We had no idea what to expect when we released Write About This
into the wild. Would kids enjoy it? Who would download it? How would it be used? Did we make any big mistakes? We are past 90 days since going live, and it has been super fun to take a look at some of the answers to these questions.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, the images below are priceless to me. Since the app does not collect any user data, our only glimpse into who has Write About This and how it's being used comes from direct feedback or online posts. I can't express enough how grateful I am to friends, colleagues, members of my PLN and teachers/parents previously unknown for providing us with feedback and celebrations. Michigan teachers (who I consider both friends and colleagues) have offered their support and shared student work. I owe them so much! Other teachers on Twitter have taken the time to mention @WriteAboutThis
and we have discovered the app being used with children as young as 4 and all the way up to Middle School. When I hear about their excitement for the writing process, I can't even express how happy it makes me!
1st grader enjoys writing about his family
4th Grade poetry using a custom prompt
It's crazy to see that more than 5,000 people have installed the Free version of Write About This from all over the world. We purposely created it as something that would provide value while also showcasing the full functionality. But it's not the numbers that carry the real emotion behind this effort. It's the story of teachers like Rebecca Wildman having students email her picture-inspired writing over the weekend
. It's the story of Jon Samuelson working with his young daughter
to write at home almost daily. It's the ideas that have been sparked and the words that have been written.
So what's next? Well, we want to keep getting better. We've released 2 updates because of feedback we've received from users and are continuously listening to suggestions for features and improvements. We're also exploring options for another app.
No matter where Write About This ends up going, the time, energy and risk has been totally worth it. The only regret that I have is that I don't get to use it with my own students. I hope you don't mind if I 'adopt' your young writers! Maybe they will be able to show me the next way to increase their engagement and make learning fun...
As always, I welcome your thoughts!
Doing a Lightning Talk at the 2013 MACUL Conference was one of the most challenging things I have ever done. It made me synthesize several years of experiences and thousands of links, articles, videos, books and podcasts into a message that hopefully resonated with attendees. (Many of the most important influences for these beliefs are linked in the transcript below the video.) It forced me to be vulnerable and put my passion out there. This is the lens that I look through when I help teachers use technology for teaching and learning. It's my WHY for what I do.
Is your classroom a place where learning Events happen?
Today I'm wondering how we get kids to want to PAY for school? Sound crazy? Well, let’s quickly think about how your experiences at MACUL can show us 3 rules for making learning an Event that students will never forget.
To start, why do you hand over your currencies of money, time and energy to be here? 1st off you are interested in this stuff. 2nd, you are engaged by the format. And last, MACUL is fun.
You are able to find resources, ask questions, connect with others, choose how and where you want to learn, and share your ideas..all in a vibrant environment.
So what about your students… would they pay up to be there for your events? They’d pay money to go to the movies.. for a concert or a video game. They’d give up their time for a birthday party or trip to Cedar Point.
Can the classroom compare with such chosen interests, with passion and fun? I believe it can if we focused on providing experiences that helped them to catch fire instead of going down a checklist of things that make them want to fall asleep. Schools require a huge payment of time from kids….. 13 years, 7 hours a day is taxed right off the top. To maximize that investment we need to burst those bubbles. If you don’t want them to forget, make learning an event.
In order for students to pay up from their Energy accounts we have to put major deposits into the “this is totally cool” fund. It works like compounding interest. Teachers are great at finding these hooks, but are told that the 'wow' factor holds less value then the '80% Proficiency' factor.
The memorable events in my learning journey don’t back that up and I believe we have to find a balance. We spend a disproportionate amount of resources on Proving that we are doing our jobs instead of IMproving the experiences kids have in school.
We actually don’t need huge things like a conference…because events can be any size. Just like a day in your classroom, MACUL is actually made up of 1000s of small events that engage the mind.. Events are conversations. Events are feelings. Events are moments.
Some of you might be skeptical about the word because of how much planning goes into a big event or because you think it is "one & done".…but by definition, an Event is simply something that happens that is of importance. We look forward to events, we document events, and we reflect on events…big or small. Picture an event you are looking forward to… will you talk to others about it? Will you take pictures? Will it be fun? Shouldn’t learning be fun enough to put on instagram?
Why do you think so many of the people in this room are posting or tweeting about their learning with Ed Tech? And even more will go back to share at staff meetings and in the teacher’s lounge? The lightbulb moments are memorable.. the energy stirs up reflection & a desire to share.
The same is true of our students… just take a look at their willingness to share in social spaces . … forget the hashtag #springbreak… Meaningful learning experiences are being transformed by new media.. they allow the events to live on and even can start a movement.
We should learn from what environments our kids naturally hang out in, what they’re willing to give their time, energy and money towards. Pay attention to their interests and ask yourself.. Would they pay .99 cents to download your lesson?
I think they would if we did a better job of keeping their focus on learning by more intrigue andless force. Put on a show and let them do the same. Not a monologue but a collaborative performance where students contribute by blogging or making movies or building stuff…. Contributors are engaged…they have a stake in the learning process. Now it won’t always be easy or clean….but conflict and struggle lead to meaningful events, too. Think about how pleasant your sub plans were for today… that was part of this event…and it was worth it, right?
My darkest days as a teacher were when I knew what I was doing was not interesting. My best days were like this one, where we Skyped with an author and Adrian jumped up on the spot and asked him “What was your inspiration”?
Every classroom activity should start with us asking “Will they be interested?” “Will they be engaged?” and “Will they have fun?” Anything less is not worth it, and they won’t ‘pay up’. If you don’t want them to forget, make learning an event.
Your students will remember how you made them feel, the opportunities you gave them, the challenges you helped them through and the expectations you set for them. Technology as a toolcan help us to do all these things AND meet all the high standards that have been set for you and for them.
You’ve seen that and felt here at MACUL with events big and small. Experiences that are going to change the way you teach. Now, I leave you with a challenge to go create events in your classroom that will change the way your students contribute to this world, pursue their dreams and learn for a lifetime. THAT will be school worth paying for.
WOW! This was an epic fight to the finish as Ask 3 uses a final frenzy of voting to close the gap...only falling by 5 votes. Great work to both teams and their fans who showed up big time on this final day.
Everyone is a winner if we helped get some conversations about educational apps going and hopefully raised the bar in the field of FREE tools for teachers!
It was a low scoring Sunday, but Ask 3 outlasts Story Kit while NearPod ends the hops and hopes of @TeamCroak to set the stage for a can't-miss showdown.
Voting runs all day Monday, April 8th from 8am-7pm EDT to determine the Champion of the first-ever App Madness tournament. The people will decide which of these two apps bring the best game to classrooms.
Voting has ended for Round 3...there were 641 responses and the battle between Ask 3 and Class Dojo was one for the ages! It came down to the wire, but Ask 3 sneaks into the Final Four.. joined by NearPod, Story Kit and Croak.it!
Elite Eight Scoreboard:
Is your classroom dream clearly posted?
While it seems like every educator in Michigan is on Spring Break, I've been busy with fun things like work, taxes and appointments. I actually don't mind...it's been really productive. But having to go to the dentist was not a task I was super excited about..just something to check off the list. Well, it turns out that the trip was actually rather pleasant, and it brought to mind some important points about designing an experience
that I feel educators can learn from.
While working on #MichEd Podcast 002: Designing Learning Spaces
, I had the opportunity to talk with lots of people about how the physical environment in schools plays a role in the learning process. I rarely go into a school and feel noticeably welcomed, comfortable and mentally stimulated. Last night at the dentist's office, I was. This place
was bright and warm, and I was greeted by two smiling receptionists. There was upbeat music playing in the background and the sound was distributed evenly (not loudly) throughout the entire building. There were pictures of every employee with their names displayed in the waiting room and many had attached photos of their families. The kicker for my first few seconds in this new environment? Crumbling chocolate chip cookies in a tidy display that also featured a sign about the "Dream they share". Yes, cookies at the dentist! Apparently I was not the only one to notice this anomaly, as a framed journal writing from a 3rd grader hung on the wall nearby- declaring his love for the cookies, balloons and caring adults he had experienced while at the dentist.
So do I think schools should have plates of cookies waiting for us at the door? Of course not. But I think this illustrates how the purposeful use of small details in a space can pay dividends for engaging the participants in that environment. See, the cookies were not just bribing me to come back as a customer or wooing little kids into being good for a teeth cleaning. I honestly felt that it was just a way this company was living out their mission to treat customers "like family in a warm and caring environment". How could they not
have cookies? How could they not
be cheerful and put me at the center the process?
Terrie Morrow's 3rd graders (featured in the podcast
) have been busy working on a classroom space that is helping to make learning an enjoying experience, too. Check them out
(1 min), and then let's talk about the connections we can draw from these two seemingly different places.
What did you notice from that classroom? What I saw (and what I know exists based on talking several times with Terrie) were interested
activities and a fun
environment. It's a space where every day learning can be an EVENT
. Where the work will be meaningful and memorable...where kids (and adults) can be happy! Now let me compare that to the dentist's...
Not a bad view for a teeth cleaning.
in the office had the following effects on me:
- Relaxed- Lighting, color, cleanliness
- Curious- Lots of things to look at (including digital displays)
- Comfortable- Temperature, furniture
e at the office made me feel:
- Important- Prompt & personalized service
- Cared for- Smiling, asking questions
- In charge- Informing me about the process, giving me choices
From the time I stepped in to the time I left it was a seamless experience that, in the end, actually has me wanting to take better care of my teeth. I'm not exactly sure why, but I have the sense that because I didn't have any negative energy to distract me, my brain is able to focus on the bigger goals. It's also important to note that there weren't any condescending or manipulative tones --the staff educated and invited
me to participate in the process.
So what is the experience of school like for our students? What type of feelings do our spaces conjure? How does the environment work with the culture
to facilitate learning? If you've been in an effective or ineffective space recently, I invite you to share in the comments. Also, use and follow the hashtag #EdDesign on Twitter
PS- This dentist also had some sweet technology
that really helped me better understand my care through VISUALS. It could probably be a whole new post... Why do some dentists use technology and others don't?
I'm not sure know why this edu-analogy is running so rampant in my brain...but that's it for now!
Today we revealed the Round 2 winners during a fun Google Hangout that featured a live 3rd grade audience! (see video below). Take a look to see how your bracket is doing and note the schedule for the Final Four through Finals.
- Round 3 Voting: Thursday, April 4th - Saturday, April 6th at noon.
- Final Four Revealed: Saturday, April 6th
- Round 4 Voting: Sunday, April 7th (closes at 7pm EST)
- Championship Game announced: Sunday night, April 7th
- Championship voting: All day Monday, April 8th
- Final results & #AppMadness13 Champion crowned
Did you notice the /SLASH/ ? The Connected Educator Un/Conference
(#ConnectedEDU) will fuse together a variety of strategies found in both traditional “conferences” as well as “UnConferences” (EdCamps
), thus the Un/Con label.
A mashup of educational technology and conversation, this is an opportunity to get you moving with an innovative classroom! A day of formal and informal active learning experiences alongside and led by CES featured teachers
The Connected Educator library of videos
features Michigan teachers using technology in innovative and meaningful ways in K-12 classrooms. The event will bring together these leaders (Tons of them! Too many to name here..) and educators from around the state who are interested in sharing ideas & connecting with others.
- Idea Buffet: Peer-to-peer sharing/discussion in an informal setting. What are the Big Ideas from the Connected Educator Series?
- Learn By Doing: Hands-on learning led by CES featured teachers and next steps for your classroom. Connect the tools to your curriculum and ask questions in a supportive environment.
Video Story Problems
Challenge Based Learning
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Classrooms
Student News Teams
Universal Design for Learning
24/7 Learning Access
...and more!Will you join us?
Limited space is available...further details & registration is on the website