Cool Tools for 21st Century Learners has Moved!

Welcome to the Cool Tools for 21st Century Learners blog in its new location! Here you will find an ongoing collection of ideas for helping educators leverage the power of technology for transforming teaching and learning.

 

Cool Tools Blog has moved

Pardon the Dust

After 10 years, the old CoolTools blog has moved to WordPress. With a few clicks, years of content made its way to the new site. The words are in tact, the posts are in order, but much of the media has been replaced by messy links. All in all, the process has given me the freedom to revisit ideas and build on them to reflect progress and shifts in the Digital Classroom of today.

The Updated Digital Classroom

The new model has been created with some hover text to provide a preview of the topics that will be explored here. Stay tuned to watch the layers unfold!

 

The Digital Classroom 2019 — Watch it grow!

 

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Share and Inspire Through ThingLink Interactive Image Slams

Talented members of our rapidly growing ThingLink Education Community have discovered ways to leverage the power of ThingLink for a variety of innovative uses across all content areas and grade levels. ThingLink Interactive Image Slams are informal webinars designed to provide educators with a opportunities to share creative ways to transform teaching and learning with ThingLink.


Discover the endless creative possibilities for enriching students’ enthusiasm for learning like never before through this unique webinar highlighting the work of our users. 

Grab a Chance in the Spotlight

Learn about how you can have a chance to share an inspiring image of your own. Collaborate with other participants through a back channel and sign up for a session on 9/16 or 9/18.

Learn More and Sign up

Meet Our Guest Panelists

September 16th at 8:00 PM EDT

Building Parent Engagement: Tell Your School’s Story

Guest post by Alison Anderson


Parent engagement has always been a very bright spot on my radar when thinking about keys to success for schools. Lately, it feels important to distinguish between parent engagement and parent involvement. Both are important and something every school should strive for in order to create the most healthy student environment. But involvement, to me, can mean volunteering and spending time in the school and classroom- building those schools that have an instant sense of positive energy you sense the minute you walk in the school.


Today’s world is complicated – especially as technology continues to disrupt the different fields we have grown so used to living in. We can’t ignore that social media has completely transformed the way in which we receive and understand current events.  As this disruption starts to happen in our schools, we need to fully engage parents so that they not only understand, but feel absolutely comfortable with all the school practices and policies.

How do you achieve that? With transparent communication and lots of it! Every school has a story, or a “brand” that captures the mission, the norms, the traditions and the values of the school population.


As a school leader, communicating that “brand” is one of the most important jobs. But building a school “brand” is not like building a product. It’s not always easy and the steps are not always clear. There are some helpful resources emerging for administrators and edleaders who want to do this and do it right.



The more stories shared about what is happening within your school, the better your “big picture” becomes for school and community families. Schools build their brand when they share the stories that answer, “why do you send your child to that school?” That’s how a good reputation gets built. Parents and community members trust in their school “brand” and want to support school decision makers.

About the AuthorAlison Anderson is a former teacher, tech integrator and now education blog editor. She is active an active member of the EdCampPDX planning team and continually focused on working to improve education for students in Portland and beyond.






Embrace Change in the New Year with Genius Hour

Genius Hour is a powerful movement popping up in classrooms everywhere. The idea encourages students to explore and develop their own passions and creativity. 
Genius Hour is based on a business practice used by Google’s development team. Google allows their designers to spend 20% of their time on projects that interest them, as long as the work might possibly lead to something that could be developed. Gmail was the result of Genius Hour.
 
Watch this video and read more on GettingSmart.com



SAMR Through the Lens of the Common Core

One of my goals is to weave digital tools into the Common Core to design flexible, student driven learning experiences that are Above the Line as defined by the SAMR model. While this might sound like a mouthful of EdTech, I assure you that combining all that is on our crowded plates is far better than tackling each individual initiative in isolation. This idea is supported by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

“As education leaders incorporate the CCSS into school systems, P21 urges them to do so in a way that honors the fusion of the 3R’s (core academic content mastery) and 4C’s (critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration, communication and creativity and innovation). It is imperative that the CCSS be considered the “floor” –not the “ceiling”– when it comes to expectations for student performance in the 21st Century.”   

 Weaving it All Together – In Simple Terms

  • The Common Core defines what students should be able to do.
  • Digital tools provide students with resources, flexible options and support to do it.
  • The SAMR model provides teachers with a point of reference to reflect on what they are asking students to do and challenges them to embrace technology to design learning experiences that allow students to do what couldn’t be done without the tech.
This digital toolkit is filled with resources for compacting that crowded plate and embracing technology as a tool to fuel deep learning. It can be used as a launching pad to shift instructional practices that target the CCSS through active student participation, providing them with opportunities to engage in the 4C’s. Explore it and dive in, one step at a time.

Learn More

SAMR Through the Lens of Common Core Standards
Webinar: 12/3 @ 4:00 CST, sponsored by MyInfinitec.org


Are you looking for ways to leverage the power of technology to help students develop 21st Century Skills? Researchers have determined that technology integration typically moves through four specific levels: Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition (SAMR).The higher the level of an activity the greater the educational benefit. This webinar will demonstrate how to use the SAMR model of technology integration as a guide for planning and implementing classroom learning experiences that take student learning to higher levels. 

Join me and Infinitec as we look at some traditional learning tasks, align them to the Common Core Standards, and walk them up the SAMR ladder to show how to transform your teaching and “Teach Above the Line.”


Sign up

Registration is open to all


Tech Connections: Teach Above the Line with ThingLink

Shannon Sloger’s Slogan in reference to the SAMR Model


For as long as I can remember I have been an advocate for helping teachers understand the stages of technology integration in order to effectively use tech as a tool for learning.

I’ve adopted a few different tech integration models over the years, discussed the ideas with administrators for use as a starting point for tech integration, and kept the ideas front of mind as I invent and discover new ways for using technology as a tool for learning.  
  
Discussing the stages of tech integration has led to some thought-provoking and inspiring conversations, but the ideas have not gained a lot of momentum in my face-to-face teaching environment until now. As many districts jump on board with iPad implementation, Apple’s use of the SAMR model as a framework for tech integration presents a consistent, clear and powerful message that is spreading!

I recently met Shannon Soger1-1 coordinator and instructional coach from D100 in Chicagoland, who shared a brilliant PD strategy and challenge used with the Fab 40 teachers in her 100% 1:1 school. The goal for teachers working within this amazing environment is to teach above the line. Of course this simple mantra and point of reference serves as a quick and easy self-evaluation tool. Teaching above the line is a clear and attainable goal to strive for. Thanks Apple, and thank you Shannon for leading the way!

An Example: My Journey with ThingLink

Last fall I was consulted by Neil Vineberg, CMO of ThingLink, to think about ways to encourage teachers and students to use the flexible interactive tool in preparation for the ThingLink Interactive Image Contest. My advice and approach was to create and publish a comprehensive wiki of resources, known as The ThingLink Toolkit.

At that time, ThinkLInk was a tool I was using to create my own resources, but in order to make the tool appealing to classroom teachers, I knew I would have to make connections to help them meet their busy teaching demands. If you haven’t heard by now, the plate is full and right in the middle is a strong push to begin implementing the Common Core State Standards in our classrooms.

Weaving Digital Tools into the Common Core

With increasing expectations to implement the CCSS, I decided to create samples of student projects that weave digital tools into the Common Core to demonstrate the flexibility of ThingLink as an effective and efficient tool for constructing knowledge. To create the samples, I had to dig deeper into the Common Core myself and embrace it. 


I must say the experience of designing The ThingLink Toolkit was challenging and exciting because it stretched my boundaries and required me to research, explore and think a lot. In the end, I created some resources I am very proud of and also a few duds, of course, but I realize that creating this toolkit of resources was an exercise in teaching above the line, and the samples I created demonstrate my ability to work at the top level, redefinition. 




The ThingLink Interactive image contest was launched and recently the deadline for entries has passed. Students have created some amazing interactive images that required them to engage in CCSS aligned learning experiences. They used higher order thinking skills to design, present, and share ideas. They redefined concepts through multimedia. The end results are impressive, but the real gain is in the deep learning that occurred during the process of creating their images. 

Please view, explore and touch some of the student entries on the contest site and see how ThingLink can be a powerful tool for teaching and learning, then try it yourself.

ThingLink Education Contest Entries

A Google Docs Template for Multimedia Research


The Google Docs Presentation is well-suited for use as a starting point  for short student driven research projects because of the availability of efficient integrated research tools right on the page. To introduce students and teachers to the built in features, I created a  simple template to guide the learning and help everyone discover the usefulness of the tool. 




Template Features

  • The planner can be used with any content. Just associate a learning goal with the template and it’s ready for use.
  • Built in tutorials allow students to explore the tools at their own pace.
  • The activity provides opportunities for teachers to help students fine tune their search skills as they engage in the research.
  • Of course, this is a template so it can be modified.

Tips:

  • Start with a simple learning goal  the first time you use the template to ensure student success.
  • To encourage collaboration, divide students into groups, have one group member pick up the template and ask that student to Share the copy of the document with others in the group.
  • Teach students to use the Comments feature to collaborate and provide feedback to other group members.

Take a Look at the Template



Pickup a Copy of This Template

  1. You must be signed in to Gmail before you can pickup your own copy of this template. 
  2. Click on this link: Research Planner
  3. Choose Use This Template and a copy will be added to your own list of Google Docs. Feel free to edit and modify.

Create Your Own Template

  1. Sign in to your Google account
  2. Create a new document or modify an existing one.
  3. Add your content and save.
  4. Go to your list of Google Docs.
  5. Choose Create New > From Template .
  6. On the new screen that appears, choose Submit a Template.
  7. Click on the link to Choose from yourGoogleDocs
  8. Complete the form with information about your template and submit.
  9. The template will become available in the gallery in a few minutes.
  10. Choose Preview to grab the link to publish so students can pick up your template.

An Updated Digital Differentiation Model

This is part of a Digital Differentiation model, my way i of weaving a web of flexible tools together for teaching and learning. To keep the model relevant, frequent updates are required, as new tools and trends emerge. 

To access the most current resources, please click on the tab at the top of this blog:

Digital Differentiation – Current 




Updating 


Ten months ago I published a Digital Differentiation model on this blog. I’ve been using the model to guide the work I do each day and I’ve been sharing it via webinars and hands-on training sessions.

Of course, ten months is a long time in the world of edtech, and I’ve added some new tools and resources to my personal teaching toolkit, so I decided it was time to update the model and tweak it just a bit. The original article and interactive graphic can still be found on this blog. Here is the new post:

Technology is a tool that can be used to help teachers facilitate learning experiences that address the diverse learning needs of all students and help them develop 21st Century Skills, an idea supported by the Common Core. 


At it’s most basic level, digital tools can be used to help students find, understand and use information. When combined with student-driven learning experiences fueled by Essential Questions offering flexible learning paths, it can be the ticket to success. Here is a closer look at three components of effectively using technology as a tool for digital differentiation.


The goal is to design student-driven learning experiences that are fueled by standards-based Essential Questions and facilitated by digital tools to provide students with flexible learning paths.


3 Components:


Essential Questions

Student-driven learning experiences should be driven by standards-based  Essential Questions.  These questions should be open-ended to allow for flexible learning paths. Devise question by looking at the standards that determine what we teach.  
Click on the tiny circles in the graphic for more information.

//cdn.thinglink.me/jse/embed.js

Flexible Learning Paths

Use digital tools to provide students with flexible learning paths to meet their unique learning styles.


Teacher as Facilitator

The role of the teacher shifts to facilitate student-driven learning experiences. This new role allows teachers to maximize instructional time because the classroom structure provides opportunities for frequent interaction with individual students for assessment, modification, reteaching and enrichment.

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A Guide to Facilitating an Interactive Learning Project

I have been creating a lot of student projects that use ThingLink as a tool for learning. I have also received a handful of questions from teachers who are highly interested in facilitating a similiar project of their own, but need help with the management involved.

“With so much active student engagement, how do you manage a project like this?”

To answer that very good question, I used MentorMob to create a playlist to guide the project you see below. The playlist takes you and your students through the step by step process of managing the work flow and collaborative group roles, integrating some free and user friendly web 2.0 tools to facilitate the learning process, building the project and turning it in.

A Guided Playlist to Facilitate the Project

http://www.mentormob.com//learn/widget/61812/580/99cc33/3-0

The Final Project

//cdn.thinglink.me/jse/embed.js….

Adapt the Playlist to Launch Your Own Project:

If you think a playlist like this will help you facilitate this type of active and engaging student  project, you can make a copy of it for your own use, then edit it to fit your project. You will find the option to copy at the top of the page when you are viewing the playlist.

Check out more project 
examples on the ThingLink Toolkit