5 Chrome Apps/Extensions Literacy Teachers Need to Add Now!

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A common question I receive from literacy teachers is what apps and extensions I have added to my Chrome browser. While my list is extensive, I have chosen 5 apps and extensions that I feel literacy teachers should consider adding to their own browser. First, let me simplify the difference between an app and extension.

Extension – Extends your web browser improving functionality. The icon for your extensions on located on the top, right side of the web browser.

App – An app, added to your chrome browser, acts as a portal to transport you to a different interface than you are currently on.

  1. Nearpod -Nearpod is a classroom tool that allows interations and assessment options. Nearpod is a Chrome App that engages students and is device-friendly. I also like the multiple question/response options provided. From an open-ended response option to a drawing one, using your trackpad or touch-screen, Nearpod is an essential to explore!
  2. Snagit – Snagit is a Chrome extension by TechSmith. Use Snagit to caputre your screen. Grab an image from your screen, record a video of your screen and share seemlessly, or create a GIF from a short video. Snagit would be great for annotations, demonstrations, and can easily be shared with others, making it perfect for collaboration.
  3. Padlet – Padlet extension allows you to post the link to any  webpage to a previously created “wall”. This extension would be a quick way to share resouces with students, or could be used collaboratively to support small group work.
  4. Newsela – Newsela is a Chrome app.
    Newsela publishes daily new articles that are leveled to support readers needing the same content but are at different reading levels. Newsela also provides core alignment and a set of comprehension questions for students utilize.
  5. Easybib – The world’s largest citation machine. Click the extension to cite the webpage, apply specific formatting, recieve information on the credibility of the website. The amount of digital information available online magnifies the need to model to our students the reliability, relevance, and citation information of online sources.

These 5 apps and extensions are useful additions for any educator to add to their browser. Each, when applied and aligned to specific learning targets, support readers and writers. What favorites would you add to this list?

A Powerful Lesson: Dismantling Hate Rhetoric

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As an advocate of literacy, I believe that it is essential to equip students with the necessary skills to not only communicate their message effectively and on multiple platforms including digital ones; but also to create critical consumers of information. Modeling and honing these skills allows students to discern digital information, analyze and evaluate what they read, and develop clear arguments. The Common Core has placed great emphasis, not only on reading standards, but also on writing standards, to prepare students for the increasing rate at which information is generated and distributed.

Discernment of digital information is daunting. Reliable and relevant resources are intermixed with fictitious and fallacy-laden websites. Today, our students must sift through the plethora of resources, identifying information, not only for learning, but for social and entertainment. As an educator, I have many stories of students citing unreliable sources, but one specific example that happened years ago helped to shift my thinking.

It was during senior writing class, and students were sharing their multi-genre iSearch projects. A young man shared his view on Martin Luther King Jr., and informed the class about the “truth” concerning man that we consider a great leader. He had information, graphics, and even small cards to pass out to classmates who wanted to learn more…

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Upon further investigation, I realized he was citing information, as well as printing, from the website,  MartinLutherKing.org,  which, at first glance, seems like a credible resource; but upon further investigation, one learns is hosted by StormFront, a white supremacist group. This teachable moment fueled a shift in my thinking from one of just simply promoting digital literacies, to one of empowering students to be advocates for themselves and others.

Hate is real and ubiquitous. From conversations and propaganda, to digital information and the wilds of college, I knew that my students were unable to identify and argue against the fallacies that invaded their lives. I needed an activity that not only encouraged students to examine language, but required them to dismantle the hate that was now burning in their hands from the flyer their classmate just passed out. And all of this, without seeming biased, leading, or threatening.

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I had forgotten about this unit until a recent #CAedchat. The topic, “Making Safe Spaces for LGBTQ Youth” moderated, that week, by my friends @LS_Karl and @JStevens009 evoked a memory of this unit, and a promise to share in a blog post.

Disclaimer: This unit was influenced and created through the ideas and sharing of many educators. Teaching Tolerance is a great resource for educators interested in “diversity, equal opportunity and respect for differences in schools”;  and because of this, it was where I started.

Driving Question: Does the right to Free Speech extend to hate groups?

To begin the unit, students, individually, completed the Anticipatory Activity which allowed them to reflect on their current thinking. At the end of the unit, these prompts were again revisited and reflected upon.

As a large group, I read the following except  from the NAAWP (National Association for the Advancement of White People). Found Here  I gave each student a copy as I read it aloud to them. Next, students returned to the text, highlighting information they felt may not be true, but sounded like the author was stating it as fact.

Through a class discussion and a sharing of textual evidence, emotions, and frustrations, I introduced the concept of fallacies. Very few students had an understanding of fallacies and how language was used to manipulate the intended audience. A short introduction, followed by the completion of this Common Fallacies used in Hate Rhetoric sheet, students were paired and invited to select a paragraph from the NAAWP text I shared earlier and label their highlights with the corresponding fallacy.

The next day, I modeled the dismantling of the Martin Luther King website, hosted by Stormfront. I not only identified fallacies used in the text, but also analyzed and evaluated the website as a whole, using this sheet as a guide.

Students then chose a specific website to, independently, practice the skills. I shared with them the  Hate Directory  as a place to start (fyi, many of these sites had to be unblocked at school because they were filtered automatically).

The following day students had 3 mins to share their findings.

Reflection… This is still one of my most fondest memories in teaching . No matter gender, race, or creed; all students were engaged, viewing information, dismantling language and sharing their analysis. In fact, years later, I had a student share with me that this unit, and the understanding of fallacies and language use, was something that “they actually used” after graduation. They were involved in a conversation with a group of new friends and recognized the fallacies and inconsistencies that spewed from the mouth of another. Not only were they able to refute the claims, but they were also able to support their rebuttal by naming the fallacies! (I was smiling the whole time my former student was sharing the story!)

Resources:

Teaching Tolerance

Hate Directory 

Videos for Teaching Fallacies

Improving Digital Literacy: 3 Google Games to Tickle Your Dendrites

Technology allows one to create and share in ways that once, only existed in theory. And while many blog posts focus on creation in a technology-rich educational environment;  computing devices also offer a variety of tips, tricks, and best practices to help our students improve their digital literacy skills. The average student spends much more time searching the internet for information than they do the stacks in the local library; because of this, it is essential to model and scaffold the search-savvy methods. By doing this, we, as educators, help diminish the misinformation consumed by our students; instead creating independent, discerners of information, able to locate reliable and relevant information.

Most recently, at Googlefest in Montana, I shared a plethora of digital tools (Slides found here) to aid in formative assessment; including 3 Google Games that are engaging, relevant, and provide practice for students to hone digital literacy skills.

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A Google A Day – Improve student searches by having them solve “A Google a Day”. Students Google their way through the internet in search of the answer to a new question posted daily.  (Check out the “Tips and Tricks” tab, full of useful searching terms everyone should know).

Google_Maps_Smarty_Pins_Putting_Trivia_On_The_Map-630x377Smarty Pins – A Google Maps trivia game. Select one of six topics, anything from “Sports and Games” to “History and Current Events”. When you start the game, a trivia questions pops up, along with a “hint” button for extra help, and a “pin” to drop on the Google Map to signify your guess.

Just like today there are many online games you can play, but there is this online casino game that is best known in Canada. So if you need further details you may check our site.

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Google Feud – This fun, but surprisingly difficult game has students guessing the top “searches” that are used in their search engine when Googling. A lively discussion on algorithms, trends, or simply “Why” would ensue.

Undervaluing Teacher Perception in Assessment

Peter Reynolds, author of The Dot, ish, and many others; recently released his animated short entitled The Testing Camera. Described as a “whimsical poke at high-stakes, standardized testing,” The Testing Camera, paints an all-true reality of education today.

Teaching to the test, students measured by the test, teachers evaluated by the scores their students receive on the test; with this constant focus in today’s education systems, is it any surprise that: teachers have began to question their own professional perceptions? Undervalue their day to day interactions with students? Rely solely on the test score to dictate curriculum, label and track students, and justify their own strengths as an educator?

Most recently, during a writing workshop training, a teacher expressed the joy and affirmation the framework, specifically small group instruction, has provided her in terms of formative assessment. Identifying a student need; providing examples, practice, and opportunities for improvement; targeting a specific writing skill the student is on the cusp of mastering; and continuous checks to follow-up on goals are not done through standardized testing. Instead; this type of formative assessment/observation allows the teacher to differentiate in the moment, make professional decisions based on individual students, and demonstrate the power of good teaching. Hearing this reflection simultaneously made me happy and sad. I was thrilled that this teacher regained her professional voice, but was saddened that it was lost in the first place.

This post is not intended to debate the necessity of standardized testing; instead, it is to draw attention to this culture and provide an alternative view highlighting the value in and the ease of formative assessment can in our contemporary classrooms.

Jim Knight refers to formative assessment as a GPS to “gauge how well students understand what is being taught.” As part of the Big 4 to Improve Instruction, developing and using formative assessment effectively provides insight into gaps in content planning and/or pedagogy thus allowing teachers to target learning. The formative assessment GPS allows teachers to see what direction students are heading (are they way off course, or close to the goal), which pedagogical practices were effective with which students, and a map for navigational purposes to determine teaching style (inquiry, modeling, example, etc.).

While it is clear the benefits to the learner that formative assessment provides, the ease of crafting and administering such “checks” in today’s technology-rich classrooms further add to these for both the learner and teacher. In a recent blog post by Jeff Zoul, entitled “Reimagining Learning,” Zoul reflects upon the paradigm shift in teaching and learning in a ubiquitous technology education environment. Citing Richard Culatta in his identification of challenges in education and the role in which technology can help to solve these, Zoul touches upon assessment, writing, “We can provide real-time feedback to students, an ‘LPS’ version of a GPS system in which we—and our students—know where every individual learner is currently at and where each needs to go next. We can tailor the pacing of instruction to the needs of each learner.” These two specific points align with the benefits I outline below.

Technology Assisted Formative Assessment Provides:

  1. Real-time glimpse into students’ understanding
  2. A space for all voices to be heard and recognized
  3. Opportunity for immediate feedback and differentiation of instruction
  4. Data narrating the students’ learning journey
  5. A transfer of ownership of learning back into the hands of the student

Savvy educators understand that technology tools are only as powerful as the content they are paired with, the student choice given in the unit, and the cognitive demand placed on the learner. With this in mind, I offer the following tools for exploration:

Technology Tools for Formative Assessment

forms-iconGoogle Forms

Google forms are adaptable and provide a plethora of question types to meet needs. An Exit Ticket is a common use of Google Forms. Student answers are automatically collected in Google Sheets and allow the viewer to see responses in a variety of ways. In essence, results can be cleared, and the same Form could be used each day. Paired with a script, such as Flubaroo or Form Mule, Google Forms can provide immediate results and feedback to students.

logoSocrative

Socrative is an interactive platform, where students answer questions in real-time and receive immediate feedback. Socrative is device friendly, accessible from tablets, laptops, and smartphones. It also reports individual students, as well as whole class reports which appeal to many educawtors.

imagesKahoot

Kahoot is a game-based response system where students are motivated to be on the top of the leader-board. To play along with the facilitator, a student may use any device with a web browser (no account is needed).Kahoot encourages the teacher to blend the learning experience by constructing a social, game-based assessment while folding the learning in between interactive questions.

imgresNearpod

Nearpod brings the interaction to the student’s screen. Interactive, engaging, and customizable in both creation and response, Nearpod provides monitoring of student’s progress. Control of when and who sees the questions provides a different alternative to Socrative. There is also a “draw” response option, perfect for those sketchnoters.

images-1TodaysMeet

Although not a new tool, TodaysMeet, is the prime backchannel for the classroom. Ease in setting up a room (virtual space), real-time capabilities, readability, and the option to save the transcript; TodaysMeet provides a voice to even the quietest student. Recently added features now allow moderation of content, private rooms, and longer lengths in room reservations.

imgres-1Poll Everywhere

A favorite with students, Poll Everywhere is an audience response platform that promotes interaction, ease, accessibility, and a visual of the responses. Poll Everywhere is another tool that has been around for years, but has recently added improvements to the site. Additions include: differentiation in visualizing the responses (wordcloud is one), embed a voting widget on your site, as a student, access a single webpage where the questioned are “pushed” to you. Answer questions via phone, twitter, or webpage. Poll Everywhere is a perfect tool for a bell ringer, diving into the material immediately or connecting to the previous day’s learning.

 

 

Thank you to Jeff Zoul, Mike Jaber, and Leslie Pralle Keehn for contributions to this post.  Appreciate you!

 

In 2015, Be “That One”

As 2014 comes to a close, I look back through the events speckled on my instagram and smile. It was a great year, filled with family, friends, goals, and learning. And so I thought I would share with all of you highlights from my year, as well as offer you some considerations while you set goals for 2015.

Family: We purchased our “Forever Home” PhotoGrid_1420045612137
Friends: Connected, conversed, and laughed PhotoGrid_1420046571551
Goals: Applied (again) and was accepted to GTA  PhotoGrid_1420047627509
 Learning: Attended TCRWP in NY     PhotoGrid_1420047224464

But the moment I am most proud of rarely gets shared with many, until now. I have always been one to struggle with my weight, and complications during pregnancy led to my waistline expanding and the numbers on the scale skyrocketing. before:aftermeProudly, 2014 marks the year that I have lost 100 pounds from the weight I initially started at. I tell you this for two reasons:

1. I was successful because my little sister believed in me!

2. To reach my goal, I had to decide what to let go of first! 

While we reflect on our year and make goals for 2015 I hope you keep in mind the 2 keys to my success. Sometimes it is the support, kind words, and belief from just one person that changes the course of their path. For me it was my sister. From day one she had unwavering belief in my potential. When things were tough, she was the constant that pushed me through. We celebrated successes and attacked obstacles. 100 pounds seemed like an impossible feet, to me….. but my sister knew better! I am healthier, happier and a better person, I even involved my husband so he start to take better care of himselfPhotoGrid_1420050294382

As an educator, it is important to always remember this! I challenge you to be “That One” for your students. Offer the support, the opportunity, the belief in them as a person to change their life path! Uncover passions and potentials in your students, and foster the “what ifs” in their lives. Make valiant efforts, give second-chances, and Never, Ever, Give Up on a Kid! 

Finally, shedding the things from our lives that hinder, not help our journey. Personally, I had to give up my love affair with food, my daily routine, and my priorities in life when I first began my journey. One does not loose that much weight by doing the same thing.

“Insanity – doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”

2014 was a great year, but for me, I’m like fine wine and get better with age! 2015 is my year, and I can’t wait to jump in!