Nov 19, 2017

What Are You Wondering? Ask Science in the City

A chance for Q&A and background info about Science in the City~

I wanted to share a bit about myself, and give you as my readers, a chance to ask me questions if you have questions. They could be academic, educational, parenting-related, or whatever.

So here are a few bullet points about me:
  • I graduated from college with an undergrad degree in environmental science. 
  • Worked in environmental consulting for about 3 years. Then pursued my masters. I ended up quitting my job, and picking up quite a bit of tutoring while finishing my masters in Geology. Also took a job as an adjunct, teaching a non-majors “Geology and You” class at a local college
  • I loved it! I didn’t find a local job using my masters in Geology, and as I started to think about having children, I didn’t want that much travel. I decided to get my teacher certification.
  • Long term sub at a private school with students with learning disabilities
  • Worked as an aide, both as a sub, and then got a permanent job during this time in a classroom for students who are mostly classified ED, OHI.
  • Completed my teacher certification in Earth Science, LE, and Students with Disabilities. 
  • Worked in an urban Title I school for 11 years. Have taught Earth Science, Biology, 7th grade, 8th grade, AP Environmental, and am now working in Virtual Academy, under IT department
  • A few years ago started a program to add ESL certification, for content area teachers. Ended up not finishing it, because I would lose seniority and change tenure areas, but took a few classes. 
  • My real passions in teaching is seeing student succeed at something that they didn’t think they could do. In some cases this is a student earning college credit, during high school, in an advanced placement class. We are in a district where this doesn’t happen very often. It is a dream for a lot of students! In most cases, this is students who have struggled, whether they are ELL, SPED, or just students with a history of past failure, poor attendance, etc, to have some measure of success! 
  • Personally, I am married with two boys, ages 8 and 11 (started middle school!).  My older son has quite a few food allergies, so that has really improved my cooking skills, and my advocacy skills! 
  • Outside of teaching I love to be outside, hiking, and cooking. My older son has several food allergies so this has increased my cooking skill! I like to exercise…. I used to do a lot of other crafty hobbies, such as scrapbooking, crochet, and photography. I like to read and listen to podcasts. 
This is your chance to ask me….

What do you want to know? Questions about any of my experiences? A particular situation where you are struggling?

Feel free to ask me in the comments, or come to our Facebook group and join in the conversation and ask me direction! 

A chance for Q&A and background info about Science in the City

Nov 5, 2017

How to Use Technology to Differentiate

Using Technology to Make Differentiation Easier

How to Use Technology to Differentiate
We have all been there. We are supposed to teach students to meet the same standards, but we definitely do NOT have 25 of the same students sitting in front of us! How do you meet these varied needs within one class? You may have student reading at a huge range of grade levels, or students with a wide range of disabilities, and capabilities, or even students for whom English is not their native language. This is where differentiation comes in! Differentiation can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be so overwhelming. You can make some small changes that can have a large impact on your students, and technology can help make that a lot easier for you.

As we probably are already aware, there are many different ways to differentiate. Differentiation is commonly broken down by process, product or content. For any of these methods, technology can be a great tool for differentiation. Here is good basic overview of the three types of differentiation, if this is new for you, or you want a quick refresher. I am not going to rehash all of that, but instead I will seek to give you some tips on how technology can help you differentiation.

Differentiation by Content

Differentiation by content refers to different ways that students could get the content, or perhaps even slightly different content. What students are learning may be different. Some students may get the material through reading, watching a video, small group instructions, or even different videos, or different reading levels. Students could even read text off of a screen, but use a screen reading chrome extensions so that the text is read to them.

Look into Newsela or readworks for levelled reading materials, and videos already discussed such as Bozeman Science, Khan Academy, Amoeba Sisters, Crash Course, and many others for content at the appropriate level.

This is a place to play around with a flipped classroom idea, and create an instructional video, even if students watch it in class. It allows them to watch and replay, take notes, while you work with other students, and maybe a third group of students reads about it. You can, essentially, be in more than one place at the same time.

This can be done by choice, or with different content sources assigned to them. Google Classroom makes it very easy to assign different content sources to different students.

For additional information, here are some great step-by-step directions for using Google Classroom to differentiate.

Differentiation by Process

Differentiation by process is all about what the students do to process the information, or HOW they get the content.  Differentiation by process can certainly overlap with content differentiation, as students may work through the content using one of these processes (think-pair-share, reflection, diagram labeling, etc). Content differentiation is the content itself. Process differentiation is how students take in the content, or what they do with it to process it. For example, even as students are taking in content, they can use screen reader extensions to read the text, use dictionary or translation tools to help understand the text.

Process differentiation means you may give an assignment with some options. Perhaps some students can work in a group, and other can work alone. Students can choose to use technology, or to do their assignment on paper. Students need a way to process the material, but there are many ways that this can be accomplished. Students can process their learning through drawing, writing, making a video, using a technology such a flip grid, talking with a partner and more. Some students may be helped by a video that they can pause, rewind, re-watch, and use closed captioning.

These methods may need to be taught, or alternated/cycled between, and then eventually students could perhaps have a choice. Another strategy would be to give students a choice between just two methods, and then gradually introduce other methods.

The Science Penguin has a great post on “Output Ideas.” Although these are designed to be on paper, it is not a leap to see how these could be differentiated even more easily with technology. Students could make a short recording, find a diagram and label it, type their response and more.

For more ideas check out this post on 4 Technology Rich Ways for Students to Demonstrate Knowledge

Differentiation by Product

Lastly, differentiation by product is probably the type of differentiation with which we are most familiar, where student create a product to demonstrate their learning and are given some type of menu, or choice. A very simple example is this very simple Vocabulary Menu where students have a choice over what the turn in to demonstrate their understanding of the vocabulary terms.

This is also a great place to look at the post on 4 Technology Rich Ways for Students to Demonstrate Knowledge. Technology gives more options. Are you artistic? Make a poster. Not artistic? Make an infographic or slideshow, where you don’t have to draw. Would you rather write? Or speak? Write an essay or editorial, or make a podcast or video.

Just like in the regular class, without technology, differentiation is key to helping your students be engaged and feel successful. The methods to differentiate may be similar, but it is easier in some ways to make changes to the assignments and to have the changes be less visible (such as through the use of screen reader apps, or Google Classroom to distribute differentiated assignments to different students). There is less stigma attached. Also, technology helps create a classroom culture where students are more independent learners, learning in their own way. This is a great fit for differentiated instruction.   Using technology means you can use the tools available to you to help create modifications, or create additional instruction.  You don't have to create it all! 

How to Use Technology to Differentiate


Oct 22, 2017

Easy Bite Size Steps to Increase Classroom Technology

Bite Size Steps to Increase Classroom Technology

Easy Bite Size Steps to Increase Classroom Technology

If your school has just recently gone 1:1, or just announced that they will be going 1:1, hopefully I can help. This is part 2 in a short series to help you transition to 1:1 technology.

This post will assume that you have gotten some of the procedural details and routines out of the way that were discussed in Part 1. Now you are looking for some ways to transition into using more technology in your classroom.

Ten Small Steps to Start Using Your New 1:1 Technology

  1. A video station - There are huge advantages to having students watch at their own pace, and be able to rewind, pause, or replay as needed. Here is a good discussion of using videos in the classroom. One of my favorite strategies is to have the students watch at a station, with a partner, and do a strategy that I call “watch, talk, write.” Students watch a short video with a partner. Talk about it with their partner. Then they write a short summary, often of a specified number of sentences, where they have to decide what information to include.
  2. A vocabulary station with Quizlet - Quizlet is a great site for students to review vocabulary, or really anything that needs to be memorized. You can even add in diagrams with labels where students can quiz themselves. This could be an early finisher activity, a station, or a whole class activity. 
  3. Review games using Kahoot - Kahoot is a great way to do review. It can only be used for multiple choice or objective questions, but students get so engaged! Its quick and easy to set up, and students love it. 
  4. An alternative way to do a research project - rather than only a written essay or research paper, check out these ideas for technology-rich ideas for students to demonstrate knowledge.
  5. Formative Assessment - My favorite formative assessment tool is Google Forms, but there are many others out there as well (Socrative, Plickers, and many more). I have written about Google Forms a few times before, here, and here, and a bit about Plickers here
  6. A virtual field trip or interactive website. Here is a great start on places to look for interactive 
  7. Resources for kids to use when they finish early - Having technology in your room gives more options for differentiation, in a lot of ways. However, one great tool is the ability to have more websites available for early finishers for review, enrichment, or reinforcement. Quizlet is great, various websites with science news articles, or, depending on your state, practice exam questions. 
  8. Change an assignment to a Google Doc - Google Docs have a lot of advantages, they can be accessed anywhere, they save automatically, and they can be shared. It is fairly easy to upload an existing assignment and convert to a Google Doc, making a copy for each student, or distributing through Google Classroom. 
  9. Video instructions of a lab or of a lab demonstration - If you are doing a demonstration, or giving instructions of how to do a lab, it can be extremely helpful to video this. Students can rewind and pause, students who are absent can watch, and somehow they even seem to pay closer attention to a video than to the teacher! This video can be uploaded privately to YouTube, or to Google Drive and shared with students as needed, or posted in Google Classroom. 
  10. Background research or vocabulary research going into an activity - before beginning a unit or an activity, we all know that students need to build background knowledge. As they are all coming from different places, and starting with different amounts of background knowledge, it can work well for them to research vocabulary terms, or a specific topic for background knowledge on their own, before diving into the instructional part of the unit. 
I hope this helped you consider some ways to start using technology in your 1:1 classroom! It can be overwhelming, but don’t get overwhelmed. Take it one step at a time, and don’t be afraid to try something.

Questions? Ideas? Suggestions? Please comment below or join me in the Facebook group.

Bite Size Steps to Increase Classroom Technology
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