Ideas, Thoughts, Things, & Awesome Things to Look Into - from the Computer Lab
I am glad to know that research is bearing out strategies I learned to use with ELL and Gifted endorsements. SWRL is an ELL Strategy endorsed and used heavily in my school district. Some experts at Indian Creek ELementary School added the concept of Illustrating and the acronym turned into SWIRL. Students were to do the following tasks for each vocabulary word, in no particular order: Speak the work, Write the word, Illustrate the word, Read the word, and Listen to the word spoken or read aloud. I really liked this strategy when I learned it and implemented it immediately because it worked with all levels of the ELL students spectrum and it also worked with my Gifted students. I am for any strategy that works for multiple types of students.
SWIRL is one ELL specific strategy that works well with Gifted education. Acting, Collaborating, and Organizing were also strategies that I have used myself, a native English speaker, to learn and retain subject-specific vocabulary when I was in law school and graduate school.
I teach AP and upper level courses in computer science and programming, so, I don’t necessarily give word-lists to students, but I would have a word-wall of sorts. If the assignment is that they do “ASWIRL” for a particular vocabulary word, even if it is out of context, then those are made available to the rest of the students, then they can collaborate and use each other as well. hmmm….speak write illustrate read listen act collaborate — swirlac.
I will hereby give vocabulary and suggest students work with each word using “ASWIRL” or SCRAWL & DO, a little acronym that I cobbled for my AP students in particular.
COVID-19 caused some huge changes in education. I hope we learn some of the best lessons and return to a blended classroom with 1:1 technology from now on, especially at the secondary levels. Edutopia did a semi-scholarly evaluation of the academic research from the 2020-2021 school year and summarized them nicely and efficiently here:
The 10 Most Significant Education Studies of 2020
The outline of the article and a few of my thoughts on it:
1. TO TEACH VOCABULARY, LET KIDS BE THESPIANS
"When students are learning a new language, ask them to act out vocabulary words...nearly doubles their ability to remember the words months later." "It’s a simple reminder that if you want students to remember something, encourage them to learn it in a variety of ways—by drawing it, acting it out, or pairing it with relevant images, for example."
I am glad to know that research is bearing out strategies I learned to use with ELL and Gifted endorsements. SWIRL is one ELL specific strategy that works well with Gifted education as well. It basically involves a students Speaking, Writing, Illustrating, Reading, and Listening to new vocabulary and contextual words. One strategy that I always wondered if it was missing was the Acting. I will hereby give vocabulary and suggest students work with each word using “ASWIRL.” I teach AP and upper level courses in computer science and programming, so, I don’t necessarily give word-lists to students, but I would have a word-wall of sorts. If the assignment is that they do “ASWIRL” for a particular vocabulary word, even if it is out of context, then those are made available to the rest of the students, then they can collaborate and use each other as well. hmmm….speak write illustrate read listen act collaborate — swirlac.
How about? SCRAWL and DO -
Speak, Collaborate, Read, Act, Write, Listen, and Draw, Organize
2. NEUROSCIENTISTS DEFEND THE VALUE OF TEACHING HANDWRITING—AGAIN
Brain scans indicate that students learn best while handwriting and drawing, "handwriting and drawing produced telltale neural tracings indicative of deeper learning."
"It would be a mistake to replace typing with handwriting, though. All kids need to develop digital skills, and there’s evidence that technology helps children with dyslexia."
3. THE ACT TEST JUST GOT A NEGATIVE SCORE (FACE PALM)
"ACT test scores, which are often a key factor in college admissions, showed a weak—or even negative—relationship when it came to predicting how successful students would be in college."
4. A RUBRIC REDUCES RACIAL GRADING BIAS
" Articulate your standards clearly before you begin grading, and refer to the standards regularly during the assessment process."
"The reason? Four-year high school grades, the researchers asserted, are a better indicator of crucial skills like perseverance, time management, and the ability to avoid distractions. It’s most likely those skills, in the end, that keep kids in college."
5. WHAT DO COAL-FIRED POWER PLANTS HAVE TO DO WITH LEARNING? PLENTY
"When three coal-fired plants closed in the Chicago area, student absences in nearby schools dropped by 7 percent, a change largely driven by fewer emergency room visits for asthma-related problems."
I am all for fewer environmental factors impacting student achievement and even attendance.
6. STUDENTS WHO GENERATE GOOD QUESTIONS ARE BETTER LEARNERS
"In the study, students who studied a topic and then generated their own questions scored an average of 14 percentage points higher on a test than students who used passive strategies like studying their notes and rereading classroom material."
Ah, my students will find out that they are going to have to teach their "monsters" how to code.
7. DID A 2020 STUDY JUST END THE ‘READING WARS’?
The study sounded the death knell for practices that de-emphasize phonics in favor of having children use multiple sources of information—like story events or illustrations—to predict the meaning of unfamiliar words, an approach often associated with “balanced literacy.”
As a former reading specialist (with a heavy O-G phonics bias), I could have told you that Lucy Calkins "failed to explicitly and systematically teach young readers how to decode and encode written words." It was too hard for teachers to teach. There were too many parts to it that were unnecessary, with teacher resources stacking in the inches.
8. A SECRET TO HIGH-PERFORMING VIRTUAL CLASSROOMS
Remote teachers should use a single, dedicated hub for important documents like assignments; simplify communications and reminders by using one channel like email or text; and reduce visual clutter like hard-to-read fonts and unnecessary decorations throughout their virtual spaces.
9. LOVE TO LEARN LANGUAGES? SURPRISINGLY, CODING MAY BE RIGHT FOR YOU
The researchers discovered that mathematical skill accounted for only 2 percent of a person’s ability to learn how to code, while language skills were almost nine times more predictive, accounting for 17 percent of learning ability.
10. RESEARCHERS CAST DOUBT ON READING TASKS LIKE ‘FINDING THE MAIN IDEA’
"In effect, exposing kids to rich content in civics, history, and law appeared to teach reading more effectively than our current methods of teaching reading."
AP courses are hard because they are college classes taught to high school students. For students, they can earn college credit which means they save money. The stakes are very high. AP Computer Science Principles and AP Computer Science A are both heavy on the project based learning because both courses are in the CTAE pathways.
This is a nice Edutopia video discussing the value of project based learning in AP courses.
Reinventing AP Courses With Rigorous Project-Based Learning
When we all went to asynchronous learning in March 2020, I began my research and this student-side of the website was born. Because my school district used so many platforms that were initially less than friendly for elementary and ELL students, I created this website to store my resources I used for asynchronous learning. I started with this article from Brown University, and built from there.
Asynchronous Strategies for Inclusive Teaching
Monsters vs Fractions is a delightful little game that I came across when I was teaching technology at the elementary level. The story-line is cute, not babyish, and has an upper elementary to middle-school feel. There are many games that tie into math, specifically fraction reasoning.
25 FREE Google Drawings graphic organizers — and how to make your own
This is a helpful site because it talks about how to create different graphic organizers specific to my content. These aren't just static templates but instructions on how to create my own. For example, the circular Venn-diagram are hard to write in for many students....so how about rectangle ones instead?
62 ways to check for understanding
These are a list of old and new ideas for checking for student understanding. Some are better geared toward some subjects versus others, but it's a list.
For several years now, my district office has been expressing an interest in having me move to the high school level to teach computers. I have had an overall, really good experience at my elementary school because of my principal and my awesome team of fellow specialists. So why would I rock the boat, so to speak, and make such a move after the crazy COVID-19 school year? It is time. I have taught logins and passwords and keyboarding for long enough.
When I was teaching at a middle school, an 8th grader and I had this dialogue.
Student - Why do you care so much about me?
Me - Why would I not care about you?
Student - You don't know me?
Me - I don't need to know about someone to care about them.
Student - That's stupid.
Me - Maybe so, but I'd rather live in a world were people care about each other, even strangers.
Student - That's stupid too.
Me - Maybe, but I still care.
High School is the other extreme. Now I have big kids with big problems, attitudes, and bigger abilities. I have taught this age before and I am looking forward to the change. I was once a high school student, but times have definitely changed. I am teaching six classes in a field that was not taught until college in my high school days. We had one computer lab with 30 or so computers that were reserved for drill-and-kill or typing exercises. The business ed classes still had typewriters that dinged at the end of each line. I am teaching two Advanced Placement courses. This makes me slightly less nervous because I have actually taught real college programming courses back in the day. So, I know what was expected then at the college level. Now they have moved that content to the high school level. Does that mean all high school students will be ready to take it and pass it? I am about to find out.
There are so many uses of Padlet within the classroom setting, it is hard to begin. I started this "Tickets Out the Door Series" of blog posts when I was trying to figure out a few options to use in my own classroom. I started by looking at the least complicated program, Answer Garden. I moved to Lino, which is a nice "sticky note" style collaboration tool with a lot of powerful features.
This post is about Padlet, a very powerful app that continues with the collaboration aspect of Lino, but also builds in an easy way to have students design and layout windows that are customized to the user. In other words, this can be a student creative tool for their own group work. Here are some great links to tutorials:
**The image below is from the Padlet main landing page.
Lino is an online collaboration platform that lets teachers and students collaborate using virtual sticky notes, pictures, and text on a virtual canvas. As a teacher, you can have multiple classes set up. For me, this means I can have my five 3rd grade classes (one each day) have one canvas to collaborate on a project each day of the week. Same for the rest of the grades.
Lino is much prettier than Answer Garden, but that also makes it more complicated for some audiences. It can get quite colorful and very busy to look at. There are also a lot of teacher controls, and a lot of user controls. I literally open Lino up, teach orientation for 2-3 minutes, and let the kids start using it while I'm talking. As the kids start playing with it, they discover new tools, and they learn from each other how to use the multitude of controls.
You'd have a much harder time using the output of this platform into a word art maker (like Tagul). Lino also has a iPhone and Android app download that is quite nice for adults or BYOD events like conferences.
Other uses that I have used with students include students making their own bulletin board of pictures, notes, and reminders. I have used this program for many years and it keeps getting more intuitive and this allows me to use it with younger and younger students. At one point, they even simplified their name. It used to be LINOIT, and people were confused on how the "OIT" should be pronounced.
**Both pictures are screen shots of the landing page of Lino.
Answer Garden lacks the "pretty" of other post assessment options, but if you have a class like I do...750 kids per week, you can generate some pretty interesting feedback from your students. Basically with this tool, a presenter or teacher can generate a "quick & clean" word-list ready to export into a "pretty" word art generator (think Tagul or similar). Or, as I often prefer, I just export what Answer Garden generates. It is word-art in and of itself.
Classroom Screen, found at https://classroomscreen.com/ has to be the neatest "simple" tool I have found recently. It is a classroom projection board that has some nice classroom tools. It is also nice because the background comes up with a new photo each time you reload the page. See the screen shots below. You can customize the background with your own pictures too.
The toolbar is clean and labeled nicely.
I loaded up all the tools that display, except the noise meter. The noise meter requires an extension and I haven't installed it yet on my teacher computer in the classroom. The clock expands to include the calendar. The timer comes in hourglass countdown, and stopwatch style timer. The lower left of this screen is a random student selector. I typed in Students 1 - 5 - since I've got 750 students and they are all assigned a computer station. There is a QR code generator, should I need the group with iPads to qo to a particular site, and I don't want to spend 45 minutes simply entering and reentering the URL. There is a traffic signal where you can click red/yellow/green. There is a symbol+word set of behavioral expectations you can select. This one is set on "whisper voice." There are two drawing features. One is a window within a window. The other is the whole board goes to a white board.
Finally, there is an Exit Poll. This feature is how I came to love this app in the first place. When lining up, the kids would click on the device, or tell me which one to click and I'd click it. Then it shows the poll of who liked this class and to what degree in a nice little bar graph. You can edit the question as well. If you needed to, you could keep a class level set of exit tickets over time by snapping a screen shot of the feedback graph.
I came across this Random Name Spinner that is both savable and editable. I think it would work wonderfully in a classroom setting. I have 750 students, rotate through my room each week, so I call students by assigned seat number. I left some of the fun names on there and they will be "me" to give the kids a little laugh when the teacher gets called on.
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This is a space where I post my thoughts on things and ideas in the Computer Lab. I am a K-12 certified Computer Science, Business Education, and Engineering and Technology teacher with ESOL and Gifted Endorsements.
I'm writing this for myself
and my colleagues as part of my own teaching practice day-to-day, and for my own self reflection.
I'm NOT doing this blog for compensation or free products. If I ever change that personal policy, I'll make that apparent.
Any opinions stated herein are mine and not my school district employer's.
Question Of The Week
SCRAWL And DO