ISTE Edtech Coaches PLN Book Studies

One of the benefits of joining an ISTE PLN is the opportunity to participate in book studies with other PLN members.  Since ISTE publishes its own books, the organization provides members with free digital copies of any book approved for an official PLN book study.   The leadership team of the ISTE EdTech Coaches PLN has sponsored online international book studies the past two years utilizing digital copies of ISTE books and employing a Twitter Slow Chat to host our discussions.  The slow chat focuses on a new question each day (Monday-Friday).  This format has worked well for our members in multiple time zones, allowing them flexibility in when and how often they participate.  If participants get behind a day or two, they may catch up by using the appropriate A# at the beginning of their response, or they may jump in with the current question.  A typical day may contain answers to multiple questions, and to facilitate this flexibility, we publish all the study questions in advance and number the questions sequentially throughout the entire study.  The participation of our PLN members in these book studies has drawn the attention of other PLN leaders, and I am compiling our process here as a result of their inquiry into the structure of our online book studies.  Although many steps are specific to ISTE book studies, much of the process could be adapted to online book studies outside of ISTE.  These steps have grown and developed over the past two years and I am curious to see how other PLNs will adapt and improve them if they choose to model a book study after our example.

Selecting the Book

  1. Plan early and follow ISTE’s PLN Book Study guidelines.  These guidelines are housed in the PLN leaders community library.  I’ve attached the 2016-2017 Book Study Overview here, but check the library for the latest version of the rules.
  2. After picking an ISTE book that will appeal to your membership, communicate with the author.  Even if the author is not able to participate in the study, they will appreciate being asked for the opportunity to use their book in an upcoming study.  If the author is able and willing to participate in the study, they can also be invited to participate in the planning of the study.
    1. The EdTech Coaches PLN has hosted our book study authors at the last two EdTech Coaches Playgrounds during the ISTE Conference, allowing our members to meet the authors and giving our members the chance to receive a free autographed copy of the book (we use the playground funds that ISTE provides to purchase copies of the book).
  3. Follow the steps in the ISTE Book Study Overview document for requesting the book from ISTE (Contact Simon Helton)

Additional Considerations

ISTE PLN Book Studies are open to all ISTE members regardless of PLN membership and the free eBook is technically available only to ISTE members.  I will include measures below that market the study outside of your PLN (but within ISTE) and steps we have taken to help ensure that only ISTE members have access to the free eBook. Since this is impossible to enforce (anyone with the book can share the download link or email copies of the book, etc.) we have taken the available steps to limit registration to ISTE members knowing it will not be water tight.

Planning the Study

After the book has been confirmed by the author and Simon Helton, we split the study into three parts: 1) marketing, registration, and communication, 2) the study questions, schedule, and moderators, and 3) webinar (if you choose to host one).  I attempted all three of these parts during the first time we utilized this study format and I quickly discovered that this is a huge project for one person.  Leverage the strengths of our PLN leadership team and share the responsibilities (we also invite our PLN members to moderate the daily slow chats–more on that later).  The book study has become a major event during our year and is worth the time and efforts of multiple people.  Utilizing PLN members as moderators also lightens some of the load and helps build fresh momentum as the study continues.

Select or create a hashtag to use throughout the study.  We use our PLN hashtag (#ETCoaches) to prevent sprawl and confusion created by multiple hashtags.  This also helps participants get in the habit of using our PLN hashtag throughout the year.

Marketing, Registration, and Communication

  1. Pick a study start date. Consider the structure of the book and time of year when determining the length of your study. If you schedule during a typically busy time of year for your PLN, your participation may suffer. Of course, there is no perfect time, but try to maximize participation in the study through intentional planning. Early planning is critical to ensure that preparations for the study are ready at the optimal time of year.
    1. We pause our studies for holidays and our monthly PLN Twitter Chats-it would be too confusing having two simultaneous chats on the same hashtag.  Participants have also used these breaks in past studies to catch up by answering previous questions they missed.
  2. Set a registration window preceding your study. Give enough time for your members to begin reading the book before the study begins if they wish to read ahead.
  3. Create a registration form. We use a Google form asking the following questions. (Make sure the form is setup to allow submissions from outside of your domain.)
    1. First Name
    2. Last Name
    3. Email
    4. Twitter Handle (we use this information to create a Book Study Twitter List)
    5. Position/Job Title — we make this a multiple choice item (this helps up track how many participants are EdTech Coaches)
    6. City State (this comes in handy if you are using the Geocode by Awesome Table Add-On to create a map of your participants.)
    7. Country
  4. We use FormMule, a Google Sheets Add-On, to generate emails throughout the study. FormMule can be configured to email registration confirmations immediately after each time the form is completed and can be used later in the study to email reminders and updates to your participants.  The text editor of FormMule is very basic, but it does support HTML tags, allowing you to format text and insert hyperlinks.
  5. Create announcements or Save The Date graphics for your initial marketing. We use Canva, which has a team feature allowing a team of ten people (for free) to collaboratively edit graphic images. Canva has many social media templates and enough free graphic elements to make it a fast and easy way to generate images for social media. 
  6. Share these graphics through you social media channels. Use a social media dashboard (Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, etc.) to schedule Tweets and other social media posts throughout your announcement period (before registration begins).  Notice our graphic does not contain the registration link. We do not share the registration link until registration is open; doing so could potentially confuse people if they tried to register before it was open.
  7. On the first day of registration, create calendar events in ISTE Commons (so that all ISTE members can see it) and your PLN Community containing all information necessary for people to understand how the study is run and how to register.  If you are collaborating with another PLN, include the information in their events section as well.  Create a discussion post in your PLN community with this information as well. This post will be included in the next daily digest and is an efficient way of contacting your entire PLN membership. 
  8. After setting up your event in the appropriate calendars, begin marketing your book study through your social media channels.  In your public social media channels, link to the event page in ISTE Commons.  This will send people to the ISTE site where they can find the registration link.  This discourages anyone who is not an ISTE member from registering.  If you include the registration link in public spaces, anyone will be able to register for the book study.  Use a social media dashboard to schedule Tweets and other social media posts throughout your registration period.  This keeps the information in front of your members without requiring daily maintenance on your end. Create graphics to draw attention to your posts.
  9. Check your registration form response data to ensure that registrations are being received and check your sent mail to confirm that confirmation messages are being sent by FormMule.
  10. Create the Book Study Twitter List (from your PLN account) and add people to your Book Study Twitter List every couple of days.  If you highlight the last Twitter handle that you entered in the registration spreadsheet, you will know where you left off when other registrations are added.  The Twitter list allows everyone to easily see who is participating and they can quickly follow anyone from the list.
  11. Schedule Tweets to countdown to the opening day of the book study
  12. Schedule Tweets to run throughout the book study

Study Questions, Schedule, and Moderators

Following our first book study using this model, Pam Shoemaker, who is also on the EdTech PLN leadership team, offered to help with the second study.  I quickly accepted her offer and divided the book study into the registration/marketing piece and this piece dealing with the questions, schedule, and moderators.  This division of responsibilities worked well and we were able to focus on our separate responsibilities without having to stay in constant contact with each other.

  1. Create a book study schedule document or web page. This document will be the hub of your study and contain everything your participants will need throughout the entire study. Resist any urges to create multiple websites or documents for each week or section of the study. The more resources you create, the more chances people have to get lost or become frustrated. Plus, it is easier to point people to a single document if they contact you with questions.  Anticipate that this document will grow throughout the study as you add information that your members need. This document/site must be publically viewable, and because of this, it should not contain a link to download the eBook.  This helps ensure that only ISTE members have access to the book through the registration process.
  2. We include the following information in the study document.
    1. The schedule with the daily study questions
    2. Guidelines for the Slow Chat
    3. Link to the Book Study Twitter List
    4. A table of ePub Readers (Acrobat will not read ePubs).  This is a recent addition to our study schedule in response to questions about accessing ePubs on a variety of devices.
  3. As a model, I will share our last completed study document. We have utilized a Google Doc with a table of contents to support navigation through the weeks of the book study.
  4. Divide the book into logical sections (lasting one week) for the study without making the study too long. Four to six weeks seems to work well–you will want enough time to dig into the book without taking so long that you lose participation at the end.  Write five questions for each section and add them to the study schedule.  Dividing the book and writing questions is a great time to involve the author.  He or she can provide insight into the four to six most important portions of the book and help ensure that the questions align to most important points of the book.
    1. We have discovered that page numbers in ePub books are not consistent across different devices and ePub readers.  Use chapters or headings within chapters to divide the book–using page numbers will create confusion for everyone.
    2. Use the first week of the study to read the first portion of the book and answer introduction and goal setting questions.  Week two will focus on questions from the first reading section while participants read the second section.
  5. Assign a moderator for each day of the book study.  We include our PLN leadership team, but we also invite PLN members who have moderated previous monthly twitter chats or previous book studies.  How you choose your moderators should fit within the structure of your PLN.  Including a variety of moderators is critical to keeping the momentum fresh and preventing your leadership team from burning out.  Finalize moderator scheduling before registration opens so that the moderators can be included in the Book Study Schedule.  We invite our moderators by sending a Google Form with the available dates asking them to choose up to five days they are available to moderate.  As moderators respond to the invitation, Pam places them on the schedule.  You may choose to place your PLN leadership team on the schedule before any other moderators or schedule them at the end to fill up any empty dates–whichever works best for your team.
  6. Create a Moderator Reference Document.  Although there is nothing top secret in this document, we share the link with only our moderators.  As a model, you can view our latest Moderator Reference Document here.  This document contains:
    1. A basic schedule of the study (we don’t duplicate the questions on this document)
    2. Moderator Responsibilities
    3. Moderator Resources
    4. Shortened Links for sharing to help promote the Book Study
      1. We use Bitly for our shortened links.  Bitly is free and allows you to create customized shortened links.  Bitly also tracks clicks and there is a mobile app that gives you access to your shortened links.
  7. After your moderators are secured and a few days before the study begins, schedule moderator announcement Tweets for the evening preceding each moderator’s scheduled day.  This gives your participants a heads up on who is moderating the next day, plus it provides your moderator with a reminder the day before they have committed to moderate.

 

Webinar

If the author is gracious enough to participate in a webinar, it can augment your study and give the author the opportunity to talk directly to your participants.

  1. When choosing a webinar platform, ensure that you are able to record the webinar.  Very few participants will be able to view the webinar live (don’t let this discourage you or the author), but all participants will have the opportunity to view the webinar when you provide a recording.
  2. Add any webinar recording links to your Book Study Schedule
  3. If you plan the webinar early enough, you can include the webinar information in your Book Study registration marketing.
  4. During our first attempt at a book study webinar, we conducted a separate registration for the webinar from the book study.  After reflecting on this, we determined that the separate webinar registration was unnecessary and we should have shared the webinar information with those who had already registered for the book study.
  5. Depending on the layout of the book and the author’s preference, you can host one long webinar or multiple short webinars that correspond to each section of the book.

During the Study

  1. Continue to monitor registrations and add new registrations to the Book Study Twitter List
  2. Monitor and participate in the daily slow chat questions
  3. At the end of each day (We typically wait until the following morning allowing all time zones time to participate) create an archive of the question using Storify and link the archive in the Book Study Schedule.  The archive allows participants to catch up and find resources that were shared during previous days.
  4. Our hashtag (#ETCoaches) is registered with Participate Chats which allows us to easily create collections of resources that were shared while answering a question (Participate lets you specify a beginning and ending date/time when creating collections).  This is particularly beneficial during days when many resources are shared.  If you create a collection, link that in the Book Study Schedule as well.  Contact Participate if you would like your PLN hashtag included in their chat schedule.
  5. Communicate with your participants weekly to encourage continued participation and remind them of the upcoming study activities.  We send out messages every Friday afternoon with the following information:
    1. The reading assignment for next week
    2. The questions for next week, including the daily moderator
    3. A link to the event in the ISTE Commons Calendar to share with other ISTE members
    4. A link to the Study Schedule
    5. Book study webinar information
    6. Any other PLN activities happening in the next week
  6. We copy names and email addresses from the registration Google Sheet into a fresh Google Sheet each week and send out the weekly reminders using FormMule.  There is probably a way to send out multiple emails with FormMule from a single sheet, but copying the information into a fresh sheet ensures that the automated confirmation message is not broken while attempting to send additional messages from the registration Sheet.

Wrapping Up

  1. If you like, you may create badges for the participants and moderators.
  2.  
  3. Send out an email the last day of the study thanking the author, the PLN leadership, and the participants.  Also, take this opportunity to encourage everyone to continue participating in other PLN activities now that he book study has concluded. If you created a book study badge, share that within this email as well.
  4. Send Simon Helton the names and email address of those participating in the study.  He will use this information to send them an ISTE PLN Book Study feedback survey.
  5. Take a moment to reflect and make notes of anything you would like to change or augment during the next study.

 

Exploring Bitmark

I recently discovered Bitmark through an IFTTT newsletter and since I’m always on the lookout for new tools, I started exploring Bitmark and quickly found this purpose statement on their homepage:

Bitmark imagines a future where individual internet users will take back ownership of their digital lives – a new internet built on individual freedom and empowerment where everyone has a chance at success. This freedom stems from ownership of digital property just as we own everything we buy and build in the physical world. (https://bitmark.com/)

The more I read throughout their site, the more questions that surfaced.  Every tool proposes to meet a need or solve a problem, and Bitmark has set out to create a way to document ownership of digital property rights.  If their goal is to protect digital intellectual property, they have committed themselves to a huge undertaking and I’m still not exactly sure how this will be accomplished or enforced in the event of a digital property dispute.

If my initial understanding of this is correct, they are creating a system of digital deeds or patents that will be associated with specific documents, pictures, files, and other digital content.  The site also talks about Digital Estate planning and providing a centralized system for managing all of the digital content we produce over a lifetime–another huge undertaking that raises more questions for me.

Curiosity soon won over and I began the process of signing up for an account in hopes of achieving a better understanding of the process and results.  Creating an account required me to enter my email and then clicking the link in the confirmation message that was sent to that email.  After clicking the link, my dashboard opened and I was able to poke around.  I have not been asked for a password or seen anything about a password, which seems odd.  At this point, the only way I have found to get into my account is through the link in the confirmation email.  When I go back to the sign-in page on Bitmark’s webite, I see the same box to enter my email to create an account.  If I enter my email again, I am sent the same confirmation link that gets me to my dashboard.  Can a system that asserts to protect digital property rights operate without a password?  For now, I’ve bookmarked the link for future access.

Since I first heard about Bitmark through IFTTT, I created an IFTTT Applet to issue a Bitmark for any future blog posts (I’m using WordPress).  Not only is this post about Bitmark, I am using it to test Bitmark in the hopes of seeing exactly what a Bitmark is and what I can do with it once it is created.  There are also pre-existing IFTTT Applets for Twitter and other social media tools, which may deserve exploration depending on some additional research.

Since I have to publish this post before I can discover more about Bitmark, the story will pause here for the time being.

I can see this tool meeting an important need for bloggers and content creators.  Where Creative Commons meets the needs for those willing to share specific content, Bitmark may meet the needs of those wishing to protect specific content and ensure that their content is inherited in accordance with their wishes.  Has anyone else had any experience with Bitmark and IFTTT integrations?  Have you found it useful, or do you even think this tool is necessary?  How are you using it or how do you intend to use it in the future? Are you currently using a better tool to protect your digital intellectual property?  I would appreciate any information or opinions in the comments.

What’s Next? May Questions and August Goals

Although it may not feel like it, the last few weeks of the year are a great time to set goals for the following year.  May is often an intense summary of the school year when we are most keenly aware of the consequences of our decisions and actions throughout the year, and with the exhaustion of fourth quarter comes the opportunity to reflect on beginning the next year better than the current year.

As I’m reflecting on my third year of EdTech Coaching, I’m encountering many questions–questions that demand an honest answer to make my reflection relevant and productive.  Here are a few of the questions I am considering and the resources that are helping me evaluate my own coaching practice in the final days of this school year.  I hope they are helpful during your transition between this school year and the next.

Start with the ISTE Coaching Standards.

If the Coaching Standards were your job description, how would you be evaluated at the end of this year?  Where did you excel, and where do you need to spend some time building skills or knowledge?  How can you better organize your time to meet these standards?  What tasks can you give up or delegate that don’t meet the standards?

I encourage you to pick a standard and commit to strengthening your implementation of this standard throughout next year.  Depending on your mindset, you may pick a standard where you are weak, with the goal of gaining proficiency or pick a standard where you show proficiency, with the goal of reaching excellence in that area.  I chose to focus on teaching, learning, and assessment at the beginning of this year and have spent time throughout the year, along with our instructional coach, developing a system of instructional rounds that facilitate non-judgmental classroom visits across my building.  The results have been encouraging and we have plans to develop the rounds further next year, giving me more opportunities to focus on this standard.  Even though the process has required time and energy, I am comfortable with the required effort because it aligns with the personal goal to strengthen my implementation of this standard.   This standard also guided my planning for next year as I worked with building leadership to create our professional development schedule.

Look at your mission statement

You can use either your district’s, school’s, or personal mission statement for this–or a combination of these.  My building adopted a new mission statement in November, and we have been very intentional in aligning our Professional Learning Communities and Professional Development with the new mission statement as we plan for next year.  If your mission statement were your compass, is it heading you in the right direction or getting you lost along the way?  Do you need to revise or rewrite your mission statement to align with the role you play within your building or district?  Does your mission statement align with your district’s and could a misalignment be the root cause of any conflict, frustration, or confusion?

Listen to your teachers

What are your teacher’s needs?  Where have they grown and what are their next steps?  What are their goals for next year? How will you help them grow to meet their own professional goals in the coming year?  What is their mission statement, and how do you fit into helping them achieve this?

Take time to look at the revised ISTE Teacher Standards when they are released in June.  We will focus a portion of the EdTech Coaches PLN Annual Membership Meeting (June 26, 5:30-6:45 pm)  on these new standards, giving our members time to discuss our role as coaches in supporting teachers as they work towards meeting these new standards.  If you are attending #ISTE17, please join us and contribute to this conversation.

Listen to your colleagues

Every coach needs a team of coaches in their cheering section.  Talk to your colleagues about their successes during the year.  How did they achieve this, and can you duplicate their success in your own setting?  Where did they struggle and how can you learn from their challenges?  How will you grow your PLN and how will you actively contribute to your PLN next year?  Along with our Annual Membership Meeting at #ISTE17, the EdTech Coaches PLN will host a Networking Event June 26 from 7:00 – 9:00 pm and the EdTech Coaches Playground on June 27 from 9:30 am to 1:00 pm.  These events are designed to facilitate sharing and listening opportunities that will grow and strengthen personal learning networks.

Attend a conference, host an EdTech Coaches Meeting during a local conference, read blogs, participate in the EdTech Coaches Blogging Buddies, participate in a Twitter chat, post a question to the EdTech Coaches PLN Discussion Board or Google+ Group, answer a question posted to the PLN Discussion Board or Google+ Group, or post a comment on a colleague’s blog.  Don’t forget that your colleagues are also listening to you–so don’t hesitate to share your successes and challenges as they learn from your experiences.

Use the summer to recharge and sharpen the saw

Make plans to begin the first day of school with enough energy and enthusiasm to share with anyone needing the encouragement to begin the year.  How will you spend your time over the summer to meet your personal and professional needs that will, in turn, enable you to meet the personal and professional needs of your staff?  What problems or failures will you leave with this school year and forbid from influencing next year?  Take advantage of the opportunity to start fresh next August–don’t bring baggage from previous years that will destroy this fresh start and set you on a cycle of repeating the past. How will you devote your energy to tackling the challenges of the present rather than the failures of the past?

Share your thoughts

How are you reflecting on this year and what is driving your goals for next year?  How do you plan to meet your goals for next year?  Please share in the comments or post your own blog entries (and share with #ETCoaches through Twitter) to keep the conversation going.

#ETCoaches Blogging Buddies

Blogging BuddiesAfter participating in the EdTech Coaches PLN Blog Challenge last fall, my blogging has lost momentum in the absence of accountability and the knowledge that other people were reading my blog.  When Penny Christensen suggested that we start the blogging challenge at the beginning of the school year, she was on to something important–writing without feedback from an audience is isolating, and we all need accountability and encouragement.  Yes, writing provides opportunities for individual reflection, but the true power of communication is only realized when the communication is received by someone willing to interact with this information.  As the cobwebs began to build up on my blog, Katie Siemer contacted me in the spring with an idea for forming small blogging groups that would commit to the long-term (at least a year) goal of supporting each other as they share their learning and growing through blogging.  Katie decided to call the program Blogging Buddies and when she opened registration, the response was very positive. Like Penny, she had recognized the limitations of an “anonymous” internet and the need for educators to form direct connections with other practitioners.

Following the announcement of Blogging Buddies groups yesterday, 52+ people are becoming acquainted with their groups and like me, some are rediscovering their blog.  For those of you who have maintained your blogging output without buddies or blog challenges, the rest of us admire your dedication and hope your self-discipline rubs off on us.

Now for a shout out to my blogging buddies!  Check out their blogs and follow along over the coming months.

These blogs have been added to my Feedly account, and I am anxious to interact with the group.

If you want to participate in a Blogging Buddies group, there is still time to signup.  Complete information, including the registration link, is available here.  If you want to see who is already participating in Blogging Buddies, check out the Twitter List.

February 20 OTMS Tech Newsletter: Google Add-Ons

Google Add-Ons are services that add features to Google Docs, Sheets, and Forms.  After installing an Add-On, you can access them in Docs and Sheets through the Add-ons menu, and the puzzle piece icon in Forms.

 

Form Limiter will turn off a form at a time a date you choose, or when the form has reached a number of responses that you choose.

FormRecycler is a Google Forms Add-On that allows you to copy questions from other Forms in your Drive.

Copy Folder is a Google Sheets Add-On that allows you to copy complete folders in Google Drive

Flippity is a Google Sheets Add-On that creates flashcards and quiz games.  It can also create random student groups from a class roster on a spreadsheet.

Save As Doc is a Google Sheets Add-On that will save the data from a Sheet into a Doc.  Each row of data is saved onto a separate page of the Doc.  This can make it easier to read the data by reorganizing each row of data onto a single page.  This works well for spreadsheets created from Google Form responses.

Doc to Form is a Google Docs add on that will create a Google form from the text of a Google Doc.  This is useful for creating forms from existing assessments.

February 13 OTMS Tech Newsletter

Google Slides will now import videos from Google Drive in addition to YouTube.

Blind Kahoot is a different way of using a Kahoot activity at the beginning of a unit to introduce material rather than checking for understanding or reviewing at the end of a lesson.

OpenEd is a directory of open educational resources (free) that can be browsed or searched by standards, grade level, or keyword.  This has the potential to save time searching the web for quality resources since this site has already curated many videos, assessments, and activities into one place.  OpenEd integrates with Google Classroom, which makes it easy to share resources with your existing classes.  When you find a resource you want to share with a class, click the Classroom link at the top of the resource listing and a window will open giving you the option to create an announcement or assignment and select which class you want to receive a link to this resource.  You will then have the ability to title the announcement and assignment and include any instructions before posting to Classroom.

Participate Learning contains a database of free and paid educational resources (apps, videos, and websites) that are reviewed by teachers.  These resources  are linked to standards and can be searched by keyword and filtered by content type and grade level.  By registering with the site, users have the ability to create their own bookmarks and collections of resources.  Search results will also show the resource collections of other educators.  Participate Learning also includes ParticipateChat, which maintains a calendar of educational Twitter Chats and hosts an interface for participating in Twitter Chats.  ParticipateChat also allows users to create resource collections from the links and resources shared during a Twitter Chat.

February 6 OTMS Tech Newsletter

Nearpod has introduced a new activity slide called Collaborate.  This slide allows students to post sticky notes to a shared board similar to Padlet.  Teachers can moderate the board and delete any inappropriate sticky notes.

 

Matt, Jamie, Allison, and I recently attended the Powerful Learning Conference hosted by the Missouri Professional Learning Communities Project. The conference focused on implementing the PLC philosophy in schools throughout Missouri.  From the several hundred Tweets generated during the conference, I have compiled a few highlights from Powerful Learning Conference in a Storify.

 

January 13 OTMS Tech Newsletter

New features were recently added to Google Classroom

  • The ability to assign work to individual students or groups of students (differentiation)
  • New email notifications for work submitted after the due date and re-submitted work
  • Improvements to integrations between Classroom and non-Google web tools

EDpuzzle helps teachers customize video content for their classrooms by giving them an easy way to edit video clips, add voice overs, and embed questions. Teachers can assign a video to a set of students and track students’ viewing history and quiz results.  EdPuzzle integrates with YouTube and Khan Academy and easily allows you to search for and annotate these videos with audio, comments, and quizzes. EdPuzzle supports Google sign-in and integrates with Google Classroom.

There are still district licenses available for Nearpod.  Nearpod is an online presentation, blended learning, and assessment tool. Nearpod sessions can be teacher-led or assigned to students for independent or collaborate completion.  Assessment data is shown immediately to the teacher and saved in a printable report.  Fort Osage has purchased a district license to Nearpod which provides access to all Nearpod features and question types, along with a district library to facilitate the sharing of Nearpod presentations/assessment.  Contact me if you are interested in learning more about Nearpod or getting a district Nearpod license.

January 9 OTMS Tech Newsletter

EasyBib has changed their privacy settings and student accounts using the @student.fortosage.net Google sign-in will no longer work.  Students can create an account using EasyBibEDU by following these steps:

  1. Go to https://edu.easybib.com/auth/register/osagemsmo or click the EasyBibEDU Registration OTMS link in Clever
  2. Create a unique username that does not contain any identifiable information
  3. Create a password
  4. Use https://edu.easybib.com/auth/login or the EasyBibEDU Login link in Clever to login to EasyBibEDU in the future

If you prefer to share a video with your students, I have created a two-minute screencast that walks through these steps. Teachers can still log in to EasyBib with Google.  I have the ability to reset student EasyBibEDU passwords if they forget a password.

For the next few weeks, I will be sharing some “tried and true” web tools.  Although some of you are already using these tools, they are worth sharing again–either as a reminder or as an introduction to those who are unfamiliar with the tool.  These tools are linked on the OTMS Instructional Technology Resources site.

Actively Learn allows you to annotate and assign texts to classes of students.  Students can create accounts with their Google login and join your classes with a class code.  After you import a text (as a Google Doc or PDF), you can insert questions, notes, or links anywhere within the text.  Students must answer questions inserted in the text before they can move ahead to the next section of text.   Additional resources are available in their blog, resources page, and help center.

NewsELA is a familiar tool to many of us that contains news and current event articles at a variety of reading levels.  Each article is rewritten in five reading levels, allowing the whole class to read the same article (at different levels) and participate in the same follow-up activities. NewsELA supports Google sign-in and integrates with Google Classroom.

Teaching Blogs as a Non-Fiction Text

My experiences as a librarian and tech coach met at an intersection earlier this week as a seventh grade ELA teacher and I were helping her students set up their own blogs for the purpose of publishing their writing to an authentic audience.  A few minutes into explaining how to create their student Blogger profiles, I realized that most of the seventh graders in the room had likely never seen a blog and certainly never explored the organizational structure common to most blogging platforms.  I quickly made a comparison between the organizational structures of printed books and online blogs, and then prepared a more organized presentation for her second and third classes who were completing the same activity later in the day.  My primary shortcoming in coaching this teacher was not missing the fact that her students were unfamiliar with the structure of blogs–my failure was that I did not suggest that she spend some time teaching blogs as she would any other non-fiction text before asking her students to create their own blogs.

I realize that all blogs are not non-fiction, and many contain clear examples of fiction writing at best, and highly biased information at worst.  When I say non-fiction, I am referring to the organized structure that accompanies most non-fiction writing.  Tables of content, indexes, tables, charts, captions, etc., can be directly compared to navigation panes, widgets, information pages, posts, archives, and feeds–thus blogs have more structural similarities to non-fiction texts than to fiction texts.  Talking about blogs as information sources also opens the door for digital literacy conversations, which are even more important in an online environment.  While a student has access to a professionally curated non-fiction library at school, they are the primary curator of the material they access online.  Blogs present great opportunities to teach fact and opinion, bias, evaluation of sources, intended audience, purpose, and author tone, among other elements of writing.

I remember teaching basic non-fiction text features to my elementary library students as they explored a variety of books and reference materials.  The purpose of this instruction was to familiarize them with the structure of informational texts and help them access, read, interpret, and evaluate non-fiction texts in the future.  Blogs are certainly not a new format, and I see no indication that they are reaching the end of their life cycle–so are we addressing this growing informational text structure with the attention necessary to equip students to consume, evaluate, and respond to the information communicated within blogs and the Internet at large?

As fake news currently receives heightened attention following the election, we are reminded that misinformation is not only being presented, but this misinformation is being intentionally presented and shared with the intent of persuading the audience with false and exaggerated information.  Our students do not have to find poor informational sources, these sources will find them in their daily journies through social media and online spaces.  Using blogs as a teaching tool is not only about understanding the organization of information contained within the site, it is about navigating through the information itself with the critical thinking skills necessary to detect good sources from poor sources–which has always been the objective of any teacher charged with guiding students through the research and writing process.


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