Friday, July 31, 2015

Google Classroom

Last fall I dabbled a bit using Google Classroom, then gradually incorporated it more often as the year progressed. My students and I enjoy using Google Classroom for many reasons. 

*We find Google Classroom to be very user friendly. We have a 1:1 campus and students have their own iPads all day, every day. We work to keep a well-balanced learning environment and know the importance of paper/pencil and unplugged activities, as well. However, using Google Classroom provides an outlet for us to seamlessly share and communicate within our room, and beyond. 

*It is easy to send a Morning Message to my students. When my students enter our classroom each morning, their To Do List is traditionally written on the board. It reminds them of things to do before school begins and provides an activity or two to get them thinking as we prepare for our day. As we began using Google Classroom more often, then daily, I made a laminated Google Classroom icon with a magnet on the back. Now I just hang the icon under the day's date and students know to check Google Classroom on their iPads once they get settled. This frees me to tackle last minute morning tasks and empowers students to be responsible for the beginning of their day. The following list asks students a few questions then reminds them to go to 'Read to Self' as part of their Daily 5 for the day:

*I can collect work from students and grade their digital work in one central location. In our classroom, paper/unplugged products are equally important and acceptable - students load a photo of their work.

*I can share documents easily with students. This was to use for a collaborative project. Students enjoyed the fact that they could access the document anytime. They also preferred any directions or rubrics to be posted to Google Classroom so they could refer back as needed.

*In our classroom we follow many experts on Twitter. Pete Delkus is our local weather forecaster and we use his data often in Math and Science. Students also provide Weather Reports to the class each day so we practice observing patterns in weather all throughout the year.

*I often use Google Classroom as a warm up - it is usually their Morning Work, which gives me time to view their answers with plenty of time to address what we need to work on in class. We had a student who telescoped from first grade last year. He could easily access Google Classroom each morning (I had a note for him on his desk) and participate in the activity, especially if it pertained to our Math lesson that day. It provides a strong sense of community and participation.

*I can send a message when we have a sub. There are few questions if the sub is not able to communicate the activity and I can view responses from my meeting or home if I have a sick child. (I contact the sub - if he/she is familiar - if I notice everyone has not completed the activity)

*I ask questions to gain information about my students and I include a sentence stem for support if needed. Students can also view each other's posts which provides additional support for students. We often discuss the posts as a part of our Circle Up. Sometimes it is regarding a current event or an activity that students want to talk about that day (this was the day after their music program)

 *I can provide a warm up activity. It is easy to post a video or photo. I can gather data and can address that day as a warm up learning point, a super tool for formative assessment.

I still have a lot to learn using Google Classroom. I need to learn how to improve our work flow so students can turn in their work to me through Google Classroom. We tried it a few times but haven't mastered it... yet. Luckily I get to loop this year so we can try, try again! : )

How do you use Google Classroom? 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Twitter = PLN, PD & PJs

A few years ago I began participating in Twitter Chats with my district. I enjoyed it so much I began to branch out and found a few chats that provided unlimited information and connections WAY beyond my usual space. I wrote about it here. It is super easy for me to use to connect with others. I can scan it quickly when I have a moment and retweet a few things to read later. I may be known to read articles and watch TED Talks late at night when I cannot sleep. ; ) I encourage you to try Twitter as a method of collaboration and connection to push you beyond the walls of your school. Plus you can search, chat and learn in your pjs!

One of my favorite chats while I taught first grade was #1stchat. I still love learning from so many amazing educators I connected with through this incredible group. They encouraged me to also have a Twitter account for my classroom. My class now follows @Wonderopolis, our local weather, NASA, Peter H. Reynolds, GoldieBlox, etc. and we are thrilled that most of the people we follow will respond to us when we have questions, comments or WONDERs from WONDER Wednesdays (our Genius Hour).

Last year I moved to second grade and I was excited to learn about #2ndchat. Again, I was learning from others all over the world on how to improve myself as an educator and finding new ways to connect my students (we participated in a Holiday Card Exchange, a 24 Hour Skype-athon and other amazing experiences). 

This year I am moving to third grade and I am looking forward to the new connections I will make with another group of educators. Tonight I searched #3rdchat in hopes that one exists and found they chat Wednesday nights at 8pm EST. While I was scrolling through #3rdchat, I found a few new people to follow. The amazing thing about Twitter to me is that I was only on a few minutes, found a whole new group of educators to learn with, began following a dozen new people, heard back from a few already and gained some new ideas - including the Postcard Exchange!

I want to encourage you to get started on Twitter. I can go on and on about how much I learn via this amazing tool, but you have to try it to know. It is as much as you make it - you can connect with people, lurk on chats, collaborate with experts, and share what you experience. Go for it!