A New Vision For Schools

34480161_10156311877407510_8842592429803569152_o.jpgI had the opportunity to attend an event at the Google offices here in New York City where I got to hear a number of awesome teachers present about helpful tools to guide the Google-centric school and help them make their journey easier with offerings from New Visions for Public Schools. We had a lot of fun playing and learning about tools that have helped other educators. Here’s a, hopefully brief, recap of the information that was shared.


Data-Collection & Progressive Behavior Management

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After brief greetings and getting a VR view of the New Visions office, we began with Jake Miller talking to us about Justin Bieber. More precisely, we learned how Jake has set up a system to monitor and track student tech behavior issues. This is right up my alley as we have utilized similar data tracking systems. Not only does it let you log any issues to maintain a record so you’re not wasting time with minor infractions that don’t need addressing, but you can also dig into the data to discover what times or instigating factors may be leading to the most problematic behavior issues.

Screen Shot 2018-07-17 at 8.10.24 PM.pngIn Jake’s system, the initial offense receives no action and the data shows it doesn’t usually need any. Subsequent offenses trigger an event that sets up a Google form to be filled out and uses FormMule to notify the detention monitor and autoCrat gives a message to the office to go in the Bieber’s file. Automating the process saves a ton of time an energy on filling out forms and makes it easier to digitally track if it is effective. The form will also notify the teacher/principal if the student attended their detention. After a 3rd offense, it leads to a parent contact and, if necessary, the 4th contact will bring in the tech coach, Mr. Miller.

Mr. Miller can then implement restrictions to Justin’s Chromebook so he’s logistically prevented from engaging in the negative tech behavior (i.e. visiting inappropriate sites). Justen must then demonstrate a knowledge of appropriate digital citizenship that ends with and EdPuzzle video quiz to have full access restored. According to the data, it seems to be rather effective.

Hack the Math Regents with Data Visualization

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I don’t plan on discussing this one much, because I found the direction and function problematic, but John DeJesus shared how he had learned Python and integrated with Tableau software to create a platform to track the types of questions and their strands that were covered on the geometry Regents exams in the way they had previously tracked ELA regents topics. Much of it seemed ineffective as the topics were somewhat random across years and broadly spread. Secondly, at best the app looks only to make instructors more effective at “teaching to the test” which I find to not be a worthwhile goal. Your efficiency at knowing a prepping a student better for one strand of a test that you anticipate over another will in no way prepare them better for life or instruct them in the 21st-century skills needed for success. My two cents.

A Boy and His Laptop

Screen Shot 2018-07-17 at 8.47.56 PM.pngThis was a particularly broad and thoughtful session led by Robert Pino about integrating a 1:1 model in a high needs High School setting. I’ve discussed the challenges of implementing technology in schools in the past and the 16 keys to successful integration. Robert discussed many of the roadblocks most schools will face including money, training, student engagement, and teacher buy-in.


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Money becomes an issue because there is a limited amount and it can be a challenge convincing administrators to spend. Procuring grants can help, but Robert suggests coming up with a formal proposal using valid stats and specific details about the request totals. This effort can demonstrate to the admin how serious you are about implementation. Just keep in mind that what you buy should not be the first question you ask.


The second major struggle is getting teacher buy-in which is why you should start with an inspirational ideal of where they can take their students and how the tools can more efficiently and easily get them there. You can start by modeling the first steps and encouraging universal design and project-based learning models, but many teachers are reticent to make major structural changes. And even those who do will likely give up when they encounter early obstacles and challenges. It’s better to start small. Demonstrating how teachers they can save time is usually a hit with teachers.


Then you have to get down to training.  It will take time and ongoing professional development for teachers to fully embrace and feel comfortable with utilizing the technology in the classroom. Start with your early adopters. Just persist knowing that converting a few teachers will allow them to train and encourage others. If there aren’t dedicated trainers and coaches, a school can make utilize Pineapple Charts to make the most of the skills of their current staff. As for training students and maintaining focus, you can make use of online training like those offered by Google. Then tools like those shown by Jake Miller can keep students on task.

The key to all of it is the focus of your integration program. We need to recognize the importance of integrating technology into modern but not automatically make it the focus of that teaching or of our purchases. We should use the technology to turn our students into creative critical thinkers. Robert said, “if we aren’t teaching kids with tech we are failing them.” I would add if we aren’t teaching them to understand technology and how it can be used to positively impact their lives and society, we are failing them and our future.

We need technology in every classroom and in every student and teacher’s hand, because it is the pen and paper of our time, and it is the lens through which we experience much of our world.

-David Warlick – Author and programmer

Get Out of the Silo

Screen Shot 2018-07-17 at 9.59.37 PM.pngJen Giffen advocates that educators get comfortable stepping out of their comfort zones and learning new skills from new people. We need to get out of our classrooms and little learning silos where we place ourselves into the open where we have access to new information and strategies.

For Jen, that was learning how to code and create tools that would benefit her work as a teacher. She turned to another teacher who had made that effort before, Alice Keeler, who offers training courses for teachers to learn about technology tools. After learning at her own pace, Jen was able to implement some of what she had learned by writing some scripts for Google tools.

She also made use of Autocrat and Doctopus but she used other New Vision’s tools as well. She utilized DocAppender to filter feedback into student assignments. She also utilized Copydown to apply formulas to student responses utilizing the Google Forms she had created. After creating more advanced configuration tools she even shared them using Empowr. If you want access to her Make Those Docs script for naming documents for students, check out her post which is based on some of Alice Keeler’s scripts. Check out Jen’s ISTE Ignite Session or her blog for more of her awesome messages.

Drowning in Grading

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Jessica Taylor is an actress turned educator because she was moved after September 11th to reevaluate her life and moved towards serving students. The biggest struggle for her was time management when dealing with grading student assignments. Jessica happened upon 3 tools to help her in that process. First and foremost is Google Classroom which helps her organize and coordinate assignments. Then she utilizes Doctopus to bring all the work into an easily manageable spreadsheet.

She can then use Goobric to create rubrics, grade, and track scores of the student assignments easily in collaboration with the other 2 tools. So as she opens assignments and creates personalized feedback easily for student writing. The time saver is that teachers can have a pre-made feedback sheet so that you can quickly access the any of the feedback you’d hope to give to students. You can then track if students continue to struggle with the same issue or if that is something common amongst many students. It has saved her hours, allows for differentiation, provides real-time feedback, and allows regular access to the information for students and parents.

Creating Student Ownership Of Growth

Laura Smykla also utilizes Goobric, but hers was a different instructional goal. She wants students to exhibit self-assessment. Students install the Goobric for students extension so they can view the rubric for what’s expected as well as peer assess. One of the best ways to improve your writing is to see the mistakes and successes in the writing of others. It’s also a good way for them to focus on the feedback rather than a final grade.

Read It, Build It, Felt It

Adam Kinory got deep into the weeds waxing rhapsodic about how virtual and augmented reality can be used to examine words. It was an incredibly metacognitive experience as we pondered what it would be to venture into and look around the words we use in a virtual space using tools like ThingLink. Or maybe it just sounds like PBS’s Word World. Either way, using mixed reality in the classroom can have a dramatic impact on student understanding, engagement, and collaboration (in AR).

How to Avoid Being PowerPointless

I really enjoyed Elizabeth Shaddock’s efforts to show teachers how to avoid meaningless presentations. It reminded me of the Death By Powerpoint bit. We don’t remember text and only remember what we hear slightly more. What we see is impactful though. Keep everything simple and legible and it will be more meaningful for your audience (says the guy who just typed a long-winded blog post).

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