Friday, June 29, 2018

Technology Should Never Come First!

When the educational technology phase first began it was exciting. Look at all of the cool things that we can do by using a chromebook or an app or a website! I was in a 1:1 classroom with chromebooks and thought wow, everything can be digital it will be so much easier!

Flash forward 5 years later and I have realized that there were times I was doing a disservice to my students because I was making something "digital" that had no reason to be digital other than it was completed by typing on a chromebook. And guess what, after having the students complete some of the things electronically, I was still having to go and grade every single Google Doc. So what was the purpose?

I realized that I needed to do some research. What was the true purpose of integrating technology into a lesson? I was putting the technology first and then figuring out what I wanted to teach. What I found was that it needs to be the other way around. As teachers, we must first determine what it is that we want students to learn, THEN decide what technology we should use. And guess what... there are going to be times that technology just won't fit into a lesson and that's okay.

When thinking about technology last, it allows us to use it as a resource. We should be thinking about how technology can ENHANCE our lesson. Do we want students to collaborate on a project? Do we want students to have choice about how they will learn? When asking these questions after determining what the students will learn will allow us to then think about what technology can be used or better yet, will allow the STUDENTS to determine which technology they want to use.

I used to think I had to have some form of technology in every lesson. Yes, using Google Forms for an exit ticket is great because it can grade it for me, but is it worth it? By the time it takes the students to log onto the chromebooks (this is assuming they weren't already using them for something else during the lesson), sign into Google Classroom, click on the Form, and answer the questions/submit it, I could have just given them a piece of paper with the same exact problem(s), had them answer, then quickly glance through the papers to see who got it and who didn't and move on with my lesson.

While it is tempting to want to try out the latest and greatest application or tech tool, remember... first decide what it is you want your students to learn, then worry about integrating technology. We must always remember that the students come first. How is it that this tech tool is going to HELP my students?

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Google Forms to Organize Classroom Library

I have A LOT of books in my classroom library and have them organized by category, author, series, etc., but there are times that I would love to make suggestions to my students based on their interests, but I have NO idea what is even in my library anymore. Between buying new books each year to those books that like to grow legs and leave my classroom (to be quite honest, if a student borrows a book or even takes it on purpose, I'm okay with it because my hope is that they are actually reading it!), I have lost track of which books I actually own.

I have been searching around for a good database or app that would organize all of my books and just didn't seem to find one, so now enters the good ole trusted Google Sheets. Once the books are in Sheets that I can easily sort them or filter them to help find books on a certain topic or interest (and level although I never tell my students that). Now the question is getting them into Sheets.

Before packing up my classroom at the end of the summer, I downloaded the Scholastic Book Wizard and had a couple of students organize my books and scan all of them into this app. (One perk to teaching 5th grade) However, once they are in the app there isn't much to do with it, other than keep track of which students borrow each book. It allows you to email the list of books, but it is literally an e-mail with the books in a LONG list with no other data.

Now enter... Google Forms!

I created a form with the categories that I felt were important to me as a teacher. These included Title, Author, Series, Topic, Location in Class Library, and Level (we use Lexile at my school, but you can use whatever leveling system works for you). Typing all of the books into forms can be time consuming, but once it is done the list that you will have will be worth it!  You could always get an older student to type in the book information for you.

Once the list is compiled in Google Sheets, you can sort or filter the results quite easily. 
First, I will hide the Timestamp column because that has no importance to me. To do this Right Click on the grey area near the A or click on the little drop-down arrow next to the A and click Hide Column.
Next, I do a little clean-up, but adjusting the column widths (click on the line between the two columns and drag to desired width), made the headings in the first row centered (click on the grey area with the 1 to highlight the entire row then click on Center Align on the toolbar), and made the Lexile levels centered (click on grey area with the F to highlight the column then click on Center Align on the toolbar).
To be able to Filter the results, click on the grey area above the 1 (to the left of the B column). This allows you to highlight the entire sheet. Then click on Data in the menu bar, then Turn On Filter. You should now see a little grey triangle shape next to the headings in each column. By clicking on the triangle you can sort A-Z, Z-A, or type in the search bar to find something specific.

This database is not only great for the teacher to keep track or suggest books in the classroom, but if you teach older students, they can use the database to search for books as well. You could even add an additional column with a checkbox to keep track if a student checks out a book from the library.