End of term reflections 2015


This last term I went paperless in class. My students opened notebooks in Google Docs, and we hardly used any textbooks at all in any of my subjects (English (ESL), social studies, religion and an elective called international cooperation). This was a new approach for my 8th graders, but they didn’t bat an eye before diving into it.

All my students bring their smartphones to class. We have a BYOD policy (link to Edutopia), and I have embraced this a few years already. Now it was essential! Without notebooks, they had to use their phones to access their Google Docs, and of it meant starting our journey together on digital citizenship (Edutopia).

Needless to say, some time was lost due to lack of battery, wifi troubles and password confusion when working with new tools and apps, but I believe we encountered these obstacles earlier, and have learnt from them, rather than thinking we could have avoided them altogether.

The tools and apps we have used the most are Google Docs and Google Slides. This has allowed my students to work collaboratively in groups and as a class without regard to time and place.

Creating a global classroom is something which has been important to me for a long time. All my classes are involved in eTwinning projects, with project partner schools in Italy, Portugal, France, Lithuania and last but not least; Lillesand, my hometown in the Southern part of Norway. Activities differ according to the topics of the projects, but they are communicating and they have a real audience for sharing their work. They will experience collaboration across time zones and borders next term, and increase their cultural understanding, which are some of the primary goals when using eTwinning.

This term my students also used Soundcloud and shared stories in Padlet. Sadly not everyone managed to access Soundcloud from their device, but the lesson was a powerful one: recording and sharing their best work. Audacity might be a smoother working alternative, so I will continue exploring tools for this kind of work next term.

Kaizena proved to be almost exactly the sort of tool I was looking for when grading English texts. My students add their Google Docs in Kaizena, and I can edit their documents in Google, and give feedback on their skills, and post lessons which are relevant to each student according to their needs to improve. One drawback is that Kaizena is not compatible with Microsoft Explorer, so when using the school computers we came up blank trying to connect to Kaizena. This meant that we had to rely on the smartphones, or our computers at home to use it. The upside is that the students can keep track of their skills and play posted videos or read articles about skills they need whenever they want to.

We started out enlisting in Curriculet for reading novels online. It was easy to set up the whole class, but the available books turned out to be a bit hard for my 8th graders, and the free classics only appealed to a few of them. I have to explore other apps and reading experiences for them this term, and maybe come back to Curriculet next term, when we have classics lined up as a topic in our English classes.

Formative assessment (Edutopia) is something I have used always, to some extent, but I haven’t been conscious of the term or how to best use it to improve my student’s learning. This term I used Socrative and Answergarden more and shared it with parents. These tools have lit up my understanding, and I recommend them to everyone!

A new tool I have tried in my English classes this term is noredink. It assesses each students’ grammar ability, and gives them new tasks according to their skill level. A gift for any teacher! It is calibrated for native speakers, so choosing the grade level with care is important. I look forward to exploring this tool further in the upcoming term.

My school, #Ramstadskole, will start giving each student an ipad 1:1 this next term. Before this happens our broadband facilities will be improved, and the teachers and students will get some training. I hope that the experiences we have gained so far; going paperless and using edtech tools will make the transition to ipads easier.

Which experiences, ideas and tools were the most important in your teaching this last term? Inquiring minds want to know!



New School Year – New Plans

Ramstad, August

It’s that time of the year again; time to start a new school year. We have a few days of planning before I meet my new students on Monday the 17th of August. This year I am teaching Grade 8. My students are 12-13 year olds, and I am excited to get to know them!

The last few years I have had a goal to open my classroom to connect with pupils and teachers in other countries using eTwinning and Skype Classroom. I plan to continue with these projects, and I also hope to connect with a friend’s class in the Southern part of Norway. I am certain we can learn a lot from each other, both similarities and differences within our country.

I also hope to go more paperless this year. I will explore using Google tools even more, and maybe it is time to let the books go too? I have a feeling I will need to use them to some extent, but this is something I want to try out. I would like to use real world events and more authentic problems and cases in my classes. One of the first topics in English and social science is The American Revolutionary War, and I plan to use the Storyline methodology, a method students often get really excited about!

In this spirit I will try out Kaizena when receiving texts and giving students feedback in my English (ESL) classes. It looks great, and I hope my students will like it too. I also want to put more emphasis on reading in class, and I hope to be able to use Curriculet for this. I had planned to use it with my Grade 10 classes last year, but time ran out when the last exams loomed in the horizon. This year, I’ll definitely give it a go!

Have you set any specific goals for the next school year? Have you used Kaizena or Curriculet before? I’d love to hear about it! I wish everyone a great new school year!

Digital tools in my classroom

A cascade of leaves

A cascade of leaves

I work as a teacher at Ramstad middle school http://www.ramstadskole.no/ in Baerum county next to Oslo in Norway. I teach grade 9., and my subjects are English, social science and international cooperation. This term I decided to try to make my classroom more global.

My inspiration came from many persons, but among those was Svein Andreas Horgen: http://gjemmesiden.blogspot.no/ He held a really inspiring lecture about Web 2.0 at a conference about education that I attended in Bergen in February last year.

Also, the experiences made at one of our neighbouring high schools: Sandvika, put in motion by a teacher called Ann S. Michaelsen was calling out to me. She wrote an e-book with one of her classes about creating a global classroom: http://www.amazon.com/Connected-Learners-creating-classroom-ebook/dp/B00CYEFX8E/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1378640337&sr=8-3&keywords=global+classroom

Fore some years I have used MS Office, youtube, wikipedia and  different websites in combination with a computer and a projector, in an attempt to make my classes more relevant for my students. This seemed to work quite well with regard to teacher driven lessons, but I want my students to use technology more for themselves in their learning, and to cooperate more, and not just watch the teacher having a go at it.

First, I enrolled in the EU program eTwinning, and found a partner class in Slovenia for my international cooperation class. We share a project called “You, me and the others, that’s us!”. This will allow our students to learn more about the similarities and differences between them, and they can practice using English too.

Next I had my new students explore one digital tool during their second week at school: http://www.glogster.com. They made wall posters in all my classes. The posters were great, but we didn’t manage to print them so easily. However, as the main objective was to learn how to use the tool, the product was less important!

This week I am asking my students to establish accounts with http://www.evernote.com , http://www.x-mind.net and http://www.wordpress.com. I intend to have them using wordpress to blog about an English novel this term. I think everyone deserves to know about evernote, because this is the digital tool closest to my heart right now! I also hope that x-mind will become useful to them when they want to brainstorm an idea and make a mind map. Next I want them to explore http://www.diigo.com for organizing all their bookmarks and websites they use during their week, and http://www.dropbox.com for saving all their work in the cloud.

Using these tools together can take your learning to another level I think, and I want this for my students!

So, my goal is to let my students experience how digital tools can help them organize their notes and thoughts better, and hopefully let them learn how sharing their knowledge will increase it!

Finally, to help me develop a deeper understanding I have entered a MOOC at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology about “Technology and Change in Society” http://www.ntnu.no/web/aktuelt/pressemeldinger/13/mooc-apning So, I am exploring some very interesting new digital tools this term, with the goal of making my classroom more global, and helping my students use technology more in their learning process. Along the way, I am learning more about digital learning and the digital economy in a MOOC organized by professor Arne Krokan at the NTNU.

If you have ideas that you think I should explore regarding my work towards a global classroom, please write a comment about it, so I can check it out.