Rock On, Risk-takers!

For many of you, the opening of school has been marked in risk-taking, trying new things and operating outside of your comfort zone.  And I have to say, it’s been pretty awesome.  Many of you participated in your first Edcamp or Unconference type professional development.  And while, this style conference doesn’t follow the conventions of a typical conference, it seems that many found it to be valuable and rewarding.  I know I traveled to multiple workshops in the same session and found new learning in each one.  From each of the speakers I found grains of insight, validation, or a bit of inspiration – especially from the student panel.

Yesterday’s Unconference involved a degree of risk-taking on your part as you weigh the cost and benefits of staying in a session if you’re not finding exactly what you came for at a given moment.  There is risk involved too, in sharing your insight and experience, but that’s where the learning occurs for you and your peers – as people add to and clarify what was said, your insight is validated and/or you learn a strategy to further improve your own practice.  While learning along with people who may have limited knowledge isn’t always efficient, it can be most powerful, resulting in strong understanding and leading to new relationships and connections with colleagues around the system.  Thank you for taking those risks yesterday.

Today the Office of Innovative Learning began “Phase One Implementation Visits” and we observed many teachers taking risks and tackling new practices.  In every single classroom we visited, students were using devices or there was a plan to use them at some point in the period.  Use of technology was well thought out and purposeful.  In many classrooms, students were working at their own pace on varied activities.  We even saw a few teachers getting after small group instruction, which was also purposeful and targeted to students’ specific needs.

I can also say that in many classes, there were issues with technology where a student didn’t have a device, couldn’t log on, couldn’t access a specific website, or the device wasn’t working altogether.  And you know what?  It was okay.  No meteor struck the classroom; chaos did not reign.  Teachers made up for lack of technology by having paper copies ready.  Peers assisted classmates with technology and got them back on track.  Teachers balanced troubleshooting technology with facilitating instructional activities, and answering content questions.  It was awesome, not perfect, but awesome.  Rock on, risk-takers!

If you’re looking for some practical ways to use technology to assess students, check out these options from AMLE Magazine:

On-the-Spot Assessment Tools

In this AMLE Magazine article, Ohio district administrator Bryan Drost recommends eight free digital tools to check for understanding and maximize student involvement:

  • Padlet is a virtual wall on which students can express thoughts on a topic. It’s also possible to embed audio and video and have students join a threaded discussion.
  • Recap is a video-based assessment tool that allows teachers to pose a question, have students respond with a short video recorded on a cell phone, and then get feedback.
  • Today’s Meet allows students to engage in live “backchannelling” while a classroom activity or video is taking place.
  • Active Prompt allows teachers to upload any image and ask students a question about it; students move a dot on their device to indicate their answer.
  • Zaption allows teachers to take already-made videos (like a YouTube clip), publish interactive lessons, and track student understanding.
  • Nearpod and Pear Deck and allow teachers to embed interactive assessments into a slide deck and get student responses via their cell phones.
  • Quizlet Live allows students to practice teamwork and communication skills while the teacher checks for understanding.



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