Evernote Journals – CoeTail 5 project

My PLN My Voice…

During the ‘What’s in your Google Reader?’ sharings in the CoeTail class, someone shared this article about ‘introverts’. I had read it too and it had immediately made connections with my personality style. I am a person who enjoys aloneness (I’m not lonely though) and am at peace with myself. The article defines introversion as simply the preference for less stimulation.

In my case, the more I read this definition, the more I felt that it’s not the need for less stimulation but the lack of avenues to satiate the inquiry within and to think aloud. I analyzed it to be a cycle – fewer options (based on personality styles) to share and ask questions leading to sort-of-stillness within. I continuously mulled about this with the context of having a PLN.

I can’t thank enough my mentors in this CoeTail journey that made it ‘mandatory’ to develop a PLN! I think the mandatory nature of the expectation pushed me to start to make online connections and build circles of learning for myself.

Starting my own networks, the thrill of getting acknowledged via ‘acceptances’ to other’s circles is something I can’t describe. It’s comparable to that honoring feeling when someone thinks you are worthy enough to get invited to a ‘special’ event. I’m lovin’ it!

My PLN is still in fledgling stages but it’s growing… and I can sure tell you that it won’t stop.

It’s given me a ‘Voice’!!!

I have a ‘Voice’ among people who are working within similar domains of knowledge, understandings and thinking.

My PLN is grounded in these three key ideas –

  • Everyone has questions to ask – we all have intrinsic inquiry around our professional needs. My network has given me an avenue to wonder ‘aloud’ and to ask questions about re-imagination, creativity and innovation
  • Ask questions to the right person – The source from where you seek answers is very important. And so my learning network has provided connections with a knowledgeable, credible, experienced think tank. This group is out there is ready to help. All it needs is an hollerJ
  • If you acted on the answer to the question, then Share – The network is a two way street. You take but you ‘must’ give as well – that’s my responsibility to ‘my community’ If I experience a success or a failure, then sharing this is my obligation to the network. Here’s a blogpost that I shared recently on my PLN.

A couple of short PLN success stories –

  • I was able to connect with someone who’s coming to our next year. It was fun to bounce off ideas and share the how-to’s of my project with soon-to-be-colleague. Had it not been for the PLN, I would have probably met the new teammate only when school reopened in August!
  • I signed up for the 365 days of Google Glass activity with Margaret Powers, someone I admire for her work with technology with the lower elementary classes, and I actually won a membership to a Codagogy course. I have had many interactions via email with Margaret about coding lessons with second graders. Isn’t it cool to be able to discuss with someone who is an expert plus working in the same domain as me and wants to learn from experiences too! Whoah!

So cheers to my PLN!!

You can fine me here –

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Deepening the thinking

In this blog post I will do a post reflection of the Evernote journal project with the lens of the TPACK integration model, especially since after recently being part of conversations around this with the elementary school teachers.

CC Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by tpack.org

“Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) is a framework that identifies the knowledge teachers need to teach effectively with technology” (http://www.tpack.org/)

The model has very clearly defined roles for Content, Pedagogy and Technology, and works towards planning for perfect blend of all three, off course within a context.

For the Coetail project the content for the units was already well defined – ‘Plants’ science unit or India Week

These are the science content enduring understandings for the Plant unit – Student will understand that

  • Living things have basic needs that need to be met in order for the plant to thrive and grow.
  • All living things are systems made up of different parts that help them perform a job
  • The continuity of life is sustained through reproduction and development.
  • Living things interact with one another and their environment for existence and balance

These are India Week content understandings for the module

  • Sensitize the students to the host country’s culture and history
  • The history and beliefs related to major Indian festivals and celebrations
  • Explore traditional and contemporary literary, visual and performing arts of India
  • Understand basic systems of belief in India
  • Understand India’s contribution to the world
  • Reflect on connections between home and host country

Reading and Writing understandings:  Students will understand that –

  • Nonfiction readers read to become learn more about the world.
  • Nonfiction readers use more than just the words in the book to make sense of what they are reading.
  • Informational writers are writing to teach their readers about a topic.

The Pedagogy is a teacher’s “understanding of how students learn, general classroom management skills, lesson planning, and student assessment.” (Koehler & Mishra, 2009)

During some thinking sessions, the 2nd grade team had these insights into building the Inquiry process (an pedagogical approach) for the units. They said –

  • “Our current science content has a lot of activities, but not as much authentic inquiry.  Maybe we let go of some of those activities to help kids have some ownership around forming a question they are really interested in knowing more about.  This inquiry process opens up a whole range of tools for finding information.  Maybe we use this as a controlled release of the inquiry project:  1st = whole class, next = small group of students working on the same question (rather than managing an entire classroom of separate questions)”

For the Evernote plant journals one of the 2nd grade group had used the “Think Puzzle Explore”, a Making Thinking Visible routine, to build inquiry with the whole group using Evernote. A teacher created note (click here to access the note) with guiding questions was pushed out to the student’s plant Notebooks. Then they worked independently on the ipads to record their reflections/ thinking. Using Evernote enabled the controlled release of the inquiry.

The Technology, in this case, used was the Evernote service. The structure and nature of this tool helped with adding another dimension to the process. It helped build for independence (for both teachers and students) and connections (with content and pedagogy)

Some of the reflections from the second grade team included –

  • “Having a science journal – using Evernote – gives kids a place to keep their work.  Using Evernote this year, we found ourselves doing lessons about how to grow our ideas”
  • “Thinking about getting to a point where we can give kids choices about how they show us their thinking and learning (Paper, Evernote, Video. .. ) Still, we need to think about the standards we are going after when we give choices if we give a choice that doesn’t unpack the standard, we need to keep an eye on that”
  • “Video can be a form of publication for a written script”

Using Evernote as a journaling tool gave independence to the students. They were in control and it allowed for both enhancing and modifying classroom pedagogy.

QR codes and Soundcloud and transformation!

Thought of sharing this very interesting lesson with the ipads that the first graders worked with last week.

Aim of the lesson — Record expression for different feelings and listen to others demonstrate different expression.

This was going to be a 2-3 class period activity using the ipads. We were going to use 3 different apps –

  • Soundcloud – to capture, create and share sounds on the cloud
  • Qrafter – QR code creator app
  • Goggles – Google’s QR code scanner

We started with creating an class account on Soundcloud. The students very quickly understood the easy-and-simple-to-use controls for recording and saving on Soundcloud. It was a very rewarding experience watching these young kids record into the ipads using different expressions (happy, sad, mad, excited). They micro managed the lesson in their own way – figuring out the quiet corner in the room to record, improvise and record to perfection, helping friends, communicating with teachers in whispers or sign language. Cute!

The next step was to create the QR codes using the Qrafter app. We did a whole class instruction with copy URL (from Soundcloud) and paste in (Qrafter) to create the code. Once created, they also printed the codes. Believe it or not, the first graders were able to independently handle all this. Fun!

The final lesson was to get familiar with the Goggles scanner. Once they were adept at that, it was a sight to be seen with 7 year olds walking around the classroom with ipads and scanning the QR codes to listen to their friends audio expressions for different feelings. Cool!

Scan this code to get to a sound byte:)

The QR codes are

  • Fun and easy to use/ create
  • ‘specific’ function tool (ready referencing of online products/ services)
  • could be a great ‘research/ inquiry’ management tool
  • Stands for Quick Response code

I first noticed the codes being used at the ISTE conference in Philadelphia, where the showcase presenters were  generating a QR code for each visitor’s comment/ video interview.

They could be used to tag student work/ online portfolios/ blogs (e.g. persuasive reviews, poems), for guided inquiry with any grade level/ content area, creating treasure hunts (with science, literacy, math, getting-to-know-you, tagging artwork with audio reflections, tagging written memoirs with videos, …)

Its easy to use and create, can be applied in all content areas. The Qrafter app is easy enough for even first graders to create and print QR codes.

Go for it!

Deep into Evernote

Hats off! To the team of teachers that planned really well with reserving the iPads and sharing them too! Since the Evernote journaling was going to be an everyday activity with all 6 sections of second grade sharing the ipads that required tons of creativity and flexibility.

I was part of their team as they worked around with sharing devices, planning for managing content on the shared devices, reveling in the feel of students’ accomplishments, celebrating student success, enjoying parent feedback… flurry of emotions during the project but with deep conviction for the project.

Another important thing that we had to deal with was when students would accidentally delete notes. As I explored Evernote I learnt that the deleted notes could be restored very easily. Evernote also allowed checking revision history and so an earlier saved version of the note could be restored. The how-to for this was shared via small one-on-one training sessions with teachers. Post trainings they were able to handle crisis situations independently.

One transformative component of India Week and Plant Evernote journals was that they had a real audience and that these were ‘live’ journals. For this purpose they needed to be linked to individual student blogs. This was a skill that we, as a team, decided was maybe not developmentally appropriate for 8 year olds. And so the tech personnel did the back end linking of journals to student blogs. The links on the blogs were monitored regularly. During the course of the project the students took over the monitoring routine. They were proud of their work and understood that their work was getting published for a real and wider audience.

The eight year olds had started to grasp the idea of their digital footprint, however tiny:)

Getting ready…

   Brief and informal conversations with the second grade team gave a good sense that their interest was piqued and there was a willingness to explore the idea further.  The pre-implementation stage included a sort of training-cum-discussion session. This was at one of grade level team meetings. We all discussed the scope and sequence of the whole project – some do’s and don’ts, availability of ipads, sharing via student blogs, broadcasting to parents and more…

Prepping for the Evernote project (with six sections, 110 plus students)-

  • Class accounts – we created class Evernote accounts for each second grade section and upgraded those to Premium accounts. This increased max upload to 1GB per month plus gave additional functionality of shared notebooks and more.
  • The students would use the class accounts to login to Evernote.
  • A notebook for each student was created within their class account
  • Within their individual notebook they could add as many different notes for topics/ subjects
  • Drop box training to the students and teachers for How-to-download (and upload) to the school Drop box account
  • Evernote operational training (individual sessions) for teachers
  • reserving for ipads
  • Updating the Evernote app on all ipads

Photo Credit: stevendepolo via Compfight cc

Tinkering with Evernote

Yes, I did finalize Evernote online journals with second grade as my final CoeTail project but not without a lot of deliberation.

There were various other choices of projects for the CoeTail class that I was contemplating upon but this one solidified as I read and re-read the definition of transforming uses of technology and tried to focus my pondering around the key ideas (listed here) – Was there going to be a shift in Pedagogy? Were the classroom management techniques going to change? Was there going to be shift in where the control lies? Was this teacher centered or student centered? What would be the role of the teacher? Would there be any change in the learning and assessment practice?

The more I mulled over the instructional focus aspect of the using online journals, the more I got convinced about the choice of project for this last leg of the CoeTail journey.

I kept wondering about other options (of technology tools/ services) that would help with going paperless and also enable to share the journals real time with parents/ families. The key was to find a means which would build on some of the tech skills/ tools that students had already been exposed to and use technology in a way so that it fostered an automatic shift in the classroom practices and/ or management.

The list of options included using Book Creator or Pages to document the daily reflection but these would not support real time sharing. Another option was to do daily blog posts but the cohesive nature of a journal would be lost with this. Each blog post would be an entity by itself and the whole process would seem a bit disjointed.

Next option – Evernote I had been using this personally for a while and thought of exploring this option further. Some of the first grade teachers had used this in the last quarter for the Insects unit. The first grade teachers felt that using the real photos (vs. drawings) for the reflections encouraged the writing process. They did find the formatting and editing of text and photos a bit tedious for the first graders. I decided to explore more…lots of research, readings on blogs about others’ experiences, creating dummy notes, exploring the Terms of Service, linking URLs to student blogs, accessing from home to ensure that the URL worked and more…

Some key findings about Evernote –
• Note taking and organizational tool
• Flexibility – cloud based service, can work from any device
• Sharing – Real time sharing of the journals with the unique URL linked to the student blogs
• Go Paperless!
• Easy management – class accounts with students notebooks, tagging feature to organize notes
• User friendly – easy enough for second graders to use it independently
• Varied note taking features – photos, voice memos, hand written notes

     Evernote seemed promising; I had a strong feeling that ‘this is it!’

Next step – share with the homeroom team of teachers…

Embarking on a Transformative Journey, Get Set Go!

My Tech Diary

Lets turn to page 1…

School reopened after the winter break on January 7th 2013. The first couple of weeks were very chilly, foggy or rather smoggy but something that stood out was the relaxed, rested look on everybody’s faces. It was a nice feeling all together:)

I had returned from winter break with a few words buzzing in my mind – Literacy/ Adaptive/ Transformative use of technology, P 21 Framework, TPACK model, Non Fiction units at each grade level, Alan November and his upcoming visit, Robyn Treyvaud and the Digital Citizenship workshop, K-12 Tech visioning…there’s so much on the (Tech) plate! The CoeTail courses have laid the grounding and I look forward to applying the learnings

At this time of the year, there is so much happening in the classrooms! Its unbelievable – India Week is coming up, second graders are planting the seeds for their Plants unit, Reading buddies, prepping for field trips, Making Thinking Visible workshops and more. I walk through the pods and classrooms and can sense the buzz and excitement. Wow! Lots of avenues for transformative use of technology…

In the ES we have Tech on the agenda of every grade levels team meeting once a rotation and so I attended at the Second Grade team on January 16th and the team talked briefly about the India Week journals. I know from past years that all students would be reflecting daily about the various India Week activities. The paper journals are on their plan again but the team wanted to look at other options too. The idea was to go paperless and real time sharing of the journals with a wider audience.

  This is where the seed for Digital/Online journals got planted! I hoped to work on this as my final Coetail project.

Ship Ahoy!
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The Importance Of Creativity In The Classroom

The Importance Of Creativity In The Classroom.

This blogpost kind-of sums up the discussion around ‘Creativity’ in the Coetail class the other evening.

In my opinion Creativity can be neither described nor prescribed and its a failure if at all contrived!

The thing about “Mandates’ …

In the marketing world, the ‘Consumer’ is considered God! One can find multiple options – variety of brands manufacturing similar products, each product having variations to suit individual needs and preferences. Someone likes Chocolate flavor over Strawberry, and both options are available! Neither one of them is less or more than the other but the consumer (in my opinion) feels catered to by having all options available. More importantly, the consumer has the right to ‘choose’.

I would be very disturbed if I was ‘forced’ to choose ice cream over coffee crème brulee for dessert:-(

Since this is a tech blog so I feel the need to state my perspective from a tech standpoint. I started my career by teaching a ‘computer class’ … this is about 15 years ago. My lesson plans were done weekly and all sections of a grade level would work with the same activity. Lesson plans were ‘mandated’ by the software being used/ available. To an extent even the ‘Computer Curriculum’ (yes! that document existed) was mandated by the available software. Enhancements to the Computer Curriculum were kind-of dictated by the newest software out there! The highlight of my first ever Back-to-school-night was showcasing the newest CD-ROM (or not) ‘educational’ software. Back in those days, even the ‘computer curriculum best practices’ were commanded by software.

But, I don’t recall any aspersions that were cast about the (software) mandates imposed by the ‘computer’ leaders. My colleagues were satisfied. In hindsight I read this as not ‘satisfaction’ but ‘compliance’ for lack of choices.

It has been a long journey since then and the word ‘Computer’ has been replaced by ‘Technology’. My role is that of a ‘Facilitator’ and not limited to being a ‘Computer Teacher’. We don’t have a mandated ‘Computer Curriculum’, and technology is moving towards being more of an in-house (read in-classroom) practice. Each classroom has a flavor (reflects the nature of both teacher and students) of its own – in terms of design, structure, routines, … and there is a range of tech tools to choose from. Wow! albeit sometimes too many choices can be a bit confusing too! Now it is the homeroom teacher that creates the blue print for tech-in-the-classroom design, as she is the one who is closest to knowing the needs of her students and classroom.

I’m more in favor of having choices and respect for people’s choices. Is it possible to categorize someone’s preference of one thing over another as good or bad? Do I have the right to judge the use of one strategy over another?

Yes, there are best practices that could be followed coz’ those are backed by evidence of their success but who am I to impose the use of those best practices, that too from outside… Do we have to follow the best practices? Or is it more about analyzing the ‘suitability’ of the suggested best practice within a context? I realize the value of having organizational systems and procedures but at what level do they play a role? — macro (visioning) or micro ( classroom management)

Going back to the real world-marketing scenario, there is a very important place for advertisements too! If there is a product out there, then it must be ‘broadcasted’ so that the consumer knows that it’s available. It is the manufacturer’s responsibility to guide the consumer’s preferences but it’s not different than imposing.

Now, if the marketing campaign for ice cream was as intense as my ‘leaning’ towards coffee crème brulee, then I might be convinced to (if not change) but at least try ice cream for dessert!

It’s more about convincing… not imposing. That’s a fine line…

And convincing needs a lot of investment ($’s in the marketing world), time and energy! Phew! I need some sugar…I guess its time for a coffee crème brulee!!