Upgrade your teaching (Part 2 of 5)

Hello again teachers!

So, in the first part of this series I demonstrated how to put a short video together, how to upload it to Youtube, and I went into a little bit of how you would share that video with your class online before your lesson. This blog post is going to go into depth on how you can more effectively give students access to your new digital resource library. These can be videos, photos, audio files, or full fledged documents. Many of the techniques that apply to one of these types of files essentially apply to all of the other formats, so keep that in mind.

Overview

This is the second part in a 5 part series. I'm going to keep my anecdotal stuff to a minimum and I'm going to lay out exactly HOW you can:

  1. Record a lesson at home (pre lesson prep)
  2. Give your students access to it (classroom environment)
  3. Bring it up in class in a way that caters to lesson plan creation (instruction)
  4. Assessment (professional responsibilities)
  5. How to reflect on, and improve what you just did (post lesson prep)

Tools I'm going to review

Here is a list of free, lightweight CMS (content management systems) that I'm going to review in this post. Mind you, these aren't the only systems you can use to get the word out to your students beforehand and/or give you access to these resources in class if you want to reference them during your lesson. There is Edmodo, Blackboard, Touchcast, and a whole bunch of other systems. They're also great systems, but the purpose of this training set is to get you going in a single weekend, and I believe these are the best towards that end.

  1. Twitter
  2. Youtube
  3. Facebook
  4. Google Drive

Twitter

I love twitter. It's a "micro-blogging" format that I'm sure your students are already aware of. There are a couple reasons why Twitter is #1 on my list, but the biggest one is that your students are probably already on there through their own accord, you won't have to talk any of them into using it. I also like Twitter because it's API plugs into many other kinds of websites, email clients, and social networking sites. It's definitely the most bang for your buck. 

Once you've created and uploaded your short video to youtube, there is a small "tweet this"" button beneath your videos. Hit that button, add a small description next to the link it will insert automatically and you're off to the races. Let your students know that every "x" days or weeks you upload content to twitter and to check your "feed". Students can access the Youtube video there and assign a question or two that you will use during your class the following day. 

You're going to have to sign up for twitter, but it's very easy and requires next to no prep to finish. 

Tips for Twitter:

  • You only have 140 characters, so keep your title short, you can even throw a question in there and have students respond via twitter.
  • Don't show student responses off in class, kids don't always have appropriate twitter names, and it might embarrass them. Just summarize the answers in class if you want to refer to them. 
  • You can create a "hashtag" for your classroom links by putting a "#" before the label. For example If I was going to create a hashtag for my class I might write #Bajorscience so students can search for that hashtag and any tweets with that hashtag will pop up. 

Youtube

Youtube is an awesome tool for flipping classrooms. And the beautiful part of using Youtube to upload your short videos, you've already got a "channel" to send kids to every once in a while to check out your new content as you create it. 

Here is my Youtube Channel. Notice on the left side the phrase "My channel" is highlighted. When you click that button your channel will come up instead of mine. Feel free to customize your youtube page, but essentially all you have to do in order to access this library of content is to bookmark the link on your classroom computer and go through it. Also, if you find anyone else's channel that you want to use, make it a "featured channel" on the right side of the screen. This can be your video library composed of both your videos and those of teachers and/or content creators that you're working with. 

Tips for Youtube:

  • When you create a video and share it, make sure you click the little box that says "turn off suggested videos when the video finishes" Otherwise inappropriate or irrelevant content will pop up after your video is done. Check this link out for more on that. 
  • Youtube videos can be added to your favorites, this can be a great way to keep track of videos that you stumble on when you browse Youtube. You can compile these favorites onto your channel homepage, and share them straight from there... Again this is an extremely lightweight and fast way to flip your classroom. 
  • You can link your twitter to your youtube channel and vica versa. I suggest you do this if you're using both. It can be a way to connect your library with another means of getting the content to your students. 

Facebook

This is on my list of ways to spread the word about your classroom videos, but I'm going to say that it's not the best way. My major gripe with Facebook is that most teachers already have one, and they've probably had it since before they were teaching. Facebook doesn't do a great job of hiding your profile, so once you direct your students to your facebook group (which I'll describe how to set up) they'll start looking for your personal profile on there. I didn't do this, but if you're careful this can be a great way to spread the word about content since most students are already on there. 

Steps to creating a facebook group

  1. Create a facebook profile using your work email, or a separate gmail account.
  2. Put professional information in there. Stuff you would put on your LinkedIn or your resume. 
  3. On the left side of the screen it will say "groups" you're going to want to click the "more" button. 
  4. Once you're at this page (right) click "create group"
  5. Create a "secret group"
  6. Once you've created the group and added some of your students, you can use this group to upload content and share questions with your class. It's actually a really great system and it's easy for students and their parents to keep track of. 

Tips for Facebook Groups

  • Check all of the privacy settings on your personal facebook. Switch everything to private... seriously. A student running into a picture of the Giants game isn't worth the showing this picture off to your friends. If your friends want to know what you did after the payoffs, they'll ask : )
  • On top of photos and videos, you can actually ask questions through facebook. This can be a great tool for checking engagement.
  • Don't require students to participate at first, but reward those who do. You can't just start implementing a flipped classroom strategy like "here's what we're going to do from now on..." it won't work. You have to reward those who adopt your system earlier, and the convenience will bring the rest of your students onboard.

Google Drive

Google Drive is a one stop shop for all things content. What do I mean by that? Well, you can store lesson plans, videos, pictures, audio files, and pretty much anything else into your Google Drive and share it directly from there. Just in case you haven't jumped on the cloud storage bandwagon, Google drive is like an online thumb drive (USB drive, jump drive, memory stick, etc). The beauty of it is that you can access your files from any computer as long as it's connected to the internet. 

Why is it on my post about sharing though? Well, Google Drive is an incredible tool for storing your files, but if your students have their own google drives, you can literally share a picture or video with your students instantly. You can even create a document that your students can work on collaboratively. Here is an example of what you can do.

So lets say I want groups of students to collaborate on a paper about what it would be like if Darwin had made his evolution announcement today? (great level three question)

First I might create a list of questions to guide my student groups thinking... I would go to my Google Drive, create a new doc, paste my guiding questions in there, and share it with each of the student groups. In class I would help them do their research, and later on that night they would all go online and they could all write their paper together, LIVE. And here's the kicker, at any point I could get on my computer or my smartphone and watch them writing. I could guide them from anywhere I was, and they could message me questions along the way. The moment you cross that threshold of teaching, you're really going to shine. That's why Google Docs is on this list. 

Tips for Google Drive:

  • You can create forms in google drive that students respond to (mini quiz) or (check for understanding). You can aggregate that data into a spreadsheet and use this information to inform your differentiation.
  • Kids need guidance if you're going to have them working on docs together, you NEED to set ground rules and hold them accountable.
  • If a student ruins a project, you can always go into the document history and restore it to an earlier state (and see who messed everything up)
  • You can get students more comfortable with math by challenging them to create spreadsheets, tables, and graphs. All in Google Drive. 
  • Students can also make "drawings" in Google Drive

 

So, those are four really good ways of sharing your class resources with your students. They're all extremely quick, efficient, reusable ways of accumulating, curating, and sharing content. I encourage you to experiment with each one of these services, heck you might end up using more than one depending on the context. If you're doing that, you're heading in the right direction. Make sure you know what you're doing when you start implementing any of these websites in class. Just like any teaching strategy, this one takes practice.

In the next post, I'm going to discuss how to incorporate these small video/audio/photo components in class logically. I'll show you one of my lessons plans, how I incorporated it so it made sense. And how I aligned it to standards and my pacing guide.  

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