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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

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. 

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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