Thursday, September 30, 2021

What's in a Name?

I love Google. If I haven't said it before, I'll say it again. I love Google.

We've been using it for six years now, and it has streamlined so many processes for both teachers and students (and admin, for that matter!). Sometimes, though, it's a little clunky. Or maybe it's just a little clunky for me, as I'm part of every single Shared Drive, and dozens of Google Classrooms.

Now, we may be behind the times a little, but after last year, we finally put naming conventions in place for Google Classrooms for this year, and WHAT. A. DIFFERENCE!

We've used naming conventions in the past, but try as we might, I hadn't been able to get all classrooms on board. Since last year brought us so many new experiences, I think it finally pushed everyone over to the edge of understanding, and now, it's pretty cool.

Every teacher has named their Google Classroom the same way - grade, subject, teacher, year. So now, when I open my Google Classroom, everything is organized! Even more than that, though, since Google Classroom syncs with so many of the platforms we use, when I open or GoGuardian Teacher, everything is super organized!

Oh, and you may be thinking that if I'm on most of the Google Classrooms, I must get a ton of emails. Nope. We taught everyone how to turn off notifications for their non-lead classrooms. Game changer.

In fact, Google, Google Classroom, Naming Conventions, and Notification Settings have all been Game Changers this year!

Sometimes it's the simple things that make a big, big difference!

Sunday, September 26, 2021

A Starry, Starry... Keyboard?

Every year third grade is faced with an exciting, but potentially overwhelming experience.  They move from iPads to Chromebooks.  Which means they move from totally touch screen, to {gulp} keyboards.

Like I said, exciting, but definitely overwhelming.  It's the same every year, with every group of kids, too.  They come in very excited about their Chromebooks, in awe of all they will be learning throughout the year.  And then they try to log-in, and realize how challenging that is, and how long it takes.

After the first day of struggle, I ask the kids what would make it easier for them to log-in. And every year, the answer is the same.  "We need to know where the keys are!"  And every year, this kicks off our typing journey.

This year, I've added a mathematical twist.  And a little motivation.  Because many kids in this year's group, I noticed, are content rushing through each level of, earning the minimal score to pass to the next level.  No matter how much their teachers and I emphasize the accuracy over the speed, they continue to try to race through the practice (not a shock at all!)

For the first time ever, we're allowing the third and fourth graders to put stickers on their Chromebooks.  There's a large, clear, sticker that I put on the top of each device, and the rule is, the stickers must stay on the clear cover.  But for the third graders, they have to earn those stickers.

Enter typing stars.

Instead of focusing on levels or words per minute (at least for now) the focus is on stars. gives kids the opportunity to earn three stars on each level, and each of their units has approximately 12 levels.  That means kids can potentially earn 36 stars in each unit.

And in order to put their own stickers on their Chromebooks, they have to earn 100 of my typing stars.  And those typing stars come 10 stars per sticker.  Which means when I passed out the first round of stickers, students had to calculate how many stars they actually earned, and how many more they need until they can put their own stickers on.

Two things were accomplished with this new addition to third grade typing.  First, students are highly motivated to practice their typing.  Second, they stop asking me when they can put stickers on their Chromebook!


Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Flexi-Tech and a New School Year

Whew!  It's been a while!  Gotta love that back to school chaos!  That is one thing I can always count on being consistent with the start of every school year.  The unending days of preparation for back to school, especially in the Tech department, are always exhausting!

At any rate, things are moving full speed ahead into what I hope to be a remarkable school year.

One reason I'm hoping things are remarkable is because of a rather unexpected COVID gift.

When COVID hit, every district scrambled to launch a one-to-one program for all grades.  My school was a lucky one - we restructured the iPads and Chromebooks we had in the building and were able to provide iPads for each of our Kindergarten through second grade students, and Chromebooks to each of our third and fourth grade students.  This, combined with our decade old one-to-one program in fifth through eighth grade, and every single K-8 student was ready to roll should we have had to shift to remote.

But now life is back in person, so you might be wondering, where are you going with this?  And by the way, what is flexi-tech?

Flexi-tech is a term I'm coining right now that means using tech during flexible learning time to support students.  Flexible learning time in my school is the time between arrival and the start of school.  There is a 20 minute window where students are being dropped off before the official start of school.

In the past, our upper grades (5-8) have always been able to arrive early and hang out in their learning community, but this is new for our Kinder - 4th grade students, and is a great opportunity to utilize the newly continued one-to-one technology.

Because now, there are roughly 20 minutes every day that a child can grab their device and get customized practice, enrichment, review, or whatever it is they need.  Whether a teacher pushes out a Seesaw activity, a Google Classroom task, or any variety of tool, now that students have their own devices, that time becomes bonus learning time.  Since so many schools went one-to-one, why not utilize the tools teachers now have at their fingertips fill gaps that may or may not have been caused by COVID?

So often we have the tools, but not the time.  If we can rethink using one-to-one tech for those pockets of learning time that are sprinkled throughout the days, if we can look at the assessments we're already doing, and use the one-to-one tech to provide personalized practice.... the sky is the limit!