Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Give Your Students a Voice with Flipgrid

Flipgrid is possibly the coolest website/app I've seen in a long time. Put simply, a teacher can pose a question, and students can answer with a short video response. The students' videos show up on a board so that they can see each others' responses. All you need is a device (iPad, smart phone, Chromebook, or desktop/laptop) that has a camera. Oh, yeah, and your students' wonderfulness.

Here's how you can get started. Go to https://admin.flipgrid.com and click the blue Create Account button at the top right. Complete the required information (the free version is probably plenty, at least while you're getting started) and Create My Grid. Click the blue + New Grid button to continue.

You will get ONE grid, which doesn't sound like a lot, but you can create many topics within the Grid - so give the Grid your broadest category name, like "Mrs. Watson's Class" or "9th Grade English 2017." When you're creating your Grid, be sure to scroll all the way down so that you can select a cover image - you gotta make it look cute, right? When everything has been entered and you're happy with your cover image, click Create Grid in the lower right corner of the screen.

The next thing you'll do is create your first Topic by clicking the + New Topic button. Think of the Grid as your file folder, and the Topics as the individual files within that folder.  The topic is your lesson title or the questions you want your students to answer (e.g. What did you learn today? What problem do you want to solve tomorrow? What do you have questions about?) It will look something like this:

Click Create Topic, and you will get a message with the information you'll need to provide to your students so they know where to go to answer your question. Note that you will see two links; one is for the entire Grid, and the second goes straight to the Topic.

There are several ways that you can provide this link to your students. Since it's not long, your older students can just copy it and type it into their browser's address bar. You could copy and paste the link and put it on your Google Classroom, Smore, or other tool you use to communicate with your students. OR, students can just enter the code (in this case, 0e4bd8 - whatever comes after flipgrid.com) in the field at the bottom of the student website or on the Flipgrid app if the student is using a smartphone or tablet. Note that your students do NOT have to create an account (and are not allowed to if they are under 13), but they will need to provide their first and last name before they can submit their video.*

Give your kids a voice with Flipgrid!

For more videos about Flipgrid, check out the Flipgrid Social YouTube channel.

*Please note Flipgrid's privacy policy, especially as it relates to students under the age of 13. It will be a best practice to make parents aware of this policy and to get their permission before using the app with your students.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Consumers or Creators?

Reflecting on what to write in this week's blog, I weighed between introducing another tech tool or speaking about the importance of authentic and seamless tech integration. With the explosion of Edtech and Plano ISD's commitment to develop 21st century learners, I decided to go with the latter.  If you follow this blog and read our posts every week, I am preaching to the choir and I hope you will be able to solidify your passion for preparing your students for the future. Consider sharing this post with a co-worker, administrator, or important stakeholder in education who wants to strive for technology integration excellence. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Keeping Up

Keeping up with technology isn’t easy because it’s always changing. The evolution of a tool is so fast that it can end up looking like a flash in the pan. That is true in some cases but most of the time, ideas are improving at such a rapid pace and developers know that consumers want the best of what is out there. The tools evolve quickly because developers are striving to meet consumer needs.

When an app or tool is created, we start using it regularly because we enjoy its benefits. Being the teachers that we are, we immediately share it with others. This leads to many people using the app/tool and providing feedback such as, “I would love it if this app could also do…” And just like that, an idea is born and we get an app with updated features.

The concept of adapting to something better is nothing new. “New and improved” is a cliche in advertising because we always want the best of what is out there. And when it comes to our learners, we definitely want them to have the best.

So how do we keep up? There isn’t one easy answer to this but one solid answer is digital literacy. Having a strong foundation in digital literacy can help when adapting to new tech tools. Digital literacy is a deep topic that includes digital citizenship, media literacy, and understanding how to use technology. Digital literacy is not a fixed, one-time course that you can check off and be done; it develops and grows with you just as literacy does because we use it every day. Unless you’re willing to cut up your debit cards, never touch a cell phone, and give up your job that requires the use of a computer, you ARE using your digital literacy skills every day.

Just as there are ways to sharpen your literacy skills, there are also ways to sharpen your digital literacy skills. You can take a digital literacy assessment. You can watch various tutorial videos in Atomic Learning. You can also play; don’t be afraid to push buttons and explore within an app. You might click the wrong button from time to time but that's a good thing! We all know there are many rich lessons within failure. Keep trying!

Another answer is mindset. A fixed mindset won’t work with the rapid growth of technology. In order to keep up, one must have a growth mindset that is open to change, learning, and developing digital literacy every day. Rather than waiting to be trained on how to use a new tech tool, why not click around and try to figure it out? Taking that initiative into your own hands, investigating an app/tool, and discovering how to use a tool on your own is like a workout for your digital literacy skills.

If you’ve got a growth mindset and have an interest in sharpening your digital literacy skills, you should consider coming to Plano ISD’s Educational Technology Success Initiative (ETSI) which is held every summer. ETSI is a fun two-day workshop that focuses on digital literacy, instructional technology integration models, leadership, and ISTE standards. Open enrollment begins March 21 in MyLearningPlan. More information can be found on the ETSI site.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Get Ready for ETSI 2017!

We are so excited about Plano's 4th annual Ed Tech Success Initiative! ETSI has become a very popular professional learning experience, where you will learn the ins and outs of purposeful and effective technology integration that keeps the focus on your students and curriculum.

Secondary Teachers 7/31 & 8/1; Elementary Teachers 8/2 & 8/3; Edcamp 8/4
Click the image for more information
Principals will be preregistering interested teachers between now and March 20 at 5:00 p.m., so if you are interested in attending ETSI, talk to your principal about getting a guaranteed spot. Beginning at 8:00 a.m. on March 21, all professional educators in PISD can register themselves in MyLearningPlan until we are full. Secondary professional staff members will attend ETSI on Monday and Tuesday, July 31 and August 1. Pre-K and Elementary staff members will attend ETSI on Wednesday and Thursday, August 2 and 3. ALL staff members, including paraprofessionals, are invited to attend the Edcamp on Friday. 

We have lots of meaningful (and FUN) technology learning in store for you. Please don't hesitate to give us a call or drop us an email if you have any questions. And set an alarm for 8:00 a.m. on March 21 so you can sign up!