Who Showed Up?

So you want to start an edu-team?  Maybe you’ll form a PLC that’s really going to have an impact, make a difference, affect change. Maybe you’re looking to get the right people on board or choose a power group of like-minded educators.  Your ambition is noble, your mindset ideal – just make sure you take a close look around and choose that team wisely.

One of the best tools you have in your toolbox is a simple glance at the past year or so.

Who showed up?

Who was noticeably absent?


If I were a runner (which I totally am not!), I would want to train for a marathon with folks who share a similar ambition.  Who is really into it?  Who shows dedication, commitment, passion, drive?

Who showed up?

I’d be looking for people who came to the open track days or the local 5k runs that I invited them to, or the monthly runner meetups on the town bike path.

I’d look for people who didn’t make excuses.  I’d look for people that bring new ideas.  I’d look for people better than me who inspire me, or people who just love it as much as I do.

And I know that anyone who is a really a runner would never pick me for a teammate, because I’m noticeably absent from that whole scene!

The same is true for educators with a true growth mindset.  I’m not into running, but I am into Ed Tech!  I want to surround myself with the right people for me.  I want to find my Ed Tech tribe.  So, I look to the past year or so and I think about those who ‘showed up’.  In some ways I’m thinking figuratively, but it’s also a literal thing.  Who attended workshops, conferences, webinars?  Who explored, collaborated, and openly shared?  In the past year, who suggested a new idea or wanted to team up to create or innovate?  Who has a comparable growth mindset?

Everyone has different priorities, and there are different levels of enthusiasm about those priorities.  We all have our thing, and it’s all good.  There are lots of things that aren’t my thing, and that’s just fine.

I’m just suggesting that when it comes to aligning yourself with people who truly share your vision and your passion, look to the past and see who showed up.

PARCC Prep: Teaching Test Navigation Skills At The Elementary Level

In the past three years, my school district has participated in conducting the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test with students in grades three through twelve. As a computer teacher at the elementary level, I have been a critical part of the testing team. I have seen the practice tests and even the actual PARCC test. In many ways, this test is radically different from anything our students have encountered before. Gone are the paper answer sheets with oval answers to be shaded in with number two pencils. Today’s students are tasked with not only demonstrating content knowledge in deeper, more complex ways, but also with navigating these new digital testing environments. For many students, particularly our elementary students, the sheer task of navigating the test itself is new and intimidating.

I chose third grade specifically as my research group because this was the first year that those students take the PARCC test. Not only are third graders our youngest PARCC participants, but they are also the most immature in regard to technology skills. Additionally, I identified this grade level as my focus group because the third grade teachers have expressed concerns that navigating the technology may impede their students’ ability to answer the content.

For this reason, I worked with and studied three third grade classes in my school, which was a total of sixty students.  I wanted to determine if preparing for the technology skills related to test navigation of the PARCC test is a necessary and relevant endeavor. These ideas led to my three research questions:

1) What are the prerequisite skills for students to successfully access and use this computer-based assessment known as the PARCC test?

2) Does the pre-teaching of specific test navigation skills benefit the students?

3) What effect does pre-teaching of these technology skills have on classroom teachers’ attitudes regarding their students’ experience with the PARCC test?

As students came to my computer class, I explained that I was purposely asking them to take PARCC practice tests (on the TestNav site) without any assistance from me. I explained that I was not interested in their actual knowledge or ability to answer the question correctly, but as their computer teacher I was curious about their comfort level with navigating the test itself. I did show the students the icon and how to access the test, but then I stood back and simply observed. Students were free to ask me any questions as they explored the tests, and I wrote each of these questions as a list in a notebook. I also occasionally pointed to buttons, icons, or items on a page and asked students to identify their purpose. Again, I listed everything that students said. I also took note of what students did seem to know. I had students practice typing open-ended response questions in text boxes and noted their ability and speed as well as their overall understanding of how much they thought would suffice as an answer. I occasionally asked students to use a tool that was not obvious on the screen, and listed those that students were able to use or not use when prompted.

After looking through all of this data, I found that all of those skills that were extrapolated from my research fell into four distinct categories.  I present this graphic and data as a template for teachers to use in the future as a checklist of PARCC-specific test-taking skills that should be taught specifically.

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If you have a chance to explore the practice tests with your own classes, I encourage you to conduct similar experiments to determine the specific skills that your students need.  If you come across any additional skills that aren’t listed here, I’d love to hear from you!

Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @kerszi, on my Facebook page called Integration Innovation, or here on the blog!

No Phone, No Tablet, No Problem – Scan QR Codes With Your Computer

This is a ridiculously simple blog post, but one that might really come in handy for those of you who still don’t have a lot of handheld or mobile computing devices like smartphones or iPads.  You can scan QR codes using a webcam on a regular computer!

The site is called Web QR and the URL is just as simple:  https://webqr.com/

There’s really no explanation needed.  This is what the site looks like:

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That’s it.  Hold your QR code up to your webcam. It will appear in that gray box and automatically scan….which will take you to your desired site on the web!

One other nice feature about this site is that it also allows you to create a QR code.  Just click on the word Create at the top and then enter a web address (URL).

Happy scanning!

 

Forego the Fizzle


It happens all too often.  Someone has a great idea.  It gains momentum, picks up speed, maybe even gathers new participants.  Heck, sometimes a committee is born.  Now it’s an all-out awesome idea!  A movement – a movement with a vision and a purpose and objectives.  The anticipation and optimism are palpable.  The hypothetical ball gets rolling.  Great things are starting to happen, and it’s only going to get better!

And then it happens.  There’s a shift, a turn, an unanticipated plot twist.  Suddenly the vision starts to feel “fake” and stakeholder buy-in starts to wane.  It’s such a let-down from the rah-rah high of just a few days/weeks/months ago.  I know. I’ve been there. 

How can you stop this from happening? How can you prevent your vision/ mission/ dream project from going from forward thinking – to fake – to fizzle?

Here are six ideas that might just be worth a shot:

1) Upcycle Your Team: Even if there are only two or three of you, switch roles from time to time. Let everyone feel valued. Is there a hierarchy or is it a group of equal partners?  Be open about these roles & responsibilities.  If you’re going for equality among all, there should be no secrets or sidebars.

2) Crowdsource The Agenda: If you have meetings (real or virtual), allow the players to set the agenda. Add your own topics, too. Each contributor should write the expected amount of time next to his topic so that an overall timeline for the session can be determined.  Again, this comes down to valuing all the stakeholders.  When members feel like they’re wasting their time and nothing they say matters, they start to feel like it’s all fake.  Remember, everyone’s contributions are welcomed, valued, and given due diligence. (That doesn’t mean they’ll all come to fruition.)

3) Tantalizing Teasers: Always leave a little something fun on the horizon “to be discussed next time”. Ask the team to think about a topic until then, or gather resources, or bring examples & artifacts to share at the next meeting.  This gives everyone not only a feeling of importance, but continues to drive that sense of anticipation and looking forward to what’s coming next.  This is your greatest chance to block the fizzle.

4) Advertise:  I know it seems obvious, but sometimes folks just need a well-crafted reminder at just the right time. Give enough notice but not too much.  Make your invitation/announcement bold, colorful, creative, interesting!  Without a doubt, use all kinds of social media and multimedia to draw ’em back in. The effort you put into ‘advertising’ shows that you’re still 100% all-in, and that goes a long way with stakeholders. (Be extra careful not to forget anybody – that could go a long way, too – in the wrong way!)

5) Outsource: Sometimes, you’ve got to think outside the box, and to do that, you need to GO outside your box.  Go on a site visit to see how someone else does something. Skype or do a Google Hangout with a guru of some sort. Bring in a guest speaker for a fresh new voice.  Maybe a little exposure to a new perspective will be just the impetus needed to but the fire back into your project.

6) Shine a Light On The Elephant in The Room: Don’t hide what’s wrong. Be open about what’s not going well.  Let the other guy (or team, or committee) express what THEY think isn’t working.  It’s okay. Invite suggestions, and live like you have a perpetual fliud action plan!

Bonus: One more idea.  Want to know how they’re all really feeling about your big project, idea, or committee?  Take an anonymous poll. Put it online; nobody ever really felt anonymous on paper.  It’s pretty hard to create a poll or survey that’s unbiased, but that’s what you’ll need to do to get the real truth.  And the truth?  Well, the truth shall set you free to make informed improvements and get your vision back on track. 

              Don’t fizzle.  Sizzle!

Quizzy – Quick & Easy!

First of all, I just like saying Quizzy.  Second, it is THE EASIEST tool I have come across yet for making quick and simple multiple choice quizzes for your students.  By far!  You could literally create one of these while your students get up and wiggle to a GoNoodle for a few minutes…and I’m not kidding.

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The opening screen…just go ahead and create an account.

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You literally just populate this.  Title…question…answer choices.  Add new question if you want.  Attractive AND easy!

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Be sure to put a check next to the answer that is correct…because Quizzy‘s going to score this thing for you when kids finish it!  

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Choose Public or Private from the Quiz Settings on the right (I always choose private) and it just gives you a URL to share with your kiddies.  They go to that URL (site) and have the live quiz on their screens.  Just like that!

Notice the choices on the black bar at the bottom of the screen above.  You can print, trash, or share your quiz.  The printing option lets you choose whether you want to print the quiz or the answer key.

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In case you were wondering, this is what their screen looks like….

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…and this is what they see when they’re all done the quiz.

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As soon as a student hits “submit”, Quizzy grades it for them immediately.  That’s quick!

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This is what your “analytics” look like.  Simple, too.  Maybe not as detailed or complex as some other sites you’ve used, but this is pretty awesome.  I can see that five students took this quiz (okay, it was really just me taking it 5 times) and that the class average was 60%.

Need a quick and easy, super fun and definitely valuable formative assessment tool?  I think Quizzy is a keeper!

New Name, Same Stuff!

Hi old friends!  It was time for a change.   My Primary Techspiration has evolved and earned a new name – Integration Innovation.

Integration Innovation

There are two main reasons for this name change.  First, I’m kind of branding myself.  As I’ve learned and grown and started branching out, I’ve zeroed in on a couple of areas on which to specialize.  My number one – technology integration – is definitely my biggest focus, love, passion, and specialty…and so I needed to readjust this blog title to reflect that expertise.

The second reason I’ve changed the name is due to feedback from many of you.  Over the years, I’ve been contacted by so many people who have asked about the “primary” part of “My Primary Techspiration”.  As an elementary person, I had initially tried to focus on tech things that catered to the needs of primary school teachers.  But, as so many of you pointed out, I was missing an audience and an opportunity, because most of the things I post about are great for every level and every age.  (Yes, I heard you high school teachers who told me that your kids love GoNoodle, too!)  So the type of content and the theme of this blog isn’t changing one bit.  You can still find all of your favorite “tips, tools, and tidbits” here at Integration Innovation!

And so thanks to my own need to specialize and to brand myself, plus your feedback about ‘casting a wider net’ to appeal to educators at all levels, I hereby rename this blog: Integration Innovation.  And I hereby present my cool logo:

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(By the way, my Facebook page name has also become Integration Innovation…how’s that for branding?!?!)  All of my posts from this site are automatically posted to that Facebook page and to my own Twitter page – @kerszi    I hope you’ll follow along!

Voice Typing with Speechnotes

There are many voice-to-text sites that are now available to us, but one of the nicest and easiest I have found to use is Speechnotes.  This blog post will be simple and quick, like the site, because it’s honestly just an intuitive piece of technology.  What a wonderful and simple tool this is!

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Speechnotes is free.  You don’t need an account or a login.  You don’t need to set up student accounts.  You don’t need to download or install anything.  You simply open your Chrome browser, click on the microphone icon, (you may need to “allow access” to microphone if you get a pop-up) and start talking.  Your words appear on the screen in an easy-to-read, distraction-free font.

Along the left side of the screen are a variety of small icons that allow users to do a myriad of things with what they’ve just dictated.  Options include naming, saving, filing, emailing, uploading to Google Drive, or just saving as a .docx file.

On the right side of the screen are simple directions for inserting punctuation.  At the end of a sentence, for example, if you say the word “period”, the program inserts a period.

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Just for fun, I switched the language to Puerto Rican Spanish and tried saying some simple sentences in my best Spanish accent.  Aye caramba…this site even puts in the accent marks and tildes where they’re supposed to be!  This makes it equally wonderfully for your ESL students.  The site supports a pretty amazing variety of different languages.

Speechnotes would be great for young students who have not yet learned to type, students who have difficulty with typing, spelling, or writing, students with motor difficulties, ESL students, and a whole bunch of adults who just love the simplicity and shortcuts that voice typing allows…like me!

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Will you use Speechnotes?  How?  You can share here at kerszi.wordpress.com or find me on Twitter @kerszi.  I also have a Facebook page called My Primary Techspiration where you’ll find this and lots of other great tech tips, tools, & tidbits!