“Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is most important.” —Bill Gates

Friday, November 18, 2016

Easy-to-Use Feedback Tools

There are multiple ways in which teachers can digitally gather feedback from students. There are Polls and Assessments in PowerLearning, Forms and Comments in Google, Socrative, etc.  However, what if your students don't have a Google account or don't have a device? Let's take a look at two easy-to-use feedback tools that are designed for schools and are hassle-free. Students from any grade level can participate!

Kahoot.  This is a very popular and fun feedback tool that kids love. Once you create a learning game, all the students need is a code to get started. Responding to Kahoot works on any device. To create a quiz, go to https://getkahoot.com/ To answer a quiz and enter a code, go to https://kahoot.it/#/ 

Plickers. (paper clickers) It's a real-time assessment tool that let's you poll your class without the need for student devices. Only the teacher needs to have a mobile device to scan the card that each student holds up. The scanning feature can also be used offline, so it's great to continue gathering feedback outside the classroom or school. It's easy to set-up and students don't need to do anything, only the teacher needs to create an account in a very simple way. Click here for a video that explains in detail the whole process of using Plickers.

Collect many student responses in one single scanning!


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Easy-to-Use Collaboration Tools

How would students' learning change if they could work with each other? Online?

ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) has identified the standards for students that promote the development of skills necessary to for a successful future. Throughout the years, the standards have varied, however the skills of communication and collaboration have been constantly present. As we're planning to provide opportunities for our students to engage in authentic forms of collaboration you might have come across a variety of digital tools. When selecting them, ask yourselves: Does it promote communication? Does it allow sharing a document or file? Is it easy to learn and use?

There are a number of tools designed for online collaboration. In my opinion, one of the best and most complete is Google Apps. However, students need to have a Google account in order to create and fully make use of it's features. But don't let that discourage you because included here are two collaboration tools for you to explore and try out with your own students.

TitanPad - Students can type on the same document simultaneously, no sign-up required. (Make sure to check the deletion policy.)

Twiddla - Kids can draw on the same canvas simultaneously, no sign-up required.

Uses in Education: You might want to try these tools especially if your students do not have a Google Account yet. Students can collaboratively create a story, engage in a discussion, develop a graphic organizer, and more. All anyone needs is the link to the document. The best part, it works just the same on an iPad. If you have younger kids, you may want to create QR codes to easily access the links.

Give them a try! You won't believe how easy they are to use!


This article was also published in ASFMLearns.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Future is Here!

One of the first Ted Talks I remember watching was “Meet the SixthSense interaction” around February, 2009. In this talk Pattie Maes and Pranav Mistry demonstrated a prototype of a project they were working on at the MIT Media Lab. This device would allow you to interact with information that was right in front of you and integrate it to your reality, "making the world your computer". They called it SixthSense. Whoa! I thought it was far beyond amazing! 

Back in 2009, I was the Tech teacher for grade 5 students. We used to spend part of the class discussing new inventions, the history of computer technology, what’s next, etc. I got so excited by this invention, that the following day I showed the video to my students. Smartphones were already around and many kids had personal devices of all sorts, nonetheless, I could not have anticipated their reaction. They absolutely loved the concept and wanted to have it - NOW! A boy even told me if only I had told him about this a few days ago, he wouldn't have bought his new cellphone! 

Inspired perhaps by the 2002 futuristic movie “Minority Report”, the concept still amazes me to this day. I occasionally go back and check in on the progress made thus far, hoping it has turned into a commercial product and hopefully is available on Amazon. Surprisingly to me, this has not occurred yet. 

However, the future has caught up with us. Who would have thought we’d be using many of these new technologies today? With just a camera, colored caps, a phone, a projector, and a mirror, Pranav and Pattie invented a 350 USD portable device that incorporated technologies and concepts that are all familiar to us today: Wearable technology, Virtual reality, Augmented reality, Hand gestures, AirDrop, Virtual keyboards, Google Glasses, Apps, etc.

What other technologies can you identify?

Visit the Fluid Interface research group - MIT Media Lab to learn about other projects that are being developed.


Sunday, June 5, 2016

Kids Teaching Kids

Project: Kids Teaching Kids - Tips About Technology

This semester I was faced with a difficulty. I joined an online course from TIGed called "Education for Social Innovation". As a final assignment, we would have to work together with our students on a project. I was not alone, other teachers from my school were participating and so was my buddy Doug, the other Tech Integration Specialist. The problem was that I don't have students of my own. Doug and I decided to pair up and work together on our project. We both agreed that one of the common problems we face involves the misuse of technology, and more specifically of social media, so we would like center our project around that.

We needed students, so we turned to a grade 5 teacher for help. Mr. Trujillo was happy to let us work with his kids. We scheduled 15 mins with them on several mornings. Without giving them much direction, we decided to see where the student discussions would lead us.

Day 1: We started by asking the students what kind of problems they were experiencing related with technology. During this first day of contact with this group we heard of technical difficulties, from lack of wifi or battery duration, to frustration when their parents were texting while driving.

Day 2: We tried to be a little more direct and asked about what difficulties they had with the use of technology. This time, they did mention social media issues, as we were anticipating. They seemed to not be concerned about the number of followers they had on Instagram. We tried to make them relate their online life with a common face-to-face situation, such as visiting a restaurant. What would happen if something embarrassing happened and your friends saw you?

Day 3: We approached the students by telling them what situations we regularly saw in school and although we teach digital citizenship, they seem to be occurring more frequently. We asked them what advice they could offer for dealing with the social media problems they were experiencing. They had great recommendations: Be proactive; Surround yourself with good friends - online and face-to-face; Involve parents; Have rules; Educate other kids; etc.

Day 4: How can these kids be proactive and educate other kids? After a short discussion, they thought the best idea would be to talk to the students in lower grades. What would they tell them? Think before you post; Have trustworthy followers and friends; Get parents involved; Don't be rude when online; Act as if it was the physical world; Talk about consequences; Fill your time with other things to do.

Day 5: The kids were quite excited about how they could make a difference with their schoolmates. They developed the idea to show the smaller kids an embarrassing picture of a person and have them make comments, perhaps on post-its. After a while, the real person would walk in and they would ask them if they could say the same things to their face. This idea still needs to be tweaked in order to not offend anyone, but they're enthusiastic and are on to a good start.

Day 6: By this time, the course was on it's final week. We invited the group to pitch their idea to the Social Innovation online class. A few kids represented the fifth grade group. They did a great job describing the project to the other participants and teacher.

Since the school year is almost over too, next year we will pick up where we left off and hope to implement this idea that originated in a grade 5 classroom.


Saturday, April 30, 2016

Google Expeditions Pioneer Program

Google for Education will soon make available to the public a new educational tool. It's called Expeditions Pioneer Program. For now it's in beta, but for the last months Google for Education has been piloting this program with select schools around the world.

When the call for participants launched a few months ago, my school immediately signed up. We are always looking for innovative ways to enhance education, and this seemed like a great opportunity we couldn't miss. Well we were lucky enough to be selected as one of schools to test the program in Mexico.

What is the Expeditions Pioneer Program? It is a virtual reality platform designed for schools. It's an Android app that works together with Google Cardboard. The Expeditions app is preloaded with approximately 150 different places to visit. No internet required. These places are locations on Earth such as landmarks and museums; in outer space such as the Moon and Mars, and it even includes journeys inside the human body!

You might be thinking what's so special about this, when we can already visit places through the Google Street View app, or other apps designed to work with Google Cardboard. The unique characteristic about the Expeditions program is that it includes a teacher dashboard, in which with the help of a tablet or a cell phone, the facilitator can send the expedition to the students' device. The teacher is also able to point at a certain place, see where students are "facing", read or edit the side information, turn on and off the devices, and set the devices to pause.

We scheduled 8 classrooms to test the Expeditions with students ranging between Grade 1 to Grade 9. At each and every single time we witnessed how students can still be surprised. The following video is a collection of the students' reaction to when they saw the expedition for the first time. Take a look at all the "aha" moments! This was my favorite part in each of the sessions I saw. The kids were very excited and right away mentioned numerous places they'd like to visit.

It's amazing how you could easily integrate this tool into your lessons and make them come to life. You can create meaningful lessons in which students can in fact "be there". Imagine how many conversations, discussions, inquiries and curiosity can spark by visiting places that otherwise would be almost impossible.

Stay tuned in the fall for when the Google Expeditions Program will be made available in the Google Play store. You and your students will have a blast!

(Did I mention it's free?)


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Live Curious, Go Beyond 2016

It's February 19-20, 2016. A year has passed since we ran our first school wide conference. The second edition of Live Curious, Go Beyond was a special one. This time around we invited teachers from schools around the region to present and to attend. The outcome was overwhelmingly positive. 

Once again, our group of digital teachers stepped up to the challenge and were heavily involved with the organization of the conference, not to mention their interest in running a session or two.

Educators had multiple opportunities to learn about innovations in education as well as to build relationships to develop their professional learning networks. Imagine being able to learn about drones in education; the use of Google Cardboard; what is Design Thinking; the experience of a Breakout Edu session, how to use Twitter like a pro, and so much more!

For the full details, visit the Live Curious, Go Beyond 2016 website. You can also look up the hashtags #asfmtech, #livecurious2016 for the highlights of the conference.

Each of the sessions addressed one of the following strands.

  • True Innovation
  • Blended Learning
  • STEM
  • Design Thinking
  • Maker Edu
  • Beyond

  • Schools - 17
  • Presenters - 55
  • Attendees - 320
  • Sessions - 102
  • Playgrounds - 1

Mark your calendars for next year's Live Curious, Go Beyond 2017 Technology and Innovation in Education Conference. February 17-18, 2017