Monday, April 16, 2018

EdCamp Birdville - Reflection

What was it like to attend Saturday morning’s EdCamp Birdville?

For starters, balloons and a small tornado of bubbles marked the entrance to the building. Teachers came from school districts all over North Texas to be greeted by Owen who is our very own “bubbly” person. 
As attendees entered the building the atmosphere was fun and upbeat with music and balloons everywhere. Teachers made their way over to the sign-in table where they were assisted by our Digital Learning leader Kelli. Here teachers received a ticket for the door prize drawing as well as their first prize of the day, a MobiMax subscription. 
Cheryl directed teachers to the Omni room for coffee, pastries and Kind bars donated by one of our generous sponsors. Mounds of free swag such as stickers, lanyards, buttons, pens and trial subscriptions covered every table. Everyone was expected to take as much as they like. As attendees took their seats they were asked to write on post-it notes what they wanted to learn that day. Yes, I said that right! The teachers who attended EdCamp Birdville actually determined the session topics for the morning.

As the session schedule was being created, attendees had the opportunity to visit the selfie-station, add their social media handle to the Twitter wall, play the EdCamp GooseChase (for a prize) or build and interactively play at Michael’s makerspace (for another prize). Many took some time to walk up front and explore the over $10,000 worth of door prizes our “swag czar” Shelly helped procure for the event.

Around 8:30 am attendees watched a short presentation by Taylor and Jennifer who have been producing swag preview shows on YouTube leading up to the EdCamp. Taylor’s infectious energy and song selections got the crowd pumped up. Since there was a large number of first-time EdCampers on Saturday, Jennifer shared some tongue and cheek videos on what “not” to do at EdCamp. At 9:00 am teachers checked the live schedule posted on large monitors down the main hallways and made their way to the first sessions. For some the experience was a bit unsettling because there were no presenters or pre-prepared presentations. EdCamp sessions are all about collaboration and the sharing of ideas. In order to benefit you might have to step out of your comfort zone or be more willing to share ideas that you might generally keep to yourself at a traditional conference. There are no experts here at EdCamp everyone has value to contribute no matter how big or small. If you selected a session that wasn’t meeting your needs, you were encouraged to leave and find another session where your learning could grow.

As soon as the breakouts began, Cheryl and Rashel began randomly selecting names and posting them on Twitter for app or swag bag prizes.

Those who didn’t have Twitter or felt they needed a refresher, took some time to visit the twitter cafe with Jeff and Toni (more prizes for visiting). Here they received one-on-one support. Some simply updating their Twitter profile (eliminating the egg) or some sending their first tweet!

At 11:30 am all gathered back in the Omni room where some received prizes from the GooseChase game and FlipGrid reflections. The last item was the grand prize drawing where attendee’s tickets were drawn and winners came forward to select prizes like a chromebook, drone, bag of MakeDos, MakeyMakeys and books from edtech innovators like Dave Burgess. Of the 200 teachers in attendance, every single ticket was drawn. Every person who came for EdCamp Birdville walked away a winner. By noon it was all over and teachers had the rest of the day to spend with friends and family. Beyond the massive amounts of vendor prizes, everyone left with new ideas, new resources and lots of networking opportunities to grow their personal learning networks. EdCamp Birdville was the best professional learning conference I’ve ever been a part of organizing. It was a fast-pace, fun day chalked full of learning opportunities. I went home exhausted but with a smile on my face. Nothing makes me happier than to see a bunch of teachers working together to learn something new and excited about sharing what they’ve learned with students.

Oh, if you are wondering about all of the bitmojis in this post….ask someone who was there Saturday. Like
me 😀

See you next year everyone!

Rashel Larson

Game Based Learning: for the Win

Game Based Learning

Thursday, April 12, 2018

DL Spotlight: Digital Badging in Ram Nation

When it comes to the topic of teacher professional development, many teachers want timely and pertinent professional development. Simply stated, they want to learn about strategies and tools that will have an immediate and positive impact on student learning. Almost universally, teachers want more choice in their professional development. Choice allows teachers to personalize their learning to fit the needs of their students.

Districts across the country are listening to the feedback and are offering their employees choice when it comes to professional development. Some of those districts are offering another incentive, recognition for completing training and the implementation of the learning with students. One of the tools being used to offer these micro-credentials is called digital badging. The Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory, or HASTAC, defines digital badging as “a validated indicator of accomplishment, skill, quality, or interest that can be earned in many learning environments.” In other words, the learner acquires a new skill, or standard, and receives a digital badge.

The Birdville ISD Digital Learning Team will soon offer digital badges for the completion of self-paced online learning. To get ready for the district-wide implementation, Richland Middle School is piloting a version of the program that has been enthusiastically embraced by staff. Since the campus started digital badging in the middle of the fourth six weeks, the staff have currently earned 140 badges. Earning a badge at Richland MS is a three-step process. First, the teacher works with their digital learning specialist to learn a new digital tool or strategy. Next, they use the new tool or strategy with their students. Finally, they send evidence of their students using the new tool or engaged in the new strategy. So far the feedback is very positive. Most of the feedback refers to how they like that they are collecting badges to demonstrate their learning on their T-TESS. Some teachers say they enjoy seeing which department is leading in total badges. Another motivational factor is also emerging, competition. “I am a very competitive person, and even though it is not a competition, I want to have the most.”, said 7th grade Science teacher, Tony Moreau. Whatever the motivation for earning badges, the results are that more students are using digital tools for creating products and the staffs' continued professional improvement in the area of 21st-century learning.

HASTAC. "Digital Badges." HASTAC. n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2018.

Organizing Your Lessons in Google Classroom

Here is a video tutorial that takes you through an organizational process for your lessons in Google Classroom! 

AR Debuting in GATE Capstone Projects

graphic of students using ipads and chromebooks

It's Capstone Project season in GATE classes right now across the district.  During GATE pull-out classes, students focus on curriculum that explores a universal concept and generalizations.  Capstone Projects require students to reflect on that learning from the school year and to apply that universal concept and generalizations to a topic of interest.  During a Capstone Project, students pursue independent research on a topic of their choice using several “thick” questions that they develop to guide their work and relating the topic back to the universal concept and generalizations.

Lately, some students in Glenna Harris' Gate class have chosen to present their project through the use of augmented reality.  Metaverse is an online augmented reality platform that allows users to create their own augmented reality experience.  Once the experience is created, it can be accessed by using the Metaverse app on any iDevice.

To learn more about augmented reality and how it can be used with your students, contact your campus Digital Learning Specialist.  We are glad to help!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Swag Report! One Week till Edcamp!

Sign up for Edcamp Here: 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Elementary Music Research Project

Elementary Music Research Project

Make My Life Easier!

See how BCTAL Forensic Science and Microbiology teacher, Michael Sanders, has harnessed technology to make his life easier. 

Visit Michael's website to see more about how he is using Google Sites and Canvas in his classroom.
Sanders Website Screen Shot

Contact your campus digital learning specialist for help with any of the ideas in this video.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Engaging Students with Kahoot

Dana Washington, 4th grade teacher at Holiday Heights, wanted a different way to review content with her students.  Her 4th graders had been exploring poetry and recently focused in on the elements that make up a poem.  While classroom questioning or small group discussions are great ways for students to share out, utilizing some digital resources can connect and engage students in a different way.  Washington chose to utilize Kahoot.  Check out the excitement and engagement in the video clip below.

For more information about Kahoot or other engaging ways to review content with your students, contact your campus Digital Learning Specialist!  We'd be happy to chat with you!

Apple has Figured out Homework... Can You?

What does Homework Look Like in Your Class?

Over the weekend, while watching an over-dramatic television show, the advertisement titled "Homework" from Apple came onto our screen (see the video above).  This is a brilliant add.  Not simply because of the power of the iPad Pro, but the concept behind the students' inspiration.   The classroom shows an overpacked room with a teacher who seems to be on the brink of either creative euphoria or a nervous breakdown, struggling to create groups for the project.  There is a sense of disorganization and boredom within the walls of the learning space. 

But then comes the best part of the Teacher's presentation: 

Image quote: Your Homework is to explore Gravity

Where was the 25-minute discussion taking the students through each individual detail about, "Who?What? When? Where? How? Why? How Much? How Long? Extra Credit? If it's Late?" and other discussions we seem to have in our classrooms.  

There is no rubric.
There is no packet.
The teacher in this ad is EMPOWERING his students to take what they know about gravity and explore it!  Who would expect anything less from a science teacher with 8 globes on his desk!

"Well, this is an irresponsible example..."

"If we as teachers do not lay out how we want the projects done then they will not be 'correct'".  This is the comment I have received in my time training and consulting with educators.  To think that students have to learn how we the teacher want them to learn is an outdated and flimsy sentiment.  A sentiment that falls back on a system that is years if not decades behind the real world and what learning is and can become.  

We see in this iPad ad a teacher who understands that his students have the power and wherewithal to experiment, discover and present their learning to the classroom.  It is obvious by the writing on the whiteboard that he has covered the concepts of gravity.  He did his part. Now it is the student's turn to open up and explore what the concepts mean in the real world. 

And we see nothing short of greatness

While we see the video take us through the adventure of the student's exploration of gravity, we hear the poem "Homework, Oh Homework" by Jack Prelutsky (pg 25).  It's incredible to experience, but by the time the students drop the watermelon and egg off of the bridge, the negative poem, that screams the feelings of almost every student, fades away because of my curiosity and wonder of gravity provided by these students.

The video showed what learning can be.  Curious. Messy. Creative. Active. Experiential. Exciting. 

Your learning that you are developing for your students can be these things. "Teacher" no longer means the "grand keeper of all knowledge", so we need to stop acting that way.  How can we challenge our students to go deeper?  Instead of memorizing the review packet for the test, what could they create that demonstrates their understanding of the concepts and mastery of the standards?  Is there an assignment or unit that you dread teaching? Change it!  Find a new way to encapsulate the same outcome of understanding.  Does this mean we, as educators, have to work a little harder, do more research, and have more failures? Absolutely!  Then, like the students in the video, when the reflection comes "did it work?", we can become overwhelmed with joy at the big and small accomplishments we see. Overwhelmed by letting go of control and embracing the unknown for the sake of learning.  

 Learning is more than notes and powerpoints...what will you do next?

Our Challenge as Educators

Think beyond the homework.  When an idea feels intimidating, lean into the idea, see where it takes you.  Find the curiosity and passion in your activities that you hope your students find in your lessons.

Check out resources like:

Sometimes less is more.  

Image.  Don't eat your iPad

Works Cited:

IPad - Homework (Full Version) - Apple. (2018, March 27). Retrieved from

 Prelutsky, J., & Stevenson, J. (1984). The new kid on the block: Poems. Greenwillow Books.

Coding with Scratch

Coding with Scratch

Flipping Music: Everyone Has a Voice

Flipping Music

Thursday, March 29, 2018

DL Spotlight: Flipped Instruction with Jarad Clarke

Jarad Clarke is an Algebra teacher at Haltom High School, and for the past year and a half, Jarad has been using blended learning strategies with his students. We recently had the opportunity sit down with Mr. Clarke and ask him a few questions about his experience with one of the instructional practices he has adopted, flipped instruction. 

Question:  Jarad, what do you like about flipping instruction?
Jarad:   Flipped instruction helps me personalize learning by meeting each student’s needs. If a student has already mastered the material, they will be able to practice more difficult problems or move on to the next topic. If a student needs a lesson to be retaught, then they have the control to do so.

Question: Why did you choose to use Kahn Academy to flip your instruction?
Jarad:   I chose Khan Academy several reasons. First, was because it has content for all of the TEKS that I cover in Algebra I.  Second,  Kahn Academy has high-quality videos that do an excellent job of explaining new concepts. Lastly, I can give students various problems so they will be able to work with each other on different problems to master the mathematical processes.

Question:  You have already implemented several digital tools and strategies, what plans do you have to improve mastery?
Jarad: I have just rearranged my room so that it is more conducive to use one-on-one and small group intervention strategies to give more time to students that need a little extra help grasping new concepts. I am planning to continue to use Khan Academy for flipped instruction and to reteach concepts not yet mastered by students as well as teaching advanced concepts for those students that have demonstrated mastery of the current concept. One thing I plan to do differently next school year is to introduce flipped learning to my students right at the beginning of the school year. Besides Kahn Academy, I have heard several teachers talk about how much they like Quizizz for pre and formative assessments. I am hoping that Quizizz will help me get a quick data snapshot of my student’s understanding of the concepts covered. Over the next couple of months, I am also planning to use Goformative for STAAR review. Goformative will also be used to lead small groups and for full class sessions to practice working towards mastery of process TEKS.