Reflecting on Our School Mock Election Results

This past Tuesday, our school took part in a mock election run by Studies Weekly. We threw it together a little last minute, so instead of shoehorning it into classrooms where other instruction was already planned, we turned the computer lab into a polling place for students to vote after breakfast, during lunch, and during recess. I had classes vote while they were in the room for other reasons, like class (since it took only a minute or so, if I had computers at the ready). And, there were times when I visited classrooms juggling a couple Chromebooks and pulled kids to poll in pairs. (Alliteration proves it was fun.)

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On the enthusiasm gap

I’ve been paying enough attention to this election to have heard about the enthusiasm gap. According to this September article from The Hill:

People who intend to vote for [Trump] are more enthusiastic about doing so than those planning to back Clinton, according to three major recent polls…

…a CNN/ORC poll indicated that more than 1 in 5 five would-be Clinton voters were “not at all enthusiastic” about backing her, almost twice as many as said the same about Trump. The poll found 58 percent of Trump supporters saying they felt either “extremely” or “very” enthusiastic about their choice, and only 46 percent in the Clinton camp feeling the same.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 46 percent of Trump backers were “very enthusiastic,” compared with only 33 percent of Clinton supporters. And a New York Times/CBS News poll saw Trump outperforming Clinton by the same metric, 45 percent to 36 percent.

I bring up the enthusiasm gap because, anecdotally, it seems to have reached the elementary set. At one point mid-day, I turned to Mr. Bob and said, “My prediction is that Trump will win.” I was not checking the mock election progress throughout the day (although I could have been). I was trying not to watch students as they cast their votes (except when they actually needed help). My prediction was made based on how many students proudly declared before, during, or after voting that they had chosen Donald Trump. However, more students actually voted for Hillary Clinton. Clinton won 48% of the vote; Trump got 34%. So, while students supporting Trump were perhaps more vocal about it, that did not mean there were more of them.

On look-alikes

I did have several students tell me that they had voted for “the girl,” but since Jill Stein was also offered as a choice, I wasn’t sure which “girl” they meant. In fact, I was concerned that some of them may have voted for the wrong “girl” – for Stein when they meant to vote for Clinton, or for Clinton when they meant to vote for Stein. Then I realized, if they didn’t know what the male candidates looked like, then they might have confused Johnson and Trump too. (The vote included photographs and names of candidates and their running mates, but a struggling reader may still have made a mistake.) The last time two times schools held mock presidential elections, it was probably much easier for students to tell the difference between the major party candidates, so long as photos were provided! I reflected back on voting in mock presidential elections as a student in the nineties. It doesn’t matter what year I refer to: our choices were always white men. I wonder whether any of my classmates at the time had trouble telling them apart.

On abstaining

One student abstained because: “My mom says no matter who you vote for, they’re gonna mess us up.”

Another hesitated to vote because he didn’t feel well-informed enough. “I wish I could listen to their speeches,” he told me. We did look up all the candidates on vote411.org and read through their statements and platforms together. Still, he did not feel like he could cast a vote, so I told him he didn’t have to.

Our other abstention came from a student who was upset that Obama couldn’t run for a third term. He was genuinely distraught. And then I realized — the oldest of my students were born in late 2007. Most of them are even younger. Obama has been president for their entire memory, if not their entire lives. Whoa.

On civility

I have not heard many students discuss political candidates at school directly. Part of this is because I am a specials teacher. Were I with the same kids all day, every day, I’m sure I would hear it more. I didn’t hear nothing, I just didn’t hear a lot.

Until Tuesday.

And even then, I probably wouldn’t have heard it, except another teacher invited the students specifically to share their insights. And by “insights,” I mean they parroted things they saw in political ads played on TV. The same student told me that Trump says mean things about women, and Hillary wants to take away everyone’s guns. No wonder over fifty students voted for third party candidates.

I did have to speak to some students about school-appropriate language. But very few.

The results

If you would like to see the results of the nationwide mock election, those results are here.  As I mentioned before, our school turned blue for Clinton, but our state turned red for Trump. Still, Clinton won the mock election over all.

What does it mean?

I don’t know. I imagine that, to some extent, the votes of children reflect the votes their parents plan to cast. I do remember bugging my parents about who they planned to vote for when I was a kid, especially when they were around other adults, that was totally my favorite. I think that was a huge factor in who I chose to vote for in mock elections. But, as this USA Today article on the Scholastic mock election states, students may misidentify their parents’ political leanings. Based on anecdotal evidence, too, I think many students have parents who are split themselves: one parent may support the Republican nominee, the other the Democratic candidate.

Other big influences on children include the media (TV and Internet, primarily) and, well, each other.

Overall, in the mock election we participated in, Ohio the bellwether state votes for the candidate who loses. Perhaps that’s something we can expect next Tuesday? I hesitate to make a solid prediction, having already been wrong about this! (Also, if you look at the Scholastic results linked above, Ohio turned blue for them.)

Ultimately

On November 9th, we will all still be Americans, diverse and divided we may be. And whoever gets elected president will have to lead us, diverse and divided, starting in January. It will be a tough job, harder than herding cats. But I hope it’s a job done well, regardless of who’s in that position.

I’m Spreadsheeting My Heart Out, Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about using a spreadsheet to help me track student progress and identify reasonable goals over the course of monthly cycles. Today I’m going to write about how I am delivering feedback to third grade students.

First, I used Alice Keeler’s Epic Rubric. I tested it out a few times with my own email address instead of using student addresses. I’m glad I did; my first few tries would send the wrong rubric to a student. Chris would be opening his email and clicking on Trisha’s rubric. I couldn’t let that happen! It turns out, the spreadsheet could not handle as many students as I was entering. When I chunked them into smaller groups, it worked way better.

I also adapted the rubric itself. I didn’t particularly need the percentages or to display weights. Plus, if I wanted to easily copy and paste details from my central spreadsheet into the rubrics, I needed them to be horizontal and not vertical. I also tweaked some other things.

student-rubric-view

I color-coded the pants off it. If spreadsheets wore pants.

So I color-coded the criteria into three groups; yellow is for organization criteria, blue is for using evidence from the passage, and pink is for conventions such as grammar and spelling. To show whether or not they had met a criteria, I did the same thing as I had on my central spreadsheet: if I entered any text at all, the cell turned green, and empty cells turned red. And I actually just copied and pasted the “invisible ones” into it. In fact, once I had worked out how I wanted the rubric to look, I just had to copy and paste from my central spreadsheet.

The “comments” section is even a conditionally formatted custom IF formula. If the student got a score of five or less, the comment that appears is “Your goal is to get two more points next time.” If they got between six and twelve, the comment that appears is “Your goal is to get one more point next time.” If they got a perfect score, then the comment that appears is, “Your goal is to keep up the good work!” Those comments are all actually written in there, it’s just the text turns black when the conditions of the IF formula are met. The text is orange otherwise, and therefore blends into the color of the cell.

Then I used the awesome function of Alice Keeler’s spreadsheet to email the rubric out to all my students. And since we use Gmail and Google Classroom on a regular basis, it’s a cinch to get kids to dig these up and take a peek.

I think this will help my big student-feedback challenge. I’m weirdly excited for the next time we do a prompt!

I’m Spreadsheeting My Heart Out, Part 1

So.

Last school year, my principal explained to me that she wanted to do practice prompts in the computer lab to help students prepare for the AIR test. This school year is the first where students have to take the test on a computer. In previous years, this has always been an option, and we’ve always gone with pencil and paper. So now we have to make sure students can transfer their writing skills from paper and pencil to keyboard and screen.

On the AIR test, students will have to read a passage; read a question about the passage, and answer the question with a typed response.

Not gonna lie, I was super duper dreading it at first. It sounded like the opposite of fun. But when you don’t have a choice about what you have to do, you still have a choice of how to do it, so I went with cheerfully. And if I was going to do that, I was going to take ownership of this whole thing as well.

We collaborated with other teachers on a rubric to use, and settled on one with thirteen points, spread across different areas: Organization, Evidence & Elaboration, and Conventions. We looked at the calendar and selected multiple dates to cycle this activity; that way we can make sure students continue to improve, instead of treating it like a one-and-done. I figured out the resources that worked best to suit my needs, my students’ needs, and my admin’s need: a combination of Google Classroom and Edcite.com. My principal picked some passages and I wrote questions for them. And then, over the course of a week, my students came in and took their “pretend” test. Despite knowing it was “pretend,” they took it quite seriously overall. We gave them a paper copy of the rubric, so they could do pre-writing on the blank side and use the rubric checklist on the other.

Then I assessed all their responses against the rubric.

Then I printed all their graded responses out, and stapled them to the rubric sheets they used during the activity. My principal wants to share these with homebase teachers during TBTs.

That was all I needed to do. But it wasn’t all I wanted to do.

I wanted to see where students succeeded and where they failed in the task so I could plan future instruction around it. And since I was keeping a spreadsheet of their scores anyway, I just took it a little further.

air-test-practice-prompt-1-results-screenshot

One thing you should know about me is that I love conditional formatting. (Also I hid or blacked out columns with identifying information before taking this screenshot.)

So I made a horizontal representation of all the rubric criteria. Then I set some conditional formatting into the field: pink for an empty cell, blue for a not-empty cell. The not-empty cells also turn any contents into the same shade of blue. I just thought that was easier to understand, visually. Anyway, if a student got that point on the rubric, I typed in a “1,” turning the cell all blue. If they didn’t, then I left it blank – pink. I went across the student’s whole row like that. Column T was a double-check, a sum formula adding up all those invisible number one’s. If the number was different than the number in coumn F (copied and pasted from Edcite reports) then I knew I needed to double check something.

Then I took it another step further. The remaining columns towards the right are goalposts for students to reach in the next prompt activities. For example, a student that got 5 points of 13 in the first prompt needs to get 7 points in the next one to stay on track to be considered proficient overall. (We’re aiming for 10/13 for everybody.) I didn’t just pick those numbers out, either. I used a formula that helps with reasonable growth expectations. That kid who got 5 points this time? It’s not reasonable to expect them to get 13 on the next try. But 7? That’s do-able. But if they remain at 5, or worse, dip down lower, then I know that kid might need further intervention to succeed. And I can start that intervention in November instead of February.

Kids who got 2 or fewer on the first task, though – they won’t reach 10/13 points by the end by my formula. They need intervention nowEdited to add: My principal points out that, even if they don’t reach the goal of 10/13, a student who goes from a 0 or 1 or 2 to a 7 an 8 or a 9 has still made incredible growth that merits celebration.

Then, when I changed the view a few times, I realized that many kids were missing the same criteria. Not all, but many. So I wondered, which criteria are the most commonly missed?

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I scrolled to the bottom of the data and, under each of the columns, I input a sum formula that added up all the invisible one’s in each column. So I was really glad I used 1’s instead of x’s in that moment! Once added, I looked at which criteria had the lowest numbers. So that highlighted 13 down there? That means only 13 out of over 100 third graders wrote a closing sentence in their response. (The pointer was in a different cell when I took the screenshot. 72 students used evidence from the passage and/or other sources.) So, closing sentences are a weakness for most of our grade, but using evidence from the passage is a strength. I can use this information to help plan my instruction, and I can share it out with other teachers so they can plan their own instruction and provide guidance and support.

So that’s the teacher side of my current spreadsheet mania. Tune in tomorrow to find out how I’m delivering feedback to students!

Third Graders on Backchannels

A backchannel is a secondary route for the passage of information. Back in my day, backchannels involved elaborately folded pieces of notebook paper covered in gel pen missives. These days you can allow students to use technological backchannels to communicate to one another while the teacher instructs the room at large, or focuses on specific students.

Some of my current third graders figured out how to use the chat function in a shared Google document last year, in second grade. I’m still impressed with them for how they used it well, for the most part. Though some students occasionally spam the chat with keyboard mashing or off-topic chatter, most use it like this:

backchannel

I thought it was really apt that they were using a the rubric for this kind of backchannel today. It saves students time because they don’t have to wait for the teacher’s attention, and I can focus on students who face bigger challenges than spelling and grammar. It’s also very engaging to them (especially since I encourage them to use emoji in moderation).

This type of backchannel is good for me to use, because as the creator and sharer of the document in Google Classroom, I can have it open on my own computer. Even if kids try to hide something, as long as I don’t close the tab, I can scroll up and find it. The worst message I’ve seen posted in the chat has been keyboard mashing, since they know I can see and share their messages via screenshots. They’re also aware that I might pop in “undercover” using a classmate’s account, because maybe I was looking over someone’s shoulder when I saw a big question (or poor choice of message) appear.

I can get and give pretty immediate feedback from students this way, too, and they can give feedback to each other. When I have a whole class on it, the chat frequently moves too fast to reasonably keep up with, but I could see it as a great tool for small groups collaborating on a project together.

 

I might see what they can do on Padlet next.

“What Should You Be Working On?” Spreadsheet (3rd Grade)

So I was trying to think of how to explain Alice Keeler’s Participate In a Twitter Chat template to a colleague planning to moderate a district Twitter chat next week. I used the template to participate in a #gafe4littles chat last week and I thought it might make good training wheels for coworkers just getting started with Twitter chats.

And it occurred to me. Why am I not using this for my kids?

I have been struggling with delivering feedback effectively to third graders in particular, given that I only see them once a week in the computer lab. It stinks that some kids fall behind in some activities (due to absences and other things), while others are ready and rarin’ to go for more. It’s not fair to hold either in holding patterns while I struggle to meet all their needs.

So today I made a “What Should You Be Working On?” Spreadsheet and posted it into their Google Classroom.

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The spreadsheet was easy to put together once I figured out which kid fell behind in which activity. I copied and pasted my list of students from Google Classroom into the leftmost column. Then, in Column B, I put their “first priority” activity – which was both a title, and a link to where I had posted it before in Google Classroom. In Column C, I put their “second priority” activity, and I even had a Column D “third priority” list, though it didn’t go that far across for most students. The doc linked to in “Choice of Sponge Activities” is a simple list of educational fun or game sites I know the kids enjoy (that is also contained in the “About” section of Google Classroom). For the first time in five years, I was able to tell students they had “choice time” without several of them asking which activities were “allowed.” The doc itself also contained names and links, and no child who used it needed it explained to them after they had used the spreadsheet.

What was amazing to me was how little I had to explain. I feel like I showed it in detail to just a couple of kids, and they helped transfer knowledge to each other. They are already accustomed to navigating tabs, clicking links, and using their Google accounts to log into other sites. It was really convenient, because this class had a new student in it, and I needed to take some time to set up his accounts and guide him. I think the kids really liked it too, because it simplified for them what exactly they should be working on! They could tie loose ends on one thing, and they knew what they needed to or could do next without checking in with me first. It was very freeing for them, too! I am so excited to try this with the other third grade classes this week.

In terms of delivering feedback, I am betting I can adapt a spreadsheet even further to indicate to a student how successful they were at a task, or provide a link to feedback they can follow. I am not all the way there yet with that challenge, but I feel like I’m getting closer.

I feel I am definitely getting better at seeing something that works for someone else, and adapting it to work for me, my students, and my environment.

School Week Round-Up: Week Six

Only 149 days of school left!

LessonsThird grade is getting to a point where they’re figuring out how to be more independent, sometimes by necessity and sometimes because they are really motivated to. One class kept themselves so on task that they had ten free minutes at the end of the period. I put all the “time filler” activities into a Google Doc and put the Doc in the “About” section of their Google Classroom. So now whenever they have free time, they can go to the Doc and see what they’re permitted to do. The other class that did well this week did so out of necessity. I needed to finish a task for the principal and I didn’t have any prep time left, so I told students they needed to work as independently as possible and I would still help them if they really needed help. This, I really enjoyed. They didn’t get done in the same amount of time, but if I told one student a tip, they passed it along to other students who needed help. I think I should give them commendations next week of some kind.

Support: We have one of those approved vendor assessment systems to keep track of student growth measures in our district. The tech department has been trying to sync it with our online gradebooks. It’s the kind of thing that’s going to work so well once we actually work out all the kinks. But we’re still in the thick of things for the moment.  It’s going to be so rad, eventually.

Things I Did Well: I’m working hard to get my seating charts settled. This in and of itself hasn’t been a priority, but I need to do seating charts to make another task work. It’s a tedious task but I won’t procrastinate any longer! In case you were wondering why I didn’t have seating charts ready to go at the beginning of the year, it’s because out of 28 seats in my room, around five were at computers that were not functioning, or functioning so slowly that it would be cruel to force a child to use it. I also had some other routines I wanted kids to get used to first, like new and beautiful headphones, the optional cardboard privacy screens, and so on. Also, our school district has a lot of student movement, so rosters at the very start of the year are very rarely accurate. Finally, I took some advice I saw on Twitter about letting your students choose their seats first. That way you get a sense of who gravitates towards whom, for good and for ill. I realized after a couple weeks that some friends need to be separated, some kids need to be alone to focus, some kids need a buddy beside them that they can ask for some help. And rather than revise seating charts, I find it easier to go with the flow and then make them. And even then, I often have to adjust them on the fly, because one computer decides to freeze or something like that.

Things I Will Do Better: I’m continuously working to improve our school’s morning announcements. There are many ways they are imperfect. Last year students could run it very independently. We’re not there yet with this group. But I started doing pre-produced segments so it’s less of a panic in the mornings! We’ll see how it goes. If you want to check them out, click the link — I’m very open to feedback!

Cold Prickly: I needed to talk to a student about something and found her feeling the lowest she’s maybe ever felt at school. She told me she had just failed a test, and she’d never failed before. It was a speed test on the three times tables. Having known this child for a while, I know she’s very bright and one of those kids who is naturally good at school, and accustomed to success. So when she failed she took it really, really hard. I relate to that — I was a student who succeeded pretty naturally at school, and the first academic subject that brought me to tears was also multiplication. We’re trying to foster a growth mindset culture for our students, though, so I chose carefully what I said to comfort her. “So you didn’t do as well as you wanted to. That doesn’t mean you’ll never get it. It just means you don’t have it yet.”

Warm Fuzzy: I’ve allowed a colleague’s thirteen-year-old son to have some influence on my classroom decor. I like where he’s going with it. (Toriel would be so proud she’d make a butterscotch-cinnamon pie.)

Christine Pinto’s Conditionally Formatted Login Cards… With a Twist

Login cards. My favorite thing! A couple years ago, that would have sounded sarcastic. But these days, I mean it sincerely! Really!

Every year I get better at making login cards. I learn what works in the lab, and what’s not worth the effort. At the start of the school year, I was very proud of the login cards I had made. And yet we’re just halfway through September, and I can already think of several things I will do differently for next year.

One of those things is making color coded conditionally formatted login cards — at least for our incoming first graders. It’s a brilliant idea, I think. Not only could I use them in the lab, I can share them out via Google to the first grade teachers, who could use them when they use Chromebooks in class.

But I only stumbled onto this idea this past Monday or Tuesday, and this was a week sorely lacking in spare time for me. So rather than recreate the login cards I made weeks ago, I just adapted the ones I already had.

20160916_163624First, I color-coded the rows on the keyboard with little highlighter-style stickies (I have Mac desktops in the lab, not Chromebooks). I had five different-colored stickies leftover from when I used to teach a reading class; we used them to highlight ‘sticky words’ in passages. I had green but did not use it, because once it was on the keys it looked very similar to yellow. Also, I trimmed them to be consistent in size only after a couple of days. When I left them long, they were easy to accidentally knock askew, loosening the adhesive. Hopefully now that they’re shorter, that won’t be the case.

Then, I took login cards that I had already made and went at them with wet erase markers. I didn’t want to use dry erase markers because I didn’t want the color to come off too easily. I also didn’t have dry erase markers that match the stickies’ colors. Here are sample photos of some login cards. Don’t worry, these aren’t real cards — they are ones I made typos on; neither of them is a student’s real username.

20160915_120018 “K” was in the yellow row, so I colored it yellow. “I” was in the orange row, so I colored it orange. “N” was in the blue row, so I colored it blue, then I patted it with my thumb a little to make sure you could still see the letter. “A” and “L”? Both in the yellow row. The numbers at the end are all in the pink row, but I didn’t have a pink marker — so I used red and then thumb-patted it a little, just like with the blue. Our usernames are entirely numerical, so I didn’t color-code those as they would all be the same color.

Because this was a little time-consuming, I only did first graders’ cards intentionally. I did do a couple of second and third graders’ cards, if they were struggling still. I also used the color code system to help them spell words. “‘M’ is in the blue row… ‘u’ is in the orange row… ‘s’ is in the yellow row… ‘i’ is in the orange row… ‘c’ is in the blue row.” When I did this for older students, I told them I was “practicing” for the first graders. But they adopted it, and I heard them guide each other to keys by telling their classmates which color row to look in.

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All in all it’s a very effective system. It’s particularly good at helping with similar-looking letters and numbers. For example, the number “1” and the letters “I” and “L” are all in different colored rows; confusion between them is collectively our single biggest obstacle to logging in successfully in the lab. At best it helps your kids adjust to a QWERTY keyboard, especially in a setting where they’re used to seeing letters in alphabetical order. At worst, I guess you can still figure out which students might be colorblind?

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I even added stickies to the finger-placement keyboard posters hanging around the room.

Update, September 27: Here is a short video showing this system in action. It may not be perfect, but it’s better than nothing, when we’re still getting used to the QWERTY keyboard!

School Week Round-Up: Week Two

Oh my goodness, it’s already been another week?

Lessons
Still largely in the setting-up phase, getting used to routines. This takes a little longer for me than most teachers, I think, because I teach an area where so much is trained more than taught.  I try to instruct students in basics of computer use, but so many technology skills develop through repeated use.

And, I only have students once a week. So the routines of transition and direction and troubleshooting feel very rehearsed to me, because I do them every day. But not so for the students.

Ultimately I will be very excited when the routines become fluid enough that I can start facilitating lessons instead of just reinforcing routines.

Support: I feel like we had a better week all around with this. We are, as a school, becoming more familiar with our technology — kids and grown-ups alike. As I predicted, the issues we had with second grade using Chromebooks helped us better prepare for when third and first graders took the diagnostic.

Things I Did Well: Something happened in a second grade class today. In introducing students to Google Classroom, I asked them a question: “What is your favorite kind of candy?” Students happily responded with many missed spellings of the word “chocolate,” among other things. I also allowed them to comment on one another’s responses. I figured this would be a good way to start learning how we communicate online. Students want to be clear so that their peers can understand them. Anyway, what I call “the inevitable thing” happened – the kind of thing that many teachers fear deep down inside. A student wrote something inappropriate! It has teachers shaking in their boots. I’ve feared it myself. We’re afraid the tools will get abused and misused and it scares some folks off tech entirely. What if we can’t stop that kind of thing from happening? What if kids get exposed to inappropriate things!?

Well, I’ve given up on believing “the inevitable thing” will never happen. Because it inevitably does. I don’t have to invite inappropriate things in my classroom, and I certainly don’t have to celebrate them, but I do want kids to know how to handle them when they see them. And another student did see the inappropriate before I did. And they did handle it well! They told me right away so I could delete it and have a conversation with the child who posted it. Turns out it was a misspelling that got out of control. They typed out “ass” and meant to hit “delete” so they could spell “awesome,” but they hit “enter” instead. And, once posted, a comment cannot be edited! But this child was right chagrined so I believe they were telling the truth. Obviously if mild cusses keep appearing I’ll be glancing sidelong their way, but since you can’t post anonymously on Google Classroom, I don’t think that will be happening.

So, we all survived “Mild Cuss-Gate.” Well learned all around, everyone.

Things I Will Do Better: I also had a classroom management challenge. Sometimes it really is a balancing act, when multiple students need a little guidance, and one or two students need more close supervision, and you’re only one adult. How do you prioritize actual human children? Sometimes I did okay. Sometimes I did less than okay. And at least once I utterly failed. Classroom management was the biggest challenge of my early career; and while I’ve spent a lot of time and effort improving it overall, I still have my struggles in this area.

Cold Prickly: Remember how I was going to eat lunch in the cafeteria with the kids every day? I found a downside.

Warm Fuzzy: This week I told a first grader I liked her hairstyle. She told me if I liked it, I should try to wear my hair that way. So I did!

braidsShe wore it better, to be honest. I think the other adults thought I looked goofy; many kids told me I looked beautiful. I think everyone was correct.

Tomorrow’s a teacher work day, so kids got a four day weekend and teachers get a three day weekend. Well deserved all around, I say! Looking forward to more September!

School Week Round-Up: Week One

We made it through our first week of school! Five whole days, even. Yeowch Francis pants! (That’s a bowdlerized cuss I actually said this week when I hit my arm against a heavy cart handle. It was in my classroom, but it was five p.m. and there was nary a soul within earshot.)

I thought I might do a little round-up of my week. I might try to make a habit of it, so I can go back and re-read later on and maybe get some bigger picture ideas of where my strengths and weaknesses are.

Lessons: Most of the lessons in the computer lab this week was setup and troubleshooting. Basically, I made sure students knew how to log in to their accounts, and when they couldn’t, I troubleshooted. Sometimes it was due to user error (darn the 1’s that look like l’s and the o’s that look like 0’s). Sometimes it was just their machine being uncooperative. Other times, I needed to actually fix something in the system.

Getting the students to log in meant guiding them towards their school email and, if we had time, getting them onto Google Classroom. I did have a simple assignment waiting in Google Classroom if they got in, but for a lot of us, that’s just where we’ll have to pick up next week.

SupportA big part of my job is supporting other teachers using technology in their classrooms. Much of it this week was dealing with updates in software; missing pieces of hardware; remembering the little things we had forgotten, like adjusting displays and finding printers on the network; and so on.

Our second grade teachers also started using the online product that we use as a growth measure to begin preassessing students. It was a rocky start — our Chromebooks didn’t work exactly like we had remembered, and we had plenty of issues with individual accounts to contend with. The first day of this, my head was spinning, but by day two I had it back on straight. We figured out how to work with the quirks and we finished out the week much better than we had started in this regard. Next week will be better with the first and third graders, because the second graders’ experiences showed us what we need to anticipate.

Things I Did Well: I think I am doing a good job of improving on the resources I made last year. I’ve updated some spreadsheets to improve the login cards from last year. I’m excited about a new piece I’ve incorporated that I’m sure I’ll write about once I start using it.

laminator

MVP of the Week: My laminator! Our school laminator is great for big things like posters, but for little things that little hands will hold all year long, my thermal laminator is the way to go.

Things I Will Do Better: Time management is always something I could stand to improve, both in my professional and personal life. Not only did I allow discussions in lessons to go on a little too long, I found myself staying late in the building most nights this week, doing things that most of my colleagues probably would have done last week before school actually started. I’m paying for procrastination now by playing constant catch-up.

Cold Prickly of the Week: I overheard an adult say the hot lunch being served in the cafeteria looked “gross.” I didn’t enjoy hearing this. Firstly, I didn’t agree that the lunch looked gross. Secondly, I know how hard our cafeteria staff work to make and distribute nutritional lunches that are as appealing as possible. Students also have much more choice in their lunches at our cafeteria than I had seen in previous schools where I worked or where I went. Students must take a certain amount of fruit and vegetable servings, and they must take an entrée, and they must take a milk. And while there is only one choice of entrée each day, there are three choices of milk, at least two choices of vegetable, and two choices of fruit. And that’s just usually. Three out of five days this week, there were three or four choices of fruit and veg. Also, a student has to take at least two servings of fruit and vegetable — but can take up to four if they like. So if a child isn’t excited about the entree, they can take more fruit and vegetables. And if green beans don’t tempt you, there’s tossed salad or broccoli you can get instead.

So, I asked if I could start getting the same lunch as the students. It turns out I can, for the low price of three dollars per meal. It’s actually a really attractive option to me — packing a lunch is something I struggle to do consistently anyway, so it’s nice to just not have that concern. It’s probably healthier than eating fast food, more pocketbook-friendly than ordering delivery, and more appetizing than frozen meals each day. Also, I’ve been trying to walk to school as much as I can instead of driving, so it’s convenient to have one fewer thing to physically carry.

Warm Fuzzy of the Week: So, I started having the same hot lunch as the kids.  The portions are filling. I have eaten most of the things I have taken. The first day I had eyes bigger than my stomach and took the maximum helpings. But, I had neither time to finish eating them all, nor room in my belly. Luckily, the food is packaged in a way that means it could be taken back if it wasn’t open. Extras from one day are often put out the next day if they are stored properly and still good, which is one reason there are additional options. (This goes for entrées as well.) I sat with students, too, and it was really great to talk to them outside of instructional settings. It’s something I hope to continue doing at least a few times a week throughout the school year.

Unsurprisingly, my roundup for the first week revolved largely around food. But, I promise you, this week was nourishing in a lot of other ways. I feel great about how excited other teachers are about integrating technology and using the SAMR model. I think my principal did a great job setting the tone and improving school culture. (And I had that opinion before she brought donuts in on Friday!)

Happy first week to everyone else who had their first week of school, and good luck to everyone whose first week is still in the future!

Pokémon Kept GOing

The biggest thing in my planner today was how I needed to take my car into the shop so the mechanic could give it a check-up. What a perfect opportunity to keep playing Pokémon GO like the ridiculous human being that I am!

I have leveled up in my gameplay, and experienced broader play elements now.

Firstly, my spouse and I took over a gym, extremely briefly. It took several fights to do so. To take over a gym, you have to lower the gym’s “prestige” first. It’s like you’re chipping away at the hold another team has over the gym. Failure is a common and arguably even necessary part of this progress. It is definitely easier to take over a gym when you work together, and possibly easier to hold onto it, too. This part of the game is better with a buddy!

Secondly, the game really encourages walking. No wonder that’s the most-talked about aspect of the game on social media! You can get closer to many spots and gyms by walking than you can with a vehicle. Also, driving in a vehicle, even at 35mph, takes you past most spots too quickly for you to have an interaction with them. Also, you hatch your Pokémon eggs by walking. Even a little bit at a time helps. It occurred to me that I didn’t mind parking a little farther away from a destination if I had my game going. That’s a tenth of a kilometer closer to hatching a Jigglypuff, dudes! My deepest hope is that this will inspire more people to return their carts/buggies to proper locations at the grocery store, which is one of my biggest pet peeves.

Thirdly, I wonder whether this game might help us teach our children how to talk to strangers. “Stranger danger” and “don’t talk to strangers” is a deep-seated but misguided attempt at keeping children safe. I wonder whether Pokémon GO can help us teach children when and where and how to interact with people they don’t know. When I see kids playing the game, I usually see a parent with them or very close by. This could be an excellent opportunity for modeling a lot of positive, safe behavior. It could be as simple as asking another player what team they picked to start a conversation. Of course, you want to look out for “tricky people” playing the game, just as you would in any context. Real life rules still apply.

Related to that, parents also have the opportunity to model how to cross streets safely, how to look out for traffic, and so on. City kids might know that stuff intrinsically by now, but not everyone does.

There does seem to be an imbalance between areas of high interaction (having Pokéstops and gyms) and areas of low interaction. At least in my city, the historically less privileged part of town is severely lacking in interactive spots. The park there doesn’t even have a Pokéstop, much less a gym! The local university is lit, though. My understanding is that the map was largely ported from a previous AR release. So the dearth of spots in one neighborhood vs. the glut of spots in another probably speaks to the demographics of who played that other game. Also, many landmarks are outdated. On the left is how one Pokéstop appears in the game. On the right is how it actually looks as of now. Where did that sculpture go?

Like Minecraft, the game itself doesn’t give you all the best details on how to play it. This forces players to either learn by trial and error, or seek out resources. Those resources might be other people or online searches. These days, there are a lot of Minecraft books in the library kids can use too. I wonder whether Pokémon GO might head in this direction, inspiring kids to pick up books and read more about something that interests them.

For what it’s worth, I have always enjoyed video games, from a very young age. Pokemon was a big thing when I was in middle school and high school. (It wasn’t cool to like Pokemon in high school, but that didn’t make me like it any less at the time.)