Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Mystery Skype - To Where Are We Skyping Today?

A well known technology tool to be used for collaboration is Skype.  

Here is a quote from the fifth grade teachers Mrs. Cooper-Kesten and Mrs. Pollack on their experience of using Mystery Skype in their classrooms.

Mystery Skype is a fascinating new addition to our curriculum.  The students were enthusiastic and eager to meet new people from different parts of the world.  The students are also eager to continue.  Students had the opportunity to develop questions and ask their peers of their age questions about their location, which is part of the fifth grade curriculum.  The new technological advances have given us the opportunity to connect and collaborate with students from other parts of the world.  The students were so excited to use the new webcam and learn about the culture and geography of another country. We all thoroughly enjoyed  this opportunity to connect with others around the world and we look forward to additional Mystery Skype sessions throughout the year.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Envisioning Educational Technology Anew

The following post was originally written by Dr. Shira Leibowitz, Head of School at The Solomon Schechter School of Queens.  This blog has been cross posted from

                                    iPad RMHC_0001 Screenshot (lots of apps)
                              cc licensed image shared by flickr user learningexecutive
       “How do you determine where to start?” a member of our school’s leadership asked me, referring to setting priorities to move Solomon Schechter School of Queens forward. “We start,” I answered, “with those areas that have the potential to make the greatest impact for student learning.” What I didn’t include in my answer is the pragmatic yet vital addition, we start in those areas in which opportunity presents itself.
       When our school’s beloved computer lab teacher announced his retirement last spring, it was evident to me we had the opportunity and responsibility to envision his position anew. Today, lead educational technology educators in schools most serious about technology to enhance the quality of learning are most typically referred to either as “educational technology coach” or “educational technology integrator”, rather than “computer teacher” or “computer lab director”. The difference is not merely in name. Educational technology coaches and integrators are responsible for leading school efforts to utilize educational technology as a tool to improve the quality of learning broadly. Their specific job descriptions reflect the range of needs of the diverse schools they serve, and evolve over time as their schools reach goals and establish new ones.

       Assessing our school’s program, I was impressed by inherent strengths in our approach. We had defined the computer lab experience as being primarily focused on enhancing learning, utilizing high quality educational resources to support language arts and math instruction. The approach, now called “blended learning”, is championed within many general and Jewish educational circles as a promising option to improve quality of learning and meet students’ individualized learning needs while managing costs. It involves “blending” on-line learning resources through which students progress at their own pace with whole class and small group learning experiences in classrooms designed by teachers. We will build on our lab based blended learning model over time, likely adding to the range of learning resources we use and incorporating such experiences into classrooms.

       Yet, there is more our students will need to be successful in high school, college, and the careers they will one day enter. There are technology skills necessary to be able to learn, research, collaborate, communicate, and create. We will need a formalized technology curriculum. We will also need to support our teachers to enhance learning in their classrooms with technologically based tools and resources. Finally, we will need a technology plan to guide us, enabling us to prioritize, implement supports for students and teachers, and evaluate progress. In order to accomplish these tasks, an educational technology leader is vital.

       Although I had not yet officially started as Head of School, last spring I led  our school’s search for an educational technology coach, along with a capable interview committee comprised of our school’s professional leadership team: Sheldon Naparstek, Lower School coordinator and Interim Head of School; Ofier Sigal, Middle School Coordinator; Amittai Ben Ami, Judaic Studies Principal; and David Kalman, Executive Director. After reviewing many resumes and interviewing a number of capable candidates, our interview team was blessed to find an educational technology coach well versed not only in educational technology, but also in general studies, Judaic studies, and special education: Rebecca Penina Simon.

       Rebecca Penina Simon
       Rebecca Penina Simon

       Ms. Simon and I had once met face to face prior to her interview last spring, at the 2012 ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) conference.  I got to know her work and educational vision better as she has emerged as key voice in a growing national cadre of Jewish educators engaged in learning and collaborating on the topic of integrating technology in Jewish schools. She became a featured blogger on YU2.0, an on-line Community of Practice I facilitate through Yeshiva University, supporting Jewish educators to integrate technology into their classrooms. She is also gaining respect as a leader in the field of educational technology coaching more broadly, most recently spearheading and facilitating a weekly learning session on twitter for educational technology coaches. Committed to ongoing learning, Ms. Simon is currently participating in the national Google Apps for Education conference. I am proud that our school’s vision of educational technology to enhance the quality of student learning enticed Ms. Simon to turn down other job offers and relocate to New York from Baltimore for our school.

Originally from Memphis, TN, Ms. Simon earned her Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of Memphis and received her Elementary Education certification in Maryland. She transformed learning through the use of educational technology in her kindergarten and second grade classrooms at Bais Yaakov in Baltimore, Maryland. Ms. Simon ultimately made an impact far beyond her own classes as other teachers at her school recognized her talent and turned to her for support implementing educational technology into their classrooms.  Ms. Simon completed a certification program at Yeshiva University in Educational Technology and is currently enrolled in another certification program at Yeshiva University in Blended Learning. She is trained in the Orton-Gilingham instructional approach, typically used with children having the types of difficulty with reading, spelling, and writing associated with dyslexia. She is a SMART (interactive whiteboard) Exemplary educator, SMART certified trainer, and a SMART certified lesson developer. Ms. Simon blogs for Johns Hopkins Center for Technology Education at the Maryland Learning Links on educational technology use for children with special needs. Her professional blog, Climbing the Ladder of Educational Technology, focuses on educational technology. She is a guest writer for the highly acclaimed Teachers with Apps, an educational app reviewer and blogger for YU2.0, and a contributor to LessonCast, creating professional development videos for teachers to help improve their instruction. Ms. Simon is winner of a grant from Mimio Educational Technology Interactive Classroom tools. She is also winner of V-Linc’s 2012 What I Wish For My Child Campaign and the winner of Apps for Children with Special Needs 2011 50 State iPad campaign from the State of Maryland.

       Ms. Simon and I both welcome your input into our developing educational technology learning experiences and look forward to offering ongoing updates on our progress.

JEDCamp New Jersey New York on Sunday, October 20!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Shabbat Interactive: Making Real-World Connections With an Ancient Text

One of the fundamentals of 21st Century Learning is making the content relevant to the students. This entails that the learning having a connection to the real world and more specifically, to their own lives. At the same time, the content needs to be presented and taught in way that is engaging and interactive. In order to enable our students to reach their full potential, we need to give them ample opportunities to take charge of their own learning. To do so, it is important that we become the "guide on the side" and act as facilitators of their learning as opposed to being the "sage on the stage." Allowing and encouraging our students rather than ourselves to be at the forefront, prepares them for optimal success. Of course, it's easier said than done. Connecting students' learning in the textbook to outside the walls of the classroom is no easy task. What about making real world connections with the Torah, an ancient text that is several thousand years old? For this purpose, I use the program Shabbat Interactive, a program developed by Jewish Interactive.

Shabbat Interactive is a multimedia learning environment that explores Shabbat (Sabbath) for children from ages 6 to 11.   It is an engaging tool that utilizes cutting-edge technology.  Not only can educators use it as a resource in their classrooms, but children and their families can use it at home as well.  Jewish Interactive has clearly taken the lead in developing high quality, educational and interactive content for the Jewish sector.  The program contains 9 digital modules designed for interactive white boards and PCs, accompanied by 9 lesson plans for teachers, formulated by top curriculum developers. The first 3 modules explore the history of Shabbat whilst the last 6 modules explore the customs and traditions of Shabbat every week.

Each digital module consists of:
  • A blended learning curriculum plan outlining learning objectives, knowledge, skills, understanding, learning outcomes, and success criteria for that module 
  • A printable worksheet for the class 
  • A PowerPoint lesson plan with resources consisting of: Baseline assessments, learning objectives and guidelines for blended learning lessons on the interactive white board 
  • Activities – crafts, dramas, quiz, games, songs, projects
  • Stories for teachers to read with the children 
  • Additional material relevant to the module such as enlarged Chumash texts, Gemorahs, and Midrashim
  • Discussion points based on the module that emphasize personal, social, health and emotional aspects that enhance growth in value systems and personal attributes 
  • Digital homework based on the content of the program encouraging students to be innovative, active learners in control of their education 
  • Summative assessment tools
When using Shabbat Interactive in my classroom, my students had an enriched educational experience.  It was extremely engaging and they clearly could not get enough of it - they were yearning to learn more and more.  They were able to connect the pesukim (verses) about the Six Days of Creation to the activities within the program.  





Here, students are assembling a puzzle of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) that the Jews carried in the midbar (desert).  

A student is sequencing the steps of preparing the lighting of candles for Shabbat.  

Of  Shabbat Interactive's many great qualities, the one that I have found to be most beneficial is the ability for my students to make real world connections.  The Torah and the commandments about Shabbat were given by G-d to the Jewish People over thousands of years ago.  Hypothetically speaking, how can the commandments pertaining to Shabbat be applicable to this day?  There were no cars, cell phones, laptops or other electronic devices back then.  The Torah includes many shades of gray and calls for interpretation.  How is one supposed to know that the use of these modern devices are prohibited on the Sabbath?  

That's what's special about Shabbat Interactive.  Through interactive, engaging activities, the students learn the connections between the Torah and today.  This gives them a much deeper understanding as to why certain things are permissible and others are not even though the commandments were given many years ago.

So when planning your technology budget for the coming school year, make sure to consider Shabbat Interactive.  It is a great resource to use when teaching about the Six Days of Creation, the Jews in the desert, and of course about the Shabbat.  Your students will love using it to support their learning and will be ever grateful as mine were!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Are You Using Peer Teaching to Improve Student Learning in Your Classroom?

A reader of my blog recently brought to my attention the article below written by Saga Briggs.  It discusses the importance of peer teaching in the classroom.  Like all educational practices, teachers must choose how and when to implement them in order to meet the needs of their classes.

How Peer Teaching Improves Student Learning and 10 Ways To Encourage It

Peer teaching is not a new concept. It can be traced back to Aristotle’s use ofarchons, or student leaders, and to the letters of Seneca the Younger. It was first organized as a theory by Scotsman Andrew Bell in 1795, and later implemented into French and English schools in the 19th century. Over the past 30-40 years, peer teaching has become increasingly popular in conjunction with mixed ability grouping in K-12 public schools and an interest in more financially efficient methods of teaching.

Not to be confused with peer instruction—a relatively new concept designed by Harvard professor Eric Mazur in the early 1990s— peer teaching is a method by which one student instructs another student in material on which the first is an expert and the second is a novice.

Goodlad and Hurst (1989) and Topping (1998) note that academic peer tutoring at the college level takes many different forms. Surrogate teaching, common at larger universities, involves giving older students, often graduates or advanced undergraduates, some or all of the teaching responsibility for undergraduate courses. Proctoring programs involve one-on-one tutoring by students who are slightly ahead of other students, or who have successfully demonstrated proficiency with the material in the recent past. Cooperative learning divides classmates into small groups, with each person in the group responsible for teaching others, and each contributing a unique piece to the group performance on a task. Reciprocal peer tutoring (RPT), a more specific version of cooperative learning, groups classmates into pairs to tutor each other.

The main benefits of peer teaching include, but are not limited to, the following:
  • Students receive more time for individualized learning.
  • Direct interaction between students promotes active learning.
  • Peer teachers reinforce their own learning by instructing others.
  • Students feel more comfortable and open when interacting with a peer.
  • Peers and students share a similar discourse, allowing for greater understanding.
  • Peer teaching is a financially efficient alternative to hiring more staff members.
  • Teachers receive more time to focus on the next lesson.
Research also indicates that peer learning activities typically yield the following results for both tutor and tutee: team-building spirit and more supportive relationships; greater psychological well-being, social competence, communication skills and self-esteem; and higher achievement and greater productivity in terms of enhanced learning outcomes.

The Evidence

Various peer teaching programs have cropped up at universities around the world in the past few decades, promoting the notion of peer-assisted learning. Nearly every institute of higher education in the world provides peer tutoring opportunities for struggling students and teaching assistant positions for advanced students.
Students in the Advanced Chinese Studies program, Intensive Chinese Language program, and Summer Intensive Chinese Language program at Peking University (PKU) in Beijing are required to meet for a minimum of three hours per week for one-on-one sessions with their Chinese language tutor. The Peer Language Tutor program at PKU is a unique hallmark of these programs that help ensure its students’ linguistic and cultural fluency progresses throughout the program. These tutorials provide students extra conversation practice in Mandarin and guidance with homework assignments, while giving students an opportunity to befriend and be a part of the lives of their Chinese peers. Past students have stated that their peer tutors were one of the favorite aspects of the program.
Tutors in Australia can gain a TAFE (Technical and Further Education) certificate in the course Literacy Volunteer Tutoring (Schools) Theory and Fieldwork. Senior students enroll with TAFE and are trained in reading assistance by participating in set modules on theory. At school, the tutors participate in fieldwork by supporting junior students in the reading of the actual classroom texts from their various subjects during Drop Everything and Read sessions on four days per week. The program demonstrates significant success in the full range of government schools including coeducational, girls, boys, central, collegiate and primary schools. The success achieved by Aboriginal students and by boys is particularly significant.
The Peer Tutoring Program at Duke University in North Carolina offers up to twelve hours of free tutoring each semester to Duke undergraduates who are in enrolled in select introductory-level courses. Students meet with a tutor weekly in a convenient public location on campus such as an empty classroom, the library, or a dorm common area. All peer tutors receive on-going training both in best current tutoring practices and on tutoring strategies relevant to their tutoring discipline.
Despite the continued popularity of college student peer tutoring, there exists little comprehensive research on its effectiveness and benefits. What research does exist, however, has found that peer tutoring is highly cost-effective and usually results in substantial gains for participants, both academically and socially.
Peer Teaching Quote
A reciprocal peer tutoring (RPT) program at California State University, Fullerton has been evaluated extensively. The program requires students in a large introductory psychology course to meet with student partners periodically throughout the course to quiz each other and discuss the main ideas for each unit of the course. Largely a commuter college, the program seeks to increase academic success, as well as to increase the social integration of the students. The program has been highly successful in both respects: when compared to control students who participated in other supplementary activities, RPT participants showed higher academic achievement on unit tests, rated themselves as more satisfied with the class, were better adjusted psychosocially, and frequently used their RPT partner as a supportive resource in the course.
Carsrud (1984) describes an example of a surrogate teaching method in which doctoral students supervised undergraduate psychology students in conducting research projects. One of the major goals of this program was to encourage highly motivated and well-prepared students to become interested in pursuing research through skill development and exposure to first-hand experience. The undergraduates worked closely with the graduate students in designing and implementing the research, and were required to produce a professional-style report at the end of the study. The program was considered a success, based on participants’ self-reports.
In addition, it was noted that 20 of the 25 undergraduate students entered graduate programs in psychology within one year of graduation. (However, the study lacked a control group of comparable students without exposure to surrogate teaching and it is therefore possible that those who entered graduate school were already graduate school bound.)
A different type of surrogate teaching program was used in an introductory psychology class at Washington State University. Students were given the choice of attending weekly supplemental discussion sessions led by senior undergraduates or participating as subjects in various research projects within the department. Those who opted for the supplemental discussion sessions were assigned to either a maximal group (six students to one tutor) or a minimal group (twenty students to one tutor). Students who were in the tutoring groups performed significantly better on the class exams than did the control subjects who merely served as research subjects.
In early learning institutions, the effectiveness—if not the widespread use— of peer teaching is equally apparent. In one study conducted in an Ohio school in 2011, four sixth grade students of the same reading level engaged in reading passages from the Quality Reading Inventory (QRI). The QRI is an informal assessment instrument containing graded word lists and numerous passages designed to assess a student’s oral reading, silent reading, and comprehension abilities (Leslie & Caldwell, 2006).
One pair of students engaged in a peer tutoring activity as they read a passage together, actively discussing and talking about the passage as they read. The students then individually gave a retelling of the story to the investigator. The second pair of students read the same passage separately and individually gave a retelling of the story to the investigator. Each pair of students engaged in this procedure twice a week, resulting in a total of eight times, over the course of four weeks.
The students who had engaged in peer learning scored significantly higher on the QRI (Quality Reading Inventory) test than the students who had not, indicating the effectiveness peer tutoring can have on academic achievement.
The accuracy of the retellings was examined using the QRI retelling scoring procedure to determine whether there is a relationship between peer tutoring and higher retelling accuracy. The retelling data was scored using the QRI retelling scoring sheet, and retellings were assigned a numeral score. The scores over the four week period were graphed and examined to determine whether there is any relationship between the pair of students engaged in peer tutoring and individually-working students.
The students who had engaged in peer learning scored significantly higher on the QRI test than the students who had not, indicating the effectiveness peer tutoring can have on academic achievement. This is just one example; to name them all here would take far more time than you or I have to spare.

The Criticism

Despite its popularity, peer teaching has come under considerable scrutiny in recent years, especially in the K-12 community. One blogger writes, “This practice has significant downsides for both parties” and goes on to describe the story of frustrated teachers in Manhattan who created a buddy program, enlisting older students to help teach struggling readers. She cites lack of evidence as a primary concern, mentioning a 2008 National Mathematics Advisory Panel which reviewed instances of instruction in which students were primarily doing the teaching. The panel found only a handful of studies that met its standards for quality.
“I’m imagining a scenario where one student is helping another in drilling math facts,” the blogger writes. “I can buy that.  Otherwise, peer teaching seems to be a waste of precious classroom time.”
Her primary issue with peer teaching, though, is the return on her investment. “I want expert teachers, not other students, teaching my kids,” she says, referring to the expenses associated with quality schooling.
Another blog cites “student hesitancy” as a potential issue. Some students may feel that being tutored by another makes them inferior to that student, setting up an adversarial relationship from the start. If a student develops this feeling of inferiority, he may be less than eager to work with his assigned peer and, as a result, not put his full effort into the tutoring program. The blog also mentions lack of confidentiality, parental concerns, time and scheduling conflicts, and improper tutor selection as possible problems.
All valid points, to be sure. But, as is the case with most educational strategies, the boons outweigh the burdens if it is implemented correctly. Below are a few suggestions for employing peer teaching in your own classroom.

10 Tips On How To Pull Off Peer Teaching

1. Be sure your tutors are trained.
Existing research identifies adequate tutor training as an essential component of peer tutoring programs.
One after-school peer tutoring program implemented in a middle school in California, called Student-2-Student, offers tutoring in a variety of subjects to students with the help of high-achieving eighth graders. Student-2-Student is selective in its recruitment of tutors. Qualified eighth graders meeting a minimum GPA requirement and demonstrating high citizenship must complete an application process and obtain approval from their teachers before being paired with struggling students. The program advisor then matches tutors to students based on who seems to be a good match academically and socially. Tutors receive quality training in effective ways to work with their tutees.
This program led to a significant improvement in core subject letter grades for all participants. In an evaluation of the program, participants also demonstrated increased responsibility, completion of homework assignments, and significantly improved work habits.
2. Use a reward system.
In another peer teaching program, sixth grade students enrolled in general reading education classes in a Midwestern, urban middle school were assigned to tutoring pairs of either equal ability or pairs in which high-achieving students modeled successful learning with lower-achieving students. Similar to Student-2-Student, the students received training prior to tutoring.
What sets this peer tutoring program apart from common peer tutoring practices is the inclusion of a reward system for students to encourage participation and on-task behavior. During the sessions, the teacher supervised all activities and passed out raffle tickets to students exhibiting good tutoring or on-task behavior. Students wrote their names on earned tickets and placed them in a collection throughout each week. At the end of each week, the teacher would draw several names of students who could each choose a small prize from a box of inexpensive toys.
Evaluation of the class-wide peer tutoring model with rewards for good behavior showed substantial letter grade improvements for the students. The lottery system for reinforcing participation and on-task behavior was show to overcome challenges to student motivation.
3. Emphasize confidentiality, positive reinforcement, and adequate response time.
The tutors at Student-2-Student are taught to demonstrate three important things during any given tutoring session: confidentiality, positive reinforcement, and adequate response time when asking questions. The training process also instructed tutors on explaining directions, designing work for extra practice, watching for and correcting mistakes, and providing positive feedback and encouragement.
4. Choose the learning exercise and the appropriate vehicle for it.
Simply placing students in groups or pairs and telling them to “work together” is not going to automatically yield results. You must consciously orchestrate the learning exercise and choose the appropriate vehicle for it. Only then will students in fact engage in peer learning and reap the benefits of peer teaching.
5. Use group strategies: 
To facilitate successful peer learning, teachers may choose from an array of strategies:
  • Buzz Groups: A large group of students is subdivided into smaller groups of 4–5 students to consider the issues surrounding a problem. After about 20 minutes of discussion, one member of each sub-group presents the findings of the sub-group to the whole group.
  • Affinity Groups: Groups of 4–5 students are each assigned particular tasks to work on outside of formal contact time. At the next formal meeting with the teacher, the sub-group, or a group representative, presents the sub-group’s findings to the whole tutorial group.
  • Solution and Critic Groups: One sub-group is assigned a discussion topic for a tutorial and the other groups constitute “critics” who observe, offer comments and evaluate the sub-group’s presentation.
  • “Teach-Write-Discuss”: At the end of a unit of instruction, students have to answer short questions and justify their answers. After working on the questions individually, students compare their answers with each other’s. A whole-class discussion subsequently examines the array of answers that still seem justifiable and the reasons for their validity.
6. Use role playing and modeling.
During the first week of the sixth grade reading program, project staff explained the tutoring procedures and the lottery, modeled each component of the program, and used role-playing to effectively demonstrate ways to praise and correct their peers.
7.  Emphasize the importance of active learning.
Many institutions of learning now promote instructional methods involving “active” learning that present opportunities for students to formulate their own questions, discuss issues, explain their viewpoints, and engage in cooperative learning by working in teams on problems and projects. Critique sessions, role-play, debates, case studies and integrated projects are other exciting and effective teaching strategies that stir students’ enthusiasm and encourage peer learning.
8 .Teach instructional scaffolding.
To reap the benefits of peer teaching, tutees must reach a point when they are practicing a new task on their own. Tutors can help prepare students for independent demonstration by providing instructional scaffolding, a method by which the tutor gradually reduces her influence on a tutee’s comprehension. See our guide on instructional scaffolding here for further explanation.
9. Explain directive versus nondirective tutoring.
A tutor who engages in directive tutoring becomes a surrogate teacher, taking the role of an authority and imparting knowledge. The tutor who takes the non-directive approach is more of a facilitator, helping the student draw out the knowledge he already possesses. Under the directive approach, the tutor imparts knowledge on the tutee and explains or tells the tutee what he should think about a given topic. Under the non-directive approach, the tutor draws knowledge out of the tutee, asking open-ended questions to help the student come to his own conclusions about the topic. Both are valid methods, but different levels of each should be used with different students and in different scenarios.
10. Explain how to provide feedback.
Positive verbal feedback: Teach your tutors the importance of positive verbal feedback. Prompt students to come up with a list of standard statements which they feel may be positively reinforcing. They also need to be taught how much positive feedback to give. Giving feedback after each and every response can take too much time and diminish its effect. Teach tutors to give genuine praise after every third or fourth correct response and after particularly difficult problems. Make sure to have them practice.
Corrective feedback: Teach your tutors how to respond when an incorrect answer is given. When an incorrect answer is given, the tutor should promptly give and explain the correct answer or draw the correct answer out of the tutee without being critical of the tutee, and then give the tutee an opportunity to repeat the correct answer.
It should be noted that the majority of peer-tutoring programs for students are intended to complement, not substitute for, regular classroom instruction. Tutoring should never be a substitute for professional teaching. An ideal learning atmosphere is as a rich blend of peer and adult instructional strategies.

Resources To Find Out More About P2P Teaching


Saga has built her writing and editing career at Tin House Books (Portland, OR), Night Owls Press (San Francisco), and Dancing Moon Press (Newport, OR). Along the way, writing education and education reform have become two of her primary interests.
Saga has taught and tutored writing at the elementary, secondary, and post-secondary levels, and has researched and written extensively about cognitive models of writing pedagogy. She earned a B.A. in Creative Writing from Oberlin College and lives in Portland, OR.
You can find her on Google+ or @sagamilena.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Provide Your Students the Opportunity to Create With Explain Everything

Our goal as educators is to engage our learners.  We all know that it's not so simple.  Engagement involves not just action but interaction.  Action could be perceived as the teachers teaching the new material in a lecture format.  It is purely one dimensional and teacher-centered.  Interaction entails that the students are interacting with the teacher and/or with the content being taught.  They are learning the content through a multi-sensory approach.  The more opportunities a learner is provided to connect with the new knowledge, the greater chance he/she will grasp it. Years ago, students reading their textbooks in front of them was considered to be interaction.  Not anymore.  What's the best way to have students interact with the content for purposes of mastery?  Give them a chance to create something with it, according to the new version of Bloom's Taxonomy.  And if you're looking for an app that will allow your students to do that, then you must use Explain Everything.

Developed by MorrisCookeExplain Everything is an easy-to-use design tool that lets you annotate, animate, and narrate explanations and presentations. You can create dynamic interactive lessons, activities, assessments, and tutorials using Explain Everything's flexible and integrated design. Use Explain Everything as an interactive whiteboard using the iPad video display (via Airplay/cable).  

But to say that Explain Everything is merely a note taking tool or even an interactive whiteboard does not do it justice.  Explain Everything allows one to create screencasts and so much more.  You can insert a web browser for live annotations and basic recordings.  Explain Everything records on-screen drawing, annotation, object movement and captures audio via the iPad microphone.  You can create slides, draw in any color, add shapes, add text, and use a laser pointer. Rotate, move, scale, copy, paste, clone, and lock any object added to the stage.  

You can import many types of files into the app. This includes but is not limited to: photos, PDF, PPT, XLS, RTF, Pages, Numbers and Keynote from Dropbox, Evernote, Box, WebDAV, Email, iPad photo roll and the iPad camera. Export MP4 movie files, PNG image files, PDFs and share the .XPL project file with others for collaboration. One of the many benefits of using Explain Everything for creating screencasts is that unlike hosting websites, the user becomes the owner of the screencast.  This means that they can be fully downloaded as mp4 files and shared with others instead of just being embedded online.  When you’ve finished recording your presentation, you can reorder your screens and then export your presentation in a variety of ways (email a link, post to YouTube, or upload to Dropbox or Evernote).  This is a perfect opportunity for your students to share what they have created with you and with their parents as well.

To learn more about what Explain Everything can do, watch the video below. The website also provides  video guides and print guides to help users navigate the tools, along with an online showcase for some inspiration.

Some website reviews:
The different pieces you draw, type or import become objects that can individually be manipulated (resized, deleted and are treated to be a on a layer that can be send to back, front, etc)
[…] Export features: I am not forced to upload the video file to the company’s site. I have CHOICES! I can export a screenshot of the slide I created to my Photo Roll (this feature is huge for me, since I can now import the movie file directly from here into iMovie on the iPad and make the screencast part of a larger movie), via e-mail, to Dropbox or Evernote.
I am typically quite skeptical when I come across paid apps that do the same thing as free ones. That being said… I have been looking for an advanced screencasting app for some time and was quite elated with the features, design, and potential Explain Everything promised.

Monday, May 27, 2013

How High Are You Climbing the Ladder of Educational Technology?

As the world continues to change, technology continues to change as well. Not only is it important for us as educators to teach our students how to use technology, but it is even more important for us to use it in a way that is seamlessly integrated so our students can learn the content, material, and skills that they need to learn.  This is Education Technology Integration.

When I first started my blog entitled "Climbing the Ladder of Educational Technology," I entitled it so because I envisioned myself on a journey learning about emerging educational technology.  After blogging on various educational technologies for more than seven months, I have found new meaning in my blog.  This is all relative to Educational Technology Integration.   
When I reflect upon Educational Technology Integration, I think of a ladder.  The very bottom of the ladder touches the earth.  This represents the actual basics of the technology itself.  For instance, the ability to turn on an iPad and read a document on it; or writing on a SMARTBoard in a similar fashion to using an overhead projector.  These are the most simplest ways to integrate the technology.  Although the technology might be integrated in the classroom, is it providing the students with an interactive, engaging experience?  Most likely not.  The teacher will need to learn how to use the technology at a deeper level and then how to integrate it into the lesson as well.  (Please see the SAMR Model below for more information.)

Once the teacher has learned how to use the technology thoroughly and can use it in an efficient manner, it's time to integrate it with the content that is being taught.  The teacher has begun in a sense, to climb the ladder of EdTech.  It is the educator's job to create lessons that will engage the students and will bring their learning to new heights.  At the same time, it is important that the educator personalizes the learning to the needs of the class.  Included in personalizing the learning is differentiated instruction to reach those students who may have diverse learning styles.  

When planning the lesson and creating the content, the teacher is going to want to use best practices.  One of the most important points to consider when integrating technology in education is when to use it and when not to use it.  Secondly, another point for the teacher to consider is, "What is the technology allowing me to do NOW that I have not done before without it?  What are my students able to do with the technology NOW that they could not have done before without it?"  Third, what cognitive skills are being included from Bloom's Taxonomy?  Are your students thinking and creating?  Are they collaborating to make something new?  Fourth, is the technology a teacher centered tool or a student centered tool?  We must all remember that implementing the technology - whether it's iPads, SMARTBoards, etc. is not going to bring "magic" inside our classrooms.  Technology is just a tool.  It's up to teacher how to use it inside the classroom. The teacher is the one who has the job of bringing magic into the classroom.  

     SAMR Model of Educational Technology Integration

                                                              TPACK Model 

                                                      The New Bloom's Taxonomy