Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Twitter Math Challenges & MAPS

Audience. In the MAPS heuristics (mode, media, audience, purpose and situation) (Hicks, 2013), how important is audience? It's everything. While in the classroom, I often asked my students to write...nonfiction, fiction, poetry...whatever. I just wanted them to write. It wasn't until I introduced podcasting did my students' writing really improve. Why? The students had an audience. Even though the final written piece was never seen by the viewer of the podcast, the students worked for hours on scripts and written descriptions in order to produce a podcast the students were proud of. Why? Because they knew people were watching and listening, and not just any people, people they loved and cared about. Parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, and friends would comment weekly on the podcasts. Hicks encourages students to "share their work with their peers and the world, not push the content of others" (2013, p.146). The students were creating original pieces of work to share with the world and their pride of their work grew exponentially that year.

Now, as a technology coach, I often encounter teachers who know the importance of audience. One such teacher, Ms. McLaughlin, has her second-grade students actively engaged in Twitter. The class's Twitter handle, @missmacowls, is followed by many people all over the world. Each day it is a child's job to post one thought on the class Twitter account. Many times the class posts pictures of their recent project in science or their inquiry in math. This year Ms. McLaughlin signed up her classroom to participate in the Global Math Challenge. This is a challenge that allows classrooms all over the world to post questions or challenges for other classes around the world to solve. Each grade level has their own hashtag for example Ms. McLaughlin's kids follow the hashtag #gmttc2. Each week a classroom signs up to post a new challenge and the other classes will read and solve the challenge as a class and post. This week @mshsimpson1's class posted the challenge of "Can you figure out this tricky pattern? Christmas decorations are starting to go up. This home decided to put up just a few each night for 8 nights. We noticed a pattern. Night #1: 1 decoration, Night #2: 2 decorations, Night #3: 4 decorations, Night #4: 7 decorations and Night #5: 11 decorations. What was the pattern? How many decorations were up on the 8th night?" (You can find the entire Twitter strand link below.) The twitter strand goes on with Ms. McLaughin's class solving the pattern and posting a picture of their thinking on the stream.

Twitter challenge from this week

I believe this example follows the MAPS heuristics beautifully with an emphasis on AUDIENCE. Hicks says, "connected, community-based learning is important" (2013, p. 138). The students in Ms. McLaughlin's class are not completing a worksheet which will be seen by their teacher and handed back to them with only a grade. They are solving a RELEVANT (a pattern with Christmas lights) math problem by a REAL audience (other students from around the world). The students take pride in their work because they know others will see it and it matters. In a few weeks, they will switch roles and they will become the authors with the other participants being their audience. These students are building a relationship with other second grade classes across the nation and world.

In addition to audience, this Twitter project and specific feed also cover all aspects of the MAPS heuristic:

  • MODE - short, mathematical explanations 
  • The MEDIA in this instance is Twitter which lends itself to concise (140 characters) answers. Pictures support the work they did as learners (picture of the pattern on their whiteboard). Students have to choose carefully what words they will tweet and which picture they will choose to post based on what will have the most impact. 
  • PURPOSE & SITUATION - to discuss math problems with other 2nd grade classroom
I do believe there is room for digital enhancement for this assignment. A service such as Storify can collect and organize all tweets for a certain hashtag. Since Twitter can be difficult to follow sometimes as it is not always a linear conversation, using a third-party website, can increase comprehension especially for younger students. 

More Resources: 

Hicks, T. (2013). Crafting digital writing: Composing texts across media and genres. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Video Introduction Reflection and Revision

A few months ago we were asked to submit a video to introduce ourselves to an online class. My original video was simple and was shot using my iPad with no editing. Since that recording I have read Crafting Digital Writing (2013) and have gained a new understanding of what makes good digital media. Troy Hicks (2013) introduces MAPS to readers which stands for mode, media, audience, purpose, and situation. In my original video my purpose was to introduce myself to fellow classmates giving information about my life and career. The purpose of my final video is the same; however, I also wanted to focus on the media used to publish my final video. As I was brainstorming on how to revise my original video submission for our course, I remembered a session I attended at a local workshop which focused on the use of TouchCast as a professional development tool to create and share PD in an interactive and engaging way. I decided to give it a try! Troy Hicks also emphasized in Crafting Digital Writing (p. 112,2013) that students may benefit from using blending different media elements in order to increase interest. Because of this, I created the TouchCast using screenshots from websites and inserting pictures to enhance the video content.
I also reflected on my original submission based on what Hicks says on pg 11 of Crafting Digital Writing (2013). Hicks emphasizes many elements to be considered when crafting video and I chose to focus on panning and zooming, film effects, sound effects and music. The video begins with a mock newsreel and includes in-picture supports. The sound effects played also support the newscast feel. Panning and zooming is also used to transition between my video and the in-picture supports including pictures and websites which are interactive. The viewer can stop the video and explore the website at any time.

I wanted to explore TouchCast more because I believe it could be a valuable tool for my job as a tech coach. I believe this might be an effective tool to deliver on-demand professional development. The videos of someone teaching along with the websites being demonstrated will support all visual and auditory learners. One feature I would like to explore more is the whiteboard app which allows the creator to pull up a whiteboard space and record written thoughts as they are teaching.

Hicks, T. (2013). Crafting digital writing: Composing texts across media and genres. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

More Resources: 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Presentations and Third Graders

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The timing of this chapter in Troy Hicks’ book, Crafting Digital Writers (2013) could not have been planned better. As a technology coach for three elementary schools, I survey the teachers each week on different topics they would like for me to work with them on or to teach their students. Several third grade teachers asked if I would talk to the students about how to create a Google Presentation including good design tips. As I was reading Crafting Digital Writers (2013) I continually related his ideas back to the students I was about to teach and what I know about third graders developmentally. The students receive Chromebooks in third grade so they previously had not been exposed to any type of formal presentation tools such as PowerPoint or Google Slides. I saw that as an opportunity to impress on the students good design habits on an otherwise blank slate.
I timed the presentation so the students were currently working on researching and drafting their thoughts on the topics assigned to them by the teachers.  I decided this was the ideal time to discuss publishing their ideas because it emphasized to them the importance of drafting and planning their thoughts before designing their presentation. In Crafting Digital Writers (2013, p. 67), Hicks says, “A good presentation is the result of a great deal of writing that never shows up on the slides but becomes part of the words spoken by the writer.” Knowing third graders, I realized their tendency would be to skip the drafting stage and go straight to creating the presentation because of appeal of picking a template and choosing a font. I wanted to make sure they had plenty of time to develop their ideas on paper before we explored Google Slides.
After the planning process, I introduced good design for presentations. I carefully picked the concepts from the chapter to meet the third-graders developmental needs. For example, in Joshua Johnson’s webpage, Design Shack (2015) it is suggested the students do not use a built-in theme or template. I decided because the students were so young and still learning about complementary colors it might be best if they did start with a template. However, Johnson’s (2015) other concepts such as “simple is better, create clear focal points, and typography speaks volumes” served as the main points in the lesson. As we talked the main idea the students discovered was that if an animation, image, font, etc. was used it should be chosen because it added to the meaning of the slides and did not distract the reader from the purpose of the slideshow. The teachers then used the PBL rubric (Bie.org, 2015) as a guide to discuss with the students the presentations and as a final assessment.

Link to Presentation Rubric Download

Bie.org,. (2015). 3-5 Presentation Rubric (CCSS Aligned) | Project Based Learning | BIE. Retrieved 21 October 2015, from http://bie.org/object/document/3_5_presentation_rubric_ccss_aligned#

Hicks, T. (2013). Crafting digital writing: Composing texts across media and genres. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Johnson, J. (2015). 10 Tips for Designing Presentations That Don’t Suck: Pt.2 | Design Shack. Designshack.net. Retrieved 21 October 2015, from http://designshack.net/articles/graphics/10-tips-for-designing-presentations-that-don%E2%80%99t-suck-pt-2/

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

My Reflection on Digital Writing

While reading Troy Hicks’ Crafting Digital Writing (2013), I couldn’t help but to reflect on how the ideas expressed in the book apply to my current teaching context, an elementary technology coach (grades kindergarten through fifth grade). I specifically zoned in on Hicks’ section on prewriting and drafting web texts (Hicks, 2013, pp. 37-39). While Hicks makes many excellent points, I have to stop and take a few steps back to relate the ideas to the younger students I serve. Our teachers teach with a workshop approach so his ideas of using the writing process go hand-in-hand with our teachers’ pedagogy. I strongly believe in the use of mentor texts in the writing workshop and have often encouraged teachers to do the same with online blogs.

I have worked with several teachers over the past few weeks to set up blogs for their students. While Hicks encourages formatting fonts and embedding widgets and videos, I do believe at the elementary level many lessons must revolve around the prewriting and drafting stage for many weeks before the student even starts to blog online. As many teachers of younger children know, the formatting of the blog is the first thing a young child will start to work on rather than working on the content of the posts. I love how one second grade teacher started her students blogging by telling stories orally. Next, they moved to writing down these small moment stories on paper complete with illustrations. Finally the students used Post-it notes to comment on each child’s writing or to comment on someone else’s comments. They practiced for many class periods on what makes a good comment. The result was a well-thought out blog post with comments...on paper. The students then repeated this process online. While slowing down this process, the elementary student is able to reflect on the concept of MAPS (mode, media, audience, purpose, and situation) and how it relates to their post (Hicks, 2009). Who is reading my piece? Why am I writing this? What do I hope my audience gets out of reading my writing?

I also believe students should be continually cycling through the writing process while writing their blogs. I really liked how one third grade teacher used a checklist for the students to refer to while creating their blogs.

More information...

Below is a video about how one fourth grade teacher started blogging with her class. I love how they interviewed each other about what their classmates find interesting.
Blog video created by Genevieve Pacada.


Hicks, T. (2013). Crafting digital writing: Composing texts across media and genres. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Hicks, T. (2009). The digital writing workshop. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Pacada, G. (2012, April 24). Blogging with elementary students. [Video File}. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgUR_-YliPc.