Friday, May 04, 2018

Adding To Your Tech Toolbox


One of my favorite parts of my job is working with technology.  Technology is always changing, so I love the challenge of learning new technology tools and adapting when there are changes.  This continuous change can also be overwhelming, especially with all the other continuous change in education(and within our district!)  It can be difficult to know where to start, what to use, and how to use it. I want to share some of my favorite tools and how I use them with students.   Whether your tech toolbox is full or empty, hopefully you find a tool in this list that you can add to your toolbox, or if it is already in your toolbox, use it in a different way?  
  • Google Slides - It is common knowledge that Google Slides can be used for presentations, but it can be used for so much more!  I love using Google Slides for students to write stories - students see the slides like pages in a book and it is easy for them to organize and design a story with pictures and text.  I also like to use Google Slides to create interactive activities, similar to a workbook but way cooler! I create a set of slides with activities where students have to create or type something on the slide.  I got this idea from Eric Curtis and his blog Control Alt Achieve with an activity called Build A Snowman.  Eric Curtis has all kinds of fun and innovative ways to use Google tools, so it’s worth the time to look through his blog.
  • Google Forms- I like to create Google Forms to create assessments, mostly formative, that I use for many of my lessons.  They are easy to create and I can add in pictures and videos that cover some of the direct instruction I would normally do whole group with students.  By adding these visuals in a Google Form, students can view at their own pace and go back and look/watch again if they are unable to answer the questions.  This helps free up class time for the good stuff, like class discussion and putting our learning into action!
  • Google Classroom - This tool is a must-have if you are using any Google Docs tool with your students.  I used to cringe at the chaos of having students create something in Google Docs and then share it with me.  Both my students and I struggled with managing completion of work. Google Classroom has saved my sanity! It is so easy to share templates of assignments with students(it even makes a copy for each student) and all work is stored neatly in a file in Google Drive for each easy access.

Although I have many tools in my tech toolbox, these are some of the ones I use most often.  
As with any tool, with some use I worked out the bugs and learned how to use it to fit my
students and my teaching.  Our district continues to increase technology access in our classroom
so I encourage you to continue to keep building your tech toolbox and leverage these tools.
 It can be overwhelming to know where to start, but your building’s library media specialist would
love to help! Library media specialists are a wealth of information on responsible use of
technology and often know the best way to break in a tech tool with your class.  Plus, we love it when we get to work with teachers!




Twitter Tuesday Questions:
Q1:  What is your favorite tech tool and why?
Q2:  What is a barrier to using tech and how do you overcome?
Q3:  What is one way you stay current on tech?
Q4:  What is something cool that your students have accomplished using tech?


Monday, April 30, 2018

Dropping the Hammer!



So, I was beginning to see a pattern develop at one of the schools I was in. Then, that same pattern started to sprout in other schools. It was as if the idea of how to responsibly care for technology was becoming a concept to be taken for granted.

I will be honest, I am one of the people that took it a bit for granted. I admit to carrying a computer (like a book) with one hand. I will also admit that I have had a sealable container filled with liquid near my computer. We are human, and with spring upon us, we start to think of a great many things, and that statement includes the kids too.

What was different about the situations I stated previously, and what I was noticing, is that the incidental behavior was now starting to lead to broken Chromebooks among the student population. So, I thought I would take a Gallagher approach to teaching the lesson. I hope you took the time to watch the video, but if you haven't, take a look now. Of course, I couldn't get a large sledge hammer and a watermelon, but I was able to hammer home a point.

I had tackled this subject hard at the beginning, middle and end of the year. In fact, I can start phrases with the protocols and procedures for how to handle our devices, and the students can finish the phrases. We know them well. It wasn't until this lesson that it seemed to apply. In fact, there is even a student in this lesson that says something along the lines of, "That's basically what we do."

It was a lesson with shock value, but wasn't meant for just that. Soon after, we went over the responsibility of use for all digital materials at BPS. We discussed and learned that many of the protocols the students did on a daily basis were procedures they were doing well. At the same time, students also realized that many activities they were choosing to do were not great protocol.

So with that, I leave to you the use of this video. I also would love to hear more about how you teach responsible use, and all the things that carry with it. Finally, I want to share with you that this worked. Since teaching this lesson, I have had multiple students making habit changes, changing passwords, and getting rid of things they shouldn't have within their account. Students are holding each other accountable, and lifting each other up in their choices. It was worth the time invested.

Twitter Tuesday

#1 What are some effective strategies that you use when instructing kids about being responsible users of technology?

#2 How do your kids respond to procedures and protocols when using digital tools?

#3 In what ways do you feel we could improve teaching the responsible use policy?

#4 What are the greatest concerns that you carry with you in regards to the responsible use policy?

#5 How can the kids in the schools you are at become active in supporting the responsible use policy?

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Common Sense Media District Certification


Remember the days when you took off on your bike, your mom yelling out the back door: “Where are you going?” “What will you be doing?” “Who will you be with?”

They always wanted to know that we were being safe and making good decisions...and, I’m guessing that most of us sometimes were safe and also sometimes made questionable decisions, but because our parents asked, we were thinking about it.

 It can be scary raising, coaching, and teaching the next generation from across the digital divide, but parents still ask these questions: “Where are you going?” “Who will you be with?” “What will you be doing?” Except now we add “online” to the end of each.

 We know that every one of our students might not always make the best choices, but providing them a safe environment in which to learn is one of our biggest responsibilities whether it is online or offline education we’re talking about. With this in mind, BPS is working hard to help our students have positive answers to those questions.

 This fall, the Library Media Department committed to a substantial goal of becoming a Common Sense Media district. This quest required library media specialists and classroom teachers to collaborate to offer consistent and timely lessons on digital citizenship: cyberbullying awareness, privacy and security, and creative credit.



 At the elementary level, students compared different forms of cyberbullying and identified ways to be an upstander when cyberbullying occurs. Elementary students began to learn about privacy on the internet which included defining personal information and understanding why personal information should never be shared online without parental permission.

 Academic integrity begins in elementary school where teachers and library media specialists taught about giving credit where credit is due through lessons on copyright, plagiarism, and creative commons. Library Media Specialists have found fun and engaging ways to teach this content. From online quests through Digital Passport from Common Sense Media, to interactive videos and activities on BrainPop, students interacted with digital citizenship content across the grades.



 At the middle school level, library media specialists focused on appropriate online interactions. Students tracked their online media use in order to understand how their digital footprint can be seen by a large, invisible audience. Students gained an understanding of how their digital lives can paint an incomplete picture of themselves that can affect how others view them.

 All high school students are required to take an online learning module each year of their high school career. Students take four courses throughout their high school years covering topics such as digital media use and copyright, cyberbullying awareness, digital footprint, news literacy, local support resources, and the district Responsible Use Policy.

 Bismarck Public Schools collaborated with the Bismarck Police Youth Bureau to hold a parent night discussing trends in social media and their effect on our students. Hundreds of community parents attended one of the three sessions held this fall. You can check out a parent handout here. Additional parent outreach occurred during parent teacher conferences and school open houses.

 The online world offers an abundant playground to learn and explore but all students need to learn to navigate this world safely and ethically. Through our Common Sense Media district certification, we are guaranteeing that our students and families have the most current and up-to-date knowledge on the ins and outs of digital life. Sharing these resources with students and families can help everyone feel more comfortable when answering the questions that all parents should be asking about online usage: “Where are you going?” “Who will you be with?” “What will you be doing?”


 Twitter Questions:
1. How can we make learning about digital etiquette more relevant to our students?
2. How can we ensure that we as educators and parents stay up to date on the current trends and issues surrounding our digital/online life?
3. What are some innovative ways to teach the bountiful, creative opportunities available online while ensuring safety and appropriate use?
4. Describe a digital etiquette based activity (cyberbullying, privacy, oversharing, etc) that worked well for you this school year.
5. What new trends are you seeing in your students in regard to digital and online social activities?

Monday, April 16, 2018

To Genre-fy or Not To Genre-fy?


Is it a good idea to “genre-fy” your collection? Should you consider it only for fiction? Has the Dewey Decimal Classification system run its course and no longer relevant in the twenty-first century? Or is it still the best alternative? These are questions I have been asking myself over the past couple of years.

The Dewey Decimal Classification system has been used in U.S. libraries since the 1870s when Melvil Dewey developed it and put his name on it. But there is an effort in libraries across the country to move away from the longtime system we learned as elementary school students.

The longevity of Melvil Dewey’s Dewey Decimal Classification System (DDC) is a key concept that not only is embedded in the history of school librarianship and school library programs, but is still an important part of today’s 21st Century library. Since Dewey developed this system in 1873, the DDC has been edited and expanded 23 times, with the most resent abridged version’s 2012 publication.

So we ask…“Is Dewey and the curriculum focus that it demands leaving us behind in the 21st century?” “Why are we using decimals in a children’s library, when they don’t learn that until fourth-grade math? And why are our picture books arranged by author, when most children are more interested in the content than in who wrote the book?”

One other complaint against the system is that its focus is on numbers, is impersonal and unengaging. In short, the Dewey Decimal does not get people excited to read.


What Should We Do?

Is Genrefication the Answer?? School librarians around the country have been intrigued (or horrified) by recent trends in school library classification and organization. Some librarians have ditched Dewey in favor of a "book store" model, adopting a practice known as "genrefication." 

This is a model of classification in which shelf location is determined by genres, a style used by booksellers. Some critics have declared the new system a nightmare, while supporters love the browsability of the shelves.

Library classification and arranging books by genres or “genrefication,” are hot topics among librarians.

Many librarians are reluctant to genrefy their libraries because of the amount of time and effort required to restructure the library’s classification system.

In recent years, some librarians, in an effort to address the needs of their patrons, have experimented with genrefication. Because there is no centralized commonly acknowledged organizational approach to this new phenomenon, librarians interested in genrefying their stacks are using a variety of approaches. Some are blending their fiction and nonfiction by genre; some are using established databases that organize books by subjects; and others are only genrefying their fiction shelves.

Whatever system you prefer, it has led to in depth discussion among the library professionals. In the end, it would be up the librarian and staff if ditching Dewey and the amount of time involved would be ideal for their library setting.

Written by Lynda ~ BPS LMS at Will-Moore and Pioneer Elementaries 


Twitter Tuesday Questions:

Q1:  What are your thoughts on the library genrefied system for school libraries?      

Q2:  What are your thoughts if just the fiction sections were genre and the nonfiction kept as Dewey?  

Q3:  What system is in place at your school and do you like it or would you like to see it changed?    


Thursday, April 05, 2018

Coding with Ozobots


Coding / Ozobots 

I believe tech skills by themselves don’t prompt big ideas – creative visions do.

I am amazed by the fearlessness of students when it comes to technology. Working with students using coding is like watching a child exploring a new toy.  They are always willing to try anything to see what happens. They experiment to determine what works and what doesn’t, and then are willing to fix it and try again. 

Using the Ozobots is one way for students to be creative. It can kick start creativity by sparking students to ask questions that lead them to improve upon their ideas.  In addition, coding leads to critical thinking and problem solving; skills that are vital to 21st Century learning.





I am just beginning to use Ozobots with the 4th and 5th grade students here at Lincoln. We started by exploring how to create different codes to have Ozobots do various movements.  With the 4th graders, we will then evolve our learning into application of using coding to create different landmarks of North Dakota.  The 5th graders will apply coding to using Ozobots to lay out the thirteen colonies.  



Twitter Tuesdays
Q1: What is the importance of coding?
Q2: How are you integrating coding into current or developing projects at your school?
Q3: Without using technology, what skills can we teach that would help develop coding?


By Rhonda Bothwell with the help of Alicia Overbeck