Get Motivated to Do Project based Learning the Right Way #pbl

Ross Cooper on episode 146 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Ross Cooper, co-author of Hacking PBL, helps us get motivated to think about project based learning differently.


Book Creator for Chrome. Previously on the 10-Minute Teacher, guests have mentioned Book Creator as one of their top apps for the iPad. Well, now we can all use Book Creator in our classrooms using the Chrome web browser. Make books, send the link to parents and even include audio and video. As a teacher, you can get started with a library of 40 books as part of their free version – go to to get started now. This is great news! Now we can all use Book Creator in our classrooms, on any device, using the Chrome web browser.

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Below is an enhanced transcript, modified for your reading pleasure. All comments in the shaded green box are my own. For guests and hyperlinks to resources, scroll down.

The book competition will be added here as soon as it goes live.


Enhanced Transcript

Get Motivated to Do Project based Learning the Right Way

Monday, September 11, 2017

How do we hack project base learning?

Vicki: Happy Monday Motivation! We’re talking to Ross Cooper @RossCoops31, coauthor of Hacking Project Based Learning, about how we can get motivated to rock Project Based Learning in our classrooms.

So, Ross, what’s new and different, and how can we hack Project Based Learning?

Ross: I think when we talk about Project Based Learning sometimes it’s really abstract. You know, maybe we’ve heard about it, there’s a teacher down the hallway who’s doing this great job with it, and you’re like, “How the heck did that happen?” So what we tried to do in our book – and that’s the book that I co-authored with Erin Murphy, who’s now a middle school assistant principal – what we really tried to do was break it down, and as much as possible give teachers a step-by-step process in regard to how it can be done. So, rather than looking at it abstractly, we hack in by looking at the different components and focusing in on those.

How do we motivate ourselves and our schools to do project-based learning that really works?

Vicki: Well, you know, sometimes people say, “Oh, that’s a project,” or “Oh, that’s a project, and what are they learning?” What’s your advice about how we can get motivated to do Project Based Learning that really works?

Ross: Sometimes when we think about Project Based Learning, we think about it in terms of black and white, Vicki, so it’s either we’re not doing it and we are doing it. When we look at those different components of Project Based Learning – it might be creating a culture of inquiry, explicitly teaching collaboration skills, giving effective feedback – these are all things that can take place with or without full blown Project Based Learning, right? It’s just best practice and best learning that’s in the best interest of our students.

So, I think a lot of times when teachers see the different components of Project Based Learning when it’s broken down for them, it’s really motivating because it’s like, “Oh my gosh! I’m already doing part of that! That’s already taking place in my classroom. My students are benefiting from this. We’re already on the way there. We just need to fine-tune what we’re doing a little bit to make it full blown PBL.”

I think for a lot of teachers, that’s really motivating because you’re not really throwing out the baby with the bath water, right? It’s not one of those things where we’re like, “Everything you’ve been doing for the past five years is wrong. You need to do this instead.” It’s like, “No, you’re doing a lot of things right! We just need to tweak it to promote more inquiry, to promote more student-centered learning, and to promote more relevant learning for our students.”

The difference between “projects’ and project-based learning

Vicki: So, you’re trying to get past just – I mean, I’ve seen projects where people are just like, “They’re copying from Wikipedia,” or “They’re just searching and pasting facts on a page.” You’re really trying to get past that, in asking us, “Are we promoting inquiry, are we promoting collaboration, are we really having effective feedback?” I mean, is that where you’re trying to go with those?”

Ross: Yeah, exactly. So a lot of times – when I first started doing Project Based Learning in professional development a handful of years ago – it was kind of this whole idea of throwing out the baby with the bathwater like I just said. It was, “OK, this is what Project Based Learning is. This is what we’re going to shoot for.”

What I have found is – and you hinted at this, Vicki — is the difference between projects and Project Based Learning. A lot of teachers already are doing projects, right? So if we just make it very clear that, “OK, you’re doing projects. Here’s where Project Based Learning is. Let’s build on top of what you’re already doing. So we go from projects to PBL. You’re being respectful of what the teacher is already doing. You’re not throwing out the baby with the bath water. You’re meeting them where they are. In short, the difference between projects and Project Based Learning (and you mentioned this) is inquiry, right? Rather than covering content, it’s just uncovering of content – which then leads to a deeper understanding. But also, with a project, it’s almost like – you know, the traditional project, it’s like the cherry on top, right?

Vicki: Yeah.

Ross: As a result of that, it’s like, “OK. Good job. Now you get to make a poster or website or a hangar mobile or whatever product it might be.” And maybe you have everybody in the classroom making the same product. Whereas if it’s Project Based Learning, you’re learning through the project. So that project in itself is the learning. It is the unit. By the time students and teachers are done with it, the learning has taken place.

An example of projects vs. project-based learning

Vicki: Could you give me an example of a project versus Project Based Learning?

Ross: The Project Based Learning experience that we talked about in the book is students building pinball machines. They learn about electricity and magnetism and force in motion while building pinball machines. So we went out to Home Depot. We got electrical circuits, we got wires, we got bulbs, we got wood. We used drills, hammers, all that great stuff. And we built pinball machines while learning about electricity and magnetism and force in motion.

So, they did lots of these little mini experiments, some of which were taken from the textbook, but because they were done within the context of that pinball machine (that authentic context) it was that much more powerful for them.

That’s diving into STEM a little bit – you know Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics – so rather than getting kind of… You know, sometimes you see these STEM activities. I’m going off on a little bit of a tangent here, but sometimes when you see those STEM activities, it’s like STEM in a box, right? And it’s like these step-by-step directions, and it’s “errorless,” right? “If you followed the directions, you’re going to have this great finished product.” Then the emphasis is on the product and not the process. So I think sometimes we have to be careful of those STEM in a box activities, or at least reinvent them to promote inquiry.

That’s an example of a Project Based Learning experience. Anything can be a project, you know, the traditional project that we’ve done. So a lot of times what I’m doing for professional development on PBL, we’ll use the brochure, the traditional travel brochure. “OK, now that we’ve learned about this state, now that we’ve researched it, we’re going to (kind of what you alluded to) we’re going to copy-paste all of this information into a brochure to show off our fancy products for like maybe Meet the Teacher Night or Open House or something like that. And really all that is – it’s information dump, right? You’re taking information from one place, you’re putting it into another, and it looks great, but really – did it promote much thought on the part of the student?

Productive struggle versus “sucking the life” out of a project

Vicki: OK, what are some questions that teachers can ask themselves to kind of help themselves move from projects to Project Based Learning? When we look at our work for the upcoming school year, what should we be asking ourselves so that we can get further and better? I think we’re all shifting to where we want to help kids think and not just regurgitate, right?

Ross: (agrees) I think sometimes, like even when we’re, like you hit the nail right on the head, when we’re delivering this professional development. It’s like, “OK, we need to get our students to think.” Alright? And it’s like we’re not really being clear. We think we are, but we’re really not. Sometimes we have to be even more explicit. I call it, “being explicit about being explicit.” We need to just dig down deeper and be as explicit as possible to give those key strategies.

About a month or so ago, I was in a teacher’s classroom. It was a science teacher. He was a great teacher. He was doing a science experiment with his students, and he said to the students, “As a result of doing this experiment, you’re going to find out X, Y, and Z.” Right? So immediately, the inquiry is sucked out of the project, it’s sucked out of the experiment, or the unit or whatever he’s doing, because he’s telling students what they’re going to understand. So that’s the definition of coverage rather than uncovering the content.

So sometimes it’s just the matter that those entry points in getting ready for PBL or inquiry is just shifting the order in which we do things. So rather than telling students that as a result of this experiment or unit or activity, you’re going to find this out, it’s shifting the order and putting that purposeful play first, letting the students engage in that productive struggle first, and then coming together.

And that can be scary, too, right? Because that could be scary because that productive struggle – some students aren’t used to it, and maybe even more significantly, some teachers aren’t used to it. So if a teacher’s going to do that, it’s important to convey to your students that, “OK, this productive struggle is an important part of the learning process. It doesn’t mean that you’re messing up.” But putting that productive struggle first, and taking that direct instruction and moving it to the back.”

Essential questions versus essential answers

Vicki: They tell us to share our central questions, but it sounds like maybe in that case the teacher may have shared the essential answers, right?

Ross: (laughs) Yeah, yeah. Exactly. I think any time you can turn ownership over to the students, it’s a great thing. So even when you’re crafting the essential questions as you get more and more comfortable with it, even when I taught fourth grade by the end of the year my students would be crafting those essential questions. They would all come up with these essential questions, and then they would plug them into a Google form, and then we would have a vote as to which one was the best for their respective unit.

But I think really taking that, thinking about the order in which we do things and moving that discussion and that direct instruction to the back as far as possible is really a great thing to do. Even when we’re doing professional development with teachers, you know I always say, “No teacher said they wanted to make a shift because [insert famous researcher here] said so.” Right?

You shift because you feel that it’s what’s best for your students, and then maybe the research comes after. But if you’re doing PD and you’re leading with that direct instruction or you’re leading with that research, you’re going to get a lot of boredom and teachers who probably don’t want to move forward.

30-second pep talk for effectively using project-based learning

Vicki: So Ross, give us a 30-second pep talk about why we as teachers should shift from projects to Project Based Learning.

Ross: I think when you think about all of these things that we focus on in school, there’s a school idea of “initiative fatigue,” right? We’re stuck with one initiative after the other after the other. Really everybody can be fatigued, from the administrators right down to the students.

But when you think about this hard-hitting instructional approach and hard-hitting learning strategy that encompasses so much, all with this great context, it really is Project Based Learning. You’ve got the four C’s in Critical Thinking, Creativity, Collaboration, and Communication that everybody talks about. Like I said before, you have feedback, you have learning spaces, you have publishing, formative assessment, powerful mini-lessons. All these great things that are really wrapped up into one approach.

Once you learn how to do it really, once you learn how to plan with a unit perspective in mind, using PBL rather than a lesson by lesson perspective, you’re never going to want to go back to the way that you taught before. This puts the students at the center of the learning, and ultimately, it’s what’s best for them.

Vicki: The book is Hacking Project Based Learning. We’ll be doing an e-book giveaway, so check the Shownotes, enter to win, and share this show and comment.

We all really need to be motivated to think about the difference this week between, “Are we doing just projects? Or are we truly moving to Project Based Learning?” Because the difference is remarkable.

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford

Biography as Submitted

Ross is the coauthor of Hacking Project Based Learning, and the Supervisor of Instructional Practice K-12 in the Salisbury Township School District (1:1 MacBook/iPad) in Allentown, Pennsylvania. He is an Apple Distinguished Educator and a Google Certified Innovator. His passions are inquiry-based learning and quality professional development. He blogs about these topics at He regularly speaks, presents, and conducts workshops related to his writings and professional experiences.

When he is not working, he enjoys eating steak and pizza, exercising, reading books, playing on his computer, and provoking his three beautiful nephews. Please feel free to connect with him via email,, and Twitter, @RossCoops31.


Twitter: @RossCoops31

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.)

The post Get Motivated to Do Project based Learning the Right Way #pbl appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

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23+ Tips to Help Kids Organize by Learning Styles

Sponsored by Staples

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

As I organize my tenth grader for back-to-school, I’m realizing that we’re still missing some important items. One of my passions as an educator is helping non-traditional learners succeed in school. Whether they have a learning difference or ADD, I believe that if we work with kids, we can help all of them succeed.

This blog post is sponsored by Staples. All content and opinions are my own. I’m glad all of the products I mention here are in stock all year long at Staples because kids will need them to get organized.

deals at staples learning styles

Judith Kolberg’s Conquering Chronic Disorganization is one of my favorite books, but there are others that have also helped me come up with the following tips. And here’s an important point: while the items discussed here will help kids succeed all year long, your ongoing job is to be a consultant of sorts and help students know how to use them.

Let’s talk about learning styles and some organizational tips for each type of style. The thing we have to remember is that if a student LEARNS in a certain way, they should also ORGANIZE in a certain way. As I share these products, remember that you can pick them up from Staples — they always keep all of these things IN STOCK.

Also remember, that none of us is any “one” style. Whatever your thoughts on learning styles, using these methods can help anyone become better organized. (I use transparent folders myself and it helps me.)

An Essential Sense-Making Tip for kids: Theme the System

Come up with a theme for your child’s organization system. The problem with many children is that processes and procedures don’t make sense to them. They don’t bring papers home because they don’t know where to put papers to make sure they get home. And after Mom signs the paper at home, kids don’t know where to put them to make sure they get back to school.

You can help students succeed by theming how they’ll organize things like test review materials, homework, things that come home, things to return to the teacher, things for other students, etc. Then, for example, if your child loves football, consider the following system:

  • Test Review Items – A folder with a football goal on it (Their goal is to do their best.)
  • Homework Items – A folder with a football on it (Tests don’t happen as much, but they have to keep playing the game even if it isn’t time for a test.)
  • Take Home to Mom – A cheerleader folder
  • Return to Teacher – a coach folder
  • Things to Give to Other Students – A team folder
  • Planner – their playbook

Or, if your child loves to dance, you could have a system like this:

  • Test Review Items – recital folder
  • Homework Items – dance shoes
  • Take Home to Mom – audience
  • Return to Teacher – dance teacher
  • Things for Other Students – dance troupe
  • Planner – dance program

The key is to have visual reminders for each part of the planning system. Then, when you’re talking to a child who doesn’t really like homework, you can say, “Go get your playbook” or “Go get your dance program,” and you’ve got a positive anchor that they can understand. Use this system to organize their backpack as well.

My favorite way to make this system work is to purchase sticker paper. Then you put whatever images you want on sturdy notebooks, folders, and planners.

Other Tips to Help Every Student Succeed

  • Make sure they have a paper planner/calendar that fits their style. I recommend letting students pick one out. You can also purchase Happy Planner stickers to customize their planner and make it their own.
  • Color code their classes by coordinating supplies for each class. For example, cover the math book in a blue cover and get a blue binder. For literature, you could cover it in red and get a red binder and a small red plastic box for index cards. You get the idea! Then use that color to highlight the class on their schedule. For each class, they’re ready to grab and go based on color! (You could go one step further with a multicolored pen that lets students write on their calendar in the color of the class.)
  • A sturdy pencil bag can hold pens, markers, crayons, a small ruler, a calculator, and possibly their planner.
  • A jump drive / memory key is important for older students who need to take computer files with them.

Now, let’s dive into specific things for unique learning styles. Remember that many of us learn with a mix of these styles, so you may find ideas in several categories that work for students.

Bodily-Kinesthetic Learners

These are hands-on students who learn by doing. But the struggle is that often the notes and other traditional organizers may not work for them. First, remember that a clue to bodily-kinesthetic types is often their use of action verbs. Use this to their advantage.

Tip: Buy a Clipboard Box

Bodily-kinesthetic students may prefer clipboards to binders. I like clipboard boxes. Students can keep their planner, sticky notes and some pens inside. My tenth-grade son has a Saunders Redi-Rite Clipboard with Calculator, which is metal, but for safety, I recommend that younger kids have a plastic clipboard box.

Organize by learning style

Organize with a clipboard box. I’ve found that students that can’t keep up with a planner or papers, often succeed using this approach. Homework papers go inside the box. Their list can be clipped on the front.

Tip: Use Action Verb Sticky Notes

As a student is given a paper by a teacher, teach them to get out a sticky note and put the action on the note on the front of the paper. You can even color code it. Think action and types of activities, and file these papers inside the clipboard box if they need to be done later in the day.

For example, green sticky notes could be for homework with the message “Read this” or “Answer these questions.” Pink sticky notes could identify a destination, such as “Put in math binder” or “Give this to Mom.” Anything that needs to be handled this class period can be clipped on the front of the clipboard.

Tip: Sticky Note Organizing Center

Use the inside of the clipboard box or a folder to create areas for organizing tasks. For example, students can have sticky notes with action verbs for each thing that is to be done. Students can move their tasks between “now,” “tomorrow,” or a specific date. Just make sure that you use the super-sticky notes for this kind of organization system. Many bodily-kinesthetic and tactile learners love being able to move around their list and reorganize it without rewriting things.

Tip: Help Students Build Habits

These methods won’t work if students don’t go through their papers consistently, so help these kids build habits. For example, teach them to go through their papers and put them in the appropriate places at the beginning of study hall or when they go home. You can make a checklist on a sticky note that they check off each day.

Tip: Help Students Create Action Centers

Stock areas with supplies for taking certain kinds of action. For example, the math action center would have graph paper, rulers, and calculators. These items could live in a transparent envelope that they can grab when they’re ready to work on that subject. (A note here, I love the Staples Poly Envelopes and pick them up for me and my son.)

Group all items together by courses. For example, if they need index cards for vocabulary, include index cards and sharpie markers in their vocabulary action center.

Other Tips for Bodily-Kinesthetic Learners

  • Organize papers in three-ring binders (remember to color code).
  • Build in release strategies. Bodily-kinesthetic learners often need to get out their energy. If they can’t have wiggle stools or special ways to sit, make sure they have a stress ball or something to squeeze and let out that extra energy. (You could go for a fidget spinner if your school allows it, but check with them first.)
  • If your student just can’t use a planner, you could get Legos of different colors (matching the subject areas). With labels and FriXion erasable pens, students can write the homework for that subject on the colored lego. Erase the work as it is done and start over. This may sound kind of “out there,” but I’ve seen in work.

Auditory Learners

Auditory learners like to learn by listening. Sometimes the written word can be a challenge for them. Work with students and their teachers to help auditory learners set up an auditory organization system.

rechargeable power bank

Power station. Students who need their smartphone to capture learning will drain the battery of their smartphone rapidly. Purchase a rechargeable power bank and cable to help a student’s phone stay charged up all day.

Tip: Keep a Running Recording of Assignments

Make sure students have a good pair of headphones (perhaps even with a mic included). Make a notebook page for the day in OneNote or Evernote. Let students record quick reminders throughout the day about what has to be done. When they get home, they can play it back to remember what they need to do. Share this system with teachers so that they can help auditory learners quickly record these verbal notes in a way that doesn’t disturb the class. You could even use a digital recorder.

Because using audio and video may drain the battery of a smart device, you definitely need a rechargeable power bank for whichever device these students are using.

Tip: Record Teacher Review Sessions

Auditory learners benefit from listening to teacher lectures and review sessions. Make sure they know how to record and organize these for later listening.

Tip: Learn How to Voice Type

While Dragon Naturally Speaking is the top of the line, students can use dictation on their smartphone devices. I often record on my phone and run it through the Dragon transcription service to have articles typed or me. Auditory learners often express themselves better by speaking, so learning to dictate papers versus writing them by hand may be a benefit.

Other Tips for Auditory Learners:

  • Use timers and reminders.
  • Talk to yourself as you go through steps of a process.
  • Become a master at recording and quickly retrieving audio from your classes.

Visual Learners

“Out of sight, out of mind” applies to visual learners. They can sometimes forget all about an assignment if it isn’t written down. But also remember that being able to scan and see things quickly helps these students.

Visual organizing tips staples

Organize visually. Visual organizers often struggle with “out of sight, out of mind.” Keep supplies, items, and work materials organized so they can be seen. This Martha Stewart wall manager is a good example of visual organizing.

Tip: Organize Visually

These students may benefit from their homework station being organized visually on a wall. The Martha Stewart Wall Manager system is a great example of this style of organizing.

Tip: Use Transparent Folders

“Don’t conceal, reveal” is a tip from Judith Kolberg in her book Conquering Chronic Disorganization. Visual learners must be able to see things. So putting papers into a file folder is like hiding them from the student. For this reason, transparent file folders and envelopes can help students remember what they have to do.

Tip: Use Sheet Protectors or Clear Dividers

Sheet protectors and other clear items can be used to help students organize in a visual way so they can see the work that needs to be done. Try not to hide things. Sheet protectors are a great holder for commonly used forms, graph paper, and other items. The easier something is to scan and find, the happier a visual learner will be.

Tip: Clear Stackable Boxes

Scanning and finding can be challenging for visual students, so using clear, stackable boxes for supplies can help. Also, by grouping supplies for one class, you’ll make it faster for them to get their work together for class.

Organizing is an Ongoing Process

deals at staples learning styles

Whatever a student’s learning style, parents, and teachers can become “organizational consultants” by using these tips to help every child organize for learning. If you’re able to take a child shopping, sometimes they’ll find items they love to use. This helps. But realize that organizing oneself doesn’t come naturally. It takes time.

The biggest thing that I’ll ask is that if a child consistently doesn’t have homework or can’t bring papers home, and if you know that the support structures are in place, help the child find an organizing system that works for them. As a mother of three (and two with LD’s), I’ve turned organizing into a lifelong pursuit and challenge. The more a child is challenged to learn, the more they are naturally disorganized. But when you find what works, it makes all the difference in the world.

So get out there, stock up on some of these items, and see what works. And thanks to Staples, our sponsor of this series, you can find all of these products in stock throughout the year!

23+ Tips to help kids organize pinterest

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored blog post.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.)ed

The post 23+ Tips to Help Kids Organize by Learning Styles appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

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GradeCam: The Teacher’s Friend for Assessment

A sponsored post by GradeCam

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Some think GradeCam is just the modern-day replacement for multiple-choice Scantron machines. I did. But I was wrong. This past week, I took a tour of GradeCam, and in this post, I’ll share with you the features of this system and how it can save you time as a teacher. It will also help you with both formative and summative assessments, and it will enter your grades into any electronic grade book directly from GradeCam. Let’s dive deeper.

GradeCam teacher assessment

This blog post is sponsored by GradeCam. All opinions are my own.

GradeCam free trial

1. Simple Assessments of All Kinds

First, let’s look at the ways you can use GradeCam for assessments.

  • Multiple Choice: This is just the beginning.
  • True False: You can see what this looks like below.

GradeCam true false assessment boxes

  • Handwritten Numeric Assignments: Yes! Students can write in a numeric answer. GradeCam has a new tool called AITA (artificial intelligence teaching assistant) that can grade numeric handwriting. Math teachers should be thrilled!
Handwritten numeric responses can be graded with AITA, GradeCam's Artificial Intelligence Teaching Assistant.

Handwritten numeric responses can be graded with AITA, GradeCam’s Artificial Intelligence Teaching Assistant.

  • Number Grids: A numeric grid looks kind of like the grid that many of us have seen on the SAT. You can use this one, but in some cases, you might prefer the Handwritten Numeric (above).

GradeCam Numeric Grids

  • Rubrics: You can set up and fill in a rubric for student work, and then scan quickly to enter it into your grade book.
  • Rubrics With Capture Area: You can include a handwritten capture area within your rubric. Then you can view what students wrote and score it quickly (without paper) inside GradeCam.

GradeCam Rubric with capture area

  • Credit Assignments: This is a cool option. You can print out a small form and attach it to the front of a student’s journal, vocabulary or spelling book, or another item. This lets you quickly see if the student did the work. If you’re doing what I call a check grade (or what others call a credit assignment), just scan the code to enter the check or credit into the grade book.
Setting assessments is fast and easy with GradeCam.

Setting up assessments is fast and easy. There are many types of assessments in GradeCam including handwritten numeric.

2. Quick Data Feedback for Student Performance

Remember, teachers, that you don’t have to “grade” everything. Some student work can serve as formative assessment checkpoints to help you see how students are learning. You can use this data to adjust your teaching and better teach your students.

One of the advantages of GradeCam is the quick feedback that you get for your assessments. You can look at each item on the quiz or test and see where you need to re-teach or reinforce. First, you can look overall at the class. Then you can identify individual students who are struggling and need some extra help.

Item review makes it easy to see where your class is struggling. If you use several assessments during the class period to see how knowledge is forming in student minds, you can just check for learning. It isn’t necessary to record a grade in the gradebook. (In fact, I recommend that you shouldn’t feel tempted to record these grades even though GradeCam easily does it for you.) This can redirect your attention to teaching better and identifying which students need extra help.

3. Make Laminated Sheets for Student Use and Reuse

While you can print individual forms for student use and reuse, you can also just print a standard form and laminate it. Students can use a dry erase or Vis-a-vis marker to record their answers. After using the camera to enter the scores, they can wipe their forms and reuse them in the next class.

If students have any kind of book that you’re using for a check grade or credit assignment, print out the form and tape it on the front of the book for easy scoring. Make assessment simple.

While you can print off forms for individual assignments, consider creating a standard form and laminating copies for students. They can keep and reuse them quickly any time you assess. And remember, no matter how many questions you put on your standard form (and Gradecam can have up to 1,000), you don’t have to use them all.

GradeCam free trial

4. Remember the Value of Pre-Assessments

Many times, we review content that we’ve already presented to our students. They become bored when we cover “old” material that they know well. But the reason why we review is that some students might not know the material. You can free up class time and teach more efficiently when you pre-assess for prior knowledge.

Again, this is not a recorded grade, but it can help you better use your class time.

I also like the charts and graphs that you can quickly create in GradeCam to see what students are learning. You can link any question to state standards and see standards-based reports as well.

In this graphic,you can see pre-assessment data on a content area that helps the teacher understand the class knowledge overview.

5. Any Camera Works… But Practice First

You can use the camera on your Chromebook or laptop, mobile phone or tablet, or document camera. I do recommend setting up your device so that students can quickly position their item for scanning.

If you’re using a laptop, for example, it’s easier to hold the items in a stack and remove the front item for quick scanning. You might also want to have a white clipboard on a stand to cover the background. However, if you’re using a document camera or down-facing camera, laying an item down and then putting the next on top of it seems to work best.

Give students immediate feedback. Here’s what I love about inviting students to scan the document themselves — they get immediate feedback. Part of this, of course, is teaching them to clear the results before the next student scans his or her document. This is a fantastic way to quickly give feedback to students, which is why you want to make it easy for them to scan their own scoresheets. Set up a class procedure that will make it easy to do.

Experiment until you arrive at a system that works for both you and your students.

6. Practice the Transfer to Your Electronic Gradebook

Any teacher is eligible for a 60-day free trial of GradeCam Go! Plus. You can transfer grades to any electronic gradebook, but there are a few steps. You’ll have to open your gradebook and select the assignment and class. Then, after you click in the first student’s cell, you’ll tap F8. This will automatically transfer grades to the gradebook.

Now, for a great feature of GradeCam: Districts and schools that purchase a site license can work with GradeCam to set up SIS-sync for your school. This way, the gradebooks and students are entered and synchronize easily. This means little to no setup for your teachers.

Get started today with your free 60-day trial of GradeCam.

Now you can see why GradeCam is far more than multiple-choice. It’s a powerhouse assessment tool that can save teachers time — their most precious resource!

To help you learn more, here are links to some subject-specific tutorials for using Gradecam. Just click and download the PDF.

Enjoy learning and saving time with Gradecam!


The post GradeCam: The Teacher’s Friend for Assessment appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

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5 Ideas for Technology Stations

Leslie Swanson-Anaya on episode 145 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Leslie Swanson-Anaya @InspiredLeslie elementary teacher of the year for Texas region 15 has ideas for awesome technology stations. These apps will work for all ages of students and subjects. Learn how she helps students learn and progress using technology.


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Below is an enhanced transcript, modified for your reading pleasure. All comments in the shaded green box are my own. For guests and hyperlinks to resources, scroll down.


Enhanced Transcript

Five Ideas for Technology Stations

Friday, September 8, 2017

Vicki: Today we’re going to be talking with the author of #EduSnap17, Leslie Swanson Anaya @InspiredLeslie, about five ideas for technology stations.

So Leslie, what’s your first idea?

Idea #1: PBS Learning Media

Leslie: Well, my first idea – and one I have used in my classroom at the teacher-led station – is the interactive PBS LearningMedia. There are so many resources in there. Teachers, it’s so easy to log in, look at your grade level, your subject area, and pull up and interactive that you can actually use to augment the lesson.

Vicki: Oh, fun! Give me an example of one you’ve used that you thought was awesome.

The Cryptology using Algebraic Expressions Lesson

Leslie: The kids really loved the Cryptology one. We used it when we were solving equations. The students are given an equation, and they solve for the unknown variable. Then they have to match their answer to the country code to see where the criminals were coming from. They thought that was really fun!

Vicki: Oh, fun! And we forgot to mention that you’re actually an Elementary Teacher of the Year in Texas for Region 15, so these are elementary kids doing these really cool projects.

OK, what’s your second?

Idea #2: Flipgrid for a Collaborative Station

Leslie: My second one is Flipgrid. It’s a really amazing app for kids to collaborate with each other. At the collaborative station, I would set up a question that I ask the students. They would use their code to log onto the grid. Each one of them in the group can go ahead and give a response to that question and share the things that they created digitally as well.

Vicki: That’s such a fun tool, and we actually have an EdTech Tool Tuesday about that that I’ll link to in the Show Notes if you want to more about Flipgrid. This is one I’m going to be trying in the fall. It’s really cool.

OK, what’s next?

Idea #3: Nearpod

Leslie: Nearpod. It’s an AR/VR app, but it’s really neat because you can set it up as teacher-led, so I can actually control what they’re seeing from my device to their devices. They can also work together, pair up with a partner, to solve the problems and go through the different steps that I’m sending them. It’s a really amazing app, as well as I can also take them though different virtual tours.

Vicki: OK, so some people may not know what AR and VR stand for. We’ve talked about both of these, so I will include previous shows in the Show Notes. But explain just a little bit more about what these do.

Leslie: Augmented Reality just adds another layer to what you’re looking at. So for example, if I’m showing student gallons or pints, it will add a layer to actually compare – they can visually see — how much they’re looking at to compare it.

Vicki: Cool. And then how about the VR piece?

Leslie: The Virtual Reality takes them on a tour using their device or their Virtual Reality Glasses. They can actually be in another place and see inside of it. So if I took them to an aquarium, or another country, they can see different spots within that 360. They can actually turn around and see everything that’s in that space.

Vicki: What devices are your students using?

Leslie: We use both Chromebooks and iPads.

Vicki: Cool. OK, what’s your fourth one?

Idea #4: Google Expeditions

Leslie: My fourth one is Google Expeditions. I’m really passionate about this one because they have so many resources. It’s really important for especially my students who come from a low socioeconomic background. (They) haven’t had the experiences they need to connect new learning to. I use this one quite often to help create experiences so they know what we’re talking about. Especially with my ESL students and special ed as well. It helps give them a frame of reference.

Vicki: So give me an example of a Google Expedition you love.

Leslie: Well, I took my students on an expedition actually to an aquarium when we were learning about different careers and personal scinotes. We were exploring different areas or things that they might be interested in, so that they could then go look those up. They knew what career it was, what it entailed, and they could look up what kind of education they needed for that career, what the annual salaries were, and things like that.

Vicki: Cool. So we can kind immerse and help them travel and see the world without them having to leave the classroom.

OK, what else?

Leslie: It’s amazing.

Vicki: What’s your fifth?

Idea #5: LearnZillion

Leslie: My fifth one would definitely be LearnZillion. That’s also a really easy one to set up. You just set up an assignment, you give the kids the code, they can do it at their individual technology stations, and they log on. It’s also aligned with state standards so you know that the students are working on activities that are aligned to what they’re supposed to be learning as far as the content goes.

Vicki: Oh, there’s so many! Five fantastic ideas! Now you’ve got a lot more ideas in #EduSnap17, and we are going to a book giveaway. But let me ask you this, Leslie, how do you keep up with all the tools out there so that you know what to bring into your classroom?

Leslie: A lot of times I just have to do some research, look some things up and play with it. I did learn quite a bit from Jaime Donally, from AR/VR in EDU, and then all my PLNs that I connect with on Twitter have taught me so much. The best learning that I’ve had thus far was definitely at ISTE 17. It was amazing!

Vicki: Oh, wasn’t it so much fun? Educators, I just want to encourage you. Leslie is modeling for us — in some ways she may or may not know what I call it – but I call it, “Innovate like a turtle.” Taking 15 minutes, two to three times a week to learn something new ad to level up. And then when you go to conferences, just immerse in them and learn everything you can to bring back to your students. This whole idea of having tech stations and having these resources can really help our kids engage with the world, even when they can’t travel.

So, follow Leslie online and get out there and be remarkable! And I hope you can use one of these ideas.

Leslie: The really best thing about not necessarily knowing all of these apps and how to use them is (that) the kids are so forgiving, you learn together and you learn with them. It’s OK to have a faceplant every now and then because we learn from it, and we grow, and it’s just awesome.

Vicki: It is awesome. I’ve never heard anybody say it like that, Leslie. “It’s OK to have a faceplant.” I guess it is. I certainly have had my own faceplants, but I won’t say I enjoy it. (laughs)

Leslie: (laughs)

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford

Biography as Submitted

Leslie Swanson-Anaya received her undergraduate degree from Schreiner University in Kerrville, TX. She was a stay-at-home mother and foster mom for many years before pursuing her teacher certification credentials. After advocating for the educational needs of the children in her care, she felt a calling to pursue her teacher certification from Texas A&M- Commerce. Currently she is pursuing her M.Ed. for Concordia University Texas.

After serving as a special education teacher in Dallas ISD, Mansfield ISD, and Abilene ISD she found her teaching home in Brownwood ISD. Currently, she teaches sixth grade math at Coggin-Intermediate. As a strong proponent for student-centered instruction, she uses a blended learning model for her students using a strengths-based approach to differentiate for all student needs. Mrs. Swanson-Anaya believes in teaching the ‘whole child’, as evidenced by the strong relationships she has formed with her students, parents, colleagues, and school community.

Her professional interests focus on leveraging edtech resources, combined with solid pedagogy for student benefit. Ms. Swanson’s current projects, fueled by a passion to make a positive impact and inspire students to strive for the same, include creating blended learning experiences that incorporate student collaboration, to foster a growth and innovation mindset. Her practices will be featured in the upcoming EduMatch publication, as a contributing author, EduSanp17: A Snapshot in Education. In addition, she serves as a panelist for PBS Teachers’ Advisory Group, and is a Learning Ambassador of Atomic Learning. Finally, she was recently honored with Elementary Teacher of the Year for her contributions to the learning community in Brownwood ISD.


Twitter: @inspiredleslie

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.)

The post 5 Ideas for Technology Stations appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

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