Choice Time: Pre-flection

 

Is “pre-flecting” a word? Like something you do before you do something that would necessitate reflection? Teachers do this all the time, right? Am I losing it, or should this be a thing?choice

As part of our district’s Digital Conversion and Blended Learning Initiative, I have been privy to many a workshop and Skype (excuse me, Zoom) session with the wonderful Marcia Kish. In addition, my connections with the #PersonalizedPD and Teach Like a Pirate (#tlap) movements on Twitter had me doing some hard thinking about why students should do any learning they aren’t interested in. I’m fortunate enough that I teach a course that is about 75% interesting on it’s own, but I often wondered how to convert that last 25% into something really engage my students into making InfoTech class personal.

I’ve been intrigued by idea of Genius Hour for a few years now, but I know what happens when you make things “too” open ended for middle schoolers. Chaos. I’m totally comfortable with chaos (See: picture), but I wasn’t totally sold on how it could work in a class.

chaos
I am the chaos coordinator

In one of our Skype sessions with Marcia Kish she mentioned choice boards as an option for early finishers to keep them engaged. That, combined with this beauty I found on The SuperHERO Teacher’s TPT store and Instagram, gave me a monster of an idea.

Instead of opening up the Wild Wild West of “Computer Lab Free Time” in the lab, I dreamed up 12 different activities that students could really become engaged in as they finished their other class work. My dream is that everyone would complete at least one “project” that would inspire them in some way. Each of these “projects” give a touch of guidance but are still open- ended enough that they could be applied to any variety of interests.

I’m temporarily calling this “Choice Time.” (The name needs a little work still!) I have begun introducing this to my classes, and I’m encouraged by what they are starting to think of!

These are the “Rules” which were presented:

The Rules:

1.Pick something you are passionate about

2.Do something you’re proud of

3.You can accomplish the task any way you want

4.If it’s not working for you- start something new!

5.There’s no prize for doing the most or the least- so work for the prize of your pride!

I posted all of the activities in our Schoology Course as well as on the wall in my classroom.

I built assignments in Schoology where students could submit “artifacts” of their choosing, and it’s my hope that I will build a blog/website to highlight some of these as they start to come in!

I’m excited about the buzz I’m hearing from the kids and others- and I hope to bring you a positive update in a few weeks! Like any new idea, it’s going to take a lot of tweaking and putting procedures in place before I’d consider myself any sort of expert!

If you’re looking for the file I did post it in my TPT store, and my plan is to grow the file as it grows in my classroom! The kids have already given me a few good ideas of things to add! (And I am really hoping my PLN can help me collaborate on a few too!)

Has anyone done any sort of Genius Hour/Choice time in their classes? Does anyone have any advice for me?

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Student Publishers- a Piktochart Collaboration

piktochart

I was asked by a colleague of mine to help her come up with a product to help her students review different topics covered in 6th grade Literacy (writing, grammar, etc.). She had seen other teachers use different web based programs and wondered if we could try something like that. Of course I immediately suggested PowerPoint, because I ❤ it and use it 2945039494 times a day, but she said no, something different. I’m glad she did though, because going through this process it gave some neat insights on the idea of teaching solid transfer skills through Microsoft Office. More on that in a little.

I frantically tried to find the a tool that would be easy to teach but also had the bells and whistles to keep kids’ attention. I looked into Adobe Spark, Easel.ly, and Glogster before finally settling on Piktochart.

Why did I choose Piktochart?

  • flexibility with format- something Spark is not great at (though it’s SO great for other things)
  • reliability- maybe it was the week I chose, but easel.ly and glogster just kept getting glitchy every other time I logged in. I can not, will not, go into a classroom with a tool I am not 100% confident in it’s reliability. If a tool fails you, you have failed your colleague and her kids. Not so good for the EdTech sales pitch.
  • shareability- Is this even a word or did I just make it up? Piktochart allows free users to download their posters into decent quality .png images. Super clutch for sharing and eventually printing.
  • freebie account situation- my colleague and I each set up an account with our school emails and split the classes with which account they used. We never had issues with 25 kids being signed into one account at a time, which is an issue I’ve had before with some web-based tools, and as far as I could tell we never ran out of space. Each kid had a practice poster saved on there as well as their actual project. We probably could have been fine with only one account for the five classes, but I didn’t want kids digging through over 100 files to find theirs each day.

I went into her classes on a Monday facilitate a “playground” day. I call it a “playground” day because it’s a little unstructured, with a little instruction on my part and a lot of time to explore and play on the part of the kids. I have little routines of things I’d like them to create, but I try to leave the time open ended for them to go off and explore on their own. Learning a tech tool should never be hyper-structured, especially for kids. It’s not fun and takes away the creative, innovative side of tech. I liken it to playing on a playground, because no ever told you how to play on a playground, did they? No, you played and you learned more about what you could use all these fun things for through play.

Here’s my checklist for a Piktochart Playground (sidebar for my Tech Coaches: I often print these for the classroom teacher when I push in so that they may feel confident down the road taking these lessons on themselves!)

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I teach/taught all of these students in my InfoTech class, which is very Microsoft Office heavy. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t have to provide too much assistance in Piktochart because so much of what the kids have done in PowerPoint or Word is the same. I like using Office (or Google Docs, if that’s your jam) to give the kids a solid baseline of skills that allows them to confidently take on any future applications. I appreciated hearing kids say things as they played like, “Ugh I want this shape to go behind the text… I wonder if there’s a way to… Oh! There it is!”

The kids each got to choose from a list of topics and make an informational poster that could be hung in a classroom. This is a classic spin on a product that can be applied to absolutely any class or topic. The kids all downloaded a completed image and submitted them to their teacher via our LMS (Schoology).

From there she and our AP (to provide an outside opinion) picked 3-4 posters per class as the best based on neatness, visual appeal, and readability. I had them printed in color on 11×17 cardstock at our district’s print shop and the winning kids got to have a big color copy of their poster and we made a second set to hang in the teacher’s classroom. they add such a personal nice touch and are a great way for the students to leave their legacy with a well-loved teacher!

A Few of our Tops:

 

Have you ever used Piktochart before? What are your favorite desktop publishing tools?

Thanks for partying with me!

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