Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

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How often are you breaking down the walls of your classroom and bringing the outside world in?

As a former French teacher and current Instructional Technology Specialist, I strive to create opportunities for students that they might not be able to receive from a traditional classroom or even from home.  In this day and age of budget cuts, stretched schedules and simply the cost and logistics of organization, many schools are starting to eliminate and/or severely cut down on the  number of field trips students take each year.  Sadly, this affects our students in a multitude of ways.

Many educators are aware of the incredible opportunities that opening up their classrooms with tools like Skype and Hangouts provides for their students, but they are often hesitant to engage in these types of activities due to several reasons. They might be unsure where to find the “matches”, the collaborations; unsure of how to integrate into their everyday classroom; unsure of how to engage with students before and after the actual call; and unsure of the technology needed to pull off such a thing.

That’s where I swoop in to help!  In my day-to-day job as an ITS, I help my teachers find these matches and opportunities for their students.  And, last week at the Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo and Conference (PETE&C),  I presented a session on this very topic.   Titled, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” the session description was as follows –

Enrich your students’ learning experiences through providing ways for them to collaborate locally and globally using Skype in the Classroom projects, Microsoft Teams, Translator, and Office Online.

In the session (slides embedded below), we discussed the life of an average student and how their life mirrors that of a “real life TV show”.  We discussed the opportunities that our students have to be not only the STAR of the TV show, but even better, how they can react and interact with the OTHER stars of their own TV shows… through Skype.

With Skype in the Classroom and additional tools and resources such as Microsoft Teams, Office Online, Microsoft Forms and Microsoft Translator, teachers and students literally have a collaborative world at their fingertips, no matter their native language!  Every single day can be career day by Skyping an expert – through a guest speaker, virtual field trips or even lessons taught by that expert.  Students can work together with fellow students from another school, state or even country through Collaborations, Office and Teams.  And, what better way to learn about another school and culture than with a Mystery Skype?

In fact, my session participants got a taste of all of the above during the conference session.  We connected with a dear friend and my session participants first had to play Mystery Skype to figure out where he was.  Once we found out he was in France, he then served as the expert as he explained how he uses Skype to empower his English-Language learners.  Then, we chatted a bit about the collaborations we have done between his classroom and the classrooms I support.  Talk about real-world, hands-on engagement!

Here we are, Skyping with France!

Reader’s Workshop – The Sway Way!

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At Wissahickon Middle School, we have been using Sway in a variety of ways for demostrations of learning, teacher presentations, and communication, collaboration and project-based learning.  Another great way that our teachers and students are using Sway is through reading portfolios.  Read on to find out how Language Arts teacher Chad Towarnicki and his students have used Sway to not only keep track of the books they have read, but to use stunning graphics, videos, and text to highlight their “big reads”.

During the third marking period our eighth grade students conduct a large scale Reading Workshop/Genre Study. This year, with Office 365 available to each student, we were able to use Sway as a singular portfolio housing for the variety of assignments that the students produce over a period of ten weeks.  From the standpoint of the educator, students were able to generate several formal written assessments of varying length, multi-media formatted creative projects, and a formal log of book reviews all in one spot. From the student perspective, it was a single large-scale project where they could infuse whatever theme format they chose, creatively displaying their work while flexing their tech-savvy muscles.

The beauty of Sway was that formatting options work in sets of three, so students have enough wiggle room to manipulate the visuals when loading in different assignments, but there aren’t so many options that they get overwhelmed. In the end the students remained invested in the reading workshop for the long-term, due in part to the visually appealing one-stop-presentation of Sway.

Check out this Sway to view seven student examples from this project.  Very cool!

Project Communication and Collaboration with Sway

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I had the honor of being a guest blogger once again on the Microsoft in Education blog.  This time I wrote about how the students and staff of Wissahickon Middle School are using Sway for project communication and collaboration.  As of today, the post was not only posted on the Microsoft in Education blog, but also their “Firehouse” blog, and today, the Microsoft in UK blog.  In addition, I’m feeling the social media love for the post as it has circulated around the Twitter and Facebook circles.

Check it out below!

Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo & Conference

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On February 21-24, 2016, I attended the PETE & C Conference for the first time since 2010!  As usual, I put my best self forward and presented four sessions on Microsoft in Education.  Check out my presentations and resources hosted in a collection on Docs.com.