Are you looking for an interactive, fun, and different way to engage your students online? Do you want to tap into your student’s curiosity and increase their capacity to inquire, ask questions, and think more deeply? How about trying the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) with the use of the online tool, Padlet.com?
If you’re not familiar with Padlet, Matt Miller, author of Ditch that Textbook, explains it as “a web app that lets users post notes on a digital wall. The uses for this site in the classroom are virtually endless!” From bellringer activities, to notetaking, creating presentations, and more, Padlet is a great tool to help students collaborate in a virtual space. In addition, Padlet can be used both synchronously and asynchronously, as students simply need to have the shared link in order to access and post in the space. If you’re worried about students writing inappropriate things when you aren’t on the page, there is a “Require Approval” setting that can be turned on. With this setting, before any post a student makes appears on the page, you as the instructor and creator of the page will have to approve the post. If you are using Padlet live with your students, you also can delete any post made at any time. With a free account, you can have 4 Padlet’s at a time though you are able to endlessly delete one and create a new one if needed.
One highly effective way to utilize Padlet is by trying the QFT. The Right Question Institute describes as a tool that “helps all people create, work with, and use their own questions — building skills for lifelong learning, self-advocacy, and democratic action.” The QFT is a rigorous yet simple, step-by-step process that facilitates the asking of many questions. The seven steps include 1) a question focus (QFocus), 2) the rules for producing questions, 3) producing questions, 4) categorizing questions, 5) prioritizing questions, 6) next steps, and 7) reflection. By utilizing a Padlet, each of the steps can be clearly defined ahead of time for students.
When the link for your Padlet is shared, all students with access will be able to make original posts as well as react and comment on other students posts. Having this ability makes interactions between students during the QFT process not only possible but highly engaging and productive. If you are interested in trying the QFT in your remote learning space, I’ve provided a template via Padlet that you are free to copy and use for yourself. As we navigate the remote instruction waters, now is a great time to try something new and see if it works for improving the educational experience of your students.
By: Justin Shumaker, CA BOCES Professional Development
Students are connecting with a broad collection of ebooks and audiobooks through OverDrive’s Sora app. Inspired by educator and student feedback, Sora offers both assigned and pleasure reading incentivized with digital badges for achievements. It was also named one of TIME’s Best Inventions of 2019.
During spring and summer 2020 Zoom trainings, educators downloaded Sora onto personal devices and discovered how to change an ebook’s font style to dyslexic, increase text size, highlight text, and make notes – even in an audiobook. Teachers were thrilled to learn that class sets can be assigned to students and highlighted texts and notes may be exported in response to an assignment. As a result, 19 titles (class sets) have been assigned to more than 450 students in 7 districts since September.
The combination of convenience, ease of reading on-the-go without wi-fi, and personalized reading experience has led to over 9,127 non-assigned ebooks and audiobooks being borrowed within the CABOCES’ region September 1 through October 27, 2020. See the graph below for the most popular titles checked out since September 1, 2020.
This digital collection is not limited to students in grades PreK – Twelve. Teachers and support staff can access many books featured in the NY Times’ Best Seller’s list and USA Today’s popular titles, as well as those that complement PD trainings.
For more information on how to maximize Sora at your school, please contact Cecelia_Fuoco@caboces.org.
By: Cece Fuoco, CA BOCES Learning Resources
Christiansen Institute blog article written by Thomas Arnett
The Christiansen Institute is a respected research-based leader in Disruptive Innovation at all levels. In addition to a blog subscription, the Christiansen Institute offers free resources, research and other valuable tools for today’s ever-changing world. You can find more at: christenseninstitute.org
When I first read the headline from the Christensen Institute blog in September I was immediately intrigued. I have been considering the headline for a few weeks as I work with CA BOCES districts and teachers in my role as Distance Learning Coordinator. I also admit that I read the article with the lens of a working parent of a student who is learning at a distance 3 days a week this school year. I have had many conversations within my different roles over this article as I digest the contents of this blog.
No doubt distance learning has it challenges for our students, families, teachers and administrators. The list of challenges is great, but some of those challenges have been met or at least lessened since the start of this school year. Many districts have increased the availability of devices and internet access providing some relief for families and students in our most remote/rural areas. Three districts have created opportunities for fully remote elementary level students using a combination of an online content provider and digital resources from our Digital Media CoSer. In all three districts the students were provided school issued devices and have academic support from an assigned New York State certified teacher in the district. Two of the three districts have a similar arrangement for students in grades 6-12. These examples, in addition to the numerous students that are receiving online courses at the middle and secondary levels provide insight into how distance learning may be better for kids. They also show how distance learning is meeting the needs of the students and families that are restricted from face to face attendance at school, but still allow for developmentally appropriate academic content to be provided.
The article goes on to mention some of the benefits of fully remote learning that some, I hope many, students are experiencing. Among those benefits are, having families more involved in student learning. Having the time outside of school to explore more than is possible during a typical school day, like watching the stars at night, following up on assigned learning activities that the families are more aware of and can elaborate on. These examples, and more, coupled with the amazing adjustment teachers made to their face to face environments to make them more accessible and digital for remote learning have made distance learning better for students.
Providing access to learning when face to face isn’t an option is a workable alternative. Is it better for all students? Maybe, maybe not. At CA BOCES Distance Learning we have options for consideration that may make it better for students. I will leave it to you to answer the question, are kids are better off with distance learning?
By: Karen Insley, CA BOCES Learning Resources
If you are as “seasoned” as me, you may well remember when The Mailbox was a print magazine and was delivered to....your mailbox! The Mailbox is no longer in print, but here at CABOCES Learning Resources, we’ve provided access to the digital version.
Out of frustration born by the lack of practical, ready-to-use materials for the classroom, The Mailbox was created in 1973 by teachers, for teachers. One of the reasons we looked into The Mailbox is because it uses creative ways to teach content that is aligned to standards. Pre-K to 6 grade teachers can find over 52,000+ worksheets, crafts, forms, songs, games, graphic organizers, patterns, clip art, cards, and more, spanning a diverse range of subjects, including language arts, math, social studies, science, classroom management, and arts and crafts. Engaging, skill-based student practice sheets are perfect for assessments, morning work, guided learning, and small-group or independent practice and homework. Teachers can easily download ideas directly to their computers (in PDF format), print them, or save them in their Collections folder or Print Packet for later.
If you or your teachers need more information or training on this or any of our eResources, please feel free to reach out to us directly. We are here to serve you and be your Essential Partner.
By: Alexandra Freer, CA BOCES Learning Resources
As many schools continue to navigate remote and hybrid learning, we often think about our youngest learners and worry about how they will connect with their teachers, view lesson materials and complete learning activities at home. Seesaw has become a great tool for doing exactly that! Seesaw is described as “Student driven digital portfolios and simple parent communication,” and I have found that this quote is exactly what Seesaw is. Add the pandemic into the mix and these portfolios and simple communication become a lifeline to student success in all learning situations we may be in.
Students log into Seesaw Class App using their home learning code. Once logged on, they are connected to their teacher’s class and able to view and complete activities, view teacher videos and share photos and videos to their personal journal. This is especially helpful when we have students at home, in the building and anywhere in between. Teachers are able to create their own activities, as well as collaborate and share with teachers around the world in the community library.
Families log into Seesaw Family App where they can see all of the activities the student has done, message teachers, and leave comments on student work. This meaningful feedback connects home to school to further support student learning. For example, a student can work on a writing piece in Seesaw, then view compliments from family members, teachers, and even their principal right under their work.
Another great feature is the use of class and school announcements. Families can easily view announcements about reminders, class happenings or school wide information. Cattaraugus Little-Valley Elementary principal Jenny Conklin-Frank uses Seesaw to post her morning announcements to both students and families. Classroom community is crucial, but in a time like a pandemic it’s imperative that we keep the fun in learning and continue to bond over shared activities as much as possible during these trying times. Seesaw is a great way to keep us all together, even while we are apart.
By: Chelsea Lobello, CA BOCES Model Schools
As schools look to create a more inclusive setting for all students, co teaching is a model that is frequently used. This collaborative approach allows all students to remain in the general education classroom. This model of inclusive education helps to ensure that all students have access to the general education curriculum. The following defining characteristics identify the unique relationship of co teaching.
(Friend & Cook, 2003)
Co-teaching relationships represent a significant change in the working conditions and day to day activities if school professionals who are often used to work in a more independent manner. Professionals should consider the defining characteristic of co-teaching and their own professional strengths as they initiate co teaching relationships.
Here at CA Boces, we can help you with your co-teaching ventures by providing professional development, as well as peer coaching with feedback to improve implementation and instruction. Some topics of the professional development could be:
By: Corey Wilson, CA BOCES Professional Development
Finding our Students in Ones and Zeros
We know that teacher immediacy and creating learning communities is essential for any successful and positive educational experience. Students may wonder—is my teacher interested in my life? does my teacher have a vested interest in my success? are my assignment good enough? do I feel like I am part of this class and that my presence matters?
But what does teacher immediacy and community look like in a blended learning environment or even in a fully online, asynchronous course? How do we make sure that all our students, who we root for passionately, know that we are still there cheering them on and trying to protect and inspire them in the world of ones and zeros?
In her blog, Rebecca Heiser (2019) notes that teacher immediacy is defined by Wiener and Mehrabian (1968) as “non-verbal and verbal queues and the psychological distance between the communicator and recipient,” which means that it is our job as teachers to make students feel like they are, figuratively, sitting on a beanbag in our virtual classrooms able to be seen and heard even when they are at home with headsets, on a videoconference call, or working in Moodle, Schoology or Microsoft Classrooms. They are physically far away, but should feel as though they are able to pop into our rooms and share a moment of their day, happy or difficult, and that we will be there with joy or comfort, that they can ask a question and we will help guide them to an answer, that they still can communicate with their peers and collaborate in our classroom communities. As mentioned in Engaging the Online Learner: Activities and Resources for Creative Instruction, “…experienced online instructors have found that interaction is actually the essence of the course” (pg. 8). As teachers, we must come up with ways to make our students feel like we are right there even when we cannot be and that students’ peers are still their community and fellow collaborators.
So how do teachers create a community and make our presence known in an online educational setting? How do we use technology to bring us together even as we are asked to social distance and remain apart? Like everything in education, making a connection to our students is the foremost priority.
One of the most important findings in online educational research is the importance of making our students feel that their teachers are immediately available even though that is not always feasible. Here are some introductory best practices (found through multiple sources listed at the end of this post) that I have used in my own online teaching and can be great starting points:
1.Respond as soon as possible to submissions, emails, and texts, but give a timeframe to accommodate your own time and needs. For example, “I will respond to your emails within 24 hours and I will respond to your assignment submissions within 3 days.”
2.Create discussion forums, but do not feel the need to respond to every student. Instead, respond to a couple of different students in each forum, but respond deeply and thoroughly with comments, guiding questions, and outside resources. Students will see your presence and know that you are thinking about their answers but responding will not overwhelm you. Ask students to do the work and respond to classmates as well so that everyone is getting feedback and creating community at the same time.
3.Brainstorm virtually using chat boxes in synchronous videoconference situation or use shared documents or the top lines of discussion forums to answer and then be able to quickly review student ideas in asynchronous online course situations.
4.Give feedback using a variety of tools and methods. For example, try a short video answer to student questions. Use images that might help students understand a written explanation or to invite conversation. Record audio feedback so that students can hear tone and inflection. And of course, rely on text with email, and when it makes sense, set up a videoconference for more difficult or lengthy “in person” conversations.
5.Have set “office hours” where any student can meet you in a webinar during that time but let students know that they may end up meeting in a group. Set up separate individual conferencing sessions for more serious conversations and invite parents and guardians to join in.
6.Create spaces for students to just talk and be themselves but guide their chatter with some questions about the topics they are learning in classes or have conversations about events that they are still engaged in like music, sports, or clubs. Help students have productive conversations and share about their lives like they might done in person before class, in hallways, or when they stopped by to talk between classes.
7.Set up group work with spaces like break-out rooms in Zoom. Mix and match the groupings or pairings.
8.Create shared documents or Wikis, perhaps even a blog or an online school newspaper where students create the news and stories that are important to them.
9.Create collaborative projects that feel like real-world experiences where students can use videoconferencing to showcase talents and creativity.
10.Create safe social media spaces where students can collaborate and share projects that they have completed as well as share ideas and help one another when they get stuck on an assignment or project.
All these ways of communicating help create online community through teacher immediacy that make us feel like a whole that is working together again and gives us opportunities to be heard and seen in our digital lives.
Conrad, R-M., & Donaldson, J. (2011) Engaging the online learner: Activities and resources for creative instruction. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.
Heiser, R. (2019, February 19) Social presence expectations in distance education. Retrieved from https://sites.psu.edu/rebeccaheiser/2019/02/19/social-presence-expectations-in-distance-education/
Ko, S., & Rossen, S. (2010) Teaching online: A practical Guide. New York, NY: Routledge.
Mattson, K. (2017) Digital citizenship in action: Empowering students to engage in online communities. Portland, OR: International Society for Technology in Education.
Rice, K. (2012) Making the move to k-12 online teaching: Research-based strategies and practices. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.
By: Christina McGee, CA BOCES Learning Resources
Building Relationships & Creating Community through Restorative Practice Self-Care Circles
Virtual restorative circles are the antidote for a great way to stay together when we must be so far apart. CA BOCES has been working with teachers across the region to focus on self-care, mindset, and the importance of positivity by providing virtual restorative circles. Virtual circles provide a place for teachers to connect, share ideas, and support each other through challenging times. It is also an opportunity for teachers to experience the social and emotional benefits of circle process and how this can transform into opportunities for supporting SEL with students through face-to-face, hybrid, and remote instruction.
The Restorative Practice Self-Care Circles followed the Kay Pranis circle process which includes an opening ceremony, mindfulness activity, establishing norms and guidelines, check-in rounds, guiding questions, and a checkout rounds. BOCES facilitators modeled through experiential practice with educators how these components could be present in instruction with students. We have all heard the popular phrase in education “Maslow before Bloom,” which is typically used to communicate that humans need their basic needs met before academic learning can be fully embraced. Self-Care Restorative Circles allows educators to embrace this phrase while embedding social emotional learning within the content they are teaching. Child psychiatrist Pamela Cantor told Edutopia in 2019 that “When we’re able to combine social, emotional, affective, and cognitive development together, we are creating many, many more interconnections in the developing brain that enable children t accelerate learning and development.” Allowing time to integrate social emotional learning into academics and content areas allows schools the opportunity to build relationships and make connections with students.
Restorative Practice Self-Care Circles model instructional approaches for educators to learn different ways to build connections with students during each component of the circle process. For example, educators might choose to start their day with an opening ceremony. This could consist of a morning greeting, short story, quote, poem, or even a song. Many of these could also be used during what is called a closing ceremony or ending a lesson. Educators also had opportunities to practice multiple mindfulness activities for all ages including deep breathing exercises, meditation, journaling, and opportunities or self-reflection. All of which could be transferred to instruction with students. The most common component to educators was establishing group norms and guidelines. Most educators start each school year off with this. The restorative self-care circles model for educators how to provide 2-3 non-negotiable guidelines while encouraging the students to develop additional guidelines that could be transferred to any learning platform. Participants also engaged in a wide variety of check-in and checkout strategies including the Fist-to-Five, Emotional Weather Report, and much more. Many might ask where does academic content fit into the circle process? Academic content is embedded in each component, but most visible within the guiding question rounds. During this time educators can check for understanding, introduce new vocabulary, discuss homework, build schema for introducing new lessons, and much more.
Below are a few reactions from participants across the CA BOCES Region that participated in Restorative Practice Self-Care Circles:
“I loved the gratitude session! I have an app on my phone that reminds me to list something I am grateful for everyday and I love it.”
“Enjoy these meetings every week! Love seeing others feeling the same as me. Great hosts!”
“I enjoy this every week! Allows one to feel accepted and important!”
“If I could give this professional development 10 stars I would!!! This is the one session that I look forward to attending every week. It is very organized, provides essential and necessary information, and always makes me feel good!”
As educators we must make the commitment to prioritize self-care to successfully be able to help others. It’s like the saying goes “You must put on your own oxygen mask before you can take care of others.”
By: Jillian Putnam, CA BOCES Professional Development
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