Laptop Expectations for the Classroom

In 2008, the school where I taught implemented a 1 to 1 laptop program. While excitement was in the air for the first few weeks with students and staff, I quickly learned during week #4 the honeymoon was over and I needed to develop new rules for our changing education environment.

Every year since then, I have revised the set of “Laptop Expectations” I created so long ago to keep up with new language and needs. I often re-share the document because implementing technology use in the classroom is always new for someone. I also have come to realize that it is much easier to have a document to start from, for ideas, suggestions, examples, and work to make it my own.

This document is a perfect place to start. Please feel free to make a copy of it, edit it, share it with a colleague, or even use as it stands (replacing my name of course). And let me know if I have forgotten anything you would add or needed to add during the school year. Again, the language for a few of the numbers is specific for my classroom and devices we used but the expectations can be changed and used for any device in the classroom.

Enjoy and Happy Back to School 2019! Looking for other ways to communicate with students, parents, and community for #Back to School? Check out the new post by Steven AndersonTweet, Snap, and Gram Your Way to Better School Communication.

Link to Document

#1 Must-Have Assistive Tech for Back to School

For educators, Back to School means getting to know a new group of students as individuals and learners. Knowing a learner impacts teacher instruction, content, and support to maximize student success. This is no easy task considering each student has a different learning path and have both skills that they have mastered and ones still needed. As a student progresses throughout the grades it becomes more difficult for educators to access differentiated material and textbooks to support the needs of all learners. Consider this, how many textbooks in MS and HS come in multiple accessibility-levels or languages?

For many, the answer is ZERO. That is why it is imperative for all teachers and students to be aware of the tools and resources available to support learning. In the broad sense of the definition, assistive technology is any tool, program, or resource that helps people with disabilities work around challenges they may face so that they may learn, communicate, and function better. All of this while working towards independence. (Understood.org)  

And while not all teachers specialize in assistive technology, all educators should be aware of possible resources to use when it comes to providing accessible and inclusive learning environments. 

My #1 Recommendation for Back to School Assistive Tech is… Immersive Reader.

Immersive Reader is a free Microsoft Learning Tool that implements proven techniques to improve reading and writing for people, regardless of their age or ability. Think of it as a way to customize reading experiences based on need or preference. 

Not only should every educator be aware of Immersive Reader, but should also take time to model it in the classroom so that all students are exposed to this resource. Here are 5 Hidden Gems of Immersive Reader:

  1. Free and in the cloud – Immersive Reader is FREE. And just like most Microsoft products, it is available in the cloud, meaning, you can use Immersive Reader on any device! A Surface Tablet, Chromebook, Macbook, iPad… you get the point. The device or browser does not matter. You may teach in a school with a Google domain, outfitted with Macbooks, fine, do what’s best for kids, not brands! Make learning and text accessible with Microsoft’s Immersive Reader. 
  2. Bilingual documents and text – How many educators work in an environment with learners who are bilingual? English Learners? A more interesting question to pose may be, How many of us work in a school where there are NO ELLs? All of our students are English – speaking learners? The only language spoken at home or outside of school is English? Classrooms around the country not only have English Learners but these students also have multiple native languages. Immersive Reader provides real-time translation in over 60 languages (additions made frequently) and also has the ability for the user to continuously flip between the original text and the translated version. And why stop at students? Use Immersive reader to support school to home communication as well and provide accessible information to all. 
  3. Picture Dictionary – Along with the ability for real-time translation to create accessible text, Immersive Reader provides users with a Picture Dictionary. Not only are pictures included for words users select, but audio let’s students hear the pronunciation as well. And if the document is translated into a different language, the built-in dictionary includes the picture, audio for pronunciation, and translation in both languages simultaneously!  undefined
  4. Line Focus and Parts of Speech – Immersive Reader includes many options for readers to customize their experience. The best way to learn about these options is to dive in and test it out yourself but two of my favorites are Line Focus and Parts of Speech. Line Focus is perfect for students who have visual or attention difficulties. Choose from single-line view or a 3-line view to highlight the text as you read. Line Focus provides less distraction and more focus. To support language learning and comprehension, another Immersive Reader option is the ability to label parts of speech within the text. Students can now visually see by both color and label if the word is a noun, verb, etc.  Knowing the parts of speech helps with comprehension and allows students to learn language independently. undefined undefined
  5.  Integration with apps – In true alignment to the Microsoft Mission: to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. Immersive Reader is now available to be added by third-party apps and partners. The first wave of partners include Buncee,Follett, JogNog,Kortext, Mindsets Learning, MyDay,Nearpod, OhBot, Oxford University Press,PowerSchool, SiLAS,Skooler,Squigl, ThingLink, Wakelet, Flipgrid. Inclusion and accessibility integration has provided even more students the ability to use Immersive Reader in more places!

Immersive Reader is my #1 Must-Have Back to School Assistive Technology recommendation for 2019. Immersive Reader is perfect across all disciplines and grade-levels because of the various options to customize one’s reading experience. It not only empowers learners with dyslexia, ADHD, emerging readers, non-native speakers, and people with visual impairments; but helps ALL students.

Want to dive in more? Reach out to me in the comments section below and check out this  Wakelet collection via Mike Tholfsen

15 Book Quotes About Friendship

“Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends…”

The Beatles

Today we celebrate International Friendship Day. A time to reach out to our loved ones, that are more like family than mere friends, and celebrate the richness they bring to our lives! Whether reminiscing about the beautiful moments collected together or the perilous obstacles conquered with your Bestie by your side; today we honor them! Here are 15 Friendship Quotes from books we love.

Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself…” – C.S. Lewis, Four Loves

“Life is an awful, ugly place to not have a best friend.” – Sarah Dessen, Someone Like You 

“At an early age I learned that people make mistakes, and you have to decide if their mistakes are bigger than your love for them.” – Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give 

“We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses, there is at last one which makes the heart run over.” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

“Look at the mirrors in your friends eyes. That’s all anyone ever needs. Too see beauty and reflection in others. Those are real mirrors.” – Kwame Alexander, Solo 

“She is a friend of mine. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.” – Toni Morrison, Beloved 

“Anybody can look at you. It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.” —John Green, Turtles All The Way Down 

“‘You have been my friend,’ replied Charlotte. ‘That in itself is a tremendous thing.’” —E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web 

“You are my best friend as well as my lover, and I do not know which side of you I enjoy the most. I treasure each side, just as I have treasured our life together.” ― Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook

“Friendship- my definition- is built on two things. Respect and trust. Both elements have to be there. And it has to be mutual. You can have respect for someone, but if you don’t have trust, the friendship will crumble.” ― Stieg Larsson, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

“There is nothing like puking with somebody to make you into old friends.” ― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

“It’s not enough to be friendly. You have to be a friend.” ― R.J. Palacio, Wonder 

“One friend with whom you have a lot in common is better than three with whom you struggle to find things to talk about.” Mindy Kailing, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

“Maybe, the only thing that has to make sense about being somebody’s friend  is that you help them be their best self on any given day. That you give them a home when they don’t want to be in their own.”  — Elizabeth Acevedo, The Poet X

“I have your back. I didn’t mean only when it’s easy. All the time.”– Veronica Roth, Divergent

Did I miss any of your favorites? Be sure to take time today to show your friends some love, and why you are at it, why not share these 15 quotes to tug at their heartstrings and let them know you were thinking about them and you love and appreciate them!

8 Brain-Friendly Practices for Middle School and High School Students

It used to be thought that brain development was complete by age 5 or 6 and reached adult-size and volume by age 10. During the last few years, brain research has found that the adolescent brain is still developing and the experiences a child has during the ages of 11 to 18 wires the brain and become “fixed” into their adult life. Meaning, what a child does during these years, the routines they establish, skills, attitudes, and coping mechanisms have direct consequences for their adult lives. 

“You are hard-wiring your brain in adolescence. Do you want to hard-wire it for sports, music, and math – or for lying on the couch in front of the television?”

Jay Giedd

Since a large percent of an adolescent’s waking life is spent in school, educators can have a profound impact on the brain development of their students. While it is true that we as educators have no control over home-life, peer pressure, and other outside influences; most education institutions have practices that are “brain-hostile” rather than “brain-friendly”. These would include such things as:

  • Zero-tolerance discipline policy
  • Emotionally flat classroom climate
  • Ban on social media apps in the classroom
  • More homework, tougher requirements, and a longer school day
  • Early start time for the school day
  • Public posting of grades, test scores, and behavior
  • Locking students into a set learning path
  • Elimination or shortening of study hall, physical education, and movement in class
  • Teacher-centered, lecture-based, textbook-driven curriculum

(Thomas Armstrong) 

Instead, educators need awareness of brain-friendly practices in which to align their instruction, strategies, and lesson design after. These practices provide educators with current brain research to support positive brain development in adolescents. 

8 Brain-Friendly Practices for Middle School and High School Students

  1. Choice – The opportunity to choose what they learn, how they learn, and how they demonstrate understanding. This brain maturation and practices in student-choice helps promote making less risky decisions and more sensible ones. Examples: Choice in books, Choice in product creation, Involvement in discussions and debates, Passion projects or Genius Hour. 
  2. Self-Awareness Activities – During adolescents, students are beginning to establish and articulate who they are. Self-Awareness activities allow exploration and expression of self. Examples: SEL Activities, Interest and Emotional Quizzes, Connect learning to personal lives, Meditation, Journals.
  3. Peer Learning – During adolescence, peers play an important role in development and self-esteem. It is important for students to have positive, meaningful interactions with peers through peer teaching, collaboration, and group work. Examples: Group projects, Peer teaching, Mentoring, Peer Feedback. 
  4. Affective Learning – With adolescents comes the full-range of emotions that are erupting and changing on a whim inside our student’s body. Instead of ignoring or punishing these emotional young people, affective learning includes strategies to address these occurrences head on and bring joy back into the classroom. Examples: Build relationships with students! Know their names, celebrate successes as well as negative feelings. Encouragement and Goal-Setting. Teachable moments. SEL. Social Justice and Discussions over controversial topics. 
  5. Learning by Doing – Having students sit for a whole class period while the teacher lectures only increases disdain for school and boredom. Get kids up and moving to not only increase blood flow, but also to increase executive functioning. Examples: Exercise or brain breaks, Drama and Kinesthetic while learning concepts and topics. Hands-on activities, Stations. 
  6. Metacognitive Strategies – Around the age of 11 or 12 students move into “formal operations” (Piaget) and start thinking about their thinking. Introducing mindsets, strategies, and critical thinking skills help students move beyond concrete learning to more abstract and are better able to form own opinions and challenge others. Examples: Inquiry Learning. Design Thinking, Evaluation and Analyzation of sources or views. Think Alouds. Heuristics. Goal-Setting.
  7. Expressive Arts – Robust creativity and artistic development occurs between the ages of 5-18, but during adolescence, students get fewer experiences in the arts, drama, music, etc. During this time, expressive arts allows middle school and high school students the opportunity to express thoughts and emotions in thoughtful and socially appropriate ways. Examples: Creative Writing, Visual Design and Art Classes, Choice to Demonstrate learning through drama and dance. Integrate video, gaming, and photography into learning. Include music to enhance learning.  
  8. Real-World Experiences – Provide students learning that not only connects to their life but also demands them to plan, think, organize, and make quick decisions mimicking the types of demands they will encounter throughout life. Real-world experiences also include civic life and their contribution to family, community and society. Examples: Volunteering. Apprenticeships. Service Learning. Community-Based Learning. Entrepreneur Learning. 

While not everything is known about the brain, research continues to provide all of us valuable information in which to inform our practices. As late as the 1990’s, many thought the brain stopped growing and full-capacity potential reached by age 10. While we now know this to be untrue, there are many things we currently do that goes against current research. It is time to align our instruction to what we know now and consider the 8 brain-friendly practices mentioned above. 

Source:Thomas Armstrong. The Power of the Adolescent Brain. 2016.

Disinformation: Resources to Support Information Literacy in the Classroom

Equipping students with the skills and tools necessary to navigate the sea of digital misinformation is important. And as we inch towards the election, the need continues to increase because of the falsities, half-truths, and deep fakes being used to sway political views. Students are developing reality apathy, finding it difficult to discern information effectively which produces dire consequences for our society.

Misinformation online is not only a student issue, but also one we as adults need new learning around. I would bet we all have examples of friends who have reposted misinformation and helped to spread their effects across the digital landscape. In fact, just the other day I noticed a teacher-friend I went to college with repost a share from The Onion on her facebook page, unaware of the satirical nature of the site. 

We can do better and we must. The traditional ways of vetting information with a checklist no longer serve the desired outcome. We need to rethink how we teach information literacy and provide students with current thinking, resources, and tools so that they are able to participate in this perilous time with confidence.

Pinpoint structures or devices used to construct disinformation online. Have students create their own example which will allow them to deconstruct and analyze the different techniques used online to get clicks! 

2 of my favorite Fake News creation tools

The Fake News Generator 

Users create the headline, description, and choice in the “fake site” it originates. Choose an image from a collection they have curated and when done, a link is generated to your newly created “Fake News”. Multiple platforms to share and when readers click the link, it informs them they have been duped by fake news and encourages them to make their own. It is short, easy to use, and helps students think of sensational titles, succinct descriptions, and images people use to spread misinformation.

Break Your Own News

Break Your Own News provides a template in which users can fill in the headline and ticker. This site allows you to upload your own image and mimics the colors and structure we see on common news sources. The template is great and visually looks like “breaking news” you would find on many social media platforms. You can download the image or post to Facebook, so sharing is limited with this option. 

Gamify information literacy skills with these 2 websites!

Get Bad News

A game-based website using “inoculation theory” to help arm students against disinformation by placing them in the role of someone who is creating it. Players advance through the game trying to amass followers while sustaining credibility. The game takes approximately 20 minutes to play navigating through 6 badges that indicate the various forms of disinformation. It also provides educators with a guide to help navigate using in the classroom (ages 14 and up), the skills acquired, and additional reading to further explain information. 

Factitious 

Newly redesigned from the original version, Factitious still follows the same 3 basic steps: Read the article, Swipe to the right if you think it’s a real story, Swipe to the left if you think it’s fake. That’s it! This Tinder-like game now includes 6 game levels, along with 3 options on “reading levels” aimed for middle school, high school, and college-aged players. 

3 extensions to add to your browser

Nobias

Nobias claims to be the “fitbit for your media diet”. Track media bias, credibility, authenticity, and politics in the press you read online. Install either the Chrome or Firefox browser extension to help fight misinformation. Gain valuable insights when you hover over a title without having to click the link. Great resource to share with students and their home page is filled with FAQs and criteria they use to determine slants and bias. 

SurfSafe

This browser extension is intended to help viewers spot fake news, in the form of altered or misleadingly used images. While most extensions focus on the source, author, or site; SurfSafe is exclusively for images. It is intended to help stop the spread of disinformation by photoshopped images by providing users with 3 different  levels of identification and also allows users to report an image they feel is photoshopped or misleading. 

NewGuard

NewsGuard uses journalism to fight false news, misinformation, and disinformation. Trained analysts, who are experienced journalists, research online news brands to help readers and viewers know which ones are trying to do legitimate journalism—and which are not. This extension provides users with a “Nutrition Label” looking at everything from ownership, history, credibility, and transparency. Information and support for educators, libraries, and parents. Read how they rate sites and help to restore trust and accountability in the news.

Want more? Take a look at my other blog posts support Information Literacy and Education! 

Flat Earth, 9/11, Anti-Vax: Things People Doubt in the Age of Information 

7 Resources to Fight Digital Misinformation in the Classroom