year. I chose this word because I want to focus on not just telling my story, but creating experiences that celebrate milestones coming this year and also pursuing professional growth opportunities. Since 2024 began, I have run over 165 miles using 4 minute run/1 minute walk intervals and am now running 10 minute run/1 min walk intervals as of this past week. I am so proud of all of my progress so far.

TransformED: Amplifying Learning Using Tech Tools

Two weeks ago,  I focused on how you can use technology to customize and personalize learning experiences. Using technology allows us to create learning experiences that promote student agency and ensure that all of our learners' needs are met. To do this, we  first focused on what we need to look for when determining the right tech tools and then how we could use these tech tools to provide more inclusive learning environments for our students.

This week, we will focus on the importance of using collaborative tools with your students. Many times, when we consider using collaborative tools with our students, we think of this on a larger scale and ignore the necessary steps and scaffolds that our students need to build these skills.  Like any skill, collaboration needs to be taught and we need to help our students learn how to work together especially on a digital canvas. So this week, we will explore how even our littles can collaborate and steps to empower that goal.

Start small and build up gradually

When it comes to collaboration, it is normal to overthink it and try to do it all at once, but sometimes, starting simple and small is the best option. One of the best scaffolded ways to work on collaboration with your students is to start them off with Pear Deck's Flashcard Factory.

In this "game-like activity," students log into the website and "Peary Foreman" (that's what I call him) randomly partners them up. One student acts as the artist- they use drawing tools to solve or answer the question; while the other student acts as the writer (I call them the detective) and they use text to solve or answer the question. 

Once students log in, they are given partners. I always tell the students that the person whose name is on top stays put and the person whose name is on the bottom moves to sit next to their partner. This is a great management tip.

Students work collaboratively to make flashcards and each student is "responsible" for half of the card and can only "access" that half.  Once completed, they ship the card and it "magically" falls down on the conveyor belt on the projector screen.

After cards are completed, you bring the class together and go through Quality Control where your class works collaboratively to determine, looking at the cards anonymously, whether the cards made are good to go (thumbs up) or not there yet (thumbs in the middle). Finally, if your district allows Gimkit (mine doesn't), you can export these cards to that website for further practice. 

If you haven't checked out this website yet, you definitely should. When you go to Pear Deck's website, log in and then click on the menu on the left on Flashcard Factory. You enter 4-6 questions and you don't need any definitions fyi and then click Play Flashcard Factory and that's it.

Color-coded Collaboration

After trying out Flashcard Factory, the next step I recommend to try is color-coded collaboration.  This is especially helpful when it comes to our youngest learners and I have used this system with students as young as kindergarten.

Students are partnered up and one student is on Team Red; while the other student is on Team Blue. Each student can only work on its color pages. The example to the right show a recent example that I did with my kindergarten students.

In this example, each student created a shape monster on their colored page and then they count the amount of shapes on their partner's colored page. Doing projects like this helps our students to respect each other's digital space.

When I first do color coded projects, I usually use a program called Wixie. I especially like using this program because it allows to put them in teams and to scaffold what tools they have access to,  In addition, it has a feature called the Project Inspector that allows you to play back their work. If you haven't tried Wixie yet, click here to try it out for free. But if you don't have access to Wixie, Book Creator and Google Slides will also work for this purpose. Check out one of their projects to the left.

Next Steps

Consider how you teach collaboration and what skills that you scaffold in the process. Are there skills that you also include? Do any of the tips that I shared resonate with you. I would love to hear all about it in the comments below.

A reminder and a huge thanks to Kyle Hill for hosting the Recharge Learning Virtual Bash that features 50 workshops and  is offering free access to everyone who reads my blog to the Bash until June 2024.  Click this link to join. Two of my sessions are included in this bash too.