Tech Tuesday #5: How to Choose the Best Content Delivery Tools for Your Classroom

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Content delivery is not what it used to be. I think of the teachers in both Ferris Bueller and Charlie Brown’s classrooms–monotone, dull, and definitely not engaging anyone. It would certainly be easier if we could be like those teachers. In this modern age, we still want our students to learn, and it just simply takes more to engage them. In today’s episode, for which you can see the video at the bottom of this post, I want to share my favorite strategies and tools for content delivery. We are continuing our series on connecting pedagogy with technology. Remember that it’s not just any tool you’re choosing for your students. It has to be a tool that’s a good fit for both what you’re wanting to accomplish academically and what your particular students need.
What features should you find in a content delivery tool? I have four of them I’d like to share with you.

Features to Find

Number one. As I mentioned in my post on assessment tools last week, you want a content delivery tool that is device-agnostic or unnecessary. Even if you’re in a one-to-one school, there will be many days when a student’s device is in the shop for repair. That means that they either have no device or they have a phone in their pocket to substitute for the original. You have to have a tool that can deal with all of that.

Number two. As I mentioned before, you need content delivery that is engaging for students. What we used to think was engaging is no longer the case. I remember when I first started student teaching that foldables were all the rage. And the mentor teacher that I taught with had kids glue everything in their notebooks. She was interactive notebook before that was cool 🙂 With the tools I’m going to discuss below, you will find that engagement element. But let me also say that what engages today may not work tomorrow. We should not make our students feel like they’re at a dog-and-pony show, certainly–that we have to have a new tool to entertain them with each lesson. But it does help to have several good and reliable tools in our toolboxes, so I’m going to show you four favorites in the video below.

Number three. Remember the 10 and 2 rule. In my former life, I was the Learning Focused Schools trainer for my middle school. One of the best things I got out of that training was this rule. You should always teach for 10 minutes and then have students apply or respond for 2 minutes. Lecturing for a 45-minute period with no time for student response just is not going to be functional.

Finally, when looking for a content delivery tech tool, make sure that it looks good and is big enough on any screen where it might need to be seen. I’m talking about responsive design. Tools like Sway that I’m going to show you tonight are made to look great on any screen from handheld phones all the way up to a giant interactive whiteboard. They maintain their perspective and aspect ratios, and kids aren’t distracted by something that looks wonky on the screen.

Tools I Recommend

In the video below, tune in to an episode of Facebook Live where I share four of my favorite tools:

  • OneNote,
  • Office Mix,
  • Sway, and
  • Nearpod.

I’m going to give you a tour of each and tell you about the best features that make them fabulous for Content Delivery. PowerPoint might have been cool when it first came out, but it’s even cooler now. Check out the video to see what I mean.

A Final Word

Finally, remember that strong content delivery is not just about using technology all the time. Everyone, including the teacher, needs a break from screen time. It’s finding that perfect blend between phone-or-laptop-focused and hands-on interactive. People are still the key, and that means the teacher is the hub of the classroom. That’s why it’s so important for you, the teacher, to have your content delivery arsenal armed with the right tools to pull out when your students need them most.

Which of the tools is your favorite? Which would you add to my list? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below, and if this post helped you to engage students in your classroom, I’d love to hear that for sure.

With tech and twang,

Suzy Signature Pink

Tech Tuesday #4: Using Good Pedagogy to Choose Effective Assessment Tools

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I want to begin a series on the pedagogy behind the tools. I work with a lot of teachers who go to conferences and return excited about great tools. As a matter of fact, when I work with them in their classrooms, they love anything I can show them that’s practical. However, and we’ve all done it, they often miss the most important thing, which is student learning. Pedagogy and best practice are how we do what we do. As much as we think certain tools are fun, the engagement factor will never be for students what it is for us, because we come from the digital immigrant generation. That’s why our assessment tools can’t only be chosen based on what’s newest and shiniest. So with this series, I want to delve into different categories of technology tools and how you can make a good choice for which ones will be incorporated into your classroom.

Assessment Tools: Seven Features to Find

Let’s start by talking about assessment tools. As much as we often think we hate assessment, it is what gives us that cold, hard data that we can use to make informed decisions about future teaching plans. In an assessment tool, these are the features you should try to find:
  1. Auto grading. You want something that is going to take some of the grading load off your plate. Trust me, I was an English teacher. I often rewarded myself with cleaning or working out, both of which I hate, as a result of accomplishing the grading of just two essays. Thus, if I’m going to look for a tool, I want it to do some of my grading for me.
  2. Multiple types of questions. There are some things I machine just can’t grade. For those, I want to make sure that I have robust choices for what data comes back to me. In addition to auto-graded features such as true/false, multiple choice, or drag-and-drop, I want a feature that allows students to respond to a prompt of my choice and that I can grade, preferably with a rubric.
  3. Exportable assessments and data. Thirdly, I want data that I can take anywhere I want it to go, even after I move on from a certain product. As much as I used to love Quia, the only thing that is exportable is their data. Quizzes I built there I can’t load anywhere else. I’m forced to start over. Plus, I want data, preferably in Excel form, that I can take and manipulate and load into other systems. Many modern tools provide that, and it’s definitely a feature I would look for before making a commitment to a tool.
  4. With that data should come easy reports. One of the tools I discuss in the video below is a favorite for assessment because of the beautiful pie charts it creates. I love to read. That’s why I taught English. However, when it comes to data, I want visual, differentiated reports. So that’s another item you should look for when you are trying to find an assessment tool.
  5. Included Survey Tool. Next, with assessment comes surveying as well. I like a tool that will allow me to do formative feedback in the form of surveys, not just graded or summative quizzes. I don’t want kids to think my “cool tools” are really just a mask for punitive, serious grading, at least not all the time, and as any education grad student knows, much of our data is qualitative.
  6. Price Plus Privacy. Next comes a conundrum. I like free tools. After all, I’m a teacher with a limited paycheck. However, I also care if the tool mines student data. I’m linking here to Common Sense Education’s new initiative on vetting different educational technology companies for privacy. As you’re considering a tool, consider the cost, but not just in monetary reasons: also consider the cost to your students’ privacy. Never use a tool that gives away so much you wouldn’t want your own children to use it.
  7. Finally, and I will use this factor for a lot of the tools I share, make sure the tool you pick is device-agnostic or device-unnecessary. You have some students with smartphones or the latest affordable tablet from Walmart. You might be in a one-to-one Chromebook or Surface school or have iPads. Whatever the device the student has, you want to make sure the assessment tool works on all of those student technologies. Especially if you’re going to invest money or have your school do the same, please do a thorough trial with different devices that your students may bring to school, to ensure that they work with your integral tools.

Suzy’s Favorite Assessment Tools

The video at the bottom of this page comes from a Facebook live session that I do every Tuesday. I call it Tech Tuesday and it happens at 8 p.m. on my Facebook page, linked here. The tools I’m covering in this video for assessment include some of my favorites, which are:
  • Microsoft Forms
  • Kahoot
  • Quizizz
  • Socrative
  • Plickers
  • the Canvas Quiz builder 
I’m not going to repeat all that I say in the video about each one, so you’ll have to tune in;) Click Play to watch.
Here’s how the tools in the video stack up on the features I mentioned:
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More To Think About

Let me leave you with these final thoughts when it comes to choosing an assessment tool. Although many of us were raised in a generation when the teacher didn’t even know what formative assessment was, we definitely do. As you’re choosing a tool, make sure that it’s casual enough to allow students not to feel stressed out when you’re doing an informal assessment but then robust enough to give great data when you’re doing a summative.
Also, to curb the cheating concern on devices, here’s a little trick I used to use. I bought lots of resources for my 11th grade classroom from Laura Randazzo. One of her ideas that I thought was very helpful was the one-question quizzer. I’d love to hear how you adapt this for your classroom, but in the literature classroom, I would ask one assessment question from the chapter students read the night before. Students had an according number of minutes to answer it…usually two or three. They knew it or they didn’t, and they didn’t have time to cheat. It worked really well, and if my students were cheating, they were doing a terrible job of it 🙂 I definitely knew who the readers were.
Also, if you are going to be quizzing on school provided devices, have students put their phones face down on their desks or in phone jail. It’s not that phones aren’t amazing tools. As a matter of fact, I tell you several ways they are used in this post.  But allowing students to use two devices during a test or quiz is just asking for trouble.
Finally, if you’re going to do some of the short answer grading that I mentioned in the first section, make sure to show students the rubric. In tools such as Canvas Quiz Builder, you can attach the rubric right there. If you don’t use such an LMS, maybe you want to provide a paper copy of the rubric or a link to it. Letting students see the grading criteria is a great idea if you want better answers.
 
I hope these tips help you choose a better assessment tool. After all, there are so many flashy tools out there that I I’m sure have not even named half of them. As a matter of fact, here’s what I’d like you to do in the comments below:
  1. Please share your favorite tool. It could be one I listed or not. Tell why you like it.
  2. Also, share an idea with our readers about how you choose assessment tools or manage them in your classroom.

I would love to hear from you!

With tech and twang, 

Missed the other episodes?

Check them out here:

Tech Tuesday #1: Visual Goal-Setting with Sway

Tech Tuesday #2: Creating an Excel Habit Tracker

Tech Tuesday #3: Classflow, a Device-Agnostic Tool for Lesson Delivery

Tech Tuesday #2: Creating and Using a Habit Tracker to Reach Our Goals

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Hey Friends,
I’m so glad that we’re together again for another Tech Tuesday. This is, in fact, the second Tech Tuesday. I hope you were able to tune into Facebook Live this week, but if not, you might have missed the fact that last week we talked about how we could make our goals visual and more compelling, so would be we would be more likely to do them. We used a free tool called Sway. I walked you through the process for creating a Sway and adding great visual content automatically. So if you did miss that, I invite you to go back and check it out.
But onward and upward as they say! This week, I want to break down the process for creating and embedding a habit tracker into your Sway. By having the tracker alongside your goals, you can see if you’re actually meeting them. Now I know it’s you holding yourself accountable, but there’s something about seeing and writing our goals that helps us to be a little more motivated.
In that vein, let’s talk about four reasons why you might want to track your habits:
Number one: I don’t know about you, but I’m still a sticker girl. Yes, I mean literal stickers like you got when you were a child. The “gold star” method, you might say. For some reason, stickers motivate me. As a matter of fact, last time I was trying to meet my exercise goals, I was in love with them. Every time I did physical activity for thirty minutes, I would give myself a sticker. It’s always fun to see if we have a streak going, and stickers make that streak more colorful and exciting.
Reason number two. We don’t know what we don’t track. I know that in the education world, people say that testing students is overdone, and I’m sure that’s the case. However, measurement also helps us to know what we know. If we write down and track what we’ve accomplished, we have a record of it so that we know it now and we know it later.
Reason number 3 is that there’s a problem if there’s a habit we never do. First of all, I guess we really couldn’t call it a habit at that point, right? But if there’s something on our tracker that is never getting done, we need one of two things: we need either an intervention or we need to move on. We might need someone to step alongside us and help us do that habit, especially if it’s one that’s important to our health and well-being. Or, the “undone-ness” might be a wake-up call that we have been a little unrealistic with ourselves and need to abandon that habit in favor of one we might actually do. Looking at a blank box we never attend to is going to just lead to discouragement anyway, so we might as well re-frame what we’re doing.
The fourth and best reason that we need to track our habits is to get results. Maybe we’ve been using stickers or an online tracker as a dangling carrot, but if we think about it, the completion of the list is not the result. The new habit and the better lifestyle are the results. So if we really want to meet our goals, we definitely need to track them.
My Habits
Let me give you a few of the habits I plan to track this year. If nothing else, they will at least make you laugh about how your habits are so much more serious than mine 🙂 I have a sweet tea addiction. The problem is that every time I drink it, I start to feel anxious and I get a headache. But it’s so good. It’s the South’s version of the nectar of the gods, you might say. So every time I know I shouldn’t have it (especially if the meal includes a free drink, hello!), I still struggle and have it anyway. So that’s why one of my habits I want to develop this year is avoiding sweet tea.
Along with that, I want to avoid desserts and potatoes. I could eat a potato any way you make it, except sweet. (Isn’t that ironic but I like sweet tea and desserts but not sweet potatoes? Probably because they’re too healthy for me.) Anyway, I was not a dessert person until I met my husband, but now I feel like I have to have a little something sweet every time I have something salty. You see the issue. Thus…two more habits.
I definitely need to move more because of all this food that I love, so I’m making a small goal for myself in hopes that I will keep walking longer. I wrote it down as walking 10 minutes a day. My thought is that once I get halfway around the block in that ten minutes, I won’t just sit down in the road, but I will continue walking, ha ha.
Next, I want to drink enough water every day. My currently-chapped lips are just one sign of the fact that I live perpetually dehydrated. As a matter of fact, my husband Dusty once said he would call the cops on me for attempted suicide by dehydration. I replied that many teachers don’t get to drink water because they never have time to…well, you know.
Finally, I really need to buckle down and make sure I’m spending time with the Lord every day. That includes reading my Bible and praying, but I’m an intense kind of person when it matters. I don’t just want the little check off that I read five minutes. Or I threw some words God’s way. I want to really encounter Him every day. And if it takes me writing that down on the list to do it, I’m going to do what I have to do.
Creating Your Habit Tracker
So what about you? Do you have certain goals you’d like to track? Well if you do, I have good news. If you will watch my video below, you will learn how Excel online, a free tool, can be your perfect accountability partner. We will use conditional formatting, which is just a fancy way of saying that we will turn some of the cells green when we do them, and optionally, you can turn the ones red that you don’t do. The process is really easy, and you can have the whole sheet set up in ten minutes or less. What a great, quick accomplishment! So if you’d like to know how to do that, how to access your habit tracker on your phone, and even embed this habit tracker into a visual goal sheet on Sway, just click to play below.
 As always, I want to hear from you. It gets kind of lonely on the blog when I don’t know if anyone’s reading what I write. And the writing is kind of witty if I do say so myself 🙂 So do me a favor–leave a comment below if you’ve created and used the habit tracker. Even better, why don’t you share a link to yours so I can brag on you and be proud?
With Tech and Twang,
Suzy Signature Pink