Thursday, August 30, 2018

Apps Day -- My First Few Days of School

    To say I was excited for the start of this school year when I left in June is a massive understatement.  I went home June 8th, 2018 knowing that when my students came back to school we would be in the first year of our 1:1 initiative.  Every child would be getting a chromebook.  WOW!  My summer was filled with thinking of ideas and planning some preliminary lessons for school (oh but don't teachers get summer off?).

    One of the strategies that I learned more about over the Spring and Summer is hyperdocs.  I find it to be an intriguing tool to use at different times to provide for robust differentiation.  I also know that there were going to be some essential apps I would want my students know, so that we could start innovating sooner rather than later.  After some thoughts, I decided to combine hyperdocs and apps into what I was going to call "Apps Day."  However it didn't take long in my planning before I realized this would take longer than a single block for students to complete (considering how much I wanted to front load).  Following the design of the hyperdocs, I got in touch with my instructional technology resource teacher, Pat Hausammann to review it and give me some suggestions.  He gave me some tips, offered to help teach it with me, and then spent the last few days of summer relaxing with my wife.

    Even though we were nervous about how the 1:1 initiative would start, I was cautiously optimistic that the bandwidth of the school would not be an issue, and most of the students would have their Chrombooks by the third day of school.  Optimism paid off!  The only "bump" in the road was this past Monday when some student accounts were not properly synced (network error).  Fortunately, the brilliance of Pat helped me figure out how to help reconnect Chromebooks.

    Apps Day began after my first day with my A Day and B Day classes.  I started by introducing the concept and strategy of a hyperdoc,  Pat helped clarify some questions about it, and then we set the students loose.  The apps I wanted my students to know were Canva, Powtoon, Screencastify, Flipgrid, and GSuite (GSuite had its own hyperdoc that I titled GSweet).  I will say that it took multiple reminders for students to insert information into the hyperdocs (which at moments tried my patience), but it was overall a huge success!

    I was incredibly impressed by how hard my students worked considering that just days before they were sitting on beaches, playing Fortnite, and texting to their hearts' galore!  They continued to work hard, asked questions, and worked to produce some really cool products.  Even with a day where the wifi was out of whack, we were still able to do some amazing things.  Truth be told, I could not have done this without Pat's help, because I found myself all over the room answering questions about apps, fixing Chromebook errors, and more.  Nevertheless, the perseverance and work by students over the past few days will serve us all well as we embark on a new innovative journey!

    While this App Day was very successful for me, it is not the only example of innovation at my middle school.  Our Library & Media Specialist has used Aurasma to create an incredible VR experience for student-library orientation.  One of our English teachers is utilizing CoSpaces to create amazing narratives.  A science teacher is using Seesaw to promote student voice and display student work.  Other teachers are using Flipgrid for student responses.  Math teachers are using Desmos and other math apps.  We know that technology is not the only tool.  However, we also know that our students will need to be familiar with technology in their futures, so we want to equip them for then. We will continue to use blended learning to provide our students with a cutting-edge education.  We teach future presidents, business executives, plumbers, astronauts, chefs, teachers, mechanics, stylists, writers, and positions we do not even know about yet!  I am incredibly excited for where this year will take us!

Are you interested in the resource for the first Apps Day Hyperdoc?  Here you go!

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