StackUp: track self-directed learning online

Assign and track reading online: StackUp

 

What it is: I’ve written about StackUp before here but, over the last three years, the company has grown up enough that it warrants another post! StackUp has a pretty great back story. Nick Garvin, the founder of StackUp, was fresh out of school and wanted to apply for a job at Tesla Motors. The problem? His traditional resume failed to document the thousands of hours that he spent online in self-taught learning about the automotive industry. This frustration led to the creation of StackUp, a way for Nick (and others like him) to better document self-directed learning. As an educator, StackUp immediately appealed to me for the way that it could capture my own learning. Though I don’t hold a degree in educational technology, my years of independent study should be captured! My blog does a decent job of helping me share my learning with others, but it is still just a small representation of all that I have learned over the years. Similarly, my graphic artist husband has realized that he has a love for industrial design and machining. He has spent hours and hours learning 3D digital design, playing with 3D printers, CAD programs, woodworking, welding, and recently machining with a metal lathe. Though his traditional resume wouldn’t easily reflect it, he has a pretty impressive industrial design background. StackUp is a Chrome browser plugin that tracks everything from personal productivity (I’ve learned I spend way too much of my life in email hell), to verifying independent reading/learning, to helping quantify self-directed learning.

How to integrate StackUp in the Classroom: The beauty of StackUp is that it isn’t one more program to add to your curriculum, it isn’t one more piece of technology that your students have to learn. Simply add the plugin, ask your students to sign in, and it runs automagically in the background while they carry on with their learning. As a teacher, you can login to StackUp and create reading challenges for your students. At Anastasis, we are using these challenges in inquiry to encourage students to spend time on a variety of website types. Right now our students are doing an inquiry on How the World Works. They are inquiring into different types of energy. This lends itself to a lot of research on science websites. The challenges help us encourage the kids to diversify the types of sites they are incorporating into the inquiry block. Yes, we want the kids to be researching the science behind different kinds of energy, but we also want them to explore the history of energy use, the social and economic implications of how we use energy, the current political climate and it’s impact on how we use energy. You know…connective inquiry! StackUp lets our teachers challenge students to diversify their learning in this way by creating a category challenge. Teachers choose categories for students. No matter which websites they visit, if they are included in a category, they will get ‘credit’ for visiting that site. I love the way StackUp works for your classroom, and doesn’t box students into specific requirements for the tracking to work. Teachers can also set up challenges based on a specific website or time spent learning in a category.

One of the unintended consequences of using StackUp with our students, is they way it has added to our Learner Profile. Using StackUp has helped us gain a better understanding of who our students are by uncovering hidden interests that they might have. If a student spends a lot of time in a specific category or on specific websites, StackUp  gives us insight into those passions and interests.

Students (and learners of all kind- teachers count!) can use StackUp to showcase the reading and learning they do online by subject area. At a glance, students can see how much reading they are doing and what topics have been of most interest to them. This can help them discover the things that they are most passionate about, and even help them discover where they waste time. It is pretty revealing when you see how much time you sink into things like email, Facebook, etc. While I appreciate the time to connect with others through social media, I realized that I spend more time there than I probably need to. StackUp can help you manage online time more efficiently by revealing where you spend it.

Students can engage in classroom reading challenges and see how their learning compares to their classmates. This can be used as a motivational element, though we don’t use it this way at Anastasis (inquiry lends itself more to competition with self than competition with others).

One of the things we’ve loved about StackUp is the ability to help parents see the learning that their children are doing online. So often our time spent on devices can appear to be frivolous to those who don’t know what is happening while we are online. With StackUp, parents can see the time students are spending learning and what they are learning about. Of course, if students are spending 90% of their time on gaming sites that tells a story, too.

I really appreciate the way that StackUp helps teachers and students alike metacognate about where and why we spend our time online. It is a great tool to spur on reflection about where we spend time, and what we care most about.

One of the StackUp stories I love was from @SenorG, he talked about students taking a credit recovery class online. One of the things StackUp revealed was for every hour spent on the credit recovery site, students spent 20min on Google Translate. This information was invaluable for those assisting students. It was also valuable information to consider for the credit recovery course platform. Could they better empower students by embedding a translate feature? By translating the whole site? Way cool!

Bottom line: StackUp can help give you insight into your students online reading habits. It gives you a way to see where their learning takes them and how much time they are spending on their online reading/learning. We realized after a few weeks that our students had the bad habit of site hopping. They would start research using Google, but if the answer they were hunting for wasn’t immediately apparent on the site they clicked on, they would go directly back to Google. This helped us realize that we needed to teach students how to search smarter, and that when they arrived at a site, we needed to better equip them with the tools to dive into the learning.

Tips: StackUp is super easy to install, you can do it in under a minute! If you have Google apps, you can do this in under a minute for your whole school! Students can sign in using their existing Google education accounts. Don’t have Google for Education? First, I’m sorry! Second, not to worry, students can sign in using any email address.

The StackUp plugin can be easily turned on or off at any time. All information is private and can be deleted at any time. It is both COPPA and FERPA compliant. Students can choose which information to share on their profile.

StackUp Chromebook

Shout out to StackUp who generously donated a class set of Chromebooks to Anastasis students! Thank you!

 

Are you coming to the 5Sigma Edu Conference in February? If not, you should be! It is the place we were originally introduced to StackUp!

 

Technology: the savior of education?

In 2009, I left teaching. I didn’t do it because I was fed up with the system, or because I didn’t like my job. Quite the opposite. I really loved being a computer teacher. I loved the freedom of writing my own curriculum every day, and getting to know my students. I had a great time helping other teachers learn how to use technology, and coming up with ideas for how they could integrate it into their classrooms. In 2009, I left teaching for health reasons. I have auto immune disorders (Rheumatoid Arthritis and Raynaud’s Syndrome) and in 2009, my rheumatologist recommended that I take a year off to see if my body would stop attacking itself. Get away from the germs the wreak havoc on the system.

So, that is what I did. I took a year off, fully anticipating that this little experiment would not work and that I would be back in the classroom by 2010.

In 2008 (I know, I’m doing this in the wrong order!), I was teaching my students how to build a website using Wix. This is a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) platform, but also allowed for some basic HTML embedding and tweaking. I was demonstrating for students how they could embed a Google Map onto their websites and asked the question, “if I wanted to put a map of the capital of the United States on my website, what would I need to type in?” Blank. Stares.

To clarify, these were 10 and 11-year-old students who are living IN the United States of America. I tried again, “You guys! The capital of the United States, you know, the country we live in?” At this point a few hands raised. “New York?” “San Francisco?” This was one of those face-palm teacher moments. In the interest of time, I gave them the answer. This scenario happened with 2 more classes. Out of 74 fifth grade students, not one of them knew the capital of their own country!!! At this point I started to panic a little. How could our social studies curriculum fail to mention the capital of the United States? I decided that I was going to take all of the curriculum home over the summer and create supplemental guides using technology to help teach what wasn’t in the curriculum. I didn’t stop at social studies, I took the reading, writing, math, and science curriculum home for kindergarten through fifth grade. The back of my MDX filled, I had a goal: to leverage technology to solve this problem.

As I poured over pages and pages of curriculum, one thing became abundantly clear…this was not a problem with the curriculum. At least not in the way I had assumed. It was all there. The kids had even done worksheets and taken tests on the information! When it came time to retrieve the information for a practical purpose, they couldn’t do it. Analyzing the curriculum, I could see why. The way that these skills were being taught was not going to reach my students. I knew these kids. I had taught them for years. As I looked at what the curriculum offered as “learning” I knew that it wouldn’t work for the majority of the students I saw each week in my computer lab. These are brilliant kids, but the only thing that the curriculum required of them was that they look at something, and then regurgitate what they had seen right back on paper. None of it ever had to take long-term residence in the brain. It went directly from the eyes to the hand. My pursuit of a technology supplement guide took on a new goal: take what was in the curriculum, and use technology to bring the learning to life. I had the added benefit of knowing each of the kids I was writing this for. I had their faces in my mind as I wrote these technology guides. I could picture their excitement over learning with what I was pulling together.

Fast forward again to 2009. I hadn’t finished the tech guides, so I was hired as a consultant to finish them for the remainder of the curriculum. I picked up a few other consulting gigs at other schools in the area. As I went through their curriculum I realized that this wasn’t a localized problem. This was a one-size-fits-all problem. At the end of the day, the real trouble was that curriculum isn’t designed for the individual, but for the masses. And in creating for the masses, it completely forgot its goal of teaching students. Who are individuals.

One day as I was working on these technology supplement guides and flipping through curriculum, a song came on Pandora (internet radio) that I had never heard before. I frantically looked for a sticky note to jot down the name of the artist. I stopped for a minute after I got the artist’s name down (Zee Avi, for those who are interested), and had a true geek out moment over how far technology had come. I marveled at the way that technology was so advanced that it could predict what music I would like, all based on one piece of information. It felt like a terribly intimate thing for technology to be able to do (particularly because at the time, I had no idea how the background technology worked!). In the midst of my geeking out, I had a thought: what if curriculum worked more like Pandora? What if we could input one piece of information about a student, and have technology predict ways they might like to learn? I could not shake this idea, and Tweeted it out. My PLN instantly retweeted that thought. I emailed an app developer in Australia that I had been working with and asked if technology was advanced enough to do something like that with curriculum. His response was somewhere along the lines of, “if you can think it up, anything is possible.” I couldn’t let the idea go, so this app developer pointed me toward Balsamiq and told me to learn what I could about how Pandora worked and then prototype my idea. Since I had all the time in the world on my hands, I did exactly that. Pandora called itself the music genome project, based on the human genome project. Essentially, it identifies attributes of music (over 400 of them) and tags each piece of music with those attributes. A map of music. Clearly learning has attributes, so I set out naming those, planning the way that learning could be broken down into the minutia so that an algorithm could identify the perfect resource for a student. At this point I had convinced myself that technology would be the savior of education. All we need is to better individualize for students! Problem solved! Clearly I’m a genius! ūüėČ

Only, the more that I talked to teachers, the more I talked with administrators, the more I looked for investors, the more that I examined the system, the more I realized…education isn’t quite ready for this genius.

The trouble is, we have a one-size-fits-all system. We have classes of 25+ students. We have teachers who are overworked and underpaid. We have a limited amount of time. We have limited budgets. The idea of mass education, in some ways, locks us into the one-size-fits-all. Standards and testing have become hallmarks of education. I started to recognize that even if I get the Learning Genome Project built, I still have to find a way for teachers to use it for students. With the current setup, that would mean the very top students in a class, those considered ‘gifted,’ and the very bottom of the class, those considered ‘low,’ would get to use it. The vast majority of students, those in the middle of the bell curve, would never get the individualized plan. Yet, they deserved it just as much.

This is where the Learning Genome Project took a small (read: enormous) detour. In order for this technology to be used to create a learning map for every student, a new system was needed. I began to consider what type of learning model this type of technology would be best utilized in. I couldn’t find a fit. Sadly, I couldn’t find anything that recognized that every student was a unique individual. One with unique learning patterns. Unique gifts. A unique worldview. I couldn’t find anything that recognized students with names. Everything was geared toward “students,” as if that one word can capture the genius of the individuals it claims. We needed a new system. One that honored humanity. That honored the students with names. I began to dream about what such a school would look like. I talked with other brilliant educators about what that would be like. The result: a new school. A new school model. A brand new way of approaching learning: I started a k-8 school, Anastasis Academy.

I began this journey believing that technology was going to solve the problems of education, I suppose that is a natural path for someone so saturated in current educational technology. It didn’t take long for me to recognize that the problem wasn’t one that technology, like the Learning Genome Project, could solve but rather, one that technology could support. At the heart of what isn’t working is a system. A system that sees “students,” and not students with names. A system aimed at teaching the masses in a way that ends up minimizing humanity. Minimizing what makes us unique. Minimizing the genius that each of us alone brings to the world. I set out to create technology that would revolutionize learning, and instead detoured to the real game changer: a model that recognizes the individual, that honors it. Beginning from this place, students with names, learning can grow. Technology that supports that learning can grow.

The Learning Genome Project has taken a 5 year back seat, not because it isn’t important. Not because it can’t work. It has taken a back seat because first we need to recognize the humanity. When we really see the kids with names, the technology can support. It can help us reach each of those unique individuals. It can transform.

Anastasis Academy has been the single greatest “accident” of my life. In many ways I stumbled into starting a school. Seeing the way everything grows out of ‘students with names,’ the humanity, I’m able to again look at the Learning Genome Project with new eyes. In and of itself, the Learning Genome¬† Project (technology) won’t be the savior of education. Coupled with a model that honors humanity, it is unstoppable. I know this to be true. I’ve had the luxury of 5 years in Anastasis Academy. I’ve seen students come alive. I’ve seen them #standagain in who they are as learners, in who they are as the unique individuals they were created to be. If you’d like to see Anastasis Academy first hand, I hope you will join us for our education conference, 5Sigma. If you were a supporter of my Indiegogo campaign, I’d like to waive your conference fee! Just email me for a special code! I’d love for you to be my guest!

Last week, I had the great privilege of virtually meeting Bodo Hoenen. We share an eerily similar vision, come at from very different angles. Bodo is launching his own Indiegogo campaign. It is one that I will support because I so strongly believe that the world needs this. Bodo will be our closing keynote at 5Sigma Edu Conference. I cannot wait! I’m interested in partnering with those who share the vision. In those who know that we have to do better for kids now. Please help us BLOW UP the Internet with a new message about education reform. One about students with names. Individuals who are uniquely gifted and set apart to do something important in the world. If you’ve taught for any amount of time, you know that you are among genius waiting to be unleashed! It is time to empower kids. It is time to stop limiting with labels. It is time to stand again.

Follow Anastasis Students in the upcoming weeks as they work to transform education. As we begin our new inquiry unit, students are exploring the power of one. They are learning that they have an unique voice and worldview. They have the power to transform. I hope you’ll join us!

The Very Best Use of a Weekend: #RSCON4

I am SO excited for this weekend.¬† It is the Reform Symposium Conference!!!¬† Seriously, I feel a little bit giddy.¬† Like a child on Christmas morning.¬† As an adult, RSCON is one of the things that can bring back the same feelings of anticipation and eagerness.¬† So much learning is about to happen this weekend!¬† Best of all, it is INSPIRED learning.¬† What could be better than surrounding yourself with a weekend packed full of inspiration, learning, hope, edu-friends and encouragement? Nothing, that’s what.

In case you’ve been out of the loop in the world of social media lately, this is BIG!¬† You will not want to miss this FREE worldwide virtual conference.¬† It doesn’t matter where in the world you are, what you are wearing, how disastrous (or epic) your week was, because RSCON4 is available to everyone.¬† Please look at the schedule (conveniently made available in your preferred timezone) and plan to join us for as much of the conference as you can.¬† I’m overjoyed that I get to be a part of this incredible conference again.¬† Although I’ve been the very WORST organizer, I’m truly so honored to be a part of something so important.

I’ll be presenting on Sunday with @michellek107 and @nancybabbitt, we will share a little bit of the “secret” sauce that makes Anastasis so awesome. Drop in and join the conversation.¬† Better yet: drop in to several sessions and join the conversation! Looking forward to learning with all of you!

 

Reform Symposium Free Virtual Conference

The Making of the Learning Genome Project

So many of you have offered tremendous support, donations and a megaphone to spread the word about the Learning Genome Project. ¬†I am so grateful! ¬†Today I thought I would lift the curtain just a bit and share a behind the scenes look at the Learning Genome Project. ¬†My plan was to do this in video form using Screenium or Screeny. Those plans were foiled when NEITHER worked even with updates. ¬†#sigh ¬†Instead, I’ll write out my story and take you on a picture journey of how it all took place. ¬†If you haven’t had a chance to lend a helping hand, it is not too late. ¬†Honestly, even $1 makes such a BIG difference! ¬†If everyone of my readers gave just $1, this would be taken care of tonight and we would be able to start the next phase of development. Click here to help out now!

I come from a family of entrepreneurs. ¬†If it doesn’t exist or it can be done better, that is what you do. ¬†This mind-set can be a bit of a curse…once I get an idea in my head, it is like a broken record that plays over and over until I do something about it. ¬†My dad is prime example of this, he started Koostik with a styrofoam cup and an iPhone. Once the idea was there, it stayed until he saw it realized…in this case that means a growing company and product in Restoration Hardware and Red Envelope. ¬†He is awesome.

For me this process started as I dug through curriculum and worked to supplement it with technology tools. ¬†The idea was to “fill” the gaps with technology tools that would make the curriculum work better for students. ¬†As I went through publisher after publisher, I started realizing that the problem wasn’t a lack of technology (if you have read this blog for any amount of time, you know that is a BIG realization for me). The real problem was that we were trying to address the needs of an incredibly diverse population of kids with a one-size-fits-all curriculum. ¬†The troubling thing for me was that I sat on the committees that made the curriculum decisions. ¬†I was sold (just like everyone else) on the premise that these curricula had “differentiated” instruction. ¬†I have come to hate that term. ¬†You know what it means? ¬†It means that curriculum companies can sell more curriculum because they add in a highlighted section that says “differentiation!” and gives a one-size bigger or one-size smaller approach to the exact same problem. ¬†As I went through all of this curriculum, I couldn’t shake the feeling that adding in a bit of technology wasn’t going to solve the problem.

As a computer teacher, I taught 435 students every week. ¬†I taught the same 435 kids for 6 years. ¬†I saw them grow up, learned what made them tick, watched the frustration grow when they didn’t understand a learning objective. ¬†These kids were amazing. They were brilliant. They all had strengths and weaknesses that made them special. They all have a different understanding and approach to the world. ¬†We were stripping all of that uniqueness away and making them learn everything the same. We were expecting that they would learn the same things, the same way, and at the same time. ¬†Ludicrous! Nothing in life or growth and development happens this way, and yet that is what our education system is built on? ¬†This was really troubling for me. ¬†I couldn’t shake that it shouldn’t be that way.

In 2010 I took a year away from teaching for health reasons. ¬†During that year, I acted as an educational consultant for many area schools. ¬†This period of time re-emphasized those stirrings that I was having about education. This curriculum wasn’t working because it assumed too much sameness. I saw brilliant, gifted kids losing their passions because it wouldn’t get them into the swanky private high school (that looked just like every other school). How sad that we ask kids to give up their areas of gifting to get to the next level of learning. ¬†Something is wrong! ¬†One day I was working my way through curriculum, supplementing the holes with technology tools. ¬†I was listening to Pandora Internet radio. ¬†A song came on that I had never heard before, by an artist that was also new to me. ¬†I frantically searched for something to write on so that I could remember this new find. ¬†I remember thinking, “how amazing that we have come to a place in history where we can use technology to predict something as personal as music.” ¬†I was truly amazed that I could put in one piece of information and through a series of algorithms, Pandora could predict other music I would like. ¬†If it can work with music, surely it could work with curriculum.

This was the birth of that niggling thought that wouldn’t go away. ¬†This was the beginning of the Learning Genome Project. ¬†I had recently been introduced to a programmer (@ianchia) through @Doremigirl on Twitter. ¬†Ian and I had shared many conversations about what education apps could look like. ¬†This time it was my turn to ask a question. ¬†I wanted to know if it was possible to program what was in my head. ¬†“Well of course.” ¬†Ian introduced me to some wireframing tools and I was off and running. ¬†Over the next months, I dreamed up how the Learning Genome would work. ¬†I thought about the students that I wanted something better for. I thought about the frustrations I had as a teacher. I dreamed about a tool that would make the whole process easier.

Teachers share something in common: we all want the very best for our students. ¬†There are a few problems with this. ¬†First, we don’t always get to choose what we will teach. Many times our school or district hands us the curriculum and says, “go.” ¬†This is not conducive to doing the best we know how for every child. ¬†Second, we don’t always know that their is a tool/lesson/resource out there that could make all the difference for each student. ¬†Third, we have a limited time to search for that perfect tool/lesson/resource. ¬†A lot of system problems to overcome. ¬†If Pandora can do this for music, I can do it for education.

I started researching how Pandora works, what happens in the background that makes my experience possible? ¬†Pandora is called the Music Genome Project because it used the Human Genome Project as its inspiration. ¬†In the Human Genome Project, genes are mapped out. ¬†In the Music Genome Project, the “genes” of music are mapped out. ¬†I called my version the Learning Genome Project. ¬†Together, we will map the genes of education, those attributes that help us find commonalities that match the right content to each student at the right time.

First, we need to collect information about the learner. If we don’t know the learner, we can’t know what content best fits their needs. ¬†This is, in short, the best student information system ever.

Next, we have to know enough about the school and the classroom to make recommendations. It does us no good to recommend an iDevice app if the school has no access to that device.

We also have to know something about the lead learner (the teacher).

After we have the profile information, it is critical to know where students are in their learning. What needs to be learned? ¬†This is the individualized learning plan…each student has one.

 

From within the ILP, teachers, students and parents can create and have input on the learning goals.  These learning goals inform what happens in the hub of the genome.

When the learning goal has been identified, the genome “hub” comes into play. This is where resources (lessons, videos, apps, experiments, activities, etc.) are matched and recommended for the student. ¬†Much like Pandora, a learning channel is created.

Teachers (and students) can expand the results to view more information about the recommendation.  From here it can be added to teacher and student planners, and materials for the curriculum can be selected.

Teachers can see all student assignments within their planner. Here they can create groups for overlaps of student learning.  They can also create whole-class events.

After a student completes an activity, they record it within their ePortfolio. ¬†This is all completely integrated. ¬†Within the portfolio they can keep notes, documents, pictures, video and badges. ¬†Badges help students have a bread trail of where they have been in their learning. ¬†Portfolio’s are forever associated with a student, from year to year it travels and grows with them. ¬†Students can also have the option of downloading their portfolio for offline viewing.

In addition to portfolios and planners, the Learning Genome Project includes wiki, blog and photo tools.

Community tools keep students, teachers and parents in collaboration.

My brother and I had many of the same teachers growing up. ¬†We are very different people with 5 years separating us. ¬†My favorite teachers were not his. ¬†We had very similar experiences, the same outstanding teachers. But some teachers connected better with me than him. ¬†How do we help every child have influence of a “favorite” teacher? ¬†I created Twitacad. ¬†Even if that teacher isn’t in the child’s school, there is a blended learning component that makes that connection possible.

Twitacad offers teachers and students a platform for sharing, communicating, and learning.  It is all tied in to the Learning Genome. Everything works together.  Virtual teachers are listed as teachers for parents, students and other teachers to interact with.

The Learning Genome Project has assessment tools built in.  Assessment is based on mastery of a skill or concept.  This is directly related to what is happening in the student portfolio so that students, teachers and parents can view evidences of the learning.

How does content, resources, tools, lessons, apps, videos, etc. get into the genome?  It gets tagged with its learning attributes by incredible teachers around the world like you.  We all contribute to this project and we all benefit from it.

The hub (resource aggregation) portion of the Genome is free to everyone.  Every child deserves an education tailored to them.  Additional portions of the Learning Genome Project (planners, ePortfolios, blogs, wikis, Twitacad) will be a subscription based service.

The Learning Genome Project is not curriculum. ¬†It is a sorting tool that pulls the best options for every child. ¬†Teachers will be able to sort results based on price, Bloom’s Taxonomy level, standard, subject, and type of resource. ¬†This will tell you what curricular resources will best meet every child’s needs. ¬†Every time a resource is used, it gets rated by both student and teacher. Resources that are highest rated will be recommended first.

This is truly a quick overview of the Learning Genome project. ¬†There are so many intricacies and features that will make it revolutionary to education. ¬†The one hang up? I need help funding it! ¬†Sure, I could go and get some venture capitalists to fund it. The problem: I want the force that drives what happens to the Learning Genome Project to be what is best for kids…not what best impacts the bottom line. ¬†I believe that if we all put a little into this project, that we can create something revolutionary. ¬†We can all have a part in transforming education for the world.

I hope you will join me. ¬†I hope that you will realize that $1 and a few minutes is a small price to pay for a resource that has the potential to reach every child in the world. ¬†This is a small price to pay for our future. ¬†We can do this. ¬†Please click here and donate now…then spread the word to everyone you know and encourage them to do the same.

Anastasis Academy is Hiring for 2012-2013 Year! (pass it on)

Team Anastasis at EduCon in Philly 2012

If you are a regular reader of my blog (or Tweets) you know about Anastasis.  This is the school that @matthewquigley and I started a year ago.  It has been an incredible journey.  What makes what we do everyday work? We surround ourselves with the VERY best.  Seriously, we are smart enough to know that you hire people who are better than you are.  Our teachers are incredible! They are so incredible, in fact, that we are growing and need to hire more.

At Anastasis Academy, we are a community of learners.  We strongly believe that joining with passionate, qualified people is essential to building this community.  We give our teachers FREEDOM to be teachers. We have two positions available for the 2012-2013 school year for a full time elementary and a full time jr. high teacher.  If that is you, we would love to hear from you.  You can learn more about the positions available and find our application for download here.

We are located in the south Denver area.¬† If you aren’t, don’t let that stop you from dreaming, @michellek107 joined us from Nebraska last year!

If all that didn’t win you over, you should know that @matthewquigley and I are pretty dynamite bosses. We also happen to have the greatest staff and students.

ClassConnect: all-in-one digital organization for the classroom

What it is:¬† ClassConnect is a website I have written about in the past (here) that has made some great changes that make it worth taking another look!¬† ClassConnect is a fantastic one-stop-shop for collaborating, storing, and organizing your life as an educator.¬† The real powerhouse of ClassConnect is the ability to build, organize and share lessons and resources easy.¬† You won’t be pressed to remember where you stored everything (dropbox, diigo, pinterest, twitter favorites) because with ClassConnect you can store it all in one place.¬† Even better, you can search and use lessons and resources that other teachers have built.¬† The collaborative nature of ClassConnect makes it easy to work together on planning out and sharing learning.¬† ClassConnect even started a great movement called “United We Teach” encouraging educators to share more.¬† ClassConnect is super easy to use, just find lesson plans and snap them into your lessons…there is no need for downloads!

You can set up ClassConnect to automatically notify your colleagues, students and parents when you make updates.¬† What’s even handier is that everything is viewable on computers, iPads (woohoo) and smartphones.¬† This makes it easy to plan and use from everywhere!¬† The lessons in ClassConnect aren’t only files, they are also interactive websites, games and videos.¬† Everything in one place.¬† Gotta love that! When a lesson gets updated, everyone who is shared on the lesson gets updated.

Did I mention it is free?¬† It is ūüėČ

How to integrate ClassConnect into the classroom: ClassConnect is a no-brainer for introducing to your classroom routine.¬† Who could argue with an all-in-one organizational tool? ClassConnect makes it SO simple to share resources with colleagues, parents and students.¬† Think about how this could transform differentiation in your classroom.¬† Instead of just using the “one-size-fits-all” differentiation that curriculum offers (I hesitate to even call that differentiation…what a joke!), you can create folders of lessons; resources; and learning that perfectly fit the needs of your students.¬† Because they are so easily shared, you can bring everyone who needs to be on board, on board.¬† Students can go right to ClassConnect to view what you have stored for them there.¬† Parents can go to ClassConnect for additional support and ideas for furthering learning at home.
The colleague sharing shouldn’t be overlooked.¬† Imagine how much richer learning could be if we were sharing our best finds with each other freely and in an easy to access location.¬† Changing the world here.
***By the way, ClassConnect has a truly AWESOME start up story.¬† This isn’t just some company. ClassConnect was/is created by a student who wanted school to look different. Be sure to read Eric’s story on the About page.
Tips: For every colleague you invite that signs up, ClassConnect will give you BOTH 500mb more of free storage (you start out with 1GB)!  That is a pretty sweet deal!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using ClassConnect in  your classroom!

Friday Recap: Geeking over new apps, celebrating week 5

Whew, it has been a while since I have done a Friday recap.  Mostly because these days I’m just so happy to have made it through another week that I am celebrating other ways…like by taking a nap.

Anastasis Academy has just completed week number five.  Can I say how incredibly cool it is to see something that you pour yourself into come to fruition?  We have students! We end every week with a field trip learning excursion.  Awesome.

If you are interested in following our journey, you can follow our blogs (yes plural, we each have at least one, some overachievers have two…or more).  I’ve created a bundle that you can subscribe to in Google Reader.  Subscribing to a bundle means that you will never miss a beat…it will almost be as good as being here with us.  This is just the collection of teacher blogs.  Each of our students blogs as well, we can’t share those publicly because we use full student names.  Occasionally I may let you have a peek at some of our student writing by republishing the post anonymously.  For now you will have to take my word for it, these kids are amazing.

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and YouTube.  You can be a super fan and like us on Facebook.  If you are ever in town, stop by and let us show you around!

This week I found some super cool apps.  I’m talking classroom changing here.  I couldn’t wait to blog my favorite find which is Demibooks Composer.  A BIG thank you to @ianchia for making me aware of its existence.  I can’t wait to see what our students come up with!  Demibooks Composer puts the power of interactive e-book publishing into the hands of every student.  I am geeking out here.  It is seriously cool.  Hurry up and download it while it is FREE.  I would have paid big money for this app.  Big.

 

PlanbookEdu: Lesson Plans in the Cloud

What it is: Planbook EDU is a great cloud-based (a.k.a online) lesson plan book.  Because Planbook EDU is hosted in the cloud, all you need is an Internet connection, your plans travel with you.   Planbook EDU is listed in the Google Apps Marketplace and is a natural fit for schools already using Google apps for education (email, calendar, documents, etc.).  The free version of Planbook EDU has nothing to install, let’s teachers access their planbook from any internet connection, is easy to use with word processor like editing, is fully customizable, works in all major web browser and is iPad/iPhone supported (word processor editing doesn’t work on these devices).

How to integrate Planbook EDU into the classroom: I am a big fan of organizational tools, they let me organize my thoughts so that in the fire hose of ideas what is important (the learning goal) doesn’t get lost. Planbook EDU is a simple way to organize and plan units and your school year.  I love that it is cloud-based so that I can access my plans from anywhere and any time.  The basic features are robust enough to get your planning in place and the extras that can be added on make it VERY useful.

The premium version allows you to embed your planbook directly in your classroom website…very handy for keeping students and parents up to date with what is coming!

Tips: For $25/year, you get all of the free features plus- attach files to lesson plans, assign Common Core Standards, embed your planbook on any website, share lesson plans with anyone, print from your browser, export to Microsoft Word or PDF, built-in spell check and enjoy access to unlimited planbooks each school year.  EVERY user gets a free 14 day trial of all the premium options from Planbook EDU.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using PlanbookEDU  in your classroom!

 

PSToM: Parents, Students, Teachers of Mathematics

What it is: PSToM is an online portal for math classes.¬† With PSToM parents can follow their child’s progress and know exactly what their child is learning in math.¬† Students can learn at their own pace, assess their own learning and know how well they are doing in math (and why!).¬† Teachers can recommend math videos, know each students strengths and weaknesses and tailor classroom instruction to get more out of each class.¬† PSToM has built-in math problems with an area to solve them, math videos that can be shared, built-in tests and a place to discuss learning.¬† The site is simple but the learning possibilities are pretty incredible.

How to integrate PSToM into the classroom: PSToM is a fantastic supplement to the math classrooms.  PSToM makes it simple to create a blended classroom with online content, discussion and problem solving supporting what is happening in the classroom.  As a teacher it is easy to assign math videos and problem sets.  All data is collected and shared with students, parents and teachers.  PSToM is a great connection between the math classroom and home.  The mystery of the math classroom is taken out for both the parents and students.  Everyone knows what learning goals are being worked on, the progress and what skills need to be practiced.

Use PSToM as a supplement to your math classroom and to customize math lessons for your students.  Give students the opportunity to work on math at their unique learning level in a computer lab setting or as a center on classroom computers.

Tips: Be sure to tell parents about PSToM, it is a great way for students to get some extra practice and opportunity for understanding in at home.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using  PSToM  in your classroom!

Paper Tweeting: Social Media in the Classroom

I’m currently working with an elementary and middle school to roll out a school wide social media campaign.¬† I have had a lot of questions about this so I thought I would make a video sharing how that decision was made and how we are approaching it.¬† Yes, I did film this video today…although the calendar says spring, Colorado woke up to SNOW this morning-hence the furry hooded sweater. ūüôā

If you don’t have time to watch the video, here are the highlights:

  • This private school decided to roll out a social media campaign to let the local community learn more about the school in hopes of increasing enrollment numbers.¬† I let the superintendent know that Twitter was not a marketing tool, people won’t follow accounts that are constantly broadcasting information.¬† That being said, stories are compelling and people will follow accounts that tell a compelling story, and that invite conversation.
  • The most compelling story in a school comes from the students. Letting¬† students be the voice of the school does a few things: 1. It gives students a place to reflect on their learning. 2. It gives the community and parents an authentic look at what is happening in the classroom.¬† 3. It allows us to model proper use of social media as we use Twitter WITH students. 4. It gives students a sense of pride in their school and a sense of ownership over what they do there.
  • Because this campaign is being rolled out with elementary students, there are some special considerations.¬† Twitter clearly states in its terms of use that users must be 13 years old or older.¬† Students don’t have an individual Twitter account; instead, each classroom has an account.¬† Classes will Tweet using the interactive whiteboard as a class.
  • The administration wanted to make this process as simple as possible for teachers. They asked me to create a Twitter account for every classroom, specialist, and administrator in the building.
  • The administration made this campaign optional for teachers.¬† This was HUGE, instead of it feeling like one more thing added to the teacher’s already full plates, they got to make the decision to opt in.¬† Out of 30 elementary teachers 20 are attending our Tweetup tomorrow!
  • The communications manager of the school is running the main School account.¬† She will be following a list of all of the classrooms tweeting and re-tweet the best of the best.¬† The main school account will be the “face” of the school on the Internet.
  • The administration is Tweeting as well, they have a unique and different view of the school than the classroom teachers and students do.
  • I created several lists for teachers to follow, there is a list for every discipline and age group as well as a list of other classes and student authors that tweet.
  • I linked every Twitter account with a Facebook Fan page for the classroom.¬† I turned off all commenting features so that (for now) teachers don’t have to keep track of both platforms.¬† The Facebook Fan Page will most likely be accessed by parents who do not use Twitter so that they can still receive class updates.

 

Tomorrow I am holding a Tweetup. I BEGGED that this not look like typical tech training.¬† You know the kind…tired teachers crammed in the computer lab at the end of the day to learn a new tool.¬† Been there, done that. Unless you are a mega tech geek like me, you just really don’t appreciate those kind of trainings!¬† I was afraid if we approached this training the way we approach all other trainings, teachers would instantly have to get past that barrier.¬† Instead, we are meeting at a local coffee shop after school.¬† I sent out fun invitations and made sure teachers knew that this was a SOCIAL event.¬† After all, we are talking social media!

Because I know this staff well (I worked with them for 7 years, these are my friends!), I also have the benefit of knowing how comfortable they are with technology.¬† I suspect that they are pretty typical of school staffs everywhere.¬† There are some who are very comfortable with new technologies, and some who have trouble filling out a login form on their own.¬† I didn’t want technology to be a barrier for those who aren’t comfortable with it, so I decided to steal an idea from my friend @mcteach.¬† She does a paper blogging project with her students where they learn to blog and comment using paper before technology even enters the picture.¬† I LOVED the idea and thought it could be adapted for my Twitter Tweetup.¬† I made a video describing my paper tweeting method below.

 

 

Again, if you don’t have time for the video, here are the highlights:

  • I created a paper Twitter wall on chart paper that looks pretty similar to the actual Twitter wall (if I do say so myself).¬† This will be up on the wall at the coffee shop during our tweetup.¬† The Twitter wall is blank, ready for teacher tweets to fill it up.
  • I made a name tag for each teacher with their @username.¬† You know those “hello my name is”?¬† Yeah, it is that with their twitter handle.¬† Rule of the day, if you are mentioning someone by name, there must be an @ preceding it ūüôā
  • I have a stack of 10 sticky notes for each teacher with their twitter handle and “picture” at the top of the note and “140” at the bottom.¬† This is where teachers will compose their tweets.¬† The sticky note messages get stuck to the Twitter wall chart I created.¬† My hope is that teachers will begin to understand the public nature of Twitter in a concrete way.
  • I have regular envelopes that I have written DM on.¬† Teachers can use these to deliver DM’s to a friend.¬† Again, I wanted a concrete way of understanding the difference between a DM (Direct Message) and an @ reply.
  • Since tomorrow is #edchat, I’ll be prompting discussion for our paper tweetup with the #edchat topic tomorrow.¬† This will give me the opportunity to talk about RT (retweets) and hashtags.
  • In addition to #edchat discussion, I’ll ask teachers to share something that happened in their classrooms today as a tweet, helping them begin thinking about how to use Twitter in their classrooms.
  • I’ll encourage teachers to try a paper tweetup with their students so that they understand Twitter before using the technology.
  • After our paper tweeting session, I’ll let teachers hop on to Twitter and try it out while I am there to answer questions and help with any technical difficulties.¬† I really don’t want to focus on the tool, but on the connections and conversations that Twitter enables.¬† Twitter makes it easy to do this because the platform is so simple to use.

 

I think tomorrow will be fun, I’ll be sure to take some pictures and share them! If you missed them the first time around, here is a link to the Twitter posters that I created for the classrooms.