Browse Month: March 2015

Differentiation Through Texts II

The list of websites that facilitate the differentiation of texts continues to grow.  I will share a few more worth exploring.

Before I get to the tools, let me share a few thoughts I have conveyed to some faculty members recently.  As education continues to move to a digital platform, more and more entrepreneurs and companies are trying to make money off of this trend.  There is currently an explosion of new tools and services, each designed to solve some deficiency or problem created by how things were accomplished in the past.  This has been occurring for some time (especially when we include print materials), but it feels like the pace is accelerating in comparison to previous years.   Sometimes these products are conceived and created by educators, but far too often, they are built on a profit-based business model.  My intent is to share the best tools with an efficient design for teacher and student use.  It is not my intent or expectation that every faculty member uses every tool I share.  I would prefer you find a few tools that work within your teaching and classroom management style, and that you use these tools well.  Do not let the constant stream of new stuff distract you from what you do well.  Continually evaluate new tools, but never add something to your classroom just because it is new.  As always, make your decisions based on the needs of your students and the curriculum.  It is very easy to become overwhelmed with the ever-expanding options if you adopt the paradigm of doing lots of things in a mediocre fashion rather than doing a few things proficiently.

And now to my suggestions for your evaluation. . . .

Actively Learn allows you to annotate and assign texts to classes of students.  Student 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.  This tool was presented by the Tech Tidbits (7th Grade ELA) during the EdTech Chef Challenge.  Help resources are linked to the EdTech Chef Home Document.

Rewordify is website that will simplify a portion of text or a website.  Use the site by copying and pasting a portion of text or a URL into the text box and click the Rewordify text button.

Texthelp Study Skills is a Google Docs Add-On that allows students to highlight text (four colors for the first 30 days, then one color afterwards) within a Google Doc.  When students click “Collect Highlights,”  the highlighted sections of their document will be combined into a new Google Doc.  More information can be found in this blog post.

Speech Recognition is a Google Docs Add-On that allows students to input text without the keyboard.  This works with the built-in microphone on the Chromebooks (Click Allow on the banner that appears at the top of the browser window after you press START) Although this would not work in a noisy environment, this would benefit students who need to think out loud as part of the pre-writing process.

March 26 PD Day
We will be participating in another round of tabletop TAR discussions next Thursday afternoon.  This will be a continuation of the discussions we held during the January 7 faculty meeting, and we will be using the same discussion document from January.  This time, in addition to the TAR model, we will be incorporating our building technology goals and the ISTE Student Standards in our conversations.  After these discussions, we will participate in Edcamp OTMS.  The schedule is finished and ready to share.  Thanks to those who were willing to facilitate conversations.  Start thinking about which sessions you would like to attend and how you will contribute to those conversations.

Technology Celebrations

Kristie is arranging a connected classroom project with a kindergarten class at Indian Trails Elementary.  Her students will be sharing what they have learned about space with the kindergarten class.

Leslie is working with Karin King (who will be joining the Trailblazers next year) on a collaborative project.  Leslie’s students will be sharing a science assignment (on a Google Doc) with Karin’s ELA students, who will help edit the writing within the science assignment.  The cross-disciplinary activity will reinforce digital citizenship and the importance of writing skills in all contents.

Differentiation Through Texts

Since finding appropriately leveled informational texts for differentiation is critical to all content areas, I will share a few tech tools that contain leveled texts helpful for differentiation.  More will be shared next week.

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.

CommonLit is an online library of free texts for classroom use.  This site does not provide each passage in five different reading levels, but provides passages in a variety of reading levels organized by theme.  I had considered using CommonLit as one of the technology tools in the EdTech Chef Challenge, but replaced it with Actively Learn a few days before the event.

Books That Grow contains a library of books that are adapted in three to five reading levels (similar concept to NewsELA).  Teachers are able to setup classes and assign books to classes.  Teachers also have the ability to assign reading levels to whole classes or individual students, and configure the ability of students to override the teacher-selected level.  Teachers can also monitor student progress as they read through the assigned book.  The site is currently free, but they will be adding a PRO version this summer, which will likely take away some of the features that are currently free.

ReadWorks contains leveled fiction and nonfiction passages.  See their Support Center for additional information.

World Book Discover (The district subscribes to World Book Online) contains articles and resources for students reading below grade level.
World Book Student contains articles and resources tailored to middle school students.
World Book Kids contains articles and resources tailored for students reading at an elementary school level.

Edcamp OTMS
Thanks for submitting your conversation topics last week.  Mel and I will be working on the schedule and contacting facilitators this week.  The finished schedule will be linked in next week’s newsletter.

Technology Celebrations

Seventh grade science is studying the ingredients necessary to support life on a planet.  They are currently researching planets with these ingredients and will soon begin planning a colony (as well as how they will get there) on one of these planets.  They are using multiple internet resources and simulators as part of this project.

Thanks for your help with the Simulated Load Test on Friday.  There were some isolated device issues, but the network performed well.  The MAP app will remain on student devices and you are welcome to use the practice tests within the app at any time.  If a Chromebook will not login to the app, try restarting the Chromebook and then opening the app again.  We had several incidents during the simulated load test where the app would work after a restart or two.

Differentiation Resources and Edcamp OTMS

Our Professional Development Library contains several resources on differentiation and I have created an short bibliography to help you quickly find something useful in your classroom.  Although most are not specific to using technology in differentiation, they are still great resources to discovering new ideas and strategies.  Based on the great participation during the EdTech Chef Challenge a couple weeks ago, I have no doubts that we are capable of integrating technology into existing strategies.

I have also created a Thinglink where I will tag various differentiation resources in the coming weeks.  I have already tagged a few items to get it started and I will be talking about some of these tags in future newsletter posts.

Edcamp OTMS

  • To help us prepare to participate in Edcamp OTMS on March 26, I recommend two more resources. This edutopia article explains the purpose of an Edcamp and what happens during an Edcamp session.  (We have modified the described process slightly in that we are setting the schedule ahead of the event.)
  • Dan Callahan, the founder of Edcamp, discusses the growth and popularity of the Edcamp movement in this video.

Now it’s our turn to join the momentum of the Edcamp movement. To submit conversation topics or guiding questions for Edcamp OTMS, please use the form linked here.  If you have more than two topics to suggest, complete the form a second time.  If you are willing to facilitate a conversation on your suggested topic, please check the box indicating your interest.

Technology Celebrations

Student Chromebooks have been registered for the MAP test and another readiness check will be conducted on all devices during computer lit on Tuesday and Wednesday in preparation for the simulated load test on Friday.

Art students are exploring art works shared in blogs by other art teachers.