Tag Archives: technology integration

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.


Simple Voice Recording

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.
‒Nelson Mandela

Twenty-five anxious students sat in front of their Chromebooks waiting for the prompt, nervous about testing their Spanish speaking skills.  That’s what’s it’s all about, though!  Being able to communicate fluently with native speakers is the ultimate goal of learning a language. It takes a great deal of practice, and there isn’t enough class time for each student to speak with the teacher individually and receive feedback.

A great solution is to have students record themselves regularly and keep a portfolio of these recordings.  Students can listen to themselves, identify strengths and weaknesses, and ultimately hear their own growth.  The teacher can also have access to these recordings to monitor growth and provide feedback.

We found a simple way to do this using the online recorder Vocaroo.  It is a simple, bare-bones recorder that does not require users to create accounts.  You simply click to record, click to stop, and it gives you a link to your recording.  It is saved online for you to access with that link or you can download the file.


Students responded to a recorded prompt as if they were having a phone conversation, setting up a plan to get together with a friend.  When the recording was complete, students pasted the link into a shared Google Doc for Senorita Bejervold to review.  With one document per class, the recordings were all in one place, easy for her to access.  They then partnered, listened to each other’s recordings, evaluated themselves, and gave feedback to their partner.

Students used Chromebooks, which have built in microphones.  It worked surprisingly well, even with 25 students all speaking and recording at the same time.  With headsets, the quality would improve even further.

This simple tool has other applications outside of world languages.  Since the file can be downloaded, it is an easy way to record audio to add to slide shows or videos.  What other uses do you see?  Comment below!

Mystery Call – Part 2

Excited and engaged. That is the best way to describe the 4th graders during our recent mystery call.  Students were assigned a variety of roles including researching, keeping track of questions and answers, photographing and videotaping, and managing a map to keep track of the remaining possible states.

Everyone was able to see the other class projected on the SmartBoard.












The researchers used Chromebooks to look up any information we need.  Which states are considered southern?  Which states contain mountains, deserts, or ocean borders?

Using Chromebooks to research

The map keepers crossed off states that were not possibilities based on the answers we received.  When we had narrowed it down to just a couple of states, the students determined new questions to ask that were specific to what we had left.













There was great excitement when we guessed Texas and when they guessed Wisconsin!


After the game, we had a few moments to share a little more about our school and state.  The students in Texas were just amazed that it was snowing at that exact moment.  The teacher later told me that they were still talking about it as they left for the day.











The first mystery call was a success, but afterwards, the class reflected on what we could do better next time.  We decided to take turns asking questions instead of making that a job for just a couple of of students.  We quickly learned that most students were eager to be on camera and interact with the other class, so taking turns asking and answering questions would give more students that opportunity.

We also decided that we came to the correct answer too quickly!  We only had to ask about five questions to get there, and it made the game very short.  We wanted to learn more about the mystery state through the game, so next time we will start with different questions that don’t eliminate so many states at once.

Interested in having your students connect with other classrooms?  Mystery calls are one option, but there are many possibilities.  Classes can collaborate around a topic or project and provide feedback to one another or book discussion groups can be extended to include students from a different background.  Building a professional network is vital to finding these connections.  Check out this post for some ideas on how to do that and contact me if you’d like some support getting started!

Mystery Call – Part 1

Today Ms. Mergener’s 4th grade class learned about the mystery call they will be having with another 4th grade class somewhere in the United States.  We’ll use a Google Hangouts video call to connect with them.

What’s a Mystery Call?

Mystery calls provide students an engaging way to use their communication, research, and geography skills in a game format to guess the location of the other class.  Remember 20 Questions? Guess Who?  This is the basic premise of a mystery call.  Our classes will take turns asking Yes/No questions and eliminating states as possibilities until they are able to uncover the correct state of the other classroom.


Students prepared by brainstorming a starter list of questions that  they hope will help eliminate large numbers of states quickly.  From there, they will choose from other questions on their list or think of new questions on the fly, with the help of the research team, depending on the states that remain in play.

Here are a few questions they came up with:

  • Do you live east of the Mississippi River?
  • Are there mountains in your state?
  • Do you border the Mississippi River?
  • Are you on an ocean coast?
  • Do you live along a US border?
  • Does one or more of the Great Lakes border your state?
  • Are you in the Eastern time zone?
  • Are you in the desert?


We also assigned roles to each student to help the game run more smoothly.  On this first call, we’ll use these roles, but this may change as we reflect on how well it works:

  • Greeter/reporters – Welcome the other class, observe the game and take notes about what is going well or could be improved, thank the other class at the end
  • Questioners – Ask the questions
  • Question Recorders – Keep a record of the questions asked by the other class for our future reference
  • Answerers – Answer the questions posed by the other class
  • Answer Keepers – Record the answers to the questions we ask
  • Runners – Relay answers among the different teams
  • Researchers – Use online tools to help narrow down states based on answers given and research as needed to provide accurate answers to the other team’s questions
  • Eliminators – Eliminate states from the map as questions are answered and use physical maps and atlases for reference to do so.
  • Photographers – Take photos during the call.
  • Videographers – Record the call for later reflection.

Other Considerations

Students were quick to point out that we should take down the large Wisconsin flag that would immediately give away our location!  They also made sure everyone knew not to wear Packers, Badgers, Bucks, or Brewers gear the day of the call. Some of them even thought they should all try to wear Bears clothing to throw the other class off the track.  Sneaky thinkers!


After the call, we’ll reflect on how well the class worked as a team, what roles could be added, deleted, or changed, and which questions yielded the best results.  Then we’ll re-tool and try to be even better the next time around!


Math and Art – A Perfect Combination

Creativity and Innovation is ISTE’s first technology standard area for students.  This standard asks students to “create original works as a means of personal expression” and “use models and simulations to explore complex systems and issues.”

The Functions and Trigonometry classes, led by Chris Lucas and Greg Zupek, used the free online graphing calculator Desmos to create works of art.  The students used equations to create lines on a graph that came together to form beautiful works of art. (I apologize if my math terms are incorrect in describing this process!)

Each line and curve is created with a different equation.  The Dia de los Muertos skull below by Alison Pogorelc was created using 158 separate equations!

Desmos Skull

After the artwork was created, the classes came together for a gallery walk to view and critique each other’s work.  The class culminated in a fast -paced quiz game of Kahoot.

This is an excellent (and fun!) example of students using technology to learn content, exercise creativity, collaborate, and communicate with one another.

Technology Integration – A Huge Topic!

What is technology integration?

Teaching with a SmartBoard? Students using iPads? Skype? Chromebooks?

The answer is yes and no.

Those are all tools to provide the best learning opportunities for our students, but it is HOW we use them that matters.

Technology standards used to focus on the tools themselves.  Now the focus is on skills and knowledge students need to thrive in a digital society.  The International society for Technology in Education (ISTE) provides a well-recognized set of standards for “what students should know and be able to do to learn effectively and live productively in an increasingly digital world” (ISTE NETS for Students)

The six broad categories:

  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Technology Operations and Concepts

The emphasis here is on cognitive skills requiring students to plan, create, and innovate. When integration is done right, the technology itself falls away.  It is what you are able to do with it that is in the spotlight.

Students can now explore the Taj Mahal using google Street View. They can learn about other cities, countries, and cultures through a Mystery Skype with another classroom.  They can write for an authentic audience through an online newspaper or personal blog.  They can quickly and easily research the answers to their own questions.

This is a big task, but it’s an exciting one!  We are all at different levels of expertise and comfort with technology, and that’s ok.  Let’s try something new together.

So this year, I challenge you to ask yourself what small step you can take to give your students an experience that was never possible before.  Then let me help you make it happen.