3 Needs I Have as a Parent-Educator and How Bloomz Can Help

File_000 (5).jpegThis year, around 55 million students are heading back to school and I am the mom of two of them.

Wearing multiple hats as both a mother and an educator can be a difficult job that many in this field experience. The beginning of the school year is a time when I delicately place the care of my children in the hands of a fellow teacher and trust that they will return happy, challenged, and successful. School to home communication is never more important than at the beginning of the school year.

As a parent, I have 3 main needs this communication must answer:

  1. Show me you care!
  2. How is my child doing?
  3.  How can I help?

Effective school to home communication includes utilizing multiple platforms and modes to communicate to the widest possible audience and using technology provides timely, fast, and easy communication options. Recently, I was introduced to Bloomz, a mobile and web app used for communication, and am quickly falling in love with its ease of use and options available to both educators and parents. Bloomz is also a perfect fit to meet the needs I have as a parent. It can easily help keep the lines of communication open between parents and teachers, addressing the needs that we all have.

Screenshot 2016-08-31 at 8.40.16 AMShow me you care!

As a parent, I witness the love of learning in my own children when they have a caring relationship with their teacher. I look to my child’s teacher to guide and support them, not only in the areas of math and reading but also interpersonal skills. Bloomz provides teachers the ability to send messages and share pictures in a safe and self-contained environment. A daily recap message or weekly update, photos from the classroom or of my child reading in the nook all help to promote a transparent classroom, letting parents know that relationships are being built in a caring environment.

Screenshot 2016-08-31 at 8.42.30 AMHow’s is my child doing?

Nothing is more rewarding than receiving recognition on the good your child exhibits. Whether displaying my child’s talent in writing or praising their kindness to a new student, educators can rarely over-communicate with a parent. And just as I want to hear the good, it is important to be informed if my child is struggling with a math concept or isn’t following directions in science class. As school to home communication expert, Steven Anderson told me, “It is better to be proactive rather than reactive.” Again I found this need to know as a parent met with the Bloomz app. First, I could download it on my phone, which alleviates the multiple clicks I must endure trying to locate information on my child on other platforms. It also provides large-group, small-group, and individual messaging so that success can be shared and concerns targeted. Translation into multiple languages is available with Bloomz, as well as a new behavior tracking, which means no more stickers slapped on my child’s shirt or public clip-down charts of shame. 

Screenshot 2016-08-31 at 8.51.48 AMHow can I help?

Finally, as a parent, I want to know what I can do at home to support my child’s learning. What specific needs are there for the classroom? Are there volunteer opportunities for reading days, field trips, etc.? As a parent, I love reading to Grace Ann’s class, volunteering to chaperone Aiden’s field trip, or donating a dessert for conference nights. With Bloomz, teachers can share calendars, send event invites, request, and assign volunteers, and even post reminders.

As the school year begins and my hat shifts between being a parent and being an educator, I am reminded of the importance of a transparent classroom and the communication between school and home that is necessary to support my children as they embark on a new journey. A letter home, a classroom website, or even an app like Bloomz helps qualm those burning needs that many parents have and establishes a positive line of communication.

10 Student-Centered Ways to Use Blab in the Classroom

 

blab video

I love learning, and today was no exception. Fortunately, I was able to talk my friend Steven Anderson into trying out Blab and learning with me. Bonus was that he agreed to write a quick blog post with me as well!

Blab is a live-broadcasting app that streams video to a “Public” or “Unlisted” stream (host’s choice). With 4 “Open-Seats” available in each Blab, topic-driven conversations are shared with a live audience. Interaction also occurs via text through live audience participation. While anyone can call-in (or ask) for an “Open-Seat”,  only the host can approve who receives the spot. Moderating participants came in useful when we were Blabbing; people from Australia to Korea all wanted to join in the live conversation.  

Blab also allows users to record all or a portion of their live stream. Sharing is easy; the video can be embedded, tweeted, posted on facebook, and even shared to the user’s YouTube channel. Finally, like other social media platforms, “following” and “followers”, help you be part of the conversations that matter most to you!

Steven and I agreed, Blab was fun, easy to use, and versatile which makes it great for classroom use. Here are the Top 10 Ways Students could use Blab in the classroom:

10 Ways Students Can Use Blab in the Classroom (by Steven Anderson and Shaelynn Farnsworth) 

  1. Interviewing Experts and Primary Sources – Students are no longer limited by location to the information they have access to. Technology provides opportunity and means for learning to expand beyond the walls of the classroom. Blab provides an easy way for students to connect with and interview experts, gaining new information from primary sources.
  2. Live Demonstrations of Science Experiments – In science class, we certainly want students to get hands-on when it comes to experimenting. But there are cases where, for safety or other reasons, keeping them at a distance is best. Through Blab the teacher can be conducting the experiment remotely and have the rest of the class join, share and comment through a Blab. The best part? Experiments no longer have to be tied to the classroom? So if there are investigations where more expertise is needed the teacher can go to that location (like a local university with more resources) while students view from afar.
  3. Student Presentations To Authentic Audiences – Many times the work students do lives between themselves and their teacher. The hours of work they spend creating and crafting is sometimes seen by their classmates but rarely anyone else. With Blab, students have a live, authentic audience to present their findings or project to. Using the chat feature they could solicit feedback or opportunities for growth. And since Blab supports up to 4 video feeds a lively discussion could also take place, face-to-face, with reviewers from across the world.
  4. School or Community News Broadcast/Journalism – Live streaming of school events, sharing of news in the district or community, all provide students the option of reading, writing, and speaking in authentic and engaging ways. Pairing Blab with student journalism provides a multimedia avenue in which students hone life skills. The ability to embed the final video or upload to YouTube give students a way to share their work long after the Blab is over.  
  5. Students Practicing Reading/Literacy Skills – Students, especially younger students need opportunities to read and practice their growing literacy skills. Blabs could be set up between an Elementary classroom and a Middle School or High School class where younger students practice reading to older students. The reverse could also happen too. As students are developing those critical literacy skills they need to hear them modeled. So the older students could read to the younger students as well. All of this recorded for feedback and reflection later.
  6. One on One Conferencing/Peer Feedback – With any type of feedback, be it from reviewing a paper or project or looking at overall learning objectives and goals, having a peer review process in place in the classroom can help students think more intrinsically about their own thinking. Using Blab, students can peer review each other and record that feedback for analysis or use later. And the peer doesn’t have to be a classmate. Since Blab is global, peers can be anyone, anywhere in the world.
  7. Cross Curricular Projects/Group Work – Group work is at the heart of a collaborative classroom. However, what do students do when the bell rings for the day? They still have work to do together but are going off to their different homes. Blab can bridge the gap between group members allow them to chat, share links and talk through their work. For the teacher, sessions could be recorded to review the thinking and dynamics of the groups later.
  8. Creating a Culture of Awesome – Video provides a powerful glimpse into the lives of our students. Using Blab as a way to spotlight students, or other educators in the district, shines light on all of the good happenings in the school. By allowing students to create the video, ownership in the message which transfers to a positive climate and culture of a school heightens student voice and models a positive way social media can be used to make an impact.
  9. Field Trip Recaps – Video reflection through Blab can help kids sort through experiences and anchor their learning. After field trips, speakers, and other academic experiences; students can follow-up with a video response. Done with a small group of peers, Blab is a perfect app in which students can share their learning. Download the Blab app onto your phone, and students are now mobile videographers, sharing their learning along the way.   
  10. To Create Shared-screen or tutorials – Have students create tutorials using Blab. Whether demonstrating Minecraft in the classroom or how to write a Shakespearean Sonnet, when students are doing the teaching, students are also the ones doing the learning.  

Have an idea to help make Blab better? Share here, I Blab, the uservoice forum to share your thoughts!
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Digital Literacy: Teaching Infographics, a sub-genre

infographic components

During the past few months, I have had the pleasure of teaching a Digital Storytelling course. The focus was on how students can use digital modes to communicate their understanding of concepts, topics, and problems. Recently, the learning was on infographics. We live in a visual world, digital communication makes up most of the reading one does daily. Videos, images, and infographics are commonplace and examples of reading and writing digital literacies.

Digital modes of communication are best taught as sub-genres in the classroom. When considering Infographics and how best to teach students to consume and create them, the following are guidelines that will assist you in this endeavor.

First, start with an inquiry lesson in which students investigate a collection of infographics that are considered to be of high quality. I like the ones listed in the article entitled, 11 Best Infographics of 2015. students will find a variety of designs, structural examples, along with content areas. Students are charged with Identifying Commonalities, Naming Components of Good Infographics, and Providing Reasons to Justify Claims. (All which are aligned to the Common Core Writing Standards).

Second, identify a mentor “text” (in this case an infographic) in which students can use to refer back to when making decisions on their own infographic. Remember, a mentor text is one that has many access points students can use. It can be one that is teacher-created, or student-created, as well as one from an expert. It does not need to align to content, instead, the focus is on skills and components students use and show when designing an infographic.

Third, good writers/designers plan before they start creating an infographic. A storyboard or checklist containing components of an infographic will provide structure to budding designers. Check out Google Templates for examples, or better yet, have students create their own. The more complete their planning is, the more successful their creation of infographics will be.

Finally, provide a checklist containing the 7 Elements above with explanations, examples, or other activities that allow students to dig into the different areas while constructing their  own knowledge of this sub-genre.

  1. Topic: Student-Choice should be given when selecting a topic. Remember, we are working on skills and components of stellar infographics that they can use from this day forward, not the content! The topic should be relevant, engaging, as well one that is not currently an infographic that they can Google and copy.
  2. Audience & Purpose: Identifying audience and purpose of communication provide a lens in which to look through when sharing information. Just as in all types of communication, the skills students use to demonstrate their understanding through an infographic are transferable to multiple digital and text-based modes.
  3. Structure: Infographics have structure similar to what a reader may notice in non-fiction. Description, Compare and Contrast, Order, Sequence, Chronological, Cause and Effect are a few of the ways students can consider when structuring their information and flow.
  4. Hook: Good Infographics have a catchy title or image that “hook” the viewer at first glance. Students should identify this, not only in mentor examples but also as a skill that is transferable to all forms of communication. Taking time to practice this skill is essential!
  5. Balance: Infographics have a balance between text, images, icons, and white space. Succinct communication through words, phrases, and images demonstrate a command of the information and also design elements.
  6. Design: There are many different strands to infographics when dissecting design elements; start with the basics and build from there. Notice color schemes, fonts, and images. How do they promote or detract from the message? A site for those of us that are clueless when it comes to color choices is Coolors which generates possible options for users. When deciding on fonts, Canva’s Design School provides examples as well as reasoning.
  7. Sources: Finally, when students cite their sources, they not only enhance their credibility when providing data, support, etc., but they are also demonstrating good digital citizenship by avoiding plagiarism and recognizing copyright.

My love for infographics has been reawakened through the teaching of this course. It allows me to blend my passions in literacy and technology. Teaching digital literacy, and the modes that are associated with it as a sub-genre provide accessibility to educators and students for reading, viewing, and creating their own! Here are a few sites to support the creation of Infographics:

Day 3 Digital Storytelling

Google Draw

Canva

Piktochart

Easelly 

Amplifying the Writing Process with Technology

 

Conf

Yesterday marked the 8th year of the Iowa 1 to 1 Institute. A conference that is close to my heart, and has provided support, inspiration, and opportunities to me throughout the years. It is also one that I help to organize and run with an amazing team led by Nick Sauers.

This year, over 1000 educators gathered in Des Moines for the 2 day conference.  Dr. Robert Dillon kicked off the first day leading the learning on Leadership Day. The second day provided attendees with over 100 sessions to attend. My session focused on the influence of technology on the writing process and the changes that have occurred because of this influx. These changes have helped to amplify student writing in multiple ways. I have included my slides which highlights these changes, provides brief theory, as well as technology resources and tools to amplify the writing process.

Amplifying the Writing Process

Link to Slides found Here! 

5 Google Resources to Support Student Writing

Pathways to the Common Core- Accelerating Achievement (2)Supporting students in the writing process involves explicit instruction, modeling and utilizing resources to support their development. Sharing high-quality, digital resources with students will increase accessibility and independence in all student writers. Writers, professionals, and adults use digital and non-digital resources to improve their writing, so why wouldn’t we provide the same experience and guidance to our own students?

This list of 5 Google resources are practical and easy to use with all writers! They support a wide-range of ability, mimicking what is commonplace in the classroom. From the struggling writer, English Language Learner writer, and the gifted writer; Google resources can support all kids!

  1. Google Doc Research Tool – Search on Google, Scholar, Images, Tables, and Dictionary to access the information you need without leaving Google Docs. The Research tool allows users to cite information using multiple formats.Pathways to the Common Core- Accelerating Achievement
  2. Google Keep – Google Keep captures your thoughts via text or voice. Create lists, add images and access across multiple devices. Notes are shareable to friends and teachers making brainstorming, tasks, and source collection easy with this resource. Students can set reminder notifications as well! Google Keep
  3. Grammarly – Grammarly is an App that can be added to your Chrome browser. This app detects plagiarism, and helps to improve your writing. It recognizes spelling mistakes, as well as errors in Grammar Usage and Mechanics. It offers suggestions to users. A great app for students to utilize as their first support in editing. Grammarly
  4. Read and Write for Google – Read and Write for Google provides accessibility for docs., the web, pdfs., and epubs. Options provide support to all students! Struggling readers and writers can use the Google Docs tool bar to read aloud and highlight text. Use the picture dictionary to support emerging readers and writers. The translator option supports ESL students as they write and struggle translating ideas in another language. Free for teachers and can be pushed out to your entire domain! Read and Write Google
  5. Voice Typing Tool – Google voice typing allows writer to easily put their words on a page by speaking them instead of manually typing. Voice Typing is located under the “Tools” tab in Google Docs and appears as a microphone symbol, on the side, once selected. When trying out for my own use, I was surprised on the accuracy and would recommend this to teachers and students without hesitation. Pathways to the Common Core- Accelerating Achievement (1)