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Welcome to our Site!

the Who, the What, the Why

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

Welcome to our site. This site will document a year long journey for six educators who will be posting their failures, successes, and reflections as they implement methods aimed at streamlining delivery of content and gathering authentic assessments through tech integration. Check in often to read their thoughts and reflections. Hopefully you will be inspired to try something new in your classroom this year! The educators in this year’s cohort are as follows:

This site is intended to provide a platform for a group of middle school educators and one high school media center leader to reflect and share their successes and failures as they embark on a journey to better integrate technology into their daily teaching lives.

With 1 iPad Pro, an Apple pencil, and a 1 to 1 Macbook classroom these educators will collaborate over the course of one school year. These teachers have signed up to take the leap with me to get better, try new methods, and connect with their students on a deeper level as it supports teaching and learning.

We hope that you will check in often to be inspired and learn from these amazing teachers. Our group includes the following teachers from The Ensworth School in Nashville, TN.

  • Trey House ~ Latin Teacher
  • Amy Skillicorn ~ Latin Teacher
  • Jim Mann ~ Math Teacher
  • Ed Caudill ~ Math Teacher
  • Bobby Mirzaie ~ Director of Curriculum and Instruction
  • Courtney Bahr ~ High School Media Center Director

As their facilitator and organizer I can’t wait to see where they arrive at the end of this school year. To read more about me and what I do check out my iBook. It outlines my MakerSpace classroom and how I integrate technology into my life each and every day to connect with kids and provide a space for students to dig deeper into their passions.

You can follow me on Twitter at @jennyktechin

You can follow my Makerspace on Instagram @ensworthmakerspace

Find Your Innovative Mindset Practice

made with Canva

We’ve all heard about a growth mindset vs a fixed mindset. By now we should have a pretty good understanding of the difference between these two concepts. But how can we bring an innovative mindset to our classrooms and why is this important?

Individuals with an innovative mindset are always looking forward and leaving the past in the past. That sounds kind of nice! They are also super creative and collaborative and love the process of making mistakes and trying again. 

Growth mindset individuals also love a challenge and aren’t afraid of failure. They view their own personal talents and intelligence as an ever evolving set of gifts that with practice will grow over time. Consider the research supporting 10,000 hours by Malcom Gladwell necessary to become an expert on a certain skill. 

The largest difference between the two mindsets is the curiosity into what is coming up right around the corner. The future matters to people with an innovative mindset, and we as educators need to set our students up to practice working towards this mindset. 

“But how?” you ask? By following closely the ISTE  standards for students.  ISTE stands for International Society for Technology in Education. These standards provide solid guidelines and a common language for technology integration.  

The following ISTE standards for students can help you move your students toward a more innovative mindset. Each of the standards below are linked to a short YouTube Playlist that demonstrates these standards during implementation. You will notice that student choice is a recurring theme throughout these videos.

The easiest way to increase opportunities for an Innovative Mindset in your classroom is to design lessons that are project based, require collaboration and incorporate student choice. This path will ensure that you are moving in the right direction for our students and their required skills for their future.

The Power of Team Teaching with Yourself

Ever watch what happens when you put a video in front of students? It is magic. The room falls silent. It is what we all want when we are standing in front of our class and giving directions. Being able to show a video that you’ve created captures student attention and can set the stage for ownership of learning. I’ve written about this strategy in the past, and I call it “team teaching with myself”. I’ll create short instructional videos or show an example of what we will be doing together and post it to google classroom. You might be thinking to yourself, “doesn’t that take the place of more personalized connections?”. I have never found this to be the case. Students are amazed that you even know how to make this content. 

six reasons why I love team teaching with myself

  • Videos can be referred to again and again by your students who need extra support or repetitive information. – Especially when organized in your Google Classroom 
  • You can create accurate and reliable content. – You will inevitably make errors when making content and this allows you to get it right before sharing it out.
  • It truly catches your students’ attention by tapping into their visual and auditory learning styles.
  • Videos make the best sub plans when you cannot be there in person.
  • It eliminates repetition for you as the instructor.
  • It streamlines future years of teaching if you already have the content created.

My favorite recording tools are Loom.com and the screen recorder on my iPad. The iPad screen recorder is available in your control center. This way I can record anything I am doing on my iPad. All the videos I create either live in my Loom account online, or I load them to Google Drive and share them through Google Classroom. 

tips for quality videos

  • Keep videos between 2 and 5 minutes. Ideally 3 minutes is the sweet spot. You can always create several shorter videos to create small chunks of information.
  • Be sure there is no weird background noise. Use AirPods or headphones to help your sound quality.
  • Watch your own video from start to finish.
  • Limit talking over text.

Check out this super helpful article from Edutopia.org about making solid instructional videos. If you are interested in creating GIF’s or more creative videos to capture student attention, check out this video from an Apple Creative about using Apple’s Clips app for video creation.

If you want to determine how your students are engaging in your videos use Edpuzzle. Edpuzzle.com is a great tool for taking videos to the next level. It will collect data and it creates a structure for watching videos. Remember that we all have the full edpuzzle accounts if you log in with your google account. 

In the days of post Covid, you might want to put instructional videos behind you. Let’s not forget that students are looking at screens to learn new skills outside of school all the time. They watch TikTok to practice a sport, cook something new, or learn a new hair braid. We can tap into these habits and empower our students to learn new skills at school through our own teacher creative content.

Creativity is Where It’s At

Do you find yourself standing over the copier with your latest worksheet for your students? Do you ask yourself, “Is there a more engaging and creative way to have my students demonstrate their mastery?” If your answer is YES!, then read on. Creativity excites our students to learn, practice risk-taking, support emotional growth, and sets our students up for success in their future lives. Here are 3 ways you can easily increase creativity in your classroom.

  • Have students engage in sketchnoting with iPad and an app like Notability or Explain Everything. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn when you see visually how your students interpret content. Take it one step further by allowing them to add their own audio thoughts to the file. Imagine doing laundry and hearing your students explain long division. You will know right away if they understand the concept or not! Talk about useful information. Remember that you have access to 40 iPads and stylus pens in the Middle School. 
  • Allow students to create a beautiful webpage on a topic they are studying as a formative assessment using Adobe Spark. This site is similar to Canva, but is a slimmed down version. I also love the availability of a report template for student reports, journaling, how-to’s, etc. Let’s seek out opportunities to allow students to use the skills they will need in the real/digital world that they will undoubtedly inhabit in their future professions.
  • Have your class document growth over time by taking one snapshot a day of a work sample, science experiment, or use time lapse videos for projects over time. Being able to document learning in real time is unlike any other data. It allows for multiple learning modalities, reflective practice, and discussion points. If you are uncomfortable allowing students to use an ipad for this there are some amazing apps like One Second Everyday, Apple Clips, BeReal that you could use on your phone and then share the images/videos with your students in class. 

These three ideas are methods that anyone can try out quickly. With a little guidance, most students already have the skills to create beautiful content as well as demonstrate learning using multiple modalities. Remember the key to this success is to be able to share this content back to you. One simple work flow is to have everything saved in either Google Drive or through Google Classroom. If you want an even faster way to have them share what they create there is always Airdrop on mobile devices and laptops. As with everything I share I am here for you to make these ideas come to life. Always reach out! 

https://www.iste.org/explore/5_Reasons_Why_It_Is_More_Important_Than_Ever%20_Teach_Creativity

Five Ways to Leverage Tech for an Awesome Start

Better Your Gmail

Spend a few minutes organizing your inbox and contacts. It goes a long way to have a system in place that allows you to stay organized and on top of all the emails coming and going. Consider using the star method and labels to remember to reply soon when you cannot respond right away. Create folders for content that comes to you repeatedly, like “School Trip”, or use the Schedule Email option for end of day emails to go out. Create a group for your advisory parents so that group communication is efficient when necessary. You can check out more great ideas here from my friend at Ditchthattextbook.com.

Google Classroom

Use Classroom whenever possible. Use it for your advisory group. Add co-teachers as teachers in your classrooms as a way to share content and increase collaboration. “We already have a shared G-folder”, you say? Google Classroom is even better because it creates a timeline of content and our students love the ease and accessibility of it. 

Use new Google Classroom add-ons. There are a host of add-ons that Google has added to Classroom. The most relevant add-ons for us is Edpuzzle, Genially, Nearpod and Formative. You can check out more from Techlearning.com here.

Use Images

Use images to learn more about your students, especially those you advise. I love using iPad for this along with an app like Piccollage or Clips to add text and stickers to their photos. You can then use this any way you like. I have used student images on the cover of my advisory Google Classroom. For this I created a banner in Canva, see below, and added the images that way. It is fun for them to see their photos again at the end of the year. 

Create Beautiful Content

Use Canva to create an “All About Me” poster for our upcoming parent night. If you haven’t used Canva yet to create content, presentations, posters, infographics, etc. it is time to check it out. Educators can receive the full version for free simply by verifying your school email address with Canva. Then the sky is the limit on what you create. Still stuck in Google Slides or Powerpoint? Move on to the beautiful images and layouts in Canva today! 

Trust in a Pandemic

In three short weeks my colleagues and I will be back in the hallways, classrooms, and dining hall of our school. This is a time of year when I typically purge old kitchen items, donate old clothing to Goodwill, and send my kids off to their respective dorm rooms, or college apartments. It is a time of anticipation, excitement, and new beginnings. It has always been one of my favorite times of the year. This year is different in so many ways. In the midst of a global pandemic, (can’t believe I just wrote that), I am finding ways to envision what school will look like and feel like.

Trust is the word that continues to come to mind when I anticipate this upcoming year. I am having to trust not only myself to make wise choices, but I am having to trust in other people’s judgement and actions. It is a vulnerable position and one that I have no control over. I can only control my actions and how I proceed with caution and mindfulness, and the rest will be the test of placing trust in others. Trust that students will wear a mask, trust that procedures will ensure safe traffic patterns, and trust that we can still have a positive learning experience even with tightened protocols.

As someone who has done tech integration for years, I have also built a lot of trust in a handful of tools that I know will make this year possible. And while it appears that I will be teaching in a face to face model, I will be relying on a virtual classroom experience in order to reduce transmission and close proximity to students; a painful decision, but one that must happen.

While I could not show up to school without trusting people, I could also not be an effective educator without my trusted technology tool box. This is my list of must haves for a successful blended learning experience for content delivery and student engagement. Some are specific to my Design Thinking projects as denoted by *, but the others are universal. 

Google Classroom

Edpuzzle

Loom.com

Parlayideas.com

iMovie

Keynote

Piktochart.com

Instagram

Twitter

Flipgrid

Canva.com

bookcreator.com

Tinkercad.com*

Scratch.mit.com*

Cospaces.io*

I’ve worked diligently over the years to support teachers in their efforts to grow and transform how they deliver content to students. The old “sage on the stage” motto has moved to a “guide on the side” model. Pushing educators to embrace opportunities that allow for student choice, student creation, and flipped models of learning have been some of my primary goals. I worry that by placing students in socially distanced rows, and streaming real time lectures to remote students we will inherently return teaching models to years long past. But maybe not. Maybe this is a forced opportunity for us to grow and tap into the technology that has been available to us for years. Maybe we can utilize online platforms and create blended learning environments that still support a “guide on the side” model. Maybe we can provide spaces for student creation, publication, and positive feedback loops. This is my hope. I am trusting that this will happen.

How Being a Maker Builds Strong Communities

On day 15 or our relegated at-home time, the idea of 3d printing files to help build face shields for local medical providers kept coming across my feeds. From email to Facebook to my Twitter feed, it was front and center on my mind. My oldest daughter in the meantime had been connecting with people on Reddit.com and Facebook groups and saw people asking for help with 3d printing. All of this came together quickly as a way that we could help support our community. With four 3D printers sitting in my classroom and a personal one in my home office it was worth an ask to see what we could do to help support groups who were asking for help. 

Ensworth was kind enough to give me the go ahead to begin printing head gear to make face shields for local health care workers. After a field trip to school and loading up the printers and supplies we began printing in my garage on Friday, April 3rd. Health care workers shared the approved files with us and we began printing pretty much around the clock. So far we have printed up to 90 face field parts. 

We’ve had one doctor from General Hospital come and pick them up and the other set is going to a group, The Covid19 Liberators out of Sumner County. It is amazing to see people around Nashville pulling together to print pieces necessary to protect local health care workers. What could have been collecting dust in my empty classroom is now literally saving lives.   

Students have also shared videos of themselves sewing masks. If you are a maker who sews, check out Med Threads Volunteers Nashville Facebook group to help out. They will send you the pattern and you commit to making as many masks as you can. They are happy to get whatever they can to donate to local hospitals. 

Being a maker has truly empowered me, my family, and some of our students during this very challenging time. While we spend lots of hours online working and studying, we’ve found ways to do something for others and I know many of our students are doing the same. If you have a 3D printer or want more information on groups to connect with that need our help, feel free to email me a krzystowczykj@ensworth.com. 

The December Digital Detox

December is the perfect month to spend a little time doing something different, new, or relaxing. Being in front of your screen is none of these things. I will admit to taking some intentional time during December to clean up my digital photos, Google Drive files, or update my contact list. For this post, I want to share with you some resources that will increase your mindfulness as it pertains to your technology usage and practices. 

from

Recently, I attended our local technology conference organized by TAIS. One of the keynote speakers, Pete Dunlap, discussed the importance of mindful practices as it pertains to our use of technology. One of the tips he shared to better our use of mobile devices was to put only the apps that you use every day on the first screen. This has helped me to be less distracted by social media posts, and extraneous content that doesn’t help me function in my daily life. The other quote he shared that has stayed with me is, “In order to get anything done, we must resist the urge to be constantly entertained.” I am reminded of this now when I have the urge to see what is trending on Youtube or to play a mindless game on the app, Two Dots. His book, Digital Detangler, is an excellent read for anyone interested in improving their mindful use of technology. 

I also want to share an episode of a podcast that I listen to often that discusses ways to minimize our time online and reduce screen time. Cal Newport visited the podcast crew at Vrainwaves to talk about his book Digital Minimalism.  He talks about a true digital detox practice. If you have a few minutes in your car, it is worth a listen. I learned a lot from this particular episode. Both of these resources are critical if you are a parent of a tween or teenager.

Lastly, and while this may seem counterintuitive to this post, I cannot recommend enough the app Calm to slow things down for a few minutes. As educators, our lives can feel like a nonstop loop that is difficult to contain. This app is sure to help calm your nervous system and is also entertaining. It is pricey, but so worth the investment in your mental health. 

I hope this gives you some food for thought and some resources that can enrich your upcoming holiday break. As always, if you have questions never hesitate to reach out! 

When Student Choice Leads to Student Voice

This post is written by Trey House, a Middle School Latin teacher, The Ensworth School.

A key theme of ambitious teaching and learning is creating opportunities for students to demonstrate learning on their own terms. At the middle school level, it is important to help students develop the means to use their own voices. One way to do this is to give students the power to choose how to present class content. There are three main benefits to letting go of the reins and allowing students to take control of the end product:

  1. Student Engagement Increases
  2. Student Creativity Increases
  3. Student Feedback and Progress Becomes the Goal, Rather Than a Number

Age appropriate guidelines, resources, and time must be provided to reach these targets.  Recently, 6th grade Latin students engaged in a project built around the idea of student choice. Students were tasked with researching a Roman god or goddess, forming a group, writing a script, and crafting a video presentation on their chosen god or goddess. 

The goals of this project are to empower students to: 

  1. Construct knowledge
  2. Design a delivery system for that knowledge
  3. Communicate that knowledge effectively to an audience of peers

What I love most about this project is the freedom given to students. From the god or goddess that interests them, to their group, to the medium they use for their video, students are the authors of each decision. I have just three guidelines for their videos: 

  1. Educate
  2. Have a Clear Script
  3. Be Understood

Otherwise, students are on their own to show what they know and present that knowledge to their peers. We spent 3 full class periods introducing and creating the project, then another full period watching videos, providing feedback, and reflecting on that feedback. In order to create an environment for students to focus on their work, I laid out 4 steps.

First, I use Padlet as a free resource board with grade level appropriate links on Roman mythology. Students are given time in class to use the links to learn more about Roman mythology. This forms the basis of the content they will share with their audience. 

Next, students form groups of two or three and agree on a mythological topic for their video. They can focus on one god or goddess, explaining who they are, or they can tell a story about the gods. Whatever they choose, they must create a storyboard/script/outline of the story they want to tell. They must spend time brainstorming and visualizing the work they will do before getting to the task. 

After they have had their script approved by the instructor, students then get to choose from a variety of creation tools on their iPads and laptops. Students this year used ToonTastic, Clips, Animatic, and ChatterKids available on the classroom set of iPads. They also used more “old-fashioned” (iMovie trailers on their laptops and the iPad camera) means to create their videos.  

Lastly, students must upload their videos to a single location, in our case, Google Classroom, so we can watch them as a class (LOUD House   Savage, Not Average    #1 Latin Class)

This last step is the reason for the entire project in my mind. The best learning comes from reflection. When we view the work of each group, the other students in class will be providing feedback via a simple rubric. Groups will see the feedback provided by their classmates and reflect on how they could improve their videos for the next time. 

This process allows students to understand how the choices they made (good or bad) impacted the final product and the way their classmates perceive their work. It also forces the viewers to think about what they saw and articulate how they felt about the product. While watching videos before even having a chance to reflect on feedback, several students were already making self-aware comments that recognized what they could have done differently to improve their own work.  

The ultimate goal of student choice projects is to provide experiences for learners that allow them to reflect and grow. They are allowed the autonomy to make decisions and with feedback, they are expected to apply lessons to their next project. Whether in Latin, History, Science, or English class, students will be delivering presentations throughout 6th grade. I am very much excited to help start their growth journey towards becoming empowered communicators of their learning.

“It is not our abilities that show what we truly are, it is our choices.” 

-Albus Dumbledore

How Gaming First Days Set my Students up for Success

Written by Amy Skillicorn ~Middle School Foreign Language Teacher

All summer I was so hesitant to “gamify” 8th grade. I was certain they would find it too cheesy. I committed to gamifying my 6th grade Latin course, and I was open to gamifying 7th grade as well. On the first day, first period I had my 8-01 class. My class with several students who had had me for all three years. I set up stations so that: students always had a task, students felt engaged, and students accomplished 6 concrete tasks independently. One of the tasks was to meet the teacher and bond with me. The first 8th grade student I asked, “what kind of activities do you want to do this year in my class?” He replied “things like this, every day.” I immediately thought “Well now I want to gamify this class too!”

I’ll be honest. The cheesy “letter arriving from Jupiter on Mount Olympus” was not well received by my 6th graders… but it was by my 8th graders! Maybe they find it a different vehicle for rigor compared to their other classes. Maybe they are grasping for something silly to remain as they embark on their hardest academic year so far. Maybe I shouldn’t care why they like it and just roll with it! Gamifying is new territory for me, as well as my students, and the main ways I hope to incorporate technology are:

  • QR codes for instructions as well as scavenger hunts
  • Review videos using ExplainEverything & EdPuzzle
  • iPad projects for students to annotate Latin grammar in videos they make
  • Favorite online games, such as:
    • Quizizz
    • PVP Kahoot (students compete against 1 person, rather than vie to be first)
    • Gimkit
    • Vocab Jam (for our English derivatives)
  • Displaying guided notes & warm-ups through Notability during class
  • Equity Maps in order to trace our translation discussions
  • Online charts of student scores for gamification, which all of the above apply to!

This summer I read a few books about setting up your classroom for success, and one of my favorites was Explore Like a Pirate. The author advocates for student choice, autonomy, and exploration. Inspired by this book, and by a conference led by John Meehan, I turned my first day of school into a series of challenges for my students in teams. Gamifying piqued my interest for multiple reasons: applying game theory to the structure of your classroom engages students and allows the teacher to control differentiation, incentives, and excitement in a new way while students are given more authority over their own learning. My hope for this methodology is that it will allow me to create immersive and experiential learning for a subject that is thousands of years old!

The 6 challenges:

  1. Meet the teacher
  2. Set up & join Google Classroom
  3. Set up & join Quizlet
  4. Put together your binder
  5. Write down 3 class rules you think we should have and why
  6. Write down the strengths of the individuals on your 3-person team 

The technology I employed:

  • Google slides projected onto my front board using my iPad
    • Allowed me to take notes with my laptop
    • YouTube Music app allowed me to still play background music!
  • QR code video of me putting together a binder to watch if they wanted a visual aid
  • Google Classroom signup
  • Quizlet signup

What worked:

  • The sense of urgency
  • Making side-tasks OPTIONAL (students all have different paces!)
  • Filming my 6th grade classes and watching them back the next day to see what cues prompted their attention the most

What didn’t work:

  • I don’t think a single student used my QR code video explanation
  • Quizlet required an account for some students but not for others…
  • Google Classroom required a learning curve of how to create assignments on external websites
Challenges for Students on the First Days