Sunday, March 23, 2014

Why go worksheet free?

Why Not??

Here are my top 5 reasons to participate in #NoWorksheetWeek April 7 - 11, 2014.

1.  Any assignment where students are looking for the "right" answer kills creativity and limits student thinking. Worksheets are the worst for this.  Don't believe me? Take a look at this video shared by Sir Ken Robinson at the ASCD Conference 2014.

2.    Your students will love you.  I asked a class full of 4th graders what they thought of a week without worksheets, the cheers were deafening.  Seriously, students are beyond bored with worksheets.  I also asked the students what things could they do instead that would help them learn.  They had so many ideas! Here are a few:  Team math problem solving on the whiteboard, writing stories, learning games, discussions and making videos. If you are not sure what to do instead of worksheets, ASK YOUR STUDENTS, they are full of really cool ideas.

3.  Today's students are different than the students we were when we were in school. (Wait a minute, I hated worksheets too.)  Reading guides, note organizers, do they really get the results we are after?  I have two children who are seniors in high school and almost every day they tell me they are working on a "packet" ugh! Try visual note taking to see what students are really thinking. Explore my Thinglink with ideas for ditching the worksheets in ELA.

4.  Take a chance.  Taking on a challenge like #NoWorksheetWeek pushes your thinking and moves your pedagogy forward.  To change how we teach to meet the needs of today's students we have to DO things differently. That means being challenged, uncomfortable and out of our safety zone.  Start with what you can manage, give up worksheets in a period, a subject or a day of the week.  Small steps help you reach big goals.  To collaborate with other teachers about #NoWorksheets join our Google+ Community - No Worksheets

5.  Go paperless...or at least paper light.  With all of the money you save on copies think of the cool gadgets, field trips, supplies, you can buy for your classroom!  Going worksheet free is not just good for your class, it's good for the environment. Take a look at these ideas from Steve Katz - The Paperless Classroom

Thank you to +Matthew Weld for the great idea for this teacher challenge and +Dan Gibson for your awesome blogpost and remix. We are now a movement!

Next week I will post a form that you can use to submit daily reflections during #NoWorksheetWeek and earn badges for participation!

Update: 3-24-14 
Be sure to read +Matthew Weld's excellent post: Autopsy of a Worksheet

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Digital Citizenship in Schools

Tonight, I am presenting at our school board meeting on the topic of digital citizenship curriculum.  We are hoping to adopt Common Sense Media's curriculum for use in grades K-12 county wide.  I have piloted a few lessons in classrooms the response has been very positive.  What I really like about the lessons are that they address so many essential topics and include a variety of activities including physical activities, discussion, reflection and technology tools.  Extension activities and parent materials are easy to use and effective.

At a recent Principal's meeting, the superintendent asked site administrators how much of their behavior problems were related to social media, most responded that 80% or more of the behavior problems and fights on campus started on social media.  The importance of teaching students to be responsible digital citizens was confirmed while I was teaching the Rings of Responsibility lesson to 3rd graders and a principal came up to me afterwards and asked if I could do similar lessons for the entire school.  He saw the lesson in action and knew it would be beneficial to all students.  Some teachers talk about this in class, but that is not consistent and teachers don't always have the tools to address all issues effectively. This is why approaching it county wide will allow us to make sure all students are given to information and tools they need to as they grow up in this digital society.  Students are being born into a social media and digital world, most of their teachers were not.  This is why it is so important to train teachers in how to teach students to be good digital citizens.

I am enjoying my own learning as we move forward with addressing issues like digital footprints, online reputation, internet safety, and online communication. Teachers will be learners too with this new age of teaching in a cyber world and digital citizenship is essential for all of us to be productive media users.

Below are a couple of  resources I have been creating while working with the digital citizenship curriculum.

My infographic the school board presentation:

DigitalCitizenship title=

While working with alternative high school teachers I learned to use Animoto. What an awesome tool! This is the video I made about my media life as a demo for the lesson Digital Life 102.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Google Tip: Stay Secure with Latest Account Activity

I recently opened an email in my Google Account and saw this new little notification under the reply window. It may have been there before, but this time it was highlighted and caught my eye.

I had not noticed this before so I went ahead and clicked the "Details" link.  According to Google, "This feature provides information about the last activity on the mail account and any concurrent activity."  When you click "Details" it opens a window like this:

The Last Account Activity Feature is handy because it allows you to see when and where your account has been accessed. It may be previous sessions on the same computer or sessions on a different device. You can see when I accessed my Google account through mail on my iPad in the log of activity.  

If there was activity from a a city or location where you have not been it may be a sign someone is hacking in to your account.  Besides being helpful and letting me know if I should consider changing password, it gives the option of signing out of all other sessions remotely.  So, if I forget to sign out somewhere, I can log in from another location and sign out of all other sessions! Very handy stuff because, hey, this can happen to all of us. Also, very handy for students to know so they can help keep their accounts secure. Students forget all the time, showing them this feature is another way to teach them about keeping their Gmail account safe.

You can read more about Google's Last Account Activity Feature here.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

No Worksheet Week April 7 - 11

Last week, I read Matthew Weld's Teacher Challenge: No Worksheet Week and was instantly on board. This is an opportunity for teachers to push their pedagogy forward and meet the need of the students coming to our classrooms every day.  Here a brief synopsis of the challenge, but read @mattheweld 's blog post for the whole story.

There are only two rules:
  1. No pre-copied sheets of paper where students fill in answers on the sheet of paper.
  2. Take the same number of grades/assignments in that week in each subject or class as you normally would.  
The three levels of achievement you can earn during the week are:
  • Gold - full week of no worksheets in any class
  • Silver - full week of no worksheets in all subjects except math (elementary) or at least 2 class periods (junior high/high school)
  • Bronze - full week of no worksheets in one subject (elementary) or in one class period (junior high/high school)
If you reach any of the achievement levels you can earn a badge that you can proudly display on your website, blog or in your email signature. In my district, some teachers are getting together next week to discuss how to participate in this challenge and earn your badge. I will post more information on this soon.

gold badge for no worksheet week
No Worksheet Week provides an opportunity to have students collaborate, create, think critically and communicate at higher levels. Cybraryman's website has some excellent resources on going paperless, but remember, a worksheet is still a worksheet even if it is digital.  Consider other activities to meet learning goals including project based learning, reflective discourse in mathematics, and 21st century skills.