Junior High Distance Learning Students Use the Latest Technology to Express Their Original Ideas

The students in Tsai Hsing’s distance learning think that learning with the iPads is the best. Most everyone in modern society loves using smartphones and tablets, but students in our DL class take utilization of that technology to the next level. By working independently and applying the amazing breadth of information available to them online, DL students show that iPads are about much more than just fun and games when used in the classroom.

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The iPad is truly a multifunctional device. It’s a notebook, a library, a movie theater, a music studio – an all-around creation station. Swipe, tap, hold and drag – students know all the moves to efficiently make the most of their iPads. In just a few short weeks of distance learning class, even beginners soon are on the path to becoming tech experts.

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The assignments that students complete in distance learning class showcase their ability to use English to combine subject areas with technology. The results are as impressive as the students who created them.

For years, students in DL have used tech tools such as Pages, Keynote, Zoom, KidBlog, Class Dojo, Newsela, Edmodo, and Google products like Classroom, Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides. This year, students have expanded upon their tech-spertise to include the following tools as well.

Classcraft

Perhaps you’ve heard of ClassDojo, a classroom management tool that allows students to earn points for good behavior and has cute little monster avatars. Classcraft is similar, but it is a much deeper system of points and rewards that turns good behavior in class into an adventure. First, students create profiles complete with video-game style avatars and roles including mage, warrior and healer. Students are grouped into teams, and together the team must survive by answering questions correctly and behaving appropriately in class (because it’s so customizable, really, the team survives by doing whatever it is the teacher deems worthy of survival). Students earn experience points by completing assignments and are able to “level up” just like a video game. Of course, you can lose points, too, if you answer incorrectly or are caught misbehaving (or, again, doing anything the teacher has deemed worthy of losing points). When you lose health points, an interesting dynamic occurs whereby the healer on your team has the option of spending some of their points to keep you alive (which is also in the best interest of the team). If you lose all your health and you ‘die’, your entire team suffers and you must perform a task to come back to life. It’s classroom game-ification at its finest!

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Below you can see the avatar of Andy from Team White Chocolate (teams choose their own names). Patrick, Jessica, Michelle and Jonathan all work together with Andy. They even wrote a creative story together about how their characters met. Looks like Andy may soon need to ask the team healer, Patrick, for some help.

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Classcraft has features that go far beyond what is described above. For example, students can test their knowledge in Boss Battles. In these battles, students must answer questions correctly to defeat a boss villain. Learning grammar becomes a lot more fun when a giant scorpion demon gets killed when you correctly identify a comma splice.

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One of the most popular elements of Classcraft are the quests. The DL teachers program a sequence of tasks that need to be completed in order to unlock the next stop along a prescribed path. Shortcuts are available only to the brave. Below is an example of the quest map. And, these tasks can even take place in some of the following apps.

Khan Academy

Khan Academy – the online library of instructional videos – has become one of the most popular edtech tools in the world. It was started when an engineer (named Sal Khan) noticed that there weren’t any good instructional videos for teaching math to his young niece. It has grown into a worldwide powerhouse of data-driven instruction that include videos on science, reading, grammar, and even test prep. In 801, students are using Khan Academy in a unique way with the support Classcraft.

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As mentioned above, a special feature of Classcraft are the quests. These include several activities students must complete. The first quest for 801 is all about grammar, specifically nouns.

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Padlet & the Global Read Aloud

By using Padlet – a virtual bulletin board – to display assignments, students are able to keep things organized, looking good and facing outward. For the assignment below, students began working with their partners for the Global Read Aloud for the first time this semester. The Global Read Aloud is an innovative international partnership with students from around the globe; millions of students read the same book at the same time and have asynchronous discussions online.  

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As the students embarked on reading the novel A Monster Calls, they first began with an activity called Mystery Padlet. In this activity, both groups in the collaboration offered clues and photos about their respective cities and countries on a shared Padlet “Wall.” They then used the detailed clues to make an educated guess as to where the other group is located. Classes 701 & 702 soon learned that they are partnered with 7th grade classes in Seattle, Washington, in the United States. Over the course of the next few months, the students will continue to connect with their Global Read Aloud partners, using apps, websites and their remarkable English skills to look deeper into the text and grow as language learners and global citizens.

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Flipgrid & Joyce Visits America

When it comes to learning English, one of the things students need the most help with is speaking. Flipgrid allows students to easily submit short videos on a site that allows for quick video replies as well. It’s like Facebook except with video instead of typing. Plus, teachers can listen very carefully to the videos and give feedback to all students. This is not possible in a traditional classroom and truly allows practice to make perfect.

After reading about Joyce, a young girl from Tsai Hsing who convinces her parents to let her visit Taiwan, students created a Flipgrid to explain a time they had an argument with their parents.

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Andy used Flipgrid to tell a story about a time that he broke his headphones. He wanted new ones, but his dad wanted him to use some old ones instead. Although he didn’t win the argu

ment with his dad, Andy did finally get some new headphones. Yay!

 

 

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A lot like the character in the story, Jessica wanted to convince her parents that she 

 

should go to America to learn English by herself. Her parents thought she was too small to go by herself. But she had good arguments for learning English outside of a classroom, and promised she would write down every day what she learned.

 

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Robie’s answer about being too young to go to a concert was so great, Teacher Travis turned it into a Spark. This is the feature of Flipgrid that allows students to create a video in response to someone else’s video. It ‘sparks’ the conversation. Way to go, Robie!

 

 

iMovie

In order to introduce themselves and share details of their lives with their collaborative partners in the Global Read Aloud, Classes 701 & 702 created All About Me iMovies. These impressive short films included detailed descriptions of Taiwan’s culture, student daily life and the prestige of Tsai Hsing School. Students showcased their superior iMovie skills through the use of all of the fresh features of the new iOS 11 version of iMovie. All iMovies were then uploaded to Edmodo, an online educational website that reinforces and enhances digital classrooms and serves as the primary platform for communication between the collaborative partners.   

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Quizlet

Without using any paper, you can study and organize vocabulary using flashcards with Quizlet. So far this year, students in 801 have studied grammar, learning more about comma splices, run-ons and sentence fragments. Students also have studied vocabulary for the Joyce Visits America story. Below are the top five challenging words or phrases from the first chapter of the story.

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Clearly, the hard-working students in the distance learning program have their work cut out for them between learning English, learning about American culture, and learning all these new apps. Armed with iPads, students can use their brilliant minds to take learning to the next level.

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Twitter-Stalking EdTech Conferences: BGL’s Top 8 #notatISTE17 Takeaways

While we’d all love to make it to the nation’s biggest education technology conference, ISTE, sometimes the cost and location can make it a challenge. Close to 15,000 people gathered in San Antonio this year for #ISTE17, but there were many more who were not able to attend. Fortunately, with so many innovative educator minds chomping at the bit for the latest and greatest educational technology, over the years a solid virtual learning network has emerged around the conference. Between Twitter, Google Groups, and other collaborative tools, educators from around the country were able to participate from afar in #NotAtISTE17.

The #notatISTE17 hashtag allowed us to easily network with other edtech enthusiasts remotely attending the conference. BGL teachers were just a few of the nearly 200 educators who participated in the #badgechallenge, which was a great way to get to know our fellow virtual attendees. Here are two of our badges!

As the conference began, BGL employees logged on to Zoom and met via video to discuss new materials as we followed the hashtags, learned about the latest ideas and resources and met some like-minded cohorts.

Below are our top 8 #notatISTE17 take-aways:

  1. Creative Coding on BrainPop For our 5th graders who participate in the Hour of Code, the Creative Coding on BrainPop could be a great extension for some additional coding projects.
  2. Buncee We’re always looking for new, fun and engaging ways for students to share their ideas. Buncee serves as a good alternative to the typical deck of slides.
  3. Global Read Aloud – Working in authentic reading experiences for children is always on teachers’ minds. This six-week global initiative to share read alouds with classes can be a great way to work in some good stories while connecting with students around the world.
  4. PhET Interactive Simulations – These digital math/science simulations are great when you can’t get your hands on the real thing.
  5. Peardeck – Peardeck offers a new presentation tool with interactive questions. It has great potential for both teachers and students.
  6. Flocabulary – Who doesn’t like a hip hop with their vocabulary development? This tool seems like it could make learning new words lots of fun.
  7. Triventy – Assessment is so valuable, but can become stale for students. With Triventy you can create collaborative classroom quizzes and switch things up a bit.
  8. Flipgrid – We often don’t get to hear individual student voices in the classroom. Flipgrid video discussion community that allows students to submit video responses to questions.

Join the #notatISTE17 Google Group if you missed out on the live Twitter feed during the conference for some great resources and networking.

What’s your favorite conference to Twitter-stalk? Leave us a comment!

BGL’s LingoLoop Partners with IRC to Give Free English Lessons to Refugees

BGL has been using technology to deliver quality English instruction to Asian classrooms since 2007. Last year we started a new consumer-facing venture – LingoLoop – that provides online English tutoring. Our small-group classes are based on the Socratic method; as students answer questions, the tutor transcribes their responses, fixes grammar and syntax, and introduces relevant vocabulary. This method captures very well the concept of learning by doing.

An unexpected byproduct of this method is an authentic and sometimes profound human connection. The questions we ask are fairly simple, but in today’s increasingly partitioned society, they are questions that do not often get asked. Who decides which music plays in the car while you’re driving? How is your life different now than it was five years ago? In your home country, what are the easiest jobs to get? What about the hardest? The cultural exchange is fascinating because learners in LingoLoop classes tend to be from different countries.

LingoLoop learners feel motivated to learn partially because of this human connection. The progress that they make helps them in all facets of their lives as they adjust to living in a new country. It is in this light that we are proud to announce our partnership with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), and the launch of our pilot program to offer free online English lessons to refugees. 17309122_1916219465275804_2239278047516257832_n.jpg

The IRC is the leading humanitarian organization dedicated to the cause of refugees. The IRC responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic well being, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. In 2016, more than 26 million people benefited from IRC programs and those of its partner organizations.

In cooperation with the IRC’s Los Angeles office (IRC-LA), we are offering free online English classes to refugees who are in the process of resettling in Southern California. Refugees will have an opportunity to learn English from LingoLoop’s expert tutors and interact with other LingoLoop customers in our small-group classes.

As a company dedicated to empowering people through education, we are extremely proud to help realize the dreams of those greatest in need. Aspiring to become a double-bottom-line enterprise, we hope that this pilot will evolve into a core part of our business over the long term.

#RefugeesWelcome

 

 

 

 

We Love Classcraft! A BGL Review

Here at BGL, we love Classcraft! It’s a free classroom management system a la Class Dojo but with deeper options and a fantasy-based theme that the students really enjoy.

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One great element is that a given student’s avatar can “die,” which sounds a bit violent for a classroom setting until you consider a few things:

  • Students are organized into teams and there are disincentives built in to the other team members if one of their teammates dies. In other words, students HAVE to help each other in order to avoid team-wide consequences.
  • The teacher can customize the penalty for death with creative consequences that can otherwise benefit the class.

The latter bullet point is the subject of the following video in which Teacher Travis introduces Classcraft to his 5th grade class via distance learning. Please enjoy! Our students definitely do.

 

The teacher dashboard allows multiple views of the class with varying degrees of detail. It also makes it easy to reward/punish groups of students or the entire class at one time with just a few clicks.

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Another element we enjoy with Classcraft is “Today’s Event,” a randomized act that may or may not affect multiple student accounts at one time. It’s akin to some of the squares on a Monopoly board where rewards or consequences are doled out simply for having been in the right/wrong place at the right/wrong time.

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Almost everything in Classcraft is customizable. From a student perspective, they can customize their avatars and earn the ability to unlock special wardrobe elements and skills. The teacher, like with Class Dojo, can customize the rewards and consequences to target specific class behaviors.

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Given this level of customization, there is definitely a learning curve. It seems a bit unwieldy and user-unfriendly at first, but most tech users will find it to become second nature after using it for a short amount of time. Like with most things in teaching, consistency is key – the more you use it, the more effective it becomes.

Using Video to Teach Current Events

BGL’s own Teacher LaCora has experience in front of the camera as a red carpet host here in Los Angeles. She used those skills to create a video about the recent earthquake in Ecuador as part of BGL’s weekly current events unit.

 

To teach current events, BGL selects a handful of stories from the week and shares links to the stories along with discussion questions to all their teachers across grades K-8. Each teacher chooses the story and discussion questions that are best suited for the ability and interest of their classes. Choosing more discussion questions – or turning them into writing assignments – takes the activity from a short one (5-10 minutes) to a longer one (a full period or two).

Here are the discussion questions for the Ecuadorian earthquake story. As you can see, they get progressively more difficult so that teachers in older grades choose from the bottom and vice versa for younger grades.

  • What can people do to help when there is an earthquake?
  • Have you ever felt an earthquake? What does it feel like?
  • What causes earthquakes? Are there different kinds?
  • What is the Richter scale? What does it mean to increase exponentially?

How do you teach current events? Tell us in the comments section.

BGL’s 7th Graders Write Travel Fiction in English

BGL is very sad to say goodbye to one of our best DL teachers, Teacher Christal. She has worked with us for the past six years and has been an invaluable member of our team. This blog post is not only her farewell but an illustration of her talent in the classroom and the passion with which she approaches her craft. She will be missed, and we wish her well!

The following is a report from her:

Here at BGL we love assessments that aren’t spelled t-e-s-t. We believe that creative projects can most often better show what a student has learned than any single high-stakes exam. Along those lines, many of our final projects – like this one at the end of a unit on modern countries of the world – take the form of presentations. Many of the students in test-obsessed Taiwan might find an exam to be an easier endeavor, but speaking in front of group is a great way to improve an acquired language.

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Our first writing project in 7th grade at Tsai Hsing this year was to create a PowerPoint presentation using the fantasy genre.  I read them a fantasy story called, “My Father’s Dragon.”  This story allowed them to learn the different components that a fantasy story must contain.  After we read the story, the students worked in class to create their own fantasy stories. They worked independently and in collaborative settings. I then had video conferences with my students to go over their writing projects.

bgl4Students presented their PowerPoints to the class. They also added dialogue and voice to make their stories come alive. The results were awesome!

The next writing project involved writing a travel book.  We first read a travel book created by our BGL staff about a Tsai Hsing student traveling through the United States. This allowed students to see the structure of a travel book. Students then selected a location and wrote a fiction, non-fiction, or informational travel book. They included five components in their presentations: introduction, history, culture, personal thoughts and conclusion. This project was also research-based, so students had to provide the websites where they obtained their information.
bgl6Students also presented their travel books to the class. Their stories were from places such as the Republic of the Congo, California, Australia, Transylvania, and Paris.  Some students shared personal family trips and were excited to share their adventures!

Writing can be a challenge for most students; the key is to make it engaging. My students were able to work together to create some beautiful writing projects this past year. Please take a look at some of the best ones here:

LegoLand Travel Book-Non-fiction

The food apocalypse-Fiction Fantasy Story

Travel Book-Paris

Travel Book-Fiction

Travel Book-Non-Fiction

Travel Book The Cloud Island- Fiction