#DBCBookBlogs: Don’t Ditch That Tech

Quick! Go take this super-simple, fast survey about technology use in your classroom. Pay close attention to the scale provided; the agree & disagree alternate in questions! Before you click submit, be sure to add up your total points! You’ll need that in a moment.

There’s a new DITCH book out called Don’t Ditch That Tech and it’s the 74th book in the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc line of super-awesome books by super-awesome folks! The two previous DITCH books are Ditch That Textbook and Ditch That Homework! In the book , Matt Miller, Nate Ridgway, and Angie Ridgway show readers how to differentiate instruction using technology, which is music to my instructional technologist ears. The best part?! They teach how to differentiate by… wait for it… DIFFERENTIATING! dontditchthattech

Back to that survey! Do you remember your total points? In the first chapter (which are interestingly given letters rather than numbers – it spells out DITCH IT!), Matt & the Ridgways identify “five roles that correspond to different levels of a continuum of technology integration and differentiation”. They are quick to remind us that these do not define us, but give us a starting point.

  • If you scored from 0-16, you are a Pilot.
  • If you scored from 17-22, you are a Museum Exhibitor.
  • If you scored from 23-28, you are a Restaurant Owner.
  • If you scored from 29-34, you are a Councilmember.
  • If you scored from 35-40, you are a Creative Art Coach.

This continuum moves from Pilot being mostly teacher-centered to Creative Art Coach being mostly student-centered. I found that I scored 34 points and am on the cusp of Councilmember and Creative Art Coach. When you read the book, you’ll find out much more detail about what each role means and how to move from one role to the next in the continuum.

The entire book is set up to be a guide based on your current role. You could read this book in a jiffy, multiple times by focusing on your current role only. Imagine if you’re a Pilot the first time you read Don’t Ditch That Tech and you focus only on the Pilot sections of the book. You choose a couple of things to implement (as the authors tell us again and again NOT to implement too much at once because it will overwhelm both teacher and student) and you implement them with success. Then, you take the survey again with these new tools in your tool belt to see that you have moved up the continuum. (YAY, you!) Now you’re reading as a Museum Exhibitor or Restaurant Owner. Get it? Isn’t that neat?! I love that this differentiation book is differentiated to meet the needs of the reader!

I’ll be perfectly honest, I knew that anything Matt Miller touches turns to gold (truth), but I wasn’t sure if there was anything in this book for me to really connect with. I wouldn’t dream of ever ditching the tech, so being told not to in the title made me go into this book with a coaching lens – as in, how can I use this with the educators I work with who are ditching tech daily. I was very pleasantly surprised that there were tech tools that I got to explore while reading as I’d never heard of them! Matt and the Ridgways also included some oldies but goodies like VoiceThread and Blabberize that I honestly had moved on from, but checked them out again. I’m impressed with their updates and look forward to possibly using them in the future.

There are so many things to love in this book as it is insanely practical! I truly appreciate all the examples using QR codes and shortened URLs!  There’s advice, notes, tips, and recommendations throughout the entire book that highlight various potential pitfalls when using tech. I love that the authors are being proactive about these possible issues and helping readers avoid those issues altogether!

Implementation

Last year I introduced Google Keep to my students and several jumped right on board with it! There were many however, that were overwhelmed with the post-it note look to the platform and thus felt unorganized. I’m excited to… yep… differentiate (!!!) next year! Now that they know about Google Keep and how to use it, those who want to continue to use it for due dates, upcoming events, etc can do so. For those who want to try something new or never really liked Keep, I’m excited to introduce Google Calendar to them. I’ll use our 1:1 school-provided Chromebooks, as well as helping those with cell phones set up their notifications on their Google Calendar. (Of course, some may choose to use their iPhone Calendar.)

I’m really excited about all Don’t Ditch That Tech has to offer and I love the focus on differentiation. I also love that there is so much emphasis on technology being more than a shiny tool, but using technology to strengthen student experience making each student feel like the class was created for them. Be sure to click here to purchase your copy of the book, and check out the free preview! I believe this is a book for everyone – whether you believe it’s blasphemy to ditch technology or you just wish the “tech lady” would stop pestering you with these “tech ideas” or if you’re somewhere in between!

For a little extra bonus, check out Matt’s blog about this latest DITCH book! Be sure to join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #DitchBook and follow Matt and Nate & Angie Ridgway! It is abundantly clear throughout the book that they are very open to answering questions and helping readers move through the continuum differentiating instruction for students using technology! You don’t want to miss out on this book!

5 Things I Love About Google

This is a bit unorthodox for me lately. I used to blog more about ed tech tools, tips, and ideas, but since #DBC50Summer, it’s become more about reflection and professional growth. However, the only way I could see sharing my implementations of several books from #DBC50Summer is a list of all things Google! So… let’s go.

  1. Google Sheets: Seriously, friends, if you aren’t using Sheets, you’re missing out! I took a Go Slow course on Sheets from Alice Keeler in the Fall and was blown away by all the things Sheets can do that have nothing to do with formulas and data. From this, I have two suggestions… 1) Take an Alice Keeler course. Any of them. Really. I learned *SO* much! 2) Use Alice Keeler’s Template Tab. This was my #DBC50Summer implementation for Google Apps for Littles and I loved it so much that I shared it with teachers and administration in a PD session this year. It’s amazing. For more info on how it works, check out Alice’s blog post!
  2. Google Keep: It’s sticky notes with all the GAfE functionality that we know and love! We have used this to communicate classwork with homebound students and their parents. Teacher creates to-do list, shares with student & caregivers, and as work is completed it is checked off. I use it at conferences to create a list of sessions I’d like to attend, then create another note with sessions I actually attended for CEU credit. Check it out at keep.google.com! You’re going to love it! One student emailed me after I introduced it as the month’s tech tool, saying, “Google Keep is the best!!!! I can now remember what exactly I have for homework and other things! Thanks so much for introducing us to this!” Using Keep was my part of my #DBC50Summer implementation for Shake Up Learning and Be The One For Kids!
  3. Google Certified Teacher: It’s a thing! I took both of the Google Certified Teacher Exams this winter and learned so much about the functionality of Google and many of the apps I wasn’t aware of! I’m very interested in the next levels, which are Certified Trainer and Certified Innovator! This also completed my #DBC50Summer implementation of Shake Up Learning! If you’re a bit uneasy about attempting these, check out Kasey Bell’s resources here & her reasons why you should get Google Certified hereGoogle Certified Level 1 and 2
  4. Google Classroom: I use Google Classroom as my primary method for delivery of instruction for media classes. Each month’s media class is given a topic (month and year) so students can easily find our activities for the day and reference them as needed. As my #DBC50Summer implementation of Alice Keeler & Libbi Miller‘s 50 Things To Go Further with Google Classroom, I had planned to number my assignments as suggested in the book. However, I found that simply using the topic feature to put assignments and activities had the same results. If I had my own classroom however, I would definitely be numbering assignments!
  5. Google Forms: I have a problem. I’m obsessed with surveys. I teach the entire school, nearly 400 middle school students, and I cannot possibly remember all the feedback I’m given verbally. Enter Google Forms. I create surveys and collect information using Forms all the time! I get information from students and teachers. I ask for feedback on lessons, students give me a numerical grade (1-5) each quarter, and I collect responses to hold students accountable for goal setting and research topics. I also used Forms to collect responses for a bulletin board matching game in which students had to match teachers with their favorite book! Google Forms are quick and easy to make, and the responses tab creates quick charts for you so you can see certain data visually! Recently, Matt Miller created an epic blog post highlighting 40 Innovative Ideas for Using Google Forms in Your Classroom.

So there you have it! Five things I love about Google (and several #DBC50Summer implementations)! If you’re ever wanting to know more about Google Apps for Education, Chrome Extensions, etc, your GO-TO websites belong to (in no particular order) Alice Keeler, Matt Miller, and Kasey Bell!

 

**Helpful Hint: Did you know that you can open a new tab in Chrome and (when logged into your google account) simply type forms.new, slides.new, docs.new, sheets.new to get a new Form, Slides Presentation, Doc, or Sheet respectively?! Yep! Go try it. Mind. Blown.

Creating a Stronger Foundation

Nearly three years ago 150(ish) 6th graders began their first day of middle school. I also began my first day of middle school (well, my first as a teacher) that year, after 10 years teaching in elementary school.

Now it’s the spring break before they leave for high school and I’m already dreading the last day of school. You see, for over 50 of those students, we didn’t just go through the challenges of making a transition from elementary to middle school together, learning the rules, procedures, and PBIS motto, together… we’ve been together since they were in 3rd grade. This is the group of students that I started in the media center with; I have been their media coordinator for SIX school years. We, and their families, have a bond that is super strong. From the time they were eight years old, we have laughed together, learned together, and matured together. To put it in perspective, my youngest daughter wasn’t even a year old when this group of children and I started our journeys. She’s finishing Kindergarten in a few weeks.

These kids have been “my guinea pigs” when it comes to learning and taking risks. I’ve always tried things with them first, just to “see how it goes,” and they *LOVE* it! (So do I.) Seeing them finish eighth grade and move on to the high school makes my heart soar, and it makes my heart break. To say that I love these kids is an understatement. They are a special group. Amazing students, INCREDIBLE minds with way too much knowledge of how the world really works. They are go-getters and I’m 100% sure they will change the world. Many of their stories would break your heart and then you’d see their determination and you’d feel the same pride I feel when I see them persevere and destroy the barriers that stand before them. In the coming weeks, I will take several of them to Washington, D.C. for a three-day field trip and I will attend their 8th grade formal. I will take up their Chromebooks for the last time, removing the labels with their name on it; I will watch with tears in my eyes as they have their final celebrations and sign yearbooks. Then on June 11, I will stand in the hall in front of the media center with waterproof mascara on as we take red-eyed photos together one final time.

I dread that day; no summer countdowns this year as I don’t want to think about the dwindling amount of time we have left to make memories together.

∞∞∞∞∞

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Eight months ago, 150(ish) 6th graders started their journey in middle school. Nearly 50 of them were in 1st grade when we met for the first time. They had just finished 3rd grade when I moved to the middle school. We had a lot of catching up to do. During #DBC50Summer, one of my goals was to build a strong connection with this group. After reading Teaching Math with Google Apps by Alice Keeler and the late Diana Herrington, I was so excited to use Google Slides to learn student names and imported selfies using their Chromebook’s webcam. I mentioned in Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth by Aaron Hogan that I’ve really struggled getting to know the 6th graders as quickly as I’d like.

Knowing that relationships are e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g, I decided to use a portion of our time together in our first media class to have students use a Google Slides template to allow me to get to know them better. I would LOVE to be able to spend the entire class doing getting-to-know-you activities and culture builders, however I see students for media classes once a month for approximately 50 minutes at a time. During this time, we’re getting to know one another, getting acquainted with the media space, discovering expectations, checking out books, and learning a new tech tool and creating something amazing. Oh, and I try to embed standards from English Language Arts as this is the class they are coming from to have media.

With that said, the Google Slides template (my #DBC50Summer implementation) was a success. There are certainly things I will do differently next year, but I like the template itself (I may still add a slide for a selfie.) Next year, I will likely devote more time to this activity on the first day and determine who the student experts are in Google Slides, assigning them as peer tutors. This will give more ownership to students immediately and frees me to walk around chatting with students to get to know them, rather than answering their questions about importing an image.

The template I used is here. You will be forced to make a copy in Google Drive, then you can change it up as you see fit if you’d like to use it with your own students. (If you don’t have GoogleDrive, connect with me on Twitter or Instagram and I’ll happily send it via ppt or keynote).

Using these Google Slides has allowed me to get to know student interests and family dynamics faster than I have in the past. I commented on each submitted slide deck with more questions and responses about what we have in common. Next year I will share these with classroom teachers as they are available as a resource when teachers are designing learning experiences. Creating this as an assignment in Google Classroom made it so easy! If you use this approach, I certainly welcome feedback and even more ideas!