Staying Connected via Padlet

Working with middle schoolers in and of itself is a complex process. You have 30 little bodies each with their own unique personalities and dispositions and only 45 minutes a day to get through whatever it is that you have planned. Add technology to the mix and now you’re looking at complex to the nth level.

I think by now most educators have realized that just because these kids are growing up in an era where technology use seems ubiquitous does not necessarily mean that these kids understand and are ready to use technology for learning (U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology, 2017). In fact, I think the cancellation of in-person instruction for K16 education highlighted the fact that the digital divide and the digital use divide is still a very real problem (Auxie & Anderson, 2020).

In my conversations with fellow educators, it seems as if teachers approached distance learning in two ways: continue with current pacing (albeit at a reduced level) or created new curriculum that aligned better with what students would be able to do at home on their own.

At my school, I was given the opportunity to choose if I wanted to continue with the current pacing or create an independent project. I chose the latter, and I’m so glad I did.

World history in my district is a semester course (don’t get me started on how to teach 1500 years of history in 20 weeks). So I used this time as an opportunity to try out a new curriculum knowing the level of digital access my students have at home, their technology knowledge based on what I taught them in class, and what I thought would interest them yet also provide a bit of respite from the ton of stressors that they were dealing with.

As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, I have made a concerted effort to create assignments that would help students acquire and practice mastering socio-emotional skills. Every week there was an assignment that had students reflecting on the ethics of decisions by historical figures or making a personal connection to the content. But then I also snuck in assignments that would hopefully help to create an online learning presence – something that is foundational for online learning to be successful. I had to be careful in which apps or websites I chose to use because modeling was not an option during remote learning. I needed apps/websites that were easy to figure out, and then I used them over and over again. Padlet was one that my students used on a regular basis. Each week, students summed up their learning in a creative way (e.g., sketchnotes, open mind, meme) and posted their project on a class Padlet wall for all 150 of their peers to view and enjoy.

Padlet was our go-to app because it didn’t require a log-in, could be used on a mobile device or desktop, and was easy to figure out on their own. Before in-person classes were cancelled, we had used Padlet once. But once we were solely relying on interacting via online platforms, I decided that Padlet was going to be the tool that kept us connected.

The last assignment I gave to my students was to create a Summer Quarantunes Playlist. I wanted them to post a song that either motivated them or reminded them of better times ahead. By having students post their songs to a class Padlet wall, we created a playlist of various genres of music from my highly diverse group of middle schoolers.

For the past 12 weeks my students have been sharing their highs and lows of living with the coronavirus crisis and recent protests in their Living History Journals. But this playlist offered additional insight to how they were feeling…and I just love that. =)

Enjoy!

Made with Padlet

References

Auxie, B., & Anderson, M. (2020). As schools close due to the coronavirus, some U.S. students face a digital ‘homework gap’. PEW Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/03/16/as-schools-close-due-to-the-coronavirus-some-u-s-students-face-a-digital-homework-gap

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology. (2017). Reimagining the role of technology in education: 2017 national education technology plan update. https://tech.ed.gov/files/2017/01/NETP17.pdf

Music is What Binds Us Together

This playlist was a fun assignment I gave to my middle schoolers prior to Spring Break. They were asked to upload a video of a song that resonated with them in some way. I loved their honesty and was pleasantly surprised at some of their musical choices and influences. This task also proved to be quite insightful as I was given a sneak peak into their musical tastes.

Enjoy!

Made with Padlet

10 More Weeks…(I’m Ready).

Bitmoji Image

I took Spring Break off…well most of it anyway. I didn’t grade one assignment. I didn’t make any progress towards finalizing report card grades. But I did quite a bit of thinking about how I was going to approach the next 10 weeks with my students. And I’ve spent the past two days putting together lessons for our new unit. Monday marks the start of 4th quarter…so I have 10 weeks left to make learning fun and engaging for my students…from afar.

I have been wanting to try out the various resources from the Big History Project for quite some time now…and like many before me have stated, “There’s no better time than the present.”

So, I’ve decided that for the last quarter of the school year, the last quarter of my semester class…I am going to explore with my students the ideas of Expansion and Interconnection. The primary and secondary sources for this unit tie nicely with the content standards for 7th grade world history. But more importantly, historical literacy skills–tools of a historian–are deeply embedded in the tasks.

Of course, since I rarely take lessons or activities as is…naturally, I have put my own spin on things. I’ll be sharing more on those revised lessons in upcoming posts. =)

This week, however, we are easing back into this new-style of learning with students getting to know how to use two new platforms while exploring the ideas and influences of emojis. The two new tools are: Listenwise and Newsela. Listenwise provides listening comprehension practice which is sorely needed for my English language (EL) learners. Newsela is a reading comprehension tool which is also equally important for my EL learners. I’m not new to Newsela. I used to integrate Newsela articles into my instructional practices…but for some reason, I stopped. I’m a newbie to Listenwise, but my good friend Scott Petrie (@scottmpetrie) has been sharing about this resource for quite some time now on Twitter, and since I have to revise my instructional practices anyway, I decided that this was the perfect time to try this new tool.

Although I was a bit hesitant to introduce new technology tools to my students since I cannot show them how to log in or use the site in-person…both sites are pretty easy to navigate and the Google Classroom integration is awesome! I was able to quickly import my rosters from Google Classroom and push out the assignments from the respective sites to Google Classroom with the link for students to log in. I am excited that more sites are adding Google Classroom integration because it makes it so easy for teachers and students. Gone are the days when my students had to use their personal emails to sign up for accounts to sites that I wanted to use with them.

We’ve come a long way, baby. =)

The culminating activity for this week is a Create-an-Emoji mini-project. Students are tasked with creating an emoji that says something about them, their heritage/culture, or even how they are feeling about the whole coronavirus pandemic. Students will be sharing their Create-an-Emoji projects on a Padlet wall that will house all six sections of world history.

Now if you’re wondering about the Living History Project, I assure you that is still alive and well. Since we are starting a new quarter, I created a new journal in Google Slides for them with a directions page–revised from lessons learned from the first Living History journal I assigned. While most students are completing the journal entries well (and some are outright AH-ma-zing), I’m not sure if they all truly understand why I created the Living History Project for them, and why I’m having them record details about their day. To hopefully enlighten students, they are starting the first day of 4th quarter watching a TED-Ed video Let’s make history…by recording it. I’ve always been fascinated by oral histories and someday after I’ve retired perhaps I’ll have time to indulge my passion in helping to archive the oral histories of fellow Americans.

But for now…I’m busy working, planning, revising, and double-checking the activities I have been creating for my middle-schoolers. I hope they enjoy our new adventure with examining the Big History of Expansion and Interconnection.

I’m excited.

I’m ready.

Deep breaths…