Student Broadcasting: A Path to Leadership, Teamwork, and Digital Literacy

The Fletcher School’s “Falcon News Network” serves as one of many ways in which our students have opportunities to cultivate and practice leadership and digital citizenship. “FNN,” written, produced, and directed entirely by students, has enjoyed huge success in only its second year.

FNN LogoLaunched in the fall of 2015, FNN began as an effort to modernize and improve the quality of school announcements, traditionally read during morning homeroom over the intercom.  Meticulous planning, methodical equipment procurement and testing, and detailed student and staff training led to the successful launch of FNN in the fall of 2015. Broadcasting live each morning using Google Hangouts on Air, this free Morning News Show Tool worked beautifully for students, enabling live streaming broadcasts to the entire Fletcher community and beyond.  In the spring, a new FNN crew was trained to run the show.  The new crew departed for summer vacation feeling well-prepared for a smooth FNN season transition in the fall of 2016.

Upon returning to school in August, 2016, the FNN crew learned that Google Hangouts on Air would be phased out. This not only necessitated a change in broadcast procedures, but proved to be a positive turning point for FNN.  After extensive research and testing, Instructional Technology Director, Jenny Grabiec, introduced Wirecast Studio as FNN’s new broadcasting software.  While Wirecast is not free and required a new learning curve, the purchase of this tool was an excellent investment in both time and money. Integrating seamlessly with YouTube, Wirecast challenged the crew to learn new and advanced broadcasting techniques while propelling FNN’s evolution toward a highly creative, professional-quality newscast.  FNN student directors began using the new features immediately, utilizing animated titles and graphics, customized banners, and streaming pre-recorded videos.  The FNN website was launched, providing links to broadcasts and Google Forms collecting news and content ideas from the Fletcher community. 

One of the best uses of shared digital media is connecting with our larger world to share positive ideas and contributions.  After witnessing the wonderful possibilities of FNN, Fletcher students and teachers writerseagerly collaborated to brainstorm new and exciting projects.  As a collective effort, an array of special news segments began rolling out, connecting our students with activities on our campus and beyond.  The FNN crew helped Fletcher celebrate National Digital Citizenship week, highlighting tips submitted by Upper School Beta Club students.  Fletcher faculty and staff joined others around the world in the famous “Movember Project,” growing beards and moustaches to raise awareness for men’s health issues. The great “shave off” was featured as a special FNN broadcast, surprising and delighting viewers.  FNN joined millions of students globally to promote the Hour of Code by featuring apps and encouraging classes to participate during Computer Science Education Week.  Middle School students used FNN as a platform to announce their Pajama Service Project, resulting in 398 pajama sets donated to Scholastic Services.

On campus, reporting at Fletcher has expanded in equally exciting directions, bringing our school community closer. The use of remote cameras enables the FNN crew to break free of the studio to summon “live reporting from the field.”  Students broadcast breaking news from their classrooms.  Lower school students stream the Pledge of Allegiance live from the gymnasium stage, with flags as a backdrop. A feature called Senior Spotlight streams directly from the Senior Seminar classroom.  The remote cameras enable every student and teacher to participate more fully in FNN.

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As this project evolves and grows, the FNN news crew flourishes as a team, with students taking turns in various leadership roles.  To join FNN, each writer, producer, anchor, sports/weather reporter, special correspondent, and director/assistant director must fill out a Google Form application and attend a job interview.  FNN crew must then complete orientation and training, while learning to navigate their tasks collaboratively. The FNN crew studies how to care for and maintain studio equipment, navigate copyright issues, learn graphic design, and practice script composition and spoken delivery.  Only through practice do students learn the precise timing needed to load the iPad teleprompter app or switch to the remote camera crew, ensuring a smooth broadcast flow.  State-of-the-art digital technology devices and broadcasting tools support a quality production, but none of these tasks can be accomplished without developing student skills. The FNN crew members practice leadership, teamwork, and use increasingly refined executive functioning skills to produce a top-quality show every morning.  Schedules, routines, and communication are all accomplished with hard work, yet the students enjoy each step of the process and are proud of their final results.

FNN crew constantly faces new challenges.  Both routine and change are part of the job.  WhetherIMG_3835 testing out a new Wirecast feature, troubleshooting audio quality for our roving reporters, or piloting green screen broadcasting, the crew discovers that only through some failures can they truly learn – how do we solve this newest challenge?  The FNN crew – and the growing number of other participating Fletcher students – are learning and using real life skills.  Each FNN crew member has a clear job description. Each student on the team must develop and practice the planning and troubleshooting challenges they will inevitably face in life beyond school. And as the team connects and matures, its members must train and nurture new recruits to expand the program.  

The Fletcher School serves students with a variety of special learning differences, and hands-on use of technology has become vital to this mission. Live broadcasting through the Fletcher News Network embodies this important component to support our curriculum.  For students with learning differences who have struggled and lost confidence before arriving at Fletcher, FNN offers a sanctuary where skills and talents can provide a daily sense of accomplishment and success.  FNN provides a vivid example of how the intentional use of educational technology engages students to become effective leaders, collaborative team members, and skillful problem solvers. On any given broadcast day, FNN reveals students enthusiastically learning, growing, and having fun.

Pear Deck – More Than Just Notes

What is Pear Deck?

Pear Deck is an interactive presentation tool used to actively engage students in individual and social learning. Teachers create presentations using their Google Drive account. Students log into the presentation with unique access codes and interact with questions while teachers monitor student and whole-class progress.

The main login page. Students get real excited to walk in and see this!

The main login page. Students get real excited to walk in and see this!

As a busy teacher, I often dread having to make new content that works with the “newest technology.” It can be frustrating to remake notes, activities, and assignments from scratch because they are not compatible. This is what sets Pear Deck apart from other platforms→ Pear Deck works seamlessly with Google Slides! Let me repeat…I can take my already brilliantly made notes and upload them to Pear Deck.

But Why???  

Student Engagement-

Pear Deck allows me to make my notes engaging and interactive. Within the deck I can quickly build engagement slides. These slides allow me to check in with my students in a variety of ways.

I can create :

  • Draggable questions take the form of agree/disagree or thumbs up/thumbs down
  • Drawing questions allow students to free draw in a blank space or on a grid
  • Free response questions have short text, long text, and number capabilities
  • Multiple choice questions take the form of yes/no, true/false, or A, B, C, D

Peardeck Creations

Not only does Pear Deck create a more engaging and interactive classroom for the students but the teacher dashboard provides immediate feedback to analyze student engagement, comprehension and lesson efficacy. A huge plus is that the teacher controls what appears on the screen. Unlike Slides or Keynote presentations, in Pear Deck, students are locked on the screen until the teacher decides when to move on!

Another feature of Pear Deck that I LOVE is the Student Paced feature. This feature allows students to move throughout the Pear Deck at their own pace. I often utilize this feature for homework and for quality sub work.  At the end of my notes, I will build in engagement slides that relate directly to the day’s lessons. They often include matching, multiple choice, audio activities and everyone’s favorite; the free hand drawing. When class ends, I simply switch the Pear Deck from teacher paced to student paced and my students can finish the lesson at home.  As they complete the activities, there is nothing to “turn in”- Pear Deck records all their work and we can review it together the next day in class. Once the review is complete, I send out their “Student Takeaways” and students have access to their notes and corrected HW answers.

Using the student paced feature as meaningful sub work has been one of my favorite features of Pear Deck.  I can quickly and easily design a Pear Deck full of interactive activities for students to work on with a sub. I often combine audio and draggables to create fun and intuitive activities that challenge students even when I am not present. Pear Deck also lets teachers determine when and what responses to share with the whole class via the main presentation screen. This means I can highlight a specific student response, toggle between responses, or in some instances share all student responses (this one is often the most fun!). It’s great because student responses are anonymous to everyone except the original responder and the teacher. During this presentation, I can backtrack to previous slides and add impromptu questions.

Some examples of student paced:

Peardeck Student Paced

To sum it up; Pear Deck is a teacher and student friendly program that easily allows a teacher to modify existing slides and create new ones with interactive features that engage students!

OG and iPad at The International Dyslexia Association

The International Dyslexia Association’s Annual Conference is committed to growing awareness, research, and education in the areas of literacy instruction and interventions for all levels. This annual conference is a four-day event bringing in over 2,000 attendees globally. Educators, therapists, reading specialists, physicians, researchers, and parents of children with dyslexia and other language disorders come to engage with keynote speakers in a wide variety of work sessions and poster presentations on the most current research. Some of the topics represented are Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Response to Intervention, Literacy, Critical Reading, Vocabulary, Spelling, Morphology, Language Disorders, and Advocacy. IDA’s Annual Conference also offers an exhibit hall which allows the opportunity to browse curriculum, software, materials, and of course, the opportunity to network with other professionals.ida

The 2016 IDA Annual Conference was held in Orlando, Florida in late October. With keynote speakers like Albert Galaburda and Guinevere Eden, my colleague, January Reed and I, were thrilled to be attending this year. Not only were the keynote presentations conveying the most current research about literacy and the brain, but other sessions were led by well-respected presenters such as Ron Yoshimoto and William Van Cleave. We were able to attend a variety of sessions, including Orthographic Processing, Neuroscience of Dyslexia, Morphology, Executive Functioning, allowing us to learn new strategies, look at students from fresh perspectives, and engage in collaborative discussions with other professionals at the conference.

January and I were honored to present at the 2016 IDA. Our presentation, entitled Using iPads to Enhance Multi-Sensory Instruction, focused on empowering educators to create innovative lessons to remediate struggling readers, improve spelling, and increase attention using the iPad. We offered practical examples to enhance literacy instruction while keeping students engaged and accountable for their learning.

Being able to attend this conference was valuable to our growth as educators in several different ways. We were able to attend sessions with specific intentions to gain expertise to serve our students with the most effective interventions. We networked with other professionals who share our passion to remediate and advocate for children and adults affected by dyslexia. We engaged in deep reflection looking closely at effectively adapting strategies for the future. Lastly, we returned to our school encouraged and inspired to teach and continue our work with struggling readers.

Hour of Code 2016

It’s time for Hour of Code 2016! Computer Science Education Week is December 5-11 when the whole world participates in an Hour or more of Computer Coding. There are many ways to experience computer programming for every age group. Listed below are some of the Apps and Websites showcasing Hour of Code and coding apps. The Fletcher School EdTech Team encourages all grade levels to explore these age appropriate coding programs. Teachers: Contact EdTech if you would like us to help you plan a coding lesson. Resources will be posted in Monday Memo. Mac Users can click on the Hour of Code button in Self Service. #kidscancode #socanadults!

Apps of the Day

11/18  Many coding apps have been pushed to all Fletcher School iPads.The Swift Playgrounds app is one of them. Swift Playgrounds is a new app for iPad that teaches you to write Swift code in a fun, interactive way. “Swift code is a programming language developed by Apple to build apps.”  Check out the Hour of Code Swift Playgrounds challenge in the app. Learn the code developers use to build apps. Another great coding app for lower school is ScratchJr and Scratch can be used by grades 5-12 students on a Mac.

swift               scratch              image00

11/21  Check out Code.org, the headquarters for Hour of Code. Code.org has a diverse set of modules and tutorials of varying length and topics that appeal to all ages. Work with code in Star Wars or Minecraft settings or create unique artistic designs using coding commands. CodeAcademy, “teaching the world how to code” is a higher level interface with many options to take coding the next and real world level. Learn HTML, Java, or Sass or learn to make a website. It can be accessed by iPad or Mac users.

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Professional Development Spotlight: Tech Tuesdays

Ongoing, high-quality professional development is a key component of any successful educational institution.  Students benefit when teachers are presented with opportunities to learn new techniques, be inspired by creative lesson ideas, and collaborate with colleagues.  The Fletcher School’s robust collection of professional development opportunities include a particularly unique and popular offering:  Tech Tuesdays.img_1

Launched and developed by Fletcher’s Technology Director, Jenny Grabiec, in 2013, Tech Tuesdays are one-hour weekly professional development sessions, allowing staff to sharpen their technology skills in completely customized ways.  Offered in-house after school, Tech Tuesdays are optional, so teachers can sign up for topics which match their professional goals.  Based on a universal staff understanding of SAMR and TPACK frameworks, Tech Tuesdays allow teachers to transform their learning environments with technology.

Like everything else we do, The Fletcher School’s professional development offerings reflect our mission:

The Fletcher School creates bright futures for students with specific learning disabilities and/or attention deficit disorders by offering a structured, individualized, college preparatory curriculum that prepares them to reach their full potential.   

Our Tech Tuesday sessions provide teachers pathways to reach these goals, with sessions to support student learning. 

Tech Tuesday topics include:img_0388

  • Orton-Gillingham and Technology
  • iCan with iOS: Accessibility for iPad Users
  • Personalize Learning with Mac and Chrome Accessibility
  • Improving Executive Functioning with Tech Tools
  • Using iPad to Enhance Multisensory Instruction
  • Create your own Textbooks with iBooks Author

Teachers learn how to use a wide variety of apps and web tools to accomplish their goals, including iPad and MacBook apps and Google Apps for Education.  Sessions offer engaging, trending ideas, including green screening, using QR codes and augmented reality. Each year, teachers are surveyed to obtain feedback on sessions, and gather ideas and suggestions.  Fletcher’s EdTech team select topics which include the best current ideas and apps, so staff is always kept up to date.  Since its inception in 2013, Tech Tuesdays have evolved to include many more Fletcher teachers leading the sessions, demonstrating their own research and learning.  The format has also changed over time, improving the conversation between teachers and presenters.

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BreakoutEDU: A platform for immersive learning games

Ever heard of the “escape room?” Our very own Fletcher faculty participated in a team building activity a year or so ago by visiting Exit Strategy, the country’s largest escape room location, right here in Charlotte. According to Wikipedia, “an escape room is a physical adventure game in which players are locked in a room and have to use elements of the room to solve a series of puzzles and escape within a set time limit.” It is a fun way to work collaboratively, while using critical thinking skills to solve problems, and ultimately, escape from the room!

The smart creators of BreakoutEDU decided to bring the idea of the escape room into the educational world by creating curriculum related breakout challenges! They thought, why not allow our students to get out of their seats, work together to solve puzzles, all while learning about key themes related to their areas of study. Brilliant! Here is a great clip describing how BreakoutEDU works and why it is a great addition to any school setting.

This past summer, I had the opportunity to attend the ISTE conference in Denver, CO with a group of Fletcher teachers. The creators of BreakoutEDU positioned a school bus in front of the conference center, to introduce educators to the idea. The school bus had been redesigned as an escape bus! Working with a small group of educators (I only knew one of them), we uncovered various clues, such as a hidden key in a beaker full of colored liquid and magic letters on a map, exposed only with a special UV flashlight. We had a guide in the session with us and we were able to get up to two hints from her, if we got stuck. We had to get a few hints and we relied on a high school student to help us with many of the challenges – This challenge was right up his alley! We ended up breaking out of the bus in 14 minutes and 57 seconds and then proceeded to our photo op station.

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img_1256I knew that our students would LOVE the opportunity to try something like this, so I purchased a special BreakoutEDU box for our school. The box came with a hasp, combination locks, key locks, pencil lock boxes, a disappearing ink pen, UV flashlight and blank hint cards.  I also found a huge following for this idea on a BreakoutEDU Facebook group and on BreakoutEDU.com. On this site, teachers can find tons of games that have been designed by educators around the country. The games include helpful resources, such as lesson plans, video clips, printable game materials, combinations and so much more. Several of the games even include video tutorials so that teachers can set up the game exactly right in their own classrooms. All of the games include an age group suggestion and a direct link to subject area content – math, science, social studies, language arts and more are represented!

Stephaportable-network-graphics-image-fb7684c9796f-1nie Sanders, a fifth grade teacher at Fletcher, was planning to introduce her students to the book, Pax by Sara Pennypacker, when she stumbled across the BreakoutEDU idea. Thankfully, a teacher had already designed a BreakoutEDU challenge for the book and Stephanie decided to put the book in the box, locked with key locks and combination locks, that could only be unlocked by solving the related challenges. The students worked together to solve the challenges, breaking into the locks and retrieving the book from the box. The students used Google searches to find answers to some of the questions, which were needed to determine combinations. What a fun way to begin a new novel in the classroom! The kids loved it!

Mrs. Poe used the box last week and set up a Minecraft challenge for her elective class and computer fun club. Again, the students worked together to break into the box and one student asked, “When can we do this again?”

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We can’t wait to see what other BreakoutEDU challenges await for our students!

Using Flubaroo

Teachers, if you are not using the add-on Flubaroo, you are missing out!  Flubaroo automatically grades a Google Form, freeing up time for lesson planning.  Interested? Here’s how to do it:

  1. Create a Google Form
  2. You, the teacher, complete the Google Form
  3. Students complete the Google Form
  4. Teacher then uses Flubaroo to grade the quiz:
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Open the Google Form you want to grade. At the top of the form, click on “Responses.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Then click on the green Google Sheet icon to put all the responses into spreadsheet form.

 

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A spreadsheet is automatically then created, with “Responses” added to the title.

 

I find it best to change your username to ANSWERS, that is easier to identify in a spreadsheet of multiple usernames. (For security reasons, student Usernames have been covered.)

I find it best to change your username to ANSWERS, making it easier to identify in a spreadsheet of multiple usernames. (For security reasons, student usernames have been covered.)

 

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If you have not done so yet, get the Flubaroo Add-on.

 

Click on Add-ons in the menu bar and select Flubaroo, Grade Assignment.

Click on Add-ons in the menu bar and select Flubaroo, Grade Assignment.

 

A menu will pop up asking about grading options. This is the place you can tell Flubaroo to leave out a particular question when grading, or to give questions different weights. After making your choices, click on continue.

A menu will pop up asking about grading options. This is the place you can tell Flubaroo to leave out a particular question when grading, or to give questions different weights. After making your choices, click on continue.

 

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You will then be asked to select the username which is the answer key. Select your own username, or if you changed your username to ANSWERS, select that.

 

Then watch Flubaroo work its magic!

Then watch Flubaroo work its magic!

 

You will then have a spreadsheet with grades, as well as which answers they selected.

You will then have a spreadsheet with grades, as well as which answers they selected.

 

You then have the option to email the students their grades

You then have the option to email the students their grades.

 

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Make your selections and grades will be emailed to your students.

 

Enjoy your free time!

Many thanks to Marialice Hilt for showing me how to use Flubaroo and making grading so much easier for me!

Studying Communities Through Global Collaboration

Studying Communities Through Global Collaboration

The 3rd Grade curriculum includes a study of communities. In 2015, our 3rd grade students Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 4.43.20 PMparticipated in a global collaboration project titled “If You Learned Here.”  This was the first year the project was offered. Eighty schools from around the world were involved, including the Fletcher School. The coordinators, Carolyn Skibba and Mary Morgan Ryan, were inspired by the book If You Lived Here: Houses of the World. They have created a wonderful project in which students share in a global dialogue about our learning communities. The project culminated with each school writing pages for a published online eBook titled If You Learned Here:  Schools of the World.

Each of the first four weeks, we created videos which we shared using the app Flipgrid.  We were able to view all of the other schools videos to learn about their school communities. Every week had a different theme:

  1. Our School and Community was the first week’s theme. Together we wrote a script to introduce The Fletcher School and Charlotte to our new cohorts.
  2. Our Day at School allowed us to share each part of our school day from the ride to school to our after school activities.
  3. Our Learning was a fun time for us to teach a lesson. We noticed that none of the other schools had Social Skills classes and it just happened to be The International Day of Happiness, so our main lesson was about how to stay happy.
  4. Our Reading was a chance for us to create our own Reading Rainbow style videos reviewing our favorite books.

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The global collaboration videos were enlightening. The students gained confidence and self-esteem as they watched kids from around the world share similar stories. This year, our 3rd grade students are enjoying the If You Learned Here videos from both 2015 and 2016 and discussing the various communities.

The link below will take you to the videos and our book “If You Learned Here: Schools of the World.” Our Flipgrid videos are labeled Orange Cohort.

If You Learned Here 2015

Map of Schools

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Students-Created Instructional Videos with Do Ink

“While we teach, we learn,” said the Roman philosopher Seneca.  Mr. Elliott’s 7th grade science classes recently put this ancient wisdom into action by creating amazing instructional videos detailing their knowledge of the circulatory system.

Part of a larger study of the human body, 7th graders covered the circulatory system content using their Discovery Ed Science Techbooks, with the guidance of a teacher-provided outline and other select resources.  In past years, Mr. Elliott would have then assigned students a final culminating project, such as an oral report, or slide presentation.  But this year, he wanted his students to utilize audio/visual-rich technology tools to demonstrate their expert status on specific elements of the circulatory system.  So Mr. Elliott charged his 7th graders with the task of creating interesting and unique, narrated instructional videos.

Working in pairs, the 7th graders began by reviewing a selection of copyright-friendly, editable Discovery Ed videos.  Each student group was asked to present a specific areas of the circulatory system, such as the heart, blood vessels, or blood cell types.  Once the students had selected some interesting video, they transferred clips into iMovie to do some initial editing.  Each group then wrote a detailed script to accompany their video.  Excitement and anticipation about the project grew as students prepared for their Green Screen Studio appointment slots by practicing script narration timing with their custom videos.  Mr. Elliott observed that enthusiasm for this project drove students to be quite independent while completing their work.

IMG_0459Once everything was prepared, each student group arrived at Fletcher’s Green Screen Studio and began downloading their scripts into the PromptSmart teleprompter app.  They next set up their edited iMovie in the Green Screen by Do Ink app, which enabled the student experts to see their video playing behind them while they read their script. Classmates volunteered to run the iPad camera and teleprompter, creating a positive, collaborative atmosphere.  The experts donned their lab coats and enjoyed filming their creations, resulting in exceptional videos.

Poetry Podcast

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 1.11.27 PMBy Kathy Poe and Shannon Nichols

Mrs. Nichols’ classes developed a poem based on a famous person that has made a difference. She had her students create a poster of their poem with photos. Mrs. Poe extended the project by having the students make a podcast of the poems.

This Written Expression project was twofold. First the students studied the style of Narrative Poetry. We listened to, read, and dissected three infamous narrative poems: Casey at Bat, Harriet Tubman, and Caged Bird. After closely reading each poem, students determined that narrative poetry tells a story, uses repetition as a tool, and often contains symbolism. In the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the students identified and researched a person that has been a champion of human rights. They applied the knowledge learned about their chosen role model to create a narrative poem for the second piece of this assignment. The poem was presented as a poster with illustrations.

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 1.19.53 PMWith the poem written our students turned their poetry into a Podcast. They watched videos of champion poetry readers from Poetry Out Loud to see how other students deliver a poem in a dramatic way. To make them come alive our students practiced recording their poems working on diction, fluency, timing and presentation. They used GarageBand to record their poems and added music that fit the time period. Recording their poems brought them to life beyond the bulletin board. Finally, we created a QR code to listen to each one.

Click here or use the QR code to listen to all our Poetry Podcasts!

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