Monday, March 31, 2014

"Interacting" with PAPER texts and evaluating group work

We use a lot of technology every day in our class and believe it or not, it makes my students appreciate paper!  They actually get excited when they realize we are going to be doing something that involves paper.  They just love when I give them that huge piece of butcher paper that covers their entire table and tell them to have at it!  And I agree that it's good to give them "a break" every once in a while, especially as 5th graders; a break from the constant use of technology on a daily basis that pushes their thinking and skills to the limits... they still need to have a chance to use scissors and crayons every once in a while!... during our non-fiction unit, I decided to take a short break from reading digital texts, but just like my students work "hands-on" with PDFs through Adobe Reader, highlighting, annotating, etc., I wanted to make a paper text just as hands-on, trying to keep that same engagement they have when reading digital texts.
I don't feel like they can just read a text...they need to touch it, they need to cut it apart, they need to manipulate it, they need to take the information out of order and group like information together, they need to isolate important words or sentences.  They need to put together the clues the author has left for them in order to discover the author's message.  They need to own the text and interpret it. 

I gave them an article on Jackie Robinson and a list of the elements of a narrative non-fiction that they had to discover in the text while working in their group.  I created an anchor chart to remind them of the elements that they needed to show in their product.  

Students read and analyzed the text aloud together.  They had to make a product that showed the elements that we talked about by cutting apart their text and using it as evidence for their thinking.  This allowed them to literally had piece together the clues from the text to help them discover the author's message and the theme.

To help them write a simple summary of the article, students used this strategy and filled in the information from the text.

Students take to this strategy very well and can easily pick out the main character, what the character wanted, the problem that got in this/her way, what he/she did in response to the problem, and what resulted in the end.

After students use this strategy, it makes the character's journey much more clear for them.  By analyzing the character throughout the text and what the character learns, students are able to develop a theme and discover the author's message.  

Through collaboration, ALL of my students were very successful in analyzing the life of Jackie Robinson, the challenges he faced, and the importance he had in history, but more importantly, they were able to relate and connect the message to their own lives through whole class discussion.

I pushed one more element into this project by having students evaluate their work and the work of their group members by filling out a Google Form...(of course I had to add SOME tech!)

Finished products hanging in our hallway...

Friday, March 21, 2014

Google Drive Collaborative Project: Digital Student Magazines

This informational magazine project comes from my district's online curriculum and I just loove it!  Last year I integrated technology and we did it completely PC based.  I wanted to accomplish the same this year, but make it even better:  this was a HUGE difference from last year, same project, different method.  

Last year the project consisted of:  each student in the group working on his/ her own computer on his/her part of the magazine, saving the word document to our class folder on the "v drive" on our district network, and then finding it again, cutting and pasting each student's work and putting it all together in one document while trying to maintain format and then me going in, finding them, and printing them all out!!  

My experience from last year is what actually helped me to make the decision to turn to Google Drive (*see previous blog post) for this collaborative project to attempt to improve it, and make it better than it already was.  I wanted to give the students more time to be creative and "do their thing" 
(Some of them even decided to put a QR code into their magazine!) by cutting out all of the extra "stuff" we had to do to put it all together.  

I mean, four different students with their work saved all in the same place, on the same document with easy access... no searching for work on a huge database and piecing it all together afterwards... breaking down the walls of each student working on his or her own computer, alone, separated from group members...  

I wanted a truly collaborative project in all sense of the word- students working on their own piece, but in the same space as their classmates so that they could see each other's work in real time and offer advice, or opinions on formatting, writing, grammar, etc...Google Drive made it happen!

This project was great in many ways:  It was multi-faceted and involved real-world 21st century skills while enhancing our district curriculum that targets state standards.  
The project involved; 

-student inventory of own interests and working in interest-based groups; students grouped based on similarities in their interests/knowledge for their general topic

-developing a topic and subtopics and choosing non-fiction text features to include with each article

-group members researching information on their subtopic from a variety of sources- books, websites, interviews, videos using two different note-taking strategies

-each group member contributing an article of a different text structure/organization

-students working together to choose a cover image and design a cover

-students designing a game, fun facts, or extra information for their magazine

-students working together to decide how to format their magazine

-students using a checklist to monitor their group's progress

-students evaluating themselves and group members as part of their grade


I included the following documents in each group's folder on Google Drive:

~check list for student to self/group-monitor their progress

~document to track who would be in charge of which part of the magazine and the titles of the magazine and articles

~document to turn notes from note-cards into complete sentences with details

~a bibliography document where each student added the websites, books, videos, etc. that they used to gather their information and pictures

~one document where all students from the group would each add his/her final copy of their article and the group worked together to add table of contents, games, and advertisements!


 I used Google Forms as a part of my assessment process.

     Since it is difficult to evaluate all students every day and the contributions they made to the group throughout the whole project, part of my assessment came from the group members evaluating themselves and each other.  This also made them more accountable of monitoring their own work habits.  To easily distribute the eval and collect responses, I used my first Google Form on Google Drive!  I shared the link with students through Edmodo.

Students answered questions on Google Form on their tablet and submitted their answers.  All answers were populated into one spreadsheet that was automatically created in my drive. Again, I could easily assess student work without hauling around a load of papers! 


Students created their covers on the tablets using the website (click to create a cover!)

This group did their magazine on the soccer team Real Madrid... they then tweeted their cover to the team!


Finished products on Google Drive (click links below!)

Paris Informational Magazine

Cars Informational Magazine

Real Madrid Informational Magazine

The Solar System Informational Magazine

Mexico Informational Magazine


The progression through the project...

 Four students working on                                                the same doc at the same time!

Researching topics of interest with videos, interviews, etc.

Turning notes into complete sentences on Google Docs...

Adding the finishing touches using Google Drive on the laptops- font, color, page numbers, text features, etc.
I will be printing the finished magazines out for the students as well as keeping a copy for my classroom library! : )

For next year, I will be looking to use an app or web-tool to put the magazines in the format of an actual ebook... let me know if you know of anything in the comments!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The How-To and Benefits of Using Google Drive for Student Collaboration

     The first undertaking I used Google Drive for was not a small one!- so I was pretty satisfied with myself for having figured out how to effectively use drive for student collaboration on a major project, as our Galaxy Tabs did not make it an easy task!  Since we have Samsung Tabs, for some reason if I shared a document with my students through Edmodo, they could not edit the document on the Galaxy Tabs by opening it through the internet.  FLEXIBILITY!  I had a whole lesson planned around them being able to edit the google docs on their tablets and in the moment I had to decide to install the Google Drive app on all 50 of our tablets.  

     The tablets are all registered under our generic 5th grade gmail, so when I created the documents under my personal gmail account, I only had to share with one email account.  This saved a lot of time, but I have also had to trust that my students will stay in their own folders, as they can access everyone else's work (and they have kept to their own, for the most part, besides the occasional fun of sneaking in to their friend's document to send them a message).  

     Anyways, I would like to share the "how-to" and logistics, organization, and pros and cons behind our experience and hopefully I will be able to provide some sense of guidance to someone out there who is looking for a way to integrate technology and the collaboration piece.  I understand that there are a limited number of classrooms out there that are 1:1, but classes can also be taken to a computer lab to do the same collaboration work, because as usual, the web-based drive is a lot more "friendly" than the app.

If your students do not have their own gmail accounts through your district, I suggest you create a generic class/grade level email that they can use to log on to Google Drive on devices or on computers in a lab.

1)  First I created two folders on my personal Google Drive, one for each of my classes.  

2)  Within each folder, I created a folder for each of the small groups that we had created in each class.  The groups were interest-based groups that I formed based on a survey that the students were given. The groups would be working together to create an informative magazine in Google Drive on their topic.  The small group folders were titled with the group's topic of their magazine and the name of their group "leader."  

3)  Within each group's folder I created templates and checklists that they would need throughout the project.  I did the actual "creating" and naming of documents and then made multiple copies of each document and moved them to each of the folders.  This was probably the step that took the most time, as I had 16 small groups between my two classes.

4)  I then shared my class folders with our generic 5th grade gmail account.  You can share a few different ways.  I right-clicked on each folder in my drive, went down to share and then entered the email address.  Don't forget to change the settings (in the same place where you are sharing) so that anyone who has the link can edit the document.  Once you share a folder, it automatically shares everything in the folder and anything you add to the folder too! 

5)  Students can log in, open their Google Drive app, and view documents "shared with me." Then they can choose the class folder, then their group folder, and whichever document they are working on for that day. The web-based version of drive was pretty simple to navigate when we went to the lab to add finishing touches to our projects that were not possible through the app.

There were not many bumps in the road throughout the duration of this project and I definitely feel that the pros outweigh the cons...  


-Google Drive automatically saves and updates changes made- students love this!
-All student work is in the same place, easy for students and teacher to access
-All students can work collaboratively in groups, as well as independently at the same time
-Students were in charge of working together to divide up and delegate workload
-Collaboration leads to discussion about topic which leads to deeper learning
-Students collaborate and make joint decisions about formatting, text and images, document design, etc.
-Mirrors real world, job-like collaborative situations
-Students and teacher can offer immediate feedback to others
-Easy for students to monitor their progress towards their final project
-Easy for teacher to check daily progress
-Teacher can monitor individual contributions to the group
-Easier grading- can grade from tablet, desktop, or home laptop- (Don't have to carry anything to and from school!)
-Can house more student work for a longer period of time for easy access in the future
-Can easily share with others and display through school website, Edmodo, blog, etc.


-Syncing issues- on some days our tablets had trouble connecting to the network to sync and receive the documents I had shared with them
-Students had access to all students' work
-Extra time for students to learn to manage a new platform, which actually wasn't much
-The app was not as easy, "friendly" to manipulate
-We had to take a few days to finish our project in the computer lab- font type, sizes, colors, adding and moving pictures, and inserting page numbers

Please see my next blog post for examples of student work for the collaborative informative magazine project!