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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

Lesson Planning with OpenAI

This is the third installment of how educators can use OpenAI to their benefit. You can check out previous posts here and here. This post is all about how you can use OpenAI for lesson planning and for creating supplemental materials.

Using OpenAI’s Chat GPT tool can help in creating new or improved lesson plans. You can type in the search query something like, “Give me a 45 minute lesson on how to teach perspective in writing for 6th graders.” This is a lot faster than scouring the web looking for a trusted source or youtube video. Think of the time involved in traditional lesson planning. Now, I know what you are thinking. Is it even a decent lesson? It will be decent enough that you can take what it spits out, tweak it with solid pedagogy, and go from there. It is faster and more efficient than older models. 

Consider also creating supplemental materials to go alongside existing lessons. Mrs. Ruf, a Language Arts teacher, was able to create a simple vocabulary quiz. She had a list of vocabulary words for her 8th grade classes and wanted to create fill-in-the-blank sentences for her quiz. This task could have taken her upwards of 45 minutes to an hour to complete. Making sure to include enough of a context clue that students could figure it out, but not so much that it completely gave it away- this requires some brain power! She realized that ChatGPT could probably help get her started and eliminate much of the work. She put in the prompt, “Write sentences for the following words…” and included the list of words separated by commas. The result was ok, but many of the sentences lacked enough context to function as fill-in-the-blank sentences. She gave it a bit of feedback by adding, “include context clues in the sentences”. This time the results were nearly perfect! Only a couple of sentences needed revision. What could have taken an hour ended up only taking about 10 minutes.

Here are three tips for getting useable lesson plans or supplemental materials.

Ask very specific questions with clear parameters. The more detail inputted, the better results outputted.

Ask for what type of lessons you’d like. For example, you could ask it to give you some ideas for a project based learning activity on a particular topic.

Consider solid pedagogy when using what it gives you. For example, you may discover that it gives you solid outlines of the lessons but it might not be interactive enough for your teaching style. Feel free to ramp up whatever it gives you and go from there.

I’d encourage you to consider the time consuming tasks of being a teacher and discover if Chat GPT could be your new assistant. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take having a smart assistant any day! Please share with me how you are using Chat GPT so we can discuss this further. Thank  you to Mrs. Ruf for contributing to this post! The image above was created using Dall-E2 at OpenAI.com using the criteria “abstract painting of artificial intelligence”.

Bye-Bye Google Search ~ OpenAI is My New Search Engine

Image generated at OpenAI

I had so many titles for this post from “ChatGPT, my New Best Friend for Lesson Planning”, to “ChatGPT OpenAI, How Can We Harness AI Power for Good?”, and ChatGPT, My New Search Engine for Learning About EVERYTHING”, to “ How to Create Better Brainstorming Sessions with ChatGPT”. The list goes on, because it is literally an endless bucket of knowledge. I have very few moments when I think, “This will change everything!” That is exactly what happened to me when I really started digging into this tool. I have done a previous post here about creating images using OpenAI. The image above of the tiger on a laptop was generated at OpenAI using Dall-E2. But this particular language-based AI, ChatGPT, is truly revolutionary. Students are already using this tool so it is critical that we get in that sandbox with them.

The next few posts will break down how you can harness this incredible new Artificial Intelligence for good, learning opportunities, curriculum support, and more. 

But first, what is Artificial Intelligence and who is making it? The GPT part of the name of this AI stands for Generative Pre-training Transformer. According to the ChatGPT openAI, website AI is this:

 “Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think and learn. The goal of AI research is to create technology that can perform tasks that would normally require human intelligence, such as understanding natural language, recognizing images, and making decisions. AI can be classified into two broad categories: weak AI, which is designed to perform specific tasks, and strong AI, which has the ability to perform any intellectual task that a human can. Examples of AI include self-driving cars, voice recognition systems, and personal assistants like Siri and Alexa.” (Jan 13, 2023)

So then I asked OpenAI if the ChatGPT tool is a weak AI or a strong AI and this is what it spit out:

“OpenAI is a research organization that specializes in developing and promoting friendly AI. They develop and use advanced machine learning techniques such as deep learning, to build models that can perform a wide range of tasks, such as natural language processing, computer vision, and robotics. These models are considered to be examples of “strong AI” because they can perform a wide range of tasks, and they have the potential to be general-purpose intelligent agents that can autonomously perform any intellectual task that a human can. OpenAI’s models are general-purpose and trained on a diverse range of tasks and can be fine-tuned for specific tasks, which makes them strong AI.”

Let’s start with the most obvious and easiest way to use this platform; a search engine. The ChatGPT spits out accurate and synthesized, up to date information as opposed to information driven by Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. I don’t think I will ever use a google search engine again. OpenAI is even polite in its information. It apologizes for not having the most up to date information. That just means that no one has updated its brain today on that particular content. You feel like you are having a conversation with an expert on any topic. The results still provides factual information helpful to bridging gaps in content for students and for you as the instructor. 

Think of a question that you or a student might be curious about related to what you teach and enter it into the chat to see what it spits out. You will be amazed. The better quality of questioning will ultimately drive the quality of the responses. You could do an entire lesson on good questioning practices with students. Like, what is an open-ended, unbiased questions? Or, create questions that are specific, relevant, and clear.

I love the ability to ask it questions, get thorough answers, and it even keeps a tab on the “conversations” you have had with the AI. I asked the question, “How can I inspire more teachers to use technology?”, thinking that this is probably just an opinion based question. It actually spit out 10 different solid methods for achieving this goal. And you know what? I agreed with the answers!

It is true that there are some slippery slopes with every new technology but just for a moment, imagine how this new open source technology an help you as an educator and a mentor to your students. OpenAI is here to stay and it is only going to become more commonplace in education. Let’s find creative and curious ways to use it instead of trying to block it or hide from it.

How AI Can Enhance Learning Opportunities for Students

Artificial Intelligence is now embedded into our daily lives in ways that we do not even realize. AI is built into our smartphones, cars, and online experiences. AI is having a moment in the creative space now as well. A platform called DALL-E 2 is now a free open-source image generator site. DALL-E 2’s algorithm is created in a way so that hate images are prohibited. In essence, the programmers never taught the algorithm to recognize hate speech, racial slurs, and or key words linked to harmful images. Thus making it safe for students to use. I had my students consider how coding requires a moral responsibility to the world and then we dug in and created some super cool images based on the word combinations they came up with. Students had to have clear nouns, adjectives, adverbs and also explore different visual styles, such as realism, water color, cartoon, and even styles using Van Gogh. Here are some examples of what we were able to have DALL-E 2 generate for us.

The elephant image had these words as input; “an elephant wearing a crown in the ocean”, and the tiger input was “a tiger riding a skateboard with the style of Van Gogh”. The pig used the statement “a pig on a rollercoaster” for the input. These images are super cool because they are one of a kind and student imagination is the only barrier. You can also upload student artwork and modify it in the style of other famous artists. 

As I explored this site it occurred to me that there might be some ways to include this into our existing curriculum in a quick and seamless way. For the arts, students can visualize their completed artwork in a variety of artistic styles. DALL-E 2 will also transform an image using its algorithm or finish the surrounding space of an image. 

I also thought that using DALL-E 2 might be a great way to make student thinking more visual. Images can be downloaded and used for digital sketchnoting. Another curriculum connection might be teaching parts of speech and the importance of using descriptive language in writing. 

Users must be 18 years or older so this would be best suited as a whole group activity with you, the teacher, inputting their words and then sharing the images with them either with email, G- Classroom or Apple Airdrop.

You can learn more by listening to this podcast with the creator of DALL-E 2 from the New York Times.

You have a full subscription to the NY Times as an Ensworth employee. Want more information? Reach out to me any time!

How One Language Arts Teacher used Social Media Profiles for Character Development

A Teacher Feature

images by 8th grader C. Williams

Students in Mrs. Ruf’s 8th grade classes read The Outsiders. Being a character-driven story with characters not much older than eighth-graders, this was the perfect opportunity for them to take a deep dive into character study. They examined character motivations, changes, effects of characters on other characters, and ultimately how they impacted the overall theme of the story.

Mrs. Ruf challenged her students to create social media profiles and posts to retell parts of the story and to demonstrate their understanding of the main characters. Students used a variety of tools from Google Drawings to Canva.com

Mrs. Ruf shares her story and experience with this integrated activity.

I knew I wanted students to do some deep literary analysis with The Outsiders, but they were growing weary of writing essay after essay. I also knew I had some incredibly talented and creative students. I am not the most talented graphic designer, and tools like Canva often overwhelm me. I was not sure exactly how this would play out. I toyed with the idea of creating templates and asking students to use those, but ultimately decided to leave the creative choices up to them. I set some requirements for what they needed to include (photos, screen names, bio statements, captions, etc.). Then, I got out of their way. What they were able to create was astounding! Even better, I was able to listen in to their conversations as they made choices about what profile picture Ponyboy would choose or who might be “following” Cherry Valance on Instagram. The level of thinking and analysis required was at least as high as what an essay would have required and they didn’t have the pressure of writing a huge paper.

My 8th-graders loved this assignment. I was able to see a different side of them as they came into class truly excited to show off what they had created. For my students who do not necessarily excel in writing, I was able to get a much clearer picture of their comprehension and analysis skills as well. As adults, it’s easy to see social media as a negative, but it is a reality and it isn’t going away. Embracing it in a safe way allowed me to harness student creativity and give them some autonomy in the classroom, ultimately deepening their understanding of our anchor text. Stepping out of my comfort zone with a project like this was intimidating, but the payoff was worth it in the end.

Mrs. Ruf used Padlet as a place for students to post their creations. You can see some examples of what students created here

Kudos to Mrs. Ruf for deviating from the norm, for taking a small creative risk with her students and for being brave enough to get out of their way and let creativity happen. The beauty of this lesson is apparent. Students reached learning goals and were able to show their comprehension in a relative way. Need some standards to support this type of activity? Look no further than ISTE standard 1.1 and 1.2. Finding ways to engage our students with relevant technology is always a win!

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.