Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Teaching Thought #70

Teacherscribe's Teaching Thought #70

The five digital tools I can’t teach without.

Tool #4 Wakelet

This spot used to be taken by Storify, but that ceased to be last May, so I spent several months trying to find alternative to Storify.  Wakelet is the best option that I found. And, best of all, Wakelet let me automatically export all my Storifies to it.

Can’t beat that.

What I love so much about this site is that it lets me stockpile web pages, social media posts, pictures, and video

How I use it –

First, I like to stockpile around specific themes or ideas.  So I have Wakelets devoted to such topics as satire (for use in my English 12 class), professional development (for my UND class), voice in writing (for my composition courses), and must reads (This is just for me when I see a really interesting article but don’t have the time to read it, I put it here and then read it when I have time).

Second, I use it to store information related to the books we read.  This might be articles I’ll use with the class. I may give students a link to the Wakelet page and have them select and article to read or a video to watch.  Examples – “The Lottery.” Fact or Fiction?  The Ghost Map.  Linchpin.  The Element.  To Kill a Mockingbird.

Third, I use it as a way to illustrate my thinking and research around papers that I write with my students.  Examples – “Daddy.  The Greatest Word Ever.” Resources for my definition essay.  Here I store resources for my exploratory paper on the infamous “iron maiden” torture device.  Another exploratory essay – why are The Matrix and The Lego Movie the exact same movie?  My analysis of and resources for our paper on Inception.  

Finally, this is a great tool for saving past work, student work or feedback.  Here I store ideas from previous Teaching Thoughts.   Here are some past things I’ve created for and used in classes.  Here is what it’s like to spend a day in a digital classroom.

There is no end to what you can do with Wakelet.  It’s an amazing tool.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Teaching Thought #69

Teacherscribe's Teaching Thought #69

The five digital tools I can’t teach without.

Tool #3 – TED Ed

TED Ed allows you to build your own unit or lesson plan around any video on Youtube.  This is the perfect tool for flipping your classroom, developing independent work, or when you are going to have a sub.

TED Ed allows you to create a watch, think, discuss, . . . And Finally.  What that all means is it is a site that students can watch a video, take a quiz on it, have a discussion about it, and then do supplement work . . . all that you design.

This is one of the best tools I’ve ever come across.  It’s perfect for deepening a student’s understanding of a concept that you’ve read about and discussed in class but you want them to do some independent practice on it.  This is your tool.

How I use it –

If I’m going to be gone, I developed a TED Ed video around a TED Talk or other video.  It’s a self-contained lesson. I love it. Here is an example – Aime Mullins: It’s Not Fair Having 12 Paris of Legs. In this unit, students will watch the video, answer a quiz as they watch, join in a discussion (which I didn’t set up for this particular video, though), and then be asked to find another TED Talk of their choosing and share it with me.

Here I use TED Ed as a way to introduce students to a topic we will be looking at quite in depth.

I use this Thomas Friedman video as a way to supplement the students’ understanding of passion and why it’s important in your career.  This is an example of how I will use TED Ed as a supplemental tool to help students see the importance of what we study in other contexts.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Teaching Thought #68

Teacherscribe's Teaching Thought #68

The five digital tools I can’t teach without.

Tool #2 – Piktochart

Mariah introduced me to Piktochart a few years ago.  The student has not become the master! I don’t know how I ever taught without this.  

Piktochart, for the uninitiated, is a free tool for creating infographs.

How I use Piktochart.

I use it as an option for projects.  It is one of many ways students may choose to best illustrate their understanding or knowledge of a concept.

It’s a phenomenal tool to generate visual representations of concepts/ideas.  Here is one I created for a concept from Cal Newport’s So Good They Can’t Ignore You, called “The Adjacent Possible.”

I use it as a presentation tool.  Students get tired of Keynotes, Powerpoints, and Googleslides.  So once in awhile, I’ll create a Piktochart and use it in place of those formats.

I use it to illustrate research ideas and concepts.  Here is one I used when doing a research project at UND.

Students find it relatively easy to use and enjoy it.

Here are some student examples –

A student used it to contrast two opposing views in The Ghost Map.

A student used it as a presentation tool to represent her “adjacent possible” example.

Here is another example of a student who used it as a presentation tool to illustrate her “deliberate practice” as it related to dance.

A student uses Piktochart to illustrate the key people and ideas from a book we read in class.

Bonus content –

Here is how Mariah uses it as a cool alternative to boring ass syllabi.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Teaching Thought #67

Teacherscribe's Teaching Thought #67

The five digital tools I can’t teach without.

Tool #1 – Padlet

I don’t know how long I’ve been using Padlet, but it’s been years.  And I haven’t found anything that works as well for formative assessments, bell work, polling your students, or just getting feedback.

Padlet is like an online posterboard where students can log on and leave feedback, images, and video.

How I use Padlet.

I use it to generate student examples.  One of the most effective ways I have used it is when we read Carmine Gallo’s Talk Like TED.  He has a chapter devoted to using humor in speeches.

To see what students find humorous, I created a Padlet board asking for them to leave two examples of something (video or images or even jokes) that they find funny.  THEN, they have to explain why it is humorous. Finally, students must present their two examples in front of the class.

When I did this a few years ago, it took on a life of its own.  When students put the examples up on Padlet, I happened to be gone that day with a sick child.  (And that is also one of the best ways to use Padlet – when you have a sub). So when I got back, I wanted to push ahead to something else, but the students asked if they could watch what their peers considered funny.  Really? Students wanted to see what their other classmates came up with?!

I was shocked.

Finally, at the end of the week, I promised that we’d look at their Padlet board.  And it was amazing.


1. The students were all engaged.
2.  The students couldn’t wait to share their examples.
3.  The students couldn’t wait to explain and justify their examples.
4.  I learned a ton.
5.  I found dozens of great examples of videos to steal and use in other presentations or Keynotes.

Seriously, give Padlet a try.  It’s amazing.

Bonus content –

Here is a link to the Padlet on humor.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Teaching Thought #66

Teacherscribe's Teaching Thought #66

Set your sights high.

What if we could design an academic experience that was as memorable as prom?  

This was the concept that an English teacher, Susan Bedford, and a Social Studies teacher, Greg Jouriles.  Bedford was teaching the iconic Lord of the Flies, and Jouriles was teaching about the Nuremberg trials.  Here is more on their story.

One thing they did was put William Golding, author of Lord of the Flies, on trial for crimes against humanity.  Did he get the whole concept of Human Nature (Golding’s take is that without stringent rules and order set up by a society, humans will devolve into savages again.  Yes, this is the same thing Conrad focuses on in Heart of Darkness)?  Or is he correct?  That’s the case students in these classes build over the course of several weeks.

Their story is incredible.  But it had to have been a massive amount of work, but the engagement and results are undeniable.

When I began teaching, I never thought I could have students write a six-page paper (let alone have them write it and have it published by the first day), have students create a Linchpin board, have students create and deliver a mock Ted Talk, have students read two ‘classic’ novels and write an 8-12 page paper on them, and so on.

All of those came with a lot of work.  But at least I’m not doing the same thing I did 20 years ago in Communications 10.

I want to design lessons and experiences that are just as engaging as prom and homecoming.  

But you can’t start out that way.  You have to take your time and work up to it.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Teaching Thought #65

Teacherscribe's Teaching Thought #65

Turn pits into peaks.  

In Chip and Dan Heath’s book, The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact, the authors focus on two interesting types of moments we all have.

The last teaching thought, focused on how we can reframe our perspectives on our classes to view what kind of ‘pits’ we have.  Remember, a ‘pit’ is a difficult moment, something we don’t look forward to, something that is a serious problem.

An example from my room – absences.  Any time a student misses a class period, it is not just an inconvenience to me, but it’s a pain in that ass.  I have to find a way to re-teach the student what they missed that day in class. Moreover, to look at the ‘pit’ from the student’s perspective, now they have ‘make up’ work to add to all their other work.

Due to technology, I try to turn this pit into a peak.  One way I do this – and I’ve been doing this for years now – is to give out my cell number.  Students can text me 24/7. This way if a student is going to be gone, they can text me as soon as they learn of this, and I can begin filling them in on what they are going to be missing.  

Usually, again, thanks to technology, I can often share the very things we are doing in class with them.  So if we are going to be reading “The Yellow Wallpaper” and filling out reader response starters on it, I can share a link to a free pdf of the story on line and then also share the reader response starters via Drive with the student.  

The next day in class is where we always listen to “The Yellow Wallpaper” again via audiobook.  I have students list all the new things they ‘see’ or realize the second time through the story.  Finally, I choose one student to help me re-enact the final scene in the story.

If a student misses this day, again they can text me to let me know and I can give them immediate information on how to stay caught up with what is going on.  I can send them a link to the audio version of the story and instructions to mark down new things they realize the second time through. And whenever I have my student ‘creep’ about the room, re-enacting the final scene in the story, I have students film it and upload it to social media, so I can refer the absent student to those areas to see the actual final scene.

In this way, I try to transform a pit into a peak.

Think about using technology to do the same thing in your class.