Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tech it for Granted: Getting Started

Over the summer, I've decided to make a little change on Tech Tip Tuesdays. For the next five weeks, instead of Tech Tip Tuesdays, I'm going to run a special miniseries titled "Tech it for Granted". Since many of us are less busy during summer than the school year, it is a great time to get started on a grant!

One of the questions I often hear from teachers is how to get more technology in the classroom. Many teachers know that there are grants out there available to them, but they don't know how to go about finding, applying for, and securing those grants.

In this mini-series, I will review the grant process in five installments (please note, these links won't work until each installment is posted):

Getting Started 
There are a few things to do to get started on the grant process. Getting a grant can be a long and somewhat complicated process- but it is one that anyone can be successful with! If you are realistic, organized, and determined, you can secure grant funds to bring technology into your classroom. 

1. The idea- chicken or the egg?
Many people are unsure whether to start with an idea and search for relevant funding, or search for funding that their school is eligible for and then develop the idea. I think it is best to brainstorm a few ideas, and run those by others in your school to see what types of ideas you can garner support for on the school level. You can always start with one idea in mind, and then modify or completely change as you learn more in the process and find different types of funding. Also, begin thinking about a few things to help you find proper funding:
  • What is the need? (Look at some data!)
  • What do you hope to accomplish?
  • How will you measure the effect the grant has?

2. Get Approval
Different districts have different processes. In my district, I simply have to talk with my supervisor about any grant under $20k. For grants over that amount, I have to go through a district approval process. Also keep in mind that receiving government grants can reduce the amount of other federal funds your school or district might be able to receive. No matter what you do, sit down with your supervisor and discuss any ideas before you start seeking funding. Once you've found potential funding sources, sit down with your supervisor again before you start applying. 

3. Do Your Research
Once you've got an idea in mind, and the support of your supervisor, the next step is to start seeking funding sources. Be sure to look closely at any restrictions on what the grant will cover (some tech grants will cover software and apps but not equipment) and who is eligible for it. There's no need to waste time applying to grants that don't fit your needs or that you are ineligible for. This webmix contains links to several sites to help get you started, but be sure to do your own research as well!

4. Get Organized and Stay Focused
As you do research, make a list of the potential funding sources that meet your needs, along with notes about their eligibility requirements and application requirements- I created a google form for myself to fill out as I did research, which collected all the information into a handy spreadsheet for me. Also, be sure to put the application deadlines for each grant you're interested in into your calendar and set alerts for a month out, two weeks out, one week out, and one day out.

Congratulations, you've just made the first steps to getting your very own technology grant! Don't forget to come back next Tuesday for the second installment of Tech it for Granted: Writing Your Grant!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Tech Tip Tuesday: Picto4Me

Happy Tuesday! I know I'm a little late today with my post, but better late than never, right? At least it's still Tuesday!

Today's Tech Tip is another Google gem. This is an extension for your Chrome browser called Picto4Me, and it is available in the Google Chrome Store. Many teachers who encounter newcomers have a hard time communicating with students until they are able to learn some important basic phrases in English.  Often times, even when a newcomer student has learned a few basic phrases, he or she may still not be comfortable speaking English yet (this is what we call the silent period), making communication difficult.

Picto4Me can help! If you've ever worked with SpEd students or students on the Autism spectrum, you might be familiar with Boardmaker. Picto4Me is much like a free version of Boardmaker. You can add pictures from their library (or ones from your own computer) to create a "board" of images and words. Check out this free newcomer board! Since you can upload your own pictures, you could even use this as a tool to help students at higher proficiency levels remember and use academic vocabulary. Since you can even adjust the picture and text sizes, you could add full sentences or sentence frames.

Can be used for:
  • Newcomer communication board
  • Pictures can be cut out and used for matching games
  • Word Wall
  • Sentence fame wall
  • Create picture schedule

Why this is great for ELLs:
Research shows that for all students, vocabulary learning is more powerful and retained longer when the words are paired with non-linguistic representations (such as images). This powerful tool can help you communicate easily with newcomers and those in the silent period, as well as assist you with scaffolding learning for higher-proficiency students by creating word walls and sentence frame banks.

I would love to hear your results if you give this a try!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Scott Foresman Science: What's wrong with this picture?

In the near future, I will be meeting with the science team at one of the schools I work with to help them with incorporating content literacy for ELLs, especially newcomers and those at the lower levels of proficiency.

Our district uses Scott Foresman Science textbooks. The one pictured below is the 2nd grade edition.

As part of my preparation, I wanted to put together a few tools and strategies they could use- among them, offering simplified texts. On a whim, I decided to test the readability of the text. SHUT. THE. DOOR. I could not believe the results.

On average, out of 5 sections that I tested in the 5th grade science book, the average readability on the Flesch-Kincaid scale was 7.4! On the Lexile™ scale, the average readability was 920 (which is the upper readability expectation for 6th grade).

I then decided to check out 2nd grade. Again, I tested 5 sections. The average readability on the Flesch-Kincaid scale was 5.5. On the Lexile™ scale, the average readability was 780- close to the upper readability expectation for 4th grade.

While this is not exactly a scientific study with a large sample, it certainly does raise concerns. How can our students possibly be successful with acquiring content when it's presented at a reading level two grade levels above where they're expected to be- IF they're on grade level?? (You and I both know it is almost never the case that an entire class is reading on their expected grade level- frequently many will be below grade level- even several grade levels below). What about our ELLs and SpED students who struggle even with texts that ARE on grade level for them?

I did email Pearson to inquire about why the readability of these textbooks is two grade levels above that of the students it's written for, but I doubt I'll get a response.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tech Tip Tuesday: Plickers

It seems like Tuesdays are coming around fast all of a sudden! This always seems to happen to me at the end of the year. Things are so busy that it just flies by!

In the last session of my Technology Focus Group, the teachers were excited to learn about Plickers. Plickers is a student response system, but it doesn't require every student to have a device, which is awesome. Plickers stands for "paper clickers". Each student receives a numbered card that is also associated with them when you enter the class into the plickers web interface.

Each student card basically looks like a giant QR code that is unique to them. The orientation of the card signals their answer choice (A,B, C or D) to the program.

The teacher only needs a device with the Plickers app (available for iOS or Android). Then, all the teacher has to do is ask a question, give students a chance to think and hold up their cards, and then scan the room with the app. The app will pick up the student answers from their cards and give the teacher instant data, showing who has answered correctly, who has answered incorrectly, and who hasn't answered at all.

You also get data you can analyze later, like the image below from a recent PD.
Clicking on the data for each question gives me more in-depth data for the question, like what each student specifically answered.

Can be used for:

  • Pre-assessing knowledge of a new topic
  • Post-assessment
  • Quick assessment/Classroom Practice
Why this is great for ELLs:
Gone are the days when teachers would pose a question and only one student could answer! Using classroom response systems like Plickers gives every student the opportunity to participate in every question, and gives the teachers the opportunity to assess where every student is at on every question. This means it is easier for the teacher to determine where his/her ELLs are struggling and and analyze why in order to offer appropriate supports. Additionally, since each answer will be facing the teacher, students won't be looking at one another's answers. This provides a low-pressure way for ELLs to demonstrate their knowledge without feeling "on the spot."

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tech Tip Tuesday: Translate in Gmail

First off, the good news! I'm officially a Certified Google Educator! I could not be more excited. I thought I knew Google Apps for Education (GAFE) inside out, but I still learned so much in the process of studying for and taking the exams for certification. I sure haven't been using it to its fullest!

If you work with ELLs and have difficulty communicating with parents, you're going to LOVE today's tech tip! Today's tip is not only super easy, but super effective. As you probably guessed....it's a Google trick! If your school email is through GAFE then you're ready to go, but it's worth adding that this little trick also works in a regular Gmail address.

If you receive an email in a language you don't speak, you can easily and quickly translate that email without ever leaving your Gmail window. Just click the arrow in the upper right of the email, next to the reply window and select "translate message" (shown in image below).

For convenience, you can even set it to always translate messages that come to your email inbox in a particular language, as shown in the image below.

Why this is great for ELLs:
This is a perfect tool for making your communication with parents who may not speak English even easier! If they also have an Gmail account, you can teach them how to do this as well! That way, you can communicate easily and quickly with parents without the need for an interpreter! Parents can feel more connected to what's happening in the classroom on a daily basis and more involved in their child's education.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Tech Tips for Teachers 2015 Ebook

I'm so pleased to announce that our *free* 2015 Tech Tips for Teachers Ebook is now available! Filled with some amazing tech tips and and freebies, this ebook will help you build and manage your 21st century classroom!

Much thanks to the other editors, Andrea Crawford and Utah Roots, as well as our amazing and talented cover artist, Stacey Lloyd!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tech Tip Tuesday: Symbaloo

Welcome back for another Tech Tip Tuesday. This is one that will make your computer lab or computer station time run much more smoothly! No more long lists of URLs that students need to type into the browser, or having to create a brand-new webpage to collect links for each computer project.

Symbaloo allows you to keep all your links handy and available, and makes it easy for students to visit approved webpages without having to type in URLS. You can create new tabs for different "mixes" to help you stay organized. For example, if you're doing a project on Owls, you might create a mix with all your owl links in one place. You can also easily create a new mix for next week's topic! See this sample webmix all about Owls.

A webmix I recently created for participants in a workshop I was leading

Even better, as you find new links that fit your mix, you can continue adding to the mix to build a library of links that are relevant to the topic of your mix. The webmixes are available to you (and students) until you decide to delete them. When a link is no longer good, it's super easy to remove!

Can be used for:

  • Research 
  • Managing Computer Station Time
  • Creating a classroom desktop
  • Cataloging links for units of study

Why this is great for ELLs:
ELLs, especially newcomers and those less familiar with computers often find it difficult, time-consuming and frustrating to type in URLs (and often have trouble recognizing a mistake in a URL they've typed in). Using Symbaloo allows students to spend more time on the web learning and less time typing in URLs. It also helps ensure that students are staying on task and using teacher-approved websites.