"Let us move forward with boldness and not retreat back into the comforts of the past." - David March
Since Ms Singer addresses the need for full disclosure, I want to begin this post by explaining my connection with various products and personal branding.
Below are the products that I proudly serve as an ambassador for:
So with all of that said above, I endorse products and tools that work for students and teachers I work with. I support companies and tools that address needs in education. I support any product, tool, or community that brings educators together. I think this is the most important thing for education today. Teachers who are connected to a broader network than their own school and community are better able to serve their students in my opinion. I endorse any level of "personal branding" as Ms Singer mentions if it will help educators be better equipped to work with students.
And now I will address various parts of her article.
Unfortunately many teachers have to work second jobs to make ends meet. For those teachers that have been savvy enough to market their efforts outside the classroom into something that benefits the educator community as a whole, I applaud them. Sure there can be a serious conflict of interest if educators start letting district purchases be influenced by companies. But lets be realistic here, a free premium Seesaw account for a classroom teacher is hardly going to turn into major misuse of tax payer money. In most cases teachers are not even involved in large purchasing decisions (that is a point for another article entirely). A teacher being able to use a product for free, because they share it with others is a win win for everyone. How many other corporate business agreements are done over free tickets to sporting events and fancy dinners? This isn't anywhere close to what takes place in every other industry.
I won't even go into the research component of this, but will instead bring up the bottom line that technology WILL NOT EVER significantly improve student outcomes by itself. This is perhaps the most glaring point made in the article that fueled this blog post response. Technology can't improve student outcomes without bigger philosophical changes toward modern teaching practices. Technology is an important component of that, but it is not the sole piece. We have proven that the industrial age education model is failing our students already. The problem with student outcomes not improving stems from a system that is too slow to adapt. Teachers of Influence are the ones who are actually creating changes to the outdated, and unsuccessful practices, and now those same teachers are accused of selling out. Innovation is much more than technology. Teachers that are embracing the entrepreneurial spirit that in a small business would be applauded, are now being criticized. Something is wrong with this concept.
Ms Singer addresses an important topic with this part of the article. Educators should explain when they are speaking on behalf of a company or product. If they receive compensation this should be a part of their disclosure. I have heard and seen many educators that do that exact thing at conferences. I am sure there are others that don't, but in most cases, those educators who are paid or supported with travel perks are already users and believers in a product. In the past I was approached by a product that I used in my district. Because of our success with the product, they asked if I could fill in last minute for a staff member that was unable to make a trip to a local district. I presented a few sessions on behalf of the company and during my sessions I stated I was there on their behalf but that I also was an active user. This is a pretty simple thing to do and we as educators should be as transparent as possible in these cases.
All products have the same opportunities to market and engage with educators for feedback. Educators do not have time to mess with products that do not work in their classrooms. Of course they can be influenced by various tactics, but I am all for anything that gets teachers access to having a voice in what is selected. And as for digital tools possibly being selected over traditional textbooks, is that really a bad thing? Traditional textbooks have NO PLACE in classrooms. They will be outdated well before the end of their life cycle. Digital tools, including digital textbooks have the ability to be updated and remain useful where hard copies are one of the greatest wastes of money in education today. Ms Singer, I would love to see an article focused on the open educational resources conversation. Millions of taxpayer dollars are sitting in closets and on shelves because their content is old and inaccurate. When we need to learn how to replace the power supply on our computer, which textbook did we use? Or did we "Google" it, or use YouTube, or any other number of digital resources?
In the interest of transparency, let's be honest. We all know every company that can get their product in front of kids will try to do so. It is all part of their most important marketing strategies. Get kids hooked early and you have a win for your product. This is an important and real concern. How many school districts now allow some sort of advertising around their athletic or other facilities? How many schools have vending machines with products made available to kids or within their view? The free Seesaw teacher account is not the problem here. Marketing and advertising is a topic of conversation that is real and should be addressed by districts, but if their tool serves a specific classroom need, and they can get it free, more power to them!
We all know these companies want to get their hook in student early on. That is inevitable but not a reason to avoid partnerships with these corporations. Instead lets continue to partner with the most innovative groups out there. Education lacks innovation in so many ways, we would be better served if we would continue to learn from these companies. Each of the big 3 mentioned here are doing amazing things for educator professional development and should be applauded. If they are smart enough to stop wasting marketing dollars and instead help educators better prepare students for the workforce that they are a part of, then we should be applauding their adaptability and should be looking at that as a model for change.
While the concept may be similar I believe this connection to be a bit of a farce. Am I more likely to suggest Flipgrid to someone over Recap, which I am not an ambassador for? Yep, because I am more comfortable with what Flipgrid does. This would be true whether I paid for my premium account or it was given to me. I also highly endorse Loom, and Rebrandly and other products that have never given me anything. I endorse those over other similar products, because they are what I use daily. I believe people are swayed by these processes, but I also believe that in education they are more swayed by what allows them to get the learning task completed more so. To compare the two is unfair as the amount of money involved in the pharmaceutical conversation is much different than a teacher account. I understand that education is a HUGE revenue market for companies, but again the classroom teacher account isn't the problem here.
If a district of school is using one of these companies platforms, we would want the teachers to be proficient in that platform. If an heart surgeon worked in a hospital that used specific equipment, I would want that doctor to be well trained and "certified" for use of that equipment. If we are going to bring technology into our schools, we have to have a digital platform to organize our use. This argument in the article is poorly made and has no value. Yes I would be deeply concerned if my doctor was Google Certified. But if my children attend a Microsoft district, I want the teachers to trained in what is available to them through Microsoft products.
Bravo to those educators that are valued for their hard work in education. It is great they are recognized and given the opportunity to capitalize on those skills. There are numerous educational related products and people that have profited by establishing educational programs well before this digital wave. This is nothing new, and I fully support the idea of educators showing that they are able to lead and model what it means to be problem solvers. They are addressing needs that clearly are there, or they would not be hired to train and speak.
Again the idea of educators profiting from leading a training is nothing new. Teachers have long gone to workshops and conferences that were led by "the next great thing" in education. Someone was profiting from these workshops! So why is it that a teacher that trains or endorses new products is any different. I really do not understand the point of this part of the article. Every industry has companies that pull people from their customer base to come work for them and train others. Why is this practice shocking in education? And I applaud Ms. Delzer for sharing her classroom success with others and working out a special contract that allows her to do so. I am sure her students and their parents are glad she didn't leave education completely to get rich with all her other opportunities. Why is it so bad for teachers to step up as leaders, to be recognized as leaders, and to be entrepreneurs? Why is this applauded in small businesses or other industries, but when a teacher leads and flourishes it is bad. I know students are involved, and I do not endorse anything that uses them as pawns, but an educator spreading great learning opportunities and sharing with other educators is NEVER a bad thing.
So a company is giving this teacher equipment that eliminates the traditional classroom, and we think that is bad. I would say that anything we can do to make students comfortable should be embraced. Teachers all over the country are spending their own money and working hard to find used furniture to do this same thing. The bottom line is we should be working to do anything we can to change the learning spaces within our classrooms. Flexible seating and learning spaces should be the norm. If we really are concerned with what will make an impact on learning outcomes, lets look well beyond the technology. There is so much more that goes into it all. Again she should be applauded for setting an environment that welcomes and encourages her students to engage in their learning. I don't care how she gets the furniture for her room. And again, she isn't going around selling a company's furniture, she is promoting flexible and alternative learning spaces. The teachers she shares these ideas with, don't care which company she endorses, trust me. Will some buy that company's furniture, sure they will, but many others will be looking for the most cost effective way they can replicate what she is doing, and they won't give a flip which vendor they use.
So I ask, what really is the point of Ms. Singer's article?
Sure I would agree that transparency is important and educators should be diligent in establishing standards and expectations around these types of connections. I will also say that we should be more concerned with politicians and their connections with various vendors and groups than we should be about teachers and other educators and the free Seesaw account or tshirts they may receive. The attack on public schools and funding by politicians who want to profit from their connections with for-profit education is much more alarming, The New York Times article has no meat to it, that is really all there is to it. I would be much more concerned about the company or companies behind state testing and their connections to the politicians and others that set things in motion on a much larger scale.
I think educators working on networking and sharing their ideas via social media and conferences is good for education. If some of them get a free account, or they push a product because they love the free t-shirts, I just don't see that being newsworthy. In the end educators that share great ideas are doing so with whatever product they have access to or feel most comfortable with. I learn daily from those using Google products. My teachers and students do not have access to Google but we take the great ideas they have and we make them work with Microsoft and the other products we do have. Educators don't have time to worry about the tool, they have to focus on the learning, and then find the tool that works for them and their students.
Last Spring I embarked on a project that I coined as a Flipcast. Using Flipgrid essentially to create a form of a Podcast or blog. I really had no clue where it was going to end up. I did know I wanted to stop coming up with excuses not to try something I have been wanting to do for a while. After some work on it all, we decided to take the summer months off as we formulated a concrete plan on what we wanted to accomplish.
Starting in a couple weeks the #EdtechDaily Flipcast will start up again. My fellow TCEA board member and friend Charlotte Dolat and I sat down at #ISTE17 and talked about the big picture. In the end we both really wanted to find a way to champion the causes of educators everywhere. We wanted to provide another avenue for educators to share their passions, projects, crazy ideas, and much more. We want the Flipcast to be 365 days of everything good in education today! We all know teachers work hard, and we want to help them have a place where they can share that hard work.
The goal is to have 365 interview or showcase topics that focus on what educators care most about - Learning. But we need your help! We need suggestions for topics of interest as well as nominations of educators that you want to hear from. We can't do this without your help. Please fill out this form if you have any suggestions, nominations, or if you have a cause that you want to have showcased here. If you have a great lesson idea, see something amazing that you just want to share, or anything else that comes to mind from an educational standpoint, please let us know. The best part is these interviews or highlights can be done whenever it is convenient for everyone involved.
We will also keep the TechTool Tuesday grid topic open and will add it to it weekly. We also invite anyone that wants to share their favorite tool to do so, and will provide more details within the topic description. Charlotte will continue her work with the Wednesday Wonders as well where she celebrates the many wonders that are found across the country in and out of the classroom. We will also welcome any topic suggestions that you may have for Wednesday Wonders highlights.
Ok, I am really not sure how the StudentVoice grid had not been taken when I grabbed it! I am beyond excited about the potential for what this project could look like, but I would love to have some help. The dream is that the StudentVoice grid would be truly about students voicing their thoughts on education. In my mind I envision students from all over the world, discussing topics related to learning and what they feel is important as they prepare for the world.
With that said, I also really want this grid to be about STUDENT VOICE so in reality I hope that students are able to make this grid whatever it is that they want to see it become. What I am hoping could happen, is that we can find a handful of students that want to collaborate and share their thoughts on what this grid should become. I am looking for some rockstar students that are passionate about making an impact on education today. If you know some teachers or students that would like to work on this project, please have them fill out this form. We will then work on finding some times to meet virtually to discuss this project.
Do you see any potential in these projects? Do you have an interest in becoming involved in some way? Please contact me here or via Twitter at @J_Bimmerle. I would love to hear from you soon!
Content passion + Professional passion + Personal passion = an engaging teacher that inspires students to be passionate as well.
My problem with blogging is the same problem I have in many other areas. As a passionate learner, I tend to have so many things I want to do and say that I often struggle to translate that knowledge into solid action. Every time I feel like I have a good topic to blog on, I wind up trying to say everything all in the first paragraph.
This week while checking out the #TIA17 event via Twitter, I stumbled upon several tweets by Ashley Hankins a 5th grade teacher from Denton ISD. I have long been a fan of the things going on in Denton, so it was no surprise to see their teachers sharing great takeaways from the things Dave Burgess was sharing and more. I have read many of the Dave Burgess Publishing list and would consider myself a fan of the energy and message that Dave has been spreading.
I loved the tweet above because it is such an accurate formula for success. It is also exactly why educators get so burned out they start looking forward to those much needed school holidays. And it is also why I love the start of a new school year. Revived from several weeks of time off and professional learning done throughout the summer new and experienced teachers look forward to getting to start from scratch with a new batch of students. Eager to establish norms and get in a routine, the energy of educators during the back to school stretch is invigorating.
I work all summer, so I miss that excitement of a new start but our teachers give me added energy upon their return. My dream has always been a way to capture this time of year and be able to infuse the energy back into our teachers at those key times in the year when they need it most. I have yet to find a successful formula, but I refuse to give up, and I am for this to be the best year ever for our teachers and students.
So how do we go about supporting and growing the passion teachers have at the start of the year, so it can be sustained long term. Dave's recipe is spot on and the problem is during the year, teachers will go through things that make it hard to keep up the passion in all three areas. Whether it be the stress of a test impacting their content passion, or a lack of training or support weakening their professional passion, the reality is that everyone will go through stretches where they lose parts of the formula. We have to be intentional about how we refuel each of these passion buckets.
Content Passion - All teachers have certain parts of their curriculum that are more interesting than others. This is where I think the ability for teachers to collaborate with other departments would be helpful. When you get "stuck in a rut" struggling to find a better way to teach that material that is less than your favorite, reach out to others in your building for a new perspective. Look for ways to bring that topic to life, find an expert and have them spend some time with you and your students. Thinks like Skype in the classroom or Nepris, or even a Flipgrid asynchronous collaborative activity with another class could all be ways to bring new life to a topic that you don't naturally get excited to teach. This could be an entire blog post by itself, but be sure to look outside the norm when you get in a content rut.
Professional Passion - This one is probably my biggest frustration point. As a district wide employee I see a lot of different things from campus to campus, and also outside of our district. The daily grind and expectations put on teachers really can make it tough to keep up the positive attitude. But with that said, this is also one of the best parts of being in a school or district community. So often all it really takes is a few kind words or a little added support to really make a difference. If everyone in the building looked to lift up someone else each day, it would do wonders for the morale and professional passion. Teachers are passionate about learning, but they need time to do so and when given that time, they need to know they are going to have time to really grow. Administrators can do a lot by simply giving some flexibility in learning opportunities and limiting unnecessary face to face time for meetings and such. If we want this to be the best year ever, we ALL must be diligent in providing the support and guidance to all teachers, but especially our new teachers. This is the one thing that tends to break down as a school year goes on and everyone gets wrapped up in trying to keep up. So work hard to seek out ways to make this a priority this year.
Personal Passion - Teachers come from all backgrounds and have different personal passions. It is important for teachers to be able to get away and focus on those passions from time to time. If you are taking papers home to grade every night or constantly looking for that perfect lesson, you will neglect things that are important to your well being. I would love to find some examples of districts that let their teachers take some time during staff development days or other times in a school year to explore some of their personal passions and find ways to tie that into their classes. Combine this with the idea of cross content collaboration and some really powerful learning experiences for teachers and students could be born.
In the end the hope is the reality is this school year will be the best year ever for many teachers and students. It will also be less than perfect for many others. How are we going to go about doing our part to lift each other up this year? How are we going to sustain this at the times when it is most difficult? How are we going to know when someone really needs to be checked on because things are going south? I don't have an answer for all of this, other than to say, I am hoping that some of the things yet to come in this blog will do just that for some of our teachers and any others that may read it through the year. I would love to hear about some of the ways you take care of yourself and those you work with.
Alone we will fail, but together we are strong.
That is the one certainty in education, I look forward to growing my support system this year, as I aim to be the leader our teachers need.
Some of you may have heard about a little tech tool called Flipgrid lately. If you were at #ISTE17 you might have heard that a vendor booth was asked by event staff to make less noise, because they were having a little too much fun with a Claudio Zavala specialty called #Singasong. I am also guessing a few of you have seen the badge listed above for #FlipgridCertified educator status. And many of you that are reading this are probably a #FlipgridAmbassador or hope to be one sometime soon! Well let's discuss another little phenomenon that will be taking place on August 10th celebrating exciting new back to school updates in Flipgrid.com,
At 7:00 PM CDT at the Flipgrid headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota a few hundred educators from across the globe will be in attendance as Flipgrid launches several exciting new features that are sure to excite users. For those of us who are not lucky enough to attend this event in Minnesota, something special is still going to be available. Flipgrid ambassadors from throughout the country are planning live local meet and greets and we want you to join us for the fun. Starting at 6:00 PM CDT at each of these locations educators will come together to share ideas and strategies for using Flipgrid to engage all stakeholders of your school community.
As of posting of this article events have been created in 9 cities and more are sure to be added. What started as a simple idea to have a few meet and greets, quickly turned into what makes Flipgrid so popular. The community of educators using Flipgrid is passionate about learning. Taking a simple idea, the Flipgrid community quickly joined forces to create what will be an amazing learning event throughout the world.
Users have found that the company stands arm and arm with its users. Often engaging users immediately through Twitter and other avenues, the Flipgrid staff continues to amaze us all with their passion for students and learning. To say the Flipgrid community is unique would be an understatement. Users are passionately working together to build a professional learning family that is all inclusive. Every day users are working side by side to help other educators earn the #FlipgridCertified and Flipgrid Builder badges. These same efforts came to life with the idea of the #GlobalBash project.
So if you live close enough to join a face to face meetup, plan on arriving at 6:00 PM and share the great ideas you have for making student learning amazing. We all know it is about the learning, not the tool, but we are excited to share and compare as we meet other passionate educators in our areas. Starting at 6:30 each of the venues will work to connect virtually to share their best ideas with the world. All of this will of course lead into the news from Flipgrid HQ, and based on a sneak preview it is safe to say YOU WILL LOVE WHAT'S COMING.
And for those of you not close enough to a live event, have no fear, each of the venues will share their ideas on the Flipgrid Global Bash grid found here flipgrid.com/globalbash2017. Or better yet, do you know a few passionate educators who want to join in the Flipgrid buzz. Create your own local viewing party and invite your friends. We all know that watching the news with friends can make it a lot more fun.
Based on my use of Loom, I would have to agree. I love simple tools and Loom certainly fits the bill. I am often asked about free or cheap tools for video creation. We all know how difficult video can be due to file sizes, and hosting of the videos. Loom offers an alternative that is pretty attractive. While you won't be able to edit your videos in Loom, you can easily click on the extension, and be up and running with a completed video in no time, and with no hassle.
During video recording, you can cancel the video, pause the video, change camera settings, or finish the video. Finishing the video will take you to the video details screen. This is where the lightning quick part takes place. This process allows you to very quickly create a video and get it shared out to the public right away via a link or social media.
So what are some ways that Loom could be used in Education? Let's take a look at a few options.
Students - Signing up with Google accounts is an option. Depending on your district set up with outside sources, this may or may not be an option. Please note that I have not investigated privacy policies with this site, and always encourage you to be sure you know all the details before having students create videos with this or any platform.
There are many other ways video can be used in education. Have other ideas, be sure to share them and let me know how Loom is or isn't meeting your video communication needs. Have a comment leave it below, or share it on the video I created for this blog. When it comes to simple video creation tools, consider Loom as a possible addition to your tool box.
It was Saturday night and I was with my son, for what should have been some quality one on one time. I had left the house before anyone was awake, and got home in time to let my wife and daughters run errands they needed to get done that evening. I should have been able turn things off and give the little bit of time I had to my son. Sadly, it took something totally unrelated to snap me back to what is truly important.
There was about a 10 - 15 second pause when they husband and wife stood there caught off guard. They had gone from trying to throw their tray away, to dropping things, having to stop and try to pick it all up, to simply standing there with everything picked up and thrown away for them within seconds. I'm sure if you are still reading you are saying, this isn't that big of a deal, but it was one of those, "you had to be there" types of moments. The man said to his wife as they walked out the door, "Wow (again) we need to be sure come back to this place..." With one simple gesture the two young men, created an impression on everyone in the room.
Blake and I talked about how nice it was for those two boys to pick up the trash for the other man. We talked about how now that couple has a positive thought about everyone in Sulphur Springs and how doing something nice for someone can change their entire thought process for a while. He went from being annoyed that he dropped it, to being dumbfounded that the two men never missed a beat as they helped him get everything cleaned up. I saw my 6 year old son watch the chain of events and he had the biggest smile on his face. He loved that that two people that didn't make the mess picked it up anyway.
The best part of all of it, is that he saw how a simple gesture made such a big difference. I am a firm believer that little details make a big difference in the things we do. As all three of my kids have grown up, we often discuss doing things just because they are the right thing to do. I see my kids model this often. This was just another of those "that is how it should be" type of moments. I got home and later that night I saw the video I shared at the beginning of this story and it again reminded me how awesome people can be.
So what does this have to do with ed tech or anything education related? I always have a way of twisting things so they work for what I am thinking. With all the various things I am working on in my role as an Instructional technology coordinator the common thread is that all of the work is really planting seeds for the future. Just as the random act of kindness in Wendy's planted a seed for me and my son about how to treat others, the fruits of my work will take time to be fully seen. It is easy to get frustrated as we may not see changes taking place as fast as we want, but every conversation, activity, training, etc gives teachers the chance to better understand how technology may fit in their classroom. And while I may work hard to get everyone on board, all too often, it is the simple things I do that make the biggest difference, not the ones that keep me at the office well past closing time.
We have all seen them before, URL shorteners can be extremely beneficial. From conference/workshop presentation links to making it easier to get students to an important website, a URL shortener can save time and hassle. The benefits of a URL shortener go far beyond taking an ugly web address and turning it into something useful.
Some of you may use goo.gl, t.co, ow.ly, or tinyurl to name a few others. In the end it doesn't really matter which one you use, but the ones that allow you to customize and save your shortened links tend to work best.
But what if we said, you could create your own short URL's.
So we know we can make a link shorter, and can customize it. Why would you need to do any of this though. You can use QR codes, or user hyperlinks when linking to things online, using a short url just creates more work that takes up time. For a lot of what we do daily this is true. Let's look at a few ideas for using custom short URLs
While most educators are not in the marketing business, even a school district could benefit from having the flexibility to create custom urls for various needs. I am curious, do you use short urls? Which service do you use? Would you be able to benefit from creating your own custom short domain, for around $12/year? I would love to hear your feedback on how and why this could benefit you. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to hit me up on Twitter. I am more than willing to discuss ideas and help you get your domain set up.
Servant Leadership and Service at it's best!!!
In any organization there are people who truly make a difference. Sometimes they are easily recognized and other times they perform in near anonymity. As SSISD has progressed in our 1:1 journey 6 people have worked tirelessly to make things happen behind the scenes. Because I get the luxury of working directly with teachers and students, I often hear the comments of appreciation for the opportunities that come along with the added access to classroom technology. Sometimes the frustration and complaints are shared as well and that is ok. I want to share a little about the people that work behind the scenes. For me, I know these people have taught me so much about educational technology and I am grateful to be able to work with and learn from some of the best in the business.
My journey with technology started 3 years ago because of the vision and leadership of Rodney White. I was hired as a campus technology specialist at the High School despite being under qualified from the technology perspective. Rodney saw my instructional background and realized that it would be an opportunity for him to get someone with a different perspective within his staff. This meant that the "Silent 6" would all have to take on a heavier workload as they taught me the technical side of things. Rodney's vision and understanding of district goals and needs show up often with things like this.
Rodney made it clear to me from day one that he operates with two key concepts in mind.
Ben Scott's title is Network Administrator, but it might be better said that he is the " all the other stuff guy." Everyone in the department takes on a share of the random things that come up, but often times if it doesn't fit in a certain area, Ben has a hand in getting it done. Despite all the random things, Ben has also undertaken the challenge of changing out, and building out the district's network. While the 1:1 program has created certain needs, the reality is that Ben has had a plan for several years to get campus networks ready for the growth. In any 1:1 program the infrastructure is priority number 1. Without it a plan will fail, when successful, the temporary setbacks will be manageable. We want things to work like they do at home, but expect the security and stability required of a large organization. The two are not always as easy to balance as we think. Ben also plays a key role in anything that involves an "auto import." Those auto imports are not automatic, until Ben sets them up.
David Hodges and Larry Mahand are probably two of the least recognizable of the tech team. Larry is a man of few words, but he serves the district as a part time support person. Larry is often seen handling support tickets and making deliveries of repaired devices. Larry won't say a lot, but his role on the team once again epitomizes the servant service concept. David Hodges joined the district last January. David has had a hand in the network build out and was without a doubt a great addition to the team. Like the rest of the team, David is perfectly content going about his business under the radar. David provides added infrastructure support that will be invaluable as we roll out the final wave of devices at the high school this year. David brings a level of expertise that we are lucky to have.
Sometimes a product stands out in a crowded list. Each app offering in Office 365 meets the varied needs of customers in different ways. As an educator, web forms have always been a useful tool. Personally I have created forms for:
How have you used web forms in your classroom or school? If so, please share some of your ideas in the comments below. If not, please consider taking a look at this useful tool.
When my district switched to Office 365 a couple years ago, the lack of a web form app/tool was a bit of a let down, but I soon realized a big change was in the works. Microsoft Forms became a reality, for me at least, last Spring. Like a lot of new features, the "Preview" in the name meant that it would be an evolving process to get where it plans to be in the future, but I can say I have been pleasantly surprised how far it has come in the time I have been using Forms.
At some point there will be a strong need for a way to organize my forms, and additional features are still heavily requested based on user feedback, but one thing is for certain, the Forms team is listening. If Forms is missing something you need today, submit your needs, and they will be considered in future updates.
Last week one of those updates brought to fruition a feature that I can honestly say was a life saver for me this past June. The ability to branch questions was the latest addition to the Forms feature set. I was fortunate enough to receive access to this feature in early June based on a community forum discussion about desired feature sets.
As you can see above, I built three forms that received over 1500 responses combined. The responses were part of our efforts to receive feedback from our teachers after our Summer Learning Conference sessions. We surveyed each of our session attendees on the effectiveness of the content and presentation. As you know, one of the powerful things about web forms is the data that is generated from a form, can be exported to an Excel spreadsheet, and manipulation of the data requires some thought as to how it will be sorted and used.
While we could have used a more generic survey format and accomplished a lot of what we needed, branching provided us with the ability to be as granular as possible, and hold all our data in one place. I could have easily created one form that would have worked for the entire 3 day conference, but elected to create a different one for each day for this round of surveys.
To accomplish what we needed, we created a question asking the time of the session. We also created a different question with the list of 8 - 12 sessions offered at each of the time slots. All we had to do then, was branch each time slot, to the question with the session names for that time slot. We were then able to send the respondents to the point further on in the survey that asked for their responses to session specifics. Below are a few screenshots showing how it worked
Our forms are rather simple examples of how branching can work. Click here to interact with a copy of our form to see the experience first hand. I have recently begun the process of using the branching feature to set up an iPad App Request form. Again we want to provide lists that make it easy for teachers to fill out by simply using the checkbox question types. This is important because it allows us to control the input of responses on our spreadsheet later. If we used the text input question type, respondents can type in various things, and it makes quick sorting more difficult.
Providing multiple long lists can make the form less desirable for respondents. To avoid this, branching makes it possible to filter out only the questions that are needed based on certain responses.
Branching is not a feature that is necessary for all forms, but having the ability to use it is a big win for educators. It is proof that the team behind Forms is serious about improving upon what they already have. It also allows for a much more dynamic form giving both the creator and the respondents a better experience. I look forward to hearing about different scenarios that you may come up with for branched questions. My next project will be to look at how branching might be able to help me create a version of a Digital Breakout EDU experience. I also look forward to seeing how the Forms team elects to add feature sets, without over complicating the user experience. There is real power in the simplicity of Microsoft Forms.
Part 2 of 7
Read Part 1 here
We started our adventures on the 7 C's of education talking about the importance of embracing change. In education and the world, technology has dramatically increased the speed of changes that can be made. This week we will look at communication. When you think about communication in your classroom, how are you building the communication skills of your students? We are going to look at two important sources to discuss the importance of incorporating skilled communication in lessons.
Tony Wagner, a world renowned education reform expert, discusses what he refers to as the 7 Survival Skills for students in the 21st Century. Wagner spent time with business leaders and education leaders from across the globe as he developed his 7 skills. His focus is on the need for effective communication skills in both oral and written formats.
“The biggest skill people are missing is the ability to communicate: both written and oral presentations. It’s a huge problem for us.”
Wagner's work centers around the need for students to be able to effectively communicate in multiple formats, but its more than just organizing a thought and presenting that thought. He discusses the need to be able to use skillful communications to accomplish something. It is one important piece of the bigger picture. And he points out that this communication must be multi-modal, as students who are able to use various formats will be better able to adapt to the needs and opportunities they will face in work and personal situations.
Are students required to communicate their own ideas regarding a concept or issue? Must their communication be supported with evidence and designed with a particular audience in mind?
Microsoft's 21st Century Learning Design based on the International Teaching and Learning research, provides a rubric that allows teachers to evaluate lessons. "This rubric examines whether students are asked to produce extended or multi-modal communication, and whether the communication must be substantiated, with a logical explanation or examples or evidence that supports a central thesis. At higher levels of the rubric, students must craft their communication for a particular audience."
Both of these tools challenge educators to look deeply at how they incorporate activities that touch on developing communication skills of students. If you are looking at ways to evaluate how 21st Century ready your lessons are both of these resources merit further reading. The best part of it is that you can use the evaluation rubric to quickly address areas that would allow you to ramp up a lesson