Monthly Archives: March 2016

Connecting with Authors

Providing students with authentic connections and experiences is one of the benefits of our current technology landscape. Ms. Lentz leads an Exploration of Play Production class whose end goal is to write and produce an original class theatre production. They took advantage of technology by connecting with a couple of authors who had written a musical titled “Understudies.”  After their learning so far this semester regarding the elements of a play, character development, and writing their own short production, the students read this scriIMG_20160310_100035950pt with a critical eye to offer feedback to the writers.

The students then engaged in a video call with the authors using Google hangouts to provide feedback face to face.  Part of the challenge of this experience was providing constructive criticism in an honest but kind manner.  The students commented that it was easy to have very frank discussions during class, but it was more difficult to provide that feedback directly to the authors.

One of the critiques of the play was that the antagonist felt flat.  The students expressed that sentiment to the authors and also explained how the villain was a main component in the first play they had written this semester.

“Our inspiration was fleshing out a good villain,” one student commented. “We tried to explain why he is doing what he is doing and that involved revenge and losing his family.  We started from that and worked everything else around it.”

In addition to the students providing feedback, the authors provided advice to the class about a variety of areas related to writing and producing a play including how to register for a copyright, the importance of networking in any career, and how to get your work out there.

“You have opportunities to easily share things on this ‘internet’ and get immediate feedback and distribution,” one of the writers said.  “It’s so inexpensive now.  We recorded our songs in the kitchen with just a couple hundred bucks worth of equipment, and it does a good job of representing the music.”

By using a video call, the students were able to easily get outside the walls of the classroom and make a connection with people working the field they are studying.

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Plickers – Quick Feedback Through Student Response

There are numerous ways to gauge student understanding during a lesson, both with the use of technology and without.  Many of you are already using platforms like Socrative, Kahoot, Quizziz, or Poll Everywhere, which allow students to use their own devices to respond to polls or questions that help assess understanding and keep students engaged.  These systems can also provide a voice for students who are reluctant to speak up in class and allow teachers to adjust instruction on the spot while providing anonymity to the students who are struggling with the concept.

What about a classroom where not everyone has access to a device? What about younger students?  It can take a chunk of time to get them to the correct interface to provide a response like this.

Plickers is a free alternative which does not require students to have devices.  Rather, each student gets a card with an image on it.  The direction that they hold these cards indicates their answer choices, and only the teacher needs a device to scan these cards.

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Students hold up the cards to indicate their answer, and the teacher scans the room using the Plickers app on their phone or iPad.  The answers appear on a graph as they are scanned, and questions and responses are also saved for the teacher to reference later.  The cards are numbered and can be assigned to specific students, so the teacher can look at data on a per student basis to determine individual student needs.

Getting started is easy.  Print the Plickers cards from their website, download the app and create an account, create your class, and write your questions.

The resources below walk you through getting started with Plickers.

Plickers Website Tutorial

Getting Started Guide