# Fall 2020 -Tech Recommendations to Start the Year

My Tech Diet to Start the Year

Desmos Activity Builder and Google slides. That’s it. Focus on building your learning community and not juggling 100 different cool tools.

Tech to start with for students out of class would be Delta Math, Edpuzzle, and even more Desmos, Google Slides, or Google Docs.

Use google slides to assign breakout room groups collaborative work that they can discuss and co-annotate. As they work you can see the writing appear in real time. It looks like this:

Notice that group 7 is not writing, so I will be popping into that room to see what is up. I also was able to take a screen shot of the problem I wanted them to work on and set it as the background of the slide deck, so it was there for each group to reference.

And here is a great way to have students discuss their rough draft attempts on a homework problem so they can revise and refine there efforts. Their improved draft would go in the center rectangle.

If you prefer, label the squares A, B, C, and D and have students put names in the speaker notes. Then you can project their work for discussion while keeping it anonymous.

Gallery Walks Anyone?

This Google Slide Deck by @ashleyguerrero is perfect for a gallery walk activity.

Really, Desmos?

Yes really!

Peardeck, Nearpod, and Desmos all give you the ability to pace the class-control what is on everybody’s screen right now, see each student’s work immediately or near immediately. Each has a couple unique bells and whistles, but they all serve the purposes

1. Classroom pacing/ management at a distance
2. See student work in real time
3. Facilitate conversation

Here are some things that cause me to recommend Desmos:

• it is 100% free forever. You get all the features.
• it is made for math. It can do other subjects, but it’s math typing tools, graphs, and tables make different math representations simple.
• It has a whiteboard feature like peardeck and nearpod, but additional whiteboarding backgrounds like graph paper or a coordinate axis, isometric graph paper and circle/polar graph paper
• the card sort feature is great for activities like those from our IM and CPM curriculums
• the video tutorials make it simple to learn
• it is possible to build in self checking feature when they submit answers
• the built in comment feature lets you send individual students messages in real time or after class and allows students to go back and see later.
• The built in snap shot feature makes it easy to take screens shots and prepare a teacher presentation using actual student work as class is happening or later if you find a common incomplete understanding you want to address.
• the calculator is the same one used on our state test. If you have time to think about state test results right now, that practice with the tool is a plus.
• The starter screen sets they offer are great for helping you begin getting to know your students and building those relationships.

All that being said, if you are a Peardeck pro, have the paid license and don’t know how to use Desmos, starting your year with tech you know is totally reasonable.

But especially for those of you about to learn something new, invest the time learning the one built by math teachers for math teachers.

Just my unsolicited two cents . . .

# Remote Learning Resources- 2020

I put together these hyper docs in Spring of 2020, when over one weekend we went from face to face instructors to managers of distance learning opportunities. The subjects highlighted reflect the priorities for the course and the topics that are usually taught during spring semester.

I have been asked to share these resources so many times that I decided it was easier to put them all in one place for easy access.

Find a typo? Please let me know here.

# Distance Learning – Upping Your Video Lesson Game

Are you tired? These last six weeks have been a brutal baptism by fire into digital teaching and learning.

I know some of you are doing more than one of these at a time. If that’s you, those slopes are additive, so you are probably at the top of that list. Be comforted that it will never get steeper than this. ☺

One place you may consider upping your game, either now or for the future, is in the way you are recording and delivering content. I spent the week exploring different tech options and found a few that are much easier than what I previously have done, and some that help students to be more interactive and engaged while watching. I took one 8th grade lesson introducing the idea of volume and tried it out with each of the following platforms. (My purpose here is to show off the tech, so forgive less than optimal teaching.  Also, I committed to posting my first product for each platform, so you could see the way it might actually come out without spending a week of redoing and perfecting. All that to say, watch with grace.)

Record in Powerpoint: The record feature in Powerpoint makes editing or adding to your video a breeze.  Your speech and animation clicks are captured and saved slide by slide. Done and realize something you forgot? Add a slide and record whatever talk goes with it. Mess something up? Don’t start over. Just re-record that one slide. In the end, it can be converted to a single video.

Nearpod: This is another great option for those of you who teach using slides, but also is very adaptable to loading small videos you have saved from your computer or found online. The great thing about Nearpod is the wide variety of ways you have to choose from for students to answer questions or interact with the content you create. As you explore this self-paced lesson, be sure to see the variety of student interaction types on slide 3, 5,13, 24, and 26.

EdPuzzle: This platform is great for uploading any old or new video you have made or found online and inserting questions to check for understanding during the video. You can upload your classes from google classroom if you wish to, which allows you to keep a gradebook of viewing time and % correct for each video you assign. The video editing tools are simple and wonderful for clipping out little misspeaks or random interruptions. I’ll never have to stop and re-record again! Also, EdPuzzle has the option to set it so students cannot skip over video or questions – your choice.

Screencastify: Every How To video above was made with Screencastify. Like EdPuzzle it allows me to crop out random bits, but it also allows me to add in video pieces, merging them to one relatively seamless video.

Summary chart

# Distance Learning: The Missing Piece

In mid March 2020, with virtually no time to plan and prepare, schools around the nation shut their doors and moved instruction online. Amazing, wonderful teachers scrambled to learn how to set up google classrooms, record lessons, magically get lessons on usb drives uploaded and assigned in those shiny new online classrooms. They learned or relearned how to assign work digitally through Khan Academy, Delta Math, iReady, or 100 other digital math practice platforms.

The first weeks were trial and error. Teachers put all 5 classes into one classroom, and told students to upload pictures of the work for each assignment.  At a minimum of 2 photos per student per assignment, 4 assignments a week to 160 students made a huge number of images to be opened 1 at a time and sorted onto the right grade sheets. And some students had trouble uploading into google classroom because, hey, it was new for them too. So teachers found themselves recipients of photos via email, text, and tweet. Some were dropped in the school office on potentially germ covered paper, which meant driving over to pick up and grading with gloves.

One teacher team that works exceptionally well together but had never used google classroom divided labor. One person made worksheets, one made videos, one photocopied packets for pick up and one made the google classroom. One google classroom. For all 650 students. As a place for info to go out it was fine. But as things started getting turned in, well, it was pretty overwhelming.

In the midst of all this craziness, and a learning curve that rivaled any pandemic’s exponential growth, the easiest thing to do was to create a learning experience that, as much as possible, mirrored what was happening already in their classrooms. It was comfortable for teachers. It was comfortable for students. At a time when everything about life was different than what it had been one week before, stability and consistency in classroom structure was what we all felt like we needed.

And then it began popping up . . .

What is missing?

The kids. Being together. The laughter. The high fives.

The humanity. The heart. The community.

The sounds of discovery and failure and success!

The reason we went into teaching. The reason we stay.

We miss our kids.

And no matter how independent we try to raise our learners to be, they miss us.  Kids who never thought they would miss us, miss us. The feeling is mutual.

And honestly, what were we thinking??

Some of us have been recording lessons and providing them online for absent students for years.  How much has that worked for that 6th period baseball player who misses 2 days a week all spring? Uni-directional imparting of information, no matter how slick your videoing or screen casting skills, can never replace the richness of our classroom communities. And at this time, when things are scary, and resources are scarce for some of us, when life itself seems uncertain, maybe it is this community that is the most important thing to keep constant for our students

How do we make room for humanity in our digital classrooms?

1. Be intentional about connecting personally. Take time to ask, “How are you doing?” communicate back and forth with students when they take you up on those opportunities and share with you. One of my favorite ways right now is using this great set of distance learning starter screens from Desmos. Turns out editing a Desmos activity or creating one of your own is not very hard.(Who knew!) Choose a slide or two each week to give your students a chance to share if they need to. If not Desmos, give them a writing prompt or two to chose from each week.  They can’t just hang after class to talk. Let them know your door is still open.
1. Allow students some flexibility and choice. We are in a time where we have so little personal control. Give students the opportunity to choose which way they are going to show they have learned something. Hyperdoc lessons are a great way to build in self-pacing flexibility and/or activity choice.
1. Build in opportunities for creativity and play. Learning activities don’t have to look exactly like a math book. There are lots of ways to practice the mathematics they should be learning in creative and playful ways. And because creativity and play are two well proven stress relievers, adding opportunities for those in your classwork is taking care of your students in a uniquely human way.
1. Make room for mistakes and second chances. I know they are moving ever closer to adulthood, and teaching them responsibilities and natural consequences is important. But right now is a time to hold a little more loosely to those parts of our teaching.  Instead take the opportunity to teach them about kindness and grace. We as teachers may never know all the extra stressors that are attacking each child’s home life.
• Do they have a parent who is separated from the family because they are a health care provider?
•  Is a relative or loved one who is far, or even in the home, critically ill or especially endangered by this pandemic?
• Have one or both adults in the home lost their jobs?
• Do they have new responsibilities as an instructor of younger siblings?
• Are they simply a child that takes the worries of the scary world we live in deeply to heart?

Any of these things could affect their ability to spend time on learning, or the likelihood of  the learning they spend time on sticking with them. It is time for grace.

And honestly, it is time to spiral back to things again and again. Let’s do less, but do it with love, playfulness, humanity and grace.

Face the fact that students might not learn all of the math that you would have taught them if this was a different year. Embrace the fact that you have more to give them than facts and formulas. Remember why we stay in this stressful, crazy, exhausting profession and give yourself permission to make caring for your students the first priority during this once in a lifetime moment in your teaching career.